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The Trail of the Lonesome Pine

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine

JOHN FOX
With a Foreword by JOHN ED PEARCE
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 440
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jcwk3
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  • Book Info
    The Trail of the Lonesome Pine
    Book Description:

    John Fox Jr. published this great romantic novel of the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky and Virginia in 1908, and the book quickly became one of America's favorites. It has all the elements of a good romance -- a superior but natural heroine, a hero who is an agent of progress and enlightenment, a group of supposedly benighted mountaineers to be drawn into the flow of mainstream American culture, a generous dose of social and class struggle, and a setting among the misty coves and cliffs of the blue Cumberlands.

    Reprinted with a foreword by John Ed Pearce, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine has all the excitement and poignance that caught and held readers' interest when the book first appeared.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2850-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-xviii)
    John Ed Pearce

    It is fitting that this book should be reissued by Kentucky’s University Press, for John Fox, Jr., is a significant part of Kentucky’s literary past, and his stories of the state’s mountain people have a special relevance today when the mountain region is the subject of so much scrutiny and is undergoing such basic change. For this is the story, one of the first and still one of the most perceptive, of the changes that came to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky with the advent of coal and the resulting industrialization of an isolated area. On the surface it is...

  3. I
    (pp. 1-4)

    She sat at the base of the big tree—her little sunbonnet pushed back, her arms locked about her knees, her bare feet gathered under her crimson gown and her deep eyes fixed on the smoke in the valley below. Her breath was still coming fast between her parted lips. There were tiny drops along the roots of her shining hair, for the climb had been steep, and now the shadow of disappointment darkened her eyes. The mountains ran in limitless blue waves towards the mounting sun—but at birth her eyes had opened on them as on the white...

  4. II
    (pp. 5-7)

    He had seen the big pine when he first came to those hills—one morning, at daybreak, when the valley was a sea of mist that threw soft clinging spray to the very mountain tops: for even above the mists, that morning, its mighty head arose—sole visible proof that the earth still slept beneath. Straightway, he wondered how it had ever got there, so far above the few of its kind that haunted the green dark ravines far below. Some whirlwind, doubtless, had sent a tiny cone circling heavenward and dropped it there. It had sent others, too, no...

  5. III
    (pp. 8-20)

    On one side he had left the earth yellow with the coming noon, but it was still morning as he went down on the other side. The laurel and rhododendron still reeked with dew in the deep, ever-shaded ravine. The ferns drenched his stirrups, as he brushed through them, and each dripping tree-top broke the sunlight and let it drop in tent-like beams through the shimmering under-mist. A bird flashed here and there through the green gloom, but there was no sound in the air but the footfalls of his horse and the easy creaking of leather under him, the...

  6. IV
    (pp. 21-28)

    Even the geese in the creek seemed to know that he was a stranger and to distrust him, for they cackled and, spreading their wings, fled cackling up the stream. As he neared the house, the little girl ran around the stone chimney, stopped short, shaded her eyes with one hand for a moment and ran excitedly into the house. A moment later, the bearded giant slouched out, stooping his head as he came through the door.

    “Hitch that ’ar post to yo’ hoss and come right in,” he thundered cheerily. “I’m waitin’ fer ye.”

    The little girl came to...

  7. V
    (pp. 29-33)

    Awaiting dinner, the mountaineer and the “furriner” sat on the porch while Bub carved away at another pine dagger on the stoop. As Hale passed out the door, a querulous voice said “Howdye” from the bed in the corner and he knew it was the step-mother from whom the little girl expected some nether-world punishment for an offence of which he was ignorant. He had heard of the feud that had been going on between the red Falins and the black Tollivers for a quarter of a century, and this was Devil Judd, who had earned his nickname when he...

  8. VI
    (pp. 34-39)

    The old man went with him up the creek and passing the milk house, turned up a brush bordered little branch in which the engineer saw signs of coal. Up the creek the mountaineer led him some thirty yards above the water level and stopped. An entry had been driven through the rich earth and ten feet within was a shining bed of Coal. There was no parting except two inches of mother-of-coal—midway, which would make it but easier to mine. Who had taught that old man to open coal in such a way—to make such a facing?...

  9. VII
    (pp. 40-48)

    Past the Big Pine, swerving with a smile his horse aside that he might not obliterate the foot-print in the black earth, and down the mountain, his brain busy with his big purpose, went John Hale, by instinct, inheritance, blood and tradition—pioneer.

    One of his forefathers had been with Washington on the Father’s first historic expedition into the wilds of Virginia. His great-grandfather had accompanied Boone when that hunter first penetrated the “Dark and Bloody Ground,” had gone back to Virginia and come again with a surveyor’s chain and compass to help wrest it from the red men, among...

