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His "Day In Court" 1895   By: (1850-1922)

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By Charles Egbert Craddock


It had been a hard winter along the slopes of the Great Smoky Mountains, and still the towering treeless domes were covered with snow, and the vagrant winds were abroad, rioting among the clifty heights where they held their tryst, or raiding down into the sheltered depths of the Cove, where they seldom intruded. Nevertheless, on this turbulent rush was borne in the fair spring of the year. The fragrance of the budding wild cherry was to be discerned amidst the keen slanting javelins of the rain. A cognition of the renewal and the expanding of the forces of nature pervaded the senses as distinctly as if one might hear the grass growing, or feel along the chill currents of the air the vernal pulses thrill. Night after night in the rifts of the breaking clouds close to the horizon was glimpsed the stately sidereal Virgo, prefiguring and promising the harvest, holding in her hand a gleaming ear of corn. But it was not the constellation which the tumultuous torrent at the mountain's base reflected in a starry glitter. From the hill side above a light cast its broken image among the ripples, as it shone for an instant through the bosky laurel, white, stellular, splendid only a tallow dip suddenly placed in the window of a log cabin, and as suddenly withdrawn.

For a gruff voice within growled out a remonstrance: "What ye doin' that fur, Steve? Hev that thar candle got enny call ter bide in that thar winder?"

The interior, contrary to the customary aspect of the humble homes of the region, was in great disarray. Cooking utensils stood uncleaned about the hearth; dishes and bowls of earthen ware were assembled upon the table in such numbers as to suggest that several meals had been eaten without the ceremony of laying the cloth anew, and that in default of washing the crockery it had been re enforced from the shelf so far as the limited store might admit. Saddles and spinning wheels, an ox yoke and trace chains, reels and wash tubs, were incongruously pushed together in the corners. Only one of the three men in the room made any effort to reduce the confusion to order. This was the square faced, black bearded, thick set young fellow who took the candle from the window, and now advanced with it toward the hearth, holding it at an angle that caused the flame to swiftly melt the tallow, which dripped generously upon the floor.

"I hev seen Eveliny do it," he said, excitedly justifying himself. "I noticed her sot the candle in the winder jes' las' night arter supper." He glanced about uncertainly, and his patience seemed to give way suddenly. "Dad burn the old candle! I dunno whar ter set it," he cried, desperately, as he flung it from him, and it fell upon the floor close to the wall.

The dogs lifted their heads to look, and one soft stepping old hound got up with the nimbleness of expectation, and, with a prescient gratitude astir in his tail, went and sniffed at it. His aspect drooped suddenly, and he looked around in reproach at Stephen Quimbey, as if suspecting a practical joke. But there was no merriment in the young mountaineer's face. He threw himself into his chair with a heavy sigh, and desisted for a time from the unaccustomed duty of clearing away the dishes after supper.

"An' 'ain't ye got the gumption ter sense what Eveliny sot the candle in the winder fur?" his brother Timothy demanded, abruptly "ez a sign ter that thar durned Abs'lom Kittredge."

The other two men turned their heads and looked at the speaker with a poignant intensity of interest. "I 'lowed ez much when I seen that light ez I war a kemin' home las' night," he continued; "it shined spang down the slope acrost the ruver an' through all the laurel; it looked plumb like a star that hed fell ter yearth in that pitch black night. I dun no how I s'picioned it, but ez I stood thar an' gazed I knowed somebody war a standin' an' gazin' too on the foot bredge a mite ahead o' me. I couldn't see him, an' he couldn't turn back an' pass me, the bredge bein' too narrer... Continue reading book >>

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