His Vanished Star


IT was a great property, reckoned by metes and bounds. A day’s journey might hardly suffice to traverse the whole of his domain. Yet there was no commensurate money value attaching to these leagues of mountain wilderness, that bore indeed a merely nominal price, and Kenneth Kenniston’s was hardly the temperament to experience an æsthetic gratulation that his were those majestic domes which touched the clouds and withstood the lightnings and lifted up an awesome voice to answer the thunder, or that his title-deeds called for all the vast slopes thence down to the unimagined abysses of the abandoned mine in the depths of the gorge. It was the spirit of speculation that informed his glance with a certain respect for them, as he turned his eye upon the mountains, and bethought himself how these austere craggy splendors were calculated to impress the shallow gaze of the wandering human swallow. He even appraised, in the interest of possible summer sojourners, the rare, pure, soft air with which his lungs expanded. Science was presently set a-prying about the margins of rocky springs, hitherto undiscovered and unnoticed save by oread or deer ; a few blasts of dynamite, a great outgushing of exhaustless mineral waters, a triumphant chemical analysis, ensued, and an infusion of enthusiasm began to pervade his consciousness. Such resources — infinitely smaller resources — elsewhere in the world meant a fortune : why not here ?

He was an architect by profession, and the aspect of the world seemed to him parceled out in available sites. It cost his imagination, trained by study and enriched by travel, no conscious effort to perceive standing in fair proportions, turreted and terraced, finished to the last finial, the perfected structure of his projected summer hotel, on that level space above craggy heights, facing the moon and the valley, with the background of still greater heights, ever rising, heavily wooded, to the dome towering above. He saw it, as a true architect, in completion ; as the wren sees his builded nest, not as the single straw or wisp of hair. Yet the day of small things must needs be overpassed, — of straws and wisps, of struts and purlins, plates and tie-beams. His day of small things was full of wrangling and bitter bafflings, heart - burnings and discouragements. His partners in the undertaking had not been induced to cast their lot with his save by the exercise of infinite suavities of crafty eloquence, overpowering doubt and fear, and indisputable demonstrations of disproportionate profits in the very air. One was a seer in a commercial sort, an adept in prognosticating unexpected expenses for which no covenant of provision had been entered into, and he beheld fullarmed disaster menacing every plan save that of his own preference. The other had no imagination whatever, architectural or otherwise. He recognized no needs which required adornment, and measured the taste of the public by his own disposition to spend money to gratify it. That Kenniston’s plans should have come through the ordeal of their councils, with the ever lopping-off incidents common to the moneyed non-professional, retaining any residuum of symmetry or grace or beauty argued much for their pristine value. He regarded them for a time with a sort of pity and affronted tenderness for their maimed estate, but little by little the original intentions faded from his mental view, and he could see with renewed satisfaction the flag flying from the tower without remembering that he had held this octagonal gaud upon the building by main force, as it were, against the iconoclastic grasp of the practical men.

Nevertheless he was relieved to be free of their presence. He felt that it was well that their legitimate business — one as a stock broker, the other a realestate agent — held them to their desks in the city of Bretonville. The manifest purpose of their creation, he thought, was fully served in their furnishing forth their quota of the sinews of war. He was much younger than either, but be had learned something beyond their knowledge in this internecine strife, and when it became necessary to provide for them occupation, to prevent further interference in the venture which had come to be of most hopeful interest to both, he wrote to them touching the finding of a suitable man to keep the hotel when built, certain that in this quest for a Boniface he had set them by the ears, and relying on their different temperaments to keep them wrangling together and to leave him in peace.

Every sylvan detail of the scene pleased his artistic and receptive sense, as he stood on the great natural terrace, the site of the future building, and surveyed the landscape. It was a phenomenally felicitous opportunity. This plateau projected from a lateral spur of the Great Smoky chain, and faced the southeast. Thus the main body of the mountain range, diagonally across the Cove, seemed strangely near at hand; one could study its chasms and abysses, its jungles of laurel and vast forests, as it were from mid-air ; it was the point of view of a bird. Through a gap lower down, the parallel lines of the eastern ranges became visible, elsewhere hidden by the great boundary ridge, — a wonderful fantasy painted in every gradation of blue, from the slaty grayish hue near at hand under the shadow of a cloud, the velvet-like tones of ultramarine beyond, and still further the metallic hardness of tint as of lapis lazuli, till the most delicate azure outline of peaks faintly obliterated its identity against the azure eastern sky. All unflushed the sky was here, although to the left the clouds were red above the western mountains. They closely hemmed in the Cove, heavy, massive, purple and bronze and deeply green, in such limited latitude of color as their lowering shadows would lend. Far down their slopes the river ran, threading the deep forests with elusive glimmers of silver. He could not hear its voice, but from great cliffs hard by the silvery melody of the mineral springs beat upon the air with a rhythm inexpressibly sweet and wild and alluring. So definite it was that it seemed odd that one did not “ catch the tune.” In an open space some scattered sheep were feeding, — the effect pastoral and pictorial. The whole scene, with its blended solemnity and beauty and dignity, would well accord with the castellated edifice his fancy had set in its midst. It might indeed be a mediæval world upon which the windows should look, instead of the prosaic nineteenth century, so far it would appear from sordid to-day, so well would the fashion of the building aid the illusion, were it not for a section of the foreground immediately below the cliffs of the terrace, where there stood, bare and open and unsheltered, a primitive log cabin, a stretch of cornfields, a horse-lot, a pigpen, and all the accessories of most modern and unimpressive American poverty and ignorance. Being near, and bearing human significance, the prosaic little home seemed the most salient point, in its incongruity, in the whole magnificent landscape. The methods of the mountaineer furthered, too, the effect of antagonism. Along the side of one of the ranges near at hand, a great gaunt blackened area bore token of a “ fire-scald.” Kenniston’s eyes rested frowningly on this deep burnt scar upon the face of nature. It came from the pernicious habit of “ setting out fire in the woods ” in the autumn, to burn away the undergrowth and dead leaves, in order to give freer pasturage to wandering cattle. Here, as is not unfrequently the case, the fire, instead of merely consuming leaves, twigs, and shoots, had gathered strength and fury, burning the giant trees to great blackened, deadened skeletons, bleakly standing, and had devastated some hundred acres. He could see in the sparse shadows the cattle feeding on the lush herbage, and he ground his teeth to reflect upon the alarm any future conflagration would spread among the autumnal lingerers of summer birds, or the catastrophe that might ensue to the chateau on the rocks.

“ We must buy him out,” he muttered. “ He must be made to go.”

Kenniston’s heart was as heavy with presage as if his flimsy chateau stood on the cliffs behind him; for it was not to be mediæval in point of strength of materials.

