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Title: Pipes O'Pan at Zekesbury
Author: Riley, James Whitcomb, 1849-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pipes O'Pan at Zekesbury" ***

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PIPES O' PAN AT ZEKESBURY

BY

JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY



INDIANAPOLIS

BOWEN-MERRILL CO., PUBLISHERS

1895



_TO MY BROTHER JOHN A. RILEY WITH MANY MEMORIES OF THE OLD HOME_


CONTENTS

                                        PAGE


AT ZEKESBURY                             13

DOWN AROUND THE RIVER POEMS

    DOWN AROUND THE RIVER                37

    KNEELING WITH HERRICK                39

    ROMANCIN'                            40

    HAS SHE FORGOTTEN                    43

    A' OLD PLAYED-OUT SONG               45

    THE LOST PATH                        47

    THE LITTLE TINY KICKSHAW             48

    HIS MOTHER                           49

    KISSING THE ROD                      50

    HOW IT HAPPENED                      51

    BABYHOOD                             53

    THE DAYS GONE BY                     54

    MRS. MILLER                          57

RHYMES OF RAINY DAYS

    THE TREE-TOAD                        79

    A WORN-OUT PENCIL                    80

    THE STEPMOTHER                       82

    THE RAIN                             83

    THE LEGEND GLORIFIED                 84

    WHUR MOTHER IS                       85

    OLD MAN'S NURSERY RHYME              86

    THREE DEAD FRIENDS                   88

    IN BOHEMIA                           91

    IN THE DARK                          93

    WET-WEATHER TALK                     94

    WHERE SHALL WE LAND                  96

    AN OLD SETTLER'S STORY              101

SWEET-KNOT AND GALAMUS

    AN OLD SWEETHEART                   159

    MARTHY ELLEN                        161

    MOON-DROWNED                        163

    LONG AFORE HE KNOWED                164

    DEAR HANDS                          166

    THIS MAN JONES                      167

    TO MY GOOD MASTER                   169

    WHEN THE GREEN GITS BACK            170

    AT BROAD RIPPLE                     171

    WHEN OLD JACK DIED                  172

    DOC SIFERS                          174

    AT NOON--AND MIDNIGHT               177

    A WILD IRISHMAN                     181

RAGWEED AND FENNEL

    WHEN MY DREAMS COME TRUE            205

    A DOS'T O' BLUES                    206

    THE BAT                             208

    THE WAY IT WUZ                      209

    THE DRUM                            212

    TOM JOHNSON'S QUIT                  214

    LULLABY                             216

    IN THE SOUTH                        217

    THE OLD HOME BY THE MILL            219

    A LEAVE-TAKING                      221

    WAIT FOR THE MORNING                222

    WHEN JUNE IS HERE                   223

    THE GILDED ROLL                     227



PIPES O' PAN AT ZEKESBURY



  The pipes of Pan! Not idler now are they
  Than when their cunning fashioner first blew
  The pith of music from them: Yet for you
  And me their notes are blown in many a way
  Lost in our murmurings for that old day
  That fared so well, without us.--Waken to
  The pipings here at hand:--The clear halloo
  Of truant-voices, and the roundelay
  The waters warble in the solitude
  Of blooming thickets, where the robin's breast
  Sends up such ecstacy o'er dale and dell,
  Each tree top answers, till in all the wood
  There lingers not one squirrel in his nest
  Whetting his hunger on an empty shell.



AT ZEKESBURY.



The little town, as I recall it, was of just enough dignity and dearth
of the same to be an ordinary county seat in Indiana--"The Grand Old
Hoosier State," as it was used to being howlingly referred to by the
forensic stump orator from the old stand in the courthouse yard--a
political campaign being the wildest delight that Zekesbury might ever
hope to call its own.

Through years the fitful happenings of the town and its vicinity went
on the same--the same! Annually about one circus ventured in, and
vanished, and was gone, even as a passing trumpet-blast; the usual
rainy-season swelled the "Crick," the driftage choking at "the covered
bridge," and backing water till the old road looked amphibious; and
crowds of curious townsfolk straggled down to look upon the watery
wonder, and lean awe-struck above it, and spit in it, and turn mutely
home again.

The usual formula of incidents peculiar to an uneventful town and its
vicinity: The countryman from "Jessup's Crossing," with the cornstalk
coffin-measure, loped into town, his steaming little
gray-and-red-flecked "roadster" gurgitating, as it were, with that
mysterious utterance that ever has commanded and ever must evoke the
wonder and bewilderment of every boy. The small-pox rumor became
prevalent betimes, and the subtle aroma of the assafoetida-bag
permeated the graded schools "from turret to foundation-stone;" the
still recurring exposé of the poor-house management; the farm-hand,
with the scythe across his shoulder, struck dead by lightning; the
long-drawn quarrel between the rival editors culminating in one of
them assaulting the other with a "sidestick," and the other kicking
the one down stairs and thenceward _ad libitum;_ the tramp,
suppositiously stealing a ride, found dead on the railroad; the grand
jury returning a sensational indictment against a bar-tender _non
est_; the Temperance outbreak; the "Revival;" the Church Festival; and
the "Free Lectures on Phrenology, and Marvels of Mesmerism," at the
town hall. It was during the time of the last-mentioned sensation, and
directly through this scientific investigation, that I came upon two
of the town's most remarkable characters. And however meager my
outline of them may prove, my material for the sketch is most accurate
in every detail, and no deviation from the cold facts of the case
shall influence any line of my report.

For some years prior to this odd experience I had been connected with
a daily paper at the state capitol; and latterly a prolonged session
of the legislature, where I specially reported, having told
threateningly upon my health, I took both the advantage of a brief
vacation, and the invitation of a young bachelor Senator, to get out
of the city for awhile, and bask my respiratory organs in the
revivifying rural air of Zekesbury--the home of my new friend.

"It'll pay you to get out here," he said, cordially, meeting me at the
little station, "and I'm glad you've come, for you'll find no end of
odd characters to amuse you." And under the very pleasant sponsorship
of my senatorial friend, I was placed at once on genial terms with
half the citizens of the little town--from the shirt-sleeved nabob of
the county office to the droll wag of the favorite loafing-place--the
rules and by-laws of which resort, by the way, being rudely charcoaled
on the wall above the cutter's bench, and somewhat artistically
culminating in an original dialectic legend which ran thus:

  F'rinstance, now whar _some_ folks gits
  To relyin' on their wits.
  Ten to one they git too smart,
  And spile it all right at the start!--
  Feller wants to jest go slow
  And do his _thinkin'_ first, you know:----
  _Ef I can't think up somepin' good,_
  _I set still and chaw my cood!_

And it was at this inviting rendezvous, two or three evenings
following my arrival, that the general crowd, acting upon the random
proposition of one of the boys, rose as a man and wended its hilarious
way to the town hall.

"Phrenology," said the little, old, bald-headed lecturer and
mesmerist, thumbing the egg-shaped head of a young man I remembered to
have met that afternoon in some law office; "Phrenology," repeated the
professor--"or rather the _term_ phrenology--is derived from two Greek
words signifying _mind_ and _discourse_; hence we find embodied in
phrenology-proper, the science of intellectual measurement, together
with the capacity of intelligent communication of the varying mental
forces and their flexibilities, etc., &c. The study, then, of
phrenology is, to wholly simplify it--is, I say, the general
contemplation of the workings of the mind as made manifest through the
certain corresponding depressions and protuberances of the human
skull, when, of course, in a healthy state of action and development,
as we here find the conditions exemplified in the subject before us."

Here the "subject" vaguely smiled.

"You recognize that mug, don't you?" whispered my friend. "It's that
coruscating young ass, you know, Hedrick--in Cummings' office--trying
to study law and literature at the same time, and tampering with 'The
Monster that Annually,' don't you know?--where we found the two young
students scuffling round the office, and smelling of
peppermint?--Hedrick, you know, and Sweeney. Sweeney, the slim chap,
with the pallid face, and frog-eyes, and clammy hands! You remember I
told you 'there was a pair of 'em?' Well, they're up to something here
to-night. Hedrick, there on the stage in front; and Sweeney--don't you
see?--with the gang on the rear seats."

"Phrenology--again," continued the lecturer, "is, we may say, a
species of mental geography, as it were; which--by a study of the
skull--leads also to a study of the brain within, even as geology
naturally follows the initial contemplation of the earth's surface.
The brain, thurfur, or intellectual retort, as we may say, natively
exerts a molding influence on the skull contour; thurfur is the expert
in phrenology most readily enabled to accurately locate the
multitudinous intellectual forces, and most exactingly estimate, as
well, the sequent character of each subject submitted to his scrutiny.
As, in the example before us--a young man, doubtless well known in
your midst, though, I may say, an entire stranger to myself--I venture
to disclose some characteristic trends and tendencies, as indicated by
this phrenological depression and development of the skull-proper, as
later we will show, through the mesmeric condition, the accuracy of
our mental diagnosis."

Throughout the latter part of this speech my friend nudged me
spasmodically, whispering something which was jostled out of
intelligent utterance by some inward spasm of laughter.

"In this head," said the Professor, straddling his malleable fingers
across the young man's bumpy brow--"In this head we find Ideality
large--abnormally large, in fact; thurby indicating--taken in
conjunction with a like development of the perceptive
qualities--language following, as well, in the prominent eye--thurby
indicating, I say, our subject as especially endowed with a love for
the beautiful--the sublime--the elevating--the refined and
delicate--the lofty and superb--in nature, and in all the sublimated
attributes of the human heart and beatific soul. In fact, we find this
young man possessed of such natural gifts as would befit him for the
exalted career of the sculptor, the actor, the artist, or the
poet--any ideal calling; in fact, any calling but a practical,
matter-of-fact vocation; though in poetry he would seem to best
succeed."

"Well," said my friend, seriously, "he's _feeling_ for the boy!" Then
laughingly: "Hedrick _has_ written some rhymes for the county papers,
and Sweeney once introduced him, at an Old Settlers' Meeting, as 'The
Best Poet in Center Township,' and never cracked a smile! Always after
each other that way, but the best friends in the world. _Sweeney's_
strong suit is elocution. He has a native ability that way by no means
ordinary, but even that gift he abuses and distorts simply to produce
grotesque, and oftentimes ridiculous effects. For instance, nothing
more delights him than to 'lothfully' consent to answer a request, at
The Mite Society, some evening, for 'an appropriate selection,' and
then, with an elaborate introduction of the same, and an exalted
tribute to the refined genius of the author, proceed with a most
gruesome rendition of 'Alonzo The Brave and The Fair Imogene,' in a
way to coagulate the blood and curl the hair of his fair listeners
with abject terror. Pale as a corpse, you know, and with that
cadaverous face, lit with those malignant-looking eyes, his slender
figure, and his long, thin legs and arms and hands, and his whole
diabolical talent and adroitness brought into play--why, I want to say
to you, it's enough to scare 'em to death! Never a smile from him,
though, till he and Hedrick are safe out into the night again--then,
of course, they hug each other and howl over it like Modocs! But
pardon; I'm interrupting the lecture. Listen."

"A lack of continuity, however," continued the Professor, "and an
undue love of approbation, would, measurably, at least, tend to retard
the young man's progress toward the consummation of any loftier
ambition, I fear; yet as we have intimated, if the subject were
appropriately educated to the need's demand, he could doubtless
produce a high order of both prose and poetry--especially the
latter--though he could very illy bear being laughed at for his
pains."

"He's dead wrong there," said my friend; "Hedrick enjoys being laughed
at; he 's used to it--gets fat on it!"

"He is fond of his friends," continued the Professor "and the heartier
they are the better; might even be convivially inclined--if so
tempted--but prudent--in a degree," loiteringly concluded the speaker,
as though unable to find the exact bump with which to bolster up the
last named attribute.

The subject blushed vividly--my friend's right eyelid dropped, and
there was a noticeable, though elusive sensation throughout the
audience.

"_But!_" said the Professor, explosively, "selecting a directly
opposite subject, in conjunction with the study of the one before us
[turning to the group at the rear of the stage and beckoning], we may
find a newer interest in the practical comparison of these subjects
side by side." And the Professor pushed a very pale young man into
position.

"Sweeney!" whispered my friend, delightedly; "now look out!"

"In _this_ subject," said the Professor, "we find the practical
business head. Square--though small--a trifle light at the base, in
fact; but well balanced at the important points at least; thoughtful
eyes--wide-awake--crafty--quick--restless--a policy eye, though not
denoting language--unless, perhaps, mere business forms and direct
statements."

"Fooled again!" whispered my friend; "and I'm afraid the old man will
fail to nest out the fact also that Sweeney is the cold-bloodedest
guyer on the face of the earth, and with more diabolical resources
than a prosecuting attorney; the Professor ought to know this, too, by
this time--for these same two chaps have been visiting the old man in
his room at the hotel;--that's what I was trying to tell you awhile
ago. The old sharp thinks he's 'playing' the boys, is my idea; but
it's the other way, or I lose my guess."

"Now, under the mesmeric influence--if the two subjects will consent
to its administration," said the Professor, after some further tedious
preamble, "we may at once determine the fact of my assertions, as will
be proved by their action while in this peculiar state." Here some
apparent remonstrance was met with from both subjects, though amicably
overcome by the Professor first manipulating the stolid brow and
pallid front of the imperturbable Sweeney--after which the same
mysterious ordeal was lothfully submitted to by Hedrick--though a
noticeably longer time was consumed in securing his final loss of
self-control. At last, however, this curious phenomenon was presented,
and there before us stood the two swaying figures, the heads dropped
back, the lifted hands, with thumb and finger-tips pressed lightly
together, the eyelids languid and half closed, and the features, in
appearance, wan and humid.

"Now, sir!" said the Professor, leading the limp Sweeney forward, and
addressing him in a quick, sharp tone of voice.--"Now, sir, you are a
great contractor--own large factories, and with untold business
interests. Just look out there! [pointing out across the expectant
audience] look there, and see the countless minions toiling servilely
at your dread mandates. And yet--ha! ha! See! see!--They recognize the
avaricious greed that would thus grind them in the very dust; they
see, alas! they see themselves half-clothed--half-fed, that you may
glut your coffers. Half-starved, they listen to the wail of wife and
babe, and, with eyes upraised in prayer, they see _you_ rolling by in
gilded coach, and swathed in silk attire. But--ha! again! Look--look!
they are rising in revolt against you! Speak to them before too late!
Appeal to them--quell them with the promise of the just advance of
wages they demand!"

The limp figure of Sweeney took on something of a stately and majestic
air. With a graceful and commanding gesture of the hand, he advanced a
step or two; then, after a pause of some seconds duration, in which
the lifted face grew paler, as it seemed, and the eyes a denser black,
he said:

  "But yesterday
  I looked away
  O'er happy lands, where sunshine lay
  In golden blots,
  Inlaid with spots
  Of shade and wild forget-me-nots."

The voice was low, but clear, and ever musical. The Professor started
at the strange utterance, looked extremely confused, and, as the
boisterous crowd cried "Hear, hear!" he motioned the subject to
continue, with some gasping comment interjected, which, if audible,
would have run thus: "My God! It's an inspirational poem!"

  "My head was fair
  With flaxen hair--"

resumed the subject.

"Yoop-ee!" yelled an irreverent auditor.

"Silence! silence!" commanded the excited Professor in a hoarse
whisper; then, turning enthusiastically to the subject--"Go on, young
man! Go on!--'_Thy head-was fair-with flaxen hair_--'"

  "My head was fair
  With flaxen hair,
  And fragrant breezes, faint and rare,
  And warm with drouth
  From out the south,
  Blew all my curls across my mouth."

The speaker's voice, exquisitely modulated, yet resonant as the twang
of a harp, now seemed of itself to draw and hold each listener; while
a certain extravagance of gesticulation--a fantastic movement of both
form and feature--seemed very near akin to fascination. And so flowed
on the curious utterance:

  "And, cool and sweet,
  My naked feet
  Found dewy pathways through the wheat;
  And out again
  Where, down the lane,
  The dust was dimpled with the rain."

In the pause following there was a breathlessness almost painful. The
poem went on:

  "But yesterday
  I heard the lay
  Of summer birds, when I, as they
  With breast and wing,
  All quivering
  With life and love, could only sing.

  "My head was leant,
  Where, with it, blent
  A maiden's, o'er her instrument;
  While all the night,
  From vale to height,
  Was filled with echoes of delight.

  "And all our dreams
  Were lit with gleams
  Of that lost land of reedy streams,
  Along whose brim
  Forever swim
  Pan's lilies, laughing up at him."

And still the inspired singer held rapt sway.

"It is wonderful!" I whispered, under breath.

"Of course it is!" answered my friend. "But listen; there is more:"

  "But yesterday!...
  O blooms of May,
  And summer roses--Where-away?
  O stars above;
  And lips of love,
  And all the honeyed sweets thereof!

  "O lad and lass.
  And orchard-pass,
  And briared lane, and daisied grass!
  O gleam and gloom,
  And woodland bloom,
  And breezy breaths of all perfume!--

  "No more for me
  Or mine shall be
  Thy raptures--save in memory,--
  No more--no more--
  Till through the Door
  Of Glory gleam the days of yore."

This was the evident conclusion of the remarkable utterance, and the
Professor was impetuously fluttering his hands about the subject's
upward-staring eyes, stroking his temples, and snapping his fingers in
his face.

"Well," said Sweeney, as he stood suddenly awakened, and grinning in
an idiotic way, "how did the old thing work?" And it was in the
consequent hilarity and loud and long applause, perhaps, that the
Professor was relieved from the explanation of this rather astounding
phenomenon of the idealistic workings of a purely practical brain--or,
as my impious friend scoffed the incongruity later, in a particularly
withering allusion, as the "blank-blanked fallacy, don't you know, of
staying the hunger of a howling mob by feeding 'em on Spring poetry!"

The tumult of the audience did not cease even with the retirement of
Sweeney, and cries of "Hedrick! Hedrick!" only subsided with the
Professor's high-keyed announcement that the subject was even then
endeavoring to make himself heard, but could not until utter quiet was
restored, adding the further appeal that the young man had already
been a long time under the mesmeric spell, and ought not be so
detained for an unnecessary period. "See," he concluded, with an
assuring wave of the hand toward the subject, "see; he is about to
address you. Now, quiet!--utter quiet, if you please!"

"Great heavens!" exclaimed my friend, stiflingly; "Just look at the
boy! Get onto that position for a poet! Even Sweeney has fled from the
sight of him!"

