"Oh!" exclaimed Jacqueline.
Rand drew her to him. "Don't fear—don't fear! The child will come—we want him so!"
"Promise me," she cried,—"promise me that you will see Colonel Burr no more, write to him no more! Promise me that you will put all this away, forever, forever! Oh, Lewis, give me your word!"
"I will do nothing rash," he said. "We will go back to Roselands,—we will watch and wait awhile. Burr himself does not go West until the summer. Ere then I will persuade you. That first July evening, under the mimosa at the gate, even then this thing was vaguely, vaguely in my mind."
"Was it?" she cried. "Oh me, oh me!"
"You are wearied," he said, "chilled and trembling. I wish that Ludwell Cary had aired his views elsewhere to-night! Put it all from your mind and come to rest—"
"Lewis, if ever you loved me—if ever you said that you would give me proof—"
"You know that I love you."
"Then, as I gave up friends and home for you, give up this thing for me! No, no, I'll not cease to beg"—She slipped from his arm to her knees. "Lewis, Lewis, this is not the road—this is not the way to freedom, goodness, happiness Promise me! Oh, Lewis, if ever you loved me, promise me!"
From Rand's house on Shockoe Hill Ludwell Cary walked quickly homeward to the Eagle, where he and his brother lodged. As he walked he thought at first, hotly and bitterly enough, of Lewis Rand and painfully of himself, but at length the solemnity of the white night and the high glitter of the stars made him impatient of his own mood. He looked at the stars, and at the ivory and black of the tall trees, and his mind calmed itself and turned to think of Jacqueline.
In the Eagle's best bedroom, before a blazing fire and a bottle of port, he found Fairfax Cary deep in a winged chair and a volume of Fielding. "Well, Fair?" he said, with his arm upon the mantel-shelf and his booted foot upon the fender.
The younger Cary closed his book and hospitably poured wine for his brother. "Were you at the Amblers'?" he asked. "It's a night for one's own fireside. I went to the Mayos', but the fair Maria is out of town. On the way I stopped at Bowler's Tavern to see his man about that filly we were talking of, and I had a glass with old Bowler himself. He let out a piece of news. Who d'ye think is in town and under Bowler's roof?—Aaron Burr!"
There was a silence, then Cary said quietly, "Aren't you mistaken, Fair?"
"Not in the least," answered the other. "He came in a sloop from Baltimore yesterday. It is not known that he's in town; he does not want it known. He's keeping quiet,—perhaps he has another duel on his conscience. I don't believe old Bowler knew he had let the cat out. Burr leaves to-morrow. He was out visiting to-night."
"How do you know that?" Cary demanded, with sudden sharpness.
"Bowler's best bedroom in darkness—no special preparations for supper—Burr's man idling in the kitchen—mine host taking no cake to speak low,—in short, the wedding guest was roaming. I wonder where he was!"
The elder Cary raised and drained the glass of wine. He knew where Aaron Burr had supped and passed the evening, and a coldness that was not of the night crept upon him. As for Lewis Rand, he cared not what he did nor why he did it, but for Jacqueline Churchill. This had been the client from the country! All the time she was keeping it secret that Burr was there. She had turned pale. No wonder!—the faithful wife!
"Take care, that glass is thin—you'll break it!" warned the younger Cary, but the glass had snapped in the elder's fingers.
"Pshaw!" said Cary; "too frail for use! I'm off to bed, Fair. That bill comes up to-morrow, and it means a bitter fight. Good-night,—and I say, Fair, hold your tongue about Aaron Burr. Good-night!"
In his room he put out the candle, parted the window curtains, and looked upon Orion, icily splendid in the midnight sky. "What is there that is steadfast?" he thought. "Does she love him so?" He stood for a long time looking out into the night. He thought of that evening at Fontenoy when he had come in from the sultry and thunderous air and had found Rand seated in the drawing-room and Jacqueline at her harp, singing To Althea,—
"Minds innocent and quiet take That for a hermitage."
The words and the vision of Fontenoy that night were yet with him when at last he turned from the window and threw himself upon the bed, where he finally fell asleep with his arm flung up and across his eyes.
Rand, walking hastily through the hail of the Capitol, came out into the portico. Before him, between the great pillars, the landscape showed in glittering silver, in the brown of leafless trees and the hard green of pine and fir. The hill fell steep and white to the houses at its base and to the trampled street. In the still and crystal air the river made itself plainly heard. Across, on the Chesterfield side, the woods formed a long smudge of umber against the blue of the afternoon sky.
There were people here in the open air as there had been in the corridor, a number of men talking loudly, or excitedly whispering, or in silence rolling triumph beneath the tongue, or digesting defeat. Rand's progress, here as there, brought a change. The loud talking fell, the whisperers turned, the silent found their voices, and there arose a humming note of recognition and tribute. Rand had carried the Albemarle Resolutions, and that with a high hand. He moved through the crowd, acknowledging with a bend of his head this or that man's salute, frankly smiling upon good friends, and finely unconscious of all enemies, until at the head of the broad steps he came upon Adam Gaudylock seated with his gun beside him, smoking reflectively in the face of the Albemarle Resolutions and the general excitement. At Rand's glance he rose, took up the gun, and slid the pipe into his beaded pouch. The two descended the steps together.
"I am going to Lynch's," said Rand. "The stage will soon be in and I want the news. Well?"
"He's off," answered Gaudylock. "Chaise to Fredericksburg at six this morning. Pitch dark and no one stirring, and he as chipper, fresh, and pleased as a squirrel with a nut! Pshaw! a Creek pappoose could read his trail! He's from New England anyway. I want a Virginian out there!"
They walked on down the white hillside. The hunter, tawny and light of tread, scarce older to the eye, for all his wanderings, than the man beside him, glanced aslant with his sea-blue eyes. "When are you coming, Lewis?"
"Never, I think," said Rand abruptly; then after a moment's silent walking, "They should better clean these paths of snow. Mocket says a brig came in yesterday from the Indies;—attacks on Neutral Trade and great storms at sea. I've a pipe of Madeira on the ocean that I hope will not go astray. I wish that some time you would send me by a wagon coming east antlers of elk for the hall at Roselands."
"Why, certainly!" quoth Gaudylock. "And so you are going to settle down like every other country gentleman,—safe and snug, winter and summer, fenced in by tobacco and looking after negroes? I'll send you the skin of a grizzly, too."
"Thank you," replied Rand; then presently, "I dreamed last night—when at last I got to sleep—of my father. Do you remember how he used to stride along with his black hair and his open shirt and his big stick in his hand? I used to think that stick a part of him—just his arm made long and heavy. I tried once to burn it when he was asleep. Ugh!"
"I dreamed," said Gaudylock imperturbably, "of a Shawnee girl who once wanted me to stay in her father's lodge. 'It is winter in the forest,' quoth she, 'and the wolves begin to howl. All your talk of places where the river runs through flowers and the pale faces build great villages is the talk of singing birds! Stay by the fire, Golden-tongue!' and I stayed—in the dream.
"When you see a partridge Scurrying through the grass, Fit an arrow to the bow, For a man will pass!
"I am already," retorted Rand, "at the place where the river runs through flowers and the pale faces have built villages. Who will say that I did not cross the forest?—I was years in crossing it! Here is Lynch's."
The coffee house on Main Street was the resort of lawyers, politicians, and strangers in town, and towards dusk, when the stage and post-rider were in, a crowded and noisy place. It was yet early when Rand and Gaudylock entered, and neither the mail-bag, nor many habitues of the place had arrived. The room was quiet and not over brightly lit by the declining sun and the flare of a great, crackling fire. There were a number of tables and a few shadowy figures sipping chocolate, wine, or punch. Rand led the way to a corner table, and, sitting down with his back to the room, beckoned a negro and ordered wine. "I am tired, voice and mind," he said to Gaudylock, "and I know you well enough to neglect you. Let us sit still till the papers come."
