A ROMANCE OF BILLY-GOAT HILL
A ROMANCE OF BILLY-GOAT HILL
ALICE HEGAN RICE
Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch
Lovey Mary Sandy Etc.
By GEORGE WEIGHT
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"Do you believe in love Doctor?"
The Colonel leaned back upon his knees and glared at Morley
There was a sharp report a smothered groan then a heavy fall
She held it to the flame and watched it burn to ashes on the hearth
Maria began to cry and forgot to jolt the Boarder
Mrs. Sequin paused with her hand on the banister
"It was a great wrong I did you Don; can you forgive me?"
"Tell me quick! How do you know about the shooting?"
It was springtime in Kentucky gay irresponsible Southern
springtime that comes bursting impetuously through highways and
byways heedless of possible frosts and impossible fruitions. A
glamour of tender new green enveloped the world and the air was sweet
with the odor of young and growing things. The brown river streaked
with green where the fresher currents of the creeks poured in circled
the base of a long hill that dominated the landscape from every
In spite of the fact that impertinent railroads were beginning to
crawl about its feet and the flotsam and jetsam of the adjacent city
were gradually being deposited at its base it nevertheless reared its
granite shoulders proudly and defiantly against the sky.
From the early days when the hill and rich surrounding farm lands had
been granted to the old pioneer William Carsey one generation of
Carseys after another had lived in the stately old mansion that now
stood like the last remaining fortress against the city's invasion.
Sagging cornices and discolored walls had not dispelled the atmosphere
of contentment that enveloped the place an effect heightened by the
wide front porch which ran straight across the face of it like a
broad complacent smile. Some old houses like old gallants bear an
unmistakable air of past prosperity of past affairs. Romance has
trailed her garments near them and the fragrance lingers.
Thornwood shabby and neglected could still afford to drowse in the
sunshine and smile over the past. It remembered the time when its
hospitality was the boast of the countryside when its stables held
the best string of horses in the State; when its smokehouse now
groaning under a pile of lumber sheltered shoulders of pork and
sides of bacon and long lines of juicy sugar-cured hams; when the
cellar quartered battalions of cobwebby bottles that stood at
attention on the low hanging shelves. It was a house ripe with
experience and mellow with memories a wise old sophisticated house
that had had its day and enjoyed it and now through with ambitions
and through with striving had settled down to a peaceful old age.
On this particular Sunday afternoon Colonel Bob Carsey the third of
his name sat on the porch in a weather-beaten mahogany rocker making
himself a mint julep. He was a stout elderly gentleman and like the
rocking chair was weather-beaten and of a slightly mahogany hue. His
features having long ago given up the struggle against encroaching
flesh were now merely slight indentures and mild protuberances with
the exception of the eyes which still blazed away defiantly like
twinkling lights at the end of a passage. Across his feet with nose on
paws lay a dog and about him was scattered a profusion of fishing
The Colonel carefully crushing the mint between his stubby fingers
stirred it with the sugar at the bottom of his tall glass; then
resting the concoction on the broad arm of the rocker and without
turning his head lifted his voice in stentorian command:
No answer. He turned his head slightly to the left in the general
direction of the negro cabins whose roofs could be seen through the
trees and sent another summons hurtling through the bushes:
Again he waited and again there was no response. The Colonel sighed
resignedly and spreading a large bordered handkerchief over his
obliterated features clasped his fat hands with some difficulty about
his ample girth and slept. When he awoke he began exactly where he
had left off only this time turning his head slightly to the right
and sending his command toward the kitchen wing.
A door slammed somewhere in the distance and presently a shuffling of
feet was heard in the hall and a small alert old negro presented
himself to his master with an air of cheerful conciliation.
The Colonel did not turn his head; he gazed with an air of great
injury at the tops of the locust trees clasping his tumbler as it
rested on the arm of the rocker.
"Jimpson" he began after the culprit had suffered his silence some
"Now Cunnel" began Jimpson nervously. He had evidently rehearsed
this scene in the past.
