A Mountain Europa
John Fox Jr.
Prepared by David Reed email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
A Mountain Europa
By John Fox, Jr.
TO JAMES LANE ALLEN
As Clayton rose to his feet in the still air, the tree-tops began to
tremble in the gap below him, and a rippling ran through the
leaves up the mountain-side. Drawing off his hat he stretched out
his arms to meet it, and his eyes closed as the cool wind struck his
throat and face and lifted the hair from his forehead. About him
the mountains lay like a tumultuous sea-the Jellico Spur, stilled
gradually on every side into vague, purple shapes against the
broken rim of the sky, and Pine Mountain and the Cumberland
Range racing in like breakers from the north. Under him lay
Jellico Valley, and just visible in a wooded cove, whence Indian
Creek crept into sight, was a mining-camp-a cluster of white
cabins-from which he had climbed that afternoon. At that distance
the wagon-road narrowed to a bridle-path, and the figure moving
slowly along it and entering the forest at the base of the mountain
was shrunk to a toy. For a moment Clayton stood with his face to
the west, drinking in the air; then tightening his belt, he caught the
pliant body of a sapling and swung loose from the rock. As the
tree flew back, his dog sprang after him. The descent was sharp. At
times he was forced to cling to the birch-tops till they lay flat on
Breathless, he reached at last a bowlder from which the path was
easy to the valley below, and he leaned quivering against the soft
rug of moss and lichens that covered it. The shadows had crept
from the foot of the mountains, darkening the valley, and lifting up
the mountain-side beneath him a long, wavering line in which met
the cool, deep green of the shade and the shining bronze where the
sunlight still lay. Lazily following this line, his eye caught two
moving shadows that darted jagged shapes into the sunlight and as
quickly withdrew them. As the road wound up toward him, two
figures were soon visible through the undergrowth. Presently a
head bonneted in blue rose above the bushes, and Clayton's
half-shut eyes opened wide and were fixed with a look of amused
expectancy where a turn of the path must bring rider and beast into
plain sight. Apparently some mountain girl, wearied by the climb
or in a spirit of fun, had mounted her cow while driving it home;
and with a smile at the thought of the confusion he would cause
her, Clayton stepped around the bowlder and waited. With the
slow, easy swing of climbing cattle, the beast brought its rider into
view. A bag of meal lay across its shoulders, and behind this the
girl-for she was plainly young-sat sidewise, with her bare feet
dangling against its flank. Her face was turned toward the valley
below, and her loosened bonnet half disclosed a head of bright
Catching sight of Clayton, the beast stopped and lifted its head, not
the meek, patient face he expected to see, but a head that was
wrinkled and vicious-the head of a bull. Only the sudden
remembrance of a dead mountain custom saved him from utter
amazement. He had heard that when beasts of burden were scarce,
cows, and especially bulls, were worked in ploughs and ridden by
the mountaineers, even by the women. But this had become a
tradition, the humor of which greater prosperity and contact with a
new civilization had taught even the mountain people to
appreciate. The necessities of this girl were evidently as great as
her fear of ridicule seemed small. When the brute stopped, she
began striking him in the flank with her bare heel, without looking
around, and as he paid no attention to such painless goading, she
turned with sudden impatience and lifted a switch above his
shoulders. The stick was arrested in mid-air when she saw
Clayton, and then dropped harmlessly. The quick fire in her eyes
died suddenly away, and for a moment the two looked at each
other with mutual curiosity, but only for a moment. There was
something in Clayton's gaze that displeased her. Her face clouded,
and she dropped her eyes.
"G'long," she said, in a low tone. But the bull had lowered his
head, and was standing with feet planted apart and tail waving
uneasily. The girl looked up in alarm.
"Watch out thar! " she called out, sharply. "Call that dog off-
Clayton turned, but his dog sprang past him and began to bark.
The bull, a lean, active, vicious-looking brute, answered with a
"Call him off, I tell ye! " cried the girl, angrily, springing to the
ground. "Git out o' the way. Don't you see he's a-comm' at ye?"
The dog leaped nimbly into the bushes, and the maddened bull was
carried on by his own Impetus toward Clayton, who, with a quick
spring, landed in safety in a gully below the road. When he picked
himself up from the uneven ground where he had fallen, the beast
had disappeared around the bowlder. The bag had fallen, and had
broken open, and some of the meal was spilled on the ground. The
girl, flushed and angry, stood above it.
"Look thar, now," she said. "See whut you've done. Why'n't ye
call that dog off?"
"I couldn't," said Clayton, politely. " He wouldn't come. I'm sorry,
"Can't ye manage yer own dog?" she asked, half contemptuously.
"Then ye oughter leave him to home, and not let him go round
a-skeerin' folks' beastes." With a little gesture of indignation she
stooped and began scooping up the meal in her hand.
"Let me help you," said Clayton. The girl looked up in surprise.
You go 'way," she said.
But Clayton stayed, watching her helplessly. He wanted to carry
the bag for her, but she swung it to her shoulder, and moved away.
He followed her around the bowlder, where his late enemy was
browsing peacefully on sassafras-bushes.
"You stay thar now," said the girl, " and keep that dog back."
"Won't you let me help you get up?" he asked.
Without answering, the girl sprang lightly to the bull's back, Once
only she looked around at him. He took off his hat, and a puzzled
expression came into her face. Then, without a word or a nod, she
rode away. Clayton watched the odd pair till the bushes hid them.
"Europa, by Jove!" he exclaimed, and he sat down in
She was so very odd a creature, so different from the timid
mountain women who shrank with averted faces almost into the
bushes when he met them. She had looked him straight in the face
with steady eyes, and had spoken as though her sway over
mountain and road were undisputed and he had been a wretched
trespasser. She paid no attention to his apologies, and she scorned
his offers of assistance. She seemed no more angered by the loss
of the meal than by his incapacity to manage his dog, which
seemed to typify to her his general worthlessness. He had been
bruised by his fall, and she did not even ask if he were hurt.
Indeed, she seemed not to care, and she had ridden away from him
as though he were worth no more consideration than the stone
He was amused, and a trifle irritated. How could there be such a
curious growth in the mountains? he questioned, as he rose and
continued the descent. There was an unusual grace about her, in
spite of her masculine air. Her features were regular, the nose
straight and delicate, the mouth resolute, the brow broad, and the
eyes intensely blue, perhaps tender, when not flashing with anger,
and altogether without the listless expression he had marked in
other mountain women, and which, he had noticed, deadened into
pathetic hopelessness later in life. Her figure was erect, and her
manner, despite its roughness, savored of something high-born.
Where could she have got that bearing? She belonged to a race
whose descent, he had heard, was unmixed English; upon whose
lips lingered words and forms of speech that Shakespeare had
heard and used. Who could tell what blood ran in her veins?
Musing, he had come almost unconsciously to a spur of the
mountains under which lay the little mining-camp. It was six
o'clock, and the miners, grim and black, each with a pail in hand
and a little oil-lamp in his cap, were going down from work. A
shower had passed over the mountains above him, and the last
sunlight, coming through a gap in the west, struck the rising mist
and turned it to gold. On a rock which thrust from the mountain
its gray, sombre face, half embraced by a white arm of the mist,
Clayton saw the figure of a woman. He waved his hat, but the
figure stood motionless, and he turned into the woods toward the
It was the girl; and when Clayton disappeared she too turned and
went on her way. She had stopped there because she knew he
must pass a point where she might see him again. She was little
less indifferent than she seemed; her motive was little more than
curiosity. She had never seen that manner of man before.
Evidently he was a " furriner "from the " settlemints." No man in
the mountains had a smooth, round face like his, or wore such a
queer hat, such a soft, white shirt, and no galluses," or carried
such a shiny, weak-looking stick, or owned a dog that he couldn't
make mind him. She was not wholly contemptuous, however. She
had felt vaguely the meaning of his politeness and deference. She
was puzzled and pleased, she scarcely knew why.
"He was mighty accomodatin'," she thought. But whut," she asked
herself as she rode slowly homeward-" whut did he take off his hat
LIGHTS twinkled from every cabin as Clayton passed through the
camp. Outside the kitchen doors, miners, bare to the waist, were
bathing their blackened faces and bodies, with children, tattered
and unclean, but healthful, playing about them; within, women in
loose gowns, with sleeves unrolled and with disordered hair,
moved like phantoms through clouds of savory smoke. The
commissary was brilliantly lighted. At a window close by
improvident miners were drawing the wages of the day, while their
wives waited in the store with baskets unfilled. In front of the
commissary a crowd of negroes were talking, laughing, singing,
and playing pranks like children. Here two, with grinning faces,
were squared off, not to spar, but to knock at each other's tattered
hat; there two more, with legs and arms indistinguishable, were
wrestling; close by was the sound of a mouth-harp, a circle of
interested spectators, and, within, two dancers pitted against each
other, and shuffling with a zest that labor seemed never to affect.
Immediately after supper Clayton went to his room, lighted his
lamp, and sat down to a map he was tracing. His room was next
the ground, and a path ran near the open window. As he worked,
every passer-by would look curiously within. On the wall above
his head a pair of fencing-foils were crossed under masks. Below
these hung two pistols, such as courteous Claude Duval used for
side-arms. Opposite were two old rifles, and beneath them two
stone beer-mugs, and a German student's pipe absurdly long and
richly ornamented. A mantel close by was filled with curiosities,
and near it hung a banjo unstrung, a tennis-racket, and a blazer of
startling colors. Plainly they were relics of German student life,
and the odd contrast they made with the rough wall and ceiling
suggested a sharp change in the fortunes of the young worker
beneath. Scarcely six months since he had been suddenly
summoned home from Germany. The reason was vague, but
having read of recent American failures, notably in Wall Street, he
knew what had happened. Reaching New York, he was startled by
the fear that his mother was dead, so gloomy was the house, so
subdued his sister's greeting, and so worn and sad his father's face.
The trouble, however, was what he had guessed, and he had
accepted it with quiet resignation. The financial wreck seemed
complete; but one resource, however, was left. Just after the war
Clayton's father had purchased mineral lands in the South, and it
was with the idea of developing these that he had encouraged the
marked scientific tastes of his son, and had sent him to a German
university. In view of his own disaster, and the fact that a financial
tide was swelling southward, his forethought seemed an
inspiration. To this resource Clayton turned eagerly; and after a
few weeks at home, which were made intolerable by straitened
circumstances, and the fancied coldness of friend and
acquaintance, he was hard at work in the heart of the Kentucky
The transition from the careless life of a student was swift and
bitter; it was like beginning a new life with a new identity, though
Clayton suffered less than he anticipated. He had become
interested from the first. There was nothing in the pretty glen,
when he came, but a mountaineer's cabin and a few gnarled old
apple-trees, the roots of which checked the musical flow of a little
stream. Then the air was filled with the tense ring of hammer and
saw, the mellow echoes of axes, and the shouts of ox-drivers from
the forests, indignant groans from the mountains, and a little town
sprang up before his eyes, and cars of shining coal wound slowly
about the mountainside.
Activity like this stirred his blood. Busy from dawn to dark, he
had no time to grow miserable. His work was hard, to be sure, but
it made rest and sleep a luxury, and it had the new zest of
independence; he even began to take in it no little pride when he
found himself an essential part of the quick growth going on.
When leisure came, he could take to woods filled with unknown
birds, new forms of insect life, and strange plants and flowers.
With every day, too, he was more deeply stirred by the changing
beauty of the mountains hidden at dawn with white mists, faintly
veiled through the day with an atmosphere that made him think of
Italy, and enriched by sunsets of startling beauty. But strongest of
all was the interest he found in the odd human mixture about
him-the simple, good-natured darkies who slouched past him,
magnificent in physique and picturesque with rags; occasional
foreigners just from Castle Garden, with the hope of the New
World still in their faces; and now and then a gaunt mountaineer
stalking awkwardly in the rear of the march toward civilization.
Gradually it had dawned upon him that this last, silent figure,
traced through Virginia, was closely linked by blood and speech
with the common people of England, and, moulded perhaps by the
influences of feudalism, was still strikingly unchanged; that now it
was the most distinctively national remnant on American soil, and
symbolized the development of the continent, and that with it must
go the last suggestions of the pioneers, with their hardy physiques,
their speech, their manners and customs, their simple architecture
and simple mode of life. It was soon plain to him, too, that a
change was being wrought at last-the change of destruction. The
older mountaineers, whose bewildered eyes watched the noisy
signs of an unintelligible civilization, were passing away. Of the
rest, some, sullen and restless, were selling their homesteads and
following the spirit of their forefathers into a new wilderness;
others, leaving their small farms in adjacent valleys to go to ruin,
were gaping idly about the public works, caught up only too easily
by the vicious current of the incoming tide. In a century the
mountaineers must be swept away, and their ignorance of the
tragic forces at work among them gave them an unconscious
pathos that touched Clayton deeply.
As he grew to know them, their historical importance yielded to a
genuine interest in the people themselves. They were densely
ignorant, to be sure; but they were natural, simple, and hospitable. Their sense of personal worth was high, and their democracy-or aristocracy, since there was no distinction of caste-absolute. For generations, son had lived like father in an isolation hardly credible. No influence save such as shook the nation ever reached them. The Mexican war, slavery, and national politics of the first half-century were still present issues, and each old man would give his rigid, individual opinion sometimes with surprising humor and force. He went much among them, and the rugged old couples whom he found in the cabin porches-so much alike at first-quickly became distinct with a quaint individuality. Among young or old, however, he had found nothing like the half-wild young creature he had met on the mountain that day. In her a type had crossed his path-had driven him from it, in truth-that seemed unique and inexplicable. He had been little more than amused at first, but a keen interest had been growing in him with every thought of her. There was an indefinable charm about the girl. She gave a new and sudden zest to his interest in mountain life; and while he worked, the incidents of the encounter on the mountain came minutely back to him till he saw her again as she rode away, her supple figure swaying with every movement of the beast, and dappled with quivering circles of sunlight from the bushes, her face calm, but still flushed with color, and her yellow hair shaking about her shoulders-not lustreless and flaxen, as hair was in the mountains, he remembered, but catching the sunlight like gold.
