tell her no more than she knew, however, and then she said she was sure she had seen the Wild Dog herself that afternoon,
sitting on his horse in the bushes near a station in Wildcat Valley. She was sure
that he saw her, and his face had
frightened her. I knew her fright was for Marston and not for herself, so I laughed at her fears. She was mistaken–Wild
Dog was an outlaw now and he would not dare appear at the Gap, and there was no chance that he could harm her or Marston. And yet I was uneasy.
It must have been a happy ten days for those two young people. Every afternoon
Marston would come in from the mines and they would go off horseback together, over ground that I well knew–for I had
been all over it myself–up through the gray-peaked rhododendron-bordered Gap
with the swirling water below them and the gray rock high above where another such
foolish lover lost his life, climbing to get a flower for his sweetheart, or down the winding dirt road into Lee, or up through the beech woods behind Imboden Hill, or
climbing the spur of Morris’s Farm to watch the sunset over the majestic Big
Black Mountains, where the Wild Dog lived, and back through the fragrant, cool, moonlit woods. He was doing his best,
Marston was, and he was having trouble –as every man should. And that trouble
I knew even better than he, for I had once known a Southern girl who was so tender
of heart that she could refuse no man who really loved her she accepted him and
sent him to her father, who did all of her refusing for her. And I knew no man
would know that he had won the Blight until he had her at the altar and the priestly hand of benediction was above her head.
Of such kind was the Blight. Every
night when they came in I could read the story of the day, always in his face and sometimes in hers; and it was a series of ups and downs that must have wrung the
boy’s heart bloodless. Still I was in good hope for him, until the crisis came on the night before the Fourth. The quarrel was as plain as though typewritten on the face of each. Marston would not come in that
night and the Blight went dinnerless to bed and cried herself to sleep. She told the little sister that she had seen the Wild Dog again peering through the bushes, and that she was frightened. That was her
explanation–but I guessed a better one.
THE GREAT DAY
It was a day to make glad the heart of slave or freeman. The earth was cool
from a night-long rain, and a gentle breeze fanned coolness from the north all day
long. The clouds were snow-white, tumbling, ever-moving, and between them the
sky showed blue and deep. Grass, leaf, weed and flower were in the richness that comes to the green things of the earth just before that full tide of summer whose
foam is drifting thistle down. The air was clear and the mountains seemed to have
brushed the haze from their faces and drawn nearer that they, too, might better see the doings of that day.
From the four winds of heaven, that
morning, came the brave and the free. Up from Lee, down from Little Stone Gap,
and from over in Scott, came the valley- farmers–horseback, in buggies, hacks,
two-horse wagons, with wives, mothers, sisters, sweethearts, in white dresses,
flowered hats, and many ribbons, and with dinner-baskets stuffed with good
things to eat–old ham, young chicken, angel-cake and blackberry wine–to be
spread in the sunless shade of great poplar and oak. From Bum Hollow
and Wildcat Valley and from up the
slopes that lead to Cracker’s Neck came smaller tillers of the soil–as yet but
faintly marked by the gewgaw trappings of the outer world; while from beyond
High Knob, whose crown is in cloud-land, and through the Gap, came the mountaineer in the primitive simplicity of home
spun and cowhide, wide-brimmed hat and poke-bonnet, quaint speech, and slouching gait. Through the Gap he came in two
streams–the Virginians from Crab Orchard and Wise and Dickinson, the Kentuckians
from Letcher and feudal Harlan,
beyond the Big Black–and not a man carried a weapon in sight, for the stern spirit of that Police Guard at the Gap
was respected wide and far. Into the town, which sits on a plateau some twenty feet above the level of the two rivers that all but encircle it, they poured, hitching their horses in the strip of woods that runs through the heart of the place, and broad ens into a primeval park that, fan-like, opens on the oval level field where all
things happen on the Fourth of July. About the street they loitered–lovers hand in hand–eating fruit and candy and drinking soda-water, or sat on the curb-stone,
mothers with babies at their breasts and toddling children clinging close–all
waiting for the celebration to begin.
It was a great day for the Hon. Samuel Budd. With a cheery smile and beaming
goggles, he moved among his constituents, joking with yokels, saying nice things to mothers, paying gallantries to girls, and chucking babies under the chin. He felt
popular and he was–so popular that he had begun to see himself with prophetic eye in a congressional seat at no distant day; and yet, withal, he was not wholly happy.
“Do you know,” he said, “them fellers I made bets with in the tournament got together this morning and decided, all of ’em,
that they wouldn’t let me off? Jerusalem, it’s most five hundred dollars!” And,
looking the picture of dismay, he told me his dilemma.
It seems that his “dark horse” was none other than the Wild Dog, who had
been practising at home for this tournament for nearly a year; and now that the
Wild Dog was an outlaw, he, of course, wouldn’t and couldn’t come to the Gap.
And said the Hon. Sam Budd:
“Them fellers says I bet I’d BRING IN a dark horse who would win this tournament, and if I don’t BRING him in, I lose just the same as though I had brought him in and
he hadn’t won. An’ I reckon they’ve got me.”
“I guess they have.”
“It would have been like pickin’ money off a blackberry-bush, for I was goin’ to let the Wild Dog have that black horse o’
mine–the steadiest and fastest runner in this country–and my, how that fellow can pick off the rings! He’s been a-practising for a year, and I believe he could run the point o’ that spear of his through a lady’s finger-ring.”
“You’d better get somebody else.”
