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x ON THE MARCH AGAIN THAT night they slept on the blood-stained floor of an old field hospital, and the next morning Pinetop parted from them and joined an engineer who had promised him a " lift" toward his mountains. As Dan stood in the sunny road holding his friend's rough hand, it seemed to him that such a parting was the sharpest wrench the end had brought. "Whenever you need me, old fellow, remember that I am always ready," he said in a husky VOlce. Pinetop looked past him to the distant woods, and his calm blue eyes were dim. "I reckon you'll go yo' wayan' I'll go mine," he replied, " for thar's one thing sartain an' that is our ways don't run together. It'll never be the same agin - that's natur - but if you ever want a good stout hand for any uphill ploughing or shoot yo' man an' the police git on yo' track, jest remember that I'm up thar in my little cabin. Why, if every officer in the county was at yo' heels, I'd stand guard with myoId squirrel gun and maw would with her kettle." Then he shook hands with Big Abel and strode on across a field to a little railway station, while 488 On the March Again 489 Dan went slowly down the road with the negro at his side. In the afternoon when they had trudged all the morning through the heavy mud, they reached a small frame house set back from the road, with some straggling ailanthus shoots at the front and a pile of newly cut hickory logs near the kitchen steps. A woman, with a bucket of soapsuds at her feet, was wringing out a homespun shirt in the yard, and as they entered the little gate, she looked at them with a defiance which was evidently the result of a late domestic wrangle. " I've got one man on my hands," she began in a shrill voice, " an' he's as much as I can 'tend to, an' a long sight rna' than I care to 'tend to. He never had the spunk to fight anythin' except his wife, but I reckon he's better off now than them that had; it's the coward that gets the best of things in these days." "Shut up thar, you hussy!" growled a voice from the kitchen, and a fat man with bleared eyes slouched to the doorway. "I reckon if you want a supper you can work for it," he remarked, taking a wad of tobacco from his mouth and aiming it deliberately at one of the ailanthus shoots. " You split up that thar pile of logs back thar an' Sally'll cook yo' supper. Thar ain't another house inside of a good ten miles, so you'd better take your chance, I reckon." "That's jest like you, Tom Bates," retorted the woman passionately. "Befo' you'd do a lick of honest work you'd let the roof topple plum down upon our heads." The Battle-Ground For an instant Dan's glance cut the man like a whip, then crossing to the woodpile, he lifted the axe and sent it with a clean stroke into a hickory log. "We can't starve, Big Abel," he said coolly, "but we are not beggars yet by a long way." "Go 'way, Marse Dan," protested the negro in disgust. "Gimme dat ar axe en set right down and wait twel supper. You're des es white es a sheet dis minute." " I've got to begin some day," returned Dan, as the axe swung back across his shoulder. "I'll pay for my supper and you'll pay for yours, that's fair, isn't it? - for you're a free man now." Then he went feverishly to work, while Big Abel sat grumbling on the doorstep, and the farmer, leaning against the lintel behind him, watched the lessening pile with sluggish eyes. "You be real careful of this wood, Sally, an' it ought to last twel summer," he observed, as he glanced to where his wife stood wringing out the clothes. "If you wam't so wasteful that last pile would ha' held out twice as long." Dan chopped steadily for an hour, and then giving the axe to Big Abel, went into the little kitchen to eat his supper. The woman served him sullenly, placing some sobby...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817388294
Related ISBN
9780817310417
MARC Record
OCLC
47010965
Pages
559
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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