Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

66

cheer fell over ahint him; an' sez he, added Pete, restoring his plug of tobac• Naw, brother, - I will call ye broth- co to his pocket, and chewing hard on er,' — like that war powerful 'commo- the bit which his strong teeth had datin', - 'I kin not sot my p-people ter wrenched off, “it did 'pear ter me ez do sech, arter yer words yistiddy. We they mought hev stretched a p'int when kin lose no money by ye, — the church I see the pa’son ridin' off with them air pore an' the cause air n-needy. I two sneaking off'cers. He hed so nigh kin only pray fur the devil ter l-loose los' his senses with the notion he war his holt on ye, f-fur I perceive the devil a-goin' ter be jailed ez they hed ter hold in ye.' Waal, sir," continued Pete, him up in the saddle, else he'd hev drawing a plug of tobacco from his been under the beastis's huffs in a pocket, and gnawing on it with tugging minute.” persistence,“ Christian perfesser ez I be, Why n't you-uns go on his bond ?” I felt sorter 'shamed o’ Brother J-Jake asked Amos James, suddenly. Tobin, - he looked s-s-sech a skerry “ Who?" shouted Pete in stentorian h-half-liver, 'feard o' losin' money ! amaze, above the clamor of the old Shucks ! I could sca'cely keep my hands

mill. off'n him. He looked so—

- so curious, “ You-uns, the whole Cayce layI wanted ter— ter”. - he remembered out,” reiterated Amos James. the reverence due to the cloth - "ter His blood had risen to his face. All trip him up,” he concluded, temperate the instincts of justice within him rely. “ An' then, ez he war a-whurl- volted at the picture Pete had drawn, in' his fat sides around ter pick up coarsely and crudely outlined, but the cheer, Pa’son K-Kelsey, — he hed touched with the vivid realities of nature. t-turned plumb bleached, like a corpse, It was as a scene present before him : the

he stood up an' sez, “The Lord hev falsely accused man borne away, crushed fursaken me!' An' Brother Jake Tobin with shame, while the true criminal humps around, with the cheer in his looked on with a lax conscience and an hand, an' sez, Naw, brother, naw, ye impersonal interest, and thriftily saved hev fursook the Lord !'"

his observations to recount to his cronies “ Waal,” said the man on the bag of at the mill. Amos James cared naught corn, gazing meditatively at the dusty for the outraged majesty of the law. floor and at a great yellow cur who had The rescue of the prisoner from its ventured within, as a shelter from the fierce talons seemed to him, instead, humidday heat, and lay at ungainly length mane and beneficent. His sense of jusasleep near the door, " I dunno ez I kin tice was touched only by the manifest blame Brother Jake Tobin. ’T would cruelty when one man was forced to hev made a mighty scandal ter keep bear the consequences of another's act. Pa'son Kelsey in the church, arter what “ You-uns mought hev done ez much," he said agin the faith. We'll hev ter he said significantly. turn him out; an' ez he air ter be turned “I reckon they would bev 'lowed ez out, I dunno ez the church members hev we war n't wuth it,” said Pete, quietly enny call ter go on his bond. He air ruminant ; “the still can't show up.” none o' we-uns, nowadays.”

“Ye never tried it,” said Amos. “ Leastwise none o' 'em war a-goin' “ Waal, d-dad, he war n't thar, an' t-ter do it,” said Pete quietly. “They

“ They I could n't ondertake ter speak fur air all mindful o' Brother Jake Tobin's the rest. An' I ain't beholden no ways longest ear, ez kin hear a call from the ter Pa’son Kelsey. I hev no call ter church yander in Cade's Cove er'y time b-b-bail him ez I knows on.

I hev no he g-gits mad at 'em. But I tell ye," hand in his bein' arrested an' sech.”

