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First Keeper.
—“Under this thick-grown brake we 'll shroud ourselves:
For through this laund anon the deer will come.”
— “And, for the time shall not seem tedious,
I 'll tell thee what befell me on a day
In this self-place where now we mean to stand.”

King Henry VI.

Cain Smallin's deer-drive was now in the full tide of
success. The ridge, or bench, along whose “backbone”
ran the road which has been referred to, was admirably
adapted for the style of hunting now in progress. On
one side of it yawned the deep ravine down whose fern-bedded
declivity the mountaineer was conducting the
drive; whilst, on the other side, at the foot of a continuous
steep precipice, the river foamed and brawled and
dashed madly down the rocky descent, as if it fled from
some horror in the mountains. As the bench gradually
descended the mountain-side, however, approaching the
valley, its perpendicular escarpments became less
savage, and began to slope more gently, until near the
foot of the mountain, they changed into cool beautiful
glades running by almost imperceptible descent into the
water. It was along that part of the road which passed
through these glades, just commencing the ascent of the
mountain, that the standers had been posted; in the
expectation that the deer, naturally seeking the lower
parts of the ridge by which to cross over to the water,
would come in gun-range of some of the party.


Page 12

Nor was this anticipation disappointed. It was not
long before the mountaineer, who seeing his dogs well
on trail had now begun to pick his way with more deliberation
amongst the huge fallen logs and boulders
which strewed the side of the ravine, was gratified by
the sharp crack of a rifle, quickly followed up with the
shout which announces the success of the lucky stander.

“Jim Razor's rifle,” muttered he, “Jim Razor's holler;
thar 's ven'zon, certin. And yan crazy Phil. Sterlin'
away off up yan mount'n, a-watchin' the sun rise an'
not a-carin' whether the dogs is come in or not! Ef
he 'd 'a' seen the sun rise as many times as I have, I
scarselie think he 'd be leavin' a fresh trail an' climbin'
the steepest bench this side o' old Smoky, for nothin'
but that! But them blasted colleges 'll ru— what is
old Ring a-doin' now?” said he, stopping short and listening.

Ring was the swifter of the two hounds: if both dogs
had been on trail of the same deer, Ring should have
arrived at the stand first; — he was still in full cry far
down the ravine.

“Lem me look for sign,” muttered the curious
driver, and bent himself close to the ground, attentively
scanning the clear spots in various directions.

His suspicions were soon verified. “Each dog 's got
his deer, an' I 'll be dad-blasted ef old Ring aint a'ter
the biggest buck in Smoky range! Whoop!”

With his customary yell the mountaineer turned and
began rapidly ascending the side of the ravine in order
to regain the road and make better time. Down this
unobstructed path he struck out with huge strides. He
hoped that, as sometimes happened when hard pressed,


Page 13
the stag had turned aside from the water with its deadly
line of standers, and had run in among the farms of the
cove, where the chase would be prolonged and would
become intensely exciting. As he arrived at the foot
of the ridge where the road turns off among the open
meadows, away from the water, an animated scene met
his eye. The standers, attracted by the continued and
excited trailing of old Ring had all gathered here and
were loading, firing, and talking as rapidly and as ineffectually
as possible. Not a hundred and fifty yards
distant, the stag, a noble, eight-pronged fellow, was
swimming rapidly towards the opposite bank of the
river, and was now more than half way to freedom.

The mountaineer joined his forces to the main army
immediately and commenced to fire “at will.”

“Whar 'd he cross the line?” inquired he, as he
rammed down his bullet.

“At Mr. Sterlin's stand!” replied some fiend in
human shape.

“Why did n't you kill him, Mr. Sterlin'?” shouted
Smallin in the ear of a well-dressed gentleman of forty-five
or fifty, whose countenance wore that half-foolish,
half-defiant expression that distinguishes the derelict
stander; and who was loading and firing his double
barrel energetically, although the deer was far out of
his range, in the apparent sweet hope of drowning in
noise and good intentions the memory of his unpardonable

“Well, Smallin, the — the fact is,” wiping the powder-grime
and perspiration from his eyes, “I, — I was reading,
and upon my word” — hastily pouring down a
handful of buck-shot — “I had no idea he was so near.


Page 14
Did you never lose a deer Mr. Smallin?” concluded
John Sterling, defiantly carrying the war over the border,
and at the same time discharging both barrels, with
a roar like a salvo of artillery among the thin-cracking
rifles. The victorious goddess reclined in the smoke of
John Sterling's double-barrel. Cain Smallin was too
indignant to reply.

“Whar 's the canoe?” asked he, turning to the crowd
that had gathered from the field at the unwonted firing.

“Jeems is gone up the creek a-fishin' in it!” replied
one of those disagreeable-information-furnishers,
of which every crowd boasts at least one.

“By Jove, what a pity to lose him!” said John Cranston,
a tall, black-mustached, wicked-eyed man, guest of
the Sterlings, and honored with this deer-drive.

“Hit's a maaster buck!” observed a native.

“The biggest I 've seed sense I was in the Smoky!”
echoed a second.

“How come he to git thru'?” inquired a late arrival,
drawing upon his devoted head a bodeful look of undying
revenge from John Sterling.

