« AnteriorContinuar »
[BEGUN IN THE NOVEMBER NUMBER.)
THE GRAYSONS: A STORY OF ILLINOIS.*
BY EDWARD EGGLESTON,
Author of “ The Hoosier Schoolmaster," “ The Circuit Rider," "Roxy," etc.
A BEAR HUNT.
“She 's gone up stream,” he said, “bound to make her hole at Coon's Den, 'f I don't
git there fust.” OB MCCORD had that He returned to the prairie and ran breathquick, sympathetic appre- lessly along the edge of the woods for the ciation of brute impulses better part of a mile; then he dashed into the which is the mark of a timber, and pushing through the brush until great hunter. Given a bear he reached a cliff, he clambered down and or a deer in a certain place, stood with his back to the head of a ravine at a certain hour of the tributary to the valley in which Broad Run
day, and Bob would con- flowed.' He was breathless, and his flimsy jecture, without much chance of missing, in lower garments had been almost torn off him which direction he would go and what he by the violence of his exertion and the resistwould be about. In a two-hours' beating-up ance of underbrush and rocks; in fact, raiment the ravine he found no traces of bears. He never seemed just in place on him; the vigorthen faced almost about and bent his course ous form burst through it now on this side to where the illimitable western prairie set and now on that. Hearing the dogs still beinto the woods in a kind of bay. Why he low him, he knew that he had come in time to thought that on a hot day like this a bear intercept the progress of the bear towards the might be taking a sunning in the open grass heap of rocky débris at the head of the ravine. I cannot tell; he probably suspected Bruin Once in these fastnesses, no skill of hunter or of an excursion to the cornfields for “roas'in' perseverance of dogs would have been suffiears.” At any rate his conjecture was correct. cient to get her out. Pup, beating forward in great leaps, with his The bear was soon in sight, and Bob saw head above the grass, caught sight of a female that the nearly exhausted dogs were taking bear making her way to a point of timber greater risks than ever. Little Seizer was farther down the run known as Horseshoe particularly venturesome, and was so much Neck. When the bear saw the dogs she quick- overcome with heat and fatigue, and so breathened her leisurely pace into a lumbering gal- less with barking, that it was hard for him lop. Pup's long legs were soon stretched to to get out of the way of the bear's retorts. their utmost in eager leaps which soon brought “She 'll smash that leetle ijiot the very nex' him in front of her; Joe, when he came up, an- time, shore,” muttered Bob with alarm; and noyed her at the side; and stout little Seizer, though he knew the range to be a long one, watching the chance whenever she was mak- he took aim and fired. Unluckily the infuing an angry lunge at Pup, would bravely nipriated Seizer gave the bear's heel a particuher heels and so make her turn about. Before larly savage bite, and at the very instant of she could get her head fairly turned the fiste Bob's pulling the trigger she turned on the little would turn tail and run for his life. Bob tried dog, and thus caused the ball to lodge in her to get within range before the bear should disc right shoulder just as she was striking out appear in the forest, but as soon as she saw her- with her left paw. She barely reached the dog, self near the timber she charged straight for it, and failed to crush him with the full weight refusing to strike at Pup, and wholly disregard- of her arm, but with her claws she lacerated ing the barking of bob-tail Joe, or the proximity his side and sent him howling out of the fray. to her heels of Seizer. She quickly disappeared Now, wounded and enraged, she recognized in from sight in the underbrush, and the embar- the hunter her chief enemy; and, neglecting rassed dogs came near losing her. A few mo- the dogs, she rushed up the ravine towards ments too late to get a shot, McCord came run- McCord. Bob poured a large charge of powning to the woods at the point of her entrance. der into his gun, and, taking a bullet from his He examined the brush and listened a moment, pouch, he felt in his pocket for the patching.
* Copyright, 1887, by Edward Eggleston. All rights reserved.
