The most disreputable thing in Yancey Goree's law office was Goree
himself, sprawled in his creaky old arm-chair. The rickety little
office, built of red brick, was set flush with the street--the main
street of the town of Bethel.
Bethel rested upon the foot-hills of the Blue Ridge. Above it the
mountains were piled to the sky. Far below it the turbid Catawba
gleamed yellow along its disconsolate valley.
The June day was at its sultriest hour. Bethel dozed in the tepid
shade. Trade was not. It was so still that Goree, reclining in his
chair, distinctly heard the clicking of the chips in the grand-jury
room, where the "court-house gang" was playing poker. From the open
back door of the office a well-worn path meandered across the grassy
lot to the court-house. The treading out of that path had cost Goree
all he ever had--first inheritance of a few thousand dollars, next
the old family home, and, latterly the last shreds of his self-respect
and manhood. The "gang" had cleaned him out. The broken gambler had
turned drunkard and parasite; he had lived to see this day come when
the men who had stripped him denied him a seat at the game. His word
was no longer to be taken. The daily bouts at cards had arranged
itself accordingly, and to him was assigned the ignoble part of the
onlooker. The sheriff, the county clerk, a sportive deputy, a gay
attorney, and a chalk-faced man hailing "from the valley," sat at
table, and the sheared one was thus tacitly advised to go and grow
Soon wearying of his ostracism, Goree had departed for his office,
muttering to himself as he unsteadily traversed the unlucky pathway.
After a drink of corn whiskey from a demijohn under the table, he had
flung himself into the chair, staring, in a sort of maudlin apathy,
out at the mountains immersed in the summer haze. The little white
patch he saw away up on the side of Blackjack was Laurel, the village
near which he had been born and bred. There, also, was the birthplace
of the feud between the Gorees and the Coltranes. Now no direct heir
of the Gorees survived except this plucked and singed bird of
misfortune. To the Coltranes, also, but one male supporter was left
--Colonel Abner Coltrane, a man of substance and standing, a member
of the State Legislature, and a contemporary with Goree's father. The
feud had been a typical one of the region; it had left a red record of
hate, wrong and slaughter.
But Yancey Goree was not thinking of feuds. His befuddled brain was
hopelessly attacking the problem of the future maintenance of himself
and his favourite follies. Of late, old friends of the family had
seen to it that he had whereof to eat and a place to sleep--but whiskey
they would not buy for him, and he must have whiskey. His law business
was extinct; no case had been intrusted to him in two years. He had
been a borrower and a sponge, and it seemed that if he fell no lower
it would be from lack of opportunity. One more chance--he was saying
to himself--if he had one more stake at the game, he thought he could
win; but he had nothing left to sell, and his credit was more than
He could not help smiling, even in his misery, as he thought of the
man to whom, six months before, he had sold the old Goree homestead.
There had come from "back yan'" in the mountains two of the strangest
creatures, a man named Pike Garvey and his wife. "Back yan'," with a
wave of the hand toward the hills, was understood among the
mountaineers to designate the remotest fastnesses, the unplumbed
gorges, the haunts of lawbreakers, the wolf's den, and the boudoir of
the bear. In the cabin far up on Blackjack's shoulder, in the wildest
part of these retreats, this odd couple had lived for twenty years.
They had neither dog nor children to mitigate the heavy silence of the
hills. Pike Garvey was little known in the settlements, but all who
had dealt with him pronounced him "crazy as a loon." He acknowledged
no occupation save that of a squirrel hunter, but he "moonshined"
occasionally by way of diversion. Once the "revenues" had dragged him
from his lair, fighting silently and desperately like a terrier, and
he had been sent to state's prison for two years. Released, he popped
back into his hole like an angry weasel.
Fortune, passing over many anxious wooers, made a freakish flight into
Blackjack's bosky pockets to smile upon Pike and his faithful partner.
