The Trail of the Lonesome Pine by John Fox Jr.
But June did not go home. Hale anticipated that resolution of hers and forestalled it by being on hand for breakfast and taking June over to the porch of his little office. There he tried to explain to her that they were trying to build a town and must have law and order; that they must have no personal feeling for or against anybody and must treat everybody exactly alike--no other course was fair--and though June could not quite understand, she trusted him and she said she would keep on at school until her father came for her.
"Do you think he will come, June?"
The little girl hesitated.
"I'm afeerd he will," she said, and Hale smiled.
"Well, I'll try to persuade him to let you stay, if he does come."
June was quite right. She had seen the matter the night before just as it was. For just at that hour young Dave, sobered, but still on the verge of tears from anger and humiliation, was telling the story of the day in her father's cabin. The old man's brows drew together and his eyes grew fierce and sullen, both at the insult to a Tolliver and at the thought of a certain moonshine still up a ravine not far away and the indirect danger to it in any finicky growth of law and order. Still he had a keen sense of justice, and he knew that Dave had not told all the story, and from him Dave, to his wonder, got scant comfort--for another reason as well: with a deal pending for the sale of his lands, the shrewd old man would not risk giving offence to Hale--not until that matter was settled, anyway. And so June was safer from interference just then than she knew. But Dave carried the story far and wide, and it spread as a story can only in the hills. So that the two people most talked about among the Tollivers and, through Loretta, among the Falins as well, were June and Hale, and at the Gap similar talk would come. Already Hale's name was on every tongue in the town, and there, because of his recent purchases of town-site land, he was already, aside from his personal influence, a man of mysterious power.
Meanwhile, the prescient shadow of the coming "boom" had stolen over the hills and the work of the Guard had grown rapidly.
Every Saturday there had been local lawlessness to deal with. The spirit of personal liberty that characterized the spot was traditional. Here for half a century the people of Wise County and of Lee, whose border was but a few miles down the river, came to get their wool carded, their grist ground and farming utensils mended. Here, too, elections were held viva voce under the beeches, at the foot of the wooded spur now known as Imboden Hill. Here were the muster-days of wartime. Here on Saturdays the people had come together during half a century for sport and horse- trading and to talk politics. Here they drank apple-jack and hard cider, chaffed and quarrelled and fought fist and skull. Here the bullies of the two counties would come together to decide who was the "best man." Here was naturally engendered the hostility between the hill-dwellers of Wise and the valley people of Lee, and here was fought a famous battle between a famous bully of Wise and a famous bully of Lee. On election days the country people would bring in gingercakes made of cane-molasses, bread homemade of Burr flour and moonshine and apple-jack which the candidates would buy and distribute through the crowd. And always during the afternoon there were men who would try to prove themselves the best Democrats in the State of Virginia by resort to tooth, fist and eye-gouging thumb. Then to these elections sometimes would come the Kentuckians from over the border to stir up the hostility between state and state, which makes that border bristle with enmity to this day. For half a century, then, all wild oats from elsewhere usually sprouted at the Gap. And thus the Gap had been the shrine of personal freedom--the place where any one individual had the right to do his pleasure with bottle and cards and politics and any other the right to prove him wrong if he were strong enough. Very soon, as the Hon. Sam Budd predicted, they had the hostility of Lee concentrated on them as siding with the county of Wise, and they would gain, in addition now, the general hostility of the Kentuckians, because as a crowd of meddlesome "furriners" they would be siding with the Virginians in the general enmity already alive. Moreover, now that the feud threatened activity over in Kentucky, more trouble must come, too, from that source, as the talk that came through the Gap, after young Dave Tolliver's arrest, plainly indicated.
