I vll ...... t-,.l.l.l.y...,..,.,
J'A ii ...... ... .......
.... .. .......
...... .... ...
.. . .
.......... ... ...
.. ......... .. .....
.. ....... ... .. ..
.. .......... .. ....
SOUTj MOON UNDER
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
CoPFnIar, 1933, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
Printed in the United States of America
Al rights reerved. No part of this book
may be reproduced in any form without
the. permission of Charles Scribuer's Somn
S ~ S~,.,S
Since "South Moon Under" is a novel and not a
history-its characters, with one or two minor ex-
ceptions, entirely fictitious-the author asks the
indulgence of the few Floridians who really know
the Big Scrub, for the loose chronologizingof such
happenings as the Big Burn, the inception of game
and liquor laws, the activities of the Wilsn Cy-
press Company, and so forth.
SOUTH MOON UNDER
NIGHT entered the clearing from the scrub. The low
tangled growth of young oak and pine and palmetto fell
suddenly black and silent, seeming to move closer in one
shadowy spring. The man told himself there was nothing
to fear. Yet as he walked towards his cabin, naked and
new on the raw sand, darkness in this place seemed to him
He thought, "Time I get me a fence raised tomorrow,
maybe 'twon't seem so wild, like."
Light still hung raggedly above the hammock west of
the cleared acres. Here and there a palm shook its head
against the faint orange of the sky, or the varnished small
leaves of a live oak were for a moment luminous. There
was an instant when the hammock reared back against
the west; when the outline of each tree-top was distinct;
when the clearing gathered about it the shreds of twilight.
Then there was no longer scrub or clearing or hammock.
Blackness obliterated them with a great velvet paw and
crouched like a panther on the cabin doorstep.
The man tested the security of the split rails that formed
a temporary pen about his hogs. The grey mule was hob-
bled and the scrub milch cow tethered. The chickens
clacked and fluttered in the coop that must hold them
until a proper roost was built. After the fence was raised,
they could all run free. He stood by the coop a moment.
His thoughts stirred uneasily in his mind, milling like the
2 SOUTH MOON UNDER
fowls. He could not be sure that he had done well to move
his family here, across the river. He had not made a good
living in the piney-woods. Only the knowledge of his
native Florida wife and of his neighbours, her kin, had
kept him to the few crops that would yield on that grey
shifting land. His family of five was of an age now to
help with the crops. He had exchanged pine-land for
scrub, with a precarious fringe of hammock.
The Florida scrub was unique. The man Lantry recog-
nised its quality as well as its remoteness. There was per-
haps no similar region anywhere. It was a vast dry rec-
tangular plateau, bounded on three sides by two rivers.
The Ocklawaha, flowing towards the north, bounded it on
the west. At the north-west corner of the rectangle the
Ocklawaha turned sharply at right angles and flowed due
east, joining, at the north-east corner, the St. John's River
which formed the eastern demarcation.
Within these deep watery lines the scrub stood aloof,
uninhabited through its wider reaches. The growth re-
pelled all human living. The soil was a tawny sand, from
whose parched infertility there reared, indifferent to water,
so dense a growth of scrub pine-the Southern spruce-
that the effect of the massed thin trunks was of a limitless,
canopied stockade. It seemed impenetrable, for a man-
high growth of scrub oak, myrte, sparkleberry and ti-ti
filled the interstices. Wide areas, indeed, admitted of no
In places the pines grew more openly, the sunlight fil-
tered through and patches of ground showed bald and
lichened. Thescrub was sparingly dotted with small lakes
and springs. Around these grew a damp-loving hammock
vegetation. Or a random patch of moisture produced, alien
in the dryness, a fine stand of slash pine or long-leaf yel-
low. These were known as pine islands. To any one
standing on a rise, they were visible from a great distance.
SOUTH MOON UNdER 3
The scrub rolled towards its boundaries like a dark sea.
It cast itself against the narrow beach of swamp and ham-
mock that fringed the rivers. The two types of growth did
not mingle, as though an ascetic race withdrew itself from
a tropical one and refused to-inter-breed. The moisture
along the rivers gave a footing for the lush growth of
cypress in the swamp; of live oak, magnolia, hickory, ash,
bay, sweet gum and holly that made up the adjoining
The western edge of the scrub plateau was high. The
Oddawaha ran forty or fifty feet below, so that its scrub-
side bank rose from the river swamp in a steep ledge. Here
.Lantry had come, hearing land in the narrow strip of
hammock along the top of the ridge. The scrub adjoining
in front of his cabin had been recently burned over by
forest fire. The bush was young and low and he could
see across it for a mile or two.
He had high hopes of the hammock soiL He had a
deeper hope of what should pass for security; a sense of
safety achieved through isolation. For ten miles, north or
south, there were no other settlers. Behind him the river
ran, deep-banked and swift of current. Before him lay the
scrub. Miles on miles of scrub rolled impenetrable between
his clearing and the rising sun and moon.
He picked up a gourd foaming with the night's milk
and moved to the house. Light from a fat-wood hearth
fire flickered through the small-paned windows on three
sides of the cabin. He lifted the wooden shoestring latch
of the door. The clatter of cooking utensils on the day
hearth, bitten into by the snapping of the fire, was the only
sound in the room. The woman, the three boys and two
girls seemed frozen, waiting for his return, like a vixen
and her litter in a den. They stirred to life as he cosed
the door and handed the gourd to his daughter Piety.
"O1' cow know she's done been moved," he commented.
SOUTH MOON UNDER
"Didn't give no more'n the half o' what she belongs to
Relaxing, they looked at him where he stood massive
across the door. The man Lantry was tall and bulky. He
was red-brown, full-bearded. There was a stiffness about
his beard and hair, so that the firelight darting across them
gave the effect of sunlight on brown pine needles. His
eyes were red-brown, deep-sunk like pools of cypress
water. He made on strangers an instant impression of
violence, but no one in the country could report him as
anything but quiet.
The Lantry woman was small and fox-faced. She sat on
her haunches before the fire, her long nose pointed over a
black Dutch oven steaming with squirrel stew. Her scant
streaked hair was twisted in a tight knob at the nape of
her neck. Now and then she lifted a claw-like hand to
smooth a wisp back of her ear. She turned her head to
Lantry over her shoulder.
"You jest as good to put your baccyy back in your
pocket," she said, "for supper's that near done hit'll be to
spit out and waste."
He continued to pare a shaving from his twist.
He said, "A short chaw's twice as good as a. long un."
The boys dragged straight wooden benches and split
hickory chairs from against the walls to make seats along
a rough deal table. The girls laid the table with a red
cloth, white English crockery and heavy knives and
spoons. They handed plates to their mother, which she
filled with the stew, with soft-cooked grits and white flour
biscuits. The yield of corn had been poor the previous
summer across the river and they had long since been out
of meal. They drank heartily of thick coffee, thrice boiled
since morning. The sugar, of their own making, was
brown and sticky but of good flavour.
There was little talk while they ate, but the meal was
SOUTH MOON UNDER 5
shot through with excitement. There had been cold
lunches eaten at the clearing while they worked on the
house, but this was the first family supper cooked on the
new hearth. This was to be the first night of sleeping in
the scruK: They were here at last to stay, yet the place
seemed more unfamiliar than before.' The accustomed
dishes were strange. They had moved in actual distance
no more than twenty-five miles. But they had crossed the
river into the scrub. The dear dark stream divided one
Mrs. Lantry was the first to finish. She was insensitive
to change, so long as the major matters of food and bed
were not interfered with. She sat at the end of the table
nearest the fireplace, her hands folded in her lap, until
the others should be done with their plates. The boys had
bolted their meal. They teetered back in their chairs, see-
ing who could lean the farthest. Young Thaddeus sud-
denly spilled backwards, and the older two, Zeke and
Abner, were on him like terriers. The woman had no in-
terest in their tumblings. Lantry laughed aloud, wiping
the red mouth above his beard with the back of his hand.
The girl Piety said, "Them craziest"
Her look darted from th..wrestling boys to the father;
to the mother. She was alert to their thoughts.
She said to her sister Martha, "Wouldn't we ketch it,
iffen we was to toss and mess that-a-wayl"
The mother said, "'Tain't mannerly, no-ways."
"Sho, hit's good for young uns," Lantry said.
He rose from the table and moved his chair dose to the
hearth. He stirred the coals, adding a log of live oak, and
spat into the fire. His wife scraped the plates, opening the
door a crack to put out the scraps for the hound whimper-
ing outside. The girls laid away the red cloth and washed
the few dishes in a pan on the table.
The boys threw themselves on the rough pine floor
6 SOUTH MOON UNDER
before the hearth, watching the flames. The girl Piety
went to the east window and pressed her forehead against
the pane. She stood some time, looking out into the
blackness of the late winter night.
Lantry asked, "What you studying Py-tee?"
"Nothin'. Lookin' to see is there ary thing to study."
"You look out. You might r'aly see you something. "
Mrs. Lantry said, "She wouldn't keer no-ways. She's a
perfeckly cur'ous young un."
Young Thaddeus spoke eagerly.
"Pa, what-all you reckon's here in the scrub? Varmints
and snakeses and sich?"
The man looked long into the fire before he spoke. His
red-brown beard shone. Thoughts beyond the immediate
question rippled across the deep pools of his eyes. Piety
watched him closely, her eyes small and bright. He
"I dunno. I dunno what-all's here. The same as on
otherr side o' the river, is what I been tole. B'ar, likely,
same as there. Cattymounts and lynxes and wild cats. 01'
man Wilson, your daddy," he nodded at his wife, "done
tole me there was oncet hundreds o' wolves, quare-lookin'
The boys fidgeted in delight.
The woman said with some animation, "I mind me o'
him tellin' all that. Him and the ol' timers say there were
a day when 'twa'n't safe to dress a beef in the woods and
tote it home alone."
Abner said belligerently, "They ain't no wolves now.
Leastways they ain't none in the piney-woods yonder."
Lantry nodded. "That's it. 01' man Wilson said one
day the wolves was here, hundreds. The next day they
was gone. Jest plumb gone. No man kin say where they
goed. They mought o' died o' some sort o' plague. Folkses
SOUTH MOON UJDER 7
mought o' got too thick for 'em here in Floridy and they
mought o' takened out one night and goed off to Texas."
He stroked his beard.
"They's mighty leete here to harm a man."
There was a defiance in his voice. There was something
underneath what he said, Piety thought, like a trout
thrashing around under what seemed still water.
He said, "A panther kin worry a man. I wouldn't want
no panther trailing' me nor trackin' me. But they ain't
attacked much more'n young uns, when it comes to hu-
mans. I ain't much afeerd of a b'ar. A wild hog's bad,
now, and rattlesnakes."
He was talking aloud to himself. He rose from his chair
and paced up and down the room, his chin sunk in his
beard, his hands behind his back. His voice was heavy in
the room, like thunder.
"The worst things I knows of is rattesnakes and some
kinds o' people. And a rattlesnake minds his own matters
if he ain't bothered. A man's got a right to kill ary thing,
snake or man, comes messin' up with him."
Piety thought, "He's afeerd o' something Somebody
It chilled her, that Lantry was afraid.
Mrs. Lantry said, "I'd orter be piecin'. You gals had
orter be piecin'." She said after a moment, "I'm too wore
out, movin' over and all, for piecin'."
The family was silent. Thought of the change was a
common holding. Lantry and the woman and the boys
and girls drew dose to one thought. It was a smouldering
fire among them. Now and then a fresh blaze flamed into
speech. Each one fed a few words to the fire.
Zeke said, "I reckon everything's a mite different."
Abner said, "Seems to me they's cat-squirrels this side o'
the river, 'stead o' fox-squirrels."
8 SOUTH MOON UNDER
"You kin lay to it, they's a reason," Lantry said. "You
jest don't know the reason yit."
Mrs. Lantry said, "You-all kin set up if you're a mind to.
I'm fixin' to git into the bed. I be wore out."
She let down her streaked thin hair and braided it over
her sharp shoulders. Her nose was peaked between the
Abner said in a low voice, "Ma looks something' like a
varmint with her hair that-a-way."
Zeke and Thaddeus guffawed. The woman gathered a
swift vixenish energy to slap the boy across the face.
"You be mannerly, youl"
"You boys turn your backs now while the girls gits
Piety and Martha took off their garments as far as cotton
undershifts; slipped on muslin gowns with long sleeves
and high necks; plaited their soft young hair like their
mother's. Mrs. Lantry undressed.
"Ary one want to wash their feet?"
The day's work had been cleanly. Feet were not soiled.
Mrs. Lantry padded about on bare soles with a hand basin
of warm water from the black iron kettle on the hearth.
Each took a turn at washing face and hands with the
coarse washrag. Lantry and the boys undressed as far as
their undersuits; stretched their toes, cramped from heavy
home-made cowhide boots, before the fire. Lantry and his
wife kent into the adjoining room and between quilts into
a large pine bed. The girls followed into the same room,
taking a smaller bed at the other end. The boys were left,
three to the one bed, in the main room of the cabin. They
called luxuriously to their sisters, thrashing their cold feet
under the covers.
"Py-teel Marthyl We got the farrl You-all never fig-
gered on the farrl"
SOUTH MOON UNDER 9
Mrs. Lantry called wearily, "You boys shut your mouths
now. The girls is warm as you."
The fire crackled. The light played jerkily over the high
new rafters. The Lantrys were warm under thick hand-
pieced quilts. Mrs. Lantry snored thinly, like a cat. There
was no other sound but the sputtering fat-wood.
In the night Lantry awakened with a start. The chickens
were cackling in alarm. The hound, huddled under the
doorstep, was rumbling. The man threw on his jacket,
examined his Ii-gauge muzzle-loader and went out of the
cabin into the yard. The hound crouched dose at his heels.
The chickens quieted as he came to the coop. The night
was chill and black. He could see nothing. He walked
around the house, wishing that he had brought a fat-
wood splinter torch. The hound reared against him, lick-
ing his hand. Whatever the intruder, it was of little con-
sequence. He felt his way to the front stoop. small
figure in a long white gown stood there.
"That you, Py-tee?" He knew in the night that it was
she. "The night airs '11 do for you, child."
"I wanted to see what-all were stirin' out here."
She walked down from the stoop, her bare feet white
against the sand. She stood by him, dose under his shoul-
der, her arms crossed over her thin breast, shivering. They
"You wasn't afeerd to foller me, Py-tee?"
"I wasn't no-ways afeerd."
As they stood, the blackness dissolved. The sky was a
mass of stars, dose and bright. The starlight spread to-
wards the earth, so that as'they watched, the chicken coop
was visible. The thick line of hammock behind the dear-
ing moved in sight. Stars mustered about the chimney-top
like silver bees in swarm.
The girl said, "The longer you studies, the more you kin
see in the dark, like."
Xo SOUTH MOON UNDER
He turned her ahead of him into the house.
"'Twa'n't nothing' out here but a varmint. A 'possum or
sich arter the chicks. They needs a roost."
The man looked at the straight figure, diminutive in the
He said softly, "Leetle ol' scrawny cur'ous young un."
Over his shoulder, dosing the door, the cabin stood in
the clearing like a house on an island. He thought that he
heard the river running below the ledge. The river was a
wall for his back. In front of the clearing the scrub rolled
in, lapping at the edges of the bare sand like a vast sea.
AN hour before sunrise the girl Piety was awakened by
the throaty cries of hoot-owls. The great night-birds had
seldom sounded in the piney-woods. The bare pines were
not to their liking. They preyed on small creatures that
fed in the richness of marsh and hammock. Their cry was
stirring, like a thick sob. It rose in a rhythmic crescendo
of four major notes, subsiding in agony in a minor key.
It had a pattern and a tune. It was, strangely, a dance
step. A bass fiddle was playing a schottische. Piety had
seen a man and woman from Virginia dance the schot-
tische. Slowly; one-two-three-four. And then a quick run-
ning step; one-two-three!
She slipped from the bed and dressed fumblingly in the
darkness. She laid a fire in the main room, blowing the
embers to life under fresh fat-wood splinters. The boys
breathed heavily in their bed. The coffee pot was empty
of liquid and she added new coffee and water from the
kettle to the stale grounds. In the bedroom behind her she
could hear her mother creaking from the bed. Lantry's
deep voice sounded in a question.
The girl hurried from the cabin. Voices would soon
populate the rooms. The sun would fill the earth with
the sounds of birds and creatures. Men would come
shortly after sunrise to help Lantry raise his fences. Women
would bring food and gossip; children would run across
the clearing. There was a need for hurry. For a few
moments she could listen to the hoot-owls, vibrant in the
12 SOUTH MOON UNDER
As the slow light felt its way towards the house, she
saw the scrub recede, as though darkness were going out
like a tide. It was the hammock that was black now. The
scrub unrolled towards the east in mist-filled valleys. The
thin young pines and palmettos were no taller than she.
