Highland Annals. Iv



HE was passing my cabin late at night, and unexpectedly found me sitting on the moonlit doorstep. I was not longing for conversation, but Sam’s voice, as mere sound, was no more interruptive than purling water or a cajoling minor wind. It mellowed its way over uncouth words in a manner that seemed to be its owner’s gentle amends for using anything in your presence so angular and knotty as the language of man.

‘I thought,’ he said, ‘maybe I could ketch that coon what uses over in Grape Vine Cove; but my dog Buck got onter a fox-trail, an’ coon was n’t nothin’ to him after that. I knowed that fox ‘ud take him to Katter Knob, so I let him go on by hissef an’ I shammucked along toward home.’

There was no hint in his easy air that he had broken my rule against hunting in springtime. Any Merlin would violate any rule occasionally, as a matter of self-respect; and of all the Merlins, Sam was the least capable of inferior misgiving. His whole mental interior was as bare of obeisance as an iceberg of things that grow.

‘I could ‘a’ chivvied that fox out if I had gone after him; but if a man don’t sleep he’s weak at the ploughhandles. Yore work first, Mis’ Dolly.'

But a falling moon was marking one A.M.

‘That fox-hide would ‘a’ brought me four dollars, an’ Krettie keeps pesterin’ me fer a pair o’ shoes. My head might as well be under the forestick. But she’ll jest have to make out.’

This was clearly an impeachment, but I made no defense, and he passed to a topic with, presumably, no implications.

‘Yer company comin’ to-morr’, I reckon?’

‘Yes, Sam.’

‘So ye’re enjoyin yersef to-night.’

I opposed another silence to his deduction.

‘That makes me think now — ‘f I have to meet the train an’ haul ‘em up, I kain’t plough to-morr’.’

‘But, Sam, you don’t have to go till four o’clock.’

‘Ay, but they’s a little work to do on my wagon ‘fore I go down. I kain’t take any resk with friends o’ yorn.’

I could always get interested in the way, amounting to technique, that Sam made use of yer, yore, yorn, you, and ye. Yorn, with an inflection that enlarged the n, was an avowal of separateness as severing as the water that washed Pilate’s hands.

Having arranged for his morning sleep, he merged away, pausing on an edge of moonlight to say, ‘Ain’t the whipper-wills a-whirlin’ to-night? Looks like they ain’t goin’ to sleep at all.’

‘Whirling, Sam?’

‘Ay, you know ever’ time they say whipper-will they whirl round on the limb. Whirl thersevs right round.’

‘What a foolish habit!’

‘Well, the whipper-will ain’t a much smart bird.’

He flowed into the shadows and left me to ponder my newly acquired bird-lore. It was the kind of information which Sam frequently distributed, and with no remonstrance from me. He was too sure and final, and withal too quieting to the intellect. One does n’t demur to the south wind, or try to put it right.

‘I reckon I ain’t a much smart bird,’ I said, thinking how many times I had stepped aside for the unstemmed passage of Sam’s incredibly liquid voice.

The next day brought my friend, Lucie Harvey, and her husband, whom I knew only through her raptures. They were happy additions to my tiny camp, and at the end of their three days’ visit romantically voted to make a bed in the barn and release my room, thus making an indefinite stay possible. We were verbally completing the plan when Sam appeared.

‘ I knocked off ploughin’,’ he said, ‘ to take yer trunks down.’

‘Oh, we’re not going,’ said Lucie.

‘When I brought ye up, ye ‘lowed ye’d be ready to go back this evenin’ an’ I’ve come fer ye.’

‘Why, we’ll let you know when we want to go.’

‘I’ve come out o’ the plough to take ye.’

‘Sorry, my man,’ said the bridegroom, ‘but it’s your mistake. We’ll let you know when we’re ready for you.’

‘You goin’ to live in the barn?’

‘There!’ said Lucie, ‘he knew all about it!’

They turned away for the walk which Sam had momentarily delayed. I heard Lucie say, ‘How did he know?’ and I might have followed to tell her that Sam always knew; but at that moment I was struck motionless by hearing Ned Harvey drop the word ‘Imbecile!’

Sam, very likely, did not know its meaning, but the tone as it floated back was unmistakable.

‘I’m sorry you knocked off ploughing, Sam,’ I said, my eyes slinking.

‘Oh, I left Jim at it. Len said he could spare him.’

