Chapter 2 IN WHICH DAVID THRYNG EXPERIENCES THE HOSPITALITY OF THE MOUNTAI_EOPLE.
Suddenly the jolting ceased. The deep stillness of the night seemed onl_ntensified by the low panting of the animals and the soft dropping of the we_now from the trees.
"What is it?" said Thryng, peering from under the canvas cover. "Anything th_atter?"
The beasts stood with low-swung heads, the vapor rising white from their war_odies, wet with the melting snow. His question fell unheard, and the girl wh_as climbing down over the front wheel began to unhitch the team in silence.
He rolled the sleeping child in his rug and leaped out.
"Let me help you. What is the trouble? Oh, are you at home?"
"I can do this, suh. I have done it a heap of times. Don't go nigh Pete, suh.
He's mighty quick, and he's mean." The beast laid back his ears viciously a_avid approached.
"You ought not go near him yourself," he said, taking a firm grip of th_ridle.
"Oh, he's safe enough with me—or Frale. Hold him tight, suh, now you have him, till I get round there. Keep his head towa'ds you. He certainly is mean."
The colt walked off to a low stack of corn fodder, as she turned him loos_ith a light slap on the flank; and the mule, impatient, stamping and sidlin_bout, stretched forth his nose and let out his raucous and hideous cry. Whil_e was thus occupied, the girl slipped off his harness and, taking the bridle, led the beast away to a small railed enclosure on the far side of the stack; and David stood alone in the snow and looked about him.
He saw a low, rambling house, which, although one structure, appeared to be _eries of houses, built of logs plastered with clay in the chinks. It stood i_ tangle of wild growth, on what seemed to be a wide ledge jutting out fro_he side of the mountain, which loomed dark and high behind it. An incessant, rushing sound pervaded the place, as it were a part of the silence or _reathing of the mountain itself. Was it wind among the trees, or the rushin_f water? No wind stirred now, and yet the sound never ceased. It must be _orrent swollen by the melting snow.
He saw the girl moving in and out among the shadows, about the open lo_table, like a wraith. The braying of the mule had disturbed the occupants o_he house, for a candle was placed in a window, and its little ray streame_orth and was swallowed up in the moonlight and black shades. The child, awakened by the horrible noise of the beast, rustled in the corn fodder wher_hryng had left him. Dazed and wondering, he peered out at the young man fo_ome moments, too shy to descend until his sister should return. Now she came, and he scrambled down and stood close to her side, looking up weirdly, hi_wisted little form shivering and quaking.
"Run in, Hoyle," she said, looking kindly down upon him. "Tell mothah we'r_ll right, son."
A woman came to the door holding a candle, which she shaded with a gnarled an_ony hand.
"That you, Cass?" she quavered. "Who aire ye talkin' to?"
"Yes, Aunt Sally, we'll be there directly. Don't let mothah get cold." Sh_urned again to David. "I reckon you'll have to stop with us to-night. It's _ight smart way to the cabin, and it'll be cold, and nothing to eat. We'l_ring in your things now, and in the morning we can tote them up to your plac_ith the mule, and Hoyle can go with you to show you the way."
She turned toward the wagon as if all were settled, and Thryng could not b_ffusive in the face of her direct and conclusive manner; but he took th_asket from her hand.
"Let me—no, no—I will bring in everything. Thank you very much. I can do i_uite easily, taking one at a time." Then she left him, but at the door sh_et him and helped to lift his heavy belongings into the house.
The room he entered was warm and brightly lighted by a pile of blazing logs i_he great chimneyplace. He walked toward it and stretched his hands to th_ire—a generous fire—the mountain home's luxury.
Something was cooking in the ashes on the hearth which sent up a savory odo_ost pleasant and appealing to the hungry man. The meagre boy stood near, als_arming his little body, on which his coarse garments hung limply. He kept hi_reat eyes fixed on David's face in a manner disconcerting, even in a child, had Thryng given his attention to it, but at the moment he was interested i_ther things. Dropped thus suddenly into this utterly alien environment, h_as observing the girl and the old woman as intently, though less openly, a_he boy was watching him.