She could look far across them to the horizon, pink and
purple like the petunias they had brought with them to
plant. She was startled-where she looked, the scrub was
moving. The motion was almost imperceptible, yet the
pines before her had changed their position. Against the
east appeared a set of antlers; another. The smooth un-
horned heads of does lifted in the mist. Piety ran across
the clearing into the house. She cried out to the Lantrys.
"I seed deerl A hull mess o' deerl 'Most as many as
They stared at her, absorbed with the day's beginning.
"A body'd bigger you r'aly seed something, he said.
Lantry stretched his long legs, lacing his boots by the
"Hit's one thing to know," he said, "and otherr thing
to see. You kin know deer's plentiful all your life-time,
but it ain't like seeing' 'em clustered-like, the way Py-tee
She looked at him with bright eyes, breathing quickly.
She had heavy lids, like a turtle's. They moved up and
down over the direct hazel-coloured eyes. Her hair was
hazel-brown. It still hung in the night's plaitings. Slowly,
looking into the fire, she unbraided it. Mrs. Lantry was
frying hot cakes on a long oval griddle propped on bricks
over the flames. The smell of lard and batter and coffee
was sweet in the room. Piety forgot the deer.
The fire on the hearth was golden in the sunlight that
came in through the front windows. The room was quick
SOUTH MOON UNDBR 13
with the vibrancy of change. The night's sleep had made
the place familiar. The Lantrys had slept in their own
beds in this house and it became overnight their home.
The woman and her children accepted the cabin, as squir-
rels accept a nest in new feeding grounds. Only Lantry
paced up and down the room before he went about his
chores, his chin sunk in his beard.
The boys fed the chickens in their coop; the mule and
cow at their stakes. The feed was a coarse corn fodder.
The animals were fed from troughs hand-hewn from
cypress. Lantry milked the cow. He leaned his face
against her warm flank, his long fingers rippling over the
teats. She was a heifer with her first calf and skittish. He
spoke to her now and then, his voice deep in his beard.
Piety and Martha tidied the cabin, hanging garments
on nails behind the doors. They swept the floors with a
new broom-sage sweep. The old palmetto broom had been
left behind, for it was unlucky to move it. Mrs. Lantry
busied herself with the day's dinner. She had protested
the day of the fence-raising as coming too soon after the
move. She had had no time to bake and stew. Lantry was
anxious to fence, and sent the word up and down the
river, ignoring her.
He said, "Folkses '11 carry rations."
"I don't want to be scarce with the table," she said.
The Wilsons, Mrs. Lantry's kin, appeared at the river
end of the clearing before Piety had the stoop swept. They
had come by rowboat across the river. The hammock im-
mediately behind the house had been cleared as far as the
top of the steep river bank. The Wilsons' heads bobbed
abruptly over the edge of the clearing, as though they had
been in hiding all night behind the ledge. They.walked
splay-footed, bent a little forward, pushing against the
shifting soil. The women carried baskets among them.
They were dressed in neat cotton prints with large hats of
14 SOUTH MOON UNDER
woven palmetto strands. The men wore their ordinary
boots and breeches or blue denim trousers.
They hailed Lantry with reserve. The tall massive manr..
who had walked with great strides into their section some
twenty years before and had married their kinswoman
was still unknown to them. They did not have with him
the ease of intercourse they had among themselves. The
women went into the house. Piety lingered at her sweep-
ing on the stoop. The men in the yard called, "Howdy,
Miss Py-tee," and she answered, "Howdy."
Old man Wilson said, watching Lantry at a pile of cy-
press slats ready for the fencing, "I favors a split-rail fence
myself. Good heart pine."
Lantry said, pointing, "I got split rails laid out yonder.
I aim to fence the yard with slats and split-rail the rest.
I like a yard fenced in so's a stranger can't jest step over."
Wilson nodded. "That's a good idee. A man kin step
over a split-rail fence."
They handled the wood, discussing grain and quality.
The men meandered about the clearing, making free com-
ment. The scrub was unknown to many of them who had
seldom crossed the river. They remarked the sharpness of
the line where hammock ended and scrub began. Spudd
Wilson hunted here.
He said, "Hit's the river. Hammock follers the water.
Here's the river and the swamp and the bank. Hit's
plentiful wet. The hammock follers the wet. First foot
you gits away from the river damp, and into the white
sand and the sand soaks, nothing' won't make exscusin' pal-
meeters and that sorry pine."
Jack Wilson said, spitting, "And rattlesnakes."
They guffawed, their mouths wide.
Old man Wilson said, "I don't like the scrub. This
hammock piece here is fine ground, and game plentiful.
SOUTH MOON UNDER 15
But I wouldn't keer to live with the scrub shuttin' me in
this-a-way." He added profoundly, "But it's ever' man to
his taste. I got nothing' to say."
The sun was an hour high before other families reached
the clearing from Big Saw Grass, Tobacco Patch Landing,
Turner Farm, Mill Creek and Moss Bluff. They came
largely by river. The Lantry landing at the foot of the
bluff was boggy and the visitors arrived with wet and
mucky shoes. The women and girls sat down in the yard
and took off their shoes and stockings with relief. They
were accustomed to going with bare feet about their own
homes. It was good to stretch their broad strong toes in
the dean sand. Piety placed their shoes in a row. They
walked with curiosity through the cabin. Many expressed
disappointment that Mrs. Lantry had nothing new in the
way of chairs or tables; that the windows were bare of
curtains and that there was no kitchen. She was not
"'Tain't nothing' special," she agreed, "but we kin make
out 'til the crops gits a-goin'."
Piety led them outside to the western wall. The two
windows here had no panes, but were fitted with wooden
shutters that could be swung to at night.
She told them, "Pa promises faithful when the spring
crops is made, him and the boys'll put a blow-way here and
another bedroom to the side and a kitchen yonder."
They approved the prospect.
"Hain't nothing' like a kivered blow-way for comfort."
"Yes," Ella Martin complained, "but the men-folks keeps
'em so littered with their contraptions, their ol' trapses and
sich, they ainYno room hardly to set and shell peas."
"Well, when the guns and the trapses gits too thick, I
pitches 'em off the place," Annie Wilson said.
"Yes, and Annie wouldn't be past pitching' off the men
b1 SOUTH MOON UNDER
They laughed together in a soft cackling. The woman
Annie Wilson laughed with them with a rich sound. She
was heavily built, deep-voiced and deep-breasted. Her hair
grew thick and low, the shining black of gallberries. There
was a dark down on her upper lip and on her large arms.
She took everything comfortably, as it came. Piety darted
her quick look from Annie to the others. She thought that
it was easy to distinguish the women who did field work
from those who did not. The women who helped their
men to plough, to hoe, to cultivate, to harvest, were
stripped gaunt and lean, stringy as an overworked horse.
Only the women of more casual natures, like Annie Wil-
son, or of better circumstances, like the Fikes and Jacklin
women, grew stout in middle age.
At eight o'clock late-comers came in wagons from Ft.
McCoy, Orange Springs and Eureka. They had crossed
the river by ferry at the Springs and by bridge at Eureka.
They plodded up the sandy road that bordered the river
between scrub and hammock. They found the fence-
raising in full swing. The men joined the others already
at work. Twenty-five or thirty men and boys swarmed
about the split rails, the gates, the stakes and the posts
that were to put the mark of civilisation on the clearing.
They worked leisurely, stopping short, dropping their
hands to boast of strength and speed; to tell a derisive
anecdote of one of them. Yet while they were in move-
ment they worked deftly. When Mrs. Lantry was occu-
pied, Piety slipped away to watch the men. The fencing
of fields was of greater interest than house matters. The
slat fence about the yard went slowest. A group of six,
familiar with such a style of fencing, toiled most of the day
at the smaller area. Post-holes were dug, posts driven deep,
slats nailed between with square nails and at last, breast
high to Lantry, a flat top was nailed on for finish. These
men worked quietly. The job was exacting.
SOUTH MOON UNDER 7
Most of the men worked at the split-rail fences around
the cleared fields. The type of fence-was familiar to the
youngest boy and it went up rapidly. Lantry and his sons,
labouring all of their spare tinie for two years, had
wrestled twenty acres of ground dear of the jungle ham-
mock. Now in a little while, betweeA sun and sun, a hand-
ful of men was shutting it in.
They tussled with the grey, seasoned wood, but there
was an abandon in the familiar motions. They sweat and
jostled and jested and threw a fence carelessly about what
had been so recently a virgin wood. The fence went in a
zig-zag pattern. The eye of old man Wilson, overseeing,
was true. Where men piled the rail-ends at the corners,
interlacing them like the fingers of two hands, there
became evident an undeviating straightness.
Some of the women left the house and came to the
fields to watch. Piety trailed them. Annie Wilson climbed
ponderously into a wagon to look down the fence line,
which wavered insolently, like a drunken man, along the
pushed-back edge of hammock. The men dropped the
rails to watch her, large and rich and black-headed. She
put her hands on her broad hips.
"How we coming, Annie?" they bellowed.
She bellowed back at them.
"A heap neater'n I figgered you'd git it!"
They roared with laughter.
"Looks jest like feather-stitchin'," she called, "dogged if
Mo Jacklin yelled, "You come take a hand, Annie, see
kin you feather-stitch with split pinel"
She eased her heavy body over the wagon wheels and
rested a hand on Piety's shoulder as she jumped. She ran
to the men on small agile feet. Her teeth were white in
her dark face. Beads of sweat were like crystals across her
forehead and her downy upper lip. She lifted an armful
SOUTH MOON UNDER
of rails and hurled them at the men. They warded them
off or dodged them or caught them from her in the air.
"Ill feather," she panted, "and you-all kin stitch!"
Spudd Wilson protested, doubling up with laughter,
"Iffen you'd please to feather with something' light,
Old man Fikes, her uncle, broke a switch from a myrtle
He said, "Annie, it's been thirty yare since I whopped
you when you was a young un, and you 'bout four time
the size you was then. But dogged if I ain't man enough
to do hit agin. You git back to the women-folks and leave
the men raise their fences."
She left them, turning a broad amiable back. Mo Jack-
lin called after her.
"When we're ready to stake and rider, come on back,
Annie, and set on top o' the stakes and they'll be no need
o' driving' 'em."
She joined the women, puffing and chuckling. Most of
them were pale and quiet. Her robustness was a rank
growth, like a huge ragweed flowering in a worn-out field.
The thin women dropped their eyes.
Ella Martin said querulously, "Iffen you worked hard as
I do, Annie Wilson, you'd have no strength left for sich
Annie linked her arm in Piety's and they walked to-
gether to the yard. Piety saw her mother's face sharpen.
The long nose seemed to grow more pointed. Mrs. Lantry
reproached her cousin.
"I'll say to your face, Annie, what I'll say behind your
back. 'Tain't mannerly no-ways to go scaperin' acrost to
the men-folks that-a-way."
The big woman laughed.
"I always gives them fellers as good as they sends," she
said. "They perfectly enjoys it," she added complacently.
SOUTH MOON UNDER 19
The women called in some of the younger boys to help
lay plank tables on the south side of the house. Romping
children and sprawling babies were pushed aside to make
room. Mrs. Lantry brought out a long white tablecloth.
The others protested its use.
"No use lettin' them dirty men smutty it."
Gratified, she sent Piety to return it to her trunk in the
bedroom. The guests had brought more food than twice
their number could eat. Each woman flushed with satis-
faction over her splint hickory basket as the others insisted
she had brought too much. Mrs. Lantry was providing
pork backbone and rice for the crowd. The last of the
winter's butchering had been done before leaving the west
side of the river. Sausage casings had been stuffed and
given a first smoking. Hams and shoulders and side-meat
had been put down in barrels of salt brine. The fresh
backbones were simmering in the black iron wash-pot, the
smell sweet and heavy on the thin March air. As the sun
rose high, rice was added. Piety was told to stir the
Annie Wilson said, "Leave Marthy do it. Then mought
be she'd git Syl Jacklin to he'p."
Mrs. Lantry said, "I don't aim to encourage Marthy
courtin'. She ain't but sixteen."
Annie said easily, "I'd buried me a man time I were
seventeen. Sho, Py-tee here ain't too young-what you,
honey, fifteen? Leastwise, to make a beginning Twelve
ain't too young jest to let the boys come a-settih' around.
A gal young un o' twelve's mighty near growed."
"Well, mought be, but Marthy's my big he'p in the
house. Py-tee's a purely willing' worker, but she's the big-
gest crazy for field-work. Always a-follerin' her daddy to
the field, totin' a hoe since she were so-big."
Ella Martin said, "Lantry's lucky. Them boys is big
enough to take out for theirselves. 'Twon't be too long 'til
SOUTH MOON UNDER
they're done gone. Iffen Py-tee's a good hand in the field,
I say, Lantry's lucky."
The women warmed up to their talk as the day
warmed. They buzzed and clacked as they spread out the
food, tasting one another's samples. Dinner was not at
noon, because the men found that by working steadily
they could raise the fences without dividing the day in two.
"Le's be done when we be done," old man Wilson sug-
gested. "I aim to eat hearty when I sets down to eat, and
they ain't a mite o' pleasure in eating' good and then car-
ryin' your pore full belly to the field agin."
Young boys carried river water to the workers. The new-
split rails were spotted with the sweat of men. Hands
were blistered and splintered. The lean tanned faces were
grimy from a constant wiping away of moisture. There
was no more jesting. The work went doggedly. The
rails swung into place at the end of long arms, precisely,
rapidly. There was no pause except to drink from hollow
gourds or to bite off a fresh mouthful of tobacco.
The women nursed their babies, the breasts hot and
pendulous. The babies slept. Children whimpered and
were quieted with sips of water and squares of cake, yel-
low with eggs and strong with meat-drippings. At half-
past three the men plodded in from the north-east corner.
The clearing was girdled with good fence. The mark of
order was on the Lantry lands. The men washed their
hands and faces, rubbing their hair with damp towels.
They went to the plank tables and seated themselves.
Lantry towered over them. The sun glinted in his eyes
and beard. He cleared his throat.
"Men," he said, "I can't eat a bite without I say I'm
powerful proud to have me a noble fence like this un.
I'm much obliged to you all, I'm shore." He hesitated.
"Ary time I kin do the same for ary man he'ped me, I'll
be proud to have him call on me."
SOUTH MOON UNDER 21
The words were a fixed form. Piety saw that they tor-
tured him. His teeth were tight together; the muscles in
his neck constricted. All he asked was that these men go
away now and leave him alone. Old man Wilson, help-
ing himself to a fried squirrel head before he sat down,
answered for the others.
"That's jest all right, son Lantry. Proud to he'p, and
you'll be called on, never fear."
The women served the food, hurrying around the tables
with hunched shoulders, bending a little forward from
years of walking in the sand. They had put on their shoes
again for the occasion. There was a hesitancy in begin-
ning, although several had filled their mouths.
Mrs. Lantry said uncomfortably, "Reckon somebody had
orter give thanks--"
"I'll ask the blessin'," Mo Jacklin proffered gravely.
He rolled his eyes and nudged Spudd Wilson. He bowed
"Good God, with a bounty
Look down on Marion County,
For the soil is so pore, and so awful rooty, too,
I don't know what to God the pore folks gonna do."
There was a silence, a lifting of heads. Spudd Wilson
covered his mouth to stifle a gulp of mirth. Young Johnny
Martin giggled and poked Piety, standing behind him with
a plate of biscuits. Annie Wilson's broad shoulders shook.
Most of the women were vaguely horrified, looking at
one another. They sat down with the men.
"That's a powerful quare-soundin' blessin'," Ella Martin
complained. "Don't know as it's safe to eat under the sign
o' sich foolishness."
The men came stoutly to Mo's defense, shovelling in fried
chicken, pork backbone and rice, sausage, beans, grits,
corn pone and biscuit.
22 SOUTH MOON UNDER
"Ary thanks for rations is good thanks," said old Pikes.
"I bigger the Lord know when a man's thankful, and He
ain't a-goin' to snatch the victuals outen his gullet jest
account o' he don't mention 'em serious."
"I mean When a feller ain't proud to set down to
table, and plenty on it, time to git worried over what-all
God's fixin' to do to him."
"Pass me the rabbit stew," Annie Wilson said. She
helped herself generously. "I'm a slave to rabbit."
The women, for all their leanness, ate as much as the
men. Talk increased as the eating grew slow. They were
laboring at the food. The men picked and chose among
the desserts; pound cake, lard cake, sweet potato pone, pies
of canned blueberries and peaches, wild orange preserves,
guava paste and cassava pudding.
"Must be I got a bait," Mo Jacklin said, "I be gittin' kind
The men drifted away from the tables. The women
scraped plates indolently. Groups of men squatted on
their haunches on the shady side of the stoop, others sat
on the edge with legs suspended, chatting idly. Clusters
of boys threw knives at the young live-oak at the north-
west corner of the house. The well-aimed blades quivered
in the wood.
Ella Martin called, "You boys'll kill that tree."
