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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Hoosier Schoolmaster: A Story Of Backwoods Life In Indiana - Chapter 17. A Council Of War
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The Hoosier Schoolmaster: A Story Of Backwoods Life In Indiana - Chapter 17. A Council Of War Post by :WhoDoesItReach Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :1493

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The Hoosier Schoolmaster: A Story Of Backwoods Life In Indiana - Chapter 17. A Council Of War

CHAPTER XVII. A COUNCIL OF WAR

Shocky, whose feet had flown as soon as he saw the final fall of Pete Jones, told the whole story to the wondering and admiring ears of Miss Hawkins, who unhappily could not remember anything at the East just like it; to the frightened ears of the rheumatic old lady who felt sure her ole man's talk and stubbornness would be the ruin of him, and to the indignant ears of the old soldier who was hobbling up and down, sentinel-wise, in front of his cabin, standing guard over himself.

"No, I won't leave," he said to Ralph and Bud. "You see I jest won't. What would Gin'ral Winfield Scott say ef he knew that one of them as fit at Lundy's Lane backed out, retreated, run fer fear of a passel of thieves? No, sir; me and the old flintlock will live and die together. I'll put a thunderin' charge of buckshot into the first one of them scoundrels as comes up the holler. It'll be another Lundy's Lane. And you, Mr. Hartsook, may send Scott word that ole Pearson, as fit at Lundy's Lane under him, died a-fightin' thieves on Rocky Branch, in Hoopole Kyounty, State of Injeanny."

And the old man hobbled faster and faster, taxing his wooden leg to the very utmost, as if his victory depended on the vehemence with which he walked his beat.

Mrs. Pearson sat wringing her hands and looking appealingly at Martha Hawkins, who stood in the door, in despair, looking appealingly at Bud. Bud was stupefied by the old man's stubbornness and his own pain, and in his turn appealed mutely to the master, in whose resources he had boundless confidence. Ralph, seeing that all depended on him, was taxing his wits to think of some way to get round Pearson's stubbornness. Shocky hung to the old man's coat and pulled away at him with many entreating words, but the venerable, bare-headed sentinel strode up and down furiously, with his flintlock on his shoulder and his basket-knife in his belt.

Just at this point somebody could be seen indistinctly through the bushes coming up the hollow.

"Halt!" cried the old hero. "Who goes there?"

"It's me, Mr. Pearson. Don't shoot me, please."

It was the voice of Hannah Thomson. Hearing that the whole neighborhood was rising against the benefactor of Shocky and of her family, she had slipped away from the eyes of her mistress, and run with breathless haste to give warning in the cabin on Rocky Branch. Seeing Ralph, she blushed, and went into the cabin.

"Well," said Ralph, "the enemy is not coming yet. Let us hold a council of war."

This thought came to Ralph like an inspiration. It pleased the old man's whim, and he sat down on the door-step.

"Now, I suppose," said Ralph, "that General Winfield Scott always looked into things a little before he went into a fight. Didn't he?"

"_To be sure," assented the old man.

"Well," said Ralph. "What is the condition of the enemy? I suppose the whole neighborhood's against us."

"_To be sure," said the old man. The rest were silent, but all felt the statement to be about true.

"Next," said Ralph, "I suppose General Winfield Scott would always inquire into the condition of his own troops. Now let us see. Captain Pearson has Bud, who is the right wing, badly crippled by having his arm broken in the first battle." (Miss Hawkins looked pale.)

"_To be sure," said the old man.

"And I am the left wing, pretty good at giving advice, but very slender in a fight."

"_To be sure," said the old man.

"And Shocky and Miss Martha and Hannah good aids, but nothing in a battle."

"_To be sure," said the basket-maker, a little doubtfully.

"Now let's look at the arms and accouterments, I think you call them. Well, this old musket has been loaded--"

"This ten year," said the old lady.

"And the lock is so rusty that you could not cock it when you wanted to take aim at Hannah."

The old man looked foolish, and muttered "_To be sure."

"And there isn't another round of ammunition in the house."

The old man was silent.

"Now let us look at the incumbrances. Here's the old lady and Shocky. If you fight, the enemy will be pleased. It will give them a chance to kill you. And then the old lady will die and they will do with Shocky as they please."

"_To be sure," said the old man reflectively.

"Now," said Ralph, "General Winfield Scott, under such circumstances, would retreat in good order. Then, when he could muster his forces rightly, he would drive the enemy from his ground."

"To be sure," said the old man. "What ort I to do?"

"Have you any friends?"

"Well, yes; ther's my brother over in Jackson Kyounty. I mout go there."

"Well," said Bud, "do you just go down to Spring-in-rock and stay there. Them folks won't be here tell midnight. I'll come fer you at nine with my roan colt, and I'll set you down over on the big road on Buckeye Run. Then you can git on the mail-wagon that passes there about five o'clock in the mornin', and go over to Jackson County and keep shady till we want you to face the enemy and to swear agin some folks. And then well send fer you."

"To be sure," said the old man in a broken voice. "I reckon General Winfield Scott wouldn't disapprove of such a maneuver as that thar."

Miss Martha beamed on Bud to his evident delight, for he carried his painful arm part of the way home with her. Ralph noticed that Hannah looked at _him with a look full of contending emotions. He read admiration, gratitude, and doubt in the expression of her face, as she turned toward home.

"Well, good-by, ole woman," said Pearson, as he took up his little handkerchief full of things and started for his hiding-place; "good-by. I didn't never think I'd desart you, and ef the old flintlock hadn't a been rusty, I'd a staid and died right here by the ole cabin. But I reckon 'ta'n't best to be brash(22)." And Shocky looked after him, as he hobbled away over the stones, more than ever convinced that God had forgotten all about things on Flat Creek. He gravely expressed his opinion to the master the next day.

FOOTNOTES:

(Footnote 22: The elaborate etymological treatment of this word in its various forms in our best dictionary is a fine illustration of the fact that something more than scholarship is needed for penetrating the mysteries of current folk-speech. _Brash_--often _bresh_--in the sense of refuse boughs of trees, is only another form of _brush_; the two are used as one word by the people. _Brash in the sense of brittle has no conscious connection with the noun in popular usage, but it is accounted by the people the same word as _brash in the sense of rash or impetuous. The suggestion in the Century Dictionary that the words spelled _brash are of modern formation violates the soundest canon of antiquarian research, which is that a word phrase or custom widely diffused among plain or rustic people is of necessity of ancient origin. Now _brash_, the adjective, exists in both senses in two or three of the most widely separated dialects of the United States, and hence must have come from England. Indeed, it appears in Wright's Dictionary of Provincial English in precisely the sense it has in the text.)

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