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THRICE have I seemed to view Eternity.
The night my first-born leapt against my side;
Once when I cried
To God and watched a star fall down the sky,
THE DEVIL'S INSTRUMENT
BY PAUL GREEN
For several days Tim Messer had been "y God, apt as not the whole shootthinking about his soul. And on this ing match is praying fer me over there hot August afternoon, as he gave his right now!' he muttered to himself, bottom corn its laying-by ploughing, pulling his mule around. his mind kept running on the mighty As yet he had made no step to go revival raging across the creek a mile near the meeting. But each night his away, at Little Bethel Church. Many Aunt Margaret had attacked him anew, a “big meeting' had come and gone holding up to him the conversion of without disturbing him. But the new this and that friend. And Tim had preacher from Johnson County had heard of their going, one by one, into stirred up the neighborhood with his the fold. Every day for the last week fervor, and Tim was beginning to feel there had been special prayers for him the effects of it. At the end of a row and Sam, the two hardened sinners
face with his sleeve, while he blinked
turbing of all had been the news that the day before Sam's sweetheart had prevailed upon him to go to hear the man of God.
'If he gives in, I'm ruint,' said Tim,
shooting a squirt of tobacco juice at the rest of their lives. At least, Tim a buzzing horse-guard, and watching would have. the dry dirt slide over the aprons of As he ploughed along, listening to his Carolina plough. He smiled wryly the maypops and hogweeds tear against and slapped his mule with the sweat the keen steel sweeps, he ran over in hardened line. “Well, so fur we've his mind some of the merry times they shore give 'em a run fer they money had seen together. And he soon forgot — me and him.'
the danger their partnership was being And they had. For nearly ten years subjected to. Stowing his tobacco far Sam and Tim had been traveling the back in his jaw, he broke out into road to the devil, as the holiness people one of the ballads he and Sam knew of Little Bethel termed their way of
'My li'l' goose swum down the river. living. And the cause of Tim's wicked
Ti-yiddy-yum-yum-yiddy-yum-ya. ness was his father's old fiddle, an If I'd been a gander I'd a-swum with her. – instrument accursed because of the Ti-yiddy-yum-yum-yiddy-yum-ya.' many reels played upon it by both Tim and his father before him, and A low roll of thunder sounded in the doubly a thing of evil in that old man west, and he looked up to see a long Messer had died suddenly one night dark bank of cloud stretched across while playing it before the fire. Sam the horizon, rising here and there into had been seduced by a banjo. To the a boiling sun-lit point. He sensed a Little Bethel people this was second shiver of delight running through the only to the fiddle in its harmfulness. corn as he stopped his mule and drew
These two had started playing to- in a great breath of cooling air. gether as boys. And most of their “That there rain 'll come pime'sparking' was done together. Not blank right,' he said, “jest as I 'm aa dance from Summerville to Dunn ending up the last row.' And then he could be held without Sam and Tim was startled by a sudden thought. to do the playing. No man along the 'I be dad-burn! Aunt Marg’ret said Cape Fear River could fiddle off “The that there preacher was going to pray Arkansas Traveler' talking-piece or fer rain to-day.' He hastily clucked ‘Leather Breeches' or 'Sally with her to his mule, uneasy at what might be Shoes Run Down,' the way Tim Messer a further and greater proof of the recould. Nor could anyone whang the vivalist's power. chords and hang up the minors like When he had finished stabling Sam Adams when he got down to Fannie, he went into the house. From business. And the way they both a case in the corner of the room he overflowed with variations at ‘balance took out his fiddle and sat by the winall' was a thing to remember. For dow. The rain soon settled into a years they had walked off with all the steady drone on the roof. Out of the first prizes at the fiddlers' conventions thankfulness of his heart he began to in the Lillington courthouse.
play snatches of melodies, his ‘made They were inseparable cronies, tunes,' as he called them. His music known far and wide as “Sam and Tim.' and reverie were interrupted by a Tim was long and leathery and silent stamping of feet on the porch, and Aunt Sam was short and jovial. Each found Margaret, a thin little old woman,
S dance from Summe Sam and Times be dad-burn!
Cape Fear Fen vele
thing ariations they
And they would have been content to farm their crops and play at dances
room. Spying him at the window, she called out fearfully, —
ere was eping si Tain't .