Almost unconsciously he laid aside his pencil and leaned from his
window to lift his eyes to the dark mountain he had climbed that
day. The rude melody of an old-fashioned hymn was coming up
the glen, and he recognized the thin, quavering voice of an old
mountaineer, Uncle Tommy Brooks, as he was familiarly known,
whose cabin stood in the midst of the camp, a pathetic contrast to
the smart new houses that had sprung around it. The old man had
lived in the glen for nearly three-quarters of a century, and he, if
any one, must know the girl. With the thought, Clayton sprang
through the window, and a few minutes later was at the cabin. The
old man sat whittling in the porch, joining in the song with which
his wife was crooning a child to sleep within. Clayton easily
identified Europa, as he had christened her; the simple mention of
her means of transport was sufficient.
Ridin' a bull, was she? " repeated the old man, laughing. "Well,
that was Easter Hicks, old Bill Hicks' gal. She's a sort o'
connection o' mine. Me and Bill married cousins.
She's a cur'us critter as ever I seed. She don' seem to take atter her
dad nur her mammy nother, though Bill allus had a quar streak in
'im, and was the wust man I ever seed when he was disguised by
licker. Whar does she live? Oh, up thar, right on top o' Wolf
Mountain, with her mammy."
"Yes; fer her dad ain't thar. No; 'n' he ain't dead. I'll tell ye"-the
old man lowered his tone-" thar used to be a big lot o' moonshinin'
done in these parts, 'n' a raider come hyeh to see 'bout it. Well, one
mornin' he was found layin' in the road with a bullet through him.
Bill was s'picioned. Now, I ain't a-sayin' as Bill done it, but when a
whole lot more rode up thar on hosses one night, they didn't find
Bill. They hain't found him yit, fer he's out in the mountains
"How do they get along without him?" asked Clayton.
"Why, the gal does the work. She ploughs with that bull, and does
the plantin' herself. She kin chop wood like a man. An' as fer
shootin', well, when huntin's good 'n' thar's shootin'-matches
round-about, she don't have to buy much meat."
"It's a wonder some young fellow hasn't married her. I suppose,
though, she's too young."
The old man laughed. "Thar's been many a lively young fellow
that's tried it, but she's hard to ketch as a wildcat. She won't have
nothin' to do with other folks, 'n' she nuver comes down hyeh into
the valley, 'cept to git her corn groun' er to shoot a turkey. Sherd
Raines goes up to see her, and folks say he air tryin' to git her into
the church. But the gal won't go nigh a meetin'-house. She air a
cur'us critter," he concluded emphatically, " shy as a deer till she
air stirred up, and then she air a caution; mighty gentle sometimes,
and ag'in stubborn as a mule."
A shrill, infantile scream came from within, and the old man
paused a moment to listen.
"Ye didn't know I had a great-grandchild, did ye? That's it
a-hollerin'. Talk about Easter bein' too young to merry! Why hit's
mother air two year younger'n Easter. Jes come in hyeh a minit."
The old mountaineer rose and led the way into the cabin. Clayton
was embarrassed at first. On one bed lay a rather comely young
woman with a child by her side; on a chest close by sat another
with her lover, courting in the most open and primitive manner. In
the corner an old grandam dozed with her pipe, her withered face
just touched by the rim of the firelight. Near a rectangular hole in
the wall which served the purpose of a window, stood a girl whose
face, silhouetted against the darkness, had in it a curious mixture
of childishness and maturity.
"Whar's the baby? " asked Uncle Tommy.
Somebody outside was admiring it, and the young girl leaned
through the window and lifted the infant within.
Thar's a baby fer ye! " exclaimed the old mountaineer, proudly,
lifting it in the air and turning its face to the light. But the child
was peevish and fretful, and he handed it back gently. Clayton
was wondering which was the mother, when, to his amazement,
almost to his confusion, the girl lifted the child calmly to her own
breast. The child was the mother of the child. She was barely
fifteen, with the face of a girl of twelve, and her motherly manner
had struck him as an odd contrast. He felt a thrill of pity for the
young mother as he called to mind the aged young wives he had
seen who were haggard and care-worn at thirty, and who still
managed to live to an old age. He was indefinably glad that Easter
had escaped such a fate. When he left the cabin, the old man
called after him from the door:
"Thar's goin' to be a shootin'-match among the boys to-morrer, 'n' I
jedge that Easter '11 be on hand. She al'ays is."
"Is that so? " said Clayton. " Well, I'll look out for it."
The old mountaineer lowered his voice.
"Ye hain't thinkin' about takin' a wife, air ye?"
" Well, ef ye air," said the old man, slowly, "I'm a-thinkin' yu'll
have to buck up ag'in Sherd Raines, fer ef I hain't like a goose
a-pickin' o' grass by moonshine, Sherd air atter the gal fer hisself,
not fer the Lord. Yes," he continued, after a short, dry laugh; "'n'
mebbe ye'll hav to keep an eye open fer old Bill. They say that he
air mighty low down, 'n' kind o' sorry 'n' skeery, for I reckon Sherd
Raines hev told him he hav got to pay the penalty fer takin' a
human life; but I wouldn't sot much on his bein' sorry ef he was
mad at me and had licker in him. He hates furriners, and he has a
crazy idee that they is all raiders 'n' lookin' fer him."
"I don't think I'll bother him," said Clayton, turning away with a
laugh. "Good-night t" With a little cackle of incredulity, the old
man closed the door. The camp had sunk now to perfect quiet; but
for the faint notes of a banjo far up the glen, not a sound trembled
on the night air.
The rim of the moon was just visible above the mountain on which
Easter-what a pretty name that was !-had flashed upon his vision
with such theatric effect. As its brilliant light came slowly down
the dark mountain-side, the mists seemed to loosen their white
arms, and to creep away like ghosts mistaking the light for dawn.
With the base of the mountain in dense shadow, its crest, uplifted
through the vapors, seemed poised in the air at a startling height.
Yet it was near the crest that he had met her. Clayton paused a
moment, when he reached his door, to look again. Where in that
cloud-land could she live?
WHEN the great bell struck the hour of the next noon,
mountaineers with long rifles across their shoulders were moving
through the camp. The glen opened into a valley, which, blocked
on the east by Pine Mountain, was thus shut in on every side by
wooded heights. Here the marksmen gathered. All were
mountaineers, lank, bearded, men, coatless for the most part, and
dressed in brown home-made jeans, slouched, formless hats, and
high, coarse boots. Sun and wind had tanned their faces to
sympathy, in color, with their clothes, which had the dun look of
the soil. They seemed peculiarly a race of the soil, to have sprung
as they were from the earth, which had left indelible stains upon
them. All carried long rifles, old-fashioned and home-made, some
even with flint-locks. It was Saturday, and many of their wives
had come with them to the camp. These stood near, huddled into a
listless group, with their faces half hidden in check bonnets of
various colors. A barbaric love of color was apparent in bonnet,
shawl, and gown, and surprisingly in contrast with such crudeness
of taste was a face when fully seen, so modest was it. The features
were always delicately wrought, and softened sometimes by a look
of patient suffering almost into refinement.
On the other side of the contestants were the people of the camp, a
few miners with pipes lounging on the ground, and women and
girls, who returned the furtive glances of the mountain women
with stares of curiosity and low laughter.
Clayton had been delayed by his work, and the match was already
going on when he reached the grounds.
"You've missed mighty fine shootin'," said Uncle Tommy Brooks,
who was squatted on the ground near the group of marksmen.
Sherd's been a-beatin' ever'body. I'm afeard Easter hain't a-comm'.
The match is 'most over now. Ef she'd been here, I don't think
Sherd would 'a' got the ch'ice parts o' that beef so easy."
"Which is he? " asked Clayton.
That tall feller thar loadin' his gun."
"What did you say his name was?
" Sherd Raines, the feller that's goin' to be our circuit-rider."
He remembered the peculiar name. So this was Easter's lover.
Clayton looked at the young mountaineer, curiously at first, and
then with growing interest. His quiet air of authority among his
fellows was like a birthright; it seemed assumed and accepted
unconsciously. His face was smooth, and he was fuller in figure
than the rest, but still sinewy and lank, though not awkward; his
movements were too quick and decisive for that. With a casual
glance Clayton had wondered what secret influence could have
turned to spiritual things a man so merely animal-like in face and
physique; but when the mountaineer thrust back his hat, elemental
strength and seriousness were apparent in the square brow, the
steady eye, the poise of the head, and in lines around the strong
mouth and chin in which the struggle for self-mastery had been
As the mountaineer thrust his ramrod back into its casing, he
glanced at the woods behind Clayton, and said something to his
companions. They, too, raised their eyes, and at the same moment
the old mountaineer plucked Clayton by the sleeve.
"Thar comes Easter now."
The girl had just emerged from the edge of the forest, and with a
rifle on one shoulder and a bullet-pouch and powder-horn swung
from the other, was slowly coming down the path.
" Why, how air ye, Easter? " cried the old man, heartily. " Goin' to
shoot, air ye? I 'lowed ye wouldn't miss this. Ye air mighty late,
Oh, I only wanted a turkey," said the girl. "Well, I'm a-comm' up to
eat dinner with ye to-morrer," he answered, with a laugh, " fer
I know ye'll git one. Y'u're on hand fer most o' the matches now.
Wild turkeys must be a-gittin' skeerce."
The girl smiled, showing a row of brilliant teeth between her thin,
red lips, and, without answering, moved toward the group of
mountain women. Clayton had raised his hand to his hat when the
old man addressed her, but he dropped it quickly to his side in no
little embarrassment when the girl carelessly glanced over him
with no sign of recognition. Her rifle was an old flint-lock of light
build, but nearly six feet in length, with a shade of rusty tin two
feet long fastened to the barrel to prevent the sunlight from
affecting the marksman's aim. She wore a man's hat, which, with
unintentional coquetry, was perched on one side of her head. Her
hair was short, and fell as it pleased about her neck. She was
bare-footed, and apparently clad in a single garment, a blue
homespun gown, gathered loosely at her uncorseted waist, and
showing the outline of the bust and every movement of the tall,
supple form beneath. Her appearance had quickened the interest of
the spectators, and apparently was a disturbing influence among
the contestants, who were gathered together, evidently in dispute.
From their glances Clayton saw that Easter was the subject of it.
"I guess they don't want her to shoot-them that hain't won nothin',"
said Uncle Tommy.
She hev come in late," Clayton heard one say, " 'n' she oughtn' to
shoot. Thar hain't no chance shootin' ag'in her noways, 'n' I'm in
favor o' barrin' her out."
Oh no; let her shoot "-the voice was Raines's. "Thar hain't nothin'
but a few turkeys left, 'n' ye'd better bar out the gun 'stid o' the gal,
anyway, fer that gun kin outshoot any-thing in the mountains."
The girl had been silently watching the group as if puzzled; and
when Raines spoke her face tightened with sudden decision, and
she strode swiftly toward them in time to overhear the young
mountaineer's last words.
So hit's the gun, is hit, Sherd Raines?
The crowd turned, and Raines shrank a little as the girl faced him
with flashing eyes. "So hit's the gun, is hit? Hit is a good gun, but
ye ought to be ashamed to take all the credit 'way from me. But ef
you air so sartain hit's the gun," she continued, "I'll shoot yourn, 'n'
y'u kin hev mine ef I don't beat ye with yer own gun."
"Good fer you, Easter!" shouted the old mountaineer.
Raines had recovered himself, and was looking at the girl
seriously. Several of his companions urged him aloud to accept
the challenge, but he paid no heed to them. He seemed to be
debating the question with himself, and a moment later he said,
"'N' you kin hev mine ef I don't beat you."
This was all he said, but he kept his eyes fixed on the girl's face;
and when, with a defiant glance, she turned toward the mountain
women, he followed and stopped her.
"Easter," Clayton heard him say, in a low, slow voice, "I was tryin'
to git ye a chance to shoot, fer ye hev been winnin' so much that
it's hard to git up a match when ye air in it." The hard look on the
girl's face remained unchanged, and the mountaineer continued,
"'N' I told the truth; fer ef ye pin me down, I do think hit is the
" Jes you wait 'n' see," answered the girl, shortly, and Raines, after
a questioning look, rejoined the group.
"I won't take the gun ef I win it," he said to them; "but she air
gittin' too set up an' proud, 'n' I'm goin' to do my best to take her
down a bit."
There was nothing boastful or malicious in his manner or speech,
and nobody doubted that he would win, for there were few
marksmen in the mountains his equals, and he would have the
advantage of using his own gun.
"Look hyeh," said a long, thin mountaineer, coming up to the
group, "thar ain't but one turkey left, 'n' I'd like to know what we
air goin' to shoot at ef Sherd 'n' Easter gits a crack at him."
In the interest of the match no one had thought of that, and a
moment of debate followed, which Clayton ended by stepping
"I'll furnish a turkey for the rest of you," he said.
The girl turned when he spoke and gave him a quick glance, but
averted her eyes instantly.
Clayton's offer was accepted, and the preliminary trial to decide
who should shoot first at the turkey was begun. Every detail was
watched with increasing interest. A piece of white paper marked
with two concentric circles was placed sixty yards away, and
Raines won with a bullet in the inner circle. The girl had missed
both, and the mountaineer offered her two more shots to accustom
herself to the gun. She accepted, and smiled a little triumphantly
as she touched the outer circle with one bullet and placed the other
almost in the centre. It was plain that the two were evenly
matched, and several shouts of approval came from the crowd.
The turkey was hobbled to a stake at the same distance, and both
were to fire at its head, with the privilege of shooting at fifty yards
if no rest were taken.
Raines shot first without rest, and, as he missed, the girl followed
his example. The turkey dozed on in the sunlight, undisturbed by
either. The mountaineer was vexed. With his powerful face set
determinedly, he lay down flat on the ground, and, resting his rifle
over a small log, took an inordinately long and careful aim. The
rifle cracked, the turkey bobbed its head unhurt, and the marksman
sprang to his feet with an exclamation of surprise and chagrin. As
he loaded the gun and gravely handed it to the girl, the excitement
grew intense. The crowd pressed close. The stolid faces of the
mountaineer women, thrust from their bonnets, became almost
eager with interest. Raines, quiet and composed as he was, looked
anxious. All eyes followed every movement of the girl as she
coolly stretched her long, active figure on the ground, drew her
dress close about it, and, throwing her yellow hair over her face to
shade her eyes from the slanting sunlight, placed her cheek against
the stock of the gun. A long suspense followed. A hush almost of
solemnity fell upon the crowd.
