When Men Grew Tall, or The Story Of Andrew Jackson
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“Hence,” says the drunken deductionist, “that honey and cream.”
That night, after Rachel the blooming and her drunken husband retire, a bitter quarrel breaks out between them. It rages with such fury that the bicker arouses one Overton, who occupies the adjoining chamber. Mr. Overton is a severe character, firm and clear as to his rights. He objects to having his rest disturbed, alleging that he has troubles of his own. Taking final offense at the language of the brute Robards, which is more emphatic than nice, he gets his pistols. Rapping on the intervening wall to invoke attention, he informs that vituperative drunkard of his intention to instantly put him (Robards) to death, should he so much as raise his voice above a whisper for the balance of the night.
Rachel seeks her mother, and the jealous drunkard quiets down. He is not unacquainted with Mr. Overton, who is reputed to possess as restless a brace of hair triggers as ever owned flint and pan. Altogether he is precisely the one whose word would carry weight with such as Robards, and, on the back of his interference in the domestic affairs of that inebriate, a great peace settles upon the blockhouse of the widow Donelson which abides throughout the night.
As for the horse-faced State’s Attorney, he knows nothing of the differences between Rachel and the jealous Robards. He does not sleep in the blockhouse, having been appointed to a blanket couch in the “Bunk House,” a separate dormitory structure which stands at a little distance.
During breakfast, the blooming Rachel again freights daintily deep the plate of the young State’s Attorney. Thereupon the favored one beams his thanks, while behind his back as though to soothe his hate, the malevolent Rob-ards sits cleaning a rifle, casting upon him the while an occasional midnight look. Just across is the taciturn Overton, proprietor of those restless hair triggers, wondering over his bacon and eggs where this drama of love and threatened murder is to end.
CHAPTER IV – COLONEL WAIGHTSTILL AVERY OFFENDS
NOW, when the horse-faced Andy finds himself in the Cumberland country, he begins to look about him. Being a lawyer, his instinct leads him to consider those opposing ranks of commerce, the debtor and creditor classes. He finds the former composed of persons of the highest honor. Also, their honor is sensitive and easily touched, being sensitive and touchy in proportion as the bulk of their debts is increased. The debtor class, as the same finds representation about those two Cumberland forums, Nashville and Jonesboro, holds it to be the privilege of every gentleman, when dunned, to challenge and if practicable kill his creditor honorably at ten paces.
So firm indeed is the debtor class in this belief, that the creditor class, less warlike and with more to lose, seldom presents a bill. Neither does it refuse the opposition credit; for the debtor class also clings to the no less formidable theory, that to refuse credit is an insult quite as stinging as a dun direct.
In short, the horse-faced Andy discovers the region to be a very Arcadia for debtors.Their credit is without a limit and their debts are never due. He resolves to disturb these commercial Arcadians; he will break upon them as a Satan of solvency come to trouble their debt paradise.
The horse-faced Andy, as has been noted, is Scotch-Irish. Being Irish, his honor is as sensitive and his soul as warlike as are those of the most debt-eaten individual along the Cumberland. Being Scotch, he believes debts should be paid, and holds that a creditor may ask for his money without forfeiting life. He urges these views in tavern and street; and thereupon the creditors, taking heart, come to him with their claims. He accepts the trusts thus proffered; as a corollary, having now flown in the face of the militant debtor class, he is soon to prove his manhood.
The horse-faced Andy files a declaration for a client, on a mixed claim based upon bacon, molasses and rum. The defendant, a personage yclept Irad Miller, genus debtor, species keel boatman, is a very patrician among bankrupts, boasting that he owes more and pays less than any man south of the Ohio river. Also, having been already offended by the foppish frivolity of that ruffled shirt and grass-green surtout, he is outraged now, when the ruffled grass-green one brings suit against him.
Breathing fire and smoke, the insulted Irad lowers his horns, and starts for the horse-faced Andy. His methods at this crisis are characteristic of the Cumberland; he merely grinds the horse-faced Andy’s polished boot beneath his heel, mentioning casually the while that he himself is “half hoss, half alligator,” and can drink the Cumberland dry at a draught.
This is fighting talk, and the horse-faced Andy so accepts it. He surveys the truculent Irad with the cautious tail of his eye, and finds him discouragingly tall and broad and thick. The survey takes time, but the injured Irad prevents it being wasted by again grinding the polished toes.
