Alfred Lewis.

When Men Grew Tall, or The Story Of Andrew Jackson





By advice of her mother, and to avoid the drunken Robards who promises his hateful appearance with each new day the blooming Rachel resolves to take passage on a keel boat for Natchez. Andrew, in deep concern, declares that he shall accompany her. He says that he goes to protect her from those Indians who make a double fringe of savage peril along the Cumberland, the Ohio, and the Mississippi. Overton, the taciturn, shrugs his shoulders; the keel-boat captain is glad to have with him the steadiest rifle along the Cumberland, and says as much; the blooming Rachel is glad, but says so only with her eyes; the Nashville good people say nothing, winking in silence sophisticated eyes.

Robards the drunken, now when they are gone, plays the ill-used husband to the hilts. He seems to revel in the r?le, and, to keep it from cooling in interest, petitions the Virginia Legislature for a divorce. In course of time the news climbs the mountains, and descends into the Cumberland, that the divorce is granted; while similar word floats down to Natchez with the keel boats.

The slow story of the blooming Rachels release reaches our two in Natchez. Thereupon Andrew leads Rachel the blooming before a priest; and the priest blesses them, and names them man and wife. That autumn they are again at the widow Donelsons; but the blooming Rachel, once Mrs. Robards, is now Mrs. Jackson.

Slander is never the vice of a region that goes armed to the teeth. Thus it befalls that now, when the two are back on the Cumberland, those sophisticated ones forget to wink. There comes not so much as the arching of a brow; for no one is so careless of life as all that. The whole settlement can see that the dangerous Andrew is watching with those steel-blue eyes.

At the first suggestion that his Rachel has been guilty of wrong, he will be at the throat of her maligner like a panther.

Time flows on, and a horrible thing occurs. There comes a new word that no divorce was granted by that Legislature; and this new word is indisputable. There is a divorce, one granted by a court; but, as an act of separation between Rachel the blooming and the drunken Robards, that decree of divorce is long months younger than the empowering act of the Richmond Legislature, which mistaken folk regarded as a divorce. The good priests words, when he named our troubled two as man and wife, were ignorantly spoken. During months upon months thereafter, through all of which she was hailed as Mrs. Jackson, the blooming Rachel was still the wife of the drunken Robards.

The blow strikes Andrew gray; but he says never a word. He blames himself for this shipwreck; where his Rachel was involved, he should have made all sure and invited no chances.

The injury is done, however; he must now go about its repair. There is a second marriage, at which the silent Overton and the widow Donelson are the only witnesses, and for the second time a priest congratulates our storm-tossed ones as man and wife.

This time there is no mistake.

The young husband sends to Charleston; and presently there come to him over the Blue Ridge, the finest pair of dueling pistols which the Cumberland has ever beheld. They are Galway saw-handles, rifle-barreled; a breath discharges them, and they are sighted to the splitting of a hair.

What are they for? asks Overton the taciturn, balancing one in each experienced hand.

In the eyes of Andrew gathers that steel-blue look of doom. They are to kill the first villain who speaks ill of my wife, says he.

CHAPTER VI DEAD-SHOT DICKINSON

THE sandy-haired Andrew now devotes himself to the practice of law and the domestic virtues. In exercising the latter, he has the aid of the blooming Rachel, toward whom he carries himself with a tender chivalry that would have graced a Bayard. Having little of books, he is earnest for the education of others, and becomes a trustee of the Nashville Academy.

About this time the good people of the Cumberland, and of the regions round about, believing they number more than seventy thousand souls, are seized of a hunger for statehood. They call a constitutional convention at Knoxville, and Andrew attends as a delegate from his county of Davidson. Woolsack McNairy, his fellow student in the office of Spruce Mc-Cay, is also a delegate. The woolsack one has-realized that dream of old Salisbury, and is now a judge.

Andrew and woolsack McNairy are members of the committee which draws a constitution for the would-be commonwealth. The constitution, when framed, is brought by its authors into open convention, and wranglingly adopted. Also, Tennessee is settled upon for a name, albeit the ardent Andrew, who is nothing if not tribal, urges that of Cumberland.

The constitution goes, with the proposition of statehood, before Congress in Philadelphia; and, following a sharp fight, in which such fossilized ones as Rufus King oppose and such quick spirits as Aaron Burr sustain, the admission of Tennessee, the new State is created.

