The Power and the Glory
Grace MacGowan Cooke
Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Sjaani and PG Distributed Proofreaders
THE POWER AND THE GLORY
By GRACE MACGOWAN COOKE
Author of "Mistress Joy," "Huldah," "Their First Formal Call," etc.
WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARTHUR I. KELLER
I. THE BIRTH OF A WOMAN-CHILD
II. THE BIRTH OF AN AMBITION
III. A PEAK IN DARIEN
IV. OF THE USE OF FEET
V. THE MOCCASIN FLOWER
VI. WEAVERS AND WEFT
VII. ABOVE THE VALLEY
VIII. OF THE USE OF WINGS
IX. A BIT OF METAL
X. THE SANDALS OF JOY
XI. THE NEW BOARDER
XII. THE CONTENTS OF A BANDANNA
XIII. A PATIENT FOR THE HOSPITAL
XIV. WEDDING BELLS
XV. THE FEET OF THE CHILDREN
XVI. BITTER WATERS
XVII. A VICTIM
XIX. A PACT
XXI. THE SEARCH
XXII. THE ATLAS VERTEBRA
XXIII. A CLUE
XXIV. THE RESCUE
XXV. THE FUTURE
"Yes, I'm a-going to get a chance to work right away," she smiled up at
He loomed above them, white and shaking. "You thieves!" he roared. "Give
me my bandanner! Give me Johnnie's silver mine!"
"Lost--gone! My God, Mother--it's three days and three nights!"
The car was already leaping down the hill at a tremendous pace.
THE BIRTH OF A WOMAN-CHILD
"Whose cradle's that?" the sick woman's thin querulous tones arrested
the man at the threshold.
"Onie Dillard's," he replied hollowly from the depths of the crib which
he carried upside down upon his head, like some curious kind of
"Now, why in the name o' common sense would ye go and borry a broken
cradle?" came the wail from the bed. "I 'lowed you'd git Billy
Spinner's, an' hit's as good as new."
Uncle Pros set the small article of furniture down gently.
"Don't you worry yo'se'f, Laurelly," he said enthusiastically. Pros
Passmore, uncle of the sick woman and mainstay of the forlorn little
Consadine household, was always full of enthusiasm. "Just a few nails
and a little wrappin' of twine'll make it all right," he informed his
niece. "I stopped a-past and borried the nails and the hammer from Jeff
Dawes; I mighty nigh pounded my thumb off knockin' in nails with a rock
an' a sad-iron last week."
"Looks like nobody ain't got no sense," returned Laurella Consadine
ungratefully. "Even you, Unc' Pros--while you borryin' why cain't ye
borry whole things that don't need mendin'?"
Out of the shadows that hoarded the further end of the room came a woman
with a little bundle in her arm which had evidently created the
necessity for the borrowed cradle.
"Laurelly," the nurse hesitated, "I wouldn't name it to ye whilst ye was
a-sufferin,' but I jest cain't find the baby's clothes nowhars. I've
done washed the little trick and wrapped her in my flannen petticoat. I
do despise to put anything on 'em that anybody else has wore ... hit
don't seem right. But I've been plumb through everything, an' cain't
find none of her coats. Whar did you put 'em?"
"I didn't have no luck borryin' for this one," complained the sick woman
fretfully. "Looks like everybody's got that mean that they wouldn't lend
me a rag ... an' the Lord knows I only ast a _wearin'_ of the clothes
for my chillen. Folks can make shore that I return what I borry--ef the
Lord lets me."
"Ain't they nothin' to put on the baby?" asked Mavity Bence, aghast.
"No. Hit's jest like I been tellin' ye, I went to Tarver's wife--she's
got a plenty. I knowed in reason she'd have baby clothes that she
couldn't expect to wear out on her own chillen. I said as much to her,
when she told me she was liable to need 'em befo' I did. I says, 'Ye
cain't need more'n half of 'em, I reckon, an' half'll do me, an' I'll
return 'em to ye when I'm done with 'em.' She acted jest as
selfish--said she'd like to know how I was goin' to inshore her that it
wouldn't be twins agin same as 'twas before. Some folks is powerful mean
All this time the nurse had been standing with the quiet small packet
which was the storm centre of preparation lying like a cocoon or a giant
seed-pod against her bosom.
"She's a mighty likely little gal," said she finally. "Have ye any hopes
o' gittin' anything to put on her?"
The woman in the bed--she was scarcely more than a girl, with shining
dark eyes and a profusion of jetty ringlets about her elfish, pretty
little face--seemed to feel that this speech was in the nature of a
reproach. She hastened to detail her further activities on behalf of
"Consadine's a poor provider," she said plaintively, alluding to her
absent husband. "Maw said to me when I would have him that he was a poor
provider; and then he's got into this here way of goin' off like. Time
things gets too bad here at home he's got a big scheme up for makin' his
fortune somewhars else, and out he puts. He 'lowed he'd be home with a
plenty before the baby come. But thar--he's the best man that ever was,
when he's here, and I have no wish to miscall him. I reckon he thought I
could borry what I'd need. Biney Meal lent me enough for the little un
that died; but of course some o' the coats was buried with the child;
and what was left, Sis' Elvira borried for her baby. I was layin' off to
go over to the Deep Spring neighbourhood when I could git a lift in that
direction--the folks over yon is mighty accommodative," she concluded,
"but I was took sooner than I expected, and hyer we air without a
stitch, I've done sont Bud an' Honey to Mandy Ann Foncher's mebby
they'll bring in somethin'."
The little cabin shrank back against the steep side of the mountain as
though half terrified at the hollow immensity of the welkin above, or
the almost sheer drop to the valley five hundred feet beneath. A sidling
mountain trail passed the front of its rail fence, and stones
continually rolled from the upper to the lower side of this highway.
The day was darkening rapidly. A low line of red still burned behind the
massive bulk of Big Unaka, and the solemn purple mountains raised their
peaks against it in a jagged line. Within die single-roomed cabin the
rich, broken light from the cavernous fireplace filled the smoke-browned
interior full of shadow and shine in which things leaped oddly into
life, or dropped out of knowledge with a startling effect. The four
corners of the log room were utilized, three of them for beds, made by
thrusting two poles through auger holes bored in the logs of the walls,
setting a leg at the corner where these met and lacing the bottom with
hickory withes. The fourth had some rude planks nailed in it for a
table, and a knot-hole in one of the logs served the primitive purpose
of a salt-cellar. A pack of gaunt hounds quarrelled under the floor, and
the sick woman stirred uneasily on her bed and expressed a wish that her
emissaries would return.
Uncle Pros had taken the cradle to a back door to get the last of the
evening sun upon his task. One would not have thought that he could hear
what the women were saying at this distance, but the old hunter's ears
"Never you mind, Laurelly," he called cheerfully. "Wrop the baby up some
fashion, and I'll hike out and get clothes for her, time I mend
"Ef that ain't just like Unc' Pros!" And the girlish mother laughed out
suddenly. You saw the gypsy beauty of her face. "He ain't content with
borryin' men's truck, but thinks he can turn in an' borry coats 'mongst
the women. Well, I reckon he might have better luck than what I did."
As she spoke a small boy and girl, her dead brother's children, came
clattering in from the purple mysteries of dusk outside, hand clasped in
hand, and stopped close to the bed, staring.
"Mandy Ann, she wouldn't lend us a thing," Bud began in an aggrieved
tone. "I traded for this--chopped wood for it--and hit was all she would
give me." He laid a coarse little garment upon the ragged coverlet.
"That!" cried Laurella Passmore, taking it up with angrily tremulous
fingers. "My child shain't wear no sech. Hit ain't fittin' for my baby
to put on. Oh, I wisht I could git up from here and do about; I'd git
somethin' for her to wear!"
"Son," said Mrs. Bence, approaching the bedside, "air ye afeared to go
over as far as my house right now?"
"I ain't skeered ef Honey'll go with me," returned the boy doubtfully,
as he interrogated the twilit spaces beyond the open cabin door.
"Well, you go ask Pap to look in the green chist and send me the spotted
caliker poke that he'll find under the big bun'le. Don't you let him
give you that thar big bun'le; 'caze that's not a thing but seed corn,
and he'll be mad ef it's tetched. Fell Pap that what's in the spotted
poke ain't nothin' that he wants. Tell him it's--well, tell him to look
at it before he gives it to you."
The two little souls scuttled away into the gathering dark, and the
neighbour woman sat down by the fire to nurse the baby and croon and
await the clothing for which she had sent.
She was not an old woman, but already stiff and misshapen by toil and
the lack of that saving salt of pride, the stimulation of joy, which
keeps us erect and supple. Her broad back was bent; her hands as they
shifted the infant tenderly were knotted and work-worn. Mavity Bence was
a widow, living at home with her father, Gideon Himes; she had one child
left, a daughter; but the clothing for which she had sent was an outfit
made for a son, the posthumous offspring of his father; and the babe had
not lived long enough to wear it.
Outside, Uncle Pros began to sing at his work. He had a fluty old tenor
voice, and he put in turns and quavers that no ear not of the mountains
could possibly follow and fix. First it was a hymn, all abrupt, odd,
minor cadences and monotonous refrain. Then he shifted to a ballad--and
the mountains are full of old ballads of Scotland and England, come down
from the time of the first settlers, and with local names quaintly
substituted for the originals here and there.
"She's gwine to walk in a silken gownd,
An' ha'e plenty o' siller for to spare,"
chanted the old man above the little bed he was repairing.
"Who's that you're a-namin' that's a-goin' to have silk dresses?"
inquired Laurella, as he entered and set the mended cradle down by
"The baby." he returned. "Ef I find my silver mine--or ruther _when_ I
find my silver mine, for you know in reason with the directions Pap's
Grandpap left, and that word from Great Uncle Billy that helped the
Injuns work it, I'm bound to run the thing down one o' these days--when
I find my silver mine this here little gal's a-goin' to have everything
she wants--ain't ye, Pretty?"
And, having made a bed in the cradle from some folded covers, he lifted
the baby with strange deftness and placed it in.
"See thar," he called their attention proudly. "As good as new. And ef I
git time I'm a-goin' to give it a few licks o' paint."
Hands on knees, he bent to study the face of the new-born, that
countenance so ambiguous to our eyes, scarce stamped yet with the common
seal of humanity.
"She's a mighty pretty little gal," he repeated Mavity Bence's words.
"She's got the Passmore favour, as well as the Consadine. Reckon I
better be steppin' over to Vander's and see can I borry their cow. If
it's with you this time like it was with the last one, we'll have to
have a cow. I always thought if we'd had a fresh cow for that other one,
hit would 'a' lived. I know in reason Vander'll lend the cow for a
spell"--Uncle Pros always had unbounded confidence in the good will of
his neighbours toward himself, since his own generosity to them would
have been fathomless--"I know in reason he'll lend hit, 'caze they ain't
got no baby to their house."