A moment he looked blankly at the oncoming fence, twilight had begun to bless the overbear and muttered “Gosh!” between his set heated earth. teeth. There was not a patch in his pocket. “Got a b'ar, did n' choo, Bob?” said Old He had put some pieces of patching there in Lazar, who was lying in wait for Bob. the darkness of the morning before leaving “ To be shore, Uncle Lazar. Whadje exhome, without remembering that his pocket peck?” was bottomless. He stood between a wounded “Come in, Bob, wonch yeh? I got a fresh bear and her cubs, and there was no time for jug full uv the critter yisterday, un I 'low you deliberation. He might evade the attack if 're purty consid'able dry agin this time. You he could succeed in getting up the cliff where purty much al'ays air dry, Bob.” he had come down, but in that case she “Well, Uncle Lazar, I am tol’able dry un no would reach her hole and he would lose the mistake. I hain't had nuthin' to drink to-day battle. He promptly tore a piece from the 'ceppin' jes branch water, un water 's a mighty ragged leg of his trousers, and, wrapping his weak kind uv a drink fer a pore stomick like ball in it, rammed it home. Then he took a mine. 'N' I 'm hungry too. Don' choo 'low cap from a hole in the stock of his gun and S'manthy could rake up a cole dodger some'ers got it fixed just in time to shoot when the about ? " bear was within a dozen feet of him. Uncul- “Oh, stay tell she gits you some supper.” tivated man that he was, he had the same • No, Uncle Lazar; I could n' stop a minute refined pleasure in the death-throes of his vic- noways. They hain't got nary thing t eat 't tim that gentlemen and ladies of the highest our house. Len’ me your mare to git this 'ere breeding find in seeing a frightened and ex- varmint home?” hausted fox torn to pieces by hounds with “I could n', Bob. I 'm thes uz willin' to bloody lips.
'commodate ez anybody kin be, but I've promBob's first care was to look after Seizer, ised the mare to one uv the boys to-nightwho was badly wounded but whose bones to — to go a-sparkin' weth.” were whole. The afternoon had passed its "Oh, sparkin' kin wait. What 's a feller middle when he shot the bear, and by the want to go sparkin' a Friday night fer? Tell time he had cared for the dog and dressed him to wait tell Sunday, so 's the gal 'll have the animal the sun was low on the horizon, a clean dress on." and McCord was troubled lest he should “But I 've gi'n my word, Bob.” have delayed too long the execution of “ Your word hain't no 'count, un you don't his stratagem for the confusion of Jake fool me, Uncle Lazar," said Bob, with a broad Hogan.
grin. “Your mare 's a-goin' to town to-night, Another man might have been considerably un ef she sh'd git a bullet-hole into her who'd embarrassed to dispose of the bear. But Bob pay the funeral ixpenses ? " proceeded to skin it and then to divest it of This consideration went for a good deal every part that was of little value. Then he with Lazar. hoisted the carcass to his shoulder and tossed I say, Bob," he said, coming closer and the bear-skin on top. Taking up his rifle, and speaking low, " is they goin' to be shootin' tobalancing his burden carefully before start- night? ing, he went swaying to and fro down the “ Uv course they is, un plenty uv it. Don' ravine, choosing with care the securest places choo know 't the sheriff's gi’n bonds, un 'f'e among the rocks to set his feet in. It was lets a prisoner go he's got to pay the damages ? thus that Samson went off with the great gates Un them town fellers is sot agin lynchin'." of Gaza. McCord was a primitive, Pelasgic Seeing S'manthy in the cabin door strainsort of man, accustomed to overmatch the ing her attention to the utmost, Bob spoke ferocities of Nature with a superior strength loud enough to reach her ears. “Lookey h-yer, and cunning. Lacking the refinement and Uncle Lazar," he went on; "d' you reckon 't complexity of the typical modern, this an- that feller that 's a-goin' to git your mare shot tique human is more simple and statuesque; to-night 'll gin you a whole quarter uv beareven the craft of such a man has little invo- meat fer the use an' the damages ef she 's lution. There was a joy in his bloody victory shot?” over the most formidable beast in his reach This last hint had the desired effect. that was virile and unalloyed by ruth or “ 'T ain't no use a-talkin', Daddy," S'manthy scruple - a joy like that which vibrates in called out; “I hain't a-go'n' to let a' ole frien' the verses of Homer.
like Bob McCord pack that-ar great big b'ar It was a good mile to Lazar Brown's, where all the way over to Timber Crick on his shoulBob hoped to find a horse to take his bear ders ez long 's my name 's S'manthy. Un I home. When at length he stopped to lay his hain't a-go'n' to have the marshot. So thar 's burden on a salient corner of old Lazar's rail 'n eend auv it.” S'manthy's common “uv”
or "uh" for “of” became “auv when she Bob was in a brown study, and nothing was wished to be particularly emphatic and full- said on either side for nearly a minute. It mouthed in a declaration.
