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together as they could.

In the morning Dumois climbed up on
the hill. As far as he could see through
the infolding shrouds of snow was a bleak,
strange country ; no sign, no shadowy sus-
picion of forest anywhere. He went down
and told the others.



"Vaire you t'ink ve go?" asked Le
Hibou.

Dumois and Le Bossu thought, and
drew lines on the snow with their fingers ;
then Le Bossu said, " Par \k ! " pointing to
the right.

" N on, par ici— dees vay ! " said Dumois,
pointing to the left.

Le Hibou looked at their lines on the
snow-chart, and drew some of his own.
" En avant ! " was his decision, after he
finished his calculations.

" Non, by gar! Ah no vant die los* ! "
shouted Dumois. " Ah go mon chemin ! "

He fastened his dogs to his sledge, and
the others imitated him mechanically ; then
the three started off to the left. On and
on they went, over hills and down ravines,
up clefts in the snow gorges, and across
wind-swept barrens ; and always the snow
came and covered their tracks as fast as
they made them.

They did not even stop for food ; the
snow grew deeper and heavier ; it clogged
their way, piled itself on their snow-shoes,
and heaped in soggy masses in front of
the sledges ; the dogs gave up one by one,
exhausted.

" Impossible ! " said Dumois, after trying
valiantly to drag the dogs and sledge, too,
by his own strength. " Ve res* teel la neige
she stop, hein ? " he suggested.

Le Hibou and Le Bossu agreed by not
contradicting, and the three made a rude
shelter with the sledges and some spare
blankets.

Le Hibou searched for his food-bag.
*' Bon Dieu ! " he said, with white face.
"Ah geeve to Tritou, v'en ve starrt yes'-
day, ma food, becaus' hees sled ees mor*
leet'den mine, an' Ah took hees blankeets."

The night before they had eaten of Du-
mois's provisions, as his bag had been more
accessible than that of either of the others,
so this calamity had not been discovered.
Dumois looked in his bag ; there was little
left. The entire party had intended to
reach Lcs Petites Colignes in four days,
and had taken just enough food per man
to do it, as there was at that place a big
cache of flour, tea, and six caribou car-
casses. Le Bossu's bag was still untouched,
but it contained very little to feed three
men and eighteen dogs for no one knew
how long. They had plenty of blankets,
and the mockery of it was terrible. They
divided the food sparingly, and fed the



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Drawn by !•. li. Schoonover. Malf-tone plate engraved by C. W. Chad wick j

•SUDDENLY, WITHOUT A SOUND OF ANY KIND. A FIGURE STOOD BEFORE THEM '



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ONLY JULES VERBAUX



591



dogs separately, a handful of dried meat
to each.

Another night passed, and morning
brought the same old story— snow, snow,
snow, falling, dropping, tumbling in cease-
less, noiseless quantities. They stayed
there all that day, and the food supply
dwindled, even though they took but very
little of it twice only in the twenty-four
hours. On the fourth day of their captivity
the food was all gone, and they drew lots
to see who should kill one of his dogs;
Dumois was drawn, and he cut the throat
of one of his team, tears streaming down
his face as he did so. " Blanchette, poor
beas' ! Ah 'm desole ! " he said hoarsely.

And still it snowed. The surface of the
barren was much higher than it had been.
The cold was intense, and in desperation
Le Hibou smashed his sledge, tore a blan-
ket in strips, and made a fire ; they hus-
banded the feeble flames with tender care ;
but it was out all too soon, and they shivered
again in their covers.

Afternoon came, and the snow relaxed
somewhat. The men, weak from lack of
food and almost numb, were about to
smash up another sledge, when suddenly,
without a sound of any kind, a figure stood
before them. It was a tall, gaunt figure
with curious wide snow-shoes on his feet.
The face was muffled entirely, only the
gray eyes showing. As the three stared in
wonderment, half believing it a myth, the
figure spoke :

"You los*, n'est-ce pas? Comme wid
me!"

