Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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A drunken son and a half-savage woods youth—with these two elements old
Colonel Burdett made an experiment that was to startle him Alabama friends.
AFTER passing through the gate, which was nearly a mile across the brownish cotton fields, white-dotted with ripening bolls, the crowded car went slowly along the private road toward the old Burdett plantation home. In the moonlight a group of three moss-bearded live-oaks showed at a sort of bay in the fence. There was a well there. Cotton pickers came there in season to slake their burning thirst with the cool water.
"Hush now!" The car driver spoke warningly. "You-all wait for me here, and don't make any noise. The old man is as strait-laced as a deacon."
"Don't be long, Ar-thur," drawled a soft feminine voice.
"Huh, your governor used to wangle a mean julep, himself," whispered one of the male occupants. "My dad used to tell how he and Bellamy Marriott—"
Arthur Burdett slid out from under the wheel. He reeled slightly as he started, but squared his shoulders and kept on toward the big white-pillared house, which showed through a farther group of live-oaks, magnolias and umbrella-shaped chinaberry trees.
The young skulker circled to approach from the rear where a long string of kitchens and quarters for the Negro servants leaned against one another.
There was not a sound, except a low, monotonous groan and wheeze. Arthur Burdett grinned. That was old Cynthia, who always snored.
By his wrist watch Arthur saw it was two minutes of twelve o'clock. There was no sign of a light; no, his white-haired father was not waiting up, this time. Arthur breathed with relief. Nearly fifty years separated the ages of the two, and far more than half a century in habits, training and all the various factors which enter into the definition of an Alabama gentleman.
Moving with a quiet celerity that suggested this was not the first occasion he had entered his own home as a burglar, the youth lifted one side of a leaning cellar door, laid it carefully back, and then stepped down into the cool blackness. As his feet touched the cement-hard clay of the floor he switched on a small electric flash, stooping a little to avoid the big overhead pipes of the hot-air furnace.
Back at the other end of the cellar was a plank partition extending across. In this was a single door, held fast by a big padlock and hasp; Without hesitation Arthur took a key from the watch pocket of his trousers, re moved the padlock and threw wide the door. A pungent scent of old whisky in barrels swept out to his nostrils.
There were two rows of fifty-gallon white-oak casks, ten in number, on one side of the room. Opposite were racks, with wine-bottles lying on their sides. On the floor were a dozen or more crocks and jugs of varying sizes, each with a corncob stopper.
Arthur bent and picked up one of these, pulling the cork and sniffing to make sure it held nothing that had gone poisonous. He tipped it, and a half cupful of liquid spilled. Then he bent down; adjusting the mouth of the jug to a spigot on one of the barrels.
It was a horrible, throaty sound behind him. Accompanying it, the barrel of a rifle poked the kneeling man in the small of the back.
Completely sober, or given a moment in which to think, Arthur Burdett surely would have recognized the newcomer by just that strange, awful cry—one which Tom-Harry, the deaf-mute butler, never uttered except in moments of stress or physical agony.
But the young man did not wait to think. Snapping off the flash light, he leaped erect, swinging his arm and thrusting the rifle barrel to one side. The small weapon—it was a .22 used for rabbits—exploded like the crack of a bull whip. Head down and fists swinging, Arthur charged his would-be captor, who now bulked large between him and the gray rectangle of cellar door.
Two strong, heavy arms clutched blindly—clutched and grabbed him. Arthur screeched suddenly, bringing up his knee and butting, to break the hold. He did not succeed. Though the Negro butler was close to sixty years of age, his heavy, knotted arms held fast. And from his throat came a succession of those terrible, wordless cries which were his only means of raising an alarm, after the single rifle shot.
"Let go of me, Tom-Harry!" gasped Arthur, finally realizing who it was that had trapped him. "Let go, I say!"
But the Negro, though an adept lip-reader, could not see in the darkness. He naturally did not obey. He had been sleeping on a cot down here in the basement, for the express purpose of catching the unknown marauder who had been looting the liquor cellar, and now he made sure of his captive.
SUDDENLY the electric lights flashed on, and a tall, white-haired man stood there. He was fully dressed in long-tailed black coat of old-fashioned cut, pressed trousers, shirt with immaculate wing collar and black tie. In his attire the only concession made to the hour was a pair of Congress gaiters on his feet instead of the usual shoes or boots.
"You may let him up now, Tom-Harry," said Colonel Burdett coldly, gesturing so the servitor understood. "I suspected it might be Arthur. Well, young man, this is a new role indeed—for the last of the Burdetts!"
He paused a moment, and the long hands at his sides clenched tightly. When he spoke again his voice betrayed the bitter shame and fury within his patrician heart.
"Unable to hold your liquor well, and yet stealing more whisky for another all-night party! Well, on those other occasions when you became maudlin, I warned you, young man! You understand the penalty?"
"But, father!" cried the youth, sobering fast. "You don't understand! Why isn't half of this liquor mine, anyway? I didn't consider this stealing—not by a damned sight!"
"Go upstairs, Tom-Harry," spoke and motioned Colonel Burdett. The black man bowed, shuffled to the stairway and disappeared.
"Well, that is a novel viewpoint which had not occurred to me," continued Colonel Burdett. "Let's see. I suppose you have your gay young friends out here somewhere. In the car?"
"Yes!" snapped Arthur, defiance beginning to enliven his rather pudgy, dissipated countenance.
"Very well. You will please, invite them in, and entertain them according to your own ideas. The servants will take your orders—for two days. At the end of that time Marcy will take them—and you—any damn place you-wish to go!
"I shall not be here for the two days. When I return you had better be gone, else I shall have you jailed as a common felon! And my one last request of you is this: while you are going to hell on the money left you by your angel mother, will you kindly assume another name than Burdett? Never before to my knowledge has it been associated with conduct unbecoming a gentleman!"
"But, father! You don't mean this! Wh-where are you going?" Real panic was in Arthur's words now.
"Kindly do not use that name again! I am going first to my lawyers in Mobile. Then—well, if you must know, I am going on a search up into the piney woods. I regard it as scarcely possible, but I intend to hunt for a young man more worthless than yourself! I shall look among the Cajans!"
THE young man in charge of the "commissary" at Citronelle looked up at his distinguished, white-haired visitor, then down at the ten dollar bill on the table.
"I've heard of you, colonel," he said with respect. "And I sho' want to oblige. Ten dollars is a pile of money, these days, yet—" He shrugged, but the old man waited, stony-faced.
"The Cajans only come down about once a month, you know. It's getting 'long toward four o'clock now, and—"
"Do I understand that you are afraid?" Colonel Burdett's tone was icy.
The young man glanced at him with a humorous quirk to his wide mouth. "Not for myself, I'm not," he denied.
"They know me, you see. But they don't exactly take kindly to strangers." He got up, frowning. "If you feel like taking your chances, I think I can find the sort of boy you want. Jules LeFevre—"
"He must be under twenty years of age, and as ignorant as possible. Also, he must not have any disease," broke in Colonel Burdett.
The young man grinned and nodded. He walked out to the car, pausing a moment to speak to an old black man who loafed on the front stoop of the commissary. With directions to Burdett's chauffeur, who manifestly did not like to proceed further into the piney woods, they got under way..
"Jules ought to suit. He's clean and healthy, but I don't really believe he's ever seen a town of any kind. His clan, the LeFevres, run about as wild as they come. One of 'em strayed over as far as the main line of the M. & O. a couple of years back. Thought the engine was chasing him. He ran straight down the track, then stopped and fired both barrels of his shotgun. Well, the engine survived!" The young man chuckled.
Not the vestige of a smile came to the countenance of Colonel Burdett. "I see. That is exactly the kind of boy I want!" he said with grim determination..
"Well," drawled the imperturbably cheerful guide, "I'm just hoping none of the LeFevres gets the notion this car is chasing him! I don't s'posc there's been an automobile on these hyar wood roads since back about 1900!"
"What?" The old man was startled for an instant. "Why, they didn't have automobiles in Alabama in 1900!"
"Exactly!" drawled the guide. "You and me are getting along fine, Colonel Burdett. If it wasn't for that ten dollars you just give me, I might be applying for that funny job of yours myself!"
BUT for the reassurance of the man from the Citronelle. commissary, Jules LeFevre never would have approached the awesome limousine, with its black driver and black-coated, white-haired owner. But he came now, scowling a little, and carrying an old single-barreled shotgun.
"I've told him as much as I rightly knew," said the guide in a quiet, worried voice. "I reckon I've earned your money, colonel! Will you be going back my way?"
'"I think so," nodded Burdctt. "How do you do, my boy?" he asked courteously, smiling and nodding with a complete, change of manner. He saw a barefoot youth almost as tall as himself, with dark brown wavy hair and brown eyes that held a sullen light as they contemplated, this magnificent stranger.