  10. VIII
    (pp. 49-56)

    On a spur of Black Mountain, beyond the Kentucky line, a lean horse was tied to a sassafras bush, and in a clump of rhododendron ten yards away, a lean black-haired boy sat with a Winchester between his stomach and thighs—waiting for the dusk to drop. His chin was in both hands, the brim of his slouch hat was curved crescent-wise over his forehead, and his eyes were on the sweeping bend of the river below him. That was the “Bad Bend” down there, peopled with ancestral enemies and the head-quarters of their leader for the last ten years....

  11. IX
    (pp. 57-73)

    It was court day at the county seat across the Kentucky line. Hale had risen early, as everyone must if he would get his breakfast in the mountains, even in the hotels in the county seats, and he sat with his feet on the railing of the hotel porch which fronted the main street of the town. He had had his heart-breaking failures since the autumn before, but he was in good cheer now, for his feverish enthusiasm had at last clutched a man who would take up not only his options on the great Gap beyond Black Mountain but...

  12. X
    (pp. 74-87)

    Hale opened his eyes next morning on the little old woman in black, moving ghost-like through the dim interior to the kitchen. A wood-thrush was singing when he stepped out on the porch and its cool notes had the liquid freshness of the morning. Breakfast over, he concluded to leave the yellow mule with the Red Fox to be taken back to the county town, and to walk down the mountain, but before he got away the landlord’s son turned up with his own horse, still lame, but well enough to limp along without doing himself harm. So, leading the...

  13. XI
    (pp. 88-104)

    Spring was coming: and, meanwhile, that late autumn and short winter, things went merrily on at the gap in some ways, and in some ways—not.

    Within eight miles of the place, for instance, the man fell ill—the man who was to take up Hale’s options—and he had to be taken home. Still Hale was undaunted: here he was and here he would stay—and he would try again. Two other young men, Bluegrass Kentuckians, Logan and Macfarlan, had settled at the gap—both lawyers and both of pioneer, Indian-fighting blood. The report of the State geologist had...

  14. XII
    (pp. 105-125)

    June did not have to be awakened that morning. At the first clarion call of the old rooster behind the cabin, her eyes opened wide and a happy thrill tingled her from head to foot—why, she didn’t at first quite realize—and then she stretched her slender round arms to full length above her head and with a little squeal of joy bounded out of the bed, dressed as she was when she went into it, and with no changes to make except to push back her tangled hair. Her father was out feeding the stock and she could...

  15. XIII
    (pp. 126-138)

    Hale rode that night under a brilliant moon to the worm of a railroad that. had been creeping for many years toward the Gap. The head of it was just protruding from the Natural Tunnel twenty miles away. There he sent his horse back, slept in a shanty till morning, and then the train crawled through a towering bench of rock. The mouth of it on the other side opened into a mighty amphitheatre with solid rock walls shooting vertically hundreds of feet upward. Vertically, he thought—with the back of his head between his shoulders as he looked up...

  16. XIV
    (pp. 139-159)

    But June did not go home. Hale anticipated that resolution of hers and forestalled it by being on hand for breakfast and taking June over to the porch of his little office. There he tried to explain to her that they were trying to build a town and must have law and order; that they must have no personal feeling for or against anybody and must treat everybody exactly alike—no other course was fair—and though June could not quite understand, she trusted him and she said she would keep on at school until her father came for her....

  17. XV
    (pp. 160-181)

    Hand in hand, Hale and June followed the footsteps of spring from the time June met him at the school-house gate for their first walk into the woods. Hale pointed to some boys playing marbles.

    “That’s the first sign,” he said, and with quick understanding June smiled.

    The birdlike piping of hylas came from a marshy strip of woodland that ran through the centre of the town and a toad was croaking at the foot of Imboden Hill.

    “And they come next.”

    They crossed the swinging foot-bridge, which was a miracle to June, and took the foot-path along the clear...

  18. XVI
    (pp. 182-194)

    The in-sweep of the outside world was broadening its current now. The improvement company had been formed to encourage the growth of the town. A safe was put in the back part of a furniture store behind a wooden partition and a bank was started. Up through the Gap and toward Kentucky, more entries were driven into the coal, and on the Virginia side were signs of stripping for iron ore. A furnace was coming in just as soon as the railroad could bring it in, and the railroad was pushing ahead with genuine vigor. Speculators were trooping in and...

  19. XVII
    (pp. 195-207)

    Twice her lips opened soundlessly and, dazed, she could only point dumbly. The old step-mother laughed:

    “Jack Hale done that. He pestered yo’ pap to let him do it fer ye, an’ anything Jack Hale wants from yo’ pap, he gits. I thought hit was plum’ foolishness, but he’s got things to eat planted thar, too, an’ I declar hit’s right purty.”