He drank his wine and, with his elbow on the table, rested his forehead upon his hand and closed his eyes. Adam emptied his glass, then, leaning back in his corner, surveyed the room. Two men came and seated themselves at a neighbouring table. They were talking in lowered voices, but Gaudylock's ears were exceedingly keen. "A great speech!" said one. "As great as Mr. Henry ever made. Do you remember old Gideon Rand?"
The other shrugged. "Yes; and I remember old Stephen Rand, Gideon's father—a pirate of a man, sullen, cruel, and revengeful! A black stock!"
"The Waynes were not angels either—save by comparison," quoth the first. "All the same it was a great speech."
"I grant you that," said the other. "Black stock or not, we'll see him Governor of Virginia. Curious, isn't it?"
They became aware of their neighbours, glanced uneasily at each other, raised their eyebrows, and changed to a distant table. Rand made no sign of having heard. He put out his hand to the Burgundy, filled his glass, and drank it slowly, then closed his eyes again. A figure, half buried in the settle by the fire, folded a month-old journal and, rising, displayed in the light from the hickory logs the faded silk stockings, the velvet short-clothes, brocaded coat, and curled wig of M. Achille Pincornet, who taught dancing each winter in Richmond, as in summer he taught it in Albemarle. Mr. Pincornet, snuff-box and handkerchief in hand, looked around him, saw the two at the corner table, and crossed to them. "Mr. Rand, I make you my compliments. I was in the gallery. Ah, eloquence, eloquence!—substance persuasively put! Minerva with the air of Venus! I, too, was eloquent in my day! Pray honour me!"
Rand touched the extended snuff-box with his fingers, muttered an absent word or two, and again sank into revery. Mr. Pincornet, with an affable, "Ah, hunter!" to Gaudylock, passed on to greet an entering compatriot, the good Abbe Dubois.
Rand sat still, his head propped upon one hand, the fingers of the other moving upon the board before him, half aimlessly, half deliberately, as though he wrote in a dream. Opposite him rested Adam, placid as an eastern god. The room began to fill and the murmur of voices to deepen. "The Red Deer is late," affirmed some one. "Damned heavy roads!"
"Then they've sent on a rider!" cried another. "Here's Lynch's man with the bag!"
It being the custom to address letters, papers, and pamphlets to gentlemen at "Lynch's Coffee House," there was now a general movement of interest and expectation. A negro carrying a pair of saddle-bags advanced, obsequious and smiling, to a high desk at one side of the room and placed thereon the news from the outer world The genial Mr Lynch, proprietor of the establishment, took his place behind the desk with due solemnity, and a score of lawyers, merchants, and planters left tobacco, wine, julep, and toddy to press around his temporary throne. Every day at this hour Lynch mounted this height, and he dearly loved the transient importance. Now he solemnly unfastened the bags, drew out a great handful of matter, looked it over, amid laughing clamour, with pursed lips and one raised, deprecating hand, then in a cheerful, wheezing voice began to call out names,—"Major Du Val—Major Baker—Mr. Allan—Mr. Munford—Mr. Chavallie—Colonel Harvie—Major Gibbon—Dr. Foushee—Mr. Warrington—Major Willis—Mr. Wickham—Mr. Rand—"
There was a moment's check while Lynch craned his neck. "Mr. Rand's not here, I believe?"
"Lewis Rand,—no!" quoth Mr. Wickham. "What should he do in a mere coffee house with mere earthly newspapers? He's walking somewhere in a laurel garden in the cool of the evening."
Rand's voice came out of the depths of the room that was now just light enough to see the written word. "I am here, Mr. Lynch." He rose and came forward. "Good-afternoon, gentlemen—good-afternoon, Mr. Wickham!"
"Did you hear?" asked Wickham coolly. "Well, it is a laurel garden, you know! Mr. Lynch, let's have candles—"
"Yes, sir," said Mr. Lynch. "Colonel Ambler—Mr. Carrington—Mr. Rutherfoord—Mr. Page—Mr. Cary—Mr. Fairfax Cary—"
"They are coming later," said a voice.
"Thank you, Mr. Mason—Mr. Carter—Mr. Call—Mr. Cabell—the Abbe Dubois-"
The list went on. Candles were lighted on every table and on the mantel-shelf, though outside the windows the west was yet red. Two negroes brought and tossed into the cavernous fireplace a mighty backlog of hickory. The sound of the fire mingled with the rustle of large thin sheets of paper, the crisp turning of Auroras, National Intelligencers, Alexandria Expositors, Gazettes of the United States, excited journals of an excited time, with softly uttered interjections and running comment, and with now and then a high, clear statement of fact or rumour. At home, the hour's burning question was that of English and Spanish depredation at sea, attack upon neutral ships, confiscation and impressment of American sailors. In Washington, the resolutions of Gregg and Nicholson were under consideration, and all things looked toward the Embargo of a year later. Abroad, the sign in the skies was still Napoleon—Napoleon—Napoleon! Now, at Lynch's, as the crowd increased and the first absorbed perusal of script and print gave way to exchange of news and heated discussion, the room began to ring with voices. Broken sentences, words, and talismanic phrases danced as thick as motes in a sunbeam. "Non-Importation.... Gregg.... Too wholesale.... Nicholson.... Silk, window-glass.... Napoleon.... Brass, playing-cards, books, prints, beer, and ale.... Napoleon.... The Essex of Salem, the Enoch and Rowena.... Texas—the seizure of Texas. Two millions for the Floridas.... The Death of Pitt.... Napoleon—Austerlitz.... 'Decius' in the Enquirer—that's John Randolph of Roanoke.... 'Aurelius'—that letter of 'Aurelius'—"
Rand, at the corner table, had moved his chair so as to face the room. Letters and papers were spread before him; he had broken the seal of a thin blue sheet and drawn a candle close to the fine, neat, and pointed writing. The letter interested him, and he apparently took no heed of the rapid disjointed speech around him. But the word "Aurelius" brought a sudden, darting glance, a movement of the lower lip, and a stiffening of the shoulders. Gaudylock, who sat and smoked, supremely indifferent to the display of newspapers, marked the flicker of emotion. "He sees a snake in the grass," he thought lazily "Who's 'Aurelius'?"
Rand turned the thin blue page, snuffed the candle, and fell again to his reading. Right and left the talk continued. "Glass, tin.... The Albemarle Resolutions. Great speech. He's over there.... All this talk about Aaron Burr.... Austerlitz—twenty thousand Russians.... Westwood the coiner got clean away on a brig for Martinique. One villain the less here, one the more in Martinique. Martinique! that's where the Empress Josephine comes from—"
"My faith!" said Adam. "It's worse than the mockingbirds in June!"
The doors opened and the two Carys entered the coffee room. Rand lifted his eyes for a moment, then let them fall to the third sheet of his letter. Mr. Lynch bustled forward. "Ha, Mr. Cary, your letters are waiting! Mr. Fairfax Cary,—your servant, sir!—Eli, wine for Mr. Cary—the Madeira. Christopher, more wood to the fire! The night is falling cold."
"Very cold, Mr. Lynch," said Ludwell Cary. "Colonel Ambler—Mr. Wickham, we meet again!"—and his brother, "We never have such cold in Albemarle, Mr. Lynch! Ha, your fire is good, and your wine's good, and your company's good. There's a table by the fire, Ludwell."
They moved to it, exchanging greetings, as they went, with half the room, sat down, drank each a glass of wine, and fell to their letters, careless of the surrounding war of words. The elder's mail was heavy,—letters from London, from New York, from Philadelphia, one from his overseer at Greenwood, others from clients, colleagues, and strangers,—all the varied correspondence of the lawyer, the planter, and the man of the world. Fairfax Cary's letters were fewer in number, but one was gilt-edged, curiously folded, and superscribed in a strong and delicate hand. "Miss Dandridge seals with a dove and an olive branch?" murmured the elder brother. "Lucky Fair! What's the frown for?"
