Click here to Download A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book by John Fox Jr. Language English having PDF Size 1 MB and No of Pages 41.
High noon of a crisp October day, sunshine flooding the earth with the warmth and light of old wine and, going single-file up through the jagged gap that the dripping of water has worn down through the Cumberland Mountains from crest to valley-level, a gray horse and two big mules, a man and two young girls.
A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book by John Fox Jr.
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On the gray horse, I led the tortuous way. After me came my small sister—and after her and like her, mule-back, rode the Blight—dressed as she would be for a gallop in Central Park or to ride a hunter in a horse show. I was taking them, according to promise, where the feet of other women than mountaineers had never trod.
Beyond the crest of the Big Black—to the waters of the Cumberland—the lair of moonshiner and feudsman, where is yet pocketed a civilization that, elsewhere, is long ago gone. This had been a pet dream of the Blight’s for a long time, and now the dream was coming true. The Blight was in the hills.
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Nobody ever went to her mother’s house without asking to see her even when she was a little thing with black hair, merry face and black eyes. Both men and women, with children of their own, have told me that she was, perhaps, the most fascinating child that ever lived. There be some who claim that she has never changed—and I am among them.
She began early, regardless of age, sex or previous condition of servitude—she continues recklessly as she began—and none makes complaint. Thus was it in her own world—thus it was when she came to mine. On the way down from the North, the conductor’s voice changed from a command to a request when he asked for her ticket.
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The jacketed lord of the dining-car saw her from afar and advanced to show her to a seat—that she might ride forward, sit next to a shaded window and be free from the glare of the sun on the other side. Two porters made a rush for her bag when she got off the car, and the proprietor of the little hotel in the little town where we had to wait several hours.
For the train into the mountains gave her the bridal chamber for an afternoon nap. From this little town to “The Gap” is the worst sixty-mile ride, perhaps, in the world. She sat in a dirty day-coach; the smoke rolled in at the windows and doors; the cars shook and swayed and lumbered around curves and down and up gorges.
There were about her rough men, crying children, slatternly women, tobacco juice, peanuts, popcorn and apple cores, but dainty, serene and as merry as ever, she sat through that ride with a radiant smile, her keen black eyes noting everything unlovely within and the glory of hill, tree and chasm without. A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book
Next morning at home, where we rise early, no one was allowed to waken her and she had breakfast in bed—for the Blight’s gentle tyranny was established on sight and varied not at the Gap. When she went down the street that day everybody stared surreptitiously and with perfect respect, as her dainty black plumed figure passed.
The post-office clerk could barely bring himself to say that there was no letter for her. The soda-fountain boy nearly filled her glass with syrup before he saw that he was not strictly minding his own business; the clerk, when I bought chocolate for her, unblushingly added extra weight and, as we went back, she met them both—Marston, the young engineer from the North.
Crossing the street and, at the same moment, a drunken young tough with an infuriated face reeling in a run around the corner ahead of us as though he were being pursued. Now we have a volunteer police guard some forty strong at the Gap—and from habit, I started for him, but the Blight caught my arm tight. The young engineer in three strides had reached the curb-stone and all he sternly said was: “Here! Here!” A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book
Now, as the world knows, the straightest way to the heart of the honest voter is through the women of the land, and the straightest way to the heart of the women is through the children of the land; and one method of winning both, with rural politicians, is to kiss the babies wide and far.
So as each infant, at sorghum time, has a circle of green-brown stickiness about his chubby lips, and as the Hon. Sam was averse to “long sweetenin’” even in his coffee, this particular political device just now was no small trial to the Hon. Samuel Budd. But in the language of one of his firmest supporters Uncle Tommie Hendricks: “The Hon. Sam done his duty, and he done it damn well.”
The issue at stake was the site of the new Court-House—two localities claiming the right undisputed, because they were the only two places in the county where there was enough level land for the Court-House to stand on. Let no man think this a trivial issue. There had been a similar one over on the Virginia side once. A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book
And the opposing factions agreed to decide the question by the ancient wager of battle, fist and skull—two hundred men on each side— and the women of the county with difficulty prevented the fight. Just now, Mr. Budd was on his way to “The Pocket”—the voting place of one faction—where he had never been, where the hostility against him was most bitter, and, that day.
He knew he was “up against” Waterloo, the crossing of the Rubicon, holding the pass at Thermopylae, or any other historical crisis in the history of man. I was saddling the mules when the cackling of geese in the creek announced the coming of the Hon. Samuel Budd, coming with his chin on his breast-deep in thought.
Still his eyes beamed cheerily, he lifted his slouched hat gallantly to the Blight and the little sister, and he would wait for us to jog along with him. I told him of our troubles, meanwhile. The Wild Dog had restored our mules and the Hon. Sam beamed: “He’s a wonder—where is he?” “He never waited—even for thanks.” A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book
Again the Hon. Sam beamed: “Ah! just like him. He’s gone ahead to help me.” “Well, how did he happen to be here?” I asked. “He’s everywhere,” said the Hon. Sam. “How did he know the mules were ours?” “Easy. That boy knows everything.” “Well, why did he bring them back and then leave so mysteriously?”
