THE BOY WITH THE U.S. CENSUS
BY FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER
With Thirty-eight Illustrations, principally from Bureaus of the United States Government
To My Son Roger's Friend
Life in America to-day is adventurous and thrilling to the core. Border warfare of the most primitive type still is waged in mountain fastnesses, the darkest pages in the annals of crime now are being written, piracy has but changed its scene of operations from the sea to the land, smugglers ply a busy trade, and from their factory prisons a hundred thousand children cry aloud for rescue. The flame of Crusade sweeps over the land and the call for volunteers is abroad.
In hazardous scout duty into these fields of danger the Census Bureau leads. The Census is the sword that shatters secrecy, the key that opens trebly-guarded doors; the Enumerator is vested with the Nation's greatest right—the Right To Know—and on his findings all battle-lines depend. "When through Atlantic and Pacific gateways, Slavic, Italic, and Mongol hordes threaten the persistence of an American America, his is the task to show the absorption of widely diverse peoples, to chronicle the advances of civilization, or point the perils of illiterate and alien-tongue communities. To show how this great Census work is done, to reveal the mysteries its figures half-disclose, to point the paths to heroism in the United States to-day, and to bind closer the kinship between all peoples of the earth who have become "Americans" is the aim and purpose of
CHAPTER I A BLOOD FEUD IN OLD KENTUCKY
CHAPTER II RESCUING A LOST RACE
CHAPTER III A MANUFACTORY OF RIFLES
CHAPTER IV THE BOY LEADER OF A CRUSADE
CHAPTER V "DON'T DEPORT MY OLD MOTHER!"
CHAPTER VI THE NEGRO CENSUS FROM THE SADDLE
CHAPTER VII HOBOES ON THE TRAMP
CHAPTER VIII THE CENSUS HEROES OF THE FROZEN NORTH
CHAPTER IX CONFRONTED WITH THE BLACK HAND
CHAPTER X RIOTS AROUND A CITY SCHOOL
The Statue of Liberty (Frontispiece) Taking the Census in Old Kentucky Kentucky Mountaineer Family Moonshining Bill Wilsh's Home in the Gully Bill Wilsh in the School Alligator-Catching The Census Building Making Gun-sights True "A Bull's-eye Every Time!" Young Boys from the Pit "I 'ain't Seen Daylight for Two Years" Eight Years Old and "Tired of Working" The Biggest Liner in the World Coming in Immigration Station, Ellis Island Where the Workers Come from On a Peanut Farm In an All-Negro Town "'Way down Yonder in de Cotton Fiel'" How Most of the Negroes Live Facsimile of Punched Census Card Tabulating Machine Pin-box and Mercury Cups Over the Trackless Snow with Dog-team The Census in the Aleutian Islands "Can We Make Camp?" To Eskimo Settlements by Reindeer Gathering Cocoanuts Taking the Census in a City Festa in the Italian Quarter The Fighting Men of the Tongs Arrested as the Firing Stops Work for Americans
THE BOY WITH THE U.S. CENSUS
A BLOOD FEUD IN OLD KENTUCKY
"Uncle Eli," said Hamilton suddenly, "since I'm going to be a census-taker, I think I'd like to apply for this district."
The old Kentucky mountaineer, who had been steadily working his way through the weekly paper, lowered it so that he could look over the top of the page, and eyed the boy steadfastly.
"What for?" he queried.
"I think I could do it better than almost anybody else in this section," was the ready, if not modest, reply.
"Wa'al, perhaps yo' might," the other assented and took up the paper again. Hamilton waited. He had spent but little time in the mountains but he had learned the value of allowing topics to develop slowly, even though his host was better informed than most of the people in the region. Although not an actual relative, Hamilton always called him "Uncle" because he had fought with distinguished honor in the regiment that Hamilton's father commanded during the Civil War, and the two men ever since had been friends.
"I don't quite see why any one sh'd elect to take a hand in any such doin's unless he has to," the Kentuckian resumed, after a pause; "that census business seems kind of inquisitive some way to me."
"But it seems to me that it's the right kind of 'inquisitive.'"
"I reckon I hadn't thought o' there bein' more'n one kind of inquisitiveness," the mountaineer said, with a smile, "but if you say so, I s'pose it's all right."
"But don't you think the questions are easy enough?" asked the boy.
"They may be easy, but thar's no denyin' that some of 'em are mighty unpleasant to answer."
"But if they are necessary?"
"Thar's a-plenty o' folks hyeh in the mount'ns that yo' c'n never make see how knowin' their private affairs does the gov'nment any good."
"But you don't feel that way, Uncle Eli, surely?"
"Wa'al, I don' know. Settin' here talkin' about it, I know it's all right, an' I'm willin' to tell all I know. But I jes' feel as sure as c'n be, that befo' the census-taker gets through hyeh, I'm goin' to be heated up clar through."
"But why?" queried the lad again. "The questions are plain enough, and there was practically no trouble at the last census. I think it's a fine thing, and every one ought to be glad to help. And it's so important, too!"
"Important!" protested the old man. "Did yo' ever see any one that ever sat down an' read those tables an' tables o' figures?"
"Not for fun, perhaps," the boy admitted. "But it isn't done for the sake of getting interesting reading matter; it's because those figures really are necessary. Why there's hardly a thing that you can think of that the census isn't at the back of."
"I don't see how that is. They don't ask about a man's politics, I notice," the mountaineer remarked.
"No," answered Hamilton promptly, "but the number of members a State sends to Congress depends on the figures of the population that the census-takers gather, and the only claim that any legislator has to his seat is based on their information."
"I suppose you'd say the same about schools, too."
"Of course," the boy answered.
"But I hear the Census Bureau this year wants all sorts of information about the crops an' the number of pigs kept an' all that sort o' stuff."
"Don't you think the food of all the people of the United States is important enough, Uncle Eli? And then the railroads, too,—they depend on the figures about the crops and all sorts of other things which go as freight."
"You seem to know a lot about it," the mountaineer said, looking thoughtfully at the boy.
"I ought to," Hamilton said, "because I'm going to be an assistant special agent in the Census of Manufactures right away. I applied last October and took the exam a couple of weeks before coming here on this visit."
"What makes yo' so cocksure that you've passed the examination?" he was asked.
"I didn't find it so hard," Hamilton replied, "figures have always been easy for me, and when my brother was studying for that chartered accountant business I learned a lot from him."
"Your dad, he was a great hand fo' figures, so I s'pose yo' come by it naturally enough. An' you're jes' sure you've passed?"
"I haven't heard one way or the other," said Hamilton, "but I'm pretty sure."
"Wa'al, thar's no use sayin' anythin' if you're all sot, but it's the business of the gov'nment, an' I'd let them do it."
"But I'm hoping to work right with the government all the time, Uncle Eli," the boy explained "either with the Census Bureau or the Bureau of Statistics or some work like that. And anyway, if it's the government's business, I'm an American and it's my business."
"Yo' have the right spirit, boy," the old man said, "an' I like to see it, but you're huntin' trouble sure's you're born. S'posin' yo' asked the questions of some ol' sorehead that wouldn' answer?"
"He'd have to answer," replied Hamilton stoutly, "there's a law to make him."
"I don't believe that law's used much," hazarded the old man.
"It isn't," Hamilton found himself forced to admit. "I believe there were not very many arrests all over the country last census. But the law's there, just the same."
"It wouldn' be a law on the Ridge," the mountaineer said, "an' I don' believe it would do yo' any good anywhar else. On the mount'ns, I know, courtesy is a whole lot bigger word than constitution. Up hyeh, we follow the law when we're made to, follow an idee backed up by a rifle-barrel because we have to, but there's not many men hyeh that won' do anythin' yo' ask if yo' jes' ask the right way."
"But there are always some that give trouble," Hamilton protested, trying to defend his position.
The old Kentuckian slowly shook his head from side to side.
"If yo' don' win out by courtesy," he said, "it's jes' because yo' haven' been courteous enough, because yo' haven' taken yo' man jes' right. Thar isn't any such thing as bein' too gracious. An' anyway, a census-taker with any other idee up hyeh would be runnin' chances right along."
"You mean they would shoot him up?" asked Hamilton.
"I think if he threatened some folks up hyeh an' in the gullies thar might be trouble."
"But the fact that he represented the government would insure him from harm, I should think."
"I don't think much of that insurance idee," the old man said. "I can't remember that it helped the revenue men sech a great deal. The only insurance I ever had was a quick ear, an' even now, I c'n hear a twig snap near a quarter of a mile away. An' that used to be good insurance in the ol' days when, if yo' weren't gunnin' for somebody, thar was somebody gunnin' fo' you."
"But there's no one 'gunning' for you now, is there, Uncle Eli?" asked the boy amusedly.
"I haven't b'n lookin' out especially," the Kentuckian responded, with an answering slow smile, "an' I reckon sometimes that I might jes' as well leave the ol' rifle in the house when I go out."
"But you never do," put in Hamilton quickly.
"I reckon that's jes' a feelin'," rejoined the mountaineer, "jes' one o' these habits that yo' hate to give up. I'd sort o' be lost without it now, after all these years. Thar's no one to worry about, anyway, savin' Jake Howkle, an' I don' believe he's hankerin' for blood-lettin'."
