STRANGER, you say you ain’t been in the mountains of West Virginia so very long? Then I reckon you ain’t heard all the tales the fellers tells about Tony Beaver, and that log camp of his’n up Eel River.
Well, sirs! Tony he cert’nly is a great cuss! And if you’ll set a spell now, and spread your years, I ‘ll pour a tale into ‘em about how Tony hitched that powerful yoke of oxen he’s got him up Eel River onto the wheels of time, and had time running all up and down the days, back’ards and for’ards, whichsoever way he said for it to go.
I reckon that was about one of the most myrac’lous things Tony ever pulled off — and dangerous too when you come to study on it; and yit he done it all for nothing in this world but to satisfy a child, what was jest a little feller going on five years old.
That little feller, he used to play round Tony’s log camp. He had a crippled foot and could n’t walk so very good, so all the hands used to tote him; but his fav’rite riding place was Tony Beaver’s shoulder, and I jest b’lieve he thought Tony pulled the sun up with a string in the morning, and let her run down agin at night. Seemed like Tony he tuck a dee-light in doing all sorts of onusual things to please that child.
Maybe you’ve seen fellers take a bucket of water and swing it round so fast that never a drop will drap out? Well, Tony he went ‘em one better’n that. When he got his bucket going good, he stopped it right spang upside down over his head, and not a drop spilled! I’ll be dogged if I know how the feller done it! And the hands they was all jest carried away by the sight; but that, kid, he never batted a eye. ‘I knowed you could do it Tony!' he says. ‘Yes, sir, fellers!’ he says, telling ‘em all, ‘Tony Beaver he kin do it all right!’
Well, that little feller’s faith in him tickled Tony right much. It was a kind of a offset to ole Preacher Moses Mutters, what was allus a-hanging round camp, and sing-songing out, ‘You can’t do it, Tony— it’s ergin reason!
Mutters wa’n’t that preacher feller’s real name, that was jest a way the hands all had of calling him, ‘cause he was allus muttering round, and so gloomy like. That ole brother, he set a great store by reason, and he was mightily outdone by all the onreasonable jobs Tony pulled off up Eel River. So thar Tony was sorter betwixt the two of ‘em. The preacher allus tuning up, ‘You can’t do it, Tony — it’s ergin reason’; and the little feller, jest looking at him so trustful, and saying, ‘I knowed you could do it, Tony!'
Well then, one day, that little feller he tuck down sick, and when Tony got the word of it, he jest fa’rly tore up Jack till he got aholt of the finest doctor in the county. The doc’, he come up Eel River, and went up Flint Holler, whar the little feller lived in a log cabin with his mammy, and he looked the young-un all over, and had him to put out his tongue, and all like that, and then he dosed him some, and lowed he’d be all right to-morrow.
‘I’ll be all right to-morrow,’ the little feller says, saying it after him mighty trustful like.
Well, Stranger, right then and thar was whar all the trouble commenced. The next morning when Tony went up Flint Holler, and round Hare Hill, to the little feller’s cabin, he found the young-un all in a turrible fret.
Tony, he come right inside — though it’s the truth, he don’t like to go under a roof, or tromp on sawed boards — and steps over to the bed, whar the little feller was laying all kivered up under a quilt of the Rising Sun pattern.
’Hey now! What’s the trouble, Buddy?’ Tony asks him.
‘I can’t git better, Tony,’ the little feller says kinder pitiful.
‘Why, Honey, the doc’ said you’d be better to-day,’Tony tells him.
‘No, Tony! no!’ the young-un says, all wrought up; ‘he said I’d be better to-morrow! ‘
Tony he busts out with a great laugh at that. ‘Why, Honey,’he says, ‘today is to-morrow!’
‘No, it ain’t, Tony!’ that little buddy answers him back. ‘This ain’t tomorrow — it’s jest to-day! An — an—’ he says, all filling up to cry, ‘how kin to-day be to-morrow? We can’t find to-morrow, Tony. Mammy and me been a-looking and looking all night for it, but to-day jest kep’ right on, and on, and never did git to be to-morrow! I want to-morrow, Tony,’ he says, crying; ‘I can’t git better till it comes.’
