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A Chilhowee Lily by Mary Noailles Murfree

Produced by David Widger


By Charles Egbert Craddock


Tall, delicate, and stately, with all the finished symmetry and distinction that might appertain to a cultivated plant, yet sharing that fragility of texture and peculiar suggestion of evanescence characteristic of the unheeded weed as it flowers, the Chilhowee lily caught his eye. Albeit long familiar, the bloom was now invested with a special significance and the sight of it brought him to a sudden pause.

The cluster grew in a niche on the rocky verge of a precipice beetling over the windings of the rugged primitive road on the slope of the ridge. The great pure white bloom, trumpet-shaped and crowned with its flaring and many-cleft paracorolla, distinct against the densely blue sky, seemed the more ethereal because of the delicacy of its stalk, so erect, so inflexibly upright. About it the rocks were at intervals green with moss, and showed here and there heavy ocherous water stain. The luxuriant ferns and pendant vines in the densely umbrageous tangle of verdure served to heighten by contrast the keen whiteness of the flower and the isolation of its situation.

Ozias Crann sighed with perplexity as he looked, and then his eye wandered down the great hosky slope of the wooded mountain where in marshy spots, here and there, a sudden white flare in the shadows betokened the Chilhowee lily, flowering in myraids, holding out lures bewildering in their multitude.

"They air bloomin' bodaciously all over the mounting," he remarked rancorously, as he leaned heavily on a pickaxe; "but we uns hed better try it ter-night ennyhows."

It was late in August; a moon of exceeding lustre was in the sky, while still the sun was going down. All the western clouds were aflare with gorgeous reflections; the long reaches of the Great Smoky range had grown densely purple; and those dim Cumberland heights that, viewed from this precipice of Chilhowee, were wont to show so softly blue in the distance, had now a variant amethystine hue, hard and translucent of effect as the jewel itself.

The face of one of his companions expressed an adverse doubt, as he, too, gazed at the illuminated wilderness, all solitary, silent, remote.

"'Pears like ter me it mought be powerful public," Pete Swolford objected. He had a tall, heavy, lumpish, frame, a lackluster eye, a broad, dimpled, babyish face incongruously decorated with a tuft of dark beard at the chin. The suit of brown jeans which he wore bore token variously of the storms it had weathered, and his coarse cowhide boots were drawn over the trousers to the knee. His attention was now and again diverted from the conversation by the necessity of aiding a young bear, which he led by a chain, to repel the unwelcome demonstrations of two hounds belonging to one of his interlocutors. Snuffling and nosing about in an affectation of curiosity the dogs could not forbear growling outright, as their muzzles approached their shrinking hereditary enemy, while the cub nestled close to his master and whimpered like a child.

"Jes' so, jes' so, Honey. I'll make 'em cl'ar out!" Swofford replied to the animal's appeal with ready sympathy. Then, "I wish ter Gawd, Eufe, ye'd call yer dogs off," he added in a sort of aside to the youngest of the three mountaineers, who stood among the already reddening sumac fringing the road, beside his horse, athwart which lay a buck all gray and antlered, his recently cut throat still dripping blood. The party had been here long enough for it to collect in a tiny pool in a crevice in the rocky road, and the hounds constrained to cease their harassments of the bear now began to eagerly lap it up. The rifle with which Eufe Kinnicutt had killed the deer was still in his hands and he leaned upon it; he was a tall, finely formed, athletic young fellow with dark hair, keen, darkly greenish eyes, full of quickly glancing lights, and as he, too, scanned the sky, his attitude of mind also seemed dissuasive.

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