Piety said quickly, "They ain't barkin' it none.":
The crowd was replete. Here and there a man lay back
on the sand, his hat over his eyes, and dozed. The smaller
children slept inside the house, curled like kittens on the
beds and on quilts on the floor. Their dirty bare feet
twitched. Now and then a woman came in quietly to look
'at them. In the late afternoon a southerly breeze brought
a sound from the road. Piety heard it first and pulled at
her father's sleeve. Lantry lifted his hand.
SOUTH MOON UNDER
"Be still" he said.
Spudd Wilson winked.
S"I figgered them fellers'd be moseyin' along 'bout now."
"Who is it?" Ella Martin asked. "Sounds like a
Spudd said, "Willy Saunders and Buck Hinson and
The crowd stirred. The men sat upright. The women
fluttered like disturbed hens. Mrs. Lantry spoke indig-
"Them Moss Bluff rowdies!"
"Easy, daughter!" Old man Wilson lifted his eyebrows
at her. "They likely bein' sociable. They got the same
right as ary man to be friendly."
Lantry listened closely, his eyes fixed on the blue haze
across the river, as though the approaching sound might
be of men from distant hills. The creaking of wheels
came loser. As the wagon emerged from the -forest
growth, the men riding on high seats waved wide black
felt hats and called lustily.
"Hi-yuh! How's the work a-comin'?"
Lantry walked to the new gate to meet them. The
others straggled after him. He hailed the wagon.
"Git down, men, and come in."
The newcomers were four: Saunders, Hinson and two
strangers. They were markedly of a different breed from
the men who watched them jump down from their seats.
They were more heavily built and swarthier, as though a
thicker blood ran through them. Not all the men knew
them. Spudd Wilson greeted them in the casual tone of
"You-all's right peert gittin' to a fence-raisin'. Fence is
"That's good news, boys." Saunders cocked his head at
SOUTH MOON UNDER
his companions. "We studied on the correck time to go
to a fence-raisin', and we figgered 'twere when the work
was done done."
.He slapped his leg and roared with laughter. The rest
grinned, spitting. Hinson reached in the wagon and lifted
out two brown crockery demi-johns with corn-cobs for
"We didn't want you should think hard of us, Mr. Lan-
try, and we carried something' we figgered 'd make us a
sight more welcome than the work."
Lantry said nothing. Old man Wilson looked at him
and moved forward.
"Men, you're mighty welcome jest-so, we had he'p and.
a plenty, and we're proud to see you. But now see here,
iffen ever' man figgered that-a-way and carried what I
reckon you-all carried, and come late with it, what I say
is-where-all'd be the fence-raisin'?"
Hinson uncorked a jug.
"There shore wouldn't be none," he said, "but there'd
be a mighty merry time."
The crowd laughed and edged in towards the jug. Each
man drank from the narrow mouth. Lantry hesitated a
moment, then tipped the jug far back and swallowed
deeply. He wiped the drops from his mouth.
"That's fine, sir. That's prime corn liquor." He opened
and closed his mouth, judging the after-taste. "Sprouted
corn or meal?"
"'Pears to me the feller made it, mentioned meal," Hin-
son said demurely.
The whiskey was of his own distilling, as all knew. They
snickered in appreciation.
"Come to the house, men, and set down to the table."
Lantry waved them through the gate.
"We had dinner, but we kin drink and set," they told
SOUTH MOON UNDER
They moved to the house with the demi-johns. Spudd
Wilson introduced the Moss Bluff men to the women,
"Ladies, these here is Mr. Saunders and Mr. Hinson and
Here and there a woman greeted them, lowering her
eyes. Piety was afraid food would not be offered them.
Mrs. Lantry said stiffy, "Won't you set down and eat
They refused food, but invited the women to drink.
They declined for the most. Those who accepted said, "A
mighty leetle. Seems like hit goes to my head." Piety
noticed that the older women drank with greater gusto.
Grandma Jacklin said, "Yes, I'll have a good big swaller.
I were raised on it, and when hit's good, hit he'ps my
stummick." Annie Wilson, too, drank with pleasure.
Mrs. Lantry said, "I got good scuppernong wine I made
last summer, iffen you ladies prefers it. Go fetch it,
The lassitude of the men vanished. The liquor, sweet
and raw, burned their throats. It struck through them,
hotter than the noon-day sun, drawing the sweat from
them. They complained of the quality of the last whiskey
sold by the Eureka storekeeper. It had no strength, no
virtue. The price was high. Fifty cents a quart was unrea-
sonable. It paid a man to make his own.
Old man Wilson said, "I always bigger to git me a barrel
made from cane-skimmin's in the fall."
The sun dropped below the hammock. Twilight came
unnoticed. Suddenly they were aware of the darkness.
Willy Saunders shouted for lights. Piety and Martha
brought torches of fat-wood splinters. They held them
while Lantry and the boys did the belated chores. The
Moss Bluff crowd was out-drinking the others two to one.
26 SOUTH MOON UNDER
The women made ineffectual sorties at their men, hinting
of home. The men ignored them.
"We ain't a-goin' home 'til we've done danced with all
you ladies," Buck Hinson called.
"That's right! Make us a leede music for a breakdown"
Three of the men brought their instruments from the
house. Old man Wilson, as crack fiddler, struck up a tune,
"Sugar in the Gourd." One of the Moss Bluff strangers,
a little tipsy, picked the strings of a banjo, and Mo Jacklin
played the harmonica. They played lustily, somewhat.out
of tune. The music jangled and the men clapped their
hands. The women could not resist patting their feet.
Annie Wilson said, "A feller can't dance to 'Sugar in
the Gourd' is purely ailin'."
Suddenly Lantry leaped into the light of the torches.
"Take your partners"
He whooped and cried out a verse of the song.
"Sugar in the gourd
Goed on the ground-
Way to git it out
Is to roll the gourd around."
He was calling the set. No one knew that he was
familiar with the figures of the dance. They looked at
one another. Piety edged in close to watch him. She fol-
lowed the big figure with shining eyes. Some of the
women murmured a protest at dancing with the Moss
Bluff men. Annie Wilson was kicking off her shoes. Tit-
tering, others of the women removed theirs. They came
slowly to the light and men seized, them. Lantry snapped
Annie Wilson towakds him as easily, Piety thought, as
though the woman were a sapling. There were shouts of
laughter when Buck Hinson, instead of gathering in one
of the pretty girls, swooped on Grandma Jacklin and
swung her into the circle forming for the square-dance.
SOUTH MOON UNDER 27
"Older they be, the more they knows"
The old woman showed the hit-or-miss pattern of her
teeth and cackled shrilly. She followed until she was out
"I got to quit," she gasped. "Listen to me hasslin'."
Then Hinson swung out a girl. Annie Wilson and
Lantry were dancing furiously. He called the figures with
"Take two back
Hold that calico
From the wall"
The pair scuffled hugely in the sand, the woman's bare
feet kicking up a spray behind her. The bearded man
and the big woman cast vast shadows that followed them
grotesquely in the smoky light. Both were sweating. When
the set was ended, Annie dropped near-by on the sand
and fanned her hot face. Piety slipped to her side and
sat close against her. A warm sweet steam came to her
from the woman's flesh. She saw a streak of grime across
Annie's wrist where Lantry had pulled her towards him.
Lantry called to his wife to dance the next set with him.
She refused curtly. He blew through his beard and drank
again from the demi-john.
Piety heard one man say, "Never did see Lantry that
sociable," and another, "No, nor I never seed that much
corn liquor into him, to make him sociable." She was
pleased that her father danced and sang. Old man Wilson
began to fiddle again. Lantry stood in front of Annie
Wilson and Piety. He hesitated. Then he held out his
hand to the girl.
"Time your daddy was learning' you something' besides
ploughin', honey," he said.
She followed him, dizzy with pleasure in the hold of
SOUTH MOON UNDER
his hot hand on her arm. When he called the set, swing-
ing her gallantly, he howled the name of a figure that
was strange to the dancers. They continued to shuffle their
feet in time to the music, but did not advance, watching
him with puzzled faces. He danced the figure and some
of the quicker men followed his steps. Others dropped
out of the set. He fell back on familiar figures. They
sashayed, swung their partners.
"Swing or cheatl"
The set was ended. Lantry indicated that he was done
for the evening. The tune-makers put up their instruments.
The demi-john passed around. There was excited talk of
the new figure. Groups knotted here and there outside
the light, talking of Lantry. The Moss Bluff men nodded
to one another.
"That feller's from a good ways off," they said wisely.
"Lantry," Willy Saunders said, moving dose to him,
"where did you l'arn that bigger?"
Lantry did not look at him.
"I dis-remember. I reckon some knows it and some
"Don't nobody know hit in these parts. Where-all you
come from, man?"
Saunders asked the question in apparent innocence.
The man Lantry seemed to expand. The deep chest
swelled, like a bull breathing before a charge. The vast
shoulders lifted higher, the great arms lifting with them.
The red-brown eyes smouldered like coals about to blaze.
Above his beard clenched teeth bared white for an instant.
Instinctively the crowd shrank away. Piety blinked at him
in a sudden panic. She had never seen him so. Saunders
faced him, swaying a little.
"Mought be you ain't a-sayin', Mr. Lantry."
There were murmurs. It seemed to those who knew
Lantry that they had waited twenty years for this moment.
SOUTH MOON UNDER
Lantry would bring down his fist like an axe-head. Willy
Saunders would go down like a rotten fence post. Through
his tipsiness the Moss Bluff man felt their fear. He rubbed
his eyes and his mouth with the back of his hand. Lantry
was staring beyond him. The big man's pent breath burst
out in a sigh. He dropped his arms. The deep voice
"Where I come from, Willy, men ain't impudent nor
nosey. They minds their business and leaves the other
man mind his."
He turned his back. Saunders laughed nervously. Hin.
son spoke sullenly.
The Moss Bluff men took their jugs and wavered to
their wagon. They rattled off without leave-taking. Mrs.
Lantry's friends spoke indignantly after their going.
"Them fighting' jessies come jest to stir up a ruckus. Lan-
try had orter crawled his frame."
Old man Wilson said, "No, they come sociable. Leave
'em go that-a-way."
The women gathered up the sleeping children. They
had divided the food by daylight, each one filling her
basket with scraps of another's cooking. A plentiful sup-
ply was left for Mrs. Lantry. They said to her, "Hit's
hard to cook, and you no more than moved." They were
tired and sleepy. The men were half-blind with drowsi-
ness. They moved silently to their wagons at the gate;
through the clearing, the hammock, down the bluff to
the river landing, into their rowboats. They cosed Lan-
try's new gates after them. He had fenced his land in.
One or two among them understood as well that he had
fenced them out.
Lantry watched them disappear into the darkness. Their
voices died away. Far down on the river there was the
dick of an oar-lock. The man threw back his head.
30 SOUTH MOON UNDER
"Well, you had a plenty this evening, Mrs. Lantry com-
"Git into the house, woman!"
The woman and her children were as alien to him as
the rest. He herded them away. Piety did not move. She
watched him, her hand half over her mouth. He could
never be strange to her, nor far away.
She said, "Cain't I he'p free the creeters?"
He stared at her. He moved to her, laying his arm across
her thin shoulders.
He said gently, "Yes, Py-tee, we'll turn 'em loose
They went together to the.animals. The chickens were
asleep in their coop. They did not disturb them. They
untethered the mule and cow and removed the rails from
around the hogs. The creatures snorted but did not stir.
The mule understood that he was free and galloped across
the clearing. The hogs grunted and shifted. Lantry tried
the slats here and there.
A feeling of elation swept him. He panted, like a man
who has run a long way in the sun and has now flung
himself down in the shade to rest. He looked over the
fence into the scrub, invisible with night. There was no
sound but the stir of the pines. He spoke in the blackness
to his daughter.
"I think we'll git along all right and make a livin'."
He hesitated. "Honey, I got a idee this place be safe."
FIE years of planting had levelled the soil of the dear-
ing. Sugar-cane and corn had flattened the fields. Sweet
potatoes had been killed and the hills knocked down again
for the digging. Planting, growth and harvest; planting,
growth and harvest; they had smoothed the sandy loam
to a counterpane flung down between" scrub and
Lantry was late with his corn. It was April. The whip-
poor-wills had been calling for a month. The cane was
well advanced, but he was only now planting his field
corn. Crows made question and answer in the neighbour-
ing hammock, waiting for the seed to fall. The birds inter-
rogated raucously the man and mule moving steadily,
sideways to the high sun. The corn dropped like gold
nuggets from the one-horse planter. The crows would
drift down like shining leaves of burned paper and would
dig it up again.
Hearing them, the man felt an instant of despair. If
there were not crows to fight there was drought; if not
drought, insects, incessant rain or mildew. Yet he had
prospered in his five years in the scrub. The fringe of
hammock soil had produced with a lushness startling to
his experience. Corn had grown higher than his head, so
that he had moved through it like a bearded prophet. He
raised a small patch of tobacco for his own use. It had a
fine flavour. Yams had grown bigger than Piety's thigh.
His money crop, the cane, had made sugar and syrup of
choice quality. But he had had three sons at home to fight
with him. Now they were leaving him.
32 SOUTH MOON UNDER
Abner, the alien among them, had married a cousin
and moved back across the river to the piney-woods. Zeke
was homesteading half a mile to the north, duplicating
his father's clearing. He had married and built a one-
room cabin soon after New Year's. Thaddeus was court-
ing. He had promised not to leave until the spring crops
were well along, but he worked half-heartedly. Martha
was of little use at field-work. His wife he discounted.
She helped to plant and hoe and dig potatoes, but her
querulousness was a constant offense. He preferred to
leave her in the house and yard, complaining over her
pots and pans, throwing water at the chickens in a sudden
pet. After this spring, only Piety would be left to him.
The girl was turning beds for sweet potatoes in the
north clearing. She drove a pony-like white horse and
small plow. The plow handles pulled at her armpits, so
that her shoulders jerked at every roughness and her bare
feet flew up behind her. She held the plow steadily and
the lines of her beds were true. Lantry watched the small
figure on the other side of the clearing as he turned his
corner. As he looked, the plow-point caught a root and
bucked. The girl plunged forward in a somersault. The
man dropped his lines to run to her, but in a moment she
was on her feet. He could see her brush the dirt from
her face with her arm and take up the plow-lines again.
, He thought, "She don't weigh enough to hold herself
He heard the girl's high shrill voice call to her horse.
She spoke seldom, and the small thin tones invariably
stirred him. Hearing her, he felt for a moment that he
was not alone in this place. He clicked to his mule. He
finished his planting before Piety was done. There were
two hours of daylight left and the April sun was warm.
He fed and watered his mule at the shed west of the house,
SOUTH MOON UNDER 33
then turned the animal to graze in the fenced pasture. He
went to the girl.
"Leave me finish here, Py-tee," he called to her. "The
way the plow done wasted you, can't be you got too
much breath left."
"Hit didn't harm me none," she laughed, shaking her
small head at him. "Whoa!" She lay back on her plow-
lines to stop the horse. "I ain't no-ways tired."
"That's what you say, honey. Then time you gits to the
house, you're a-settin' to the table nigh asleep and a-drap-
pin' into the bed like a sack o' meal."
"Well, I wants to finish. These is my pertatersl" She
defied him, laughing.
"Look at you," he derided her. "A gal no bigger'n a
hammock wren, standing' there a-claimin' a hull pertater
field. Dogged if you ain't gittin' impudent as a cricket."
He squatted on his haunches and stuck a straw of
broom-sage in his mouth.
"Go ahead, finish your hills. I'll wait on you and quar-
rel with you if you don't do it good."
The straight thin back marched away from him, the
'soles of the dirty bare feet turned back at him. He
chuckled to himself, his eyes glowing, watching her pride
in the evenness of her furrows. The broom-sage dangled
against his beard. As she swung back at the far end and
moved towards him for the turning of the last bed, he
could see that her deep-lidded eyes were fixed far over his
head. She had picked out a distant tree to run by. It made
They walked side by side to the shed to put up the
plough and care for the horse. The cow had come to the
gate to be milked. Piety let her in and brought the gourd
while Lantry fed her. The girl rubbed the hard head of
the animal as the man milked. The sweet scent of the
34 SOUTH MOON UNDER
smooth-haired hide, the perfumed breath, mingled with
the crunched corn and the sweaty acridity of the human
bodies. In the cabin Mrs. Lantry lifted her voice above the
kitchen clatter. Martha answered, her voice dull through
the pine wall.
The milking was done. Piety took the gourd of milk
in her two hands. They walked slowly to the house. The
breezeway and kitchen had been added at the rear. At
the steps of the breezeway Lantry said, "Hold steady
now." He picked up the girl by the waist and lifted her
high, the brimming gourd level in her cupped hands. Her
bare toes reached for the floor as he set her down.
"That's the way not to waste no milk coming' up the
They laughed at each other. Mrs. Lantry grumbled at
Martha said, "Ma, 'pears to me like you'd be used to
them cutting' the fool."
Lantry said, "Yes, Marthy, but she's used to quarreling ,
Mrs. Lantry said, "Py-tee, you he'p now."
There was no reality except the work of the house. The
woman knew the field work was hard. Yet when the girl
came into the house, she made an aggrieved claim on her.