Thar you see how it was, Stranger — the young-un had got all balled up in his mind, and jest could n’t git it figgered out that to-day was to-morrow. And when you come to study it over, you’ll see thar was some sense in what he said, for it cert’nly is so, Stranger — to-day ain’t to-morrow — it jest natcherly can’t be! But if it ain’t, then whar is to-morrow? Even watching it very close, a person can’t hardly say when to-day quits and to-morrow commences. And it’s the truth, I don’t know myself if to-day ever does git to be to-morrow — so it wa’n’t no wonder that sick child was kinder twisted up over it.
‘No, Tony! No! To-day’s to-day — it ain’t to-morrow!’ he kep’ on saying to everything Tony told him. ‘I can’t git better till it’s to-morrow — you git to-morrow for me,’ he says putting his hand in Tony’s so trustful like; ‘you kin do it easy, Tony!’
Well now I reckon that was jest about the biggest job Tony Beaver ever had handed out to him. But he ain’t never the feller to turn a job down ‘count of it’s looking big, so he scratched his head a spell, and then he says, ‘Well Buddy, I’ll do the best I kin.’ And then he come on back to camp to figger how he was to do it.
Ole Brother Mutters ‘lowed the way was to set up all night with the little feller, and when the clock struck twelve to tell him now it was to-morrow. ‘That’s the reasonable way of doing it. Tony,’ he says.
‘But the reasonable way ain’t my way,’Tony tells him. ‘And more’n that, you know I ain’t never a hand to go under a roof and tromp on sawed boards.'
Howsomever the hands all ‘lowed Brother Mutters was right, and they got Tony pusuaded to try that way, though he done it ergin his better jedgment.
Well, that night Tony he went up Flint Holler to the little feller’s cabin, and fetched hisself in a big gray rockwhat still had some moss hanging on it — to set on; for Tony he never will set in a cheer. And he told the little boy that to-morrow would be along late in the night, and he’d be thar to ketch it.
So the little feller went on to sleep mighty trustful and satisfied; and Tony sets down on his gray rock by the fire, and dozes along till it come nigh midnight. Then he tiptoes over to the bed, and whispers that to-morrow would be thar when the clock struck.
‘When the clock strikes!' The little feller whispers back in a kind of a sacred voice, like he was at prayermeeting. ‘O Tony! he says, ‘let me set in your lap! I want to be setting thar when to-morrow comes.'
So Tony he wraps t he Rising Sun quilt round him, and sets down on his gray rock, with the little feller on his knee — and I reckon it was a funny sight to see Tony Beaver setting under a roof!
Well, after a little bit, the clock commenced to wheeze like it was cl’aring its throat for sumpin big, and fetches out twelve strokes, and Tony hollers, ‘Here’s your to-morrow, honey!'
The little feller looks all about him, up at the joists, and down at the floor, and then back ergin at the clock, and seems like he was kinder blank, like he’d expected to-morrow to jump out from somewhares and be different.
‘Is it to-morrow, Tony?’ he asks, sorter doubtful.
‘Yes, sure it is!' Tony says. ‘And now to-day you’ll git better.'
Well right thar Tony slipped up. He sure oughter of knowed better \n to say that to-day word.
‘You said to-day!' the little feller hollers out, ketching him right up. ‘And this is to-day, it ain’t to-morrow! Tony, you fooled me!' And with that he busts out crying like his very heart was broke. ‘Put me back in bed,’ he says. ‘You fooled me, Tony, I — I don’t want to set on your lap no more.’
Well, that pretty nigh killed Tony, and he come on back to camp fa’rly raging. He give one holler that fetched all the hands out of the bunk-house on the jump, and standing up thar in the moonlight, looking powerful tall, he told ‘em all what had happened.
‘And that’s what comes of me going under a roof, and trying to be reasonable! And now,' he hollers out, ‘I’m done with reason! And by the sap of all the white oak trees running in spring, and by the breath of the gray rocks, I’ll fine me a onresonable way of doing it!’
You better b’lieve all the hands kep’ mighty still at that, for they knowed better’n to cheep when Tony busts loose with them cuss words. But course Brother Mutters had to tune up.
