xt7vdn3zsz7v https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7vdn3zsz7v/data/mets.xml Buck, Charles Neville, b. 1879. 1913  books b92-130-29191610 English Grosset & Dunlap, : New York : Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Call of the Cumberlands  / by Charles Neville Buck. text Call of the Cumberlands  / by Charles Neville Buck. 1913 2002 true xt7vdn3zsz7v section xt7vdn3zsz7v 

"I couldn't live withouten ye, Samson. I jest couldn't do it."




        AUTHOR OP






    Published AMarch

      Olther novels by
   Charles Neville Buck



The Call of the Cumberlands

                   CHAPTER I

CLOSE to the serried backbone of the Cumberland
      ridge through a sky of mountain clarity, the
      sun seemed hesitating before its descent to the
horizon. The sugar-loaf cone that towered above a
creek called Misery was pointed and edged with emer-
ald tracery where the loftiest timber thrust up its crest
plumes into the sun. On the hillsides it would be light
for more than an hour yet, but below, where the waters
tossed themselves along in a chorus of tiny cascades, the
light was already thickening into a cathedral gloom.
Down there the "furriner" would have seen only the
rough course of the creek between moss-velveted and
shaded bowlders of titanic proportions. The native
would have recognized the country road in these tortu-
ous twistings. Now there were no travelers, foreign
or native, and no sounds from living throats except
at intervals the clear "Bob White" of a nesting par-
tridge, and the silver confidence of the red cardinal
flitting among the pines. Occasionally, too, a stray
whisper of breeze stole along the creek-bed and rustled
the beeches, or stirred in the broad, fanlike leaves of
the "cucumber trees." A great block of sandstone,



to whose summit a man standing in his saddle could
scarcely reach his fingertips, towered above the stream,
with a gnarled scrub oak clinging tenaciously to its
apex. Loftily on both sides climbed the mountains
cloaked in laurel and timber.
  Suddenly the leafage was thrust aside from above by a
cautious hand, and a shy, half-wild girl appeared in the
opening. For an instant she halted, with her brown
fingers holding back the brushwood, and raised her face
as though listening. Across the slope drifted the call
of the partridge, and with perfect imitation she whis-
tled back an answer. It would have seemed appropriate
to anyone who had seen her that she should talk bird
language to the birds. She was herself as much a wood
creature as they, and very young. That she was
beautiful was not strange. The women of the moun-
tains have a morning-glory bloom-until hardship and
drudgery have taken toll of their youth-and she could
not have been more than sixteen.
  It was June, and the hills, which would be bleakly
forbidding barriers in winter, were now as blithely
young as though they had never known the scourging
of sleet or the blight of wind. The world was abloom,
and the girl, too, was in her early June, and sentiently
alive with the strength of its full pulse-tide. She was
slim and lithely resilient of step. Her listening atti-
tude was as eloquent of pausing elasticity as that of
the gray squirrel. Her breathing was soft, though she
had come down a steep mountainside, and as fragrant
as the breath of the elder bushes that dashed the banks
with white sprays of blossom. She brought with her
to the greens and grays and browns of the woodland's



heart a new note of color, for her calico dress was like
the red cornucopias of the trumpet-flower, and her
eyes were blue like little scraps of sky. Her heavy,
brown-red hair fell down over her shoulders in loose
profusion. The coarse dress was freshly briar-torn,
and in many places patched; and it hung to the lithe
curves of her body in a fashion which told that she wore
little else. She had no hat, but the same spirit of child-
like whimsey that caused her eyes to dance as she
answered the partridge's call had led her to fashion for
her own crowning a headgear of laurel leaves and wild
roses. As she stood with the toes of one bare foot
twisting in the gratefully cool moss, she laughed with
the sheer exhilaration of life and youth, and started out
on the table top of the huge rock. But there she
halted suddenly with a startled exclamation, and drew
instinctively back. What she saw might well have
astonished her, for it was a thing she had never seen
before and of which she had never heard. Now she
paused in indecision between going forward toward
exploration and retreating from new and unexplained
phenomena. In her quick instinctive movements was
something like the irresolution of the fawn whose nos-
trils have dilated to a sense of possible danger. Finally,
reassured by the silence, she slipped across the broad
face of the flat rock for a distance of twenty-five feet,
and paused again to listen.
  At the far edge lay a pair of saddlebags, such as
form the only practical equipment for mountain
travelers. They were ordinary saddlebags, made from
the undressed hide of a brindle cow, and they were
fat with tight packing. A pair of saddlebags lying




