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´╗┐Title: A Chilhowee Lily - 1911
Author: Murfree, Mary Noailles
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Chilhowee Lily - 1911" ***


By Charles Egbert Craddock


Tall, delicate, and stately, with all the finished symmetry and
distinction that might appertain to a cultivated plant, yet sharing
that fragility of texture and peculiar suggestion of evanescence
characteristic of the unheeded weed as it flowers, the Chilhowee lily
caught his eye. Albeit long familiar, the bloom was now invested with a
special significance and the sight of it brought him to a sudden pause.

The cluster grew in a niche on the rocky verge of a precipice beetling
over the windings of the rugged primitive road on the slope of the
ridge. The great pure white bloom, trumpet-shaped and crowned with its
flaring and many-cleft paracorolla, distinct against the densely blue
sky, seemed the more ethereal because of the delicacy of its stalk, so
erect, so inflexibly upright. About it the rocks were at intervals green
with moss, and showed here and there heavy ocherous water stain. The
luxuriant ferns and pendant vines in the densely umbrageous tangle of
verdure served to heighten by contrast the keen whiteness of the flower
and the isolation of its situation.

Ozias Crann sighed with perplexity as he looked, and then his eye
wandered down the great hosky slope of the wooded mountain where in
marshy spots, here and there, a sudden white flare in the shadows
betokened the Chilhowee lily, flowering in myraids, holding out lures
bewildering in their multitude.

"They air bloomin' bodaciously all over the mounting," he remarked
rancorously, as he leaned heavily on a pickaxe; "but we uns hed better
try it ter-night ennyhows."

It was late in August; a moon of exceeding lustre was in the sky, while
still the sun was going down. All the western clouds were aflare with
gorgeous reflections; the long reaches of the Great Smoky range had
grown densely purple; and those dim Cumberland heights that, viewed from
this precipice of Chilhowee, were wont to show so softly blue in the
distance, had now a variant amethystine hue, hard and translucent of
effect as the jewel itself.

The face of one of his companions expressed an adverse doubt, as he,
too, gazed at the illuminated wilderness, all solitary, silent, remote.

"'Pears like ter me it mought be powerful public," Pete Swolford
objected. He had a tall, heavy, lumpish, frame, a lackluster eye, a
broad, dimpled, babyish face incongruously decorated with a tuft of
dark beard at the chin. The suit of brown jeans which he wore bore token
variously of the storms it had weathered, and his coarse cowhide boots
were drawn over the trousers to the knee. His attention was now and
again diverted from the conversation by the necessity of aiding a young
bear, which he led by a chain, to repel the unwelcome demonstrations of
two hounds belonging to one of his interlocutors. Snuffling and nosing
about in an affectation of curiosity the dogs could not forbear growling
outright, as their muzzles approached their shrinking hereditary enemy,
while the cub nestled close to his master and whimpered like a child.

"Jes' so, jes' so, Honey. I'll make 'em cl'ar out!" Swofford replied to
the animal's appeal with ready sympathy. Then, "I wish ter Gawd, Eufe,
ye'd call yer dogs off," he added in a sort of aside to the youngest
of the three mountaineers, who stood among the already reddening sumac
fringing the road, beside his horse, athwart which lay a buck all gray
and antlered, his recently cut throat still dripping blood. The party
had been here long enough for it to collect in a tiny pool in a crevice
in the rocky road, and the hounds constrained to cease their harassments
of the bear now began to eagerly lap it up. The rifle with which Eufe
Kinnicutt had killed the deer was still in his hands and he leaned upon
it; he was a tall, finely formed, athletic young fellow with dark hair,
keen, darkly greenish eyes, full of quickly glancing lights, and as he,
too, scanned the sky, his attitude of mind also seemed dissuasive.

"'Pears like thar won't be no night, ez ye mought call night, till this
moon goes down," he suggested. "'Pears nigh ez bright ez day!"

Ozias Crann's lank, angular frame; his narrow, bony face; his nose, long
yet not large, sharp, pinched; his light grey eyes, set very closely
together; his straggling reddish beard, all were fitting concomitants to
accent the degree of caustic contempt he expressed. "Oh, to be sure!"
he drawled. "It'll be powerful public up hyar in the mounting in the
midnight,--that's a fac'!--an' moonlight is mighty inconvenient to them
ez wants ter git spied on through totin' a lantern in cur'ous places."

