Complete Poetical Works

The Idyl of Battle Hollow

(War Of the Rebellion, 1884)

Bret Harte

NO, I won’t,—thar, now, so! And it ain’t nothin’,—no!
And thar’s nary to tell that you folks yer don’t know;
And it’s “Belle, tell us, do!” and it’s “Belle, is it true?”
And “Wot’s this yer yarn of the Major and you?”
Till I’m sick of it all,—so I am, but I s’pose
Thet is nothin’ to you. . . . Well, then, listen! yer goes!

It was after the fight, and around us all night
Thar was poppin’ and shootin’ a powerful sight;
And the niggers had fled, and Aunt Chlo was abed,
And Pinky and Milly were hid in the shed:
And I ran out at daybreak, and nothin’ was nigh
But the growlin’ of cannon low down in the sky.

And I saw not a thing, as I ran to the spring,
But a splintered fence rail and a broken-down swing,
And a bird said “Kerchee!” as it sat on a tree,
As if it was lonesome, and glad to see me;
And I filled up my pail and was risin’ to go,
When up comes the Major a-canterin’ slow.

When he saw me he drew in his reins, and then threw
On the gate-post his bridle, and—what does he do
But come down where I sat; and he lifted his hat,
And he says—well, thar ain’t any need to tell that;
’Twas some foolishness, sure, but it ’mounted to this,
Thet he asked for a drink, and he wanted—a kiss.

Then I said (I was mad), “For the water, my lad,
You’re too big and must stoop; for a kiss, it’s as bad,—
You ain’t near big enough.” And I turned in a huff,
When that Major he laid his white hand on my cuff,
And he says, “You’re a trump! Take my pistol, don’t fear!
But shoot the next man that insults you, my dear.”

Then he stooped to the pool, very quiet and cool,
Leavin’ me with that pistol stuck there like a fool,
When thar flashed on my sight a quick glimmer of light
From the top of the little stone fence on the right,
And I knew ’twas a rifle, and back of it all
Rose the face of that bushwhacker, Cherokee Hall!

Then I felt in my dread that the moment the head
Of the Major was lifted, the Major was dead;
And I stood still and white, but Lord! gals, in spite
Of my care, that derned pistol went off in my fright!
Went off—true as gospil!—and, strangest of all,
It actooally injured that Cherokee Hall!

Thet’s all—now, go ’long! Yes, some folks thinks it’s wrong,
And thar’s some wants to know to what side I belong;
But I says, “Served him right!” and I go, all my might,
In love or in war, for a fair stand-up fight;
And as for the Major—sho! gals, don’t you know
Thet—Lord! thar’s his step in the garden below.

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