‘Yer can’t do it, Tony! Yer can’t put back the wheels of time, and yer can’t put ‘em for’ard neither!’
‘I can’t, can’t I!' Tony hollers at him. And with that he let loose sech a blast of a look at that preacher, that I reckon it would of blowed him right off the bank, and down into Eel River itself, if Big Henry, what’s one of Tony’s stoutest hands, had n’t of seen it coming, and ketched aholt of the ole feller jest in time.
‘Yoke up them oxen of mine!' Tony hollers out, and all hands jumped like he’d cracked a pistol.
Now, Stranger, them oxen of Tony’s air jest about the most monstrous animals the world ever did see. Maybe you recollect a ole song that runs kinder like this, —
I mind the day that he was born;
It tuck a jay bird seven years
To fly from horn to horn.
Well I jest b’lieve that’s nuthing in this world but a dog-goned lie. But I know them beasts must be all out of the common, or folks would n’t tell sech tales about ‘em.
Well, when they fetched ‘em round, Tony he tuck a powerful stout log chain, and hitched one end of it to they yoke, and without saying nuthing to nobody, he went off into the woods with the t’other end. The chain it onwound, and onwound, and went crawling away into the bresh after Tony Beaver, looking like the biggest nastiest, kind of a snake a person ever did see. After a right smart spell, the chain it quit onrolling and lay still, ‘cept that every once in a while, it’d give a kind of a jerk, like Tony was fooling with it at the t’other end.
But whoop-ee! — all to onct that chain it give a powerful jump and commenced to run back outer the woods like the dogs was after it ! Then d’rectly there come the awfulest kind of a battle betwixt Tony Beaver and that log chain. Course the hands they could n’t see nuthing ‘cept the chain’s end of it — but that was a plenty! The dog-goned thing it wriggled and wrastled, and lashed itself up and down, hither and yon, like it was fighting for all it was wuth to bust loose and git on outer them woods. And every now and ergin it’d hump itself up in the middle, like you’ve seen a inch worm do, and strain and strain to pull free that away. But in the end Tony he won, and after another turrible thrashing and lashing of itself, that jest natcherly cut the bresh all to pieces anywhares near, and even felled a couple of white oak trees, the chain ‘peared to give up and lay still — ‘cept that it was trembling like a person with the ague.
And you better b’lieve all hands stood back outer the way, looking on with all the looks they had, for you know, Stranger, it must of been sumpin’ mighty onnatural that would make cold iron carry on that away.
Well, after a spell, Tony come on back outer the woods, with the sweat jest a running off’n him.
‘Thar now, that 's fixed!’ he says, kinder panting like.
And not a one of the hands dast to ask him what was fixed, for they knowed dog-goned well it must of been sumpin’ turrible strange that would draw the sweat on Tony Beaver.
Tony looks around at ‘em all, and he says, ‘One end of that chain’s hitched to the wheels of time, and the t’other’s hitched to them beasts — and now I ‘ll have time going to suit me!’
And with that he spits on his hands and ketched aholt of his raw-hide whip, that’s got a lash to it pretty nigh half a mile long, and he swirls it out and cracks it, Pough ! And them oxen, they bowed they heads and heaved into the yoke. And they heaved, and they heaved— but nuthing did n’t happen.
‘Yer can’t do it, Tony! It’s ergin reason!’ ole Brother Mutters sings out.
‘ Man! I’m done with reason! ‘ Tony hollers back at him. And this time Big Henry wa’n’t quick enough, and the blue-lightning look Tony shot at that preacher blowed him clean off’n the ground, and landed him down in a bresh pile a right smart piece away.
And Tony he cracks his whip ergin, and hollers ‘Yer-r—rup!' at the team. The crack of that whip was like a thunderclap in cl’ar weather, and that holler of Tony’s went bounding on down Eel River, chipping the rocks off from side to side, till it jest natcherly bounced out in the levels at the fur end. And Great Day in the Morning ! Them beasts went for’ards, and the wheels of time commenced to turn !
Well, sirs! When that happened, Stranger, they say it was like the whole world had busted loose from her breaks, and it made the stoutest hand thar reel like he had the blind staggers — all, that is, ‘cept Tony. It ketched ole Brother Mutters in the stomick, and he fell over acrost a stump, and commenced to give up his victuals.
