As the sun set behind the Ragged Mountains, the polls closed, and the sheriff proclaimed the election of the Republican candidate.
The Court House was quickly emptied, nor was the Court House yard far behind. The excitement had spent itself. The result, after all, had been foreknown. It drew on chilly with the April dusk, and men were eager to be at home, seated at their supper-tables, going over the day with captured friends and telling the women the news. On wheels, on horseback or afoot, drunk and sober, north, south, east, and west, they cantered, rolled, and trudged away from the brick Court House and the trampled grass, and the empty bowls beneath the locust trees.
The defeated candidate and the successful shook hands: Cary quiet and smiling, half dignified and half nonchalant; Rand with less control and certainty of himself. The one said with perfection the proper things, the other said them to the best of his ability. Young Fairfax Cary, standing by, twisting his riding-whip with angry fingers, curled his lip at the self-made man's awkwardness of phrase. Rand saw the smile, but went on with his speech. Colonel Churchill, who had been talking with Adam Gaudylock, left the hunter and came up to Cary. "Ludwell, you and Fair are not going to Greenwood to-night! I have orders from the ladies to bring you back to Fontenoy—alive or dead!"
"I find myself very much alive, Colonel!" answered Cary. "Thank you, I'll gladly spend the night at Fontenoy. Fontenoy would draw me, I think, if I were dead!"
"Dick has a middling Madeira," remarked Major Edward. "And after supper Jacqueline shall sing to us. Good-evening, Mr. Rand!"
"Good-evening to you, Major Churchill," said Rand. "Good-evening, Mr. Cary. Good-evening, gentlemen!"
"Here are Eli and Mingo with the horses," said Fairfax Cary, his back to the Republican. "Let's away, Ludwell!"
Colonel Churchill laughed. "Fontenoy draws you too, Fairfax? Well, my niece Unity is a pleasing minx—yes, by gad! Miss Dandridge is a handsome jade! Come away, come away, gentlemen!"
Federalists and Republicans exchanged the stiffest of bows, and the party for Fontenoy mounted and took the road. The Republicans whom they left behind had a few moments of laughter and jubilation, and then they also quitted the Court House yard and called to the servants for the horses.
"You'll spend the night at Edgehill, I hope, Mr. Rand?" cried one. "Mrs. Randolph expects you—she will wish to write to her father of your day—"
"No, no, come with me!" put in another. "There's all this business to talk over—and I've a letter to show you from Mr. Madison—"
"Best come to the Eagle!" cried a third. "No end of jolly fellows, and bumpers to next year—"
Rand shook his head. "Thank you, Colonel Randolph—but I am riding to Monticello. Mr. Jefferson has written for some papers from the library. Burwell will care for me to-night. Present, if you will, my humble services to Mrs. Randolph and the young ladies. By the same token I cannot go with you, Mr. Carr, nor to the Eagle, Mr. Jones.—My grateful thanks to you, one and all, gentlemen! I am a plain man—I can say no more. We will ride together as far as the creek."
The negro Joab brought his horse, a magnificent animal, the gift of Jefferson. He mounted and the party kept together as far as the creek, where their ways parted. Rand checked his horse, said good-bye, and watched the gentlemen who had given him their support ride cheerfully away toward the light of home. He himself was waiting for Adam Gaudylock, who was going with him to Monticello. After a moment's thought he decided not to wait there beside the creek, but to turn his horse and leave a message for Tom Mocket at a house which he had passed five minutes before.
The house, a low frame one, stood back from the road, in a tangle of old, old flowering shrubs. Rand drew rein before the broken gate, and a young woman in a linsey gown rose from the porch step and came down the narrow path toward him. She carried an earthenware pitcher and cup. "It's water just from the well," she said, "fresh and cool. Won't you have some?"
"Yes, I will," answered Rand. "Vinie, why don't you mend that gate?"
"I don't know, thir," said Vinie. "Tom's always going to."
Rand laughed. "Don't call me 'thir'! Vinie, I'm elected."
Vinie set down her pitcher beside a clump of white phlox and wiped her hands on the skirt of her linsey dress. "Are you going away to Richmond?" she asked.
"Not until October. When I do I'll go see the little old house you used to live in, Vinie!"
"It's torn down," remarked Vinie soberly. "Here's Tom now, and—and—"
"Adam Gaudylock. Don't you remember Adam?"
The hunter and Tom Mocket came up together. "We beat them! we beat them, hey, Lewis!" grinned the scamp; and Gaudylock cried, "Why, if here isn't the little partridge again! Don't you want to see what I've got in my pouch?"
"Yeth, thir," said Vinie.
Rand and his lieutenant talked together in a low voice, Mocket leaning against black Selim's neck, Rand stooping a little, and with earnestness laying down the law of the case. They talked for ten minutes, and then Rand gathered up the reins, asked for another cup of water, and with a friendly "Good-bye, Vinie!" rode off toward Monticello, Adam Gaudylock going with him.
Brother and sister watched the riders down the road until the gathering dark and the shadow of the trees by the creek hid them from sight. "Just wait long enough and we'll see what we see," quoth Tom. "Lewis Rand's going to be a great man!"
"How great?" asked Vinie. "Not as great as Mr. Jefferson?"
"I don't know," the scamp answered sturdily. "He might be. One thing's certain, anyhow; he's not built like Mr. Madison or Mr. Monroe. He'll not be content to travel the President's road always. He'll have a road all his own." The scamp's imagination, not usually lively, bestirred itself under the influence of the day, of wine, and the still audible sound of horses' hoofs. "By George, Vinie! it will be a Roman road, hard, paved, and fit for triumphs! He thinks it won't, but he's mistaken. He doesn't see himself!"
Vinie took the pitcher from beneath the white phlox. "It's getting dark. Tom, aren't we ever going to have that gate mended?—He's going away to Richmond in October."
The successful candidate and Adam Gaudylock, followed by Joab on a great bay horse, crossed Moore's Creek, and took the Monticello road. A red light yet burned in the west, but the trees were dark along the way, and the hollows filled with shadow. The dew was falling, the evening dank and charged with perfume.
"I asked you to come with me," said Rand, "because I wanted to talk to some one out of the old life. Mocket's out of the old life too, he and Vinie. But—" he laughed. "They're afraid of me. Vinie calls me 'thir.'"
"Well, I'm not afraid of you," Adam said placidly. "No one at home at Monticello?"
"No, but Burwell keeps a room in readiness. I am often there on errands for Mr. Jefferson. Well, how go matters west of the mountains?"
"Christmas I spent at Louisville," answered Gaudylock, "and then went down the river to New Orleans. The city's like a hive before swarming. There are more boats at its wharves than buds on yonder Judas tree. And back from the river the cotton's blooming now."
"Ah!" said Rand, "I should like to see that land! When you have done a thing, Adam, a thing that you have striven with all your might to do, does it at once seem to you a small thing to have done? It does to me—tasteless, soulless, and poor, not worth a man's while. Where lies the land of satisfaction?"
"No," answered Adam, "I don't look at things that way. But then I'm not ambitious. Last year, in New Orleans, I watched a man gaming. He won a handful of French crowns. 'Ha!' says he, 'they glittered, but they do not glitter now! Again!'—and this time he won doubloons. 'We'll double these,' says he, and so they did, and he won. 'This is a small matter,' he said. We'll play for double-eagles,' and so they did, and he won. 'Haven't you a tract of sugar-canes?' says he. 'Money's naugh. Let us play for land!' and he won the sugar-canes. 'That girl, that red-lipped Jeanne of thine, that black eye in the Street of Flowers—I'll play for her! Deal the cards!' But he never won the girl, and he lost the sugar-canes and the gold."
"A man walks forward, or he walks backward. There's no standing still in this world or the next. Where were you after New Orleans, before you turned homeward?"
"At Mr. Blennerhassett's island in the Ohio. And that's a pleasant place and a pleasant gentleman—"
"Aye," answered the other; "I heard it some moments back. Some one is fiddling beyond that tulip tree."
They were now ascending the mountain, moving between great trees, fanned by a cooler wind than had blown in the valley. The road turned, showing them a bit of roadside grass, a giant tulip tree, and a vision of a moon just rising in the east. Upon a log, beneath the tree, appeared the dim brocade and the curled wig of M. Achille Pincornet, resting in the twilight and solacing his soul with the air of "Madelon Friquet." Around him sparkled the fireflies, and above were the thousand gold cups of the tulip tree. His bow achieved a long tremolo; he lowered the violin from his chin, stood up, and greeted the travellers.
"That was a pretty air, Mr. Pincornet," said Rand. "Why are you on the Monticello road? Your next dancing class is at Fontenoy."
"And how did you know that, sir?" demanded the Frenchman in his high, thin voice. As he spoke, he restored his fiddle to its case with great care, then as carefully brushed all leaf and mould from his faded silken clothes.
"I know—I know," replied Rand. He regarded the figure in dusty finery with a certain envy of any one who was going to Fontenoy, even as dancing master, even as a man no longer young. Mr. Pincornet looked, in the twilight, very pinched, very grey, very hungry. "Come on with me to Monticello," said the young man. "Burwell will give us supper, and find us a couple of bottles to boot."
"Sir," answered the Frenchman stiffly, but with an inner vision of Monticello cheer, "I would not vote for you—"
Rand laughed. "I bear no malice, Mr. Pincornet. Opinion's but opinion. I'll cut no traveller's throat because he likes another road than mine! Come, come! Fish from the river, cakes and coffee, Mr. Pincornet—and afterwards wine on the terrace!"
