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roof had recently been patched, and said again: "Home!" Later he exclaimed: "Peaceful! Very peaceful!"
III. CONCERNING THE GREATS
FOR Some days after this Rank saw strange things going into the loft, mostly on the back of Raybun.
There were slabs of black wood, some of it so knotty that the blacksmith could see no use for it outside of the fire. Then there were pots and pans of paints and fillers and varnishes and stains and glues, followed by costly ormolu escutcheons and moldings, which the unlearned blacksmith knew no better than to call brass; pretty brass-headed tacks, glass and brass casters, knobs and handles, and many strange tools, the like of which even the blacksmith, used to tools of a certain iron kind, had never seen. There were giant wooden jack-planes, smaller, but still heavy, smoothing-planes, to the last stubby, coffin-shaped "finisher." Saws, moldingplanes, bits and chisels for "fancy" work followed, and finally a turning-lathe.
Rank stood in the midst of it all, and admiringly asked:
"Sa-ay, what you a-go'n' to do?"
Raybun, with his coat off, happy, and looking twenty years younger, said:
"Down in Ma'yland, 'fo' the wah, my father was a chai'- and cabinet-maker. But when we boys-Dan an' me-got back after Appomattox, he and mother was dead, and the business left to us. Well, they was a few people wanted chai's, but none did n't want no cabinetwork. They jus' wanted to keep on livin' ef they could git food 'nough. Then you 'member how machinery come in and made everything. Could make ten chai's for what I could make one. So we sold what was left of the place an' divided up. Then Dan went wrong, an' it took most of my little share to keep him out of jail. I ain't right sure he 's goin' straight now. Always mo'o' less in jail. Dan 's young yit-not mo' 'n sixty. Got to be 'scused, I reckon, fo' a little wildness."
"Still a-sowin' oats, is he?" asked the smith.
"Well, about that there," nodded old. Raybun, seriously. "He's a promoter, an' they tells me that 's where promoters spend a good deal of their time-in jail.
Cross at me fo' lecturin' him. Jail don' seem no right place fo' er soldier an' gentleman from Ma'yland."
"What jail does he live at just now?" asked the grinning blacksmith.
"Oh, I don' expect he 's in jail. Ain't there always. Fack is, I dunno where he is. An' I won' fin' out tell-"
"He gits hung up ag'in?" asked the shrewd smith.
"Happens every now an' then, suh. No use to lie." Then he resumed his narrative: "So 's they wa'n't no money in the South, I come no'th with what was leftand bought these here things."
But Raybun ended with something on his mind. That was evident.
"All right fur as it goes," said the blacksmith; "but what 's the rest?"
"Well, suh," said the cabinet-maker, "they is somethin' else."
"Go on," urged the blacksmith. "What was you 'fore you come up here? A burglar or a murderer? Mebby jail 's a fam'ly complaint."
"Oh, nothin' like that-nothin' bad," said Raybun. "You'll think it foolish, that 's all."
"Oh," said the smith. "In love?"
"Then what is it?" asked the smith, impatiently. "What else is they?"
"I hate to tell; but it 's the greats."
The blacksmith took a slab of black walnut from the rack and threatened Raybun.
"Now you go on! If you ought to be in jail, I won't keep you from it."
"Fack is," said old Raybun, diffidently, "ever sence I was six I been crazy to have 'great' attached to my name
The blacksmith burst into laughter.
"Yes, it's funny," said Raybun. "When I went to school an' read 'bout that there Alexander the Great an' Peter the Great an' all them other greats, I says to Tim Barlow, says I, 'I 'm a-go'n' to be a great myself.'
'A great lunkhead!' says Tim." Raybun paused to laugh, and the smith
"Well, go on, Old Bulrushes! 'Course I want is jist 'nough-an' let the rest you could n't deny that there."
"Well," the old man was serious now, -"I did n't see why I could n't as well as them. I don't know. Ain't they great chai'- an' cabinet-makers, too? But I expect it 's too late. Anyhow, they was no way o' gettin' great in ol' Ma'yland sence the wah, so I come up yere."
"How 'll you go about it, Old Bulrushes?" asked the blacksmith. to try it on, too."
"Oh," answered Raybun, uncertainly, "jus' kin' o' git in the way of it. When I went in the army I thought I'd try to come out a great general; so I jus' kep' in the way of it all the time. You know you got to be shot in wah 'fore they take notice of you, an' then, if you git shot too hard, it's all over with you. Jus' 'nough. So I took lots o' fool chances with bullets, an' nothin' ever happened. I suppose ef I 'd hid behin' one o' them stone fences down in Ferginny, I 'd 'a' be'n shot dead." "Jus' disgustin'!" laughed the blacksmith.