unclaimed at the roadside would in themselves challenge
curiosity.  But in this instance they gave only the
prefatory note to a stranger story. Near them lay a
tin box, littered with small and unfamiliar-looking tubes
of soft metal, all grotesquely twisted and stained, and
beside the box was a strangely shaped plaque of wood,
smeared with a dozen hues. That this plaque was a
painter's sketching palette was a thing which she could
not know, since the ways of artists had to do with a
world as remote from her own as the life of the moon
or stars. It was one of those vague mysteries that made
up the wonderful life of "down below." Even the
names of such towns as Louisville and Lexington meant
nothing definite to this girl who could barely spell out,
"The cat caught the rat," in the primer. Yet here
beside the box and palette stood a strange jointed tri-
pod, and upon it was some sort of sheet. What it all
meant, and what was on the other side of the sheet
became a matter of keenly alluring interest. Why had
these things been left here in such confusion If there
was a man about who owned them he would doubtless
return to claim them. Possibly he was wandering about
the broken bed of the creek, searching for a spring,
and that would not take long. No one drank creek
water. At any moment he might return and discover
her. Such a contingency held untold terrors for her
shyness, and yet to turn her back on so interesting
a mystery would be insupportable. Accordingly, she
crept over, eyes and ears alert, and slipped around to
the front of the queer tripod, with all her muscles
poised in readiness for flight.
  A half-rapturous and utterly astonished cry broke



from her lips. She star-d a moment, then dropped to
the moss-covered rock, leaning back on her brown hands
and gazing intently. She sat there forgetful of every-
thing except the sketch which stood on the collapsible
  "Hit's purty !" she approved, in a low, musical mur-
mur. "Hit's plumb dead beautiful!" Her eyes were
glowing with delighted approval.
  She had never before seen a picture more worthy
than the chromos of advertising calendars and the few
crude prints that find their way into the roughzst places,
and she was a passionate, though totally unconscious,
devot6e of beauty. Now she was sitting before a sketch,
its paint still moist, which more severe critics would
have pronounced worthy of accolade. Of course, it was
not a finished picture merely a study of what lay
before her-but the hand that had placed these brush-
strokes on the academy board was the sure, deft hand
of a master of landscape, who had caught the splendid
spirit of the thing, and fixed it immutably in true and
glowing appreciation. Who he was; where he had gone;
why his work stood there unfinished and abandoned,
were details which for the moment this half-savage
child-woman forgot to question. She was conscious
only of a sense of revelation and awe. Then she saw
other boards, like the one upon the easel, piled near
the paint-box. These were dry, and represented the
work of other days; but they were all pictures of her
own mountains, and in each of them, as in this one,
was something that made her heart leap.
  To her own people, these steep hillsides and "coves"
and valleys were a matter of course. In their stony




soil, they labored by day: and in their shadows slept
when work was done. Yet, someone had discovered that
they held a picturesque and rugged beauty; that they
were not merely steep fields where the plough was use-
less and the hoe must be used. She must tell Samson:
Samson, whom she held in an artless exaltation of hero-
worship; Samson, who was so "smart" that he thought
about things beyond her understanding; Samson, who
could not only read and write, but speculate on prob-
lematical matters.
  Suddenly she came to her feet with a swift-darting
impulse of alarm. Her ear had caught a sound. She
cast searching glances about her, but the tangle was
empty of humanity. The water still murmured over the
rocks undisturbed. There was no sign of human pres-
ence, other than herself, that her eyes could discover-
and yet to her ears came the sound again, and this time
more distinctly. It was the sound of a man's voice, and
it was moaning as if in pain. She rose and searched
vainly through the bushes of the hillside where the rock
ran out from the woods. She lifted her skirts and
splashed her bare feet in the shallow creek water, wading
persistently up and down. Her shyness was forgotten.
The groan was a groan of a human creature in distress,
and she must find and succor the person from whom it
  Certain sounds are baffling as to direction. A voice
xrom overhead or broken by echoing obstacles does not
readily betray its source. Finally she stood up and
listened once more intently-her attitude full of tense
  "I'm shore a fool," she announced, half-aloud. "I'm