The project of buying out Luther Tems seemed hardly so feasible as when first presented to the minds of the company. Their proposition to this effect had already been made to the astounded mountaineer, and rejected with a plump No. A second and better considered effort, coupled with a disproportionately large pecuniary consideration, had fared no better. There Luther Tems was, and there he meant to stay, as his father and his grandfather had before him to a great age, till Death bethought himself at last of these loiterers in so obscure a corner of the world, and, although belated, gathered them in. The company was now at its wit’s end. The place was an eyesore, a trail of the serpent in this seeming Paradise. It was, too, a source of danger and discomfort, and to seek to remove it was one of Kenniston’s errands here, as well as to confer with the contractor, in his dictatorial character as one of the company rather than the architect. His visit was so timed that he was on the ground a day or so in advance of his coadjutor, and in furtherance of his project had asked for quarters in Luther Tems’s house.

Far was it from Luther Tems, the fear of being over-persuaded. He was a lugubrious presentment of obstinacy, as he sat at his hearthstone. The immovable determination expressed in the lines of his face and the curve of his lips was incongruous with the other characteristics of his aspect. He was not of the gigantic build common among the mountaineers. He was singularly spare and alert, and there was something in his movements and in the lines of his figure which betokened that when endowed with more flesh it had expressed an unusual grace. His features were absolutely regular, and although the eye, sunken amidst a multitude of wrinkles and half hidden by the beetling eyebrow, no longer showed the fine lines of its setting and its pristine color and brilliancy, and his jaw was lank from the loss of teeth, and his well - cut lips were contorted over his quid of tobacco, he still exhibited to the discerning gaze of the architect enough traces of the beauty of his younger days to justify the feminine sobriquet of “ Lucy.” A good joke it had been in the Cove forty years before, but custom had dulled its edge and hallowed its use, and now he would have had to think twice before he saw aught incongruous in the appellation. It was a convenience in some sort, too, and averted misunderstandings, for his son bore his name of Luther. Although inheriting a share of his father’s good looks, it had been admixed with the “ favor ” of the Tates, his mother’s people, who were a tall, burly folk. He was heavier far than his father, and slower at twenty-four than “ Lucy ” Terns would be at eighty. The strong resemblance in their faces ended there, for naught could be more unlike the elder than the meditative composure with which the younger man sat and smoked his pipe, and now slowly rose and replenished the fire and seated himself anew, He had nothing in look or motion of the panther-like, dangerous intimation that informed the old man’s every gesture and glance. But this expressed itself with a certain supple, feline effect in his daughter, a tall girl, in whom the beauty of his youth was duplicated. She had the chestnut hair, the exquisitely fair complexion with its shifting roseate suffusion, the large beautifully set dark blue eye, the high narrow forehead from which the hair grew backward, but lying on the temples in delicate fibrous waves,— all the fine detail that had graced her father’s youth, and that had seemed so wasted on the wild scapegrace boy of the mountains, merely attaining the recognition of ridicule among his fellows, and valueless to its possessor. She wore a dark blue homespun dress that enhanced her fairness, and she sat in a low chair in the firelit log room and busied herself, with a monotonous gesture and a certain sleek aspect, in carding cotton. Kenniston had seen her previously, and in his preoccupied mind she roused no interest, neither then nor now.

He sat down by the fire, among them, much nettled to observe that there was a stranger, a man whom he had never before seen here, ensconced on the opposite side of the hearth. The shadow of the primitive mantelshelf obscured his face, and even when the fire flashed up it barely sufficed to show his burly figure in an attitude of composed waiting and observation.

His presence added an element of doubt and difficulty to the already troublous negotiation, and Kenniston, accustomed to civilized methods, ancl having expected to carry all before him, felt a sinking of the heart out of proportion to the value of the property he coveted. He had, in his experience, conducted delicate and difficult negotiations, involving large considerations, many parties in interest, and conflicting claims, to a successful issue. And yet, what enterprise so unpromising as to buy from a man who will not sell ! So did the half-masked presence of the stranger in the shadow shake his confidence that he did not at once open the subject nearest his heart. A short silence ensued upon the greetings, and he was fain to lay hold upon the weather as a subterfuge.

“It holds fair, colonel,” he said.

He used the title in secret derision, as the usual sobriquet of men of dignity and substance in the lowlands. He had scant faith in the existence of any discerning perceptions and delicate sentiments in the minds or hearts of people in homespun ; it had served to amuse him at his first meeting with old Tems, when he had not dreamed that so uncouth a character had a part to play upon the elaborate stage of his own future, which was a-building with such care and thought and hope, and he had laughed in his sleeve to observe the simplicity and acquiescence with which the fine title was accepted. He intended its use in no military sense, and he did not learn till afterward that old Tems carried a veritable title, which he had earned on stricken battlefields, and had later commanded a band of guerrillas whose name was a terror and a threat.

Tems took his pipe from between his lips. “ It holds fair,” he echoed drawlingly; then, “ Dunno fur how long,” as if to admonish any speculator in the weather to be not too happy in a vale of such incertitude.

“ All signs favor ! ” A sudden singing feminine tone pervaded the conversation.

Kenniston glanced up. In one corner, a stairway from the attic above came down into the room. A young girl, whom he had not before noticed, was sitting on the steps midway. From this coign of vantage she overlooked the room, and participated in the conversation when moved to do so.

Kenniston fancied that from some real or affected rustic shyness because of his presence she had sought this retirement, for she flushed deeply at his glance, and bent her head over a piece of rough mending which she seemed to be perpetrating on a jeans coat with a gigantic needle and a very coarse thread. She could hardly have seen very well to set the stitches, and as her side was toward him he could ill distinguish her face for the shadow and her industrious attitude and her falling hair.

Julia Terns looked up at her with a laughing glance, half raillery, half sneer. But the brother took up the question with an air of contention ; he wanted rain for his corn crop, and he believed the clouds must surely hold it in trust for him.

“ The fog war a-getherin’ along the mountings this evenin’, an’ I seen ’bout a hour ago a thunderhead a-loafin’ round over Piomingo,” he averred with a certain bitterness, as if to protest against the arguing away of these prospects.

“ Waal,” the singing voice, curiously vibrant, broke forth once more, “ we air likely ter git a good full rain, ez would holp up the crap ’fore long, but we ain’t goin’ ter hev no steady set o’ bad weather now. Signs don’t favor it.”

The old man again took his pipe from his mouth.

“ Ye-es. An’ a body mought b’lieve from yer talk that ef Satan war ter cotch us by the right leg this week, he ‘d be mighty likely ter turn us loose by the lef’ leg nex’ week.” He laughed sarcastically. “ All of us air s’prisin’ apt ter be suited, no matter how things turn out.” He replaced his pipe, adding, with the stem between his teeth, “ That s Ad’licia’s notion,” and then smoked imperturbably.

The little optimist looked at him with an indignant, affronted gaze for a moment, then bent once more to her sewing.