'Lord-a-mercy! don't set at that own blood and kin, I'd lak to know!' there window and the lightning bolts she burst out. a-flying. Put up that devil's instru. The rain began coming down more ment, and sich a black cloud coming heavily outside. He turned back into over the world!
the room and stood at the window, 'You better git you on some dry watching the flood of yellow water clothes, and I 'll build you a far,' was running by the house in the lane. all he answered. But after a moment 'Tim, don't you ever feel yer conhe rose and put the fiddle away. science hurt you a speck?' she queried When she came back from dressing, tremulously. he saw by the firelight that her eyes 'I ain't denying I 'm a sinner, a bad were red and swollen from weeping sinner,' he presently rejoined, drumat the meeting. And there was a sort ming on the window-pane.‘But someof elated look in them too that dis- how I don't want to change, and that's turbed him. 'Something musta- ezzactly how I feel.' happened to Sam,' was his first thought. “Yes, you don't want to change!' Finally he asked somewhat timidly, — she broke in warmly. 'You ’ve played
'Did — did you have a good meeting the devil's music till yer heart 's to-day, Aunt Marg'ret?'
hardened near 'bout beyond redemp'Why you ax that?' she quavered tion. Cain't you see where that fiddle's sharply, giving him a direct look. leading you? It sent yer pap to a
'I was jest — jest axing,' he said, sinner's grave, him playing fast tunes sitting down and gazing into the fire. fer loose-living men and women. And
‘Oh, it was a great outpouring of you 're tromping right in his steps.' the spirit!' she cried. 'God was with She twisted her thin hard hands tous. Brother Baxter prayed fer rain, gether. 'Brother Baxter told me to-day and see, it's come. But what's God's that worldly reels had led more men power to you, Tim?' she went on, turn- to destruction than you could think of, ing away her head. “You ain't one o' and you 'd orter take warning. O Tim, his children and don't seem lak you he's told us 'bout how the Philistines never will be
feasted and danced and sung whilst Foreseeing a repetition of last night's death was a-drawing nigh. And the scene, he got to his feet and said he'd sons and daughters of Job was snatched better go out and feed. But she mo- away in they hour of music and cutting tioned him to sit still.
up.' Here she cried out excitedly, 'Tim, I 've tried these many days 'Oh, he 's going to call the wrath of to git you to live the way yer ma 'd Old Moster down on you if you don't want you to. But they ain't no sign change yer ways.' o' you giving in. I got a feeling if you He eyed her uneasily as she sat ain't saved this meeting you won't shaking in her chair and wiping the never be this side the grave.
tears from her eyes. ‘Aunt Marg'ret,' We talked all that over yistiddy he called gently, trying to hide his and the day before, and you know how perturbation, 'we've had a monstrous I feel,' he spoke up unhappily. ‘And heap o' talk. Le's git our supper.' they ain't a bit o' use worrying over “No, I ain't. I promised all of 'em me,' he added a little warmly as he at the church I'd plead with you ag'in went to the door.
“How can I help worrying over yer prayers offered up fer you. And, immortal soul's salvation and you my Timmy, you got to be — saved.'
'Well, I 'll go feed up.' And he ing bitterly. He stirred miserably moved toward the door.
about the room, knowing nothing to ‘But you ain't heerd what the Lord's say. Soon the light failed in the yard done fer us this day,' she hurried on. outside, and the fire died down. He 'Sam has perfessed!' She looked at laid more wood on the coals, and they him in a kind of appealing triumph. sat in silence for an hour or more. At
He stood silent in the doorway, and last she dried her eyes and added, then went out to feed the mule and ‘Brother Baxter 's going to hold cow. The rain had stopped, and the a meeting here in this house Saddy earth sent up a warm steamy smell. night if you don't go to church before
of cloud that prophesied more rain nervously against the bare floor. during the night. “It shore is all a 'Please go to church to-morrow, won't purty sight,” he said to himself as he you?' stared out across his fields. But his But he would not promise. soul was not at peace. The feeling of Next morning they ate their breakdiscontent and wretchedness was grow- fast in silence. He told her she could ing stronger in him. “What 'n the drive Fannie to church, since it was too name o' Old Scratch 'll I do now with wet to plough. And he ignored the Sam gone?’he muttered.
dumb request in her eyes by saying His attention was suddenly at that he had to split stove-wood while
house. He turned and ran quickly knowing why, he ventured to remark across the porch and into the room. that he ‘mought go later.' Then he Aunt Margaret was standing near the hitched the mule to the road-cart and fireplace watching his fiddle-case burn- went to chopping wood. ing brightly. Jerking the old woman backward, he snatched the instrument from the flames. He opened the smoking case and found the fiddle wrapped After she had gone, he sat down on in its flannel unharmed. Old Mar- a block and fell into a deep musing. garet dropped in a chair, rocking to and for several hours he sat thinking things fro and sobbing,
'I wanted to save you, Tim. I was the sound of footsteps. Looking up, doing it all fer you,' she whimpered. he saw Sam, dressed in his Sunday best.
