“I’ve come back to stay with ye,” he said.
Again she started to make denial, but he shook his head. “’Tain’t no use—I’m a-goin’ to stay this time,” he said, and he walked up the steps, pulling two or three dirty bills from his pocket with one hand and unbuckling his pistol belt with the other.
“Me an’ my nag’ll work fer ye an’ I’ll wear gal’s stockin’s an’ a poke-bonnet an’ do a gal’s work, if you’ll jus’ l’arn me whut I want to know.”
The funeral of old Hiram Sudduth, Marjorie’s grandfather on her mother’s side, was over. The old man had been laid to rest, by the side of his father and his pioneer grandfather, in the cedar-filled burying-ground on the broad farm that had belonged in turn to the three in an adjoining county that was the last stronghold of conservatism in the Blue-grass world, and John Burnham, the school-master, who had spent the night with an old friend after the funeral, was driving home. Not that there had not been many changes in that stronghold, too, but they were fewer than elsewhere and unmodern, and whatever profit was possible through these changes was reaped by men of the land like old Hiram and not by strangers. For the war there, as elsewhere, had done its deadly work. With the negro quarters empty, the elders were too old to change their ways, the young would not accept the new and hard conditions, and as mortgages slowly ate up farm after farm, quiet, thrifty, hard-working old Hiram would gradually take them in, depleting the old Stonewall neighborhood of its families one by one, and sending them West, never to come back. The old man, John Burnham knew, had bitterly opposed the marriage of his daughter with a “spendthrift Pendleton,” and he wondered if now the old man’s will would show that he had carried that opposition to the grave. It was more than likely, for Marjorie’s father had gone his careless, generous, magnificent way in spite of the curb that the inherited thrift and inherited passion for land in his Sudduth wife had put upon him. Old Hiram knew, moreover, the parental purpose where Gray and Marjorie were concerned, and it was not likely that he would thwart one generation and tempt the succeeding one to go on in its reckless way. Right now Burnham knew that trouble was imminent for Gray’s father, and he began to wonder what for him and his kind the end would be, for no change that came or was coming to his beloved land ever escaped his watchful eye. From the crest of the Cumberland to the yellow flood of the Ohio he knew that land, and he loved every acre of it, whether blue-grass, bear-grass, peavine, or pennyroyal, and he knew its history from Daniel Boone to the little Boones who still trapped skunk, mink, and muskrat, and shot squirrels in the hills with the same old-fashioned rifle, and he loved its people—his people—whether they wore silk and slippers, homespun and brogans, patent leathers and broadcloth, or cowhide boots and