WIR DANKEN UNSER FUEH
. , . by Seymour S. I
,.M ,EPTH entered Drury Montgom-
ery's shack as easily as the
fingers of wind that poked
through the chinks between
the logs. Old Drury diee like an animal
-without much fuss. He died with a
laugh on his fever-cracked lips. "I'm
sure I'm goin' to Hell, Lizpeth," he said.
"The Devil has already set me on fire."
Drury wasn't accustomed to laughing.
He died in the attempt.
Lizpeth had seen her parents, her kin,
her children die. She knew death, how
it came, how it looked. She knew Drury
was dead the instant his features
smoothed into blankness, and she gent-
ly pressed shut the eyes that had wid-
ened in sudden rapture.
Struggling to understand, the boys
looked down at their father. Bart's lips
trembled and his mild eyes glistened.
But Joe Montgomery's face did not sof-
ten at the sight of death; his features
became harsher. His clenched jaw
muscles formed pits in his cheeks. His
eyes reflected the death they saw.
Joe said, "Come on, Bart, we had bet-
ter make a coffin for Pappy." His
voice was as passionless as his face was
not, but when he had pulled Bart out-
side the shack, away from Lizpeth, his
true feelings broke through. "I know
hit now. That God damned Jake Blair
used a holler-point bullet to git Pappy.
He had to, to tear his guts up that-
away. And I'm agoin' to git him the
same way. I'll rip that skunk's guts to
pieces and let him know what hell is
before he goes there. I'll git him. By
God I'll even a few scores around here.
I'll gut-shoot him and let him die like
"You talk like that with Pappy layin'
there still warm? Ain't you seen enough
of death for .a while? Ain't you got no
"I'm atalkin' jest like Pap would want
me to talk. If hit was me in there and
him out here, by God he'd already be
ashinin' up his rifle. You never did
know your Pappy anyhow. Right now,
whether he's in Heaven or Hell, Pap's
awantin' me to git Jake Blair."
Bart did not speak until they had
started chopping at the base of a pine.
"Well, Joe," he said finally, that's up
to you. I ain't atakin' no part in it. I
ain't aimin' to fight thenBlairs the rest
of my born-days like Pappy did and his
Pappy afore him. I ain't wantin' to die
like they did-with a lead ball in my
guts-and so I ain't agoin' to fight like
"You don't need to be afeared o' dyin'
with a slug in your guts. You ain't got
"All right, Joe, maybe I ain't. But I
got what goes a hell of a lot further and
them's brains. Our Ma's always been
one to sit down and figure things out
afore she done anythin' and hit's a pol-
icy I don't aim to forgit right soon. Ma
has got brains and I got 'em too."
"And I reckon you take after Ma more
ways than one. She's most as afeared
of the Blairs as you air."
"Tain't fear so much. We jest got the
whole thing figured out. Jest sit down
and ask yourself like I did, why should I
want to kill Jake Blair? Go ahead, ask
"Cause he ripped Pappy all to hell
with a holler-point bullet. 'Cause he
bushwhacked Uncle Rufe like one of
them Breathitt snakes. We got a big
score to settle with Jake Blair."
"All right now, jest keep afigurin'.
Why was it Jake Blair killed Pappy and
Joe blinked. "Hit were jest the Blair
meanness aworkin' out. Hit's jest nat-
ural fer them snakes to kill."
"Now come clean, Joe, you know bet-
ter'n that. God didn't make anybody
only for the sake of killin'. Jake Blair is
after us Montgomeries for jest one rea-
-By Christine Nagel
that shut him off from the house, he
could no longer dam up the thoughts
that flooded his brain. It was his con-
science hurting him, he realized. He
was fighting the very code of prin-
ciples his reasoning had built against
feuding, against blood-justice.
He thought: "I'm a peace-lovin' man.
I've preached peace and jestice in my
church. I've preached for men to love
their neighbors, to forget their petty
quarrels and leave jestice in the hands
of those that know best how to dispense
jestice. I've done more'n any other
man to stamp feudin' out'n these hills,
and now, agin God's will, I'm atotin'
this gun and aplannin' to kill Jake
Blair jest as my pre-decessors done afore
me. I'm atakin' jestice ito my own
hands that airn't no fit place for hit."
"I'm afailin' you, God. I've built up
a wall agin feudin' and now I'm tear-
in' it down of my own free will. I'm do-
in' it for my blood brother. but what I
do ain't his fault. I can see through hit
all now. I fit down the feudin' spirit
in myself and in my congregation, but
I never made Joe see the light. I driv
him further away from you, God. I
driv him to kill Jake Blair or be killed.