"Why don't the gal shoot?" asked a voice, impatiently.
Clayton saw what the matter was, and, stepping toward her, said
quietly, "You forgot to set the trigger."
The girl's face colored. Again her eye glanced along the barrel, a
puff of smoke flew from the gun, and a shout came from every pair
of lips as the turkey leaped into the air and fell, beating the ground
with its wings. In an instant a young mountaineer had rushed
forward and seized it, and, after a glance, dropped it with a yell of
"Shot plum' through the eyes!" he shouted. "Shot plum' through the
The girl arose, and handed the gun back to Raines.
Keep hit," he said, steadily. " Hit's yourn."
"I don't want the gun," she said, "but I did want that turkey-' n' "-a
little tauntingly-"I did want to beat you, Sherd Raines."
The mountaineer's face flushed and darkened, but he said nothing.
He took no part in the shooting that followed, and when, after the
match was over, the girl, with her rifle on one shoulder and the
turkey over the other, turned up the mountain path, Clayton saw
him follow her.
A FORTNIGHT later Clayton, rifle in hand, took the same path. It
in May. The 'leafage was luxuriant, and the mountains, wooded to
the tops, seemed overspread with great, shaggy rugs of green. The
woods were resonant with song-birds, and the dew dripped and
sparkled wherever a shaft of sunlight pierced the thick leaves.
Late violets hid shyly under canopies of May-apple; bunches of
blue and of white anemone nodded from under fallen trees, and
water ran like hidden music everywhere. Slowly the valley and the
sound of its life-the lowing of cattle, the clatter at the mines, the
songs of the negroes at work-sank beneath him. The chorus of
birds dwindled until only the cool, flute-like notes of a wood-
thrush rose faintly from below. Up he went, winding around great
oaks, fallen trunks, loose bowlders, and threatening cliffs until
light glimmered whitely between the boles of the trees. From a
gap where he paused to rest, a fire-scald " was visible close to the'
crest of the adjoining mountain. It was filled with the charred,
ghost-like trunks of trees that had been burned standing. Easter's
home must be near that, Clayton thought, and he turned toward it
by a path that ran along the top of the mountain. After a few
hundred yards the path swerved sharply through a dense thicket,
and Clayton stopped in wonder.
Some natural agent had hollowed the mountain, leaving a level
plateau of several acres. The earth had fallen away from a great
sombre cliff of solid rock, and clinging like a swallow's nest in a
cleft of this was the usual rude cabin of a mountaineer. The face of
the rock was dark with vines, and the cabin was protected as by a
fortress. But one way of approach was possible, and that straight to
the porch. From the cliff the vines had crept to roof and chimney,
and were waving their tendrils about a thin blue spiral of smoke.
The cabin was gray and tottering with age. Above the porch on the
branches of an apple-tree hung leaves that matched in richness of
tint the thick moss on the rough shingles. Under it an old woman
sat spinning, and a hound lay asleep at her feet. Easter was
nowhere to be seen, but her voice came from below him in a loud
tone of command; and presently she appeared from behind a knoll,
above which the thatched roof of a stable was visible, and slowly
ascended the path to the house. She had evidently just finished work, for a plough stood in the last furrow of the field, and the fragrance of freshly turned earth was in the air. On the porch she sank wearily into a low chair, and, folding her hands, looked away to the mountains.
Clayton climbed the crumbling fence. A dead twig snapped, and,
startled by the sound, the girl began to rise; but, giving him one
quick, sharp look, dropped her eyes to her hands, and remained
"Good morning," said Clayton, lifting his hat. The girl did not raise
her face. The wheel stopped, and the spinner turned her head.
How air ye? " she said, with ready hospitality. " Come in an' hev a
"No, thank you," he answered, a little embarrassed by Easter's odd
behavior. " May I get some water?
"Sartinly," said the old woman, looking him over curiously. "
Easter, go git some fresh."
The girl started to rise, but Clayton, picking up the bucket, said,
"Oh no; I won't trouble you. I see the spring," he added, noticing a
tiny stream that trickled from a fissure at the base of the cliff.
Who air that feller, Easter? " the mother asked, in a low voice,
when Clayton was out of hearing.
"One o' them furriners who hev come into Injun Creek," was the
That's splendid water," said Clayton, returning. "May I give you
some?" The old woman shook her head. Easter's eyes were still on
the mountains, and apparently she had not heard him.
"Hit air good water," said the mother.
"That spring never does go dry. You better come in and rest a
spell. I suppose ye air from the mines?" she added, as she turned to
Yes," answered Clayton. "There is good hunting around here, isn't
there? " he went on, feeling that some explanation was due for his
sudden arrival away up in that lone spot.
There was no answer. Easter did not look toward him, and the
"Whut d'you say?" asked the old woman.
Clayton repeated his question.
"Thar used to be prime huntin' in these parts when my dad cleared
off this spot more'n fifty year ago, but the varmints hev mostly
been killed out. But Easter kin tell you better'n I kin, for she does
all our huntin', 'n' she kin outshoot 'mos' any man in the
Yes; I saw her shoot at the match the other day down at the
Did ye? "-a smile of pleasure broke over the old woman's face-"
whar she beat Sherd Raines? Sherd wanted to mortify her, but she
mortified him, I reckon."
The girl did not join in her mother's laugh, though the corners of
her mouth twitched faintly.
I like shooting, myself," said Clayton. "I would go into a match,
but I'm afraid I wouldn't have much chance."
"I reckon not, with that short thing? " said the old woman, pointing
at his repeating-rifle. "Would ye shoot with that?"
Oh, yes," answered Clayton, smiling; "it shoots very well."
"Oh, a long way."
A huge shadow swept over the house, thrown by a buzzard sailing
with magnificent ease high above them. Thinking that he might
disturb its flight, Clayton rose and cocked his rifle.
"Ye're not going to shoot at that?" said the old woman, grinning.
The girl had looked toward him at last, with a smile of faint
Clayton took aim quickly and fired. The huge bird sank as though
hit, curved downward, and with one flap of his great wings sailed
"Well, ef I didn't think ye had hit him!"said the old woman, in
amazement. "You kin shoot, fer a fac'."
Easter's attention was gained at last. For the first time she looked
straight at him, and her little smile of derision had given way to a
look of mingled curiosity and respect.
"I expected only to scare him," said Clayton.
The gun will carry twice that far."
Hit's jest as well ye didn't hit him," said the old woman. 'Hit air
five dollars fine to kill a buzzard around hyeh. I'd never thought
that little thing could shoot."
"It shoots several times," said Clayton. "Hit does whut?"
Like a pistol," he explained, and, rising, he directed several shots
in quick succession at a dead tree in the ploughed field. At each
shot a puff of dust came almost from the same spot.
When he turned, Easter had risen to her feet in astonishment, and
the mother was laughing long and loudly.
"Don't ye wish ye had a gun like that, Easter? " she cried.
Clayton turned quickly to the girl, and began explaining the
mechanism of the gun to her, without appearing to notice her
embarrassment, for she shrank perceptibly when he spoke to her.
"Won't you let me see your gun? " he asked.
She brought out the old flint-lock, and handed it to him almost
This is very interesting," he said. " I never saw one like it before."
"Thar hain't but one more jest like that in the mountains," said the
old woman, " 'n' Easter's got that. My dad made 'em both."
"How would you like to trade one for mine, if you have two?" said
Clayton to the girl. "I'll give you all my cartridges to boot."
The girl looked at her mother with hesitation. Clayton saw that
both wondered what he could want with the gun, and he added:
"I'd like to have it to take home with me. It would be a great
"Well," said the mother, "you kin hev one ef ye want hit, and think
the trade's fa'r."
Clayton insisted, and the trade was made. The old woman resumed
spinning. The girl took her seat in the low chair, holding her new
treasure in her lap, with her eyes fixed on it, and occasionally
running one brown hand down its shining barrel. Clayton watched
her. She had given no sign whatever that she had ever seen him
before, and yet a curious change had come over her. Her imperious
manner had yielded to a singular reserve and timidity. The
peculiar beauty of the girl struck him now with unusual force. Her
profile was remarkably regular and delicate; her mouth small,
resolute, and sensitive; heavy, dark lashes shaded her downcast
eyes; and her brow suggested a mentality that he felt a strong
desire to test. Her feet were small, and so were her quick, nervous
hands, which were still finely shaped, in spite of the hard usage
that had left them brown and callous. He wondered if she was
really as lovely as she seemed; if his standard might not have been
affected by his long stay in the mountains; if her picturesque
environment might not have influenced his judgment. He tried to
imagine her daintily slippered, clad in white, with her loose hair
gathered in a Psyche knot; or in evening dress, with arms and
throat bare; but the pictures were difficult to make. He liked her
best as she was, in perfect physical sympathy with the natural
phases about her; as much a part of them as tree, plant, or flower,
embodying the freedom, grace, and beauty of nature as well and as
unconsciously as they. He questioned whether she hardly felt
herself to be apart from them; and, of course, she as little knew her
kinship to them.
She had lifted her eyes now, and had fixed them with tender
thoughtfulness on the mountains. What did she see in the scene
before her, he wondered: the deep valley, brilliant with early
sunshine; the magnificent sweep of wooded slopes; Pine Mountain
and the peak-like Narrows, where through it the river had worn its
patient way; and the Cumberland Range, lying like a cloud against
the horizon, and bluer and softer than the sky above it. He longed
to know what her thoughts were; if in them there might be a hint of
what he hoped to find. Probably she could not tell them, should he
ask her, so unconscious was she of her mental life, whatever that
might be. Indeed, she seemed scarcely to know of her own
existence; there was about her a simplicity to which he had felt
himself rise only in the presence of the spirit about some lonely
mountain-top or in the heart of deep woods. Her gaze was not
vacant, not listless, but the pensive look of a sensitive child, and
Clayton let himself fancy that there was in it an unconscious love
of the beauty before her, and of its spiritual suggestiveness a
slumbering sense, perhaps easily awakened. Perhaps he might
The drowsy hum of the spinning-wheel ceased suddenly, and his
dream was shattered. He wondered how long they had sat there
saying nothing, and how long the silence might continue. Easter,
he believed, would never address him. Even the temporary
intimacy that the barter of the gun had brought about was gone.
The girl seemed lost in unconsciousness. The mother had gone to her loom, and was humming softly to herself as she passed the shuttle to and fro. Clayton turned for an instant to watch her, and the rude background, which he had forgotten, thrust every unwelcome detail upon his attention: the old cabin, built of hewn logs, held together by wooden pin and augur-hole, and shingled with rough boards; the dark, windowless room; the unplastered walls; the beds with old-fashioned high posts, mattresses of straw, and cords instead of slats; the home-made chairs with straight backs, tipped with carved knobs; the mantel filled with utensils and overhung with bunches of drying herbs; a ladder with half a dozen smooth-worn steps leading to the loft; and a wide, deep fireplace-the only suggestion of cheer and comfort in the gloomy interior. An open porch connected the single room with the kitchen. Here, too, were suggestions of daily duties. The mother's face told a tale of hardship and toil, and there was the plough in the furrow, and the girl's calloused hands folded in her lap. With a thrill of compassion Clayton turned to her. What a pity! what a pity! Just now her face had the peace of a child's; but when aroused, an electric fire burned from her calm eyes and showed the
ardent temperament that really lay beneath. If she were quick and
sympathetic-and she must be, he who could tell how rich the
development possible for her?
"You hain't seen much of this country, I reckon. You hain't been
The mother had broken the silence at last.
No," said Clayton; "but I like it very much."
Do ye? " she asked, in surprise. " Why, I 'lowed you folks from the
settlemints thought hit was mighty scraggy down hyeh."
"Oh no. These mountains and woods are beautiful, and I never
saw lovelier beech-trees. The coloring of their trunks is so
exquisite, and the shade is so fine," he concluded, lamely, noticing
a blank look on the old woman's face. To his delight the girl, half
turned toward him, was listening with puzzled interest.
Well," said the old woman, " beeches is beautiful to me when they
has mast enough to feed the hogs."
Carried back to his train of speculations, Clayton started at this
abrupt deliverance. There was a suspicion of humor in the old
woman's tone that showed an appreciation of their different
standpoints. It was lost on Clayton, however, for his attention had
been caught by the word "mast," which, by some accident, he
I had never heard before.
" Mast," he asked, " what is that?
The girl looked toward him in amazement, and burst into a low,
suppressed laugh. Her mother explained the word, and all laughed
Clayton soon saw that his confession of ignorance was a lucky
accident. It brought Easter and himself nearer common ground.
She felt that there was something, after all, that she could teach
him. She had been overpowered by his politeness and deference
and his unusual language, and, not knowing what they meant, was
overcome by a sense of her inferiority. The incident gave him the
key to his future conduct. A moment later she looked up covertly,
and, meeting his eyes, laughed again. The ice was broken. He
began to wonder if she really had noticed him so little at their first
meeting as not to recognize him, or if her indifference or reserve
had prevented her from showing the recognition. He pulled out his
note-book and began sketching rapidly, conscious that the girl was
watching him. When be finished, he rose, picking up the old
"Won't ye stay and hev some dinner?,' asked the old woman.
"No, thank you."
Come ag'in," she said, cordially, adding the mountaineer's farewell,
"I wish ye well."
"Thank you, I will. Good-day."
As he passed the girl he paused a moment and dropped the paper
into her lap. It was a rude sketch of their first meeting, the bull
coming at him like a tornado. The color came to her face, and
when Clayton turned the corner of the house he heard her
"What you laughin' at, Easter?" asked the mother, stopping her
work and looking around.
For answer the girl rose and walked into the house, hiding the
paper in her bosom. The old woman watched her narrowly.
