Infomotions, Inc.The Prodigal Judge / Kester, Vaughan, 1869-1911



Author: Kester, Vaughan, 1869-1911
Title: The Prodigal Judge
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): yancy; murrell; mahaffy; betty; carrington; hannibal; miss malroy; judge; uncle bob; bob; ware; tom; bob yancy; miss betty; slocum price; reckon; captain murrell; dave blount; charley norton; colonel fentress
Contributor(s): Sadler, Michael T. H. [Translator]
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Title: The Prodigal Judge

Author: Vaughan Kester

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THE PRODIGAL JUDGE BY VAUGHAN KESTER




CHAPTER I

THE BOY AT THE BARONY


The Quintards had not prospered on the barren lands of the pine
woods whither they had emigrated to escape the malaria of the low
coast, but this no longer mattered, for the last of his name and
race, old General Quintard, was dead in the great house his
father had built almost a century before and the thin acres of
the Barony, where he had made his last stand against age and
poverty, were to claim him, now that he had given up the struggle
in their midst.  The two or three old slaves about the place,
stricken with a sense of the futility of the fight their master
had made, mourned for him and for themselves, but of his own
blood and class none was present.

Shy dwellers from the pine woods, lanky jeans-clad men and
sunbonneted women, who were gathering for the burial of the
famous man of their neighborhood, grouped themselves about the
lawn which had long since sunk to the uses of a pasture lot.
Singly or by twos and threes they stole up the steps and across
the wide porch to the open door.  On the right of the long hall
another door stood open, and who wished could enter the
drawing-room, with its splendid green and gold paper, and the
wonderful fireplace with the Dutch tiles that graphically
depicted the story of Jonah and the whale.

Here the general lay in state.  The slaves had dressed their old
master in the uniform he had worn as a colonel of the continental
line, but the thin shoulders of the wasted figure no longer
filled the buff and blue coat.  The high-bred face, once proud
and masterful no doubt, as became the face of a Quintard, spoke
of more than age and poverty--it was infinitely sorrowful.  Yet
there was something harsh and unforgiving in the lines death had
fixed there, which might have been taken as the visible impress
of that mystery, the bitterness of which had misshaped the dead
man's nature; but the resolute lips had closed for ever on their
secret, and the broken spirit had gone perhaps to learn how poor
a thing its pride had been.

Though he had lived continuously at the Barony for almost a
quarter of a century, there was none among his neighbors who
could say he had looked on that thin, aquiline face in all that
time.  Yet they had known much of him, for the gossip of the
slaves, who had been his only friends in those years he had
chosen to deny himself to other friends, had gone far and wide
over the county.

That notable man of business, Jonathan Crenshaw--and this
superiority was especially evident when the business chanced to
be his own--was closeted in the library with a stranger to whom
rumor fixed the name of Bladen, supposing him to be the legal
representative of certain remote connections of the old
general's.

Crenshaw sat before the flat-topped mahogany desk in the center
of the room with several well-thumbed account-books open before
him.  Bladen, in riding dress, stood by the window.

"I suppose you will buy in the property when it comes up for
sale?" the latter was saying.

Mr. Crenshaw had already made it plain that General Quintard's
creditors would have lean pickings at the Barony, intimating that
he himself was the chiefest of these and the one to suffer most
grievously in pocket.  Further than this, Mr. Bladen saw that the
old house was a ruin, scarcely habitable, and that the thin
acres, though they were many and a royal grant, were of the
slightest value.  Crenshaw nodded his acquiescence to the
lawyer's conjecture touching the ultimate fate of the Barony.

"I reckon, sir, I'll want to protect myself, but if there are any
of his own kin who have a fancy to the place I'll put no obstacle
in their way."

"Who are the other creditors?" asked Bladen.

"There ain't none, sir; they just got tired waiting on him, and
when they began to sue and get judgment the old general would
send me word to settle with them, and their claims passed into my
hands.  I was in too deep to draw out.  But for the last ten
years his dealings were all with me; I furnished the supplies for
the place here.  It didn't amount to much, as there was only him
and the darkies, and the account ran on from year to year."

"He lived entirely alone, saw no one, I understand," said Bladen.

"Alone with his two or three old slaves--yes, sir.  He wouldn't
even see me; Joe, his old nigger, would fetch orders for this or
that.  Once or twice I rode out to see him, but I wa'n't even
allowed inside that door; the message I got was that he couldn't
be disturbed, and the last time I come he sent me word that if I
annoyed him again he would be forced to terminate our business
relations.  That was pretty strong talk, wa'n't it, when you
consider that I could have sold the roof from over his head and
the land from under his feet?  Oh, well, I just put it down to
childishness."  There was a brief pause, then Crenshaw spoke
again.  "I reckon, sir, if you know anything about the old
general's private affairs you don't feel no call to speak on that
point?" he observed, and with evident regret.  He had hoped that
Bladen would clear up the mystery, for certainly it must have
been some sinister tragedy that had cost the general his grip on
life and for twenty years and more had made of him a recluse, so
that the faces of his friends had become as the faces of
strangers.

"My dear sir, I know nothing of General Quintard's private,
history.  I am even unacquainted with my clients, who are distant
cousins, but his nearest kin--they live in South Carolina.  I was
merely instructed to represent them in the event of his death and
to look after their interests."

"That's business," said Crenshaw, nodding.

"All I know is this: General Quintard was a conspicuous man in
these parts fifty years ago; that was before my time, Mr.
Crenshaw, and I take it, too, it was before yours; he married a
Beaufort."

"So he did," said Crenshaw, "and there was one child, a daughter;
she married a South Carolinian by the name of Turberville.  I
remember that, fo' they were married under the gallery in the
hall.  Great folks, those Turbervilles, rolling rich.  My father
was manager then fo' the general--that was nearly forty years
ago.  There was life here then, sir; the place was alive with
niggers and the house full of guests from one month's end to
another."  He drummed on the desktop.  "Who'd a thought it wa'n't
to last for ever!"

"And what became of the daughter who married Turberville ?"

"Died years ago," said Crenshaw.  "She was here the last time
about thirty years back.  It wa'n't so easy to get about in those
days, no roads to speak of and no stages, and besides, the old
general wa'n't much here nohow; her going away had sort of broken
up his home, I reckon.  Then the place stood empty fo' a few
years, most of the slaves were sold off, and the fields began to
grow up.  No one rightly knew, but the general was supposed to be
traveling up yonder in the No'th, sir.  As I say, things ran
along this way quite a while, and then one morning when I went to
my store my clerk says, 'There's an old white-headed nigger been
waiting round here fo' a word with you, Mr. Crenshaw.'  It was
Joe, the general's body servant, and when I'd shook hands with
him I said, 'When's the master expected back?'  You see, I
thought Joe had been sent on ahead to open the house, but he
says, 'General Quintard's at the Barony now,' and then he says,
'The general's compliments, sir, and will you see that this order
is filled?'  Well, Mr. Bladen, I and my father had factored the
Barony fo' fifteen years and upward, but that was the first time
the supplies fo' the general's table had ever been toted here in
a meal sack!

"I rode out that very afternoon, but Joe, who was one of your
mannerly niggers, met me at the door and says, 'Mr. Crenshaw, the
general appreciates this courtesy, but regrets that he is unable
to see you, sir.'  After that it wa'n't long in getting about
that the general was a changed man.  Other folks came here to
welcome him back and he refused to see them, but the reason of it
we never learned.  Joe, who probably knew, was one of your close
niggers; there was, no getting anything out of him; you could
talk with that darky by the hour, sir, and he left you feeling
emptier than if he'd kept his mouth shut."

They were interrupted by a knock at the door.

"Come in," said Crenshaw, a trifle impatiently, and in response
to his bidding the door opened and a small boy entered the room
dragging after him a long rifle.  Suddenly overcome by a
speechless shyness, he paused on the threshold to stare with
round, wondering eyes at the two men.  "Well, sonny, what do you
want?" asked Mr. Crenshaw indulgently.

The boy opened his mouth, but his courage failed him, and with
his courage went the words he would have spoken.

"Who is this?" asked Bladen.

"I'll tell, you presently," said Crenshaw.  "Come, speak up,
sonny, what do you want?"

"Please, sir, I want this here old spo'tin' rifle," said: the
child.  "Please, sir, I want to keep it," he added.

"Well, you run along on out of here with your old spo'tin'
rifle!" said Crenshaw good-naturedly.

"Please, sir, am I to keep it?"

"Yes, I reckon you may keep it--least I've no objection."
Crenshaw glanced at Bladen.

"Oh, by all means," said the latter.  Spasms of delight shook the
small figure, and with a murmur that was meant for thanks he
backed from the room, closing the door.  Bladen glanced
inquiringly at Crenshaw.

"You want to know about him, sir?  Well, that's Hannibal Wayne
Hazard."

"Hannibal Wayne Hazard?" repeated Bladen.

"Yes, sir; the general was the authority on that point, but who
Hannibal Wayne Hazard is and how he happens to be at the Barony
is another mystery--just wait a minute, sir--" and quitting his
chair Mr. Crenshaw hurried from the room to return almost
immediately with a tall countryman.  "Mr. Bladen, this is Bob
Yancy.  Bob, the gentleman, wants to hear about the woman and the
child; that's your story."

"Howdy, sir," said Mr. Yancy.  He appeared to meditate on the
mental effort that was required of him, then he took a long
breath.  "It was this a-ways--" he began with a soft drawl, and
then paused.  "You give me the dates, Mr. John, fo' I
disremember."

"It was four year ago come next Christmas," said Crenshaw.

"Old Christmas," corrected Mr. Yancy.  "Our folks always kept the
old Christmas like it was befo' they done mussed up the calendar.
I'm agin all changes," added Mr. Yancy.

"He means the fo'teenth of December," explained Mr. Crenshaw.

"Not wishin' to dispute your word, Mr. John, I mean Christmas,"
objected Yancy.

"Oh, very well, he means Christmas then!" said Crenshaw.

"The evening befo', it was, and I'd gone to Fayetteville to get
my Christmas fixin's; there was right much rain and some snow
falling." Mr. Yancy's guiding light was clearly accuracy.  "Just
at sundown I hooked up that blind mule of mine to the cart and
started fo' home.  As I got shut of the town the stage come in
and I seen one passenger, a woman.  Now that mule is slow, Mr.
John; I'm free to say there are faster mules, but a set of
harness never went acrost the back of a slower critter than that
one of mine."  Yancy, who thus far had addressed himself to Mr.
Crenshaw, now turned to Bladen.  "That mule, sir, sees good with
his right eye, but it's got a gait like it was looking fo' the
left-hand side of the road and wondering what in thunderation had
got into it that it was acrost the way; mules are gifted with
some sense, but mighty little judgment."

"Never mind the mule, Bob," said Crenshaw.

"If I can't make the gentleman believe in the everlasting
slowness of that mule of mine, my story ain't worth a hill of
beans," said Yancy.

"The extraordinary slowness of the mule is accepted without
question, Mr. Yancy," said Bladen.

"I'm obliged to you," rejoined Yancy, and for a brief moment he
appeared to commune with himself, then he continued.  "A mile out
of town I heard some one sloshing through the rain after me; it
was dark by that time and I couldn't see who it was, so I pulled
up and waited, and then I made out it was a woman.  She spoke
when she was alongside the cart and says, 'Can you drive me on to
the Barony?' and it came to me it was the same woman I'd seen
leave the stage.  When I got down to help her into the cart I saw
she was toting a child in her arms."

"What did the woman look like, Bob?" said Crenshaw.

"She wa'n't exactly old and she wa'n't young by no manner of
means; I remember saying to myself, that child ain't yo's, whose
ever it is.  Well, sir, I was willing enough to talk, but she
wa'n't, she hardly spoke until we came to the red gate, when she
says, 'Stop, if you please, I'll walk the rest of the way.'  Mind
you, she'd known without a word from me we were at the Barony.
She give me a dollar, and the last I seen of her she was hurrying
through the rain toting the child in her arms."

Mr. Crenshaw took up the narrative.

"The niggers say the old general almost had a fit when he saw
her.  Aunt Alsidia let her into the house; I reckon if Joe had
been alive she wouldn't have got inside that door, spite of the
night!"

"Well?" said Bladen.

"When morning come she was gone, but the child done stayed
behind; we always reckoned the lady walked back to Fayetteville
sometime befo' day and took the stage.  I've heard Aunt Alsidia
tell as how the old general said that morning, pale and shaking
like, 'You'll find a boy asleep in the red room; he's to be fed
and cared fo', but keep him out of my sight.  His name is
Hannibal Wayne Hazard.'  That is all the general ever said on the
matter.  He never would see the boy, never asked after him even,
and the boy lived in the back of the house, with the niggers to
look after him.  Now, sir, you know as much as we know, which is
just next door to nothing."

The old general was borne across what had once been the west lawn
to his resting-place in the neglected acre where the dead and
gone of his race lay, and the record of the family was complete,
as far as any man knew.  Crenshaw watched the grave take shape
with a melancholy for which he found no words, yet if words could
have come from the mist of ideas in which his mind groped vaguely
he would have said that for themselves the deeds of the Quintards
had been given the touch of finality, and that whether for good
or for evil, the consequences, like the ripple which rises from
the surface of placid waters when a stone is dropped, still
survived somewhere in the world.

The curious and the idle drifted back to the great house; then
the memory of their own affairs, not urgent, generally speaking,
but still of some casual interest, took them down the disused
carriage-way to the red gate and so off into the heat of the
summer day.  Crenshaw's wagon, driven by Crenshaw's man, vanished
in a cloud of gray dust with the two old slaves, Aunt Alsidia and
Uncle Ben, who were being taken to the Crenshaw place to be cared
for pending the settlement of the Quintard estate.  Bladen parted
from Crenshaw with expressions of pleasure at having had the
opportunity of making his acquaintance, and further delivered
himself of the civil wish that they might soon meet again.  Then
Crenshaw, assisted by Bob Yancy, proceeded to secure the great
house against intrusion.

"I make it a p'int to always stay and see the plumb finish of a
thing," explained Yancy.  "Otherwise you're frequently put out by
hearing of what happened after you left; I can stand anything but
disapp'intment of that kind."

They passed from room to room securing doors and windows, and at
last stepped out upon the back porch.

"Hullo!" said Yancy, pointing.

There on a bench by the kitchen door was a small figure.  It was
Hannibal Wayne Hazard asleep, with his old spo'tin' rifle across
his knees.  His very existence had been forgotten.

"Well, I declare to goodness!" said Crenshaw.

"What are you going to do with him, Mr. John?"

This question nettled Crenshaw.

"I don't know as that is any particular affair of mine," he said.
Now, Mr. Crenshaw, though an excellent man of business, with an
unblinking eye on number one, was kindly, on the whole, but there
was a Mrs. Crenshaw, to whom he rendered a strict account of all
his deeds, and that sacred institution, the home, was only a
tolerable haven when these deeds were nicely calculated to fit
with the lady's exactions.  Especially was he aware that Mrs.
Crenshaw was averse to children as being inimical to cleanliness
and order, oppressive virtues that drove Crenshaw himself in his
hours of leisure to the woodshed, where he might spit freely.

"I reckon you'd rather drop a word with yo' missus before you
toted him home?" suggested Yancy, who knew something of the
nature of his friend's domestic thraldom.

"A woman ought to be boss in her own house," said Crenshaw.

"Feelin' the truth of that, I've never married, Mr. John; I do as
I please and don't have to listen to a passel of opinion.  But I
was going to say, what's to hinder me from toting that boy to my
home?  There are no calico petticoats hanging up in my closets."

"And no closets to hang 'em in, I'll be bound!" rejoined
Crenshaw.  "But if you'll take the boy, Bob, you shan't lose by
it."

Yancy rested a big knotted hand on the boy's shoulder.

"Come, wake up, sonny!  Yo' Uncle Bob is ready fo' to strike out
home," he said.  The child roused with a start and stared into
the strange bearded face that was bent toward him.  "It's yo'
Uncle Bob," continued Yancy in a wheedling tone.  "Are you the
little nevvy what will help him to hook up that old blind mule of
hisn ?  Here, give us the spo'tin' rifle to tote!"

"Please, sir, where is Aunt Alsidia?" asked the child.

Yancy balanced the rifle on his great palm and his eyes assumed a
speculative cast.

"I wonder what's to hinder us from loading this old gun, and
firing this old gun, and hearing this old gun go-bang! Eh?"

The child's blue eyes grew wide.

"Like the guns off in the woods?" he asked, in a breathless
whisper.

"Like the guns a body hears off in the woods, only louder--heaps
louder," said Yancy.  "You fetch out his plunder, Mr. John," he
added in a lower tone.

"Do it now, please," the child cried, slipping off the bench.

"I was expectin' fo' to hear you name me Uncle Bob, sonny; my
little nevvies get almost anything they want out of me when they
call me that-a-ways."

"Please, Uncle Bob, make it go bang!"

"You come along, then," and Mr. Yancy moved off in the direction
of his mule, the child following.  "Powder's what we want fo' to
make this old spo'tiu' rifle talk up, and I reckon we'll find
some in a horn flask in the bottom of my cart."  His expectations
in this particular were realized, and he loaded the rifle with a
small blank charge.  'Now," he said, shaking the powder into the
pan by a succession of smart taps on the breech, "sometimes these
old pieces go off and sometimes they don't; it depends on the
flint, but you stand back of your Uncle Bob, sonny, and keep yo'
fingers out of yo' ears, and when you say--bang!-- off she goes."

There was a moment of delightful expectancy, and then--

"Bang!" cried the child, and on the instant the rifle cracked.
"Do it againQ  Please, Uncle Bob!" he cried, wild with delight.

"Now if you was to help yo' Uncle Bob hook up that old mule of
hisn and ride home with him, fo' he's going pretty shortly, you
and Uncle Bob could do right much shootin' with this old rifle."
Mr. Crenshaw had appeared with a bundle, which he tossed into the
cart.  Yancy turned to him.  "If you meet any inquiring friends,
Mr. John, I reckon you may say that my nevvy's gone fo' to pay me
a visit.  Most of his time will be agreeably spent shootin' with
this rifle at a mark, and me holdin' him so he won't get kicked
clean off his feet."

Thereafter beguiling speech flowed steadily from Mr. Yancy's
bearded lips, in the midst of which relations were established
between the mule and cart, and the boy quitted the Barony for a
new world.

"Do you reckon if Uncle Bob was to let you, you could drive,
sonny?"

"Can she gallop?" asked the boy.

Mr. Yancy gave him a hurt glance.

"She's too much of a lady to do that," he said.  "No, I 'low this
ain't 'so fast as running or walking, but it's a heap quicker
than standing stock-still."  The afternoon sun waned as they went
deeper and deeper into the pine woods, but at last they came to
their journey's end, a widely scattered settlement on a hill
above a branch.

"This," said Mr. Yancy, "are Scratch Hill, sonny.  Why Scratch
Hill?  Some say it's the fleas; others agin hold it's the eternal
bother of making a living here, but whether fleas or living you
scratch fo' both."




CHAPTER II

YANCY TELLS A MORAL TALE


In the deep peace that rested like a benediction on the pine-clad
slopes of Scratch Hill the boy Hannibal followed at Yancy's heels
as that gentleman pursued the not arduous rounds of temperate
industry which made up his daily life, for if Yancy were not
completely idle he was responsible for a counterfeit presentment
of idleness having most of the merits of the real article.  He
toiled casually in a small cornfield and a yet smaller truck
patch, but his work always began late, when it began at all, and
he was easily dissuaded from continuing it; indeed, his attitude
toward it seemed to challenge interference.

In the winter, when the weather conditions were perfectly
adjusted to meet certain occult exactions he had come to require,
Yancy could be induced to go into the woods and there labor with
his ax.  But as he pointed out to Hannibal, a poor man's capital
was his health, and he being a poor man it behooved him to have a
jealous care of himself.  He made use of the dull days of mingled
mist and drizzle for hunting, work being clearly out of the
question; one could get about over the brown floor of the forest
in silence then, and there was no sun to glint the brass
mountings of his rifle.  The fine days he professed to regard
with keen suspicion as weather breeders, when it was imprudent to
go far from home, especially in the direction of the Crenshaw
timber lands, which for years had been the scene of all his
gainful industry, and where he seemed to think nature ready to
assume her most sinister aspect.  Again in the early spring, when
the young oak leaves were the size of squirrel's ears and the
whippoorwills began calling as the long shadows struck through
the pine woods, the needs of his corn ground battled with his
desire to fish.  In all such crises of the soul Mr. Yancy was
fairly vanquished before the struggle began; but to the boy his
activities were perfectly ordered to yield the largest return in
contentment.

The Barony had been offered for sale and bought in by Crenshaw
for eleven thousand dollars, this being the amount of his claim.
Some six months later he sold the plantation for fifteen thousand
dollars to Nathaniel Ferris, of Currituck County.

"There's money in the old place, Bob, at that figure," Crenshaw
told Yancy.

"There are so," agreed Yancy, who was thinking Crenshaw had lost
no time in getting it out.

They were seated on the counter in Crenshaw's store at Balaam's
Cross Roads, where the heavy odor of black molasses battled with
the sprightly smell of salt fish.  The merchant held the Scratch
Hiller in no small esteem.  Their intimacy was of long standing,
for the Yancys going down and the Crenshaws coming up had for a
brief space flourished on the same social level.  Mr. Crenshaw's
rise in life, however, had been uninterrupted, while Mr. Yancy,
wrapped in a philosophic calm and deeply averse to industry, had
permitted the momentum imparted by a remote ancestor to carry him
where it would, which was steadily away from that tempered
prosperity his family had once boasted as members of the
land-owning and slaveholding class.

"I mean there's money in the place fo' Ferris," Crenshaw
explained.

"I reckon yo're right, Mr. John; the old general used to spend a
heap on the Barony and we all know he never got a cent back, so I
reckon the money's there yet.

"Bladen's got an answer from them South Carolina Quintards, and
they don't know nothing about the boy," said Crenshaw, changing
the subject.  "So you can rest easy, Bob; they ain't going to
want him."

"Well, sir, that surely is a passel of comfort to me.  I find I
got all the instincts of a father without having had none of the
instincts of a husband."

A richer, deeper realization of his joy came to Yancy when he had
turned his back on Balaam's Cross Roads and set out for home
through the fragrant silence of the pine woods.  His probable
part in the young life chance had placed in his keeping was a
glorious thing to the man.  He had not cared to speculate on the
future; he had believed that friends or kindred must sooner or
later claim Hannibal, but now he felt wonderfully secure in
Crenshaw's opinion that this was not to be.

Just beyond the Barony, which was midway between Balaam's and the
Hill, down the long stretch of sandy road he saw two mounted
figures, then as they drew nearer he caught the flutter of skirts
and recognized one of the horsewomen.  It was Mrs. Ferris, wife
of the Barony's new owner.  She reined in her horse abreast of
his cart.

"Aren't you Mr. Yancy?" she asked.

"Yes, ma'am, that's me--Bob Yancy."  He regarded her with large
gray eyes that were frankly approving in their expression, for
she was more than commonly agreeable to look upon.

"I am Mrs. Ferris, and I am very pleased to make your
acquaintance."

"The same here," murmured Yancy with winning civility.

Mrs. Ferris' companion leaned forward, her face averted, and
stroked her horse's neck with gloved hand.

"This is my friend, Miss Betty Malroy."

"Glad to know you, ma'am," said Yancy.

Miss Malroy faced him, smiling.  She, too, was very good to look
upon, indeed she was quite radiant with youth and beauty.

"We are just returning from Scratch Hill--I think that is what
you call it?" said Mrs. Ferris.

"So we do," agreed Yancy.

"And the dear little boy we met is your nephew, is he not, Mr.
Yancy?" It was Betty Malroy who spoke.

"In a manner he is and in a manner he ain't," explained Yancy,
somewhat enigmatically.

"There are quite a number of children at Scratch Hill?" suggested
Mrs. Ferris.

"Yes, ma'am, so there are; a body would naturally notice that."

"And no school--not a church even!" continued Mrs. Ferris in a
grieved tone.

"Never has been," rejoined Yancy cheerfully.  He seemed to
champion the absence of churches and schools on the score of long
usage.

"But what do the people do when they want to go to church?"
questioned Mrs. Ferris.

"Never having heard that any of 'em wanted to go I can't say just
offhand, but don't you fret none about that, ma'am; there are
churches; one's up at the Forks, and there's another at Balaam's
Cross Roads."

"But that's ten miles from Scratch Hill, isn't it?"

"It's all of that," said Yancy.  He sensed it that the lady
before him, was a person of much force and energy, capable even
of reckless innovation.  Mr. Yancy himself was innately
conservative; his religious inspiration had been drawn from the
Forks and Balaam's Cross Roads.  It had seemed to answer very
well.  Mrs. Ferris fixed his wavering glance.

"Don't you think it is too bad, Mr. Yancy, the way those children
have been neglected?  There is nothing for them but to run wild."

"Well, I seen some right good children fetched up that-a-ways
--smart, too.  You see, ma'am, there's a heap a child can just
naturally pick up of himself."

"Oh!" and the monosyllable was uttered rather weakly.  Mr.
Yancy's name had been given her as that of a resident of weight
and influence in the classic region of Scratch Hill.  Miss Malroy
came to her friend's rescue.

"Mrs. Ferris thinks the children should have a chance to learn at
home.  Poor little tots!--they can't walk ten or fifteen miles to
Sunday-school, now can they, Mr. Yancy ?"

"Bless yo' heart, they won't try to!" said Yancy reassuringly.
"Sunday's a day of rest at Scratch Hill.  So are most of the
other days of the week, but we all aspire to take just a little
mo' rest on Sunday than any other day.  Sometimes we ain't able
to, but that's our aim."

"Do you know the old deserted cabin by the big pine?--the Blount
place?" asked Mrs. Ferris.

"Yes, ma'am, I know it."

"I am going to have Sunday-school there for those children; they
shan't be neglected any longer if I can help it--I should feel
guilty, quite guilty!  Now won't you let your little nephew come?
Perhaps they'll not find it so very terrible, after all."  From
which Mr. Yancy concluded that when she invaded it, skepticism
had rested as a mantle on Scratch Hill.

"Every one said we would better talk with you, Mr. Yancy, and we
were hoping to meet you as we came along," supplemented Miss
Malroy, and her words of flattery were wafted to him with so
sweet a smile that Yancy instantly capitulated.

"I reckon you-all can count on my nevvy," he said.

When he reached Scratch Hill, in the waning light of day,
Hannibal, in a state of high excitement, met him at the log shed,
which served as a barn.

"I hear you-all have been entertaining visitors while Uncle Bob
was away," observed Yancy, and remembering what Crenshaw had told
him, he rested his big hand on the boy's head with a special
tenderness.

"There's going to be a school in the cabin in the old field!"
said the boy.  "May I go?--Oh, Uncle Bob, will you please take
me?"

"When's this here school going to begin, anyhow?"

"To-morrow at four o'clock, she said, Uncle Bob."

"She's a quick lady, ain't she?  Well, I expected you'd be
hopping around on one leg when you named it to me.  You wait
until Sunday and see what I do fo' my nevvy," said Yancy.

He was as good as his implied promise, but the day began
discouragingly with an extra and, as it seemed to Hannibal, an
unnecessary amount of soap and water.

"You owe it to yo'self to show a clean skin in the house of
worship.  Just suppose one of them nice ladies was to cast her
eye back of yo' ears!  She'd surely be put out to name it offhand
whether you was black or white.  I reckon I'll have to barber you
some, too, with the shears."

"What's school like, Uncle Bob?" asked Hannibal, twisting and
squirming under the big resolute hands of the man.

"I can't just say what it's like."

"Why, didn't you ever go to school, Uncle Bob?"

"Didn't I ever go to school!  Where do you reckon I got my
education, anyhow?  I went to school several times in my young
days."

"On a Sunday, like this?"

"No, the school I tackled was on a week-day."

"Was it hard?" asked Hannibal, who was beginning to cherish
secret misgivings; for surely all this soap and water must have
some sinister portent

"Well, some learn easier than others.  I learned middling easy
--it didn't take me long--and when I felt I knowed enough I just
naturally quit and went on about my business."

"But what did you learn?" insisted the boy.

"You-all wouldn't know if I told you, because you-all ain't ever
been to school yo'self.  When you've had yo' education we'll talk
over what I learned--it mostly come out of a book."  He hoped his
general statement would satisfy Hannibal, but it failed to do so.

"What's a book.  Uncle Bob?" he demanded.

"Well, whatever a body don't know naturally he gets out of a
book.  I reckon the way you twist, Nevvy, mebby you'd admire fo'
to lose an ear!" and Mr. Yancy refused further to discuss the
knowledge he had garnered in his youth.

Hannibal and Yancy were the first to arrive at the deserted cabin
in the old field that afternoon.  They found the place had been
recently cleaned and swept, while about the wall was ranged a row
of benches; there was also a table and two chairs.  Yancy
inspected the premises with the eye of mature experience.

"Yes, it surely is a school; any one with an education would know
that.  Just look!--ain't you glad yo' Uncle Bob slicked you up
some, now you see what them ladies has done fo' to make this
place tidy?"

Shy children from the pine woods, big brothers with little
sisters and big sisters with little brothers, drifted out of the
encircling forest.  Coincident with the arrival of the last of
these stragglers Mrs. Ferris and Miss Malroy appeared, attended
by a colored groom.

"It was so good of you to come, Mr. Yancy!  The children won't
feel so shy with you here," said Mrs. Ferris warmly, as Yancy
assisted her to dismount, an act of courtesy that called for his
finest courage.

Mrs. Ferris' missionary spirit manifested itself agreeably enough
on the whole.  When she had ranged her flock in a solemn-faced
row on the benches, she began by explaining why Sunday was set
apart for a day of rest, touching but lightly on its deeper
significance as a day of worship as well; then she read certain
chapters from the Bible, finishing with the story of David, a
narrative that made a deep impression upon Yancy, comfortably
seated in the doorway.

"Can't you tell the children a story, Mr. Yancy?  Something about
their own neighborhood I think would be nice, something with a
moral," the pleasant earnest voice  f Mrs. Ferris roused the
Scratch Hiller from his meditations.

"Yes, ma'am, I reckon I can tell 'em a story."  He stood up,
filling the doorway with his bulk.  "I can tell you-all a story
about this here house," he said, addressing himself to the
children.  He smiled happily.  "You-all don't need to look so
solemn, a body ain't going to snap at you!  This house are the
old Blount cabin, but the Blounts done moved away from it years
and years ago.  They're down Fayetteville way now.  There was a
passel of 'em and they was about as common a lot of white folks
as you'd find anywhere; I know, because I come to a dance here
once and Dave Blount called me a liar right in this very room."
He paused, that this impressive fact might disseminate itself.
Hannibal slid forward in his seat, his earnest little face bent
on Yancy.

"Why did he call you a liar, Uncle Bob?" he demanded.

"Well, I scarcely know, Nevvy, but that's what he done, and he
stuck some words in front of it that ain't fitten I should
repeat."

Miss Malroy's cheeks had become very red, and Mrs. Ferris refused
to meet her eye, while the children were in a flutter of pleased
expectancy.  They felt the wholly contemporary interest of
Yancy's story; he was dealing with forms of speech which
prevailed and were usually provocative of consequences more or
less serious.  He gave them a wide, sunny smile.

"When Dave Blount called me that, I struck out fo' home."  At
this surprising turn in the narrative the children looked their
disgust, and Mrs. Ferris shot Betty a triumphant glance.  "Yes,
ma'am, I struck out across the fields fo' home, I didn't wish to
hear no mo' of that loose kind of talk.  When I got home I found
my old daddy setting up afo' the fire, and he says, 'You come
away early, son.'  I told him what Dave Blount had called me and
he says, 'You acted like a gentleman, Bob, with all them
womenfolks about."'

"You had a very good and sensible father, Mr. Yancy.  How much
better than if--" began Mrs. Ferris, who feared that the moral
might elude him.

"Yes, ma'am, but along about day he come into the loft where I
was sleeping and says to me, 'Sun-up, Bob--time fo' you to haul
on yo' pants and go back yonder and fetch that Dave Blount a
smack in the jaw.'"  Mrs. Ferris moved uneasily in her chair: "I
dressed and come here, but when I asked fo' Dave he wouldn't step
outside, so I just lost patience with his foolishness and took a
crack at him standing where I'm standing now, but he ducked and
you can still see, ma'am"--turning to the embarrassed Mrs.
Ferris--"where my knuckles made a dint in the door-jamb.  I got
him the next lick, though!"

Mr. Yancy's moral tale had reached its conclusion; it was not for
him to boast unduly of his prowess.

"Uncle Bob, you lift me up and show me them dints!" and Hannibal
slipped from his seat.

"Oh, no!" said Betty Malroy laughing.  She captured the boy and
drew him down beside her on a corner of her chair.  "I am sure
you don't want to see the dents--Mr. Yancy's story, children, is
to teach us how important it is to guard our words--and not give
way to hasty speech--"

"Betty!" cried Mrs. Ferris indignantly.

"Judith, the moral is as obvious as it is necessary."

Mrs. Ferris gave her a reproachful look and turned to the
children.

"You will all be here next Sunday, won't you?--and at the same
hour?" she said, rising.

There was a sudden clatter of hoofs beyond the door.  A man, well
dressed and well mounted had ridden into the yard.  As Mrs.
Ferris came from the cabin he flung himself out of the saddle
and, hat in hand, approached her.

"I am hunting a place called the Barony; can you tell me if I am
on the right road?" he asked.  He was a man in the early
thirties, graceful and powerful of build, with a handsome face.

"It is my husband you wish to see?  I am Mrs. Ferris."

"Then General Quintard is dead?"  His tone was one of surprise.

"His death occurred over a year ago, and my husband now owns the
Barony; were you a friend of the general's ?"

"No, Madam; he was my father's friend, but I had hoped to meet
him." His manner was adroit and plausible.

Mrs. Ferris hesitated.  The stranger's dress and bearing was that
of a gentleman, and he could boast of his father's friendship
with General Quintard.  Any doubts she may have had she put
aside.

"Will you ride on with us to the Barony and meet my husband, Mr.
--?" she paused.

"Murrell--Captain Murrell.  Thank you; I should like to see the
old place.  I should highly value the privilege," then his eyes
rested on Miss Malroy.

"Betty, let me present Captain Murrell."

The captain bowed, giving her a glance of bold admiration.

By this time the children had straggled off into the pine woods
as silently as they had assembled; only Yancy and Hannibal
remained.  Mrs. Ferris turned to the former.

"If you will close the cabin door, Mr. Yancy, everything will be
ready for next Sunday," she said, and moved toward the horses,
followed by Murrell.  Betty Malroy lingered for a moment at
Hannibal's side.

"Good-by, little boy; you must ask your Uncle Bob to bring you up
to the big house to see me," and stooping she kissed him.
"Good-by, Mr. Yancy, I liked your story."

Hannibal and Yancy watched them mount and ride away, then the boy
said:

"Uncle Bob, now them ladies have gone, won't you please show me
them dints you made in the doorjamb?"




CHAPTER III

TROUBLE AT SCRATCH HILL


Captain Murrell had established himself at Balaam's Cross Roads.
He was supposed to be interested in the purchase of a plantation,
and in company with Crenshaw visited the numerous tracts of land
which the merchant owned; but though he professed delight with
the country, he was plainly in no haste to become committed to
any one of the several propositions Crenshaw was eager to submit.
Later, and still in the guise of a prospective purchaser, he met
Bladen, who also dealt extensively in land, and apparently if
anything could have pleased him more than the region about the
Cross Roads it was the country adjacent to Fayetteville.

From the first he had assiduously cultivated his acquaintance
with the new owners of the Barony.  He was now on the best of
terms with Nat Ferris, and it was at the Barony that he lounged
away his evenings, gossiping and smoking with the planter on the
wide veranda.

"The Barony would have suited me," he told Bladen one day.  They
had just returned from an excursion into the country and were
seated in the lawyer's office.

"You say your father was a friend of the old general's?" said
Bladen.

"Years ago, in the north--yes," answered Murrell.

"Odd, isn't it, the way he chose to spend the last years of his
life, shut off like that and seeing no one?"

Murrell regarded the lawyer in silence for a moment out of his
deeply sunk eyes.

"Too bad about the boy," he said at length slowly.

"How do you mean, Captain?" asked Bladen.

"I mean it's a pity he has no one except Yancy to look after
him," said Murrell, but Bladen showed no interest and Murrell
went on.  "Don't you reckon he must have touched General
Quintard's life mighty close at some point?"

"Well, if so, it eluded me," said Bladen.  "I went through
General Quintard's papers and they contained no clue to the boy's
identity that I could discover.  Fact is, the general didn't
leave much beyond an old account-book or two; I imagine that
before his death he destroyed the bulk of his private papers; it
looked as if he'd wished to break with the past.  His mind must
have been affected."

"Has Yancy any legal claim on the boy?" inquired Murrell.

"No, certainly not; the boy was merely left with Yancy because
Crenshaw didn't know what else to do with him."

"Get possession of him, and if I don't buy land here I'll take
him West with me," said Murrell quietly.  Bladen gave him a
swift, shrewd glance, but Murrell, smiling and easy, met it
frankly.  "Come," he said, "it's a pity he should grow up wild in
the pine woods--get him away from Yancy--I am' willing to spend
five hundred dollars on this if necessary."

"As a matter of sentiment?"

"As a matter of sentiment."

Bladen considered.  He was not averse to making five hundred
dollars, but he was decidedly averse to letting slip any chance
to secure a larger sum.  It flashed in upon him that Murrell had
uncovered the real purpose of his visit to North Carolina; his
interest in land had been merely a subterfuge.

"Well?" said Murrell.

"I'll have to think your proposition over," said Bladen.

The immediate result of this conversation was that within
twenty-four hours a man driving two horses hitched to a light
buggy arrived at Scratch Hill in quest of Bob Yancy, whom he
found at dinner and to whom he delivered a letter.  Mr. Yancy was
profoundly impressed by the attention, for holding the letter at
arm's length, he said

"Well, sir, I've lived nigh on to forty years, but I never got a
piece of writing befo'--never, sir.  People, if they was close
by, spoke to me, if at a distance they hollered, but none of 'em
ever wrote."  After gazing at the written characters with
satisfaction Mr. Yancy made a taper of the letter and lit his
pipe, which he puffed meditatively.  "Sonny, when you grow up you
must learn so you can send writings to yo' Uncle Bob fo' him to
light his pipe with."

"What was in the paper, Uncle Bob?" asked Hannibal.

"Writin'," said Mr. Yancy, and smoked.

"What did the writin' say, Uncle Bob?" insisted the boy.

"It was private," said Mr. Yancy, "very private."

"What's your answer?" demanded the stranger.

"That's private, too," said Mr. Yancy.  "You tell him I'll be
monstrous glad to talk it over with him any time he fancies to
come out here."

"He said something about some one I was to carry back with me,"
objected the man.

"Who said that?" asked Mr. Yancy.

"Bladen did."

"How's a body to know who yore talking about unless you name
him?" said Yancy severely.

"Well, what am I to tell him?"

"It's a free country and I got no call to dictate.  You-all can
tell him whatever you like."  Further than this Mr. Yancy would
not commit himself, and the man went as he came.

The next day Yancy had occasion to visit Balaam's Cross Roads.
Ordinarily Hannibal would have gone with him, but he was engaged
in digging out a groundhog's hole with Oglethorpe Bellamy,
grandson of Uncle Sammy Bellamy, the patriarch of Scratch Hill.
Mr. Yancy forbore to interrupt this enterprise which he
considered of some educational value, since the ground-hog's hole
was an old one and he was reasonably certain that a family of
skunks had taken possession of it.  When Yancy reached the Cross
Roads, Crenshaw gave him a disquieting opinion as to the probable
contents of his letter, for he himself had heard from Bladen that
he had decided to assume the care of the boy.

"So you reckon it was that--" said Yancy, with a deep breath.

"It's a blame outrage, Bob, fo' him to act like this!" said the
merchant with heat.

"When do you reckon he's going to send fo' him?" asked Yancy.

"Whenever the notion strikes him."

"What about my having notions too?" inquired Yancy, flecked into
passion, and bringing his fist down on the counter with a crash.

"You surely ain't going to oppose him, Bob?"

"Does he say when he's going to send fo' my nevvy ?"

"He says it will be soon."

"You take care of my mule, Mr. John," said Yancy, and turned his
back on his friend.

"I reckon Bladen will have the law on his side, Bob!"

"The law be damned--I got what's fair on mine, I don't wish fo'
better than that," exclaimed Yancy, over his shoulder.  He strode
from the store and started down the sandy road at a brisk run.
Miserable forebodings of an impending tragedy leaped up within
him, and the miles were many that lay between him and the Hill.

"He'll just naturally bust the face off the fellow Bladen sends!"
thought Crenshaw, staring after his friend.

That run of Bob Yancy's was destined to become a classic in the
annals of the neighborhood.  Ordinarily a man walking briskly
might cover the distance between the Cross Roads and the Hill in
two hours.  He accomplished it in less than an hour, and before
he reached the branch that flowed a full quarter of a mile from
his cabin he was shouting Hannibal's name as he ran.  Then as he
breasted the slope he came within sight of a little group in his
own dooryard.  Saving only Uncle Sammy Bellamy, the group
resolved itself into the women and children of the Hill, but
there was one small figure he missed, and the color faded from
his cheeks while his heart stood still.  The patriarch hurried
toward him, leaning on his cane, while his grandson clung to the
skirts of his coat, weeping bitterly.

"They've took your nevvy, Bob!" he cried, in a high, thin voice.

"Who's took him?" asked Yancy hoarsely.  He paused and glanced
from one to another of the little group.

"Hit were Dave Blount.  Get your gun, Bob, and go after him--kill
the miserable sneaking cuss!" cried Uncle Sammy, who believed in
settling all difficulties by bloodshed as befitted a veteran of
the first war with England, he having risen to the respectable
rank of sergeant in a company of Morgan's riflemen; while at
sixty-odd in '12, when there was recruiting at the Cross Roads,
his son had only been able to prevent his tendering his services
to his country by hiding his trousers.  "Fetch his rifle, some of
you fool women!" cried Uncle Sammy.  "By the Fayetteville Road,
Bob, not ten minutes ago--you can cut him off at Ox Road forks!"

Yancy breathed a sigh of relief.  The situation was not entirely
desperate, for, as Uncle Sammy said, he could reach the Ox Road
forks before Blount possibly could, by going as the crow flies
through the pine woods.

"Hit wouldn't have happened if there'd been a man on the Hill,
but there was nothing but a passel of women about the place.  I
heard the boys crying when Dave Blount lifted your nevvy into the
buggy," said Uncle Sammy; "all I could do was to cuss him across
two fields.  I hope you blow his hide full of holes!" for a rifle
had been placed in Yancy's hands.

"Thank you-all kindly," said Yancy, and turning away he struck
off through the pine woods.  A brisk walk of twenty minutes
brought him to the Ox Road forks, as it was called, where he
could plainly distinguish the wheel and hoof marks left by the
buggy and team as it went to Scratch Hill, but there was only the
single track.

This important point being settled, sense of sweet peace stole in
upon Yancy's spirit.  He stood his rifle against a tree, lit his
pipe with flint and steel, and rested comfortably by the wayside.
He had not long to wait, for presently the buggy hove in sight;
whereupon he coolly knocked the ashes from his pipe, pocketed it,
and prepared for action.  As the buggy came nearer he recognized
his ancient enemy in the person of the man who sat at Hannibal's
side, and stepping nimbly into the road seized the horses by
their bits.  At sight of him Hannibal shrieked his name in an
ecstasy of delight.

"Uncle Bob--Uncle Bob--" he, cried.

"Yes, it's Uncle Bob.  You can light down, Nevvy.  I reckon
you've rid far enough," said Yancy pleasantly.

"Leggo them horses!" said Mr. Blount, recovering somewhat from
the effect of Yancy's sudden appearance.

"Light down, Nevvy," said Yancy, still pleasantly.  Blount turned
to the boy as if to interfere.  "Don't you put the weight of yo'
finger on the boy, Blount!" warned Yancy.  "Light down,
Hannibal!"

Hannibal instantly availed himself of the invitation.  At the
same moment Blount struck at Yancy with his whip and his horses
reared wildly, thinking the blow meant for them.  Seeing that the
boy had reached the ground in safety, Yancy relaxed his hold on
the team, which instantly plunged forward.  Then as the buggy
swept past him he made a dexterous grab at Blount and dragged him
out over the wheels into the road, where, for the second time in
his life, he proceeded to fetch Mr. Blount a smack in the jaw.
This he followed up with other smacks variously distributed about
his countenance.

"You'll sweat for this, Bob Yancy!" cried Blount, as he vainly
sought to fend off the blows.

"I'm sweating now--scandalous," said Mr. Yancy, taking his
unhurried satisfaction of the other.  Then with a final skilful
kick he sent Mr. Blount sprawling.  "Don't let me catch you
around these diggings again, Dave Blount, or I swear to God I'll
be the death of you!"

Hannibal rode home through the pine woods in triumph on his Uncle
Bob's mighty shoulders.

"Did you get yo' ground-hog, Nevvy?" inquired Mr. Yancy presently
when they had temporarily exhausted the excitement of Hannibal's
capture and recovery.

"It weren't a ground-hog, Uncle Bob--it were a skunk!"

"Think of that!" murmured Mr. Yancy.




CHAPTER IV

LAW AT BALAAM'S CROSS-ROADS


But Mr. Yancy was only at the beginning of his trouble.  Three
days later there appeared on the borders of Scratch Hill a lank
gentleman armed with a rifle, while the butts of two pistols
protruded from the depths of his capacious coat pockets.  He made
his presence known by whooping from the edge of the branch, and
his whoops shaped themselves into the name of Yancy.  It was
Charley Balaam, old Squire Balaam's nephew.  The squire lived at
the crossroads to which his family had given its name, and
dispensed the little law that found its way into that part of the
county.  The whoops finally brought Yancy to his cabin door.

"Can I see you friendly, Bob Yancy?" Balaam demanded with the
lungs of a stentor, sheltering himself behind the thick bole of a
sweetgum, for he observed that Yancy held his rifle in the crook
of his arm and had no wish to offer his person as a target to the
deadly aim of the Scratch Hiller who was famous for his skill.

"I reckon you can, Charley Balaam, if you are friendly," said
Yancy.

"I'm a family man, Bob, and I ask you candid, do you feel
peevish?"

"Not in particular," and Yancy put aside his rifle.

"I'm a-going to trust you, Bob," said Balaam.  And forsaking the
shelter of the sweetgum he shuffled up the slope.

"How are you, Charley?" asked Yancy, as they shook hands.

"Only just tolerable, Bob.  You've been warranted--Dave Blount
swore hit on to you." He displayed a sheet of paper covered with
much writing and decorated with a large seal.  Yancy viewed this
formidable document with respect, but did not offer to take it.

"Read it," he said mildly.  Balaam scratched his head.

"I don't know that hit's my duty to do that, Bob.  Hit's my duty
to serve it on to you.  But I can tell you what's into hit,
leavin' out the law--which don't matter nohow."

At this juncture Uncle Sammy's bent form emerged from the path
that led off through the woods in the direction of the Bellamy
cabin.  With the patriarch was a stranger.  Now the presence of a
stranger on Scratch Hill was an occurrence of such extraordinary
rarity that the warrant instantly became a matter of secondary
importance.

"Howdy, Charley.  Here, Bob Yancy, you shake hands with Bruce
Carrington," commanded Uncle Sammy.  At the name both Yancy and
Balaam manifested a quickened interest.  They saw a man in the
early twenties, clean-limbed and broad-shouldered, with a
handsome face and shapely head.  "Yes, sir, hit's a grandson of
Tom Carrington that used to own the grist-mill down at the Forks.
Yo're some sort of wild-hog kin to him, Bob--yo' mother was a
cousin to old Tom.  Her family was powerful upset at her marrying
a Yancy.  They say Tom cussed himself into a 'pleptic fit when
the news was fetched him."

"Where you located at, Mr. Carrington?" asked Yancy.  But
Carrington was not given a chance to reply.  Uncle Sammy saved
him the trouble.

"Back in Kentucky.  He tells me he's been follerin' the water.
What's the name of that place where Andy Jackson fit the
British?"

"New Orleans," prompted Carrington good naturedly.

"That's hit--he takes rafts down the river to New Orleans, then
he comes back on ships to Baltimore, or else he hoofs it no'th
overland."  Uncle Sammy had acquired a general knowledge of the
stranger's habits and pursuits in an incredibly brief space of
time.  "He wants to visit the Forks," he added.

"I'm shortly goin' that way myself, Mr. Carrington, and I'll be
pleased of your company--but first I got to get through with Bob
Yancy," said Balaam, and again he produced the warrant.  "If
agreeable to you, Bob, I'll ask Uncle Sammy, as a third party
friendly to both, to read this here warrant," he said.

"Who's been a-warrantin' Bob Yancy?" cried Uncle Sammy, with
shrill interest.

"Dave Blount has."

"I knowed hit--I knowed he'd try to get even!"  And Uncle Sammy
struck his walking-stick sharply on the packed earth of Yancy's
dooryard.  "What's the charge agin you, Bob?"

"Read hit," said Balaam.  "Why, sho'--can't you read plain
writin', Uncle Sammy?" for the patriarch was showing signs of
embarrassment.

"If you gentlemen will let me--" said Carrington pleasantly.
Instantly there came a relieved chorus from the three in one
breath.

"Why, sure!"

"Would my spectacles help you any, Mr. Carrington ?" asked Uncle
Sammy officiously.

"No, I guess not."

"They air powerful seein' glasses, and I'm aweer some folks read
a heap easier with spectacles than without 'em."  After a
moment's scrutiny of the paper that Balaam had thrust in his
hand, Carrington began:

"To the Sheriff of the County of Cumberland: Greetings."

"He means me," explained Balaam.  "He always makes 'em out to the
sheriff, but they are returned to me and I serve 'em."
Carrington resumed his reading

"Whereas, It is alleged that a murderous assault has been
committed on one David Blount, of Fayetteville, by Robert Yancy,
of Scratch Hill, said Blount sustaining numerous bruises and
contusions, to his great injury of body and mind; and, whereas,
it is further alleged that said murderous assault was wholly
unprovoked and without cause, you will forthwith take into
custody the person of said Yancy, of Scratch Hill, charged with
having inflicted the bruises and contusions herein set forth in
the complaint of said Blount, and instantly bring him into our
presence to answer to these various and several crimes and
misdemeanors.  You are empowered to seize said Yancy wherever he
may be at; whether on the hillside or in the valley, eating or
sleeping, or at rest.

           "De Lancy Balaam, Magistrate.

"Fourth District, County of Cumberland, State of North Carolina.
Done this twenty-fourth day of May, I835.

"P.S.  Dear Bob: Dave Blount says he ain't able to chew his meat.
I thought you'd be glad to know."

Smilingly Carrington folded the warrant and handed it to Yancy.

"Well, what are you goin' to do about hit, Bob?" inquired Balaam.

"Maybe I'd ought to go.  I'd like to oblige the squire," said
Yancy.

"When does this here co't set?" demanded Uncle Sammy.

"Hit don't do much else since he's took with the lumbago,"
answered Balaam somewhat obscurely.

"How are the squire, Charley?" asked Yancy with grave concern.

"Only just tolerable, Bob."

"What did he tell you to do?" and Yancy knit his brows.

"Seems like he wanted me to find out what you'd do.  He
recommended I shouldn't use no violence."

"I wouldn't recommend you did, either," assented Yancy, but
without heat.

"I'd get shut of this here law business, Bob," advised Uncle
Sammy.

"Suppose I come to the Cross Roads this evening?"

"That's agreeable," said the deputy, who presently departed in
company with Carrington.

Some hours later the male population of Scratch Hill, with a
gravity befitting the occasion, prepared itself to descend on the
Cross Roads and give its support to Mr. Yancy in his hour of
need.  To this end those respectable householders armed
themselves, with the idea that it might perhaps be necessary to
correct some miscarriage of justice.  They were shy enough and
timid enough, these remote dwellers in the pine woods, but, like
all wild things, when they felt they were cornered they were
prone to fight; and in this instance it was clearly iniquitous
that Bob Yancy's right to smack Dave Blount should be questioned.
That denied what was left of human liberty.  But beyond this was
a matter of even greater importance: they felt that Yancy's
possession of the boy was somehow involved.

Yancy had declared himself simply but specifically on this point.
Law or no law, he would kill whoever attempted to take the boy
from him, and Scratch Hill believing to a man that in so doing he
would be well within his rights, was prepared to join in the
fray.  Even Uncle Sammy, who had not been off the Hill in years,
announced that no consideration of fatigue would keep him away
from the scene of action and possible danger, and Yancy loaned
him his mule and cart for the occasion.  When the patriarch was
helped to his seat in the ancient vehicle he called loudly for
his rifle.

"Why, pap, what do you want with a weapon?" asked his son
indulgently.
"If there air shootin' I may take a hand in it.  Now you-all give
me a fair hour's start with this mule critter of Bob's, and if
nothin' busts I'll be at the squire's as soon as the best of
you."

Uncle Sammy was given the time allowance he asked and then
Scratch Hill wended its way down the path to the branch and the
highroad.  Yancy led the straggling procession, with the boy
trotting by his side, his little sunburned fist clasped in the
man's great hand.  He, too, was armed.  He carried the old
spo'tin' rifle he had brought from the Barony, and suspended from
his shoulder by a leather thong was the big horn flask with its
hickory stopper his Uncle Bob had fashioned for him, while a
deerskin pouch held his bullets and an extra flint or two.  He
understood that beyond those smacks he had seen his Uncle Bob
fetch Mr. Blount, he himself was the real cause of this
excitement, that somebody, it was not plain to his mind just who,
was seeking to get him away from Scratch Hill, and that a
mysterious power called the Law would sooner or later be invoked
to this dread end.  But he knew this much clearly, nothing would
induce him to leave his Uncle Bob!  And his thin little fingers
nestled warmly against the man's hardened palm.  Yancy looked
down and gave him a sunny, reassuring smile.

"It'll be all right, Nevvy," he said gently.

"You wouldn't let 'em take me, would you, Uncle Bob?" asked the
child in a fearful whisper.

"Such an idea ain't entered my head.  And this here warranting is
just some of Dave Blount's cussedness."

"Uncle Bob, what'll they do to you?"

"Well, I reckon the squire'll feel obliged to do one of two
things.  He'll either fine me or else he won't."

"What'll you do if he fines you?"

"Why, pay the fine, Nevvy--and then lick Dave Blount again for
stirring up trouble.  That's the way we most in general do.  I
mean to say give him a good licking, and that'll make him stop
his foolishness."

"Wasn't that a good licking you gave him on the Ox Road, Uncle
Bob?" asked Hannibal.

"It was pretty fair fo' a starter, but I'm capable of doing a
better job," responded Yancy.

They overtook Uncle Sammy as he turned in at the squire's.

"I thought I'd come and see what kind of law a body gets at this
here co't of yours," the patriarch explained to Mr. Balaam, who,
forgetting his lumbago, had hurried forth to greet him.

"But why did you fetch your gun, Uncle Sammy?" asked the
magistrate, laughing.

"Hit were to be on the safe side, Squire.  Where air them
Blounts?"

"Them Blounts don't need to bother you none.  There air only
Dave, and he can't more than half see out of one eye to-day."

The squire's court held its infrequent sittings in the best room
of the Balaam homestead, a double cabin of hewn logs.  Here
Scratch Hill was gratified with a view of Mr. Blount's battered
visage, and it was conceded that his condition reflected
creditably on Yancy's physical prowess and was of a character
fully to sustain that gentleman's reputation; for while he was
notoriously slow to begin a fight, he was reputed to be even more
reluctant to leave off once he had become involved in one.

"What's all this here fuss between you and Bob Yancy?" demanded
the squire when he had administered the oath to Blount.  Mr.
Blount's statement was brief and very much to the point.  He had
been hired by Mr. Bladen, of Fayetteville, to go to Scratch Hill
and get the boy who had been temporarily placed in Yancy's
custody at the time of General Quintard's death.

"Stop just there!" cried the magistrate, leveling a pudgy finger
at Blount.  "This here co't is already cognizant of certain facts
bearing on that p'int.  The boy was left with Bob Yancy mainly
because nobody else would take him.  Them's the facts.  Now go
on!" he finished sternly.

"I only know what Bladen told me," said Blount sullenly.

"Well, I reckon Mr. Bladen ought to feel obliged to tell the
truth," said the squire.

"He done give me the order from the judge of the co't--I was to
show it to Bob Yancy--"

"Got that order?" demanded the squire sharply.  With a smile,
damaged, but clearly a smile, Blount produced the order.  Hmm
--app'inted guardeen of the boy--" the squire was presently heard
to murmur.  The crowded room was very still now, and more than
one pair of eyes were turned pityingly in Yancy's direction.
When the long arm of the law reached out from Fayetteville, where
there was a real judge and a real sheriff, it clothed itself with
very special terrors.  The boy looked up into Yancy's face.  That
tense silence had struck a chill through his heart.

"It's all right," whispered Yancy reassuringly, smiling down upon
him.  And Hannibal, comforted, smiled back, and nestled his head
against his Uncle Bob's side.

"Well, Mr. Blount, what did you do with this here order?" asked
the squire.

"I went with it to Scratch Hill," said Blount.

"And showed it to Bob Yancy ?" asked the squire.

"No, he wa'n't there.  But the boy was, and I took him in my
buggy and drove off.  I'd got as far as the Ox Road forks when I
met Yancy--"

"What happened then?--but a body don't need to ask!  Looks like
the law was all you had on your side!" and the squire glanced
waggishly about the room.

"I showed Yancy the order--"

"You lie, Dave Blount; you didn't!" said Yancy.  "But I can't say
as it would have made no difference, Squire.  He'd have taken his
licking just the same and I'd have had my nevvy out of that
buggy!"

"Didn't he say nothing about this here order from the colt, Bob?"

"There wa'n't much conversation, Squire.  I invited my nevvy to
light down, and then I snaked Dave Blount out over the wheel."

"Who struck the first blow?"

"He did.  He struck at me with his buggy whip."

"What you got to say to this, Mr. Blount?" asked the squire.

"I say I showed him the order like I said," answered Blount
doggedly.  Squire Balaam removed his spectacles and leaned back
in his chair.

"It's the opinion of this here co't that the whole question of
assault rests on whether Bob Yancy saw the order.  Bob Yancy
swears he didn't see it, while Dave Blount swears he showed it to
him.  If Bob Yancy didn't know of the existence of the order he
was clearly actin' on the idea that Blount was stealin' his
nevvy, and he done what any one would have done under the
circumstances.  If, on the other hand, he knowed of this order
from the co't, he was not only guilty of assault, but he was
guilty of resistin' an officer of the co't."  The squire paused
impressively.  His audience drew a long breath.  The impression
prevailed that the case was going against Yancy, and more than
one face was turned scowlingly on the fat little justice.

"Can a body drap a word here?"  It was Uncle Sammy's thin voice
that cut into the silence.

"Certainly, Uncle Sammy.  This here co't will always admire to
listen to you."

"Well, I'd like to say that I consider that Fayetteville co't
mighty officious with its orders.  This part of the county won't
take nothin' off Fayetteville!  We don't interfere with
Fayetteville, and blamed if we'll let Fayetteville interfere with
us!"  There was a murmur of approval.  Scratch Hill remembered
the rifles in its hands and took comfort.

"The Fayetteville co't air a higher co't than this, Uncle Sammy,"
explained the squire indulgently.

"I'm aweer of that," snapped the patriarch.  "I've seen hit's
steeple."

"Air you finished, Uncle Sammy?" asked the squire deferentially.

"I 'low I am.  But I 'low that if this here case is goin' agin
Bob Yancy I'd recommend him to go home and not listen to no mo'
foolishness."

"Mr. Yancy will oblige this co't by setting still while I finish
this case," said the squire with dignity.  "As I've already
p'inted out, the question of veracity presents itself strongly to
the mind of this here colt.  Mr. Yancy has sworn to one thing,
Mr. Blount to another.
Now the Yancys air an old family in these parts; Mr. Blount's
folks air strangers, but we don't know nothing agin them--"

"And we don't know nothing in their favor," Uncle Sammy
interjected.

"Dave's grandfather came here from Virginia about fifty years
back and settled near Scratch Hill--"

"We never knowed why he left Virginia or why he came here," said
Uncle Sammy, and knowing what local feeling was, was sure he had
shot a telling bolt.

"Then, about twenty-five years ago Dave's father pulled up and
went to Fayetteville.  Nobody ever knowed why--and I don't
remember that he ever offered any explanation--" continued the
squire.

"He didn't--he just left," said Uncle Sammy.

"Consequently," pursued the squire, somewhat vindictively, "we
ain't had any time in which to form an opinion of the Blounts;
but for myself, I'm suspicious of folks that keep movin' about
and who don't seem able to get located permanent nowheres, who
air here to-day and away tomorrow.  But you can't say that of the
Yancys.  They air an old family in the country, and naturally
this co't feels obliged to accept a Yancy's word before the word
of a stranger.  And in view of the fact that the defendant did
not seek litigation, but was perfectly satisfied to let matters
rest where they was, it is right and just that all costs should
fall on the plaintiff."




CHAPTER V

THE ENCOUNTER


Betty Malroy had ridden into the squire's yard during the
progress of the trial and when Yancy and Hannibal came from the
house she beckoned the Scratch Hiller to her.  She was aware that
Mr. Yancy, moving along the line of least industrial resistance,
might be counted of little worth in any broad scheme of life.
Nat Ferris had strongly insisted on this point, as had Judith,
who shared her husband's convictions; consequently, the rumors of
his present difficulty had merely excited them to adverse
criticism.  They had been sure the best thing that could happen
the boy would be his removal from Yancy's guardianship, but this
was not at all her conclusion.  She considered Mr. Bladen
heartless and his course without justification, and she regarded
Yancy's affection for the boy as in itself constituting a benefit
that quite outweighed his unprogressive example.

"You are not going to lose your nephew, are you, Mr. Yancy?" she
asked eagerly, when Yancy stood at her side.

"No, ma'am."  But his sense of elation was plainly tempered by
the knowledge that for him the future held more than one knotty
problem.

"I am very glad!  I know Hannibal will be much happier with you
than with any one else," and she smiled brightly at the boy,
whose small sunburned face was upturned to hers.

"I think that-a-ways myself, Miss Betty, but this trial was only
for my smacking Dave Blount, who was trying to steal my nevvy,"
explained Yancy.

"I hope you smacked him well and hard!" said the girl, whose mood
was warlike.

"I ain't got no cause to complain, thank you," returned Mr. Yancy
pleasantly.

"I rode out to the Hill to say good-by to Hannibal and to you,
but they said you were here and that the trial was today."

Captain Murrell, with Crenshaw and the squire, came from the
house, and Murrell's swarthy face lit up at sight of the girl.
Yancy, sensible of the gulf that yawned between himself and what
was known as "the quality," would have yielded his place, but
Betty detained him.

"Are you going away, ma'am?" he asked with concern.

"Yes--to my home in west Tennessee," and a cloud crossed her
smooth brow.

"That surely is a right big distance for you to travel, ma'am,"
said Yancy, his mind opening to this fresh impression.  "I reckon
it's rising a hundred miles or mo'," he concluded, at a venture.

"It's almost a thousand."

"Think of that!  And you are that ca'm!" cried Yancy admiringly,
as a picture of simply stupendous effort offered itself to his
mind's eye.  He added: "I am mighty sorry you are going.  We-all
here shall miss you--specially Hannibal.  He just regularly pines
for Sunday as it is."

"I hope he will miss me a little--I'm afraid I want him to!"  She
glanced down at the boy as she spoke, and into her eyes, very
clear and very blue and shaded by long dark lashes, stole a look
of wistful tenderness.  She noted how his little hand was clasped
in Yancy's, she realized the perfect trust of his whole attitude
toward this big bearded man, and she was conscious of a sudden
feeling of profound respect for the Scratch Hiller.

"But ain't you ever coming back, Miss Betty?" asked Hannibal
rather fearfully, smitten with the awesome sense of impermanence
which dogs our footsteps.

"Oh, I hope so, dear--I wish to think so.  But you see my home is
not here."  She turned to Yancy, "So it is settled that he is to
remain with you?"

"Not exactly, Miss Betty.  You see, there's an order from the
Fayetteville co't fo' me to give him up to this man Bladen."

"But Uncle Bob says--" began Hannibal, who considered his Uncle
Bob's remarks on this point worth quoting.

"Never mind what yo' Uncle Bob said," interrupted Yancy hastily.

"Oh, Mr. Yancy, you are not going to surrender him--no matter
what the court says!" cried Betty.  The expression on Yancy's
face was so grim and determined on the instant with the latent
fire that was in him flashing from his eyes that she added
quickly, "You know the law is for you as well as for Mr. Bladen!"

"I reckon I won't bother the law none," responded Yancy briefly.
"Me and my nevvy will go back to Scratch Hill and there won't be
no trouble so long as they leave us be.  But them Fayetteville
folks want to keep away--"  The fierce light slowly died out of
his eyes.  "It'll be all right, ma'am, and it's mighty good and
kind of you fo' to feel the way you do.  I'm obliged to you."

But Betty was by no means sure of the outcome Yancy seemed to
predict with such confidence.  Unless Bladen abandoned his
purpose, which he was not likely to do, a tragedy was clearly
pending for Scratch Hill.  She saw the boy left friendless, she
saw Yancy the victim of his own primitive conception of justice.
Therefore she said:

"I wonder you don't leave the Hill, Mr. Yancy.  You could so
easily go where Mr. Bladen would never find you.  Haven't you
thought of this?"

"That are a p'int," agreed Yancy slowly.  "Might I ask what parts
you'd specially recommend?" lifting his grave eyes to hers.

"It would really be the sensible thing to do!" said Betty.  "I am
sure you would like West Tennessee--they say you are a great
hunter."  Yancy smiled almost guiltily.

"I like a little spo't now and then yes, ma'am, I do hunt some,"
he admitted.

"Miss Betty, Uncle Bob's the best shot we got!  You had ought to
see him shoot!" said Hannibal.

"Mr. Yancy, if you should cross the mountains, remember I live
near Memphis.  Belle Plain is the name of the plantation--it's
not hard to find; just don't forget--Belle Plain."

"I won't forget, and mebby you will see us there one of these
days.  Sho', I've seen mighty little of the world--about as far
as a dog can trot it a couple of hours!"

"Just think what it will mean to Hannibal if you become involved
further with Mr. Bladen."  Betty spoke earnestly, bending toward
him, and Yancy understood the meaning that lay back of her words.

"I've thought of that, too," the Scratch Hiller answered
seriously.  Betty glanced toward the squire and Mr. Crenshaw.
They were standing near the bars that gave entrance to the lane.
Murrell had left them and was walking briskly down the road
toward Crenshaw's store where his horse was tied.  She bent down
and gave Yancy her slim white hand.

"Good-by, Mr. Yancy--lift Hannibal so that I can kiss him!"
Yancy swung the child aloft.  "I think you are such a nice little
boy, Hannibal--you mustn't forget me!"  And touching her horse
lightly with the whip she rode away at a gallop.

"She sho'ly is a lady!" said Yancy, staring after her.  "And we
mustn't forget Memphis or Belle Plain, Nevvy."

Crenshaw and the squire approached.

"Bob," said the merchant, "Bladen's going to have the boy--but he
made a mistake in putting this business in the hands of a fool
like Dave Blount.  I reckon he knows that now."

"I reckon his next move will be to send a posse of gun-toters up
from Fayetteville," said the squire.

"That's just what he'll do," agreed Crenshaw, and looked
disturbed.

"They certainly air an unpeaceable lot--them Fayetteville folks!
It's always seemed to me they had a positive spite agin this end
of the county," said the squire, and he pocketed his spectacles
and refreshed himself with a chew of tobacco.  "Bladen ain't
actin' right, Bob.  It's a year and upwards since the old general
'died.  He let you go on thinking the boy was to stay with you
and now he takes a notion to have him!"

"No, sir, it ain't right nor reasonable.  And what's more, he
shan't have him!" said Yancy, and his tone was final.

"I don't know what kind of a mess you're getting yourself into,
Bob, I declare I don't!" cried Crenshaw, who felt that he was
largely responsible for the whole situation.

"Looks like your neighbors would stand by you," suggested the
squire.

"I don't want them to stand by me.  It'll only get them into
trouble, and I ain't going to do that," rejoined Yancy, and
lapsed into momentary silence.  Then he resumed meditatively,
"There was old Baldy Ebersole who shot the sheriff when they
tried to arrest him for getting drunk down in Fayetteville and
licking the tavern-keeper--"

"Sho', there wa'n't no harm in Baldy!" said the squire, with
heat.  "When that sheriff come along here looking for him, I told
him p'inted that Baldy said he wouldn't be arrested.  A more
truthful man I never knowed, and if the damn fool had taken my
word he'd be living yet!"

"But you-all know what trouble killing that sheriff made fo'
Baldy!" said Yancy.  "He told me often he regretted it mo' than
anything he'd ever done.  He said it was most aggravatin' having
to always lug a gun wherever he went.  And what with being
suspicious of strangers when he wa'n't suspicious by nature, he
reckoned in time it would just naturally wear him out."

"He stood it until he was risin' eighty," said Crenshaw.

"His, father lived to be ninety, John, and as spry an old
gentleman as a body'd wish to see.  I don't uphold no man for
committing murder, but I do consider the sheriff should have
waited on Baldy to get mo' reasonable, like he'd done in time if
they'd just let him alone--but no, sir, he reckoned the law
wa'n't no respecter of persons.  He was a fine-appearin' man,
that sheriff, and just elected to office.  I remember we had to
leave off the tail-gate to my cart to accommodate him.  Yes, sir,
they pretty near pestered Baldy into his grave--and seein' that
pore old fellow pottering around year after year always toting a
gun was the patheticest sight I most ever seen, and I made up my
mind then if it ever seemed necessary for me to kill a man, I'd
leave the county or maybe the state," concluded the squire.

"Don't you reckon it would be some better to leave the state afo'
you.  done the killing?" suggested Yancy.

"Well, a man might.  I don't know but what he'd be justified in
getting shut of his troubles like that."

When Betty Malroy rode away from Squire Balaam's Murrell galloped
after her.  Presently she heard the beat of his horse's hoofs as
he came pounding along the sandy road and glanced back over her
shoulder.  With an exclamation of displeasure she reined in her
horse.  She had not wished to ride to the Barony with him, yet
she had no desire to treat him with discourtesy, especially as
the Ferrises were disposed to like him.  Murrell quickly gained a
place at her side.

"I suppose Ferris is at the Barony?" he said, drawing his horse
down to a walk.

"I believe he is," said Betty with a curt little air.

"May I ride with you?" he gave her a swift glance.  She nodded
indifferently and would have urged her horse into a gallop again,
but he made a gesture of protest.  "Don't--or I shall think you
are still running away from me," he said with a short laugh.

"Were you at the trial?" she asked.  "I am glad they didn't get
Hannibal away from Yancy."

"Oh, Yancy will have his hands full with that later--so will
Bladen," he added significantly.  He studied her out of those
deeply sunken eyes of his in which no shadow of youth lingered,
for men such as he reached their prime early, and it was a
swiftly passing splendor.  "Ferris tells me you are going to West
Tennessee?" he said at length.

"Yes."

"I know your half-brother, Tom Ware--I know him very well."
There was another brief silence.

"So you know Tom?" she presently observed, and frowned slightly.
Tom was her guardian, and her memories of him were not
satisfactory.  A burly, unshaven man with a queer streak of
meanness through his character.  She had not seen him since she
had been sent north to Philadelphia, and their intercourse had
been limited to infrequent letters.  His always smelled of
strong, stale tobacco, and the well-remembered whine in the man's
voice ran through his written sentences.