Jules LeFevre wore two garments, an open-necked shirt of blue chambray and a dilapidated pair of overalls hanging by one strap.
He was undeniably dirty, but undiseased and with promise of great strength in his big frame, sloping shoulders and narrow waist. Hands and feet were small. In every way he was typically Cajan, blood descendant of the exiled French folk of Longfellow's "Evangeline," the Acadians of far-away Grand Pré, Chignecto and Port Royal.
Possibly there was a tincture of Choctaw Indian in his ancestry: for these tall, good-natured redmen of the Southern wilderness had welcomed the French exiles hospitably in 1752, and finally intermarried with some of them. This would account for the boy's height, and also for the light golden-tan of his complexion. He had inherited no other racial strains, however—his appearance testified to his pure Acadian breeding, with that slight Choctaw influence. His language was of the simplest, but an almost unrenderable hodgepodge of English, French and Indian. Because of what happened later to Jules LeFevre, the little talking he did may better be translated into English.
Burdett did not seem to expect any reply at once. He was exerting himself now to be as reassuring and as courteous as an old-school Southern gentleman knew how to be; and it probably startled the guide from Citronelle far more than it did this untamed creature of the woods.
"I hope, sir, that you will be able to come with me. I have a job which will pay well, and which I. think you will be able to do with ease."
"Where go? What do?" inquired Jules. "How much?"
"Well, I'll go into that more fully after a while. But see here." He pulled a five dollar bill from his case and passed it over to the Cajan, who regarded it gravely but with no sign of recognition in his brown eyes. "I'll pay you that every day you work for me! Til get you new clothes, and give you all you want to eat! All you have—"
"Beg pardon, sir," interrupted the guide, whose expression of astonishment was becoming chronic now. "I doubt that he's ever seen any paper money. They only have silver—and damn' little of that," he added in an undertone. "Let me change it for you."
He fished in his pocket, coming up with four silver dollars and enough small change to make the five.
The Cajan's expression altered instantly; It was more money than he had ever possessed at one time, and the thought of getting this much every single day for working was almost too much to grasp.
"What is it that you want?" he cried eagerly, fingering the money.
"Well," Colonel Burdett considered, then took the plunge. "I have lost a son, about your age, Jules. I want you to come and take his place!"
"Oh, my God!" said the guide, inexpressibly shocked.
Jules, however, paid no attention. Cajan relations were more in clans than family groups, so he saw nothing particularly strange in the proposal—nothing half as strange, for instance, as this big, shiny ox-cart which ran through the woods with a humming noise—and without oxen. The mirror-like chromium and the sleek heather-and-gray paint fascinated him. He reached out a finger to touch it, and involuntarily flinched as though the metal had been hot.
"Of a certainty, I will go," he said. "It will be a new job for me, being a son, for I have no father. Will we go as you came, in this?" He pointed at the car; and the Negro chauffeur, who had been bursting with the effort of dismayed repression, broke into a whinnying squeal.
"Be silent!" commanded Colonel Burdett, and it was the flinty voice of the Spanish-American regimental commander.
The black shivered and was quiet.
"Yes, we will travel in this car," answered Burdett, turning again in kindly fashion toward the Cajan. "After a while I will show you what makes it go. But now, the first thing we have to do is to get back to Citronelle. I want you to have a bath and clean clothes, Jules. I suppose there is some place with running, water, and a store at which we can get a presentable outfit?" The last was addressed to the commissary youth.
"I can fix him up," said the latter shortly. He had completely lost his appearance of good humor. "But you, Colonel Burdett, I think you had better go and have your head examined!"
The planter did not answer. He was looking forward through the years of his bitter revenge—and wondering, more than likely, upon just whom that revenge really was going to fall.
JULIUS BURDETT—for that was the manner in which the colonel signed the Cajan boy's name in the register of the Hotel Citronelle that evening—ate the first meal of his life at a table equipped with cloth, napkins and silver. Only the knife looked at all familiar; and it was dull and of a shape not serviceable, in the Cajan's eyes.
But in spite of the fact that two waitresses stared at him aghast, Colonel Burdett maintained his attitude of soothing reassurance, and the Cajan wolfed down viands he scarcely knew by sight. With the quarter of an apple pie, a wedge of cheese, one-fifth of a pound of Scuppernong grapes, a cup of black coffee, and a dish of magnolia figs in heavy, spiced syrup, all as dessert, Julius sighed and expressed himself as satisfied.
"Do we eat like that often?" he asked.
Colonel Burdett did not understand at first, for he was not well versed in the outlandish dialect of Cajan land, but finally he smiled a wintry smile.
"Just as often as you wish, my boy!" he promised.
"Sacré! I will like this, job, then!" decided Julius.
Leaving the dining room, Colonel Burdett—-proud and unapproachable of carriage and mien—led the way to the winding stairs that gave to the bed-chambers upstairs. He was surprised to see Julius hesitate, eying the long staircase with grave suspicion.
The boy, his elder companion realized, had acted a little the same way when led up the flight of four steps to the front gallery of the hotel. Now Julius, faced with his first venture into the second floor of a building, hung back with evident reluctance. He would have gone up a ladder like a chimpanzee, but the feel of a soft carpet under his new shoes, and the semi-darkness of the winding stairs, made him fear a trap.
"Come on!" bade Colonel Burdett, going on after one or two attempts to lead the Cajan youth.
He had reached the first landing before Julius followed. And then what happened started a gale of laughter from the curious waitresses and a handful of guests, a. gale of laughter which was to sweep through the entire State of Alabama—and test the Burdett nerve to its uttermost.
Julius came up on his hands and feet, cautiously, like a great monkey!
Once upstairs, the white-faced man got him swiftly into the pair of rooms they would share. He was surprised to see a burning flush upon the Cajan's cheeks—and was to learn then that the deadliest weapon of all to use against this hypersensitive woodsman was the laughter of ridicule.
"They laugh—at me!" choked Julius.
"At us!" corrected the colonel grimly. "But don't you pay any attention, lad. In two years' time they will be bumping their foreheads on the floor!"
For the first time, as he lay in his bed waiting for the sleep which would not come for hours, the man saw the whole bitter horror of the tour de force to which, he had set his hand.
But he had no thought in the world of receding. The Burdetts had pride, and stubbornness of purpose.
ON the afternoon of the next day, while Colonel Burdett, Julius and the colored chauffeur traveled the one hundred and seventy miles of the highway from the south, affairs were in a state of gloomy apprehension at the Burdett plantation.
There had been no drinking party, of course. When Colonel Burdett left abruptly in the limousine after the scene with his son, Arthur, shaken and sick at heart, had brought his five companions to the house. But that was only for a sort of council of war. The others realized quickly that the colonel had meant exactly what he said, and decided that they would get away as speedily as possible.
The two young men and one of the girls were neighbors, in a manner of speaking, and might have their own troubles at home when this leaked out. Connie Reardon and the other girl came from Montgomery, thirty miles away.
Only Connie was not ready to quit Arthur Burdett. She tried to get him to leave; but when he gloomily refused, she and her friend from Montgomery stayed on, while the other three were driven home by Marcy, the second chauffeur.
"I've been a fool and know it," said Arthur bitterly. "I'm going to stay and tell him so. Then he can arrest me if he wants to!"
Connie looked thoughtful. "Better wait a week," she suggested. "Then you'll know if you mean it—or if it's just the liquor dying in you."
Connie and the other girl talked it over that night, coming to the not unnatural conclusion that perhaps Colonel Burdett had been in the right—and that staying till his return could only make matters worse. They took leave of the shale en Arthur after breakfast.
"Just be a man, Arthur," suggested Connie, speaking softly for his ear alone. "I'll always be your friend, but I want to sec you snap out of this."
"Oh, I'll be a man all right!" said Arthur half angrily.
Shaking her head a trifle, Connie turned away. Even she could see that this was no mood of sincere contrition.
So when shortly before five o'clock the big limousine, dusty-red from the dry roads, drove up to the white house among the oaks, Arthur was alone, and pacing the front gallery.
He had smoked cigarettes incessantly since dawn, and had taken three drinks from the decanter on the sideboard to quiet his ragged nerves. His mood of aching remorse had given way partially at least to a rising sense of injustice. Did a man like his father, famous if not notorious in his youth as an owner of fast horses, and a beau among the South's pretty women—three of whom he had married in due course—think that a son of his could be a hypocritical idiot?
ARTHUR snapped away his cigarette. He stared at the car occupants as they alighted, and his face paled. A tall, uncouth boy in queer-fitting clothes sat beside his father. A Cajan! Gasping a little in the rage which suddenly flooded his being, Arthur came down to the shell drive. White-faced, trembling, he confronted Colonel Burdett.
"So you—d-did it!" he cried, turning to stare with burning eyes upon Julius.