This sarcasm left the two remonstrants out of countenance. Pete Swofford
found a certain resource in the agitations of his bear, once more
shrinking and protesting because of the dogs. "Call off yer hound-dogs,
Rufe," he cried irritably, "or I'll gin 'em a bullet ter swallow."

"Ye air a plumb fool about that thar bar, Pete," Kinnicutt said sourly,
calling off the hounds nevertheless.

"That thar bar?" exclaimed Swofford. "Why, thar never war sech a bar!
That thar bar goes ter mill, an' kin fetch home grist,--ef I starts him
out in the woods whar he won't meet no dogs nor contrairy cattle o' men
he kin go ter mill all by his lone!--same ez folks an' the bes' kind o'
folks, too!"

In fact the bear was even now begirt with a meal-bag, well filled, which
although adding to his uncouth appearance and perhaps unduly afflicting
the sensibilities of the horse, who snorted and reared at the sight of
him, saved his master the labor of "packing" the heavy weight.

Swofford had his genial instincts and in return was willing to put up
with the cubbishness of the transport,--would wait in the illimitable
patience of the utterly idle for the bear to climb a tree if he liked
and pleasantly share with him the persimmons of his quest;--would never
interfere when the bear flung himself down and wallowed with the bag on
his back, and would reply to the censorious at home, objecting to the
dust and sand thus sifting in with the meal, with the time honored
reminder that we are all destined "to eat a peck of dirt" in this world.

"Whenst ye fust spoke o' digging" said Kinnicutt, interrupting a
lengthening account of the bear's mental and moral graces, "I 'lowed
ez ye mought be sayin' ez they air layin' off ter work agin in the
Tanglefoot Mine."

Ozias Crann lifted a scornful chin. "I reckon the last disasters thar
hev interrupted the company so ez they hain't got much heart todes
diggin' fur silver agin over in Tanglefoot Cove. Fust," he checked off
these misfortunes, by laying the fingers of one hand successively in the
palm of the other, "the timbers o' one o' the cross cuts fell an' the
roof caved in an' them two men war kilt, an' thar famblies sued the
company an' got mo' damages 'n the men war bodaciously wuth. Then the
nex' thing the pay agent, ez war sent from Glaston, war held up in
Tanglefoot an' robbed--some say by the miners. He got hyar whenst they
war out on a strike, an' they robbed him 'cause they warn't paid
cordin' ter thar lights, an' they _did_ shoot him up cornsider'ble. That
happened jes' about a year ago. Then sence, thar hev been a awful cavin'
in that deep shaft they hed sunk in the tunnel, an' the mine war flooded
an' the machinery ruint--I reckon the company in Glaston ain 't a-layin'
off ter fly in the face o' Providence and begin agin, arter all them
leadin's ter quit."

"Some believe he warh't robbed at all," Kinnicutt said slowly. He had
turned listlessly away, evidently meditating departure, his hand on his
horse's mane, one foot in the stirrup.

"Ye know that gal named Loralindy Byars?" Crann said craftily.

Kinnicutt paused abruptly. Then as the schemer remained silent he
demanded, frowning darkly, "What's Loralindy Byars got ter do with it?"

"Mighty nigh all!" Crann exclaimed, triumphantly.

It was a moment of tense suspense. But it was not Crann's policy to
tantalize him further, however much the process might address itself
to his peculiar interpretation of pleasure. "That thar pay agent o' the
mining company," he explained, "he hed some sort'n comical name--oh, I
remember now, Renfrow--Paul Renfrow--waal--ye know he war shot in the
knee when the miners way-laid him."

"I disremember now ef it war in the knee or the thigh," Swofford
interposed, heavily pondering.

Kinnicutt's brow contracted angrily, and Crann broke into open wrath:
"an' I ain't carin', ye fool--what d' ye interrupt fur like that?"

"Wall," protested Swofford, indignantly, "ye said 'ye know' an' I didn't

"An' I ain't carin'--the main p'int war that he could neither ride nor
walk. So the critter crawled! Nobody knows how he gin the strikers the
slip, but he got through ter old man Byars's house. An' thar he staid
till Loralindy an' the old 'oman Byars nussed him up so ez he could bear
the pain o' bein' moved. An' he got old man Byars ter wagin him down
ter Colb'ry, a-layin' on two feather beds 'count o' the rocky roads, an'
thar he got on the steam kyars an' he rid on them back ter whar he kem

Kinnicutt seemed unable to longer restrain his impatience. He advanced
a pace. "Ye appear ter 'low ez ye air tellin' news--I knowed all that
whenst it happened a full year ago!"

