University of Virginia Library


Page 275


How stubbornly this fellow answer'd me.

Beaumont and Fletcher.

When, more complacently, I looked around, and
in the faces of my captors, what was my surprise to
behold in the most turbulent, the bullying gambler
with whom I had refused to play at the tavern in
Tuscaloosa. The countenance of the rascal plainly
showed that he remembered the transaction. There
was a complacent and triumphant grin upon his lips
which, as I could not then punish him, added to the
bitterness of my situation. I tried to turn away
from regarding him, but the relative situation in
which we were now placed was but too grateful to
his mean and malicious soul, and changing his position
to correspond with mine, he continued to face
me with a degree of coldness which could only be
ascribed to his perfect consciousness of my inability
to strive with him. I felt that my anger would be
not only vain to restrain him in his impudence, but
must, from its impotence, only provoke him to an
increased indulgence of it, besides giving him a degree


Page 276
of satisfaction which I was too little his friend
to desire. I accordingly fixed my eyes upon him with
as much cool indifference as I could of a sudden put
into them, and schooling my lips to a sort of utterance
which fell far short of the feverish wrath in
my bosom, I thus addressed him.

“If you are the same person who would have
cheated me at cards in Tuscaloosa a few days ago,
I congratulate you upon a sudden increase of valour.
You have improved amazingly in a very short space
of time, and though I cannot say that your courage
is even now of the right kind, yet there's no saying
how fast one may acquire it who has commenced so
happily. Perhaps—as I doubt not that you desire
still farther to improve—you would be pleased to
give me some little opportunity to try you, and
test your progress. If you would but free an arm or
so, and let us try it with fist or hickory—ay, or
with other weapons with which I see you are well
enough provided—I should very much alter the
opinion I had formed of you at our first meeting.”

The fellow chafed to hear these words and let fly
a volley of oaths which only served to increase the
coolness of my temper. I felt that I had a decided
advantage over him, and a speech so little expected
from one in my situation, and so contemptuous at
the same time, provoked the unmitigated laughter


Page 277
of the fellow's companions, who had assumed with
him the custody of my person.

“And what the h—ll is there to grin about,” he
said to them as soon as their subsiding merriment
enabled him to be heard—“do you mind, or do you
think I mind the crowings of this cock sparrow,
when I can clip his wings at any moment? Let
him talk while he may—who cares? It will be for
me to wind up with him when I get tired of his

“But won't you let the chap loose, Bully George,”
cried one of the companions—“let him loose as he
asks you, and try a hickory—I know you're famous
at a stick fight—I saw you once at the Sipsy, when
you undertook to lather Jim cudworth. You didn't
know Jim, before that time, George, or you wouldn't
ha' chose that weapon—but this lark now—he, I
reckon's, much easier to manage than Jim—let
him try it, George.”

This speech turned the fury of the bully from me
to his comrades. But it was the fury of foul language
only, and would not bear repetition. The
fellow, whom they seemed pleased to chafe, foamed
like a madman in striving to reply. The jest was
taken up by the two who bandied it to and fro, as
two expert ball players do their ball without suffering
it once to fall to the ground, until they tired of
the game; and they repeated and referred to a number


Page 278
of little circumstances in the history of their
vexed associate, all calculated at once to provoke
him into additional fury and to convince me that the
fellow was, as I had esteemed him at the very first
glance, a poor and pitiable coward. In due proportion
as they found merriment in annoying him, did
they seem to grow good natured towards myself,
perhaps, because I had set the ball in motion which
they had found it so pleasant to keep up; but their
sport had like to have been death to me. The ruffian,
driven almost to madness by the sarcasms of
those whom he did not dare to attack, turned suddenly
upon me, and with a most murderous determination
aimed his dagger at my throat. I had no
way to ward the weapon, and must have perished
but for the promptitude of one of the fellows who
seemed to have watched the bully closely and who
caught his arm ere it descended and wrested the
weapon from him. The joke had ceased. The
man who stayed his arm now spoke to him in the
fierce language of a superior.

“Look you, Bully George, had you bloodied the
boy I should ha' put my cool steel into your ribs for

“Why, what is he to you, Geoffrey—that you
should take up for him?” was the subdued answer.

“Nothing much, and for that matter you're nothing
much to me either; but I don't see the profit of


Page 279
killing the chap, and Mat Webber ordered that we
shouldn't hurt him.”

“Mat Webber's a milk and water fool,” replied
the other.

