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MOTHERING ON PERILOUS

(KENTUCKY MOUNTAIN SKETCHES)

VII. NUCKY MARRS, HERO

BY LUCY FURMAN

Author of “ Stories of a Sanctified Town"

JUCKY, otherwise Enoch, Marrs remaining days of that. week passed off

was one of the ten boys who ran smoothly, confirming theory that the away from the Settlement School on Peril- wild and martial traits are likely to be ous the first week in August, on account atrophied in an atmosphere of love and of homesickness. Two days after Miss gentleness. Loring came over to the small boys' cot- True, there were a few straws, espetage to live, he was returned by his father; cially in Nucky's case, to show which way but before the latter was out of sight, he the wind might blow if it listed. On calmly announced that he did n't aim to Thursday at breakfast, when Geordie stay, and that neither his paw nor anybody Yonts undertook to instruct the new boys else was able to make him. Miss Loring in table manners, and informed Nucky believed this,-one glance at his vivid face that it was not proper to eat with his and combative eyes convinced her. “Very knife, he was silenced by a jab of the knife well,” she said, "if

you find you

cannot be in his direction, and a threat to cut out his satisfied, of course you must go. But it liver ; at dinner the same day, when Philip will hurt my feelings a good deal; how- Floyd snatched a sweet-potato from ever, don't think of them."

Nucky's plate, he received a spoonful of “What difference is it to you?” he de- sop (gravy) full in the face; the next manded, with a piercing look.

morning when Miss Loring had the boys "Only this, I have come over here to back in the barn shelling corn for mill, the cottage to be happy with you boys, and Taulbee Bolling made a disparaging I am lonely and need you—and if you remark about Trigger Branch and “Bloody can't like me well enough to stay, life will Boyne,” the pitchfork sailed over his head, seem a failure.”

grazing it slightly but painfully. SaturNucky, pondered a long time, with large day being combined wash- and cleaninggray eyes fixed on Miss Loring's face. “I day at the school, and a breathless time don't know as I 'll go right off,” he said, for everybody (Hen Salyer had to be punafter a while.

ished that night for calling it a — of a "Oh, thank you," she replied, gratefully. day), there was little chance to get into

Nucky was eleven, and his home was trouble. on Trigger Branch of Powderhorn, eigh- Sunday morning, however, there was in teen miles distant from the school, in the cottage air a noticeable restlessness, Boyne County. Mr. Marrs had said be

Mr. Marrs had said be- which worked itself off to some extent in fore leaving that Nucky was a master excitement over new Sunday clothes, and scholar when he could leave off fighting in a good deal of squirming and shuffling long enough to learn his books. This, and in church. The Heads had requested that like remarks dropped by other parents, led the boys be kept as quiet as possible all Miss Loring to anticipate a strenuous life day; and Miss Loring, realizing that the at the cottage. But, to her surprise, the afternoon, with its large leisure, might prove difficult, planned to thrill her flock the broom from Iry's hands, and rushed and speed the flight of time by reading with it, straw-end foremost, into the thick Robinson Crusoe, never having heard of a of the fight. She was hit on the head by boy who was not fascinated by it. She a shovel, on the shoulder by a table-leg, began in the thick of the story, where Cru- on the elbow by something, but her broom soe is actually in sight of his island, and received the worst of the blows. It is not read with judicious skippings. What was safe to say what might have been the outher chagrin to see one pair after another come had not Granville opportunely arof bright, roving eyes dull and close, one rived, snatched the broom from Miss Lorhead after another roll over on the grass ing and turned the handle-end on the boys, (they were out in the cottage yard), beating and whacking them mercilessly Nucky holding out longest, and murmur- until they finally surrendered their weaping wearily, as his head settled back against ons, and retired, bloody but happy, from a tree, “Did n't he never get into no the encounter. fights, or kill nobody?"

That night Miss Loring lay long awake, Miss Loring sat for a long time in deep nursing bruises and reconstructing theodiscouragement, gazing at the twelve ries. She sadly admitted that love and sleepers, and wondering what would be gentleness needed to be backed up by good the proper literary milk for her babes. muscle, and that, to be a success in her When they awoke, she gave them permis- undertaking as cottage mother, she resion to play mumble-peg, very, very quired, not the weak bodily presence quietly; and they made a tremendous ef- which, like Paul, she actually possessed, fort, but it was the last straw. After sup- but the strength of an Amazon. Next per, when they were gathered around the morning, while she was making a visit to sitting-room table, for ten minutes of Sun- the loom-house, inspiration came. She day-school lesson, the storm broke. Nucky 'asked and received from the Heads perkicked Keats on the shin; Keats called him mission for Cleo Royce, the head-weavinga smotch-eyed polecat; the two grappled. girl, a splendid, large, handsome young Hen few to his big brother's assistance, woman, to come over and live with her and Iry and Joab Atkins to Nucky's; at the cottage.

