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- The Re-Creation of Brian Kent - 5/41 -
"No; and, Judy, it is nearly four weeks, now, since I sent them that money. I can't understand it."
"I was plumb scared at the time, you oughten ter sent hit just in er letter that a-way. Hit sure looked like a heap of money ter be a-trustin' them there ornery post-office fellers with, even if hit was funny, new-fangled money like that there was. Why, ma'm, you take old Tod Stimson, down at the Ferry, now, an' that old devil'd steal anythin' what warn't too much trouble for him ter lift."
"Argentine notes the money was, Judy. I felt sure that it would be all right because, you know, Brother John sent it just in a letter all the way from Buenos Aires. And, you remember, I folded it up in extra heavy paper, and put it in two envelopes, one over the other, and mailed it at Thompsonville with my own hands."
"Hit sure looks like hit ought ter be safe er nough, so long as hit warn't mailed at the Ferry where old Stimson could git his hands on hit," agreed Judy.
Then, after a silence of several minutes, she added, in a more reassuring voice: "I reckon as how hit'll be all right, ma'm. I wouldn't worry myself, if I was you. That there bank-place, like as not, gits er right smart lot of letters, an' hit stands ter reason the feller just naturally can't write back ter ev'rybody at once."
"Of course," agreed Auntie Sue. "It is just some delay in their acknowledgment, that is all. Perhaps they are waiting to find out if the notes are genuine; or it may be that their letter to me went astray, and will have to be returned to them, and then remailed all over again. I feel sure I shall hear from them in a few days."
So they talked until the moon appeared from behind the dark mountains that, against her light, were silhouetted on the sky. And, as the old gentlewoman watched the queen of the night rising higher and higher on her royal course, and saw the dusky landscape transformed to a fairy-scene of ethereal loveliness, Auntie Sue forgot the letter that had not come.
With the enthusiasm that never failed her, the silvery-haired teacher tried to give the backwoods girl a little of her wealth of vision. But though they looked at the same landscape, the eyes of twenty could not see that which was so clear to the eyes of seventy. Poor Judy! The river, sweeping on its winding way through the hills, from the springs of its far-away beginnings to the ocean of its final endeavor,--in all its varied moods and changes,--in all its beauty and its irresistible power,--the river could never mean to Judy what it meant to Auntie Sue.
"Hit sure is er fine night for to go 'possum huntin'," said the girl, at last, getting to her feet and standing in her twisted attitude, with her wry neck holding her head to one side. "Them there Jackson boys'll sure be out."
Auntie Sue laughed her low chuckling laugh.
From the edge of the timber that borders the fields of the bottom- lands across the river, came the baying of hounds. "There they be now," said Judy. "Hear 'em? The Billingses, 'cross from the clubhouse, 'll be out, too, I reckon. When hit's moonlight, they're allus a-huntin' 'possum an' 'coon. When hit's dark, they're out on the river a-giggin' for fish. Well, I reckon I'll be a-goin' in, now, ma'm," she concluded, with a yawn. "Ain't no use in a body stayin' up when there ain't nothin' ter do but ter sleep, as I kin see."
With an awkward return to Auntie Sue's "Goodnight and sweet dreams, dear," the mountain girl went into the house.
For an hour longer, the old gentlewoman sat on the porch of her little log house by the river, looking out over the moonlit scene. Nor did she now, as when she had watched the sunset, crave human companionship. In spirit, she was far from all earthly needs or cares,--where no troubled thoughts could disturb her serene peace and her dearest dreams were real.
The missing letter was forgotten.
THE WILL OF THE RIVER.
Had Auntie Sue remained a few minutes longer on the porch, that evening, she might have seen an object drifting down the river, in the gentle current of The Bend.
Swinging easily around the curve above the clubhouse, it would not have been visible at first, because of the deep shadows of the reflected trees and mountains. But, presently, as it drifted on into the broader waters of The Bend, it emerged from the shadows into the open moonlit space, and then, to any one watching from the porch, the dark object, drawing nearer and nearer in the bright moonlight, would have soon shaped itself into a boat--an empty boat, the watcher would have said, that had broken from its moorings somewhere up the river;--and the watcher would have heard, through the still, night air, the dull, heavy roar of the mad waters at Elbow Rock.