“Ah–that’s it. The Wild Dog sent
word he’d send over another feller, named Dave Branham, who has been practising
with him, who’s just as good, he says, as he is. I’m looking for him at twelve o’clock, an’ I’m goin’ to take him down an’ see
what he can do on that black horse o’ mine. But if he’s no good, I lose five hundred, all right,” and he sloped away to his duties. For it was the Hon. Sam who was master
of ceremonies that day. He was due now to read the Declaration of Independence in a poplar grove to all who would listen; he was to act as umpire at the championship base-ball game in the afternoon, and he
was to give the “Charge” to the assembled knights before the tournament.
At ten o’clock the games began–and I took the Blight and the little sister down to the “grandstand”–several tiers of
backless benches with leaves for a canopy and the river singing through rhododendrons behind. There was jumping broad
and high, and a 100-yard dash and hurdling and throwing the hammer, which the
Blight said were not interesting–they were too much like college sports–and she wanted to see the base-ball game and the tournament. And yet Marston was in
them all–dogged and resistless–his teeth set and his eyes anywhere but lifted toward the Blight, who secretly proud, as I believed, but openly defiant, mentioned not
his name even when he lost, which was twice only.
“Pretty good, isn’t he?” I said.
“Who?” she said indifferently.
“Oh, nobody,” I said, turning to smile, but not turning quickly enough.
“What’s the matter with you?” asked the Blight sharply.
“Nothing, nothing at all,” I said, and straightway the Blight thought she wanted to go home. The thunder of the Declaration was still rumbling in the poplar grove.
“That’s the Hon. Sam Budd,” I said.
“Don’t you want to hear him?”
“I don’t care who it is and I don’t
want to hear him and I think you are hateful.”
Ah, dear me, it was more serious than I thought. There were tears in her eyes, and I led the Blight and the little sister home– conscience-stricken and humbled. Still I would find that young jackanapes of an
engineer and let him know that anybody who made the Blight unhappy must deal with
me. I would take him by the neck and pound some sense into him. I found him
lofty, uncommunicative, perfectly alien to any consciousness that I could have any
knowledge of what was going or any right to poke my nose into anybody’s business– and I did nothing except go back to lunch –to find the Blight upstairs and the little sister indignant with me.
“You just let them alone,” she said severely.
“Let who alone?” I said, lapsing into the speech of childhood.
“I’ve already made up my mind to
“Well, then!” she said, with an air of satisfaction, but why I don’t know.
I went back to the poplar grove. The
Declaration was over and the crowd was gone, but there was the Hon. Samuel
Budd, mopping his brow with one hand, slapping his thigh with the other, and all but executing a pigeon-wing on the turf. He turned goggles on me that literally
“He’s come–Dave Branham’s come!”
he said. “He’s better than the Wild Dog. I’ve been trying him on the black horse
and, Lord, how he can take them rings off! Ha, won’t I get into them fellows who
wouldn’t let me off this morning! Oh, yes, I agreed to bring in a dark horse, and I’ll bring him in all right. That five hundred is in my clothes now. You see that point yonder? Well, there’s a hollow there and bushes all around. That’s where I’m going to dress him. I’ve got his clothes all
right and a name for him. This thing is a-goin’ to come off accordin’ to Hoyle, Ivanhoe, Four-Quarters-of-Beef, and all
them mediaeval fellows. Just watch me!”
I began to get newly interested, for that knight’s name I suddenly recalled. Little Buck, the Wild Dog’s brother, had
mentioned him, when we were over in the Kentucky hills, as practising with the Wild Dog–as being “mighty good, but nowhar
‘longside o’ Mart.” So the Hon. Sam might have a good substitute, after all, and being a devoted disciple of Sir Walter, I knew his knight would rival, in splendor, at least, any that rode with King Arthur in days of old.
The Blight was very quiet at lunch, as was the little sister, and my effort to be jocose was a lamentable failure. So I gave news.
“The Hon. Sam has a substitute.” No curiosity and no question.
“Who–did you say? Why, Dave
Branham, a friend of the Wild Dog. Don’t you remember Buck telling us about him?” No answer. “Well, I do–and,
by the way, I saw Buck and one of the big sisters just a while ago. Her name is
Mollie. Dave Branham, you will recall, is her sweetheart. The other big sister had to stay at home with her mother and little Cindy, who’s sick. Of course, I didn’t ask them about Mart–the Wild Dog. They
knew I knew and they wouldn’t have liked it. The Wild Dog’s around, I understand, but he won’t dare show his face. Every
policeman in town is on the lookout for him.” I thought the Blight’s face showed a signal of relief.
“I’m going to play short-stop,” I added.
“Oh!” said the Blight, with a smile, but the little sister said with some scorn:
“I’ll show you,” I said, and I told the Blight about base-ball at the Gap. We
had introduced base-ball into the region and the valley boys and mountain boys,
being swift runners, throwing like a rifle shot from constant practice with stones, and being hard as nails, caught the game quickly and with great ease. We beat them all the time at first, but now they were beginning to beat us. We had a league
now, and this was the championship game for the pennant.
“It was right funny the first time we beat a native team. Of course, we got
together and cheered ’em. They thought we were cheering ourselves, so they got red in the face, rushed together and whooped it up for themselves for about half an hour.”
The Blight almost laughed.
“We used to have to carry our guns
around with us at first when we went to other places, and we came near having
“Oh!” said the Blight excitedly. “Do you think there might be a fight this afternoon?”
