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HOME > Inspiring Novel > A Son of Courage > CHAPTER XII OLD HARRY MAKES A FIND
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 Through the dusky twilight, soft with woodland dews and sweet with odor of ferns and wild flowers, Billy walked slowly. For the first time in long days his heart felt at peace. The canker of loneliness that had gnawed at his spirit was there no longer. It was a pretty good old world after all.  
A whip-poor-will lilted its low call from a hazel copse and Billy answered it. A feeling that he wanted to visit his wild things in the upland shanty and explain to them his seeming neglect of them during his time of stress took possession of him. So, although he knew supper would be ready and waiting at home, he branched off where the path forked and hurried forward toward the oak ridge.
It was almost dark when he reached the little log sugar-shanty which housed his pets. He had hidden a lantern in a hollow log against such night visits as this and he paused to draw it out and light it before proceeding to the menagerie. As he rounded the shanty, whistling softly, and anticipating how glad Spotba, Moper, the owl, and all the other wild inmates would be to see him, he paused suddenly, and the whistle died on his lips. Somebody had been snooping about his menagerie! The prop had been taken from the door.
His mind traveled at once to Anse. So that meddler had been here and tried to let his pets free, had he? Apparently the chump didn't know they each had a separate cage, or if he did he hadn't the nerve to open it. Well, it meant that Anse had that much more to settle for with him, that was all!
Billy put his hand on the latch of the door, then stood, frozen into inaction. From the interior of the shanty had come a groan—a human groan! Billy almost dropped the lantern. A cold shiver ran down his spine. His mind flashed to Old Scroggie's ghost. The hand that groped into his pocket in search of the rabbit-foot charm trembled so it could scarcely clasp that cherished object.
What would Trigger Finger do if placed in his position? Billy asked himself. There was only one answer to that. He took a long breath and, picking up a heavy club, swung the door open. The feeble rays of the lantern probed the gloom and something animate, between the cages, stirred and sat up.
"Harry!" gasped Billy, "Harry O'Dule!"
"Ha," cried a quavering voice, "and is ut the Prince av Darkness, himself, as spakes t' me? Thin it's no fit av the delirium tremens I've had at all, at all, but dead I am and in purgatory! Oh weary me, oh weary me! Such shnakes and evil eyed burruds have I never seen before. Och! could I be given wan taste av God's blissid air and sunshine ag'in, and never more would whiskey pass me lips."
Spotba, the big mottled marsh snake, sensing Billy's presence, uncoiled himself and raised his head along the screen of his cage; the brown owl hooted a low welcome that died in a hiss as Harry groaned again.
"Merciful hivin! look at the eyes av that awful burrud," he wailed. "And that big shnake hissin' his poison in me very face. Take me along, Divil, take me along," he screamed. "It's no more av this I kin stand at all, at all."
Billy hung the lantern on the door and bent above the grovelling Harry. "Hey you," he said, giving the old man's shoulder a shake, "get up an' come out'a here; I'm not the devil, I'm Billy."
"Billy," Harry held his breath and blinked his red-rimmed eyes in unbelief. "Billy, ye say?" He got up with Billy's help and stood swaying unsteadily.
"You're drunk again!" said the boy, in deep disgust.
Harry wiped his lips on his sleeve and stood gazing fearfully about him. "Do you see the shnakes and the evil-eyed burruds, Billy Bye?" he shuddered. "It's see 'em ye shurely can and hear their divil hisses." His fingers gripped the boy's arm.
Billy shook him off. "Look here, Harry," he said, "You're seein' things. There ain't no snakes in here—no birds neither. You come along outside with me." He grasped the Irishman by the arm and started toward the door.
"Me jug," whispered Harry. "Where is that divil's halter av a jug, Billy?"
"There's your jug on its side," Billy touched the jug with his foot. "You must've drunk it empty, Harry."
"Faith, an' I did not. But ut's all the same, impty or full. Niver ag'in will ut lead me into delirium tremens, I promise ye that, although it's meself that knows where there's a plinty of whisky, so I do."
Billy led him outside and turned the light of the lantern full on his face. "Harry," he said, sternly, "where are you gettin' all this whisky?"
The old man started. "That's me own business," he answered shortly.
"Oh." Billy took hold of his arm, "Then them snakes an' man-eatin' birds you've been seein' are your own business, too; an' since you've been ninny enough to stray into this shanty, I'm goin' to put you back in it an' see that you stay in it."
"And fer God's sake, why?" gasped the frightened O'Dule.
"That's my business," said Billy.
Harry glanced behind him with a shudder. "God love you fer a good lad, Billy," he cried; "but this is no way to trate an ould frind, is ut now?"
"Then you best tell me where you're gettin' the whisky," said Billy.
"But that's shure the ould man's secret, Billy," pleaded Harry. "It's not a foine chap as ye are would be wheedlin' it out av me, now?"
Billy frowned. "I know that Spencer won't give you any more whisky," he said, "an' I know the deacon won't give you any more cider. I know that you've gettin' liquor some place—an' without payin' fer it. Now you kin tell me where, er you kin stay in that shanty an' see snakes an' things all night."
Harry wavered. "And if I be tellin' ye," he compromised, "ye'll be givin' a promise not to pass it along, thin? Wull ye now?"
"Yes I promise not to tell anybody but Maurice?"
"Then I'll be tellin' ye where I do be gettin' the whisky, Billy; where else but in the ha'nted house."
"What?" Billy could scarcely believe his ears.
"May I niver glimpse the blissid blue av Ireland's skies ag'in, if I spake a lie," said Harry, earnestly. "In the ha'nted house I found ut, Billy. Wait now, and I tell ye how ut so happened. Ye'll be rememberin' that night we tried to wait fer ould Scroggie's ghost an' the terrible storm come on and split us asunder wid a flash av blue lightnin'? I was crossin' meself in thankfulness that ut found the big elm instead av me, I was, whin I dropped me fairy charm, d'ye moind? Stay and seek fer ut I would not, wid all the powers av darkness conspirin' wid ould Scroggie ag'in me. Ut's fly I did on the wings av terror to me own cabin, an' covered up me head wid the bed-quilt, I did."
"Well, go on. What's all this got to do with whisky?"
"Jest you wait a bit and you'll find that out. Nixt day I go down there ag'in to look fer me charm, but find ut I did not. Then wid me little jug in me hand and me whistle in me bosom, did I strike across woods to the Twin Oaks store, there to learn a............
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