"You've spent much of your time up North?" suggested Murrell.

"Four years.  I've been at school, you know.  That's where I met
Judith."

"I hope you'll like West Tennessee.  It's still a bit raw
compared with what you've been accustomed to in the North.  You
haven't been back in all those four years?" Betty shook her head.
"Nor seen Tom--nor any one from out yonder?"  For some reason a
little tinge of color had crept into Betty's cheeks.  "Will you
let me renew our acquaintance at Belle Plain?  I shall be in West
Tennessee before the summer is over; probably I shall leave here
within a week," he said, bending toward her.  His glance dwelt on
her face and the pliant lines of her figure, and his sense swam.
Since their first meeting the girl's beauty had haunted and
allured him; with his passionate sense of life he was disposed to
these violent fancies, and he had a masterful way with women just
as he had a masterful way with men.  Now, however, he was aware
that he was viewed with entire indifference.  His vanity, which
was his whole inner self, was hurt, and from the black depths of
his nature his towering egotism flashed out lawless and perverted
impulses.  "I must tell you that I am not of your sort, Miss
Malroy--" he continued hurriedly.  "My people were plain folk out
of the mountains.  For what I am I have no one to thank but
myself.  You must be aware of the prejudices of the planter
class, for it is your class.  Perhaps I haven't been quite frank
at the Barony--I felt it was asking too much when you were there.
That was a door I didn't want closed to me!"

"I imagine you will be welcome at Belle Plain.  You are Tom's
friend."  Murrell bit his lip, and then laughed as his mind
conjured up a picture of the cherished Tom.  Suddenly he reached
out and rested his hand on hers.  He lived in the shadow of
chance not always kind, his pleasures were intoxicating drafts
snatched in the midst of dangers, and here was youth, sweet and
perfect, that only needed awakening.

"Betty--if I might think--" he began, but his tongue stumbled.
His love-making was usually of a savage sort, but some quality in
the girl held him in check.  The words he had spoken many times
before forsook him.  Betty drew away from him, an angry color on
her cheeks and an angry light in her eyes.  "Forgive me, Betty!"
muttered Murrell, but his heart beat against his ribs, and
passion sent its surges through him.  "Don't you know what I'm
trying to tell you?" he whispered.  Betty gathered up her reins.
"Not yet--" he cried, and again he rested a heavy hand on hers.
"Don't you know what's kept me here?  It was to be near you--only
that--I've been waiting for this chance to speak.  It was long in
coming, but it's here now--and it's mine!" he exulted.  His eyes
burned with a luminous fire, he urged his horse nearer and they
came to a halt.  "Look here--I'll follow you North--I swear I
love you--say I may!"

"Let me go--let me go!" cried Betty indignantly.

"No--not yet!" he urged his horse still nearer and gathered her
close.  "You've got to hear me.  I've loved you since the first
moment I rested my eyes on you--and, by God, you shall love me in
return!"  He felt her struggle to free herself from his grasp
with a sense of savage triumph.  It was the brute force within
him that conquered with women just as it conquered with men.

Bruce Carrington, on his way back to Fayetteville from the Forks,
came about a turn in the road.  Betty saw a tall, handsome fellow
in the first flush of manhood; Carrington, an angry girl, very
beautiful and very indignant, struggling in a man's grasp.

At sight of the new-comer, Murrell, with an oath, released Betty,
who, striking her horse with the whip galloped down the road
toward the Barony.  As she fled past Carrington she bent low in
her saddle.

"Don't let him follow me!" she gasped, and Carrington, striding
forward, caught Murrell's horse by the bit.

"Not so fast, you!" he said coolly.  The two men glared at each
other for a brief instant.

"Take your hand off my horse!" exclaimed Murrell hoarsely, his
mouth hot and dry with a sense of defeat.

"Can't you see she'd rather be alone?" said Carrington.

"Let go!" roared Murrell, and a murderous light shot from his
eyes.

"I don't know but I should pull you out of that saddle and twist
your neck!" said Carrington hotly.  Murrell's face underwent a
swift change.

"You're a bold fellow to force your way into a lover's quarrel,"
he said quietly.  Carrington's arm dropped at his side.  Perhaps,
after all, it was that.  Murrell thrust his hand into his pocket.
"I always give something to the boy who holds my horse," he said,
and tossed a coin in Carrington's direction.  "There--take that
for your pains!" he added.  He pulled his horse about and rode
back toward the cross-roads at an easy canter.

Carrington, with an angry flush on his sunburnt cheeks, stood
staring down at the coin that glinted in the dusty road, but he
was seeing the face of the girl, indignant, beautiful--then he
glanced after Murrell.

"I reckon I ought to have twisted his neck," he said with a deep
breath.




CHAPTER VI

BETTY SETS OUT FOR TENNESSEE


Bruce Carrington came of a westward-looking race.  From the low
coast where they had first settled, those of his name had
followed the rivers to their headwaters.  The headwaters had sent
them forth toward the foot-hills, where they made their,
clearings and built their cabins in the shadow of the blue wall
that for a time marked the furthest goal of their desires.  But
only for a time.  Crossing the mountains they found the
headwaters once more, and following the streams out of the hills
saw the roaring torrents become great placid rivers.

Carrington's father had put the mountains at his back thirty
years before.  The Watauga settlements had furnished him a wife,
and some four years later Bruce was born on the banks of the
Ohio.  The senior Carrington had appeared on horseback as a
wooer, but had walked on foot as a married man, each shift of
residence he made having represented a descent to a lower social
level.  On the death of his wife he had embarked in the river
trade with all that enthusiasm and hope he had brought to
half-a-dozen other occupations, for he was a gentleman of
prodigious energy.

Bruce's first memories had to do with long nights when he perched
beside his father on the cabin roof of their keel-boat and
watched the stars, or the blurred line of the shore where it lay
against the sky, or the lights on other barges and rafts drifting
as they were drifting, with their wheat and corn and whisky to
that common market at the river's mouth.

Sometimes they dragged their boat back up-stream, painfully,
laboriously; three or four months of unremitting toil sufficed
for this, when the crew sweated at the towing ropes from dawn
until dark, that the rich planters in Kentucky and Tennessee
might have tea and wine for their tables, and silks and laces for
their womenfolk.  More often they abandoned their boat and
tramped north, armed and watchful, since cutthroats and robbers
haunted the roads, and river-men, if they had not drunk away
their last dollar in New Orleans, were worth spoiling.  Or, if it
offered, they took passage on some fast sailing clipper bound for
Baltimore or Philadelphia, and crossed the mountains to the Ohio
and were within a week or two of home.

Bruce Carrington had seen the day of barge and raft reach its
zenith, had heard the first steam packet's shrieking whistle
which sounded the death-knell of the ancient order, though the
shifting of the trade was a slow matter and the glory of the old
did not pass over to the new at once, but lingered still in
mighty fleets of rafts and keel-boats and in the Homeric
carousals of some ten thousand of the half-horse, half-alligator
breed that nightly gathered in New Orleans.  Broad-horns and
mud-sills they were called in derision.  A strange race of
aquatic pioneers, jeans and leather clad, the rifle and the
setting-pole equally theirs, they came out of every stream down
which a scow could be thrust at flood-time; from tiny settlements
far back among the hills; from those bustling sinks of iniquity,
the river towns.  But now, surely, yet almost imperceptibly,
their commerce was slipping from them.  At all the landings they
were being elbowed by the newcomers--men who wore brass buttons
and gold braid, and shiny leather shoes instead of moccasins; men
with white hands and gold rings on their fingers and diamonds in
their shirts--men whose hair and clothing kept the rancid smell
of oil and smoke and machinery.

After the reading of the warrant that morning, Charley Balaam had
shown Carrington the road to the Forks, assuring him when they
separated that with a little care and decent use of his eyes it
would be possible to fetch up there and not pass plumb through
the settlement without knowing where he was.  But Carrington had
found the Forks without difficulty.  He had seen the old mill his
grandfather had built almost a hundred years before, and in the
churchyard he had found the graves and read the inscriptions that
recorded the virtues of certain dead and gone Carringtons.  It
had all seemed a very respectable link with the past.

He was on his way to Fayetteville, where he intended to spend the
night, and perhaps a day or two in looking around, when the
meeting with Betty and Murrell occurred.  As Murrell disappeared
in the direction of Balaam's, Carrington took a spiteful kick at
the unoffending coin, and strode off down the Fayetteville pike.
But the girl's face remained with him.  It was a face he would
like to see again.  He wondered who she was, and if she lived in
the big house on the other road, the house beyond the red gate
which Charley Balaam had told him was called the Barony.

He was still thinking of the girl when he ate his supper that
night at Cleggett's Tavern.  Later, in the bar, he engaged his
host in idle gossip.  Mr. Cleggett knew all about the Barony and
its owner, Nat Ferris.  Ferris was a youngish man, just married.
Carrington experienced a quick sinking of the heart.  A fleeting
sense of humor succeeded--had he interfered between man and wife?
But surely if this had been the case the girl would not have
spoken as she had.

He wound Mr. Cleggett up with sundry pegs of strong New England
rum.  He had met a gentleman and lady on the road that day; he
wondered, as he toyed with his glass, if it could have been the
Ferrises?  Mounted?  Yes, mounted.  Then it was Ferris and his
wife--or it might have been Captain Murrell and Miss Malroy the
captain was a strapping, black-haired chap who rode a big bay
horse.  Miss Malroy did not live in that part of the country; she
was a friend of Mrs. Ferris', belonged in Kentucky or Tennessee,
or somewhere out yonder--at any rate she was bringing her visit
to an end, for Ferris had instructed him to reserve a place for
her in the north-bound stage on the morrow.

Carrington suddenly remembered that he had some thought of
starting north in the morning himself, but he was still
undecided.  How about it if he deferred his decision until the
stage was leaving?  Mr. Cleggett consulted his bookings and was
of the opinion that his chances would not be good; and Carrington
hastily paid down his money.  Later in the privacy of his own
room he remarked meditatively, viewing his reflection in the
mirror that hung above the chimneypiece, "I reckon you're plain
crazy!" and seemed to free himself from all further
responsibility for his own acts whatever they might be.

The stage left at six, and as Carrington climbed to his seat the
next morning Mr. Cleggett was advising the driver to look sharp
when he came to the Barony road, as he was to pick up a party
there.  It was Carrington who looked sharp, and almost at the
spot where he had seen Betty Malroy the day before he saw her
again, with Ferris and Judith and a pile of luggage bestowed by
the wayside.  Betty did not observe him as the coach stopped, for
she was intent on her farewells with her friends.  There were
hasty words of advice from Ferris, prolonged good-byes to Judith,
tears--kisses--while a place was being made for her many boxes
and trunks.  Carrington viewed the luggage with awe, and listened
without shame.  He gathered that she was going north to
Washington; that her final destination was some point either on
the Ohio or Mississippi, and that her name was Betty.  Then the
door slammed and the stage was in motion again.

Carrington felt sensibly enriched by the meager facts now in his
possession.  He was especially interested in her name.  Be liked
the sound of it.  It suited her.  He even tried it under his
breath softly.  Betty--Betty Malroy--next he fell to wondering if
those few hurried words she had addressed to him could possibly
be construed as forming a basis for a further acquaintance.  Or
wasn't it far more likely she would prefer to forget the episode
of the previous day, which had clearly been anything but
agreeable?

All through the morning they swung forward in the heat and dust
and glare, with now and then a brief pause when they changed
horses, and at midday rattled into the shaded main street of a
sleepy village and drew up before the tavern where dinner was
waiting them--a fact that was announced by a bare-legged colored
boy armed with a club, who beat upon a suspended wagon tire.

Betty saw Carrington when she took her seat, and gave a scarcely
perceptible start of surprise.  Then her face was flooded with a
rich color.  This was the man who saw her with Captain Murrell
yesterday I What must he think of her!  There was a brief moment
of irresolution and then she bowed coldly.

"You just barely managed it.  I reckon nobody could misunderstand
that.  By no means cordial--but of course not!" Carrington
reflected.  His own handsome face had been expressionless when he
returned her bow, and Betty could not have guessed how consoled
and comforted he was by it.  With great fortitude and self-denial
he forbore to look in her direction again, but he lingered at the
table until the last moment that he might watch her when she
returned to the coach.  Mr. Carrington entertained ideals where
women were concerned, and even though he had been the one to
profit by it he would not have had Betty depart in the minutest
particular from those stringent rules he laid down for her sex.
Consequently that distant air she bore toward him filled him with
satisfaction.  It was quite enough for the present--for the
present--that three times each day his perseverance and
determination were rewarded by that curt little acknowledgment of
her indebtedness to him.

It was four days to Richmond.  Four days of hot, dusty travel,
four nights of uncomfortable cross-road stations, where Betty
suffered sleepless nights and the unaccustomed pangs of early
rising.  She occasionally found herself wondering who Carrington
was.  She approved of the manner in which he conducted himself.
She liked a man who could be unobtrusive.  Traveling like that
day after day it would have been so easy for him to be officious.
But he never addressed her and refused to see any opportunity to
assist her in entering or quitting the stage, leaving that to
some one else.  Presently she was sorry she had bowed to him that
first day--so self-contained and unpresuming a person as he would
evidently have been quite satisfied to overlook the omission.
Then she began to be haunted by doubts.  Perhaps, after all, he
had not recognized her as the girl he had met in the road!  This
gave her a very queer feeling indeed--for what must he think of
her?  And the next time she bowed to this perfect stranger she
threw a chilling austerity into the salutation quite at variance
with her appearance, for the windy drive had tangled her hair and
blown it in curling wisps about her face.  This served to trouble
Carrington excessively, and furnished him with food for
reflection through all his waking moments for the succeeding
eight and forty hours.

The next morning he found himself seated opposite her at
breakfast.  He received another curt little nod, cool and
distant, as he took his seat, but he felt strongly that a mere
bowing acquaintance would no longer suffice; so he passed her a
number of things she didn't want, and presently ventured the
opinion that she must find traveling as they were, day after day,
very fatiguing.  Surprised at the sound of his voice, before she
knew what she was doing, Betty said, "Not at all," closed her red
lips, and was immediatelv dumb.

Carrington at once relapsed into silence and ventured no further
opinion on any topic.  Betty was left wondering whether she had
been rude, and when they met again asked if the stage would reach
Washington at the advertised hour.  She had been consulting the
copy of Badger's and Porter's Register which Ferris had thrust
into her satchel the morning she left the Barony, and which,
among a multiplicity of detail as to hotels and taverns, gave the
runnings of all the regular stage lines, packets, canal-boats and
steamers, by which one could travel over the length and breadth
of the land.
"You stop in Washington?" said Carrington.

Betty shook her head.  "No, I am going on to Wheeling."

"You're fortunate in being so nearly home," he observed.  "I am
going on to Memphis."  He felt it was time she knew this, or else
she might think his movements were dictated by her own.

Betty exclaimed: "Why, I am going to Memphis, too!"

"Are you?  By canal to Cumberland, and then by stage over the
National Road to Wheeling?"

Betty nodded.  "It makes one wish they'd finish their railroads,
doesn't it?  Do you suppose they'll ever get as far west as
Memphis?" she said.

"They say it's going to be bad for the river trade when they're
built on something besides paper," answered Carrington.  "And I
happen to be a flatboat-man, Miss Malroy."

Betty gave him a glance of surprise.

"Why, how did you learn my name?" she asked.

"Oh, I heard your friends speak it," he answered glibly.  But
Betty's smooth brow was puckered thoughtfully.  She wondered if
he had--and if he hadn't.  It was very odd certainly that he
should know it.

"So the railroads are going to hurt the steamboats?" she
presently said.

"No, I didn't say that.  I was thinking of the flatboats that
have already been hurt by the steamers," he replied.  Now to the
western mind the river-men typified all that was reckless and
wild.  It was their carousals that gave an evil repute to such
towns as Natchez.  But this particular river-man looked harmless.
"Carrington is my name, Miss Malroy," he added.

No more was said just then, for Betty became reserved and he did
not attempt to resume the conversation.  A day later they rumbled
into Washington, and as Betty descended from the coach,
Carrington stepped to her side.

"I suppose you'll stop here, Miss Malroy?" he said, indicating
the tavern before which the stage had come to a stand.
"Yes," said Betty briefly.

"If I can be of any service to you--" he began, with just a touch
of awkwardness in his manner.

"No, I thank you, Mr. Carrington," said Betty quickly.

"Good night . . . good-by," he turned away, and Betty saw his
tall form disappear in the twilight.



CHAPTER VII

THE FIGHT AT SLOSSON'S TAVERN


Murrell had ridden out of the hills some hours back.  He now
faced the flashing splendors of a June sunset, but along the
eastern horizon the mountains rose against a somber sky.  Night
was creeping into their fastnesses.  Already there was twilight
in those cool valleys lying within the shadow of mighty hills.  A
month and more had elapsed since Bob Yancy's trial.  Just two
days later man and boy disappeared from Scratch Hill.  This had
served to rouse Murrell to the need of immediate action, but he
found, where Yancy was concerned, Scratch Hill could keep a
secret, while Crenshaw's mouth was closed on any word that might
throw light on the plans of his friend.

"It's plain to my mind, Captain, that Bladen will never get the
boy.  I reckon Bob's gone into hiding with him," said the
merchant, with spacious candor.

The fugitives had not gone into hiding, however; they had
traversed the state from east to west, and Murrell was soon on
their trail and pressing forward in pursuit.  Reaching the
mountains, he heard of them first as ten days ahead of him and
bound for west Tennessee, the ten days dwindled to a week, the
week became five days, the five days three; and now as he emerged
from the last range of hills he caught sight of them.  They were
half a mile distant perhaps, but he was certain that the man and
boy he saw pass about a turn in the road were the man and boy he
had been following for a month.

He was not mistaken.  The man was Bob Yancy and the boy was
Hannibal.  Yancy had acted with extraordinary decision.  He had
sold his few acres at Scratch Hill for a lump sum to Crenshaw--it
was to the latter's credit that the transaction was one in which
he could feel no real pride as a man of business--and just a day
later Yancy and the boy had quitted Scratch Hill in the gray
dawn, and turned their faces westward.  Tennessee had become
their objective point, since here was a region to which they
could fix a name, while the rest of the world was strange to
them.  As they passed the turn in the road where Murrell had
caught his first sight of them, Yancy glanced back at the blue
wall of the mountains where it lay along the horizon.

"Well, Nevvy," he said, "we've put a heap of distance between us
and old Scratch Hill; all I can say is, if there's as much the
other side of the Hill as there is this side, the world's a
monstrous big place fo' to ramble about in."  He carried his
rifle and a heavy pack.  Hannibal had a much smaller pack and his
old sporting rifle, burdens of which his Uncle Bob relieved him
at brief intervals.

For the past ten days their journey had been conducted in a
leisurely fashion.  As Yancy said, they were seeing the world,
and it was well to take a good look at it while they had a
chance.  He was no longer fearful of pursuit and his temperament
asserted itself--the minimum of activity sufficed.  Usually they
camped just where the night overtook them; now and then they
varied this by lodging at some tavern, for since there was money
in his pocket, Yancy was disposed to spend it.  He could not
conceive that it had any other possible use.

Suddenly out of the silence carne the regular beat of hoofs.
These grew nearer and nearer, and at last when they were quite
close, Yancy faced about.  He instantly recognized Murrell and
dropped his rifle into the crook of his arm.  The act was
instinctive, since there was no reason to believe that the
captain had the least interest in the boy.  Smilingly Murrell
reined in his horse.

"Why--Bob Yancy!" he cried, in apparent astonishment.

"Yes, sir--Bob Yancy.  Does it happen you are looking fo' him,
Captain?" inquired Yancy.

"No--no, Bob.  I'm on my way West.  Shake hands."  His manner was
frank and winning, and Yancy met it with an equal frankness.

"Well, sir, me and my nevvy are glad to meet some one we've
knowed afore.  The world are a lonesome place once you get shut
of yo'r own dooryard," he said.  Murrell slipped from his saddle
and fell into step at Yancy's side as they moved forward.

"They were mightily stirred up at the Cross Roads when I left,
wondering what had come of you," he observed.

"When did you quit there?" asked Yancy.

"About a fortnight ago," said Murrell.  "Every one approves of
your action in this matter, Yancy," he went on.

"That's kind of them," responded Yancy, a little dryly.  There
was no reason for it, but he was becoming distrustful of Murrell,
and uneasy.

"Bladen's hurt himself by the stand he's taken it this matter,"
Murrell added.

They went forward in silence, Yancy brooding and suspicious.  For
the last mile or so their way had led through an unbroken forest,
but a sudden turn in the road brought them to the edge of an
extensive clearing.  Close to the road were several buildings,
but not a tree had been spared to shelter them and they stood
forth starkly, the completing touch to a civilization that was
still in its youth, unkempt, rather savage, and ruthlessly
utilitarian.  A sign, the work of inexpert hands, announced the
somewhat dingy structure of hewn logs that stood nearest the
roadside a tavern.  There was a horse rack in front of it and a
trampled space.  It was flanked by its several sheds and barns on
one hand and a woodpile on the other.  Beyond the woodpile a rail
fence inclosed a corn-field, and beyond the barns and sheds a
similar fence defined the bounds of a stumpy pasture-lot.

From the door of the tavern the figure of a man emerged.  Pausing
by the horse rack he surveyed the two men and boy, if not with
indifference, at least with apathy.  Just above his head swung
the sign with its legend, Slosson--Entertainment;" but if he were
Slosson, one could take the last half of the sign either as a
poetic rhapsody on the part of the painter, or the yielding to
some meaningless convention, for in his person, Mr. Slosson
suggested none of those qualities of brain or heart that trenched
upon the lighter amenities of life.  He was black-haired and
bull-necked, and there was about him a certain shagginess which a
recent toilet performed at the horse trough had not served to
mitigate.

"Howdy?" he drawled.

"Howdy?" responded Mr. Yancy.

"Shall you stop here?" asked Murrell, sinking his voice.  Yancy
nodded.  "Can you put us up?" inquired Murrell, turning to the
tavern-keeper.

"I reckon that's what I'm here for," said Slosson.  Murrell
glanced about the empty yard.  "Slack," observed Slosson
languidly.  "Yes, sir, slack's the only name for it."  It was
understood he referred to the state of trade.  He looked from one
to the other of the two men.  As his eyes rested on Murrell, that
gentleman raised the first three fingers of his right hand.  The
gesture was ever so little, yet it seemed to have a tonic effect
on Mr. Slosson.  What might have developed into a smile had he
not immediately suppressed it, twisted his bearded lips as he
made an answering movement.  "Eph, come here, you!" Slosson
raised his voice.  This call brought a half-grown black boy from
about a corner of the tavern, to whom Murrell relinquished his
horse.

"Let's liquor," said the captain over his shoulder, moving off in
the direction of the bar.

"Come on, Nevvy!" said Yancy following, and they all entered the
tavern.

"Well, here's to the best of good luck!" said Murrell, as he
raised his glass to his lips.

"Same here," responded Yancy.  Murrell pulled out a roll of
bills, one of which he tossed on the bar.  Then after a moment's
hesitation he detached a second bill from the roll and turned to
Hannibal.

"Here, youngster--a present for you;" he said good-naturedly.
Hannibal, embarrassed by the unexpected gift, edged to his Uncle
Bob's side.

"Ain't you-all got nothing to say to the gentleman?" asked Yancy.

"Thank you, sir," said the boy.

"That sounds a heap better.  Let's see--why, if it ain't ten
dollars--think of that!" said Yancy, in surprise.

"Let's have another drink," suggested Murrell.

Presently Hannibal stole out into the yard.  He still held the
bill in his hand, for he did not quite know how to dispose of his
great wealth.  After debating this matter for a moment he knotted
it carefully in one corner of his handkerchief.  But this did not
quite suit him, for he untied the knot and looked at the bill
again, turning it over and over in his hand.  Then he folded it
carefully into the smallest possible compass and once more tied a
corner of his handkerchief about it, this time with two knots
instead of one; these he afterward tested with his teeth.

"I 'low she won't come undone now!" he said, with satisfaction.
He stowed the handkerchief away in his trousers pocket, ramming
it very tight with his fist.  He was much relieved when this was
done, for wearing a care-free air he sauntered across the yard
and established himself on the top rail of the corn-field fence.

The colored boy, armed with an ax, appeared at the woodpile and
began to chop in the desultory fashion of his race, pausing every
few seconds to stare in the direction of his white compatriot,
who met his glance with reserve.  Whereupon Mr. Slosson's male
domestic indulged in certain strange antics that were not rightly
any part of woodchopping.  This yet further repelled Hannibal.

"The disgustin' chattel!" he muttered under his breath, quoting
his Uncle Bob, with whom, in theory at least, race feeling was
strong.  Yancy appeared at the door of the bar and called to him,
and as the boy slid from the fence and ran toward him across the
yard, the Scratch Hiller sauntered forth to meet him.

"I reckon it's all right, Nevvy," he said, "but we don't know
nothing about this here Captain Murrell--as he calls himself
--though he seems a right clever sort of gentleman; but we won't
mention Belle Plain."  With this caution he led the way into the
tavern and back through the bar to a low-ceilinged room where
Murrell and Slosson were already at table.  It was intolerably
hot, and there lingered in the heavy atmosphere of the place
stale and unappetizing odors.  Only Murrell attempted
conversation and he was not encouraged; and presently silence
fell on the room except for the rattle of dishes and the buzzing
of flies.  When they had finished, the stale odors and the heat
drove them quickly into the bar again, where for a little time
Hannibal sat on Yancy's knee, by the door.  Presently he slipped
down and stole out into the yard.

The June night was pulsing with life.  Above him bats darted in
short circling flights.  In the corn-field and pasture-lot the
fireflies lifted from their day-long sleep, showing pale points
of light in the half darkness, while from some distant pond or
stagnant watercourse came the booming of frogs, presently to
swell into a resonant chorus.  These were the summer night sounds
he had known as far back as his memory went.

In the tavern the three men were drinking--Murrell with the idea
that the more Yancy came under the influence of Slosson's corn
whisky the easier his speculation would be managed.  Mr. Yancy on
his part believed that if Murrell went to bed reasonably drunk he
would sleep late and give him the opportunity he coveted, to quit
the tavern unobserved at break of day.  Gradually the ice of
silence which had held them mute at supper, thawed.  At first it
was the broken lazy speech of men who were disposed to quiet,
then the talk became brisk--a steady stream of rather dreary
gossip of horses and lands and negroes, of speculations past and
gone in these great staples.

Hannibal crossed to the corn-field.  There, in the friendly
gloom, he examined his handkerchief and felt of the rolled-up
bill.  Then he made count of certain silver and copper coins
which he had in his other pocket.  Satisfied that he had
sustained no loss, he again climbed to the top rail of the fence
where he seated himself with an elbow resting on one knee and his
chin in the palm of his hand.

"I got ten dollars and seventy cents--yes, sir--and the clostest
shooting rifle I ever tossed to my shoulder."  He seemed but
small to have accomplished such a feat.  He meditated for a
little space.  "I reckon when we strike the settlements again I
should like to buy my Uncle Bob a present."  With knitted brows
he considered what this should be, canvassing Yancy's needs.  He
had about decided on a ring such as Captain Murrell was wearing,
when he heard the shuffling of bare feet over the ground and a
voice spoke out of the darkness.

"When yo' get to feelin' like sleep, young boss, Mas'r Slosson he
says I show yo' to yo' chamber."  It was Slosson's boy Eph.

"Did you-all happen to notice what they're doing in the tavern
now?" asked Hannibal.

"I low they're makin' a regular hog-killin' of it," said Eph
smartly.  Hannibal descended from the fence.

"Yes, you can show me my chamber," he said, and his tone was
severe.  What a white man did was not a matter for a black man to
criticize.  They went toward the open door of the tavern.  Mr.
Slosson's corn whisky had already wrought a marked transformation
in the case of Slosson himself.  His usually terse speech was
becoming diffuse and irrelevant, while vacant laughter issued
from his lips.  Yancy was apparently unaffected by the good cheer
of which he had partaken, but Murrell's dark face was flushed.
The Scratch Hiller's ability to carry his liquor exceeded
anything he had anticipated.

"You-all run along to bed, Nevvy," said Yancy, as Hannibal
entered the room.  "I'll mighty soon follow you."

Eph secured a tin candle-stick with a half-burnt candle in it and
led the way into the passage back of the bar.

"Mas'r Slosson's jus' mo' than layin' back!" he said, as he
closed the door after them.

"I reckon you-all will lay back, too, when you get growed up,"
retorted Hannibal.

"No, sir, I won't.  White folks won't let a nigger lay back.
Onliest time a nigger sees co'n whisky's when he's totin' it fo'
some one else."

"I reckon a nigger's fool enough without corn whisky," said
Hannibal.  They mounted a flight of stairs and passed down a
narrow hall.  This brought them to the back of the building, and
Eph pushed open the door on his right.

"This heah's yo' chamber," he said, and preceding his companion
into the room, placed the candle on a chair.

"Well--I low I clean forgot something!" cried Hannibal.

"If it's yo' bundle and yo' gun, I done fotched 'em up heah and
laid 'em on yo' bed," said Eph, preparing' to withdraw.

"I certainly am obliged to you," said Hannibal, and with a good
night, Eph retired, closing the door after him, and the boy heard
the patter of his bare feet as he scuttled down the hall.

The moon was rising and Hannibal went to the open window and
glanced out.  His room overlooked the back yard of the inn and a
neglected truck patch.  Starting from a point beyond the truck
patch and leading straight away to the woodland beyond was a
fenced lane, with the corn-field and the pasture-lot on either
hand.  Immediately below his window was the steeply slanting roof
of a shed.  For a moment he considered the night, not unaffected
by its beauty, then, turning from the window, he moved his bundle
and rifle to the foot of the bed, where they would be out of his
way, kicked off his trousers, blew out the candle and lay down.
The gossip of the men in the bar ran like a whisper through the
house, and with it came frequent bursts of noisy laughter.
Listening for these sounds the boy dozed off.

Yancy had become more and more convinced as the evening passed
that Murrell was bent on getting him drunk, and suspicion mounted
darkly to his brain.  He felt certain that he was Bladen's agent.
Now, Mr. Yancy took an innocent pride in his ability to "cool off
liquor."  Perhaps it was some heritage from a well living
ancestry that had hardened its head with Port and Madeira in the
days when the Yancys owned their acres and their slaves.  Be that
as it may, he was equal to the task he had set himself.  He saw
with satisfaction the flush mount to Murrell's swarthy cheeks,
and felt that the limit of his capacity was being reached.  Mr.
Slosson had become a sort of Greek chorus.  He anticipated all
the possible phases of drunkenness that awaited his companions.
He went from silence to noisy mirth, when his unmeaning laughter
rang through the house; he told long witless stories as he leaned
against the bar; he became melancholy and described the loss of
his wife five years before.  From melancholy he passed to
sullenness and seemed ready to fasten a quarrel on Yancy, but the
latter deftly evaded any such issue.

"What you-all want is another drink," he said affably.  "With all
you been through you need a tonic, so shove along that extract of
cornshucks and molasses!"

"I'm a rip-staver," said Slosson thickly.  "But I've knowed
enough sorrow to kill a horse."

"You have that look.  Captain, will you join us?" asked Yancy.
Murrell shook his head, but he made a significant gesture to
Slosson as Yancy drained his glass.

"Have a drink with me!" cried Slosson, giving way to drunken
laughter.

"Don't you reckon you'll spite yo' appetite fo' breakfast,
neighbor?" suggested Yancy.

"Do you mean you won't drink with me?" roared Slosson.

"The captain's dropped out and I 'low it's about time fo' these
here festivities to come to an end.  I'm thinking some of going
to bed myself," said Yancy.  He kept his eyes fixed on Murrell.
He realized that if the latter could prevent it he was not to
leave the bar.  Murrell stood between him and the door; more than
this, he stood between him and his rifle, which leaned against
the wall in the far corner of the room.  Slosson roared out a
protest to his words.  "That's all right, neighbor," retorted
Yancy over his shoulder, "but I'm going to bed."  He never
shifted his glance from Murrell's face.  Seowling now, the
captain's eyes blazed back their challenge as he thrust his right
hand under his coat.  "Fair play--I don't know who you are, but I
know what you want!" said Yancy, the light in his frank gray eyes
deepening.  Murrell laughed and took a forward step.  At the same
moment Slosson snatched up a heavy club from back of the bar and
dealt Yancy a murderous blow.  A single startled cry escaped the
Scratch Hitler; he struck out wildly as he lurched toward
Murrell, who drew his knife and drove it into his shoulder.

Groping wildly, Yancy reached his rifle and faced about.  His
scalp lay open where Slosson's treacherous blow had fallen and
his face was covered with blood; even as his fingers stiffened
they found the hammer, but Murrell, springing forward, kicked the
gun out of his hands.  Dashing the blood from his eyes, Yancy
threw himself on Murrell.  Then, as they staggered to and fro,
Yancy dully bent on strangling his enemy, Slosson--whom the sight
of blood had wonderfully sobered--rushed out from the bar and let
loose a perfect torrent of blows with his club.  Murrell felt the
fingers that gripped him grow weak, and Yancy dropped heavily to
the floor.


How long the boy slept he never knew, but he awoke with a start
and a confused sense of things.  He seemed to have heard a cry
for help.  But the tavern was very silent now.  The distant
murmur of voices and the shouts of laughter had ceased.  He
lifted himself up on his elbow and glanced from the window.  The
heavens were pale and gray.  It was evidently very late, probably
long after midnight but where was his Uncle Bob?

He sank back on his pillow intent and listening.  What he had
heard, what he still expected to hear, he could not have told,
but he was sure he had been roused by a cry of some sort.  A
chilling terror that gripped him fast and would not let him go,
mounted to his brain.  Once he thought he heard cautious steps
beyond his door.  He could not be certain, yet he imagined the
bull-necked landlord standing with his ear to some crack seeking
to determine whether or not he slept.  His thin little body grew
rigid and a cold sweat started from him.  He momentarily expected
the latch to be lifted, then in the heavy silence he caught the
sound of some stealthy movement beyond the lath and plaster
partition, and an instant later an audible footfall.  He heard
the boards creak and give, as the person who had been standing
before his door passed down the hall, down the stairs, and to the
floor below.

Limp and shivering, he drew his scanty covering tight about him.
In the silence that succeeded, he once more became aware of the
tireless chorus of the frogs, the hooting of the owls, and the
melancholy and oft-repeated call of the whippoorwill.  But where
was his Uncle Bob?  Why didn't he come to bed?  And whose was
that cry for help he had heard?  Memories of idle tales of men
foully dealt with in these lonely taverns, of murderous
landlords, and mysterious guests who were in league with them,
flashed through his mind.

Murrell had followed them for this--and had killed his Uncle Bob,
and he would be sent back to Bladen!  The law had said that
Bladen could have him and that his Uncle Bob must give him up.
The law put men in prison--it hanged them sometimes--his Uncle
Bob had told him all about it--by the neck with ropes until they
were dead!  Maybe they wouldn't send him back; maybe they would
do with him what they had already done with his Uncle Bob; he
wanted the open air, the earth under his feet, and the sky over
his head.  The four walls stifled him.  He was not afraid of the
night, be could run and hide in it--there were the woods and
fields where he would be safe.

He slid from the bed, and for a long moment stood cold and
shaking, his every sense on the alert.  With infinite caution he
got into his trousers and again paused to listen, since he feared
his least movement might betray him.  Reassured, he picked up his
battered hat from the floor and inch by inch crept across the
squeaking boards to the window.  When the window was reached he
paused once more to listen, but the quiet that was everywhere
throughout the house gave him confidence.  He straddled the low
sill, and putting out his hand gripped the stock of his rifle and
drew that ancient weapon toward him.  Next he secured his pack,
and was ready for flight.

Encumbered by his belongings, but with no mind to sacrifice them,
he stepped out upon the shed and made his way down the slant of
the roof to the eaves.  He tossed his bundle to the ground and
going down on his knees lowered his rifle, letting the muzzle
fall lightly against the side of the shed as it left his hand,
then he lay flat on his stomach and, feet first, wriggled out
into space.  When he could no longer preserve his balance, he
gave himself a shove away from the eaves and dropped clear of the
building.

As he recovered himself he was sure he heard a door open and
close, and threw himself prone on the ground, where the black
shadow cast by the tavern hid him.  At the same moment two dark
figures came from about a corner of the building.  He could just
distinguish that they carried some heavy burden between them and
that they staggered as they moved.  He heard Slosson curse
drunkenly, and a whispered word from Murrell.  The two men slowly
crossed the truck patch, and the boy's glance followed them, his
eyes starting from his head.  Just at the mouth of the lane they
paused and put down their burden; a few words spoken in a whisper
passed between them and they began to drag some dark thing down
the lane, their backs bent, their heads bowed and the thing they
dragged bumping over the uneven ground.

They passed out of sight, and breathless and palsied, Hannibal
crept about a corner of the tavern.  He must be sure!  The door
of the bar stood open; the lamps were still burning, and the
upturned chairs and a broken table told of the struggle that had
taken place there.  The boy rested his hand on the top step as he
stared fearfully into the room.  His palm came away with a great
crimson splotch.  But he was not satisfied yet.  He must be sure
--sure!  He passed around the building as the men had done and
crossed the truck patch to the mouth of the lane.  Here he slid
through the fence into the corn-field, and, well sheltered,
worked his way down the rows.  Presently he heard a distant
sound--a splash--surely it was a splash--.

A little later the men came up the lane, to disappear in the
direction of the tavern.  Hannibal peered after them.  His very
terrors, while they wrenched and tortured him, gave him a
desperate kind of courage.  As the gloom hid the two men, he
started forward again; he must know the meaning of that sound
--that splash, if it was a splash.  He reached the end of the
cornfield, climbed the fence, and entered a deadening of slashed
and mutilated timber.  In the long wet grass he found where the
men had dragged their burden.  He reached down and swept his hand
to and fro--once--twice--the third time his little palm came away
red and discolored.

There was the first pale premonition of dawn in the sky, and as
he hurried on the light grew, and the black trunks of trees
detached themselves from the white mist that filled the woods and
which the dawn made visible.  There was light enough for him to
see that he was following the trail left by the men; he could
distinguish where the dew had been brushed from the long grass.
Advancing still farther, he heard the clear splash of running
water, an audible ripple that mounted into a silver cadence.  Day
was breaking now.  The lifeless gray along the eastern horizon
had changed to orange.  Still following the trail, he emerged
upon the bank of the Elk River, white like the woods with its
ghostly night sweat.

The dull beat of the child's heart quickened as he gazed out on
the swift current that was hurrying on with its dreadful secret.
Then the full comprehension of his loss seemed to overwhelm him
and he was utterly desolate.  Sobs shook him, and he dropped on
his knees, holding fast to the stock of his rifle.

"Uncle Bob--Uncle Bob, come back!  Can't you come back!" he
wailed miserably.  Presently he staggered to his feet.
Convulsive sobs still wrenched his little body.  What was he to
do?  Those men--his Uncle Bob's murderers--would go to his room;
they would find his empty bed and their search for him would
begin!  Not for anything would he have gone back through the
corn-field or the lane to the road.  He had the courage to go
forward, but not to retrace his steps; and the river, deep and
swift, barred his path.  As he glanced about, he saw almost at
his feet a dug-out, made from a single poplar log.  It was
secured to an overhanging branch by a length of wild grape-vine.
With one last fearful look off across the deadening in the
direction of the tavern, he crept down to the water's edge and
entered the canoe.  In a moment, he had it free from its lashing
and the rude craft was bumping along the bank in spite of his
best efforts with the paddle.  Then a favoring current caught it
and swept it out toward the center of the stream.

It was much too big and clumsy for him to control without the
stream's help, though he labored doggedly with his paddle.  Now
he was broadside to the current, now he was being spun round and
round, but always he was carried farther and farther from the
spot where he had embarked.  He passed about a bend; and a
hundred yards beyond, about a second bend; then the stream opened
up straight before him a half-mile of smooth running water.  Far
down it, at the point where the trees met in the unbroken line of
the forest and the water seemed to vanish mysteriously, he could
distinguish a black moving object; some ark or raft, doubtless.

In the smoother water of the long reach, Hannibal began to make
head against the flood.  The farther shore became the nearer, and
finally he drove the bow of his canoe up on a bit of shelving
bank, and seizing his pack and rifle, sprang ashore.  Panting and
exhausted, he paused just long enough to push the canoe out into
the stream again, and then, with his rifle and pack in his hands,
turned his small tear-stained face toward the wooded slope
beyond.  As he toiled up it in the wide silence of the dawn, a
mournful wind burst out of the north, filling the air about him
with withered leaves and the dead branches of trees.




CHAPTER VIII

ON THE RIVER


Betty stood under a dripping umbrella in the midst of a drenching
downpour, her boxes and trunks forming a neat pyramid of
respectable size beside her.  She was somewhat perturbed in
spirit, since they contained much elaborate finery all in the
very latest eastern fashion, spoils that were the fruit of a
heated correspondence with Tom, who hadn't seemed at all alive to
the fact that Betty was nearly eighteen and in her own right a
young woman of property.  A tarpaulin had been thrown over the
heap, and with one eye on it and the other on the stretch of
yellow canal up which they were bringing the fast packet Pioneer,
she was waiting impatiently to see her belongings transferred to
a place of safety.

Just arrived by the four-horse coach that plyed regularly between
Washington and Georgetown, she had found the long board platform
beside the canal crowded with her fellow passengers, their number
augmented by those who delight to share vicariously in travel and
to whom the departure of a stage or boat was a matter of urgent
interest requiring their presence, rain or shine.  Suddenly she
became aware of a tall, familiar figure moving through the crowd.
It was Bruce Carrington.  At the same moment he saw her, and with
a casual air that quite deceived her, approached; and Betty, who
had been feeling very lonely and very homesick, was somehow
instantly comforted at sight of him.  She welcomed him almost as
a friend.

"You're leaving to-night?" he asked.

"Yes--isn't it miserable the way it rains?  And why are they so
slow--why don't they hurry with that boat?"

"It's in the last lock now," explained Carrington.

"My clothes will all be ruined," said Betty.  He regarded the
dress she wore with instant concern.  "No--I mean the things in
my trunks; this doesn't matter," and Betty nodded toward the pile
under the steaming tarpaulin.  Carrington's dark eyes opened with
an expression of mild wonder.  And so those trunks were full of
clothes--Oh, Lord!--he looked down at the flushed, impatient face
beside him with amusement.

"I'll see that they are taken care of," he said, for the boat was
alongside the platform now; and gathering up Betty's hand
luggage, he helped her aboard.

By the time they had reached Wheeling, Betty had quite parted
with whatever superficial prejudice she might have had concerning
river-men.  This particular one was evidently a very nice
river-man, an exception to his kind.  She permitted him to assume
the burden of her plans, and no longer scanned the pages of her
Badger's and Porter's with a puckered brow.  It reposed at the
bottom of her satchel.  He made choice of the steamer on which
she should continue her journey, and thoughtfully chose The
Naiad--a slow boat, with no reputation for speed to sustain.  It
meant two or three days longer on the river, but what of that?
There would be no temptation in the engine-room to attach a
casual wrench or so to the safety-valve as an offset to the
builder's lack of confidence in his own boilers.  He saw to it
that her state-room was well aft--steamers had a trick of blowing
up forward.

Ne had now reached a state of the utmost satisfaction with
himself and the situation.  Betty was friendly and charming.  He
walked with her, and he talked with her by the hour; and always
he was being entangled deeper and deeper in the web of her
attraction.  "When alone he would pace the deck recalling every
word she had spoken.  There was that little air of high breeding
which was Betty's that fascinated him.  He had known something of
the other sort, those who had arrived at prosperity with manners
and speech that still reflected the meaner condition from which
they had risen.

"I haven't a thing to offer her--this is plain madness of mine!"
he kept telling himself, and then the expression of his face
would become grim and determined.  No more of the river for him
--he'd get hold of some land and go to raising cotton; that was the
way money was made.

Slow as The Naiad was, the days passed much too swiftly for him.
When Memphis was reached their friendly intercourse would come to
an end.  There would be her brother, of whom she had occasionally
spoken--he would be pretty certain to have the ideas of his
class.

As for Betty, she liked this tall fellow who helped her through
the fatigue of those long days, when there was only the unbroken
sweep of the forest on either hand, with here and there a
clearing where some outrageous soul was making a home for
himself.  The shores became duller, wilder, more uninteresting as
they advanced, and then at last they entered the Mississippi, and
she was almost home.

Betty was not unexcited by the prospect.  She would be the
mistress of the most splendid place in West Tennessee.  She
secretly aspired to be a brilliant hostess.  She could remember
when the doors of Belle Plain were open to whoever had the least
claim to distinction--statesmen and speculators in land; men who
were promoting those great schemes of improvement, canals and
railroads; hard-featured heroes of the two wars with England--a
diminishing group; the men of the modern army, the pathfinders,
and Indian fighters, and sometimes a titled foreigner.  She
wondered if Tom had maintained the traditions of the place.  She
found that Carrington had heard of Belle Plain.  He spoke of it
with respect, but with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm, for how
could he feel enthusiasm when he must begin his chase after
fortune with bare hands?--he suffered acutely whenever it was
mentioned.  The days, like any other days, dwindled.  The end of
it all was close at hand.  Another twenty-four hours and
Carrington reflected there would only be good-by to say.

"We will reach New Madrid to-night," he told her.  They were
watching the river, under a flood of yellow moonlight.

"And then just another day--Oh, I can hardly wait!" cried Betty
delightedly.  "Soon I shall hope to see you at Belle Plain, Mr.
Carrington," she added graciously.

"Thank you, your--your family--" he hesitated.

"There's only just Tom--he's my half-brother.  My mother was left
a widow when I was a baby.  Later, some years after, she married
Tom's father."

"Oh--then he's not even your half-brother?"

"He's no relation at all--and much older.  When Tom's father died
my mother made Tom, manager, and still later he was appointed my
guardian."

"Then you own Belle Plain?" and Carrington sighed.

"Yes.  You have never seen it?--it's right on the river, you
know?" then Betty's face grew sober: "Tom's dreadfully queer--I
expect he'll require a lot of managing!"

"I reckon you'll be equal to that!" said-Carrington, convinced of
Betty's all-compelling charm.

"No, I'm not at all certain about Tom--I can see where we shall
have serious differences; but then, I shan't have to struggle
single-handed with him long; a cousin of my mother's is coming to
Belle Plain to make her home with me--she'll make' him behave,"
and Betty laughed maliciously.  "It's a great nuisance being a
girl!"

Then Betty fell to watching for the lights at New Madrid, her
elbows resting on the rail against which she was leaning, and the
soft curve of her chin sunk in the palms of her hands.  She
wondered absently what Judith would have said of this river-man.
She smiled a little dubiously.  Judith had certainly vindicated
the sincerity of her convictions regarding the importance of
family, inasmuch as in marrying Ferris she had married her own
second cousin.  She nestled her chin a little closer in her
palms.  She remembered that they had differed seriously over Mr.
Yancy's defiance, of the law as it was supposed to be lodged in
the sacred person of Mr. Bladen's agent, the unfortunate Blount.
Carrington, with his back against a stanchion, watched her
discontentedly.

"You'll be mighty glad to have this over with, Miss Malroy--" he
said at length, with a comprehensive sweep toward the river.

"Yes--shan't you?" and she opened her eyes questioningly.

"No," said Carrington with a short laugh, drawing a chair near
hers and sitting down.

Betty, in surprise, gave him a quick look, and then as quickly
glanced away from what she encountered in his eyes.  Men were
accustomed to talk sentiment to her, but she had hoped--well, she
really had thought that he was, superior to this weakness.  She
had enjoyed the feeling that here was some one, big and strong
and thoroughly masculine, with whom she could be friendly
without--she took another look at him from under the fringe of
her long lashes.  He was so nice and considerate--and good
looking--he was undeniably this last.  It would be a pity!  And
she had already determined that Tom should invite him to Belle
Plain.  She didn't mind if he was a river-man--they could be
friends, for clearly he was such an exception.  Tom should be
cordial to him.  Betty stared before her, intently watching the
river.  As she looked, suddenly pale points of light appeared on
a distant headland.

"Is that New Madrid?--Oh, is it, Mr. Carrington?"' she cried
eagerly.

"I reckon so," but he did not alter his position.

"But you're not looking!"

"Yes, I am--I'm looking at you.  I reckon you'll think me crazy,
Miss Malroy-presumptuous and all that but I wish Memphis could be
wiped off the map and that we could go on like this for ever!
--no, not like this but together--you and I" he took a deep breath.
Betty drew a little farther away, and looked at him
reproachfully; and then she turned to the dancing lights far down
the river.  Finally she said slowly:

"I thought you were--different."

"I'm not," and Carrington's hand covered hers.

"Oh--you mustn't kiss my hand like that--"

"Dear--I'm just a man--and you didn't expect, did you, that I
could see you this way day after day and not come to love you?"
He rested his arm across the back of her chair and leaned toward
her.

"No--no--" and Betty moved still farther away.

"Give me a chance to win your love, Betty!"

"You mustn't talk so--I am nothing to you--"

"Yes, you are.  You're everything to me," said Carrington
doggedly.

"I'm not--I won't be!" and Betty stamped her foot.

"You can't help it.  I love you and that's all there is about it.
I know I'm a fool to tell you now, Betty, but years wouldn't make
any difference in my feeling; and I can't have you go, and
perhaps never see you again, if I can help it.  Betty--give me a
chance--you don't hate me--"

"But I do--yes, I do--indeed--"

"I know you don't.  Let me see you again and do what I can to
make you care for me!" he implored.  But he had a very indignant
little aristocrat to deal with.  She was angry with him, and
angry with herself that in spite of herself his words moved her.
She wouldn't have it so!  Why, he wasn't even of her class--her
kind!  "Betty, you don't mean--" he faltered.

"I mean--I am extremely annoyed.  I mean just what I say."  Betty
regarded him with wrathful blue eyes.  It proved too much for
Carrington.  His arm, dropped about her shoulders.

"You shall love me--"  She was powerless in his embrace.  She
felt his breath on her cheek, then he kissed her.  Breathless and
crimson, she struggled and pushed him from her.  Suddenly his
arms fell at hisside; his face was white.  "I was a brute to do
that!--Betty, forgive me!  I am sorry--no, I can't be sorry!"'

"How do you dare!  I hope I may never see you again--I hate you
--" said Betty furiously, tears in her eyes and her pulses still
throbbing from his fierce caress.

"Do you mean that?" he asked slowly, rising.

"Yes--yes--a million times, yes!"

"I don't believe you--I can't--I won't!"  They were alongside the
New Madrid wharf now, and a certain young man who had been
impatiently watching The Naiad's lights ever since they became
visible crossed the gang-plank with a bound.

"Betty--why in the name of goodness did you ever, choose this
tub?--everything on the river has passed it!" said the newcomer.
Betty started up with a little cry of surprise and pleasure.

"Charley!"

Carrington stepped back.  This must be the brother who had come
up the river from Memphis to meet her--but her brother's name was
Tom!  He looked this stranger--this Charley--over with a hostile
eye, offended by his good looks, his confident manner, in which
he thought he detected an air of ownership, as if--certainly he
was holding her hands longer than was necessary!  Of course,
other men were in love with her, such a radiant personality held
its potent attraction for men, but for all that, she was going to
belong to him--Carrington!  She did like him; she had shown it in
a hundred little ways during the last week, and he would give her
up to no man--give her up?--there wasn't the least tie between
them--except that kiss--and she was furious because of it.  There
was nothing for him to do but efface himself.  He would go now,
before the boat started--and an instant later, when Betty,
remembering, turned to speak to him, his place by the rail was
deserted.




CHAPTER IX

JUDGE SLOCUM PRICE


Athat day Hannibal was haunted by the memory of what he had heard
and seen at Slosson's tavern.  More than this, there was his
terrible sense of loss, and the grief he could not master, when
his thin, little body was shaken by sobs.  Marking the course of
the road westward, he clung to the woods, where his movements
were as stealthy as the very shadows themselves.  He shunned the
scattered farms and the infrequent settlements, for the fear was
strong with him that he might be followed either by Murrell or
Slosson.  But as the dusk of evening crept across the land, the
great woods, now peopled by strange shadows, sent him forth into
the highroad.  He was beginning to be very tired, and hunger
smote him with fierce pangs, but back of it all was his sense of
bitter loss, his desolation, and his loneliness.

"I couldn't forget Uncle Bob if I tried--" he told himself, with
quivering lips, as he limped wearily along the dusty road, and
the tears welled up and streaked his pinched face.  Now before
him he saw the scattered lights of a settlement.  All his
terrors, the terrors that grouped themselves about the idea of
pursuit and capture, rushed back upon him, and in a panic he
plunged into the black woods again.

But the distant lights intensified his loneliness.  He had lived
a whole day without food, a whole day without speech.  He began
to skirt the settlement, keeping well within the thick gloom of
the woods, and presently, as he stumbled forward, he came to a
small clearing in the center of which stood a log dwelling.  The
place seemed deserted.  There was no sign of life, no light shone
from the window, no smoke issued from the stick-and-mud chimney.

Tilted back in a chair by the door of this house a man was
sleeping.  The hoot of an owl from a near-by oak roused him.  He
yawned and stretched himself, thrusting out his fat legs and
extending his great arms.  Then becoming aware of the small
figure which had stolen up the path as he slept and now stood
before him in the uncertain light, he fell to rubbing his eyes
with the knuckles of his plump hands.  The pale night mist out of
the silent depths of the forest had assumed shapes as strange.

"Who are you?" he demanded, and his voice rumbled thickly forth
from his capacious chest.  The very sound was sleek and unctuous.

"I'm Hannibal," said the small figure.  He was meditating flight;
he glanced over his shoulder toward the woods.

"No, you ain't.  He's been dead a thousand years, more or less.
Try again," recommended the man.

"I'm Hannibal Wayne Hazard," said the boy.  The man quitted his
chair.

"Well--I am glad to know you, Hannibal Wayne Hazard.  I am Slocum
Price--Judge Slocum Price, sometime major-general of militia and
ex-member of congress, to mention a few of those honors my fellow
countrymen have thrust upon me." He made a sweeping gesture with
his two hands outspread and bowed ponderously.

The boy saw a man of sixty, whose gross and battered visage told
its own story.  There was a sparse white frost about his ears;
and his eyes, pale blue and prominent, looked out from under
beetling brows.  He wore a shabby plum-colored coat and tight,
drab breeches.  About his fat neck was a black stock, with just a
suggestion of soiled linen showing above it.  His figure was
corpulent and unwieldy.

The man saw a boy of perhaps ten, barefoot, and clothed in
homespun shirt and trousers.  On his head was a ruinous hat much
too large for him, but which in some mysterious manner he
contrived to keep from quite engulfing his small features, which
were swollen and tear-stained.  In his right hand he carried a
bundle, while his left clutched the brown barrel of a long rifle.

"You don't belong in these parts, do you?" asked the judge, when
he had completed his scrutiny.

"No, sir," answered the boy.  He glanced off down the road, where
lights were visible among the trees.  "What town is that?" he
added.

"Pleasantville--which is a lie--but I am neither sufficiently
drunk nor sufficiently sober to cope with the possibilities your
question offers.  It is a task one should approach only after
extraordinary preparation," and the sometime major-general of
militia grinned benevolently.

"It's a town, ain't it?" asked Hannibal doubtfully.  He scarcely
understood this large, smiling gentleman who was so civilly given
to speech with him, yet strangely enough he was not afraid of
him, and his whole soul craved human companionship.

"It's got a name--but you'll excuse me, I'd much prefer not to
tell you how I regard it--you're too young to hear.  But stop a
bit--have you so much as fifty cents about you?" and the judge's
eyes narrowed to a slit above their folds of puffy flesh.
Hannibal, keeping his glance fixed on the man's face, fell back a
step.  "I can't let you go if you are penniless--I can't do
that!" cried the judge, with sudden vehemence.  "You shall
be my guest for the night.  They're a pack of thieves at the
tavern," he lowered his voice.  "I know 'em, for they've plucked
me!"  To make sure of his prey, he rested a fat hand on the boy's
shoulder and drew him gently but firmly into the shanty.  As they
crossed the threshold he kicked the door shut, then with flint
and steel he made a light, and presently a candle was sputtering
in his hands.  He fitted it into the neck of a tall bottle, and
as the light flared up the boy glanced about him.

The interior was mean enough, with its rough walls, dirt floor
and black, cavernous fireplace.  A rude clapboard table did duty
as a desk, a fact made plain by a horn ink-well, a notary's seal,
and a rack with a half-dozen quill pens.  Above the desk was a
shelf of books in worn calf bindings, and before it a rickety
chair.  A shakedown bed in one corner of the room was tastefully
screened from the public gaze by a tattered quilt.

"Boy, don't be afraid.  Look on me as a friend," urged the judge,
who towered above him in the dim candle-light.  "Here's comfort
without ostentation.  Don't tell me you prefer the tavern, with
its corrupt associations!"  Hannibal was silent, and the judge,
after a brief moment of irresolution, threw open the door.  Then
he bent toward the small stranger, bringing his face close to the
child's, while his thick lips wreathed themselves in a smile
ingratiatingly genial.  "You can't look me squarely in the eye
and say you prefer the tavern to these scholarly surroundings?"
he said banteringly.

"I reckon I'll be glad to stop," answered Hannibal.  The judge
clapped him piayfully on the back.

"Such confidence is inspiring!  Make yourself perfectly at home.
Are you hungry?"

"Yes, sir.  I ain't had much to eat to-day," replied Hannibal
cautiously.

"I can offer you food then.  What do you say to cold fish?" the
judge smacked his lips to impart a relish to the idea.  "I dare
swear I can find you some corn bread into the bargain.  Tea I
haven't got.  On the advice of my physician, I don't use it.
What do you say--shall we light a fire and warm the fish?"

"I 'low I could eat it cold."

"No trouble in the world to start a fire.  All we got to do is to
go out, and pull a few palings off the fence," urged the judge.

"It will do all right just like it is," said Hannibal.

"Very good, then! " cried the judge gaily, and he began to
assemble the dainties he had enumerated.  "Here you are!" he
cleared his throat impressively, while benignity shone from every
feature of his face.  "A moment since you allowed me to think
that you were solvent to the extent of fifty cents--" Hannibal
looked puzzled.  The judge dealt him a friendly blow on the
back, then stood off and regarded him with a glance of great
jocularity, his plump knuckles on his hips and his arms akimbo.
"I wonder"--and his eyes assumed a speculative squint "I wonder
if you could be induced to make a temporary loan of that fifty
cents?  The sum involved is really such a ridiculous trifle I
don't need to point out to you the absolute moral certainty of my
returning it at an early date--say to-morrow morning; say
to-morrow afternoon at the latest; say even the day after at the
very outside.  Meantime, you shall be my guest.  The landlady's
son has found my notarial seal an admirable plaything--she has
had to lick the little devil twice for hooking it--my pens and
stationery are at your disposal, should you desire to communicate
to absent friends; you can have the run of my library!" the judge
fairly trembled in his eagerness.  It was not the loss of his
money that Hannibal most feared, and the coin passed from his
possession into his host's custody.  As it dropped into the
latter's great palm he was visibly moved.  His moist, blue eyes
became yet more watery, while his battered old face assumed an
expression indicating deep inward satisfaction.  "Thank you, my
boy!  This is one of those intrinsically trifling benefits which,
conferred at the moment of acute need, touch the heart and tap
the unfailing springs of human gratitude--I must step down to the
tavern--when I return, please God, we shall know more of each
other."  While he was still speaking he had produced a jug from
behind the quilt that screened his bed, and now, bareheaded, and
with every indication of haste, took himself off into the night.

Left alone, Hannibal gravely seated himself at the table.  What
the judge's larder lacked in variety it more than made up for in
quantity, and the boy was grateful for this fact.  He was half
famished, and the coarse, abundant food was of the sort to which
he was accustomed.  Presently he heard the judge's heavy,
shuffling step as he came up the path from the road, and a moment
later his gross bulk of body filled the doorway.  Breathing hard
and perspiring, the judge entered the shanty, but his eagerness,
together with his shortness of breath, kept him silent until he
had established himself in his chair beside the table, with the
jug and a cracked glass at his elbow.  Then, bland and smiling,
he turned toward his guest.

"Will you join me?" he asked.

"No, sir.  Please, I'd rather not," said Hannibal.

"Do you mean that you don't like good liquor?" demanded the
judge.  "Not even with sugar and a dash of water?--say, now,
don't you like it that way, my boy?"

"I ain't learned to like it no ways," said Hannibal.

"You amaze me--well--well--the greater the joy to which you may
reasonably aspire.  The splendid possibilities of youth are
yours.  My tenderest regards, Hannibal!" and he nodded over the
rim of the cracked glass his shaking hand had carried to his
lips.  Twice the glass was filled and emptied, and then again,
his roving, watery eyes rested meditatively on the child, who sat
very erect in his chair, with his brown hands crossed in his lap.
"Personally, I can drink or not," explained the judge.  "But I
hope I am too much a man of the world to indulge in any
intemperate display of principle."  He proved the first clause of
his proposition by again filling and emptying his glass.  "Have
you a father?" he asked suddenly.  Hannibal shook his head.  "A
mother?" demanded the judge.

"They both of them done died years and years ago," answered the
boy.  "I can't tell you how long back it was, but I reckon I
don't know much about it.  I must have been a small child."

"Ho--a small child!" cried the judge, laughing.  He cocked his
head on one side and surveyed Hannibal Wayne Hazard with a glance
of comic seriousness.  "A small child and in God's name what do
you call yourself now?  To hear you talk one would think you had
dabbled your feet in the Flood!"

"I'm most ten," said Hannibal, with dignity.

"I can well believe it," responded the judge.  "And with this
weight of years, where did you come from and how did you get
here?"

"From across the mountains."

"Alone?"

"No, sir.  Mr. Yancy fetched me--part way."  The boy's voice
broke when he spoke his Uncle Bob's name, and his eyes swam with
tears, but the judge did not notice this.

"And where are you going?"

"To West Tennessee."

"Have you any friends there?"

"Yes, sir."

"You've money enough to see you through?" and what the judge
intended for a smile of fatherly affection became a leer of
infinite cunning.

"I got ten dollars."

"Ten dollars--" the judge smacked his lips once.  "Ten dollars"
he repeated, and smacked his lips twice.  There was a brief
silence, in which he seemed to give way to pleasant reveries.

From beyond the open door of the shanty came a multitude of night
sounds.  The moon had risen, and what had been a dusty country
road was now a streak of silver in the hot light.  The purple
flush on the judge's face, where the dignity that belonged to age
had gone down in wreck, deepened.  The sparse, white frost above
his ears was damp with sweat.  He removed his stock, opened his
shirt at the neck, and cast aside his coat; then he lighted a
blackened pipe, filled his glass, and sank back in his chair.
The long hours of darkness were all before him, and his senses
clothed themselves in rich content.  Once more his glance rested
on the boy.  Here, indeed, was a guest of whom one might make
much and not err--he felt all the benevolence of his nature flow
toward him.  Ten dollars!

"Certainly the tavern would have been no place for you!  Well,
thank God, it wasn't necessary for you to go there.  You are more
than welcome here.  I tell you, when you know this place as I
know it, you'll regard every living soul here with suspicion.
Keep 'em at arm's length!" he sank his voice to an impressive
whisper.  "In particular, I warn you against a certain Solomon
Mahaffy.  You'll see much of him; I haven't known how to rebuff
the fellow without being rude--he sticks to me like my shadow.
He's profited by my charity and he admires my conversation and
affects my society, but don't tell him you have so much as a
rusty copper, for he will neither rest nor eat nor sleep until
he's plucked you--tell him nothing--leave him to me.  I keep him
--there--" the judge extended his fat hands, "at arm's length.  I
say to him metaphorically speaking--'so close, but no closer.
I'll visit you when sick, I'll pray with you when dying, I'll
chat with you, I'll eat with you, I'll smoke with you, and if
need be, I'll drink with you--but be your intimate?  Never!  Why?
Because be's a damned Yankee!  These are the inextinguishable
feelings of a gentleman.  I am aware they are out of place in
this age, but what's bred in the bone will show in the flesh.
Who says it won't, is no gentleman himself and a liar as well!
My place in the world was determined two or three hundred years
ago, and my ancestors spat on such cattle as Mahaffy and they
were flattered by the attention!"  The judge, powerfully excited
by his denunciation of the unfortunate Mahaffy, quitted his chair
and, lurching somewhat as he did so, began to pace the floor.

"Take me for your example, boy!  You may be poor, you may
possibly be hungry you'll often be thirsty, but through it all
you will remain that splendid thing--a gentleman!  Lands,
niggers, riches, luxury, I've had 'em all; I've sucked the good
of 'em; they've colored my blood, they've gone into the fiber of
my brain and body.  Perhaps you'll contend that the old order is
overthrown, that family has gone to the devil?  You are right,
and there's the pity of it!  Where are the great names?  A race
of upstarts has taken their place--sons of nobody--nephews of
nobody--cousins of nobody--I observe only deterioration in the
trend of modern life.  The social fabric is tottering--I can see
it totter--" and he tottered himself as he said this.

The boy had watched him out of wide eyes, as ponderous and
unwieldy he shuffled back and forth in the dim candlelight; now
shaking his head and muttering, the judge dropped into his chair.

"Well, I'm an old man-the spectacle won't long offend me.  I'll
die presently.  The Bench and Bar will review my services to the
country, the militia will fire a few volleys at my graveside,
here and there a flag will be at half-mast, and that will be the
end--"  He was so profoundly moved by the thought that he could
not go on.  His voice broke, and he buried his face in his arms.
A sympathetic moisture had gathered in the child's eyes.  He
understood only a small part of what his host was saying, but
realized that it had to do with death, and he had his own
terrible acquaintance with death.  He slipped from his chair and
stole to the judge's side, and that gentleman felt a cool hand
rest lightly on his arm.

"What?" he said, glancing up.

"I'm mighty sorry you're going to die," said the boy softly.

"Bless you, Hannibal!" cried the judge, looking wonderfully
cheerful, despite his recent bitterness of spirit.  "I'm not
experiencing any of the pangs of mortality now.  My dissolution
ain't a matter of to-night or to-morrow--there's some life in
Slocum Price yet, for all the rough usage, eh?  I've had my
fun--I could tell you a thing or two about that, if you had hair
on your chin!" and the selfish lines of his face twisted
themselves into an exceedingly knowing grin.

"You talked like you thought you were going to die right off,"
said Hannibal gravely, as he resumed his chair.  The judge was
touched.  It had been more years than he cared to remember since
he had launched a decent emotion in the breast of any human
being.  For a moment he was silent, struck with a sense of shame;
then he said:

"You are sure you are not running away, Hannibal?  I hope you
know that boys should always tell the truth--that hell has its
own especial terrors for the boy who lies?  Now, if I thought the
worst of you, I might esteem it my duty to investigate your
story."  The judge laid a fat forefinger against the side of his
nose, and regarded him with drunken gravity.  Hannibal shook with
terror.  This was what he had feared.  "That's one aspect of the
case.  Now, on the other hand, I might draw up a legal instrument
which could not fail to be of use to you on your travois, and
would stop all questions.  As for my fee, it would be trifling,
when compared with the benefits I can see accruing to you."

"No, I ain't running away.  I ain't got no one to run away from,"
said the boy chokingly.  He was showing signs of fatigue.  His
head drooped and he met the judge's glance with tired, sleepy
eyes.  The latter looked at him and then said suddenly:

"I think you'd better go to bed."

"I reckon I had," agreed Hannibal, slipping from his chair.

"Well, take my bed back of the quilt.  You'll find a hoe there.
You can dig up the dirt under the shuck tick with it--which helps
astonishingly.  What would the world say if it could know that
judge Slocum Price makes his bed with a hoe!  There's Spartan
hardihood!" but the boy, not knowing what was meant by Spartan
hardihood, remained silent.  "Nearing threescore years and ten,
the allotted span as set down by the Psalmist--once man of
fashion, soldier, statesman and lawgiver--and makes his bed with
a hoe!  What a history!" muttered the judge with weary
melancholy, as one groping hand found the jug while the other
found the glass.  There was a pause, while he profited by this
fortunate chance.  "Well, take the bed," he resumed hospitably.

"I can sleep most anywhere.  I ain't no ways particular," said
Hannibal.

"I say, take the bed!" commanded the judge sternly.  And Hannibal
quickly retired behind the quilt.  "Do you find it comfortable?"
the judge asked, when the rustling of the shuck tick informed him
that the child had lain down.

"Yes, sir," said the boy.

"Have you said your prayers?" inquired the judge:.

"No, sir.  I ain't said 'em yet."

"Well, say them now.  Religion is as becoming in the young as it
is respectable in the aged.  I'll not disturb you to-night, for
it is God's will that I should stay up and get very drunk."




CHAPTER X

BOON COMPANIONS


Some time later the judge was aware of a step on the path beyond
his door, and glancing up, saw the tall figure of a man pause on
his threshold.  A whispered curse slipped from between his lips.
Aloud he said:

"Is that you, Mr. Mahaffy?"  He got no reply, but the tall
figure, propelled by very long legs, stalked into the shanty and
a pair of keen, restless eyes deeply set under a high, bald head
were bent curiously upon him.

"I take it I'm intruding," the new-comer said sourly.

"Why should you think that, Solomon Mahaffy?  When has my door
been closed on you?" the judge asked, but there was a guilty
deepening of the flush on his face.  Mr. Mahaffy glanced at the
jug, at the half-emptied glass within convenient reach of the
judge's hand, lastly at the judge himself, on whose flame-colored
visage his eyes rested longest.

"I've heard said there was honor among thieves," he remarked.

"I know of no one better fitted to offer an opinion on so
delicate a point than just yourself, Mahaffy," said the judge,
with a thick little ripple of laughter.

But Solomon Mahaffy's long face did not relax in its set
expression.

"I saw your light," he explained, "but you seem to be raising
first-rate hell all by yourself."

"Oh, be reasonable, Solomon.  You'd gone down to the steamboat
landing," said the judge plaintively.  By way of answer, Mahaffy
shot him a contemptuous glance.  "Take a chair--do, Solomon!"
entreated the judge.

"I don't force my society on any man, Mr. Price," said Mahaffy,
with austere hostility of tone.  The judge winced at the "Mr."
That registered the extreme of Mahaffy's disfavor.

"You feel bitter about this, Solomon?" he said.

"I do," said Mahaffy, in a tone of utter finality.

"You'll feel better with three fingers of this trickling through
your system," observed the judge, pushing a glass toward him.

"When did I ever sneak a jug into my shanty?" asked Mahaffy
sternly, evidently conscious of entire rectitude in this matter.

"I deplore your choice of words, Solomon," said the judge.  "You
know damn well that if you'd been here I couldn't have got past
your place with that jug!  But let's deal with conditions.
Here's the jug, with some liquor left in it--here's a glass.  Now
what more do you want?"

"Have I ever been caught like this?" demanded Mahaffy.

"No, you've invariably manifested the honorable disabilities of a
gentleman.  But don't set it all down to virtue.  Maybe you
haven't had the opportunity, maybe the temptation never came and
found you weak and thirsty.  Put away your sinful pride, Solomon
--a sot like you has no business with the little niceties of
selfrespect."

"Do I drink alone?" insisted Mahaffy doggedly.

"I never give you the chance," retorted his friend.  Mr. Mahaffy
drew near the table.  "Sit down," urged the judge.

"I hope you feel mean?" said Mahaffy.

"If it's any satisfaction to you, I do," admitted the judge.

"You ought to." Mahaffy drew forward a chair.  The judge filled
his glass.  But Mr. Mahaffy's lean face, with its long jaws and
high cheek-bones, over which the sallow skin was tightly drawn,
did not relax in its forbidding expression, even when he had
tossed off his first glass.

