A STORY OF THE CIVIL WAR'S EVE
by JOSEPH A. ALTSHELER
X. OVER THE MOUNTAINS
The boat was secured firmly among the bushes, and finding an abundance of fallen wood along the beach, they pulled it into a heap and kindled a fire. The night, as usual, was cool, but the pleasant flames dispelled the chill, and the cove was very snug and comfortable after a day of hard and continuous work. Jarvis and Ike did the cooking, at which they were adepts.
"After pullin' a boat ten or twelve hours there's nothin' like somethin' warm inside you to make you feel good," said Jarvis. "Ike, you lunkhead, hurry up with that coffee pot. Me an' Harry can't wait more'n a minute longer."
Ike grinned and hurried. A fine bed of coals had now formed, and in a few minutes a great pot of coffee was boiling and throwing out savory odors. Jarvis took a small flat skillet from the boat and fried the corn cakes. Harry fried bacon and strips of dried beef in another. The homely task in good company was most grateful to him. His face reflected his pleasure.
"Providin' it don't rain on you, campin' out is stimulatin' to the body an' soul," said Jarvis. "You don't know what a genuine appetite is until you live under the blue sky by day, and a starry sky by night. Harry, you'll find three tin plates in the locker in the boat. Fetch 'em."
Harry abandoned his skillet for a moment, and brought the plates. Ike, the coffee now being about ready, produced three tin cups, and with these simple preparations they began their supper. The flames went down and the fire became a great bed of coals, glowing in the darkness, and making a circle of light, the edges of which touched the boat. Harry found that Jarvis was telling the truth. The long work and the cool night air, without a roof above him, gave him a hunger, the like of which he had not known for a long time. He ate cake after cake of the corn bread and piece after piece of the meat. Jarvis and Ike kept him full company.
"Didn't I tell you it was fine?" said Jarvis, stretching his long length and sighing with content. "I feel so good that I'm near bustin' into song."
"Then bust," said Harry.
"Soft, o'er the fountain, lingering falls the southern moon, Far o'er the mountain breaks the day too soon. In thy dark eyes' splendor, where the warm light loves to dwell, Weary looks yet tender, speak their fond farewell. 'Nita, Juanita! Ask thy soul if we should part, 'Nita, Juanita! Lean thou on my heart."
The notes of the old melody swelled, and, as before, the deep channel of the river gave them back again in faint and dying echoes. Time and place and the voice of Jarvis, with its haunting quality, threw a spell over Harry. The present rolled away. He was back in the romantic old past, of which he had read so much, with Boone and Kenton and Harrod and the other great forest rangers.
The darkness sank down, deeper and heavier. The stars came out presently and twinkled in the blue. Yet it was still dim in the gorge, save where the glowing bed of coals cast a circle of light. The Kentucky, showing a faint tinge of blue, flowed with a soft murmur. Harry and Ike were lying on the grass, propped each on one elbow, while Jarvis, sitting with his back against a small tree, was still singing:
"When in thy dreaming, moons like these shall shine again And daylight beaming prove thy dreams are vain, Wilt thou not, relenting, for thy absent lover sigh? In thy heart consenting to a prayer gone by, 'Nita, Juanita, let me linger by thy side; 'Nita, Juanita, be thou my own fair bride."
The song ceased and the murmur of the river came more clearly. Harry was drawn deeper and deeper into the old dim past. Lying there in the gorge, with only the river to be seen, the wilderness came back, and the whole land was clothed with the mighty forests. He brought himself back with an effort, when he saw Jarvis looking at him and smiling.
"'Tain't so bad down here on a spring night, is it, Harry?" he said. "Always purvidin', as I said, that it don't rain."
"Where did you get that song, Sam?" asked Harry--they had already fallen into the easy habit of calling one another by their first names.
"From a travelin' feller that wandered up into our mount'ins. He could play it an' sing it most beautiful, an' I took to it right off. It grips you about the heart some way or other, an' it sounds best when you are out at night on a river like this. Harry, I know that you're goin' through our mountins to git to Richmond an' the war. Me an' that lunkhead Ike, my nephew, hev took a likin' to you. Now, what do you want to git your head shot off fur? S'pose you stop up in the hills with us. The huntin's good thar, an' so's the fishin'."
