Ernest Thompson Seton.

The preacher of Cedar Mountain; a tale of the open country online

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Garden City New York

_Copyright, 1917, by_
Ernest Thompson Seton

_All rights reserved, including that of
translation into foreign languages,
including the Scandinavian_

[Illustration: "'You must choose between us. Is it Belle or Blazing


Most of the characters in this tale are from life, and some of the main
events are historical, although the actual scenes and names are not
given. Many men now living will remember Fighting Bill Kenna and the
Horse Preacher, as well as the Fort Ryan races. These horse races are
especially well known and have been described in print many times. I did
not witness any of them myself, but listened on numerous occasions when
they were described to me by eye-witnesses. My first knowledge of the
secret try-out in Yellowbank Canyon was given to me years ago by Homer
Davenport, the cartoonist, with permission to use the same.

But all of these more or less historic events are secondary to the
intent of illustrating the growth of a character, whose many rare gifts
were mere destructive force until curbed and harmonized into the big,
strong machine that did such noble work in the West during my early days
on the Plains.





I. The Home Land of Little Jim Hartigan

II. The Strains That Were Mingled in Jim

III. How He Lost His Father

IV. The Atmosphere of His Early Days

V. Little Jim's Tutors

VI. Jim Loses Everything

VII. He Gets a Much-needed Lesson


VIII. The Conversion of Jim

IX. Jim Hartigan Goes to College

X. Escape to Cedar Mountain

XI. A New Force Enters His Life

XII. Belle Boyd

XIII. Preacher Jim's First Sermon

XIV. The Lure of the Saddle

XV. Pat Bylow's Spree

XVI. The New Insurance Agents

XVII. Belle Makes a Decision and Jim Evades One

XVIII. The Second Bylow Spree

XIX. The Day of Reckoning

XX. The Memorable Trip to Deadwood

XXI. The Ordeal

XXII. The Three Religions Confront Him


XXIII. Blazing Star

XXIV. Red Rover

XXV. The Secret of Yellowbank Canyon

XXVI. Preparing for the Day

XXVII. The Start

XXVIII. The Finish

XXIX. The Riders

XXX. The Fire

XXXI. Love in the Saddle


XXXII. The Advent of Midnight

XXXIII. The Sociable

XXXIV. Springtime

XXXV. When the Greasewood is in Bloom

XXXVI. Shoeing the Buckskin

XXXVII. The Boom

XXXVIII. When the Craze Struck

XXXIX. Jim's Bet

XL. The Crow Band

XLI. The Pinto

XLII. The Aftertime

XLIII. Finding the Lost One

XLIV. A Fair Rider

XLV. The Life Game

XLVI. What Next?

XLVII. Back to Deadwood

XLVIII. The Fork in the Trail

XLIX. The Power of Personality

L. The Call to Chicago

LI. These Little Ones

LII. The Boss

LIII. The First Meeting

LIV. The Formation of the Club


LV. In the Absence of Belle

LVI. The Defection of Squeaks

LVII. The Trial

LVIII. In the Death House

LIX. The Heart Hunger

LX. The Gateway and the Mountain

LXI. Clear Vision on the Mountain

LXII. When He Walked with the King




The Home Land of Little Jim Hartigan

A burnt, bare, seared, and wounded spot in the great pine forest of
Ontario, some sixty miles northeast of Toronto, was the little town of
Links. It lay among the pine ridges, the rich, level bottomlands, and
the newborn townships, in a region of blue lakes and black loam that was
destined to be a thriving community of prosperous farmer folk. The
broad, unrotted stumps of the trees that not so long ago possessed the
ground, were thickly interstrewn among the houses of the town and in the
little fields that began to show as angular invasions of the woodland,
one by every settler's house of logs. Through the woods and through the
town there ran the deep, brown flood of the little bog-born river, and
streaking its current for the whole length were the huge, fragrant logs
of the new-cut pines, in disorderly array, awaiting their turn to be
shot through the mill and come forth as piles of lumber, broad waste
slabs, and heaps of useless sawdust.