And truly, too, it was a grotesque pose the young man had assumed; not
wholly ridiculous either, since the dwarfed position he had settled
into seemed more a genuine physical condition than an affected one.
The head, back-tilted, and sunk between the shoulders, looked
abnormally large, while the features of the face appeared peculiarly
child-like--especially the eyes--wakeful and wide apart, and very
bright, yet very mild and very artless; and the drawn and cramped
outline of the legs and feet, and of the arms and hands, even to the
shrunken, slender-looking fingers, all combined to most strikingly
convey to the pained senses the fragile frame and pixey figure of some
pitiably afflicted child, unconscious altogether of the pathos of its
own deformity.

"Now, mark the kuss, Horatio!" gasped my friend.

At first the speaker's voice came very low, and somewhat piping, too,
and broken--an eerie sort of voice it was, of brittle and erratic
_timbre_ and undulant inflection. Yet it was beautiful. It had the
ring of childhood in it, though the ring was not pure golden, and at
times fell echoless. The _spirit_ of its utterance was always clear
and pure and crisp and cheery as the twitter of a bird, and yet
forever ran an undercadence through it like a low-pleading prayer.
Half garrulously, and like a shallow brook might brawl across a shelvy
bottom, the rhythmic little changeling thus began:

  "I'm thist a little crippled boy, an' never goin' to grow
  An' git a great big man at all!--'cause Aunty told me so.
  When I was thist a baby one't I falled out of the bed
  An' got 'The Curv'ture of the Spine'--'at's what the Doctor said.
  I never had no Mother nen--far my Pa run away
  An' dassn't come back here no more--'cause he was drunk one day
  An' stobbed a man in thish-ere town, an' couldn't pay his fine!
  An' nen my Ma she died--an' I got 'Curv'ture of the Spine!'"

A few titterings from the younger people in the audience marked the
opening stanza, while a certain restlessness, and a changing to more
attentive positions seemed the general tendency. The old Professor, in
the meantime, had sunk into one of the empty chairs. The speaker went
on with more gaiety:

  "I'm nine years old! An' you can't guess how much I weigh, I bet!--
  Last birthday I weighed thirty-three!--An' I weigh thirty yet!
  I'm awful little far my size--I'm purt' nigh littler 'an
  Some babies is!--an' neighbors all calls me 'The Little Man!'
  An' Doc one time he laughed an' said: 'I 'spect, first thing you
    know,
  You'll have a little spike-tail coat an' travel with a show!'
  An' nen I laughed--till I looked round an' Aunty was a-cryin'--
  Sometimes she acts like that, 'cause I got 'Curv'ture of the
  Spine!'"

Just in front of me a great broad-shouldered countryman, with a rainy
smell in his cumbrous overcoat, cleared his throat vehemently, looked
startled at the sound, and again settled forward, his weedy chin
resting on the knuckles of his hands as they tightly clutched the seat
before him. And it was like being taken into a childish confidence as
the quaint speech continued:

  "I set--while Aunty's washin'--on my little long-leg stool,
  An' watch the little boys an' girls 'a-skippin' by to school;
  An' I peck on the winder, an' holler out an' say:
  'Who wants to fight The Little Man 'at dares you all to-day?'
  An' nen the boys climbs on the fence, an' little girls peeks
    through,
  An' they all says: 'Cause you're so big, you think we're 'feared o'
    you!'
  An' nen they yell, an' shake their fist at me, like I shake mine--
  They're thist in fun, you know, 'cause I got 'Curv'ture of the
    Spine!'"

"Well," whispered my friend, with rather odd irrelevance, I thought,
"of course you see through the scheme of the fellows by this time,
don't you?"

"I see nothing," said I, most earnestly, "but a poor little wisp of a
child that makes me love him so I dare not think of his dying soon, as
he surely must! There; listen!" And the plaintive gaiety of the homely
poem ran on:

  "At evening, when the ironin's done, an' Aunty's fixed the fire,
  An' filled an' lit the lamp, an' trimmed the wick an' turned it
    higher,
  An' fetched the wood all in far night, an' locked the kitchen door,
  An' stuffed the ole crack where the wind blows in up through the
    floor--
  She sets the kittle on the coals, an' biles an' makes the tea,
  An' fries the liver an' the mush, an' cooks a egg far me;
  An' sometimes--when I cough so hard--her elderberry wine
  Don't go so bad far little boys with 'Curv'ture of the Spine!'"

"Look!" whispered my friend, touching me with his elbow. "Look at the
Professor!"

"Look at everybody!" said I. And the artless little voice went on
again half quaveringly:

  "But Aunty's all so childish-like on my account, you see,
  I'm 'most afeared she'll be took down--an' 'at's what bothers
    _me!_--
  'Cause ef my good ole Aunty ever would git sick an' die,
  I don't know what she'd do in Heaven--till _I_ come, by an' by:--
  Far she's so ust to all my ways, an' ever'thing, you know,
  An' no one there like me, to nurse, an' worry over so!--
  'Cause all the little childerns there's so straight an' strong an'
    fine,
  They's nary angel 'bout the place with 'Curv'ture of the Spine!'"

The old Professor's face was in his handkerchief; so was my friend's
in his; and so was mine in mine, as even now my pen drops and I reach
for it again.

I half regret joining the mad party that had gathered an hour later in
the old law-office where these two graceless characters held almost
nightly revel, the instigators and conniving hosts of a reputed
banquet whose _menu's_ range confined itself to herrings, or "blind
robins," dried beef, and cheese, with crackers, gingerbread, and
sometimes pie; the whole washed down with anything but

    "----Wines that heaven knows when
  Had sucked the fire of some forgotten sun,
  And kept it through a hundred years of gloom
  Still glowing in a heart of ruby."

But the affair was memorable. The old Professor was himself lured into
it, and loudest in his praise of Hedrick's realistic art; and I yet
recall him at the orgie's height, excitedly repulsing the continued
slurs and insinuations of the clammy-handed Sweeney, who, still
contending against the old man's fulsome praise of his more fortunate
rival, at last openly declared that Hedrick was _not_ a poet, _not_ a
genius, and in no way worthy to be classed in the same breath with
_himself_--"the gifted but unfortunate _Sweeney_, sir--the
unacknowledged author, sir--'y gad, sir!--of the two poems that held
you spell-bound to-night!"



DOWN AROUND THE RIVER POEMS



DOWN AROUND THE RIVER.



  Noon-time and June-time, down around the river!
  Have to furse with 'Lizey Ann--but lawzy! I fergive her!
  Drives me off the place, and says 'at all 'at she's a-wishin',
  Land o' gracious! time'll come I'll git enough o' fishin'!
  Little Dave, a-choppin' wood, never 'pears to notice;
  Don't know where she's hid his hat, er keerin' where his coat is,--
  Specalatin', more 'n like, he haint a-goin' to mind me,
  And guessin' where, say twelve o'clock, a feller'd likely find me.

  Noon-time and June-time, down around the river!
  Clean out o' sight o' home, and skulkin' under kivver
  Of the sycamores, jack-oaks, and swamp-ash and ellum--
  Idies all so jumbled up, you kin hardly tell 'em!--
  _Tired_, you know, but _lovin'_ it, and smilin' jest to think 'at
  Any sweeter tiredness you'd fairly want to _drink_ it.
  Tired o' fishin'--tired o' fun--line out slack and slacker--
  All you want in all the world's a little more tobacker!

  Hungry, but _a-hidin'_ it, er jes' a-not a-keerin':-
  Kingfisher gittin' up and skootin' out o' hearin';
  Snipes on the t'other side, where the County Ditch is,
  Wadin' up and down the aidge like they'd rolled their britches!
  Old turkle on the root kindo-sorto drappin'
  Intoo th' worter like he don't know how it happen!
  Worter, shade and all so mixed, don't know which you'd orter
  Say, th' _worter_ in the shadder--_shadder_ in the _worter!_

  Somebody hollerin'--'way around the bend in
  Upper Fork--where yer eye kin jes' ketch the endin'
  Of the shiney wedge o' wake some muss-rat's a-makin'
  With that pesky nose o' his! Then a sniff o' bacon,
  Corn-bread and 'dock-greens--and little Dave a-shinnin'
  'Crost the rocks and mussel-shells, a-limpin' and a-grinnin',
  With yer dinner far ye, and a blessin' from the giver.
  Noon-time and June-time down around the river!



KNEELING WITH HERRICK.



  Dear Lord, to Thee my knee is bent.--
    Give me content--
  Full-pleasured with what comes to me,
    What e'er it be:
  An humble roof--a frugal board,
    And simple hoard;
  The wintry fagot piled beside
    The chimney wide,
  While the enwreathing flames up-sprout
    And twine about
  The brazen dogs that guard my hearth
    And household worth:
  Tinge with the ember's ruddy glow
    The rafters low;
  And let the sparks snap with delight,
    As ringers might
  That mark deft measures of some tune
    The children croon:
  Then, with good friends, the rarest few
    Thou holdest true,
  Ranged round about the blaze, to share
    My comfort there,--
  Give me to claim the service meet
    That makes each seat
  A place of honor, and each guest
    Loved as the rest.



ROMANCIN'.



  I' b'en a-kindo musin', as the feller says, and I'm
  About o' the conclusion that they ain't no better time,
  When you come to cipher on it, than the times we used to know
  When we swore our first "dog-gone-it" sorto solem'-like and low!

  You git my idy, do you?--_Little_ tads, you understand--
  Jes' a wishin' thue and thue you that you on'y was a _man_.--
  Yit here I am, this minute, even forty, to a day,
  And fergittin' all that's in it, wishin' jes' the other way!

  I hain't no hand to lectur' on the times, er dimonstrate
  Whur the trouble is, er hector and domineer with Fate,--
  But when I git so flurried, and so pestered-like and blue,
  And so rail owdacious worried, let me tell you what I do!--

  I jes' gee-haw the hosses, and unhook the swingle-tree,
  Whur the hazel-bushes tosses down their shadders over me,
  And I draw my plug o' navy, and I climb the fence, and set
  Jes' a-thinkin' here, 'y gravy! till my eyes is wringin'-wet!

  Tho' I still kin see the trouble o' the _present_, I kin see--
  Kindo like my sight was double--all the things that _used to be_;
  And the flutter o' the robin, and the teeter o' the wren
  Sets the willer branches bobbin "howdy-do" thum Now to Then!

  The deadnin' and the thicket's jes' a bilin' full of June,
  Thum the rattle o' the cricket, to the yallar-hammer's tune;
  And the catbird in the bottom, and the sap-suck on the snag,
  Seems ef they cain't--od-rot'em!--jes' do nothin' else but brag!

  They's music in the twitter of the bluebird and the jay,
  And that sassy little critter jes' a-peckin' all the day;
  They's music in the "flicker," and they's music in the thrush,
  And they's music in the snicker o' the chipmunk in the brush!

  They's music _all around_ me!--And I go back, in a dream--
  Sweeter yit than ever found me fast asleep--and in the stream
  That used to split the medder whur the dandylions growed,
  I stand knee-deep, and redder than the sunset down the road.

  Then's when I' b'en a-fishin'!--and they's other fellers, too,
  With their hickry poles a-swishin' out behind 'em; and a few
  Little "shiners" on our stringers, with their tails tiptoein' bloom,
  As we dance 'em in our fingers all the happy journey home.

  I kin see us, true to Natur', thum the time we started out
  With a biscuit and a 'tater in our little "roundabout!"
  I kin see our lines a-tanglin', and our elbows in a jam,
  And our naked legs a-danglin' thum the apern of the dam.

  I kin see the honeysuckle climbin' up around the mill;
  And kin hear the worter chuckle, and the wheel a-growlin' still;
  And thum the bank below it I kin steal the old canoe,
  And jes' git in and row it like the miller used to do.

  W'y, I git my fancy focussed on the past so mortal plain
  I kin even smell the locus'-blossoms bloomin' in the lane;
  And I hear the cow-bells clinkin' sweeter tunes 'n "money musk"
  Far the lightnin'-bugs a-blinkin'and a-dancin'in the dusk.

  And so I keep on musin', as the feller says, till I'm
  Firm-fixed in the conclusion that they hain't no better time,
  When you come to cipher on it, than the _old_ times,--and, I swear,
  I kin wake and say "dog-gone-it!" jes' as soft as any prayer!



HAS SHE FORGOTTEN.



I.

  Has she forgotten? On this very May
  We were to meet here, with the birds and bees,
  As on that Sabbath, underneath the trees
  We strayed among the tombs, and stripped away
  The vines from these old granites, cold and gray--
  And yet, indeed, not grim enough were they
  To stay our kisses, smiles and ecstacies,
  Or closer voice-lost vows and rhapsodies.
  Has she forgotten--that the May has won
  Its promise?--that the bird-songs from the tree
  Are sprayed above the grasses as the sun
  Might jar the dazzling dew down showeringly?
  Has she forgotten life--love--everyone--
  Has she forgotten me--forgotten me?



II.

  Low, low down in the violets I press
  My lips and whisper to her. Does she hear,
  And yet hold silence, though I call her dear,
  Just as of old, save for the tearfulness
  Of the clenched eyes, and the soul's vast distress?
  Has she forgotten thus the old caress
  That made our breath a quickened atmosphere
  That failed nigh unto swooning with the sheer
  Delight? Mine arms clutch now this earthen heap
  Sodden with tears that flow on ceaselessly
  As autumn rains the long, long, long nights weep
  In memory of days that used to be,--
  Has she forgotten these? And, in her sleep,
  Has she forgotten me--forgotten me?



III.

  To-night, against my pillow, with shut eyes,
  I mean to weld our faces--through the dense
  Incalculable darkness make pretense
  That she has risen from her reveries
  To mate her dreams with mine in marriages
  Of mellow palms, smooth faces, and tense ease
  Of every longing nerve of indolence,--
  Lift from the grave her quiet lips, and stun
  My senses with her kisses--drawl the glee
  Of her glad mouth, full blithe and tenderly,
  Across mine own, forgetful if is done
  The old love's awful dawn-time when said we,
  "To-day is ours!".... Ah, Heaven! can it be
  She has forgotten me--forgotten me!



A' OLD PLAYED-OUT SONG.



  It's the curiousest thing in creation,
    Whenever I hear that old song,
  "Do They Miss Me at Home?" I'm so bothered,
    My life seems as short as it's long!--
  Far ever'thing 'pears like adzackly
    It 'peared, in the years past and gone,--
  When I started out sparkin', at twenty,
    And had my first neckercher on!

  Though I'm wrinkelder, older and grayer
    Right now than my parents was then,
  You strike up that song, "Do They Miss Me?"
    And I'm jest a youngster again!--
  I'm a-standin' back there in the furries
    A-wishin' far evening to come,
  And a-whisperin' over and over
    Them words, "Do They Miss Me at Home?"

  You see, Marthy Ellen she sung it
    The first time I heerd it; and so,
  As she was my very first sweetheart,
    It reminds of her, don't you know,--
  How her face ust to look, in the twilight,
    As I tuck her to spellin'; and she
  Kep' a-hummin' that song 'tel I ast her,
    Pine-blank, ef she ever missed me!

  I can shet my eyes now, as you sing it,
    And hear her low answerin' words,
  And then the glad chirp of the crickets
    As clear as the twitter of birds;
  And the dust in the road is like velvet,
    And the ragweed, and fennel, and grass
  Is as sweet as the scent of the lilies
    Of Eden of old, as we pass.

  "Do They Miss Me at Home?" Sing it lower--
    And softer--and sweet as the breeze
  That powdered our path with the snowy
    White bloom of the old locus'-trees!
  Let the whippoorwills he'p you to sing it,
    And the echoes 'way over the hill,
  'Tel the moon boolges out, in a chorus
    Of stars, and our voices is still.

  But, oh! "They's a chord in the music
    That's missed when _her_ voice is away!"
  Though I listen from midnight 'tel morning,
    And dawn, 'tel the dusk of the day;
  And I grope through the dark, lookin' up'ards
    And on through the heavenly dome,
  With my longin' soul singin' and sobbin'
    The words, "Do They Miss Me at Home?"



THE LOST PATH.



  Alone they walked--their fingers knit together,
    And swaying listlessly as might a swing
  Wherein Dan Cupid dangled in the weather
    Of some sun-flooded afternoon of Spring.

  Within the clover-fields the tickled cricket
    Laughed lightly as they loitered down the lane,
  And from the covert of the hazel-thicket
    The squirrel peeped and laughed at them again.

  The bumble-bee that tipped the lily-vases
    Along the road-side in the shadows dim,
  Went following the blossoms of their faces
    As though their sweets must needs be shared with him.

  Between the pasture bars the wondering cattle
    Stared wistfully, and from their mellow bells
  Shook out a welcoming whose dreamy rattle
    Fell swooningly away in faint farewells.

  And though at last the gloom of night fell o'er them,
    And folded all the landscape from their eyes,
  They only know the dusky path before them
    Was leading safely on to Paradise.



THE LITTLE TINY KICKSHAW.



  "--_And any little tiny kickshaws_."--Shakespeare.



  O the little tiny kickshaw that Mither sent tae me,
  'Tis sweeter than the sugar-plum that reepens on the tree,
  Wi' denty flavorin's o' spice an' musky rosemarie,
  The little tiny kickshaw that Mither sent tae me.

  'Tis luscious wi' the stalen tang o' fruits frae ower the sea,
  An' e'en its fragrance gars we laugh wi' langin' lip an' ee,
  Till a' its frazen sheen o' white maun melten hinnie be--
  Sae weel I luve the kickshaw that Mither sent tae me.

  O I luve the tiny kickshaw, an' I smack my lips wi' glee,
  Aye mickle do I luve the taste o' sic a luxourie,
  But maist I luve the luvein' han's that could the giftie gie
  O' the little tiny kickshaw that Mither sent tae me.



HIS MOTHER.



  DEAD! my wayward boy--_my own_--
  Not _the Law's!_ but _mine_--the good
  God's free gift to me alone,
  Sanctified by motherhood.

  "Bad," you say: Well, who is not?
  "Brutal"--"with a heart of stone"--
  And "red-handed."--Ah! the hot
  Blood upon your own!

  I come not, with downward eyes,
  To plead for him shamedly,--
  God did not apologize
  When He gave the boy to me.

  Simply, I make ready now
  For _His_ verdict.--_You_ prepare--
  You have killed us both--and how
  Will you face us There!



KISSING THE ROD.



