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Title: Hoosier Mosaics
Author: Thompson, Maurice, 1844-1901
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.

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  Affectionately to my Father,
  The Reverend GRIGG THOMPSON.



  HOOSIER MOSAICS.

  By MAURICE THOMPSON.


  NEW YORK:
  E. J. HALE & SON, PUBLISHERS,
  MURRAY STREET.
  1875.


  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1875, by
  E. J. HALE & SON,
  In the office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.



CONTENTS.


                                PAGE.

  _WAS SHE A BOY?_                 _7_

  TROUT'S LUCK,                    29

  _BIG MEDICINE_,                 _50_

  _THE VENUS OF BALHINCH_,        _76_

  THE LEGEND OF POTATO CREEK,      92

  _STEALING A CONDUCTOR_,        _114_

  HOIDEN,                         127

  THE PEDAGOGUE,                  162

  AN IDYL OF THE ROD,             188



WAS SHE A BOY?


No matter what business or what pleasure took me, I once, not long ago,
went to Colfax. Whisper it not to each other that I was seeking a
foreign appointment through the influence of my fellow Hoosier, the late
Vice-President of the United States. O no, I didn't go to the Hon.
Schuyler Colfax at all; but I went to Colfax, simply, which is a little
dingy town, in Clinton County, that was formerly called Midway, because
it is half way between Lafayette and Indianapolis. It was and is a place
of some three hundred inhabitants, eking out an aguish subsistence,
maintaining a swampy, malarious aspect, keeping up a bilious, nay, an
atra-bilious color, the year round, by sucking like an attenuated leech
at the junction, or, rather, the crossing of the I. C. & L., and the L.
C. & S. W. railroads. It lay mouldering, like something lost and
forgotten, slowly rotting in the swamp.

I do not mean to attack the inhabitants of Colfax, for they were good
people, and deserved a better fate than the eternal rattling the ague
took them through from year's end to year's end. Why, they had had the
ague so long that they had no respect for it at all. I've seen a woman
in Colfax shaking with a chill, spanking a baby that had a chill, and
scolding a husband who had a chill, all at once--and I had a dreadful
ague on me at the same time! But, as I have said, they were good people,
and I suppose they are still. They go quietly about the usual business
of dead towns. They have "stores" in which they offer for sale calico,
of the big-figured, orange and red sort, surprisingly cheap. They smoke
those little Cuba sixes at a half cent apiece, and call them cigars;
they hang round the dépôt, and trade jack-knives and lottery watches on
the afternoons of lazy Sundays; they make harmless sport of the incoming
and outgoing country folk; and, in a word, keep pretty busy at one thing
or another, and above all--they shake.

In Colfax the chief sources of exciting amusement are dog fights and an
occasional row at Sheehan's saloon, a doggery of the regular
old-fashioned, drink, gamble, rob and fight sort--a low place, known to
all the hard bats in the State.

As you pass through the town you will not fail to notice a big sign,
outhanging from the front of the largest building on the principal
street, which reads: "Union Hotel, 1865." From the muddy suburbs of the
place, in every direction, stretch black muck swamps, for the most part
heavily timbered with a variety of oaks, interspersed with sycamores,
ash, and elms. In the damp, shady labyrinths of these boggy woods
millions of lively, wide awake, tuneful mosquitoes are daily
manufactured; and out from decaying logs and piles of fermenting leaves,
from the green pools and sluggish ditch streams, creeps a noxious gas,
known in that region as the "double refined, high pressure, forty hoss
power quintessential of the ager!" So, at least, I was told by the
landlord of the Union Hotel, and his skin had the color of one who knew.

Notwithstanding what I have said, Colfax, in summer, is not wholly
without attractions of a certain kind. It has some yellow dogs and some
brindle ones; it has some cattle and some swine; it has some swallows
and some spotted pigeons; it has cool, fresh smelling winds, and, after
the water has sufficiently dried out, the woods are really glorious
with wild roses, violets, turkey-pea blossoms, and wild pinks. But to
my story.

I was sitting on the long veranda of the Union Hotel, when a rough but
kindly voice said to me:

"Mornin', stranger; gi' me a light, will ye?"

I looked up from the miserable dime novel at which I had been tugging
for the last hour, and saw before me a corpulent man of, perhaps,
forty-five years of age, who stood quite ready to thrust the charred end
of a cigar stump into the bowl of my meerschaum. I gave him a match, and
would fain have returned to Angelina St. Fortescue, the heroine of the
novel, whom I had left standing on the extreme giddy verge of a sheer
Alpine precipice, known, by actual triangulation, to be just seven
thousand feet high, swearing she would leap off if Donald Gougerizeout,
the robber, persisted further in his rough addresses; but my new friend,
the corpulent smoker, seemed bent on a little bit of conversation.

"Thankee, sir. Fine mornin', sir, a'n't it?"

"Beautiful," I replied, raising my head, elevating my arms, and, by a
kind of yawn, taking in a deep draught of the fresh spring weather,
absorbing it, assimilating it, till, like a wave of retarded
electricity, it set my nerves in tune for enjoying the bird songs, and
filled my blood with the ecstasy of vigorous health and youth. I, no
doubt, just then felt the burden of life much less than did the big
yellow dog at my feet, who snapped lazily at the flies.

"Yes, yes, this 'ere's a fine mornin'--julicious, sir, julicious,
indeed; but le' me tell ye, sir, this 'ere wind's mighty deceitful--for
a fact it is, sir, jist as full of ager as a acorn is of meat. It's
blowin' right off'n ponds, and is loaded chock down with the miasm--for
a fact it is, sir."

While delivering this speech, the fat man sat down on the bench beside
me there in the veranda. By this time I had my thumbs in the arm holes
of my vest, and my chest expanded to its utmost--my lungs going like a
steam bellows, which is a way I have in fine weather.

"Monstrous set o' respiratory organs, them o' your'n," he said, eyeing
my manoeuvres. Just then I discovered that he was a physician of the
steam doctor sort, for, glancing down at my feet, I espied his well worn
leather medicine bags. I immediately grew polite. Possibly I might ere
long need some quinine, or mandrake, or a hot steam bath--anything for
the ague!

"Yes, I've got lungs like a porpoise," I replied, "but still the ague
may get me. Much sickness about here, Doctor----a----a----what do they
call your name?"

"Benjamin Hurd--Doctor Hurd, they call me. I'm the only thorer bred
botanic that's in these parts. I do poorty much all the practice about
here. Yes, there's considerable of ager and phthisic and bilious fever.
Keeps me busy most of my time. These nasty swamps, you know."

After a time our conversation flagged, and the doctor having lit a fresh
cigar, we smoked in silence. The wind was driving the dust along the
street in heavy waves, and I sat watching a couple of lean, spotted
calves making their way against the tide. They held their heads low and
shut their eyes, now and then bawling vigorously. Some one up stairs was
playing "Days of Absence" on a wretched wheezing accordeon.

"There's a case of asthma, doctor," I said, intending to be witty. But
my remark was not noticed. The doctor was in a brown study, from which
my words had not startled him. Presently he said, as if talking to
himself, and without taking the cigar from his mouth:

"'Twas just a year ago to-night, the 28th day of May, 'at they took 'er
away. And he'll die afore day to a dead certainty. Beats all the denied
queer things I ever seed or heerd of."

He was poking with the toe of his boot in the dust on the veranda floor,
as he spoke, and stealing a glance at his face, I saw that it wore an
abstracted, dreamy, perplexed look.

"What was your remark, doctor?" I asked, more to arouse him than from
any hope of being interested.

"Hum!--ah, yes," he said, starting, and beginning a vigorous puffing.
"Ah, yes, I was cogitatin' over this matter o' Berry Young's. Never have
been able to 'count for that, no how. Think about it more an' more every
day. What's your theory of it?"

"Can't say, never having heard anything of it," I replied.

"Well, I do say! Thought everybody had hearn of that, any how! It's a
rale romance, a reg'lar mystery, sir. It's been talked about, and writ
about in the papers so much 'at I s'posed 'at it was knowed of far and
wide."

"I've been in California for several years past," I replied, by way of
excuse for my ignorance of even the vaguest outline of the affair,
whatever it might be.

"Well, you see, a leetle more'n a year ago a gal an' her father come
here and stopped at this 'ere very hotel. The man must 'a' been som'res
near sixty years old; but the gal was young, and jist the poortiest
thing I ever seed in all my life. I couldn't describe how she looked at
all; but everybody 'at saw her said she was the beautifulest creatur
they ever laid eyes onto. Where these two folks come from nobody ever
knowed, but they seemed like mighty nice sort of persons, and everybody
liked 'em, 'specially the gal. Somehow, from the very start, a kind of
mystery hung 'round 'em. They seemed always to have gobs o' money, and
onct in awhile some little thing'd turn up to make folks kinder juberous
somehow 'at they wasn't jist what they ginerally seemed to be. But that
gal was fascinatin' as a snake, and as poorty as any picter. Her flesh
looked like tinted wax mixed with moon-shine, and her eyes was as clear
as a lime-stone spring--though they was dark as night. She was that full
of restless animal life 'at she couldn't set still--she roamed round
like a leopard in a cage, and she'd romp equal to a ten-year-old boy.
Well, as mought be expected, sich a gal as that 'ere 'd 'tract attention
in these parts, and I must say 'at the young fellows here did git
'bominable sweet on her. 'Casionally two of 'em 'd git out in the swamps
and have a awful fight on her 'count; but she 'peared to pay precious
little 'tention to any of 'em till finally Berry Young stepped in and
jist went for 'er like mad, and she took to 'm. Berry was r'ally the
nicest and intelligentest young man in all this country. He writ poetry
for the papers, sir--snatchin' good poetry, too--and had got to be
talked of a right smart for his larnin', an' 'complishments. He was good
lookin', too; powerful handsome, for a fact, sir. So they was to be
married, Berry and the gal, an' the time it was sot, an' the day it
come, an' all was ready, an' the young folks was on the floor, and the
'squire was jist a commencin' to say the ceremony, when lo! and
beholden, four big, awful, rough lookin' men rushed in with big pistols
and mighty terrible bowie knives, and big papers and big seals, and said
they was a sheriff and possum from Kaintucky. They jist jumped right
onto the gal an' her father an' han'cuffed 'em, an' took 'em!"

"Handcuffed them and took them!" I repeated, suddenly growing intensely
interested. This was beating my dime novel, for sensation, all hollow.

"Yes, sir, han'cuffed 'em an' took 'em, an' away they went, an' they've
not been hearn of since to this day. But the mysteriousest thing about
the whole business was that when the sheriff grabbed the gal he called
her George, and said she wasn't no gal at all, but jist a terrible onery
boy 'at had been stealin' an' counterfeitin' an' robbin' all round
everywhere. What d'ye think of that?"

"A remarkably strange affair, certainly," I replied; "and do you say
that the father and the girl have not since been heard from?"

"Never a breath. The thing got into all the newspapers and raised a
awful rumpus, and it turned out that it wasn't no sheriff 'at come
there; but some dark, mysterious kidnappin' transaction 'at nobody could
account for. Detectives was put on their track an' follered 'em to Injun
territory an' there lost 'em. Some big robberies was connected with the
affair, but folks could never git head nor tail of the partic'lers."

"And it wasn't a real sheriff's arrest, then?" said I.

"No, sir, 'twas jist a mystery. Some kind of a dodge of a band of
desperadoes to avoid the law some way. The papers tried to explain it,
but I never could see any sense to it. 'Twas a clean, dead mystery. But
I was goin' on to tell ye 'at Berry Young took it awful hard 'bout the
gal, an' he's been sort o' sinkin' away ever sence, an' now he's jist
ready to wink out. Yonder's where Berry lives, in that 'ere white
cottage house with the vines round the winder. He's desp'rit sick--a
sort o' consumption. I'm goin' to see 'im now; good mornin' to ye."

Thus abruptly ending our interview, the doctor took up his medicine bag
and went his way. He left me in a really excited state of mind; the
story of itself was so strange, and the narrator had told it so solemnly
and graphically. I suppose, too, that I must have been in just the
proper state of mind for that rough outline, that cartoon of a most
startling and mysterious affair, to become deeply impressed in my mind,
perhaps, in the most fascinating and fantastic light possible. A thirst
to know more of the story took strong hold on my mind, as if I had been
reading a tantalizing romance and had found the leaves torn out just
where the mystery was to be explained. I half closed my eyes to better
keep in the lines and shades of the strange picture. Its influence lay
upon me like a spell. I enjoyed it. It was a luxury.

The wings of the morning wind fanned the heat into broken waves, rising
and sinking, and flowing on, with murmur and flash and glimmer, to the
cool green ways of the woods, and, like the wind, my fancy went out
among golden fleece clouds and into shady places, following the thread
of this new romance. I cannot give a sufficient reason why the story
took so fast a hold on me. But it did grip my mind and master it. It
appeared to me the most intensely strange affair I had ever heard of.

While I sat there, lost in reflection, with my eyes bent on a very
unpromising pig, that wallowed in the damp earth by the town pump, the
landlord of the hotel came out and took a seat beside me. I gave him a
pipe of my tobacco and forthwith began plying him with questions
touching the affair of which the doctor had spoken. He confirmed the
story, and added to its mystery by going minutely into its details. He
gave the names of the father and daughter as Charles Afton and Ollie
Afton.

Ollie Afton! Certainly no name sounds sweeter! How is it that these
gifted, mysteriously beautiful persons always have musical names!

"Ah," said the landlord, "you'd ort to have seen that boy!"

"Boy!" I echoed.

"Well, gal or boy, one or t'other, the wonderfulest human bein' I ever
see in all the days o' my life! Lips as red as ripe cur'n's, and for
ever smilin'. Such smiles--oonkoo! they hurt a feller all over, they was
so sweet. She was tall an' dark, an' had black hair that curled short
all 'round her head. Her skin was wonderful clear and so was her eyes.
But it was the way she looked at you that got you. Ah, sir, she had a
power in them eyes, to be sure!"

The pig got up from his muddy place by the pump, grunted, as if
satisfied, and slowly strolled off; a country lad drove past, riding
astride the hounds of a wagon; a pigeon lit on the comb of the roof of
Sheehan's saloon, which was just across the street, and began pluming
itself. Just then the landlord's little sharp-nosed, weasel-eyed boy
came out and said, in a very subdued tone of voice:

"Pap, mam says 'at if you don't kill 'er that 'ere chicken for dinner
you kin go widout any fing to eat all she cares."

The landlord's spouse was a red-headed woman, so he got up very suddenly
and took himself into the house. But before he got out of hearing the
little boy remarked:

"Pap, I speaks for the gizzard of that 'ere chicken, d'ye hear, now?"

I sat there till the dinner hour, watching the soft pink and white
vapors that rolled round the verge of the horizon. I was thoroughly
saturated with romance. Strange, that here, in this dingy little
out-of-the-way village, should have transpired one of the most wonderful
mysteries history may ever hold!

At dinner the landlord talked volubly of the Afton affair, giving it as
his opinion that the Aftons were persons tinged with negro blood, and
had been kidnapped into slavery.

"They was jist as white, an' whiter, too, than I am," he went on, "but
them Southerners'd jist as soon sell one person as 'nother, anyhow."

I noticed particularly that the little boy got his choice bit of the
fowl. He turned his head one side and ate like a cat.

When the meal was over I was again joined by Doctor Hurd on the
verandah. He reported Berry Young still alive, but not able to live till
midnight. I noticed that the doctor was nervous and kept his eyes fixed
on Sheehan's saloon.

"Stranger," said he, leaning over close to me, and speaking in a low,
guarded way, "things is workin' dasted curious 'bout now--sure's gun's
iron they jist is!"

"Where--how--in what way, doctor?" I stammered, taken aback by his
behavior.

"Sumpum's up, as sure as Ned!" he replied, wagging his head.

"Doctor," I said, petulantly, "if you would be a trifle more explicit I
could probably guess, with some show of certainty, at what you mean!"

"Can't ye hear? Are ye deaf? Did ye ever, in all yer born days, hear a
voice like that ere 'un? Listen!"

Sure enough, a voice of thrilling power, a rich, heavy, quavering alto,
accompanied by some one thrumming on a guitar, trickled and gurgled, and
poured through the open window of Sheehan's saloon. The song was a wild,
drinking carol, full of rough, reckless wit, but I listened, entranced,
till it was done.

"There now, say, what d'ye think o' that? Ain't things a workin' round
awful curious, as I said?"

Delivering himself thus, the doctor got up and walked off.

When I again had an opportunity to speak to the landlord, I asked him if
Doctor Hurd was not thought to be slightly demented.

"What! crazy, do you mean? No, sir; bright as a pin!"

"Well," said I, "he's a very queer fellow any how. By the way, who was
that singing just now over in the saloon there?"

"Don't know, didn't hear 'em. Some of the boys, I s'pose. They have some
lively swells over there sometimes. Awful hole."

I resumed my dime novel, and nothing further transpired to aggravate or
satisfy my curiosity concerning the strange story I had heard, till
night came down and the bats began to wheel through the moonless
blackness above the dingy town. At the coming on of dusk I flung away
the book and took to my pipe. Some one touched me on the shoulder,
rousing me from a deep reverie, if not a doze.

"Ha, stranger, this you, eh? Berry Young's a dyin'; go over there wi'
me, will ye?"

It was the voice of Doctor Hurd.

"What need for me have you?" I replied, rather stiffly, not much
relishing this too obtrusive familiarity.

"Well--I--I jist kinder wanted ye to go over. The poor boy's 'bout
passin' away, an' things is a workin' so tarnation curious! Come 'long
wi' me, friend, will ye?"

Something in the fellow's voice touched me, and without another word I
arose and followed him to the cottage. The night was intensely black. I
think it was clear, but a heavy fog from the swamps had settled over
everything, and through this dismal veil the voices of owls from far and
near struck with hollow, sepulchral effect.

"A heart is the trump!" sang out that alto voice from within the saloon
as we passed.

Doctor Hurd clutched my arm and muttered:

"That's that voice ag'in! Strange--strange! Poor Berry Young!"

We entered the cottage and found ourselves in a cosy little room, where,
on a low bed, a pale, intelligent looking young man lay, evidently
dying. He was very much emaciated, his eyes, wonderfully large and
luminous, were sunken, and his breathing quick and difficult. A haggard,
watching-worn woman sat by his bed. From her resemblance to him I took
her to be his sister. She was evidently very unwell herself. We sat in
silence by his bedside, watching his life flow into eternity, till the
little clock on the mantel struck, sharp and clear, the hour of ten.

The sound of the bell startled the sick man, and after some incoherent
mumbling he said, quite distinctly:

"Sister, if you ever again see Ollie Afton, tell him--tell her--tell,
say I forgive him--say to her--him--I loved her all my life--tell
him--ah! what was I saying? Don't cry, sis, please. What a sweet,
faithful sister! Ah! it's almost over, dear----Ah, me!"

For some minutes the sister's sobbing echoed strangely through the
house. The dying man drew his head far down in the soft pillow. A breath
of damp air stole through the room.

All at once, right under the window by which the bed sat, arose a
touching guitar prelude--a tangled mesh of melody--gusty, throbbing,
wandering through the room and straying off into the night, tossing back
its trembling echoes fainter and fainter, till, as it began to die, that
same splendid alto voice caught the key and flooded the darkness with
song. The sick man raised himself on his elbow, and his face flashed out
the terrible smile of death. He listened eagerly. It was the song "Come
Where my Love lies Dreaming," but who has heard it rendered as it was
that night? Every chord of the voice was as sweet and witching as a wind
harp's, and the low, humming undertone of the accompaniment was
perfection. Tenderly but awfully sweet, the music at length faded into
utter silence, and Berry Young sank limp and pallid upon his pillows.

"It is Ollie," he hoarsely whispered. "Tell her--tell him--O say to her
for me--ah! water, sis, it's all over!"

The woman hastened, but before she could get the water to his lips he
was dead. His last word was Ollie.

The sister cast herself upon the dead man's bosom and sobbed wildly,
piteously. Soon after this some neighbors came in, which gave me an
opportunity to quietly take my leave.

The night was so foggy and dark that, but for a bright stream of light
from a window of Sheehan's saloon, it would have been hard for me to
find my way back to the hotel. I did find it, however, and sat down upon
the verandah. I had nearly fallen asleep, thinking over the strange
occurrences of the past few hours, when the rumble of an approaching
train of cars on the I. C. & L. from the east aroused me, and, at the
same moment, a great noise began over in the saloon. High words, a few
bitter oaths, a struggle as of persons fighting, a loud, sonorous crash
like the crushing of a musical instrument, and then I saw the burly bar
tender hurl some one out through the doorway just as the express train
stopped close by.

"All aboard!" cried the conductor, waving his lantern. At the same
time, as the bar-tender stood in the light of his doorway, a brickbat,
whizzing from the darkness, struck him full in the face, knocking him
precipitately back at full length on to the floor of the saloon.

"All aboard!" repeated the conductor.

"All aboard!" jeeringly echoed a delicious alto voice; and I saw a
slender man step up on the rear platform of the smoking car. A flash
from the conductor's lantern lit up for a moment this fellow's face, and
it was the most beautiful visage I have ever seen. Extremely youthful,
dark, resplendent, glorious, set round with waves and ringlets of black
hair--it was such a countenance as I have imagined a young Chaldean
might have had who was destined to the high calling of astrology. It was
a face to charm, to electrify the beholder with its indescribable,
almost unearthly loveliness of features and expression.

The engine whistled, the bell rang, and as the train moved on, that
slender, almost fragile form and wonderful face disappeared in the
darkness.

As the roar and clash of the receding cars began to grow faint in the
distance, a gurgling, grunting sound over in the saloon reminded me that
the bar-tender might need some attention, so I stepped across the
street and went in. He was just taking himself up from the floor, with
his nose badly smashed, spurting blood over him pretty freely. He was in
an ecstasy of fury and swore fearfully. I rendered him all the aid I
could, getting the blood stopped, at length, and a plaster over the
wound.

"Who struck you?" I asked.

"Who struck me? Who hit me with that 'ere brick, d'ye say? Who but that
little baby-faced, hawk-eyed cuss 'at got off here yesterday! He's a
thief and a dog!--he's chowzed me out'n my last cent! Where is he?--I'll
kill 'im yet! where is he?"

"Gone off on the train," I replied, "but who is he? what's his name?"

"Blamed if I know. Gone, you say? Got every derned red o' my money!
Every derned red!"

"Don't you know anything at all about him?" I asked.

"Yes."

"What?"

"I know 'at he's the derndest, alfiredest, snatchin'est, best
poker-player 'at ever dealt a card!"

"Is that all?"

"That's enough, I'd say. If you'd been beat out'n two hundred an' odd
dollars you'd think you know'd a right smart, wouldn't ye?"

"Perhaps," said I. The question had a world of philosophy and logic in
it.

The shattered wreck of a magnificent guitar lay in the middle of the
floor. I picked it up, and, engraved on a heavy silver plate set in the
ebony neck, I read the name, Georgina Olive Afton.



TROUT'S LUCK.


As early as eight o'clock the grand entrance gateway to the Kokomo fair
ground was thronged with vehicles of almost every kind; horsemen,
pedestrians, dogs and dust were borne forward together in clouds that
boiled and swayed and tumbled. Noise seemed to be the chief purpose of
every one and the one certain result of every thing in the crowd.

This had been advertised as the merriest day that might ever befall the
quiet, honest folk of the rural regions circumjacent to Kokomo, and it
is even hinted that aristocratic dames and business plethoric men of the
town itself had caught somewhat of the excitement spread abroad by the
announcement in the county papers, and by huge bills posted in
conspicuous places, touching Le Papillon and his monster balloon, which
balloon and which Le Papillon were pictured to the life, on the said
posters, in the act of sailing over the sun, and under the picture, in
remarkably distinct letters, "No humbug! go to the fair!"

Dozier's minstrel troupe was dancing and singing attendance on this
agricultural exhibition, too, and somebody's whirling pavilion, a
shooting gallery, a monkey show, the glass works, and what not of
tempting promises of entertainments, "amusing and instructive."

