Eatin Crow; and The Best Man In Garotte

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I'd sorter take it better if he'd done the studyin' by himself before. Anyway he works, and Mr. Crew thinks him enough eddicated even for the Ministry. He does, and that's a smart lot. I guess he'll get along all right. You kin be sartin that the old man'll do all he knows to help start you fair.

All I kin. If you're sot upon it!

That's enough fer me, I guess, ef you're rale sot on it, and you don't think 'twould be better like to wait a little. He could study with Barkman fer a year anyway without losin' time. I'm right thar when you want me. I'll go to work to do what I kin The farm's worth money now it's all settled up round hyar. The mother and me and Jake could get along, I reckon, East or West.

I know more'n I did when I came out in ' I think a heap more of him now. There must be a pile of good in any one you like, Loo. Anyhow he's lucky. I've got to go right off, and you've all the chores to do, so I mustn't keep you any longer. When she reached the top of the bluff whence the road fell rapidly to the creek, no one was in sight.

She sat down and gave herself up to joyous anticipations. Where should they be married? But a glance down the slope from time to time checked her pleasure. At last she saw her brother running towards her. He had taken off his boots and stockings; they were slung round his neck, and his bare feet pattered along in the thick, white dust of the prairie track. His haste made his sister's heart beat in gasps of fear.

Down the hill she sped, and met him on the bridge. Tell me this minute what happened. But then the overmastering impulse ran away with him, and he broke out: "Oh, Loo! I jest seed everythin'. He was still--looked like he wanted to hear a class recite. He hitched up Jack and come to 'em, liftin' his hat. Oh, 'twas O. Then they took off their clo's. Seth Stevens jerked hisn loose on the ground, but schoolmaster stood by himself, and folded hisn up like ma makes me fold mine at night.

Then they comed together and Seth Stevens he jest drew off and tried to land him one, but schoolmaster sorter moved aside and took him on the nose, an' Seth he sot down, with the blood runnin' all over him. An'--an'--that's all. Every time Seth Stevens hauled off to hit, schoolmaster was thar first. It war bully! An' I seed everythin'. You kin bet your life on that! An' then Richards and the rest come to him an' said as how Seth Stevens was faintin', an' schoolmaster he ran to the crick an' brought water and put over him.

An' then I runned to tell you--schoolmaster's strong, I guess, stronger nor pappa. I seed him put on his vest, an' Seth Stevens he was settin' up, all blood and water on his face, streaky like; he did look bad. But, Loosay, Loo! Why didn't schoolmaster when he got him down the first time, jest stomp on his face with his heels? She could not answer. Indeed, she had hardly heard the question.

The thought of what might have happened to her lover appalled her, and terror and remorse held her heart as in a vice. But oh! She had acted foolish, very; but she hadn't meant it. She'd be more careful in future, much more careful. How brave he was and kind! How like him it was to get the water! All this while Jake looked at her curiously; at length he said, "Say, Loo, s'pose he'd had his eye plugged out. Half an hour later Loo, who had climbed the bluff to command the view, heard the sound of Jack's feet on the wooden bridge.

A moment or two more and the buggy drew up beside her; the schoolmaster bent forward and spoke, without a trace of emotion in his voice: "Won't you get in and let me drive you home, Miss Loo? The quiet, controlled tone of his voice chilled and pained her, but her emotions were too recent and too acute to be restrained. You ain't hurt, are you?


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Again she felt hurt; she scarcely knew why; the sneer was too far- fetched for her to understand it. I'll wait right here for you. After a long pause, she began, with quivering lips: "George, I'm sorry--so sorry. But I didn't know"-- and she choked down a sob--"I didn't think. I'll try to act like them. Then I'd be good, shouldn't I? Oh, George, I'm jest too sorry for anythin', an' now--now I'm too glad! He kissed and consoled her as in duty bound. He understood this mood as little as he had understood her challenge to love. He was not in sympathy with her; she had no ideal of conduct, no notion of dignity.