The road climbed on. Between the stems of the tall trees, feathered with the green of mid-spring, the dogwood displayed its stars, and the fringe tree rose like a fountain. Everywhere was the sound of wind in the leaves. When the riders and the dancing master, who was afoot, reached the crest of the little mountain, shaven and planed by the hand of man into a fair plateau, the moon was shining brightly. In the silver light, across the dim lawns, classically simple, grave, and fair, rose the house that Jefferson had built. The gate clanged behind the party from Charlottesville, a dog barked, a light flared, voices of negroes were heard, and hurrying feet from the house quarter. Upon the lawn to the right and left of the mansion were two toy houses, tiny brick offices used by Jefferson for various matters. The door of one of these now opened, and Mr. Bacon, the overseer, hastening across the wet grass, greeted Rand and Gaudylock as they dismounted before the white portico.
"Evening, evening, Mr. Rand! I knew you'd be coming up, so I hurried on afore ye. Caesar and Joab, you take the horses round! Glad to see you, Adam; you too, Mr. Pincornet! Well, Mr. Rand, you spoiled the Egyptians this day! I never saw a finer election! Me and Mr. Fagg were talking of you. 'His father was a fighter before him,' says Mr. Fagg, says he, 'and he's a fighter, too, damn him!' says he, 'and we'll send him higher yet. Damn the Federalists!' says he. 'He's a taller man than Ludwell Cary!'"
"I'm a mighty hungry man, Mr. Bacon," said Rand. "And so is Adam, and so is Mr. Pincornet! You'll take supper with us, I hope? We'll make Adam Gaudylock tell us stories of Louisiana."
"Thank'ee, Mr. Rand, I will. Your room's all ready, sir, and Burwell shall bring you a julep. I reckon you're pretty tired. Lord! I'd rather clear a mountain side and then plough it, than to have to sit there all day on that there Justice's Bench and listen to them Federalists! They're a lot! And that Fairfax Cary—he's a chip of the old block, he surely is! He'd have gone through fire to-day to see his brother win. This way, gentlemen! Sally'll have supper ready in a jiffy. I smell the coffee now. Well, well, Mr. Rand! to think of the way you used to trudge up here all weathers, snow or storm or hot sun, just for a book—and now you come riding in on Selim, elected to Richmond, over the heads of the Carys! Life's queer, ain't it? We'll hear of you at Fontenoy next!"
Rand smiled. "Life's not so queer as that, Mr. Bacon. I wish you might—" he broke off.
"Might what?" asked Bacon.
"Hear of me at Fontenoy," answered Rand, and entered the wide hall as one who was at home there. "I'll go bathe my face and hands," he said, and turned into the passage that led to the bedrooms.
A tall clock struck the hour, a bell rang cheerfully, and Burwell flung open the dining-room door. Rand, entering a moment later, found the overseer, the hunter, and the dancing master awaiting him. With a nod and a "Ha, Burwell!" for the old servant, he took his place at the table, and he took it like a prince, throwing his tall, vigorous figure into the armchair which marked the head of the board, seating himself before the other and older men. In the wave of his hand toward the three remaining places there was a condescension not the less remarkable that it was entirely unconscious. The life within him was moving with great rapidity. It was becoming increasingly natural for him to act, simply, without thought, as his inner man bade. What yesterday was uneasiness, and to-day seemed assurance, was apt by to-morrow to attain convincingness. It was not that he appeared to value himself too highly. Instead, he made no attempt at valuation; he went his way like wind or wave. He took the armchair at the head of the Monticello table with the simplicity of a child, and the bearing of a general who sups with his officers after a victorious field.
The unfolding of the petal was not missed by his companions. Adam Gaudylock, with a glance, half shrewd and half affectionate, for the man whom he had known from boyhood, sank into the opposite seat with a light and happy laugh. It mattered little to Adam where he sat in life, provided that it was before a window. The overseer, a worthy, plain man, had a thought of old Gideon Rand, but, remembering in time Mr. Jefferson's high opinion of the man now occupying his chair, sat down and unfolded his damask napkin with great care. Mr. Pincornet, indeed, raised his eyebrows and made a backward movement from the table, but at that moment a mulatto boy appeared with a plate of waffles. The light from the wax candles burned, too, in certain crimson decanters. "Sit down, sit down, Mr. Pincornet!" said Rand, and the dancing master took the remaining place.
An hour later Rand pushed back his heavy chair and rose from the table, ending the meal with as little ceremony as he had used in beginning it. "I shall go write to Mr. Jefferson," he announced, as the four passed into the hall. "You, Adam, what will you do?"
"First I'll smoke and then I'll sleep," said Adam. The moonlight streamed in upon them through the open hall door. "I'll smoke outside. That's a southern moon.
"Kiss me, kiss me, flower o' night! Madelon! 'Ware the voices, 'ware the light! Madelon!
"Will you smoke with me, Mr. Bacon? I'd like to try the Monticello leaf."
"I have to go to the quarters for a bit," answered the overseer. "There's sickness there. I'll join you later, Mr. Gaudylock."
He went whistling away. Adam sat down upon the broad steps whitened by the moon, filled his pipe, struck a spark from his flint and steel, and was presently enveloped in fragrant smoke. The dancing-master, hesitating somewhat disconsolately in the hall, at last went also into the moonlight, where he walked slowly up and down upon the terrace, his thin, beruffled hands clasped behind his old brocaded coat. What with the moonlight and the ancient riches of his apparel, and a certain lost and straying air, he had the seeming of a phantom from some faint, bewigged, perfumed, and painted past.
Lewis Rand paused for a moment before the door, and looked out upon the splendid night, then turned and passed into the library, where he called for candles, and, sitting down at a desk, began to write. His letter was to the President of the United States, and it was written freely and boldly. "'Twas thus they did—'twas so I did. We won, and I am glad; they lost, and that also is to my liking. As the party owes its victory to your name and your power, so I owe my personal victory to your ancient and continued kindness. May my name be abhorred if ever I forget it! The Federalists mustered strongly. Mr. Ludwell Cary is extremely 'well born,' and that younger brother of his is—I know not why, he troubles me. There is a breath of the future about him, and it breathes cold. Well! I have fought and I have won. 'Let the blast of the desert come: I shall be renowned in my day!' To-night, you see, I quote Ossian. The moon is flooding the terrace. Were you here in your loved home, we would talk together. Adam Gaudylock is with me. Lately he was in Louisiana, and then with a Mr. Blennerhassett upon the Ohio. General Wilkinson is at New Orleans. The Spaniards are leaving, the French well affected. The mighty tide of our people has topped the mountains and is descending into those plains of the Mississippi made ours by your prophetic vision and your seizure of occasion. The First Consul is a madman! He has sold to us an Empire! Empire! Emperor—Emperor of the West! The sound is stately. You laugh. We are citizens of a republic. Well! I am content. I aspire no higher. I am not Buonaparte. Your lilies are budding beneath the windows; the sweet williams are all in bloom. I have little news for you of town or country—Mrs. Randolph, doubtless, sends you all. Work goes on upon the church. For me, I worship in the fields with the other beasts of burden or of prey. The wheat looks well, and there will be this year a great yield of apples. Major Churchill's Mustapha won at Winchester. Colonel Churchill has cleared a large tract of woods behind Fontenoy and will use it for tobacco. I rode by his plant bed the other day, and the leaf is prime. I am a judge of tobacco. They are bitter, the Fontenoy men. Mr. Ludwell Cary will, I suppose, remain in the county. He is altering and refurnishing Greenwood. I suppose that he will marry. The rains have been frequent this spring, the roads heavy and the rivers turbid. The stream is much swollen by my house on the Three-Notched Road. We hear that the feeling grows between General Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Should the occasion arise, pray commend me to the latter, whose acquaintance I had the honour to make last year when I visited New York. There, if you please, is a spirit restless and audacious! The mill on the Rockfish is grinding this spring. The murder case of which I wrote you will be tried next court day. One Fitch killed one Thomas Dole in North Garden; knocked at his door one night, called him out, and shot him down. Dole had thwarted Fitch in some project or other. I am retained by the State, and I mean to hang Fitch. Adam Gaudylock says there is a region of the Mississippi where the cotton grows taller than a man's head. We may find our gold of Ophir in that plant. To-night I am a victor. I salute you, so much oftener than I a victor! But victory is a mirage: this that I thought so fair is but a piece of the desert; the magnum bonum shines, looms, and beckons still ahead! Had I been defeated, I believe I should have been in better spirits. Now to the papers which you desired me to read and comment upon: I find—"
The quill travelled on, conveying to sheet after sheet the opinion upon certain vexed questions of a very able lawyer. The analysis was keen, the reasoning just, the judgment final, the advice sound. The years since that determinative hour in the Richmond book-shop had been well harvested. The paper when he had finished it would have pleased the ideal jurist.
He wrote until the clock struck ten; then folded, sealed, and superscribed his letter, pushed back the heavy hair from his forehead, and rose from the desk. The long windows opened upon the terrace, and through them came the moonbeams and the fragrance of the April night—music too, for Mr. Pincornet was playing the violin. The young man extinguished the candles, and stepped into the silvery world without the room. Adam Gaudylock had disappeared, and the overseer was gone to bed. Lights were out in the quarters; the house was as still and white as a mansion in a fairy tale. Mr. Pincornet was no skilled musician, but the air he played was old and sweet, and it served the hour. Below their mountain-top lay the misty valleys; to the east the moon-flooded plains; to the west the far line of the Blue Ridge. The night was cloudless.