Until eleven o'clock the entrance gateway to the fair ground was
crowded. Farm wagons trundled in, drawn by sleek, well fed plough nags,
and stowed full of smiling folk, old and young, male and female, from
the out townships; buggies with youths and maidens, the sparkle of
breastpins and flutter of ribbons; spring wagons full of students and
hard bats from town; carriages brimming with laces, flounces, over
skirts, fancy kid gloves, funny little hats and less bonnets, all
fermented into languid ebullition by mild-eyed ladies; omnibuses that
bore fleshy gentlemen, who wore linen dusters and silk hats and smoked
fine cigars; and jammed in among all these were boys on skittish colts,
old fellows on flea-bit gray mares, with now and then a reckless
stripling on a mule. Occasionally a dog got kicked or run over, giving
the assistance of his howls and yelps to the general din, and over all
the dust hung heavily in a yellow cloud, shot through with the lightning
of burnished trappings and echoing with the hoarse thunder of the
trampling, shouting rumbling multitude. Indeed, that hot aguish autumn
day let fall its sunshine on the heads and blew its feverish breath
through the rifts of the greatest and liveliest mass of people ever
assembled in Howard county.

Inside the extensive enclosure the multitude divided itself into
streams, ponds, eddies, refluent currents and noisy whirlpools of
people. Some rare attraction was everywhere.

Early in the day the eyes of certain of the rustic misses followed
admiringly the forms of Jack Trout and Bill Powell, handsome young
fellows dressed in homespun clothes, who, arm in arm, strolled leisurely
across the grounds, looking sharply about for some proper place to begin
the expenditure of what few dimes they had each been able to hoard up
against this gala day. They had not long to hunt. On every hand the
"hawkers hawked their wares."

Rising and falling, tender-toned, deftly managed, a voice rang out
across the crowd pleading with those who had long desired a good
investment for their money, and begging them to be sure and not let slip
this last golden opportunity.

"Only a half a dollah! Come right along this way now! Here's the great
golden scheme by which thousands have amassed untold fortunes! Here's
your only and last chance to get two ounces of first class candy, with
the probability of five dollars in gold coin, all for the small sum of
half a dollah! And the cry is--still they come!"

The speaker was such a man as one often observes in a first class
railway car, with a stout valise beside him containing samples, dressed
with remarkable care, and ever on the alert to make one's acquaintance.
He stood on top of a small table or tripod, holding in his hand a green
pasteboard package just taken from a box at his feet.

"Only a half a dollah and a fortune in your grasp! Here's the gold! Roll
right this way and run your pockets over!"

Drifting round with the tide of impulsive pleasure seekers into which
they happened to fall, Jack Trout and Bill Powell floated past a bevy of
lasses, the prettiest of whom was Minny Hart, a girl whose healthy,
vivid beauty was fast luring Jack on to the rock of matrimonial
proposals.

"Jimminy, but ain't she a little sweety!" exclaimed the latter, pinching
Bill's arm as they passed, and glancing lovingly at Minny.

"You're tellin' the truth and talkin' it smooth," replied Bill, bowing
to the girls with the swagger peculiar to a rustic who imagines he has
turned a fine period. And with fluttering hearts the boys passed on.

"Roll on ye torrents! Only a half a dollah! Right this way if you want
to become a bloated aristocrat in less than no time! Five dollahs in
gold for only a half a dollah! And whose the next lucky man?"

Blown by the fickle, gusty breath of luck, our two young friends were
finally wafted to the feet of this oily vendor of prize packages, and
they there lodged, becalmed in breathless interest, to await their turn,
each full of faith in the yellow star of his fortune--a gold coin of the
value of five dollars. They stood attentively watching the results of
other men's investments, feeling their fingers tingle when now and then
some lucky fellow drew the coveted prize. Five dollars is a mighty
temptation to a poor country boy in Indiana. That sum will buy oceans of
fun at a fair where almost any "sight" is to be seen for the "small sum
of twenty-five cents!"

Without stopping to take into consideration the possible, or rather, the
probable result of such a venture, Bill Powell handed up his half
dollar to the prize man, thus risking the major part of all the money he
had, and stood trembling with excitement while the fellow broke open the
chosen package. Was it significant of anything that a blue jay fluttered
for a moment right over the crier's head just at the point of his
detaching some glittering object from the contents of the box?

"Here you are, my friend; luck's a fortune!" yelled the man, as he held
the gold coin high above his head, shaking it in full view of all eyes
in the multitude. "Here you are! which 'd you rather have, the gold or
five and a half in greenbacks?"

"Hand me in the rag chips--gold don't feel good to my fingers," answered
Bill Powell, swaggering again and grasping the currency with a hand that
shook with eagerness.

Jack Trout stood by, clutching in his feverish palm a two-dollar bill.
His face was pale, his lips set, his muscles rigid. He hesitated to
trust in the star of his destiny. He stood eyeing the bridge of Lodi,
the dykes of Arcole. Would he risk all on a bold venture? His right
shoulder began to twitch convulsively.

"Still it rolls, and who's the next lucky man? Don't all speak at once!
Who wants five dollahs in gold and two ounces of delicious candy, all
for the small sum of half a dollah?"

Jack made a mighty effort and passed up his two dollar bill.

"Bravely done; select your packages!" cried the vendor. Jack tremblingly
pointed them out. Very carelessly and quietly the fellow opened them,
and with a ludicrous grimace remarked--

"Eight ounces of mighty sweet candy, but nary a prize! Better luck next
time! Only a half a dollah! And who's the next lucky man?"

A yell of laughter from the crowd greeted this occurrence, and Jack
floated back on the recoiling waves of his chagrin till he was hidden in
the dense concourse, and the uppermost thought in his mind found
forcible expression in the three monosyllables: "Hang the luck!"

It is quite probable that of all the unfortunate adventurers that day
singed in the yellow fire of that expert gambler's gold, Jack recognized
himself as the most terribly burned. Putting his hands into his empty
pockets, he sauntered dolefully about, scarcely able to look straight
into the face of such friends as he chanced to meet. He acted as if
hunting for something lost on the ground. Poor fellow, it was a real
relief to him when some one treated him to a glass of lemonade, and,
indeed, so much were his feelings relieved by the cool potation, that
when, soon after, he met Minny Hart, he was actually smiling.

"O, Jack!" cried the pretty girl, "I'm so glad to see you just now, for
I do want to go into the minstrel show _so bad_!" She shot a glance of
coquettish tenderness right into Jack's heart. For a single moment he
was blessed, but on feeling for his money and recalling the luckless
result of his late venture, he felt a chill creep up his back, and a
lump of the size of his fist jump up into his throat. Here was a bad
affair for him. He stood for a single point of time staring into the
face of his despair, then, acting on the only plan he could think of to
escape from the predicament, he said:

"Wait a bit, Minny, I've got to go jist down here a piece to see a
feller. I'll be back d'rectly. You stay right here and when I come back
I'll trot you in."

So speaking, as if in a great hurry, and sweating cold drops, with a
ghastly smile flickering on his face, the young man slipped away into
the crowd.

Minny failed to notice his confusion, and so called after him cheerily:
"Well, hurry, Jack, for I'm most dead to see the show!"

What could Trout do? He spun round and round in that vast flood of
people like a fish with but one eye. He rushed here, he darted there,
and ever and anon, as a lost man returns upon his starting point, he
came in sight of sweet Minny Hart patiently waiting for his return. Then
he would spring back into the crowd like a deer leaping back into a
thicket at sight of a hunter. Penniless at the fair, with Minny Hart
waiting for him to take her into the show! Few persons can realize how
keenly he now felt the loss of his money. He ought, no doubt, to have
told the lass at once just how financial matters stood; but nothing was
more remote from his mind than doing anything of the kind. He was too
vain.

"Tell 'er I 'ain't got no money! No, sir-ee!" he muttered. "But what
_am_ I to do? Bust the luck! Hang the luck! Rot the luck!"

He hurried hither and thither, intent on nothing and taking no heed of
the course he pursued. His cheeks were livid and his eyes had in them
that painful, worried, wistful look so often seen in the eyes of men
going home from ruin on Wall street.

Meantime that sea of persons surged this way and that, flecked with a
foam of ribbons and dancing bubbles of hats, now flowing slowly through
the exhibition rooms a tide of critics, now breaking into groups and
scattered throngs of babblers, anon uniting to roar round some novel
engine suddenly set to work, or to break on the barrier of the trolling
ring into a spray of cravats and a mist of flounces. Swimming round in
this turbulent tide like a crazy flounder with but one fin, Jack finally
found himself hard by the pavilion of the minstrels. He could hear
somewhat of the side-splitting jokes, with the laughs that followed, the
tinkle of banjo accompaniments and the mellow cadences of plantation
songs, the rattle of castanets and the tattoo of the jig dancers' feet.
A thirst like the thirst of fever took hold of him.

"Come straight along gentlemen and ladies! This celebrated troupe is now
performing and twenty-five cents pays the bill! Only a quawtah of a
dollah!" bawled the fat crier from his lofty perch. "That's right, my
young man, take the young lady in! She's sure to love you better; walk
right along!"

  "Her lip am sweet as sugah,
    Her eye am bright as wine,
  Dat yaller little boogah
    Her name am Emiline!"

sung by four fine voices, came bubbling from within. The music thrilled
Jack to the bone, and he felt once more for his money. Not a cent. This
was bad.

"You're the lad for me," continued the fat man on the high seat; "take
your nice little sweetheart right in and let her see the fun. Walk right
in!"

Jack looked to see who it was, and a pang shot through his heart and
settled in the very marrow of his bones; for lo! arm in arm, Bill Powell
and Minny Hart passed under the pavilion into the full glory of the
show!

  "O cut me up for fish bait
    An' feed me to de swine,
  Don't care where I goes to
    So I has Emiline!"

sang the minstrel chorus.

"Dast him, he's got me!" muttered Jack as Bill and Minny disappeared
within. He turned away, sick at heart, and this was far from the first
throe of jealousy he had suffered on Bill's account. Indeed it had given
him no little uneasiness lately to see how sweetly Minny sometimes
smiled on young Powell.

"Yes, sir," Jack continued to mutter to himself, "yes, sir, he's got me!
He's about three lengths ahead o' me, as these hoss fellers says, an' I
don't know but what I'm distanced. Blow the blasted luck!"

Heartily tired of the fair, burning with rage, and jealousy, and
despair, but still vaguely hoping against hope for some better luck from
some visionary source, Jack strolled about, chewing the bitter cud of
his feelings, his hands up to his elbows in his trowser pockets and his
soul up to its ears in the flood of discontent. He puckered his mouth
into whistling position, but it refused to whistle. He felt as if he had
a corn cob crossways in his throat. The wind blew his new hat off and a
mule kicked the top out of the crown.

"Only a half a dollah! Who's the next lucky man?" cried the prize
package fellow. "I'm now going to sell a new sort of packages, each of
which, beside the usual amount of choice candy, contains a piece of
jewelry of pure gold! Who takes the first chance for only a half a
dollah?"

"'Ere's your mule!" answered Bill Powell, as with Minny still clinging
to his arm, he pushed through the crowd and handed up the money.

"Bravely done!" shouted the crier; "see what a beautiful locket and
chain! Luck's a fortune! And who's the next to invest? Come right along
and don't be afraid of a little risk! Only a half a dollah!"

Jack saw Bill put the glittering chain round Minny's neck and fasten the
locket in her belt; saw the eyes of the sweet girl gleam proudly,
gratefully; saw black spots dancing before his own eyes; saw Bill
swagger and toss his head. He turned dizzily away, whispering savagely,
"Dern 'im!"

Just here let me say that such an expression is not a profane one. I
once saw a preacher kick at a little dog that got in his way on the
sidewalk. The minister's foot missed the little dog and hit an iron
fence, and the little dog bit the minister's other leg and jumped
through the fence. The minister performed a _pas de zephyr_ and very
distinctly said "Dern 'im!" Wherefore I don't think it can be anything
more than a mere puff of fretfulness.

After this Jack was for some time standing near the entrance to the
"glass-works," a place where transparent steam engines and wonderful
fountains were on exhibition. He felt a grim delight in tantalizing
himself with looking at the pictures of these things and wishing he had
money enough to pay the entrance fee. He saw persons pass in eagerly
and come out calm and satisfied--men with their wives and children,
young men with girls on their arms, prominent among whom were Bill and
Minny, and one dapper sportsman even bought a ticket for his setter,
and, patting the brute on the head, took him in.

"Onery nor a dog!" hissed Jack, shambling off, and once more taking a
long deep dive under the surface of the crowd. A ground swell cast him
again near the vender of prize packages.

"Only a half a dollah!" he yelled; "come where fortune smiles, and cares
and poverty take flight, for only a half a dollah!"

"Jist fifty cents more'n I've got about my clothes!" replied Jack, and
the bystanders, taking this for great wit, joined in a roar of laughter,
while with a grim smile the desperate youth passed on till he found
himself near the toe mark of a shooting gallery, where for five cents
one might have two shots with an air gun. He stood there for a time
watching a number of persons try their marksmanship. It was small joy to
know that he was a fine off-hand shot, so long as he had not a nickel in
his pocket, but still he stood there wishing he might try his hand.

"Cl'ar the track here! Let this 'ere lady take a shoot!" cried a
familiar voice; and a way was opened for Bill Powell and Minny Hart. The
little maiden was placed at the toe mark and a gun given to her. She
handled the weapon like one used to it. She raised it, shut one eye,
took deliberate aim and fired.

"Centre!" roared the marker, as to the sound of a bell the funny little
puppet leaped up and grinned above the target. Every body standing near
laughed and some of the boys cheered vociferously. Minny looked sweeter
than ever. Jack Trout felt famished. He begged a chew of tobacco of a
stranger, and, grinding the weed furiously, walked off to where the
yellow pavilion with its painted air-boats was whirling its cargoes of
happy boys and girls round and round for the "Small sum of ten cents." A
long, lean, red-headed fellow in one of the boats was paying for a ride
of limitless length by scraping on a miserable fiddle. To Jack this
seemed small labor for so much fun. How he envied the fiddler as he flew
round, trailing his tunes behind him!

"Wo'erp there! Stop yer old merchine! We'll take a ride ef ye don't
keer!"

The pavilion was stopped, a boat lowered for Bill Powell and Minny Hart,
who got in side by side, and the fiddler struck up the tune of
"Black-eyed Susie." Jack watched that happy couple go round and round,
till, by the increased velocity, their two faces melted into one, which
was neither Bill's nor Minny's--it was Luck's!

"He's got one outo me," muttered Jack; "I've got no money, can't fiddle
for a ride, nor nothin', and I don't keer a ding what becomes o' me,
nohow!"

With these words Jack wended his way to a remote part of the fair
ground, where, under gay awnings, the sutlers had spread their tempting
variety of cakes, pies, fruits, nuts and loaves. Here were persons of
all ages and sizes--men, women and children--eating at well supplied
tables. The sight was a fascinating one, and, though seeing others eat
did not in the least appease his own hunger, Jack stood for a long time
watching the departure of pies and the steady lessening of huge pyramids
of sweet cakes. He particularly noticed one little table that had on its
centre a huge peach pie, which table was yet unoccupied. While he was
actually thinking over the plan of eating the pie and trusting to his
legs to bear him beyond the reach of a dun, Bill and Minny sat down by
the table and proceeded to discuss the delicious, red-hearted heap of
pastry. At this point Bill caught Jack's eye:

"Come here, Jack," said he; "this pie's more'n we can eat, come and help
us."

"Yes, come along, Jack," put in Minny in her sweetest way; "I want to
tell you what a lot of fun we've had, and more than that, I want to know
why you didn't come back and take me into the show!"

"I ain't hungry," muttered Jack, "and besides I've got to go see a
feller."

He turned away almost choking.

"Bill's got me. 'Taint no use talkin', I'm played out for good. I'm a
trumped Jack!"

He smiled a sort of flinty smile at his poor wit, and shuffled aimlessly
along through the densest clots of the crowd.

And it so continued to happen, that wherever Jack happened to stop for
any considerable length of time he was sure to see Bill and Minny
enjoying some rare treat, or disappearing in or emerging from some place
of amusement.

At last, driven to desperation, he determined on trying to borrow a
dollar from his father. He immediately set about to find the old
gentleman; a task of no little difficulty in such a crowd. It was Jack's
forlorn hope, and it had a gloomy outlook; for old 'Squire Trout was
thought by competent judges to be the stingiest man in the county. But
hoping for the best, Jack hunted him here, there and everywhere, till at
length he met a friend who said he had seen the 'Squire in the act of
leaving the fair ground for home just a few minutes before.

Taking no heed of what folks might say, Jack, on receiving this
intelligence, darted across the ground, out at the gate and down the
road at a speed worthy of success; but alas! his hopes were doomed to
wilt. At the first turn of the road he met a man who informed him that
he had passed 'Squire Trout some three miles out on his way home, which
home was full nine miles distant!

Panting, crestfallen, defeated, done for, poor Jack slowly plodded back
to the fair ground gate, little dreaming of the new trouble that awaited
him there.

"Ticket!" said a gruff voice as he was about to pass in. He recoiled,
amazed at his own stupidity, as he recollected that he had not thought
to get a check as he went out! He tried to explain, but it was no go.

"You needn't try that game on me," said the gatekeeper. "So just plank
down your money or stay outside."

Then Jack got furious, but the gatekeeper remarked that he had
frequently "hearn it thunder afore this!"

Jack smiled like a corpse and turned away. Going a short distance down
the road he climbed up and sat down on top of the fence of a late mown
clover field. Then he took out his jack-knife and began to whittle a
splinter plucked from a rail. His face was gloomy, his eyes lustreless.
Finally he stretched himself, hungry, jealous, envious, hateful, on top
of the fence with his head between the crossed stakes. His face thus
upturned to heaven, he watched two crows drift over, high up in the
torrid reaches of autumn air, hot as summer, even hotter, and allowed
his lips free privilege to anathematize his luck. For a long time he lay
thus, dimly conscious of the blue bird's song and the water-like ripple
of the grass in the fence corners. "Minny, Minny Hart, Minny!" sang the
meadow larks, and the burden of the grasshopper's ditty was----"Only a
half a dollah!"

All at once there arose from the fair ground a mighty chorus of yells,
that went echoing off across the country to the bluffs of Wild-cat Creek
and died far off in the woods toward Greentown. Jack did not raise his
head, but lay there in a sort of morose stupor, knowing well that
whatever the sport might be, he had no hand in it.

"Let 'em rip!" he muttered, "Bill's got me!"

Presently the wagons and other vehicles began to leave the ground, from
one of which he caught the sound of a sweet, familiar voice. He looked
just in time to get a glimpse of Mr. Hart's wagon, and in it, side by
side, Bill Powell and Minny! A cloud of yellow dust soon hid them, and
turning away his head, happening to glance upward, Jack saw, just
disappearing in a thin white cloud, the golden disc of Le Papillon's
balloon!

He immediately descended from his perch and began plodding his way home,
muttering as he did so----

"Dast the luck! Ding the prize package feller! Doggone Bill Powell!
Blame the old b'loon! Dern everybody!"

It was long after nightfall when he reached his father's gate. Hungry,
weak, foot-sore, collapsed, he leaned his chin on the top rail of the
gate and stood there for a moment while the starlight fell around him,
sifted through the dusky foliage of the old beech trees, and from the
far dim caverns of the night a voice smote on his ear, crying out
tenderly, mockingly, persuasively----

"Only a half a dollah!"

And Jack slipped to his room and went supperless to bed, often during
the night muttering, through the interstices of his sleep----"Bill's got
me!"



BIG MEDICINE.


The corner brick storehouse--in fact the only brick building in
Jimtown--was to be sold at auction; and, consequently, by ten o'clock in
the morning, a considerable body of men had collected near the somewhat
dilapidated house, directly in front of which the auctioneer, a fat man
from Indianapolis, mounted on an old goods box, began crying, partly
through his tobacco-filled mouth and partly through his very unmusical
nose, as follows:--

"Come up, gentlemen, and examine the new, beautiful and commodious
property I now offer for sale! Walk round the house, men, and view it
from every side. Go into it, if you like, up stairs and down, and then
give me a bid, somebody, to start with. It is a very desirable house,
indeed, gentlemen."

With this preliminary puff, the speaker paused and glanced slowly over
his audience with the air of a practiced physiognomist. The crowd
before him was, in many respects, an interesting one. Its most prominent
individual, and the hero of this sketch, was Dave Cook, sometimes called
Dr. Cook, but more commonly answering to the somewhat savage sounding
sobriquet of Big Medicine--a man some thirty-five years of age, standing
six feet six in his ponderous boots; broad, bony, muscular, a real
giant, with a strongly marked Roman face, and brown, shaggy hair. He was
dressed in a soiled and somewhat patched suit of butternut jeans, topped
off with a wide rimmed wool hat, wonderfully battered, and lopped in
every conceivable way. He wore a watch, the chain of which, depending
from the waistband of his pants, was of iron, and would have weighed
fully a pound avoirdupois. He stood quite still, near the auctioneer,
smoking a clay pipe, his herculean arms folded on his breast, his feet
far apart. As for the others of the crowd, they were, taken
collectively, about such as one used always to see in the "dark corners"
of Indiana, such as Boone county used to be before the building of any
railroads through it, such as the particular locality of Jimtown was
before the ditching law and the I. B. & W. Railway had lifted the fog
and enlightened the miasmatic swamps and densely timbered bog lands of
that region of elms, burr oaks, frogs and herons. Big Medicine seemed to
be the only utterly complacent man in the assembly. All the others
discovered evidences of much inward disturbance, muttering mysteriously
to each other, and casting curious, inquiring glances at an individual,
a stranger in the place, who, with a pair of queer green spectacles
astride his nose, and his arms crossed behind him, was slowly sauntering
about the building offered for sale, apparently examining it with some
care. His general appearance was that of a well dressed gentleman, which
of itself was enough to excite remark in Jimtown, especially when an
auction was on hand, and everybody felt jolly.

"Them specs sticks to that nose o' his'n like a squir'l to a knot!" said
one.

"His pantaloons is ruther inclined to be knock-kneed," put in an old,
grimy sinner leaning on a single barrelled shot gun.

"Got lard enough onto his hair to shorten a mess o' pie crust," added a
liver colored boy.

"Walks like he'd swallered a fence rail, too," chimed in a humpbacked
fellow split almost to his chin.

"Chaws mighty fine terbacker, you bet."

"Them there boots o' his'n set goin' an' comin' like a grubbin' hoe onto
a crooked han'le."

"Well, take'm up one side and down t'other, he's a mod'rately onery
lookin' feller."

These remarks were reckoned smart by those who perpetrated them, and
were by no means meant for real slurs on the individual at whom they
were pointed. Indeed they were delivered in guarded undertones, so that
he might not hear them; and he, meanwhile, utterly ignorant of affording
any sport, continued his examination of the house, the while some happy
frogs in a neighboring pond rolled out a rattling, jubilant chorus, and
the summer wind poured through the leafy tops of the tall elms and
athletic burr oaks with a swash and roar like a turbulent river.

"What am I now offered for this magnificent property? Come, give me a
bid! Speak up lively! What do I hear for the house?"

The auctioneer, as he spoke, let his eyes wander up the walls of the
old, dingy building, to where the blue birds and the peewees had built
in the cracks and along the warped cornice and broken window frames, and
just then it chanced that a woman's face appeared at one of those
staring holes, which, with broken lattice and shattered glass, still
might be called a window. The face was a plump, cheerful one, the more
radiant from contrast with the dull wall around it--a face one could
never forget, however, and would recall often, if for nothing but the
fine fall of yellow hair that framed it in. It was a sweet, winning,
intellectual face, full of the gentlest womanly charms.

"Forty dollars for the house, 'oman and all!" cried Big Medicine, gazing
up at the window in which, for the merest moment, the face appeared.