"Olive branch?" quoth the other. "She should seal with a nettle! Listen to this: 'Mr. Hunter has been some time with us at Fontenoy. Mr. Carter spent his Christmas here—he dances extremely well. Mr. Page gives us now and then the pleasure of his company. He turns the leaves of my music for me. Mr. Lee and I are reading Sir Charles Grandison together. I see Mr. Nelson at Saint Anne's.' Saint Anne! Saint Griselda! Her letters are enough to make a man renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil, and turn Trappist—"
"I wish the room would turn Trappist," said the other. "I am tired of talk. I would like to be somewhere in the woods to-night—quiet. We won't stay long here. There has been contention enough to-day."
The younger leaned forward. "Lewis Rand is over there—three tables back."
"I know. I saw him when we came in. Read your letters and we will be gone."
The minutes passed. Outside Lynch's the western red faded, and the still, winter night came quickly on. Within, fire and candles burned bright, but to not a few of Mr. Lynch's patrons the flames danced unsteadily. It was an age of hard drinking; the day had been an exciting one, and Lynch's wine or punch or apple toddy but the last of many potations. The assemblage was assuredly not drunken, but neither was it, at this hour and after the emotional wear and tear of the past hours, quite sane or less than hectic. Its mood was edged. Now, in the quarter of an hour before the general start for home and supper, foreign and federal affairs gave way to first-hand matters and a review of the day that was closing. It had been a field day. The city of Richmond was strongly Federal, the General Assembly mainly Republican. At Lynch's this evening were members, Federalist and Republican, of the two Houses, with citizens, planters, visitors enough of either principle. When the general talk turned upon the Albemarle Resolutions and the morning's proceedings in the House of Delegates, it was as though an invisible grindstone had put upon the moment a finer edge.
Lewis Rand, sweeping his letters and papers together, had nodded to Adam and moved from his table to that of a pillar of the Republican party, with whom he was now in attentive discourse. Apparently he gave no heed to the voices around him, though he might have heard his own name, seeing that wherever the talk now turned it came at last upon his speech of that morning. Presently, "Mr. Rand!" called some one from across the room.
Rand turned. "Mr. Harrison?"
"Mr. Rand, there's a dispute here. Just what did you mean by—" and there followed a quotation from the morning's speech.
Rand moistened his lips with wine, turned more fully in his chair, and answered in a sentence of such pith as to bring applause from those of his party who heard. In a moment there was another query, then a third; he was presently committed to a short and vigorous exposition and defence of the point in question. The entire room became attentive. Then, as he paused, the strident voice of a noted and irascible man proclaimed, "That's not democracy and not Jefferson—that doctrine, Mr. Rand. Veil her as you please in gauze and tinsel, you've got conquest by the hand. You may not think it, but you're preaching—what's the word that 'Aurelius' used?—'Buonapartism.'"
A Federalist of light weight who had arrived at quarrelsomeness and an empty bottle put in a sudden oar. "'Buonapartism' equals Ambition, and both begin with an R." He looked pointedly at Rand.
"My name begins with an R, sir," said Rand.
"Pshaw! so does mine!" exclaimed the man at the table with him. "Let him alone, Rand. He doesn't know what he is saying."
Rand turned to the first speaker. "'Buonapartism,'—that's a word that's as ample as Charity, but I hardly think, sir, that it covers this case. It's a very vague word. But writers to the Gazette are apt to be more fluent than accurate."
"I shouldn't call it vague," cried his opponent. "It's a damned good word, and so I'd tell 'Aurelius,' if I knew who he was."
"It wasn't random firing in that letter," said a voice from another quarter of the room. "I don't much care to know the gunner, but I'd mightily like to know who was aimed at. It was a damned definite thing, that letter. 'Buonapartism—the will to mount—sacrifice of obligations—Genius prostituted to Ambition—sin against light—a man's betrayal of his highest self and his own belief—the mind's incurable blindness—I, I am above all law—to take rich gifts and hold the gods in contempt—Daedalus wings'"—The speaker paused to fill his glass. "Yes, I should powerfully like to know at whom 'Aurelius' was aiming."
"At no one, I think," said Rand coolly. "He made a scarecrow of his own, and then was frightened by it. His chain-shot raked a man of straw,—and so would I tell 'Aurelius,' if I knew who he was."
As he spoke, he moved to face the fire. He had not raised his voice, but he had given it carrying quality. Cary raised his eyes, and laid down the paper he had in his hand. A genial, down-river planter and magistrate entered the conversation. "Well, I for one don't hold with all this latter-day hiding behind names out of Roman history! Brutus and Cato and Helvidius, Decius and Aurelius, and all the rest of them! Is a man ashamed of his English name?"
"Or afraid?" said Rand, then bit his lip. He had not meant to carry things so far, but the pent-up anger had its way at last. His mind was weary and tense, irritable from two sleepless nights and from futile decisions, and he inherited a tendency to black and sudden rage. It was true he had walked through life with a black dog at his heels. Sometimes he turned, closed with, throttled, and flung off his pursuer; sometimes he left him far behind; more than once he had seen him mastered and done with, dead by the wayside, had drawn free breath, and had gone on with a victor's brow. Then, when all the fields were smiling, came at a bound the dark shape, leaped at the throat, and hung there. It was so this evening at Lynch's. He strove with his passion, but he was aware of a wish to strive no longer, to let the black dog have his way.
There was a laugh for the speaker before him. "You see, sir," cried a noted lawyer, "Brutus and Cato, Helvidius, Decius, and Aurelius, and all the noble Romans died before duelling came in! 'Sir, the editor of the—ahem!—newspaper, I take exception to this statement in your pages.' 'Sir, I refer you to Junius Brutus. Answer, Roman!' Never a sound from Limbo!—'Sir, Decius has grossly misrepresented. Where shall I send my challenge?' 'To Hades, no less! Not the least use in knocking up John Randolph of Roanoke.'—'Sir, I am at odds with Aurelius. Pray favour me with the gentleman's address.' 'Sir, he left no name. You see, he lived so long ago!'"
Amid the laugh that followed, Cary turned a smiling face upon the speaker. "I will answer, Mr. Wickham, for Aurelius. Do you really want to challenge me?" He slightly changed his position so as to confront Rand's table. "In this instance, Mr. Rand, I am certain there was no fear."
His speech, heard of all, wrought in various ways. Mocket the day before had not exaggerated the general interest in the letter signed "Aurelius." Now at Lynch's there arose a small tumult of surprise, acclaim, enthusiasm, and dissent. His friends broke into triumph, his political enemies—he had few others—strove for a deeper frown and a growling note. The only indifferent in Lynch's was Adam Gaudylock, who smoked tranquilly on, not having read the letter in question nor being concerned with Roman history. Lewis Rand sat in silence with compressed lips, bodily there in the lit coffee room, but the inner man far away on the mind's dark plains, struggling with the fiend that dogged him. Fairfax Cary's cheek glowed and his eyes shone. He looked at his brother, then poured a glass of wine and raised it to his lips. "Wait, Fairfax! We'll all drink with you!" cried a neighbour. "Gentlemen and Federalists, glasses!—Ludwell Cary, and may he live to hear his children's children read 'Aurelius'!"
The Federalists drank the toast with acclaim, while the Republicans with equal ostentation did no such thing. Mr. Pincornet in his corner, hearing the words "Gentlemen" and "Cary," drank with gusto his very thin wine, and Adam drank because he had always liked the Carys and certainly had no grudge against "Aurelius," whoever he might be.
In the first lull of sound the man at the table with Lewis Rand spoke in a loud, harsh, but agreeable voice. "Well, Mr. Cary, the staunchest of Republicans, though he can't drink that toast, need not deny praise to a masterpiece of words. Words, sir, not facts. What I want to know is at whom—not at what, at whom—you were firing? I thought once that Aaron Burr was your mark. But he's too light metal—a mere buccaneer! That broadside of yours would predicate a general foe—and I'm damned if I wouldn't like to know his name!"
"We would all like to know his name," said Rand. "And when we know it, I for one would like to hear Mr. Cary's proofs of faithlessness to obligations."
