THE GUNS OF BULL RUN
A STORY OF THE CIVIL WAR'S EVE
by JOSEPH A. ALTSHELER
VIII. THE FIGHT FOR A STATE
Colonel Kenton and Harry avoided
Louisville, which was now in the hands of Northern sympathizers, and, travelling partly by rail and partly by stage, reached Frankfort early in May to attend the special session of the Legislature called by Governor Magoffin. Although the skirmishing had taken place already along the edge of highland and lowland, the state still sought to maintain its position of neutrality. There was war within its borders, and yet no war. In feeling, it was Southern, and yet its judgment was with the Union. Thousands of ardent young men had drifted southward to join the armies forming there, and thousands of others, equally ardent, had turned northward to join forces that would oppose those below. Harry, young as he was, recognized that his own state would be more fiercely divided than any other by the great strife.
But Federal and Confederate alike preserved the semblance of peace as they gathered at Frankfort for the political struggle over the state. Colonel Kenton and his son took the train at a point about forty miles from the capital, and they found it crowded with public men going from Louisville to Frankfort. It was the oldest railroad west of the Alleghanies, and among the first ever built. The coaches swung around curves, and dust and particles flew in at the windows, but the speed was a relief after the crawling of the stage and Harry stretched himself luxuriously on the plush seat.
A tall man in civilian attire, holding himself very stiffly, despite the swinging and swaying of the train, rose from his seat, and came forward to greet Colonel Kenton.
"George," he said, his voice quivering slightly, "you and I have fought together in many battles in
Mexico and the West, but it is likely now that we shall fight other battles on this own soil of ours against each other. But, George, let us be friends always, and let us pledge it here and now."
The words might have seemed a little dramatic elsewhere, but not so under the circumstances of time and place. Colonel Kenton's quick response came from the depths of a generous soul.
"John," he said as their two hands met in the grip of brothers of the camp and field, "you and I may be on opposing sides, but we can never be enemies. John, this is my son, Harry. Harry, this is Major John Warren of Mason County and the regular army of the United States; he does not think as we do, but even at West Point he was a stubborn idiot. He and I were continually arguing, and he would never admit that he was always wrong. I never knew him to be right in anything except mathematics, and then he was never wrong."
Major Warren smiled and sat down by his old comrade.
"You've a fine boy there, George," he said, "and I suppose he probably takes his opinions from his father, which is a great mistake. I think if I were to talk to him I could show him his, or rather your, error."
"Not by your system of mathematical reasoning, John. Your method is well enough for the building of a fortress or calculating the range of a gun. But it won't do for the actions of men. You allow nothing for feeling, sentiment, association, propinquity, heredity, climate and, and--"
"Get a dictionary or a book of synonyms, George."
"Perhaps I should. I understand how we happen to differ. But I can't explain it well. Well, maybe it will all blow over. The worries of today are often the jokes of tomorrow."
Major Warren shook his head.
"It may blow over," he said, "but it will be a mighty wind; it will blow a long time, and many things for which you and I care, George, will be blown away by it. When that great and terrible wind stops blowing, our country will be changed forever."
"Don't be so downcast, John, you are not dead yet," said Colonel Kenton, clapping his friend on the shoulder. "You've often seen big clouds go by without either wind or rain."
"How about that attack upon your house and you and your friends? The clouds had something in them then."
"Merely mountain outlaws taking advantage of unsettled conditions."
Harry had listened closely and he knew that his father was only giving voice to his hopes, not to his beliefs. But as they ceased to talk of the great question, his attention wandered to the country through which they were passing. Spring was now deep and green in Kentucky. They were running through a land of deep, rich soil, with an outcrop of white limestone showing here and there above the heavy green grass. A peaceful country and prosperous. It seemed impossible that it should be torn by war, by war between those who lived upon it.
Then the train left the grass lands, cut through a narrow but rough range of hills, entered a gorge and stopped in Frankfort, the little capital, beside the deep and blue Kentucky.