The Cajan, who had regarded him with quiet wonder, suddenly tightened, crouching a little. From the heart of the piney woods, he needed ho further warning than that murderous glance. Bobcats glared like that when cornered.
"Yes, this is the boy who will take your place," said the colonel in a brittle tone. "I sec you have not obeyed my request to get out, so I:—"
That was as far as he got. With a screech of overmastering fury, Arthur Burdett leaped. What was meant for a sledge-hammer blow to the chiseled, regular features of the upstart Cajan, landed glancingly upon the heavy shock of curly hair as Julius ducked.
The impetus of the sudden attack carried both against the running board of the car, where they fell, rolling to the white shell drive. Even with Arthur, the little fistic science and thought of fair play which would have been his ordinarily, were forgotten. He attacked madly, clawing, biting, endeavoring to gouge and rend his adversary—but accomplishing little because of the very disorganization of his fury. Men have to be familiar with the knock-down, drag-out type of battle, and light it with a certain amount, of science, or they are surprisingly ineffectual.
The Cajan knew it and nothing else. Inside ten seconds he had slammed an elbow crushingly into Arthur's nose, wrenched one shoulder, half-choked him, and scrubbed him into the scouring shell until the clothes hung in shreds from his right side.
Hearing the tumult, young Mercy, the second chauffeur, came running. Joe, who had driven the limousine, climbed down with a wrench in his hand. Both, loyal to the Burdett blood—little as they admired Arthur—would have massacred the unknown Cajan. But the colonel restrained them.
"Wait!" he thundered. "This will be a needed lesson, I think!"
Needed or not, it proved to be a terrible lesson. After his first burst of fury, Arthur weakened rapidly. Dazed, stunned, bleeding at mouth and nose, he still fought on—but blindly now. The Cajan, remorseless, came on top, and started choking his opponent to death.
That was where Colonel Burdett interfered. Issuing brief commands, he helped pry Julius from his victim, and push the Cajan back to a seat on the steps of the gallery. The latter, understanding that a final kill was not the order of the day with this strange people, relaxed, although his dark eyes remained fastened upon the recumbent form of Arthur. At a second's notice he would have been in the thick of the fray again.
Arthur was still unconscious when the colonel had him carried into the limousine, and cloths tied around his head where he seemed to be bleeding the most. One ear was mangled. It showed tooth marks.
"Here," said the colonel to Joe, his driver, handing over a sheaf of large bank notes. "Take these, and deposit them to his account at the infirmary at Montgomery. Register him there as Arthur Jones. Do you understand that?"
Joe blinked. "Jones, sah?" he repeated. "You say Jones?"
The colonel nodded. "Arthur Jones!" he repeated with emphasis. "You may tell every one that this—this young man is a son of mine no longer!"
Then it was a hard thing for him, but he turned to the Cajan as the big car moved softly away. His expression was solicitous, though nothing but pure hate lay in his heart.
"I hope you were not hurt badly," he said. "Come inside, boy, and let's, see."
BLOOD of the pioneer and adventurer was strong in the veins of Julius Burdett. The fight, as long as he had whipped his adversary, was nothing more than an incident. He had received nothing worse than scratches and one loosened tooth. And he was able to enjoy and wonder at every marvelous detail of his new life, from the first.
The comfortable, old-fashioned mansion, built before the Civil War and twice restored—the last time when central heating first became accepted in the Southland—evoked his profoundest astonishment.
The enormous, high-ceiled rooms, the quiet luxury of rugs, furniture and eighty-year-old converted crystal chandeliers impressed him more than anything else with the difference between these people and his own Cajans. Back there was squalor, starvation, not even cleanliness. Here was so much, of the finest that the world afforded, that at first Julius was like a young knight in his first suit of armor. He scarcely could move for the weight of it.
Colonel Burdett planned every moment, every move. The Cajan was broken in slowly to the use of every ordinary article. He was visited by a tailor and measured for every conceivable kind of suit.
A barber came, and expressed admiration for the effect he achieved—using as a final touch a tonic for subduing the rebellious brown locks. He left a bottle of the stuff. Boxes of underwear, pyjamas, shirts, collars, neckwear, socks and handkerchiefs came. When the first suit arrived, Colonel Burdett himself drove in to Montgomery and supervised the buying of boots, shoes of all sorts, and slippers.
While he was at the city, Colonel Burdett paid a brief visit to the office of the infirmary, but emerged immediately. The young man called Arthur Jones had left two days after he came. His left ear was marked, but otherwise he was not seriously injured. . Julius became acquainted immediately with one functionary, a valet, that Arthur never had sported. With the Cajan, naturally, the colonel saw such an adviser and helper would be a necessity.
The Cajan's first tutor, and one who remained with him throughout his stay with the colonel, was a tough-appearing, still rather competent welterweight pugilist who rejoiced in the name of the Tia Juana Kid. Though the nearest he ever had come to Mexico was this very spot in Alabama, and he had ceased being a "kid" some twenty years before, he respected this easy job, got to like Julius and admire his possibilities, and by and large did well.
"You fight earnestly—but not in our fashion," said the colonel dryly and with a slight shiver. "I want you to do what this man tells you."
Julius nodded. He had ceased to be surprised.
"All right, buddy!" grinned the Kid, holding out a gnarled hand. "C'mon, le's go see this gym they got fixed up on the third floor."
Julius shook, winced at the unexpected strength of the newcomer, and followed. Up there he stripped, was punched and tested all over, introduced to gloves, and given a short lesson in the theory of self defense. He rather liked it, especially with the rub-down and shower that followed his workout.
HE had two other tutors, one a middle-aged Frenchman named LeClair who taught, in the high school at Selma, and the other a redheaded youth, a junior at the university, who was forced to earn money before completing his course. The latter's name was Morgan. He was quick, keen as a knife blade, and proved himself a natural teacher. After his first few sessions with Julius he worked himself into a sort of delighted frenzy, He probed the Cajan's mind, found it clean and nearly blank, and started in to fill that mind with just exactly what it ought to have—and nothing else. Wherein Ted Morgan proved himself a zealot and a gentleman. Before the first year was up, all knew it.
The Cajan's days were filled from six in the morning until ten at night. With Morgan, who shortly came to live at the house, he learned to play a fairly keen game of tennis, and to make the golf course at Selma in the neighborhood of no. With boxing, swimming and these other outdoor pursuits his shoulders broadened.
He became slightly swarthier, undeniably handsome in a dark, fierce way. His body filled out, and his forearms knotted under the black hair when his lists clenched. The Tia Juana Kid was struttingly proud of his pupil.
"Make a champ of him, jes' gimme a chance, boss!" he boasted once to Colonel Burdett.
But the white-haired man shook his head slightly. What he really did intend now for Julius had begun to puzzle him. He felt no real affection for the lad, and had not formally adopted him; but the easy-mannered, soft-voiced cheeriness that so strangely belied the Cajan's rather arresting visage had got under his skin in a peculiar fashion. What could there be in heredity, he reflected with bitterness—remembering how he had cherished the Burdett name and traditions through the decades—when this outlander, this pariah, could step right in and become an almost undetectable imitation of what a Southern gentleman should be?
He never had learned the great lesson of America; that a gentleman is distinguished first by a clean body and brain, and then by his courtesy and sympathy in respect to others. But the piney woods boy was to teach him that.
Once thoroughly accustomed to his surroundings, able to drive his own car and order his own day—except for the time taken up with tutors—Julius became tremendously interested in the Burdett plantation. A small army of blacks who had their cottages over toward the swamp to eastward worked the land under the direction of two mulatto bosses and a white supervisor named Kinney. The latter was a graduate of Michigan Agricultural College, and an up-to-date scientific farmer.
"Our year's work only begins today," he told Julius, the morning after the last crop had been shipped. "In fact, what we do now through the winter-fertilizing, winter-fallowing, and all, means everything for the crops later. Of course, it isn't as exciting, but if you want to come along—"
Julius did. Through the months of soil preparation, through the planting, cultivating and caring for all the new crops, he spent hours nearly every day with Kinney. It was just as well, from Colonel Burdett's standpoint. The colonel was himself conducting a daily school of etiquette, though this was a fact of which Julius never became conscious. Between the colonel and Muggins, the valet, the Cajan gradually and without those horrible mistakes and embarrassments which would have been all too natural, learned how to dress and conduct himself better than passably well.
Summer came, then another harvest. So Julius learned much concerning the way to coax twenty-five bushels of corn from an acre—where on Cajan land eight bushels was considered exceptional. More and more, Julius thought of those people back in the woods, whose very lives might be saved at times by the ability to apply his neW knowledge.
In his own mind and heart Julius Burdett was still a Cajan. At times he was troubled, too, by the thought of that youth whose place he had usurped. The fact of usurpation he had learned during the first two or three months, but after that no one would speak to him of Arthur Jones—the Arthur Burdett that was. Evidently the colonel had issued his instructions.