One day a party of spectacled, knickerbockered, and altogether absurd
prospectors invaded the vicinity of the Garvey's cabin. Pike lifted
his squirrel rifle off the hooks and took a shot at them at long range
on the chance of their being revenues. Happily he missed, and the
unconscious agents of good luck drew nearer, disclosing their
innocence of anything resembling law or justice. Later on, they
offered the Garveys an enormous quantity of ready, green, crisp money
for their thirty-acre patch of cleared land, mentioning, as an excuse
for such a mad action, some irrelevant and inadequate nonsense about a
bed of mica underlying the said property.
When the Garveys became possessed of so many dollars that they
faltered in computing them, the deficiencies of life on Blackjack
began to grow prominent. Pike began to talk of new shoes, a hogshead
of tobacco to set in the corner, a new lock to his rifle; and, leading
Martella to a certain spot on the mountain-side, he pointed out to her
how a small cannon--doubtless a thing not beyond the scope of their
fortune in price--might be planted so as to command and defend the
sole accessible trail to the cabin, to the confusion of revenues and
meddling strangers forever.
But Adam reckoned without his Eve. These things represented to him
the applied power of wealth, but there slumbered in his dingy cabin an
ambition that soared far above his primitive wants. Somewhere in Mrs.
Garvey's bosom still survived a spot of femininity unstarved by twenty
years of Blackjack. For so long a time the sounds in her ears had
been the scaly-barks dropping in the woods at noon, and the wolves
singing among the rocks at night, and it was enough to have purged her
of vanities. She had grown fat and sad and yellow and dull. But when
the means came, she felt a rekindled desire to assume the perquisites
of her sex--to sit at tea tables; to buy futile things; to whitewash
the hideous veracity of life with a little form and ceremony. So she
coldly vetoed Pike's proposed system of fortifications, and
announced that they would descend upon the world, and gyrate socially.
And thus, at length, it was decided, and the thing done. The village
of Laurel was their compromise between Mrs. Garvey's preference for
one of the large valley towns and Pike's hankering for primeval
solitudes. Laurel yielded a halting round of feeble social
distractions comportable with Martella's ambitions, and was not
entirely without recommendation to Pike, its contiguity to the
mountains presenting advantages for sudden retreat in case fashionable
society should make it advisable.
Their descent upon Laurel had been coincident with Yancey Goree's
feverish desire to convert property into cash, and they bought the old
Goree homestead, paying four thousand dollars ready money into the
spendthrift's shaking hands.
Thus it happened that while the disreputable last of the Gorees
sprawled in his disreputable office, at the end of his row, spurned by
the cronies whom he had gorged, strangers dwelt in the halls of his
A cloud of dust was rolling, slowly up the parched street, with
something travelling in the midst of it. A little breeze wafted the
cloud to one side, and a new, brightly painted carryall, drawn by a
slothful gray horse, became visible. The vehicle deflected from the
middle of the street as it neared Goree's office, and stopped in the
gutter directly in front of his door.
On the front seat sat a gaunt, tall man, dressed in black broadcloth,
his rigid hands incarcerated in yellow kid gloves. On the back seat
was a lady who triumphed over the June heat. Her stout form was
armoured in a skin-tight silk dress of the description known as
"changeable," being a gorgeous combination of shifting hues. She sat
erect, waving a much-ornamented fan, with her eyes fixed stonily far
down the street. However Martella Garvey's heart might be rejoicing
at the pleasures of her new life, Blackjack had done his work with her
exterior. He had carved her countenance to the image of emptiness and
inanity; had imbued her with the stolidity of his crags, and the
reserve of his hushed interiors. She always seemed to hear, whatever
her surroundings were, the scaly-barks falling and pattering down the
mountain-side. She could always hear the awful silence of Blackjack
sounding through the stillest of nights.
Goree watched this solemn equipage, as it drove to his door, with only
faint interest; but when the lank driver wrapped the reins about his
whip, awkwardly descended, and stepped into the office, he rose
unsteadily to receive him, recognizing Pike Garvey, the new, the
transformed, the recently civilized.