Frankfort had only a few thousand inhabitants, but Harry found here much of the feeling that he had seen in Nashville and
Charleston, with an important difference. There it was all Southern, or nearly so, but here North struggled with South on terms that certainly were not worse than equal.
Although the place was crowded, he and his father were lucky enough to secure a room at the chief hotel, which was also the only one of any importance. The hotel itself swarmed with the opposing factions. Senator Culver and Judge Kendrick had a room together across the hall from theirs, and next to them four red hot sympathizers with the Union slept on cots in one apartment. Further down the hall Harvey Whitridge, a state senator, huge of stature, much whiskered, and the proud possessor of a voice that could be heard nearly a mile, occupied a room with Samuel Fowler, a tall, thin, quiet member of the Lower House. The two were staunch Unionists.
Everybody knew everybody else in this dissevered gathering. Nearly everybody was kin by blood to everybody else. In a state affected little by immigration families were more or less related. If there was to be a war it would be, so far as they were concerned, a war of cousins against cousins.
Colonel Kenton and Harry had scarcely bathed their faces and set their clothing to rights, when there was a sharp knock at the door and the Colonel admitted Raymond Bertrand, the South Carolinian, dark of complexion, volatile and wonderfully neat in apparel. He seemed at once to Harry to be a messenger from that Charleston which he had liked, and in the life of which he had had a share. Bertrand shook hands with both with great enthusiasm, but his eyes sparkled when he spoke to Harry.
"And you were there when they fired on Sumter!" he exclaimed. "And you had a part in it! What a glorious day! What a glorious deed! And I had to be here in your cold state, trying to make these descendants of stubborn Scotch and English see the right, and follow gladly in the path of our beautiful star, South Carolina!"
"How goes the cause here, Bertrand?" asked Colonel Kenton, breaking in on his prose epic.
Bertrand shrugged his shoulders and his face expressed discontent.
"Not well," he replied, "not as well as I had hoped. There is still something in the name of the Union that stirs the hearts of the Kentuckians. They hesitate. I have worked, I have talked, I have used all the arguments of our illustrious President, Mr. Davis, and of the other great men who have charge of Southern fortunes, and they still hesitate. Their blood is not hot enough. They do not have the vision. They lack the fire and splendor of the South Carolinians!"
Harry felt a little heat, but Colonel Kenton was not disturbed at all by the criticism.
"Perhaps you are right, Bertrand," he said thoughtfully. "We Kentuckians have the reputation of being very quick on the trigger, but we are conservative in big things. This is going to be a great war, a mighty great war, and I suppose our people feel like taking a good long look, and then another, equally as long, before they leap."
Bertrand, hot-blooded and impatient, bit his lip.
"It will not do! It will not do!" he exclaimed. "We must have this state. Virginia has gone out! Kentucky is her daughter! Then why does not she do the same?"
"You must give us time, Bertrand," said Colonel Kenton, still speaking slowly and thoughtfully. "We are not starting upon any summer holiday, and I can understand how the people here feel. I'm going with my people and I'm going to fire on the old flag, under which I've fought so often, but you needn't think it comes so easy. This thing of choosing between the sections is the hardest task that was ever set for a man."
Harry had never heard his father speak with more solemnity. Bertrand was silent, overawed by the older man, but to the boy the words were extremely impressive. His youthful temperament was sensitive to atmosphere. In Charleston he shared the fire, zeal and enthusiasm of an impressionable people. They saw only one side and, for a while, he saw only one side, too. Here in Frankfort the atmosphere was changed. They saw two sides and he saw two sides with them.
"But you need have no fear about us, Bertrand," continued Colonel Kenton. "My heart is with the South, and so is my boy's. I thought that Kentucky would go out of the Union without a fight, but since there is to be a struggle we'll go through with it, and win it. Don't be afraid, the state will be with you yet."
