A. B. (Alfred Barton) Rendle.

The Century online

. (page 9 of 120)
Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Barton) RendleThe Century → online text (page 9 of 120)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

that boy is— a full-growed man! He 'd be
afeard he 'd break Sally's heart an' make
'er kill 'erse'f ef he left 'er. On the way
down here I was thinkin' it over, an' I
sorter come to the conclusion that maybe
you 'n' me mought work the rabbit foot on
'em, an' help old Mrs. Waynright some-
way or other."

"Me 'n' you? Why, what could I do,
Uncle Ab?"

" Well, it 's jest this a- way with a woman
o' that brand an* vintage." Daniel smiled
as he stroked his beard. " You see, she 's
gone without attention fer so long she 's
kinder lost respect fer 'erse'f. Now. you
are the leadin' man in the settlement— got
a good business, not married, an', in fact,
are considered the catch in the commu-
nity. Now, Sim, you mought do a good
turn all round ef you 'd jest pay Sally a
little attention. Take 'er in yore new buggy
to camp-meetin' next Sunday."

"Me! Oh, Lord!"

"I hain't a-meanin* fer you to marry
'er," said Daniel, with a slow smile ; " but
ef I 'm any judge o' women, when you
drive 'er out in pubHc it '11 sorter start 'er
to lookin' up ag'in; an' — an', by giun! I
believe she '11 look clean over that boy's

"Thar may be some'n' in that," said
Sim, thoughtfully ; " but I reckon I hain't
the man fer the job." At this juncture a
customer came into the store ; she was an
old woman with a basket of eggs packed
in cotton-seed. Sim counted out the eggs,
gave her a package of coffee in exchange,
and bowed her from the store. He re-
mained at the door looking out into the
sunlight for several minutes, and then he
came back to Daniel.

" I hain't yore man fer one good reason,"
he said, awkwardly shifting his weight from
one foot to the other and swaying from
side to side.

" You say you hain't ? "

"No, I hain't, Uncle Ab Daniel; an',
jest 'twixt me 'n* you as old friends, I don't
mind tellin' you why I cayn't act in that
capacity. The truth is, I 've been courtin'
a gal, Mary Welborn, over on the river fer
four years hand-runnin'. She hain't never
said the word, nor she hain't never yet
pitched me out. But betwixt me 'n' you,
confidential, she sorter makes me walk a

Digitized by


Drawn by Granville Smith. Half-tone plate engraved by C. W. Chadwick


Digitized by




chalk-line ; she is powerful particular about
who I go with/*

"Huh! I reckon she don't want you to
go with none but her," exclaimed the

**That *s about the size of it, Uncle
Abner. Lawsy me! I *d never hear the
end of it ef I went to meetin' with Sally
Hawkes. I don't know but what she 'd
drap me fer good an* all. No, I cayn*t
make a fool o* myse'f that a- way. Mary *s
all the woman I ever cared fer or wanted
to marry, an' I '11 never want no other ef
I live to be a himdred."

" But it seems to me "—Daniel crossed
his legs and spat down at a crack in the
floor— "it seems to me I 've seed her
gallivantin' about with dnunmers an* dif-
ferent fellers, a-havin' her fun in a general
sort o' way."

" I '11 admit that— I '11 admit that," said
Sim, sheepishly. "She don't seem to be
quite as particular about who she associates
with as she is about the company I keep."

Abner was looking straight into the store-
keeper's face, a smile twinkling in his eyes.
He grunted, and then said firmly :

" You hain't a-workin' that woman right,
Sim Leghorn. You *ve been keepin' com-
pany with 'er fer a long time, but you
hain't yet made the right sort of a start;
an' ef you keep up that lick she '11 waltz
off with some other man an' give you the
merry ha-ha as shore as you 're a-standin*

" You say she will, Uncle Ab ? " Sim's
expression had never been so grave or
deeply rooted in his countenance. He
reached out and rested his arm on the
beam of the floor-scales.

