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Chapter 11

XI.

The loggers pulled off their boots and got into their bunks, where some of them lay and smoked, while others fell asleep directly.

Bartley made some indirect approaches to Kinney for sympathy in the snub which he had received, and which rankled in his mind with unabated keenness.

But Kinney did not respond. "Your bed's ready," he said. "You can turn in whenever you like."

"What's the matter?" asked Bartley.

"Nothing's the matter, if you say so," answered Kinney, going about some preparations for the morning's breakfast.

Bartley looked at his resentful back. He saw that he was hurt, and he surmised that Kinney suspected him of making fun of his eccentricities to Mrs. Macallister. He had laughed at Kinney, and tried to amuse her with him; but he could not have made this appear as harmless as it was. He rose from the bench on which he had been sitting, and shut with a click the penknife with which he had been cutting a pattern on its edge.

"I shall have to say good night to you, I believe," he said, going to the peg on which Kinney had hung his hat and overcoat. He had them on, and was buttoning the coat in an angry tremor before Kinney looked up and realized what his guest was about.

"Why, what—why, where—you goin'?" he faltered in dismay.

"To Equity," said Bartley, feeling in his coat pockets for his gloves, and drawing them on, without looking at Kinney, whose great hands were in a pan of dough.

"Why—why—no, you aint!" he protested, with a revulsion of feeling that swept away all his resentment, and left him nothing but remorse for his inhospitality.

"No?" said Bartley, putting up the collar of the first ulster worn by a native in that region.

"Why, look here!" cried Kinney, pulling his hands out of the dough, and making a fruitless effort to cleanse them upon each other. "I don't want you to go, this way."

"Don't you? I'm sorry to disoblige you; but I'm going," said Bartley.

Kinney tried to laugh. "Why, Hubbard,—why, Bartley,—why, Bart!" he exclaimed. "What's the matter with you? I aint mad!"

"You have an unfortunate manner, then. Good night." He strode out between the bunks, full of snoring loggers.

Kinney hurried after him, imploring and protesting in a low voice, trying to get before him, and longing to lay his floury paws upon him and detain him by main force, but even in his distress respecting Bartley's overcoat too much to touch it. He followed him out into the freezing air in his shirt-sleeves, and besought him not to be such a fool. "It makes me feel like the devil!" he exclaimed, pitifully. "You come back, now, half a minute, and I'll make it all right with you. I know I can; you're a gentleman, and you'll understand. Do come back! I shall never get over it if you don't!"

"I'm sorry," said Bartley, "but I'm not going back. Good night."

"Oh, good Lordy!" lamented Kinney. "What am I goin' to do? Why, man! It's a good three mile and more to Equity, and the woods is full of catamounts. I tell ye 't aint safe for ye." He kept following Bartley down the path to the road.

"I'll risk it," said Bartley.

Kinney had left the door of the camp open, and the yells and curses of the awakened sleepers recalled him to himself. "Well, well! If you will go" he groaned in despair, "here's that money." He plunged his doughy hand into his pocket, and pulled out a roll of bills. "Here it is. I haint time to count it; but it'll be all right, anyhow."

Bartley did not even turn his head to look round at him. "Keep your money!" he said, as he plunged forward through the snow. "I wouldn't touch a cent of it to save your life."

"All right," said Kinney, in hapless contrition, and he returned to shut himself in with the reproaches of the loggers and the upbraiding of his own heart.

Bartley dashed along the road in a fury that kept him unconscious of the intense cold; and he passed half the night, when he was once more in his own room, packing his effects against his departure next day. When all was done, he went to bed, half wishing that he might never rise from it again. It was not that he cared for Kinney; that fool's sulking was only the climax of a long series of injuries of which he was the victim at the hands of a hypercritical omnipotence.

Despite his conviction that it was useless to struggle longer against such injustice, he lived through the night, and came down late to breakfast, which he found stale, and without the compensating advantage of finding himself alone at the table. Some ladies had lingered there to clear up on the best authority the distracting rumors concerning him which they had heard the day before. Was it true that he had intended to spend the rest of the winter in logging? and was it true that he was going to give up the Free Press? and was it true that Henry Bird was going to be the editor? Bartley gave a sarcastic confirmation to all these reports, and went out to the printing-office to gather up some things of his. He found Henry Bird there, looking pale and sick, but at work, and seemingly in authority. This was what Bartley had always intended when he should go out, but he did not like it, and he resented some small changes that had already been made in the editor's room, in tacit recognition of his purpose not to occupy it again.

