xt7xsj19m56j https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7xsj19m56j/data/mets.xml Read, Opie Percival, 1852-1939. 1899  books b92-243-31440284 English Rand, McNally, : Chicago : Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Arkansas planter  / Opie Read. text Arkansas planter  / Opie Read. 1899 2002 true xt7xsj19m56j section xt7xsj19m56j 

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Copyright, x896, by Rand, McNally  Co.
Copvri-ht, 1899, by Rand, McNally  Co.



               CHAPTER I.
  Lying along the Arkansas River, a few miles
below Little Rock, there is a broad strip of coun-
try that was once the domain of a lordly race of
men. They were not lordly in the sense of con-
quest; no rusting armor hung upon their walls;
no ancient blood-stains blotched their stairways
-there were no skeletons in dungeons deep be-
neath the banquet hall. But in their own opinion
they were just as great as if they had possessed
these gracious marks of medieval distinction.
Their country was comparatively new, but their
fathers came mostly from Virginia and their
whisky came wholly from Kentucky. Their cot-
ton brought a high price in the Liverpool mar-
ket, their daughters were celebrated for beauty,
and their sons could hold their own with the
poker players that traveled up and down the
Mississippi River. The slave trade had been
abolished, and, therefore, what remained of slav-
ery was right; and in proof of it the pulpit con-
tributed its argument. Negro preachers with
wives scattered throughout the community urged
their fellow bondsmen to drop upon their knees



and thank God for the privilege of following a
mule in a Christian land. The merciless work
of driving the negroes to their tasks was per-
formed by men from the North. 'Many a son of
New England, who, with emotion, had listened
to Phillips and to Garrison, had afterward hired
his harsh energies to the slave owner. And it
was this hard driving that taught the negro
vaguely to despise the abolitionist. But as a
class the slaves were not unhappy. They were
ignorant, but the happiest song is sometimes
sung by ignorance. They believed the Bible as
read to them by the preachers, and the Bible
told them that God had made them slaves; so, at
evening, they twanged rude strings and danced
the "buck" under the boughs of the cotton-wood
  On the vine-shaded veranda the typical old
planter was wont to sit, looking up and down the
road, watching for a friend or a stranger-any
one worthy to drink a gentleman's liquor, sir.
His library was stocked with romances. He
knew English history as handed down to him
by the sentimentalist. He hated the name of
koing, but revered an aristocracy. No business
swas transacted under his roof; the affairs of his
estate were administered in a small office, situ-
ated at the corner of the yard. His wife and
daughters, arrayed in imported finery, drove
about in a carriage. New Orleans was his social




center, and he had been knowvn to pay as much
as a thousand dollars for a familyticket toaball at
the St. Charles hotel. His hospitality was known
everywhere. He was slow to anger, except
when his honor was touched upon, and then lhe
demanded an apology or forced a fight. He was
humorous, and yet the consciousness of his own
dignity often restrained his enjoyment of the
ludicrous. When the cotton was in bloom his
possessions were beautiful. On a knoll he could
stand and imagine that the world was a sea of
  That was the Arkansas planter years ago, be-
fore the great sentimental storm swept down
upon him, before an evening's tea-table talk in
Massachusetts became a tornado of iron in Vir-
gin;a. When ragged and heart-sore he re-
turned from the army, from as brave a fight as
man ever engaged in, he sat down to dream over
his vanished greatness. But his dream was
short. He went to work, not to re-establish his
former condition of ease-for that hope was be-
yond him-but to make a living for his family.
  On a knoll overlooking the Arkansas River
stood the Cranceford homestead. The site was
settled in i832, by Captain Luke Cranceford,
who had distinguished himself in an Indian war.
And here, not long afterward, was born John
Cranceford, who years later won applause as
commander of one of the most stubborn batteries