Martha said in a low voice, "Supper's about done, Py-tee.
You go set down. I'll finish."
The older girl was almost a woman, phlegmatic and
maternal. She had Lantry's red coloring faded to sandi-
ness. Her plain, solid face was spotted with yellow
freckles. The younger girl sat on the top step of the
breezeway, leaning her head wearily against the wall until
supper was called. After supper Martha made her a sign
that she would take care of the dishes. Piety washed her
hands and face, her grimy feet and legs, and slipped into:
the dusky bedroom. Twilight filled the room with a
SOUTH MOON UNDER 35
shadowy coolness. She got into her nightgown and
stretched her legs against the one rough dean sheet. She
drew a quilt over her and lay drowsily while the twilight
deepened into dark and bull-bats darted past the window.
Before the girl dro d to sleep she heard voices on the
breezeway. Zeke and is wife had walked the half-mile
from their clearing to pass an hour before bedtime. Zeke
was lonely after the bustle of a family. He came a little
wistfully to offer the details of his homesteading for dis-
cussion. He was a tip-nosed, ash-headed little fellow like
a faded chipmunk. He had bright small eyes of robin's-
egg blue. Piety pictured his eyes as he talked, his hair
turning up forlornly from his neck in pale drake's-tails.
Lantry listened as his son spoke of the stick-and-clay
fireplace he had completed that day; of the cooking-rack
in the yard, with hooks suspended to hold pots over the
fire; of the hog-pen he would build, planning to make
hogs his money crop. The animals ran wild in scrub and
swamp and hammock, fattening on pine and acorn mast,
on huckleberries and palmetto berries, large and black and
Lantry asked a question now and then but gave no
advice. Zeke was a man and able to run his own affairs.
He knew as much of stock-raising and of farming as his
father. He sometimes recognized in the older man the
touch of the novice, so that he wondered how he had pre-
viously earned his bread. He did not ask.
Zeke's wife, Ella May, said to Martha, "I seed your feller
when we was to Eureka Sat'dy."
The sandy face flushed.
"That sorry Syl Jacklin, I reckon."
"When you and him fixin' to take up together?"
Martha shrugged her shoulders.
"I ain't in no hurry. I ain't fixin' to take up at all, lessen
he'll come live over here."
36 SOUTH MOON UNDER
Lantry looked at her sharply. He had not understood
that the courting had gone so far.
"None o' them Jacklins likes the scrub," he said.
"Well, they's one of 'em'll like it, or he won't git to
marry me." She added, "And he better make me a livin',
Piety, almost asleep, thought, "I wouldn't bigger that-a-
way. If a man done his best."
She was aware by how narrow a margin Lantry had
escaped disaster with his crops. There was something
about the most fertile field that was beyond control. A
man could work himself to skin and bones, so that there
was no flesh left on him to make sweat in the sun, and a
crop would get away from him. There was something
about all living that was uncertain.
Ella May asked, "Where-all's Py-tee?"
Martha said, "In the bed. She's been beddin' sweet
pertaters. I mean, she's give out. Field work's too hard on
Mrs. Lantry said, "Hit don't hurt her none. Seem to
me she do it jest to git away from the housework."
Lantry rumbled angrily, "Don't none of you know what
you're talking' about. She perfectly enjoys it. She's got a
knack for it, hit comes to her natural. Hit's a heap harder'n
the piddlin' ol' jobs to the house, but she likes it. I got to
have me some he'p."
Zeke asked, "Where-all's Thad?"
"Acrost the river, he'pin' Abner round up some cattle.
Ab's gittin' him a fine bunch o' cattle."
Zeke said, "Long as he don't keer whose calves he runs
in along of his own."
"Abner wouldn't steal calves, no more than you and
me!" Martha flashed at him.
Zeke began to whistle indifferently.
SOUTH MOON UNDER
He said after a moment, "Ab's got him one thing I'd
give a pretty for. He had him more syrup and corn than
he'll use, and he takened a couple o' barrels and made him
the nicest ten gallons o' whiskey I ever did taste."
Ella May asked, surprised, "Didl Where'd he git the
"Used the wash-pot to cook the buck. Fixed him a cy-
press cover and daubed day around the edge to make hit
tight. Fixed him a pipe outen the top, and a gutter for
the pipe to run through."
"Well, I do know."
Lantry chuckled. "Ella May, I've seed stills made outen
a lard pail, a hog trough and a gun barrel."
Mrs. Lantry complained, "Yes, and making' ten gallons
to a time, he'll be raisin' up as bad a fuss with it as them
Moss Bluff fellers."
"Sho, hit's a sight better to make hit than to buy hit."
Lantry stroked his beard. "You know. what you're
drinking I'm fixin' to make me a few jugs, come fall,
and my cane juice plentiful. I don't use much liquor, but
fifty cents a quart comes high."
"You mighty right." Zeke nodded maturely at his father.
"Ain't it agin the law, making' whiskey?" Ella May in-
quired. "'Pears like I've done heard something' 'bout hit
bein' agin the law."
"I dunno," Zeke puzzled. "I can't see why. Cattde
stealin' is onlawful, and hog-stealin'. And murder. I can't
see no harm to making' whiskey."
Lantry stretched his long legs.
"Why yes," he said, "hit's agin the law. They's a tax on
whiskey, a gov'mint tax. You kin make it, but you belong
to git a license and pay a tax. But sho, nobody don't pay
no mind to a feller making' a leetle jest to drink and enjoy
and treat his friends and kin-folks."
38 SOUTH MOON UNDER
He straightened, electric in the dusk.
"But now the gov'mint is mighty pertickler in Caroliny
and West Virginny. The revenooers is jest bounden de-
termined nobody won't git to make none. But sho, they
jest as good to stay to home and put their noses over their
own pots. They can't half ketch them fellers making'
moonshine up in them mountings. When they do come
up with 'em, they're like to git buckshot in their breeches
for their trouble. I mind me-"
"You been there, Pa?" Zeke leaned toward him eagerly.
Lantry drew a vast breath and was silent. He lit his cob
pipe and sucked on it. The light glowed against his beard.
His eyes were half closed.
"I'm tellin' you what folks has tol' me," he said reprov-
ingly. "I'll quit tellin' you, do you interrupt me."
"Well Pa, revenooers don't never mess up with nobody
in these parts, do they?"
"I never heerd tell of 'em botherin' ary man. Floridy
is a fine state that-a-way. Folkses here is the best in the
world to mind their own business and not go interferin' in
Zeke said, "Dogged if I wouldn't like to make whiskey
for a livin'."
Mrs. Lantry slapped at her legs.
"I'll be layin' a fire in the smudge-pot, iffen you're fixin'
to set up much longer. The skeeters is a-comin'."
"Don't make no smudge, Ma." Zeke and Ella May rose.
"We got to be goin'. We got a half-mile between us and
Piety heard the talk trailing away like fog. She wanted
to call after them, to say good-night to Zeke, but her eyes
and mouth would not open. She could hear the frogs in
the swamp, louder now than the voices moving toward the
SOUTH MOON UNDER 39
"Pa, how come you never made you no liquor from the
cane juice before?"
"I dunno, son."
Lantry's deep tones washed over her in a last misty
"Jest someway never got around to it."
A FEW pine needles sifted down on the shoulders of the
company assembled for the burying of Lantry's wife. The
man and his daughter Piety stood together, a little apart
from the rest of the family, as the last spadeful of sand
spattered over the grave. In death the woman had been
brought back across the river to the burying-ground in the
piney-woods. Lantry had turned over the stiff, fox-faced
body to her kin with something like relief, as though he
were returning a mule or horse he had borrowed.
Old man Wilson, the dead woman's father, remarked
brightly, "Seven yare, nigh to the day, son Lantry, since
you takened her acrost the river to live in the scrub."
Lantry nodded, stroking his beard, where a streak of sil-
ver ran like a thin shaft of lightning. Piety moved doser
Old man Wilson continued, "You've prospered, son, and
this pore dead creeter he'ped you to do so. Your young
uns is all growed and raisin' families, exscusin' Py-tee, and
her almost twenty-two."
Lantry spoke to her under his breath, "Le's go, honey.
01' Wilson's drunk."
They turned away through the pine trees towards the
river. Their rowboat rocked among bonnet-pads at the
landing. They stepped in and Lantry poled off silently.
Martha and Zeke and Thaddeus and their families were
to return to the scrub by wagon, crossing the river bridge
at Eureka. They watched after their father and sister.
Through a break in the trees they saw the big man bend
SOUTH MOON UNDER 41
to his oars. The young woman sat facing him, her small,
childlike face cupped in her hands.
"Long as Pa's got Py-tee where he kin look at her,"
Martha said drily, "the rest of us kin live or die--"
On the scrub side of the river Lantry grounded his boat
at his open landing. South of Otter Landing the river
bluffs flattened, and scrub met swamp in a twisting moil
of briers and rattan and moccasins. There was no fertile
ledge of hammock. Only cypresses reared their feathery
heads from gigantic bases. Lantry waved his hand towards
the south. He gave voice to his uneasiness for the first
time in seven years.
"Nobody won't never slip up on us that-a-way," he said.
Piety blinked at him, taking her thoughts from her
mother. For Lantry, she sensed, there were other enemies
than death. They walked together up the ledge. The trail
passed up through the rich darkness of hammock, across
a cleared field, and through a gate in the slat fence to the
house yard. They crossed the breezeway and lifted the
latch into the front room. Piety looked about her. The
house was no emptier than before. No place would be
empty, she thought, with Lantry in it. The man's bulk,
the fire of his presence, filled the room so certainly that
his wife, returning from the grave, would have crowded it.
Piety stared at the hearth, missing the accustomed sight of
her mother sitting near the fire. It was as though a sharp-
nosed, snappish bitch of long association was gone.
The burying had been at noon. It was now mid-after-
noon. Lantry and his daughter longed to go to the inter-
rupted work of the field. They sat stiffly on a bench
against the wall. Her mother, Piety thought, had enjoyed
In the sustaining of life were pain and pleasure. Her
mother had only understood the pain. Piety and Lantry
and indeed most folk she knew, felt a sharp pleasure in
42 SOUTH MOON UNDER
the details of the precarious thing that was existence.
Breakfast was good, and dinner and supper, and a little
snuff afterwards. The tug of the plow at the arms was
good, and the sight of new cane and corn sprouting green
above the earth. Deer, big-eyed and curious, and their
spotted fawns; fox-squirrels upside down on a pine tree,
black-backed and glossy, flicking their tails; all the small
creatures that crossed her path were good to watch. She
had never understood her mother's grumblings.
Towards dark the creak of wagon wheels sounded down
the scrub road. The rest of the Lantrys were returning to
their homes; Zeke, lonely because he had lost his wife in
childbirth in the fall; Martha, contented with her hus-
band, Sylvester Jacklin, and her twin babies; Thaddeus,
homesteading with his bride four miles to the north. The
wagon halted a moment at the gate; then, as though its
occupants had suddenly changed their minds, rattled on
Piety and Lantry breathed deeply, rose from the bench
and went together to the kitchen. Lantry sat by the range,
tending the fire while she cooked their meal. They ate in
their accustomed places across from each other at the
kitchen table, the space empty at the end where Mrs. Lan-
try had sat. Lantry watched Piety as she washed the dishes
at the water-shelf. She made quick, light movements like
a quail. The man followed her with his eyes. When they
left the kitchen he drew his hand across her soft hair.
"I'll move into the front room to sleep," he said. "You
keep your mammy's bedroom."
They were exhausted and slept long and hard. In the
morning she heard him stirring ahead of her. He was
building the kitchen fire. She opened her bedroom door
and peered into the front room. He had built a quick
blaze on the hearth for her to dress by. Something more
than the small fire warmed her bones. At breakfast Lantry
SOUTH MOON UNDER 43
moved to the place at the end of the table. They sat dose
together. He ate silently, moving his beard, his thoughts
milling behind his eyes. Startled, he looked up to see Piety
staring at him, her hands in her lap. She smiled, moving
her head a little.
"What you studying' about, watching' your Pappy that-a-
He poked his dull case-knife at her ribs to hear her
She wondered uneasily if he would go away to the field
without her. She hurried to get the dishes done, the two
beds made, the mosquito bars rolled back, the floors swept,
the dog and cat and chickens fed, while he did the out-
side chores. fHe allied over the stock feeding and milking
until he saw her at the last of her work. He came to the
breezeway with two hoes.
"We got a day's work fighting' the 'muda grass," he said.
The day seemed short. They hoed adjacent rows. The
man's long arms swung the hoe faster than her small-
boned ones. When he found himself too far ahead of her,
he turned to her row and hoed back to meet her.
Mrs. Lantry's illness had interfered with the routine of
the house. The next morning Piety felt obliged to catch up
with the washing. She rose long before daylight and had
the clothes half-rubbed and the black wash-pot boiling
before Lantry was up. After breakfast he contrived to
keep himself busy about the yard. He repaired harness;
drew off a new axe-handle; sorted over the equipment for
his muzzle-loading gun. Piety was using the pot-water
to scrub the floors. The corn-shucks scrub swished noisily
across the rough breezeway. Lantry filled his shot-bag
with shot, his horn with powder; polished the hickory
ramrod; gathered a handful of dried Spanish moss for
"You thu, Py-tee?"
44 SOUTH MOON UNDER
"We best take the mule and wagon into the scrub for
She took off her wet apron, put on her palmetto hat and
went with him, leaving the clothes to flap on the line and
the floors to dry without the usual last process of shuffling
back and forth across them with a cloth under bare feet.
The small thin figure with its shoulders a little bent trotted
beside the great bulky one.
The scrub had not burned in the seven years since they
had come to it. The mule threaded his way through young
pines and oaks higher than his ears. Lantry had not been
glad to see the heightening of the growth. He had liked
to be able to see across it for a mile or two from the cabin
doorstep. The mule came to a stop. He could go no
farther into the scrub. The undergrowth was a twisted
treachery. Saw palmetto ripped with its barbs at hide and
flesh; the refuse of old fires cluttered the infertile sand
with matted limbs, stumps and logs, all laced together
with thorny vines. The man and woman climbed from
the wagon and began to sort out scorched pine trunks,
whose cores would burn like oil.
"I gits a dream, sometimes," Lantry said in a low voice.
"I gits takened by surprise from the river. I belong to
run. I runs acrost the clearing and into sich a piece o'
scrub as this."
The sweat started from his temples as he talked. All
night, he told her, when the dream rode him, he ran
through the scrub, his feet interminably enmeshed in its
"I can't someway put my hand to peace and comfort,"
Her heart beat hard. She braced her small feet in the
high boy's shoes.
She blurted, "Pa, what you been so feered of?"
SOUTH MOON UNDER*
He did not answer. His breath came and went like the
air in a bellows.
He said at last, "You jest as good to know. Mought be
some day-you and me alone this-a-way-you'd have me to
hide out. Or lie for. Honey, I killed me a gov'mint man
in the up-country."
"How come you to do sich as that?"
The young voice was dispassionate, touched with a faint
"I were making' moonshine whiskey. The revenooers
come messin' up with me. I got my gorge up and I killed
me one. I lit out for the south. I been right smart oneasy
She remembered a drunken man from Moss Bluff,
swaying in the firelight on the night of the fence-raising,
asking Lantry questions.
"Does folkses around here know?"
"Don't nobody cold-out know, honey, but me and you.
But 'pears to me, times, like, here and there a man has
someway got a idee."
"They ain't nary one takened out after you?"
"If they has, they ain't caught up with me." He added
slowly, "But all my life I got it to study on."
Her heart thumped with his. She wanted to speak. She
could not think of any words to comfort him. She went
with him inside his fear, as though together they entered
some lonely place of shadows. They rode home without
further speech. They were warm and dose. It was as
though a skein of wool, tangled and torn, had been wound
at last into a firm bright ball.
The spring proved dry, and in March they planted a
garden at the foot of the bluff where the swamp merged
with the river, and the ground was moist without need
of rain. In a week turnips and collards and onions showed
green against the black muck. One Saturday morning
46 SOUTH MOON UNDER
Lantry left her to work the garden while he rowed to
Eureka to trade. When the dip of his oars was absorbed
by the rush of the river she bent to her weeding.
She was aware, with a slight acceleration of her heart-
beat, of the life going on around her; the movement of
alligators floundering in the creek, the slow beat of the
wings of herons, the catfish jumping. She worked quietly
for so long that when she lifted her head she found herself
looking into the dose bright eyes of an astonished cat-
squirrel. A black swamp rabbit hopped casually by a
hand's breadth away. She straightened her back and
walked to the lower corner of the garden to find where
he had pushed through the loose rail fence. She came there
on the recent track of a panther. She was not afraid by
daylight. She bent again to her work. She stayed at the
garden until the earth about the plants was combed as
smooth as her hair, hoping that Lantry would come so
that she might meet him at the swamp landing.
She returned to the house and started a fire for supper.
