Una of the Hill Country

Mary Newton Stanard
Una Of The Hill Country, by

Charles Egbert Craddock (AKA Mary Noailles Murfree) This eBook is
for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no
restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it
under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this
eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org
Title: Una Of The Hill Country 1911
Author: Charles Egbert Craddock (AKA Mary Noailles Murfree)
Release Date: November 19, 2007 [EBook #23550]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by David Widger

By Charles Egbert Craddock
The old sawmill on Headlong Creek at the water-gap of Chilhowee

Mountain was silent and still one day, its habit of industry suggested
only in the ample expanse of sawdust spread thickly over a level open
space in the woods hard by, to serve as footing for the "bran dance" that
had been so long heralded and that was destined to end so strangely.
A barbecue had added its attractions, unrivalled in the estimation of the
rustic epicure, but even while the shoats, with the delectable flavor
imparted by underground roasting and browned to a turn, were under
discussion by the elder men and the sun-bonneted matrons on a shady
slope near the mill, where tablecloths had been spread beside a crystal
spring, the dance went ceaselessly on, as if the flying figures were
insensible of fatigue, impervious to hunger, immune from heat.
Indeed the youths and maidens of the contiguous coves and ridges had
rarely so eligible an opportunity, for it is one of the accepted tenets of
the rural religionist that dancing in itself is a deadly sin, and all the
pulpits of the countryside had joined in fulminations against it Nothing
less than a political necessity had compassed this joyous occasion. It
was said to have been devised by the "machine" to draw together the
largest possible crowd, that certain candidates might present their views
on burning questions of more than local importance, in order to secure
vigorous and concerted action at the polls in the luke-warm rural
districts when these measures should go before the people, in the
person of their advocates, at the approaching primary elections.
However, even the wisdom of a political boss is not infallible, and
despite the succulent graces of the barbecue numbers of the ascetic and
jeans-clad elder worthies, though fed to repletion, collogued unhappily
together among the ox-teams and canvas-hooded wagons on the slope,
commenting sourly on the frivolity of the dance. These might be relied
on to cast no ballots in the interest of its promoters, with whose views
they were to be favored between the close of the feast and the final
dance before sunset.
The trees waved full-foliaged branches above the circle of sawdust and
dappled the sunny expanse with flickering shade, and as they swayed
apart in the wind they gave evanescent glimpses of tiers on tiers of the
faint blue mountains of the Great Smoky Range in the distance,

seeming ethereal, luminous, seen from between the dark, steep, wooded
slopes of the narrow watergap hard by, through which Headlong Creek
plunged and roared. The principal musician, perched with his fellows
on a hastily erected stand, was burly, red-faced, and of a jovial aspect.
He had a brace of fiddlers, one on each side, but with his own violin
under his double-chin he alone "called the figures" of the old-fashioned
contradances. Now and again, with a wide, melodious, sonorous voice,
he burst into a snatch of song:
"Shanghai chicken he grew so tall, In a few days--few days, Cannot
hear him crow at all-----"
Sometimes he would intersperse jocund personal remarks in his
Terpsichorean commands: "Gents, forward to the centre--back--swing:
the lady ye love the best." Then in alternation, "Ladies, forward to the
centre--back----" and as the mountain damsels teetered in expectation
of the usual supplement of this mandate he called out in apparent
expostulation, "Don't swing him, Miss--he don't wuth a turn."
Suddenly the tune changed and with great gusto he chanted forth:
"When fust I did a-courtin' go, Says she 'Now, don't be foolish, Joe,'"
the tempo rubato giving fresh impetus to the kaleidoscopic whirl of the
dancers. The young men were of indomitable endurance and
manifested a crude agility as they sprang about clumsily in time to the
scraping of the fiddles, while their partners shuffled bouncingly or
sidled mincingly according to their individual persuasion of the most
apt expression of elegance. Considered from a critical point of view the
dance was singularly devoid of grace--only one couple illustrating the
exception to the rule. The youth it was who was obviously beautiful, of
a type as old as the fabled
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