"Jake? Oh, never," Hamilton replied with assurance; "why, he's only about my age."
"That's only partly why," the old man said, "not only because he's your age, but because he's b'n at school. Shootin' an' schoolin' don' seem to hit it off. I reckon thar would have b'n a sight less trouble in the mount'ns if thar had b'n mo' schools."
"There are plenty of schools in the mountains now, aren't there?" asked Hamilton. "It must be very different here, Uncle Eli, from what it was when you were a boy."
"Thar has been quite a change, an' the change is comin' faster now. But thar's still a lot o' folk who a'nt altered a bit sence the war. You city people call us slow-movin' up hyeh, an' as long as thar's any o' the ol' spirit abroad thar's a chance o' trouble. If yo' really are goin' in for this census-takin', I'd keep clar o' the mount'ns."
"You really would?" queried the boy thoughtfully.
"An' what's more," continued his Uncle, "I would jes' as soon that yo' didn' have anythin' to do with it near hyeh. I don' want to see any little differences between families, such as census-takin' is likely to provoke."
"Why, Uncle Eli!" cried Hamilton in amazement, "you talk as though the days of the feuds were not over."
"Are yo' sure they're all over?" the Kentuckian said.
"I had supposed so," the boy replied. "I thought the Kentucky 'killings' had stopped ten or fifteen years ago."
"It's a little queer yo' sh'd bring that up today," the old man said, "for I was jes' readin' in the paper some figures on that very thing. Yo' like figures, this will jes' suit you. Where was it now?" he continued, rustling the paper; then, a moment later, "Oh, yes, I have it."
"'During the terms of the last three Kentucky governors,'" he read, "'over thirteen hundred criminals have been pardoned, five hundred of them being for murder or manslaughter.' It says fu'ther on," the old man added, "that pardonin' is jes' as frequent now as it ever was. I don' believe it is, myself, but if thar is such a lot o' pardonin' goin' on for shootin', thar must have been a powerful lot o' shootin'."
"But that's for all the State," objected the boy, "not for the mountains only. That must be for crimes in the cities and all sorts of things. You can't make the feuds responsible for those."
"Not altogether," the mountaineer agreed, "the real ol'-time feud is peterin' out, an' it's mainly due to the schoolin'. The young folks ain't ready fo' revenge now, an' that sort o' swings the women around. An' up hyeh in the mount'ns, same as everywhar else, I reckon, the idees o' the women make a pile o' difference."
"But I should have thought the women would always have been against the feuds," said Hamilton.
"Yo'd think so, but they weren't. They helped to keep up the grudges a whole lot."
"Aunt Ab hasn't changed much," volunteered the lad.
"She hasn't for a fact. Ab is powerful sot. She holds the grudge against the Howkles in the ol' style. But the feelin' is dyin' out fast, an' soon it'll be like history,—only jes' read of in books."
"What I never could see," remarked Hamilton, "was what started it all. It isn't as if the people in the mountains had come from some part of the world where vendettas and that sort of thing had been going on for generations. There must have been some kind of reason for it in this section of the country. Feuds don't spring up just for nothing."
"Thar was a while once we had a powerful clever talker up hyeh," the Kentuckian answered, "actin' as schoolmaster for a few weeks. I reckon he'd offered to substitute jes' to get a chance to see for himself what life in the mount'ns was like. He was writin' a book about it. We got right frien'ly, an' he knew he was always welcome hyeh, an' one day I asked him jes' that question. It was shortly befo' he lef' an' I wanted to know what he thought about us all up hyeh."
The mountaineer leaned back in his chair and chuckled with evident enjoyment of the recollection.
"I jes' put the question to him," he said, "in the mildes' way, an' he started right in to talk. Thar was no stoppin' him, an' I couldn' remember one-half o' what he said. But I reckon he had it about right."
"How did he explain the feuds, Uncle Eli?" asked the boy.
"Wa'al," said the mountaineer, with a short laugh, "he begun by sayin' we were savages."
"Not jes' with war-paint an' tomahawk, yo' understan'," continued the old man, enjoying the boy's astonishment, "but uncivilized an' wild. Thar an't any finer stock in the world, he said, than the mount'neers o' the Ridge, clar down to Tennessee, an' he said, too, that they were o' the good old English breed, not foreigners like are comin' in now."
"That's right enough," Hamilton agreed, "and, what's more, they were gentlemen of good birth, most of them; there was not much of the peasant in the early colonists."
"So this author chap said. But he explained that was the very reason they got so wild."
"I don't see that," objected Hamilton, "and I certainly don't see where the 'savage' idea comes in."
"Wa'al, he said that when you slid down from a high place it was harder to climb back than if the fall had b'n small. An' that's why it's so hard for those who have gone down,—they can see the depth o' the fall."
Hamilton, who was of an argumentative turn of mind, would have protested at this, but the old mountaineer proceeded.
"When the pioneers settled in the mount'ns they kind o' stuck. Those that went on, down into the Blue Grass region, went boomin' right ahead, but those that stayed in the mount'ns had no chance."
"I don't see why not?" objected the boy.
"They were jes' cut off from everywhar. We are to-day, for that matter. When a place gets settled, an' starts to try an' raise somethin' to sell, the product has got to be taken to market. But thar was no railroad up in the mount'ns. Children were easy to raise, an' a population grew up in a hurry, but the land was too poor for good farmin', the roads were too bad for takin' corn to market, an' thar was no way o' gettin' to a town."
"You are pretty well cut off," said Hamilton.
"We were more so then," the mountaineer said. "An' so, while all the country 'round was advancin' up in the mount'ns, fifty years ago, we were livin' jes' like pioneers. An' some, not bein' able to keep up the strain, fell back."
"So it really isn't the fault of the mountaineers at all," cried the boy, "but because they were sort of marooned."
"It was unfortunate," replied the old man, "but it really was our own fault. If the mount'n country was worth developin', we should have developed it; if not, we should have left."
"I've often wondered why you didn't, Uncle Eli," said Hamilton.
"Yo' must remember," the Kentuckian said, "that the mount'neers are a most independent lot. They want to be independent, an' up hyeh, every man is his own master. But, thar bein' no available market if they did work hard, what was the use o' workin'? Some o' them, 'specially down in the gullies, got lazy an' shif'less. But they hung on all the harder to the idees o' the old times,—honor an' hospitality."
"I've always understood," said Hamilton, "that there was more hospitality to be found up here in the mountains than in almost any place on the globe."
"As yo' said," the old man continued, "we're jes' like a crew o' shipwrecked sailors marooned on an island without a boat, without any means o' gettin' away. If some o' the families high up in the gullies are ignorant, it's because they've had no schoolin', not because they haven' got the makin's o' good citizens; if they're a bit careless about religion, it's because they've had no churchin', an' if they don' pay much heed to law, it's because the law has never done much for them. The ocean o' progress," went on the mountaineer, with a flourish, "has rolled all 'roun' the mount'ns, but of all the fleets o' commerce in all these years, thar has not been one to send out a boat to help the marooned mount'neer."
"Didn't they ever try to get help?" queried the boy.
"We're not askin' help," the Kentuckian said, "thar's no whinin' on the mount'ns. I jes' tell yo' that when the time comes for the mount'neers o' Kentucky an' Virginia an' Tennessee an' Carolina to get a fair chance, they'll show yo' as fine a race o' men an' women as the Stars an' Stripes flies over."
"They are mighty fine right now, I think," the boy said.
"They have their good points," the Kentuckian agreed; "thar's nothin' sneakin' in the men up hyeh, an' thar an't any lengths to which a man won't go, to do what he thinks is the squar thing. You've heard about the Beaupoints?"
"No," the boy answered, "what was that?"
"It was jes' an incident in one o' these feuds that you were talkin' of, an' I'm goin' to tell yo' about it, to show yo' what a mount'neer's idee o' honor is like. Thar was a family livin' on the other side o' the Ridge, not a great ways from hyeh, by the name o' Calvern, an' in some way or other—I never heard the rights of it—they took to shootin' up the Beaupoints every chance that come along. One day Dandie Beaupoint found a little girl that had hurt herself, an' he picked her up in his arms an' was carryin' her home when one o' the Calvern boys shot him in his tracks. One o' the Beaupoint brothers was away at the time, but the others felt that the Calverns hadn't b'n playin' fair, an' they reckoned to lay them all out. They did, too, all but one, an', although they had a chance to nail him, they let him alone."
"Why was he let off?" queried Hamilton.
"I reckon it was because he had a young wife an' a little child," the old man answered. "Now Jim Beaupoint, the one that had been away, he come home after a while, an' hadn't happened to hear about the wipin' out o' the Calverns. On his way home, he had to pass the Calvern place, an' so he made a wide cast aroun' the hill to keep out o' sight, when suddenly, up a gully, he saw this Hez Calvern standin' there with his rifle on his arm, an', quick as he could move, Jim grabbed his gun an' fired. It was a long shot an' a sure one."
"Was it—" the boy began, but the old man waved the interruption aside and proceeded.
"Reloadin' his rifle, Jim Beaupoint rode slowly to whar Hez Calvern was lyin', when suddenly, from a clump o' bushes close by, there come a rifle shot, an' the rider got the bullet in his chest. Befo' fallin' from the saddle, however, the young fellow fired at the bushes from which smoke was driftin', an' a shrill scream told him that the sharpshooter was a woman."