  O heart of mine, we shouldn't
        Worry so!
  What we've missed of calm we couldn't
        Have, you know!
  What we've met of stormy pain,
  And of sorrow's driving rain,
  We can better meet again,
        If it blow!

  We have erred in that dark hour
        We have known,
  When our tears fell with the shower,
        All alone!--
  Were not shine and shadow blent
  As the gracious Master meant?--
  Let us temper our content
        With His own.

  For, we know, not every morrow
        Can be sad;
  So, forgetting all the sorrow
        We have had,
  Let us fold away our fears,
  And put by our foolish tears,
  And through all the coming years
      Just be glad.



HOW IT HAPPENED.



  I got to thinkin' of her--both her parents dead and gone--
  And all her sisters married off, and none but her and John
  A-livin' all alone there in that lonesome sort o' way,
  And him a blame old bachelor, confirmder ev'ry day!
  I'd knowed 'em all from childern, and their daddy from the time
  He settled in the neighborhood, and had n't ary a dime
  Er dollar, when he married, far to start housekeepin' on!--
  So I got to thinkin' of her--both her parents dead and gone!

  I got to thinkin' of her; and a-wundern what she done
  That all her sisters kep' a gittin' married, one by one,
  And her without no chances--and the best girl of the pack--
  An old maid, with her hands, you might say, tied behind her back!
  And Mother, too, afore she died, she ust to jes' take on,
  When none of 'em was left, you know, but Evaline and John,
  And jes' declare to goodness 'at the young men must be bline
  To not see what a wife they 'd git if they got Evaline!

  I got to thinkin' of her; in my great affliction she
  Was sich a comfert to us, and so kind and neighberly,--
  She 'd come, and leave her housework, far to be'p out little Jane,
  And talk of _her own_ mother 'at she 'd never see again--
  Maybe sometimes cry together--though, far the most part she
  Would have the child so riconciled and happy-like 'at we
  Felt lonesomer 'n ever when she 'd put her bonnet on
  And say she 'd railly haf to be a-gittin' back to John!

  I got to thinkin' of her, as I say,--and more and more
  I'd think of her dependence, and the burdens 'at she bore,--
  Her parents both a-bein' dead, and all her sisters gone
  And married off, and her a-livin' there alone with John--
  You might say jes' a-toilin' and a-slavin' out her life
  Far a man 'at hadn't pride enough to git hisse'f a wife--
  'Less some one married _Evaline_, and packed her off some day!--
  So I got to thinkin' of her--and it happened thataway.



BABYHOOD.



  Heigh-ho! Babyhood! Tell me where you linger:
    Let's toddle home again, for we have gone astray;
  Take this eager hand of mine and lead me by the finger
    Back to the Lotus lands of the far-away.

  Turn back the leaves of life; don't read the story,--
    Let's find the _pictures_, and fancy all the rest:--
  We can fill the written pages with a brighter glory
    Than Old Time, the story-teller, at his very best!

  Turn to the brook, where the honeysuckle, tipping
    O'er its vase of perfume spills it on the breeze,
  And the bee and humming-bird in ecstacy are sipping
    From the fairy flagons of the blooming locust trees.

  Turn to the lane, where we used to "teeter-totter,"
    Printing little foot-palms in the mellow mold,
  Laughing at the lazy cattle wading in the water
    Where the ripples dimple round the buttercups of gold:

  Where the dusky turtle lies basking on the gravel
    Of the sunny sandbar in the middle-tide,
  And the ghostly dragonfly pauses in his travel
    To rest like a blossom where the water-lily died.

  Heigh-ho! Babyhood! Tell me where you linger:
    Let's toddle home again, for we have gone astray;
  Take this eager hand of mine and lead me by the finger
    Back to the Lotus lands of the far-away.



THE DAYS GONE BY.



  O the days gone by! O the days gone by!
  The apples in the orchard, and the pathway through the rye;
  The chirrup of the robin, and the whistle of the quail
  As he piped across the meadows sweet as any nightingale;
  When the bloom was on the clover, and the blue was in the sky,
  And my happy heart brimmed over in the days gone by.

  In the days gone by, when my naked feet were tripped
  By the honey-suckle's tangles where the water-lilies dipped,
  And the ripples of the river lipped the moss along the brink
  Where the placid-eyed and lazy-footed cattle came to drink,
  And the tilting snipe stood fearless of the truant's wayward cry
  And the splashing of the swimmer, in the days gone by.

  O the days gone by! O the days gone by!
  The music of the laughing lip, the luster of the eye;
  The childish faith in fairies, and Aladdin's magic ring--
  The simple, soul-reposing, glad belief in everything,--
  When life was like a story, holding neither sob nor sigh,
  In the golden olden glory of the days gone by.



MRS. MILLER



John B. McKinney, Attorney and Counselor at Law, as his sign read,
was, for many reasons, a fortunate man. For many other reasons he was
not. He was chiefly fortunate in being, as certain opponents often
strove to witheringly designate him, "the son of his father," since
that sound old gentleman was the wealthiest farmer in that section,
with but one son and heir to, in time, supplant him in the role of
"county god," and haply perpetuate the prouder title of "the biggest
tax-payer on the assessment list." And this fact, too, fortunate as it
would seem, was doubtless the indirect occasion of a liberal
percentage of all John's misfortunes. From his earliest school-days in
the little town, up to his tardy graduation from a distant college,
the influence of his father's wealth invited his procrastination,
humored its results, encouraged the laxity of his ambition, "and even
now," as John used, in bitter irony, to put it, "it is aiding and
abetting me in the ostensible practice of my chosen profession, a
listless, aimless undetermined man of forty, and a confirmed bachelor
at that!" At the utterance of this self-depreciating statement, John
generally jerked his legs down from the top of his desk; and, rising
and kicking his chair back to the wall, he would stump around his
littered office till the manilla carpet steamed with dust. Then he
would wildly break away, seeking refuge either in the open street, or
in his room at the old-time tavern, The Eagle House, "where," he would
say, "I have lodged and boarded, I do solemnly asseverate, for a long,
unbroken, middle-aged eternity of ten years, and can yet assert, in
the words of the more fortunately-dying Webster, that 'I still live!'"

Extravagantly satirical as he was at times, John had always an
indefinable drollery about him that made him agreeable company to his
friends, at least; and such an admiring friend he had constantly at
hand in the person of Bert Haines. Both were Bohemians in natural
tendency, and, though John was far in Bert's advance in point of age,
he found the young man "just the kind of a fellow to have around;"
while Bert, in turn, held his senior in profound esteem--looked up to
him, in fact, and in even his eccentricities strove to pattern after
him. And so it was, when summer days were dull and tedious, these two
could muse and doze the hours away together; and when the nights were
long, and dark, and deep, and beautiful, they could drift out in the
noon-light of the stars, and with "the soft complaining flute" and
"warbling lute," "lay the pipes," as John would say, for their
enduring popularity with the girls! And it was immediately subsequent
to one of these romantic excursions, when the belated pair, at two
o'clock in the morning, had skulked up a side stairway of the old
hotel, and gained John's room, with nothing more serious happening
than Bert falling over a trunk and smashing his guitar,--just after
such a night of romance and adventure it was that, in the seclusion of
John's room, Bert had something of especial import to communicate.

"Mack," he said, as that worthy anathematized a spiteful match, and
then sucked his finger.

"Blast the all-fired old torch!" said John, wrestling with the
lamp-flue, and turning on a welcome flame at last. "Well, you said
'Mack!' Why don't you go on? And don't bawl at the top of your lungs,
either. You've already succeeded in waking every boarder in the house
with that guitar, and you want to make amends now by letting them go
to sleep again!"

"But my dear fellow," said Bert, with forced calmness, "you're the
fellow that's making all the noise--and--"

"Why, you howling dervish!" interrupted John, with a feigned air of
pleased surprise and admiration. "But let's drop controversy. Throw
the fragments of your guitar in the wood-box there, and proceed with
the opening proposition."

"What I was going to say was this," said Bert, with a half-desperate
enunciation; "I'm getting tired of this way of living--clean,
dead-tired, and fagged out, and sick of the whole artificial
business!"

"Oh, yes!" exclaimed John, with a towering disdain, "you needn't go
any further! I know just what malady is throttling you. It's
reform--reform! You're going to 'turn over a new leaf,' and all that,
and sign the pledge, and quit cigars, and go to work, and pay your
debts, and gravitate back into Sunday-School, where you can make love
to the preacher's daughter under the guise of religion, and desecrate
the sanctity of the innermost pale of the church by confessions at
Class of your 'thorough conversion!' Oh, you're going to--"

"No, but I'm going to do nothing of the sort," interrupted Bert,
resentfully. "What I mean--if you'll let me finish--is, I'm getting
too old to be eternally undignifying myself with this 'singing of
midnight strains under Bonnybell's window panes,' and too old to be
keeping myself in constant humiliation and expense by the borrowing
and stringing up of old guitars, together with the breakage of the
same, and the general wear-and-tear on a constitution that is slowly
being sapped to its foundations by exposure in the night-air and the
dew." "And while you receive no further compensation in return," said
John, "than, perhaps, the coy turning up of a lamp at an upper
casement where the jasmine climbs; or an exasperating patter of
invisible palms; or a huge dank wedge of fruit-cake shoved at you by
the old man, through a crack in the door."

"Yes, and I'm going to have my just reward, is what I mean," said
Bert, "and exchange the lover's life for the benedict's. Going to hunt
out a good, sensible girl and marry her." And as the young man
concluded this desperate avowal he jerked the bow of his cravat into a
hard knot, kicked his hat under the bed, and threw himself on the sofa
like an old suit.

John stared at him with absolute compassion. "Poor devil," he said,
half musingly, "I know just how he feels--

  'Ring in the wind his wedding chimes,
    Smile, villagers, at every door;
  Old church-yards stuffed with buried crimes,
    Be clad in sunshine o'er and o'er.--'"

"Oh, here!" exclaimed the wretched Bert, jumping to his feet; "let up
on that dismal recitative. It would make a dog howl to hear that!"

"Then you 'let up' on that suicidal talk of marrying," replied John,
"and all that harangue of incoherency about your growing old. Why, my
dear fellow, you're at least a dozen years my junior, and look at me!"
and John glanced at himself in the glass with a feeble pride, noting
the gray sparseness of his side-hair, and its plaintive dearth on top.
"Of course I've got to admit," he continued, "that my hair is
gradually evaporating; but for all that, I'm 'still in the ring,'
don't you know; as young in society, for the matter of that, as
yourself! And this is just the reason why I don't want you to blight
every prospect in your life by marrying at your age--especially a
woman--I mean the kind of woman you'd be sure to fancy at your age."

"Didn't I say 'a good, sensible girl' was the kind I had selected?"
Bert remonstrated.

"Oh!" exclaimed John, "you've selected her, then?--and without one
word to me!" he ended, rebukingly.

"Well, hang it all!" said Bert, impatiently; "I knew how _you_ were,
and just how you'd talk me out of it; and I made up my mind that for
once, at least, I'd follow the dictations of a heart that--however
capricious in youthful frivolties--should beat, in manhood, loyal to
itself and loyal to its own affinity."

"Go it! Fire away! Farewell, vain world!" exclaimed the excited
John.--"Trade your soul off for a pair of ear-bobs and a
button-hook--a hank of jute hair and a box of lily-white! I've buried
not less than ten old chums this way, and here's another nominated for
the tomb."

"But you've got no _reason_ about you," began Bert,--"I want to"--

"And so do _I_ 'want to,'" broke in John, finally,--"I want to get
some sleep.--So 'register' and come to bed.--And lie up on edge, too,
when you _do_ come--'cause this old catafalque-of-a-bed is just about
as narrow as your views of single blessedness! Peace! Not another
word! Pile in! Pile in! I'm three-parts sick, anyhow, and I want
rest!" And very truly he spoke.

It was a bright morning when the slothful John was aroused by a long,
vociferous pounding on the door. He started up in bed to find himself
alone--the victim of his wrathful irony having evidently risen and
fled away while his pitiless tormentor slept--"Doubtless to at once
accomplish that nefarious intent as set forth by his unblushing
confession of last night," mused the miserable John. And he ground his
fingers in the corners of his swollen eyes, and leered grimly in the
glass at the feverish orbs, blood-shotten, blurred and aching.

The pounding on the door continued. John looked at his watch; it was
only 8 o'clock.

"Hi, there!" he called viciously. "What do you mean, anyhow?" he went
on, elevating his voice again; "shaking a man out of bed when he's
just dropping into his first sleep?"

"I mean that you're going to get up; that's what!" replied a firm
female voice. "It's 8 o'clock, and I want to put your room in order;
and I'm not going to wait all day about it, either! Get up and go down
to your breakfast, and let me have the room!" And the clamor at the
door was industriously renewed.

"Say!" called John, querulously, hurrying on his clothes, "Say! you!"

"There's no 'say' about it!" responded the determined voice: "I've
heard about you and your ways around this house, and I'm not going to
put up with it! You'll not lie in bed till high noon when I've got to
keep your room in proper order!"

"Oh ho!" bawled John, intelligently: "reckon you're the new invasion
here? Doubtless you're the girl that's been hanging up the new
window-blinds that won't roll, and disguising the pillows with clean
slips, and 'hennin' round among my books and papers on the table here,
and ageing me generally till I don't know my own handwriting by the
time I find it! Oh, yes! you're going to revolutionize things here;
you're going to introduce promptness, and system, and order. See
you've even filled the wash-pitcher and tucked two starched towels
through the handle. Haven't got any tin towels, have you? I rather
like this new soap, too! So solid and durable, you know; warranted not
to raise a lather. Might as well wash one's hands with a door-knob!"
And as John's voice grumbled away into the sullen silence again, the
determined voice without responded: "Oh, you can growl away to your
heart's content, Mr. McKinney, but I want you to distinctly understand
that I'm not going to humor you in any of your old bachelor,
sluggardly, slovenly ways, and whims and notions. And I want you to
understand, too, that I'm not hired help in this house, nor a
chambermaid, nor anything of the kind. I'm the landlady here; and I'll
give you just ten minutes more to get down to your breakfast, or
you'll not get any--that's all!" And as the reversed cuff John was in
the act of buttoning slid from his wrist and rolled under the dresser,
he heard a stiff rustling of starched muslin flouncing past the door,
and the quick italicized patter of determined gaiters down the hall.

"Look here," said John to the bright-faced boy in the hotel office, a
half hour later. "It seems the house here's been changing hands
again."

"Yes, sir," said the boy, closing the cigar case, and handing him a
lighted match. "Well, the new landlord, whoever he is," continued
John, patronizingly, "is a good one. Leastwise, he knows what's good
to eat, and how to serve it."

The boy laughed timidly,--"It aint a landlord,' though--it's a
landlady; it's my mother."

"Ah," said John, dallying with the change the boy had pushed toward
him. "Your mother, eh?" And where's your father?"

"He's dead," said the boy.

"And what's this for?" abruptly asked John, examining his change.

"That's your change," said the boy: "You got three for a quarter, and
gave me a half."

"Well, _you_ just keep it," said John, sliding back the change. "It's
for good luck, you know, my boy. Same as drinking your long life and
prosperity. And, Oh yes, by the way, you may tell your mother I'll
have a friend to dinner with me to-day."

"Yes, sir, and thank you, sir," said the beaming boy.

"Handsome boy!" mused John, as he walked down street. "Takes that from
his father, though, I'll wager my existence!"

Upon his office desk John found a hastily written note. It was
addressed in the well-known hand of his old chum. He eyed the missive
apprehensively, and there was a positive pathos in his voice as he
said aloud, "It's our divorce. I feel it!" The note, headed, "At the
Office, 4 in Morning," ran like this:

     "Dear Mack--I left you slumbering so soundly that, by noon,
     when you waken, I hope, in your refreshed state, you will
     look more tolerantly on my intentions as partially confided
     to you this night. I will not see you here again to say
     good-bye. I wanted to, but was afraid to 'rouse the sleeping
     lion.' I will not close my eyes to-night--fact is, I haven't
     time. Our serenade at Josie's was a pre-arranged signal by
     which she is to be ready and at the station for the 5
     morning train. You may remember the lighting of three
     consecutive matches at her window before the igniting of her
     lamp. That meant, 'Thrice dearest one, I'll meet thee at the
     depot at 4:30 sharp.' So, my dear Mack, this is to inform
     you that, even as you read, Josie and I have eloped. It is
     all the old man's fault, yet I forgive him. Hope he'll
     return the favor. Josie predicts he will, inside of a
     week--or two weeks, anyhow. Good-bye, Mack, old boy; and let
     a fellow down as easy as you can.

     Affectionately,

     BERT."

"Heavens!" exclaimed John, stifling the note in his hand and stalking
tragically around the room. "Can it be possible that I have nursed a
frozen viper? An ingrate? A wolf in sheep's clothing? An orang-outang
in gent's furnishings?"

"Was you callin' me, sir?" asked a voice at the door. It was the
janitor.

"No!" thundered John; "Quit my sight! get out of my way! No, no,
Thompson, I don't mean that," he called after him. "Here's a half
dollar for you, and I want you to lock up the office, and tell anybody
that wants to see me that I've been set upon, and sacked and
assassinated in cold blood; and I've fled to my father's in the
country, and am lying there in the convulsions of dissolution,
babbling of green fields and running brooks, and thirsting for the
life of every woman that comes in gunshot!" And then, more like a
confirmed invalid than a man in the strength and pride of his prime,
he crept down into the street again, and thence back to his hotel.

Dejectedly and painfully climbing to his room, he encountered, on the
landing above, a little woman in a jaunty dusting-cap and a trim habit
of crisp muslin. He tried to evade her, but in vain. She looked him
squarely in the face--occasioning him the dubious impression of either
needing shaving very badly, or having egg-stains on his chin.

"You're the gentleman in No. 11, I believe?" she said.

He nodded confusedly.

"Mr. McKinney is your name, I think?" she queried, with a pretty
elevation of the eyebrows.

"Yes, ma'am," said John, rather abjectly. "You see, ma'am--But I beg
pardon," he went on stammeringly, and with a very awkward bow--"I beg
pardon, but I am addressing--ah--the--ah--the--"

"You are addressing the new landlady," she interpolated, pleasantly.
"Mrs. Miller is my name. I think we should be friends, Mr. McKinney,
since I hear that you are one of the oldest patrons of the house."

"Thank you--thank you!" said John, completely embarrassed. "Yes,
indeed!--ha, ha. Oh, yes--yes--really, we must be quite old friends, I
assure you, Mrs.--Mrs.--"

"Mrs. Miller," smilingly prompted the little woman.