In the hush of expectation which fell upon the room the eyes of the two men met. In Rand's there was something cold and gleaming, something that was not his father's nor his grandfather's, but his own, deadly but markedly courageous. Cary's look was more masked, grave, and collected, with the merest quiver of the upper lip. In the mind of each the curtain strangely lifted, not upon Richmond or Fontenoy or the Court House at Charlottesville, but upon a long past day and the Albemarle woods and two boys gathering nuts together. This lasted but an instant, then Cary spoke. "In that letter, Judge Roane, 'Aurelius' had no thought of Aaron Burr. I doubt if in writing he meant to give to any image recognizable face and form. I think that, very largely, he believed himself but personifying the powers of evil and the tendencies thereto inherent in the Democrat-Republican as in all human doctrine. If he builded better than he knew, if he held the mirror up, if, in short, there's any whom the cap fits"—He paused a moment, then said sternly, "Let the wearer, whoever he may be, look to his steps!" and turned to face Rand. "Seeing there is no name to divulge, there are of course no proofs of faithlessness." He rose. "It is growing late, gentlemen, and I, for one, am committed to Mrs. Ambler's party. Who goes towards the Eagle?"
There was a movement throughout the coffee room. It was full dark, home beckoned, and a number besides Cary were pledged to the evening's entertainment. From every table men were rising, gathering up their papers, when Rand's voice, harsh, raised, and thick with passion, jarred the room. "I hold, Mr. Cary, that not even to please his fine imagination is a gentleman justified in publicly weaving caps of so particular a description!"
Cary turned sharply. "Not even when he weaves it for a man of straw?—your own expression, Mr. Rand."
"Even men of straw," answered the other thickly, "find sometimes a defender. By God, I'll not endure it!"
"All this," said Cary scornfully,—"all this for the usual, the familiar, the expected Federalist criticism of Republican precept and practice! What, specifically, is it, Mr. Rand, that you'll not endure?"
"I'll endure," replied Rand, in a strained, monotonous, and menacing voice, "no taunt from you."
As he spoke, he threw himself forward. "Have a care, sir!" cried Cary, and flung out his arm. He had seen, and the men around had seen, the intention of the blow. It was not struck. Amid the commotion that arose, Rand suddenly, and with an effort so violent and so directed that it had scarcely been in the scope of any other there, checked himself upon the precipice's verge, stood rigid, and strove with white lips for self-command. His inmost, his highest man had no desire to feel or to exhibit ungoverned rage, but there was a legion against him—and the black and furious dog. The coffee house was in a ferment. "Gentlemen—gentlemen!—What's the quarrel, Rand?—Ludwell Cary, I'm at your service!—Bills and bows! bills and bows!—or is it coffee and pistols?" Fairfax Cary had sprung to his brother's side. Adam Gaudylock, annihilating in some mysterious fashion the distance between the corner table and the group in the light of the fire, was visible over Rand's shoulder. Mr. Pincornet, chin in air and with his hand where once a sword had been, tiptoed upon the fringe of the crowd. The clamour went on. "Is it a challenge?—was a blow struck?—Mr. Cary, command me—Mr. Rand—"
Cary and Rand, standing opposed, three feet of bare floor between them, looked fixedly at each other. Both were pale, both breathing heavily, but for both the unthinking moment had passed. Reflection had come and was standing there between them. To Rand it wore more faces than one, but to Cary it was steadily a form in white with amethysts about the neck. There had been—it was well, it was best—no blow struck, no lie given. Cary drew a long breath, shook himself slightly like a swimmer who has breasted a formidable wave, and broke into a laugh. "No affront and no challenge, gentlemen! That is so, is it not, Mr. Rand?"
If there was an instant's sombre hesitation, it was no more. "Yes, that is so," said Rand. "After all, men should be more stable. There is no quarrel, gentlemen."
He bowed ceremoniously to Cary, who returned the salute. Each moved from where he had stood, and the tide at Lynch's came between them. There was some questioning, some excited speech, some natural disappointment at matters going no further. It was not clearly understood what offence had been given or what taken, but many felt aggrieved by the check on the threshold of a likely affair. However, it was, they could concede, the business of the two principals, each of whom could afford to ignore any seeming reflection upon his unreadiness to pick up the glove—if a glove had been thrown. As the assemblage broke up and flowed homeward, the most pertinent comment, perhaps, was that of the down-river planter: "If 'twas just a breeze, and all over, why didn't they shake hands? Gad! when I was young and we fell out and made up over the wine, we went roaring home arm over shoulder! Your manners are too cold. A bow is nothing—one can bow to a villain! Men of honour, when the quarrel's over, should shake hands!"
"Precisely," said his companion, who chanced to be Mr. Wickham. "They are men of honour; they didn't shake hands. Ergo the quarrel's not over!—Here we are at the Eagle."
FAIRFAX AND UNITY
"Bah!" exclaimed Major Churchill. "Long ago Hamilton said the last word on the subject. Aaron Burr's sole political principle is to mount. The Gazette says he has started West—gone, I'll swear, to light the fuse."
"Then I hope the mine will blow up under him," said Fairfax Cary. "Can you tell me, sir, if Miss Dandridge is at home?"
The Major looked over the top of his Gazette. "Miss Dandridge is sitting beneath the catalpa tree." The other made a movement towards the door. "Mr. Page is with her. He is reading aloud—Eloisa to Abelard, or some such impassioned stuff. Don't apologize! I have no objection to expletives."
The younger Cary laid down his hat, took a chair with great deliberation, and flecked his boot with his riding-whip. "The catalpa shall be sacred for me. Eloisa to Abelard! Is it a long poem, sir?"
"It is longer than its author was. Sentimental rubbish!"
Major Edward folded the Gazette with his one hand, laid it on the library table, and leaned back in his leather chair. "It is not my opinion that Unity cares for Mr. Page. She cares for what many men and an occasional woman have cared for—liberty."
"I would give her liberty."
"She may possibly prefer it," said the Major dryly, "first hand."
The young man laughed ruefully. "So little liberty as she has left me! I am bound hand and foot to her chariot wheels. There's nothing I wouldn't do for her, short of hearing Page read aloud."
"You'll win in the end, I think. And I hope you may. Unity Dandridge is wilful, but she is a fine woman."
"The finest in the world—the most beautiful—the most sparkling—the most loyal—"
"You'll not find her lacking in spirit. She will speak her mind, will Miss Dandridge! The Carys, fortunately, have a certain fine obstinacy of their own. It is a saving grace."
The other laughed. "I never heard that the Churchills lacked it, sir. Anyhow, I mean to marry Miss Dandridge. I've told her and the world my intention, and they may count upon my carrying it out. If she only knew how lonely it is at Greenwood! Breakfast, dinner, and supper—Ludwell at the head of the table and I at the foot, and a company of ghosts in between—"
"Ludwell may yet marry."
Fairfax Cary shook his head. "No. He'll never marry. If the Carys are obstinate, sir, they are also constant."
Major Churchill rose, turned to the bookshelves, and drew forth a volume. "Is he not over that?" he asked harshly.
"No, he is not. He'll never be over it. And they say matches are made in heaven!"
"Bah! They are made on earth, and cracked hearts can be mended like any other cracked ware. 'A little crudded milk, fantastical puff-paste,' with a woman's name—and it has power to turn the sunshine black! Let him play the man and put her out of mind!"
"He does play the man," answered the other, with spirit. "He neither sulks nor shirks. It remains that there was but one woman in the world for him, and that she is at Roselands with Lewis Rand."
The Major's book fell with a crash to the floor. He stooped quickly and recovered it before the younger man could give him service. "I shall run Mustapha on the sixteenth at Staunton against Carter's York," he said, in a shaking voice. "Have you seen that Barbary mare Dick has gotten over from England?"
"No," answered the young man. "I'll take a look at the stables before I go. What is your book, sir?"