The man with the green spectacles darted a quick glance at the speaker.

"I am bid forty dollars, gentlemen, forty dollars, do all hear? Agoing
for forty dollars! Who says fifty?" bawled the auctioneer.

The crowd now swayed earnestly forward, closing in solid order around
the goods box. Many whiskered, uncouth, but not unkindly faces were
upturned to the window only in time to see the beautiful woman disappear
quite hastily.

"Hooray for the gal!" cried a lusty youth, whose pale blue eyes made no
show of contrast with his faded hair and aguish complexion. "Dad, can't
ye bid agin the doctor so as I kin claim 'er?"

"Fifty dollars!" shouted the sunburnt man addressed as Dad.

This made the crowd lively. Every man nudged his neighbor, and the
aguish, blue-eyed boy grinned in a ghastly, self-satisfied way.

"Agoing at fifty dollars! Fiddlesticks! The house is worth four
thousand. No fooling here now! Agoing at only fifty dollars--going--"

"Six hundred dollars," said he of the green glasses in a clear, pleasant
voice.

"Six hundred dollars!" echoed the auctioneer in a triumphant thunderous
tone. "That sounds like business. Who says the other hundred?"

"Hooray for hooray, and hooray for hooray's daddy!" shouted the
tallow-faced lad.

The frogs pitched their song an octave higher, the blue birds and
peewees wheeled through the falling floods of yellow sunlight, and lower
and sweeter rose the murmur of the tide of pulsating air as it lifted
and swayed the fresh sprays of the oaks and elms. The well dressed
stranger lighted a cigar, took off his green glasses and put them
carefully in his pocket, then took a cool straight look at Big Medicine.

The Roman face of the latter was just then a most interesting one. It
was expressive of more than words could rightly convey. Six hundred
dollars, cash down, was a big sum for the crazy old house, but he had
made up his mind to buy it, and now he seemed likely to have to let it
go or pay more than it was worth. The stem of his clay pipe settled back
full three inches into his firmly-set mouth, so that there seemed
imminent danger to the huge brown moustache that overhung the fiery
bowl. He returned the stare of the stranger with interest, and said--

"Six hundred an' ten dollars."

"Agoing, a----," began the auctioneer.

"Six twenty," said the stranger.

"Ago----."

"Six twenty-one!" growled Big Medicine.

"Six twenty-five!" quickly added his antagonist.

Big Medicine glanced heavenward, and for a moment allowed his eyes to
follow the flight of a great blue heron that slowly winged its way, high
up in the yellow summer reaches of splendor, toward the distant swamps
where the white sycamores spread their fanciful arms above the dark
green maples and dusky witch-hazel thickets. The auctioneer, a close
observer, saw an ashy hue, a barely discernible shade, ripple across
the great Roman face as Big Medicine said, in a jerking tone:

"Six twenty-five and a half!"

The stranger took his cigar from his mouth and smiled placidly. No more
imperturbable countenance could be imagined.

"Six twenty-six!" he said gently.

"Take the ole house an' be derned to you!" cried Big Medicine, looking
furiously at his antagonist. "Take the blamed ole shacke-merack an' all
the cussed blue-birds an' peer-weers to boot, for all I keer!"

Everybody laughed, and the auctioneer continued:

"Agoing for six twenty-six! Who says seven hundred? Bid up lively!
Agoing once, agoing twice--once, twice, three-e-e-e-e times! Sold to
Abner Golding for six hundred and twenty-six dollars, and as cheap as
dirt itself!"

"Hooray for the man who hed the most money!" shouted the tallow-faced
boy.

The sale was at an end. The auctioneer came down from his box and wiped
his face with a red handkerchief. The crowd, as if blown apart by a puff
of wind, scattered this way and that, drifting into small, grotesque
groups to converse together on whatever topic might happen to suggest
itself. Big Medicine seemed inclined to be alone, but the irrepressible
youth of the saffron skin ambled up to him and said, in a tone intended
for comic:

"Golly, doctor, but didn't that 'ere gal projuce a orful demand for the
ole house! Didn't she set the ole trap off when she peeked out'n the
winder!"

Big Medicine looked down at the strapping boy, much as a lion might look
at a field rat or a weasel, then he doubled his hand into an enormous
fist and held it under the youth's nose, saying in a sort of growl as he
did so:

"You see this 'ere bundle o' bones, don't ye?"

"Guess so," replied the youth.

"Well, would you like a small mess of it?"

"Not as anybody knows of."

"Well, then, keep yer derned mouth shet!"

Which, accordingly, the boy proceeded to do, ambling off as quickly as
possible.

About this time, the stranger, having put the green spectacles back upon
his nose, walked in the direction of 'Squire Tadmore's office,
accompanied by the young woman who had looked from the window. When Big
Medicine saw them he picked up a stick and began furiously to whittle it
with his jack-knife. His face wore a comically mingled look of chagrin,
wonder, and something like a new and thrilling delight. He puffed out
great volumes of smoke, making his pipe wheeze audibly under the vigor
of his draughts. He was certainly excited.

"Orful joke the boys 'll have on me arter this," he muttered to himself.
"Wonder if the 'oman's the feller's wife? Monstrous poorty, shore's yer
born!"

He soon whittled up one stick. He immediately dived for another, this
time getting hold of a walnut knot. A tough thing to whittle, but he
attacked it as if it had been a bit of white pine. Soon after this
'Squire Tadmore's little boy came running down from his father's office
to where Big Medicine stood.

"Mr. Big Medicine," cried he, all out of breath, "that 'ere man what
bought the ole house wants to see you partic'ler!"

"Mischief he does! Tell 'im to go to----; no, wait a bit. Guess I'll go
tell 'im myself."

And, so saying, he moved at a slashing pace down to the door of the
'Squire's office. He thrust his great hirsute head inside the room, and
glaring at the mild mannered stranger, said:

"D'ye want to see me?"

Mr. Golding got up from his seat and coming out took Big Medicine
familiarly by the arm, meanwhile smiling in the most friendly way.

"Come one side a little, I wish to speak with you privately,
confidentially."

Big Medicine went rather sulkily along. When they had gone some distance
from the house Mr. Golding lifted his spectacles from his nose, and
turning his calm, smiling eyes full upon those of Big Medicine, said,
with a shrug of his finely cut shoulders:

"I outbid you a little, my friend, but I'm blessed if I haven't got
myself into a ridiculous scrape on account of it."

"How so?" growled Big Medicine.

"Why, when I come to count my funds I'm short a half dollar."

"You're what?"

"I lack just a half dollar of having enough money to pay for the house,
and I thought I'd rather ask you to loan me the money than anybody else
here."

Big Medicine stood for a time in silence, whittling away, as if for dear
life, on the curly knot. Dreamy gusts of perfumed heat swept by from
adjacent clover and wheat fields, where the blooms hung thick; little
whirlwinds played in the dust at their feet as little whirlwinds always
do in summer; and far away, faint, and made tenderly musical by
distance, were heard the notes of a country dinner-horn. Big Medicine's
ample chest swelled, and swelled, and then he burst at the mouth with a
mighty bass laugh, that went battling and echoing round the place. Mr.
Golding laughed too, in his own quiet, gentlemanly way. They looked at
each other and laughed, then looked off toward the swamps and laughed.
Big Medicine put his hands in his pockets almost up to the elbows, and
leaned back and laughed out of one corner of his mouth while holding his
pipe in the other.

"I say, mister," said he at length, "a'n't you railly got but six
hundred and twenty-five an' a half?"

"Just that much to a cent, and no more," replied Mr. Golding, with a
comical smile and bow.

Big Medicine took his pipe from his mouth, gave the walnut knot he had
dropped a little kick and guffawed louder and longer than before. To
have been off at a little distance watching them would have convinced
any one that Mr. Golding was telling some rare anecdote, and that Big
Medicine was convulsed with mirth, listening.

"Well I'm derned if 'taint quare," cried the latter, wringing himself
into all sorts of grotesque attitudes in the ecstasy of his amusement.
"You outbid me half a dollar and then didn't have the half a dollar
neither! Wha, wha, wha-ee!" and his cachinnations sounded like rolling
of moderate thunder.

At the end of this he took out a greasy wallet and paid Mr. Golding the
required amount in silver coin. His chagrin had vanished before the
stranger's quiet way of making friends.

A week passed over Jimtown. A week of as rare June weather as ever
lingered about the cool places of the woods, or glimmered over the sweet
clover fields all red with a blush of bloom, where the field larks
twittered and the buntings chirped, and where the laden bees rose
heavily to seek their wild homes in the hollows of the forests. By this
time it was generally known in Jimtown that Mr. Golding would soon
receive a stock of goods with which to open a "store" in the old corner
brick; but Big Medicine knew more than any of his neighbors, for he and
Golding had formed a partnership to do business under the "name and
style" of Cook & Golding.

This Abner Golding had lately been a wealthy retail man in Cincinnati,
and had lost everything by the sudden suspension of a bank wherein the
bulk of his fortune was on deposit. His creditors had made a run on him
and he had been able to save just the merest remnant of his goods, and a
few hundred dollars in money. Thus he came to Jimtown to begin life and
business anew.

To Big Medicine the week had been a long one; why, it would not be easy
to tell. No doubt there had come a turning point in his life. In those
days, and in that particular region, to be a 'store keeper' was no small
honor. But Big Medicine acted strangely. He wandered about, with his
hands in his pockets, whistling plaintive tunes, and often he was seen
standing out before the old corner brick, gazing up at one of the vacant
windows where pieces of broken lattice were swaying in the wind. At such
times he muttered softly to himself:

"Ther's wher I fust seed the gal."

Four big road wagons (loaded with boxes), three of them containing the
merchandise and one the scanty household furniture of Mr. Golding and
his daughter Carrie, came rumbling into Jimtown. Big Medicine was on
hand, a perfect Hercules at unloading and unpacking. Mr. Golding was
sadly pleasant; Carrie was roguishly observant, but womanly and quiet.

The tallow-faced youth and two or three others stood by watching the
proceedings. The former occasionally made a remark at which the others
never failed to laugh.

"Ef ye'll notice, now," said he, "it's a fac 'at whenever Big Medicine
goes to make a big surge to lift a box, he fust takes a peep at the gal,
an' that 'ere seems to kinder make 'im 'wax strong an' multiply,' as the
preacher says, an' then over goes the box!"

"Has a awful effect on his narves," some one replied.

"I'm a thinkin'," added tallow-face, "'at ef Big Medicine happens to
look at the gal about the time he goes to make a trade, it'll have sich
a power on 'im 'at he'll sell a yard o' caliker for nigh onto forty
dollars!"

"Er a blanket overcoat for 'bout twelve an' a half cents!" put in
another.

"I'm kinder weakly," resumed tallow-face with a comical leer at Big
Medicine; "wonder if 't wouldn't be kinder strengthnin' on me ef I'd
kinder sidle up towards the gal myself?"

"I'll sidle up to you!" growled Big Medicine; and making two strides of
near ten feet each, he took the youth by his faded flaxen hair, and
holding him clear of the ground, administered a half dozen or so of
resounding kicks, then tossed him to one side, where he fell in a heap
on the ground. When he got on his feet again he began to bristle up and
show fight, but when Big Medicine reached for him he ambled off.

In due time the goods were all placed on the shelves and Mr. Golding's
household furniture arranged in the upper rooms where he purposed
living, Carrie acting as housekeeper.

On the first evening after all things had been put to rights, Mr.
Golding said to Big Medicine:

"I suppose we ought to advertise."

"Do how?"

"Advertise."

"Sartinly," said Big Medicine, having not the faintest idea of what his
partner meant.

"Who can we get to paint our fence advertisements?"

A gleam of intelligence shot from Big Medicine's eyes. He knew now what
was wanted. He remembered once, on a visit to Crawfordsville, seeing
these fence advertisements. He comprehended in a moment.

"O, I know what ye mean, now," he said, with a grin, as if communing
with himself on some novel suggestion. "I guess I kin 'tend to that my
own self. The moon shines to-night, don't it?"

"Yes; why?"

"I'll do the paintin' to-night. A good ijee has jist struck me. You jist
leave it all to me."

So the thing was settled, and Big Medicine was gone all night.

The next day was a sluice of rain. It poured incessantly from daylight
till dark. Big Medicine sat on the counter in the corner brick and
chuckled. His thoughts were evidently very pleasant ones. Mr. Golding
was busy marking goods and Carrie was helping him. The great grey eyes
of Big Medicine followed the winsome girl all the time. When night came,
and she went up stairs, he said to Golding:

"That gal o' your'n is a mighty smart little 'oman."

"Yes, and she's all I have left," replied Mr. Golding in a sad tone.

Big Medicine stroked his brown beard, whistled a few turns of a jig
tune, and, jumping down from the counter, went out into the drizzly
night. A few rods from the house he turned and looked up at the window.
A little form was just vanishing from it.

"Ther's wher I fust seed the gal," he murmured, then turned and went his
way, occupied with strange, sweet imaginings. As a matter of the merest
conjecture, it is interesting to dwell upon the probable turn taken by
his thoughts as he slowly stalked through the darkness and rain that
night; but I shall not trench on what, knowing all that I do, seems
sanctified and hallowed. It would be breaking a sacred confidence. Who
has stood and watched for a form at a window? Who has expressed, in
language more refined, to the inner fountain of human sympathy, the idea
conveyed in the rough fellow's remark? Who that has, let him recall the
time and the place holy in his memory.

"Ther's wher I fust seed the gal," said the man, and went away to his
lonely bed to dream the old new dream. All night the rain fell, making
rich music on the roof and pouring through his healthy slumber a sound
like the flowing of strange rivers in a land of new delights--a land
into which he had strayed hand in hand with some one, the merest touch
of whose hand was rapture, the simplest utterance of whose voice was
charming beyond expression. The old new dream. The dream of flesh that
is divine--the vision of blood that is love's wine--the apocalypse that
bewildered the eyes of the old singer when from a flower of foam in the
sweet green sea rose the Cytherean Venus. We have all dreamed the dream
and found it sweet.

It is quite probable that no fence advertisements ever paid as well, or
stirred up as big a "muss" as those painted by Big Medicine on the night
mentioned heretofore. As an artist our Hoosier was not a genius, but he
certainly understood how to manufacture a notoriety. If space permitted
I would copy all those rude notices for your inspection; but I must be
content with a few random specimens taken from memory, with an eye to
brevity. They are characteristic of the man and in somewhat an index of
the then state of society in and around Jimtown. On Deacon Jones's fence
was scrawled the following: "Dern yer ole sole, ef yer want good Koffy
go to Cook & Golding's nu stoar."

John Butler, a nice old quaker, had the following daubed on his gate:
"Yu thievin' duk-legged ya and na ole cuss, ef the sperit muves ye, go
git a broad-brimmed straw hat at Cook & Golding's great stand at
Jimtown." The side of William Smith's pig pen bore this: "Bill, ye
ornery sucker, come traid with Cook & Golding at the ole corner brick in
Jimtown." Old Peter Gurley found writing to the following effect on his
new wagon bed: "Ef yoor dri or anything, you'll find a virtoous Kag of
ri licker at Cook & Golding's." On a large plank nailed to a tree at
Canaan's Cross Roads all passers by saw the following: "Git up an
brindle! Here's yer ole and faithful mewl! Come in gals and git yer
dofunny tricks and fixens, hats, caps, bonnets, parrysols, silk
petty-coat-sleeves and other injucements too noomerous too menshen! Rip
in--we're on it! Call at Cook & Golding's great corner brick!"

These are fair specimens of what appeared everywhere. How one man could
have done so much in one night remains a mystery. Some people swore,
some threatened to prosecute, but finally everybody went to the corner
brick to trade. Jimtown became famous on account of Big Medicine and the
corner brick store.

The sun rose through the morning gate beyond the quagmires east of
Jimtown and set through the evening gate past the ponds and maple swamps
to the west. The winds blew and there were days of calm. The weather ran
through its mutations of heat and cold. The herons flew over, the blue
birds twittered and went away and came again, and the peewees
disappeared and returned. A whole year had rolled round and it was June
again, with the air full of rumors about the building of a railroad
through Jimtown.

During this flow of time Big Medicine had feasted his eyes on the bright
curls and brighter eyes of Carrie Golding, till his heart had become
tender and happy as a child's. They rarely conversed more than for him
to say, "Miss Carrie, look there," or for her to call out, "Please, Mr.
Cook, hand me down this bolt of muslin." But Big Medicine was content.

It was June the 8th, about ten o'clock in the morning, and Big Medicine
was slowly making his way from his comfortable bachelor's cabin to the
corner brick. A peculiar smile was on his face, his heart was fluttering
strangely, and all on account of a little circumstance of the preceding
day, now fresh in his memory. Great boy that he was, he was poring ever
a single sweet smile Carrie Golding had given him!

The mail hack stood at the post-office door, whence Mr. Golding was
coming with a letter in his hand. Big Medicine stopped and looked up at
the window. There stood Carrie. She was looking hopefully toward her
father. Big Medicine smiled and murmured:

"Ther's wher I fust seed the gal--bless her sweet soul!" There was a
whole world of sincere happiness in the tones of his voice.

Mr. Golding passed him hastily, his green spectacles on his nose, and a
great excitement flashing from his face. Big Medicine gazed wonderingly
after his partner till he saw him run up stairs to Carrie's room. Then
he thought he heard Carrie cry out joyfully, but it may have been the
wind.

When an hour had passed Mr. Golding and Carrie came down dressed for
travelling. How strangely, wondrously beautiful the girl now looked! Mr.
Golding was as nervous as an old woman. He rubbed his thin white hands
together rapidly and said:

"Mr. Cook, I have glorious news this morning!"

"And what mought it be?" asked Big Medicine, as a damp chilliness crept
over him, and his face grew pinched and almost as white as his shirt
bosom.

"Krofton & Kelly, the bankers, have resumed payment, and I'll get all my
money! It _is_ glorious news, is it not, my friend?"

Big Medicine was silent. He tried to speak, but his mouth was dry and
powerless. A mist drifted across his eyes. He hardly realized where he
was or what was said, but he knew all.

"I have concluded to give you this house and all my interest in this
store. You must not refuse. I haven't time to make the transfer now, but
I'll not neglect it. Carrie and I must hasten at once to Cincinnati. The
hack is waiting; so good bye, my dear friend, God bless you!" Mr.
Golding wrung his partner's cold, limp hand, without noticing how
fearfully haggard that Roman face had suddenly grown.

"Good bye, Mr. Cook," said Carrie in her sweet, sincere way. "I'm real
sorry to leave you and the dear old house--but--but--good bye, Mr. Cook.
Come to see us in Cincinnati. Good bye." She gave him her hand also.

He smiled a wan, flickering smile, like the last flare of a fire whose
fuel is exhausted. Carrie's woman's heart sank under that look, though
she knew not wherefore.

The hack passed round the curve of the road.

They were gone!

Big Medicine stood alone in the door of the corner brick. He looked back
over his shoulders at the well filled shelves and muttered:

"She ain't here, and what do I want of the derned old store?"

The wind rustled the elm leaves and tossed the brown locks of the man
over his great forehead; the blue birds sang on the roof; the dust rose
in little columns along the street; and, high over head, in the yellow
mist of the fine June weather, sailed a great blue heron, going to the
lakes. Big Medicine felt like one deserted in the wilderness. He stood
there a while, then closed and locked the door and went into the woods.
A month passed before he returned. Jimtown wondered and wondered. But
when he did return his neighbors could not get a word out of him. He was
silent, moody, listless. Where had he been? Only hunting for Mr. Golding
and Carrie. He found them, after a long search, in a splendid residence
on the heights just out of Cincinnati. Mr. Golding greeted him
cordially, but somehow Big Medicine felt as though he were shaking hands
with some one over an insurmountable barrier. That was not the Mr.
Golding he had known.

"Carrie is out in the garden. She will be glad to see you. Go along the
hall there. You will see the gate."

Mr. Golding waved his hand after the manner of a very rich man, and a
patronizing tone would creep into his voice. Somehow Big Medicine looked
terribly uncouth.

With a hesitating step and a heart full of unreal sensations, Big
Medicine opened the little gate and strode into the flower garden.
Suddenly a vision, such as his fancy had never pictured, burst on his
dazzled eyes. Flowers and vines and statues and fountains; on every hand
rich colors; perfumes so mixed and intensified that his senses almost
gave way; long winding walks; fairy-like bowers and music. He paused and
listened. A heavy voice, rich and manly, singing a ballad--some popular
love song--to the sweet accompaniment of a violin, and blended through
it all, like a silvery thread, the low sweet voice of Carrie Golding.
The poor fellow held his breath till the song was done.

Two steps forward and Big Medicine towered above the lovers.

Carrie sprang to her feet with a startled cry; then, recognizing the
intruder, she held out her little hand and welcomed him. Turning to her
lover she said:

"Henry, this is Mr. Cook, lately papa's partner in Indiana."

The lover was a true gentleman, so he took the big hard hand of the
visitor and said he was glad to see him.

Big Medicine stood for a few moments holding a hand of each of the
lovers. Presently a tremor took possession of his burly frame. He did
not speak a word. His breast swelled and his face grew awfully white.
He put Carrie's hand in that of her lover and turned away. As he did so
a tear, a great bitter drop, rolled down his haggard cheek. A few long
strides and Big Medicine was gone.

Shrilly piped the blue birds, plaintively sang the peewees, sweetly
through the elms and burr oaks by the corner brick blew the fresh summer
wind, as, just at sunset, Big Medicine once more stood in front of the
old building with his eyes fixed on the vacant, staring window.

It was scarcely a minute that he stood there, but long enough for a
tender outline of the circumstances of the past year to rise in his
memory.

A rustling at the broken lattice, a sudden thrill through the iron frame
of the watching man, a glimpse of a sweet face--no, it was only a fancy.
The house was still, and old and desolate. It stared at him like a
death's head.

Big Medicine raised his eyes toward heaven, which was now golden and
flashing resplendently with sunset glories. High up, as if almost
touching the calm sky, a great blue heron was toiling heavily westward.
Taking the course chosen by the lone bird, Big Medicine went away, and
the places that knew him once know him no more forever.



THE VENUS OF BALHINCH.


When I returned from Europe with a finished education, I found that my
fortune also was finished in the most approved modern style, so I left
New York and drifted westward in search of employment. At length I came
to Indiana, and, having not even a cent left, and mustering but one
presentable suit of clothes, I looked about me in a hungry, half
desperate sort of way, till I pounced upon the school in Balhinch. Now
Balhinch is not a town, nor a cross-road place, nor a post-office--it is
simply a neighborhood in the southwestern corner of Union Township,
Montgomery County--a neighborhood _sui generis_, stowed away in the
breaks of Sugar Creek, containing as good, quiet, law-abiding folk as
can be found anywhere outside of Switzerland. My school was a small one
in numbers, but the pupils ranged from four to six feet three in
altitude, and well proportioned. The most advanced class had thumbed
along pretty well through the spelling book. I need not take up your
time with the school, however, for it has nothing at all to do with my
story, excepting merely to explain how I came to be in Balhinch, in the
State of Indiana.

My first sight of Susie Adair was on Sunday at the Methodist prayer
meeting. I was sitting with my back to a window and facing the door of
the log meeting house when she entered. It was July--a hot glary day,
but a steady wind blew cool and sweet from the southwest, bringing in
all sorts of woodland odors. The grasshoppers were chirruping in the
little timothy field hard by, and over in a bit of woodland pasture a
swarm of blue jays were worrying a crow, keeping up an incessant
squeaking and chattering. The dumpy little class leader--the only little
man in Balhinch--had just begun to give out the hymn

  "Love is the sweetest bud that blows,
    Its beauties never die,
  On earth among the saints it grows
    And ripens in the sky," &c.,

when Susie came in. Ben Crane was sitting by me. He nudged me with his
elbow and whispered:

"How's that 'ere for poorty?"