The mountaineer took the chair Goree offered him. They who cast doubts
upon Garvey's soundness of mind had a strong witness in the man's
countenance. His face was too long, a dull saffron in hue, and
immobile as a statue's. Pale-blue, unwinking round eyes without
lashes added to the singularity of his gruesome visage. Goree was at a
loss to account for the visit.
"Everything all right at Laurel, Mr. Garvey?" he inquired.
"Everything all right, sir, and mighty pleased is Missis Garvey and me
with the property. Missis Garvey likes yo' old place, and she likes
the neighbourhood. Society is what she 'lows she wants, and she is
gettin' of it. The Rogerses, the Hapgoods, the Pratts and the Troys
hev been to see Missis Garvey, and she hev et meals to most of thar
houses. The best folks hev axed her to differ'nt kinds of doin's. I
cyan't say, Mr. Goree, that sech things suits me--fur me, give me
them thar." Garvey's huge, yellow-gloved hand flourished in the
direction of the mountains. "That's whar I b'long, 'mongst the wild
honey bees and the b'ars. But that ain't what I come fur to say, Mr.
Goree. Thar's somethin' you got what me and Missis Garvey wants to
"Buy!" echoed Goree. "From me?" Then he laughed harshly. "I reckon
you are mistaken about that. I reckon you are mistaken about that. I
sold out to you, as you yourself expressed it, 'lock, stock and
barrel.' There isn't even a ramrod left to sell."
"You've got it; and we 'uns want it. 'Take the money,' says Missis
Garvey, 'and buy it fa'r and squar'.'"
Goree shook his head. "The cupboard's bare," he said.
"We've riz," pursued the mountaineer, undeflected from his object, "a
heap. We was pore as possums, and now we could hev folks to dinner
every day. We been recognized, Missis Garvey says, by the best
society. But there's somethin' we need we ain't got. She says it
ought to been put in the 'ventory ov the sale, but it tain't thar.
'Take the money, then,' says she, 'and buy it fa'r and squar'."'
"Out with it," said Goree, his racked nerves growing impatient.
Garvey threw his slouch hat upon the table, and leaned forward, fixing
his unblinking eyes upon Goree's.
"There's a old feud," he said distinctly and slowly, "'tween you 'uns
and the Coltranes."
Goree frowned ominously. To speak of his feud to a feudist is a
serious breach of the mountain etiquette. The man from "back yan'"
knew it as well as the lawyer did.
"Na offense," he went on "but purely in the way of business. Missis
Garvey hev studied all about feuds. Most of the quality folks in the
mountains hev 'em. The Settles and the Goforths, the Rankins and the
Boyds, the Silers and the Galloways, hev all been cyarin' on feuds
f'om twenty to a hundred year. The last man to drap was when yo'
uncle, Jedge Paisley Goree, 'journed co't and shot Len Coltrane f'om
the bench. Missis Garvey and me, we come f'om the po' white trash.
Nobody wouldn't pick a feud with we 'uns, no mo'n with a fam'ly of
tree-toads. Quality people everywhar, says Missis Garvey, has feuds.
We 'uns ain't quality, but we're buyin' into it as fur as we can.
'Take the money, then,' says Missis Garvey, 'and buy Mr. Goree's feud,
fa'r and squar'.'"
The squirrel hunter straightened a leg half across the room, drew a
roll of bills from his pocket, and threw them on the table.
"Thar's two hundred dollars, Mr. Goree; what you would call a fa'r
price for a feud that's been 'lowed to run down like yourn hev.
Thar's only you left to cyar' on yo' side of it, and you'd make mighty
po' killin'. I'll take it off yo' hands, and it'll set me and Missis
Garvey up among the quality. Thar's the money."
The little roll of currency on the table slowly untwisted itself,
writhing and jumping as its folds relaxed. In the silence that
followed Garvey's last speech the rattling of the poker chips in the
court-house could be plainly heard. Goree knew that the sheriff had
just won a pot, for the subdued whoop with which he always greeted
a victory floated across the square upon the crinkly heat waves.
Beads of moisture stood on Goree's brow. Stooping, he drew the
wicker-covered demijohn from under the table, and filled a tumbler
"A little corn liquor, Mr. Garvey? Of course you are joking about--
what you spoke of? Opens quite a new market, doesn't it? Feuds.