of the Confederate Army. The house was origi-
nally built of cypress logs, but as time passed ad-
ditions of boards and brick were made, resulting
in a formless but comfortable habitation, with
broad passage ways and odd lolling places set to
entrap cool breezes. The plantation comprised
about one thousand acres. The land for the
most part was level, but here and there a hill
arose, like a sudden jolt. From right to left the
tract was divided by a bayou, slow and dark.
The land was so valuable that most of it had
been cleared years ago, but in the wooded
stretches the timber was thick, and in places the
tops of the trees were laced together with wild
grape vines. Far away was a range of pine-cov-
ered hills, blue cones in the distance. And here
lived the poorer class of people, farmers who
could not hope to look to the production of cot-
ton, but who for a mere existence raised thin
hogs and nubbins of corn. In the lowlands the
plantations were so large and the residences so
far apart that the country would have appeared
thinly settled but for the negro quarters here and
there, log villages along the bayous.
  In this neighborhood Major John Cranceford
was the most prominent figure. The county was
named in honor of his family. He was called a
progressive man. He accepted the yoke of re-
construction and wore it with a laugh, until it
pinched, and then he said nothing, except to tell




his neighbors that a better time was coming.
And it came. The years passed, and a man who
had been prominent in the Confederate council
became Attornev-General of the American Na-
tion, and men who had led desperate charges
against the Federal forces made speeches in the
old capitol at Washington. And thus the world
was taught a lesson of forgiveness-of the true
greatness of man.
  In New Orleans the Major was known as a
character, and his nerve was not merely a mat-
ter of conjecture. Courage is supposed to hold
a solemn aspect, but the 'Major was the embodi-
ment of heartiness. His laugh was catching;
even the negroes had it, slow, loud and long.
Sometimes at morning wvlien a change of season
had influenced him, he would slowly stride up
and down the porch, seeming to shake wvith
joviality as he walked. Years ago he had served
as captain of a large steamboat, and this at times
gave him an air of bluff authority. He was a
successful river man, and was therefore noted for
the vigor and newness of his profanity. . His
wife was deeply religious, and year after year she
besought him to join the church, pleaded with
him at evening when the two children were
kissed good night-and at last he stood the
rector's cross-examination and had his name
placed upon the register. It was a hard strug-
gle, but he weeded out his oaths until but one




was left-a bold "by the blood."  He said that
he would part even with this safety valve but
that it vould require time; and it did.  The
Major believed in the gradual moral improve-
ment of mankind, but he swore that the world
intellectually was going to the devil. And for
this conviction he had a graded proof. "Listen
to me a minute," he was wont to say. "I'll make
it clear to you. My grandfather was graduated
with great honors from Harvard, my father was
graduated with honor, I got through all right,
but my son Tom failed."



               CHAPTER II.

  One hot afternoon the Major sat in his library.
The doors were open and a cool breeze, making
the circuitous route of the passage ways, swept
through the room, bulging a newspaper which
he held opened out in front of him. He was
scanning the headlines to catch the impulsive
moods of the world. The parlor was not far
away, down the hall, and voices reached him.
And then there came the distressing hack, hack,
of a hollow cough. He put down the news-
paper, got up, and slowly strode about the room,
not shaking with joviality as he walked. In the
parlor the voices were hushed, there was a long
silence, and then came the hollow cough. He
sat down and again took up the newspaper, but
the cough, hack, hack, smote him like the recur-
rence of a distressing thought, and lhe crumpled
the paper and threw it upon the floor. Out in
the yard a negro woman was singing; far down
the stream a steamboat whistled. And again came
the hollow cough. There was another long
silence, and then he heard light footsteps in the
hall. A young woman halted at the door and
stood looking at him. Her face was pale and ap-




peared thin, so eager was her expression. She
was slight and nervous.
  "Well," he said. She smiled at him and said,
"Well." Then she slowly entered the room, and
with a sigh took a seat near him. The cough
from the parlor was more distressful, and she
looked at him, and in her eyes was a beseeching
  "Yes, sir."
  "What did I tell you"
  "I don't know, sir."
  "Don't say that, for you do know."
  "You've told me so many things-"
  "Yes, I know. But what did I tell you about
Carl Pennington"
  "I don't know, sir."
  "Yes you do. I told you that I didn't want
him to come here. Didn't I"
  "Yes, sir."
  "Then why is he here"
  "I met him and invited him to come."
  "Ah, ha. But I don't want him here; don't
want you to see him."
  She sat looking at him as if she would study
every line of his face. He shoved his hands
deep into his pockets and looked down. The
cough came again, and he looked at the girl.
"You know the reason I don't want you to see
him. Don't you"