Presently he felt himself uncannily the object of a scrutiny far differen_rom the child's wide-eyed gaze, and glancing over his shoulder toward th_orner from which the sensation seemed to emanate, he saw in the depths of a_ld four-posted bed, set in their hollow sockets and roofed over by projectin_ight eyebrows, a pair of keen, glittering eyes.
"Yas, you see me now, do ye?" said a high, thin voice in toothless speech.
"Who be ye?"
His physician's feeling instantly alert, he stepped to the bedside and ben_ver the wasted form, which seemed hardly to raise the clothing from its leve_moothness, as if she had lain motionless since some careful hand had arrange_t.
"No, ye don't know me, I reckon. 'Tain't likely. Who be ye?" she iterated, still looking unflinchingly in his eyes.
"Hit's a gentleman who knows Doctah Hoyle, mothah. He sent him. Don't fre_ou'se'f," said the girl soothingly.
"I'm not one of the frettin' kind," retorted the mother, never taking her eye_rom his face, and again speaking in a weak monotone. "Who be ye?"
"My name is David Thryng, and I am a doctor," he said quietly.
"Where be ye from?"
"I came from Canada, the country where Doctor Hoyle lives."
"I reckon so. He used to tell 'at his home was thar." A pallid hand wa_eached slowly out to him. "I'm right glad to see ye. Take a cheer and set.
Bring a cheer, Sally."
But the girl had already placed him a chair, which he drew close to th_edside. He took the feeble old hand and slipped his fingers along to res_ightly on the wrist.
"You needn't stan' watchin' me, Cass. You 'n' Sally set suthin' fer th' docta_o eat. I reckon ye're all about gone fer hunger."
"Yes, mothah, right soon. Fry a little pork to go with the pone, Aunt Sally.
Is any coffee left in the pot?"
"I done put in a leetle mo' when I heered the mule hollah. I knowed ye'd wan_t. Might throw in a mite mo' now th' gentleman's come."
The two women resumed their preparations for supper, the boy continued t_tand and gaze, and the high voice of the frail occupant of the bed bega_gain to talk and question.
"When did you come down f'om that thar country whar Doctah Hoyle lives at?"
she said, in her monotonous wail.
"Four days ago. I travelled slowly, for I have been ill myself."
"Hit's right quare now; 'pears like ef I was a doctah I wouldn't 'low mysel_er to get sick. An' you seed Doctah Hoyle fo' days back!"
"No, he has gone to England on a visit. I saw his wife, though, and hi_aughter. She is a young lady—is to be married soon."
"They do grow up—the leetle ones. Hit don't seem mo'n yestahday 'at Cass wa_ike leetle Hoyle yandah, an' hit don't seem that since Doctah Hoyle was her_n' leetle Hoyle came. We named him fer th' doctah. Waal, I reckon ef th'
doctah was here now 'at he could he'p me some. Maybe ef he'd 'a' stayed here _evah would 'a' got down whar I be now. He was a right good doctah, bettah'n _arb doctah—most—I reckon so."
David smiled. "I think so myself," he said. "Are there many herb doctors her_bout?"
"Not rightly doctahs, so to speak, but they is some 'at knows a heap abou_arbs."
"Good. Perhaps they can teach me something."
The old face was feebly lifted a bit from the pillow, and the dark eyes gre_uddenly sharp in their scrutiny.
"Who be ye, anyhow? What aire ye here fer? Sech as you knows a heap a'ready
'thout makin' out to larn o' we-uns."
David saw his mistake and hastened to allay the suspicion which gleamed out a_im almost malignantly.
"I am just what I said, a doctor like Adam Hoyle, only that I don't know a_uch as he—not yet. The wisest man in the world can learn more if he watche_ut to do so. Your herb doctors might be able to teach me a good many things."
"I 'spect ye're right thar, on'y a heap o' folks thinks they knows it al_ust."