Prime, two-fifty to three. Feuds, slightly damaged--two hundred, I
believe you said, Mr. Garvey?"
Goree laughed self-consciously.
The mountaineer took the glass Goree handed him, and drank the whisky
without a tremor of the lids of his staring eyes. The lawyer
applauded the feat by a look of envious admiration. He poured his own
drink, and took it like a drunkard, by gulps, and with shudders at the
smell and taste.
"Two hundred," repeated Garvey. "Thar's the money."
A sudden passion flared up in Goree's brain. He struck the table with
his fist. One of the bills flipped over and touched his hand. He
flinched as if something had stung him.
"Do you come to me," he shouted, "seriously with such a ridiculous,
insulting, darned-fool proposition?"
"It's fa'r and squar'," said the squirrel hunter, but he reached out
his hand as if to take back the money; and then Goree knew that his
own flurry of rage had not been from pride or resentment, but from
anger at himself, knowing that he would set foot in the deeper depths
that were being opened to him. He turned in an instant from an
outraged gentleman to an anxious chafferer recommending his goods.
"Don't be in a hurry, Garvey," he said, his face crimson and his
speech thick. "I accept your p-p-proposition, though it's dirt cheap
at two hundred. A t-trade's all right when both p-purchaser and
b-buyer are s-satisfied. Shall I w-wrap it up for you, Mr. Garvey?"
Garvey rose, and shook out his broadcloth. "Missis Garvey will be
pleased. You air out of it, and it stands Coltrane and Garvey. Just
a scrap ov writin', Mr. Goree, you bein' a lawyer, to show we traded."
Goree seized a sheet of paper and a pen. The money was clutched in
his moist hand. Everything else suddenly seemed to grow trivial and
"Bill of sale, by all means. 'Right, title, and interest in and to'
. . . 'forever warrant and--' No, Garvey, we'll have to leave out that
'defend,'" said Goree with a loud laugh. "You'll have to defend this
The mountaineer received the amazing screed that the lawyer handed
him, folded it with immense labour, and laced it carefully in his
Goree was standing near the window. "Step here," he said, raising his
finger, "and I'll show you your recently purchased enemy. There he
goes, down the other side of the street."
The mountaineer crooked his long frame to look through the window in
the direction indicated by the other. Colonel Abner Coltrane, an
erect, portly gentleman of about fifty, wearing the inevitable long,
double-breasted frock coat of the Southern lawmaker, and an old high
silk hat, was passing on the opposite sidewalk. As Garvey looked,
Goree glanced at his face. If there be such a thing as a yellow wolf,
here was its counterpart. Garvey snarled as his unhuman eyes followed
the moving figure, disclosing long, amber-coloured fangs.
"Is that him? Why, that's the man who sent me to the pen'tentiary
"He used to be district attorney," said Goree carelessly. "And, by
the way, he's a first-class shot."
"I kin hit a squirrel's eye at a hundred yard," said Garvey. "So that
thar's Coltrane! I made a better trade than I was thinkin'. I'll
take keer ov this feud, Mr. Goree, better'n you ever did!"
He moved toward the door, but lingered there, betraying a slight
"Anything else to-day?" inquired Goree with frothy sarcasm. "Any
family traditions, ancestral ghosts, or skeletons in the closet?
Prices as low as the lowest."
"Thar was another thing," replied the unmoved squirrel hunter, "that
Missis Garvey was thinkin' of. 'Tain't so much in my line as t'other,
but she wanted partic'lar that I should inquire, and ef you was
willin', 'pay fur it,' she says, 'fa'r and squar'.' Thar's a buryin'
groun', as you know, Mr. Goree, in the yard of yo' old place, under
the cedars. Them that lies thar is yo' folks what was killed by the
Coltranes. The monyments has the names on 'em. Missis Garvey says a
fam'ly buryin' groun' is a sho' sign of quality. She says ef we git
the feud, thar's somethin' else ought to go with it. The names on
them monyments is 'Goree,' but they can be changed to ourn by--"
"Go! Go!" screamed Goree, his face turning purple. He stretched out
both hands toward the mountaineer, his fingers hooked and shaking.