Amid all this confusion of questions and exclamations,
which were uttered far more quickly than they
have been read, the stag was gallantly breasting his way
through the water unheeding the shots, which fell far
wide of him. But who could have foretold Blücher?
Suddenly the fortunes of the day changed. The dripping
deer had emerged from the water and was in the
act of taking his first leap toward his hills and liberty,
when a puff of smoke floated from behind a bush a few
yards from him, the crack of a rifle smote upon the ears
of the disappointed hunters on the other side, and the


Page 15
poor buck, with a mighty bound, fell back upon his
antlers and lay still.

“Good!” shouted he of the wicked eyes: “Blücher
with his thirty thousand! And the day is ours!”

“Told you so, Smallin! Told you so, gentlemen!”
said John Sterling. “If I had n't let the buck pass, we
would n't have had half as much sport!” and the guilty
stander held up his head and waved his hand triumphantly,
like one conscious of being a great public benefactor.

“Them blasted Injuns!” said Smallin, whose indignation,
not yet subsided, seized upon the first ventworthy
object; “always a-sneakin' about an' a-eatin'
of some other person's meat! Well, a fool for luck,
they say!” with which comforting reflection the mountaineer
wheeled away, and winded his horn with vigorous
too-toos to fetch in the dogs.

Meanwhile the fortunate hunter on the other side,
whose dress — of an old slouch hat, homespun shirt and
trousers, and yellow moccasins — betokened his Indian
blood, had glided from his place of concealment, and
having “bled” the game stood quietly watching the red
stream flow, when Philip Sterling and Rübetsahl joined
the unsuccessful party. These two young gentlemen,
having descended to the untranscendental common-level
of humanity, suddenly became aware of the usual
“forms” of life.

“My father, — Mr. Rübetsahl!”

Hand-shaking, and so on.

“My friend, Mr. Cranston, — Mr. Rübetsahl!”

Philip noticed that at the first mention of Rubetsahl's
name John Cranston's face turned white, and his hand


Page 16
trembled a moment; but he quickly recovered himself,
and expressed his high sense, as in duty bound, of the
happiness which had fallen upon him in knowing Mr.

“And now, gentlemen,” cried John Sterling to his
son and his two guests, “it 's high breakfast-time;
wherefore I move that we adjourn to my house and discuss
a rib of the buck there, broiled as only old Ned
can broil it.”

The hearty old gentleman led the way towards Thalberg;
whither you, O 24,999, and I, albeit none of us
are invited, may follow, for even if I failed to make
you invisible, and John Sterling saw the whole crowd,
he would welcome you every one, — so big, so big was
his heart!

Now, I promise to quit apostrophizing when I get
fairly into my tale; but while we 're walking up this
slope behind old John, indulge me, I pray ye, in a
little of it done on mine own account. For how can I
forget that jocund party of friends with whom, in the
early fall of '60, I penetrated these mountains, on a

Can I forget the mighty hunter of the black eye and
beard whom in solemn convention we did dub (it was
the time of the Japanese invasion!) the Grand Tycoon;
or the six-footer uncle whom, being unfamiliar with the
Japanese gradations, we assigned him as Deputy Tycoon;
or old Ned, the French cook, whom the Deputy
touched off; or Cricket, the dog, who climbed on old
Ring's shoulders and stole the meat one night, as Ned
averred? Can I forget how, one divine morning, when
we had just returned to camp from the killing of a


Page 17
buck, and were taking our several ease (as Lorrie
said), recubans sub tegmine of certainly the most
patulæ fagi any of us ever saw, the Grand Tycoon, in
his lordly way, suddenly exclaimed, “Get out of the
way, old Ned, with your French fripperies; hand me
the side of that buck, there!” and how the Grand
Tycoon did then purvey him a long beechen wand
with a fork on the end thereof, did insert the same in
the ribbèd side of the deer, and did rest the whole
upon a twig deftly driven in juxtaposition with a bed of
glowing coals of the wood of hickory; and how the Grand
Tycoon did stand thereover with his muscular right arm
outstretched, like Hercules over the Lernean Hydra,
save that our Hercules held in his right hand a bottle
of diabolical hue wherefrom he ever and anon did drip
upon the crisping ribs a curious and potent admixture
of butter, hot water, lemon-juice, mustard, pepper, salt,
and wine; and how, presently, the Grand Tycoon came
to me and said, “Try that rib, —!” and how I took
hold of the rib with both hands, it being long as my
arm, and near as large, and did forthwith, after the
hyena fashion, bite into the same; and how as the
meat, with its anointments and juices, did fare slowly
down the passage appointed for such, the titillation
thereof upon the uvula or palate was so exquisite
that the world grew brighter upon a sudden, and
methought even the brook that ran hard by did murmer
a stave or two from the Drinking Song of Lucrezia?

Alas, and alas! O jocund hunters of the fall of '60,
how hath the “rude imperious surge” of the big wars
tossed us apart, hither and thither! The Grand Tycoon


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is sunken; he hath gone into a wood contract with
railroads, and old Ned languisheth. The Deputy beareth
scar of Gettysburg, and yet deeper scars beareth he;
I scribble; and poor Lorrie, the ever-genial, went, I
hear, at Shiloh, to the happy hunting-grounds!

Abiit ad plures; whither, I forget not, we also, O
Tycoon and jocund hunters, go soon to join him!