‘Whoop-ee! I got her going!’ Tony sings out. ‘By the breath of the gray rocks! I got time going to suit me now! ‘
But hold and below! It wa’n’t more’n the shake of a lamb’s tail fore Tony seen he’d slipped up bad. Dogged if he had n’t them beasts headed wrong, and what do you reckon! ‘Stead of pulling down the to-morrow he was after, he commenced fetching up yesterday, and the day before, and then d’rectly it was last week, and in a nother pair of seconds it was last month itself! Well, sirs! that was jest a little more’n the hands could stand, and they all busts out hollering at Tony to quit.
Stranger, did you ever see the past fetched back into the present?
Well, I ain’t neither, and I ain’t craving to You see like it is — we looks down the past through a kind of a haze, like them pretty blue mists you’ll see hanging over the mountains in Indian summer weather, and everything looks mighty meller and nice through it. But when Tony set time to vomiting up them yesterdays that way, they come up into the cold light of the present all mother-naked as you might say, and it was a turrible sight to see ‘em. Big Henry seen hisself drunk last month, and while he’d looked back on it as a kinder glorious event, when the world was all lit up, and him the biggest Mister Man in it, it did n’t look that away now. When he seen that past of his’n laid right out thar in the present, he knowed that was one time he’d jest natcherly been a fool for want of sense. And the t’other fellers seen things too that made ‘em all swaller powerful hard.
Every feller seen his own past, but could n’t see the t’other feller’s; so did n’t nobody know what it was ole Brother Mutters seen, but whatsoever it was, it sunt him off’in a long explanation to the Lord.
Well, Tony he seen right off he’d made a big mistake, so he drawed them beasts to a halt, and then he had ‘em to back, back, and he run all them yesterdays and last weeks down into place ergin, very keerful like. They tell me the hands could hear them past days falling back down the skidways of time, Plup ! Plup! Plup ! to wait thar for Jedgment Day. They say as how it was a mighty strange and awesome kind of a sound — and I reckon it must of been, and not a sound that any common person would crave to hear.
Well, Tony he seen the trouble was he had them beasts headed towards the east, and course they was pulling up the west, which was whar all them yesterdays had went. So he turned ‘em round westward; and this time when he cracked his whip, and hollered at ‘em, it wa’n’t but a minute ‘fore they fetched into view jest the prettiest little to-morrow a person ever did see. But it was so all-fired skeery, it was nigh impossible to hold it. It would n’t more’n peep over the edge of to-day, when, whoop-ee! it’d run back ergin into its hole like a ground hog what had seen its shadder. Time and ergin them beasts fetched that to-morrow down, and time and ergin, strain as they would, it slipped erway from ‘em. So in the end Tony seen he’d have to figger out a nother way of ketching it. And he knowed, too, he’d have to hurry, for by now it was right late in the day, and it would n’t be so very long ‘fore that to-morrow would be swinging into place at its natcheral time — and course that would n’t do that little feller no good at all.
So Tony he studied a spell, and then he had the hands to git to work and sew a whole parcel of feed-bags together. And when they had a big lot of ‘em fixed, and all spread out on the ground, Tony smeared ‘em over right thick with tar, and then he went on back to his team.
This time he did n’t crack his whip or holler at ‘em; he jest whispered slampin’ right easy in the year of one of ‘em. What that word was I don’t know, Stranger, and I never seen a hand what knowed. All I know is that the minute he’d said it, and jumped back outer the way, them powerful beasts give sech a heave ergin the yoke, that they jest fa’rly fetched that to-morrow down with sech a run and a jump, that it bounded out head over heels, and landed down right spang in the middle of all them tarred bags — and thar it stuck! The tar it helt it, and when the team was drawed back by the turrible pull of time at the t’other end, that to-morrow it busted loose from the string of tother days, and was left laying out thar flat in broad daylight.
