The Gentleman from Indiana (Chapter 4, page 1 of 10)


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Chapter 4

The Briscoe buckboard rattled along the elastic country-road, the roans
setting a sharp pace as they turned eastward on the pike toward home and
supper.

"They'll make the eight miles in three-quarters of an hour," said the
judge, proudly. He pointed ahead with his whip. "Just beyond that bend we
pass through Six-Cross-Roads."

Miss Sherwood leaned forward eagerly. "Can we see 'Mr. Wimby's' house from
here?"

"No, it's on the other side, nearer town; we pass it later. It's the only
respectable-looking house in this township." They reached the turn of the
road, and the judge touched up his colts to a sharper gait. "No need of
dallying," he observed quietly. "It always makes me a little sick just to
see the place. I'd hate to have a break-down here."

They came in sight of a squalid settlement, built raggedly about a
blacksmith's shop and a saloon. Half-a-dozen shanties clustered near the
forge, a few roofs scattered through the shiftlessly cultivated fields,
four or five barns propped by fence-rails, some sheds with gaping
apertures through which the light glanced from side to side, a squad of
thin, "razor-back" hogs--now and then worried by gaunt hounds--and some
abused-looking hens, groping about disconsolately in the mire, a broken-
topped buggy with a twisted wheel settling into the mud of the middle of
the road (there was always abundant mud, here, in the dryest summer), a
lowering face sneering from a broken window--Six-Cross-Roads was
forbidding and forlorn enough by day. The thought of what might issue from
it by night was unpleasant, and the legends of the Cross-Roads, together
with an unshapen threat, easily fancied in the atmosphere of the place,
made Miss Sherwood shiver as though a cold draught had crossed her.

"It is so sinister!" she exclaimed. "And so unspeakably mean! This is
where they live, the people who hate him, is it? The 'White-Caps'?"

"They are just a lot of rowdies," replied Briscoe. "You have your rough
corners in big cities, and I expect there are mighty few parts of any
country that don't have their tough neighborhoods, only Six-Cross-Roads
happens to be worse than most. They choose to call themselves 'White-
Caps,' but I guess it's just a name they like to give themselves. Usually
White-Caps are a vigilance committee going after rascalities the law
doesn't reach, or won't reach, but these fellows are not that kind. They
got together to wipe out their grudges--and sometimes they didn't need any
grudge and let loose their deviltries just for pure orneriness; setting
haystacks afire and such like; or, where a farmer had offended them, they
would put on their silly toggery and take him out at midnight and whip him
and plunder his house and chase the horses and cattle into his corn,
maybe. They say the women went with them on their raids."

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