She had forgotten Kenniston, and her face was fully revealed in the moment that she had turned it on her critic, — an oval face, with a little round unassertive chin, a thin delicate aquiline nose, a small mouth with full lips, the indenture in the upper one so deep as to make it truly like a bow, and widely opened gray eyes that resembled nothing so much as moss agates. They were veiled by long, reddish lashes, and the hair that hung curling down about the nape of her neck was of a dull copper hue. Her complexion was exceedingly white, and she had that thin-skinned look which is incompatible with freckles as annuals; in those milk-white spaces about the eyes were sundry tokens of the sunny weather which even the dark days of winter would not obliterate. Her figure was slender, and she did not look strong. She wore a brown homespun dress, and she bit the coarse thread with a double row of small perfect white teeth as she addressed herself to threading her big needle anew.

“ Studyin’ ’bout the weather, an’ gittin’ onhappy ’bout yer buildin’ ? ” demanded old Tems of his guest.

There was a slight twist of the lips suggestive of covert ridicule on his part, as he asked the question.

Kenniston was totally unaware of furnishing in his proper person amusement to the mountaineer, but to his host he seemed a fool more bountifully endowed with folly than any other specimen of the genus with whom Tems had ever been brought into contact, and the projected hotel he accounted a ludicrous impossibility. It was his secret persuasion that most of the population of this country had been slain in the war ; he had himself seen much slaughter in its grim actuality. The idea that there were people who would wish to come long journeys to fill that vast projected structure seemed the most preposterous vaporing of imbecility.

“Ain’t they got nowhar ter bide?” he would demand, in incredulous pity for the homeless summer birds.

He had come at last to treat it in his own mind as a bubble, a mere brainless figment, and only his courteous instincts prevented this from becoming apparent, although now and again it was perilously near revelation.

“ Well, no ; I think the weather won’t affect my building for a good while yet,” answered Kenniston. Then, with a sudden afterthought, and perceiving the opening, “ I ’m troubled, though, about the blasting for the coal cellars and wine cellar. There will of necessity be quite an avalanche of fragments of the rock falling into the valley, and I wanted to give you warning of it before it begins.”

The look of attention deepened on the old face. The thin old head suavely nodded.

“ Thanky, sir. I feel obligated.” And old Tems relapsed into silence.

Kenniston was baffled for a moment, but presently he returned to the charge.

“ You and your family could leave the premises while the blasting was in progress. It might be inconvenient, but ” —

“ Yes — ye-es — ef so minded,” the ancient householder acquiesced.

“ By all means,” Kenniston pursued with more energy, stroking his brown whiskers with one hand, while he looked, keenly interrogative, at his interlocutor. “ There might be danger, positive danger, in remaining,” Then, seeking an ally, and taking hope from the quiescent silence of the stranger in the corner, “ You agree with me, surely ? ”

The Stranger laughed, a round, vigorous, elastic tone.

“ Waal, I reckon ole Cap’n Lucy is about ez good a jedge ez ter the dangers in dealin’ in gunpowder ez ye ’ll meet up with this side o’ Jordan. I’ d be willin’ ter leave sech ter him.”

“ Of course—of course,” Kenniston agreed hastily. “ Only I am anxious to have no sort of responsibility, — moral responsibility, I mean, — in case of an accident to any member of his family.”

He reflected that two of these were feminine, that the sex is to a unit a coward by open confession, and he sought to play upon their fears.

But once more Adelicia interfered to show the more hopeful side of things.

“ It s toler’ble fur from hyar, a right good piece,” she turned her head to say before she again bit the thread.

“ Not from the site of the first blasting ; the wine cellar will be under the billiard-room, which will be in the pavilion at this end of the bluffs.” He had waxed warm, excited. “ The rock could easily he flung as far as this, and even if no human life were endangered might kill horses or cows, or crash through the roof, or break down the chimney.”

“ Waal, the comp’ny is a good, solid, solvent comp’ny, ain’t it?” said the man in the corner unexpectedly, — “ respons’ble in damages ? ”

Kenniston recoiled suddenly, and Terns pricked up his ears, like the old warhorse that he was. The prospect of conflict in whatever sort was grateful to his senses, and he snuffed the battle from afar. In this, too, he saw his defense and his opportunity. Kenniston would hardly have conceived it possible that, with such inconsiderable adversaries, he could be routed in diplomacy. It was not, however, to bring matters to this point of view that his schemes were designed.

“ I hope there will be no need for a demand for damages,” he said stiffly. Then, driven back upon his last resource, the simple truth, he continued, turning toward the man in the corner, “ It has been partly to avert all dangers and troubles that the company has been trying to buy out Mr. Tems, at his own price.”

“ My h’a’thstone hain’t got no price,” said old Tems acridly.

Kenniston had thrown himself back in his chair with a dogged exasperation of manner. His hands were thrust into the pockets of his short flannel coat. His square chin, glimpsed in the parting of his full beard, was deeply sunken in its lustrous fibres. His lowering blue eyes were fixed on the fire, all aglow, for at this altitude the chill summer nights cannot dispense with the smouldering backlog. His legs, in their somewhat worn integuments of dark flannel and long boots, — for there are penalties to footgear and garb in clambering about these rough mountains, — were stretched out before him, and Adelicia’s cat found them convenient to rub against, as she arched her back and purred in the dull red light. He felt at the moment irritated beyond measure. This idea of a lawsuit, craftily interjected by the stranger whom he himself had called into the conversation, might seriously embarrass the proceedings of the company. It could be held in terrorem at every point. Nay, it might incite Tems to seek out occasion to make a pretext of injury. It added a prospect of indefinite discomfort and jeopardy to the already harassed present.

“ I kin b’lieve that. Cap’n Lucy, — I kin b’lieve that,” said the stranger, with a sudden outpouring of his full, mellow, rich voice. Its sonorousness and sweetness struck Kenniston only vaguely then, but he remembered it afterward. “ Ye want yer home, an’ the company wants yer hut.”

“ I don’t want thar money, — ain’t got no cur’osity ‘bout the color of it,” old Terns said tartly.

Neither of the younger Temses uttered a word. Luther smoked imperturbably, and Julia, as sleek, as lithe, as supple as a panther, bent her beautiful, clear-cut, distinct face above the cards, which she moved with a flexible elasticity that made it seem no labor. Every line about her was sharply drawn ; the very plaits of her glossy hair showed their separate strands, over and under and over again, in the coil at the back of her head. Against the dark wall she had a fixity, a definiteness of effect, like a cameo, in contrast with the somewhat tousled head which Adelicia held back to observe her completed industry. She lifted the mended coat in both hands before her, and contemplated the patch, set on indeed as if it should never come off again, but with what affront to the art of fine needlework !

She was not so absorbed, however, as to be unmindful of the disaffected state of feeling in the room below, and she must needs seek to improve it.