     THE CALL OF THE CUMBERLANDS                v

shore a plumb fool." Then she turned and disappeared
in the deep cleft between the gigantic bowider upon
which she had been sitting and another-small only
by comparison. There, ten feet down, in a narrow alley
littered with ragged stones, lay the crumpled body of
a man. It lay with the left arm doubled under it, and
from a gash in the forehead trickled a thin stream of
blood. Also, it was the body of such a man as she had
not seen before.



A     LTHOUGH from the man in the gulch came a low
       groan mingled with his breathing, it was not
       such a sound as comes from fully conscious lips,
but rather that of a brain dulled into coma. His lids
drooped over his eyes, hiding the pupils; and his cheeks
were pallid, with outstanding veins above the temples.
  Freed from her fettering excess of shyness by his
condition, the girl stepped surely from foothold to foob-
hold until she reached his side. She stood for a moment
with one hand on the dripping walls of rock, looking
down while her hair fell about her face. Then, drop-
ping, to her knees, she shifted the doubled body into a
leaning posture, straightened the limbs, and began
exploring with efficient fingers for broken bones.
  She was a slight girl, and not tall; but the curves
of her young figure were slimly rounded, and her firm
muscles were capably strong. This man was, in com-
parison with those rugged types she knew, effeminately
delicate. His slim, long-fingered hands reminded her of
a bird's claws. The up-rolled sleeves of a blue flannel
shirt disclosed forearms well-enough sinewed, but in-
stead of being browned to the hue of a saddle-skirt, they
were white underneath and pinkly red above. More-
over, they were scaling in the fashion of a skin not
inured to weather beating.   Though the man had
thought on setting out from civilization that he was



suiting his appearance to the environment, the impres-
sion he made on this native girl was distinctly foreign.
The flannel shirt might have passed, though hardly
without question, as native wear, but the khaki riding-
breeches and tan puttees were utterly out of the picture,
and at the neck of his shirt was a soft-blue tie!-had
he not been hurt, the girl must have laughed at that.
  A felt hat lay in a puddle of water, and, except for
a blond mustache, the face was clean shaven and smooth
of skin. Long locks of brown hair fell away from
the forehead. The helplessness and pallor gave an
exaggerated seeming of frailty.
  Despite an ingrained contempt for weaklings, the
girl felt, as she raised the head and propped the
shoulders, an intuitive friendliness for the mysterious
  She had found the left arm limp above the wrist, and
her fingers had diagnosed a broken bone. But uncon-
sciousness must have come from the blow on the head,
where a bruise was already blackening, and a gash still
trickled blood.
  She lifted her skirt, and tore a long strip of cotton
from her single petticoat. Then she picked her bare-
footed way swiftly to the creek-bed, where she drenched
the cloth for bathing and bandaging the wound. It
required several trips through the littered cleft, for the
puddles between the rocks were stale and brackish; but
these journeys she made with easy and untrammeled
swiftness. When she had done what she could by way
of first aid, she stood looking down at the man, and
shook her head dubiously.




