The Ancien Regime put up his snuffbox and brushed the fallen grains from his old, old red brocade. "What a night for music and for love! The road down yonder—it is like the silver ribbon they wear—they wore—at court!"
"The road—the road!" exclaimed Cary. "I travel it in my sleep. It haunts me as I haunt it. I know all its long stretches, all its turns—" He sighed, and moved so as to face the whitened ribbon.
"You ride," said the dancing master; "but, for my own convenience, I go afoot, and it is probable that I know it best."
They sat gazing down past garden and hillside to the still highway. "I have not walked upon it, however," continued Mr. Pincornet reflectively, "since September. I then went afoot from Clover Hill to Red Fields, where I was taken ill. It was the seventh of September."
"The seventh of September!"
"I remember the day," continued Mr. Pincornet, "because I sat down under a tree beside the road to rest, and I had an almanac in my pocket."
"You remember it by nothing else?"
"Why, by one thing more," answered the other. "I sat there, my head on my hand, perhaps thinking of nothing, perhaps thinking of France—an empty road and in the sky black clouds—when suddenly—what do you say?—clatter, crash! through the wood opposite and down a tall red bank to the road came another pupil of mine—"
"Yes?" said Cary. "Who?"
"Mr. Lewis Rand."
Something fell to the floor with a slight sound. It was the book that had rested upon Cary's crossed knee. He stooped and picked it up, then, straightening himself, looked again at the silver ribbon. "Black clouds in the sky," he said, in a curious voice, "and the seventh of September, M. de Pincornet?"
"Yes," replied the other, "by the almanac. That was two days, was it not, before your brother's death?"
"My brother, sir, was murdered upon the seventh of September."
"The seventh! The ninth! You mean the ninth! I heard it so when I recovered—"
"You heard it wrongly. It was the seventh."
There was a silence; then, "Indeed," said the dancing master, in a curious dry and shocked voice. "The seventh. At what hour?"
"It is not known. Perhaps about midday, perhaps a little later—when there were black clouds in the sky."
The silence fell again, hard and full of meaning, then Cary leaned forward and laid his hand upon the other's arm "I've hunted long alone, now we'll hunt for a moment together! Tell me again."
"He came down the bank in a great noise and rolling of stone and earth. There were thick woods on the top of the bank. He came out of them like Pluto out of the earth—"
"He was alone?"
"Alone. But he had a negro waiting for him down the road."
"He told you that?"
"I left my tree and we talked a little. He was torn, he was breathless. He explained that he had started a doe and had followed through the woods. He left me and went down the road to meet his negro. They passed me, and when I came to Red Fields, I was told they had paused there. I said nothing of our meeting. I was very tired and the storm was breaking. Before it was over I was hot and cold and shaking and ill in my bed. I was ill, as I have told you, for a long time. The ninth! I always thought it was the ninth—"
"Would you know again the place where this chase occurred?"
"He came down the bank opposite the blasted oak."
"Ah!" breathed Cary; then, after a moment, "I stopped my horse beneath that tree this morning, and my eyes rested upon that red bank. And I did not know! We are very blind." He rose. "Will you come indoors, sir? I wish to light the candles again."
They entered the small bedroom. Cary lighted the candles, placed them upon the table, and closed the shutters of the one window. From the breast of his riding-coat he took a rolled paper. "This is a map of the country below Red Fields. I made it myself. Now let us see, sir, let us see!"
He pinned the map down with ink-well, sand-box, book, and candlestick, which done, the two bent over it. "Call it," said Cary, "a military map of your country near Mauleon. Now, sir, look! Here is what a man did."
The demonstration proceeded, and it was carried out with keenness and with a very fair approach to accuracy. "Here is Malplaquet, which one passes about nine in the morning, and there by the candlestick is Red Fields, certainly on the main road and certainly paused at by"—he glanced aside at the other's face—"by the murderer, M. de Pincornet! Now let us mark this fox that doubles on himself."