Some suspicion of this estrangement must have dawned upon the girl, or else she was irritated by his acquiescence in her various phases of self-humiliation. All at once she dashed the tears from her eyes, and winding herself out of his arms, exclaimed: "See here, George Bancroft!

I'll jest learn all they know--pianner and all. I ken, and I will. I'll begin right now. You'll see! He watched her with indifferent curiosity; the abrupt changes of mood repelled him. His depreciatory thoughts of her, his resolution not to be led away again by her beauty influencing him, he noticed the keen hardness of the look, and felt, perhaps out of a spirit of antagonism, that he disliked it.

After a few quieting phrases, which, though they sprang rather from the head than the heart, seemed to achieve their aim, he changed the subject, by pointing across the creek and asking: "Whose corn is that? Don't the Indians object? I guess it's allowed; anyhow, the corn's there an' father'll have it cut right soon. Wrong done by her own folk did not even interest her. At once he moved towards the house, and the girl followed him, feeling acutely disappointed and humiliated, which state of mind quickly became one of rebellious self- esteem. She guessed that other men thought big shucks of her anyway.

And with this reflection she tried to comfort herself. Elder Conklin, in his shirt-sleeves, was cleaning his boots by the wood pile. When he had finished with the brush, but not a moment sooner, he put it down near his boarder. His greeting, a mere nod, had not prepared the schoolmaster for the question: "Kin you drive kyows?

There ain't no school, and I've some cattle to drive to the scales in Eureka. They're in the brush yonder, ef you'd help. That is, supposin' you've nothin' to do. I've nothing else to do, and shall be glad to help you if I can. After breakfast the two started. Their way lay along the roll of ground which looked down upon the creek. They rode together in silence, until the Elder asked: "You ain't a Member, air you? I kinder misdoubted it las' Sunday; but I wasn't sartin.

Ef your callin' and election ain't sure, I guess Mr. Crew oughter talk to you. In various ways Bancroft attempted to draw him into conversation--in vain. The Elder answered in monosyllables, or not at all.

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Presently he entered the woods on the left, and soon halted before the shoot-entrance to a roughly-built corral. He rode for some minutes through the wood without seeing a single animal. Under ordinary circumstances this would have surprised him; but now he was absorbed in thinking of Conklin and his peculiarities, wondering at his habit of silence and its cause: "Has he nothing to say?

Or does he think a great deal without being able to find words to express his thoughts? He made directly for the sound, and soon saw the herd huddled together by the snake-fence which zigzagged along the bank of the creek. He went on till he came to the boundary fence which ran at right angles to the water, and then turning tried to drive the animals towards the corral. He met, however, with unexpected difficulties. He had brought a stock-whip with him, and used it with some skill, though without result.

The bullocks and cows swerved from the lash, but before they had gone ten yards they wheeled and bolted back. At first this manoeuvre amused him. The Elder, he thought, has brought me to do what he couldn't do himself; I'll show him I can drive. But no! He grew warm, and set himself to the work. In a quarter of an hour his horse was in a lather, and his whip had flayed one or two of the bullocks, but there they stood again with necks outstretched towards the creek, lowing piteously. He could not understand it.

Reluctantly he made up his mind to acquaint the Elder with the inexplicable fact. He had gone some two hundred yards when his tired horse stumbled. Holding him up, Bancroft saw he had tripped over a mound of white dust. A thought struck him. He threw himself off the horse, and tasted the stuff; he was right; it was salt!

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No wonder he could not drive the cattle; no wonder they lowed as if in pain--the ground had been salted. He remounted and hastened to the corral. He found the Elder sitting on his horse by the shoot, the bars of which were down. Besides, in this sun they might die on the road. Then he said, as if thinking aloud: "It's eight miles to Eureka; they'll be thirsty again before they get to the town. In ten minutes the two men had taken down the snake fence for a distance of some fifty yards, and the cattle had rushed through the gap and were drinking greedily. After they had had a deep draught or two, Bancroft urged his horse into the stream and began to drive them up the bank.

They went easily enough now, and ahead of them rode the Elder, his long whitey-brown holland coat fluttering behind him. In half an hour Bancroft had got the herd into the corral. The Elder counted the three hundred and sixty-two beasts with painstaking carefulness as they filed by. The prairie-track to Eureka led along the creek, and in places ran close to it without any intervening fence.

