Blood of the Allisons
HE WAS eleven years old, and he belonged to the aristocracy of Tennessee's mountains, on his mother's side of the house; his father had been a good-looking and good-natured, lazy North Carolina hillman to whom a hound dog was of as much value as a woman—which, after all, is saying very little against his regard for women. He lived, this boy, with his pretty widowed young mother in a small cabin near the head of the rather thickly settled valley that is called Little Jerusalem, of which "Daredevil" Delaney was king.
His mother sewed for their living, therefore they were poor enough. His wardrobe consisted of two hickory shirts, two pairs of brown jeans knee-trousers with four genuine pockets to each, two suits of home-made underwear, one pair of very red suspenders, and a gone-to-seed felt hat that he wore turned straight up in front, desperado fashion. He scorned to chew tobacco, run from anybody, or tell an outright lie; and he swore fluently as a sort of safety-valve, but his silent and patient mother didn't know it. This was the one secret that he had ever kept from her.
Buckner Newland was his name. They called him "Buck," and he was inordinately proud of it. It made him feel like a man. Buck walked, this still and hazy October afternoon, down the crooked and stony road that led down the crooked and stony creek, until he came to a small field of ripe corn. There he filched the biggest cornstalk he could find, and then he hastened over to the narrow stream, sat himself down beside it, opened his bone-handled barlow knife and began to whittle out the parts of a water-wheel.
Made and set in the water correctly, you know, a cornstalk water-wheel with a stick-weed axle will run almost forever, unless the creek gets up. Buck knew exactly how to make and set them in the water correctly. He was now planning to put one every twenty yards the entire length of the stream.
Suddenly his knife slipped and cut his finger. He was just finishing.
"—— the thing!" Buck exclaimed.
Quickly he felt a pang of guilt, and he looked around to see whether anybody had heard him who would tell his mother. Though he frequently disobeyed her, being blood of her blood and bone of her bone, he held her in great reverence; she was the whole world to him.
And there behind him, at the side of the road, smiling just a little, was a strange man of about thirty, who sat astride a sleek and well-saddled black horse. The man was dressed in blue serge, with a blue flannel shirt and a slim black four-in-hand tie; he wore a broad-rimmed black hat, and leggings of yellow leather; he was sunburned and strong -looking, and his teeth were big and white and beautiful.
"All right!" snapped Buck, defiantly.
That was the Allison in him, which, happily, predominated.
Then the stranger saw the boy's bleeding finger, and he seemed rather concerned. He threw his horse's rein over its head, dismounted springily, drew a white handkerchief from his pocket and advanced upon Buck.
"Le's tie it up, son," he drawled in the drawl of the hills. "And ef I was you, son, I wouldn't cuss no more. It sounds rotten."
Buck never forgot that he liked that man the very first time he saw him. He submitted to having his finger bandaged. Then he turned to the task of putting the water-wheel into the creek, and the man watched him with interest. The wheel soon began to run musically.
"Listen!" said Buck, enthused. "Listen at 'er! Clippety-clippety-clip! Don't she go purty?"
"It shore does," smiled the strange man. He smiled easily. "What's ye name, son?"
"Buck. Buck Newland."
The other's face became serious, went just a trifle white.
"Newland," he muttered, "Newland. What was ye mother's fust name?"
"Which used to be Mary Allison? She used to live here; she married Tom Newland, o' Nawth Ca'liner, and went home with him to live, and Tom died; and she moved back here a few days ago—am I right, Buck?"
"Yeuh; ye're shore right. Mother takes in sewin'; the's more folks lives here to sew for, ye see, 'an the' was lived in Nawth Ca'liner. Mister, might I ax what yore name is?"
The man watched the lad's countenance closely when he gave it—
But the name meant nothing to the boy. Buck looked once more at the flying water-wheel, then he grinned up at his companion:
"How'll ye swap knives?"
"Even, and sight unseen," came readily, though he had already seen Buck's. "Give ye mine for your'n. Are ye game?"
"My middle name is game," said Buck.
He swapped a fifteen-cent barlow for a handsome dollar-and-a-half, stag-handled jackknife!
"Ye don't mean it!" cried Buck.
Again Delaney smiled.
"I reckon I do, son. So long, and good luck!"
With that he mounted his horse and galloped away.