Its hunting-shirt citizenry, well pleased with their successful step in nation building, elect Andrew to the House of Representatives. A little later, he is taken from the House and sent to the Senate. There he meets with Mr. Jefferson, who is the Senates presiding officer, being vice-president of the nation, and that accurate parliamentarian and polished fine gentleman writes of him:

He never speaks on account of the rashness of his feelings. I have seen him attempt it repeatedly, but as often choke with rage. There also he encounters Aaron Burr; and is so far socially sagacious as to model his deportment upon that of the American Chesterfield, ironing out its backwoods wrinkles and savage creases, until it fits a salon as smoothly well as does the deportment of Burr himself. Our hero finds but one other man about Congress for whom he conceives a friendship equal to that which he feels for Aaron Burr, and he is Edward Livingston.

Andrew the energetic discovers the life of a senator to be one of dawdling uselessness, overlong drawn out; and says so. He anticipates the acrid Randolph of Roanoke, and declares that he never winds his watch while in Congress, holding all time spent there as wasted and thrown away.

Idleness rusts him; and, being of a temper even with that of best Toledo steel, he refuses to rust patiently. Preyed upon and carked of an exasperating leisure, which misfits both his years and his fierce temperament, he seeks refuge in what amusements are rife in Philadelphia. He goes to Mr. McElwees Looking-glass Store, 70 South Fourth Street, and pays four bits for a ticket to the readings of Mr. Fennell, who gives him Goldsmith, Thompson and Young. The readings pall upon him, and athirst for something more violent, he clinks down a Mexican dollar, witnesses the horsemanship at Mr. Ricketts amphitheater, and finds it more to his horse-loving taste. When all else fails, he buys a seat in a box at the Old Theater in Cedar Street, and is entertained by the sleight of hand of wizard Signor Falconi. On the back of it all he grows heartily sick of the Senate, and of civilization, as the latter finds exposition in Philadelphia, and resigns his place and goes home.

When he arrives in Nashville, the Legislature which still holds that he should be engaged upon some public work elects him to the supreme bench

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objectionable Mr. Bean with those Galway saw-handles; and that violent person surrenders unconditionally. In elucidating his sudden tameness and its causes, Mr. Bean subsequently explains to a disgusted admirer:

I looks at the Jedge, an I sees shoot in his eye; an thar warnt shoot in nary nother eye in the crowd. So I says to mysef, says I, Old Hoss, its about time to sing small! An I does.

Notwithstanding those leaden exchanges with the Governor, and the conquest of the discreet Mr. Bean, our jurist finds the bench inexpressibly tedious. At last he resigns from it, as he did from the Senate, and again retreats to private life.

Here his forethoughtful Scotch blood begins to assert itself, and he goes seriously to the making of money. With his one hundred and fifty slaves, he tills his plantation as no plantation on the Cumberland was ever tilled before; and the cotton crops he makes are at once the local boast and wonder. He starts an inland shipyard, and builds keel and flat boats for the river commerce with New Orleans. He opens a store, sells everything from gunpowder to quinine, broadcloth by the bolt to salt by the barrel, and takes his pay in the heterogeneous currency of the region, whereof coon skins are a smallest subsidiary coin. Also, it is now that he is made Major General of Militia, an honor for which he has privily panted, even as the worn hart panteth for the water brook.

When he is a general, the blooming Rachel cuts and bastes and stitches a gorgeous uniform for her Bayard, in which labor of love she exhausts the Nashville supply of gold braid. Once the new General dons that effulgent uniform, which he does upon the instant it is completed, he offers a spectacle of such brilliancy that the bedazzled public talks facetiously of smoked glass. The new General in no wise resents this jest, being blandly tolerant of a backwoods sense of humor which suggests it. Besides, while the public has its joke, he has the uniform and his commission; and these, he opines, give him vastly the better of the situation.

Many friends, many foes, says the Arab, and now the popular young General finds his path grown up of enemies. There be reasons for the sprouting of these malevolent gentry. The General is the idol of the people. He can call them about him as the huntsman calls his hounds. At word or sign from him, they follow and pull down whatsoever man or measure he points to as his quarry of politics. This does not match with the ambitions of many a pushing gentleman, who is quite as eager for popular preference, and he thinks quite as much entitled to it, as is the General.

These disgruntled ones, baffled in their political advancement by the General, take darkling counsel among themselves. The decision they arrive at is one gloomy enough. They cannot shake the Generals hold upon the people. Nothing short of his death promises a least ray of relief. He is the sun; while he lives he alone will occupy the popular heavens. His destruction would mean the going down of that sun. In the night which followed, those lesser plotting luminaries might win for themselves some twinkling visibility.