I made him no answer, but remained staring at the girl till long after
she had taken her seat. Nature plays strange tricks. Susie, the daughter
of farmer Adair, was as beautiful in the face as any angel could be, and
her form was as perfect as that of the Cnidian Venus. Her motion when
she walked was music, and as she sat in statuesque repose, the
undulations of her queenly form were those of perfect ease, grace and
strength. Her hands were small and taper, a little browned from
exposure, as was also her face. Her hair was the real classic gold, and
her grey eyes were riant with health and content. When her red lips
parted to sing, they discovered small even teeth, as white as ivory. I
can give you no idea of her. Physically she was perfection's self in the
mould of a Venus of the grandest type. Her head, too, was an
intellectual one (though feminine), in the best sense of the word. The
first thought that flashed across my mind was embodied in the words--_A
Venus_--and I still think of her as the best model I ever saw.

"How's that for poorty?" repeated Crane.

"Who is she!" I replied interrogatively.

"She's my jewlarker," said he.

"Your what?"

"My sweetheart."

"What is her name?"

"Susie Adair."

So I came to know her and admire her, and even before that little prayer
meeting was over I loved her. Introductions were an unknown institution
in Balhinch, but I was not long in finding a way to the personal
acquaintance of Susie. I found her remarkably intelligent for one of her
limited opportunities, very fond of reading, sprightly in conversation,
womanly, modest, sweet tempered, and, indeed, altogether charming as
well as superbly beautiful.

As for me, I am an insignificant looking man, and then I was even more
so than now. My hair is terribly stiff and red, you know, and my eyes
are very pale blue, nearly white. My neck is very long and has a large
Adam's apple. I am small and narrow chested, and have slender bow legs.
My teeth are uneven and my nose is pug. I have a very fine thin voice,
decidedly nasal, as you perceive. One thing, however, I am well
educated, polite, and not a bad conversationalist.

Susie was a most entertaining and perplexing study for me from the
start. She treated me with decided consideration and kindness, seemed
deeply interested in my accounts of my travels, asked me many questions
about the old world and good society, sat for hours at a time listening
to me as I read aloud. In fact I felt that I was impressing her deeply,
but she would go with Ben Crane, that long, awkward, ignorant gawk. How
could a young woman of such fine magnetic presence, and endowed with
such genuine, instinctive purity of taste in everything else, bear the
presence of a rough greenhorn like that? Finally I said to myself: she
is kind and good; she cannot bear to slight Ben, though she cares
nothing for him.

What a strange state being in love is! It is like dreaming in the grass.
One hears the flow of the wind--it is the breath of love--one smells the
flowers, and it is the perfume of a young cheek, the sharp fragrance of
blonde curls. What dreams I had in those days! I could scarcely endure
my school to the end of the first three months. Then I gave it up, and
collecting my wages purchased me some fine clothes--that is, fine for
the time and the place. I recollect that suit now, and wonder how a man
of my taste could have borne to wear it. A black coat, a scarlet vest
and white pants, ending with calf boots and a very tall silk hat! If you
should see me dressed that way now you would laugh till your ribs would
hurt. I do not know how true it is, but, from a pretty good source, I
heard that Ben Crane said I looked like a red-headed woodpecker. One
thing I do know, I never saw a woodpecker with a freckled face. I have a
freckled face.

Ben soon recognized me as his rival and treated me with supreme
impertinence, even going so far as to rub his fist under my nose and
swear at me--a thing at which I felt profoundly indignant, and
considering which I was surely justified in sticking a lucifer match
into Ben's six valuable hay stacks one night thereafter. It was a great
fire, and two hundred dollars loss to Ben. Let him keep his fist out
from under my nose.

But I must come to my story, cutting short these preliminaries. It is a
story I never tire of telling, and a story which has elicited
ejaculations from many.

It was a ripe sweet day in the latter part of September--clear, but hazy
and dreamful--a prelude to the Indian summer. I stood before the glass
in my room at 'Squire Jones's, where I boarded, and very carefully
arranged my bright blue neck-tie. Then I combed my hair. I never have
got thoroughly familiar with my hair. I cannot, even now, comb it, while
looking in a glass, without cringing for fear of burning my fingers. The
long, wavy red locks flow through the comb like flames, and underneath
is a gleam of live coals and red hot ashes. Ben Crane said he believed
my head had set his hay stacks a-fire. Maybe it did. I wished that a
stray flash from the same source would kindle the heart of Susie Adair
and heat it until it lay under her Cytherean breasts a puddle of molten
love. I put my silk hat carefully upon my head and wriggled my hands
into a pair of kid gloves; then, walking-stick in hand, I set out to
know my fate at the hands of Susie. My way was across a stubble field in
which the young clover, sown in the spring, displayed itself in a
variety of fantastic modes. Have you ever noticed how much grass is like
water? Some one, Hawthorne, perhaps, has spoken of "a gush of violets,"
and Swinburne, going into one of his musical frenzies, cries:

  "Where tides of grass break into foam of flowers."

I have seen pools of clover and streams of timothy; I have stood ankle
deep in shoal blue grass and have watched for hours the liquid ripples
of the red top. I have seen the field sparrows dive into the green waves
of young wheat, and the black starlings wade about in the sink-foil of
southern countries. Grass is a liquid that washes earth's face till it
shines like that of a clean, healthy child. But clover prefers to stand
in pools and eddies, in which oft and oft I have seen the breasts of
meadow larks shine like gold, the while a few sweet notes, like rung
silver, rose and trembled above the trefoil, all woven, in and out,
through the swash of the wind's palpitant currents--a music of
unspeakable influence. Swallows skim the surface of grass just as they
do that of water. When the summer air agitates the smooth bosom of a
broad green meadow field, you will see these little random arrows
glancing along the emerald surface, cutting with barbed wings through
the tossing, bloom-capped waves, thence ricochetting high into the
bright air to whirl and fall again as swiftly as before. Many a time I
have traced streams of grass to their fresh fountains, where jets of
tender foliage and bubbles of tinted flowers welled up from dark, rich
earth, and flowed away, with a velvet rustle and a ripple like blown
floss, to break and recoil and eddy against the dark shadows of a
distant grove. Such a fountain is a place of fragrance and joy. The bees
go thither to get the sweetest honey, and find it a very Hybla. The
butterflies float about it in a dreamful trance, while in the cool,
damp shade of a dock leaf squats a great toad, like a slimy dragon
guarding the gate of a paradise.

As I slowly walked across that stubble field, now and then stepping into
a tuft of clover, out from which a quail would start, whirling away in a
convulsion of flight, I allowed dreams of bliss to steal rosily across
my brain. I scarcely saw the great gold-sharded beetles that hummed and
glanced in the mellow sun-light. I heard like one half asleep, as if far
away, the sharp twitter of the blue bird and the tender piping of the
meadow lark. Susie Adair was all my thought. I recollect that, just as I
climbed the fence at the farther side of the clover field, I saw a white
winged, red headed woodpecker pounce upon and carry off a starry
opal-tinted butterfly, and I thought how sweet it would be if I could
thus steal away into the free regions of space the object of my gentler
passion. But then what wonderful big wings I should have needed, for my
Venus of the hollow of the hill of Balhinch was no airy thing. Her tall,
strong body and magnificent limbs equalled one hundred and forty pounds
avoirdupois! My own weight was about one hundred and twenty.

As I neared Susie's home I began, for the first time in my life, to
suffer from palpitation. The shadow of a doubt floated in the autumn
sun-light. I set my teeth together and resolved not to be faint hearted.
I must go in boldly and plead my cause and win.

When I reached the gate of the Adair farmhouse I had to look straight
over the head of a very large, sanctimonious-faced bull-dog to get a
view of the vine covered porch. This dog looked up at me and smiled
ineffably; then he came to the gate and stood over against me, peeping
between the slats. I hesitated. About this time Ben Crane came out of
the house with a banjo in his hand. He had been playing for Susie. He
was a natural musician.

"'Feared o' the dog, Mr. Woodpecker?" said he. "Begone, Bull!" and he
kicked the big-headed canine aside so that I could go in.

I heard him thrumming on his banjo far down the road as Susie met me at
the door. How wondrously beautiful she was!

"Sit down Mr. ----, and, if you do not care, I'll bring the churn in and
finish getting the butter while we talk."

I was delighted--I was charmed--fascinated. Susie's father had gone to a
distant village, and her mother, a gentle work-worn matron, was in the
other room spinning flax, humming, meantime, snatches of camp meeting
hymns. The sound of that spinning-wheel seemed to me strangely mournful
and sad, but Susie's deep, clear gray eyes and cheerful voice were the
very soul of joyousness, health and youth. She brought in a great
fragrant cedar churn, made to hold six or eight gallons of cream, and
forthwith began her labor. She stood as she worked, and the exercise
throwing her entire body into gentle but well-defined motion, displayed
all the riches of her contour. The sleeves of her calico gown were
rolled up above the elbows, leaving her plump, muscular arms bare, and
her skirt was pinned away from her really small feet and shapely ankles
in such a way as to give one an idea, a suggestion, of supreme innocence
and grace. Her long, crinkled gold hair was unbound, hanging far below
her waist, and shining like silk. Her lips, carmine red, seemed to
overflow with tender utterances.

Ever since that day I have thought churning a kind of sacred, charmingly
blessed work, which ought to be, if really it is not, the pastime of
those delightful beings the ancients called deities. Cream is more
fragrant, more delicious, more potent than nectar or ambrosia. A cedar
churn is more delicately perfumed than any patera of the gods. And, I
say it with reverence, I have seen, swaying lily-like above the churn, a
beauty more perfect than that which bloomed full grown from the bright
focus of the sea's ecstatic travail.

What a talk Susie and I had that day! Slowly, stealthily I crept nearer
and nearer to the subject burning in my heart. I watched Susie closely,
for her face was an enigma to me. I never think of her and of that day
without recalling Baudelaire's dream of a giantess. More happy than the
poet, I really saw my colossal beauty stand full grown before me, but,
like him, I wondered--

  * * * "Si son coeur couve une sombre flamme
  Aux humides brouillards qui nagent dans ses yeux."

I could not tell, from any outward sign, what was going on in her heart.
No sphinx could have been more utterly calm and mysterious. She had a
most baffling way about her, too. When at last I had reached the point
of a confession of my maddening love, she broke into one of my
charmingest sentences to say--

"Mr. ----, you'd better move farther away from the churn or I might
spatter your clothes."

This, somehow, disconcerted and bothered me. But Susie was so calm and
sweet about it, her gray eyes beamed so mysteriously innocent of any
impropriety, that I soon regained my lost eloquence.

How sharply and indelibly cut in my memory, like intaglios in ivory, the
surroundings of that scene, even to the minutest detail! For instance, I
can see as plainly as then my new silk hat on the floor between my
knees, containing a red handkerchief and a paper of chewing tobacco. I
recall, also, that a slip-trod shoe lay careened to one side near the
centre of the room. The bull-dog came to the door and peeped solemnly in
a time or two. A string of dried pumpkin cuts hung by the fireplace, and
under a small wooden table in one corner were piled a few balls of
"carpet rags." I sat in a very low chair. A picture of George Washington
hung above a small square window. The floor was ash boards uncarpeted. I
heard some chickens clucking and cackling under the house.

Finally, I recollect it as if it were but yesterday, I said:

"I love you, Susie--I love you, and I have loved you ever since I first
saw you!"

How tame the words sound now! but then they came forth in a tremulous
murmur that gave them character and power. Susie looked straight at me
a moment, and I thought I saw a softer light gather in her eyes. Then
she took away the churn dasher and lid and fetched a large bowl from a
cupboard. What a fine golden pile of butter she fished up into the bowl!

I drew my chair somewhat nearer, and watched her pat and roll and
squeeze the plastic mass with the cherry ladle. A little gray kitten
came and rubbed and purred round her. Again the bull-dog peeped in. A
breeze gathered some force and began to ripple pleasantly through the
room. Far away in the fields I heard the quails whistling to each other.
An old cow strolled up the lane by the house and round the corner of the
orchard, plaintively tinkling her bell. Steadily hummed Mrs. Adair's
spinning wheel. I slipped my hat and my chair a little closer to Susie,
and by a mighty effort directed my burning words straight to the point.
I cannot repeat all I said. I would not if I could. Such things are
sacred.

"Susie, I love you, madly, blindly, dearly, truly! O, Susie! will you
love me--will you be my wife?"

Again she turned on me that strange, sweet, half smiling look. Her lips
quivered. The flush on her cheeks almost died out.

"Answer me, Susie, and say you will make me happy."

She walked to the cupboard, put away the bowl of butter and the ladle,
then came back and stood by the churn and me. How indescribably charming
she looked! She smiled strangely and made a motion with her round strong
arms. I answered the movement. I spread wide my arms and half rose to
clasp her to my bosom. A whole life was centred in the emotion of that
moment. Susie's arms missed me and lifted the churn. I sank back into my
chair. How gracefully Susie swayed herself to her immense height, toying
with the ponderous churn held far above her head. I saw a kitten fairly
fly out of the room, its tail as level as a gun barrel; I saw the
bull-dog's face hastily withdraw from the door; I saw the carpet balls,
the pumpkin cuts and the print of Washington all through a perpendicular
cataract of deliciously fragrant buttermilk! I saw my hat fill up to the
brim, with my handkerchief afloat. I heaved an awful sigh and leaped to
my feet. I saw old Mrs. Adair standing in the partition door, with her
arms akimbo, and heard her say--

"W'y, Susan Jane Samantha Ann! What 'pon airth hev ye done?"

And the Venus replied:

"I've been givin' this 'ere little woodpecker a good dose of
buttermilk!"

I seized my hat and shuffled out of the door, feeling the milk gush from
the tops of my boots at each hasty step I made. I ran to the gate, went
through and slammed it after me. As I did so I heard a report like the
closing of a strong steel trap. It was the bull-dog's teeth shutting on
a slat of the gate as he made a dive at me from behind. I smiled grimly,
thinking how I'd taste served in buttermilk.

On my way home I passed Ben Crane's house. He was sitting at a window
playing his banjo, and singing in a stentorian voice:

      "O! Woodpecker Jim,
      Yer chance is mighty slim!
  Jest draw yer red head into yer hole
  And there die easy, dern your soul,
          O! slim Woodpecker Jim!"

I was so mad that I sweat great drops of pure buttermilk, but over in
the fields the quails whistled just as clear and sweet as ever, and I
heard the wind pouring through the stubble as it always does in autumn!



THE LEGEND OF POTATO CREEK.


Big yellow butterflies were wheeling about in the drowsy summer air, and
hovering above the moist little sand bars of Potato Creek. A shady dell,
wrapped in the hot lull of August, sent up the spires and domes of its
walnut and poplar trees, clearly defined, and sheeny, while underneath
the forest roof the hazel and wild rose bushes had wrung themselves into
dusky mats. The late violets bloomed here and there, side by side with
those waxlike yellow blossoms, called by the country folk "butter and
eggs." Through this dell Potato Creek meandered fantastically, washing
bare the roots of a few gnarled sycamores, and murmuring among the small
bowlders that almost covered its bed. It was not a strikingly romantic
or picturesque place--rather the contrary--much after the usual type of
ragged little dells. "A scrubby little holler" the neighborhood folk
called it.

Perched on the topmost tangle of the dry, tough roots of an old upturned
tree, sat little Rose Turpin, sixteen that very August day; pretty, nay
beautiful, her school life just ended, her womanhood just beginning to
clothe her face and form in that mysterious mantle of tenderness--the
blossom, the flower that brings the rich sweet fruit of love. From her
high perch she leaned over and gazed down into the clear water of the
creek and smiled at the gambols of the minnows that glanced here and
there, now in shadowy swarms and anon glancing singly, like sparks of
dull fire, in the limpid current. Some small cray-fishes, too, delighted
her with their retrograde and side-wise movements among the variegated
pebbles at the bottom of the water. A small sketch book and a case of
pencils lay beside her. So busy was she with her observations, that a
fretful, peevish, but decidedly masculine voice near by startled her as
if from a doze. She had imagined herself so utterly alone.

"Wo-erp 'ere, now can't ye! Wo, I say! Turn yer ole head roun' this way
now, blast yer ole picter! No foolin', now; wo-erp, I tell ye!"

Rose was so frightened at first that she seemed about to rise in the air
and fly away; but her quick glance in the direction of the sound
discovered the speaker, who, a few rods further down the creek, stood
holding the halter rein of a forlorn looking horse in one hand, and in
the other a heavy woodman's axe.

"Wo-erp, now! I hate like the nation to slatherate ye; but I said I'd do
it if ye didn't get well by this August the fifteenth; an' shore 'nuff,
here ye are with the fistleo gittin' wus and wus every day o' yer life.
So now ye may expect ter git what I tole ye! Stan' still now, will ye,
till I knock the life out'n ye!"

By this time Rose had come to understand the features of the situation.
The horse was sadly diseased with that scourge of the equine race,
scrofulous shoulder or fistula, commonly called, among the country folk,
fistleo, and because the animal could not get well the man was on the
point of killing it by knocking it on the head with the axe.

Of all dumb things a horse was Rose's favorite. She had always, since
her very babyhood, loved horses.

"Wo-wo-wo-erp, here! Ha'n't ye got no sense at all? Ding it, how d'ye
'spect me to hit yer blamed ole head when ye keep it a waggin' 'round in
that sort o' style? Wo-erp!"

The fellow had tied the halter rein around a sapling about two feet from
the ground, and was now preparing to deal the horse a blow with the axe
between its eyes. The animal seemed unaware of any danger, but kept its
head going from side to side, trying to fight certain bothersome
gad-flies.

"O, sir, stop; don't, don't; please, sir, don't!" cried the girl, her
sweet voice breaking into silvery echo fragments in every nook of the
little hollow.

The man gazed all around, and, seeing no one, let fall the axe by his
side. The birds, taking advantage of the silence, lifted a twittering
chorus through the dense dark tops of the trees. The slimmest breath of
air languidly caressed the leaves of the rose vines. The bubbling of the
brook seemed to touch a mellower key, and the yellow butterflies settled
all together on a little sand bar, their bright wings shut straight and
sharp above their bodies. The man seemed intently listening. "Tw'an't
mammy's voice, nohow," he muttered; "but I'd like to know who 'twas,
though."

He stood a moment longer, as if in doubt, then again raising his axe he
continued:

"Must 'a' been a jay bird squeaked. Wo-erp 'ere now! I'm not goin' to
fool wi' ye all day, so hold yer head still!"

That was a critical moment for the lean, miserable horse. It lowered its
head and held it quite still. The axe was steadily poised in the air.
The man's face wore a look of determination--grim, stone-like. He was,
perhaps, twenty-five, tall and bony, with a countenance sallow almost to
greenness, sunken pale blue eyes, sun burnt hair, thin flaxy beard, and
irregular, half decayed teeth. Although his body and limbs were shrunken
to the last degree of attenuation, still the big cords of his neck and
wrists stood out taut, suggesting great strength. The blow would be a
terrible one. The horse would die almost without a struggle.

"O, O, O! Indeed, sir, you must not! Stop that, sir, instantly! You
shall not do it, sir! O, sir!"

And fluttering down from her perch, Rose flew to the spot where the
tragedy was pending, and cast herself pale and trembling between the
horse and its would-be executioner.

The axe fell from the man's hands.

His eyes became exactly circular.

His under jaw dropped so that his mouth was open to its fullest gaping
capacity. His shoulders fell till their points almost met in front of
his sunken chest. He was a picture of overwhelming surprise.

"An' what in thunder do you want of him? What good's he goin' to do you?
'Cause, you see, he can't work nor be rid on nor nothin'."

"O never mind, sir, just please give him to me and I'll take him and
care for him. Poor horsey! Poor horsey! See, he loves me already!"

The beast had thrust its nose against the maiden's hand.

"Well, I don't know 'bout this. I'd as soon 'at you have 'im as not if I
hadn't swore to kill 'im, an' I musn't lie to 'im. An' besides, I've had
sich a pesky derned time wi' 'im 'at it looks kinder mean 'at I
shouldn't have the satisfaction of bustin' his head for it. I'm goin' to
knock 'im, an' ye jist mought as well stan' aside!"

Just then the peculiarities of the man's character were written on his
face. His nose denoted pugnacity, his lips sensuality, but not of a base
sort, his eyes ignorance and rough kindness, his chin firmness, his jaw
tenacity of purpose, and his complexion the ague. He had sworn to kill
the horse, and kill him he would. You could see that in the very
wrinkles of his neck. He evidently felt that it was a duty he owed to
his conscience--a duty made doubly imperative by the horse's refusal to
get well by the exact time prescribed.

High up on the dead spire of a walnut tree a woodpecker began to beat a
long, rattling tattoo. The horse very lazily and innocently winked his
brown eyes, and putting forth his nose sniffed at the skirt of the
girl's dress.

"I'm glad--O I'm ever so glad you'll not kill him!" murmured the little
lady when she saw the axe fall to the ground.

The man stood a long moment, as if petrified or frozen into position,
then somewhat recovering, he re-seized the axe, and flourishing it high
in the air, cried in a voice that, cracked and shrill, rang petulantly
through the woods:

"I said I'd kill 'im if that garglin' oil didn't cure 'im, 'an I'm
derned ef I don't, too!"

"O, sir, if you please! The poor horse is not to blame!" exclaimed the
excited girl.

"'Taint no use o' beggin'; he's no 'count but to jist eat up corn, an'
hay, an' paster an' the likes; and his blasted fistleo gits wus an' wus
all the time. An't I spent more'n he's wo'th a tryin' to cure 'm, an'
don't everybody laugh at me 'cause I've got sich a derned ole slummux of
a hoss? Jist blame my picter if I'll stand it! So now you've hearn me
toot my tin horn, an' ye may as well stan' out'n the way!"

"But, sir, I'll take him off your hands, may I? Say, sir? O please let
me take him!"

While he stood with his axe raised, Rose was very diligently and
nervously tugging at the knot that fastened the halter rein to the tree,
and ere he was aware of her intent, she had untied it and was resolutely
leading the poor old animal away.

The man's eyes got longest the short way as he gazed at the retreating
figure.

"Well now, that's as cool as a cowcumber and twicet as juicy! Gal, ye'r'
a brick! ye'r' a knot! Ye'r' a born pacer! Take 'im 'long for all I
keer! Take 'im 'long!"

He put down his axe, placed his hands against his sides and smiled, as
he spoke, a big wrinkling smile that covered the whole of his sallow,
skinny face and ran clear down to the neck band of his homespun shirt.

"Pluck, no eend to it!" he muttered; "wonder who she is?
Poorty--geeroody!"

The wild birds sang a triumphant hymn, the breeze freshened till the
whole woods rustled, and louder still rose the bubbling of the stream
among its bowlders.

"Well, I'll jist be dorged! The poortiest gal in all Injianny! An' she's
tuck my ole hoss whether or no! She's a knot! Sort o' a cool proceedin',
it 'pears to me, but she's orful welcome to the hoss! Howdsomever it's
mighty much of a joke on me, 'r my name's not Zach Jones!"

He laughed long and loud. The birds laughed, too, and still the wind
freshened.

The girl and the horse had quickly disappeared behind the hazel and
papaw bushes. Zach Jones was alone with his axe and his reflections.

"Yender's where she sot--right up yender on that ole clay root. She must
'a' been a fishin', I reckon."

Another admiring chuckle.

He went to the spot and clambered up among the roots. There lay Rose's
sketch book and pencil case. He took up the book and curiously turned
the leaves, his eyes running with something like childish delight over
the flowers and bits of landscape. He had never before seen a drawing.

"Poorty as the gal 'erself, 'most," he said, "an' seein' 'at she's tuck
my ole hoss, I spose I'll have to take these 'ere jimcracks o' her'n.
I'll take 'em 'long anyhow, jist to 'member her by!"

This argument seemed logical and conclusive, and with a quick glance
over his shoulder he crammed book and pencil case into the capacious
depths of the side pocket of his pants.