"I love to see you in a perfectly natural attitude like that,
Solomon, with your arm crooked.  What's the news from the
landing?"

Mahaffy brought his fist down on the table.

"I heard the boat churning away round back of the bend, then I
saw the lights, and she tied up and they tossed off the freight.
Then she churned away again and her lights got back of the trees
on the bank.  There was the lap of waves on the shore, and I was
left with the half-dozen miserable loafers who'd crawled out to
see the boat come in.  That's the news six days a week!"

By the river had come the judge, tentatively hopeful, but at
heart expecting nothing, therefore immune to disappointment and
equipped for failure.  By the river had come Mr. Mahaffy, as
unfit as the judge himself, and for the same reason, but sour and
bitter with the world, believing always in the possibility of
some miracle of regeneration.

Pleasantville's weekly paper, The Genius of Liberty, had dwelt at
length upon those distinguished services judge Slocum Price had
rendered the nation in war and peace, the judge having graciously
furnished an array of facts otherwise difficult of access.  That
he was drunk at the time had but added to the splendor of the
narrative.  He had placed his ripe wisdom, the talents he had so
assiduously cultivated, at the services of his fellow citizens.
He was prepared to represent them in any or all the courts.  But
he had remained undisturbed in his condition of preparedness;
that erudite brain was unconcerned with any problem beyond
financing his thirst at the tavern, where presently ingenuity,
though it expressed itself with a silver tongue, failed him, and
he realized that the river's spent floods had left him stranded
with those other odds and ends of worthless drift that cumbered
its sun-scorched mud banks.

Something of all this passed through his mind as he sat there
sodden and dreamy, with the one fierce need of his nature quieted
for the moment.  He had been stranded before, many times, in
those long years during which he had moved steadily toward a
diminishing heritage; indeed, nothing that was evil could contain
the shock of a new experience.  He had fought and lost all his
battles--bitter struggles to think of even now, after the lapse
of years, and the little he had to tell of himself was an
intricate mingling of truth and falsehood, grotesque
exaggeration, purposeless mendacity.

He and Mahaffy had met exactly one month before, on the deck of
the steamer from which they had been put ashore at the river
landing two miles from Pleasantville.  Mahaffy's historic era had
begun just there.  Apparently he had no past of which he could be
brought to speak.  He admitted having been born in Boston some
sixty years before, and was a printer by trade; further than
this, he had not revealed himself, drunk or sober.

At the judge's elbow Mr. Mahaffy changed his position with
nervous suddenness.  Then he folded his long arms.

"You asked if there was any news, Price; while we were waiting
for the boat a raft tied up to the bank; the fellow aboard of it
had a man he'd fished up out of the river, a man who'd been
pretty well cut to pieces."

"Who was he?" asked the judge.

"Nobody knew, and he wasn't conscious.  I shouldn't be surprised
if he never opens his lips again.  When the doctor had looked to
his cuts, the fellow on the raft cast off and went on down the
Elk."

It occurred to the judge that he himself had news to impart.  He
must account for the boy's presence.

"While you've been taking your whiff of life down at the
steamboat landing, Mahaffy, I've been experiencing a most
extraordinary coincidence."  The judge paused.  By a sullen glare
in his deep-sunk eyes Mr. Mahaffy seemed to bid him go on.  "Back
east--" the judge jerked his thumb with an indefinite gesture
"back east at my ancestral home--" Mahaffy snorted harshly.  "You
don't believe I had an ancestral home?--well, I had!  It was of
brick, sir, with eight Corinthian columns across the front,
having a spacious paneled hall sixty feet long.  I had the
distinguished honor to entertain General Andrew Jackson there."

"Did you get those dimensions out of the jug?" inquiry Mahaffy,
with a frightful bark that was intended for a sarcastic laugh.

"Sir, it is not in your province to judge me by my present
degraded associates.  Near the house I have described--my
father's and his father's before him, and mine now--but for the
unparalleled misfortunes which have pursued me--lived a family by
the name of Hazard.  And when I went to the war of 'i2--"

"What were you in that bloody time, a sutler?" inquired Mahaffy
insultingly.

"No, sir--a colonel of infantry!--I say, when I went to the war,
one of these Hazards accompanied me as my orderly.  His grandson
is back of that curtain now--asleep--in my bed!"  Mahaffy put
down his glass.

"You were like this once before," he said darkly.  But at that
instant the shuck tick rattled noisily at some movement of the
sleeping boy.  Mahaffy quitted his chair, and crossing the room,
drew the quilt aside.  A glance sufficed to assure him that in
part, at least, the judge spoke the truth.  He let the curtain
fall into place and resumed his chair.

"He's an orphan, Solomon; a poor, friendless orphan.  Another
might have turned him away from his door--I didn't; I hadn't the
heart to.  I bespeak your sympathy for him."

"Who is he?" asked Mahaffy.

"Haven't I just told you?" said the judge reproachfully.  Mahaffy
laughed.

"You've told me something.  Who is he?"

"His name is Hannibal Wayne Hazard.  Wait until he wakes up and
see if it isn't."

"Sure he isn't kin to you?" said Mahaffy.

"Not a drop of my blood flows in the veins of any living
creature," declared the judge with melancholy impressiveness.  He
continued with deepening feeling, "All I shall leave to posterity
is my fame."

"Speaking of posterity, which isn't present, Mr. Price, I'll say
it is embarrassed by the attention," observed Mahaffy.

There was a long silence between them.  Mr. Mahaffy drank, and
when he did not drink he bit his under lip and studied the judge.
This was always distressing to the latter gentleman.  Mahaffy's
silence he could never penetrate.  What was back of it--judgment,
criticism, disbelief--what?  Or was it the silence of emptiness?
Was Mahaffy dumb merely because he could think of nothing to say,
or did his silence cloak his feelings-and what were his feelings?
Did his meditations outrun his habitually insulting speech as he
bit his under lip and glared at him?  The judge always felt
impelled to talk at such times, while Mahaffy, by that silence of
his, seemed to weigh and condemn whatever he said.

The moon had slipped below the horizon.  Pleasantville had long
since gone to bed; it was only the judge's window that gave its
light to the blackness of the night.  There was a hoofbeat on the
road.  It came nearer and nearer, and presently sounded just
beyond the door.  Then it ceased, and a voice said:

"Hullo, there!"  The judge scrambled to his feet, and taking up
the candle, stepped, or rather staggered, into the yard.  Mahaffv
followed him.

"What's wanted?" asked the judge, as he lurched up to horse and
rider, holding his candle aloft.  The light showed a tail fellow
mounted on a handsome bay horse.  It was Murrell.

"Is there an inn hereabouts?" he asked.

"You'll find one down the road a ways," said Mahaffy.  The judge
said nothing.  He was staring up at Murrell with drunken gravity.

"Have either of you gentlemen seen a boy go through here to-day?
A boy about ten years old?" Murrell glanced from one to the
other.  Mr. Mahaffy's thin lips twisted themselves into a
sarcastic smile.  He turned to the judge, who spoke up quickly.

"Did he carry a bundle and rifle?" he asked.  Murrell gave eager
assent.

"Well," said the judge, "he stopped here along about four o'clock
and asked his way to the nearest river landing."  Murrell
gathered up his reins, and then that fixed stare of the judge's
seemed to arrest his attention.

"You'll know me again," he observed.

"Anywhere," said the judge.

"I hope that's a satisfaction to you," said Murrell.

"It ain't--none whatever," answered the judge promptly.  "For I
don't value you--I don't value you that much!" and he snapped his
fingers to illustrate his meaning.




CHAPTER XI

THE ORATOR Or THE DAY


"Hanibal" the judge's voice and manner were rather stern.
"Hannibal, a man rode by here last night on a big bay horse.  He
said he was looking for a boy about ten years old--a boy with a
bundle and rifle."  There was an awful pause.  Hannibal's heart
stood still for a brief instant, then it began to beat with
terrific thumps against his ribs.  "Who was that man, Hannibal?"

"I--please I don't know--" gasped the child.

"Hannibal, who was that man?" repeated the judge.

"It were Captain Murrell."  The judge regarded him with a look of
great steadiness.  He saw his small face go white, he saw the
look of abject terror in his eyes.  The judge raised his fist and
brought it down with a great crash on the table, so that the
breakfast dishes leaped and rattled.  "We don't know any boy ten
years old with a rifle and bundle!" he said.

"Please--you won't let him take me away, judge I want to stop
with you!" cried Hannibal.  He slipped from his chair, and
passing about the table, siezed the judge by the hand.  The judge
was visibly affected.

"No!" he roared, with a great oath.  "He shan't have you--I'll
see him in the farthest corner of hell first!  Is he kin to you?"

"No," said Hannibal.

"Took you to raise, did he--and abused you--infernal hypocrite!"
cried the judge with righteous wrath.

"He tried to get me away from my Uncle Bob.  He's been following
us since we crossed the mountains."

"Where is your Uncle Bob?"

"He's dead."  And the child began to weep bitterly.  Much
puzzled, the judge regarded him in silence for a moment, then
bent and lifted him into his lap.

"There, my son--" he said soothingly.  "Now you tell me when he
died, and all about it."

"He were killed.  It were only yesterday, and I can't forget him!
I don't want to--but it hurts--it hurts terrible!"  Hannibal
buried his head in the judge's shoulder and sobbed aloud.
Presently his small hands stole about the judge's neck, and that
gentleman experienced a strange thrill of pleasure.

"Tell me how he died, Hannibal," he urged gently.  In a voice
broken by sobs the child began the story of their flight, a
confused narrative, which the judge followed with many a puzzled
shake of the head.  But as he reached his climax--that cry he had
heard at the tavern, the men in the lane with their burden--he
became more and more coherent and his ideas clothed themselves in
words of dreadful simplicity and directness.  The judge
shuddered.  "Can such things be?" he murmured at last.

"You won't let him take me?"

"I never unsay my words," said the judge grandly.  "With God's
help I'll be the instrument for their destruction."  He frowned
with a preternatural severity.  Eh--if he could turn a trick like
that, it would pull him up!  There would be no more jeers and
laughter.

What credit and standing it would give him!  His thoughts slipped
along this fresh channel.  What a prosecution he would conduct
--what a whirlwind of eloquence he would loose!  He began to
breathe hard.  His name should go from end to end of the state!
No man could be great without opportunity--for years he had known
this--but here was opportunity at last!  Then he remembered what
Mahaffy had told him of the man on the raft.  This Slosson's
tavern was probably on the upper waters of the Elk.  Yancy had
been thrown in the river and had been picked up in a dying
condition.  "Hannibal," be said, "Solomon Mahaffy, who was here
last night, told me he saw down at the river landing, a man who
had been fished up out of the Elk--a man who had been roughly
handled."

"Were it my Uncle Bob?" cried Hannibal, lifting a swollen face to
his.

"Dear lad, I don't know," said the judge sympathetically.  "Some
people on a raft had picked him up out of the river.  He was
unconscious and no one knew him.  He was apparently a stranger in
these parts."

"It were Uncle Bob!  It were Uncle Bob--I know it were my Uncle
Bob!  I must go find him!" and Hannibal slipped from the judge's
lap and ran for his rifle and bundle.

"Stop a bit!" cried the judge.  "He was taken on past here, and
he was badly injured.  Now, if it was your Uncle Bob, he'll come
back the moment he is able to travel.  Meantime, you must remain
under my protection while we investigate this man Slosson."

But alas--that thoroughfare which is supposed to be paved
exclusively with good resolutions, had benefited greatly by
Slocum Price's labors in the past, and he was destined to toil
still in its up-keep.  He borrowed the child's money and spent
it, and if any sense of shame smote his torpid conscience, he hid
it manfully.  Not so Mr. Mahaffy; for while he profited by his
friend's act, he told that gentleman just what he thought of him
with insulting candor.  On the eighth day there was sobriety for
the pair.  Deep gloom visited Mr. Mahaffy, and the judge was a
prey to melancholy.

It was Saturday, and in Pleasantville a jail-raising was in
progress.  During all the years of its corporate dignity the
village had never boasted any building where the evil-doer could
be placed under restraint; hence had arisen its peculiar habit of
dealing with crime; but a leading citizen had donated half an
acre of ground lying midway between the town and the river
landing as a site for the proposed structure, and the scattered
population of the region had assembled for the raising.  Nor was
Pleasantville unprepared to make immediate use of the jail, since
the sheriff had in custody a free negro who had knifed another
free negro and was awaiting trial at the next term of court.

"We don't want to get there too early," explained the judge, as
they quitted the cabin.  "We want to miss the work, but be on
hand for the celebration."

"I suppose we may confidently look to you to favor us with a few
eloquent words?" said Mr. Mahaffy.

"And why not, Solomon?" asked the judge.

"Why not, indeed!" echoed Mr. Mahaffy.

The opportunity he craved was not denied him.  The crowd was like
most southwestern crowds of the period, and no sooner did the
judge appear than there were clamorous demands for a speech.  He
cast a glance of triumph at Mahaffy, and nimbly mounted a
convenient stump.  He extolled the climate of middle Tennessee,
the unsurpassed fertility of the soil; he touched on the future
that awaited Pleasantville; he apostrophized the jail; this
simple structure of logs in the shadow of the primeval woods was
significant of their love of justice and order; it was a suitable
place for the detention of a citizen of a great republic; it was
no mediaeval dungeon, but a forest-embowered retreat where,
barring mosquitoes and malaria, the party under restraint would
be put to no needless hardship; he would have the occasional
companionship of the gentlemanly sheriff; his friends, with such
wise and proper restrictions as the law saw fit to impose, could
come and impart the news of the day to him through the chinks of
the logs.

"I understand you have dealt in a hasty fashion with one or two
horse-thieves," he continued.  "Also with a gambler who was put
ashore here from a river packet and subsequently became involved
in a dispute with a late citizen of this place touching the
number of aces in a pack of cards.  It is not for me to
criticize!  What I may term the spontaneous love of justice is
the brightest heritage of a free people.  It is this same
commendable ability to acquit ourselves of our obligations that
is making us the wonder of the world!  But don't let us forget
the law--of which it is an axiom, that it is not the severity of
punishment, but the certainty of it, that holds the wrong-doer in
check!  With this safe and commodious asylum the plow line can
remain the exclusive aid to agriculture.  If a man murders, curb
your natural impulse!  Give him a fair trial, with eminent
counsel!"  The judge tried not to look self-conscious when he
said this.  "If he is found guilty, I still say, don't lynch him!
Why?  Because by your hasty act you deny the public the elevating
and improving spectacle of a legal execution!"  When the applause
had died out, a lank countryman craning his neck for a sight of
the sheriff, bawled out over the heads of the crowd:

"Where's your nigger?  We want to put him in here!"

"I reckon he's gone fishin'.  I never seen the beat of that
nigger to go fishin'," said the sheriff.

"Whoop!  Ain't you goin' to put him in here?" yelled the
countryman.

"It's a mighty lonely spot for a nigger," said the sheriff
doubtingly.

"Lonely?  Well, suppose he ups and lopes out of this?"

"You don't know that nigger," rejoined the sheriff warmly.  "He
ain't missed a meal since I had him in custody.  Just as regular
as the clock strikes he's at the back door.  Good habits--why,
that darky is a lesson to most white folks!"

"I don't care a cuss about that nigger, but what's the use of
building a jail if a body ain't goin' to use it?"

"Well, there's some sense in that," agreed the sheriff.

"There's a whole heap of sense in it!"

"I suggest"--the speaker was a young lawyer from the next county
--"I suggest that a committee be appointed to wait on the nigger
at the steamboat landing and acquaint him with the fact that with
his assistance we wish completely to furnish the jail."

"I protest--" cried the judge.  "I protest--" he repeated
vigorously.  "Pride of race forbids that I should be a party to
the degradation of the best of civilization!  Is your jail to be
christened to its high office by a nigger?  Is this to be the
law's apotheosis?  No, sir!  No nigger is worthy the honor of
being the first prisoner here!"  This was a new and striking
idea.  The crowd regarded the judge admiringly.  Certainly here
was a man of refined feeling.

"That's just the way I feel about it," said the sheriff.  "If I'd
athought there was any call for him I wouldn't have let him go
fishing, I'd have kept him about."

"Oh, let the nigger fish--he has powerful luck.  What's he usin',
Sheriff; worms or minnies?"

"Worms," said the sheriff shortly.

Presently the crowd drifted away in the direction of the tavern.
Hannibal meantime had gone down to the river.  He haunted its
banks as though he expected to see his Uncle Bob appear any
moment.  The judge and Mahaffy had mingled with the others in the
hope of free drinks, but in this hope there lurked the germ of a
bitter disappointment.  There was plenty of drinking, but they
were not invited to join in this pleasing rite, and after a
period of great mental anguish Mahaffy parted with the last stray
coin in the pocket of his respectable black trousers, and while
his flask was being filled the judge indulged in certain winsome
gallantries with the fat landlady.

"La, Judge Price, how you do run on!" she said with a coquettish
toss of her curls.

"That's the charm of you, ma'am," said the judge.  He leaned
across the bar and, sinking his voice to a husky whisper, asked,
"Would it be perfectly convenient for you to extend me a limited
credit?"

"Now, Judge Price, you know a heap better than to ask me that!"
she answered, shaking her head.

"No offense, ma'am," said the judge, hiding his disappointment,
and with Mahaffy he quitted the bar.

"Why don't you marry the old girl?  You could drink yourself to
death in six months," said Mahaffy.  "That would be a speculation
worth while--and while you live you could fondle those curls!"

"Maybe I'll be forced to it yet," responded the judge with gloomy
pessimism.

With the filling of Mahaffy's flask the important event of the
day was past, and both knew it was likely to retain its
preeminence for a terrible and indefinite period; a thought that
enriched their thirst as it increased their gravity while they
were traversing the stretch of dusty road that lay between the
cavern and the judge's shanty.  When they had settled themselves
in their chairs before the door, Mahaffy, who was notably jealous
of his privileges, drew the cork from the flask and took the
first pull at its contents.  The judge counted the swallows as
registered by that useful portion of Mahaffy's anatomy known as
his Adam's apple.  After a breathless interval, Mahaffy detached
himself from the flask and civilly passing the cuff of his coat
about its neck, handed it over to the judge.  In the unbroken
silence that succeeded the flask passed swiftly from hand to
hand, at length Mahaffy held it up to the light.  It was
two-thirds empty, and a sigh stole from between his thin lips.
The judge reached out a tremulous hand.  He was only too familiar
with his friend's distressing peculiarities.

"Not yet!" he begged thickly.

"Why not?" demanded Mahaffy fiercely.  "Is it your liquor or
mine?"  He quitted his chair end stalked to the well where he
filled the flask with water.  Infinitely disgusted, the judge
watched the sacrilege.  Mahaffy resumed his chair and again the
flask went its rounds.

"It ain't so bad," said the judge after a time, but with a
noticeable lack of enthusiasm.

"Were you in shape to put anything better than water into it, Mr.
Price?"  The judge winced.  He always winced at that "Mr."

"Well, I wouldn't serve myself such a trick as that," he said
with decision.  "When I take liquor, it's one thing; and when I
want water, it's another."

"It is, indeed," agreed Mahaffy.

"I drink as much clear water as is good for a man of my
constitution," said the judge combatively.  "My talents are
wasted here," he resumed, after a little pause.  "I've brought
them the blessings of the law, but what does it signify!"

"Why did you ever come here?" Mahaffy spoke sharply.

"I might ask the same question of you, and in the same offensive
tone," said the judge.

"May I ask, not wishing to take a liberty, were you always the
same old pauper you've been since I've known you?" inquired
Mahaffy.  The judge maintained a stony silence.

The heat deepened in the heart of the afternoon.  The sun, a ball
of fire, slipped back of the tree-tops.  Thick shadows stole
across the stretch of dusty road.  Off in the distance there was
the sound of cowbell.  Slowly these came nearer and nearer--as
the golden light slanted, sifting deeper and deeper into the
woods.

They could see the crowd that came and went about the tavern,
they caught the distant echo of its mirth.

"Common--quite common," said the judge with somber melancholy.

"I didn't see anything common," said Mahaffy sourly.  "The drinks
weren't common by a long sight."

"I referred to the gathering in its social aspect, Solomon,"
explained the judge; "the illiberal spirit that prevailed, which,
I observe, did not escape you."

"Skunks!" said Mahaffy.

"Not a man present had the public spirit to set 'em up," lamented
the judge.  "They drank in pairs, and I'd blistered my throat at
their damn jail-raising!  What sort of a fizzle would it have
been if I hadn't been on hand to impart distinction to the
occasion ?"

"I don't begrudge 'em their liquor," said Mahaffy with acid
dignity.

"I do," interrupted the judge.  "I hope it's poison to 'em.

"It will be in the long run, if it's any comfort to you to know
it."

"It's no comfort, it's not near quick enough," said the judge
relentlessly.  The sudden noisy clamor of many voices,
highpitched and excited, floated out to them under the hot sky.
"I wonder--" began the judge, and paused as he saw the crowd
stream into the road before the tavern.  Then a cloud of dust
enveloped it, a cloud of dust that came from the trampling of
many pairs of feet, and that swept toward them, thick and
impenetrable, and no higher than a tall man's head in the
lifeless air.  "I wonder if we missed anything" continued the
judge, finishing what he had started to say.

The score or more of men were quite near, and the judge and
Mahaffy made out the tall figure of the sheriff in the lead.  And
then the crowd, very excited, very dusty, very noisy and very
hot, flowed into the judge's front yard.  For a brief moment that
gentleman fancied Pleasantville had awakened to a fitting sense
of its obligation to him and that it was about to make amends for
its churlish lack of hospitality.  He rose from his chair, and
with a splendid florid gesture, swept off his hat.

"It's the pussy fellow!" cried a voice.

"Oh, shut up--don't you think I know him?" retorted the sheriff
tartly.

"Gentlemen--" began the judge blandly.

"Get the well-rope!"

The judge was rather at loss properly to interpret these varied
remarks.  He was not long left in doubt.  The sheriff stepped to
his side and dropped a heavy hand on his shoulder.

"Mr. Slocum Price, or whatever your name is, your little game is
up!"

"Get the well-rope!  Oh, hell--won't some one get the well-rope?"
The voice rose into a wail of entreaty.

The judge's eyes, rather startled, slid around in their sockets.
Clearly something was wrong--but what--what?

"Ain't he bold?" it was a woman's voice this time, and the fat
landlady, her curls awry and her plump breast heaving
tumultuously, gained a place in the forefront of the crowd.

"Dear madam, this is an unexpected pleasure!" said the judge,
with his hand upon his heart.

"Don't you make your wicked old sheep's eyes at me, you brazen
thing!" cried the lady.

"You're wanted," said the sheriff grimly, still keeping his hand
on the judge's shoulder.

"For what?" demanded the judge thickly.  The sheriff had no time
in which to answer.

"I want my money!" shrieked the landlady.

"Your money--Mrs. Walker, you amaze me!"  The judge drew himself
up haughtily, in genuine astonishment.

"I want my money!" repeated Mrs. Walker in even more piercing
tones.

"I am not aware that I owe you anything, madam.  Thank God, I
hold your receipted bill of recent date," answered the judge with
chilling dignity.

"Good money--not this worthless trash!" she shook a bill under
his nose.  The judge recognized it as the one of which he had
despoiled Hannibal.

"You have been catched passing counterfeit," said the sheriff.  A
light broke on the judge, a light that dazzled and stunned.  An
officious and impatient gentleman tossed a looped end of the
well-rope about his neck and the crowd yelled excitedly.  This
was something like--it had a taste for the man-hunt!  The sheriff
snatched away the rope and dealt the officious gentleman a savage
blow on the chin that sent him staggering backward into the arms
of his friends.

"Now, see here, now--I'm going to arrest this old faller!  I am
going to put him in jail, and I ain't going to have no nonsense
--do you hear me?" he expostulated.

"I can explain--" cried the judge.

"Make him give me my money!" wailed Mrs Walker.

"Jezebel!" roared the judge, in a passion of rage.

"Ca'm's the word, or you'll get 'em started!" whispered the
sheriff.  The judge looked fearfully around.  At his side stood
Mahaffy, a yellow pallor splotching his thin cheeks.  He seemed
to be holding himself there by an effort.

"Speak to them, Solomon--speak to them--you know how I came by
the money!  Speak to them--you know I am innocent!" cried the
judge, clutching his friend by the arm.  Mahaffy opened his thin
lips, but the crowd drowned his voice in a roar.

"He's his "partner--"

"There's no evidence against him," said the sheriff.

A tall fellow, in a fringed hunting-shirt, shook a long finger
under Mahaffy's aquiline nose.

"You scoot--that's what--you make tracks!  And if we ever see
your ugly face about here again, we'll--"

"You'll what?" inquired Mahaffy.

"We'll fix you out with feathers that won't molt, that's what!"

Mr. Mahaffy seemed to hesitate.  His lean hands opened and
closed, and he met the eyes of the crowd with a bitter, venomous
stare.  Some one gave him a shove and he staggered forward a
step, snapping out a curse.  Before he could recover himself the
shove was repeated.

"Lope on out of here!" yelled the tall fellow, who had first
challenged his right to remain in Pleasantville or its environs.
As the crowd fell apart to make way for him, willing hands were
extended to give him the needed impetus, and without special
volition of his own,

Mahaffy was hurried toward the road.  His hat was knocked flat on
his head--he turned with an angry snarl, the very embodiment of
hate--but again he was thrust forward.  And then, somehow, his
walk became a run and the crowd started after him with delighted
whoopings.  Once more, and for the last time, he faced about,
giving the judge a hopeless, despairing glance.  His tormentors
were snatching up sods and stones and he had no choice.  He
turned, his long strides taking him swiftly over the ground, with
the air full of missiles at his back.

Before he had gone a hundred yards he abandoned the road and,
turning off across an unfenced field, ran toward the woods and
swampy bottom.  Twenty men were in chase behind him.  The
judge was the sheriff's prisoner--that official had settled that point
--but Mr. Mahaffy was common property, it was his cruel privilege
to furnish excitement; his keen rage was almost equal to the fear
that urged him on.  Then the woods closed about him.  His long
legs, working tirelessly, carried him over fallen logs and
through tai.  tangeled thickets, the voices behind him growing
more and more distant as he ran.




CHAPTER XII

THE FAMILY ON THE RAFT


That would unquestionably have been the end of Bob Yancy when he
was shot out into the muddy waters of the Elk River, had not Mr.
Richard Keppel Cavendish, variously known as Long-Legged Dick,
and Chills-and-Fever Cavendish, of Lincoln County, in the state
of Tennessee, some months previously and after unprecedented
mental effort on his part, decided that Lincoln County was no
place for him.  When he had established this idea firmly in his
own mind and in the mind of Polly, his wife, he set about solving
the problem of transportation.

Mr. Cavendish's paternal grandparent had drifted down the Holston
and Tennessee; and Mr. Cavendish's father, in his son's youth,
had poled up the Elk.  Mr. Cavendish now determined to float down
the Elk to its juncture with the Tennessee, down the Tennessee to
the Ohio, and if need be, down the Ohio to the Mississippi, and
keep drifting until he found some spot exactly suited to his
taste.  Temperamentally, he was well adapted to drifting.  No
conception of vicarious activity could have been more congenial.

With this end in view he had toiled through late winter and early
spring, building himself a raft on which to transport his few
belongings and his numerous family; there were six little
Cavendishes, and they ranged in years from four to eleven; there
was in addition the baby, who was always enumerated separately.
This particular infant Mr. Cavendish said he wouldn't take a
million dollars for.  He usually added feelingly that he wouldn't
give a piece of chalk for another one.

June found him aboard his raft with all his earthly possessions
bestowed about him, awaiting the rains and freshets that were to
waft him effortless into a newer country where he should have a
white man's chance.  At last the rains came, and he cast off from
the bank at that unsalubrious spot where his father had elected
to build his cabin on a strip of level bottom subject to periodic
inundation.  Wishing fully to profit by the floods and reach the
big water without delay, Cavendish ran the raft twenty-four hours
at a stretch, sleeping by day while Polly managed the great
sweep, only calling him when some dangerous bit of the river was
to be navigated.  Thus it happened that as Murrell and Slosson
were dragging Yancy down the lane, Cavendish was just rounding a
bend in the Elk, a quarter of a mile distant.  Leaning loosely
against the long handle of his sweep, he was watching the lane of
bright water that ran between the black shadows cast by the trees
on either bank.  He was in shirt and trousers, barefoot and
bareheaded, and his face, mild and contemplative, wore an
expression of dreamy contentment.

Suddenly its expression changed.  He became alert and watchful.
He had heard a dull splash.  Thinking that some tree had been
swept into the flood, he sought to pierce the darkness that lay
along the shore.  Five or six minutes passed as the raft glided
along without sound.  He was about to relapse into his former
attitude of listless ease when he caught sight of some object in
the eddy that swept alongside.  Mr. Cavendish promptly detached
himself from the handle of the sweep and ran to the edge of the
raft.

"Good Lord--what's that!" he gasped, but he already knew it was a
face, livid and blood-streaked.  Dropping on his knees he reached
out a pair of long arms and made a dexterous grab, and his
fingers closed on the collar of Yancy's shirt.  "Neighbor, I
certainly have got you!" said Cavendish, between his teeth.  He
drew Yancy close alongside the raft, and, slipping a hand under
each arm, pulled him clear of the water.  The swift current swept
the raft on down the stream.  It rode fairly in the center of the
lane of light, but no eye had observed its passing.  Mr.
Cavendish stood erect and stared down at the blood-stained face,
then he dropped on his knees again and began a hurried
examination of the still figure.  "There's a little life here
--not much, but some--you was well worth fishing up!" be said
approvingly, after a brief interval.  "Polly!" he called, raising
his voice.

This brought Mrs. Cavendish from one of the two cabins that
occupied the center of the raft.  She was a young woman, still
very comely, though of a matronly plumpness.  She was in her
nightgown, and when she caught sight of Yancy she uttered a
shriek and fled back into the shanty.

"I declare, Dick, you might ha' told a body you wa'n't alone!"
she said reproachfully.

Her cry had aroused the other denizens of the raft.  The tow
heads of the six little Cavendishes rose promptly from a long
bolster in the smaller of the two shanties, and as promptly six
little Cavendishes, each draped in a single non-committal
garment, apparently cut by one pattern and not at all according
to the wearer's years or length of limb, tumbled forth from their
shelter.

"Sho', Polly, he's senseless!  But you dress and come here quick.
Now, you young folks, don't you tetch him!" for the six small
Cavendishes, excited beyond measure, were crowding and shoving
for a nearer sight of Yancy.  They began to pelt their father
with questions.  Who was it?  Sho', in the river?  Sho', all cut
up like that--who'd cut him?  Had he hurt himself?  Was he
throwed in?  When did pop fish him out?  Was he dead?  Why did he
lay like that and not move or speak--sho'!  This and much more
was flung at Mr. Cavendish all in one breath, and each eager
questioner seized him by the hand, the dangling sleeve of his
shirt, or his trousers--they clutched him from all sides.  "I
never seen such a family!" said Mr. Cavendish helplessly.  "Now,
you-all shut up, or I 'low I'll lay into you!"

Mrs. Cavendish's appearance created a diversion in his favor.
The six rushed on her tumultously.  They seized her hands or
struggled for a fragment of her skirt to hold while they poured
out their tale.  Pop had fished up a man--he'd been throwed in
the river!  Pop didn't know if he was dead or not--he was all cut
and bloody

"I declare, I've a mind to skin you if you don't keep still!
Miss Constance," Polly addressed her eldest child, "I'm surprised
at you!  You might be a heathen savage for all you got on your
back--get into some duds this instant!"  Cavendish was on his
knees again beside Yancy, and Polly, by a determined effort, rid
herself of the children.  "Why, he's a grand-looking man, ain't
he?" she cried.  "La, what a pity!"

"You can feel his heart beat, and he's bleeding some," said
Cavendish.

"Let me see--just barely flutters, don't it?  Henry, go mind the
sweep and see we don't get aground!  Keppel, you start a fire and
warm some water!  Connie, you tear up my other petticoat for
bandagesnow, stir around, all of you!"  And then began a period
of breathless activity.  They first lifted Yancy into the circle
of illumination cast by the fire Keppel had started on the hearth
of flat stones before the shanties.  Then, with Constance to hold
a pan of warm water, Mrs. Cavendish deftly bathed the gaping
wound in Yancy's shoulder where Murrell had driven his knife.
This she bandaged with strips torn from her petticoat.  Next she
began on the ragged cut left by Slosson's club.

"He's got a right to be dead!" said Cavendish.

"Get the shears, Dick--I must snip away some of his hair."

All this while the four half-naked youngest Cavendishes, very
still now, stood about the stone hearth in the chill dawn and
watched their mother's surgery with a breathless interest.  Only
the outcast Henry at the sweep ever and anon lifted his voice
between sobs of mingled rage and disappointment, and demanded
what was doing.

"Think he is going to die, Polly?" whispered Cavendish at length.
Their heads, hers very black and glossy, his very blond, were
close together as they bent above the injured man.

"I never say a body's going to die until he's dead," said Polly.
"He's still breathing, and a Christian has got to do what they
can.  Don't you think you ought to tie up?"

"The freshet's leaving us.  I'll run until we hit the big water
down by Pleasantville, and then tie up," said Cavendish.

"I reckon we'd better lift him on to one of the beds--get his wet
clothes off and wrap him up warm," said Polly.

"Oh, put him in our bed!" cried all the little Cavendishes.

And Yancy was borne into the smaller of the two shanties, where
presently his bandaged head rested on the long communal pillow.
Then his wet clothes were hung up to dry along with a portion of
the family wash which fluttered on a rope stretched between the
two shanties.

The raft had all the appearance of a cabin dooryard.  There was,
in addition to the two shelters of bark built over a light
framework of poles, a pen which housed a highly domestic family
of pigs, while half a dozen chickens enjoyed a restricted
liberty.  With Yancy disposed of, the regular family life was
resumed.  It was sun-up now.  The little Cavendishes, reluctant
but overpersuaded, had their faces washed alongside and were
dressed by Connie, while Mrs. Cavendish performed the same
offices for the baby.  Then there was breakfast, from which Mr.
Cavendish rose yawning to go to bed, where, before dropping off
to sleep, he played with the baby.  This left Mrs. Cavendish in
full command of her floating dooryard.  She smoked a reflective
pipe, watching the river between puffs, and occasionally lending
a hand at the sweeps.  Later the family wash engaged her.  It had
neither beginning nor end, but serialized itself from day to day.
Connie was already proficient at the tubs.  It was a knack she
was in no danger of losing.

Keppel and Henry took turns at the sweeps, while the three
smaller children began to manifest a love for the water they had
not seemed to possess earlier in the day.  They played along the
edge of the raft, always in imminent danger of falling in, always
being called back, or seized, just in time to prevent a
catastrophe.  This ceaseless activity on their part earned them
much in the way of cuffings, chastisements which Mrs. Cavendish
administered with no great spirit.

"Drat you, why don't you go look at the pore gentleman instead of
posterin' a body 'most to death!" she demanded at length, and
they stole off on tiptoe to stare at Yancy.  Presently Richard
ran to his mother's side.

"Come quick--he's mutterin' and mumblin' and moving his head!" he
cried.  It ws as the child said.  Yancy had roused from his
heavy stupor.  Words almost inaudible and quite inarticulate were
issuing from his lips and there was a restless movement of his
head on the pillow.

"He 'pears powerful distressed about something," said Mrs.
Cavendish.  "I reckon I'd better give him a little stimulant
now."

While she was gone for the whisky, Connie, who had squatted down
beside the bed, touched Yancy's hand which lay open.  Instantly
his fingers closed about hers and he was silent; the movement of
his head ceased abruptly; but when she sought to withdraw her
hand he began to murmur again.

"I declare, what he wants is some one to sit beside him!" said
Mrs. Cavendish, who had returned with the whisky, a few drops of
which she managed to force between Yancy's lips.  All the rest of
that day some one of the children sat beside the wounded man, who
was quiet and satisfied just as long as there was a small hand
for him to hold.

"He must be a family man," observed Mr. Cavendish when Polly told
him of this.  "We'll tie up at Pleasantville landing and learn
who he is."

"He had ought to have a doctor to look at them cuts of his," said
Mrs. Cavendish.

It was late afternoon when the landing was reached.  Half a score
of men were loafing about the woodyard on shore.  Mr. Cavendish
made fast to a blasted tree, then he climbed the bank; the men
regarding him incuriously as he approached.

"Howdy," said Cavendish genially.

"Howdy," they answered.

"Where might I find the nearest doctor?" inquired Cavendish.

"Within about six foot of you," said one of the group.

"Meaning yourself?"

"Meaning myself."

Briefly Cavendish told the story of Yancy's rescue.

"Now, Doc, I want you should cast an eye over the way we've
dressed his cuts, and I want the rest of you to come and take a
look at him and tell who he is and where he belongs," he said in
conclusion.

"I'll know him if he belongs within forty miles of here in any
direction," said the doctor.  But he shook his head when his eye
rested on Yancy.  "Never saw him," he said briefly.

"How about them bandages, Doc?" demanded Cavendish.

"Oh, I reckon they'll do," replied the doctor indifferently.

"Will he live?"

"I can't say.  You'll know all about that inside the next
forty-eight hours.  Better let the rest have a look."

"Just feel of them bandages--sho', I got money in my pants!"  Mr.
Cavendish was rapidly losing his temper, yet he controlled
himself until each man had taken a look at Yancy; but always with
the same result--a shake of the head.  "I reckon I can leave him
here?" Cavendish asked, when the last man had looked and turned
away.

"Leave him here--why?" demanded the doctor slowly.

"Because I'm going on, that's why.  I'm headed for downstream,
and he ain't in any sort of shape to say whether he wants to go
or stop," explained Cavendish.

"You picked him up, didn't you?" asked one of the men.

"I certainly did," said Cavendish.

"Well, I reckon if you're so anxious for him to stay hereabout,
you'd better stop, yourself," said the owner of the woodyard.
"There ain't a house within two miles of here but mine, and he
don't go there!"

"You're a healthy lot, you are!" said Cavendish.  "I wonder your
largeness of heart ain't ruptured your wishbones long ago!"  So
saying, he retired to the stern of his raft and leaned against
the sweep-handle, apparently lost in thought.  His visitors
climbed the bank and reestablished themselves on the wood-ranks.

Presently Mr. Cavendish lifted his voice and addressed Polly and
the six little Cavendishes at the other end of the raft.  He
asserted that he was the only well-born man within a radius of
perhaps a hundred miles--he excepted no one.  He knew who his
father and mother were, and they had been legally married--he
seemed to infer that this was not always the case.  Mr. Cavendish
glanced toward the shore, then he lifted his voice again, giving
it as his opinion that he was the only Christian seen in those
parts in the last fifty years.  He offered to fight any gentleman
who felt disposed to challenge this assertion.  He sprang
suddenly aloft, knocked his bare heels together and uttered an
ear-piercing whoop.  He subsided and gazed off into the red eye
of the sun which was slipping back of the trees.  Presently he
spoke again.  He offered to lick any gentleman who felt aggrieved
by his previous remarks, for fifty cents, for a drink of whisky,
for a chew of tobacco, for nothing--with one hand tied behind
him!  He sprang aloft, cracked his heels together as before and
crowed insultingly; then he subsided into silence.  An instant
later he appeared stung by the acutest pangs of remorse.  In a
cringing tone he begged Polly to forgive him for bringing her to
such a place.  He bewailed that they had risked pollution by
allowing any inhabitant of that region to set foot on the
raft--he feared for the innocent minds of their children, and he
implored her pardon.  Perhaps it was better that they should cast
off at once--unless one of the gentlemen on shore felt himself
insulted, in which event he would remain to fight.

Then as he slowly worked the raft out toward the middle of the
stream, he repeated all his former remarks, punctuating them with
frequent whoops.  He recapitulated the terms on which he could be
induced to fight-fifty cents, a drink of liquor, a chew of
tobacco, nothing!  His shouts became fainter and fainter as the
raft was swept down-stream, and finally died away in the
distance.




CHAPTER XIII

THE JUDGE BREAKS JAIL


The sheriff had brought the judge's supper.  He reported that the
crowd was dispersing, and that on the whole public sentiment was
not particularly hostile; indeed, he went so far as to say there
existed a strong undercurrent of satisfaction that the jail
should have so speedily justified itself.  Moreover, there was a
disposition to exalt the judge as having furnished the crowning
touch to the day's pleasure.

"I reckon, sir, they'd have felt obliged to string you up if
there wa'n't no jail," continued the sheriff lazily from the open
door where he had seated himself.  "I don't say there ain't them
who don't maintain you had ought to be strung up as it is, but
people are funny, sir; the majority talk like they might wish to
keep you here indefinite.  There's no telling when we'll get
another prisoner.  Tomorrow the blacksmith will fix some iron
bars to your window so folks can look in and see you.  It will
give a heap more air to the place--"

"Unless I do get more air, you will not be troubled long by me!"
declared the judge in a tone of melancholy conviction.

The building was intolerably hot, the advantages of ventilation
having been a thing the citizens of Pleasantville had overlooked.
But the judge was a reasonable soul; he was disposed to accept
his immediate personal discomfort with a fine true philosophy;
also, hope was stirring in his heart.  Hope was second nature
with him, for had he not lived all these years with the odds
against him?

"You do sweat some, don't you?  Oh, well, a man can stand a right
smart suffering from heat like this and not die.  It's the sun
that's dangerous," remarked the sheriff consolingly.  "And you
had ought to suffer, sir!  that's what folks are sent to jail
for," he added.

"You will kindly bear in mind, sir, that I have been convicted of
no crime!" retorted the judge.

"If you hadn't been so blamed particular you might have had
company; politest darky you would meet anywhere.  Well, sir, I
didn't think the boss orator of the day would be the first
prisoner--the joke certainly is on you!"

"I never saw such bloody-minded ruffians!  Keep them out and keep
me in--all I ask is to vindicate myself in the eyes of the
world," said the judge.

"Well," began the sheriff severely, "ain't it enough to make 'em
bloody-minded?  Any one of 'em might have taken your money and
got stuck.  Just to think of that is what hets them up."  He
regarded the judge with a glance of displeasure.  "I hate to see
a man so durn unreasonable in his p'int of view.  And you picked
a lady--a widow-lady--say, ain't you ashamed?"

"Well, sir, what's going to happen to me?" demanded the judge
angrily.

"I reckon you'll be tried.  I reckon the law will deal with you
--that is, if the public remains ca'm.  Maybe it will come to the
conclusion that it'd prefer a lynching--people are funny." He
seemed to detach himself from the possible current of events.

"And, waking and sleeping, I have that before me!" cried the
judge bitterly.

"You had ought to have thought of that sooner, when you was
unloading that money.  Why, it ain't even good counterfeit!  I
wonder a man of your years wa'n't slicker."

"Have you taken steps to find the boy, or Solomon Mahaffy?"
inquired the judge.

"For what?"

"How is my innocence going to be established--how am I going to
clear myself if my witnesses are hounded out of the county?"

"I love to hear you talk, sir.  I told 'em at the raising to-day
that I considered you one of the most eloquent minds I had ever
listened to--but naturally, sir, you are too smart to be honest.
You say you ain't been convicted yet; but you're going to be!
There's quite a scramble for places on the jury already.  There
was pistols drawed up at the tavern by some of our best people,
sir, who got het up disputin' who was eligible to serve."  The
judge groaned.  "You should be thankful them pistols wasn't
drawed on you, sir," said the sheriff amiably.  "You've got a
heap to be grateful about; for we've had one lynching, and we've
rid one or two parties on a rail after giving 'em a coat of tar
and feathers."

The judge shuddered.  The sheriff continued placidly:

"I'll take it you'll get all that's coming to you, sirsay about
twenty years--that had ought to let you out easy.  Sort of round
out your earthly career, and leave something due you t'other side
of Jordan."

"I suppose there is no use in my pointing out to you that I did
not know the money was counterfeit, and that I was quite innocent
of any intention to defraud Mrs. Walker?" said the judge, with a
weary, exasperated air.

"It don't make no difference where you got the money; you know
that, for you set up to be some sort of a lawyer."

Presently the sheriff went his way into the dusk of the evening,
and night came swiftly to fellowship the judge's fears.  A single
moonbeam found its way into the place, making a thin rift in the
darkness.  The judge sat down on the three-legged stool, which,
with a shake-down bed, furnished the jail.  His loneliness was a
great wave of misery that engulfed him.

"Well, just so my life ain't cut short!" he whispered.

He had known a varied career, and what he was pleased to call his
unparalleled misfortunes had reduced him to all kinds of
desperate shifts to live, but never before had the law laid its
hands on him.  True, there had been times and seasons when he had
been grateful for the gloom of the dark ways he trod, for echoes
had taken the place of the living voice that had once spoken to
his soul; but he could still rest his hand upon his heart and say
that the law had always nodded to him to pass on.

Where was Solomon Mahaffy, and where Hannibal?  He felt that
Mahaffy could fend for himself, but he experienced a moment of
genuine concern when he thought of the child.  In spite of
himself, his thoughts returned to him again and again.  But
surely some one would shelter and care for him!

"Yes--and work him like a horse, and probably abuse him into the
bargain--"

Then there was a scarcely audible rustle on the margin of the
woods, a dry branch snapped loudly.  A little pause succeeded in
which the judge's heart stood still.  Next a stealthy step
sounded in the clearing.  The judge had an agonized vision of
regulators and lynchers.  The beat of his pulse quickened.  He
knew something of the boisterous horseplay of the frontier.  The
sheriff had spoken of tar and feathers--very quietly he stood
erect and picked up the stool.

"Heaven helping me, I'll brain a citizen or two before it comes
to that!" he told himself.

The cautious steps continued to approach.  Some one paused below
the closely shuttered window, and a hand struck the boards
sharply.  A whisper stole into the jail.

"Are you awake, Price?" It was Mahaffy who spoke.

"God bless you, Solomon Mahaffy!" cried the judge unsteadily.

"I've got the boy--he's with me," said Mahaffy.

"God bless you both!" repeated the judge brokenly.  "Take care of
him, Solomon.  I feel better now, knowing he's in good hands."

"Please, Judge--" it was Hannibal

"Yes, dear lad?"

"I'm mighty sorry that ten dollars I loaned you was bad--but you
don't need ever to pay it back!"

Mahaffy gave way to mirth.

"Never mind!" said the judge indulgently.  "It performed all the
essential functions of a perfectly legal currency.  Just suppose
we had discovered it was counterfeit before I took it to the
tavern--that would have been a hardship!"

"It were Captain Murrell gave it to me," explained Hannibal.

"I consecrate myself to his destruction!  Judge Slocum Price can
not be humiliated with impunity!"

"I should think you would save your wind, Price, until you'd
waddled out of danger!" Mahaffy spoke, gruffly.

"How are you going to get me out of this, Solomon--for I suppose
you are here to break jail for me," said the judge.

Mahaffy inspected the building.  He found that the door was
secured by two ponderous hasps to which were fitted heavy
padlocks, but the solid wooden shutter which closed the square
hole in the gable that served as a window was fastened by a hasp
and peg.  He withdrew the peg, opened the shutter, and the
judge's face, wreathed in smiles, appeared at the aperture.

"The blessed sky and air!" he murmured, breathing deep.  "A week
of this would have broken my spirit!"

"If you can, Price, you'd better come feet first," suggested
Mahaffy.

"Not sufficiently acrobatic, Solomon--it's heads or I lose!" said
the judge.

He thrust his shoulders into the opening and wriggled outward.
Suddenly his forward movement was arrested.

"I was afraid of that!" he said, with a rather piteous smile.
"It's my stomach, Solomon!"  Mahaffy seized him by the shoulders
with lean muscular hands.  "Pull!" cried the judge hoarsely.
But Mahaffy's vigorous efforts failed to move him.

"I guess you're stuck, Price!"

"Get your wind, Solomon," urged the judge, "and then, if Hannibal
will reach up and work about my middle with his knuckles while
you pull, I may get through."  But even this expedient failed.

"Do you reckon you can get me back?  I should not care to spend
the night so!" said the judge.  He was purple and panting.

"Let's try you edgewise!"  And Mahaffy pushed the judge into the
jail again.

"No," said the judge, after another period of resolute effort on
his part and on the part of Mahaffy.  "Providence has been kind
to me in the past, but it's clear she didn't have me in mind when
they cut this hole."

"Well, Price, I guess all we can do is to go back to town and see
if I can get into my cabin--I've got an old saw there.  If I can
find it, I can come again to-morrow night and cut away one of the
logs, or the cleats of the door."

"In Heaven's name, do that to-night, Solomon!" implored the
judge.  "Why procrastinate?"

"Price, there's a pack of dogs in this neighborhood, and we must
have a full night to move in, or they'll pull us down before
we've gone ten miles!"

The judge groaned.

"You're right, Solomon; I'd forgotten the dogs," and he groaned
again.

Mahaffy closed and fastened the shutter, then he and Hannibal
stole across the clearing and entered the woods.  The judge flung
off his clothes and went to bed, determined to sleep away as many
hours as possible.  He was only aroused by the arrival of his
breakfast, which the sheriff brought about eight o'clock.

"Well, if I was in your boots I couldn't sleep like you!"
remarked that official admiringly.  "But I reckon, sir, this
ain't the first time the penitentiary has stared you in the
face."

"Then you reckon wrong," said the judge sententiously, as he
hauled on his trousers.

"No?--you needn't hurry none.  I'll get them dishes when I fetch
your dinner," he added, as he took his leave.

A little later the blacksmith appeared and fitted three iron bars
to the window.

"I reckon that'll hold you, old feller!" he observed pleasantly.

He was disposed to linger, since he was interested in the
mechanical means employed in the making of counterfeit money and
thirsted for knowledge at first hand.  Also, he had in his
possession a one-dollar bill which had come to him in the way of
trade and which local experts had declared to be a spurious
production.  He passed it in between the bars and demanded the
judge's opinion of it as though he were the first authority in
the land.  But he went no wiser than he came.

It was nearing the noon hour when the judge's solitude was again
invaded.  He first heard the distant murmur of voices on the road
and passed an uneasy and restless ten minutes, with his eye to a
crack in the door.  He was soothed and reassured, however, when
at last be caught sight of the sheriff.

"Well, judge, I got company for you," cried the sheriff
cheerfully, as he threw open the door.  "A hoss-thief!"

He pushed into the building a man, hatless and coatless, with a
pair of pale villainous eyes and a tobaccostained chin.  The
judge viewed the new-comer with disfavor.  As for the
horse-thief, he gave his companion in misery a coldly critical
stare, seated himself on the stool, and with quite a fierce air
devoted all his energy to mastication.  He neither altered his
position nor changed his expression until he and the judge were
alone, then, catching the judge's eye, he made what seemed a
casual movement with his hand, the three fingers raised; but to
the judge this clearly was without significance, and the
horse-thief manifested no further interest where he was
concerned.  He did not even condescend to answer the one or two
civil remarks the judge addressed to him.

As the long afternoon wore itself away, the judge lived through
the many stages of doubt and uncertainty, for suppose anything
had happened to Mahaffy!  When the sheriff came with his supper
he asked him if he had seen or heard of his friend.

"Judge, I reckon he's lopin' on yet.  I never seen a man of his
years run as well as he done--it was inspirin' how he got over
the ground!" answered the sheriff.  Then he attempted
conversation with the horse-thief, but was savagely cursed for
his pains.  "Well, I don't envy you your company none, sir," he
remarked as he took leave of the judge.

Standing before the window, the judge watched the last vestige of
light fade from the sky and the stars appear.  Would Mahaffy
come?  The suspense was intolerable.  It was possibly eight
o'clock.  He could not reasonably expect Mahaffy until nine or
half past; to come earlier would be too great a risk.  Suddenly
out of the silence sounded a long-drawn whistle.  Three times it
was repeated.  The horse-thief leaped to his feet.

"Neighbor, that means me!" he cried.

The moon was rising now, and by its light the judge saw a number
of horsemen appear on the edge of the woods.  They entered the
clearing, picking their way among the stumps without haste or
confusion.  When quite close, five of the band dismounted; the
rest continued on about the jail or cantered off toward the road.
By this time the judge's teeth were chattering and he was
dripping cold sweat at every pore.  He prayed earnestly that they
might hang the horsethief and spare him.  The dismounted men took
up a stick of timber that had been cut for the jail and not used.

"Look out inside, there!" cried a voice, and the log was dashed
against the door; once--twice--it rose and fell on the
clapboards, and under those mighty thuds grew up a wide gap
through which the moonlight streamed splendidly.  The horse-thief
stepped between the dangling cleats and vanished.  The judge,
armed with the stool, stood at bay.

"What next?" a voice asked.

"Get dry brush--these are green logs--we'll burn this jail!"

"Hold on!" the judge recognized the horse-thief as the speaker.
"There's an old party in there!  No need to singe him!"

"Friend?"

"No, I tried him."

The judge tossed away the stool.  He understood now that these
men were neither lynchers nor regulators.  With a confident, not
to say jaunty step, he emerged from the jail.

"Your servant, gentlemen!" he said, lifting his hat.

"Git!" said one of the men briefly, and the judge moved nimbly
away toward the woods.  He had gained its shelter when the jail
began to glow redly.

Now to find Solomon and the boy, and then to put the miles
between himself and Pleasantville with all diligence.  As he
thought this, almost at his elbow Mahaffy and Hannibal rose from
behind a fallen log.  The Yankee motioned for silence and pointed
west.

"Yes," breathed the judge.  He noted that Mahaffy had a heavy
pack, and the boy his long rifle.  For a mile or two they moved
forward without speech, the boy in the lead; while at his heels
strode Mahaffy, with the judge bringing up the rear.

"How do you feel, Price?" asked Mahaffy at length, over his
shoulder.

"Like one come into a fortune!  Those horse-thieves gave me a
fine scare, but did me a good turn."

Hannibal kept to the woods by a kind of instinct, and the two men
yielded themselves to his guidance; but there was no speech
between them.  Mahaffy trod in the boy's steps, and the judge,
puffing like an overworked engine, came close upon his heels.  In
this way they continued to advance for an hour or more, then the
boy paused.

"Go on!" commanded Mahaffy.

"Do you 'low the judge can stand it?" asked Hannibal .

"Bless you, lad!" panted the judge feelingly.

"He's got to stand it--either that, or what do you suppose will
happen to us if they start their dogs?" said Mahaffy.

"Solomon's right--you are sure we are not going in a circle,
Hannibal?"

"Yes, I'm sure," said Hannibal.  "Do you see that star?  My Uncle
Bob learned me how I was to watch that star when I wanted to keep
going straight."

There was another long interval of silence.  Bit by bit the sky
became overcast.  Vague, fleecy rifts of clouds appeared in the
heavens.  A wind sprang up, murmuring about them, there came a
distant roll of thunder, while along the horizon the lightning
rushed in broken, jagged lines of fire.  In the east there was a
pale flush that showed the black, hurrying clouds the winds had
summoned out of space.

The booming thunder, first only the sullen menace of the
approaching storm, rolled nearer and nearer, and the fierce light
came in blinding sheets of flame.  A ceaseless, pauseless murmur
sprang up out of the distance, and the trees rocked with a mighty
crashing of branches, while here and there a big drop of rain
fell.  Then the murmur swelled into a roar as the low clouds
disgorged themselves.  Drenched to the skin on the instant, the
two men and the boy stumbled forward through the gray wake of the
storm.

"What's come of our trail now?" shouted the judge, but the sound
of his voice was lost in the rush of the hurrying winds and the
roar of the airy cascades that fell about them.

An hour passed.  There was light under the trees, faint,
impalpable without visible cause, but they caught the first
sparkle of the rain drops on leaf and branch; they saw the
silvery rivulets coursing down the mossy trunks of old trees;
last of all through a narrow rift in the clouds, the sun showed
them its golden rim, and day broke in the steaming woods.  With
the sun, with a final rush of the hurrying wind, a final torrent,
the storm spent itself, and there was only the drip from bough
and leaf, or pearly opalescent points of moisture on the drenched
black trunks of maple and oak; a sapphire sky, high arched,
remote overhead; and the June day all about.

"What's come of they trail now?" cried the judge again.  "He'll
be a good dog that follows it through, these woods!"

They had paused on a thickly wooded hillside.

"We've come eight or ten miles if we have come a rod, Price,"
said Mahaffy, "and I am in favor of lying by for the day.  When
it comes dark we can go on again."

The judge readily acquiesced in this, and they presently found a
dense thicket which they cautiously entered.  Reaching the center
of the tangled growth, they beat down the briers and bushes, or
cut them away with their knives, until they had a little cleared
space where they could build a fire.  Then from the pack which
Mahaffy carried, the rudiments of a simple but filling meal were
produced.

"Your parents took no chances when they named you Solomon!" said
the judge approvingly.




CHAPTER XIV

BELLE PLAIN


Now, Tom," said Betty, with a bustling little air of excitement
as she rose from the breakfast table that first morning at Belle
Plain, "I am ready if you are.  I want you to show me
everything!"

"I reckon you'll notice some changes," remarked Tom.

He went from the room and down the hall a step or two in advance
of her.  On the wide porch Betty paused, breathing deep.  The
house stood on an eminence; directly before it at the bottom of
the slight descent was a small bayou, beyond this the forest
stretched away in one unbroken mass to the Mississippi.  Here and
there, gleaming in the brilliant morning light, some great bend
of the river was visible through the trees, while the Arkansas
coast, blue and distant, piled up against the far horizon.

"What is it you want to see, anyhow, Betty?" Tom demanded,
turning on her.

"Everything--the place, Tom--Belle Plain!  Oh, isn't it
beautiful!  I had no idea how lovely it was!" cried Betty, as
with her eyes still fixed on the distant panorama of woods and
water she went down the steps, Tom at her heels--he bet she'd get
sick of it all soon enough, that was one comfort!

"Why, Tom!  Why does the lawn look like this?"

"Like what?" inquired Tom.

"Why, this--all weeds and briers, and the paths overgrown?" and
as Betty surveyed the unkempt waste that had once been a lawn, a
little frown fixed itself on her smooth brow.

Mr. Ware rubbed his chin reflectively with the back of his hand.

"That sort of thing looked all right, Bet," he said, "but it kept
five or six of the best hands out of the fields right at the
busiest time of the year."

"Haven't I slaves enough?" she asked.

The dull color crept into Ware's cheeks.  He hated her for that
"I!"  So she was going to come that on him, was she?  And he'd
worked himself like a horse to bring in more land.  Why, he'd
doubled the acreage in cotton and corn in the last four years!
He smothered his sense of hurt and indignation.

"Don't you want to see the crops, Bet?  Let me order a team and
show you about, you couldn't walk over the place in a week!" he
urged.

The girl shook her head and moved swiftly down the path that led
from terrace to terrace to the margin of the bayou.  At the first
terrace she paused.  All below was a wilderness of tangled vines
and brush.  She faced Tom rather piteously.  What had been lost
was more than he could possibly understand.  Her father had
planned these grounds which he was allowing a riotous second
growth to swallow up.

"It's positively squalid!" cried Betty, with a little stamp of
her foot.

Ware glanced about with dull eyes.  The air of neglect and decay
which was everywhere visible, and which was such a shock to
Betty, had not been reached in a season, he was really convinced
that the place looked pretty much as it had always looked.

"I'll tell you, Betty, I'm busy this morning; you poke about and
see what you want done and we'll do it," he said, and made a
hasty retreat to his office, a little brick building at the other
side of the house.

Betty returned to the porch and seating herself on the top step
with her elbows on her knees and her chin sunk in the palms of
her hands, gazed about her miserably enough.  She was still
seated there when half an hour later Charley Norton galloped up
the drive from the highroad.  Catching sight of her on the porch
he sprang from the saddle, and, throwing his reins to a black
boy, hurried to her side.

"Inspecting your domain, Betty?" he asked, as he took his place
near her on the step.

"Why didn't you tell me, Charley--or at least prepare me for
this?" she asked, almost tearfully.

"How was I to know, Betty?  I haven't been here since you went
away, dear--what was there to bring me?  Old Tom would make a cow
pasture out of the Garden of Eden, wouldn't he--a beautiful,
practical, sordid soul he is!"

"What am I going to do, Charley?"

"Keep after him until you get what you want, it's the only way to
manage Tom that I know of."

"It's horrid to have to assert one's self!"

"You'll have to with Tom--you must, Betty--he won't understand
anything else."  Then he added: "Let's look around and see what's
needed, a season or two of care will remedy the most of this
neglect.  Just make Tom put a lot of hands in here with
brush-hooks and axes and soon you'll not know the place!"

Norton spent the day at Belle Plain; and though he was there on
his good behavior as the result of an agreement they had reached
on board The Naiad, he proposed twice.

"My intentions are all right, Betty," he assured her in
extenuation.  "But I've the worst memory imaginable.  Oh, yes,
the lower terrace is badly gullied, but it's no great matter, it
can be fixed with a little work."

It was soon plain to Betty that Tom's ideals, if he possessed
any, had not led him in the direction of what he termed display.
His social impulse had suffered atrophy.  The house was utterly
disorganized; there was a dearth of suitable servants.  Those she
had known were gone--sold, she learned.  Tom explained that there
had been no need for them since he had lived pretty much in his
office, what had been the use in keeping darkies standing about
doing nothing?  He had got rid of those show niggers and put
their price in husky field hands, who could be made to do a day's
work and not feel they were abused.

But Tom was mistaken in his supposition that Betty would soon
tire of Belle Plain.  She demanded men, and teams, and began on
the lawns.  This interested and fascinated her.  She was out at
sun-up to direct her laborers.  She had the advantage of Charley
Norton's presence and advice for the greater part of each day in
the week, and Sundays he came to look over what had been
accomplished, and, as Tom firmly believed, to put that little
fool up to fresh nonsense.  He could have booted him!

As the grounds took shape before her delighted eyes, Betty found
leisure to institute a thorough reformation indoors.  A number of
house servants were rescued from the quarters and she began to
instruct them in their new duties.

Tom was sick at heart.  The little fool would cripple the place.
It gave him acute nausea to see the gangs at work about the
lawns; it made him sicker to pass through the house.  There were
five or six women in the kitchen now--he was damned if he could
see what they found to do--there was a butler and a page.  Betty
had levied on the stables for one of the best teams to draw the
family carriage, which had not been in use since her mother's
death; there was a coachman for that, and another little monkey
to ride on the rumble and hop down and open gates.  This came of
sending girls away to school--they only learned foolishness.

And those niggers about the house had to be dressed for their new
work; the butler, a cracking plow-hand he was, wore better
clothes than he--Tom--did.  No wonder he was sick;--and waste!
Tom knew all about that when the bills began to come in from
Memphis.  Why, that pink-faced chit, he always referred to her in
his own mind now as a pink-faced chit, was evolving a scheme of
life that would cost eight or ten thousand dollars a year to
maintain, and she was talking of decorators for the house, either
from New Orleans or Philadelphia, and new furniture from top to
bottom.

Tom felt that he was being robbed.  Then he realized with a sense
of shock that here was a fortune of over half a million in lands
and slaves which he had managed and manipulated all these years,
but which was not his.  It was true that under the terms of his
stepmother's will he would inherit it in the event of Betty's
death--well, she looked like dying, a whole lot--she was as
strong as a mule, those soft rounded curves covered plenty of
vigorous muscle; Tom hated the very sight of her.  A pink-faced
chit bubbling over with life and useless energy, a perfect curse
she was, with all sorts of extravagant tastes and he was
powerless to check her, for, although he was still her guardian,
there were certain provisions of the will--he consulted the copy
he kept locked up in his desk in the office--that permitted her
to do pretty much as she pleased with her income.  It was a hell
of a will!  She could spend fifteen or twenty thousand dollars a
year if she wanted to and he couldn't prevent it.  It was an
iniquitous document!

Well, the place could go straight off to the devil, he wouldn't
wear out his life economizing for her to waste--he didn't get a
thank-you--and he knew that nobody took off the land bigger crops
than he did, while bale for bale his cotton outsold all other
cotton raised in the county--that was the kind of a manager he
was.  He wagged his head in self-approval.  And what did he get
out of it?  A lump sum each year with a further lump sum of
twenty thousand dollars when she came of age--soon now--or
married.  Tom's eyes bulged from their sockets--she'd be doing
that next, to spite him!

Betty's sphere of influence rapidly extended itself.  She soon
began to have her doubts concerning the treatment accorded the
slaves, and was not long in discovering that Hicks, the overseer,
ran things with a heavy hand.  Matters reached a crisis one day
when, happening to ride through the quarters, she found him
disciplining a refractory black.  She turned sick at the sight.
Here was a slave actually being whipped by another slave while
Hicks stood looking on with his hands in his pockets, and with a
brutal satisfied air.  When he caught sight of the girl, he sang
out

"That'll do; he's had enough, I reckon, to learn him!"  He added
sullenly to Betty, "Sorry you seen this, Miss!"

"How dare you order such a punishment without authority!" cried
Betty furiously.

Hicks gave her a black scowl.

"I don't need no authority to whip a shirker," he said
insolently, as he turned away.

"Stop!" commanded Betty, her eyes blazing.  She strove to keep
her voice steady.  "You shall not remain at Belle Plain another
hour."

Hicks said nothing.  He knew it would take more than her saying
so to get him off the place.  Betty turned her horse and galloped
back to the house.  She felt that she was in no condition to see
Tom just at that moment, and dismounting at the door ran
up-stairs to her room.

Meantime the overseer sought out Ware in his office.  His manner
of stating his grievance was singular.  He began by swearing at
his employer.  He had been insulted before all the quarter--his
rage fairly choked him, he could not speak.

Tom seized the opportunity to swear back.  He wanted to know if
he hadn't troubles enough without the overseer's help?  If he'd
got himself insulted it was his own affair and he could lump it,
generally speaking, and get out of that office!  But Tom's fury
quickly spent itself.  He wanted to know what the matter was.

"Sent you off the place, did she; well, you'll have to eat crow.
I'll do all I can.  I don't know what girls were ever made for
anyhow, damned if I do!" he added plaintively, as a realization
of a stupendous mistake on the part of nature overwhelmed him.

Hicks consented to eat crow only after Mr. Ware had cursed and
cajoled him into a better and more forgiving frame of mind.  Then
Tom hurried off to find Betty and put matters right; a more
difficult task than he had reckoned on, for Betty was obdurate
and her indignation flared up at mention of the incident; all his
powers of argument and persuasion were called into requisition
before she would consent to Hicks remaining, and then only on
that most uncertain tenure, his good behavior.

"Now you come up to the house," said Tom, when he had won his
point and gone back to Hicks, "and get done with it.  I reckon
you talked when you should have kept your blame familiar mouth
shut!  Come on, and get it over with, and say you're sorry."

Later, after Hicks had made his apology, the two men smoked a
friendly pipe and discussed the situation.  Tom pointed out that
opposition was useless, a losing game, you could get your way by
less direct means.  She wouldn't stay long at Belle Plain, but
while she did remain they must avoid any more crises of the sort
through which they had just passed, and presently; she'd be sick
of the place.  Tom wagged his head.  She was sick of it already
only she hadn't the sense to know it.  It wasn't good enough.
Nothing suited-the house--the grounds--nothing!

In the midst of her activities Betty occasionally found time to
think of Bruce Carrington.  She was sure she did not wish to see
him again!  But when three weeks had passed she began to feel
incensed that he had not appeared.  She thought of him with hot
cheeks and a quickening beat of the heart.  It was anger.
Naturally she was very indignant, as she had every right to be!
He was the first man who had dared--!

Then one day when she had decided for ever to banish all memory
of him from her mind, and never, under any circumstances, to
think of him again, he presented himself at Belle Plain.

She was in her room just putting the finishing touches to an
especially satisfying toilet when her maid tapped on the door and
told her there was a gentleman in the parlor who wished to see
her.

"Is it Mr. Norton?" asked Betty.

"No, Miss--he didn't give no name, Miss."

When Betty entered the parlor a moment later she saw her caller
standing with his back turned toward her as he gazed from one of
the windows, but she instantly recognized those broad shoulders,
and the fine poise of the shapely head that surmounted them.

"Oh, Mr. Carrington--" and Betty stopped short, while her face
grew rather pale and then crimsoned.  Then she advanced quite
boldly and held out a frigid hand, which he took carefully.  "I
didn't know--so you are alive--you disappeared so suddenly that
night--"

"Yes, I'm alive," he said, and then with a smile.  "But I fear
before you get through with me we'll both wish I were not,
Betty."

"Don't call me Betty."

"Who was that man who met you at New Madrid?  He can't have you,
whoever he is!"  His eyes dwelt on her tenderly, and the
remembered spell of her fresh youthful beauty deepened itself for
him.

"Perhaps he doesn't want me--"

"Yes, he does.  That was plain as day."

Betty surveyed him from under her lashes.  What could she do with
this man?  Nothing affected him.  He seemed to have crossed some
intangible barrier and to stand closer to her than any other man
had ever stood.

"Do you still hate me, Betty--Miss Malroy--is there anything I
can say or do that will make you forgive me?"  He looked at her
penitently.

But Betty hardened her heart against him and prepared to keep him
in place.  Remembering that he was still holding her hand, she
recovered it.

"Will you sit down?" she indicated a chair.  He seated himself
and Betty put a safe distance between them.  "Are you staying in
the neighborhood, Mr. Carrington ?" she asked, rather unkindly.
How did he dare come here when she had forgotten him and her
annoyance?  And now the sight of him brought back memories of
that disagreeable night on that horrid boat--he had deceived her
about that boat, too--she would never forgive him for that--she
had trusted him and he had clearly shown that he was not to be
trusted; and Betty closed her pretty mouth until it was a thin
red line and looked away that she might not see his hateful face.

"No, I'm not staying in the neighborhood.  When I left you, I
made up my mind I'd wait at New Madrid until I could come on down
here and say I was sorry."

"And it's taken you all this time?"

Carrington regarded her seriously.

"I reckon I must have come for more time, Betty--Miss Malroy."
In spite of herself, Betty glowed under the caressing humor of
his tone.

"Really--you must have chosen poorly then when you selected New
Madrid.  It couldn't have been a good place for your purpose."

"I think if I could have made up my mind to stay there long
enough, it would have answered," said Carrington.  "But when a
down-river boat tied up 'there yesterday it was more than I could
stand.  You 'see there's danger in a town like New Madrid of
getting too sorry.  I thought we'd better discuss this point--"

"Mayn't I show you Belle Plain?" asked Betty quickly.

But Carrington shook his head.

"I don't care anything about that," he said.  "I didn't come here
to see Belle Plain."

"You certainly are candid," said Betty.

"I intend to be honest with you always."

"Dear me--but I don't know that I shall particularly like it.  Do
you think it was quite fair to select the boat you did, or was
your resolution to be always honest formed later?" demanded Betty
severely.

He looked at her with great sweetness of expression.

"I didn't advise that boat for speed, only for safety.  Betty,
doesn't it mean anything to you that I love you?  I admit that I
wish it had been twice as slow!" he added reflectively, as an
afterthought.  He looked at her steadily, and Betty's dark lashes
drooped as the color mounted to her face.

"I don't," she said quickly.  She rose from her chair, and
Carrington followed her example with a lithe movement that
bespoke muscles in good training.  She led the way through the
wide hall and out to the porch.

"Now I am going to show you all over the place," she announced
resolutely.  She stood on the top step, looking off into the
flaming west where the sun rode low in the heavens.  "Isn't it
lovely, Mr. Carringtonisn't it beautiful?"

"Very beautiful!" Carrington's glance was fixed on her face.

"If you don't care to see Belle Plain," began Betty, rather
indignantly.
"No, I don't, Betty.  This is enough for me.  I'll come for that
some other time if you'll be good enough to let me?"