There was a pause, and Thryng leaned back in his stiff, splint-bottomed chai_nd glanced around him. He saw that the girl, although moving about setting t_ights and brushing here and there with an unique, home-made broom, was at th_ame time intently listening.
Presently the old woman spoke again, her threadlike voice penetrating far.
"What do you 'low to do here in ouah mountains? They hain't no settlemen_ighabouts here, an' them what's sick hain't no money to pay doctahs with. _eckon they'll hev to stay sick fer all o' you-uns."
David looked into her eyes a moment quietly; then he smiled. The way to he_eart he saw was through the magic of one name.
"What did Doctor Hoyle do when he was down here?"
"Him? They hain't no one livin' like he was."
Then David laughed outright, a gay, contagious laugh, and after an instant sh_aughed also.
"I agree with you," he said. "But you see, I am a countryman of his, and h_ent me here—he knows me well—and I mean to do as he did, if—I can."
He drew in a deep breath of utter weariness, and leaned forward, his elbows o_is knees, his head in his hands, and gazed into the blazing fire. Th_emories which had taken possession of his soul during the long ride seemed t_nvelop him so that in a moment the present was swept away into oblivion an_is spirit was, as it were, suddenly withdrawn from the body and projecte_nto the past. He had been unable to touch any of the greasy cold stuff whic_ad been offered him during the latter part of his journey, and the hea_rought a drowsiness on him and a faintness from lack of food.
"Cass—Cassandry! Look to him," called the mother shrilly, but the girl ha_lready noticed his strange abstraction, and the small Adam Hoyle had draw_ack, in awe, to his mother.
"Get some whiskey, Sally," said the girl, and David roused himself to see he_ending over him.
"I must have gone off in a doze," he said weakly. "The long ride and then thi_armth—" Seeing the anxious faces around him, he laughed again. "It's nothing, I assure you, only the comfort and the smell of something good to eat;" h_niffed a little. "What is it?" he asked.
Old Sally was tossing and shaking the frying salt pork in the skillet at th_ireplace, and the odor aggravated his already too keen appetite.
"Ye was more'n sleepy, I reckon," shrilled the woman from the bed. "Hain'_hat pone done, Sally? No, 'tain't liquor he needs; hit's suthin' to eat."
Then the girl hastened her slow, gliding movements, drew splint chairs to _able of rough pine that stood against the side of the room, and, stoopin_etween him and the fire, pulled something from among the hot ashes. The fir_ade the only light in the room, and David never forgot the supple grace o_er as she bent thus silhouetted—the perfect line of chin and throat blac_gainst the blaze, contrasted with the weird, witchlike old woman with roughl_notted hair, who still squatted in the heat, and shook the skillet of fryin_ork.
"Thar, now hit's done, I reckon," said old Sally, slowly rising an_traightening her bent back; and the woman from the bed called her orders.
"Not that cup," she cried, as Sally began pouring black coffee into a cracke_hite cup. "Git th' chany one. I hid hit yandah in th' cornder 'hind that ti_an, to keep 'em f'om usin' hit every day. I had a hull set o' that when _arried Farwell. Give hit here." She took the precious relic in her work-wor_ands and peered into it, then wiped it out with the corner of the sheet whic_overed her. This Thryng did not see. He was watching the girl, as she brok_pen the hot, fragrant corn-bread and placed it beside his plate.
"Come," she said. "You sure must be right hungry. Sit here and eat." Davi_elt like one drunken with weariness when he rose, and caught at the edge o_he table to steady himself.
"Aren't you hungry, too?" he asked, "and Hoyle, here? Sit beside me; we'r_oing to have a feast, little chap."
The girl placed an earthen crock on the table and took from it honey in th_roken comb, rich and dark.
"Have a little of this with your pone. It's right good," she said.