“Don’t know,” I said, shaking my head. “It’s pretty hard for eighteen people to fight when nine of them are policemen and there are forty more around. Still the
crowd might take a hand.”
This, I saw, quite thrilled the Blight and she was in good spirits when we started out.
“Marston doesn’t pitch this afternoon,” I said to the little sister. “He plays first base. He’s saving himself for the
tournament. He’s done too much already.” The Blight merely turned her head while I was speaking. “And the Hon. Sam will
not act as umpire. He wants to save his voice–and his head.”
The seats in the “grandstand” were in the sun now, so I left the girls in a
deserted band-stand that stood on stilts under trees on the southern side of the field, and on a line midway between third base and
the position of short-stop. Now there is no enthusiasm in any sport that equals the excitement aroused by a rural base-ball
game and I never saw the enthusiasm of that game outdone except by the excitement of the tournament that followed that afternoon. The game was close and Marston
and I assuredly were stars–Marston one of the first magnitude. “Goose-egg” on one side matched “goose-egg” on the
other until the end of the fifth inning, when the engineer knocked a home-run. Spectators threw their hats into the trees, yelled
themselves hoarse, and I saw several old mountaineers who understood no more of
base-ball than of the lost _digamma_ in Greek going wild with the general contagion.
During these innings I had “assisted” in two doubles and had fired in three “daisy cutters” to first myself in spite of the guying I got from the opposing rooters.
“Four-eyes” they called me on account of my spectacles until a new nickname came
at the last half of the ninth inning, when we were in the field with the score four to three in our favor. It was then
that a small, fat boy with a paper megaphone longer than he was waddled out
almost to first base and levelling his trumpet at me, thundered out in a sudden silence:
“Hello, Foxy Grandpa!” That was
too much. I got rattled, and when there were three men on bases and two out, a
swift grounder came to me, I fell–catching it–and threw wildly to first from my
knees. I heard shouts of horror, anger, and distress from everywhere and my own
heart stopped beating–I had lost the game–and then Marston leaped in the
air–surely it must have been four feet– caught the ball with his left hand and
dropped back on the bag. The sound of his foot on it and the runner’s was almost simultaneous, but the umpire said Marston’s was there first. Then bedlam! One
of my brothers was umpire and the captain of the other team walked threateningly
out toward him, followed by two of
his men with base-ball bats. As I started off myself towards them I saw, with the
corner of my eye, another brother of mine start in a run from the left field, and I wondered why a third, who was scoring,
sat perfectly still in his chair, particularly as a well-known, red-headed tough from
one of the mines who had been officiously antagonistic ran toward the pitcher’s box directly in front of him. Instantly a dozen of the guard sprang toward it, some man
pulled his pistol, a billy cracked straightway on his head, and in a few minutes
order was restored. And still the brother scoring hadn’t moved from his chair, and I spoke to him hotly.
“Keep your shirt on,” he said easily, lifting his score-card with his left hand and showing his right clinched about his pistol under it.
“I was just waiting for that red-head to make a move. I guess I’d have got him
I walked back to the Blight and the
little sister and both of them looked very serious and frightened.
“I don’t think I want to see a real fight, after all,” said the Blight. “Not this afternoon.”
It was a little singular and prophetic, but just as the words left her lips one of the Police Guard handed me a piece of
“Somebody in the crowd must have
dropped it in my pocket,” he said. On the paper were scrawled these words:
“_Look out for the Wild Dog!_”
I sent the paper to Marston.
AT LAST–THE TOURNAMENT
At last–the tournament!
Ever afterward the Hon. Samuel
Budd called it “The Gentle and
Joyous Passage of Arms–not of Ashby– but of the Gap, by-suh!” The Hon.
Samuel had arranged it as nearly after Sir Walter as possible. And a sudden leap it was from the most modern of games to a
game most ancient.
No knights of old ever jousted on a
lovelier field than the green little valley toward which the Hon. Sam waved one big hand.
It was level, shorn of weeds, elliptical in shape, and bound in by trees that ran in a semicircle around the bank of the river, shut in the southern border, and ran back to the northern extremity in a primeval
little forest that wood-thrushes, even then, were making musical–all of it shut in by a wall of living green, save for one narrow space through which the knights were to
enter. In front waved Wallens’ leafy ridge and behind rose the Cumberland
Range shouldering itself spur by spur, into the coming sunset and crashing eastward
into the mighty bulk of Powell’s Mountain, which loomed southward from the
head of the valley–all nodding sunny plumes of chestnut.
The Hon. Sam had seen us coming from
afar apparently, had come forward to meet us, and he was in high spirits.
“I am Prince John and Waldemar and
all the rest of ’em this day,” he said, “and `it is thus,’ ” quoting Sir Walter, “that we set the dutiful example of loyalty to the Queen of Love and Beauty, and are ourselves her guide to the throne which she
must this day occupy.” And so saying, the Hon. Sam marshalled the Blight to a
seat of honor next his own.
“And how do you know she is going to be the Queen of Love and Beauty?” asked the little sister. The Hon. Sam winked at me.
“Well, this tournament lies between
two gallant knights. One will make her the Queen of his own accord, if he wins, and if the other wins, he’s got to, or I’ll break his head. I’ve given orders.” And the Hon. Sam looked about right and left on the people who were his that day.