“ Hey no hand in his bein' arrested !” threatened. His self-confidence, his arretorted Amos, scornfully.

rogant affinity for authority, his pride, Pete was staring stolidly at him, and and his ambition keenly barbed the the other men assumed an intent, in- prescience of this abnormal flatness of quiring attitude. Amos James felt sud- failure. He was pierced by every caredenly that he had gone too far. He had less glance ; every casual word wounded no wish to fasten this stigma upon the him. He had a strange disturbing sense Cayces; he had every reason to avoid of a loss of identity. This anxious, browit. He did not know how far he had beaten, humiliated creature,

was this been accounted a confidant in the inti- Micajah Green? He did not recognize macies of the cave when Rick Tyler himself; every throb within him had had found a refuge there. He could an alien impulse; he repudiated every not disregard the trust reposed in him. cringing mental process. It was his first And yet he could not recall his words. experience of the rigors of adversity :

Pete's blank gaze changed to an it did not quell him ; he felt effaced. amazed comprehension. He spoke out He feebly sought to goad himself to bluntly the thought in the other's mind. answer the rough chaff of spurious sym

“Ye air a-thinkin', Amos Jeemes, ez pathizers with his old bluff spirit ; his 't war we-uns ez cut Rick Tyler a-loose retort was like the lisp of a child in de o' the sher'ff !” he exclaimed.

fiance of the challenge of a bugle. He Amos, confronted with his own sus- saw with faltering bewilderment how the picion, listened with a guilty air. interesting spectacle increased his audi

“ Ye air surely the b-b-b-biggest ence; it resembled in some sort an exf-f-f-fool” — the words seemed very large periment in vivisection, and where the with these additional consonants — “in writhings most suggested an apprecithe shadder o' the B-b-b-Big S-s-s-sm- ated anguish, each curious scientist most Smoky M-m-Mountings !” Pete spread longed to thrust the scalpel. them out with all the magnifying facili- The coroner held the election, as the ties of his infirmity.

sheriff himself was a candidate, and “Waal, then,” said Amos, crestfallen, when the result became known the “ who done it?

details excited increased comment. In “Why, P-Pa’son Kelsey, I reckon." the district of the county town he had

a majority, but the unanimity against

him in the outlying districts, especially XII.

in the Big Smoky and its widespread

spurs and coves, was unprecedented in That memorable arrest in the Big the annals of the county. He had hoped Smoky was the last official act of the that the election of judge and attorneysheriff, except the surrender of his books general, taking place at the same time, and papers and taking his successor's might divert attention from the disasreceipt for the prisoners in the county trous completeness of his failure. But jail. The defeat had its odious aspects. their race involved no peculiar phase of The race had been amazingly unequal. popular interest, and the more imporHad the ground tottered beneath him, tant results were subordinated, so far as he stood in the grass-fringed streets as the county was concerned, to the of Shaftesville, and heard the rumors spectacle of 'Cajah Green, “flabberof the returns from the civil districts, gasted an' flustrated like never war he could hardly have experienced a sen

New elements of gossip were sation of insecurity commensurate with added now and then, vivaciously canthis, for all his moral supports were passed among the knots of men perched Some say

seen."

on barrels in the stores, or congregated Mountains, electioneering against the inin the post-office, or sitting on the steps cumbent. “They rid hyar an' they rid of the court-house, and were ruthlessly thar,-up in the mountings an' down detailed to the ex-sheriff, whose starts in the coves ; an' some do say

thar war of rage, unthinking relapses into official one o' 'em in ev'y votin'-place in all the speech, jerks of convulsive surprise, pro- mounting deestric's the day the 'lection longed the amusement beyond its natural kem off, jes' a-stiffenin' up the Peake span.

men, an' a-beggin', an' a-prayin', an' It ceased suddenly. The adjustment a-wraslin' in argymint with them ez hed to a new line of thought and a future gin out they war a-goin' ter vote fur under altered conditions was facilitated you-uns. Bluff Peake say they fairly by the inception of an immediate definite 'lected him, though he 'lowed 't war n't intention and a sentiment coequal with fur love o' him. I wonder ye done the passion of despair. The idlers of ez well ez ye did, 'Cajah, though ye the town might not have been able to could n't hev done much wuss, sure accurately define the moment when the enough. All o' 'em war out, from old drama of defeat, with which he had prod- Groundhog down ter Sol, when they igally entertained them, lost its interest. war 'lectioneerin', an' the whiskey ez But there was a moment that differed war drunk round the Settlemint an' from all the others of the lazy August sech war 'sprisin'.