"Up yere, where they 's lots of people, they'll take notice."
"Can't git it out of your nut?" asked the blacksmith.
"No," said Raybun, seriously. "No, I cain't." Then: "Ain't yo' nevah had that there in yo' hade?"
"Nit!" laughed the blacksmith. "All
alone. It's a bother. Jist 'nough to eat an' wear, an' a warm place to bunk up in winter. That's all the greats I want."
"Anyhow," said Raybun, "chai'-makin' 's my long suit, an' I reckon I got about one chance left, an' I want to be right in way of the greats when they come. I reckon this is a good place."
"Well, I expect it won't do no one no harm-not even you," said the blacksmith, dubiously. "Sure you 're not cracked a little?"
The blacksmith touched his head. "Think I'm crazy?"
He looked avidly about the home he had made for himself.
"Oh, no," protested the smith.
"And if it turns out that I have n't got even one chance left,-no one can't tell, -or if it misses me, an' I got to do without it, well, it's peaceful here-very peaceful."
"Say, Old Bulrushes, vou gim me that there, the peace,-an' you kin take all the greats that 's on the road," replied the blacksmith, with a thump on the back of old Raybun that hurt. "Good luck to the greats! But if you miss 'em, you got this!"
"I reckon, though, I 'll keep in the way of that last chance," persisted the old man, whimsically-"jus' stick round this here traveled road." He laughed happily.
"At seventy!" said the blacksmith. The enthusiasm died out of old Raybun's face. He looked his age.
"When I git worked up, I forgit that I'm an old man," said the cabinet-maker, humbly, "though I 've noticed that I can't quite make no joint no more so 's you can't see where the pieces go together. But I got these here strong glasses, which I reckon will fix that. Look through 'em."
He fixed the glasses carefully on the blacksmith's nose. "Wow!" cried Rank, jerking them off. "They 'd make me crazy in a minute. Draw my eyes right out of my head. Too old for me!"
"Say, suppose you ain't got no hair and whiskers?" asked Rank, laughingly.
"Bald?" questioned Raybun, appreciating the smith's humor. ting the smith's humor. "Like brother Dan?"
"And shaved," added Rank.
"I don't reckon that there makes much difference," answered Raybun, still smiling. "Ain't it better to grow to be seventy than thirty, seein' how hard it is to keep alive at all?" he asked in turn.
"So I thought, too. So I thought, too," laughed the old man, gently. "They are people who don't need 'em ever. There was Hiram Bell, neighbor; he died at ninety-nine, and never had. no glasses on his nose. And you look like you'd be like that. Well, I got to wear 'em. I guess I like 'em."
He put the thick lenses on his nose with great comfort.
"Make you look young," laughed Rank. "You got big, blue, innocent old baby eyes now."
"Yes," said the old man, "they magnify, and I'm told they make me look young. But I don't wear 'em for that. I'm not ashamed of my age. Don't you think it 's kind of honorable to git old and have white hair and whiskers?" He looked at the blacksmith.
"Well, I'll be blowed!" said Rank at this new point of view.
"The Bible thinks it is," said Raybun, smilingly; "good authority, I reckon."
"Dunno but it is, dunno but it is," replied the blacksmith, uncertainly.
Now, a curious thing was happening to Solomon Rank. He loved children; the shop was theirs whenever they chose to take possession. And he found himself feeling for this old man just as he did toward the children who came there and got dirty.
"Say, Moses, I bet you like kids," he said.
"Why, yes, yes," answered the carpenter, happily. "You got some?"
"Naw," said the blacksmith. "Bach. You married?" "No," said Raybun. "Bachelor, too."
"That's the way it always is. It's the fellows 'at ain't got kids 'at wants 'em. I'd give a leg apiece for a dozen."
"Eh?" The old man looked up quizzically. "That would be difficult, suh." "Why?" demanded Rank. "I got some money.'
"But not a dozen legs, suh." Raybun softly laughed.
The smith laughed terribly at the joke. "Say," Rank then said, "I half believe you like me."
a grin looked up and down his soiled person for some corroboration of Raybun's aberration, "first time anybody called me. that."
IV. NOT THE, EIGHT-CENT GUM-DROPS
ONE day, by leave of the pleasant blacksmith, old Raybun put up his sign. It took the subordinate position to that of the shoer of horses and tirer of wagonsjust below it, in fact:
"Why did n't you let me burn 'em?" asked the blacksmith. "Looks like a field of corn after a storm."