The Hon. Sam silently pointed a finger at the laughing Blight ahead, and I looked incredulous. “Just the same, that’s another reason I told you to warn Marston. He’s already got it in his head that Marston is his rival.” “Pshaw!” I said—for it was too ridiculous. “All right,” said the Hon. Sam placidly. “Then why doesn’t he want to see her?”
“How do you know he ain’t watchin’ her now, for all we know? Mark me,” he added, “you won’t see him at the speakin’, but I’ll bet fruit cake agin gingerbread he’ll be somewhere around.” So we went on, the two girls leading the way and the Hon. Sam now telling his political troubles to me. A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book Download
Half a mile down the road, a solitary horseman stood waiting, and Mr. Budd gave a low whistle. “One o’ my rivals,” he said, from the corner of his mouth. “Mornin’,” said the horseman; “lemme see you a minute.” He made a movement to draw aside, but the Hon. Samuel made a counter-gesture of dissent.
“This gentleman is a friend of mine,” he said firmly, but with great courtesy, “and he can hear what you have to say to me.” The mountaineer rubbed one huge hand over his stubbly chin, threw one of his long legs over the pommel of his saddle, and dangled a heavy cowhide shoe to and fro. “Would you mind tellin’ me whut pay a member of the House of Legislatur’ gits a day?” The Hon. Sam looked surprised.
Breakfast at dawn. The mountain girls were ready to go to work. All looked sorry to have us leave. They asked us to come back again, and they meant it. We said we would like to come back—and we meant it—to see them—the kind old mother, the pioneer-like old man, sturdy little Buck, shy little Cindy, the elusive, hard-working, unconsciously shivery Mart, and the two big sisters. A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book Download
As we started back up the river the sisters started for the fields, and I thought of their stricken brother in the settlements, who must have been much like Mart. Back up the Big Black Mountain we toiled, and late in the afternoon we were on the State line that runs the crest of the Big Black.
Right on top and bisected by that State line sat a dingy little shack, and there, with one leg thrown over the pommel of his saddle, sat Marston, drinking water from a gourd. “I was coming over to meet you,” he said, smiling at the Blight, who, greatly pleased, smiled back at him.
The shack was a “blind Tiger” where whiskey could be sold to Kentuckians on the Virginia side and to Virginians on the Kentucky side. Hanging around were the slouching figures of several moonshiners and the villainous fellow who ran it. “They are real ones all right,” said Marston. A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book Free
“One of them killed a revenue officer at that front door last week, and was killed by the posse as he was trying to escape out of the back window. That house will be in ashes soon,” he added. And it was. As we rode down the mountain we told him about our trip and the people with whom we had spent the night—and all the time he was smiling curiously.
“Buck,” he said. “Oh, yes, I know that little chap. Mart had him posted down there on the river to toll you to his house—to toll YOU,” he added to the Blight. He pulled in his horse suddenly, turned and looked up toward the top of the mountain. “Ah, I thought so.” We all looked back. On the edge of the cliff, far upward, on which the “blind Tiger” sat was a gray horse, and on it was a man who, motionless.
Was looking down at us. “He’s been following you all the way,” said the engineer. “Who’s been following us?” I asked. “That’s Mart up there—my friend and yours,” said Marston to the Blight. “I’m rather glad I didn’t meet you on the other side of the mountain—that’s ‘the Wild Dog.’” The Blight looked incredulous, but Marston knew the man and knew the horse. A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book Free
So Mart—hard-working Mart—was the Wild Dog, and he was content to do the Blight all service without thanks, merely for the privilege of secretly seeing her face now and then; and yet he would not look upon that face when she was a guest under his roof and asleep. Still, when we dropped behind the two girls I gave Marston the Hon.
Sam’s warning, and for a moment he looked rather grave. “Well,” he said, smiling, “if I’m found in the road some day, you’ll know who did it.” I shook my head. “Oh, no; he isn’t that bad.” “I don’t know,” said Marston. The smoke of the young engineer’s coke ovens lay far below us and the Blight had never seen a coke-plant before.
It looked like Hades even in the early dusk—the snake-like coil of fiery ovens stretching up the long, deep ravine, and the smoke-streaked clouds of fire, trailing like a yellow mist over them, with a fierce white blast shooting up here and there when the lid of an oven was raised, as though to add fresh temperature to some particular male-factor in some particular chamber of torment. A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book Free
Humanity about was joyous, however. Laughter and banter and song came from the cabins that lined the big ravine and the little ravines opening into it. A banjo tinkled at the entrance of “Possum Trot,” sacred to the darkies. We moved toward it. On the stoop sat an ecstatic picker and in the dust shuffled three pickaninnies—one boy and two girls—the youngest not five years old.
The crowd that was gathered about them gave way respectfully as we drew near; the little darkies showed their white teeth in jolly grins, and their feet shook the dust in happy competition. I showered a few coins for the Blight and on we went—into the mouth of the many-peaked Gap.
The night train was coming in and everybody had a smile of welcome for the Blight—post-office assistant, drug clerk, soda-water boy, telegraph operator, hostler, who came for the mules—and when tired, but happy, she slipped from her saddle to the ground, she then and there gave me what she usually reserves for Christmas morning, and that, too, while Marston was looking on. Over her shoulder I smiled at him. A knight of the Cumberland PDF Book Free