He laid the fiddle on the bed and “Well, I be durn!' he began delightthrew the ruined case back into the edly; then his face fell and he added fire. It blazed up and finally burned quietly, 'Hi, Sam.' itself out. Then he turned to her.
'Hi, Tim. How you come on?'. 'Aunt Marg'ret, it may be wrong to ‘Middling, I reckon, how you making play music and go to dances, I don't out?' know. But you got to promise me ‘Well as common, I guess.' never to tech that fiddle ag'in. The 'I thought it mought be better 'n day you do, I walk out ’n this house fer common,' Tim answered somewhat good, and that is the gospel truth. coldly.
'All right, have yer own way, Tim, Sam flushed slightly and said nothhave yer way,' she gulped. 'But it ing. breaks my heart to see — to see —' 'Set down on this here log if you She bowed her head in her apron, cry- won't hurt yer clothes.'
'It won't hurt 'em,' he replied slowly. Sawyer” ! I've hearn they 'lowed you
He sat down and began making 'n' me was in our prime that night.' marks on the ground with a stick. Then his face grew sober, and he ended For a moment Tim drummed nervously hurriedly, ‘But le's not talk o' that.' on his knee and then absently pulled 'Yeh, I reckon we'd better keep his tobacco from his pocket, bit off off ’n that subject, seeing as how things a chew, and handed the plug to Sam, is going. There was a trace of feeling who reached out for it eagerly. But in Tim's voice that Sam was quick to suddenly he let his hand drop to his notice. side.
'I don't blame you fer feeling out 'I cain't - cain't chew now,' he with me, Tim, I shore don't. And I stammered.
did n't have no idee o' going back on 'Excuse me, Sam, I'd clean forgot you the way I have, nuther. But fer the minute that you 'd been con- Maisie kept after me to go to meeting verted.'
jest one day. She even put it so strong 'Oh, that 's all right, Tim. I nearly as to say I need n't look at her no more forgot it myself.' He began digging if I did n't. And what could I do?' again with his stick. 'Brother Baxter Tim spat off towards a piece of pine says God 'll take away my taste fer it. bark and said nothing. But I reckon I ain't been consecrated 'I swear to Go-, I declare I did n't long enough yit,' he remarked some- mean to git no religion when I went. what shamefacedly.
But onct in that church and that 'I don't want to seem curious, preacher's eyes sot on me, I did n't said Tim, after they had sat in an em have no more chance than a fly in barrassing silence, but how does it syrup. He preached at me, Tim, and feel to have a change in life?'
the people prayed at me, and they cut 'I dunno ezzactly — sorter lost lak up worse in that time in the Bible or something,' was the mournful ac- where a whole county was converted knowledgment.
slick as a whistle. And what did I do Well, I reckon my time 'll come but git crazy or something, and jump next, Sam.
up and shout, “Glory to God I 'm 'Do you?' He looked eagerly around. saved.” That 's jest how it was.' 'I— I hope so.'
'It shore seems lak he's determined “Why you hope so fer?'
to convert everybody around here,' ‘Mebbe I ort not to hope so, but drawled Tim abstractedly. you 'n' me 's pulled together so long in making music that it seems lak we ‘But I wish you could have put it mought make a team of it in this new off till next month anyhow,' Tim conbusiness.'
tinued. 'Yeh, we shore have run double 'You do?' yoked many a day. It jest went ‘You must 've forgot we 're schedthrough my mind 'fore you come how uled to play over on Little River three we wound up at Sock Horton's Saddy weeks from now.' night a month ago.'
'I ain't forgot it, nuther,' was Sam's *Did n't we though!' Sam rejoined, quick reply. And all last night I breaking into a loud laugh. 'I can still did n't sleep nary a wink, thinking see the weaving of old Lizzie Ryall's 'bout what all this new way o' living 's thin legs plain as day. And, Tim, how going to mean. But it 's too late to we did put the gravy on “Mississippi worry now. I'm a changed man and