  "Now ef I jest had a little licker," 3he mused. "Thet
air what he needs-a little licker!"
  A sudden inspiration turned her eyes to the crest of
the rock. She did not go round by the path, but pulled
herself up the sheer face by hanging roots and slippery
projections, as easily as a young squirrel. On the
flat surface, she began unstrapping the saddlebags,
and, after a few moments of rummaging among their
contents, she smiled with satisfaction.  Her hand
E_ ought out a leather-covered flask with a silver bottom.
She held the thing up curiously, and looked at it. For
a little time, the screw top puzzled her. So, she sat
down cross-legged, and experimented until she had
solved its method of opening.
  Then, she slid over the side again, and at the bottom
held the flask up to the light. Through the side slits
in the alligator-skin covering, she saw the deep color
of the contents; and, as she lifted the nozzle, she sniffed
contemptuously. Then. she took a sample draught her-
self-to make certain that it was whiskey.
  She brushed her lips scornfully with the back of her
  "Huh!" she exclaimed. "Hit hain't nothin' but red
licker, but maybe hit mout be better'n nuthin'." She
was accustomed to seeing whiskey freely drunk, but the
whiskey she knew was colorless as water, and sweetish
to the palate.
  She knew the "mountain dew" which paid no reve-
nue tax, and which, as her people were fond of saying,
"mout make a man drunk, but couldn't git him wrong."
After tasting the "fotched-on" substitute, she gravwly,
in accordance with the fixed etiquette of the hills, wiped



the mouth of the bottle on the palm of her hand, then,
kneeling once more on the stones, she lifted the stran-
ger's head in her supporting arm, and pressed the
flask to his lips. After that, she chafed the wrist
which was not hurt, and once more administered
the tonic.  Finally, the man's lids fluttered, and
his lips moved. Then, he opened his eyes. He opened
them waveringly, and seemed on the point of closing
them again, when he became conscious of a curved
cheek, suddenly coloring to a deep flush, a few inches
from his own. He saw in the same glance a pair of
wide blue eyes, a cloud of brown-red hair that fell down
and brushed his face, and he felt a slender young arm
about his neck and shoulders.
  "Hello !" said the stranger, vaguely. "I seem to
have    "  He broke off, and his lips smiled. It was
a friendly, understanding smile, and the girl, fighting
hard the shy impulse to drop his shoulders, and flee into
the kind masking of the bushes, was in a measui e
  "You must hev fell offen the rock," she enlightened.
  "I think I might have fallen into worse circum-
stances," replied the unknown.
  "I reckon you kin set up after a little."
  "Yes, of course." The man suddenly realized that
although he was quite comfortable as he was, he could
scarcely expect to remain permanently in the support
of her bent arm. He attempted to prop himself on his
hurt hand, and relaxed with a twinge of extreme pain.
The color, which had begun to creep back into his
cheeks, left them again, and his lips compressed them-
selves tightly to bite off an exclamation of suffering.



  "Thet thar left arm air busted," announced the young
woman, quietly. "Ye've go' ter be heedful."
  Had one of her own men hurt himself, and behaved
stoically, it would have been mere matter of course; but
her eyes mirrored a pleased surprise at the stranger's
good-natured nod and his quiet refusal to give expres-
sion to pain.  It relieved her of the necessity for
  "I'm afraid," apologized the painter, "that I've been
a great deal of trouble to you."
  Her lips and eyes wexe sober as she replied.
  "I reckon thet's all right."
  "And what's worse, I've got to be more trouble. Did
you see anything of a brown mule"
  She shook her head.
  "He must have wandered off. May I ask to whom
I'm indebted for this first aid to the injured "
  "I don't know what ye means."
  She had propped him against the rocks, and sat
near-by, looking into his face with almost disconcerting
steadiness; her solemn-pupiled eyes were unblinking,
unsmiling. Unaccustomed to the gravity of the moun-
taineer in the presence of strangers, he feared that he
had offended her. Perhaps his form of speech struck
her as affected.
  "Why, I mean who are you" he laughed.
  "I hain't nobody much. I jest lives over yon."
  "But," insissed the man, "surely you have a name."
  She nodded.
  "Hit's Sally."
  "Then, Miss Sally, I want to thank you."
  Once more she nodded, and, for the first time, let



