His Vanished Star
As they went, the deputy sheriff’s manner was little characterized by an official decorum. He seemed rather some bold roisterer who himself might have had ample cause to dread the law that he was sworn to administer. The rough humor of his sallies affected Espey as an incongruous sort of fun, taken in connection with his interpretation of their errand, and his recollection of the keen, sinister thin face, with its piercing dark eyes, and its sharp hooked nose, and the straight, menacing eyebrows meeting above it. He had this mental vision distinctly before his contemplation, as it had impressed him in the flicker of Mrs. Larrabee’s tallow dip, instead of the undistinguishable equestrian shadow that in the black night pressed close to his horse’s flank, and now and again laid a sinewy hand upon his arm. For the officer, in a spirit of mock confidence, was detailing, much to that worthy’s discomfort, the spectral fears of his friend from “ the t’other e-end of the county,” a professed ghost-seer, and making an elaborate pretense of sharing them. Now and again, with a sepulchral voice and an agitated manner, he would conjure Espey to say if he saw nothing flickering, waving white, in some open stretch of the road that lay vacant and vaguely glimmering in the starlight before them. Then, hardly waiting for an answer, he would burst into a whoop of derisive laughter, startling the solemn silence of the night-bound mountain wilderness, and rousing strange echoes of weird mirth from rock and ravine. More than once the uncanny tumult of these wild, insensate cries moved the staid comrades of the deputy sheriff to remonstrance.
In the distance and the night and their repetitiousness, the sounds seemed curiously unrelated to those that had evoked them.
“That ain’t no rocks a-answerin’ back,” said the man from the Gap. “ I b’lieve somebody is a-hollerin’ at ye.”
The officer turned alertly in his saddle to look back over his shoulder.
“ That would n’t s’prise me none,” said the capable deputy, whose large experience would seem to furnish precedent for any given phenomenon. “ I knowed a man out our way, — mighty loud talker and a toler’ble active cusser. — whilst callin’ hawgs, hed n’t tuk no special notice o’ the rocks answerin’, till one day whenst he war ‘ dad-burnin’ ’ an’ ‘ allfirin’ round till the very shoats looked blue. He stopped ter take breath, an’ he hearn a voice, powerful coarse, out’n the woods jes’ yellin’ like sin, ‘Fireburn ! ‘Fire-burn! an he knowed that minit who ’t war. An’ in course he jes’ hed n’t no mo’ interes’ in nuthin’, an’ jes’ dwindled away.”
He paused abruptly.
“But —but — who war it ez said ‘ Fire - burn ’ with a coarse voice?” breathlessly demanded the believer in spectral manifestations.
“ Why, Satan, to be sure, ye fool,” replied the deputy. “ I useter hear him myself a-callin’ in the woods, ‘Fireburn ! ’ whenst Ad Peters would git ter cussin’ his hawgs! Jes’ so”— He lifted his voice in a wild, fantastic cadence, and throughout the long stretches of the mountain fastnesses the words, as of some demented incendiary, echoed and reechoed, varied presently with mocking cries of unpleasant falsetto laughter, set astir when the officer’s gravity failed.
The patience of his friend had given way. “ Look-a-hyar, ’ Dolphus Ross,” he broke out angrily, “ this hyar ain’t no way ter go ter apperhend criminals, a-hollerin’ like a plumb catamount through the woods.”
“ I don’t want ter s’prise nuthin’,” said the crafty deputy sheriff, “ that is nuthin’ unyearthly, on its yerrands what no mortial knows about, an’ mebbe git s’prised myself plumb down ter the doors o’ the pit. Ye know them ez sees harnts either draps down dead or loses thar minds, one. They ’low nowadays ez all the crazies kem so from seein’ sperits. An’ ye know yerse’f, an off’cer of the law needs brains.”
“ Ef ye don’t know yer bizness no better ’n that, I be goin’ ter l’arn it ter ye. Ye ’pear mo’ like a jay-hawker ‘n a off’cer o’ the law,” retorted the other tartly.
But not even with this rude touch upon the sensitive nerves of official pride could he control the elusive and slippery deputy. “ That’s a fac’, Pearce. But the truth is, I be all-fired ‘feared in these hyar lonesome places, whar humans air seldom an’ few, o’ seein’ suthin’ or hearin’ suthin’ what no mortial eyes or ears air expected ter see an’ hear. So I like ter hear the sound o’ my own voice, — let ’em know I’m a-comin’. Even with two or three men with me, it’s so darned fur an’ lonesome!
I ’pear less like a hurnt myself, an’ less apt ter meet up with one, ef I make myself sorter lively. I’m a mighty quiet cuss in town. I’m a— What’s— what’s that ? ” he broke off sharply.
He drew rein suddenly, throwing his horse back upon the haunches. The two men behind him, coming forward at the swift pace he had set, collided heavily with the obstacle thus furnished them, a reckless proceeding here on the narrow rocky road, on the verge above the abysses of the valley on one side, and with the inaccessible heights of the mountain rising sheerly on the other. They stood between heaven and earth, on this craggy beetling promontory, with the pulsating white stars above and the dark depths of the gorge below. His sight becoming more accustomed to the night, Espey could distinguish through the clear darkness the fringed branches of a pine-tree clinging to the heights above and waving against the instarred sky, and below a vague moving whiteness which he knew to be the involutions of the mist in the valley. He too had drawn up his horse, slightly in advance of the others, and was looking forward in keen expectation of developments.
“ What’ s what? ” he demanded of the deputy, who was managing his rearing horse with considerable skill.
“ Something white — beckoning,” gasped the officer of the law.
Espey, with all the ignorant superstitions of his class, felt his blood run cold. Nevertheless he sought to reassure himself and his comrades.
“ Jes’ these elder-flowers, mebbe,” he said, breaking off a great bough from a bush rooted in a crevice of the crag, and so profusely blooming that the black night itself could hardly nullify its whitely gleaming graces. He received full in his face the cool spray of the dew and the sweet breath of the flower, all unheeding, for the officer again protested in a loud, broken voice : —
“ Beckoning — beckoning — Oh, my friends, somebody in this crowd is a sinner; somebody hev done wrong! An’ he may be a saint in the church-house, or leastwise familiar with the mourner’s bench, — an’ he may escape jedge an’ jury, — an’ he may cheat hemp, — but in the dead o’ the night an’ in the lonely paths o’ yearth he ’ll be betrayed by a v’ice, or he ’ll see a beckonin’ ” —
“ Oh, shucks ! ” interrupted the believer in “ liarnts.” “ I ’m a-goin’ back ter Mis’ Lar’bee’s.” He was essaying to wheel his horse on the narrow ledge. “ ’T ain’t my bizness ter go ’long with ye, ter apperhend crim’nals in the middle o’ the night. Ef ye can’t take ’em in the daytime, go ’thout ’em, I say.”
