“Beau’s very shaky around the hams an’ knees,” said Box Izard; “he’s been a good figger, but even figgers can lie ef they stand up too long.”
The little boy unclosed his eyes and looked around on all those kindly, watching faces.
“Did anybody fire a gun?” he said. “Oh! no. I was only dreaming that I was hunting with father, and he shot at the beautiful pheasants that were making such a whirring of wings for me. It was music. When can I hunt with father, dear gentlemen?”
They all felt the tread of the mighty hunter before the Lord very near at hand—the hunter whose name is Death.
“There are little tiny birds along the beach,” muttered the boy. “They twitter and run into the surf and back again, and I am one of them! I must be, for I feel the water cold, and yet I see you all, so kind to me! Don’t whistle for me now; for I don’t get much play, gentlemen! Will the Speaker turn me out if I play with the beach birds just once? I’m only a little boy working for my mother.”
“Dear Uriel,” whispered Reybold, “here’s Old Beau, to whom you once spoke angrily. Don’t you see him?”
The little boy’s eyes came back from far-land somewhere, and he saw the ruined gamester at his feet.
“Dear Beau,” he said, “I can’t get off to go home with you. They Avon’t excuse me, and I give all my money to mother. But you go to the back gate. Ask for Joyce. She’ll give you a nice warm meal every day. Go with him, Mr. Reybold! If you ask for him it will be all right; for Joyce—dear Joyce!—she loves you.”
The beach birds played again along the strand; the boy ran into the foam with his companions and felt the spray once more. The Mighty Hunter shot his bird—a little cripple that twittered the sweetest of them all. Nothing moved in the solemn chamber of the committee but the voice of an old forsaken man, sobbing bitterly.
The funeral was over, and Mr. Reybold marveled much that the Judge had not put in an appearance. The whole committee had attended the obsequies of Crutch and acted as pall-bearers. Reybold had escorted the page’s sister to the Congressional cemetery, and had observed even old Beau to come with a wreath of flowers and hobble to the grave and deposit them there. But the Judge, remorseless in death as frivolous in life, never came near his mourning wife and daughter in their severest sorrow. Mrs. Tryphonia Basil, seeing that this singular want of behavior on the Judge’s part was making some ado, raised her voice above the general din of meals.
“Jedge Basil,” she exclaimed, “has been on his Tennessee purchase. These Christmas times there’s no getting through the snow in the Cumberland Gap. He’s stopped off thaw to shoot the—ahem!—the wild torkey—a great passion with the Jedge. His half-uncle, Gineral Johnson, of Awkinso, was a torkey-killer of high celebrity. He was a Deshay on his Maw’s side. I s’pose you haven’t the torkey in the Dutch country, Mr. Reybold?”