"YOUNG" BELLAMY MARRIOTT was a man fifty-three years of age. He was fourteen years the junior of Colonel James Burdett, just as his own father had been fourteen years the colonel's senior.
"Old" Bellamy Marriott, who died at the age of eighty, one year previously, had been the chum of middle and old age with Colonel Burdett. After the old man's passing, a good measure of that personal friendship had been given to and reciprocated by Bellamy Marriott, Junior.
Since the night he had discovered Arthur rifling the wine cellar, the colonel had neither seen nor spoken to Bellamy Marriott or the latter's lovely wife, also a friend of long standing.
The reason for this terrible lapse of more than a year, one which doubtless hurt all three of these rather lonely Southerners to the quick, had a good deal to do with Maxime Marriott. Maxime now was just nearing nineteen years of age. She was golden-brown and fluffy of hair, blue eyed, slender and yet eminently satisfying to the male eye. She had won, the previous year, the distinction of being voted the most popular girl in the freshman class at Tulane.
She came home this blowy and crisp twentieth of December, to start her Christmas vacation. Since fourteen years of age she had been engaged to Arthur Burdett; and the fact that these two adjoining plantations, if merged, would make the largest and finest plantation in all the New South doubtless had its part in bringing about the early engagement. What the young people had thought about it had not been precisely clear—probably not even to themselves.
Colonel Burdett, breakfasting at eight o'clock on the twenty-second of December, with Julius as was his custom, looked across critically at the young athlete eating his grapefruit. The young Cajan had been up since six, had dog-trotted a half mile with the Tia Juana Kid, then boxed three fast rounds. After that had come a rub-down and shower. A glow of good humor and perfect health underlay the dark golden tan of the Cajan's cheeks.
"You look especially well, to-day, Julius," said the colonel. As always toward this youth whom he had got over hating but still could not love, his voice was courteous and less personal than a brand-new cake of bath soap.
"If I felt any better, I'd have to amputate something," grinned Julius, using one of Ted Morgan's expressions. "You're rather hale and hearty yourself, sir."
"I've never had to complain about my health," admitted the elder, then added to himself, "but I'll need every bit of it to-day!" Aloud he said, "Let's see. Just how old are you?"
The smile left the Cajan's dark eyes, and he shook his head. "I. don't know exactly, except I was the youngest. About twenty now, I think, though it might be a year or so either 'way."
The colonel nodded slowly. "We'll call it twenty—-and present you with a birthday, later on. This morning about ten I want you to come and make a short call with me. It will be on a man named Bellamy Marriott, a. very old friend. Tell your valet. He'll fix you with coat and the rest of the correct attire."
So it was that the Cajan went for his first social visit, and this in an almost extinct circle which in its day had been practically as searching and exclusive as the Back Bay Bostonese, the F.F.V.'s of Virginia, and the genuine Creoles of New Orleans.
IT was near eleven when the colonel and Julius descended from the limousine and walked up between the white pillars fronting the near-by Marriott home. A Negro butler-footman opened the door, and for a second an expression of panic flashed across his heavy features.
"It's all right, Lon," said Colonel Burdett quietly. "Is Mr. Marriott home?"
"Yes, sah. I—won't you-all come in? I'll tell Mr. Marriott sah." The man evidently feared what might happen, but ingrained courtesy and hospitality kept the upper hand. He led them into a beautifully furnished morning room, after relieving them of wraps.
"Hello, Jim!" The voice of Bellamy Marriott was quiet, though his eyes looked grave. He came up, a fine figure of a man showing only a trifle of rotundity and a slight thinning of his iron-gray hair because of years. He shook hands with the colonel.
"Beth will be here in a moment," he said, referring to his wife. "Ah, here she is."
The meeting that ensued was difficult to alb—the more so for a reason Colonel Burdett was to learn presently—but it was carried off with little surface indication of the fact. Beth Marriott and Bellamy were courteous hosts, though distant toward the outrageous person Colonel Burdett had the audacity to introduce as 'his son.
Of course the two had heard of this uncouth pariah, and some of the circumstances regarding his presence in the Burdett household. At the moment, regarding him, they were astounded and perchance a trifle resentful to learn that in no way did Julius justify the horrible, tales. Why, the upstart was handsome! And his bearing, though shy. was correct in every particular! Here was no savage hill-man of French descent, but a real Southerner.
Talk went along easily until the interruption, one which the two Marriotts doubtless had been dreading. There came the sound of youthful voices just outside.
"I wish to tell you, Jim," broke in Marriott hurriedly, "that we have house guests. One is Miss Constance Reardon, a friend of Maxine's. The other is—Mr. Arthur Jones!"
Colonel Burdett stiffened, and for a split second his eyes closed. Then he bowed. Just then the two girls and Arthur entered, the young man more sullen of countenance than could have been expected. Evidently the three had not been warned.
A sudden silence fell, broken after one heartbeat by Mrs. Marriott making the introductions to Connie. These were acknowledged by prim little bows. Meanwhile Maxine and Arthur stood motionless, staring at the ogre they had pictured so differently—the outcast Cajan who had ferociously chewed the ear of a surprised and defenseless boy ... so the story had gone, at any rate.
"Oh, I—ah—beg your pardon!" cried Arthur, turning white as a. ghost. "I—I must be going'. Business downstairs. You'll excuse me?" And with that he turned and fled.
Connie Reardon watched him, a disapproving frown coming for an instant to her forehead. She was beginning to understand that Arthur was yellow. She knew it for certain when a moment later the billiard balls in the basement began clicking as if pounded hard about the table.
THE fifteen minutes which followed mattered only in what was carefully left unsaid. Bellamy Marriott, his wife and Colonel Burdett carried on bravely, and an outsider perhaps might not have understood that anything was wrong. But horrible teeth were chewing at the hearts of all three. All knew that this fearful burlesque of friendship probably was the end.
Maxine it was who brought matters to a head. She had been silently regarding the Cajan, and wonder was growing in her young heart. If he indeed was the awful beast he had been pictured, she intended to find it out. The last couple of days had told her all she wanted to know about Arthur; he was slipping fast. It really was Connie Rear don's worry anyhow, for that unfortunate girl cared for him—and Maxine Marriott decidedly did not. But perhaps something—something—
"We have some Christmas wine standing in a jug," said Maxine, during a break in the conversation. "The Germans call it Glühwein—just claret, a little whisky, cinnamon and cloves. Won't you come out and help, Mr. Burdett," she asked, "while Connie and I heat up a few glasses?" The question was directed at Julius.
"Surely," he said, rising and bowing to his hostess. With the rather blank-faced Connie, they disappeared toward the rear of the house. And what actually happened to Julius during the rest of the time he was deftly handled by a serious-eyed young goddess—the most beautiful woman he ever had seen, and one who made him catch his breath every time she spoke to him—the Cajan had difficulty in remembering afterward.
Actually they heated up the wine, talking trivialities. Then Connie was sent in with three glasses for the elders. When she returned a sort of signal passed between her and her friend. It' resulted in a pale-faced Connie taking two more glasses on a tray down to the billiard room.
"Now we'll take our glasses in here to the breakfast nook, Mr. Burdett," announced Maxine straightforwardly. "I want to talk to 37011!"
"Charmed!" said Julius vaguely. For the first time in his life he felt enormously tail, gawky and uncouth. Though he did not suspect the fact, he was giving a pleasant, rather thrilling impression of exactly the reverse. There was something about him that both attracted and repelled Maxine; she could not explain that, and certainly did not try just then.
"I know you are going to think me impertinent, and a busybody," she said, leaning forward with her elbows on the little table between them. "I'm going to apologize in advance for everything, and you may hate me if you wish—"
"That I'll never do!" said Julius with emphasis. He searched her blue eyes, and a little flush stole up into the girl's cheeks. "Certainly no apology would be in keeping. I—I am not entirely blind. You and Miss Reardon evidently are friends of Mr.—Mr. Jones."
"And you want to know something."
"Well, so do I!" said Julius in a serious tone, "You see, every one refuses to tell me anything—why I am the guest of Colonel Burdett, for instance. Or paid guest would be better!" he added with a hint of bitterness.
"Guest!" flashed the girl. "Then he has not adopted you?"
"By no means," he said quietly. "And I do not think he intends doing so. He pays me one hundred and fifty dollars a month regularly, and all my expenses besides. I have not had use for a cent of that sum. It lies in the Selma bank. Colonel Burdett has me puzzled. He has no affection for me. I think he still loves—Arthur. What is it all about, anyway?"
FOR a moment the girl stared at him. There were quiggly little chills skittering across the middle of her back.
"D'you know," she said, with the appalling irrelevance of young womanhood, "you'd look like a foreign nobleman, if you'd let your mustache grow?"