"Some one who had been with Hez Calvern?" asked Hamilton.
"His wife. Well, although Jim was mortally hurt an' sufferin'—as the tracks showed afterwards—he tried to drag himself to the bushes in order to help the woman who had shot him an' who he had shot unknowin'; but he was too badly hurt, an' he died twenty yards from the place whar he fell."
"Was the woman dead, too?" asked Hamilton.
"No, but terrible badly hurt. What I was wantin' to tell yo', though, was the result of all this. Wa'al, the Beaupoints took the woman to their home an' nursed her night an' day for five long years. She was helpless, only for her tongue, an' she lashed an' abused them till the day she died, an' never once, in all those years, did any one o' the Beaupoints reproach her in return."
"And the youngster?"
"They took the boy, too, an' reared him the bes' they knew how, jes' the same as one o' their own. One o' the Beaupoint boys went an' lived on the Calvern place, an' worked it,—worked it fair an' squar', an' put aside every cent that come out o' the farm. For thirteen years the Beaupoints looked after the farm an' reared the boy. On the day he was fourteen year old, Jed Beaupoint—that was the father—called the lad, told him the whole story, give him a new rifle an' a powder horn, an' handed over the little bag o' coin that represented thirteen years o' work on the Calvern holdin'."
"There certainly couldn't be anything squarer than that!" exclaimed Hamilton. "And he gave the boy the farm, too?"
"Every inch of it. Jed Beaupoint was a squar' man, cl'ar through. An' he said to the boy—he tol' me the story himself—'Johnny Calvern, thar's yo' farm an' yo' rifle. Now, if yo're willin', I'll see that thar's no trouble until yo're twenty-one, an' then yo' c'n go huntin' revenge if yo've a mind to, or, if you're willin', we'll call the trouble off now, an' thar won't be any need o' rakin' it up again.'"
"He made it up on the spot, of course?" questioned Hamilton.
The Kentuckian shook his head.
"He did not," he replied. "The boy thought a minute or two an' then said he'd wait until he was grown up, an' let him know then."
"Although he had been brought up by the Beaupoints!" exclaimed the boy in surprise. "But surely it never came up again."
"Well, not exac'ly. When Johnny Calvern was about nineteen he got married, an' a few days befo' the time when he would be twenty-one, he rode up to the Beaupoint place, an' tol' the ol' man that he was willin' to let the feud rest another ten years, because of his wife an' little baby, but that he would be ready to resume shootin' at that time."
"But he had no real grudge against the Beaupoints had he, Uncle Eli? They had always been kind to him, you said."
"Not a bit o' grudge," the mountaineer answered, "they were good friends. An' I reckon it wasn't Johnny that wanted the trouble to begin again, but thar's always a lot o' hotheads pryin' into other folks' business. However, ol' Jed Beaupoint didn't mind; he agreed to another ten years' truce, an' all went on peacefully as befo'. Durin' those ten years, however, Johnny's wife died, an' he got married again, this time to the sister o' a wanderin' preacher, a girl who had once lived in cities, an' she soon showed him that the ol' feud business must be forgotten. But it is a mite unusual, even hyeh, to farm a man's land an' bring up his child fo' thirteen years, an' then give him everythin' yo' can with the privilege o' shootin' yo' at sight for all the favors done."
"It doesn't sound a bit like the usual feud story," said Hamilton, "one always thinks of those as being cold-blooded and cruel."
"Thar an't a mite o' intentional cruelty in them; it's jes' that life is held cheap. Most o' them begun over some small thing like an election."
"There were quite a number of them, Uncle Eli, weren't there?"
"One ran into the other so easily that one feud would often look like half a dozen, an' trouble would be goin' on in various places. But there were really seven of them, all big ones."
"What were they, Uncle Eli?"
"Wa'al, thar was the McCoy-Hatfield feud in Pike County, that started over the ownership o' two plain razorback hogs, but afterwards got very bitter, owin' to the friendship o' one o' the McCoy girls with the son o' Bad Anse Hatfield. Then thar was the Howard-Turner feud in Harlan County. An' then—"
"What started the Howard-Turner feud?" interrupted the boy.
"That was over a game o' cards. One o' the Howards had been winnin', an' Jim Turner, with a pistol, forced him to give back the money he had won. That affair raged a long time. The Logan-Tolliver feud in Rowan County was over an election fo' sheriff. The Logans elected their candidate, an' so the Tollivers killed one o' the Logans at the polls and wounded three others."
"That's expressing dissatisfaction with an election with some spirit," Hamilton remarked.
"Then thar was the French-Eversole feud in Perry County," continued the Kentuckian, reminiscently. "Ol' Joe Eversole was a merchant in a town called Hazard, an' he helped Fulton French to start a little store. In time French almos' drove Eversole out o' business. That was a strange fight, because neither French nor Eversole ever got into the shootin',—indeed they remained frien'ly even when their supporters were most bitter."
"Who carried on the feud, then?" asked Hamilton in surprise, "if the principals didn't?"
"Wa'al, I guess the worst was a minister, the Rev. Bill Gambrill. Ho ran the French side an' kep' the trouble stirred up all the time."
"I think I've heard of the Turner war, too," said the boy. "Was that the same as the Howard-Turner fighting?"
"All of them were mixed up in each other's feuds in that Turner family," the Kentuckian replied, "but the 'Turner War' or the 'Hell's Half-Acre' feud was in Bell County, an' it started over some question o' water rights in Yellow Creek. It was a sayin' down in Bell County that it couldn't rain often enough to keep Hell's Half-Acre free from stains o' blood."
"It is a fearful record, Uncle Eli, when you put them together that way," the boy said.
"An' I haven't even mentioned the worst o' them, the Hargis-Cockrill feud in Breathitt County. That lasted for generations, an' started over some election for a county judge. I don' know that any one rightly remembers the time when Breathitt County wasn't the scene of some such goin's on."
"But they are all over now, aren't they?"
"I was jes' goin' to tell yo'. They're all over but one, an' that one is sometimes called the Baker-Howard or the Garrard-White feud, for all four families were mixed up in it. Not so very long ago I was talkin' to the widow o' one o' the men slain in that fightin', an' sayin' to her how good it was that the feelin' had all died out, an' she said—thar was a lot of us thar at the time—'I have twelve sons. Each day I tell them who shot their father. I'm not goin' to die till one o' them shoots him.' I'm reckonin' to hear o' trouble in Clay County mos' any time, but I really think that is the last o' them."
"What started that?"
"An argument over a twenty-five dollar note," was the response. "But you don't want to think these were the real causes; they were usually jes' firebrands that made things worse. Most o' these hyeh feuds date back to enmities made in the Civil War an' in moonshinin'."
"But why the war?" asked Hamilton. "I thought nearly all the mountaineers in Kentucky fought for the North—I know you were with Lee, of course, but I thought that was exceptional."
"None o' them fought for the No'th!" exclaimed the old Confederate soldier indignantly.
"Why, Uncle Eli!" said Hamilton, in surprise, "I was sure that most of them went into the Union army."
"So they did, boy, so they did, but those who did it thought they were fightin' for the nation, not for the No'th. An' the slavery question didn' matter much hyeh. Don' yo' let any one tell yo' that the Union army was made up o' abolitionists, because it wasn't. It was made up o' bigger men than that. It was made up o' patriots. I thought them wrong then,—I do yet; but thar ain't no denyin' that they were fightin' for what they thought was right."
"But why did you join the South, Uncle Eli?" asked the boy. "I can understand father doing it, because he was a South Carolinian."
"I was workin' fo' peace," the mountaineer rejoined "When No'th and South was talkin' war, Kentucky, as yo' will remember havin' read, decided to remain neutral, an' organized the State Guards to preserve that neutrality. I was willin' to let well enough alone, but when the No'th come down an' tried to force the State Guards to join their cause, I went with the rest to Dixie. I don' believe," added the old man solemnly, "that thar ever was a war like that befo', where every man on both sides fought for a principle, an' where there was no selfish motive anywhere."
"The Howkles were with the Federals, weren't they?" prompted Hamilton, fearing lest the old man should drift into war reminiscences, when he wanted to hear about feuds.
"Ol' Isaac Howkle was," the mountaineer replied "an' that was how the little trouble we had begun. At least, it had a good deal to do with it. Isaac an' I had never got along, an' jes' befo' the war, we had some words about the Kentucky State Guards. But I wasn't bearin' any grudge, an' I never supposed Isaac was. However, in a skirmish near Cumberland Gap, I saw that he was jes' achin' to get me, an' the way he tried was jes' about the meanes' thing I ever heard o' any one doin' on the Ridge."
"How was it, do tell me?" pleaded Hamilton, his eyes shining with interest.
"Howkle was with Wolford's cavalry, an' I was under 'Fightin'' Zollicoffer, as they called him," the old man began. "Thar had been a little skirmish,—one o' these that never get into the dispatches that don' do any good, but after which thar's always good men lef' lyin' on the ground. We had driven 'em back a bit, an' I was comin' in when I saw a lad—he didn't look more'n about fifteen—lyin' in a heap an' groanin'. Knowin' a drink would do him more good than an'thin' else, I reached for my canteen, an' stooped down. Jes' about then, a horseman dashed out o' the scrub an', almos' befo' I could think o' what was comin', he struck at me with his sabre."