He bestowed one more proud, fond look upon the little face in the
borrowed cradle, and walked out with as elated a step as though a queen
had been born to the tribe.
In the doorway he met Bud and Honey, returning with the spotted calico
poke clutched fast between them.
"I won't ask nothin' but a wearin' of em for my child," Laurella
Consadine, born Laurella Passmore, reiterated when the small garments
were laid out on the bed, and the baby was being dressed. "They're
mighty fine, Mavity, an' I'll take good keer of 'em and always bear in
mind that they're only borried."
"No," returned Mavity Bence, with unwonted firmness, as she put the
newcomer into the slip intended for her own son. "No, Laurelly, these
clothes ain't loaned to you. I give 'em to this child. I'm a widder, and
I never look to wed again, becaze Pap he has to have somebody to do for
him, an' he'd just about tear up the ground if I was to name sech a
thing. I'm mighty glad to give 'em to yo' little gal. I only wisht," she
said wistfully, "that hit was a boy. Ef hit was a boy, mebbe you'd give
hit the name that should 'a' went with the clothes. I was a-goin' to
call the baby John after hit's pappy."
Laurella Consadine lay quiescent for a moment, big black eyes studying
the smoky logs that raftered the roof. Then all at once she laughed,
with a flash of white teeth.
"I don't see why Johnnie ain't a mighty fine name for a gal," she said.
"I vow I'm a-goin' to name her Johnnie!"
And so this one of the tribe of borrowing Passmores wore her own
clothing from the first. No borrowed garment touched her. She rejected
the milk from the borrowed cow, fiercely; lustily she demanded--and
eventually received--her own legitimate, unborrowed sustenance.
Perhaps such a beginning had its own influence upon her future.
THE BIRTH OF AN AMBITION
All day the girl had walked steadily, her bare feet comforted by the
warm dust, shunning the pebbles, never finding sham stones in the way,
making friends with the path--that would always be Johnnie. From the
little high-hung valley in the remote fastnesses of the Unakas where she
was born, Johnnie Consadine was walking down to Cottonville, the factory
town on the outskirts of Watauga, to find work. Sometimes the road wound
a little upward for a quarter of a mile or so; but the general tendency
was persistently down.
In the gray dawn of Sunday morning she had stepped from the door of that
room where the three beds occupied three corners, and a rude table was
rigged in the fourth. It might almost seem that the same hounds were
quarrelling under the floor that had scrambled there eighteen years
before when she was born. At first the way was entirely familiar to her.
It passed few habitations, and of those the dwellers were not yet
abroad, since it was scarce day. As time went on she got to the little
settlement at the foot of the first mountain, and had to explain to
everybody her destination and ambition. Beyond this, she stopped
occasionally for direction, she met more people; yet she was still in
the heart of the mountains when noon found her, and she crept up a
wayside bank and sat down alone to eat her bite of corn pone.
Guided by the instinct--or the wood-craft--of the mountain born and
bred, she had sought out one of the hermit springs of beautiful
freestone water that hide in these solitudes. When she had slaked her
thirst at its little ice-cold chalice, she raised her head with a low
exclamation of rapture. There, growing and blowing beside the cool
thread of water which trickled from the spring, was a stately pink
moccasin flower. She knelt and gazed at it with folded hands, as one
before a shrine.
What is it in the sweeping dignity of these pointed, oval,
parallel-veined leaves, sheathed one within another, the clean column of
the bloom stalk rising a foot and a half perhaps above, and at its tip
the wonderful pink, dreaming Buddha of the forest, that so commands the
heart? It was not entirely the beauty of the softly glowing orchid that
charmed Johnnie Consadine's eyes; it was the significance of the flower.
Somehow the finding this rare, shy thing decking her path toward labour
and enterprise spoke to her soul of success. For a long time she knelt,
her bright uncovered head dappled by a ray of sunlight which filtered
through the deep, cool green above her, her face bent, her eyes
brooding, as though she prayed. When she had finished her dinner of corn
pone and fried pork, she rose and parted with almost reverent fingers
the pink wonder from its stalk, sought out a coarse, clean handkerchief
from her bundle and, steeping it in the icy water of the spring, lapped
it around her treasure. Not often in her eighteen summers had she found
so fine a specimen. Then she took up her journey, comforted and
"Looks like it was waiting right there to tell me howdy," she murmured
The keynote of Johnnie Consadine's character was aspiration. In her
cabin home the wings of desire were clipped, because she must needs put
her passionate young soul into the longing for food, to quiet the
cravings of a healthy stomach, which generally clamoured from one
blackberry season to the other; the longing for shoes, when her feet
were frostbitten; the yet more urgent wish to feed the little ones she
loved; the pressing demand, when the water-bucket gave out and they had
to pack water in a tin tomato can with a string bail; the dull ache of
mortification when she became old enough to understand their position as
the borrowing Passmores. Yet all human desire is sacred, and of God; to
desire--to want--to aspire--thus shall the individual be saved; and
surely in this is the salvation of the race. And Johnnie felt vaguely
that at last she was going out into a world where she should learn what
to desire and how to desire it.
Now as she tramped she was conning over her present plans. Again she saw
the cabin at home in that pitchy black which precedes the first
leavening of dawn, and herself getting up to start early on the long
walk. Her mother would get up too, and that was foolish. She saw the
slight figure stooping to rake together the embers in the broad
chimney's throat that the coffee-pot might be set on. She remonstrated
with the little mother, saying that she aimed not to disturb
anybody--not even Uncle Pros.
"Uncle Pros!" Laurella echoed from the hearthstone, where she sat on her
heels, like a little girl playing at mud-pies. Johnnie smiled at the
memory of how her mother laughed over the suggestion, with a drawing of
slant brows above big, tragic dark eyes, a look of suffering from the
mirth which adds the crown to joyousness. "Your Uncle Pros he got a
revelation 'long 'bout midnight as to just whar that thar silver mine is
that's been dodgin' him for more'n forty year. He come a-shakin' me by
the shoulder--like I reckon he's done fifty times ef he's done it
once--and telling me that he's off to make all our fortunes inside of a
week. He said if you still would go down to that thar old fool cotton
mill and hire out, to name it to you that Shade Buckheath would stand
some watchin'. Your Uncle Pros has got sense--in streaks. Why in the
world you'll pike out and go to work in a cotton mill is more than I
"To take care of you and the children," the girl had said, standing tall
and straight, deep-bosomed and red-lipped, laughing back at her little
mother. "Somebody's got to take care of you-all, and I just love to
be the one."
Laurella Consadine, commonly called in mountain fashion by her maiden
name of Laurella Passmore, scrambled to her feet and tossed the dark
curls out of her eyes.
"Aw--law--huh!" she returned carelessly. "We'll get along; we always
have. How do you reckon I made out before you was born, you great big
somebody? What's the matter with you? Did you fail to borry a frock for
the dance over at Rainy Gap? Try again, honey--I'll bet S'lomy Buckheath
would lend you one o' her'n."
That was it; borrowing--borrowing--borrowing till they were known as the
borrowing Passmores and became the jest of the neighbourhood.
"No, I couldn't stand it," the girl justified herself. "I had obliged to
get out and go where money could be earned--me, that's big and stout
And sighingly--yet light-heartedly, for with Laurella Consadine and
Johnnie there was always the quaint suggestion of a little girl with a
doll quite too big for her--the mother let her go. It had been just so
when Johnnie would have her time for every term of the "old field
hollerin' school," where she learned to read and write; even when she
persisted in going to Rainy Gap where some charitably inclined northern
church maintained a little school, and pushed her education to dizzy
heights that to mountain vision appeared "plumb foolish."
That morning she had cautioned her mother to be careful lest they waken
the children, for if the little ones roused and began, as the mountain
phrase has it, "takin' on," she scarcely knew how she should find heart
to leave them. The children--there was the thing that drove. Four small
brothers and sisters there were; with little Deanie, the youngest, to
make the painfully strong plea of recent babyhood. Consadine, who never
could earn money, and used to be from home following one wild scheme or
another most of the time, was gone these two years upon his last
dubious, adventurous journey; there was not even his intermittent
assistance to depend upon. Johnnie was the man of the family, and she
shouldered her burden bravely, declaring to herself that she would yet
have a chance, which the little ones could share.
She had kissed her mother, picked up her bundle and got as far as the
door, when there came a spat of bare feet meeting the floor, a pattering
rush, and Deanie's short arms went around her knees, almost tripping
"I wasn't 'sleep--I was 'wake the whole time," whispered the baby,
lifting a warm, pursed mouth for a kiss. "Deanie'll be good an' let you
go, Sis' Johnnie. An' then when you get down thar whar it's all so
sightly, you'll send for Deanie, 'cause deed and double you couldn't
live without her, now could ye?" And she looked craftily up into the
face bent above her, bravely choking back the tears that wanted to drown
her long speech.
Johnnie dropped her bundle and caught up the child, crushing the warm,
soft, yielding little form against her breast in a very passion of
"Deed and double I couldn't," she whispered back. "Sister's goin' to
earn money, and Deanie shall have plenty of good things to eat next
winter, and some shoes. She shan't be housed up every time it snows.
Sis's goin' to--"
She broke off abruptly and kissed the small face with vehemence.
"Good-bye," she managed to whisper, as she set the baby down and turned
to her mother. The kindling touch of that farewell warmed her resolution
yet. She was not going down to Cottonville to work in the mill merely;
she was going into the Storehouse of Possibilities, to find and buy a
chance in the world for these poor little souls who could never have it
Before she kissed her mother, took up her bundle and trudged away in the
chill, gray dawn, she declared an intention to come home and pay back
every one to whom they were under obligations. Now her face dimpled as
she remembered the shriek of dismay Laurella sent after her.
"Good land, Johnnie Consadine! If you start in to pay off all the
borryin's of the Passmore family since you was born, you'll ruin
us--that's what you'll do--you'll ruin us."
These things acted themselves over and over in Johnnie's mind as,
throughout the fresh April afternoon, her long, free, rhythmic step, its
morning vigour undiminished, swung the miles behind her; still present
in thought when, away down in Render's Gap, she settled herself on a
rock by the wayside where a little stream crossed the road, to wash her
feet and put on the shoes which she had up to this time carried with
"I reckon I must be near enough town to need 'em," she said regretfully,
as she drew the big, shapeless, cowhide affairs on her slim, brown,
carefully washed and dried feet, and with a leathern thong laced down a
wide, stiff tongue. She had earned the money for these shoes picking
blackberries at ten cents the gallon, and Uncle Pros had bought them at
the store at Bledsoe according to his own ideas. "Get 'em big enough and
there won't be any fussin' about the fit," the old man explained his
theory: and indeed the fit of those shoes on Johnnie's feet was not a
thing to fuss over--it was past considering.
