MINGO AND OTHER SKETCHES IN BLACK AND WHITE
BY JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS "UNCLE REMUS"
EDINBURGH DAVID DOUGLAS, CASTLE STREET 1899
EDINBURGH: PRINTED BY T. AND A. CONSTABLE FOR DAVID DOUGLAS LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL AND CO.
MINGO: A SKETCH OF LIFE IN MIDDLE GEORGIA AT TEAGUE POTEET'S: A SKETCH OF THE HOG MOUNTAIN RANGE A PIECE OF LAND BLUE DAVE
MINGO: A SKETCH OF LIFE IN MIDDLE GEORGIA
IN 1876, circumstances, partly accidental and partly sentimental, led me to revisit Crooked Creek Church, near the little village of Rockville, in Middle Georgia. I was amazed at the changes which a few brief years had wrought. The ancient oaks ranged roundabout remained the same, but upon everything else time had laid its hand right heavily. Even the building seemed to have shrunk: the pulpit was less massive and imposing, the darkness beyond the rafters less mysterious. The preacher had grown grey, and feebleness had taken the place of that physical vigour which was the distinguishing feature of his interpretations of the larger problems of theology. People I had never seen sat in the places of those I had known so well. There were only traces here and there of the old congregation, whose austere simplicity had made so deep an impression upon my youthful mind The blooming girls of 1860 had grown into careworn matrons, and the young men had developed in their features the strenuous uncertainty and misery of the period of desolation and disaster through which they had passed. Anxiety had so ground itself into their lives that a stranger to the manner might well have been pardoned for giving a sinister interpretation to these pitiable manifestations of hopelessness and unsuccess.
I had known the venerable preacher intimately in the past; but his eyes, wandering vaguely over the congregation, and resting curiously upon me, betrayed no recognition. Age, which had whitened his hair and enfeebled his voice, seemed also to have given him the privilege of ignoring everything but the grave and the mysteries beyond.
These swift processes of change and decay were calculated to make a profound impression, but my attention was called away from all such reflections. Upon a bench near the pulpit, in the section reserved for the coloured members, sat an old negro man whose face was perfectly familiar. I had known him in my boyhood as Mingo, the carriage-driver and body-servant of Judge Junius Wornum. He had changed but little. His head was whiter than when I saw him last, but his attitude was as firm and as erect, and the evidences of his wonderful physical strength as apparent, as ever. He sat with his right hand to his chin, his strong serious face turned contemplatively toward the rafters. When his eye chanced to meet mine, a smile of recognition lit up his features, his head and body drooped forward, and his hand fell away from his face, completing a salutation at once graceful, picturesque, and imposing.
I have said that few evidences of change manifested themselves in Mingo; and so it seemed at first, but a closer inspection showed one remarkable change. I had known him when his chief purpose in life seemed to be to enjoy himself. He was a slave, to be sure, but his condition was no restraint upon his spirits. He was known far and wide as "Laughing Mingo," and upon hundreds of occasions he was the boon companion of the young men about Rockville in their wild escapades. Many who read this will remember the "'possum suppers" which it was Mingo's delight to prepare for these young men, and he counted among his friends and patrons many who afterward became distinguished both in war and in the civil professions. At these gatherings, Mingo, bustling around and serving his guests, would keep the table in a roar with his quaint sayings, and his local satires in the shape of impromptu doggerel; and he would also repeat snatches of orations which he had heard in Washington when Judge Wornum was a member of Congress. But his chief accomplishments lay in the wonderful ease and fluency with which he imitated the eloquent appeals of certain ambitious members of the Kockville bar, and in his travesties of the bombastic flights of the stump-speakers of that day.
It appeared, however, as he sat in the church, gazing thoughtfully and earnestly at the preacher, that the old-time spirit of fun and humour had been utterly washed out of his face. There was no sign of grief, no mark of distress, but he had the air of settled anxiety belonging to those who are tortured by an overpowering responsibility. Apparently here was an interesting study. If the responsibilities of life are problems to those who have been trained to solve them, how much more formidable must they be to this poor negro but lately lifted to his feet! Thus my reflections took note of the pathetic associations and suggestions clustering around this dignified representative of an unfortunate race.
Upon this particular occasion church services were to extend into the afternoon, and there was an interval of rest after the morning sermon, covering the hour of noon. This interval was devoted by both old and young to the discussion of matters seriously practical. The members of the congregation had brought their dinner baskets, and the contents thereof were spread around under the trees in true pastoral style. Those who came unprovided were, in pursuance of an immemorial custom of the section and the occasion, taken in charge by the simple and hearty hospitality of the members.
Somehow I was interested in watching Mingo. As he passed from the church with the congregation, and moved slowly along under the trees, he presented quite a contrast to the other negroes who were present. These, with the results of their rural surroundings superadded to the natural shyness of their race, hung upon the outskirts of the assembly, as though their presence was merely casual, while Mingo passed along from group to group of his white friends and acquaintances with that familiar and confident air of meritorious humility and unpretentious dignity which is associated with good-breeding and gentility the world over. When he lifted his hat in salutation, there was no servility in the gesture; when he bent his head, and dropped his eyes upon the ground, his dignity was strengthened and fortified rather than compromised. Both his manners and his dress retained the flavour of a social system the exceptional features of which were too often by both friend and foe made to stand for the system itself. His tall beaver, with its curled brim, and his blue broadcloth dress-coat, faded and frayed, with its brass buttons, bore unmistakable evidence of their age and origin, but they seemed to be a reasonable and necessary contribution to his individuality.
Passing slowly through the crowd, Mingo made his way to a double-seated buggy shielded from all contingencies of sun and rain by an immense umbrella. Prom beneath the seat he drew forth a large hamper, and proceeded to arrange its contents upon a wide bench which stood near.
While this was going on I observed a tall angular woman, accompanied by a bright-looking little girl, making her way toward Mingo's buggy. The woman was plainly, oven shabbily, dressed, so that the gay ribbons and flowers worn by the child were gaudy by contrast. The woman pressed forward with decision, her movements betraying a total absence of that undulatory grace characteristic of the gentler sex, while the little girl dancing about her showed not only the grace and beauty of youth, but a certain refinement of pose and gesture calculated to attract attention.
Mingo made way for these with ready deference, and after a little I saw him coming toward me. He came forward, shook hands, and remarked that he had brought me an invitation to dine with Mrs. Feratia Bivins.
"Miss F'raishy 'members you, boss," he said, bowing and smiling, "en she up'n say she be mighty glad er yo' comp'ny ef you kin put up wid cole vittles an' po' far'; en ef you come," he added on his own account, "we like it mighty well."
ACCEPTING the invitation, I presently found myself dining with Mrs. Bivins, and listening to her remarkable flow of small-talk, while Mingo hovered around, the embodiment of active hospitality.
"Mingo 'lowed he'd ast you up," said Mrs. Bivins, "an' I says, says I, 'Don't you be a-pesterin' the gentulmun, when you know thar's plenty er the new-issue quality ready an' a-waitin' to pull an' haul at 'im,' says I. Not that I begrudge the vittles—not by no means; I hope I hain't got to that yit. But somehow er 'nother folks what hain't got no great shakes to brag 'bout gener'ly feels sorter skittish when strange folks draps in on 'em. Goodness knows I hain't come to that pass wher' I begrudges the vittles that folks eats, bekaze anybody betweenst this an' Clinton, Jones County, Georgy, 'll tell you the Sanderses wa'n't the set to stint the'r stomachs. I was a Sanders 'fore I married, an' when I come 'way frum pa's house hit was thes like turnin' my back on a barbecue. Not by no means was I begrudgin' of the vittles. Says I, 'Mingo,' says I, 'ef the gentulmun is a teetotal stranger, an' nobody else hain't got the common perliteness to ast 'im, shorely you mus' ast 'im,' says I; 'but don't go an' make no great to-do,' says I; 'bekaze the little we got mightent be satisfactual to the gentulmun,' says I. What we got may be little enough, an' it may be too much, but hit's welcome."
It would be impossible to convey an idea of the emphasis which Mrs. Bivins imposed upon her conversation. She talked rapidly, but with a certain deliberation of manner which gave a quaint interest to everything she said. She had thin grey hair, a prominent nose, firm thin lips, and eyes that gave a keen and sparkling individuality to sharp and homely features. She had evidently seen sorrow and defied it. There was no suggestion of compromise in manner or expression. Even her hospitality was uncompromising. I endeavoured to murmur my thanks to Mrs. Bivins for Mingo's thoughtfulness, but her persistent conversation drowned out such poor phrases as I could hastily frame.
"Come 'ere, Pud Hon," continued Mrs. Bivins, calling the child, and trimming the demonstrative terms of "Pudding" and "Honey" to suit all exigencies of affection—"come 'ere, Pud Hon, an' tell the gentulmun howdy. Gracious me! don't be so countrified. He ain't a-gwine to bite you. No, sir, you won't fine no begrudgers mixed up with the Sanderses. Hit useter be a common sayin' in Jones, an' cle'r 'cross into Jasper, that pa would 'a bin a rich man an' 'a owned niggers if it hadn't but 'a bin bekase he sot his head agin stintin' of his stomach. That's what they useter say—usen't they, Mingo?"
