"I shall have," said Ludwell Cary, "the vines at Greenwood trained like these. There could be no better way."
"Is the drawing-room finished?" asked Unity.
"Almost finished. The paper came to-day from Baltimore. The ground is silver, and there are garlands of roses and a host of piping shepherds."
"Oh, lovely!" cried Unity. "But no shepherdesses?"
"Yes, in among the roses. It is quite Arcadian. When will the princesses come to see the shepherdesses?"
He looked at them both. "The Princess and her waiting-maid," said Unity demurely, "will come very soon." She rose from the green bench. "The waiting-maid is going now to her harpsichord!" Her eyes rested upon the younger Cary. "Will you be so very good as to turn the leaves for me?"
Fairfax Cary embracing with alacrity the chance of goodness, the two went into the house. The dusk deepened; the odour of honeysuckle and syringa grew heavier, and white moths sailed by on their way to the lighted windows.
"Since love—since love is blissful sorrow, Then bid the lad—then bid the lad— Then bid the lad a fair good morrow!"
flowed in soprano from the parlour.
Colonel Churchill laid down his pipe and lifted his burly figure from the great chair. "I forgot," he remarked to Jacqueline, "to tell your Aunt Nancy that Charles Carter is going to marry Miss Lewis," and he left the porch. The rose in the sky turned to pearl, the fireflies grew brilliant, and the wind brought the murmur of streams and the louder rustling of the poplar leaves. "It is too dark to see the cards," said Major Edward. "I'll go read what the Gazette has to say of Burr and the Massachusetts secession fools. Don't move, Cary!" He deftly gathered up the cards, and went indoors.
"When I was green in years, and every month was May"—sang Unity.
"With Phyllis and with Chloe made I holiday!"
"It is dark night," said Jacqueline. "Shall we not go in?"
Cary put out an appealing hand. "Don't rise! May we not stay like this a little longer?—Miss Churchill, there is something that I ardently wish to say to you."
"Yes, Mr. Cary?"
"It is too soon to speak, I know,—it must seem too soon to you. But to-day I said, 'The spring is flying—I'll put my fortune to the touch!' I think that you must guess the thing I wish to say—"
"Yes, I know. I wish that you would leave it unsaid."
"I love you. On the day, three months ago, when I saw you after my return and found the lovely child I remembered changed into the loveliest of all women, I loved you. If then, what now, when I have seen you, day by day?—I love you, and I shall never cease to love you."
"Oh, with all my heart I wish that you did not!"
"I ask you to be my wife. I beg you to let me prove throughout my life the depth of my love, of my solicitude for your happiness—"
"Ah, happiness!" cried Jacqueline sharply. "I do not see it in my life. The best that you can do is to forget me quite."
"I will remember you when I draw my dying breath. And if we remember after death, I will remember you then. With all my strength I love you."
"I am sorry—I am sorry!" she cried. "Oh, I hoped 'twas but a fancy, and that you would not speak! I do not love you—"
"Let me wait," said Cary, after a pause. "I said that I was speaking too soon. Let me wait—let me prove to you. Your heart may turn."
She shook her head. "It will not change."
"Is there," asked Cary, in a low voice, "is there another before me?"
She looked at him strangely. "You have no right to question me. I do not think that I shall ever marry. For you, you will live long and be happy. You deserve happiness. If I have wounded you, may it soon heal! Forget this night, and me."
"Forget!" said Cary. "I am not so lightly made! But neither will I despair. I will wait. If there is no man before me, I will win you yet! There is little reason, God knows, why you should care for me, but I shall strive to make that reason greater!"
"There is reason," answered Jacqueline. "I think highly, highly of you! You would make a woman happy;—all her life she would travel a sunny road! I prize your friendship—I am loth to lose it. But as for me,"—she locked her hands against her breast,—"there is that within me that cries, The shadowed road!—the shadowed road!"
She rose, and Cary rose with her. "Forgive me," she said. "Is it not cruel that we hurt each other so? Forgive—forget."
"I would forgive you," he answered, with emotion, "the suffering and the sorrow of a thousand lives. But forget you—never! I'll love you well and I'll love you long. Nor will I despair. To-night is dark, but the sun may shine to-morrow. Think of me as of one who will love you to the end." He took her hand and kissed it, then stood aside, saying, "I will not face the lights quite yet." She passed into the hail and up the stairway, and he turned and went down the porch steps into the May night.
The next morning Ludwell Cary rose early, ordered his horse, and opened the door of his brother's room. "Fair," he said, as the younger Cary sat up in bed, with a nightcap wonderfully askew upon his handsome head, "I am off for Greenwood. Make my excuses, will you, to Colonel Churchill and the ladies? I will not be back till supper-time." He turned to leave the room. "And Fair—if you have anything to say to Miss Dandridge, this is the shepherd's hour. We go home to-morrow."
"What the Devil?"—began the younger Cary.
"No, not the Devil," said the other, with a twist of the lip half humorous, half piteous. "Just woman."
He was gone. Fairfax Cary looked at his watch, then rose from his bed and looked out of the window at the rose and dew of the dawn. "What the Devil!" he said again to himself; and then, with a forehead of perplexity, "He was up late last night—out in the garden alone. He rides off to Greenwood with the dawn, and we go home to-morrow. She can't have refused him—that's not possible!" He went back to bed to study matters over. At last, "The jade!" he exclaimed with conviction, and two hours later, when he came down to breakfast, wished Miss Churchill good-morning with glacial courtesy.
Jacqueline, behind the coffee urn, had heavy-lidded eyes, and her smile was tremulous. Unity, brilliant and watchful, regarded the universe and the hauteur of young Mr. Cary with lifted brows. Major Churchill, when he appeared, shot one glance at the place that was Ludwell Cary's, another at his niece, then sat heavily down, and in a querulous voice demanded coffee. Colonel Dick wore a frown. Deb, who before breakfast had visited a new foal in the long pasture, kept for a time the ball of conversation rolling; but the dulness and the chill in the air presently enwrapped her also. The meal came to an end with only one hazard as to what could have taken Ludwell Cary to Greenwood for the entire day. That was Unity's, who remarked that pains must be bestowed upon the hanging of a drawing-room paper, else the shepherds and the shepherdesses would not match.
Fairfax Cary asked after Lewis Rand and his broken arm, and Colonel Dick responded with absent-mindedness that the arm did very well, and that its owner would soon be going about his business with all the rest of the damned Republican mischief-makers: then, "Scipio, did you take that julep and bird up to the blue room?"
"Yaas, marster," answered Scipio. "The gent'man say tell you 'Thank you.' He say he ain't gwine trouble you much longer, an' he cyarn never forgit what Fontenoy's done fer him."
"Deb!" said Uncle Edward, with great sharpness, "you are spilling that cup of milk. Look what you are doing, child!"
The uncomfortable meal came to an end. Outside the dining-room door Uncle Dick mentioned to Unity that her aunt wanted her in the chamber to cut off linsey gowns for the house servants, and Uncle Edward inquired if it would be troublesome to Fairfax Cary to ride over to Tom Wood's and take a look at that black stallion Tom bragged of. Unity went to her aunt's chamber; the younger Cary walked away somewhat stiffly to the stables; Uncle Edward sent Deb to her lessons, and Uncle Dick told Jacqueline to come in half an hour to the library. Edward and he wanted to speak to her.
Jacqueline gave her directions, or her aunt's directions, to Scipio, then crossed the paved way to the kitchen and talked of dinner and supper with the turbaned cook; opened with her keys the smokehouse door, and in the storeroom superintended the weighing of flour and sugar and the measuring of Java coffee, and finally saw that the drawing-room was properly darkened against the sunny morning, and that the water was fresh in the bowls of flowers. She leaned for a moment against her harp, one hand upon its strings, her forehead resting upon her bare arm; then she turned from the room and entered the library, where she found her uncles waiting for her, Uncle Dick upon the hearth rug and Uncle Edward at the table.
"Jacqueline," began the first, then, "Edward, I never could talk to a woman! Ask her what all this damned nonsense means!"
"Your uncle doesn't mean that it is all damned nonsense, Jacqueline," said Uncle Edward, with gentleness. "Not perhaps from your point of view, my dear. But both he and I are greatly grieved and disappointed—"
"It was all arranged ages ago!" broke in the elder brother. "Fauquier Cary and your dear father, my brother Henry, settled it when you were born and Fauquier's son was a lad at Maury's school! When Henry died, and Fauquier Cary died, my brother Edward here and I said to each other that we would see the matter out! So we will, by God!"
"Gently, Dick! Jacqueline, child, you know how dear you are to us, and how the future and the happiness of you and of Unity and of Deb is our jealous care—"
"Fauquier Cary was as noble a man as ever breathed," cried the other, "and his son's his image! There's no better blood in Virginia—and the land beside—"
"It does not matter about the land, Jacqueline," said Uncle Edward, "though God forbid that I should depreciate good land—"
"Land's land," quoth Colonel Dick, "and good blood's gospel truth!"
"Bah! it's nature's truth!" said Uncle Edward. "Jacqueline, my dear, our hearts are set on this match. Mr. Ludwell Cary asked your uncle's permission to speak to you, and your uncle gave it gladly, and neither he nor I ever dreamed—"
"Of course we didn't," broke in the other. "We didn't dream that Jacqueline could be unreasonable or ungrateful, and we don't dream it now! Nor blind. Ludwell Cary's a man and a gentleman, and the woman who gets him is lucky!"
"We approved his suit, Jacqueline, and we hoped to be happy to-day in your happiness—"
"And in he comes at midnight last night, with his father's own look on his face, and what does he say to Edward and me, sitting here, waiting, with a thousand fancies in our heads? 'Miss Churchill will not have me,' says he, 'and you who have been so good to me, are to be good still, and not by word or look reproach her or distress her. The heart goes its own way, and loves where it must. She is an angel, and to-night I am a poor beaten and weary mortal. I thank you again, both of you, and wish you good-night.' And off he goes before a man could say Jack Robinson! Those were his very words, weren't they, Edward?"
"Yes," answered Edward. "He is a brave and gallant gentleman, Jacqueline. I love you, child, more than my old tongue can say. My Castle in Spain is Greenwood with you and Ludwell Cary and the children of you both."
"Oh, cruel!" cried Jacqueline. "He is brave and good—He is all that you say. But I shall never live at Greenwood!"