Harry shook his head, but he was very grateful.
"It's good of you to ask me," he said, "but I'm bound to go on."
"Wa'al, if you're boun' to do it I reckon you jest have to, but we're leavin' the invite open. Ef you change your mind on the trip all you've got to do is to say so, an' we'll take you in, ain't that so, Ike?"
Ike grinned and nodded. His uncle looked at him admiringly.
"Ike's a lunkhead," he said, "but he's great to travel with. You kin jest talk an' talk an' he never puts in, but agrees with all you say. Now, fellers, we'll put out the fire an' roll in our blankets. I guess we don't need to keep any watch here."
Harry was soon in a dreamless sleep, but his momentary reversion to the wilderness awoke him after a while. He sat up in his blankets and looked around. A mere mass of black coals showed where the fire had been, and two long dark objects looking like logs in the dim light were his comrades.
He cast the blankets aside entirely and walked a little distance up the stream. The instinct that had awakened him was right. He heard voices and saw a light. Then he remembered the rope ferry and he had no doubt that some one was crossing, although it was midnight and past. He went back and touched Jarvis lightly on the shoulder. The mountaineer awoke instantly and sat up, all his faculties alert.
"What is it?" he asked in a whisper.
"People crossing the river at the ferry above," Harry whispered back.
"Then we'll go and see who they are. Like as not they're soldiers in this war that people seem bound to fight, when they could have a lot more fun at home. Jest let Ike sleep on. He's my sister's son, but I don't b'lieve anybody would ever think of kidnappin' him."
The two went silently among the bushes toward the ferry which crossed the river at a point where the hills on either side dipped low. As they drew near, they heard many voices and the lights increased to a dozen. Jarvis's belief that it was no party of ordinary travelers seemed correct.
"Let's go a little nearer. The bushes will still hide us," whispered the mountaineer to the boy. "They ain't no enemies o' ours, but I guess we'd better keep out o' their business, though my inquirin' turn o' mind makes me anxious to see just who they are."
They walked to the end of the stretch of bushes, and, while yet in shelter, could see clearly all that was going on, especially as there was no effort at concealment on the part of those who were crossing the stream. They numbered at least two hundred men, and all had arms and horses, although they were dismounted now, and the horses, accompanied by small guards, were being carried over the river first. Evidently the men understood their work, as it was being done rapidly and without much noise. Harry's attention was soon concentrated on three men who stood near the edge of the bushes, not more than thirty feet away. They wore slouch hats and were wrapped in heavy, dark cloaks. They stood with their backs to him, and although they seemed to be taking no part in the management of the crossing, they watched everything intently. Two of them were very tall, but the third was shorter and slender.
The moon brightened presently, and some movement at the ferry caused the three men to turn. Harry started and checked an exclamation at his lips. But the watchful mountaineer had noted his surprise.
"I guess you know 'em, Harry," he said.
"Yes," replied the boy. "See the one in the center with the drooping mustaches and the splendid figure. People have called him the handsomest man in the United States. He was a guest at my father's house last year when he was running for the presidency. It is the man who received more popular votes than
Lincoln, but fewer in the Electoral College."
"Yes, John C. Breckinridge."
"Why, he's younger than I expected. He don't look more'n forty."
"Just about forty, I should say. The other tall man is named Morgan,
John H. Morgan. I saw him in Lexington once. He's a great horseman. The third, the slender man who looks as if he were all fire, is named Duke, Basil Duke. I think that he and Morgan are related. I fancy they are going south, or maybe to Virginia."
"Harry, these are your people."
"Yes, Sam, they are my people."
The mountaineer glanced at the tall youth who had found so warm a place in his heart, and hesitated, but only for a moment. Then he spoke in a decided whisper.
"Since they are your people an' are goin' on the same business that you are, though mebbe not by the same road, now is your time to join 'em, 'stead o' workin' your way 'cross the hills with two ignorant mountaineers like me an' that lunkhead, Ike, my nephew."
"No, Sam. I'll confess to you that it's a temptation, but it's likely that they're not going where I mean to go, and where I should go. I'm going to keep on with you unless you and Ike throw me out of the boat."
"Well spoke, boy," said Jarvis.