It was the Cajan's turn to blush. He was stricken wordless.
"Oh, forgive me!" she said quickly. "We want this whole story, don't we? Suppose you tell me all you know, right from the beginning. And then I'll tell you all J know. Between us—"
"Agreed," said Julius. Rather somberly he began, telling a little of the strange, half-wild Cajans and their life in the piney woods. From this he went directly into his meeting and experiences with Colonel Burdett. Somewhere, perhaps from the redheaded Tod Morgan, he seemed to have caught a sense of humor, for several times the girl smiled slightly.
"Then you really know nothing at all about Arthur?" she asked when he had finished.
"Practically nothing. I only saw him once before. That time he leaped at me without warning, and we fought."
"He leaped at you!" Maxine echoed, her full mouth tightening. She was finding it impossible to disbelieve this clear-headed young man; and all the while her estimate of Arthur was sinking.
In turn then, however, she told him Arthur's side of the story. There were some obvious discrepancies, but Julius did not comment upon them. The only really pertinent thing he discovered was that Arthur, since being disinherited, had been cutting a fast pace through his mother's fortune, and that his health and mental balance both were suffering. That, combined with the feeling he had in respect to Colonel Burdett, made Julius more thoughtful than ever.
"I—I don't know what to do," the girl finished despairingly. "I was hoping there was something—"
"I'll do something!" said Julius quietly, and rose from the table. His thoughts were racing. Gratitude, loyalty, a certain kind of altruism—and then a strange feeling he already suspected was love—all were in a turmoil in his brain. He was the center of a great deal of unhappiness. Very well, he would get out of the whirlpool, and in doing so he would try to pull the roiling waters with him!
"Miss Marriott," he said, looking down away from her face at the two untouched glasses of wine, "I am going to ask you to trust me."
She arose and frankly held out her hand. "I like you," she said. "I'll be very glad to trust you!"
"Then do one thing—and do not tell Miss Reardon. Somehow you get Arthur to walk with you, to-night at ten o'clock. Go down to the gate which separates these two plantations. I'll be there."
"Oh!" she cried with a little catch of breath. "You won't—fight?"
"No," he said with grim humor, "I'll have a revolver!"
Maxine could not fathom that, but she saw his half smile. "All right!" she agreed impulsively.
And a moment later three old-line Southerners nearly fell from their chairs. Mrs. Marriott, indeed, dropped her empty wineglass with a little crash. Maxine Marriott, their stand-offish, patrician Maxine, came strolling along into the morning room, her arm intertwined with that of the terrible, outrageous Cajan!
EARLY that afternoon Julius went to Selma. There he found a harness-maker, and bought a money belt. Then he went to the bank, closed his account and took the money in gold pieces. When, he returned home he saw to it that the new roadster he had been driving was refueled completely, and that an extra can of gasoline was ready in the rumble seat.
The rest of the afternoon he spent writing brief letters of farewell to his tutors and Colonel Burdett. The gist of his letter to the colonel was simply that at heart he felt himself a Cajan, and could not go on masquerading as anything else. There were heartfelt thanks, of course, but these did not matter much to Julius himself. He meant to show his true feeling in a far more substantial way.
That evening he dressed in a hunting suit he had never worn. This, with boots, cap and a Luger pistol of which he had become fond, was all except a musette bag containing underwear, socks, shirts and incidentals. Tied to the outside of the buckled bag, however, Were four strange objects: large, soft boxing gloves—the ten-ounce "pillow" variety he had used during the course of his boxing instruction.
This material was tossed into the back of the roadster, beside the gas can. Then Julius drove out, and turned down the private road which linked the two estates. He reached the gate at precisely nine thirty, turned the car about, then vaulted the gate and reconnoitered for a few moments on the other side, picking out a spot where the moonlight did not reach. There he quietly leaned against a tree and waited.
The last time he looked at the illuminated dial of his wrist watch the hands said five minutes of ten. Almost immediately he heard a murmur of approaching voices. Maxine was prompt.
The Cajan's lips narrowed to a line as he listened. The voice of Arthur was hoarse and burring. It was evident that he had been drinking to dull the ignominy of that scene in the morning, and was in an ugly mood. Julius heard Maxine protesting against something—he could readily guess what—and his right hand tightened over the butt of the empty Luger.
"Hands up!" he cried gruffly, stepping out in theatrical fashion and flourishing the Luger. Naturally he had not the slightest intention in the world of using it, but a deep contempt for Arthur made him believe that mere sight of a weapon would turn that young fellow into a limp jelly. .
In that he was a little wrong, Even if Arthur had been completely sober he would not have flinched from physical fear. Half-drunk as he was he only laughed scornfully.
"Oh, it's you!" he derided. "No mask, either! What d'you s'pose, Maxie, has the guv'nor begun to get stingy with his new little sonlet? So the boy has to go out and pick pockets and hold up people?"
"Put up your hands!" commanded the Cajan in as hoarse and menacing a voice as he could summon.
"Oh, go to hell!" snarled Arthur.
IN spite of herself a convulsive, half-hysterical laugh came from Maxine. Arthur had started to speak again, but stopped abruptly, scowled—thinking, no doubt, this was derision—and suddenly lunged for the Cajan.
He had no chance, whatever, even though Julius merely lifted the pistol out of reach of his grasping hand. The Cajan now was a fairly well trained boxer. As his right arm raised, his eyes remained upon the point of Arthur's weak chin. Left fist came up jarringly, connecting to perfection with the button. Arthur collapsed into the roadway, completely unconscious.
"Sorry I had to do it—didn't think he had the nerve," said Julius. "Now I'll have to truss him up." He brought four fish-stringers from one of the eight pockets of his coat.
Maxine said nothing. Her eyes were serious as she saw the youth to whom she was still nominally engaged bundled into the front seat of the roadster. Then Julius walked back to her.
"Some day he'll come back to you—a man!" he said with sincere emphasis.
She took a deep breath. "Wh-where are you going?" she asked, placing one small hand on his heavily muscled arm.
"That I won't tell even you," he said gently. "Probably everyone will guess, but it is just as well that you do not know!"
"I think I see," she answered in a low voice, then started forward as without another word he vaulted Into the driver's seat. "But, Julius! You will come back, too?" There was sudden, quick anxiety in this. Perhaps she really fathomed a little of this strange man..
Slowly he shook his head. "Never," he replied, a deep melancholy in his tone. "The unhappiness goes with me. There let it stay! Good-by—Maxine!"
The ways of women are peculiar. Maxine waited until the receding red tail-light of the car dissolved in the tears which sprang to her eyes. Then she slowly sat down there at the side of the road, and wept for a man she had seen but twice. She did not even notice when a toad leaped into her lap.
ARTHUR suffered on that journey south, but he got no sympathy whatever. He stayed bound. The only variation was that after daylight came he was gagged as well, and half-smothered under the Cajan's raincoat every time one of the small villages came in sight. On the west side of the Alabama River there were not many of these.
Julius had his own troubles finding the way. Despite the latest road map, he had to desert the car and twice go on foot to ask directions. Then, as they progressed in the forest silence, he began to recognize landmarks. Cajan country! He turned out into one of the faint ox-cart roads, the very one the commissary guide had shown to Colonel Burdctt seventeen months before. And now, peering sharply to deft and right as well as ahead, Julius drove as silently as possible. None knew better than he that every thousand yards forward represented a real peril of blasting buckshot fired from ambush.
He finally decided not to chance it further. He could make himself known—a necessary procedure in view of his khaki hunting suit. After that the car and all could be taken care of easily enough.
Getting out, he cupped his hand and sent a. high-pitched, weirdly, ululating call echoing through the damp, chilly aisles of forest. In the car Arthur, who for a long time had lain and bumped around inertly, straightened, and a hoarse exclamation came from his lips.
Julius repeated the call, and then turned back. His face was grimly serious. The Luger pistol, loaded now, was thrust through his belt.
"I suppose you are beginning to realize that I am in earnest," he said. "I am going to release you. First, though, I want to tell you something about where you are. This is Cajan forest. None of your people, and only a few blacks, are tolerated here. As my prisoner, my slave if you want to call it that, you will continue to live—just as long as I say!"
"Oh, go to hell!" croaked Arthur. He had looked up all he could find in libraries concerning Cajans, however, and had seen enough of this grimly efficient young man, so his defiance was feeble.
What this kidnaping could portend he failed to guess; but the burning resolve for blood vengeance was rooted in him. It looked as though he would have to bide his time; but when that time did come! Unutterable things finished his train of thought.
Julius ignored the retort. He locked the roadster and thrust away the key. Then he repeated the weird cry, one used by his people since time immemorial.
"Cajans will come," he said briefly. "If you value your worthless carcass, do exactly as you are told!"