They talked a little longer and then Bertrand left. Harry politely held the door open for him, and, as he went down the hall, he saw him pass Whitridge and Fowler. Contrary to the custom which still preserved the amenities they did not speak. Bertrand gave them a look of defiance. It seemed to Harry that he wanted to speak, but he pressed his lips firmly together, and, looking straight ahead of him, walked to the stairway, down which he disappeared. As Harry still stood in the open doorway, Whitridge and Fowler approached.
"Can we come in?" Whitridge asked.
"Yes, Harvey," said Colonel Kenton over the boy's shoulder. "Both of you are welcome here at any time."
The two men entered and Harry gave them chairs. Whitridge's creaked beneath him with his mighty weight.
"George," said the Senator pointedly but without animosity, "you and I have known each other a good many years, and we are eighth or tenth cousins, which counts for something in this state. Now, you have come here to Frankfort to pull Kentucky out of the Union, and I've come to pull so hard against you that you can't. You know it and I know it. All's square and above board, but why do you bring here that South Carolina Frenchman to meddle in the affairs of the good old state of Kentucky? Is it any business of his or of the other people down there? Can't we decide it ourselves? We're a big family here in Kentucky, and we oughtn't to bring strangers into the family council, even if we do have a disagreement. Besides, he represents the
Knights of the Golden Circle, and what they are planning is plumb foolishness. Even if you are bound to go out and split up the Union, I'd think you wouldn't have anything to do with the wholesale grabbing of Spanish-speaking territories to the southward."
"There's a lot in what you say, Harvey," replied Colonel Kenton, speaking with the utmost good humor, "but I didn't bring Bertrand here; he came of his own accord. Besides, while I'm strong for the South, I think this Knights of the Golden Circle business is bad, just as you do."
"I'm glad you've got that much sense left, George," said Whitridge. "You army men never do know much about politics. It's easy to pull the wool over your eyes."
"Have you and Fowler come here for that purpose?" asked the colonel, smiling.
It was the preliminary to a long argument carried on without temper. Harry listened attentively, but as soon as it was over and Whitridge and Fowler had gone, he tumbled into his bed and went to sleep.
He rose early the next morning, before his father in fact, as he was eager to see more of Frankfort, ate a solid breakfast almost alone, and went into the streets, where the first person he met was his own cousin and schoolmate, Dick Mason. The two boys started, looked first at each other with hostile glances, which changed the next instant to looks of pleasure and welcome, and then shook hands with power and heartiness. They could not be enemies. They were boys together again.
"Why, Dick," exclaimed Harry, "I thought you had gone east to save the Union."
"So I have," replied Dick Mason, "but not as far east as you thought. We've got a big camp down in Garrard County, where the forces of the Kentuckians who favor the Union are gathering. General Nelson commands us. I suppose you've heard that you rebels are gathering on the other side of Frankfort in Owen County under Humphrey Marshall?"
"Yes, Yank, I've heard it," replied Harry. "Now, what are you doing in Frankfort? What business have you got here?"
"Since you ask me a plain question I'll give you a plain answer," replied Dick. "I'm here to scotch you rebels. You don't think you can run away with a state like this, do you?"
"I don't know yet," replied Harry, "but we're going to try. Say, Dick, let's not talk about such things any more for a while. I want to see this town and we can take a look at it together."
"The plan suits me," said Dick promptly. "Come on. I've been here two days and I guess I can be guide."
"We'll take in the
Capitol first," said Harry.
Dick led the way and Harry approached with awe and some curiosity the old building which was famous to him. Erected far back, when the state was in its infancy, it still served well its purpose. He and Dick walked together upon the lawns among the trees, but, as soon as the doors were open, they went inside and entered with respect the room in which the great men of their state, the Clays, the Marshalls, the Breckinridges, the Crittendens, the Hardins, and so many others had begun their careers. They were great men not to Kentucky alone, but to the nation as well, and the hearts of the two boys throbbed with pride. They sat down in two of the desks where the members were to meet the next day and fight over the question whether Kentucky was Northern or Southern.