“ We ain’t so mighty easy tarrified, nohow,” she remarked, suavely addressing the information more directly to Kenniston’s pretended fears for their safety. “ An’ ez ter rocks failin’, an’ sech,” — she turned her head askew to better observe the effect of the flagrant patch, — “I hev tuk notice ez trees streck by lightning mostly falls whar thar ain’t no house.”

“’Kase thar be mighty few houses whar the trees he lef’,” observed old Tems, whose contradictory faculties were called into play every time she spoke.

“ Waal, fower hev fell, lightningstreck, sence we-uns hev been a-livin’ hyar, an’ nare one teched us,” she argued.

Kenniston caught his breath. “ How long have you been living here, colonel ? ” The secret gibe came back to him with the sudden secret renewal of his hope.

“ Five year, or tharabout,” growled old Tems.

“ Five year this comin’ fall,” put in Adelicia, with exactitude. “We-uns lived then nigher sunrise, on the flat o’ the mounting, over thar.” She nodded with her wealth of bronze curls toward the east to indicate the direction of the locality.

“ And if you would move then, colonel, why not now ? demanded Kenniston.

It seemed as if old Tems would not reply. So deep a scowl had corrugated his face that in its wizard-like aspect not the faintest vestige of his famous ancient beauty remained.

“ Burnt out,” he growled at last.

“ The fire-scald, ye see, " explained Adelicia, turning her oval face upon Kenniston.

It had an old-fashioned, even a foreign cast, was his superficial thought, as he gazed up at her in the dusky shadows of the staircase ; it reminded him of some antique miniature. But his recognized idea was expressed in the words, echoed in surprise and with a touch of dismay, “ The fire-scald ! ”

“ Fire war set out in the woods ter burn the bresh ; but the wind sprung up, it did, an’ the fire tuk the house an’ fence an’ all. Ye mus’ hev noticed the firescald over yon ? " Once more she nodded her head in intimation of the direction. “ Then we-uns moved down hyar an’ raised this house.”

Old Tems s surly, disaffected look caught her attention. “ But this hyar house air a heap better ‘n the burnt one; that war old, fur true, an’ I tell ye the wind used ter shake it whenst stormin’. Roof leaked, too. Roof war so old that the clapboards war fastened on with wooden paigs stiddier nails. My greatgran’dad — Cap’n Lucy’s gran’dad — did n’t hev much modern iinprovemints, leastwise in blacksmith’s gear, when he kem hyar ter settle from old Car’liny.”

She glanced down, smiling. Her strangely old-fashioned little face was lovely in smiling, but Kenniston did not heed ; he did not even hear her words ; he was absorbed in a train of thought that came to him as she talked.

She looked slightly ill at ease for a moment, perceiving the defection of his attention; then, as if to make the best of it, she turned her head and glanced over her shoulder at the man in the corner.

“ Ye hev hearn that ? ” she said.

He nodded. She saw the gleam of his full blue eye. “ They called East Tennessee the ‘ Washington Deestric’,’ alter them days,”he said, his big voice booming out. Then he went on to tell of an old house which he knew, in which wooden pegs also served as nails, as a set-off it might seem, to the ancient dwelling that perished in the " firescald,”and presently he was wrangling with old Tems as to the precise route that certain early settlers were said to have taken through the mountains, in which discussion even the silent Luther joined, and Kenniston was left undisturbed to his thoughts.

These thoughts were significant enough. He had seen this vast property of his only once before in all the years that it had been in his possession. It had descended to him in due course, with the rest of the paternal estate, at the death ot his father, who had been a successful merchant of Bretonville. He had had some little but well-restrained inclination for speculation, and these miles of mountain fastnesses were a single instance of it, looking to the future development of mineral resources. The abandoned mine in the gorge expressed the failure of hopes of silver and lead, which had led him only for a little while and only a short distance. He himself had never laid eyes on his purchase; but once, in a college vacation, the son, on a pedestrian tour, had stretched his legs to some purpose up and down these steeps and across the line. Kenniston remembered now for the first time how the face of the country had impressed him then, for the firescald had so altered its aspect. The slope where the quaint little ante-Revolutionary house was perched had then seemed high and steep. In building anew, Luther Tems had selected a site on more level ground, considerably removed from the area of the burnt, district. Possibly the fear of disaster when those blackened and decaying trees should finally complete their doom and fall, or the vicinage of springs for the essential water supply for man and beast, had served to influence his decision ; but he had certainly made a very considerable journey from his former situation, and cut a large cantle out of the Cove in his present settlement.

Kenniston’s mind was hard upon the trail of the boundary lines, as his absorbed eyes dwelt on the red tire. They were ill defined in his memory, for when the great body of a man’s land, numbering thousands of acres, bears a merely nominal price, a few furlongs amiss here or there in the wild jungle of the laurel are hardly worth the counting. In this particular instance the accuracy of metes and bounds made a difference all apart from actual values. It was his recollection that his lines included all those slopes to the “ backbone,” a high craggy ridge that ran like a spinal column adown the mountain mass. If this were the case, old Tems had inadvertently set up his staff of rest on his neighbor’s land, was himself a mere trespasser, and might be ejected without difficulty in due process of law.

Kenniston stirred uneasily as he contemplated this possibility. In its extreme unpopularity there was a very definite menace. He could ill afford to antagonize the whole countryside. The lawless, illogical mountain population would be arrayed as a unit against his interests. Even single-handed, old Cap’n Lucy seemed formidable, when active aggressions were contemplated. And he could appreciate, too, the seeming injustice, from the rustic standpoint, that, for the frivolous and flippant desire of keeping the landscape sightly for the fastidious gaze of the gentlefolk, an old man and his family must be turned out of house and home. Kenniston knew that although he might pay the full value of Cap’n Lucy’s improvements, the popular censor would account this naught if the mountaineer were forced to quit his home against his will.

Nevertheless law is law, and Kenniston could easily forecast the triumphant result of a legal arbitrament. Tems had not been ensconced here, within his own inclosures, claiming as his own, long enough to acquire any title under the statute of limitations, even if he could establish adverse possession. The property was his own, and he would satisfy even every moral claim upon him in paying the interloper the full value of his improvements. At all events, he would have the line run out. and perhaps the land formally processioned.