"Yes, ah, yes,--Mrs. Miller. Lovely morning, Mrs. Miller," said John,
edging past her and backing toward his room.

But as Mrs. Miller was laughing outright, for some mysterious reason,
and gave no affirmation in response to his proposition as to the
quality of the weather, John, utterly abashed and nonplussed, darted
into his room and closed the door. "Deucedly extraordinary woman!" he
thought; "wonder what's her idea!"

He remained locked in his room till the dinner-hour; and, when he
promptly emerged for that occasion, there was a very noticeable
improvement in his personal appearance, in point of dress, at least,
though there still lingered about his smoothly-shaven features a
certain haggard, care-worn, anxious look that would not out.

Next his own place at the table he found a chair tilted forward, as
though in reservation for some honored guest. What did it mean? Oh, he
remembered now. Told the boy to tell his mother he would have a friend
to dine with him. Bert--and, blast the fellow! he was, doubtless,
dining then with a far preferable companion--his wife--in a palace-car
on the P., C. & St. L., a hundred miles away. The thought was
maddening. Of course, now, the landlady would have material for a new
assault. And how could he avert it? A despairing film blurred his
sight for the moment--then the eyes flashed daringly. "I will meet it
like a man!" he said, mentally--"like a State's Attorney,--I will
invite it! Let her do her worst!"

He called a servant, directing some message in an undertone.

"Yes, sir," said the agreeable servant, "I'll go right away, sir," and
left the room.

Five minutes elapsed, and then a voice at his shoulder startled him:

"Did you send for me, Mr. McKinney? What is it I can do?"

"You are very kind, Mrs.--Mrs.--"

"Mrs. Miller," said the lady, with a smile that he remembered.

"Now, please spare me even the mildest of rebukes. I deserve your
censure, but I can't stand it--I can't positively!" and there was a
pleading look in John's lifted eyes that changed the little woman's
smile to an expression of real solicitude. "I have sent for you,"
continued John, "to ask of you three great favors. Please be seated
while I enumerate them. First--I want you to forgive and forget that
ill-natured, uncalled-for grumbling of mine this morning when you
wakened me."

"Why, certainly," said the landlady, again smiling, though quite
seriously.

"I thank you," said John, with dignity. "And, second," he
continued--"I want your assurance that my extreme confusion and
awkwardness on the occasion of our meeting later were rightly
interpreted."

"Certainly--certainly," said the landlady, with the kindliest
sympathy.

"I am grateful--utterly," said John, with newer dignity. "And then,"
he went on,--after informing you that it is impossible for the best
friend I have in the world to be with me at this hour, as intended, I
want you to do me the very great honor of dining with me. Will you?"

"Why, certainly," said the charming little landlady--"and a thousand
thanks beside! But tell me something of your friend," she continued,
as they were being served. "What is he like--and what is his name--and
where is he?"

"Well," said John, warily,--"he's like all young fellows of his age.
He's quite young, you know--not over thirty, I should say--a mere boy,
in fact, but clever--talented--versatile."

"--Unmarried, of course," said the chatty little woman.

"Oh, yes!" said John, in a matter-of-course tone--but he caught
himself abruptly--then stared intently at his napkin--glanced
evasively at the side-face of his questioner, and said,--"Oh yes! Yes,
indeed! He's unmarried.--Old bachelor like myself, you know. Ha! Ha!"

"So he's not like the young man here that distinguished himself last
night?" said the little woman, archly.

The fork in John's hand, half-lifted to his lips, faltered and fell
back toward his plate.

"Why, what's that?" said John, in a strange voice; "I hadn't heard
anything about it--I mean I haven't heard anything about any young
man. What was it?"

"Haven't heard anything about the elopement?" exclaimed the little
woman, in astonishment.--"Why, it's been the talk of the town all
morning. Elopement in high life--son of a grain-dealer, name of Hines,
or Himes, or something, and a preacher's daughter--Josie
somebody--didn't catch her last name. Wonder if you don't know the
parties--Why, Mr. McKinney, are you ill?"

"Oh, no--not at all!" said John: "Don't mention it. Ha--ha! Just
eating too rapidly, that's all. Go on with--you were saying that Bert
and Josie had really eloped."

"What 'Bert'?" asked the little woman quickly.

"Why, did I say Bert?" said John, with a guilty look. "I meant Haines,
of course, you know--Haines and Josie.--And did they really elope?"

"That's the report," answered the little woman, as though deliberating
some important evidence; "and they say, too, that the plot of the
runaway was quite ingenious. It seems the young lovers were assisted
in their flight by some old fellow--friend of the young man's--Why,
Mr. McKinney, you _are_ ill, surely?"

John's face was ashen.

"No--no!" he gasped, painfully: "Go on--go on! Tell me more about
the--the--the old fellow--the old reprobate! And is he still at
large?"

"Yes," said the little womon, anxiously regarding the strange demeanor
of her companion. "They say, though, that the law can do nothing with
him, and that this fact only intensifies the agony of the
broken-hearted parents--for it seems they have, till now, regarded him
both as a gentleman and family friend in whom"--

"I really am ill," moaned John, waveringly rising to his feet; "but I
beg you not to be alarmed. Tell your little boy to come to my room,
where I will retire at once, if you'll excuse me, and send for my
physician. It is simply a nervous attack. I am often troubled so; and
only perfect quiet and seclusion restores me. You have done me a great
honor, Mrs."--("Mrs.--Miller," sighed the sympathetic little
woman)--"Mrs. Miller,--and I thank you more than I have words to
express." He bowed limply, turned through a side door opening on a
stair, and tottered to his room.

During the three weeks' illness through which he passed, John had
every attention--much more, indeed, than he had consciousness to
appreciate. For the most part his mind wandered, and he talked of
curious things, and laughed hysterically, and serenaded mermaids that
dwelt in grassy seas of dew, and were bald-headed like himself. He
played upon a fourteen-jointed flute of solid gold, with diamond
holes, and keys carved out of thawless ice. His old father came at
first to take him home; but he could not be moved, the doctor said.

Two weeks of John's illness had worn away, when a very serious looking
young man, in a traveling duster, and a high hat, came up the stairs
to see him. A handsome young lady was clinging to his arm. It was Bert
and Josie. She had guessed the very date of their forgiveness. John
wakened even clearer in mind than usual that afternoon. He recognized
his old chum at a glance, and Josie--now Bert's wife. Yes, he
comprehended that. He was holding a hand of each when another figure
entered. His thin, white fingers loosened their clasp, and he held a
hand toward the new comer. "Here," he said, "is my best friend in the
world--Bert, you and Josie will love her, I know; for this is
Mrs.--Mrs."--"Mrs. Miller," said the radiant little
woman.--"Yes,--Mrs. Miller," said John, very proudly.



RHYMES OF RAINY DAYS



THE TREE-TOAD.



  "'Scurious-like," said the tree-toad,
    "I've twittered far rain all day;
      And I got up soon,
      And I hollered till noon--
    But the sun, hit blazed away,
      Till I jest clumb down in a crawfish-hole,
      Weary at heart, and sick at soul!

"Dozed away far an hour,
  And I tackled the thing agin;
    And I sung, and sung,
    Till I knowed my lung
  Was jest about give in;
    And then, thinks I, ef hit don't rain now.
    There're nothin' in singin', anyhow!

  "Once in awhile some
    Would come a drivin' past;
      And he'd hear my cry,
      And stop and sigh--
    Till I jest laid back, at last,
      And I hollered rain till I thought my th'oat
      Would bust right open at ever' note!

  "But _I fetched_ her! O _I fetched_ her!--
    'Cause a little while ago,
      As I kindo' set,
      With one eye shet,
    And a-singin' soft and low,
      A voice drapped down on my fevered brain,
      Sayin',--' Ef you'll jest hush I'll rain!'"



A WORN-OUT PENCIL.



  Welladay!
  Here I lay
  You at rest--all worn away,
      O my pencil, to the tip
      Of our old companionship!

  Memory
  Sighs to see
  What you are, and used to be,
      Looking backward to the time
      When you wrote your earliest rhyme!--

  When I sat
  Filing at
  Your first point, and dreaming that
      Your initial song should be
      Worthy of posterity.

  With regret
  I forget
  If the song be living yet,
      Yet remember, vaguely now,
      It was honest, anyhow.

  You have brought
  Me a thought--
  Truer yet was never taught,--
      That the silent song is best,
      And the unsung worthiest.

  So if I,
  When I die,
  May as uncomplainingly
      Drop aside as now you do,
      Write of me, as I of you:--

  Here lies one
  Who begun
  Life a-singing, heard of none;
      And he died, satisfied,
      With his dead songs by his side.



THE STEPMOTHER.



  First she come to our house,
    Tommy run and hid;
  And Emily and Bob and me
    We cried jus' like we did
  When Mother died,--and we all said
  'At we all wisht 'at we was dead!

  And Nurse she couldn't stop us,
    And Pa he tried and tried,--
  We sobbed and shook and wouldn't look,
    But only cried and cried;
  And nen someone--we couldn't jus'
  Tell who--was cryin' same as us!

  Our Stepmother! Yes, it was her,
    Her arms around us all--
  'Cause Tom slid down the bannister
    And peeked in from the hall.--
  And we all love her, too, because
  She's purt nigh good as Mother was!



THE RAIN.



I.

  The rain! the rain! the rain!
    It gushed from the skies and streamed
  Like awful tears; and the sick man thought
    How pitiful it seemed!
  And he turned his face away,
    And stared at the wall again,
  His hopes nigh dead and his heart worn out.
    O the rain! the rain! the rain!



II.

  The rain! the rain! the rain!
    And the broad stream brimmed the shores;
  And ever the river crept over the reeds
    And the roots of the sycamores:
  A corpse swirled by in a drift
    Where the boat had snapt its chain--
  And a hoarse-voiced mother shrieked and raved.
    O the rain! the rain! the rain!



III.

  The rain! the rain! the rain!--
    Pouring, with never a pause,
  Over the fields and the green byways--
    How beautiful it was!
  And the new-made man and wife
    Stood at the window-pane
  Like two glad children kept from school.--
    O the rain! the rain! the rain!



THE LEGEND GLORIFIED.



  "I deem that God is not disquieted"--
  This in a mighty poet's rhymes I read;
  And blazoned so forever doth abide
  Within my soul the legend glorified.

  Though awful tempests thunder overhead,
  I deem that God is not disquieted,--
  The faith that trembles somewhat yet is sure
  Through storm and darkness of a way secure.

  Bleak winters, when the naked spirit hears
  The break of hearts, through stinging sleet of tears,
  I deem that God is not disquieted;
  Against all stresses am I clothed and fed.

  Nay, even with fixed eyes and broken breath,
  My feet dip down into the tides of death,
  Nor any friend be left, nor prayer be said,
  I deem that God is not disquieted.



WANT TO BE WHUR MOTHER IS.



  "Want to be whur mother is! Want to be whur mother is!"
  Jeemses Rivers! won't some one ever shet that howl o' his?
      That-air yellin' drives me wild!
      Cain't none of ye stop the child?
      Want jer Daddy? "Naw." Gee whizz!
      "Want to be whur mother is!"

  "Want to be whur mother is! Want to be whur mother is!"
  Coax him, Sairy! Mary, sing somepin far him! Lift him, Liz--
      Bang the clock-bell with the key--
      Er the _meat-ax!_ Gee-mun-nee!
      Listen to them lungs o' his!
      "Want to be whur mother is!"

  "Want to be whur mother is! Want to be whur mother is!"
  Preacher guess'll pound all night on that old pulpit o' his;
      'Pears to me some wimmin jest
      Shows religious interest
      Mostly 'fore their fambly's riz!
      "Want to be whur mother is!"

       *       *       *       *       *

  "Want to be whur mother is! Want to be whur mother is!"
  Nights like these and whipperwills allus brings that voice of his!
      Sairy; Mary; 'Lizabeth;
      Don't set there and ketch yer death
      In the dew--er rheumatiz--
      Want to be whur mother is?



OLD MAN'S NURSERY RHYME.



I.

  In the jolly winters
    Of the long-ago,
  It was not so cold as now--
    O! No! No!
  Then, as I remember,
    Snowballs, to eat,
  Were as good as apples now,
    And every bit as sweet!



II.

  In the jolly winters
    Of the dead-and-gone,
  Bub was warm as summer,
    With his red mitts on,--
  Just in his little waist-
    And-pants all together,
  Who ever heard him growl
    About cold weather?



III.

  In the jolly winters of the long-ago--
  Was it _half_ so cold as now?
    O! No! No!
  Who caught his death o' cold,
    Making prints of men
  Flat-backed in snow that now's
    Twice as cold again?



IV.

  In the jolly winters
    Of the dead-and-gone,
  Startin' out rabbit-hunting
    Early as the dawn,--
  Who ever froze his fingers,
    Ears, heels, or toes,--
  Or'd a cared if he had?
    Nobody knows!



V.

  Nights by the kitchen-stove,
    Shelling white and red
  Corn in the skillet, and
    Sleepin' four abed!
  Ah! the jolly winters
    Of the long-ago!
  We were not so old as now--
    O! No! No!



THREE DEAD FRIENDS.



  Always suddenly they are gone--
    The friends we trusted and held secure--
  Suddenly we are gazing on,
    Not a _smiling_ face, but the marble-pure
  Dead mask of a face that nevermore
    To a smile of ours will make reply--
      The lips close-locked as the eyelids are--
  Gone--swift as the flash of the molten ore
    A meteor pours through a midnight sky,
      Leaving it blind of a single star.

  Tell us, O Death, Remorseless Might!
    What is this old, unescapable ire
  You wreak on us?--from the birth of light
    Till the world be charred to a core of fire!
  We do no evil thing to you--
    We seek to evade you--that is all--
      That is your will--you will not be known
  Of men. What, then, would you have us do?--
    Cringe, and wait till your vengeance fall,
      And your graves be fed, and the trumpet blown?

  You desire no friends; but _we_--O we
    Need them so, as we falter here,
  Fumbling through each new vacancy,
    As each is stricken that we hold dear.
  One you struck but a year ago;
    And one not a month ago; and one--
      (God's vast pity!)--and one lies now
  Where the widow wails, in her nameless woe,
    And the soldiers pace, with the sword and gun,
      Where the comrade sleeps, with the laureled brow.

  And what did the first?--that wayward soul,
    Clothed of sorrow, yet nude of sin,
  And with all hearts bowed in the strange control
    Of the heavenly voice of his violin.
  Why, it was music the way he _stood_,
    So grand was the poise of the head and so
      Full was the figure of majesty!--
  One heard with the eyes, as a deaf man would,
    And with all sense brimmed to the overflow
      With tears of anguish and ecstasy.

  And what did the girl, with the great warm light
    Of genius sunning her eyes of blue,
  With her heart so pure, and her soul so white--
    What, O Death, did she do to you?
  Through field and wood as a child she strayed,
    As Nature, the dear sweet mother led;
      While from her canvas, mirrored back,
  Glimmered the stream through the everglade
    Where the grapevine trailed from the trees to wed
      Its likeness of emerald, blue and black.

  And what did he, who, the last of these,
    Faced you, with never a fear, O Death?
  Did you hate _him_ that he loved the breeze,
    And the morning dews, and the rose's breath?
  Did you hate him that he answered not
    Your hate again--but turned, instead,
      His only hate on his country's wrongs?
  Well--you possess him, dead!--but what
    Of the good he wrought? With laureled head
      He bides with us in his deeds and songs.

  Laureled, first, that he bravely fought,
    And forged a way to our flag's release;
  Laureled, next--for the harp he taught
    To wake glad songs in the days of peace--
  Songs of the woodland haunts he held
    As close in his love as they held their bloom
      In their inmost bosoms of leaf and vine--
  Songs that echoed, and pulsed and welled
    Through the town's pent streets, and the sick child's room,
      Pure as a shower in soft sunshine.

  Claim them, Death; yet their fame endures,
    What friend next will you rend from us
  In that cold, pitiless way of yours,
    And leave us a grief more dolorous?
  Speak to us!--tell us, O Dreadful Power!--
    Are we to have not a lone friend left?--
      Since, frozen, sodden, or green the sod,--
  In every second of every hour,
    _Some one_, Death, you have left thus bereft,
      Half inaudibly shrieks to God.



IN BOHEMIA.



  Ha! My dear! I'm back again--
    Vendor of Bohemia's wares!
  Lordy! How it pants a man
    Climbing up those awful stairs!
      Well, I've made the dealer say
      Your sketch _might_ sell, anyway!
      And I've made a publisher
      Hear my poem, Kate, my dear.

  In Bohemia, Kate, my dear--
    Lodgers in a musty flat
  On the top floor--living here
    Neighborless, and used to that,--
      Like a nest beneath the eaves,
      So our little home receives
      Only guests of chirping cheer--
      We'll be happy, Kate, my dear!

  Under your north-light there, you
    At your easel, with a stain
  On your nose of Prussian blue,
    Paint your bits of shine and rain;
      With my feet thrown up at will
      O'er my littered window-sill,
      I write rhymes that ring as clear
      As your laughter, Kate, my dear.

  Puff my pipe, and stroke my hair--
    Bite my pencil-tip and gaze
  At you, mutely mooning there
    O'er your "Aprils" and your "Mays!"
      Equal inspiration in
      Dimples of your cheek and chin,
      And the golden atmosphere
      Of your paintings, Kate, my dear!

  _Trying_! Yes, at times it is,
    To clink happy rhymes, and fling
  On the canvas scenes of bliss,
    When we are half famishing!--
      When your "jersey" rips in spots,
      And your hat's "forget-me-nots"
      Have grown tousled, old and sere--
      It is trying, Kate, my dear!

  But--as sure--_some_ picture sells,
    And--sometimes--the poetry--
  Bless us! How the parrot yells
    His acclaims at you and me!
      How we revel then in scenes
      Of high banqueting!--sardines--
      Salads--olives--and a sheer
      Pint of sherry, Kate, my dear!

  Even now I cross your palm,
    With this great round world of gold!--
  "Talking wild?" Perhaps I am--
    Then, this little five-year-old!--
      Call it anything you will,
      So it lifts your face until
      I may kiss away that tear
      Ere it drowns me, Kate, my dear.



IN THE DARK.



  O in the depths of midnight
    What fancies haunt the brain!
  When even the sigh of the sleeper
    Sounds like a sob of pain.

  A sense of awe and of wonder
    I may never well define,--
  For the thoughts that come in the shadows
    Never come in the shine.