"It is"—said the Major. "I'm damned if I know what it is!" and he looked at the volume in his hand. "Paul and Virginia—faugh!" He threw the book down and stalked to the window. Fairfax Cary sat in silence, one booted knee over the other, an arm upon the back of his chair, and the riding-whip depending from his hand. The Major turned. "They have laid down Pope, and Mr. Page is making his adieux! Humph! I can remember a day when the poem was considered vastly moving. I would advise you to strike while the iron is hot."
"Sometimes I think it will take an earthquake to move her toward me," said the other. "I'll give Page three minutes in which to clear out, and then I'll try again. It would amuse you, sir, to know how many times I have tried. If to have an object in life is praiseworthy, I am much to be lauded!"
"You have always evinced a fine determination," admitted the Major. "Well, life must have an object, fair or foul. With it, cark and care; without it, ditchwater! This way disappointment; that, fungi on a log. Vanity in either direction, but a man of honour must prefer the rack to the stocks."
Fairfax Cary looked at his watch. "Page's time is up. I'll go pursue my object, sir."
The pursuit took him over the greensward to the bench built around the great catalpa. The heat of the day was broken and the evening shadows lay upon the grass. Mr. Page was gone. Unity sat beneath the catalpa, elbow on knee and chin in hand, studying a dandelion at her feet. The poetical works of Mr. Alexander Pope lay at a distance, face down. The sky between the broad catalpa leaves was very blue, and a long ray of sunshine sifted through to gild the tendrils of Miss Dandridge's hair and to slide in brightness down her flowery gown. She glanced at the young man striding towards her from the house, then again admired the dandelion.
Fairfax Cary stooped, picked up Pope, and regarded the open pages with disfavour. "And at home he probably reads only The Complete Farrier—on Sundays maybe the Gentleman's Magazine or The Book of Dreams!"
"Who?" asked Unity.
"My rival. If he read Greek, he would yet be my rival and an ignorant fellow."
"He does read Greek," said Miss Dandridge severely, "and 'ignorant fellow' is the last thing that could be applied to him. Did you ride over from Greenwood to be scornful?"
"I rode over to be as meek as Moses and as patient as Job—"
"They were never my favourites in Scripture."
"Nor mine." He closed the book, swung his arm, and Pope crashed into a lilac bush. "There," he said, "goes meekness, patience, and the eighteenth century. This is the nineteenth. Time is no endless draught, no bottomless cup. Waste of life is the cankered rose. You know that you treat me badly."
"Do I?—I did not mean to."
"You do. Now you've got to say to me, 'I love you and I'll marry you,' or 'I love you not and I'm going to marry some one else.' If it's the first, I'll be the happiest man on earth; if the second, I'll go far away and try to forget."
"Won't you sit down?"
"You have kept me standing in spirit these three years. Standing!—kneeling! Now, will you or won't you?"
"I do not care in the least for Mr. Page. He is merely an agreeable acquaintance."
"And Mr. Dabney?"
"The same. He entertains me—"
"Mr. Lee—Mr. Minor—Ned Hunter—"
"What applies to one applies to all."
"I am glad to hear it. All merely agreeable acquaintances. And Mr. Fairfax Cary? He is, perhaps, in the same category?"
"Perhaps. Oh, what a beautiful butterfly!—there, on that trumpet flower! I think it is a Tawny Emperor."
"I see," said the young man. "Excuse me a moment while I frighten him away." He gravely shook the trumpet vine, and the light splendour spread its wings and sailed to a securer realm. "Now that the Emperor is gone perhaps you will pay attention. Am I merely an agreeable acquaintance?"
"Oh—agreeable!" murmured Miss Dandridge.
"I am not trying to be agreeable. I am looking for the truth. Am I, then, merely an acquaintance?"
Unity sighed. "Why not say 'friend'?"
"'Friend' is good as far as it goes. It does not go far enough."
"Yes, it does," said Miss Dandridge. "It goes further than all your less sober travellers.
"Love me little, love me long.
"You want such violent things!"
"I want you. Is it, then, only a poor, pale friendship?"
"Why call it poor and pale? Friendship can be rosy-cheeked as well as—as other things. Look how the grass is burned—and all the locusts are singing of the heat!"
"It is beneath you to trifle so. If this is all, it is poor and pale, and the sooner it dies, the better! Unity, I'm waiting for your coup de grace."
"I'm tired," said Unity. "You hurt me, and I'm tired."
"I never heard you say that before. Look at me! the tears are in your eyes."
"Everybody cries over Eloisa to Abelard.
"O death all-eloquent! you only prove What dust we dote on, when't is man we love!
"Where are you going?"
"Home first, then—I don't know where. Good-bye."
"I'm afraid the book in the lilac bush is spoiled. If you'll allow me, I'll send you another copy."
"Please don't go."
"The tears are on your cheeks. It is a moving poem.
"Oh, may we never love as those have loved!
"This is the third and last good-bye. Good-bye."
The younger Cary turned and resolutely walked away. Miss Dandridge rose and followed him. He did not turn his head, and the thick turf could not echo her light footfall. He walked firmly, with the port of a man who hears a distant drum beat to action. Miss Dandridge admired the attitude through her tears. He walked rapidly and the sweep of greensward between them widened. It was no great distance to the driveway and the white pillars of the house. Uncle Dick and Uncle Edward, Deb, the servants, any one, might be looking out of the windows. For one moment Unity stopped short as Atalanta when she saw the golden apple, then she began to run. She touched her goal within ten feet of the house, and he stood still and looked at the hand upon his arm. "Oh!" she panted. "Don't go! I—I—I—"
"I love you. Oh!"
If any window saw, it was discreet and never told, remembering perhaps a youth of its own. The embrace was not prolonged beyond a minute. Unity, red and beautiful, released herself, looked about her like a startled dryad, and made again for the catalpa. Fairfax Cary followed, and they took that portion of the circular bench which had between it and the house the giant bole of the tree. Before them dipped the shady hollow, filled with the rustling of leaves, cool and retired as its parent forest.
"Oh, yes, yes; it's true, gospel true!" cried Unity. "But I'll not be married for a long, long year!"
"A year! You're going to be cruel again."
"No, no, I'm not cruel! I never was. 'Twas all your imagination. When I marry, I'll be married hard and fast, hand and foot, wind and rain, sleet and snow, June and December, forever and a day, world without end, amen! holidays and all! I may live forever, and I'll be married all that time. I want just one little year to say good-bye to Unity Dandridge in."
"We'll take her to Greenwood with us."
"No, no. We'll bury her in the flower garden the day before. Just one year—please!"
"Oh, Unity, when you say 'please'!"
"This is August. I'll marry you twelve little months from now—please!"
"A thousand things may happen—"
"They won't—they won't. Don't you love Unity Dandridge? Then let her live a little longer!"
Unity did as she was bid. The sunlight left the hollow, but stayed bright upon the hills beyond. It was August, but in a treetop somewhere a solitary bird was singing. Nearer the earth the crickets and cicadas began their evening concert, a shrill drumming in the warm, still air. There was a scent of dry grass, a feeling of summer at its full. Dewy freshness, tender green, mist of bloom, and a thousand songs were far away, and yet upon the bench beneath the catalpa there was spring.
"The sun is setting," said Unity at last. "Let us go speak to Uncle Dick."
"He'll be glad, I think. May I stay to supper? I want to hear Unity Dandridge sing afterwards."
"Yes, Uncle Dick will be glad—he and Uncle Edward will be very glad. I don't believe that Unity Dandridge will want to sing to-night. She'll be thinking of that grave in the flower garden."
"No! She shall think of the sunrise at Greenwood—sunrise and splendid roses and the million harps of heaven playing!"
"Oh!" cried Unity, "the sunrise at Greenwood should have been for your brother!"
"Yes, for him and your cousin. Blind fate! He is worth a thousand of me, and he sits lonely there in his house—and I am here!"
"There's no pure joy."
"When I tell him to-night, he will feel but pure joy for me—not one thought of self, of the sunrise he might have watched at Greenwood! Oh, Justice and her balances! There goes the last rim of the sun."
"I'll sing to you what you will—and you may stay as long as you like—and I'll love you all my life. Oh! Now let's go find Uncle Dick."
