Octave Thanet.

We all online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryOctave ThanetWe all → online text (page 1 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


JJe heard the clash of the crmturv's teeth.

E 31ll













I.— Cousin Cecil '. . 9

II.— The Old " Conjure-Woman " .... 30

III. — Larry 42

IV.— The First Day 53

v.— Aunt Valley again 88

VI.— On the Trail 106

VII.— The Detective 122

VIII. — How Cecil makes Acquaintance with Judge

Lynch 138

IX. — North and South 145

X.— The Hog-hunt 162

XL— " Ha'nts ! " 192

XII.— Vance's Message 203

XIII.— The End of a Wicked Man . . . .223

XIV. — Cecil does something nice for Cobbs . . 234

XV. — Sally does a Nice Thing for Cobbs . . . 253

XVI.— Conclusion 272


He heard the clash of the creature's teeth . Fronti

'• Is you all done heerd the news ? " .

" Quit, ye fools ! " he bawled ....

Cecil lifted his gun

Finding the hoof-prints

" You can strike me if you like ; I won't hit back "'

Cis knew that Ally saw something horrible

" Got your revolver ready, Cis ? " .

The apparition at Aunt Valley's ....

Rasmus riderless and lame ; what did it mean ? ,

" You was with me ! You planned it all ! "

" I done it ! Aunt Valley an' me ! " gasped Larry






^^^LAISr and Sally Seyton came home

from school an hour earlier than
% t|^ usual, in order to go to the rail-
way station with their father, to meet
their cousin Cecil.
Keally they did not go home ; they only crossed
the green between the little white school-house and
old man Johnson's cotton-patch, and waited un-
der the great black- walnut tree until they saw the
"hack" coming with Zurufa and Polly trotting
fast, their tails and manes flying.

In Arkansas a hack is simply a spring-wagon,
80 named because of the hard usage to which such
vehicles are exposed on Arkansas roads.

Already the hack was splashed with mud. Colo-
nel Seyton sat alone on the front seat of the wag-
on ; the other seat was empty.

10 WE ALL.

Every little darkey on the plantation would grin
at the sight of Colonel Seyton's tanned, smiling
face, and bright blue eyes.

The Seytons were Scotch a hundred years ago ;
and, while the Southern sun might stain tlieir fair
skins, it could not darken their clear blue eyes, or
fade out the red dash in the brown of their curly

Colonel Dick Seyton's left sleeve was pinned to
his breast, but with the reins about his neck, and
with his strong right hand, he guided his horses

That empty sleeve came from the same battle-
field that gave him his colonel's eagle. A score
of times had the old soldiers of his father's regi-
ment told Alan the story, until he seemed to see
the red-and-white flag falling, and his father, with
his shattered arm, springing from his horse, catch-
ing the colors with his sound hand, beating down
the Yankee gunner with the staff itself, and then
sinking, but, even as he dropped, clutching the
staff so that the flag might float above his pros-
trate body.

*' And we won the fort, didn't we ? " Alan
would cry, with sparkling eyes. " One of the men
hollered, ' Don't leave the major and the flag ! ' and


then they went iijing up tlie ramparts, didn't
they ? "

Xot until long afterward could he understand
why Cobb gave a quiet sort of sigh as he an-
swered, " Oh, yes, boy, we won that time."

To-day, however, Alan's brain had other mat-
ters for digestion. He chipped away with his
broken-bladed pocket-knife at the edges of the big
sign nailed on the walnut-tree, cheerful advice to
" buy your ready-made coffins in Portia, Arkansas,
of J. G. Topper," but it was purely from the boyish
instinct to be destroying something, for his thoughts
were far away. So were Sally's. '' Do you reckon
he will look like his picture. Ally ? " said she.

" ]^o," said Ally, sorrowfully ; " do we look hke
our pictures that we sent him \ "

" We do, a little," Sally suggested, meekly ;
"sometimes people look hke their pictures."

" Well, I don't care how he looks, if h6 is nice.
I dare say he can't shoot — " Alan's thoughts had
left the unimportant subject of appearance, and
gone to the real business of life — ''I'm going to
lend him my gun and show him."

" And I'll show him how to row," said Sally.

"Say, Sally, isn't it lucky we got all those
pecans drying? 'Course, he likes pecans."