At the idea of prompt action in the matter, his full red lips, only partially visible through his beard and mustache, were pressed together firmly ; his teeth met with a certain stiffening of the jaw into a hard, determined expression ; his eyes were cast up suddenly over the primitive humble interior of the cabin with a certain impatience of its uncouthness, so at variance with the gala trim of modern comforts, so homely, so American, so hopelessly, desperately, the presentment of the unprogressive backwoods. Built five years ago, said they ! It might have graced the “ Washington Deestric’.” His white teeth showed, as he half sneered and half laughed. He would, if he might, with a wave of the hand, have swept it and all it represented out of existence ; nay, into oblivion. As his eyes came once more to their former point of rest, the fire, they suddenly encountered the intent gaze of the man in the corner. It discomfited Kenniston in some sort, although he could not have said why. His glance fell; he nervously uncrossed and recrossed his legs, and thrust his hands deeper into his pockets. A vague sense of sustaining covert enmity had begun to pervade his consciousness. He could not say whether this were induced by the mere inception of the unpopular idea of eviction, or whether it were a subtle perception of something antagonistic in the mental attitude toward him of the composed, watchful mail who sat in the corner. It was not a furtive observation. It dwelt upon him openly, deliberately, steadily. It held no element of offensiveness; it was so calm, so incidental, so apparently, so naturally, the concomitant of the thoughtful, contemplative pipe, which now and again his hand steadied, or removed to release a wreath of the strong tobacco smoke which pervaded the apartment. Yet Kenniston felt, oddly enough, that it was not an incidental observation. It was charged with much discernment. A discriminating analysis was, he instinctively knew, coupled with it, He began, on his part, to more definitely gauge the two or three fragmentary contributions which the stranger had flung into the talk. The allusion to the solvency of a company and its responsibility in damages savored of a knowledge far beyond the ken of the Cove, this region of primitive barter, where there is neither currency nor commerce ; where the operations of far-away courts are but faintly echoed, as of retribution overtaking some reckless and unwary criminal, and the provisions of the law seem merely futile and disregarded devices of lawyers who seek to live upon the people by their enforcement. Then the crafty contrast of the differing estimates of the house, the one as a home, the other as a hut, intimated some definite capacity to play upon the springs of human emotions. He wondered if he had ever before seen this man. He had a good memory, but he did not charge it with the various mountaineers he met, and sometimes he forgot their names, and occasionally their personality. He was restive under this slow, reflective gaze, and he pushed back his chair suddenly and walked away to the door. It was open and widely flaring, and he stood there as if scanning the weather signs.

For so long he had seen the castellated walls of his new building rise upon the great natural terrace of the mountain, above the series of crags, that he experienced a sort of subacute surprise to mark the loneliness and melancholy of the landscape. Only the pinnacles of the mists glimmered in the moon, as unsubstantial as the turrets of his fancy. Below were all the darkling spaces of the night-shadowed forests. Above, the heavily wooded slopes loomed vaguely in the dim light, for the moon was in her first quarter, here showing the gaunt face of a crag, and there a ravine made visible by thronging spectre-like vapors. The stars were bright. Near the great dome he marked the scintillating circlet of the Northern Crown ; its splendors seemed enhanced, he thought, by the vicinage of that towering, densely dark mass beneath. So still it all was ! He heard the silvery tinkle of the liberated mountain springs near his own site sounding with such freshness, with such elfin spontaneity, with such flexible fantasies of cadence, that one would have imagined he must surely have bethought him how featly the chorusing oreads were singing; it only brought to his mind anew the chemical analysis, and the hordes of valetudinarians waiting to bring all their ills, real and imaginary, to lay them, with more valuable considerations, at the shrine of his Spa.

His sense of difficulties and discouragements took on a new lease, and as he turned impatiently away from the door he almost ran against young Luther Tems, who had come to gaze upon the clouds with that humble, expectant wistfulness characteristic of those votaries of the weather, the farmer class.

“ Would you-uns jedge thar war rain in that batch o’ clouds settin’ ter the south?” he drawled seductively, as if he sought to influence favorably the unprejudiced opinion he asked.

“ I ‘m no judge of weather signs,” Kenniston returned succinctly, although in another mood it would have suited well his satiric bent to invent and promulgate a formula of fictitious barometrical science.

As he glanced loweringly toward the fireside group, thrusting his hands into his pockets and advancing with long steps to his former chair, he was quick to observe that the man in the corner seemed to have determined on a leisurely departure. He had risen, and was returning to his pocket a brier-root pipe, taking the sedulous pains to knock all the ashes out of it on the jamb of the fireplace, which betrays him whose pocket linings have more than once been the scene of an incipient conflagration. Kenniston regarded him, as he stood in the full light, with a disaffected interest, a sort of responsive enmity. And yet there was nothing of itself inimical in this man’s bearing. On the contrary, suggestions of good fellowship predominated in his open manner and clear blue eye. He was exceedingly tall, not judging by Cap’n Lucy’s elegant and slight proportions, nor by the burlier Luther’s height, but by actual measurement. It had been long since he had shaved, — his full yellow beard hung like a golden fleece far down over the breast of his brown jeans coat; his long, straight yellow hair, of the same tint, had its edges upturned in the semblance of curl by the obstacle of his collar. He had a large, bony, hooked nose, which gave a certain strength to his countenance. The fashion of the feature was such as to suggest sagacity in some sort, as of keen instinctive faculties, but its expression was as ferocious as that of an eagle’s beak. His mustache hid his lips and was lost in his beard. He wore great spurred boots drawn high over his brown jeans trousers, and a widebrimmed black wool hat. A faded red handkerchief about his neck now and again showed amidst the hirsute abundance, for he turned his head quickly and vigilantly. He had an air of selfconfidence which was somewhat imposing. It constrained in his interlocutor a sort of reluctant acceptance of his own estimate of himself. Kenniston, looking at him with an unacknowledged respect for the untrained natural forces his personality expressed, felt him to he formidable ; how, or why, or when, it was not manifest, nor in what sort his conciliation might be compassed, nor how it should be worth the effort. His bland phrases of departure set the man of etiquette ill at ease. Kenniston was accustomed, to uncouthness in the mountaineers, even to lowering looks and open expressions of enmity when he or his plans impinged on their prejudices; polite duplicity, the native of drawing-rooms, seemed strangely out of place in this region of paradisaic simplicity of feeling and manner. His own acute social sense and his valued commercial acumen had given him an intuition of this man’s aversion to him or his projects, or both ; but his hand was feeling yet the stranger’s cordial grip, and the sonorous invitation, “ Obligated ter hev a visit over at Lost Time,” was ringing in his ears.

Who is that man ? ” he abruptly demanded of his host, as soon as the jingle of the spurs and the sound of the horse’s hoofs were silent on the air. Then, seeking to make his question more incidental, he added, “ Seems to be a friend of yours.”

Cap’n Lucy and Luther looked at each other, exchanging a grin of derision. The two girls seemed unaccountably embarrassed.

“ Waal, stranger,” said the old man, “ he’s a widower, a sort of perfessional widower.”

Luther broke out laughing with a hearty joviality. It surely was not he who had been deluded by the clouds and made the sport of the winds ; it hardly seemed possible that he could take so much pleasure in aught save good prospects of the fruits of the earth.

“ He hev gin me an’ Luther a heap o’ trouble, an’ we-uns hev tuk a power o’ counsel tergether ez ter what we-uns war goin’ ter do ’bout it,” old Tems continued.