Two or three low sawmills were there, each booming, humming, busied all
the day. And the purr of their saws, or the scream when they struck some
harder place in the wood, was the dominant note, the day-long
labour-song of Links. At first it seemed that these great, wasteful
fragrant, tree-destroying mills were the only industries of the town;
and one had to look again before discovering, on the other side of the
river, the grist mill, sullenly claiming its share of the water power,
and proclaiming itself just as good as any other mill; while radiating
from the bridge below the dam, were the streets - or, rather, the rough
roads, straight and ugly - along which wooden houses, half hidden by tall
sunflowers, had been built for a quarter of a mile, very close together
near the bridge, but ever with less of house and sunflower and more of
pumpkin field as one travelled on, till the last house with the last
pumpkin field was shut in by straggling, much-culled woods, alternating
with swamps that were densely grown with odorous cedar and fragrant
tamarac, as yet untouched by the inexorable axe of the changing day.

Seen from the road, the country was forest, with about one quarter of
the land exposed by clearings, in each of which were a log cabin and the
barn of a settler. Seen from the top of the tallest building, the sky
line was, as yet, an array of plumy pines, which still stood thick among
the hardwood trees and, head and shoulders, overtopped them.

Links was a town of smells. There were two hotels with their complex,
unclean livery barns and yards, beside, behind, and around them; and on
every side and in every yard there were pigs - and still more pigs - an
evidence of thrift rather than of sanitation; but over all, and in the
end overpowering all, were the sweet, pervading odour of the new-sawn
boards and the exquisite aroma of the different fragrant gums - of pine,
cedar, or fir - which memory will acknowledge as the incense to conjure
up again in vivid actuality these early days of Links.

* * * * *

It was on a sunny afternoon late in the summer of 1866 that a little
knot of loafers and hangers-on of the hotels gathered in the yard of the
town's larger hostelry and watched Bill Kenna show an admiring world how
to ride a wild, unbroken three-year-old horse. It was not a very bad
horse, and Bill was too big to be a wonderful rider, but still he stayed
on, and presently subdued the wild thing to his will, amid the brief,
rough, but complimentary remarks of the crowd.

One of the most rapt of the onlookers was a rosy-cheeked, tow-topped boy
of attractive appearance - Jim; who though only eight years old, was
blessed with all the assurance of twenty-eight. Noisy and forward,
offering suggestions and opinions at the pitch of his piping voice, he
shrieked orders to every one with all the authority of a young lord; as
in some sense he was, for he was the only son of "Widdy" Hartigan, the
young and comely owner and manager of the hotel.

"There, now, Jim. Could ye do that?" said one of the bystanders,

"I couldn't ride that 'un, cause me legs ain't long enough to lap round;
but I bet I could ride _that_ 'un," and he pointed to a little foal
gazing at them from beside its dam.

"All right, let him try," said several.

"And have his brains kicked out," said a more temperate onlooker.

"Divil a bit," said big Bill, the owner of the colt. "That's the kindest
little thing that ever was born to look through a collar," and he
demonstrated the fact by going over and putting his arms around the
young thing's gentle neck.

"Here, you; give me a leg up," shouted Jimmy, and in a moment he was
astride the four-month colt.

In a yard, under normal kindly conditions, a colt may be the gentlest
thing in the world, but when suddenly there descends upon its back a
wild animal that clings with exasperating pertinacity, there is usually
but one result. The colt plunged wildly, shaking its head and
instinctively putting in practice all the ancient tricks that its kind
had learned in fighting the leopard or the wolf of the ancestral wild
horse ranges.

But Jim stuck on. His legs, it was true, were not long enough to "lap
round," but he was a born horseman. He had practised since he was able
to talk, never losing a chance to bestride a steed; and now he was in
his glory. Round and round went the colt, amid the laughter of the
onlookers. They apprehended no danger, for they knew that the youngster
could ride like a jackanapes; in any case the yard was soft with litter,
and no harm could happen to the boy.

The colt, nearly ridden down, had reached the limit of its young
strength, and had just about surrendered. Jim was waving one hand in
triumph, while the other clutched the fuzzy mane before him, when a new
and striking element was added to the scene. A rustle of petticoats, a
white cap over yellow hair, a clear, commanding voice that sent the men
all back abashed, and the Widdy Hartigan burst through the little

"What do ye mean letting me bhoy do that fool thing to risk his life and
limb? Have ye no sense, the lot of ye? Jimmy, ye brat, do ye want to
break yer mother's heart? Come off of that colt this holy minute; or
I'll - "

Up till now, Jim had been absolute dominator of the scene; but the
powerful personality of his mother shattered his control, dethroned him.