‘That means Len is doing double work, so Jim can help you out.’

‘He’p me out? They’s yore friends, not mine. I like Mis’ Harvey though. She’s mighty nice.’

‘Mr. Harvey, too.’

He looked toward Harvey, who was wearing a hunting-jacket very handsomely.

‘Well, as to that, he wears a fine huntin’-jacket, but I’ve seen folks wearin’ good clo’s that had to hunt up the nest-eggs to fry if company dropped by to dinner.’

A pensive shade came into his eyes as they continued to follow the vanishing figure of Harvey. ‘ I always thought I’d like a huntin’-jacket,’ he said; and as he walked away, something in his bearing told me that he was imaginarily clothed as his heart desired. There had been no resentment in his voice. Perhaps he had taken no notice of that terrible word. And gradually I forgot that it had been uttered.


A few days later Sam passed through my yard, where Ned Harvey was warmly engaged in persuading me not to have my crimson clover turned under, but to hog it off. He had carried some of my farm books to the barn, and the phrase, ‘hog it off,’ had him in its power. Lucie’s eyes approved shiningly.

‘And you know, Dolly,’ she said, ‘after all, Ned is a realtor, not a farmer.’

‘But, Mis’ Harvey,’ said Sam, ‘we don’t fatten hogs round here in the spring; an’ clover makes soft meat, — sorter like bear’s meat. An’ that makes me think now — hain’t ye heard about that bear runnin’ on Pitcher Mountain? Hit come down from Smoky.’

‘You ‘ve bears here?’ asked Ned, turning a captured ear.

‘Oh, ay, they’s a few left. They come down from the bear-ground on Smoky oncet in a while. It’s only eleven miles straight through to Pitcher. If I can git Tom Bowles to plough fer me, I’m goin’ to have a look at this feller.’

He passed on, leaving Harvey intently gazing at nothing. His bride caught his arm.

‘You are not going, Ned?’

‘Not without your consent, Lucie. It’s an opportunity, of course. I have never shot a bear.’

His thoughts wandered. We could see that he was already back at home telling the boys about it.

‘If only you would be very, very careful, dear!’

‘Oh, that’s all right, thank you, darling!’ And he set off after Sam. When he returned, he was enthusiastic about his guide. ‘I like him! He hung back at first, and I finally found that Bowles would n’t plough for him without the money; so I paid him ten dollars in advance. That’s all he is charging to take me. We shall be gone only three or four days. He knows all the trails; and we can get our bacon and meal at a little store on Siler’s creek, and not have to carry a heavy pack from here.’

‘If only you had an intelligent companion!’said Lucie with foreboding.

‘Oh, Sam’s a fine fellow! And he knows a lot of old songs. You know I want to make a collection.’

‘Do get “London City” for me if you can,’ I said. ‘He will never give me more than a snatch of it.

"In London city where I did dwell
A merchant boy I loved so well — ”

I am sure it has been sung under the very bonnet of the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street. “City,” not “town”; “merchant,” not “soldier ” or “sailor.” ‘

‘It’s a link,’ said Harvey. ‘Think of it! This remote spot where nothing ever happened, and old London! I’ll get it for you.’

I was n’t hopeful, knowing Sam’s disposition to sing only at his own instance; but I could not discourage anyone so gallantly sure as Harvey.

The next twenty-four hours were spent by the bear-hunters in making ready. I asked Sam where he intended to get a bear-dog, and was surprised to hear that they had decided not to take one.

‘One o’ them big dogs ‘ll eat three men’s rations,’ said Sam. ‘We’d have to carry a heap more stuff, an’ pay five dollars fer the hire of him, too. Anyways, if we took a bear-dog, he’d git all the credit fer the killin’, when like as not he’d be back in camp eatin’ up our victuals.’

‘ It’s settled, Sam,’ said Harvey. ‘A gun’s the clean thing.’

‘ I knowed you wanted to shoot bear, not claw ‘em out like Jed Weaver does.’

As preparations went on, Lucie shrank to a wife’s place in the background; but near the starting-moment, she slipped a pair of her husband’s best silk socks into his kit.

‘They will rest your feet, dear,’ she said, suppressing a crinkly catch in her voice.

The kiss she received was absentmindedly given; but when a hundred yards on his way, Harvey turned thoughtfully and waved a marital hand broadly rearward.

The fifth morning thereafter, Lucie, who had been on watch at the curve of the road, came running in.