“ Some truth in that. I wisht I could jine ye,” said the deputy. " But my jewty lies ahead. I be bound ter go on ; an’ I reckon it can’t be so fur from Tems’s now, — air it, frien’ ? ” he asked, turning to Espey.
With a sinking heart, Espey replied that it was not very far, and the wonder as to what lay before him in the unknown scenes to which he sped in such haste reasserted itself in his mind, as the deputy rode briskly up alongside once more.
It required, perchance, only a moment’s reflection on the inexpressible loneliness of the miles of mountain woods, that must of necessity intervene before the shelter of Mrs. Larrabee’s house could be reached, to change the design of the deserter from the little party. The beat of his horse’s hoofs annotated his continued presence, and it was soon made even more indisputable by his raucous voice again lifted in remonstrance.
“Ye mus’ see, now, ’Dolphus, ez n’ise an’ ribeldry an’ gamesomeness don’t purvent ye from viewin’ sech ez ye air intended ter view. Sech goin’s-on ain’t lawful fur citizens, much less of’cers o’ the law.”
“ Ye ain’t gone back, then ? ” commented ’Dolphus over his shoulder.
There was no answer to this, and after a pause the facetious deputy went on : — “ I ain’t fur hollerin’ an’ rampagin’ an’ sech. I be a mighty quiet cuss in town, like I said, — a mighty quiet cuss indeed. The old man,” he alluded thus to the high sheriff, “ hesez ter me sometimes, ‘ I dunno, ’Dolphus, whether ye air in yer skin or no. Ye jes’ ’pear ter be settin’ thar, ’sleep or dead.’ Wunst he tole me ez I war n’t mo’ lively ’n jes’ a suit o’ clothes hangin’ outside the store door, an’ a suit would cost less ’n my pay ez a dep’ty. I tried ter brace up arter that.”
He had braced up considerably from the quiescent state he described if the sudden yell that he emitted might be received as evidence of his more stalwart condition. The sharp exclamations of surprise from the rest of the party afforded him intense delight, which was not mitigated by a blood-curdling shriek, as it were in response, set up by a catamount on the opposite heights, so close at hand by the direct line across the spaces above the valley through the air, despite the intervening miles of trackless mountain desert below, that they could hear the creature snarl before it lifted its thin, keen, inarticulate voice shrilling again into the black night.
There was no definite remonstrance, for he forestalled their outbreak, beyond a few words, by declaring tumultuously that he saw it again, — something a-waving, a-beckoning.
“No use talking ! ” he exclaimed. “ The guilty sinner is ’mongst us, an’ hyar he be ! ”
He leaned out of his saddle and passed one arm around Espey, pinioning the young fellow’s right arm to his side. Espey, startled beyond control, despite his expectation of this contingency, with which, however, hope and suspense had juggled painfully, detected with sharpened senses the dull clanking of handcuffs. He hardly knew how it came there, he had no definite intention of resisting arrest, but a pistol was in the hand over which the rude wristlets dangled ; a jet of red light that showed the dark-eyed, laughing, grimacing face near to his own, the whizzing of a bullet so close between the officer’s side and arm that the blazing powder singed and burned his “ store clothes,” an abrupt sharp report, and once more the night, rent by the sound, clamored with echoes.
From the dense darkness the officer’s voice, with a changed tone, a sharp note of surprise, was crying, “ Look out! Look out! ”
The other men were stunned with amazement. They had only a vague sense of struggling mounted figures which the darkness did not suffer them to descry. And suddenly a second swift funnel-shaped glare for an instant invaded the gloom, — it came from the officer’s pistol this time, — a second clamorous report rang amongst the rocks. The frightful, almost human scream of a wounded horse, a wild plunging on the side of the rocky bridle-path, and Espey and the yellow roan disappeared over the verge of the cliff. The three men standing in the road, hearing with sickening horror the dull thud far below, might judge of the terrors of the fall by the time elapsing before the sound reached their ears.
The household at the Tems cabin had been keeping late hours that night. Except for a certain reserve of cogitation, which at times held him silent with a burning thought in his eye, his superficially moving lips framing unspoken words, and occasionally a keen, sarcastic smile irradiating his features with the light of some satiric expectation, Captain Lucy had resumed his wonted aspect and mental attitude and the habits of his simple existence.
“ Ye fetch yer book out’n yer pocket,” he said imperatively to Jasper Larrabee earlier in the evening, when the young man had joined them on the porch. “The gals ain’t goin’ ter run away, — leastwise ’thout cornsider ble mo’ incouragemint ’n they hev hed. They ‘ll keep ! Ye jes’ sot awhile by that thar taller dip in thar an’ read yer book, an’ I ‘11 listen out hyar.”
The penalties of the acquisition of knowledge, from the days of the Garden of Eden to those of the hero of the hornbook, have not been few. They fell somewhat heavily on Jasper Larrabee, debarred the fresh air, heavy with perfumed dew; the vicinage of dank vines; the glimmer of the frefly in the bosky gloom ; the scintillating stars in the sky above the massive mountains; the sweet, low voices of the two girls, silenced now ; and the trivial chatter so dear to the heart of youth. The room, with the low red glow of the embers, was warm to-night; the tallow dip melted and sputtered and cast a wan, melancholy, ineffective radiance into the dusky spaces, rendering the aspect of the familiar furnishings strange and spare and dull, instead of all ruddily a-flicker with the dancing firelight in which he was accustomed to see them. Even the dogs had deserted the hearthstone, and went in and out with lolling tongues, and hot, sleepy eyes, and an inattentive manner. Moths and strange winged fire-worshipers unknown to his observation would fly in from the cool darkness without, circle swiftly about the white jet of the candle, and now and then, with a sudden dart, would fall, shriveled cinders but for the convulsive throes of lingering life, on the page of the volume.