12 WE ALL.

"How do you know he does?" said Sally.
"Well, may be. Northerners don't like persim-
mons ; that's what they don't like. His room is
all ready." The children were pursuing different
lines of thought, although they converged on the
same subject. " I finished the pin-cushion yester-
day, and he's got the silk quilt" — Sally's tones
were reverential — " mamma says he's going to
have it all the time. And she's put in the dress-

" The one he sent her last Christmas from Lon-
don with all the ivory things ? "

"Yes, it's there. And the new curtains tied
with ribbon. And she took that pretty picture he
sent me, last Christmas, and hung it up on the wall
— oh, it does look awfully pretty ! And say. Ally,
she's going to have some hot coffee for us when we
get back ! "

" Good for her ! There's papa ! Whoop ! "
Colonel Seyton acknowledged the shout, and lifted
his own hat in response to Alan, who was swinging
his sealskin cap in the air.

" Hop in, youngsters ! " he called, reining in the
horses. Alan climbed in front by his father, and
Sally sat on the back seat.

" Let me drive, papa ? " asked Alan.


" I'll do better," answered Colonel Seyton with
a smile ; "you keep your eye on me and tlie way I
drive, going, and when we come back you may take
the lines. Look out for the corduroy patch after
we get to the woods, now ! "

" The boy will like to show off a bit, I dare
say," thought the father. " AYell, our young North-
erner may find that we know how to do a few things
in the swamp. A conceited young rascal, I fear,
from the letter. Favors his mother, most likely.
Poor John ! "

He mentally rehearsed the letter wdiich he had
received from his wife's cousin and his own warm
friend. " Xellie " (Kellie was Mrs. Kaimund) " is go-
ing to Europe, as usual. She will spend the win-
ter in the south of France. She wanted to take
Cecil, but I objected. To tell the truth, Dick, these
European trips are plajdng the mischief with Cis.
You know with what a gang — courier, maids, tutor,
etc. — E'ellie always travels, and the hotel people
ready to stand on their heads for her ; and every now
and then a lot of toadies from home joining the
court, so to speak. Cis is a good boy, naturally, as
any man could wish, but he is beginning to think
too much of luxury and money ; he is getting sus-
picious and cynical, the young beggar. But when

14 WE ALL.

I think of tlie doses of abject flattery lie is receiving
right and left, because he will one day inherit my
money, I don't so mnch wonder.

" Then, it is not much better when he comes
back to Chicago. There are plenty of men who
don't care a rap for my money or Nellie's big balls,
but they stay away ; but the idiots who are ready to
crawl on all-fours come, and Cis sees them.

" Don't misunderstand me. Cis is a good boy.
He has no bad habits ; he is generous, unselfish to a
certain extent, and very fond of a few people ; but
he is getting spoiled : he needs to be Americanized,
needs to see a simple, natural life, where he will
have to stand on his own feet ; and, if he gets a
few sound thrashings, it may save him from worse,
that's all ! ]^ow, Dick, I am going to ask a great
favor of you ; I believe the very best thing in the
world for Cecil would be to spend the winter on
your plantation. It is a great deal to ask, but, if
Cousin Emily is the girl I used to know, she wdll be
willing to help my boy."

There was more about his own plans, but this
was the portion of the letter that had been etched,
as it were, on the colonel's mind, and made him ex-
claim again, " Poor John ! "

Then he was conscious that Ally was talking.


"Did you save Cousin John Eaimund's life,
papa ? " said Ally. " Cobb said you did."

" Well, hardly," said the colonel.
" Cobb said you two were left on the battle-
field together, just you tw^o alive, and you gave him
some of your whisky, and he was a Yankee, and
then you took him on your back and crawled off
with him to a house. Did you take him on your
back and crawl ? "

"Well, I couldn't walk right straight mth a
bullet in my leg, you know."

" And you did tote him ? "

" I reckon he couldn't make out to crawl him-
self, just then."

" And Cobb says you stayed there v/ith him till
you both got well. After you got to Cobb's, did
you find out he was your cousin ? "

"He wasnH papa's cousin then," Sally inter-
rupted from the back seat ; " he was mamma's
cousin, and mamma didn't know papa until after
the war."

" Oh ! " said Ally, the astounding vision of days
when mamma w^as nothing to papa quite taking his
power of criticism away.

He sat silent for at least half an hour. Sally
said as little, because she was absorbed in a half-

16 WE ALL.

eager, half-timid reverie of pleasure. The far-away
Northern cousin, whose beautiful presents came to
them every Christmas, and whose rare letters were
all about wonderful foreign things, had grown into
an ideal fairy prince in untraveled little Sally's
mind. It seemed too beautiful to be true that he
should really be coming to stay all winter wdth

Alan was pleased, but he always took things
more calmly than his twin sister, who sat with danc-
ing eyes and beating heart while the big cypress
and gum trees drifted past.