"Frale, he found a bee tree," piped the child suddenly, gaining confidence a_e saw the stranger engaged in the very normal act of eating with the relis_f an ordinary man. He edged forward and sat himself gingerly on the oute_orner of the next chair, and accepted a huge piece of the pone from David'_and. His sister gave him honey, and Sally dropped pieces of the sizzling ho_ork on their plates, from the skillet.
David sipped his coffee from the flowered "chany cup" contentedly. Serve_ithout milk or sugar, it was strong, hot, and reviving. The girl shyl_ffered more of the corn-bread as she saw it rapidly disappearing, pleased t_ee him eat so eagerly, yet abashed at having nothing else to offer.
"I'm sorry we can give you only such as this. We don't live like you do in th_o'th. Have a little more of the honey."
"Ah, but this is fine. Good, hey, little chap? You are doing a very beneficen_hing, do you know, saving a man's life?" He glanced up at her flushed face, and she smiled deprecatingly. He fancied her smiles were rare.
"But it is quite true. Where would I be now but for you and Hoyle here? Lyin_nder the lee side of the station coughing my life away,—and all my own fault, too. I should have accepted the bishop's invitation."
"You helped me when the colt was bad." Her soft voice, low and monotonous, fell musically on his ear when she spoke.
"Naturally—but how about that, anyway? It's a wonder you weren't killed. Ho_ame a youngster like you there alone with those beasts?" Thryng had an abrup_anner of springing a question which startled the child, and he edged away, furtively watching his sister.
"Did you hitch that kicking brute alone and drive all that distance?"
"Aunt Sally, she he'ped me to tie up; she give him co'n whilst I th'owed o_he strops, an' when he's oncet tied up, he goes all right." The atom grinned.
"Hit's his way. He's mean, but he nevah works both ends to oncet."
"Good thing to know; but you're a hero, do you understand that?" The chil_ontinued to edge away, and David reached out and drew him to his side.
Holding him by his two sharp little elbows, he gave him a playful shake. "_ay, do you know what a hero is?"
The startled boy stopped grinning and looked wildly to his sister, bu_eceiving only a smile of reassurance from her, he lifted his great eyes t_hryng's face, then slowly the little form relaxed, and he was drawn withi_he doctor's encircling arm.
"I don't reckon," was all his reply, which ambiguous remark caused David, i_is turn, to look to the sister for elucidation. She held a long, lighte_andle in her hand, and paused to look back as she was leaving the room.
"Yes, you do, honey son. You remembah the boy with the quare long name sista_old you about, who stood there when the ship was all afiah and wouldn't leav_ecause his fathah had told him to bide? He was a hero." But Hoyle was too sh_o respond, and David could feel his little heart thumping against his arm a_e held him.
"Tell the gentleman, Hoyle. He don't bite, I reckon," called the mother fro_er corner.
"His name begun like yourn, Cass, but I cyan't remembah the hull of it."
"Casabianca, was it?" said Thryng, smiling.
"I reckon. Did you-uns know him?"
"When I was a small chap like you, I used to read about him." Then the ato_ielded entirely, and leaned comfortably against David, and his sister lef_hem, carrying the candle with her.
Old Sally threw another log on the fire, and the flames leaped up th_avernous chimney, lighting the room with dramatic splendor. Thryng took not_f its unique furnishing. In the corner opposite the one where the mother la_as another immense four-poster bed, and before it hung a coarse homespu_urtain, half concealing it. At its foot was a huge box of dark wood, well- made and strong, with a padlock. This and the beds seemed to belong to anothe_ime and place, in contrast to the other articles, which were evidentl_ountain made, rude in construction and hewn out by hand, the chairs unstaine_nd unpolished, and seated with splints.
The walls were the roughly dressed logs of which the house was built, th_hinks plastered with deep red-brown clay. Depending from nails driven in th_ogs were festoons of dried apple and strips of dried pumpkin, and hanging b_heir braided husks were bunches of Indian corn, not yellow like that of th_orth, but white or purple.
There were bags also, containing Thryng knew not what, although he was t_earn later, when his own larder came to be eked out by sundry gifts of drie_ruit and sweet corn, together with the staple of beans and peas from th_idow's store.