Uncle Dick was easily found, being in fact upon the porch in his especial chair, with the dogs around him, and in his hand a silver goblet of mint and apple brandy. "Hey! What, what!" he cried, "has the jade said Yes at last? Where's Edward? Edward, Edward! Kiss me, you minx! Fair, I wish that my dear friend, your father, were alive. Well, well, patience does it, and the Lord knows, Unity, he's been patient! Oh, you black-eyed piece, you need a bit and bridle! Here's Edward! Edward, the shrew's tamed at last! Such a wedding as Fontenoy will have!"
Four hours later, when supper was over, and Aunt Nancy in the "chamber" had been visited by the affianced pair, and all matters had been discussed, and Unity at the harpsichord had sung without protest a number of very sentimental songs, and Deb had gone unwillingly to bed, and first one uncle and then the other had thoughtfully faded from the drawing-room, and good-night, when it came to be said in the moonlit porch, took ten minutes to say, and the boy who brought around the visitor's horse had caught with a grin and a "Thank'e, sah!" the whirling silver dollar, and Major Edward's voice had sounded from the hail door behind Unity, "Good-night, Fair; bring Ludwell with you to-morrow night," and Unity had echoed softly, "Yes, bring Ludwell," and the last wave of the hand had been given, Fairfax Cary cantered down the driveway and through the lower gates. Out upon the red highway he put his horse to the gallop, and rode with his bared head high to the wind and the stars of night.
At Greenwood there was but one light burning. He saw it half a mile from the house, lost it, then caught it again, crowning like a star the low hilltop. Bending from the saddle, he opened the gate, passed through, and rode on beneath the oaks to the house door. The light shone from the library. When a negro had taken his horse, the younger Cary entered to find his brother sitting before a mass of books and papers, wine on the table, and a favourite dog asleep upon the hearth. "You are late," said the elder, looking up with a smile. "Fontenoy, of course?"
"Fontenoy, of course. Ludwell, I've won!"
The elder brother pushed back his chair, rose, and, going to the younger, put both hands upon his shoulders. "Fair. I'm glad! I told you that you would. She's the loveliest black-eyed lady—and as for you, you deserve your fortune! Monsieur mon frere, I make you my congratulations!"
"What a blaze of light you've got in here! All the way home my horse's hoofs were saying, Unity Cary—Unity Cary."
Ludwell laughed. "You're drunk with joy. The room is not brightly lit. Sit down and tell me all about it."
"'Twas underneath the catalpa tree. We quarrelled—"
"Page had been there, reading aloud,—reading Eloisa to Abelard."
"We quarrelled. I said good-bye forever, and walked away. She came after me over the grass. Ludwell, to hold the woman that you love in your arms, close, close—"
"I can guess 'twas bliss. And then?"
"Heaven still—only quieter. We went back to the bench under the catalpa."
"Happy tree! And I never thought it a poetic growth—the flowers are so sticky! Now Unity shall plant one at Greenwood."
"'Unity'! Isn't it sweet to say just 'Unity'?"
The other laughed again. "I think you are a very satisfactory lover! And when's the marriage, Fair?"
"Not for a whole year—she won't marry me for a whole year to come!"
"Why, that's too long," said the elder kindly. "What reason?"
"Time to say farewell. Once she's married, she will never see Unity Dandridge again!"
Both laughed, but there was much tenderness in their laughter. "Oh, she's individual!" said Ludwell. "Even when you add the Cary, she'll be Unity Dandridge still. A year! Perhaps she may relent."
"I've given my word not to ask her."
"Ah!—well, a year's not so long, Fair. She's a lovely witch—she'll charm the hours away. This time next year how gay we'll make the old house!"
The younger paced the room. "I can't go to bed. Michaelmas—Christmas—St. Valentine's—Easter—the Fourth—then August again. Twelve months!"
"You'll ride to Fontenoy in the morning."
"That's true—and you'll ride with me. The last thing that she said was that I was to bring you. Ludwell, I want to say that not even Unity, though I love her so much, could ever make me love you an iota the less. You know that, don't you?"
"Yes, I know, Fair," said the other from the great chair. "We are friends as well as brothers. I'm as glad for your happiness as if it were my own, and I'll ride with you to Fontenoy to kiss my new sister. You've both chosen wisely, and it's a great day for Greenwood! Stop that striding here and there like an ecstatic lion! Sit down and tell me all about it again. The wine's good, and I'll light more candles. There!"
"You're the best fellow in the world, Ludwell," said the younger gratefully. "She had on a gown with little flowers all over a yellowy ground, and there was a curl that came down on her white neck—and when I had gone away forever and then felt her hand upon my arm, it was like a sword-stroke opening Paradise. It isn't really late, is it? I could talk till dawn!"
THE GREEN DOOR
The coach of Mrs. Jane Selden entered Charlottesville at nine in the morning, and did not turn homeward again until the afternoon stood at four. The intermediate hours were diligently used by the small and withered lady in plum-coloured silk and straw bonnet, scarf of striped, apple-green gauze, and turkey-feather fan. She came to town but once in three months, and made of each visit a field day. Every store was called at, for buying must be done for herself and her plantation to last until Christmas-tide. Lutestring, calico, chintz and prunella, linsey and osnaburg; gilt-edged paper, sticks of wax, and fine black ink; drugs of sorts, bohea, spice, and china were bought and bestowed in brown paper parcels in corners of a vehicle ample as Cinderella's pumpkin coach, while Jamaica sugar and Java coffee, old rum, molasses, salt and vinegar, hardware, kitchen things, needs of the quarter, and all heavy matters were left to be called for by her wagon next day. Shopping over, she took dinner with an ancient friend, and afterwards called upon the doctor and the minister. The post-office came next in order, and then the blacksmith, for one of her four sleepy coach horses had cast a shoe. The fault remedied, she looked at her watch. "Half-past three. Stop at the green door, Gabriel."
Coach and four made a wide turn, swung drowsily down the main street, and drew up before a one-story brick building with a green door and a black lettered sign above, "Lewis Rand, Attorney-at-Law."
Mrs. Selden, putting her head out of the window, directed a small negro, lounging near, to raise the knocker below the sign; but before she could be obeyed, the door opened and Rand himself came quickly down the steps. "Come, come!" he said; "I knew it was your day in town, and I was wondering if you were going by without a word."
"Don't I always stop? A habit is a habit. We are all miserable sinners, and the world can't get on without lawyers. I want to ask you how I'm to keep old Tom Carfax off my land. There is no one with you?"
"No one. Mocket has ridden over to North Garden, and I've just dismissed a deputation from Milton." As he spoke, he opened the coach door and assisted his old friend to alight.
Together they went into the office, which was a cool little place, with a climbing rose at the windows, a bare floor, and a dim fragrance of law-books. The shade was grateful after the August heat and glare. Mrs. Selden, seated in a capacious wooden chair, wielded her turkey fan and looked about her at the crowded book-shelves, the mass of papers held down on desk and deal table by pieces of iron ore, the land maps on the wall, the corner ledger and high stool, the cupboard whose opened door disclosed bottles and glasses, and the blush roses just without the two small windows. "I like the law," she remarked. "There's a deal of villainy in it, no doubt, but that's a complaint to which all ways of making a living are liable. Even a shoemaker may be a villain. How does it feel to be a great lawyer, Lewis?"
He smiled. "Am I a great one?"
"You should know best, but it's what men call you. What was your deputation from Milton? About the governorship?"
"What did you say?"
"I thanked them for the honour they did me, and told them that I had declined the nomination."
"You have declined it! Why?"
He smiled again. "You used to preach contentment when I was a boy and you heard me rage out against my father. Well—shall I not rest content with being a great lawyer?"
His old neighbour regarded him keenly above her turkey-feather fan. "Lewis Rand, Lewis Rand," she said at last, "I wish I knew your end."
He laughed. "Do you mean my aim in life, or my last hour?"