‘Dolly,’ she cried, ‘I thought tramps never got up here! ‘

‘They don’t,’ I said.

‘But look!’

She herself turned again and looked out; then stood framed in eerie silence. I saw that it was Ned. He came up with an unrelaxing smile, but looking as if he had not slept since his departure. Certainly he had not shaved, though I had seen him carefully pack his safety razor, and remembered his remark that even in the woods a man could be a gentleman. He had on Sam’s ragged coat, and under it we had glimpses of Sam’s still more ragged, and once blue, cotton shirt. His head was bare.

Lucie was white-lipped and wideeyed. ‘Did the bears — ‘ she began.

‘No, Lucie, the bears did not get me,’ he said; and preceded her to the barn.

Two or three hours afterward she returned to tell me that Ned was sleeping and did not wish to be awakened until next morning. He appeared at breakfast, neat and smiling, but his face was still marked by experience.

‘He has suffered,’ said Lucie, helping his plate with tender liberality.

‘Oh, it was nothing,’ said Ned. ‘Sam took a bad cold, and seemed threatened with pneumonia. As my clothes were warmer than his, of course I exchanged with him.’

‘Your best silk socks, too?’ cried Lucie.

‘Certainly. He had none’

Then he told us about it. ‘We climbed steadily, and the second day reached a height of four thousand feet or more. There was a fierce wind, and it was bitter cold. We had to keep a fire at night, and as Sam was not well, I attended to that, which cut out my sleep. Don’t moan like that, please, dearest. I am glad I went. I feel better prepared for many things. I really do.’

And truly he did seem to have added to his stature. He had been very likable; but now I began to admire him.

‘ I did n’t get a bear, but I made some notes. You know I have always been interested in forest life. I ought to have been a woodsman.’

‘I hope you won’t have to limp very long,’ said Lucie; and a slight silence followed.

‘Did Sam sing for you?’ she continued, her usual discernment failing.

‘Yes — a little — one song.’

‘Oh, I hope you took it down!’

‘It was very cold, Lucie. I did no unnecessary writing.’

‘But you remember it?’

‘I shall never forget it,’ he said and his voice had a slight acridity to my ears. I was glad when Lucie fell into her sweetest manner and they went off toget her.

As I moved about the deserted table, I noticed a notebook lying on the floor. The floor being frequently a repository for my own notebooks, I picked this one up, to see what subject had lost my devotion. On the first page I read: ‘Night of the 15th: very cold; no sleep. Sixteenth: very cold; no sleep. Seventeenth: very cold; no sleep.’ The rest was blank. I laid the book on the floor, a little under Harvey’s chair. Then I went to find Sam.


‘How is your cold, Sam?’ I asked.

He laughed his most purling-water laugh. ‘I cured that when I was crossin’ Siler’s creek comin’ home. There’s lots o’ sickness ‘ll leave you when you cross water. Hit takes right off.’

‘Sam, do you know that Tom Bowles has not been near the place? There is n’t a furrow ploughed in that field.’

‘Ay, I know it. I was so busy the day we went off, I forgot to tell you about that. Mr. Harvey bein’ yore friend, I wanted to do ever’thing I could to he’p him; but I said to myself that what you wanted ought to come first, so I went to that field an’ I looked all over it. I went cleverly all over it. An’ I saw ‘t wa’ n’t no use to throw away ten dollars on Tom Bowles, fer that ground would n’t bring corn. Yer best chance is to wait until fall, an’ put it in rye. It ‘ll shore bring rye.’

‘But when I wanted you to put it in rye last fall, you said I ought to wait until spring and plant corn.’

‘I ain’t fergittin’ that, but last fall I had n’t gone well over it like I ought.’

‘It’s not too late for corn now, if you ‘ll set to ploughing at once.’

‘I’d do it, Mis’d Dolly; I’d be willin’ to do jest as you say, even agin yer own intrust, which is what corn ‘ud be in that ground; but I’ve got to go to Carson to-morr’ an’ git my front tooth put in. It’s been out six months now, an’ I’ve got the money in my pocket.’

‘Could n’t you wait a few days Sam? ‘

‘Why, I put it to you now, if you had a front tooth out, would n’t you git one in the first chance? I’ve got my clo’s, an’ the money, an’ it’s mighty hard to git ever’thing together at oncet.’