** Who ees eet ? " whispered Le Bossu.

" Ah don* know ! " answered Dumois,
with awe in his voice.

The stranger helped them gather the
dogs together and fasten their belongings
on the two sledges that were left. " Viens ! "
he said when all was ready, and started
off on what seemed to the lost men their
back trail. This strange being exerted a
curious power over them : he did not speak,
but they felt security in his presence. They
staggered on, he helping first one, then the
other, digging out the sledges when they
sank in the drifts and coaxing on the dogs
by soft noises in his throat which they
seemed to know.

When night closed down hard and fast
he stopped.

They were in the woods, and the stran-
ger helped them again by gathering a lot



of fire-wood. As it blazed up he spoke:
" Stay here teel day. Ah comme back een
momin'."

Then he let his food-bag fall from his
shoulder, and went off into the black
depths of the forest, stirring up clouds of
snow-dust that scintillated and shone in
the firelight as he went.

The three stared at one another.

"Dat le bon Dieu!" whispered Le
Bossu, crossing himself.

They took off their caps and repeated
the Ave Maria, intoning it softly; then
they looked into the bag the stranger had
left. It contained food, — plenty of food,
—and they fell on it eagerly, ferociously,
as only starving men can ; the dogs were
also fed, and the fire was well built up;
then they curled in their blankets and went
to sleep, thanking the Holy Mother for
her mercy.

"Taime to go,*' said a voice, and they
woke to find the stranger with them again.
He had built the breakfast fire, and water
was boiling in the pannikins. While they
ate, and watched him with pious awe, he
got the dogs together and harnessed them.

" Allons ! '* he said, and started on. The
snow was not so deep in the woods, and
the three had had a good night's rest, so
they were able to follow fast. At noon the
figure stopped again. " Le chemin— de
trail ! " he said.

Le Hibou looked up and saw the blazes on
the trees. " C'est le chemin— le chemin I "
he cried, and fell on his knees in the snow.
Le Bossu and Dumois knelt, too. " Merci,
Seigneur bon Dieu ! " they said to the
stranger.

He laughed softly, and unwound the
muffler that had so successfully hidden
his face.

"No le bon Dieu," he said quietly—
"onlee Jules Verbaux."

The three stared as though bewitched ;
then Le Bossu got up slowly, walked over,
and held out his hand.

"Verbaux," he said huskily, "Ah hear
mooch bad de toi ; mais Ah say dat you
have vone grand beeg hearrt ! "

Jules smiled and waved his hand to the
southward.

" Go! AUez! sauf to de post."

Silently the men filed off, following the
blazed trail ; in a few minutes they looked
back, but he was gone.



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THE CHOOSING OF LOZUMY
BROWDER

BY ALICE MACGOWAN

WITH PICTURES BY ARTHUR I. KELLER



LOZUMY



"^HEY 'S both sech good matches, an'
1 Lozuray 's so cold an' * don't keer ' —
as indiff'ent to the one as to t' other. Sis
plumb pesters me that a-way. She says
she druther stay with her maw ; she don't
keer fer no man."



The Widow Browder fluttered her tur-
key-tail fan with an air of importance.
Who, indeed, had a better right to feel
important than the mother of a daughter
with two such suitors ?

" An' you think you '11 call a meetin'



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Half-tone plate eugraved by F. H. Welltiigton
♦••YOU WOULD! AW-HAW-HAW-HAW! WY, PAP JOHN! WOULD YOU — WOULD YOU?'



for to let the elders decide hit ? " in an
awe-struck voice.

"Well, I don't see how else, an' hit 's
wearin* me to skin an' bone," with an air
of chastened enjoyment. "The sufferin's
o' them two pore men! Of all o' Sis*s
love-yers," — the widow spoke as though
their name had been legion, — "these out-
suffers anything I ever saw. I got to have
relief. I jes got to have some man-per-
sons to he'p decide."