" Yes, you kin say what you please,'* said
Abner; "but Solomon hisse'f, an' he was
the greatest masher in the Bible— Solomon
hisse'f could n't win a woman by lettin' 'er
have 'er own way. A woman thinks a
man 's a sissy that gives in to her every
whim. She knows she 's a weak thing, an'
ef a man don't catch hold of *er an' yank
'er about now an' then, she thinks he 's as
weak as she is. Now you jest take Sally
Hawkes to camp-meetin' Sunday, like any
other free-bom American citizen has a right
to do ; an', mark my words, Mary Welbom
will think a sight more of you— that is, ef
you don't knuckle the minute she mentions
it to you."

Sim's jaw was really a massive member,

and it looked as solid as a stone when he
answered : " She nor no other woman could
make me knuckle ef I did n't want to.
Dumed ef I don't believe you are right;
I believe I 've been givin' that gal too much
rein, an* flounderin' about too much at her
feet." He flushed shghtly as he continued :
"Now I think of it, she 's goin' with Alf
Prater to camp-meetin* Sunday. She 's
goin* with that dude, an' expects me to
ride out by myse'f an' look at 'er an' him.
Uncle Ab, ef it will be doin' you any
favor, I '11 ax Sally Hawkes to go with me

"That 's the way to look at it," said
Daniel. "I '11 be bound you won't lose
by it."

" Well, it will be some fun, anyway," said

The following Saturday, at dusk, Mrs.
VVaynright came across the dewy grass to
where Daniel stood at his pig-pen, into the
trough of which he had poured a pail of
sour buttermilk for the noisy inmate. She
was in a flutter of excitement, rubbing her
bony little hands together in silent satis-

" Brother Daniel,** she began, swinging
her sunbonnet before her, " you could n't
guess what 's happened to save yore life."

" I don't know as I kin." Daniel was
looking down at his pig, a twinkle in his
eyes— a twinkle the woman did not ob-

" No, I know you cayn't, Brother Dan-
iel. I 've laughed an' laughed an' cried
till I feel weak all over."

"No, I cayn't imagine what has hap-
pened," said Daniel, allowing his eyes to
rest on the expectant face.

" Brother Daniel, Sim Leghorn driv up
to Sally Hawkes's house about a' hoiu* by
sun, an' axed 'er to go to meetin' with 'im
at the camp-ground to-morrow."

"Oh, come off!"

" That 's jest what he did." The woman
raised her hands to her face and laughed
immoderately. " He'd no sooner driv away
than she run over to tell me about it, an'
to borrow my cape. She 'lowed it mought
be cool drivin' back after dark, an' she
'lowed she wanted some'n* thick to put
on, so she could wear a thin dress.
Leon was a-settin' in the comer of the
kitchen unbeknownst to her, an' heard
all she said. An' what you reckon ? He up

Digitized by




an' laid down the law, bless you! Sim
Leghorn was n't a-goin' a step with 'er.
Leon could afford to hire a Hver'-stable
team, an' he was a-goin' to take 'er."

"That was a corker, was n't it?" ex-
claimed Daniel, with a pleasant laugh.
" What did she say to that ? "

*' Looked like she hardly knowed what
to say," was the old woman's reply. " Him
an' her stood starin' at one another fer a
minute, an' then she begun to beg the boy
—jest think o' that I She begged 'im not
to interfere ^^-ith her fun ; an' finally, when
the thing got worked up to a pitch, she
got mad an' told Leon, she did— she told
'im he was jest a boy, an' that she never
had meant to marry 'im ; an* while he was
a-starin' at her, she ht into beggin' 'im not
to tell nobody about the'r little flirtation.
She said folks would think it was silly of
her, an' ef Sim Leghorn meant business,
which it looked like he did, a tale like
that mought spile all her chances."