Beside the window of small panes was a shelf, on which were a few worn books, and beneath hung an almanac; at the foot of the mother's bed stood a smal_pinning-wheel, with the wool still hanging to the spindle. David wondered ho_ong since it had been used. The scrupulous cleanliness of the place satisfie_is fastidious nature, and gave him a sense of comfort in the homely interior.
He liked the look of the bed in the corner, made up high and round, an_overed with marvellous patchwork.
As he sat thus, noting all his surroundings, Hoyle still nestled at his side, leaning his elbows on the doctor's knees, his chin in his hands, and his sof_yes fixed steadily on the doctor's face. Thus they advanced rapidly toward a_micable acquaintance, each questioning and being questioned.
"What is a 'bee tree'?" said David. "You said somebody found one."
"Hit's a big holler tree, an' hit's plumb full o' bees an' honey. Frale, h_ound this'n."
"Tell me about it. Where was it?"
"Hit war up yandah, highah up th' mountain. They is a hole thar what wil' cat_ive in, Wil' Cat Hole. Frale, he war a hunt'n fer a cat. Some men thar at th'
hotel, they war plumb mad to hunt a wil' cat with th' dogs, an' Frale, he
'lowed to git th' cat fer 'em."
"And when was that?"
"Las' summah, when th' hotel war open. They war a heap o' men at th' hotel."
"And now about the bee tree?"
"Frale, he nevah let on like he know'd thar war a bee tree, an' then this fal_e took me with him, an' we made a big fire, an' then we cut down th' tree, an' we stayed thar th' hull day, too, an' eat thar an' had ros'n ears by th'
"I say, you know. There seem to be a lot of things you will have to enlighte_e about. After you get through with the bee tree you must tell me what 'ros'_ars' are. And then what did you do?"
"Thar war a heap o' honey. That tree, hit war nigh-about plumb full o' honey, and th' bees war that mad you couldn't let 'em come nigh ye 'thout they'_ting you. They stung me, an' I nevah hollered. Frale, he 'lowed ef yo_ollered, you wa'n't good fer nothin', goin' bee hunt'n'."
"Is Frale your brother?"
"Yas. He c'n do a heap o' things, Frale can. They war a heap o' honey in tha_har tree, 'bout a bar'l full, er more'n that. We hev a hull tub o' honey ou_har in th' loom shed yet, an' maw done sont all th' rest to th' neighbors,
'cause maw said they wa'n't no use in humans bein' fool hogs like th' bee_ar, a-keepin' more'n they could eat jes' fer therselves."
"Yas," called the mother from her corner, where she had been admiringl_istening; "they is a heap like that-a-way, but hit ain't our way here in th'
mountains. Let th' doctah tell you suthin' now, Hoyle,—ye mount larn a heap i_e'd hark to him right smart, 'thout talkin' th' hull time youse'f."
"I has to tell him 'bouts th' ros'n ears—he said so. Thar they be." He pointe_o a bunch of Indian corn. "You wrop 'em up in ther shucks, whilst ther gree_n' sof', and kiver 'em up in th' ashes whar hit's right hot, and then whe_her rosted, eat 'em so. Now, what do you know?"
"Why, he knows a heap, son. Don't ax that-a-way."
"In my country, away across the ocean—" began David.
"Tell 'bout th' ocean, how hit look."
"In my country we don't have Indian corn nor bee trees, nor wild cat holes, but we have the ocean all around us, and we see the ships and—"
"Like that thar one whar th' boy stood whilst hit war on fire?"
"Something like, yes." Then he told about the sea and the ships and the grea_ishes, and was interrupted with the query:—
"Reckon you done seed that thar fish what swallered the man in th' Bible an'
then th'ow'd him up agin?"
"Why no, son, you know that thar fish war dade long 'fore we-uns war born. Yo_ustn't ax fool questions, honey."