  The old clock down in the parlor
    Like a sleepless mourner grieves,
  And the seconds drip in the silence
    As the rain drips from the eaves.

  And I think of the hands that signal
    The hours there in the gloom,
  And wonder what angel watchers
    Wait in the darkened room.

  And I think of the smiling faces
    That used to watch and wait,
  Till the click of the clock was answered
    By the click of the opening gate.--

  They are not there now in the evening--
    Morning or noon--not there;
  Yet I know that they keep their vigil,
    And wait for me Somewhere.



WET WEATHER TALK.



  It ain't no use to grumble and complain;
    It's jest as cheap and easy to rejoice:
  When God sorts out the weather and sends rain,
      W'y, rain's my choice.

  Men giner'ly, to all intents--
    Although they're ap' to grumble some--
  Puts most their trust in Providence,
    And takes things as they come;--
      That is, the commonality
      Of men that's lived as long as me,
      Has watched the world enough to learn
      They're not the boss of the concern.

  With _some_, of course, it's different--
    I've seed _young_ men that knowed it all,
  And didn't like the way things went
    On this terrestial ball!
      But, all the same, the rain some way
      Rained jest as hard on picnic-day;
      Er when they railly wanted it,
      It maybe wouldn't rain a bit!

  In this existence, dry and wet
    Will overtake the best of men--
  Some little skift o' clouds'll shet
    The sun off now and then;
      But maybe, while you're wondern' who
      You've fool-like lent your umbrell' to,
      And _want_ it--out'll pop the sun,
      And you'll be glad you ain't got none!

  It aggervates the farmers, too--
    They's too much wet, er too much sun,
  Er work, er waiting round to do
    Before the plowin''s done;
      And maybe, like as not, the wheat,
      Jest as it's lookin' hard to beat,
      Will ketch the storm--and jest about
      The time the corn 's a-jintin' out!

  These here cy-clones a-foolin' round--
    And back'ard crops--and wind and rain,
  And yit the corn that's wallered down
    May elbow up again!
      They ain't no sense, as I kin see,
      In mortals, sich as you and me,
      A-faultin' Nature's wise intents,
      And lockin' horns with Providence!

  It ain't no use to grumble and complain;
    It's jest as cheap and easy to rejoice:
  When God sorts out the weather and sends rain,
        W'y, rain's my choice.



WHERE SHALL WE LAND.



  "_Where shall we land you, sweet_?"--Swinburne.



  All listlessly we float
  Out seaward in the boat
    That beareth Love.
  Our sails of purest snow
  Bend to the blue below
    And to the blue above.
      Where shall we land?

  We drift upon a tide
  Shoreless on every side,
    Save where the eye
  Of Fancy sweeps far lands
  Shelved slopingly with sands
    Of gold and porphyry.
      Where shall we land?

  The fairy isles we see,
  Loom up so mistily--
    So vaguely fair,
  We do not care to break
  Fresh bubbles in our wake
    To bend our course for there.
      Where shall we land?

  The warm winds of the deep
  Have lulled our sails to sleep,
    And so we glide
  Careless of wave or wind,
  Or change of any kind,
    Or turn of any tide.
      Where shall we land?

  We droop our dreamy eyes
  Where our reflection lies
    Steeped in the sea,
  And, in an endless fit
  Of languor, smile on it
    And its sweet mimicry.
      Where shall we land?

  "Where shall we land?" God's grace!
  I know not any place
    So fair as this--
  Swung here between the blue
  Of sea and sky, with you
    To ask me, with a kiss,
      "Where shall we land?"



AN OLD SETTLER'S STORY



William Williams his name was--or so he said;--Bill Williams they
called him, and them 'at knowed him best called him Bill Bills.

The first I seed o' Bills was about two weeks after he got here. The
Settlement wasn't nothin' but a baby in them days, far I mind 'at old
Ezry Sturgiss had jist got his saw and griss-mill a-goin', and Bills
had come along and claimed to know all about millin', and got a job
with him; and millers in them times was wanted worse'n congerss-men,
and I reckon got better wages; far afore Ezry built, ther wasn't a
dust o' meal er flour to be had short o' the White Water, better'n
sixty mild from here, the way we had to fetch it. And they used to
come to Ezry's far ther grindin' as far as that; and one feller I
knowed to come from what used to be the old South Fork, over eighty
mild from here, and in the wettest, rainyest weather; and mud! _Law!_

Well, this-here Bills was a-workin' far Ezry at the time--part the
time a-grindin', and part the time a-lookin' after the sawin', and
gittin' out timber and the like. Bills was a queer-lookin' feller,
shore! About as tall a build man as Tom Carter--but of course you
don't know nothin' o' Tom Carter. A great big hulk of a feller, Tom
was; and as far back as Fifty-eight used to make his brags that he
could cut and put up his seven cord a day.

Well, what give Bills this queer look, as I was a-goin' on to say, was
a great big ugly scar a-runnin' from the corner o' one eye clean down
his face and neck, and I don't know how far down his breast--awful
lookin'; and he never shaved, and ther wasn't a hair a-growin' in that
scar, and it looked like a--some kind o' pizen snake er somepin' a
crawlin' in the grass and weeds. I never seed sich a' out-an'-out
onry-lookin' chap, and I'll never fergit the first time I set eyes on
him.

Steve and me--Steve was my youngest brother; Steve's be'n in Californy
now far, le' me see,--well, anyways, I reckon, over thirty
year.--Steve was a-drivin' the team at the time--I allus let Steve
drive; 'peared like Steve was made a-purpose far hosses. The
beatin'est hand with hosses 'at ever you _did_ see-an'-I-know! W'y, a
hoss, after he got kind o' used to Steve a-handlin' of him, would do
anything far _him_! And I've knowed that boy to swap far hosses 'at
cou'dn't hardly make a shadder; and, afore you knowed it, Steve would
have 'em a-cavortin' around a-lookin' as peert and fat and slick!

Well, we'd come over to Ezry's far some grindin' that day; and Steve
wanted to price some lumber far a house, intendin' to marry that
Fall--and would a-married, I reckon, ef the girl hadn't a-died jist as
she'd got her weddin' clothes done, and that set hard on Steve far
awhile. Yit he rallied, you know, as a youngster will; but he never
married, someway--never married. Reckon he never found no other woman
he could love well enough, 'less it was--well, no odds.--The Good
Bein's jedge o' what's best far each and all.

We lived _then_ about eight mild from Ezry's, and it tuck about a day
to make the trip; so you kin kind o' git an idee o' how the roads was
in them days.

Well, on the way over I noticed Steve was mighty quiet-like, but I
didn't think nothin' of it, tel at last he says, says he, "Tom, I want
you to kind o' keep an eye out far Ezry's new hand," meanin Bills. And
then I kind o' suspicioned somepin' o' nother was up betwixt 'em; and
shore enough ther was, as I found out afore the day was over.

I knowed 'at Bills was a mean sort of a man, from what I'd heerd. His
name was all over the neighborhood afore he'd be'n here two weeks.

In the first place, he come in a suspicious sort o' way. Him and his
wife, and a little baby only a few months old, come through in a
kivvered wagon with a fambly a-goin' som'ers in The Illinoy; and they
stopped at the mill, far some meal er somepin', and Bills got to
talkin' with Ezry 'bout millin', and one thing o' nother, and said he
was expeerenced some 'bout a mill hisse'f, and told Ezry ef he'd give
him work he'd stop; said his wife and baby wasn't strong enough to
stand trav'lin', and ef Ezry'd give him work he was ready to lick into
it then and there; said his woman could pay her board by sewin' and
the like, tel they got ahead a little; and then, ef he liked the
neighberhood, he said he'd as leave settle there as anywheres; he was
huntin' a home, he said, and the outlook kind o' struck him, and his
woman railly needed rest, and wasn't strong enough to go much furder.
And old Ezry kind o' tuck pity on the feller; and havin' houseroom to
spare, and railly in need of a good hand at the mill, he said all
right; and so the feller stopped and the wagon druv ahead and left
'em; and they didn't have no things ner nothin'--not even a
cyarpet-satchel, ner a stitch o' clothes, on'y what they had on their
backs. And I think it was the third er fourth day after Bills stopped
'at he whirped Tomps Burk, the bully o' here them days, tel you would
n't a-knowed him!

Well, I'd heerd o' this, and the fact is I'd made up my mind 'at Bills
was a bad stick, and the place was n't none the better far his bein'
here. But, as I was a-goin' on to say,--as Steve and me driv up to the
mill, I ketched sight o' Bills the first thing, a-lookin' out o' where
some boards was knocked off, jist over the worter-wheel; and he knowed
Steve--I could see that by his face; and he hollered somepin', too,
but what it was I couldn't jist make out, far the noise o' the wheel;
but he looked to me as ef he'd hollered somepin' mean a-purpose so's
Steve _wouldn't_ hear it, and _he'd_ have the consolation o' knowin'
'at he'd called Steve some onry name 'thout givin' him a chance to
take it up. Steve was allus quiet like, but ef you raised his dander
one't--and you could do that 'thout much trouble, callin' him names er
somepin', particular' anything 'bout his mother. Steve loved his
mother--allus loved his mother, and would fight far her at the drap o'
the hat. And he was her favo-_rite_--allus a-talkin' o' "her boy,
Steven," as she used to call him, and so proud of him, and so keerful
of him allus, when he 'd be sick er anything; nuss him like a baby,
she would.

So when Bills hollered, Steve didn't pay no attention; and I said
nothin', o' course, and didn't let on like I noticed him. So we druv
round to the south side and hitched; and Steve 'lowed he'd better
feed; so I left him with the hosses and went into the mill.

They was jist a-stoppin' far dinner. Most of 'em brought ther
dinners--lived so far away, you know. The two Smith boys lived on what
used to be the old Warrick farm, five er six mild, anyhow, from wher'
the mill stood. Great stout fellers, they was; and little Jake, the
father of 'em, wasn't no man at all--not much bigger'n you, I rickon.
Le' me see, now:--Ther was Tomps Burk, Wade Elwood, and Joe and Ben
Carter, and Wesley Morris, John Coke--wiry little cuss, he was, afore
he got his leg sawed off--and Ezry, and--Well, I don't jist mind all
the boys--'s a long time ago, and I never was much of a hand far
names.--Now, some folks'll hear a name and never fergit it, but I
can't boast of a good ricollection, 'specially o' names; and far the
last thirty year my mem'ry's be'n a-failin' me, ever sence a spell o'
fever 'at I brought on onc't--fever and rheumatiz together. You see, I
went a-sainin' with a passel o' the boys, fool-like, and let my
clothes freeze on me a-comin' home. Wy, my breeches was like
stove-pipes when I pulled 'em off. 'Ll, ef I didn't pay far that
spree! Rheumatiz got a holt o' me and helt me there flat o' my back
far eight weeks, and couldn't move hand er foot 'thout a-hollerin'
like a' Injun. And I'd a-be'n there yit, I reckon, ef it had n't
a-be'n far a' old hoss-doctor, name o' Jones; and he gits a lot o' sod
and steeps it in hot whisky and pops it on me, and
I'll-be-switched-to-death ef it didn't cuore me up, far all I laughed
and told him I'd better take the whisky inardly and let him keep the
grass far his doctor bill. But that's nuther here ner there:--As I was
a-saying 'bout the mill: As I went in, the boys had stopped work and
was a-gittin' down ther dinners, and Bills amongst 'em, and old Ezry
a-chattin' away--great hand, he was, far his joke, and allus a-cuttin'
up and a-gittin' off his odd-come-shorts on the boys. And that day he
was in particular good humor. He'd brought some liquor down far the
boys, and he'd be'n drinkin' a little hisse'f, enough to feel it. He
didn't drink much--that is to say, he didn't git drunk adzactly; but
he tuck his dram, you understand. You see, they made ther own whisky
in them days, and it was n't nothin' like the bilin' stuff you git
now. Old Ezry had a little still, and allus made his own whisky,
enough far fambly use, and jist as puore as worter, and as harmless.
But now-a-days the liquor you git's rank pizen. They say they put
tobacker in it, and strychnine, and the Lord knows what; ner I never
knowed why, 'less it was to give it a richer-lookin' flavor, like.
Well, Ezry he 'd brought up a jug, and the boys had be'n a-takin' it
purty free; I seed that as quick as I went in. And old Ezry called out
to me to come and take some, the first thing. Told him I did n't
b'lieve I keered about it; but nothin' would do but I must take a
drink with the boys; and I was tired anyhow and I thought a little
would n't hurt; so I takes a swig; and as I set the jug down Bills
spoke up and says, "You're a stranger to me, and I'm a stranger to
you, but I reckon we can drink to our better acquaintance," er
somepin' to that amount, and poured out another snifter in a gourd
he'd be'n a-drinkin' coffee in, and handed it to me. Well, I could n't
well refuse, of course, so I says, "Here 's to us," and drunk her
down--mighty nigh a half pint, I reckon. Now, I railly did n't want
it, but, as I tell you, I was obleeged to take it, and I downed her at
a swaller and never batted an eye, far, to tell the fact about it, I
liked the taste o' liquor; and I do yit, only I know when I' got
enough. Jist then I didn't want to drink on account o' Steve. Steve
couldn't abide liquor in no shape ner form--far medicine ner nothin',
and I 've allus thought it was his mother's doin's.

Now, a few months afore this I 'd be'n to Vincennes, and I was jist
a-tellin' Ezry what they was a-astin' far ther liquor there--far I 'd
fetched a couple o' gallon home with me 'at I 'd paid six bits far,
and pore liquor at that: And I was a-tellin' about it, and old Ezry
was a-sayin' what an oudacious figger that was, and how he could make
money a-sellin' it far half that price, and was a-goin' on a-braggin'
about his liquor--and it was a good article--far new whisky,--and jist
then Steve comes in, jist as Bills was a-sayin' 'at a man 'at wouldn't
drink that whisky wasn't no man at all. So, of course, when they ast
Steve to take some and he told 'em no, 'at he was much obleeged, Bills
was kind o' tuck down, you understand, and had to say somepin'; and
says he, "I reckon you ain't no better 'n the rest of us, and _we 've_
be'n a-drinkin' of it." But Steve did n't let on like he noticed Bills
at all, and rech and shuck hands with the other boys and ast how they
was all a-comin' on.

I seed Bills was riled, and more 'n likely wanted trouble; and shore
enough, he went on to say, kind o' snarlin' like, 'at "he'd knowed o'
men in his day 'at had be'n licked far refusin' to drink when their
betters ast 'em;" and said furder 'at "a lickin' wasn't none too good
far anybody 'at would refuse liquor like that o' Ezry's, and in his
own house too"--er _buildin'_, ruther. Ezry shuck his head at him, but
I seed 'at Bills was bound far a quarrel, and I winks at Steve, as
much as to say, "Don't you let him bully you; you'll find your brother
here to see you have fair play!" _I_ was a-feelin' my oats some about
then, and Steve seed I was, and looked so sorry like, and like his
mother, 'at I jist thought, "I kin fight far you, and die far you,
'cause you're wuth it!"--And I didn't someway feel like it would
amount to much ef I did die er git killed er somepin' on his account.
I seed Steve was mighty white around the mouth and his eyes was a
glitterin' like a snake's; but Bills didn't seem to take warnin', but
went on to say 'at he'd knowed boys 'at loved the'r mothers so well
they couldn't drink nothin' stronger 'n milk.--And then you'd ort o'
seed Steve's coat fly off, jist like it wanted to git out of his way,
and give the boy room accordin' to his stren'th. I seed Bills grab a
piece o' scantlin' jist in time to ketch his arm as he struck at
Steve,--far Steve was a-comin' far him dangerss. But they'd ketched
Steve from behind jist then; and Bills turned far me. I seed him draw
back, and I seed Steve a-scufflin' to ketch his arm; but he didn't
reach it quite in time to do me no good. It must a-come awful suddent.
The first I ricollect was a roarin' and a buzzin' in my ears, and when
I kind o' come a little better to, and crawled up and peeked over the
saw-log I was a-layin' the other side of, I seed a couple clinched and
a rollin' over and over, and a-makin' the chips and saw-dust fly, now
I tell you! Bills and Steve it was--head and tail, tooth and toenail,
and a-bleedin' like good fellers. I seed a gash o' some kind in
Bills's head, and Steve was purty well tuckered, and a-pantin' like a
lizard; and I made a rush in, and one o' the Carter boys grabbed me
and told me to jist keep cool; 'at Steve didn't need no he'p, and they
might need me to keep Bills's friends off ef they made a rush. By this
time Steve had whirlt Bills, and was a-jist a-gittin' in a fair way to
finish him up in good style, when Wesley Morris run in--I seed him do
it--run in, and afore we could ketch him he struck Steve a deadener in
the butt o' the ear and knocked him as limber as a rag. And then Bills
whirlt Steve and got him by the throat, and Ben Carter and me and old
Ezry closed in--Carter tackled Morris, and Ezry and me grabs
Bills--and as old Ezry grabbed him to pull him off, Bills kind o' give
him a side swipe o' some kind and knocked him--I don't know how far!
And jist then Carter and Morris come a-scufflin' back'ards right
amongst us, and Carter throwed him right acrost Bills and Steve. Well,
it ain't fair, and I don't like to tell it, but I seed it was the last
chance and I tuck advantage of it:--As Wesley and Ben fell it pulled
Bills down in a kind o' twist, don't you understand, so's he couldn't
he'p hisse'f, yit still a-clinchin' Steve by the throat, and him black
in the face: Well, as they fell I grabbed up a little hick'ry limb,
not bigger 'n my two thumbs, and I struck Bills a little tap kind o'
over the back of his head like, and blame me ef he didn't keel over
like a stuck pig--and not any too soon, nuther, far he had Steve's
chunk as nigh put out as you ever seed a man's, to come to agin. But
he was up th'reckly and ready to a-went at it ef Bills could a-come to
the scratch; but Mister Bills he wasn't in no fix to try it over!
After a-waitin' awhile far him to come to, and him not a-comin' to, we
concluded 'at we'd better he'p him, maybe. And we worked with him, and
washed him, and drenched him with whisky, but it 'peared like it
wasn't no use: He jist laid there with his eyes about half shet, and
a-breathin' like a hoss when he's bad sceart; and I'll be dad-limbed
ef I don't believe he'd a-died on our hands ef it hadn't a-happened
old Doc Zions come a-ridin' past on his way home from the Murdock
neighberhood, where they was a-havin' sich a time with the milk-sick.
And he examined Bills, and had him laid on a plank and carried down to
the house--'bout a mild, I reckon, from the mill. Looked kind o'
curous to see Steve a-heppin' pack the feller, after his nearly
chokin' him to death. Oh, it was a bloody fight, I tell you! W'y, ther
wasn't a man in the mill 'at didn't have a black eye er somepin'; and
old Ezry, where Bills hit him, had his nose broke, and was as bloody
as a butcher. And you'd ort a-seed the women-folks when our p'session
come a-bringin' Bills in. I never seed anybody take on like Bills's
woman. It was distressin'; it was, indeed.--Went into hysterics, she
did; and we thought far awhile she'd gone plum crazy, far she cried so
pitiful over him, and called him "Charley! Charley!" 'stid of his
right name, and went on, clean out of her head, tel she finally jist
fainted clean away.