"It was your father's dearest wish," said the Major. "It is ours—Richard's and mine. We are not men who give up easily. God forbid, child, that I should hint to you, who are the darling of us all, of obligation—and yet I put it to you if obedience is not owed—"
"Yes, yes," answered Jacqueline. "It is owed. I am not ungrateful—I am mad—perhaps I am wicked! I wish that I were dead!"
"The Churchills," said Uncle Edward, "have never in their marriages set vulgar store by money. Blood we ask, of course, and honourable position, and the right way of thinking. Individually I am a stickler for mind. To his wealth and to his name and his great personal advantages Ludwell Cary adds intellect. He may become a power in his country and his time. You would so aid him, child! I am called a woman-hater, but once, Jacqueline, I loved too well. For all that I am a sorry old bachelor, I know whereof I speak. With a man, a woman to fight for is not half the battle—it is all the battle."
"He is all that you say," answered Jacqueline. "But I do not love him."
"You like him. You admire him."
"Yes, yes. That is not love."
"It is mighty near kin," said Uncle Dick. "No end of happy folk begin with esteem and go on like turtle doves. My little Jack, you shall have the prettiest wedding gown! It's all a mistake and a misunderstanding, and the good Lord knows there's too much of both in this old world! You'll think better of it all, and you'll find that you didn't know your own mind,—and there'll be a smile for poor Cary when he comes riding back to-night?"
"No, no," cried Jacqueline. "There is no mistake and no misunderstanding. Love cannot be forced, and I'll not marry where I do not love!"
"You don't," said Colonel Churchill slowly, "you don't by any chance love some one else? What does that colour mean, Jacqueline? Don't stammer! Speak out!"
But Jacqueline, standing by the old leather chair, bowed her head upon its high green back, and neither could nor would "speak out." The two men, grey and withered, obstinate and imperious in a day and generation that subordinated youth to the councils of the old, gazed at their niece with perplexity and anger. With the simpler of the two the perplexity was the greater, with the other anger. A fear was knocking at Major Churchill's heart. He would not admit it, strove not to listen to it, or to listen with contemptuous incredulity. "It's not possible," he said to himself. "Not a thousand summers at Jane Selden's would make her so forget herself! Jacqueline in love with that damned Jacobin demagogue upstairs! Pshaw!" But the fear knocked on.
Jacqueline lifted her head. "Be good to me, Uncle Dick! If I could love, if I could marry Mr. Cary, I would—I would indeed! But I cannot. Please let me go!"
"Not till I know more than I know now," said Colonel Churchill. "If it's George Lee, Jacqueline, I'll not say a word, sorry as I am for Cary. But if it's Will Allen, I'll see you dead before I give my consent! He's a spendthrift and a Republican!"
"I care neither for Mr. Lee nor Mr. Allen," said Jacqueline, with a burning cheek. "Oh, Uncle Edward, make Uncle Dick let me go!"
"It is not wise," Major Churchill considered within himself, "to push a woman too far. I'm a suspicious fool to think this thing of Jacqueline. It's all some girl's fancy or other, and if we go easily Cary will yet win—by God, he shall win! This damned Yahoo upstairs is neither here nor there!"
He spoke aloud to his brother. "Best let the child go think it over, Dick. She knows her duty—and that we expect her compliance. She doesn't want to wound us cruelly, to make us unhappy, to prove herself blind and ingrate. Give her a kiss and let her go."
"You come down and sing to us to-night, my little Jack, in your blue gown," quoth Uncle Dick. "Don't you ever let a time come when your singing won't be the sweetest sound in the world to me! Now go, and think of what we have said, and of poor Cary, ridden off to Greenwood!"
Jacqueline gazed at the two for a moment, and made as if to speak, but the words died in her throat. She uttered a broken cry, turned, groped a little for the door, found and opened it, and was gone. They heard the click of her slippers upon the stairs, and presently the closing of a blind in the room that was hers.
The brothers sat heavily on in the sunshine-flooded library, the elder red and fuming, the younger silent and saturnine. At last Colonel Dick broke out, "What the devil ails her, Edward? Every decent young fellow in the county comes to Fontenoy straight as a bee to the honey-pot! I've heard them sighing for her and Unity, but I never could see that she favoured one man more than another,—and she's no coquette like Unity! Except for that fine blush of hers, I'd never have thought. What do you think, Edward?"
"The ways of women are past my finding out," said Edward. "Let it rest for a while, Dick." He rose from his chair stiffly, like an old man. "Let Cary go home to-morrow as he intends. 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder,' they say. She may find that she misses him, and may look for him when he comes riding over. Never fear but he'll ride over often! He mustn't guess, of course, that you have spoken to her. And that's all we can do, Dick, except—" Major Edward walked stiffly across the floor and paused before the portrait of his brother Henry, dead and gone these many years. The face looked imperiously down upon him. Henry had stood for something before he died,—for grace and manly beauty, pride and fire. The Major's eyes suddenly smarted. "Poor white trash," he said between his teeth, "and Henry's daughter!" He turned and came back to the table. "Dick! just as soon as you can, you clear the house of old Gideon Rand's son!"
"What's he got to do with it?" asked Colonel Dick.
"I don't know," said the other. "But I want him out of the blue room, and out of Fontenoy! and now, Dick, I've got a piece to write this morning on the designs of Aaron Burr."
At five in the afternoon Cary returned, quiet and handsome, ready with his account of matters at Greenwood, from the stable, upon which Major Churchill must pronounce, to the drawing-room paper, which awaited Miss Dandridge's sentence. His behaviour was perfection, but "He's hard hit," said his brother to himself. "What, pray, would Miss Churchill have?" And Unity, "The shepherds and shepherdesses don't match. How can she have the heart?" And Major Churchill, "Are women blind? This is Hyperion to a satyr." And Jacqueline, "Oh, miserable me! Is he writing or reading, or is he lying thinking, there in the blue room?"
Adam Gaudylock came, when his leisure served him, to Fontenoy as he went everywhere, by virtue of his quality of free lance and golden-tongued narrator of western news. The stress of thought at the moment was to the West and the empire that had been purchased there; and a man from beyond Kentucky, with tales to tell of the Mississippi Territory, brought his own welcome to town, tavern, and plantation. If this were true of all, it was trebly true of Adam, who had been born open-eyed. As the magnet draws the filings, so he drew all manner of tidings. News came to him as by a thousand carrier pigeons. He took toll of the solitary in the brown and pathless woods, of the boatmen upon fifty rivers, of the Indian braves about the council-fire, of hunters, trappers, traders, and long lines of Conestoga wagons, of soldiers on frontier posts, Jesuit missionaries upon the Ohio, camp-meeting orators by the Kentucky and the upper James, martial emissaries of three governments, village lawyers, gamblers, dealers in lotteries, and militia colonels, Spanish intendants, French agents, American settlers, wild Irish, thrifty Germans, Creoles, Indians, Mestizos, Quadroons, Congo blacks,—from the hunter in the forest to the slave in the fields, and from the Governor of the vast new territory to the boatman upon a Mississippi ark, not a type of the restless time but imparted to Adam something of its view of life and of the winds that vexed its sea. He was a skilful compounder, and when, forever wandering, he wandered back by wood and stream to the sunny, settled lands east of the Blue Ridge, he gave to the thirsty in plantation and town bright globules of hard fact in a heady elixir of fancy. While he talked all men were adventurers, and all women admired him. Adam liked this life and this world; asked nothing better than to journey through a hundred such.
Now, sitting at his ease in the blue room, a fortnight after Rand's accident, he delivered a score of messages from the Republicans of the county, gentle and simple, whom he had chanced to encounter since the accident to their representative.
"Colonel Randolph says the President has bad luck with the horses he gives—young Mr. Carr was thrown by a bay mare from Shadwell. Old Jowett swears that a trooper of Tarleton's broke his neck at that identical place—says you can hear him any dark night swearing like the Hessian he was. They drank your health at the Eagle, the night they heard of the accident, with bumpers—drank it just after Mr. Jefferson's and before the memory of Washington. 'Congress next!' they said. 'Hurrah! He'll scatter the Black Cockades—he'll make the Well-born cry King's Cruse! Hip, hip, hurrah! What's he doing at Fontenoy? They'll put poison in his cup! Hurrah!'"
"Fontenoy will not put poison in my cup," said Rand. "I hope some one was there to say as much."
"I said it," answered Adam. "They are a noisy lot. Tom Mocket made a speech and compared you to Moses. He wept when he made it, and they had to hold him steady on his feet. When they broke up, I took him home to the Partridge. I'll tell you one speech that he never made by himself, and that's the speech that's going to hang Fitch."
"No," said Rand. "I wrote it. You were at the trial?"
"Ay. It would have hung Abel, so poor Cain had no chance. Mr. Eppes says Mr. Jefferson counts upon your becoming a power in the state. I don't know—but it seems to me there's power enough in these regions! It's getting crowded. First thing you know, you'll be jealous of Mr. Jefferson, or he'll be jealous of you. If I were you, I'd look to the West."
"The old song!" exclaimed Rand. "What should I do in the West?"
"Rule it," said Adam.
Rand shot a glance at the hunter where he lounged against the window, a figure straight and lithe as an Indian, not tall, but gifted with a pantherish grace, and breathing a certain tawny brightness as of sunshine through pine needles. "You're daft!" he said; then after a moment, "Are you serious?"
"Why should I not be serious?" asked Adam. "My faith! it's a restless land, the West, and it's a far cry from the Mississippi to the Potomac. The West doesn't like the East anyhow. But it wants a picked man from the East. It will get one too! The wind's blowing hard from the full to the empty, from the parcelled-out to the virgin land!"
"Yes," said Rand.
"Why shouldn't you be the man?" demanded Gaudylock. "Just as well you as Claiborne—Wilkinson's naught, I don't count him—or any one still East, like—like—Aaron Burr."
"Well, I just instance him. He's ambitious enough, and there doesn't seem much room for him back here. If Adam Gaudylock was ambitious and was anything but just an uneducated hunter with a taste for danger—I tell you, Lewis, I can see the blazed trees, I can see them with my eyes shut, stretching clean from anywhere—stretching from this room, say—beyond the Ohio, and beyond the Mississippi, and beyond Mexico to where the sun strikes the water! It's a trail for fine treading and a strong man, but it leads—it leads—"
"It might lead," said Rand, "to the Tarpeian Rock."
"It's where they put to death a sort of folk called traitors—Benedict Arnolds and such."