Town ordinances had been passed. The wild centaurs were no longer allowed to ride up and down the plank walks of Saturdays with their reins in their teeth and firing a pistol into the ground with either hand; they could punctuate the hotel sign no more; they could not ride at a fast gallop through the streets of the town, and, Lost Spirit of American Liberty!--they could not even yell. But the lawlessness of the town itself and its close environment was naturally the first objective point, and the first problem involved was moonshine and its faithful ally "the blind tiger." The "tiger" is a little shanty with an ever-open mouth--a hole in the door like a post-office window. You place your money on the sill and, at the ring of the coin, a mysterious arm emerges from the hole, sweeps the money away and leaves a bottle of white whiskey. Thus you see nobody's face; the owner of the beast is safe, and so are you--which you might not be, if you saw and told. In every little hollow about the Gap a tiger had his lair, and these were all bearded at once by a petition to the county judge for high license saloons, which was granted. This measure drove the tigers out of business, and concentrated moonshine in the heart of the town, where its devotees were under easy guard. One "tiger" only indeed was left, run by a round-shouldered crouching creature whom Bob Berkley--now at Hale's solicitation a policeman and known as the Infant of the Guard--dubbed Caliban. His shanty stood midway in the Gap, high from the road, set against a dark clump of pines and roared at by the river beneath. Everybody knew he sold whiskey, but he was too shrewd to be caught, until, late one afternoon, two days after young Dave's arrest, Hale coming through the Gap into town glimpsed a skulking figure with a hand- barrel as it slipped from the dark pines into Caliban's cabin. He pulled in his horse, dismounted and deliberated. If he went on down the road now, they would see him and suspect. Moreover, the patrons of the tiger would not appear until after dark, and he wanted a prisoner or two. So Hale led his horse up into the bushes and came back to a covert by
H3 the roadside to watch and wait. As he sat there, a merry whistle sounded down the road, and Hale smiled. Soon the Infant of the Guard came along, his hands in his pockets, his cap on the back of his head, his pistol bumping his hip in manly fashion and making the ravines echo with his pursed lips. He stopped in front of Hale, looked toward the river, drew his revolver and aimed it at a floating piece of wood. The revolver cracked, the piece of wood skidded on the surface of the water and there was no splash.
"That was a pretty good shot," said Hale in a low voice. The boy whirled and saw him.
"Well-what are you--?"
"Easy--easy!" cautioned Hale. "Listen! I've just seen a moonshiner go into Caliban's cabin." The boy's eager eyes sparkled.
"Let's go after him."
"No, you go on back. If you don't, they'll be suspicious. Get another man"--Hale almost laughed at the disappointment in the lad's face at his first words, and the joy that came after it-- "and climb high above the shanty and come back here to me. Then after dark we'll dash in and cinch Caliban and his customers."
"Yes, sir," said the lad. "Shall I whistle going back?" Hale nodded approval.
"Just the same." And off Bob went, whistling like a calliope and not even turning his head to look at the cabin. In half an hour Hale thought he heard something crashing through the bushes high on the mountain side, and, a little while afterward, the boy crawled through the bushes to him alone. His cap was gone, there was a bloody scratch across his face and he was streaming with perspiration.
"You'll have to excuse me, sir," he panted, "I didn't see anybody but one of my brothers, and if I had told him, he wouldn't have let me come. And I hurried back for fear--for fear something would happen."
"Well, suppose I don't let you go."
"Excuse me, sir, but I don't see how you can very well help. You aren't my brother and you can't go alone."
"I was," said Hale.
"Yes, sir, but not now."
Hale was worried, but there was nothing else to be done.
"All right. I'll let you go if you stop saying 'sir' to me. It makes me feel so old."
"Certainly, sir," said the lad quite unconsciously, and when Hale smothered a laugh, he looked around to see what had amused him. Darkness fell quickly, and in the gathering gloom they saw two more figures skulk into the cabin.
"We'll go now--for we want the fellow who's selling the moonshine."
Again Hale was beset with doubts about the boy and his own responsibility to the boy's brothers. The lad's eyes were shining, but his face was more eager than excited and his hand was as steady as Hale's own.
"You slip around and station yourself behind that pine-tree just behind the cabin"--the boy looked crestfallen--"and if anybody tries to get out of the back door--you halt him."
"Is there a back door?"
"I don't know," Hale said rather shortly. "You obey orders. I'm not your brother, but I'm your captain."
"I beg your pardon, sir. Shall I go now?"
"Yes, you'll hear me at the front door. They won't make any resistance." The lad stepped away with nimble caution high above the cabin, and he even took his shoes off before he slid lightly down to his place behind the pine. There was no back door, only a window, and his disappointment was bitter. Still, when he heard Hale at the front door, he meant to make a break for that window, and he waited in the still gloom. He could hear the rough talk and laughter within and now and then the clink of a tin cup. By and by there was a faint noise in front of the cabin, and he steadied his nerves and his beating heart. Then he heard the door pushed violently in and Hale's cry:
Hale stood on the threshold with his pistol outstretched in his right hand. The door had struck something soft and he said sharply again:
"Come out from behind that door--hands up!"