As she swept angrily toward him, his nerve for the time was shaken. The
colt gave a last wild plunge; Jim lost his balance and his hold, and
went down on the soft litter.

As it sprang free from its tormenter, the frightened beast gave vent to
its best instinctive measure of defense and launched out a final kick.
The youngster gave a howl of pain, and in a minute more he was sobbing
in his mother's arms, while one of the crowd was speeding for the

Yes, the arm was broken above the elbow, a simple fracture, a matter of
a month to mend. The bone was quickly set, and when his wailing had in a
measure subsided, Jim showed his horseman soul by jerking out: "I could
have rode him, Mother. I'll ride him yet. I'll tame him to a finish, the
little divil."


The Strains That Were Mingled in Jim

Clearly one cannot begin the history of the French Revolution with the
outbreak of 1789. Most phenomena, physical and spiritual, have their
roots, their seeds, their causes - whatever you will - far behind them in
point of time. To understand them one must go back to the beginning or
they will present no logic or _raison d'être_. The phenomenon of James
Hartigan, the Preacher of Cedar Mountain, which is both a physical and a
spiritual fact, is nowise different, and the reader must go back with me
to some very significant events which explain him and account for him.

Little Jim's father was James O'Hartigan in Donegal. The change in the
patronymic was made, not by himself, but by the Government Emigration
Agent at Cork. When James, Sr. came forward to be listed for passage,
the official said: "Oh, hang your O's. I have more of them now than the
column will hold. I'll have to put you in the H's, where there's lots of
room." And so the weight of all the Empire was behind the change.

James Hartigan, Sr. was a typical Irish "bhoy," which is high praise. He
was broad and hearty, with a broad and hearty grin. He was loved and
lovable, blessed with a comely countenance and the joy of a humorous
outlook on life and its vicissitudes. You could not down Jimmy so low
that he might not see some bright and funny aspect in the situation.
This was not only a happy temperamental trait, but it also had a
distinct advantage, for in the moments of deepest self-invited
degradation he never forgot that somewhere ahead, his trail would surely
lead to the uplands once again.

He was what the doctors called "normal human," muscled far above the
average, heart action strong and regular. This combination often
produces two well-marked types - a high-class athlete and a low-class
drunkard. Often these are united in the same individual; or, rather, the
individual appears in the first rôle, until the second comes to
overmaster it. Such was Jimmy Hartigan, Sr., whose relation to the
Preacher may be labelled Cause Number One.

Those who knew her people said that the forbears of Katherine Muckevay
had seen better days; that the ancient royal blood of Ireland ran in her
veins; that the family name was really Mach-ne-veagh; and that, if every
one had his own, Kitty would be wearing a diamond tiara in the highest
walks of London importance. In ancient days, the Kings of Ulster used to
steal a bride at times from the fair-haired folk across the sea; maybe
that was where Kitty got her shining hair of dusty yellow-red, as well
as the calm control in times of stress, something the psychologists call
coördination, which is not a Celtic characteristic.

Of book learning Kitty had almost none, but she had native gifts. She
had wits, good looks, and a wealth of splendid hair, as well as a
certain presence which was her perpetual hedge of safety, even when she
took the perilous place of maid in the crude hotel with its bar-room
annex, whither the hand of Fate had brought her, an Irish immigrant, to
find a new life in the little town of Links. Kitty was Cause Number Two.

Jimmy did not chance to cross on the same ship. But the time had come;
and by chance, which is not chance at all, he drifted into the same
corner of Canada, and had not half a day to wait before he was snapped
up by a local farmer seeking for just such a build of man to swing the
axe and scythe upon his farm.

Farm life is dreary enough, at least it was in those days. It was hard
work from dawn to dusk, and even then the feeble, friendly glimmer of a
caged candle was invoked to win an extra hour or two of labour from the
idleness of gloom - hours for the most part devoted to the chores. The
custom of the day gave all the hired ones freedom Saturday night and all
day Sunday. Wages were high, and with one broad epidemic impulse all
these thriving hirelings walked, drove, or rode on Saturday night to the
little town of Links. Man is above all a social animal; only the
diseased ones seek solitude. Where, then, could they meet their kind?