"Just answer my questions" insisted the Colonel. "_Is_ this my
"Yas sir but Carline she--"
"And are you my nigger?" persisted the Colonel plaintively.
"Yas sir; but you see Carline--"
"And haven't I for twenty years" persisted the Colonel "been taking
a mint julep at half past two on Sunday afternoons?"
"Yas sir I was a comin'--"
"Then you don't regard it as an unreasonable request that a gentleman
should ask his own nigger in his own house to bring him a small
piece of ice?" The Colonel's sense of injury was becoming so
overpowering that the offender might have been crushed by contrition
had not a laugh made them both look up.
Standing in the doorway was a young girl in a short riding habit and
a small hat of red felt that was carelessly pinned to her bright
tumbled hair. Her eyes were dark and round like those of a child and
they danced from object to object as if eager to miss none of the good
things that the world had to offer. Joy of life and radiant youth
seemed to flash from her face and figure.
"What's the matter Squire Daddy?" she asked pausing on the
threshold. "Mad again?" The Colonel's head twitched in her direction
but he held it stiff.
"Well please don't kill Uncle Jimpson 'til he finds my gloves. I
don't know where I took them off."
"Yas 'm Miss Lady" Jimpson welcomed the diversion. "I'll find 'em
jes as soon as I git yer Paw his ice."
"Oh Daddy'll wait won't you Dad? I'm in a hurry."
For a moment Jimpson and the Colonel eyed each other then the
Colonel's gaze shifted.
"I'll git de ice fer you on my way back" Jimpson whispered
reassuringly. "I spec' dat chile _is_ in a hurry."
The young lady in question gave no appearance of haste as she perched
herself on the arm of her father's chair and presented a boot-lace
for him to tie.
"Going fishing Dad?" she asked.
"Yes" said the Colonel struggling to make a two-loop bow-knot. "Noah
Wicker and I are going down below the mill dam. Want to come along?"
"I can't. I'm going riding."
"That's good. Who with?"
"With Don Morley."
The smile that had returned to the Colonel's face during this
conversation contracted suddenly leaving his mouth a round little
button of disapprobation.
"What in thunder is he doing up here anyhow; why don't he go on back
to town where he belongs?"
"Don?" Miss Lady pretended to effect a part in the few straggling
hairs that adorned his forehead. "Why he's staying over to the
Wickers' while he looks around for a farm. Here's a gray hair Daddy!
I'd pull it out only there are two more on that other side now than
there are on this."
"Buying a farm is he?" The Colonel waxed a deeper mahogany. "Well
this place is not for sale. I should think he could find something
better to do with his time than hanging around here. For two weeks I
haven't been able to sit on this porch for five minutes without having
him under my feet! What's the sense of his coming so often?"
Miss Lady caught him by the ears and turned his irate face up to her
"He comes to see me!" she announced emphasizing each word with a nod.
"He likes horses and dogs and me and I like horses and dogs and him.
But I like you too Daddy."
The Colonel refused to be beguiled by such blandishments.
"I'll speak to him when he comes. He needn't think just because he is
a city fellow he can take a daughter of mine racing all over the
country on Sunday afternoon!"
"Why Dad that's absurd! Don't you take me yourself almost every
Sunday? And don't I go with Noah and the Brooks boys whenever I
"Well you can't go to-day."
"But this is Donald's last day. He goes back to town to-night and he
may go abroad next week to stay ever and ever so long."
The Colonel brought his fist down on his knees: "I don't care a hang
where he goes. It's _you_ we are talking about. You've got to promise
me not to go with him this afternoon."
"Because" the Colonel argued feebly "because it's Sunday."
Miss Lady sat for a moment looking straight before her and there was a
contraction of her lips that might have passed for a comic imitation
of her father's had it not softened into a smile.
"Suppose I won't promise?" she said.
The Colonel's free hand gripped the arm of the chair and he looked as
if he had every intention in the world of being firm.
"You see if it is wrong for me to go riding on Sunday" went on Miss
Lady "it's wrong for you to go fishing. Suppose we both reform and
stay at home?"