. Philip rushed in on the Salyer side, fol- Of course the boys were punished for lowed by Taulbee; Geordie and Absalom that fight, losing several days' playtime. joined the Marrs faction, Killis and Hosea Miss Loring also talked to them most the Salyer; while little Jason Wyatt, earnestly on the subject. “Why, it 's just eight, and just arrived that day, flew joy- an accident

you

did n't kill one another or ously into the fray, impartially attacking me," she said, "and then how would you both sides. It all happened in a flash, and have felt?" before Miss Loring could catch her breath, “I d hate right smart to have kilt a the table was overturned, chairs were fly- woman,” replied Nucky, “but gee, I ing, and Bedlam had broken loose. In would n't mind layin' out a few boys! I vain she implored, commanded, threat- got to begin somewheres-a man hain't noened, -- she might as well have called to body till he 's kilt a few—and I can tell the raging sea.

them boys right now they aim to die when Dreadful moments followed, during they name me names, or make me mad. which she could only dodge chairs, and Same as Blant and Ezry, -all Trigger wring her hands wildly. Worse was to

knows it can't fool with them." come, however, for in another instant- she The following Sunday afternoon, as saw Keats grab the tongs, Killis the shovel, soon as dinner was over, Miss Loring Geordie the poker, Nucky a hatchet, while promptly started with her boys for the Philip calmly wrested off a table-leg, and open, taking them several miles up Perilthe others either smashed chairs to pieces ous, to a beautiful, retired glen where for weapons, or seized remaining table- they could shout, play, fight (without legs. Then indeed she felt that death was weapons), and make all the noise they imminent for all concerned, and running pleased; a safety-valve that then and afterto the door, shrieked loudly for Granville ward proved of much value. Dudley and the other big boys who roomed That second Sunday night, also, she over the workshop. Returning, she plucked happened upon acceptable literary food.

She was asking Killis if he knew for whom The Saturday night following, when he was named, and telling him she thought Miss Loring began again on the Trojan it must be for Achilles, a man who lived War, it was to be interrupted frequently several thousand years ago, and was the by Nucky, with, “I can beat that with greatest fighter of his time. There were Asher Hardwick!" "Asher would n't unanimous demands to hear all about him, have took no such sass from Agamemnon and she began telling the story of the Tro- or nobody!" "Asher would have got the jan War, this time to be followed with in- drop on Hector too long ago to talk tense, almost breathless interest, and roars about!” and then would follow exploits of refusal when she tried to leave off. As which did indeed sometimes beat Greeks she related one fearful combat after an- and Trojans. And at the end of the eveother, she realized, with a shock, that what ning, Nucky remarked, “If Achilles and her babes wanted was not milk at all, but Ajax and them had a-lived nowadays, blood.

they'd a-got song-ballads made up about The next morning, while the boys were ’em, same as Asher Hardwick. There 's busy in the cottage before breakfast, Keats four or five about him. Basil Beaumont, sauntered in, saying he had finished his job over on Trigger, he made up one, 'The of cleaning the chicken-yard. Miss Lor- Doom of the Mohuns,' - Blant and Ezry ing went back to inspect it, found it any sings it." thing but clean, and called up to Hen, "I know another," chimed in Absalom, who was sweeping the back walk, “Tell taking down Geordie's little home-made Keats to come back here and clean this banjo from the "fireboard,” and starting yard better!" He had just passed the up a long-drawn, indescribably doleful word along, “Hi, son, she says for you to and bloody song, “Asher's Revengement," come back and lick your calf over !” when that fairly made the chills run up and a commotion arose in the cottage, and down Miss Loring's spine. Nucky appeared in the back door, waving Then, all of a sudden, she almost frantically for Miss Loring to come. Not jumped out of her chair as the meaning knowing what battle, murder, or sudden of it all flashed upon her, and she realized death might be impending, she flew up the the astonishing fact that she was set down walk. The boys were all hanging out of in the very midst of a heroic age, a balladthe front door. Nucky seized her and shot making age, an age rivaling in romance her through them like a catapult. “Take and daring the far-famed epoch of which a look at that 'ere man!” he said, breath- she had been telling. “Why,” she said, lessly. “It 's Asher Hardwick, from over after her amazement had subsided a little, on Powderhorn. He 's kilt forty men in “Achilles and the others did have songwar, and eleven in peace, and I 'll bet he ballads made up about them, - the very could whoop-out Achilles !"