With that he unbound Arthur's wrists and ankles, rolling up the fish stringers for further use. "No, stay right there in the car!" he added, as Arthur, numb and almost dead from lack of liquor and the fatigue of the journey, would have stumbled forth into the palmetto.
AGAIN and again the call was sounded. About an hour later Julius detected the moving plume of a blackjack sapling, and knew that round about the car now there were hidden Cajans. He gave the cry one final time, then supplemented it by announcing:
"I am Jules LeFevre!" he announced in a stentorian voice. "I have been a prisoner, and now I return bringing a slave!" All this was in the singsong of Cajan jargon, incomprehensible to Arthur.
The sight of nine barefooted men, each carrying a shotgun, emerging cautiously from the almost impenetrable anise and laurel underbrush, staring at him distrustfully, looking Julius himself up and down before admitting his identity, was impressive enough to Arthur, however.
The newcomers stared at the machine, and there was no doubt they disapproved of it. One, Bombazanne, who had been bully and king of the woods until his death a few years back, had told them that when cars made their way into the Cajan fastness, that last refuge of the harried folk would be taken from them.
Arthur looked at the Cajans and shuddered. They were all lean, and except for one probably congenital cripple whose shoulder hitched as he walked, all were well above medium height.
One huge, round-shouldered brute with buck teeth stood a full six inches over six feet. And his black eyes, like those of the cotton-mouth moccasin, seemed to have no pupils.
Five of the men might well have been handsome, except for their garb and the unkempt condition of their hair and beards. One of them, whose black hair was touched queerly with streaks of white, resembled Julius. He it was—the third elder brother of the Cajan, in fact—who first broke into voluble speech, recognizing Julius and asking a rapid-fire of questions which would have required half a day to answer in full.
Once Julius might have gabbled as volubly. Now he handled matters in far different fashion. He treated the truth cavalierly, explaining how he had been lured away far to the north and there kept in captivity by strange men who dressed as he now was clad, and who lived in great castles and chateaux with many retainers. (This was partially understandable to the Cajans, because of traditions of Old France now become much like fairy tales, handed down from generation to generation.)
He had finally managed to escape, and had brought one prisoner, the youth in the car. This captive now would have to work for him, since Julius announced his intention of making a home, clearing land, then tilling it after a new fashion which would make fifteen bushels of corn grow on one acre.
He carefully did not exaggerate, as even this amount sounded incredible to the ragged Cajans.
There was much more talk, and then Julius—foreseeing that he would have to establish himself as a fighter in order to win the hearing ordinarily accorded only older men—boasted of his prowess. He issued a challenge to any woods, bully who plight wish to put him to the test. He knew there would be several in the course of the next few clays, and grimly decided that he would take them as painlessly as possible. The very life of Arthur might depend upon his prowess.
After what seemed an interminable time to the captive, Julius turned to him.
"Go along with these men. Do as you are told. I will see you again in a couple of hours," he commanded. And then a moment later he started the car, driving it away to a place of concealment.
THERE was no scientific tapering off for Arthur Jones. The next three days would remain a hideous nightmare for him as long as he lived. Julius proved an implacable captor. He had Arthur taken to a deserted cabin set amid five partially cleared acres, on the edge of which a creek branch wandered through dense forest.
At the cabin Julius gave him two blankets to spread on the rotting board floor. Around one of the logs of the wall was fastened a chain with inch links. At the end of the chain was a handcuff, once taken from the body of an over-enterprising Prohibition agent. Inside the handcuff was the left wrist of Arthur Jones.
A quart tin cup of cold water was refilled as often as Arthur emptied it. Cabbage and side meat, with corn bread twice a day, were furnished, on a tin plate. There were no utensils. Each morning a cup of chicory concoction purporting to be coffee was given him.
And for the rest of it, Arthur was left alone. Though he did not know it, and never would hear, another fight for his life or sanity was going on outside.
Some of the Cajans, as Julius had foreseen, brooded over deaths from the guns of misguided tax-gatherers or liquor agents. Nothing would have pleased them more than to have taken the excuse of Julius's story to rend the captive limb from limb. Also, several of the aggrieved parties fancied, their fighting abilities. Four publicly accepted the thrown gage; and the tacit prize was Arthur, as well as supremacy in the woods.
Before a small handful of spectators Julius met two of the bullies the next morning after his arrival. In neither case was there any real fight. The Cajans came at him according to their nature, the first one swaying, arms outstretched, looking for a diving tackle or a neck hold. One straight right to the chin finished him.
The second was cagier. He ducked, dodged, taking a tattoo of blows which did not quite connect, almost getting a hold, then succumbing to a crushing blow with a ghastly grunt. The punch had discovered for him something he had never suspected in himself, a nerve ganglion known as the solar plexus.
NEXT day there were two more challengers, and nearly one hundred eager spectators—among them, undoubtedly, as matters turned out, a few more men who wanted a look at this new prodigy before challenging him. The woods telegraph had spoken of his peculiar use of the hands, one never before seen in the reaches of the piney woods.
One of these second men to come, actually did get his hands on Julius, fell and rolled, inflicting some damage before the Cajan boxer could wrench free, leap to his feet, and then stop a second, blinder rush with two smashing punches.
The crowd roared. Like all crowds it was ready to be friends with a new champion. But there was one more man to reckon with—an oldish, squat fellow with enormous chest, arms that reached close to his knees, and in evil cunning in his half-hidden eyes. This was Jakes Boloo (doubtless once Jacques Beaulieu), who had traveled seventeen miles to see the conflict.
Jakes challenged, wanting to fight immediately. But Julius shook his head. His right eye had been rasped, and now ran water with a little blood. He explained, and set a date for next day. The crowd backed him up, much to Jakes's disgust. The tough old one undoubtedly would have preferred an antagonist worn from two previous combats. Next morning, at the same place, was agreed.
JULIUS did not think much about another fight, one way or another. His brain was concerned just then with the pitiable half-madman chained up there in the cabin. By now he must, have worn himself out, reached dulled exhaustion. It would be good to get him outdoors in the sun again.
This proved to be the case. Arthur was filthy, sunk in apathy, a dismal wreck of the still spirited fellow he had been while sustained by stimulants. Julius unchained him next morning and made him follow.
"I have a fight on my hands," said Julius, not explaining. "You may watch."
So Arthur, staggering from weakness and a suffocated sense of unreality, went out into a glade in the woods. There he sat down, a little apart from what seemed a huge crowd of Cajan men, who gabbled and chattered in a way that made his head reel. He was free now, but for the time being he had not spirit enough to think of running away.
Naked to the waist, Jakes Boloo and Julius faced each other. Both were barefooted. Arthur stared unbelievingly at the apelike figure of Jakes, and shivered. The man's torso was scarred in a dozen places that showed even through the matted hair. What was it all about? Fortunately Arthur did not guess, though the grinning, half-calculating faces of some of the Cajan watchers might have given him a hint.
A shotgun roared. The fight began. This time Julius changed his tactics. He knew of this old woods-terror, a fighter said to have killed his opponents on several occasions. Julius went immediately into an attack. He danced in, planting long-range lefts to Jakes's countenance—only on the third blow to have his wrist caught, wrenched, and nearly torn from the rest of his arm!
With difficulty he got free, just before those huge, arms gripped. And then with a sidewise swaying like that of a giant orang Jakes pursued. He did not waste an instant. He seemed to grab with his left hand, then suddenly leaped in the air, bringing his huge foot and ankle around in the savage hitch-kick of savate!
The unexpected blow landed almost squarely. Julius was going forward, aiming a smash at the flattened, ugly face before him. The kick hit a little high, but on his forehead, and the ground rushed up to smite him a second time. Dazed, he-still had sense enough to roll.
A hand reached for him half blindly. A savage curse burst from the throat of Jakes. He had been struck on the bridge of his flat nose, and both eyes were, well-nigh useless. Still he knew that his enemy was down, and this was the chance to seize and tear him to tatters.
Once, twice he grabbed, not quite trusting his eyesight for a leap to the ground on top of his opponent; and then Julius was up, knees wabbling, striving to get a grip on his reeling brain, to duck, avoid this hairy monster for just that precious few seconds.
Some of the clinch tactics and sidesteps came to him automatically. Half a dozen times Jakes almost got him. The big man was snarling with rage now. His eyes had cleared, but in the meantime Julius had recovered in great measure. The giant did not know. He finally spread his arms embracingly, and rushed.
Julius set himself. He had to stop Jakes with this punch or go down for good. Straight from the shoulder it went, with all his strength. It hit Jakes squarely in the center of his heavy neck. There was a guttural squawk, then the impact of two more punches.
Jakes stopped, his black eyes bugging outward. Additional blows would not matter. He had been knocked unconscious on his feet; and in two seconds more he fell, like a turpentine barrel rolling down from a platform.