"I reckon ye know, too, ez Loralindy hed no eyes nor ears fur ennybody
else whilst he war hyar--but then _he war_ good-lookin' an' saaft-spoken
fur true! An' now he hev writ a letter ter her!"

Crann grinned as Kinnicutt inadvertently gasped. "How do you uns know
that!" the young man hoarsely demanded, with a challenging accent of
doubt, yet prescient despair.

"'Kase, bubby, that's the way the story 'bout the lily got out. I was at
the mill this actial day. The miller hed got the letter--hevin' been
ter the post-office at the Crossroads--an' he read it ter her, bein' ez
Loralindy can't read writin'. She warn't expectin' it. He writ of his
own accord."

A sense of shadows impended vaguely over all the illuminated world, and
now and again a flicker of wings through the upper atmosphere betokened
the flight of homing birds. Crann gazed about him absently while he
permitted the statement he had made to sink deep into the jealous,
shrinking heart of the young mountaineer, and he repeated it as he

"She warn't expectin' of the letter. She jes' stood thar by the
mill-door straight an' slim an' white an' still, like she always
be--ter my mind like she war some sort'n sperit, stiddier a sure enough
gal--with her yaller hair slick an' plain, an' that old, faded, green
cotton dress she mos' always wears, an' lookin' quiet out at the water
o' the mill-dam ter one side, with the trees a-wavin' behind her at the
open door--jes' like she always be! An' arter awhile she speaks slow
an' saaft an axes the miller ter read it aloud ter her. An' lo! old man
Bates war rej'iced an' glorified ter the bone ter be able ter git a peek
inter that letter! He jes' shet down the gates and stopped the mill
from runnin' in a jiffy, an' tole all them loafers, ez hangs round thar
mosly, ter quit thar noise. An' then he propped hisself up on a pile o'
grist, an' thar he read all the sayin's ez war writ in that letter.
An' a power o' time it tuk, an' a power o' spellin' an' bodaciously
wrastlin' with the alphabit."

He laughed lazily, as he turned his quid of tobacco in his mouth,
recollecting the turbulence of these linguistic turmoils.

"This hyar feller--this Renfrow--he called her in the letter 'My dear
friend'--he did--an' lowed he hed a right ter the word, fur ef ever a
man war befriended he hed been. He lowed ez he could never fur-get her.
An' Lord! how it tickled old man Bates ter read them sentiments--the
pride-ful old peacock! He would jes' stop an' push his spectacles back
on his slick bald head an' say, 'Ye hear me, Loralindy! he 'lows he'll
never furget the keer ye tuk o' him whenst he war shot an' ailin' an'
nigh ter death. An' no mo' he ought, nuther. But some do furget sech ez
that, Loralindy--some do!'"

An' them fellers at the mill, listenin' ter the letter, could sca'cely
git thar consent ter wait fur old man Bates ter git through his talk ter
Loralindy, that he kin talk ter every day in the year! But arter
awhile he settled his spectacles agin, an' tuk another tussle with
the spellin,' an' then he rips out the main p'int o' the letter. "This
stranger-man he 'lowed he war bold enough ter ax another favior. The
cuss tried ter be funny. 'One good turn desarves another,' he said. 'An'
ez ye hev done me one good turn, I want ye ter do me another.' An' old
man Bates hed the insurance ter waste the time a-laffin' an' a-laffin'
at sech a good joke. Them fellers at the mill could hev fund it in thar
hearts ter grind him up in his own hopper, ef it wouldn't hev ground up
with him thar chance o' ever hearin' the end o' that thar interestin'
letter. So thar comes the favior. Would she dig up that box he treasured
from whar he told her he hed buried it, arter he escaped from the attack
o' the miners? An' would she take the box ter Colb'ry in her grandad's
wagin, an' send it ter him by express. He hed tole her once whar he
hed placed it--an' ter mark the spot mo' percisely he hed noticed one
Chilhowee lily bulb right beside it. An' then says the letter, 'Good
bye, Chilhowee Lily!' An' all them fellers stood staring."