"Pshaw!" exclaimed Adam. "Traitors! Benedict Arnold was a traitor. This is not like that. America's large enough for a mort of countries. All the states are countries—federated countries. Say some man is big enough to make a country west of the Mississippi—Well, one day we may federate too. Eh, Lewis, 'twould be a powerful country—great as Rome, I reckon! And we'd smoke the calumet with old Virginia—and she'd rule East and we'd rule West. D'you think it's a dream?—Well, men make dreams come true."
"Yes: Corsicans," answered Rand. "Aaron Burr is not a Corsican." He looked at his left hand, lying upon the arm of his chair, raised it, shut and opened it, gazing curiously at its vein and sinew. "You are talking midsummer madness," he said at last. "Let's leave the blazed trees for a while—though we'll talk of them again some time. Have you been along the Three-Notched Road?"
"Yes," replied Adam, turning easily. "Your tobacco's prime, the wheat, too, and the fencing is all mended and white-washed. It's not the tumble-down place it was in Gideon's time—you've done wonders with it. The morning-glories were blooming over the porch, and your white cat washing itself in the sun."
"It's but a poor home," said Rand, and he said it wistfully. He wished for a splendid house, a home so splendid that any woman must love it.
"It's not so fine as Fontenoy," quoth Adam, "nor Monticello, nor Mr. Blennerhassett's island in the Ohio, but a man might be happy in a poorer spot. Home's home, as I can testify who haven't any. I've known a Cherokee to die of homesickness for a skin stretched between two saplings. How long before you are back upon the Three-Notched Road?"
Rand moved restlessly. "The doctor says I may go downstairs to-day. I shall leave Fontenoy almost immediately. They cannot want me here."
"Have you seen Mr. Ludwell Cary?"
"He and his brother left Fontenoy some time ago. But he rides over nearly every day. Usually I see him."
"He is making a fine place of Greenwood. And he has taken a law office in Charlottesville—the brick house by the Swan.
"Yes. He told me he would not be idle."
Adam rose, and took up the gun which it was his whim to carry. "I'll go talk ginseng and maple sugar to Colonel Churchill for a bit, and then I'll go back to the Eagle. As soon as you are on the Three-Notched Road again I'll come to see you there."
"Adam," said Rand, "in the woods, when chance makes an Indian your host, an Indian of a hostile tribe, an Indian whom you know the next week may see upon the war-path against you—and there is in his lodge a thing, no matter what, that you desire with all your mind and all your heart and all your soul, and he will not barter with you, and the thing is not entirely his own nor highly valued by him, while it is more than life to you, and moreover you believe it to be sought by one who is your foe—would you, Adam, having eaten that Indian's bread, go back into the forest, and leave behind, untouched, unspoken of, that precious thing your soul longed for? The trail you take may never lead again to that lodge. Would you leave it?"
"Yes," answered Adam. "But my trail should lead that way again. It is a hostile tribe. I would come back, not in peace paint, but in war paint. I would fairly warn the Indian, and then I would take the bauble."
"Here is Mammy Chloe," said the other. "What have you there, mammy—a dish of red pottage?"
"No, sah," said Mammy. "Hit's a baked apple an' whipped cream an' nutmeg. Ole Miss she say Gineral Lafayette sho' did favour baked apples wunst when he wuz laid up wid a cold at her father's house in Williamsburgh. An' de little posy, Miss Deb she done gather hit outer her square in de gyarden. De Cun'l he say de fambly gwine expect de honour of yo' company dis evenin' in de drawin'-room."
Adam said good-bye and went away. An hour later, going down the Fontenoy road, he came upon a small brown figure, seated, hands over knees, among the blackberry bushes.
"Why, you partridge!" he exclaimed. "You little brown prairie-hen, what are you doing so far from home? Blackberries aren't ripe."
"No," said Vinie. "I was just a-walking down the road, and I just walked on. I wasn't tired. I always think the country's prettier down this way. Did you come from Fontenoy, Mr. Adam?"
"Yes," replied Adam, sitting down beside her. "I went to see Lewis Rand—not that I don't like all the people there anyway. They're always mighty nice to me."
Vinie dug the point of her dusty shoe into the dusty road.
"How ith Mr. Rand, Mr. Adam?"
"He 'ith' almost well," answered Adam. "He's going down into the parlour to-night, and pretty soon he's going home, and then he'll be riding into town to his office."
He looked kindly into the small, freckled, pretty face. The heat of the day stood in moisture on Vinie's brow, she had pushed back her sunbonnet, and the breeze stirred the damp tendrils of her hair. "Tom must miss him," said the hunter.
"Yeth, Tom does." Vinie drew toward her a blackberry branch, and studied the white bloom. "Which do you think is the prettiest, Mr. Adam,—Miss Unity or Miss Jacqueline?"
"Why, I don't know," answered Adam. "They are both mighty pretty."
"I think Miss Unity's the prettiest," said Vinie. "It's time I was walking back to Charlottesville." She rose and stood for a moment in the dusty road below the blackberry bushes, looking toward Fontenoy. "I don't suppose he asked after Tom and me, Mr. Adam?"
"Why, surely!" protested Adam, with cheerful mendacity. "He asked after you both particularly. He said he certainly would like a cup of water from your well."
"Did he?" asked Vinie, and grew pink. "That water's mighty cold."
"I'd like a cup of it myself," said Adam. "Since we are both walking to town, we might as well walk together. Don't you want me to break some cherry blossoms for your parlour?"
"Yeth, if you please," replied Vinie, and the two went up the sunny road to Charlottesville.
Back at Fontenoy, in the blue room, Rand, resting in the easy chair beside the window, left the consideration of Adam and Adam's talk, and gave his mind to the approaching hour in the Fontenoy drawing-room. He both desired and dreaded that encounter. Would Miss Churchill be there? Aided by the homely friendliness of her cousin's house on the Three-Notched Road, he had met her and conversed with her without being greatly conscious of any circumstance other than that she was altogether beautiful, and that he loved her. But this was not Mrs. Selden's, this was Fontenoy. He had stood here hat in hand, within Miss Churchill's memory—certainly within the memory of the men of her family. Well! He was, thank God! an American citizen. The hat was now out of his hand and upon his head. The conditions of his boyhood might, he thought, be forgotten in the conditions of his manhood. But—they would all be gathered in the drawing-room. Should he speak first to Colonel Churchill as his host, or first to the ladies of the house, to Miss Churchill and Miss Dandridge? If Miss Churchill or Miss Dandridge were at the harpsichord, should he wait at the door until the piece was ended? He had a vision of a great space of polished floor reflecting candlelight, and of himself crossing that trackless desert beneath the eyes of goddesses and men. The colour came into his face. There were twenty things he might have asked Mr. Pincornet that night at Monticello. He turned with hot impatience from the consideration of the usages of society, and fell to building with large and strong timbers the edifice of his future. He built on while the dusk gathered, and he built while Joab helped him to dress, and he was yet busy with beam and rafter when at eight o'clock, with some help from the negro, he descended the stairs and crossed the hall to the parlour door. How was he dressed? He was dressed in a high-collared coat of blue cloth with eagle buttons, in cloth breeches and silk stockings, in shoes with silver buckles, and a lawn neckcloth of many folds. His hair was innocent of powder, and cut short in what the period supposed to be the high Roman fashion. It was his chief touch of the Republican. In the matter of dress he had not his leader's courage. Abhorring slovenliness and the Jacobin motley, he would not affect them. He was dressed in his best for this evening; and if his attire was not chosen as Ludwell Cary would have chosen, it was yet the dress of a gentleman, and it was worn with dignity.
Music was playing, as he paused at the half-open door,—he could see Miss Dandridge at the harpsichord. The room seemed very light. For a moment he ceased to be the master-builder and sank to the estate of the apprentice, awkward and eaten with self-distrust; the next, with a characteristic abrupt motion of head and hand, he recovered himself, waved Joab aside, and boldly crossed the threshold.
Unity, at the harpsichord, was playing over, very rapidly, one after another, reels, hornpipes, jigs, and Congos, and looking, meanwhile, slyly out of velvet eyes at Fairfax Cary, who had asked for a particularly tender serenade. He stood beside her, and strove for injured dignity. It was a day of open courtship, and polite Albemarle watched with admiration the younger Cary's suit to Miss Dandridge. He had ridden alone to Fontenoy; his brother, who had business in Charlottesville, promising to join him later in the evening. Mr. Ned Hunter, too, was at Fontenoy, and he also would have been leaning over the harpsichord but for the fact that Colonel Dick had fastened upon him and was demonstrating with an impressive forefinger the feasibility of widening into a highway fit for a mail-coach a certain forest track running over the mountains and through the adjoining county. They stood upon the hearth, and Mr. Hunter could see Miss Dandridge only by much craning of the neck. "Yes, yes," he said vaguely, "it can easily be widened, sir."
Major Churchill, playing Patience at the small table, raised his head like a war-horse. "Nonsense! widen on one side and you will fall into the river; on the other, and a pretty cliff you'll have to climb! You could as well widen the way between Scylla and Charybdis—or Mahomet's Bridge to Paradise—or Thomas Jefferson's Natural Bridge! Pshaw!" He began to build from the five of clubs.
"A detour can be made," said Colonel Dick.
"Around the Blue Ridge?" asked the Major scornfully. "Pshaw! And it passes my comprehension what a stage-coach would do in that country. There are not ten houses on that cart track."
"Nonsense! there are fifty."
"Fifty-three, I assure you, sir."
The Major laid down his cards and turned in his chair. "I counted every structure the last time I was on that road. Taking in Fagg's Mill and Brown's Ferry and the Mountain Schoolhouse, there are just ten houses. It is my habit, sir, to reckon accurately."
Mr. Hunter grew red. "But, sir, the count was taken before the last election, and fifty-three—"
"Ten, sir!" said the Major, and placed the queen of diamonds.
"When did you ride that way, Edward?" queried his brother. "I don't believe you've been across the mountain since the war."
"I was on that road in '87," said the Major. "I rode that way on the sixth of April with Clark. And there are ten houses; I counted them."
"But good Lord, sir, this is 1804!"
The Major's hawk eyes, dark and bright beneath shaggy brows, regarded Mr. Ned Hunter with disfavour. "I am aware, sir, that this is 1804," he said, and placed the king of diamonds.
Jacqueline arose from her chair beside the open window, softly crossed the floor, and touched Colonel Churchill upon the arm. "Uncle Dick," she murmured, and with the slightest of gestures indicated Rand standing in the door.