He wondered sometimes, as he droned on and on, if Adelicia were listening, or if Julia could see him from where she sat. From the lighted spaces he could not distinguish their shadowy figures, albeit Captain Lucy, close at hand and with the red glow of his pipe, was plain enough. Sometimes Larrabee felt the vague sense of her gaze fixed upon his clear-cut face, all ethereal, illumined by the soft pallid white light within against the brown shadows. He was unaware of any valid embellishment of his aspect from the pensive gleam, the irradiated square of the window, the ascetic gravity of his expression, intent and pondering on the longer words, which it was his pride that he need not pause to spell. On the contrary, he was often conscious of cutting a sorry figure when Captain Lucy, with the rigor of a most rational reason and all the fervid insistence of a personal interest, would plunge at him, and require him to recant, to spell out syllable by syllable some questioned dogma, and at last, with all the nonchalance of a sophisticated theologian, take refuge in the equivalent of a plea of mistranslation.
“Ye can’t haffen read, boy!” he would exclaim roughly. “ Ye don’t read ekal ter what ye hev done. Keep on goin’ back’ards, an’ ye ‘11 git thar arter a while. ‘ Agree with thine adversary ! ’ My stars ! ef ye war wuth a grain o’ gunpowder, ye could see ez that air obleeged ter be ‘Dis-agree with thine adversary.’ It stands ter reason ! ‘Dis-agree ’ with him, early and often, else the dad-burned critter will git up the insurance ter disagree with you-uns. I know thine adversary ! Been ’quainted with him this many a year! Read on, read on, Jasper; git shet o’ thine adversary.”
Thus it was that, with the shadowy, snarling, intent old face vaguely visible in the dusk, just at his elbow, outside the window, ready to spring forward at the first intimation of an unacceptable doctrine ; with the sense of responsibility for all the biblical dogmas irreconcilable with Captain Lucy’s tenets and the tenor of his way ; with the spectacle of glamour, lure, catastrophe, and death furnished by the unrestrainable moths, Jasper Larrabee found his preëminence of learning a comfortless pinnacle, and even the wonted sweet solaces of complacence in his superiority were denied him. He was forced to appear before the eyes of his lady love as an ignorant pretender, of ridiculous and inadequate assumptions, — and that by a man who could not read his own name, — humiliated and browbeaten ; for how dared he answer Captain Lucy? More than once he wished himself back at the Lost Time mine, where he knew Espey thought him to be, and where Lorenzo Taft needed him. The work, unpalatable as he often found it, would be welcome indeed, and his untutored, unquestioning, often inattentive audience there a happy exchange from Captain Lucy in the character of polemic. He made some effort to shift the subject, to turn from the preceptive and doctrinal pages upon which he had chanced to fall to the chronicle of events in the nature of historical detail, as less liable to elicit Captain Lucy’s contradictory faculties. It availed him naught. Captain Lucy’s interest was fairly roused, and he imperatively negatived the proposition. The guest felt, still later, that it was not hospitality in its truest sense which so flatly declined to heed the suggestion of departure. And thus constrained, he read on, so conscious of the shadowy face at his elbow that he seemed to see it, with the light of excitement in the wide blue eyes, the alertness in every line, the lips intently parted, the glow of the pipe dyingout as it was supported motionless by his hand.
“ Hey! ” shrieked out Captain Lucy suddenly, as if he had been poignantly pinched. “ Ef he takes yer coat, gin him yer cloak ! Jasper, ye air demented ! Ye ain’t ’quainted with the dadburned ravelings out o’ the alphabit, let alone the weft of it! My sakes ! ” in an outraged falsetto, “ye tell me that’s sot up ez Christian doctrine in the Book ! Take yer coat, gin yer cloak ! Whar ’s the man ez hev done it! Trot him out! Great Moses an’ Aaron ! I’d like ter look at him ! Take yer cornerstone an’ monimint o’ boundary, an’ gin him yer line an’ yer lan’ ! — ha ! ha ! ha! Let him take yer rock known ez Big Hollow Boulder, an’ gin him yer corner-stone ! — ha ! ha ! ”
Luther rose precipitately. The significance of the paternal discovery of the removal of the corner-stone was fraught with great perplexity and foreboding, and he hardly knew what ill-judged disclosure was to follow. He had intended to interpose, albeit he scarcely had a pretext. It came to him at the moment.
“ What ’s that ? I ’lowed I hearn suthin’ ! ” he exclaimed.
Captain Lucy turned upon him with the breathless acrimony of one interrupted in some cherished pursuit.
“ Hearn suthin’ ! Jes’ the rustlin’ o’ yer own long ears, — that’s all. I ” — He stopped abruptly.
In the midst of his strident raised tones an alien sound smote his attention. There was an approach of horsemen from down the road. Captain Lucy’s acrimony was merged in curiosity and excited expectation. Still holding his pipe, filled with dead ashes, as stiffly and cautiously before him as if its wonted coals glowed in the cob-bowl, he rose from his chair, and advanced a pace or two nearer the rude steps, peering out into the darkness. The two girls had turned their heads toward the sound. Larrabee was leaning on his arms in the window, and Luther had started down the path to the bars. His deep bass voice sounded in a bated, thunder ous mutter, as he rebuked the barking dogs, who subsided into low growls, punctuated now and then by a clamorous yelp. Perhaps the insistent tone of these canine threats influenced the newcomers, for it was at a goodly distance that the party called a halt and hailed the house.
Luther returned the halloo with a ringing response in kind, but Captain Lucy added a genial “ ’Light and hitch ’’ to the unknown guest that the midnight had convoyed hither, his habit of broad hospitality all unmindful of the individuality or intent of the new-comers. “ Me an’ Luther air ekal ter all sorts,” he would sturdily answer to the occasional remonstrance that times were not what they once were, and that he might thus “at sight unseen” be inviting in the marauder or the devil. “ Me an’ Luther air ekal ter ’em.‘’
The tone of this hospitality seemed a sore-needed encouragement in this instance. Rodolphus Ross had flung himself, metaphorically, upon the fraternal bosom of Luther, as he hastily sought to summarize the misfortunes that had befallen him ; the slow young mountaineer, all unprepared for so dramatic a recital, staring, uncomprehending and amazed, at his interlocutor, hardly knowing whether to ascribe his fluent diction to drink or to histrionic talents ; as fact he did not take it into account.