The Colonel's eyes involuntarily flew to his cherished tackle lying
ready for action on the top step then they came back with a snap to
the top of a locust tree.
Miss Lady squeezed his arm and laughed: "Of course you don't want to
stay at home this glorious afternoon neither do I! Now that's
settled. Here comes Noah; I'll go and fix your lunch."
It was not by any means the first time the daughter of the house of
Carsey had scored in a contest with her father. His subjection had
begun on that morning now nearly twenty years ago when she had been
placed in his arms a motherless bundle of helplessness without even a
personal name to begin life with.
That question of a name had baffled him. He had consulted all the
neighbors considered all the possibilities in the back of the
dictionary and even had recourse to the tombstones in the old
cemetery but the haunting fear that in days to come she might not
like his choice held him back from a final decision. In the meanwhile
she was "The Little Lady" then "Lady" and finally through the
negroes it got to be "Miss Lady." So the Colonel weakly compromised in
the matter by deciding to wait until she was old enough to name
herself. When that time arrived she stubbornly refused to exchange her
nickname for a real one. A halfhearted effort was made to harness her
up to "Elizabeth" but she flatly declined to answer to the
She and Noah Wicker the son of a neighboring farmer had run wild on
the big place and it was Miss Lady who invariably got to the top of
the peach tree first or dared to wade the farthest into the stream.
All through the summer days her little bare legs raced beside Noah's
sturdier brown ones. She could handle a fishing rod as well as her
father could ride and drive and shoot and was on terms of easy
friendship with every neighbor who passed over the brow of Billy-goat
The matter of education had been the first serious break in this
idyllic existence. After romping through the country school she had
had several young and pretty governesses all of whom had succumbed to
the charms of neighboring country swains and abandoned their young
charge to start establishments of their own. Then came wise counsel
from without and after many tears she was sent to a boarding school in
The older teachers at Miss Gibbs' Select School for Young Ladies still
recall their trials during the one year Miss Lady was enrolled. She
was pretty yes and clever and lovable oh yes! And at this point
usually followed a number of stories of her generosity and impulsive
kindness; "but" the conclusion always ran "such a strange wild
little creature so intolerant of convention in dress in education
in religion. Quite impossible in a young ladies' seminary."
After one term of imprisonment Miss Lady escaped to the outdoor world
again and implored her devoted "Dad" to let her grow up in ignorance
protesting passionately that she did not want puffs on her head and
heels on her shoes and whalebones about her waist. That she didn't
care whether X plus Y equaled Z or not and that going to church and
saying the same thing a dozen times drove all ideas of religion out
of her head. She would study at home she declared anything
everything he suggested if only she could do it in her own way out
So the sorely puzzled Colonel had procured her the necessary text-
books and she had plunged into her original method of self-education.
She usually fought out her mathematical battles down by the river
using a stick on the sand for her calculations; history she studied in
the fork of an old elm declaiming the most dramatic episodes aloud
to the edification of the sparrows.
In the long winter months her favorite haunt was a little unused room
over the front hall traditionally known as the library. Its only
possible excuse for the name was its one piece of furniture a
battered secretary containing a small collection of musty volumes that
did credit to the taste of some long-departed Carsey.
Miss Lady had discovered the library in her paper-doll days and had
ruthlessly clipped small bonneted ladies with flounced skirts from
magazines that dated back to the first year of publication. Later she
had discovered that some of the ladies had jokes on their backs or
rather pieces of jokes the rest of which she hunted up in the old
magazines. It was an easy step from the magazines to the books and in
time she knew them all from the little dog-eared copy of Horace in
the upper left-hand corner to the fat Don Quixote in the lower right.
In this neglected little room with its festoons of cobwebs its musty
smell and its sense of old forgotten things and people she would
tuck herself away with a pocket full of apples to study and read by
The Colonel had done his part and she was determined to do hers; for
three years she kept sturdily at it devouring the things she could
understand and blithely skipping those she could not extracting
meanwhile a vast amount of pleasure out of each passing day. For the
thing that differentiated Miss Lady from the rest of her fellow kind
was that she was usually glad. She liked to get up in the morning and
to go to bed at night a peculiarity in itself sufficiently great to
individualize her. She greeted each new experience with enthusiasm and
managed to extract the largest possible quota of happiness out of the
smallest and most insignificant occasion.