"There they are!" exclaimed Colonel Seyton,

The children craned their necks ; they could see
the little railway-station house and the tavern beside
it, and a train of cars just puffing and rumbling
out of sight. A single car w^as side-tracked on
the nearer side. From this car descended a gen-
tleman and a boy, both of whom looked up the

The two on the platform were looking with
equal interest at the wagon.

" Yes," said the man — and there was emotion in
his face, — " that is Seyton ; those must be his chil-


" Those common-looking people ! " exclaimed
the boy, with visible disappointment.

He repented his speech instantly, for a little
streak of red climbed into his father's cheek, and
there came a quick contraction of his brows; but
all Mr. Kairnund said was, ''I am hoping you will
not feel like talking that way by the time you come
home, Cis," which was uttered in a very quiet voice.

Yet Cecil felt a lump in his throat ; not even
John Eaimund himself knew how the boy loved his
father. At this very moment a bitter foreboding
of loneliness was tugging at his heart-strings. He
stared dismally around him ; at the little tavern, the
muddy roads winding back into the desolate woods,
the skeletons of trees, and the inky pools of water
shining through the tree-trunks. There was a mist
before his eyes which all his winking could not
clear away. In spite of multitudinous resolutions
of courage and self-control, he broke do^vn. " O
dad," he pleaded — he had called his father so from
his babyhood, to his mother's intense disgust — " O
dad, let me stay with you ! I won't be a bit of
trouble, and I'll stay in the car whenever you want
to go out with gentlemen — "

His father's hand on his shoulder, although it
was the gentlest touch, stopped the flood of words.

18 WE ALL.

" My dear son," said John Raimund, " my dear
boy — " and then he stopped, too, quite abruptly ; it
was ahnost as if — could such a thing be possible —
he, a grown man, wanted to cry.

In a minute he began again. " Cis, you may
not understand it, but it is a very hard thing for me
not to take you with me — harder for me, I dare say,
than for you. After you come back from this visit
I am going to explain to you as well as I can why
I thought it best to do this hard thing for both of
us. In the mean while I can trust you to make it
easier for me by being patient ? "

Cecil winked twice, and his sensitive face was
screwed up into a queer little frown of resolution,
but presently he forced a smile.

" Yes, dad, you can," said he, firmly.

" Thank you. You're a gentleman, Cis." His
father said it very low, because the wagon-wheels
were grating against the platform ; nevertheless,
the words tingled through Cecil's heart, giving him
a warm, happy feeling, which would come for
weeks after whenever he recalled them.

" This is my son Cecil," he heard his father's
voice say in louder tones. He took off his cap and
bowed — first, to the one-armed man ; next, to the
slim little dark-eyed girl. Then he held out his


hand to the boy, all the while acutely conscious that
his father was wringing the one-armed man's hand
with an extraordinary cordiality.
• " You're Alan, I suppose," said Cecil, politely.
" I'm glad to meet you."

" Yes, I'm Alan," said the boy, grinning in the
rudest way, Cis thought ; " that's Sally. Do you re-
member this cap ? " He touched the sealskin cap
on his head, and looked vaguely disappointed at Ce-
cil's look of bewilderment. " You sent it to me last
Christmas, you know."

" Oh, yes," said Cecil. He remembered buying
it with his father one happy, happy afternoon in
the London shops ; with the Tower in the morning
for another recollection ; best of all, dad quite to
himseK the whole day. He felt his throat aching

Trying to force his composure back, he exam-
ined his new cousins, who were quite as busy with
his appearance.

Cecil saw a girl of fourteen in a perfectly neat
and comfortable brown frock, with a trim httle
brown jacket and a pretty brown hat ; but this pre-
mature man of fashion stamped the whole costmne
as " awfully country " in an instant. He was more
favorably impressed with her appearance. Her silky

20 WE ALL.

black hair hung in two thick braids down her back.
Her face had the charming oval shape which is
common in Arkansas, and she had the dark, velvety
Arkansas eyes, with their curling long lashes and
beautiful brows. Cecil admired the delicate pallor
of her skin, her scarlet lips and flashing teeth,
though he considered her mouth too large. Cis, at
fifteen, was fastidious and esteemed himself a judge
of ladies' charms.

The boy was dismissed with the slightest glance
in the world : a stolid, square-figured, freckle-faced,
red-haired youngster, whose wide blue eyes stared
persistently at every motion of the stranger's, and
who chewed gum cheerfully while he stared.