"Now then it's about time for my chill, an' I'd better go home. Hang the
luck; s'pose I'll allus have the ager!" This last sentence was uttered
in a tone of comical half despair, and accompanied by a facial
contortion possible to no one but a person thoroughly saturated with
ague in its chronic form.

After he left the dell, Zach had a hot walk across a clover field before
he reached the dilapidated log house where he lived with his widowed
mother. In a short time his chill set in, and it was a fearful one. His
teeth chattered and his bony frame rattled like a bundle of dry sticks
in a strong wind. After it had shaken him thus for about an hour, his
brother Sammy, a lad of ten years, came in with a jug of buttermilk
brought from a neighbor's.

"Mammy, 'ere's yer buttermilk," said he, setting the jug on the floor.
"Shakin' like forty--a'n't ye, Zach? he added, glancing with a sad,
lugubrious smile at his brother; then, changing his tone and also his
countenance, he continued, with a broader grin: "Bet ye a dollar ye
can't guess what I seed over to 'Squire Martin's!"

"No, nor I don't care a cuss; so put off an' don't come yawpin' round
me!" replied Zach.

"Yes ye do, too; an' I know ye do, for 'twas yer ole fistleo hoss. That
'ere fine gal 'at stays over there is havin' a man wash 'im an' doctor
'im." Sammy winked and hitched up his pants as he spoke.

"Do say, Sammy, is that so, now?" cried the widow, holding up her hands.
"How on 'arth come she by the hoss? Zach, I thought you'd killed that
creater'!"

"Mammy, ef you an' Sammy'll jist let me 'joy this 'ere ager in peace
I'll be orful 'bleeged to ye," said Zach, making his chair creak and
quiver with the ecstasy of his convulsion.

But Sammy's tongue would go. He thought he had a "good 'un" on Zach, and
nothing short of lightning could have killed him quick enough to prevent
his telling it.

"The gal says as how Zach gin 'er the ole hoss for to 'member 'im by!"
he blurted out, shying briskly from Zach's foot, which otherwise would
have landed him in the door yard.

"Lookee here now, Zach, you jist try the likes o' that ag'in an' I'll
give ye sich a broom-stickin' as ye a'n't had lately. Ye mought 'a'
injured the child's insides!" and as she spoke the widow flourished the
broom.

So Zach dropped his head upon his chest and employed himself exclusively
with his chill. When his mother was not looking at him, however, he
would occasionally slip the sketch book partly out of his pocket and
peep between its leaves. When his fever came on he got "flighty" and
horrified the widow with talk about an angel on a clay root and a sweet
little "hoss thief" from whom he had stolen the "picters!"

I cannot exactly say how Zach got to going over to 'Squire Martin's so
often after this. But his first visit was a compulsory one. His mother
happening to discover his possession of the sketch book and pencil case,
made him return them with his own hand to Rose. He at once became deeply
interested in the progress of his former patient's convalescence; for,
strange to say, the poor horse began almost immediately to get well, and
in two months was sound, glossy and fat. Nor was he an ill-looking
animal. On the contrary, when Rose sat on his back and stroked his mane,
he arched his neck and pawed the ground like a thoroughbred.

'Squire Martin was a good man, and seeing how Zach seemed to enjoy
Rose's company, he one day took the girl aside and said to her:

"You must be somewhat of a doctor, my dear, seeing how you've touched up
the old hoss, and I propose for you to try your hand on another
subject. There's poor Zach Jones, who's had the chills for six or eight
years as constant as sunrise and sunset, and no medicine can't do him
any good. Now I'll be bound if you'll try you can cure him sound and
well. All you need to do in the world is to pet him up some'at as you
have the ole hoss. Jist take a little interest in the feller an' he'll
come out all right. All he wants is to forget he ever had the ager and
take some light exercise and have some fun. Fun is the only medicine to
cure the chills with. Quinine is no 'count but to make a racket in a
feller's head, and calomel'll kill 'im, sure. Now I propose to let Zach
have a hoss and saddle and you must go out a riding with 'im and try to
divert his mind from his sorrows and aches and pains--now that's a good
girl, Rosie."

Rose, whose healthful, impulsive, generous nature would not allow her to
refuse so well intended and withal so small a request, readily agreed to
do all she could in the matter, and very soon thereafter she and Zach
were the very best of friends, taking long rides together through
woodlands and up and down the pleasant lanes of 'Squire Martin's broad
estates. The young girl soon found the companionship of Zach, novel and
most awkward as it was at first, agreeable and almost charming in its
freshness and sincerity. As for Zach himself, he was the girl's slave
from the start. He could not do too much for her in his earnest,
respectful way. Women are always tyrants, and their tyranny seems to be
inversely as their size and directly as the size of the man upon whom it
is exerted. Rose was a very little chit of a maiden, and Zach was a
great big bony frame of a fellow. The result, of course, was despotism.
But, although Zach was a democrat, he seemed to like the oppression, and
ran after big-winged butterflies, opened gates, pulled down and put up
innumerable fences, climbed trees after empty bird nests, gathered
flowers and ferns--did everything, in fact, required of him by his
little queen. He became a daily visitor at the 'Squire's, and seemed to
have entirely forgotten everything else or utterly submerged it in his
unselfish devotion to the girl. The good 'Squire saw this with unbounded
delight.

So August quietly drifted by, and September hung its yellow banner on
the corn and said farewell with a sigh that had in it a smack of winter.

Rose's parents were wealthy and lived in Indianapolis, and now came the
time for the girl's return to her city home. Meanwhile a remarkable
change had taken place in the health and spirits of Zach Jones. The ague
had departed, the sallowness was gone from his skin, somewhat of flesh
had gathered on his cheeks, and in his eyes shone a cheerful light. He
was straight and almost plump, and his hair and beard had assumed a
gloss and liveliness they had never before known. He had thrown away
quinine and calomel, and his sleep at night was soft and sweet, broken
only by fair, happy dreams, that lingered long after he was awake. At
home his mother had far less trouble with him, and Sammy never got a
kick even if he did occasionally mention old fistleo in an equivocal
way. The amount of provender it required to satisfy Zach's appetite now
was a constant source of amazement to the widow.

The evening preceding Rose's departure was a fine one. The woods were
gold, the sky was turquoise. Instead of riding, as usual, the young
people took a stroll in the 'Squire's immense orchard. The apples were
ripe and ready to be gathered into the cellars; their mellow fragrance
flavored the autumn air so delicately that Zach said it smelt sweeter
than an oven full of sugar cakes.

When the young folk returned from their walk the 'Squire was standing on
the door step of his house. His quick eyes caught a glimpse of something
unsatisfactory in the faces of the approaching couple--Zach,
particularly, despite his evident effort to choke down something,
discovered unmistakable signs of suffering. Rose was simply sober and
thoughtful.

"What now, Zach?" asked the 'Squire, "sick, eh?" "D'know; guess I'm in
for a shake; wish to the Lord it'd shake my back bone clean out'n me!"
was the reply, in a queer gurgling voice. A bunch of fall roses fell
from his vest button-hole, but he did not pick it up. A hot flush, in
the midst of a ghastly pallor, burned on the cheeks of the speaker. Rose
tapped the ground with the toe of her kid boot, but did not speak.

The man and the girl stood there close together awhile, and the 'Squire
did not catch what they said as they shook hands and parted. When Zach
had gone home the 'Squire told Rose that he wished she would stay a
little longer, till the ague season was over, just on Zach's account.
Rose quietly replied, "I have already stayed too long;" but her voice
had an infinity of pity and sorrow in it that the 'Squire did not
detect.

Next morning Rose went home to the city and soon after made a brilliant
_debut_ in society, for she was really a charming little thing. That
winter was a festive one--a season of great social activity--and some of
its most direct and prominent results were a few notable marriages in
the spring, among which was that of Rose to a banker of P----, Kentucky,
the happy union being consummated in May.

On the very day of her wedding Rose received from her uncle the
following note:

     "DEAR NIECE:

     "Come to see us, even if you won't stay but one day. Come right
     off, if you're a Christian girl. Zach Jones is dying of
     consumption and is begging to see you night and day. He says
     he's got something on his mind he wants to say to you, and when
     he says it he can die happy. The poor fellow is monstrous bad
     off, and I think you ought to be sure and come. We're all well.
     Your loving uncle,

     "JARED MARTIN."

Something in this homely letter so deeply affected Rose that she
prevailed on her husband, a few days after their marriage, to take her
to 'Squire Martin's.

It was nearly sundown when the young wife, accompanied by the 'Squire,
entered the room of the dying man. He lay on a low bed by an open
window, through which, with hollow hungry eyes, he was gazing into the
blue distance that is called the sky of May. Birds were singing in the
trees all around the house, and a cool breath of violet-scented air
rippled through the window. The widow Jones, worn out with watching by
the sick bed, sat sleeping in her rude arm-chair; Sammy had gone after
the cow--a gift from the 'Squire.

The visitors entered softly, but Zach heard them and feebly turned his
head. He put out a bloodless hand and clasped the warm fingers of Rose,
pulling her into a seat by his couch. A wan smile flitted across his
face as he fixed his eyes, burning like sparks in the gray ash of a
spent fire, on hers, dewy with rising tears.

"The same little Rose you use to wus," he said, in a low faltering
voice, that had in it an unconquerable allegiance to the one dream of
his manhood. His unnaturally bright eyes ran swiftly over her face and
form, then closed, as if to fasten the vision within, that it might
follow him to eternity.

"The same little Rose you use to wus," he repeated, "only now you're
picked off the vine an' nobody can't touch ye but the owner. I'm a
poor, no 'count dyin' man, Rose, but you'll never----." His voice choked
a little and he did not finish the sentence. Perhaps he thought it were
better not finished.

A few moments of utter silence followed, during which, faintly, far out
in the field behind the house, was heard the childish voice of Sammy,
singing an old hymn, two lines of which were most distinctly heard by
those in the house.

"Ah, yes--

  "This world's a wilderness of woe,
  This world it ain't my home,"

chimed in the trembling voice of the sick man. Then, by an effort that
evidently taxed his fading powers to the last degree, he fixed his eyes
firmly on those of the young woman. Here was a martyr of the divine
sort, true and unchangeable in the flame of the torture.

"Rose, little Rose," he said, glancing uneasily at the 'Squire, "I've
got something private like to say to you."

The young woman trembled. Memory was at work.

"'Squire, go out a minute, will ye?" continued Zach.

The sick man's request was promptly obeyed, and Rose sat, drooping,
alone beside the bed, while the widow snored away.

Zach now more nervously clasped the hand of the young woman. A spot of
faint sunshine glimmered on the pillow close by the man's head. The
out-door sounds of the wind in the young grass, and the rustle of the
new soft leaves of the trees, crept into the room gently, as if not to
drown the low voice of the dying man.

"It's been on my mind ever since we parted, Rose, and I ort 'a' said it
then, but I choked an' couldn't; but I kin say it now and I will." He
paused a moment and Rose looked pitifully at him. His chin was thrust
out firmly and his lips had a determined set. He looked just as he did
when about to knock the poor old horse on the head over in the dell that
day. How vividly the tragic situation was recalled in Rose's mind!

"Yes, I will say it now, so I will," he resumed. "Since things turned
out jist as they have, Rose, I do wish I'd 'a' paid no 'tention to ye
an' jist gone on and knocked that derned ole fistleoed hoss so dead 'at
he'd 'a' never kicked--I do--I do, 'i hokey! I don't want to make ye
feel bad, but I'm goin' away now, an' it 'pears to me like as if I'd go
easy if I know'd you'd----." He turned away his face and drew just one
little fluttering breath. When, after only a few minutes' absence, the
'Squire came in, the widow still slept, the sweet air still rippled
through the room, but Rose held a dead hand; Zach was at rest! The
'Squire placed his hand on the bright hair of Rose and gazed mournfully
down into the pinched, pallid face of the dead. How awfully calm a dead
face is!

The widow stirred in her chair, groaned, and awoke. For a moment she
bent her eyes wonderingly, inquiringly on the young woman; then, rising,
she clasped her in her great bony arms.

"You are the Rose, the little Rose he's been goin' on so about. O,
honey, I'm orful glad you've come. You ort jist to 'a' heerd him talk
about ye when he got flighty like----but O--O--my! O Lor'! Zach--Zachy,
dear! O, Miss, O, he's dead--he's dead!"

"Dead, yes, dead!" echoed the 'Squire, his words dropping with the
weight of lead.

Across the fields of young green wheat ran waves of the spring wind,
murmuring and sighing, while the dust of blossoms wheeled, and rose and
fell in the last soft rays of the going sun. A big yellow butterfly
flitted through the room.

Presently Sammy entered. He came in like a gust of wind, making things
rattle with his impetuous motion.

"O, mammy! O, Zach! I's got s'thin' to tell ye, an' I'll bet a biscuit
you can't guess what 't is!" he cried breathlessly.

"O, Sammy, honey, O, dear!" groaned the widow.

"S-s-h!" said the 'Squire solemnly.

"Well, I jist wanted 'm to guess," replied Sammy, "for it's awful
doggone cur'u's 'at----"

"S-s-h!"

"The fistleo is broke out on Zach's ole hoss ten times as wuss as ever!"

"S-s-s-s-h!"

"It's so, for I seed it. It's layin' down over in the hollow by 'tater
creek, where the ole clay root is, an' its jist about to d----."

"S-s-h!"

The child caught a glimpse of the face and was struck mute. And darkness
stole athwart the earth, but the morrow's sun drove it away. Never,
however, did any sun or any season chase from the heart of little Rose
the shadow that was the memory of the man who died in that cabin.



STEALING A CONDUCTOR.


He shambled into the bar-room of the hotel at Thorntown, a Boone County
village, and, with a bow and a hearty "how-de do to you all," took the
only vacant chair. He scratched a match and lighted his pipe. "Now we'll
be bored with some sort of a long-winded story," whispered some to
others of the loungers present. "Never knowed him to fail," said a lank
fellow, almost loud enough for the subject to hear. "He's our travelled
man," added a youth, who winked as if he were extremely intelligent and
didn't mind letting folks know it.

The man himself whiffed away carelessly at his pipe, now and then
raising one eye higher than the other, to take a sort of side survey of
the persons present. That eye was not long in settling upon me, and
after a short, searching look, gleamed in a well pleased way. He was a
stout formed man of about fifty years, dressed rather seedily, and
wearing a plug hat of enormous height, the crown of which was battered
into the last degree of grotesqueness. He got right up, and, dragging
his chair behind him, came over and settled close down in front of me.

"Stranger here, a'n't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Your name's Fuller, a'n't it?"

"No, sir."

"Well, mebbe I'm mistaken, but you're just the picter o' Fuller. Never
was a conductor on a railroad, was you?"

"Never, sir."

"Never was down in the swamps o' South-Eastern Georgy, was you?"

"Never, sir."

"Well, that beats four aces! I could 'a' bet on your bein' Fuller." He
paused a moment, and then added in a very insinuating tone: "If you
_are_ Fuller you needn't be afeard to say so, for I don't hold any
grudge 'gin you about that little matter. Now, sure enough, a'n't your
name Fuller, in fact?"

I glared at the man a moment, hesitating about whether or not I should
plant my fist in his eye. But something of almost child-like simplicity
and sincerity beaming from his face restrained me. Surely the fellow did
not wish to be as impudent as his words would imply.

"Well, stranger, I see I've got to explain, but the story's not overly
long," said he, hitching up a little closer to me and settling himself
comfortably.

I was about to get up and walk out of the room, when some one of the
by-sitters filliped a little roll of paper to me. Unrolling it I read--

"Let him go on, he'll give you a lively one. He's a brick."

So, concluding that possibly I might be entertained, I lounged back in
my seat.

"You see," said he, "I thought you was Fuller, an' Fuller was the only
conductor I ever stole."

"Stole a conductor," whispered somebody, "that's a new one!"

"I've stole a good many things in my time, but I'm here to bet that no
other living Hoosier ever stole a railroad conductor, an' Fuller was the
only one I ever stole. I stole him slicker 'n a eel. I had him 'fore he
knowed it, and you jist better bet he was one clean beat conductor fore
I was done wi' 'im.

"I kin tell you the whole affair in a few minutes, and I da' say you'll
laugh a good deal 'fore I'm through. You see I went down to Floridy for
my health, and when I had about recivered I got onto a bum in
Jacksonville and spent all my money and everything else but my very
oldest suit o' clothes and my pistol, a Colt's repeater, ten inch
barrel. None o' you can't tell how a feller feels in a predicament o'
that sort. Somethin' got into my throat 'bout as big as a egg, and I
felt kinder moist about the eyes when I had to stare the fact in the
face that I was nigh onto, or possibly quite a thousand miles from home
without ary a dime in my pocket. But if there's one thing I do have more
'n another in my nater it's common sense grit. Well, what you s'pose I
done? W'y I jest lit out for home afoot. Well, sir, the derndest swamps
is them Floridy and Georgy swamps. It's ra'lly all one swamp--the
Okeefenokee. I follered the railroad that goes up to Savanny, and it led
me deeper and deeper into the outlying fringes of that terrible old bog.
When I had travelled a considerable distance into Georgy, and had pretty
well wore my feet off up to my ankle j'ints, and was about as close onto
starvation as a 'tater failure in Ireland, and when my under lip had got
to hanging down like the skirt o' a wore out saddle, and when every step
seemed like it'd be my last, I jest got clean despairing like and
concluded to pray a little. So I got down upon my knee j'ints and put
up a most extra-ornary supplication. I felt every word o' it, too, in
all the marrer of my bones. The place where I was a prayin' was a sort
o' hummock spot in a mighty bad part o' the swamp. Some awful tall pines
towered stupenjisly above me. Well, jest as I was finished, and was a
saying amen, the lordy mercy what a yowl something did give right over
me in a tree! I think I jumped as high as your head, stranger, and come
down flat-footed onto a railroad cross tie. Whillikins, how I was
scared! It was one o' them whooping owls they have down there. It was
while I was a running from that 'ere owl a thinkin' it was a panther,
that the thought struck me somewhere in the back o' the head that I
might steal a ride to Savanny on the first train 'at might pass. 'I'll
try it!' says I, and so I sot right down there in the swamp and calmly
waited for a train. In about a hour here come one, like the de'il a
braking hemp, jist more'n a roaring through the swamp. I forgot to tell
you 'at it was after dark, but the moon was dimly a shining through the
fog that covers everything there o' nights. Well, here come the train,
and as she passed I made a lunge at the hind platform of the last car
and some how or another got onto it and away I went. It was mighty much
softer 'n walking, I tell you, and I was pleased as a monkey with a red
cap on. My, how fast that train did go! I could hardly hold onto where I
wus. You may jist bet I clung on though, and finally I got myself
setting down on the steps and then I was all hunkey. But I didn't have
much time to enjoy myself there, though, for all of a sudden the light
of a lantern shined on me and then somebody touched me and said--

  'Ticket!'

"Mebbe you don't know how onery a feller'll feel sometimes when he hears
that 'ere word ticket--'specially when he a'n't got no ticket nor no
money to pay his fare, and too, when he does want to ride a little of
the derndest! That was my fix! I'd 'a' give a thousand dollars for a
half dollar!

  'Ticket!'

"He shook me a little this time and held his lantern down low, so's to
see into my face. I know I must 'a' looked like the de'il.

  'Ticket here, quick!'

  'I've done paid,' said I.

  'Show your check then.'

  'Lost it,' says I.

  'Money, then, quick!'

  'Got none,' says I.

  'What the ---- did you git onto my train for without ticket or money?
  How do you expect to travel without paying, you ---- lousy vagabond! You
  can't steal from me; out with your ---- wallet and gi' me the money!
  Hurry up!'

  'A'n't got no wallet nor no money,' says I.

  'Well, I'll dump you off right here, then,' said he, reaching for the
  bell-rope to stop the train.

  'For the Lord's sake let me ride to Savanny!' says I.

  'A dam Northerner, I know from your voice!' said he, pulling the rope.
  The train began to slack and soon stopped.

  'Get off!' said the conductor.

  'Please l'me ride!' says I.

  'Off with you!'

  'Jist a few miles here on the steps!'

  'Off, quick!'

  'Please----'

  'Here you go!' and as he said the words he tried to kick me off.

"In a second I was like a Bengal tiger. I jumped up and gethered him and
we went at it. I'm as good as ever fluttered, and pretty soon I give him
one flat on the nose, and we both went off 'n the platform together. As
I started off I happened to think of it, so I grabbed up and pulled the
bell-rope to signal the engineer to drive on. 'Hoot-toot!' says the
whistle, and away lick-to-split went the train, and slashy-to-splashy,
rattle-o-bangle, kewoppyty-whop, bump, thud! down me and that 'ere
conductor come onto a pile o' wore out cross ties in the side ditch, and
there we laid a fightin'!

"But you jest bet it didn't take me long to settle _him_. He soon began
to sing out ''nuff! 'nuff! take 'm off!' and so I took him by the hair
and dragged him off 'n the cross ties, shot him one or two more under
the ear with my fist, and then dropped him. He crawled up and stood
looking at me as if I was the awfulest thing in the world. I s'pect I
did look scary, for I was terrible mad. His face was bruised up
mightily, but he wasn't a bleeding much. He was mostly swelled.

  'Where's my train?' says he, in a sort o' blank, hollow way.

  'Don't ye hear it?' I answered him, 'It's gone on to Savanny!'

  'Gone! Who told 'm to go on? What'd they go leave me for?'

  'I pulled the bell rope,' says I.

  '_You?_'

  'Yes, _me_!'

  'What in the world did you do _that_ for, man?'

  ''Cause you wouldn't let me ride to Savanny!'

  'What'll I do! What'll I do!' he cried, beginning to waltz 'round like
  one possessed.

"I laughed--I couldn't help it--and at the same time I pulled out my old
pistol.

  'Yah-hoo-a!' yelled another owl.

  'For the sake o' humanity don't kill me!' said the conductor.

  'I'm jest a going to shoot you a little bit for the fun o' the thing,'
  says I.

  'Mercy, man!' he prayed.

  'Ticket!' says I.

"He groaned the awfulest kind, and, by the moonlight, I saw 'at the big
tears was running down his face. I felt sorry for him, but I kinder
thought 'at after what he'd done he'd better pray a little, so I
mentioned it to him.

  'I guess it mought be best if you'd pray a little,' says I, cocking the
  pistol. My voice had a decided sepulchreal sound. The pistol clicked
  very sharp.

  'O, kind sir,' says he, 'O, dear sir, I never did pray, I don't know how
  to pray!'

  'Ticket or check!' says I, and he knowed I was talking kind o' sarcasm.
  'Pray quick!'

"He got down and prayed like a Methodist preacher at his very best
licks. He must 'a' prayed afore.

"About the time his prayer was ended I heard a train coming in the
distance. He jumped up and listened.

  'Glory! Heaven be praised!' says he, capering around like a mad monkey,
  'They've missed me and are backing down to hunt me! Where's my lantern?
  Have you a match? Gi'me your handkerchief!'

  'Not so fast,' says I; 'you jest be moderate now, will you? I've no
  notion o' you getting on that train any more. You jest walk along wi'
  me, will you?'

  'Where?' says he.

  'Into the swamp,' says I; 'step off lively, too, d'you hear me?'

  'O mercy, mercy, man!' says he.

  'Ticket!' says I, and then he walked along wi' me into the swamp some
  two or three hundred yards from the railroad.

"I took him into a very thickety place, and made him back up agin a tree
and put back his arms around it. Then I took one o' his suspenders and
tied him hard and fast. Then I gagged him with my handkerchief. So far,
so good.

"Here come the train slowly backing down, the brakesman a swinging
lanterns, and the passengers all swarming onto the platforms. Poorty
soon they stopped right opposite us. The conductor began to struggle. I
poked the pistol in his face and jammed the gag furder into his mouth.
He saw I meant work and got quiet.