  "Yes, sir, and I know the reason why I do
want to see him."
  "The devil-pardon me," he quickly added,
withdrawing his hands from his pockets and
bowing to her. She slightly inclined her head
and smiled sadly. He looked hard at her, striv-
ing to read her thoughts; and she was so frail,
her face was so thin and her eyes so wistful that
she smote him with pity. He reached over and
took one of her hands, and affectionately she
gave him the other one. She tried to laugh.
The cough came again, and she took her hands
away. He reached for them, but she put them
behind her. "No, not until I have told you," she
said, and he sawv her lip tremble. "He was
afraid to come in here to see you," she went on,
speaking with timid slowness. "He is so weak
and sick that he can't stand to be scolded, so I
have come to-"   She hesitated. He shoved
himself back and looked hard at her, and his eye-
brows stuck out fiercely.
  "To ask me what" His voice was dry and
rasping. "What can you ask me To let him
come here to see you No, daughter. I can't
permit that. And I don't intend to be cruel when
I say this. I am sorry for him, God knows I
deeply sympathize with him, but he must not
hope to-"
  "I was not going to ask you to let him come,"




she broke in. "I am going to ask you to let me
go-go with him."
  "By the blood!" the Major exclaimed, jump-
ing to his feet. "What do you mean Marry
him "
  "Yes, sir," she quietly answered. He looked
at her, frowning, his face puffed, his brows
jagged. And then appearing to master himself
he sat down and strove to take her hand, but she
held it behind her. "My daughter, I want to
talk to you, not in anger, but with common sense.
It actually horrifies me to think of your mar-
riage-I can't do it, that's all. Why, the poor
fellow can't live three months; he is dead on his
feet now. Listen at that cough. Louise, how
can you think of marrying him Haven't you
any judgment at all Is it possible that you
have lost-but I won't scold you; I must reason
with you. There is time enough for you to
marry, and the sympathetic fancy that you have
for that poor fellow will soon pass away. It
must. You've got plenty of chances. Jim Tay-
  "Why do you speak of him, father"
  "I speak of him because he loves you-be-
cause he is as fine a young fellow as walks the
face of the earth."
  "But, father, he is so big and strong that he
doesn't need any one to love him."
  At this the Major appeared not to know




whether to laugh or to frown. But he did neith-
er; he sat for a time with his hands on his knees,
looking wonderingly, almost stupidly at her;
and then he said: "Nonsense. Where did you
pick up that preposterous idea So strong that
he doesn't need love! Why, strength demands
love, and to a big man the love of a little wo-
man-" She drew back from him as he leaned
toward her and he did not complete the sen-
tence. Her impatience made him frown. "Won't
you let me reason with you" he asked. "Won't
you help me to suppress all appearance of dis-
pleasure "
  "It is of no use," she replied.
  "What is of no use Reason "
  "What! Do you mean-"
  "I mean that I am going to marry him."
  In her eyes there was no appeal, no pleading,
for the look that she gave him was hard and de-
termined. Harsh words flew to the Major's
mind, and he shook with the repression of them;
but he was silent. He shoved his hands into his
pockets and she heard his keys rattling. He
arose with a deep sigh, and now, with his hands
behind him, walked up and down the room.
Suddenly he faced about and stood looking down
upon her, at the rose in her hair.
  "Louise, one night on a steamboat there was a
rollicking dance. It was a moonlight excur-




sion. There was a splash and a cry that a woman
had fallen overboard. I leaped into the river,
grasped her, held her head above the stream,
fighting the current. A boat was put out and we
were taken on board, and then by the light of a
lantern I found that I had saved the life of my
own daughter. So, upon you, I have more than
a father's claim-the claim of gallantry, and this
you cannot disregard, and upon it I base my
  She looked up straight at him; her lips were
half open, but she said nothing.
  "You don't seem to understand," he added,
seeming to stiffen his shoulders in resentment at
the calmness with which she regarded him. "I
tell you that I waive the authority of a father
and appeal to your gratitude; I remind you that
I saved your life-leaped into the cold water and
seized you, not knowing whose life I was striv-
ing to save at the risk of losing my own. Isn't
that worth some sort of return Isn't it worth
even the sacrifice of a whim Louise, don't look
at me that way. Is it possible that you don't
grasp-"   He hesitated and turned his face
toward the parlor whence came again the cough,
hollow and distressing. The sound died away,
echoing down the hall, and a hen clucked on the
porch and a passage door slammed.
  "Louise," he said, looking at her.
  "Yes, sir."