“Observe the nobles and ladies,” he said, still following Sir Walter, and waving at the towns-people and visitors in the
rude grandstand. “Observe the yeomanry and spectators of a better degree
than the mere vulgar”–waving at the crowd on either side of the stand–“and the promiscuous multitude down the river banks and over the woods and clinging to the tree-tops and to yon telegraph-pole. And there is my herald”–pointing to the cornetist of the local band–“and wait– by my halidom–please just wait until you see my knight on that black charger o’
The Blight and the little sister were convulsed and the Hon. Sam went on:
“Look at my men-at-arms”–the
volunteer policemen with bulging hip-pockets, dangling billies and gleaming shields of office–“and at my refreshment tents behind” –where peanuts and pink lemonade
were keeping the multitude busy–“and my attendants”–colored gentlemen with
sponges and water-buckets–“the armorers and farriers haven’t come yet. But my
knight–I got his clothes in New York– just wait–Love of Ladies and Glory to
the Brave!” Just then there was a
commotion on the free seats on one side of the grandstand. A darky starting, in all ignorance, to mount them was stopped and jostled none too good-naturedly back to the ground.
“And see,” mused the Hon. Sam, “in lieu of the dog of an unbeliever we have a dark analogy in that son of Ham.”
The little sister plucked me by the sleeve and pointed toward the entrance. Outside and leaning on the fence were Mollie, the big sister, and little Buck. Straightway I got up and started for them. They hung
back, but I persuaded them to come, and I led them to seats two tiers below the
Blight–who, with my little sister, rose smiling to greet them and shake hands–
much to the wonder of the nobles and ladies close about, for Mollie was in brave and dazzling array, blushing fiercely, and little Buck looked as though he would die of such conspicuousness. No embarrassing questions were asked about Mart or
Dave Branham, but I noticed that Mollie had purple and crimson ribbons clinched
in one brown hand. The purpose of
them was plain, and I whispered to the Blight:
“She’s going to pin them on Dave’s
lance.” The Hon. Sam heard me.
“Not on your life,” he said
emphatically. “I ain’t takin’ chances,” and he nodded toward the Blight. “She’s got to win, no matter who loses.” He rose to his feet suddenly.
“Glory to the Brave–they’re comin’! Toot that horn, son,” he said; “they’re comin’,” and the band burst into
discordant sounds that would have made the “wild barbaric music” on the field of
Ashby sound like a lullaby. The Blight stifled her laughter over that amazing
music with her handkerchief, and even the Hon. Sam scowled.
“Gee!” he said; “it is pretty bad, isn’t it?”
“Here they come!”
The nobles and ladies on the
grandstand, the yeomanry and spectators of better degree, and the promiscuous multitude began to sway expectantly and over the hill came the knights, single file, gorgeous in velvets and in caps, with waving plumes
and with polished spears, vertical, resting on the right stirrup foot and gleaming in the sun.
“A goodly array!” murmured the
A crowd of small boys gathered at the fence below, and I observed the Hon.
Sam’s pockets bulging with peanuts.
“Largesse!” I suggested.
“Good!” he said, and rising he
“Largessy! largessy!” scattering
peanuts by the handful among the scrambling urchins.
Down wound the knights behind the
back stand of the base-ball field, and then, single file, in front of the nobles and ladies, before whom they drew up and faced,
saluting with inverted spears.
The Hon. Sam arose–his truncheon a
hickory stick–and in a stentorian voice asked the names of the doughty knights
who were there to win glory for themselves and the favor of fair women.
Not all will be mentioned, but among
them was the Knight of the Holston– Athelstanic in build–in black stockings, white negligee shirt, with Byronic collar, and a broad crimson sash tied with a
bow at his right side. There was the Knight of the Green Valley, in green
and gold, a green hat with a long white plume, lace ruffles at his sleeves, and
buckles on dancing-pumps; a bonny fat knight of Maxwelton Braes, in Highland
kilts and a plaid; and the Knight at Large.
“He ought to be caged,” murmured the Hon. Sam; for the Knight at Large wore
plum-colored velvet, red base-ball stockings, held in place with safety-pins, white
tennis shoes, and a very small hat with a very long plume, and the dye was already streaking his face. Marston was the last –sitting easily on his iron gray.
“And your name, Sir Knight?”
“The Discarded,” said Marston, with steady eyes. I felt the Blight start at my side and sidewise I saw that her face was crimson.
The Hon. Sam sat down, muttering, for he did not like Marston:
Just then my attention was riveted on Mollie and little Buck. Both had been
staring silently at the knights as though they were apparitions, but when Marston
faced them I saw Buck clutch his sister’s arm suddenly and say something excitedly in her ear. Then the mouths of both tightened fiercely and their eyes seemed to be
darting lightning at the unconscious knight, who suddenly saw them, recognized them,
and smiled past them at me. Again Buck whispered, and from his lips I could make out what he said:
“I wonder whar’s Dave?” but Mollie
did not answer.
“Which is yours, Mr. Budd?” asked
the little sister. The Hon. Sam had leaned back with his thumbs in the arm-
holes of his white waistcoat.
“He ain’t come yet. I told him to come last.”
The crowd waited and the knights
waited–so long that the Mayor rose in his seat some twenty feet away and called out:
“Go ahead, Budd.”
“You jus’ wait a minute–my man
ain’t come yet,” he said easily, but from various places in the crowd came jeering shouts from the men with whom he had
wagered and the Hon. Sam began to look anxious.
“I wonder what is the matter?” he
added in a lower tone. “I dressed him myself more than an hour ago and I told
him to come last, but I didn’t mean for him to wait till Christmas–ah!”