"The passengers was swarming off 'n the train and I saw 'at I must git
about poorty fast if I was to do anything. I soon hit on a plan. I jist
stepped back a piece out o' sight o' the conductor and turned my coat,
which was one o' these two-sided affairs, one side white, t'other brown.
I turned the white side out. Then I flung away my greasy skull cap and
took a soft hat out 'n my pocket and put it on. Then I watched my chance
and mixed in with the passengers who was a hunting for the conductor.

  'Strange what's become o' him,' says I to a fat man, who was puffing
  along.

  'Dim strange, dim strange,' says the big fellow, in a keen, wheezing
  voice.

"Well, you never saw jist sich hunting as was done for that conductor.
Everybody slopped around in the swamp till their clothes was as wet and
muddy as mine. I was monstrous active in the search. I hunted
everywhere 'cepting where the conductor was. Finally he got the gag spit
out and lordy how he did squeal for help. Everybody rushed to him and
soon had him free.

"It tickled me awful to hear that conductor explaining the matter. He
told it something like this:

  'Devil of a great big ruffian on hind platform. Asked him for ticket.
  Refused. Tried to put him off. Grabbed me. Smashed my nose. Flung me
  off. Pulled the bell-rope, then lit out on me. Mauled ---- out o' me.
  Had a pistol two feet long. Made me pray. Heard train a coming. Took me
  to swamp. Tied me and sloped. Lord but I'm glad to see you all!'

"We all went aboard o' the train and I rode to Savanny onmolested. The
conductor didn't mistrust me. He asked me for my check and I told him
'at I'd lost it a thrashing round in the bushes a hunting him. That was
all right.

"When we got to Savanny I couldn't help letting the conductor know me,
so as I passed down the steps of the car I whispered savagely in his
ear:

  'Ticket! dod blast you!'

"He tried to grab me as I shambled off into the crowd, but I knowed the
ropes. I heard him a shoutin'--

  'There he goes! Ketch him, dern him, ketch him!' But they didn't.

"That conductor's name was Fuller, and I swear, stranger, 'at you look
jest like him! Gi' me a match, will you, my pipe's out. Thanky. Hope I
ha'n't bored you. Good bye all."

He shambled out and I never saw him again.



HOIDEN.


The house was known as Rackenshack throughout the neighborhood for miles
around. It was a frame structure, originally of sorry workmanship, at
least thirty years old, and upon which not a cent's worth of repairing
had been done since first erected, wherefore the name was peculiarly
appropriate. It was not only old, rickety, paintless, half rotten and
sadly sunken at one end, but the fencing around the place was broken,
grown over with weeds, and slanted in as many ways as there were panels.
The lawn or yard in front of the house had some old cherry trees,
gnarled and decaying, growing in what had once been straight rows, but
storms and more insidious vicissitudes had twisted and curled them about
till they looked as though they had been thrown end foremost at the
ground hap-hazard. Under and all round these trees young sprouts, from
the scattered cherry seeds of many years of fruiting, had grown so thick
that one could with difficulty get through them. A narrow, well-beaten
path led from the gate, which lazily lolled on one hinge, up to the
decayed and sunken porch, in front of which was the well, with its
lop-eared windlass and dilapidated curb and shed.

A country thoroughfare, one of the old State roads leading westward to a
ferry on the Wabash river near the village of Attica and eastward to
either Crawfordsville, Indianapolis or Lafayette. This road was in the
direct line of emigration, and in the proper seasons long lines of
covered wagons rolled past, the drivers, a jolly set, hallooing to each
other and bandying sharp wit and rude sarcasm at the expense of
Rackenshack. Poor old house, it leered at the passers, with its windows
askew, and clattered its loose boards and battered shutters in utter and
complacent defiance of all their jeers!

Rackenshack belonged to Luke Plunkett and Betsy, his sister; the latter
an old maid beyond all cavil, the former a bachelor of about thirty. The
lands of the estate were pretty broad, comprising some two thousand
acres of rich prairie and "river bottom" land, which had been kept in a
much better state of improvement than the house had. In fact, Luke was
considered a careful, industrious, frugal farmer. He had large, well
regulated barns and stock sheds and stables--plenty of fine horses,
cattle, hogs, sheep and mules, all well fed and cared for, and it was
generally understood that he had a pretty round deposit in a bank.

Perhaps 'Squire Rube Fink, sometimes called "the Rev. Major Fink" and
sometimes "Talking Rube," gives the best description of Luke's
condition, habits and surroundings, that I can offer. It is truthful and
singularly graphic. He says:

"Luke Plunkett's no fool if he does live at Rack-a-me-shack and 'spect
the ole rotten tabernacle to fall down on him every time a rooster crows
close by. That feller's long-headed, he is. To be sure, sartinly, his
barn's a dern sight better 'n his house, but his head's level, for, d'ye
see, that's the way to make money. A house don't never make no money for
a feller--it's nothin' but dead capital to put money into a fine
dwellin'. Luke's pilin' his money in the bank. He's been doin' a sharp
thing in wheat and live stock at Cincinnati, and I guess he knows what
he's about. He don't keer about what sort o' house he lives in. But I
tell you that red haired sister o' his'n is lightning. She's what bosses
the job all round that ole shanty; but she can't red-hair it over Luke
in the farm matters. He has his own way. He's so quiet and peculiar; a
still, say nothin', bull-dog sort o' man he is."

Indeed, Luke was one of that quiet sort of men who, without ever once
loudly asserting a right or disputing any word you say, invariably go
ahead on their own judgment and carry their point in everything.
Nevertheless, he was a man of fine, generous nature at bottom, a good
brother and a worthy friend.

But it was with Luke just as it is, more or less, with us all. He
absorbed into his life the spirit of his surroundings. He grew somewhat
to resemble Rackenshack in outward appearance. He became slovenly in his
dress and let his hair and beard grow wild. His naturally handsome face
gradually took on a sort of good humored ugliness, and his heavy
shoulders slanted over like the uneven gables of his house. He became an
inveterate chewer and smoker of tobacco. What time a quid of the weed
was not in his mouth, the short thick stem of a dark, nicotine-coated
briar-root pipe took its place there.

Luke was an early riser; therefore it happens that our story properly
begins on a fine June morning, just before sunrise. The birds seemed to
suspect that a story was to date from that hour, for they were up
earlier than usual and made a great rustle of wings and a sweet Babel of
voices in the old cherry trees. There were the oriole, the cat bird, the
yellow throat, the brown thrush and the red bird, all putting forth at
once their charmingest efforts. The old cherry trees, knee deep in the
foliage of their under growing seedlings, gleamed dusky green in the
early light, as Luke, bareheaded, barefooted and in his "shirt sleeves,"
as the phrase goes, issued from the front door of Rackenshack, and
walked down the path across the yard to the gate at the road. Of late he
had been in the habit of "taking a smoke" the first thing after getting
up in the morning, and somehow the gate, though off one hinge and having
doubtful tenure of the other, was his favorite thing to lean upon while
watching the whiffs of blue smoke slowly float away.

On this particular morning he seemed a little agitated; and, indeed, he
was vexed more deeply than he had ever before been. Just the preceding
evening he had learned that a corps of civil engineers were rapidly
approaching his premises with a line of survey, and that the purpose was
to locate and build a railway right through the middle of his farm. To
Luke the very idea was outrageous. He felt that he could never stand
such an imposition. His land was his own, and when he wanted it dug up
and leveled down and a track laid across it he would do it himself. He
did not want his farm cut in two, his fields disarranged and his fences
moved, nor did he wish to see his live stock killed by locomotives. The
truth is he was bitterly opposed to railroads, any how. They were
innovations. They were enemies to liberty. They brought fashion, and
spendthrift ways, and speculation, and all that along with them. Other
folks might have railroads if they wanted them, but they must not bother
him with them. He could take care of his affairs without any railroads.
Besides, if he wanted one he could build it. He hung heavily upon the
gate, thinking the matter over, and would not have bestowed a second
glance at the carriage that came trundling past if he had not caught the
starry flash of a pair of blue eyes and a rosy, roguish girl's face
within. The beauty of that countenance struck the great rough fellow
like a blow. He stared in a dazed, bewildered way. He took his pipe from
his mouth and involuntarily tried to hide his great big bare feet behind
the gate post. He felt a queer, dreamy thrill steal all over him. It
was his first definite impression of feminine beauty. Instantly that
round, happy, mischievous face, with its dimples and indescribable
shining lines of half latent mirth, set itself in his heart forever.

The carriage trundled on in the direction of the ferry. Luke followed it
with his eyes till it disappeared round a turn in the road; then he put
the pipe to his mouth again and began puffing vigorously, wagging his
head in a way that indicated great confusion of mind. There are times
when a glimpse of a face, the sudden half-mastering of a new, grand
idea, a view of a rare landscape or even a cadence in some new tune,
will start afresh the long dried up wells of a heart. Something like
this had happened to Luke.

"Sich a gal! sich a gal!" he murmured from the corner of his mouth
opposite his pipe stem. "I don't guess I'm a dreamin' now, though I feel
a right smart like it. I _hev_ dreamed of that 'ere face though, many of
times. I've seed it in my sleep a thousand times, but I never s'posed
'at I'd see it shore enough when I'd be awake! Sweetest dreams I ever
had--sweetest face God ever made! I wonder who she is?" As if to
supplement Luke's soliloquy at this point, a cardinal red bird flung
out from the dusky depths of the oldest cherry tree an ecstatic carol,
and a swallow, swooping down from the clear purple heights, almost
touched the man's cheek with its shining wings, and the sun lifted its
flaming face in the east and flooded the fields with gold.

Luke turned slowly toward the old house. The breeze that came up with
the sun poured through the orchard with a broad, joyous surge, while
something like blowing of strange winds and streaming of soft sunlight
made strangely happy the inner world of the smitten Hoosier. His big
strong heart fluttered mysteriously. He actually took his pipe from his
lips and broke into a snatch of merry song, that startled Betsy, his
sister, from her morning nap.

For the time the hated railroad survey was forgotten. The landscape at
Rackenshack, as if by a turn of the great prisms of nature, suddenly
took on rainbow hues. The fields flashed with jewels, and the woods, a
wall of dusky emerald, were wrapped in a roseate mist, stirred into
dreamy motion by the breeze. A light, grateful fragrance seemed to
pervade all space, as if flung from the sun to soften and enhance the
charm of his gift of light and heat. Such a hold did all this take upon
Luke, and so utterly abstracted was he, that when breakfast was ready
Betsy was obliged to remind him of the fact that he had neglected to
wash his face and hands, and comb his hair and beard--things absolutely
prerequisite to eating at her table.

"Forgot it, sure's the world," said Luke; "don't know what ever
possessed me."

"Maybe you've forgot to turn the cows into the milk stalls, too?" said
Betsy.

"If I ha'n't I'm a gourd!" and Luke scratched his head distractedly.

"What'd I tell you, Luke Plunkett? It's come at last, O lordy! You're as
crazy as a June bug all along of smoking that old pipe! Rot the nasty,
stinking old thing! It's a perfect shame, Luke, for a man to just smoke
what little brains he's got clean out. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself, so you ought!"

While she was speaking Betsy got the big wooden washbowl for her
brother, whereupon he proceeded to make his ablutions in a most
energetic way, taking up great double handfuls of water and sousing his
face therein with loud puffings, that enveloped his head in a cloud of
spray.

When a clean tow linen towel had served its purpose, Luke remarked:

"Don't know but what I _am_ some'at crazy in good earnest, Betsy, since
I come to think it all over. I'm r'ally onto it a right smart. What'd
you think, Betsy, if I'd commence talkin' 'oman to ye?"

"Luke, Luke! are you crazy? Is your mind clean gone out of your poor
smoky head?"

"That's not much of a answer to my question."

"Well, what _do_ you mean, _anyhow_?"

"I mean business, that's what!"

"Luke!"

"Yes'm."

"Do try to act sensible now. What is it, Luke? What makes your eyes look
so strange and dance about so? What do you mean by all this queer talk?"

Luke finished combing, and, going to the table, sat down and was
proceeding to discuss the fried chicken and coffee without further
remark, but Betsy was not so easily balked. She, like most red haired
women, wished her questions to be fully and immediately answered,
wherefore some indications of a storm began to appear.

Luke smiled a quiet little smile that had hard work getting out through
his beard. Betsy trotted her foot under the table. Her hand trembled as
she poured the coffee--trembled so violently that she scalded her left
thumb. It was about time for Luke to speak or have trouble, so, in a
very gentle voice, he said:

"Well, I saw a gal--a gal an' her father, I reckon--go by this mornin'."

"Well, what of it? S'pose there's plenty of girls and their fathers,
ain't there?" snapped Betsy.

Luke drew a chicken leg through his mouth, laid down the bone, leered
comically at his sister from under his bushy eyebrows, and said:

"But the gal was purty, Betsy--purty as a pictur', sweet as a peach,
juicy an' temptin' as a ripe, red cored watermillion! You can't begin to
guess how sweet an' nice she did look. My heart just flolloped and
flopped about, an' it's at it yet!"

"Luke Plunkett, you _are_ crazy! You're just as distracted as a blind
dog in high rye. Drink a cup of hot coffee, Luke, and go lie down a bit,
you'll feel better." The spinster was horrified beyond measure. She
really thought her brother crazy.

The man finished his meal in silence, smiling the while more grimly
than before, after which he took his shot gun and a pan of salt and
trudged off to a distant field to salt some cattle. He always carried
his gun with him on such occasions, and not unfrequently brought back a
brace of partridges or some young squirrels. As he strode along,
thinking all the time of the girl in the carriage, he suddenly came upon
a corps of engineers with transit, level, rod and chain, staking out,
through the centre of a choice field, a line of survey for a railroad.
In an instant he was like a roaring lion. He glared for a second or so
at the intruders, then lowering his gun he charged them at a run,
storming out as he did so:

"What you doin' here, you onery cusses, you! Leave here! Get out!
Scratch! Sift! Dern yer onery skins, I'll shoot every dog of ye! Git out
'n here, I say--out, out!"

The corps stampeded at once. The surveyor seized his transit, the
leveller his level, the rod man his rod, the axe men and chain men their
respective implements, and away they went, "lick-to-split, like a passel
o' scart hogs," as Luke afterwards said, "as fast as they could ever
wiggle along!"

No wonder they ran, for Luke looked like a demon of destruction. It was
a wild race for the line fence, a full half mile away. The leveler,
being the hindmost man, rolled over this fence just as a heavy bowlder,
hurled by Luke, struck the top rail. It was a close shave, a miss of a
hair's breadth, a marvelous escape. Luke rushed up to the fence and
glared over at his intended victims. Here he knew he must stop, for he
doubted the legality of pursuing them beyond the confines of his own
premises. Somewhat out of breath he leaned on the fence and proceeded to
swear at the corps individually and collectively, shaking his fists at
them excitedly, till the appearance of a new man on the scene made him
start and stare as if looking at a ghost. He was a well dressed,
gentlemanly appearing person of about the age of forty-five, pale and
thoughtful--calm, gray eyed, commanding. Luke recognized him at once as
the man he had seen in the carriage, and, indeed, the vehicle itself
stood hard by, with a beautiful, laughing, roguish face looking out of
one of the windows. The lion in the stalwart farmer was quelled in an
instant. He felt his legs grow weak. He set his gun by the fence and
touched his hat to the little lady.

"Your name, I believe, is Luke Plunkett?" said the approaching
gentleman.

"Yes, sir," said Luke.

"You own two thousand acres of land here?"

"Yes, sir."

"Your residence is called Rackenshack?"

"Yes, sir." (Suppressed titter from the carriage.)

"So I thought. Pull back, men (addressing the corps), pull back to where
you dropped the line and bring it right along. Mr. Plunkett will not
harm you now."

The corps began to move. Luke fiercely seized his gun; but before he
could lift it or utter a word, a ten-inch Colt's repeater was thrust
into his face by the calm gentleman, and a steady hand held it there.

"Mr. Plunkett," said the man, "I am the chief engineer of the ----
Railroad. I am making a location. The laws of this State give me the
right to go upon your land with my corps and have the survey made. I am
not to be trifled with. If you offer to cock that gun I'll put six holes
through you. What do you say, now?"

The voice was that of a cold man of business. There was a coffin in
every word. The muzzle of the pistol steadily covered Luke's left eye.
The situation was rigid. Luke hesitated--his face ashy with anger and
fear, his eyes alternating their glances between the muzzle of the
pistol and that wonderful shining face at the carriage.

"Shoot him, papa, shoot him! Shoot him!" Sweet as a silver bell rang out
the girl's voice, more like a ripple of idle song than a murderous
request, and then a clear, happy laugh went echoing off through the
woods in which the carriage stood.

Slowly, steadily, Luke let fall the breech of his gun upon the ground
beside him. The engineer smiled grimly and lowered his pistol, while the
corps, headed by the surveyor, took up its line of march to the point
where work had been so suddenly left off.

The young lady clapped her tiny white hands for joy.

A big black woodpecker began to cackle in a tree hard by.

Luke felt like a man in a dream.

The whole adventure, so far, had been clothed in most unreal seeming.

It can hardly be told how, by rapid transitions from one thing to
another in his talk, the engineer drew Luke's mind away from the late
difficulty and gradually aroused in him a kindly feeling. In less than
ten minutes the two men were sitting side by side on a log, smoking
cigars from the engineer's pouch and chatting calmly, amicably.

Luke's eyes often rested steadily fixed in the direction of the
carriage. Through the thin veil of tobacco smoke the face of the young
girl seemed to the farmer angelic in its beauty. All around the sweets
of summer rose and fell, and drifted like scarcely visible shining
mists, fraught with the spice of leaf and perfume of blossom, agitated
by swells of tricksy wind, going on and on to the mysterious goal of the
season.

The two men talked on until the corps had pushed the line of survey far
past them into the cool, shady deeps of the woods, whence their voices
came back fainter and fainter every moment. At length the engineer
arose, and stretching out his hand to Luke, said:

"Mr. Plunkett, I'm sure I'll be able to serve you some time; let us be
friends. I shall be in this vicinity most of the time till the road is
built. No doubt I can show a way to profit by the construction of a
railroad across your land. If you are sharp it will make your fortune. I
like your independent way, sir, and hope to know you better. Here is my
card."

Luke took the bit of pasteboard without saying a word. They shook hands
and the engineer got into his carriage.

"Here's my card, too, Mr. Plunkett," cried the girl. She said something
more, but the horses were made to plunge rapidly away, and the words
were lost; but the flash of a white jewelled hand caught Luke's eye as a
delicately tinted card came fluttering towards him. He sprang and seized
it. If a bag of diamonds had been flung at his feet he could not have
been more excited. His hands trembled. All the incidents of the only
fairy tale he had ever read came at once into his mind. He stood with
his feet turned in, like some great awkward boy, a bashful, shame-faced
look lurking about his mouth and eyes. He filled his pipe and lighted it
from the stump of his cigar with nervous eagerness. A squirrel came down
to the lowest limbs of a beech tree hard by and barked at him, but he
did not notice it. He read the names on the cards:

  "_Elliot Pearl, C. E._"
     "_Hoiden Pearl._"

The first printed in small capitals, the second written in a delicate,
rather cramped feminine hand. He stood for a long time dreamily employed
in turning these bits of paper over and over. His thoughts were so vague
in outline and so dim in filling up that they cannot be reproduced. They
slipped away on the summer air, like little puffs of perfume, and were
lost, to be found by many and many a one in the ineffable places of
dreamland. Finally, shaking himself as if to break the charm that held
him in its meshes, he took up his gun and slowly made his way homeward.
All along his walk he kept smiling to himself and talking aloud, but his
words were such that it would be sacrilege to repeat them now. Let them
hover about in the sunlight of summer, where he uttered them, as things
too delicate to be pressed between the lids of a book.

Betsy had trouble with Luke for some days after this. He lay about the
house, saying little, eating little, giving little attention to the many
tenants who worked his estate. He was in good health, was not in trouble
(so he said to his sister), but he did not care to be bothered with
business. He was tired and would rest awhile. "He smoked pretty near all
the time," as Betsy declared. But not a hint fell from his lips as to
what might be running in his mind.

So the days slipped past till July hung golden mists on the horizon and
filled the woods with that rare stillness and dusky slumbrousness that
follows the maturing of the foliage and the coming on of fruit. The
cherry trees at Rackenshack had grown ragged and dull, and the birds,
excepting a few swallows wheeling about the old chimney tops, had all
flown away to the woods and fields. The wheat had been cut and stacked,
the corn had received its last ploughing. Still Luke hung about the
house annoying Betsy with his pipe and his utter carelessness. That he
was "distracted" Betsy did not for a moment doubt. She used every means
her small stock of wit could invent to urge him out of his singular
mood, but without avail. He took to the few old novels he could find
about the house, but sometimes he would gaze blankly at a single
paragraph for a whole hour.

One morning as he lay on the porch, his head resting upon the back of a
chair, reading, or pretending to read an odd volume of "The Scottish
Chiefs," a little boy, 'Squire Brown's son, came to bring home a
monkey-wrench his father had borrowed some time before. The boy was a
bright, rattle-box, say-everything, pop-eyed sort of child, and was not
long telling all the news of the neighborhood. Luke gave little
attention to what he was saying, till at length he let fall something
about a young lady--a fine, rich young lady, staying at Judge
Barnett's--a young lady who could outrun him, out jump him, beat him
playing marbles and ball, who could climb away up in the June apple
tree, who could ride a colt bareback, who could beat Jim Barnett
shooting at a mark, who could, in fact, do a half a hundred things to
perfection that strict persons would think a young lady should never do
at all, but which seemed to make a heroine of her in the narrator's
boyish view.

"What's the gal's name?" queried Luke in a slow, lazy way, but his eyes
shot a gleam of hope.

"Hoidy Pearl," replied the lad.

Hoiden Pearl! That name had been woven into every sound that had reached
Luke's ears for days and nights and nights together, and now, like a
sweet tune nearly mastered, it took a deeper, tenderer meaning as the
boy pronounced it in his childish way.

"Hoidy Pearl is her name," the lad continued. "She's come to stay at the
Judge's all summer till the new railroad's finished. Her father's the
boss of the road. She's jest the funniest girl, o-o-e! And she likes me,
too!"

Luke raised himself to a sitting posture and looked at the boy so
earnestly that he drew back a pace or two as if afraid.

"Boy, you're not lyin', are ye?" said the man in a low, earnest tone.

"No I'm not, neither," was the quick reply.

Luke got up, flung aside his book and strolled off into the woods.
Wandering there in the cool, silent places, he dreamed his dream. For
hours he sat by a little spring stream in the dense shadow of a big
cotton-wood tree. The birds congregated about him, and chirped and sang;
the squirrels came out chattering and frisking from branch to branch;
but he gave them no look of recognition--he saw them not, heard them
not. The birds might have lit upon his head and the squirrels might have
run in and out of his pockets with impunity. He smoked all the time,
refilling and relighting his pipe whenever it burned out. He did not
know how much he was smoking, nor that he was smoking at all. A bright
face set in a mass of yellow curls, a wee white hand all spangled with
jewels, a voice sweeter than any bird's, a name--Hoiden Pearl--these
rang, and danced, and echoed, and shone in the recesses of his brain and
heart to the exclusion of all else. He was trying to think, but he could
not. He wanted to mature a plan, but not even an outline could find room
in his head. It was full. Strange, indeed, it may seem, that a rough
farmer of Luke's age should thus fall into the ways of the imaginative,
sentimental stripling; but, after all, the fit must come on some time
in life. No doubt it goes harder with some constitutions than with
others. Luke may have been unwittingly strongly predisposed that way.
Neither the exterior of a man nor his surroundings will do to judge him
by. Nature is that mysterious in all her ways. Luke talked aloud,
sometimes gesticulating in a quiet way.

"I _must_ see the gal--I _will_ see the gal," he muttered at last. "It's
no use talkin', I jist will see her!"