The sun was westering; the Gap began to be in shadow, although the point
at which she sat was well above the valley. The girl was all at once
aware that she was tired and a little timid of what lay before her. She
had written to Shade Buckheath, a neighbour's boy with whom she had gone
to school, now employed as a mechanic or loom-fixer in one of the cotton
mills, and from whom she had received a reply saying that she could get
work in Cottonville if she would come down.
Mavity Bence, who had given Johnnie her first clothes, was a weaver in
the Hardwick mill at Cottonville, Watauga's milling suburb; her father,
Gideon Himes, with whom Shade Buckheath learned his trade, was a skilled
mechanic, and had worked as a loom-fixer for a while. At present he was
keeping a boarding-house for the hands, and it was here Johnnie was to
find lodging. Shade himself was reported to be doing extremely well. He
had promised in his letter that if Johnnie came on a Sunday evening he
would walk up the road a piece and meet her. She now began to hope that
he would come. Then, waiting for him, she forgot him, and set herself to
imagine what work in the cotton mill and life in town would be like.
To Shade Buckheath, strolling up the road, in the expansiveness of his
holiday mood and the dignity of his Sunday suit, the first sight of
Johnnie came with a little unwelcome shock. He had left her in the
mountains a tall, thin, sandy-haired girl in the growing age. He got his
first sight of her profile relieved against the green of the wayside
bank, with a bunch of blooming azaleas starring its verdure behind her
bright head. He was not artist enough to appreciate the picture at its
value; he simply had the sudden resentful feeling of one who has asked
for a hen and been offered a bird of paradise. She was tall and lithe
and strong; her thick, fair hair, without being actually curly, seemed
to be so vehemently alive that it rippled a bit in its length, as a
swift-flowing brook does over a stone. It rose up around her brow in a
roll that was almost the fashionable coiffure. Those among whom she had
been bred, laconically called the colour red; but in fact it was only
too deep a gold to be quite yellow. Johnnie's face, even in repose, was
always potentially joyous. The clear, wide, gray eyes, under their
arching brows, the mobile lips, held as it were the smile in solution;
when one addressed her it broke swiftly into being, the pink lips
lifting adorably above the white teeth, the long fringed eyes crinkling
deliciously about the corners. Johnnie loved to laugh, and the heart of
any reasonable being was instantly moved to give her cause.
For himself, the young man was a prevalent type among his people. Brown,
well built, light on his feet, with heavy black hair growing low on his
forehead, and long blackish-gray eyes, there was something Latin in the
grace of his movements and in his glance. Life ran strong in Shade
Buckheath. He stepped with an independent stride that was almost a
swagger, and already felt himself a successful man; but that one of the
tribe of borrowing Passmores should presume to such opulence of charm
struck him as well-nigh impudent. The pure outlines of Johnnie's
features, their aristocratic mould, the ruddy gold of her rich,
clustering hair, those were things it seemed to him a good mill-hand
might well have dispensed with. Then the girl turned, saw him, and
flashed him a swift smile of greeting.
"It's mighty kind of you to come up and meet me," she said, getting to
her feet a little awkwardly on account of the shoes, and picking up
"I 'lowed you might get lost," bantered the young fellow, not offering
to carry the packet as they trudged away side by side. "How's everybody
back on Unaka? Has your Uncle Pros found his silver mine yet?"
"No," returned Johnnie seriously, "but he's lookin' for it."
Shade threw back his head and laughed so long and loud that it would
have been embarrassing to any one less sound and sweet-natured than
"I reckon he is," said Buckheath. "I reckon Pros Passmore will be
lookin' for that silver mine when Gabriel blows. It runs in the family,
Johnnie looked at him and shook her head.
"You've been learnin' town ways, haven't you?" she asked simply.
"You mean my makin' game of the Passmores?" he inquired coolly. "No, I
never learned that in the settlement; I learned it in the mountains. I
just forgot your name was Passmore, that's all," he added sarcastically.
"Are you goin' to get mad about it?"
Johnnie had put on her slat sunbonnet and pulled it down so he could not
see her face.
"No," she returned evenly, "I'm not goin' to get mad at anything. And my
name's not Passmore, either. My name is Consadine, and I aim to be
called that. Uncle Pros Passmore is my mother's uncle, and one of the
best men that ever lived, I reckon. If all the folks he's nursed in
sickness or laid out in death was numbered over it would be a-many a
one; and I never heard him take any credit to himself for anything he
did. Why, Shade, the last three years of your father's life Uncle Pros
didn't dare hunt his silver mine much, because your father was paralysed
and had to have close waitin' on, and--and there wasn't nobody but Uncle
Pros, since all his boys was gone and--"
"Oh, say it. Speak out," urged Shade hardily. "You mean that all us
chaps had cut out and left the old man, and there wasn't a cent of money
to pay anybody, and no one but Pros Passmore would 'a' been fool enough
to do such hard work without pay. Well, I reckon you're about right. You
and me come of a mighty poor nation of folks; but I'm goin' to make my
pile and have my share, if lookin' out for number one'll do it."
Johnnie turned and regarded him curiously. It was characteristic of the
mountain girl, and of her people, that she had not on first meeting
stared, village fashion, at his brave attire; and she seemed now
concerned only with the man himself.
"I reckon you'll get it," she said meditatively. "I reckon you will.
Sometimes I think we always get just what we deserve in this here world,
and that the only safe way is to try to deserve something good. I hope I
didn't say too much for Uncle Pros; but he's so easy and say-nothin'
himself, that I just couldn't bear to hear you laughin' at him and not
"I declare, you're plenty funny!" Buckheath burst put boisterously. "No,
I ain't mad at you. I kind o' like you for stickin' up for the old man.
You and me'll get along, I reckon."
As they moved forward, the man and the girl fell into more general chat,
the feeling of irritation at Johnnie's beauty, her superior air, growing
rather than diminishing in the young fellow's mind. How dare Pros
Passmore's grandniece carry a bright head so high, and flash such
glances of liquid fire at her questioner? Shade looked sidewise
sometimes at his companion as he asked the news of their mutual friends,
and she answered. Yet when he got, along with her mild responses, one of
those glances, he was himself strangely subdued by it, and fain to prop
his leaning prejudices by contrasting her scant print gown, her slat
sunbonnet, and cowhide shoes with the apparel of the humblest in the
village which they were approaching.
A PEAK IN DARIEN
So walking, and so desultorily talking, they came out on a noble white
highway that wound for miles along the bluffy edge of the upland
overlooking the valley upon the one side, fronted by handsome residences
on the other.
It was Johnnie's first view of a big valley, a river, or a city. She had
seen the shoestring creek bottoms between the endless mountains among
which she was born and bred, the high-hung, cup-like depressions of
their inner fastnesses; she was used to the cool, clear, boulder-checked
mountain creeks that fight their way down those steeps like an armed man
beating off assailants at every turn; she had been taken a number of
times to Bledsoe, the tiny settlement at the foot of Unaka Old Bald,
where there were two stores, a blacksmith shop, the post-office and
Below her, now beginning to glow in the evening light, opened out one of
the finest valleys of the southern Appalachees. Lapped in it, far off,
shrouded with rosy mist which she did not identify as transmuted coal
smoke, a city lay, fretted with spires, already sparkling with electric
lights, set like a glittering boss of jewels in the broad curve of a
Directly down the steep at their feet was the cotton-mill town, a suburb
clustered about a half-dozen great factories, whose long rows of lighted
windows defined their black bulk. There was a stream here, too; a small,
sluggish thing that flowed from tank to tank among the factories,
spanned by numerous handrails, bridged in one place for the wagon-road
to cross. Mills, valley, town, distant rimming mountains, river and
creek, glowed and pulsed, dissolved and relimned themselves in the
uprolling glory of sunset.
"Oh, wait for me a minute, Shade," pleaded the girl, pulling off her
sunbonnet.... "I want to look.... Never in my life did I see anything
"Good land!" laughed the man, with a note of impatience in his voice.
"You and me was raised on mountain scenery, as a body may say. I should
think we'd both had enough of it to last us."
"But this--this is different," groped Johnnie, trying to explain the
emotions that possessed her. "Look at that big settlement over yon. I
reckon it's a city. It must be Watauga. It looks like the--the mansions
of the blest, in the big Bible that preacher Drane has, down
"I reckon they're blest--they got plenty of money," returned Shade, with
the cheap cynicism of his kind.
"So many houses!" the girl communed with herself. "There's bound to be
a-many a person in all them houses," she went on. One could read the
loving outreach to all humanity in her tones.
"There is," put in Shade caustically. "There's many a rogue. You want to
look out for them tricky town folks--a girl like you."
Had he been more kind, he would have said, "a pretty girl like you." But
Johnnie did not miss it; she was used to such as he gave, or less.
"Come on," he urged impatiently. "We won't get no supper if you don't
Supper! Johnnie drew in her breath and shook her head. With that scene
unrolled there, as though all the kingdoms of earth were spread before
them to look upon, she was asked to remember supper! Sighing, but
submissively, she moved to follow her guide, a reluctant glance across
her shoulder, when there came a cry something like that which the wild
geese make when they come over in the spring; and a thing with two
shining, fiery eyes, a thing that purred like a giant cat, rounded a
curve in the road and came to a sudden jolting halt beside them.
Shade stopped immediately for that. Johnnie did not fail to recognize
the vehicle. Illustrated magazines go everywhere in these days. In the
automobile rode a man, bare-headed, dressed in a suit of white flannels,
strange to Johnnie's eyes. Beside him sat a woman in a long, shimmering,
silken cloak, a great, misty, silver-gray veil twined round head and hat
and tied in a big bow under the chin. Johnnie had as yet seen nothing
more pretentious than the starched and ruffled flummeries of a small
mountain watering-place. This beautiful, peculiar looking garb had
something of the picturesque, the poetic, about it, that appealed to her
as the frocks worn at Chalybeate Springs or Bledsoe had never done. She
had not wanted them. She wanted this. The automobile was stopped, the
young fellow in it calling to Shade:
"I wonder if you could help me with this thing, Buckheath? It's on a
strike again. Show me what you did to it last time."
Along the edge of the road at this point, for safety's sake, a low stone
wall had been laid. Setting down her bundle, Johnnie leaned upon this,
and shared her admiration between the valley below and these beautiful,
interesting newcomers. Her bonnet was pushed far back; the wind ruffled
the bright hair about her forehead; the wonder and glory and delight of
it all made her deep eyes shine with a child's curiosity and avid
wishfulness. Her lips were parted in unconscious smiles. White and red,
tremulous, on tiptoe, the eager soul looking out of her face, she was
very beautiful. The man in the automobile observed her kindly; the
woman's features she could not quite see, though the veil was parted.