"Dat w'at I year tell, Miss F'raishy—sho'," Mingo assented, with great heartiness. But Mrs. Bivins's volubility would hardly wait for this perfunctory indorsement. She talked as she arranged the dishes, and occasionally she would hold a piece of crockery suspended in the air as she emphasised her words. She dropped into a mortuary strain—"Poor pa! I don't never have nuthin' extry an' I don't never see a dish er fried chicken but what pa pops in my mind. A better man hain't never draw'd the breath of life—that they hain't. An' he was thes as gayly as a kitten. When we gals'd have comp'ny to dinner, pore pa he'd cut his eye at me, an' up an' say, says he, 'Gals, this 'ere turkey's mighty nice, yit I'm reely afeared you put too much inguns in the stuffin. Maybe the young men don't like 'em as good as you all does;' an' then pore pa'd drap his knife an' fork, an' laugh tell the tears come in his eyes. Sister Prue she useter run off an' have a cry, but I was one er the kind what wa'n't easy sot back.
"I'd 'a bin mighty glad if Pud yer had er took airter pa's famerly, but frum the tip eend er her toe nails to the toppermust ha'r of her head she's a Wornum. Hit ain't on'y thes a streak yer an' a stripe thar— hit's the whole bolt. I reckon maybe you know'd ole Jedge June Wornum; well, Jedge June he was Pud's gran'pa, an' Deely Wornum was her ma. Maybe you might 'a seed Deely when she was a school-gal."
Cordelia Wornum! No doubt my astonishment made itself apparent, for Mrs. Bivins bridled up promptly, and there was a clearly perceptible note of defiance in her tone as she proceeded.
"Yes, sir-ree! An' make no mistake! Deely Wornum married my son, an' Henry Clay Bivina made 'er a good husbun', if I do have to give it out myse'f. Yes, 'ndeed! An' yit if you'd 'a heern the rippit them Wornums kicked up, you'd 'a thought the pore chile'd done took'n run off 'long of a whole passel er high pirates frum somewheres er 'nother. In about that time the ole Jedge he got sorter fibbled up, some say in his feet, an' some say in his head; but his wife, that Em'ly Wornum, she taken on awful. I never seen her a-gwine on myse'f; not that they was any hidin' out 'mongst the Bivinses er the Sanderses—bless you, no! bekaze here's what wa'n't afeared er all the Wornums in the continental State er Georgy, not if they'd 'a mustered out under the lead er ole Nick hisse'f, which I have my doubta if he wa'n't somewheres aroun'. I never seen 'er, but I heern tell er how she was a-cuttin' up. You mayn't think it, but that 'oman taken it on herse'f to call up all the niggers on the place an' give 'em her forbiddance to go an' see the'r young mistiss."
"Yit I lay dey tuck 'n sneak 'roun' en come anyhow, ain't dey, Miss F'raishy?" inquired Mingo, rubbing his hands together and smiling blandly.
"That they did—that they did!" was Mrs. Bivins's emphatic response. "Niggers is niggers, but them Wornum niggers was a cut er two 'bove the common run. I'll say that, an' I'll say it on the witness stan'. Freedom might a turned the'r heads when it come to t'other folks, but hit didn't never turn the'r heads 'bout the'r young mistiss. An' if Mingo here hain't done his juty 'cordin' to his lights, then I dunner what juty is. I'll say that open an' above-board, high an' low."
The curious air of condescension which Mrs. Bivins assumed as she said this, the tone of apology which she employed in paying this tribute to Mingo and the Wornum negroes, formed a remarkable study. Evidently she desired me distinctly to understand that in applauding these worthy coloured people she was in no wise compromising her own dignity.
Thus Mrs. Bivins rattled away, pausing only long enough now and then to deplore my lack of appetite. Meanwhile Mingo officiated around the improvised board with gentle affability; and the little girl, bearing strong traces of her lineage in her features—a resemblance which was confirmed by a pretty little petulance of temper—made it convenient now and again to convey a number of tea cakes into Mingo's hat, which happened to be sitting near, the conveyance taking place in spite of laughable pantomimic protests on the part of the old man, ranging from appealing nods and grimaces to indignant frowns and gestures.
"When Deely died," Mrs. Bivins went on, waving a towel over a tempting jar of preserves, "they wa'n't nobody but what was afeared to break it to Emily Wornum, an' the pore chile'd done been buried too long to talk about before her ma heern tell of it, an' then she drapped like a clap er thunder had hit 'er. Airter so long a time, Mingo thar he taken it 'pun hisse'f to tell 'er, an' she flopped right down in 'er tracks, an' Mingo he holp 'er into the house, an', bless your life, when he come to he'p 'er out'n it, she was a changed 'oman. 'Twa'n't long 'fore she taken a notion to come to my house, an' one mornin' when I was a-washin' up dishes, I heern some un holler at the gate, an' thar sot Mingo peerched up on the Wornum carry-all, an' of all livin' flesh, who should be in thar but ole Emily Wornum!
"Hit's a sin to say it," continued Mrs. Bivins, smiling a dubious little smile that was not without its serious suggestions, "but I tightened up my apern strings, an' flung my glance aroun' tell hit drapped on the battlin'-stick, bekaze I flared up the minnit I seen 'er, an' I says to myse'f, says I: 'If hit's a fracas youer huntin', my lady, I lay you won't hafter put on your specs to fine it.' An' then I says to Pud, says I—
"'Pud Hon, go in the shed-room thar, chile, an' if you hear anybody a-hollerin' an' a-squallin', thes shet your eyeleds an' grit your teeth, bekaze hit'll be your pore ole granny a-tryin' to git even with some er your kin.'
"An' then I taken a cheer an' sot down by the winder. D'reckly in come Emily Wornum, an' I wish I may die if I'd 'a know'd 'er if I'd saw 'er anywheres else on the face er the yeth. She had this 'ere kinder dazzled look what wimmen has airter they bin baptized in the water. I helt my head high, but I kep' my eye on the battlin'-stick, an' if she'd 'a made fight, I'll be boun' they'd 'a bin some ole sco'es settled then an' thar if ole sco'es ken be settled by a frailin'. But, bless your heart, they wa'n't never no cammer 'oman than what Emily Wornum was; an' if you'd 'a know'd 'er, an' Mingo wa'n't here to b'ar me out, I wish I may die if I wouldn't be afeared to tell you how ca'm an' supjued that 'oman was, which in her young days she was a tarrifier. She up an' says, says she—
"'Is Mizzers Bivins in?'
"'Yessum,' says I, 'she is that-away. An more 'n that, nobody don't hafter come on this hill an' holler more 'n twicet 'thout gittin'some kinder answer back. Yessum! An' what's more, Mizzers Bivins is come to that time er life when she's mighty proud to git calls from the big-bugs. If I had as much perliteness, ma'am, as I is cheers, I'd ast you to set down,' says I.
"She stood thar, she did, thes as cool as a cowcumber; but d'reckly she ups an' says, says she—
"'Might I see my little gran'chile?' says she.
"'Oho, ma'am!' says I; 'things is come to a mighty purty pass when quality folks has to go frum house to house a-huntin' up pore white trash, an' a-astin' airter the'r kin. Tooby shore! tooby shore! Yessum, a mighty purty pass,' says I."
I cannot hope to give even a faint intimation of the remarkable dramatic fervour and earnestness of this recital, nor shall I attempt to describe the rude eloquence of attitude and expression; but they seemed to represent the real or fancied wrongs of a class, and to spring from the pent-up rage of a century.
"I wa'n't lookin' fer no compermise, nuther," Mrs. Bivins continued. "I fully spected 'er to flar' up an' fly at me; but 'stedder that, she kep' a-stan'in' thar lookin' thes like folks does when theyer runnin' over sump'n in the'r min'. Then her eye lit on some 'er the pictur's what Deely had hung up on the side er the house, an' in pertic'lar one what some 'er the Woruum niggers had fetched 'er, whar a great big dog was a-watehin' by a little bit er baby. When she seen that, bless your soul, she thes sunk right down on the floor, an' clincht 'er han's, an' brung a gasp what looked like it might er bin the last, an' d'reckly she ast, in a whisper, says she—
"'Was this my dear daughter's room?'
"Maybe you think," said Mrs. Bivins, regarding me coldly and critically, and pressing her thin lips more firmly together, if that could be—"maybe you think I oughter wrung my han's, an' pitied that 'oman kneelin' thar in that room whar all my trouble was born an' bred. Some folks would 'a flopped down by 'er, an' I won't deny but what hit come over me; but the nex' minnit hit flashed acrost me as quick an' hot as powder how she'd 'a bin a-houndin' airter me an' my son, an' a-treatin' us like as we'd 'a bin the offscourin's er creation, an' how she cast off her own daughter, which Deely was as good a gal as ever draw'd the breath er life—when all this come over me, hit seem like to me that I couldn't keep my paws off'n 'er. I hope the Lord'll forgive me—that I do—but if hit hadn't but 'a bin for my raisin', I'd 'a jumped at Emily Wornum an' 'a spit in 'er face an' 'a clawed 'er eyes out'n 'er. An' yit, with ole Nick a-tuggin' at me, I was a Christun 'nuff to thank the Lord that they was a tender place in that pore miserbul creetur's soul-case.
"When I seen her a-kneelin' thar, with 'er year-rings a-danglin' an' 'er fine feathers a-tossin' an' a-trimblin', leetle more an' my thoughts would 'a sot me afire. I riz an' I stood over her, an' I says, says I—
"'Emily Wornum, whar you er huntin' the dead you oughter hunted the livin'. What's betwix' you an' your Maker I can't tell,' says I, 'but if you git down on your face an' lick the dirt what Deely Bivins walked on, still you won't be humble enough for to go whar she's gone, nor good enough nuther. She died right yer while you was a-traipsin' an' a-trollopin' roun' frum pos' to pillar a-upholdin' your quality idees. These arms helt 'er,' says I, 'an' ef hit hadn't but 'a bin for her, Emily Wornum,' says I, 'I'd 'a strangled the life out'n you time your shadder darkened my door. An' what's more,' says I, 'ef youer come to bother airter Pud, the make the trail of it. Thes so much as lay the weight er your little finger on 'er,' says I, 'an' I'll grab you by the goozle an' t'ar your haslet out,' says I."