Old Sally sat crouched by the hearth intently listening and asking as naïv_uestions as the child, whose pallid face grew pink and animated, and whos_yes grew larger as he strove to see with inward vision the things Thryn_escribed. It was a happy evening for little Hoyle. Leaning confidingl_gainst David, he sighed with repletion of joy. He was not eager for hi_ister to return—not he. He could lean forever against this wonderful man an_isten to his tales. But the doctor's weariness was growing heavier, and h_ethought himself that the girl had not eaten with them, and feared she wa_aking trouble to prepare quarters for him, when if she only knew how gladl_e would bunk down anywhere,—only to sleep while this blessed and deliciou_rowsiness was overpowering him.
"Where is your sister, Hoyle? Don't you reckon it's time you and I were abed?"
he asked, adopting the child's vernacular.
"She's makin' yer bed ready in th' loom shed, likely," said the mother, eve_lert. With her pale, prematurely wrinkled face and uncannily bright an_atchful eyes, she seemed the controlling, all-pervading spirit of the place.
"Run, child, an' see what's keepin' her so long."
"Hit's dark out thar," said the boy, stirring himself slowly.
"Run, honey, you hain't afeared, kin drive a team all by you'se'f. Dark hain'_othin'; I ben all ovah these heah mountains when thar wa'n't one star o'
light. Maybe you kin he'p her."
At that moment she entered, holding the candle high to light her way throug_hat seemed to be a dark passage, her still, sweet face a bit flushed an_tray taches of white cotton down clinging to her blue homespun dress. "Th_octah's mos' dade fer sleep, Cass."
"I am right sorry to keep you so long, but we are obleeged—"
She lifted troubled eyes to his face, as Thryng interrupted her.
"Ah, no, no! I really beg your pardon—for coming in on you this way—it was no_ight, you know. It was a—a—predicament, wasn't it? It certainly wasn't righ_o put you about so; if—you will just let me go anywhere, only to sleep, _hall be greatly obliged. I'm making you a lot of trouble, and I'm so sorry."
His profusion of manner, of which he was entirely unaware, embarrassed her; although not shy like her brother, she had never encountered any one who spok_ith such rapid abruptness, and his swift, penetrating glance and pleasan_ase of the world abashed her. For an instant she stood perfectly still befor_im, slowly comprehending his thought, then hastened with her inherited, inborn ladyhood to relieve him from any sense that his sudden descent upo_heir privacy was an intrusion.
Her mind moved along direct lines from thought to expression—from impulse t_ction. She knew no conventional tricks of words or phrases for covering a_wkward situation, and her only way of avoiding a self-betrayal was by silenc_nd a masklike impassivity. During this moment of stillness while she waite_o regain her poise, he, quick and intuitive as a woman, took in th_ituation, yet he failed to comprehend the character before him.
To one accustomed to the conventional, perfect simplicity seems to concea_omething held back. It is hard to believe that all is being revealed, henc_er slower thought, in reality, comprehended him the more truly. What h_upposed to be pride and shame over their meagre accommodations was, i_eality, genuine concern for his comfort, and embarrassment before his eas_nd ready phrases. As in a swift breeze her thoughts were caught up and born_way upon them, but after a moment they would sweep back to her—a flock o_nnocent, startled doves.
Still holding her candle aloft, she raised her eyes to his and smiled. "We-un_re right glad you came. If you can be comfortable where we are obliged to pu_ou to sleep, you must bide awhile." She did not say "obleeged" this time. H_ad not pronounced it so, and he must know.
"That is so good of you. And now you are very tired yourself and have eate_othing. You must have your own supper. Hoyle can look after me." He took th_andle from her and gave it to the boy, then turned his own chair back to th_able and looked inquiringly at Sally squatted before the fire. "Not anothe_hing shall you do for me until you are waited on. Take my place here."
David's manner seemed like a command to her, and she slid into the chair wit_ weary, drooping movement. Hoyle stood holding the candle, his wry nec_wisting his head to one side, a smile on his face, eying them sharply. H_urned a questioning look to his sister, as he stiffened himself to his newl_cquired importance as host.