"Then you expect to remain in the neighborhood?"

"I've given up the river, and I'm going to get hold of some land--"

"Land?" said Betty, with a rising inflection.

"Yes, land."

"I thought you were a river-man?"

"I'm a river-man no longer.  I am going to be a planter now.  But
I'll tell you why, and all about it some other day."  Then he
held out his hand.  "Goodby," he added.

"Are you going--good-by,  Mr. Carrington," and Betty's fingers
tingled with his masterful clasp long after he had gone.

Carrington sauntered slowly down the path to the highroad.

"She didn't ask me to come back--an oversight," he told himself
cheerfully.

Just beyond the gates he met that same young fellow he had seen
at New Madrid.  Norton nodded good-naturedly as he passed, and
Carrington, glancing back, saw that he turned in at Belle Plain.
He shrugged his shoulders, and went on his way not rejoicing.




CHAPTER XV

THE SHOOTING-MATCH AT BOGGS'


The judge's faith in the reasonableness of mankind having
received a staggering blow, there began a somewhat furtive
existence for himself, for Solomon Mahaffy, and for the boy.
They kept to little frequented byways, and usually it was the
early hours of morning, or the cool of late afternoons when they
took the road.

The heat of silent middays found them lounging beside shady
pools, where the ripple of fretted waters filled the pauses in
their talk.  It was then that the judge and Mahaffy exchanged
views on literature and politics, on religion and politics, on
the public debt and politics, on canals and national roads and
more politics.  They could and did honestly differ at great
length and with unflagging energy on these vital topics,
especially politics, for they were as far apart mentally as they
were close together morally.

Mahaffy, morose and embittered, regarded the life they were
living as an unmixed hardship.  The judge entered upon it with
infinite zest.  He displayed astonishing adaptability, while he
brought all the resources of a calm and modest knowledge to bear
on the vexed problem of procuring sustenance for himself and for
his two companions.

"To an old campaigner like me, nothing could be more delightful
than this holiday, coming as it does on the heels of grinding
professional activity," he observed to Mahaffy.  "This is the way
our first parents lived--close to nature, in touch with her
gracious beneficence!  Sir, this experience is singularly
refreshing after twenty years of slaving at the desk.  If any man
can grasp the possibilities of a likely looking truck-patch at a
glance, I am that man, and as for getting around in the dark and
keeping the lay of the land--well, I suppose it's my military
training.  Jackson always placed the highest value on such data
as I furnished him.  He leaned on me more than any other man,
Solomon--"

"I've heard he stood up pretty straight," said Mahaffy affably.
The judge's abandoned conduct distressed him not a little, but
his remonstrances had been in vain.

"I consider that when society subjected me to the indignity of
arrest, I was relieved of all responsibility.  Injustice must
bear its own fruit," the judge had answered him sternly.

His beginnings had been modest enough: a few ears of corn, a few
hills of potatoes, and the like, had satisfied him; then one
night he appeared in camp with two streaks of scarlet down the
side of his face.

"Are you hurt, Price?" demanded Mahaffy, betraying an anxiety of
which he was instantly ashamed.

"Let me relieve your apprehension, Solomon; it's only a trickle
of stewed fruit.  I folded a couple of pies and put them in the
crown of my hat," explained the judge.

"You mean you've been in somebody's springhouse ?"

"It was unlocked, Solomon, This will be a warning to the owner.
I consider I have done him a kindness."

Thus launched on a career of plunder, the judge very speedily
accumulated a water bucket--useful when one wished to milk a cow
--an ax from a woodpile, a kettle from a summer kitchen, a tin of
soft soap, and an excellent blanket from a wash-line.

"For the boy, Solomon," he said gently, when he caught Mahaffy's
steady disapproving glance fixed upon him as he displayed this
last trophy.

"What sort of an example are you setting him?"

"The world is full of examples I'd not recommend, Solomon.  One
must learn to discriminate.  A body can no more follow all the
examples than he can follow all the roads, and I submit that the
ends of morality can as well be served in showing a child what he
should not do as in showing him what he should.  Indeed, I don't
know but it's the finer educational idea!"

Thereafter the judge went through the land with an eye out for
wash-lines.

"I'm looking for a change of linen for the boy, Solomon," he
said.  "Let me bring you a garment or two.  Eh--how few men
you'll find of my build; those last shirts I got were tight
around the armholes and had no more tail than a rabbit!"

Two nights later Mr. Mahaffy accepted a complete change of under
linen, but without visible sign of gratitude.

A night later the judge disappeared from camp, and after a
prolonged absence returned puffing and panting with three
watermelons, which proved to be green, since his activity had
been much in advance of the season.

"I don't suppose there is any greater tax on human ingenuity than
to carry three watermelons!" he remarked.  "The human structure
is ideally adapted to the transportation of two--it can be done
with comfort; but when a body tackles three he finds that nature
herself is opposed to the proceeding!  Well, I am going back for
a bee-gum I saw in a fence corner.  Hannibal will enjoy that--a
child is always wanting sweets!"

In this fashion they fared gaily across the state, but as they
neared the Mississippi the judge began to consider the future.
His bright and illuminating intelligence dealt with this problem
in all its many-sidedness.

"I wish you'd enter one of the learned professions, Solomon--have
you ever thought of medicine?" he inquired.  Mr. Mahaffy laughed.
"But why not, Solomon?  There is nothing like a degree or a
title--that always stamps a man, gives him standing--"

"What do I know about the human system?"

"I should certainly hope you know as much as the average doctor
knows.  We could locate in one of these new towns where they have
the river on one side and the canal on the other, and where
everybody has the ague--"

"What do I know about medicine?" inquired Mahaffy.

"As much as Aesculapius, no doubt--even he had to make a
beginning.  The torch of science wasn't lit in a day--you must be
willing to wait; but you've got a good sick-room manner.  Have
you ever thought of opening an undertaker's shop?  If you
couldn't cure them you might bury them."

A certain hot afternoon brought them into the shaded main street
of a straggling village.  Near the door of the principal
building, a frame tavern, a man was seated, with his feet on the
horse-rack.  There was no other sign of human occupancy.

"How do you do, sir?" said the judge, halting before this
solitary individual whom he conjectured to be the 'landlord.  The
man nodded, thrusting his thumbs into the armholes of his vest.
"What's the name of this bustling metropolis?" continued the
judge, cocking his head on one side.

As he spoke, Bruce Carrington appeared in the tavern door;
pausing there, he glanced curiously at the shabby wayfarers.

"This is Raleigh, in Shelby County, Tennessee, one of the states
of the Union of which, no doubt, you've heard rumor in your
wanderings," said the landlord.

"Are you the voice from the tomb?" inquired the judge, in a tone
of playful sarcasm.

Carrington, amused, sauntered toward him.

"That's one for you, Mr. Pegloe!" he said.

"I am charmed to meet a gentleman whose spirit of appreciation
shows his familiarity with a literary allusion," said the judge,
bowing.

"We ain't so dead as we look," said Pegloe.  "Just you keep on to
Boggs' race-track, straight down the road, and you'll find that
out--everybody's there to the hoss-racing and shooting-match.  I
reckon you've missed the hoss-racing, but you'll be in time for
the shooting.  Why ain't you there, Mr. Carrington?"

"I'm going now, Mr. Pegloe," answered Carrington, as he followed
the judge, who, with Mahaffy and the boy, had moved off.

"Better stop at Boggs'!" Pegloe called after them.

But the judge had already formed his decision.

Horse-racing and shooting-matches were suggestive of that
progressive spirit, the absence of which he had so much lamented
at the jail raising at Pleasantville--Memphis was their objective
point, but Boggs' became a side issue of importance.  They had
gained the edge of the village when Carrington overtook them.  He
stepped to Hannibal's side.

"Here, let me carry that long rifle, son!" he said.  Hannibal
looked up into his face, and yielded the piece without a word.
Carrington balanced it on his big, muscular palm.  "I reckon it
can shoot--these old guns are hard to beat!" he observed.

"She's the clostest shooting rifle I ever sighted," said Hannibal
promptly.  "You had ought to see the judge shoot her--my!  he
never misses!"

Carrington laughed.

"The clostest shooting rifle you ever sighted--eh?" he repeated.
"Why, aren't you afraid of it?"

"No," said Hannibal scornfully.  "But she kicks you some if you
don't hold her right."

There was a rusty name-plate on the stock of the old sporting
rifle; this had caught Carrington's eye.

"What's the name here?  Oh, Turberville."

The judge, a step or two in advance, wheeled in his tracks with a
startling suddenness.

"What?" he faltered, and his face was ashen.

"Nothing, I was reading the name here; it is yours; sir, I
suppose?" said Carrington.

The color crept slowly back into the judge's cheeks, but a
tremulous hand stole up to his throat.

"No, sir--no; my name is Price--Slocum Price!  Turberville
--Turberville--" he muttered thickly, staring stupidly at
Carrington.

"It's not a common name; you seem to have heard it before?" said
the latter.

A spasm of pain passed over the judge's face.

"I--I've heard it.  The name is on the rifle, you say?"

"Here on the stock, yes."

The judge took the gun and examined it in silence.

"Where did you get this rifle, Hannibal?" he at length asked
brokenly.

"I fetched it away from the Barony, sir; Mr. Crenshaw said I
might have it."

The judge gave a great start, and a hoarse inarticulate murmur
stole from between his twitching lips.

"The Barony--the Barony--what Barony?  The Quintard seat in North
Carolina, is that what you mean?"

"Yes," said the boy.

The judge, as though stunned, stared at Hannibal and stared at
the rifle, where the rusted name-plate danced before his eyes.

"What do you know of the Barony, Hannibal?" the words came slowly
from the judge's lips, and his face had gone gray again.

"I lived at the Barony once, until Uncle Bob took me to Scratch
Hill to be with him.  It were Mr. Crenshaw said I was to have the
old sp'otin' rifle," said Hannibal.

"You--you lived at the Barony?" repeated the judge, and a dull
stupid wonder struck through his tone, he passed a shaking hand
before his eyes.  "How long ago--when?" he continued.

"I don't know how long it were, but until Uncle Bob carried me
away after the old general died."

The judge slipped a hand under the child's chin and tilted his
face back so that he might look into it.  For a long moment he
studied closely those small features, then with a shake of the
head he handed the rifle to Carrington, and without a word strode
forward.  Carrington had been regarding Hannibal with a quickened
interest.

"Hello!" he said, as the judge moved off.  "You're the boy I saw
at Scratch Hill!"

Hannibal gave him a frightened glance, and edged to Mr. Mahaffy's
side, but did not answer him.

"What's become of Bob Yancy?" Carrington went on.  He looked from
Mahaffy to the judge; externally neither of these gentlemen was
calculated to inspire confidence.  Mahaffy, keenly alive to this
fact, returned Carrington's glance with a fixed and hostile
stare.  "Come--" said Carrington good-naturedly, "you surely
remember me?"

"Yes, sir; I reckon I do--"

"Can't you tell me about Mr. Yancy?"

"No, sir; I don't know exactly where he is--"

"But how did you get here?" persisted Carrington.

Suddenly Mahaffy turned on him.

"Don't you see he's with us?" he said truculently.

"Well, my dear sir, I certainly intended no offense!" rejoined
Carrington rather hotly.

Mahaffy was plainly disturbed, the debased currency of his
affection was in circulation where Hannibal was concerned, and he
eyed the river-man askance.  He was prepared to give him the lie
should he set up any claim to the boy.

The judge plodded forward, his shoulders drooped, and his head
bowed.  For once silence had fixed its seal upon his lips, no
inspiring speech fell from them.  He had been suddenly swept back
into a past he had striven these twenty years and more to forget,
and his memories shaped themselves fantastically.  Surely if ever
a man had quitted the world that knew him, he was that man!  He
had died and yet he lived--lived horribly, without soul or heart,
the empty shell of a man.

A turn in the road brought them within sight of Boggs' racetrack,
a wide level meadow.  The judge paused irresolutely, and turned
his bleared face on his friend.

"We'll stop here, Solomon," he said rather wearily, for the
spirit of boast and jest was quite gone out of him.  He glanced
toward Carrington.  "Are you a resident of these parts, sir?" he
asked.

"I've been in Raleigh three days altogether," answered
Carrington, falling into step at his side, and they continued on
across the meadow in silence.

"Do you observe the decorations of those refreshment booths?--the
tasteful disposition of our national colors, sir?" the judge
presently inquired.

Carrington smiled; he was able to follow his companion's train of
thought.

They were elbowing the crowd now.  Here were men from the small
clearings in homespun and butternut or fringed hunting-shirts,
with their women folk trailing after them.  Here, too, in lesser
numbers, were the lords of the soil, the men who counted their
acres by the thousand and their slaves by the score.  There was
the flutter of skirts among the moving groups, the nodding of gay
parasols that shaded fresh young faces, while occasionally a
comfortable family carriage with some planter's wife or daughter
rolled silently over the turf; for Boggs' race-track was a famous
meeting-place where families that saw one another not above once
or twice a year, friends who lived a day's hard drive apart even
when summer roads were at their best, came as to a common center.

The judge's dull eye kindled, the haggard lines that had streaked
his face erased themselves.  This was life, opulent and full.
These swift rolling carriages with their handsome women, these
well-dressed men on foot, and splendidly mounted, all did their
part toward lifting him out of his gloom.  He settled his hat on
his head with a rakish slant and his walk became a strut, he
courted observation; he would have been grateful for a word, even
a jest at his expense.

A cry from Hannibal drew his attention.  Turning, he was in time
to see the boy bound away.  An instant later, to his
astonishment, he saw a young girl who was seated with two men in
an open carriage, spring to the ground, and dropping to her knees
put her arms about the tattered little figure.

"Why, Hannibal!" cried Betty Malroy.

"Miss Betty!  Miss Betty!" and Hannibal buried his head on her
shoulder.

"What is it, Hannibal; what is it, dear?"

"Nothing, only I'm so glad to find you!"

"I am glad to see you, too!" said Betty, as she wiped his tears
away.  "When did you get here, dear?"

"We got here just to-day, Miss Betty," said Hannibal.

Mr. Ware, careless as to dress, with a wiry black beard of a
week's growth decorating his chin and giving an unkempt
appearance which his expression did not mitigate, it being of the
sour and fretful sort; scowled down on the child.  He had favored
Boggs' with his presence, not because he felt the least interest
in horse-racing, but because he had no faith in girls, and
especially had he profound mistrust of Betty.  She was so much
easily portable wealth, a pink-faced chit ready to fall into the
arms of the first man who proposed to her.  But Charley Norton
had not seemed disturbed by the planter's forbidding air.
Between those two there existed complete reciprocity of feeling,
inasmuch as Tom's presence was as distasteful to Norton as his
own presence was distressing to Ware.

"Where is your Uncle Bob, Hannibal?" Betty asked, glancing about,
and at her question a shadow crossed the child's face and the
tears gathered again in his eyes.

"Ain't you seen him, Miss Betty?" he whispered.  He had been
sustained by the belief that when he found her he should find his
Uncle Bob, too.

"Why, what do you mean, Hannibal--isn't your Uncle Bob with you?"
demanded Betty.

"He got hurt in a fight, and I got separated from him way back
yonder just after we came out of the mountains."  He looked up
piteously into Betty's face.  "But you think he'll find me, don't
you?"

"Why, you poor little thing!" cried Betty compassionately, and
again she sank on her knees at Hannibal's side, and slipped her
arms about him.  The child began to cry softly.

"What ragamuffin's this, Betty?" growled Ware disgustedly.

But Betty did not seem to hear.

"Did you come alone, Hannibal?" she asked.

"No, ma'am; the judge and Mr. Mahaffy, they fetched me."

The judge had drawn nearer as Betty and Hannibal spoke together,
but Mahaffy hung back.  There were gulfs not to be crossed by
him.  It was different with the judge; the native magnificence of
his mind fitted him for any occasion.  He pulled up his stock,
and coaxed a half-inch of limp linen down about his wrists, then
very splendidly he lifted his napless hat from his shiny bald
head and pressing it against his fat chest with much fervor,
elegantly inclined himself from the hips.

"Allow me the honor to present myself, ma'am--Price is my name
--Judge Slocum Price.  May I be permitted to assume that this is
the Miss Betty of whom my young protege so often speaks?" The
judge beamed benevolently, and rested a ponderous hand on the
boy's head.

Tom Ware gave him a glance of undisguised astonishment, while
Norton regarded him with an expression of stunned and resolute
gravity.  Mahaffy seemed to be undergoing a terrible moment of
uncertainty.  He was divided between two purposes: one was to
seize Price by the coat tails and drag him back into the crowd;
the other was to kick him, and himself fly that spot.  This
singular impulse sprang from the fact that he firmly believed his
friend's appearance was sufficient to blast the boy's chances in
every quarter; nor did he think any better of himself.

Betty looked at the judge rather inquiringly.

"I am glad he has found friends," she said slowly.  She wanted to
believe that judge Slocum Price was somehow better than he
looked, which should have been easy, since it was incredible that
he could have been worse.

"He has indeed found friends," said the judge with mellow
unction, and swelling visibly.  These prosperous appearing people
should be of use to him, God willing--he made a sweeping gesture.
"I have assumed the responsibility of his future--he is my care."

Now Betty caught sight of Carrington and bowed.  Occupied with
Hannibal and the judge, she had been unaware of his presence.
Carrington stepped forward.

"Have you met Mr. Norton, and my brother, Mr. Carrington?" she
asked.

The two young men shook hands, and Ware improved the opportunity
to inspect the new-comer.  But as his glance wandered over him,
it took in more than Carrington, for it included the fine figure
and swarthy face of Captain Murrell, who, with his eyes fixed on
Betty, was thrusting his eager way through the crowd.

Murrell had presented himself at Belle Plain the day before.  For
upward of a year, Ware had enjoyed great peace of mind as a
direct result of his absence from west Tennessee, and when he
thought of him at all he had invariably put a period to his
meditations with, "I hope to hell he catches it wherever he is!"
It had really seemed a pernicious thing to him that no one had
shown sufficient public spirit to knock the captain on the head,
and that this had not been done, utterly destroyed his faith in
the good intentions of Providence.

More than this, Betty had spoken of the captain in no uncertain
terms.  He was not to repeat that visit.  Tom must make that
point clear to him.  Tom might entertain him if he liked at his
office, but the doors of Belle Plain were closed against Captain
Murrell; he was not to set his foot inside of them.

As Murrell approached, the hot color surged into Betty's face.
As for Hannibal, he had gone white to the lips, and his small
hand clutched hers desperately; he was remembering all the terror
of that hot dawn at Slosson's.

Murrell, with all his hardihood, realized that a too great
confidence had placed him in an awkward position, for Betty
turned her back on him and began an animated conversation with
Carrington and Charley Norton; only Hannibal and the judge
continued to regard him; the boy with a frightened, fascinated
stare, the judge with a wide sweet smile.

Hicks, the Belle Plain overseer, pushed his way to Murrell's
side.

"Here, John Murrell, ain't you going to show us a trick or two?"
he inquired.

Murrell turned quickly with a sense of relief.

"If you can spare me your rifle," he said, but his face wore a
bleak look.  Glancing at Betty, he took up his station with the
other contestants, whereupon two or three young planters silently
withdrew from the firing-line.

"Don't you think you've seen about enough, Bet?" demanded Tom.
"You don't care for the shooting, do you ?"

"That's the very thing I do care for; I think I'd rather see that
than the horse-racing," said Betty perversely.  This had been her
first appearance in public since her home-coming, and she felt
that it had been most satisfactory.  She had met everybody she
had ever known, and scores of new people; her progress had been
quite triumphal in spite of Tom, and in spite of Charley Norton,
who was plainly not anxious to share her with any one, his
devotion being rather of the monopolizing sort.

Betty now seated herself in the carriage, with Hannibal beside
her, quietly determined to miss nothing.  The judge, feeling that
he had come into his own, leaned elegantly against the wheel, and
explained the merits of each shot as it was made.

"Our intruding friend, the Captain, ma'am, is certainly a master
with his weapon," he observed.

Betty was already aware of this.  She turned to Norton.

"Charley, I can't bear to have him win!"

"I am afraid he will, for anything I can do, Betty," said Norton.

"Mr. Carrington, can't you shoot?--do take Hannibal's rifle and
beat him," she coaxed.

"Don't be too sure that I can!" said Carrington, laughing.

"But I know you can!" urged Betty.

"I hope you gentlemen are not going to let me walk off with the
prize?" said Murrell, approaching the group about the carriage.

"Mr. Norton, I am told you are clever with the rifle."

"I am not shooting to-day," responded Norton haughtily.

Murrell stalked back to the line.

"At forty paces I'd risk it myself, ma'am," said the judge.  "But
at a hundred, offhand like this, I should most certainly fail
--I've burnt too much midnight oil.  Eh--what--damn the dog,
he's scored another center shot!"

"It would be hard to beat that--" they heard Murrell say.

"At least it would be quite possible to equal it," said
Carrington, advancing with Hannibal's rifle in his hands.
It was tossed to his shoulder, and poured out its contents in a
bright stream of flame.  There was a moment of silence.

"Center shot, ma'am!" cried the judge.

"I'll add twenty dollars to the purse!" Norton addressed himself
to Carrington.  "And I shall hope, sir, to see it go in to your
pocket."

"Our sentiments exactly, ma'am, are they not?" said the judge.

"Perhaps you'd like to bet a little of your money?" remarked
Murrell.

"I'm ready to do that too, sir," responded Norton quietly.

"Five hundred dollars, then, that this gentleman in whose success
you take so great an interest, can neither equal nor better my
next shot!" Murrell had produced a roll of bills as he spoke.
Norton colored with embarrassment.  Carrington took in the
situation.

"Wait a minute--" he said, and passed his purse to Norton.

"Cover his money, sir," he added briefly.

"Thank you, my horses have run away with most of my cash,"
explained Norton.

"Your shot!" said Carrington shortly, to the outlaw.

Murrell taking careful aim, fired, clipping the center.

As soon as the result was known, Carrington raised his rifle; his
bullet, truer than his opponent's, drove out the center.  Murrell
turned on him with an oath.

"You shoot well, but a board stuck against a tree is no test for
a man's nerve," he said insolently.

Carrington was charging his piece.

"I only know of one other kind of target," he observed coolly.

"Yes--a living target!" cried Murrell.

The crowd opened from right to left.  Betty's face grew white,
and uttering a smothered cry she started to descend from the
carriage, but the judge rested his hand on her arm.

"No, my dear young, lady, our friend is quite able to care for
himself."

Carrington shook the priming into the pan of Hannibal's ancient
weapon.

"I am ready for that, too," he said.  There was a slow smile on
his lips, but his eyes, black and burning, looked the captain
through and through.

"Another time--" said Murrell, scowling.

"Any time," answered Carrington indifferently.




CHAPTER XVI

THE PORTAL OF HOPE


"This--" the speaker was judge Price; "this is the place for me:
They are a warm-hearted people, sir; a prosperous people, and a
patriotic people with an unstinted love of country.  A people
full of rugged virtues engaged in carving a great state out of
the indulgent bosom of Nature.  I like the size of their whisky
glasses; I like the stuff that goes into them; I despise a
section that separates its gallons into too many glasses.  Show
me a community that does that, and I'll show you a community
rapidly tending toward a low scale of living.  I'd like to hang
out my shingle here and practise law."

The judge and Mr. Mahaffy were camped in the woods between Boggs'
and Raleigh.  Betty had carried Hannibal off to spend the night
at Belle Plain, Carrington had disappeared with Charley Norton;
but the judge and Mahaffy had lingered in the meadow until the
last refreshment booth struck its colors to the twilight, and
they had not lingered in vain.  The judge threw himself at full
length on the ground, and Mahaffy dropped at his side.  About
them, in the ruddy glow of their camp-fire, rose the dark wall of
the forest.

"I crave opportunity, Solomon--the indorsement of my own class.
I feel that I shall have it here," resumed the judge pensively.

But Mahaffy was sad in his joy, sober in his incipientent
drunkenness.  The same handsome treatment which the judge
commended, had been as freely tendered him, yet he saw the end of
all such hospitality.  This was the worm in the bud.  The judge,
however, was an eager idealist; he still dreamed of Utopia, he
still believed in millenniums.  Mahaffy didn't and couldn't.
Memory was the scarecrow in the garden of his hopes--you could
wear out your welcome anywhere.  In the end the world reckoned
your cost, and unless you were prepared to make some sort of
return for its bounty, the cold shoulder came to be your portion
instead of the warm handclasp.

"Hannibal has found friends among people of the first importance.
I have made it my business to inquire into their standing, and I
find that young lady is heiress to a cool half million.  Think of
that, Solomon--think of that!  I never saw anything more
beautiful than her manifestation of regard for my protege--"

"And you made it your business, Mr. Price, to do your very
damnedest to ruin his chances," said Mahaffy, with sudden heat.

"I ruin his chances?--I, sir?  I consider that I helped his
chances immeasurably."

"All right, then, you helped his chances--only you didn't,
Price!"

"Am I to understand, Solomon, that you regard my interest in the
boy as harmful?" inquired the judge, in a tone of shocked
surprise.

"I regard it as a calamity," said Mahaffy, with cruel candor.

"And how about you, Solomon?"

"Equally a calamity.  Mr. Price, you don't seem able to grasp
just what we look like!"

"The mind's the only measure of the man, Solomon.  If anybody can
talk to me and be unaware that they are conversing with a
gentleman, all I can say is their experience has been as pitiable
as their intelligence is meager.  But it hurts me when you
intimate that I stand in the way of the boy's opportunity."

"Price, what do you; suppose we look like--you and I"

"In a general way, Solomon, I am conscious that our appeal is to
the brain rather than the eye," answered the judge, with dignity.

"I reckon even you couldn't do a much lower trick than use the
boy as a stepping-stone," pursued Mahaffy.

"I don't see how you have the heart to charge me with such a
purpose--I don't indeed, Solomon."  The judge spoke with deep
feeling; he was really hurt.

"Well, you let the boy have his chance, and don't you stick in
your broken oar," cried Mahaffy fiercely.

The judge rolled over on his back, and stared up at the heavens.

"This is a new aspect of your versatile nature, Solomon.  Must I
regard you as a personally emancipated moral influence, not
committed to the straight and narrow path yourself, but still
close enough to it to keep my feet from straying?" he at length
demanded.

Mahaffy having spoken his mind, preserved a stony silence.

The judge got up and replenished the camp-fire, which had burnt
low, then squatting before it, he peered into the flames.

"You'll not deny, Solomon, that Miss Malroy exhibited a real
affection for Hannibal?" he began.

"Now don't you try to borrow money of her, Price," said Mahaffy,
returning to the attack.

"Solomon--Solomon--how can you?"

"That'll be your next move.  Now let her alone; let Hannibal have
his luck as it comes to him."

"You seem to forget, sir, that I still bear the name of
gentleman!" said the judge.

Mahaffy gave way to acid merriment.

"Well, see that you are not tempted to forget that," he observed.

"If I didn't know your sterling qualities, Solomon, and pay
homage to 'em, I might be tempted to take offense," said the
judge.

"It's like pouring water on a duck's back to talk to you, Price;
nothing strikes in."

"On the contrary, I am at all times ready to listen to reason
from any quarter, but I've studied this matter in its many-sided
aspect.  I won't say we might not do better in Memphis, but we
must consider the boy.  No; if I can find a vacant house in
Raleigh, I wouldn't ask a finer spot in which to spend the
afternoon of my life."

"Afternoon?" snapped Mahaffy irritably.

"That's right--carp--!  But you can't relegate me!  You can't
shove me away from the portal of hope--metaphorically speaking,
I'm on the stoop; it may be God's pleasure that I enter; there's
a place for gray heads--and there's a respectable slice of life
after the meridian is passed."

"Humph!" said Mahaffy.

"I've made my impression; I've been thrown with cultivated minds
quick to recognize superiority; I've met with deference and
consideration."

"Aren't you forgetting the boy?" inquired Mahaffy.  "No, sir!  I
regard my obligations where he is concerned as a sacred trust to
be administered in a lofty and impersonal manner.  If his
friends--if Miss Malroy, for instance--cares to make me the
instrument of her benefactions, I'll not be disposed to stand on
my dignity; but his education shall be my care.  I'll make such a
lawyer of him as America has not seen before!  I don't ask you to
accept my own opinion of my fitness to do this, but two gentlemen
with whom I talked this evening--one of them was the justice of
the peace--were pleased to say that they had never heard such
illuminating comments on the criminal law.  I quoted the Greeks
and Romans to 'em, sir; I gave 'em the salient points on
mediaeval law; and they were dumfounded and speechless.  I reckon
they'd never heard such an exposition of fundamental principles;
I showed 'em the germ and I showed 'em fruition.  Damn it, sir,
they were overwhelmed by the array of facts I marshaled for 'em.
They said they'd never met with such erudition--no more they had,
for I boiled down thirty years of study into ten minutes of talk!
I flogged 'em with facts, and then we drank--"  The judge smacked
his lips.  "It is this free-handed hospitality I like; it's this
that gives life its gala aspect."

He forgot former experiences; but without this kindly refusal of
memory to perform its wonted functions, the world would have been
a chill place indeed for Slocum Price.  But Mahaffy, keen and
anxious, with doubt in every glass he drained, a lurking devil to
grin at him above the rim, could see only the end of their brief
hour of welcome.  This made the present moment as bitter as the
last.

"I have a theory, Solomon, that I shall be handsomely supported
by my new friends.  They'll snatch at the opportunity."

"I see 'em snatching, Mr. Price," said Mahaffy grimly.

"That's right--go on and plant doubt in my heart if you can!
You're as hopeless as the grave side!" cried the judge, a spasm
of rage shaking him.

"The thing for us to do--you and I, Price--is to clear out of
here," said Mahaffy,

"But what of the boy?"

"Leave him with his friends."

"How do you know Miss Malroy would be willing to assume his care?
It's scandalous the way you leap at conclusions.  No, Solomon,
no--I won't shirk a single irksome responsibility," and the
judge's voice shook with suppressed emotion.  Mahaffy laughed.
"There you go again, Solomon, with that indecent mirth of yours!
Friendship aside, you grow more offensive every day."  The judge
paused and then resumed.  "I understand there's a federal
judgeship vacant here.  The president--" Mr. Mahafly gave him a
furtive leer.  "I tell you General Jackson was my friend--we were
brothers, sir--I stood at his side on the glorious blood-wet
field of New Orleans!  You don't believe me "

"Price, you've made more demands on my stock of credulity than
any man I've ever known!"

The judge became somber-faced.

"Unparalleled misfortune overtook me--I stepped aside, but the
world never waits; I was a cog discarded from the mechanism of
society--"  He was so pleased with the metaphor that he repeated
it.

"Look here, Price, you talk as though you were a modern job;
what's the matter anyhow?--have you got boils?"

The judge froze into stony silence.  Well, Mahaffy could sneer
--he would show him!  This was the last ditch and he proposed to
descend into it, it was something to be able to demand the final
word of fate--but he instantly recalled that he had been playing
at hide-and-seek with inevitable consequences for something like
a quarter of a century; it had been a triumph merely to exist.
Mahaffy having eased his conscience, rolled over and promptly
went to sleep.  Flat on his back, the judge stared up at the wide
blue arch of the heavens and rehearsed those promises which in
the last twenty years he had made and broken times without
number.  He planned no sweeping reforms, his system of morality
being little more than a series of graceful compromises with
himself.  He must not get hopelessly in debt; he must not get
helplessly drunk.  Dealing candidly with his own soul in the
silence, he presently came to the belief that this might be done
without special hardship.  Then suddenly the rusted name-plate on
Hannibal's old rifle danced again before his burning eyes, and a
bitter sense of hurt and loss struck through him.  He saw himself
as he was, a shabby outcast, a tavern hanger-on, the utter
travesty of all he should have been; he dropped his arm across
his face.


The first rift of light in the sky found the judge stirring; it
found him in his usual cheerful frame of mind.  He disposed of
his toilet and breakfast with the greatest expedition.

"Will you stroll into town with me, Solomon?" he asked, when they
had eaten.  Mahaffy shook his head, his air was still plainly
hostile.  "Then let your prayers follow me, for I'm off!" said
the judge.

Ten minutes' walk brought him to the door of the city tavern,
where he found Mr. Pegloe directing the activities of a small
colored boy who was mopping out his bar.  To him the judge made
known his needs.

"Goin' to locate, are you?" said Mr. Pegloe.

"My friends urge it, sir, and I have taken the matter under
consideration," answered the judge.

"Sho, do you know any folks hereabouts?" asked Mr. Pegloe.

"Not many," said the judge, with reserve.

"Well, the only empty house in town is right over yonder; it
belongs to young Charley Norton out at Thicket Point Plantation."

Ah-h!" said the judge.

The house Mr. Pegloe had pointed out was a small frame building;
it stood directly on the street, with a narrow porch across the
front, and a shed addition at the back.  The judge scuttled over
to it.  With his hands clasped under the tails of his coat he
walked twice about the building, stopping to peer in at all the
windows, then he paused and took stock of his surroundings.  Over
the way was Pegloe's City Tavern; farther up the street was the
court-house, a square wooden box with a crib that housed a
cracked bell, rising from a gable end.  The judge's pulse
quickened.  What a location, and what a fortunate chance that Mr.
Norton was the owner of this most desirable tenement

He must see him at once.  As he turned away to recross the street
and learn from Mr. Pegloe by what road Thicket Point might be
reached, Norton himself galloped into the village.  Catching
sight of the judge, he reined in.  his horse and swung himself
from the saddle.

"I was hoping, sir, I might find you," he said, as they met
before the tavern.

"A wish I should have echoed had I been aware of it!" responded
the judge.  "I was about to do myself the honor to wait upon you
at your plantation."

"Then I have saved you a long walk," said Norton.  He surveyed
the judge rather dubiously, but listened with great civility and
kindness as he explained the business that would have taken him
to Thicket Point.

"The house is quite at your service, sir," he said, at length.

"The rent--" began the judge.  He had great natural delicacy
always in mentioning matters of a financial nature.

But Mr. Norton, with a delicacy equal to his own, entreated him
not to mention the rent.  The house had come to him as boot in a
trade.  It had been occupied by a doctor and a lawyer; these
gentlemen had each decamped between two days, heavily in debt at
the stores and taverns, especially the taverns.

"I can't honestly say they owed me, since I never expected to get
anything out of them; however, they both left some furniture, all
that was necessary for the kind of housekeeping they did, for
they were single gentlemen and drew the bulk of their nourishment
from Pegloe's bar.  I'll turn the establishment over to you with
the greatest pleasure in the world, and wish you better luck than
your predecessors had --you'll offend me if you refer to the rent
again!"

And thus handsomely did Charley Norton acquit himself of the
mission he had undertaken at Betty Malroy's request.

That same morning Tom Ware and Captain Murrell were seated in the
small detached building at Belle Plain, known as the office,
where the former spent most of his time when not in the saddle.
Whatever the planter's vices, and he was reputed to possess a
fair working knowledge of good and evil, no one had ever charged
him with hypocrisy.  His emotions lay close to the surface and
wrote themselves on his unprepossessing exterior with an
impartial touch.  He had felt no pleasure when Murrell rode into
the yard, and he had welcomed him according to the dictates of
his mood, which was one of surly reticence.

"So your sister doesn't like me, Tom--that's on your mind this
morning, is it?" Murrell was saying, as he watched his friend out
of the corner of his eyes.

"She was mad enough, the way you pushed in on us at Boggs'
yesterday.  What happened back in North Carolina, Murrell,
anyhow?"

"Never you mind what happened."

"Well, it's none of my business, I reckon; she'll have to look
out for herself, she's nothing to me but a pest sand a nuisance
--I've been more bothered since she came back than I've been in
years!  I'd give a good deal to be rid of her," said Ware,
greatly depressed as he recalled the extraordinary demands Betty
had made.

"Make it worth my while and I'll take her off your hands," and
Murrell laughed.

Tom favored him with a sullen stare.

"You'd better get rid of that notion--of all fool nonsense, this
love business is the worst!  I can't see the slightest damn
difference between one good looking girl and another.  I wish
every one was as sensible as I am," he lamented.  "I wouldn't
miss a meal, or ten minutes' sleep, on account of any woman in
creation," and Ware shook his head.

"So your sister doesn't like me?"

"No, she doesn't," said Ware, with simple candor.

"Told you to put a stop to my coming here?"

"Not here--to the house, yes.  She doesn't give a damn, so long
as she doesn't have to see you."

Murrell, somber-faced and thoughtful, examined a crack in the
flooring.

"I'd like to know what happened back yonder in North Carolina to
make her so blazing mad?" continued Ware.

"Well, if you want to know, I told her I loved her."

"That's all right, that's the fool talk girls like to hear," said
Ware.  He lighted a cigar with an air of wearied patience.

"Open the door, Tom," commanded Murrell.

"It is close in here," agreed the planter.

"It isn't that, but you smoke the meanest cigars I ever smelt, I
always think your shoes are on fire.  Tom, do you want to get rid
of her?  Did yot mean that?"

"Oh, shut up," said Tom, dropping his voice to a surly whisper.

There was a brief silence, during which Murrell studied his
friend's face.  When he spoke, it was to give the conversation a
new direction.

"Did she bring the boy here last night?  I saw you drive off with
him in the carriage."

"Yes, she makes a regular pet of the little ragamuffin--it's
perfectly sickening!"

"Who were the two men with him?"

"One of 'em calls himself judge Price; the other kept out of the
way, I didn't hear his name."

"Is the boy going to stay at Belle Plain?" inquired Murrell.

"That notion hasn't struck her yet, for I heard her say at
breakfast that she'd take him to Raleigh this afternoon."

"That's the boy I traveled all the way to North Carolina to get for
Fentress.  I thought I had him once, but the little cuss gave me
the slip."

"Eh--you don't say?" cried Ware.

"Tom, what do you know about the Quintard lands; what do you know
about Quintard himself?" continued Murrell.

"He was a rich planter, lived in North Carolina.  My father met
him when he was in congress and got him to invest in land here.
They had some colonization scheme on foot this was upward of
twenty years ago--but nothing came of it.  Ouintard lost
interest."

"And the land?"

"Oh, he held on to that."

"Is there much of it?"

"A hundred thousand acres," said Ware.

Murrell whistled softly under his breath.

"What's it worth?"

"A pot of money, two or three dollars an acre anyhow," answered
Ware.

"Quintard has been dead two years, Tom, and back yonder in North
Carolina they told me he left nothing but the home plantation.
The boy lived there up to the time of Quintard's death, but what
relation he was to the old man no one knew.  What do you suppose
Fentress wants with him?  He offered me five thousand dollars if
I'd bring him West; and he still wants him, only he's lying low
now to see what comes of the two old sots--he don't want to move
in the dark.  Offhand, Tom, I'd say that by getting hold of the
boy Fentress expects to get hold of the Quintard land."

"That's likely," said Ware, then struck by a sudden idea, he
added, "Are you going to take all the risks and let him pocket
the cash?  If it's the land he's after, the stake's big enough to
divide."

"He can have the whole thing and welcome, I'm playing for a
bigger stake."  His friend stared at him in astonishment.  "I
tell you, Tom, I'm bent on getting even with the world!  No
silver spoon came in the way of my mouth when I was a youngster;
my father was too honest--and I think the less of him for it!"

Mr. Ware seemed on the whole edified by the captain's unorthodox
point of view.

"My mother was the true grit though; she came of mountain stock,
and taught us children to steal by the time we could think!
Whatever we stole, she hid, and dared my father to touch us.  I
remember the first thing of account was when I was ten years old.
A Dutch peddler came to our cabin one winter night and begged us
to take him in.  Of course, he opened his pack before he left,
and almost under his nose I got away with a bolt of linen.  The
old man and woman fought about it, but if the peddler discovered
his loss he had the sense not to come back and tell of it!  When
I was seventeen I left home with three good horses I'd picked up;
they brought me more money than I'd ever seen before and I got my
first taste of life--that was in Nashville where I made some good
friends with whose help I soon had as pretty a trade organized in
horseflesh as any one could wish."  A somber tone had crept into
Murrell's voice, while his glance had become restless and uneasy.
He went on: "I'm licking a speculation into shape that will cause
me to be remembered while there's a white man alive in the
Mississippi Valley!"  His wicked black eyes were blazing coals of
fire in their deep sockets.  "Have you heard what the niggers did
at Hayti?"

"My God, John--no, I won't talk to you--and don't you think about
it!  That's wrong--wrong as hell itself!" cried Ware.

"There's no such thing as right and wrong for me.  That'll do for
those who have something to lose.  I was born with empty hands
and I am going to fill them where and how I can.  I believe the
time has come when the niggers can be of use to me--look what
Turner did back in Virginia three years ago!  If he'd had any
real purpose he could have laid the country waste, but he hadn't
brains enough to engineer a general uprising."

Ware was probably as remote from any emotion that even vaguely
approximated right feeling as any man could well be, but
Murrell's words jarred his dull conscience, or his fear, into
giving signs of life.

"Don't you talk of that business, we want nothing of that sort
out here.  You let the niggers alone!" he said, but he could
scarcely bring himself to believe that Murrell had spoken in
earnest.  Yet even if he jested, this was a forbidden subject.

"White brains will have to think for them, if it's to be more
than a flash in the pan," said Murrell unheeding him.

"You let the niggers alone, don't you tamper with them," said
Ware.  He possessed a profound belief in Murrell's capacity.  He
knew how the latter had shaped the uneasy population that
foregathered on the edge of civilization to his own ends, and
that what he had christened the Clan had become an elaborate
organization, disciplined and flexible to his ruthless will.

"Look here, what do you think I have been working for--to steal a
few niggers?"

"A few--you've been sending 'em south by the boatload!  You ought
to be a rich man, Murrell.  If you're not it's your own fault."

"That furnishes us with money, but you can push the trade too
hard and too far, and we've about done that.  The planters are
uneasy in the sections we've worked over, there's talk of getting
together to clean out everybody who can't give a good account of
himself.  The Clan's got to deal a counter blow or go out of
business.  It was so with the horse trade; in the end it became
mighty unhandy to move the stock we'd collected.  We've reached
the same point now with the trade in niggers.  Between here and
the gulf--" he made a wide sweeping gesture with his arm.  "I am
spotting the country with my men; there are two thousand active
workers on the rolls of the Clan, and as many more like you, Tom
--and Fentress--on whose friendship I can rely."  He leaned toward
Ware.  "You'd be slow to tell me I couldn't count on you, Tom,
and you'd be slow to think I couldn't manage this thing when the
time's ripe for it!"

But no trace of this all-sufficient sense of confidence, of which
he seemed so certain, showed on Ware's hardened visage.  He spat
away the stump of his cigar.

"Sure as God, John Murrell, you are overreaching yourself!  Your
white men are all right, they've got to stick by you; if they
don't they know it's only a question of time until they get a
knife driven into their ribs--but niggers--there isn't any real
fight in a nigger, if there was they wouldn't be here."

"Yet you couldn't have made the whites in Hayti believe that,"
said Murrell, with a sinister smile.

"Because they were no-account trash themselves!" returned Ware,
shaking his head.  "We'll all go down in this muss you're fixing
for!" he added.

"No, you won't, Tom.  I'll look out for my friends.  You'll be
warned in time."

"A hell of a lot of good a warning will do!" growled Ware.

"The business will be engineered so that you, and those like you,
will not be disturbed.  Maybe the niggers will have control of
the country for a day or two in the thickly settled parts near
the towns; longer, of course, where the towns and plantations are
scattering.  The end will come in the swamps and cane-brakes, and
the members of the Clan who don't get rich while the trouble is
at its worst, will have to stay poor.  As for the niggers, I
expect nothing else than that they will be pretty well
exterminated.  But look what that will do for men like yourself,
Tom, who will have been able to hold on to their slaves!"

"I'd like to have some guarantee that I'd be able to; do that!
No, sir, the devils will all go whooping off to raise hell."
Ware shivered at the picture his mind had conjured up.  "Well,
thank God, they're not my niggers!" he added.

"You'd better come with me, Tom," said Murrell.

"With you?"

"Yes, I'm going to keep New Orleans for myself; that's a plum I'm
going to pick with the help of a few friends, and I'd cheerfully
hang for it afterward if I could destroy the city Old Hickory
saved--but I expect to quit the country in good time; with a
river full of ships I shan't lack for means of escape."  His
manner was cool and decided.  He possessed in an eminent degree
the egotism that makes possible great crimes and great criminals,
and his degenerate brain dealt with this colossal horror as
simply as if it had been a petty theft.

"There's no use in trying to talk you out of this, John, but I
just want to ask you one thing: you do all you say you are going
to do, and then where in hell's name will you be safe?"

"I'll take my chances.  What have I been taking all my life but
the biggest sort of chances?--and for little enough!"

Ware, feeling the entire uselessness of argument, uttered a
string of imprecations, and then fell silent.  His acquaintance
with Murrell was of long standing.  It dated back to the time
when he was growing into the management of Belle Plain.  A chance
meeting with the outlaw in Memphis had developed into the closest
intimacy, and the plantation had become one of the regular
stations for the band of horse-thieves of which Murrell had
spoken.  But time had wrought its changes.  Tom was now in full
control of Belle Plain and its resources, and he had little heart
for such risks as he had once taken.

"Well, how about the girl, Tom?" asked Murrell at length, in a
low even tone.

"The girl?  Oh, Betty, you mean?" said Ware, and shifted uneasily
in his seat.  "Haven't you got enough on your hands without
worrying about her?  She don't like you, haven't I told you that?
Think of some one else for a spell, and you'll find it answers,"
he urged.

"What do you think is going to happen here if I take your advice?
She'll marry one of these young bloods!"  Ware's lips twitched.
"And then, Tom, you'll get your orders to move out, while her
husband takes over the management of her affairs.  What have you
put by anyhow?--enough to stock another place?"

"Nothing, not a damn cent!" said Ware.  Murrell laughed
incredulously.  "It's so!  I've turned it all over--more lands,
more niggers, bigger crops each year.  Another man might have
saved his little spec, but I couldn't; I reckon I never believed
it would go to her, and I've managed Belle Plain as if I were
running it for myself."  He seemed to writhe as if undergoing
some acute bodily pain.

"And you are in a fair way to turn it all over to her husband
when she marries, and step out of here a beggar, unless--"

"It isn't right, John!  I haven't had pay for my ability!  Why,
the place would have gone down to nothing with any management but
mine!"

"If she were to die, you'd inherit?"

Ware laughed harshly.

"She looks like dying, doesn't she?"

"Listen to me, Tom.  I'll take her away, and Belle Plain is
yours--land, stock and niggers!" said Murrell quietly.

Ware shifted and twisted in his seat.

"It can't be done.  I can advise and urge: but I can't command.
She's got her friends, those people back yonder in North
Carolina, and if I made things uncomfortable for her here she'd
go to them and I couldn't stop her.  You don't seem to get it
through your head that she's got no earthly use for you!"

Murrell favored him with a contemptuous glance.

"You're like every one else!  Certain things you'll do, and
certain other things you won't even try to do--your conscience or
your fear gets in your way."

"Call it what you like."

"I offer to take the girl off your hands; when I quit the country
she shall go with me--"

"And I'd be left here to explain what had become of her!" cried
Ware, in a panic.

"You won't have anything to explain.  She'll have disappeared,
that will be all you'll know," said Murrell quietly.

"She'll never marry you."

"Don't you be too sure of that.  She may be glad enough to in the
end."

"Oh, you think you are a hell of a fellow with women!  Well,
maybe you are with one sort--but what do you know about her
kind?" jeered the planter.

Murrell's brow darkened.

"I'll manage her," he said briefly.

"You were of some account until this took hold of you,"
complained Ware.

"What do you say?  One would hardly think I was offering to make
you a present of the best plantation in west Tennessee!" said
Murrell.

Ware seemed to suck in hope through his shut teeth.

"I don't want to know anything about this, you are going to swamp
yourself yet--you're fixing to get yourself strung up--yes, by
thunder, that'll be your finish!"

"Do you want the land and the niggers?  I reckon you'll have to
take them whether you want them or not, for I'm going to have the
girl."




CHAPTER XVII

BOB YANCY FINDS HIMSELF


Mr. Yancy awoke from a long dreamless sleep; heavy-lidded, his
eyes slid open.  For a moment he struggled with the odds and ends
of memory, then he recalled the fight at the tavern, the sudden
murderous attack, the fierce blows Slosson had dealt him, the
knife thrust which had ended the struggle.  Therefore, the
bandages that now swathed his head and shoulders; therefore, the
need that he should be up and doing--for where was Hannibal?

He sought to lift himself on his elbow, but the effort sent
shafts of pain through him; his head seemed of vast size and
endowed with a weight he could not support.  He sank back
groaning, and closed his eyes.  After a little interval he opened
them again and stared about him.  There was the breath of dawn in
the air; he heard a rooster crow, and the contented grunting of a
pig close at hand.  He was resting under a rude shelter of poles
and bark.  Presently he became aware of a slow gliding movement,
and the silvery ripple of water.  Clearly he was no longer at the
tavern, and clearly some one had taken the trouble to bandage his
hurts.

At length his eyes rolling from side to side focused themselves
on a low opening near the foot of his shakedown bed.  Beyond this
opening, and at some little distance, he saw a sunbonneted woman
of a plump and comfortable presence.  She was leaning against a
tub which rested on a rude bench.  At her back was another bark
shanty similar to the one that sheltered himself, while on either
hand a shoreless expanse of water danced and sparkled under the
rays of the newly risen sun.  As his eyes slowly took in the
scene, Yancy's astonishment mounted higher and higher.  The
lady's sunbonnet quite hid her face, but he saw that she was
smoking a cob-pipe.

He was still staring at her, when the lank figure of a man
emerged from the other shanty.  This man wore a cotton shirt and
patched butternut trousers; he way hatless and shoeless, and his
hair stood out from his head in a great flaming shock.  He, too,
was smoking a cob-pipe.  Suddenly the man put out a long arm
which found its way about the lady's waist, an attention that
culminated in a vigorous embrace.  Then releasing her, he squared
his shoulders, took a long breath, beat his chest with the flat
of his hands and uttered a cheerful whoop.  The embrace, the deep
breath, and the whoop constituted Mr. Cavendish's morning
devotions, and were expressive of a spirit of thankfulness to the
risen sun, his general satisfaction with the course of
Providence, and his homage to the lady of his choice.

Swinging about on his heel, Cavcndish passed beyond Yancy's range
of vision.  Again the latter attempted to lift himself on his
elbow, but sky and water changed places before his eyes and he
dropped down on his pillow with a stifled sigh.  He seemed to be
slipping back into the black night from which he had just
emerged.  Again he was at Scratch Hill, again Dave Blount was
seeking to steal his nevvy--incidents of the trial and flight
recurred to him--all was confused, feverish, without sequence.

Suddenly a shadow fell obliquely across the foot of his narrow
bed, and Cavendish, bending his long body somewhat, thrust his
head in at the opening.  He found himself looking into a pair of
eyes that for the first time in many a long day held the light of
consciousness.

"How are you, stranger?" he demanded, in a soft drawl.

"Where am I?" the words were a whisper on Yancy's bearded lips.

"Well, sir, you are in the Tennessee River fo' certain; my wife
will make admiration when she hears you speak.  Polly!  you jest
step here."

But Polly had heard Cavendish speak, and the murmur of Yancy's
voice in reply.  Now her head appeared beside her husband's, and
Yancy saw that she was rosy and smiling, and that her claim to
good looks was something that could not well be denied.

"La, you are some better, ain't you, sir?" she cried, smiling
down on him

"How did I get here, and where's my nevvy ?" questioned Yancy
anxiously.

"There now, you ain't in no condition fo' to pester yo'self with
worry.  You was fished up out of the Elk River by Mr. Cavendish,"
Polly explained, still smiling and dimpling at him.

"When, ma'am--last night?"

"You got another guess coming to you, stranger!"  It was
Cavendish who spoke.

"Do you mean, sir, that I been unconscious for a spell?"
suggested Yancy rather fearfully, glancing from one to the other.

"It's been right smart of a spell, too; yes, sir, you've laid
like you was dead, and not fo' a matter of hours either--but
days."

"How long?"

"Well, nigh on to three weeks."

They saw Yancy's eyes widen with a look of dumb horror.

"Three weeks!" he at length repeated, and groaned miserably.  He
was thinking of Hannibal.

"You was mighty droll to look at when I fished you up out of the
river," continued Mr. Cavendish.  "You'd been cut and beat up
scandalous!"

"And you don't know nothing about my nevvy?--you ain't seen or
heard of him, ma'am?" faltered Yancy, and glanced up into Polly's
comely face.

Polly shook her head regretfully.

"How come you in the river?" asked Cavendish.

"I reckon I was throwed in.  It was a man named Murrell and
another man named Slosson.  They tried fo' to murder me--they
wanted to get my nevvy--I 'low they done it!" and Yancy groaned
again.

"You'll get him back," said Polly soothingly.

"Could you-all put me asho'?" inquired Yancy, with sudden
eagerness.

"We could, but we won't," said Cavendish, in no uncertain tone.

"Why, la!--you'd perish!" exclaimed Polly.

"Are we far from where you-all picked me up?"

Cavendish nodded.  He did not like to tell Yancy the distance
they had traversed.

"Where are you-all taking me?" asked Yancy.

"Well, stranger, that's a question I can't answer offhand.  The
Tennessee are a twister; mebby it will be Kentucky; mebby it will
be Illinoy, and mebby it will be down yonder on the Mississippi.
My tribe like this way of moving about, and it certainly favors a
body's legs."

"How old was your nevvy?" inquired Polly, reading the troubled
look in Yancy's gray eyes.

"Ten or thereabouts, ma'am.  He were a heap of comfort to me" and
the whisper on Yancy's lips was wonderfully tender and wistful.

"Just the age of my Richard," said Polly, her glance full of
compassion and pity.

Mr. Cavendish essayed to speak, but was forced to pause and clear
his throat.  The allusion to Richard in this connection having
been almost more than he could endure with equanimity.  When he
was able to put his thoughts into words, he said:

"I shore am distressed fo' you.  I tried to leave you back yonder
where I found you, but no one knowed you and you looked so near
dead folks wouldn't have it.  What parts do you come from?"

"No'th Carolina.  Me and my nevvy was a-goin' into west Tennessee
to a place called Belle Plain, somewhere near Memphis.  We have
friends there," explained Yancy.

"That settles it!" cried Cavendish.  "It won't be Kentucky, and
it won't be Illinoy; I'll put you asho' at Memphis; mebby you'll
find yo' nevvy there after all."

"That's the best.  You lay still and get yo' strength back as
fast as you can, and try not to worry--do now."  Polly"s voice
was soft and wheedling.

"I reckon I been a heap of bother to you-all," said Yancy.

"La, no," Polly assured him; "you ain't been."

And now the six little Cavendishes appeared on the scene.  The
pore gentleman had come to--sho!  He had got his senses back
--sho! he wa'n't goin' to die after all; he could talk.  Sho! a
body could hear him plain!  Excited beyond measure they scurried
about in their fluttering rags of nightgowns for a sight and
hearing of the pore gentleman.  They struggled madly to climb
over their parents, and failing this--under them.  But the
opening that served as a door to the shanty being small, and
being as it was completely stoppered by their father and mother
who were in no mood to yield an inch, they distributed themselves
in quest of convenient holes in the bark edifice through which to
peer at the pore gentleman.  And since the number of youthful
Cavendishes exceeded the number of such holes, the sound of
lamentation and recrimination presently filled the morning air.

"I kin see the soles of his feet!" shrieked Keppel with
passionate intensity, his small bleached eye glued to a crack.

He was instantly ravished of the sight by Henry.

"You mean hateful thing!--just because you're bigger than Kep!"
and Constance fell on the spoiler.  As her mother's right-hand
man she had cuffed and slapped her way to a place of power among
the little brothers.

Mr. Cavendish appeared to allay hostilities.

"I 'low I'll skin you if you don't keep still!  Dress!--the whole
kit and b'ilin' of you!" he roared, and his manner was quite as
ferocious as his words.

But the six little Cavendishes were impressed by neither.  They
instantly fastened on him like so many leeches.  What was the
pore gentleman saying?--why couldn't they hear, too?  Then they'd
keep still, sure they would!  Did he say he knowed who throwed
him in the river?

"I wonder, Connie, you ain't able to do more with these here
children.  Seems like you ought to--a great big girl like you,"
said Mr. Cavendish, reduced to despair.

"It was Henry pickin' on Kep," cried Constance.

"I found a crack and he took it away from me! drug me off by the
legs, he did, and filled my stomach full of slivers!" wailed
Keppel, suddenly remembering he had a grievance.  "You had ought
to let me see the pore gentleman!" he added ingratiatingly.

"Well, ain't you been seein' him every day fo' risin' two weeks
and upwards?--ain't you sat by him hours at a stretch?" demanded
Mr. Cavendish fiercely.

Sho--that didn't count, he only kept a mutterin'--sho!--arollin'
his head sideways, sho!  And their six tow heads were rolled to
illustrate their meaning.  And a-pluckin' at a body's hands!--and
they plucked at Mr. Cavendish's hands.  Sho--did he say why he
done that?

"If you-all will quit yo' noise and dress, you-all kin presently
set by the pore gentleman.  If you don't, I'll have to speak to
yo' mother; I 'low she'll trim you!  I reckon you-all don't want
me to call her?  No, by thunderation!--because you-all know she
won't stand no nonsense!  She'll fan you; she'll take the flat of
her hand to you-all and make you skip some; I reckon I'd get into
my pants befo' she starts on the warpath.  I wouldn't give her no
such special opportunity as you're offerin'!" Mr. Cavendish's
voice and manner had become entirely confidential and
sympathetic, and though fear of their mother could not be said to
bulk high on their horizon, yet the small Cavendishes were
persuaded by sheer force of his logic to withdraw and dress.
Their father hurried back to Yancy.

"I was just thinkin', sir," he said, "that if it would be any
comfort to you, we'll tie up to the bank right here and wait
until you can travel.  I'm powerfully annoyed at having fetched
you all this way!"

But Yancy shook his head.

"I'll be glad to go on to Memphis with you.  If my nevvy got away
from Murrell, that's where I'll find him.  I reckon folks will be
kind to him and sort of help him along.  Why, he ain't much mo'
than knee high!"

"Shore they will! there's a lot of good in the world, so don't
you fret none about him!" cried Polly.

"I can't do much else, ma'am, than think of him bein' lonesome
and hungry, maybe--and terribly frightened.  What do you-all
suppose he thought when he woke up and found me gone?"  But
neither Polly nor her husband had any opinion to venture on this
point.  "If I don't find him in Memphis I'll take the back track
to No'th Carolina, stoppin' on the way to see that man Slosson."

"Well, I 'low there's a fit comin' to him when he gets sight of
you!" and Cavendish's bleached blue eyes sparkled at the thought.

"There's a heap mo' than a fit.  I don't bear malice, but I stay
mad a long time," answered Yancy grimly:

"You shouldn't talk no mo'," said Polly.  "You must just lay
quiet and get yo' strength back.  Now, I'm goin' to fix you a
good meal of vittles."  She motioned Cavendish to follow her, and
they both withdrew from the shanty.

Yancy closed his eyes, and presently, lulled by the soft ripple
that bore them company, fell into a restful sleep.

"When he told us of his nevvy, Dick, and I got to thinkin' of his
bein' just the age of our Richard, I declare it seemed like
something got in my throat and I'd choke.  Do you reckon he'll
ever find him?" said Polly, as she busied herself with
preparations for their breakfast.

"I hope so, Polly!" said Cavendish, but her words were a powerful
assault on his feelings, which at all times lay close to the
surface and were easily stirred.

Under stress of his emotions, he now enjoined silence on his
family, fortifying the injunction with dire threats as to the
consequences that would descend with lightning--like suddenness
on the head of the unlucky sinner who forgot and raised his voice
above a whisper.  Then he despatched a chicken; sure sign that he
and Polly considered their guest had reached the first stage of
convalescence.




CHAPTER XVIII

AN ORPHAN MAN OF TITLE


The raft drifted on into the day's heat; and when at last Yancy
awoke, it was to find Henry and Keppel seated beside him, each
solacing him with a small moist hand, while they regarded him out
of the serious unblinking eyes of childhood.

"Howdy!" said he, smiling up at them.

"Howdy!" they answered, a sociable grin puckering their freckled
faces.

"Do you find yo'self pretty well, sir?" inquired Keppel.

"I find myself pretty weak," replied Yancy.

"Me and Kep has been watching fo' to keep the flies from stinging
you," explained Henry.

"We-all takes turns doin' that," Keppel added.

"Well, and how many of you-all are there?" asked Yancy.

"There's six of we-uns and the baby."

They covertly examined this big bearded man who had lost his
nevvy, and almost his life.  They had overheard their father and
mother discuss his plans and knew when he was recovered from his
wounds if he did not speedily meet up with his nevvy at a place
called Memphis, he was going back to Lincoln County, which was
near where they came from, to have the hide off a gentleman of
the name of Slosson.  They imagined the gentleman named Slosson
would find the operation excessively disagreeable; and that Yancy
should be recuperating for so unique an enterprise invested him
with a romantic interest.  Henry squirmed closer to the recumbent
figure on the bed.

"Me and Kep would like mighty well to know how you-all are goin'
to strip the hide offen to that gentleman's back," he observed.

Yancy instantly surmised that the reference was to Slosson.

"I reckon I'll feel obliged to just naturally skin him," he
explained.

"Sho', will he let you do that?" they demanded.

"He won't be consulted none.  And his hide will come off easy
once I get hold of him by the scruff of the neck."  Yancy's
speech was gentle and his lips smiling, but he meant a fair share
of what he said.

"Sho', is that the way you do it?"  And round-eyed they gazed
down on this fascinating stranger.

"I may have to touch him up with a tickler," continued Yancy, who
did not wish to prove disappointing.  "I reckon you-all know what
a tickler is?"

They nodded.

"What if Mr. Slosson totes a tickler, too?" asked Keppel
insinuatingly.  This opened an inviting field for conjecture.

"That won't make no manner of difference.  Why?  Because it's a
powerful drawback fo' a man to know he's in the wrong, just as
it's a heap in yo' favor to know you're in the right."

"My father's got a tickler; I seen it often," vouchsafed Henry.

"It's a foot long, with a buck horn handle.  Gee whiz!--he keeps
it keen; but he never uses it on no humans," said Keppel.

"Of course he don't; he's a high-spirited, right-actin'
gentleman.  But what do you reckon he'd feel obliged to do if a
body stole one of you-all?" inquired Yancy.

"Whoop!  He'd carve 'em deep!" cried Keppel.

At this moment Mrs.  Cavendish appeared, bringing Yancy's
breakfast.  In her wake came Connie with the baby, and the three
little brothers who were to be accorded the cherished privilege
of seeing the poor gentleman eat.

"You got a nice little family, ma'am," said Yancy.

"Well, I reckon nobody complains mo' about their children than
me, but I reckon nobody gets mo' comfort out of their children
either.  I hope you-all are a-goin' to be able to eat, you ain't
had much nourishment.  La, does yo' shoulder pain you like that?
Want I should feed you?"

"I am sorry, ma'am, but I reckon you'll have to," Yancy spoke
regretfully.  "I expect I been a passel of bother to you."

"No, you ain't.  Here's Dick to see how you make out with the
chicken," Polly added, as Cavendish presented himself at the
opening that did duty as a door.

"This looks like bein' alive, stranger," he commented genially.
He surveyed the group of which Yancy was the center.  "If them
children gets too numerous, just throw 'em out."

"You-all ain't told me yo' name yet?" said Yancy.

"It's Cavendish.  Richard Keppel Cavendish, to get it all off my
mind at a mouthful.  And this lady's Mrs.  Cavendish."

"My name's Yancy--Bob Yancy."

Mr. Cavendish exchanged glances with Mrs.  Cavendish.  By a nod
of her dimpled chin the lady seemed to urge some more extended
confidence on his part.  Chills and Fever seated himself at the
foot of Yancy's bed.

"Stranger, what I'm a-goin' to tell you, you'll take as bein'
said man to man," he began, with the impressive air of one who
had a secret of great moment to impart; and Yancy hastened to
assure him that whatever passed between them, his lips should be
sealed.  "It ain't really that, but I don't wish to appear proud
afo' no man's, eyes.  First, I want to ask you, did you ever hear
tell of titles?"

Polly and the children hung breathlessly on Mr. Yancy's reply.

"I certainly have," he rejoined promptly.  "Back in No'th
Carolina we went by the chimneys."

"Chimneys?  What's chimneys got to do with titles, Mr. Yancy?"
asked Polly, while her husband appeared profoundly mystified.

"A whole lot, ma'am.  If a man had two chimneys to his house we
always called him Colonel, if there was four chimneys we called
him General."

"La!" cried Polly, smiling and showing a number of new dimples.
"Dick don't mean militia titles, Mr. Yancy."

"Them's the only ones I know anything of," confessed Yancy.

"Ever hear tell of lords?" inquired Chills and Fever, tilting his
head on one side.

"No."  And Yancy was quick to notice the look of disappointment
on the faces of his new friends.  He felt that for some reason,
which was by no means clear to him, he had lost caste.

"Are you ever heard of royalty?" and Cavendish fixed the
invalid's wandering glance.

"You mean kings?"

"I shore do."

Yancy regarded him reflectively and made a mighty mental effort.

"There's them Bible kings--" he ventured at length.

Mr. Cavendish shook his head.

"Them's sacred kings.  Are you familiar with any of the profane
kings, Mr. Yancy?"

"Well, taking them as they come, them Bible kings seemed to
average pretty profane."  Yancy was disposed to defend this
point.

"You must a heard of the kings of England.  Sho', wa'n't any of
yo' folks in the war agin' him?"

"I'd plumb forgot, why my daddy fit all through that war!"
exclaimed Yancy.  The Cavendishes were immensely relieved.  Polly
beamed on the invalid, and the children hunched closer.  Six
pairs of eager lips were trembling on the verge of speech.

"Now you-all keep still," said Cavendish.  "I want Mr. Yancy
should get the straight of this here!  The various orders of
royalty are kings, dukes, earls and lords.  Earls is the third
from the top of the heap, but lords ain't no slouch; it's a right
neat little title, and them that has it can turn round in most
any company."

"Dick had ought to know, fo' he's an earl himself," cried Polly
exultantly, unable to restrain herself any longer, while a mutter
came from the six little Cavendishes who had been wonderfully
silent for them.

"Sho', Richard Keppel Cavendish, Earl of Lambeth!  'Sho', that
was what he was!  Sho'!" and some transient feeling of awe
stamped itself upon their small faces as they viewed the long and
limber figure of their parent.

"Is that mo' than a Colonel?" Yancy risked the question
hesitatingly, but he felt that speech was expected from him.

"Yes," said the possessor of the title.

"Would a General lay it over you any?"

"No, sir, he wouldn't."

Yancy gazed respectfully but uncertainly at Chills and Fever.

"Then all I got to say is that I've traveled considerably, mostly
between Scratch Hill and Balaam's Cross Roads, meeting with all
kinds of folks; but I never seen an earl afo.  I take it they are
some scarce."

"They are.  I don't reckon there's another one but me in the
whole United States."

"Think of that!" gasped Yancy.

"We ain't nothin' fo' style, it bein' my opinion that where a
man's a born gentleman he's got a heap of reason fo' to be
grateful but none to brag," said Cavendish.

"Dick's kind of titles are like having red hair and squint eyes.
Once they get into a family they stick," explained Polly.

"I've noticed that, 'specially about squint eyes."  Yancy was
glad to plant his feet on familiar ground.

"These here titles go to the eldest son.  He begins by bein' a
viscount," continued Chills and Fever.  He wished Yancy to know
the full measure of their splendor.

"And their wives are ladies-ain't they, Dick?"

Cavendish nodded.

"Anybody with half an eye would know you was a lady, ma'am," said
Yancy.

"Kep here is an Honorable, same as a senator or a congressman,"
Cavendish went on.

"At his age, too!" commented Yancy.

"And my daughter's the Lady Constance," said Polly.

"Havin' such a mother she ain't no choice," observed Yancy, with
an air of gentle deference.

"Dick's got the family, Mr. Yancy.  My folks, the Rhetts, was
plain people."

"Some of 'em ain't so noticeably plain, either," said Yancy.

"Sho', you've a heap of good sense, Mr. Yancy!" and Cavendish
shook him warmly by the hand.  "The first time I ever seen her, I
says, I'll marry that lady if it takes an arm!  Well, it did most
of the time while I was co'tin' her."

"La!" cried Polly, blushing furiously.  "You shouldn't tell that,
Dick.  Mr. Yancy ain't interested."

"Yes, sir, I'd been hearin' about old man Rhett's Polly fo'
considerable of a spell," said Cavendish, looking at Polly
reflectively.  "He lived up at the head waters of the Elk River.
Fellows who had been to his place, when girls was mentioned would
sort of shake their heads sad-like and say, 'Yes, but you had
ought to see old man Rhett's Polly, all the rest is imitations!'
Seemed like they couldn't get her off their minds.  So I just
slung my kit to my back, shouldered my rifle, and hoofed it
up-stream.  I says, I'll see for myself where this here paragon
lays it all over the rest of her sect, but sho--the closter I
came to old man Rhett the mo' I heard of Polly!"

"Dick, how you do run on," cried Polly protestingly, but Chills
and Fever's knightly soul dwelt in its illusions, and the years
had not made stale his romance.  Also Polly was beaming on him
with a wealth of affection.

"I seen her fo' the first time as I was warmin' the trail within
a mile of old man Rhett's.  She was carrying a grist of co'n down
to the mill in her father's ox cart.  When I clapped eyes on her
I says, 'I'll marry that lady.  I'll make her the Countess of
Lambeth--she'll shore do fo' the peerage any day!'  That was yo'
mommy, sneezic's!"  Mr. Cavendish paused to address himself to
the baby whom Connie had relinquished to him.

"You bet I made time the rest of the way.  I says, 'She's sixteen
if she's a day, and all looks!'  I broke into old man Rhett's
clearin' on a keen run.  He was a settin' afo' his do' smokin'
his pipe and he glanced me over kind of weary-like and says,
'Howdy!'  It wa'n't much of a greetin' the way he said it either;
but I figured it was some better than bein' chased off the place.
So I stepped indo's, stood my rifle in a corner and hung up my
cap.  He was watchin' me and presently he drawled out, 'Make
yo'self perfectly at home, stranger.'

"I says, 'Squire'--he wa'n't a squire, but they called him that
--I says, 'Squire, my name's Cavendish.  Let's get acquainted
quick.  I'm here fo' to co'te yo' Polly.  I seen her on the road
a spell back and I couldn't be better suited.'

"He says, 'You had ought to be kivered up in salt, young man,
else yo'll spile in this climate.'

"I says, 'I'll keep in any climate.'

'He says, 'Polly ain't givin' her thoughts much to marryin',
she's busy keepin' house fo' her pore old father.'

"I says, 'I've come here special fo' to arouse them thoughts you
mention.  If I seem slow '

"He says, 'You don't.  If this is yo' idea of bein' slow, I'd
wish to avoid you when you was in a hurry.'

"I says, 'Put in yo' spare moments thinkin' up a suitable
blessin' fo' us.'

"He says, 'You'll have yo' hands full.  There's a number of young
fellows hereabouts that you don't lay it over none in p'int of
freshness or looks.'

"I says, 'Does she encourage any of 'em?'

"He says, 'Nope, she don't.  Ain't I been tellin' you she's
givin' her mind to keepin' house fo' her pore old father?'

"I says, 'If she don't encourage 'em none, she shore must
disencourage 'em.  I 'low she gets my help in that.'

"He says, 'They'll run you so far into the mountings, Mr.
Cavendish, you'll never be heard tell of again in these parts.'

"I says, 'I'll bust the heads offen these here galoots if they
try that!'