O mystery of humanity! It was merely Mrs. Feratia Bivins who had been speaking, but the voice was the voice of Tragedy. Its eyes shone; its fangs glistened and gleamed; its hands clutched the air; its tone was husky with suppressed fury; its rage would have stormed the barriers of the grave. In another moment Mrs. Bivins was brushing the crumbs from her lap, and exchanging salutations with her neighbours and acquaintances; and a little later, leading her grandchild by the hand, she was making her way back to the church, where the congregation had begun to gather.
FOR my own part, I preferred to remain under the trees, and I soon found that this was the preference of Mingo. The old man had finished his dinner, and sat at the foot of a gigantic oak, gazing dreamily at the fleecy clouds that sailed across the sky. His hands were clasped above his head, and his attitude was one of reflection. The hymn with which the afternoon services were opened came through the woods with a distinctness that was not without a remote and curious suggestion of pathos. As it died away, Mingo raised himself slightly, and said, in a tone that was intended to be explanatory, if not apologetic—
"Miss F'raishy, ef she ain't one sight, den I ain't never seed none. I s'pec' it seem sorter funny ter you, boss, but dat w'ite 'oman done had lots er trouble; she done had bunnunce er trouble—she sholy is! Look mighty cu'us dat some folks can't git useter yuther folks w'at got Fergiuny ways, but dat's Miss F'raishy up en down. Dat's her, sho! Ole Miss en ole Marster dey had Ferginny ways, en Miss F'raishy she wouldn't 'a staid in a ten-acre fiel' wid urn—dat she wouldn't. Folks wa't got Ferginny ways, Miss F'raishy she call um big-bugs, en she git hostile w'en she year der name call. Hit's de same way wid niggers. Miss F'raishy she hate de common run er niggers like dey wuz pizen. Yit I ain't makin' no complaints, kaze she mighty good ter me. I goes en I suns myse'f in Miss F'raishy back peazzer all day Sundays, w'en dey ain't no meetin's gwine on, en all endurin' er de week I hangs 'roun' en ploughs a little yer, en hoes a little dar, en scratches a little yander, en looks arter ole Miss' gran'chile. But des let 'n'er nigger so much ez stick der chin 'cross de yard palin's, en, bless yo' soul, you'll year Miss F'raishy blaze out like de woods done cotch afire."
Mingo paused here to chuckle over the discomfiture and alarm of the imaginary negro who had had the temerity to stick his supposititious chin over the fence. Then he went on—
"I dunner whar Miss F'raishy git do notion 'bout dat chile a-faverin' er de Wornums, kaze she de ve'y spit en image er ole Miss, en ole Miss wuz a full-blood Bushrod. De Bushrods is de fambly what I cum fum myse'f, kaze w'en ole Miss marry Marster, my mammy fell ter her, en w'en I got big 'nuff, dey tuck me in de house fer ter wait on de table en do er'n's, en dar I bin twel freedom come out. She 'uz mighty high-strung, ole Miss wuz, yit I sees folks dese days put on mo' a'rs dan w'at ole Miss ever is. I ain't 'sputin' but w'at she hilt 'er head high, en I year my mammy say dat all the Bushrods in Ferginny done zactly dat a way.
"High-strung yer, headstrong yander," continued Mingo, closing one eye, and gazing at the sun with a confidential air. "Ef it hadn't er bin fer de high-strungity-head-strongityness er de Bushrod blood, Miss Deely wouldn't 'a never runn'd off wid Clay Bivins in de roun' worril, dough he 'uz des one er de nicest w'ite mens w'at you 'mos' ever laid yo' eyes on. Soon ez she done dat, wud went 'roun' fum de big house dat de nigger w'at call Miss Deely name on dat plantation would be clap on de cote-house block, en ole Miss she shot 'erse'f up, she did, en arter dat mighty few folks got a glimpse un 'er, 'ceppin' hit 'uz some er de kin, en bless yo' soul, dey hatter look mighty prim w'en dey come whar she wuz. Ole Marster he ain't say nothin', but he tuck a fresh grip on de jimmy-john, en it got so dat, go whar you would, dey want no mo' lonesomer place on de face er de yeth dan dat Wornum plantation, en hit look like ruination done sot in. En den, on top er dat, yer come de war, en Clay Bivins he went off en got kilt, en den freedom come out, en des 'bout dat time Miss Deely she tuck 'n' die.
"I 'clar' ter gracious," exclaimed Mingo, closing his eyes and frowning heavily, "w'en I looks back over my shoulder at dem times, hit seem like it mighty funny dat any un us pull thoo. Some did en some didn't, en dem w'at did, dey look like deyer mighty fergitful. W'en de smash come, ole Marster he call us niggers up, he did, en 'low dat we 'uz all free. Some er de boys 'low dat dey wuz a-gwineter see ef dey wuz free sho 'nuff, en wid dat dey put out fer town, en some say ef dey wuz free dey wuz free ter stay. Some talk one way en some talk 'n'er. I let you know I kep' my mouf shot, yit my min' 'uz brimful er trouble.
"Bimeby soon one mornin' I make a break. I wrop up my little han'ful er duds in a hankcher, en I tie de hankcher on my walkin'-cane, en I put out arter de army. I walk en I walk, en 'bout nine dat night I come ter Ingram Ferry. De flat wuz on t'er side er de river, en de man w'at run it look like he gone off some'rs. I holler en I whoop, en I whoop en I holler, but ef dey wuz any man 'roun', he wuz hidin' out fum me. Arter so long I got tired er whoopin' en hollerin', en I went ter de nighest house en borrer'd a chunk, en built me a fier by de side er de road, en I set dar en nod twel I git sleepy, en den I pull my blanket 'cross my head en quile up—en w'en I do dat, hit's good-bye, Mingo!
"Boss," said Mingo, after a little pause, "you don't b'leeve in no ghos'es en sperrits, does you?"
An apparently irrelevant inquiry, suddenly put, is sometimes confusing, and I fear I did not succeed in convincing Mingo of my unbelief.
"Some does en some don't," he continued, "but ez fer me, you kin des put me sorter 'twix' en between. Dey mout be ghos'es en den ag'in dey moutent. Ole nigger like me ain't got no bizness takin' sides, en dat w'at make I say w'at I does. I ain't mo'n kivver my head wid dat blanket en shot my eyes, 'fo' I year somebody a-callin' un me. Fus' hit soun' way off yander.
"'Mingo!—oh, Mingo!' en den hit got nigher—'Mingo!—oh, Mingo!'
"I ain't 'spon' ter dat, but I lay dar, I did, en I say ter myse'f—
"'Bless gracious! de man on t'er side done come, but how in de name er goodness is he know Mingo?'
"I lay dar, en I study en I lissen, en I lissen en I study; en den I doze off like, en fus' news I know yer come de call—
"Hit soun' nigher, yit hit seem like it come fum a mighty fur ways, en den wiles I wundin' en studyin', yer she come mo' plainer dan befo'—
"I snatch de blanket offn my head, en sot up en lissen, I did, en den I make answer—
"'Who dat callin' Mingo way out yer?'
"I lissen en I lissen, but nobody ain't callin'. I year de water sneakin' 'long under de bank, en I year de win' squeezin' en shufflin' 'long thoo de trees, en I year de squinch-owl shiver'n' like he cole, but I ain't year no callin'. Dis make me feel sorter jubous like, but I lay down en wrop up my head.
"I ain't bin dar long 'fo' bimeby yer come de call, en it soun' right at me. Hit rise en it fall, en de wud wuz—
"'Mingo!—oh, Mingo! Whar my little baby? My little baby, Mingo! Whar my little, baby?'
"En den, boss, hit seem like I year sump'n like a 'oman cryin' in de dark like 'er heart gwineter break. You kin laff ef you mineter, but I ain't dast ter take dat blanket offn my head, kaze I know my young mistiss done come back, en mo'n dat, I know sho 'uz stannin" dar right over me.
"Tooby sho I wuz skeer'd, but I wa'n't so skeer'd dat I dunner w'at she mean, en I des broke inter de bigges' kinder boo-hoo, en I say, sez I—
"'Make yo' peace, Miss Deely! make yo' peace, honey! kaze I gwine right back ter dat baby ef de Lord spar' me. I gwine back, Miss Deely! I gwine back!'
"Bless yo' soul, boss, right den en dar I know'd w'at bin a-pester'n' un me, kaze des time I make up my min' fer ter come back ter dat baby, hit look like I see my way mo' cle'r dan w'at it bin befo'. Arter dat I lay dar, I did, en I lissen en I lissen, but I ain't year no mo' callin' en no mo' cryin'; en bimeby I tuck de blanket fum off'n my head, en lo en beholes, de stars done fade out, en day done come, en dey wa'n't no fuss nowhars. De squinch-owl done hush, en de win' done gone, en it look like de water done stop sneakin' en crawlin' und' de bank.
"I riz up, I did, en shuck de stift'nes out'n my bones, en I look 'way 'cross de river ter de top er de hill whar de road lead. I look en I say, sez I—
"'Maybe you leads ter freedom, but, bless God! I gwine back.'