Thryng walked over to the bedside. "In the morning, when we are all rested, I'll see what can be done for you," he said, taking the proffered old hand i_is. "I am not Dr. Hoyle, but he has taught me a little. I studied an_ractised with him, you know."
"Hev ye? Then ye must know a heap. Hit's right like th' Lord sont ye. You se_uthin' 'peared like to give way whilst I war a-cuttin' light 'ud th' otha_ay, an' I went all er a heap 'crost a log, an' I reckon hit hurt me some. _ain't ben able to move a foot sence, an' I lay out thar nigh on to a hul_ay, whilst Hoyle here run clar down to Sally's place to git her. He couldn'_if' me hisse'f, he's that weak; he tried to haul me in, but when _ollered,—sufferin' so I war jes' 'bleeged to holler,—he kivered me up whar _ay and lit out fer Sally, an' she an' her man they got me up here, an' here _en ever since. I reckon I never will leave this bed ontwell I'm cyarried ou_n a box."
"Oh, no, not that! You're too much alive for that. We'll see about it to- morrow. Good night."
"Hoyle may show you the way," said the girl, rising. "Your bed is in the loo_hed. I'm right sorry it's so cold. I put blankets there, and you can use al_ou like of them. I would have given you Frale's place up garret—only—he migh_ome in any time, and—"
"Naw, he won't. He's too skeered 'at—" Hoyle's interruption stopped abruptly, checked by a glance of his sister's eye.
"I hope you'll sleep well—"
"Sleep? I shall sleep like a log. I feel as if I could sleep for a week. It'_wfully good of you. I hope we haven't eaten all the supper, Hoyle and I.
Come, little chap. Good night." He took up his valise and followed the boy, leaving her standing by the uncleared table, gazing after him.
"Now you eat, Cassandry. You are nigh about perished you are that tired," sai_er mother.
Then old Sally brought more pork and hot pone from the ashes, and they sa_own together, eating and sipping their black coffee in silence. Presentl_oyle returned and began removing his clumsy shoes, by the fire.
"Did he ax ye a heap o' questions, Hoyle?" queried the old woman sharply.
"Naw. Did'n' ax noth'n'."
"Waal, look out 'at you don't let on nothin' ef he does. Talkin' may hurt, an'
hit may not."
"He hain't no government man, maw."
"Hit's all right, I reckon, but them 'at larns young to hold ther tongue_aves a heap o' trouble fer therselves."
After they had eaten, old Sally gathered the few dishes together and place_ll the splint-bottomed chairs back against the sides of the room, and, onl_alf disrobing, crawled into the far side of the bed opposite to the mother's, behind the homespun curtain.
"To-morrow I reckon I kin go home to my old man, now you've come, Cass."
"Yes," said the girl in a low voice, "you have been right kind to we-all, Aun_ally."
Then she bent over her mother, ministering to her few wants; lifting he_orward, she shook up the pillow, and gently laid her back upon it, an_ightly kissed her cheek. The child had quickly dropped to sleep, curled u_ike a ball in the farther side of his mother's bed, undisturbed by the lo_urmur of conversation. Cassandra drew her chair close to the fire and sa_ong gazing into the burning logs that were fast crumbling to a heap o_lowing embers. She uncoiled her heavy bronze hair and combed it slowly out, until it fell a rippling mass to the floor, as she sat. It shone in th_irelight as if it had drawn its tint from the fire itself, and the cold nigh_ad so filled it with electricity that it flew out and followed the comb, a_f each hair were alive, and made a moving aureola of warm red amber about he_rooping figure in the midst of the sombre shadows of the room. Her face gre_ad and her hands moved listlessly, and at last she slipped from her chair t_er knees and wept softly and prayed, her lips forming the words soundlessly.
Once her mother awoke, lifted her head slightly from her pillow and gazed a_nstant at her, then slowly subsided, and again slept.