Story type: Literature
They were threshing on Farmer Jennings’s place when Daddy made his very characteristic appearance. Milton, a boy of thirteen, was gloomily holding sacks for the measurer, and the glory of the October day was dimmed by the suffocating dust, and poisoned by the smarting beards and chaff which had worked their way down his neck. The bitterness of the dreaded task was deepened also by contrast with the gambols of his cousin Billy, who was hunting rats with Growler amid the last sheaves of the stack bottom. The piercing shrieks of Billy, as he clapped his hands in murderous glee, mingled now and again with the barking of the dog.
The machine seemed to fill the world with its snarling boom, which became a deafening yell when the cylinder ran empty for a moment. It was nearly noon, and the men were working silently, with occasional glances toward the sun to see how near dinner-time it was. The horses, dripping with sweat, and with patches of foam under their harness, moved round and round steadily to the cheery whistle of the driver.
The wild, imperious song of the bell-metal cog-wheel had sung into Milton’s ears till it had become a torture, and every time he lifted his eyes to the beautiful far-off sky, where the clouds floated like ships, a lump of rebellious anger rose in his throat. Why should he work in this choking dust and deafening noise while the hawks could sail and sweep from hill to hill with nothing to do but play?
Occasionally his uncle, the feeder, smiled down upon him, his face black as a negro, great goggles of glass and wire-cloth covering his merry eyes. His great good-nature shone out in the flash of his white teeth, behind his dusky beard, and he tried to encourage Milton with his smile. He seemed tireless to the other hands. He was so big and strong. He had always been Milton’s boyish hero. So Milton crowded back the tears that came into his eyes, and would not let his uncle see how childish he was.
A spectator riding along the road would have remarked upon the lovely setting for this picturesque scene–the low swells of prairie, shrouded with faint, misty light from the unclouded sky, the flaming colors of the trees, the faint sound of cow-bells, and the cheery sound of the machine. But to be a tourist and to be a toiler in a scene like this are quite different things.
They were anxious to finish the setting by noon, and so the feeder was crowding the cylinder to its limit, rolling the grain in with slow and apparently effortless swaying from side to side, half buried in the loose yellow straw. But about eleven o’clock the machine came to a stand, to wait while a broken tooth was being replaced, and Milton fled from the terrible dust beside the measuring spout, and was shaking the chaff out of his clothing, when he heard a high, snappy, nasal voice call down from the straw-pile. A tall man, with a face completely masked in dust, was speaking to Mr. Jennings:–
“Say, young man, I guess you’ll haf to send another man up here. It’s poorty stiff work f’r two; yes, sir, poorty stiff.”
“There, there! I thought you’d cry ‘cavy,’” laughed Mr. Jennings. “I told you it wasn’t the place for an old man.”
“Old man,” snarled the figure in the straw. “I ain’t so old but I can daown you, sir,–yessir, condemmit, yessir!”
“I’m your man,” replied Jennings, smiling up at him.
The man rolled down the side of the stack, disappearing in a cloud of dust and chaff. When he came to light, Milton saw a tall, gaunt old man of sixty years of age, or older. Nothing could be seen but a dusty expanse of face, ragged beard, and twinkling, sharp little eyes. His color was lost, his eyes half hid. Without waiting for ceremony, the men clenched. The crowd roared with laughter, for though Jennings was the younger, the older man was a giant still, and the struggle lasted for some time. He made a gallant fight, but his breath gave out, and he lay at last flat on his back.
“I wish I was your age, young man,” he said ruefully, as he rose. “I’d knock the heads o’ these young scamps t’gether,–yessir!–I could do it, too!”
“Talk’s a good dog, uncle,” said a young man.
The old man turned on him so ferociously that he fled.
“Run, condemn yeh! I own y’ can beat me at that.”
His face was not unpleasant, though his teeth were mainly gone, and his skin the color of leather and wrinkled as a pan of cream. His eyes had a certain sparkle of fun that belied his rasping voice, which seemed to have the power to lift a boy clean off his feet. His frame was bent and thin, but of great height and breadth, bony and tough as hickory. At some far time vast muscles must have rolled on those giant limbs, but toil had bent and stiffened him.
“Never been sick a day ‘n my life; no, sir!” he said, in his rapid, rasping, emphatic way, as they were riding across the stubble to dinner. “And, by gol! I c’n stand as long at the tail of a stacker as any man, sir. Dummed if I turn my hand for any man in the state; no, sir; no, sir! But if I do two men’s works, I am goin’ to have two men’s pay–that’s all, sir!”