It is the springtime of the malevolent ones conspiracy, and the plot they make begins to blossom for the bearing of its lethal fruit. There is in Nashville one Charles Dickinson. By profession he is a lawyer, albeit of practice intermittent and scant. In figure he is tall, handsome, graceful with a feline grace. If there be aught in the old Greeks theory touching the transmigration of souls, then this Dickinson was aforetime and in another life a tiger. He is sinuous, powerful, vain, narrowly cruel, with a sleek purring gloss of manner over all. Also, he is of good family that defense and final refuge of folk who would else sink from respectable sight in the mire of their own well-earned disrepute.

Mr. Dickinson has one accomplishment, a physical one. So nicely does his eye match his hand, that he may boast himself the quickest, surest shot in all the world. Knowing his vanity, and the deadly certainty of his pistols, the conspirators work upon him. They point out that to kill the General under circumstances which men approve, will be an easy instant step to greatness. Urged by his vanity, permitted by his cruelty, dead-shot Dickinson rises to the glittering lure.

Give a man station and fortune, and while his courage is not sapped his prudence is promoted. The poor, obscure man will risk himself more readily than will the eminent rich one, not that he is braver, but he has less to lose. The General who has been in both Houses of Congress, and was a judge on the bench besides will not be hurried to the field, as readily as when he was merely Andrew the horse-faced. However, those malignant secret ones are ingenious. They know a name that cannot fail to set him ablaze for blood. They whisper that name to dead-shot Dickinson.

It is a banner day at the Clover Bottom track. The Generals Truxton is to run that meteor among race horses, the mighty Truxton! The blooming Rachel, seated in her carriage, is where she can view the finish. The General one of the Clover Bottom stewards is in the judges stand. Dead-shot Dickinson, as the bell rings on the race, takes his stand at the blooming Rachels carriage wheel. He is not there to see a race, but to plant an insult.

Go! cries the starter.

Away rushes the field, the flying Truxton in the lead! Around they whirl, the little jockeys plying hand and heel! They sweep by the three-quarters post! The great Truxton, eye afire, nostrils wide, comes down the stretch with the swiftness of the thrown lance! Behind, ten generous lengths, trail the beaten ruck! The red mounts to the cheek of the blooming Rachel; her black eyes shine with excitement! She applauds the invincible Truxton with her little hands.

He is running away with them! she cries.

Dead-shot Dickinson turns to the friend who is conveniently by his side. The chance he waited for has come.

Running away with them! he sneers, repeating the phrase of the blooming Rachel. To be sure! He takes after his master, who ran away with another mans wife.

CHAPTER VII HOW THE GENERAL FOUGHT

THE General seeks the taciturn Over-ton that wordless one of the uneasy hair triggers.

It is a plot, says the General. And yet this man shall die.

Hair-trigger Overton bears a challenge to dead-shot Dickinson, and is referred to that marksmans second, Hanson Catlet. Hair-trigger Overton and Mr. Catlet agree on Harrisons Mills, a long Days ride away in Kentucky. There are laws against dueling in Tennessee; wherefore her citizens, when bent on blood, repair to Kentucky. To make all equal, and owning similar laws, the Kentuckians, when blood hungry, take one another to Tennessee. The arrangement is both perfect and polite, not to say urbane, and does much to induce friendly relations between these sister commonwealths.

Place selected, Mr. Catlet insists upon putting off the fight for a week. His principal is nothing if not artistic. He must send across the Blue Ridge Mountains for a famous brace of pistols. His duel with the General will have its page in history. He insists, therefore, upon making every nice arrangement to attract the admiration of posterity. He will kill the General, of course; and, by way of emphasizing his gallantry, offers wagers to that effect. He bets three thousand dollars that he will kill the General the first fire.

The General makes no wagers, but holds long pow-wows with hair-trigger Overton over their glasses and pipes. The fight is to be at twelve paces, each man toeing a peg. The word agreed on is: Fire one two three stop! Both are free to kill after the word Fire, and before the word Stop.

Hair-trigger Overton and the General give themselves up to a heartfelt study of what advantages and disadvantages are presented by the situation. They decide to let the gifted Dickinson shoot first. He is so quick that the General cannot hope to forestall his fire. Also, any undue haste on the Generals part might spoil his aim. By the pros and cons of it, as weighed between them, it is plain that the General must receive the fire of dead-shot Dickinson. He will be hit; doubtless the wound will bring death. He must, however, bend every iron energy to the task of standing on his feet long enough to kill his adversary.