"Go, you ghoul! Even a Ch-Chinaman protects the g-graves of his
The squirrel hunter slouched out of the door to his carryall. While
he was climbing over the wheel Goree was collecting, with feverish
celerity, the money that had fallen from his hand to the floor. As
the vehicle slowly turned about, the sheep, with a coat of newly
grown wool, was hurrying, in indecent haste, along the path to the
At three o'clock in the morning they brought him back to his office,
shorn and unconscious. The sheriff, the sportive deputy, the county
clerk, and the gay attorney carried him, the chalk-faced man "from the
valley" acting as escort.
"On the table," said one of them, and they deposited him there among
the litter of his unprofitable books and papers.
"Yance thinks a lot of a pair of deuces when he's liquored up," sighed
the sheriff reflectively.
"Too much," said the gay attorney. "A man has no business to play
poker who drinks as much as he does. I wonder how much he dropped
"Close to two hundred. What I wonder is whar he got it. Yance ain't
had a cent fur over a month, I know."
"Struck a client, maybe. Well, let's get home before daylight. He'll
be all right when he wakes up, except for a sort of beehive about the
The gang slipped away through the early morning twilight. The next
eye to gaze upon the miserable Goree was the orb of day. He peered
through the uncurtained window, first deluging the sleeper in a flood
of faint gold, but soon pouring upon the mottled red of his flesh a
searching, white, summer heat. Goree stirred, half unconsciously,
among the table's debris, and turned his face from the window. His
movement dislodged a heavy law book, which crashed upon the floor.
Opening his eyes, he saw, bending over him, a man in a black frock
coat. Looking higher, he discovered a well-worn silk hat, and beneath
it the kindly, smooth face of Colonel Abner Coltrane.
A little uncertain of the outcome, the colonel waited for the other to
make some sign of recognition. Not in twenty years had male members
of these two families faced each other in peace. Goree's eyelids
puckered as he strained his blurred sight toward this visitor, and
then he smiled serenely.
"Have you brought Stella and Lucy over to play?" he said calmly.
"Do you know me, Yancey?" asked Coltrane.
"Of course I do. You brought me a whip with a whistle in the end."
So he had--twenty-four years ago; when Yancey's father was his best
Goree's eyes wandered about the room. The colonel understood. "Lie
still, and I'll bring you some," said he. There was a pump in the yard
at the rear, and Goree closed his eyes, listening with rapture to the
click of its handle, and the bubbling of the falling stream. Coltrane
brought a pitcher of the cool water, and held it for him to drink.
Presently Goree sat up--a most forlorn object, his summer suit of flax
soiled and crumpled, his discreditable head tousled and unsteady. He
tried to wave one of his hands toward the colonel.
"Ex-excuse--everything, will you?" he said. "I must have drunk too
much whiskey last night, and gone to bed on the table." His brows
knitted into a puzzled frown.
"Out with the boys awhile?" asked Coltrane kindly.
"No, I went nowhere. I haven't had a dollar to spend in the last two
months. Struck the demijohn too often, I reckon, as usual."
Colonel Coltrane touched him on the shoulder.
"A little while ago, Yancey," he began, "you asked me if I had brought
Stella and Lucy over to play. You weren't quite awake then, and must
have been dreaming you were a boy again. You are awake now, and I
want you to listen to me. I have come from Stella and Lucy to their
old playmate, and to my old friend's son. They know that I am going
to bring you home with me, and you will find them as ready with a
welcome as they were in the old days. I want you to come to my house
and stay until you are yourself again, and as much longer as you will.
We heard of your being down in the world, and in the midst of
temptation, and we agreed that you should come over and play at our
house once more. Will you come, my boy? Will you drop our old family
trouble and come with me?"