Jennings laughed and said: “All right, uncle. I’ll send another man up there this afternoon.”
The old man seemed to take a morbid delight in the hard and dirty places, and his endurance was marvellous. He could stand all day at the tail of a stacker, tirelessly pushing the straw away with an indifferent air, as if it were all mere play.
He measured the grain the next day, because it promised to be a noisier and dustier job than working in the straw, and it was in this capacity that Milton came to know and to hate him, and to associate him with that most hated of all tasks, the holding of sacks. To a twelve-year-old boy it seems to be the worst job in the world.
All day, while the hawks wheel and dip in the glorious air, and the trees glow like banks of roses; all day, while the younger boys are tumbling about the sunlit straw, to be forced to stand holding sacks, like a convict, was maddening. Daddy, whose rugged features, bent shoulders, and ragged cap loomed through the suffocating, blinding dust, necessarily came to seem like the jailer who held the door to freedom.
And when the dust and noise and monotony seemed the very hardest to bear, the old man’s cackling laugh was sure to rise above the howl of the cylinder.
“Nem mind, sonny! Chaff ain’t pizen; dust won’t hurt ye a mite.” And when Milton was unable to laugh, the old man tweaked his ear with his leathery thumb and finger.
Then he shouted long, disconnected yarns, to which Milton could make neither head nor tail, and which grew at last to be inaudible to him, just as the steady boom and snarl of the great machine did. Then he fell to studying the old man’s clothes, which were a wonder to him. He spent a good deal of time trying to discover which were the original sections of the coat, and especially of the vest, which was ragged and yellow with age, with the cotton batting working out; and yet Daddy took the greatest care of it, folding it carefully and putting it away during the heat of the day out of reach of the crickets.
One of his peculiarities, as Mrs. Jennings learned on the second day, was his habit of coming to breakfast. But he always earned all he got, and more too; and, as it was probable that his living at home was frugal, Mrs. Jennings smiled at his thrift, and quietly gave him his breakfast if he arrived late, which was not often.
He had bought a little farm not far away, and settled down into a mode of life which he never afterward changed. As he was leaving at the end of the third day, he said:–
“Now, sir, if you want any bootcherin’ done, I’m y’r man. I don’t turn m’ hand over f’r any man in the state; no, sir! I c’n git a hawg on the gambrils jest a leetle quicker’n any other man I ever see; yes, sir; by gum!”
“All right, uncle; I’ll send for you when I’m ready to kill.”
Hog-killing was one of the events of a boy’s life on a Western farm, and Daddy was destined to be associated in the minds of Shep and Milton with another disagreeable job, that of building the fire and carrying water.
It was very early on a keen, biting morning in November when Daddy came driving into the yard with his rude, long-runnered sled, one horse half his length behind the other in spite of the driver’s clucking. He was delighted to catch the boys behind in the preparation.
“A-a-h-h-r-r-h-h!” he rasped out, “you lazy vagabon’s? Why ain’t you got that fire blazin’? What the devil do y’ mean, you rascals! Here it is broad daylight, and that fire not built. I vum, sir, you need a thrashin’, the whole kit an bilun’ of ye; yessir! Come, come, come! hustle now, stir your boots! hustle y’r boots–ha! ha! ha!”
It was of no use to plead cold weather and damp chips.
“What has that got to do with it, sir? I vum, sir, when I was your age, I could make a fire of green red-oak; yessir! Don’t talk to me of colds! Stir your stumps and get warm, sir!”
The old man put up his horses (and fed them generously with oats), and then went to the house to ask for “a leetle something hot–mince pie or sassidge.” His request was very modest, but, as a matter of fact, he sat down and ate a very hearty breakfast, while the boys worked away at the fire under the big kettle.
The hired man, under Daddy’s direction, drew the bob-sleighs into position on the sunny side of the corn-crib, and arranged the barrel at the proper slant, while the old man ground his knives, Milton turning the grindstone–another hateful task, which Daddy’s stories could not alleviate.
Daddy never finished a story. If he started in to tell about a horse trade, it infallibly reminded him of a cattle trade, and talking of cattle switched him off upon logging, and logging reminded him of some heavy snow-storm he had known. Each parenthesis outgrew its proper limits, till he forgot what should have been the main story. His stories had some compensation, for when he stopped to try to recollect where he was, the pressure on the grindstone was released.