A light wind was under way from the west Delicate flakes of red and
glistening white were detached from the clouds. Sails--sails were
unfurling in the vast floods of the skies. With flaunting banners and
swelling canvas a splendid fleet reached half way to the zenith. But
a more multitudinous shipping still swung at anchor low in the west,
though the promise of a fair night as yet held fast.

"An' now," said Ozias Crann in conclusion, "all them fellers is

"Whut's in the box!" demanded Swof-ford, his big baby-face all in a
pucker of doubt.

"The gold an' silver he ought ter hev paid the miners, of course. They
always 'lowed they never tuk a dollar off him; they jes' got a long
range shot at him! How I wish," Ozias Crann broke off fervently, "how
I wish I could jes' git my hands on that money once!" He held out his
hands, long and sinewy, and opened and shut them very fast.

"Why, that would be stealin'!" exclaimed Kinnicutt with repulsion.

"How so? 't ain't his'n now, sure--he war jes' the agent ter pay it
out," argued Crann, volubly.

"It belongs ter the mine owners, then--the company." There was a
suggestion of inquiry in the younger man's tone.

"'Pears not--they sent it hyar fur the percise purpose ter be paid out!"
the specious Crann replied.

"Then it belongs ter the miners."

"They hedn't yearned it--an' ef some o' them hed they warn't thar ter
receive it, bein' out on a strike. They hed burnt down the company's
office over yander at the mine in Tanglefoot Cove, with all the books
an' accounts, an' now nobody knows what's owin' ter who."

Kinnicutt's moral protests were silenced, not satisfied. He looked up
moodily at the moon now alone in the sky, for only a vanishing segment
of the great vermilion sphere of the sun was visible above the western
mountains, when suddenly he felt one of those long grasping claws on his
arm. "Now, Rufe, bubby," a most insinuating tone, Crann had summoned,
"all them fool fellers air diggin' up the face of the yearth, wharever
they kin find a Chilhowee lily--like sarchin' fur a needle in a
haystack. But we uns will do a better thing than that. I drawed the idee
ez soon ez I seen you an' Pete hyar this evenin' so onexpected. 'Them's
my pardners,' I sez ter myself. 'Pete ter holp dig an' tote ef the box
be heavy. An' you ter find out edzac'ly whar it be hid.' You uns
an' Loralindy hev been keepin' company right smart, an' ye kin toll
Loralindy along till she lets slip jes' whar that lily air growin'. I'll
be bound ez she likes ye a sight better 'n that Renfrow--leastwise ef 't
warn't fur his letter, honeyin' her up with complimints, an' she hevin'
the chance o' tollin' him on through doin' him sech faviors, savin' his
life, an' now his money--shucks it's mo' _our_ money 'n his'n; 't ain
't his 'n! Gol-darn the insurance o' this Renfrow! His idee is ter keep
the money his own self, an' make her sen' it ter him. Then 'Good-bye,
Chilhowee Lily!'"

The night had come at last, albeit almost as bright as day, but with
so ethereal, so chastened a splendor that naught of day seemed real. A
world of dreams it was, of gracious illusions, of far vague distances
that lured with fair promises that the eye might not seek to measure.
The gorgeous tints were gone, and in their stead were soft grays and
indefinite blurring browns, and every suggestion of silver that metal
can show flashed in variant glitter in the moon. The mountains were
majestically sombre, with a mysterious sense of awe in their great
height There were few stars; only here and there the intense lustre of a
still planet might withstand the annihilating magnificence of the moon.

Its glamour did not disdain the embellishment of humbler objects. As
Rufe Kinnicutt approached a little log cabin nestling in a sheltered
cove he realized that a year had gone by since Renfrow had seen it
first, and that thus it must have appeared when he beheld it. The dew
was bright on the slanting roof, and the shadow of oak trees wavered
over it. The mountain loomed above. The zigzag lines of the rail
fence, the bee-gums all awry ranged against it, the rickety barn and
fowl-house, the gourd vines draping the porch of the dwelling, all had
a glimmer of dew and a picturesque symmetry, while the spinning wheel as
Loralinda sat in the white effulgent glow seemed to revolve with flashes
of light in lieu of spokes, and the thread she drew forth was as silver.
Its murmuring rune was hardly distinguishable from the chant of the
cicada or the long droning in strophe and antistrophe of the waterside
frogs far away, but such was the whir or her absorption that she did not
perceive his approach till his shadow fell athwart the threshold, and
she looked up with a start.