    That wonderful garden! June started for it on a run. There was a broad grass-walk down through the middle of it and there were narrow grass-walks running sidewise, just as they did in the gardens which Hale told...

  20. XVIII
    (pp. 208-221)

    Pausing at the Pine to let his big black horse blow a while, Hale mounted and rode slowly down the green-and-gold gloom of the ravine. In his pocket was a quaint little letter from June to “John Hail”; thanking him for the beautiful garden, saying she was lonely, and wanting him to come soon. From the low flank of the mountain he stopped, looking down on the cabin in Lonesome Cove. It was a dreaming summer day. Trees, air, blue sky and white cloud were all in a dream, and even the smoke lazing from the chimney seemed drifting away...

  21. XIX
    (pp. 222-231)

    And still farther into that far silence about which she used to dream at the base of the big Pine, went little June. At dusk, weary and travel-stained, she sat in the parlours of a hotel—a great gray columned structure of stone. She was confused and bewildered and her head ached. The journey had been long and tiresome. The swift motion of the train had made her dizzy and faint. The dust and smoke had almost stifled her, and even now the dismal parlours, rich and wonderful as they were to her unaccustomed eyes, oppressed her deeply. If she...

  22. XX
    (pp. 232-248)

    The boom started after its shadow through the hills now, and Hale watched it sweep toward him with grim satisfaction at the fulfilment of his own prophecy and with disgust that, by the irony of fate, it should come from the very quarters where years before he had played the maddening part of lunatic at large. The avalanche was sweeping southward; Pennsylvania was creeping down the Alleghanies, emissaries of New York capital were pouring into the hills, the tide-water of Virginia and the Bluegrass region of Kentucky were sending in their best blood and youth, and friends of the helmeted...

  23. XXI
    (pp. 249-262)

    Hale was beyond Black Mountain when her letter reached him. His work over there had to be finished and so he kept in his saddle the greater part of two days and nights and on the third day rode his big black horse forty miles in little more than half a day that he might meet her at the train. The last two years had wrought their change in him. Deterioration is easy in the hills—superficial deterioration in habits, manners, personal appearance and the practices of all the little niceties of life. The morning bath is impossible because of...

  24. XXII
    (pp. 263-269)

    June sat in the little dummy, the focus of curious eyes, while Hale was busy seeing that her baggage was got aboard. The checks that she gave him jingled in his hands like a bunch of keys, and he could hardly help grinning when he saw the huge trunks and the smart bags that were tumbled from the baggage car—all marked with her initials. There had been days when he had laid considerable emphasis on pieces like those, and when he thought of them overwhelming with opulent suggestions that debt-stricken little town, and, later, piled incongruously on the porch...

  25. XXIII
    (pp. 270-285)

    June, tired though she was, tossed restlessly that night. The one look she had seen in Hale’s face when she met him in the car, told her the truth as far as he was concerned. He was unchanged, she could give him no chance to withdraw from their long understanding, for it was plain to her quick instinct that he wanted none. And so she had asked him no question about his failure to meet her, for she knew now that his reason, no matter what, was good. He had startled her in the car, for her mind was heavy...

  26. XXIV
    (pp. 286-300)

    Very slowly June walked up the little creek to the old log where she had lain so many happy hours. There was no change in leaf, shrub or tree, and not a stone in the brook had been disturbed. The sun dropped the same arrows down through the leaves—blunting their shining points into tremulous circles on the ground, the water sang the same happy tune under her dangling feet and a wood-thrush piped the old lay overhead.

    Wood-thrush! I June smiled as she suddenly rechristened the bird for herself now. That bird henceforth would be the Magic Flute to...

  27. XXV
    (pp. 301-313)

    Thus Fate did not wait until Election Day for the thing Hale most dreaded—a clash that would involve the guard in the Tolliver-Falin troubles over the hills. There had been simply a preliminary political gathering at the Gap the day before, but it had been a crucial day for the guard from a cloudy sunrise to a tragic sunset. Early that morning, Mockaby, the town-sergeant, had stepped into the street freshly shaven, with polished boots, and in his best clothes for the eyes of his sweetheart, who was to come up that day to the Gap from Lee. Before...

  28. XXVI
    (pp. 314-321)

    Back to the passing of Boone and the landing of Columbus no man, in that region, had ever been hanged. And as old Judd said, no Tolliver had ever been sentenced and no jury of mountain men, he well knew, could be found who would convict a Tolliver, for there were no twelve men in the mountains who would dare. And so the Tollivers decided to await the outcome of the trial and rest easy. But they did not count on the mettle and intelligence of the grim young “furriners” who were a flying wedge of civilization at the Gap....