At last the water was hot, and the time came to seize the hogs. This was the old man’s great moment. He stood in the pen and shrieked with laughter while the hired men went rolling, one after the other, upon the ground, or were bruised against the fence by the rush of the burly swine.
“You’re a fine lot,” he laughed. “Now, then, sir, grab ‘im! Why don’t ye nail ‘im? I vum, sir, if I couldn’t do better’n that, sir, I’d sell out; I would, sir, by gol! Get out o’ the way!”
With a lofty scorn he waved aside all help and stalked like a gladiator toward the pigs huddled in one corner of the pen. And when the selected victim was rushing by him, his long arm and great bony hand swept out, caught him by the ear, and flung him upon his side, squealing with deafening shrillness. But in spite of his smiling concealment of effort, Daddy had to lean against the fence and catch his breath even while he boasted:–
“I’m an old codger, sir, but I’m worth–a dozen o’ you–spindle-legged chaps; dum me if I ain’t, sir!”
His pride in his ability to catch and properly kill a hog was as genuine as the old knight-errant’s pride in his ability to stick a knife into another steel-clothed brigand like himself. When the slain shote was swung upon the planking on the sled before the barrel, Daddy rested, while the boys filled the barrel with water from the kettle.
There was always a weird charm about this stage of the work to the boys. The sun shone warm and bright in the lee of the corn-crib; the steam rose up, white and voluminous, from the barrel; the eaves dropped steadily; the hens ventured near, nervously, but full of curiosity, while the men laughed and joked with Daddy, starting him off on long stories, and winking at each other when his back was turned.
At last he mounted his planking, selecting Mr. Jennings to pull upon the other handle of the hog-hook. He considered he conferred a distinct honor in this selection.
“The time’s been, sir, when I wouldn’t thank any man for his help. No, sir, wouldn’t thank ‘im.”
“What do you do with these things?” asked one of the men, kicking two iron candlesticks which the old man laid conveniently near.
“Scrape a hawg with them, sir. What do y’ s’pose, you numskull?”
“Well, I never saw anything–“
“You’ll have a chance mighty quick, sir. Grab ahold, sir! Swing ‘im around–there! Now easy, easy! Now then, one, two; one, two–that’s right.”
While he dipped the porker in the water, pulling with his companion rhythmically upon the hook, he talked incessantly, mixing up scraps of stories and boastings of what he could do, with commands of what he wanted the other man to do.
“The best man I ever worked with. Now turn ‘im, turn ‘im!” he yelled, reaching over Jennings’s wrist. “Grab under my wrist. There! won’t ye never learn how to turn a hawg? Now out with ‘im!” was his next wild yell, as the steaming hog was jerked out of the water upon the planking. “Now try the hair on them ears! Beautiful scald,” he said, clutching his hand full of bristles and beaming with pride. “Never see anything finer. Here, Bub, a pail of hot water, quick! Try one of them candlesticks! They ain’t no better scraper than the bottom of an old iron candlestick; no, sir! Dum your new-fangled scrapers! I made a bet once with old Jake Ridgeway that I could scrape the hair off’n two hawgs, by gum, quicker’n he could one. Jake was blowin’ about a new scraper he had….
“Yes, yes, yes, dump it right into the barrel. Condemmit! Ain’t you got no gumption?… So Sim Smith, he held the watch. Sim was a mighty good hand t’ work with; he was about the only man I ever sawed with who didn’t ride the saw. He could jerk a crosscut saw…. Now let him in again, now, he-ho, once again! Rool him over now; that foreleg needs a tech o’ water. Now out with him again; that’s right, that’s right! By gol, a beautiful scald as ever I see!”
Milton, standing near, caught his eye again. “Clean that ear, sir! What the devil you standin’ there for?” He returned to his story after a pause. “A–n–d Jake, he scraped away–hyare!” he shouted suddenly, “don’t ruggle the skin like that! Can’t you see the way I do it? Leave it smooth as a baby, sir–yessir!”
He worked on in this way all day, talking unceasingly, never shirking a hard job, and scarcely showing fatigue at any moment.
“I’m short o’ breath a leetle, that’s all; never git tired, but my wind gives out. Dum cold got on me, too.”