I never seed ye afeard of a man afore," she said to herself. "No, nur
so tickled 'bout one, nother. Well, he air as accommodatin' a feller
as I ever see, ef he air a furriner. But he was a fool to swop his gun
THEREAFTER Clayton saw the girl whenever possible. If she
came to the camp, he walked up the mountain with her. No idle
day passed that he did not visit the cabin, and it was not long
before he found himself strangely interested. Her beauty and
fearlessness had drawn him at first; her indifference and stolidity
had piqued him; and now the shyness that displaced these was
inconsistent and puzzling. This he set himself deliberately at work
to remove, and the conscious effort gave a peculiar piquancy to
their intercourse. He had learned the secret of association with the
mountaineers-to be as little unlike them as possible-and he put the
knowledge into practice. He discarded coat and waistcoat, wore a
slouched hat, and went unshaven for weeks. He avoided all
conventionalities, and was as simple in manner and speech as
possible. Often when talking with Easter, her face was blankly
unresponsive, and a question would sometimes leave her in
confused silence. He found it necessary to use the simplest
Anglo-Saxon words, and he soon fell into many of the quaint
expressions of the mountaineers and their odd, slow way of
speech. This course was effective, and in time the shyness wore
away and left between them a comradeship as pleasant as unique.
Sometimes they took long walks together on the mountains. This
was contrary to mountain etiquette, but they were remote even
from the rude conventionalities of the life below them. They even
went hunting together, and Easter had the joy of a child when she
discovered her superiority to Clayton in woodcraft and in the use
of a rifle. If he could tell her the names of plants and flowers they
found, and how they were akin, she could show him where they
grew. If he could teach her a little more about animals and their
habits than she already knew, he had always to follow her in the
search for game. Their fellowship was, in consequence, never
more complete than when they were roaming the woods. In them
Easter was at home, and her ardent nature came to the surface like
a poetic glow from her buoyant health and beauty. Then appeared
all that was wayward and elfin-like in her character, and she would
be as playful, wilful, evanescent as a wood-spirit. Sometimes,
when they were separated, she would lead him into a ravine by
imitating a squirrel or a wild-turkey, and, as he crept noiselessly
along with bated breath and eyes peering eagerly through the
tree-tops or the underbrush, she would step like a dryad from
behind some tree at his side, with a ringing laugh at his
discomfiture. Again, she might startle him by running lightly
along the fallen trunk of a tree that lay across a torrent, or, in a
freak of wilfulness, would let herself down the bare face of some
steep cliff. If he scolded her, she laughed. If he grew angry, she
was serious instantly, and once she fell to weeping and fled home.
He followed her, but she barricaded herself in her room in the loft,
and would not be coaxed down. The next day she had forgotten
that she was angry.
Her mother showed no surprise at any of her moods. Easter was
not like other " gals," she said; she had always been" quar," and
she reckoned would" al'ays be that way." She objected in no wise
to Clayton's intimacy with her. The furriner," she told Raines, was
the only man who had ever been able to manage her, and if she
wanted Easter to do anything " ag'in her will, she went to him fust
"-a simple remark that threw the mountaineer into deep
Indeed, this sense of power that Clayton felt over the wilful,
passionate creature thrilled him with more pleasure than he would
have been willing to admit; at the same time it suggested to him a
certain responsibility. Why not make use of it, and a good use?
The girl was perhaps deplorably ignorant, could do but little more
than read and write; but she was susceptible of development, and
at times apparently conscious of the need of it and desirous for it.
Once he had carried her a handful of violets, and thereafter an old
pitcher that stood on a shelf blossomed every day with
wild-flowers. He had transplanted a vine from the woods and
taught her to train it over the porch, and the first hint of tenderness
he found in her nature was in the care of that plant. He had taken
her a book full of pictures and fashion-plates, and he had noticed a
quick and ingenious adoption of some of its hints in her dress.
One afternoon, as he lay on his bed in a darkened corner of his
room, a woman's shadow passed across the wall, returned, and a
moment later he saw Easter's face at the window. He had lain
quiet, and watched her while her wondering eyes roved from one
object to another, until they were fastened with a long, intent look
on a picture that stood upon a table near the window. He stirred,
and her face melted away instantly. A few days later he was sitting
with Easter and Raines at the cabin. The mother was at the other
end of the porch, talking to a neighbor who had stopped to rest on
his way across the mountains.
Easter air a-gettin' high notions," she was saying, " 'n' she air
a-spendin' her savin 's, 'n' all mine she kin git hold of, to buy fixin's
at the commissary. She must hev white crockery, 'n' towels, 'n'
newfangled forks, 'n' sichlike." A conscious flush came into the
girl's face, and she rose hastily and went into the house.
"I was afeard," continued the mother, " that she would hev her hair
cut short, 'n' be a-flyin' with ribbons, 'n' spangled out like a
rainbow, like old 'Lige Hicks's gal, ef I hadn't heerd the furriner tell
her it was ' beastly.' Thar ain't no fear now, fer what that furriner
don't like, Easter don't nother."
For an instant the mountaineer's eyes had flashed on Clayton, but
when the latter, a trifle embarrassed, looked up, Raines apparently
had heard nothing. Easter did not reappear until the mountaineer
There were othcr hopeful signs. Whenever Clayton spoke of his
friends, she always listened eagerly, and asked innumerable
questions about them. If his attention was caught by any queer
custom or phrase of the mountain dialect, she was quick to ask in
return how he would say the same thing, and what the custom was
in the settlemints." She even made feeble attempts to model her
own speech after his.
In a conscious glow that he imagined was philanthropy, Clayton
began his task of elevation. She was not so ignorant as he had
supposed. Apparently she had been taught by somebody, but when
asked by whom, she hesitated answering; and he had taken it for
granted that what she knew she had puzzled out alone. He was
astonished by her quickness, her docility, and the passionate
energy with which she worked. Her instant obedience to every
suggestion, her trust in every word he uttered, made him acutely
and at times uncomfortably conscious of his responsibility. At the
same time there was in the task something of the pleasure that a
young sculptor feels when, for the first time, the clay begins to
yield obedience to his fingers, and something of the delight that
must have thrilled Pygmalion when he saw his statue tremulous
with conscious life.
THE possibility of lifting the girl above her own people, and of
creating a spirit of discontent that might embitter her whole life,
had occurred to Clayton; but at such moments the figure of Raines
came into the philanthropic picture forming slowly in his mind,
and his conscience was quieted. He could see them together; the
gradual change that Easter would bring about in him, the influence
of the two on their fellows. The mining-camp grew into a town
with a modest church on the outskirts, and a cottage where Raines
and Easter were installed. They stood between the old civilization
and the new, understanding both, and protecting the native strength
of the one from the vices of the other, and training it after more
breadth and refinement. But Raines and Easter did not lend
themselves to the picture so readily, and gradually it grew vague
and shadowy, and the figure of the mountaineer was blurred.
Clayton did not bring harmony to the two. At first he saw nothing
of the mountaineer, and when they met at the cabin Raines
remained only a short time. If Easter cared for him at all, she did
not show it. How he was regarded by the mother, Clayton had
learned long ago, when, in answer to one of his questions, she had
said, with a look at Easter, that " Raines was the likeliest young
feller in them mountains "; that "he knew morn'n anybody round
thar"; that " he had spent a year in the settlemints, was mighty
religious, and would one day be a circuit-rider. Anyhow," she
concluded, " he was a mighty good friend o' theirn."
But as for Easter, she treated him with unvarying indifference,
though Clayton noticed she was more quiet and reserved in the
mountaineer's presence; and, what was unintelligible to him, she
refused to speak of her studies when Raines was at the cabin, and
warned her mother with an angry frown when the latter began
telling the mountaineer of "whut a change had come over Easter,
and how she reckoned the gal was a-gittin' eddicated enough fer to
teach anybody in the mountains, she was a-larnin' so much."
After that little incident, he met Raines at the cabin oftener. The
mountaineer was always taciturn, though he listened closely when
anything was said, and even when addressed by Easter's mother his
attention, Clayton noticed, was fixed on Easter and himself. He
felt that he was being watched, and it irritated him. He had tried to
be friendly with the mountaineer, but his advances were received
with a reserve that was almost suspicion. As time went on, the
mountaineer's visits increased in frequency and in length, and at
last one night he stayed so long that, for the first time, Clayton left
Neither spoke after the young engineer was gone. The
mountaineer sat looking closely at Easter, who was listlessly
watching the moon as it rose above the Cumberland Range and
brought into view the wavering outline of Pine Mountain and the
shadowed valley below. It was evident from his face and his eyes,
which glowed with the suppressed fire of some powerful emotion
within, that he had remained for a purpose; and when he rose and
said, "I reckon I better be a-goin', Easter," his voice was so
unnatural that the girl looked up quickly.
Hit air late," she said, after a slight pause.
His face flushed, but he set his lips and caught the back of his
chair, as though to steady himself.
"I reckon," he said, with slow bitterness, "that hit would 'a' been
early long as the furriner was hyeh."
The girl was roused instantly, but she said nothing, and he
continued, in a determined tone:
"Easter, thar's a good deal I've wanted to say to ye fer a long time,
but I hev kept a-puttin' hit off until I'm afeard maybe hit air too
late. But I'm a-goin' to say hit now, and I want ye to listen." He
cleared his throat huskily. " Do ye know, Easter, what folks in the
mountains is a-sayin'?
The girl's quick insight told her what was coming, and her face
"Have ye ever knowed me, Sherd Raines, to keer what folks in the
mountains say? I reckon ye mean as how they air a-talkin' about
That's what I mean," said the mountaineer-" you 'n' him."
"Whut air they a-sayin'?" she asked, defiantly. Raines watched her
"They air a-sayin' as how he air a-comin' up here mighty often; as
how Easter Hicks, who hev never keered fer no man, air in love
with this furriner from the settlemints."
The girl reddened, in spite of her assumed indifference.
"They- say, too, as how he air not in love with her, 'n' that
somebody oughter warn Easter that he air not a-meanin' good to
her. You hev been seed a-walkin' in the mountains together."
"Who seed me? " she asked, with quick suspicion. The
I hev," he said, doggedly.
The girl's anger, which had been kindling against her gossiping
fellows, blazed out against Raines.
You've been watchin' me," she said, angrily. "Who give ye the right
to do it? What call hev ye to come hyar and tell me whut folks is
asayin'? Is it any o' yo' business? I want to tell ye, Sherd
Raines"-her utterance grew thick-" that I kin take keer o' myself;
that I don't keer what folks say; 'n' I want ye to keep away from me.
'N' ef I sees ye a-hangin' round 'n' a-spyin', ye'll be sorry fer it." Her
eyes blazed, she had risen and drawn herself straight, and her
hands were clinched.
The mountaineer stood motionless. " Thar's another who's seed
ye," he said, quietly-" up thar," pointing to a wooded mountain, the
top of which was lost in mist. The girl's attitude changed instantly
into - vague alarm, and her eyes flashed upon Raines as though
they would sear their way into the meaning hidden in his quiet
face. Gradually his motive seemed to become clear, and she
advanced a step toward him.
"So you've found out whar dad is a-hidin'?" she said, her voice
tremulous with rage and scorn. N' ye air mean and sorry enough
to some hyeh 'n' tell me ye'll give him up to the law ef I don't
knuckle down 'n' do what ye wants me?
She paused a moment. Was her suspicion correct? Why did he not
speak? She did not really believe what she said. Could it be true?
Her nostrils quivered; she tried to speak again, but her voice was
choked with passion. With a sudden movement she snatched her
rifle from its place, and the steel flashed in the moonlight and
ceased in a shining line straight at the mountaineer's breast.
"Look hyeh, Sherd Raines," she said, in low, unsteady tones, " I
know you air religious, 'n' I know as how, when y'u give yer word,
you'll do what you say. Now, I want ye to hold up yer right hand
and sw'ar that you'll never tell a livin' soul that you know whar dad
Raines did not turn his face, which was as emotionless as stone.
Air ye goin' to sw'ar? " she asked, with fierce impatience. Without
looking at her, he began to speak-very slowly:
"Do ye think I'm fool enough to try to gain yer good-will by
a-tellin' on yer dad? We were on the mountains, him 'n' me, we
seed you 'n' the furriner. Yer dad thought hit was a spy, 'n' he
whipped up his gun 'n' would 'a' shot him dead in his tracks ef I
hadn't hindered him.
Does that look like I wanted to hurt the 'furriner? I hev knowed
yer dad was up in the mountains all the time, 'n' I hev been a-totin'
things fer him to eat. Does that look like I wanted to hand him
over to the law?"
The girl had let the rifle fall. Moving away, she stood leaning on it
in the shadow, looking down.
"You want to know what call I hev to watch ye, 'n' see that no harm
comes to ye. Yer dad give me the right. You know how he hates
furriners, 'n' whut he would do ef he happened to run across this
furriner atter he has been drinkin'. I'm a-meddlin' because I hev
told him that I am goin' to take keer o' ye, 'n' I mean to do it-ef ye
hates me fer it. I'm a-watchin' ye, Easter," he continued, " 'n' I want
ye to know it. I knowed the furriner begun comm' here cause ye
air not like gals in the settlemints. Y'u air as cur'us to him as one o'
them bugs an' sich-like that he's always a-pickin' up in the woods.
I hevn't said nuthin' to yer dad, fer fear o' his harmin' the furriner;
but I hev seed that ye like him, an' hit's time now fer me to meddle.
Ef he was in love with ye, do ye think he would marry ye? I hev
been in the settle-mints. Folks thar air not as we citizens air. They
air bigoted 'n' high-heeled, 'n' they look down on us. I tell ye, too-
'n' hit air fer yer own good-he air in love with somebody in the
settlemints. I hev heerd it, 'n' I hev seed him a-lookin' at a picter in
his room ez a man don't look at his sister. They say hit's her.
"Thar's one thing more, Easter," he concluded, as he stepped from
the porch. "He is a-goin' away. I heard him say it yestiddy. What
will ye do when he's gone ef ye lets yerself git to thinkin' so much
of him now? I've warned ye now, Easter, fer yer own good, though
ye mought think I'm a-workin' fer myself. But I know I hev done
whut I ought. I've warned ye, 'n' ye kin do whut ye please, but I'm
The girl said nothing, but stood rigid, with eyes wide open and
face tense, as the mountaineer's steps died away. She was
bewildered by the confused emotions that swayed her. Why had
she not indignantly denied that she was in love with the "furriner"?
Raines had not hinted it as a suspicion. He had spoken it outright
as a fact, and he must have thought that her silence confirmed it.
He had said that the "furriner" cared nothing for her, and had dared
to tell her that she was in love with him. Her cheeks began to bum.