As she went singing through the hall the Colonel tried to frown over
his glasses but he was only partially successful. She was too
satisfying a sight with her shining hair and eyes and lithe supple
figure every motion of which bespoke that quick unconscious freedom
of body peculiar to children and those favored of the gods who never
The tall awkward young man who had by this time arrived at the porch
followed the Colonel's gaze and then without speaking sat down on
the steps and clasped his hands about his knees. Noah Wicker's
awkwardness however manifest to others was evidently a matter of
small moment to him. He had apparently accepted the companionship of
unmanageable arms and legs without question and without
embarrassment. His stubby blond hair rose straight from a high broad
forehead and grew down in square patches in front of his ears. His
eyes small and steady surveyed the world with profound indifference.
When Miss Lady disappeared the Colonel turned upon him suddenly:
"What about this rich young fellow over at your house? Who is he
"Morley?" Noah crossed his knees deliberately. "Why he's a brother-
in-law of Mr. Sequin."
"Not Basil Sequin the president of the People's Bank! You don't say!"
The Colonel paused for a moment to digest this fact then he went on:
"Hell-bent on farming I hear; wants your father to look around for a
This not being in the form of a question Noah conserved his energies.
"Don't amount to a hill of beans I'll warrant" continued the
Colonel with a watchful eye on Noah for denial or confirmation but
Noah was noncommittal. "When a fellow gets to be twenty-three years
old and can't find anything better to do than to run around the
country spending his money and playing with the girls there's a
screw loose somewhere. What does he know about stock-farming?"
"Says he's been reading up."
"Fiddlesticks!" roared the Colonel. "You can't learn farming out of a
book! What does he know about horses?"
"Oh! He's on to horses all right" Noah grinned ambiguously. "You and
I couldn't teach him anything about horses."
"Can he shoot?"
"Can't hit a barn door."
The Colonel heaved a deep sigh drained the last drops from his
tumbler then leaned forward confidentially:
"Noah Wicker do you like that young chap?"
"Like him?" Noah looked up in surprise. "Why everybody likes Don
"I don't" said the Colonel fiercely. "Here he comes now. I wish you'd
look at that!"
A headlong young man in model riding costume astride a bob-tailed
sorrel rashly took a fence where gate there was none and came
cantering across the Colonel's favorite stretch of blue grass.
"Awfully sorry to have cut across Colonel!" he called out in tones
that spoke little contrition. "Slipped my trolley as usual and got
lost in the bullrushes. Hope I haven't kept Miss Lady waiting?"
The Colonel rose and extended a hand of welcome. A true Kentuckian may
commit murder and still be a gentleman but to fail in hospitality is
to forfeit even his own self-respect.
"My daughter Mr. Morley will be out presently" he announced with
"And how are you Mike?" went on young Morley stooping to pat the
dog; "didn't mean to cut you old fellow 'pon my word I didn't."
The dog a shaggy beast with small plaintive eyes looking out from a
fringe of wiry hair expressed his appreciation of this attention with
all the emotion a stump of tail would permit.
"It's a bully day!" continued the visitor with enthusiasm wiping his
wrists and forehead and tossing his hair back. "If I weren't going to
town to-night I'd ask you to take me fishing Colonel. Hello! What
kind of a reel is that?"
Now the article which had attracted attention happened to be an
invention of the Colonel's something he had been working on for a
long time so he could not resist explaining its unique qualities.
"Well I'll be hanged!" said Morley turning it over and over
admiringly. "If that isn't the cleverest thing I ever saw. This little
screw regulates the slack doesn't it? Does your legal mind get on to
"It was a great job to get that to fit" said the Colonel nattered in
spite of himself. "Took me the best part of a week to puzzle out that