Rand stood with his hands upon the balustrade, then walked down the terrace and paused before the dancing master. "Before he hurt his hand Mr. Jefferson played the violin beautifully," he said. "When I was younger, in the days when I tried to do everything that he did, I tried to learn it too. But I have no music in me."
"It is a solace," answered Mr. Pincornet. "I learned long ago, in the South."
"I like the harp," announced Rand abruptly.
"It is a becoming instrument to a woman," replied Mr. Pincornet, and in a somewhat ghostly fashion became vivacious. "Ah, a rounded arm, a white hand, the rise and fall of a bosom behind the gold wires—and the notes like water dropping, sweet, sweet! Ah, I, too, like the harp!"
"I have never heard it but twice," said Rand, and turned again to the balustrade. Below him lay the vast and shadowy landscape. Here and there showed a light—a pale earth-star shining from grey hill or vale. Rand looked toward Fontenoy, and he looked wistfully. Behind him the violin was telling of the springtime; from the garden came the smell of the syringas; the young man's desire was toward a woman. "Is she playing her harp to-night? is she playing to Ludwell Cary?"
"Belle saison de ma jeunesse— Beaux jours du printemps!"
sang the violin. A shot sounded near the house. Adam Gaudylock emerged from the shadow of the locust trees and crossed the moonlit lawn below the terrace. "I've shot that night-hawk. He'll maraud no more," he said, and passed on toward his quarter for the night.
Rand made a motion as if to follow, then checked himself. It was late, and it had been a day of strife, but his iron frame felt no fatigue and his mood was one of sombre exaltation. What was the use of going to bed, of wasting the moonlit hours? He turned to the Frenchman. "Play me," he commanded, "a conquering air! Play me the Marseillaise!"
Mr. Pincornet started violently. Down came the fiddle from his chin, the bow in his beruffled hand cut the air with a gesture of angry repudiation. When he was excited he forgot his English, and he now swore volubly in French; then, recovering himself, stepped back a pace, and regarded with high dudgeon his host of the night. "Sir," he cried, "before I became a dancing master I was a French gentleman! I served the King. I will teach you to dance, but—Morbleu!—I will not play you the Marseillaise!"
"I beg your pardon," said Rand. "I forgot that you could not be a Republican. Well, play me a fine Royalist air."
"Are you so indifferent?" asked the dancing master, not without a faded scorn. "Royalist or Republican—either air?"
"Indifferent?" repeated Rand. "I don't know that I am indifferent. Open-minded, perhaps,—though I don't know that that is calling it rightly. The airs the angels sing, and the thundering march of the damned through hell—why should I not listen to them both? I don't believe in hell, nor much in angels, save one, but I like the argument. Mr. Pincornet, I don't want to sleep. Suppose—suppose you teach me a minuet?"
He laughed as he spoke, but he spoke in earnest. "Knowledge! I want all kinds of knowledge. I know law, and I know what to do with a jury, and I know tobacco—worse luck!—but I don't know the little things, the little gracious things that—that make a man liked. If I were a Federalist, and if I didn't know so much about tobacco, I would go, Mr. Pincornet, to your dancing class at Fontenoy!" He laughed again. "I can't do that, can I? The Churchills would all draw their swords. Come! I have little time and few chances to acquire that which I have longed for always,—the grace of life. Teach me how to enter a drawing-room; how to—how to dance with a lady!"
His tone, imperious when he demanded the Marseillaise, was now genial, softened to a mellow persuasiveness. Mr. Pincornet shrugged his shoulders. He had been offended, but he was not unmagnanimous, and he had a high sense of the importance of his art. He had seen in France what came of uncultivated law-givers. If a man wanted knowledge, far be it from Achille de Pincornet to withhold his handful! "You cannot learn in a night," he said, "but I will show you the steps."
"I can manage a country dance, a reel or Congo," said Rand simply. "I want to know politer things."
They left the terrace, went into the drawing-room, and lit the candles. The floor, rubbed each morning until it shone, gave back the heart-shaped flames. The slight furniture they pushed aside. The dancing master tucked his violin under his chin, drew the bow across the strings, and began the lesson.
The candles burned clear, strains of the minuet de la cour rose and fell in the ample room, the member from Albemarle and Mr. Pincornet stepped, bent, and postured with the gravity of Indian sachems. The one moved through the minuet in top-boots and riding-coat, the other taught in what had been a red brocade. Rand, though tall and largely built, moved with the step and carriage, light and lithe, of one who has used the woods; the Frenchman had the suppleness of his profession and of an ancient courtier. Now they bowed one to the other, now each to an imaginary lady. Mr. Pincornet issued directions in the tone of a general ordering a charge, his pupil obeyed implicitly. In the silent house, raised high on a mountain-top above a sleeping world, in the lit room with many open windows, through which poured the fragrance of spring, they practised until midnight the minuet de la cour. The hour struck; they gravely ceased to dance, and after five minutes spent in mutual compliments, closed the long windows and put out the superfluous lights, then said good-night, and, bedroom candle in hand, repaired each to his own chamber. Rand had risen at dawn, and his day had been a battlefield, but before he lay down in the dimity-hung, four-post bed he sat long at the window of his small, white, quiet room. The moon shone brightly; the air was soft and sweet. In the distance a lamb bleated, then all was still again. The young man rested his chin on his hand, and studied the highest stars. That day a milestone had been passed. He saw his road stretching far, far before him, and he saw certain fellow travellers, but the companion whom his heart cried for he could not see.
"Her way and mine are far apart—are far apart. I had better marry Vinie Mocket." He spoke half aloud and with bitterness, looking from the window toward Fontenoy. Suddenly the water smarted in his eyes, and he stretched out his arms. "Oh, pardon, love!" he whispered, "I love but you—and I'll love you to the end!" His fancy dwelt on Fontenoy. It was for him enchanted land, the sleeping palace, strongly hedged. "But I am not the appointed man," he thought. "I am a pauper, and no prince. It is Ludwell Cary that goes in and out."
RAND COMES TO FONTENOY
"I never dance but by candlelight," remarked Unity. "A Congo in the heat of the afternoon, a jig before sunset,—la! I had rather plough by moonlight. As well be a grasshopper in a daisy field! Elegance by waxlight becomes rusticity in the sunshine,—and of all things I would not be rustic! Oh, Mr. Cary, I've caught my gown in this rosebush!"
Mr. Fairfax Cary knelt to release the muslin prisoner. "Rusticity becomes you so that if I were a king, you should dance with me the livelong day. But I'll not grumble if only you'll dance with me as soon as the candles are lit! Last night you were all for that booby, Ned Hunter!"
"He's no booby," said Miss Dandridge. "He is bashful—though, indeed, I think he is only bashful in company! We sat on the porch, and he told me the long history of his life."
"Confound his impudence—"
"Oh, it was interesting as—as the Mysteries of Udolpho! You are a long time over that briar, Mr. Cary. There! thank you! Listen to Mr. Pincornet's fiddle. Scrape, scrape, scrape! The children are dancing, and Jacqueline is helping them. Jacqueline is always helping some one. But Mr. Pincornet thinks it is because she is in love with him. He is sorry for her because he rather prefers me. I am in love with him too. So is Molly Carter, so is Anne Page, and so will be little Deb as soon as she is old enough. He is fifty, and French, and a dancing master, and he wears an old, old, lace cravat and a powdered wig! When are we going back to the house, Mr. Cary?"
"Let us walk a little farther!" pleaded the gentleman. "It is cool and pleasant, with no fuss, and no Ned Hunter, with the history of his life, confound him! Other men have histories as well as he! Your gown looks so pretty against the leaves. Let us walk down to the lower gate."
Unity pursed her red lips, and considered the distance with velvety black eyes. "I have on my dancing shoes,—but perhaps you will help me across the brook!"
"I will," declared Fairfax Cary, and, when the brook was reached, was as good as his word.
"I shall tell Uncle Dick to put safer stepping-stones," quoth Miss Dandridge, with heightened colour. "How thick the mint grows here! We are at the gate, Mr. Cary."
"Let us walk to the bend of the road! The wild honeysuckle is in bloom there; I noticed it riding to Charlottesville the other morning. It is just the colour of your gown."
"Then it must be beautiful," said Miss Dandridge, "for this rose-coloured muslin came from London. Ah, you looked so angry and so beaten on Wednesday, when you came back from Charlottesville!"
"I was not angry, and I was not beaten."
"Fie! You mean that your brother was."
"I mean nothing of the kind!" cried the younger Cary hotly. "My brother, at the importunity of his friends, and for the good of the county, consented to stand against this pet of Jefferson's, this—this vaurien Lewis Rand. Some one had to stand. He knew what the result would be. 'Twas but a skirmish—just a seat in a tri-colour Republican House of Delegates! My faith! the honour's not great. But wait awhile, Miss Dandridge! The real battle's not yet. Beaten! Rands, Miss Dandridge, don't beat Carys!"
"La, so warm!" exclaimed Unity. "I have never seen a man love a brother so!"
"Ludwell Cary is worthy of any man's love—or any woman's either!"
"The pair of you ought to be put in the wax-works, and labelled 'The Loving Brothers.' When you marry, there'll be no love left for your wife."
"Just you try and see."
"The man whom I marry," said Miss Dandridge, "must have no thought but for me. He must swoon if I frown, laugh if I smile, weep if I sigh, be altogether desperate if I look another way. I am like Falkland in The Rivals. Heigho! this is the bend of the road, Mr. Cary."