Kenniston, conscious that he had roused some standing joke, cast his slightly satirical glance from one to the other, and with a sort of scornful patience waited their pleasure to enlighten him.

Adelicia, with heightened color and an affronted aspect, was making a great show of inattention : while Julia, with her sleek, deft grace, went on impassively carding cotton.

“ He kenis hyar a-visitin’ the whole fambly, an’ thar he sets an’ sets; an’ Luther loses his sleep, till, follerin’ the plough nex’ day, he dunno the share from the plonghtail, nor Gee from Haw ; purty nigh fit ter fall in the furrow, jes’ walkin’ in his sleep.”

Once more Luther’s crude boyish laughter rang against the rafters ; this was at all events no Somnambulistic demonstration.

“ Ef thar was jes’ one gal in the fambly, Luther an’ me would git off gyard jewty ; but ez fur ez he lets on he jes’ kenis ter visit us all, — all ; an’ hyar we hev got ter set, an’ watch him cast sheep’seyes fust at one gal, then at t’other, till Luther an’ me air plumb cross-eyed, looking two ways at once.”

It was a great mutual possession to have so witty a father and so appreciative a son.

“ A’ fust,” continued the old man, when the filial hilarity had somewhat subsided, “ I jes’ felt like I could n’t spar’ either o’ the gals. Whenst my darter was born, the fust thing I done war ter buy me a shootin’ iron, express fur the fust feller ez kem a-sidlin’ round, talkin’ ’bout marryin’ her, an’ takin’ her away, an’ t tryin’ ter make her b’lieve ez he was a finer feller ’n her own dad ; an’ I did n’t know — the insurance o’ some folks is powerful survigrous — but he mought set up ter purtend ter be better lookin’ !

His daughter might seem to have shown her appreciation of his famous good looks by adopting them all. As she lifted her eyes and smiled upon the narrator, the brilliant and spirited beauty of her face might indeed be a welcome reminiscence of the time when he, too, wore so fair a guise, and impart a zestful relish of the resemblance.

“ An’ then Ad’licia, she kem hyar when her mother, my sister Amandy, died. My sister hed married a second time, a mighty mean man, an’ whenst I tuk Ad’licia — she war ’bout three year old — I jes’ said, ‘ Yer mam did n’t hev much jedgmint in marryin’, an’ I reckon ye’ll take the failin’ artcr her; an’ ye’ll show sech jedgmint ez ye kin l’arn in marryin’ nobody.’ An’ she agreed : she war n’t very young at three, jes’ sorter youngish ; an’ though people mouglit think she hed n’t hed a chance ter view the world on sech a p’int, she hed her senses powerful well in hand. So we made a solemn promise. An’ I felt plumb sot up till lately. I don’t want nare one of ’em ter marry. A fustrate man ain’t wuth a fifth-rate woman, much less a fust-rate woman,” he declared chivalrously. “ Leastwise, ye can’t git the gals’ daddies ter think so. An’ now, jes’ ez we air all so sot an’ stiddy in our minds, hyar kems this widower, this perfessional widower ; fur he don’t show no signs o’ bein’ nuthin’ else ! An’ we dunno whether he kems ter listen at Julia hold her tongue, or Ad’licia talk, or hear Luther praise God fur the weather, or ter git my best advice on politics. We’d do ennything ter git shet o’ him. He mought hev air one o’ the gals, ef he ’d only say which.”

And he chuckled as he gazed into the fire.

“ What’s his business ? Farmer, I suppose ? ” suggested Kenniston.

“ Naw; he hev got a leetle store,— powerful leetle trade, ’count o’ the crossroads store at the settlemint. though he trades right smart. Liberal, too. He ’ll take ennytliing, — load o’ corn, load o’ wood, sech like heavy truck ez thar ain’t no sale fur ginerally, ’count o’ the wagonin’ an’ roads bein’ so heavy. Whenst you-uns git yer railroad put through,” — he gave him a rallying wink at this aberration, as he esteemed the projected narrow gauge, — “ ye ’ll mend all that.”

“ Oh, yes ; you ‘ll be in touch with the markets of the world then,” said Kenniston, with his satiric laugh. “ Only a little question of freight rates between you and New York.”

This sarcasm did not cut so deeply as one might imagine. It would have been impossible to insert the idea — save with an axe — into old “ Lucy Tems’s brain that New York was more important and metropolitan than Colbury, or essentially more remote.

“ This Lorenzo Taft ain’t been so sociable till lately. That’s what makes me call him a perfessional widower,” old Tems went on, with a peculiar relish for the designation. “ He hev two childern, gal an’ boy, an’ the gal hev been with her gran’mam down in Blount County till the old woman died ; an’ now he hev got ‘ Sis,’ ez he calls her, with him, an’ he wants a step-mammy fur her! He ain’t a-courtin’ a wife fur hisself; he’s courtin’ a step-mammy fur ‘ Sis.’ An’ in course his sheep’s-eyes would go cornsider’ble furder with the gals than they do, ef they did n’t know that he air jes’ out a-trappin’ fur ‘Sis.’ ”

“ Waal,” said Adelicia suddenly, “ I dnnno ez folks onghter think hard of him fur that, ’kase ‘ Sis ’ did look powerful lonesome an’ pitiful, settin up all by herself mongst all the men at the store.”

“ Thar, now ! ” exclaimed Cap n Lucy triumphantly, makin’ excuses fur folks agin! I told ye ez ye could n’t hold out till bedtime ’thout excusin’ this one fur that, an’ t’other one fur which.”

“ Waal,” said Adelicia, “ it’s a mighty late bedtime.”

She was rolling up the coat as carefully as if a first-class triumph of needlework had been accomplished upon it.

“ ‘ Sis ’ did n’t ’pear ter me ter need enny lookin’ arter whenst I seen her,” said old Tems heartlessly. “ She ’peared ter he some fewer or five hunderd year old, an’ stiddy an’ settled ter accommodate.”

“ She be ’bout ten year old,” said Adelicia gravely.

“ I wonder,” said Cap’n Lucy, with a twinkle of the eye, “ I do wonder ef that thar pernicious way o’ makin excuses fur folks’s faults would hold out ef Ad’licia war ter set out ter be somebody’s step-mammy! ”

Luther suddenly held up his hand with an intent look, bespeaking silence. The rain was coming. From far away one could hear the steady march of its serried columns, now amongst the resonant woods, and now through open spaces, and again threading narrow ravines. A bugle blast of the wind issued suddenly from a rocky defile, and was silent again, and once more only the sounds of that resistless multitudinous advance pervaded the mountain wilderness. Already the influx of air from the open door was freighted with dank suggestions commingled with the odor of dust. For a panic was astir in the myriad particles that lay in heaps in the sandy road; they seemed to seek a futile flight in some inadequate current of the air, and were wafted a few paces along, to fall again upon the ground, and finally to he annihilated by the vanguard of the great body of the torrents. A tentative drop here and there on the clapboards of the roof, increasing presently to a brisk fusillade, and then all individuality of sound was lost in the tumultuous downpour under which the cabin rocked.