On their side, Ally and Sally saw a handsome,
gray-haired gentleman, whose air of distinction was
marked enough to impress even a child, and a lad
who resembled his father in the light, erect figure
and clear gray eyes, but who had other lines in his
pale face.

Sally, being a woman-child, had noted at once
the little elegant details of both travelers' toilets —
from the slender umbrella in its silk case and the
alHgator-skin traveling-bag, which lay on the plat-
form, to Cecil's immaculately brushed knicker-
bockers and shining shoes. Alan, however, only


til ought what an awful shame it was to keep such
a big boy " in stockings and short pants ! " and be-
gan to revolve a scheme for rigging Cis out in some
of the store trousers. "They're long, anyhow,"
said Alan to himself.

By this time the elders had finished their private
conference, and Mr. Eaimund was asking them all
to look at his car before they went away.

A private car would hardly impress a 'New York
or Chicago boy, but to our simple plantation young-
sters, who had been awe-sl^uck by the splendors of
an ordinary Pullman, during their few journeys,
this gorgeous room was a palace on wheels, hke
nothing outside the fairy-books.

The blue plush curtains, shot through with gold
threads, the dainty china glittering in the sideboard,
the carved wood, the resplendent lamps, and, per-
haps, quite as much as anything, the marvelous little
kitchen, where the white-capped cook was busy
among his beautiful copper pots, threw their child-
ish souls into a kind of daze of admiration.

" You will have a glass of wine with me, old
man ? " said Mr. Eaimund.

And it was just like the Arabian Kiglits, Sally
and Alan thought, where you rub a ring and lo, a
genius at your elbow with your wish ! — instantly a

22 WE ALL.

black man, in smart uniform of blue and gold,
appeared bearing a salver, sparkling with glasses
and ice. Tlie children's enraptured eyes could rec-
ognize a bottle, the neck of which had a shimmer of
gold, and a glass jug, and a plate of cake, beautiful
to behold.

" Cis thought his cousins might like a glass of
lemonade and some cake," said Mr. Eaimund, smil-
ing very kindly on the pair.

" I suppose, now," he added to Colonel Seyton,
touching Alan on the shoulder, "that you have
trained him to ride, shoot, and tell the truth, like
the ancient Persians."

" As we say in Arkansas, nearly 'bout," answered
Colonel Seyton, laughing ; " you might add driving.
He is going to drive us back."

Mr. Eaimund glanced out of the window at the
horses' mud-coated legs.

" I trust you are to sit on the driver's seat," said
he. Colonel Seyton assured him of Alan's pru-
dence. Then the talk drifted off to other topics.
There was something which keen-eared Sally caught
about a new mill. Mr. Eaimund had heard that
her father wanted to build a new gin. He seemed to
be offering to lend him money. " Why not, Dick ? "
he said, quite eagerly ; " it's just an investment."


" Well, sir," laiiglied tlie colonel, " to tell you the
truth, I've just lifted the last of my debts, and I
want to have the luxury of being a free man for a

Then their voices sank, and Sally was burdened
in her conscience with a sudden sense of responsi-
bility to this new cousin at whom Ally sat staring
as happily and miconcernedly as if he had been a
circus-show — of wliich, indeed, it appeared the
whole establishment reminded Master Ally.

" Say," said he, at the first pause, addressing
Cecil, " did you ever go to Barnum's ? "

" Barnum's ? Barnum's circus ? " said Cecil.
" I'm not sure ; I think I did one year, in Chicago.
I like the theatre better, don't you ? "

" I never went to a theatre," said Ally, " but
mamma has told me about them. It's just folks
talking and pretending — no horses or animals or
even somersets — I don't reckon I'd like it. But
Barnum's splendid! This car looks like his."

" Only its nicer," said polite Sally.

" Oh, thank you very much," said Cecil, with
rather a queer accent ; " won't you let me show it to

He did the honors most courteously, Sally
tried to be enthusiastic, but there was a cold dash to

2i WE ALL.

lier sentiment. Did Cecil live always in sucli
luxury ? She thought of her own home, the stately
old mansion of the Seytons, which the last Seytons
had been far too poor to keep in its original pomp.
How would it seem to him ?

" And you go everywhere with your father in
this car ? " she said, timidly, still with the burden
of politeness on her mind.

"It's his car," said Cecil, carelessly; "all rail-
road men have cars. Oh, yes ; w^e have friends,
too, sometimes. Sometimes mamma comes with
her friends. Then it's an awful nuisance — the
maids and all, you know. There are a couple of
gentlemen with papa, now, but they went on down
to Little Rock." He stopped short and grew a
little paler.