At last he had mentioned the clothes; so, without repulse, might I.

‘Your jacket is a good fit, Sam.’

‘How do you think it suits me, Mis’ Dolly?’

‘I think you wear it about as well as Mr. Harvey did.’

‘It set smart round the shoulders on him.’

‘Smart on you too, Sam.’

‘It looks better with the cap.’ He put on the cap for proof. ‘I let Mr. Harvey keep his pants an’ leggin’s. That chap from Asheville left me his, an’ I thought they’s better’n Harvey’s. Jest let me walk off.’

He walked off, and I duly and sincerely admired.

‘You reckon,’ he said, coming back, ‘if you saw me as fur off as that black oak on the hill yander, an’ I had my back to you, an’ you did n’t know I had these clo’s, you reckon you’d take me fer Harvey?’

I assured him I would.

‘He’s a well-set-up man, Harvey.’

It was time to hit the nail. ‘Sam, I want the truth. Was there a bear on Pitcher Mountain?’

‘Yes, there was — three year ago. I saw it myself, after it ‘uz dead.’

‘Go on. Make a clean breast of it.’

‘There, I knowed you’d be right on me. All right, I’ll tell you ever’thing. I meant to all the time. But ‘fore I begin, I want you to tell me what’s an impersile?’

‘An impersile? Oh — ah —an imbecile is a sort of fool.’

‘I reckoned it was about that,’ he said; and, too late, I remembered.

‘I won’t keep back a dod-blessed thing, Mis’ Dolly. You know how my dog Buck acts when they’s a fox usin’ around. He ‘ll lay on the hearth-rock thinkin’ how he’s goin’ to git that fox. An’ ‘long about two o’clock I have to git up an’ let him out. Then he goes to Len’s an’ rumbles on the door till Len gits up an’ lets his dog out, an’ Buck takes him off to hunt that fox. He’ll keep that up fer weeks if it takes weeks to git him. It was jest that a-way with me. I had to study out how I was goin’ to git Harvey. He was a friend o’ yorn, stayin’ in yore barn, an’ I could n’t go over there an’ lammux him. I ‘m a peaceable man anyhow, an’ that ain’t my way.’

‘I know it is n’t, Sam, and I am surprised that you could n’t overlook one thoughtless word, where no harm was meant.’

‘Yer goin’ too fast now. I did overlook, come time. You know the Bible says that the birds may light on your head, but ye need n’t let ‘em make a nest in yer hair. That means ‘at hard words may drap on you, but ye need n’t harbor ‘em in yer heart. When that word kep’ a-stickin’, I knowed I had to git it out, and I did. I feel all right now, an’ I ‘ll do any favor fer Mr.

Harvey if he ‘ll come an ast me right. I‘ll drive him down to the depot if he ‘ll ast me, though I told Krettie I’d never do it, an’ I said I ‘d make him push his trunks down hissef in a wheelbarr’.’

Concern must have risen to my face, for he became regally assuring.

‘Don’t you worry a bit now. I thought it all out, an’ I ‘lowed I could git along ‘thout doin’ him any harm. Overlook it! Ain’t I showed that plain? Did n’t I knock off ploughin’ in the middle o’ April an’ the dogwoods a-buddin’ jest to take him bear-huntin’? He was bound to go. He was wuss ‘n a hen that’s goin’ to set, eggs er no eggs.’

‘O Sam, you know you started it yourself! ‘

‘I jest talked a little, as is common. It’s a man’s nater to drap his talk aroun’ without lookin’ to see whose head is hot. Shorely to goodness, yer not goin’ to blame that on me!’

‘Well, what happened? You ‘ve got his gun, his jacket, his cap, and his shirt.’

‘An’ his safety razor,’ added Sam, ‘an’ these here.’ He pulled tenderly at a pocket of the jacket and gave me a shining glimpse of the silk socks. ‘I put ‘em on oncet. Boys! Slipper-ellum ain’t nothin’!’ Then he began his story.