“Yes, sir!” the wild-eyed Ross was saying as he came up the steps, “ flung over the bluffs, horse an’ all, — dead or alive, I dunno ! Cap’n Tems, yes, sir; plumb proud ter shake hands,” mechanically acknowledging the introduction to the head of the house. “ Jes’ purtendin’ ter handcuff the fool, — jes’ fur fun, — an’ he fired at me ! Yes, sir, fired at the officer o’ the law ! I dunno what ailed him, ’thout he thunk I war in earnest. But Lord ! he war bound ter know I war arter another man. I tole him so. I hed nuthin’ agin this hyar Lar’bee. I war jes’ purtendin’ ter handcuff him, jes’ shuck the bracelets at him, jes’ fur fun,—ye know, Cap’n Tems, it’s powerful dull an’ drowsy a-ridin’ so stiddy after malefactors ’thout no sort’n entertainment or enjyemint, — an’ this hyar Jasper Lar’bee jes’ ups an’ fires at the officer o’ the law, jes’ scorched my clothes.”He held up his arm, and caught the pallid light of the candle on his coat and powder-singed sleeve. “ Not that I keer fur the josie, ‘ceptin’ it’s too durned near the meat fur thar ter be enny fun in shootin’ through it.”
He laughed in a constrained falsetto tone, — his wonted laugh, but with all the mirth eliminated from it. It had a sort of wooden quality, and ended with a nervous catch in his throat. The light falling through the window showed his dark eyes, set a trifle too close together, and the straight black brows meeting above them. His teeth gleamed, for the laugh left his lips mechanically distended. Larrabee, leaning on his folded arms in the window, a mere silhouette upon the pallid lustre of the aureola of the candle behind him, gazed silently on the stranger’s face.
One is apt, in thinking of a man of experience, to associate sophistication with the idea. But life presents varied aspects of mental development, and the caution, the silence, the reserve of judgment, with which Captain Lucy hearkened might have seemed gleaned from the observation of the juggle of cause and effect in a far wider sphere The two comrades of the deputy sheriff said not a word, and once more the officer began to elaborate the justification of his conduct.
“ It takes a toler’ble stiff backbone ter set on a saddle an’ let a man shoot at ye fur nuthin’. It ’stonished me powerful. I war jes’ funnin’, an’ purtended ter be aimin’ ter handcuff this young rooster, an’ he jes’ whurled roun an’ let the bullet fly. I b’lieve he ’lowed I war in earnest, yes, sir. This hyar Lar’bee hev been up ter suthin’ agin the law, — moonshinin I reckon, — else he would n’t hev been so dad-burned handy with his fi’crackers.”
“ Why — why ” — blurted out Luther, amazed at the lack of symmetry in the situation, incapable of the paternal wisdom of silently awaiting developments, with the incongruity of the sight of Larrabee in the window mutely hearkening to the reflections upon the “ Larrabee ” who took so vehement a part in the officer’s reminiscences — “’t war n’t Larrabee, mebbe ; some other fellow.”
“ Naw, sir,” returned the deputy.
“ This hyar man,” laying his hand on his bulky companion’s shoulder, “ knowed whar Lar’bee’s mother, a widder lady, lived, an’ we-uns called him ‘ Lar’bee ‘ an’ ‘Jasper,’ an’ he answered ter ’em both ; an’ his mother called him ‘ Sonny. He’s a wild-catter, sure. He ’s ” — He caught himself suddenly, remembering the prepossession against the revenue force which often animates even lawabiding citizens of this region. “ But he need n’t fired at me! I got nuthin’ agin moonshiners. I b’long ter the County, not ter the Nunited States, — to the County !”
“ Whar’s this man now ? ” demanded Captain Lucy circumspectly.
The alert, sinister face of the deputy changed. But he sought to bluff off the anxieties and conscious criminations which crowded upon him. He swung his hat, which had a bullet-hole in it, gayly in his light grasp, and his dark eyes twinkled as he met the gaze of his host.
“ Ye air a powerful good hand at axin’ riddles, but this’n air too hard fur me!
I dunno, an’ these men dunno ! I fired back in self-defense at the miser’ble fool — I hed been funnin’ all along, cap’n.
I shot his horse, I know, an’ the critter slipped, an’ the whole caboodle went back’ards over the bluffs — an’ — an’ — he mought be dead or alive— Air — air that a cheer ? ”
He had suddenly lost his self-control; he sank back into a seat and seemed gasping for breath.
The details of their immediate errand thus devolved upon his comrades, — a lantern and a guide to search the slope where the victim of the deputy’s pleasantry had fallen.
“ ’Dolphus air sech a turrible bouncin’ wild buck,” said his friend from “the t’other eend o’ the county,” who had begun to resume his remonstrant air, as of “ I-told-you-so.” He was a slow and serious-minded man, with a scant appreciation of even the most symmetrical jest, but when the joke seemed furnished with such distortions of sequelæ his gravity grew aggressive. " ‘Dolphus kin crack a toler’ble funny joke wunst in a while, but this hyar one air goin’ ter make him laff on the t’other side o’ his mouth.”
“ Who war it ez ye war arter, sure enough ? " asked Captain Lucy.
“A stranger what they ’lowed war puttin’ up with you-uns, Cap’n Tems.”
“Hey ?" cried Captain Lucy, with a high quaver of excited delight. “ He hev gone; but, my stars! what a hearty welcome ye mought hev hed with him! ”
“ What’s he done ? ” demanded Larrabee, speaking for the first time, addressing the friend of the deputy.
“ Shot a man in Tanglefoot Cove,” he replied, looking somewhat intently at the silhouette in the window.
“What did ye ’low his name war ? ” asked Larrabee, placing one hand behind his ear as if he had not heard what indeed they had not disclosed.
“ Espey, — John Espey from Tanglefoot, o’ course. He hev been hidin’ out cornsider’ble time.”
There was a sudden significant silence which the stranger felt, but did not comprehend. Then Captain Lucy, recovering his poise, remarked : —
“ Waal, the stranger ez we-uns hev hed hyar air named Kenneth Kenn’ston, from Bretonville. He air a town man, an’ aimin’ ter build some sort’n tavern in the Cove.”
The three men — for the officer was himself again — looked at one another with the pathetic helpless disgust of hunting dogs on a cold trail.
It seemed that their quest was hopeless from the beginning, and in its interests they had deeply involved themselves in the toils of the law which they sought to aid.
“ Waal,” said the deputy’s friend, “ we-uns hed better git the lantern, an’ take ter the woods agin an’ find the corpse,”—the deputy winced at the word so palpably that even his sturdy, literal-minded companion was moved to seek some euphemism; “ leastwise find out what’s the damage we-uns hev been an’ done.”