"Ye 'pear powerful busy a-workin' hyar so late in the night," he
exclaimed with a jocose intonation.

She smiled, a trifle abashed; then evidently conscious of the bizarre
suggestions of so much ill-timed industry, she explained, softly
drawling: "Waal, ye know, Granny, she be so harried with her rheumatics
ez she gits along powerful poor with her wheel, an' by night she be
plumb out'n heart an' mad fur true. So arter she goes ter bed I jes'
spins a passel fur her, an' nex' mornin' she 'lows she done a toler'ble
stint o' work an' air consider'ble s'prised ez she war so easy put out."

She laughed a little, but he did not respond. With his sensibilities all
jarred by the perfidious insinuation of Ozias Crann, and his jealousy
all on the alert, he noted and resented the fact that at first her
attention had come back reluctantly to him, and that he, standing before
her, had been for a moment a less definitely realized presence than the
thought in her mind--this thought had naught to do with him, and of that
he was sure.

"Loralindy," he said with a turbulent impulse of rage and grief; "whenst
ye promised to marry me ye an' me war agreed that we would never hev one
thought hid from one another--ain't that a true word!"

The wheel had stopped suddenly--the silver thread was broken; she
was looking up at him, the moonlight full on the straight delicate
lineaments of her pale face, and the smooth glister of her golden hair.
"Not o' my own," she stipulated. And he remembered, and wondered that it
should come to him so late, that she had stood upon this reservation
and that he--poor fool--had conceded it, thinking it concerned the
distilling of whisky in defiance of the revenue law, in which some of
her relatives were suspected to be engaged, and of which he wished to
know as little as possible.

The discovery of his fatuity was not of soothing effect. "'T war that
man Renfrew's secret--I hearn about his letter what war read down ter
the mill."

She nodded acquiescently, her expression once more abstracted, her
thoughts far afield.

He had one moment of triumph as he brought himself tensely erect,
shouldering his gun--his shadow behind him in the moonlight duplicated
the gesture with a sharp promptness as at a word of command.

"All the mounting's a-diggin' by this time!" He laughed with ready
scorn, then experienced a sudden revulsion of feeling. Her face had
changed. Her expression was unfamiliar. She had caught together the two
ends of the broken thread, and was knotting them with a steady hand, and
a look of composed security on her face, that was itself a flout to
the inopportune search of the mountaineers and boded ill to his hope
to discover from her the secret of the _cache_. He recovered himself

"Ye 'lowed ter me ez ye never keered nuthin' fur that man, Renfrow," he
said with a plaintive appeal, far more powerful with her than scorn.

She looked up at him with candid reassuring eyes. "I never keered none
fur him," she protested. "He kem hyar all shot up, with the miners an'
mounting boys hot foot arter him--an' we done what we could fur him.
Gran'daddy 'lowed ez _he_ warn't 'spon-sible fur whut the owners done,
or hedn't done at the mine, an' he seen no sense in shootin' one man ter
git even with another."

"But ye kep' his secret!" Kinnicutt persisted.

"What fur should I tell it--'t ain't mine?"

"That thar money in that box he buried ain't _his'n_, nuther!" he

There was an inscrutable look in her clear eyes. She had risen, and was
standing in the moonlight opposite him. The shadows of the vines falling
over her straight skirt left her face and hair the fairer in the silver

"'Pears like ter me," he broke the silence with his plaintive cadence,
"ez ye ought ter hev tole me. I ain't keerin' ter know 'ceptin' ye hev
shet me out. It hev hurt my feelin's powerful ter be treated that-a-way.
Tell me now--or lemme go forever!"

She was suddenly trembling from head to foot. Pale she was always. Now
she was ghastly. "Rufe Kinnicutt," she said with the solemnity of
an adjuration, "ye don't keer fur sech ez this, fur _nuthin_'. An' I

He noted her agitation. He felt the clue in his grasp. He sought to
wield his power, "Choose a-twixt us! Choose a-twixt the promise ye made
ter that man--or the word ye deny ter me! An' when I'm gone--I'm gone!"