"The one," said his visitor sharply, "will be according to the other. We all wander through a wood into some curious place at last. You're the kind of person one thinks of as coming into a stranger place than common. Have you heard the news about Unity Dandridge and Fairfax Cary?"
"Yes. She was at Roselands yesterday."
"It's good news. Unity Dandridge needs a master, and there's been no woman at Greenwood this weary while. Ludwell Cary will never marry."
"I see nothing to prevent his marrying."
Mrs. Selden suspended the waving of her fan. "He won't. Don't dislike him so, Lewis. It shows in your forehead."
"Is it so plain as that?" asked Rand. "Well, I do dislike him."
"Enmities are born with us, I suppose," said his visitor thoughtfully. "I remember a man whom, without reason, I hated. Had I been a man, I would have made it my study to quarrel with him—to force him into a duel—to make way with him secretly if need be! I wouldn't have stopped at murder. And it was all a mistake, as I found when he was dead and I didn't have to walk the same earth with him any more. It's a curious world, is the heart of man. And so you won't be Governor of Virginia?"
"Not now—some later day, perhaps. You see it takes all my time to be a great lawyer!"
"You don't deceive me," said Mrs. Selden, with great dryness. "But good or bad, your reason's your own, and I'll not ask you to satisfy an old woman's curiosity. In my day it was something to be Governor of Virginia." She waved her fan more vigorously than before, and the wind from it blew a paper from the table beside her. She was birdlike in her movements, and before Rand could stoop, she had caught the sheet. "Rows and rows of figures!" she exclaimed. "Is it a sum you're doing?"
He nodded, taking it from her. "Yes; a giant of a sum," he answered easily, and put the paper in his pocket. "Now what is old Carfax doing on your land?"
The consultation over, Mrs. Selden left the office and was handed by Rand into the pumpkin coach. When he had closed the door, he yet stood beside the lowered glass, his arm, sleeved in fine green cloth, laid along its rim, his strong face, clear cut and dark, smiling in upon his old friend. In his mind was the long and dreary stretch of his boyhood when she and Adam Gaudylock were the only beings towards whom he had a friendly thought. He was one of those men whose minds still hold communion with all the selves that they have left behind. Each in its day had been a throbbing, vital thing, and though at times he found the past obtrusive and wished to throw it off, he could never utterly do so. There was for him no Lethe. But if he tasted the disadvantages of so compound a self, to others the array enriched the man, making him vibrant of all that had been as well as all that was. It put them, too, to speculation as to how great an army he would gather ere the end, and as to the nature of the last recruit. The visitor from the Three-Notched Road looked at him now with her keen old eyes and laid her mittened hand upon his arm. "Be a good man, Lewis Rand! Be a great one if you will, but be good. That comes first."
Rand touched her withered hand with his lips. "It is women who are good. And you'll not come to town again until nearly Christmas! I'll ride over before then, and I'll settle Carfax for you. You are going home now?"
"Vinie Mocket is cutting watermelon rind for me. I'll stop there first and then I'll go home! Give my love to Jacqueline. I heard at the Swan that Mr. Jefferson is at Monticello. Is that true?"
"Yes, it is true."
"Humph!" said Mrs. Selden. "Then you'll be at Monticello all hours. I wish you'd ask him for a seedling of that new peach tree."
"I shall not be there all hours," said Rand, "but I'll manage to get the seedling for you. Good-bye, good-bye!"
The coach and four lumbered on down the dusty Main Street. Mrs. Selden, sitting opposite her brown paper bundles, waved her fan and looked out on the parching trees and the straggling, vine-embowered houses. For half an hour there had been a thought at the back of her head, and now it suddenly opened wings. Those strangely arranged lines of figures on that paper which had fluttered to the floor, they formed no sum that Lewis Rand was working! The paper that they covered was not a stray leaf; it had been folded like a letter. There was, she remembered, a piece of wax upon it. It was a day when men of mark often wrote to each other in cipher—there was nothing strange in Lewis Rand so corresponding with whom he chose. Most probably it was a letter from the President—though that could hardly be, seeing that the President was at Monticello! Mrs. Selden looked out of the window towards that low, green mountain which was now rising before her, and frowningly tried to remember some gossamer of speech which had been blown to her upon the Three-Notched Road. A quarrel between Rand and the President?—pshaw! it could hardly have been that! She had a sudden memory of Rand's face ere he grew to manhood, of the ardent eyes and the involuntary gesture of reverence which he used when he spoke of Mr. Jefferson. He could not even speak of him without a certain trembling of the voice. Any one could see the change in him since then, but it was hardly to be believed that the old feeling did not abide at the bottom of the well! Mrs. Selden was annoyed. The letter might have been from Mr. Madison, or Mr. Monroe, or Albert Gallatin, or John Randolph,—though John Randolph, too, had quarrelled with the President,—or Spencer Roane, or almost any great Democrat-Republican. It was no business of hers whom it was from. A colour crept into her withered cheek, and she tapped her black silk shoe upon the floor of the coach. "Yes; a giant of a sum," Lewis had said with great easiness, and then had put the paper out of sight. Why had he not been frank? He might have said to an old friend, "That's a cipher,—you see men will be riddlers still!" and then have laid away the letter as securely as he pleased! Mrs. Selden hated deceit in anything, great or small, and hated to find flaws in folk of whom she was fond. It was a trifle truly, but Lewis Rand had meant to give her a false impression, and that when he knew as well as she how she detested falsity! As for his reasons for concealment,—let him keep his reasons! She angrily told herself that Jane Selden had no desire to pry into a politician's secrets. But he should have said that the letter was a letter! With which conclusion, the coach having drawn up before Vinie Mocket's door, Mrs. Selden dismissed the matter from her mind, and, descending, was met by Vinie herself at the gate.
"I've got the sweetmeats all cut, Mrs. Selden! Grapes and baskets, and hearts with arrows through them, and vases of roses. I never did any prettier. Won't you come in, ma'am? There's water just drawn from the well."
"Then I'll have a glass, and I'll just look at the sweetmeats. It is late and I must be going home. Vinie, why don't you have your gate mended?"
"It always was broken," said Vinie. "I'm always meaning to have it mended. Will you sit on the porch, ma'am? It's cooler than inside."
The short path was lined with zinnias and with prince's feather and the porch covered with a shady grapevine. Vinie brought a pitcher beaded with cool well water, and then a salver spread with fanciful shapes cut from the delicate green rind of melon and ready for preserving. Mrs. Selden drank the well water and approved Vinie's skill; then, "Your brother's gone to North Garden," she said abruptly. "Mr. Rand's affairs must keep him busy."
"Yeth, ma'am. Tom comes and goes," said Vinie wistfully. "I wish he'd be Governor of Virginia."
The girl laughed. "La, no, ma'am! Mr. Rand." The tone conveyed, pleasantly enough, both the grotesque impossibility of Mr. Tom Mocket aspiring to such a post, and the eminent suitability of its lying in the fortunes of Lewis Rand. Vinie, shy and pink and faintly pretty in her shell calico, leaned against the wooden railing beneath the grapevine, and appealed to her visitor: "I'm always after Tom to make him say he'll run. Tom can do a great deal with him—he always could. I reckon all his friends want him to take the nomination. But Tom says he has a bigger thing in mind—"
"No, ma'am. Mr. Rand. I forgot! Tom said I wasn't to tell that to any one." Vinie looked distressed. "Won't you have another glass of water, ma'am? The drouth this year is something awful—all the corn burned up and the tobacco failing. Tom will be back soon from North Garden. Yeth, ma'am, he works right hard for Mr. Rand. The last time he was here he said that whether he ended in a palace or a dungeon, he'd remember Tom somewhere towards the last. Yeth, ma'am, it was a funny thing to say, but he was always mighty fond of Tom."
"Does he come here often?"
"Right often,—when there's work to be done at night, or when he wants to meet some one at a quieter place than the office. He's always known he could use this house as he pleased," Vinie ended simply. "Tom and I would go barefoot over fire for Mr. Rand."