It was very early. Besides themselves there was nobody about but the caretaker. They were sitting in the House and the room was still warmed in winter by great stoves, but they were not needed now, as the windows were open and the fresh breeze of a grass-scented May morning blew in and tumbled the hair of the two youths of the same blood who sat side by side, close friends of their school days again, but who would soon be facing each other across red fields.
The wind which blew so pleasantly on Harry's forehead reminded him of that other wind which had blown so often upon his face at Charleston. But it was not heavy and languorous here. It did not have the lazy perfumes of the breezes that floated up from the warm shores of the Gulf. It was sharp and penetrating. It whipped the blood like the touch of frost. It stirred to action. His cousin's emotions were evidently much like his own.
"Harry," said Dick, "I never thought that Kentucky would be fighting against Kentucky, that Pendleton would be fighting against Pendleton."
Harry was about to reply when his attention was attracted by a heavy footstep. A third person had entered the chamber of the House, and he stood for a while in the aisle, looking curiously about him. Harry saw the man before the stranger saw him and with an instinctive shudder he recognized Bill Skelly. There he stood, huge, black, hairy, and lowering, two heavy pistols shown openly in his belt.
The boys were sitting low in the desks and it was a little while before Skelly noticed them. His attitude was that of triumph, that of one who expects great spoils, like that of a buccaneer who finds his profit in troubled times, preying upon friend and foe alike. Presently he caught sight of the two boys. But his gaze fastened on Harry, and a savage glint appeared in his eyes. Then he strode down the wide aisle and stood near them. But he looked at Harry alone.
"You are Colonel Kenton's son?" he said.
"I am," replied Harry, meeting his fierce stare boldly, "the same whom you tried to murder on the way to Winton, the same who helped to hold our house against you and your gang of assassins."
Skelly's dark face grew darker as the black blood leaped to his very eyes. But he choked down his passion. The mountaineer was not lacking in cunning.
"Your father and his friends killed some of my men," he said. "I ain't here now to argy with you about the rights an' wrongs of it, but I want to tell you that all the people of the mountains are up for the Union. With them from the lowlands that are the same way, we'll chase you rebels, Jeff Davis and all, clean into the Gulf of Mexico."
Harry deliberately turned his head away, and stared out of a window at the green of lawns and trees. Skelly filled him with abhorrence. He felt as if he were in the presence of a creeping panther, and he would have nothing more to say to him. Skelly looked at him for a few minutes longer, drew himself together in the manner of a savage wild beast about to spring, but relaxed the next moment, laughed softly, and strode out of the chamber.
"That's one of your men," said Harry. "I hope you're proud of him."
"All the mountain people are for us," replied Dick judicially, "and we can't help it if some of the rascals are on our side. You're likely to have men just as bad on yours. I heard about the attack he made upon Uncle George's house, but it was war, I suppose, and this which we have here in Frankfort is only an armed truce. You can't do anything."
"I suppose not. Do you know how long he has been here?"
"He arrived at Camp Dick Robinson only two or three days ago, and I suppose he has taken the first chance to come in and have a look at the capital."
"With the idea of looting it later on."
"Don't be bitter, Harry," he said. "It's going to be a fair fight."
"Well, I hope so, here in this little town as well as on the greater field of the country. Are you staying long in Frankfort, Dick?"
"Only today. I'm going back tomorrow to Camp Dick Robinson."
"Well, don't you make friends with that fellow Skelly, even if he is on the same side you are."
"I won't, Harry, have no fear of that."
The two went together to the hotel, and found Colonel Kenton at breakfast. He welcomed his nephew with great affection, and made him sit by him until he had finished his breakfast. While he was drinking his coffee Harry told him of Skelly's presence. The Colonel frowned, but merely uttered three words about him.
"We'll watch him," he said.