her eyes drop, while she sat nursing her knees. Finally,
she glanced up, and asked with plucked-up courage:
  "Stranger, what mout yore name be"
  "Lescott-George Lescott."
  "How'd ye git hurt"
  He shook his head.
  "I was painting-up there," he said; "and I guess
I got too absorbed in the work. I stepped backward
to look at the canvas, and forgot where the edge was.
I stepped too far."
  "Hit don't hardly pay a man ter walk backward in
these hyar mountings," she told him. The painter
looked covertly up to see if at last he had discovered
a flash of humor. He had the idea that her lips would
shape themselves rather fascinatingly in a smile, but
her pupils mirrored no mirth. She had spoken in
perfect seriousness.
  The man rose to his feet, but he tottered and reeled
against the wall of ragged stone. The blow on his head
had left him faint and dizzy. He sat down again.
  "I'm afraid," he ruefully admitted, "that I'm not
quite ready for discharge from your hospital."
  "You jest set where yer at." The girl rose, and
pointed up the mountainside. "I'll light out across the
hill, and fotch Samson an' his mule."
  "Who and where is Samson " he inquired. He
realized that the bottom of the valley would shortly
thicken into darkness, and that the way out, unguided,
would become impossible. "It sounds like the name of a
strong man."
  "I means Samson South," she enlightened, as though



further description of one so celebrated would be re-
dundant. "He's over thar 'bout three quarters."
  "Three quarters of a mile"
  She nodded. What else could three quarters mean
  "How long will it take you" he asked.
  She deliberated. "Samson's hoein' corn in the fur-
hill field. He'll hev ter cotch his mule. Hit mout tek
a half-hour."
  Lescott had been riding the tortuous labyrinths that
twisted through creek bottoms and over ridges for sev-
eral days. In places twt miles an hour had been his
rate of speed, though mounted and following so-called
roads. She must climb a mountain through the woods.
He thought it "mout" take longer, and his scepticism
found utterance.
  "You can't do it in a half-hour, can you"
  "I'll jest take my foot in my hand, an' light out."
She turned, and with a nod was gone. The man rose,
and made his way carefully over to a mossy bank, where
he sat down with his back against a century-old tree
to wait.
  The beauty of this forest interior had first lured him
to pause, and then to begin painting. The place had
not treated him kindly, as the pain in his wrist reminded
him, but the beauty was undeniable. A clump of rho-
dodendron, a little higher up, dashed its pale clusters
against a background of evergreen thicket, and a
catalpa tree loaned the perfume of its white blossoms
with their wild little splashes of crimson and purple
and orange to the incense which the elder bushes were
  Climbing fleetly up through steep and tangled slopes,



and running as fleetly down; crossing a brawling little
stream on a slender trunk of fallen poplar; the girl
hastened on her mission. Her lungs drank the clear
air in regular tireless draughts. Once only, she stopped
and drew back. There was a sinister rustle in the grass,
and something glided into her path and lay coiled
there, challenging her with an ominous rattle, and with
wicked, beady eyes glittering out of a swaying, arrow-
shaped head. Her own eyes instinctively hardened, and
she glanced quickly about for a heavy piece of loose
timber. But that was only for an instant, then she
took a circuitous course, and left her enemy in undis-
puted possession of the path.
  "I hain't got no time ter fool with ye now, old rattle-
snake," she called back, as she went. "Ef I wasn't in
sech a hurry, I'd shore bust yer neck."
  At last, she came to a point where a clearing rose on
the mountainside above her. The forest blanket was
stripped off to make way for a fenced-in and crazily
tilting field of young corn. High up and beyond,
close to the bald shoulders of sandstone which threw
themselves against the sky, was the figure of a man. As
the girl halted at the foot of the field, at last panting
from her exertions, he was sitting on the rail fence,
looking absently down on the outstretched panorama
below him. It is doubtful whether his dreaming eyes
were as conscious of what he saw as of other things
which his imagination saw beyond the haze of the last
far rim. Against the fence rested his abandoned hoe,
and about him a number of lean hounds scratched and
dozed in the sun. Samson South had little need of
hounds; but, in another century, his people, turning