Far three weeks Bills laid betwixt life and death, and that woman set
by him night and day, and tended him as patient as a' angel--and she
was a' angel, too; and he'd a-never lived to bother nobody agin ef it
hadn't a-be'n far Annie, as he called her. Zions said ther was a
'brazure of the--some kind o' p'tubernce, and ef he'd a-be'n struck
jist a quarter of a' inch below--jist a quarter of a' inch--he'd
a-be'n a dead man. And I've sence wished--not 'at I want the life of a
human bein' to account far, on'y, well, no odds--I've sence wished 'at
I had a-hit him jist a quarter of a' inch below!

Well, of course, them days ther wasn't no law o' no account, and
nothin' was ever done about it. So Steve and me got our grindin', and
talked the matter over with Ezry and the boys. Ezry said he was
a-goin' to do all he could far Bills, 'cause he was a good hand, and
when he wasn't drinkin' ther wasn't no peaceabler man in the
settlement. I kind o' suspicioned what was up, but I said nothin'
then. And Ezry said furder, as we was about drivin' off, that Bills
was a despert feller, and it was best to kind o' humor him a little.
"And you must kind o' be on your guard," he says, "and I'll watch him
and ef anything happens 'at I git wind of I'll let you know," he says;
and so we put out far home.

Mother tuck on awful about it. You see, she thought she'd be'h the
whole blame of it, 'cause the Sunday afore that her and Steve had went
to meetin', and they got there late, and the house was crowded, and
Steve had ast Bills to give up his seat to Mother, and he wouldn't do
it, and said somepin' 'at disturbed the prayin', and the preacher
prayed 'at the feller 'at was a-makin' the disturbance might be
forgive; and that riled Bills so he got up and left, and hung around
till it broke up, so's he could git a chance at Steve to pick a fight.
And he did try it, and dared Steve and double-dared him far a fight,
but Mother begged so hard 'at she kep' him out of it. Steve said 'at
he'd a-told me all about it on the way to Ezry's, on'y he'd promised
Mother, you know, not to say nothin' to me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ezry was over at our house about six weeks after the fight,
appearantly as happy as you please. We ast him how him and Bills was
a-makin' it, and he said firstrate; said 'at Bills was jist a-doin'
splendid; said he'd got moved in his new house 'at he'd fixed up far
him, and ever'thing was a-goin' on as smooth as could be; and Bills
and the boys was on better terms 'n ever; and says he, "As far as you
and Steve 's concerned, Bills don't 'pear to bear you no ill feelin's,
and says as far as he 's concerned the thing 's settled." "Well," says
I, "Ezry, I hope so; but I can't he'p but think ther 's somepin' at
the bottom of all this;" and says I, "I do n't think it's in Bills to
ever amount to anything good;" and says I, "It's my opinion ther 's a
dog in the well, and now you mark it!"

Well, he said he _wasn't_ jist easy, but maybe he 'd come out all
right; said he couldn't turn the feller off--he hadn't the heart to do
that, with that-air pore, dilicate woman o' his, and the baby. And
then he went on to tell what a smart sort o' woman Bills's wife
was,--one of the nicest little women he 'd ever laid eyes on, said she
was; said she was the kindest thing, and the sweetest-tempered, and
all--and the handiest woman 'bout the house, and 'bout sewin', and
cookin', and the like, and all kinds o' housework; and so good to the
childern, and all; and how they all got along so well; and how proud
she was of her baby, and allus a-goin' on about it and a-cryin' over
it and a-carryin' on, and wouldn't leave it out of her sight a minute.
And Ezry said 'at she could write so purty, and made sich purty
pictures far the childern; and how they all liked her better'n ther
own mother. And, sence she'd moved, he said it seemed so lonesome like
'thout _her_ about the house--like they'd lost one o' ther own fambly;
said they didn't git to see her much now, on'y sometimes, when her man
would be at work, she'd run over far awhile, and kiss all the childern
and women-folks about the place,--the greatest hand far the childern,
she was; tell 'em all sorts o'little stories, you know, and sing far
'em; said 'at she could sing so sweet-like,'at time and time agin
she'd break clean down in some song o'nuther, and her voice would
trimble so mournful-like 'at you'd find yourse'f a-cryin' afore you
knowed it. And she used to coax Ezry's woman to let her take the
childern home with her; and they used to allus want to go, 'tel Bills
come onc't while they was there, and they said he got to jawin' her
far a-makin' some to-do over the baby, and swore at her and tuck it
away from her and whipped it far cryin', and she cried and told him to
whip her and not little Annie, and he said that was jist what he was
a-doin'. And the childern was allus afear'd to go there any more after
that--'fear'd he'd come home and whip little Annie agin. Ezry said he
jist done that to skeer 'em away--'cause he didn't want a passel o'
childern a-whoopin' and a-howlin' and a-trackin' 'round the house all
the time.

But, shore enough, Bills, after the fight, 'peared like he 'd settled
down, and went 'bout his business so stiddy-like, and worked so well,
the neighbors begin to think he was all right after all, and railly
_some_ got to _likin'_ him. But far me, well, I was a leetle slow to
argy 'at the feller wasn't "a-possumin'." But the next time I went
over to the mill--and Steve went with me--old Ezry come and met us,
and said 'at Bills didn't have no hard feelin's ef _we_ didn't, and
'at he wanted us to fergive him; said 'at Bills wanted him to tell us
'at he was sorry the way he'd acted, and wanted us to fergive him.
Well, I looked at Ezry, and we both looked at him, jist perfectly tuck
back--the idee o' Bills a-wantin' anybody to fergive him! And says I,
"Ezry, what in the name o' common sense do you mean?" And says he, "I
mean jist what I say; Bills jined meetin' last night and had 'em all
a-prayin' far him; and we all had _a glorious time_," says old Ezry;
"and his woman was there and jined, too, and prayed and shouted and
tuck on to beat all; and Bills got up and spoke and give in his
experience, and said he'd be'n a bad man, but, glory to God, them
times was past and gone; said 'at he wanted all of 'em to pray far
him, and he wanted to prove faithful, and wanted all his inemies to
fergive him; and prayed 'at you and Steve and your folks would fergive
him, and ever'body 'at he ever wronged anyway." And old Ezry was
a-goin' on, and his eyes a-sparklin', and a-rubbin' his hands, he was
so excited and tickled over it, 'at Steve and me we jist stood there
a-gawkin' like, tel Bills hisse'f come up and rech out one hand to
Steve and one to me; and Steve shuck with him kind o' oneasy like, and
I--well, sir, I never felt cur'oser in my born days than I did that
minute. The cold chills crep' over me, and I shuck as ef I had the
agur, and I folded my hands behind me and I looked that feller square
in the eye, and I tried to speak three or four times afore I could
make it, and when I did, my voice wasn't natchurl--sounded like a
feller a-whisperin' through a tin horn er somepin'.--and I says, says
I, "You're a liar," slow and delibert. That was all. His eyes blazed a
minute, and drapped; and he turned, 'thout a word, and walked off. And
Ezry says, "He's in airnest; I know he's in airnest, er he'd a-never
a-tuck that!" And so he went on, tel finally Steve jined in, and
betwixt 'em they p'suaded me 'at I was in the wrong and the best thing
to do was to make it all up, which I finally did. And Bills said 'at
he'd a-never a-felt jist right 'thout _my_ friendship, far he'd
wronged me, he said, and he'd wronged Steve and Mother, too, and he
wanted a chance, he said, o' makin' things straight agin.

Well, a-goin' home, I don't think Steve and me talked o' nothin' else
but Bills--how airnest the feller acted 'bout it, and how, ef he
_wasn't_ in airnest he'd a-never a-swallered that 'lie,' you see.
That's what walked my log, far he could a-jist as easy a-knocked me
higher 'n Kilgore's kite as he could to walk away 'thout a-doin' of
it.

Mother was awful tickled when she heerd about it, far she'd had an
idee 'at we'd have trouble afore we got back, and a-gitten home safe,
and a-bringin' the news 'bout Bills a-jinin' church and all, tickled
her so 'at she mighty nigh shouted far joy. You see, Mother was a' old
church-member all her life; and I don't think she ever missed a
sermont er a prayer-meetin' 'at she could possibly git to--rain er
shine, wet er dry. When ther was a meetin' of any kind a-goin' on, go
she would, and nothin' short o' sickness in the fambly, er knowin'
nothin' of it would stop _her_! And clean up to her dyin' day she was
a God-fearin' and consistent Christian ef ther ever was one. I mind
now when she was tuck with her last spell and laid bedfast far
eighteen months, she used to tell the preacher, when he 'd come to see
her and pray and go on, 'at she could die happy ef she could on'y be
with 'em all agin in their love-feasts and revivals. She was purty low
then, and had be'n a-failin' fast far a day er two; and that day
they'd be'n a-holdin' service at the house. It was her request, you
know, and the neighbers had congergated and was a-prayin' and
a-singin' her favorite hymns--one in p'tickler, "God moves in a
mysterous way his wunders to p'form," and 'bout his "Walkin' on the
sea and a-ridin' of the storm."--Well, anyway, they'd be'n a-singin'
that hymn far her--she used to sing that 'n so much, I ricollect as
far back as I kin remember; and I mind how it used to make me feel so
lonesome-like and solemn, don't you know,--when I'd be a-knockin'
round the place along of evenin's, and she'd be a-milkin', and I'd
hear her, at my feedin', way off by myse'f, and it allus somehow made
me feel like a feller'd ort o' try and live as nigh right as the law
allows, and that's about my doctern yit. Well, as I was a-goin' on to
say, they'd jist finished that old hymn, and Granny Lowry was jist
a-goin to lead in prayer, when I noticed mother kind o' tried to turn
herse'f in bed, and smiled so weak and faint-like, and looked at me,
with her lips a-kind o' movin'; and I thought maybe she wanted another
dos't of her syrup 'at Ezry's woman had fixed up far her, and I kind
o' stooped down over her and ast her if she wanted anything. "Yes,"
she says, and nodded, and her voice sounded so low and solemn and so
far away-like 'at I knowed she'd never take no more medicine on this
airth. And I tried to ast her what it was she wanted, but I couldn't
say nothin'; my throat hurt me, and I felt the warm tears a-boolgin'
up, and her kind old face a-glimmerin' a-way so pale-like afore my
eyes, and still a-smilin' up so lovin' and forgivin' and so good 'at
it made me think so far back in the past I seemed to be a little boy
agin; and seemed like her thin gray hair was brown, and a-shinin' in
the sun as it used to do when she helt me on her shoulder in the open
door, when Father was a-livin' and we used to go to meet him at the
bars; seemed like her face was young agin, and a-smilin' like it allus
used to be, and her eyes as full o' hope and happiness as afore they
ever looked on grief er ever shed a tear. And I thought of all the
trouble they had saw on my account, and of all the lovin' words her
lips had said, and of all the thousand things her pore old hands had
done far me 'at I never even thanked her far; and how I loved her
better 'n all the world besides, and would be so lonesome ef she went
away--Lord! I can't tell you what I didn't think and feel and see. And
I knelt down by her, and she whispered then far Steven, and he come,
and we kissed her--and she died--a smilin' like a child--jist like a
child.

Well--well! 'Pears like I'm allus a-runnin' into somepin' else. I
wisht I could tell a story 'thout driftin' off in matters 'at hain't
no livin' thing to do with what I started out with. I try to keep from
thinkin' of afflictions and the like, 'cause sich is bound to come to
the best of us; but a feller's ricollection will bring 'em up, and I
reckon it'd ort 'o be er it wouldn't be; and I've thought, sometimes,
it was done may be to kind o' admonish a feller, as the Good Book
says, of how good a world 'd be 'thout no sorrow in it.

Where was I? Oh, yes, I ricollect;--about Bills a-jinin' church. Well,
sir, ther' wasn't a better-actin' feller and more religious-like in
all the neighberhood. Spoke in meetin's, he did, and tuck a' active
part in all religious doin's, and, in fact, was jist as square a man,
appearantly, as the preacher hisse'f. And about six er eight weeks
after he'd jined, they got up another revival, and things run high.
Ther' was a big excitement, and ever'body was a'tendin' from far and
near. Bills and Ezry got the mill-hands to go, and didn't talk o'
nothin' but religion. People thought awhile 'at old Ezry 'd turn
preacher, he got so interested 'bout church matters. He was easy
excited 'bout anything; and when he went into a thing it was in dead
earnest, shore!--"jist flew off the handle," as I heerd a comical
feller git off onct. And him and Bills was up and at it ever'
night--prayin' and shoutin' at the top o' the'r voice. Them railly did
seem like good times--when ever'body jined together, and prayed and
shouted ho-sanner, and danced around together, and hugged each other
like they was so full o' glory they jist couldn't he'p
theirse'v's--that's the reason I jined; it looked so kind o'
whole-souled-like and good, you understand. But la! I didn't hold out
on'y far a little while, and no wunder!

Well, about them times Bills was tuck down with the agur; first got to
chillin' ever'-other-day, then ever' day, and harder and harder, tel
sometimes he 'd be obleeged to stay away from meetin' on account of
it. And one't I was at meetin' when he told about it, and how when he
couldn't be with 'em he allus prayed at home, and he said 'at he
believed his prayers was answered, far onc't he'd prayed far a new
outpourin' of the Holy Sperit, and that very night ther' was three new
jiners. And another time he said 'at he 'd prayed 'at Wesley Morris
would jine, and lo and behold you! he _did_ jine, and the very night
'at he prayed he would.

Well, the night I'm a-speakin' of he'd had a chill the day afore and
couldn't go that night, and was in bed when Ezry druv past far him;
said he'd like to go, but had a high fever and couldn't. And then
Ezry's woman ast him ef he was too sick to spare Annie; and he said
no, they could take her and the baby: and told her to fix his medicine
so's he could reach it 'thout gittin' out o' bed, and he'd git along
'thout her. And so she tuck the baby and went along with Ezry and his
folks.

I was at meetin' that night and ricollect 'em comin' in. Annie got a
seat jist behind me--Steve give her his'n and stood up; and I
ricollect a-astin' her how Bills was a-gittin' along with the agur;
and little Annie, the baby, kep' a-pullin' my hair and a-crowin' tel
finally she went to sleep; and Steve ast her mother to let _him_ hold
her--cutest little thing you ever laid eyes on, and the very pictur'
_of_ her mother.

Old Daddy Barker preached that night, and a mighty good sermont. His
text, ef I ricollect right, was "workin' out your own salvation;" and
when I listen to preachers nowadays in ther big churches and ther fine
pulpits, I allus think o' Daddy Barker, and kind o' some way wisht the
old times could come agin, with the old log meetin'-house with its
puncheon floor and the chinkin' in the walls, and old Daddy Barker in
the pulpit. He'd make you feel 'at the Lord could make hissef at home
there, and find jist as abundant comfort in the old log house as he
could in any of your fine-furnished churches 'at you can't set down in
'thout payin' far the privilege, like it was a theater.

Ezry had his two little girls jine that night, and I ricollect the
preacher made sich a purty prayer about the Savior a-cotin' from the
Bible 'bout "Suffer little childern to come unto me" and all; and
talked so purty about the jedgment day, and mothers a-meetin' the'r
little ones there and all; and went on tel ther wasn't a dry eye in
the house--and jist as he was a-windin' up, Abe Riggers stuck his head
in at the door and hollered "fire" loud as he could yell. We all
rushed out, a-thinkin' it was the meetin'-house; but he hollered it
was the mill; and shore enough, away off to the southards we could see
the light acrost the woods, and see the blaze a-lickin' up above the
trees. I seed old Ezry as he come a-scufflin' through the crowd; and
we put out together far it. Well, it was two mild to the mill, but by
the time we'd half way got there, we could tell it wasn't the mill
a-burnin', 'at the fire was furder to the left, and that was Ezry's
house; and by the time we got there it wasn't much use. We pitched
into the household goods, and got out the beddin', and the furnitur'
and cheers and the like o' that; saved the clock and a bedstid, and
got the bureau purt' nigh out when they hollered to us 'at the roof
was a cavin' in, and we had to leave it; well, we'd tuck the drawers
out, all but the big one, and that was locked; and it and all in it
went with the buildin', and that was a big loss: All the money 'at
Ezry was a-layin' by was in that-air drawer, and a lot o' keepsakes
and trinkets 'at Ezry's woman said she wouldn't a-parted with far the
world and all.

I never seed a troubleder fambly than they was. It jist 'peared like
old Ezry give clean down, and the women and childern a-cryin' and
a-takin' on. It looked jist awful--shore's you're born!--Losin'
ever'thing they'd worked so hard far--and there it was, purt' nigh
midnight, and a fambly, jist a little while ago all so happy, and now
with no home to go to ner nothin'!

It was arranged far Ezry's to move in with Bills--that was about the
on'y chance--on'y one room and a loft; but Bills said they could
manage _some_ way, far a while anyhow.

Bills said he seed the fire when it first started, and could a-put it
out ef he'd on'y be'n strong enough to git there; said he started
twic't to go, but was too weak and had to go back to bed agin; said it
was a-blazin' in the kitchen roof when he first seed it. So the
gineral conclusion 'at we all come to was--it must a-ketched from the
flue.

It was too late in the Fall then to think o' buildin' even the onryest
kind o' shanty, and so Ezry moved in with Bills. And Bills used to say
ef it had n't a-be'n far Ezry _he'd_ a-never a-had no house, ner
nuthin' to put in it, nuther. You see, all the household goods 'at
Bills had in the world he'd got of Ezry, and he 'lowed he'd be a
triflin' whelp ef he didn't do all in his power to make Ezry perfeckly
at home 's long as he wanted to stay there. And together they managed
to make room far 'em all, by a-buildin' a kind o' shed-like to the
main house, intendin' to build when Spring come. And ever'thing went
along first-rate, I guess; never heerd no complaints--that is,
p'ticular.