Colonel Churchill started, precipitantly left Mr. Hunter, and crossed the floor to his guest of two weeks. "My dear sir, you came in so quietly! I welcome you downstairs. Gilmer says you're a strong fighter. When I was thrown at that same turn coming home from a wedding, I believe I was in bed for a month!—Allow me to present you to my nieces—Miss Churchill, Miss Dandridge. My poor wife, you know, never leaves her chamber. Mr. Ned Hunter, Mr. Rand. Mr. Fairfax Cary I think you know, and my brother Edward."
The young men's greeting, if somewhat constrained, was courteous. Major Churchill played the card which he held in his hand, then slowly rose, came stiffly from behind the small table, and made an elaborate bow. There was in his acknowledgment of the honour of Mr. Rand's acquaintance so much accent, cruelty, and hauteur that the younger man flushed. "This is an enemy," said a voice within him. He bowed in return, and he no longer felt any distrust of himself. When Miss Dandridge, leaving the harpsichord, established herself upon the sofa before him and opened a lively fire of questions and comment, he answered with readiness. He thought her pretty figure in amber lutestring, and the turn of her ringleted head, and the play of her scarlet lips all very good to look at, and he looked without hesitation. The account which she demanded of the accident which had placed him there he gave with a free, bold, and pleasing touch, and the thanks that were her due as the immediate Samaritan he chivalrously paid. Unity made friends with all parties, and she now found, with some amusement, that she was going to like Lewis Rand.
Rand looked too, freely and quietly, at the young men, his fellow guests. Each, he knew, was arrogantly impatient of his presence there. Well, they had nothing to do with it! His sense of humour awoke, and Federalist hauteur ceased to fret him. Colonel Churchill, the most genial of men, pushed his chair into the Republican's neighbourhood, and plunged into talk. Conversation in Virginia, where men were concerned, opened with politics, crops, or horseflesh. Colonel Dick chose the second, and Rand, who had a first-hand knowledge of the subject, met him in the fields. The trinity of corn, wheat, and tobacco occupied them for a while, as did the fruit and an experiment in vine-growing. The horse then entered the conversation, and Rand asked after Goldenrod, that had won the cup at Fredericksburg. "I broke him for you, you know, sir, seven years ago."
Colonel Churchill, who in his own drawing-room would not for the world have mentioned this little fact to his guest, suddenly thought within his honest heart, "This is a man, even if he is a damned Republican!" He gave a circumstantial account of Goldenrod, and of Goldenrod's brother, Firefly, and he said to himself, "I'll keep off politics." Presently Rand began to speak of Adam Gaudylock's account of New Orleans.
"Ay, ay," said the Colonel, "there's a city! But it's not English—it is Spanish and French. And all that new land now! 'twill never be held—begging your pardon, Mr. Rand—by Thomas Jefferson and a lot of new-fangled notions! No Spaniard ever did believe that all men are born equal, and no Frenchman ever wanted liberty long—not unadorned liberty, anyway. As for our own people who are pouring over the mountains—well, English blood naturally likes pride and power and what was good enough for its grandparents! Louisiana is too big and too far away. It takes a month to go from Washington to New Orleans. Rome couldn't keep her countries that were far away, and Rome believed in armies and navies and proper taxation, and had no pernicious notions—begging your pardon again, Mr. Rand—about free trade and the abolishment of slavery! I tell you, this new country of ours will breed or import a leader—and then she'll revolt and make him dictator—and then we'll have an empire for neighbour, an empire without any queasy ideas as to majorities and natural rights! And Thomas Jefferson—begging your pardon, Mr. Rand—is acute enough to see the danger. He's not bothering about majorities and natural rights either—for the country west of the Ohio! He's preparing to govern the Mississippi Territory like a conquered province. Mark my words, Mr. Rand, she'll find a Buonaparte—some young demagogue, some ambitious upstart without scruple or a hostage to fortune some common soldier like Buonaparte or favourite like—like—"
"Like—" queried Rand. But the Colonel, who had suddenly grown very red, would not or could not continue his comparison. He floundered, drew out his snuff-box and restored it to his pocket, and finally was taken pity on by Unity, who with dancing eyes reentered the conversation, and asked if Mr. Rand had read The Romance of the Forest. Fairfax Cary left the harpsichord, where he had been impatiently turning over the music, and, strolling to one of the long windows, stood now looking out into the gloomy night, and now staring with a frowning face at the lit room and at Miss Dandridge, in her amber gown, smiling upon Lewis Rand! Near him, Major Churchill, preternaturally grey and absorbed, played Patience. The cards fell from his hand with the sound of dead leaves. Beside a second window sat Jacqueline, looking, too, into the night. She sat in a low chair covered with dull green silk, and the straight window curtains, of the same colour and texture, half enshadowed her. Her dress was white, with coral about her throat and in her hair. She leaned her elbow on her knee, and with her chin in her hand looked upon the dark mass of the trees, and the stars between the hurrying clouds.
The younger Cary, at his window, leaned out into the night, listened a moment, then turned and left the room. "It is my brother, sir," he announced, as he passed Colonel Churchill. "I hear him at the gate."
Ten minutes later Ludwell Cary entered. He was in riding-dress, his handsome face a little worn and pale, but smiling, his bearing as usual, quiet, manly, and agreeable. "It is a sultry night, sir," he said to Colonel Churchill. "There is a storm brewing.—Miss Dandridge, your very humble servant!—Mr. Rand—" He held out his hand. "I am rejoiced to see you recovered!"
Rand stood up, and touched the extended hand. "Thank you," he said, with a smile. "I were a Turk if I did not recover here amidst all this goodness."
"Yes, yes, there's goodness," answered Cary, and moved on to the window where Jacqueline sat in the shadow of the curtains. Rand, looking after him, saw him speak to her, and saw her answer with a smile.
A pang ran through him, acrid and fiery. It was not like the vapour of distaste and dislike, of which he had been conscious on the day of the election. That had been cold and clinging; this was a burning and a poisoned arrow. It killed the softening, the consciousness of charm, the spell of Cary's kindness while he lay there helpless in the blue room. Not since the old days when his heart was hot against his father, had he felt such venom, such rancour. That had been a boy's wild revolt against injustice; this passion was the fury of the adolescent who sees his rival. He looked at Cary through a red mist. This cleared, but a seed that was in Rand's nature, buried far, far down in the ancestral earth, swelled a little where it lay in its dim chasm. The rift closed, the glow as of heated iron faded, and Rand bitterly told himself, "He will win; more than that, he deserves to win! As for you, you are here to behave like a gentleman." He turned more fully to Unity, and talked of books and of such matters as he thought might be pleasing to a lady.
Fairfax Cary entered, brushing the drops from his coat-sleeve. "The rain is coming down," he said, and with deliberation seated himself beside Miss Dandridge.
"That's good!" exclaimed the Colonel. "Now things will grow!—Jacqueline, child, aren't you going to sing to us?"
Jacqueline rose, left the window, and went to her harp, Cary following her. She drew the harp toward her, then raised her clear face. "What shall I sing?" she asked.
Cary, struck by a note in her voice, glanced at her quickly where she now sat, full in the light of the candles. She had no colour ordinarily, but to-night the fine pale brown of her face was tinged with rose. Her eyes were lustrous. As she spoke she drew her hands across the strings, and there followed a sound, faint, far, and sweet. Cary wondered. He was not a vain man, nor over-sanguine, but he wondered, "Is the brightness for me?" The colour came into his own cheek, and a vigour touched him from head to heel. "I don't care what you sing!" he said. "Your songs are all the sweetest ever written. Sing To Althea!"
She sang. Rand watched her from the distance—the hands and the white arm seen behind the gold strings, the slender figure in a gown of filmy white, the warm, bare throat pouring melody, the face that showed the soul within. All the room watched her as she sang,—
"Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage; Minds innocent and quiet take That for a hermitage."
Through the window came the sound of rain, the smell of wet box and of damask roses. Now and then the lightning flashed, showing the garden and the white bloom of locust trees.
"Minds innocent and quiet take That for a hermitage."
Rand's heart ached with passionate longing, passionate admiration. He thought that the voice to which he listened, the voice that brooded and dreamed, for all that it was so angel-sweet, would reach him past all the iron bars of time or of eternity. He thought that when he came to die he would wish to die listening to it. The voice sang to him like an angel voice singing to Ishmael in the wilderness.
The song came to an end, but after a moment Jacqueline sang again, sonorous and passionate words of a lover to his mistress. It was not now the Cavalier hymning of constancy; it was the Elizabethan breathing passion, and his cry was the more potent.
"The thirst that from the soul doth rise Doth ask a drink divine"—
Blinding lightning, followed by a tremendous crash, startled the singer from her harp and brought all in the room to their feet. "That struck!" exclaimed the Colonel. "Look out, Fairfax, and see if 't was the stables! I hear the dogs howling.
"'Twas the big pine by the gate, I think, sir," answered Fairfax Cary, half in and half out of the window. "Gad! it is black!"
"You two cannot go home to-night," cried Colonel Churchill, with satisfaction. "And here's Cato with the decanters! We might have a hand at Loo—eh, Unity? you and Fairfax, Ned Hunter and I.—The card-table, Cato!"
The four sat down, the card-table being so placed as to quite divide Jacqueline and Ludwell Cary, at the harp, from Major Edward's small table and Rand beside the sofa. "Edward!" said the Colonel. His brother nodded, gathered up his cards, and turned squarely to the entertainment of the Republican. "So, Mr. Rand, Mr. Monroe goes to Spain! What the Devil is he going to do there? I wish that your party, sir, would send Mr. Madison to Turkey and Colonel Burr to the Barbary States! And what, may I ask, are you going to do with the Mississippi now that you've got it? It's a damned expensive business buying from Buonaparte. Sixty millions for a casus belli! That's what you have paid, and that's what you have acquired, sir!"
"I don't think you can be certain that it's a casus belli, sir—"
"Sir," retorted the Major, "I may not know much, but what I know, I know damned well! You cry peace, but there'll be no peace. There'll be war, sir, war, war, war!"
Unity glanced from the card-table. "Sing again, Jacqueline, do! Sing something peaceful," and Jacqueline, still with a colour and with shining eyes, laughed, struck a sounding chord, and in her noble contralto sang Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled.