"I am altogether desperate when you look another way. When you looked at Ned Hunter last night, I wanted to blow his brains out. He hasn't any, but I should like to try."
"Then you would have been hanged for murder," remarked Miss Dandridge. "Think how terrible that would be for us all!—Did you know that Mr. Hunter once dined with General Washington?"
"You are a royal coquette. See, there is the honeysuckle! If I gather it for you, will you wear one spray to-night?"
"It is a very stiff flower," said Unity thoughtfully, "and I have an idea that Mr. Hunter will bring me violets. But—I will see if I can find a place for one small spray."
She sat down upon a fallen tree, took her round chin into her hand, and studied the point of her morocco shoe, while her cavalier, not without detriment to his pumps and silk stockings, scrambled up the red bank to the rosy flowers.
The honeysuckles did not grow upon the main road, but upon a rough and narrow cross-country track, little used except by horsemen pressed for time. Now, clear through the still afternoon, a sound of hoofs gave warning that riders were coming down the steep and dangerous hill beyond the turn. Unity looked up with interest, and Fairfax Cary paused with his hand upon a coral bough. Suddenly there was a change in the beat, then a frightened shout, and a sound of rolling stones and a wild clatter of hoofs. Unity sprang to her feet; Cary came down the bank at a run, tossed her his armful of blossoms, and was in the middle of the road in time to seize by the bridle the riderless horse which came plunging around the bend.
Fairfax Cary was strong, the black horse not quite mad with terror, and the man mastered the brute. "Whose is he?" he asked. "If you will hold him—he is quite quiet now—I will go see."
A negro came panting around the turn. "Gawd-a-moughty, marster! did you cotch dat horse? You, Selim, I's gwine lam' you, I's gwine teach you er lesson—dancin' roun' on yo' two foots 'cause you sees er scrap of paper! R'arin' an' pitchin' an' flingin' white folks on er heap of stones! I'll larn you! Yo' marster was a-dreamin', or you'd never th'owed him! You jes wait twel I git you home! Marse Fairfax Cary, dis debbil done th'owed my marster, an' he lyin' by de roadside, an' I don' know whether he live or daid!"
"I know you now," exclaimed the younger Cary. "You're Mr. Lewis Rand's servant. Hadn't you better stay here, Miss Dandridge, until I see what really is the matter? Here, boy, stop chattering your teeth! Your master's not killed. Was it at the top of the hill?"
"Halfway down, Marse Fairfax, whar de footpath goes down through de papaw bushes. Joab'll show you."
"I'm coming too," said Miss Dandridge. "I'll lead Selim."
Without more ado the four rounded the bend of the road and began to climb the hill. Halfway up, as Joab had stated, they found their man. He lay beside the papaw bushes, among the loose stones, and he lay very still. One arm was doubled under him. His head was thrown back, and his brown hair was matted with blood.
"Oh!" cried Unity pitifully, and went down upon her knees beside the unfortunate.
Cary examined the cut in the head. "Well, he's not dead, but he's had a pretty fall! What's to be done? Joab—"
"Joab," commanded Miss Dandridge, "ride straight to Fontenoy and tell Colonel Dick to send Big Jim and a couple of men with the old litter!—and then ride to Charlottesville and bring Dr. Gilmer—"
"Are you going to take him to Fontenoy?" asked the younger Cary.
"Why not?" flashed Miss Dandridge. "Would you leave him to bleed to death by the roadside? 'My enemy's dog—' and so forth. Hurry, Joab!"
The negro mounted his horse that had been grazing by the papaw bushes, and was off at a gallop, leaving Unity and Cary with the luckless rider. Cary brought water from the brook that brawled at the foot of the steep hillside, and Unity wet the brow and lips of the unconscious man, but he had given no sign of life when the relief party arrived from Fontenoy. This consisted of four stout negroes bearing the litter, and of Colonel Dick Churchill and Mr. Ned Hunter.
"Tut, tut!" cried Colonel Dick. "What's this? what's this? Damn this place! My mare Nelly threw me here thirty years ago!—I was coming home from a wedding. Senseless and cut across the head!—and I don't like the way that arm's bent.—Ned Hunter, you take Big Jim's corner of the litter for a minute. Now, Big Jim, you lift Mr. Rand.—So! we'll have him at Fontenoy in a jiffy, and in bed in the blue room. Run ahead, Unity, and tell Jacqueline and Mammy Chloe to make ready. His boy's gone for Gilmer. Easy now, men! Yes, 'twas at this very spot my mare Nelly threw me!—it was Maria Erskine's wedding."
The sun was low in the heavens when the good Samaritans and the unconscious man arrived at the foot of the wide, white-pillared Fontenoy porch. The arrival had many witnesses; for on hearing of the accident the large party assembled for the dancing class had at once dropped all employment and flocked to various coigns of vantage. A bevy of young girls looked from one parlour window, and another framed Mr. Pincornet's face and wig and flowered coat. In the hall and on the porch the elders gathered, while on the broad porch steps young men in holiday dress waited to see if they might be of help. Around the corner of the house peered the house negroes, pleasurably excited by any catastrophe and any procession, even that of a wounded man borne on a litter.
The cortege arrived. In the midst of much ejaculation, and accompanied by a fire of directions from Colonel Dick, Lewis Rand was borne up the steps and across the porch into the cool, wide hail. Here the litter was met by Jacqueline Churchill. She came down the shadowy staircase in a white gown, with a salver and a glass in her hand. "The room is ready, Uncle Dick," she said, in a steady voice. "The blue room. Aunt Nancy says you must make him take this cordial. I have lint and bandages all ready. This way, Big Jim. Mind the wall!"
She turned and preceded the men up the stair, along a hallway and into a pleasant chamber hung with blue and white. "Turn down the sheet, Mammy Chloe," she directed a negro woman standing beside the bed. "Quick! quick! he is bleeding so."
Rand was laid upon the bed, and as the men drew their arms from beneath him, he moved his head, and his lips parted. A moment later he opened his eyes. Colonel Dick heaved a sigh of relief. "He'll do now! Gilmer shall come and bleed him, and he'll be out again before you can say Jack Robinson! I'll have that place in the road mended to-morrow. Yes, yes, Mr. Rand, you've had an accident. Lie still! you're with friends. Hey, what did you say?"
Rand had said nothing articulate. His eyes were upon Jacqueline, standing at the foot of the bed. The room was in the western wing of the house, and where she stood she was bathed in the light of the sinking sun. It made her brown hair golden and like a nimbus. Rand made a straying motion with his hand. "I did not believe in heaven," he muttered. "If I have erred—"
"Lie still, lie still!" said Jacqueline. In a moment she turned, left the room, and went downstairs. "He is better," she told her cousin Unity, who with Fairfax Cary was waiting in the lower hall; then went on to the library, opened the door, and closed it softly behind her.
The room was dim, and she thought it vacant. There was an old leather chair which she loved, which had always stood beside the glass doors that gave upon the sunset, in whose worn depths she had, as a child, told herself fairy tales, and found escape from childish woes. She went straight to it now, sank into its old arms, and pressed her cheek against the cool leather. She closed her eyes, and sat very still, and tried to ease the throbbing of her heart. Some one coughed, and she looked up to find her Uncle Edward regarding her from his own favourite chair.
"I did not know you were there," she exclaimed. "I thought the room was empty. What are you reading?"
"A Treatise on Hospitality," answered Major Churchill, with great dryness. "I suppose Dick is making posset in his best racing cup? How is the interesting patient?"
Jacqueline coloured. "Uncle Dick—"
"Uncle Dick," interrupted the Major, "is the best of fellows, but he is not perspicacious. I am, and I say again, why the deuce did this damned Republican get himself thrown at our very gates? In my day a horse might act a little gaily, but a man kept his seat!"
Jacqueline coloured more deeply. "It was that bad place on the hill road. I do not suppose that Mr. Rand is a poor horseman."
"Who said that he was?" demanded the Major testily. "A poor horseman! He and his old wolf of a father used to break all the colts for twenty miles round! That place in the road! Pshaw! I've ridden by that place in the road for forty years, but I never had the indecency to be brought on a litter into a gentleman's house who was not of my way of thinking! And every man and woman on the place—barring poor Nancy—out to receive him! I am not at home among fools, so I came here—though the Lord knows there's many a fool to be found in a library!—Well, are any bones broken?"
"Dr. Gilmer will tell us—oh, he looked like death!"
"Who?—William Gilmer?" demanded Uncle Edward with asperity. "Your pronoun 'he' stands for your antecedent 'Gilmer.' But what's the English tongue when we have a Jacobin in the house! Women like strange animals, and they are vastly fond of pitying. But you were always a home body, Jacqueline, and left Unity to run after the sea lions and learned pigs! And now you sit there as white as your gown!"
Jacqueline smiled. "Perhaps I am of those who pity. I hear a horse upon the road! It may be Dr. Gilmer!" and up she started.
"The horse has gone by," said Uncle Edward. "Gilmer cannot possibly be here for an hour. Sit down, child, and don't waste your pity. The Rands are used to hard knocks. I've seen old Gideon in the ring, black and blue and blind with blood, demanding proof that he was beaten. The gentleman upstairs will take care of himself. Bah!—Where is Ludwell Cary this afternoon?"
"He rode, I think, to Charlottesville."
"You think! Don't you know?—What woman was ever straightforward!"