Towards sunset she heard him coming. He was whistling
as sweetly as a redbird. She went to the door and shaded
her eyes against the westerly sun. Lantry was swinging
across the clearing. His bearded head was thrown back,
his arms hung free from the shoulders, his long legs
moved in time with his whistling. He stopped whistling
abruptly and broke into a song. It was his favorite, "Git
along down." She heard him all the way across the dear-
ing in a musical burst of thunder.
"Git along down, git along down,
Git along down to Richmond town
To lay my t'baccy down."
She wondered where Richmond town might be, but by
the time Lantry was at the house he was calling to her,
waving his bags and bundles, and she did not remember
SOUTH MOON UNDER 47
to ask. He had gone to Eureka expressly-to buy new
strings for his banjo, hanging long unused under the
rafters. Now they were alone, he might indulge his taste
for music. He put the new strings on the instrument,
tuned it and picked at it, trying its tone, while she cooked
supper. He sat in the breezeway with the setting sun in
his beard and tinkled softly against the clatter of the pans.
On the following Saturday he left her alone again. Time
seemed to hang on her hands when he was away and she
occupied herself with tasks with which she seldom con-
cerned herself. She grated cassava roots and made starch
and pudding. The pudding was translucent like gum
drops. Lantry was fond of it. She went a short way into
the scrub and cut boughs of Highland ti-ti for a new yard-
broom. Lantry returned, his red-brown eyes glowing,
with a small accordion for her.
She preferred to listen to him rather than to play her-
self, but she turned earnestly to learning the instrument.
It was harder than ploughing new ground to remember
the difference between the two kinds of notes, and that
the accordion was opened for one and dosed for the other.
She wheezed gravely in and out, her eyes on him, the
tip of her tongue between her lips, following his direc-
tions. For more than a week she achieved nothing beyond
distressing howls and wheezes. Suddenly Lantry guffawed
with a great roar, as she had not heard him since he
laughed with Annie Wilson at the fence-raising.
"Honey," he said, "quit a-twistin' that pore ol' sick tom-
They laughed together until they were faint from it.
"Here, honey, leave me show you-"
He took the accordion and dosed his eyes and swayed
his shoulders. The music seemed to flow into him and
then flow out again. He played tunes she knew and tunes
that were strange, songs any one could tell came from a
48 SOUTH MOON UNDER
long way off. Some were lively. Others. were sweet and
infinitely sad. Then he opened his eyes and handed her
back the instrument, showing her once more the way it
She learned finally to play with the patient steadiness *f
her shooting. She wheezed out the hymns very well, an&>
slow measured pieces like "Nellie Gray." She had no feel-
ing for rhythm. When she got into pieces like "Little
Brown Jug" and "Run, Nigger, Run," she stumbled and
tripped over her own notes. She was hopelessly lost in
such dance tunes as "Hen Cackle." Sweating, with a
desperate intent, she squeezed a random note here and
there from the accordion in an attempt to keep the pace,
until Lantry stopped her gently.
"Py-tee, no use to try sich as that no more. Dogged if
you don't double back on your own track like a run wild-
He accepted her peculiar timelessness at the slower
pieces and they played them together with mutual satis-
faction. Through two springs and summers, into the sec-
ond autumn, Zeke or Thaddeus or Martha, walking down
the road to visit, heard the pair at their music. They came
on them sitting in the breezeway or before the hearth-fire,
absorbed in the magic of string and wind.
IN the second October after his wife's death Lantry ran
a few quarts of liquor from his cane-skimmings. He was
leaning over to put more fire under the wash-pot that
formed the cooker of the small still, when he found it sud-
denly impossible to breathe. Piety discovered him an hour
later on the sand, still fighting for air. He had torn open
his shirt and was dutching with one desperate hand at his
broad hairy breast. She thought her own breath would
The viciousness of the heart attack alarmed Lantry, not
for himself, but for her. Lying weakly at rest on his bed
while she left him a moment to fire the pot again, so as
not to lose the charge, a picture came before him of that
scrawny-fearless figure marching through the scrub with-
out him. The blood pounded again in his throat. This
place of dark hammock, of swift brown river, of impene-
trable scrub, became more than ever alien and unfriendly.
He saw the vague dangers that had never materialised
against him, swallowing her up, as he had seen an alligator
seize a fawn at the river's edge and drag it under. There
was nothing he could quite put his finger on, to be afraid
of for her, but he could not endure to leave her here alone.
She would have to live with Martha, or keep house for
widower Zeke. That was no life for a woman.
He saw in a new light the stupid Jacklin boy, Willy--
Sylvester's cousin-who had come half-courting Piety with-
out encouragement from either father or daughter. Willy
made a pretense' of visiting his cousin, rowing across the
SOUTH MOON UNDER
river to the scrub. Then he walked up as if by accident to
sit mutely with the Lantrys. He was slow and strong, with
a black forelock that hung between his eyes.
The next time he came, when Lantry was recovered
the older man welcomed him with unaccustomed hospi-
tality. He talked to him of crops, and finding that the
youth had always worked at timbering, turned amiably
to a discussion of trees. There was a rumour that a Pal-
atka lumber company might buy cypress rights along the
river and put in crews to timber and raft.- Lantry brought
out the straw-covered demi-john of his last whiskey and
asked young Jacklin's opinion on its flavour.
The youth said, "I ain't much for it," but he tipped up
the jug and took an obliging swallow. "That's noble
liquor, Mr. Lantry," he said earnestly.
Lantry took a deep drink, wiped his mouth and beard,
set down the jug and started away.
"I'll jest go on and visit with Marthy and Syl a whiles,"
he said. "I bigger you young folks don't want no inter-
Piety's puzzled eyes followed him as he walked across
the yard and out of the gate. When Lantry came home
again, the moon rode high over the scrub. The narrow
road was a silver ribbon. He was half-way home when
he met Piety and Willy. He thought with satisfaction
that it was a fine night for courting. Piety turned and
walked back with him and Willy went on alone.
When they were out of hearing Lantry said, "That's a
fine young feller. Couldn't git you no nicer young feller."
The girl did not speak. "Honey, be done said ary thing
yit about you marryin'?"
"Nary thing, Pa." She looked at him astonished.
He took her thin arm and squeezed it playfully.
"He jest been courtin', that it? Talkin' sweet? Puttin'
his arm around you, or kissin', or sich as that?"
SOUTH MOON UNDER 51
Her deep-lidded eyes were round. Willy had spoken
two or three times after Lantry's going, and then only
about the saw-mill at Palatka. He had not moved from
the spot where Lantry left him, until she had suggested
that they walk down the road and meet her father. He
had jumped up then like a hound told to come or go.
"Well, I be dogged!" Lantry spat violently into the
myrtle bushes. "I jest be dogged."
He said no more that night. Looking at him in the
bright moonlight as they went up the lane to the house,
she could not read his eyes. She went to bed in a daze.
For the first time she did not understand him. The next
morning Lantry paced the breezeway after breakfast and
did not go to his work. He waited until she had finished
her straightening of the cabin.
"Py-teel Come here."
She settled herself on the stoop while he walked back
and forth, his hands clasped behind him, his beard sunk
on his chest.
"You ever studied on gittin' married?"
"When Marthy married Syl, I studied some on it. Not
lately, I ain't."
"Willy's foolishly fond of you, Py-tee." He glared at
her sternly. "He jest don't say much, is all ails him, but
he's rarin' to git you."
She blinked at him.
"Would you have him, iffen he was to ask you?"
"I dunno. I ain't studied none on it."
He paced up and down.
"You like him a'right, Py-tee?"
"I reckon I like him."
He took a fresh start.
"Honey, you like to be powerful lonesome thouten no
young uns. Don't you fancy a passel o' the leetle fellers?"
She laughed. "I ain't much for dandlin' 'em. Always
52 SOUTH MOON UNDER
'peared to me young uns don't love to be dandled. Time
they gits some size to 'em, I likes 'em a'right."
The chill thought struck her that Lantry was lonely.
Perhaps he intended to move down with Martha, whose
family was begun. Perhaps he planned to go back where
he had come from, to the strange places where he had
learned the tunes he played and the songs he sung. Her
She asked bluntly, "You fixin' to go off?"
He laid his hands on her shoulders, so that the pulse of
his blood warmed them.
He said gently, "Not if I kin he'p it, Py-tee. I don't aim
to leave you long as I has the say. A man can't always
he'p hisself when hit comes to going' or to coming' or to
She understood. She nodded.
He said, "A man o' your own's natural. Seems like ever'
thing go along better when you do what's natural."
She asked, "What you want I should do?"
"Nothin' you don't r'aly want to. But if Willy suits
you, I say take him."
"He suits me good as ary feller, I reckon."
He held her shoulders an instant longer, then turned
abruptly to his work.
Willy came again on Sunday evening, bringing a gift
of bass from the river. The older man met him at the
gate. They walked together back of the house and began
to dress the fish while the scales were moist.
Lantry said, "Willy, mebbe you know, Py-tee thinks
right smart o' you."
The youth flushed. "I'm shore proud to hear it."
"I don't aim to ask you nothing' you got no fancy for
answerin', but if she was willing would you care for
"Yes sir, I'd be mighty proud."
SOUTH MOON UNDER
"Well you jest say to her then, Py-tee, you say, hit's all
fixed we should marry. And you see what she has to say."
"I'l do that thing, Mr. Lantry. Much obliged."
Lantry called towards the house. "Py-tee, fetch a pan
for the fish Willy carried you." He set off for the road.
He turned back. "Willy, you be foolishly fond of her,
ain't you? You be rain' for her?"
Young Jacklin shuffled his feet in the sand.
"I reckon, sir. Why, sho."
Lantry's uneasiness lifted. He went whistling to Mar-
tha's. When he returned, he found the matter arranged.
"Py-tee said, 'All right, then,"' Willy greeted him. He
poked an intimate finger in her ribs. "Didn't you, Py-tee?"
"That's what I said."
Lantry said, "That's fine."
The three sat in silence on the stoop.
A month later Lantry fetched the preacher from Eureka
by rowboat. Piety and Willy Jacklin were married at
Martha's, with a few of the Wilson and Jacklin kin pres-
ent from across the river. Abner and his wife came, bring-
ing a gift of a quarter of beef and a bolt of unbleached
muslin. Abner was doing well with cattle. He and his
wife were growing stout and florid with prosperity.
Martha had sewed new shifts and nightgowns and aprons
for her sister and had cooked a wedding supper of chicken
pilau and pound cake, served with elderberry wine. There
were no festivities and the group broke up before dark.
Willy and Piety walked back up the scrub road to the
Lantry cabin. Lantry would stay a few days with Martha.
"Give the young folks a chance to git acquainted and
settle down to their regular ways," he said. "Let 'em see
do they bigger on quarrellin', then I kin come in and say
There was no quarrelling. Willy went slowly about the
'work of the Lantry place, amiable and silent. Lantry came
54 SOUTH MOON UNDER
home a week later, as eager as a lost dog. Piety looked
from her father to Willy and back again, as though to
understand why Lantry had encouraged his inclusion in
the family. She felt a detached affection for her husband,
but when he was out of her sight she seldom thought of
him. They had moved into the wide bed with the high
mosquito bar that her father and mother had occupied.
It seemed to her that she was picking up in the middle
something that had been interrupted. But if there was a
meaning, she could not find it.
Willy had a way of sleeping curled up like a dog, his
head deep in his chest, one arm over his face. She awak-
ened one night after Lantry's return, when the hoot-owls
were crying in the moonlight, and looked at the doubled-
up figure breathing beside her. She thought that it might
just as well be a dog curled up in the bed, for all the
difference it made to her, one way or the other. A good
dog, that fetched and carried as she told him.
With Willy's broad stupid back bent easily to the harder
tasks, Lantry felt a secret triumph. It was as though, with
his back to the wall, he had stood up to the forces that
beat against him and had defeated them. A man's life was
not his own, nor the time or manner of his dying. He
moved like a cedar chip on the breast of the river; like a
chicken feather lifted by a high wind. The man felt,
securing this safety for the child for whom he knew such
tenderness, stronger than the river or the wind.
LANTRY's impatience with Willy Jacklin began two years
later when Piety's boy was born. It was as though in that
moment the man's slow usefulness was ended. He infuri-
ated Lantry on the day of the birth. Piety had mistaken
her time. When, alone in the house with his wife, a heavy
agony overtook her, Willy's mind was unable to accept the
fact of her travail, since by the calendar it was not yet due.
The woman paced the floor of the cabin, her small swol-
len figure teetering grotesquely. The man stood bewil-
dered in the doorway, watching her knife-struck progres-
He asked, "What you bigger ails you, Py-tee?"
"Must be I'm took, Willy. I ain't never been with nary
woman when she was took. I'll see kin I walk the pains
The man twisted his hands together, his black forelock
shaggy between his eyes.
"Be it better?"
"Nary a mite."
Beads of sweat stood out on her temples.
"What you bigger I'd best do, Py-tee?"
She must use her last breath, she thought, to order him
to come or go.
"Go call Pa."
He went to the landing where Lantry was repairing a
boat, calling him from the ledge as he came towards him.
Lantry made out the words, "Py-tee's ailin'," and began
to run up the bluff with long reaching strides. He was at
the cabin ahead of Willy.
SOUTH MOON UNDER
"Honey, what's it like?"
She gripped his sleeve and described the hot pain that
swelled to the unbearable, held its crest, like a kettle about
to boil over, and then in time receded.
"You're took, Py-tee. It were that-a-way with your Ma."
He said over his shoulder, "She's took, Willy." He felt
her hands. They were numb and cold. "You best lay
down and git you warm. Hit don't do to git all froze up,
like." He settled her on her bed and covered her with the
white spread. "You kin quilt with the counterpane 'til
time to git you undressed."
He came to the door. Willy stood as he had left him.
Lantry roared at him.
"Great God, feller, don't stand there a-battin' your eyes
at mel Git to Doc Lorimerl Don't make no difference
what he's doin', carry him back here"
"Take the mule and wagon?"
"Oh, my God-hit'd take you all the dayl Fetch him
in the rowboat!"
Willy turned away. He had had time to reach the edge
of the hickory ledge. Lantry saw him coming back
towards the cabin. Willy called from the rear gate.
"Is the oar-locks in the boat?"
Lantry's blood surged into his head and pushed against
his temples. His face was violent, the color of old beef.
His red beard glowed, the streaks of silver like tongues of
white-hot flame. His eyes were on fire. He ran to the
farm-bell lashed to an eight-foot post and tolled it wildly.
It would bring Zeke and Martha from their half-mile and
two miles away. Martha would help Piety while he was
He passed Willy at the gate in a rush. He was like a
red bull ploughing furiously across time and space. Willy
SOUTH MOON UNDER 57
heard him in a few moments, clanking the chain of the
rowboat, rattling the oar-locks. The oars dipped noisily
into the shallow water by the river-bank. Then, an in-
stant later, the deep whisper of the river current engulfed
Lantry was gasping for breath when he landed Lori-
mer at the foot of the bluff. He hurried him to the cabin,
where the woman laboured with a child too brawny for her
spare loins. Willy crouched unhappily on his haunches.
in the yard, flipping a knife into the sand. Martha moved
quietly back and forth with hot towels. Lantry went into
"Is it bad, honey?"
The turtle-like lids of her eyes were blue with pain.
Lantry could not endure to look at her. He moistened
"You afeered, Py-tee?"
The small head moved a little on the pillow.
"I ain't afeerd."
"Kin you stand it?"
"What don't kill you, I bigger you kin stand."
He left the room precipitously. Martha's square frame
passed him. Her eyes narrowed.
"You never had nary doctor for Ma in the child-bed,"
she said with a rare bitterness. "You made nary visit to
me two years ago when my Cleve come, 'til he were a
day-two old. Now the way you carries on---"
He said hoarsely, "She's so scrawny and so leetle."
The woman's voice softened.
"I know, Pa. Hit's perfectly piteeful."
The sun set, dropping behind the ledge. The full moon
rose over the scrub.
Martha said, "Hit'll be a boy, coming' on the full moon."
58 SOUTH MOON UNDER
Lorimer said, "I'll be dogged if I see how you women-
folks figure the moon when it comes to birthin' young uns.
Don't none of you go that high to get one."
Piety pressed her lips together, so that a sharp cry
slipped out only now and then against her will. Moon-
light filled the cabin. The boy was born. Martha wrapped
the new Jacklin in old soft muslin. Lorimer joined Zeke
and Willy in the kitchen. They ate cold rations and drank
cold coffee; stretched and laughed and chatted. The job
was done and they talked of other things. Birth and
death were unimportant, being only a beginning and an
Lantry did not appear in the kitchen. Lorimer, wiping
his mouth with the back of his hand, passed through the
main room on his way again to Piety. He found Lantry
half-conscious on his bed.
When he had eased the man, he said, "Shame to you,
Lantry. Tryin' to get two treatments for the price of one.
I've got the notion to charge you double."
Zeke said, "He like to rowed the guts outen him, I
reckon, the time he made a-fetchin' you."