Bird greeted him stiffly; the printer girls briefly nodded to him, suppressing some little hysterical titters, and tacitly let him feel that he was no longer master there. While he was in the composing-room Hannah Morrison came in, apparently from some errand outside, and, catching sight of him, stared, and pertly passed him in silence. On his inkstand he found a letter from Squire Gaylord, briefly auditing his last account, and enclosing the balance due him. From this the old lawyer, with the careful smallness of a village business man, had deducted various little sums for things which Bartley had never expected to pay for. With a like thriftiness the landlord, when Bartley asked for his bill, had charged certain items that had not appeared in the bills before. Bartley felt that the charges were trumped up; but he was powerless to dispute them; besides, he hoped to sell the landlord his colt and cutter, and he did not care to prejudice that matter. Some bills from storekeepers, which he thought he had paid, were handed to him by the landlord, and each of the churches had sent in a little account for pew-rent for the past eighteen months: he had always believed himself dead-headed at church. He outlawed the latter by tearing them to pieces in the landlord's presence, and dropping the fragments into a spittoon. It seemed to him that every soul in Equity was making a clutch at the rapidly diminishing sum of money which Squire Gaylord had enclosed to him, and which was all he had in the world. On the other hand, his popularity in the village seemed to have vanished over night. He had sometimes fancied a general and rebellious grief when it should become known that he was going away; but instead there was an acquiescence amounting to airiness.

He wondered if anything about his affairs with Henry Bird and Hannah Morrison had leaked out. But he did not care. He only wished to shake the snow of Equity off his feet as soon as possible.

After dinner, when the boarders had gone out, and the loafers had not yet gathered in, he offered the landlord his colt and cutter. Bartley knew that the landlord wanted the colt; but now the latter said, "I don't know as I care to buy any horses, right in the winter, this way."

"All right," answered Bartley. "Just have the colt put into the cutter."

Andy Morrison brought it round. The boy looked at Bartley's set face with a sort of awe-stricken affection; his adoration for the young man survived all that he had heard said against him at home during the series of family quarrels that had ensued upon his father's interview with him; he longed to testify, somehow, his unabated loyalty, but he could not think of anything to do, much less to say.

Bartley pitched his valise into the cutter, and then, as Andy left the horse's head to give him a hand with his trunk, offered him a dollar. "I don't want anything," said the boy, shyly refusing the money out of pure affection.

But Bartley mistook his motive, and thought it sulky resentment. "Oh, very well," he said. "Take hold."

The landlord came out. "Hold on a minute," he said. "Where you goin' to take the cars?"

"At the Junction," answered Bartley. "I know a man there that will buy the colt. What is it you want?"

The landlord stepped back a few paces, and surveyed the establishment. "I should like to ride after that hoss," he said, "if you aint in any great of a hurry."

"Get in," said Bartley, and the landlord took the reins.

From time to time, as he drove, he rose up and looked over the dashboard to study the gait of the horse. "I've noticed he strikes some, when he first comes out in the spring."

"Yes," Bartley assented.

"Pulls consid'able."

"He pulls."

The landlord rose again and scrutinized the horse's legs. "I don't know as
I ever noticed 't he'd capped his hock before."

"Didn't you?"

"Done it kickin' nights, I guess."

"I guess so."

The landlord drew the whip lightly across the colt's rear; he shrank together, and made a little spring forward, but behaved perfectly well.

"I don't know as I should always be sure he wouldn't kick in the daytime."

"No," said Bartley, "you never can be sure of anything."

They drove along in silence. At last the landlord said, "Well, he aint so fast as I supposed."

"He's not so fast a horse as some," answered Bartley.

The landlord leaned over sidewise for an inspection of the colt's action forward. "Haint never thought he had a splint on that forward off leg?"

"A splint? Perhaps he has a splint."

They returned to the hotel and both alighted.

"Skittish devil," remarked the landlord, as the colt quivered under the hand he laid upon him.

"He's skittish," said Bartley.

The landlord retired as far back as the door, and regarded the colt critically. "Well, I s'pose you've always used him too well ever to winded him, but dumn 'f he don't blow like it."

"Look here, Simpson," said Bartley, very quietly. "You know this horse as well as I do, and you know there isn't an out about him. You want to buy him because you always have. Now make me an offer."

"Well," groaned the landlord, "what'll you take for the whole rig, just as it stands,—colt, cutter, leathers, and robe?"

"Two hundred dollars," promptly replied Bartley.

"I'll give ye seventy-five," returned the landlord with equal promptness.

"Andy, take hold of the end of that trunk, will you?"

The landlord allowed them to put the trunk into the cutter. Bartley got in too, and, shifting the baggage to one side, folded the robe around him from his middle down and took his seat. "This colt can road you right along all day inside of five minutes, and he can trot inside of two-thirty every time; and you know it as well as I do."

"Well," said the landlord, "make it an even hundred."

Bartley leaned forward and gathered up the reins, "Let go his head, Andy," he quietly commanded.

"Make it one and a quarter," cried the landlord, not seeing that his chance was past. "What do you say?"

What Bartley said, as he touched the colt with the whip, the landlord never knew. He stood watching the cutter's swift disappearance up the road, in a sort of stupid expectation of its return. When he realized that Bartley's departure was final, he said under his breath, "Sold, ye dumned old fool, and serve ye right," and went in-doors with a feeling of admiration! for colt and man that bordered on reverence.

William Dean Howells