In an hour under that hot October sun the cattle had again become thirsty, and it needed all Bancroft's energy and courage to keep them from dashing into the water. Once or twice indeed it was a toss-up whether or not they would rush over him. He was nearly exhausted when some four hours after the start they came in sight of the little town.

Here he let the herd into the creek. Glad of the rest, he sat on his panting horse and wiped the perspiration from his face. After the cattle had drunk their fill, he moved them quietly along the road, while the water dripped from their mouths and bodies. At the scales the Elder met the would-be purchaser, who as soon as he caught sight of the stock burst into a laugh. No, sir; you bet, I don't. At last it was settled that thirty pounds' weight should be allowed on each beast for the water it had drunk. When this conclusion had been arrived at, it took but a few minutes to weigh the animals and pay the price agreed upon.

The Elder now declared himself ready to go "to hum" and get somethin' to eat. In sullen silence Bancroft remounted, and side by side they rode slowly towards the farm. The schoolmaster's feelings may easily be imagined. He had been disgusted by the cunning and hypocrisy of the trick, and the complacent expression of the Elder's countenance irritated him intensely.

As he passed place after place where the cattle had given him most trouble in the morning, anger took possession of him, and at length forced itself to speech. You look down on me because I'm not a Member. Yet, first of all, you salt cattle for days till they're half mad with thirst, then after torturing them by driving them for hours along this road side by side with water, you act lies with the man you've sold them to, and end up by cheating him.

You know as well as I do that each of those steers had drunk sixty-five pounds' weight of water at least; so you got" he couldn't use the word "stole" even in his anger, while the Elder was looking at him "more than a dollar a head too much. That's the kind of Christianity you practise. I don't like such Christians, and I'll leave your house as soon as I can. I am ashamed that I didn't tell the dealer you were deceiving him. I feel as if I had been a party to the cheat. At certain parts of the accusation Conklin's face became rigid, but he said nothing.

A few minutes later, having skirted the orchard, they dismounted at the stable-door. After he had unsaddled his horse and thrown it some Indian corn, Bancroft hastened to the house; he wanted to be alone. On the stoop he met Loo and said to her hastily: "I can't talk now, Loo; I'm tired out and half crazy. I must go to my room and rest. After supper I'll tell you everything. Please don't keep me now. The Elder did not speak once; the two young people were absorbed in their own reflections, and Mrs.

Conklin's efforts to make talk were effectual only when she turned to Jake. Conklin, indeed, was seldom successful in anything she attempted. She was a woman of fifty, or thereabouts, and her face still showed traces of former good looks, but the light had long left her round, dark eyes, and the colour her cheeks, and with years her figure had grown painfully thin. She was one of the numerous class who delight in taking strangers into their confidence. Unappreciated, as a rule, by those who know them, they seek sympathy from polite indifference or curiosity.

Before he had been a day in the house Bancroft had heard from Mrs. Conklin all about her early life. Her father had been a large farmer in Amherst County, Massachusetts; her childhood had been comfortable and happy: "We always kept one hired man right through the winter, and in summer often had eight and ten; and, though you mightn't think it now, I was the belle of all the parties. Dave, it appeared, had taken up the idea zealously, and had persuaded her to go with him. Her story became pathetic in spite of her self-pity as she related the hardships of that settlement in the wilds, and described her loneliness, her shivering terror when her husband was away hauling logs for their first home, and news came that the slave-traders from Missouri had made another raid upon the scattered Abolitionist farmers.

The woman had evidently been unfit for such rude transplanting. She dwelt upon the fact that her husband had never understood her feelings. If he had, she wouldn't have minded so much. Marriage was not what girls thought; she had not been happy since she left her father's house, and so forth. The lament was based on an unworthy and futile egoism, but her whining timidity appeared to Bancroft inexplicable. He did not see that just as a shrub pales and dies away under the branches of a great tree, so a weak nature is apt to be further enfeebled by association with a strong and self-contained character.