She would call him back and tell him that she cared no more for
the "furriner " than she did for him. She started from the steps, but
paused, straining her eyes through the darkness. It was too late,
and, with a helpless little cry, she began pacing the porch. She had
scarcely heard what was said after the mountaineer's first
accusation, so completely had that enthralled her mind; now
fragments came back to her. There was something about a
picture-ah! she remembered that picture. Passing through the
camp one afternoon, she had glanced in at a window and had seen
a rifle once her own. Turning in rapid wonder about the room, her
eye lighted upon a picture on a table near the window. She had
felt the refined beauty of the girl, and it had impressed her with the
same timidity that Clayton had when she first knew him.
Fascinated, she had looked till a - movement in the room made her
shrink away. But the face had clung in her memory ever since, and
now it came before her vividly. Clayton was in love with her.
Well, what did that matter to her?
There was more that Raines said. "Goin' away." Raines meant the
" furriner," of course. How did he know? Why had Clayton not told
her? She did not believe it. But why not? He had once told her
that he would go away some time; why not now? But why-why did
not Clayton tell her? Perhaps he was going to her. She almost
stretched out her hands in a sudden, fierce desire to clutch the
round throat and sink her nails into the soft flesh that rose before
her mind. She had forgotten that he had ever told her that he must
go away, so little had it impressed her at the time. She had never
thought of a possible change in their relations or in their lives. She
tried to think what her life would be after he was gone, and she
was frightened; she could not imagine her old life resumed. When
Clayton came, it was as though she had risen from sleep in a
dream, and had lived in it thereafter without questioning its reality.
Into his hands she had delivered her life and herself with the
undoubting faith of a child. She had never thought of their
relations at all. Now the awakening had come. The dream was
shattered. For the first time her eye was turned inward, where a
flood of light brought into terrible distinctness the tumult that
began to rage so suddenly within.
One hope only flashed into her brain-perhaps Raines was
mistaken. But even then, if he were, Clayton must go some time;
he had told her that. On this fact every thought became centred. It
was no longer how he came, the richness of the new life he had
shown her, the barrenness of the old, Raines's accusation, the
shame of it-the shame of being pointed out and laughed at after
Clayton's departure; it was no longer helpless wonder at the fierce
emotions racking her for the first time: her whole being was
absorbed in the realization which slowly forced itself into her heart
and brain-some day he must go away; some day she must lose him.
She lifted her hands to her head in a dazed, ineffectual way. The
moonlight grew faint before her eyes; mountain, sky, and mist
were in-distinguishably blurred; and the girl sank down upon her
trembling knees, down till she lay crouched on the floor with her
tearless face in her arms.
The moon rose high above her and sank down the west. The
shadows shortened and crept back to the woods, night noises grew
fainter, and the mists floated up from the valley and Clung around
the mountain-tops; but she stirred only when a querulous voice
came from within the cabin.
"Easter," it said, " ef Sherd Raines air gone, y'u better come in to
bed. Y'u've got a lot o' work to do to-morrer."
The voice called her to the homely duties that had once filled her
life and must fill it again. It was a summons to begin anew a life
that was dead, and the girl lifted her haggard face in answer and
ON the following Sunday morning, when Clayton walked up to the
cabin, Easter and her mother were seated in the porch. He called to
them cheerily as he climbed over the fence, but only the mother
answered. Easter rose as he approached, and, without speaking,
went within doors. He thought she must be ill, so thin and drawn
was her face, but her mother said, carelessly:
Oh, hit's only one o' Easter's spells. She's been sort o' puny 'n'
triflin' o' late, but I reckon she'll be all right ag'in in a day or two."
As the girl did not appear again, Clayton concluded that she was
lying down, and went away without seeing her. Her manner had
seemed a little odd, but, attributing that to ill-ness, he thought
nothing further about it. To his surprise, the incident was repeated,
and thereafter, to his wonder, the girl seemed to avoid him. Their
intimacy was broken sharply off. When Clayton was at the cabin,
either she did not appear or else kept herself busied with
household duties. Their studies ceased abruptly. Easter had
thrown her books into a corner, her mother said, and did nothing
but mope all day; and though she insisted that it was only one of
the girl's " spells," it was plain that something was wrong. Easter's
face remained thin and drawn, and acquired gradually a hard,
dogged, almost sullen look. She spoke to Clayton rarely, and then
only in monosyllables. She never looked him in the face, and if his
gaze rested intently on her, as she sat with eyes downcast and
hands folded, she seemed to know it at once. Her face would color
faintly, her hands fold and unfold nervously, and sometimes she
would rise and go within. He had no opportunity of speaking with
her alone. She seemed to guard against that, and, indeed, Raines's
presence almost prevented it, for the mountaineer was there
always, and always now the last to leave. He sat usually in the
shadow of the vine, and though his-face was unseen, Clayton could
feel his eyes fixed upon him with an intensity that sometimes
made him nervous. The mountaineer had evidently begun to
misinterpret his visits to the cabin. Clayton was regarded as a rival.
In what other light, indeed, could he appear to Raines? Friendly
calls between young people of opposite sex were rare in the
mountains. When a young man visited a young woman, his
intentions were supposed to be serious. Raines was plainly
But Easter? What was 'the reason for her odd behavior? Could
she, too, have misconstrued his intentions as Raines had? It was
impossible. But even if she had, his manner had in no wise
changed. Some one else had aroused her suspicions, and if any
one it must have been Raines. It was not the mother, he felt sure.
For some time Clayton's mother and sister had been urging him to
make a visit home. He had asked leave of absence, but it was a
busy time, and he had delayed indefinitely. In a fort-night,
however, the stress of work would be over, and then he meant to
leave. During that fortnight he was strangely troubled. He did not
leave the camp, but his mind was busied with thoughts of
Easter-nothing but Easter. Time and again he had reviewed their
acquaintance minutely from the beginning, but he could find no
cause for the change in her. When his work was done, he found
himself climbing the mountain once more. He meant to solve the
mystery if possible. He would tell Easter that he was going home.
Surely she would betray some feeling then.
At the old fence which he had climbed so often he stopped, as was
his custom, to rest a moment, with his eyes on the wild beauty
before him-the great valley, with mists floating from its gloomy
depths into the tremulous moonlight; far through the radiant space
the still, dark masses of the Cumberland lifted in majesty against
the east; and in the shadow of the great cliff the vague outlines of
the old cabin, as still as the awful silence around it. A light was
visible, but he could hear no voices. Still, he knew he would find
the occupants seated in the porch, held by that strange quiet which
nature imposes on those who dwell much alone with her. He had
not been to the cabin for several weeks, and when he spoke Easter
did not return his greeting; Raines nodded almost surlily, but from
the mother came, as always, a cordial welcome.
"I'm mighty glad to see ye," she said; "you haven't been up fer a
No," answered Clayton; "I have been very busy-getting ready to go
home." He had watched Easter closely as he spoke, but the girl did
not lift her face, and she betrayed no emotion, not even surprise;
nor did Raines. Only the mother showed genuine regret. The girl's
apathy filled him with bitter disappointment. She had relapsed into
barbarism again. He was a fool to think that in a few months he
could counteract influences that had been moulding her character
for a century. His purpose had been unselfish. Curiosity, the girl's
beauty, his increasing power over her, had stimulated him, to be
sure, but he had been conscientious and earnest. Somehow he was
more than disappointed; he was hurt deeply, not only that he
should have been so misunderstood, but for the lack of gratitude in
the girl. He was bewildered. What could have happened? Could
Raines really have poisoned her mind against him? Would Easter
so easily believe what might have been said against him and not
allow him a hearing?
"I've been expecting to take a trip home for several weeks," he
found himself saying a moment later; "I think I shall go
He hardly meant what he said; a momentary pique had forced the
words from him, but, once spoken, he determined to abide by
them. Easter was stirred from her lethargy at last, but Clayton's
attention was drawn to Raines 's start of surprise, and he did not
see the girl's face agitated for an instant, nor her hands nervously
trembling in her lap.
"Ter-morrer! " cried the old woman. "Why, ye 'most take my
breath away. I declar', I'm downright sorry you're goin', I hev tuk
sech a shine to ye. I kind o' think I'll miss ye more'n Easter."
Raines's eyes turned to the girl, as did Clay-ton's. Not a suggestion
of color disturbed the pallor of the girl's face, once more
composed, and she said nothing.
You're so jolly 'n' lively," continued the mother, 'n' ye allus hev so
much to say. You air not like Easter 'n' Sherd hyar, who talk 'bout
as much as two stumps. I suppose I'll hev to sit up 'n' talk to the
moon when you air gone."
The mountaineer rose abruptly, and, though he spoke quietly, he
could hardly control himself.
"Ez my company seems to be unwelcome to ye," he said, "I kin
take it away from ye, 'n' I will."
Before the old woman could recover herself, he was gone.
Well," she ejaculated, " whut kin be the matter with She rd? He
hev got mighty cur'us hyar of late, 'n' so hev Easter. All o' ye been
a-settin' up hyar ez ef you was at a buryin'. I'm a-goin' to bed. You
'n' Easter kin set up long as ye please. I suppose you air comm'
back ag'in to see us," she said, turning to Clayton.
"I don't know," he answered. "I may not; but I sha'n't forget you."
"Well, I wish ye good luck." Clayton shook hands with her, and
she went within doors.
The girl had risen, too, with her mother, and was standing in the
"Good-by Easter," said Clayton, holding out his hand.
As she turned he caught one glimpse of her face in the moonlight,
and its whiteness startled him. Her hand was cold when he took it,
and her voice was scarcely audible as she faintly repeated his
words. She lifted her face as their hands were unclasped, and her
lips quivered mutely as if trying to speak, but he had turned to go.
For a moment she watched his darkening figure, and then with
stifled breath almost staggered into the cabin.
The road wound around the cliff and back again, and as Clayton
picked his way along it he was oppressed by a strange uneasiness.
Easter's face, as he last saw it, lay in his mind like a keen reproach.
Could he have been mistaken? Had he been too hasty? He recalled
the events of the evening. He began to see that it was significant
that Raines had shown no surprise when he spoke of going home,
and yet had seemed almost startled by the suddenness of his
departure. Perhaps the mountaineer knew he was going. It was
known at the camp. If he knew, then Easter must have known.
Perhaps she had felt hurt because he had not spoken to her earlier.
What might Raines not have told her, and honestly, too? Perhaps
he was unconsciously confirming all the mountaineer might have
said. He ought to have spoken to her. Perhaps she could not speak
to him. He wheeled suddenly in the path to return to the cabin,
and stopped still.
Something was hurrying down through the undergrowth of the
cliffside which towered darkly behind him. Nearer and nearer the
bushes crackled as though some hunted animal were flying for life
through them, and then through the laurel-hedge burst the figure of
a woman, who sank to the ground in the path be-fore him. The
flash of yellow hair and a white face in the moonlight told him
who it was.
"Easter, Easter! " he exclaimed, in sickening fear. "My God! is
that you? Why, what is the matter, child? What are you doing
He stooped above the sobbing girl, and pulled away her hands
from her face, tear-stained and broken with pain. The limit of her
self-repression was reached at last; the tense nerves, strained too
much, had broken; and the passion, so long checked, surged
through her like fire. Ah, God! what had he done? He saw the
truth at last. In an impulse of tenderness he lifted the girl to her
feet and held her, sobbing uncontrollably, in his arms, with her
head against his breast, and his cheek on her hair, soothing her as
though she had been a child.
Presently she felt a kiss on her forehead. She looked up with a
sudden fierce joy in her eyes, and their lips met.
CLAYTON shunned all self-questioning after that night. Stirred to
the depths by that embrace on the mountain-side, he gave himself
wholly up to the love or infatuation-he did not ask which-that
enthralled him. Whatever it was, its growth had been subtle and
swift. There was in it the thrill that might come from taming some
wild creature that had never known control, and the gentleness that
to any generous spirit such power would bring. These, with the
magnetism of the girl's beauty and personality, and the influence of
her environment, he had felt for a long time; but now richer chords
were set vibrating in response to her great love, the struggle she
had against its disclosure, the appeal for tenderness and protection
in her final defeat. It was ideal, he told himself, as he sank into the
delicious dream; they two alone with nature, above all human life,
with its restraints, its hardships, its evils, its distress. For them was
the freedom of the open sky lifting its dome above the mountains;
for them nothing less kindly than the sun shining its benediction;
for their eyes only the changing beauties of day and night; for their
ears no sound harsher than the dripping of dew or a bird-song; for
them youth, health, beauty, love. And it was primeval love, the
love of the first woman for the first man. She knew no convention,
no prudery, no doubt. Her life was impulse, and her impulse was
love. She was the teacher now, and he the taught; and he stood in
wonder when the plant he had tended flowered into such beauty in
a single night. Ah, the happy, happy days that followed! The veil
that had for a long time been unfolding itself between him and his
previous life seemed to have almost fallen, and they were left
alone to their happiness. The mother kept her own counsel. Raines
had disappeared as though Death had claimed him. And the dream
lasted till a summons home broke into it as the sudden flaring up
of a candle will shatter a reverie at twilight.
THE summons was from his father, and was emphatic; and
Clayton did not delay. The girl accepted his departure with a pale
face, but with a quiet submission that touched him. Of Raines he
had seen nothing and heard nothing since the night he had left the
cabin in anger; but as he came down the mountain after bidding
Easter good-by, he was startled by the mountaineer stepping from
the bushes into the path.
Ye air a-goin' home, I hear," he said, quietly.
"Yes," answered Clayton; " at midnight."
Well, I'll walk down with ye a piece, ef ye don't mind. Hit's not
out o' my way."
As he spoke his face was turned suddenly to the moonlight. The
lines in it had sunk deeper, giving it almost an aged look; the eyes
were hollow as from physical suffering or from fasting. He
preceded Clayton down the path, with head bent, and saying
nothing till they reached the spur of the mountain. Then in the
"I want to talk to ye awhile, 'n' I'd like to hev ye step inter my
house. I don't mean ye no harm," he added, quickly, " 'n' hit ain't
Certainly," said Clayton.
The mountaineer turned into the woods by a narrow path, and soon
the outlines of a miserable little hut were visible through the dark
woods. Raines thrust the door open. The single room was dark
except for a few dull coals in a gloomy cavern which formed the
Sit down, ef ye kin find a cheer," said Raines, " 'n' I'll fix up the
Do you live here alone?" asked Clayton. He could hear the keen,
smooth sound of the mountaineer's knife going through wood.