It was the finest of all the knives that Buck had ever seen. It drowned out all interest in the monopoly of cornstalk water-wheels that he had planned; even the finger he had cut with the old barlow was forgotten. He ran toward home to show his prize of prizes to his mother.
"Looky here!" he exclaimed as he dashed in at the open cabin doorway.
Then he stopped short. There, talking with his mother, was Little Jerusalem's herb-digger, fortune-teller, and newspaper, old and wrinkled Granny Hood, with her pipe of clay and her sourwood staff. She was smoking like a burning brush-heap. Buck saw that she wore a dark calico dress, a red bandanna, and a red undershirt—at least.
"What is it, Bucky boy?" asked Mary Newland.
He went to her and showed her the knife, He told her all that he had to tell about his new friend. Mary Newland turned a little pale at the name, even as Delaney had gone a little pale at hers. She took the handsome knife to the fire that smoldered in the wide-mouthed stone fireplace, and consigned it to the live coals; then she unwrapped the crimson-stained handkerchief from her son's injured finger and was about to throw it, too, into the fire, when Granny Hood called shrilly:
"Don't Mary! It's bad luck! It's bad luck to burn blood!"
Mary Newland dropped the handkerchief to the hearth. Perhaps, she reasoned, it would be better to wash it and send it back, to let him know that she didn't care to be under obligations to him for even the wrapping of a finger.
BUCK wondered at this. To Buck it was the un-understandable. During all that century of time, his mother had never said a word. The look in her eyes had kept him from uttering a protest. He turned to Granny Hood, as though he expected her to tell him what was the matter. The old scandal-monger was by no means loath.
"That was Daredevil Delaney, boy," she croaked, "and he's a plumb bad man. He's rich; he heired his daddy's farm and big frame house at the lower end o' this here valley, whar he lives with his maw. He owns timber, and cattle, sheeps, and hosses. He's as wild as a buck deer, and he fights like a wildcat what a mad dawg has bit, and he robs. The law don't seem to be able to git any proof on him. And yit, I did hear o' the county sheriff afore this'n a sayin' 'at Daredevil made about the best law they could have out here——"
At this point Mary Newland interrupted in a tremulous, white voice:
"That'll be enough about Hale Delaney, I reckon, Granny Hood. Maybe you didn't know it, but I don't 'low his name spoke in my house, Granny."
The peppery old woman rose on her long staff, half-angry, and turned toward the door. But she stopped and faced about.
"He was a fine young man ontel ye throwed him down, Mary, and you know it as well's ye know night's dark. He hain't never keered for nothin' sence that day. I reckon I won't bother ye no more."
"And I reckon I won't cry about it," was the spicy reply of the young widow.
Granny Hood stamped her way out on her sourwood staff. Mrs. Newland went back to her sewing, but she seemed to do everything wrong. Even Buck noticed it. Finally a question took form in his mind, and he decided to risk asking it.
"Mother, what made ye throw him down?"
"It was afore I was married," she said solemnly. "We had the wo'st quarrel in the world. I swore I never would speak to him no more, and I never have. And I never will."
The truth of the matter was that she had married for spite, as women—more especially women of the mountains—do now and then. For herself she had made a thorny bed, but she had lain in it well, oh, exceedingly well; which went far to prove the soul of a martyr saint deep down in the woman. She had the intense nature, and the corresponding temper of lightning-fire, of a people who had fought themselves well nigh to extinction; and she was still angry at Daredevil Delaney because she loved him above everything, except Buck, on earth. But she wouldn't admit it to herself. Never! You know how women are with their love affairs.
Contrary to Granny Hood's opinion of the matter, Mary Allison's "throwing him down" had not made Delaney the man he was. Had he married her, he would have been the same wild, good-natured and rollicking, free-blooded daredevil that he was, though he probably wouldn't have gambled any. The greatest result of her refusing to be his wife had been only that he had remained unmarried.
Now this Delaney was not what one might call bad. He simply saw that the people of his neighborhood and neighboring neighborhoods lived with a fair semblance of correctness, that was all. If a man was not providing for his family, he had a warning; if he did not immediately mend his ways, Daredevil Delaney gave him a whipping that he did not soon forget. Delaney caused men to pay their debts, support the preacher, and buy more corn-meal and bacon than yellow-corn whisky.
Of course, he had his enemies as well as his friends; and, of course, there had been committed grave crimes that had been put at his door—which was inevitable, and which often had placed him in jeopardy and made his position one scarcely to be envied.