"Des 'bout dat time I see de fe'ymun come down ter de flat en onloose de chain, en make ez he wuz comin' 'cross arter me. Wid dat I raise up my hat en tip 'im a bow, en dat's de las' I seed un 'im.
"I come back, I did," continued Mingo, reflectively, "en yer I is, en yer I bin; en I ain't come none too soon, en I ain't stay none too close, n'er, kaze I dunuer w'at mout er happin. Miss F'raishy been mighty good, too, sho. She ain't useter niggers like some w'ite folks, en she can't git 'long wid um, but she puts up wid me mighty well. I tuck holt er de little piece er groun' w'at she had, en by de he'p er de Lord we bin gittin on better dan lots er folks. It bin nip en tuck, but ole tuck come out ahead, en it done got so now dat Miss P'raishy kin put by some er de cotton money fer ter give de little gal a chance w'en she git bigger. 'Twon't b'ar tellin' how smart dat chile is. She got Miss Deely peanner, en, little ez she is, she kin pick mos' all de chunes w'at her mammy useter pick. She sets at de peanner by de hour, en whar she larnt it I be bless ef I kin tell you—dat I can't!"
The little girl had grown tired of the services in the church, and ran out just as the old man had put my horse to the buggy. Mingo knew a shorter road to Rockville than that by which I had come, and taking the child by the hand, he walked on ahead to show me the way. In a little while we came to the brow of a hill, and here I bade the old man and his charge good-bye, and the two stood watching me as I drove away. Presently a cloud of dust rose between us, and I saw them no more, but I brought away a very pretty picture in my mind—Mingo with his hat raised in farewell, the sunshine falling gently upon his grey hairs, and the little girl clinging to his hand and daintily throwing kisses after me.
AT TEAGUE POTEET'S.
A SKETCH OF THE HOG MOUNTAIN RANGE
EMMIGRATION is a much more serious matter than revolution. Virtually, it is obliteration. Thus, Gerard Petit, landing upon the coast of South Carolina in the days of French confusion—a period covering too many dates for a romancer to be at all choice in the matter—gave his wife and children over to the oblivion of a fatal fever. Turning his face westward, he pushed his way to the mountains. He had begun his journey fired with the despair of an exile, and he ended it with something of the energy and enterprise of a pioneer. In the foot-hills of the mountains he came to the small stream of English colonists that was then trickling slowly southward through the wonderful valleys that stretch from Pennsylvania to Georgia, between the foot-hills of the Blue Ridge and the great Cumberland Range. Here, perhaps for the first time, the je, vous, nous of France met in conflict the "ah yi," the "we uns" and the "you uns" of the English-Pennsylvania-Georgians. The conflict was brief. There was but one Gerard Petit, and, although he might multiply the je, vous, nous by the thousands and hundreds of thousands, as he undoubtedly did, yet, in the very nature of things, the perpetual volley of "you uns" and "we uns" must carry the day. They belonged to the time, and the climate suited them. By degrees they fitted themselves to Gerard Petit; they carried him from the mountains of South Carolina to the mountains of North Georgia, and there they helped him to build a mill and found a family. But their hospitality did not end there. With the new mill and the new family, they gave him a new name. Gerard Petit, presumably with his hand upon his heart, as became his race, made one last low bow to genealogy. In his place stood Jerd Poteet, "you uns" to the left of him, "we uns" to the right of him. He made such protest as he might. He brought his patriotism to bear upon the emergency, and named his eldest son Huguenin Petit. How long this contest between hospitality on the one hand and family pride and patriotism on the other was kept up it is unnecessary to inquire. It is enough to say that the Huguenin of one generation, left Hugue Poteet as his son and heir; Hugue left Hague, and this Hague, or a succeeding one, by some mysterious development of fate, left Teague Poteet.
Meanwhile the restless stream of English-Pennsylvania-Georgians, with its "you uns" and its "we uns," trickled over into Alabama, where some of the Petits who were carried with it became Pettys and Pettises. The Georgia settlements, however, had been reinforced by Virginians, South Carolinians, and Georgians. The gold excitement brought some; while others, set adrift by the exigencies of the plantation system, found it easier and cheaper to get to North Georgia than to reach Louisiana or Mississippi. Thus, in 1859, Teague Poteet, a young man of thirty or thereabouts, was tilling, in a half-serious, half-jocular way, a small farm on Hog Mountain, in full view of Gullettsville. That is to say, Poteet could see the whole of Gullettsville, but Gullettsville could not, by any means, see the whole, nor even the half, of Poteet's fifty-acre farm. Gullettsville could see what appeared to be a grey notch on the side of the mountain, from which a thin stream of blue smoke flowed upward and melted into the blue of the sky, and this was about all that could be seen. Gullettsville had the advantage in this, that it was the county-seat. A country-road, straggling in from the woods, straggled around a barn-like structure called the court-house, and then straggled off to some other remote and lonely settlement.
Upon rare occasions Teague made his appearance on this straggling street, and bought his dram and paid his thrip for it; but, in a general way, if Gullettsville wanted to see him, it had to search elsewhere than on the straggling street. By knocking the sheriff of the county over the head with a chair, and putting a bullet through a saloon-keeper who bullied everybody, Poteet won the reputation of being a man of marked shrewdness and common sense, and Gullettsville was proud of him, in a measure. But he never liked Gullettsville. He wore a wool hat, a homespun shirt, jeans pantaloons, and cotton suspenders, and he never could bring himself into thorough harmony with the young men who wore ready-made clothes, starched shirts, and beaver hats; nor was his ideal of feminine beauty reached by the village belles, with their roach-combs, their red and yellow ribbons, and their enormous flounces. In the mountains, he was to the manner born; in the village, he was keenly alive to the presence and pressure of the exclusiveness that is the basis of all society, good, bad, or indifferent; and it stirred his venom. His revolt was less pronounced and less important than that of his ancestors; but it was a revolt. Gerard Petit left France, and Teague Poteet remained away from Gullettsville. Otherwise there was scarcely a trace of his lineage about him, and it is a question whether he inherited this trait from France or from the Euphrates—from Gerard or from Adam.
But he did not become a hermit by any means. The young men of Gullettsville made Sunday excursions to his farm, and he was pleased to treat them with great deference. Moreover, he began to go upon little journeys of his own across Sugar Valley. He made no mystery of his intentions; but one day there was considerable astonishment when he rode into Gullettsville on horseback, with Puss Pringle behind him, and informed the proper authorities of his desire to make her Mrs. Puss Poteet. Miss Pringle was not a handsome woman, but she was a fair representative of that portion of the race that has poisoned whole generations by improving the frying-pan and perpetuating "fatty bread." The impression she made upon those who saw her for the first time was one of lank flatness—to convey a vivid idea rather clumsily. But she was neither lank nor flat. The total absence of all attempts at artificial ornamentation gave the future Mrs. Poteet an appearance of forlorn shiftlessness that was not even slightly justified by the facts. She was a woman past the heyday of youth, but of considerable energy, and possessed of keen powers of observation. Whatever was feminine about her was of that plaintive variety which may be depended upon to tell the story of whole generations of narrow, toilsome, and unprofitable lives.
There was one incident connected with Miss Pringle's antenuptial ride that rather intensified the contempt which the Mountain entertained for the Valley. As she jogged down the street, clinging confidently, if not comfortably, to Teague Poteet's suspenders, two young ladies of Gullettsville chanced to be passing along. They walked slowly, their arms twined about each other's waists. They wore white muslin dresses, and straw hats with wide and jaunty brims, and the loose ends of gay ribbons fluttered about them. These young ladies, fresh from school, and no doubt full of vainglory, greeted the bridal procession with a little explosion of giggles, and when Puss Pringle pushed back her gingham sun-bonnet and innocently gazed upon them, they turned up their noses, sniffed the air scornfully, and made such demonstrations as no feminine mind, however ignorant in other directions, could fail to interpret.
Miss Pringle had not learned the art of tossing her head and sniffing the air, but she half closed her eyes and gave the young ladies a look that meant something more than scorn. She said nothing to Teague, for she was in hopes he had not observed the tantrums of the school-girls.
As for Teague, he saw the whole affair, and was out to the quick. In addition to the latent pride of his class, he inherited the sensitiveness of his ancestors, but, turning his eyes neither to the right nor to the left, he jogged along to the wedding. He carried his wife home, and thereafter avoided Gullettsville. When he was compelled to buy coffee and sugar, or other necessary luxuries, he rode forty miles across the mountain to Villa Bay.
He had been married a year or more when, one afternoon, he was compelled to ride down to Gullettsville under whip and spur for a doctor. There was a good deal of confused activity in the town. Old men and young boys were stirring around with blue cockades in their hats, and the women wore blue rosettes on their bosoms. Three negroes in uniform—a contribution from the nearest railroad town—were parading up and down the straggling street with fife and drums, and a number of men were planting a flag-pole in front of the court-house.
No conscientious historian can afford to ignore a coincidence, and it so happened that upon the very day that league Poteet's wife presented him with the puzzle of a daughter, Fate presented his countrymen with the problem of war. That night, sitting in the door of his house and smoking his pipe, Teague witnessed other developments of the coincidence. In the next room the baby-girl squalled most persistently; down in the valley the premonitions of war made themselves heard through the narrow throat of a small cannon which, until then, had been used only to celebrate the Fourth of July.
The noise of a horse's hoofs roused Teague's hounds, and some one called out from the road—
"You hearn the racket?"
"My gal-baby keeps up sich a hollerin' I can't hear my own years."
"You better b'lieve! Nine hours ole, an' mighty peart. What's them Restercrats in the valley cuttin' up the'r scollops fer?"