The long, curled wig of the Frenchman and the younger man's handsome head with the hair gathered back into a black ribbon bent lower over the map. "Forrest's forge, the mill, the ford, he passed these places under such and such circumstances—here, where I rest the pen, stands the guide-post. This line is your silvered ribbon, this is the main road that makes a sweep around the broken country. This heavy, black, and jagged line is the river road. They both took the river road, as both had said they would—my brother to me, the murderer to a man at the Cross Roads Inn. The negro boy kept on by the main road. Where is this riven oak?" He dipped the quill into the ink-well. "I correct my map according to my better knowledge. That tree stands two miles below Red Fields, just above the turn where, fifty years ago, was the Indian ambush. We'll mark it here, black and charred. Here is the bank, crowned by woods. The growth is very thick between it and"—his hand, holding the pen, travelled across the sheet—"the river road just east of Indian Run."
He laid down the pen, and turned from the table to the open door. "The moon is not bright enough, or I would go to-night. I want sunlight, or I want storm-light, for that ride across from road to road! Five hours till morning." He returned to the dancing master. "When, in your country, the man you loved was to be avenged, and his murderers punished, you were glad of aid, were you not? I shall be thankful for every least thing that you can tell me."
"He came," said the emigre, "like Pluto out of the earth. He was breathless as one out of prison—his linen was torn. There was," the narrator's voice halted, then hardened in tone,—"there was blood upon his sleeve. At the time I supposed that, in bursting through that grille of the forest, branch or briar had drawn it. There was blood, sir, about your brother?"
"Yes. If the murderer stooped to know if life was out, it might have happened so."
"He was not pale, I think, but he spoke in a strange voice. 'Ha!' he said, 'I started a doe ten minutes since, and gave her chase through the wood. Now I will rejoin my boy a little way down the road. Are you on your way to Charlottesville?' I told him I would go to Red Fields, upon which he said adieu and turned his horse. A little later he and his boy passed me, riding in a cloud of dust and under black skies." The dancing master raised a glass of water that was upon the table and moistened his lips. "This, Mr. Cary, is all my aid. I admired your brother, and there is, sir, a something about you that returns Charles to my memory. If it pleases you, and if our host will lend me a horse, I will ride with you in the morning, as far at least as the oak and that red bank down which he came."
"I accept your offer, sir," answered the other, "with gratitude. You did not chance to notice his holsters?"
"No—except that his saddle had holsters. I have seen his pistols. I saw them one night at Monticello. He told me that they were a gift from his patron."
"Yes. They were given by Mr. Jefferson, and the other's name is upon them. Moreover, he travelled armed from Richmond to Roselands. I acquired that knowledge in the autumn. I would that iron could speak—if it could, and if human effort be of avail, I would yet have those pistols in my holding!"
He took the map from the table, rolled it up, and restored it to its place. "It grows late," he said. "Let us to bed and to sleep. It is the eve of a decisive engagement, M. de Pincornet. If you'll permit me, I will call you at five. Remus shall make us coffee, and we'll make free with a horse for you from the stables. Then the road again! but this time I go no farther than the ford, on that white ribbon yonder. You shall keep the highroad, but I will take the river road, and yet I'll hold tryst with you beneath that riven oak!" He began to put out the candles. "I shall sleep and sleep well until dawn, and I wish for you, sir, as good a night. For the aid which you have given me, I am most heartily your servant."
Alone in the little room, he straightened, mechanically, the objects upon the table, paced for a time or two the narrow, cell-like place, then went out again upon the porch and stood with his hands on the railing, and his eyes raised to the white moon, full and serene in the cloudless night. "For without," he said, "are dogs and sorcerers and murderers and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie." He stood for a long while without movement, but at last let fall his hands, turned, and went indoors. When, a little later, he threw himself upon his bed and drew his hand across his eyes, he found that it was wet with tears. He spoke aloud, though hardly above his breath. "No, Ludwell, no! In this sole thing I am right. It is not revenge. I am not vindictive, I am not revengeful. This is justice, and I can no other than pursue it. It will not grieve you where you are." He turned and buried his face in the pillow. "O brother—O friend—"
The emotion passed and he lay staring at the ceiling, reconstructing midday of September the seventh beside Indian Run.