Ezry was kind o' down far a long time, though; didn't like to talk
about his trouble much, and didn't 'tend meetin' much, like he used
to; said it made him think 'bout his house burnin', and he didn't feel
safe to lose sight o' the mill. And the meetin's kind o' broke up
altogether that winter. Almost broke up religious doin's, it did. 'S
long as I've lived here I never seed jist sich a slack in religion as
ther' was that winter; and 'fore then, I kin mind the time when ther'
wasn't a night the whole endurin' winter when they didn't have
preachin' er prayer-meetin' o' some kind a-goin' on. W'y, I ricollect
one night in p'ticular--_the coldest_ night, _whooh!_ And somebody had
stold the meetin'-house door, and they was obleeged to preach 'thout
it. And the wind blowed in so they had to hold the'r hats afore the
candles, and then one't-in-a-while they'd git sluffed out. And the
snow drifted in so it was jist like settin' out doors; and they had to
stand up when they prayed--yessir! stood up to pray. I noticed that
night they was a' oncommon lot o' jiners, and I believe to this day
'at most of 'em jined jist to git up wher' the stove was. Lots o'
folks had the'r feet froze right in meetin'; and Steve come home with
his ears froze like they was whittled out o' bone; and he said 'at
Mary Madaline Wells's feet was froze, and she had two pair o' socks on
over her shoes. Oh, it was cold, now I tell you!

They run the mill part o' that winter--part they couldn't. And they
didn't work to say stiddy tel along in Aprile, and then ther' was snow
on the ground yit--in the shadders--and the ground froze, so you
couldn't hardly dig a grave. But at last they got to kind o' jiggin'
along agin. Plenty to do ther' was; and old Ezry was mighty tickled,
too; 'peared to recruit right up like. Ezry was allus best tickled
when things was a-stirrin', and then he was a-gittin' ready far
buildin', you know, wanted a house of his own, he said--and of course
it wasn't adzackly like home, all cluttered up as they was there at
Bills's. They got along mighty well, though, together; and the
women-folks and childern got along the best in the world. Ezry's woman
used to say she never laid eyes on jist sich another woman as Annie
was. Said it was jist as good as a winter's schoolin' far the
childern; said her two little girls had learnt to read, and didn't
know the'r a-b abs afore Annie learnt 'em; well, the oldest one, Mary
Patience, she did know her letters, I guess--fourteen year old, she
was; but Mandy, the youngest, had never seed inside a book afore that
winter; and the way she learnt was jist su'prisin'. She was puny-like
and frail-lookin' allus, but ever'body 'lowed she was a heap smarter
'n Mary Patience, and she was; and in my opinion she railly had more
sense 'n all the rest o' the childern put together, 'bout books and
cipherin' and arethmetic, and the like; and John Wesley, the oldest of
'em, he got to teachin' at last, when he growed up,--but, la! he
couldn't write his own name so 's you could read it. I allus thought
ther was a good 'eal of old Ezry in John Wesley. Liked to romance
'round with the youngsters 'most too well.--Spiled him far teachin', I
allus thought; far instance, ef a scholard said somepin' funny in
school, John-Wes he'd jist have to have his laugh out with the rest,
and it was jist fun far the boys, you know, to go to school to him.
Allus in far spellin'-matches and the like, and learnin' songs and
sich. I ricollect he give a' exhibition onc't, one winter, and I'll
never fergit it, I reckon.

The school-house would on'y hold 'bout forty, comfortable, and that
night ther' was up'ards of a hunderd er more--jist crammed and jammed!
And the benches was piled back so's to make room far the flatform
they'd built to make the'r speeches and dialogues on; and fellers
a-settin' up on them back seats, the'r heads was clean aginst the
j'ist. It was a low ceilin', anyhow, and o' course them 'at tuck a
part in the doin's was way up, too. Janey Thompson had to give up her
part in a dialogue, 'cause she looked so tall she was afeard the
congergation would laugh at her; and they couldn't git her to come out
and sing in the openin' song 'thout lettin' her set down first and git
ready 'fore they pulled the curtain. You see, they had sheets sewed
together, and fixed on a string some way, to slide back'ards and
for'ards, don't you know. But they was a big bother to 'em--couldn't
git 'em to work like. Ever' time they'd git 'em slid 'bout half way
acrost, somepin' would ketch, and they'd have to stop and fool with
'em awhile 'fore they could git 'em the balance o' the way acrost.
Well, finally, t'ords the last, they jist kep' 'em drawed back all the
time. It was a pore affair, and spiled purt nigh ever' piece; but the
scholards all wanted it fixed thataway, the teacher said, in a few
appropert remarks he made when the thing was over. Well, I was a
settin' in the back part o' the house on them high benches, and my
head was jist even with them on the flatform, and the lights was pore,
wher' the string was stretched far the curtain to slide on it looked
like the p'formers was strung on it. And when Lige Boyer's boy was
a-speakin'--kind o' mumbled it, you know, and you couldn't half
hear--it looked far the world like he was a-chawin' on that-air
string; and some devilish feller 'lowed ef he'd chaw it clean in two
it'd be a good thing far the balance. After that they all sung a
sleigh-ridin' song, and it was right purty, the way they got it off.
Had a passel o' sleigh-bells they'd ring ever' onc't-in-a-while, and
it sounded purty--shore!

Then Hunicut's girl, Marindy, read a letter 'bout winter, and what fun
the youngsters allus had in winter-time, a-sleighin' and the like, and
spellin'-matches, and huskin'-bees, and all. Purty good, it was, and
made a feller think o' old times. Well, that was about the best thing
ther' was done that night; but ever'body said the teacher wrote it far
her; and I wouldn't be su'prised much, far they was married not long
afterwards. I expect he wrote it far her.--Wouldn't put it past Wes!

They had a dialogue, too, 'at was purty good. Little Bob Arnold was
all fixed up--had on his pap's old bell-crowned hat, the one he was
married in. Well, I jist thought die I would when I seed that old hat
and called to mind the night his pap was married, and we all got him a
little how-come-you-so on some left-handed cider 'at had be'n a-layin'
in a whisky-bar'l tel it was strong enough to bear up a' egg. I kin
ricollect now jist how he looked in that hat, when it was all new, you
know, and a-settin on the back of his head, and his hair in his eyes;
and sich hair!--as red as git-out--and his little black eyes a-shinin'
like beads. Well sir, you'd a-died to a-seed him a-dancin'. We danced
all night that night, and would a-be'n a-dancin' yit, I reckon, ef the
fiddler hadn't a-give out. Wash Lowry was a-fiddlin' far us; and along
to'rds three or four in the mornin' Wash was purty well fagged out.
You see, Wash could never play far a dance er nothin' 'thout
a-drinkin' more er less, and when he got to a certain pitch you
couldn't git nothin' out o' him but "Barbary Allan;" so at last he
struck up on that, and jist kep' it up and _kep_' it up, and nobody
couldn't git nothin' else out of him!

Now, anybody 'at ever danced knows 'at "Barbary Allan" hain't no tune
to dance by, no way you can fix it; and, o' course, the boys seed at
onc't the'r fun was gone ef they could n't git him on another
tune.--And they 'd coax and beg and plead with him, and maybe git him
started on "The Wind Blows over the Barley," and 'bout the time they'd
git to knockin' it down agin purty lively, he'd go to sawin' away on
"Barbary Allan"--and I'll-be-switched-to-death ef that feller didn't
set there and play hisse'f sound asleep on "Barbary Allan," and we had
to wake him up afore he'd quit! Now, that's jes' a plum' facts. And
ther' wasn't a better fiddler nowheres than Wash Lowry, when he was at
hisse'f. I've heerd a good many fiddlers in my day, and I never heerd
one yit 'at could play my style o' fiddlin' ekal to Wash Lowry. You
see, Wash didn't play none o' this-here newfangled music--nothin' but
the old tunes, you understand, "The Forkéd Deer," and "Old Fat Gal,"
and "Gray Eagle," and the like. Now, them's music! Used to like to
hear Wash play "Gray Eagle." He could come as nigh a-makin' that old
tune talk as ever you heerd! Used to think a heap o' his fiddle--and
he had a good one, shore. I've heard him say, time and time agin, 'at
a five-dollar gold-piece wouldn't buy it, and I knowed him my-se'f to
refuse a calf far it onc't--yessir, a yearland calf--and the feller
offered him a double-bar'l'd pistol to boot, and blame ef he'd take
it; said he'd ruther part with anything else he owned than his
fiddle.--But here I am, clean out o' the furry agin. Oh, yes; I was
a-tellin' about little Bob, with that old hat; and he had on a
swaller-tail coat and a lot o' fixin's, a-actin' like he was 'squire;
and he had him a great long beard made out o' corn-silks, and you
wouldn't a-knowed him ef it wasn't far his voice. Well, he was
a-p'tendin' he was a 'squire a-tryin' some kind o' law-suit, you see;
and John Wesley he was the defendunt, and Joney Wiles, I believe it
was, played like he was the plaintive. And they'd had a fallin' out
'bout some land, and was a-lawin' far p'session, you understand. Well,
Bob he made out it was a mighty bad case when John-Wes comes to
consult him about it, and tells _him_ ef a little p'int o' law was
left out he thought he could git the land far him. And then John-Wes
bribes him, you understand, to leave out the p'int o' law, and the
'squire says he'll do all he kin, and so John-Wes goes out a feelin'
purty good. Then _Wiles_ comes in to consult the 'squire don't you
see. And the 'squire tells _him_ the same tale he told _John Wesley_.
So _Wiles_ bribes him to leave out the p'int o' law in _his_ favor,
don't you know. So when the case is tried he decides in favor o'
John-Wes, a-tellin' Wiles some cock-and-bull story 'bout havin' to
manage it thataway so 's to git the case mixed so's he could git it
far him shore; and posts him to sue far change of venue er
somepin',--anyway, Wiles gits a new trial, and then the 'squire
decides in _his_ favor, and tells John-Wes another trial will fix it
in _his_ favor, and so on.--And so it goes on tel, anyway, he gits
holt o' the land hisse'f and all ther money besides, and leaves them
to hold the bag! Wellsir, it was purty well got up; and they said it
was John-Wes's doin's, and I 'low it was--he was a good hand at
anything o' that sort, and knowed how to make fun.--But I've be'n a
tellin' you purty much ever'thing but what I started out with, and
I'll try and hurry through, 'cause I know you're tired.

'Long 'bout the beginin' o' summer, things had got back to purty much
the old way. The boys round was a-gittin' devilish, and o' nights
'specially ther' was a sight o' meanness a-goin' on. The mill-hands,
most of'em, was mixed up in it--Coke and Morris, and them 'at had
jined meetin' 'long in the winter, had all backslid, and was
a-drinkin' and carousin' 'round worse 'n ever.

People perdicted 'at Bills would backslide, but he helt on faithful,
to all appearance; said he liked to see a feller when he made up his
mind to do right, he liked to see him do it, and not go back on his
word; and even went so far as to tell Ezry ef they didn't put a stop
to it he'd quit the neighberhood and go some'rs else. And Bills was
Ezry's head man then, and he couldn't a-got along 'thout him; and I
b'lieve ef Bills had a-said the word old Ezry would a-turned off ever'
hand he had. He got so he jist left ever'thing to Bills. Ben Carter
was turned off far somepin', and nobody ever knowed what. Bills and
him had never got along jist right sence the fight.

Ben was with this set I was a-tellin' you 'bout, and they'd got him to
drinkin' and in trouble, o' course. I'd knowed Ben well enough to know
he wouldn't do nothin' onry ef he wasn't agged on, and ef he ever was
mixed up in anything o' the kind Wes Morris and John Coke was at the
bottom of it, and I take notice they wasn't turned off when Ben was.

One night the crowd was out, and Ben amongst 'em, o' course.--Sence
he'd be'n turned off he'd be'n a-drinkin',--and I never blamed him
much; he was so good-hearted like and easy led off, and I allus
b'lieved it wasn't his own doin's.

Well, this night they cut up awful, and ef ther was one fight ther was
a dozend; and when all the devilment was done they _could_ do, they
started on a stealin' expedition, and stold a lot o' chickens and tuck
'em to the mill to roast'em; and, to make a long story short, that
night the mill burnt clean to the ground. And the whole pack of 'em
cologued together aginst Carter to saddle it onto him; claimed 'at
they left Ben there at the mill 'bout twelve o'clock--which was a
fact, far he was dead drunk and couldn't git away. Steve stumbled over
him while the mill was a-burnin' and drug him out afore he knowed what
was a-goin' on, and it was all plain enough to Steve 'at Ben didn't
have no hand in the firm' of it. But I'll tell you he sobered up
mighty suddent when he seed what was a-goin' on, and heerd the
neighbors a-hollerin', and a-threatenin', and a-goin' on!--far it
seemed to be the ginerl idee 'at the buildin' was fired a-purpose. And
says Ben to Steve, says he, "I expect I'll have to say good-bye to
you, far they've got me in a ticklish place! I kin see through it all
now, when it's too late!" And jist then Wesley Morris hollers out,
"Where's Ben Carter?" and started to'rds where me and Ben and Steve
was a-standin'; and Ben says, wild like, "Don't you two fellers ever
think it was my doin's," and whispers "Good-bye," and started off, and
when we turned, Wesley Morris was a-layin' flat of his back, and we
heerd Carter yell to the crowd 'at "that man"--meanin' Morris--"
needed lookin' after worse than _he_ did," and another minute he
plunged into the river and swum acrost; and we all stood and watched
him in the flickerin' light tel he clum out on t'other bank; and 'at
was last anybody ever seed o' Ben Carter!

It must a-be'n about three o'clock in the mornin' by this time, and
the mill then was jist a-smoulderin' to ashes--far it was as dry as
tinder and burnt like a flash--and jist as a party was a-talkin' o'
organizin' and follerin' Carter, we heerd a yell 'at I'll never fergit
ef I'd live tel another flood. Old Ezry, it was, as white as a corpse,
and with the blood a-streamin' out of a gash in his forehead, and his
clothes half on, come a-rushin' into the crowd and a-hollerin' fire
and murder ever' jump. "My house is a-burnin', and my folks is all
a-bein' murdered while you 're a-standin' here! And Bills done it!
Bills done it!" he hollered, as he headed the crowd and started back
far home. "Bills done it! I caught him at it; and he would a-murdered
me in cold blood ef it had n't a-be'n far his woman. He knocked me
down, and had me tied to a bed-post in the kitchen afore I come to.
And his woman cut me loose and told me to run far he'p; and says I,
'Where's Bills?' and she says, 'He's after me by this time.' And jist
then we heerd Bills holler, and we looked, and he was a-standin' out
in the clearin' in front o' the house, with little Annie in his arms;
and he hollered wouldn't she like to kiss the baby good-bye."

"And she hollered My God! far me to save little Annie, and fainted
clean dead away. And I heerd the roof a-crackin', and grabbed her up
and packed her out jist in time. And when I looked up, Bills hollered
out agin, and says, 'Ezry,' he says, 'You kin begin to kind a' git an
idee o' what a good feller I am! And ef you hadn't a-caught me you 'd
a-never a-knowed it, and 'Brother Williams' wouldn't a-be'n called
away to another app'intment like he is.' And says he, 'Now, ef you
foller me I'll finish you shore!--You're safe now, far I hain't got
time to waste on you furder.' And jist then his woman kind o' come to
her senses agin and hollered far little Annie, and the child heerd her
and helt out its little arms to go to her, and hollered 'Mother!
Mother!' And Bills says, Dam your mother! ef it hadn't a-be'n far
_her_ I'd a-be'n all right. And dam you too!' he says to me,--'This'll
pay you far that lick you struck me; and far you a-startin' reports
when I first come 'at more 'n likely I'd done somepin' mean over east
and come out west to reform! And I wonder ef I _didn't_ do somepin'
mean afore I come here?' he went on; 'kill somebody er somepin'? And I
wonder ef I ain't reformed enough to go back? Good-bye, Annie!' he
hollered; 'and you needn't fret about your baby, I 'll be the same
indulgent father to it I 've allus be'n!' And the baby was a-cryin'
and a-reachin' out its little arms to'rds its mother, when Bills he
turned and struck oft' in the dark to'rds the river."

This was about the tale 'at Ezry told us, as nigh as I can ricollect,
and by the time he finished, I never want to see jist sich another
crowd o' men as was a-swarmin' there. Ain't it awful when sich a crowd
gits together? I tell you it makes my flesh creep to think about it!