"He asks, grinnin', 'Have you arranged how yo' remains are to be
sent back to yo' folks?'

"I says, 'I'm an orphan man of title, a peer of England, and you
can leave me lay if it cones to that.'

"'Well,'.  he says, 'if them's yo' wishes, the buzzards as good
as got you."'  Cavendish lapsed into a momentary silence.  It was
plain that these were cherished memories.

"That's what I call co'tin!" remarked Mr. Yancy, with conviction.

The Earl of Lambeth resumed

"It was as bad as old man Rhett said it was.  Sundays his do'yard
looked like a militia muster.  They told it on him that he hadn't
cut a stick of wood since Polly was risin' twelve.  I reckon,
without exaggeration, I fit every unmarried man in that end of
the county, and two lookin' widowers from Nashville.  I served
notice on to them that I'd attend to that woodpile of old man
Rhett's fo' the future; that I was qualifying fo' to be his
son-in-law, and seekin' his indorsement as a provider.  I took
'em on one at a time as they happened along, and lambasted 'em
all over the place.  As fo' the Nashville widowers," said
Cavendish with a chuckle, and a nod to Polly, "I pretty nigh
drownded one of 'em in the Elk.  We met in mid-stream and fit it
out there; and the other quit the county.  That was fo'teen years
ago; but, mind you, I'd do it all over again to-morrow."

"But, Dick, you ain't telling Mr. Yancy nothin' about yo' title,"
expostulated Polly.

"I'd admire to hear mo' about that," said Yancy.

"I'm gettin' round to that.  It was my great grandfather come
over here from England.  His name was Richard Keppel Cavendish,
same as mine is.  He lived back yonder on the Carolina coast and
went to raisin' tobacco.  I've heard my grandfather tell how he'd
heard folks say his father was always hintin' in his licker that
he was a heap better than he seemed, and if people only knowed
the truth about him they'd respect him mo', and mebby treat him
better.  Well, sir, he married and riz a family; there was my
grandfather and a passel of girls--and that crop of children was
the only decent crop he ever riz.  I've heard my grandfather tell
how, when he got old enough to notice such things, he seen that
his father had the look of a man with something mysterious
hangin' over him, but he couldn't make it out what it was, though
he gave it a heap of study.  He seen, too, that let him get a
taste of licker and he'd begin to throw out them hints, how if
folks only knowed the truth they'd be just naturally fallin' over
themselves fo' to do him a favor, instead of pickin' on him and
tryin' to down him.

"My grandfather said he never knowed a man, either, with the same
aversion agin labor as his father had.  Folks put it down to
laziness, but they misjudged him, as come out later, yet he never
let on.  He just went around sorrowful-like, and when there was a
piece of work fo' him to do he'd spend a heap of time studyin'
it, or mebby he'd just set and look at it until he was ready fo'
to give it up.  Appeared like he couldn't bring himself down to
toil.

"Then one day he got his hands on a paper that had come acrost in
a ship from England.  He was readin' it, settin' in the shade; my
grandfather said he always noticed he was partial to the shade,
and his wife was pesterin' of him fo' to go and plow out his
truck-patch, when, all at once, he lit on something in the paper,
and he started up and let out a yell like he'd been shot.  'By
gum, I'm the Earl of Lambeth!' he says, and took out to the
nearest tavern and got b'ilin' full.  Afterward he showed 'em the
paper and they seen with their own eyes where Richard Keppel
Cavendish, Earl of Lambeth, had died in London.  My great
grandfather told 'em that was his uncle; that when he left home
there was several cousins--which was printed in the paper, too
--but they'd up and died, so the title naturally come to him.

"Well, sir, that was the first the family ever knowed of it, and
then they seen what it was he'd meant when he throwed out them
hints about bein' a heap better than he seemed.  He said perhaps
he wouldn't never have told, only he couldn't bear to be
misjudged like he'd always been.

"He never done a lick of work after that.  He said he couldn't
bring himself down to it; that it was demeanin' fo' a person of
title fo' to labor with his hands like a nigger or a common white
man.  He said he'd leave it to his family to see he didn't come
to want, it didn't so much matter about them; and he lived true
to his principles to the day of his death, and never riz his hand
except to feed himself."

Cavendish paused.  Yancy was feeling that in his own person he
had experienced some of the best symptoms of a title.

"Then what?" he asked.

"Well, sir, he lived along like that, never complainin', my
grandfather said, but mighty sweet and gentlelike as long as
there was plenty to eat in the house.  He lived to be nigh
eighty, and when he seen he was goin' to die he called my
grandfather to him and says, 'She's yours, Dick,'--meanin' the
title--and then he says, 'There's one thing I've kep' from you.
You've been a viscount ever since I come into the title, and then
he went on and explained what he wanted cut on his tombstone, and
had my grandfather write it out, so there couldn't be any
mistake.  When he'd passed away, my grandfather took the title.
He said it made him feel mighty solemn and grand-like, and it
come over him all at once why it was his father hadn't no heart
fo' work."

"Does it always take 'em that way?" inquired Yancy.

"It takes the Earls of Lambeth that way.  I reckon you might say
it was hereditary with 'em.  Where was I at?"

"Your grandpap, the second earl," prompted Polly.

"Oh, yes--well, he 'lowed he'd emigrate back to England, but
while he was studying how he could do this, along come the war.
He said he couldn't afford to fight agin his king, so he pulled
out and crossed the mountings to avoid being drug into the army.
He said he couldn't let it get around that the Earls of Lambeth
was shootin' English soldiers."

"Of course he couldn't," agreed Yancy.

"It's been my dream to take Polly and the children and go back to
England and see the king about my title.  I 'low he'd be some
surprised to see us.  I'd like to tell him, too, what the Earls
of Lambeth done fo' him--that they was always loyal, and thought
a heap better of him than their neighbors done, and mebby some
better than he deserved.  Don't you reckon that not hearin' from
us, he's got the notion the Cavendishes has petered out?"

Mr. Yancy considered this likely, and said so.

"You might send him writin' in a letter," he suggested.

The furious shrieking of a steam-packet's whistle broke in upon
them.

"It's another of them hawgs, wantin' all the river!" said Mr.
Cavendish, and fled in haste to the steering oar.

During all the long days that followed, Mr. Yancy was forced to
own that these titled friends of his were, despite their social
position, uncommon white in their treatment of him.  The Earl of
Lambeth consorted with him in that fine spirit that recognizes
the essential brotherhood of man, while his Lady Countess was, as
Yancy observed, on the whole, a person of simple and uncorrupted
tastes.  She habitually went barefoot, both as a matter of
comfort and economy, and she smoked her cob-pipe as did those
other ladies of Lincoln County who had married into far less
exalted stations than her own.  He put these simple survivals
down to her native goodness of heart, which would not allow of
her succumbing to mere pride and vainglory, for he no more
doubted their narrative than they, doubted it themselves, which
was not at all.



CHAPTER XIX

THE JUDGE SEES A GHOST


Charley Norton's good offices did not end when he had furnished
judge Price with a house, for Betty required of him that he
should supply that gentleman with legal business as well.  When
she pointed out the necessity of this, Norton demurred.  He had
no very urgent need of a lawyer, and had the need existed, Slocum
Price would not have been his choice.  Betty knit her brows.

"He must have a chance; perhaps if people knew you employed him
it would give them confidence--you must realize this, Charley; it
isn't enough that he has a house--he can't wear it nor eat it!"

"And fortunately he can't drink it, either.  I don't want to
discourage you, but his looks are all against him, Betty.  If you
take too great an interest in his concerns I am afraid you are
going to have him permanently on your hands."

"Haven't you some little scrap of business that really doesn't
matter much, Charley?  You might try him--just to please me--"
she persisted coaxingly.

"Well, there's land I'm buying--I suppose I could get him to look
up the title, I know it's all right anyhow," said Norton, after a
pause.

Thus it happened that judge Price, before he had been three days
in Raleigh, received a civil note from Mr. Norton asking him to
search the title to a certain timber tract held by one Joseph
Quaid; a communication the effect of which was out of all
proportion to the size of the fee involved.  The judge,
powerfully excited, told Mahaffy he was being understood and
appreciated; that the tide of prosperity was clearly setting his
way; that intelligent foresight, not chance, had determined him
when he selected Raleigh instead of Memphis.  Thereafter he spoke
of Charley Norton only as "My client," and exalted him for his
breeding, wealth and position, refusing to admit that any man in
the county was held in quite the same esteem.  All of which moved
Mahaffy to flashes of grim sarcasm.

The immediate result of Norton's communication had been to send
the judge up the street to the courthouse.  He would show his
client that he could be punctual and painstaking.  He should have
his abstract of title without delay; moreover, he had in mind a
scholarly effort entirely worthy of himself.  The dull facts
should be illuminated with an occasional striking phrase.  He
considered that it would doubtless be of interest to Mr. Norton,
in this connection, to know something, too, of mediaeval land
tenure, ancient Roman and modern English.  He proposed artfully
to pander to his client's literary tastes--assuming that he had
such tastes.  But above all, this abstract must be entirely
explanatory of himself, since its final purpose was to remove
whatever doubts his mere appearance might have bred in Mr.
Norton's mind.

"If my pocket could just be brought to stand the strain of new
clothes before the next sitting of court, I might reasonably hope
for a share of the pickings," thought the judge.

Entering the court-house, he found himself in a narrow hall.  On
his right was the jury-room, and on his left the county clerk's
office, stuffy little holes, each lighted by a single window.
Beyond, and occupying the full width of the building, was the
court-room, with its hard, wooden benches and its staring white
walls.  Advancing to the door, which stood open, the judge
surveyed the room with the greatest possible satisfaction.  He
could fancy it echoing to that eloquence of which he felt himself
to be the master.  He would show the world, yet, what was in him,
and especially Solomon Mahaffy, who clearly had not taken his
measure.

Turning away from the agreeable picture his mind had conjured up,
he entered the county clerk's office.  He was already known to
this official, whose name was Saul, and he now greeted him with a
pleasant air of patronage.  Mr. Saul removed his feet from the
top of his desk and motioned his visitor to a chair; at the same
time he hospitably thrust forward a square box filled with
sawdust.  It was plain he labored under the impression that the
judge's call was of an unprofessional character.

"A little matter of business brings me here, sir," began the
judge, with a swelling chest and mellow accents.  "No, sir, I'll
not be seated--another time I'll share your leisure if I may--now
I am in some haste to look up a title for my client, Mr. Norton."

"What Norton?" asked Mr. Saul, when he had somewhat recovered
from the effect of this announcement.

"Mr. Charles Norton, of Thicket Point," said the judge.

"I reckon you mean that timber tract of old Joe Quaid's."  Mr.
Saul viewed the judge's ruinous exterior with a glance of
respectful awe, for clearly a man who could triumph over such a
handicap must possess uncommon merit of some sort.  "So you're
looking after Charley Norton's business for him, are  you?" he
added.

"He's a client of mine.  We have mutual friends, sir--I refer to
Miss Malroy," the judge vouchsafed to explain.

"You're naming our best people, sir, when you name the Malroys
and the Nortons; they are pretty much in a class by themselves,"
said Mr. Saul, whose awe of the judge was momentarily increasing.

"I don't underestimate the value of a social endorsement, sir,
but I've never stood on that," observed the judge.  "I've come
amongst you unheralded, but I expect you to find me out.  Now,
sir, if you'll be good enough, I'll glance at the record."

Mr. Saul scrambled up out of the depths of his chair and exerted
himself in the judge's behalf.

"This is what you want, sir.  Better take the ledger to the
window, the light in here ain't much."  He drew forward a chair
as he spoke, and the judge, seating himself, began to polish his
spectacles with great deliberation.  He felt that he had reached
a crisis in his career, and was disposed to linger over the hope
that was springing up in his heart.

"How does the docket for the next term of court stand?" he
inquired.

"Pretty fair, sir," said Mr. Saul.

"Any litigation of unusual interest in prospect?" The judge was
fitting his glasses to the generous arch of his nose, a feature
which nicely indexed its owner's habits.

"No, sir, just the ordinary run of cases."

"I hoped to hear you say different."

"You've set on the bench, sir?" suggested Mr. Saul.

"In one of the eastern counties, but my inclination has never
been toward the judiciary.  My temperament, sir, is distinctly
aggressive--and each one according to the gifts with which God
has been graciously pleased to endow him!  I am frank to say,
however, that my decisions have received their meed of praise
from men thoroughly competent to speak on such matters."  He was
turning the leaves of the ledger as he spoke.  Suddenly the
movement of his hand was arrested.

"Found it?" asked Mr. Saul.  But the judge gave him no answer;
absorbed and aloof he was staring down at the open pages of the
book.  "Found the entry?" repeated Mr. Saul.

"Eh?--what's that?  No--" he appeared to hesitate.  "Who is this
man Quintard?"  The question cost him an effort, that was plain.

"He's the owner of a hundred-thousand-acre tract in this and
abutting counties," said Mr. Saul.

The judge continued to stare down at the page.

"Is he a resident of the county?" he asked, at length.

"No, he lives back yonder in North Carolina."

"A hundred thousand acres!" the judge muttered thoughtfully.

"There or thereabouts--yes, sir."

"Who has charge of the land?"

"Colonel Fentress; he was old General Ware's law partner.  I've
heard it was the general who got this man Quintard to make the
investment, but that was before my time in these parts."

The judge lapsed into a heavy, brooding silence.

A step sounded in the narrow hall.  An instant later the door was
pushed open, and grateful for any interruption that would serve
to take Mr. Saul's attention from himself, the judge abruptly
turned his back on the clerk and began to examine the record
before him.  Engrossed in this, he was at first scarcely aware of
the conversation that was being carried on within a few feet of
him.  Insensibly, however, the cold, level tones of the voice
that was addressing itself to Mr. Saul quickened the beat of his
pulse, the throb of his heart, and struck back through the years
to a day from which he reckoned time.  The heavy, calf-bound
volume in his hand shook like a leaf in a gale.  He turned
slowly, as if in dread of what he might see.

What he saw was a man verging on sixty, lean and dark, with thin,
shaven cheeks of a bluish cast above the jaw, and a strongly
aquiline profile.  Long, black locks swept the collar of his
coat, while his tall, spare figure was habited in sleek
broadcloth and spotless linen.  For a moment the judge seemed to
struggle with doubt and uncertainty, then his face went a ghastly
white and the book slipped from his nerveless fingers to the
window ledge.

The stranger, his business concluded, swung about on his heel and
quitted the office.  The judge, his eyes starting from their
sockets, stared after him; the very breath died on his lips;
speechless and motionless, he was still seeing that tall, spare
figure as it had passed before him, but his memories stripped a
weight of thirty years from those thin shoulders.  At last,
heavy-eyed and somber, he glanced about him.  Mr. Saul, bending
above his desk, was making an entry in one of his ledgers.  The
judge shuffled to his side.

"Who was that man?" he asked thickly, resting a shaking hand on
the clerk's arm.

"That?--Oh, that was Colonel Fentress I was just telling you
about."  He looked up from his writing.  "Hello!  You look like
you'd seen a ghost!"

"It's the heat in here--I reckon--" said the judge, and began to
mop his face.

"Ever seen the colonel before?" asked Mr. Saul curiously.

"Who is he?"

"Well, sir, he's one of our leading planters, and a mighty fine
lawyer."

"Has he always lived here?"

"No, he came into the county about ten years ago, and bought a
place called The Oaks, over toward the river."

"Has he--has he a family?"  The judge appeared to be having
difficulty with his speech.

"Not that anybody knows of.  Some say he's a widower, others
again say he's an old bachelor; but he don't say nothing, for the
colonel is as close as wax about his own affairs.  So it's pure
conjecture, sir."  There was a brief silence.  "The county has
its conundrums, and the colonel's one of them," resumed Mr. Saul.

"Yes?" said the judge.

"The colonel's got his friends, to be sure, but he don't mix much
with the real quality."

"Why not?" asked the judge.

"He's apparently as high-toned a gentleman as you'd meet with
anywhere; polished, sir, so smooth your fingers would slip if you
tried to take hold of him, but it's been commented on that when a
horsethief or counterfeiter gets into trouble the colonel's
always first choice for counsel."

"Get's 'em off, does he?"  The judge spoke somewhat grimly.

"Mighty nigh always.  But then he has most astonishing luck in
the matter of witnesses.  That's been commented on too."  The
judge nodded comprehendingly.  "I reckon you'd call Tom Ware, out
at Belle Plain, one of Fentress' closest friends.  He's another
of your conundrums.  I wouldn't advise you to be too curious
about the colonel."

"Why not?" The judge was frowning now.

"It will make you unpopular with a certain class.  Those of us
who've been here long enough have learned that there are some of
these conundrums we'd best not ask an answer for."

The judge pondered this.

"Do you mean to tell me, sir, that freedom of speech is not
allowed?" he demanded, with some show of heat.

"Perfect freedom, if you pick and choose your topic," responded
Mr. Saul.

"Humph!" ejaculated the judge.

"Now you might talk to me with all the freedom you like, but I'd
recommend you were cautious with strangers.  There have been
those who've talked freely that have been advised to keep still
or harm would come of it."

"And did harm come of it?" asked the judge.

"They always kept still."

"What do you mean by talking freely?"

"Like asking how so and so got the money to buy his last batch of
niggers," explained Mr. Saul rather vaguely.

"And Colonel Fentress is one of those about whose affairs it is
best not to show too much curiosity?"

"He is, decidedly.  His friends appear to set a heap by him.
Another of his particular intimates is a gentleman by the name of
Murrell."

The judge nodded.

"I've met him," he said briefly.  "Does he belong hereabouts?"

"No, hardly; he seems to hold a sort of roving commission.  His
home is, I believe, near Denmark, in Madison County."

"What's his antecedents?"

"He's as common a white man as ever came out of the hills, but he
appears to stand well with Colonel Fentress."

"Colonel Fentress!" The judge spat in sheer disgust.

"You don't appear to fancy the colonel--" said Mr. Saul.

"I don't fancy wearing a gag--and damned if I do!" cried the
judge.

"Oh, it ain't that exactly; it's just minding your own business.
I reckon you'll find there's lot's to be said in favor of goin'
ca'mly on attending strictly to your own affairs, sir," concluded
Mr. Saul.

Acting on a sudden impulse, the judge turned to the door.  The
business and the hope that had brought him there were forgotten.
He muttered something about returning later, and hastily quitted
the office.

"Well, I reckon he's a conundrum too!" reflected Mr. Saul, as the
door swung shut.

In the hall the judge's steps dragged and his head was bowed.  He
was busy with his memories, memories that spanned the desolate
waste of years in which he had walked from shame to shame, each
blacker than the last.  Then passion shook him.

"Damn him--may God-for ever damn him 1" he cried under his
breath, in a fierce whisper.
A burning mist before his eyes, he shuffled down the hall, down
the steps, and into the shaded, trampled space that was known as
the court-house yard.  Here he paused irresolutely.  Across the
way was the gun-maker's shop, the weather-beaten sign came within
range of his vision, and the dingy white letters on their black
ground spelled themselves out.  The words seemed to carry some
message, for the judge, with his eyes fixed on the sign as on
some beacon of hope, plunged across the dusty road and entered
the shop.


At supper that night it was plain to both Mr. Mahaffy and
Hannibal that the judge was in a state of mind best described as
beatific.  The tenderest consideration, the gentlest courtesy
flowed from him as from an unfailing spring; not that he was
ever, even in his darkest hours, socially remiss, but there was
now a special magnificence to his manner that bred suspicion in
Mahaffy's soul.  When he noted that the judge's shoes were
extremely dusty, this suspicion shaped itself definitely.  He was
convinced that on the strength of his prospective fee the judge
had gone to Belle Plain, for what purpose Mr. Mahaffy knew only
too well.

"It took you some time to get up that abstract, didn't it,
Price?" he presently said, with artful indirection.

"I shall go on with that in the morning, Solomon; my interest was
dissipated this evening," rejoined the judge.

"Looks as though you had devoted a good part of your time to
pedestrianism," suggested Mahaffy.

"Quite right, so I did, Solomon."

"Were you at Belle Plain?" demanded Mahaffy harshly and with a
black scowl.  The judge had agreed to keep away from Belle Plain.

"No, Solomon, you forget our pact."

"Well, I am glad you remembered it."

They finished supper, the dishes were cleared away and the
candles lighted, when the judge produced a mysterious
leather-covered case.  This he placed upon the table and opened,
and Mahaffy and Hannibal, who had drawn near, saw with much
astonishment that it held a handsome pair of dueling pistols,
together with all their necessary paraphernalia.

"Where did you get 'em, Judge?--Oh, ain't they beautiful!" cried
Hannibal, circling about the table in his excitement.

"My dear lad, they were purchased only a few hours ago," said the
judge quietly, as he began to load them.

"For Heaven's sake, Price, do be careful!" warned Mahaffy, who
had a horror of pistols that extended to no other species of
firearm.

"I shall observe all proper caution, Solomon," the judge assured
him sweetly.

"Judge, may I try 'em some day?" asked Hannibal.

"Yes, my boy, that's part of a gentleman's education."

"Well, look out you don't shoot him before his education begins,"
snapped Mahaffy.

"Where did you buy 'em?" Hannibal was dodging about the judge,
the better to follow the operation of loading.

"At the gunsmith's, dear lad.  It occurred to me that we required
small arms.  If you'll stand quietly at my elbow and not hop
around, you'll relieve Mr. Mahaffy's apprehension."

"I declare, Price, you need a guardian, if ever a man did!" cried
Mahaffy, in a tone of utter exasperation.

"Why, Solomon?"

"Why?--they are absolutely useless.  It was a waste of good money
that you'll be sorry about."

"Bless you, Solomon--they ain't paid for!" said the judge, with a
thick little chuckle.

"I didn't do you the injustice to suppose they were; but you
haven't any head for business; aren't you just that much nearer
the time when not a soul here will trust you?  That's just like
you, to plunge ahead and use up your credit on gimcracks!"
Mahaffy prided himself on his acquaintance with the basic
principles of economics.

"I can sell 'em again," observed the judge placidly.

"For less than half what they are worth!--I never knew so poor a
manager!"

The pistols were soon loaded, and the judge turned to Hannibal.
"I regretted that you were not with me out at Boggs' this
evening, Hannibal; you would have enjoyed seeing me try these
weapons there.  Now carry a candle into the kitchen and place it
on the table."

Mahaffy laughed contemptuously, but was relieved to know the
purpose to which the judge had devoted the afternoon.

"What aspersion is rankling for utterance within you now,
Solomon?" said the judge tolerantly.  Assuming a position that
gave him an unobstructed view across the two rooms, he raised the
pistol in his hand and discharged it in that brief instant when
he caught the candle's flame between the notches of the sight,
but he failed to snuff the candle, and a look of bitter
disappointment passed over his face.  He picked up the other
pistol.  "This time--" he muttered under his breath.

"Try blowing it out try the snuffers!" jeered Mahaffy.

"This time!" repeated the judge, unheeding him, and as the
pistol-shot rang out the light vanished.  "By Heaven, I did it!"
roared the judge, giving way to an uncontrollable burst of
feeling.  "I did it--and I can 'do it again--light the candle,
Hannibal!"

He began to load the pistols afresh with feverish haste, and
Mahaffy, staring at him in amazement, saw that of a sudden the
sweat was dripping from him.  But the judge's excitement
prevented his attempting another shot at once, twice his hand was
raised, twice it was lowered, the third time the pistol cracked
and the candle's flame was blown level, fluttered for a brief
instant, and went out.

"Did I nick the tallow, Hannibal?" The judge spoke anxiously.

"Yes, sir, both shots."

"We must remedy that," said the judge.  Then, as rapidly as he
could load and fire, bullet after bullet was sent fairly through
the flame, extinguishing it each time.  Mahaffy was too
astonished at this display of skill even to comment, while
Hannibal's delight knew no bounds.  "That will do!" said the
judge at last.  He glanced down at the pistol in his hand.  "This
is certainly a gentleman's weapon!" he murmured.




CHAPTER XX

THE WARNING


Norton had ridden down to Belle Plain ostensibly to view certain
of those improvements that went so far toward embittering Tom
Ware's existence.  Gossip had it that he kept the road hot
between the two places, and this was an added strain on the
planter.  But Norton did not go to Belle Plain to see Mr. Ware.
If that gentleman had been the sole attraction, he would have
made just one visit suffice; had it preceded his own, he would
have attended Tom's funeral, and considered that he had done a
very decent thing.  On the present occasion he and Betty were
strolling about the rehabilitated grounds, and Norton was
exhibiting that interest and enthusiasm which Betty always
expected of him.

"You are certainly making the old place look up!" he said, as
they passed out upon the terrace.  He had noted casually when he
rode up the lane half an hour before that a horse was tied near
Ware's office; a man now issued from the building and swung
himself into the saddle.  Norton turned abruptly to Betty.
"What's that fellow doing here?" he asked.

"I suppose he comes to see Tom," said Betty.

"Is he here often?"

"Every day or so." Betty's tone was indifferent.  For reasons
which had seemed good and sufficient she had never discussed
Captain Murrell with Norton.

"Every day or so?" repeated Norton.  "But you don't see him,
Betty?"

"No, of course I don't."

"Tom has no business allowing that fellow around; if he don't
know this some one ought to tell him!"  Norton was working
himself up into a fine rage.

"He doesn't bother me, Charley, if that's what you're thinking
of.  Let's talk of something else."

"He'd better not, or I'll make it a quarrel with him."

"Oh, you mustn't think of that, Charley, indeed you mustn't!"
cried Betty in some alarm, for young Mr. Norton was both
impulsive and hot-headed.

"Well, just how often is Murrell here?" he demanded.

"I told you--every few days.  He and Tom seem wonderfully
congenial."

They were silent for a moment.

"Tom always sees him in his office," explained Betty.  She might
have made her explanation fuller on this point had she cared to
do so.

"That's the first decent thing I ever heard of Tom!" said Norton
with warmth.  "But he ought to kick him off the place the first
chance he gets."

"Do you think Belle Plain is ever going to look as it did,
Charley?--as we remember it when we were children?" asked Betty,
giving a new direction to the conversation.

"Why, of course it is, dear, you are doing wonders!"

"I've really been ashamed of the place, the way it looked--and I
can't understand Tom!"

"Don't try to," advised Norton.  "Look here, Betty, do you
remember it was right on this terrace I met you for the first
time?  My mother brought me down, and I arrived with a strong
prejudice against you, young lady, because of the clothes I'd
been put into--they were fine but oppressive."

"How long did the prejudice last, Charley?"

"It didn't last at a11, I thought you altogether the nicest
little girl I'd ever seen--just what I think now, I wish you
could care for me, Betty, just a little; just enough to marry
me."

"But, Charley, I do care for you!  I'm very, very fond of you."

"Well, don't make such a merit of it," he said, and they both
laughed.  "I'm at an awful disadvantage, Betty, from having
proposed so often.  That gives it a humorous touch which doesn't
properly reflect the state of my feeling at all--and you hear me
without the least emotion; so long as I keep my distance we might
just as well be discussing the weather!"

"You are very good about that--"

"Keeping my distance, you mean?--Betty, if you knew how much
resolution that calls for!  I wonder if that isn't my mistake--"
And Norton came a step nearer and took her in his arms.

With her hands on his shoulders Betty pushed him back, while the
rich color came into her cheeks.  She was remembering Bruce
Carrington, who had not kept his distance.

"Please, Charley," she said half angrily, "I do like you
tremendously, but I simply can't bear you when you act like this
--let me got"

"Betty, I despair of you ever caring for me!" and as Norton
turned abruptly away he saw Tom Ware appear from about a corner
of the house.  "Oh, hang it, there's Tom!"

"You are very nice, anyway, Charley--" said Betty hurriedly,
fortified by the planter's approach.

Ware stalked toward them.  Having dined with Betty as recently as
the day before, he contented himself with a nod in her direction.
His greeting to Norton was a more ambitious undertaking; he said
he was pleased to see him; but in so far as facial expression
might have indorsed the statement this pleasure was well
disguised, it did not get into his features.  Pausing on the
terrace beside them, he indulged in certain observations on the
state of the crops and the weather.

"You've lost a couple of niggers, I hear?" he added with an
oblique glance.

"Yes," said Norton.

"Got on the track of them yet?" Norton shook his head.  "I
understand you've a new overseer?" continued Ware, with another
oblique glance.

"Then you understand wrong--Carrington's my guest," said Norton.
"He's talking of putting in a crop for himself next season, so
he's willing to help me make mine."

Betty turned quickly at the mention of Carrington's name.  She
had known that he was still at Thicket Point, and having heard
him spoken of as Norton's new overseer, had meant to ask Charley
if he were really filling that position.  An undefined sense of
relief came to her with Norton's reply to Tom's question.

"Going to turn farmer, is he?" asked Ware.

"So he says."  Feeling that the only subjects in which he had
ever known Ware to take the slightest interest, namely, crops and
slaves, were exhausted, Norton was extremely disappointed when
the planter manifested a disposition to play the host and
returned to the house with them, where his mere presence,
forbidding and sullen, was such a hardship that Norton shortly
took his leave.

"Well, hang Tom!" he said, as he rode away from Belle Plain.  "If
he thinks he can freeze me out there's a long siege ahead of
him!"

Issuing from the lane he turned his face in the direction of
home, but he did not urge his horse off a walk.  To leave Belle
Plain and Betty demanded always his utmost resolution.  His way
took him into the solemn twilight of untouched solitudes.  A cool
breath rippled through the depths of the woods and shaped its own
soft harmonies where it lifted the great branches that arched the
road.  He crossed strips of bottom land where the water stood in
still pools about the gnarled and moss-covered trunks of trees.
At intervals down some sluggish inlet he caught sight of the
yellow flood that was pouring past, or saw the Arkansas coast
beyond, with its mighty sweep of unbroken forest that rose out of
the river mists and blended with the gray distance that lay along
the horizon.

He was within two miles of Thicket Point when, passing about a
sudden turn in the road, he found himself confronted by three
men, and before he could gather up his reins which he held
loosely, one of them had seized his horse by the bit.  Norton was
unarmed, he had not even a riding-whip.  This being the case he
prepared to make the best of an unpleasant situation which he
felt he could not alter.  He ran his eye over the three men.

"I am sorry, gentlemen, but I reckon you have hold of the wrong
person--"

"Get down!" said one of the men briefly.

"I haven't any money, that's why I say you have hold of the wrong
person."

"We don't want your money."  The unexpectedness of this reply
somewhat disturbed Norton.

"What do you want, then?" he asked.

"We got a word to say to you."

"I can hear it in the saddle."

"Get down!" repeated the man, a surly, bull-necked fellow.
"Come--hurry up!" he added.

Norton hesitated for an instant, then swung himself out of the
saddle and stood in the road confronting the spokesman of the
party.

"Now, what do you wish to say to me?" he asked.

"Just this--you keep away from Belle Plain."

"You go to hell!" said Norton promptly.  The man glowered heavily
at hire through the gathering gloom of twilight.

"We want your word that you'll keep away from Belle Plain," he
said with sullen insistence.

"Well, you won't get it!" responded Norton with quiet decision.

"We won't?"

"Certainly you won't!"  Norton's eyes began to flash.  He
wondered if these were Tom Ware's emissaries.  He was both
quick-tempered and high-spirited.  Falling back a step, he sprang
forward and dealt the bullnecked man a savage blow.  The latter
grunted heavily but kept his feet.  In the same instant one of
the men who had never taken his eyes off Norton from the moment
he quitted the saddle, raised his fist and struck the young
planter in the back of the neck.

"You cur!" cried Norton, blind and dizzy, as he wheeled on him.

"Damn him--let him have it!" roared the bullnecked man.

Afterward Norton was able to remember that the three rushed on
him, that he was knocked down and kicked with merciless
brutality, then consciousness left him.  He lay very still in the
trampled dust of the road.  The bull-necked man regarded the limp
figure in grim silence for a moment.

"That'll do, he's had enough; we ain't to kill him this time," he
said.  An instant later he, with his two companions, had vanished
silently into the woods.

Norton's horse trotted down the road.  When it entered the yard
at Thicket Point half an hour later, Carrington was on the porch.

"Is that you, Norton?" he called, but there was no response, and
he saw the horse was riderless.  "Jeff!" he cried, summoning
Norton's servant from the house.

"What's the matter, Mas'r?" asked the negro, as he appeared in
the open door.

"Why, here's Mr. Norton's horse come home without him.  Do you
know where he went this afternoon?"

"I heard him say he reckoned he'd ride over to Belle Plain,
Mas'r," answered Jeff, grinning.  "I 'low the hoss done broke
away and come home by himself--he couldn't a-throwed Mas'r
Charley!"

"We'll make sure of that.  Get lanterns, and a couple of the
boys!" said Carrington.

It was mid-afternoon of the day following before Betty heard of
the attack on Charley Norton.  Tom brought the news, and she at
once ordered her horse saddled and was soon out on the river road
with a black groom trailing along through the dust in her wake.
Tom's version of the attack was that Charley, had been robbed and
all but murdered, and Betty never drew rein until she reached
Thicket Point.  As she galloped into the yard Bruce Carrington
came from the house.  At sight of the girl, with her wind-blown
halo of bright hair, he paused uncertainly.  By a gesture Betty
called him to her side.

"How is Mr. Norton?" she asked, extending her hand.

"The doctor says he'll be up and about inside of a week, anyhow,
Miss Malroy," said Carrington.

Betty gave a great sigh of relief.

"Then his hurts are not serious?"

"No," said Carrington, "they are not in any sense serious."

"May I see him?"

"He's pretty well bandaged up, so he looks worse off than he is.
If you'll wait on the porch, I'll tell him you are here," for
Betty had dismounted.

"If you please."

Carrington passed on into the house.  His face wore a look of
somber repression.  Of course it was all right for her to come
and see Norton--they were old, old friends.  He entered the room
where Norton lay.

"Miss Malroy is here," he said shortly.

"Betty?--bless her dear heart!" cried Charley rather weakly.
"Just toss my clothes into the closet and draw up a chair . . .
There-thank you, Bruce, that will do--let her come along in now."
And as Carrington quitted the room, Norton drew himself up on the
pillows and faced the door.  "This is worth several beatings,
Betty!" he exclaimed as she appeared on the threshold.  But much
cotton and many bandages lent him a rather fearful aspect, and
Betty paused with a little gasp of dismay.  "I'm lots better than
I look, I expect," said Norton.  "Couldn't you arrange to come a
little closer?" he added, laughing.

He bent to kiss the hand she gave him, but groaned with the
exertion.  Then he looked up into her face and saw her eyes
swimming with tears.

"What--tears?  Tears for me, Betty?" and he was much moved.

"It's a perfect outrage!  Who did it, Charley?" she asked.

"You sit down and I'll tell you all about it," said Norton
happily.

"Now tell me, Charley!" when she had seated her.  self.

"Who fetched you, Betty--old Tom?"

"No, I came alone."

"Well, it's mighty kind of you.  I'll be all right in a day or
so.  What did you hear?--that I'd been attacked and half-killed?"

"Yes--and robbed."

"There were three of the scoundrels.  They made me climb out of
the saddle, and as I was unarmed they did as they pleased with
me, which was to stamp me flat in the road--"

"Charley!"

"I might almost be inclined to think they were friends of yours,
Betty--or at least friends of friends of yours."

"What do you mean, Charley--friends of mine?"

"Well, you see they started in by stipulating that I should keep
away from Belle Plain, and the terms they proposed being on the
face of them preposterous, trouble quickly ensued--trouble for
me, you understand.  But never mind, dear, the next man who
undertakes to grab my horse by the bit won't get off quite so
easy."

"Why should any one care whether you come to Belle Plain or not?"

"I wonder if my amiable friend, Tom, could have arranged this
little affair; it's sort of like old Tom to move in the dark,
isn't it?"

"He couldn't--he wouldn't have done it, Charley!" but she looked
troubled, not too sure of this.

"Couldn't he?  Well, maybe he couldn't--but he's afraid you'll
marry me--and I'm only afraid you won't.  Betty, hasn't it ever
seemed worth your while to marry me just to give old Tom the
scare of his life?"

"Please, Charley--" she began.

"I'm in a dreadful state of mind when I think of you alone at
Belle Plain--I wish you could love me, Betty!"

"I do love you.  There is no one I care half so much for,
Charley."

Norton shook his bandaged head and heaved a prodigious sigh.

"That's merely saying you don't love any one."  He dropped back
rather wearily on his pillow.  "Does Tom know about this?" he
added.

"Yes."

"Was he able to show a proper amount of surprise?"

"He appeared really shocked, Charley."

"Well, then, it wasn't Tom.  He never shows much emotion, but
what he does show he usually feels, I've noticed.  I had rather
hoped it was Tom, I'd be glad to think that he was responsible;
for if it wasn't Tom, who was it?--who is it to whom it makes any
difference how often I see you?"

"I don't know, Charley;" but her voice was uncertain.

"Look here, Betty; for the hundredth time, won't you marry me?
I've loved you ever since I was old enough to know what love
meant.  You've been awfully sweet and patient with me, and I've
tried to respect your wishes and not speak of this except when it
seemed necessary--" he paused, and they both laughed a little,
but he looked weak and helpless with his bloodless face showing
between the gaps in the bandages that swathed him.  Perhaps it
was this sense of his helplessness that roused a feeling in Betty
that was new to her.

"You see, Charley, I fear--I am sure I don't love you the way I
should--to marry you--"

Charley, greatly excited, groaned and sat up, and groaned again.

"Oh, please, Charley-lie still!" she entreated.

"That's all right--and you needn't pull your hand away--you like
me better than any one else, you've told me so; well, don't you
see that's the beginning of really loving me?"

"But you wouldn't want to marry me at once?"

"Yes I would--right away--as soon as I am able to stir around!"
said Charley promptly.  "Don't you see the immediate necessity
there is of my being in a position to care for you, Betty?  I
wasn't served this trick for nothing."

"You must try not to worry, Charley."

"But I shall--I expect it's going to retard my recovery," said
the young man gloomily.  "I couldn't be worse off!  Here I am
flat on my back; I can't come to you or keep watch over you.  Let
me have some hope, dear--let me believe that you will marry me!"

She looked at him pityingly, and with a certain latent tenderness
in her mood.

"Do you really care so much for me, Charley?"

"I love you, Betty!--I want you to say you will marry me as soon
as I can stand by your side--you're not going?--I won't speak of
this again if it annoys you, dear!" for she had risen.

"I must, Charley--"

"Oh, don't--well, then, if you will go, I want Carrington to ride
back with you."

"But I brought George with me--"

"Yes, I know, but I want you to take Carrington--the Lord knows
what we are coming to here in West Tennessee; I must have word
that you reach home safe."

"Very well, then, I'll ask Mr. Carrington.  Good-by, Charley,
dear!"

Norton seemed to summon all his fortitude.

"You couldn't have done a kinder thing than come here, Betty; I
can't begin to tell you how grateful I am--and as for my loving
you--why, I'll just keep on doing that to the end.  I can see
myself a bent, old man still pestering you with my attentions,
and you a sweet, old lady with snow-white hair and pink cheeks,
still obdurate--still saying no!  Oh, Lord, isn't it awful!"  He
had lifted himself on his elbow, and now sank back on his pillow.

Betty paused irresolutely.

"Charley--"

"Yes, dear?"

"Can't you be happy without me?"

"No,"

"But you don't try to be!"

"No use in my making any such foolish effort, I'd be doomed to
failure."

"Good-by, Charley--I really must go--"

He looked up yearningly into her face, and yielding to a sudden
impulse, she stooped and kissed him on the forehead, then she
fled from the room.

"Oh, come back--Betty--" cried Norton, and his voice rose to a
wail of entreaty, but she was gone.  She had been quite as much
surprised by her act as Charley himself.

In the yard, Carrington was waiting for her.  Jeff had just
brought up Norton's horse, and though he made no display of
weapons, the Kentuckian had fully armed himself.

"I am going to ride to Belle Plain with you, Miss Malroy," he
said, as he lifted her into her saddle.

"Do you think it necessary?" she asked, but she did not look at
him.

"I hope not.  I'll keep a bit in advance," he added, as he
mounted his horse, and all Betty saw of him during their ride of
five miles was his broad back.  At the entrance to Belle Plain he
reined in his horse.

"I reckon it's all right, now," he said briefly.

"You will return at once to Mr. Norton?" she asked.  He nodded.
"And you will not leave him while he is helpless?"

"No, I'll not leave him," said Carrington, giving her a steady
glance.

"I am so glad, I--his friends will feel so much safer with you
there.  I will send over in the morning to learn how he passed
the night.  Good-by, Mr. Carrington."  And still refusing to meet
his eyes, she gave him her hand.

But Carrington did not quit the mouth of the lane until she had
crossed between the great fields of waving corn, and he had seen
her pass up the hillside beyond to the oak grove, where the four
massive chimneys of Belle Plain house showed their gray stone
copings among the foliage.  With this last glimpse of her he
turned away.



CHAPTER XXI

THICKET POINT


It WAS a point with Mr. Ware to see just as little as possible of
Betty.  He had no taste for what he called female chatter.  A
sane interest in the price of cotton or pork he considered the
only rational test of human intelligence, and Betty evinced
entire indifference where those great staples were concerned,
hence it was agreeable to him to have most of his meals served in
his office.

At first Betty had sought to adapt herself to his somewhat
peculiar scheme of life, but Tom had begged her not to regard
him, his movements from hour to hour were cloaked in uncertainty.
The man who had to overlook the labor of eighty or ninety field
hands was the worst sort of a slave himself; the niggers knew
when they could sit down to a meal; he never did.

But for all his avoidance of Betty, he in reality kept the
closest kind of a watch on her movements, and when he learned
that she had visited Charley Norton--George, the groom, was the
channel through which this information reached him--he was both
scandalized and disturbed.  He felt the situation demanded some
sort of a protest.

"Isn't it just hell the way a woman can worry you?" he lamented,
as he hurried up the path from the barns to the house.  He found
Betty at supper.

"I thought I'd have a cup of tea with you, Bet--what else have
you that's good?" he inquired genially, as he dropped into a
chair.

"That was nice of you; we don't see very much of each other, do
we, Tom?" said Betty pleasantly.

Mr. Ware twisted his features, on which middle age had rested an
untender hand, into a smile.

"When a man undertakes to manage a place like Belle Plain his
work's laid out for him, Betty, and an old fellow like me is
pretty apt to go one of two ways; either he takes to hard living
to keep himself in trim, or he pampers himself soft."

"But you aren't old, Tom!"

"I wish I were sure of seeing forty-five or even forty-eight
again--but I'm not," said Tom.

"But that isn't really old," objected Betty.

"Well, that's old enough, Bet, as you'll discover for yourself
one of these days."

"Mercy, Tom!" cried Betty.

Mr. Ware consumed a cup of tea in silence.

"You were over to see Norton, weren't you, Bet?  How did you find
him?" he asked abruptly.

"The doctor says he will soon be about again," answered Betty.

Tom stroked his chin and gazed at her reflectively.

"Betty, I wish you wouldn't go there again--that's a good girl!"
he said tactfully, and as he conceived it, affectionately, even,
paving the way for an exercise of whatever influence might be
his, a point on which he had no very clear idea.  Betty glanced
up quickly.

"Why, Tom, why shouldn't I go there?" she demanded.

"It might set people gossiping.  I reckon there's been pretty
near enough talk about you and Charley Norton.  A young girl
can't be too careful."  The planter's tone was conciliatory in
the extreme, he dared not risk a break by any open show of
authority.

"You needn't distress yourself, Tom.  I don't know that I shall
go there again," said Betty indifferently.

"I wouldn't if I were you."  He was charmed to find her so
reasonable.  "You know it isn't the thing for a young girl to
call on a man, you'll get yourself talked about in a way you
won't like--take my word for it!  If you want to be kind and
neighborly send one of the boys over to ask how he is--or bake a
cake with your own hands, but you keep away.  That's the idea!
--send him something to eat, something you've made yourself,
he'll appreciate that."

"I'm afraid he couldn't eat it if I did, Tom.  It's plain you
have no acquaintance with my cooking," said Betty, laughing.

"Did Norton say if he had any idea as to the identity of the men
who robbed him?" inquired Tom casually.

"Their object wasn't robbery," said Betty.

"No?" Ware's glance was uneasy.

"It seems that some one objects to his coming here, Tom--here to
Belle Plain to see me, I suppose," added Betty.  The planter
moved uncomfortably in his seat, refusing to meet her eyes.

"He shouldn't put out a yarn like that, Bet.  It isn't just the
thing for a gentleman to do--"

"He isn't putting it out, as you call it!  He has told no one, so
far as I know," said Betty quickly.  Mr. Ware fell into a
brooding silence.  "Of course, Charley wouldn't mention my name
in any such connection!" continued Betty.

"Who cares how often he comes here?  You don't, and I don't.
There's more back of this than Charley would want you to know.  I
reckon he's got his enemies; some one's had a grudge against him
and taken this way to settle it."  The planter's tone and manner
were charged with an unpleasant significance.

"I don't like your hints, Tom," said Betty.  Her heightened color
and the light in her eyes warned Tom that he had said enough.  In
some haste he finished his second cup of tea, a beverage which he
despised, and after a desultory remark or two, withdrew to his
office.

Betty went up-stairs to her own room, where she tried to finish a
letter she had begun the day before to Judith Ferris, but she was
in no mood for this.  She was owning to a sense of utter
depression and she had been at home less than a month.  Struggle
as she might against the feeling, it was borne in upon her that
she was wretchedly lonely.  She had seated herself by an open
window.  Now, resting her elbows on the ledge and with her chin
between her palms, she gazed off into the still night.  A mile
distant, on what was called "Shanty Hill," were the quarters of
the slaves.  The only lights she saw were there, the only sounds
she heard reached her across the intervening fields.  This was
her world.  A half-savage world with its uncouth army of black
dependents.

Tom's words still rankled.  Betty's temper flared up
belligerently as she recalled them.  He had evidently meant to
insinuate that Charley had lied outright when he told her the
motive for the attack, and he had followed it up by that covert
slur on his character.  Charley's devotion was the thing that
redeemed the dull monotony of existence.  She became suddenly
humble and tenderly penitent in her mood toward him; he loved her
much better than she deserved, and she suspected that her own
attitude had been habitually ungenerous and selfish.  She had
accepted all and yielded nothing.  She wondered gravely why it
was she did not love him; she was fond of him--she was very, very
fond of him; she wondered if after all, as he said, this were not
the beginning of love, the beginning of that deeper feeling which
she was not sure she understood, not sure she should ever
experience.

The thought of Charley's unwavering affection gave her a great
sense of peace; it was something to have inspired such devotion,
she could never be quite desperate while she had him.  She must
try to make him understand how possible an ideal friendship was
between them, how utterly impossible anything else.  She would
like to have seen Charley happily married to some nice girl--
"I wonder whom!" thought Betty, gazing deep into the night
through her drooping lashes.  She considered possible candidates
for the happiness she herself seemed so willing to forego, but
for one reason or another dismissed them all.  "I am not sure I
should care to see him marry," she confessed under her breath.
"It would spoil everything.  Men are much nicer than girls!"  And
Charley possessed distinguished merits as a man; he was not to be
too hastily disposed of, even for his own good.  She viewed him
in his various aspects, his character and disposition came under
her critical survey.  Nature had given the young planter a
handsome presence; wealth and position had come to him as
fortuitously.  The first of these was no great matter, perhaps;
Betty herself was sometimes burdened with a sense of possession,
but family was indispensable.

In theory, at least, she was a thoroughgoing little aristocrat.
A gentleman was always a gentleman.  There were exceptions, like
Tom, to be sure, but even Tom could have reached up and seized
the title had he coveted it.  She rarely forgot that she was the
mistress of Belle Plain and a Malroy.  Just wherein a Malroy
differed from the rest of the sons of men she had never paused to
consider, it sufficed that there was a hazy Malroy genealogy that
went back to tidewater Virginia, and then if one were not meanly
curious, and would skip a generation or two that could not be
accounted for in ways any Malroy would accept, one might
triumphantly follow the family to a red-roofed Sussex manor
house.  Altogether, it was a highly satisfactory genealogy and it
had Betty's entire faith.  The Nortons were every bit as good as
the Malroys, which was saying a great deal.  Their history was
quite as pretentious, quite as vague, and as hopelessly involved
in the mists of tradition.

Inexplicably enough, Betty found that her thoughts had wandered
to Carrington; which was very singular, as she had long since
formed a resolution not to think of him at all.  Yet she
remembered with satisfaction his manner that afternoon, it left
nothing to be desired.  He was probably understanding the
impassable gulf that separated them--education, experience,
feeling, everything that made up the substance of life but
deepened and widened this gulf.  He belonged to that shifting,
adventurous population which was far beneath the slave-holding
aristocracy, at least he more nearly belonged to this lower order
than to any other.  She fixed his status relentlessly as
something to be remembered when they should meet again.  At last,
with a little puckering of the brows and a firm contraction of
the lips, she dismissed the Kentuckian from her thoughts.


Betty complied with Tom's expressed wish, for she did not again
visit Thicket Point, but then she had not intended doing so.
However, the planter was greatly shocked by the discovery he
presently made that she was engaged in a vigorous correspondence
with Charley.

"I wish to blazes Murrell had told those fellows to kick the life
clean out of him while they were about it!" he commented
savagely, and fell to cursing impotently.  Brute force was a
factor to be introduced with caution into the affairs of life,
but if you were going to use it, his belief was that you should
use it to the limit.  You couldn't scare Norton, he was in love
with that pink-faced little fool.  Keep away?--he'd never think
of it, he'd stuff his pockets full of pistols and the next man
who stopped him on the road would better look out!  It made him
sick--the utter lack of sense manifested by Murrell, and his
talk, whenever they met, was still of the girl.  He couldn't see
anything so damn uncommon about that red-and-white chit.  She
wasn't worth running your neck into a halter for--no woman that
ever lived was worth that.

The correspondence, so far as Betty was responsible for it, bore
just on one point.  She wanted Charley to promise that for a
time, at least, he would not attempt to see her.  It seemed such
a needless risk to take, couldn't he be satisfied if he heard
from her every day?

Charley was regretful, but firm.  Just as soon as he could mount
his horse he would ride down to Belle Plain.  She was not to
distress herself on his account; he had been surprised, but this
should not happen again.

The calm manner in which he put aside her fears for his safety
exasperated Betty beyond measure.  She scolded him vigorously.
Charley accepted the scolding with humility, but his resolution
was unshaken; he did not propose to vacate the public roads at
any man's behest; that would be an unwise precedent to establish.

Betty replied that this was not a matter in which silly vanity
should enter, even if his life was of no value to himself it did
not follow that she held it lightly.  It required some eight
closely written pages for Charley to explain why existence would
be an unsupportable burden if he were denied the sight of her.

A week had intervened since the attack, and from Jeff, who always
brought Charley's letters, Betty learned more of Charley's
condition than Charley himself had seen fit to tell.  According
to Jeff his master was now able to get around pretty tolerable
well, though he had a powerful keen misery in his side.

"That was whar' they done kicked him most, Miss," he added.
Betty shuddered.

"How much longer will he be confined to the house?" she asked.

"I heard him 'low to Mas'r Carrington, Miss, as how he reckoned
he'd take a hossback ride to-morrow evenin' if the black and blue
was all come out of his features--"

"Oh--" gasped Betty.

"Seems like they was mighty careless whar' they put their feet,
don't it, Miss?" said Jeff.

It was this information she gleaned from Jeff that led Betty to
desperate lengths, to the making of what her cooler judgment told
her was a desperate bargain.

At Thicket Point Charley Norton, greatly excited, .hobbled into
the library in search of Carrington.  He found him reading by the
open window.

"Look here, Bruce!" he cried.  "It's settled; she's going to
marry me!"

The book slipped unheeded from Carrington's hand to the floor.
For a moment he sat motionless, then he slowly pulled himself up
out of his chair.

"What's that?" he asked a trifle thickly.

"Betty Malroy is going to marry me," said Norton.  Carrington
gazed at him in silence.

"It's settled, is it?" he asked at length.  He saw his own hopes
go down in miserable wreck; they had been utterly futile from the
first.  He had known all along that Norton loved her, the young
planter had made no secret of it.  He had been less frank.

"I swear you take it quietly enough," said Norton.

"Do I?"

"Can't you wish me joy?"

Carrington held out his hand.

"You are not going to take any risks now, you have too much to
live for," he said haltingly.

"No, I'm to keep away from Belle Plain," said Norton happily.
"She insists on that; she says she won't even see me if I come
there.  Everything is to be kept a secret; nothing's to be known
until we are actually married; it's her wish--"

"It's to be soon then?" Carrington asked, still haltingly.

"Very soon."

There was a brief silence.  Carrington, with face averted, looked
from the window.

"I am going to stay here as long as you need me," he presently
said.  "She--Miss Malroy asked me to, and then I am going back to
the river where I belong."

Norton turned on him quickly.

"You don't mean you've abandoned the notion of turning planter?"
he demanded in surprise.

"Well, yes.  What's the use of my trying my hand at a business I
don't know the first thing about?"

"I wouldn't be in too big a hurry to decide finally on that
point," urged Norton.

"It has decided itself," said Carrington quietly.

But Norton was conscious of a subtle change in their relation.
Carrington seemed a shade less frank than had been habitual with
him; all at once he had removed his private affairs from the
field of discussion.  Afterward, when Norton considered the
matter, he wondered if it were not that the Kentuckian felt
himself superfluous in this new situation that had grown up.

Charley Norton's features recovered their accustomed hue, but he
did not go near Belle Plain; with resolute fortitude he confined
himself to his own acres.  He was tolerably familiar with certain
engaging little peculiarities of Mr. Ware's; he knew, for
instance, that the latter was a gentleman of excessively regular
habits; once each fortnight, making an excuse of business, he
spent a day in Memphis, neither more nor less.  Norton told
himself with satisfaction that Tom was destined to return to the
surprise of his life from the next of these trips.  This
conviction was the one thing which sustained Charley for some ten
days.  They were altogether the longest ten days he had ever
known, and he had about reached the limit of his endurance when
Betty's groom arrived with a letter which threw him into a state
of ecstatic happiness.  The sober-minded Tom would devote the
morrow to Memphis and business.  This meant that he would leave
Belle Plain at sun-up and return after nightfall.

"You may not like Tom, but you can always count on him," said
Norton.  Then he ordered his horse and rode off in the direction
of Raleigh, but before leaving the house, he scribbled a line or
two to be handed Carrington, who had gone down to the nearest
river landing.

It was nightfall when the Kentuckian returned, Hearing his step
in the hall, Jeff came from the dining-room, where he was laying
the cloth for supper.

"Mas'r Charley has rid to Raleigh, Sah," said he; "but he done
lef' this fo' me to han' to yo"--extending the letter.

Carrington took it.  He guessed its contents.  Breaking the seal
he read the half dozen lines.

"To-morrow--" he muttered under his breath, and slowly tore the
sheet of note-paper into thin ribbons.  He turned to Jeff.  "Mr.
Charley won't be home until late," he said.

"Then I 'low yo' want yo' supper now, Sar?"  But Carrington shook
his head.

"No, you needn't bother, Jeff," he said, as he turned toward the
stairs.

Ten minutes later and he had got together his belongings and was
ready to quit Thicket Point.  He retraced his steps to the floor
below.  In the hall he paused and glanced about him.  He seemed
to feel her presence--and very near--to-morrow she would enter
there as Norton's wife.  With his pack under his arm he entered
the dining-room in search of Jeff.

"Tell your master I have gone to Memphis," he said briefly.

"Ain't yo' goin' to have a hoss, Mas'r Carrington?" demanded Jeff
in some surprise.  He had come to regard the Kentuckian as a
fixture.

"No," said Carrington.  "Good-by, Jeff," he added, turning away.

But when he left Thicket Point he did not take the Memphis road,
but the road to Belle Plain.  Walking rapidly, he reached the
entrance to the lane within the hour.  Here he paused
irresolutely, it was as if the force of his purpose had already
spent itself.  Then he tossed his pack into a fence corner and
kept on toward the house.




CHAPTER XXII

AT THE CHURCH DOOR


There was the patter of small feet beyond Betty's door, and
little Steve, who looked more like a nice fat black Cupid than
anything else, rapped softly; at the same time he effected to
squint through the keyhole.

"Supper served, Missy," he announced, then he turned no less than
seven handsprings in the upper hall and slid down the balustrade
to the floor below.  He was far from being a model house servant.

His descent was witnessed by the butler.  Now in his own youth
big Steve with as fair a field had cut similar capers, yet he was
impelled by his sense of duty to do for his grandson what his own
father had so often done for him, and in no perfunctory manner.
It was only the sound of Betty's door opening and closing that
stayed his hand as he was making choice of a soft and vulnerable
spot to which he should apply it.  Little Steve slid under the
outstretched arm that menaced him and fled to the dining-room.

Betty came slowly down the stairs.  Four hours since Jeff had
ridden away with the letter.  Already there had come to her
moments when, she would have given much could she have recalled
it, when she knew with dread certainty that whatever her feeling
for Charley, it was not love; moments when she realized that she
had been cruelly driven by circumstances into a situation that
offered no escape.

"Mas'r Tom he say he won't come in to supper, Missy; he 'low he's
powerful busy, gittin' ready to go to Memphis in the mo'ning,"
explained Steve, as he followed Betty into the dining-room.

His mistress nodded indifferently as she seated herself at the
table; she was glad to be alone just then; she was in no mood to
carry on the usual sluggish conversation with Tom; her own
thoughts absorbed hermore and more they became terrifying things
to her.

She ate her supper with big Steve standing behind her chair and
little Steve balancing himself first on one foot and then on the
other near the door.  Little Steve's head was on a level with the
chair rail and but for the rolling whites of his eyes he was no
more than a black shadow against the walnut wainscoting; he
formed the connecting link between the dining-room and the remote
kitchen.  Betty suspected that most of the platters journeyed
down the long corridor deftly perched on top of his woolly head.
She frequently detected him with greasy or sticky fingers, which
while it argued a serious breach of trust also served to indicate
his favorite dishes.  These two servitors were aware that their
mistress was laboring under some unusual stress of emotion.  In
its presence big Steven, who, with the slightest encouragement,
became a medium through which the odds and ends of plantation
gossip reached Betty's ears, held himself to silence; while
little Steve ceased to shift his weight from foot to foot, the
very dearth of speech fixed his attention.

The long French windows, their curtains drawn, stood open.  All
day a hot September sun had beaten upon the earth, but with the
fall of twilight a soft wind had sprung up and the candles in
their sconces flared at its touch.  It came out of wide solitudes
laden with the familiar night sounds.  It gave Betty a sense of
vast unused spaces, of Belle Plain clinging on the edge of an
engulfing wilderness, of her own loneliness.  She needed Charley
as much as he seemed to think he needed her.  The life she had
been living had become suddenly impossible of continuance; that
it had ever been possible was because of Charley; she knew this
now as she had never known it before.

Her thoughts dealt with the past.  In her one great grief, her
mother's death, it had been Charley who had sustained and
comforted her.  She was conscious of a choking sense of gratitude
as she recalled his patient tenderness at that time, the sympathy
and understanding he had shown; it was something never to be
forgotten.

Unrest presently sent her from the house.  She wandered down to
the terrace.  Before her was the wide sweep of the swampy
fore-shore, and beyond just beginning to silver in the moonlight,
the bend of the river growing out of the black void.  With her
eyes on the river and her hands clasped loosely she watched the
distant line of the Arkansas coast grow up against the sky; she
realized that the moon was rising on Betty Malroy for the last
time.

She liked Charley; she needed some one to take care of her and
her belongings, and he needed her.  It was best for them both
that she should marry him.  True she might have gone back to
Judith Ferris; that would have been one solution of her
difficulties.  Why hadn't she thought of doing this before?  Of
course, Charley would have followed her East.  Charley met the
ordinary duties and responsibilities of his position somewhat
recklessly; it was only where she was concerned that he became
patiently determined.

"I suppose the end would have been the same there as here,"
thought Betty.

A moment later she found herself wondering if Charley had told
Carrington yet; certainly the Kentuckian would not remain at
Thicket Point when he knew.  She was sure she wished him to leave
not Thicket Point merely, but the neighborhood.  She did not wish
to see him again--not see him again--not see him again - She
found herself repeating the words over and over; they shaped
themselves into a dreadful refrain.  A nameless terror of the
future swept in upon her.  She was cold and sick.  It was as
though an icy hand was laid upon her heart.  The words ran on in
endless repetition--not see him again--they held the very soul of
tragedy for her, yet she was roused to passionate protest.  She
must not think of him, he was nothing to her.  She was to be
married to another man, even now she was almost a wife--but
battle as she might the struggle went on.

There was the sound of a step on the path.  Betty turned,
supposing it to be Tom; but it was not Tom, it was Carrington
himself who stood before her, his face haggard and drawn.  She
uttered an involuntary exclamation and shrank away from him.
Without a word he stepped to her side and took her hands rather
roughly.

For a moment there was silence between them, Betty stared up into
his face with wide scared eyes, while he gazed down at her as if
he would fasten something on his mind that must never be
forgotten.  Suddenly he lifted her soft cold hands to his lips
and kissed them passionately again and again; then he held them
in his own against his cheek, his glance still fixed intently
upon her; it held something of bitterness and reproach, but now
she kept her eyes under their quivering lids from him.

"What am I to do without you?"--his voice was almost a whisper.
"What is this thing you have done?"  Betty's heart was beating
with dull sickening throbs, but she dared not trust herself to
answer him.  He took both her hands in one of his, and, slipping
the other under her chin, raised her face so that he could look
into her eyes; then he put his arm loosely about her, holding her
hands against his breast.  "If I could have had one moment out of
all the years for my own--only one.  I am glad you don't care,
dear; it hurts when you reach the end of something that has been
all your hope and filled all your days.  I have come to say
good-by, Betty; this is the last time I shall see you.  I am
going away."

All in an instant Betty pressed close to him, hiding her face in
his arm; she clung to him in a panic of pain and horror.  She
felt something stir within her that had never been there before,
as a storm of passionate longing swept through her.  Her words,
her promise to another man, became as nothing.  All her pride was
forgotten.  Without this man the days stretched away before her a
blank.  His arm drew her closer still, until she felt her heart
throb against his.

"Do you care?" he said, and seemed to wonder that she should.

"Bruce, Bruce, I didn't know--and now-- Oh, my dear, my dear--"
He pressed his lips against the bright little head that rested in
such miserable abandon against his shoulder.

"Do you love me?" he whispered.  The blood ran riot in his veins.

"Why have you stayed away--why didn't you come to me?  I have
promised him--" she gasped.

"I know," he said, and shut his lips.  There was another silence
while she waited for him to speak.  She felt that she was at his
mercy, that whether right or wrong, as he decided so it would be.
At length he said.  "I thought it wasn't fair to him, and it
seemed so hopeless after I came here.  I had nothing--and a man
feels that--so I kept away."  He spoke awkwardly with something
of the reserve that was habitual to him.

"If you had only come!" she moaned.

"I did--once," he muttered.

"You didn't understand; why did you believe anything I said to
you?  It was only that I cared--that in my heart I knew I cared
--I've cared about you ever since that trip down the river, and now
I am going to be married to-morrow--to-morrow, Bruce--do you
realize I have given my promise?  I am to meet him at the Spring
Bank church at ten o'clock--and it's tomorrow!" she cried, in a
laboring choked voice.  For answer he drew her closer.  "Bruce,
what can I do?--tell me what I can do."

Carrington made an involuntary gesture of protest.

"I can't tell you that, dear--for I don't know."  His voice was
steady, but it came from lips that quivered.  He knew that he
might have urged the supreme claim of his love and in her present
desperate mood she would have listened, but the memory of Norton
would have been between them always a shame and reproach; as
surely as he stood there with his arms about her, as surely as
she clung to him so warm and near, he would have lived to see the
shadow of that shame in her eyes.

"I can not do it--I can not, Bruce!" she panted.

"Dear--dear--don't tempt me!"  He held himself in check.

"I am going to tell you--just this once, BruceI love you--you are
my own for this one moment out of my life!" and she abandoned
herself to the passionate caressing with which he answered her.
"How can I give you up?" he said, his voice hoarse with emotion.
He put her from him almost roughly, and leaning against the trunk
of a tree buried his face in his hands.  Betty watched him for a
moment in wretched silence.

"Don't feel so bad, Bruce," she said brokenly.  "I am not worth
it.  I tried not to love you--I didn't want to."  She raised a
white face to his.

"I am going now, Betty.  You--you shouldn't stay here any longer
with me." He spoke with sudden resolution.

"And I shall not see you again?" she asked, in a low, stifled
voice.

"It's good-by--" he muttered.

"Not yet--oh, not yet, Bruce--" she implored.  "I can not--"

"Yes--now, dear.  I don't dare stay--I may forget--" but he
turned again to her in entreaty.  "Give me something to remember
in all the years that are coming when I shall be alone--let me
kiss you on the lips--let me--just this once--it's good-by we're
saying--it's good-by, Betty!"

She went to him, and, as he bent above her, slipped her arms
about his neck.

"Kiss me--" she breathed.

He kissed her hair, her soft cheek, then their lips met.

He helped her as she stumbled blindly along the path to the
house, and half lifted her up the steps to the door.  They paused
there for a moment.  At last he turned from her abruptly in
silence.  A step away he halted.

"If you should ever need me--"
"Never as now," she said.

She saw his tall figure pass down the path, and her straining
eyes followed until it was lost in the mild wide spaces of the
night.


Another hot September sun was beating upon the earth as Betty
galloped down the lane and swung her horse's head in the
direction of Raleigh.  Her grief had worn itself out and she
carried a pale but resolute face.  Carrington was gone; she would
keep her promise to Charley and he should never know what his
happiness had cost her.  She nerved herself for their meeting;
somewhere between Belle Plain and Thicket Point Norton would be
waiting for her.

He joined her before she had covered a third of the distance that
separated the two plantations.

"Thank God, my darling!" he cried fervently, as he ranged up
alongside of her.

"Then you weren't sure of me, Charley?"

"No, I wasn't sure, Betty--but I hoped.  I have been haunting the
road for more than an hour.  You are making one poor unworthy
devil happy, unless--"

"Unless what, Charley?" she prompted.

"Unless you came here merely to tell me that after all you
couldn't marry me."  He put out his hand and covered hers that
held the reins.  "I'll never give you cause to regret it--you
know how I love you, dear?"

"Yes, Charley--I know."  She met his glance bravely.

"We are to go to the church.  Mr. Bowen will be there; I arranged
with him last night; he will drive over with his wife and
daughter, who will be our witnesses, dear.  We could have gone to
his house, but I thought it would seem more like a real wedding
in a church, you know."

Betty did not answer him, her eyes were fixed straight ahead, the
last vestige of color had faded from her face and a deathly
pallor was there.  This was the crowning horror.  She felt the
terrible injustice she was doing the man at her side, the depth
and sincerity of his devotion was something for which she could
make no return.  Her lips trembled on the verge of an avowal of
her love for Carrington.  Presently she saw the church in its
grove of oaks, in the shade of one of these stood Mr. Bowen's
horse and buggy.

"We won't have to wait on him!" said Norton.

"No--" Betty gasped out the monosyllable.

"Why--my darling--what's the matter?" he asked tenderly, his
glance bent in concern on the frightened face of the girl.

"Nothing--nothing, Charley

They had reined in their horses.  Norton sprang to the ground and
lifted her from the saddle.

"It will only take a moment, dear!" he whispered encouragingly in
the brief instant he held her in his arms.

"Oh, Charley, it isn't that--it's dreadfully serious--" she said,
with a wild little laugh that was almost hysterical.

"I wouldn't have it less than that," he said gravely.


Afterward Betty could remember standing before the church in the
fierce morning light; she heard Mr. Bowen's voice, she heard
Charley's voice, she heard another voice--her own, though she
scarcely recognized it.  Then, like one aroused from a dream, she
looked about her--she met Charley's glance; his face was radiant
and she smiled back at him through a sudden mist that swam before
her eyes.

Mr. Bowen led her toward the church door.  As they neared it they
caught the clatter of hoofs, and Tom Ware on a hard-ridden horse
dashed up; he was covered with dust and inarticulate with rage.
Then a cry came from him that was like the roar of some mortally
wounded animal.

"I forbid this marriage!" he shrieked, when he could command
speech.

"You're too late to stop it, Tom, but you can attend it," said
Norton composedly.

"You--you--"  Words failed the planter; he sat his horse the
picture of a grim and sordid despair.

Mr. Bowen divided a look of reproach between his wife and
daughter; his own conscience was clear; he had told no one of the
purpose of Norton's call the night before.

"I'll tie the horses, Betty," said Norton.

Ware turned fiercely to Bowen.

"You knew better than to be a party to this, and by God!--if you
go on with it you shall live to regret it!"

The minister made him no answer, he thoroughly disapproved of the
planter.  It was well that Betty should have a proper protector,
this half-brother was hardly that measured by any standard.

Norton, leading the horses, had reached the edge of the oaks when
from the silent depths of the denser woods came the sharp report
of a rifle.  The shock of the bullet sent the young fellow
staggering back among the mossy and myrtle-covered graves.

For a moment no one grasped what had happened, only there was
Norton who seemed to grope strangely among the graves.  Black
spots danced before his eyes, the little group by the church
merged into the distance--always receding, always more remote, as
he, stumbled helplessly over the moss and the thick dank myrtle
and among the round graves that gave him a treacherous footing;
and then he heard Betty's agonized cry.  He had fallen now, and
his strength went from him, but he kept his face turned on the
group before the church in mute appeal, and even as the shadows
deepened he was aware that Betty was coming swiftly toward him.

"I'm shot--" he said, speaking with difficulty.

"Charley--Charley--" she moaned, slipping her strong young arms
about him and gathering him to her breast.

He looked up into her face.

"It's all over--" he said, but as much in wonder as in fear.
"But I knew you would come to me--dear--" he added in a whisper.
She felt a shudder pass through him.  He did not speak again.
His lips opened once, and closed on silence.




CHAPTER XXIII

THE JUDGE OFFERS A REWARD


The news of Charley Norton's murder spread quickly over the
county.  For two or three days bands of armed men scoured the
woods and roads, and then this activity quite unproductive of any
tangible results ceased, matters were allowed to rest with the
constituted authorities, namely Mr. Betts the sheriff, and his
deputies.

No private citizen had shown greater zeal than Judge Slocum
Price, no voice had clamored more eloquently for speedy justice
than his.  He had sustained a loss that was in a peculiar sense
personal, he explained.  Mr. Norton was his friend and client;
they had much in common; their political ideals were in the
strictest accord and he had entertained a most favorable opinion
of the young man's abilities; he had urged him to enter the
national arena and carve out a career for himself; he had
promised him his support.  The judge so worked upon his own
feelings that presently any mention of Norton's name utterly
unmanned him.  Well, this was life.  One could only claim time as
it was doled out by clock ticks; we planned for the years and
could not be certain of the moments.

He spent two entire days at the church and in the surrounding
woods, nor did any one describe the murder with the vividness he
achieved in his description of it.  The minister's narrative was
pale and colorless by comparison, and those who came from a
distance went away convinced that they had talked with an
eyewitness to the tragedy and esteemed themselves fortunate.  In
short, he imposed himself on the situation with such brilliancy
that in the end his account of the murder became the accepted
version from which all other versions differed to their
discredit.

In the same magnificent spirit of public service he would have
assumed the direction of the search for the murderer, but Mr.
Betts' jealousy proved an obstacle to his ambitious design.  In
view of this he was regretful, but not surprised when the
hard-ridden miles covered by dusty men and reeking horses yielded
only failure.

"If I had shot that poor boy, I wouldn't ask any surer guarantee
of safety than to have that fool Betts with his microscopic brain
working in unhampered asininity on the case," he told Mahaffy.