their backs on Virginia affluence to invite the hardships
of pioneer life, had brought with them certain of the
cavaliers' instincts. A hundred years in the stagnant
back-waters of the world had brought to their descend-
ants a lapse into illiteracy and semi-squalor, but
through it all had fought that thin, insistent flame of
instinct. Such a survival was the boy's clinging to his
hounds. Once, they had symbolized the spirit of the
nobility; the gentleman's fondness for his sport with
horse and dog and gun. Samson South did not know
the origin of his fondness for this remnant of a pack.
He did not know that in the long ago his forefathers
fad fought on red fields with Bruce and the Stuarts.
he only knew that through his crudities something
indefinable, yet compelling, was at war with his life,
filling him with great and shapeless longings. He at
once loved and resented these ramparts of stone that
hemmed in his hermit race and world.
  He was not, strictly speaking, a man. His age was
perhaps twenty. He sat loose-jointed and indolent on
the top rail of the fence, his hands hanging over his
knees: his hoe forgotten. His feet were bare, and his
jeans breeches were supported by a single suspender
strap. Pushed well to the back of his head was a bat-
tered straw hat, of the sort rurally known as the "ten-
cent jimmy." Under its broken brim, a long lock
of black ha'r fell across his forehead. So much of his
appearance was typical of the Kentucky mountaineer.
His face was strongly individual, and belonged to no
type. Black brows and lashes gave a distinctiveness to
gray eyes so clear as to be luminous. A high and
splendidly molded forehead and a squarely blocked



chin were free of that degeneracy which marks the
wasting of an in-bred people. The nose was straight,
and the mouth firm yet mobile. It was the face of the
instinctive philosopher, tanned to a hickory brown. In
a stature of medium size, there was still a hint of power
and catamount alertness. If his attitude was at the
moment indolent, it was such indolence as drowses be-
tween bursts of white-hot activity; a fighting man's
aversion to manual labor which, like the hounds, harked
back to other generations. Near-by, propped against
the rails, rested a repeating rifle, though the people
would have told you that the truce in the "South-
HolIman war" had been unbroken for two years, and
that no clansman need in these halcyon days go armed



SALLY clambered lightly over the fence, and started
     on the last stage of her journey, the climb across
     the young corn rows. It was a field stood on end,
and the hoed ground was uneven; but with no seeming
of weariness her red dress flashed steadfastly across the
green spears, and her voice was raised to shout: "Hello,
Samson !"
  The young man looked up and waved a languid
greeting. He did not remove his hat or descend from
his place of rest, and Sally, who expected no such atten-
tion, came smilingly on. Samson was her hero. It
seemed quite appropriate that one should have to climb
steep acclivities to reach him. Her enamored eyes saw
in the top rail of the fence a throne, which she was
content to address from the ground level. That he was
fond of her and meant some day to marry her she
knew, and counted herself the most favored of women.
The young men of the neighboring coves, too, knew
it, and respected his proprietary rights. If he treated
her with indulgent tolerance instead of chivalry, he was
merely adopting the accepted attitude of the mountain
man for the mountain woman, not unlike that of the
red warrior for his squaw. Besides, Sally was still
almost a child, and Samson, with his twenty years,
looked down from a rank of seniority. He was the
legitimate head of the Souths, and some day, when



the present truce ended, would be their war-leader with
certain blood debts to pay. Since his father had been
killed by a rifle shot from ambush, he had never been
permitted to forget that, and, had he been left alone,
he would still have needed no other mentor than the
rankle in his heart.
  But, if Samson sternly smothered the glint of tender-
ness which, at sight of her, rose to his eyes, and recog-
nized her greeting only in casual fashion, it was because
such was the requirement of his stoic code. And to the
girl who had been so slow of utterance and diffident
with the stranger, words now came fast and fluently as
she told her story of the man who lay hurt at the foot
of the rock.
  "Hit hain't long now tell sundown," she urged.
"Hurry, Samson, an' git yore mule. I've done give him
my promise ter fotch ye right straight back."
  Samson took off his hat, and tossed the heavy lock
upward from his forehead. His brow wrinkled with
  "'What sort of lookin' feller air he"
  While Sally sketched a description, the young man's
doubt grew graver.
  "This hain't no fit time ter be takin' in folks what
we hain't acquainted with," he objected. In the mour-
tains, any time is the time to take in strangers unless
there are secrets to be guarded from outside eyes.
  "Why hain't it" demanded the girl. "He's hurt.
We kain't leave him layin' thar, kin we"
  Suddenly, her eyes caught sight of the rifle leaning
near-by, and straightway they filled with apprehension.
Her militant love would have turned to hate for Samson,