She stood seemingly irresolute.

"It's nuthin' ter me," he protested once more. "I kin keep it an' gyard
it ez well ez you uns. But I won't be shet out, an' doubted, an' denied,
like ez ef _I_ wan't fitten ter be trested with nuthin'!"

He stood a moment longer, watching her trembling agitation, and feeling
that tingling exasperation that might have preceded a blow.

"I'm goin'," he threatened.

As she still stood motionless he turned away as if to make good his
threat. He heard a vague stir among the leaves, and turning back he saw
that the porch was vacant.

He had overshot the mark. In swift repentance he retraced his steps. He
called her name. No response save the echoes. The house dogs, roused to
a fresh excitement, were gathering about the door, barking in affected
alarm, save one, to whom Kinnicutt was a stranger, that came, silent
and ominous, dragging a block and chain from under the house. Kinnicutt
heard the sudden drowsy plaints of the old rheumatic grandmother, as she
was rudely awakened by the clamors, and presently a heavy footfall smote
upon the puncheons that floored the porch. Old Byars himself, with his
cracked voice and long gray hair, had left his pipe on the mantel-piece
to investigate the disorder without.

"Hy're Rufe!" he swung uneasily posed on his crutch stick in the
doorway, and mechanically shaded his eyes with one hand, as from the
sun, as he gazed dubiously at the young man, "hain't ye in an' about
finished yer visit t--or yer visitation, ez the pa'son calls it He, he,
he! Wall, Loralindy hev gone up steers ter the roof-room, an' it's about
time ter bar up the doors. Waal, joy go with ye, he, he, he! Come off,
Tige, _ye_ Bose, hyar! Cur'ous I can't 'larn them dogs no manners."

A dreary morrow ensued on the splendid night. The world was ful of
mists; the clouds were resolved into drizzling rain; every perspective
of expectation was restricted by the limited purlieus of the present.
The treasure-seekers digging here and there throughout the forest in
every nook in low ground, wherever a drift of the snowy blossoms might
glimmer, began to lose hope and faith. Now and again some iconoclastic
soul sought to stigmatize the whole rumor as a fable. More than one
visited the Byars cabin in the desperate hope that some chance word
might fall from the girl, giving a clue to the mystery.

By daylight the dreary little hut had no longer poetic or picturesque
suggestion. Bereft of the sheen and shimmer of the moonlight its aspect
had collapsed like a dream into the dullest realities. The door-yard was
muddy and littered; here the razor-back hogs rooted unrebuked; the
rail fence had fallen on one side, and it would seem that only their
attachment to home prevented them from wandering forth to be lost in the
wilderness; the clap-boards of the shiny roof were oozing and steaming
with dampness, and showed all awry and uneven; the clay and stick
chimney, hopelessly ont of plumb, leaned far from the wall.

Within it was not more cheerful; the fire smoked gustily into the
dim little room, illumined only by the flicker of the blaze and the
discouraged daylight from the open door, for the batten shutters of the
unglazed window were closed. The puncheon floor was grimy--the feet
that curiosity had led hither brought much red clay mire upon them. The
poultry, all wet and dispirited, ventured within and stood about the
door, now scuttling in sudden panic and with peevish squawks upon the
unexpected approach of a heavy foot. Loralinda, sitting at her spinning
wheel, was paler than ever, all her dearest illusions dashed into
hopeless fragments, and a promise which she did not value to one whom
she did not love quite perfect and intact.

The venerable grandmother sat propped with pillows in her arm-chair,
and now and again adjured the girl to "show some manners an' tell
the neighbors what they so honed to know." With the vehemence of her
insistence her small wizened face would suddenly contract; the tortures
of the rheumatism, particularly rife in such weather, would seize upon
her, and she would cry aloud with anguish, and clutch her stick and
smite her granddaughter to expedite the search for the primitive
remedies of dried "yarbs" on which her comfort depended.

"Oh, Lord!" she would wail as she fell back among the pillows. "I'm
a-losin' all my religion amongst these hyar rheumatics. I wish I war a
man jes' ter say 'damn 'em' once! An' come good weather I'll sca'cely be
able ter look Loralindy in the face, considering how I hector her whilst
I be in the grip o' this misery."