Neither Johnnie nor the driver of the car saw the quick, resentful
glance her companion shot at the city man as Shade noted the latter's
admiring look at the girl. Buckheath displayed an awesome familiarity
with the machine and its workings, crawling under the body, and tapping
it here and there with a wrench its driver supplied. They backed it and
moved it a little, and seemed to be debating the short turn which would
take them into the driveway leading up to a house on the slope above
Johnnie continued to watch with fascinated eyes; Shade was on his feet
now, reaching into the bowels of the machine to do mysterious things.
"It's a broken connection," he announced briefly.
"Is the wire too short to twist together?" inquired the man in the car.
"Will you have to put in a new piece?"
"Uh-huh," assented Buckheath.
"There's a wire in that box there," directed the other.
Shade worked in silence for a moment.
"Now she'll go, I reckon," he announced, and once more the driver
started up his car. It curved perilously near the bundle she had set
down, with the handkerchief containing her cherished blossom lying atop;
the mud-guard swept this latter off, and Buckheath set a foot upon it as
he followed the machine in its progress.
"Take care--that was a flower," the man in the auto warned, too late.
Shade answered with a quick, backward-flung glance and a little derisive
laugh, but no words. The young fellow stopped the machine, jumped down,
and picked up the coarse little handkerchief which showed a bit of
drooping green stem at one end and a glimpse of pink at the other.
"I'm sorry," he said, presenting it to Johnnie with exactly the air and
tone he had used in speaking to the lady who was with him in the car.
"If I had seen it in time, I might have saved it. I hope it's not
Buckheath addressed himself savagely to his work at the machine. The
woman in the auto glanced uneasily up at the house on the slope above
them. Johnnie looked into the eyes bent so kindly upon her, and could
have worshipped the ground on which their owner trod. Kindness always
melted her heart utterly, but kindness with such beautiful courtesy
added--this was the quality in flower.
"It doesn't make any differ," she said softly, turning to him a rapt,
transfigured face. "It's just a bloom I brought from the mountains--they
don't grow in the valley, and I found this one on my way down."
The man wondered a little if it were only the glow of the sunset that
lit her face with such shining beauty; he noted how the fires of it
flowed over her bright, blown hair and kindled its colour, how it
lingered in the clear eyes, and flamed upon the white neck and throat
till they had almost the translucence of pearl.
"I think this thing'll work now--for a spell, anyhow," Shade Buckheath's
voice sounded sharply from the road behind them.
"Are you afraid to attempt it, Miss Sessions?" the young man called to
his companion. "If you are, we'll walk up, I'll telephone at the house
for a trap and we'll drive back:--Buckheath will take the machine in
The voice was even and low-toned, yet every word came to Johnnie
distinctly. She watched with a sort of rapture the movements of this
party. The man's hair was dark and crisp, and worn a little long about
the temples and ears; he had pleasant dark eyes and an air of being
slightly amused, even when he did not smile. The lady apparently said
that she was not afraid, for her companion got in, the machine
negotiated the turn safely and began to move slowly up the steep ascent.
As it did so, the driver gave another glance toward where the mountain
girl stood, a swift, kind glance, and a smile that stayed with her after
the shining car had disappeared in the direction of the wide-porched
building where people were laughing and calling to each other and moving
about--people dressed in beautiful garments which Johnnie would fain
have inspected more closely.
Buckheath stood gazing at her sarcastically.
"Come on," he ordered, as she held back, lingering. "They ain't no good
in you hangin' 'round here. That was Mr. Gray Stoddard, and the lady
he's beauin' is Miss Lydia Sessions, Mr. Hardwick's sister-in-law. He's
for such as her--not for you. He's the boss of the bosses down at
Cottonville. No use of you lookin' at him."
Johnnie scarcely heard the words. Her eyes were on the wide porch of the
house above them.
"What is that place?" she inquired in an awestruck whisper, as she fell
into step submissively, plodding with bent head at his shoulder.
"The Country Club," Shade flung back at her. "Did you 'low it was
Heaven! Johnnie brooded on that for a long time. She turned her head
stealthily for a last glimpse of the portico where a laughing girl
tossed a ball to a young fellow on the terrace below. After all, heaven
was not so far amiss. She had rather associated it with the abode of the
blest. The people in it were happy; they moved in beautiful raiment all
day long; they spoke to each other kindly. It was love's home, she was
sure of that. Then her mind went back to the dress of the girl in
"I'm a-going to have me a frock like that before I die," she said, half
unconsciously, yet with a sudden passion of resolution. "Yes, if I live
I'm a-goin' to have me just such a frock."
Shade wheeled in his tracks with a swift narrowing of the slate-gray
eyes. He had been more stirred than he was willing to acknowledge by the
girl's beauty, and by a nameless power that went out from the seemingly
helpless creature and laid hold of those with whom she came in contact.
It was the open admiration of young Stoddard which had roused the sullen
resentment he was now spending on her.
"Ye air, air ye?" he demanded sharply. "You're a-goin' to have a frock
like that? And what man's a-goin' to pay for it, I'd like to know?"
Such talk belonged to the valley and the settlement. In the mountains a
woman works, of course, and earns her board and keep. She is a valuable
industrial possession or chattel to the man, who may profit by her
labour; never a luxury--a bill of expense. As she walked, Johnnie nodded
toward the factory in the valley, beginning to blaze with light--her
bridge of toil, that was to carry her from the island of Nowhere to the
great mainland of Life, where everything might be had for the working,
"I didn't name no man," she said mildly. "I don't reckon anybody's goin'
to give me things. Ain't there the factory where a body may work and
earn money for all they need?"
"Well, I reckon they might, if they was good and careful to need
powerful little," allowed Shade.
At the moment they came to the opening of a small path which plunged
abruptly down the steep side of the ridge, curving in and out with--and
sometimes across--a carriage road. As they took the first steps on this
the sun forsook the valley at last, and lingered only on the mountain
top where was that Palace of Pleasure into which He and She had
vanished, before which the strange chariot waited. And all at once the
little brook that wound, a golden thread, between the bulk of the mills,
flowed, a stream of ink, from pool to pool of black water. The way down
turned and turned; and each time that Shade and Johnnie got another
sight of the buildings of the little village below, they had changed in
character with the changing point of view. They loomed taller, they
looked darker in spite of the pulsing light from their many windows.
And now there burst out a roar of whistles, like the bellowing of great
monsters. Somehow it struck cold upon the girl's heart. They were coming
down from that wonderful highland where she had seemed to see all the
kingdoms of earth spread before her, hers for the conquering; they were
descending into the shadow.
As they came quite to the foot they saw groups of women and children,
with here and there a decrepit man, leaving the cottages and making
their way toward the lighted mills. From the doors of little shanties
tired-faced women with boys and girls walking near them, and, in one or
two cases, very small ones clinging to their skirts and hands,
reinforced the crowd which set in a steady stream toward the bridges and
the open gates in the high board fences.
"What are they a-goin' to the factory for on Sunday evening?" Johnnie
"Night turn," replied Buckheath briefly. "Sunday's over at sundown."
"Oh, yes," agreed Johnnie dutifully, but rather disheartened. "Trade
must be mighty good if they have to work all night."
"Them that works don't get any more for it," retorted Shade harshly.
"What's the little ones goin' to the mill for?" Johnnie questioned,
staring up at him with apprehensive eyes.
"Why, to play, I reckon," returned the young fellow ironically. "Folks
mostly does go to the mill to play, don't they?"
The girl ran forward and clasped his arm with eager fingers that shook.
"Shade!" she cried; "they can't work those little babies. That one over
there ain't to exceed four year old, and I know it."
The man looked indifferently to where a tiny boy trotted at his mother's
heels, solemn, old-faced, unchildish. He laughed a little.
"That thar chap is the oldest feller in the mills," he said. "That's
Benny Tarbox. He's too short to tend a frame, but his maw lets him help
her at the loom--every weaver has obliged to have helpers wait on 'em.
You'll get used to it."
Get used to it! She pulled the sunbonnet about her face. The gold was
all gone from the earth, and from her mood as well. She raised her eyes
to where the last brightness lingered on the mountain-top. Up there they
were happy. And even as her feet carried her forward to Pap Himes's
boarding-house, her soul went clamouring, questing back toward the
heights, and the sunlight, the love and laughter, she had left behind.
"The power and the glory--the power and the glory," she whispered over
and over to herself. "Is it all back there?" Again she looked wistfully
toward the heights. "But maybe a body with two feet can climb."
OF THE USE OF FEET
The suburb of Cottonville bordered a creek, a starveling, wet-weather
stream which offered the sole suggestion of sewerage. The village was
cut in two by this natural division. It clung to the shelving sides of
the shallow ravine; it was scattered like bits of refuse on the numerous
railroad embankments, where building was unhandy and streets almost
impossible, to be convenient to the mills. Six big factories in all,
some on one side of the state line and some on the other, daily breathed
in their live current of operatives and exhaled them again to fill the
litter of flimsy shanties.
The road which wound down from the heights ran through the middle of the
village and formed its main street. Across the ravine from it, reached
by a wooden bridge, stood a pretentious frame edifice, a boarding-house
built by the Gloriana mill for the use of its office force and
mechanics. Men were lounging on the wide porches of this structure in
Sabbath-afternoon leisure, smoking and singing. The young Southern male
of any class is usually melodious. Across the hollow came the sounds of
a guitar and a harmonica.
"Listen a minute, Shade. Ain't that pretty? I know that tune," said
Johnnie, and she began to hum softly under her breath, her girlish heart
responding to the call.
"Hush," admonished Buckheath harshly. "You don't want to be runnin'
after them fellers. It's some of the loom-fixers."
In silence he led the way past the great mill buildings of red brick,
square and unlovely but many-windowed and glowing, alight, throbbing
with the hum of pent industry. Johnnie gazed steadily up at those
windows; the glow within was other than that which gilded turret and
pinnacle and fairy isle in the Western sky, yet perchance this light
might be a lamp to the feet of one who wished to climb that way. Her
adventurous spirit rose to the challenge, and she said softly, more to
herself than to the man:
"I'm a-goin' to be a boss hand in there. I'm goin' to get the highest
wages of any girl in the mill, time I learn my trade, because I'm goin'
to try harder 'n anybody."
Shade looked around at her, curiously. Her beauty, her air of
superiority, still repelled him--such fancy articles were not apt to be
of much use--but this sounded like a woman who might be valuable to
Johnnie returned his gaze with the frank good will of a child, and
suddenly he forgot everything but the adorable lift of her pink lip over
the shining white teeth.