"When you were giving drink to a wounded soldier!" cried Hamilton indignantly. "What a cowardly trick!"
"It was ol' Isaac Howkle," nodded his uncle, "an' I s'pose he reckoned this was a chance to get even on the ol' grudge. But I rolled over on the grass jes' out o' reach o' his stroke, an' he missed. I grabbed my rifle an' blazed at him as soon as I could get on my feet, but he had reached the shelter of the trees again an' I missed him."
"That's about the meanest thing I ever heard," said the boy.
"So I thought," the Kentuckian answered, "an' so the poor lad seemed to think too. I saw he was tryin' to speak, an' I put my ear close to his lips, thinkin' he might have some message he wanted to give. But, tryin' to look in the direction where Howkle had gone, he whispered, 'Don't blame the Union.' He was thinkin' more o' the credit o' his side than of his own sufferin's."
"That was grit," said Hamilton approvingly. "Did he die, Uncle Eli?"
"Not a bit of it. We got him back into our lines an' he was exchanged, I believe. Anyway, I know he was livin' after the war, fo' I saw his name once on a list o' veterans. But most o' the boys were like that—mostly young, too—an' men o' the stripe of Isaac Howkle were very few."
"But you got him in the end, didn't you?"
The old mountaineer looked intently at the boy's excited face.
"I didn't," he said, "an' I don' rightly know that it's good for yo' to be hearin' all these things. Yo' might hold it against Jake Howkle."
"That I wouldn't," protested Hamilton. "Jake isn't to blame for his father's meanness."
"That's the right way to talk," the old soldier agreed. "Wa'al, if yo' feel that way about it, I reckon thar's no harm in my tellin' yo' the rest of it, now that I've got started. When the war was all over an' I got back hyeh, I remembered what had happened, an' I sent word to Isaac Howkle that I didn' trust him, an' after what he had done I was reckonin' that he was waitin' his chance to get me, an' that he'd better keep his own side o' the mountain."
"But, Uncle Eli," said the boy, "that didn't make a feud surely; that was only a warning."
"I wasn't reckonin' to start a feud at all," said the old man thoughtfully, "an' it really never was one. It was jes' a personal difference between Isaac Howkle an' me. Thar was lots o' times that I could have picked off either o' his two brothers, but I was jes' guardin' myself against Isaac."
"But you said he got there first!" said the boy. "Did he shoot some one in your family?"
"Wa'al, yes, he did," the mountaineer admitted "Yo' never knew the one. He was my brother-in-law,—Ab's younges' sister's first husband. He had been married jes' two months, an' was only a hundred yards from this house when Isaac shot him."
"How did you know for sure that it was Howkle who had done the shooting?" asked Hamilton.
"We didn't know for sure, at first. A week or two after, a boy from the Wilshes' place come up with a message sayin' that Isaac Howkle had tol' him to say that he'd get the ol' man nex' time."
"I shouldn't have thought a boy would have had the nerve to bring such a message," said Hamilton thoughtfully. "Wouldn't bringing word like that look like taking sides, and wouldn't it bring his own family into the trouble!"
The old man shook his head in instant denial.
"Po' white trash from the gullies," he said, "no, they don't count one way or the other."
"What happened after you got that message?" asked the boy.
"Nothin' much, for a while, though I was snoopin' aroun' the mount'ns consid'rable. I met the brothers sev'ral times, an' I know they could have had me. But I had nothin' against them, nor they me, an' so it was jes' left to Isaac an' me. Once I found him over near our pasture, but he saw me an' got into cover. At last I found him in the open near our house again, an' in easy range."
"Did you fire right away?" asked Hamilton excitedly.
"I didn't shoot. I got a lead on him, sure, but I jes' couldn't shoot without warnin' him. It seemed kind o' mean to shoot him unawares, an' as I didn't want to take an unfair advantage, I shouted to him. It was pretty far off to be heard, but I could see that he recognized me. I was only waitin' long enough to let him get his gun to his shoulder when some one fired jes' behin' me. Howkle's bullet went through my arm, but he dropped in his tracks. He thought I had shot him but my gun was never fired off."
"Who was it that fired, Uncle Eli!"
"The brother o' the young fellow he had shot befo'."
"Was he dead?" asked the boy.
"Wa'al," said the mountaineer, a little grimly, "I didn' go down to see an' wait aroun' 'till all his friends gathered. But I reckon he was dead when they found him later."
"And the brothers?"
"They never came into the story at all. I'm jes' mentionin' this to yo' to show yo' that thar's reason in my advisin' yo' to keep clar o' this district. If you're reckonin' on doin' census work, yo' go somewhar that you're not known to any one. Thar's trouble enough even for a stranger in the mount'ns, an' a stranger would find it easier than any one else."
"Why is that, Uncle Eli?" asked the boy.
"In the first place, yo' can't show discourtesy to a stranger, an' yo' know that if he doesn' do things jes' the way yo' like to have 'em done, it's because he doesn' know, an' so he's not to blame. I like your spirit about the census, Hamilton," the old mountaineer continued, "an' if yo' can give the gov'nment any service, I reckon yo'd better try, but leave the mount'n districts either to popular favorites or to a stranger."
RESCUING A LOST RACE
That same evening, as it chanced, one of the younger Wilsh boys came up to the house on an errand from a neighbor, and Hamilton, remembering that the messenger's father had been a go-between in the feud story he had been hearing, noted the lad with interest. Indeed, his appearance was striking enough in itself, with his drooping form, his extreme paleness, and his look of exhaustion.
"How far is it from the Burtons, Uncle Eli?" asked Hamilton.
"Eight miles," was the reply.
Hamilton stared at the mountain boy. Judging from his looks he was not strong enough to walk a hundred yards, yet he had just come eight miles, and evidently was intending to walk back home that evening. Then Hamilton remembered that this lad was one of the "poor whites" of whom he had read so much, and he strolled toward the messenger who was sitting listlessly on one of the steps.
"Howdy!" said the newcomer in a tired voice.
Hamilton answered his greeting, and, after a few disjointed sentences, said:
"You look tired. It must be a long walk from the Burtons."
"Jes' tol'able," the boy answered. "I'm not so tired. You f'm the city?" he queried a few minutes later, evidently noting the difference between Hamilton's appearance and that of the boys in the neighborhood.
"Yes, New York," answered Hamilton.
But the stranger did not show any further curiosity and Hamilton was puzzled to account for his general listlessness. He thought perhaps it might be that the boy was unusually dull and so he asked:
"Are you still going to school?"
A negative shake of the head was the only reply.
"Why not? Isn't there a school near where you live?"
"Close handy, 'bout five miles," was the reply.
"Then why don't you go there?" questioned Hamilton further.
"Funny time for holidays," the city boy remarked.
"Not gone fo' holidays."
"Oh, I see," said Hamilton, "you mean he's gone for good. But aren't you going to have another one?"
"Dunno if he's gone for good," the mountain boy answered.
Hamilton stared in bewilderment.
"Cunjer got him," the other continued.
But this did not explain things any better.
"Cunjer?" repeated Hamilton. "You mean magic?"
The mountain boy nodded.
"Yes, cunjer," he affirmed.
"You're fooling, aren't you?" said Hamilton questioningly, "you can't mean it. I never heard of 'cunjer' as a real thing. There's lots about it in books, of course, but those are fairy tales and things of that sort."
"An' yo' never saw a cunjer?"
"Of course not."
"Reckon they don' know as much in cities as they think they do," the youngster retorted.
"Just what do you mean by 'cunjer'?" asked Hamilton, knowing that it would be useless to argue the conditions of a modern city with a boy who had never seen one.
"Bein' able to put a cunjer on, so's the one yo' cunjer has got to do anythin' yo' want."
"Sort of hypnotism business," commented the older boy.
"Dunno' what yo' call it in the city. Up hyeh in the mount'ns we call it cunjer, an' thar's some slick ones hyeh, too."
"But how did the teacher get mixed up in it?" queried Hamilton. "It doesn't sound like the sort of thing you'd expect to find a schoolmaster doing."
"He wasn't doin' it, it was again' him," the mountain boy explained. "The folks hyeh suspicioned as he was tippin' o' the revenoo men."
"Who did? Moonshiners?"
"Easy on that word, Hamilton," suddenly broke in the old Kentuckian, who had overheard part of the conversation, "thar's plenty up hyeh that don' like it."
"All right, Uncle Eli, I'll remember," the boy answered; then, turning to his companion, he continued "You were saying that some of the people in the mountains thought the schoolmaster was giving information to the revenue men."
"Some said he was. I don' believe it myself, an' most of us boys didn' believe it, but then the teacheh was allers mighty good to us."
"Did the revenue officers come up here!"
The mountain lad nodded his head.
"Often," he said, "an' when they come to the stills they seemed to know ev'rythin' an' ev'rybody. An' then some one tol' that it could be proved on the teacheh. It never was, but thar was a plenty o' people who believed the story. I didn't, but then the teacheh was allers good to me."
"But what did the revenue men have to do with the 'cunjering'?" asked Hamilton, desiring to keep his informant to the point.