The Hon. Sam sank back in his seat
again. From somewhere had come suddenly the blare of a solitary trumpet that
rang in echoes around the amphitheatre of the hills and, a moment later, a dazzling something shot into sight above the mound that looked like a ball of fire, coming in mid-air. The new knight wore a shining
helmet and the Hon. Sam chuckled at the murmur that rose and then he sat up
suddenly. There was no face under
that helmet–the Hon. Sam’s knight was MASKED and the Hon. Sam slapped his
thigh with delight.
“Bully–bully! I never thought of it –I never thought of it–bully!”
This was thrilling, indeed–but there was more; the strange knight’s body was
cased in a flexible suit of glistening mail, his spear point, when he raised it on high, shone like silver, and he came on like a radiant star–on the Hon. Sam’s charger, white-bridled, with long mane and tail and black from tip of nose to tip of that tail as midnight. The Hon. Sam was certainly
doing it well. At a slow walk the stranger drew alongside of Marston and turned his spear point downward.
“Gawd!” said an old darky. “Ku-
klux done come again.” And, indeed, it looked like a Ku-klux mask, white,
dropping below the chin, and with eye- holes through which gleamed two bright
The eyes of Buck and Mollie were
turned from Marston at last, and open- mouthed they stared.
“Hit’s the same hoss–hit’s Dave!”
said Buck aloud.
“Well, my Lord!” said Mollie simply.
The Hon. Sam rose again.
“And who is Sir Tardy Knight that
hither comes with masked face?” he asked courteously. He got no answer.
“What’s your name, son?”
The white mask puffed at the wearer’s lips.
“The Knight of the Cumberland,” was the low, muffled reply.
“Make him take that thing off!”
shouted some one.
“What’s he got it on fer?” shouted
“I don’t know, friend,” said the Hon. Sam; “but it is not my business nor prithee thine; since by the laws of the tournament a knight may ride masked for a specified time or until a particular purpose is
achieved, that purpose being, I wot, victory for himself and for me a handful of
byzants from thee.”
“Now, go ahead, Budd,” called the
Mayor again. “Are you going crazy?”
The Hon. Sam stretched out his arms
once to loosen them for gesture, thrust his chest out, and uplifted his chin: “Fair ladies, nobles of the realm, and good
knights,” he said sonorously, and he raised one hand to his mouth and behind it spoke aside to me:
“How’s my voice–how’s my voice?”
His question was genuine, for the mask of humor had dropped and the man was
transformed. I knew his inner seriousness, his oratorical command of good English,
and I knew the habit, not uncommon
among stump-speakers in the South, of falling, through humor, carelessness, or for the effect of flattering comradeship, into all the lingual sins of rural speech; but I was hardly prepared for the soaring flight the Hon. Sam took now. He started with
one finger pointed heavenward:
“The knights are dust
And their good swords are rast; Their souls are with the saints, we trust.
“Scepticism is but a harmless phantom in these mighty hills. We BELIEVE that with the saints is the GOOD knight’s soul, and if, in the radiant unknown, the eyes of those who have gone before can pierce the little shadow that lies between, we know that the good knights of old look gladly down on
these good knights of to-day. For it is good to be remembered. The tireless
struggle for name and fame since the sunrise of history attests it; and the ancestry
worship in the East and the world-wide hope of immortality show the fierce hunger in the human soul that the memory of it
not only shall not perish from this earth, but that, across the Great Divide, it shall live on–neither forgetting nor forgotten. You are here in memory of those good
knights to prove that the age of chivalry is not gone; that though their good swords are rust, the stainless soul of them still illumines every harmless spear point before me and makes it a torch that shall reveal, in your own hearts still aflame, their
courage, their chivalry, their sense of protection for the weak, and the honor in which they held pure women, brave men,
and almighty God.
“The tournament, some say, goes back to the walls of Troy. The form of it
passed with the windmills that Don
Quixote charged. It is with you to keep the high spirit of it an ever-burning vestal fire. It was a deadly play of old–it is a harmless play to you this day. But the
prowess of the game is unchanged; for the skill to strike those pendent rings is no less than was the skill to strike armor-joint, visor, or plumed crest. It was of old an exercise for deadly combat on the field of battle; it is no less an exercise now to you for the field of life–for the quick eye, the steady nerve, and the deft hand which shall help you strike the mark at which, outside these lists, you aim. And the crowning
triumph is still just what it was of old– that to the victor the Rose of his world– made by him the Queen of Love and
Beauty for us all–shall give her smile and with her own hands place on his brow a
Perfect silence honored the Hon. Samuel Budd. The Mayor was nodding vigorous
approval, the jeering ones kept still, and when after the last deep-toned word
passed like music from his lips the silence held sway for a little while before the
burst of applause came. Every knight had straightened in his saddle and was looking very grave. Marston’s eyes never left the speaker’s face, except once, when they
turned with an unconscious appeal, I thought, to the downcast face of Blight– whereat the sympathetic little sister seemed close to tears. The Knight of the
Cumberland shifted in his saddle as though he did not quite understand what was going
on, and once Mollie, seeing the eyes through the mask-holes fixed on her,
blushed furiously, and little Buck grinned back a delighted recognition. The Hon.
Sam sat down, visibly affected by his own eloquence; slowly he wiped his face and
then he rose again.
