“Which side air you on now?” asked Aaron contemptuously.
“You git out o’ my road!”
“Hit’s my road now,” said Aaron, tapping his Winchester, “an’ I’ve got a great notion o’ makin’ you git offen that ole bag o’ bones an’ dance fer me.” One of the Honeycutts turned in his saddle.
“Come on,” he shouted angrily, “an’ let that boy alone.”
“All right,” he shouted back, and then to his white, quivering, helpless quarry:
“I’ll let ye off this time, but next time—”
“I’ll be ready fer ye,” broke in Jason.
The lad’s mind was made up now. He put the old nag in a lope down the rocky creek. He did not even go to his grandfather’s for dinner, but turned at the river in a gallop for town. The rock-pecker, and even Mavis, were gone from his mind, and the money in his pocket was going, not for love or learning, but for pistol and cartridge now.
September in the Blue-grass. The earth cooling from the summer’s heat, the nights vigorous and chill, the fields greening with a second spring. Skies long, low, hazy, and gently arched over rolling field and meadow and woodland. The trees gray with the dust that had sifted all summer long from the limestone turnpikes. The streams shrunken to rivulets that trickled through crevices between broad flat stones and oozed through beds of water-cress and crow-foot, horse-mint and pickerel-weed, the wells low, cisterns empty, and recourse for water to barrels and the sunken ponds. The farmers cutting corn, still green, for stock, and ploughing ragweed strongholds for the sowing of wheat. The hemp an Indian village of gray wigwams. And a time of weeds—indeed the heyday of weeds of every kind, and the harvest time for the king weed of them all. Everywhere his yellow robes were hanging to poles and drying in the warm sun. Everywhere led the conquering war trail of the unkingly usurper, everywhere in his wake was devastation. The iron-weed had given up his purple crown, and yellow wheat, silver-gray oats, and rippling barley had fled at the sight of his banner to the open sunny spaces as though to make their last stand an indignant appeal that all might see. Even the proud woodlands looked ragged and drooping, for here and there the ruthless marauder had flanked one and driven a battalion into its very heart, and here and there charred stumps told plainly how he had overrun, destroyed, and ravished the virgin soil beneath. A fuzzy little parasite was throttling the life of the Kentuckians’ hemp. A bewhiskered moralist in a far northern State would one day try to drive the kings of his racing-stable to the plough. A meddling band of fanatical teetotalers would overthrow his merry monarch, King Barleycorn, and the harassed son of the Blue-grass, whether he would or not, must turn to the new pretender who was in the Kentuckians’ midst, uninvited and self-throned.