"Mother," suddenly asked Buck, "are ye sick? Ye look like ye was."
Mary Newland that was Mary Allison turned her eyes upward from the sewing that was now so difficult for her to do.
"I—I think I am, a little. I think I ought 'o walk out some, maybe."
She rose and dropped her sewing to her chair; she put on her blue gingham bonnet, and started for the door.
"Le's go down to see my flutter-wheel," suggested Buck. "Y'ought 'o see it agoin' clippety-clippety-clip. Will ye, mother?"
"Maybe you'd better stay around home," said Mary Newland.
She passed across the threshold, and went slowly toward the gate.
The boy stood in the cabin doorway and watched her go with keen disappointment in his clear brown eyes. It was very unlike her to refuse to let him accompany her anywhere. Buck did not know that, down the valley and up a silent, hemlock-filled cove, there was an old try sting-place that was still to her a shrine—a great and beautiful white beech tree laden with golden yellow leaves, and under it a bubbling spring bordered with sword-ferns and laurel, while cut in the bark of the tree were the almost grown-over initials, M. A. and H. D. Nor did Buck know that the old shrine was calling, calling to his mother as it had never, never called before.
The lad walked down to the ripe cornfield, took another big cornstalk, went back to the cabin and borrowed a table-knife from the cupboard, and made a cornstalk fiddle. It was after sundown when Mary Newland returned.
The following morning, she washed and ironed Daredevil Delaney's handkerchief—and she did a job to be proud of—wrapped it in a page of an old story-paper, and sent Buck to the Delaney home with it.
"Go right to the house, and come right back," she instructed. "Don't stay, and don't talk to 'em."
"Wellum," said Buck.
Once in the crooked road, Buck decided that he was utterly too weary to walk such a great distance—it was fully a mile; therefore he broke off a long, frostbitten ironweed for a sleek black horse, mounted it, and rode at a gallop most of the way to the Delaney frame house at the lower end of the valley. The house set a hundred yards from the road, and there were apple-trees before it and to either side of it and marching up the gentle slope behind it. It had been painted white, and honeysuckles ran over the front porch. A hound ran out and growled at him, and the voice of Daredevil Delaney promptly scolded it back.
"Come on in, son," said Delaney. "I won't let him bite ye."
Buck went on. Delaney sat on the porch, plaiting a rawhide band for his hat; he rose and pushed his chair toward the boy. Buck shook his head, and tossed the little package into the other's hands. Then he turned to go.
"Wait, Buck," smiled Delaney; and Buck forgot orders from headquarters and waited. To him that voice was magic; to him that man stood for all that was big and fine, noble and bold.
Delaney began to open the package. When he saw and recognized his own handkerchief, now snow-white and immaculate and folded so very precisely, he muttered under his breath—
His strong face at once became a study. It was almost as though he saw a ray of hope. He went on, aloud—
"She wasn't mad, was she, son?"
Again Buck forgot his instructions. He answered readily:
"Yeuh, she was mad. She burnt up that knife you gi' me, and now I ain't got no more knife 'an a rabbit. Granny Hood she said yore name was Daredevil; is it?"
Delaney ignored the question, and drew a fifteen-cent, bone-handled barlow from one of his trousers pockets.
"It shore ain't fair for me to keep this when you've got none," he drawled; "here, take it, Buck."
The boy accepted it very gladly.
"Now wait," said Delaney, "ontel I come back."
HE WENT into the house. Through an open window in the old-fashioned parlor, Buck saw him place the folded handkerchief reverently between the leaves of a big family Bible, as though it were some frail, dead flower connected with memories that were sacred. Three minutes later, and Delaney came back with his smiling little old mother, and in her hands she carried a molasses cake and a paper bag of red apples.
"This is her boy," said Delaney. "He looks like her, now don't he?"
"As much as beans," the feeble old woman laughed weakly. She gave Buck the bag of apples and the molasses cake, and continued: "Sonny, tell ye mother I'd be pow'ful glad ef she'd come to see me. Tell her I'd come to see her, ef I jest wasn't so porely. La, la! But Mary Allison used to be so purty that the sight of her would might' nigh it cyore sore eyes! I'd shore like to see her, sonny."