"But God, you must understand and
have mercy on us. Men air men and
Your Only Begotten Son had to give up
over 'em! You made us to have these
faults and to commit these sins. We
men try to look down on Sin, but You
must not. Our sins are your devices to
keep us from becomin' like You, and
You don't send us to Hell for 'em. I
know You don't because You under-
stand. You won't send Joe to Hell for
doing what we men call Sin. You made
man so that he makes mistakes. You
won't cast him down when he does!"
He went on faster then. He had every-
thing figured out. He had takenha doz-
en steps when he neard the shot, the
sound tossed back and forth by the hills.
He ran blindly along the trail. There
were no more shots. One had ended it,
whether for Jake or Joe.
It was Joe. Bartfound him ly.ng face
down in a litle glen, in a little eddy of
the trail. Stooping, Bart turned him
Joe's face was white as the snow.
The mouth gaped, the eyes protruded.
Bart stared at something he had never
seen before. There was fear on Joe's
face! Fear -stamped so deeply, unmis-
takably that death could only accent it.
Bart felt no pity or grief at his brother's
death. He was blinded to all else but the
profoundest anger he had ever felt in
his life. Jake Blair had done that to
Jake's cabin wasn't far away, just be-
yond that ridge from which he had
bushwhacked Joe. Bart started there
without realizing what he was doing.
Got to get Jake, got to get Jake was all
his mind could seize upon.
Then it struck him. Kill Jake? Shoot
him down as Jake had shot down Drury
and Joe? Oh God no, that wasn't the
way. That was the old eye-for-eye way
that had never solved anything. That
was the high-handed way of ignorance.
That wasn't the justice by which he,
No, Jake must be brought to God's
justice, not Bart Montgomery's jus-
tice. Jake must be fetched down to the
county seat to receive justice from one
who was fit to dispense it. He must re-
ceive the justice of reasoning instead
of the blood-justice of the hills. God
would approve of that. He would protect
Bart until that could be obtained.
Dropping his gun along the trail,
Bart went bareheaded toward Jake
Blair's cabin. Smoke curled from the
chimney as from a freshly started fire.
Jape was at home. Bart ?made no at-
tempt to sneak up to the cabin. He
strode heavily up to the porch and
T HE BIG, gangling boy ran into
the building, to the west bank of
elevators. He was 18, just turned
18 two days ago. He ran into the
waiting elevator and said "Hi" with a
big grin on his face to old Stan running
the elevator. Stan for Stanislaus, who
was Polish. Old Stan grinned back at
him and said, "Allo, Irv. You gunneh
take you sister home, huh? I hear. She
tell me. She say you gunneh get you
license today, huh? You gunneh try
fool her? You can't fool her."
Irv said, "Oh, hell. Well, I don' care
anyway. I thought I'd s'prise 'r, but
just's long 's she lets me drive home, it's
alright. Y' better shoot me upstairs in
an awful hurry, Stan. It's past five-
thirty. She'll gi'me hell if she hasta
wait f'r me. Wait a minute. Don't shut
the door yet. You got a customer."
The woman got into the elevator with
a large motion. Unprepossessing, faded,
fat, she stood across the front of the
elevator, unconsciously forcing Irv to
the back. "Let me out at four, please,"
she said tonelessly. "I want the German
Irv suddenly realized he was still grin-
ning, felt it hanging on his face, thought
there was reason now why he should-
n't be grinning. He felt the knot in his
abdomen and tried not to think of why.
He didn't have to think of why by now.
He let his thoughts flow back into his
brain. He wondered what relief he would
find if he could take the woman by the
throat, sink his fingers deep into the fat
around her throat. He found himself
relieved enough when she got off at four.
Maybe he was wrong. Maybe she was
only trying to get her husband out of
the country, or maybe her kids. He re-
minded himself that for once he had
come into the building without noticing
the mosaic swastikas in the lobby floor.
Stan looked around at Irv after he
slid the elevator door shut behind her.
"German, huh?" Stan was very wise. He
had gotten to know what people on ele-
vators thought of each other.
"Oh-I-yeh ... yeh, I guess she must
be," Irv said, resenting Stan's knowledge.
What business . . . Why doesn't he take
me up and keep his mouth shut? Why
doesn't he shut up?
The green lights over the door'went
on and off in a row, five, six, seven,
eight, Irv remembered to swallow. The
new elevators went so smoothly you for-
got sometimes, but you could still feel
the pressure if you didn't swallow.
