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- Viola Gwyn - 1/63 -
[Illustration: "I shall get married when and where I please,--and to whom I please, Mr. Gwynne."]
BY George Barr McCutcheon
I SHELTER FOR THE NIGHT II THE STRANGE YOUNG WOMAN III SOMETHING ABOUT CLOTHES, AND MEN, AND CATS IV VIOLA GWYN V REFLECTIONS AND AN ENCOUNTER VI BARRY LAPELLE VII THE END OF THE LONG ROAD VIII RACHEL CARTER IX BROTHER AND SISTER X MOTHER AND DAUGHTER XI A ROADSIDE MEETING XII ISAAC STAIN APPEARS BY NIGHT XIII THE GRACIOUS ENEMY XIV A MAN FROM DOWN THE RIVER XV THE LANDING OF THE "PAUL REVERE" XVI CONCERNING TEMPESTS AND INDIANS XVII REVELATIONS XVIII RACHEL DELIVERS A MESSAGE XIX LAPELLE SHOWS HIS TEETH XX THE BLOW XXI THE AFFAIR AT HAWK'S CABIN XXII THE PRISONERS XXIII CHALLENGE AND RETORT XXIV IN AN UPSTAIRS ROOM XXV MINDA CARTER XXVI THE FLIGHT OF MARTIN HAWK XXVII THE TRIAL OF MOLL HAWK XXVIII THE TRYSTING PLACE OF THOUGHTS XXIX THE ENDING
Kenneth Gwynne was five years old when his father ran away with Rachel Carter, a widow. This was in the spring of 1812, and in the fall his mother died. His grandparents brought him up to hate Rachel Carter, an evil woman.
She was his mother's friend and she had slain her with the viper's tooth. From the day that his questioning intelligence seized upon the truth that had been so carefully withheld from him by his broken-hearted mother and those who spoke behind the hand when he was near,--from that day he hated Rachel Carter with all his hot and outraged heart. He came to think of her as the embodiment of all that was evil,--for those were the days when there was no middle-ground for sin and women were either white or scarlet.
He rejoiced in the belief that in good time Rachel Carter would come to roast in the everlasting fires of hell, grovelling and wailing at the feet of Satan, the while his lovely mother looked down upon her in pity,--even then he wondered if such a thing were possible,--from her seat beside God in His Heaven. He had no doubts about this. Hell and heaven were real to him, and all sinners went below. On the other hand, his father would be permitted to repent and would instantly go to heaven. It was inconceivable that his big, strong, well-beloved father should go to the bad place. But Mrs. Carter would! Nothing could save her! God would not pay any attention to her if she tried to repent; He would know it was only "make-believe" if she got down on her knees and prayed for forgiveness. He was convinced that Rachel Carter could not fool God. Besides, would not his mother be there to remind Him in case He could not exactly remember what Rachel Carter had done? And were there not dozens of good, honest people in the village who would probably be in Heaven by that time and ready to stand before the throne and bear witness that she was a bad woman?
No, Rachel Carter could never get into Heaven. He was glad. No matter if the Scriptures did say all that about the sinner who repents, he did not believe that God would let her in. He supported this belief by the profoundly childish contention that if God let EVERYBODY in, then there would be no use having a hell at all. What was the use of being good all your life if the bad people could get into Heaven at the last minute by telling God they were sorry and never would do anything bad again as long as they lived? And was not God the wisest Being in all the world? He knew EVERYTHING! He knew all about Rachel Carter. She would go to the bad place and stay there forever, even after the "resurrection" and the end of the world by fire in 1883, a calamity to which he looked forward with grave concern and no little trepidation at the thoughtful age of six.
At first they told him his father had gone off as a soldier to fight against the Indians and the British. He knew that a war was going on. Men with guns were drilling in the pasture up beyond his grandfather's house, and there was talk of Indian "massacrees," and Simon Girty's warriors, and British red-coats, and the awful things that happened to little boys who disobeyed their elders and went swimming, or berrying, or told even the teeniest kind of fibs. He overheard his grandfather and the neighbours discussing a battle on Lake Erie, and rejoiced with them over the report of a great victory for "our side." Vaguely he had grasped the news of a horrible battle on the Tippecanoe River, far away in the wilderness to the north and west, in which millions of Indians were slain, and he wondered how many of them his father had killed with his rifle,--a weapon so big and long that he came less than half way up the barrel when he stood beside it.