"Yes," he answered; " fer five year."
The coals brightened; tiny flames shot from them; in a moment the
blaze caught the dry fagots, and shadows danced over the floor,
wall, and ceiling, and vanished as the mountaineer rose from his
knees. The room was as bare as the cell of a monk. A rough bed
stood in one corner; a few utensils hung near the fireplace,
wherein were remnants of potatoes roasting in the ashes, and close
to the wooden shutter which served as a window was a board table.
On it lay a large book-a Bible-a pen, a bottle of ink, and a piece of
paper on which were letters traced with great care and difficulty.
The mountaineer did not sit down, but began pacing the floor
behind Clayton. Clayton moved his chair, and Raines seemed
unconscious of his presence as with eyes on the floor he traversed
the narrow width of the cabin.
Y'u hevn't seed me up on the mount 'in lately, hev ye? " he asked.
"I reckon ye haven't missed me much. Do ye know whut I've been
doin'?" he said, with sudden vehemence, stopping still and resting
his eyes, which glowed like an animal's from the darkened end of
the cabin, on Clayton.
"I've been tryin' to keep from killin' ye. Oh, don't move-don't fear
now; ye air as safe as ef ye were down in the camp. I seed ye that
night on the mount'in," he continued, pacing rapidly back and
forth. "I was waitin' fer ye. I meant to tell ye jest whut I'm goin' to
tell ye ter-night; 'n' when Easter come a-tearin' through the bushes,
'n' I seed ye-ye-a-standin' together "-the words seemed to stop in
his throat-" I knowed I was too late.
"I sot thar fer a minute like a rock, 'n' when ye two went back up
the mount'in, before I knowed it I was hyer in the house thar at the
fire mouldin' a bullet to kill ye with as ye come back. All at oncet
I heerd a voice plain as my own is at this minute:
"'Air you a-thinkin' 'bout takin' the life of a fellow-creatur, Sherd
Raines-you that air tryin' to be a servant o' the Lord?'"
"But I kept on a-mouldin', 'n' suddenly I seed ye a-layin' in the road
dead, 'n' the heavens opened 'n' the face o' the Lord was thar, 'n' he
raised his hand to smite me with the brand o' Cain-'n' look thar!"
Clayton had sat spellbound by the terrible earnestness of the man,
and as the mountaineer swept his dark hair back with one hand, he
rose in sudden horror. Across the mountaineer's forehead ran a
crimson scar yet unhealed. Could he have inflicted upon himself
this fearful penance?
Oh, it was only the moulds. I seed it all so plain that I throwed up
my hands, fergittin' the moulds, 'n' the hot lead struck me thar;
but," he continued, solemnly, "I knowed the Lord hed tuk that way
o' punishin' me fer the sin o havin' murder in my mind, 'n' I fell on
my knees right thar a-prayin' fer fergiveness: 'n' since that night I
hev stayed away from ye till the Lord give me power to stand ag'in
the temptation o' harmin' ye. He hev showed me another way, 'n'
now I hev come to ye as he hev tol' me. I hevn't tol' ye this fer
nothin'. Y'u in see now whut I think o' Easter, ef I was tempted to
take the life o' the man who tuk her from me, 'n' I reckon ye will
say I've got the right to ax ye whut I'm a-goin' to. I hev knowed the
gal sence she was a baby. We was children together, and thar
hain't no use hidin' that I never keered a straw fer anuther woman.
She used to be mighty wilful 'n' contrary, but as soon as you come I
seed at oncet that a change was comm' over her. I mistrusted ye,
'n' I warned her ag'in' ye. But when I l'arned that ye was a-teachin'
her, and a-doin' whut I had tried my best to do 'n' failed, I let things
run along, thinkin' that mebbe ever'thing would come out right,
after all. Mebbe hit air all right, but I come to ye now, 'n' I ax ye in
the name of the livin' God, who is a-watchin' you a-guidin' me, air
ye goin' to leave the po' gal to die sorrowin' fer ye, or do ye aim to
come back 'n' marry her?
Raines had stopped now in the centre of the cabin, and the
shadows flickering slowly over him gave an unearthly aspect to his
tall, gaunt figure, as he stood with uplifted arm, pale face, glowing
eyes, and disordered hair.
"The gal hasn't got no protecter-her dad, as you know, is a-hidin'
from jestice in the mount'ins-and I'm a-standin' in his place, 'n' I ax
ye to do only whut you know ye ought."
There was nothing threatening in the mountaineer 's attitude, nor
dictatorial; and Clayton felt his right to say what he had, in spite of
a natural impulse to resent such interference. Besides, there sprang
up in his heart a sudden great admiration for this rough, uncouth
fellow who was capable of such unselfishness; who, true to the
trust of her father and his God, was putting aside the strongest
passion of his life for what he believed was the happiness of the
woman who had inspired it. He saw, too, that the sacrifice was
made with perfect unconsciousness that it was unusual or
admirable. He rose to his feet, and the two men faced each other.
"If you had told me this long ago," said Clayton, "I should have
gone away, but you seemed distrustful and suspicious. I did not
expect the present state of affairs to come about, but since it has, I
tell you frankly that I have never thought of doing anything else
than what you have asked."
And he told the truth, for he had already asked himself that
question. Why should he not marry her? He must in all
probability stay in the mountains for years, and after that time he
would not be ashamed to take her home, so strong was his belief in
her quickness and adaptibility.
Raines seemed scarcely to believe what he heard. He had not
expected such ready acquiescence. He had almost begun to fear
from Clayton's silence that he was going to refuse, and then-God
knows what he would have done.
Instantly he stretched out his hand.
"I hev done ye great wrong, 'n' I ax yer par-din," he said, huskily.
"I want to say that I bear ye no gredge, 'n' thet I wish ye well. I
hope ye won't think hard on me," he continued; "I he had a hard
fight with the devil as long as I can ricolect. I hev turned back
time 'n' ag'in, but thar hain't nothin' ter keep me from goin' straight
As Clayton left the cabin, the mountaineer stopped him for a
moment on the threshold.
"Thar's another thing I reckon I ought to tell ye," he said; " Easter's
dad air powerfully sot ag'in ye. He thought ye was an officer at
fust, 'n' hit was hard to git him out o' the idee thet ye was spyin' fer
him; 'n' when he seed ye goin' to the house, he got it inter his head
that ye mought be meanin' harm to Easter, who air the only thing
alive thet he keers fer much. He promised not to tech ye, 'n' I
knowed he would keep his word as long as he was sober. It'll be
all right now, I reckon," he concluded, "when I tell him whut ye
aims to do, though he hev got a spite ag'in all furriners. Far'well! I
wish ye well; I wish ye well."
An hour later Clayton was in Jellico. It was midnight when the
train came in, and he went immediately to his berth. Striking the curtain accidentally, he loosed it from its fastenings, and, doubling the pillows, he lay looking out on the swiftly passing landscape. The moon was full and brilliant, and there was a strange, keen pleasure in being whirled in such comfort through the night. The mists almost hid the mountains. They seemed very, very far away. A red star trembled in the crest of Wolf Mountain. Easter's cabin must be almost under that Star. He wondered if she were asleep. Perhaps she was out on the porch, lonely, suffering, and thinking of him. He felt her kiss and her tears upon his hand. Did he not love her? Could there be any doubt about that? His thoughts turned toRaines, and he saw the mountaineer in his lonely cabin, sitting with his head bowed in his hands in front of the dying fire. He closed his eyes, and another picture rose before him-a scene at
home. He had taken Easter to New York. How brilliant the light!
what warmth and luxury! There stood his father, there his mother.
What gracious dignity they had! Here was his sister-what beauty
and elegance and grace of manner! But Easter! Wherever she was
placed the other figures needed readjustment. There was
something irritably incongruous-Ah! now he had it-his mind grew
hazy-he was asleep.
DURING the weeks that followed, some malignant spirit seemed
to be torturing him with a slow realization of all he had lost;
taunting him with the possibility of regaining it and the certainty of
losing it forever.
As he stepped from the dock at Jersey City the fresh sea wind had
thrilled him like a memory, and his pulses leaped instantly into
sympathy with the tense life that vibrated in the air. He seemed
never to have been away so long, and never had home seemed so
pleasant. His sister had grown more beautiful; his mother's quiet,
noble face was smoother and fairer than it had been for years; and
despite the absence of his father, who had been hastily summoned
to England, there was an air of cheerfulness in the house that was
in marked contrast to its gloom when Clayton was last at home.
He had been quickened at once into a new appreciation of the
luxury and refinement about him, and he soon began to wonder
how he had inured himself to the discomforts and crudities of his
mountain life. Old habits easily resumed sway over him. At the club friend and acquaintance were so unfeignedly glad to see him that he began to suspect that his own inner gloom had darkened their faces after his father's misfortune. Day after day found him in his favorite corner at the club, watching the passing pageant and listening eagerly to the conversational froth of the town-the gossip of club, theatre, and society. His ascetic life in the mountains gave to every pleasure the taste of inexperience. His early youth seemed renewed, so keen and fresh were his emotions. He felt, too, that he was recovering a lost identity, and still the new one that had grown around him would not loosen its hold. He had told his family nothing of Easter-why, he could scarcely have said-and the difficulty of telling increased each day. His secret began to weigh heavily upon him; and though he determined to unburden himself on his father's return, he was troubled with a vague sense of deception. When he went to receptions with his sister, this sense of a double identity was keenly felt amid the lights, the music, the flowers, the flash of eyes and white necks and arms, the low voices, the polite, clear-cut utterances of welcome and
Several times he had met a face for which he had once had a
boyish infatuation. Its image had never been supplanted during his
student career, but he had turned from it as from a star when he came home and found that his life was to be built with his own hands. Now the girl had grown to gracious womanhood, and when he saw her he was thrilled with the remembrance that she had once
favored him above all others. One night a desire assailed him to
learn upon what footing he then stood. He had yielded, and she
gave him a kindly welcome. They had drifted to reminiscence,
and Clayton went home that night troubled at heart and angry that
he should be so easily disturbed; surprised that the days were
passing so swiftly, and pained that they were filled less and less
with thoughts of Easter. With a pang of remorse and fear, he
determined to go back to the mountains as soon as his father came
home. He knew the effect of habit. He would forget these
pleasures felt so keenly now, as he had once forgotten them, and
he would leave before their hold upon him was secure.
Knowing the danger that beset him, Puritan that he was, he had
avoided it all he could. He even stopped his daily visits to the
club, and spent most of his time at home with his mother and
sister. Once only, to his bitter regret, was he induced to go out.
Wagner's tidal wave had reached New York; it was the opening
night of the season, and the opera was one that he had learned to love in Germany. The very brilliancy of the scene threw him into gloom, so aloof did he feel from it all-the great theatre aflame with lights, the circling tiers of faces, the pit with its hundred musicians, their eyes on the leader, who stood above them
with baton upraised and German face already aglow.
In his student days he had loved music, but he had little more than
trifled with it; now, strangely enough, his love, even his
understanding, seemed to have grown; and when the violins
thrilled all the vast space into life, he was shaken with a passion
newly born. All the evening he sat riveted. A rush of memories
came upon him-memories of his student life, with its dreams and
ideals of culture and scholarship, which rose from his past again
like phantoms. In the elevation of the moment the trivial pleasures
that had been tempting him became mean and unworthy. With a
pang of bitter regret he saw himself as he might have been, as he
yet might be.
A few days later his father came home, and his distress of mind
was complete. Clayton need stay in the mountains but little
longer, he said; he was fast making up his losses, and he had hoped
after his trip to England to have Clayton at once in New York; but
now he had best wait perhaps another year. Then had come a struggle that racked heart and brain. All he had ever had was before him again. Could it be his duty to shut himself from this life-his natural heritage-to stifle the highest demands of his nature? Was he seriously in love with that mountain girl? Had he indeed ever been sure of himself? If, then, he did not love her beyond all question, would he not wrong himself, wrong her, by marrying her? Ah, but might he not wrong her, wrong himself -even more? He was bound to her by every tie that his sensitive honor recognized among the duties of one human being to another.
He had sought her; he had lifted her above her own life. If one
human being had ever put its happiness in the hands of another,
that had been done. If he had not deliberately taught her to love
him, he had not tried to prevent it. He could not excuse himself;
the thought of gaining her affection had occurred to him, and he
had put it aside. There was no excuse; for when she gave her love,
he had accepted it, and, as far as she knew, had given his own
unreservedly. Ah, that fatal moment of weakness, that night on the
mountam-side! Could he tell her, could he tell Raines, the truth,
and ask to be released? What could Easter with her devotion, and
Raines with his singleness of heart, know of this substitute for love
which civilization had taught him? Or, granting that they could understand, he might return home; but Easter-what was left for her?
It was useless to try to persuade himself that her love would fade
away, perhaps quickly, and leave no scar; that Raines would in
time win her for himself, his first idea of their union be realized,
and, in the end, all happen for the best. That might easily be
possible with a different nature under different conditions-a nature
less passionate, in contact with the world and responsive to varied
interests; but not with Easter -alone with a love that had shamed
him, with mountain, earth, and sky unchanged, and the vacant days
marked only by a dreary round of wearisome tasks. He remembered Raines s last words-" Air ye goin' to leave the po' gal
to die sorrowin' fer ye ? " What happiness would be possible for
him with that lonely mountain-top and the white, drawn face
forever haunting him?
That very night a letter came, with a rude superscription-the first
from Easter. Within it was a poor tintype, from which Easter's
eyes looked shyly at him. Before he left he had tried in vain to get
her to the tent of an itinerant photographer. During his absence,
she had evidently gone of her own accord. The face was very
beautiful, and in it was an expression of questioning, modest pride. "Aren't you surprised? "it seemed to say-" and pleased? Only the face, with its delicate lines, and the throat and the shoulders were visible. She looked almost refined. And the note-it was badly spelled and written with great difficulty, but it touched him. She was lonely, she said, and she wanted him to come back. Lonely- that cry was in each line.