*The door slid open at ten. Irv threw
back a "Thanks" over his shoulder and
raced down the waxed corridor to the
door on the corner, 1021, with four black
names lettered on the translucent glass.
He went in without knocking, stuck his
head around the corner of the wall. No
one there but his sister and Celia Hal-
loran, the other stenographer.
"Hi, sis, am I late?"
"You would be if I hadn't had to type
three pages of this brief over again."
She was sliding a big sheaf of papers
into a manila file. "I got three mistakes
on 'm that I couldn't rub out and I had
t' do 'm all over again."
Irv remembered to start grinning
"Well, what's so funny? I don't see
anything to laughat."
"Why, t'day's the day I got my license,
"Oh, is it? Swell. Are you drivin' me
home?" She simulated enthusiasm.
"Yeah, You knew about it all the time.
Stan told me.'
"Yeah, Stan, the elevator-man."
"Well, I thought you might, be hap-
pier if I pretended to be su'prised."
"You always know things. I never
can su'prise you. Oh, hello, Cel. I'm
so excited I f'rget t' be polite. How
come y're stayin' so late?" Cel was a
beneath the glossed
factitious rind of surface sight .
the sleek periphery .
decays both flesh and core.
for future fruits
the present need
a transmutation of the seed.
nice fresh-looking girl, he thought. She
must be awfully young to be married.
Irv was a very poor judge of age.
'Tm waitin' f'r Lennie. He said he'd
stop-by f'r me. I don't blame you f'r
bein' excited. I would be too, with my
"Well, I would've had it before if Pa
hadn't said. 'No junior license.' It was
a long time to wait, from sixteen to
"Eighteen? Really? Why, you could
easily pass f'r twenty-two, Irv."
"Y' really think I-aw, y'r jus' kid-
din'." He couldn't think of anything
else to say. He watched his sister sweep
the pencils from her desk into the draw-
er, slide the green steel file cabinet shut,
and slam her typewriter into its com-
partment in- the desk. It sounded as if
she jarred all the keys loose, every time
she did it.
"Wait, I'll be back in a minute. I'm
going on sixth floor to the ladies' room."
She walked out of the office with a card-
board box under her arm.
family tree someplace." She had the
square of lace rosettes on her desk and
she was smoothing it out with her two
hands. One edge kept curling up and
she kept flattening it out.
Irv held his breath waiting for what
was coming. His sister stood a full min-
ute watching Celia fix her handiwork,
and then she burst out, "That's supposed
to be a compliment, I suppose?" Her
voice was sharp and challenging.
Celia looked up surprised. "You mean
me? Something I said? I don't know
what you mean."
"No, you don't know what I mean.
You're very innocent, you are. We're
too good to be real Jews. We've got
to have Gentile blood to help us out. You
certainly know how to get your dirty digs
in. Well, I'll have you know there never
was a Gentile in our family, and we
wouldn't have a Gentile in our family . .
" She went on vituperatively, grow-
ing more vehement all the time. Irv
listened to her helplessly, feeling with
her when she began, but getting colder
me, am I Ir
I say no,r
But it couk
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have felt a
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barb is tip;
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he dwells i
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a very powE
son. He's asettlin' the score his Pappy
handed down to him to settle. He's
atryin' to kill us Montgomeries because
us Montgomeries 've killed his kith and
kin. He bushwacked Rufe 'cause Rufe
knifed old Cy Blair. Knifed him in the
back, I'll swear it afore God Almighty.
Jake got Pappy 'cause Pappy got two of
"Look here, Bart," Joe's cheeks red-
dened. "You been preachin' up at the
churchhouse and that's all right. But
I'll be damned if you're agoin' to preach
"All right, Joe. I jest tried to make
you see that hit ain't God's will for you
to go gunnin' for Jake Blair."
"Hit's Pappy's will-that's what I'm
In a way Bart pitied his brother,
looked down upon him. Joe clung so
savagely to the clannish spirit of the
highlands that nothing of reason or re-
ligion could swerve him. Bart had said
that God had made no one only for the
purpose of killing, and then he doubted
it, because Joe was as much an instru-
ment for killing as a knife or a rifle.
Bart thanked God that he was not like
And yet even Bart realized the ad-
miration he felt for Joe. Joe had the
courage and virility Bart lacked; he
was the symbol of an adventuresome
past that modern veneer had all but
obliterated in Bart. Bart could argue
Hellfire and Damnation with his con-
gregation, could drive the Devil out of
his church, but he had admired Joe too
long ever to dominate him.