  "Do you catch-"
  'I catch everything, father. It was noble of
you to jump into the river when you didn't know
but that you might be drowned, and recognizing
that you risked your life, and feeling a deep
gratitude, it is hard to repay you with disobedi-
ence. Wait a moment, please. You must listen
to me. It is hard to repay you with disobedi-
ence, but it cannot be helped. You say that MIr.
Pennington is dying and I know that you speak
the truth. He knows that he is dying, and he
appeals to me not to let him die alone-not alone
in words," she quickly added, "but with some-
thing stronger than words, his helplessness, his
despair. Other people have appeared to shun
him because he is dying, but-"
  "Hold on," he broke in. "I deny that. No
one has shunned him because he is dying. Every-
body is sorry for him, and you know that I
would do anything for him."
  "Would you Then let him die under this
roof as my husband. Oh, look how poor and
thin he is, so helpless, and dying day by day,
with no relatives near him, with nothing in pros-
pect but long nights of suffering. Please don't
tell me that I shan't take care of him, for I feel
that it is the strongest duty that will ever come to
me. Listen how he coughs. Doesn't it appeal
to you How can you refuse-how can you re-
mind me of the gratitude I owe you"




  Tears were streaming down her face.  He
bent over her, placed his hands upon her cheeks
and kissed her, but instantly he drew back with
his resentful stiffening of the shoulders.
  "Louise, it can't be. No argument and no
appeal can bring it about. It makes me shudder
to think of it. Really I can't understand it. The
situation to me is most unnatural. But I won't
be harsh fa ith you. But I must say that I don't
know where you get your stubbornness. No, I
won't be harsh. Let me tell you what I will
agree to do. He may come to this house and
stay here until-may stay here and the best of
care shall be taken of him, and you may nurse
him, but you must not bear his name. Will you
agree to this"
  She shook her head. She had wiped away her
tears and her eyes were strong and determined.
"After conceding so much I don't see why you
should refuse the vital point," she said.
  "I can tell you why, and I am afraid that I
  "Don't be afraid; simply tell me."
  "But, daughter, it would seem cruel."
  "Not if I demand it."
  "Then you do demand it Well, you shall
know. His father served a term in the Louisiana
penitentiary for forgery.  And now you may
ask why I ever let him come into this house. I
will tell you. He had been teaching school here




some time and I said nothing. One day during
a rainstorm he stopped at the gate. He was sick
and I invited him to come in. After that I could
not find enough firmness to tell him not to come,
he was so pale and weak. I see now that it was
a false sympathy. Do you understand me His
father wvas a convict."
  "Yes, I understand. He told me."
  "By the blood on the Cross! Do you mean to
say-Louise," he broke off, gazing upon her,
"your mind is unsettled. Yes, you are crazy,
and, of course, all your self-respect is gone. You
needn't say a word, you are crazy. You are-I
don't know what you are, but I know what I am,
and now, after the uselessness of my appeal to
your gratitude, I wvill assert the authority of a
father. You shall not marry him."
  "And would you kill a dying man " she quiet-
ly asked.
  The question jolted him, and he shouted out:
"What do you mean by such nonsense You
know I wouldn't."
  "Then I will marry him."
  For a moment the Major's anger choked him.
With many a dry rasp he strove to speak, and
just as he had made smoother a channel for his
words, he heard the hollow cough drawing near-
er. He motioned toward a door that opened
in an opposite direction, and the girl, after hesi-
tating a moment, quickly stepped out upon a