Drifting thus, helpless in the grip of the main current, the little craft apparently was doomed to certain destruction. Gently, it would float on the easy surface of the quiet, moonlit Bend. In front of the house, it would move faster and faster. Where the river narrows, it would be caught as if by mighty hands hidden beneath the rushing flood, and dragged onward still faster and faster. About it, the racing waters would leap and boil in their furious, headlong career, shaking and tossing the helpless victim of their might with a vicious strength from which there would be no escape, until, in the climax of the river's madness, the object of its angry sport would be dashed against the cliff, and torn, and crushed, and hammered by the terrific weight of the rushing flood against that rocky anvil, into a battered and shapeless wreck.
The drifting boat drew nearer and nearer. It reached the point where the curve of the opposite bank draws in to form the narrow raceway of the rapids. It began to feel the stronger pull of those hidden hands that had carried it so easily down The Bend. And then--and then--the unguided, helpless craft responded to the gentle pressure of some swirl or crosscurrent in the main flow of the stream, and swung a little to one side. A few feet farther, and the new impulse became stronger. Yielding easily to the current that drew it so gently across the invisible dividing-line between safety and destruction, the boat swung in toward the shore. A minute more, and it had drifted into that encircling curve of the bank where the current of the eddy carried it around and around.
The boat seemed undecided. Would it hold to the harbor of safety into which it had been drawn by the friendly current? Would it swing out, again, into the main stream, and so to its own destruction?
Three times the bow, pointing out from the eddy, crossed the danger-line, and, for a moment, hung on the very edge. Three times, the invisible hands which held it drew it gently back to safety. And so, finally, the little craft, so helpless, so alone, amid the many currents of the great river, came to rest against the narrow shelf of land at the foot of the bank below Auntie Sue's garden.
The light in the window of Auntie Sue's room went out. The soft moonlight flooded mountain and valley and stream. The mad waters at Elbow Rock roared in their wild fury. Always, always,-- irresistibly, inevitably, unceasingly,--the river poured its strength toward the sea.
AUNTIE SUE RECOGNIZES A GENTLEMAN.
Before the sun was high enough to look over Schoolhouse Hill, the next morning, Judy went into the garden to dig some potatoes.
Tom Warden's boys would come, some day before long, and dig them all, and put them away in the cellar for the winter. But there was no need to hurry the gathering of the full crop, so the boys would come when it was most convenient; and, in the meantime, Judy would continue to dig from day to day all that were needed for the kitchen in the little log house by the river. In spite of her poor crooked body, the mountain girl was strong and well used to hard work, so the light task was, for her, no hardship at all.
As one will when first coming out of doors in the morning, Judy paused a moment to look about. The sky, so clear and bright the evening before, was now a luminous gray. The mountains were lost in a ghostly world of fog, through which the river moved in stealthy silence,--a dull thing of mystery, with only here and there a touch of silvery light upon its clouded surface. The cottonwoods and willows, on the opposite shore, were mere dreams of trees,--gray, formless, and weird. The air was filled with the dank earth-smell. The heavy thundering roar of the never-ending war of the waters at Elbow Rock came louder and more menacing, but strangely unreal, as if the mist itself were filled with threatening sound.
But to Judy, the morning was only the beginning of another day;-- she looked, but did not see. To her, the many ever-changing moods of Nature were without meaning. With her basket in hand, she went down to the lower end of the garden, where she had dug potatoes the time before, and where she had left the fork sticking upright in the ground.
A few minutes served to fill the basket; but, before starting back to the house, the mountain girl paused again to look out over the river. Perhaps it was some vague memory of Auntie Sue's talk, the night before, that prompted her; perhaps it was some instinct, indefinite and obscure;--whatever it was that influenced her, Judy left her basket, and went to the brink of the high bank above the eddy for a closer view of the water.
The next instant, with the quick movement of an untamed creature of her native mountain forests, the girl sprang back, and crouched close to the ground to hide from something she had seen at the foot of the bank. Every movement of her twisted body expressed amazement
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