‘I did n’t take my gun, ‘cause I was only goin’ along to ‘comerdate Harvey; an’ the trigger o’ mine was busted. I did n’t take Buck nuther, fer we might ‘a’ run across a bear, an’ Buck’s so swell-headed, he thinks he can wipe up anything, an’ a bear would ‘a’ chawed him to a dish-rag. I could n’t take any resk with him, fer Tim Reeves wrote me from Tennessee that he ‘d give me fifty dollars fer him when he comes back, he’s so hot fer fox. That first day me an’ Harvey traveled like brothers, an’ I got him a good ways along ‘thout makin’ him feel the road. I carried his gun fer him, so he could walk faster, an’ he was likin’ me firstrate. At night I made a fine fire an’ he put his feet toward it an’ went to sleep. Next mornin’ he got up an’ et nine slices o’ bacon an’ a meal-pone I cooked on a rock. I pushed him to eat, tellin’ him we had a terrible climb afore us. He laffed at me, an’ says “Bring on yer mountains, Sam.” An’ I brought ‘em. By night we’s in a mile o’ the top o’ Smoky.’

‘But you were going to Pitcher Mountain! ‘

‘Ay, we started there, but when we passed Jed Weaver’s, which is the last house, I said I’d go in an’ git me a little new terbacker, ‘cause Jed raises it an’ it ‘ud be neighborly to ast fer some. When I come out, I told Harvey that Jed said the bear on Pitcher had been killed an’ Mose Ashe had the hide. Which wuz ever’ word so. It ‘uz the biggest bear in the memory o’ man, I told him; an’ that ‘uz the truth too, fer I seen it myself. Harvey’s lip fell till I was sorry fer him, an’ I said I was willin’ to go on to the beat-ground on Smoky, if he thought he could hold out. I said I would n’t drive him, it wuz his trip anyway; an’ he said he was feelin’ better ever’ minute, that climbin’ agreed with him, an’ he looked like it did. I told him if he wanted to go on, it was lucky he took me with him, fer it was give up that I knowed the trails better ‘n anybody that had ever gone inter the bear-ground. Ain’t that so, Mis’ Dolly?’

‘That’s what I ‘ve heard, Sam.’

‘I spent a year in the woods after my first wife died. I thought it was the best chance I’d ever git, an’ I took it. So I said to Harvey, “Knowledge has got to be paid fer. It’s the custom.” An’ he says, “Oh, anything, Sam!”

An’ I says, “What about yer gun?” “Oh, my gun?” says he, a little set back, fer it was fire-new, as you can see.’

His glance fondled the gleaming barrel of the gun which was leaning against a tree near us.

’I told Harvey I was n’t feelin’ very well myself, an’ it might be better fer me to go home anyhow; but if we traded, I would n’t think o’ takin’ the gun till we got back home, an’ he could carry it from there on, ‘cause we’s gittin’ inter a country where we might come on something wuth a bullet any minute. An’ he said, “All right, it’s a bargain. Move, partner.”

‘ So we climbed hard all day, an’ by night, as I told you, we ‘s well up Smoky, an’ the coldest wind a-blowin’ that ever made an i-shickle out of a man’s gizzard. We drew up at a spring, an’ I says, “We ‘ll stay right here, fer there ain’t no water higher up.” He was puffin’ some, an’ he says, “How fur are we from the bear-ground?” I says, “It’s all around us. We’re right in it.” He whitened a little an’ gripped his gun, an’ I explained o’ course we weren’t in the ackchal la’r’l thicket where the bears denned, an’ where they tromp roads in the brush big enough fer a horse to walk through. I told him we had n’t got to the stair-steps in the cliffs where they climbed in an’ out o’ their dens; but they used the neighborhood fer roamin’ an’ fer gittin’ water. I reckoned he would n’t want to go on an’ knock at their doors till mornin’, after he’d had a good rest, an’ we’d keep a big fire all night so’s they would n’t bother us.

’I said I’d cook supper if he ‘d make the fire; an’ he started to git up some wood; but it was slow work ‘cause he’d keep the gun in one hand an’ pull an’ drag at the brush with the other. When I’d rested good I went an’ he’ped, fer I was sorry fer him, an’ was pushin’ hungry. When I ‘d cooked supper, an’ he’d et enough to make him feel sort o’ cocky, an’ I’d got up a good lot o’ logs to last all night, he said he guessed he’d turn in so’s to git a good sleep an’ be ready fer the battle in the mornin’. An’ I said I b’lieved I would too. He got purty still at that, an’ watched me fixin’ my bed. It was so dod-a’mighty cold I got me a lot o’ fir-boughs an’ piled ‘em high as my head. Then I began to crawl inter the middle of ‘em.