Suddenly a light broke from his face. He smiled like one who has victory
in his grasp--like an editor who has an idea, like a reviewer who has
found some bad verse. He got up immediately, went back to the barn,
hitched a horse to a small road wagon and drove to town. There he spent
time and money with a merchant tailor and other vendors of clothing. He
was very fastidious in his selection. Nothing but the finest would do
him. A few days after this he brought home a trunk full of princely
raiment--broad cloth and fine linen. Betsy was struck dumb with
amazement when the trunk was opened. A dream of such costly things, such
reckless extravagance, would have driven her mad. Silent, open-eyed,
wondering, she came in and stood behind Luke while he was unpacking. He
looked up presently and saw her. His face flushed violently, and in a
half-whining, half-ashamed tone he muttered:

"Now, Betsy, you jest git out'n here faster'n ye come in, for I'm not
goin' to stan' no foolin' at all, now. These 'ere's my clothes and paid
for out'n my money, an' I'm the jedge of what I need. I ha'n't had any
good duds for a long time, and I'm tired o' lookin' like a scarecrow
made out'n a salt bag. I've been thinkin' for a long time I'd git these
'ere things, an' now I've got'm. You kin git you some if ye like, but I
don't want ye a standin' round here gawpin' at me on 'count o' my
clothes; so you go off an' mind yer own affairs. It's no great sight to
see some shirts, an' coats, and pants, an' collars, an' vests, an' sich
like, is it?"

Before this speech was finished Betsy had backed out of the room and
closed the door. As she did so she let go a sigh that came back to Luke
like a Parthian arrow; but it happened just then that he was holding up
in front of him a buff linen vest which kept the missile from his heart.

He dressed himself with great care, and an hour later he slipped out of
the house unseen, and took his way towards the rather pretentious
residence of Judge Barnett, the gables of which, a mile away, gleamed
between rows of Lombardy poplars. The Judge was one of those half
cultivated men who, in every country neighborhood, pass for prodigies of
learning and ability. He was the autocrat of the county in political and
social affairs--one of those men who really know a great deal, but who
arrogate more. He got his title from having been County Commissioner
when the court house was building. Some said he made money out of the
transaction, but our story is silent there.

It would have been an interesting study for a philosopher to have
watched Luke throughout the singular ramble he took that morning. It
would have been such a manifest revelation of the state of the fellow's
feelings. It would have minutely disclosed, and more eloquently than any
verbal confession, the rise and fall, the ebb and flow, the alternating
strength and weakness of his purpose, and the will behind it. Then, too,
it would have let fall delightful hints of the unselfishness of his new
and all-engrossing passion, and of the charming simplicity and sincerity
of his great rugged nature at its inner core. At first he struck out
boldly a direct line to Judge Barnett's residence, his face beaming
with the light of settled happiness, but as he neared the pleasant
grounds surrounding the house he began to discover some trepidation. His
gait wavered, the expression of his face shifted with each step, and
soon his course was indeterminate--a fitful sauntering from this place
to that--a tricksy, uneven flight, like that of a lazy butterfly, if one
may indulge the comparison--a meandering in and out among the trees of a
small walnut grove--a strolling here and there, now along the verge of a
well set old orchard, now down the low hedge behind the garden, and anon
leaning over the board fence that inclosed the Judge's ample barn and
stable lot; he gazed wistfully, half comically, in the direction of the
upper windows of the farm house. It was one of those peculiarly yellow
days of summer, when everything swims in a golden mist. The blue birds
floated aimlessly about from stake to stake of the fences; the wind,
felt only in jerky puffs, blew no particular way, and as idly and as
eccentrically as any blue bird, and in full accord with the fitful will
of the wind, Luke drifted through the sheen of summer all round Barnett
Place. He lazed about, humming a tune, and, for a wonder, not
smoking--half restless, half contented, looking for something, scarcely
expecting anything. When once a great rough man does get into a childish
way, he is a child of which ordinary children would be ashamed, and just
then Luke, the big bashful fellow, was an instance strikingly in point.
Occasionally he talked half aloud to himself. Once, while lounging on
the orchard fence, gazing down between the long rows of russet and
pippin trees, he said dreamily,

"I _must_ see her. I can't go back 'ithout seein' her." It so chanced
that just then a shower of blackbirds fell upon the orchard, covering
the trees and the ground, flying over and over each other, twittering
and whistling as only blackbirds can. Their wings smote together with a
tender rustling sound like that of a spring wind in young foliage, or of
a thousand lovers whispering together by moonlight. Luke watched them a
long while, a doleful shade gathering in his face. "The little things
loves each other," he muttered; "everything loves something; an' jest
dern my lights ef I don't love the gal, an' I'm boun' to see her!"
Seemingly nerved by sudden resolution, he climbed over the fence and
started at a slashing pace across the orchard towards the house, scaring
all the birds into an ecstasy of flight, so that they dashed themselves
against the foliage of the apple trees, making it rustle and sway as if
blown on by a strong wind. He did not keep on, however. His resolution
seemed to burn out about midway the orchard. He began to drift around
again, his pace becoming slower and slower. His shoulders drooped
forward as if burdened with a great load, his eyes turned restlessly
from side to aide.

"I jest can't do it!" he murmured--"I jest can't do it, an' I mought as
well go back!" There was a petulant ring to his voice--a nervous,
worried tone, that had despair in it.

Out of a June apple tree right over his head fell a sweet, silvery, half
child's, half woman's voice, that thrilled him through every fibre to
the marrow of his bones.

"What's the matter, Goosey? What have you lost! What are you hunting
for? Want a good apple?"

Luke looked up just in time to catch squarely on his nose a fine, ripe
June apple, and through a mist of juice and a sheeny curtain of leaves
he saw the lovely face he had come to look for. A thump on the nose from
an apple, no matter if it is ripe and soft, is a little embarrassing,
and it only makes it more so when the racy wine of the fruit flies into
one's eyes and all over one's new clothes. But there are moments of
supreme bliss when such a mishap passes unnoticed. Luke felt as if the
blow had been the touch of a magician conjuring up a scene that held him
rapt and speechless.

"O, my! I didn't go to hit you! Please excuse me, sir--do. I thought
you'd catch it in your hands."

She came lightly down from the tree, descending like a bird, easily,
gracefully, as if she had been born to climb. She murmured many
apologies, but the genius of fun danced in her saucy, almost impertinent
eyes, belying her regretful words. Luke looked down at her dazed and
speechless. She, however, was full of prattle--half childish, half
womanly, half serious, half bantering--her eyes upturned to his, her
voice a very bird's in melody. In the more innocent sense of the word
she looked like her name, Hoiden. Nothing unchaste or indelicate about
her appearance; just a sort of want of restraint; a freedom that
amounted to an utter lack of responsibility to the ordinary claims and
dictates of propriety. A close, trained, intelligent observer would have
seen at once that she was wilful, spoiled, unbridled, but not bad, not
in the least vicious; really innocent and full of good impulses. She was
beautiful, too--wonderfully beautiful--just on the hither side of
womanhood, plump, budding, bewitching. How she did it can never be
known, but she soon had Luke racing with her all over the orchard. They
climbed trees together, they scrambled for the same apple, they laughed,
and shouted, and played till the horn at the farmhouse called the field
hands to dinner. They parted then, as children part, promising to meet
again the next day. The girl's cheeks were rosy with exercise, so were
Luke's.

How strange! Day after day that great, bearded, almost middle-aged,
uncouth farmer went and played slave to that chit of a girl, doing
whatever ridiculous or childish thing she proposed, caring for nothing,
asking for nothing but to be with her, listen to her voice and feast his
eyes upon her beauty. He gladly bore everything she heaped upon him, and
to be called "Goosey" by her was to him inexpressibly charming.

Betsy's womanly nature was not to be deceived. She soon comprehended
all; but she dared not mention the subject to Luke. He was in no mood to
be opposed. So he went on--and Betsy sighed.

The summer softened into autumn. The maple leaves reddened. The long
grass turned brown and lolled over. A softness and tenderness lurked in
the deep blue sky, and the air had a sharp racy fragrance from ripe
fruit and grain. Meantime the railroad had been pushed with amazing
rapidity nearly to completion. Every day long construction trains went
crashing-across Luke's farm. Passenger coaches were to be put on in a
few days. Luke was the very picture of happiness. He seemed to grow
younger every day. His worldly prospects, too, were flattering. A
station had been located on his land, around which a town had already
begun to spring up. The vast value of Luke's timber, walnut and oak, was
just beginning to appear; indeed, immense wealth lay in his hands. But
his happiness was of a deeper and purer sort than that generated by
simple pecuniary prosperity. Hoiden Pearl was in the focus of all his
thoughts; her face lighted his dreams, her voice made the music that
charmed him into a wonderland of bliss. He said little about her, even
to Betsy, but it needed no sharpness of sight to discover from his face
what was going on in his heart. He had even forgotten his pipe. He had
not smoked since that first day in the orchard. He had straightened up
and looked a span taller.

The girl did not seem to dream of any tender attachment on Luke's part.
In fact he gave her no cause for it. He fed on his love inwardly and
never thought of telling it. To be with her was enough. It satisfied all
his wants. She was frank and free with him, but tyrannized over
him--ordered him about like a servant, scolded him, flattered him,
pouted at him, smiled on him, indeed kept him crazy with rapture all the
time. Once only she became confidentially communicative. It was one day,
sitting on an old mossy log in the Judge's woodland pasture, she told
him the story of her past life. How thrillingly beautiful her face
became as it sobered down with the history of early orphanage! Her
father had died first; then her mother, who left her four years old in
the care of Mr. Pearl, her paternal uncle, with whom she had ever since
been, going from place to place, as the calls of his nomadic profession
made it necessary, from survey to survey, from this State to that,
seeing all sorts of people, and receiving her education in small,
detached parcels. The story was a sad, unsatisfactory one, breathing
neglect, yet full of a certain kind of sprightliness, and touched here
and there with the fascination of true romance.

It is hard to say when Luke would have awakened from his tender trance
to the strong reality of love. He was too contented for
self-questioning, and no act or word of Hoiden's invited him to consider
what he was doing or whither he was drifting.

It was well for Luke and the girl, too, that it was a sparsely settled
neighborhood, for evil tongues might have made much of their constant
companionship and childish behavior.

As for the Judge, after it was all over he admitted that he felt some
qualms of conscience about allowing such unlimited intimacy to go on,
but he excused himself by saying that the girl, when confined to the
house, was such an unmitigated nuisance that he was glad for some one to
monopolize her company.

"Why," said he, in his peculiar way, "she set the whole house by the
ears. She made more clatter and racket than a four-horse Pennsylvania
wagon coming down a rocky hill. She would go from garret to cellar like
a whirlwind and twist things wrong side out as she went----she was a
tart!"

But at length, toward the middle of autumn the end came. Luke had
business with some hog-buyers in Cincinnati, whither he was gone
several days. Meantime the railroad was completed, and Mr. Pearl came to
the Judge's early one morning and called for Hoiden. His business with
his employers was ended, and he had just finished an arrangement that
had long been on foot to go to one of the South American States and take
charge of a vast engineering scheme there. The girl was delighted. Such
a prospect of travel and adventure was enough to set one of her
temperament wild with enthusiasm. She flew to packing her trunk, her
face radiant with joy.

Only an hour later Mr. Pearl and Hoiden stood at the new station on
Luke's land, waiting for the east-going train. Mr. Pearl happened to
think of a business message he wished to leave for Luke, so he went into
the depôt building and wrote it. When Hoiden saw the letter was for Luke
she begged leave to put in a few words of postscript, and she had her
way.

The train came and the man and girl were whirled away to New York, and
thence they took ship for South America, never to return.

Next day Luke came back, bringing with him a beautifully carved mahogany
box mounted in silver. Betsy met him at the door, and, woman-like, told
the story of Hoiden's departure almost at the first breath.

"Gone all the way to South America," she added, after premising that she
would never return.

A peculiarly grim, grayish smile mantled the face of Luke. He swallowed
a time or two before he could speak.

"Come now, sis" (he always said "sis" when he felt somewhat at Betsy's
mercy), "come now, sis, don't try to fool me. I'm goin' right over to
see the gal now, an' I've got what'll tickle her awfully right here in
this 'ere box."

Out in the yard the blue jays and woodpeckers were quarrelling over the
late apples heaped up by the cider mill. The sky was clear, but the
sunlight, coming through a smoky atmosphere, was pale, like the smile of
a sick man. The wind of autumn ran steadily through the shrubby weedy
lawn with a sigh that had in it the very essence of sadness.

"I tell you, Luke, I'm not trying to fool you; they've gone clean to
South America to stay always," reiterated Betsy.

Luke gazed for a moment steadily into his sister's eyes, as if looking
for a sign. Slowly his stalwart body and muscular limbs relaxed and
collapsed. The box fell to the floor with a crash, where it burst,
letting roll out great hoops of gold and starry rings and pins--a gold
watch and chain, a beautiful gold pen and pencil case, and trinkets and
gew-gaw things almost innumerable. They must have cost the full profits
of his business trip.

Luke staggered into a chair. Betsy just then happened to think of the
letter that had been left for her brother. This she fetched and handed
to him. It was the note of business from Mr. Pearl. There was a
postscript in a different hand:

  "_Good-bye, Goosey!_
              _Hoidy Pearl._"

That was all. Luke is more morose and petulant than he used to be. He is
decaying about apace with Rackenshack, and he smokes constantly. He is
vastly wealthy and unmarried.

Betsy is quiet and kind. Up stairs in her chest is hidden the mahogany
coffer full of golden testimonials of her brother's days of happiness
and the one dark hour of his despair!



THE PEDAGOGUE.


He was one of the farmer princes of Hoosierdom, a man of more than
average education, a fluent talker and ready with a story. Knowing that
I was looking up reminiscences of Hoosier life and specimens of Hoosier
character, he volunteered one evening to give me the following, vouching
for the truth of it. Here it is, as I "short-handed" it from his own
lips. I omit quotation marks.

The study of one's past life is not unlike the study of geology. If the
presence of the remains of extinct species of animals and vegetables in
the ancient rocks calls up in one's mind a host of speculative thoughts
touching the progress of creation, so, as we cut with the pick of
retrospection through the strata of bygone days, do the remains of
departed things, constantly turning up, put one into his studying cap to
puzzle over specimens fully as curious and interesting in their way as
the _cephalaspis_.

The first stratum of my intellectual formation contains most
conspicuously the remains of dog-eared spelling books, a score or more
of them by different names, among which the _Elementary_ of Webster is
the best preserved and most clearly defined. It was finding an old,
yellow, badly thumbed and dirt soiled copy of Webster's spelling book in
the bottom of an old chest of odds and ends, on the fly-leaf of which
book was written "T. Blodgett," that lately brightened my memory of the
things I am about to tell you.

The old time pedagogue is a thing of the past--_pars temporis acti_ is
the Latin of it, may be, but I'm not sure--I'm rusty in the Latin now.
When I quit school I could read it a good deal. But of the pedagogue.
The twenty years since he ceased to flourish seem, on reflection, like
an age--an _æon_, as the Greeks would say. I never did know much Greek.
I got most of my education from pedagogues of the old sort. They kept
pouring it on to me till it soaked in. That's the way I got it. I have
had corns and bunions on my back for not being sufficiently porous to
absorb the multiplication table rapidly enough to suit the whim of one
of those learned tyrants. But the pedagogue became extinct and passed
into the fossil state some twenty years ago, when free schools took
good hold. He scampered away when he heard the whistle of the steam
engine along iron highways and the cry of small boys on the streets of
the towns hawking the daily papers. He could live nowhere within the
pale of innovation. He was born an exemplar of rigidity. The very name
of reform was hateful to him. We older fellows remember him well, but to
the younger fry he is not even a fossil, he is a myth. Of course
pedagogues differed slightly in the matter of particular disposition and
real character, but in a _general way_ they had a close family
resemblance.

I purpose to write of one Blodgett--T. Blodgett, as it was written in
the fly-leaf of Webster's Elementary--and he was an extraordinary
specimen of the genus pedagogue. But before I introduce him, let me, by
way of preface and prelude, give you a view of the salients of the
history of the days when pole-ribbed school houses--log cabin school
houses--flourished, with each a pedagogue for supreme, "unquestioned and
unquestionable" despot.

In those fine days boys from five to fifteen years of age wore tow linen
pants held up by suspenders (often made of tow strings), and having at
each side pockets that reached down to about the wearer's knees. These
pockets held as much as a moderate sized bushel basket will now. The
girls, big and little, wore mere tow linen slips, that hung loose from
the shoulders. Democracy, pure and undefiled, flourished like a green
buckeye tree. Society was in about the same condition as a boy is when
his voice is changing. You know when a boy's voice is changing if you
hear him in another room getting his lesson by saying it over aloud, you
think there's about fourteen girls, two old men, and a dog barking in
the room. Society was much the same. The elements of everything were in
it, but not developed and separated yet. Women rode behind their
husbands on the same horse, occasionally reaching round in the man's lap
to feel if the baby was properly fixed. Sometimes the girls rode to
singing school behind their sweethearts. At such times the horses always
kicked up, and, of course, the girls had to hold on. The boys liked the
holding on part. Young men went courting always on Saturday night. The
girls wouldn't suffer any hugging before eleven o'clock--unless the old
folk were remarkably early to bed. Candles were scarce in those days, so
that billing and cooing was done by very dim fire-light. _O, le bon
temps!_ I've forgot whether that's Latin or French.

The pedagogue was the intellectual and moral centre of the neighborhood.
He was of higher authority, even in the law, than the Justice of the
Peace. He was consulted on all subjects, and, as a rule, his decisions
were final, and went upon the people's record as law. His jurisdiction
was unlimited, as to subject matter or amount, and, as to the person,
was unquestioned. Of course his territory was bounded by the
circumstances of each particular case.

I just now recollect quite a number of pedagogues who in turn ruled me
in my youthful days. Of one of them I never think without feeling a
strange sadness steal over me. He was a young fellow whom to know was to
love; pale, delicate, tender-hearted. He taught us two terms and we all
thought him the best teacher in the world. He was so kind to us, so
gentle and mild-voiced, so prone to pat us on our heads and encourage
us. Some of the old people found fault with him because, as they
alleged, he did not whip us enough, but we saw no force in the
objection. Well, he took a cough and began to fail. He dismissed us one
fine May evening and we saw him no more alive. We all followed him, in a
solemn line, to his grave, and for a long time thereafter we never spoke
of him except in a low, sad whisper. As for me, till long afterwards,
the hushed wonder of his white face haunted my dreams. I have now in my
possession a little bead money-purse he gave me.

Blodgett came next, and here my story properly begins. Blodgett--who,
having once seen him, could ever forget Blodgett? Not I. He was too
marked a man to ever wholly fade from memory. He was, as I have said, a
perfect type of his kind, and his kind was such as should not be sneered
at. He was one of the humble pioneers of American letters. He was a
character of which our national history must take account. He was one of
the vital forces of our earlier national growth. He was in love with
learning. He considered the matter of imparting knowledge a mere
question of effort, in which the physical element preponderated. If he
couldn't talk or read it into one he took a stick and mauled it into
him. This mauling method, though somewhat distasteful to the subject,
always had a charming result--red eyes, a few blubbers and a good
lesson. The technical name of this method was "_Warming the Jacket_."
It always seemed to me that the peewee birds sang very dolefully after I
had had my jacket warmed. I recollect my floggings at school with so
much aversion that I do think, if a teacher should whale one of my
little ruddy-faced boys, I'd spread his (the teacher's) nose over his
face as thin as a rabbit skin! I'd run both his eyes into one and chew
his ears off close to his head, sir! Forgive my earnestness, but I can't
stand flogging in schools. It's brutal.

From the first day that Blodgett came circulating his school "articles"
among us, we took to him by common consent as a wonderfully learned man.
I think his strong, wise looking face, and reserved, pompous manners,
had much to do with making this impression. We believed in him fully,
and for a long time gave him unfaltering loyalty. As for me, I never
have wholly withdrawn my allegiance. I look back, even now, and admire
him. I sigh, thinking of the merry days when he flourished. I solemnly
avow my faith in progress. I know the world advances every day, still I
doubt if men and women are more worthy now than they were in the time of
the pedagogues. I don't know but what, after all, I am somewhat of a
fogy. Any how, I will not, for the sake of pleasing your literary
_swallows_--your eclectics of to-day--turn in and berate my dear old
Blodgett. In his day men could not and did not skim the surface of
things like swallows on a mill pond. They _dived_, and got what they did
get from the bottom, and by honest labor. Whenever one of your
silk-winged swallows skims past me and whispers progress, I cannot help
thinking of Heyne, Jean Paul and--Blodgett. Somehow genius and poverty
are great cronies. It used to be more so than it is now. Blodgett was a
genius, and, consequently, poor. He was virtuous, and, of course, happy.
He was a Democrat and a Hard Shell Baptist, and he might never have
swerved from the path of rectitude, even to the extent of a hair's
breadth, if it had not been for the coming of a not over scrupulous
rival into the neighboring village. But I must not hasten. A little more
and I would have blurted out the whole nub of my story. Bear with me. I
have nothing of the "lightning calculator" in me. I must take my time.

It has been agreed that biography must include somewhat of physical
portraiture. "What sort of looking man was Blodgett?" I will tell you as
nearly as I can, but bear in mind it is a long time since I saw him,
and, in the meanwhile, the world has been so washed, and combed, and
trimmed, and pearl powdered, that one can scarcely be sure he recollects
things rightly. The seedy dandy who teaches the free schools of to-day,
is, no doubt, all right as things go; but then the way they go--that's
it! As for finding some one of these dapper, umbrella-lugging,
green-spectacled, cadaverous teachers to compare with our burly
Blodgett, the thing is preposterous.

Our pedagogue, when he first came among us, was, as nearly as I can
judge, about forty, and a bachelor, tall, raw-boned, lean-faced, and
muscular--a man of many words, and big ones, but not over prone to seek
audience of the world. To me, a boy of twelve, he appeared somewhat
awful, especially when plying the beech rod for the benefit of a future
man, and I do still think that something harder than mere sternness
slept or woke in and around the lines of his strong, flat jaws--that
something sharper than acid shrewdness lurked in his light gray eyes,
and that surely a more powerful expression than ordinary brute obstinacy
lingered about his firm mouth and smoothly shaven chin.

Blodgett had a mighty body and a mighty will, joined with a
self-appreciation only bounded by his power to generate it. This, added
to the deep deference with which he was approached by everybody, made
him not a little arrogant and despotic--though, doubtless, he was less
so than most men, under like circumstances, would have been. His years
sat lightly on him. His step was youthful though slouching, his raven
hair was bright and wavy, his skin had the tinge of vigorous health, and
in truth he was not far from handsome. His voice was nasal, but
pleasantly so.

I cannot hope to give you more than a faint idea of the absolute power
vested in Blodgett by the men, women and children of the school
vicinage; suffice it to say that his view was a _sine qua non_ to every
neighborhood opinion, his words the basis of neighborhood action in all
matters of public interest. If he pronounced the parson's last sermon a
failure, at once the entire church agreed in condemning it, not only as
a failure but a consummate blunder. If he hinted that a certain new
comer impressed him unfavorably, the nincompoop was summarily kicked out
of society. In fact, in the pithy phraseology of these latter days, "it
was dangerous to be safe" about where he lived.

Thus, for a long time, Blodgett ruled with an iron hand his little
world, with no one to dream of disputing his right or of doubting his
capacity, till at length fate let fall a bit of romance into the strong
but placid stream of his life, and tinged it all with rose color. He
wrote some poetry, but it is obsolete--that is, it is not now in
existence. While this streak of romance lasted he looked, for all the
world, like a gilt-edged mathematical problem drawn on rawhide.

It was a great event in our neighborhood when Miss Grace Holland, a
yellow-haired, blue-eyed, very handsome and well educated young lady
from Louisville, Kentucky, came to spend the summer with Parson Holland,
our preacher, and the young woman's uncle. Kentucky girls are all sweet.
My wife was a Kentucky girl. All the young men fell in love with Miss
Holland right away, but it was of no use to them. Blodgett, in the
language of your fast youngsters, "shied his castor into the ring," and
what was there left for the others but to stand by and see the glory of
the pedagogue during the season of his wooing? It would have done your
eyes good to see the pedagogue "slick himself up" each Saturday evening
preparatory to visiting the parson's. He went into the details of the
toilette with an enthusiasm worthy a better result. Ordinarily he was
ostentatiously pious and grave, but now his nature began to slip its
bark and disclose an inner rind of real mirthfulness, which made him
quite pleasant company for Miss Holland, who, though a mere girl, was
sensible and old enough to enjoy the many marked peculiarities of the
pedagogue.