The young fellow now halted at the step of a big frame house. The
outside was of an extent to seem fairly pretentious; yet so mean was the
construction, so sparing of window and finish, that the building showed
itself instantly for what it was--the cheap boarding-house of a mill
town. A group of tired-looking girls sitting on the step in blessed
Sunday idleness and cheap Sunday finery stared as he and Johnnie
ascended and crossed the porch. One of these, a tall lank woman of
perhaps thirty years, got up and followed a few hesitating paces,
apparently more as a matter of curiosity than with any hospitable
A man with a round red face and a bald pate whose curly fringe of
grizzled, reddish hair made him look like a clown in a pantomime,
motioned them with a surly thumb toward the back of the house, where
clattering preparations for supper were audible and odoriferous. The old
fellow sat in a splint-bottomed chair of extra size and with arms. This
he had kicked back against the wall of the house, so that his short legs
did not reach the floor, the big carpet-slippered feet finding rest on
the rung of the chair. His attitude was one of relaxation. The face,
broad, flat, small of eye and wide of mouth, did indeed suggest the
clown countenance; yet there was in it, and in the whole personality,
something of the Eastern idol, the journeyman attempt of crude humanity
to represent power. And the potential cruelty of the type slept in his
placid countenance as surely as ever in the dreaming face of Shiva, the
"Mrs. Bence--Aunt Mavity," called Shade, advancing into the narrow hall.
In answer a tired-faced woman came from the kitchen, wiping her hands on
her checked apron.
"Good Lord, if it ain't Johnnie! I was 'feared she Wouldn't git here
to-night," she ejaculated when she saw the girl. "Take her out on the
porch, Shade; I ain't got a minute now. Pap's poorly again, and I'm
obliged to put the late supper on the table for them thar gals--the
night shift's done eat and gone. I'll show her whar she's to sleep at,
after while. I don't just rightly know whar Pap aimed to have her stay,"
she concluded hastily, as something boiled over on the stove. Johnnie
set her bundle down in the corner of the kitchen.
"I'll help," she said simply, as she drew the excited coffee-pot to a
corner of the range and dosed it judiciously with cold water.
"Well, now, that's mighty good of you," panted worried Mavity Bence.
"How queer things comes 'round," she ruminated as they dished up the
biscuits and fried pork. "I helped you into the very world, Johnnie. I
lived neighbour to your maw, and they wasn't nobody else to be with her
when you was born, and I went over. I never suspicioned that you would
be helpin' me git supper down here in the settlement inside o'
Johnnie ran and fetched and carried, as though she had never done
anything else in her life, intent on the one task. She was alive in
every fibre of her young body; she saw, she heard, as these words cannot
always be truthfully applied to people.
"Did Shade tell you anything about Louvania?" inquired the woman at
"No," replied Johnnie softly, "but I seen it in the paper."
Louvania Bence, the only remaining child of the widow, had, two weeks
before, left her work at the mill, taken the trolley in to Watauga,
walked out upon the county bridge across the Tennessee and jumped off.
Johnnie had read the published account, passed from hand to hand in the
mountains where Pap Himes and Mavity Bence had troops of kin and where
Louvania was born. The statement ran that there was no love affair, and
that the girl's distaste for her work at the cotton mill must have been
the reason for the suicide.
"That there talk in the newspaper wasn't right," Louvania's mother
choked. "They wasn't a word of truth in it. You know in reason that if
Louvany hated to work in the mill as bad as all that she'd have named it
to me--her own mother--and she never did. She never spoke a word like
it, only to say now and ag'in, as we all do, that it was hard, and that
she'd--well, she did 'low she'd ruther be dead, as gals will; but she
couldn't have meant it. Do you think she could have meant it, Johnnie?"
The faded eyes, clouded now by tears, stared up into Johnnie's clear
"Of course she couldn't have meant it," Johnnie comforted her. "Why, I'm
sure it's fine to work in the mill. If she didn't feel so, she'd have
told you the thing. She must have been out of her mind. People always
are when they--do that."
"That's what I keep a-thinkin'," the poor mother said, clinging
pathetically to that which gave her consolation and cheer. "I say to
myself that it must have been some brain disease took her all of a
sudden and made her crazy that-a-way; because God knows she had nothing
to fret her nor drive her to such."
By this time the meal was on the table, and the girls trooped in from
the porch. The old man with the bald pate was seating himself at the
head of the board, and Johnnie asked the privilege of helping wait
"No, you ain't a-goin' to," Mrs. Bence said hospitably, pushing her into
a seat. "If you start in to work in the morning, like I reckon you will,
you ain't got no other time to get acquainted with the gals but right
now. You set down. We don't take much waitin' on. We all pass things,
and reach for what we want."
In the smoky illumination of the two ill-cleaned lamps which stood one
at each end of the table, Johnnie's fair face shone out like a star. The
tall woman who had shown a faint interest in them on the porch was
seated just opposite. Her bulging light-blue eyes scarcely left the
newcomer's countenance as she absent-mindedly filled her mouth. She was
a scant, stringy-looking creature, despite her height; the narrow back
was hooped like that of an old woman and the shoulders indrawn, so that
the chest was cramped, and sent forth a wheezy, flatted voice that
sorted ill with her inches; her round eyes had no speculation in them;
her short chin was obstinate without power; the thin, half-gray hair
that wanted to curl feebly about her lined forehead was stripped away
and twisted in a knot no bigger than a walnut, at the back of a
For some time the old man at the end of the table stowed himself
methodically with victuals; his air was that of a man packing a box;
then he brought his implements to half-rest, as it were, and gave a
divided attention to the new boarder.
"What did I hear them call yo' name?" he inquired gruffly.
Johnnie repeated her title and gave him one of those smiles that went
with most of her speeches. It seemed to suggest things to the
"Huh," he grunted; "I riccollect ye now. Yo' pap was a Consadine, but
you're old Virgil Passmore's grandchild. One of the borryin' Passmores,"
he added, staring coolly at Johnnie. "Virge was a fine, upstandin' old
man. You've got the favour of him--if you wasn't a gal."
He evidently shared Schopenhauer's distaste for "the low-statured,
wide-hipped, narrow-shouldered sex."
The girls about the table were all listening eagerly. Johnnie had the
sensation of a freshman who has walked out on the campus too
"Virge was a great beau in his day," continued Pap, reminiscently. "He
liked to wear good clothes, too. I mind how he borried Abner Wimberly's
weddin' coat and wore it something like ten year--showed it off fine--it
fitted him enough sight better than it ever fitted little old Ab. Then
he comes back to Wimberly at the end of so long a time with the buttons.
He says, says he, 'Looks like that thar cloth yo' coat was made of
wasn't much 'count, Ab,' says he. 'I think Jeeters cheated ye on it. But
the buttons was good. The buttons wore well. And them I'm bringin' back,
'caze you may have use for 'em, and I have none, now the coat's gone.
Also, what I borry I return, as everybody knows.' That was your
There was a tremendous giggling about the board as the old man made an
end. Johnnie herself smiled, though her face was scarlet. She had no
words to tell her tormentor that the borrowing trait in her tribe which
had earned them the name of the borrowing Passmores proceeded not from
avarice, which ate into Pap Himes's very marrow, but from its reverse
trait of generosity. She knew vaguely that they would have shared with a
neighbour their last bite or dollar, and had thus never any doubt of
being shared with nor any shame in the asking.
"Yes," pursued Himes, surveying Johnnie chucklingly, "I mind when you
was born. Has your Uncle Pros found his silver mine yet?"
"My mother has often told me how good you and Mrs. Bence was to us when
I was little," answered Johnnie mildly. "No, sir, Uncle Pros hasn't
found his silver mine yet--but he's still a-hunting for it."
The reply appeared to delight Himes. He laughed immoderately, even as
Buckheath had done.
"I'll bet he is," he agreed. "Pros Passmore's goin' to hunt that there
silver mine till he finds another hole in the ground about six feet long
and six feet deep--that's what he's a-goin' to do."
The hasty supper was well under way now. Mrs. Bence brought the last of
the hot bread, and shuffled into a seat. The old man at the head of the
board returned to his feeding, but with somewhat moderated voracity. At
length, pretty fully gorged, he raised his head from over his plate and
looked about him for diversion. Again his attention was directed to
the new girl.
"Air ye wedded?" he challenged suddenly.
She shook her head and laughed.
"Got your paigs sot for to git any one?" he followed up his
Johnnie laughed more than ever, and blushed again.
"How old air ye?" demanded her inquisitor. "Eighteen? 'Most nineteen?
Good Lord! You're a old maid right now. Well, don't you let twenty go by
without gittin' your hooks on a man. My experience is that when a gal
gits to be twenty an' ain't wedded--or got her paigs sot for to
wed--she's left. Left," he concluded impressively.
That quick smile of Johnnie's responded.
"I reckon I'll do my best," she agreed reasonably; "but some folks can
do that and miss it."
Himes nodded till he set the little red curls all bobbing around the
"Uh-huh," he approved, "I reckon that's so. Women is plenty, and men
hard to git. Here's Mandy Meacham, been puttin' in her best licks for
thirty year or more, an' won't never make it."
Johnnie did not need to be told which one was Mandy. The sallow cheek of
the tall woman across from her reddened; the short chin wabbled a bit
more than the mastication of the biscuit in hand demanded; a moisture
appeared in the inexpressive blue eyes; but she managed a shaky laugh to
assist the chorus which always followed Pap Himes's little jokes.
The old man held a sort of state among these poor girls, and took
tribute of admiration, as he had taken tribute of life and happiness
from daughter and granddaughter. Gideon Himes was not actively a bad
man; he was as without personal malice as malaria. When it makes
miserable those about it, or robs a girl of her pink cheeks, her bright
eyes, her joy of life, wearing the elasticity out of her step and making
an old woman of her before her time, we do not fly into a rage at it--we
avoid it. The Pap Himeses of this world are to be avoided if possible.
Mandy stared at her plate in mortified silence. Johnnie wished she could
think of something pleasant to say to the poor thing, when her attention
was diverted by the old man once more addressing herself.
"You look stout and hearty; if you learn to weave as fast as you ort,
and git so you can tend five or six looms, I'll bet you git a husband,"
he remarked in a burst of generosity. "I'll bet you do; and what's more,
I'll speak a good word for ye. A gal that's a peart weaver's mighty apt
to find a man. You learn your looms if you want to git wedded--and I
know in reason you do--it's about all gals of your age thinks of."
When supper was over Johnnie was a little surprised to see the tall
woman approach Pap Himes like a small child begging a favour of a harsh
"Can't that there new girl bunk with me?" she inquired earnestly.
"I had the intention to give her Louvany's bed," Pap returned promptly.
"As long as nobody's with you, I reckon I don't care; but if one comes
in, you take 'em, and she goes with Mavity, mind. I cain't waste room,
poor as I am."
Piloted by the tall girl, Johnnie climbed the narrow stair to a long
bare room where a row of double beds accommodated eight girls. The couch
she was to occupy had been slept in during the day by a mill hand who
was on night turn, and it had not been remade. Deftly Johnnie
straightened and spread it, while her partner grumbled.