Fear not! Ill last the time! says the General. He shall go with me; for Ive set my heart on his blood.

Those wonderful pistols come over the Blue Ridge, and dead-shot Dickinson with his friends set out for that far-away Kentucky fighting ground. They make gala of the business, and laugh and joke as they ride along. By way of keeping his hand in, and to give the confidence of his admirers a wire edge, dead-shot Dickinson unbends in sinister exhibitions of his pistol skill. At a farmers house a gourd is hanging by a string from the bough of a tree. Deadrshot Dickinson, at twenty paces, cuts the string; the gourd falls to the ground.

Some gentlemen will be along presently, he says. Show them that string, and tell them how it was cut.

At a wayside inn he puts four bullets into a mark the size of a silver dollar.

When General Jackson arrives, he observes, tossing a gold piece to the innkeeper, say that those shots were fired at twenty-four paces.

And so with song and shout and jest and pistol firing, the Dickinson party troop forward. They arrive in the early evening and put up at Harrisons tavern. The fight is for seven oclock in the morning.

Behind this gay cavalcade are journeying the General and hair-trigger Overton. The farmer repeats the story of the gourd and its bullet-broken string. A bit farther, and the innkeeper calls attention to that quartette of shots, which took effect within the little circumference of a dollar piece. The stern pair behold these marvels unmoved; hair-trigger Overton merely shrugs his shoulders, while the Generals lip curls contemptuously. Dead-shot Dickinson has thrown away his lead and powder if he hoped to shake these men of granite. Upon coming to the battle ground, the General and hair-trigger Overton avoid the Harrison tavern, which shelters the jovial Dickinson coterie, and put up at the inn of David Miller. That evening, they hold their final conference in a cloud of tobacco smoke, like a couple of Indians. Finally, the General goes to bed, and sleeps like a tree.

With the first blue streaks of morning our two war parties are up and moving. They meet in a convenient grove of poplars. The ground is stepped off and pegged; after which hair-trigger Overton and Mr. Catlet pitch a coin. The impartial coin awards the choice of positions to Mr. Catlet, and gives the word to hair-trigger Overton. There is a third toss which settles that the weapons are to be those Galway saw-handles. At this good fortune a steel-blue point of fire shows in the satisfied eye of the General. He recalls how he procured those weapons to kill the first man who spoke evil of the blooming Rachel, and is pleased to think a benignant destiny will not permit them to be robbed of that original right.

The men are led to their respective pegs by Mr. Catlet and hair-trigger Overton. The General, through the experienced strategy of hair-trigger Overton, wears a black coat high of collar, long of skirt. It buttons close to the chin; not a least glimpse of bullet-guiding white, whether of shirt collar or cravat, is allowed to show. The black coat is purposely voluminous; and the whereabouts of the Generals lean frame, tucked away in its folds, is a question not readily replied to. The only mark on the whole sable expanse of that coat is a row of steel-bright buttons. These are not in the middle, but peculiarly to one side. Those steel-bright buttons will draw the fire of dead-shot Dickinson like a magnet. Which is precisely what hair-trigger Overton had in mind.

As the two stand at the pegs, dead-shot Dickinson calls loudly to a friend:

Watch that third button! Its over the heart! I shall hit him there!

The grim General says nothing; but the look on his gaunt face reads like a page torn from some book of doom. As he stands waiting the word, he is observed by the watchful Overton to slip something into his mouth. Then his jaws set themselves like flint.

Gentlemen, are you ready?

They are ready, dead-shot Dickinson cruelly eager, the somber General adamant. There is a soundless moment, still as death:

Fire!

Instantly, like a flash of lightning, the pistol of dead-shot Dickinson explodes. That objective third button disappears, driven in by the vengeful lead! The General rocks a little on his feet with the awful shock of it; then he plants himself as moveless as an oak. Through the curling smoke dead-shot Dickinson makes out the stark, upstanding form. For a moment it is as though he were planet-struck. He shrinks shudderingly from his peg.

God! he whispers; have I missed him?

Hair-trigger Overton cocks the pistol he holds in his hand and covers the horror-smitten Dickinson.

Back to your mark, sir! he roars.

Dead-shot Dickinson steps up to his peg, his cheek the hue of ashes. He reads his sentence in those implacable steel-blue eyes, and the death nearness touches his heart like ice.

One! says hair-trigger Overton.

At the word, there is a sharp klick! The General has pulled the trigger, but the hammer catches at half cock. The Generals inveterate steel-blue glance never for one moment leaves his man. He recocks the weapon with a resounding kluck!





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