Perhaps it was because he had seldom been brought into such close intimacy with the elements that Kenniston found little sleep that night under the reverberating roof. He could touch it by lifting his hand in the tiny shed-room beneath the eaves, which was devoted to his use as a guest-chamber. At arm’s length, too, with but the thin barrier of the clapboards intervening, was the wild, riotous rain. He seemed in the midst of its continuous beat and thunderous splash, as its aggregations swept from the eaves into the gullies below, so entirely did its turmoils dominate his senses. Now and again the shrill fanfare of the triumphant wind sounded, and a broad, innocuous glare of sheet lightning illumined the little apartment through the multitudinous crevices between its unplastered boards ; for this addition to the house was not of logs, like the main structure. He could see, too, at intervals, as he lay in indescribable discomfort on the top of the big feather bed, the landscape without through the open door; for the heavy, close air had induced him to set it ajar. He found a certain interest for a time in these weird illuminations : the great mountains, slate-tinted in the searchingyellow glare, with clouds of white vapor hanging about them ; the rain, visible in myriads of fine lines drawn perpendicularly from zenith to valley, apparently stationary, as if it were some permanent investiture of the atmosphere ; the little porch, low-browed, on which the door of his room opened, and which leaked with a heavy, irregular pattering ; and half a dozen dogs lying there, having taken refuge from the storm. A scraggy cedartree close beyond held down its moisturefreighted branches, and amongst them he saw once a great owl, business interrupted for the nonce, staring at him with big yellow eyes, as it ruffled up its feathers against the rain.

He was conscious of sustaining the steady, sedate gaze of the nocturnal fowl even when the whole world would disappear as with a bound into the depths of darkness. As if the sound had been restrained by the presence of light, the tumult of rain would seem redoubled upon the roof. The unmannerly elements evidently disturbed no one else in the house. It was as silent as if no life beat within the walls. The very dogs were still. One of them, a fat, callow fellow, with an ill-appreciated sense of a joke, roused them once by facetiously snapping at a sleeping confrère’s tail, set wagging by the propitious happenings of dreamland. Whether it was that he had interrupted the gustful gnawing of a visionary bone, or simply that his elder was of a vicious temperament, he was soundly cuffed, rolled over on his fat, round sides, and sent shrieking under the house. He came out after some indulgence of vocal woe on a piercing key, and, perceiving Kenniston, Sought to make his acquaintance. Being a shaggy shepherd, his rain-laden hair diffused a peculiarly canine odor throughout the little room ; he was used to rebuffs, and it required but a single tweak of the ear to send him, depressed and discouraged, to prosaic slumbers among his kindred.

The lightnings failed. The world was plunged into unbroken gloom. The hours wore on into the deeps of the night. Once, as Kenniston was on the point of losing himself in sleep, he heard a shrill blood-curdling cry, searching out every nerve of repulsion in his body, — a panther shrieking from the terraces of his castle in the air. Even the fierce dogs, lifting their heads to listen, only whined and huddled closer together. When at last he dreamed, his mind clung close to the theme that held his waking thoughts. It was of processioning those wild acres of mountain fastnesses, and the serpentine lengths of the surveyor’s chain seemed alive as the chain-bearers dragged it writhing through the grass. And again he was taking off the hospitable roof beneath which he slept, and riving off the doors, and somehow Cap’ll Lucy was curiously helpless to resist this desolation of his roof-tree. But the man in the corner was plotting against him, and seeking to excite public animosity ; and while he was busy in counterplotting, suddenly Julia appeared, with a strange face, subtle and insidious and sinister, leading the panther which he had heard filling the night with terror. And he was frightened, and awoke.


Lorenzo Taft met the rain halfway to his own dwelling. He pulled his hat over his eyes and bent to his mare’s neck before its fury, and although the animal now and again swerved from the bridle path at the glare of the lightning, she carried her master steadily and fleetly enough; and it was not far from his reckoning of the hour that they should pass the Lost Time mine when a broad illumination of the skies revealed the great portal, gauntly yawning in the side of the range, where a tunnel had been made in the search for silver, and abandoned. He pulled up his dripping steed and seemed to listen. Water had risen within, evidently, from the infinite enmeshment of the underground streams and springs that vein the great range ; he heard it lapping upon the rocks, as it came pouring along its channel in the tunnel. It played around the mare’s fetlocks, and now and again the animal fretfully lifted her forefoot. Another flare of the weird, unearthly yellow light, more lingering, brighter, than the last, showed the swift clear flow of the current, the great bleak beetling rocks of the oval aperture, the trees on the mountain side high above it, and beyond, three hundred yards or so, a little log cabin set upon the slope, which was a gentler declivity here, surrounded by a few acres of cornfield, and the appurtenances of beehives, hen-house, and rickety barn common to the humbler dwellings of the region. He could even see. between the house and the steep ascent immediately behind it, the far-away crags, as the range rounded out, glimmering in the lightning down the vista thus formed.

It seemed the simplest of domestic establishments, and a forlorn little family group met his gaze as he opened the door and stepped within. The fire had dwindled to a few embers ; a flickering flare from a handful of chips flung on in anticipation of bis return, heralded by the sound of the mare’s hoofs, showed the unplastered log room of the region, more unkempt than is usual, and betraying the lack of a woman’s hand. The slight preparation for his reception was not the work of a boy of twelve, who sat soundly sleeping in a splint-bottomed chair, his whole attitude one of somnolent collapse, as if he had not a bone in his body, his round face white and freckled, his curly red hair growing straight up from his forehead, his slightly open red mouth of a merry carelessness of expression even in unconsciousness. On the opposite side of the fireplace a little girl was staidly seated. She had a narrow, white, formal little face ; thin light brown hair, short and straight and smooth, put primly back behind her ears ; a small mouth, with thin, precise lips; a meek eye, with a gentle lash. Her father looked at her with a sentiment of awe rising in his stalwart breast. “ Consider’ble older ’n the Newnited States, an’ I hed ruther keep house for a regiment o’ pa’sons,” he commented silently.

She wore a checked homespun dress, spotlessly clean, a dark calico apron, high-necked, buttoned to the nape in the back, shoes and blue stockings, which are rare among the children in the mountains at this season ; and despite her limited inches, she was as formidable a spectacle of perfect precocity and prim perfection as ever a man who liked to go his own gait had the pleasure of looking upon. Miss Cornelia Taft was entirely competent to see all that might be going on in her small world, and she had brought her own unalterable standards with her, in her pocket as it were, by which to judge.