The cabinet-maker laughed with him.
"Stick it right up over mine, if you want," said the blacksmith. "Everybody 'at 's ever goin' to know me knows me now. It's you they got to git acquainted with."
"No, no," said the determined old carpenter. "I know what is right, suh; I know my place. You have been here, I understand, since 1820."
"Well, me and my daddy," he said.
Just then the children came along from school, and there was a great time intro
He had made and painted it himself. It was of French walnut, with a blackwalnut molding around the edge, and within that a tiny relief of the costly ormolu. The letters were of gilt bronze, and were, perhaps, less successful than the
"Lettering, suh, you may not know," Isaid the cabinet-maker, didactically, "is a separate trade. But I thought I'd try to save that expense."
ducing them to old Raybun. All of the smaller ones had to be lifted up to see the new sign, and to be told in first-primer language just what it meant; and then the knowledge acquired was reinforced by a visit en masse to the shop of the cabinetmaker. Well, it was nearly, not quite, as interesting as the blacksmith shop. There, of course, were the hissing fire and the living animals. Raybun would always have to lose in the competition for their favor
with these. But he certainly had the planes and the varnishes and the ormolu, which were no mean antagonists. Besides, as you shall learn presently, Raybun made two dozen chairs of varying sizes for the accommodation of the children, and thereupon you are to decide whether the loft had not equal attractions with the shop below it.
"My!" said old Raybun to the blacksmith, "but you have nice children here! So clean and polite!"
"Clean!" said Rank. "Wait till they 're through with my shop on Saturdays, when there's no school! I got to hide from the mothers 'at come round and want to club me. Take warnin'."
who was Raybun's favorite sat in the arm-chair, which, indeed, was more of a throne than a chair. If you had seen the children, you would have known in advance that this would fall to lovely little Annie Lee, with the dimples and the curling, blonde hair and the very blue eyes. But you would n't ever know why till you knew much more about Raybun than I am going to tell; namely, that brother Daniel, who was such a scoundrel as to be nearly always in jail, had a wife, or had, when he last knew of him, who long ago had just such eyes and hair and dimples. One of the Virginia Lees. You might go so far as to guess, if you were sentimental, that that was the reason why
The two men laughed together like old Raybun was so kind to his brother malefactors.
"And, say," cautioned Rank, looking about, "don't you buy no cheap candy. The mothers know them eight-cent gumdrops."
V. OF THE CUSTOMERS WHO DID
THEN Raybun sat down to wait for customers. While waiting, he built for himself and his home the most beautiful furniture he could design, of course, should anybody want to buy them, to sell. It was all of black walnut, with the or nolu moldings, the glass handles, and the curled mahogany veneering, and of a style long past. There was a very wonderful table off which he ate, and where a great whaleoil lamp stood in the evening. There were two chairs with curved backs, one for a possible guest; and most wonderful of all, there was a four-poster, which found its place precisely beneath "that great dormer which looked toward the Mason and Dixon's Line. Near this was a small stand whereon sometimes, when old Raybun was very tired, the whale-oil lamp was placed, while the cabinet-maker lay in his beautiful four-poster and read. You would be surprised to know what he read, besides the Bible. Nothing less than Marcus Aurelius! There is so much to tell of old Raybun!
But let us not pass the two dozen small chairs of varying sizes. Most of the time they stood in solemn phalanges around the walls. At others, as you may guess, they were occupied by the children. The one
Dan as to help him out of jail whenever he went there. I shall tell no more. Altogether you must perceive that old Raybun was very happy until he woke up one morning to find that he had not a cent with which to buy the children's candyor his breakfast.
He went, smiling, down the outside stair to the blacksmith.
"Would you oblige me with a small loan, suh,' he said, "until my customers come? The children need gum-drops and I breakfast."
The muscular smith slapped him jovially on his thin back.
"Sure they 're a-comin', eh?"
"Oh, yes. Some one in this great city must need me."
"Then you git the loan, to be paid back, mind you, soon 's your customers come.” "Most certainly," nodded the cabinetmaker. Then he thought of something. "A little slow a-comin', ain't they?"
"A little slow," laughed the blacksmith; "but the greats is always slow a-comin'." "Yes, yes; surely," agreed old Raybun, and went happily up the stair.
But he had to borrow again and again, until one morning, happily awake in his beautiful four-poster, for the first time a certain thought came to him:
"Why, there are no customers coming!"
Now, could it be possible that that was what the wise and smiling blacksmith meant?
The next day he met the blacksmith shamefacedly.