"I should think Lozumy might—"
hinted the other.

"Aw, Lozumy! Don't I tell you she
won't look at nary one on 'em— any more 'n
she 's ever looked at any of the others ? "

Again the intimation that her daughter's
opportunities for marriage were notoriously
numerous.

Lozumy Browder was a slim, delicate-
featured girl, quiet-footed, low-voiced, and
with a look and air of unusual refinement
for a mountain woman. " Meaching," her



detractors called her. That "head of an
unknown Florentine woman" which has
come down to us through the years might
stand for a likeness of Lozumy, with its
wonderful purity of form, the exquisite
lines of neck, head, and shoulders, and
those strange, narrow eyes— those eyes
scarcely more than slits, with the down-
drooped lids. And Lozumy seemed to find
her way about without looking, for her eyes
were ever upon the floor.

Amanda Browder began with her daugh-
ter as a very practical enterprise, the idea
being to place her well in life ; she ended
by making of Lozumy a cult, a passion.
It was a passion which gave no heed to
the welfare, or even to the comfort, of its
object, which sought only its own gratifi-
cation and aggrandizement. As it is every-
where with the professional beauty, the
reigning belle, there were girls in the
Turkey Tracks who were prettier, girls
who had more ; but Lozumy was rendered



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THE CHOOSING OF LOZUMY BROWDER 595

by her mother's manoeuvers the choicest. Browder had allowed herself to look at it

She was the maidenly measure, the pat- frankly, without real success. Good hus-

tem to go by, the article as it ought to be. bands more than one had she seen take

There was more glory, however, in this up with girls of inferior claims, but of

campaign than substance. As a matter of whom they had not been made afraid,

fact, this paragon among mountain girls Now the daughter had two suitors. The

had come to be nearly twenty-three years one was Jasper Drane, a preacher who

old and unwed. The game had been kept had buried his first wife and had three

up as long as was safe; and, if Mandy small children, to whose needs it was






4-



HaH-tuue plate engraved by H, C. Merrill

'HIT'S ME YOU WANT. LOZUMY- YOU KNOW HIT'S MK YOU
liKKN A WANTfN' AI,L ALONC"



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THE CHOOSING OF LOZUMY BROWDER



597



thought Lozumy's virtues were well fitted
to minister. The girl was a famous church-
worker; indeed, anybody but Lozumy
Browder would have been considered
over-active for an unwedded female. Al-
together, the Widow Browder, the Rever-
end Ja^er Drane, and a large contingent
of Little Shiloh people regarded the match
as most stiitable. What Lozumy thought
did not appear.

The other suitor was Berry Loveland,
a careless, confident fellow, with curling
red hair and blue eyes that laughed, show-
ing a strain of that blood which has left in
the southern Appalachees the Bridgets and
Patricks, the red hair and tilted noses.
Berry had been in the war. Few moun-
taineers went into the army. Owning no
slaves, a people apart, they seemed to feel
that the question which was being fought
out on bloody fields did not appertain to
them. And so Berry Loveland was the
only man in all the two Turkey Tracks
who had been through the war.

The choice (not Lozumy's choice, but
the Widow Browder's) lay between these
two who had been temerarious enough
to sue for Lozumy Browder's hand —the
preacher, because he esteemed nothing in
the way of a wife too ambitious for his
office and his person ; Berry, because he
was heartily and whole-souledly in love
with the slim, soft-spoken piece of young
womanhood. The widow, fully realizing
that her celebrity, her pearl of maidens,
once reduced to the commonplace of wife-
hood her occupation would be gone, was
bent upon making much of this last office.
She stated continually in Lozumy's pres-
ence that that damsel could not make up
her mind between her two suitors.