At the same moment, the back window flew open with a bang and Bob's pistol covered the edge of the opened door. "Caliban" had rolled from his box like a stupid animal. Two of his patrons sat dazed and staring from Hale to the boy's face at the window. A mountaineer stood in one corner with twitching fingers and shifting eyes like a caged wild thing and forth issued from behind the door, quivering with anger--young Dave Tolliver. Hale stared at him amazed, and when Dave saw Hale, such a wave of fury surged over his face that Bob thought it best to attract his attention again; which he did by gently motioning at him with the barrel of his pistol.
"Hold on, there," he said quietly, and young Dave stood still.
"Climb through that window, Bob, and collect the batteries," said Hale.
"Sure, sir," said the lad, and with his pistol still prominently in the foreground he threw his left leg over the sill and as he climbed in he quoted with a grunt: "Always go in force to make an arrest." Grim and serious as it was, with June's cousin glowering at him, Hale could not help smiling.
"You didn't go home, after all," said Hale to young Dave, who clenched his hands and his lips but answered nothing; "or, if you did, you got back pretty quick. "And still Dave was silent.
"Get 'em all, Bob?" In answer the boy went the rounds--feeling the pocket of each man's right hip and his left breast.
The lad "broke" each of the four pistols, picked up a piece of twine and strung them together through each trigger-guard.
"Close that window and stand here at the door."
With the boy at the door, Hale rolled the hand-barrel to the threshold and the white liquor gurgled joyously on the steps.
"All right, come along," he said to the captives, and at last young Dave spoke:
"Whut you takin' me fer?"
Hale pointed to the empty hand-barrel and Dave's answer was a look of scorn.
"I nuvver brought that hyeh."
"You were drinking illegal liquor in a blind tiger, and if you didn't bring it you can prove that later. Anyhow, we'll want you as a witness," and Hale looked at the other mountaineer, who had turned his eyes quickly to Dave. Caliban led the way with young Dave, and Hale walked side by side with them while Bob was escort for the other two. The road ran along a high bank, and as Bob was adjusting the jangling weapons on his left arm, the strange mountaineer darted behind him and leaped headlong into the tops of thick rhododendron. Before Hale knew what had happened the lad's pistol flashed.
"Stop, boy!" he cried, horrified. "Don't shoot!" and he had to catch the lad to keep him from leaping after the runaway. The shot had missed; they heard the runaway splash into the river and go stumbling across it and then there was silence. Young Dave laughed:
"Uncle Judd'll be over hyeh to-morrow to see about this." Hale said nothing and they went on. At the door of the calaboose Dave balked and had to be pushed in by main force. They left him weeping and cursing with rage.
"Go to bed, Bob," said Hale.
"Yes, sir," said Bob; "just as soon as I get my lessons."
Hale did not go to the boarding-house that night--he feared to face June. Instead he went to the hotel to scraps of a late supper and then to bed. He had hardly touched the pillow, it seemed, when somebody shook him by the shoulder. It was Macfarlan, and daylight was streaming through the window.
"A gang of those Falins are here," Macfarlan said, "and they're after young Dave Tolliver--about a dozen of 'em. Young Buck is with them, and the sheriff. They say he shot a man over the mountains yesterday."
Hale sprang for his clothes--here was a quandary.
"If we turn him over to them--they'll kill him." Macfarlan nodded.
"Of course, and if we leave him in that weak old calaboose, they'll get more help and take him out to-night."
"Then we'll take him to the county jail."
"They'll take him away from us."
"No, they won't. You go out and get as many shotguns as you can find and load them with buckshot."
Macfarlan nodded approvingly and disappeared. Hale plunged his face in a basin of cold water, soaked his hair and, as he was mopping his face with a towel, there was a ponderous tread on the porch, the door opened without the formality of a knock, and Devil Judd Tolliver, with his hat on and belted with two huge pistols, stepped stooping within. His eyes, red with anger and loss of sleep, were glaring, and his heavy moustache and beard showed the twitching of his mouth.
"Whar's Dave?" he said shortly.
"In the calaboose."
"Did you put him in?"
"Yes," said Hale calmly.
"Well, by God," the old man said with repressed fury, "you can't git him out too soon if you want to save trouble."
"Look here, Judd," said Hale seriously. "You are one of the last men in the world I want to have trouble with for many reasons; but I'm an officer over here and I'm no more afraid of you"--Hale paused to let that fact sink in and it did--"than you are of me. Dave's been selling liquor."