Major Churchill opened his book, looked at it, and tossed it aside; took The Virginia Federalist from the table, and for perhaps sixty seconds appeared absorbed in its contents, then with a loud "Pshaw!" threw it down, and rising walked to a bookcase. "I am reading Swift," he said, and brought a calf-bound volume to the window. "There was a man who knew hatred and the risus sardonicus! Listen to this, Jacqueline."
Major Churchill read well, and it was his habit to read aloud to Jacqueline, whose habit it was to listen. Now she sat before the window, in the old leather chair, her slender face and form in profile, and her eyes upon the sunset sky. It was her accustomed attitude, and Uncle Edward read on with growing satisfaction, finding that he was upon a passage which gave Democracy its due. He turned a page, then another, glanced from the book, and discovered that his niece was not attending. "Jacqueline!"
Jacqueline withdrew her eyes from the fading gold, and, turning in her chair, faced her uncle with a faint smile. She loved him dearly, and he loved her, and they had not many secrets from each other. Now she looked at him with a wavering light upon her face, shook her head as if in answer to some dim question of her own, and broke into silent weeping.
"Bless my soul!" cried Uncle Edward, and started up in alarm. He had a contemptuous horror of women's tears; but Jacqueline was different, Jacqueline was not like other women. He could not remember having seen Jacqueline cry since she was a child, and the sight troubled him immensely. She wept as though she were used to weeping. He crossed to the chair by the window and touched her bowed head with his wrinkled hand. "What is it, child?" he asked. "Tell Uncle Edward."
But Jacqueline, it appeared, had nothing to tell. After a little she wiped her eyes, and brokenly laughed at herself; and then, a sound coming through the window, she started to her feet. "That is Dr. Gilmer! I hear his horse at the gate. Joab must have met him upon the road!"
"Mr. Rand's servant."
"You appear," said the Major, "to know a deal more than I do about Mr. Rand. Where did you learn so much?"
Jacqueline, halfway to the door, turned upon him her candid eyes. "Don't you remember?" she answered, "the month that I spent, summer before last, at Cousin Jane Selden's, on the Three-Notched Road? I saw Mr. Rand very often that summer. Cousin Jane liked him, and he was welcome at her house. And when I used to stay there as a child I saw him then, and—and was sorry for him. Don't you remember? I told you at the time."
"No, I don't remember," replied Uncle Edward grimly. "I have other things to think of than the Rands. There should have been no association—though I am surprised at nothing which goes on beneath Jane Selden's roof. Jane Selden has a most erratic mind.—Don't sympathize too much, Jacqueline, with that damned young Republican upstairs! He's an enemy." The Major walked to the window. "It is Gilmer, sure enough, and—ah, it is Ludwell Cary with him, riding Prince Rupert. Come look, Jacqueline!"
Receiving no answer, he turned to find that his niece had vanished and he was alone in the library. Presently he heard from the hail, through the half-open door, the doctor's voice and Ludwell Cary's expressions of concern, Jacqueline's low replies, a confusion of other voices, and finally, from the head of the stairs, Colonel Dick's hearty "Come up, Gilmer, come up! D'ye remember that damned place in the hill road where my mare Nelly threw me, coming home at dawn from Maria Erskine's wedding?"
Steps and voices died away. The evening shadows lengthened, and filled the library where Uncle Edward sat, propping his lean old chin upon his lean old hand, and staring at a dim old clock in the corner, as if it could tell him more than the time of day. He heard Mr. Pincornet's fiddle from the long parlour in the other wing. Since the doctor was come, the younger part of the gathering at Fontenoy had cheerfully returned to its business. The dancing class was not long neglected. Uncle Edward disliked France, disliked even monarchical and emigre France. And he disliked all music but Jacqueline's singing, and disliked the fiddle because Thomas Jefferson played it. He half rose to shut the door and so keep out Mr. Pincornet's Minuet from Ariadne, but reflected that the door would also keep out the doctor's descending voice and final dicta delivered at the stair-foot. Uncle Edward was as curious as a woman, and the door remained ajar. He tried to read, but the words conveyed no meaning to his mind, which became more and more frowningly intent upon the fact of Jacqueline's weeping. What had the child to weep for? He determined to send to Richmond to-morrow for a certain watch which he had in his mind,—plain gold with J.C. upon it in pearls. He reflected with satisfaction that Cary as well as Churchill began with a C.
The glass door led by a flight of steps down to the flower garden. Deb came up the steps and into the library. "Kiss me good-night, Uncle Edward. It's mos' seven o'clock. I've had my supper at the Quarter with Aunt Daphne. The scarlet beans over her door are in bloom, and Uncle Mingo told me about the rabbit and the fox. Miranda is going to put me to bed because Mammy Chloe is busy in the blue room with the doctor and the man whose horse threw him."
Uncle Edward put his one arm around the child and drew her close to his chair. Deb touched with her brown fingers the sleeve that was pinned across his coat. "Does your arm that is buried at Yorktown hurt you to-day, Uncle Edward? Tell me a story about General Washington."
"No; you tell me a story."
Deb considered. "I'll tell you a story about the man upstairs in the blue room."
"What do you know about the man in the blue room?"
"Jacqueline told me. She knows," answered Deb. "I am going to begin now, Uncle Edward."
"I am listening," said the Major.
"Once upon a time there lived on the Three-Notched Road a boy, a poor boy. He lived in a log house that was not so good as an overseer's house, and there were pine trees all around it, and wild flowers, but no other kinds of flowers. And in the trees there were owls, and in the bushes there were whip-poor-wills, and sometimes a mockingbird, but no other kinds of birds, and at night the fireflies were all about. And outside the pine trees, all around the house, the tobacco grew and grew. It grew so broad and high that the children might have played I-spy in it,—only there weren't any children. There was only the boy, and he hated tobacco. He was poor, and his father was a hard man. He had no time to play or to learn—he worked all day in the fields like a hand. He had to work like the men at the lower Quarter, like Domingo and Cato and Indian Jim. He worked all the time. I never saw the sun get up, but he saw it every day. In the long afternoons when it was hot, and we make the rooms cool and dark, and rest with a book, he was working, working like a friendless slave. And at night, when the moon rises, and we sit and watch it, and wonder, and remember all the battles that were ever won and lost, and all the songs that ever were sung, he could only stumble to his own poor corner, and sleep, and sleep, with a hot and heavy heart, and the blisters on his poor, poor hands!"
Major Churchill sank back in his chair and stared at his niece. "Good God, child! whose words are you using?"
"Jacqueline's," answered Deb, staring in her turn. "Jacqueline told it to me just that way, one hot night when I could not sleep, and there was heat lightning, and she took me in her lap and we sat by the window. Are you tired, Uncle Edward? Does your arm hurt? Suppose I finish the story to-morrow?"
"No, I'm not tired," said Uncle Edward. "Finish it now."
"The boy," went on Deb, using now her own and now Jacqueline's remembered words,—"the boy did not want to work all his life long in the tobacco-fields, working from morning to night, with his hands, at the thing he hated. He wanted books, he wanted to learn, and to work with his mind in the world beyond the Three-Notched Road. The older he grew the more he wanted it. And Jacqueline said that the mind finds a way, and that the boy got books together, and he studied hard. You see, Jacqueline knows, for when she was a little girl, she used to stay sometimes with Cousin Jane Selden on the Three-Notched Road. And Cousin Jane Selden's farm was next to where the boy lived. There was just a little stream between them. There were no children at Cousin Jane Selden's, and Jacqueline was lonely. And she used to sit under the apple tree on the bank of the little stream and send chip boats down it, just as Miranda and I do. Only she didn't have Miranda, and she was all by herself. And she could see the boy working on the other side of the stream, and there wasn't any shade in the tobacco-field, and Jacqueline was so sorry for him. And one day he came down to the stream for water and they talked to each other. And Jacqueline told Cousin Jane Selden, and Cousin Jane Selden did not mind. She said she was sorry for the boy, and that she had given his father a piece of her mind,—only he wouldn't take it. So Jacqueline used to see the boy often and often, for she always played under the apple tree by the stream, and he had a little time to rest every day at noon, and he would come down to the shade on his side of the stream, and Jacqueline told him all about Fontenoy. And he told Jacqueline what he was going to do when he was a man, and he asked her if she had ever read Caesar, and she had not, and he told her all about it. And Jacqueline told him fairy tales, but he said they were not true, and that a harp could not sing by itself, nor a hen lay golden eggs, nor a beanstalk grow a mile. He said he did not like lies,—which wasn't very polite. He was older, you see, than Jacqueline, ever so much older. But she knew how to dance, and she was taking music lessons, and so she seemed older, and he liked Jacqueline very much. What is the matter, Uncle Edward?"
"Nothing. Go on, child."
"Then the summer was over, and Jacqueline came back to Fontenoy. But the next summer, when she went to Cousin Jane Selden's, there was the boy working in the tobacco on the other side of the stream. And Jacqueline called to him from under the apple tree. And then the month that she was to stay with Cousin Jane Selden went by, and she came back to Fontenoy. And the next summer she didn't go to the Three-Notched Road, but one day the boy came to Fontenoy."
"Ah!" said the Major.
"The boy's father sent him to pay some money that he owed to Uncle Dick. Jacqueline says his father was an honest man, though he was so unkind. And Uncle Dick sent for Jacqueline and said, 'Jacqueline, this is young Lewis Rand. Take him and show him the garden while I write this receipt!' So Jacqueline and the boy went into the flower garden, and she showed him the roses and the peacock and the sundial. And then he went away, and she didn't see him any more for years and years, not till she was grown, and everything was changed. And—and that is the end of the story. But the boy's name was Lewis Rand, and the man's name, up in the blue room, is Mr. Lewis Rand, and I heard Mr. Fairfax Cary say that Lewis Rand was the Devil,—but Jacqueline wouldn't have liked the Devil, would she, Uncle Edward?"