"What's the use o' doin' that?" Mandy inquired, stretching herself and
yawning portentously. "We'll jist muss it all up in about two minutes.
When you've worked in a mill as long as I have you'll git over the
notion of makin' your bed, for hit's _but_ a notion."
Johnnie laughed across her shoulder.
"I'd just as soon do it," she reassured her companion. "I do love smooth
bedclothes; looks like I dream better on 'em and under 'em."
Mandy sat down on the edge of the bed, interfering considerably with the
final touches Johnnie was putting to it.
"You're a right good gal," she opined patronizingly, "but foolish. The
new ones always is foolish. I can put you up to a-many a thing that'll
help you along, though, and I'm willin' to do it."
Again Johnnie smiled at her, that smile of enveloping sweetness and
tenderness. It made something down in the left side of poor Mandy's
slovenly dress-bodice vibrate and tingle.
"I'll thank you mightily," said Johnnie Consadine, "mightily." And knew
not how true a word she spoke.
"You see," counselled Mandy from the bed into which she had rolled with
most of her clothes on, "you want to get in with Miss Lydia Sessions and
the Uplift ladies, and them thar swell folks."
Johnnie nodded, busily at work making a more elaborated night toilet
than the others, who were going to bed all about them, paying little
attention to their conversation.
"Miss Lyddy she ain't as young as she once was, and the boys has quit
hangin' 'round her as much as they used to; so now she has took up with
good works," the girl on the bed explained with a directness which Miss
Sessions would not perhaps have appreciated. "Her and some other of the
nobby folks has started what they call a Uplift club amongst the mill
girls. Thar's a big room whar you dance--if you can--and whar they give
little suppers for us with not much to eat; and thar's a place where
they sorter preach to ye--lecture she calls it. I don't know what-all
Miss Lyddy hain't got for her club. But you jist go, and listen, and say
how much obliged you are, an she'll do a lot for you, besides payin'
your wages to get you out of the mill any day she wants you for the
Mandy had a gasp, which occurred between sentences and at the end of
certain words, with grotesque effect. Johnnie was to find that this gasp
was always very much to the fore when Mandy was being uplifted. It then
served variously as the gasp of humility, gratitude, admiration; the
gasp of chaste emotion, the gasp of reprobation toward others who did
not come forward to be uplifted.
"Did you say there was books at that club?" inquired Johnnie out of the
darkness--she had now extinguished the light. "Can a body learn things
from the lectures?"
"Uh-huh," agreed Mandy sleepily; "but you don't have to read 'em--the
books. They lend 'em to you, and you take 'em home, and after so long a
time you take 'em back sayin' how much good they done you. That's the
way. If Mr. Stoddard's 'round, he'll ask you questions about 'em; but
Miss Lyddy won't--she hates to find out that any of her plans
For a long time there was silence. Mandy was just dropping off into her
first heavy sleep, when a whispering voice asked,
"Is Mr. Stoddard--has he got right brown eyes and right brown hair, and
does he ride in one of these--one of these--"
"Good land!" grumbled the addressed, "I thought it was mornin' and I had
to git up! You ort to been asleep long ago. Yes, Mr. Stoddard's got
sorter brown eyes and hair, and he rides in a otty-mobile. How did
But Mandy was too tired to stay awake to marvel over that. Her rhythmic
snores soon proved that she slept, while Johnnie lay thinking of the
various proffers she had that evening received of a lamp to her feet, a
light on her path. And she would climb--yes, she would climb. Not by the
road Pap Himes pointed out; not by the devious path Mandy Meacham
suggested; but by the rugged road of good, honest toil, to heights where
was the power and the glory, she would certainly strive.
She conned over the new things which this day had brought. Again she saw
the auto swing around the curve and halt; she got the outline of the
man's bent head against the evening sky. They were singing again over at
the mechanics' boarding-house; the sound came across to her window; the
vibrant wires, the chorus of deep male voices, even the words she knew
they were using but could not distinguish, linked themselves in some
fashion with memory of a man's eyes, his smile, his air of tender
deference as he cherished her broken flower. Something caught in her
throat and choked. Her mind veered to the figures on the porch of that
Palace of Pleasure; the girl with the ball tossing it to the young
fellow below on the lawn. In memory she descended the hill, coming down
into the shadows with each step, looking back to the heights and the
light. Well, she had said that if one had feet one might climb, and
to-night the old man had tried to train her to his pace for attaining
heart's desire. In the midst of a jumble of autos and shining mill
windows, she watched the room grow ghostly with the light of a
late-risen moon. Suddenly afar off she heard the "honk! honk! honk!"
which had preceded the advent of the car on the ridge road.
Getting up, she stole, to the one window which the long room afforded.
It gave upon the main street of the village. "Honk! honk! honk!" She
gazed toward the steep from which the sounds seemed to come. There,
flashing in and out of the greenery, appeared half a dozen pairs of
fiery eyes. A party of motorists were going in to Watauga, starting from
the Country Club on the Ridge crest. Johnnie watched them, fascinated.
As the foremost car swept down the road and directly beneath her window,
its driver, whom she recognized with a little shiver, by the
characteristic carriage of his head, swerved the machine out and stopped
it at the curb below. The others passed, calling gay inquiries to him.
"We're all right," she heard a well-remembered voice reply. "You go
ahead--we'll be there before you."
The slim, gray-clad figure in the seat beside him laughed softly and
fluttered a white handkerchief as the last car went on.
"Now!" exulted the voice. "I'll put on my goggles and cap and we'll show
them what running is.
'It's they'll take the high road and we'll take the low,
And we'll be in Watauga befo-o-ore them!'"
Even as he spoke he adjusted his costume, and Johnnie saw the car shoot
forward like a living creature eager on the trail. She sighed as she
looked after them.
Feet--of what use were feet to follow such a flight as that?
THE MOCCASIN FLOWER
Johnnie was used to hardship and early rising, but in an intermittent
fashion; for the Passmores and Consadines were a haggard lot that came
to no lure but their own pleasure. They might--and often did--go hungry,
ill-clad, ill-housed; they might sometimes--in order to keep soul and
body together--have to labour desperately at rude tasks unsuited to
them; but these times were exceptions, and between such seasons, down to
the least of the tribe, they had always followed the Vision, pursuing
the flying skirts of whatever ideal was in their shapely heads. The
little cabin in the gash of the hills owned for domain a rocky ravine
that was the standing jest of the mountain-side.
"Sure, hit's good land--fine land," the mountaineers would comment with
their inveterate, dry, lazy humour. "Nothing on earth to hender a man
from raisin' a crap off 'n it--ef he could once git the leathers on a
good stout, willin' pa'r o' hawks or buzzards, an' a plough hitched to
'em." And Johnnie could remember the other children teasing her and
saying that her folks had to load a gun with seed corn and shoot it into
the sky to reach their fields. Yet, the unmended roof covered much joy
and good feeling. They were light feet that trod the unsecured
puncheons. The Passmores were tender of each other's eccentricities,
admiring of each other's virtues. A wolf race nourished on the knees of
purple kings, how should they ever come down to wearing any man's
collar, to slink at heel and retrieve for him?
One would have said that to the daughter of such the close cotton-mill
room with its inhuman clamour, its fetid air, its long hours of
enforced, monotonous, mechanical toil, would be prison with the torture
added. But Johnnie looked forward to her present enterprise as a soldier
going into a new country to conquer it. She was buoyantly certain, and
determinedly delighted with everything. When, the next morning after her
arrival, Mandy Meacham shook her by the shoulder and bade her get up,
the room was humming with the roar of mill whistles, and the gray dawn
leaking in at its one window in a churlish, chary fashion, reminded her
that they were under the shadow of a mountain instead of living upon
"I don't see what in the world could 'a' made me sleep so!" Johnnie
deprecated, as she made haste to dress herself. "Looks like I never had
nothing to do yesterday, except walking down. I've been on foot that
much many a time and never noticed it."
The other girls in the room, poor souls, were all cross and sleepy.
Nobody had time to converse with Johnnie. As they went down the stairs
another contingent began to straggle up, having eaten a hasty meal after
their night's work, and making now for certain of the just-vacated beds.
Johnnie ran into the kitchen to help Mrs. Bence get breakfast on the
table, for Pap Himes was bad off this morning with a misery somewhere,
and his daughter was sending word to the cotton mill to put a substitute
on her looms till dinner time. Almost as much to her own surprise as to
that of everybody else, Mandy Meacham proposed to stay and take Johnnie
in to register for a job.
When the others were all seated at table, the new girl from the
mountains took her cup of coffee and a biscuit and dropped upon the
doorstep to eat her breakfast. The back yard was unenclosed, a litter of
tin cans and ashes running with its desert disorder into a similar one
on either side. But there were no houses back of the Himes place, the
ground falling away sharply to the rocky creek bed. Across the ravine
half a dozen strapping young fellows were lounging, waiting for
breakfast; loom-fixers and mechanics these, whose hours were more
favourable than those of the women and children workers.
"It's lots prettier out here than it is in the house," she returned
smilingly, when Mavity Bence offered to get her a chair. "I do love to
"Huh," grunted Mandy with her mouth full of biscuit, "I reckon a cotton
mill'll jest about kill you. What makes you work in one, anyhow? I
wouldn't if I could help it."
Johnnie eyed the tall girl gravely. "I've got to earn some money," she
said at length. "Ma and the children have to be taken care of. I don't
know of any better way than the mill."
"An' I don't know of any worse," retorted Mandy sourly, as they went out
Johnnie began to feel timid. There had been a secret hope that she would
meet Shade on the way to the mill, or that Mrs. Bence would finally get
through in time to accompany her. She was suddenly aware that there was
not a soul within sound of her voice who had belonged to her former
world. With a little gasp she looked about her as they entered
The Hardwick mill to which they now came consisted of a number of large,
red brick buildings, joined by covered passage-ways, abutting on one of
those sullen pools Johnnie had noted the night before, the yard enclosed
by a tight board fence, so high that the operatives in the first-and
second-floor rooms could not see the street. This for the factory
portion; the office did not front on the shut-in yard, but opened out
freely on to the street, through a little grassy square of its own,
tree-shadowed, with paved walks and flower beds. As with all the mills
in its district, the suggestion was dangerously apt of a penitentiary,
with its high wooden barrier, around all the building, the only free
approach from the world to its corridors through the seemly, humanized
office, where abided the heads, the bosses, the free men, who came and
went at will. The walls were already beginning to wear that garment of
green which the American ivy flings over so many factory buildings.