Then the three went out and saw the little town grow into life and seethe with the heat of the spirit. Although actual skirmishing had taken place already in the state there was no violence here, except of speech. All the members of the House and Senate were gathered, and so far as Harry could observe the Southerners were in the majority. Others thought so, too. Bertrand was sanguine. His eyes burned with the fire of enthusiasm, lighting up his olive face.
"We'll win. We'll surely win!" he said. "This state which we need so much will be out of the Union inside of two weeks."
But Senator Culver was more guarded in his opinion, or at least in the expression of it.
"It's going to be a mighty hot fight," he said.
Harry and Dick together watched the convening of the Legislature, having chosen seats in the upper lobby of the House. Harry looked for Skelly, but not seeing him he inferred that the mountaineer's leave of absence was short and that he had gone back to camp.
Dick himself left the next morning for Camp Dick Robinson, and Harry shook his hand over and over again as he departed. The feeling between the cousins was strong and it had been renewed by their meeting under such circumstances.
"I may go east," said Dick, as he mounted his horse. "The big things are going to happen there first."
Harry watched him as he rode away and he wondered when they would meet again. Like Colonel Leonidas Talbot he felt now that this was going to be a great war, wide in its sweep.
Harry returned to his hotel, very thoughtful. The second parting with his cousin, who had been his playmate all his life, was painful, and he realized that while he was wondering when and where they would meet again it might never occur at all. He found his father and his friends holding a close conference in his room at the hotel. Senator Culver, Mr. Bracken, Gardner, the editor, and others yet higher in the councils of the Confederacy, were there. Bertrand sat in a corner, saying little, but watching everything with ardent, burning eyes.
Letters had come from the chief Southern leaders. There was one from
Jefferson Davis, himself, another from the astute Benjamin, another from Toombs, bold and brusque as befitted his temperament, and yet more from Stephens and
Slidell and Yancey and others. Colonel Kenton read them one by one to the twenty men who were crowded into the room. They were appealing, insistent, urgent. Their tone might vary, but the tenor was the same. They must take Kentucky out of the Union and take her out at once. In the West the line of attack upon the South would lead through Kentucky. But if the state threw in her fortunes with the South, the advance of
Lincoln's troops would be blocked. The force of example would be immense, and a hundred thousand valiant Kentuckians could easily turn the scale in favor of the
Harry listened to them a long time, but growing tired at last, went out again into the fresh air. Young though he was, he realized that it was one thing for the Southern leaders to ask, but it was another thing for the Kentuckians to deliver. He saw all about him the signs of a powerful opposition, and he saw, too, that these forces, scattered at first, were consolidating fast, presenting a formidable front.
The struggle began and it was waged for days in the picturesque old Capitol. There was no violence, but feeling deepened. Men put restraint upon their words, but their hearts behind them were full of bitterness, bitterness on one side because the Northern sympathizers were so stubborn, and bitterness on the other, because the Southern sympathizers showed the same stubbornness. Friends of a lifetime used but cold words to each other and saw widening between then, a gulf which none could cross. Supporters of either cause poured into the little capital. Tremendous pressure was brought to bear upon House and Senate. Members were compelled to strive with every kind of emotion or appeal, love of the Union, cool judgment in the midst of alarms, state patriotism, kinship, and all the conflicting ties which pull at those who stand upon the border line on the eve of a great civil war. And yet they could come to no decision. Day after day they fought back and forth over points of order and resolutions and the result was always the same. North and South were locked fast within the two rooms of one little Capitol.
They were rimmed around meanwhile by a fiery horizon that steadily came closer and closer. The guns reducing Sumter had been a sufficient signal. North and South were sharply arrayed against each other. The Southern volunteers, full of ardor and fire, continued to pour to their standards. The North, larger and heavier, moved more slowly, but it moved. The whole land swayed under an intense agitation. The news of skirmishes along the border came, magnified and colored in the telling. Men's minds were inflamed more every day.
When Harry had been in Frankfort about a week he received a letter from St. Clair, written from Richmond, urging him, if he could, to get an assignment to the East, and to come to that city, which was to be the permanent capital of the South.