“Your colors, Sir Knights,” he said, with a commanding wave of his truncheon, and one by one the knights spurred forward and each held his lance into the
grandstand that some fair one might tie thereon the colors he was to wear. Marston, without looking at the Blight, held his
up to the little sister and the Blight carelessly turned her face while the demure sister was busy with her ribbons, but I noticed that the little ear next to me was tingling red for all her brave look of unconcern. Only the Knight of the Cumberland sat
“What!” said the Hon. Sam, rising to his feet, his eyes twinkling and his mask of humor on again; “sees this masked
springal”–the Hon. Sam seemed much enamored of that ancient word–“no maid so fair that he will not beg from her the boon of colors gay that he may carry them to victory and receive from her hands a
wreath therefor?” Again the Knight of the Cumberland seemed not to know that
the Hon. Sam’s winged words were meant for him, so the statesman translated them into a mutual vernacular.
“Remember what I told you, son,” he said. “Hold up yo’ spear here to some
one of these gals jes’ like the other fellows are doin’,” and as he sat down he tried surreptitiously to indicate the Blight with his index finger, but the knight failed to see and the Blight’s face was so indignant
and she rebuked him with such a knife-like whisper that, humbled, the Hon. Sam collapsed in his seat, muttering:
“The fool don’t know you–he don’t
For the Knight of the Cumberland had
turned the black horse’s head and was riding, like Ivanhoe, in front of the nobles
and ladies, his eyes burning up at them through the holes in his white mask.
Again he turned, his mask still uplifted, and the behavior of the beauties there, as on the field of Ashby, was no whit changed: “Some blushed, some assumed an air of
pride and dignity, some looked straight forward and essayed to seem utterly
unconscious of what was going on, some drew back in alarm which was perhaps affected, some endeavored to forbear smiling and
there were two or three who laughed outright.” Only none “dropped a veil over her charms” and thus none incurred the
suspicion, as on that field of Ashby, that she was “a beauty of ten years’ standing” whose motive, gallant Sir Walter supposes in defence, however, was doubtless “a
surfeit of such vanities and a willingness to give a fair chance to the rising beauties of the age.” But the most conscious of the fair was Mollie below, whose face was
flushed and whose brown fingers were nervously twisting the ribbons in her lap, and I saw Buck nudge her and heard him
“Dave ain’t going to pick YOU out, I tell ye. I heered Mr. Budd thar myself
tell him he HAD to pick out some other gal.”
“You hush!” said Mollie indignantly.
It looked as though the Knight of the Cumberland had grown rebellious and
meant to choose whom he pleased, but on his way back the Hon. Sam must have
given more surreptitious signs, for the Knight of the Cumberland reined in before the Blight and held up his lance to her. Straightway the colors that were meant for Marston fluttered from the Knight of the Cumberland’s spear. I saw Marston bite
his lips and I saw Mollie’s face aflame with fury and her eyes darting lightning–no
longer at Marston now, but at the Blight. The mountain girl held nothing against the city girl because of the Wild Dog’s infatuation, but that her own lover, no matter
what the Hon. Sam said, should give his homage also to the Blight, in her own
presence, was too much. Mollie looked around no more. Again the Hon. Sam
“Love of ladies,” he shouted,
“splintering of lances! Stand forth, gallant knights. Fair eyes look upon your deeds! Toot again, son!”
Now just opposite the grandstand was a post some ten feet high, with a small beam projecting from the top toward the spectators. From the end of this hung a wire,
the end of which was slightly upturned in line with the course, and on the tip of this wire a steel ring about an inch in diameter hung lightly. Nearly forty yards below
this was a similar ring similarly arranged; and at a similar distance below that was still another, and at the blast from the Hon. Sam’s herald, the gallant knights
rode slowly, two by two, down the lists to the western extremity–the Discarded
Knight and the Knight of the Cumberland, stirrup to stirrup, riding last–where they all drew up in line, some fifty yards beyond the westernmost post. This distance
they took that full speed might be attained before jousting at the first ring, since the course–much over one hundred yards long –must be covered in seven seconds or less, which was no slow rate of speed. The
Hon. Sam arose again:
“The Knight of the Holston!”
Farther down the lists a herald took up the same cry and the good knight of
Athelstanic build backed his steed from the line and took his place at the head of the
With his hickory truncheon the Hon.
Sam signed to his trumpeter to sound the onset.
“Now, son!” he said.
With the blare of the trumpet Athelstane sprang from his place and came up
the course, his lance at rest; a tinkling sound and the first ring slipped down the knight’s spear and when he swept past the last post there was a clapping of hands, for he held three rings triumphantly aloft. And thus they came, one by one, until each had run the course three times, the Discarded jousting next to the last and the
Knight of the Cumberland, riding with a reckless Cave, Adsum air, the very last. At the second joust it was quite evident that the victory lay between these two, as they only had not lost a single ring, and when the black horse thundered by, the Hon. Sam shouted “Brave lance!” and jollied his betting enemies, while Buck hugged himself triumphantly and Mollie seemed temporarily to lose her chagrin and anger in
pride of her lover, Dave. On the third running the Knight of the Cumberland
excited a sensation by sitting upright, waving his lance up and down between the posts and lowering it only when the ring was within a few feet of its point. His
recklessness cost him one ring, but as the Discarded had lost one, they were still
tied, with eight rings to the credit of each, for the first prize. Only four others were left–the Knight of the Holston and the
Knight of the Green Valley tying with seven rings for second prize, and the fat Maxwelton Braes and the Knight at Large
tying with six rings for the third. The crowd was eager now and the Hon. Sam
confident. On came the Knight at Large, his face a rainbow, his plume wilted and one red base-ball stocking slipped from its moorings–two rings! On followed the fat Maxwelton, his plaid streaming and his kilts flapping about his fat legs–also two rings!