He did not tell Harry that Colonel Kenton had asked him to watch over his son until he should leave him in the mountains, and that he had given him his sacred promise. He understood what a powerful pull the sight of Breckinridge, Morgan and Duke had given to Harry, and he knew that if the boy were resolved to go with them he could not stop him.
All the horses were now across. The three leaders took their places in the boat, reached the farther shore and the whole company rode away in the darkness. Despite his resolution Harry felt a pang when the last figure disappeared.
"Our curiosity bein' gratified, I think we'd better go back to sleep," said Jarvis.
"The anchor's weighed, farewell, farewell!"
"We're seein' 'em goin' south, Harry. I dream ahead sometimes, an' I dream with my eyes open. I've seen the horsemen ridin' in the night, an' I see 'em by the thousands ridin' over a hundred battle fields, their horses' hoofs treadin' on dead men."
"Those are good men, brave and generous."
"Oh, I don't mean them in partickler. Not for a minute. I mean a whole nation, strugglin' an' strugglin' an' swayin' an' swayin'. I see things that people neither North nor South ain't dreamed of yet. But sho! What am I runnin' on this way fur? That lunkhead, Ike, my nephew, ain't such a lunkhead as he looks. Them that say nothin' ain't never got nothin' to take back, an' don't never make fools o' theirselves. It's time we was back in our blankets sleepin' sound, 'cause we've got another long day o' hard rowin' before us."
Ike had not awakened and Jarvis and Harry were soon asleep again. But they were up at dawn, and, after a brief breakfast, resumed their journey on the river, going at a good pace toward the southeast. They were hailed two or three times from the bank by armed men, whether of the North or South Harry could not tell, but when they revealed themselves as mere mountaineers on their way back, having sold a raft, they were permitted to continue. After the last such stop Jarvis remarked rather grimly:
"They don't know that there are three good rifles in this boat, backed by five or six pistols, an' that at least two of us, meanin' me and Ike, are 'bout the best shots that ever come out o' the mountains."
But his good nature soon returned. He was not a man who could retain anger long, and before night he was singing again.
"As I strayed from my cot at the close of the day To muse on the beauties of June, 'Neath a jessamine shade I espied a fair maid And she sadly complained to the moon."
"But it's not June, Sam," said Harry, "and there is no moon."
"No, but June's comin' next month, an' the moon's comin' tonight; that is, if them clouds straight ahead don't conclude to j'in an' make a fuss."
The clouds did join, and they made quite a "fuss," pouring out a great quantity of rain, which a rising wind whipped about sharply. But Jarvis first steered the boat under the edge of a high bank, where it was protected partly, and they stretched the strong canvas before the first drops of rain fell. It was sufficient to keep the three and all their supplies dry, and Harry watched the storm beat.
Sullen thunder rolled up from the southwest, and the skies were cut down the center by burning strokes of lightning. The wind whipped the surface of the river into white foamy waves. But Harry heard and beheld it all with a certain pleasure. It was good to see the storm seek them, and yet not find them--behind their canvas cover. He remained close in his place and stared out at the foaming surface of the water. Back went his thoughts again to the far-off troubled time, when the hunter in the vast wilderness depended for his life on the quickness of eye and ear. He had read so much of Boone and Kenton and Harrod, and his own great ancestor, and the impression was so vivid, that the vision was translated into fact.
"I'm feelin' your feelin's too," said Jarvis, who, glancing at him, had read his mind with almost uncanny intuition. "Times like these, the Injuns an' the wild animals all come back, an' I've felt 'em still stronger way up in the mountains, where nothin' of the old days is gone 'cept the Injuns. Ike, I guess it's cold grub for us tonight. We can't cook anythin' in all this rain. Reach into that locker an' bring out the meat an' bread. This ain't so bad, after all. We're snug an' dry, an' we've got plenty to eat, so let the storm howl:
"They bore him away when the day had fled, And the storm was rolling high, And they laid him down in his lonely bed, By the light of an angry sky,
"The lightning flashed and the wild sea lashed The shore with its foaming wave, And the thunder passed on the rushing blast As it howled o'er the rover's grave."
The full tenor rose and swelled above the sweep of wind and rain, and the man's soul was in the words he sang. A great voice with the accompaniment of storm, the water before them, the lightning blazing at intervals, and the thunder rolling in a sublime refrain, moved Harry to his inmost soul. The song ceased, but its echo was long in dying on the river.