"No, child, no, no!" exclaimed Uncle Edward, with violence. He rose so suddenly from his chair, and he looked so grim and grey, that Deb was almost frightened.
"Didn't you like the story, Uncle Edward? I did like it so much when Jacqueline told it to me—only she would never tell it to me again."
"Yes, yes, I liked it, honey. Don't I like all your stories? But I don't like Mr. Rand."
"Will he stay always upstairs in the blue room?"
"The Lord forbid!" cried Major Churchill.
The door opened wide, and Mr. Ned Hunter put in an important face. "Are you there, Major? Here's the devil to pay. Rand's arm is broken and his ankle wrenched and his head cut open! The doctor says he mustn't be moved for at least a fortnight. I thought you'd like to know." He was gone to spread the news.
Major Churchill stood still for a moment, then turned to the table, placed with deliberation a marker between the leaves of Swift, took up the volume, and restored it to its proper shelf.
"It is getting dark—I must go to bed," said Deb. "Uncle Edward, who pays the devil?"
"His hosts, child," answered Uncle Edward, looking very grim and very old.
THE BLUE ROOM
The news of the accident to Lewis Rand spread far and wide. Both as a lawyer and as Mr. Jefferson's adjutant he had become in two years' time a marked man. Federalist and Republican were agreed that the recent election was but a foot in the stirrup. Another two years might see him—almost anywhere. He was likely to ride far and to ride fast. To the Federalists his progress from the tobacco-fields to the Elysian Heights of office was but another burning sign of the degeneracy of the times and the tendencies of Jefferson. On the other hand, the Republicans quoted the Rights of Man and the Declaration of Independence, and made the name of Lewis Rand as symbolic as a liberty pole. He was bon enfant, bon Republicain. Virginia, like Cornelia, numbered him among her starry gems. He was of the Gracchi. He was almost anything Roman, Revolutionary, and Patriotic that the mind of a perfervid poet could conjure up and fix in a corner of the Argus or the Examiner. Every newspaper in the state mentioned the accident, and in a letter from a Gentleman of Virginia, an account of it was read by the subscribers to the Aurora.
All this was somewhat later, when the stage-coach and the mail-rider had distributed the slow-travelling news. In the mean time Lewis Rand lay in the curtained bed in the blue room at Fontenoy, and wondered at that subtle force called Chance. The blue roses upon the hangings, the blue willows and impossible bridges of the china, the apple-cheeked moon surmounting the face of the loud-ticking clock were not more fantastically unnatural than that he, Lewis Rand, should be lying there between the linen sheets, in the sunny morning stillness of the fourth day after his fall, listening for the stir of the awakening house, for one step upon the stair, and for one voice. He was where he had desired to be; he was at Fontenoy; but the strangeness of his being there weighed upon him. He would hear the step and the voice; chance had brought him past every ward of a hostile house, and had laid him there in the blue room to be generously pitied and lavishly cared for; chance had given him leverage. To each the chaos of his own nature; if, with Rand, the Spirit brooded none too closely over the face of the deep, yet was there light enough to tread by. As he lay in the blue room, watching the early sunlight steal through the window and lay a golden finger on his bed, he had no sense of triumph, no smugness of satisfaction over the attainment of his dream. He thought of how often as a boy, working under the glare of the sun, in the shadeless tobacco-fields, he had dreamed of the poplars of Fontenoy, the cool porches, the cool rooms, the rest from labour, and the books, of all that the little girl named Jacqueline had told him, sitting under the apple tree beside the stream that flowed between a large and a small farm on the Three-Notched Road. As a boy, he would have been puzzled to choose between "Will you go to Heaven?" and "Will you go to Fontenoy?" The one seemed as remote, as unattainable, and as happy as the other. The advantage was possibly with Fontenoy, for he could picture that to himself. He could not have described the mansions in the skies, but, thanks to Jacqueline, he knew every room at Fontenoy. Before he was laid in it, he had known the blue room, the roses on the curtains, and the peacock-feathered mandarin forever climbing a dull yellow screen. The library should be below, with the bookshelves, and the glass door opening on the snowball bushes. Outside his window was the flower garden. He had seen the garden with his bodily eyes, for there was the morning he had spent at Fontenoy. In the desert of his hardly-treated, eager, and longing youth the place and the life of which the girl who came to Mrs. Selden's had told him was become the vision of an oasis and a paradise. The magic word was Fontenoy. If Gideon Rand or Adam Gaudylock chanced to pronounce it, it was as though the Captain of the Thieves had said, "Open Sesame!" The cave door opened, and he saw strange riches.
That day at Fontenoy! He tried to recall it, but it did not stand out in his memory; it was curiously without edge. Trying to remember was like remembering a dream, delicious and evasive. The child named Jacqueline had changed to a girl named Jacqueline. She had spoken to him shyly, and he had answered with much greater shyness, with a reddening cheek and a stumbling tongue. He remembered her dress, a soft blue stuff that he was afraid of touching, and he remembered how burning was his consciousness of his coarse shoes, his shirt of osnaburg, the disreputable hat upon his sunburnt hair. Then they had walked in the garden, and sat on the steps of a summer house, and he had been very happy after all. And then a black boy had come to tell him that the Colonel was ready with the receipt he was to carry back to the Three-Notched Road. He said good-bye with great awkwardness, and went away, and he saw the girl no more for a long, long time, for so long a time that insensibly her image faded. It was in the October of that year that he went to Richmond with Gideon, and met Mr. Jefferson in the bookshop by the bridge.
The years that followed that meeting! Rand, lying still upon his pillows, with his eyes upon the yellow mandarin, passed them in review,—well, they had not been wasted! Usually he saw the approximate truth about himself, and he knew that these years of toil and achievement were honourable to him. He thought of all those years, and then he turned his head upon the pillow and faced through widely opened windows the misty, fragrant morning. His mind turned with suddenness to a morning two summers past. His father, who had lived to take grim pride in the son he had been used to thwart, was six months dead, and he himself was living alone, as he yet lived alone, in the small house upon the Three-Notched Road. He lived there with his ambitions, which were many. That morning he had gone, without knowing why, down through the tobacco-field to the stream which parted his patrimony from his neighbour's grassy orchard. And there, beneath the apple tree, across the clear, brown water stood Jacqueline. He forgot her no more. "Fontenoy" was again the magic word, the "Open Sesame," but Jacqueline was the wealth of all the world. He was young, and he was a man of strong passions who had lived, perforce, a rigid, lonely, and ascetic life. He had dreamed of most things, and he had dreamed of love. It was the hectic vision of a hued pool. Love, entered, proved to be the sea, boundless and strong, salt, clean, and the nurse of life. He loved Jacqueline to the end of his life; he never swerved from allegiance to the sea.
For a summer month he saw her almost every day,—twice or thrice beneath the apple tree beside the stream, and at other times in Mrs. Jane Selden's parlour, porch, or little friendly garden. He did not tell Jacqueline that he loved her; he had not dared so much. The fact that he was the son of Gideon Rand while she was a Churchill mattered little to his common sense and his Republicanism. His blood was clean. He had never heard of a Rand in prison or a beggar. Moreover, he meant to make his name an honoured one. But he was a poor man, though he meant also to become a rich man, and he was a Republican, with no thought of changing his party. Politics might not matter, perhaps, to Miss Churchill, but they mattered decidedly to her uncles and guardians, whom she loved and obeyed. Wealth and birth mattered too, to them. Lewis Rand set no great store upon obedience for obedience' sake, but he divined that Miss Churchill rarely vexed those she loved. He had an iron will, and he set his lips, and resolved that this was not the time to speak of that ocean on whose shore he stood. He meant that the time should come. The probability of a rejection he looked full in the face, and found that he did not believe in it, though when he looked as fully at his assurance, that, too, became incredibly without foundation. Jacqueline's spirit might dwell in the mountains, and never dream of the sea; she gave him no sign, and he could not tell. The summer month went by; she returned to Fontenoy, and he saw her no more for a long time. When she was gone, he fell upon work like a bereaved lion upon his prey. As best he might, he would make that hunting do. He worked at first with lonely fury, though at last with zest. Only by this road, he knew, could he enter the gates of Fontenoy. Success begets success; let him make himself a name, and the gates might open! When he was not in court, or not most diligently preparing a case, or not instructing Tom Mocket, who was on the way to become his partner, or not busied with affairs of his patron, or not keenly observant of the methods of the poor whites whom he hired to tend his tobacco, he read. He read history: Clarendon, Gibbon, and Hume; Aristotle, Bacon, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, and Voltaire, Rousseau, and Tom Paine. His Ossian, Caesar, and Plutarch belonged to his younger days. A translation of the Divina Commedia fell into his hands, and once he chanced to take up, and then read with the closest attention, Godwin's Caleb Williams. From Monticello he received the hot and clamorous journals of the day, Federalist and Republican. He studied the conditions they portrayed with the intentness of a gladiator surveying his arena. The Examiner, the Argus, the Aurora, the Gazette gave, besides the home conflict, the foreign news. He missed no step of Buonaparte's.