"She's a heap purtier now 'an she ever was." declared Buck. "She gits purtier and purtier every day. Wimmen like her don't never git ugly—Lord, no! Sometimes I quit aplayin' and go to the house jest to have a look at her, she's that consarned purty——"
A bass voice that Buck had never heard before interrupted, and it came from somewhere not far beyond the vines that almost walled in the porch:
"I beg your pardon, Daredevil, and I sure do hate to do it, but I got to arrest you in the name o' the law."
It was one of the high sheriff's lowland deputies, and he walked heavily to the top of the porch steps. Delaney's countenance flashed less serious. He almost smiled.
"I reckon," he replied, "ye don't mind a tellin' me what I done."
"You're accused of beating old Curtis Holden until he died from it, and robbing him. Curtis Holden himself said so, told a dozen before he winked out. It was yesterday afternoon about four o'clock, in Holden's sitting-room."
Delaney's face now became serious again.
"Look here, Emmett, you know I wouldn't beat a' old man like that. You know I never done it. Holden might ha' reely thought it was me, what with his imaginin's and his nighsightedness and my repitation, but it shore wasn't me. I'm white, Emmett, and you know it."
"To tell you the truth, I don't believe you did it," Emmett admitted; "but orders are orders, and I got to arrest you."
"I beg leave to differ with ye," snapped out Delaney. "To be arrested is to be sent to the State prison for life—if I ain't hung—for somethin' I didn't do. To git down to facts, you ain't man enough, Emmett, to put irons on me; and you wouldn't shoot me, acause you yoreself don't believe I done it; so how are ye agoin' to arrest me, Emmett?"
The deputy did not draw a weapon because he believed that he could accomplish more by means of his great strength alone. Delaney was unarmed, and Emmett was a big man; besides, Delaney knew that the other wouldn't shoot. Emmett turned to the much-troubled Mrs. Delaney.
"Please step into the house," he requested kindly.
"Go, mother," said the mountaineer; and she went.
Buck Newland stood like a post, his face as serious as a mask of Napoleon, and watched every movement of the deputy as he took handcuffs from his belt and advanced upon his man. Delaney's eyes flashed at the sight of the disgraceful irons; he went suddenly white as he put out his wrists as though to receive the manacles. A look of satisfaction spread over Emmett's countenance. But Delaney seized the irons, tore them from the other's hands, and jammed them into one of his own rear trousers pockets!
For one second Emmett stared in surprise. They sprang to the ground and faced each other. To run from one man was much against Delaney's liking, though the officer now had drawn a weapon. Delaney dove under with the lithe quickness of a panther; with his left hand he caught Emmett's gun-wrist, and with his right he wrenched the revolver free; then he struck the deputy a chest blow that staggered him, stepped backward, and threw the revolver over apple-trees and into a blackberry thicket.
At this, the lowlander did a thing an officer of the law never should have done: he flew into a rage, gritted out an oath, and struck at the hillman with a punch that might have broken bones if it had landed. From that moment it became a good, round battle. Emmett was the stronger of the two, but his adversary was electric.
They squared themselves and put up their guards, much as lumberjack fighters do. Buck stepped to the ground; his molasses cake was squeezed almost flat under one arm, and his face was flushed with fiery interest. Emmett put himself on the offensive at once; he struck, feinted, struck again and landed on the other's shoulder, spinning him around.
"Hit him!" fairly screamed Buck. "Why don't ye bust him, Daredevil?"
Delaney recovered himself in a way that delighted the boy. He had to fight now, and for his life; to run from an unarmed man was unthinkable, and he couldn't be arrested. He darted in, cleverly and deliberately slapped Emmett on the jaw and drew Emmett's arms upward, then broke under with a mighty blow and drove the deputy backward twenty feet.
"Dawg-gone!" yelled Buck. "That was a lulu!"
By this time Emmett had forgotten all about arresting Delaney; to the deputy it had become a personal matter. He came back with a hoarse bellow, like a maddened bull, and struck half a dozen blows that landed on nothing more solid than air. Delaney gave him a punch on the point of the jaw, and it dazed him for a moment.
"Pour it to him!" cried Buck. "Pour it to him, Daredevil! Ye've shore got him now, ef ye'll only pour it to him!"
Emmett went at his adversary again, and, using a part of Delaney's own battling tactics, knocked Delaney flat. The hillman lay there, supine, as though he were unconscious, for a few seconds, and the panting deputy watched him closely. Buck Newland put the molasses cake and the apples on the porch, took out his barlow knife and opened it.
"Don't ye hit him," he told Emmett, "while he's down. Ef ye do, I'll cut a hole in ye."