Andy the strategic suddenly seizes a rail from the nearby fence, and charges the indebted one. The end of the rail strikes that insolvent in what is vulgarly known as the pit of the stomach, and doubles him up like a two-foot rule. At that, he who is “half hoss, half alligator,” gives forth a screech of which an injured wild cat might be proud, and perceiving the rail poised for a second charge makes off. This small adventure gives the horse-faced Andy station, and an avalanche of claims pours in upon him.
Having established himself in the confidence of common men, it still remains with our horsefaced hero to conquer the esteem of the bar. The opportunity is not a day behind his collision with that violent one of equine-alligator genesis. In good sooth, it is an offshoot thereof.
The bruised Irad’s case is up for trial. His counsel, Colonel Waightstill Avery, hails from a hamlet, called Morganton, on the thither side of the Blue Ridge. Colonel Waightstill is of middle age, pompous and high, and the youth of Andy – slim, lean, eager, horse face as hairless as an egg – offends him.
“Your honor,” cries Colonel Waightstill, addressing the bench, “who, pray, is the opposing counsel?” The boyish Andy stands up. “Must I, your honor,” continues the outraged Colonel Waightstill, “must I cross forensic blades with a child? Have I journeyed all the long mountain miles from Morganton to try cases with babes and sucklings? Or perhaps, your honor” – here Colonel Waightstill waxes sarcastic – “I have mistaken the place. Possibly this is not a court, but a nursery.”
Colonel Waightstill sits down, and the horsefaced Andy, on the leaf of a law book, indites the following:
August 12, 1788.
Sir: When a man’s feelings and charector are injured he ought to seek speedy redress. My charector you have injured; and further you have Insulted me in the presunce of a court and a large aujence. I therefore call upon you as a gentleman to give me satisfaction for the same; I further call upon you to give me an answer immediately without Equivocation and I hope you can do without dinner until the business is done; for it is consistent with the character of a gentleman when he injures a man to make speedy reparation; therefore I hope you will not fail in meeting me this day.
From yr Hbl st.,
The horse-faced one spells badly; but Marlborough did, Washington does and Napoleon will spell worse. It is a notable fact that conquering militant souls have ever been better with the sword than with the spelling book.
The judge is a gentleman of quick and apprehensive eye, as frontier jurists must be.
Also, he is of finest sensibilities, and can appreciate the feelings of a man of honor. He sees the note shoved across to Colonel Waightstill by the horse-faced Andy, and at once orders a recess. The judge, with delicate tact, says the Cumberland bottoms are heavy with the seeds of fever, and that it is his practice to consume prudent rum and quinine at this hour.
While the judge goes for his rum and quinine, Colonel Waightstill and the horse-faced Andy repair to a convenient ravine at the rear of the log courthouse. A brother practitioner attends upon Colonel Waightstill, while the interests of the horse-faced Andy are conserved by Mr. Overton, who espouses his cause as a fellow boarder at the widow Donelson’s. Mr. Overton has with him his invaluable hair triggers; and, since he wins the choice, presents them politely, butt first, to the second of Colonel Waightstill, who selects one for his principal. The ground is measured and pegged; the fight will be at ten paces.
As Mr. Overton gives the horse-faced Andy his weapon, he asks:
“What can you do at this distance?”
“Snuff a candle.”
“Good! Let me offer a word of advice: Don’t kill; don’t even wound. The casus belli does not justify it, and you can establish your credit without. Should your adversary require a second shot, it will then be the other way. His failure to apologize, coupled with a demand for another shot, should mean his death warrant.”
The horse-faced Andy approves this counsel. And yet, if he must not wound he may warn, and to that admonitory end sends his ounce of lead so as to all but brush the ear of Colonel Waightstill. That gentleman’s bullet flies safely wild. After the exchange of shots, the seconds hold a consultation. Mr. Overton says that his principal must receive an apology, or the duel shall proceed.
Colonel Waightstill’s second talks with that gentleman, and finds him much softened as to mood. The flying lead, brushing his ear like the wing of a death angel, has set him thinking. He now distrusts that simile of “babes and sucklings,” and is even ready to concede the intimation that the horse-faced Andy is a child to be far-fetched. Indeed, he has conceived a vast respect, almost an affection, for his youthful adversary, and will not only apologize, but declares that, for purposes of litigation, he shall hereafter regard the horse-faced Andy as a being of mature years. All this says Colonel Waight-still, under the respectful spell of that flying lead; and if not in these phrases, then in words to the same effect.
The horse-faced Andy shakes hands with Colonel Waightstill, and they return to the log courthouse, where the rum-and-quinine jurist is pleasantly awaiting them. The trial is again called, and the horse-faced Andy secures a verdict. What is of more consequence, he secures the respect of bench and bar; hereafter no one will so much as dream of disputing his word, should he lay claim to the years of Methuselah. That careful grazing shot at Colonel Waightstill, ages the horse-faced Andy wondrously in Cumberland estimation.