"Yes," Martha said shortly, "and railin' out at pore
Willy didn't he'p him none, neither. Willy says he like to
went crazy when he come askin' him was the oar-locks to
Willy offered mildly, "'Peared to me like 'twere savin'
time to come ask, 'stead o' gittin' there and finding' 'em
back to the house."
Lantry smiled weakly, rubbing the sore battleground
of his breast.
"I had no right to take on so, son. Hit jest put me in
a blaze to see you standing' still."
Lorimer said, "Another of them petsll finish you."
Lantry did not see Piety's baby until after sun-up the
next morning. Then he was able, holding to Willy's
SOUTH MOON UNDER
shoulder, to walk slowly into the bedroom, breathing as
Though his breath were of spun glass. Piety lay still ex-
hausted, her dosed lids white over her eyes. The child
slept beside her. Above the wrinkled face the silky birth-
hair was the red-brown of Lantry's. The man slipped one
cautious finger into the diminutive fist. The woman
opened her eyes. She smiled a little.
She said faintly, "Reckon us kin make a livin' for
"Shore kin. Ten-twelve yare, anyways, and then if we've
done raised him right, he kin make it for us."
His deep laugh shook the bed.
"What you fixin' to name him, Py-tee?"
Willy shuffled his feet near the head of the bed.
"I studied some on namin' him 'Lantry'," she said. "Kin
call him 'Lant.'"
"Lantry Jacklin," he said slowly.
Piety spoke politely to her husband.
"That suit you, Willy?"
He twisted his black forelock.
"Hit's as good a name as ary other, I reckon."
"Hi-yuh, you leetle ol' Lant." Lantry stroked the baby's
stomach. "Got you red hair like your grand-daddy, you
A heat flowed through his body, through the woman, to
the child. It was as though it belonged to him and not
He said slowly, "Kin make him a livin' all right, Py-tee,
if nothing' don't interfere. You got the say so fur, and
then you got no say at all."
iANTra and his grandson Lant sat on a fallen log beside
the timber trail that wound through the upper swamp. At
their backs the ledge of hammock sheered steeply against
the sky. Piety was hunting squirrels in the hickories. Be-
low them in the swamp and on the river sounded the
racket of timbering. It was incredibly noisy after the years
of silence. The Murkley Cypress Company had come up
the Ocklawaha eight years ago, in the year young Lant
was born. Their presence still irked Lantry. The blows
of axe on cypress struck on his ears with a sharpness
keener than sound. He shook his bearded head impa-
tiently. Young Lant looked at him curiously.
At eight years of age the boy had his father's heavy
forelock that dropped between his eyes, but it was dark
red, like Lantry's. His neck was long and thin and the
thick hair made him top-heavy. His head, with its red-
brown eyes staring like those of a deer, might have gone
on a twelve-year body. He was all head and eyes and
neck. The spindling frame might some day equal Lantry's
in height, but the massive bulk would not be there. Some-
thing about the country to which the grandfather had
brought his blood to breed, pared down progeny to a
square-jointed leanness. Lant edged closer to the old man.
"Le's go yonder to the timberin' and see kin we ketch
Pa working' on a jog-board."
"You set still. Your Ma won't know where to look for
us, time she's done huntin'."
SOUTH MOON UNDER 61
"I got no mind to set still," the boy said belligerently.
He glared at Lantry and for an instant the man glared
back at him. They were much alike and the two minds
met in mid-air, like game cocks, and dashed. But Lantry
was gender with his age upon him.
After a moment his red lips parted through his beard in
a smile, and he said quietly, "Set right still and Grand-
daddy'll tell you about the up-country. And about the
"What's the world?"
The man ruminated. His eyes twinkled.
"Well, son," he said, "I ain't never travelled no direction
but south. But if so hit's the same in otherr directions,
why, all I got to say, the world's a big place and a lot o'
people in it."
The boy frowned blackly.
"That ain't no tale. Tell me about niggers."
The subject fascinated the child, for there was only one
negro in the scrub, an ex-slave to whom his master had
given land in Florida. The negro kept to himself in an
"Niggers," Lantry said, "is borned male and female, like
squirrels and dogs and white folks. Niggers is all shades
o' black and brown and yaller." He dosed his eyes, as
though recalling a picture. He sang softly:
"Massa had a yaller gal,
Brought her from the South.
She combed her hair so very tight
She could not close her mouth.
Her head was like a coffee pot,
Her nose was like the spout.
Her mouth was like the fireplace
With the ashes taken out."
62 SOUTH MOON UNDER
The child shouted with laughter.
"That's 'Git along down,' ain't it?"
"You got it right, son. That's the song."
Lantry leaned his back against a palmetto trunk, scratch-
ing his shoulder blades.
"I mind me of a big buck nigger in North Caroliny, had
one glass eye--"
He smiled to himself. The boy, watching him raptly,
saw the lids droop, the big head nod. The old man had
fallen asleep. Lant jumped angrily on a dry palmetto frond,
hoping it would rouse him. His grandfather infuriated
him. Lantry went to sleep with a story half-told. He was
ignorant, too, of most of the things the boy wanted to
know. He had wanted to ask him if squirrels could swim.
He decided that his grandfather would only have said,
"Blest if I know." He would ask his Uncle Zeke. Better,
he would remember to ask old man Paine, the mighty
hunter who lived across the scrub and brought them pres-
ents of bear-meat and venison.
He walked a few cautious feet away from the sleeping
man. His movement went unheard. He wheeled like a
yearling deer and ran down the trail towards the swamp.
He picked a vantage point high on a cable trail. He could
see the pull-boat anchored with iron stakes on the oppo-
site side of the river. He could see the company house
boat above Otter Landing. The boat lay quiet now, but
last Saturday, after dark, it had been bright with lights
and the sound of men singing and playing. His father had
lived on the boat before the timbering came dose to the
Through the dense upper swamp Lant thought he could
identify a man driving a wedge into a cypress as Willy
Jacklin. His father's hanging black forelock shook like a
horse's mane with the orc of the blows. The noise of
SOUTH MOON UNDER 63
the timber outfit hummed in Lant's ears. He heard the
shouts of men above distant axes and cross-cut saws. The
drum, on the pull-boat chattered, the gears ground and
creaked. A steam whistle blew, the engine puffed and
chugged. The great cypress began to fall. Three hundred
feet away he saw a trembling in the dark canopy that
was the tree-tops over the swamp. There came a ripping,
as woody cells, inseparable for a century, were torn vio-
lently one from another. The tree crashed, flattening every-
thing in its path, and the roar of the fall went like a roll
of thunder through swamp and hammock and scrub.
The boy thought there was a hush after the last echo, as
though the men waited before they began to trim and saw,
watching the tree like a great prone animal that might
not be entirely dead.
When he was a man, he decided, he would not timber.
His father, his father's cousin Sylvester, and his Uncle Thad-
deus had been timbering since the year he was born. They
seemed stupid, puny creatures to him, to be felling and
rafting the giants of the swamp. He would raise cattle,
like his Uncle Abner; or become a hunter like old man
Paine; or make whiskey as his Uncle eke was doing.
The thought of hunting reminded him that he had not
heard his mother's gun in some time. He scrambled to his
feet and trotted back over the trail. Piety, coming down
the hammock ledge towards her father, saw the boy mov-
ing in, with a curious air of rapt detachment, on a line
converging with hers.
Lantry was still asleep. He looked old. His mind still
ran pursued down dark roadways. This, she thought, and
not the wear of time on the bulky body, had weakened
him. She felt concerned about his frailty, as he had once
concerned himself with hers. She was small and scrawny,
as she had always been. But she felt within herself a rooted
SOUTH MOON UNDER
strength, like that of a small plant sucking at the earth
with deep tentacles. Between her father and her son she
was strong and comforted.
Lant's eyes shone as his mother fished out squirrels from
the pockets of the man's jacket she wore. There were
ten. The boy gathered the limp grey bodies together and
tip-toed on bare feet to his grandfather. He piled them on
the sleeping man's lap and against his breast. When he
laid one on either side of Lantry's neck, the man wakened
with a start and leaped to his feet, scattering dead squir-
rels like leaves. Piety chuckled and the child shouted.
"Dog take it," Lantry said, "I figgered I'd done woke up
in a nest o' varmints."
The boy sobered.
"Squirrels is varmints, ain't they?"
"I reckon so. I had it right. A nest o' varmints is jest
They laughed together. The man and boy were friend-
liest when the woman was with them. A turbulent stream
flowed into a quiet pond and another flowed out of it.
One violence did not meet the other. The boy carried the
squirrels against his chest. He went ahead of Piety and
Lantry. Where the hammock met the clearing, he stopped
short. He pointed with a stubby brown toe to fresh deer
"A doe and a fawn," he said excitedly. "Ma, le's track
the boogers and you shoot 'em."
The fawn, in the early fall, must be past the spotted stage
and at its best for eating. Piety turned to Lantry.
"Reckon hit's ary use to try and foller? I ain't much
"The boy's a fine tracker," he said indulgently. "Le's
go a piece, anyways."
The trail led in plain sight along the edge of the dear-
ing, across the road and into the scrub. Piety hung the
SOUTH MOON UNDER
squirrels in the crotch of a tree. They crept along in sin-
gle file. Lant led the way, pointing out the tracks. They
went a long way into the scrub. It was the farthest either
Piety or Lantry had come on foot.
The trees grew thickly, like trees in a dream, and there
were no shadows, because all the scrub was shadow. The
scrub was unreal. They had left behind the road, the
hammock and the river. Human life was left behind, and
human safety. Nothing was here but thin pines and
blackjacks, with scrub palmettos thick and hindering
underneath. They could scarcely walk for the low growth.
Piety could see no further track, but the boy insisted it
was plain. Where the underbrush was thickest they heard
once the faint whirr of a rattler. All three stood breath-
less for a long time. At last the boy, shaking himself free
from his mother's hand on his shoulder, pointed a cautious
foot ahead. There was no further sound. The snake had
The trail led into the rough, a patch of ground that
had been lately burned, and the fire put out by rains. The
area here was as the scrub had been in front of Lantry's
clearing when he first moved from across the river. The
new growth was low and tangled, matted with stumps and
burned trees. Because the strip was narrow, the three
continued across it. It led into old scrub; scrub whose
tall pines were bent by the storm of '7z. The pines grew
openly, with stretches carpeted with coarse grass, dotted
with the grey-green of sweet myrtle bushes, of rosemary
The doe and fawn were here, bedding. The doe leaped
up ahead of them. The fawn lurched to its feet and turned
immense wondering eyes. Piety cocked her gun and
levelled it; exerted her strength to pull the stiff trigger.
She was slow. The fawn and doe were gone.
The child went into a rage. He stamped his foot on the
66 SOUTH MOON UNDER
ground like an infuriated bull yearling. He spat, as he
had seen Lantry do. His red-brown eyes glared at his
mother. He seized the heavy gun from her hands and
tried to put it to his shoulder to fire in the direction of the
deer's retreat. He could not lift it. He stared at it. His
fury subsided as quickly as it had come.
Lantry said gently, "Never you mind, son. Grand-
daddy'll git you a leetle gun you kin tote and shoot all by
The child nodded. "Then I kin trail alone."
They turned to.go home. They walked silently for half
a mile, each with his own thoughts. The child was in the
rear, following without attention, his head poked forward
on his long neck. Lantry halted.
"Py-tee," he said in a low voice, "this ain't right."
She looked at him, her hand half over her mouth.
"I can't never find my way here, Pa," she said. "I fig-
gered you knowed the way."
"I figgered so too. But I ain't never been much in these
parts. I got no hankerin' to be in the scrub no time. Le's
try up here a ways, see kin we hit us a trail back."
They went farther. The scrub deepened. They were
lost. Lantry mopped his forehead with his bandana.
Piety took out her snuff-box from her blouse and lipped
a pinch for encouragement.
Lantry said, "No use, daughter, I got nary idee where
The child jerked himself out of his reveries.
"You-all fixin' to go home?" he asked abruptly.
"Soon's we kin find the way," Lantry answered.
Lant craned his neck.
He said, "Lift me up so's I kin see."
He pointed from Lantry's shoulder.
"Yonder's the river," he said.
SOUTH MOON UNDER 67
He set out ahead of them. The man and woman looked
at each other.
Piety asked, "Reckon he know?"
Lantry said, "How kin he know"
But the eight-year-old back ahead of them had a surety
that drew them. One way was as good now as another.
In a brief time they came out on the road that marked
scrub from hammock. They could hear faintly the sounds
of the timbering. They had been near home all the time.
'The boy turned to the right, striding brusquely.
"Son," Lantry called, "how come you to know the way?"
The boy pointed to the ridge at his left.
"Why," he said impatiently, "I could see the tops o' them
big trees yonder. Them's hickories. Ain't none o' them in
the scrub. Ain't hickories nowhere exscusin' right along
above the river:'
They retrieved their squirrels and approached the clear-
ing. They saw three women and some children waiting
for them on the stoop. Martha came down the fenced-in
lane to meet them. Behind her were Thaddeus' wife and
Zeke's wife, Lulu. Zeke had married Dan Wilson's widow.
He was a gentle step-father to her girl-child, Kezzy.
Lulu had not been friendly after she married Zeke. Piety
and Lantry had not seen the girl in some months. Kezzy
was ten years old,with a milk-white skin, great black eyes
and smooth black hair that hung over her shoulders in
stiff braids. She was square-built and quiet. Piety was
struck at once with her resemblance to some one she had
known and liked. Lantry studied the child, stroking his
"Lemme see-Annie Wilson were aunt to this gal young
un. That right, Lulu?"
Lulu said, primly belligerent, "Annie were Dan's sister,
all right. Her and Dan's buried side by side right now. I
68 SOUTH MOON UNDER
were always proud Dan never had none of Annie's crazy
"Annie Wilson were a fine woman," Lantry said quietly.
He turned to his daughter Martha.
"What you women-folks studying' about? Clustered on
my stoop like hens with your biddies."
Martha smiled, smoothing back her sandy hair. She
laid a hand on the shoulder of her oldest living child, the
boy Cleve. He was ten, the age of Kezzy; a pasty-faced
boy, sullen, inclined to a round puffiness. Four younger
girls twisted their hands into the woman's full calico
"Well, Pa," she answered him, "We been wondering'
wasn't you goin' to start Lant in to the school this year.
If you was, we figgered couldn't we git you-all to tote the
hull mess o' young uns acrost the river in the rowboat."
Lantry said, "We been talking' about it. I been learning'
him since he were six. He do pretty good now at the read-
in'. I reckon 'tain't the same as regular schoolin', though."
Lant said, "I can't go to school. I'm fixin' to hunt this
The man stroked the boy's head and studied him
thoughtfully. Piety could not endure to have the boy all
day across the river, sitting unwilling at. desk and bench.
"He'll perfeckly hate it," she said. "You jest as good
to put a wild cat to the books."
The boy Cleve grinned, exposing his gums.
"He'll be a varmint shore, if you don't learn him some-
thin' more'n running' in the scrub."
Lantry said, "We got it to do, Py-tee." He nodded at
the women. "Leave us know the day school is due to
commence. Have all the young uns is to go, at the Landin'
soon of a morning Py-tee and me between us kin tote 'em
and fetch 'em back agin."
Relieved, they talked a while of the timbering, of fall
SOUTH MOON UNDER 69
crops and hogs, then took their leave. The girl Kezzy
passed close to Lant.
She said in a low voice, "You won't hate it the least bit,
time you git used to it."
Lantry watched after her, smiling.
He nodded to Piety, "She shore favors her aunt Annie."
Suddenly Piety was watching again a big man and
woman scuffling sand in the dance; fat-wood torches
flickered and she was sitting close to Annie Wilson, hear-
ing the rich laugh, smelling the sweet musk of the big
sweating body. When the stoop under her took shape
again, her eyes came to rest on the boy. His head was
thrown back like a deer's at sound of the dogs. His nos-
trils quivered. He glared impartially at her, at Lantry,
and in the direction of his kin plodding down the lane.
"I be dogged," he said, "if I aim to mess up with no
school no longer'n I have to."
"' TH two years of school on which Lantry insisted, passed
for the boy Lant in a dull torment. By the spring in which
he was ten years old, he had learned to read and write and
to figure enough to make change in money. He had
learned as well to pass the brief winter sessions in the
unresisting aloofness of a caged animal that has found
there is no escape.
The second year was over and done with. On an after-
noon in April he followed Kezzy and his cousins out of
the schoolhouse and down the road through the piney-
woods to the river landing, where his mother waited for
them with the rowboat. The girl of twelve hummed under
her breath. Cleve was hilarious and chased the smaller
children around the pine trees. Lant was preoccupied.
He was thinking about squirrels. He had thought about
them a great deal. He could tell young squirrels from old
ones and females from males. There were squirrels in
between that were neither male nor female. Old man Paine
the hunter said it was to keep off too much fighting. The
male squirrels were fighting now, for they were mating.
That morning, coming through the hammock, he had
seen one big grey male attacked by three. They had baited
him one at a time, while the female watched bright-eyed
from a crotch.