"Did you pick up that, too, from a wandering fiddler?" asked Harry.
"No, I don't know where I got it. I s'pose I found scraps here an' thar, but I like to sing it when the night is behavin' jest as it's doin' now. I ain't ever seen the sea, Harry, but it must be a mighty sight, particklarly when the wind's makin' the high waves run."
"Very likely you'd be seasick if you were on it then. I like it best when the waves are not running."
The thunder and lightning ceased after a while, but the rain came with a steady, driving rush. The night had now settled down thick and dark, and, as the banks on either side of the river were very high, Harry felt as if they were in a black canyon. He could see but dimly the surface of the river. All else was lost in the heavy gloom. But the boat had been built so well and the canvas cover was so taut and tight that not a drop entered. His sense of comfort increased, and the regular, even, musical thresh of the rain promoted sleep.
"We won't be waked up tonight by people crossin' the river, that's shore," said Jarvis, "'cause thar ain't no crossin' fur miles, an' if there was a crossin' people wouldn't use that crossin' nohow on a night like this. So, boys, jest wrap your blankets about yourselves an' go to sleep, an' if you don't hurry I'll beat you to that happy land."
The three were off to the realms of slumber within ten minutes, running a race about equal. The rain poured all through the night, but they did not awake until the young sun sent the first beams of day into the gorge. Then Jarvis sat up. He had the faculty of awakening all at once, and he began to furl the canvas awning that had served them so well. The noise awoke the boys who also sat up.
"Get to work, you sleepy heads!" called Jarvis cheerfully. "Look what a fine world it is! Here's the river all washed clean, an' the land all washed clean, too! Stir yourselves, we're goin' to have hot food an' coffee here on the boat.
"I'm dreaming now of Hallie, sweet Hallie, For the thought of her is one that never dies. She's sleeping in the valley And the mocking bird is singing where she lies. Listen to the mocking bird, singing o'er her grave. Listen to the mocking bird, singing where the weeping willows wave."
"You sing melancholy songs for one who is as cheerful as you are, Sam," said Harry.
"That's so. I like the weepy ones best. But they don't really make me feel sad, Harry. They jest fill me with a kind o' longin' to reach out an' grab somethin' that always floats jest before my hands. A sort o' pleasant sadness I'd call it.
"Ah, well I yet remember When we gathered in the cotton side by side; 'Twas in the mild September And the mocking bird was singing far and wide. Oh, listen to the mocking bird Still singing o'er her grave. Oh, listen to the mocking bird Still singing where the weeping willows wave."
"Now that ain't what you'd call a right merry song, but I never felt better in my life than I did when I was singin' it. Here you are, breakfast all ready! We'll eat, drink an' away. I'm anxious to see our mountains ag'in."
The boat soon reached a point where lower banks ran for some time, and, from the center of the stream, they saw the noble country outspread before them, a vast mass of shimmering green. The rain had ceased entirely, but the whole earth was sweet and clean from its great bath. Leaves and grass had taken on a deeper tint, and the crisp air was keen with blooming odors.
Although they soon had a considerable current to fight, they made good headway against it. Harry's practice with the oar was giving his muscles the same quality like steel wire which those of Jarvis and Ike had. So they went on for that day and others and drew near to the hills. The eyes of Jarvis kindled when he saw the first line of dark green slopes massing themselves against the eastern horizon.
"The Bluegrass is mighty fine, an' so is the Pennyroyal," he said, "an' I ain't got nothin' ag'in em. I admit their claims before they make 'em, but my true love, it's the mountains an' my mountain home. Mebbe some night, Harry, when we tie up to the bank, we'll see a deer comin' down to drink. What do you say to that?"
Harry's eyes kindled, too.
"I say that I want the first shot."
"True sperrit," he said. "Nobody will set up a claim ag'inst you, less it's that lunkhead, Ike, my nephew. Are you willin' to let him have it, Ike?"
Ike grinned and nodded.