He ate a huge supper of liver and potatoes, still working away hard at an ancient horse trade, and when he drove off at night, he had not yet finished a single one of the dozen stories he had begun.
But pitching grain and hog-killing were on the lower levels of his art, for above all else Daddy loved to be called upon to play the fiddle for dances. He “officiated” for the first time at a dance given by one of the younger McTurgs. They were all fiddlers themselves,–had been for three generations,–but they seized the opportunity of helping Daddy and at the same time of relieving themselves of the trouble of furnishing the music while the rest danced.
Milton attended this dance, and saw Daddy for the first time earning his money pleasantly. From that time on the associations around his personality were less severe, and they came to like him better. He came early, with his old fiddle in a time-worn white-pine box. His hair was neatly combed to the top of his long, narrow head, and his face was very clean. The boys all greeted him with great pleasure, and asked him where he would sit.
“Right on that table, sir; put a chair up there.”
He took his chair on the kitchen-table as if it were a throne. He wore huge moccasins of moose-hide on his feet, and for special occasions like this added a paper collar to his red woollen shirt. He took off his coat and laid it across his chair for a cushion. It was all very funny to the young people, but they obeyed him laughingly, and while they “formed on,” he sawed his violin and coaxed it up to concert pitch, and twanged it and banged it into proper tunefulness.
“A-a-a-ll ready there!” he rasped out, with prodigious force. “Everybody git into his place!” Then, lifting one huge foot, he put the fiddle under his chin, and, raising his bow till his knuckles touched the strings, he yelled, “Already, G’LANG!” and brought his foot down with a startling bang on the first note. Rye doodle duo, doodle doo.
As he went on and the dancers fell into rhythm, the clatter of heavy boots seemed to thrill him with old-time memories, and he kept boisterous time with his foot, while his high, rasping nasal rang high above the confusion of tongues and heels and swaying forms.
“Ladies‘ gran’ change! Four hands round! Balance all! Elly-man left! Back to play-cis.”
His eyes closed in a sort of intoxication of pleasure, but he saw all that went on in some miraculous way.
“First lady lead to the right–toodle rum rum! Gent foller after (step along thar)! Four hands round–“
The boys were immensely pleased with him. They delighted in his antics rather than in his tunes, which were exceedingly few and simple. They seemed never to be able to get enough of one tune which he called “Honest John,” and which he played in his own way, accompanied by a chant which he meant, without a doubt, to be musical.
“HON-ers tew your pardners–tee teedle deedle dee dee dee dee! Stand up straight an’ put on your style! Right an’ left four–“
The hat was passed by the floor-manager during the evening, and Daddy got nearly three dollars, which delighted Milton very much.
At supper he insisted on his prerogative, which was to take the prettiest girl out to supper.
“Look-a-here, Daddy, ain’t that crowdin’ the mourners?” objected the others.
“What do you mean by that, sir? No, sir! Always done it, in Michigan and Yark State both; yes, sir.”
He put on his coat ceremoniously, while the tittering girls stood about the room waiting. He did not delay. His keen eyes had made selection long before, and, approaching Rose Watson with old-fashioned, elaborate gallantry, he said: “May I have the pleasure?” and marched out triumphantly, amidst shouts of laughter.
His shrill laugh rang high above the rest at the table, as he said: “I’m the youngest man in this crowd, sir! Demmit, I bet a hat I c’n dance down any man in this crowd; yes, sir. The old man can do it yet.”
They all took sides in order to please him.
“I’ll bet he can,” said Hugh McTurg; “I’ll bet a dollar on Daddy.”
“I’ll take the bet,” said Joe Randall, and with great noise the match was arranged to come the first thing after supper.
“All right, sir; any time, sir. I’ll let you know the old man is on earth yet.”
While the girls were putting away the supper dishes, the young man lured Daddy out into the yard for a wrestling-match, but some others objected.
“Oh, now, that won’t do! If Daddy was a young man–“
“What do you mean, sir? I am young enough for you, sir. Just let me get ahold o’ you, sir, and I’ll show you, you young rascal! you dem jackanapes!” he ended, almost shrieking with rage, as he shook his fist in the face of his grinning tormentors.
His friends held him back with much apparent alarm, and ordered the other fellows away.
“There, there, Daddy, I wouldn’t mind him! I wouldn’t dirty my hands on him; he ain’t worth it. Just come inside, and we’ll have that dancing-match now.”