The widow applied to every old father
in Israel for counsel in the matter. At the
last she evolved the plan of holding an in-
formal meeting, at her house, of the elders
and officers of the church, for the purpose
of a final decision. When Lozumy was
inquired of as to her views, she cast down
her eyes and replied demurely that she
reckoned that was the best way. She was
sure she did n't care, so her maw was
pleased and the elders were satisfied with
her.

When the news of this precious meeting
was brought to him, with the request that
he attend, coming late to hear the decision,
poor Berry was in despair. He found no

LXX.-71



help in Lozumy. To his direct attacks the
girl replied evasively, looking at him out
of the comers of her long eyes with a look
of indecipherable significance— a glance
which disturbed, but did not direct, him.
The lady he would have desired to make
his mother-in-law addressed him in a tone
which exasperated while it deeply puzzled
him— the hushed voice in which we speak
to one under deep affliction, desiring him
to come after the meeting, as though she
were inviting him to his own funeral. Alto-
gether Berry could make nothing whatever
of the situation.

In this emergency he went to Pap Over-
holt, as did every young fellow from Little
Turkey Track to Tatum's, from Big Buck
Gap to the Fur Cove. Pap John, with his
crown of silver hair above a rosy face, with
his kind, fond blue eyes that yet twinkled,
and his proneness to an innocent joke,
childless Pap John, whose children were
so many, was standing counsel to all the
youth in Cupid's toils throughout the
Turkey Tracks. And Pap John listened,
between mirth and impatience, to Berry's
story.

" Gwine to have a meetin' ! Gwine to
decide hit in a meetin' ! Berry, yo' po'
forsaken gump! Hain't you got no mo'
sense than to believe that. Berry ? "

"W'y, hit 's true, Pap John— hit 's a
fac', ez shore ez I set here. They gwine
to have a meetin* at Sis Mandy Browder's
to decide whether Lozumy shill have me
er Brother Jasper Drane."

"Berry,"— and Pap John's eyes dwelt
with affectionate contempt on the big
fellow, — " Berry Loveland, don't you know
sech a thing ain't never settled in no
meetin' ? The feller that a gal wants ain't
never a-gwine to be picked out by a lot
o' old tads."

" You reckon not, Pap John ? "

" Reckon not ? Co'se not ! Why for the
meetin' ? Let the gal take him, ef that 's
all. The idee of a meetin' — "

" But there 's a-gwine to be a meetin'.
Pap John. W'y, you 're a-gwine to be
asked."

" Yes, an' I 'U vote ag'in' ye."

"W'y, Pap! W'y, Pap John-"

" I will, shore 's my name 's Overholt,
ef you set round like a bump on a log— "

" But, Pap, hold on thar. I hain't set
like ary bump on a log. I tried to talk to
Lozumy. Hit — hit ain't like — why, I was



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598



THE CENTURY MAGAZINE



afeard to tetch her— Hit ain't like she
was jes any gal. She—"

" Oh, yer granny's sunbonnet, she ain't
like other gals! She 's jes like any other
gal— only mo' so, ef anything. And you
want to treat her Hke you was a man^ Berry
Loveland." Pap. John glanced cautiously
about, ascertained that his wife was not
within hearing, then leaned forward and
spoke long and earnestly, tapping Berry
from time to time sharply on the knee.

" Yoxx would / Aw-haw-haw-haw ! W'y,
Pap John ! Would yoM— would you ? "

" That 's jes what I 'd do," responded
the old man, leaning back now in his splint-
bottomed chair, and tucking his thumbs
into his vest— "jes what I 'd do ; an' ef— "

Aunt Cornelia came in from the kitchen.
" Now, pap— now, pap," she reproved, at
a venture.

" Yes, Comely," responded her husband
without turning his head. " I ain't a-keerin'.
You said you was willin' to sell the brin'le
cow, an'—"

" Hit 's more 'n brin'le cows that sets
you to tee-heein' an' haw-hawin' like I
heard you," opined Aunt Cornelia, severely.