"They didn't, it was the men on the Ridge."
"Do you know how it happened?"
"I know all about it," the lad answered, with a slightly less listless air, "for I was in school that mornin'. For a week or more we boys had seen ol' Blacky Baldwin sort o' snoopin' aroun' near the school, but as we allers crossed our fingers an' said nothin' so long as he was in hearin', we weren't afraid."
"What did you do that for?"
The younger boy looked at the city-bred lad with an evident pity for his ignorance.
"So's he couldn't cunjer us, O' course," he said. "Don' yo' even know that? Ol' Blacky Baldwin is a first-class cunjer, an' any one o' them can cunjer you with the words he hears yo' sayin'."
"But if this 'cunjer-fellow' was hanging around the school," suggested Hamilton, "why didn't you tell the master?"
"An' get Blacky down on us? You-all can bet we kep' quiet an' didn' even talk about Blacky to each other. Wa'al, that went on for a week or two. Then, one mornin', while we was all in school, a big storm come up, thunder an' lightnin' an' all. Suddenly, jes' after a clap o' thunder that sounded almos' as if it had hit the schoolhouse Ol' Blacky Baldwin walked through the door an' up to the teacheh's table. He was carryin a twisted thing in his hand, like a ram's horn, an' I knew it was his cunjerin' horn, although I hadn't even seen it befo'."
"What did the master say when he came in?"
"Nary a word. It was awful dark an' the thunder was rumbling aroun' among the hills. I took one look at Ol' Blacky Baldwin's face, an' then hid my eyes. I reckon the others did the same."
"His face was all shiny with a queer green light, sendin' up smoke, like ol' dead wood does sometimes after a rain."
"Phosphorus evidently," muttered Hamilton to himself, but he did not want to interrupt the lad now that he had started, and therefore did not discuss the point.
"He walked right up to the teacheh's table," continued the younger boy, "an' he pointed the horn at him, accordin' to one o' the boys who says he was peepin' through his fingers. I wasn't lookin', I wasn't takin' any chances. And then we all heard him say to the teacheh:
"'You air goin' to have a fall an' be killed. You air goin' to have a fear o' fallin' all your days, an' you air goin' to be drove to places where you're like to fall. By night you air goin' to dream o' fallin', an', wakin' an' sleepin', the fear is laid upon you.'"
"And that was all?"
"That was all," the mountain boy replied. "After a bit, I looked up and Ol' Blacky Baldwin was gone; the teacheh looked peaked an' seemed kind o' skeered, but he didn't say anythin'."
"Well, it was a little scary," said Hamilton. "I don't wonder it shook him up."
"That was only the beginnin'," the storyteller went on. "About half an hour after that, one o' the boys dropped his slate pencil on the floor an' it broke, so he asked the teacheh for a new one. The slates 'n' pencils was kep' on a shelf over the teacheh's chair, an' he got on the chair to reach one down. We was all watchin' him, when suddintly he give a groan an' his eyes rolled back so's we couldn't see nothin' but the whites; his face got all pale, an' his lips sort o' blue; he reeled an' was jes' goin' to fall when he sort o' made a grab at the shelf an' hung on as though he was fallin' off a cliff.
"Two of the bigger boys, thinkin' he had a stroke or somethin', went up an' spoke, but he didn't answer, jes' hung on to that shelf. Standin' on the chair as he was, of course the boys couldn' make him let go, an' they couldn' make him hear or understan' a mite. So they pulled up a bench and one of 'em climbed up an' forced his hand open. Jes' like a flash Teacheh grabbed him so hard that he yelled."
"Just with one hand?" Hamilton queried.
"One hand. Wa'al, they pretty soon made Teacheh let go the other hand, an' helped him down fr'm the chair an' sat him down in it. As soon as his feet touched the floor, he let go the feller's shoulder an' sort o' lay back in his chair. He sat there for a bit an' then he leaned forward, put his hands on the desk, an' stared right in front of him, jes' as if we wa'n't there at all.
"'I thought I was fallin',' he said gruffly.
"We waited a while for him to begin agin, but he jes' sit there, lookin' straight in front of him, an' repeatin' ev'ry minute or two: 'I thought I was fallin'! I thought I was fallin'!'"
Hamilton shivered a little, for the mountain boy told the story as though he were living through the scene again.
"I don't wonder you got scared," he said. "Did he come to?"
"Not right then," the boy answered. "We waited a while an' then some of the fellers got up an' went out sof'ly. I went, too, an' the teacheh never even seemed to see us go."
"Didn't you think he had gone crazy?"
"We all knew it was cunjerin'," the lad rejoined "an' when we got outside the door thar was Ol' Blacky Baldwin waitin', lookin' jes' the same as usual. As I come by, he said, jes' as smooth, 'School's out early to-day, boys.' But I don't think any of us answered him. I know I didn't. I jes' took and run as hard as I knew how. An' when I got to the top o' the hill an' looked back, an' saw Blacky goin' into the schoolhouse again, I couldn' get home fast enough."
"Was that what broke up the school?"
"Not right away," the other replied. "Thar was some that never come nigh the place agin, but befo' two weeks most of us was back. Teacheh allers seemed diff'rent; ev'ry once in a while, one of us would see him walkin' on the edge of a cliff, or fin' him dizzily hangin' on to somethin' for fear o' fallin'."
"How long did that go on?" queried Hamilton.
"'Bout a month, I reckon. An' Teacheh was in trouble more'n more all the time, because folks wouldn' have him boardin' 'roun', same's he'd allers done."
"Wa'al, he'd wake up in the night screamin', 'I'm fallin', I'm fallin',' and no one wanted to have a ha'nted teacher in the house. An' Blacky Baldwin, he jes' hung aroun' the school, and we-all would see him every day, mutterin' an' laughin' to himself. Then, suddintly, Teacheh disappeared, an' though we hunted fo' him everywhar, he wasn' found. We-all reckoned he had fallen somewhars, but I've thought sence that p'r'aps he jes' went away, goin' back to the city, and leavin' no tracks so's to make Ol' Blacky Baldwin believe he'd be'n killed."
"That sounds likely enough," Hamilton said. "But even if he did get away, I don't believe that he'd want to come back."
"I reckon not," the mountain boy agreed. "Anyway, the school's shut up now."
"How about the revenue men?" asked Hamilton.
"They haven't be'n here sence Teacheh went away," was the reply. "An' I reckon they're not wanted."
The boy stopped short as the old mountaineer came over to where he was squatting and gave him a long answer to the message he had brought. The old man read it to him from a sheet of paper on which he had penciled it roughly. Bill Wilsh listened in a dreamy way, and Hamilton wondered at his seeming carelessness. The old man read it twice, then, rising to his feet, the boy repeated it word for word and without so much as a nod to Hamilton, slouched off in a long, lazy stride that looked like loafing, but which, as Hamilton afterwards found out, covered the ground rapidly.
"Do you suppose he'll remember all that, Uncle Eli?" asked Hamilton in surprise.
"He? Oh, yes," the mountaineer replied, "word for word, syllable for syllable—that is, fo' to-day."
"He must have a good memory," the boy exclaimed "I'm sure I couldn't."
"But he'll forget every word by to-morrow," the other continued, "almost forget that he was hyeh to-day at all. That's why they're so hard to teach, those po' whites, what they learn doesn't stick. I heard him tellin' yo' about the disappearance o' the last teacheh."
"Yes, he was putting it down to 'cunjering.' Is there much of that sort of idea in the mountains?"
"None among the mount'neers proper," replied the old man. "Some o' the po' whites down in the gullies talk about it, but thar's mo' difference between the folks in the gullies an' on the Ridge th'n there is between the mount'ns an' the Blue Grass. They are different, an' they look different, too."
"Bill Wilsh certainly does," agreed Hamilton, "but I thought at first it was because he was tired out with a long walk after a day's work."
The Kentuckian shook his head.
"They're all that way," he said. "They jes' look all beaten out as if they hadn't any life left in them at all. I reckon the most o' them have hookworm, too, an' they just look fit to drop."
"Hookworm, Uncle Eli? What is that?" asked the boy.
"It's a queer kind o' disease," the old man answered, "that comes from goin' barefoot. There's a kind o' grub in the soil, and it works its way in. It's only jes' recently that it's be'n found out that the po' whites are peaked and backward because they're sick, and now they know a cure fo' it, why hookworm is being driven right out o' the South."
"Was there so much of it?"
"Puttin' an end to it will make useful American citizens out o' thousands o' poor critters that never knew what ailed them."
"But where did the 'poor whites' come from, Uncle Eli? What made them that way?"
"Whar they come from I jes' don' rightly know. I reckon I saw more o' them when I was down in Georgia, but the Florida 'crackers' are still worse off. Thar's not so many in the mount'ns an' those that are here live 'way up in the gullies. The sure 'nough po' whites, or 'Crackers' as they call them, belong to the pine belt, between the mount'ns an' the swamps o' the coast."
"Why are they called 'Crackers'?"