"He hain't," interrupted the old mountaineer. "He didn't bring that liquor over hyeh. I know who done it."
"All right," said Hale; "I'll take your word for it and I'll let him out, if you say so, but---"
"Right now," thundered old Judd.
"Do you know that young Buck Falin and a dozen of his gang are over here after him?" The old man looked stunned.
"They're over there in the woods across the river now and they want me to give him up to them. They say they have the sheriff with them and they want him for shooting a man on Leatherwood Creek, day before yesterday."
"It's all a lie," burst out old Judd. "They want to kill him."
"Of course--and I was going to take him up to the county jail right away for safe-keeping."
"D'ye mean to say you'd throw that boy into jail and then fight them Falins to pertect him?" the old man asked slowly and incredulously. Hale pointed to a two-store building through his window.
"If you get in the back part of that store at a window, you can see whether I will or not. I can summon you to help, and if a fight comes up you can do your share from the window."
The old man's eyes lighted up like a leaping flame.
"Will you let Dave out and give him a Winchester and help us fight 'em?" he said eagerly. "We three can whip 'em all."
"No," said Hale shortly. "I'd try to keep both sides from fighting, and I'd arrest Dave or you as quickly as I would a Falin."
The average mountaineer has little conception of duty in the abstract, but old Judd belonged to the better class--and there are many of them--that does. He looked into Hale's eyes long and steadily.
Macfarlan came in hurriedly and stopped short--seeing the hatted, bearded giant.
"This is Mr. Tolliver--an uncle of Dave's--Judd Tolliver," said Hale. "Go ahead."
"I've got everything fixed--but I couldn't get but five of the fellows--two of the Berkley boys. They wouldn't let me tell Bob."
"All right. Can I summon Mr. Tolliver here?"
"Yes," said Macfarlan doubtfully, "but you know---"
"He won't be seen," interrupted Hale, understandingly. "He'll be at a window in the back of that store and he won't take part unless a fight begins, and if it does, we'll need him."
An hour later Devil Judd Tolliver was in the store Hale pointed out and peering cautiously around the edge of an open window at the wooden gate of the ramshackle calaboose. Several Falins were there--led by young Buck, whom Hale recognized as the red-headed youth at the head of the tearing horsemen who had swept by him that late afternoon when he was coming back from his first trip to Lonesome Cove. The old man gritted his teeth as he looked and he put one of his huge pistols on a table within easy reach and kept the other clenched in his right fist. From down the street came five horsemen, led by John Hale. Every man carried a double- barrelled shotgun, and the old man smiled and his respect for Hale rose higher, high as it already was, for nobody--mountaineer or not--has love for a hostile shotgun. The Falins, armed only with pistols, drew near.
"Keep back!" he heard Hale say calmly, and they stopped--young Buck alone going on.
"We want that feller," said young Buck.
"Well, you don't get him," said Hale quietly. "He's our prisoner. Keep back!" he repeated, motioning with the barrel of his shotgun- -and young Buck moved backward to his own men, The old man saw Hale and another man--the sergeant--go inside the heavy gate of the stockade. He saw a boy in a cap, with a pistol in one hand and a strapped set of books in the other, come running up to the men with the shotguns and he heard one of them say angrily:
"I told you not to come."
"I know you did," said the boy imperturbably.
"You go on to school," said another of the men, but the boy with the cap shook his head and dropped his books to the ground. The big gate opened just then and out came Hale and the sergeant, and between them young Dave--his eyes blinking in the sunlight.
"Damn ye," he heard Dave say to Hale. "I'll get even with you fer this some day"--and then the prisoner's eyes caught the horses and shotguns and turned to the group of Falins and he shrank back utterly dazed. There was a movement among the Falins and Devil Judd caught up his other pistol and with a grim smile got ready. Young Buck had turned to his crowd:
"Men," he said, "you know I never back down"--Devil Judd knew that, too, and he was amazed by the words that followed-"an' if you say so, we'll have him or die; but we ain't in our own state now. They've got the law and the shotguns on us, an' I reckon we'd better go slow."
The rest seemed quite willing to go slow, and, as they put their pistols up, Devil Judd laughed in his beard. Hale put young Dave on a horse and the little shotgun cavalcade quietly moved away toward the county-seat.