made Bob uncomfortable to reflect that he “Good fer you, S'manthy," said Bob. “You had come near losing the game at the outset. sh'll have the best leg this critter 's got. Take “I 'low 't 'll go hard weth the young feller
to-night." A rusty ax was brought out, and Bob stopped This roused McCord from the reverie proa moment to examine its serrated edge. “I duced from his surprise. say, Uncle Lazar, ez this a’ax ur a saw? From “I reckoned the boys 'u'd be a-goin' to the aidge uv it, I sh'd call it a saw.” Then with Moscow to-night," he said; and added, “ Let a laugh he proceeded to cut off a liberal quar: 'em go!” And then he laughed as though he ter of the bear, while S'manthy's ten-year-old knew something. tow-headed boy was sent to “ketch up the “Say, Bob," said Uncle Lazar, whose curimar',” which was nibbling grass on the far- osity was piqued beyond endurance, “what's ther side of a patch of broad-leaved cotton- in the wind? What wuz it fotcht you all the weeds. When the quarter of bear-meat had way over h-yer un the eenquest a-goin' on so been hung up at the north end of the cabin, closte to your house?” Lazar got out his jug and Bob began to sat- “Had n' got no meat,” said Bob, with a isfy the longings of his colossal thirst, while wink. S’manthy set out on the pine table which stood They 's sumpin more in that. You've in the middle of the floor some “ Kaintucky got sumpin ur nuther on Jake, I 'll bet.” corn-dodger,” as she called it; and despite “I ’ke speck you know a whole lot, Uncle Bob's protest against staying till she could Lazar," said Bob.“I sh'd think you 'd jest cook some supper, she put a bit of fat salt pork right up un guess now.” in the skillet to fry. Meantime the old man “Well, I can't.” plied Bob with more whisky, both before and “Well, I 'm not a-goin' to let 't out, Uncle after eating. When he thought it time for this Lazar, 'thout this 'ere whisky uh yourn 's a to have taken effect, he began to try to satisfy leetle too powerful fer me.” his own curiosity.
Bob did not fear the whisky: it was rare “D' joo hyer about the carner's eenquest, that whisky could get the better of such a Bob ?” he said cautiously, feeling his way to- frame as his; and, moreover, he was inured to wards his point.
it. He only threw out this hint to persuade “No, I did n't. You see I hain't seed no- his host to be more liberal in dispensing it. body but the bear, un he wuz the ign'rantest But it appeared that Lazar's liberality with critter. Could n't tell me nuthin'." And Bob his whisky was probably exhausted; and Bob laughed at his own wit, as was his custom. rose to go, affecting to be unsteady on his “How 'd it go?” Bob had wanted to ask legs. this question, but he wished to let Uncle La- “ Set down, Bob; set down, while I see zar begin.
about the mar'." “Well, I hyern f'om Raphe Jackson, thes “Well, I 'low I will, Uncle Lazar. That now, that the jury said 's Lockwood come to air whisky uh yourn has settled into my feet 'is final eend ut the han's uv Tom Grayson, a leetle.” ur sumpin like that; un they said 't wuz reg'- Lazar went out to see if the boy had lar bloody murder in the fust degree. My! brought the horse, making a signal to his ef that was n't a mad crowd! They made a daughter to try her skill at coaxing Bob to rush fer Grayson, but the depitty shurriff 'd tell. Meantime Bob ogled S’manthy, who, like got 'im away. Ef they 'd 'a' cotcht him they Delilah, was debating how she could win this would n't 'a' made two bites uv him."
Samson's secret. Presently he said, in a half“ You don't say!” Bob was a little stunned. tipsy tone: He had not thought of Tom's being at the “S’manthy, you 'n' me wuz al'ays good inquest. He felt that perhaps in coming away frien's, wuz n't we?” he had made a mistake that had come near “ To be shore, Bob.” to being a fatal one.
“I used to think you wuz some at a hoe“ They wuz thes a-howlin', Raphe said, un down; you wuz the best lookin' un the livelithey had n't lef' the place when he come away. est dancer uv all. How you did kick the They wuz made madder by the way the young floor!” scoundrel stood up un declared 't he did n' S'manthy smiled in her faded away. “Bob, know nuthin' about the murder, arter 't wuz that 's all saf'-sodder, un you know it. Say, proved on him, plain 's the nose on a man's Bob, ef you 're sech a frien’ why on yerth face, an' the dead man a-layin' right thar don' choo tell a-body what fotcht you over afore 'is eyes.”