"Huh!" exclaimed Daniel. "She was
gittin' down to business, was n't she ? "

"Well, I don't blame 'er," said the
widow, thoughtfully. " Many a good mar-
ried woman would n't want all her little
girlish pranks to reach the ears o' the man
she finally settled down to live with; an'
I reckon Sim Leghorn wants 'er. Some
folks says he 's got tired o' chasin' after
Mary Welbom. Well, Sally will make 'im
a good wife. Leon tuck it awfully hard.
After she went home he come an' -laid his
head in my lap an* sobbed out good an'
strong. I never was tickled by the grief of
a child o' mine before ; but even while my
eyes an' throat was full, a laugh would
rise in me an' I could n't hold in. But it
was all right, fer he thought I was cr>'in*.
Well, after a while Leon set up an' wiped
his eyes. 'I reckon,' said he, *that I 've
been the fool everybody said I was— as
big as my brothers was ; but I 'm goin' to
let women alone tell I 'm old enough to
understand 'em.' "

" He '11 let 'em alone a long time, then,"
said Daniel. " But, somehow, I don't beUeve
Sim will ever marry Sally. I 'd think he
was tryin' to make Mary Welbom jealous
ef he had a-tuck any other piece o* calico
to camp-meetin'."

The following Monday morning Abner
went down to Leghorn's store. Several
customers were about the counters, ex-
amining the wares Sim had pulled down

from the shelves, and Sim was up to his
eyes in business. However, the instant
Abner entered the door he walked around
the counter and extended his hand to him.

" Gee whiz ! I 've got lots an' lots to tell
you I " he chuckled.

" You say you have ? " Abner had drawn
up one of the chairs and was about to sit
down in it when Sim caught him by the
lapel of his coat and held him.

" No," he said ; " come in the back room.
I tell you I 've got lots to say to you—
lots, lots, lots ! You may think you know
some'n' about women, but don't I ? Huh I
I reckon I do. Come on."

Abner held back, waving his hand at
the line of customers.

" You must n't neglect yore trade," said

"Trade! The devil!" exclaimed Leg-
horn, pulling Abner energetically toward
the rear room. " Let 'em go to Johnston's,
up the road. I don't care a red ef I don't
sell a dollar's wuth to-day. I 'm a good
mind to shet up the dem house an' go fish-
in', anyway. I kin afford to. You hain't
no idea what happened out thar yester-

" I reckon not," said Abner, smoothing
a smile out of his deeply wrinkled face
and looking about the little cobwebbed
room in which they were now standing. " I
could n't go. I reckon you had a good
sermon an' plenty o* old-time shoutin*."

"I did n't hear no sermon nor no
shoutin'," laughed Sim. " Ef Gabriel had
blowed his horn I 'd 'a' been deaf to it.
Listen to me an' quit lookin' in thar at
them folks. Ef they don't want to wait
till I *m good an' ready, they kin go off. I
hain't in no humor to measure gingham
an' weigh out coffee an' try to match cal-
ico. I tuck Sally Hawkes to camp-meetin'
with me," went on Sim, working a thick
excited thumb into Abner's buttonhole;
" an', by hokey ! I went in dandy style. I
had on my plug-hat, an' every ribbon Sal
had on was a-flyin' in the air like flags on
a war-ship. My Kentucky high-stepper
passed Mary an' Alf Prater like a cannon-
ball, leavin' 'em in a cloud o' dust like a
Texas norther."

" You don't say ! " exclaimed Daniel.

" Yes, that 's the way of it," went on
the storekeeper. "Somehow, yore talk
t'other day sorter switched me off on a
new track, an' the sight o' that sap-headed

Digitized by




idiot with my gal fired me up. About half
a' hour after we reached the ground—"

A man with one worn suspender sup-
porting a pair of baggy, patched trousers
appeared in the doorway, licking a splotch
of golden syrup he had drawn from a fau-
cet on a piece of wrapping-paper.

