“No! Go ahead with your story.”
“One day we sat down to dinner. Marm had made some apple-dumplin’ that day, and ‘twas good, you bet. Well, I see Bill a-eyin’ the dumplin’ as he shoveled in the meat and pertaters, and I knowed he meant to get more’n his share. Now, I’m fond of dumplin’ as well as Bill, and I didn’t like it. Well, we was both helped and went to eatin’. When I was half through I got up to pour out some water. When I cum back to the table Bill had put away his plate, which he had cleaned off, and was eatin’ my dumplin’.”
“What did you say?” inquired the gentleman from Pike, interested.
“I said: ‘Bill, you’re my cousin, but you’ve gone too fur.’ He laffed, and we went into the field together to mow. He was just startin’ on his swath when I cum behind him and cut his head clean off with my scythe.”
Joe had difficulty in suppressing his laughter, but Mr. Bickford looked perfectly serious.
“Why, that was butchery!” exclaimed the Pike man, startled. “Cut off his head with a scythe?”
“I hated to, bein’ as he was my cousin,” said Joshua, “but I couldn’t have him cum any of them tricks on me. I don’t see as it’s any wuss than shootin’ a man.”
“What did you do with his body?” asked Joe, commanding his voice.
“Bein’ as ’twas warm weather, I thought I’d better bury him at once.”
“Were you arrested?”
“Yes, and tried for murder, but my lawyer proved that I was crazy when I did it, and so I got off.”
“Do such things often happen at the North?” asked the Pike County man.
“Not so often as out here and down South, I guess,” said Joshua. “It’s harder to get off. Sometimes a man gets hanged up North for handlin’ his gun too careless.”
“Did you ever kill anybody else?” asked the Pike man, eying Joshua rather uneasily.
“No,” said Mr. Bickford. “I shot one man in the leg and another in the arm, but that warn’t anything serious.”
It was hard to disbelieve Joshua, he spoke with such apparent frankness and sincerity. The man from Pike County was evidently puzzled, and told no more stories of his own prowess. Conversation, died away, and presently all three were asleep.
THE EVENTS OF A NIGHT
The Pike County man was the first to fall asleep. Joe and Mr. Bickford lay about a rod distant from him. When their new comrade’s regular breathing, assured Joe that he was asleep, he said:
“Mr. Bickford, what do you think of this man who has joined us?”
“I think he’s the biggest liar I ever set eyes on,” said Joshua bluntly.
“Then you don’t believe his stories?”
“I believe them as much as that yarn of yours about your Cousin Bill,” returned Joe, laughing.
“I wanted to give him as good as he sent. I didn’t want him to do all the lyin’.”