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It may be supposed that the host and his guest retired, the first night of their meeting, with no favourable impression of each other; and while Sam and his master were making all right for the night, the former ventured to remark
“Dar aint much good in dat white man, Massa Dick."
“Not a heap, Sam," was his master's reply; “but he shan't pisin us long with his company;" and with this comfortable resolve they turned in for the night.
At daylight Dick started out with his rifle on his arm, to observe the foot-prints around his dwelling, and note whether they were biped or quadruped, the close proximity of the Indian tribes and their frequent thefts making caution and care necessary to preserve, not only property, but life. As he was returning to his cabin, a scream startled him from his careless gait; it was a new sound in that wilderness, and many a day had passed since Dick heard anything akin to it. He started forward with a bound, convulsively clutching his rifle, while his blood, urged into rapid action by the movement, was again forced back to his heart, chilled by another fearful scream of a woman in distress. In a moment he emerged from
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When the morning meal was ended, the strar: get drew up his wigon, thrust his
companion into it, and sullenly departed, muttering a threatening farewell.
“God help that poor creatur," said Dick, as his late guests disappeared from view, " she's got a hard row to hoe; and as for that sarpent with her, he'd better keep out of my tracks. I should be mightily tempted to sarch his carcass to see ef he had a heart in it. Sam," continued he, "you're a nigger, but thar's more real white man under your black skin than could be found in an acre of such varmints as that sucker. Give me your fist, old fellar; while Dick Kelsy's got anythin' in this world, you shall share it !”
While this bond of closer friendship was being formed between master and slave, malice was holding her revel in the heart of their late guest. He had observed Dick's love for the spot where he had squatted, and judging rightly that he had neglected to file his claim to it in the Land Office, he stopped a short distance below him, intending to remain, and if possible to gain possession of it. Kelsy had his dislike for the stranger increased by finding him remain on his section, and he ordered him to leave forthwith. The stranger gave as an excuse, that his wife was so sick that she couldn't travel, and ended with a request that he would let him
erect a hut to shelter her, while he went in search of a permanent location. In pity for her, Dick consented, and the stranger proceeded to prepare timber for a small cabin. The following Saturday the neighbours gathered, and by nightfall placed a roof over their heads, kindly supplied them with some necessaries, and left, each more confirmed in his dislike for the stranger. The next morning he started off, as many supposed, never to return; the natural kindness of the settlers was immediately manifested towards his wife, and nothing that would conduce to her comfort was lacking in the cabin of this heartbroken woman.
After the lapse of several days, contrary to all expectation, the stranger returned, and a visible change was manifested in his manner-his surliness assumed a more impudent and offensive character; and on receiving a further intimation that it was time he was moving, he insolently told Dick to “clear out,” himself, for that he (the stranger) was the rightful owner of the claim. Dick laughed at him, and told him to be off quietly, that his carcass was safe while that woman clung to him.
Kelsy was laughing next day, down at the settlement, as he related the stranger's words, and described his insolent bearing; but his smile of scorn was turned to a frown of wrath, when the land agent, who happened to hear him, informed the unsuspecting squatter that the stranger had indeed entered the claim his cabin was upon. Dick, on hearing this news, shivered the bottle in his hand to atoms; and, drawing his breath through his teeth until it fairly whistled, he remarked —
" That stranger may have some of my claim, but his share shall be my signature to the title."
The sun was fast sinking when Dick started home, rather limber from the effects of wrath and liquor. Having resigned himself to the care of his horse, he swung from side to side, in a state of dozing unconsciousness. When he neared his cabin, it had become pitch dark; to which, if possible, the woods bordering his claim added a gloomier shade. The instant his horse entered beneath the foliage, a sharp pain shot through the side of the rider, so acute as to wake his powers suddenly into full consciousness. The spring he made in the saddle started his horse forward into a rapid gait, and in an instant more a sickly sensation robbed him of all consciousness. When he opened his eyes with returning