" What 's this brand wuth, Sim ? " he
asked, rolling his tongue about in his

The storekeeper frowned. "I don't
know,** he answered. " I 've no idea which
keg you drawed it out.'*

" The third one from the oil -tank on this
side," said the man. " Ef you '11 jest tell
me the price, I *11 draw it myse'f. I 'm in
a sorter hurry."

" Well, I am, too," said Sim. " Go back
to the front. I 've got an important matter
to settle with this customer. I '11 be out an'
'tend to you all in a minute. Dad bum it !
ef you-uns don't let me alone I '11 go crazy.
I *d ruther split rails than bother with a
gang like that when I *ve got other things
to think about."

"You ort n't to 'a' said that," said
Daniel, as the astonished fellow moved
away ; " the fust thing you know, all yore
trade will leave you."

Sim was oblivious to Abner's advice.
With a low laugh, he pulled down on the
buttonhole. "When Mary an' her dude
got thar she lit out o' the buggy an' made
a bee-line to whar me 'n' Sally was a-set-
tin' on a log under the trees, waitin' fer the
fust hymn. She stopped right square in
front o' me, as mad as a wet hen.

" * What did you mean by throwin* dust
on me 'n' Mr. Prater ? ' she axed, as red in
the face as a beet. I remembered what
you said, an' as it looked like that was her
fust shot I concluded to let drive. I re-
membered all them four years she 's been
devilin' me, an' I was sorter reckless.

" * I could n't hold my hoss in,' I told
'er; *he got in a trottin' notion, an' I
could n't stop *im. The only thing to do
was to let 'im pass all in sight.'

" ' Well,' says she, ' you ort to apologize ;
any gentleman would, after kiverin' a lady
all over with dust.'

" ' 'T was n't my fault,' I told 'er, with
a grin; 'it was the boss's fault, an' he
could n't talk.' Gee whiz! was n't she
mad ! She was white all over, an' the pur-
tiest thing, Uncle Ab, you ever laid eyes
on. She whirled an* went back to Alf, an'

I made a dead set at my partner. I had
to pass by Mary an' her dude to git to the
spring, an' I fetched water fer Sal every
hour in the day, an' always went whisthn*
a jig. Then some o' the folks along with
Mary come over an' invited Sally an' me
to put our basket to the'm an' eat dinner
together; but me 'n' my partner refused,
an* we had oum in the shade on a hill-
side, in plain sight o* the rest. I was bav-
in' the fust frolic with Mary I ever had
had, an' I sorter liked it. Then, after din-
ner, when Sally went to Mrs. Wilson's tent
to rest up a little, what did Mary do when
she seed me by myse'f but mosey over to
me. She had a sorter different look—
kinder give-in like, an' yet proud an' cold.

" * I want to know,* says she, * what you
mean by fetchin' that old maid out here.'

" * I don't know 's she 's so very old,' said
I, as independent as a hog on ice. ' I don't
know but it *s a sorter comfort to go with
folks old enough to be sensible once in a

"That made *er madder 'an ever; but,
you see, I was makin' 'er talk to me, an'
that was some'n'. She stood still fer a
minute, an' then she begun lookin' toward
Mrs. Wilson's tent like she did n't have
any too much time, an' all at once I seed
her lips sorter quiverin'. I was dyin' to
grab 'er, but I remembered the talk me 'n'
you had, an' I belt in.

" * Then,' says she, * you don't mean what
you 've said to me.'

" I had the bit 'twixt my jaw-teeth, but
I almost spit it out, fer I seed water in 'er
eyes. I was afeard I 'd lose all ef I weak-
ened, so I belt in.

" * I tell you, Mary,' said I, * I 'm a mar-
ryin' man. I mean business. I 'm tired o*
livin' alone in the back end of a store,
wl^en other men are a-toastin' the'r shins
at a cheerful family fire. I 'm tired o' foolin'.
Sally may not be as good-lookin* as some
I know, but she 's good-natured, an' she
don't run round with sap-headed dudes.'

