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TWELFTH LETTER

Aiken, South Carolina. DEAR PERCY:

I am writing you again without waiting for an answer from you as I have an indigestion of news. I have news to shed and am prepared to shed it now. Listen. We have here what we call “dove drives.” Some few miles out of Aiken a big field is baited with the favourite food of the amorous dove. When the news is communicated to the scattered birds by the unselfish discoverer they concentre in great numbers. The following day your particular dove drives you out there, and many others do the same, perhaps twenty or thirty couples. The field is surrounded, and the birds, frightened from their feast, begin to fly wildly at the sound of the first gun. Then if you have ever been in a battle, the memory seems a silence. Such a bing-whanging you never heard. Your particular dove becomes excited and cries:

Oh, let me try! I must shoot one." You hand her your gun ready loaded and cocked, carefully placing the stock in her hand; she is suddenly seized by fear, and says:

“I can't, I don't dare, here comes one, take it, - quick!” and accurately pointing the muzzle at your abdomen returns you the weapon, provided you have nerve enough to accept it and are not abdomenless at the time. After killing anywhere from four to six hundred of these little minnows of the air, you sit down to a luncheon that would try the powers of a Hans Christian Andersen ogre.

Yesterday Mrs. B. drove me out, and Mr. B., who is persona non grata, notwithstanding his good looks, with every woman here, drove out alone. Coming back, our buggy broke down, but as we were nearly home we decided to walk the rest of the way. Mr. B. was following close behind, so when we got out, he did also, and joining us, said he too would walk.

He made some sneering remark about his wife's lack of pluck so far as a gun was concerned as compared with some of the other women present that day. I saw her face fush; she seemed to take it to heart. He is a man of few pleasures, but, like many another husband, finds his principal enjoyment in making his wife appear at her worst, not her best. She was silent for a

moment, and then asked him, with her face slightly paled: “Do you think women without pluck?”

Oh!” he answered, laughingly, “ they sometimes have a seeming pluck, born of ignorance and stupidity.”

Then she turned on him with a scorn that must have been latent for many a day, and said:

“I'll do anything you dare to do, more, I'll do anything you dare me to do."

Now it so happens that Aiken is divided in half by a gully some fifty feet wide and fifty deep, through which the railroad runs; it is an ugly cut with precipitous sides. We reached this place as her words were spoken. The wooden bridge that had spanned it the day before was now in the form of ashes on the track below. The night previous a drunken negro had stumbled with a lamp, and the bridge had ceased to be, all except one long wooden girder about four inches wide stretching its charred end out about half over the chasm. The moment B. caught sight of it he cried:

“Good! I dare you to walk out to the end of that and back.”

I swung around and faced him.

“ You can't mean it!” I hoarsely exclaimed, my voice raucous in fright, “ forbid her to, for God's sake."

With an intensely amused look in his face he raised his forefinger to his lips warningly, and pointed with his other hand over my shoulder.

I turned - she was well out over the edge, her arms outstretched and carrying herself with the grace and assured strength of a panther.

My hands and feet became ice, there seemed to be in me a cessation of all life.

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