‘ “Looky here, Sam,” says Harvey, “I never heard of a guide crawlin’ off to sleep when the camp needed watchin’.”— “I ain’t no guide,” I says; “I’m a friend what’s a long way from home jest to ‘comerdate ye.” An I went in.

‘Then I put my head out an’ says, frien’ly as could be, “You turn in too. That fire ‘ll burn ha’f the night, the wind’ll keep it up. An’ long about one o’clock I’ll crawl out an’ throw on some more logs. Ef you hear a noise, jest lay still, ‘cause it ‘ll only be me a-stirrin’. Bears,” I says, “come up sly.”

‘I reckon he’s a little stubborn by nater, ‘cause he would n’t turn in at all. I looked out after a bit an’ saw he’d took off his cap an’ tied his muffler round his head, so I ast him if he would n’t let me have his cap. My hat was full o’ holes an’ seemed to draw the wind. I was all right, I said, ‘cept the top o’ my head was freezin’ off. He handed me his cap then, slow-like, an’ never said I was welcome, ner nothin’. But I’d made up my mind I was goin’ to overlook ever’thing, jest as you say. I had some sleep after I got the cap, an’ when I looked out ‘round midnight, he was settin’ there holdin’ his gun, an’ had a big fire that he’ped warm the whole place. I slept like I was in my own bed. Oncet I woke up thinkin’ I heard Krettie a-snorin’; then I remembered where I was an’ knew it was the wind thrashin’ about.

‘An’ you ought to ‘a’ seen the stars a-shinin’. When they’d wink, I’d almost jump, they seemed so close an’ knowin’. I’d been thinkin’ about leavin’ Harvey up there, an’ tellin’ him to foller one o’ the branches down the mountain, an’ I thought maybe I’d put him on one that ‘ud bring him out about twenty miles from home. But lookin’ at them stars, I made up my mind to stand by him an’ bring him clean in to Mis’ Harvey.

‘Next mornin’ he went to the spring, but he said it was so cold he guessed he would n’t wash. Then he looked at hissef in a little glass he took out o’ his kit. You know he’s one o’ them reddish men that have to keep the razor goin’ ever’ day ef they keep ahead o’ ther beard, an’ we’d been out two nights. After he’d looked, he said he guessed he’d heat some water in our tin cup an’ shave. But the wind was blowin’ so aggervatin’ hard he got nettleish, an’ I said he might cut hissef even if it was a safety, an’ bears had an awful scent fer blood.

‘ “We’s huntin’ bears,” I said, “an’ don’t want ‘em huntin’ us.” He says, “You mean it well enough, Sam, but they’s nothin’ in it.” However, it was gittin’ late, an’ he guessed he would n’t shave till night. He put the razor back in its little box, an’ drapped it inter his jacket pocket. But I’d clear forgot I’d seen him put it there when he was rakin’ his kit fer it that night. I told him I ‘lowed he’d drapped it up by the spring that mornin’ an’ I’d climb all the way back fer it if he wanted me to.’

‘Why did n’t he look in his pockets?’

‘’Cause I had the jacket then, an’ I did n’t think about it. I told him when he handed it to me that he’d better look in the pockets, there might be somethin’ in ‘em he wanted; an’ he said they was n’t nothin’ there, an’ if they was, I might as well take it now as later; only he said it rougher, like men ‘ll talk in the woods. “Not a dern thing in ‘em,” he says, if you’ll excuse me, Mis’ Dolly, an’ jest as good as told me to keep it if there wuz. I found the razor after I’d got home, an’ by all rights it’s mine. But Harvey can have it if he ‘ll come an’ ast fer it, though he’s got another one mighty nigh as good.’

He interrupted his story to say that I need n’t be lookin’ at him like that; he never forgot Harvey was a friend of mine, and he tried to do his best by him even with ‘ influenzy comin’ on.’

‘But you did n’t have influenza, Sam.’

‘You don’t know how near I come to it, though. That very mornin’ after sleepin’ in the fir-boughs, I got up sneezin’ awful an’ my backbone creepin’. In the night my ol’ hat had blowed clear away, an’ I said to Harvey I reckoned he would n’t be usin’ the cap an’ muffler both at oncet, an’ I’d wear whichever he did n’t want. He says, “That’s kind of you, Sam.”