veranda that overlooked the river. The Major
turned his eyes toward the other door, and there
Pennington stood with a handkerchief tightly
pressed to his mouth. For a time they were
silent, one strong and severe, the other tremulous
and almost spectral in the softened light.
  "There is a chair, sir," said the Major, point-
  "I thank you, sir; I don't care to sit down.
I-I am very sorry that you are compelled to
look upon me as-as you do, sir. And it is all
my fault, I assure you, and I can't defend my-
  He dropped his handkerchief and looked down
as if he were afraid to stoop to pick it up. The
Major stepped forward, caught up the handker-
chief, handed it to him and stepped back.
  "Thank you, sir," Pennington said, bowing,
and then, after a short pause, he added: "I don't
know what to say in explanation of-of myself.
But I should think, sir, that the strength of a
man's love is a sufficient defense of any weak-
ness he may possess-I mean a sufficient defense
of any indiscretion that his love has led him to
commit. This situation stole upon me, and I
was scarcely aware of its coming until it was
here.  I didn't know  how serious-"    He
coughed his words, and when he became calmer,
repeated his plea that love ought to excuse any
weakness in man. "Your daughter is an angel




of mercy," he said. "When I found myself dy-
ing as young as I was and as hopeful as I had
been my soul filled up with a bitter resentment
against nature and God, but she drew out the
bitterness and instilled a sweetness and a prayer.
And now to take her from me would be to snatch
away the prospect of that peaceful life that lies
beyond the grave. Sir, I heard you tell her that
she was crazy. If so, then may God bless all
such insanity."
  He pressed the handkerchief to his mouth,
racking, struggling; and when the convulsive
agony had passed he smiled, and there in the
shadow by the door the light that crossed his
face was ghastly, like a dim smear of phosphorus.
And now the Major's shoulders were not stiff-
ened with resentment; they were drooping with
a pity that he could not conceal, but his face
was hard set, the expression of the mercy of one
man for another, but also the determination to
protect a daughter and the good name of an
honored household.
  "Mr. Pennington, I was never so sorry for any
human being as I am for you at this moment,
but, sir, the real blessings of this life come
through justice and not through impulsive
mercy. In thoughtless sympathy a great wrong
may lie, and out of a marriage with disease may
arise a generation of misery. We are largely re-
sponsible for the ailments of those who are to




follow us. The wise man looks to the future; the
weak man hugs the present. You say that my
daughter is an angel of mercy. She has ever
been a sort of sister of charity. I confess that I
have never been able wholly to understand her.
At times she has even puzzled her mother, and
a daughter is odd, indeed, when a mother can-
not comprehend her. I am striving to be gentle
with you, but I must tell you that you cannot
marry her. I don't want to tell you to go, and
yet it is better that this interview should come to
a close."
  He bowed to Pennington and turned toward
the veranda that overlooked the river, but a sup-
plicating voice called him back. "I wish to say,"
said the consumptive, "that from your point of
view you are right. But that does not alter
my position.  You speak of the misery that
arises from a marriage with disease. That was
very well put, but let me say, sir, that I believe
that I am growing stronger. Sometimes I have
thought that I had consumption, but in my saner
moments I know that I have not. I can see an
improvement from day to day. Several days
ago I couldn't help coughing, but now at times
I can suppress it. I am growing stronger."
  "Sir," exclaimed the Major, "if you were as
strong as a lion you should not marry her. Good




              CHAPTER III.

  Slowly and heavily the Major walked out upon
the veranda. He stood upon the steps leading
down into the yard, and he saw Louise afar off
standing upon the river's yellow edge. She had
thrown her hat upon the sand, and she stood
with her hands clasped upon her brown head. A
wind blew down the stream, and the water lapped
at her feet. The MIajor looked back into the
library, at the door wv herein Pennington had
stood, and sighed with relief upon finding that
he was gone. He looked back toward the river.
The girl was walking along the shore, medita-
tively swinging her hat. He stepped to the cor-
ner of the house, and, gazing down the road, saw
Pennington on a horse, now sitting straight,
now bending low over the horn of the saddle.
The old gentleman had a habit of making a side-
ward motion with his hand as if he would put all
unpleasant thoughts behind him, and now he
made the motion not only once, but many times.
And it seemed that his thoughts would not obey
him, for he became more imperative in his pan-
tomimic demand.
  At one corner of the large yard, where the




