“What you hiding for?” he demanded, when the newly-made convert was discovered skulking in the dusky shadows of the pines beyond the farthest outlying wagon.
“I ain’t hidin’,” was the half-defiant answer.
“You’re a liar,” said Thomas Jefferson coolly, ducking skilfully to escape the consequences.
But there were no consequences. Young Pendry’s heavy face flushed a dull red,—that could be seen even in the growing dusk,—but he made no move retaliatory. Thomas Jefferson walked slowly around him, wary as a wild creature of the wood, and to the full as curious. Then he stuck out his hand awkwardly.
“I only meant it ‘over the left,’ Scrap, hope to die,” he said. “I allowed I’d just like to know for sure if what you done last night made any difference.”
Scrap was silent, glibness of tongue not being among the gifts of the East Tennessee landward bred. But he grasped the out-thrust hand heartily and crushed it forgivingly.
“Come on out where the folks are,” urged Thomas Jefferson. “Sim Cantrell and the other fellows are allowin’ you’re afeard.”
“I ain’t afeard,” denied the convert.
“No; but you’re sort o’ ’shamed, and that’s about the same thing, I reckon. Come on out; I’ll go ’long with you.”
Then spake the new-born love in the heart of the big, rough, country boy. “I cayn’t onderstand how you can hold out, Tom-Jeff. I’ve come thoo’, praise the Lord! but I jest natchelly got to have stars for my crown. You say you’ll go ’long with me, Tom-Jeff: say it ag’in, and mean it.”
Again the doubtful-curious look came into Thomas Jefferson’s gray eyes, and he would not commit himself. Nevertheless, one point was safely established, and it was a point gained: the miraculous thing called conversion was beyond question real in Scrap’s case. He turned to lead the way between the wagons. The lamps were lighted in the church and the people were filling the benches, while the choir gathered around the tuneless little cottage organ to practise the hymns.
“I—I’m studyin’ about it some, Scrap,” he confessed, half angry with himself that the admission sent the blood to his cheeks. “Let’s go in.”
It was admitted on all sides that Brother Crafts was a powerful preacher. Other men had wrestled mightily in Zoar, but none to such heart-shaking purpose. When he expatiated on the ineffable glories of Heaven and the joys of the redeemed, which was not too often, the reflection of the celestial effulgences could be seen rippling like sunshine on the sea of faces spreading away from the shore of the pulpit steps. When he spoke of hell and its terrors, which was frequently and with thrilling descriptive, even so hardened a scoffer as Japheth Pettigrass was wont to declare that you could hear the crackling of the flames and the cries of the doomed.
The opening exercises were over—the Bible reading, the long, impassioned prayer, the hymn singing—and the preacher stood up in a hush that could be felt, and stepped forward to the small desk which served for a pulpit.