“Egad!” quoth the Hon. Sam. “Did
yon lusty trencherman of Annie Laurie’s but put a few more layers of goodly flesh about his ribs, thereby projecting more his frontal Falstaffian proportions, by my halidom, he would have to joust tandem!”
On came Athelstane and the Knight of
the Green Valley, both with but two rings to their credit, and on followed the
Discarded, riding easily, and the Knight of the Cumberland again waving his lance between the posts, each with three rings on
his spear. At the end the Knight at Large stood third, Athelstane second, and the
Discarded and the Knight of the Cumberland stood side by side at the head of the
course, still even, and now ready to end the joust, for neither on the second trial had missed a ring.
The excitement was intense now. Many
people seemed to know who the Knight of the Cumberland was, for there were shouts of “Go it, Dave!” from everywhere; the rivalry of class had entered the contest and now it was a conflict between native and “furriner.” The Hon. Sam was almost
beside himself with excitement; now and then some man with whom he had made
a bet would shout jeeringly at him and the Hon. Sam would shout back defiance. But
when the trumpet sounded he sat leaning forward with his brow wrinkled and his
big hands clinched tight. Marston sped up the course first–three rings–and there was a chorus of applauding yells.
“His horse is gittin’ tired,” said the Hon. Sam jubilantly, and the Blight’s face, I noticed, showed for the first time faint traces of indignation. The Knight of the Cumberland was taking no theatrical
chances now and he came through the course with level spear and, with three
rings on it, he shot by like a thunderbolt.
“Hooray!” shouted the Hon. Sam.
“Lord, what a horse!” For the first time the Blight, I observed, failed to applaud, while Mollie was clapping her hands and
Buck was giving out shrill yells of encouragement. At the next tilt the Hon. Sam had his watch in his hand and when
he saw the Discarded digging in his spurs he began to smile and he was looking at
his watch when the little tinkle in front told him that the course was run.
“Did he get ’em all?”
“Yes, he got ’em all,” mimicked the Blight.
“Yes, an’ he just did make it,” chuckled the Hon. Sam. The Discarded had
wheeled his horse aside from the course to watch his antagonist. He looked pale and tired–almost as tired as his foam-covered steed–but his teeth were set and his face was unmoved as the Knight of the
Cumberland came on like a demon, sweeping off the last ring with a low, rasping oath of satisfaction.
“I never seed Dave ride that-a-way
afore,” said Mollie.
“Me, neither,” chimed in Buck.
The nobles and ladies were waving
handkerchiefs, clapping hands, and shouting. The spectators of better degree were
throwing up their hats and from every part of the multitude the same hoarse shout of encouragement rose:
“Go it, Dave! Hooray for Dave!”
while the boy on the telegraph-pole was seen to clutch wildly at the crossbar on which he sat–he had come near tumbling
from his perch.
The two knights rode slowly back to the head of the lists, where the Discarded
was seen to dismount and tighten his girth.
“He’s tryin’ to git time to rest,” said the Hon. Sam. “Toot, son!”
“Shame!” said the little sister and the Blight both at once so severely that the Hon. Sam quickly raised his hand.
“Hold on,” he said, and with hand still uplifted he waited till Marston was
mounted again. “Now!”
The Discarded came on, using his spurs with every jump, the red of his horse’s
nostrils showing that far away, and he swept on, spearing off the rings with deadly
accuracy and holding the three aloft, but having no need to pull in his panting steed, who stopped of his own accord. Up went
a roar, but the Hon. Sam, covertly glancing at his watch, still smiled. That watch he pulled out when the Knight of the Cumberland started and he smiled still when
he heard the black horse’s swift, rhythmic beat and he looked up only when that
knight, shouting to his horse, moved his lance up and down before coming to the
last ring and, with a dare-devil yell, swept it from the wire.
“Tied–tied!” was the shout; “they’ve got to try it again! they’ve got to try it again!”
The Hon. Sam rose, with his watch in
one hand and stilling the tumult with the other. Dead silence came at once.
“I fear me,” he said, “that the good knight, the Discarded, has failed to make the course in the time required by the laws of the tournament.” Bedlam broke loose
again and the Hon. Sam waited, still gesturing for silence.
“Summon the time-keeper!” he said.
The time-keeper appeared from the
middle of the field and nodded.
“The Knight of the Cumberland wins,” said the Hon. Sam.
The little sister, unconscious of her own sad face, nudged me to look at the Blight –there were tears in her eyes.
Before the grandstand the knights
slowly drew up again. Marston’s horse was so lame and tired that he dismounted and let a darky boy lead him under the
shade of the trees. But he stood on foot among the other knights, his arms folded, worn out and vanquished, but taking his
bitter medicine like a man. I thought the Blight’s eyes looked pityingly upon
The Hon. Sam arose with a crown of
laurel leaves in his hand:
“You have fairly and gallantly won,
Sir Knight of the Cumberland, and it is now your right to claim and receive from the hands of the Queen of Love and
Beauty the chaplet of honor which your skill has justly deserved. Advance, Sir
Knight of the Cumberland, and dismount!”
The Knight of the Cumberland made no
move nor sound.
“Get off yo’ hoss, son,” said the Hon. Sam kindly, “and get down on yo’ knees
at the feet of them steps. This fair young Queen is a-goin’ to put this chaplet on your shinin’ brow. That horse’ll stand.”