The instinct which has led to the building of a million clubs, could
find no local focus but the bar-room. John Downey's "hotel" was the
social centre of the great majority of the men who lived and moved
around the town of Links. Not the drink itself, but the desire of men to
meet with men, to talk and swap the news or bandy mannish jokes, was the
attracting force. But the drink was there on tap and all the
ill-adjusted machinery of our modern ways operated to lead men on, to
make abstainers drink, to make the moderate, drunken.

If the life in Downey's stable, house, and bar were expanded in many
chapters, the reader would find a pile of worthless rubbish, mixed with
filth, but also here and there a thread of gold, a rod of the finest
steel, and even precious jewels. But this is not a history of the public
house. Downey's enters our list merely as Cause Number Three.

Those who study psychological causation say that one must find four
causes, accounting for place, matter, force, and time. The three already
given are well known, and I can only guess at the fourth, that referring
to the time. If we suppose that a sea pirate of a thousand years ago,
was permitted to return to earth, to prove that he had learned the
lessons of gentleness so foreign to his rapacious modes of thought, and
that, after a thousand years of cogitation in some disembodied state, he
was allowed to reassume the flesh, to fight a different fight, to raise
himself by battle with himself, we shall, perhaps, account for some of
the strangely divergent qualities that met in the subject of this story.
At least, let us name the ancient Sea-king as Cause Number Four.... And
conjunction of these four was affected in the '50s at Downey's Hotel,
when Jim Hartigan met Kitty Muckevay.

These were the strains that were mingled in little Jim; and during his
early life from the first glimpse we catch of him upon the back of the
unbroken colt, he was torn by the struggle between the wild, romantic,
erratic, visionary, fighting Celt, with moods of love and hate, and the
calmer, steady, tireless, lowland Scottish Saxon from the North who, far
less gifted, had far more power and in the end had mastery; and having
won control, built of his mingled heritages a rare, strong soul, so
steadfast that he was a tower of strength for all who needed help.


How He Lost His Father

The immediate and physical environment of Links was the far backwoods of
Canada, but the spirit and thought of it were Irish. The inhabitants
were nearly all of Irish origin, most of them of Irish birth, and the
fates had ruled it so that they came from all parts of the green isle.
The North was as well represented as the South, and the feuds of the old
land were most unprofitably transferred to the new.

Two days on the calendar had long been set aside by custom for the
celebration of these unhappy feuds; the seventeenth of March, which is
St. Patrick's Day, and the twelfth of July, on which, two hundred years
before, King William had crossed the river to win the famous Battle of
the Boyne. Under the evil spell of these two memorable occasions,
neighbours who were good and helpful friends, felt in honour bound to
lay all their kindness aside twice every year, and hate and harass each
other with a senseless vindictiveness.

At the time with which this chronicle has to do, Orange Day had dawned
on Links. No rising treble issued from the sawmills; the air was almost
free of their dust, and there were hints of holiday on all the town.
Farmers' wagons were arriving early, and ribbons of orange and blue were
fastened in the horses' headgear. From the backyard of Downey's Hotel
the thumping of a big drum was heard, and the great square piles of
yellow lumber near Ford's Mill gave back the shrilling of fifes that
were tuning up for the event. As the sun rose high, the Orangemen of the
Lodge appeared, each wearing regalia - cuffs and a collarette of sky-blue
with a fringe of blazing orange, or else of gold, inscribed with letters
and symbols.

The gathering place was in the street before the Lodge Hall, and their
number was steadily increased by men from the surrounding farms. The
brethren of the opposite faith, the Catholics - more often called
"Dogans" or "Papists" - were wisely inconspicuous. Had it been their day,
their friends, assembled from far places, would have given them numbers
enough for safety and confidence; but now the boys in green were, for
the most part, staying at home and seeking to avoid offence.