IN THE GARDEN
In the forenoon of the next day Rand closed, for the second time that morning, the door of the blue room behind him, descended the stairs, and, passing through the quiet house, went out into the flower garden. He was going away that afternoon. Breakfast had been taken in his own room, but afterward, with some dubitation, he had gone downstairs. There Colonel Churchill met him heartily enough, but presently business with his overseer had taken the Colonel away. Rand found himself cornered by Major Edward and drawn into a discussion of the impeachment of Judge Chase. Rand could be moved to the blackest rage, but he had no surface irritability of temper. To his antagonists his self-command was often maddening. Major Churchill was as disputatious as Arthur Lee, and an adept at a quarrel, but the talk of the impeachment went tamely on. The Republican would not fight at Fontenoy, and at last the Major in a cold rage went away to the library—first, however, watching the young man well on his way up the stairs and toward the blue room. But Rand had not stayed in the blue room. Restless and unhappy, the garden, viewed through his window, invited him. He thought: "I'll walk in it once again; I'll find the summer-house where I sat beside her," and he had acted upon his impulse. No one was about. Within and without, the house seemed lapped in quiet. He had been given to understand that the ladies were busy with household matters, and he believed the Carys to have ridden to Greenwood. That afternoon he would mount Selim, and with Joab would go home to the house on the Three-Notched Road.
After the rain of the night before the garden was cool and sweet. The drops yet lay on the tangle of old-fashioned flowers, on the box and honeysuckle and the broad leaves of the trees where all the birds were singing. The gravel paths were wet and shining. Rand walked slowly, here and there, between the lines of box or under arching boughs, his mind now trying to bring back the day when he had walked there as a boy, now wondering with a wistful passion if he was to leave Fontenoy without again seeing Jacqueline. He meant to leave without one word that the world might not hear, but he thought it hard that he must go without a touch of the hand, without a "From my heart I thank you for your kindness. Good-bye, good-bye!" That would not be much; Fontenoy might give him that.
He reached an edge of the garden where a thread-like stream trickled under a bank of periwinkle, phlox, and ivy, and on through a little wood of cedars. The air was cool beneath the trees, and Rand raised his forehead to the blowing wind. The narrow pathway turned, and he came upon Deb and Miranda seated upon the bare, red earth and playing with flower dolls.
Deb had before her a parade of morning-glories, purple and white, pink and blue, while Miranda sat in a ring of marigolds and red columbines. Each was slowly swaying to and fro, murmuring to herself, and manipulating with small, darting fingers her rainbow throng of ladies. Rand, unseen, watched the manoeuvres for a while, then coughed to let them know he was there, and presently sat down upon a root of cedar, and gave Deb his opinion of the flower people. Children and he were always at their ease together.
"Hollyhocks make the finest ladies," he announced gravely. "Little Miss Randolph puts snapdragon caps upon them and gives them scarfs of ribbon grass."
"Hollyhocks are not in bloom," said Deb. "I use snapdragon for caps, too.—Now she has on a red and gold cap. This is a currant-leaf shawl."
"Do you name them?" asked Rand, poising a columbine upon the back of his hand.
"Of course," answered Deb. "All people have names. That is Sapphira."
Miranda advanced a flourishing zinnia. "Dishyer Miss Keren-Happuch—Marse Job's daughter."
Deb regarded with shining eyes a pale blue morning-glory with a little cap of white. "This is Ruth—I love her! The dark one is Hagar—she was dark, you know—and those two are Rachel and Leah."
"Ol' Miss Babylon!" said Miranda succinctly, and put forth a many-petalled red lady.
"Babylon, Babylon, Red an' sinnin' Babylon, Wash her han's in Jordan flood, Still she's sinnin' Babylon!"
"And, these three?" asked Rand.
"Faith, Hope, and Charity," answered Deb. "Faith is blue, Hope is pink, and that white one is Charity."
"She has a purple edge to her gown."
"Yes," said Deb, "and I am going to give her a crown, 'for the greatest of these is Charity!' That yellow lily is the Shulamite. Miranda and I are going now to gather more ladies." She looked at Rand with large child's eyes. "If you want somebody to talk to, my sister Jacqueline is reading over there in the summer-house."
The blood rushed to Rand's face. His heart beat so loud and fast that it stifled a voice within him. He did not even hear the voice. He rose at once, turned, and took the path that Deb's brown finger indicated. Had he been another man, had he been, perhaps, Ludwell Cary, he might not have gone. But he was Lewis Rand, the product and effect of causes inherited and self-planted, and his passion, rising suddenly, mastered him with a giant's grip. The only voice that he heard was the giant's urgent cry, and he went without protest.
The summer-house was a small, latticed place, overgrown with the Seven Sisters rose, and set in a breast-high ring of box opening here and there to the garden paths. A tulip tree towered above the gravel space before it, and two steps led to a floor chequered with light and shade, and to a rustic chair and table. Jacqueline was not within the summer-house; she sat in the doorway, upon the step. She was not reading. She sat bowed together, her head upon her folded arms, a figure still and tragic as a sphinx or sibyl. Rand's eyes upon her roused her from her brooding. She lifted her head, saw him, and her face, which had been drawn and weary, became like the face of the young dawn.
As Rand crossed the space between them, she rose. He saw the colour and the light, and he uttered only her name—"Jacqueline, Jacqueline!" A moment, and they were in each other's arms.
It was their golden hour. Neither thought of right or wrong, of the conditions of life beyond their ring of box, of wisdom or its contrary. It was as though they had met in the great void of space, the marvel called man and the wonder that is woman, each drawn to each over the endless fields and through the immeasurable ages. Each saw the other transfigured, and each wished for lover and companion the other shining one.
They moved to the summer-house, and sat down upon the step. About them was the Seven Sisters rose, and above towered the tulip tree with a mockingbird singing in its branches. The place was filled with the odour of the box. To the end of their lives the smell of box brought back that hour in the Fontenoy garden. The green walls hid from view all without their little round. They had not heard step or voice when suddenly, having strolled that way by accident, there emerged from the winding path into the space about the summer-house Colonel Churchill and Ludwell Cary. There was a second's utter check, then, "Sir!" cried the Colonel, in wrathful amazement.
The hands of the lovers fell apart. Rand rose, but Jacqueline sat still, looking at her uncle with a paling cheek and a faint line between her brows. The mockingbird sang on, but the garden appeared to darken and grow cold. The place seemed filled with difficult breathing. Then, before a word was spoken, Cary turned, made a slight gesture with his hand, and went away, disappearing between the lines of box. The sound of his footsteps died in the direction of the stream and the dark wood. Colonel Churchill moistened his lips and spoke in a thick voice. "You scoundrel! Was it for this? You are a scoundrel, sir!"
"I have asked Miss Churchill to be my wife," said Rand, with steadiness. "She has consented. I love your niece, sir, with all my heart, most truly, most dearly! I will ask you to believe that it was not in my mind to speak to her to-day, or to speak at all without your knowledge. I confess the impropriety of my course. But we met unawares. It is not to be helped. In no way is she to blame."
Jacqueline rose, came to her uncle, and tried to take his hand. He repulsed her. "Is this true—what this man says?"
"Yes, yes," said Jacqueline. "It is true. Oh, forgive him!"
The Colonel struck down her outstretched hands. "I do not believe you are Henry's child! Your mother was a strange woman. You are not a Churchill. My God! Henry's child talking of marrying this—this—this gentleman. You are mad, or I am mad. Come away from him, Jacqueline!"
"I love him!" cried Jacqueline. "Oh, Uncle Dick, Uncle Dick!—"
"I loved your niece, sir, when I was a boy," said Rand; "and I love her now that I am a man. I grant that I should not have spoken to her to-day. I ask your pardon for what may seem to you insult and thanklessness. But the thing itself—is it so impossible? Why is it impossible that I should wed where I love with all my heart?" He broke a piece of the box beside him and drew it through his hands, then threw it away, and squarely faced the elder man. "I had my way to make in life. Well, I am making it fast. I am making it faster, perhaps, than any other man in the county, be he who he may! I am poor, but I am not so poor as once I was, and I shall be richer yet. My want of wealth is perhaps the least—why should I not say that I know it is the least objection in your mind? My party? Well, I shall become a leader of my party—and Republicans are white as well as Federalists. It is not forgery or murder to detest Pitt and George the Third, or to believe in France! Is it so poor a thing to become a leader of a party that has gained an empire, that has put an end to the Algerine piracy, that has reduced the debt, that has made easier every man's condition, and that stands for freedom of thought and deed and advance of all knowledge? Party! Now and then, even in Virginia, there is a marriage between the parties! My family—or my lack of family? The fact that my father rolled tobacco, and that now and then I broke a colt for you?" He smiled. "Well, you must allow that I broke them thoroughly—and Goldenrod was a very demon! Pshaw! This is America, and once we had an ideal! For the rest, though I do not go to church, I believe in God, and though I have been called an unscrupulous lawyer, I take no dirty money. Some say that I am a demagogue—I think that they are wrong. I love your niece, sir, and more than that—oh, much more than that!—she says that she loves me. She says that she will share my life. If I make not that sharing sweet to her, then indeed—But I will! I will give her wealth and name and place, and a heart to keep. Again I say that the fault of this meeting is all mine. I humbly beg your pardon, Colonel Churchill, and I beg your consent to my marriage with your niece—"
The Colonel, who had heard so far in stormy silence, broke in with, "Marry my niece, sir! I had rather see my niece dead and laid in her grave! Consent! I'd as soon consent to her death or dishonour! Name and place! you neither have them nor will have them!" He turned upon Jacqueline. "I'll forgive you," he said, breathing heavily, "there in the library, when you have written and signed a letter to Mr. Lewis Rand explaining that both he and you were mistaken in your sentiments towards him. I'll forgive you then, and I'll do my best to forget. But not else, Jacqueline, not else on God's earth! That's sworn. As for you, sir, I should think that your awakened sense of propriety might suggest—"
"I am going, sir," answered Rand. "I return to the house but to take my papers from the blue room. Joab shall saddle my horse at once. You shall not anger me, Colonel Churchill. I owe you too much. But your niece has said that she will be my wife, and before God, she shall be! And that's sworn, too, sir! I leave Fontenoy at once, as is just, but I shall write to your niece. Part us you cannot—"
"Jacqueline," cried the Colonel, "the sight of you there beside that man is death to my old heart. You used to care—you used to be a good child! I command you to leave him; I command you to say good-bye to him now, at once and forever! Tell him that you have been dreaming, but that now you are awake. God knows that I think that I am dreaming! Come, come, my little Jack!"
"Will you tell me that?" asked Rand. "Will you tell me that, Jacqueline?"