Mother Lizpeth told Bart, "Tain't no
use to argue with Joe. He'll go agun-
nin' for Jake Blair spite of hell and high-
water. Feudin' was in his blood afore
he Was born, and feudin' was drilled into
him in place of religion or education or
anythin' else. Feudin's all he knows.
Hit's all he cares about." Bart knew
his mother spoke the truth. She always
did. She had brains.
It was a gray December day when the
Montgomeries in the neighborhood
gathered to bury Drury in the frozen
earth of the family graveyard. They
buried him with an uneasy sense of
hypocrisy. They seemed to see on
Drury's lips a plea for revenge, and
their own hearts cried out for revenge
with all their clannish intensity. But
they had to forego revenge because they
had given up feuding to the barbaric
past. They did not talk of it at the fu-
neral. Neither did they talk to Joe.
Then one bleak sun-up Lizpeth hur-
ried from her morning's milking to find
Bart. He stopped chopping firewood
when he saw her approaching, her
weary feet scampering beneath her lin-
sey-woolsey. "What's up, Ma?" he
"He's gone. I saw him agoin' over
the hill. He's asettin' out for Jake
"I knowed he was thinkin' on it. He's
been ashinin' up his gun every day."
Lizpeth's eyes showed fear. "You got
to go and help him, Bart. Hit's his old
squirrel rifle agin' Jake Blair's- auto-
matic. He ain't got a chanct. You got
to git your Pappy's gun and help him.
Jake'll git him sure if you don't."
Bart ran into the house, pulled down
the rifle from above the door. He
pushed away the thoughts that assailed
him. "How much of a lead has he got
on me?" he asked.
"Quite a spell. I was in the upper
pasture. I couldn't git here very fast."
Bart swung off down the trail. When
he was alone at last, beyond the hill
Irv gaped at Celia. She was tatting.
The bobbin -clicked like teeth. "Tiny
garments?" he asked her.
"Why no." She was mock-indignant.
"It's only a dresser-scarf f'r Lennie's
bedroom." Lennie's bedroom, he thought.
They must have two. Can't trust twin
beds, I suppose, being Catholic. He
thought seriously about the problem
without letting his thoughts descend to
a more customary level.
His sister came back with a hat on.
"Well, don't you see anything different
about me?" He hadn't said anything for
several seconds after she came in. He
looked at her with gravity, up and down.
"No, I don't think I do. I suppose some-
thing's new?" When he talked slowly,
he was careful of his grammar.
"It's a new hat, dope. I just got it
this noon during lunch hour. Won'cha
ever learn t' notice clothes? Y'll never
get along with women if y' don't learn t'
notice things like that. What d'y' think
"It's fine," he said slowly. He knew
how to say the right things when he
knew he had to. "It fits you. It shows
your hair off well. Let's see it from the
side. Good. It takes away some of the
little girl from your nose."
"Well, I hope not. I like my nose the
way it is. Can I help it if it turns up?
And don't say little girl. I think of my
age often enough without you reminding
me of it all the time."
Celia looked up from her tatting. "It is
a nice hat, Irv, and it doesn't hurt her
profile any. Gee, I always wonder where
you get that profile from. You must
have a Gentile sneaking around the
and clammier inside as she kept on. He
found himself thinking, I wish she'd
shut up, shut up, shut up, why must she
talk like that?
Celia got redder, became beside her-
self with anger. "You-you-you talk
like that- You know I didn't mean
anything. The way you all carry chips
on your shoulders, you Jews. No wonder
you get them knocked off all the time.
You say things about lace-curtain Irish
and things like that. You never saw me
fly off the handle about that."
They stopped for breath, both glaring
at each other, almost hysterical. Irv
stepped between them. He felt that his
sides were wet, and his shirt was sticking
to him, and it was cold. He was facing
his sister. She pushed him a little and
said, "Get out of my way," and then he
was holding her by the shoulder and
shaking her gently at first and then
harder saying over and over, "Stop it,
stop it, why can't you stop it? What
good are you doing? What are you
helping? You're hurting everything."
Then she slumped and curled up and
fell against his shoulder. She only came
to the top of his lapel. She was crying
and saying, "I know she didn't mean
anything. Why must we be always like
this? Always on the defensive. Always
waiting for the worst. Celia-"
Celia was crying too, with her head
down in her dresser-scarf, crying all
over the fine linen threads, but then
she was up, and her cheeks were red and
clean with the tears on them. She was
up and she patted Irv's sister on the arm
and then was gone out of the room.
Irv took his sister by the hand and
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