In the stable yard of Downey's Hotel, where Jim Hartigan - the father of
our hero - and several others of his Church were disconsolately looking
forward to a dreary and humiliating day, the cheery uproar of the
Orangemen in the bar-room could plainly be heard. James himself was
surprised at his restraint in not being there too, for he was a typical
Irish "bhoy" from the west coast, with a religion of Donegal colour and
intensity. Big, hearty, uproarious in liquor, and full of fun at all
times, he was universally beloved. Nothing could or did depress Jim for
long; his spirits had a generous rebound. A boisterous, blue-eyed boy of
heroic stature, he was the joy of Downey's, brim-full of the fun of life
and the hero of unnumbered drinking bouts in the not so very distant
past. But - two months before - Jim had startled Links and horrified his
priest by marrying Kitty Muckevay of the gold-red hair. Kitty had a rare
measure of good sense but was a Protestant of Ulster inflexibility. She
had taken Jim in hand to reform him, and for sixty days he had not
touched a drop! Moreover he had promised Kitty to keep out of mischief
on this day of days. All that morning he had worked among the horses in
Downey's livery stable where he was head man. It was a public holiday,
and he had been trying desperately to supply a safety valve for his
bursting energy. His excitible Irish soul was stirred by the murmur of
the little town, now preparing for the great parade, as it had been
stirred twice every year since he could remember, but now to the
farthest depths.

He had swallowed successfully one or two small affronts from the passing
Orangemen, because he was promise-bound and sober; but when one of the
enemy, a boon companion on any other day, sought him out in the stable
yard and, with the light of devilment in his eyes, walked up holding out
a flask of whiskey and said: "Hartigan! Ye white-livered, weak-need
papist, ye're not man enough to take a pull at that, an' tip the hat aff
of me head!" Hartigan's resolutions melted like wax before the flare of
his anger. Seizing the flask, he took a mouthful of the liquor and
spurted it into the face of the tormentor. The inevitable fight did not
amount to much as far as the casualties went, but what loomed large was
the fact that Hartigan had filled his mouth with the old liquid
insanity. Immediately he was surrounded by those who were riotously
possessed of it, and in fifteen minutes Jimmy Hartigan was launched on
the first drunken carouse he had known since he was a married man in
public disgrace with the priest for mating with a Protestant.

The day wore on and the pace grew faster. There were fun and fighting
galore, and Jimmy was in his element again. Occasional qualms there
were, no doubt, when he had a moment to remember how Kitty would feel
about it all. But this was his day of joy - mad, rollicking, bacchanalian
joy - and all the pent-up, unhallowed hilarity of the bygone months found
vent in deeds more wild than had ever been his before.

The Orangemen's procession started from their lodge, with three drums
and one fife trilling a wheezing, rattling manglement of "Croppies Lie
Down," whose only justification lay in the fact that it was maintaining
a tradition of the time; and Jimmy Hartigan, besieged in the livery yard
with half a dozen of his coreligionists, felt called upon to avenge the
honour of the South of Ireland at these soul-polluting sounds. Someone
suggested a charge into the ranks of the approaching procession, with
its sizzling band and its abhorrent orange-and-blue flags, following in
the wake of Bill Kenna, whose proud post was at the head of the
procession, carrying a cushion on which was an open Bible. The fact that
Bill was a notorious ruffian - incapable of reading, and reeling
drunk - had no bearing on his being chosen as Bible carrier. The Bible
fell in the dust many times and was accidentally trampled on by its
bearer, which was unfortunate but not important. Bill bore the emblem of
his organization and, being a good man with his fists, he was amply
qualified for his job.

But the sight of all this truculence and the ostentatious way in which
the little green flags were trampled on and insulted, was too much for
Jimmy and his inspired companions.

"Let's charge the hull rabble," was the suggestion.

"What! Six charge one hundred and twenty!"

"Why not?"

The spirit of Gideon's army was on them, and Jimmy shouted: "Sure,
bhoys, let's hitch to that and give it to 'em. Lord knows their black
souls need it." He pointed to a great barrel half full of whitewash
standing in a wagon ready for delivery next day at the little steamer
dock, where a coat of whitewash on the wharf and shed was the usual
expedient to take the place of lights for night work.

Online LibraryErnest Thompson SetonThe preacher of Cedar Mountain; a tale of the open country → online text (page 1 of 24)