His stolid, unflinching shouldering of such responsibility in the matter as might fall to his share was oddly contrasted with the nervous excitement and agitation of the man from the Gap, who had served as guide to the party to Mrs. Larrabee’s house.
“Waal, I ain’t done none o’ the damage,” he protested, nodding his head emphatically “ I thunk I hed ter kem along o’ the officer o’ the law whenst required. I hed no idee o’ junketing ‘roun’ with the wildes’ buck this side o’ hell, a-caperin’ like a possessed lunatic, an’ a-shootin’ of ’spectable citizens off’n the bluffs. Jasper Lar’bee done nuthin’ ter me,— never laid eyes on him afore. I done none o’ the damage. I call ye ter witness, Cap’n Tems, ez I hed nothin’ ter do with his takin’ off.”
Captain Lucy, always adorning the opposition, gave a high, fleering laugh. “ Me ter witness ! Me ! Why, man, I been settin’ hyar senee dark, a-readin’ o’ the Holy Scriptur’s. I hev no part in yer ridin’ an’ raidin’.”
That repulsion to the idea of taking life, and all its ramifications of moral responsibility, apart from the legal consequence, natural to the civilized man, had yielded in the deputy sheriff to his habitual mental impulses. His wild, fierce, shallow personality was in the ascendant once more.
“ I ’ll guarantee ye, Bob,” he declared, with his wonted swift smile of dark eyes and red lips and lifted meeting eyebrows. “ Ef the g’loot is dead, he died resistin’ arrest by the off’cer o’ the law. Ef he be ’live, I be durned ef he don’t hev cause ter resist the off’cer o’ the law, fur I ‘11 swar ter glory I ’ll nose out what this hyar Jasper Lar’bee hev been a-doin’ of ter be so monst’ous afeard o’ the bracelets bein’ put onto him, — murder or moonshinin’, it’s all the same ter me. I ‘ll set the bloodhounds o’ the law onto him, sure ! He hain’t gin me sech a skeer ez this fur nuthin’ ! ”
As the blood came surging hotly along its accustomed channels, his fury mounted higher. It jumped with his humor to threaten as living the man who he feared was dead. He sought to spurn that possibility from his consciousness. It renewed his confidence in himself, too, to protest so jauntily that if the man had lost his life it was in resisting the law legitimately enforced. He reviewed, with a burst of anger, the fright of the other two men and his own anxiety, that had suffered this lapse of attention to his own interest, and allowed the true detail of the case to be rehearsed here publicly. Naught could obliterate this ; naught could justify him save to prove that the surprised Jasper Larrabee had been guilty of some offense against the law, and was resisting arrest legally attempted.
“ I ’ll fix him ! T ‘ll follow him like a bloodhound! I ‘ll nose him out and pull him down ! Bless God, I will! ” he cried out with sudden vehemence. Then he turned roughly to his two companions. “Kem on, ye two mud-turkles! Ye got jes’ about ez much life an’ sperit ez a couple o’ old tarripin. Stir yer stumps, bubby,”to Luther. “ Git yer lantern, an’ bring yer slow bones along ter aid the off’cer o’ the law! An’ ye, too, my frien’ in the winder, ez quiet ez a cat stealin’ cream ; ye ’pear ter be young an’ able-bodied. I summons ye ter kem an’ aid the off’cer o’ the law! ”
The tallow dip, which had been for some moments sputtering in the socket of the candlestick, suddenly flared up with a wide illumination, then sunk as suddenly almost to extinction, feebly rose again, and, in a gust of wind, was extinguished. leaving a tuft of red sparks on the drooping wick, and a pervasive odor of burning grease in the room and porch. Perhaps it was because of the brighter light for the moment, perhaps because of the keener observation of the officer, whose faculties were once more well in hand, but no one else had noticed a strange stillness in the figure of Adelicia, as she sat in her wonted place on the edge of the floor of the porch, leaning back against the post.
“ One o’ yer darters hev fainted. I b’lieve,” he said to Captain Lucy.
“Suthin’ ails her.” Then, turning away, “ Kem on, fellers; mount an’ git out’n this. We-uns hev been hyar too long now.”
As Jasper Larrabee rode away in the little troop toward the scene of the disaster, to search for the body of the supposititious Jasper Larrabee, his mental faculties began to recover from the torpor of surprise which had benumbed them. That cautious self-control which sometimes seems an added faculty in a certain type of law-breaker had held him mute as he watched the development of events. Now, as he began to take cognizance of the disclosures of the evening, he adhered of sober intention to the policy he had intuitively adopted. He feared the acknowledgment that he had received and harbored Jack Espey, a fugitive from justice, more than the acrimonious search of the deputy sheriff for the misdeeds of Jasper Larrabee. This, indeed, might, result in his apprehension for the violation of the revenue laws, and the discovery of the moonshiner’s lair, and this would mean many years of imprisonment ; but the other might involve him, and possibly his mother as well, in a trial for murder, as accessories after the fact. It might be impossible to establish their ignorance of Espey’s crime, and their lack of connivance in his escape. He had that pervasive terror of the law, as of technical and arbitrary construction of crime, common to the unlearned. His heart burned with rancor against his whilom friend. He would not recognize Espey’s share in these ignorant terrors of the law. He argued that if his friend had been open with him, he would at least have been a free agent in receiving him, have had some voice in the degree of responsibility he assumed. As it was, his open-handed hospitality had been grossly imposed upon, and as a return he was given the choice of the jeopardy of a charge as accessory to a murder, or of an infringement of the revenue laws. He saw the whole drama as it had been enacted. He understood that Espey, conniving at the officer’s mistake, and allowing him to suppose him to be Larrabee, had thus shielded his own identity as the fugitive from justice whom they sought. And this ruse Espey fancied was discovered, when the deputy, in his wild horse-play, had facetiously endeavored to handcuff him ; he had therefore strenuously resisted, and thus had possibly come to his death. This possibility did not soften Larrabee toward him; perhaps he did not altogether accredit it at once, for death is difficult to realize even when a certainty. He dwelt upon his own danger, even more upon his mother’s possible jeopardy ; upon her untiring and laborious hospitality ; upon his own labors which had rendered such entertainment practicable, for the money earned without her knowledge at the still went, much of it, to this pious use.