A gaunt,

stories I am relating to you now; and a gray-haired, respectable-looking man was blind poet, named Homer, gathered these passing, on a well-fed nag. “Surely you together, and made them into one glorious must be mistaken," said Niiss Loring; song, which he went about singing from "why, he does n't look as if he would palace to palace, charming the souls of harm a fly!” Would n't, less'n he was driv to it," replied Nucky; "but he's 'Same as Basil Beaumont,” replied been compelled to wipe out the whole tribe Nucky. "He follows making song-ballads, of Mohuns, over yander in Boyne, and a and never does nary lick of work,- don't lot of others, too, that got theirselves mixed have to,-. folks gives him his bed and up in the war. More 'n twenty year' that victuals just to set in the chimley-corner war 's been a-going on. Asher he 's about and pick on his dulcimer and sing songthe only Hardwick left now."

ballads. Gee, I aim to be a hero like “But how could he kill eleven in peace?” Asher and Achilles, and kill as many as she inquired.

them, and git song-ballads made up about “Kilt them just accidental, – they was witless folks that never knowed enough to In pursuance of this noble ambition, keep out of the way when he was out after Nucky was almost never out of a fight the Mohuns. Asher he'd feel terrible during his moments of leisure for weeks bad about killing such as that."

men.

66

after school began. All the boys were

me!

combative enough; but Nucky was the that a man had to revenge himself when most indefatigable. It seemed a necessity insulted, while Nucky gave as his excuse of his nature to measure and prove himself that his great-great-grandpaw had fit the against all comers, whether among the cot- British, his grandpaw had fit the "Rebtage boys, or the hundred and more day- els," and his paw and Blant and Ezry had school boys; and he never appeared really been fighting the Cheevers ever since he happy except when in a fight.

could recollect, and he himself was just One thing weighed on his mind heavily bound to fight everything in sight, -that for some time, and that was the acceptance he'd rather die than think there was a by the other boys of the prowess of Killis better man anywhere than himself. Blair, on the mere strength of his having He had no idea who the British or the "fit the marshal that kilt his paw.'

." This “Rebels” were; but the reference gave did not satisfy Nucky. He was impelled Miss Loring an opening which she seized to doubt all things he himself had not eagerly. She explained the difference beproved. (The fact that Killis was a year tween fighting just to be fighting, and older and a good deal larger than himself, fighting to save one's country, and gave was a trifle light as air to him.) So one them an extended talk on the subject of Sunday morning in September, coming patriotism. And although their country, over from breakfast at the Big House, he to them, meant their mountains, and they suddenly slapped Killis in the mouth. were astonished to hear that the great With a bellow of surprised rage at the "level country” beyond was also theirs to insult, Killis fell upon him, and an awful love and fight for, their affections were combat followed. Miss Loring was stand- hospitable, and they demanded that an ing in the back cottage door, drinking in enemy of the nation be produced at once. the beauty of the morning, and the Sab- Miss Loring also thought it as well to bath peace of the hills, when savage yells bring the Trojan War to an abrupt end smote her ears. Following the sound she (oh, the tears and lamentations over the knew only too well, she hastened to the death of Horse-Taming Hector!) and to school yard. When she arrived, Nucky read the boys stories of other heroes who had just buried his teeth in Killis's arm, won immortal glory by fighting, not one from which the blood was spurting, and another, but dragons, giants, minotaurs, Killis, blind with pain, was striking out gorgons, and monsters of various kinds, wildly with his knife. Around the com- the devourers and scourges of their counbatants the other boys formed a delighted, trymen. cheering circle, within

circle, within which Philip 'These, too, were not without ill effects, danced madly around, shouting,

chiefly in conjunction with the poetic im

agination of Jason Wyatt. When Miss Fight, dogs, you hain't no kin;

Loring went out one morning and found ’F you kill one another, tain't no sin!” three poor barn cats writhing in their

death struggles, while Jason galloped off The next instant, Nucky abandoned the on a stick horse brandishing a bat, she was hold with his teeth, and was flashing his not mollified by his explanation that he own knife around Killis's throat. With a was Bellerophon and the cats the three shinny-stick, Miss Loring knocked up one heads of the Chimera; and when, two knife after the other, and kept death at weeks later, hearing a great noise in the bay until four of the grown-up boys ar- chicken-yard, she found eight chickens rived, and with difficulty separated the laid out dead, and Jason climbing down heroes and escorted them over

from the fence with his shirt-front still trained nurse to have their wounds half full of “rocks,” the statement that he stanched and dressed.