“Aw, well, I'd tell, on'y I'm afeared you'd Bob now went to the brookside and cut up let out.”
and stripped three or four leatherwood bushes, “ Not me. 'T aʼn't like me to blab.” and tied the tough, fibrous bark into one rope.
“Well, I don' mine tellin' you, S'manthy, 'f With this he girded the bear to the horse's yeh won't tell the ole man tell mornin'." back, meantime resisting all of Old Lazar's in
“Oh! I 'd never tell him. He'd go potterin' quiries about the reason for his coming. At all over Broad Run Holler weth it, fust thing." length he walked oft in the darkness, unstead
“'S the bes' joke,” said Bob, rubbing his ily leaning against the horse on which the knees exultingly; “ but I 'm afeared you 'll bear-meat was tied; and was soon out of tell," he added, rousing himself.
sight. “ 'Pon my word 'n' honor, I won't. Nobody “ Bob won't tell me,” said the old man 'll ever git 't out uh me.” And S’manthy em- plaintively, as he came into the house. phasized this assurance by a boastful nodding “ He won't, won't he ?" demanded S'manof the head forward and to one side.
thy, with exultation in her voice. “You don' “Well, 'f you
you kin keep the sekert know how. Takes me to git at a sekert.” overnight - Don' choo tell no livin' critter “ Did he tell you, S'manthy?" Uncle Lazar tell mornin'."
looked a little crest-fallen. “ I hain't no hand to tell sekerts, an' you 'd " In course he did. Think I could n' make orter know that, Bob.”
him tell? W'y, I kin thes twis' Big Bob 'roun' “Well, you jes let Jake 'n' his crowd go to my little finger.” Moscow to-night," said Bob, chuckling in a “Well, what on yerth did he come over yer semi-tipsy, soliloquizing tone. “I come over fer, S'manthy ? " to make shore they wuz a-goin', un I wuz to “I promised not to tell you." let the sher'f know ef they had got wind uv “ To be shore you did. But you 're a-goanything. I saw Markham, the deppitty, about in' to.” I o'clock this mornin', un he tole me he'd “ Yes; but you 'll let it out, un then what look arter the eenques un I mus' keep a look- 'll Bob say to me?" out over h-yer. Jake 'll have a rousin' time, “What 'll Jake say to you fer lettin' yer hoss un no mistake."
go off, when one uv his boys had the promise ? “ Shootin'?” queried S’manthy with eager- Un what 'll the folks say when they find out ness.
you knowed, un let 'em be fooled by Big Bob ? “ Naw! I wuz on'y a-lettin' on about You've got to tell, S’manthy, ur else have all shootin' to fool Uncle Lazar. Hain't got no the Holler down on yeh. Besides, you could n' needcessity to shoot. Better 'n that! Gosh!” keep that sekert tell bed-time, noways, un you
“Goin' to take the young feller away?" know you could n'. 'T ain't in you to keep it,
“I 'low they did n't never take him back to un you might thes ez well out weth it now ez Moscow arter the eenques.'
arter awhile." “ Tuh law! You don't say? Whar 've they “Aw, well, Daddy, Bob did n' say much, tuck 'im to?"
on'y ut Jake would n'fine the feller that done “ I sha'n't tell,” said Bob.“I sha'n't tell the shootin' when he got to Moscow.” even you, S'manthy.”
“ Tuh law !” exclaimed the old man, wait“Perrysburg ?"
ing with open eyes for more. “ You al’ays wuz some at guessin'. But I ** He wuz tuck off, afore the eenques wuz sha'n't say nary nuther word, on'y he 's whar over, to Perrysburg, un Bob come over to see Jake won't find him ef he goes to Moscow. 't Jake did n'git no wind uv it. That's all they They went some'ers, un that 's anough. Per- is to it. Un you need n' go un tell it, h-yer rysburg jail 's ruther stronger 'n ourn, I 'll say un yan, nuther.” that. 'T wuz all fixed, 'fore I lef' home, to run S’manthy knew well that this caution was him off afore the verdick wuz in, un not to of no avail. But by tacking the provision to keep to the big road nuther, so 's Jake would the information, she washed her hands of ren' git wind uv 'em. Don't you whisper Perrys- sponsibility, and convinced herself that she burg to a livin' soul. You jes let Jake go down had not betrayed a secret. It was an offering to Moscow! I 'm comin' over 'n the mornin' that she felt bound to make to her own comto fetch your mare home un git my little placency. Seizer that's got to stay h-yer to-night, un then Uncle Lazar, for his part, made no bones. I 'll fine out how they come out.” And Bob He only tarried long enough to set his pipe to chuckled as he left the house, only turning smoking. back to say:
Bob McCord had stopped in the darkness "You keep mum, S'manthy, ur you 'll spile under the shade of a box elder, a little beyond it all. 'F you do tell, I won't never forgive the forks of the road. He presently had the
satisfaction of seeing the old man trotting
away through the cornfield towards a little Plunkett had not yet had his breakfast. He grocery, which was located where the big road was a well-built man, of obliging manners, but crossed Broad Run Hollow, and which was with a look of superfluous discreetness in his the common center of resort and intelligence face. Mason explained in few words that the for the neighborhood.