Daddy reluctantly returned to the house, and, having surrendered his violin to Hugh McTurg, was ready for the contest. As he stepped into the middle of the room he was not altogether ludicrous. His rusty trousers were bagged at the knee, and his red woollen stockings showed between the tops of his moccasins and his pantaloon legs, and his coat, utterly characterless as to color and cut, added to the stoop in his shoulders; and yet there was a rude sort of grace and a certain dignity about his bearing which kept down laughter. They were to have a square dance of the old-fashioned sort.
“Farrm on,” he cried, and the fiddler struck up the first note of the Virginia Reel. Daddy led out Rose, and the dance began. He straightened up till his tall form towered above the rest of the boys like a weather-beaten pine tree, as he balanced and swung and led and called off the changes with a voice full of imperious command.
The fiddler took a malicious delight toward the last in quickening the time of the good old dance, and that put the old man on his mettle.
“Go it, ye young rascal!” he yelled. He danced like a boy and yelled like a demon, catching a laggard here and there, and hurling them into place like tops, while he kicked and stamped, wound in and out and waved his hands in the air with a gesture which must have dated back to the days of Washington. At last, flushed, breathless, but triumphant, he danced a final breakdown to the tune of “Leather Breeches,” to show he was unsubdued.
But these rare days passed away. As the country grew older it lost the wholesome simplicity of pioneer days, and Daddy got a chance to play but seldom. He no longer pleased the boys and girls–his music was too monotonous and too simple. He felt this very deeply. Once in a while he broke forth in protest against the changes.
“The boys I used to trot on m’ knee are gittin’ too high-toned. They wouldn’t be found dead with old Deering, and then the preachers are gittin’ thick, and howlin’ agin dancin’, and the country’s filling up with Dutchmen, so’t I’m left out.”
As a matter of fact, there were few homes now where Daddy could sit on the table, in his ragged vest and rusty pantaloons, and play “Honest John,” while the boys thumped about the floor. There were few homes where the old man was even a welcome visitor, and he felt this rejection keenly. The women got tired of seeing him about, because of his uncleanly habits of spitting, and his tiresome stories. Many of the old neighbors died or moved away, and the young people went West or to the cities. Men began to pity him rather than laugh at him, which hurt him more than their ridicule. They began to favor him at threshing or at the fall hog-killing.
“Oh, you’re getting old, Daddy; you’ll have to give up this heavy work. Of course, if you feel able to do it, why, all right! Like to have you do it, but I guess we’ll have to have a man to do the heavy lifting, I s’pose.”
“I s’pose not, sir! I am jest as able to yank a hawg as ever, sir; yes, sir, demmit–demmit! Do you think I’ve got one foot in the grave?”
Nevertheless, Daddy often failed to come to time on appointed days, and it was painful to hear him trying to explain, trying to make light of it all.
“M’ caugh wouldn’t let me sleep last night. A goldum leetle, nasty, ticklin’ caugh, too; but it kept me awake, fact was, an’–well, m’ wife, she said I hadn’t better come. But don’t you worry, sir; it won’t happen again, sir; no, sir.”
His hands got stiffer year by year, and his simple tunes became practically a series of squeaks and squalls. There came a time when the fiddle was laid away almost altogether, for his left hand got caught in the cog-wheels of the horse-power, and all four of the fingers on that hand were crushed. Thereafter he could only twang a little on the strings. It was not long after this that he struck his foot with the axe and lamed himself for life.
As he lay groaning in bed, Mr. Jennings went in to see him and tried to relieve the old man’s feelings by telling him the number of times he had practically cut his feet off, and said he knew it was a terrible hard thing to put up with.
“Gol dummit, it ain’t the pain,” the old sufferer yelled, “it’s the dum awkwardness. I’ve chopped all my life; I can let an axe in up to the maker’s name, and hew to a hair-line; yes, sir! It was jest them dum new mittens my wife made; they was s’ slippery,” he ended with a groan.
As a matter of fact, the one accident hinged upon the other. It was the failure of his left hand, with its useless fingers, to do its duty, that brought the axe down upon his foot. The pain was not so much physical as mental. To think that he, who could hew to a hair-line, right and left hand, should cut his own foot like a ten-year-old boy–that scared him. It brought age and decay close to him. For the first time in his life he felt that he was fighting a losing battle.