" Oh, there's another train coming ! " shouted
Alan, who was near a window.

" It is to take our car," said Cecil, quietly ; then
he smiled bravely up at his father's look.

In a moment the parting was over. The black
man had bundled Cecil's luggage into the wagon.
Hurriedly Cecil had kissed his father; hurriedly
the two friends had shaken hands. There was the
glimpse of a head out of a window, a waving of
hands, the last look in his father's eyes — ah! it


was all gone ; only the horses splashing reckless-
ly through the mud and the forest, and these
strange uncouth people, and the lump tight in his
throat !

But no matter how miserable a boy may be, he
must care for his hfe ; and very soon it seemed to
Cecil that they were in imminent peril.

All trace of a road had disappeared. Before
them, to the right and the left, was nothing but
water under the trees. Yet Alan drove confidently
along, and, from the continuous jolting and bump-
ing, Cecil argued that there must be ground of
some kind beneath. Sally, who had di\dned his
feelings, and pitied him as much as she dared pity
such a superior sort of young being, rephed to the
consternation in his face.

" It's lucky there's only soft mud to-day ! " she
said, " and there's a right good, hard corduroy un-
derneath. It's when we get past, on to the bad road
where the holes are, that's it bad.' '

" Oh, there's worse, then ? " said Cecil, gloomily.

" I reckon there is," answered Alan with enthu-
siasm. " It's nothing driving here ; but just you
wait till we get past Aunt Yalley Lemew's old
place ! It's hke falling off a table, the holes are
so big."

26 WE ALL.

" And we have a ford, too — a big ford," added
Sallj, proudly.

" Is this your only road to the railroad ? " Cecil
asked, after a pause of dismay.

"Well, practically, yes," said Colonel Seyton ;
" but the road is good enough three fourths of the

Cecil tried to divert himself by studying the
scenery. The swamp stretched all about him.
Trees of strange and grotesque growth, such as he
had never seen, rattled their huge branches above
the morass. Soft, green moss, was thick on some
of them. On the surface of the water a pale-green
brier interlaced and bristled. He saw a small tree
to the right, that was spattered with berries, red
like blood. Great shrubs, bare of stalk, but sur-
mounted by black plumes, stood among the giant
trees. On either side the road made a watery path
through the forest.

Colonel Seyton pointed out the cypress trees
and knees. " And that tree with warts on it
and the limbs growing so low down ? " said

" A good description," said the colonel. " That
is a hackberry-tree. There is a tupelo-gum; see
the swell-butt, like the cypress, but no knees. They


used to make bowls and platters out of tupelo-gum.
Well, here is tlie ford."

Cecil, in liis own mind, called it a river.

Alan twisted in Lis seat to smile and reassure
the guest.

"Looks big, but it's got a good bottom," said
he; "better h'ist your feet up, sis. — Say, Cousin
Cecil, won't you have a chew of gum? I got a
fresh piece."

This was a very long speech for Alan to make
to a stranger. His father and sister appreciated the
courteous motive; but Cecil only noticed how he
held the horses with his left hand while his ri^lit
tugged at his pocket. Being like most boys' pock-
ets, it was inconveniently full.

" He will certainly spill us," thought Cecil, yet
he could not but admire the nerve of the young
savage, as he called poor Ally.

" 'No, thank you," said he hastily, much relieved
when Ally turned again.

" The water did not quite get into the wagon,
neither did the horses quite have to swim ; but
that is the best you can say about tlie ford." So
Cecil described their passage in a letter to his

He was glad when they were on the corduroy

28 WE ALL.

again, but lie did not wince ; he was not going to
let these barbarous children laugh at him.

"Do you have much shooting here, Colonel
Seyton ? " he asked, with his httle man-of-the-world

""Well, a bit," answered the colonel, his eye
twinkling ; " wild turkeys, deer, now and then a
wild-hog hunt. Ally can tell you of some good
sport, I reckon."

" I'll teach you to shoot," Ally rapped out
eagerly ; " you can have my gun."

" Thank you," answered Cecil, " I have brought
my gun."

" And I expect you shoot, too," said Sally.

" I have been shooting for five years," said Cecil
with great dignity.

Ally, who should properly have been discon-
certed, burst into a laugh.

" Oh, what a joke ! " said he. " Sis and I put it
up you couldn't shoot or ride or anything, and she
was going to teach you to row and lend you her

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryOctave ThanetWe all → online text (page 1 of 13)