The Kentucky narrowed and the current grew yet stronger. But changing oftener at the oars they still made good headway. The ranges, dark green on the lower slopes, but blue on the higher ridges beyond them, slowly came nearer. Late in the afternoon they entered the hills, and when night came they had left the lowlands several miles behind. They tied up to a great beech growing almost at the water's edge, and made their camp on the ground. Harry's deer did not come that night, but it did on the following one. Then Jarvis and he after supper went about a mile up the stream, stalking the best drinking places, and they saw a fine buck come gingerly to the river. Harry was lucky enough to bring him down with the first shot, an achievement that filled him with pride, and Jarvis soon skinned and dressed the animal, adding him to their larder.
"I don't shoot deer, 'cept when I need 'em to eat," said Jarvis, "an' we do need this one. We'll broil strips of him over the coals in the mornin'. Don't your mouth water, Harry?"
The strips proved the next day to be all that Jarvis had promised, and they continued their journey with renewed elasticity, fair weather keeping them company. Deeper and deeper they went into the mountains. The region had all the aspects of a complete wilderness. Now and then they saw smoke, which Jarvis said was rising from the chimneys of log cabins, and once or twice they saw cabins themselves in sheltered nooks, but nobody hailed them. The news of the war had spread here, of course, but Harry surmised that it had made the mountaineers cautious, suppressing their natural curiosity. He did not object at all to their reticence, as it made traveling easier for him.
They were now rowing along a southerly fork of the Kentucky. Another deer had been killed, falling this time to the rifle of Jarvis, and one night they shot two wild turkeys. Jarvis and his nephew would arrive home full handed in every respect, and his great tenor boomed out joyously over the stream, speeding away in echoes among the lofty peaks and ridges that had now turned from hills into real mountains. They towered far above the stream, and everywhere there were masses of the deepest and densest green. The primeval forest clothed the whole earth, and the war to which Harry was going seemed a faint and far thing.
Traveling now became slow, because they always had a strong current to fight. Harry, at times when the country was not too rough, left the boat and walked along the bank. He could go thus for miles without feeling any weariness. Naturally very strong, he did not realize how much his work at the oar was increasing his power. The thin vital air of the mountains flowed through his lungs, and when Jarvis sang, as he did so often, he felt that he could lift up his feet and march as if to the beat of a drum.
They left the fork of the Kentucky at last and rowed up one of the deep and narrow mountain creeks. Peaks towered all about them, a half mile over their heads, covered from base to crest with unbroken forest. Sometimes the creek flowed between cliffs, and again it opened out into narrow valleys. In a two days' journey up its course they passed only two cabins.
"In ordinary water we'd have stopped thar," said Jarvis at the second cabin. "I know the man who lives in it an' he's to be trusted. We'd have left the boat an' the things with him, an' we'd have walked the rest of the way, but the creek is so high now that we kin make at least twenty miles more an' tie up at Bill Rudd's place. Thar's no goin' further on the water, 'cause the creek takes a fall of fifteen feet thar, an' this boat is too heavy to be carried around it."
They reached Rudd's place about dark. He was a hospitable mountaineer, with a double-roomed log cabin, a wife and two small children. He volunteered gladly to take care of the boat and its belongings, while Jarvis and the boys went on the next day to Jarvis's home about ten miles away.
Rudd and his wife were full of questions. They were eager to hear of the great world which was represented to them by Frankfort, and of the war in the lowlands concerning which they had heard vaguely. Rudd had been to Frankfort once and felt himself a traveler and man of the world. He and his wife knew Jarvis and Ike well, and they glanced rather curiously at Harry.
"He's goin' across the mountains an' down into Virginia on some business of his own which I ain't inquired into much," said Jarvis.
Harry slept in a house that night for the first time in days, and he did not like it. He awoke once with a feeling as if walls were pressing down upon him, and he could not breathe. He arose, opened the door, and stood by it for a few minutes, while the fresh air poured in. Jarvis awoke and chuckled.
"I know what's the matter with you, Harry," he said. "After you've lived out of doors a long time you feel penned up in houses. If it wasn't for rain an' snow I'd do without roofs 'cept in winter. Leave the door wide open, an' we'll both sleep better. Nothin', of course, would wake that lunkhead, Ike, my nephew. I guess you might fight the whole of
Buena Vista right over his head, an' if it was his sleepin' time he'd sleep right on."
They left the next morning, taking with them all of Harry's baggage. Jarvis' boat would remain in the creek at this point, and he and Ike would return in due time for their own possessions. They followed a footpath now, but the walk was nothing to them. It was in truth a relief after so much traveling in the boat.