He had long wondered whether squirrels could swim;
whether they could swim across the fierce sweep of the
river current. Now, as the children settled themselves in
the rowboat and Piety picked up the oars to swing out into
SOUTH MOON UNDER 71
the river, he saw that a grey cat-squirrel was rocking back
and forth on the trunk of a palm, poising to jump into the
water. The palmetto was fifty feet high and curved in
almost as sharp an arc as a sapling trap. The bent top
leaned part-way across the river. The woman settled to
her rowing. The squirrel leaped. His jump, with his tail
spread behind him, carried him more than half-way across
the stream. He paddled madly the rest of the way to the
east shore and was out of sight with a whisk. The boy
grunted to himself.
"Kin swim like Hell," he said under his breath with sat-
Kezzy asked, "What you see now?"
He frowned and dabbled his fingers indifferently over
the side of the boat.
"Jest a ol' squirrel."
Piety said, "You young uns has got all your books and
sich. I best to carry you thu the creek."
Kezzy said, "'Tis a sight closer, Aunt Py-tee, but I hates
to see you polin' thu sich a thick place. Leave Cleve take
the boat thu the swamp." She added, looking at him,
"You big ol' lazy, you."
He grinned at her but did not repeat her offer.
At the entrance to the creek the woman laid down her
oars and stood up in the stern to pole. The channel nar-
rowed in the swamp. It doubled back on itself, winding
about obstructions of rotted stumps and fallen logs. It was
gloomy; almost without light. The boat slipped under the
arching growth like a water-bug. The boy Lant drew a
deep breath. He reached for a leaf of flea-myrtle and
crushed its spiced sweetness against his nose. He leaned
his cheek against the board seat so that he might peer into
the ends of hollow logs for a sight of hidden alligator or
The creek spread flat and shallow in the overhanging
SOUTH MOON UNDER
swamp. Piety poled the boat between cypress knees. The
children jumped out on hummocks of dark muck. Piety
tied the boat to a cypress and laid the oars behind a cump
of bushes. Lant gathered a handful of twigs and crouched
a step at a time along the swamp edge. He drew in his
breath and let it out again with a puff, hurling his sticks in
the water. A gurgle sounded above the ripples he had
made, and a wider ring spread across the brown water.
Cleve called after him.
"What you chunkin' sticks at?"
"Leetle ol' 'gator."
"More'n likely a catfish," the older boy said.
Lant shook his head.
"I seed his big ol' eyes."
He cut up the steep ledge at an angle from the others,
following a narrow trail among the live-oaks and hickories
and magnolias. The April sunlight, so fiercely strident in
the open, was, defeated by the dark hammock and filtered
in thin patches to the ground. The earth here was cool.
Ferns were moist and sweet-scented and fungus sprouted,
sometimes in alabaster sprays like unearthly flowers. He
broke one off; smelled of its loamy must; touched his
tongue to the stem, splintered like crystal; remembered old
man Paine's warning against poisonous herbs and threw
From the north the sound of the timbering came faintly.
The crews had passed the Lantry land and were working
beyond Zeke Lantry's homestead. Thad Lantry and Willy
and Sylvester Jacklin still worked with them. There
sounded the dull dang of wedges being driven. Then
the boy heard the muffled crash of a tree. From the thick-
ness of the sound he judged it to have been a dead-fall,
taking the top of another tree with it. He reached the top
of the ridge, where the hammock broke abruptly into the
Lantry clearing. Piety and Cleve and Kezzy and the small
SOUTH MOON UNDER
children were entering the field below him. Ahead, he
saw Lantry's tall form moving about the yard.
He was suddenly conscious that instead of the renewed
activity that usually followed a feeling, there had been a
silence. Now he heard one man "Halloo-o-o-o," and an-
other take up the cry. The steam whistle on the pull-boat
burst into a long-drawn scream. Piety cupped her mouth
with her small hands and called shrilly across the field.
"Lant! You go see what's the matter."
He dropped his books on the sand and loped down
through the hammock towards the timbering. He had run
half a mile when he heard the voices of men come dose.
On the trail he met his uncles, Thaddeus and Sylvester,
and two of the piney-woods Jacklins. They were carrying
,among them a large bundle wrapped in their clothing.
Thad was naked to his waist, white-skinned and thin. His
blue work shirt with one sleeve dangling held the bundle
under the middle. Blood soaked through it as from fresh
venison in a sack. The men looked at one another.
Thad said, "Son, you jest as good to know now, hit's your
The boy blinked. He remembered the heavy crash of
"Was it him caught in the dead-fall?"
"It were him."
The men laid the bundle on the ground. Thad wiped
the sweat from his throat; passed his hand down the hol-
low between his ribs, leaving a streak of grime; shook his
hand, so that small drops spattered on a palmetto frond by
One of the Jacklins said, "I never figgered Willy no big
kind of a man, but the pore feller's as heavy totin' as a
buck in the scrub."
Another said, "It'll pussle us to git him home."
The boy stared at the bundle. Syl Jacklin looked at him.
SOUTH MOON UNDER
"He were slow, son," he said solemnly. "Cousin Willy
were always slow. Hit don't do to be slow too dost to no
Lant asked slowly, "Is he done dead?"
Thad said, "If we hadn't of knowed 'twas Willy was
there, nobody wouldn't never of knowed who 'twas, after."
He spat to the side of the trail. "Son, I don't know what
Py-tee kin do about a fitten buryin'. They jest ain't enough
o' Willy to fix nice in the coffin. Le's go, boys."
They lifted the bundle by its four corners. The boy fol-
lowed behind. His stomach hurt him. He remembered his
father, slow and quiet, with his black forelock between
his eyes. He tried to imagine a man smashed by a dead-
fall; he would be flat, like smoked mullet. He could make
the two pictures of his father but he could not fit them
He ran ahead of the men to open gates for them into
the clearing. They passed through the garden into the
yard. His mother walked slowly towards them, twisting
her apron between her hands. Lantry stood by a chair on
the breezeway, holding to its back.
"Willy?" she asked.
"Take him in to the bed," she said.
Lantry watched after them, trembling as they passed
him. In the bedroom the men hesitated.
Sylvester said, "Better git a ol' quilt to lay under- "
The woman said, "The mattress don't matter. Hit's jest
Lantry came to the doorway, leaning heavily against the
"How come it to happen?" he asked.
"The pore feller were slow, Pa," Thaddeus said. "He
someway wasn't payin' no mind when the tree were
SOUTH MOON UNDER 75
The blood in Lantry's face grew purple. His temples
"God damn his sorry hide," he said hoarsely.
The men raised from their disposing of the lacerated
mass on the bed. They gaped at him.
"Hit's jest like the fool to make a pore widder-woman
o' Py-tee before her time. He's a no-account white man,
dead or alive--"
His breath grew short. He choked. He put one hand to
his throat and clawed at his windpipe. Piety left the side
of the bed and came to him.
"Pa-you're gittin' yourself in a terrible fix."
Lant, ,by the window, saw that she was more concerned
for the living man than for the dead. She led him to his
bed and loosened his shirt. The three Jacklins talked to-
gether in the bedroom. Sylvester came alone to the
"Py-tee," he said, "we'll jest go on and take Willy acrost
the river for the buryin'." He flushed. "A Jacklin ain't
beholden to nobody."
Lantry was fighting for breath. The woman began to
pour whiskey a drop at a time down his throat. His mouth
was open, like a fish on a line. When his throat was full,
the whiskey began to trickle out again. She called to her
"Thad! You do what's right about Willy. I can't leave
Pa. He won't never come out of this un."
He nodded to the other men. They passed through the
room with the wet bundle. Lant heard their voices in the
yard; then the movement of a mule and the sound of the
wagon rattling down the road. He moved across the room
to Lantry's bed. The man was black with agony. A few
minutes before the end he drew a comfortable breath or
two. He knew that he was done for. He clenched Piety's
wrist until it swelled in his grip. He jerked his head to-
76 SOUTH MOON UNDER
wards the boy, big-eyed and white of.face at the foot of the
He said hoarsely, "He'll look out for you, Py-tee." He
gasped. "This place-suit him. He kin make a livin' here
He dosed his eyes. His chin sagged, spreading his beard
on his chest. Suddenly he reared bolt upright in the bed.
Terror wiped out his pain. His red eyes rolled. He fell
back on his pillow. A crafty expression came over the glaz-
ing face. He had, after everything, gotten safely away. He
plunged panting into the cool dark retreat of death. He
whispered over his shoulder to old pursuing phantoms.
"Run, you bastards, run!"
Sonow was like the wind. It came in gusts, shaking
the woman. She braced herself. She cosed her eyes against
the sight of the dead man. His set features were aquiline;
the yellow of bee's-wax above the streaked red beard. Safe
from his fear, he looked noble and at peace. Pain swept
across her in a gale. The deep-lidded eyes blinked. She
shook her small head to be rid of her torment.
Suddenly Piety remembered her son. He had gone away
as Lantry fought for his last breath. She went across the
breezeway into the kitchen. He sat on a low bench before
the stove. He was trembling as a frightened puppy trem-
bles. She had not seen him afraid before. Lantry's fear
was tangible in the moment of his dying, and a cold breath
had blown in on the boy from a distant land. She sat be-
side him. The wood-fire was almost out and she reached
across him for a stick of pine. He handed her splinters to
make a blaze and after they had sat together a while his
A little after sunset the front gate clicked and steps
sounded on the stoop. Zeke Lantry and his step-daughter
Kezzy came into the room and Piety went to meet them.
'Zeke took his sister's hand gravely and walked with her to
look down at his father. The drake's-tails fluttered on his
neck. His pale blue eyes watered and he blew his nose. He
had spilled fermented mash on his trousers and the odour
rose about him in a sour wave.
"I ran off a charge this evening, he said. "I were jest
crossing' the river from the outfit, jugs and all, when a raft
SOUTH MOON UNDER
o' logs passed me and the men hollers to me Willy were
dead and Pa were dyin'. Hit takened me so I like to turned
the boat over."
She asked, "Where's Marthy and Lulu and Nellie?"
"Marthy don't dast leave the house. She sent word you
was havin' trouble enough without she should take to the
child-bed on you." He blew his nose again. "Sis, my Lulu
and Thad's Nellie, they right-out say they'll not put foot
in your house again. They both got Jacklin blood and
they're sayin' mighty hard things about you and Pa. I
say, Pa wa'n't hisself, and you can't hold a dyin' man's
words agin him. I say, you done right looking' after him,
with Willy to where mortal hand couldn't raise to he'p
him. The dead's dead, but the breath o' life is the breath
He cleared his throat, pulled out a plug of tobacco,
looked at it and shoved it hastily back into his pocket.
Kezzy asked in a low voice, "Where's Lant, Aunt
"To the kitchen. The young un's had a perfeck fright."
The girl walked away with her eyes averted from the
sight of Lantry. She found Lant feeding the fire and strok-
ing the head of Lantry's small mongrel dog.
She went to him and put her hand on his shoulder, lean-
ing over him so that her long smooth braids hung against
his flat chest. He shook away.
"Git them ol' black snakes outen my way," he said.
They laughed. He drew a deep breath. He realized that
he was hungry.
"Kezzy," he whispered, "don't nobody eat no supper
when folkses die?"
"You ain't had nothing? "
She was not familiar with the kitchen. Her mother had
SOUTH MOON UNDER 79
discouraged intimacy between the two families, through
jealousy that the Lantry land was plainly to pass to Piety
instead of the sons. But she foraged in the kitchen safe
and fried the boy cold biscuits and warmed squirrel-meat
and rice together. He ate ravenously. She lit a kerosene
lamp and sat beside him. Piety and Zeke talked in low
tones in the front room.
Zeke called to Kezzy and they went away. Lant sat
alone in the kitchen until he nodded. Through the door-
way he could see his mother sitting motionless. A shaft of
lamplight lay across her pointed face and on the small
knotted hands. He did not want to see his grandfather
again. He moved without sound into his bedroom off the
breezeway, undressed as far as his underwear and got into
his bed. After a time he heard his mother stir in the front
room. Then she too went to bed.
The woman was dropping off to an unhappy sleep when
she heard a sound as of a small animal scuffling across the
floor. The boy was at the side of her bed, slipping in under
the quilt beside her. It was like having a wooden box in
the bed, she thought. The buttons on his underwear were
hard against her arm and his knees and elbows filled the
bed. He was all bones and buttons. He had not slept at
her side since she had weaned him. She felt with her
hand until she found his hard young knuckles. She
drowsed. Towards morning she wakened and found that
he had slipped away.
In the afternoon Willy Jacklin was buried on the west
side of the river and Lantry was buried on the east. Sev-
eral Lantry and Jacklin infants lay under the blackjack
oaks of Martha's clearing and her husband Sylvester had
given a grudging permission that for Piety's sake the old
man should rest there too. The preacher and most of the
family buried Willy. Even Abner Lantry had chosen to
follow him. Only Piety and Lant, Martha and her chil-
80 SOUTH MOON UNDER
dren, and Zeke and Thad saw the sand fall on Lantry's
home-made pine coffin. Martha was big with child
and left the burying nervously as soon as it was ended.
There was no ceremony. Piety thought bitterly that her
father had come without the word of his fellows into an
alien country and was gone the same way. Zeke walked
with her and Lant down the road as far as his place.
"Sis," he asked, "you got money sufficient to do with?"
"I got money to do with for a whiles. Willy were rale
good that-a-way. He give me his loggin' wages, what
didn't go for rations, and I got some hid out. I'm gittin'
corn and sweet pertaters in the ground soon's I kin. I aim
to fatten hogs, come fall."
"You always was a great un for corn and 'taters and
hogs. If I remembers, you always had your hogs so rotten
spoiled to where they'd lay up near the house all day, scairt
to go to rootin' off a ways for fear they wouldn't hear a
year o' corn to drap."
She smiled a little. "Well, Zeke, I makes mighty fine
hogs when the 'gatorsll leave 'em be."
Zeke said to Lant, "You been wild as a jay-bird, son,
running' the woods. You belong to he'p your mammy
They went on. The boy's long arms dangled at his sides.
His big head, poked forward on his neck, moved from
side to side, like a turtle's. He frowned, his eyebrows meet-
ing over the red-brown eyes.
"Ma," he burst out, "I been studying Grandpa wasn't no
farmer. Nor he wasn't no trapper nor no timberman.
What did he do for a livin' in the up-country where he
"He never did love to say, but he told me oncet 'twere
making' moonshine whiskey."
The boy nodded.
"The revenooers gits after them fellers up in Caroliny,"
SOUTH MOON UNDER 8I
he said wisely. "Grandpa done tol' me they was raisin'
sand all the time."
His eyes turned to her and held, steady as a good bead
on a target.
"What were he skeert of, here in Florida?"
"I don't rightly know," she faltered.
"You do too," he said. "You do too know."
"I reckon he'd had trouble."
"What kind o' trouble?"
"If you got to know," she said desperately, "he killed
him a feller and had to take out."
"Who was after him for killing' the feller?"
"I reckon the gov'mint," she said. "Hit were a gov'mint
"Didn't nobody never come up with him, did they?"
"Nobody never come up with him here. He had it
always to bigger on."
The boy nodded.
"That's what he was skeert of."
He spat zestfully into the gallberry bushes by the road.
"I'll jest bet he had good reason, killing' that feller. No-
body better never come messin' up with me, neither," he
His maturity startled her.
"No, nor you'd better not go to gittin' biggety nor looking'
for a fuss. Your Grandpa picked nary fuss in his life."
She had never tried to rule the boy, but she felt a new
and frightening responsibility. Her small voice rose shrilly.
"Don't you go to rarin' back on your dew-clawsl"
He swung a moment on the gate before galloping after
her up the lane to the house.
"Ma," he coaxed her, "say now I ain't got to go to school
no more, come fall."
"You got to learn something she protested.
82 SOUTH MOON UNDER
"I've done learned a-plenty. I got to make a living. He
blocked her way, standing with his thin legs spraddled, his
eyes owl-like on either side of the ruddy forelock. "Say it
now, I ain't got to go no more," he insisted. "Don't look
to me to take keer of you if I got to go to school."
In spite of her heaviness, she had to laugh at him.
"If you're he'pin' make the livin', come fall," she prom-
ised, "you don't have to go."
She made hot cakes for his supper. She sat with her
hands folded in her lap and could not eat. The boy poured
the syrup thickly. There was no one to complain. The
dog whined at the door and went unheeded.
They were both worn out. Lant thought it would be
easier to go to sleep without Lantry's sharp yellow features
lifted to the rafters on his death-bed, with the lamplight
flickering over them so that he seemed to breathe. The
woman and the boy were in their beds before the sunset
melted into the river. The redbirds were still singing
when they fell asleep.
A light rain fell during the night.
In the morning Piety said to Lant, "Hit's always so. You
take notice, son, hit'll always rain after a buryin'. Hit's
planned so o' purpose. The rain washes out the tracks o'
the dead along with the tracks o' the livin'. Hit wouldn't
do to have the earth all yopped up with the tracks o' the
A sharp pain struck through her because she would
never come on Lantry's footprints again.
