XXXVI Free Among the Dead 387
XXXVII Whose Yesterdays Look Backward 399
The revival in Paradise Valley, conducted by the Reverend Silas Crafts, of South Tredegar, was in the middle of its second week, and the field—to use Brother Crafts’ own word—was white to the harvest.
Little Zoar, the square, weather-tinged wooden church at the head of the valley, built upon land donated to the denomination in times long past by an impenitent but generous Major Dabney, stood a little way back from the pike in a grove of young pines. By half-past six of the June evening the revivalist’s congregation had begun to assemble.
Those who came farthest were first on the ground; and by the time twelve-year-old Thomas Jefferson, spatting barefooted up the dusty pike, had reached the church-house with the key, there was a goodly sprinkling of unhitched teams in the grove, the horses champing their feed noisily in the wagon-boxes, and the people gathering in little neighborhood knots to discuss gravely the one topic uppermost in all minds—the present outpouring of grace on Paradise Valley and the region round-about.
“D’ye reckon the Elder’ll make it this time with his brother-in-law?” asked a tall, flat-chested mountaineer from the Pine Knob uplands.
“Samantha Parkins, she allows that Caleb has done sinned away his day o’ grace,” said another Pine Knobber, “but I ain’t goin’ that far. Caleb’s a sight like the iron he makes in that old furnace o’ his’n—honest and even-grained, and just as good for plow-points and the like as it is for soap-kittles. But hot ’r cold, it’s just the same; ye cayn’t change hit, and ye cayn’t change him.”
“That’s about right,” said a third. “It looks to me like Caleb done sot his stakes where he’s goin’ to run the furrow. If livin’ a dozen years and mo’ with such a sancterfied woman as Martha Gordon won’t make out to toll a man up to the pearly gates, I allow the’ ain’t no preacher goin’ to do it.”
“Well, now; maybe that’s the reason,” drawled Japheth Pettigrass, the only unmarried man in the small circle of listeners; but he was promptly put down by the tall mountaineer.
“Hold on thar, Japhe Pettigrass! I allow the’ ain’t no dyed-in-the-wool hawss-trader like you goin’ to stand up and say anything ag’inst Marthy Gordon while I’m a-listenin’. I’m recollectin’ right now the time when she sot up day and night for more’n a week with my Malviny—and me a-smashin’ the whisky jug acrost the wagon tire to he’p God to forgit how no-’count and triflin’ I’d been.”
Thomas Jefferson had opened the church-house doors and windows and was out among the unhitched teams looking for Scrap Pendry, who had been one of a score to go forward for prayers the night before. So it happened that he overheard the flat-chested mountaineer’s tribute to his mother. It warmed him generously; but there was a boyish scowl for Japheth Pettigrass. What had the horse-trader been saying to make it needful for Bill Layne to speak up as his mother’s defender? Thomas Jefferson recorded a black mark against Pettigrass’s name, and went on to search for Scrap.