Good fortune is not yet done with Andy of the horse face. Within hours after the meeting in that convenient ravine, he is given new opportunity to fix himself in the good regard of folk.
It is on the verge of midnight. A gentleman, unsteady with his cups, seeks temporary repose on the grassy litter which surrounds the tavern haystack. Being comfortable, and safe against a fall, he of the too many cups refreshes himself with his pipe. Pipe going, he falls into thought; and next, in the midst of his preoccupation, he sets the hay afire. It burns like tinder, and the flames, wind-flaunted, catch the thatched roof of the stable.
The settlement is threatened; the wild cry of “Fire!” is raised; from tavern and dwelling, men, women and children come trooping forth, clad in little besides looks of terror. The scene is one of confusion and misdirection; no one knows what to do. Meanwhile, the flames leap from the stable to the tavern itself.
It is Andy the horse-faced who brings order out of chaos. Born for leadership, command comes easy to him. He calls for buckets, and with military quickness forms a double line of men between the river and the flames. The full buckets chase each other along one line, while the empties are returned by the second to be refilled. When the lines are working in watery concord, he organizes the balance of the community into a wet-blanket force. By his orders, coverlets, tablecloths, blankets, anything, everything that will serve, are dipped in the river and spread on exposed roofs. In an encouragingly short space, the fire is checked and the settlement saved.
While the excitement is at its height, that pipe incendiary, who started the conflagration, breaks through the double line of water passers, and begins to give orders. He is as wild as was Nero at the burning of Rome. Finding this person disturbing the effective march of events, the horse-faced Andy – who is nothing if not executive – knocks him down with a bucket. The Cumberland Nero falls into the river, and the ducking, acting in happy conjunction with the stunning thump, brings him to the shore a changed and sobered man. That bucket promptitude, wherewith he deposed Nero, becomes one of those several immediate arguments which make mightily for the communal advancement of Andy the horse-faced.
CHAPTER V – THE WINNING OF A WIFE
ALL these energetic matters happen at aforesaid, is dancing attendance upon the court. The fame of them travels to Nashville in advance of his return, and works a respectful change toward him in the attitude of the public. Hereafter he is to be called “Andrew” by ones who know him well; while others, less acquainted, will on military occasions hail him as “Cap’n” and on civil ones as “Square.” On every hand, reference to him as “horse-faced” is to be dropped; wherefore this history, the effort of which is to follow close in the wake of the actual, will from this point profit by that polite example.
The household at the widow Donelson’s learns of the Jonesboro valor and executive promptitude of the young State’s Attorney. The blooming Rachel rejoices, while her Jonesboro, where the horse-faced one, in the interests of the creditor class drunken spouse turns sullen. His jealousy of Andrew is multiplied, as that young gentleman’s fame increases. The fame, however, is of a sort that seriously mislikes the drunken Robards, who is at heart a hare. Wherefore, while his jealousy grows, he no longer makes it the tavern talk, as was his sottish wont.
Affairs run briskly prosperous with Andrew, and he finds himself engaged in half the litigation of the Cumberland. There is little money, but the region owns a currency of its own. Some wise man has said that the circulating medium of Europe is gold, of Africa men, of Asia women, of America land. The client’s of Andrew reward his labors with land, and many a “six-forty,” by which the slang of the Cumberland identifies a section of land, becomes his. Finally he owns such an array of wilderness square miles, polka-dotted about between the Cumberland and the Mississippi, that the aggregate acreage swells into the thousands. Those acres, however, are hardly more valuable than are the brown leaves wherewith each autumn carpets them.
While the ardent Andrew is pushing his way at the bar, and accumulating “six-forties,” he continues to board at the widow Donelson’s.
The blooming Rachel delights in his society – so polished, so splendidly different from that of the drunkard Robards! Once or twice, too, when Andrew, in his saddlebag excursions from court to court, has a powder-burning brush with Indians and saves his sandy scalp by a narrowish margin, the red cheek of Rachel is seen to whiten. That is to say, the drunkard Robards sees it whiten; the purblind Andrew never once observes that mark of tender concern. The pistol repute of the decisive Andrew serves when he is by to stifle remark on the lip of the recreant Robards. But there come hours when the latter has the blooming Rachel to himself, at which time he raves like one demon-possessed. He avers that the unconscious Andrew is the lover of the blooming Rachel, and in so doing lies like an Ananias. However, the drunken one has the excuse of jealousy; which emotion is not only green-eyed but cross-eyed, and of all things – as history shows – most apt to mislead the accurate vision of folk.