Well, sirs! it was the fust time in all of they lives that any of them hands had ever seen a to-morrow laid out along side of a to-day, and they cert’nly was carried away by the sight. They jest natcherly had to hold they eyes in place, or they’d of popped right outer they heads and down into all that tar like a row of buttons. They looked, and they looked, and it’s the truth they could n’t find nuthing ‘cept cuss words to say erbout it.
Don’t ask me what the dog-goned thing looked like, for I jest don’t, know, and you kin easy see I ain’t no hand to make a tale up and pass it off for truth.
Well, after all hands had jest erbout cussed theyselves dry over it, Tony had ‘em to ketch aholt of them bags and tote the to-morrow up Flint Holler. Thar they spread it out in front of the little boy’s cabin. Tony he went inside and fetched the young-un out in his arms, and the minute he laid eyes on it, his face all broke into a laugh. ‘It’s to-morrow!’ he says.
It beats me how that kid knowed right off it was to-morrow, for it’s the truth, Stranger, I would n’t know tomorrow from last week—no, sir, I would n’t, not even if you was to lay ‘em out right side by side! But course you know children is different.
‘It’s to-morrow!’ the little feller says, ‘and now I’ll be all right!’ And with that he reaches his arm round Tony’s neck right tight, and snuggles his head erginst him. ‘I knowed you could do it, buddy!’ he says.
So Tony he knowed he’d been right in picking the onreasonable way.
Well now, Stranger, you mought think after all that big to-do, they could of had some rest up Eel River; but you got to recollect that when any feller’s so high-handed as to pull a to-morrow outer place like that, they’s mighty apt to see trouble ‘fore all’s over; and I tell you, it wa’n’t but jest a little bit ‘fore all that crew run up erginst jest about the worst piece of trouble a person ever did see.
But not knowing what they was heading for, they lef’ that to-morrow laying up thar in the holler for the little feller to git well on, and made for camp as onconsarned as you please.
Tony he went off in the woods ergin, and d’rectly that thar log chain commenced to squirm and jump erbout mighty oneasy like. And then all to oncet from ‘way off somewheres, they heard Tony holler, ‘ Look out! Look out !' And Great Day! That chain come a-lashing, and a-t ‘aring outer the woods like a black-snake racer — and you hear me, all them hands sidestepped outer its way in a hurry.
Well then, Tony come on back, and he says, ‘ Now we ‘ll knock off and call it a day.’
So all hands tumbled into the bunkhouse early, and was snoring along jest as pretty and nice as you please, when late in the night, ole Brother Moses Mutters sets up a turrible lamentation, groaning and moaning.
‘What in the Heaven’s the matter with you ! Air you tuck in the stumick ergin?’ Big Henry hollers at him, mighty mad at being waked up. Only it wa’n’t Heavens Big Henry said, and he did n’t use sech a genteel word as stumick neither, for he’s a kind of a rough hand, and’ll lay his tongue to any word he pleases, and be jest as apt as not to come right out and call a bull a bull, ‘stead of a ‘gentleman cow,’ like any person what’s been raised right knows it ought to be called.
‘Big Henry,’ says ole Brother Mutters, looking mighty wild and solemn with his hair all tousled up on end, and nothing but his shirt on, ‘Big Henry, git up from thar, and make ready to die — for the end of the world is coming at sun-up!’ And with that, the ole feller busts out with a turrible howl, and flops down on his knees. ‘ Lord, I never done it,’ he says. ‘It was all Tony Beaver’s doing! Lord, this is me — Moses Mutters speaking. Do pray take notice I did n’t have no hand in it, it was that crazy Tony Beaver —’
‘ Quit that ! ' Big Henry hollers at him, jumping outer his bunk, and jerking the preacher up standing. ‘You quit telling the Lord tales on Tony Beaver, or I’ll jest natcherly bust your head off,’ he says. ‘Now then stand up on your two hoofs, and tell the fellers what’s the trouble.’
All hands was awake by now, sitting up in the bunks, kinder blinking in the lantern light.
Brother Mutters had to ketch his breath, and swaller some, ‘fore he could git his words out, Big Henry’d jerked him up so sudden; but he layed it all out plain enough onct he got his wind.
‘Don’t you all know we’re a-heading for to-morrow jest as fast as the world kin travel — and there ain’t no to-morrow thar,' he says.