‘He had took off the muffler when he thought he was goin’ to shave, an’ the next minute his ears looked so brickle I could ‘a’ knocked ‘em off with a stick. So he had put it back on. I told him the cap did n’t have any earpieces, an’ I could stand the wind better ‘n he could. I said mighty few bear-hunters ever got out o’ the la’r’l and in home with anything on their heads at all; that Jed Weaver always went into the woods bareheaded, ‘cause he said it cost too much to put hats an’ caps on the la’r’l; an’ Harvey says, “Oh, jest keep it, Sam, an’ let’s go.” I told him we’d scrummish around the mountain toward the sun, an’ maybe I could shake off my chill. But it stuck to me, an’ after a while I said I’d have to stop an’ build a fire.

‘He got frustered then, an’ said he’d come fer bear, an’ he was goin’ to have one if he had to go on by hissef. I told him I’d go with him, even if it meant pneumony. Then he got frien’ly an’ said it was n’t goin’ to be that bad. We’d git our bear an’ go down ‘fore night. An’ he was all fer goin’ inter the la’r’l.

‘I went a little furder with him, an’ then I stopped all in a shiver an’ told him he must remember I did n’t have on warm clo’s like he had, though I had the same sort o’ skin; an’ I said if I drapped an’ died up there, fer him to hit Siler’s creek an’ foller it down to the settlement.

"‘How’m I goin’ ter hit Siler’s creek?” says he. Not a bit o’ feelin’ fer me. Jest thinkin’ how he was goin’ to git down. I come near tellin’ him right then that we’s ten miles west o’ the bear-ground an’ I did n’t aim to go there with a man ‘at could n’t shoot a buzzard off a washtub.’

‘What do you mean, Sam?’

‘Why, shorely yo don’t think I’d go right where the bears wuz without a bear-dog! We’s in a bear-ground all right, like I told Harvey, only it ‘us the old one, the one they used years ago ‘fore the people drove ‘em furder back. I knew Harvey could n’t shoot, an’ I had to study out how to take him bear-huntin’ without gittin’ him chawed to death. ‘Course the bears do stray ‘round there oncet in a while, an’ we might ‘a’ come on one any time.

‘Right after Harvey showed me so plain how little feelin’ he had, I thought I heard a bear growl off in the thicket, an’ I told him to git ready. I said as I had no gun, I’d climb a tree an’ he could shoot if we got a sight o’ the feller. He ast me if a man could shoot a bear from a tree, an’ I told him yes, but it was mighty hard to climb one with a gun in yer hand. He said as I was feelin’ so bad maybe we’d better start down an’ he’d come back next year an’ git his bear. I told him I was n’t goin’ to spile his trip, an’ I b’lieved I could stick it out if I only had a warm shirt an’ jacket.

‘About that time I crossed a bear’s trail, shore as you live. I’d seen the swipe a bear makes too often not to know it. Harvey he leaned over an’ whispered, “Which way ‘s he goin’, Sam?” An’ I showed him how it was goin’ down. “It’s below us, Harvey,” I says, “an’ the track ain’t an hour old. The wind ain’t blowed it dry.” My heart was jumpin’ like it’d break through, an’ I thought to myself, ain’t I the one fool fer bein’ here without a bear-dog an’ with a man ‘at kain’t shoot.

‘Harvey says sudden, “How can we git down from here, Sam?” An’ I told him there was another trail furder round the mountain that ‘ud take us down to Siler’s creek. It would mean a sight more walkin’, but I thought I could make it if it was n’t fer my chill. He says, “All right! Strip!” an’ took off his coat an’ shirt. I give him mine, an’ after that little talk about the pockets, I got inter his clo’s an’ we started. I knew I could find the head o’ Siler’s creek an’ could make it down by keeping in sound o’ the water. Harvey would ‘a’ been a lost man if he had n’t been with a feller that knowed the country like I did. But he never let on that he wuz owin’ me anything. Jed Weaver had told me that old trail had got so thicketty a man would have to tie his eyeballs in if he come down it an’ did n’t lose ‘em. An’ that is what it wuz. When we come out at Harney’s Bald, our fingers wuz bleedin’, an’ Harvey said he guessed if that thicket was ‘tween us an’ the bear there was n’t any more danger, an’ he threw down the gun. I had to carry it from there on, which was n’t the bargain at all. But I shot three squirrels, an’ Harvey seemed kinder peeved ‘stead o’ bein’ glad I had something fer my trouble.