In those early days of loneliness and danger the Elder's steadfastness and reticence had prevented him from affording to his wife the sympathy which might have enabled her to overcome her fears. Solitude had killed every power in her save vanity, and the form her vanity took was peculiarly irritating to her husband, and in a lesser degree to her daughter, for neither the Elder nor Loo would have founded self-esteem on adventitious advantages of upbringing. Accordingly, Mrs. Conklin was never more than an uncomfortable shadow in her own house, and this evening her repeated attempts to bring about a semblance of conversation only made the silence and preoccupation of the others painfully evident.

As soon as the supper things were cleared away, Loo signalled to Bancroft to accompany her to the stoop, where she asked him what had happened. I'll speak to pappa; he'll mind me. I've made up my mind. It's impossible for me to stay here. But that's not so. Say it's not so, George. Say you'll stay--and I'll come down this evening after the old folks have gone to bed, and sit with you. Shortly after nine o'clock, as usual, Mr.

Conklin retired. Half an hour later Bancroft and Loo were seated together in the corner of the back stoop. They sat like lovers, his arm about her waist, while he told his story. She expressed relief; she had feared it would be much worse; he had only to say he didn't mean anythin', and she'd persuade her father to forget and forgive.

But the schoolmaster would not consent to that. He had meant and did mean every word, and could take back nothing. And when she appealed to his affection, he could only repeat that he'd think it over. It's unfortunate, perhaps, but it's done and can't be undone. The girl, seeing that her pleading was of no avail, grew angry; his love was good enough to talk about, but it could not be worth much if he denied her so little a thing; it didn't matter, though, she'd get along somehow, she guessed-- here they were startled by the sound of a door opening.

Loo glided quickly round the corner of the stoop, and entered the house. Bancroft following her heard the back door shut, and some one go down the steps. He could not help looking to see who was on foot at such an untimely hour, and to his surprise perceived the Elder in a night-shirt, walking with bare feet towards the stables through the long grass already stiff with frost.

Before the white figure had disappeared Bancroft assured himself that Loo had gone up to bed the front way. Curiosity conquering his first impulse, which had been to follow her example, he went after the Elder, without, however, intending to play the spy. When he had passed through the stables and got to the top of the slope overlooking the creek, he caught sight of the Elder twenty yards away at the water's edge. In mute surprise he watched the old man tie his night-shirt up under his armpits, wade into the ice-cold water, kneel down, and begin what was evidently meant to be a prayer.

His first words were conventional, but gradually his earnestness and excitement overcame his sense of the becoming, and he talked of what lay near his heart in disjointed phrases. He told me I'd plagued them cattle half to death, and I'd acted lies and cheated Ramsdell out of three hundred dollars. I s'pose I did plague the cattle, though I've often been as thirsty as they were--after eatin' salt pork and workin' all day in the sun. I didn't think of hurtin' them when I salted the floor. But I did act to deceive Ramsdell, and I reckon I made nigh on three hundred dollars out of the deal.

But, O God! You know everythin'. You know I never lied or cheated any one fer myself. I've worked hard and honest fer more'n forty years, and always been poor.

tugged the heart

I never troubled about it, and I don't now, but fer Loo. Jes' like a flower wants sunshine, she wants pleasure, and when she don't git it, she feels bad. She's so young and soft. Now she wants a pile of money and a pianner, and I couldn't git it fer her no other way. I had to cheat. You see my heart, O God! An' so I've come down hyar to say that Loo ain't with me in the cheatin'; it's all my sin. I know you punish sin. The stiff-necked sinner ought to be punished. Wall; I'll take the punishment.

Put it right on to me--that's justice. But, O Lord! That's why I've come down hyar into the water to show I'm willin' to bear what you send. Amen, O Lord God! In Jesus' name, Amen. Needless to say, Bancroft had slipped through the stables and reached the house before the Elder could get within sight of him.