"BUT—but I can't fight you!" Arthur and his implacable captor were a quarter of a. mile from the scene of the battle with Jakes, and Julius was tendering his prisoner a pair of boxing gloves.
"You only think you can't!" said Julius grimly. "I'll tell you right now, you're going to fight me every day! At first I'll be easy with you, and teach you everything I know as we go along. This will be your chance. I don't intend to kill you, or even mutilate you; but you'll either fight or take a beating with a switch, every day!"
"But why?" bleated Arthur, thoroughly unnerved. "Why, for God's sake?"
"Well," snapped Julius, "I've promised myself I'm going to make something of you! Just what it will be I don't know—yet. But I'm going to find out. There's good cold water down there. You'll have a plunge when we get through.
"Now look here, Arthur Burdett! Put on those gloves! Try to be a man again! I promise you this. The time you lick me fairly I'll tell you where I have hidden the keys to your father's roadster! You will be free then to go! Fight yourself free!"
THOSE first eight or ten boxing workouts with the big gloves were pretty sad affairs. Arthur was as weak as a wet rag. He wept, but still he tried to smash the grinning devil who danced in front, encouraging, taunting. He tried until his arms dropped from exhaustion. Always then Julius put into play the swipe methods he had learned from the Tia Juana Kid, following these by an icy plunge into the creek. And the heroic treatment began to succeed.
They did no roadwork, but there were other things just as strenuous. First there was the cabin to be cleaned out and repaired. Then certain tools arrived, and Julius set himself and his captive to the long-drawn labor of really clearing the five-acre patch. This was going to be a model farm and orchard, and these two alone were going to make it so!
Day by day they dug, hauled, burned, working from the time the morning boxing and plunge were over until sundown. Boxes and cans, mysteriously purchased with the gold brought by Julius, appeared. These contained food which better suited Arthur's taste and stomach than the rough victuals of the Cajans. With plenty of razorback hog meat, and plenty of piney-woods beef—these animals range wild in the woods—Arthur began to develop an appetite.
At first he saw his slavery as nothing but unadulterated horror, and schemed in every way to get a chance to kill Julius. Naturally he came to use tools in the clearing operations, and three times he suddenly attacked the Cajan.
Each time Julius managed to dodge, wrest away the weapon—after which he calmly beat Arthur into unconsciousness. It was brutal but seemed necessary, until on the fourth occasion—this a blow with a keen ax which missed by less than a foot—Julius had an idea.
"See here!" he said. "Back in your former life you called yourself a gentleman. You really weren't, but that doesn't make any difference. You probably wouldn't lie, would you?"
"No I wouldn't, damn you!" was the sullen retort.
"Well then, give me your word of honor that you won't attack me again, and I'll leave you unchained at night. You can't possibly escape, unless you go in the car, anyway."
Arthur had an idea he might find the car sometime—and of course he could make an ignition connection around any puny dash lock. Still he was not hasty in promising.
"I'll think it over," he said sullenly.
A week later most of the ache had left his bones. He found to his astonishment that he did not miss liquor; and he caught himself fingering biceps muscles which were pushing hard against his shirt. He had begun to enjoy secretly those early morning rounds with the gloves, and the incredibly cold plunge afterward.
Of course, in spite of the extra pounds he had over the Cajan, he never could hope to beat him in a fight. That seemed certain. Still, he admitted to himself, the outrageous brute was more of a gentleman with the gloves on than without. He never extended himself, never hit too hard. Every time Arthur finished, sometimes practicing blows over and over until he could manage them, the Cajan gave him one of those blessed rubdowns and then threw him into the creek. Lord, how strong the woodsman was!
On the morning which began his fourth week in the piney woods, Arthur came voluntarily and pledged his word of honor not to attack Julius.
The Cajan flashed a smile. "Fine!" he said, and clapped Arthur, on the back. "Say, d'you realize this is the last week we spend in clearing? I've sent down for everything we'll need for our orchard, our cornfield and our truck garden!"
The magic in that little word—our! Though he certainly had no intention of doing so, that day Arthur Burdett did half again as much work as he ever had performed in a day before.
SIX nights later Arthur made a bid for freedom. No one stopped him. Twelve hours later, completely lost, he was beckoned back by the Cajan who had trailed him. Arthur had not found the car, and now realized that even if he did find it the only way he ever would blunder a way out of this maze of faint wood roads would be by sheer trial and error, which takes time.
Julius did not mention the incident. Planting was on, and this labor, dull to watch, somehow instills enthusiasm into the dullest clod of a fellow. Day after day, week after week they worked, first at actual planting, then as February waned, with cultivating what had been sown.
Little by little from then on, in the boxing, Julius began to set a faster pace. Arthur had bad six weeks or so of instruction while in private academy. This had helped. Now he had really grown strong, and the boxing every morning had prevented heavy work from slowing him. He ate like a horse, and since his natural weight was from fifteen to twenty pounds greater than that of the Cajan, he filled it out with muscle.
Julius regarded him thoughtfully day by day. He, too, had come to know that Arthur never would win in a ring battle against himself, but he had other plans. As their crops came above the ground and grew in profuse, orderly beauty, so he tried to instill courage and self-confidence in his captive.
It worked—up to a certain point. It is probable that there Arthur Burdett reached the greatest boxing skill of which he was capable. Some men do just that. His nose was a little flatter, his neck size sixteen instead of fourteen, and his weight one hundred and seventy pounds of bone and muscle. But for some reason he was relatively slow. Julius could have hit him thrice for every punch he started.
A month went by. The radishes and lettuce Ave re gathered and sent to market in Citronelle. And the tomato vines were climbing up luxuriantly. Even the corn was ankle high.
Arthur did not improve his boxing. Julius at last recognized the fact, and started, ever so carefully, to make it-appear otherwise. He missed. He pulled his punches a little. He left partial openings, letting Arthur almost catch him napping. Almost. Some time Arthur would succeed . . .
This did stimulate the captive. He tried with all his might to break Julius's guard, morning after morning.
"I'll get you yet!" he promised grimly.
"When you do—good-by!" said Julius seriously. "You remember. I told you when you licked me you could have the keys to the car? Well, that time is not far off, I can sec. Probably you will have to crank the car. The battery must be dead by now, but the magneto..."
Arthur suddenly looked blank. Watching, Julius saw him wander aimlessly away, scratching his head. A little later Julius saw him out, walking down the rows of growing corn, doing absolutely nothing. The Cajan chuckled. This was finer success than even he had planned! Arthur actually was going to hate to leave the crop he had started with his own bands!
Julius reached for a packet of letter paper, and uncapped a stylographic pen. Then he wrote a careful, rather stilled letter to a man he loved. His eyes shone.
TOM-HARRY set down a small tray at Colonel Burdett's elbow. The colonel was seated near a window, looking eastward across a dried-up cottonfield not yet plowed under. The cotton looked like a miniature barbed-wire entanglement.
The white-haired man did not move, did not see the single letter that had come by the afternoon mail. The old man looked much older. For months he had done nothing at all but wait—and there was nothing at all this side of eternity for which lie waited.
He did not even turn as he groped around to the tall glass in which cube ice and a sprig of fresh mint were swimming. He picked up the glass, sipped moodily.
Minutes later he turned wearily to set down the glass. Then without interest he picked up the envelope, and looked at it front and back. There seemed to be nothing of importance here. He put it back on the tray, but did not take his fingers away. A minute later, wearily, he took it up, slowly tore off the end, and drew out the folded sheet within. He read:
Dear Colonel Burdett:
In a few days I am going to send back your real son to you. Arthur has conquered the liquor foolishness completely. He is brown of skin, hard as nails, and weighs twenty pounds more than I do. He is getting so good with his fists that I'm afraid I can't handle him any longer.
I know he loves you. Give him his chance, and I'll guarantee you'll have a son of whom you will be forever proud.
Respectfully, with my love,
Slowly, shaking in every muscle, Colonel Burdett rose from the chair. Both fists were tightly clenched, one still holding the letter up before his eyes.
He took half a dozen steps blindly forward, executed a military about-face, and then—
Well, Colonel Burdett may not have been quite old enough to have learned the Rebel Yell under Pickett at Gettysburg, but he gave a creditable imitation nevertheless, raising both arms toward the ceiling!
Even deaf-and-dumb Tom-Harry heard it from the next room, and came running in terror, making his ungg-a noise of fright. And the housekeeper, and the footman, and—
"Arthur's coming back!"
Perhaps just then they did not know whether to be glad or sorry, but there was no doubt about Colonel Burdett. Give his boy another chance? Hell and damnation! Let his boy give him another chance!
He shooed them all back now, and grabbed up the telephone. An astounded central who knew him, heard him swear before a woman for the first time in his life, and was shocked into giving him the right number—that of the plantation home of his old friend, Bellamy Marriott.