The fellers all stiffened up mighty pale at that, and commenced to cuss to theyselves.
‘Well I reckon there’s a plenty more to-morrows — Tony he only tuck one,’ Big Henry says.
‘Yes! He only tuck one!’ the preacher hollers out. ‘But he tuck the one we got to have ! O my Lord! Tony Beaver’s made a hole in the roadbed of time, and we’re a-heading straight, for it! ‘
One of the hands rips out a powerful cuss word at that. ‘What’ll happen when we hit the hole?’ he says.
‘She’ll drap — the world’ll drap right through it,’ Brother Mutters groans. ‘She’ll either drap away from the sun, and all flesh will be froze to death; or she’ll drap span into it, and all be burnt alive.’
Well, sirs! At that all hands bust outer the bunk-house, like logs busting over a dam, and made for whar Tony was laying out in the moonlight, with his head on a gray rock.
‘Git up from thar, Tony Beaver!’ they hollers at him. ‘Git up ‘fore the world draps!’
And then, turrible skeered, and all clammering at once, they layed out to him what they was all heading for.
‘Aw, it’ll be all right,’ Tony says, gitting up and shaking hisself more like some kind of a wild varmint than a human.
But the hands kinder sensed that for all his bluff he was right oneasy hisself, and that skeered ‘em worse ‘n ever. Some of the fellers was all for rustling round, and trying to run that thar to-morrow back into place ergin ‘fore it was too late. But Tony he would n’t hear to that.
‘Any hand that wants kin take that thar log chain back in the bresh, and hitch it to what I had it hitched to,’he says; ‘but you hear my horn, I’d as soon have the world drap, as to fool with that place ergin!'
And recollecting how that chain had carried on, there wa’n’t a hand thar craved to take the job.
‘More ‘n that,’ Tony says, ‘that thar to-morrow’s jest natcherly ruined anyhow, and you could n’t run it back into place ergin, all stuck up with tar like it is.’
That ‘peared to be sense, too, and it looked like there wa’n’t a thing to do but jest set and wait for the world to drap.
Well, while they was all standing round waiting, — and a plenty of ‘em was shaking like they had the buck ague, — the question come up, if the world was to drap, when would she do it? Some fellers ‘lowed it’d be at midnight, and some ergin said it would n’t be till daybreak. So thar they had it back and forth, and all got so hot, that Big Henry, and Jim Sulivan, that’s Irish stock off’n Piney Ridge, even squared theyselves off to settle it with they fists. But the t’other fellers made ‘em quit, for they said it’d look kinder ornery, and maybe give the Eel River crew a bad name, if they was to go into Kingdom Come fighting. That ca’med the Sulivan feller, but Big Henry said he’d as leave go thar fighting, as to go any other way. But erbout then some feller had the sense to look at the time.
‘Here!’ he sings out, ‘it’s after midnight now, and she ain’t drapped yit!’
‘Then it’ll be at sun-up!’ ole Brother Mutters busts out. ‘She’ll drap at daybreak! O Lord! I never done it! Lord this is Moses Mutters speaking. It was all Tony’s—’
‘Did n’t I tell you to quit that ?’ Big Henry hollers at him, dancing up to the preacher, and looking powerful dangerous. ‘You shet up now and forever!’ he says, ‘and more’n that, when we git across into the next world, if I ketch you up at the Golden Gate tattling out tales on Tony Beaver to Saint Peter, I’ll jest natcherly bust you down to the t ‘other place,’ he says. Only Big Henry laid his tongue to a stronger word than ‘the t’other place.’
Well, that dried up Brother Mutters on that head; for skeered as he was of what was coming, he was more skeered of what was right beside him. So he went off on another trail, and commenced telling the Lord how it looked like a shame to have the world come to a end in sech nice fall weather. And that was kinder funny too, for heretofore, the ole feller was allus preaching erbout the world being a desert drear. But he tuned up different now.
’O Lord,’ he blubbers, ‘don’t let the world drap in fall weather when the ground smells so good, and the trees is all colored up nice. If she’s bound to drap, let it come in a cold spell in the winter, or along late in March, when the traveling’s bad, and the mud up to the hubs of the wheels; but do pray don’t let her drap now !'