old hours; the minimum of time charged Groundhog furnished it free." with disproportionate importance. It The ex-sheriff made no reply. There might be likened to a symbol of chemis- was a look in his eye that gave his long, try, which though the simplest alphabet- lean head, deeply sunken at the temples, ical character, is significant of the chief- less the aspect of that of a whipped est principle of life, — perhaps of death. hound than it had worn of late. One

That moment the wind came freshly might have augured that he was a dandown from the mountains; the glare, of gerous brute. And after that, the conthe morning sun rested on the empty, versation with the recent election as a sandy street of the village ; the weeds theme flagged, and died out gradually. and grass

that obscured the curbing of It was only a few days before he had the pavement were still overhung by a occasion to go up into the Great Smoky glittering gossamer net of dew. A yel- Mountains, on matters, he averred, conlow butterfly fitted over it, followed by nected with closing unsettled business another so like that it could not be dis- of the office which he had held. As he tinguished from its aerial counterpart. jogged along, he moodily watched the The fragrance of new-mown hay some- distant mountains, growing ever nearer, where in the rural metropolis was sweet and engirdled here and there with belts on the air. A blue-bottle, inside the of white mists, above whose shining silwindow of the store hard by, droned ver densities sometimes would tower a against the glass, and seemed in some gigantic “bald," with a suspended, isosort an echo to the monotonous drawl Jated effect, like some wonderful aerial of a man who had lately been up in the regions unknown to geography, foreign Big Smoky, and who had gleaned fresh to humanity. The supreme dignity of points concerning the recent election. their presence was familiar to him.

“What did ye ever do ter the Cayces, Their awful silence, like the unspeak'Cajah, or what did Bluff Peake ever able impressiveness of some overpowdo fur 'em ?” he asked, as preliminaryering thought, affected him not. The to detailing that the Cayces had turned vastness of the earth which they sug. out and pervaded the Great Smoky gested, beneath the immensities of the sky, which leaned upon them, found no Its owner loitered desolately about ; now responsive largeness in his emotions. looking, with the gloat of acquisition, Those barren domes of an intense blue, at his purchases stowed away in the tinged with purple where the bold rocks wagon, and now nervously at a little jutted out, flushed where the yellow barefoot girl he had brought with him sunshine languished to a blush; those to behold the metropolitan glories of heavily wooded slopes below the balds, the Settlement. He occasionally asked sombre and rich in green and bronze her anxious questions.

“ Ain't you-uns and all darkling shades, — touched, too, 'most tired out, Euraliny ? ” he would here and there with a vivid crimson say; or, “Don't ye feel wore in yer where the first fickle sumach flared; backbone, hevin' ter wait so long?" or, those coves in which shadows lurked and “ Hed n't ye better lay down on the vague sentiments of color were abroad blanket in the wagin an' rest yer bones, in visionary guise, in unexplained soft- bein’ ez we-uns started 'fore daybreak?” ness of grays and hardly realized blues, But the sturdy Euralina shook her sunin dun browns and sedate yellows, van- bonnet, with her head in it, in emphatic ishing before the plain prose of an ap- negation at every suggestion, and sat proach, — he had reduced all this to a upright on the board laid across the scale of miles, and the splendors of the rough, springless wagon, looking about landscape were not more seemly or sug- her gravely, with a stalwart determinagestive than the colors of a map on the tion to see all there was in the famed wall. It was a mental scale of miles, for Settlemint; thinking, perhaps, that her the law decreeing a sufficiency of mile- backbone would have leisure to humor posts seemed to weaken in the rugged- its ails in the retirement of home. What ness of the advance, and when he was an ideal traveler Euralina would be fairly among the coves and ravines they under a wider propitiousness of circumdisappeared. He pushed his horse rath- stance! And so the anxious parent could er hard, as the time wore on, but sunset only stroll about as before, and contemwas on the mountains before he came plate his purchases, and pause at the upon the great silent company of dead door of the blacksmith's shop to say, trees towering above the Settlement in “ Ain't you-uns 'most done, Gid?" in the reddening light, and tracing their a tone of harrowing insistence, for the undeciphered hieroglyphics across the fortieth time since the blacksmith's servalley beneath and the heights beyond. vices were invoked. The ringing vibrations of the anvil were Gid Fletcher looked up with a loweron the air ; the measured alternations of ing brow as Micajah Green entered. the hand-hammer and the sledge re- The shadows of evening were dusky in sounded in a clear, metallic fugue ; the the ill-lighted place ; the fluctuations of flare from the forge fire streamed the forge fire, now flaring, now fading, through the great door of the black- intensified the idea of gloom. The redsmith's shop, giving fuctuating glimpses hot iron that the blacksmith held on the of the interior, but fainting and fading anvil threw its lurid reflection into his into impotent artificiality before the swarthy face and, his eyes ; his throat gold and scarlet fires ablaze in the was bare ; his athletic figure, girded out western sky.