"Whoopin' up sesaysion. Sou' Ca'liny done plum gone out, an' Georgy a-gwine."
Teague Poteet blew a long, thin cloud of home-made tobacco-smoke heavenward, leaned back heavily in his chair, and replied—
"Them air Restercrats kin go wher' they dang please; I'm a-gwine to stay right slambang in the United States."
There was a little pause, as if the man on horseback was considering the matter. Then the response came—
"Here's at you!"
"Can't you 'light?" asked Poteet.
"Not now," said the other; "I'll git on furder."
The man on horseback rode on across the mountain to his home. Another mountaineer, seeing the rockets and hearing the sound of the cannon, came down to Poteet's for information. He leaned over the brush-fence.
"What's up, Teague?"
"Gal-baby; reg'lar surbinder." "Shoo! won't my ole 'oman holler! What's up down yan?"
"Them dad-blasted Restercrats a secedin' out'n the United States."
"They say theyer airter savin' of the'r niggers," said the man at the fence.
"Well, I hain't got none, and I hain't a wantin' none; an' it hain't been ten minnits sence I ups an' says to Dave Hightower, s' I, 'The United States is big enough for me.'"
"Now you er makin' the bark fly," said the man at the fence.
During the night other men came down the mountain as far as Poteet's, and always with the same result.
The night broadened into day, and other days and nights followed. In the valley the people had their problem of war, and on the mountain Teague Poteet had the puzzle of his daughter. One was full of doubt and terror, and death, and the other full of the pleasures of peace. As the tide of war surged nearer and nearer, and the demand for recruits became clamorous, the people of the valley bethought them of the gaunt but sturdy men who lived on the mountain. A conscript officer, representing the necessities of a new government, made a journey thither—a little excursion full of authority and consequence. As he failed to return, another officer, similarly equipped and commissioned, rode forth and disappeared, and then another and another; and it was not until a little search expedition had been fitted out that the Confederates discovered that the fastnesses of Hog Mountain concealed a strong and dangerous organisation of Union men. There was a good deal of indignation in the valley when this state of affairs became known, and there was some talk of organising a force for the purpose of driving the mountaineers away from their homes. But somehow the Valley never made up its mind to attack the Mountain, and, upon such comfortable terms as these, the Mountain was very glad to let the Valley alone.
After a while the Valley had larger troubles to contend with. Gullettsville became in some measure a strategic point, and the left wing of one army and the right wing of the other manoeuvred for possession. The left wing finally gave way, and the right wing marched in and camped round about, introducing to the distracted inhabitants General Tecumseh Sherman and some of his lieutenants. The right wing had learned that a number of Union men were concealed on the mountain, and one or two little excursion parties were made up for the purpose of forming their acquaintance. These excursions were successful to this extent, that some of the members thereof returned to the friendly shelter of the right wing with bullet-holes in them, justly feeling that they had been outraged. The truth is, the Poteets, and the Pringles, and the Hightowers of Hog Mountain had their own notions of what constituted Union men. They desired to stay in the United States on their own terms. If nobody pestered them, they pestered nobody.
Meanwhile league Poteet's baby had grown to be a thumping girl, and hardly a day passed that she did not accompany her father in his excursions. When the contending armies came in sight, Teague and his comrades spent a good deal of their time in watching them. Each force passed around an elbow of the mountain, covering a distance of nearly sixty miles, and thus for days and weeks this portentous panorama was spread out before these silent watchers. Surely never before did a little girl have two armies for her playthings. The child saw the movements of the soldiers, the glitter of the array, and the waving of the banners; she heard the dull thunder of the cannon, and the sharp rattle of the musketry. When the sun went down, and the camp-fire shone out, it seemed that ten thousand stars had fallen at her feet, and sometimes sweet strains of music stole upward on the wings of the night, and slipped heavenward through the sighing pines.
The grey columns swung right and left, and slowly fell back; the blue columns swayed right and left, and slowly pressed forward—sometimes beneath clouds of sulphurous smoke, sometimes beneath heavy mists of rain, sometimes in the bright sunshine. They swung and swayed slowly out of sight, and Hog Mountain and Gullettsville were left at peace.
The child grew and thrived. In the midst of a gaunt and sallow generation she shone radiantly beautiful. In some mysterious way she inherited the beauty, and grace, and refinement of a Frenchwoman. Merely as a phenomenon, she ought to have reminded league of his name and lineage; but Teague had other matters to think of. "Sis ain't no dirt-eater," he used to say, and to this extent only would he commit himself, his surroundings having developed in him that curious excess of caution and reserve which characterises his class.
As for Puss Poteet, she sat and rocked herself and rubbed snuff, and regarded her daughter as one of the profound mysteries. She was in a state of perpetual bewilderment and surprise, equalled only by her apparent indifference. She allowed herself to be hustled around by Sis without serious protest, and submitted, as Teague did, to the new order of things as quietly as possible.
Meanwhile the people in the valley were engaged in adjusting themselves to the changed condition of affairs. The war was over, but it had left some deep scars here and there, and those who had engaged in it gave their attention to healing these—a troublesome and interminable task, be it said, which by no means kept pace with the impatience of the victors, whipped into fury by the subtle but ignoble art of the politician. There was no lack of despair in the valley, but out of it all prosperity grew, and the promise of a most remarkable future. Behind the confusion of politics, of one sort and another, the spirit of Progress rose and shook her ambitious wings.
Something of all this must have made itself felt on the mountain, for one day Teague Poteet pushed his wide-brimmed wool hat from over his eyes, with an air of astonishment. Puss had just touched upon a very important matter.
"I reckon in reason," she said, "we oughter pack Sis off to school some'rs. She'll thes nat'ally spile here."
"Hain't you larnt her how to read an' write an' cipher?" asked Teague.
"I started in," said Mrs. Poteet, "but, Lord! I hain't more'n opened a book tell she know'd mor'n I dast to know ef I wuz gwine to die fer it. Hit'll take somebody lots smarter'n' stronger'n me."
Teague laughed, and then relapsed into seriousness. After a while he called Sis. The girl came running in, her dark eyes flashing, her black hair bewitchingly tangled, and her cheeks flushing with a colour hitherto unknown to the mountain.
"What now, pap?"
"I wuz thes a-thinkin' ef maybe you oughtn't to bresh up an' start to school down in Gullettsville."
"O pap!" the girl exclaimed, clapping her hands with delight. She was about to spring upon Teague and give him a severe hugging, when suddenly her arms dropped to her side, the flush died out of her face, and she flopped herself down upon a chair. Teague paid no attention to this.
"Yes, siree," he continued, as if pursuing a well-developed line of argument; "when a gal gits ez big ez you is, she hain't got no business to be a-gwine a-whoopin' an' a-hollerin' an' a-rantin' an' a-rompin' acrost the face er the yeth. The time's done come when they oughter be tuck up an' made a lady out'n; an' the nighest way is to sen' 'em to school. That's whar you a-gwine—down to Gullettsville to school."
"I shan't, an' I won't—I won't, I won't, I won't!" exclaimed Sis, clenching her hands and stamping her feet. "I'll die first."
Teague had never seen her so excited,
"Why, what's the matter, Sis?" he asked with unfeigned concern.
Sis gave him a withering look.
"Pap, do you reckon I'm fool enough to traipse down to Gullettsville an' mix with them people, wearin' cloze like these? Do you reckon I'm fool enough to make myself the laughin'-stock for them folks?"
Teague Poteet was not a learned man, but he was shrewd enough to see that the Mountain had a new problem to solve. He took down his rifle, whistled up his dogs, and tramped skyward. As he passed out through his horse-lot, a cap and worm of a whisky-still lying in the corner of the fence attracted his attention. He paused, and turned the apparatus over with his foot. It was old and somewhat battered.
"I'll thes about take you," said Teague, with a chuckle, "an' set up a calico-factory. I'll heat you up an' make you spin silk an' split it into ribbens."
It was a case of civilisation or no civilisation, and there is nothing more notorious in history—nothing more mysterious—than the fact that civilisation is not over-nice in the choice of her handmaidens. One day it is war, another it is slavery. Every step in the advancement of the human race has a paradox of some kind as a basis. In the case of Sis Poteet, it was whisky.
Teague got his still together and planted it in a nice cool place, where it could be reached only by a narrow footpath. He had set up a still immediately after the war, but it had been promptly broken up by the revenue officers. Upon this occasion, therefore, he made elaborate preparations to guard against surprise and detection, and these preparations bore considerable fruit in the way of illicit whisky; the ultimate result of which was that Sis went to school in Gullettsville, and became the belle of the town.
The breath of the mountain was heavily charged with whisky, and the Government got a whiff of it. Word went to Washington, and there was much writing and consulting by mail, and some telegraphing. The officials—marshal, deputy-marshals, and collector—were mostly men from a distance, brought hither on the tide of war, who had no personal interest in judging the situation. Naturally enough, the power with which they were invested was neither discreetly nor sympathetically exercised. They represented the Government, which, they were taught to believe by the small men above them, was still at war with every condition and belief in Georgia.
Down in the valley they domineered with impunity, and one fine morning a posse, armed with carbines, rode up the mountain, laughing, talking, and rattling their gear as gaily as a detachment of cuirassiers parading under the protection of friendly guns. The mountain was inhospitable, for when they rode down again, a few hours afterward, three saddles were empty, and the survivors had a terrible story to tell of an attack from an unseen foe.