" * Beca'se she cayn't I ' said Mary, an'
then she busted out cryin' ; an', 'fore we
knowed it, me 'n' her was a-walkin' in the
woods 'long a narrow shady road an'
plannin' gittin' married right off. So you
see. Uncle Ab, that 's what 's the matter
with me. I 'm the durndest luckiest an'
happiest man on earth I "

Abner was looking straight in front of
him through an open door upon a field of

Digitized by




young corn waving in the broad sunlight.
He extended his hand to Sim, and while
it clasped that of the storekeeper he said :
" I was jest a-thinkin' about Sally. Poor
woman! It looks like no happiness kin

come to anybody without an equal amount
o' misery crappin' out in some other life.
I 'm glad things has come yore way, Sim ;
but ef I was the Lord, I 'd pervide a hus-
band o' some sort fer Sally Hawkes."






NOW rosy Love stands eager at thy gate,
Let not hag Reason guile thee to debate !
Sweet, let him in with nature's simple grace,
With laughter low, soft words, and flushing face.

When first the jonquil's petals blow apart
She takes the bee into her honeyed heart,
And hugs him there, for her brief time to reign
Goes when the brier-bush blossoms in the lane.

Thus doth she help me plead my cause with thee,
Saying, "In love's own hour he taketh me ;
Which hour," she saith, " of ecstasy is meet
To render all the davs of living sweet.

" Without this tremulous, consummating hour
Time is a plant that never comes to flower.
Time is a chalice with a rare design
Which bids thee drink, but holds for thee no wine."

Heed, then, dear heart, while summer waits ahead,
Ere autumn weep like Grief above her dead,
And the gay year in retrospect shall seem
A fevered, fruitless. Tan tal- tortured dream !

For, waiting long, if never came thy love.
Then miser Life hath given me not enough.
And all the beauty which her warm heart willed
Hath mocked me with a promise unfulfilled.

Digitized by


Digitized by


Color ilrawinj: by Jules (JuC-rin


Digitized by




Author of •• No. 5 John Street," •• The Yellow Van," etc.

|Y something like a misad-
venture, my first view of
Loches was a view of Fulk
Nerra's donjon, the oldest
and almost the only bit of
his castle now remaining.
It was such a prodigiously wicked-looking
place that it made me imhappy for the
rest of the day, or at any rate colored my
views of everything I saw. The walls were
so thick, and the great tower of ancient
masonry — dating, be it remembered, from
before Norman William's time— looked so
malevolent, that it was impossible not to
credit it with even more mischief than his-
tory lays to its charge. There it stood,
square and black against the sky, with no
sort of pretense of being other than ex-
tremely disagreeable. It was built to en-
able a Norman bandit to make good his
hold on the Loire. He had gained this in
the usual way, and was indeed the usual sort
of person for the undertaking in those days.
Nations have, or had, to get straightened
out by means of the like of him— a per-
fect devil in his mad rages, and one sparing
nobody when the fit was on him. When
the fit was off, he built an expiatory chiu-ch,
or went on pilgrimage, always to resume
his wholesale destruction of his fellow-
creatures on his return, until death laid
him by the heels. The conclusion seems
to be that, whatever may be our hurry with
schemes for the regeneration of the race,
Providence can afford to wait.

The interior of the structure was even
more depressing. For the little light that
came in you were mainly indebted to the
gaps in die roof. It was primitive to the
last degree, both as slaughter-house and as
dwelling, and it could never have been
other than absolutely non-existent as a
boudoir. An awful hole, in the lowest

depth of it, ran well-wise into the earth,
and then, by a long gallery, out to a secret
place in the open fields, whither, in times of
siege, partizans stole secretly by night, and
sent in stores for the garrison. This was
Fulk Nerra's little secret, and in some sort
his little joke. He was quite superior to
tinned provisions in an age when the con-
tents of the larder soon perished of natural
decay. So he, and many that came after
him, used to hold out in this donjon in a
way that surprised the invaders (sometimes
the invading English), who were altogether
baffled and disgusted by the fact that the
fortress, however closely invested, never
seemed in want of a dinner.