"No!" cried Jacqueline; "I will tell you only the truth! I love you—love you. Oh, my heart, my heart!" She turned from them both, sank down upon the summer-house step, and lay with her forehead on her arm.
There was a moment's silence, then, "You see," said Rand, not without gentleness, to the elder man.
Colonel Churchill leaned on his walking-stick, and his breath came heavily. He wondered where Edward was—Edward could always find words that would hurt. At last, "We part, Mr. Rand," he said, with dignity. "In parting I have but to say that your conduct has been such as I might have expected, and that I conceive it to be my duty to protect my misguided niece from the consequences of her folly. I warn you neither to write to her nor to attempt to see her. If she writes to you otherwise than as I shall dictate; if she does not, when she has bethought herself, break with you once and forever,—all's over between us! She is no niece of mine. She is dead to me. I'll not speak to her, nor willingly look upon her face again. I am a man of my word. I have the honour, sir, to bid you a very good-day." He drew out and looked at his ponderous watch. "I shall remain here with my niece for an hour. Perhaps in that time she will awaken to her old truth, her old duty; and perhaps you will require no more in which to gather your papers and remove yourself from Fontenoy?"
"I shall not need the hour," answered Rand. "I will be gone presently. God knows, sir, I had not thought to go this way." He turned from his host and bent for a moment over Jacqueline. "Good-bye," he said. "Good-bye for a little while! My heart is in your hands. I trust you for constancy. Good-bye—good-bye!"
He was gone, moving rapidly toward the house. Colonel Churchill drew a long sigh, wiped his face with his handkerchief, and looked miserably up to the green boughs where the mockingbird was singing. He wished again for Edward, and he wished that Henry had not died. He believed in Heaven, and he knew that Henry was there, but then the thought came into his mind that Henry was here, too, in the person of his child, prone on the summer-house steps. Henry, also, had been a man of his word, had known his own mind, and exercised his will. There, too, had been the veil of sweetness! The Colonel sighed more heavily, wished again impatiently for Edward, then marched to the summer-house, and, sitting down, began to reason with Henry's daughter.
Rand passed through the Fontenoy garden, in his heart a pain that was triumph, an exaltation that was pain. Mounting the porch steps, he found himself in the presence of Major Edward playing Patience in the shade of the climbing rose. The player started violently. "I thought, sir," he said, wheeling in his chair, "I thought you yet in the blue room! How the deuce!—I was on guard—" the Major caught himself. "I was waiting to renew our very interesting discussion. Where have you been?"
"I have been in the garden," said Rand. He hesitated, standing by the table. There was a debate in his mind. "Should I speak to him, too? What is the use? He'll be no kinder to her!" He put out his hand uncertainly, and touched one of the Major's cards. "Is it an interesting game?"
"I find it so," answered the other dryly. "Else I should not play it."
"Why do you like it? It is poor amusement to play against yourself."
"I like it, sir," snapped the Major, "because I am assured of playing against a gentleman."
Rand let his hand fall from the table. "Major Churchill, I am leaving Fontenoy immediately. Perhaps I ought to tell you what I have just told your brother: I love Miss Churchill—"
The Major rose from his chair. "Have you spoken to her?"
"Yes, I have asked her to marry me."
"Indeed!" said the Major huskily. "May I ask what Miss Churchill replied?"
"Miss Churchill loves me," answered Rand. "She will do what I wish."
The silence grew painful. The words, acid and intolerable, that Rand expected, did not seem to come easily to the Major's dry lips. He looked small, thin, and frozen, grey and drawn of face, as though the basilisk had confronted him. When at last he spoke, it was in a curiously remote voice, lucid and emotionless. "Well, why not? All beliefs die—die and rot! A vain show—and this, too, was of the charnel!"
He turned upon Rand as if he would have struck him, then drew back, made in the air an abrupt and threatening gesture, and with a sound like a stifled cry passed the other and entered the house. Rand heard him go down the hall, and the closing of the library door.
The young man's heart was hot and sore. He went up to the blue room, where he found Joab packing his portmanteau. A few peremptory words sent the man to the stables, while his master with rapid fingers collected and laid together the papers with which the room was strewn. The task finished, he threw himself for a moment into the great chair and looked about him. He was capable of great attachment to place, and he had loved this room. Now the mandarin smiled obliquely on him, and the moon-clock ticked the passing moments, the impossible blue roses flowered on thornless stems, and the picture of Washington looked calmly down from the opposite wall. He put his hand over his eyes, and sat still, trying to calm the storm within him. There were in his mind joy and gratitude, hurt pride and bitter indignation, and a thousand whirling thoughts as to ways and means, the overcoming of obstacles, and the building of a palace fit to shelter his happiness. The clock struck, and he started up. Not for much would he have overstayed his hour.
He left the room and passed through the silent house, mounted his horse, and rode away. A crowd had witnessed his arrival there; only a few wondering servants were gathered to see him depart. He gave them gold, but though they thanked him, they thanked him with a difference. He felt it, and that more keenly than he might have felt a greater thing. Could he not even give largesse like one to the manner born, or was it only that all the air was hostile? He rode away. From the saddle he could have seen the distant summer-house, but he forced himself not to look. The lawn fell away behind him, and the trees hid the house. The gleam of a white pillar kept with him for a while, but the driveway bent, and that too was hidden. With Joab behind him on the iron grey, he passed through the lower gate, and took the way that led to Mrs. Jane Selden's on the Three-Notched Road.
A MARRIAGE AT SAINT MARGARET'S
"Yes," said Unity. "That is just what the Argus says. 'On Thursday M. Jerome Buonaparte, the younger brother of the First Consul, passed through Annapolis with his bride—lately the lively and agreeable Miss Elizabeth Patterson of Baltimore. M. Buonaparte's Secretary and Physician followed in a chaise, and the valets and femmes-de-chambre in a coach. The First Consul's brother wore—' I protest I don't care what the First Consul's brother wore! The Argus is not gallant. If you were the First Consul's brother—"
"The Argus should describe the bride's dress, not mine," said Fairfax Cary. "How lovely you would look, in that gown you have on, in a curricle drawn by grey horses! What is the stuff—roses and silver?"
"Heigho!" sighed Unity. "'Tis a bridesmaid's gown. I am out with men. I shall never wear a bride's gown."
"Jest! I never felt less like jesting! I laugh to keep from crying. Here is the coach."
The great Fontenoy coach with the Churchill arms on the panel drew up before the porch. It was drawn by four horses, and driven by old Philip in a wig and nosegay. Mingo was behind, and Phyllis's Jim and a little darky ran alongside to open the door and let down the steps. "All alone in that!" exclaimed Cary. "I shall ride with you as far as the old road to Greenwood. Don't say no! I'll hold your flowers."
Unity looked down upon the roses in her arms. "They should all be white," she said. "I feel as though I were going to see them bury Jacqueline." Her voice broke, but she bit her lip, forced back the tears, and tried to laugh. "I'm not. I'm going to her wedding—and people know their own business best—and she may be as happy as the day is long! He is fascinating,—he is dreadfully fascinating,—and we have no right to say he is not good—and everybody knows he is going to be great! Why shouldn't she be happy?"
"I don't know," answered Cary. "But I know she won't be."
"You say that," cried Unity, turning on him, "because you are a Federalist! Well, women are neither Federalists nor Republicans! They have no party and no soul of their own! They are just what the person they love is—"
"That's not so," said Cary.
"Oh, I know it's not so!" agreed Miss Dandridge, with impatience. "It's just one of those things that are said! But it remains that Jacqueline must be happy. I'll break my heart if she's not! And as long as I live, I'll say that Uncle Dick and Uncle Edward are to blame—"
"Where are they?"
"Oh, Uncle Dick is in the long field watching the threshing, and Uncle Edward is in the library reading Swift! And Aunt Nancy has ordered black scarfs to be put above the pictures of Uncle Henry and of Great-Aunt Jacqueline that Jacqueline's named for. Oh, oh!"
"And Deb?" asked the young man gently.
"Deb is at Cousin Jane Selden's. She has been there with Jacqueline a week—she and Miranda. Oh, I know—Uncle Dick is a just man! He does what he thinks is the just thing. Deb shall go visit her sister—every now and then! And all that Uncle Henry left Jacqueline goes with her—there are slaves and furniture and plate, and she has money, too. The Rands don't usually marry so well—There! I, too, am bitter! But Uncle Dick swears that he will never see Jacqueline again—and all the Churchills keep their word. Oh, family quarrels! Deb's coming back to Fontenoy to-morrow—poor little chick! Aunt Nancy's got to have those mourning scarfs taken away before she comes!"
Miss Dandridge descended the porch steps to the waiting coach. The younger Cary handed her in with great care of her flowers and gauzy draperies, and great reluctance in relinquishing her hand. "I may come too?" he asked, "just as far as the old Greenwood road? I hate to see you go alone."
"Oh, yes, yes!" answered Miss Dandridge absently, and, sinking into a corner, regarded through the window the July morning. "Those black scarfs hurt me," she said, and the July morning grew misty. "It's not death to marry the man one loves!"
The coach rolled down the drive to the gate, and out upon the sunny road. The dust rose in clouds, whitening the elder, the stickweed, and the blackberry bushes. The locusts shrilled in the parching trees. The sky was cloudless and intensely blue, marked only by the slow circling of a buzzard far above the pine-tops. There were many pines, and the heat drew out their fragrance, sharp and strong. The moss that thatched the red banks was burned, and all the ferns were shrivelling up. Everywhere butterflies fluttered, lizards basked in the sun, and the stridulation of innumerable insects vexed the ear. The way was long, and the coach lumbered heavily through the July weather. "I do not want to talk," sighed Unity. "My heart is too heavy."
"My own is not light," said Cary grimly. "I am sorry for my brother."
"We are all sorry for your brother," Unity answered gently, and then would speak no more, but sat in her silver and roses, looking out into the heat and light. The Greenwood road was reached in silence. Cary put his head out of the window and called to old Philip. The coach came slowly to a stop before a five-barred gate. Mingo opened the door, and the young man got out. "Unless you think I might go with you as far as the church—" he suggested, with his hand on the door. Unity shook her head. "You can't do that, you know! Besides, I am going first to Cousin Jane Selden's. Good-bye. Oh, it is going to be a happy marriage—it must be happy!"
"What is going to make it happy?" demanded Cary gloomily. "It's a match against nature! When I think of your cousin in that old whitewashed house, and every night Gideon Rand's ghost making tobacco around it! I am glad that Ludwell has gone to Richmond. He looks like a ghost himself."