"I don' know, unless because they live on cracked corn and razor-back hog. It an't so easy to say how they begun. Thar's a lot o' French names, an' thar's a tradition that two shiploads o' Huguenots were wrecked off Georgia in the early days an' foun' their way inland, settlin' down without anythin' to start with, an' not knowin' for a generation or two whar any settlements could be foun'. An' thar's a lot o' folks that have just drifted down, down,—livin' jes' like the 'Crackers' an' often taken to be the same. An' the slavery system made it worse because thar was no middle white class—either rich or po', thar was nothin' between,—that is, down in that part o' the country. But yo' mus' remember that thar has been a great change in the last twenty years, an' that the children o' 'Cracker' families are doin' jes' as well as anybody in the South."
"How is that, Uncle Eli?"
"Wa'al, in the days befo' the war, the po' whites were jes' trash. The planters wouldn' have 'em, because the slaves did all the work; they wouldn' work themselves, an' they didn' own slaves. So they were worse off than the negroes an' even the black race looked down on 'em. But the war waked them up."
"They all fought for the South, didn't they?"
"Mos'ly all. They were food fo' powder, but I always reckoned they hindered more'n they helped. For the 'Cracker,' however, the war meant everythin'. It placed him side by side with the Southern gentleman, it strengthened the color line, an' jes' enough o' them made good to show the others thar was a chance fo' them, too."
"Then they started in to improve right after the war, did they?"
The Kentuckian shook his head negatively.
"No," he said, "at first they were far worse off than befo' because the Freedman's Bureau an' the carpet-baggers made trouble right an' lef'. The No'th had a fine chance, but the carpet-baggers were jes' blind to everythin' excep' the negro, an' the po' white was jes' as shabbily treated by the No'th as he had be'n by the South. Now that everybody is seein' that yo' can't make a negro jes' the same as a white man by givin' him a vote, thar's a chance fo' the po' white. I reckon the 'Cracker' as a 'Cracker' is goin' to be extinct pretty soon, an' the South is goin' to be proud o' the stock it once despised. Atlanta is the fastes' growin' city in the South, an' Atlanta is jes' full o' men whose folks weren't much more'n 'Crackers.' The po' white, in a few years, is goin' to be only a memory like the backwoodsman o' the time o' Dan'l Boone."
"That promises well for the South," said Hamilton.
"The boom o' the South is jes' beginnin'," the old man said, "an' if you're goin' to do census work this next year, yo' jes' watch the figures an' see whar the old South comes in. It's a pity you're goin' back to Wash'n'ton to-morrow, as I think yo' ought to see more o' this country befo' yo' go."
"I'd like to, ever so much, Uncle Eli," the boy answered, as he got up from the step and started for the big loft where he slept with the mountaineer's two sons, "but, even if I don't get a chance, I've learned a lot from you about the folk on the mountains and about the South generally."
The mountaineer nodded a good-night as the boy disappeared.
"Now thar," he said to his wife, who had been knitting stockings during the latter part of the conversation, and occasionally interjecting a word, "thar is a boy that is really achin' to know things. I wish Rube and Eph were more like him."
"Nothin' but hounds an' vittles worries them," the woman replied sharply, "but they an't none like city boys, an' I'd ruther have 'em the way they air than to come pesterin' with questions like Hamilton does you. I don't set any sort o' stock in it, an' I don't encourage him in sech nonsense."
The big Kentuckian smiled, and filled his corn-cob leisurely as he turned the talk to other things.
Early the next morning, Hamilton and the oldest of the two boys started on their fourteen-mile ride to the station, where the lad was to take an afternoon train for Washington. They had gone about three miles, when they came upon Bill Wilsh sitting on the stump of a tree by the roadside.
"I reckoned you-all would come along this way," he said, "an' I've be'n thinkin' more'n more 'bout Teacheh havin' likely gone to the city, an' not bein' dead after all. Yo' goin' to the city now?"
"I'm going to Washington, Bill," Hamilton answered.
"Is that the city?"
"It's one of them."
"Do yo' s'pose that'd be the city Teacheh went to?"
"I couldn't say, Bill," the lad replied, "there's no way of knowing, but it's likely enough."
"I was thinkin'—" the mountain boy began then he broke off suddenly. "I'm mighty partial to whittlin'," he continued irrelevantly.
"The best ever," interjected Hamilton's companion. "Yo' ought to have shown him some of your work, Bill."
"I was allers hopin' Teacheh would come back," said the boy in his listless, passionless way, "an' he seemed so fond o' the school that I whittled a piece to give him when he showed up agin. But now I reckon he an't a-goin' to come back. Does you-all reckon he'll come back from the city?"
Hamilton looked down at the lad, and wanted to cheer him up, but he could not see what would be likely to bring the schoolmaster back, and so he answered:
"I'm afraid not, Bill. But he might, you know."
"I reckon not. But I'd like him to know he a'nt fo'gotten in the mount'ns. I want yo' to tell him that thar a'nt be'n a week sence he went away that I an't be'n down to the school an' swep' the floor an' seen that his books was in the place he liked to have 'em be. I wouldn' want him to come back from his wanderin', if he still is wanderin', an' think he was fo'gotten. It an't much, I know, to sweep a floor," he added, looking up to Hamilton, "but yo' tell him an' he'll understan'. It's about all that I kin do. He'll understan' if yo' tell him."
Neither of the other boys spoke, and after a moment the mountain lad went on:
"An' when yo' see him, give him this, an' tell him it comes from Bill, his 'tryin' scholar.' He used to call me that because, although I wasn't learnin' much, I was always tryin'. An' yo' can tell him I'm tryin' still."
Reaching his hand into the bosom of his ragged shirt the boy pulled out a slab of wood four inches square. It was carved as a bas-relief, showing the schoolhouse in the foreground in high relief, with the wooded hills beyond.
"That's great!" exclaimed Hamilton. "I don't believe I ever saw better carving than that anywhere."
A momentary gleam of pleasure flashed into the boy's dull eyes, but he went on again in the same lifeless voice.
"Thar's the schoolhouse jes' as it was when he was here last, but it's never looked the same to me sence. I want yo' to give this to him an' show him, if yo' will, that I whittled it with the door open, jes' to show him we're lookin' for him back."
"But supposing I shouldn't meet him in the city?" queried Hamilton gently. "Washington is a large place and there are many other cities."
"I reckon you-all have mo' chance o' findin' him thar than I have hyeh. I reckon he an't goin' to come back hyeh, an' then he'd never know that we an't fo'gotten him, an' he'd think we was ungrateful. But yo'll try an' find him?"
Hamilton was conscious of a lump in his throat at the simple faithfulness of the mountain boy, and he said gently:
"Very well, Bill, if you feel that way about it, of course I'll try. But you haven't told me his name as yet."
"I was thinkin' o' that," the boy answered. Then he took from his pocket a home-made gum-wood case, and opening it, took out a small piece of paper and handed it to Hamilton.
"Be keerful of it," he said, "that paper tears mighty easy."
Hamilton smoothed the paper out on the palm of his hand, and looked at it carefully. It was a "copy," merely of pothooks, done in lead pencil, the strokes wavering and of differing slopes, and the whole so smudged as scarcely to be recognizable But, down in the corner, written in ink, in a firm, bold hand, were the words, "Very Good, Gregory Sinclair."
Hamilton copied the name into his notebook and, refolding the paper as carefully as possible in the same folds, he handed it to the barefooted boy standing on the road beside his horse's head.
"Did you-all read it?" he asked.
"Yes," said Hamilton.
"Did you-all see that he said 'Very Good'?"
"'Very Good' was what was written," agreed Hamilton, thinking of the wavering and smudged pothooks.
"I c'n do better now," the boy said quietly, "an' I've been tryin' jes' as hard as though Teacheh was in yonder schoolhouse. But thar's no one to write 'Very Good' on 'em any mo', an' I reckon thar an't goin' to be. But I'm trustin' that you'll fin' him an' you'll tell him that he an't fo'gotten."
Without a word of farewell, the boy struck into the woods and was lost to sight. The two lads started on their way, but they had not ridden a hundred yards when they heard a hail; looking back, they saw the mountain boy standing on a point of the ridge; and echoing down to them came the lonely cry:
"Fin' him, an' tell him he an't fo'gotten."
A MANUFACTORY OF RIFLES
Settling himself comfortably in the train for his long journey to the capital, one of the first things that Hamilton did was to take from his pocket the little carving that had been given him by the mountain lad and put it away carefully in his grip. Examining it closely as he did so, the boy was astonished to note the fineness of the work, and he realized that it must have taken Bill Wilsh all the spare moments of a long winter to finish it. The work was all the more surprising, Hamilton thought, since it had been done just with a single tool, a common pocketknife, and was yet as fine and delicate as though carved with a set of costly tools. He made up his mind to buy a set and send them to Bill Wilsh with the first pay that he got from his Census Bureau work.
Seated across the aisle from him was another lad about his own age, with whom Hamilton rather wanted to make acquaintance, but the opportunity did not arrive until the first meal, when, by chance, they found themselves on opposite sides of one of the small tables in the dining car. The usual courtesies of the table led to conversation, in the course of which Hamilton's companion dropped the word "census" in a manner which showed his familiarity with the progress of the work of preparation.
"Are you interested in the census?" asked Hamilton promptly.
"Rather," the other replied. "I'm going to work in the Bureau. As a matter of fact, I'm just going to Washington to get my appointment now."
"You are!" exclaimed Hamilton. "Why, that's exactly what I'm doing. It's queer we should meet this way."