"We are here," he said, "looking the enemy in the face. Langdon and I are in the same company and I see Colonel Talbot and Major St. Hilaire every day. We are going to the front soon, and before the summer is out there will be a big battle followed by our taking of Washington."
"But you must come, Harry, to Richmond and join us before we march. This is a fine town and all the celebrities are crowding in. You never saw such confidence and enthusiasm. Virginia was slow in joining us, but, since she has joined, she is with us heart and soul. Troops are pouring in all the time. Cannon and wagons loaded with ammunition and supplies are hurrying to the front. The Yankees are not threatening Richmond; we are threatening Washington. Be sure and get yourself transferred to the East, Harry, where the great things are going to happen. Friends are waiting for you here. Colonel Talbot and Major St. Hilaire have a lot of power and they will use it for you."
Harry was walking on the hills that look down on the Capitol, when he read the letter and its warm words made his pulses leap with pleasure. He felt now the pull of opposing magnets. He wanted to remain in Frankfort with his father and see the issue, and he also wanted to join those South Carolina comrades of his in the East, where the battle fronts now lowered so ominously.
He thought long over the letter, and, at last sat down by the monument to the Kentucky volunteers who fell at the
battle of Buena Vista. The pull of the East was gradually growing the stronger. He did not see what he could do at Frankfort, and he wanted to be off there on the Virginia fields where the bayonets would soon meet.
The curious feeling that war could not come here in his own land persisted in Harry. It was late in the afternoon with the lower tip of the sun just hid behind the far hills and the landscape that he looked upon was soft and beautiful. The green of spring was deep and tender. Everything rough or ugly was smoothed away by the first mellow touch of the advancing twilight. The hills were clothed in the same robe of green that lay over the valleys, and through the center of the circle flowed the deep Kentucky, serene and blue.
While Harry's thoughts at that moment were on war, he really had no feeling against anybody. It was all general and impersonal. There is something pure and noble about a boy who comes out of a good home, something lofty to which the man later looks back with pride, not because the boy was wise or powerful, but because his heart was good.
The twilight slowly darkened over green fields and blue river. But the noble stone, with its sculptured lines, by the side of which Harry sat, seemed to grow whiter, despite the veil of dusk that was drooping softly over it. The houses in the town below began to sink out of sight and lights appeared in their place.
Night came and found the boy still at his place. He could see only the tint of the blue river now, and the far hills were lost in the darkness. The chill of evening was coming on, and rising, he shook himself a little. Then he followed a path down the steep hill and along the edge of the river. But he paused, standing by the side of a great oak that grew at the Water's margin, and looked up the Kentucky.
Harry could see from the point where he stood no sign of human life. He heard only the murmur of deep waters as they flowed slowly and peacefully by. The spirit of his great ancestor, the famous Henry Ware, who had been the sword of the border, was strong upon him. The Kentucky was to him the most romantic of all rivers, clustered thick with the facts and legends of the great days, when the first of the pioneers came and built homes along its banks. It flowed out of mountains still mysterious, and, for a few moments, Harry's thoughts floated from the strife of the present to a time far back when the slightest noise in the canebrake might mean to the hunter the coming of his quarry.
A faint musical sound, not more than the sigh of a stray breeze, came from a point far up the stream. He listened and the sound pleased him. The lone, weird note was in full accord with the night and his mood, and presently he knew it. It was some mountaineer on a raft singing a plaintive song of his own distant hills. Huge rafts launched on the headwaters of the stream in the mountains in the eastern part of the state came in great numbers down the river, but oftenest at this time of the year. Some stopped at Frankfort, and others went into the Ohio for the cities down that stream.
Harry waited, while the song grew a little in volume, and, penned now between high banks, gave back soft echoes. But the raft came very slowly, only as fast as the current of the river. He thought he would see a light as the men usually cooked and slept in a rude little hut built in the center of the raft. But all was yet in darkness.