When alone in his room the schoolmaster grew a little ashamed of himself. There could be no doubt of the Elder's sincerity, and he had insulted him. The Elder had sacrificed his principles; had done violence to the habits of his life, and shame to his faith and practice--all in order that his daughter might have her "pianner. What a fine old fellow Conklin was! Of course he wished to bear the whole burden of his sin and its punishment.

It would be easy to go to him on the morrow and beg his pardon. Wrong done as the Elder did it, he felt, was more than right. What a Christian at heart! And what a man! But the girl who asked for such a sacrifice--what was she? All the jealousy, all the humiliation he had suffered on her account, came back to him; she would have her father steal provided she got her piano. How vain she was and self-willed; without any fine moral feeling or proper principle!

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He would be worse than a fool to give his life to such a woman. If she could drive her father--and such a father--to theft, in what wrongdoing might she not involve her husband? He was warned in time; he would not be guilty of such irreparable folly. He would match her selfishness with prudence.

Who could blame him? That was what the hard glitter in her eyes betokened--cold selfishness; and he had thought of her as Hebe--a Hebe who would give poisoned wine to those who loved her. He was well saved from that. The old Greek word called her up before him, and the spell of her physical charm stole over his astonished senses like perfumed summer air. Sitting beside her that evening, his arm round her waist, he had felt the soft, full curves of her form, and thinking of it his pulses throbbed.

How fair her face was! That appealing air made her irresistible; and even when she was angry, how splendidly handsome! What a pity she should be hard and vulgar! He felt estranged from her, yet still cherished the bitterness of disappointment. She was detestably vain, common and selfish; he would be on his guard.

Morris came in. He was an ordinary young Western farmer, rough but kindly, ill-educated but sensible. When his appetite was satisfied he wanted to know whether they had heard the news. Conklin replied eagerly, "we've heard nothing unless p'r'aps the Elder in Eureka"--but her husband shook his head, and Morris went on: "Folks say the Government in Washington has sent General Custer out with troops to pertect the Indian Territory. Away East they think the settlers have been stealing the Reserve, an' the soldiers are coming with surveyors to draw the line again. Air we to give it up?

He'll be here in a day or two, an' we've called a meetin' in the school-house for this evenin' an' we hope you'll be on hand. We must hold together, and all'll come right. Ef we all held together there'd not be much wrong done. All us young uns hold by you, an' what you say, we'll do, every time. I kain't see my way to goin'.

I've always done fer myself by myself, and I mean to--right through; but the meetin' seems a good idee. I'm not contradictin' that. It seems strong. I don't go much though on meetin's; they hain't ever helped me. But a meetin' seems strong--for them that likes it. Bancroft had listened to the colloquy with new feelings. Prepared to regard with admiration all that the Elder said or did, it was not difficult for him now to catch the deeper meaning of the uncouth words. He was drawn to the Elder by moral sympathy, and his early training tended to strengthen this attraction.


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  • It was right, he felt, that the Elder should take his own course, fearing nothing that man could do. In the evening he met Loo. She supposed with a careless air that he was goin' to pack them leather trunks of his. I've been real miserable since last night; I cried myself to sleep, so I did. Now I know you love me I'll do anythin' you wish, anythin'.

    I'll learn to play the pianner; you see if I don't. If you'd read good books and try to live in the thought of the time, it would be better. Wisdom is to be won cheaply and by all, but success in an art depends upon innate qualities. I don't. Memory ain't sense, I guess; and to talk like you ain't everythin'. Skip to content. Perusall turns often-skipped solitary reading assignments into engaging collective activities students don't want to miss. Students collectively annotate each reading — asking questions, responding to each other's questions, or sharing other perspectives or knowledge.

    Perusall's novel data analytics automatically grade these annotations to ensure that students complete the reading, and as an instructor, you get a classroom of fully prepared students every time. Biographical note Harris, Frank []. Play, How to beat the Boer, a conversation in Hades. London: Heinemann, Montes the Matador and Other Stories. London: Longmans, The Man Shakespeare and his tragic love story.

    London, Frank Palmer, London: Metheun, ; New York: Kennerley, Unpath'd Waters. The Yellow Ticket and other stories. New York: Wilmarth Press, Contemporary Portraits [First Series].

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