"My legs are long an' they need straightenin'," said Jarvis. "The ten miles before us will jest about take out the kinks."
Jarvis was a bachelor, his house being kept by his widowed sister, Ike's mother, and old Aunt Suse. Now, as they swung along in Indian file at a swift and easy gait, his joyous spirits bubbled forth anew. Lifting up his voice he sang with such tremendous volume that every peak and ridge gave back an individual echo:
"I live for the good of my nation, And my suns are all growing low, But I hope that the next generation Will resemble old Rosin, the beau.
"I've traveled this country all o'er, And now to the next I will go, For I know that good quarters await me To welcome old Rosin, the beau."
"I suppose you don't know how you got that song, either," said Harry.
"No, it just wandered in an' I've picked it up in parts, here an' thar. See that clump o' laurel 'cross the valley thar, Harry? I killed a black bear in it once, the biggest seen in these parts in our times, an' I kin point you at least five spots in which I've killed deer. You kin trap lots of small game all through here in the winter, an' the furs bring good prices. Oh, the mountains ain't so bad. Look! See the smoke over that low ridge, the thin black line ag'in the sky. It comes from the house o' Samuel Jarvis, Esquire, an' it ain't no bad place, either, a double log house, with a downstairs an' upstairs, an' a frame kitchen behin'. It's fine to see it ag'in, ain't it, Ike?"
Ike smiled and nodded.
In another half hour they crossed the low ridge and swung down into a beautiful little valley, a mile long and a quarter of a mile broad that opened out before them. The smoke still rose from the house, which they now saw clearly, standing among its trees. A brook glinting with gold in the sunshine flowed down the middle of the valley. A luscious greenness covered the whole valley floor. No snugger nook could be found in the mountains.
"As fine as pie!" exclaimed Jarvis exultantly. "Everythin's straight an' right. Ike, I think I see Jane, your mother, standin' in the porch. I'll just give her a signal."
He lifted up his voice and sang "Home, Sweet Home," with tremendous volume. He was heard, as Harry saw a sunbonnet waved vigorously on the porch. The travelers descended rapidly, crossed the brook, and approached the house. A strong woman of middle years shouted joyously and came forward to meet them, leaving a little weazened figure crouched in a chair on the porch.
Mrs. Simmons embraced her brother and son with enthusiasm, and gave a hearty welcome to Harry, whom Jarvis introduced in the most glowing words. Then the three walked to the porch and the bent little figure in the chair. As they went up the steps together old Aunt Suse suddenly straightened up and stood erect. A pair of extraordinary black eyes were blazing from her ancient, wrinkled face. Her hand rose in a kind of military salute, and looking straight at Harry she exclaimed in a high-pitched but strong voice:
"Welcome, welcome, governor, to our house! It is a long time since I've seen you, but I knew that you would come again!"
"Why, what's the matter, Aunt Suse?" asked Jarvis anxiously.
"It is he! The governor! Governor Ware!" she exclaimed. "He, who was the great defender of the frontier against the Indians! But he looks like a boy again! Yet I would have known him anywhere!"
The blazing eyes and tense voice of the old woman held Harry. She pointed with a withered forefinger which she held aloft and he felt as if an electric current were passing from it to him. A chill ran down his back and the hair lifted a little on his head. Jarvis and his nephew stood staring.
"Walk in, governor," she said. "This house is honored by your coming."
Then, and all in a flash, Harry understood. The mind of the old woman dreaming in the sun had returned to the far past, and she was seeing again with the eyes of her girlhood.
"I'm not Henry Ware, Aunt Susan," he said, "but I'm proud to say that I'm his great-grandson. My name is Kenton, Harry Kenton."
The wrinkled forefinger sank, but the light in her eyes did not die.
"Henry Ware, Harry Kenton!" she murmured. "The same blood, and the spirit is the same. It does not matter. Come into our house and rest after your long journey."
Still erect, she stood on one side and pointed to the open door. Jarvis laughed, but it was a laugh of relief rather than amusement.