"Are you going as an assistant special agent, too?" his new friend asked.
"I'm going to start in that way," the boy replied
"How do you mean 'start'?" the other queried. "I understand that work on the manufactures will last three or four months, and by that time all the other census-taking will be over."
"I'm going to try to get some of the population work as well," Hamilton explained. "I think it will be even more fun than the manufactures end, and I heard that they're going to put on a few population enumerators from those who have been on the manufactures work, admitting them without an exam. I think the population census gathering will be fine."
The other boy shook his head.
"I don't think I'd want it," he said, "at least not in a city, and I'm going to do the manufacturing work, of course, in a city."
"Where are you going to be?" asked Hamilton.
"I took the exam in 'Frisco," the older boy replied; "that's my home town, and I expect to work out there."
"That's quite a walk from here!" exclaimed Hamilton.
"I had to come to Washington," the boy answered "and so my people wanted me to go and see my sister down in Florida. She married a fellow who's busy reclaiming some swamp land down there, and he promised me a try at alligator hunting."
"That sounds prime," suggested Hamilton, "and I should think that in that reclamation work there would be lots of chance for it. It would be worth watching, too, just to see how they got at that work. I should think they would find themselves up against a pretty stiff job, engineering down in those swamps. And then there must be barrels of snakes, too?"
"Water moccasins and copper-heads mostly," said his friend cheerfully, "but you soon get so used to them that you don't mind them. It's very seldom that you ever hear of any one being bitten by a snake. They all seem more anxious to get out of your way than you out of theirs."
"And you're anxious enough, too!" remarked Hamilton.
"That's pretty good security, don't you think?" queried the older boy with a laugh. "When both sides want to get away, there's not much chance of a meeting."
"But how about the alligators?"
"That was real good sport," the other rejoined. "But I kept down to the smaller chaps most of the time. I don't suppose there's really very much danger, even in the big fellows, as long as you know just how to handle them."
"I don't think I'm particularly keen about handling them," answered Hamilton. "I shouldn't think the big ones would want more than about one bite to put you out of business."
"That's all right," the older boy admitted, "but what's the use of giving one that chance? Anyway, so I learned down there, it's not so much the bite that the hunters are afraid of as the stroke of the tail. It doesn't take such a big alligator to break your leg like a pipestem with a sweep of that long, scaly tail of his."
"But how do they catch them?"
"With a noose, when they're sunning themselves. An alligator lies on a bank, half in and half out of the water, most of the time, with his eyes shut. Sometimes he really is asleep, and sometimes he isn't. That's where the fun comes in. Of course, if you can get the boat right up to where he is, close enough to slip the noose over his jaws, you've got him all right. There's a knob on the snout that keeps the noose from slipping off, and he sort of strangles when you tow him through the water. But if you can't get there with the boat you have to go it on foot."
"You mean you have to get out of the boat and walk right up to his jaws?"
"Yes, just that."
"It doesn't sound particularly good to me," Hamilton remarked.
"It isn't nearly as bad as it sounds," the other replied. "As long as you don't make too much noise, and keep out of reach of his tail, you're all right. If you slip up, you want to jump out of the way about as lively as you know how. But he'll never come after you, or mighty seldom. If you get a slip-knot over his snout, and can throw a half-hitch over his tail, why, the biggest of them is easy enough to handle."
"But what are they caught for?"
"There's quite a steady sale. The big fellows are sometimes sold alive to parks and aquariums and circuses, but most of them are killed and the whole skins dressed and used for hanging on the walls of dens, like trophies. The real market is for the skins of the little fellows, which are made up into all sorts of alligator leather bags. Most of that stuff is imitation, but still quite a lot of it is real. It's plenty of fun catching the little 'gators, because even the smallest of them can give you quite a nip and a reptile three feet long is a handful. I did well enough out of it, because in addition to the sport I had, my brother-in-law let me have the skins of all those I caught myself. Some people, too, want to have baby ones as pets, but I don't think I'd want to have them around, myself, after they grew to any size," he added, as the boys rose and went back to the Pullman.
By the time the train had reached Washington the two had become thoroughly friendly, and Hamilton liked his new acquaintance so much that he would gladly have seen more of him than merely as a traveling companion. But as the other lad was going out to San Francisco, there was no likelihood of their being thrown together at all. Indeed, on his arrival, Hamilton found that he had been assigned to an Eastern city, so he had to bid his new-made friend "Good-by."
The exterior of the Census Bureau building was a disappointment to Hamilton, by reason of its unimposing appearance. Indeed, it was altogether too small for the purposes of the census, and during the rush of the decennial work, there were departments of the census scattered through various other buildings, adding no little inconvenience to the work. Accustomed to the New York structures, towering tens of stories into the air, the two-story red brick building of the census looked small to Hamilton, though comfortable and pleasant to work in. It was deceiving in its size, however, for the floor space was big and not much broken, and there seemed to be plenty of room. But it was not until the boy returned after his population work some months later, that he saw this building as the center of unparalleled activity.
"I understand," said the chief of the manufacturing division to him, "that you are desirous of coming to the Census Bureau as one of the permanent force, not just for the decennial period only?"
"Yes, Mr. Clan," was the boy's reply, "that is, if the Bureau is willing."
"That will depend entirely on the work you do. I didn't see your papers personally, but I understand you received a high rating, and that you have had a good deal to do with figures.—That is, for a youngster," he added, noting the youthfulness of the lad standing before him.
"Yes, sir, I have," answered Hamilton.
"What made you think of taking this work up?" was the next question.
"Because I like it, sir."
The divisional chief leaned back in his chair, put his fingers together in characteristic attitude, and smiled.
"Eh," he said, "you are sure you will like the work?"
"Quite, sir," said Hamilton in his decided way. "I looked it all over, and I know."
"You will be less sure of the future when you are older," the Scotchman said, "but if you 'know,' there's nothing more to be said. I'm going to put you under the care of Mr. Burns, and he will instruct you further in the work."
"But, Mr. Clan—" began the boy.
"Where am I going, sir?"
"New Haven, Connecticut—a good town, and one that will give you plenty of work. You'd better start for there to-night. I hope you will like it as much as you expect."
"Thank you, sir," Hamilton replied, seeing that his superior deemed the interview at an end. "I'll do the very best I can."
On arriving in New Haven the following day, Hamilton made his way to the local Census Office opened by his new leader. He found Mr. Burns to be a typical statistician, to whom figures had a meaning beyond themselves, but to whom little was of value unless it could be expressed in figures. Hamilton introduced himself briefly.
"You're Noble," the other said abruptly. "When will you be ready to begin?"
"Any time," answered Hamilton. "Right after lunch, sir, if you want me to make a start."
"There's a portfolio," the census agent answered, "take it along and you can begin just as soon as you're ready."
"What instructions have you to give me, sir?" asked Hamilton.
"I save eleven and a half per cent of the time given to instructions by writing them. You'll find a copy in there," he said, pointing to the portfolio.
"Very well, sir," the boy replied, "I'll go ahead, and if I find anything I don't understand, shall I come and ask you?"
"Telephone!" the census agent said. "Quicker to 'phone even if only in the next room. Average conversation, six minutes; average telephone conversation, two minutes; average value of my time for six minutes, eighteen cents; average cost of 'phone for two minutes, one cent; direct saving to me seventeen cents, not counting time of your traveling to come and talk. No! Telephone!"
"All right, sir," Hamilton answered, "I'll 'phone," and realizing that his new chief had the question of the valuation of time down to a fine point, he hurried away.
On reaching the hotel he examined his portfolio with a great deal of curiosity. The schedules were familiar, for one of the features of the examination he had taken had been the filling out of such a census schedule from financial statements of a group of factories. The written instructions, however, were thoroughly characteristic of the man, and percentage figures were scattered around like punctuation marks. But the explanations were clear as crystal, none the less, and gave no opportunity even for telephoning.
An old New England center, and a college town, New Haven proved a most interesting field in which to work. By far the larger number of people with whom the boy came in contact were of old American stock and gave him every assistance possible.
"The census-taker?" one old man said, when Hamilton called. "Come right in the office and sit down. Now tell me what I can do for you," and when the boy mentioned the principal items of the schedule, the manufacturer spent a good hour working over the books with his office force to get out the figures desired. When Hamilton thanked him, he replied:
"I'm an American, Mr. Noble, and one of the stones they moved from the old churchyard of the Old Center Church and that bore the date 1681 was the tombstone of my direct ancestor. I think you'll find most of the New England stock proud of the United States and only too glad to do anything they can to help the government in its census or anything else for the good of the country."
"I'm sure of it," the boy said heartily, "but there's mighty few of that old type left. There's not ten per cent of the people in the country now that are real bred-in-the-bone Americans."
"It is a pity," the old man said, shaking his head, "and the worst of it is that even that ten per cent lives principally in the country. It's the cities that influence the progress of the nation. We talk about making these foreigners over into our idea of what Americans should be, and we forget that all the time they are influencing us to become the kind of Americans they think we ought to be."
"I guess that's true," the boy said, "because in New York, where my folks live, the old New Yorkers seem entirely strange and out-of-place in the dash and glitter."