The crestfallen Falins dispersed the other way after they had taken a parting shot at the Hon. Samuel Budd, who, too, had a pistol in his hand. Young Buck looked long at him--and then he laughed:
"You, too, Sam Budd," he said. "We folks'll rickollect this on election day." The Hon. Sam deigned no answer.
And up in the store Devil Judd lighted his pipe and sat down to think out the strange code of ethics that governed that police- guard. Hale had told him to wait there, and it was almost noon before the boy with the cap came to tell him that the Falins had all left town. The old man looked at him kindly.
"Air you the little feller whut fit fer June?"
"Not yet," said Bob; "but it's coming."
"Well, you'll whoop him."
"I'll do my best."
"Whar is she?"
"She's waiting for you over at the boarding-house."
"Does she know about this trouble?"
"Not a thing; she thinks you've come to take her home." The old man made no answer, and Bob led him back toward Hale's office. June was waiting at the gate, and the boy, lifting his cap, passed on. June's eyes were dark with anxiety.
"You come to take me home, dad?"
"I been thinkin' 'bout it," he said, with a doubtful shake of his head.
June took him upstairs to her room and pointed out the old water- wheel through the window and her new clothes (she had put on her old homespun again when she heard he was in town), and the old man shook his head.
"I'm afeerd 'bout all these fixin's--you won't never be satisfied agin in Lonesome Cove."
"Why, dad," she said reprovingly. "Jack says I can go over whenever I please, as soon as the weather gits warmer and the roads gits good."
"I don't know," said the old man, still shaking his head.
All through dinner she was worried. Devil Judd hardly ate anything, so embarrassed was he by the presence of so many "furriners" and by the white cloth and table-ware, and so fearful was he that he would be guilty of some breach of manners. Resolutely he refused butter, and at the third urging by Mrs. Crane he said firmly, but with a shrewd twinkle in his eye:
"No, thank ye. I never eats butter in town. I've kept store myself," and he was no little pleased with the laugh that went around the table. The fact was he was generally pleased with June's environment and, after dinner, he stopped teasing June.
"No, honey, I ain't goin' to take you away. I want ye to stay right where ye air. Be a good girl now and do whatever Jack Hale tells ye and tell that boy with all that hair to come over and see me." June grew almost tearful with gratitude, for never had he called her "honey" before that she could remember, and never had he talked so much to her, nor with so much kindness.
"Air ye comin' over soon?"
"Mighty soon, dad."
"Well, take keer o' yourself."
"I will, dad," she said, and tenderly she watched his great figure slouch out of sight.
An hour after dark, as old Judd sat on the porch of the cabin in Lonesome Cove, young Dave Tolliver rode up to the gate on a strange horse. He was in a surly mood.
"He lemme go at the head of the valley and give me this hoss to git here," the boy grudgingly explained. "I'm goin' over to git mine termorrer."
"Seems like you'd better keep away from that Gap," said the old man dryly, and Dave reddened angrily.
"Yes, and fust thing you know he'll be over hyeh atter you." The old man turned on him sternly
"Jack Hale knows that liquer was mine. He knows I've got a still over hyeh as well as you do--an' he's never axed a question nor peeped an eye. I reckon he would come if he thought he oughter-- but I'm on this side of the state-line. If I was on his side, mebbe I'd stop."
Young Dave stared, for things were surely coming to a pretty pass in Lonesome Cove.
"An' I reckon," the old man went on, "hit 'ud be better grace in you to stop sayin' things agin' him; fer if it hadn't been fer him, you'd be laid out by them Falins by this time."
It was true, and Dave, silenced, was forced into another channel.
"I wonder," he said presently, "how them Falins always know when I go over thar."
"I've been studyin' about that myself," said Devil Judd. Inside, the old step-mother had heard Dave's query.
"I seed the Red Fox this afternoon," she quavered at the door.
"Whut was he doin' over hyeh?" asked Dave.
"Nothin'," she said, "jus' a-sneakin' aroun' the way he's al'ays a-doin'. Seemed like he was mighty pertickuler to find out when you was comin' back."
Both men started slightly.
"We're all Tollivers now all right," said the Hon. Samuel Budd that night while he sat with Hale on the porch overlooking the mill-pond--and then he groaned a little.
"Them Falins have got kinsfolks to burn on the Virginia side and they'd fight me tooth and toenail for this a hundred years hence!"
He puffed his pipe, but Hale said nothing.
"Yes, sir," he added cheerily, "we're in for a hell of a merry time now. The mountaineer hates as long as he remembers and--he never forgets."