There was a little unacknowledged weariness in her expression, and a certain stiffness as she got down out of her chair, which intimated that she was not quite equal physically to her intention to sit up for him. He was about to requite this after the usual manner of those favored with this feminine attention, but she had begun to rake out some Irish potatoes roasting in the ashes, and Lorenzo Taft’s remonstrance was subdued from his original intention.

“ Look-a-hyar, Sis,” he said, “ why n’t ye go ter bed? Ye must n’t sit up waitin’ fur me this time o’ night. I don’t eat no second supper, nohow.”

But he was presently disposing of the refection of potatoes, corn bread, and buttermilk in great gulps, while she looked on with her inexpressive, unastonished eye.

“ Why n’t ye make Joe go to bed ? ” he demanded. his mouth full, as he nodded at the sleeping boy.

The vaguest expression of prim repudiation was on her face. “ He ‘lowed he war n’t sleepy,” she said, with some capacity for sarcasm. She would have mended Joe as if he were a rag doll, but for his stalwart resistance. She did not expend herself in vain regrets. She had cast him and his tatters off forever, unless indeed he should come some day and sue to he made whole.

“ Waal,” said Lorenzo Taft, bending a perplexed brow upon her, jes’ let him be, an’ ye go on upsteers an’ go to bed. Ye ‘ll never grow no higher ef ye set up so late in the night.”

The child turned obediently toward the Stairs, or rather a rude ladder that ascended to the loft, while Lorenzo Taft paced back and forth in the room with a long, elastic stride, troubled and absent, and only conscious at the last moment that it was a look of the keenest curiosity that the little maid’s placid eyes cast down upon him just before she disappeared amongst the shadows of the loft.

He stood still, disproportionately perturbed, it might seem. Then he sought to reassure himself.

“ I reckon I ain’t much similar ter ole Mis’ Jinaway, nohow ; an’ ez she air useter a quiet, percise ole ’oman’s ways an’ talk, I mus’ seem toler’ble comical, bein’ so big an’ hearty, an’ take big bites, an’ talk loud, an’ ride in the storm.” He paused in the midst of his sophistry. Her look was so intelligent, so keenly inquisitive. “ She’s mighty leetle, but ” — his caution had returned — “ a ca’tridge o’ giant powder ain’t so powerful bulky. I hev got ter git somebody ter take keer o’ her, —or ter take keer o’ me, sure ! ”

If the small Cornelia Taft’s curiosity had been excited by what she had already observed, sbe would have thought his subsequent proceedings very strange indeed, could she have supervised them. But her placid little eyelids had closed at last upon her calm little eyes, and a very few gentle homesick tears for a place where they washed the dishes, and swept the floors, and slept in an airy room with the firelight flickering, and mended their garments; if amusement must be had, what gay times she and her grandmother had enjoyed, to be sure, when they raced as they knit their stockings, patusing twice or thrice in the evening to compare speed and measure the accomplished hose ! A very strange man she thought her father, and she would have thought him stranger still if she could have seen him presently take a lantern and cross the open passage to the other room of the log hut, which served as store. There were embers here as well, and as he barred up the door again they showed the array of gear needed for a country trade,—knives, shoes, shears, saddles, harness, rope, a little calico, sugar, coffee, salt, and iron. There was a counter at one side, on which stood the scales. It seemed a very commonplace structure, unless one should see him open a door into it on the inner side. This was not a cupboard, which might have been convenient ; it gave upon a door in the puncheon floor, which, lifted, showed a ladder leading to the cellar. He went through, feet foremost, closing the counter door after him as well as the other. He lighted his lantern, not with a coal or flint, as is usual, but with the more modern and progressive match, and then down the ladder he went very warily, for it was a somewhat slight structure, and he was a heavy man. It could be removed, too, in a moment, which added to its insecurity.

And still there was naught apparent which could justify so much caution. The lantern, now fairly alight, revealed empty boxes and barrels, and a scanty reserve of stock similar to the goods which the shelves above showed. He pushed a few boxes aside, took down a board or two of the wall in the rear, and in another moment was in one of the tunnels of the abandoned mine, the wall replaced behind him, and all his traces covered.

Surely, a man was never more ingeniously secure, he thought, as he went at a brisk pace into the depths of the mountain, and it would all he jeopardized by the influx into the Cove of a horde of tourists and summer sojourners that the projected hotel might bring. No exclusive aristocrat was ever more jealous of his seclusion From the roving of his kind than Lorenzo Taft. And then this danger of his own household, his own hearthstone ; this silent, disapproving, prying, perfect little primness !

He crossed water once. He never crossed it without remembering the instinct of the deer pursued to put a running stream between its flight and the hunter. The rivulet, very narrow here, flowed in a rocky bed at a swift rate. This was a tributary of the larger torrent that had flooded the mine, and, together with the small output and the inadequate prospect, had caused the work to be abandoned. Two of the miners had been drowned in the catastrophe, and this circumstance had doubtless contributed to the solitude of the locality. It was a place of strange sounds, with the forever-echoing rocks, and few curiosity seekers had ever ventured farther than the great outer portal of the Lost Time mine. Into this tunnel, with which Taft had joined a tunnel of his own secret workmanship, the water had not risen, albeit the lower excavations were all submerged ; and as he went dryshod, he heard the deft patter of his tread on the well - beaten “ dirt ” path multiplied behind him by the echoes into the semblance of many a following footfall. This illusion might have jarred less accustomed nerves, but Taft had heard this impalpable pursuit so long with impunity that he was hardly likely to heed it now. Something, however, that he sometimes heard, and that was oftener silent, he had learned to watch for, to fearfully mark the sound when it came, and to note its absence with a shuddering sense of vacancy and a chill suspense. It was like the sound of a pick continually striking into the earth, not with a hurried or fitful stroke, but timed with a composed regularity characteristic of the steady workman. Sometimes it seemed far away, sometimes immediately overhead, and again just underfoot. Those who heard it accounted for it readily enough. Who had set the ghastly superstition afoot none might say, but the belief widely obtained that the two lost miners thus wrought continually in the depths of the mountain, digging the graves that had been denied them on the face of the earth. To Taft, the familiar of the dark, the weird, and the uncanny, it, seemed a likely enough solution of the mystery, and he nothing doubted it. He could not account for another phenomenon, not so frequent, but often enough forced upon his contemplation to bring him to an anxious pause. Sometimes he heard, or thought he heard, voices, loud, resounding, distinct,— hailing, hallooing voices ; and again so uncertain, so commingled, were these vibrations, so repetitious and faint, that he could not be sure that they were not merely echoes, — echoes of the talk and mirth of the group of moonshiners whom another turn of the underground passage showed him at their work in the broader space of a chamber of the mine, where the great timbers still stanchly supported the roofing masses of earth, and the walls of sandstone bore freshly the gaunt wounds that the blasting liad wrought in their rugged sides.

Charles Egbert Craddock.