That set all the hands off sniffling, and wiping they sleeves acrost they noses. For if ole Brother Moses had to tell the Lord how pretty it was in fall weather, he did n’t have to tell none of them. They jest natcherly knowed for theyselves how the ridges looked, all colored up red and yeller, with the sun shining over ‘em, and the squirrels barking up every holler on frosty mornings. ‘Now jest look what Tony Beaver’s done!’ they says sniffling and using they sleeves: ‘gone and ruined the world on a pretty day in October!’
Tony he told ‘em to shet up all that foolishness, and he jest kep’ a-standing up thar on his gray rock with his arms folded, and trying to make out like he did n’t keer nuthing for nobody. But Big Henry noticed he was staring mighty hard at a pint off erginst the sky. ‘What’s that you’re a-looking at, Tony?’ he asks him.
‘Well,’ Tony says, ‘I been noticing these last mornings, that the sun strikes right betwixt them two big pines jest as it tops the ridge. If she don’t strike thar this morning, then we’ll know that the world is kinder out of plumb.’
Well, sirs! That sunt the hands limp, for it looked like Tony hisself wa’n’t so sure how things was going to be. And when Tony Beaver’s oneasy, you better b ‘lieve it’s time for any common person to be skeered outer his very gizzards. All the fellers bust loose into a turrible cussing and praying and clammering, like a gang of wild geese what had lost they leader.
By now it was drawing on towards dawn, there was a pale glimmer in the east, and them two pine trees stood up powerful black and strange-looking erginst the sky. All to onct Tony Beaver raised up his hand and says, ‘Listen!’ mighty solemn.
Every feller quit cussing, and ketched his breath at that, and over in the woods they heard a little bird cheep, and another answered it back, and then another and another. Not singing yit, jest cl’aring they throats to tune up. And that was a turrible awesome sound, for every hand knowed it was the forerunner of dawn.
And Great Day in the Morning! Jest that minute a strange kind of a dampness come out all over the ground, like the earth itself had broke into a cold sweat. And while they was all a-staring down at that, and listening to the birds cheep, and knowing they was right, on the edge of to-morrow, and no to-morrow thar — jest that minute the whole world commenced to tremble and to quiver, and to kind of squat down like a skittish horse what sees sumpin’ turrible on in front.
'She’s dropping! She’s dropping !' Ole Brother Mutters screeches out, and fell over like he was dead.
The world give another kind of a long tremble, and then, whoop-ee! it give sech a powerful leap and a bound, that it knocked every feller thar right off’n his feet head over heels down on the ground — all, that is, ‘cept Tony. For a pair of seconds it seemed like they kind of hung on the edge of sumpin’, and then thar was another kick and a scramble, and after that the world settled down like it was over all right.
‘She made it! She made it!’ Tony busts loose. ‘By the breath of the gray rocks, she made it all right! ‘
Jest that minute the sun come up over the ridge, and hung right spang betwixt them two pines, and all the little birds tuck a big mouthful of song, and commenced to pour it out. The hands set up on the ground looking round kinder dazed; and thar was jest about the prettiest fall day a person ever did see, with the long blue shadders laying over the frost, and the mists smoking off’n the mountains that was all red and yeller and joyful.
‘Tony,’ Big Henry says, gitting onto his feet weak like, ‘what happened?’
‘Why, you big idgit,' Tony says looking him squar in the eyes, ‘don’t, you know this is a Leap Year? Do you reckon,’ he says, ‘ I’d be sech a fool for want of sense, as to pull a to-morrow outer a year what could n’t leap the hole, and what had a extry day to spare anyhow?’
Big Henry looks at him for quite a spell, and then he says, ‘ Well, I will be dogged !’ kinder awestruck.
Well Stranger, you jest can’t make me b ‘lieve Tony had it all figgered out as fine as that, for he ain’t no kind of a forelooker, and if he wanted a to-morrow, he’d help hisself to it and never stop to think; and I b’lieve him happening to hit a leap year wa’n’t nuthing in this world but his dog-goned luck.
But it was all too much for ole Brother Mutters, and they laid him out for dead till nigh sundown.