His father was a great shot. Everybody said so. He could kill wild turkeys a million miles away as easy as rolling off a log, and deer, and catamounts, and squirrels, and herons, and everything. So his father must have killed heaps of Indians and red-coats and renegades.
He put this daily question to his mother: "How many do you s'pose Pa has killed by this time, Ma?"
And then, in the fall, his mother went away and left him. They did not tell him she had gone to the war. He would not have believed them if they had, for she was too sick to go. She had been in bed for a long, long time; the doctor came to see her every day, and finally the preacher. He hated both of them, especially the latter, who prayed so loudly and so vehemently that his mother must have been terribly disturbed. Why should every one caution him to be quiet and not make a noise because it disturbed mother, and yet say nothing when that old preacher went right into her room and yelled same as he always did in church? He was very bitter about it, and longed for his father to come home with his rifle and shoot everybody, including his grandfather who had "switched" him severely and unjustly because he threw stones at Parson Hook's saddle horse while the good man was offering up petitions from the sick room.
He went to the "burying," and was more impressed by the fact that nearly all of the men who rode or drove to the graveyard down in the "hollow" carried rifles and pistols than he was by the strange solemnity of the occasion, for, while he realized in a vague, mistrustful way that his mother was to be put under the ground, his trust clung resolutely to God's promise, accepted in its most literal sense, that the dead shall rise again and that "ye shall be born again." That was what the preacher said,--and he had cried a little when the streaming-eyed clergyman took him on his knee and whispered that all was well with his dear mother and that he would meet her one day in that beautiful land beyond the River.
He was very lonely after that. His "granny" tucked him in his big feather bed every night, and listened to his little prayer, but she was not the same as mother. She did not kiss him in the same way, nor did her hand feel like mother's when she smoothed his rumpled hair or buttoned his flannel nightgown about his neck or closed his eyes playfully with her fingers before she went away with the candle. Yet he adored her. She was sweet and gentle, she told such wonderful fairy tales to him, and she always smiled at him. He wondered a great deal. Why was it that she did not FEEL the same as mother? He was deeply puzzled. Was it because her hair was grey?
His grandfather lived in the biggest house in town. It had an "upstairs,"--a real "upstairs,"--not just an attic. And his grandfather was a very important person. Everybody called him "Squire"; sometimes they said "your honour"; most people touched their hats to him. When his father went off to the war, he and his mother came to live at "grandpa's house." The cabin in which he was born was at the other end of the street, fully half-a-mile away, out beyond the grist mill. It had but three rooms and no "upstairs" at all except the place under the roof where they kept the dried apples, and the walnuts and hickory nuts, some old saddle-bags and boxes, and his discarded cradle. You had to climb up a ladder and through a square hole in the ceiling to get into this place, and you would have to be very careful not to stand up straight or you would bump your head,--unless you were exactly in the middle, where the ridge-pole was.
He remembered that it was a very long walk to "grandpa's house"; he used to get very tired and his father would lift him up and place him on his shoulder; from this lofty, even perilous, height he could look down upon the top of his mother's bonnet,--a most astonishing view and one that filled him with glee.
His father was the biggest man in all the world, there could be no doubt about that. Why, he was bigger even than grandpa, or Doctor Flint, or the parson, or Mr. Carter, who lived in the cabin next door and was Minda's father. For the matter of that, he was, himself, a great deal bigger than Minda, who was only two years old and could not say anywhere near as many words as he could say--and did not know her ABC's, or the Golden Rule, or who George Washington was.
And his father was ever so much taller than his mother. He was tall enough to be her father or her grandfather; why, she did not come up to his shoulder when she walked beside him. He was a million
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