"Oh, the world!" sighed Unity. "Tell Philip, please, to drive on."
"I'll ride over to Fontenoy to-morrow," said Fairfax Cary. "'Twill do you good to talk it over."
The coach went heavily on through the dust of the Three-Notched Road. The locusts shrilled, the pines gave no shade, in the angle of the snake fences pokeberry and sumach drooped their dusty leaves. The light air in the pine-tops sounded like the murmur of a distant sea, too far off for coolness. Unity sighed with the oppression of it all. The flowers were withering in her lap. After a long hour the road turned, discovering yellow wheat-fields and shady orchards, the gleam of a shrunken stream and a brick house embowered in wistaria. Around the horse-block and in the shade of a great willow were standing a coach or two, a chaise, and several saddle-horses. "All of them Republican," commented Unity.
At the door she was met by Cousin Jane Selden herself, a thin and dark old lady with shrewd eyes and a determined chin. "I'm glad to see you, Unity, though I should have been more glad to see Richard and Edward Churchill! 'Woe to a stiff-necked generation!' says the Bible. Well! you are fine enough, child, and I honour you for it! There are a few people in the parlour—just those who go to church with us. The clock has struck, and we'll start in half an hour. Jacqueline is in her room, and when she doesn't look like an angel she looks like her mother. You had best go upstairs. Mammy Chloe dressed her."
Unity mounted the dark, polished stairs to an upper hall where stood a tall clock and a spindle-legged table with a vast jar of pot-pourri. A door opened, framing Jacqueline, dressed in white, and wearing her mother's wedding veil. "I knew your step," she said. "Oh, Unity, you are good to come!"
In the bedroom they embraced. "Wild horses couldn't have kept me from coming!" declared Unity with resolute gaiety. "Whichever married first, the other was to be bridesmaid!—we arranged that somewhere in the dark ages! Oh, Jacqueline, you are like a princess in a picture-book!"
"And Uncle Dick and Uncle Edward?" asked Jacqueline, in a low voice.
"Well, the Churchills are obstinate folk, as we all know!" answered Unity cheerfully. "But I think time will help. They can't go on hating forever. Uncle Dick is in the fields, and Uncle Edward is in the library reading. There, there, honey!"
Mammy Chloe bore down upon them from the other end of the room. "Miss Unity, don' you mek my chile cry on her weddin' mahnin'! Hit ain't lucky to cry befo' de ring's on!"
"I'm not crying, Mammy," said Jacqueline. "I wish that I could cry. It is you, Unity, that are like a princess in your rose and silver, with your dear red lips, and your dear black eyes! Isn't she lovely, Mammy?" She came close to her cousin and pinned a small brooch in the misty folds above the white bosom. "This is my gift—it is mother's pearl brooch. Oh, Unity, don't think too ill of me!"
"Think ill!" cried Unity, with spirit. "I think only good of you. I think you are doing perfectly right! I'll wear your pearl always—you were always like a pearl to me!"
"Even pearls have a speck at heart," said Jacqueline. "And there's nothing perfectly right—or perfectly wrong. But most things cannot be helped. Some day, perhaps, at home—at Fontenoy—they will think of the time when they were young—and in love." She turned and took up her gloves from the dressing-table. "I have had a letter from Ludwell Cary," she said, then spoke over her shoulder with sudden lire. "He is the only one of all I know, the only one of all my people, who has been generous enough, and just enough, to praise the man I marry!"
"Oh, Jacqueline!" cried Unity, "I will praise him to the skies, if only he will make you happy! Does not every one say that he has a great future? and surely he deserves all credit for rising as he has done—and he is most able—"
"And good," said Jacqueline proudly. "Don't praise him any more, Unity." She put her hands on her cousin's shoulders and kissed her lightly on the forehead. "Now and then, my dear, will you come to see me on the Three-Notched Road? I shall have Deb one week out of six."
"I shall come," answered Unity. "Where is Deb?"
"She is asleep. She cried herself to sleep."
"Chillern cry jes' fer nothin' at all," put in Mammy Chloe. "Don' you worry, honey! Miss Deb's all right. I's gwine wake her now, an' wash her face, an' slip on her li'l white dress. She's gwine be jes' ez peart an' ez happy! My Lawd! Miss Deb jes' gainin' a brother!"
"Jacqueline," came Cousin Jane Selden's voice at the door. "It is almost time."
The coach of the day was an ark in capacity, and woman's dress as sheathlike as a candle flame. Jacqueline, Unity, Deb, Cousin Jane Selden, and a burly genial gentleman of wide family connections and Republican tenets travelled to church in the same vehicle and were not crowded. The coach was Cousin Jane Selden's; the gentleman was of some remote kinship, and had been Henry Churchill's schoolmate, and he was going to give Jacqueline away. He talked to Cousin Jane Selden about the possibilities of olive culture, and he showed Deb a golden turnip of a watch with jingling seals. Jacqueline and Unity sat in silence, Jacqueline's arm around Deb. Behind their coach came the small party gathered at Mrs. Selden's. The church was three miles down the road. It was now afternoon, and the heat lay like a veil upon wood and field and the foot-hills of the Blue Ridge. The dust rose behind the carriage, then sank upon and further whitened the milkweed and the love vine and the papaw bushes. The blaze of light, the incessant shrilling of the locusts, the shadeless pines, the drouth, the long, dusty road—all made, thought Unity, a dry and fierce monotony that seared the eyes and weighed upon the soul. She wondered of what Jacqueline was thinking.
The Church of Saint Margaret looked forth with a small, white-pillared face, from a grove of oaks. It had a flowery churchyard, and around it a white paling, keeping in the dead, and keeping out all roaming cattle. There was a small cracked bell, and the swallows forever circled above the eaves and in and out of the belfry. Without the yard, beneath the oaks, were a horserack and a shed for carriages. To-day there were horses at the rack and tied beneath the trees; coaches, chaises, and curricles, not a few, beneath the shed and scattered through the oak grove. The church within was all rustle and colour. Saint Margaret's had rarely seen such a gathering, or such a wholly amicable one, for to-day all the pews were of one party. The wedding was one to draw the curious, the resolutely Republican, the kindred and friends of Jefferson,—who, it was known, had sent the bride a valuable present and a long letter,—the interested in Rand, the inimical, for party and other reasons, to the Churchills and the Carys. The county knew that Miss Churchill might have had Greenwood. The knowledge added piquancy to the already piquant fact that she had chosen the house on the Three-Notched Road. Colonel Churchill and Major Edward, the county knew, would not come to the wedding; neither, of course, would the two Carys; neither, it appeared, would any other Federalist. The rustling pews looked to all four corners and saw only folk of one watchword. True, under the gallery was to be seen Mr. Pincornet, fadedly gorgeous in an old green velvet, but to this English stock Mr. Pincornet might give what word he chose; he remained a French dancing master. The rustling pews nodded and smiled to each other, waiting to see Jacqueline Churchill come up the aisle in bridal lace. Under the gallery, not far from Mr. Pincornet, sat Adam Gaudylock, easy and tawny, dressed as usual in his fringed hunting-frock, with his coonskin cap in his hand, and his gun at his feet. Beside him sat Vinie Mocket, dressed in her best. Vinie's eyes were downcast, and her hands clasped in her lap. She wondered—poor little partridge!—why she was there, why she had been so foolish as to let Mr Adam persuade her into coming Vinie was afraid she was going to cry. Yet not for worlds would she have left Saint Margaret's; she wanted, with painful curiosity, to see the figure in bridal lace She wondered where Tom was Tom was to have joined Mr. Adam and herself an hour ago The bell began to ring, and all the gathering rustled loudly. "She's coming—she's coming?" whispered Vinie, and Adam, "Why, of course, of course, little partridge. Now don't you cry—you'll be walking up Saint Margaret's aisle yourself some day!"
The bell ceased to ring. Lewis Rand came from the vestry and stood beside the chancel rail. A sound at the door, a universal turning as though the wind bent every flower in a garden—and Jacqueline Churchill came up the aisle between the coloured lines. Her hand was upon the arm of her father's schoolmate; Unity and Deb followed her. Rand met her at the altar, and the old clergyman who had baptized her married them. It was over, from the "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together," to the "Until Death shall them part!" Lewis and Jacqueline Rand wrote their names in the register, then turned to receive the congratulations of those who crowded around them, to smile, and say the expected thing. Rand stooped and kissed Deb, wrung Mrs. Selden's hand, then held out his own to Unity with something of appeal in his gesture and his eyes. Miss Dandridge promptly laid her hand in his, and looked at him with her frank and brilliant gaze. "Now that we are cousins," she said, "I do not find you a monster at all. Make her happy, and one day we'll all be friends." "I will—I will!" answered Rand, with emotion, pressed her hand warmly, and was claimed by others of his wedding guests. Jacqueline, too, had clung at first to Unity and Deb and Cousin Jane Selden, but now she also turned from the old life to the new, and greeted with a smiling face the people of her husband's party. Many, of course, she knew; only a difference of opinion stood between them and the Churchills; but others were strangers to her—strangers and curious. She felt it in the touch of their hands, in the stare of their eyes, and her heart was vaguely troubled. She saw her old dancing master, tiptoeing on the edge of the throng, and her smile brought Mr. Pincornet, his green velvet and powdered wig, to her side. He put his hand to his heart and bowed as to a princess.
"Ha! Mr. Pincornet," exclaimed Rand, "I remember our night at Monticello. Now I have a teacher who will be with me always!—Jacqueline, I want you to speak to my old friend, Adam Gaudylock."
"Ah, I know Mr. Gaudylock," answered Jacqueline, and gave the hunter both her hands. "We all know and admire and want to be friends with Adam Gaudylock!"
The picture that she made in her youth and beauty and bridal raiment was a dazzling one. Adam looked at her so fully and so long that she blushed a little. She could not read the thought behind his blue eyes. "You shall be my Queen if you like," he said at last, and Jacqueline laughed, thinking his speech the woodsman's attempt to say a pretty thing.
Rand drew forward with determination a small brown figure. "Jacqueline, this is another good friend of mine—Miss Lavinia Mocket, the sister of my law partner.—Vinie, Vinie, you are shyer than a partridge! You shan't scuttle away until you have spoken to my wife!"
"Yeth, thir," said Vinie, her hand in Jacqueline's. "I wish you well, ma'am."