"Jes' pound away, Granny, ef it makes ye feel ennywise better," cried
Loralinda, furtively rubbing the weales on her arm. "It don't hurt me
wuth talkin' 'bout. Ye jes' pound away, an' welcome!"

Perhaps it was her slender, elastic strength and erect grace, with her
shining hair and ethereal calm pallor in the midst of the storm that
evoked the comparison, for Ozias Crann was suddenly reminded of the
happy similitude suggested by the letter that he had heard read and had
repeated yesterday to his cronies as he stood in the road. The place was
before him for one illumined moment--the niche in the cliff, with its
ferns and vines, the delicate stately dignity of the lilies outlined
against the intense blue of the sky.

The reminiscence struck him like a discovery. Where else could the
flower have been so naturally noticed by this man, a stranger, and
remembered as a mark in the expectation of finding it once more when the
bulb should flower again--as beside the county road? He would have been
hopelessly lost a furlong from the path.

Crann stood for a moment irresolute, then silently grasped his pickaxe
and slunk out among the mists on the porch.

He berated his slow mind as he hurried invisible through the vast clouds
in which the world seemed lost. Why should the laggard inspiration come
so late if it had come at all? Why should he, with the clue lying half
developed in his own mental impressions, have lost all the vacant hours
of the long, bright night, have given the rumor time to pervade the
mountains, and set all the idlers astir before he should strike the
decisive blow!

There, at last, was the cliff, beetling far over the mist-filled valley
below. A slant of sunshine fell on the surging vapor, and it gleamed
opalescent. There was the niche, with the lilies all a-bloom. He came
panting up the slope under the dripping trees, with a dash of wind in
his face and the odor of damp leafage and mold on the freshening air.

He struck the decisive blow with a will. The lilies shivered and
fell apart The echoes multiplied the stroke with a ringing metallic

The loiterers were indeed abroad. The sound lured them from their own
devious points of search, and a half dozen of the treasure-seekers burst
from the invisibilities of the mists as Ozias Crann's pickaxe cleaving
the mold struck upon the edge of a small japanned box hidden securely
between the rocks, a scant foot below the surface. A dangerous spot
for a struggle, the verge of a precipice, but the greed for gain is a
passion that blunts the sense of peril. The wrestling figures, heedless
of the abyss, swayed hither and thither, the precious box among them;
now it was captured by a stronger grasp, now secured anew by sheer
sleight-of-hand. More than once it dropped to the ground, and at last
in falling the lock gave way, and scattered to the wind were numberless
orderly vouchers for money already paid, inventories of fixtures,
bills for repairs, reports of departments--various details of value in
settling the accounts of the mine, and therefore to be transmitted to
the main office of the mining company at Glaston. "Ef I hed tole ye ez
the money warn't thar, ye wouldn't hev believed me," Lora-linda
Byars said drearily, when certain disappointed wights, who had sought
elsewhere and far a-field, repaired to the cabin laughing at their own
plight and upbraiding her with the paucity of the _cache_. "I knowed all
the time what war in that box. The man lef' it thar in the niche arter
he war shot, it bem' heavy ter tote an' not wuth much. But he brung the
money with him, an' tuk it off, bein', he said, without orders from the
owners, the miners hevin' burnt down the offices, an' bruk open the safe
an' destroyed all the papers, ceptin' that leetle box. I sewed up the
man's money myself in them feather beds what he lay on whenst he war
wagined down 'ter Colb'ry ter take the kyars. He 'lowed the compn'y
mought want them papers whenst they went into liquidation, ez he called
it, an' tole me how he hed hid 'em."

Rufe Kinnicutt wondered that she should have been so unyielding. She did
not speculate on the significance of her promise. She did not appraise
its relative value with other interests, and seek to qualify it. Once
given she simply kept it. She held herself no free agent. It was not

The discovery that the lure was gold revealed the incentive of her
lover's jealous demand to share the custody of the secret. His intention
was substituted for the deed in her rigid interpretation of integrity.
It cost her many tears. But she seemed thereafter to him still more
unyielding, as erect, fragile, ethereally pure and pale she noted his
passing no more than the lily might. He often thought of the cheap lure
of the sophisms that had so deluded him, the simple obvious significance
of the letter, and the phrase, "Goodbye, Chilhowee Lily," had also an
echo of finality for him.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Chilhowee Lily - 1911" ***

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