By the time the story of this fight with the illicit distillers reached Washington, the details were considerably enlarged. The commissioner was informed by the marshal that a detail of deputy-marshals had attempted to seize a still, and were driven back by an overpowering force. The correspondents at the Capital still further enlarged the details, and the affair finally went into history as "A New Phase of the Rebellion." This was the natural outgrowth of the confusion of that period; for how should the careless deputy-marshals, thinking only of the sectionalism that lit up the smouldering ruins of war, know that the Moonshiners were Union men and Republicans?
While the Government was endeavouring to invent some plan for the capture of the Moonshiners, Sis Poteet was growing lovelier every day. She was a great favourite with the teachers of the academy and with everybody. As a general thing, she avoided the public square when riding to and from the school, but it was hats off with all the men when she did go clattering down the street, and some of the romantic dry-goods clerks sent their sighs after her. Sighs are frequently very effective with school-girls, but those that followed Sis Poteet fell short and were wasted on the air; and she continued to ride from the mountain to the valley and from the valley to the mountain in profound ignorance of the daily sensation she created among the young men of Gullettsville, to whom her fine figure, her graceful ways, and her thrillingly beautiful face were the various manifestations of a wonderful revelation.
Naturally enough, the Government took no account of Sis Poteet. The commissioner at Washington conferred with the marshal for Georgia by mail, and begged him to exert himself to the utmost to break up the business of illicit distilling in the Hog Mountain Range. In view of an important election about to be held in some doubtful State in the North or West, the worthy commissioner at Washington even suggested the propriety of another armed raid, to be made up of deputy-marshals and a detachment of men from the Atlanta garrison. But the marshal for Georgia did not fall in with this suggestion. He was of the opinion that if a raid was to be made at all it should not be made blindly, and he fortified his opinion with such an array of facts and arguments that the Bureau finally left the whole matter to his discretion.
Early one morning, in the summer of 1879, a stranger on horseback rode up the straggling red road that formed the principal business thoroughfare of Gullettsville, and made his way toward the establishment known as the Gullettsville Hotel. The chief advertisement of the hotel was the lack of one. A tall worm-eaten post stood in front of the building, but the frame in which the sign had swung was empty. This post, with its empty frame, was as significant as the art of blazonry could have made it. At any rate, the stranger on horseback—a young man—pressed forward without hesitation. The proprietor himself, Squire Lemuel Pleasants, was standing upon the low piazza as the young man rode up. The squire wore neither coat nor hat. His thumbs were caught behind his suspenders, giving him an air of ease or of defiance, as one might choose to interpret, and his jaws were engaged in mashing into shape the first quid of the morning.
As the young man reined up his horse at the door, Squire Pleasants stepped briskly inside and pulled a string which communicated with a bell somewhere in the backyard.
"This is the Gullettsville Hotel, is it not?" the young man asked.
"Well, sir," responded the squire, rubbing his hands together, "sence you push me so clos't, I'll not deny that this here's the tavern. Some calls it the hotel, some calls it the Pleasants House, some one thing, an' some another, but as for me, I says to all, says I, 'Boys, it's a plain tavern.' In Fergeenia, sir, in my young days, they wa'n't nothin' better than a tavern. 'Light, sir, 'light," continued the hospitable squire, as a tow-headed stable-boy tumbled out at the door in response to the bell; "drap right down an' come in."
The young man followed the landlord into a bare little office, where he was given to understand in plain terms that people who stopped with Squire Pleasants were expected to make themselves completely at home. With a pen upon which the ink had been dry for many a day the young man inscribed his name on a thin and dirty register—"Philip Woodward, Clinton, Georgia;" whereupon the squire, with unnecessary and laborious formality, assigned Mr. Woodward to a room.
Judging from appearance, the United States Marshal for Georgia had not gone astray in selecting Woodward to carry out the delicate mission of arranging for a successful raid upon Hog Mountain. Lacking any distinguishing trait of refinement or culture, his composure suggested the possession of that necessary information which is the result of contact with the world and its inhabitants. He had that large air of ease and tranquillity which is born of association, and which represents one of the prime elements of the curious quality we call personal magnetism. He was ready-witted, and full of the spirit of adventure. He was the owner of the title to a land-lot somewhere in the neighbourhood of Hog Mountain, and this land-lot was all that remained of an inheritance that had been swept away by the war. There was a tradition—perhaps only a rumour—among the Woodwards that the Hog Mountain land-lot covered a vein of gold, and to investigate this was a part of the young man's business in Gullettsville; entirely subordinate, however, to his desire to earn the salary attached to his position.
The presence of a stranger at the hospitable tavern of Squire Pleasants attracted the attention of the old and young men of leisure, and the most of them gathered upon the long narrow piazza to discuss the matter. Uncle Jimmy Wright, the sage of the village, had inspected the name in the register and approved of it. He had heard of it before, and he proceeded to give a long and rambling account of whole generations of Woodwards. Jake Cohen, a pedlar, who with marevelous tact had fitted himself to the conditions of life and society in the moutains, and who was supposed to have some sort of connection with the traffice in "blockade" whisky, gravely inquired of Squire Pleasants if the new-comer had left any message for him.
Doubtless the squire, or some one else, would have attempted a facetious reply to Mr. Watson; but just then a tall, gaunt, grey-haired, grizzly-bearded man stepped upon the piazza, and saluted the little gathering with an awkward wave of the hand. The not unkindly expression of his face was curiously heightened (or deepened) by the alertness of his eyes, which had the quizzical restlessness we sometimes see in the eyes of birds or animals. It was Teague Poteet, and the greetings he received were of the most effusive character.
"Howdy, boys, howdy!" he said in response to the chorus. "They hain't airy one er you gents kin split up a twenty-dollar chunk er greenbacks, is they?"
Tip Watson made a pretence of falling in a chair and fainting, but he immediately recovered, and said in a sepulchral whisper—
"Ef you find anybody dead, an' they ain't got no twenty-dollar bill on their person, don't come a-knockin' at my door. Lord!" he continued, "look at Cohen's upper lip a-trimblin'. He wants to take that bill out somewheres an' hang it on a clothesline."
"Ow!" exclaimed Cohen, "yoost lizzen at date man! Date Teep Vatsen, he so foony as allt tern utter peoples put tergetter. Vait, Teague, vait! I chanche date pill right avay, terreckerly."
But Teague was absorbed in some information which Squire Pleasants was giving him.
"He don't favour the gang," the squire was saying with emphasis, "an' I'll be boun' he ain't much mixed up wi' 'em. He's another cut. Oh, they ain't a-foolin' me this season of the year," he continued, as Teague Poteet shook his head doubtfully; "he ain't mustered out'n my mind yit, not by a dad-blamed sight. I'm jest a-tellin' of you; he looks spry, an' he ain't no sneak—I'll swar to that on the stan'."
"Well, I tell you, square," responded Teague, dryly, "I hain't never seed people too flirty to pester yuther folks; an' I reckon you ain't nuther, is you?"
"No," said Squire Pleasants, his experience appealed to instead of his judgment; "no, I ain't, that's a fact; but some folks youer bleege to take on trus'."
Further comment on the part of Poteet and the others was arrested by the appearance of Woodward, who came out of his room, walked rapidly down the narrow hallway, and out upon the piazza. He was bare-headed, his bands were full of papers, and he had the air of a man of business. The younger men who had gathered around Squire Pleasants and Teague Poteet fell back loungingly as Woodward came forward with just the faintest perplexed smile.
"Judge Pleasants," he said, "I'm terribly mixed up, and I'll have to ask you to unmix me."
The squire cleared his throat, adjusted his spectacles, and straightened himself in his chair. The title of Judge, and the easy air of deference with which it was bestowed, gave him an entirely new idea of his own importance. He frowned judicially as he laid his hand upon the papers.
"Well, sir," said he, "I'm gittin' ole, an' I reckon I ain't much nohow; I'm sorter like the grey colt that tried to climb in the shuck-pen—I'm weak, but willin'. Ef you'll jest whirl in an' make indication whar'in I can he'p, I'll do the best I kin."
"I've come up here to look after a lot of land," said Woodward. "It is described here as lot No. 18, 376th district, Georgia Militia, part of land lot No. 11, in Tugaloo, formerly Towaliga County. Here is a plat of Hog Mountain, but somehow I can't locate the lot."
The squire took the papers and began to examine them with painful particularity.
"That 'ar lot," said Teague Poteet, after a while, "is the ole Mathis lot. The line runs right acrost my simblin' patch, an' backs up ag'in' my hoss-stable."
"Tooby shore—tooby shore!" exclaimed the squire. "Tut-tut! What am I doin'? My mind is drappin' loose like seed-ticks from a shumake bush. Tooby shore, it's the Mathis lot. Mr. Wooderd, Mr. Poteet—Mr. Poteet, Mr. Wooderd; lem me make you interduced, gents."
Mr. Woodward shook hands gracefully and cordially—Poteet awkwardly and a trifle suspiciously.
"It seems to me, Mr. Poteet," said Woodward, "that I have teen your name in the papers somewhere."
"Likely," replied Poteet; "they uv bin a mighty sight er printin' gwino on sence the war, so I've heern tell. Ef you'd a drappod in at Atlanty, you mought er seed my name mixt up in a warrant."
"How is that?" Woodward asked.
"Bekaze I bin a-bossin' my own affa'rs."
Poteet had straightened himself up, and he looked at Woodward with a steadiness which the other did not misunderstand. It was a look which said, "If you've got that warrant in your pocket, it won't be safe to pull it out in these diggm's."
Squire Pleasants recognised the challenge that made itself heard in Teague Poteet's voice.