UNITY AND JACQUELINE
The library at Fontenoy lay west and north. In the afternoon the sun struck through the windows and through the glass door, brightening the tall clock-face, the faint gilt and brown of old books, and the portrait of Henry Churchill with the swords crossed beneath. Upon the forenoon in question, and even though the month was May, the room looked a sombre place, chill and dusk, shaded and grave as a hermit's cell.
In the great chair upon the hearth sat Colonel Churchill, somewhat bowed together and with his hand over his eyes. By the window stood Major Edward, very upright, very meagre, soldierly, and grey. The northern light was upon him; with his pinned-up sleeve and lifted head he looked a figure of old defeats and indomitable mind. From the middle of the room Fairfax Cary faced both the Churchills.
In his dark riding-dress, standing with his gloved hand upon the table, he gave in look and attitude a suggestion of formality, a subtle conveyance of determination. He had been speaking, and now, after an interruption from one of the brothers, he continued. "That was two weeks ago. I have it clear, and I have my witness. The murderer, leaving the body of my brother beside Indian Run, turned his horse, and, at a point just east of the rock where grows the mountain ash, he quitted the road for the mountain-side. It is desperate riding over that ridge, but he made it as, two weeks ago, I made it, and he came out, as I came out, upon the high bank above the main road, a few yards below the blasted oak. That, Colonel Churchill, is what he did, and what a jury shall see that he did."
Colonel Dick let fall his hand. "Fair, Fair, I never gainsaid that he was a villain—"
"He appeared," continued the younger man, "before my witness, torn and breathless. There was blood upon his sleeve. Now see what he does. He rejoins his negro, and, if I know my man, he intimidates this boy into silence like the grave. Together they pause at Red Fields, a precaution that quite naturally suggests itself to the lawyer mind. But it is in the gloom of the storm, and he does not dismount—a course which, again, he knows to be wise. Apparently Red Fields notices nothing. He rides on. But he has yet to pass through town, to be accosted here, there, at the Eagle, the post-office, to be forced, perhaps, under peril of his refusal being scanned, to get down from his horse, answer questions, drink and talk with acquaintances. He is torn, dishevelled. There is blood upon his sleeve. What does he think as he rides from Red Fields? He thinks, 'Where can I best put myself in order, and remove this witness?' That would be his thought, and he would have the answer ready. He rode on to the edge of town, and there he stopped at Tom Mocket's."
Major Edward left the window. As he passed his brother, he laid for a moment his hand upon the elder's shoulder. The touch was protective, almost tender. "It's a rough wind, Dick! Bow your head and let it go over." He marched away, dragged a chair to the table, and sat down. "Very well," he said. "He stopped at Tom Mocket's."
"Yes, but not merely at the gate, as he testified. He went into the house, and there he washed the blood-stain from his sleeve."
"Can you prove that?"
"I can prove that he went into the house. A negro, running from the storm, saw him enter. When that girl—Vinie Mocket—is put upon the stand, I expect to prove the remainder. Now, the pistol—"
Colonel Dick rose, walked heavily to the glass door, then back to the hearth. "You stand there, as I have seen your father stand. Well, go on! We are men, Edward and I."
"His pistols are handsome ones, the gift of Mr. Jefferson. The murderer's name is engraved upon them. He has made, since September, a number of journeys, and he travels always with holsters to his saddle. Well, not long ago, I bribed the hostler of a tavern where I knew he was to sleep. I have seen the arms he carries. Two holsters, two pistols—but the latter do not match! A different maker, a heavier weight, and the owner's name but indifferently etched. And yet there is in Richmond a man who will swear to Mr. Rand's leaving town with the President's gift intact! The inference is, I think, that somewhere between Indian Run and Roselands the weapon vanished—how and when and where I have yet to find. I expect to recover it, and in the mean time I expect to force an explanation of those mismatched pistols."
He had been standing without motion—manner, voice, and attitude restrained and somewhat formal. He now moved, took his hand from the table, and folded his arms. "I came," he said, "to tell you, Colonel Churchill, and you, Major Edward, you who were my brother's friends and my father's friends, I came to tell you that I shall apply for and obtain a warrant for the arrest of Lewis Rand."
The words fell heavily, and when they were spoken, there was a silence in the library. Major Edward broke it. "You are determined, and I waste no breath in challenging the inevitable. So be it! The child will come home to us, Dick."