A man like this lives so much in the flesh, that when his limbs begin to fail him everything else seems slipping away. He had gloried in his strength. He had exulted in the thrill of his life-blood and in the swell of his vast muscles; he had clung to the idea that he was strong as ever, till this last blow came upon him, and then he began to think and to tremble.
When he was able to crawl about again, he was a different man. He was gloomy and morose, snapping and snarling at all that came near him, like a wounded bear. He was alone a great deal of the time during the winter following his hurt. Neighbors seldom went in, and for weeks he saw no one but his hired hand, and the faithful, dumb little old woman, his wife, who moved about without any apparent concern or sympathy for his suffering. The hired hand, whenever he called upon the neighbors, or whenever questions were asked, said that Daddy hung around over the stove most of the time, paying no attention to any one or anything. “He ain’t dangerous ‘t all,” he said, meaning that Daddy was not dangerously ill.
Milton rode out from school one winter day with Bill, the hand, and was so much impressed with his story of Daddy’s condition that he rode home with him. He found the old man sitting bent above the stove, wrapped in a quilt, shivering and muttering to himself. He hardly looked up when Milton spoke to him, and seemed scarcely to comprehend what he said.
Milton was much alarmed at the terrible change, for the last time he had seen him he had towered above him, laughingly threatening to “warm his jacket,” and now here he sat, a great hulk of flesh, his mind flickering and flaring under every wind of suggestion, soon to go out altogether.
In reply to questions he only muttered with a trace of his old spirit: “I’m all right. Jest as good a man as I ever was, only I’m cold. I’ll be all right when spring comes, so ‘t I c’n git outdoors. Somethin’ to warm me up, yessir; I’m cold, that’s all.”
The young fellow sat in awe before him, but the old wife and Bill moved about the room, taking very little interest in what the old man said or did. Bill at last took down the violin. “I’ll wake him up,” he said. “This always fetches the old feller. Now watch ‘im.”
“Oh, don’t do that!” Milton said in horror. But Bill drew the bow across the strings with the same stroke that Daddy always used when tuning up.
He lifted his head as Bill dashed into “Honest John,” in spite of Milton’s protest. He trotted his feet after a little and drummed with his hands on the arms of his chair, then smiled a little in a pitiful way. Finally he reached out his right hand for the violin and took it into his lap. He tried to hold the neck with his poor, old, mutilated left hand, and burst into tears.
“Don’t you do that again, Bill,” Milton said. “It’s better for him to forget that. Now you take the best care of him you can to-night. I don’t think he’s going to live long; I think you ought to go for the doctor right off.”
“Oh, he’s been like this for the last two weeks; he ain’t sick, he’s jest old, that’s all,” replied Bill, brutally.
And the old lady, moving about without passion and without speech, seemed to confirm this; and yet Milton was unable to get the picture of the old man out of his mind. He went home with a great lump in his throat.
* * * * *
The next morning, while they were at breakfast, Bill burst wildly into the room.
“Come over there, all of you; we want you.”
They all looked up much scared. “What’s the matter, Bill?”
“Daddy’s killed himself,” said Bill, and turned to rush back, followed by Mr. Jennings and Milton.
While on the way across the field Bill told how it all happened.
“He wouldn’t go to bed, the old lady couldn’t make him, and when I got up this morning I didn’t think nothin’ about it. I s’posed, of course, he’d gone to bed all right; but when I was going out to the barn I stumbled across something in the snow, and I felt around, and there he was. He got hold of my revolver someway. It was on the shelf by the washstand, and I s’pose he went out there so ‘t we wouldn’t hear him. I dassn’t touch him,” he said, with a shiver; “and the old woman, she jest slumped down in a chair an’ set there–wouldn’t do a thing–so I come over to see you.”
Milton’s heart swelled with remorse. He felt guilty because he had not gone directly for the doctor. To think that the old sufferer had killed himself was horrible and seemed impossible.
The wind was blowing the snow, cold and dry, across the yard, but the sun shone brilliantly upon the figure in the snow as they came up to it. There Daddy lay. The snow was in his scant hair and in the hollow of his wide, half-naked chest. A pistol was in his hand, but there was no mark upon him, and Milton’s heart leaped with quick relief. It was delirium, not suicide.
There was a sort of majesty in the figure half buried in the snow. His hands were clenched, and there was a frown of resolution on his face, as if he had fancied Death coming, and had gone defiantly forth to meet him.