His response to this was an instant resolution to go back at once,
and, sensitive and pliant as his nature was, there was no hesitation
for him when his duty was clear and a decision once made. With
great care and perfect frankness he had traced the history of his
infatuation in a letter to his father, to be communicated when the
latter chose to his mother and sister. Now he was nearing the
THE journey to the mountains was made with a heavy heart. In his
absence everything seemed to have suffered a change. Jellico had
never seemed so small, so coarse, so wretched as when he stepped
from the dusty train and saw it lying dwarfed and shapeless in the
afternoon sunlight. The State line bisects the straggling streets of
frame-houses. On the Kentucky side an extraordinary spasm of
morality had quieted into local option. Just across the way in
Tennessee was a row of saloons. It was "pay-day" for the miners,
and the worst element of all the mines was drifting in to spend the
following Sabbath in unchecked vice. Several rough, brawny
fellows were already staggering from Tennessee into Kentucky,
and around one saloon hung a crowd of slatternly negroes, men
and women. Heartsick with disgust, Clayton hurried into the lane
that wound through the valley. Were these hovels, he asked
himself in wonder, the cabins he once thought so poetic, so
picturesque? How was it that they suggested now only a pitiable
poverty of life? From each, as he passed, came a rough, cordial shout of greeting. Why was he jarred so strangely? Even nature had changed. The mountains seemed stunted, less beautiful. The light, streaming through the western gap with all the splendor of a
mountain sunset, no longer thrilled him. The moist fragrance of
the earth at twilight, the sad pipings of birds by the wayside, the
faint, clear notes of a wood-thrush-his favorite-from the edge of
the forest, even the mid-air song of a meadow-lark above his head,
were unheeded as, with face haggard with thought and travel, he
turned doggedly from the road and up the mountain toward
Easter's home. The novelty and ethnological zeal that had blinded
him to the disagreeable phases of mountain life were gone; so was
the pedestal from which he had descended to make a closer study
of the people. For he felt now that he had gone among them with
an unconscious condescension; his interest seemed now to have
been little more than curiosity-a pastime to escape brooding over
his own change of fortune. And with Easter-ah, how painfully
clear his mental vision had grown! Was it the tragedy of wasting
possibilities that had drawn him to her-to help her-or was it his
own miserable selfishness, after all?
No one was visible when he reached the cabin. The calm of mountain and sky enthralled it as completely as the cliff that towered behind it. The day still lingered, and the sunlight rested lightly on each neighboring crest. As he stepped upon the porch there was a slight noise within the cabin, and, peering into the dark interior, he called Easter's name. There was no answer, and he sank wearily into a chair, his thoughts reverting homeward. By this time his mother and sister must know why he had come back to the mountains. He could imagine their consternation and grief. Perhaps that was only the beginning; he might be on the eve of causing them endless unhappiness. He had thought to involve them as little as possible by remaining in the mountains; but the thought of living there was now intolerable in the new relations he would sustain to the people. What should he do? where go? As he bent fQrward in perplexity, there was a noise again in the cabin-this time the stealthy tread of feet-and before he could turn, a rough voice vibrated threateningly in his ears:
Say who ye air, and what yer business is, mighty quick, er ye hain't
got a minute to live."
Clayton looked up, and to his horror saw the muzzle of a rifle
pointed straight at his head. At the other end of it, and standing in
the door, was a short, stocky figure, a head of bushy hair, and a pair of small, crafty eyes. The fierceness and suddenness of the voice, in the great silence about him, and its terrible earnestness, left him almost paralyzed.
"Come, who air ye? Say quick, and don't move, nother"
Clayton spoke his name with difficulty. The butt of the rifle
dropped to the floor, and with a harsh laugh its holder advanced to
him with hand outstretched:
So ye air Easter's feller, air ye? Well, I'm yer dad-that's to be.
Clayton shuddered. Good heavens! this was Easter's father! More
than once or twice, his name had never been mentioned at the
I tuk ye fer a raider," continued the old mountaineer, not noticing
Clayton's repulsion, "'n' ef ye had 'a' been, ye wouldn't be nobody
now. I reckon Easter hain't told ye much about me, 'n' I reckon she
hev a right to be a leetle ashamed of me. I had a leetle trouble
down thar in the valley-I s'pose you've heerd about it-'n' I've had to
keep kind o' quiet. I seed ye once afore, 'n' I come near shootin'
ye, thinkin' ye was a raider. Am mighty glad I didn't, fer Easter is
powerful sot on ye. Sherd thought I could resk comm' down to the
wed-din'. They hev kind o' give up the s'arch, 'n' none o' the boys
won't tell on me. We'll have an old-timer, I tell ye. Ye folks from the settle-mints air mighty high-heeled, but old Bill Hicks don't allus go bar'footed. He kin step purty high, 'n' he's a-goin' to do it at that weddin'. Hev somefin?" he asked, suddenly pulling out a flask of colorless liquid. "Ez ye air to be one o' the fambly, I don't mind tellin' ye thar's the very moonshine that caused the leetle trouble down in the valley."
For fear of giving offence, Clayton took a swallow of the liquid,
which burned him like fire. He had scarcely recovered from the
first shock, and he had listened to the man and watched him with a
sort of enthralling fascination. He was Easter's father. He could
even see a faint suggestion of Easter's face in the cast of the
features before him, coarse and degraded as they were. He had the
same nervous, impetuous quickness, and, horrified by the likeness,
Clayton watched him sink back into a chair, pipe in mouth, and
relapse into a stolidity that seemed incapable of the energy and fire
shown scarcely a moment before. His life in the mountains had
made him as shaggy as some wild animal. He was coatless, and his
trousers of jeans were upheld by a single home-made suspender.
His beard was yet scarcely touched with gray, and his black,
lustreless hair fell from under a round hat of felt with ragged tdges
and uncertain color. The mountaineer did not speak again until, with great deliberation and care, he had filled a cob pipe. Then he bent his sharp eyes upon Clayton so fixedly that the latter let his own fall.
"Mebbe ye don't know that I'm ag'in' fur-riners," he said, abruptly, "
all o' ye; 'n' ef the Lord hisself hed 'a' tol' me thet my gal would be
a-marryin' one, I wouldn't 'a' believed him. But Sherd hev told me
ye air all right, 'n' ef Sherd says ye air, why, ye air, I reckon, 'n' I
hevn't got nothin' to say; though I hev got a heap ag'in ye-all o' ye."
His voice had a hint of growing anger under the momentary sense
of his wrongs, and, not wishing to incense him further, Clayton
Ye air back a little sooner than ye expected, ain't ye? " he asked,
presently, with an awkward effort at good-humor. "I reckon ye air
gittin' anxious. Well, we hev been gittin' ready fer ye, 'n' you 'n'
Easter kin hitch ez soon ez ye please. Sherd Raines air gum' to do
the marryin'. He air the best friend I got. Sherd was a-courtin' the
gal, too, but he hevn't got no gredge ag'in ye, 'n' he hev promised to
tie ye. Sherd air a preacher now. He hev just got his license. He
didn't want to do it, but I told him he had to. We'll hev the biggest
weddin' ever seed in these mountains, I tell ye. Any o' yo' folks be on hand?"
No," answered Clayton, soberly, "I think not."
"Well, I reckon we kin fill up the house."
Clayton's heart sank at the ordeal of a wedding with such a master
of ceremonies. He was about to ask where Easter and her mother
were, when, to his relief, he saw them both in the path below,
approaching the house. The girl was carrying a bucket of water on
her head. Once he would have thought her picturesque, but now it
pained him to see her doing such rough work. When she saw him,
she gave a cry of surprise and delight that made Clayton tingle
with remorse. Then running to him with glowing face, she stopped
suddenly, and, with a look down at her bare feet and soiled gown,
fled into the cabin. Clayton followed, but the room was so dark he
could see nothing.
Easter! " he called. There was no answer, but he was suddenly
seized about the neck by a pair of unseen arms and kissed by
unseen lips twice in fierce succession, and before he could turn
and clasp the girl she was laughing softly in the next room, with a
barred door between them. Clayton waited patiently several
minutes, and then asked:
Easter, aren't you ready?
Not yit-not yet!" She corrected herself with such vehemence that
Clayton laughed. She came out presently, and blushed when
Clayton looked her over from head to foot with astonishment. She
was simply and prettily dressed in white muslin; a blue ribbon was
about her throat, and her hair was gathered in a Psyche knot that
accented the classicism of her profile. Her appearance was really
refined and tasteful. When they went out on the porch he noticed
that her hands had lost their tanned appearance. Her feet were
slippered, and she wore black stockings. He remembered the book
of fashion-plates he had once sent her; it was that that had
quickened her instinct of dress. He said nothing, but the happy
light in Easter's face shone brighter as she noted his pleased and
Why, ye look like another man," said Easter's mother, who had
been looking Clayton over with a quizzical smile. "Is that the way
folks dress out in the settlemints? 'N' look at that gal. Ef she hev
done anythin' sence ye hev been gone but____" The rest of the
sentence was smothered in the palm of Easter's hand, and she too
began scrutinizing Clayton closely. The mountaineer said nothing,
and after a curious glance at Easter resumed his pipe.
You look like a pair of butterflies," said the mother when
released. "Sherd oughter be mighty proud of his first marryin'. I
s'pose ye know he air a preacher now? Ye oughter heerd him
preach last Sunday. It was his fust time. The way he lighted inter
the furriners was a caution. He 'lowed he was a-goin' to fight
cyard-playin' and dancin' ez long ez he hed breath."
Yes; 'n' thar's whar Sherd air a fool. I'm ag'in furriners, too, but thar
hain't no harm in dancin, n' thar's goin' to be dancin' at this weddin'
ef I'm alive."
Easter shrank perceptibly when her father spoke, and looked
furtively at Clayton, who winced, in spite of himself, as the rough
voice grated in his ear. Instantly her face grew unhappy, and
contained an appeal for pardon that he was quick to understand
and appreciate. Thereafter he concealed his repulsion, and treated
the rough bear so affably that Easter's eyes grew moist with
Darkness was gathering in the valley below when he rose to go.
Easter had scarcely spoken to him, but her face and her eyes, fixed
always upon him, were eloquent with joy. Once as she passed
behind him her hand rested with a timid, caressing touch upon his
shoulder, and now, as he walked away from the porch, she called
him back. He turned, and she had gone into the house.
What is it, Easter? " he asked, stepping into the dark room. His
hand was grasped in both her own and held tremblingly.
Don't mind dad," she whispered, softly. Something warm and
moist fell upon his hand as she unloosed it, and she was gone.
That night he wrote home in a better frame of mind. The charm of
the girl's personality had asserted its power again, and hopes that
had almost been destroyed by his trip home were rekindled by her
tasteful appearance, her delicacy of feeling, and by her beauty,
which he had not overrated. He asked that his sister might meet
him in Louisville after the wedding-whenever that should be. They
two could decide then what should be done. His own idea was to
travel; and so great was his confidence in Easter, he believed that,
in time, he could take her to New York without fear.
IT was plain that Raines-to quiet the old man's uneasiness,
perhaps-had told him of his last meeting with Clayton, and that,
during the absence of the latter, some arrangements for the
wedding had been made, even by Easter, who in her trusting
innocence had perhaps never thought of any other end to their
relations. In consequence, there was an unprecedented stir among
the mountaineers. The marriage of a citizen with a " furriner "
was an unprecedented event, and the old mountaineer, who began
to take some pride in the alliance, emphasized it at every
At the mines Clayton's constant visits to the mountain were
known to everybody, but little attention had been paid to them.
Now, however, when the rumor of the wedding seemed confirmed
by his return and his silence, every one was alert with a curiosity
so frankly shown that he soon became eager to get away from the
mountains. Accordingly, he made known his wish to Easter's
parents that the marriage should take place as soon as possible.
Both received the suggestion with silent assent. Then had followed many difficulties. Only as a great concession to the ideas and customs of " fur-riners" would the self-willed old mountaineer agree that the ceremony should take place at night, and that after the supper and the dance, the two should leave Jellico at daybreak. Mountain marriages were solemnized in the daytime, and wedding journeys were unknown. The old man did not understand why Clayton should wish to leave the mountains, and the haste of the latter seemed to give him great offence. When Clayton had ventured to suggest, instead, that the marriage should be quiet, and that he and Easter should remain on the mountain a few days before leaving, he fumed with anger; and thereafter any suggestion from the young engineer was met with a suspicion that looked ominous. Raines was away on his circuit, and would not return until just before the wedding, so that from him Clayton could get no help. Very wisely, then, he interfered no more, but awaited the day with dread.
It was nearing dusk when he left the camp on his wedding-night.
Half-way up the mountain he stopped to lean against the kindly
breast of a bowlder blocking the path. It was the spot where he
had seen Easter for the first time. The mountains were green again,
as they were then, but the scene seemed sadly changed. The sun was gone; the evening-star had swung its white light like a censer above Devil's Den; the clouds were moving swiftly through the darkening air, like a frightened flock seeking a fold; and the night was closing fast over the cluster of faint camp-fires. The spirit brooding over mountain and sky was unspeakably sad, and with a sharp pain at his heart Clayton turned from it and hurried on. Mountain, sky, and valley were soon lost in the night. When he reached the cabin rays of bright light were flashing from chink and crevice into the darkness, and from the kitchen came the sounds of busy preparation. Already many guests had arrived. A group of men who stood lazily talking in the porch became silent as he
approached, but, recognizing none of them, he entered the cabin. A
dozen women were seated about the room, and instantly their eyes
were glued upon him. As the kitchen door swung open he saw
Easter's mother bending over the fireplace, a table already heavily
laden, and several women bustling about it. Above his head he
heard laughter, a hurried tramping of feet, and occasional cries of
surprise and delight. He paused at the threshold, hardly knowing
what to do, and when he turned a titter from one corner showed
that his embarrassment was seen. On the porch he was seized by Easter's father, who drew him back into the room. The old mountaineer's face was flushed, and he had been drinking
Oh, hyar ye air! " he exclaimed. "You're right on hand, hain't ye?
Hyar, Bill," he called, thrusting his head out of the door, "you "n'
Jim 'n' Milt come in hyar." Three awkward young mountaineers
entered. "These fellers air goin' to help ye."
They were to be his ushers. Clayton shook hands with them
Oh, we air about ready fer ye, 'n' we air only waitin' fer Sherd and
the folks to come," continued the mountaineer, jubilantly, winking
significantly at Clayton and his attendants, who stood about him at
the fireplace. Clayton shook his head firmly, but the rest followed
Hicks, who turned at the door and repeated the invitation with a
frowning face. Clayton was left the focus of feminine eyes, whose
unwavering directness kept his own gaze on the floor. People
began to come in rapidly, most of whom he had never seen before.