The elder brother walked the length of the room and paused before the picture of Henry Churchill. When at last he turned, his ruddy face was pale, his eyes wet. "Henry was a proud man. We grow old, and we grow to be thankful that the dead are dead! Well, Edward, well! we've weathered much—I reckon we can weather more." He halted at the glass door and stared out into the flowering garden. "My little Jack!" he muttered, and drew his hand across his eyes.
Cary spoke from where he yet stood beside the table. "I am aware—how can I be other than aware?—of the sorrow and anxiety which I bring upon this house. As regards myself, you have but to indicate your wishes, sir. I will come no more to Fontenoy, if my coming is unwelcome. One interest here I confidently entrust to your generosity. For the rest I will bow to your decision. If you tell me so, sir, I will come no more—though Fontenoy is well nigh as dear to me as Greenwood, and though I love and honour every inmate here."
His voice broke a little. There was a silence, then Colonel Dick swung around from the glass door. "Don't talk damned nonsense, Fair," he said gruffly.
Major Edward spoke from the old green chair. "We'll bring no unnecessary factors into this business, Fairfax. I don't conceive that it is necessary for us to quarrel. It is not you who have wrought the harm—that burden rests elsewhere. Have you seen Unity?"
"Then we had better send for her." The Major rose and pulled the bell-rope. "Some one must go to Roselands. When do you propose to act?"
"Very soon, sir. Almost at once. I anticipate no resistance and no flight. I'll give him his due. He is bold and he is ready, and the court room is his chosen field, where his gods fight for him. He'll give battle."
The last of the Greenwood Carys moved from his place, walked to the window, and stood there in the light from the north. "Before Unity comes, sir, there is something I would like to say. It pertains to myself. You have known me, both of you, all my life, and you knew my father before me. You know what my brother was to me—brother, guardian, friend. You two have lived your life together; think, each of you, how bitter now would be the other's loss. What if all was yet youth and fire and promise—and a villain struck one down, put out life at a blow, and denied the deed! Denied! went on with trumpets to place and honour! What would you do, Colonel Churchill, or you, Major Edward? You would do as I have done, and you would weigh no circumstance, as I have weighed none. Moreover, right is right, and law and justice must not curtsy even to pity for the innocent and tenderness for those who suffer! It is right that this man should feel the hand of Justice. And I can see it as no other than right that I—when all her paid soldiers failed—should have taken it on myself to bring him there, before her bar. It is this which I shall do, and the end is not with me, but with right and law and order, with the weal of society, yes, and with the man's own proper reaping of the harvest which he sowed! Else he also is monstrous, and there is nothing not awry." He paused, made a slight and dignified gesture with his hands, and went on. "I have done that which I had to do. I abide the consequences. But it is hard to bring trouble on you here, and to bring great trouble on—on one other. I wish you to know that, though I go my way, I go with a pained and heavy heart."
He broke off, and stood with his eyes upon the younger of the two brothers; then, after a moment and with a note of appeal in his voice, "Major Edward—"
Major Edward raised his hawk eyes and resolute face. "Trouble enough, yes, heavy trouble—but I should have done as you have done! It is all in the great battle, Fair. We'll be friends still, Fontenoy and Greenwood. There is Unity at the door."
* * * * *
From the Fontenoy coach Unity, who had not been to Roselands since December, regarded the quiet old place through a sudden mist of tears. The driveway from the gate was sunk in green; a hundred trees kept the place secluded, sylvan, and still. Hardly any bloom appeared,—the flowers were all in the quiet garden hidden by the house,—but through a small open space could be seen the giant beech tree by the doorstone.
Unity dried her eyes with her handkerchief, and bit her lips until they were red again. "If you're nothing but a bird of omen," she said to herself, "at least you needn't show it! Oh, this world!" then, "What if he is not from home?"
In the early winter she had advanced several pretexts for not troubling Roselands, had found them accepted by Jacqueline with an utter lack of comment, and had ceased to make them. She kept away, and her cousin made no complaint. What pretext, now, she wondered, would serve to explain this visit? She thought that pretext would be needed at first—just at first. And what if Lewis Rand were at home?