As it chanced, neither Bellamy nor his wife was at home this afternoon. Maxine, home for Easter, answered, and for some moments had a hard time making head or tail out of what the old man was shouting.
"No, I can't read it!" he denied. "My voice—my eyes are bad—I—damn it—pardon me, I just mean that Julius Writes that Arthur is well, and is coming back!"
"Oooo! And with Julius?"
"What? Well, I—I don't know. Let me see—"
But Maxine Marriott would not wait. "You just hold on to that letter!" she cried. "I know where they are. I'm coming right over now. If it doesn't say they're both coming, why, dammit, I'm going down after them myself!"
That really calmed down the colonel. It was the first time in his life he had ever heard a white woman swear.
OWING to the fact that he was forced to make the trip with two girls—Constance Reardon insisted on their coming by way of Montgomery and picking her up—Colonel Burdctt was forced to spend another night at the Hotel Citronelle. This gave him a chance to arrange for the same guide from the commissary, however.
That lank young man looked at him in a puzzled way.
"Sa-ay, colonel!" he drawled. "That young Cajan you want to see again—he's been raisin' merry hell down thisaway! Reckon he's brought me twice as much business in plows an' seed an' everything—"
"My son, you mean?"
"We-l-l, I wouldn't go for to say. He's callin' himself Jules LeFevre again. But I do hear there's a young chap there name of Burdett—"
"They are both my sons!" said the colonel, turning on his heel.
IT was chilly and still dark in the wood aisles at seven-thirty that morning. Sweater-clad, Arthur and Julius trotted a quarter mile out, then back to the creek for their boxing. Julius noted now that Arthur led the way. There was determination in his bearing', aggressiveness. His wind was excellent, too.
When they stopped to reach down the tin box from the tree crotch, and bring out the gloves—fixed now with elastic bands at the wrists instead of laces—the white vapor of his breathing came deeply and regularly.
"Feel some better than that day you came to visit, don't you?" asked Julius.
Arthur did not reply. He was drawing on his pillows. "Let's see all you've got, for once!" he challenged. "I don't give a damn if you hand me a knockout!"
Down inside of him Julius smiled. He knew that would never do. Even with only a little more than one hundred and fifty pounds to match against the burlier youth's one seventy, he could have dazzled Arthur with speed and knocked him kicking inside three minutes.
Spirit, not boxing ability, was the question. Had Arthur tight enough hold on his manhood to conquer when once again he faced the outside world? Because he feared even the decent-hearted deception he planned—one which could not be kept up without discovery—Julius had determined to chance the throw with dice that controlled the fates of three and probably more people for whom he cared.
"I'm sorry for your father," said Julius, mentioning the colonel for the first time since their arrival. "He's getting pretty old. I'll bet he's lonesome—"
"Will you shut up?" savagely interrupted Arthur, leading with his left, then, coming in with both arms pumping piston, blows to the body. He did not clinch, and threw aside the warding arms of Julius. He was angry.
For thirty seconds Julius guarded, returning light counter blows. He did not wish to tire Arthur—not this particular morning. So he seemed to slip on the leaves and needles underfoot, and one of Arthur's blows came through only partially guarded. And it really stung!
That punch, the first one Arthur ever had scored to know it—more than accidental touches here and there—seemed to daze the Cajan, For a moment his guard lowered.
Arthur was at him madly. One-two—one-two—and landing! Julius backed, endeavoring to cover. He dodged, slipped again, and a hook caught him on the side of the head. Again and again he strove to get away but he was weakening visibly. Arthur charged in, the incredible possibility of victory thrilling him to his toes!
Then it happened. Julius staggered. Quick as he could throw a glove Arthur poked a straight left to the stomach, then leaped forward as the Cajan's guard dropped. A right cross, sent to the side of the chin with every ounce of his burly shoulder-strength, crashed straight to its mark, with a sound like' that of a. heavy wire beater hitting a sodden rug!
More completely knocked out than even he had imagined possible, Julius pitched face forward to a clump of palmetto fans and lay still.
WHILE he was yanking off his gloves, Arthur's face worked strangely. Unbelief, triumph, and a sort of horror struggled there for mastery. He had won! He was free! He knew now where the car was hidden. He also knew that Julius kept the ring with the two keys in the watch-pocket of his trousers. But what should he do? According to agreement, which, the Cajan would keep to the letter, he had won freedom. He could resuscitate Julius—or he could kill him! Many weeks there had been when Arthur would have slain his captor and gambled his own life in so doing, thinking nothing of the hazard.
But somehow desire for vengeance, had evaporated completely. Arthur knew full well that this man had been his friend—the best friend he had ever had in his life. Now he rolled, him over, got the keys—and stared long at the half-open eyes, the twisted jaw.
Then with a peculiar noise—that might have been a sob, or almost anything—Arthur reached down roughly, seized the Cajan's thighs, lifted them to his right shoulder, heaved, staggered erect, and then weaved a way down and through the creek ford, to the lean-to and the roadster. Dumping Julius, in the front seat, he turned and dashed back to the cabin. There he seized a few articles, threw them in the musette, got the Luger pistol, the money belt of Julius, and the accursed fish-string cords. With these and a raincoat and blankets, he hurried back to the roadster. Julius had not stirred. He did not even move as the fish-stringers bit into his wrists and ankles.
IN the six weeks which had elapsed since his abortive attempt at escape, Arthur had learned other things besides the hiding place of the car and the keys. Driving now, he knew that Citronelle lay in a general southeasterly direction, and that the sand-rutted highway thereto was almost directly west.
So he followed a wood road, turning here, turning there, but keeping the morning sun at his back. And as he sought the highway, a big limousine came from Citronelle, ploughing through the deep sand, n earing the same road from which the roadster would emerge.
They met where two cars could not pass. They stopped, radiators no more than ten feet apart. And for the space of three seconds not a person moved. It was too incredible! Then came the rather shrill cry of Connie Reardon.
And with that she was out, running to meet him. What she thought of the unshorn, bronzed, bearded man who came out to the sand, bowing a little stiffly to her, is hard to tell. Certain it is that Connie's wide eyes rested upon an Arthur Burdett whom she never before could have imagined. Perhaps she had believed in him all along.
A white-faced Colonel Burdett was out on one side of the car now, and Maxine Marriott on the other. The colonel seemed to be having difficulty finding any words at all.
"I licked him finally," Arthur said, nodding back toward the car. "He gave me a—a chance to make a man of myself. He's pure gold, colonel. I was bringing him back to you. Something he said once made me think he would not have gone, under his own power—"
"What have you done to him?"
This was Maxine Marriott, who had run on to the roadster. She was staring in horror down at the twisted, bearded face of the Cajan. Still completely out, he lay where, he had been tossed by the bouncing of the car.
"Oh—that," said Arthur vaguely. He came over, looked. "Oh, that's nothing. Just a dislocated jaw. He did it to me a half dozen times. Here."
He reached over, seized the chin firmly, and yanked. There was a dull sound like a muffled click.
"There," said Arthur. "He's just in dreamland. He'll snap out of it soon. As I was saying, Colonel Burdett—"
"Oh! I think you're all a bunch of damn brutes!" cried Maxine half hysterically. She opened the door, slid under the wheel, and in a moment the head of the sleeping man was caught fiercely to her breast.
"My son!" said Colonel Burdett huskily. He placed one arm around Arthur's shoulders. The youth stiffened, but suddenly crowded close. His arm went about his father's waist.
"I'll be a man, clad!" he whispered. "But Julius—?"
THE colonel stepped slowly ahead. Pie saw that the Cajan's eyes were open now; but Maxine, crimson of cheek but defiant, had not altered her position. She glared at them.
"How are you feeling, Julius, my son?" asked the colonel, reaching over with his right hand to clasp the Cajan's hand in Maxine's lap.
Slowly Julius looked from one to the other. A faint smile came to his lips, a smile with sadness in it, however.
"Fine, colonel," he said. "Congratulations—to you both. Arthur is a real man, worthy of his father."
"And that you have always been! I was blind to my blessings, Julius."
"But now—" Julius struggled, and sat erect. "Now—oh, I must say good-by. Thank you, dear Maxine, I—I—"
He stopped. The look on her face was too much.
"Do you love me?" This was her astounding question. Even Connie gasped. "You—" But she smiled. She knew.
"I—oh, my dear!" cried Julius. "I am Cajan!" He tried to get up, but she seized him.
"Don't mind us, you others!" she snapped. "I've found my man! If he insists on being Cajan, why—why—you can just go along! I'll be Cajan too!"
Over there on the front seat of the limousine a rather humorous-looking youth from Citronelle rattled a pair of dice under the nose of Joe, the colored chauffeur.
"I got some change in my pants," said the guide with a drawl that concealed the thrill he felt. "We ain't goin' to be needed here for a while. What say we stroll up the road a couple of quarters, and roll the bones?"
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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