The Knight of the Cumberland, after a moment’s hesitation, threw his leg over the saddle and came to the steps with a slouching gait and looking about him right and
left. The Blight, blushing prettily, took the chaplet and went down the steps to
“Unmask!” I shouted.
“Yes, son,” said the Hon. Sam, “take that rag off.”
Then Mollie’s voice, clear and loud,
startled the crowd. “You better not, Dave Branham, fer if you do and this
other gal puts that thing on you, you’ll never–” What penalty she was going to
inflict, I don’t know, for the Knight of the Cumberland, half kneeling, sprang suddenly to his feet and interrupted her.
“Wait a minute, will ye?” he said almost fiercely, and at the sound of his voice
Mollie rose to her feet and her face blanched.
“Lord God!” she said almost in
anguish, and then she dropped quickly to her seat again.
The Knight of the Cumberland had
gone back to his horse as though to get something from his saddle. Like lightning he vaulted into the saddle, and as the black horse sprang toward the opening tore his mask from his face, turned in his stirrups, and brandished his spear with a yell of
defiance, while a dozen voices shouted:
“The Wild Dog!” Then was there
“Goddle mighty!” shouted the Hon.
Sam. “I didn’t do it, I swear I didn’t know it. He’s tricked me–he’s tricked
me! Don’t shoot–you might hit that hoss!”
There was no doubt about the Hon.
Sam’s innocence. Instead of turning over an outlaw to the police, he had brought
him into the inner shrine of law and order and he knew what a political asset for his enemies that insult would be. And there
was no doubt of the innocence of Mollie and Buck as they stood, Mollie wringing
her hands and Buck with open mouth and startled face. There was no doubt about
the innocence of anybody other than Dave Branham and the dare-devil Knight of the Cumberland.
Marston had clutched at the Wild Dog’s bridle and missed and the outlaw struck
savagely at him with his spear. Nobody dared to shoot because of the scattering crowd, but every knight and every mounted policeman took out after the outlaw and
the beating of hoofs pounded over the little mound and toward Poplar Hill.
Marston ran to his horse at the upper end, threw his saddle on, and hesitated–there were enough after the Wild Dog and his
horse was blown. He listened to the yells and sounds of the chase encircling Poplar Hill. The outlaw was making for Lee.
All at once the yells and hoof-beats seemed to sound nearer and Marston listened,
astonished. The Wild Dog had wheeled and was coming back; he was going to
make for the Gap, where sure safety lay. Marston buckled his girth and as he sprang on his horse, unconsciously taking his spear with him, the Wild Dog dashed from the
trees at the far end of the field. As Marston started the Wild Dog saw him, pulled something that flashed from under his coat of mail, thrust it back again, and brandishing his spear, he came, full speed and
yelling, up the middle of the field. It was a strange thing to happen in these modern days, but Marston was an officer of the
law and was between the Wild Dog and the Ford and liberty through the Gap, into the hills. The Wild Dog was an outlaw.
It was Marston’s duty to take him.
The law does not prescribe with what
weapon the lawless shall be subdued, and Marston’s spear was the only weapon he
had. Moreover, the Wild Dog’s yell was a challenge that set his blood afire and the girl both loved was looking on. The
crowd gathered the meaning of the joust– the knights were crashing toward each
other with spears at rest. There were a few surprised oaths from men, a few low
cries from women, and then dead silence in which the sound of hoofs on the hard
turf was like thunder. The Blight’s face was white and the little sister was gripping my arm with both hands. A third horseman shot into view out of the woods at
tight angles, to stop them, and it seemed that the three horses must crash together in a heap. With a moan the Blight buried her face on my shoulder. She shivered
when the muffled thud of body against body and the splintering of wood rent the air; a chorus of shrieks arose about her, and when she lifted her frightened face
Marston, the Discarded, was limp on the ground, his horse was staggering to his
feet, and the Wild Dog was galloping past her, his helmet gleaming, his eyes ablaze, his teeth set, the handle of his broken
spear clinched in his right hand, and blood streaming down the shoulder of the black horse. She heard the shots that were sent after him, she heard him plunge into the river, and then she saw and heard no
THE KNIGHT PASSES
A telegram summoned the Blight
a home next day. Marston was in
bed with a ragged wound in the shoulder, and I took her to tell him good-by. I left the room for a few minutes, and when I
came back their hands were unclasping, and for a Discarded Knight the engineer surely wore a happy though pallid face.
That afternoon the train on which we
left the Gap was brought to a sudden halt in Wildcat Valley by a piece of red flannel tied to the end of a stick that was
planted midway the track. Across the track, farther on, lay a heavy piece of
timber, and it was plain that somebody meant that, just at that place, the train must stop. The Blight and I were seated
on the rear platform and the Blight was taking a last look at her beloved hills. When the train started again, there was
a cracking of twigs overhead and a
shower of rhododendron leaves and
flowers dropped from the air at the feet of the Blight. And when we pulled away
from the high-walled cut we saw, motionless on a little mound, a black horse,
and on him, motionless, the Knight of the Cumberland, the helmet on his head (that the Blight might know who he was, no
doubt), and both hands clasping the broken handle of his spear, which rested across the pommel of his saddle. Impulsively the Blight waved her hand to him
and I could not help waving my hat; but he sat like a statue and, like a statue, sat on, simply looking after us as we were
hurried along, until horse, broken shaft, and shoulders sank out of sight. And thus passed the Knight of the Cumberland with the last gleam that struck his helmet,
spear-like, from the slanting sun.