should he have proved recreant to the mission of reprisal
in which he was biding his time, yet the coming of the
day when the truce must end haunted her thoughts.
Heretofore, that day had always been to her remotely
vague-a thing belonging to the future. Now, with
a sudden and appalling menace, it seemed to loom across
the present. She came close, and her voice sank with
her sinking heart.
  "What air hit" she tensely demanded. "What air
hit, Samson What fer hev ye fotched yer gun ter the
field "
  The boy laughed. "Oh, hit ain't nothin' pertic'ler,"
he reassured. "Hit hain't nothin' fer a gal ter fret
herself erbout, only I kinder suspicions strangers jest
  "Air the truce busted" She put the question in a
tense, deep-breathed whisper, and the boy replied casu-
ally, almost indifferently.
  "No, Sally, hit hain't jest ter say busted, but 'pears
like hit's right smart cracked. I reckon, though," he
added in half-disgust, "nothin' won't come of hit.'
  Somewhat reassured, she bethought herself again of
her mission.
  "This here furriner hain't got no harm in him, Sam-
son," she pleaded. "He 'pears ter be more like a gal
than a man. He's real puny. He's got white skin and
a bow of ribbon on his neck-an' he paints pictchers."
  The boy's face had been hardening with contempt as
the description advanced, but at the last words a glow
came to his eyes, and he demanded almost breathlessly:
  "Paints pictchers How do ye know that"
  "I seen 'em. He was paintin' one when he fell offen



the rock and busted his arm. It's shore es beautiful
es-" she broke off, then added with a sudden peal
of laughter-"es er pictcher."
  The young man slipped down from the fence, and
reached for the rifle. The hoe he left where it stood.
  "I'll git the nag," he announced briefly, and swung
off without further parley toward the curling spiral of
smoke that marked a cabin a quarter of a mile below.
Ten minutes later, his bare feet swung against the
ribs of a gray mule, and his rifle lay balanced across
the unsaddled withers.  Sally sat mountain fashion
behind him, facing straight to the side.
  So they came along the creek bed and into the sight
of the man who still sat propped against the mossy
rock. As Lescott looked up, he closed the case of his
watch, and put it back into his pocket with a smile.
  "Snappy work, that!" he called out. "Just thirty-
three minutes. I didn't believe it could be done."
  Samson's face was mask-like, but, as he surveyed the
foreigner, only the ingrained dictates of the country's
hospitable code kept out of his eyes a gleam of scorn
for this frail member of a sex which should be stalwart.
  "Howdy" he said.    Then he added suspiciously:
"What mout yer business be in these parts, stranger"
  Lescott gave the odyssey of his wanderings, since he
had rented a mule at Hixon and ridden through the
country, sketching where the monod prompted and sleep-
ing wherever he found a hospitable roof at the coming
of the evening.
  "Ye come from over on Crippleshin " The boy
flashed the question with a sudden hardening of the
voice, and, when he was affirmatively answered, his eyes



contracted and bored searchingly into the strangers
  "Where'd ye put up last night"
  "Red Bill Hollman's house, at the mouth of Meeting
House Fork; do you know the place"
  Samson's reply was curt.
  "I knows hit all right."
  There was a moment's pause rather an awkward
pause. Lescott's mind began piecing together frag-
ments of conversation he had heard, until he had
assembled a sort of mental jig-saw puzzle.
  The South