Thrice in these two years he had seen Jacqueline. Once he rode to church at Saint Anne's that he might see her. She had been at the great race when Major Churchill's Mustapha won over Nonpareil and Buckeye. The third time was a month ago in Charlottesville. She was walking, and Ludwell Cary was with her. When she bowed to Rand, Cary had looked surprised, but his hat was instantly off. Rand bowed in return, and passed them, going on to the Court House. He had not seen her again until four days ago, when he opened his eyes upon her face. The golden finger on his bed became a shining lance that struck across to the wall. There were ivy and a climbing rose about the window through which he looked to the shimmering poplars and the distant hills. Many birds were singing, and from the direction of the quarters sounded the faint blowing of a horn. A bee came droning in to the pansies in a bowl. Rand's dark eyes made a journey through the room, from the flowered curtains to the mandarin on the screen, from the screen to the willowed china and the easy chair, from the chair to the picture of General Washington on the wall, the vases on the mantel-shelf, and the green hemlock branches masking for the summer the fireplace below. Over all the blue room and the landscape without was a sense of home, of order and familiar sweetness. It struck to the soul of a too lonely and too self-reliant man. Suddenly, without warning, tears were in his eyes. Raising his uninjured arm, he brushed them away, settled his bandaged head upon the pillows, and stared at the clock. The half-shut door of a small adjoining room opened very slowly and softly, and Joab entered on tiptoe, elaborate caution surrounding him like an atmosphere.
"You, Joab," said Rand. "It's time you were in the field."
Joab's preternaturally lengthened countenance became short, broad, and genial. He threw back his head and breathed relief. "Dar now! What I tell em? Cyarn Selim nor no urr boss kill you, Marse Lewis! Mornin', sah. I reckon hit is time I wuz in de field, but I reckon I got to stay heah to tek care of you. How yo ahm, Marse Lewis?"
"It's not so bad."
"You sho wuz ressless in yo sleep—a-talkin' an' a-turnin' an' sayin' you mustn't keep de cote waitin'. I done sit by you ter keep de kivers on twill de cock crow. What you reckon you said to me? You said, 'Is dat you, Gineral Buonaparte?'"
Rand laughed, "Did you say, 'Yes, sire my brother?'"
"No, sah, I say, 'Hit's Joab, Marse Lewis.' I gwine now ter git de water to shave you ef dar's fire in de kitchen. Folks git up moughty late at Fontenoy. I don' know when I gwine git yo breakfast."
An hour later appeared the master of the house, red and jovial, solicitous for his guest's comfort, and prodigal of suggestions for his ease and entertainment. Not until Rand was well and gone from Fontenoy would Colonel Dick let his mind rest upon the indubitable fact that here had been an upstart and an enemy. Hard upon the Colonel's steps came the doctor. Arm and ankle and wounded head were doing well—there was no fever to speak of—Mr. Rand had an unabused constitution and would make a rapid recovery. For precaution's sake, best let a little blood. Rest, gruel, and quiet, and in a few days Mr. Rand would be downstairs with the ladies. The blood was let, and the doctor rode away. Joab and the culprit Selim went on Rand's errands to the town and to the home on the Three-Notched Road. Mammy Chloe, in white apron and kerchief and coloured turban, presented herself with a curtsy, delivered kindly messages from the ladies of the house, and sat down with her sewing in the little adjoining room. The morning advanced, sunny and peaceful, with vague sounds, faint laughter from distant rooms, droning of bees, and rustling of cool poplar leaves.
Rand, lying high upon his pillows, stopped his work of writing with his left hand to listen to a step coming up the polished stairway and along the passage leading to his room. His ear was almost as quick and accurate as was Adam Gaudylock's, and he rightly thought he knew the step. A somewhat strange smile was on his lips when Ludwell Cary knocked lightly at the blue room door. "Come in!" called Rand, and Cary, entering, closed the door behind him and came up to the bed with an outstretched hand and a pleasant light upon his handsome face.
"Ah, Mr. Rand," he said, smiling, "I see my revenge. I shall sit each day by your bedside, and read you the Federalist! How is the arm? Your right! That's bad!"
"It will heal," answered Rand. "Will you not take a chair?"
Cary pushed the easy chair nearer the bed, and sat down. "The ladies charge me," he said pleasantly, "with more messages of sympathy and hopes for your recovery than I can remember. Miss Dandridge vows that you have supplanted in her affections the hero of her favourite romance. 'Twas she and my brother, you know, who found you upon the road. Colonel Churchill and the county must mend that turn where you came to grief. It is a dangerous place."
"I was not attentive," said Rand, "and my horse is a masterful brute. Pray assure Miss Dandridge and your brother of my gratitude. I am under deep obligation to all at Fontenoy."
"It is a kindly place," said Cary simply. He looked about him. "The blue room! When I was a boy and came a-visiting, they always put me here. That screen would set me dreaming—and the blue roses and the moon clock. I used to lie in that bed and send myself to sleep with more tales than are in the Arabian Nights. There's a rift in the poplars through which you can see a very bright star—Sirius, I believe. May you have pleasant dreams, Mr. Rand, in my old bed!" He glanced from Rand's flushed face to the papers strewn upon the counterpane. "You have been writing? Would Dr. Gilmer approve?"
Rand looked somewhat ruefully at the scrawled sheets and the ink upon his fingers. "It is a necessary paper of instructions," he said. "I was retained by the State for the North Garden murder case. It is to be tried next week—and here am I, laid by the heels! My associate must handle it." He made a movement of impatience. "He's skilful enough, but he's not the sort to convince a jury—especially in Albemarle, where they don't like to hang people. If he's left to himself, Fitch may go free."
"Yes, the murderer. These," he laid his hand upon the papers, "are the points that must be made. If Mocket follows instructions, the State will win. But I wish that Selim had not chosen to break my right arm—it is difficult to write with the left hand."
"Could not Mr. Mocket take his instructions directly from you?"
Rand moved again impatiently, and with a quick sigh. "I sent him word not to come. I will not bring a friend or ally where I myself must seem an intruder and a most unwelcome guest. There's a fine irony in human affairs! Selim might have thrown me before Edgehill or Dunlora—but to choose Fontenoy!" He looked at Cary with a certain appeal. "I shall, of course, remove myself as soon as possible. In the meantime, if you could assure me that Colonel Churchill and his family understand—"
"Set your mind at rest," said Cary at once. "Colonel Churchill is the soul of kindness and hospitality, and the ladies of Fontenoy are all angels. You must not think yourself an unwelcome guest." He glanced again at the papers. "I am sure you should not try to write. Will you not accept me as amanuensis? The matter is not private?"
Not at all: but—"
"Then let me write from your dictation. I have nothing at all to do for the next two hours,—I am staying in the house, you know,—and it will give me genuine pleasure to help you. You have no business with such labour. Dr. Gilmer, I know, must have forbidden it. Come! I write a very fair clerkly hand."
"You don't know the imposition," said Rand, with an answering smile. "It is nothing less than a Treatise on Murder."
"I shall be glad," replied Cary, "to hear what you have to say on the subject. Come! here are blank sheets and a new quill and an attentive secretary!"
Rand smiled. "It's the strangest post for you!—but all life's a dream just now. I confess that writing is uphill work! Well—since you are so good."
He began to dictate. At first his words came slowly, with some stiffness and self-consciousness. This passed; he forgot himself, thought only of his subject, and utterance became quiet, grave, and fluent. He did not speak as though he were addressing a jury. Gesture was impossible, and his voice must not carry beyond the blue room. He spoke as to himself, as giving reasons to a high intelligence for the invalidity of murder. For an infusion of sentiment and rhetoric he knew he might trust Mocket's unaided powers, but the basis of the matter he would furnish. He spoke of murder as the check the savage gives to social order, as the costliest error, the last injustice, the monstrousness beyond the brute, the debt without surety, the destruction by a fool of that which he knows not how to create. He spoke for society, without animus and without sentiment; in a level voice marshalling fact and example, and moving unfalteringly toward the doom of the transgressor. Turning to the case in hand, he wove strand by strand a rope for the guilty wretch in question; then laid it for the nonce aside and spoke of murder more deeply with a sombre force and a red glow of imagery. Then followed three minutes of slow words which laid the finished and tested rope in the sheriff's hand. Rand's voice ceased, and he lay staring at the poplar leaves without the window.
Cary laid the pen softly down, sat still and upright in his chair for a minute, then leaned back with a long breath. "The poor wretch!" he said.
"Poor enough," assented Rand abruptly. "But Nature does not, and Society must not, think of that. As he brewed, so let him drink, and the measure that he meted, let it be meted to him again. There is on earth no place for him." He fell silent again, his eyes upon the dancing leaves.
"You will make your mark," said Cary slowly. "This is more than able work. You have before you a great future."
Rand looked at him half eagerly, half wistfully. "Do you really think that?"
"I cannot think otherwise," Cary answered. "I saw it plainly in the courtroom the other day." He smiled. "I deplore your political principles, Mr. Rand, but I rejoice that my conqueror is no lesser man. I must to work against the next time we encounter."
"You have been long out of the county," said Rand. "I had the start of you, that is all. You were trained to the law. Will you practise it, or will Greenwood take all your time?"
"I shall practise. A man's life is larger than a few acres, a house, and slaves. But first I must put Greenwood in order, and I must—" He did not finish the sentence, but sat looking about the blue room. "The old moon clock! I used to listen to it in the night and dream of twenty thousand things, and never once of what I dream of now! What a strange young savage is a boy!" He gathered the written sheets together. "You will want to look these over? I shall be very glad to see that they reach Mr. Mocket safely, or to serve you in any way. Just now I am very idle, and I will be your secretary every day with pleasure." He rose. "And now you must rest, or we will have a rating from Dr. Gilmer. Is there any message I may take for you?"
