A Knight of the Cumberland

第16章 THE GREAT DAY(2)

Ah,dear me,it was more serious than I thought.There were tears in her eyes,and I led the Blight and the little sister home--conscience-stricken and humbled.Still Iwould find that young jackanapes of an engineer and let him know that anybody who made the Blight unhappy must deal with me.I would take him by the neck and pound some sense into him.I found him lofty,uncommunicative,perfectly alien to any consciousness that I could have any knowledge of what was going or any right to poke my nose into anybody's business--and I did nothing except go back to lunch --to find the Blight upstairs and the little sister indignant with me.

"You just let them alone,''she said severely.

"Let who alone?''I said,lapsing into the speech of childhood.

"You--just--let--them--alone,''she repeated.

"I've already made up my mind to that.''

"Well,then!''she said,with an air of satisfaction,but why I don't know.

I went back to the poplar grove.The Declaration was over and the crowd was gone,but there was the Hon.Samuel Budd,mopping his brow with one hand,slapping his thigh with the other,and all but executing a pigeon-wing on the turf.

He turned goggles on me that literally shone triumph.

"He's come--Dave Branham's come!''he said."He's better than the Wild Dog.

I've been trying him on the black horse and,Lord,how he can take them rings off!

Ha,won't I get into them fellows who wouldn't let me off this morning!Oh,yes,I agreed to bring in a dark horse,and I'll bring him in all right.That five hundred is in my clothes now.You see that point yonder?Well,there's a hollow there and bushes all around.That's where I'm going to dress him.I've got his clothes all right and a name for him.This thing is a-goin'to come off accordin'to Hoyle,Ivanhoe,Four-Quarters-of-Beef,and all them mediaeval fellows.Just watch me!''

I began to get newly interested,for that knight's name I suddenly recalled.Little Buck,the Wild Dog's brother,had mentioned him,when we were over in the Kentucky hills,as practising with the Wild Dog--as being "mighty good,but nowhar 'longside o'Mart.''So the Hon.Sam might have a good substitute,after all,and being a devoted disciple of Sir Walter,Iknew his knight would rival,in splendor,at least,any that rode with King Arthur in days of old.

The Blight was very quiet at lunch,as was the little sister,and my effort to be jocose was a lamentable failure.So I gave news.

"The Hon.Sam has a substitute.''No curiosity and no question.

"Who--did you say?Why,Dave Branham,a friend of the Wild Dog.

Don't you remember Buck telling us about him?''No answer."Well,I do--and,by the way,I saw Buck and one of the big sisters just a while ago.Her name is Mollie.Dave Branham,you will recall,is her sweetheart.The other big sister had to stay at home with her mother and little Cindy,who's sick.Of course,I didn't ask them about Mart--the Wild Dog.They knew I knew and they wouldn't have liked it.The Wild Dog's around,I understand,but he won't dare show his face.Every policeman in town is on the lookout for him.''I thought the Blight's face showed a signal of relief.

"I'm going to play short-stop,''I added.

"Oh!''said the Blight,with a smile,but the little sister said with some scorn:

"You!''

"I'll show you,''I said,and I told the Blight about base-ball at the Gap.We had introduced base-ball into the region and the valley boys and mountain boys,being swift runners,throwing like a rifle shot from constant practice with stones,and being hard as nails,caught the game quickly and with great ease.We beat them all the time at first,but now they were beginning to beat us.We had a league now,and this was the championship game for the pennant.

"It was right funny the first time we beat a native team.Of course,we got together and cheered 'em.They thought we were cheering ourselves,so they got red in the face,rushed together and whooped it up for themselves for about half an hour.''

The Blight almost laughed.

"We used to have to carry our guns around with us at first when we went to other places,and we came near having several fights.''

John Fox Jr.

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