As Bills had gone in the direction of the river, we wasn't long in
makin' our minds up 'at he'd have to cross it, and ef he done _that_
he'd have to use the boat 'at was down below the mill, er wade it at
the ford, a mild er more down. So we divided in three sections,
like--one to go and look after the folks at the house, and another to
the boat, and another to the ford. And Steve and me and Ezry was in
the crowd 'at struck far the boat, and we made time a-gittin' there!
It was awful dark, and the sky was a-cloudin'up like a storm; but we
wasn't long a-gittin' to the p'int where the boat was allus tied; but
ther' wasn't no boat there! Steve kind o' tuck the lead, and we all
talked in whispers. And Steve said to kind o' lay low and maybe we
could hear somepin', and some feller said he thought he heerd somepin'
strange like, but the wind was kind o' raisin' and kep' up sich a
moanin' through the trees along the bank 't we couldn't make out
nothin'. "Listen!" says Steve, suddent like, "I hear somepin!" We was
all still again--and we all heerd a moanin' 'at was sadder 'n the
wind--sounded mournfuller to me 'cause I knowed it in a minute, and I
whispered, "Little Annie." And 'way out acrost the river we could hear
the little thing a-sobbin', and we all was still 's death; and we
heerd a voice we knowd was Bills's say, "Dam ye! Keep still, or I'll
drownd ye!" And the wind kind o' moaned agin and we could hear the
trees a-screechin' together in the dark, and the leaves a-rustlin';
and when it kind o' lulled agin, we heerd Bills make a kind o' splash
with the oars; and jist then Steve whispered far to lay low and be
ready--he was a-goin' to riconnitre; and he tuck his coat and shoes
off, and slid over the bank and down into the worter as slick as a'
eel. Then ever'thing was still agin, 'cept the moanin' o' the child,
which kep' a-gittin' louder and louder; and then a voice whispered to
us, "He's a-comin' back; the crowd below has sent scouts up, and
they're on t' other side. Now watch clos't, and he's our meat." We
could hear Bills, by the moanin' o' the baby, a-comin' nearder and
nearder, tel suddently he made a sort o' miss-lick with the oar, I
reckon, and must a splashed the baby, far she set up a loud cryin; and
jist then old Ezry, who was a-leanin' over the bank, kind o' lost his
grip some way o' nuther, and fell kersplash in the worter like a' old
chunk. "Hello!" says Bills, through the dark, "you're there, too, air
ye?" as old Ezry splashed up the bank agin. And "Cuss you!" he says
then, to the baby--"ef it hadn't be'n far your infernal squawkin' I'd
a-be'n all right; but you've brought the whole neighberhood out, and,
dam you, I'll jist let you swim out to 'em!" And we heerd a splash,
then a kind o' gurglin', and then Steve's voice a-hollerin', "Close in
on him, boys; I've got the baby!" And about a dozend of us bobbed off
the bank like so many bull-frogs, and I'll tell you the worter b'iled!
We could jist make out the shape o' the boat, and Bills a-standin'
with a' oar drawed back to smash the first head 'at come in range. It
was a mean place to git at him. We knowed he was despert, and far a
minute we kind o' helt back. Fifteen foot o' worter 's a mighty
onhandy place to git hit over the head in! And Bills says, "You hain't
afeard, I reckon--twenty men agin one!" "You'd better give your se'f
up!" hollered Ezry from the shore. "No, Brother Sturgiss," says Bills,
"I can't say 'at I'm at all anxious 'bout bein' borned agin, jist yit
awhile," he says; "I see you kind o' 'pear to go in far babtism; guess
you'd better go home and git some dry clothes on; and, speakin' o'
home, you'd ort 'o be there by all means--your house might catch afire
and burn up while you're gone!" And jist then the boat give a suddent
shove under him--some feller'd div under and tilted it--and far a
minute it throwed him off his guard and the boys closed in. Still he
had the advantage, bein' in the boat, and as fast as a feller would
climb in he'd git a whack o' the oar, tel finally they got to pilin'
in a little too fast far him to manage, and he hollered then 'at we'd
have to come to the bottom ef we got him, and with that he div out o'
the end o' the boat, and we lost sight of him; and I'll be blame ef he
didn't give us the slip after all.

Wellsir, we watched far him, and some o' the boys swum on down stream,
expectin' he'd raise, but couldn't find hide ner hair of him; so we
left the boat a-driftin' off down stream and swum ashore, a-thinkin'
he'd jist drownded hisse'f a-purpose. But ther' was more su'prise
waitin' far us yit,--for lo-and-behold-you, when we got ashore ther'
wasn't no trace o' Steve er the baby to be found. Ezry said he seed
Steve when he fetched little Annie ashore, and she was all right on'y
she was purt nigh past cryin'; and he said Steve had lapped his coat
around her and give her to him to take charge of, and he got so
excited over the fight he laid her down betwixt a couple o' logs and
kind o' forget about her tel the thing was over, and he went to look
far her, and she was gone. Couldn't a-be'n 'at she'd a-wundered off
her-own-se'f; and it couldn't a-be'n 'at Steve'd take her, 'thout
a-lettin us know it. It was a mighty aggervatin' conclusion to come
to, but we had to do it, and that was, Bills must a got ashore
unbeknownst to us and packed her off. Sich a thing wasn't hardly
probable, yit it was a thing 'at might be; and after a-talkin' it over
we had to admit 'at it must a-be'n the way of it. But where was Steve?
W'y, we argied, he'd discivvered she was gone, and had put out on
track of her 'thout losin' time to stop and explain the thing. The
next question was, what did Bills want with her agin? He'd tried to
drownd her onc't. We could ast questions enough, but c'rect answers
was mighty skearce, and we jist concluded 'at the best thing to do was
to put out far the ford, far that was the nighdest place Bills could
cross 'thout a boat, and ef it was him tuck the child he was still on
our side o' the river, o' course. So we struck out far the ford,
a-leav-in' a couple o' men to search up the river. A drizzlin' sort o'
rain had set in by this time, and with that and the darkness and the
moanin' of the wind, it made 'bout as lonesome a prospect as a feller
ever wants to go through agin.

It was jist a-gittin' a little gray-like in the mornin' by the time we
reached the ford, but you couldn't hardly see two rods afore you far
the mist and the fog 'at had settled along the river. We looked far
tracks, but couldn't make out nuthin'. Thereckly old Ezry punched me
and p'inted out acrost the river. "What's that?" he whispers. Jist
'bout half way acrost was somepin' white-like in the worter--couldn't
make out what--perfeckly still it was. And I whispered back and told
him I guess it wasn't nothin' but a sycamore snag. "Listen!" says he;
"Sycamore snags don't make no noise like that!" And, shore enough, it
was the same moanin' noise we'd heerd the baby makin' when we first
got on the track. Sobbin' she was, as though nigh about dead. "Well,
ef that's Bills," says I--"and I reckon ther' hain't no doubt but it
is--what in the name o' all that's good and bad's the feller
a-standin' there far?" And a-creep-in' clos'ter, we could make him out
plainer and plainer. It was him; and there he stood breast-high in the
worter, a-holdin' the baby on his shoulder like, and a lookin' up
stream, and a-waitin'.

"What do you make out of it?" says Ezry. "What's he waitin' far?"

And a strainin' my eyes in the direction he was a-lookin' I seed
somepin' a-movin' down the river, and a minute later I'd made out the
old boat a-driftin' down stream; and then of course ever'thing was
plain enough: He was waitin' far the boat, and ef he got _that_ he'd
have the same advantage on us he had afore.

"Boys," says I, "he mustn't git that boat agin! Foller me, and don't
let him git to the shore alive." And in we plunged. He seed us, but he
never budged, on'y to grab the baby by its little legs, and swing it
out at arms-len'th. "Stop, there," he hollered. "Stop jist where you
air! Move another inch and I'll drownd this dam young-un afore your
eyes!" he says.--And he 'd a done it. "Boys," says I, "he's got us.
Don't move! This thing'll have to rest with a higher power 'n our 'n!
Ef any of you kin pray," says I, "now's a good time to do it!"

Jist then the boat swung up, and Bills grabbed it and rech 'round and
set the baby in it, never a-takin' his eye off o' us, though, far a
minute. "Now," says he, with a sort o' snarlin' laugh, "I've on'y got
a little while to stay with you, and I want to say a few words afore I
go. I want to tell you fellers, in the first place, 'at you've be'n
_fooled_ in me: I _hain't_ a good feller, now, honest! And ef you're a
little the worse far findin' it out so late in the day, you hain't
none the worse far losin' me so soon--far I'm a-goin' away now, and
any interference with my arrangements 'll on'y give you more trouble;
so it's better all around to let me go peaceable and jist while I'm in
the notion. I expect it'll be a disapp'intment to some o' you that my
name hain't 'Williams,' but it hain't. And maybe you won't think nigh
as much o' me when I tell you furder 'at I was obleeged to 'dopt the
name o' 'Williams' onc't to keep from bein' strung up to a lamp-post,
but sich is the facts. I was so extremely unfortunit onc't as to kill
a p'ticular friend o' mine, and he forgive me with his dyin' breath,
and told me to run while I could, and be a better man. But he'd
spotted me with a' ugly mark 'at made it kind o' onhandy to git away,
but I did at last; and jist as I was a-gittin' reformed-like, you
fellers had to kick in the traces, and I've made up my mind to hunt
out a more moraler community, where they don't make sich a fuss about
trifles. And havin' nothin' more to say, on'y to send Annie word 'at
I'll still be a father to her youngun here, I'll bid you all
good-bye." And with that he turned and clum in the boat--or ruther
fell in,--far somepin' black-like had riz up in it, with a' awful
lick--my--God!--and, a minute later, boat and baggage was a-gratin' on
the shore, and a crowd come thrashin' 'crost from tother side to jine
us, and 'peared like wasn't a _second_ longer tel a feller was
a-swingin' by his neck to the limb of a scrub-oak, his feet clean off
the ground, and his legs a-jerkin' up and down like a limber-jack's.

And Steve it was a-layin' in the boat, and he'd rid a mild or more
'thout knowin' of it. Bills had struck and stunt him as he clum in
while the rumpus was a-goin' on, and he'd on'y come to in time to hear
Bills's farewell address to us there at the ford.

Steve tuck charge o' little Annie agin, and ef she'd a-be'n his own
child he wouldn't a-went on more over her than he did; and said nobody
but her mother would git her out o' his hands agin. And he was as good
as his word; and ef you could a-seed him a half hour after that, when
he _did_ give her to her mother--all lapped up in his coat and as
drippin'-wet as a little drownded angel--it would a-made you wish't
you was him to see that little woman a caperin' round him, and
a-thankin' him, and a-cryin' and a-laughin', and almost a-huggin' him,
she was so tickled,--Well, I thought in my soul she'd die! And Steve
blushed like a girl to see her a-taking' on, and a-thankin' him, and
a-cryin', and a-kissin' little Annie, and a-goin' on. And when she
inquired 'bout Bills, which she did all suddent like, with a burst o'
tears, we jist didn't have the heart to tell her--on'y we said he'd
crossed the river and got away. And he had!

And now comes a part o' this thing 'at 'll more 'n like tax you to
believe it: Williams and her wasn't man and wife--and you needn't look
su'prised, nuther, and I'll tell you far why--They was own brother and
sister; and that brings me to _her_ part of the story, which you'll
have to admit beats anything 'at you ever read about in books.

       *       *       *       *       *

Her and Williams--that _wasn't_ his name, like he acknowledged,
hisse'f, you ricollect--ner she didn't want to tell his right name;
and we forgive her far that. Her and 'Williams' was own brother and
sister, and the'r parents lived in Ohio some'ers. The'r mother had
be'n dead five year' and better--grieved to death over her onnachurl
brother's recklessness, which Annie hinted had broke her father up in
some way, in tryin' to shield him from the law. And the secret of her
bein' with him was this: She had married a man o' the name of Curtis
or Custer, I don't mind which, adzackly--but no matter; she'd married
a well-to-do young feller 'at her brother helt a' old grudge agin, she
never knowed what; and sence her marriage her brother had went on from
bad to worse tel finally her father jist give him up and told him to
go it his own way--he'd killed his mother and ruined him, and he'd
jist give up all hopes. But Annie--you know how a sister is--she still
clung to him and done ever'thing far him, tel finally, one night about
three years after she was married she got word some way that he was in
trouble agin, and sent her husband to he'p him; and a half hour after
he'd gone, her brother come in, all excited and bloody, and told her
to git the baby and come with him, 'at her husband had got in a
quarrel with a friend o' his and was bad hurt. And she went with him,
of course, and he tuck her in a buggy, and lit out with her as tight
as he could go all night; and then told her 'at _he_ was the feller
'at had quarreled with her husband, and the officers was after him and
he was obleeged to leave the country, and far fear he hadn't made
shore work o' him, he was a-takin' her along to make shore of his
gittin' his revenge; and he swore he'd kill her and the baby too ef
she dared to whimper. And so it was, through a hunderd hardships he'd
made his way at last to our section o' the country, givin' out 'at
they was man and wife, and keepin' her from denyin' of it by threats,
and promises of the time a-comin' when he'd send her home to her man
agin in case he hadn't killed him. And so it run on tel you'd a-cried
to hear her tell it, and still see her sister's love far the feller
a-breakin' out by a-declarin' how kind he was to her _at times_, and
how he wasn't railly bad at heart, on'y far his ungov'nable temper.
But I couldn't he'p but notice, when she was a tellin' of her hist'ry,
what a quiet sort o' look o' satisfaction settled on the face o' Steve
and the rest of 'em, don't you understand.

And now ther' was on'y one thing she wanted to ast, she said; and that
was, could she still make her home with us tel she could git word to
her friends?--and there she broke down agin, not knowin', of course,
whether _they_ was dead er alive; far time and time agin she said
somepin' told her she'd never see her husband agin on this airth; and
then the women-folks would cry with her and console her, and the boys
would speak hopeful--all but Steve; some way o' nuther Steve was never
like hisse'f from that time on.

And so things went far a month and better. Ever'thing had quieted
down, and Ezry and a lot o' hands, and me and Steve amongst 'em, was
a-workin' on the frame-work of another mill. It was purty weather, and
we was all in good sperits, and it 'peared like the whole neighberhood
was interested--and they _-was_, too--women-folks and ever'body. And
that day Ezry's woman and amongst 'em was a-gittin' up a big dinner to
fetch down to us from the house; and along about noon a spruce-lookin'
young feller, with a pale face and a black beard, like, come a-ridin'
by and hitched his hoss, and comin' into the crowd, said "Howdy,"
pleasant like, and we all stopped work as he went on to say 'at he was
on the track of a feller o' the name o' 'Williams,' and wanted to know
ef we could give him any infermation 'bout sich a man. Told him
maybe,--'at a feller bearin' that name desappeared kind o' myster'ous
from our neighberhood 'bout five weeks afore that. "My God!" says he,
a-turnin' paler'n ever, "am I too late? Where did he go, and was his
sister and her baby with him?" Jist then I ketched sight o' the
women-folks a-comin' with the baskets, and Annie with 'em, with a jug
o' worter in her hand; so I spoke up quick to the stranger, and says
I, "I guess 'his sister and baby' wasn't along," says I, "but his
_wife_ and _baby's_ some'eres here in the neighberhood yit." And then
a-watchin' him clos't, I says, suddent, a-pin'tin' over his shoulder,
"There his woman is now--that one with the jug, there." Well, Annie
had jist stooped to lift up one o' the little girls, when the feller
turned, and the'r eyes met, "Annie! My wife!" he says; and Annie she
kind o' give a little yelp like and come a-flutterin' down in his
arms; and the jug o' worter rolled clean acrost the road, and turned a
somerset and knocked the cob out of its mouth and jist laid back and
hollered "Good--good--good--good--good!" like as ef it knowed what was
up and was jist as glad and tickled as the rest of us.



SWEET-KNOT AND GALAMUS



AN OLD SWEETHEART.



  As one who cons at evening o'er an album all alone,
  And muses on the faces of the friends that he has known,
  So I turn the leaves of fancy till, in shadowy design,
  I find the smiling features of an old sweetheart of mine.

  The lamplight seems to glimmer with a flicker of surprise,
  As I turn it low to rest me of the dazzle in my eyes,
  And light my pipe in silence, save a sigh that seems to yoke
  Its fate with my tobacco and to vanish with the smoke.

  'Tis a fragrant retrospection--for the loving thoughts that start
  Into being are like perfumes from the blossom of the heart;
  And to dream the old dreams over is a luxury divine--
  When my truant fancy wanders with that old sweeheart of mine.

  Though I hear, beneath my study, like a fluttering of wings,
  The voices of my children, and the mother as she sings,
  I feel no twinge of conscience to deny me any theme
  When care has cast her anchor in the harbor of a dream

  In fact, to speak in earnest, I believe it adds a charm
  To spice the good a trifle with a little dust of harm--
  For I find an extra flavor in Memory's mellow wine
  That makes me drink the deeper to that old sweetheart of mine.

  A face of lily-beauty, with a form of airy grace,
  Floats out of my tobacco as the genii from the vase;
  And I thrill beneath the glances of a pair of azure eyes
  As glowing as the summer and as tender as the skies.

  I can see the pink sunbonnet and the little checkered dress
  She wore when first I kissed her and she answered the caress
  With the written declaration that, "as surely as the vine
  Grew 'round the stump," she loved me--that old sweetheart of mine.

  And again I feel the pressure of her slender little hand,
  As we used to talk together of the future we had planned--
  When I should be a poet, and with nothing else to do
  But write the tender verses that she set the music to:

  When we should live together in a cozy little cot
  Hid in a nest of roses, with a fairy garden-spot,
  Where the vines were ever fruited, and the weather ever fine,
  And the birds were ever singing for that old sweetheart of mine:

  When I should be her lover forever and a day,
  And she my faithful sweetheart till the golden hair was gray;
  And we should be so happy that when either's lips were dumb
  They would not smile in Heaven till the other's kiss had come.

       *       *       *       *       *

  But, ah! my dream is broken by a step upon the stair,
  And the door is softly opened, and--my wife is standing there;
  Yet with eagerness and rapture all my visions I resign
  To greet the living presence of that old sweetheart of mine.



MARTHY ELLEN.



  They's nothin' in the name to strike
  A feller more'n common like!
  'Taint liable to git no praise
  Ner nothin' like it nowadays;
  An' yit that name o' her'n is jest
  As purty as the purtiest--
  And more 'n that, I'm here to say
  I'll live a-thinkin' thataway
      And die far Marthy Ellen!

  It may be I was prejudust
  In favor of it from the fust--
  'Cause I kin ricollect jest how
  We met, and hear her mother now
  A-callin' of her down the road--
  And, aggervatin' little toad!--
  I see her now, jes' sort o' half-
  Way disapp'inted, turn and laugh
      And mock her--"Marthy Ellen!"

  Our people never had no fuss,
  And yit they never tuck to us;
  We neighbered back and foreds some;
  Until they see she liked to come
  To our house--and me and her
  Were jest together ever'whur
  And all the time--and when they'd see
  That I liked her and she liked me,
  They'd holler "Marthy Ellen!"

  When we growed up, and they shet down
  On me and her a-runnin' roun'
  Together, and her father said
  He'd never leave her nary red,
  So he'p him, ef she married me,
  And so on--and her mother she
  Jest agged the gyrl, and said she 'lowed
  She'd ruther see her in her shroud,
      I _writ_ to Marthy Ellen--

  That is, I kindo' tuck my pen
  In hand, and stated whur and when
  The undersigned would be that night,
  With two good hosses saddled right
  Far lively travelin' in case
  Her folks 'ud like to jine the race.
  She sent the same note back, and writ
  "The rose is red!" right under it--
      "Your 'n allus, Marthy Ellen."

  That's all, I reckon--Nothin' more
  To tell but what you've heerd afore--
  The same old story, sweeter though
  Far all the trouble, don't you know.
  Old-fashioned name! and yit it's jest
  As purty as the purtiest;
  And more 'n that, I'm here to say
  I'll live a-thinking thataway,
      And die far Marthy Ellen!



MOON-DROWNED.



  'Twas the height of the fete when we quitted the riot,
    And quietly stole to the terrace alone,
  Where, pale as the lovers that ever swear by it,
    The moon it 




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