As the two girls came up, Johnnie looked at the wide, clear, plate
windows, the brass railing that guarded the heavy granite approach, the
shining name "Hardwick" deep-set in brazen lettering on the step over
which they entered. Inside, the polished oak and metal of office
fittings carried on the idea of splendour, if not of luxury. Back of the
crystal windows were the tempering shades, all was spacious, ordered
with quiet dignity, and there was no sense of hurry in the well-clad,
well-groomed figures of men that sat at the massive desks or moved about
the softly carpeted floors. The corridor was long, but cleanly swept,
and, at its upper portion, covered with a material unfamiliar to
Johnnie, but which she recognized as suited to its purpose. Down at the
further end of that corridor, something throbbed and moaned and roared
and growled--the factory was awake there and working. The contrast
struck cold to the girl's heart. Here, yet more sharply defined, was the
same difference she had noted between the Palace of Pleasure on the
heights and the mills at the foot of the mountain.
Would the people think she was good enough? Would they understand how
hard she meant to try? For a minute she had a desperate impulse to turn
and run. Then she heard Mandy's thin, flatted tones announcing:
"This hyer girl wants to git a job in the mill. Miz Bence, she cain't
come down this morning--you'll have to git somebody to tend her looms
till noon; Pap, he's sick, and she has obliged to wait on him--so I
brung the new gal."
"All right," said the man she addressed. "She can wait there; you go on
to your looms."
Johnnie sat on the bench against the wall where newcomers applying for
positions were placed. The man she was to see had not yet come to his
desk, and she remained unnoticed and apparently forgotten for more than
an hour. The offices were entered from the other side, yet a doorway
close by Johnnie commanded a view of a room and desk. To it presently
came one who seated himself and began opening and reading letters.
Johnnie caught her breath and leaned a little forward, watching him, her
heart in her eyes, hands locked hard together in her lap. It was the
young man of the car. He was not in white flannels now, but he looked
almost as wonderful to the girl in his gray business suit, with the air
of easy command, and the quiet half-smile only latent on his face. Shade
Buckheath had spoken of Gray Stoddard as the boss of the bosses down at
Cottonville. Indeed, his position was unique. Inheritor of large
holdings in Eastern cotton-mill stock, he had returned from abroad on
the death of his father, to look into this source of his very ample
income. The mills in which he was concerned were not earning as they
should, so he was told; and there was discussion as to whether they be
moved south, or a Southern mill be established which might be considered
in the nature of a branch, and where the coarser grades of sheeting
would be manufactured, as well as all the spinning done.
But Stoddard was not of the blood that takes opinions second-hand. Upon
his mother's side he was the grandson of one of the great anti-slavery
agitators. The sister of this man, Gray's great-aunt, had stood beside
him on the platform when there was danger in it; and after the Negro was
freed and enfranchised, she had devoted a long life to the cause of
woman suffrage. The mother who bore him died young. She left him to the
care of a conservative father, but the blood that came through her did
not make for conservatism.
Perhaps it was some admixture of his father's traits which set the young
man to investigating the cotton-mill situation in his own fashion. To do
this as he conceived it should be done, he had hired himself to the
Hardwick Spinning Company in an office position which gave him a fair
outlook on the business, and put him in complete touch with the
practical side of it; yet the facts of the case made the situation
evident to those under him as well as his peers. Whatever convictions
and opinions he was maturing in this year with the Hardwicks, he kept to
himself; but he was supposed to hold some socialistic ideas, and Lydia
Sessions, James Hardwick's sister-in-law, made her devoir to these by
engaging zealously in semi-charitable enterprises among the mill-girls.
He was a passionate individualist. The word seems unduly fiery when one
remembers the smiling, insouciant manner of his divergences from the
conventional type; yet he was inveterately himself, and not some
schoolmaster's or tailor's or barber's version of Gray Stoddard; and in
this, though Johnnie did not know it, lay the strength of his charm
The moments passed unheeded after he came into her field of vision, and
she watched him for some time, busy at his morning's work. It took her
breath when he raised his eyes suddenly and their glances encountered.
He plainly recognized her at once, and nodded a cheerful greeting. After
a while he got up and came out into the hall, his hands full of papers,
evidently on his way to one of the other offices. He paused beside the
bench and spoke to her.
"Waiting for the room boss? Are they going to put you on this morning?"
he asked pleasantly.
"Yes, I'm a-going to get a chance to work right away," she smiled up at
him. "Ain't it fine?"
The smile that answered hers held something pitying, yet it was a pity
that did not hurt or offend.
"Yes--I'm sure it's fine, if you think so," said Stoddard, half
reluctantly. Then his eye caught the broken pink blossom which Johnnie
had pinned to the front of her bodice. "What's that?" he asked. "It
looks like an orchid."
He was instantly apologetic for the word; but Johnnie detached the
flower from her dress and held it toward him.
"It is," she assented. "It's an orchid; and the little yellow flower
that we-all call the whippoorwill shoe is an orchid, too."
Stoddard thrust his papers into his coat pocket and took the blossom in
"That's the pink moccasin flower," Johnnie told him. "They don't bloom
in the valley at all, and they're not very plenty in the mountains. I
picked this one six miles up on White Oak Ridge yesterday. I reckon I
haven't seen more than a dozen of these in my life, and I've hunted
flowers all over Unaka."
"I never had the chance to analyze one," observed Stoddard. "I'd like to
get hold of a good specimen.
"I'm sorry this one's broken," Johnnie deprecated. Then her clouded face
cleared suddenly with its luminous smile. "If it hadn't been for you I
reckon it would have been knocked over the edge of the road," she added.
"That's the flower I had in my handkerchief yesterday evening."
Stoddard continued to examine the pink blossom with interest.
"You said it grew up in the mountains--and didn't grow in the valley,"
he reminded her.
She nodded. "Of course I'm not certain about that," and while she spoke
he transferred his attention from the flower to the girl. "I really know
mighty little about such things, and I've not been in the valley to
exceed ten times in my life. Miss Baird, that taught the school I went
to over at Rainy Gap, had a herbarium, and put all kinds of pressed
flowers in it. I gathered a great many for her, and she taught me to
analyze them--like you were speaking of--but I never did love to do
that. It seemed like naming over and calling out the ways of your
friends, to pull the flower all to pieces and press it and paste it in a
book and write down all its--its--ways and faults."
Again she smiled up at him radiantly, and the young man's astonished
glance went from her dusty, cowhide shoes to the thick roll of fair hair
on her graceful head. What manner of mill-girls did the mountains send
down to the valley?
"But I--" began Stoddard deprecatingly, when Johnnie reddened and broke
"Oh, I don't mean that for you. Miss Baird taught me for three years,
and I loved her as dearly as I ever could any one. You may keep this
flower if you want to; and, come Sunday, I'll get you another one that
won't be broken."
"Why Sunday?" asked Stoddard.
"Well, I wouldn't have time to go after them till then, and the ones I
know of wouldn't be open before Sunday. I saw just three there by the
spring. That's the way they grow, you know--two or three in a place,
and not another for miles."
"You saw them growing?" repeated Stoddard. "I should like to see one on
its roots, and maybe make a little sketch of it. Couldn't you just as
well show me the place Sunday?"
For no reason that she could assign, and very much against her will,
Johnnie's face flushed deeply.
"I reckon I couldn't," she answered evasively. "Hit's a long ways
up--and--hit's a long ways up."
"And yet you're going to walk it--after a week's work here in the mill?"
persisted Stoddard. "You'd better tell me where they grow, and let me go
up in my car."
"I wish't I could," said Johnnie, embarrassed. "But you'd never find it
in the world. They isn't one thing that I could tell you to know the
place by: and you have to leave the road and walk a little piece--oh,
it's no use--and I don't mind, I'd just love to go up there and get the
flowers for you."
"Are you the new girl?" inquired a voice at Johnnie's shoulder.
They turned to find a squat, middle-aged man regarding them dubiously.
"Yes," answered Johnnie, rising. "I've been waiting quite a while."
"Well, come this way," directed the man and, turning, led her away. Down
the hall they went, then up a flight of wooden stairs which carried them
to a covered bridge, and so to the upper story of the factory.
"That's an unusual-looking girl." Old Andrew MacPherson made the comment
as he received the papers from Stoddard's hands.
"The one I was speaking to in the hall?" inquired Stoddard rather
unnecessarily. "Yes; she seems to have an unusual mind as well. These
mountain people are peculiar. They appear to have no idea of class, and
therefore are in a measure all aristocrats."
"Well, that ought to square with your socialistic notions," chaffed
MacPherson, sorting the work on his desk and pushing a certain portion
of it toward Stoddard. "Sit down here, if you please, and we'll go over
these now. The girl looked a good deal like a fairy princess. I don't
think she's a safe topic for susceptible young chaps like you and me,"
the grizzled old Scotchman concluded with a chuckle. "Your socialistic
hullabaloo makes you liable to foregather with all sorts of
Gray shook his head, laughing, as he seated himself at the desk beside
"Oh, I'm only a theoretical socialist," he deprecated.
"Hum," grunted the older man. "A theoretical socialist always seemed to
me about like a theoretical pickpocket--neither of them stands to do
much harm. For example, here you are, one of the richest young fellows
of my acquaintance, living along very contentedly where every tenet you
profess to hold is daily outraged. You're not giving away your money.
You take a healthy interest in a good car, a good dinner, the gals; I'm
even told you have a fad for old porcelains--and yet you call yourself a
"These economic conditions are not a pin," answered Gray, smiling. "I
don't have to jump and say 'ouch!' the minute I find they prick me.
Worse conditions have always been, and no doubt bad ones will survive
for a time, and pass away as mankind outgrows them. I haven't the
colossal conceit to suppose that I can reform the world--not even push
it much faster toward the destination of good to which it is rolling.
But I want to know--I want to understand, myself; then if there is
anything for me to do I shall do it. It may be that the present
conditions are the best possible for the present moment. It may be that
if a lot of us got together and agreed, we could better them
exceedingly. It is not certain in my mind yet that any growth is of
value to humanity which does not proceed from within. This is true of
the individual--must it not be true of the class?"
"No doubt, no doubt," agreed MacPherson, indifferently. "Most of the men
who are loud in the leadership of socialism have made a failure of their
own lives. We'll see what happens when a man who is a personal and
economic success sets up to teach."
"If you mean that very complimentary description for me," said Gray with
sudden seriousness, "I will say to you here and now that there is no
preacher in me. But when I am a little clearer in my own mind as to what
I believe, I shall practise. The only real creed is a manner of life. If
you don't live it, you don't really believe it."
WEAVERS AND WEFT
The Hardwick mill was a large one; to the mountain-bred girl it seemed
endless, while its clamour and roar was a thing to daunt. They passed
through the spinning department, in which the long lines of frames were
tended by children, and reached the weaving-rooms whose looms required
the attention of women, with here and there a man who had failed to make
a success of male occupations and sunk to the ill-paid feminine
activities. In a corner of one of these, Johnnie's guide stopped before
two silent, motionless looms, and threw on the power. He began to
instruct her in their operation, all communication being in dumb show;
for the clapping thunder of the weaving-room instantly snatches the
sound from one's lips and batters it into shapelessness. Johnnie had
been an expert weaver on the ancient foot-power looms of the mountains;
but the strangeness of the new machine, the noise and her surroundings,
bewildered her. When the man saw that she was not likely to injure
herself or the looms, he turned away with a careless nod and left her
to her fate.