When she had retired once more to the
kitchen, the two heads— the old one with
its crown of snowy hair, the young one
with its red curls— were once more leaned
together, and the project which had so
startled Berry Loveland was thoroughly
discussed. "That 's how I would go to
Texas, ef hit was me a-goin'," concluded
Pap John.

The council at Sister Mandy Browder's
had been set for Thursday. On Wednes-
day Berry rode to the settlement, returning
to his cabin late that night. Thursday
afternoon, Lozumy, walking swiftly down
the path to the spring, bucket in hand, was
suddenly confronted by Berry Loveland,
who stepped out from the bushes along
the pathside.

The girl started back a little, then
quickly lowered her eyes, the rare red
flooding her delicate face. She stole a
glance from an eye comer at the man
before her ; something unusual in his bear-
ing stirred her quiet pulses. It was never
Lozumy's way to speak first ; but Berry,
led by an infallible instinct, stood con-
fronting her so long in a sort of aggres-
sive silence that she finally uttered a
"Well?"

Berry's glance traveled boldly over the



slim figure— a glance of jealous, masterful
ownership. With a quick, almost threaten-
ing motion he leaned forward, caught the
pail from her nerveless hand, lifted it
above his head at arm's height, and sent
it spinning over into the huckleberry
bushes; then tumed and looked into her
face, echoing, "Well! An' so they 's
a-holdin' their meetin' up yon" — jerking
his red curls toward the Browder cabin —
"to see whether you 're to many Jap
Drane er me ? "

"Yes," murmured Lozumy; but there
was less than the usual measure of de-
mureness, of quiet assurance, in the tone.

" Well, we 've got a meetin'— right here
an' now. Hit 's a-plenty to settle that
question. Hit 's more 'n a-plenty — one 's
enough. I 've done settled hit myse'f."

The girl flashed a startled upward
glance at him; again the red rose slowly
in her face, warming and brightening it,
making it live. " Why, Berry," she began,
with a poor semblance of her usual bridling
and mincing protest— " why. Berry Love — * '

"You 're a-gwine to marry me— that 's
who," declared the man, gaining strength
and assurance as he saw her losing them.
With a swift gesture he pushed back her
sunbonnet, took her in his arms, and kissed
her — kissed Lozumy Browder, the pattern
of an unapproachable virgin ! " Hit 's me
you want, Lozumy— you know hit 's me
you 've been a-wantin' all along," and he
drew her to him imperiously.

" Yes, Berry," she whispered meekly.

"You 're a-gwine to marry me," he re-
peated.

"Yes, Berry," again the girl whispered.
"When— how air we a-gwine—"

" Right now. I 've got my nag— an' one
fer you— tied over yon, 'mongst them per-
simmon-trees. Here 's the license. I got
hit yesterday. We 're a-gwine— right this
minute— to Squire Tatum's."

"Yes, Berry— we 're 'bleeged to be
mighty quick." And Lozumy's willing-
ness held an alacrity which was a new
element in the girl's manner.

" God bless you, honey ; I e'en a' most
thought I 'd lost you ! " ejaculated Berry,
and, bending his tall head, he kissed Lo-
zumy again, fervently.

" I was mighty 'fraid you had. Berry,"
she said in his ear, her voice as naive as
a child's.

Up at the Browder cabin the meeting



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THE CHOOSING OF LOZUMY BROWDER



599



was in progress, with the Widow Browder
in her apogee. Her cherished career was
about to end, but to end gloriously, to
burst in rainbow splendors, rocket-wise.
There under her roof, engaged solely upon
her affairs, were nine of the oldest, the
most weighty, and most prominem men in
all the Turkey Track neighborhood. It
was the age, dignity, and wisdom of the
region giving itself to the consideration
and the elucidation of Mandy Browder's
problem, and the widow swelled with im-
portance beyond what she had yet known.
At first she was somewhat disturbed at
Lozumy's absence. She had looked for
her in the girl's own little room in the
lean-to, and had been first to the back
door, then to the front door, a dozen limes ;
but had finally concluded that Sis was so
tender-hearted and so sorter skeered that
a-way, 'at likely it was better they should
go fomid without her. " More 'n likely
she's done hid herself , anyhow," she added.