smooth ground broke off into a steep slope to the
river, there stood a small office built of brick. It
was the Major's executive chamber, and thither
he directed his steps. Inside this place his laugh
was never heard; at the door his smile always
faded. In this commercial sanctuary were en-
forced the exactions that made the plantation
thrive. Outside, in the yard, in the "big house,"
elsewhere under the sky, a plea of distress might
moisten his eyes and soften his heart to his own
financial disadvantage, but under the moss-grown
shingles of the office all was business, hard, un-
compromising. It was told in the neighborhood
that once, in this inquisition of affairs, he de-
manded the last cent possessed by a widowed
woman, but that, while she was on her way home,
he overtook her, graciously returned the money
and magnanimously tore to pieces a mortgage
that he held against her small estate.
  Just as he entered the office there came across
the yard a loud and impatient voice. "Here,
Bill, confound you, come and take this horse.
Don't you hear me, you idiot You infernal
niggers are getting to be so no-account that the
last one of you ought to be driven off the place.
Trot, confound you. Here, take this horse to
the stable and feed him. Where is the Major
In the office The devil he is."
  Toward the office slowly strode old Gideon
Batts, fanning himself with his white slouch hat.




He was short, fat, and bald; he was bowlegged
with a comical squat; his eyes stuck out like the
eyes of a swamp frog; his nose was enormous,
shapeless, and red. To the Major's family he
traced the dimmest line of kinship.  During
twenty years he had operated a small plantation
that belonged to the Major, and he was always
at least six years behind waith his rent. He had
married the widow Martin, and aftervard swore
that he had been disgracefully deceived by her,
that he had expected much but had found her
moneyless; and after this he had but small faith
in woman. His wife died and he went into con-
tented mourning, and out of gratitude to his
satisfied melancholy, swore that he would pay his
rent, but failed. Upon the Major he held a
strong hold, and this was a puzzle to the neigh-
bors. Their characters stood at fantastic and
whimsical variance; one never in debt, the other
never out of debt; one clamped by honor, the
other feeling not its restraining pinch. But to-
gether they would ride abroad, laughing along
the road. To Mrs. Cranceford old Gid was a
pest. With the shrewd digs of a woman, the
blood-letting side stabs of her sex, she had often
shown her disapproval of the strong favor in
which the Major held him; she vowed that her
husband had gathered many an oath from Gid's
swollen store of execration (when, in truth, Gid
had been an apt pupil under the Major), and she




had hoped that the Major's attachment to the
church would of necessity free him from the
humiliating association with the old sinner, but
it did not, for they continued to ride abroad,
laughing along the road.
  Like a skittish horse old Gid shied at the of-
fice door. Once he had crossed that threshold
and it had cost him a crop of cotton.
  "How are you, John" was Gid's salutation as
he edged off, still fanning himself.
  "How are you, sir" was the Major's stiff rec-
ognition of the fact that Gid was on earth.
  "Getting hotter, I believe, John."
  "I presume it is, sir." The Major sat with his
elbow resting on a desk, and about him were
stacked threatening bundles of papers; and old
Gid knew that in those commercial romances he
himself was a familiar character.
  "Are you busy, John "
  "Yes, but you may come in."
  "No, I thank you. Don't believe I've got
  "Then take time. I want to talk to you.
Come in."
  "No, not to-day, John. Fact is I'm not feeling
very well. Head's all stopped up with a cold,
and these summer colds are awful, I tell you.
It was a summer cold that took my father off."
  "How's your cotton in that low strip along the
bayou "




  "Tolerable, John; tolerable."
  "Come in. I want to talk to you about it."
  "Don't believe I can stand the air in there,
John. Head all stopped up. Don't believe I'm
going to live very long."
  "Nonsense. You are as strong as a buck."
  "You may think so, John, but I'm not. I
thought father was strong, too, but a summer
cold got him. I am getting along in years, John.
and I find that I have to take care of myself.
But if you really want to talk to me about that
piece of cotton, come out under the trees wher