"Yes, yes," he said, in a cheerful tone, "our folks is seen some mighty quare doin's sence the war; but times is a-gittin' a long ways better now."
"Better, hell!" exclaimed Sid Parmalee.
What he would have said further no one can know, for the voluminous voice of Cohen broke in—
"Tlook ow-ut, t'ere, Sid! tlook ow-ut! t'at pad man kedge you!"
This remarkable admonition was received with a shout of laughter. Good-humour was restored, and it was increased when Woodward, shortly afterward, drinking with the boys at Nix's saloon, called for three fingers of Mountain Dew, and washed it down with the statement that it tasted just as nice as liquor that had been stamped by the Government. In short, Woodward displayed such tact, and entered with such heartiness into the spirit of the people around him, that he disarmed the trained suspicions of a naturally suspicious community. Perhaps this statement should be qualified. Undoubtedly the marshal, could he have made a personal inspection of Woodward and his surroundings, would have praised his subordinate's tact. The truth is, while he had disarmed their suspicions, he had failed utterly to gain their confidence.
With a general as well as a particular interest in the direction of Hog Mountain, it was natural that Deputy-Marshal Woodward should meet or overtake Miss Poteet as she rode back and forth between Gullettsville and the grey notch in the mountain known as Poteet's. It was natural, too, that he should take advantage of the social informalities of the section and make her acquaintance. It was an acquaintance in which Woodward, and, presumably, the young lady herself, became very much interested; so that the spectacle of this attractive couple galloping along together over the red road that connected the valley with the mountain came to be a familiar one. And its effect upon those who paused to take note of it was not greatly different from the effect of such spectacles in other sections. Some looked wise and shook their heads sorrowfully; some smiled and looked kindly, and sent all manner of good wishes after the young people. But whether they galloped down the mountain in the fresh hours of the morning, or rambled up its dark slope in the dusk of the evening, neither Woodward nor Sis Poteet gave a thought to the predictions of spite, or to the prophecies of friendliness.
The mountain girl was a surprise to Woodward. She had improved her few opportunities to the utmost. Such information as the Gullettsville Academy afforded she relished and absorbed, so that her education was thorough as far as it went. Neither her conversation nor her manners would have attracted special attention in a company of fairly bright young girls, but she formed a refreshing contrast to the social destitution of the mountain region.
Beyond this, her personality was certainly more attractive than that of most women, being based upon an independence which knew absolutely nothing of the thousand and one vexatious little aspirations that are essential to what is called social success. Unlike the typical American girl, whose sweetly severe portraits smile serenely at us from the canvas of contemporary fiction, Miss Poteet would have been far from equal to the task of meeting all the requirements of perfectly organised society; but she could scarcely have been placed in a position in which her natural brightness and vivacity would not have attracted attention.
At any rate, the indefinable charm of her presence, her piquancy, and her beauty, was a perpetual challenge to the admiration of Deputy-Marshal Woodward. It pursued him in his dreams, and made him uncomfortable in his waking hours, so much so, indeed, that his duties as a revenue officer, perplexing at best, became a burden to him.
In point of fact, this lively young lady was the unforeseen quantity in the problem which Woodward had been employed to solve; and, between his relations to the Government and his interest in Sis Poteet, he found himself involved in an awkward predicament. Perhaps the main features of this predicament, baldly presented, would have been more puzzling to the authorities at Washington than they were to Woodward; but it is fair to the young man to say that he did not mistake the fact that the Moonshiner had a daughter for an argument in favour of illicit distilling, albeit the temptation to do so gave him considerable anxiety.
In the midst of his perplexity, Deputy-Marshal Woodward concluded that it would be better for the Government, and better for his own peace of mind, if he allowed Sis Poteet to ride home without an escort; and for several days he left her severely alone, while he attended to his duties, as became a young fellow of fair business habits.
But one afternoon, as he sat on the piazza of the hotel nursing his confusion and discontent, Sis Poteet rode by. It was a tantalising vision, though a fleeting one. It seemed to be merely the flash of a red feather, the wave of a white hand, to which Woodward lifted his hat; but these were sufficient. The red feather nodded gaily to him, the white hand invited. His horse stood near, and in a few moments he was galloping toward the mountain with the Moonshiner's daughter.
When the night fell at Teague Poteet's on this particular evening, it found a fiddle going. The boys and girls of the mountain, to the number of a dozen or more, had gathered for a frolic—a frolic that shook the foundations of Poteet's castle, and aroused echoes familiar enough to the good souls who are fond of the cotillon in its primitive shape. The old folks who had accompanied the youngsters sat in the kitchen with Teague and his wife, and here Woodward also sat, listening with interest to the gossip of what seemed to be a remote era—the war and the period preceding it.
The activity of Sis Poteet found ample scope, and, whether lingering for a moment at her father's side like a bird poised in flight, or moving lightly through the figures of the cotillon, she never appeared to better advantage.
Toward midnight, when the frolic was at its height, an unexpected visitor announced himself. It was Uncle Jake Norris, who lived on the far side of the mountain. The fiddler waved his bow at Uncle Jake, and the boys and girls cried "Howdy," as the visitor stood beaming and smiling in the doorway. To these demonstrations Uncle Jake, "a chunk of a white man with a whole heart," as he described himself, made cordial response, and passed on into the kitchen. The good-humour of Mr. Norris was as prominent as his rotundity. When he was not laughing, he was ready to laugh. He seated himself, looked around at the company, and smiled.
"It's a long pull betwixt this an' Atlanty," he said after a while; "it is that, certain an' shore, an' I hain't smelt of the jug sence I lef ther'. Pull 'er out, Teague, pull 'er out."
The jug was forthcoming.
"Now, then," continued Uncle Jake, removing the corn-cob stopper, "this looks like home, sweet home, ez I may say. It does, certain an' shore. None to jine me? Well, well! Times change an' change, but the jug is company for one. So be it. Ez St. Paul says, cleave nigh unto that which is good. I'm foreswore not to feel lonesome tell I go to the gallows. Friends! you uv got my good wishes, one an' all!"
"What's a-gwine on?" asked Poteet.
"The same," responded Uncle Jake, after swallowing his dram. "Allers the same. Wickedness pervails wellnigh unto hit's own jestiflcation. I uv seed sights! You all know the divers besettings wher'by Jackson Ricks wuz took off this season gone—murdered I may say, in the teeth of the law an' good govunment. Sirs! I sot by an' seed his besetters go scotch-free."
The exclamation came from Teague Poteet.
"Yes, sirs! yes, friends!" continued Uncle Jake, closing his eyes and tilting his chair back. "Even so. Nuther does I boast ez becometh the fibble-minded. They hurried an' skurried me forth an' hence, to mount upon the witness stan' an' relate the deed. No deniance did I make. Ez St. Paul says, sin, takin' occasion by the commandment, worked in me all manner of conspicuessence. I told 'em what these here eyes had seed.
"They errayed me before jedge an' jury," Uncle Jake went on, patting the jug affectionately, "an' I bowed my howdies. 'Gen-termun friends,' s' I, 'foller me close't, bekaze I'm a-givin' you but the truth, stupendous though it be. Ef you thes but name the word,' s' I, 'I'll take an' lay my han' upon the men that done this unrighteousness, for they stan' no furder than yon piller,' s' I. 'Them men,' s' I, 'surroundered the house of Jackson Ricks, gentermun friends, he bein' a member of Friendship Church, an' called 'im forth wi' the ashoreance of Satan an' the intents of evil,' s' I; 'an' ole en decrippled ez he wuz, they shot 'im down—them men at yon piller,' s' I, 'ere he could but raise his trimblin' han' in supplication; an' the boldest of 'em dast not to face me here an' say nay,' s' I."
"An' they uv cler'd the men what kilt pore Jackson Ricks!" said Teague, rubbing his grizzled chin.
"Ez clean an' ez cle'r ez the pa'm er my han'," replied Uncle Jake, with emphasis.
The fiddle in the next room screamed forth a jig, and the tireless feet of the dancers kept time, but there was profound silence among those in the kitchen. Uncle Jake took advantage of this pause to renew his acquaintance with the jug.
Deputy-Marshal Woodward knew of the killing of Jackson Ricks; that is to say, he was familiar with the version of the affair which had been depended upon to relieve the revenue officers of the responsibility of downright murder; but he was convinced that the story told by Uncle Jake Norris was nearer the truth.
As the young man rode down the mountain, leaving the fiddle and the dancers to carry the frolic into the grey dawn, he pictured to himself the results of the raid that he would be expected to lead against Hog Mountain—the rush upon Poteet's, the shooting of the old Moonshiner, and the spectacle of the daughter wringing her hands and weeping wildly. He rode down the mountain, and, before the sun rose, he had written and mailed his resignation. In a private note to the marshal, enclosed with this document, he briefly but clearly set forth the fact that, while illicit distilling was as unlawful as ever, the man who loved a Moonshiner's daughter was not a proper instrument to aid in its suppression.
But his letter failed to have the effect he desired, and in a few weeks he received a communication from Atlanta setting forth the fact that a raid had been determined upon.
Meantime, while events were developing, some of the old women of the Hog Mountain Range had begun to manifest a sort of motherly interest in the affairs of Woodward and Sis Poteet. These women, living miles apart on the mountain and its spurs, had a habit of "picking up their work" and spending the day with each other. Upon one occasion it chanced that Mrs. Sue Parmalee and Mrs. Puritha Hightower rode ten miles to visit Mrs. Puss Poteet.