"My devotion and my thanks to the ladies of the house," replied Rand—"to Mrs. Churchill and Miss Dandridge and to Miss Churchill. For these"—he put his hand upon the papers—"I shall look them over, and Joab will take them to Charlottesville to Mocket. I cannot sufficiently thank you for your aid and for your kindness."
Cary went, and Rand lay back upon his pillows, weary enough, though with a smile upon his lips. He valued Cary's visit, valued the opinion of his fellow lawyer and fellow thinker. He valued praise from almost any source, though this was a hidden thirst. Where he loved, there he valued good opinion most; but also he strongly desired that his enemies should think highly of him. To be justly feared was one thing, to be contemned quite another. Apparently Ludwell Cary neither feared nor contemned. As, a few days before on the Justice's Bench, Rand had wondered if he were going to hate Cary, so now, lying in the quiet blue room, weakened by pain and loss of blood, softened by exquisite kindness, and touched by approbation, he wondered if he were going to like Cary. Something of the old charm, the old appeal, the old recognition, with no mean envy, of a golden nature moving in harmonious circumstance, stirred in Lewis Rand's breast. He sighed and lay still, his eyes upon the pansies on the table beside his bed. The moon clock ticked; the sunshine entered softly through the veil of poplar leaves; upon the bough that brushed the window, a cicada shrilled of the approaching summer. Rand put out his uninjured arm and took a pansy from the bowl. The little face, brave and friendly, looked at him from the white counterpane where he laid it. He studied it for a while, touching it gently, with the thought in his mind that Jacqueline might have gathered the pansies, and then he left it there, took up his papers, and turned to the argument which must hang Fitch.
CARY AND JACQUELINE
At supper table that evening at Fontenoy, Ludwell Cary said something complimentary to the prisoner in the blue room. Fairfax Cary fired up. "You are too easy, Ludwell! Lewis Rand, I warn you, is a dangerous man! Serve him once, and you serve him once too often!—begging your pardon, Colonel Churchill!"
"We could hardly have left him, you know," reasoned his host good-naturedly, "on the roadside, and Dick Wood's the nearest house! And once within a man's doors, every attention, of course, must be shown. But, as you say, he is a dangerous fellow."
"Dangerous fiddlesticks!" growled Major Churchill from the other side of the table, where he sat at Jacqueline's right hand. "I would have as soon called old Gideon Rand dangerous! Like father, like son. You may be sure that this fellow's spirit rolls tobacco. Maybe now and then it breaks a colt.
"Dangerous' implies power to be dangerous," said Cary, "and conversely power to be humane. A turn, and all the strength of the man may flow toward good."
"A fool and his doctrine!" snapped Major Edward. "I do not expect grapes from thistles, or a silk purse from a sow's ear."
"Tut, tut, Ned! The man who carries this county may be a damned Republican, but he is not a fool," pronounced Colonel Dick. "Jacqueline, my dear, another cup of coffee."
"If we were all as good as gold," said Unity pensively, "and as wise as—as Socrates, and wore black cockades, and cared only for the Washington March, and hated Buonaparte, and the Devil, how tiresome life would be!—Myself, I like variety and the Marseillaise!"
"Then you differ from the other rogues only in liking the Rogue's March," said Uncle Edward. "Jacqueline, more sugar!"
The younger Cary rushed to Miss Dandridge's defence. "Well, sir, in itself the Marseillaise is a very noble air. It is better than Jefferson's March!"
"Oh, a very good air to go to the gallows by!" snapped Uncle Edward. "Jacqueline, some cream!"
"Well, well," said his brother amicably, from the head of the table, "we must care for a man when he's wounded at our door, friend or foe, Federalist or damned Republican. Noblesse oblige. I was glad enough the night my mare Nelly threw me, coming home from Maria Erskine's wedding, to hear Bob Carter's voice behind me! And if Gideon Rand was a surly old heathen, he broke colts well, and he rolled tobacco well. We'll treat his son like a Christian."
"And he'll repay you like a Turk!" broke out Major Edward. "I tell you it is bred in the bone—"
"Mr. Rand is our guest," said Jacqueline, in a clear voice, from her place behind the coffee urn. Her hands made a little noise amid the rosebud china. "Mr. Cary, may I not pour you another cup?—Caleb, Mr. Cary's cup.—Bring more waffles, Scipio."
"The work at Greenwood is nearly finished, sir," remarked Ludwell Cary, addressing his host. "I rode over this afternoon, and the men assure me that the house will soon be habitable. Fair and I have no excuse for staying longer."
"Then stay without excuse," answered Colonel Dick heartily. "Fontenoy will miss you—eh, Unity, eh, Jacqueline?"
"It will indeed," said Jacqueline, with a smile; and Unity, "Will I have time to order a black scarf from Baltimore? Will you leave us mourning rings?"
"If Miss Dandridge would accept another fashion of ring!" cried Fairfax Cary, and all at table laughed. Scipio took away the rosebud china, and laid the purple dessert service for the strawberries and floating island and Betty Custis cake. Caleb placed the decanters of claret and Madeira, and the Fontenoy men began to talk of horse-racing, of Mustapha, Nonpareil, York, and Victor.
Jacqueline and Unity, leaving the gentlemen at their wine, came out into the broad hall and stood at the front door looking out at the coloured clouds above the hills. They supped early at Fontenoy, and the evening was yet rosy.
"He is going to speak to-night," said Unity, with conviction. "It is written in his eye."
"If you mean Mr. Cary—"
"Whom else should I mean? What are you going to say to him, Jacqueline? I want you to say Yes, and I want you to say No."
"If you say Yes, you will have Greenwood and the most charming husband in the world, and be envied of every girl in the county; and if you say No, I'll have you still—"
"I shall say No."
"What ails you, Jacqueline? I could swear that you're in love, and yet I don't believe you are in love with Ludwell Cary!—though I am sure you ought to be. It's not Mr. Lee, nor Mr. Page, nor Jack Martin, nor—you're never in love with Fairfax Cary?"
Jacqueline laughed, "How absurd, Unity!—though may be some day I shall love him as a cousin!"
Unity regarded her with a puzzled gathering of black brows. "There's no one else that by any stretch of imagination I can believe you in love with—unless it's Mr. Pincornet!"
"Oh, now you certainly have it!" cried Jacqueline, with another tremulous laugh. She released herself from her cousin's arm. "I am going to tell Deb good-night. And Unity—I don't want Mr. Cary to speak to-night, nor to-morrow night, nor any other night! I'll stay at Fontenoy—I'll stay at Fontenoy and care for Aunt Nancy and Deb and Uncle Dick and Uncle Edward. I'll dance at your wedding, Unity, but you'll not dance at mine!"
She was gone. Unity sat down upon the porch steps and began to name upon her fingers the eligible young men of three counties. In her anxiety to account for Jacqueline's pallor and the dark beneath her eyes, she went far afield, but she met with no success. "It's not one of them!" she sighed at last. "And yet, she's changed—"
Jacqueline went slowly upstairs, a slender figure in white, touching with her hand the polished balustrade. When she reached the long and wide upper hall, she passed steadily along it, but she turned her eyes upon a door at the far end, the door of the blue room. Arrived in her own cool and fragrant chamber, she found Deb already asleep in the small bed, her yellow hair spread upon the pillow, her gown open at the throat, a rag doll in the hollow of her arm. Upon the floor, with her head against the bed, sat Miranda, as fast asleep as her mistress. At Jacqueline's touch she awoke, smiled widely, and was on her feet with a spring. "Yaas, Miss Jacqueline, I done put Miss Deb to bed. Mammy Chloe say dat niggah Joab don' know nothin' 'bout er broken ahm, an' she too busy in de blue room. Yaas'm, I done mek Miss Deb wash her face an' say her prayers. Kin I go now?"
Alone, Jacqueline stood for a minute beside the sleeping child, then bent and kissed Deb's brown neck. Moving to a window, she sat down before it, resting her arm upon the sill and her head upon her arm. Outside the window grew a giant fir tree, shading the room, and giving it at times an aspect too cold and northern. But Jacqueline loved the tree, and loved and fed the birds that in winter perched upon the dark boughs. Now, between the needles, the eastern sky looked blue and cold. Jacqueline, sitting idle, felt her eyes fill with slow tears. They did not fall. She was not lacking in self-control, and she told herself that of late she had wept too often. She sat very still, her head bowed upon her listless arm, while the moments passed, bearing with them pictures seen through unshed tears. She was living over the days of the Three-Notched Road, and she beheld each shifting scene by the light of a passion that she believed to be unreasonable, unnatural, secret, and without hope. Her uncle's voice came to her from the hall below. "Jacqueline, Jacqueline!" She arose, bathed her eyes, and went downstairs.
It was the custom of the family to gather after supper upon the great white pillared porch, and to sit through the twilight. The men smoked slowly and reflectively, the women sat with folded hands, watching the last glow upon the hills, and the brightening of the evening star; dreamily listening to the choir of frogs, the faint tinkle of cowbells, the bleating of folded lambs, and the continual rustle of the poplar leaves.
Jacqueline took her seat beside Unity. Colonel Churchill, in his especial chair, was smoking like a benevolent volcano; at a small table Major Edward was playing Patience. On the broad porch steps below Jacqueline and Unity half sat, half lay, the two Carys. The fireflies were beginning to show, and out of the distance came a plaintive Whip-poor-will—Whip-poor-will!