He was not at home. Jacqueline met her upon the great doorstone, kissed her, and held her hand, but made no exclamation of surprise and asked no questions. The coach and four, with old Philip and Mingo, rolled away to the stable, and the cousins entered the cool, wide hall. "You will lay aside your bonnet?" said Jacqueline. "Such a lovely bonnet, Unity!—and your blue lutestring! Come to my room."
In the chamber Unity untied her blue bonnet-strings and laid the huge scoop of straw upon the white counterpane; then, at the mirror, slowly drew off her long gloves, and took from her silken bag her small handkerchief. The action of her hands, now deliberate, now hurried, was strange for Unity, whose habit it was to be light and sure. "Do you remember," she asked, with her face still to the mirror,—"do you remember the last time I wore this gown?"
"You wore it," said Jacqueline, in a trembling voice, "to church, in August—to Saint John's."
"Yes. That Sunday when all the world was there. I smell the honeysuckle again, and hear FitzWhyllson's viol! That was our last old, happy day together."
"Yes, it was. The very next day the world seemed somehow to change."
"Isn't that a way the world has?" asked Jacqueline. "Change and change and change again—"
"Yes," answered Unity, "but never to the same, never to the same again—"
A silence fell in the room that was all flowered chintz. Unity, raising her eyes to the glass, saw within it her cousin where she leaned against a chair—saw the face, the eyes, the lips—saw the mask off. Unity gasped, wheeled, ran to the chair, and, falling on her knees beside it, clasped her cousin in her arms. "O Jacqueline! O Jacqueline, Jacqueline!"
Jacqueline rested her hands upon the other's shoulders. "Why did you come to-day, Unity? The last time was December."
"I came—I came"—sobbed Unity, "just to bring you their love—Uncle Dick's and Uncle Edward's and Aunt Nancy's—and to say that Fontenoy is still home, and—and—"
"Yes," said Jacqueline. "But this is my home now, Unity. It has been"—she raised her arms—"it has been my home for many and many a day! You may tell them that; you may tell it to Fairfax Cary."
"Don't—don't think of him as an enemy!"
"I think of him as he is. What is the message, Unity?"
"I have none—I have none," cried Unity, "except that whatever happens—whatever happens, Jacqueline, you are the darling of us all—of the old home and Uncle Dick and Uncle Edward and Aunt Nancy and Deb and me and all the servants! There is none at Fontenoy that does not love and honour you! Think of us, and come to us—"
"When? When, Unity?"
Unity rose. "Now, if you will, darling—dearest—"
Jacqueline smiled. "Now? When you are married, you will find that you cannot leave home so easily." She crossed the bedroom floor to a window, and stood with her hands on either side of the casement, and with her face lifted to the pure blue heaven.
Unity waited with held breath. "She knows—she knows," said her beating heart.
Jacqueline came back to the middle of the room. "Thank them for me, Unity, and tell them that I cannot leave my husband now." Her touch, clay-cold and fluttering, fell upon her cousin's arm. "There are wisdom and goodness in the world, and they wish to see things rightly, if only they had the power. Tell them at Fontenoy, and tell Fairfax Cary, too, that they have not altogether understood! Even he—even the one who is dead—did not quite do that, though he came more nearly than any. It is my hope and my belief that now he understands, forgives, and sees—and sees the dawn in the land!"
She raised her head, and the expression of her face was exquisite. No longer wan, she stood as though the flush of dawn were upon her. It paled, and the air of tragedy enfolded her again, but the light had been there, and it left her majestic. The grace within her and the sweetness were unfailing. She came now to her cousin, put an arm around her, and kissed her on the cheek. "You love truly, too," she whispered. "When trouble comes, you'll understand—you'll understand!"
Unity held her to her and wept. "O Jacqueline!—O Jacqueline!"