The sharpest sting of ingratitude is often the sense that the giver has been a fool. Larrabee harbored a surly grudge against himself as he rode silently on, and Luther, uncomprehending his friend’s reason for not disclosing his identity, and suspecting that Jack Espey was the man they sought, was silent too. The loud voices of the others in acrimonious criminations and recriminations accented the stillness of the night, and the sound of their horses’ hoofs as they filed along the mountain passes, multiplied by rock and ravine, and far echoes from distant heights, might have seemed the march of squadrons of cavalry.
The skies had taken on that unfamiliar aspect of the hours which just precede the dawn. Far, far, on their pauseless way the constellations fared. Stars were low in the west, which on these summer nights had seemed the familiars of the meridian. A strange sense of loneliness, of silence, pervaded the firmament. The breathless pause that heralds the miracle of dawn bated the pulses of nature. No more song of cicada, no more stir of wind. Once a meteor, with an incongruous irrelevance of effect, shot athwart the sky with its gleaming trail as of star-dust ; the motion was like a sacrilege in the holy stillness and breathlessness of the world.
And suddenly in the midst of the myriad scintillations a brilliant white jewel was ablaze, which Jasper Larrabee could have sworn was not there before; pellucid, splendid, tremulous, a star of stars. He knew the skies only as the herder or the shepherd knows them in lonely, lowly paths of earth, but even an ignorant man may feel that the circuit below is narrow and the ways above are wide, and the heart is lifted up. Not the name of one of the stellular glories visible to the naked eye could he syllable, but he had marked them all ; he was wont to dwell for hours upon their contemplation ; he knew the contour of their most brilliant whorls and scintillating arabesques as he knew the intricacies of the woodland ways in the wilderness. He had drawn his horse hastily back upon the haunches, and again his eyes sought the lines of the stars as his fancy had marshaled them. There was one more, —one that he had never before seen; one unknown to all the splendid nights that had ever shone upon the earth.
The voices of the men patrolling the slope below the point, where they had paused, rose excitedly on the still air. The horse was found, he gathered vaguely, dead, shot through the brain. The man was gone. The officer, in a frenzy of energy, beat the bushes far and near, lest the fugitive, wounded and disabled, might have crept away in the midst of them, and still lay hidden in the leafy covert. The hour wore away ; the dawn came on apace, and, with the quest still fruitless, the officer presently mounted his horse and rode speedily off, fearing less, perchance, the review of his conduct by his superiors in the county town than the arbitration of the few citizens of the scantily settled region, who might take an inimical view of the disappearance of the guide of the jocose officer.
Only when the gray day came with the tremulous wind over the mountains, and the craggy ranges grew darkly distinct, and the unpeopled wooded valley distinct and vaguely drear, and the dark blue sky faded and was coloress, and one by one the stars noiselessly, invisibly slipped away without a trace, like some splendid promise never to be fulfilled, did Jasper Larrabee turn rein, perplexed and distraught and deeply awed. For in his unlettered ignorance he had never heard of that simple fact known to astronomy as a temporary star.
In the days that ensued, no trace of the fugitive was developed. Captain Lucy experienced a certain relief in the fruitless result of the extended search instituted by the friends that Espey had made in the Cove. In their opinion the conclusion was inevitable that, despite the lack of his horse, he had made good his escape, and did not lie wounded or dead in the jungle of laurel, awaiting their humane succor, or burial at their hands. He was glad that Espey was gone, doubtless never to return, and that the matrimonial problem was gone with him. He was not quite frank with Adelicia in regard to this expectation. Her constitutional hopefulness instantly adopted the general belief of Espey’s safety as fact, and she fixed her expectant eyes on the future with such fidelity of certainty that it seemed they must constrain the return she so definitely awaited.
“ He ’ll find out ez them off’cers ‘lowed ’t war Jasper Lar’bee, an’ never knowed they hed him. An’ then, uncle Lucy, he won’t be ’feared ter kem back,”she said many times a day.
“Course not,” assented Captain Lucy. “ He ’ll be hyar afore long, jes’ ez good lookin ’ez he knows how ter be.”
It was perhaps a pious fraud, for the girl’s despair and grief had been so wild that Captain Lucy was glad for her optimism to be reasserted on whatever terms, and to have the pleasant thing in the house once more.
Luther had necessarily been enlightened by the recent events as to the sentimental phase of the matter ; for Captain Lucy had hitherto sedulously kept it secret, since he did not favor a fugitive from justice as a suitor for his niece, and was determined to break off the affair at all hazards. Luther looked with disapproval upon his father’s crafty methods.
“ I dunno what ails ye ter make Ad’licia b’lieve ez Espey will kem back,” he once ventured to say aside to his father. “ He air sure ter ’low ez they never tuk him fur Lar’bee, else he would n’t hev tried ter break away.”
“ Luther,” said Captain Lucy, “ I hev noticed ez a man air obleeged ter hev a powerful strong stommick ter be able ter tell the truth at all times. An’ ez I git old, I hev sorter got the deespepsy.”
The son merely gazed at him with a sort of literal-minded bovine stare, as he sought to entertain this statement of the moral effect of debility.
‘An’ then, whenst I war a leetle boy,” continued Captain Lucy, “I war bit by a rattlesnake ; an’ sometimes whenst I hear myself sayin’ sech ez air agin the actial fac’ it don’t s’prise me none, fur I know it air jes’ a leetle meanderin’ o’ the venom o’ the sarpient in me yit, ’kase, ye know, he war a deceiver from the beginning.”
What impression the strange and unexpected events had made upon the impassive and reserved Julia, none had taken thought to observe. The demonstrative, expressive characteristics of the other members of the household filled the domestic stage. It was only when the poignancy of Adelicia’s grief and anxiety had given way to a resolutely patient and hopeful waiting, and Captain Lucy’s vehement interest had subsided into a trivial occupation with the passing details of life, that it chanced to be noticed that Julia was wont to sit idle at her spinning, the thread in one hand, the other lifted as if to regulate the whirl of the motionless flax-wheel; her wonderful blue eyes fixed upon the distant purple mountains, glimpsed through the parting of the gourd vines above the porch ; her head, with its smooth plaits of glossy hair, held up and alert; some unspoken thought upon her marble face that filled every still line with meaning.
“Ye ’pear ter be palsied, Julia,” said the unobservant Luther, smoking his pipe on the porch one evening. “Ye liain’t moved hand or foot fur a solid hour.”