was Thor slaying the Jotuns did not save Later, when the two (now bosom

(now bosom him a good whipping. friends, and probably already plotting the Fortunately, it was the plebeian chickjoint attacks which later so greatly hu- ens, bought at ten cents apiece and kept miliated the day-scholars) were losing a only until killing time, that suffered ; whole week's playtime for fighting with though there were signs in the smaller weapons, and were solemnly talked to on yard occupied by the Rhode Island Reds the subject by Miss Loring, Killis pleaded (two pullets and a young rooster sent up

to the

by a friend from the Blue Grass, and spoken. As he expressed it, “Learning treated with great respect as the founders comes handy to me.” At study hour in of a new race) that a few rocks had come the evenings, the others would go to him their way too.

for help in their arithmetic and geography To save them particularly, and to dis- and language; and it was astonishing to courage cruelty in general, Miss Loring hear his lucid explanations to boys a foot made a rule that day that any boy who taller than himself. Also, there were in threw a rock at any animal thereafter him certain delicate and deep reticences. should receive a hard whipping at her He was in the school two months before hands, and if Jason did so again, he should he ever spoke of his mother, though Miss have three. She anticipated no trouble Loring had heard from others of her death with the older boys in this regard, well more than a year before. One day when knowing that nothing on earth could be so all the boys were bragging about their antipathetic to their minds as the thought mothers, alive or dead, Nucky suddenly of “taking a whipping off a woman.” left the room. Hen reported later, “I

Hopefully as all the boys, and especially tracked him to the hay-loft, and heared Nucky, searched for giants, dragons, and him a-layin' up there cryin' fit to kill for minotaurs in caves, coal-banks, rock-dens, his maw." and hollow logs during the Sunday walks Afterward, when he found that Miss thereafter, they found nothing worse than Loring, too, was homesick for dear ones rattlesnakes, which were but a tame sub- she would never see again in this world, stitute, and an old story; but the value of he was able to talk of his mother to her; drawing their minds to foes in the abstract and the tie between them became very was apparent in the gradual diminution close and dear. His mind had from the of fighting, and in a rapid growth of the first been a joy to her; and now a wild, desire to defend and glorify their country shy, intense quality of his affectional narather than themselves. This change Miss ture captivated her more and more. It Loring observed with joy. She believed was he who always sat at her right hand that her boys, and other mountain boys in the crowded semicircle before the fire like them, had great gifts to bring to their when stories were told or read, having nation. Fearless, proud, honest, and truth- won the place in fair fight. ful as they were, strengthened by a hand- But if he brought her happiness, his to-hand struggle with nature from their daring spirit also caused her suffering in very infancy, beginning at four or five years

even greater measure. To look up from of age to shoulder such family responsibil- the garden and see him balancing on the ities as hoeing corn on the steep mountain- ridge-pole of the Big House, with the sides, clearing new-ground, grubbing, log- steep, slippery roof slanting off dangerging, hunting, and gathering the crop, they ously beneath him; to watch him shin up would be able to bring to the service of to the tip of the tallest tree, and then, on their country primal energy of body and his descent, jump from a limb thirty feet spirit, indestructible valor, and minds un- above the ground; to behold him hanging tainted by the lust of wealth. Oftentimes by his hands out over space, from the top she spoke to them of these things, and ledge of the Raven Rocks, the highest praised them for the fine traits she saw in point for miles around, were things not them, and above all for their truthfulness, calculated to soothe her nerves. At all telling them this was the foremost virtue times he seemed under some inward comof the hero. Jason she was compelled to pulsion of proving his valor, realizing his except from praise in this respect; but she intention of being a hero. When the big did so in hope.

"tide” came in Perilous in early NovemWhen the abatement in fighting gave ber, sweeping away all the stable-lot fence Miss Loring some opportunity to become and much of the rock embankment, what really acquainted with her boys, she dis- was Miss Loring's terror, on hearing loud covered that Nucky had other strains in calls and cheers from the stable, to see him beside the martial one. Of all the Nucky out in the middle of the yellow, bright minds in her flock, his was the boiling food, standing calmly on a swift swiftest, the most lightning-like.

log, which even as she glanced, shot around derstood a thing almost before it was a curve and out of siglit. Ten minutes of

He un

LXXXII-37

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