  29. XXVII
    (pp. 322-332)

    The miracle had happened. The Tollivers, following the Red Fox’s advice to make no attempt at rescue just then, had waited, expecting the old immunity from the law and getting instead the swift sentence that Rufe Tolliver should be hanged by the neck until he was dead. Astounding and convincing though the news was, no mountaineer believed he would ever hang, and Rufe himself faced the sentence defiant. He laughed when he was led back to his cell:

    “I’ll never hang,” he said scornfully. They were the first words that came from his lips, and the first words that came...

  30. XXVIII
    (pp. 333-338)

    And so while Bad Rufe Tolliver was waiting for death, the trial of the Red Fox went on, and when he was not swinging in a hammock, reading his Bible, telling his visions to his guards and singing hymns, he was in the Court House giving shrewd answers to questions, or none at all, with the benevolent half of his mask turned to the jury and the wolfish snarl of the other half showing only now and then to some hostile witness for whom his hate was stronger than his fear for his own life. And in jail Bad Rufe...

  31. XXIX
    (pp. 339-350)

    Day broke on the old Court House with its black port-holes, on the graystone jail, and on a tall topless wooden box to one side, from which projected a cross-beam of green oak. From the centre of this beam dangled a rope that swung gently to and fro when the wind moved. And with the day a flock of little birds lighted on the bars of the condemned man’s cell window, chirping through them, and when the jailer brought breakfast he found Bad Rufe cowering in the corner of his cell and wet with the sweat of fear.

    “Them damn...

  32. XXX
    (pp. 351-363)

    The longest of her life was that day to June. The anxiety in times of war for the women who wait at home is vague because they are mercifully ignorant of the dangers their loved ones run, but a specific issue that involves death to those loved ones has a special and poignant terror of its own. June knew her father’s plan, the precise time the fight would take place, and the especial danger that was Hale’s, for she knew that young Dave Tolliver had marked him with the first shot fired. Dry-eyed and white and dumb, she watched them...

  33. XXXI
    (pp. 364-384)

    Before dawn Hale and the doctor and the old miller had reached the Pine, and there Hale stopped. Any farther, the old man told him, he would go only at the risk of his life from Dave or Bub, or even from any Falin who happened to be hanging around in the bushes, for Hale was hated equally by both factions now.

    “I’ll wait up here until noon, Uncle Billy,” said Hale. “Ask her, for God’s sake, to come up here and see me.”

    “All right. I’ll axe her, but—” the old miller shook his head. Breakfastless, except for...

  34. XXXII
    (pp. 385-395)

    All winter the cabin in Lonesome Cove slept through rain and sleet and snow, and no foot passed its threshold. Winter broke, floods came and warm sunshine. A pale green light stole through the trees, shy, ethereal and so like a mist that it seemed at any moment on the point of floating upward. Colour came with the wild flowers and song with the wood-thrush. Squirrels played on the tree-trunks like mischievous children, the brooks sang like happy human voices through the tremulous underworld and woodpeckers hammered out the joy of spring, but the awakening only made the desolate cabin...

  35. XXXIII
    (pp. 396-399)

    Clouds were gathering as Hale rode up the river after telling old Hon and Uncle Billy good-by. He had meant not to go to the cabin in Lonesome Cove, but when he reached the forks of the road, he stopped his horse and sat in indecision with his hands folded on the pommel of his saddle and his eyes on the smokeless chimney. The memories tugging at his heart drew him irresistibly on, for it was the last time. At a slow walk he went noiselessly through the deep sand around the clump of rhododendron. The creek was clear as...

  36. XXXIV
    (pp. 400-407)

    The big Pine was gone. He had seen it first. one morning at daybreak, when the valley on the other side was a sea of mist that threw soft, clinging spray to the very mountain tops—for even above the mists, that morning, its mighty head arose, sole visible proof that the earth still slept beneath. He had seen it at noon—but little less majestic, among the oaks that stood about it; had seen it catching the last light at sunset, clean-cut against the after-glow, and like a dark, silent, mysterious sentinel guarding the mountain pass under the moon....

  37. XXXV
    (pp. 408-423)

    With a mystified smile but with no question, Hale silently handed his penknife to June and when, smiling but without a word, she walked behind the old Pine, he followed her. There he saw her reach up and dig the point of the knife into the trunk, and when, as he wonderingly watched her, she gave a sudden cry, Hale sprang toward her. In the hole she was digging he saw the gleam of gold and then her trembling fingers brought out before his astonished eyes the little fairy stone that he had given her long ago. She had left...