"Trouble!" said Goree, opening his eyes wide. "There was never any
trouble between us that I know of. I'm sure we've always been the
best friends. But, good Lord, Colonel, how could I go to your home as
I am--a drunken wretch, a miserable, degraded spendthrift and
He lurched from the table into his armchair, and began to weep maudlin
tears, mingled with genuine drops of remorse and shame. Coltrane
talked to him persistently and reasonably, reminding him of the
simple mountain pleasures of which he had once been so fond, and
insisting upon the genuineness of the invitation.
Finally he landed Goree by telling him he was counting upon his help
in the engineering and transportation of a large amount of felled
timber from a high mountain-side to a waterway. He knew that Goree
had once invented a device for this purpose--a series of slides and
chutes upon which he had justly prided himself. In an instant the
poor fellow, delighted at the idea of his being of use to any one, had
paper spread upon the table, and was drawing rapid but pitifully shaky
lines in demonstration of what he could and would do.
The man was sickened of the husks; his prodigal heart was turning
again toward the mountains. His mind was yet strangely clogged, and
his thoughts and memories were returning to his brain one by one, like
carrier pigeons over a stormy sea. But Coltrane was satisfied with
the progress he had made.
Bethel received the surprise of its existence that afternoon when a
Coltrane and a Goree rode amicably together through the town. Side by
side they rode, out from the dusty streets and gaping townspeople,
down across the creek bridge, and up toward the mountain. The
prodigal had brushed and washed and combed himself to a more decent
figure, but he was unsteady in the saddle, and he seemed to be deep in
the contemplation of some vexing problem. Coltrane left him in his
mood, relying upon the influence of changed surroundings to restore
Once Goree was seized with a shaking fit, and almost came to a
collapse. He had to dismount and rest at the side of the road. The
colonel, foreseeing such a condition, had provided a small flask of
whisky for the journey but when it was offered to him Goree refused it
almost with violence, declaring he would never touch it again. By and
by he was recovered, and went quietly enough for a mile or two. Then
he pulled up his horse suddenly, and said:
"I lost two hundred dollars last night, playing poker. Now, where did
I get that money?"
"Take it easy, Yancey. The mountain air will soon clear it up. We'll
go fishing, first thing, at the Pinnacle Falls. The trout are jumping
there like bullfrogs. We'll take Stella and Lucy along, and have a
picnic on Eagle Rock. Have you forgotten how a hickory-cured-ham
sandwich tastes, Yancey, to a hungry fisherman?"
Evidently the colonel did not believe the story of his lost wealth; so
Goree retired again into brooding silence.
By late Afternoon they had travelled ten of the twelve miles between
Bethel and Laurel. Half a mile this side of Laurel lay the old Goree
place; a mile or two beyond the village lived the Coltranes. The road
was now steep and laborious, but the compensations were many. The
tilted aisles of the forest were opulent with leaf and bird and bloom.
The tonic air put to shame the pharmacopaeia. The glades were dark
with mossy shade, and bright with shy rivulets winking from the ferns
and laurels. On the lower side they viewed, framed in the near
foliage, exquisite sketches of the far valley swooning in its opal
Coltrane was pleased to see that his companion was yielding to the
spell of the hills and woods. For now they had but to skirt the base
of Painter's Cliff; to cross Elder Branch and mount the hill beyond,
and Goree would have to face the squandered home of his fathers. Every
rock he passed, every tree, every foot of the rocky way, was familiar
to him. Though he had forgotten the woods, they thrilled him like the
music of "Home, Sweet Home."
They rounded the cliff, descended into Elder Branch, and paused there
to let the horses drink and splash in the swift water. On the right
was a rail fence that cornered there, and followed the road and
stream. Inclosed by it was the old apple orchard of the home place;
the house was yet concealed by the brow of the steep hill. Inside and
along the fence, pokeberries, elders, sassafras, and sumac grew high
and dense. At a rustle of their branches, both Goree and Coltrane
glanced up, and saw a long, yellow, wolfish face above the fence,
staring at them with pale, unwinking eyes. The head quickly
disappeared; there was a violent swaying of the bushes, and an
ungainly figure ran up through the apple orchard in the direction of
the house, zig-zagging among the trees.