On Blodgett's side it was love--just the blindest, craziest kind of
love, at first sight. As to Miss Holland, I cannot say. One never can
precisely say as to a woman; guessing at a woman's feelings, in matters
of love, is a little like wondering which makes the music, a boy's mouth
or the jewsharp--a doubtful affair.

Great events never come singly. When it rains it pours. If you have seen
a bear, every stump is a bear. A few days after the advent of Miss
Holland came a pop-eyed, nervous, witty little fellow with a hand press,
and started a weekly paper in our village. A newspaper in town! It was
startling.

Blodgett from the first seemed not to relish the innovation, but public
sentiment had set in too strongly in its favor for him to jeopardize his
reputation by any serious denunciations. A real live paper in our midst
was no small matter. Everybody subscribed, and so did Blodgett.

It did, formerly, require a little brains to run a newspaper, and in
those days an editor was looked upon as nearly or quite as learned and
intelligent as a pedagogue; but everybody, however ignorant himself,
could not fail to see that one represented progress, the other
conservatism, and formerly most persons were Ultra-Conservatives. This,
of course, gave the pedagogue a considerable advantage.

Of course Blodgett and the editor soon became acquainted. The latter, a
dapper Yankee, full of "get-up-and-snap," and alert to make way for his
paper, measured the pedagogue at a glance, seeing at once that a big
bulk of strong sense and a will like iron were enwrapped in the stalwart
Hoosier's brain. One of two things must be done. Blodgett must be
vanquished or his influence secured. He must be prevailed on to endorse
the _Star_ (the new paper), or the _Star_ must attack and destroy him at
once.

Meantime the pedagogue grimly waited for an opportunity to demolish the
editor. The big Hoosier had no thought of compromise or currying favor.
He would sacrifice the little sleek, stuck-up, big-headed, pop-eyed,
Roman-nosed Yankee between his thumb nails as he would a flea. Blodgett
was a predestinarian of the old school, and was firmly imbedded in the
belief that from all eternity it had been fore-ordained that he was to
attend to just such fellows as the editor.

Still, the little lady from Louisville took up so much of his time, and
so distracted his mind, that no well laid plan of attack could be
matured by the pedagogue. But when nations wish to fight it is easy to
find a pretext for war. So with individuals. So with the editor and
Blodgett. They soon came to open hostilities and raised the black flag.
What an uproar it did make in the county!

This war seemed to come about quite naturally. It had its beginning in a
debating society, where Blodgett and the editor were leading
antagonists. The question debated was, "Which has done more for the
cause of human liberty, Napoleon or Wellington?"

Two village men and two countrymen were the jury to decide which side
offered the best argument. The jury was out all night and finally
returned a split verdict, two of them standing for Blodgett and two for
the editor. Of course it was town against country--the villagers for the
editor, the country folk for the pedagogue.

"Huzza for the little editor!" cried the town people.

"'Rah for Blodgett!" bawled the lusty country folk.

The matter quickly came to blows at certain parts of the room. Jim
Dowder caught Phil Gates by the hair and snatched him over two seats.
Sarah Jane Beaver hit Martha Ann Randall in the mouth with a reticule
full of hazel nuts. Farmer Heath choked store-keeper Jones till his face
was as blue as moderate-like indigo. Old Mrs. Baber pulled off Granny
Logan's wig and threw it at 'Squire Hank. But Pete Develin wound the
thing up with a most disgraceful feat. He seized a bucket half full of
water and deliberately poured it right on top of the editor's head.

This was the beginning of trouble and fun. Some lawsuits grew out of it
and some hard fisticuffs. All the country-folk sided with Blodgett--the
towns-folk with the editor. The _Star_ began to get dim, but the editor,
shrewd dog, when he saw how things were turning, at once took up the
question of Napoleon _vs._ Wellington in his journal, kindly and
condescendingly offering his columns to Blodgett for the discussion.

The pedagogue foolishly accepted the challenge, and thus laid the
stones upon which he was to fall. So the antagonists sharpened their
goose quills and went at it. In sporting circles the proverb runs: never
bet on a man's own trick. Blodgett ought to have known better than to go
to the editor's own ground to fight.

I have always suspected that Miss Holland did much to shear our Samson
of his strength. She certainly did, wittingly or unwittingly, occupy too
much of his time and thought. Poor fellow! he would have given his life
for her. He often looked at her, with his head turned a little one side,
sadly, thoughtfully, as I have seen a terrier look at a rat hole, as
though he half expected disappointment.

The battle in the _Star_ began in very earnest. It was a harvest for the
shrewd journalist. Everybody took the _Star_ while the discussion was
going on. Everybody took sides, everybody got mad, and almost everybody
fought more or less. Even Parson Holland and the village preacher had
high words and ceased to recognize each other. As for the young lady
from Louisville, she had little to say about the discussion, though
Blodgett always read to her each one of his articles first in MS. and
then in the _Star_ after it was printed.

Well, finally, in the very height of the war of words, the editor, in
one of his articles, indulged in Latin. As you are aware, when an editor
gets right down to pan-rock Latin, it's a sure sign he's after somebody.
This instance was no exception to the general rule. He was baiting for
the pedagogue. The pedagogue swallowed hook and all.

"_Nil de mortuis nisi bonum_," said the editor, "is my motto, which may
be freely translated: 'If you can't say something good of the dead, keep
your tarnal mouth shut about them!'"

Blodgett started as he read this, and for a full minute thereafter gazed
steadily and inquiringly on vacancy. At length his great bony right hand
opened slowly, then quickly shut like a vice.

"I have him! I have him!" he muttered in a murderous tone, "I'll crush
him to impalpable dust!" He forthwith went for a small Latin lexicon and
began busily searching its pages. It was Saturday evening, and so busily
did he labor at what was on his mind, he came near forgetting his
regular weekly visit to Miss Holland.

He did not forget it, however. He went; without pointing out to her the
exact spot so vulnerable to his logical arrows, he told her in a
confidential and confident way that his next letter would certainly make
an end of the editor. He told her that, at last, he had the shallow
puppy where he could expose him thoroughly. Of course Miss Holland was
curious to know more, but, with a grim smile, Blodgett shook his head,
saying that to insure utter victory he must keep his own counsel.

The next day, though the Sabbath, was spent by the pedagogue writing his
crusher for the _Star_. He wrote it and re-wrote it, over and over
again. He almost ruined a Latin grammar and the afore-mentioned lexicon.
He worked till far in the night, revising and elaborating. His gray eyes
burned like live coals--his jaws were set for victory.

That week was one of intense excitement all over the county, for somehow
it had come generally to be understood that the pedagogue's forthcoming
essay was to completely defeat and disgrace the editor. Work, for the
time, was mostly suspended. The school children did about as they
pleased, so that they were careful not to break rudely in upon
Blodgett's meditations.

On the day of its issue the _Star_ was in great demand. For several
hours the office was crowded with eager subscribers, hungry for a copy.
The 'Squire and two constables had some trouble to keep down a genuine
riot.

The following is an exact copy of Blodgett's great essay:

     MR. EDITOR--SIR: This, for two reasons, is my last article for
     your journal. Firstly: My time and the exigencies of my
     profession will not permit me to further pursue a discussion
     which, on your part, has degenerated into the merest twaddle.
     Secondly: It only needs, at my hands, an exposition of the
     false and fraudulent claims you make to classical attainments,
     to entirely annihilate your unsubstantial and wholly undeserved
     popularity in this community, and to send you back to peddling
     your bass wood hams and maple nutmegs. In order to put on a
     false show of erudition, you lug into your last article a
     familiar Latin sentence. Now, sir, if you had sensibly foregone
     any attempt at translation, you might, possibly, have made some
     one think you knew a shade more than a horse; but "whom the
     gods would destroy they first make mad."

     You say, "_De mortuis nil nisi bonum_" may be freely
     translated, "If you can't say something good of the dead, keep
     your tarnal mouth shut about them!" Shades of Horace and
     Praxiteles! What would Pindar or Cæsar say? But I will not
     jest at the expense of sound scholarship. In conclusion, I
     simply submit the following _literal translation_ of the Latin
     sentence in question: "_De_--of, _mortuis_--the dead,
     _nil_--nothing, _nisi_--but, _bonum_--goods," so that the whole
     quotation may be rendered as follows--"Nothing (is left) of the
     dead but (their) goods." This is strictly according to the
     dictionary. Here, so far as I am concerned, this discussion
     ends.

         Your ob't serv't,
               T. BLODGETT.

The country flared into flames of triumph. Blodgett's friends stormed
the village and "_bully-ragged_" everybody who had stood out for the
editor. The little Yankee, however, did not appear in the least
disconcerted. His clear, blue, pop-eyes really seemed twinkling with
half suppressed joy. Blodgett put a copy of the _Star_ into his pocket
and stalked proudly, victoriously, out of town.

After supper he dressed himself with scrupulous care and went over to
see Miss Holland. Rumor said they were engaged to be married, and I
believe they were.

On this particular evening the young lady was enchantingly pretty,
dressed in white muslin and blue ribbons, her bright yellow hair flowing
full and free down upon her plump shoulders, her face radiant with
health and high spirits. She met the pedagogue at the door with more
than usual warmth of welcome. He kissed her hand. All that he said to
her that evening will never be known. It is recorded, however, that,
when he had finished reading his essay to her, she got up and took from
her travelling trunk a "Book of Foreign Phrases," and examined it
attentively for a time, after which she was somewhat uneasy and
reticent. Blodgett observed this, but he was too dignified to ask an
explanation.

The "last day" of Blodgett's school was at hand. The "exhibition" came
off on Saturday. Everybody went early. The pedagogue was in his glory.
He did not know the end was so near. A little occurrence, toward
evening, however, seemed to foreshadow it.

Blodgett called upon the stage a bright eyed, ruddy faced lad, his
favorite pupil, to translate Latin phrases. The boy, in his Sunday best,
and sleekly combed, came forth and bowed to the audience, his eyes
luminous with vivacity. The little fellow was evidently precocious--a
rapid if not a very accurate thinker--one of those children who always
have an answer ready, right or wrong.

After several preliminary questions, very promptly and satisfactorily
disposed of, Blodgett said:

"Now, sir, translate _Monstrum horrendum informe ingens_."

Quick as lightning the child replied:

"The horrid monster informed the Indians!"

Fury! The face of the pedagogue grew livid. He stretched forth his hand
and took the boy by the back of the neck. The curtain fell, but the
audience could not help hearing what a flogging the boy got. It was
terrible.

Even while this was going on a rumor rippled round the outskirts of the
audience--for you must know that the "exhibition" was held under a bush
arbor erected in front of the school house door--a rumor, I say, rippled
round the outer fringe of the audience. Some one had arrived from the
village and copies of the _Star_ were being freely distributed. Looks of
blank amazement flashed into people's faces. The name of the editor and
that of Prof. W----, of Wabash College, began to fly in sharp whispers
from mouth to mouth. The crowd reeled and swayed. Men began to talk
aloud. Finally everybody got on his feet and confusion and hubbub
reigned supreme. The exhibition was broken up. Blodgett came out of the
school house upon the stage when he heard the noise. He gazed around.
Some one thrust a copy of the _Star_ into his hand.

Poor Blodgett! We may all fall. The crowd resolved itself into an
indignation meeting then and there, at which the following extract from
the _Star_ was read, followed by resolutions dismissing and disgracing
Blodgett:

     "The following letter is rich reading for those who have so
     long sworn by T. Blodgett. We offer no comment:

       "EDITOR OF THE STAR--DEAR SIR: In answer to your letter
       requesting me to decide between yourself and Mr. Blodgett as to
       the correct English rendering of the Latin sentence '_De
       mortuis nil nisi bonum_,' allow me to say that your free
       translation is a good one, if not very literal or elegant. As
       to Mr. Blodgett's, if the man is sincere, he is certainly crazy
       or wofully illiterate; no doubt the latter.

           "Very respectfully,
               "W----,
         "_Prof. Languages, Wabash College._"

Blodgett walked away from the school house into the dusky June woods. He
knew that it was useless to contend against the dictum of a college
professor. His friends knew so too, so they turned to rend him. He was
dethroned and discrowned forever. He was boarding at my father's then,
and I can never forget the haggard, wistful look his face wore when he
came in that evening. I have since learned that he went straight from
the scene of his disgrace to Miss Holland, whom he found inclined to
laugh at him. The next week he collected what was due him and left for
parts unknown.

I was over at parson Holland's, playing with his boys.

The game was mumble peg.

I had been rooting a peg out of the ground and my face was very dirty.
We were under a cherry tree by a private hedge. Presently Miss Holland
came out and began, girl-like, to pluck and eat the half ripe cherries.
The wind rustled her white dress and lifted the gold floss of her
wonderful hair. The birds chattered and sang all round us; the white
clouds lingered overhead like puffs of steam vanishing against the
splendid blue of the sky. The fragrance of leaf and fruit and bloom was
heavy on the air. The girl in white, the quiet glory of the day, the
murmur of the unsteady wind stream flowing among the dark leaves of the
orchard and hedge, the charm of the temperature, and over all, the
delicious sound of running water from the brook hard by, all
harmonized, and in a tender childish mood I quit the game and lolled at
full length on the ground, watching the fascinating face of the young
lady as she drifted about the pleasant places of the orchard. Suddenly I
saw her fix her eyes in a surprised way in a certain direction. I looked
to see what had startled her, and there, half leaning over the hedge,
stood Blodgett.

His face was ghastly in its pallor, and deep furrows ran down his jaws.
His gray eyes had in them a look of longing blended with a sort of stern
despair. It was only for a moment that his powerful frame toppled above
the hedge, but he is indelibly pictured in my memory just as he then
appeared.

"Good-bye, Miss Holland, good-bye."

How dismally hollow his voice sounded! Ah! it was pitiful. I neither saw
nor heard of him after that. Years have passed since then. Blodgett is,
likely, in his grave, but I never think of him without a sigh.

Yesterday I was in the old neighborhood, and, to my surprise, learned
that the old log school house was still standing. So I set out alone to
visit it. I found it rotten and shaky, serving as a sort of barn in
which a farmer stows his oats, straw and corn fodder. The genius of
learning has long since flown to finer quarters. The great old chimney
had been torn down or had fallen, the broad boards of the roof, held on
by weight poles, were deeply covered with moss and mould, and over the
whole edifice hung a gloom--a mist of decay.

I leaned upon a worm fence hard by and gazed through the long vacant
side window, underneath which our writing shelf used to be, sorrowfully
dallying with memory; not altogether sorrowfully either, for the glad
faces of children that used to romp with me on the old play ground
floated across my memory, clothed in the charming haze of distance, and
encircled by the halo of tender affections. The wind sang as of old, and
the bird songs had not changed a jot. Slowly my whole being crept back
to the past. The wonders of our progress were all forgotten. And then
from within the old school room came a well remembered voice, with a
certain nasal twang, repeating slowly and sternly the words:

"_Arma virumque cano_;" then there came a chime of silver tones--"School
is out!--School is out!" And I started, to find that I was all alone by
the rotting but blessed old throne and palace of the pedagogue.



AN IDYL OF THE ROD.


It was as pretty a country cottage as is to be found, even now, in all
the Wabash Valley, situated on a prominent bluff, overlooking the broad
stretches of bottom land, and giving a fine view of the wide winding
river. The windows and doors of this cottage were draped in vines, among
which the morning glory and the honeysuckle were the most luxuriant;
while on each side of the gravelled walk, that led from the front
portico to the dooryard gate, grew clusters of pinks, sweet-williams and
larkspurs. The house was painted white, and had green window
shutters--old fashioned, to be sure, but cosy, homelike and tasty
withal. Everything pertaining to and surrounding the place had an air of
methodical neatness, that betokened great care and scrupulous order on
the part of the inmates.

About the hour of six on a Monday morning, in the month of May, a fine,
hearty, intelligent looking lad of twelve years walked slowly up the
path which led from the old orchard to the house. He was dressed in
loose trowsers of bottle green jeans, a jacket of the same, heavy boots
and a well worn wool hat. The boy's shoulders stooped a little, and a
slight hump discovered itself at the upper portion of his back. His face
was strikingly handsome, being fair, bright, healthful, and marked with
signs of great precocity of intellect, albeit it wore just now an
indescribable, faintly visible shade, as of innocent perplexity, or,
possibly, grief. His mind was evidently not at ease, but the varying
shadows that chased each other across the mild depths of his clear,
vivacious eyes would have stumped a physiognomist. Between a laugh and a
cry, but more like a cry; between defiance and utter shame, but more
like the latter; his cheeks and lips took on every shade of pallor and
of flush. He shrugged his shoulders as he moved along, and cast rapid
glances in every direction, as if afraid of being seen. "Whippoo-tee,
tippoo-tee-tee-e!" sang a great cardinal red bird in the apple tree over
his head. He flung a stone at the bird with terrible energy, but missed
it.

The mistress of the cottage was at this time in the kitchen preparing
for the week's washing, for do not all good Hoosier housewives wash on
Monday? She was a middle aged, stoutly built, healthy matron, sandy
haired, slightly freckled, blue eyed and quick in her movements. Usually
smiling and happy, it was painful to see how she struggled now to master
the emotions of great grief and sadness that constantly arose in her
bosom, like spectres that would not be driven away.

A bright eyed, golden haired lass of sixteen was in the breakfast room
washing the dishes and singing occasional snatches from a mournful
ditty. It was sad, indeed, to see a cloud of sorrow on a face so fresh
and sweet.

Mr. Coulter, the head of the family, and owner of the cottage and its
lands, stood near the centre of the sitting room with his hands crossed
behind him, gazing fixedly and sadly on the picture of a sweet child
holding a white kitten in its lap, which picture hung on the wall over
against the broad fire-place. A look of sorrow betrayed itself even in
the dark, stern visage of the man. He drew down his shaggy eyebrows and
occasionally pulled his grizzled moustache into his mouth and chewed it
fiercely. Evidently he was chafing under his grief.

The cottage windows were wide open, as is the western custom in fine
weather, and the fragrance of spice wood and sassafras floated in on the
flood tide of pleasant air, while from the big old locust tree down by
the fence fell the twittering prelude to a finch's song. A green line of
willows and a thin, pendulous stratum of fog marked the way of the
river, plainly visible from the west window, and through the white haze
flocks of teal and wood ducks cut swiftly in their downward flight to
the water. A golden flicker sang and hammered on the gate-post the while
he eyed a sparrow-hawk that wheeled and screamed high over head. The dew
was like little mirrors in the grass.

The lad entered the kitchen and said to his mother, in a voice full of
tenderness, though barely audible:

"Mammy, where's pap?"

"In the front room, Billy," replied the matron solemnly, quaveringly.

Passing into the breakfast room, Billy looked at his sister and a flash
of sympathetic sorrow played back and forth from the eyes of one to
those of the other; then he went straight into the sitting room and
handed something to Mr. Coulter. It was a moment of silence and
suspense. Out in the orchard the cherry and apple blooms were falling
like pink and white snow.

The man looked down at his boy sadly, sorrowfully, regretfully. He drew
his face into a stern frown. The lad looked up into his father's eyes
timidly, ruefully, strangely. It was a living tableau no artist could
reproduce. It was the moment before a crisis.

"Billy," said the father gravely, "I took your mother and sister to
church yesterday."

"Yes, sir," said Billy.

"And left you to see to things," continued the man.

"Yes, sir," replied the boy, gazing through the window at the flicker as
it hitched down the gate-post and finally dropped into the grass with a
shrill chirp.

"And you didn't water them pigs!"

"O-o-o! Oh, sir! Geeroody! O me! ouch! lawsy! lawsy! mercy me!"

The slender scion of an apple tree, in the hand of Mr. Coulter, rose and
fell, cutting the air like a rapier, and up from the jacket of the lad,
like incense from an altar, rose a cloud of dust mingled with the nap of
jeans. Down in the young clover of the meadow the larks and sparrows
sang cheerily; the gnats and flies danced up and down in the sunshine,
the fresh soft young leaves of the vines rustled like satin, and all
was merry indeed!

Billy's eyes were turned upward to the face of his father in appealing
agony; but still the switch, with a sharp hiss, cut the air, falling
steadily and mercilessly on his shoulders.

All along the green banks of the river the willows shook their shining
fingers at the lifting fog, and the voices of children going by to the
distant school smote the sweet May wind.

"Whippee! Whippee-tippee-tee!" sang the cardinal bird.

"O pap! ouch! O-o-o! I'll not forget to water the pigs no more!"

"S'pect you won't, neither!" said the man.

The wind, by a sudden puff, lifted into the room a shower of white bloom
petals from a sweet apple tree, letting them fall gracefully upon the
patchwork carpet, the while a ploughman whistled plaintively in a
distant field.

"Crackee! O pap! ouch! O-o-o! You're a killin' me!"

"Shet your mouth 'r I'll split ye to the backbone in a second! Show ye
how to run off fishin' with Ed Jones and neglect them pigs! Take every
striffin of hide off'n ye!"

How many delightful places in the woods, how many cool spots beside the
murmuring river, would have been more pleasant to Billy than the place
he just then occupied! He would have swapped hides with the very pigs he
had forgot to water.

"O, land! O, me! Geeroody me!" yelled the lad.

"Them poor pigs!" rejoined the father.

Still the dust rose and danced in the level jet of sunlight that fell
athwart the room from the east window, and the hens out at the barn
cackled and sang for joy over new laid eggs stowed away in cosy places.

At one time during the falling of the rod the girl quit washing the
dishes, and thrusting her head into the kitchen said, in a subdued tone:

"My land! Mammy, ain't Bill a gittin' an awful one this load o' poles?"

"You're moughty right!" responded the matron, solemnly.

Along toward the last Mr. Coulter tip-toed at every stroke. The switch
actually screamed through the air. Billy danced and bawled and made all
manner of serio-comic faces and contortions.

"Now go, sir," cried the man, finally tossing the frizzled stump of the
switch out through the window. "Go now, and next time I'll be bound you
water them pigs!"

And, while the finch poured a cataract of melody from the locust tree,
Billy went.

Poor boy! that was a terrible thrashing, and to make it worse, it had
been promised to him on the evening before, so that he had been dreading
it and shivering over it all night!

Now, as he walked through the breakfast room, his sister looked at him
in a commiserating way, but on passing through the kitchen he could not
catch the eye of his mother.

Finally he stood in the free open air in front of the saddle closet. It
was just then that a speckled rooster on the barn yard fence flapped his
wings and crowed lustily. A turkey cock was strutting on the grass by
the old cherry tree.

Billy opened the door of the closet. "A boy's will is the wind's will,
and the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts." Billy peeped into
the saddle closet and then cast a glance around him, as if to see if any
one was near.

At length, during a pleasant lull in the morning wind, and while the
low, tenderly mellow flowing of the river was distinctly audible, and
the song of the finch increased in volume, and the bleating of new born
lambs in the meadow died in fluttering echoes under the barn, and while
the fragrance of apple blooms grew fainter, and while the sun, now
flaming just a little above the eastern horizon, launched a shower of
yellow splendors over him from head to foot, he took from under his
jacket behind a doubled sheep skin with the wool on, which, with an
ineffable smile, he tossed into the closet. Then, as the yellow flicker
rose rapidly from the grass, Billy walked off, whistling the air of that
once popular ballad--

  "O give me back my fifteen cents,
  And give me back my money," &c.



Transcriber's Notes:


  Passages in italics or underlined are indicated by _italics_.

  Inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation have been retained from
  the original.

  Punctuation has been corrected without note.





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