Delaney rose, came to life like a steel spring, and the real battle began. For five minutes they battered each other, and blood flowed from their faces. Then Emmett sought for a clench; his wind was weakening, while Delaney was going faster than ever. Delaney slipped on the grass, and Emmett leaped to his back. But Delaney straightened his legs and had the giant on his hip; a supreme effort, and the big lowlander was thrown over Delaney's head and into a heap.
Another moment, and the mountaineer had taken the manacles from his pocket and snapped them on Emmett's wrists!
"You're a man," he said, smiling and panting at the same time, "that I'd haf to kill, to whip. I don't want to kill ye, Emmett. I'd sudgest that ye go back to Sheriff Hanley and explain to him what a merry job he's agoin' to have a-takin' Hale Delaney to jail."
Without a word in reply, Emmett rose and walked down the road, mounted his horse, and rode toward Johnsville in the flat country. When he was out of sight, Delaney turned to Buck.
"How'd ye like that, son?"
"Fine!" Buck answered. "I wisht I was a man."
"But I hope ye'll have more plain common sense 'an I've had, son," muttered Daredevil Delaney, very seriously, "when ye're a man."
He sat down on the steps, bent his head, and was very still. He was a fool for having made the name he had made for himself. To leave his invalid mother entirely was a thing he could not do, and they would arrest him sooner or later; and when they did arrest him, his reputation would cost him his life.
Mrs. Delaney came out and sat down on the step above him. She put a wrinkled old hand on his thick black hair, and she too was very still.
The silence was too much for Buck. He took up the presents the mother of Daredevil Delaney had given him, went down to the dusty road, mounted his ironweed horse and galloped toward home. To take the cake and the fruit to his mother would be to lose them, he knew; so he stopped at the water-wheel and made a cache there among the stones.
He didn't show her the barlow knife, either; he didn't dare. But he told her all that which Mrs. Delaney had said to tell her, and he gave a very vivid account of the fight. And the latter-named was quite sufficient to cause Mary Newland to scorch the bread they had for dinner.
CURTIS HOLDEN was not generally loved like a brother, but he was an old man, and sentiment over the county ran high against Hale Delaney. Officers were soon combing the big hills for him, and a substantial reward was offered. Delaney remained in the Little Jerusalem neighborhood, and he was put to his wits' end, day and night, to provide food for himself and to elude the men who hunted him singly and by twos and threes. It was not the officers that he feared; the enemies who hunted him for the sake of the reward, the Judases—it was those whom he feared. They knew the fastnesses of the mountains, even as he knew them.
Then the meanest and most villainous of all those enemies discovered Daredevil Delaney's hiding-place. It was high up on the side of the western mountain, in a nest of cliffs and boulders, and it was impregnable to two, four, or six. Ten men might take Delaney from that retreat, but that would split the reward into ten parts. This long-haired and lanky, cunning enemy figured for hours to find out how many times ten would go into a thousand, and shook his head when he finally knew. Then he laid a plan.
He had his slatternly third wife go to Buckner Newland, the only boy in Little Jerusalem who didn't know her, with a smooth tale. She found Buck playing beside the cornstalk water-wheel, as usual.
"Listen at her," said Buck. "Clippety-clippety-clip! Don't she go purty?"
"Sonny," the woman began wheedlingly, "do you know Daredevil Delaney?"
"Yeuh," nodded Buck. "And I like him wuss'n 'most anything. Why? They ain't got him, have they?"
"No, they ain't got him. Well, his mother she's awful sick. About to die. She wants him to sneak home to see her jest as quick as ever he can. D'ye reckon ye could find him and tell him? He wouldn't hide from you. He wouldn't be askeered o' you, ye see. Tell him his Cousin Lucy sent ye."
According to the plan, Delaney would walk into the hands of the high sheriff. For Delaney was the man to go to his mother, if she were dying and sent for him, though he hung for it. There were a number of things he held dearer than his life.
"Are you his Cousin Lucy?" asked the boy.
"Yes," lied Mrs. Tinker Davis III. "Will ye go, sonny?"
"Ef I knowed," said Buck, "whar to look."
The woman pointed.
"Ye see them big rocks away off up yander? Ye might go up thar and look. It's shore a likely place."
"I'll go, shore," Buck told her.