"That's Garvey," said Coltrane; "the man you sold out to. There's no
doubt but he's considerably cracked. I had to send him up for
moonshining once, several years ago, in spite of the fact that I
believed him irresponsible. Why, what's the matter, Yancey?"
Goree was wiping his forehead, and his face had lost its colour. "Do
I look queer, too?" he asked, trying to smile. "I'm just remembering
a few more things." Some of the alcohol had evaporated from his brain.
"I recollect now where I got that two hundred dollars."
"Don't think of it," said Coltrane cheerfully. "Later on we'll figure
it all out together."
They rode out of the branch, and when they reached the foot of the
hill Goree stopped again.
"Did you ever suspect I was a very vain kind of fellow, Colonel?" he
asked. "Sort of foolish proud about appearances?"
The colonel's eyes refused to wander to the soiled, sagging suit of
flax and the faded slouch hat.
"It seems to me," he replied, mystified, but humouring him, "I
remember a young buck about twenty, with the tightest coat, the
sleekest hair, and the prancingest saddle horse in the Blue Ridge."
"Right you are," said Goree eagerly. "And it's in me yet, though it
don't show. Oh, I'm as vain as a turkey gobbler, and as proud as
Lucifer. I'm going to ask you to indulge this weakness of mine in a
"Speak out, Yancey. We'll create you Duke of Laurel and Baron of Blue
Ridge, if you choose; and you shall have a feather out of Stella's
peacock's tail to wear in your hat."
"I'm in earnest. In a few minutes we'll pass the house up there on
the hill where I was born, and where my people have lived for nearly a
century. Strangers live there now--and look at me! I am about to
show myself to them ragged and poverty-stricken, a wastrel and a
beggar. Colonel Coltrane, I'm ashamed to do it. I want you to let me
wear your coat and hat until we are out of sight beyond. I know you
think it a foolish pride, but I want to make as good a showing as I
can when I pass the old place."
"Now, what does this mean?" said Coltrane to himself, as he
compared his companion's sane looks and quiet demeanour with his
strange request. But he was already unbuttoning the coat, assenting
readily, as if the fancy were in no wise to be considered strange.
The coat and hat fitted Goree well. He buttoned the former about him
with a look of satisfaction and dignity. He and Coltrane were nearly
the same size--rather tall, portly, and erect. Twenty-five years
were between them, but in appearance they might have been brothers.
Goree looked older than his age; his face was puffy and lined; the
colonel had the smooth, fresh complexion of a temperate liver. He put
on Goree's disreputable old flax coat and faded slouch hat.
"Now," said Goree, taking up the reins, "I'm all right. I want you to
ride about ten feet in the rear as we go by, Colonel, so that they can
get a good look at me. They'll see I'm no back number yet, by any
means. I guess I'll show up pretty well to them once more, anyhow.
Let's ride on."
He set out up the hill at a smart trot, the colonel following, as he
had been requested.
Goree sat straight in the saddle, with head erect, but his eyes were
turned to the right, sharply scanning every shrub and fence and
hiding-place in the old homestead yard. Once he muttered to himself,
"Will the crazy fool try it, or did I dream half of it?"
It was when he came opposite the little family burying ground that he
saw what he had been looking for--a puff of white smoke, coming from
the thick cedars in one corner. He toppled so slowly to the left that
Coltrane had time to urge his horse to that side, and catch him with
The squirrel hunter had not overpraised his aim. He had sent the
bullet where he intended, and where Goree had expected that it would
pass--through the breast of Colonel Abner Coltrane's black frock
Goree leaned heavily against Coltrane, but he did not fall. The
horses kept pace, side by side, and the Colonel's arm kept him steady.
The little white houses of Laurel shone through the trees, half a mile
away. Goree reached out one hand and groped until it rested upon
Coltrane's fingers, which held his bridle.
"Good friend," he said, and that was all.
Thus did Yancey Goree, as he rode past his old home, make, considering
all things, the best showing that was in his power.