Among the old, gray-haired fellows
there assembled, there was a half-confessed
feeling that this business was in truth
no business of theirs, and a thing to be
settled between the two persons whom
alone it really concerned. Yet it is scarcely
human natiu-e to decline a dignity thrust
upon one — to fail to judge for another
what he avows himself incapable of judg-
ing for himself. And then there was Pap
Overholt to check any disposition toward
withdrawal. From the first Pap John led
the cause of Jasper Drane, advocating it
loudly— so loudly that the elders of the
church could scarcely hesitate when a mere
layman insisted with such earnestness upon
the superior claims of a preacher. Pap
John's coxu^e did seem somewhat extreme,
in view of his well-known personal fond-
ness for Berry Loveland ; yet that his view
was the correct one no man there present
was prepared to deny ; and the decision —
the unanimous decision — for the Reverend
Jasper Drane had been for some minutes
a fixed fact. That worthy had just arrived
to hear it, when the door opened and
Berry Loveland walked in with Lozumy
herself.

Mandy had been sitting somewhat apart
(as befitted a modest female), the rich com-
placency of her countenance discreetly
modified by the plaintive "widder" ex-
pression. At this strange interruption, her
face showed startled and almost natural.



She rose and fluttered anxiously toward
Lozumy, her eyes fixed on Berry. " W'y,
Mr. Loveland, we— w'y, we did n't—"
She broke down, and started afresh with
somewhat more of assurance. " I 'm right
sorry to say, Mr. Loveland, that our friends
here— the elders— has decided ag'inst you
—not meanin', of co'se, anytjiing ag'inst
you y o'se'f . But a preacheh — a minister of
God— Hit 's true you fit in the war, and
no doubt you done hit fer yo' country ; but
whilst you have killed po' mortal bodies,
Brotheh Jaspeh Drane he saves immortal
souls. And so we have decided—"

"Jap Drane is fifteen years older than
Lozumy," interrupted Berry, sharply; and
a little thrill ran through the crowd of
graybeards. They had thought of that.

" I do not see that the matter of a few
years of airthly life — " began the widow;
but Berry cut in again.

" Drane has buried one wife. Let him
marry Samanthy's sister Randy. She 's
been tendin' to them chaps o' hisn ever
sence Samanthy died, in hopes all along
'at he 'd marry her. She 's wropped up in
them big, rampin', stampin' boys o' Drane's.
They hain't no reason why Lozumy should
go and slave her life out like Samanthy
done-".

Pap Overholt, in an inconspicuous cor-
ner, was endeavoring to veil the flaming
delight of his countenance, trembling as
one might imagine a volcano trembling,
making ready for eruption. Every old
fellow in the group had pricked up his
ears, leaned forward, and was now looking
eagerly for the outcome of this singular
encounter.

" Well, hit shorely ain't nothin' to you.
Berry Loveland, what Lozumy does, nor
yit where she goes. She ain't a-gwine to
have you. What you got to say ? " The
widow's sugary tones had an astonishing
rasp in them.

" Nothin' much— only that Lozumy and
me— we had a little meetin' of our own,
and, as you say, * decided' in favor of
Berry Loveland. To spar' all argument,
we jes stepped over to Squire Tatum's and
was married. Thar 's the papers," and he
laid down the license and the certificate.
" And we air a-gwine to leave fer Texas
to-morrow. You axed me what I come
fer. Wal, I '11 ainswer you. W^e jes come
fer Lozumy's little fixin's. She did n't
want to go clean out to Texas without



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some of her things. Run along, Lozumy



Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Barton) RendleThe Century → online text (page 73 of 120)