"Is it your idea that you are enlarging your circle of intimate
friends by the way you go about slamming into folks?" inquired
Mahaffy, with harsh sarcasm.

Later, the judge was shocked at what he characterized as official
apathy.  It became a point on which he expressed himself with
surpassing candor.

"Do they think the murderer's going to come in and give himself
up?--is that the notion?" he demanded heatedly of Mr. Saul.

"The sheriff owns himself beat, Sir; the murderer's got safely
away and left no clue to his identity."

The judge waived this aside.

"Clues, sir?  If you mean physical evidence the eye can
apprehend, I grant it; the murderer has got away; certainly he's
been given all the time he needed, but what about the motive that
prompted the crime?  An intelligently conducted examination such
as I am willing to undertake might still bring it to light.
Isn't it known that Norton was attacked a fortnight ago as he was
leaving Belle Plain?  He recovers and is about to be married to
Miss Malroy when he is shot at the church door; I'll hazard the
opinion the attack was in the nature of a warning for him to keep
away from Belle Plain.  Now, had he a rival?  Clear up these
points and you get a clue!"  The judge paused impressively.

"Tom Ware has acted in a straightforward manner.  He's stated
frankly he was opposed to the match, that when he heard about it
on his way to Memphis he turned back and made every effort to get
to the church in time to stop it if he could," said Mr. Saul.

"Mr. Ware need not be considered," observed the judge.

"Well, there's been a heap of talk."

"If he'd inspired the firing of the fatal shot he'd have kept
away from the church.  No, no, Mr. Saul, is there anybody
hereabout who aspired to Miss Malroy's hand--any rejected
suitor?"

"Not that we know of."

"Under ordinary circumstances, sir, I am opposed to measures that
ignore the constituted authorities, but we find ourselves living
under extraordinary conditions, and the law--God save the name
--has proved itself abortive.  It is time for the better element to
join bands; we must get together, sir.  I am willing to take the
initial steps and issue the call for a mass meeting of our best
citizens.  I am prepared to address such a meeting."  The very
splendor of his conception dazzled the judge; this promised a
gorgeous publicity with his name flying broadcast over the
county.  He continued:

"I am ready to give my time gratuitously to directing the
activities of a body of picked men who shall rid the county of
the lawless element.  God knows, sir, I desire the repose of a
private career, yet I am willing to sacrifice myself.  Is it your
opinion, Mr. Saul, that I should move in this matter?"

"I advise you didn't," said Mr. Saul, with disappointing
alacrity.

The judge looked at him fixedly.

"Am I wrong in supposing, Mr. Saul, that if I determine to act as
I have outlined I shall have your indorsement?" he demanded.  Mr.
Saul looked extremely uncomfortable; he was finding the judge's
effulgent personality rather compelling.  "There is no gentleman
whose support I should value in quite the same sense that I
should value yours, Mr. Saul; I should like to feel my course met
with your full approval," pursued the judge, with charming
deference.

"You'll get yourself shot full of holes," said Mr. Saul.

"What causes me to hesitate is this: my name is unfamiliar to
your citizens.  You know their prejudices, Mr. Saul; how would
they regard me if I put myself forward?"

"Can't say how they would take it," rejoined Mr. Saul.

Again the judge gave him a fixed scrutiny.  Then ha shook him
warmly by the hand.

"Think of what I have said; ponder it, sir, and let me have your
answer at another time." And he backed from Mr. Saul's presence
with spectacular politeness.

"A cheap mind!" thought the judge, as he hurried up the street.

He broached the subject to Mr. Wesley the postmaster, to Mr.
Ellison the gunsmith, to Mr. Pegloe, employing much the same
formula he had used with Mr. Saul, and with results almost
identical.  He imagined there must be some conspiracy afoot to
keep him out of the public eye, and in the end he managed to lose
his temper.

"Hasn't Norton any friends?" he demanded of Pegloe.  "Who's going
to be safe at this rate?  We want to let some law into west
Tennessee, a hanging or two would clear the air!"  His emotions
became a rage that blew through him like a gale, shaking him to
his center.

Two mornings later he found where it had been placed under his
door during the night a folded paper.  It contained a single line
of writing:


"You talk too much.  Shut up, or you'll go where Norton went."


Now the judge was accessible to certain forms of fear.  He was,
for instance, afraid of snakes--both kinds--and mobs he had
dreaded desperately since his Pleasantville experience; but
beyond this, fear remained an unexplored region to Slocum Price,
and as he examined the scrawl a smile betokening supreme
satisfaction overspread his battered features.  He was agreeably
affected by the situation; indeed he was delighted.  His
activities were being recognized; he had made his impression; the
cutthroats had selected him to threaten.  Well, the damned
rascals showed their good sense; he'd grant them that!  Swelling
with pride, he carried the scrawl to Mahaffy.

"They are forming their estimate of me, Solomon; I shall have
them on the run yet!" he declared.

"You are going out of your way to hunt trouble--as if you hadn't
enough at the best of times, Price!  Let these people manage
their own affairs, don't you mix up in them," advised the
conservative Mahaffy.

The judge drew himself up with an air of lofty pride.

"Do you think I am going to be silenced, intimidated, by this
sort of thing?  No, sir!  No, Solomon, the stopper isn't made
that will fit my mouth."

A few moments later he burst in on Mr. Saul.

"Glance at that, my friend!" he cried, as he tossed the paper on
the clerk's desk.  "Eh, what?--no joke about that, Mr. Saul.  I
found it under my door this morning."  Mr. Saul glanced at the
penciled lines and drew in his breath sharply.  "What do you make
of it, sir?" demanded the judge anxiously.

"Well, of course, you'll do as you please, but I'd keep still."

"You mean you regard this as an authentic expression, sir, and
not as the joke of some irresponsible humorist?"

"It's authentic enough," said Mr. Saul impatiently.

The judge gave a sigh of relief; he could have hugged the little
clerk who had put to rest certain miserable doubts that had
assailed him.

"Sir, I wish it known that I hold the writer and his threats in
contempt; if I have given offense it is to an element I shall
never seek to conciliate."  Mr. Saul was clearly divided between
his admiration for the judge's courage and fear for his safety.
"One thing is proven, sir," the judge went on; "the man who
murdered that poor boy is in our midst; that point can no longer
be disputed.  Now, where are their fine-spun theories as to how
he crossed to the Arkansas coast?  What does their mass of
speculation and conjecture amount to in the face of this?"  He
breathed deep.  "My God, sir, the murderer may be the very next
man you pass the time of day with!"  Mr. Saul shivered
uncomfortably.  "And the case in the hands of that pin-headed
fool, Betts!"  The judge laughed derisively as he bowed himself
out.  He left it with Mr. Saul to disseminate the news.
The judge strutted home with his hat cocked over one eye, and his
chest expanded to such limits that it menaced all his waistcoat
buttons.  Perhaps he was under observation.  Ah, let the
cutthroats look their full at him!

He established himself in his office.  He had scarcely done so
when Mr. Betts knocked at the door.  The sheriff came direct from
Mr. Saul and arrived out of breath, but the letter was not
mentioned by the judge.  He spoke of the crops, the chance of
rain, and the intricacies of county politics.  The sheriff
withdrew mystified, wondering why it was he had not felt at
liberty to broach the subject which was uppermost in his mind.
His place was taken by Mr. Pegloe, and on the heels of the
tavern-keeper came Mr. Bowen.  Judge Price received them with
condescension, but back of the condescension was an air of
reserve that did not invite questions.  The judge discussed the
extension of the national roads with Mr. Pegloe, and the religion
of the Persian fire-worshipers with Mr. Bowen; he permitted never
a pause and they retired as the sheriff had done without sight of
the letter.

The judge's office became a perfect Mecca.  for the idle and the
curious, and while he overflowed with high-bred courtesy he had
never seemed so unapproachable--never so remote from matters of
local and contemporary interest.

"Why don't you show 'em the letter?" demanded Mr. Mahaffy, when
they were alone.  "Can't you see they are suffering for a sight
of it?"

"All in good time, Solomon."  He became thoughtful.  "Solomon, I
am thinking of offering a reward for any information that will
lead to the discovery of my anonymous correspondent," he at
length observed with a finely casual air, as if the idea had just
occurred to him, and had not been seething in his brain all day.

"There you go, Price--" began Mahaffy.

"Solomon, this is no time for me to hang back.  I shall offer a
reward of five thousand dollars for this information."  The
judge's tone was resolute.  "Yes, sir, I shall make the figure
commensurate with the poignant grief I feel.  He was my friend
and client--"  The moisture gathered in his eyes.

"I should think that fifty dollars was nearer to being your
figure," suggested the cautious Mahaffy.

"Inadequate and most insulting," said the judge.

"Well, where do you expect to get five thousand dollars?" cried
Mahaffy in a tone of absolute exasperation.

"Where would I get fifty?" inquired the judge mildly.

For once Mahaffy frankly owned himself beaten.  A gleam of
admiration lit up his glance.

"Price, you have a streak of real greatness!" he declared.

Before the day was over it was generally believed that the judge
was wearing his gag with humility; interest in him declined,
still the public would have been grateful for a sight of that
letter.

"Shucks, he's nothing but an old windbag!" said Mr. Pegloe to a
group of loungers gathered before his tavern in the early
evening.

As he spoke, the judge's door opened and that gentleman appeared
on his threshold with a lighted candle in each hand.  Glancing
neither to the right nor the left he passed out and up the
street.  Not a breath of wind was blowing and the flames of the
two candles burnt clear and strong, lighting up his stately
advance.

At the corner of the court-house green stood a row of locust
hitching posts.  Two of these the judge decorated with his
candles, next he measured off fifteen paces, strides as liberal
as he could make them without sacrifice to his dignity; he scored
a deep line in the dust with the heel of his boot, toed it
squarely, and drew himself up to his fullest height.  His right
hand was seen to disappear under the frayed tails of his coat, it
reappeared and was raised with a movement quicker than the eye
could follow and a pistol shot rang out.  One of the candles was
neatly snuffed.

The judge allowed himself a covert glance in the direction of the
loungers before the tavern.  He was aware that a larger audience
was assembling.  A slight smile relaxed the firm set of his lips.
The remaining candle sputtered feebly.  The judge walked to the
post and cleared the wick from tallow with his thumb-nail.  There
was no haste in any of his movements; his was the deliberation of
conscious efficiency.  Resuming his former station back of the
line he had drawn in the dusty road he permitted his eye to gauge
the distance afresh, then his hand was seen to pass deftly to his
left hip pocket, the long barrel of the rifle pistol was leveled,
the piece cracked, and the candle's yellow flame vanished.

The judge pocketed his pistol, walked down the street, and with
never a glance toward the tavern reentered his house.

The next morning it was discovered that sometime during the night
the judge had tacked his anonymous communication on the
court-house door; just below it was another sheet of paper
covered with bold script:


"TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: Judge Slocum Price assumes that the
above was intended for him since he found it under his office
door on the morning of the twenty-fifth inst.

"Judge Price begs leave to state it as his unqualified conviction
that the writer is a coward and a cur, and offers a reward of
five thousand dollars for any information that will lead to his
identification.

"Judge Price has stated that he would conduct an intelligently
directed investigation of the Norton murder mystery without
remuneration.  He has the honor to assure his friends that he is
still willing to do so; however, he takes this opportunity to
warn the public that each day's delay is a matter of the utmost
gravity.

"Furthermore, judge Price avails himself on this occasion to say
that he has no wish to avoid personal conclusions with the
murderers and cutthroats who are terrorizing this community; on
the contrary, he will continue earnestly to seek such personal
conclusions."




CHAPTER XXIV

THE CABIN ACROSS THE BAYOU


Tom Ware was seated alone over his breakfast.  He had left his
bed as the pale morning light crept across the great fields that
were alike his pride and his despair--what was the use of trying
to sleep when sleep was an impossibility!  The memory of that
tragedy at the church door was a black horror to him; it gave
substance to his dreams, it brought him awake with writhing lips
that voiced his fear in the dead stillness of the night.  The
days were scarcely less terrible.  Steeled and resolute as his
will could make him, he was not able to speak of what he had seen
with composure.  Being as he was in this terribly perturbed state
he had shirked his morning toilet and presented a proportionately
haggard and unkempt appearance.  He was about to quit the table
when big Steve entered the room to say there was a white fellow
at the door wished to see him.

"Fetch him along in here," said Ware briefly, without lifting his
bloodshot eyes.

Brought into his presence the white fellow delivered a penciled
note which proved to be from Murrell, and then on Ware's
invitation partook of whisky.  When he was gone, the planter
ordered his horse, and while he waited for it to be brought up
from the stables, reread Murrell's note.  The expression of his
unprepossessing features indicated what was passing in his mind,
his mood was one of sullen rebellion.  He felt Murrell was bent
on committing him to an aggregate of crime he would never have
considered possible, and all for love of a girl--a pink-cheeked,
white-faced chit of a girl--disgust boiled up within him, rage
choked him; this was the rotten spot in Murrell's make-up, the
man was mad-stark mad!

As Ware rode away from Belle Plain he cursed him under his breath
with vindictive thoroughness.  His own inclination toward evil
was never very robust; he could have connived and schemed over a
long period of years to despoil Betty of her property, he would
have counted this a legitimate field for enterprise; but murder
and abduction was quite another thing.  He would wash his hands
of all further connection with Murrell, he had other things to
lose besides Belle Plain, and the present would be as good a time
as any to let the outlaw know he could be coerced and bullied no
longer.  But he had a saving recollection of the way in which
Murrell dealt with what he counted treachery; an unguarded word,
and he would not dare to travel those roads even at broad
noon-day, while to pass before a lighted window at night would be
to invite death; nowhere would he be safe.

Three miles from Belle Plain he entered a bridle path that led
toward the river; he was now traversing a part of the Quintard
tract.  Two miles from the point where he had quitted the main
road he came out upon the shores of a wide bayou.  Looking across
this he saw at a distance of half a mile what seemed to be a
clearing of considerable extent, it was the first sign of human
occupation he had seen since leaving Belle Plain.

An impenetrable swamp defended the head of the bayou which he
skirted.  Doubling back as though he were going to retrace his
steps to Belle Plain, finally he gained a position opposite the
clearing which still showed remotely across the wide reach of
sluggish water.  Here he dismounted and tied his horse, then as
one tolerably familiar with the locality and its resources, he
went down to the shore and launched a dugout which he found
concealed in some bushes; entering it he pointed its blunt bow in
the direction of the clearing opposite.  A growth of small timber
was still standing along the water's edge, but as he drew nearer,
those betterments which the resident of that lonely spot had seen
fit to make for his own convenience, came under his scrutiny;
these consisted of a log cabin and several lesser sheds.
Landing and securing his dug-out by the simple expedient of
dragging half its length out of the water, he advanced toward the
cabin.  As he did so he saw two women at work heckling flax under
an open shed.  They were the wife and daughter of George Hicks,
his overseer's brother.

"Morning, Mrs. Hicks," he said, addressing himself to the mother,
a hulking ruffian of a woman.

"Howdy, sir?" she answered.  Her daughter glanced indifferently
in Ware's direction.  She was a fine strapping girl, giving that
sense of physical abundance which the planter admired.

"They'd better keep her out of Murrell's way!" he thought; aloud
he said, "Anybody with the captain?"

"Colonel Fentress is."

"Humph!" muttered Ware.  He moved to the door of the cabin and
pushing it open, entered the room where Murrell and Fentress were
seated facing each other across the breakfast table.  The planter
nodded curtly.  He had not seen Murrell since the murder, and the
sight of him quickened the spirit of antagonism which he had been
nursing.  "You roust a fellow out early enough!" he grumbled,
rubbing his unshaven chin with the back of his hand.

"I was afraid you'd be gone somewhere.  Sit down--here, between
the colonel and me," said Murrell.

"Well, what the devil do you want of me anyhow?" demanded the
planter.

"How's your sister, Tom?" inquired Murrell.

"I reckon she's the way you'd expect her to be."  Ware dropped
his voice to a whisper.  Those women were just the other side of
the logs, he could hear them at their work.

"Who's at Belle Plain now?" continued Murrell.

"Bowen's wife and daughter have stayed," answered Ware, still in
a whisper.

"For how long, Tom?  Do you know?"

"They were to go home after breakfast this morning; the
daughter's to come out again to-morrow and stay with Betty until
she leaves."

"What's that you're saying?" cried Murrell.

"She's going back to North Carolina to those friends of hers;
it's no concern of mine, she does what she likes without
consulting me."  There was a brief pause during which Murrell
scowled at the planter.

"I reckon your heart's tender, too!" he presently said.  Ware's
dull glance shifted to Fentress, but the colonel's cold and
impassive exterior forbade the thought that his sympathy had been
roused.

"It isn't that," Ware muttered, moistening his lips.  He felt the
utter futility of opposition.  "I am for letting things rest just
where they are," again his voice slid into a husky whisper.
"You'll be running all our heads into a halter, the first thing
you know--and this isn't any place to talk over such matters,
there are too many people about."

"There's only Bess and the old woman busy outside," said Murrell.

"What's to hinder them from sticking an ear to a chink in the
logs?"

"Go on, and finish what you've got to say, and get it off your
mind," said Murrell.

"Well, then, I want to tell you that I consider you didn't regard
me at all in the way you managed that business at the church!  If
I had known what was due to happen there, do you think I'd have
gone near the place?  But you let me go!  I met you on the road
and you told me you'd learned Norton had been to see Bowen, you
told me that much, but you didn't tell me near all you might!"
Ware was bitter and resentful; again he felt the sweat of a
mortal terror drip from him.

"It was the best thing for you that it happened the way it did,"
rejoined Murrell coolly.  "No one will ever think you had a hand
in it."

"It wasn't right!  You placed me in the meanest kind of a
situation," objected Ware sullenly, mopping his face.

"Did you think I was going to let the marriage take place?  You
knew he had been warned to keep away from her," said Murrell.
There was a movement overhead in the loft, the loose clapboards
with which it was floored creaked under a heavy tread.

"Who's that?  Hicks?" asked Ware.

"It isn't Hicks--never mind who it is, Tom," answered Murrell
quietly.

"I thought you'd sent him out of the county?" muttered Ware, his
face livid.

"Look here, Tom, I don't ask your help, but I won't stand your
interference.  I'm going to have the girl."

"John, you'll ruin yourself with your damned crazy infatuation!"
It was Fentress, no longer able to control himself, who spoke.

"No, I won't, Colonel, but I'm not going to discuss that.  All I
want is for Tom to go to Memphis and stay there for a couple of
days.  When he comes back Belle Plain and its niggers will be as
good as his.  I am going to take the girl away from there
to-night.  I don't ask your help and you needn't ask what comes
of her afterward.  That will be my affair."  Murrell's burning
eyes shifted from one to the other.

"A beautiful and accomplished young lady--a great heiress--is to
disappear and no solution of the mystery demanded by the public
at large!" said Fentress with an acid smile.  Murrell laughed
contemptuously.

"What's all this fuss over Norton's death amounted to?" he said.

"Are you sure you have come to the end of that, John?" inquired
Fentress, still smiling.

"I don't propose to debate this further," rejoined Murrell
haughtily.  Instantly the colonel's jaw became rigid.  The
masterful airs of this cutthroat out of the hills irked him
beyond measure.  Murrell turned to Ware.

"How soon can you get away from here, Tom?" he asked abruptly.

"By God, I can't go too soon!" cried the planter, staggering to
his feet.  He gave Fentress a hopeless beaten look.  "You're my
witness that first and last I've no part in this!" he added.

The colonel merely shrugged his shoulders.  Murrell reached out a
detaining hand and rested it on Ware's arm.

"Keep your wits about you, Tom, and within a week people will
have forgotten all about Norton and your sister.  I am going to
give them something else to worry over."

Ware went from the cabin, and as the door swung shut Fentress
faced Murrell across the table.

"I've gone as far with you in this affair as I can go; after all,
as you say, it is a private matter.  You reap the benefits--you
and Tom between you--I shall give you a wide berth until you come
to your senses.  Frankly, if you think that in this late day in
the world you can carry off an unwilling girl, your judgment is
faulty."

"Hold on, Colonel--how do you know she is going to prove
unwilling?" objected Murrell, grinning.

Fentress gave him a glance of undisguised contempt and rose from
his seat.

"I admit your past successes, John--that is, I take your word for
them--but Miss Malroy is a lady."

"I have heard enough!" said Murrell angrily.

"So have I, John," retorted the colonel in a tone that was
unvexed but final, "and I shall count it a favor if you will
never refer to her in my hearing."  He moved in the direction of
the door.

"Oh, you and I are not going to lose our tempers over this!"
began Murrell.  "Come, sit down again, Colonel!" he concluded
with great good nature.

"We shall never agree, John--you have one idea and I another."

"We'll let the whole matter drop out of our talk.  Look here, how
about the boy--are you ready for him if I can get my hands on
him?"

Fentress considered.  From the facts he had gathered he knew that
the man who called himself Judge Price must soon run his course
in Raleigh, and then as inevitably push out for fresh fields.
Any morning might find him gone and the boy with him.

"I can't take him to my place as I had intended doing; under the
circumstances that is out of the question," he said at length.

"Of course; but I'll send him either up or down the river and
place him in safe keeping where you can get him any time you
want."

"This must be done without violence, John!" stipulated Fentress.

"Certainly, I understand that perfectly well.  It wouldn't suit
your schemes to have that brace of old sots handled by the Clan.
Which shall it be--up or down river?"

"Could you take care of him for me below, at Natchez?" inquired
Fentress.

"As well there as anywhere, Colonel, and he'll pass into safe
hands; he won't give me the slip the second time!"

"Good!" said Fentress, and took his leave.

From the window Murrell watched him cross the clearing, followed
by the girl, Bess, who was to row him over to the opposite shore.
He reflected that these men--the Wares and Fentresses and their
like--were keen enough where they had schemes of their own they
wished put through; it was only when he reached out empty hands
that they reckoned the consequences.

Three-quarters of an hour slipped by, then, piercing the silence,
Murrell heard a shrill whistle; it was twice repeated; he saw
Bess go down to the landing again.  A half-hour elapsed and a man
issued from the scattering growth of bushes that screened the
shore.  The new-comer crossed the clearing and entered the cabin.
He was a young fellow of twenty-four or five, whose bronzed and
sunburnt face wore a somewhat reckless expression.

"Well, Captain, what's doing?" he asked, as he shook hands with
Murrell.

"I've been waiting for you, Hues," said Murrell.  He continued,
"I reckon the time's here when nothing will be gained by delay."

Hues dropped down on a three-legged stool and looked at the
outlaw fixedly and in silence for a moment.  At length he nodded
understandingly.

"You mean?"

"If anything's to be done, now is the time.  What have you to
report?"

"Well, I've seen the council of each Clan division.  They are
ripe to start this thing off."

Murrell gave him a moment of moody regard.

"Twice already I've named the day and hour, but now I'm going to
put it through!"  He set his teeth and thrust out his jaw.

"Captain, you're the greatest fellow in America!  Inside of a
week men who have never been within five hundred miles of you
will be asking each other who John Murrell is!"

Murrell had expected to part with Hues then and there and for all
time, but Hues possessed qualities which might still be of use to
him.

"What do you expect to do for yourself?" he demanded.  The other
laughed shortly.

"Captain, I'm going to get rich while I have the chance.  Ain't
that what we are all after?"

"How?" inquired Murrell quietly.  Hues shifted his seat.

"I'm sensitive about calling things by their short names;" he
gave way to easy laughter; "but if you've got anything special
you're saving for yourself, I'm free to say I'd rather take
chances with you than with another," he finished carelessly.

"Hues, you must start back across Tennessee.  Make it Sunday at
midnight--that's three days off."  Unconsciously his voice sank
to a whisper.

"Sunday at midnight," repeated Hues slowly.

"When you have passed the word into middle Tennessee, turn south
and make the best of your way to New Orleans.  Don't stop for
anything--push through as fast as you can.  You'll find me there.
I've a notion you and I will quit the country together."

"Quit the country!  Why, Captain, who's talking of quitting the
country?"

"You speak as though you were fool enough to think the niggers
would accomplish something!" said Murrell coolly.  "There will be
confusion at first, but there are enough white men in the
southwest to handle a heap better organized insurrection than
we'll be able to set going.  Our fellows will have to use their
heads as well as their hands or they are likely to help the
nigger swallow his medicine.  I look for nothing else than
considerable of a shake-up along the Mississippi . . . what with
lynchers and regulators a man will have to show a clean bill of
health to be allowed to live, no matter what his color--just
being white won't help him any!"

"No, you're right, it won't!" and again Hues gave way to easy
laughter.

"When you've done your work you strike south as I tell you and
join me.  I'm going to keep New Orleans for myself--it's my
ambition to destroy the city Old Hickory saved!"

"And then it's change your name and strike out for Texas with
what you've picked up!"

"No, it isn't!  I'll have my choice of men--a river full of
ships.  Look here, there's South America, or some of those
islands in the gulf with a black-and-tan population and a few
white mongrels holding on to civilization by their eye-teeth;
what's to hinder our setting up shop for ourselves?  Two or three
hundred Americans could walk off with an island like Hayti, for
instance--and it's black with niggers.  What we'd done here would
be just so much capital down there.  We'd make it a
stamping-ground for the Clan!  In the next two years we could
bring in a couple of thousand Americans and then we'd be ready to
take over their government, whether they liked it or not, and run
it at a profit.  We'd put the niggers back in slavery where they
belong, and set them at work raising sugar and tobacco for their
new bosses.  Man, it's the richest land in the world, I tell you
--and the mountains are full of gold!"

Hues had kindled with a ready enthusiasm while Murrell was
speaking.

"That sounds right, Captain--we'd have a country and a flag of
our own--and I look at those free niggers as just so much boot!"

"I shall take only picked men with me--I can't give ship room to
any other--but I want you.  You'll join me in New Orleans?" said
Murrell.

"When do you start south?" asked Hues quickly.

"Inside of two days.  I've got some private business to settle
before I leave.  I'll hang round here until that's attended to."




CHAPTER XXV

THE JUDGE EXTENDS HIS CREDIT


That afternoon Judge Price walked out to Belle Plain.  Solomon
Mahaffy had known that this was a civility Betty Malroy could by
no means escape.  He had been conscious of the judge's purpose
from the moment it existed in the germ state, and he had striven
to divert him, but his striving had been in vain, for though the
judge valued Mr. Mahaffy because of certain sterling qualities
which he professed to discern beneath the hard crust that made up
the external man, he was not disposed to accept him as his mentor
in nice matters of taste and gentlemanly feeling.  He owed it to
himself personally to tender his sympathy.  Miss Malroy must have
heard something of the honorable part he had played; surely she
could not be in ignorance of the fact that the lawless element,
dreading his further activities, had threatened him.  She must
know, too, about that reward of five thousand dollars.  Certainly
her grief could not blind her to the fact that he had met the
situation with a largeness of public spirit that was an
impressive lesson to the entire community.'

These were all points over which he and Mahaffy had wrangled, and
he felt that his friend, in seeking to keep him away from Belle
Plain, was standing squarely in his light.  He really could not
understand Solomon or his objections.  He pointed out that Norton
had probably left a will--no one knew yet--probably his estate
would go to his intended wife--what more likely?  He understood
Norton had cousins somewhere in middle Tennessee--there was the
attractive possibility of extended litigation.  Miss Malroy
needed a strong, clear brain to guide her past those difficulties
his agile fancy assembled in her path.  He beamed on his friend
with a wide sunny smile.

"You mean she needs a lawyer, Price?" insinuated Mahaffy.

"That slap at me, Solomon, is unworthy of you.  Just name some
one, will you, who has shown an interest comparable to mine?  I
may say I have devoted my entire energy to her affairs, and with
disinterestedness.  I have made myself felt.  Will you mention
who else these cutthroats have tried to browbeat and frighten?
They know that my theories and conclusions are a menace to them!
I got 'em in a panic, sir--presently some fellow will lose his
nerve and light out for the tall timber--and it will be just
Judge Slocum Price who's done the trick--no one else!"

"Are you looking for some one to take a pot shot at you?"
inquired Mahaffy sourly.

"Your remark uncovers my fondest hope, Solomon--I'd give five
years of my life just to be shot at--that would round out the
episode of the letter nicely;" again the judge beamed on Mahaffy
with that wide and sunny smile of his.

"Why don't you let the boy go alone, Price?" suggested Mahaffy.
He lacked that sense of sublime confidence in the judge's tact
and discretion of which the judge, himself, entertained never a
doubt.

"I shall not obtrude myself, Solomon; I shall merely walk out to
Belle Plain and leave a civil message.  I know what's due Miss
Malroy in her bereaved state--she has sustained no ordinary loss,
and in no ordinary fashion.  She has been the center of a
striking and profoundly moving tragedy!  I would give a good deal
to know if my late client left a will--"

"You might ask her," said Mahaffy cynically.  "Nothing like going
to headquarters for the news!"

"Solomon, Solomon, give me credit for common sense--go further,
and give me credit for common decency!  Don't let us forget that
ever since we came here she has manifested a charmingly
hospitable spirit where we are concerned!"

"Wouldn't charity hit nearer the mark, Price?"

"I have never so regarded it, Solomon," said the judge mildly.
"I have read a different meaning in the beef and flour and
potatoes she's sent here.  I expect if the truth could be known
to us she is wondering in the midst of her grief why I haven't
called, but she'll appreciate the considerate delicacy of a
gentleman.  I wish it were possible to get cut flowers in this
cussed wilderness!"

The judge had been occupied with a simple but ingenious toilet.
He had trimmed the frayed skirts of, his coat; then by turning
his cuffs inside out and upside down a fresh surface made its
first public appearance.  Next his shoes had engaged his
attention.  They might have well discouraged a less resolute and
resourceful character, but with the contents of his ink-well he
artfully colored his white yarn socks where they showed though
the rifts in the leather.  This the judge did gaily, now humming
a snatch of song, now listening civilly to Mahaffy, now replying
with undisturbed cheerfulness.  Last of all he clapped his dingy
beaver on his head, giving it an indescribably jaunty slant, and
stepped to the door.

"Well, wish me luck, Solomon, I'm off--come, Hannibal!" he said.
At heart he cherished small hope of seeing Betty, advantageous as
he felt an interview might prove.  However, on reaching Belle
Plain he and Hannibal were shown into the cool parlor by little
Steve.  It was more years than the judge cared to remember since
he had put his foot inside such a house, but with true grandeur
of soul he rose to the occasion; a sublimated dignity shone from
every battered feature, while he fixed little Steve with so
fierce a glance that the grin froze on his lips.

"You are to say that judge Slocum Price presents his compliments
and condolences to Miss Malroy--have you got that straight, you
pinch of soot?" he concluded affably.  Little Steve, impressed
alike by the judge's air of condescension and his easy flow of
words, signified that he had.  "You may also say that judge
Price's ward, young Master Hazard, presents his compliments and
condolences--"  What more the judge might have said was
interrupted by the entrance of Betty, herself.

"My dear young lady--" the judge bowed, then he advanced toward
her with the solemnity of carriage and countenance he deemed
suitable to the occasion, and her extended hand was engulfed
between his two plump palms.  He rolled his eyes heavenward.
"It's the Lord's to deal with us as His own inscrutable wisdom
dictates," he murmured with pious resignation.  "We are all
poorer, ma'am, that he has died--just as we were richer while he
lived!"  The rich cadence of the judge's speech fell sonorously
on the silence, and that look of horror which had never quite
left Betty's eyes since they saw Charley Norton fall, rose out of
their clear depths again.  The judge, instantly stricken with a
sense of the inadequacy of his words, doubled on his spiritual
tracks.  "In a round-about way, ma'am, we're bound to believe in
the omnipresence of Providence--we must think it--though a body
might be disposed to hold that west Tennessee had got out of the
line of divine supervision recently.  Let me lead you to a chair,
ma'am!"

Hannibal had slipped to Betty's side and placed his hand in hers.
The judge regarded the pair with great benevolence of expression.
"He would come, and I hadn't the heart to forbid it.  If I can be
of any service to you, ma'am, either in the capacity of a
friend--or professionally--I trust you will not hesitate to
command me--"  The judge backed toward the door.

"Did you walk out, Judge Price?" asked Betty kindly.

"Nothing more than a healthful exercise--but we will not detain
you, ma'am; the pleasure of seeing you is something we had not
reckoned on!"  The judge's speech was thick and unctuous with
good feeling.  He wished that Mahaffy might have been there to
note the reserve and dignity of his deportment.

"But you must let me order luncheon for you," said Betty.  At
least this questionable old man was good to Hannibal.

"I couldn't think of it, ma'am--"

"You'll have a glass of wine, then," urged Betty hospitably.  For
the moment she had lost sight of what was clearly the judge's
besetting sin.

The judge paused abruptly.  He endured a moment of agonizing
irresolution.

"On the advice of my physician I dare not touch wine--gout,
ma'am, and liver--but this restriction does not apply to corn
whisky--in moderation, and as a tonic--either before meals,
immediately after meals or at any time between meals--always
keeping in mind the idea of its tonic properties--"  The judge
seemed to mellow and ripen.  This was much better than having the
dogs sicked on you!  His manner toward Betty became almost
fatherly.  Poor young thing, so lonely and desolate in the midst
of all this splendor--he surreptitiously wiped away a tear, and
when little Steve presented himself and was told to bring whisky,
audibly smacked his lips--a whole lot better, surely!

"I am sorry you think you must hurry away, Judge Price," said
Betty.  She still retained the small brown hand Hannibal had
thrust into hers.

"The eastern mail gets in to-day, ma'am, and I have reason to
think my share of it will be especially heavy, for it brings the
bulk of my professional correspondence."  In ten years the judge
had received just one communication by mail--a bill which had
followed him through four states and seven counties.  "I expect
my secretary--" boldly fixing Solomon Mahaffy's status, "is
already dipping into it; an excellent assistant, ma'am, but
literary rather than legal."

Little Steve reappeared bearing a silver tray on which was a
decanter and glass.

"Since you insist, ma'am," the judge poured himself a drink, "my
best respects--" he bowed profoundly.

"If you are quite willing, judge, I think I will keep Hannibal.
Miss Bowen, who has been here--since--" her voice broke suddenly.

"I understand, ma'am," said the judge soothingly.  He gave her a
glance of great concern and turned to Hannibal.  "Dear lad,
you'll be very quiet and obedient, and do exactly as Miss Malroy
says?  When shall I come for him, ma'am?"

"I'll send him to you when he is ready to go home.  I am thinking
of visiting my friends in North Carolina, and I should like to
have him spend as much time as possible with me before I start
for the East."

It had occurred to Betty that she had done little or nothing for
the child; probably this would be her last opportunity.

The state of the judge's feelings was such that with elaborate
absence of mind he poured himself a second drink of whisky; and
that there should be no doubt the act was one of inadvertence,
said again, "My best respects, ma'am," and bowed as before.
Putting down the glass he backed toward the door.

"I trust you will not hesitate to call upon me if I can be of any
use to you, ma'am--a message will bring me here without a
moment's delay." He was rather disappointed that no allusion had
been made to his recent activities.  He reasoned correctly that
Betty was as yet in ignorance of the somewhat dangerous eminence
he had achieved as the champion of law and order.  However, he
reflected with satisfaction that Hannibal, in remaining, would
admirably serve his ends.

Betty insisted that he should be driven home, and after faintly
protesting, the judge gracefully yielded the point, and a few
moments later rolled away from Belle Plain behind a pair of
sleek-coated bays, with a negro in livery on the box.  He was
conscious of a great sense of exaltation.  He felt that he should
paralyze Mahaffy.  He even temporarily forgot the blow his hopes
had sustained when Betty spoke of returning to North Carolina.
This was life--broad acres and niggers--principally to trot after
you toting liquor--and such liquor!--he lolled back luxuriantly
with half-closed eyes.

"Twenty years in the wood if an hour!" he muttered.  "I'd like to
have just such a taste in my mouth when I come to die--and
probably she has barrels of it!" he sighed deeply, and searched
his soul for words with which adequately to describe that whisky
to Mahaffy.

But why not do more than paralyze Solomon--that would be pleasant
but not especially profitable.  The judge came back quickly to
the vexed problem of his future.  He desired to make some
striking display of Miss Malroy's courtesy.  He knew that his
credit was experiencing the pangs of an early mortality; he was
not sensitive, yet for some days he had been sensible of the fact
that what he called the commercial class was viewing him with
open disfavor, but he must hang on in Raleigh a little longer
--for him it had become the abode of hope.  The judge considered
the matter.  At least he could let people see something of that
decent respect with which Miss Malroy treated him.

They were entering Raleigh now, and he ordered the coachman to
pull his horses down to a walk.  He had decided to make use of
the Belle Plain turnout in creating an atmosphere of confidence
and trust--especially trust.  To this end he spent the best part
of an hour interviewing his creditors.  It amounted almost to a
mass-meeting of the adult male population, for he had no
favorites.  When he invaded virgin territory he believed in
starting the largest possible number of accounts without delay.
The advantage of his system, as he explained its workings to
Mahaffy, was that it bred a noble spirit of emulation.
He let it be known in a general way that things were looking up
with him; just in what quarter he did not specify, but there he
was, seated in the Belle Plain carriage and the inference was
unavoidable that Miss Malroy was to recognize his activities in a
substantial manner.

Mahaffy, loafing away the afternoon in the county clerk's office,
heard of the judge's return.  He heard that Charley Norton had
left a will; that Thicket Point went to Miss Malroy; that the
Norton cousins in middle Tennessee were going to put up a fight;
that Judge Price had been retained as counsel by Miss Malroy;
that he was authorized to begin an independent search for Charley
Norton's murderer, and was to spare no expense; that Judge Price
was going to pay his debts.  Mahaffy grinned at this and hurried
home.  He could believe all but the last, that was the crowning
touch of unreality.

The judge explained the situation.

"I wouldn't withhold hope from any man, Solomon; it's the
cheapest thing in the world and the one thing we are most miserly
about extending to our fellows.  These people all feel better
--and what did it cost me?--just a little decent consideration;
just the knowledge of what the unavoidable associations of ideas
in their own minds would do for them!"

What had seemed the corpse of credit breathed again, and the
judge and Mahaffy immediately embarked upon a characteristic
celebration.  Early candlelight found them making a beginning;
midnight came--the gray and purple of dawn--and they were still
at it, back of closed doors and shuttered windows.




CHAPTER XXVI

BETTY LEAVES BELLE PLAIN


Hannibal had devoted himself loyally to the judge's
glorification, and Betty heard all about the letter, the snuffing
of the candles and the reward of five thousand dollars.  It
vastly increased the child's sense of importance and satisfaction
when he discovered she had known nothing of these matters until
he told her of them.

"Why, where would Judge Price get so much money, Hannibal?" she
asked, greatly astonished.

"He won't have to get it, Miss Betty; Mr. Mahaffy says he don't
reckon no one will ever tell who wrote the letter--he 'lows the
man who done that will keep pretty mum--he just dassent tell!"
the boy explained.

"No, I suppose not--" and Betty saw that perhaps, after all, the
judge had not assumed any very great financial responsibility.
"He can't be a coward, though, Hannibal!" she added, for she
understood that the risk of personal violence which he ran was
quite genuine.  She had formed her own unsympathetic estimate of
him that day at Boggs' race-track; Mahaffy in his blackest hour
could have added nothing to it.  Twice since then she had met him
in Raleigh, which had only served to fix that first impression.

"Miss Betty, he's just like my Uncle Bob was- he ain't afraid of
nothing!  He totes them pistols of his--loaded--if you notice
good you can see where they bulge out his coat!"  Hannibal's
eyes, very round and big, looked up into hers.

"Is he as poor as he seems, Hannibal?" inquired Betty.

"He never has no money, Miss Betty, but I don't reckon he's what
a body would call pore."

It might have baffled a far more mature intelligence than
Hannibal's to comprehend those peculiar processes by which the
judge sustained himself and his intimate fellowship with
adversity--that it was his magnificence of mind which made the
squalor of his daily life seem merely a passing phase--but the
boy had managed to point a delicate distinction, and Betty
grasped something of the hope and faith which never quite died
out in Slocum Price's indomitable breast.

"But you always have enough to eat, dear?" she questioned
anxiously.  Hannibal promptly reassured her on this point.  "You
wouldn't let me think anything that was not true, Hannibal--you
are quite sure you have never been hungry?"

"Never, Miss Betty; honest!"

Betty gave a sigh of relief.  She had been reproaching herself
for her neglect of the child; she had meant to do so much for him
and had done nothing!  Now it was too late for her personally to
interest herself in his behalf, yet before she left for the East
she would provide for him.  If she had felt it was possible to
trust the judge she would have made him her agent, but even in
his best aspect he seemed a dubious dependence.  Tom, for quite
different reasons, was equally out of the question.  She thought
of Mr. Mahaffy.

"What kind of a man is Mr. Mahaffy, Hannibal?"

"He's an awful nice man, Miss Eetty, only he never lets on; a
body's got to find it out for his own self--he ain't like the
judge."

"Does he--drink, too, Hannibal?" questioned Betty.

"Oh, yes; when he can get the licker, he does."  It was evident
that Hannibal was cheerfully tolerant of this weakness on the
part of the austere Mahaffy.  By this time Betty was ready to
weep over the child, with his knowledge of shabby vice, and his
fresh young faith in those old tatterdemalions.

"But, no matter what they do, they are very, very kind to you?"
she continued quite tremulously.

"Yes, ma'am--why, Miss Betty, they're lovely men!"

"And do you ever hear the things spoken of you learned about at
Mrs. Ferris' Sunday-school?"

"When the judge is drunk he talks a heap about 'em.  It's
beautiful to hear him then; you'd love it, Miss Betty," and
Hannibal smiled up sweetly into her face.

"Does he have you go to Sunday-school in Raleigh?"

The boy shook his head.

"I ain't got no clothes that's fitten to wear, nor no pennies to
give, but the judge, he 'lows that as soon as he can make a raise
I got to go, and he's learning me my letters--but we ain't a
book.  Miss Betty, I reckon it'd stump you some to guess how he's
fixed it for me to learn?"

"He's drawn the letters for you, is that the way?"  In spite of
herself, Betty was experiencing a certain revulsion of feeling
where the judge and Mahaffy were concerned.  They were doubtless
bad enough, but they could have been worse.

"No, ma'am; he done soaked the label off one of Mr. Pegloe's
whisky bottles and pasted it on the wall just as high as my chin,
so's I can see it good, and he's learning me that-a-ways!  Maybe
you've seen the kind of bottle I mean--Pegloe's Mississippi
Pilot: Pure Corn Whisky?"  But Hannibal's bright little face
fell.  He was quick to see that the educational system devised by
the judge did not impress Betty at all favorably.  She drew him
into her arms.

"You shall have my books--the books I learned to read out of when
I was a little girl, Hannibal!"

"I like learning from the label pretty well," said Hannibal
loyally.

"But you'll like the books better, dear, when you see them.  I
know just where they are, for I happened on them on a shelf in
the library only the other day."

After they had found and examined the books and Hannibal had
grudgingly admitted that they might possess certain points of
advantage over the label, he and Betty went out for a walk.  It
was now late afternoon and the sun was sinking behind the wall of
the forest that rose along the Arkansas coast.  Their steps had
led them to the terrace where they stood looking off into the
west.  It was here that Betty had said good-by to Bruce
Carrington--it might have been months ago, and it was only days.
She thought of Charley--Charley, with his youth and hope and high
courage--unwittingly enough she had led him on to his death!  A
sob rose in her throat.

Hannibal looked up into her face.  The memory of his own loss was
never very long absent from his mind, and Miss Betty had been the
victim of a similarly sinister tragedy.  He recalled those first
awful days of loneliness through which he had lived, when there
was no Uncle Bob--soft-voiced, smiling and infinitely
companionable.

"Why, Hannibal, you are crying--what about, dear?" asked Betty
suddenly.

"No, ma'am; I ain't crying," said Hannibal stoutly, but his wet
lashes gave the lie to his words.

"Are you homesick--do you wish to go back to the judge and Mr.
Mahaffy?"

"No, ma'am--it ain't that--I was just thinking--"

"Thinking about what, dear?"

"About my Uncle Bob."  The small face was very wistful.

"Oh--and you still miss him so much, Hannibal?"

"I bet I do--I reckon anybody who knew Uncle Bob would never get
over missing him; they just couldn't, Miss Betty!  The judge is
mighty kind, and so is Mr. Mahaffy--they're awful kind, Miss
Betty, and it seems like they get kinder all the time--but with
Uncle Bob, when he liked you, he just laid himself out to let you
know it!"

"That does make a great difference, doesn't it?" agreed Betty
sadly, and two piteous tearful eyes were bent upon him.

"Don't you reckon if Uncle Bob is alive, like the judge says, and
he's ever going to find me, he had ought to be here by now?"
continued Hannibal anxiously.

"But it hasn't been such a great while, Hannibal; it's only that
so much has happened to you.  If he was very badly hurt it may
have been weeks before he could travel; and then when he could,
perhaps he went back to that tavern to try to learn what had
become of you.  But we may be quite certain he will never abandon
his search until he has made every possible effort to find you,
dear!  That means he will sooner or later come to west Tennessee,
for there will always be the hope that you have found your way
here."

"Sometimes I get mighty tired waiting, Miss Betty," confessed the
boy.  "Seems like I just couldn't wait no longer"  He sighed
gently, and then his face cleared.  "You reckon he'll come most
any time, don't you, Miss Betty ?"

"Yes, Hannibal; any day or hour!"

"Whoop!" muttered Hannibal softly under his breath.  Presently he
asked: "Where does that branch take you to?"  He nodded toward
the bayou at the foot of the terraced bluff.

"It empties into the river," answered Betty.

Hannibal saw a small skiff beached among the cottonwoods that
grew along the water's edge and his eyes lighted up instantly.
He had a juvenile passion for boats.

"Why, you got a boat, ain't you, Miss Betty?"  This was a
charming and an important discovery.

"Would you like to go down to it?" inquired Betty.

"'Deed I would!  Does she leak any, Miss Betty?"

"I don't know about that.  Do boats usually leak, Hannibal?"

"Why, you ain't ever been out rowing in her, Miss Betty, have
you?--and there ain't no better fun than rowing a boat!"  They
had started down the path.

"I used to think that, too, Hannibal; how do you suppose it is
that when people grow up they forget all about the really nice
things they might do?"

"What use is she if you don't go rowing in her?" persisted
Hannibal.

"Oh, but it is used.  Mr. Tom uses it in crossing to the other
side where they are clearing land for cotton.  It saves him a
long walk or ride about the head of the bayou."

"Like I should take you out in her, Miss Betty?' demanded
Hannibal with palpitating anxiety.

They had entered the scattering timber when Betty paused suddenly
with a startled exclamation, and Hannibal felt her fingers close
convulsively about his.  The sound she had heard might have been
only the rustling of the wind among the branches overhead in that
shadowy silence, but Betty's nerves, the placid nerves of youth
and perfect health, were shattered.

"Didn't you hear something, Hannibal?" she whispered fearfully.

For answer Hannibal pointed mysteriously, and glancing in the
direction he indicated, Betty saw a woman advancing along the
path toward them.  The look of alarm slowly died out of his eyes.

"I think it's the overseer's niece," she told Hannibal, and they
kept on toward the boat.

The girl came rapidly up the path, which closely followed the
irregular line of the shore in its windings.  Once she was seen
to stop and glance back over her shoulder, her attitude intent
and listening, then she hurried forward again.  Just by the boat
the three met.

"Good evening!" said Betty pleasantly.

The girl made no reply to this; she merely regarded Betty with a
fixed stare.  At length she broke silence abruptly.

"I got something I want to say to you--you know who I am, I
reckon?"  She was a girl of about Betty's own age, with a certain
dark, sullen beauty and that physical attraction which Tom, in
spite of his vexed mood, had taken note of earlier in the day.

"You are Bess Hicks," said Betty.

"Make the boy go back toward the house a spell--I got something I
want to say to you."  Betty hesitated.  She was offended by the
girl's manner, which was as rude as her speech.  "I ain't going
to hurt you--you needn't be afraid of me, I got something
important to say--send him off, I tell you; there ain't no time
to lose!"  The girl stamped her foot impatiently.

Betty made a sign to Hannibal and he passed slowly back along the
path.  He went unwillingly, and he kept his head turned that he
might see what was done, even if he were not to hear what was
said.

"That will do, Hannibal--wait there--don't go any farther!" Betty
called after him when he had reached a point sufficiently distant
to be out of hearing of a conversation carried on in an ordinary
tone.  "Now, what is it?  Speak quickly if you have anything to
tell me!"

"I got a heap to say," answered the girl with a scowl.  Her
manner was still fierce and repellent, and she gave Betty a
certain jealous regard out of her black eyes which the latter was
at a loss to explain.  "Where's Mr. Tom?" she demanded.

"Tom?  Why, about the place, I suppose--in his office, perhaps."
So it had to do with Tom. . . . Betty felt sudden disgust with
the situation.

"No, he ain't about the place, either!  He done struck out for
Memphis two hours after sun-up, and what's more, he ain't coming
back here to-night--"  There was a moment of silence.  The girl
looked about apprehensively.  She continued, fixing her black
eyes on Betty: "You're here alone at Belle Plain--you know what
happened when Mr. Tom started for Memphis last timeI reckon
you-all ain't forgot that!"

Betty felt a pallor steal over her face.  She rested a hand that
shook on the trunk of a tree to steady herself.  The girl laughed
shortly.

"Don't be so scared; I reckon Belle Plain's as good as his if
anything happened to you?"

By a great effort Betty gained a measure of control over herself.
She took a step nearer and looked the girl steadily in the face.

"Perhaps you will stop this sort of talk, and tell me what is
going to happen to me--if you know?" she said quietly.

"Why do you reckon Mr. Norton was shot?  I can tell you why--it
was all along of you--that was why!"  The girl's furtive glance,
which searched and watched the gathering shadows, came back as it
always did to Betty's pale face.  "You ain't no safer than he
was, I tell you!" and she sucked in her breath sharply between
her full red lips.

"What do you mean?" faltered Betty.

"Do you reckon you're safe here in the big house alone?  Why do
you reckon Mr. Tom cleared out for Memphis?  It was because he
couldn't be around and have anything happen to you--that was
why!" and the girl sank her voice to a whisper.  "You quit Belle
Plain now--to-night--just as soon as you can!"

"This is absurd--you are trying to frighten me!"

"Did they stop with trying to frighten Charley Norton?" demanded
Bess with harsh insistence.

Whatever the promptings that inspired this warning, they plainly
had nothing to do with either liking or sympathy.  Her dominating
emotion seemed to be a sullen sort of resentment which lit up her
glance with a dull fire; yet her feelings were so clearly and so
keenly personal that Betty understood the motive that had brought
her there.  The explanation, she found, left her wondering just
where and how her own fate was linked with that of this poor
white.

"You have been waiting some time to see me?" she asked.

"Ever since along about noon."

"You were afraid to come to the house?"

"I didn't want to be seen there."

"And yet you knew I was alone."

"Alone--but how do you know who's watching the place?"

"Do you think there was reason to be afraid of that?" asked
Betty.

Again the girl stamped her foot with angry impatience.

"You're just wastin' time--just foolin' it away--and you ain't
got none to spare!"

"You must tell me what I have to fear--I must know more or I
shall stay just where I am!"

"Well, then, stay!" The girl turned away, and then as quickly
turned back and faced Betty once more.  "I reckon he'd kill me if
he knew--I reckon I've earned that already--"

"Of whom are you speaking?"

"He'll have you away from here to-night!"

"He? . . . who? . . . and what if I refuse to go?"

"Did they ask Charley Norton whether he wanted to live or die?"
came the sinister question.

A shiver passed through Betty.  She was seeing it all again
--Charley as he groped among the graves with the hand of death
heavy upon him.

A moment later she was alone.  The girl had disappeared.  There
was only the shifting shadows as the wind tossed the branches of
the trees, and the bands of golden light that slanted along the
empty path.  The fear of the unknown leaped up afresh in Betty's
soul, in an instant her flying feet had borne her to the boy's
side.

"Come--come quick, Hannibal!" she gasped out, and seized his
hand.

"What is it, Miss Betty?  What's the matter?" asked Hannibal as
they fled panting up the terraces.

"I don't know--only we must get away from here just as soon as we
can!"  Then, seeing the look of alarm on the child's face, she
added more quietly, "Don't be frightened, dear, only we must go
away from Belle Plain at once."  But where they were to go, she
had not considered.

Reaching the house, they stole up to Betty's room.  Her
well-filled purse was the important thing; that, together with
some necessary clothing, went into a small hand-bag.

"You must carry this, Hannibal; if any one sees us leave the
house they'll think it something you are taking away," she
explained.  Hannibal nodded understandingly.

"Don't you trust your niggers, Miss Betty?" he whispered as they
went from the room.

"I only trust you, dear!"

"What makes you go?  Was it something that woman told you?  Are
they coming after us, Miss Betty?  Is it Captain Murrell?"

"Captain Murrell?"  There was less of mystery now, but more of
terror, and her hand stole up to her heart, and, white and slim,
rested against the black fabric of her dress.

"Don't you be scared, Miss Betty!" said Hannibal.

They went silently from the house and again crossed the lawn to
the terrace.  Under the leafy arch which canopied them there was
already the deep purple of twilight.

"Do you reckon it were Captain Murrell shot Mr. Norton, Miss
Betty?" asked Hannibal in a shuddering whisper.

"Hush--Oh, hush, Hannibal!  It is too awful to even speak of--"
and, sobbing and half hysterical, she covered her face with her
hands.

"But where are we going, Miss Betty?" asked the boy.

"I don't know, dear!" she had an agonizing sense of the night's
approach and of her own utter helplessness.

"I'll tell you what, Miss Betty, let's go to the judge and Mr.
Mahaffy!" said Hannibal.

"Judge Price?" She had not thought of him as a possible
protector.

"Why, Miss Betty, ain't I told you he ain't afraid of nothing?
We could walk to Raleigh easy if you don't want your niggers to
hook up a team for you."

Betty suddenly remembered the carriage which had taken the judge
into town; she was sure it had not yet returned.

"We will go to the judge, Hannibal!  George, who drove him into
Raleigh, has not come back; if we hurry we may meet him on the
road."

Screened by the thick shadows, they passed up the path that edged
the bayou; at the head of the inlet they entered a clearing, and
crossing this they came to the corn-field which lay between the
house and the highroad.  Following one of the shock rows they
hurried to the mouth of the lane.

"Hannibal, I don't want to tell the judge why I am leaving Belle
Plain--about the woman, I mean," said Betty.

"You reckon they'd kill her, don't you, Miss Betty, if they knew
what she'd done?" speculated the boy.  It occurred to him that an
adequate explanation of their flight would require preparation,
since the judge was at all times singularly alive to the
slightest discrepancy of statement.  They had issued from the
cornfield now and were going along the road toward Raleigh.
Suddenly Betty paused.

"Hark!" she whispered.

"It were nothing, Miss Betty," said Hannibal reassuringly, and
they hurried forward again.  In the utter stillness through which
they moved Betty heard the beating of her own heart, and the
soft, and all but inaudible patter of the boy's bare feet on the
warm dust of the road.  Vague forms that resolved themselves into
trees and bushes seemed to creep toward them out of the night's
black uncertainty.  Once more Betty paused.

"It were nothing, Miss Betty," said Hannibal as before, and he
returned to his consideration of the judge.  He sensed something
of that intellectual nimbleness which his patron's physical
make-up in nowise suggested, since his face was a mask that
usually left one in doubt as to just how much of what he heard
succeeded in making its impression on him; but the boy knew that
Slocum Price's blind side was a shelterless exposure.

"You don't think the carriage could have passed us while we were
crossing the corn-field?" said Betty.

"No, I reckon we couldn't a-missed hearing it," answered
Hannibal.  He had scarcely spoken when they caught the rattle of
wheels and the beat of hoofs.  These sounds swept nearer and
nearer, and then the darkness disgorged the Belle Plain team and
carriage.

"George!" cried Betty, a world of relief in her tones.

"Whoa, you!" and George reined in his horses with a jerk.  "Who's
dar?" he asked, bending forward on the box as he sought to pierce
the darkness with his glance.

"George--"

"Oh, it you, Missy?"

"Yes, I wish you to drive me into Raleigh," said Betty, and she
and Hannibal entered the carriage.

"All right, Missy.  Yo'-all ready fo' me to go along out o'
here?"

"Yes--drive fast, George!" urged Betty.

"It's right dark fo' fas' drivin' Missy, with the road jes'
aimin' fo' to bus' yo' springs with chuckholes!"  He had turned
his horses' heads in the direction of Raleigh while he was
speaking.  "It's scandalous black in these heah woods, Missy I
'clar' I never seen it no blacker!"

The carriage swung forward for perhaps a hundred yards, then
suddenly the horses came to a dead stop.

"Go along on, dar!" cried George, and struck them with his whip,
but the horses only reared and plunged.

"Hold on, nigger!" said a rough voice out of the darkness.

"What yo' doin' ?" the coachman gasped.  "Don' yo' know dis de
Belle Plain carriage?  Take yo' han's offen to dem hosses' bits!"

Two men stepped to the side of the carriage.

"Show your light, Bunker," said the same rough voice that had
spoken before.  Instantly a hooded lantern was uncovered, and
Hannibal uttered a cry of terror.  He was looking into the face
of Slosson, the tavern-keeper.




CHAPTER XXVII

PRISONERS


In the face of Betty's indignant protest Slosson and the man
named Bunker climbed into the carriage.

"Don't you be scared, ma'am," said the tavernkeeper, who smelt
strongly of whisky.  "I wouldn't lift my hand ag'in no good
looking female except in kindness."

"How dare you stop my carriage?" cried Betty, with a very genuine
anger which for the moment dominated all her other emotions.  She
struggled to her feet, but Slosson put out a heavy hand and
thrust her back.

"There now," he urged soothingly.  "Why make a fuss?  We ain't
going to harm you; we wouldn't for no sum of money.  Drive on,
Jim--drive like hell!"  This last was addressed to the man who
had taken George's place on the box, where a fourth member of
Slosson's band had forced the coachman down into the narrow space
between the seat and dashboard, and was holding a pistol to his
head while he sternly enjoined silence.

With a word to the horses Jim swung about and the carriage rolled
off through the night at a breakneck' pace.  Betty's shaking
hands drew Hannibal closer to her side as she felt the surge of
her terrors rise within her.  Who were these men--where could
they be taking her--and for what purpose?  The events of the past
weeks linked themselves in tragic sequence in her mind.

What was it she had to fear?  Was it Tom who had inspired
Norton's murder?  Was it Tom for whom these men were acting?  Tom
who would profit greatly by her disappearance or death.

They swept past the entrance at Belle Plain, past a break in the
wall of the forest where the pale light of stars showed Betty the
corn-field she and Hannibal had but lately crossed, and then on
into pitchy darkness again.  She clung to the desperate hope that
they might meet some one on the road, when she could cry out and
give the alarm.  She held herself in readiness for this, but
there was only the steady pounding of the big bays as Jim with
voice and whip urged them forward.  At last he abruptly checked
them, and Bunker and Slosson sprang from their seats.

"Get down, ma'am!" said the latter.

"Where are you taking me?" asked Betty, in a voice that shook in
spite of her efforts to control it.

"You must hurry, ma'am," urged Slosson impatiently.

"I won't move until I know where you intend taking me!" said
Betty, "If I am to die--"

Mr. Slosson laughed loudly and indulgently.

"You ain't.  If you don't want to walk, I'm man enough fo' to
tote you.  We ain't far to go, and I've tackled jobs I'd a heap
less heart fo' in my time," he concluded gallantly.  From the
opposite side of the carriage Bunker swore nervously.  He desired
to know if they were to stand there talking all night.  "Shut
your filthy mouth, Bunker, and see you keep tight hold of that
young rip-staver," said Slosson.  "He's a perfect eel--I've had
dealings with him afore!"

"You tried to kill my Uncle Bob--at the tavern, you and Captain
Murrell.  I heard you, and I seen you drag him to the river!"
cried Hannibal.

Slosson gave a start of astonishment at this.

"Why, ain't he hateful?" he exclaimed aghast.  "See here, young
feller, that's no kind of a way fo' you to talk to a man who has
riz his ten children!"

Again Bunker swore, while Jim told Slosson to make haste.  This
popular clamor served to recall the tavernkeeper to a sense of
duty.

"Ma'am, like I should tote you, or will you walk?" he inquired,
and reaching out his hand took hold of Betty.

"I'll walk," said the girl quickly, shrinking from the contact.

"Keep close at my heels.  Bunker, you tuck along after her with
the boy."

"What about this nigger?" asked the fourth man.

"Fetch him along with us," said Slosson.  They turned from the
road while he was speaking and entered a narrow path that led off
through the woods, apparently in the direction of the river.  A
moment later Betty heard the carriage drive away.  They went
onward in silence for a little time, then Slosson spoke over his
shoulder.

"Yes, ma'am, I've riz ten children but none of 'em was like him
--I trained 'em up to the minute!"  Mr. Slosson seemed to have
passed completely under the spell of his domestic recollections,
for he continued with just a touch of reminiscent sadness in his
tone.  "There was all told four Mrs. Slossons: two of 'em was
South Carolinians, one was from Georgia, and the last was a widow
lady out of east Tennessee.  She'd buried three husbands and I
figured we could start perfectly even."

The intrinsic fairness of this start made its strong appeal.  Mr.
Slosson dwelt upon it with satisfaction.  "She had three to her
credit, I had three to mine; neither could crow none over the
other."

As they stumbled forward through the thick obscurity he continued
his personal revelations, the present enterprise having roused
whatever there was of sentiment slumbering in his soul.  At last
they came out on a wide bayou; a white mist hung above it, and on
the low shore leaf and branch were dripping with the night dews.
Keeping close to the water's edge Slosson led the way to a point
where a skiff was drawn up on the bank.

"Step in, ma'am," he said, when he had launched it.

"I will go no farther!" said Betty in desperation.  She felt an
overmastering fear, the full horror of the unknown lay hold of
her, and she gave a piercing cry for help.  Slosson swung about
on his heel and seized her.  For a moment she struggled to
escape, but the man's big hands pinioned her.

"No more of that!" he warned, then he recovered himself and
laughed.  "You could yell till you was black in the face, ma'am,
and there'd be no one to hear you."

"Where are you taking me?" and Betty's voice faltered between the
sudden sobs that choked her.

"Just across to George Hicks's."

"For what purpose?"

"You'll know in plenty of time."  And Slosson leered at her
through the darkness.

"Hannibal is to go with me?" asked Betty tremulously.

"Sure!" agreed Slosson affably.  "Your nigger, too--quite a
party."

Betty stepped into the skiff.  She felt her hopes quicken--she
was thinking of Bess; whatever the girl's motives, she had wished
her to escape.  She would wish it now more than ever since the
very thing she had striven to prevent had happened.  Slosson
seated himself and took up the oars, Bunker followed with
Hannibal and they pushed off.  No word was spoken until they
disembarked on the opposite shore, when Slosson addressed Bunker.
"I reckon I can manage that young rip-staver, you go back after
Sherrod and the nigger," he said.

He conducted his captives up the bank and they entered a
clearing.  Looking across this Betty saw where a cabin window
framed a single square of light.  They advanced toward this and
presently the dark outline of the cabin itself became
distinguishable.  A moment later Slosson paused, a door yielded
to his hand, and Betty and the boy were thrust into the room
where Murrell had held his conference with Fentress and Ware.
The two women were now its only occupants and the mother, gross
and shapeless, turned an expressionless face on the intruders;
but the daughter shrank into the shadow, her burning glance fixed
on Betty.

"Here's yo' guests, old lady!" said Mr. Slosson.  Mrs. Hicks rose
from the three-legged stool on which she was sitting.

"Hand me the candle, Bess," she ordered.

At one side of the room was a steep flight of stairs which gave
access to the loft overhead.  Mrs. Hicks, by a gesture, signified
that Betty and Hannibal were to ascend these stairs; they did so
and found themselves on a narrow landing inclosed by a partition
of rough planks, this partition was pierced by a low door.  Mrs.
Hicks, who had followed close at their heels, handed the candle
to Betty.

"In yonder!" she said briefly, nodding toward the door.

"Wait!" cried Betty in a whisper.

"No," said the woman with an almost masculine surliness of tone.
"I got nothing to say."  She pushed them into the attic, and,
closing the door, fastened it with a stout wooden bar.

Beyond that door, which seemed to have closed on every hope,
Betty held the tallow dip aloft, and by its uncertain and
flickering light surveyed her prison.  The briefest glance
sufficed.  The room contained two shakedown beds and a stool,
there was a window in the gable, but a piece of heavy plank was
spiked before it.

"Miss Betty, don't you be scared," whispered Hannibal.  "When the
judge hears we're gone, him and Mr. Mahaffy will try to find us.
They'll go right off to Belle Plain--the judge is always wanting
to do that, only Mr. Mahaffy never lets him but now he won't be
able to stop him."

"Oh, Hannibal, Hannibal, what can he do there--what can any one
do there?"  And a dead pallor overspread the girl's face.  To
speak of the blind groping of her friends but served to fix the
horror of their situation in her mind.

"I don't know, Miss Betty, but the judge is always thinking of
things to do; seems like they was mostly things no one else would
ever think of."

Betty had placed the candle on the stool and seated herself on
one of the beds.  There was the murmur of voices in the room
below; she wondered if her fate was under consideration and what
that fate was to be.  Hannibal, who had been examining the
window, returned to her side.

"Miss Betty, if we could just get out of this loft we could steal
their skiff and row down to the river; I reckon they got just the
one boat; the only way they could get to us would be to swim out,
and if they done that we could pound 'em over the head with the
oars the least little thing sinks you when you're in the water."
But this murderous fancy of his failed to interest Betty.

Presently they heard Sherrod and Bunker come up from the shore
with George.  Slosson joined them and there was a brief
discussion, then an interval of silence, and the sound of voices
again as the three white men moved back across the field in the
direction of the bayou.  There succeeded a period of utter
stillness, both in the cabin and in the clearing, a somber hush
that plunged Betty yet deeper in despair.  Wild thoughts assailed
her, thoughts against which she struggled with all the strength
of her will.

In that hour of stress Hannibal was sustained by his faith in the
judge.  He saw his patron's powerful and picturesque intelligence
applied to solving the mystery of their disappearance from Belle
Plain; it was inconceivable that this could prove otherwise than
disastrous to Mr. Slosson and he endeavored to share the
confidence he was feeling with Betty, but there was something so
forced and unnatural in the girl's voice and manner when she
discussed his conjectures that he quickly fell into an awed
silence.  At last, and it must have been some time after
midnight, troubled slumbers claimed him.  No moment of
forgetfulness came to Betty.  She was waiting for what--she did
not know!  The candle burnt lower and lower and finally went out
and she was left in darkness, but again she was conscious of
sounds from the room below.  At first it was only a word or a
sentence, then the guarded speech became a steady monotone that
ran deep into the night; eventually this ceased and Betty fancied
she heard sobs.

At length points of light began to show through chinks in the
logs.  Hannibal roused and sat up, rubbing his eyes with the
backs of his hands.

"Wasn't you able to sleep none?" he inquired.  Betty shook her
head.  He looked at her with an expression of troubled concern.
"How soon do you reckon the judge will know?" he asked.

"Very soon now, dear."  Hannibal was greatly consoled by this
opinion.

"Miss Betty, he will love to find us--"

"Hark!  What was that?" for Betty had caught the distant splash
of oars.  Hannibal found a chink in the logs through which by
dint of much squinting he secured a partial view of the bayou.
"They're fetching up a keel boat to the shore, Miss Betty--it's a
whooper!" he announced.  Betty's heart sank, she never doubted
the purpose for which that boat was brought into the bayou, or
that it nearly concerned herself.

Half an hour later Mrs. Hicks appeared with their breakfast.  It
was in vain that Betty attempted to engage her in conversation,
either she cherished some personal feeling of dislike for her
prisoner, or else the situation in which she herself was placed
had little to recommend it, even to her dull mind, and her
dissatisfaction was expressed in her attitude toward the girl.

Betty passed the long hours of morning in dreary speculation
concerning what was happening at Belle Plain.  In the end she
realized that the day could go by and her absence occasion no
alarm; Steve might reasonably suppose George had driven her into
Raleigh or to the Bowens' and that she had kept the carriage.
Finally all her hope centered on Judge Price.  He would expect
Hannibal during the morning, perhaps when the boy did not arrive
he would be tempted to go out to Belle Plain to discover the
reason of his nonappearance.  She wondered what theories would
offer themselves to his ingenious mind, for she sensed something
of that indomitable energy which in the face of rebuffs and
laughter carried him into the thick of every sensation.

At noon, Mrs. Hicks, as sullen as in the morning, brought them
their dinner.  She had scarcely quitted the loft when a shrill
whistle pierced the silence that hung above the clearing.  It was
twice repeated, and the two women were heard to go from the
cabin.  Perhaps half an hour elapsed, then a step became audible
on the packed earth of the dooryard; some one entered the room
below and began to ascend the narrow stairs, and Betty's fingers
closed convulsively about Hannibal's.  This was neither Mrs.
Hicks nor her daughter, nor Slosson with his clumsy shufe.  There
was a brief pause when the landing was reached, but it was only
momentary; a hand lifted the bar, the door was thrown open, and
its space framed the figure of a man.  It was John Murrell.

Standing there he regarded Betty in silence, but a deep-seated
fire glowed in his sunken eyes.  The sense of possession was
raging through him, his temples throbbed, a fever stirred his
blood.  Love, such as it was, he undoubtedly felt for her and
even his giant project with all its monstrous ramifications was
lost sight of for the moment.  She was the inspiration for it
all, the goal and reward toward which he struggled.

"Betty!" the single word fell softly from his lips.  He stepped
into the room, closing the door as he did so.

The girl's eyes were dilating with a mute horror, for by some
swift intuitive process of the mind, which asked nothing of the
logic of events, but dealt only with conclusions, Murrell stood
revealed as Norton's murderer.  Perhaps he read her thoughts, but
he had lived in his degenerate ambitions until the common
judgments or the understanding of them no longer existed for him.
That Betty had loved Norton seemed inconsequential even; it was a
memory to be swept away by the force of his greater passion.  So
he watched her smilingly, but back of the smile was the menace of
unleashed impulse.

"Can't you find some word of welcome for me, Betty?" he asked at
length, still softly, still with something of entreaty in his
tone.

"Then it was you--not Tom--who had me brought here!"  She could
have thanked God had it been Tom, whose hate was not to be feared
as she feared this man's love.

"Tom--no!" and Murrell laughed.  "You didn't think I'd give you
up?  I am standing with a halter, about my neck, and all for your
sake--who'd risk as much for love of you?" he seemed to expand
with savage pride that this was so, and took a step toward her.

"Don't come near me!" cried Betty.  Her eyes blazed, and she
looked at him with' loathing.

"You'll learn to be kinder," he exulted.  "You wouldn't see me at
Belle Plain; what was left for me but to have you brought here?"
While Murrell was speaking, the signal that had told of his own
presence on the opposite shore of the bayou was heard again.
This served to arrest his attention.  A look of uncertainty
passed over his face, then he made an impatient gesture as if he
dismissed some thought that had forced itself upon him, and
turned to Betty.

"You don't ask what my purpose is where you are concerned; have
you no curiosity on that score?"  She endeavored to meet his
glance with a glance as resolute, then her eyes sought the boy's
upturned face.  "I am going to send you down river, Betty.  Later
I shall join you in New Orleans, and when I leave the country you
shall go with me--"

"Never!" gasped Betty.