"You put on the blue gown to remind me, didn't you?" asked Jacqueline. "I didn't need any reminding, dear. It is all with me, all the old, frank, happy days; all the time when I was a girl and we used to sit, just you and I, by my window and watch the stars come out between the fir branches! And I love you all, every one of you. And I do not blame Fairfax Cary. It is destiny, I think, with us all. But I want you to know—and you can tell them that, too,—that there is one whom I love beyond every one else, beyond life, death, fear, anguish, meeting, and parting. Loving him so, and not despairing of a life to come when we are all washed clean, my dear, when we are all washed clean—"
Her voice broke and she moved again to the window. The clock ticked, the sun came dazzling in, a fly buzzed against the pane. Jacqueline turned. "Tell them that they are all dear to me, but that my home is here with my husband. Tell them that Lewis Rand—that Lewis Rand"—She put her hands to her breast. "No. I have not power to tell you that—not yet, not yet! But this I say—my uncles were soldiers, and they fought bravely and witnessed much, but I have seen a battlefield"—She shuddered strongly and brought her hands together as if to wring them, then let them fall instead and turned upon her cousin a face colourless but almost smiling. "It is strange," she said, "what pain we grow to call Victory. Let's talk of it no more, Unity." She caressed the other's hand, raised it to her lips, and kissed it.
"I did not come to stay," said Unity brokenly. "You had rather be alone. The evening is falling and they look for me at home. When you call me, I will come again. Are you sure—are you sure, Jacqueline, that you understand what they—what they sent me to say?"
"I understand enough," said Jacqueline, in a very low voice, and kissed her cousin upon the brow.
THE WAY OF THE TRANSGRESSOR
Rand closed the heavy ledger. "It is all straight," he said.
"It's as straight as if 'twas a winding-up forever," answered Tom. "Are you going home now?"
"There's almost nothing on the docket. I've seen no such general clearance since you began to practise and took me in. You say you're going to refuse the Amherst case?"
"I have refused it."
"Then," quoth Tom, "I might as well go fishing. The weather's right, and every affair of yours is so cleaned and oiled and put to rights that there's nothing here for a man to do. One might suppose you were going a long journey. If you don't want me to-morrow, I'll call on old Mat Green—"
"Don't go fishing to-morrow, Tom," said Rand from the desk, "but don't come here either. Stay at home with Vinie."
"You won't be coming in from Roselands?"
"I won't be coming here." Rand left the desk and stood at the small window where the roses were now in bloom. "I shall send you a note, Tom, to-morrow morning. It will tell you what"—He paused for a moment. "What comes next," he finished. "There will be a message in it for Vinie." He turned from the window. "I am going home now."
"It's a good time for a holiday," remarked Tom, "and you needn't tell me that you don't need it, Lewis! I'll lock up and go to the Eagle for a while. What are you looking for?"
"Nothing," answered the other. "I was looking at the room itself. I always liked this office, Tom."
As he passed, he touched his subaltern upon the shoulder. There was fondness in the gesture. "Good-bye," he said, and was gone before Tom could answer.
Outside, in the bloom and glow of the May evening, he mounted Selim and rode out of the town. The people whom he met he greeted slightly, but with no change of manner which they afterwards could report. It was sunset when he passed the last houses, and turned toward the west and his own home. He rode slowly, with his eyes upon a great sea of vivid gold. By degrees the brightness faded, changing to an amethyst, out of which suddenly swam the evening star. The land rose into hills, the summits of the highest far and dark against the cold violet of the sky. From the road to Roselands branched the road to Greenwood. It was dusk when horse and rider reached this opening. Selim had come to know the altered grasp upon the rein just here, and now, according to wont, he fell into the slower pace. Rand turned in his saddle and looked across the darkening fields to the low hill, crowned with oaks, from which arose the Greenwood house. He gazed for a full minute, then spoke to his horse and they went on at speed. A little longer and he was at the gates of home.
His wife met him upon the doorstone. "I heard you at the gate—"
He put his arm around her. "What have you been doing all the long day?"
"I worked," she answered, "and saw to the house, and read to Hagar at the quarter. She's going fast. How tired your voice sounds! Come into the light. Supper is ready—and Mammy Chloe has said a charm to make you sleep to-night."
They went indoors to the lighted rooms. "You are wearing your amethysts," said Rand, "and the ribbon in your hair—"
She turned upon him a face exquisite in expression. "They are the jewels that you like—the ribbon as I wore it long ago. Come in—come in to supper."