The room was filled, save for a space about him. Every one gave
him a look of curiosity that made him feel like some strange
animal on exhibition. Once more he tried to escape to the porch,
and again he was met by Easter's father, who this time was
accompanied by Raines.
The young circuit-rider was smoothly shaven, and dressed in dark
clothes, and his calm face and simple but impressive manner
seemed at once to alter the atmosphere of the room. He grasped
Clayton's hand warmly, and without a trace of self-consciousness.
The room had grown instantly quiet, and Raines began to share the
curious interest that Clayton had caused; for the young
mountaineer's sermon had provoked discussion far and wide, and,
moreover, the peculiar relations of the two toward Easter were
known and rudely appreciated. Hicks was subdued into quiet
respect, and tried to conceal his incipient intoxication. The effort
did not last long. When the two fiddlers came, he led them in with
a defiant air, and placed them in the corner, bustling about
officiously but without looking at Raines, whose face began to
Well, we're all hyar, I reckon! " he exclaimed, in his terrible voice.
"Is Easter ready? " he shouted up the steps.
A confused chorus answered him affirmatively, and he
immediately arranged Clayton in one corner of the room with his
serious attendants on one side, and Raines, grave to solemnity, on
the other. Easter's mother and her assistants came in from the
kitchen, and the doors were filled with faces. Above, the tramping
of feet became more hurried; below, all stood with expectant faces
turned to the rude staircase. Clayton's heart began to throb, and a
strange light brightened under Raines's heavy brows.
"Hurry up, thar!" shouted Hicks, impatiently.
A moment later two pairs of rough shoes came down the steps, and
after them two slippered feet that fixed every eye in the room, until
the figure and face above them slowly descended into the light.
Midway the girl paused with a timid air. Had an angel been
lowered to mortal view, the waiting people would not have been
stricken with more wonder. Raines's face relaxed into a look
almost of awe, and even Hicks for the instant was stunned into
reverence. Mountain eyes had never beheld such loveliness so
arrayed. It was simple enough-the garment-all white, and of a
misty texture, yet it formed a mysterious vision to them. About the
girl's brow was a wreath of pink and white laurel. A veil had not
been used. It would hide her face, she said, and she did not see
why that should be done. For an instant she stood poised so lightly
that she seemed to sway like a vision, as the candle-lights quivered
about her, with her hands clasped in front of her, and her eyes
wandering about the room till they lighted upon Clayton with a look of love that seemed to make her conscious only of him. Then, with quickening breath, lips parted slightly, cheeks slowly flushing, and shining eyes still upon him, she moved slowly across the room until she stood at his side.
Raines gathered himself together as from a dream, and stepped
before the pair. Broken and husky at first, his voice trembled in
spite of himself, but thereafter there was no hint of the powerful
emotions at play within him. Only as he joined their hands, his
eyes rested an instant with infinite tenderness on Easter's face-as
though the look were a last farewell-and his voice deepened with
solemn earnestness when he bade Clayton protect and cherish her
until death. There was a strange mixture in those last words of the
office and the man-of divine authority and personal appeal-and
Clay. ton was deeply stirred. The benediction over4 the young
preacher was turning away, when some one called huskily from
the rear of the cabin:
"Whyn't ye kiss the bride?
It was Easter's father, and the voice, rough as it was, brought a
sensation of relief to all. The young mountaineer's features
contracted with swift pain, and as Easter leaned toward him, with
subtle delicacy, he touched, not her lips, but her forehead, as reverently as though she had been a saint.
Instantly the fiddles began, the floor was cleared, the bridal party
hurried into the kitchen, and the cabin began to shake beneath
dancing feet. Hicks was fulfilling his word, and in the kitchen his
wife had done her part. Everything known to the mountaineer
palate was piled in profusion on the table, but Clayton and Easter
ate nothing. To him the whole evening was a nightmare, which
the solemn moments of the marriage had made the more hideous.
He was restless and eager to get away. The dancing was becoming
more furious, and above the noise rose Hicks's voice prompting the
dancers. The ruder ones still hung about the doors, regarding
Clayton curiously, or with eager eyes upon the feast. Easter was
vaguely troubled, and conflicting with the innocent pride and joy
in her eyes were the questioning glances she turned to Clayton's
darkening face. At last they were hurried out, and in came the
crowd like hungry wolves.
Placing Clayton and Easter in a corner of the room, the attendants
themselves took part in the dancing, and such dancing Clayton had
never seen. Doors and windows were full of faces, and the room
was crowded; from the kitchen came coarse laughter and the
rattling of dishes.
Occasionally Hicks would disappear with several others, and
would return with his face redder than ever.
Easter became uneasy. Once she left Clayton's side and
expostulated with her father, but he shook her from his arm
roughly. Raines saw this, and a moment later he led the old
mountaineer from the room. Thereafter the latter was quieter, but
only for a little while. Several times the kitchen was filled and
emptied, and ever was the crowd unsteadier. Soon even Raines's
influence was of no avail, and the bottle was passed openly from
guest to guest.
"Whyn't ye dance?"
Clayton felt his arm grasped, and Hicks stood swaying before him.
"Whyn't ye dance?" he repeated. " Can't ye dance? Mebbe ye air
too good-like Sherd. Well, Easter kin, Hyar, Mart, come 'n' dance
with the gal. She air the best dancer in these parts."
Clayton had his hand upon Easter as though to forbid her. The
mountaineer saw the movement, and his face flamed; but before
he could speak, the girl pressed Clayton's arm, and, with an
appealing glance, rose to her feet.
That's right," said her father, approvingly, but with a look of
drunken malignancy toward Clayton. "Now," he called out, in a
loud voice, "I want this couple to have the floor, 'n' everybody to look on 'n' see what is dancin'. Start the fiddles, boys."
It was dancing. The young mountaineer was a slender, active
fellow, not without grace, and Easter seemed hardly to touch the
floor. They began very slowly at first, till Easter, glancing aside at
Clayton and seeing his face deepen with interest, and urged by the
remonstrance of het father, the remarks of the onlookers, and the
increasing abandon of the music, gave herself up to the dance. The
young mountaineer was no mean partner. Forward and back they
glided, their swift feet beating every note of the music; Faster
receding before her partner, and now advancing toward him, now
whirling away with a disdainful toss of her head and arms, and
now giving him her hand and whirling till her white skirts floated
from the floor. At last, with head bent coquettishly toward her
partner, she danced around him, and when it seemed that she
would be caught by his outstretched hands she slipped from his
clasp, and, with burning cheeks, flashing eyes, and bridal wreath
showering its pink-flecked petals about her, flew to Clayton's side.
Mebbe ye don't like that," cried Hicks, turning to Raines, who had
been gravely watching the scene.
Raines said nothing in reply, but only looked the drunken man in
"You two," he continued, indicating Clayton with an angry shake
of his head, " air a-tryin' to spile ever'body's fun. Both of ye air too
high-heeled fer us folks. Y'u hev got mighty good now that ye air a
preacher," he added, with a drunken sneer, irritated beyond
endurance by Raines's silence and his steady look. "I want ye to
know Bill Hicks air a-runnin' things here, 'n' I don't want no
meddlin'. I'll drink right here in front o' ye "-holding a bottle
defiantly above his head-" 'n' I mean to dance, too, I warn ye now,"
he added, staggering toward the door, "I don't want no med-dlin'."
Easter had buried her face in her hands. Her mother stood near her
husband, helplessly trying to get him away, and fearing to arouse
him more. Raines was the most composed man in the room, and a
few moments later, when dancing was resumed, Clayton heard his
voice at his ear:
"You'd better go upstairs 'n' wait till it's time to go," he said. " He
hev got roused ag'in ye, and ag'in me too. I'll keep out o' his way so
as not to aggravate him, but I'll stay hyar fer fear something will
happen. Mebbe he'll sober up a little, but I'm afeard he'll drink
A moment later, unseen by the rest, the two mounted the stairway
to the little room where Easter's girlhood had been passed. To
Clayton the peace of the primitive little chamber was an infinite
relief. A dim light showed a rude bed in one corner and a pine
table close by, whereon lay a few books and a pen and an
ink-bottle. Above, the roof rose to a sharp angle, and the low,
unplastered walls were covered with pietures cut from the books
he had given her. A single window opened into the night over the
valley and to the mountains beyond. Two small cane-bottom chairs
were near this, and in these they sat down. In the east dark clouds
were moving swiftly across the face of the moon, checking its light
anJ giving the dim valley startling depth and blackness.
Rain-drops struck the roof at intervals, a shower of apple-blossoms
rustled against the window and drifted on, and below the muffled
sound of music and shuffling feet was now and then pierced by the
shrill calls of the prompter. There was something ominous in the
persistent tread of feet and the steady flight of the gloomy clouds,
and quivering with vague fears, Easter sank down from her chair to
Clayton's feet, and burst into tears, as he put his arms tenderly
Has he ever treated you badly?
" No, no," she answered; "it's only the whiskey."
It was not alone of her father's behavior that she was thinking.
Memories were busy within her, and a thousand threads of feeling
were tightening her love of home, the only home she had ever
known. Now she was leaving it for a strange world of which she
knew nothing, and the thought pierced her like a physical pain.
"Are we ever coming back ag'in?" she asked, with sudden fear.
Yes, dear," answered Clayton, divining her thoughts; "whenever
After that she grew calmer, and remained quiet so long that she
seemed to have fallen asleep like a tired child relieved of its fears.
Leaning forward, he looked into the darkness. It was after
midnight, surely. The clouds had become lighter, more luminous,
and gradually the moon broke through them, lifting the pall from
the valley, playing about the edge of the forest, and quivering at
last on the window. As he bent back to look at the sleeping girl,
the moonlight fell softly upon her face, revealing its purity of
color, and touching the loosened folds of her hair, and shining
through a tear-drop which had escaped from her closed lashes.
How lovely the face was! How pure! How child-like with all its hidden strength! How absolute her confidence in him! How great her love! It was of her love that he thought, not of his own; but with a new realization of her dependence upon him for happiness, his clasp tightened about her almost unconsciously. She stirred slightly, and, bending his head lower, Clayton whispered in her ear:
Have you been asleep, dear?
She lifted her face and looked tenderly into his eyes, shaking her
head slowly, and then, as he bent over again, she clasped her arms
about his neck and strained his face to hers.
Not until the opening of the door at the stair-way stirred them did
they notice that the music and dancing below had ceased. The door
was instantly closed again after a slight sound of scuffling, and in
the moment of stillness that followed, they heard Raines say
"No; you can't go up thar."
A brutal oath answered him, and Easter started to her feet when
she heard her father's voice, terrible with passion; but Clayton held
her back, and hurried down the stairway.
"Ef ye don't come away from that door," he could hear Hicks
saying, " 'n' stop this meddlin', I'll kill you 'stid o' the furriner."
As Clayton thrust the door open, Raines was standing a few feet
from the stairway. The drunken man was struggling in the grasp of several mountaineers, who were coaxing and dragging him across the room. About them were several other men scarcely able to stand, and behind these a crowd of shrinking women.
Git back! git back! " said Raines, in low, hurried tones.
But Hicks had caught sight of Clayton. For a moment he stood
still, glaring at him. Then, with a furious effort, he wrenched
himself from the men who held him, and thrust his hand into his
pocket, backing against the wall. The crowd fell away from him as
a weapon was drawn and levelled with unsteady hand at Clayton.
Raines sprang forward; Clayton felt his arm clutched, and a figure
darted past him. The flash came, and when Raines wrenched the
weapon from the mountaineer's grasp the latter was standing rigid,
with horror-stricken eyes fixed upon the smoke, in which Easter's
white face showed like an apparition. As the smoke drifted aside,
the girl was seen with both hands at her breast. Then, while a
silent terror held every one, she turned, and, with outstretched
hands, tottered toward Clayton; and as he caught her in his arms, a
low moan broke from her lips.
Some one hurried away for a physician, but the death-watch was
over before he came.
For a long time the wounded girl lay apparently unconscious, her
face white and quiet. Only when a wood-thrush called from the
woods close by were her lids half raised, and as Clayton pushed
the shutter open above her and lifted her gently, she opened her
eyes with a grateful look and turned her face eagerly to the cool
The dawn was breaking. The east was already aflame with bars of
rosy light, gradually widening. Above them a single star was
poised, and in the valley below great white mists were stirring
from sleep. For a moment she seemed to be listlessly watching the
white, shapeless things, trembling as with life, and creeping
silently into wood and up glen; and then her lashes drooped
The door opened as Clayton let her sink upon the bed, breathing as
if asleep, and he turned, expecting the physician. Raines, too,
rose eagerly, stopped suddenly, and shrank back with a shudder of
repulsion as the figure of the wretched father crept, half crouching,
The girl's tone was full of gentle reproach, and so soft that it
reached only Clayton's ears.
This time his name was uttered with an appeal ever so gentle.
Pore dad! Pore dad! " she whispered. Her clasp tightened
suddenly on Clayton's hand, and her eyes were held to his, even
while the light in them was going out.
A week later two men left the cabin at dusk.
Half-way down the slope they came to one of the unspeakably
mournful little burying-grounds wherein the mountain people rest
after their narrow lives. It was unhedged, uncared for, and a few
crumbling boards for headstones told the living generation where
the dead were at rest. For a moment they paused to look at a spot
under a great beech where the earth had been lately disturbed.
"It air shorely hard to see," said one in a low, slow voice, "why she
was taken, 'n1 him left; why she should hev to give her life fer the
life he took. But He knows, He knows," the mountaineer
continued, with unfaltering trust; and then, after a moment's
struggle to reconcile fact with faith: "The Lord took whut He
keered fer most, 'n' she was ready, 'n' he wasn t.
The other made no reply, and they kept on in silence. Upon a spur
of the mountain beneath which the little mining-town had sunk to
quiet for the night they parted with a hand-clasp. Not till then was
the silence broken.
"Thar seems to be a penalty fer lovin' too ''much down hyar," said one; " 'n' I reckon," he added, slowly, "that both of us hev got hit to pay."
Turning, the speaker retraced his steps. The other kept on toward
the lights below.
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