mother and sister of Tom Grayson, who had not seen him since the shooting of Lockwood, were at the door in a wagon and wished to be admitted to the jail. The sheriff regarded
Mason awhile in silence; it was his habit to HIRAM Mason managed with difficulty to examine the possible results of the simplest drive the first two miles of forest road-over action before embarking in it. He presently roots and stumps, through ruts and mud-holes, went up-stairs and came down bringing with and with no light but that of a waning moon. him the jail keys. Mason drove the wagon to When he reached Timber Creek bridge he got the jail, tied the horse to a tree, and suggested down and led the horse on its unsteady floor. to Mrs. Grayson and Barbara that it would Then came, like a dark spot in the moonlight, be better for him to go in first. He had a the log school-house, which reminded him vague fear that there might be something in that he was running away from his day's work. Tom's situation to shock the feelings of his He stopped at the new log-house of John Bu- mother and sister. The sheriff had walked chanan, a Scotch farmer who had been one briskly along the wagon track in the middle of his predecessors, and called him up to beg of the street to avoid the dew-laden grass on him to take his place. Buchanan, whose knowl- either side of the road. When he came to the edge was of the rudimentary kind, had ceased door of the jail he said in an undertone as he to teach because the increased demands of shoved the great iron key into the door : the patrons of the school had left him behind; “ Tom 's in the dungeon." it was a sort of consolation to his thwarted Why did you put him in the dungeon ? " ambition to resume the beech-scepter if only asked Mason. for a day. beech-şcepter
“We always put prisoners accused of murWhen Buchanan's house had been left be- der in there." hind, the road passed into an outskirt of small “ You might put an innocent man in that poplars and then finally shook off the woods place,” said Mason. and lay straight away over the dead level of “Well, there ain't much doubt about Tom's the great prairie. By the time the wagon being guilty; and anyways the jail 's so weak reached this point the dawn was beginning to that we have to put anybody accused of murreveal the landscape, though as yet the world der in the dungeon, where there ain't any outconsisted only of masses of shadow inter- side windows.” spersed with patches of a somber gray. But By the time he had finished this speech, the smooth road was sufficiently discernible Plunkett had admitted Mason and himself to for Hiram to put the horse into a trot, which the jail and locked the outside door behind afforded no little relief to the impatient Bar- them. The prison was divided into two apartbara. Up to this time they had traveled in ments by a hall-way through the middle. The silence, except for the groans and sighs of room to the left, as one entered, was called the Mrs. Grayson. But at length Barbara took dungeon: it was without any light except the the lead.
little that came through at second-hand from “I can't believe that Tom did that shoot- the dusky hall by means of a small grating in ing,” she said to Mason. “He promised me the door; the hall itself had a simple grated after supper last night that he would put all window at the end farthest from the outside hard feelings against George Lockwood out of door. his mind. Tom is n't the kind of a fellow to When the sheriff had with difficulty opened play the hypocrite. Oh, I do hope he is inno- the door of the dungeon, he could not see anycent!"
thing inside. “So do I," said Mason.
“Tom, come out,” he called. “To be sure, he is,” said Mrs. Grayson, Mason was barely acquainted with Tom, with a touch of protest in her voice. but he was shocked to see the fine-looking
Barbara had detected a note of effort in fellow in handcuffs as he came to the door, Hiram's reply, that indicated a prevailing blinking his eyes at the light, and showing a doubt of Tom's innocence, and she did not face which wounded pride and anxiety had speak again during the whole ride. When already begun to make haggard. they entered the village, Mason drove first to “Mr. Mason, I did n't expect to see you,” the sheriff's house, and went in, leaving Bar- said Tom. “Did you hear anything from bara and her mother in the wagon. Sheriff mother and Barbara ? "