The brief meal ended, they returned to the drawing-room. Rand stood irresolutely. "I have yet a line to write," he told her. "I will do it here at your desk. When I have finished, Jacqueline, then there is something I must say."
He sat down and began to write. She moved to the window, then restlessly back to the lighted room and sat down before the hearth, but in a moment she left this, too, and moved again through the room. She passed her harp, and as she did so, she drew her hand across the strings. The sweet and liquid sound ran through the room. Rand turned. "I have not heard," he said, in a low voice,—"I have not heard that sound since—since last August. Will you sing to me now?"
She touched the harp again. "Yes, Lewis. What shall I sing?"
He rose, walked to the window, and stood with his face to the night. "Sing those verses you sang that night at Fontenoy"; then, as she struck a chord, "No, not To Althea—the other."
She sang. The noble contralto, pure, rich, and deep, swelled through the room.
"The thirst that from the soul doth rise Doth ask a drink divine"—
Her voice broke and her hands dropped from the strings. She rose quickly and left the harp. "I cannot—I cannot sing to-night. The air is faint—the flowers are too heavy. Come out—come out to the wind and the stars!"
Without the house the evening wind blew cool, moving the long branches of the beech tree, and rustling through the grass. To the west the mountains showed faintly, in the valley a pale streak marked the river. The sky was thick with stars. Behind them, through the open door, they heard the tall clock strike. "I did not tell you," said Jacqueline, "of all my day. Unity was here this afternoon."
"Yes. For an hour. She came with—with messages. My uncles send me word that they love me, and that Fontenoy is my home always—as it used to be. Whenever I wish, I am to come home."
"What did you answer?"
"I answered that they were all dear to me, but that my home was here with you. I told Unity to tell them that—and to tell it, too, to Fairfax Cary."
There was a silence; then, "It does not matter," said Rand slowly. "Whether it is done my way, or whether it is done his way, Fairfax Cary will not care. He is concerned only that it shall be done. You understood the message, Jacqueline?"
She answered almost inaudibly. "Yes, I understood."
"Seven months—and Ludwell Cary lies unavenged. I have been slow. But I had to break a strong chain, Jacqueline. I had fastened it, link by link, around my soul. It was not easy to break—it was not easy! And I had to find a path in a desert place."
She bowed her head upon her arms. "Do I not know what it was? I have seen—I have seen. O Lewis, Lewis!"
"It is broken," he said, "and though the desert is yet around me, my feet have found the path. To-morrow, Jacqueline, I give myself up."
She uttered a cry, turned, and threw herself into his arms. "To-morrow! O Love!"
He bent over her with broken words of self-reproach. She stopped him with her hand against his lips. "No, I am not all unhappy—no, you have not broken my heart—you have not ruined my life! Don't say it—don't think it! I love you as I loved you in the garden at Fontenoy, as I loved on our wedding eve, in the house on the Three-Notched Road! I love you more deeply now than then—"
"I have come," he answered, "to be sorry for almost all my life. Even to my father I might have been a better son. The best friend a young man ever had—that was Mr. Jefferson to me! and it all ended in the letter which he wrote last August. I was a leader in a party in whose principles I believed and still believe, and I betrayed my party. To-night I think I could give my life for one imperilled field, for one green acre of this land—and yet I was willing to bring upon it strife and dissension. Ingrate and traitor—hard words and true, hard words and true! I might have had a friend—and always I knew he was the man I would have wished to be—but, instead, I thought of him as my foe and I killed him. I have brought trouble on many, and good to very few. I have wronged you in very much. But I never wronged you in my love—never, never, Jacqueline! That is my mountain peak—that is my cleansing sea—that is that in my life which needs no repenting, that is true, that is right! Oh, my wife, my wife!"
The night wind blew against them. Fireflies shone and grey moths went by to the lighted windows; above the treetops a bat wheeled and wheeled. The clock struck again, then from far away a whippoorwill began to call. They sat side by side upon the doorstone, her head against his shoulder, their hands locked.
"What will you do?" he said. "What will you do? Day and night I think of that!"
"Could I stay on here? I would like to."
"I have put all affairs in order. The place and the servants are yours. I'vee paid every debt, I think. Mocket knows—he'll show you. But to live on here alone—"
"It will be the less alone. Don't fear for me—don't think for me. I will find courage. To-morrow!"