He rose, crossed the little stream on stones, and dove into the laurels, and the woman went down the road. In spite of the ruggedness of the mountainside, and in spite of the newly fallen chestnut burrs that now and then pricked his feet painfully, the boy reached the temporary haunt of his god after an hour of traveling.
Instead of his finding Delaney, naturally, Delaney found him. Buck had climbed to the top of a low cliff, and was searching the city of boulders above with all his eyes, when Delaney spoke from a point a short distance to his left.
The hunted man was pale and starved-looking, and his gaze was so piercing that it almost scared Buck Newland. Perched on the brink of that little precipice, Buck delivered the message of Mrs. Tinker Davis III. word for word. Now the outlawed Delaney had a Cousin Lucy, of course.
"What sort o' lookin' woman was she?" he immediately wanted to know.
"She was dressed in yeller and red, and she toted a spicewood toothbresh in her mouth, and she had a wart on her nose."
The man before Buck smiled worriedly.
"Wart on her nose; eh? Unlucky wart, Missis Tinker Davis," he growled. "That's shore a lowdown trick to try to play on me. Anybody that'd try to do a trick like that, Buck, is a—ought 'o be killed plumb dead. Buck, you do me this here favor; go straight to Missis Tinker Davis, the polecat, and tell her I'll make her wisht I'd tarred and feathered her man, ef I live. Now be keerful——"
A groan broke from his throat. Buck had started back down the little cliff, and Buck had lost his hold and fallen. There was no outcry, and this fact frightened Daredevil Delaney. He rushed to the brink and peered over. Crumpled down there on the dead leaves was the inert figure of his one-time sweetheart's barefooted, tow-headed boy, with a tiny trickle of crimson lying across his white and upturned face.
Delaney climbed down hurriedly. He knelt and took Buck's head and shoulders to his knee, and with his handkerchief wiped away the blood that had come from a wound in the lad's temple.
"Son," he mumbled agonizedly, thickly, tears filling his eyes, "son! Ye ain't dead, are ye, son?"
There was no answer. He put his ear to the youthful chest, and heard faintly the beating of the youthful heart. He believed Buck was dying; the heartbeats were much too faint, it seemed to him.
"Ef Tinker Davis don't pay for this," he said in a voice that was bleak, "oh ef Tinker Davis don't pay for this!"
For to him it was no accident. He gathered the limp little body up in his arms, with the law and its minions and all his enemies forgotten, and began to move rapidly, with the surefootedness of a panther, down the rugged steep and into danger. He well knew how that life he held against his breast was valued. If it went out for him—for his sake—he well knew what that would mean, too. A prayer went up from the soul of him that the boy might live, and at the bottom of it there was nothing selfish.
He crossed the brook at the water-wheel, waded it with his boots on when he might have crossed on stones, and he noted absently that the wheel was still running—clippety-clippety-clip. Into the crooked road he turned, and Sheriff Hanley, hidden alone a little away down the valley, saw him and put spurs to his horse. Riding up beside Delaney, he leveled his revolver at the small of his back.
"You're under arrest, Daredevil. I've got you."
Delaney didn't stop. He turned a white and desperate face toward the officer.
"Come on wi' me, Sheriff," he replied. "You can have me as soon as I've took this boy home. I never have broke a promise."
Sheriff Hanley leaned over and snatched his prisoner's revolver from its holster as he rode on beside him. At the Newlands' gate he dismounted and left his horse with its rein hanging, and followed the other man into the cabin. Mary Newland rose at' their sudden entrance, and her sewing dropped to the floor. Delaney went straight to the bed, and put the raglike form down on an old pieced coverlet.
"He fell—" he began, and could say no more.
Buck's mother knelt beside him, and just then Buck came to. His wound was not serious. For a moment he stared at one and then at the other of the two men. He knew the sheriff; the officer had been pointed out to him. Quickly he put things together, and he understood fully. Then he fastened accusing eyes on the face of the representative of the law, and his voice came slowly, in words that cut—
"Mister Sheriff, ye're a —— yeller dawg."
"Buck," his mother reproved, half-sobbing.
Delaney, filled with gratitude, looked at the woman. She rose, and returned the look. It was a very peculiar look. Then the officer put his hand on his man's shoulder, and Delaney muttered this:
"I said ye could have me. So ye can."
They took Daredevil Delaney to Johnsville, where they lodged him in the strongest cell they had. Many, many were those who visited the jail for a glimpse of him. A newspaper man came up from Knoxville, tried to get him to talk and tried to photograph him—and failed all around.