with his leather apron, demonstrated in A wagon, broken down and upheld its poses the picturesqueness of the simby a pole in lieu of one of the wheels, ple craft ; his sleeve was rolled tightly stood in front of the blacksmith's shop, from his huge, corded hammer arm. and was evidently the reason of Gid His hand-hammer seemed endowed with Fletcher's industry at this late hour. some nice discriminating sense as it

tapped here and there with an impera- perience as a defeated candidate, and he tive clink, and the great sledge in the swaggered a little about the dirt floor striker's hands came crashing down to of the shop; glancing at the forge fire, execute its sharp behests, while the flakes slumberously glowing, at the smoky flew from the metal in jets of golden hood above it, at the window opensparks.

ing upon the purpling mountains and A man is never so plastic to virtuous the fading west. He even paused, aud impulses as when he is doing well his turned with his foot the clods of the chosen work. Labor was ordained to cavity still yawning below the lowest humanity as a curse; surely God repent- log, where the escaped man had crawled ed him of the evil. What blessing has through. proved so beneficent !

There was an altercation at this moThe suggestions entering with the ment between the smith and his assistnew-comer were at variance with this ant; for the work was not so satisfactory wholesome industrial mood. They re- as when Gid Fletcher's mind was excalled to the blacksmith his baffled ava- clusively bent upon it, and his striker rice, his revenge, and the malice that officiated also as scapegoat, although had influenced his testimony at the com- that function was not specified as his mitting trial. More than once, of late, duty in their agreement. Gid Fletcher while the anvil sang responsive to the had marked with furtive surprise and hammer's sonorous clangor, and the doubt every movement of the intruder, sparks flew, emblazoning the twilight and this show of interest in the only of the shop with arabesques of golden trace of the escape by which was lost flakes, and the iron yielded like wax to his rich reward roused his ire. fire and force, he had a sudden fear that “ Even the dogs hev quit that, 'Cahe had not done well. True, he had jah,” he said, enigmatically, as he caught sworn to nothing which he did not be- up the iron for a new skene and thrust lieve, either in the affidavit for the war- it into the fire, while the striker fell to rant or at the committing trial ; but the at the bellows. The long sighing burst widely chartered credulity of an angry forth ; the fire flared to redness, to a man! He said to himself in extenua- white heat, every vivid coal edged by tion that he would not have gone so far a fan of yellow shimmer. The blackbut for the sheriff.

smith's fine stalwart figure was thrown He was not glad, with these recollec- backward; his face was lined with tions paramount, to see Micajah Green sharp white lights ; he was looking over again. Some concession he made, how- his shoulder, and laughing silently, but ever, to the dictates of hospitality. with a sheer.

“Hy 're, 'Cajah,” he said, albeit “ The dogs ?” said Micajah Green, gruffly, and the monotonous clinking of amazed. He did not sneer. the hand-hammer and the clanking of * The dogs tuk ter cropin' in an' the sledge went on as before.

outer that thar hole fur five or six Micajah Green's knowledge of life days arter Rick Tyler got away,” Gid had not been wide, but there was space

Fletcher explained. 6.'Peared ter be to evolve a cynical reflection that, being nosin' round fur him, too. I dunno down in the world now, he must bite what notion tuk ’em, but I never would the dust, and he attributed this cavalier abide 'em in the shop, an' so I jes' kep' treatment to the perverse result of the that fur 'em,” — he nodded' at a leather election.

strap hanging on the rod, — “an'larnt He had acquired something of the 'em ter stay out o'hyar. But even manner of bravado, from his recent ex. they hev gin it up now."

VOL. LV. - NO. 332.

48

« AnteriorContinuar »