"It is best," he said, "that I should tell you that which others may think to comfort you with. It is possible, but I do not consider it probable, that the sentence will be death. It will be, I think, the Penitentiary. I had rather it was the other."
After a time she spoke, though with difficulty. "Yes—I had rather—for you. For myself, I feel to-night that just to know you were alive would be happiness enough. Either way—either way—to have loved you has been for me my crown of life!"
"I have written to Colonel Churchill, and a line to Fairfax Cary. There was much to do at the last. Now it is all done, and I will go early in the morning. You knew that it was drawing to this end—"
"Yes, I knew—I knew. Lewis, Lewis! what will you do yonder all the days the months—the—the years to come? Oh, unendurable! O God, have mercy!"
"I will work," he answered. "It is work, Jacqueline, with me—it is work or die! I will work. That which I have brought upon myself I will try to endure. And out of effort may come at last—I know not what."
They sat still upon the stone. The wind sank, the air grew colder; near and far there gathered a feeling of the north, a sense of loneliness and untrodden space. The whippoorwill called again.
Rand shuddered. "Our last night—it is our last night. Look!—a star shot over the Three-Notched Road."
Jacqueline slipped from his clasp and stood upright, with her hands over her ears. "Come indoors—come indoors! I cannot bear the whippoorwill!"
Early the next morning he rode away. Halfway down the drive he looked back and saw her standing under the beech tree. She raised her hand, her scarf fluttering back from it. It was the gesture of a princess, watching a knight ride from her tower. The green boughs came between them; he was gone, and she sank down upon the bench beneath the tree. It was there that Major Edward found her, an hour later.
Rand passed along the old, familiar road. He travelled neither fast nor slow, and he kept a level gaze. The May morning was fresh and sweet, the land to either side ploughed earth or vernal green, the little stream laughing through the meadow. He passed a field where negroes were transplanting tobacco, and his mind noted the height and nature of the leaf. At the Greenwood road he looked mechanically toward the distant house, but upon this morning he hardly thought of Cary. He thought of Gideon Rand, and of the great casks of tobacco which he and his father used to roll; of the old, strong horses, and of a lean and surly dog that they had owned; of the slow journeys, and of their fires at night, beneath the gum and the pine, beside wastes of broom sedge.
He came into Charlottesville and rode down Main Street to the Eagle, where he dismounted. A negro took his horse. "Put him up," directed Rand, "until he is called for." He kept his hand for a moment upon Selim's neck, then turned and walked down the street and into the Court House yard.
The shady place had always a contingent of happy idlers, men and boys lounging under the trees or upon the Court House steps. These greeted Lewis Rand with deference, and turned from their bountiful lack of occupation to watch him cross the grass and enter the Court House. "He's gone," remarked one, "straight to the sheriff's office. What's his business there?"
The next day and the next the idlers in the Court House yard knew all the business, and rolled it under their tongues. They loved a tragedy, and this curtain had gone up with promise. Had they not seen Lewis Rand walk into the yard—had they not spoken to him and he to them—had they not watched him enter the Court House? The boy who minded the sheriff's door found himself a hero, and the words treasured that fell from his tongue. It was true that he had been sent away and so had heard but little, but the increasing crowd found that little of interest. "Yes, sir, that's what he said, and just as quiet as you are! 'Is the sheriff in, Michael?' he asked. 'Tell him, please, that I want to see him.' That's what he said, and Mr. Garrett he calls out, 'Come in, Mr. Rand, come in!'"
Other voices claimed attention. "And when they dragged Indian Run yesterday, there was the pistol at the bottom of a pool—his name upon it, just as he told them it would be—"
"Fairfax Cary was in the court room yesterday when he was committed. He and Lewis Rand spoke to each other, but no one heard what they said."
The boy came to the front again. "I didn't hear much that morning before Mr. Garrett sent me away, but I heard why he gave himself up. I thought it wasn't much of a reason—"
The crowd pressed closer, "What was it, Michael, what was it?"
"It sounds foolish," answered the boy, "but I've got it right. He said he must have sleep."