Court was in session at Johnsville, and Delaney's trial was called without delay. The sentiment of the general public had grown even higher against him, and those who were considered versed in such matters openly predicted that he would soon straighten out a hangman's rope.
THE day of the trial was hazy, and the snap of Autumn was in the air. Everybody that was anybody in Little Jerusalem went; Buck Newland and his mother rode in chairs in the back of old Abner Lane's ox-wagon. Half of Mary Newland had been trying to persuade her that she wouldn't help Hale Delaney to save his immortal soul, while the other half had been telling her that she must save him — if she could. Perhaps this was why she sat down with her boy midway of the crowded courthouse.
An elderly man with billygoat whiskers and a broad, bare upper hp sat next to the young widow and her son, chewed store-bought tobacco and spat through a knothole in the floor, and berated Daredevil Delaney for all he was worth. One-half of Buck's pretty mother rejoiced at it, and the other half resented it. All of Buck resented it bitterly.
"You'd be askeered to talk that way," suddenly blurted the lad, "ef he wasn't whar he's at. And you wouldn't talk that away ef I was as big as you, neither."
"Buck!" said Mary Newland.
She had never heard him declare himself so strongly in favor of Delaney before.
"That little rat's pizen mean," the billy-goat-bearded man laughed to his neighbor.
"I ain't no rat!" flared the boy, spiritedly—and out came his barlow knife; it was the Allison in him. "And ef ye call me that any more, I'll shore cut ye to the windpipe!"
"Buck!" Mary Newland moaned, shocked; but she needn't have been surprised, for it was only the Allison in him.
He wasn't called a rat again. She caught him by the arm, and drew him over to her.
"Son," she whispered queerly, "do ye like Hale Delaney?"
Buck looked her squarely in the eyes.
"Like him? I love him."
Then the trial began. The evidence was most damaging. Curtis Holden's dying statement counted heavily. Counsel for the defense proved that Holden was half-blind, and that it was nearly dark in Holden's sitting-room at four o'clock in the afternoon, but all that seemed to impress the jury but little. Delaney's reputation was very bad.
It was short. Soon the judge was charging the jury, and it was not in favor of the accused.
Just as the charge was being finished, Mary Newland rose—and Buck followed her—and went up to the judge. She was sworn, and she took the witness stand for the prisoner, who could hardly believe he saw correctly. And there she did that which to the woman of the mountains is next to death: she bravely told the world of her early love affair with Hale Delaney, and of their bitter quarrel; of her marrying for spite, and of her lying for five years in the bed of thorns she had made; of her struggle to support herself and her son; of the burning of the knife that Hale Delaney had given to the boy.
Then she told of her going to the old beech at the bubbling spring, the old beech that had their initials cut in its white bark; she told of watching Delaney renew those initials with the knife that had been her boy's, and of watching him for a long time while he sat there and thought of the very things that were in her own mind.
And that had been from three to five o'clock on the afternoon of October fourth, the very time of Curtis Holden's assault and robbery!
Mary Newland withstood the most grilling cross-questioning; they couldn't entangle her. Counsel for the defense made his argument again, and this time it had strength with the jury. Delaney was acquitted; received a kindly lecture from the judge, and promised to remember it.
When he looked for Mary Newland that had been Mary Allison, she was gone back to her cabin in Little Jerusalem. He bought a marriage license and followed her.
Buck Newland and his mother sat by a bright log fire, roasting chestnuts, that chill mountain evening, when a rap came at the door. Buck called out a cordial "Come in!" The door opened, and Hale Delaney entered; he walked straight to the stone hearth, knelt before her who had been his first and only sweetheart, and took up both her hands.
"This is the fust time I've ever bent my knees to anything mortal in the universe, Mary," he said. "I'm askin' ye to marry me."
Allison looked across to Allison. The boy's eyes twinkled hopefully in the firelight, and she remembered his saying in the courthouse: "I love him." She lifted the kneeling man's hands to her lips and kissed them; she bent her head to his shoulder, happy because hate was dead.
"I've burnt enough blood," she told him. "I'll marry ye, Hale."
The next week Delaney was made a deputy sheriff, and the week after that he arrested Tinker Davis for the robbery and murder of Curtis Holden. And Mrs. Tinker Davis III. wished, before it was over, that Daredevil Delaney had tarred and feathered her husband instead.