Rand and Adam laughed. Jacqueline, with a sudden soft kindliness for the small flushed face and startled eyes, bent her flower-crowned head and kissed Vinie. "Oh!" breathed Vinie. "Yeth, yeth, Mith Jacqueline, I thertainly wish you well!"
"Where's Tom?" asked Rand. "Tom should be here—" but Vinie had slipped from the ring about the bride. Adam followed; Mr. Pincornet had already faded away. More important folk claimed the attention of the newly wedded pair, and Mr. Mocket had not yet appeared when at last the gathering, bound for the wedding feast at Mrs. Selden's, deserted the interior of the church and flowed out under the portico and down the steps to the churchyard and the coaches waiting in the road. Lewis and Jacqueline Rand came down the path between the midsummer flowers. They were at the gate when the sight and sound of a horse coming at a gallop along the road drew from Rand an exclamation. "Tom Mocket—and his horse in a lather! There's news of some kind—"
It was so evident, when the horse and rider came to a stop before the church gate, that there was news of some kind, that the wedding guests, gentle and simple, left all talk and all employment to crowd the grassy space between the gate and the road and to demand enlightenment. Mocket's horse was spent, and Mocket's face was fiery red and eager. He gasped, and wiped his face with a great flowered handkerchief. "What is it, man?" cried a dozen voices.
Mocket rose in his stirrups and looked the assemblage over. "We're all Republicans—hip, hip, hurrah! Eh, Lewis Rand, I've brought you a wedding gift! The stage had just come in—I got the news at the Eagle! Hip, hip—"
"Tom," said Rand at his bridle rein, "you've been drinking. Steady, man. Now, what's the matter?"
"A wedding gift! a wedding gift!" repeated Tom, taken with his own conceit. "And I never was soberer, gentlemen, never 'pon honour! Hip, hip, hurrah! we're all good Republicans—but you'll never guess the news!—The Creole's dead!"
"No!" cried Rand.
There arose an uproar of excited voices. "Yes, yes, it's true!" shouted Mocket. "The stage brought it. He was challenged by Aaron Burr. They met at a place named Weehawken. Burr's first shot ended it.—Sandy'll trouble us no more!"
"No, no, it's gospel truth! There's a messenger from the President, and letters from all quarters. He's dead, and Burr's in hiding! Gad! We'll have a rouse at the Eagle to-night! Blue lights for Assumption and Funding and the Sedition Bill and Taxes and Standing Armies and the British Alliance—
"Oh, Alexander, King of Macedon, Where is your namesake, Andy Hamilton?
"In a hotter place, I hope, than Saint Kitts!"
"Hush!" said Rand. "Don't be ranting like a Mohawk! When a man's dead, it's time to let him rest."
He turned to the excited throng, and as he did so, he was aware that Jacqueline was standing white and frozen, and that Unity was trying to take her hand. He felt for her an infinite tenderness, and he promised himself to give Tom Mocket an old-time rating for at least one ill-advised expression. Such wedding gifts were not for Jacqueline. But as for the news—Rand felt his cheek grow hot and his eyes glow. In all the history of the country this was the decade in which political animosity, pure and simple, went its greatest length. Each party thought of the struggle as a battlefield; the Federalist strength was already broken, and now if the leader was down, it was not in fighting and Republican nature to restrain the wild cheer for the rout that must follow. Rand was a fighter too, and a captain of fighters, and the hundred whirling thoughts, the hundred chances, the sense of victory, and the savage joy in a foe's defeat—all the feeling that swelled his heart left him unabashed. But he thought of Jacqueline, and he tried to choose his words. There would be now, he knew, no wedding feast at Mrs. Selden's. Randolphs, Carrs, Coles, Carters, Dabneys, Gordons, Meriwethers, and Minors—all would wish to hurry away. Plantation, office, or tavern, there would be letters waiting, journals to read, men to meet, committees, clamour, and debate. Of the ruder sort who had crowded to the church, many were already on the point of departure, mounting their horses, preparing for a race to the nearest tavern and newspaper. "Gentlemen," exclaimed Rand, "if it's true news—if we have indeed to deplore General Hamilton's death—"
"'Deplore!'" cried Mocket.
"'Deplore!'" echoed bluntly a Republican of prominence. "Don't let's be hypocrites, Mr. Rand. We'll leave the Federalists to 'deplore'—"
"Oh, I'll deplore him with pleasure!" cried a third. "It won't hurt to drop a tear—but for all that it's the greatest news since 1800!"
"Hip, hip, hurrah!"
"Weehawken! where's Weehawken? What's Burr in hiding for? Can't a gentleman fight a duel? Let him come down here, and we'll give him a triumph!"
"I chose my word badly," said Rand, with the good-nature that always disarmed; "I shall not weep over my enemy, I only mean that I would not ignobly exult. Of course, sir, it is great news—the very greatest! And all here will now want the leisure of the day."
"Tell them, Lewis, that I'll excuse them," said Cousin Jane Selden. "We won't have a feast on the day of a funeral."
* * * * *
A little later, deep in the embrace of the old Selden coach, husband and wife began their journey to the house on the Three-Notched Road. In the minutes that followed the disposal of their wedding guests it had been settled that they would not return to Mrs. Selden's—it was best to go home instead. Cousin Jane would take Deb; Unity must return at once to Fontenoy. Hamilton and Edward Churchill had served together on Washington's staff; of late years they had seldom met, but the friendship remained. Unity knew, but would not speak of it, that Uncle Edward had finished, only the night before, a long letter to his old comrade-at-arms. With the exception of Deb, all the little party were aware that Jacqueline Rand's chances for forgiveness from her uncles were measurably slighter for this day's tidings. She seemed dazed, pale as her gown, but very quiet. She held Deb in her arms, and kissed Unity and Cousin Jane Selden. Her husband lifted her into the coach, wrung the others' hands, and followed her. "Good-bye, Lewis," said Mrs. Selden at the door. "I'll send a bowl of arrack to your men, and I'll ride over to-morrow to see Jacqueline. Good-bye, children, and God bless you both!"
The coach and four took the dusty road. A turn, and Saint Margaret's was hidden, another, and they were in a wood of beech and maple. The heat of the day was broken, and a wind was blowing. Rand took Jacqueline's hands, unclasped and chafed them. "So cold!" he said. "Why could we not have heard this news to-morrow!"
She shuddered strongly. "The noble—the great—" her voice broke.
"Is it so you think of him?" he asked. "Well—I, too, will call him noble and great—to-day.
"No more for him the warmth of the bright sun; Nor blows upon his brow the wind of night!
"He's gone—and we all shall go. But this is our wedding day. Let us forget—let us forget all else but that!"
"I grieve for the country," she said.
He kissed her hand. "Poor country! But her Sons die every day. She is like Nature—she takes no heed. Let us, too, forget!"
"Oh, his poor wife—"
Rand drew her to him. "Will you mourn for me when I am dead?"
"No," she answered. "We will die together.—Oh, Lewis, Lewis, Lewis!"
"You promised that you would be happy," he said, and kissed her. "You promised you would not let Fontenoy and the things of Fontenoy stand like a spectre between us. Forget this, too. Everywhere there is dying. But it is our wedding day—and I love you madly—and life and the kingdoms of life lie before us! If you are not happy, how can I be so?"
"But I am!" she cried, and showed him a glowing face. "I am happier than the happiest!"
The wood thinned into glades where the shadows of beech and maple were beginning to be long upon the grass; then, in the afternoon light, the coach entered open country, fields of ox-eyed daisies, and tall pine trees standing singly.
"I never came this far," said Jacqueline. "I never saw the house."
"It is there where the smoke rises beyond that tobacco-field," answered Rand. "All the tobacco shall be changed into wheat."
They came in sight of the house,—a long storey-and-a-half structure of logs, with two small porches and a great earthen chimney. Pine trees gave a scanty shade. House and outbuildings and fencing had all been freshly whitewashed; over the porches flourished morning-glory and Madeira vines, and the little yard was bright with hollyhock and larkspur. Jacqueline put her hand in her husband's. Rand bent and kissed it with something in touch and manner formal and chivalrous. "It is a poor house for you. Very soon I shall build you a better."
"I want no better," she answered. "Have you not lived here all these years?"
"Adam called you Queen. You should have a palace—"
"If I am Queen, then you must be a King. I think it is a lovely palace. What is that tree by the gate—all feathery pink?"
"A mimosa. Mr. Jefferson gave it to me. It is like you—it does not belong on the Three-Notched Road. It should stand in a palace garden with dim alleys, fountains, and orange groves." He ended in a deeper tone, "Why not? One day we may plant a mimosa in such a garden, and smile and say, 'Do you remember the tree—do you remember our wedding day?' Who knows—who knows?"
"You shall stay in that palace all alone," said Jacqueline. "I like this one best."
The house stood back from the road in its clump of pines. The coach stopped, and Rand and Jacqueline, descending, crossed a strip of short grass tufted with fennel and velvet mullein to the gate beneath the mimosa, entered the gay little yard, and moved up the path to the larger of the two porches. They were at home. On the porch to welcome them they found the white man who worked on shares and oversaw the farm, Joab and three other slaves of Rand's, Mammy Chloe, Hannah, and the negro men who belonged to Jacqueline. These gave a noisy greeting. Rand put money into the hands of the slaves and sent them away happy to the tumble-down quarter behind the house. The white man took his leave, and Mammy Chloe and Hannah retired to the kitchen, where supper was in preparation. Rand and Jacqueline entered together the clean, bare rooms.
Later, when Hannah's supper had been praised and barely touched, the two came again to the porch, and presently, hand in hand, moved down the steps, and over the dry summer grass to the mimosa at the gate. Here they turned, and in the gathering dusk looked back at the house, the sleeping pines, and all the shadowy surrounding landscape.
"Hear the frogs in the marsh!" said Rand. "They are excited to-night. They know I have brought a princess home."
"Listen to the cow-bells," she said. "I love to hear them, faint and far like that. I love to think of you, a little barefoot boy, bringing home the cows—and never, never dreaming once of me!"
"When could that have been?" he asked. "I have always dreamed of you—even when 'twas pain to dream!—There is the first whip-poor-will. Whip-poor-will! Once it had the loneliest sound! The moon is growing brighter. The dark has come."
"I love you, Lewis."
"Darling, darling! Listen! that is the night horn. The lights are out in the quarter. Do you hear the stream—our stream—hurrying past the apple tree? It is hurrying to the sea—the great sea. We've put out to sea together—you and I, just you and I!"