It was a blowy April day outside, with a gay blue sky in which the white
clouds raced, drawing barges of shadow over the earth below. But the
necessity of keeping dust out of the machinery, the inconvenience of
having flying ends carried toward it, closed every window in the big
factory, and the operatives gasped in the early heat, the odour of oil,
the exhausted air. There was a ventilating system in the Hardwick mill,
and it was supposed to be exceptionally free from lint; but the fagged
children crowded to the casements with instinctive longing for the
outdoor air which could not of course enter through the glass; or
plodded their monotonous rounds to tend the frames and see that the
thread was running properly to each spool, and that the spools were
removed, when filled.
By noon every nerve in Johnnie's body quivered with excitement and
overstrain; yet when Mandy came for her at the dinner hour she showed
her a face still resolute, and asked that a snack be brought her to
"I don't see why you won't come along home and eat your dinner," the
Meacham woman commented. "The Lord knows you get time enough to stay in
the mill working over them old looms. Say, I seen you in the hall--did
you know who you was talking to?"
The red flooded Johnnie's face as she knelt before her loom
interrogating its workings with a dexterous hand; even the white nape of
her neck showed pink to Mandy's examining eye; but she managed to reply
in a fairly even tone:
"Yes, that was Mr. Stoddard. I saw him yesterday evening when I was
coming down the Ridge with Shade."
"But did you know 'bout him? Say--Johnnie Consadine--turn yourself round
from that old loom and answer me, I was goin' a-past the door, and when
I ketched sight o' you and him settin' there talkin' as if you'd knowed
each other all your lives, why you could have--could have knocked me
down with a feather."
Johnnie sat up on her heels and turned a laughing face across her
"I don't see any reason to want to knock you down with anything," she
evaded the direct issue. "Go 'long, Mandy, or you won't have time to eat
your dinner. Tell Aunt Mavity to send me just a biscuit and a piece
"Good land, Johnnie Consadine, but you're quare!" exclaimed Mandy,
staring with bulging light eyes. "If it was me I'd be all in a tremble
yet--and there you sit and talk about meat and bread!"
Johnnie did not think it necessary to explain that the tremor of that
conversation with Stoddard had indeed lasted through her entire morning.
"There was nothing to tremble about," she remarked with surface calm.
"He'd never seen a pink moccasin flower, and I gave him the one I had
and told him where it grew."
"Well, he wasn't looking at no moccasin flower when I seed him," Mandy
persisted. "He was lookin' at you. He jest eyed you as if you was Miss
Lydia Sessions herself--more so, if anything."
Johnnie inwardly rebuked the throb of joy which greeted this statement.
"I reckon his looks are his own, Mandy," she said soberly. "You and me
have no call to notice them."
"Ain't got no call to notice 'em? Well, I jest wish't I could get you
and him up in front of Miss Sessions, and have her see them looks of
his'n," grumbled Mandy as she turned away. "I bet you there'd be some
noticin' done then!"
When in the evening Mandy came for Johnnie, she found the new mill hand
white about the mouth with exhaustion, heavy-eyed, choking, and ready
"Uh-huh," said the Meacham woman, "I know just how you feel. They all
look that-a-way the first day or two--then after that they look worse."
Nervelessly Johnnie found her way downstairs in the stream of tired
girls and women. There was more than one kindly greeting for the new
hand, and occasionally somebody clapped her on the shoulder and assured
her that a few days more would get her used to the work. The mill yard
was large, filled with grass-plots and gravel walks; but it was shut in
by a boarding so tall that the street could not be seen from the windows
of the lower floor. To Johnnie, weary to the point where aching muscles
and blood charged with uneliminated waste spelled pessimism, that high
board fence seemed to make of the pretty place a prison yard.
A man was propping open the big wooden gates, and through them she saw
the street, the sidewalk, and a carriage drawn up at the curb. In this
vehicle sat a lady; and a gentleman, hat in hand, talked to her from
"Come on," hissed Mandy, seizing her companion's arm and dragging her
forward. "Thar's Miss Lydia Sessions right now, and that's Mr. Stoddard
a-talkin' to her. I'll go straight up and give you a knockdown--I want
to, anyway. She's the one that runs the Uplift Club. If she takes a
shine to you it'll be money in your pocket."
She turned over her shoulder to glance at Johnnie, who was pulling
vigorously back. There was no hint of tiredness or depression in the
girl's face now. Her deep eyes glowed; red was again in the fresh lips
that parted over the white teeth in an adorable, tremulous smile.
"Hurry up--he'll be gittin' away," she admonished.
"Oh, no," objected the new girl. "Wait till some other time, I--I don't
But her remonstrance came too late; Mandy had yanked her forward and was
performing the introduction she so euphoniously described.
Gray Stoddard turned and bowed to both girls. He carried the broken
orchid in his hand, and apparently had been speaking of it to Miss
Sessions. Mandy eyed him narrowly to see if any of the looks she had
apprehended as offensive to Miss Sessions went in Johnnie's direction.
And she was not disappointed.
Stoddard's gaze lingered long on the radiant countenance of the girl
from Unaka. Not so the young women looked after a few months of factory
life. He was getting to know well the odd jail-bleach the cotton mill
puts on country cheeks, the curious, dulled, yet resentful expression of
the eyes, begotten by continuous repetition of excessive hours of
trivial, monotonous toil. Would this girl come at last to that favour?
He was a little surprised at the strength of protest in his own heart.
Then MacPherson, coming down the office steps, called to him; and, with
courteous adieux, the two men departed in company.
Johnnie was a bit grieved to find that the removal from Miss Sessions of
the shrouding, misty veil revealed a countenance somewhat angular in
outline, with cheekbones a trifle hard and high, and a lack of colour.
She fancied, too, that Miss Sessions was slightly annoyed about
something. She wondered if it was because they had interrupted her
conversation with Mr. Stoddard and driven him away. Yet while she so
questioned, she was taking in with swift appreciation the trim set of
the driving coat Miss Lydia wore, the appropriate texture of the heavy
gloves on the small hands that held the lines, and a certain indefinable
air of elegance hard to put into words, but which all women recognize.
"Ain't she swell?" inquired Mandy, as they passed on. "She's after Mr.
Stoddard now--it used to be the preacher that had the big church in
Watauga, but he moved away. I wish I had her clothes."
"Yes," returned Johnnie absently. She had already forgotten her
impression of Miss Sessions's displeasure. Gone was the leaden weariness
of her day's toil Something intimate and kind in the glance Stoddard had
given her remained warm at her heart, and set that heart singing.
Meantime, Stoddard and MacPherson were walking up the ridge toward the
Country Club together, intending to spend the night on the highlands.
The Scotchman returned once more to the subject he had broached
"This is a great country," he opened obliquely, "a very great country.
But you Americans will have to learn that generations of blood and
breeding are not to be skipped with impunity. See the sons and daughters
of your rich men. If the hope of the land lay in them it would be a bad
"Is that peculiar to America?" asked Stoddard mildly. They were coming
under the trees now. He took off his hat and ran his fingers through his
hair to enjoy the coolness. "My impression was that the youthful
aristocracy of every country often made of itself a spectacle unseemly."
The Scotchman laughed. Then he looked sidewise at his companion. "I'm
not denying," he pursued, again with that odd trick of entering his
argument from the side, "that a young chap like yourself has my good
word. A man with money who will go to work to find out how that money
was made, and to live as his father did, carries an old head on young
shoulders. I put aside your socialistic vapourings of course--every
fellow to his fad--I see in you the makings of a canny business man."
It was Stoddard's turn to laugh, and he did so unrestrainedly, throwing
back his head and uttering his mirth so boyishly that the other smiled
"You talk about what's in the blood," Gray said finally, "and then you
make light of my socialistic vapourings, as you call them. My mother's
clan--and it is from the spindle side that a man gets his traits--are
all come-outers as far back as I know anything about them. They fought
with Cromwell--some of them; they came over and robbed the Indians in
true sanctimonious fashion, and persecuted the Quakers; and down the
line a bit I get some Quaker blood that stood for its beliefs in the
stocks, and sacrificed its ears for what it thought right. I'm afraid
the socialistic vapourings are the true expression of the animal."
MacPherson grunted incredulously.
"I give you ten years to be done with it," he said. "It is a disease of
youth. But don't let it mark your affairs. It is all right to foregather
with these workingmen, and find out about their trades-unions and that
sort of thing--such knowledge will be useful to you in your business.
But when it comes to women"--MacPherson paused and shook his gray
head--"to young, pretty women--a man must stick to his own class."
"You mean the girl in the corridor," said Stoddard with that directness
which his friends were apt to find disconcerting. "I haven't classified
her yet. She's rather an extraordinary specimen."
"Well, she's not in your class, and best leave her alone," returned
MacPherson doggedly. "It wouldn't matter if the young thing were not so
beautiful, and with such a winning look in her eyes. This America beats
me. That poor lass would make a model princess--according to common
ideals of royalty--and here you find her coming out of some hut in the
mountains and going to work in a factory. Miss Lydia Sessions is a
well-bred young woman, now; she's been all over Europe, and profited by
her advantages of travel. I call her an exceedingly well-bred person."
"She is," agreed Stoddard without enthusiasm.
"And I'm sure you must admire her altruistic ideas--they'd just fall in
with yours, I suppose, now."
Stoddard shook his head.
"Not at all," he said briefly. "If you were enough interested in
socialism to know what we folks are driving at, I could explain to you
why we object to charitable enterprises--but it's not worth while."
"Indeed it is not," assented MacPherson hastily. "Though no doubt we
might have a fine argument over it some evening when we have nothing
better to talk about. I thought you and Miss Sessions were fixing up a
match of it, and it struck me as a very good thing, too. The holdings of
both of you are in cotton-mill property, I judge. That always makes for
harmony and stability in a matrimonial alliance."
Stoddard smiled. He was aware that Miss Lydia's holdings consisted of a
complaisant brother-in-law in whose house she was welcome till she could
marry. But he said nothing on this head.
"MacPherson," he began very seriously, "I wonder a little at you, I know
you old-world people regard these things differently; but could you look
at Mrs. Hardwick's children, and seriously recommend Mrs. Hardwick's
sister as a wife for a friend?"
Old MacPherson stopped in the way, thrust his hands deep in his pockets
and stared at the younger man.
"Well!" he ejaculated at last; "that's a great speech for a hot-headed
young fellow! Your foresight is worthy of a Scotchman."
Gray Stoddard smiled. "I am not a hot-headed person," he observed.
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