“Let him hear you say so,” said Geoffrey, “and
see the end of it. It's a pretty thing, indeed, that
you should talk of Mat being a milk and water fool
—a man that will fight through a thicket of men,
when you'd be for sneaking round it. Shut up,
Bully George, and give way to your betters. The less
you say the wiser. Don't we know that the chap's
right—if you were only half the man that he seems
to be, you wouldn't be half so bloody minded with
a prisoner. You wouldn't cut more throats than
Mat Webber, and, perhaps, you'd get a larger share
of the plunder. I've always seen that it's such
chaps as you that don't love fight when it's going,
that's always most ready to cut and stab when there's
no danger, and when there's no use for it. Keep
your knife 'till it's wanted. It may be that you
may soon have better use for it, since if that other
lark get off, he'll bring Grafton and all the constables
of the district upon us.”

“It's a bad job, that chap's getting off,” said the
other ruffian. “How did you happen to miss, Geoffrey?”

“The devil knows. I had the rope fair enough,
I thought, but some how he twisted round, or raised


Page 280
his hand just when I dropped it over him, and threw
it off a bit quicker than I threw it on. He's a stout
fellow, that, and went over the table like a ball. I'm
dubious he'll get off. Look out, John, and say what
you see.”

The fellow complied, and returned after a few
moments with an unsatisfactory answer. Some far
ther conference ensued between them touching the
probable chances of Carrington's escape, and my
heart grew painfully interested, as I heard their
cold and cruel calculations as to the wisest course of
action among the pursuers. Their mode of disposing
of the difficulty, summary and reckless as it
showed them to be, was enough to inspire me with
the most anxious fear. If they, unvexed by flight,
and unexcited by the pursuit, could yet deliberately
resolve that the fugitive should be shot down, rather
than suffered to escape, the event was surely not
improbable. I could listen no longer in silence.

“I hear you, sir—” I said, interrupting the fellow
who was styled Geoffrey, and who seemed the most
humane among them—“you coolly resolve that my
friend should be murdered. You cannot mean that
Webber will do such a deed? I will not believe
you. If you only think to annoy and frighten me,
you are mistaken. I am in your power, it is true,
and you may put me to death, as your companion,
who thinks to make up in cruelty what he lacks in


Page 281
courage, appeared just now to desire—but is this
your policy? What good can come of it? It will
neither help you in present flight nor in future
safety. As for my money, if it is that which you
want, it is quite as easy for you to take that as my
life. All that I have is in your possession. My
horse, my clothes, my cash—they are all together;
and having these, the mere shedding of my blood can
give you no pleasure, unless you have been schooled
among the savages. As for your men overtaking
my friend, I doubt it, unless their horses are the
best blood in the country. That which he rides
I know to be so, and cannot easily be caught.”

“A bullet will make up the difference,” said
Geoffrey; “and sure as you lie there, Webber will
shoot if he finds he can't catch. He can't help doing
so if he hopes to get off safely himself. If the
chap escapes, he brings down old Grafton upon us,
and Webber very well knows the danger of falling
into his clutches. We must tie you both up for to-night
if we can. As for killing you or scaring you,
we want to do neither one nor t'other, if we can
tie up your hands and shut up your mouths for the
next twenty-four hours. If we can't—”

He left the rest of the sentence unuttered, meaning
I suppose to be merciful in his forbearance; and
nothing more was said by either of us for some
time, particularly affecting the matter in hand; a full


Page 282
hour had elapsed, and yet we heard nothing of the
pursuit. My anxiety began to be fully shared among
my keepers. They went out to the road, alternately
at frequent periods, to make inquiries, but without
success. Geoffrey at length, after going forth
with my gambling acquaintance of the Tuscaloosa
tavern, for about fifteen minutes, returned, bringing
in with them, to my great surprise, the saddle bags
of William Carrington. In my first fear, I demanded
if he was taken, and my surprise was great, when
they told me he was not.

“How then came you by those saddle bags?”
was my question.

“What! are they his?” replied Geoffrey.


“Then he's taken your horse, and not his own,”
was the answer; “for we found these on one of the
nags that you brought with you.”

They were not at all dissatisfied with the exchange,
when they discovered the contents, which
they soon got at, in spite of the lock, by slashing the
leather open with their knives in various places.
The silver dollars rolled from the handkerchief in
which they had been wrapped, in every direction
about the floor, and were scrambled after by two of
the fellows, with the avidity of urchins gathering
nuts. But, I observed that they put carefully together
all that they took from the saddle bags, as if


Page 283
with reference to a common division of the spoil.
The few clothes which the bags contained were
thrown out without any heed upon the floor, but
not till they had been closely examined in every
part for concealed money. They got a small roll of
bills along with the silver, but I was glad when I recollected
that William had the greater sum in his
bosom. Poor fellow—at that moment I envied him
his escape. I thought him fortunate; and regarded
myself as the luckless wretch whom fate had frowned
upon, only. Alas! for him I envied—my short-sightedness
was pitiable. Little did I dream, or he
apprehend, the dreadful fate that lay in his path.