She started slightly at the sound of his voice, fixing her attention on him with obvious effort. Her mind was evidently coming back from distant removes, and Adelicia, with vague curiosity, demanded suddenly, —
“What air you-nns studyin’ ’bout, Julia, whenst ye air lookin’ like that ? ”
“Studyin’ an’ a-studyin’,” said Julia, dropping her hands in her lap and leaning back in the chair, her eyes once more turning to the high massive mountains afar off as if they possessed some magnetic attraction, "’bout’n whar pore, pore Jack Espey kin be now, an’ how powerful cur’ous ’t war ez ye would n’t marry him whenst he axed ye.”
The fore legs of Luther’s tilted chair came down to the floor with a thump. With a hand on either knee, and the cinders and burning tobacco dropping from his pipe unheeded to the floor, he sat fixedly staring at his silent sister. To his comprehension she was speaking her mind very unequivocally now. Despite the vaunted feminine quickness, Adelicia heard in it only personal upbraiding, for a certain remorse had made her sensitive on this score, and prone to protest her constraining dutifulness.
“I hed Cap’n Lucy’s word agin it! ” she exclaimed, with a rising flush and angry bright eyes.
Julia slowly shook her head, her eyes, her thoughts, far, far away. “I would n’t hev keered fur no Cap’n Lucy’s word, she declared iconoclastically. “ I reckon, ef the truth war knowed, Cap’n Lucy hisself married ter suit his own taste. Leastwise, I ain’t never hearn o’ no old uncle or aunt or dad, or sech kinfolks, ez ondertook ter make a ch’ice in marryin’ fur him.”
“ Waal, sir,” Luther interposed in a tone of shocked propriety, “ settin’ up hyar an’ talkin’ by the yard medjure ’bout marryin’ an’ men-folks, an’ I’d bet my best heifer that Jack Espey ain’t gin air one o’ ye a single thought sence he lef’ hyar. No, nor ware mother man. Ef the truth war knowed, ye hain’t got a haffen chance apiece, — without it air ’Renzo Taft, down yander at the Lost Time mine, an’ he can’t make out which air the hardest favored ’twixt ye ! Ye hed both better go ter work. Jack Espey ’ll never kem back agin. Dad jes’ say he will ter pledjure Adelicia. An’ Julia, ef ye don’t spin up that thar truck,” — he pointed with fraternal imperiousness at the wheel, — “ ye ‘11 be toler’ble scant o’ new clothes, an’ ye ‘ll look wuss like a skeercrow ’n ye do now.”
Julia received this taunt to her beauty with the equanimity of one whose title is unimpugnable ; but Adelicia, all unheeding any subtler sense than the obvious meaning his words conveyed, protested against even this conjectural banishment of poor Jack Espey. He would come back, she declared. He had doubtless found out by this time that he was mistaken in supposing the officers cognizant of his true identity, and that they were jesting, thinking him still Larrabee. And now that the nine days’ wonder had blown over, and people were interested in it no more, and so much was going on in the Cove to usurp public attention, she looked for him any time just to slip back in his old place. “ I never kem out on the porch but I look to see him in that thar cheer whar Luther be. I hev ’peared ter see him thar.”
“That ain’t the way I ’pear ter see him,” said Julia suddenly. “I dreampt he war a-kemin’ on his claybank horse, a-lopin down the road, a-wavin’ his big white hat at we-uns like he done that day he kilt the wolf an’ fotched home the pelt. That’s the way I view him ever sence I dreampt that dream.”
“ Then ye hev the nightmare,” said Luther, surly and helpless to stem the tide of sentiment, “ an’ ye hain’t got no mo’ sense sleepin’ than wakin’ ; fur that claybank roan will lope down these rocky roads no mo’, partly through bein’ dead, an’ partly through old Miser Miggins hevin’ gone down the gorge an’ tuk off the critter’s shoes. Ye better content yourself with the clay bank roan ez a nightmare, fur ye ain’t goin’ ter view Espey an’ the critter a-lopin’ round no mo’, no matter how much be a-goin’ on in the Cove.”
For the Cove was indeed in a phenomenal ferment. To the astonishment of the leisurely and dilatory mountaineers, the work on the new hotel had begun, and was being pushed forward on parallels inconceivable to their ideas of progress.
Captain Lucy, his mind recalled to his more immediate personal interests, watched it with a sort of avidity of observation from the porch of his own house, where he was wont to sit with his pipe. His sneer, his silent laugh, his acrid enigmatical phrases, grew frequent as the blasting for the cellars proceeded, and the flying fragments of rock, which had elicited such formidable prognostication, fell far short of his cabin or his inclosures, indeed seldom coming to the ground beyond the jungle of laurel at the base of the great natural terrace, the site of the work.
“ He did n’t git the edzact range, Luther,”he would say in affected surprise ; or, sarcastically, “ This hyar Kenn’ston would hev made a powerful spry gunner in the old war times, — sech a eye for distances ! ”
Adelicia, observing the circumstance, also remembering Kenniston’s expressions of fear for their safety, only saw cause for gratulation.
“ Mr. Kenn’ston ‘lowed ez we-uns mought hev ter leave home whilst the blastin’ war goin’ on ! ” she exclaimed. “ An’he made a powerful mistake, uncle Lucy.”
“So he did.” said Captain Lucy, with a twinkling eye. “ He air a great man fur moving, ginerally. He b’lieves in moving things.”
Luther, remembering the peripatetic corner-stone and the impending processioning, understood the allusion, but he had a foreboding of trouble, and his heart sunk within him. He was glad when the blasting was concluded, which it was shortly; for he feared a premature or ill-advised accusation, and it seemed to him that the meaning of those thinly veiled sarcasms must presently be revealed to others as known to himself. The foundations were laid, and the framing of the building followed promptly; soon the gaunt skeleton of the hotel, an outline of modern frivolity and summer pleasuring and flimsy vastness, was incongruously imposed upon the silent, solemn mountain behind it, with the rugged, austere crags below it, with the unfamiliar mists shifting through it and drifting along corridor and ball-room and scaling the tower, with its prophetic shadow, like a line engraving, flung by the moonlight on the dark surface of the top of the dense forest below. More than once furious mountain storms assailed it; but its builder’s philosophy had taken account of these inimical forces, and it held fast.
The unbroken mountain wind, however, played havoc with the light shanties of the workmen in this exposed situation on the promontory of rock, and when rebuilt the camp was moved below the terrace, down in a sort of gorge, shielded and safe, albeit the distance from the work was a matter of some inconvenience.