To see this tower is to understand that
the Renascence, in so far as it affected
architecture, was an inevitable change.
Mankind could not have gone on living in
such places without some catastrophe of
universal suicide. Another part of the
building, Fort St. Ours, is just as bad as
the donjon— narrow, murderous, a per-
fect cutthroat's dive. What must it have
been as a dwelling ? The contrasting Porte
des Cordeliers, a building some four hun-
dred years younger, though still old enough,
has windows through which you may put
your head, and is fairly habitable. And the
donjon, as we see it above-ground, was
reserved for the good people. Think of
the prisons below, where they lodged the
bad! If Fulk Nerra built them, Louis XI
enlarged them and always kept them full.
Surely nothing more fearful as an abode
of man has ever been invented by his fel-
low. They are worse than those topsy-
turvy cones of excavation that Verestcha-
gin saw in Samarkand ; for there, though
the captive had to be lowered down with
a rope for want of a staircase, he still had
a better sight of the sky. At Loches he

Digitized by




was cribbed in the solid stone, like a toad
in his seam of coal. As you descend be-
hind the guide with the candle, you are
positively thankful for the donjon above.
You brush the white wall at every step,
and here and there come on a slimy
dampness where the water from the wells
above has found a rent. Then you reach
a sort of first story with its range of cav-
ernous lock-ups all hollowed out of the
rock, and below this a second with the
same inversion of the mundane order as in
the fabled hells. The wall is never less
than twelve or fifteen feet thick, and it is
pierced with loopholes — not for defense, of
course, for no assault could start from this
level, but just to give the poor wretches
below the irreducible minimum of light
and air. This is calculated to a nicety:
with a fraction less, they could not have
held out for their term of torture. Who
shall explain the way of the world as one
finds it in the history of the race ? France
had to pass through all this to make it the
perfect civilization we see to-day. But, oh,
the mystery !

The father of Diana of Poitiers was shut
up in one of these cellars for a time, and
wrote most piteous letters to his daughter,
then, as ever, high in favor, imploring her
to get him out. To her credit, she took
the necessary steps, and he found the
light once more. One may imagine that
he came back to it as Browning's Laz-
arus came back to life, never quite the
same man again. His prison is simply a bit
of everlasting blackness walled in, as from
the void of chaos and old night. Others
are still but relative in this kind of horror.
There is a ray in the den of Ludovico
Sforza (" II Moro "), sometime, like Pros-
pero, " duke of Milan and a prince of pow-
er." The place where this ray falls at cer-
tain hoiu-s by a sort of ricochet, and at last
hits the wall, he marked by a scratch which
remains to this day. For all that, he man-
aged to produce frescos that likewise
abide. In another cell, the stone is worn
away where forlorn creatures scrambled up
daily through long years to clutch the bars
and glimpse the light before its coming,
or enjoy the last of it as it went. Ludo-
vico was a very great personage indeed,
a powerful intriguer, who threw himself
athwart the path of the French under Louis
XII, to check their inroads on Italy begun
by Charles VIII. Louis was beside him-

self with joy when he made the capture,
and he determined to hold his man for life.
He did so, though, to be fair, with an easier
grip toward the end of the term.

l^a Balue, the cardinal, was another
prisoner. In his cell you light a match and
you see a staple in the roof from which
they suspended him in his historic cage.
The cage is not there ; but, by accounts, it
seems to have been a thing in wrought-iron
answering to a famous definition of net-
work as "something reticulated at eqtial
distances, with interstices between the in-
tersections." The interstices could have
been nothing to speak of, or he might have
squeezed his way out. However, he was
allowed to receive visitors— of a kind.
But there: everybody knows the story.
You may still see the little opening in the
wall through which Louis XI and Tristan
used to come down, when they had nothing
better to do, to gibe at their prisoner.

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Barton) RendleThe Century → online text (page 9 of 120)