"As my wife, or however you choose to call it.  I'll teach you
what a man's love is like," he boasted, and extended his hand.
Betty shrank from him, and his hand fell at his side.  He looked
at her steadily out of his deep-sunk eyes in which blazed the
fires of his passion, and as he looked, her face paled and
flushed by turns.  "You may learn to be kind to me, Betty," he
said.  "You may find it will be worth your while."  Betty made no
answer, she only gathered Hanniba closer to her side.  "Why not
accept what I have to offer, Betty?" again he went nearer her,
and again she shrank from him, but the madness of his mood was in
the ascendant.  He seized her and drew her to him.  She struggled
to free herself, but his fingers tightened about hers.

"Let me go!" she panted.  He laughed his cool laugh of triumph.

"Let you go--ask me anything but that, Betty!  Have you no reward
for patience such as mine?  A whole summer has passed since I saw
you first--"

There was the noisy shuffling of feet on the stairs, and
releasing Betty, Murrell swung about on his heel and faced the
door.  It was pushed open an inch at a time by a not too
confident hand and Mr. Slosson thus guardedly presented himself
to the eye of his chief, whom he beckoned from the room.

"Well?" said Murrell, when they stood together on the landing.

"Just come across to the keel boat!" and Slosson led the way down
the stairs and from the house.

"Damn you, Joe; you might have waited!" observed the outlaw.
Slosson gave him a hardened grin.  They crossed the clearing and
boarded the keel boat which rested against the bank.  As they did
so, the cabin in the stern gave up a shattered presence in the
shape of Tom Ware.  Murrell started violently.  "I thought you
were hanging out in Memphis, Tom?" he said, and his brow darkened
as, sinister and forbidding, he stepped closer to the planter.
Ware did not answer at once, but looked at Murrell out of heavy
bloodshot eyes, his face pinched and ghastly.  At last he said,
speaking with visible effort,

"I stayed in Memphis until five o'clock this morning."

"Damn your early hours!" roared Murrell.  "What are you doing
here?  I suppose you've been showing that dead face of yours
about the neighborhood--why didn't you stay at Belle Plain since
you couldn't keep away?"

"I haven't been near Belle Plain, I came here instead.  How am I
going to meet people and answer questions?"  His teeth were
chattering.  "Is it known she's missing?" he added.

"Hicks raised the alarm the first thing this morning, according
to the instructions I'd given him."

"Yes?" gasped Ware.  He was dripping from every pore and the
sickly color came and went on his unshaven cheeks.  Murrell
dropped a heavy hand on his shoulder.

"You haven't been at Belle Plain, you say, but has any one seen
you on the road this morning?"

"No one, John," cried Ware, panting between each word.  There was
a moment's pause and Ware spoke again.  "What are they doing at
Belle Plain?" he demanded in a whisper.  Murrell's lips curled.

"I understand there is talk of suicide," he said.

"Good!" cried Ware.

"They are dragging the bayou down below the house.  It looks as
though you were going to reap the rewards of the excellent
management you have given her estate.  They have been trying to
find you in Memphis, so the sooner you show yourself the better,"
he concluded significantly.

"You are sure you have her safe, John, no chance of discovery?
For God's sake, get her away from here as soon as you can, it's
an awful risk you run!"

"She'll be sent down river to-night," said Murrell.

"Captain," began Slosson who up to this had taken no part in the
conversation.  "When are you going to cross to t'other side of
the bayou?"

"Soon," replied Murrell.  Slosson laughed.

"I didn't know but you'd clean forgot the Clan's business.  I
want to ask another question--but first I want to say that no one
thinks higher or more frequent of the ladies than just me, I'm
genuinely fond of 'em and I've never lifted my hand ag'in' 'em
except in kindness."  Mr. Slosson looked at Ware with an
exceedingly virtuous expression of countenance.  He continued.
"Yo' orders are that we're to slip out of this a little afore
midnight, but suppose there's a hitch--here's the lady knowing
what she knows and here's the boy knowing what he knows."

"There can be no hitch," rasped out Murrell arrogantly.

"I never knew a speculation that couldn't go wrong; and by rights
we should have got away last night."

"Well, whose fault is it you didn't?" demanded Murrell.

"In a manner it were mine, but the ark got on a sandbank as we
were fetching it in and it took us the whole damn night to get
clear."

"Well?" prompted Murrell, with a sullen frown.

"Suppose they get shut of that notion of theirs that the lady's
done drowned herself, suppose they take to watching the river?
Or suppose the whole damn bottom drops out of this deal?  What
then?  Why, I'll tell you what then--the lady, good looking as
she is, knows enough to make west Tennessee mighty onhealthy for
some of us.  I say suppose it's a flash in the pan and you have
to crowd the distance in between you and this part of the world,
you can't tell me you'll have any use for her then."  Slosson
paused impressively.  "And here's Mr. Ware feeling bad, feeling
like hell," he resumed.  "Him and me don't want to be left in no
trap with you gone God only knows where."

"I'll send a man to take charge of the keel boat.  I can't risk
any more of your bungling, Joe."

"That's all right, but you don't answer my question," persisted
Slosson, with admirable tenacity of purpose.

"What is your question, Joe?"

"A lot can happen between this and midnight--"

"If things go wrong with us there'll be a blaze at the head of
the bayou; does that satisfy you?"

"And what then?"

Murrell hesitated.

"What about the girl?" insisted Slosson, dragging him back to the
point at issue between them.  "As a man I wouldn't lift my hand
ag'in' no good looking woman except like I said--in kindness, but
she can't be turned loose, she knows too much.  What's the word,
Captain--you say it!" he urged.  He made a gesture of appeal to
Ware.

"Look for the light; better still, look for the man I'll send."
And with this Murrell would have turned away, but Slosson
detained him.

"Who'll he be?"

"Some fellow who knows the river."

"And if it's the light?" asked the tavern-keeper in a hoarse
undertone.  Again he looked toward Ware, who, dry-lipped and
ashen, was regarding him steadfastly.  Glance met glance, for a
brief instant they looked deep into each other's eyes and then
the hand Slosson had rested on Murrell's shoulder dropped at his
side.




CHAPTER XXVIII

THE JUDGE MEETS THE SITUATION


The judge's and Mr. Mahaffy's celebration of the former's
rehabilitated credit had occupied the shank of the evening, the
small hours of the night, and that part of the succeeding day
which the southwest described as soon in the morning; and as the
stone jug, in which were garnered the spoils of the highly
confidential but entirely misleading conversation which the judge
had held with Mr. Pegloe after his return from Belle Plain, lost
in weight, it might have been observed that he and Mr. Mahaffy
seemed to gain in that nice sense of equity which should form the
basis of all human relations.  The judge watched Mr. Mahaffy, and
Mr. Mahaffy watched the judge, each trustfully placing the
regulation of his private conduct in the hands of his friend, as
the one most likely to be affected by the rectitude of his acts.

Probably so extensive a consumption of Mr. Pegloe's corn whisky
had never been accomplished with greater highmindedness.  They
honorably split the last glass, the judge scorning to set up any
technical claim to it as his exclusive property; then he stared
at Mahaffy, while Mahaffy, dark-visaged and forbidding, stared
back at him.

The judge sighed deeply.  He took up the jug and inverted it.  A
stray drop or so fell languidly into his glass.

"Try squeezing it, Price," said Mahaffy.

The judge shook the jug, it gave forth an empty sound, and he
sighed again; he attempted to peer into it, closing one watery
eye as he tilted it toward the light.

"I wonder no Yankee has ever thought to invent a jug with a glass
bottom," he observed.

"What for?" asked Mahaffy.

"You astonish me, Solomon," exclaimed the judge.  "Coming as you
do from that section which invented the wooden nutmeg, and an
eight-day clock that has been known to run as much as four or
five hours at a stretch.  I am aware the Yankees are an ingenious
people; I wonder none of 'em ever thought of a jug with a glass
bottom, so that when a body holds it up to the light he can see
at a glance whether it is empty or not.  Do you reckon Pegloe has
sufficient confidence to fill the jug again for us?"

But Mahaffy's expression indicated no great confidence in Mr.
Pegloe's confidence.

"Credit," began the judge, "is proverbially shy; still it may
sometimes be increased, like the muscles of the body and the
mental faculties, by judicious use.  I've always regarded Pegloe
as a cheap mind.  I hope I have done him an injustice."  He put
on his hat, and tucking the jug under his arm, went from the
house.

Ten or fifteen minutes elapsed.  Mahaffy considered this a good
sign, it didn't take long to say no, he reflected.  Another ten
or fifteen elapsed.  Mahaffy lost heart.  Then there came a hasty
step beyond the door, it was thrown violently open, and the judge
precipitated himself into the room.  A glance showed Mahaffy that
he was laboring under intense excitement.

"Solomon, I bring shocking news.  God knows what the next few
hours may reveal!" cried the judge, mopping his brow.  "Miss
Malroy has disappeared from Belle Plain, and Hannibal has gone
with her!"

"Where have they gone?" asked Mahaffy, and his long jaw dropped.

"Would to God I had an answer ready for that question, Solomon!"
answered the judge, with a melancholy shake of the head.  He
gazed down on his friend with an air of large tolerance.  "I am
going to Belle Plain, but you are too drunk.  Sleep it off,
Solomon, and join me when your brain is clear and your legs
steady."

Mahaffy jerked out an oath, and lifting himself off his chair,
stood erect.  He snatched up his hat.

"Stuff your pistols into your pockets, and come on, Price!" he
said, and stalked toward the door.

He flitted up the street, and the judge puffed and panted in his
wake.  They gained the edge of the village without speech.

"There is mystery and rascality here!" said the judge.

"What do you know, Price, and where did you hear this?" Mahaffy
shot the question back over his shoulder.

"At Pegloe's, the Belle Plain overseer had just fetched the news
into town."

Again they were silent, all their energies being absorbed by the
physical exertion they were making.  The road danced before their
burning eyes, it seemed to be uncoiling itself serpentwise with
hideous undulations.  Mr. Mahaffy was conscious that the judge,
of whom he caught a blurred vision now at his right side, now at
his left, was laboring painfully in the heat and dust, the breath
whistling from between his parched lips.

"You're just ripe for apoplexy, Price!" he snarled, moderating
his pace.

"Go on," said the judge, with stolid resolution.

Two miles out of the village they came to a roadside spring, here
they paused for an instant.  Mahaffy scooped up handfuls of the
clear water and sucked it down greedily.  The judge dropped on
his stomach and buried his face in the tiny pool, gulping up
great thirsty swallows.  After a long breathless instant he stood
erect, with drops of moisture clinging to his nose and eyebrows.
Mahaffy was a dozen paces down the road, hurrying forward again
with relentless vigor.  The judge shuffled after him.  The tracks
they left in the dust crossed and re-crossed the road, but
presently the slanting lines of their advance straightened, the
judge gained and held a fixed place at Mahaffy's right, a step or
so in the rear.  His oppulent fancy began to deal with the
situation.

"If anything happens to the child, the man responsible for it
would better never been born--I'll pursue him with undiminished
energy from this moment forth!" he panted.

"What could happen to him, Price?" asked Mahaffy.

"God knows, poor little lad!"

"Will you shut up!" cried Mahaffy savagely.

"Solomon!"

"Why do you go building on that idea?  Why should any one harm
him--what earthly purpose--"

"I tell you, Solomon, we are the pivotal point in a vast circle
of crime.  This is a blow at me--this is revenge, sir, neither
more nor less!  They have struck at me through the boy, it is as
plain as day."

"What did the overseer say?"

"Just that they found Miss Malroy gone from Belle Plain this
morning, and the boy with her."

"This is like you, Price!  How do you know they haven't spent the
night at some neighbor's?"

"The nearest neighbor is five or six miles distant.  Miss Malroy
and Hannibal were seen along about dusk in the grounds at Belle
Plain, do you mean to tell me you consider it likely that they
set out on foot at that hour, and without a word to any one, to
make a visit?" inquired the judge; but Mahaffy did not contend
for this point.

"What are you going to do first, Price?"

"Have a look over the grounds, and talk with the slaves."

"Where's the brother--wasn't he at Belle Plain last night?"

"It seems he went to Memphis yesterday."

They plodded forward in silence; now and again they were passed
by some man on horseback whose destination was the same as their
own, and then at last they caught sight of Belle Plain in its
grove of trees.

All work on the plantation had stopped, and the hundreds of
slaves--men, women and children--were gathered about the house.
Among these moved the members of the dominant race.  The judge
would have attached himself to the first group, but he heard a
whispered question, and the answer,

"Miss Malroy's lawyer."

Clearly it was not for him to mix with these outsiders, these
curiosity seekers.  He crossed the lawn to the house, and mounted
the steps.  In the doorway was big Steve, while groups of men
stood about in the hall, the hum of busy purposeless talk
pervading the place.  The judge frowned.  This was all wrong.

"Has Mr. Ware returned from Memphis?" he asked of Steve.

"No, Sah;; not yet."

"Then show me into the library," said the judge with bland
authority, surrendering his hat to the butler.  "Come along,
Mahaffy!" he added.  They entered the library, and the judge
motioned Steve to close the door.  "Now, boy, you'll kindly ask
those people to withdraw--you may say it is Judge Price's orders.
Allow no one to enter the house unless they have business with
me, or as I send for them--you understand?  After you have
cleared the house, you may bring me a decanter of corn whisky
--stop a bit--you may ask the sheriff to step here."

"Yes, Sah."  And Steve withdrew.

The judge drew an easy-chair up to the flat-topped desk that
stood in the center of the room, and seated himself.

"Are you going to make this the excuse for another drunk, Price?
If so, I feel the greatest contempt for you," said Mahaffy
sternly.

The judge winced at this.

"You have made a regrettable choice of words, Solomon," he urged
gently.

"Where's your feeling for the boy?"

"Here!" said the judge, with an eloquent gesture, resting his
hand on his heart.

"If you let whisky alone, I'll believe you, otherwise what I have
said must stand."

The door opened, and the sheriff slouched into the room.  He was
chewing a long wheat straw, and his whole appearance was one of
troubled weakness.

"Morning," he said briefly.

"Sit down, Sheriff," and the judge indicated a meek seat for the
official in a distant corner.  "Have you learned anything?" he
asked.

The sheriff shook his head.

"What you turning all these neighbors out of doors for?" he
questioned.

"We don't want people tracking in and out the house, Sheriff.
Important evidence may be destroyed.  I propose examining the
slaves first--does that meet with your approval?"

"Oh, I've talked with them, they don't know nothing," said the
sheriff.  "No one don't know nothing."

"Please God, we may yet put our fingers on some villain who
does," said the judge.

Outside it was noised about that judge Price had taken matters in
hand--he was the old fellow who had been warned to keep his mouth
shut, and who had never stopped talking since.  A crowd collected
beyond the library windows and feasted its eyes on the back of
this hero's bald head.

One by one the house servants were ushered into the judge's
presence.  First he interrogated little Steve, who had gone to
Miss Betty's door that morning to rouse her, as was his custom.
Next he examined Betty's maid; then the cook, and various house
servants, who had nothing especial to tell, but told it at
considerable.  length; and lastly big Steve.

"Stop a bit," the judge suddenly interrupted the butler in the
midst of his narrative.  "Does the overseer always come up to the
house the first thing in the morning?"

"Why, not exactly, Sah, but he come up this mo'ning, Sah.  He was
talking to me at the back of the house, when the women run out
with the word that Missy was done gone away."

"He joined in the search?"

"Yes, Sah.''

"When was Miss Malroy seen last?" asked the judge.

"She and the young gemman you fotched heah were seen in the
gyarden along about sundown.  I seen them myself."

"They had had supper?"

"Yes, Sah."

"Who sleeps here?"

"Just little Steve and three of the women, they sleeps at the
back of the house, Sah.''

"No sounds were heard during the night?"

"No, Sah."

"I'll see the overseer--what's his name?--Hicks?  Suppose you go
for him!" said the judge, addressing the sheriff.

The sheriff was gone from the room only a few moments, and
returned with the information that Hicks was down at the bayou,
which was to be dragged.

"Why?" inquired the judge.

"Hicks says Miss Malroy's been acting mighty queer ever since
Charley Norton was shot--distracted like!  He says he noticed it,
and that Tom Ware noticed it."

"How does he explain the boy's disappearance?"

"He reckons she throwed herself in, and the boy tried to drag her
out, like he naturally would, and got drawed in."

"Humph!  I'll trouble Mr. Hicks to step here," said the judge
quietly.

"There's Mr. Carrington and a couple of strangers outside who've
been asking about Miss Malroy and the boy, seems like the
strangers knowed her and him back yonder in No'th Carolina," said
the sheriff as he turned away.

"I'll see them."  The sheriff went from the room and the judge
dismissed the servants.

"Well, what do you think, Price?" asked Mahaffy anxiously when
they were alone.

"Rubbish!  Take my word for it, Solomon, this blow is leveled at
me.  I have been too forward in my attempts to suppress the
carnival of crime that is raging through west Tennessee.  You'll
observe that Miss Malroy disappeared at a moment when the public
is disposed to think she has retained me as her legal adviser,
probably she will be set at liberty when she agrees to drop the
matter of Norton's murder.  As for the boy, they'll use him to
compel my silence and inaction."  The judge took a long breath.
"Yet there remains one point where the boy is concerned that
completely baffles me.  If we knew just a little more of his
antecedents it might cause me to make a startling and radical
move."

Mahaffy was clearly not impressed by the vague generalities in
which the judge was dealing.

"There you go, Price, as usual, trying to convince yourself that
you are the center of everything!" he said, in a tone of much
exasperation.  "Let's get down to business!  What does this man
Hicks mean by hinting at suicide?  You saw Miss Malroy
yesterday?"

"You have put your finger on a point of some significance," said
the judge.  "She bore evidence of the shock and loss she had
sustained; aside from that she was quite as she has always been."

"Well, what do you want to see Hicks for?  What do you expect to
learn from him?"

"I don't like his insistence on the idea that Miss Malroy is
mentally unbalanced.  It's a question of some delicacy--the law,
sir, fully recognizes that.  It seems to me he is overanxious to
account for her disappearance in a manner that can compromise no
one."

Here they were interrupted by the opening of the door, and big
Steve admitted Carrington and the two men of whom the sheriff had
spoken.

"A shocking condition of affairs, Mr. Carrington!" said the judge
by way of greeting.

"Yes," said Carrington shortly.

"You left these parts some time ago, I believe?" continued the
judge.

"The day before Norton was shot.  I had started home for
Kentucky.  I heard of his death when I reached Randolph on the
second bluff," explained Carrington, from whose cheeks the
weather-beaten bloom had faded.  He rested his hand on the edge
of the desk and turned to the men who had followed him into the
room.  "This is the gentleman you wish to see," he said.  and
stepped to one of the windows; it overlooked the terraces where
he had said good-by to Betty scarcely a week before.

The two men had paused by the door.  They now advanced.  One was
gaunt and haggard, his face disfigured by a great red scar, the
other was a shockheaded individual who moved with a shambling
gait.  Both carried rifles and both were dressed in coarse
homespun.

"Morning, sir," said the man with the scar.  "Yancy's my name,
and this gentleman 'lows he'd rather be known now as Mr.
Cavendish."

The judge started to his feet.

"Bob Yancy?" he cried.

"Yes, sir, that's me."  The judge passed nimbly around the desk
and shook the Scratch Hiller warmly by the hand.  "Where's my
nevvy, sir--what's all this about him and Miss Betty?"  Yancy's
soft drawl was suddenly eager.

"Please God we'll recover him soon!" said the judge.

By the window Carrington moved impatiently.  No harm could come
to the boy, but Betty--a shudder went through him.

"They've stolen him."  Yancy spoke with conviction.  "I reckon
they've started back to No'th Carolina with him--only that don't
explain what's come of Miss Betty, does it?" and he dropped
rather helplessly into a chair.

"Bob are just getting off a sick bed.  He's been powerful porely
in consequence of having his head laid open and then being
throwed into the Elk River, where I fished him out," explained
Cavendish, who still continued to regard the judge with unmixed
astonishment, first cocking his shaggy head on one side and then
on the other, his bleached eyes narrowed to a slit.  Now and then
he favored the austere Mahaffy with a fleeting glance.  He seemed
intuitively to understand the comradeship of their degradation.

"Mr. Cavendish fetched me here on his raft.  We tied up to the
sho' this morning.  It was there we met Mr. Carrington--I'd
knowed him slightly back yonder in No'th Carolina," continued
Yancy.  "He said I'd find Hannibal with you.  I was counting a
heap on seeing my nevvy."

Carrington, no longer able to control himself, swung about on his
heel.

"What's been done?" he asked, with fierce repression.  "What's
going to be done?  Don't you know that every second is precious?"

"I am about to conclude my investigations, sir," said the judge
with dignity.

Carrington stepped to the door.  After all, what was there to
expect of these men?  Whatever their interest, it was plainly
centered in the boy.  He passed out into the hall.

As the door closed on him the judge turned again to the Scratch
Hiller.

"Mr. Yancy, Mr. Mahaffy and I hold your nephew in the tenderest
regard, he has been our constant companion ever since you were
lost to him.  In this crisis you may rely upon us; we are
committed to his recovery, no matter what it involves."  The
judge's tone was one of unalterable resolution.

"I reckon you-all have been mighty good and kind to him," said
Yancy huskily.

"We have endeavored to be, Mr. Yancy--indeed I had formed the
resolution legally to adopt him should you not come to claim him.
I should have given him my name, and made him my heir.  His
education has already begun, under my supervision," and the
judge, remembering the high use to which he had dedicated one of
Pegloe's trade labels, fairly glowed with philanthropic fervor.

"Think of that!" murmured Yancy softly.  He was deeply moved.  So
was Mr. Cavendish, who was gifted with a wealth of ready
sympathy.  He thrust out a hardened hand to the judge.

"Shake!" he said.  "You're a heap better than you look."  A thin
ripple of laughter escaped Mahaffy, but the judge accepted Chills
and Fever's proffered hand.  He understood that here was a simple
genuine soul.

"Price, isn't it important for us to know why Mr. Yancy thinks
the boy has been taken back to North Carolina?" said Mahaffy.

"Just what kin is Hannibal to you, Mr. Yancy?" asked the judge
resuming his seat.

"Strictly speaking, he ain't none.  That he come to live with me
is all owing to Mr. Crenshaw, who's a good man when left to
himself, but he's got a wife, so a body may say he never is left
to himself," began Yancy; and then briefly he told the story of
the woman and the child much as he had told it to Bladen at the
Barony the day of General Quintard's funeral.

The judge, his back to the light and his face in shadow, rested
his left elbow on the desk and with his cbin sunk in his palm,
followed the Scratch Hiller's narrative with the closest
attention.

"And General Quintard never saw him--never manifested any
interest in him?" the words came slowly from the judge's lips, he
seemed to gulp down something that rose in his throat.  "Poor
little lad!" he muttered, and again, "Poor little lad!"

"Never once, sir.  He told the slaves to keep him out of his
sight.  We-all wondered, fo' you know how niggers will talk.  We
thought maybe he was some kin to the Quintards, but we couldn't
figure out how.  The old general never had but one child and she
had been dead fo' years.  The child couldn't have been hers no
how." Yancy paused.

The judge drummed idly on the desk.

"What implacable hate--what iron pride!" he murmured, and swept
his hand across his eyes.  Absorbed and aloof, he was busy with
his thoughts that spanned the waste of yearsyears that seemed to
glide before him in review, each bitter with its hideous memories
of shame and defeat.  Then from the smoke of these lost battles
emerged the lonely figure of the child as he had seen him that
June night.  His ponderous arm stiffened where it rested on the
desk, he straightened up in his chair and his face assumed its
customary expression of battered dignity, while a smile at once
wistful and tender hovered about his lips.

"One other question," he said.  "Until this man Murrell appeared
you had no trouble with Bladen?  He was content that you should
keep the child--your right to Hannibal was never challenged?"

"Never, sir.  All my troubles began about that time."

"Murrell belongs in these parts," said the judge.

"I'd admire fo' to meet him," said Yancy quietly.

The judge grinned.

"I place my professional services at your disposal," he said.
"Yours is a clear case of felonous assault."

"No, it ain't, sir--I look at it this-a-ways; it's a clear case
of my giving him the damnedest sort of a body beating!"

"Sir," said the judge, "I'll hold your hat while you are about
it!"

Hicks had taken his time in responding to the judge's summons,
but now his step sounded in the hall and throwing open the door
he entered the room.  Whether consciously or not he had acquired
something of that surly, forbidding manner which was
characteristic of his employer.  A curt nod of the head was his
only greeting.

"Will you sit down?" asked the judge.  Hicks signified by another
movement of the head that he would not.  "This is a very dreadful
business!" began the judge softly.

"Ain't it?" agreed Hicks.  "What you got to say to me?" he added
petulantly.

"Have you started to drag the bayou?" asked the judge.  Hicks
nodded.  "That was your idea?" suggested the judge.

"No, it wa'n't," objected Hicks quickly.  "But I said she had
been actin' like she was plumb distracted ever since Charley
Norton got shot--"

"How?" inquired the judge, arching his eyebrows.  Hicks was
plainly disturbed by the question.

"Sort of out of her head.  Mr. Ware seen it, too--"

"He spoke of it?"

"Yes, sir; him and me discussed it together."

The judge regarded Hicks long and intently and in, silence.  His
magnificent mind was at work.  If Betty had been distraught he
had not observed any sign of it the previous day.  If Ware were
better informed as to her true mental state why had he chosen
this time to go to Memphis?

"I suppose Mr. Ware asked you to keep an eye on Miss Malroy while
he was away from home?" said the judge.  Hicks, suspicious of the
drift of his questioning, made no answer.  "I suppose you told
the house servants to keep her under observation?" continued the
judge.

"I don't talk to no niggers," replied Hicks, "except to give 'em
my orders."

"Well, did you give them that order?"

"No, I didn't."

The sudden and hurried entrance of big Steve brought the judge's
examination of Mr. Hicks to a standstill.

"Mas'r, you know dat 'ar coachman George--the big black fellow
dat took you into town las' evenin'?  I jes' been down at Shanty
Hill whar Milly, his wife, is carryin' on something scandalous
'cause George ain't never come home!"  Steve was laboring under
intense excitement, but he ignored the presence of the overseer
and addressed himself to Slocum Price.

"Well, what of that?" cried Hicks quickly.

"Thar warn't no George, mind you, Mas'r, but dar was his team in
de stable this mo'ning and lookin' mighty nigh done up with hard
driving."

"Yes." interrupted Hicks uneasily; "put a pair of lines in a
nigger's hands and he'll run any team off its legs!"

"An' the kerriage all scratched up from bein' thrashed through
the bushes," added Steve.

"There's a nigger for you!" said Hicks.  "She took the rascal out
of the field, dressed him like he was a gentleman and pampered
him up, and now first chance he gets he runs off!"

"Ah!" said the judge softly.  "Then you knew this?"

"Of course I knew--wa'n't it my business to know?  I reckon he
was off skylarking, and when he'd seen the mess he'd made, the
trifling fool took to the woods.  Well, he catches it when I lay
hands on him!"

"Do you know when and under what circumstances the team was
stabled, Mr. Hicks?" inquired the judge.

"No, I don't, but I reckon it must have been along after dark,"
said Hicks unwillingly.  "I seen to the feeding just after
sundown like I always do, then I went to supper," Hicks
vouchsafed to explain.

"And no one saw or heard the team drive in?"

"Not as I know of," said Hicks.

"Mas'r Ca'ington's done gone off to get a pack of dawgs--he 'lows
hit's might' important to find what's come of George," said
Steve.

Hicks started violently at this piece of news.

"I reckon he'll have to travel a right smart distance to find a
pack of dogs," he muttered.  "I don't know of none this side of
Colonel Bates' down below Girard."

The judge was lost in thought.  He permitted an interval of
silence to elapse in which Hicks' glance slid round in a furtive
circle.

"When did Mr. Ware set out for Memphis?" asked the judge at
length.

"Early yesterday.  He goes there pretty often on business."

"You talked with Mr. Ware before he left?" Hicks nodded.  "Did he
speak of Miss Malroy?"  Hicks shook his head.  "Did you see her
during the afternoon?"

"No--maybe you think these niggers ain't enough to keep a man
stirring?" said Hicks uneasily and with a scowl.  The judge
noticed both the uneasiness and the scowl.

"I should imagine they would absorb every moment of your time,
Mr. Hicks," he agreed affably.

"A man's got to be a hog for work to hold a job like mine," said
Hicks sourly.

"But it came to your notice that Miss Malroy has been in a
disturbed mental state ever since Mr. Norton's murder?  I am
interested in this point, Mr. Hicks, because your experience is
so entirely at variance with my own.  It was my privilege to see
and speak with her yesterday afternoon; I was profoundly
impressed by her naturalness and composure."  The judge smiled,
then he leaned forward across the desk.  "What were you doing up
here early this morning--hasn't a hog for work like you got any
business of his own at that hour?"  The judge's tone was suddenly
offensive.

"Look here, what right have you got to try and pump me?" cried
Hicks.

For no discernible reason Mr. Cavendish spat on his palms.

"Mr. Hicks," said the judge, urbane and gracious, "I believe in
frankness."

"Sure," agreed Hicks, mollified by the judge's altered tone.

"Therefore I do not hesitate to say that I consider you a damned
scoundrel!" concluded the judge.

Mr. Cavendish, accepting the judge's ultimatum as something which
must debar Hicks from all further consideration, and being, as he
was, exceedingly active and energetic by nature, if one passed
over the various forms of gainful industry, uttered a loud whoop
and threw himself on the overseer.  There was a brief struggle
and Hicks went down with the Earl of Lambeth astride of him; then
from his boot leg that knightly soul flashed a horn-handled
tickler of formidable dimensions.

The judge, Yancy, and Mahaffy, sprang from their chairs.  Mr.
Mahaffy was plainly shocked at the spectacle of Mr. Cavendish's
lawless violence.  Yancy was disturbed too, but not by the moral
aspects of the case; he was doubtful as to just how his friend's
act would appeal to the judge.  He need not have been distressed
on that score, since the judge's one idea was to profit by it.
With his hands on his knees he was now bending above the two men.

"What do you want to know, judge?" cried Cavendish, panting from
his exertions.  "I'll learn this parrot to talk up!"

"Hicks," said the judge, "it is in your power to tell us a few
things we are here to find out."  Hicks looked up into the
judge's face and closed his lips grimly.  "Mr. Cavendish, kindly
let him have the point of that large knife where he'll feel it
most!" ordered the judge.

"Talk quick!" said Cavendish with a ferocious scowl.  "Talk--or
what's to hinder me slicing open your woozen?" and he pressed the
blade of his knife against the overseer's throat.

"I don't know anything about Miss Betty," said Hicks in a sullen
whisper.

"Maybe you don't, but what do you know about the boy?"  Hicks was
silent, but he was grateful for the judge's question.  From Tom
Ware he had learned of Fentress' interest in the boy.  Why should
he shelter the colonel at risk to himself?  "If you please, Mr.
Cavendish!" said the judge quietly nodding toward the knife.

"You didn't ask me about him," said Hicks quickly.

"I do now," said the judge.

"He was here yesterday."

"Mr. Cavendish-- " and again the judge glanced toward the knife.

"Wait!" cried Hicks.  "You go to Colonel Fentress."

"Let him up, Mr. Cavendish; that's all we want to mow," said the
judge.




CHAPTER XXIX

COLONEL FENTRESS


The judge had not forgotten his ghost, the ghost he had seen in
Mr. Saul's office that day he went to the court-house on business
for Charley Norton.  Working or idling--principally the latter
--drunk or sober--principally the former--the ghost, otherwise
Colonel Fentress, had preserved a place in his thoughts, and now
as he moved stolidly up the drive toward Fentress' big white
house on the hill with Mahaffy, Cavendish, and Yancy trailing in
his wake, memories of what had once been living and vital crowded
in upon him.  Some sense of the wreck that littered the long
years, and the shame of the open shame that had swept away pride
and self-respect, came back to him out of the past.

He only paused when he stood on the portico before Fentress' open
door.  He glanced about him at the wide fields, bounded by the
distant timber lands that hid gloomy bottoms, at the great log
barns in the hollow to his right; at the huddle of whitewashed
cabins beyond; then with his big fist he reached in and pounded
on the door.  The blows echoed loudly through the silent house,
and an instant later Fentress' tall, spare figure was seen
advancing from the far end of the hall.

"Who is it?" he asked.

"Judge Price--Colonel Fentress'' said the judge.

"Judge Price," uncertainly, and still advancing.

"I had flattered myself that you must have heard of me," said the
judge.

"I think I have," said Fentress, pausing now.

"He thinks he has!" muttered the judge under his breath.

"Will you come in?" it was more a question than an invitation.

"If you are at liberty."  The colonel bowed.  "Allow me," the
judge continued.  "Colonel Fentress--Mr. Mahaffy, Mr. Yancy and
Mr. Cavendish."  Again the colonel bowed.

"Will you step into the library?"

"Very good," and the judge followed the colonel briskly down the
hall.

When they entered the library Fentress turned and took stock of
his guests.  Mahaffy he had seen before; Yancy and Cavendish were
of course strangers to him, but their appearance explained them;
last of all his glance shifted to the judge.  He had heard
something of those activities by means of which Slocum Price had
striven to distinguish himself, and he had a certain curiosity
respecting the man.  It was immediately satisfied.  The judge had
reached a degree of shabbiness seldom equaled, and but for his
mellow, effulgent personality might well have passed for a common
vagabond; and if his dress advertised the state of his finances,
his face explained his habits.  No misconception was possible
about either.

"May I offer you a glass of liquor?" asked Fentress, breaking the
silence.  He stepped to the walnut centertable where there was a
decanter and glasses.  By a gesture the judge declined the
invitation.  Whereat the colonel looked surprised, but not so
surprised as Mahaffy.  There was another silence.

"I don't think we ever met before?" observed Fentress.  There was
something in the fixed stare his visitor was bending upon him
that he found disquieting, just why, he could not have told.

But that fixed stare of the judge's continued.  No, the man had
not changed--he had grown older certainly, but age had not come
ungracefully; he became the glossy broadcloth and spotless linen
he wore.  Here was a man who could command the good things of
life, using them with a rational temperance.  The room itself was
in harmony with his character; it was plain but rich in its
appointments, at once his library and his office, while the
well-filled cases ranged about the walls showed his tastes to be
in the main scholarly and intellectual.

"How long have you lived here?" asked the judge abruptly.
Fentress seemed to hesitate; but the judge's glance, compelling
and insistent, demanded an answer.

"Ten years."

"You have known many men of all classes as a lawyer and a
planter?" said the judge.  Fentress inclined his head.  The judge
took a step nearer him.  "People have a great trick of coming and
going in these western states--all sorts of damned riffraff drift
in and out of these new lands."  A deadly earnestness lifted the
judge's words above mere rudeness.  Fentress, cold and distant,
made no reply.  "For the past twenty years I have been looking
for a man by the name of Gatewood--David Gatewood."  Disciplined
as he was, the colonel started violently.  "Ever heard of him,
Fentress?" demanded the judge with a savage scowl.

"What's all this to me?"  The words came with a gasp from
Fentress' twitching lips.  The judge looked at him moody and
frowning.

"I have reason to think this man Gatewood came to west
Tennessee," he said.

"If so, I have never heard of him."

"Perhaps not under that name--at any rate you are going to hear
of him now.  This man Gatewood, who between ourselves was a
damned scoundrel"--the colonel winced--"this man Gatewood had a
friend who threw money and business in his way--a planter he was,
same as Gatewood.  A sort of partnership existed between the
pair.  It proved an expensive enterprise for Gatewood's friend,
since he came to trust the damned scoundrel more and more as time
passed--even large sums of his money were in Gatewood's hands--"
the judge paused.  Fentress' countenance was like stone, as
expressionless and as rigid.

By the door stood Mahaffy with Yancy and Cavendish; they
understood that what was obscure and meaningless to them held a
tragic significance to these two men.  The judge's heavy face,
ordinarily battered and debauched, but infinitely good-natured,
bore now the markings of deep passion, and the voice that rumbled
forth from his capacious chest came to their ears like distant
thunder.

"This friend of Gatewood's had a wife--"  The judge's voice
broke, emotion shook him like a leaf, he was tearing open his
wounds.  He reached over and poured himself a drink, sucking it
down with greedy lips.  "There was a wife--" he whirled about on
his heel and faced Fentress again.  "There was a wife,
Fentress--" he fixed Fentress with his blazing eyes.

"A wife and child.  Well, one day Gatewood and the wife were
missing.  Under the circumstances Gatewood's friend was well rid
of the pair--he should have been grateful, but he wasn't, for his
wife took his child, a daughter; and Gatewood a trifle of thirty
thousand dollars his friend had intrusted to him!"

There was another silence.

"At a later day I met this man who had been betrayed by his wife
and robbed by his friend.  He had fallen out of the race--drink
had done for him--there was just one thing he seemed to care
about and that was the fate of his child, but maybe he was only
curious there.  He wondered if she had lived, and married--"
Once more the judge paused.

"What's all this to me?" asked Fentress.

"Are you sure it's nothing to you?" demanded the judge hoarsely.
"Understand this, Fentress.  Gatewood's treachery brought ruin to
at least two lives.  It caused the woman's father to hide his
face from the world, it wasn't enough for him that his friends
believed his daughter dead; he knew differently and the shame of
that knowledge ate into his soul.  It cost the husband his place
in the world, too--in the end it made of him a vagabond and a
penniless wanderer."

"This is nothing to me," said Fentress.

"Wait!" cried the judge.  "About six years ago the woman was seen
at her father's home in North Carolina.  I reckon Gatewood had
cast her off.  She didn't go back empty-handed.  She had run away
from her husband with a child--a girl; after a lapse of twenty
years she returned to her father with a boy of two or three.
There are two questions that must be answered when I find
Gatewood: what became of the woman and what became of the child;
are they living or dead; did the daughter grow up and marry and
have a son?  When I get my answer it will be time enough to think
of Gatewood's punishment!"  The judge leaned forward across the
table, bringing his face close to Fentress' face.  "Look at me
--do you know me now?"

But Fentress' expression never altered.  The judge fell back a
step.

"Fentress, I want the boy," he said quietly.

"What boy?"

"My grandson."

"You are mad!  What do I know of him--or you?"  Fentress was
gaining courage from the sound of his own voice.

"You know who he is and where he is.  Your business relations
with General Ware have put you on the track of the Quintard lands
in this state.  You intend to use the boy to gather them in."

"You're mad!" repeated Fentress.

"Unless you bring him to me inside of twenty-four hours I'll
smash you!" roared the judge.  "Your name isn't Fentress, it's
Gatewood; you've stolen the name of Fentress, just as you have
stolen other things.  What's come of Turberville's wife and
child?  What's come of Turberville's money?  Damn your soul!  I
want my grandson!  I'll pull you down and leave you stripped and
bare!  I'll tell the world the false friend you've been--the
thief you are!  I'll strip you and turn you out of these doors as
naked as when you entered the world!"  The judge seemed to tower
above Fentress, the man had shot up out of his deep debasement.
"Choose!  Choose!" he thundered, his shaggy brows bent in a
menacing frown.

"I know nothing about the boy," said Fentress slowly.

"By God, you lie!" stormed the judge.

"I know nothing about the boy," and Fentress took a step toward
the door.

"Stay where you are!" commanded the judge.  "If you attempt to
leave this room to call your niggers I'll kill you on its
threshold!"

But Yancy and Cavendish had stepped to the door with an intention
that was evident, and Fentress' thin face cast itself in haggard
lines.  He was feeling the judge's terrible capacity, his
unexpected ability to deal with a supreme situation.  Even
Mahaffy gazed at his friend in wonder.  He had only seen him
spend himself on trifles, with no further object than the next
meal or the next drink; he had believed that as he knew him so he
had always been, lax and loose of tongue and deed, a noisy tavern
hero, but now he saw that he was filling what must have been the
measure of his manhood.

"I tell you I had no hand in carrying off the boy," said Fentress
with a sardonic smile.

"I look to you to return him.  Stir yourself, Gatewood, or by
God, I'll hold so fierce a reckoning with you--"

The sentence remained unfinished, for Fentress felt his
overwrought nerves snap, and giving way to a sudden blind fury
struck at the judge.

"We are too old for rough and tumble," said the judge, who had
displayed astonishing agility in avoiding the blow.  "Furthermore
we were once gentlemen.  At present I am what I am, while you are
a hound and a blackguard!  We'll settle this as becomes our
breeding."  He poured himself a second glass of liquor from
Fentress' decanter.  "I wonder if it is possible to insult you,"
and he tossed glass and contents in Fentress' face.  The
colonel's thin features were convulsed.  The judge watched him
with a scornful curling of the lips.  "I am treating you better
than you deserve," he taunted.

"To-morrow morning at sun-up at Boggs' racetrack!" cried
Fentress.  The judge bowed with splendid courtesy.

"Nothing could please me half so well," he declared.  He turned
to the others.  "Gentlemen, this is a private matter.  When I
have met Colonel Fentress I shall make a public announcement of
why this appeared necessary to me; until then I trust this matter
will not be given publicity.  May I ask your silence?"  He bowed
again, and abruptly passed from the room.

His three friends followed in his steps, leaving Fentress
standing by the table, the ghost of a smile on his thin lips.

As if the very place were evil, the judge hurried down the drive
toward the road.  At the gate he paused and turned on his
companions, but his features wore a look of dignity that forbade
comment or question.  He held out his hand to Yancy.

"Sir," he said, "if I could command the riches of the Indies, it
would tax my resources to meet the fractional part of my
obligations to you."

"Think of that!" said Yancy, as much overwhelmed by the judge's
manner as by his words.

"His Uncle Bob shall keep his place in my grandson's life!  We'll
watch him grow into manhood together."  The judge was visibly
affected.  A smile of deep content parted Mr. Yancy's lips as his
muscular fingers closed about the judge's hand with crushing
force.

"Whoop!" cried Cavendish, delighted at this recognition of
Yancy's love for the boy, and he gleefully smote the austere
Mahaffy on the shoulder.  But Mahaffy was dumb in the presence of
the decencies, he quite lacked an interpreter.  The judge looked
back at the house.

"Mine!" he muttered.  "The clothes he stands inthe food he
eats--miine!  Mine!"




CHAPTER XXX

THE BUBBLE BURSTS


At about the same hour that the judge was hurling threats and
insults at Colonel Fentress, three men were waiting ten miles
away at the head of the bayou which served to isolate Hicks'
cabin.  Now no one of these three had ever heard of Judge Slocum
Price; the breath of his fame had never blown, however gently, in
their direction, yet they were preparing to thrust opportunity
upon him.  To this end they were lounging about the opening in
the woods where the horses belonging to Ware and Murrell were
tied.

At length the dip of oars became audible in the silence and one
of the trio stole down the path, a matter of fifty yards, to a
point that overlooked the bayou.  He was gone but a moment.

"It's Murrell all right!" he said in an eager whisper.  "Him and
another fellow--the Hicks girl is rowing them."  He glanced from
one to the other of his companions, who seemed to take firmer
hold of themselves under his eye.  "It'll be all right," he
protested lightly.  "He's as good as ours.  Wait till I give you
the word."  And he led the way into an adjacent thicket.

Meantime Ware and Murrell had landed and were coming along the
path, the outlaw a step or two in advance of his friend.  They
reached the horses and were untying them when the thicket
suddenly disgorged the three men; each held a cocked pistol; two
of these pistols covered Murrell and the third was leveled at
Ware.

"Hues!" cried Murrell in astonishment, for the man confronting
him was the Clan's messenger who should have been speeding across
the state.

"Toss up your hands, Murrell," said Hues quietly.

One of the other men spoke.

"You are under arrest!"

"Arrest!"

"You are wanted for nigger-stealing," said the man.  Still
Murrell did not seem to comprehend.  He looked at Hues in dull
wonder.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

"Waiting to arrest you--ain't that plain?" said Hues, with a grim
smile.

The outlaw's hands dropped at his side, limp and helpless.  With
some idea that he might attempt to draw a weapon one of the men
took hold of him, but Murrell was nerveless to his touch; his
face had gone a ghastly white and was streaked with the markings
of terror.

"Well, by thunder!" cried the man in utter amazement.

Murrell looked into Hues' face.

"You--you--" and the words thickened on his tongue becoming an
inarticulate murmur.

"It's all up, John," said Hues.

"No!" said Murrell, recovering himself.  "You may as well turn me
loose--you can't arrest me!"

"I've done it," answered Hues, with a laugh.  "I've been on your
track for six months."

"How about this fellow?" asked the man, whose pistol still
covered Ware.  Hues glanced toward the planter and shook his
head.

"Where are you going to take me?" asked Murrell quickly.  Again
Hues laughed.

"You'll find that out in plenty of time, and then your friends
can pass the word around if they like; now you'll come with me!"

Ware neither moved nor spoke as Hues and his prisoner passed back
along the path, Hues with his hand on Murrell's shoulder, and one
of his companions close at his heels, while the third man led off
the outlaw's horse.

Presently the distant clatter of hoofs was borne to Ware's
ears--only that; the miracle of courage and daring he had half
expected had not happened.  Murrell, for all his wild boasting,
was like other men, like himself.  His bloodshot eyes slid around
in their sockets.  There across the sunlit stretch of water was
Betty--the thought of her brought him to quick choking terrors.
The whole fabric of crime by which he had been benefited in the
past or had expected to profit in the future seemed toppling in
upon him, but his mind clutched one important fact.  Hues, if he
knew of Betty's disappearance, did not connect Murrell with it.
Ware sucked in comfort between his twitching lips.  Stealing
niggers!  No one would believe that he, a planter, had a hand in
that, and for a brief instant he considered signaling Bess to
return.  Slosson must be told of Murrell's arrest; but he was
sick with apprehension, some trap might have been prepared for
him, he could not know; and the impulse to act forsook him.

He smote his hands together in a hopeless, beaten gesture.  And
Murrell had gone weak--with his own eyes he had seen it--Murrell
--whom he believed without fear!  He felt that he had been
grievously betrayed in his trust and a hot rage poured through
him.  At last he climbed into the saddle, and swaying like a
drunken man, galloped off.

When he reached the river road he paused and scanned its dusty
surface.  Hues and his party had turned south when they issued
from the wood path.  No doubt Murrell was being taken to Memphis.
Ware laughed harshly.  The outlaw would be free before another
dawn broke.

He had halted near where Jim had turned his team the previous
night after Betty and Hannibal had left the carriage; the marks
of the wheels were as plainly distinguishable as the more recent
trail left by the four men, and as he grasped the significance of
that wide half circle his sense of injury overwhelmed him again.
He hoped to live to see Murrell hanged!

He was so completely lost in his bitter reflections that he had
been unaware of a mounted man who was coming toward him at a
swift gallop, but now he heard the steady pounding of hoofs and,
startled by the sound, looked up.  A moment later the horseman
drew rein at his side.

"Ware!" he cried.

"How are you, Carrington?" said the planter.

"You are wanted at Belle Plain," began Carrington, and seemed to
hesitate.

"Yes--yes, I am going there at once--now--" stammered Ware, and
gathered up his reins with a shaking hand.

"You've heard, I take it?" said Carrington slowly.

"Yes," answered Ware, in a hoarse whisper.  "My God, Carrington,
I'm heart sick; she has been like a daughter to me!" he fell
silent mopping his face.

"I think I understand your feeling," said Carrington, giving him
a level glance.

"Then you'll excuse me," and the planter clapped spurs to his
horse.  Once he looked back over his shoulder; he saw that
Carrington had not moved from the spot where they had met.

At Belle Plain, Ware found his neighbors in possession of the
place.  They greeted him quietly and spoke in subdued tones of
their sympathy.  The planter listened with an air of such abject
misery that those who had neither liked nor respected him, were
roused to a sudden generous feeling where he was concerned, they
could not question but that he was deeply affected.  After all
the man might have a side to his nature with which they had never
come in contact.

When he could he shut himself in his room.  He had experienced a
day of maddening anxiety, he had not slept at all the previous
night, in mind and body he was worn out; and now he was plunged
into the thick of this sensation.  He must keep control of
himself, for every word he said would be remembered.  In the
present there was sympathy for him, but sooner or later people
would return to their sordid unemotional judgments.

He sought to forecast the happenings of the next few hours.
Murrell's friends would break jail for him, that was a foregone
conclusion, but the insurrection he had planned was at an end.
Hues had dealt its death blow.  Moreover, though the law might be
impotent to deal with Murrell, he could not hope to escape the
vengeance of the powerful class he had plotted to destroy; he
would have to quit the country.  Ware gloated in this idea of
craven flight.  Thank God, he had seen the last of him!

But as always his thoughts came back to Betty.  Slosson would
wait at the Hicks' place for the man Murrell had promised him,
and failing this messenger, for the signal fire, but there would
be neither; and Slosson would be left to determine his own course
of action.  Ware felt certain that he would wait through the
night, but as sure as the morning broke, if no word had reached
him, he would send one of his men across the bayou, who must
learn of Murrell's arrest, escape, flight--for in Ware's mind
these three events were indissolubly associated.  The planter's
teeth knocked together.  He was having a terrible acquaintance
with fear, its very depths had swallowed him up; it was a black
pit in which he sank from horror to horror.  He had lost all
faith in the Clan which had terrorized half a dozen states, which
had robbed and murdered with apparent impunity, which had
marketed its hundreds of stolen slaves.  He had utterly collapsed
at the first blow dealt the organization, but he was still seeing
Murrell, pallid and shaken.

A step sounded in the hall and an instant later Hicks entered the
room without the formality of knocking.  Ware recognized his
presence with a glance of indifference, but did not speak.  Hicks
slouched to his employer's side and handed him a note which
proved to be from Fentress.  Ware read and tossed it aside.

"If he wants to see me why don't he come here?" he growled.

"I reckon that old fellow they call Judge Price has sprung
something sudden on the colonel," said Hicks.

"He was out here the first thing this morning; you'd have thought
he owned Belle Plain.  There was a couple of strangers with him,
and he had me in and fired questions at me for half an hour, then
he hiked off up to The Oaks."

"Murrell's been arrested," said Ware in a dull level voice.
Hicks gave him a glance of unmixed astonishment.

"No!" he cried.

"Yes, by God!"

"Who'd risk it?"

"Risk it?  Man, he almost fainted dead away--a damned coward.
Hell!"

"How do you know this?" asked Hicks, appalled.

"I was with him when he was taken--it was Hues the man he trusted
more than any other!"  Ware gave the overseer a ghastly grin and
was silent, but in that silence he heard the drumming of his own
heart.  He went on.  "I tell you to save himself John Murrell
will implicate the rest of us; we've got to get him free, and
then, by hell--we ought to knock him in the head; he isn't fit to
live!"

"The jail ain't built that'll hold him!!" muttered Hicks.

"Of course, he can't be held," agreed Ware.  "And 'he'll never be
brought to trial; no lawyer will dare appear against him, no jury
will dare find him guilty; but there's Hues, what about him?"  He
paused.  The two men looked at each other for a long moment.

"Where did they carry the captain?" inquired Hicks.

"I don't know."

"It looks like the Clan was in a hell-fired hole--but shucks!
What will be easier than to fix Hues?--and while they're fixing
folks they'd better not overlook that old fellow Price.  He's got
some notion about Fentress and the boy."  Mr. Hicks did not
consider it necessary to explain that he was himself largely
responsible for this.

"How do you know that?" demanded Ware.

"He as good as said so."  Hicks looked uneasily at the planter.
He knew himself to be compromised.  The stranger named Cavendish
had forced an admission from him that Murrell would not condone
if it came to his knowledge.  He had also acquired a very proper
and wholesome fear of Judge Slocum Price.  He stepped close to
Ware's side.  "What'll come of the girl, Tom?  Can you figure
that out?" he questioned, sinking his voice almost to a whisper.
But Ware was incapable of speech, again his terrors completely
overwhelmed him.  "I reckon you'll have to find another overseer.
I'm going to strike out for Texas," said Hicks.

Ware's eyes met his for an instant.  He had thought of flight,
too, was still thinking of it, but greed was as much a part of
his nature as fear; Belle Plain was a prize not to be lightly
cast aside, and it was almost his.  He lurched across the room to
the window.  If he were going to act, the sooner he did so the
better, and gain a respite from his fears.  The road down the
coast slid away before his heavy eyes, he marked each turn; then
a palsy of fear shook him, his heart beat against his ribs, and
he stood gnawing his lips while he gazed up at the sun.

"Do you get what I say, Tom?  I am going to quit these parts,"
said Hicks.  Ware turned slowly from the window.

"All right, Hicks.  You mean you want me to settle with you, is
that it?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm going to leave while I can, maybe I can't later on,"
said Hicks stolidly.  He added: "I am going to start down the
coast as soon as it turns dark, and before it's day again I'll
have put the good miles between me and these parts."

"You're going down the coast?" and Ware was again conscious of
the quickened beating of his heart.  Hicks nodded.  "See you
don't meet up with John Murrell," said Ware.

"I'll take that chance.  It seems a heap better to me than
staying here."

Ware looked from the window.  The shadows were lengthening across
the lawn.

"Better start now, Hicks," he advised.

"I'll wait until it turns dark."

"You'll need a horse."

"I was going to help myself to one.  This ain't no time to stand
on ceremony," said Hicks shortly.

"Slosson shouldn't be left in the lurch like this--or your
brother's folks--"

"They'll have to figure it out for themselves same as me,"
rejoined Hicks.

"You can stop there as you go by."

"No," said Hicks; "I never did believe in this damn foolishness
about the girl, and I won't go near George's--"

"I don't ask you to go there, you can give them the signal from
the head of the bayou.  All I want is for you to stop and light a
fire on the shore.  They'll know what that means.  I'll give you
a horse and fifty dollars for the job."

Hicks' eyes sparkled, but he only said

"Make it twice that and maybe we can deal."

Racked and tortured, Ware hesitated; but the sun was slipping
into the west, his windows blazed with the hot light.

"You swear you'll do your part?" he said thickly.  He took his
purse from his pocket and counted out the amount due Hicks.  He
named the total, and paused irresolutely.

"Don't you want the fire lighted?" asked Hicks.  He was familiar
with his employer's vacillating moods.

"Yes," answered Ware, his lips quivering; and slowly, with
shaking fingers, he added to the pile of bills in Hicks' hand.

"Well, take care of yourself," said Hicks, when the count was
complete.  He thrust the roll of bills into his pocket and moved
to the door.

Alone again, the planter collapsed into his chair, breathing
heavily, but his terrors swept over him and left him with a
savage sense of triumph.  This passed, he sprang up, intending to
recall Hicks and unmake his bargain.  What had he been thinking
of--safety lay only in flight!  Before he reached the door his
greed was in the ascendant.  He dropped down on the edge of his
bed, his eyes fixed on the window.  The sun sank lower.  From
where he sat he saw it through the upper half of the sash,
blood-red and livid in a mist of fleecy clouds.

It was in the tops of the old oaks now, which sent their shadows
into his room.  Again maddened by his terrors he started up and
backed toward the door; but again his greed, the one dominating
influence in his life, vanquished him.

He watched the sun sink.  He watched the red splendor fade over
the river; he saw the first stars appear.  He told himself that
Hicks would soon be gone--if the fire was not to be lighted he
must act at once!  He stole to the window.  It was dusk now, yet
he could distinguish the distant wooded boundaries of the great
fields framed by the darkening sky.  Then in the silence he heard
the thud of hoofs.




CHAPTER XXXI

THE KEEL BOAT


"PRICE " began Mahaffy.  They were back in Raleigh in the room
the judge called his office, and this was Mahaffy's first
opportunity to ease his mind on the subject of the duel, as they
had only just parted from Yancy and Cavendish, who had stopped at
one of the stores to make certain purchases for the raft.

"Not a word, Solomon--it had to come.  I am going to kill him.  I
shall feel better then."

"What if he kills you?" demanded Mahaffy harshly.  The judge
shrugged his shoulders.

"That is as it may be."

"Have you forgotten your grandson?"  Mahaffy's voice was still
harsh and rasping.

"I regard my meeting with Fentress as nothing less than a sacred
duty to him."

"We know no more than we did this morning," said Mahaffy.  "You
are mixing up all sorts of side issues with what should be your
real purpose."

"Not at all, Solomon--not at all!  I look upon my grandson's
speedy recovery as an assured fact.  Fentress dare not hold him.
He knows he is run to earth at last."

"Price--"

"No, Solomon--no, my friend, we will not speak of it again.  You
will go back to Belle Plain with Yancy and Cavendish; you must
represent me there.  We have as good as found Hannibal, but we
must be active in Miss Malroy's behalf.  For us that has an
important bearing on the future, and since I can not, you must be
at Belle Plain when Carrington arrives with his pack of dogs.
Give him the advantage of your sound and mature judgment,
Solomon; don't let any false modesty keep you in the background."

"Who's going to second you?" snapped Mahaffy.

The judge was the picture of indifference.

"It will be quite informal, the code is scarcely applicable; I
merely intend to remove him because he is not fit to live."

"At sun-up!" muttered Mahaffy.

"I intend to start one day right even if I never live to begin
another," said the judge, a sudden fierce light flashing from his
eyes.  "I feel that this is the turning point in my career,
Solomon!" he went on.  "The beginning of great things!  But I
shall take no chances with the future, I shall prepare for every
possible contingency.  I am going to make you and Yancy my
grandson's guardians.  There's a hundred thousand acres of land
hereabout that must come to him.  I shall outline in writing the
legal steps to be taken to substantiate his claims.  Also he will
inherit largely from me at my death."

Something very like laughter escaped from Mahaffy's lips.

"There you go, Solomon, with your inopportune mirth!  What in
God's name have I if I haven't hope?  Take that from me and what
would I be?  Why, the very fate I have been fighting off with
tooth and nail would overwhelm me.  I'd sink into unimportance
--my unparalleled misfortunes would degrade me to a level with the
commonest!  No, sir, I've never been without hope, and though
I've fallen I've always got up.  What Fentress has is based on
money he stole from me.  By God, the days of his profit-taking
are at an end!  I am going to strip him.  And even if I don't
live to enjoy what's mine, my grandson shall!  He shall wear
velvet and a lace collar and ride his pony yet, by God, as a
gentleman's grandson should!"

"It sounds well, Price, but where's the money coming from to push
a lawsuit?"

The judge waved this aside.

"The means will be found, Solomon.  Our horizon is lifting--I can
see it lift!  Don't drag me back from the portal of hope!  We'll
drink the stuff that comes across the water; I'll warm the
cockles of your heart with imported brandy.  I carry twenty
years' hunger and thirst under my wes-coat and I'll feed and
drink like a gentleman yet!"  The judge smacked his lips in an
ecstasy of enjoyment, and dropping down before the table which
served him as a desk, seized a pen.

"It's good enough to think about, Price," admitted Mahaffy
grudgingly.

"It's better to do; and if anything happens to me the papers I am
going to leave will tell you how it's to be done.  Man, there's a
million of money in sight, and we've got to get it and spend it
and enjoy it!  None of your swinish thrift for me, but life on a
big scale--company, and feasting, and refined surroundings!"

"And you are going to meet Fentress in the morning?" asked
Mahaffy.  "I suppose there's no way of avoiding that?"

"Avoiding it?" almost shouted the judge.  "For what have I been
living?  I shall meet him, let the consequences be what they may.
To-night when I have reduced certain facts to writing I shall
join you at Belle Plain.  The strange and melancholy history of
my life I shall place in your hands for safe keeping.  In the
morning I can be driven back to Boggs'."

"And you will go there without a second?"

"If necessary; yes."

"I declare, Price, you are hardly fitted to be at large!  Why,
you act as if you were tired of life.  There's Yancy--there's
Cavendish!"

The judge gave him an indulgent but superior smile.

"Two very worthy men, but I go to Boggs' attended by a gentleman
or I go there alone.  I am aware of your prejudices, Solomon;
otherwise I might ask this favor of you."

Mr. Mahaffy snorted loudly and turned to the door, for Yancy and
Cavendish were now approaching the house, the latter with a meal
sack slung over his shoulder.

"Here, Solomon, take one of my pistols," urged the judge hastily.
"You may need it at Belle Plain.  Goodby, and God bless you!"

Just where he had parted from Ware, Carrington sat his horse, his
brows knit and his eyes turned in the direction of the path.  He
was on his way to a plantation below Girard, the owner of which
had recently imported a pack of bloodhounds; but this unexpected
encounter with Ware had affected him strangely.  He still heard
Tom's stammering speech, he was still seeing his ghastly face,
and he had come upon him with startling suddenness.  He had
chanced to look back over his shoulder and when he faced about
there had been the planter within a hundred yards of him.

Presently Carrington's glance ceased to follow the windings of
the path.  He stared down at the gray dust and saw the trail left
by Hues and his party.  For a moment he hesitated; if the dogs
were to be used with any hope of success he had no time to spare,
and this was the merest suspicion, illogical conjecture, based on
nothing beyond his distrust of Ware.  In the end he sprang from
the saddle and leading his horse into the woods, tied it to a
sapling.

A hurried investigation told him that five men had ridden in and
out of that path.  Of the five, all coming from the south, four
had turned south again, but the fifth man--Ware, in other words
--had gone north.  He weighed the possible significance of these
facts.

"I am only wasting time!" he confessed reluctantly, and was on
the point of turning away, when, on the very edge of the road and
just where the dust yielded to the hard clay of the path, his
glance lighted on the print of a small and daintily shod foot.
The throbbing of his heart quickened curiously.

"Betty!" The word leaped from his lips.

That small foot had left but the one impress.  There were other
signs, however, that claimed his attention; namely, the
bootprints of Slosson and his men; and he made the inevitable
discovery that these tracks were all confined to the one spot.
They began suddenly and as suddenly ceased, yet there was no
mystery about these; he had the marks of the wheels to help him
to a sure conclusion.  A carriage had turned just here, several
men had alighted, they had with them a child or a woman.  Either
they had reentered the carriage and driven back as they had come,
or they had gone toward the :fiver.  He felt the soul within him
turn sick.

He stole along the path; the terror of the river was ever in his
thoughts, and the specter of his fear seemed to flit before him
and lure him on.  Presently he caught his first glimpse of the
bayou and his legs shook under him; but the path wound deeper
still into what appeared to be an untouched solitude, wound on
between the crowding tree forms, a little back from the shore,
with an intervening tangle of vines and bushes.  He scanned this
closely as he hurried forward, scarcely conscious that he was
searching for some trampled space at the water's edge; but the
verdant wall preserved its unbroken continuity, and twenty
minutes later he came within sight of the Hicks' clearing and the
keel boat, where it rested against the bank.

A little farther on he found the spot where Slosson had launched
the skiff the night before.  The keel of his boat had cut deep
into the slippery clay; more than this, the impress of the small
shoe was repeated here, and just beside it was the print of a
child's bare foot.

He no longer doubted that Betty and Hannibal had been taken
across the bayou to the cabin, and he ran back up the path the
distance of a mile and plunged into the woods on his right, his
purpose being to pass around the head of the expanse of sluggish
water to a point from which he could later approach the cabin.
But the cabin proved to be better defended than he had foreseen;
and as he advanced, the difficulties of the task he had set
himself became almost insurmountable; yet sustained as he was by
his imperative need, he tore his way through the labyrinth of
trailing vines, or floundered across acre-wide patches of green
slime and black mud, which at each step threatened to engulf him
in their treacherous depths, until at the end of an hour he
gained the southern side of the clearing and a firmer footing
within the shelter of the woods.

Here he paused and took stock of his surroundings.  The two or
three buildings Mr. Hicks had erected stood midway of the
clearing and were very modest improvements adapted to their
owner's somewhat flippant pursuit of agriculture.  While
Carrington was still staring about him, the cabin door swung open
and a woman stepped forth.  It was the girl Bess.  She went to a
corner of the building and called loudly:

"Joe!  Oh, Joe!"

Carrington glanced in the direction of the keel boat and an
instant later saw Slosson clamber over its side.  The
tavern-keeper crossed to the cabin, where he was met by Bess, who
placed in his hands what seemed to be a wooden bowl.  With this
he slouched off to one of the outbuildings, which he entered.
Ten or fifteen minutes slipped by, then he came from the shed and
after securing the door, returned to the cabin.  He was again met
by Bess, who relieved him of the bowl; they exchanged a few words
and Slosson walked away and afterward disappeared over the side
of the keel boat.

This much was clear to the Kentuckian: food had been taken to
some one in the shed--to Betty and the boy!--more likely to
George.

He waited now for the night to come, and to him the sun seemed
fixed in the heavens.  At Belle Plain Tom Ware was watching it
with a shuddering sense of the swiftness of its flight.  But at
last the tops of the tall trees obscured it; it sank quickly then
and blazed a ball of fire beyond the Arkansas coast, while its
dying glory spread aslant the heavens, turning the flanks of the
gray clouds to violet and purple and gold.

With the first approach of darkness Carrington made his way to
the shed.  Hidden in the shadow he paused to listen, and fancied
he heard difficult breathing from within.  The door creaked
hideously on its wooden hinges when he pushed it open, but as it
swung back the last remnant of the day's light showed him some
dark object lying prone on the dirt floor.  He reached down and
his hand rested on a man's booted foot.

"George--" Carrington spoke softly, but the man on the floor gave
no sign that he heard, and Carrington's questioning touch
stealing higher he found that George--if it were George--was
lying on his side with his arms and legs securely bound.
Thinking he slept, the Kentuckian shook him gently to arouse him.

"George?" he repeated, still bending above him.  This time an
inarticulate murmur answered him.  At the same instant the woolly
head of the negro came under his fingers and he discovered the
reason of his silence.  He was as securely gagged as he was
bound.

"Listen, George--it's Carrington--I am going to take off this
gag, but don't speak above a whisper--they may hear us!"  And he
cut the cords that held the gag in place.

"How yo' get here, Mas'r Ca'ington?" asked the negro guardedly,
as the gag fell away.

"Around the head of the bayou."

"Lawd!" exclaimed George, in a tone of wonder.

"Where's Miss Betty?"

"She's in the cabin yonder--fo' the love of God, cut these here
other ropes with yo' knife, Mas'r Ca'ington--I'm perishin' with
'em!"  Carrington did as he asked, and groaning, George sat
erect.  "I'm like I was gone to sleep all over," he said.

"You'll feel better in a moment.  Tell me about Miss Malroy?"

"They done fetched us here last night.  I was drivin' Missy into
Raleigh--her and young Mas'r Hazard--when fo' men stop us in the
road."

"Who were they, do you know?" asked Carrington.

"Lawd--what's that?"

Carrington, knife in hand swung about on his heel.  A lantern's
light flashed suddenly in his face and Bess Hicks, with a low
startled cry breaking from her lips, paused in the doorway.
Springing forward, Carrington seized her by the wrist.

"Hush!" he grimly warned.

"What are you doin' here?" demanded the girl, as she endeavored
to shake off his hand, but Carrington drew her into the shed, and
closing the door, set his back against it.  There was a brief
silence during which Bess regarded the Kentuckian with a kind of
stolid fearlessness.  She was the first to speak.  "I reckon
you-all have come after Miss Malroy," she observed quietly.

"Then you reckon right," answered Carrington.  The girl studied
him from beneath her level brows.

"And you-all think you can take her away from here," she
speculated.  "I ain't afraid of yo' knife--you-all might use it
fast enough on a man, but not on me.  I'll help you," she added.
Carrington gave her an incredulous glance.  "You don't believe
me?  What's to hinder my calling for help?  That would fetch our
men up from the keel boat.  No--yo'-all's knife wouldn't stop
me!"

"Don't be too sure of that," said Carrington sternly.  The girl
met the menace of his words with soft, fullthroated laughter.

"Why, yo' hand's shakin' now, Mr. Carrington!"

"You know me?"

"Yes, I seen you once at Boggs'."  She made an impatient
movement.  "You can't do nothing against them fo' men unless I
help you.  Miss Malroy's to go down river to-night; they're only
waiting fo' a pilot--you-all's got to act quick!"

Carrington hesitated.

"Why do you want Miss Malroy to escape?" he said.

The girl's mood changed abruptly.  She scowled at him.

"I reckon that's a private matter.  Ain't it enough fo' you-all
to know that I do?  I'm showing how it can be done.  Them four
men on the keel boat are strangers in these parts, they're
waiting fo' a pilot, but they don't know who he'll be.  I've
heard you-all was a riverman; what's to hinder yo' taking the
pilot's place?  Looks like yo' was willing to risk yo' life fo'
Miss Malroy or you wouldn't be here."

"I'm ready," said Carrington, his hand on the door.

"No, you ain't--jest yet," interposed the girl hastily.  "Listen
to me first.  They's a dugout tied up 'bout a hundred yards above
the keel boat; you must get that to cross in to the other side of
the bayou, then when yo're ready to come back yo're to whistle
three times--it's the signal we're expecting--and I'll row across
fo' you in one of the skiffs."

"Can you see Miss Malroy in the meantime?"

"If I want to, they's nothin' to hinder me," responded Bess
sullenly.

"Tell her then--" began Carrington, but Bess interrupted him.

"I know what yo' want.  She ain't to cry out or nothin' when she
sees you-all.  I got sense enough fo' that."

Carrington looked at her curiously.

"This may be a serious business for your people," he said
significantly, and watched her narrowly.

"And you-all may get killed.  I reckin if yo' want to do a thing
bad enough you don't mind much what comes after," she answered
with a hard little laugh, as she went from the shed.

"Come!" said Carrington to the negro, when he had seen the cabin
door close on Bess and her lantern; and they stole across the
clearing.  Reaching the bayou side they began a noiseless search
for the dugout, which they quickly found, and Carrington turned
to George.  "Can you swim?" he asked.

"Yes, Mas'r."

"Then go down into the water and drag the canoe farther along the
shore--and for God's sake, no sound!" he cautioned.

They placed a second hundred yards between themselves and the
keel boat in this manner, then he had George bring the dug-out to
the bank, and they embarked.  Keeping within the shadow of the
trees that fringed the shore, Carrington paddled silently about
the head of the bayou.

"George," he at length said, bending toward the negro; "my horse
is tied in the woods on the right-hand side of the road just
above where you were taken from the carriage last night--you can
be at Belle Plain inside of an hour."

"Look here, Mas'r Ca'ington, those folks yonder is kin to Boss
Hicks.  If he get his hand on me first don't you reckon he'll
stop my mouth?  I been here heaps of times fotchin' letters fo'
Mas'r Tom," added George.

"Who were the letters for?" asked the Kentuckian, greatly
surprised.

"They was fo' that Captain Murrell; seems like him and Mas'r Tom
was mixed up in a sight of business."

"When was this--recently?" inquired Carrington.  He was turning
this astonishing statement of the slave over in his mind.

"Well, no, Mas'r; seems like they ain't so thick here recently."

"I reckon you'd better keep away from the big house yet a while,"
said Carrington.  "Instead of going there, stop at the Belle
Plain landing.  You'll find a raft tied up to the shore, it
belongs to a man named Cavendish.  Tell him what you know.  That
I've found Miss Malroy and the boy, tell him to cast off and
drift down here.  I'll run the keel boat aground the first chance
I get, so tell him to keep a sharp lookout."

A few minutes later they had separated, George to hurry away in
search of the horse, and Carrington to pass back along the shore
until he gained a point opposite the clearing.  He whistled
shrilly three times, and after an interval of waiting heard the
splash of oars and presently saw a skiff steal out of the gloom.

"Who's there?"  It was Bess who asked the question.

"Carrington," he answered.

"Lucky you ain't met the other man!" she said as she swept her
skiff alongside the bank.

"Lucky for him, you mean.  I'll take the oars," added Carrington
as he entered the skiff.

Slowly the clearing lifted out of the darkness, then the keel
boat became distinguishable; and Carrington checked the skiff by
a backward stroke of the oars.

"Hello!" he called.

There was no immediate answer to his hail, and he called again as
he sent the skiff forward.  He felt that he was risking all now.

"What do you want?" asked a surly voice.

"You want Slosson!" quickly prompted the girl in a whisper.