After breakfast she dug some roots of coral vine to
plant on the grave. She helped Lant with his chores and
they walked together down the scrub road. They turned
into the open blackjack and stopped short at the fresh
tawny mound. Something had been digging at the grave.
The boy said excitedly, "Hit's small sharp tracks! Hit
must be 'possums. They's dirty scapers."
SOUTH MOON UNDER 83
The woman was faint. It was an obscene thing that
Lantry's bones should not go unmolested.
She said, "Don't say nothing' to nobody. We'll come
tonight and lay for it."
They went home and waited nervously for dark. They
ate no supper, the woman for nausea and the boy for his
excitement. He got out his father's 12-gauge gun and
polished the sight. Soon after the sun had set they walked
the scrub road again and squatted among the blackjacks
and waited. Nothing came. They went home at midnight.
The next morning the creature bent on its scavenging had
Lant said, "Mought be that wolf been seen around Lake
The tracks puzzled him.
Piety said, "We come too soon, that's what we done. The
varmint done watched us and slipped up when we was
The next night they did not go until two o'clock in the
morning. As they crept up they heard the scratching of
claws on the thin pine box. Lant waited for his eyes to
become accustomed to the surroundings. In a few minutes
the light colour of the fresh grave swung into focus. Then
he made out a small dark form in movement. He fired.
A thumping and a scrambling indicated that he had made
a hit. When the motion ceased, they approached. The
dead animal was Lantry's own dog.
Piety said weakly, "Mebbe he were lonesome for Pa and
figgered he wasn't dead."
"We ain't paid much attention to him the last two-three
days," Lant said bitterly. "The low-down varmint, were
He kicked the dog's body into the blackjacks. He was
furious and frightened.
In the morning Piety caught Thaddeus before he went
SOUTH MOON UNDER
to his timbering and Zeke before he went to his still. Since
the occasion was somehow extraordinary, Lant rowed
across the river and brought back Abner. Abner was florid
and pompous. He had cattle ranging on both sides of the
He said at once to his brothers, "You fellers buried the
ol' man too shallow. Hit don't do to dig a grave too shal-
Zeke said mildly, "We ain't had much practice, Ab."
They were digging a new grave for luck, throwing the
red-gold sand against the sun. Thaddeus rested on his
"I don't know as a six-foot grave be needful," he said.
"Four foot had orter do for ary man."
"Not for me, wouldn't't" Abner said. "I aim to swell
up when I die."
Zeke and Thad were doing the work. Abner strolled
off to poke the body of the dead hound with his foot.
"On my side the river," he remarked, "some o' the folks
was so foolishly fond o' Pa they'd say this were a case o'
Zeke said, "Pa were all right."
Piety sat near-by with her hand over her mouth. The
boy watched with his hands in his overall pockets, scuf-
fling the sand with his bare toes.
Abner said, "Why'n't you bury your dog?"
"He weren't mine. He were Grandpa's. I got nothing' to
do with him. Let the buzzards have him."
"Th'ow him out a ways then."
Lantry's board coffin was moved and the new grave
filled in. Abner turned to the boy.
"You want you a rale good dog, son?"
"I wouldn't keer."
SOUTH MOON UNDER
The man pondered. He never gave something for noth-
"I tell you, son. I got nobody to look after my cattle
this side the river. I got a pair o' young dogs has got no
names, even. You come git them dogs and learn 'em to
run cattle and you he'p round up and brand and butcher,
and you're welcome to the dogs and a calf for your own."
Lant's face was eager. His eyes shone, as though sun-
light moved swiftly across pools of cypress water. He had
never had a dog of his own.
He said, "I'll come with you and git 'em."
His uncles laughed at his eagerness.
"You'd git there quicker to swim the river, Lant," Thad-
Piety watched him follow after Abner. She went back
alone to the cabin. When dusk came, and the boy had not
returned, and the hoot-owls cried, she hated the sound. She
got out her accordion and played a hymn on it. Her
throat swelled and she thought she miht feel better if
she played something lively. She began to play "Double
Eagle" but she remembered Lantry playing it on the banjo
with his head thrown back and she was liged to put away
the accordion. She sat with her hans folded in her lap,
rocking in the buckskin rocker, lipping a little snuff. She
thought of walking down the road to Martha.
Twon't be the last time I'll set alone," she decided, and
did not go. She had no existence, she thought, outside
these two males; the one living and the other dead.
The boy returned after dark. She heard him talking
softly to the new dogs. He was bedding them under the
kitchen, tying them so they could not run away. She
heard him go into the kitchen and get cornbread to feed
them. She heard them lapping water. She strained her
ears for the words he was saying to them. The boy came
86 SOUTH MOON UNDER
in the house and she laid out a cold supper for him. She
stuffed crumbs of biscuit in her mouth, watching his face.
"Them's fine leetle fellers," he said. "One's black as a
nigger and one's kind o' red-like." He stirred sugar in his
"I've done named 'em Red and Black, Ma."
She was grateful to him for telling her what he had
named the puppies.
"Them's fine names for dogs o' sich colors," she said
with enthusiasm. "You couldn't git you no better names
for a pair o' dogs."
THE new puppies, Red and Black, barked with proper
ferocity, rearing against the slat-fence. The horse-hooves
coming south down the scrub road sounded nearer. Piety
was in the back yard at the wash tubs and Lant went to
the front stoop to watch. A grey horse, ridden by a
stranger, drew up at the gate at the foot of the lane. Lant
could make out the girl Kezzy sitting the horse primly
behind the rider. She slipped down and opened the gate
and the stranger dismounted and followed her.
"Hey, Lantl" she called.
The horseman spoke cordially.
The boy was braced, as though on a slippery bank.
"Where's Aunt Py-tee?" the girl asked.
"Back at the pot."
"The man here's looking' for. Zeke," she said, lifting her
heavy eyebrows at him as she passed.
The boy's blood pounded in his throat. The stranger
must be a revenuer; or, sent by the government, had
tracked his grandfather down at last. He thought with
relief that they were three months too late for Lantry.
Then panic swept across him again. The man, of course,
was after Zeke.
"What's your name, son?"
"You any kin to Zeke Lantry?"
88 SOUTH MOON UNDER
"He's my uncle."
"Well, now," the stranger said, leaning forward, "you're
just the fellow I want to see. Your uncle Zeke's at his still,
The boy did not answer. The man studied him. It irked
him to have Zeke's family evade him. Zeke's step-daughter,
alone at the house, had claimed no knowledge of his where-
abouts. Zeke had already made excuses to keep him away
from the still. When Pryde bought whiskey of a moon-
shiner, he liked to know where to find him.
"Come on, sonny. Tell me where your Uncle Zeke is
right now. Just point which way."
The boy felt the coercion and threw his weight against
it, like a young bull calf against the tug of the halter. His
eyes glared but he did not move or speak.
"I'll just bet you don't even know."
There was no trap quick enough for the boy's instinct.
He turned quietly into the house. He returned behind
Kezzy and his mother. Pryde had seated himself on the
"How-do, Ma'am. My name's Pryde."
He asked his questions.
Piety said, "No, I got no idee where Zeke mought be."
"I'm the man buying that cane syrup of his," he said.
"That syrup that makes a man feel so prime." He winked
She said politely, "That so?"
A silence fell, in which the squirrels could be heard
barking in the neighboring hammock.
At last Pryde said, "Well, I'm mighty sorry to miss him.
I had business with him."
Piety and Kezzy looked quickly at each other. It would
be a pity to lose trade for Zeke. The stranger seemed all
right. Piety believed him to be the man of whom Zeke
had spoken. Pryde was the name, all right. She wanted
SOUTH MOON UNDER 89
to tell him to go down the road to Magnolia Landing and
to halloo across the river to Zeke, who would answer him
from Taylor's Dread. She was unable to do so. Caution
dammed the words in her throat.
At last she said questioningly, "If you was to care to
state your business now? If you was to say what-all you
wants o' Zeke, mought be I could find him and tell him."
It was the best Pryde could do.
He said bluntly, "Yes, I'll state my business. Tell Zeke
to put a barrel of whiskey on the Mary when she comes
down Wednesday. Here's some tags to use. See, Florida
Cane Syrup, addressed to the Southern Wholesale Grocery
Company at Jacksonville. Tell him to put one on the
barrel and to sent a barrel every Wednesday until I tell
The woman and the girl and boy blinked at him. The
stranger turned away.
Piety said, speaking mildly after the vanishing back,
"Mought be a good idee to smear a leetle rale syrup around
the .edge o' the barrel-head, like the juice were leakin' a
Pryde said over his shoulder, "I don't care what he does
to the barrel-head, as long as the barrel gets on the boat."
He mounted his horse and thumped off. Piety turned
the tags over in her hand.
She said, "Reckon we better go tell Zeke. Mought make
a difference, setting' up more mash, mebbe. I'll git me a
She lifted the wide hat of woven palmetto strands over
her head with a stiff gesture, bringing it down to sit high
on her small head. The three walked across the clearing
and down the hammock ledge to the open river landing.
Piety took up the oars.
"I'll row down-stream," she said, "and you young uns
kin spell me off rowin' back."
90 SOUTH MOON UNDER
The rowboat moved rapidly. The river seemed to stand
still while the banks slipped past. Here and there the
tangled lushness bared to dry hammock, with saw pal-
mettos visible, and yellow sand. Sometimes there was
a break both in swamp and hammock, and broom-sage
and brier-berries grew to the edge of the water. No one
could have found the entrance to Taylor's Dread who did
not know the landmarks: Hoop-skirt, the big cypress, on
one side, and on the other a dead grey magnolia. The
river here had the trick of sending a dribbling thread of
current through a slice of mainland, making in effect an
island. Yet between island and mainland the dividing
creek was so tortuous and so shallow, that a stranger would
have called the island, swamp. Part way in, the channel
merged hopelessly with swamp.
"I ain't been here in a good whiles," Piety said. "I can't
foller these creeks."
The girl said, "I can't foller 'em."
The boy pointed to an eddy under an overhanging
"That's it," Kezzy agreed. "Last time we come, Zeke
cut a limb there to string fish."
Piety swung with relief through the dimly marked open-
ing. Black rattan, twisted about ash trees, scraped the
boatsides as they slid through. At times it seemed as
though they must be again mistaken in the channel, for
there would come an obstruction. But a submerged log
that looked solid would yield to the pole; a tangle of wild
rose briers would open at the last instant so that, lowering
their bodies flat to the boat, they could pass through. A
quarter of a mile in, there came to their noses the sour
sweetness of fermenting mash. They were opposite the
still. Piety spoke in a low voice, questioningly.
SOUTH MOON UNDER 91
The answer, as low, came startlingly at their elbows.
They had been seen and heard. Zeke squatted behind a
dump of palmettos.
The woman turned the bow of the boat between cypress
knees. Kezzy and the boy climbed out, drawing the boat
high. Piety followed. Zeke stood up.
Piety asked, "Where's Lulu?"
He jerked his head.
He was gathering an armful of ash wood for his fire.
They picked their way through the swamp to the still.
Lulu was there, tending the pot. She spoke curty to
Piety. A pile of bricks and two large sheets of copper
stood at one side. Zeke planned to build a larger outfit
now that business was good. There was a demand, even
at town bars, for good strong corn liquor. Piety gave him
the message from Pryde. She described the visitor. Zeke
"That's him, a'right. That's Pryde."
Kezzy said anxiously, "I jest didn't know what to do
when he come to the house. All I could study on, was,
leave Aunt Py-tee talk to him."
Zeke said amiably, "You both done jest right. I jest as
lief he not come nosin' around here."
The boy was prowling around the wooden barrels of
mash. He stood on tiptoe and stirred one with the long
paddle standing there.
"You git out o' there, Lanti" Piety spoke sharply.
"You'll spile your Uncle Zeke's buck."
"That un ain't hardly buck yit, Py-tee. Hit's slow, like.
Hit ain't made a cap yit and hit's 'most due to run."
"Hit's been cold, nights," Lulu said.
"That's about it."
92 SOUTH MOON UNDER
Zeke dipped a gourd in one of the barrels of seething
"You want some o' the beer, Lulu? How 'bout you,
They refused. He gave a drink to the boy, his face in
eclipse behind the gourd. They laughed at him. Zeke took
the gourd and drank deeply.
"They got no call to laugh at us, son," he said to Lant.
"Us knows what's good." He wiped the foam from his
mouth. "I declare, 'this be. the healthiest stuff to drink.
How come me to drink it, hit's a pure nuisance to tote
river water. And they's a taste to the creek water I jest
someways can't love. I tried the buck one day I were
thirsty and felt kind o' porely, and it done me good."
The island was cool and dusky. The sunlight lay like
lace under the palms and cypresses. The black moist earth
smelled of leaf mould. Wild yellow cannas and blue iris
bloomed around the brackish pools. The pot boiled,
gurgling as it began. Its steam passed through a pipe and
through copper coils submerged in water. The distillate
began to drip slowly from a copper spout. The Lantrys
leaned their backs against tree trunks and fell idle and
silent. The boy climbed a tall sweet-gum and gathered a
handful of the balls to play with. He settled himself in a
high crotch where he could glimpse the river on one side,
and on the other his uncle Abner's cattle coming through
the swamp to drink.
There was suddenly a commotion at the edge of the
creek. Lant cried from his tree-crotch, "Hogse's" and half
a dozen black shoats splashed through the swamp, throw-.
ing the muck and rattling palmetto fronds. They collided
violently with one another as they discovered the group of
humans, and fell in a heap. They were drunk. The boy
laughed shrilly from the sweet-gum, throwing his prickly
balls. Zeke shouted and lunged at them. They staggered
SOUTH MOON UNDER 93
to their feet and ran sideways, their ears flopping over
hazed eyes. He drove them back across the shallow water
of the creek. They ran grunting to the piney-woods be-
yond. Piety and Kezzy and the boy laughed, but Zeke
"Dog take them shoatses o' Posey's." He was out of
breath. "They comes ever' day a-fillin' their bellies with
my th'owed-out mash and gittin' hog-drunk to go back
home again. Ary fool could back-track 'em here to the
still. I got a good idee to move my outfit."
"You feerd Posey'll call in the revenooers?" Piety asked.
"Hell, no. Ain't no revenooers in these parts, Sis. I'm
skeert Posey'll come steal my whiskey."
Piety chuckled and rose from the ground to go. The boy
clambered down from the tree. He ran ahead to climb
in the boat and picked up the oars. It would be a long
row against the current. He settled down in his usual
silence, his eyes alert. On the way he might see many
things; a buck crossing the river; an otter's smooth flat
nose lifted above the sinuous streak that was the swimming
body; always alligators and Poor Joes, and perhaps a
water-turkey that at sight of them would drop from its limb
as if shot, straight into the depths of the river.
Kezzy said, "Leave me take a oar, Lant."
"I don't want no big ol' girl rowin' side o' me," he said.
On Wednesday Lant heard the Mary whistle as she
passed north and approached Two-Mile Landing above
Taylor's Dread. Zeke was there, he thought, loading his
barrel of whiskey with its syrup label.
"Sho," he thought, "I could tell the difference if I was
a revenooer. Whiskey makes a thin sound moving. Syrup's
slow and thick."
The barrel was not questioned, he decided, for three
Wednesday in succession he heard the Mary whistle and
SOUTH MOON UNDER
no news came of trouble. On a Monday the Mary went
south up the river as usual. Soon after the last echo of the
engines had been absorbed by the bends in the stream,
Lant heard hoof-beats coming up the scrub road. He
recognized Zeke, riding a bay mule, and ran to the gate
to meet him. Zeke was small and frightened on the big
animal. His pale blue eyes bulged and his mouth was
"Hit happened," he said. "You tell Py-tee hit happened.
I knowed it were a risk. The last barrel busted its hoops
on the wharf at Jacksonville. Cap'n Turner's nigger boy
th'owed me off a note in a bottle. Cap'n done the best he
could for me. He had to tell where the barrel was loaded,
but he let on like he didn't know my name. I aim to stay
hid out 'til I see what comes of it."
"Where you going? the boy asked eagerly.
"Son, I ain't tellin' nobody but my wife Lulu and her
Kezzy-and you-all. I ain't even tellin' Martha and Syl,
nor Thad. You tell your Ma I'll be at old man Paine's,
and time she figgers they's no more risk, you come git me
He lifted his reins and the mule jerked forward.
"I'm jest depending' on you, son," he called gravely over
The bay mule jogged off. The boy bolted up the lane
and into the house to his mother. He repeated breathlessly
his uncle's message.
"I mean, ol' Uncle Zeke is scairt," he said.
"He's got reason," she said thoughtfully. "But I some
ways don't bigger no revenooers'll never git fur into the
"They's nary man otherr side o' the river would tell 'em
the way to go? None o' Pa's kin what's mad at us?"
She shrilled indignantly at him.
"You got you no sense? Don't never leave me hear you