"Don't lay the blame of it onter me, Puss," exclaimed Mrs. Hightower,—her shrill, thin voice in queer contrast with her fat and jovial appearance; "don't you lay the blame onter me. Dave, he's been a-complainin' bekaze they wa'n't no salsody in the house, an' I rid over to Sue's to borry some. Airter I got ther', Sue sez, se' she; 'Yess us pick up an' go an' light in on Puss,' se' she, 'an' fine out sump'n' nuther that's a-gwine on 'mongst folks,' se' she."
"Yes, lay it all onter me," said Mrs. Parmalee, looking over her spectacles at Mrs. Poteet; "I sez to Purithy, s' I, 'Purithy, yess go down an' see Puss,' s' I; 'maybe we'll git a glimpse er that air new chap with the slick ha'r. Sid'll be a-peggin' out airter a while,' s' I, 'an' ef the new chap's ez purty ez I hear tell, maybe I'll set my cap fer 'im,' s' I."
At this fat Mrs. Puritha Hightower was compelled to lean on frail Mrs. Puss Poteet, so heartily did she laugh.
"I declar'," she exclaimed, "ef Sue hain't a sight! I'm mighty nigh outdone. She's thes bin a-gwine on that a-way all the time, an' I bin that tickled tell a little more an' I'd a drapped on the groun'. How's all?"
"My goodness!" exclaimed Mrs. Poteet, "I hope you all know me too well to be a-stan'in' out there makin' excuse. Come right along in, an' take off your things, an' ketch your win'. Sis is home to-day."
"Well, I'm monstus glad," said Mrs. Hightower. "Sis use to think the world an' all er me when she was a slip of a gal, but I reckon she's took on town ways, hain't she? Hit ain't nothin' but natchul."
"Sis is proud enough for to hoi' 'er head high," Mrs. Parmalee explained, "but she hain't a bit stuck up."
"Well, I let you know," exclaimed Mrs. Hightower, untying her bonnet and taking off her shawl, "I let you know, here's what wouldn't be sot back by nothin' ef she had Sis's chances. In about the las' word pore maw spoke on 'er dying bed, she call me to 'er an' sez, se' she, 'Purithy Emma,' se' she, 'you hol' your head high; don't you bat your eyes for to please none of 'em,' se' she."
"I reckon in reason I oughter be thankful that Sis ain't no wuss," said Mrs. Poteet, walking around with aimless hospitality; "yit that chile's temper is powerful tryin', an' Teague ackshully an' candidly b'leeves she's made out'n pyo'gol'. [Footnote: Pure gold] I wish I may die ef he don't."
After a while Sis made her appearance, buoyant and blooming. Her eyes sparkled, her cheeks glowed, and her smiles showed beautiful teeth—a most uncommon sight in the mountains, where the girls were in the habit of rubbing snuff or smoking. The visitors greeted her with the effusive constraint and awkwardness that made so large a part of their lives, but after a while Mrs. Hightower laid her fat motherly hand on the girl's shoulder, and looked kindly but keenly into her eyes.
"Ah, honey!" she said, "you hain't sp'ilt yit, but you wa'n't made to fit thish here hill—that you wa'n't, that you wa'n't!"
Women are not hypocrites. Their little thrills arid nerve-convulsions are genuine while they last. Fortunately for the women themselves, they do not last, but are succeeded by others of various moods, tenses, and genders. These nerve-convulsions are so genuine and so apt that they are known as intuitions, and under this name they have achieved importance. Mrs. Hightower, with all her lack of experience, was capable of feeling that Sis Poteet needed the by no means unsubstantial encouragement that lies in one little note of sympathy, and she was not at all astonished when Sis responded to her intention by giving her a smart little hug.
Presently Mrs. Parmalee, who had stationed herself near the door, lifted her thin right arm and let it fall upon her lap.
"Well, sir!" she exclaimed, "ef yander ain't Sis's bo!"
Sis ran to the door, saw Woodward coming up the road, and blushed furiously—a feat which Mrs. Hightower and Mrs. Parmalee, with all their experience, had rarely seen performed in that region.
Woodward greeted Mrs. Poteet's visitors with a gentle deference and an easy courtesy that attracted their favour in spite of themselves. Classing him with the "Restercrats," these women took keen and suspicious note of every word he uttered, and every movement he made, holding themselves in readiness to become mortally offended at a curl of the lip or the lifting of an eyebrow; but he was equal to the occasion. He humoured their whims and eccentricities to the utmost, and he was so thoroughly sympathetic, so genial, so sunny, and so handsome withal, that he stirred most powerfully the maternal instincts of those weather-beaten bosoms, and made them his friends and defenders. He told them wonderful stories of life in the great world that lay far beyond Hog Mountain, its spurs and its foot-hills. He lighted their pipes, and even filled them out of his own tobacco-pouch, a proceeding which caused Mrs. Parmalee to remark that she "would like mannyfac' [Footnote: "Manufactured" tobacco, in contradistinction to the natural leaf.] mighty well ef 'twer'n't so powerful weak."
Mrs. Hightower found early opportunity to deliver her verdict in Sis's ear, whereupon the latter gave her a little hug, and whispered: "Oh, I just think he's adorable!" It was very queer, however, that as soon as Sis was left to entertain Mr. Woodward (the women making an excuse of helping Puss about dinner), she lost her blushing enthusiasm, and became quite cold and reserved. The truth is, Sis had convinced herself some days before that she had the right to be very angry with this young man, and she began her quarrel, as lovely woman generally does, by assuming an air of tremendous unconcern. Her disinterestedness was really provoking.
"How did you like Sue Fraley's new bonnet last Sunday?" she asked, with an innocent smile.
"Sue Fraley's new bonnet!" exclaimed Woodward, surprised in the midst of some serious reflections; "why, I didn't know she had a new bonnet."
"Oh! you didn't? You were right opposite. I should think anybody could see she had a new bonnet by the way she tossed her head."
"Well, I didn't notice it, for one. Was it one of these sky-scrapers? I was looking at something else."
Woodward had intended to convey a very delicately veiled compliment, but this young woman's tone rather embarrassed him. He saw in a moment that she was beyond the reach of the playful and ingenious banter which he had contrived to make the basis of their relations.
"Yes," he said, "I was looking at something else. I had other things to think about."
"Well, she did have a new bonnet, with yellow ribbons. She looked handsome. I hear she's going to get married soon."
"I'm glad to hear it. She's none too young," said Woodward.
At another time Sis would have laughed at the suggestion implied in this remark, but now she only tapped the floor gently with her foot, and looked serious.
"I hope you answered her note," she said presently.
"What note?" he asked, with some astonishment,
Sis was the picture of innocence.
"Oh, I didn't think!" she exclaimed. "I reckon it's a great secret. I mean the note she handed you when she came out of church. It's none of my business."
"Nor of mine either," said Woodward, with a relieved air. "The note was for Tip Watson."
This statement, which was not only plausible but true, gave a new direction to Sis's anger.
"Well, I don't see how anybody that thinks anything of himself could be a mail-carrier for Sue Fraley!" she exclaimed scornfully; whereupon she flounced out, leaving Woodward in a state of bewilderment.
He had not made love to the girl, principally because her moods were elusive and her methods unique. She was dangerously like other women of his acquaintance, and dangerously unlike them. The principal of the academy in Gullettsville—a scholarly old gentleman from Middle Georgia, who had been driven to teaching by dire necessity—had once loftily informed Woodward that Miss Poteet was superior to her books, and the young man had verified the statement to his own discomfiture. She possessed that feminine gift which is of more importance to a woman in this world than scholarly acquirements—aptitude. Even her frankness—perfectly discreet—charmed and puzzled Woodward; but the most attractive of her traits were such as mark the difference between the bird that sings in the tree and the bird that sings in the cage—delightful, but indescribable.
When Sis Poteet began to question him about Sue Fraley, the thought that she was moved by jealousy gave him a thrill that was new to his experience; but when she flounced angrily out of the room because he had confessed to carrying a note from Miss Fraley to Tip Watson, it occurred to him that he might be mistaken. Indeed, so cunning does masculine stupidity become when it is played upon by a woman, that he frightened himself with the suggestion that perhaps, after all, this perfectly original young lady was in love with Tip Watson.
During the rest of the day Woodward had ample time to nurse and develop his new theory, and the more he thought it over the more plausible it seemed to be. It was a great blow to his vanity; but the more uncomfortable it made him the more earnestly he clung to it.
Without appearing to avoid him, Sis managed to make the presence of Mrs. Parmalee and Mrs. Hightower an excuse for neglecting him. She entertained these worthy ladies with such eager hospitality that when they aroused themselves to the necessity of going home, they found to their dismay that it would be impossible, in the language of Mrs. Poteet, to "git half way acrost Pullium's Summit 'fore night 'ud ketch 'em." Sis was so delighted, apparently, that she became almost hilarious; and her gaiety affected all around her except Woodward, who barely managed to conceal his disgust.
After supper, however, Mrs. Poteet and her two guests betook themselves to the kitchen, where they rubbed snuff and smoked their pipes, and gossiped, and related reminiscences of that good time which, with old people, is always in the past. Thus Woodward had ample opportunity to talk with Sis. He endeavoured, by the exercise of every art of manner and conversation of which he was master, to place their relations upon the old familiar footing, but he failed most signally. He found it impossible to fathom the gentle dignity with which he was constantly repulsed. In the midst of his perplexity, which would have been either pathetic or ridiculous if it had not been so artfully concealed, he managed for the first time to measure the depth of his love for this exasperating but charming creature whom he had been patronising. She was no longer amusing; and Woodward, with the savage inconsistency of a man moved by a genuine passion, felt a tragic desire to humble himself before her.