Andrew overflows of sentiment, and often in moments of loneliness turns homesick. This is the more marvelous, since never from his very cradle days has he had a home. Being homesick – one may as well call it that, for want of a better word – he goes out to the orchard fence, a lonely spot, cut off from view by intercepting bushes, and devotes himself to melancholy. This melancholy, as often happens with high-strung, vanity-bitten young gentlemen, is for the greater part nothing more than the fomentations of his egotism and conceit. But Andrew does not know this truth, and wears a fine tragic air as one beset of what poets term “a nameless grief.”
One day the blooming Rachel discovers the melancholy Andrew, dreamily mournful by the orchard fence. She watches him unperceived, and her gentle bosom yearns over him. The blooming Rachel is not wanting in that taint of romanticism to which all border folk are born; and now, to see this Hector! – this lion among men! – so bent in sadness, moves her tenderly. At that it is only a kind of maternal tenderness; for the blooming Rachel has a wealth of mother love, and no children upon whom to lavish it. She stands looking at the melancholy one, and would give worlds if she might only take his head to her sympathetic bosom and cherish it.
The blooming Rachel approaches, and cheerily greets the gloomy one. She seeks to uplift his spirits. Under the sweet spell of her, he tells how wholly alone he is. He speaks of his mother and how her very grave is lost. He relates how the Revolution swallowed up the lives of his two brothers.
“And your father?”
“He was buried the week before I was born.”
The two stay by the orchard fence a long while, and talk on many things; but never once on love.
The drunken Robards, fiend-guided, gets a green-eyed glimpse of them. With that his jealousy receives added edge, and – the better to decide upon a course – he hurries to a grog-gery to pour down rum by the cup. Either he drinks beyond his wont, or that rum is of sterner impulse than common; for he becomes pot-valorous, and with curses vows the death of Andrew.
The drunken Robards, filled with rum to the brim, issues forth to execute his threats. He finds his victim still sadly by the orchard fence; but alone, since the blooming Rachel has been called to aid in supper-getting. The pot-valorous Robards bursts into a torrent of jealous recrimination.
The melancholy Andrew cannot believe his ears! His melancholy takes flight when he does understand, and in its stead comes white-hot anger.
“What! you scoundrel!” he roars. The blue eyes blaze with such ferocity that Robards the craven starts back. In a moment the other has control of himself. “Sir!” he grits, “you shall give me satisfaction!”
Robards the drunken says nothing, being frozen of fear. The enraged Andrew stalks away in quest of the taciturn Overton who owns those hair triggers.
“Let us take a walk,” says hair-trigger Overton, running his arm inside the lean elbow of Andrew. Once in the woods, he goes on: “What do you want to do?”
“Kill him! I would put him in hell in a second!”
“Doubtless! Having killed him, what then will you do?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Let me explain: You kill Robards. His wife is a widow. Also, because you have killed Robards in a quarrel over her, she is the talk of the settlement. Therefore, I put the question: Having made Rachel the scandal of the Cumberland, what will you do?”
There is a long, embarrassed pause. Presently Andrew lifts his gaze to the cool eyes of his friend.
“I shall offer her marriage. She shall, if she accept it, have the protection of my name.”
“And then,” goes on the ice-and-iron Overton, “the scandal will be redoubled. They will say that you and Rachel, plotting together, have murdered Robards to open a wider way for your guilty loves.”
Andrew takes a deep breath. “What would you counsel?” he asks.
“One thing,” – laying his hand on Andrew’s shoulder – “under no circumstances, not even to save your own life, must you slay Robards. You might better slay Rachel; since his death by your hand spells her destruction. Good people would avoid her as though she were the plague. Never more, on the Cumberland, should she hold up her head.”
That night the fear-eaten Robards solves the situation which his crazy jealousy has created. He starts secretly for the North. He tells two or three that he will never more call the blooming Rachel wife.
For a month there is much silence, and some restraint, at the widow Donelson’s. This condition wears away; and, while no one says so, everybody feels relaxed and relieved by the absence of the drunken Robards. No one names him, and there is tacit agreement to forget the creature. The drunken Robards, however, has no notion of being forgotten. Word comes down from above that he will return and reclaim his wife. At this the black eyes of Rachel sparkle dangerously.
“That monster,” she cries, “shall never kiss my lips, nor so much as touch my hand again!”
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