They proved civil folk, the town mechanics, and answered gravely many a queer question put from a vast distance in civilization and sophistication, albeit at arm’s length from the natural body; for from far and near the mountaineers visited the unfinished structure. Often a wagon with a yoke of steers would stand, the patient beasts humbly a-drowse, for an hour or so in the sandy road, while the jeans-clad owner, goad-stick in hand, would patrol the new building, solemnly stepping from timber to timber over the depths of the cellar, or with the utmost simplicity of assurance make a critical circuit about the whole, and offer suggestions looking toward improvements. Sometimes the visitor was of shyer gentry ; a red fox was glimpsed early one morning, with brush in air, speeding along the joists of the ballroom ; it might seem they would never know the weight of aught more graceful or agile ; a deer, doubtless a familiar of the springs, was visible once, leaping wildly down the rocks in great elastic bounds, evidently hitherto unaware of the invaders of these preëmpted sylvan wilds. Others, too, of the ancient owners of the soil came on more prosaic quest, but in the dead hour of darkness or the light of the midnight moon. A young bear, who had long harbored predatory designs upon a certain fat shoat, a denizen of that pig-pen of Captain Lucy’s upon which the owner and Mr. Kenniston looked with such differing eyes, was brought to a pause, in a cautious reconnoitre, by the fragments of food, scraps from the workmen’s dinner, which might be found by nosing about among the shavings. Perhaps it was this alone that led him about the angles and turns of the building; but as he went between the sparse substance of the timbers and their scant linear shadows that, in the sorcery of the moonlight, appeared hardly less real, he seemed as censorious a critic as Captain Lucy himself. Sometimes he would pause in his clumsy shamble, and, with the moonlight a-glitter in his small eyes, lift himself on his hind feet and gaze about the solitary building, indescribably melancholy in the loneliness and the wan, pensive sheen ; grin with his white teeth, a-gleam with a sarcastic, snarling contempt; fall to all fours again ; and, shrugging his heavy shoulders to his ears, scud along with the aspect of clumsy sportiveness common to his kind.
It chanced that a light, portable forge had been in use that day, in the process of the work ; the foreman had himself looked to the extinction of the fire, albeit the scene of the operation was upon the solid rock, and far from any possible communication with the building. The wind could never have turned over the low apparatus set in the hollow of the ledges, but the bear could, and did. Then he sat down suddenly to lick his singed paw, for the metal was still hot. The fuel had been charcoal; it still sustained heat, and even combustion. There was a steady spark in a few of the scattered cinders, quickening, reddening, as the eager night air touched them. The shavings amongst which they had fallen, further down the slope, were slightly astir for a moment; then a timorous blaze sprang up along the more tenuous, lace-like, curling edges.
How the destructive element fared, whether by slow, insidious, fearful degrees, as of conscious but furtive evil intent, or as animated by a wild, tumultuous, riotous impulse, more and more rapacious with impunity, as of some turbulent, maddened thing escaping control, none but Bruin might say, for, save the impassive, neutral night, the event had no other witness. Before the flames had fairly taken hold of the studs and joists his cowardly fears had gained the ascendency over his gluttony. More than once he paused, in gnawing his trophy of a beef bone, to growl fiercely, his remonstrant, surprised eyes illuminated by this alien flicker. As the skies began to redden, and the pale moonlight to fail, and the great massive mountains to appear, dark and weird, from the deep and silent seclusions of the night, he left his booty and retreated toward the verge of the woods, pausing now and again in the dun-colored shadows, all veined with shifting pulsations of red and white, to look with eyes aglow, reflecting the fire, upon its ravages, growling fiercely at times; then, with his recurrent fears, setting out once more on a lumbering run.
Perchance the reflection flung upon the clouds, all lurid and alight, before which the stars shrank away invisible, apprised the traveler journeying in faraway coves and ranges, or the herder of the lofty solitudes of the balds, or the hunter in distant coverts, of the disaster in progress before the nearest neighbors were roused. The angry glare of the conflagration seemed to pervade the world, like the vivid searching terrors of the red day of doom, when the workmen, down in their sheltered nook beneath the crags and the dense shadows of the forest, discovered the untoward fate of their handiwork. Into the crevices of the batten shutters of Captain Lucy’s glassless windows the keen rays at last pierced, like some sinister, pestilential, dazzling sunburst, illuminating the homely scenes with an uncanny flare, and displacing the broken dreams with a terrified awakening.
Naught could be done. It might be accounted a spectacle in some sort to watch the airy acrobatic feats of the lithe flames leaping from beam to brace, from joist to rafter, of the three tall stories, seeming of vaster proportions with all their detail illustrated in these living tints upon the subsidiary, flickering night. There was a series of wild, dancing, tangled blazes a-whirl in the lengths of the ball-room, white and red and orange and blue, an uncanny rout. High up on the battlemented turret a vermilion banner flaunted suddenly out to the moon, and then it was struck amidst a myriad of sparks, and the echoes clamored out against the crashing of the tower.
For days thereafter the smoking, charred ruin was the terminus of many a pilgrimage amongst the simple folk of the region, who had never beheld wreckage on such a scale. The idle workmen hovered about it, dispirited and anxious, awaiting orders. There was much mysterious talk of incendiarism, and a rumor pervaded the Cove that the matter had already been reported in this light to the authorities, and that Rodolphus Ross was on his way to the scene of action.
Captain Lucy, seated on the rocks about the limpid spring, at a comfortable distance from the hot, smouldering mass, smoked his pipe, as he contemplated it, in more placidity of mind than had for some time fallen to his share. He was not a man who would deliberately seek to injure his enemy in person or property; but Captain Lucy was eminently human, and he could but admire the wisdom of the uncovenanted dispensations of Providence, through which Mr. Kenniston’s game was, as he conceived it, so handsomely blocked. He had a most buoyant sense of irresponsibility in the matter.
“ I ain’t so much as once spoke to the Lord ’bout’n that man,” he said privately to Luther, as if his prayers must needs have been inflammable.
He was not the only one of the spectators who thought, in view of the magnitude of the ruin, that the whole project was necessarily ended, and. who looked on Kenniston’s invasion of the Cove as a thing already of the past. It was a matter of very general surprise when the “town man ” suddenly reappeared upon the scene in a bounding fury, and, in the metaphorical phrase of the mountaineers, “primed and loaded for b’ar.” They little dreamed how literal a reason he had to hold a grudge against Bruin.
Charles Egbert Craddock.