"She shorely took you, Harry, for your great-grandfather, Henry Ware, the mighty woodsman and Injun fighter that later on became governor of the state. I guess you look as he did when he was near your age. I've heard her tell tales about him by the mile. Aunt Suse, you know, is more'n a hundred, an' she's got the double gift o' lookin' forrard an' back'ard. Come on in, Harry, this house will belong to you now, an' ef at times she thinks you're the great governor, or the boy that Governor Ware was before he was governor, jest let her think it."
With the wrinkled forefinger still pointing a welcome toward the open door Harry went into the house. He spent two days in the hospitable home of Samuel Jarvis. He would have limited the time to a single day, because Richmond was calling to him very strongly now, but it was necessary to buy a good horse for the journey by land, and Jarvis would not let him start until he had the pick of the region.
The first evening after their arrival they sat on the porch of the mountain home. Ike's mother was with them, but old Aunt Suse had already gone to bed. Throughout the day she had called Harry sometimes by his own name and sometimes "governor," and she had shown a wonderful pride whenever he ran to help her, as he often did.
The twilight was gone some time. The bright stars had sprung out in groups, and a noble moon was shining. A fine, misty, silver light, like gauze, hung over the valley, tinting the high green heads of the near and friendly mountains, and giving a wonderful look of softness and freshness to this safe nook among the peaks and ridges. Harry did not wonder that Jarvis and Ike loved it.
"Aunt Suse give me a big turn when she took you fur the governor," said Jarvis to Harry, "but it ain't so wonderful after all. Often she sees the things of them early times a heap brighter an' clearer than she sees the things of today. As I told you, she knowed Boone an' Kenton an' Logan an' Henry Ware an' all them gran' hunters an' fighters. She was in Lexin'ton nigh on to eighty years ago, when she saw Dan'l Boone an' the rest that lived through our awful defeat at the Blue Licks come back. It was not long after that her fam'ly came back into the mountains. Her dad 'lowed that people would soon be too thick 'roun' him down in that fine country, but they'd never crowd nobody up here an' they ain't done it neither."
"Did you ever hear her tell of Henry Ware's great friend, Paul Cotter?" asked Harry.
"Shorely; lots of times. She knowed Paul Cotter well. He wuzn't as tall an' strong as Henry Ware, but he was great in his way, too. It was him that started the big university at Lexin'ton, an' that become the greatest scholar this state ever knowed. I've heard that he learned to speak eight languages. Do you reckon it was true, Harry? Do you reckon that any man that ever lived could talk eight different ways?"
"It was certainly true. The great Dr. Cotter--and 'Dr.' in his case didn't mean a physician, it meant an M. A. and a Ph. D. and all sorts of learned things--could not only speak eight languages, but he knew also so many other things that I've heard he could forget more in a day and not miss it than the ordinary man would learn in a lifetime."
"He wuz shorely a big scholar," he said, "but it agrees exactly with what old Aunt Suse says. Paul Cotter was always huntin' fur books, an' books wuz mighty sca'ce in the Kentucky woods then."
"Henry Ware and Paul Cotter always lived near each other," resumed Harry, "and in two cases their grandchildren intermarried. A boy of my own age named Dick Mason, who is the great-grandson of Paul Cotter, is also my first cousin."
"Now that's interestin' an' me bein' of an inquirin' min', I'd like to ask you where this Dick Mason is."
Harry waved his hand toward the north.
"Up there somewhere," he said.
"You mean that he's gone with the North, took one side while you've took the other?"
"Yes, that's it. We couldn't see alike, but we think as much as ever of each other. I met him in Frankfort, where he had come from the Northern camp in Garrard County, but I think he left for the East before I did. The Northern forces hold the railways leading out of Kentucky and he's probably in
Jarvis lighted his pipe and puffed a while in silence. At length he drew the stem from his mouth, blew a ring of smoke upward and said in a tone of conviction:
"It does beat the Dutch how things come about!"
Harry looked questioningly at him.
"I mean your arrivin' here, bein' who you are, an' your meetin' old Aunt Suse, bein' who she is, an' that cousin of yours, Dick Mason, didn't you say was his name, bein' who he is, goin' off to the North."
They sat on the porch later than the custom of the mountaineers, and the beauty of the place deepened. The moon poured a vast flood of misty, silver light over the little valley, hemmed in by its high mountains, and Harry was so affected by the silence and peace that he had no feeling of anger toward anybody, not even toward Bill Skelly, who had tried to kill him.