‘That night it was awful cold agin, fer we come out in a northy cove about sundown an’ wuz too tired to go on. Harvey said he would n’t make a fire if he froze to death; so I got wood an’ cooked the squirrels, an’ was jest as brotherly as I could be. After supper he fell on the ground an’ went right to sleep. I covered him with balsam, ‘cause I was n’t goin’ to bring a friend o’ yorn back sick. In the mornin’ he woke up groanin’ an’ said his bones had hurt him so he had n’t shet his eyes all night. I got him out an’ hurried him along all day. We had gone so fur around that bear, we had to camp out an extry night. I found a purty good campin’-place, but my feet was rubbed sore. Harvey was a-limpin’. He said it was a long trip to make on firecoals. I told him to keep in good heart, that he’d be with Mis’ Harvey next day, an’ she’d pet him up nice. But I could n’t cheer him up noway, an’ he never said nothin’ all the time I was gittin’ wood an’ cookin’ supper.

‘After we’d et, him a-sayin’ nothin’, I pulled off my boots, an’ he says, “Lord, man, don’t you wear socks?” I said not in the woods. Mutton taller is better’n socks in the woods any day. An’ I took out a little piece o’ taller I had in my pack an’ rubbed my feet with it. Then I turned ‘em to the fire an’ it eased ‘em up fine. I told him I was sorry I did n’t have enough taller to divide, but I only had enough left to rub my feet with in the mornin’ ‘fore we started, an’ as he had socks an’ I did n’t, I needed the taller wuss’n he did. He took off his boots an’ wrapped his feet in his muffler. A baby ought ‘a’ knowed better, but I did n’t say anything. I was wore out thinkin’ fer him at ever’ turn. He looked so beat though, layin’ there in my ol’ clo’s, I thinks I’ll sing a little fer him. The first day we’s a-climbin’ he kept pesterin’ me to sing, an’ me ha’f out o’ breath, luggin’ pack an’ gun. I b’lieve in suitin’ a song to the time, an’ settin’ there, with my feet a-warmin’, I got to thinkin’ how fine it was out in the wild woods like that, an’ only one night from home too; an’ ‘most, fore I knowed it I was singin’ “Free a Little Bird.” It goes this a-way: —

‘I’m as free a little bird as I can be;
I ‘ll never build my nest on the ground;
I ‘ll build my nest in a chinkapin tree,
Where the bad boys can never tear it down.
‘Carry me home, sweet Kitty, carry me home!
The stars they are bright,
An’ as soft as candlelight;
Sweet Kitty, carry me home!

‘The verses are all jest alike ‘cept the tree is different ever’ time. That little bird builds its nest in nineteen trees ‘fore the song is done; an’ it’s ‘lowable fer you to put in more if you want to an’ can think of ‘em. I thought of a lot—the mulberry, the sourwood, the weepin’ willer, an’ so many more I was nigh an’ hour gittin’ through. Harvey never said a word when I stopped; he was awake though, fer I seen him move. But I did n’t expect anything from him. The first day we’s out it wuz “Thank ‘e’, Sam,” all the time. But after we got inter the deep woods where I was his rale dependance, I never heard it oncet.

‘Next mornin’ his feet wuz so sore he could n’t let his boots tech ‘em. “Sam,” he says, “what’ll ye take fer that taller?” I told him I was n’t tradin’ it; if he needed it wuss’n I did, he was welcome. I could make out ef I had a pair o’ easy socks. “Yer ain’t used them silk ones yit, have ye?” I says. He took ‘em out of his kit an’ handed ‘em to me ‘thout openin’ his mouth; though I told him over agin that he was welcome to the taller. But these furriners ain’t got much manners anyhow, if you notice ‘em close.

‘He said he had n’t shet his eyes, an’ he’d nearly froze, like as if I ought to ‘a’ set up an’ kept the fire goin’. I was glad enough to git him in home that mornin’; an’ when he wants a friend to go bear-huntin’ with him agin, he’ll have to look furder’n me. We ain’t quarreled though. That need n’t worry ye a bit. When I left him yisterday he says, “Sam, yer a ‘tellergent feller,” an’ he stuck out his hand.’

‘You took it, Sam?’

‘Oh, ay, I took it. But,’he added, — for in those days in Unakasia every man was his own Shakespeare, — ‘ I knew he was jest a-flowerin’ me.’

  1. Other sketches in this series appeared in the Atlantic in May, June, and September 1919.