"Of course," the New Englander replied. "The real Americans are plain, solid people; it's the Jewish strain in New York that has brought about the display of wealth, and to the large number of Southern Europeans are due the colors, the lights, the music, the public dining, and all the rest of it. It may be the American of to-day, but it isn't what Americanism meant a few years ago."
"A good deal of New York life does seem foreign in a kind of way," said Hamilton, "and I'm glad," he added, as he closed his portfolio, "that the Census Bureau put me at work in one of the old-fashioned towns first."
As the boy went on in his work he came to find how thoroughly the spirit of Yale was felt in the town. Almost all the leading business men were Yale graduates, and instead of displaying the "town and gown" hostility of some university places, New Haven was inordinately proud of its college. Of course, even in such a town, there was quite a proportion of foreign-born manufacturers but the boy found that the Jewish establishments were even easier to tabulate than those owned by Americans, the Hebrew understanding of the details of business being so thorough.
"That's not so very detailed!" one of these remarked to Hamilton when the boy had come to the end of his list of questions.
"It's a relief to hear somebody say that," answered the young census-taker with a laugh, "because I hear a dozen times a day the complaint that no one could be expected to know as much about a business as these schedules require."
It was not to be expected that the work would proceed without an occasional hitch, and Hamilton had one such with a firm of Italian marble-cutters in which the bookkeeping had been of so curious a character that it was next to impossible to get out the kind of figures the government wanted. Another was in a small Chinese place, where they made little trinkets to sell to tourists in the "Chinatown" districts of the larger cities, representing them to be imported articles of value. Another was with a small place run by two brothers, Persians, making fringes and tassels for fraternal order badges and matters of that kind. It was interesting to the lad, for he had the chance to see the works in a number of cases, and he learned a lot about the way many queer things were made.
But Hamilton's hopes were set on visiting one especial manufacturing plant in New Haven, and he had determined to ask that he be allowed to go over it before he left the town. This was the great sporting gun works. Hamilton was passionately fond of sport, and had owned a Winchester ever since he was twelve years old. Indeed, he had read up on guns a good deal, and it was one of his hobbies.
His delight was great, therefore, when at the end of a long day, after he had turned in his schedule to his chief, the latter said:
"Noble, your work is good. Johnson is faster. Up to last night he had turned in one, decimal five-two per cent more establishments than you, but your proportion of capital invested is larger, showing that the works you went to took more time. Your schedules are better. This takes a little over one-fifth more of my own time than I had figured at first. I was going to do the Winchester works myself. I think you can do it. You had better go ahead. It's complicated, but they'll help you all they can. There's not much time left."
"Very well, Mr. Burns," said Hamilton decisively with the characteristic raising and lowering of his eyebrows, "I'll get all there is, all right."
The next morning, about ten o'clock, Hamilton presented himself at the general offices of the company on the outskirts of the town, about a mile from the college. He asked to see the business manager, and was granted an interview.
"Mr. Arverne," said the boy, "I called with regard to securing the figures for the census of nineteen hundred and ten."
"But you are not the special agent surely?" said the manager, looking at him sharply.
"No, sir," the boy answered, "Mr. Burns is the special agent, and I am one of his assistants."
"I should have thought Mr. Burns would have come himself," the man said; "you are young for this work, aren't you?"
Hamilton flushed at this reference to his boyish appearance, but he answered steadily: "Yes, sir, I believe I am younger than most of the assistant special agents, but I have had a good deal to do with figures."
"Burns is a good man," the manager continued. "If the government has men of that stamp all over the country, the statistics will be invaluable. You know Mr. Burns?" he added suddenly.
"Only just since this work began, Mr. Arverne," the boy replied.
"Queer chap. I don't believe he eats a bit of food or drinks a glass of water without mentally figuring the nutritious percentage in the food, and the effect of his drink upon the water supply of the world."
"He is a little that way, sir," he said.
"A little!" the manager exclaimed. "But to return to the point. You didn't tell me why Mr. Burns didn't come himself."
"He said that the office work was piling up, sir," answered the boy, "and—if you don't mind my saying so, Mr. Arverne—he spoke of it as an opportunity for me, since it was the largest plant in the city and my schedules had been the most complete of those turned in to him."
The manager eyed the boy keenly.
"Mr. Burns doesn't make many mistakes," he said, after a moment, "and if he has confidence in you, he knows what he is talking about. This is a country of young men anyway, and it seems to be getting younger all the time. Where is the schedule?"
Hamilton handed him the paper and sat back, waiting. Several minutes passed, while the manager went over the questions item by item.
"Yes," he said at last, "I think our books can answer every question there without difficulty. We keep very complete books. I am not so sure, Mr. Noble," he continued, "that I can give you those figures immediately in just exactly that form."
"In what points do your books differ?" asked Hamilton quietly.
"Not in any essentials, but in a few minor points," the manager replied. "For example, you want to know here the exact number of employees on our pay roll on December 15th. Now I could have the pay roll department—we keep it as an entirely separate department here—turn up instantly the payments for the week in which that date occurs, but in order to separate that one day from the week, reference will have to be made to the Employment Bureau to find out what workers left, and how many were added, and the day of the week on which each of these left or began work in that week, and to add or to deduct such sums from the weekly pay roll."
"That difficulty has come up several times," said Hamilton, "because not many people pay their employees by the day. But in nine cases out of ten, an average for that week is usually struck, figuring in some cases by the days and in others by the hours. I suppose you noticed that the schedule itself states that what is sought is 'a normal day'?"
"I saw that," was the reply, "but it seems to me that when possible it is better to have all the details carried out to the full. However, even that is not the most serious difficulty of these questions."
"No," said Hamilton, "that one hasn't given much trouble. The hitch usually comes just at the point you're looking at now—the cost of materials."
"That's just exactly it. Our non-productive departments consume a great deal of material, mill-supplies and fuels, but if we include those with all the rest of it, our figures will not show a right proportion."
"What do you mean by your non-productive departments?" asked the boy. "That seems rather a curious phrase."
"Those in which the work done is not directly a part of the making of guns or ammunition. For example, we have a large force of draughtsmen working on new models of rifles and mechanisms and on machinery to enable us to make the new types. We make all the machinery that we use, right here in the plant. We make our own tools, too, so that there is a great deal of designing."
"Those are not non-productive," commented Hamilton.
"We call them so," was the reply.
"I don't think the Census Bureau considers them as such," said Hamilton, feeling rather proud of this opportunity to explain some of the workings of the Bureau; "it seems to me more satisfactory to consider that these works not only manufacture guns, rifles, and ammunition, but also machinery and tools."
"But those are for our own use!" objected the manager.
"Yes, of course, I see that," said the boy. "But even if you do use them yourselves, you make them yourselves. If you leave them out in the schedule it would make the figures all wrong."
"How would it?"
"Well, the schedule wouldn't show anything paid out for machinery, and you've got to have machinery, and you'd seem to be paying wages, without getting anything for it. It seems to me that even if you do use the machinery yourselves you really sell it to yourselves, only at cost price or at whatever figure you name."
"I suppose in a sense we do," said the business manager, "but that seems a very roundabout way of getting at it."
"I don't think it is," Hamilton replied. "If you bought the machinery you would have to pay the manufacturer his profit. Instead of that you make the profit yourselves. The value, of course, should also be carried to the capital account."
"Well," the older man said, "I'm willing to put it down either way, and in that light these departments might be called productive, although not directly productive. You seem to have figured this sort of business out pretty well for a youngster," he added.
"I suppose that's natural," Hamilton answered, "because I've been doing nothing else for the past two weeks."
"Then how about advertising," the manager suggested; "perhaps you can tell me where that is usually listed? As part of the sales force?"
"No, sir," was the prompt reply; "it is reported as a miscellaneous expense."
"Very well," the official said, "if you come back at four o'clock this afternoon I will have the schedule ready for you." Then, seeing that the boy hesitated, he said, "Did you want it before then?"
"Oh, no, Mr. Arverne, thank you," the boy answered "that wasn't what I had in mind at all. I was wondering whether, if I came back at three o'clock, I would be allowed to see something of the works. In quite a number of places I have been shown through the plant, sometimes because I had to get figures from managers of different departments, sometimes because I had a few minutes to spare while a clerk was filling up the schedule. But I've always been so interested in guns, and especially in Winchesters, that I really should like to find out how they're made."
The business manager shook his head dubiously.
"We very rarely show any one over the plant," he said, "because there is very little to be gained by it. And in any case, there are some portions of the works where visitors are never allowed, such as ammunition rooms where there are quantities of powder about, and similar places."
"I'd like to be able to say that there was a desire on the part of the Census Bureau for a report," said Hamilton, "but honestly I haven't the right to say so. I'm only asking as a favor. At the same time I have seen special reports on selected industries issued by the Bureau, and possibly my information might chance to be of value to the special agent who was getting it up."
"Come back at two o'clock, then," said the manager. "One of the members of the Board, Mr. Nebett, is here to-day, and if he has no objection I'll try to find some one to show you round."
Promptly at the appointed hour, Hamilton handed his card to the doorman, who showed him into a waiting-room. In a few minutes the door opened, and a keen-looking, well-set-up man appeared who came forward and held out his hand.
"I've been hearing about you from Mr. Arverne," he said, "and he tells me that you want to look over the works."