The singer, however rude and unlettered a mountaineer he may have been, had a voice and ear, and Harry still listened with the keenest pleasure to the melodious note that came floating down the river. The spell was upon him. His imagination became so vivid that it was not a mountaineer singing. He had gone back into another century. It was one of the great borderers, perhaps Boone himself, who was paddling his canoe upon the stream, the name of which was danger. And Kenton, and Logan and Harrod and the others were abroad in the woods.
He was engrossed so deeply that he did not hear a heavy step behind him, nor did he see a huge bewhiskered figure in the path, holding a clubbed rifle. Yet he turned. It was perhaps the instinct inherited from his great ancestor, who was said to have had a sixth sense. Whatever it may have been, he faced suddenly about, and saw Bill Skelly aiming at him a blow with the clubbed rifle, which would at once crush his skull and send his body into the deep stream.
The same inherited instinct made him leap within the swing of the rifle and clutch at the mountaineer's throat. The heavy butt swished through the air, and the very force of the blow jerked the weapon from Skelly's hands. The next instant he was struggling for his life. Harry was a powerful youth, much stronger than many men, and, at that instant, the spirit and strength of his great ancestor were pouring into his veins. The treacherous attempt upon his life filled him with rage. He was, in very truth, the forest runner of the earlier century, and he strove with all his great might to slay his enemy.
Skelly, six feet two inches tall and two hundred pounds of muscle and sinew, struck the boy fiercely on the side of the head, but the terrible grasp was still at his throat. He was the larger and the stronger, but the sudden leap upon him gave his younger and smaller antagonist an advantage. He had a pistol in his belt, but with that throttling grip upon his throat he forgot it. The hunter had suddenly become the hunted. Filled with rage and venom he had expected an easy triumph, and, instead, he was now fighting for his life.
Skelly struck again and again at the boy, but Harry, with instinctive wisdom, pressed his head close to the man's chin, and Skelly's blows at such short range lacked force behind them. All the while Harry's youthful but powerful arms were pouring strength into the hands that grasped the man's throat. The mountaineer choked and gasped, and, changing his aim from the head, struck Harry again and again in the chest. Then he remembered to draw his pistol, but Harry, raising his knee, struck him violently on the wrist. The pistol dropped to the ground, and Skelly, in the fierce struggle, was unable to regain it.
Neither had uttered a cry. There was not a single shout for help. Skelly would not want to call attention, and Harry recalled afterward that in the tremendous tension of the moment the thought of it never occurred to him. He continued to press savagely upon Skelly's throat, while the mountaineer rained blows upon his chest, blows that would have killed him had Skelly been able to get full purchase for his arms. He heard the heavy gasping breath of the man, and he saw the dark, hideous face close to his own. It was so hairy that it was like the face of some huge anthropoid, with the lips wrinkled back from strong and cruel white teeth.
It seemed to Harry in very truth that he was fighting a great wild beast. His own breath came in short gasps, and at every expansion of the lungs a fierce pain shot through his whole body. A bloody foam rose to his lips. The savage pounding upon his chest was telling. He still retained his grasp upon Skelly's throat, where his fingers were sunk into the flesh, but it was only the grimmest kind of resolution that enabled him to hold on.
Harry saw the fierce light in Skelly's eye turn to joy. The man foresaw his triumph, and he began to curse low, but fast and with savage unction. Harry felt himself weakening, and he made another mighty effort to retain his hold, but the fingers still slipped, and, as Skelly struck him harder than ever in the chest, they flew loose entirely.
He knew that if Skelly had room for the full play of his arm that he would be knocked senseless at the next blow, and to ward it off he seized the man by his huge chest, tripping at the same time with all his might. The two fell, rolled over in their struggling, and then Harry felt himself dropping from a height. The next moment the deep waters of the Kentucky closed over the two, still locked fast in a deadly combat, and the waves circled away in diminishing height from the spot where they had sunk.