"I want to see Slosson!" said Carrington glibly and with
confidence, and once more he checked the skiff.

"Who be you?"

"Murrell sent you," prompted the girl again, in a hurried
whisper.

"Murrell--"  And in his astonishment Carrington spoke aloud.

"Murrell?" cried the voice sharply.

"--sent me!" said Carrington quickly, as though completing an
unfinished sentence.  The girl laughed nervously under her
breath.

"Row closter!" came the sullen command, and the Kentuckian did as
he was bidden.  Four men stood in the bow of the keel boat, a
lantern was raised aloft and by its light they looked him over.
There was a moment's silence broken by Carrington, who asked:

"Which one of you is Slosson?"  And he sprang lightly aboard the
keel boat.

"I'm Slosson," answered the man with the lantern.  The previous
night Mr. Slosson had been somewhat under the enlivening and
elevating influence of corn whisky, but now he was his own
cheerless self, and rather jaded by the passing of the hours
which he had sacrificed to an irksome responsibility.  "What word
do you fetch from the Captain, brother?" he demanded.

"Miss Malroy is to be taken down river," responded Carrington.
Slosson swore with surpassing fluency.

"Say, we're five able-bodied men risking our necks to oblige him!
You can get married a damn sight easier than this if you go about
it right--I've done it lots of times."  Not understanding the
significance of Slosson's allusion to his own matrimonial career,
Carrington held his peace.  The tavern-beeper swore again with
unimpaired vigor.  "You'll find mighty few men with more
experience than me," he asserted, shaking his head.  "But if you
say the word--"

"I'm all for getting shut of this!" answered Carrington promptly,
with a sweep of his arm.  "I call these pretty close quarters!"
Still shaking his head and muttering, the tavernkeeper sprang
ashore and mounted the bank, where his slouching figure quickly
lost itself in the night.

Carrington took up his station on the flat roof of the cabin
which filled the stern of the boat.  He was remembering that day
in the sandy Barony road--and during all the weeks and months
that had intervened, Murrell, working in secret, had moved
steadily toward the fulfilment of his desires!  Unquestionably he
had been back of the attack on Norton, had inspired his
subsequent murder, and the man's sinister and mysterious power
had never been suspected.  Carrington knew that the horse-thieves
and slave stealers were supposed to maintain a loosely knit
association; he wondered if Murrell were not the moving spirit in
some such organization.

"If I'd only pushed my quarrel with him!" he thought bitterly.

He heard Slosson's shuffling step in the distance, a word or two
when he spoke grufy to some one, and a moment later he saw Betty
and the boy, their forms darkly silhouetted against the lighter
sky as they moved along the top of the bank.  Slosson, without
any superfluous gallantry, helped his captives down the slope and
aboard the keel boat, where he locked them in the cabin, the door
of which fastened with a hasp and wooden peg.

"You're boss now, pardner!" he said, joining Carrington at the
steering oar.

"We'll cast off then," answered Carrington.

Thus far nothing had occurred to mar his plans.  If they could
but quit the bayou before the arrival of the man whose place he
had taken, the rest would be if not easy of accomplishment, at
least within the realm of the possible.

"I reckon you're a river-man?" observed Slosson.

"All my life."

The line had been cast off, and the crew with their setting poles
were forcing the boat away from the bank.  All was quietly done;
except for an occasional order from Carrington no word was
spoken, and soon the unwieldy craft glided into the sluggish
current and gathered way.  Mr. Slosson, who clearly regarded his
relation to the adventure as being of an official character,
continued to stand at Carrington's elbow.

"What have we, between here and the river?" inquired the latter.
It was best, he felt, not to give Slosson an opportunity to ask
questions.

"It narrows considerably, pardner, but it's a straight course,"
said Slosson.  "Black in yonder, ain't it?" he added, nodding
ahead.

The shores drew rapidly together; they were leaving the lakelike
expanse behind.  In the silence, above the rustling of the trees,
Carrington heard the first fret of 'the river against its bank.
Slosson yawned prodigiously.

"I reckon you ain't needing me?" he said.

"Better go up in the bow and get some sleep," advised Carrington,
and Slosson, nothing loath, clambered down from the roof of the
cabin and stumbled forward.

The ceaseless murmur of the rushing waters grew in the stillness
as the keel boat drew nearer the hurrying yellow flood, and the
beat of the Kentuckian's pulse quickened.  Would he find the raft
there?  He glanced back over the way they had come.  The dark
ranks of the forest walled off the clearing, but across the water
a dim point of light was visible.  He fixed its position as
somewhere near the head of the bayou.  Apparently it was a
lantern, but as he looked a ruddy glow crept up against the
sky-line.

From the bow Bunker had been observing this singular phenomenon.
Suddenly he bent and roused Slosson, who had fallen asleep.  The
tavern-keeper sprang to his feet and Bunker pointed without
speaking.

"Mebby you can tell me what that light back yonder means?" cried
Slosson, addressing himself to Carrington; as he spoke he
snatched up his rifle.

"That's what I'm trying to make out," answered Carrington.

"Hell!" cried Slosson, and tossed his gun to his shoulder.

What seemed to be a breath of wind lifted a stray lock of
Carrington's hair, but his pistol answered Slosson in the same
second.  He fired at the huddle of men in the bow of the boat and
one of them pitched forward with his arms outspread.

"Keep back, you!" he said, and dropped off the cabin roof.

His promptness had bred a momentary panic, then Slosson's
bull-like voice began to roar commands; but in that brief instant
of surprise and shock Carrington had found and withdrawn the
wooden peg that fastened the cabin door.  He had scarcely done
this when Slosson came tramping aft supported by the three men.

Calling to Betty and Hannibal to escape in the skiff which was
towing astern the Kentuckian rushed toward the bow.  At his back
he heard the door creak on its hinges as it was pushed open by
Betty and the boy, and again he called to them to escape by the
skiff.  The fret of the current had grown steadily and from
beneath the wide-flung branches of the trees which here met above
his head, Carrington caught sight of the starspecked arch of the
heavens beyond.  They were issuing from the bayou.  He felt the
river snatch at the keel boat, the buffeting of some swift eddy,
and saw the blunt bow swing off to the south as they were plunged
into the black shore shadows.

But what he did not see was a big muscular hand which had thrust
itself out of the impenetrable gloom and clutched the side of the
keel boat.  Coincident with this there arose a perfect babel of
voices, high-pitched and shrill.

"Sho--I bet it's him!  Sho'--it's Uncle Bob's nevvy!  Sho', you
can hear 'em!  Sho', they're shootin' guns!  Sho'!"

Carrington cast a hurried glance in the direction of these
sounds.  There between the boat and the shore the dim outline of
a raft was taking shape.  It was now canopied by a wealth of pale
gray smoke that faded from before his eyes as the darkness
lifted.  Turning, he saw Slosson and his men clearly.  Surprise
and consternation was depicted on each face.

The light increased.  From the flat stone hearth of the raft
ascended a tall column of flame which rendered visible six pygmy
figures, tow-headed and wonderfully vocal, who were toiling like
mad at the huge sweeps.  The light showed more than this.  It
showed a lady of plump and pleasing presence smoking a cobpipe
while she fed the fire from a tick stuffed with straw.  It showed
two bark shanties, a line between them decorated with the
never-ending Cavendish wash.  It showed a rooster perched on the
ridge-pole of one of these shanties in the very act of crowing
lustily.

Hannibal, who had climbed to the roof of the cabin, shrieked for
help, and Betty added her voice to his.

"All right, Nevvy!" came the cheerful reply, as Yancy threw
himself over the side of the boat and grappled with Slosson.

"Uncle Bob!  Uncle Bob!" cried Hannibal.

Slosson uttered a cry of terror.  He had a simple but sincere
faith in the supernatural, and even with the Scratch Hiller's big
hands gripping his throat, he could not rid himself of the belief
that this was the ghost of a murdered man.

"You'll take a dog's licking from me, neighbor?" said Yancy
grimly.  "I been saving it fo' you!"

Meanwhile Mr. Cavendish, whose proud spirit never greatly
inclined him to the practice of peace, had prepared for battle;
Springing aloft he knocked his heels together.

"Whoop!  I'm a man as can slide down a thorny locust and never
get scratched!" he shouted.  This was equivalent to setting his
triggers; then he launched himself nimbly and with enthusiasm
into the thick of the fight.  It was Mr. Bunker's unfortunate
privilege to sustain the onslaught of the Earl of Lambeth.

The light from the Cavendish hearth continued to brighten the
scene, for Polly was recklessly sacrificing her best straw tick.
Indeed her behavior was in every way worthy of the noble alliance
she had formed.  Her cob-pipe was not suffered to go out and with
Connie's help she kept the six small Cavendishes from risking
life and limb in the keel boat, toward which they were powerfully
drawn.  Despite these activities she found time to call to Betty
and Hannibal on the cabin roof.

"Jump down here; that ain't no fittin' place for you-all to stop
in with them gentlemen fightin'!"

An instant later Betty and Hannibal stood on the raft with the
little Cavendishes flocking about them.  Mr. Yancy's quest of his
nevvy had taken an enduring hold on their imagination.  For weeks
it had constituted their one vital topic, and the fight became
merely a satisfying background for this interesting restoration.

"Sho', they'd got him!  Sho'--he wa'n't no bigger than Richard!
Sho'!"

"Oh!" cried Betty, with a fearful glance toward the keel boat.
"Can't you stop them?"

"What fo'?" asked Polly, opening her black eyes very wide.

"Bless yo' tender heart!-you don't need to worry none, we got
them strange gentlemen licked like they was a passel of children!
Connie, you-all mind that fire!"

She accurately judged the outcome of the fight.  The boat was
little better than a shambles with the havoc that had been
wrought there when Yancy and Carrington dropped over its side to
the raft.  Cavendish followed them, whooping his triumph as he
came.




CHAPTER XXXII

THE RAFT AGAIN


Yancy and Cavendish threw themselves on the sweeps and worked the
raft clear of the keel boat, then the turbulent current seized
the smaller craft and whirled it away into the night; as its
black bulk receded from before his eyes the Earl of Lambeth spoke
with the voice of authority and experience.

"It was a good fight and them fellows done well, but not near
well enough."  A conclusion that could not be gainsaid.  He
added, "No one ain't hurt but them that had ought to have got
hurt.  Mr. Yancy's all right, and so's Mr. Carrington--who's
mighty welcome here."  The earl's shock of red hair was bristling
like the mane of some angry animal and his eyes still flashed
with the light of battle, but he managed to summon up an
expression of winning friendliness.

"Mr. Carrington's kin to me, Polly," explained Yancy to Mrs.
Cavendish.  His voice was far from steady, for Hannibal had been
gathered into his arms and had all but wrecked the stoic calm
with which the Scratch Hiller was seeking to guard his emotions.

Polly smiled and dimpled at the Kentuckian.  Trained to a
romantic point of view she had a frank liking for handsome
stalwart men.  Cavendish was neither, but none knew better than
Polly that where he was most lacking in appearance he was richest
in substance.  He carried scars honorably earned in those
differences he had been prone to cultivate with less generous
natures; for his scheme of life did not embrace the millennium.

"Thank God, you got here when you did!" said Carrington.

"We was some pushed fo' time, but we done it," responded the earl
modestly.  He added, "What now?--do we make a landing?"

"No--unless it interferes with your plans not to.  I 'want to get
around the next bend before we tie up.  Later we'll all go back.
Can I count on you?"

"You shorely can.  I consider this here as sociable a
neighborhood as I ever struck.  It pleases me well.  Folks are up
and doing hereabout."

Carrington looked eagerly around in search of Betty.  She was
sitting on an upturned tub, a pathetic enough figure as she
drooped against the wall of one of the shanties with all her
courage quite gone from her.  He made his way quickly to her
side.

"La!" whispered Polly in Chills and Fever's ear.  "If that pore
young thing yonder keeps a widow it won't be because of any
encouragement she gets from Mr. Carrington.  If I ever seen
marriage in a man's eye I seen it in his this minute!"

"Bruce!" cried Betty, starting up as Carrington approached.  "Oh,
Bruce, I am so glad you have come--you are not hurt?"  She
accepted his presence without question.  She had needed him and
he had not failed her.

"We are none of us hurt, Betty," he said gently, as he took her
hand.

He saw that the suffering she had undergone during the preceding
twenty-four hours had left its record on her tired face and in
her heavy eyes.  She retained a shuddering consciousness of the
unchecked savagery of those last moments on the keel boat; she
was still hearing the oaths of the men as they struggled
together, the sound of blows, and the dreadful silences that had
followed them.  She turned from him, and there came the relief of
tears.

"There, Betty, the danger is over now and you were so brave while
it lasted.  I can't bear to have you cry!"

"I was wild with fear--all that time on the boat, Bruce--" she
faltered between her sobs.  "I didn't know but they would find
you out.  I could only wait and hope--and pray!"

"I was in no danger, dear.  Didn't the girl tell you I was to
take the place of a man Slosson was expecting?  He never doubted
that I was that man until a light--a signal it must have been--on
the shore at the head of the bayou betrayed me."

"Where are we going now, Bruce?  Not the way they went--" and
Betty glanced out into the black void where the keel boat had
merged into the gloom.

"No, no--but we can't get the raft back up-stream against the
current, so the best thing is to land at the Bates' plantation
below here; then as soon as you are able we can return to Belle
Plain," said Carrington.

There was an interval broken only by the occasional sweep of the
great steering oar as Cavendish coaxed the raft out toward the
channel.  The thought of Charley Norton's murder rested on
Carrington like a pall.  Scarcely a week had elapsed since he
quitted Thicket Point and in that week the hand of death had
dealt with them impartially, and to what end?  Then the miles he
had traversed in his hopeless journey up-river translated
themselves into a division of time as well as space.  They were
just so much further removed from the past with its blight of
tragic terror.  He turned and glanced at Betty.  He saw that her
eyes held their steady look of wistful pity that was for the dead
man; yet in spite of this, and in spite of the bounds beyond
which he would not let his imagination carry him, the future
enriched with sudden promise unfolded itself.  The deep sense of
recovered hope stirred within him.  He knew there must come a day
when he would dare to speak of his love, and she would listen.

"It's best we should land at Bates' place--we can get teams
there," he went on to explain.  "And, Betty, wherever we go we'll
go together, dear.  Cavendish doesn't look as if he had any very
urgent business of his own, and I reckon the same is true of
Yancy, so I am going to keep them with us.  There are some points
to be cleared up when we reach Belle Plain--some folks who'll
have a lot to explain or else quit this part of the state!  And I
intend to see that you are not left alone until--until I have the
right to take care of you for good and all--that's what you want
me to do one of these days, isn't it, darling?" and his eyes,
glowing and infinitely tender, dwelt on her upturned face.

But Betty shrank from him in involuntary agitation.

"Oh, not now, Bruce--not now--we mustn't speak of that--it's
wrong--it's wicked--you mustn't make me forget him!" she cried
brokenly, in protest.

"Forgive me, Betty, I'll not speak of it again," he said.

"Wait, Bruce, and some time--Oh, don't make me say it," she
gasped, "or I shall hate myself!" for in his presence she was
feeling the horror of her past experience grow strangely remote,
only the dull ache of her memories remained, and to these she
clung.  They were silent for a moment, then Carrington said:

"After I'm sure you'll be safe here perhaps I'll go south into
the Choctaw Purchase.  I've been thinking of that recently; but
I'll find my way back here--don't misunderstand me--I'll not come
too soon for even you, Betty.  I loved Norton.  He was one of my
best friends, too," he continued gently.  "But you know--and I
know--dear, the day will come when no matter where you are I
shall find you again--find you and not lose you!"

Betty made no answer in words, but a soft and eloquent little
hand was slipped into his and allowed to rest there.

Presently a light wind stirred the dead dense atmosphere, the
mist lifted and enveloped the shore, showing them the river
between piled-up masses of vapor.  Apparently it ran for their
raft alone.  It was just twenty-four hours since Carrington had
looked upon such another night but this was a different world the
gray fog was unmasking--a world of hopes, and dreams, and rich
content.  Then the thought of Norton--poor Norton who had had his
world, too, of hopes and dreams and rich content--

The calm of a highly domestic existence had resumed its
interrupted sway on the raft.  Mr. Cavendish, associated in
Betty's memory with certain earsplitting manifestations of
ferocious rage, became in the bosom of his family low-voiced and
genial and hopelessly impotent to deal with his five small sons;
while Yancy was again the Bob Yancy of Scratch Hill, violence of
any sort apparently had no place in his nature.  He was deeply
absorbed in Hannibal's account of those vicissitudes which had
befallen him during their separation.  They were now seated
before a cheerful fire that blazed on the hearth, the boy very
close to Yancy with one hand clasped in the Scratch Hiller's,
while about them were ranged the six small Cavendishes sedately
sharing in the reunion of uncle and nevvy, toward which they felt
they had honorably labored.

"And you wa'n't dead, Uncle Bob?" said Hannibal with a deep
breath, viewing Yancy unmistakably in the flesh.

"Never once.  I been floating peacefully along with these here
titled friends of mine; but I was some anxious about you, son."

"And Mr. Slosson, Uncle Bob--did you smack him like you smacked
Dave Blount that day when he tried to steal me?" asked Hannibal,
whose childish sense of justice demanded reparation for the
wrongs they had suffered.

Mr. Yancy extended a big right hand, the knuckle of which was
skinned and bruised.

"He were the meanest man I ever felt obliged fo' to hit with my
fist, Nevvy; it appeared like he had teeth all over his face."

"Sho--where's his hide, Uncle Bob?" cried the little Cavendishes
in an excited chorus.  "Sho--did you forget that?"  They
themselves had forgotten the unique enterprise to which Mr. Yancy
was committed, but the allusion to Slosson had revived their
memory of it.

"Well, he begged so piteous to be allowed fo' to keep his hide, I
hadn't the heart to strip it off," explained Mr. Yancy
pleasantly.  "And the winter's comin' onat this moment I can feel
a chill in the air--don't you-all reckon he's goin' to need it
fo' to keep the cold out,' Sho', you mustn't be bloody-minded!"

"What was it about Mr. Slosson's hide, Uncle Bob?" demanded
Hannibal.  "What was you a-goin' to do to that?"

"Why, Nevvy, after he beat me up and throwed me in the river, I
was some peevish fo' a spell in my feelings fo' him," said Yancy,
in a tone of gentle regret.  He glanced at his bruised hand.
"But I'm right pleased to be able to say that I've got over all
them oncharitable thoughts of mine."

"And you seen the judge, Uncle Bob?" questioned Hannibal.

"Yes, I've seen the judge.  We was together fo' part of a day.
Me and him gets on fine."

"Where is he now, Uncle Bob?"

"I reckon he's back at Belle Plain by this time.  You see we left
him in Raleigh along after noon to 'tend tosome business he had
on hand.  I never seen a gentleman of his weight so truly spry on
his legs--and all about you, Nevvy; while as to mind!  Sho--why,
words flowed out of him as naturally as water out of a branch."

Of Hannibal's relationship to the judge he said nothing.  He felt
that was a secret to be revealed by the judge himself when he
should see fit.

"Uncle Bob, who'm I going to live with now?" questioned Hannibal
anxiously.

"That p'int's already come up, Nevvy--him and me's decided that
there won't be no friction.  You-all will just go on living with
him."

"But what about you, Uncle Bob?" cried Hannibal, lifting a
wistful little face to Yancy's.

"Oh, me?--well, you-all will go right on living with me."

"And what will come of Mr. Mahaffy?"

"I reckon you-all will go right on living witli him, too."

"Uncle Bob, you mean you reckon we are all going to live in one
house?"

"I 'low it will have to be fixed that-a-ways," agreed Yancy.




CHAPTER XXXIII

THE JUDGE RECEIVES A LETTER


After he had parted with Solomon Mahaffy the judge applied
himself diligently to shaping that miracle-working document which
he was preparing as an offset to whatever risk he ran in meeting
Fentress.  As sanguine as he was sanguinary he confidently
expected to survive the encounter, yet it was well to provide for
a possible emergency--had he not his grandson's future to
consider?  While thus occupied he saw the afternoon stage arrive
and depart from before the City Tavern.

Half an hour later Mr. Wesley, the postmaster, came sauntering up
the street.  In his hand he carried a letter.

"Howdy," he drawled, from just beyond the judge's open door.

The judge glanced up, his quill pen poised aloft.

"Good evening, sir; won't you step inside and be seated?" he
asked graciously.  His dealings with the United States mail
service were of the most insignificant description, and in
personally delivering a letter, if this was what had brought him
there, he felt Mr. Wesley had reached the limit of official
courtesy and despatch.

"Well, sir; it looks like you'd never told us more than
two-thirds of the truth!" said the postmaster.  He surveyed the
judge curiously.

"I am complimented by your opinion of my veracity," responded
that gentleman promptly.  "I consider two-thirds an enormously
high per cent to have achieved."

"There is something in that, too," agreed Mr. Wesley.  "Who is
Colonel Slocum Price Turberville?"

The judge started up from his chair.

"I have that honor," said he, bowing.

"Well, here's a letter come in addressed like that, and as you've
been using part of the name I am willing to assume you're legally
entitled to the rest of it.  It clears up a point that off and on
has troubled me considerable.  I can only wonder I wa'n't
smarter;"

"What point, may I ask?"

"Why, about the time you hung out your shingle here, some one
wrote a letter to General Jackson.  It was mailed after night,
and when I seen it in the morning I was clean beat.  I couldn't
locate the handwriting and yet I kept that letter back a couple
of days and give it all my spare time.  It ain't that I'm one of
your spying sort--there's nothing of the Yankee about me!"

"Certainly not," agreed the judge.

"Candid, Judge, I reckon you wrote that letter, seeing this one
comes under a frank from Washington.  No, sir--I couldn't make
out who was corresponding with the president and it worried me,
not knowing, more than anything I've had to contend against since
I came into office.  I calculate there ain't a postmaster in the
United States takes a more personal interest in the service than
me.  I've frequently set patrons right when they was in doubt as
to the date they had mailed such and such  letter."  As Mr.
Wesley sometimes canceled as many as three or four stamps in a
single day he might have been pardoned his pride in a brain which
thus lightly dealt with the burden of official business.  He
surrendered the letter with marked reluctance.

"Your surmise is correct," said the judge with dignity.  "I had
occasion to write my friend, General Jackson, and unless I am
greatly mistaken I have my answer here."  And with a fine air of
indifference he tossed the letter on the table.

"And do you know Old Hickory?" cried Mr. Wesley.

"Why not?  Does it surprise you?" inquired the judge.  It was
only his innate courtesy which restrained him from kicking the
postmaster into the street, so intense was his desire to be rid
of him.

"No, I don't know as it does, judge.  Naturally a public man like
him is in the way of meeting with all sorts.  A politician can't
afford to be too blame particular.  Well, next time you write you
might just send him my regards--G. W. M. de L. Wesley's
regards--there was considerable contention over my getting this
office; I reckon he ain't forgot.  There was speeches made, I
understand the lie was passed between two United States senators,
and that a quid of tobacco was throwed in anger."  Having thus
clearly established the fact that he was a more or less national
character, Mr. Wesley took himself off.

When he had disappeared from sight down the street, the judge
closed the door.  Then he picked up the letter.  For along minute
he held it in his hand, uncertain, fearful, while his mind
slipped back into the past until his inward searching vision
ferreted out a handsome soldierly figure--his own.

"That's what Jackson remembers if he remembers anything!" he
muttered, as with trembling fingers he broke the seal.  Almost
instantly a smile overspread his battered features.  He hitched
his chin higher and squared his ponderous shoulders.  "I am not
forgotten--no, damn it--no!" he exulted under his breath,
"recalls me with sincere esteem and considers my services to the
country as well worthy of recognition--" the judge breathed deep.
What would Mahaffy find to say now!  Certainly this was well
calculated to disturb the sour cynicism of his friend.  His
bleared eyes brimmed.  After all his groping he had touched hands
with the realities at last!  Even a federal judgeship, though not
an office of the first repute in the south.  had its dignity--it
signified something!  He would make Solomon his clerk!  The judge
reached for his hat.  Mahaffy must know at once that fortune had
mended for them.  Why, at that moment he was actually in receipt
of an income!

He sat down, the better to enjoy the unique sensation.  Taxes
were being levied and collected with no other end in view than
his stipend--his ardent fancy saw the whole machinery of
government in operation for his benefit.  It was a singular
feeling he experienced.  Then promptly his spendthrift brain
became active.  He needed clothes--so did Mahaffy--so did his
grandson; they must take a larger house; he would buy himself a
man servant; these were pressing necessities as he now viewed
them.

Once again he reached for his hat, the desire to rush off to
Belle Plain was overmastering.

"I reckon I'd be justified in hiring a conveyance from Pegloe,"
he thought, but just here he had a saving memory of his
unfinished task; that claimed precedence and he resumed his pen.

An hour later Pegloe's black boy presented himself to the judge.
He came bearing a gift, and the gift appropriately enough was a
square case bottle of respectable size.  The judge was greatly
touched by this attention, but he began by making a most
temperate use of the tavern-keeper's offering; then as the
formidable document he was preparing took shape under his hand he
more and more lost that feeling of Spartan fortitude which had at
first sustained him in the presence of temptation.  He wrote and
sipped in complete and quiet luxury, and when at last he had
exhausted the contents of the bottle it occurred to him that it
would be only proper personally to convey his thanks to Pegloe.
Perhaps he was not uninspired in this by ulterior hopes; if so,
they were richly rewarded.  The resources of the City Tavern were
suddenly placed at his disposal.  He attributed this to a variety
of causes all good and sufficient, but the real reason never
suggested itself, indeed it was of such a perfidious nature that
the judge, open and generous-minded, could not have grasped it.

By six o'clock he was undeniably drunk; at eight he was sounding
still deeper depths of inebriety with only the most confused
memory of impending events; at ten he collapsed and was borne
up-stairs by Pegloe and his black boy to a remote chamber in the
kitchen wing.  Here he was undressed and put to bed, and the
tavernkeeper, making a bundle of his clothes, retired from the
room, locking the door after him, and the judge was doubly a
prisoner.

Rousing at last from a heavy dreamless sleep the judge was aware
of a faint impalpable light in his room, the ashen light of a
dull October dawn.  He was aware, too, of a feeling of profound
depression.  He knew this was the aftermath of indulgence and
that he might look forward to forty-eight hours of utter misery
of soul, and, groaning aloud, he closed his eyes, Sleep was the
thing if he could compass it.  Instead, his memory quickened.
Something was to happen at sunup--he could not recall what it was
to be, though he distinctly remembered that Mahaffy had spoken of
this very matter--Mahaffy, the austere and implacable, the
disembodied conscience whose fealty to duty had somehow survived
his own spiritual ruin, so that he had become a sort of moral
sign-post, ever pointing the way yet never going it himself.  The
judge lay still and thought deeply as the light intensified
itself.  What was it that Mahaffy had said he was to do at
sun-up?  The very hour accented his suspicions.  Probably it was
no more than some cheerless obligation to be met, or Mahaffy
would not have been so concerned about it.  Eventually he decided
to refer everything to Mahaffy.  He spoke his friend's name
weakly and in a shaking voice, but received no answer.

"Solomon!" he repeated, and shifting his position, looked in what
should have been the direction of the shake-down bed his friend
occupied.  Neither the bed nor Mahaffy were there.  The judge
gasped he wondered if this were not a premonition of certain
hallucinations to which he was not a stranger.  Then all in a
flash he remembered Fentress and the meeting at Boggs', something
of how the evening had been spent, and a spasm of regret shook
him.

"I had other things to think of.  This must never happen again!"
he told himself remorsefully.

He was wide-awake now.  Doubtless Pegloe had put him to bed.
Well, that had been thoughtful of Pegloe--he would not forget
him--the City Tavern should continue to enjoy his patronage.  It
would be something for Pegloe to boast of that judge Slocum Price
Turberville always made his place headquarters when in Raleigh.
Feeling that he had already conferred wealth and distinction on
the fortunate Pegloe the judge thrust his fat legs over the side
of his bed and stood erect.  Stooping he reached for his clothes.
He confidently expected to find them on the floor, but his hand
merely swept an uncarpeted waste.  The judge was profoundly
astonished.

"Maybe I've got 'em on, I don't recall taking them off!" he
thought hopefully.  He moved uncertainly in the direction of the
window where the light showed him his own bare extremities.  He
reverted to his original idea that his clothes were scattered
about the floor.

He was beginning to experience a great sense of haste, it was two
miles to Boggs' and Fentress would be there at sun-up.  Finally
he abandoned his quest of the missing garments and turned to the
door.  To say that he was amazed when he found it locked would
have most inadequately described his emotions.  Breathing deep,
he fell back a step or two, and then with all the vigor he could
muster launched himself at the door.  But it resisted him.
"It's bolted on the other side!" he muttered, the full measure of
Pegloe's perfidy revealing itself to his mind.

He was aghast.  It was a plot to discredit him.  Pegloe's
hospitality had been inspired by his enemy, for Pegloe was
Fentress' tenant.

Again he attacked the door; he believed it might be possible to
force it from its hinges, but Pegloe had done his work too well
for that, and at last, spent and breathless, the judge dropped
down on the edge of his bed to consider the situation.  He was
without clothes and he was a prisoner, yet his mind rose
splendidly to meet the difficulties that beset him.  His greatest
activities were reserved for what appeared to be only a season of
despair.  He armed himself with a threelegged stool he had found
and turned once more to the door, but the stout planks stood firm
under his blows.

"Unless I get out of here in time I'm a ruined man!" thought the
judge.  "After this Fentress will refuse to meet me!"

The window next engaged his attention.  That, too, Pegloe had
taken the precaution to fasten, but a single savage blow of the
stool shattered glass and sash and left an empty space that
framed the dawn's red glow.  The judge looked out and shook his
head dubiously.  It was twelve feet or more to the ground, a
risky drop for a gentleman of his years and build.  The judge
considered making a rope of his bedding and lowering himself to
the ground by means of it, he remembered to have read of captives
in that interesting French prison, the Bastille, who did this.
However, an equally ingenious but much more simple use for his
bedding occurred to him; it would form a soft and yielding
substance on which to alight.  He gathered it up into his arms,
feather-tick and all, and pushed it through the window, then he
wriggled out across the ledge, feet first, and lowering himself
to the full length of his arms, dropped.

He landed squarely on the rolled-up bed with a jar that shook him
to his center.  Almost gaily he snatched up a quilt, draping it
about him after the manner of a Roman, toga, and thus lightly
habited, started across Mr. Pegloe's truck-patch, his one thought
Boggs' and the sun.  It would have served no purpose to have gone
home, since his entire wardrobe, except for the shirt on his
back, was in the tavern-keeper's possession, besides he had not a
moment to lose, for the sun was peeping at him over the horizon.

Unobserved he gained the edge of the town and the highroad that
led past Boggs' and stole a fearful glance over his shoulder.
The sun was clear of the treetops, he could even feel the
lifeless dust grow warm beneath his feet; and wrapping the quilt
closer about him he broke into a labored run.

Some twenty minutes later Boggs' came in sight.  He experienced a
moment of doubt--suppose Fentress had been there and gone!  It
was a hideous thought and the judge groaned.  Then at the other
end of the meadow near the woods he distinguished several men,
Fentress and his friends beyond question.  The judge laughed
aloud.  In spite of everything he was keeping his engagement, he
was plucking his triumph out of the very dregs of failure.  The
judge threw himself over the fence, a corner of the quilt caught
on one of the rails; he turned to release it, and in that instant
two pistol shots rang out sharply in the morning air.




CHAPTER XXXIV

THE DUEL


It had been with no little reluctance that Solomon Mahaffy
accompanied Yancy and Cavendish to Belle Plain; he would have
preferred to remain in Raleigh in attendance upon judge Price.
Intimately acquainted with the judge's mental processes, he could
follow all the devious workings of that magnificent mind; he
could fathom the simply hellish ingenuity he was capable of
putting forth to accomplish temporary benefits.  Permitting his
thoughts to dwell upon the mingled strength and weakness which
was so curiously blended in Slocum Price's character, he had
horrid visions of that great soul, freed from the trammels of
restraint, confiding his melancholy history to Mr. Pegloe in the
hope of bolstering his fallen credit at the City Tavern.

Always where the judge was concerned he fluctuated between
extremes of doubt and confidence.  He felt that under the urgent
spur of occasion his friend could rise to any emergency, while a
sustained activity made demands which he could not satisfy; then
his efforts were discounted by his insane desire to realize at
once on his opportunities; in his haste he was for ever plucking
unripe fruit; and though he might keep one eye on the main chance
the other was fixed just as resolutely on the nearest tavern.

With the great stake which fate had suddenly introduced into
their losing game, he wished earnestly to believe that the judge
would stay quietly in his office and complete the task he had set
himself; that with this off his hands the promise of excitement
at Belle Plain would compel his presence there, when he would
pass somewhat under the restraining influence which he was
determined to exert; in short, to Solomon, life embraced just the
one vital consideration, which was to maintain the judge in a
state of sobriety until after his meeting with Fentress.

The purple of twilight was stealing over the land when he and his
two companions reached Belle Plain.  They learned that Tom Ware
had returned from Memphis, that the bayou had been dragged but
without results, and that as yet nothing had been heard from
Carrington or the dogs he had gone for.

Presently Cavendish and Yancy set off across the fields.  They
were going on to the raft, to Polly and the six little
Cavendishes, whom they had not seen since early morning; but they
promised to be back at Belle Plain within an hour.

By very nature an alien, Mahaffy sought out a dark corner on the
wide porch that overlooked the river to await their return.  The
house had been thrown open, and supper was being served to
whoever cared to stay and partake of it.  The murmur of idle
purposeless talk drifted out to him; he was irritated and
offended by it.  There was something garish in this
indiscriminate hospitality in the very home of tragedy.  As the
moments slipped by his sense of displeasure increased, with
mankind in general, with himself, and with the judge--principally
with the judge--who was to make a foolish target of himself in
the morning.  He was going to give the man who had wrecked his
life a chance to take it as well.  Mahaffy's cold logic dealt
cynically with the preposterous situation his friend had created.

In the midst of his angry meditations he heard a clock strike in
the hall and counted the strokes.  It was nine o'clock.  Surely
Yancy and Cavendish had been gone their hour!  He quitted his
seat and strolled restlessly about the house.  He felt deeply
indignant with everybody and everything.  Human intelligence
seemed but a pitiable advance on brute instinct.  A whole day had
passed and what had been accomplished?  Carrington, the judge,
Yancy, Cavendish--the four men who might have worked together to
some purpose had widely separated themselves; and here was the
duel, the very climax of absurdity.  He resumed his dark corner
and waited another hour.  Still no Carrington, and Yancy and
Cavendish had not come up from the raft.

"Fools!" thought Mahaffy bitterly.  "All of them fools!"

At last he decided to go back to the judge; and a moment later
was hurrying down the lane in the direction of the highroad, but,
jaded as he was by the effort he had already put forth that day,
the walk to Raleigh made tremendous demands on him, and it was
midnight when he entered the little town.

It can not be said that he was altogether surprised when he found
their cottage dark and apparently deserted.  He had half expected
this.  Entering, and not stopping to secure a candle, he groped
his way up-stairs to the room on the second floor which he and
the judge shared.

"Price!" he called, but this gained him no response, and he
cursed softly under his breath.

He hastily descended to the kitchen, lighted a candle, and
stepped into the adjoining room.  On the table was a neat pile of
papers, and topping the pile was the president's letter.  Being
burdened by no false scruples, and thinking it might afford some
clue to the judge's whereabouts, Mahaffy took it up and read it.
Having mastered its contents he instantly glanced in the
direction of the City Tavern, but it was wrapped in darkness.

"Price is drunk somewhere," was his definite conclusion.  "But
he'll be at Boggs' the first thing in the morning--most likely so
far gone he can hardly stand!"  The letter, with its striking
news, made little or no impression on him just then; it merely
furnished the clue he had sought.  The judge was off somewhere
marketing his prospects.

After a time Mahaffy went up-stairs, and, without removing his
clothes, threw himself on the bed.  He was worn down to the point
of exhaustion, yet he could not sleep, though the deep silence
warned him that day was not far off.  What if--but he would not
let the thought shape itself in his mind.  He had witnessed the
judge's skill with the pistol, and he had even a certain
irrational faith in that gentleman's destiny.  He prayed God that
Fentress might die quickly and decently with the judge's bullet
through his brain.  Over and over in savage supplication he
muttered his prayer that Fentress might die.

He began to watch for the coming of the dawn, but before the
darkness lifted he had risen from the bed and gone downstairs,
where he made himself a cup of wretched coffee.  Then he blew out
his candle and watched the gray light spread.  He was impatient
now to be off, and fully an hour before the sun, set out for
Boggs', a tall, gaunt figure in the shadowy uncertainty of that
October morning.  He was the first to reach the place of meeting,
but he had scarcely entered the meadow when Fentress rode up,
attended by Tom Ware.  They dismounted, and the colonel lifted
his hat.  Mahaffy barely acknowledged the salute; he was in no
mood for courtesies that meant nothing.  Ware was clearly of the
same mind.

There was an awkward pause, then Fentress and Ware spoke together
in a low tone.  The planter's speech was broken and hoarse, and
his heavy, bloodshot eyes were the eyes of a haunted man; this
was all a part of Fentress' scheme to face the world, and Ware
still believed that the fires Hicks had kindled had served his
desperate need.

When the first long shadows stole out from the edge of the woods
Fentress turned to Mahaffy, whose glance was directed toward the
distant corner of the field, where he knew his friend must first
appear.

"Why are we waiting, sir?" he demanded, his tone cold and formal.

"Something has occurred to detain Price," answered Mahaffy.

The colonel and Ware exchanged looks.  Again they spoke together,
while Mahaffy watched the road.  Ten minutes slipped by in this
manner, and once more Fentress addressed Mahaffy.

"Do you know what could have detained him?" he inquired, the
ghost of a smile curling his thin lips.

"I don't," said Mahaffy, and relapsed into a moody and anxious
silence.  He held dueling in very proper abhorrence, and only his
feeling of intense but never-declared loyalty to his friend had
brought him there.

Another interval of waiting succeeded.

"I have about reached the end of my patience; I shall wait just
ten minutes longer," said Fentress, and drew out his watch.

"Something has happened--" began Mahaffy.

"I have kept my engagement; he should have kept his," Fentress
continued, addressing Ware.  "I am sorry to have brought you here
for nothing, Tom."

"Wait!" said Mahaffy, planting himself squarely before Fentress.

"I consider this comic episode at an end," and Fentress pocketed
his watch.

"Scarcely!" rejoined Mahaffy.  His long arm shot out and the open
palm of his hand descended on the colonel's face.  "I am here for
my friend," he said grimly.

The colonel's face paled and colored by turns.

"Have you a weapon?" he asked, when he could command his voice.
Mahaffy exhibited the pistol he had carried to Belle Plain the
day before.

"Step off the ground, Tom."  Fentress spoke quietly.  When Ware
had done as he requested, the colonel spoke again.  "You are my
witness that I was the victim of an unprovoked attack."

Mr. Ware accepted this statement with equanimity, not to say
indifference.

"Are you ready?" he asked; he glanced at Mahaffy, who by a slight
inclination of the head signified that he was.  "I reckon you're
a green hand at this sort of thing?" commented Tom evilly.

"Yes," said Mahaffy tersely.

"Well, listen: I shall count, one, two, three; at the word three
you will fire.  Now take your positions."

Mahaffy and the colonel stood facing each other, a distance of
twelve paces separating them.  Mahaffy was pale but dogged, he
eyed Fentress unflinchingly.  Quick on the word Fentress fired,
an instant later Mahaffy's pistol exploded; apparently neither
bullet had taken effect, the two men maintained the rigid
attitude they had assumed; then Mahaffy was seen to turn on his
heels, next his arm dropped to his side and the pistol slipped
from his fingers, a look of astonishment passed over his face and
left it vacant and staring while his right hand stole up toward
his heart; he raised it slowly, with difficulty, as though it
were held down by some invisible weight.

A hush spread across the field.  It was like one of nature's
invisible transitions.  Along the edge of the woods the song of
birds was stricken into silence.  Ware, heavy-eyed Fentress, his
lips twisted by a tortured smile, watched Mahaffy as he panted
for breath, with his hand clenched against his chest.  That dead
oppressive silence lasted but a moment, from out of it came a cry
that smote on the wounded man's ears and reached his
consciousness.

"It's Price--" he gasped, his words bathed in blood.  and he
pitched forward on his face.

Ware and Fentress had heard the cry, too, and running to their
horses threw themselves into the saddle and galloped off.  The
judge midway of the meadow roared out a furious protest but the
mounted men turned into the highroad and vanished from sight, and
the judge's shaking legs bore him swiftly in the direction of the
gaunt figure on the ground.

Mahaffy struggled to rise, for he was hearing his friend's voice
now, the voice of utter anguish, calling his name.  At last
painful effort brought him to his knees.  He saw the judge,
clothed principally in a gaily colored bed-quilt, hatless and
shoeless, his face sodden and bleary from his night's debauch.
Mahaffy stood erect and staggered toward him, his hand over his
wound, his features drawn and livid, then with a cry he dropped
at his friend's feet.

"Solomon!  Solomon!" And the judge knelt beside him.

"It's all right, Price; I kept your appointment," whispered
Mahaffy; a bloody spume was gathering on his lips, and he stared
up at his friend with glassy eyes.

In very shame the judge hid his face in his hands, while sobs
shook him.

"Solomon--Solomon, why did you do this?" he cried miserably.

The harsh lines on the dying man's face erased themselves.

"You're the only friend I've known in twenty years of loneliness,
Price.  I've loved you like a brother," he panted, with a pause
between each word.

Again the judge buried his face in his hands.

"I know it, Solomon--I know it!" he moaned wretchedly.

"Price, you are still a man to be reckoned with.  There's the
boy; take your place for his sake and keep it--you can."

"I will--by God, I will!" gasped the judge.  "You hear me?  You
hear me, Solomon?  By God's good help, I will!"

"You have the president's letter--I saw it " said Mahaffy in a
whisper.

"Yes!" cried the judge.  "Solomon, the world is changing for us!"

"For me most of all," murmured Mahaffy, and there was a bleak
instant when the judge's ashen countenance held the full pathos
of age and failure.  "Remember your oath, Price," gasped the
dying man.  A moment of silence succeeded.  Mahaffy's eyes
closed, then the heavy lids slid back.  He looked up at the judge
while the harsh lines of his sour old face softened wonderfully.
"Kiss me, Price," he whispered, and as the judge bent to touch
him on the brow, the softened lines fixed themselves in death,
while on his lips lingered a smilc that was neither bitter nor
sneering.




CHAPTER XXXV

A CRISIS AT THE COURT-HOUSE


In that bare upper room they had shared, the judge, crushed and
broken, watched beside the bed on which the dead man lay;
unconscious of the flight of time he sat with his head bowed in
his hands, having scarcely altered his position since he begged
those who carried Mahaffy up the narrow stairs to leave him alone
with his friend.

He was living over the past.  He recalled his first meeting with
Mahaffy in the stuffy cabin of the small river packet from which
they had later gone ashore at Pleasantville; he thanked God that
it had been given him to see beneath Solomon's forbidding
exterior and into that starved heart!  He reviewed each phase of
the almost insensible growth of their intimacy; he remembered
Mahaffy's fine true loyalty at the time of his arrest--he thought
of Damon and Pythias--Mahaffy had reached the heights of a
sublime devotion; he could only feel enobled that he had inspired
it.

At last the dusk of twilight invaded the room.  He lighted the
candles on the chimneypiece, then he resumed his seat and his
former attitude.  Suddenly he became aware of a small hand that
was resting on his arm and glanced up; Hannibal had stolen
quietly into the room.  The boy pointed to the still figure on
the bed.

"Judge, what makes Mr. Mahaffy lie so quiet--is he dead?" he
asked in a whisper.

"Yes, dear lad," began the judge in a shaking voice as he drew
Hannibal toward him, "your friend and mine is dead--we have lost
him."  He lifted the boy into his lap, and Hannibal pressed a
tear-stained face against the judge's shoulder.  "How did you get
here?" the judge questioned gently.

"Uncle Bob fetched me," said Hannibal.  "He's down-stairs, but he
didn't tell me Mr. Mahaffy was dead-"

"We have sustained a great loss, Hannibal, and we must never
forget the moral grandeur of the man.  Some day, when you are
older, and I can bring myself to speak of it, I will tell you of
his last moments."  The judge's voice broke, a thick sob rose
chokingly in his throat.  "Poor Solomon!  A man of such tender
feeling that he hid it from the world, for his was a rare nature
which only revealed itself to the chosen few he honored with his
love."  The judge lapsed into a momentary brooding silence, in
which his great arms drew the boy closer against his heart.
"Dear lad, since I left you at Belle Plain a very astonishing
knowledge has come to me.  It was the Hand of Providence--I see
it now--that first brought us together.  You must not call me
judge any more; I am your grandfather your mother was my
daughter."

Hannibal instantly sat erect and looked up at the judge, his blue
eyes wide with amazement at this extraordinary statement.

"It is a very strange story, Hannibal, and its links are not all
in my hands, but I am sure because of what I already know.  I,
who thought that not a drop of my blood flowed in any veins but
my own, live again in you.  Do you understand what I am telling
you?  Your are my own dear little grandson--" and the judge
looked down with no uncertain love and pride into the small face
upturned to his.

"I am glad if you are my grandfather, judge," said Hannibal very
gravely.  "I always liked you."

"Thank you, dear lad," responded the judge with equal gravity,
and then as Hannibal nestled back in his grandfather's arms a
single big tear dropped from the end of that gentleman's
prominent nose.

"There will be many and great changes in store for us," continued
the judge.  "But as we met adversity with dignity, I am sure we
shall be able to endure prosperity with equanimityonly unworthy
natures are affected by what is at best superficial and
accidental.  I mean that the blight of poverty is about to be
lifted from our lives."

"Do you mean we ain't going to be pore any longer, grandfather?"
asked Hannibal.

The judge regarded him with infinite tenderness of expression; he
was profoundly moved.

"Would you mind saying that again, dear lad?"

"Do you mean we ain't going to be pore any longer, grandfather?"
repeated Hannibal.

"I shall enjoy an adequate competency which I am about to
recover.  It will be sufficient for the indulgence of those
simple and intellectual tastes I propose to cultivate for the
future."  In spite of himself the judge sighed.  This was hardly
in line with his ideals, but the right to choose was no longer
his.  "You will be very rich, Hannibal.  The Quintard lands--your
grandmother was a Quintard--will be yours; they run up into the
hundred of thousand of acres here about; this land will all be
yours as soon as I can establish your identity."

"Will Uncle Bob be rich too?" inquired Hannibal.

"Certainly.  How can he be poor when we possess wealth?" answered
the judge.

"You reckon he will always live with us, don't you, grandfather?"

"I would not have it otherwise.  I admire Mr. Yancy--he is simple
and direct, and fit for any company under heaven except that of
fools.  His treatment of you has placed me under everlasting
obligations; he shall share what we have.  My one bitter,
unavailing regret is that Solomon Mahaffy will not be here to
partake of our altered fortunes."  And the judge sighed deeply.

"Uncle Bob told me Mr. Mahaffy got hurt in a duel, grandfather?"
said Hannibal.

"He was as inexperienced as a child in the use of firearms, and
he had to deal with scoundrels who had neither mercy nor generous
feeling--but his courage was magnificent."

Presently Hannibal was deep in his account of those adventures he
had shared with Miss Betty.

"And Miss Malroy--where is she now?" asked the judge, in the
first pause of the boy's narrative.

"She's at Mr. Bowen's house.  Mr. Carrington and Mr. Cavendish
are here too.  Mrs. Cavendish stayed down yonder at the Bates'
plantation.  Grandfather, it were Captain Murrell who had me
stole--do you reckon he was going to take me back to Mr. Bladen?"

"I will see Miss Malroy in the morning.   We must combine--our
interests are identical.  There should be hemp in this for more
than one scoundrel!  I can see now how criminal my disinclination
to push myself to the front has been!" said the judge, with
conviction.  "Never again will I shrink from what I know to be a
public duty."

A little later they went down-stairs, where the judge had Yancy
make up a bed for himself and Hannibal on the floor.  He would
watch alone beside Mahaffy, he was certain this would have been
the dead man's wish; then he said good night and mounted heavily
to the floor above to resume his vigil and his musings.

Just at daybreak Yancy was roused by the pressure of a hand on
his shoulder, and opening his eyes saw that the judge was bending
over him.

"Dress!" he said briefly.  "There's every prospect of trouble
--get your rifle and come with me!"

Yancy noted that this prospect of trouble seemed to afford the
judge a pleasurable sensation; indeed, he had quite lost his
former air of somber and suppressed melancholy.

"I let you sleep, thinking you needed the rest," the judge went
on.  "But ever since midnight we've been on the verge of riot and
possible bloodshed.  They've arrested John Murrell--it's claimed
he's planned a servile rebellion!  A man named Hues, who had
wormed his way into his confidence, made the arrest.  He carried
Murrell into Memphis, but the local magistrate, intimidated, most
likely, declined to have anything to do with holding him.  In
spite of this, Hues managed to get his prisoner lodged in jail,
but along about nightfall the situation began to look serious.
Folks were swarming into town armed to the teeth, and Hues
fetched Murrell across country to Raleigh--"

"Yes?" said Yancy.

"Well, the sheriff has refused to take Murrell into custody.
Hues has him down at the court-house, but whether or not he is
going to be able to hold him is another matter!"

Yancy and Hannibal had dressed by this time, and the judge led
the way from the house.  The Scratch Hiller looked about him.
Across the street a group of men, the greater number of whom were
armed, stood in front of Pegloe's tavern.  Glancing in the
direction of the court-house, he observed that the square before
it held other groups.  But what impressed him more was the
ominous silence that was everywhere.  At his elbow the judge was
breathing deep.

"We are face to face with a very deplorable condition, Mr. Yancy.
Court was to sit here to-day, but judge Morrow and the public
prosecutor have left town, and as you see, Murrell's friends have
gathered for a rescue.  There's a sprinkling of the better
element--but only a sprinkling.  I saw judge Morrow this morning
at four o'clock--I told him I would obligate myself to present
for his consideration evidence of a striking and sensational
character, evidence which would show conclusively that Murrell
should be held to await the action of the next grand jury--this
was after a conference with Hues--I guaranteed his safety.  Sir,
the man refused to listen to me!  He showed himself utterly
devoid of any feeling of public duty."  The bitter sense of
failure and futility was leaving the judge.  The situation made
its demands on that basic faith in his own powers which remained
imbedded in his character.

They had entered the court-house square.  'On the steps of the
building Betts was arguing loudly with Hues, who stood in the
doorway, rifle in hand.

"Maybe you don't know this is county property?" the sheriff was
saying.  "And that you have taken unlawful possession of it for
an unlawful purpose?  I am going to open them doors-a passel of
strangers can't keep folks out of a building their own money has
bought and paid for!"  While he was speaking, the judge had
pushed his way through the crowd to the foot of the steps.

"That was very nicely said, Mr. Betts," observed the judge.  He
smiled widely and sweetly.  The sheriff gave him a hostile glare.
"Do you know that Morrow has left town?" the judge went on.

"I ain't got nothing to do with judge Morrow.  It's my duty to
see that this building is ready for him when he's a mind to open
court in it"

"You are willing to assume the responsibility of throwing open
these doors?" inquired the judge affably.

"I shorely am," said Betts.  "Why, some of these folks are our
leading people!"

The judge turned to the crowd, and spoke in a tone of excessive
civility.  "Just a word, gentlemen!--the sheriff is right; it is
your court-house and you should not be kept out of it.  No doubt
there are some of you whose presence in this building will sooner
or later be urgently desired.  We are going to let all who wish
to enter, but I beg you to remember that there will be five men
inside whose prejudices are all in favor of law and order." He
pushed past Hues and entered the court-house, followed by Yancy
and Hannibal.  "We'll let 'em in where I can talk to 'em," he
said almost gaily.  "Besides, they'll come in anyhow when they
get ready, so there's no sense in exciting them."

In the court-house, Murrell, bound hand and foot, was seated
between Carrington and the Earl of Lambeth in the little
railed-off space below the judge's bench.  Fear and suffering had
blanched his unshaven cheeks and given a wild light to his deeply
sunken eyes.  At sight of Yancy a smothered exclamation broke
from his lips, he had supposed this man dead these many months!

Hues had abandoned his post and the crowd, suddenly grown
clamorous, stormed the narrow entrance.  One of the doors, borne
from its hinges, went down with a crash.  The judge, a fierce
light flashing from his eyes, turned to Yancy.

"No matter what happens, this fellow Murrell is not to escape--if
he calls on his friends to rescue him he is to be shot!"

The hall was filling with swearing, struggling men, the floor
shook beneath their heavy tread; then they burst into the
court-room and saluted Murrell with a great shout.  But Murrell,
bound, in rags, and silent, his lips frozen in a wolfish grin,
was a depressing sight, and the boldest felt something of his
unrestrained lawlessness go from him.

Less noisy now, the crowd spread itself out among the benches or
swarmed up into the tiny gallery at the back of the building.
Man after man had hurried forward, intent on passing beyond the
railing, but each lead encountered the judge, formidable and
forbidding, and had turned aside.  Gradually the many pairs of
eyes roving over the little group surrounding the outlaw focussed
themselves on Slocum Price.  It was in unconscious recognition of
that moral force which was his, a tribute to the grim dignity of
his unshaken courage; what he would do seemed worth considering.

He was charmed to hear his name pass in a whisper from lip to
lip.  Well, it was time they knew him!  He squared his ponderous
shoulders and made a gesture commanding silence.  Battered,
shabby and debauched, he was like some old war horse who sniffs
the odor of battle that the wind incontinently brings to his
nostrils.

"Don't let him speak!" cried a voice, and a tumult succeeded.

Cool and indomitable the judge waited for it to subside.  He saw
that the color was stealing back into Murrell's face.  The outlaw
was feeling that he was a leader not overthrown, these were his
friends and followers, his safety was their safety too.  In a
lull in the storm of sound the judge attempted to make himself
heard, but his words were lost in the angry roar that descended
on him.

"Don't let him speak!  Kill him!  Kill him!"

A score of men sprang to their feet and from all sides came the
click of rifle and pistol hammers as they were drawn to the full
cock.  The judge's fate seemed to rest on a breath.  He swung
about on his heel and gave a curt nod to Yancy and Cavendish,
who, falling back a step, tossed their guns to their shoulders
and covered Murrell.  A sudden hush grew up out of the tumult;
the cries, angry and jeering, dwindled to a murmur, and a dead
pall of silence rested on the crowded room.

The very taste of triumph was in the judge's mouth.  Then came a
commotion at the back of the building, a whispered ripple of
comment, and Colonel Fentress elbowed his way through the crowd.
At sight of his enemy the judge's face went from white to red,
while his eyes blazed; but for the moment the force of his
emotions left him speechless.  Here and there, as he advanced,
Fentress recognized a friend and bowed coolly to the right and
left.

"What does this ridiculous mockery mean?" he demanded harshly.
"Mr. Sheriff, as a member of the bar, I protest!  Why don't you
clear the building?"  He did not wait for Betts to answer him,
but continued.  "Where is this man Hues?"

"Yonder, Colonel, by the captain," said Betts.

"I have a warrant for his arrest.  You will take him into
custody."

"Wait!" cried the judge.  "I represent Mr. Hues.  I desire to see
that warrant!"

But Fentress ignored him.  He addressed the crowded benches.

"Gentlemen, it is a serious matter forcibly to seize a man
without authority from the courts and expose him to the danger of
mob violence--Mr. Hues will learn this before we have done with
him."

Instantly there was a noisy demonstration that swelled into a
burst of applause, which quickly spent itself.  The struggle
seemed to have narrowed to an individual, contest for supremacy
between Fentress and the judge.  On the edge of the railed off
space they confronted each other: the colonel, a tall,
well-cared-for presence; the judge shabby and unkempt.  For a
moment their eyes met, while the judge's face purpled and paled,
and purpled again.  The silence deepened.  Fentress' thin lips
opened, twitched, but no sound came from them; then his glance
wavered and fell.  He turned away.

"Mr. Sheriff!" he called sharply.

"All right, Colonel!"

"Take your man into custody," ordered Fentress.  As he spoke he
handed the warrant to Betts, who looked at it, grinned, and
stepped toward Hues.  He would have pushed the judge aside had
not that gentleman, bowing civilly, made way for him.

"In my profound respect for the law and properly constituted
authority I yield to no man, not even to Colonel Fentress," he
said, with a gracious gesture.  "I would not place the slightest
obstacle in the way of its sanctioned manifestation.  Colonel
Fentress comes here with that high sanction."  He bowed again
ceremoniously to the colonel.  "I repeat, I respect his
dependence upon the law!" He whirled suddenly.

Cavendish--Yancy--Carrington--I call upon you to arrest John
Murrell!  I do this by virtue of the authority vested in me as a
judge of the United States Federal Court.  His crime--a mere
trifle, my friends--passing counterfeit money!  Colonel Fentress
will inform you that this is a violation of the law which falls
within my jurisdiction," and he beamed blandly on Fentress.

"It's a lie!" cried the colonel.

"You'll answer for that later!" said the judge, with abrupt
austerity of tone.

"For all we know you may be some fugitive from justice!  Why,
your name isn't Price!"

"Are you sure of that?" asked the judge quickly.

"You're an impostor!  Your name is Turberville!"

"Permit me to relieve your apprehensions.  It is Turberville who
has received the appointment.  Would you like to examine my
credentials?--I have them by me--no?  I am obliged for your
introduction.  It could not have come at a more timely moment!"
The judge seemed to dismiss Fentress contemptuously.  Once more
he faced the packed benches.  "Put down your weapons!" he
commanded.  "This man Murrell will not be released.  At the first
effort at rescue he will be shot where he sits--we have sworn it
--his plotting is at an end."  He stalked nearer the benches.
"Not one chance in a thousand remains to him.  Either he dies
here or he lives to betaken before every judge in the state, if
necessary, until we find one with courage to try him!  Make no
mistake--it will best conserve the ends of justice to allow the
state court's jurisdiction in this case; and I pledge myself to
furnish evidence which will start him well on his road to the
gallows!"  The judge, a tremendous presence, stalked still nearer
the benches.  Outfacing the crowd, a sense of the splendor of the
part he was being called upon to play flowed through him like
some elixir; he felt that he was transcending himself, that his
inspiration was drawn from the hidden springs of the spirit, and
that he could neither falter nor go astray.  "You don't know what
you are meddling with!  This man has plotted to lay the South in
ruins--he has been arming the negroes--it--it is incredible that
you should all know this--to such I say, go home and thank God
for your escape!  For the others"--his shaggy brows met in a
menacing frown--"if they force our hand we will toss them John
Murrell's dead carcass--that's our answer to their challenge!"

He strode out among the gun muzzles which wavered where they
still covered him.  He was thinking of Mahaffy--Mahaffy, who had
said he was still a man to be reckoned with.  For the comfort of
his own soul he was proving it.

"Do you know what a servile insurrection means?--you men who have
wives and daughters, have you thought of their fate?  Of the
monstrous savagery to which they would be exposed?  Do you
believe he could limit and control it?  Look at him!  Why, he has
never had a consideration outside of his own safety, and yet he
expects you to risk your necks to save his!  He would have left
the state before the first blow was struck--his business was all
down river--but we are going to keep him here to answer for his
crimes!  The law, as implacable as it is impartial, has put its
mark on him--the shadow in which he sits is the shadow of the
gallows!"

The judge paused, but the only sound in that expectant silence
was the heavy breathing of men.  He drew his unwieldy form erect,
while his voice rumbled on, aggressive and threatening in its
every intonation.

"You are here to defend something that no longer exists.  Your
organization is wrecked, your signals and passwords are known,
your secrets have become public property--I can even produce a
list of your members; there are none of you who do not stand in
imminent peril--yet understand, I have no wish to strike at those
who have been misled or coerced into joining Murrell's band!"
The judge's sodden old face glowed now with the magnanimity of
his sentiments.  "But I have no feeling of mercy for your
leaders, none for Murrell himself.  Put down your guns!--you can
only kill us after we have killed Murrell--but you can't kill the
law!  If the arch conspirator dies in this room and hour, on
whose head will the punishment fall?"  He swung round his
ponderous arm in a sweeping gesture and shook a fat but
expressive forefinger in the faces of those nearest him.  "On
yours--and yours--and yours!"

Across the space that separated them the judge grinned his
triumph at his enemy.  He had known when Fentress entered the
room that a word or a sign from him would precipitate a riot, but
he knew now that neither this word nor this sign would be given.
Then quite suddenly he strode down the aisle, and foot by foot
Fentress yielded ground before his advance.  A murderous light
flashed from the judge's bloodshot eyes and his right hand was
stealing toward the frayed tails of his coat.

"Look out--he's getting ready to shoot!" cried a frightened
voice.

Instantly by doors and windows the crowd, seized with
inexplicable panic, emptied itself into the courthouse yard.
Fentress was caught up in the rush and borne from the room and
from the building.  When he reached the graveled space below the
steps he turned.  The judge was in the doorway, the center of a
struggling group; Mr. Bowen, the minister, Mr. Saul and Mr.
Wesley were vainly seeking to pinion his arm.

"Draw--damn you!" he roared at Fentress, as he wrenched himself
free, and the crowd swayed to right and left as Fentress was seen
to reach for his pistol.

Mr. Saul made a last frantic effort to restrain his friend; he
seized the judge's arm just as the latter's finger pressed the
trigger, and an instant later Fentress staggered back with the
judge's bullet in his shoulder.




CHAPTER XXXVI

THE END AND THE BEGINNING


It was not strange that a number of gentlemen in and about
Raleigh yielded to an overmastering impulse to visit newer lands,
nor was it strange that the initial steps looking toward the
indulgence of their desires should have been taken in secrecy.
Mr. Pegloe was one of the first to leave; Mr. Saul had informed
him of the judge's declared purpose of shooting him on sight.
Even without this useful hint the tavern-keeper had known that he
should experience intense embarrassment in meeting the judge;
this was now a dreary certainty.

"You reckon he means near all he says?" he had asked, his fat
sides shaking.

"I'd take his word a heap quicker than I would most folks,"
answered Mr. Saul with conviction.

Pegloe promptly had a sinking spell.  He recalled the snuffing of
the candles by the judge, an extremely depressing memory under
the circumstances, also the reckless and headlong disregard of
consequences which had characterized so many of that gentleman's
acts, and his plans shaped themselves accordingly, with this
result: that when the judge took occasion to call at the tavern,
and the hostile nature of his visit was emphasized by the
cautious manner of his approach, he was greatly shocked to
discover that his intended victim had sold his business overnight
for a small lump sum to Mr. Saul's brother-in-law, who had
appeared most opportunely with an offer.

Pegloe's flight created something of a sensation, but it was
dwarfed by the sensation that developed a day or so later when it
became known that Tom Ware and Colonel Fentress had likewise fled
the country.  Still later, Fentress' body, showing marks of
violence, was washed ashore at a wood-yard below Girard.  It was
conjectured that he and Ware had set out from The Oaks to cross
the river; there was reason to believe that Fentress had in his
possession at the time a considerable sum of money, and it was
supposed that his companion had murdered and robbed him.  Of
Ware's subsequent career nothing was ever known.

These were, after all, only episodes in the collapse of the Clan,
sporific manifestations of the great work of disintegration that
was going forward and which the judge, more than any other,
perhaps, had brought about.  This was something no one
questioned, and he quickly passed to the first phase of that
unique and peculiar esteem in which he was ever after held.  His
fame widened with the succeeding suns; he had offers of help
which impressed him as so entirely creditable to human nature
that he quite lacked the heart to refuse them, especially as he
felt that in the improvement of his own condition the world had
bettered itself and was moving nearer those sound and righteous
ideals of morality and patriotism which had never lacked his
indorsement, no matter how inexpedient it had seemed for him to
put them into practice.  But he was not diverted from his
ultimate purpose by the glamour of a present popularity; he was
able to keep his bleared eyes resolutely fixed on the main
chance, namely the Fentress estate and the Quintard lands.  It
was highly important that he should go east to South Carolina to
secure documentary evidence that would establish his own and
Fentress' identity, to Kentucky, where Fentress had lived prior
to his coming to Tennessee.

Early in November the judge set out by stage on his journey east;
he was accompanied by Yancy and Hannibal, from neither of whom
could he bring himself to be separated; and as the woods, flaming
now with the touch of frost, engulfed the little town, he turned
in his seat and looked back.  He had entered it by that very
road, a beggar on foot and in rags; he was leaving it in
broadcloth and fine linen, visible tokens of his altered
fortunes.  More than this, he could thrust his hands deep down
into his once empty pockets and hear the clink of gold and
silver.  The judge slowly withdrew his eyes from the last gray
roof that showed among the trees, and faced the east and the
future with a serenely confident expression.

Betty Malroy and Carrington had ridden into Raleigh to take leave
of their friends.  They had watched the stage from sight, had
answered the last majestic salute the judge had given them across
the swaying top of the coach before the first turn of the road
hid it from sight, and then they had turned their horses' heads
in the direction of Belle Plain.

"Bruce, do you think judge Price will ever be able to accomplish
all he hopes to?"  Betty asked when they had left the town
behind.  She drew in her horse as she spoke, and they went
forward at a walk under the splendid arch of the forest and over
a carpet of vivid leaves.

"I reckon he will, Betty," responded Carrington.  Unfavorable as
had been his original estimate of the judge's character, events
had greatly modified it.

"He really seems quite sure, doesn't he?" said Betty.

"There's not a doubt in his mind," agreed Carrington.

He was still at Belle Plain, living in what had been Ware's
office, while the Cavendishes were domiciled at the big house.
He had arranged with the judge to crop a part of that hopeful
gentleman's land the very next season; the fact that a lawsuit
intervened between the judge and possession seemed a trifling
matter, for Carrington had become infected with the judge's point
of view, which did not admit of the possibility of failure; but
he had not yet told Betty of his plans.  Time enough for that
when he left Belle Plain.

His silence concerning the future had caused Betty much thought.
She wondered if he still intended going south into the Purchase;
she was not sure but it was the dignified thing for him to do.
She was thinking of this now as they went forward over the
rustling leaves, and at length she turned in the saddle and faced
him.

"I am going to miss Hannibal dreadfully--yes, and the judge, and
Mr. Yancy!" she began.

"And when I leave--how about me, Betty?" Carrington asked
unexpectedly, but he only had in mind leaving Belle Plain.

A little sigh escaped Betty's red lips, for she was thinking of
the Purchase, which lay far down the river, many, many miles
distant.  The sigh was ever so little, but Carrington had heard
it.

"I am to be missed, too, am I, Betty?" he inquired, leaning
toward her.

"You, Bruce?--Oh, I shall miss you, too--dreadfully--but then,
perhaps in five years, when you come back--"

"Five years!" cried Carrington, but he understood, something of
what was passing in her mind, and laughed shortly.  "Five years,
Betty?" he repeated, dwelling on the numeral.

Betty hesitated and looked thoughtful.  Presently she stole a
surreptitious glance at Carrington from under her long lashes,
and went on slowly, as though she were making careful choice of
her words.

"When you come back in three years, Bruce--"

Carrington still regarded her fixedly.  There was a light in his
black eyes that seemed to penetrate to the most secret recesses
of her heart and soul.

"Three years, Betty?" he repeated again.

Betty, her eyes cast down, twisted her rein nervously between her
slim, white fingers, but Carrington's steady glance never left
her sweet face, framed by its halo of bright hair.  She stole
another look at him from beneath her dark lashes.

"Three years, Betty?" he prompted.

"Bruce, don't stare at me that way, it makes me forget what I was
going to say!  When you come, back--next year--" and then she
lifted her eyes to his and he saw that they were full of sudden
tears.  "Bruce, don't go away--don't go away at all--"

Carrington slipped from the saddle and stood at her side.

"Do you mean that, Betty?" he asked.  He took her hands loosely
in his and relentlessly considered her crimsoned face.  "I reckon
it will always be right hard to refuse you anything--here is one
settler the Purchase will never get!" and he laughed softly.

"It was the Purchase--you were going there!" she cried.

"No, I wasn't, Betty; that notion died its natural death long
ago.  When we are sure you will be safe at Belle Plain with just
the Cavendishes, I am going into Raleigh to wait as best I can
until spring."  He spoke so gravely, that she asked in quick
alarm.

"And then, Bruce--what?"

"And then--Oh, Betty, I'm starving--"  All in a moment he lifted
her slender figure in his arms, gathering her close to him.  "And
then, this--and this--and this, sweetheart--and more--and--oh,
Betty!  Betty!"

When Murrell was brought to trial his lawyers were able to
produce a host of witnesses whose sworn testimony showed that so
simple a thing as perjury had no terrors for them.  His fight for
liberty was waged in and out of court with incredible bitterness,
and, as judge and jury were only human, the outlaw escaped with
the relatively light sentence of twelve years' imprisonment; he
died, however, before the expiration of his term.

The judge, where he returned to Raleigh, resumed his own name of
Turberville, and he allowed it to be known that he would not be
offended by the prefix of General.  During his absence he had
accumulated a wealth of evidence of undoubted authenticity, with
the result that his claim against the Fentress estate was
sustained by the courts, and when The Oaks with its stock and
slaves was offered for sale, he, as the principal creditor, was
able to buy it in.

One of his first acts after taking possession of the property was
to have Mahaffy reinterred in the grove of oaks below his bedroom
windows, and he marked the spot with a great square of granite.
The judge, visibly shaken by his emotions, saw the massive
boulder go into place.

"Harsh and rugged like the nature of him who lies beneath it--but
enduring, too, as he was," he murmured.  He turned to Yancy and
Hannibal, and added

"You will lay me beside him when I die."

Then when the bitter struggle came and he was wrenched and
tortured by longings, his strength was in remembering his promise
to the dead man, and it was his custom to go out under the oaks
and pace to and fro beside Mahaffy's grave until he had gained
the mastery of himself.  Only Yancy and Hannibal knew how fierce
the conflict was he waged, yet in the end he won that best earned
of all victories, the victory over himself.

"My salvation has been a costly thing; it was bought with the
blood of my friend," he told Yancy.

It was Hannibal's privilege to give Cavendish out of the vast
Quintard tract such a farm as the earl had never dreamed of
owning even in his most fervid moments of imagining; and he
abandoned all idea of going to England to claim his title.  At
the judge's suggestion he named the place Earl's Court.  He and
Polly were entirely satisfied with their surroundings, and never
ceased to congratulate themselves that they had left Lincoln
County.  They felt that their friends the Carringtons at Belle
Plain, though untitled people, were still of an equal rank with
themselves; while as for the judge, they doubted if royalty
itself laid it any over him.

Mr. Yancy accepted his changed fortunes with philosophic
composure.  Technically he filled the position of overseer at The
Oaks, but the judge's activity was so great that this position
was largely a sinecure.  The most arduous work he performed was
spending his wages.

Certain trifling peculiarities survived with the judge even after
he had entered what he had once been prone to call the Portal of
Hope; for while his charity was very great and he lived with the
splendid air of plenty that belonged to an older order, it
required tact, patience, and persistence to transact business
with him; and his creditors, of whom there were always a
respectable number, discovered that he esteemed them as they were
aggressive and determined.  He explained to Yancy that too great
certainty detracted from the charm of living, for, after all,
life was a game--a gamble--he desired to be reminded of this.
Yet he was held in great respect for his wisdom and learning,
which was no more questioned that his courage.

Thus surrounded by his friends, who were devoted to him, he began
Hannibal's education and the preparation of his memoirs, intended
primarily for the instruction of his grandson, and which he
modestly decided to call The History of My Own Times, which
clearly showed the magnificence of his mind and its outlook.





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