were the size of quarter-dollars. "I've struck an idee I don't want that fence rail for a brother-inlaw. Oh, my pap could jounce him with one arm tied."
"Rant hain't grown yit," I said. "He might grow thick. Already he's a high tall feller."
We went to stand by the sirup kettle, breathing the mellow steam hungrily, watching the golden form rise. Leander chunked the fire and U Z ladled the green skimmings into the sorghum hole. The hole was waist-deep and marked by a butterweed stalk. U Z joked us, "Dive in, boys, and you kin istand yore breeches in a corner tonight." We step;,ped warily.
i~' Old Gid came with Mrs. Buckheart to test the (Sirup, spinning drops off chips, tasting. Gid said,
Stir till it 'gins making sheep's eyes, and mind not to over-bile." He stared unbelievingly at the crowd. "Only a funeral occasion or a marrying would draw such a swarm, and I've heard o' nobody dying. Yet, for a host o' folks, they're terrible quiet."
"Bury some'un in the sorghum hole," U Z laughed, "and they'll liven up."
"I long to see the Law cat a few skims," Leander said, and Peep Eye was hiding behind him, hearing every word.
U Z said, "I'm for giving the oninvited something to recollect this stir-off by."
"Amen," Leander said.
Mrs. Buckheart spoke nervously. "We ought to o' saved a couple gallons o' juice for candy, to please the chaps. We've got more sirup now than can be sopped till jedgmcnt."
"Invited or not," Gid said, "I want folks to pleasure themselves. What's become o' the fiddlers?"
Leander shrugged. "Ever hear of a fiddler loving the Law? They left."
Old Gid cocked his chin and spoke low. "The size o' this crowd is onnatural. Something's drawed folks."
gimp's mouth opened, but he'd no chance to get a word in edgeways. Gid latched his thumbs on his galluses and spiked his elbows. "I'm not a born fool," he said. "Why, I know the magistrate come to speak a ceremony. Everybody knows. Even Peep Eye's got the fact writ on her face." He glanced defiantly at Mrs. Buckheart. "Woman!
MouN-rAIN LIFE AND WORK
That spindling Branders stranger couldn't make a hum-bird a living."
Mrs. Buckheart's neck reddened. "Stranger to nobody but you. You've ne'er tested his grit, to my knowing."
"Why a daughter o' mine would choose a shikepoke to live with is ontelling."
Peep Eye emerged from behind Leander. "Plurney worships the dirt betwixt Rant Brander's toes," she said. She threw her neck like a lien; she flicked a spiteful glance at me.
My hunger fled. I thought, "I'll not eat a bit o' Buckheart foam." I tossed the molassy spoon into the fire. I turned away and saw jimp whispering to U Z; I saw jimp thrust the brass knuckles into U Z's hand.
Old Gid snapped, "Tell that young Jake to git his growth."
"Speak to his face." Mrs. Buckhcart challenged. "Come, I'll acquaint you."
"Sick him, Pap," .imp crowcd happily.
Gid's brows raised. "Ah," he said. His woman had him cornered. "Ah," he mumbled, "I don't mind shaking Rant Branders's glass hand, but first let me blow a spark o' life into the gethcring." And just then jimp raised on tiptoe, calling, "Looky yonder. They's two fellers rooster-fightlng." Two fellows had their feet oil marks, their arms doubled. They smote each other.
"Be-dog," jimp cried, "wisht I was roosterfighting with soine'un my size." We hustled to see, crawling between folks' ]cgs, getting inside the circle.
The rooster- fightcrs halted and the gathering made a roar of joy for Old Gid stcpped into the ring, walked past Rant, and leveled a finger at Squire Letcher. Gid's voice rose good-naturedly. "Me and the square have a bone to pick. Allus ago we fit, and nary a one could whoop."
A flat smile withered on the squire's cheeks. He'd not the chance of a rabbit scrapping a ferret.
Gid said, "Let's move nigher the fire for light."
The crowd moved, leading the squire; it pushed and spread until the sorghum hole lay inside the the ring. The butterwccd stalk vanishcd. I saw Old Gid's boys bunching behind the crowd, their faces bright and tricky. U Z had left the kettle, edging close to Bailus; and both Lcander and Bailus grinned oddly at the and Jimp.