"Well, my dear, I hope he won't ask you to," said her visitor, with dryness. She rose. "I've a long drive before me, so I'll not sit longer. Who's that—I left my glasses in the coach—who's that speaking to Gabriel?"
"It's Mr. Gaudylock."
"Gaudylock! He's not been in Albemarle for a year! When did he come back?"
"Just the other day, ma'am." A smile crept over Vinie's face. "He brought me a comb like the Spanish women wear. He's a mighty kind man—Mr. Gaudylock."
The hunter and Mrs. Selden met at the broken gate. "I am glad to see you back, Adam," she said. "You're a rolling stone, but all the same we're fond of you in Albemarle."
"I'm surely fond of Albemarle, ma'am," answered Adam.
"When I've rolled long and far enough and the moss is ready to gather on me, I reckon I'll roll back to a hillside in the old county. I'm sorry to see the drouth so bad. We've had a power of rain over the mountains."
"Not long since, I had a letter from a kinsman of mine in Louisiana, and he spoke of you. He said that up and down the rivers you were known, that the villages made it a holiday when you came to one, and that in the forest your name was like Robin Hood's."
"Robin Hood? Who's he?" demanded Adam; then, "Oh, you mean the man in the poetry book. I reckon he never saw the Mississippi in flood, and his forest would have laid on the palm of your hand. Yes, I'm known out there." He gave his mellow laugh. "A letter of introduction from Adam Gaudylock is a pretty good letter, whether it's to the captain of an ark, or a Creek sachem, or a Natchitoches settler, or a soldier at Fort Stoddert. Let me help you in, ma'am."
He handed her to her seat with the sure lightness and the woodsman's grace which was part of his charm, then gave her order to Gabriel. The coach turned and went back through the Main Street, and so on, in the yellow afternoon, to the Three-Notched Road. As she passed again the green door, Mrs. Selden looked out, but the door was fast and the shutters closed behind the blush roses. "He must have gone home early," she said to herself, and all the way along the Three-Notched Road she thought of Lewis Rand and his career.
Rand had not gone home, but was walking down the street towards the Eagle and the post-office. Presently the stage would be in, and he carried a letter the posting of which he did not care to entrust to another. He walked lightly and firmly, in the glow before sunset, and as he approached the post-office steps he met, full face, coming from the other end of the town, Colonel Richard and Major Edward Churchill and Fairfax Cary. They were afoot, having left their horses at the Swan while they waited for the incoming stage. The post-office had a high white porch, and on this were gathered a number of planters and townsfolk, while others lounged below on the trodden grass beneath three warped mulberries. All these, suspending conversation, watched the encounter.
Rand lifted his hat, and Fairfax Cary answered the salute with cold punctilio, but the two Churchills, the one with a red, the other with a stony countenance, ignored their nephew-in-law. The four reached together the post-office steps, a somewhat long and wide flight, but not broad enough to accommodate a blood feud. Rand made no attempt at speech, conciliatory or otherwise, but with a slight gesture of courtesy stood aside for the two elder men to pass and precede him. The smile upon his lip was half bitter, half philosophic, and as they passed, he regarded them aslant but freely. The burly, heated figure of the Colonel was trembling with anger, while Major Edward, striving for indifference, achieved only a wonderful, grey hauteur. They had been talking of the drouth, and they talked on while they went by Rand, but their voices sounded hollow like drums in a desert. They took as little outward notice of the living man whose fate entwined with theirs as if he had been a bleached bone upon the desert sands. They went on and, upon the porch above, mingled with a group of friends and neighbours.
Rand put himself in motion, and he and Fairfax Cary mounted step for step. The elder man looked aside at his companion of the moment, slender and vigorous, boyishly handsome in his dark riding-dress. He harboured no enmity towards the younger Cary, and for Unity he had only admiration and affection. His mind was full of recesses, and in one of them there hovered on bright wings a desire for the esteem of these two. In his day-dreams he steadily conferred upon them benefits, and in day-dreams he saw their feeling for him turn from prejudice to respect and fondness. Now, after a moment's hesitation, he spoke. "I have no quarrel, Mr. Cary, with a happiness that all the county is glad of. Miss Dandridge and my wife are the fondest friends. May I offer you my congratulations?"
He had ceased to move forward, and the other paused with him. The younger Cary was thinking, "Now if I were Ludwell, I'd accept this with simplicity, since, damn him, in this the man's sincere." He looked at the toe of his boot, swallowed hard, and then faced Rand with a sudden, transfiguring brightness of mien. "I thank you, Mr. Rand. Miss Dandridge is an angel, and I'm the happiest of men. Will you tell Mrs. Rand so, with my best regards?" He hesitated a moment, then went on: "No sign of rain! This weather is calamitous! I hope that Roselands has not suffered as Greenwood has done?"
"But it has," said Rand, with a smile. "The corn is all burned, and the entire state will make but little tobacco this year. Miss Dandridge is better than an angel; she's a very noble woman—I wish you both long life and happiness!"
They said no more, but mounted the remaining steps to the level above. Fairfax Cary joined the two Churchills and their friends, while Rand, after a just perceptible hesitation, entered the small room where the postmaster was filling, with great leisureliness, the leather mail-bag. Besides himself there was no other there; even the window gave not upon the porch, but on a quiet, tangled garden. He took the letter from his breast pocket and stood looking at it. The postmaster, after the first word of greeting, went on with his work, whistling softly as he handled the stiffly folded, wax-splashed missives of the time. The wind was in the west, and the fitful air came in from the withered garden and breathed upon Rand's forehead. He stood for perhaps five minutes looking at the letter, then with a curious and characteristic gesture of decision he walked to the high counter and with his own hand dropped it into the mail-bag, then waited to see it covered by the drift from the postmaster's fingers. "Don't the world move, sir?" said the latter worthy. "It hasn't been so long since there wasn't any mail for the West anyhow, and now look at this bag! Kentucky, and this new Tennessee, and Mississippi, and Louisiana, and the Lord knows what besides! Letters coming thick and fast to Mr. Jefferson, and letters going out from every one who has a dollar or an acre or a son or brother in those God-forsaken parts where Adam Gaudylock says they don't speak English and you walk uphill to the river! I like things snug, Mr. Rand, and this country's too big and this mail's too heavy. You have correspondents out there yourself, sir."
"Yes," answered Rand, with indifference. "As you say, Mr. Smock, all the world writes letters nowadays. Certainly it is natural that from all over the West men should write to Mr. Jefferson."
"Natural or not, they do it," quoth Mr. Smock doggedly. "I thought I heard the stage horn?"
Rand looked at his watch. "Not yet. It lacks some minutes of its time," he said, and, leaning on the counter, waited until he saw the mail-bag filled and securely fastened. Lounging there, he took occasion to ask after the health of Mr. Smock's wife, and to commiserate the burnt garden without the window. If the expression of interest was calculated, the interest itself was genuine enough. A shrewd observer might have said that in dealing with the voters of his county Rand exhibited a fine fusion of the subtle politician with the well-wishing neighbour. The facts that he was quite simply and sincerely sorry for the postmaster's ailing wife, and that he had the yeoman's love for fresh and springing green instead of withered leaf and stalk, in no wise militated against that other fact that it was his cue to conciliate, as far as might be, the minds of men. He almost never neglected his cue; when he did so, it was because uncontrollable passion had intervened. Now the postmaster, too, shook his head over the ruined garden, entered with particularity into the doctor's last report, and by the time that Rand, with a nod of farewell, left the room, had voted him into the Governor's chair, or any other seat of honour to which he might aspire. "Brains, brains!" thought Mr. Smock. "And a plain man despite his fine marriage! If there were more like him, the country would be safer than it is to-day. There is the horn!"
The stage with its four horses and flapping leather hanging, its heated, red-coated driver and guard, and its dusty passengers swung into town with great cracking of a whip and blowing of a horn, drew up at the post-office just long enough to deliver a plethoric mail-bag, and then rolled on in a pillar of dust to the Eagle. The crowd about the post-office increased, men gathering on the steps as well as upon the porch above and on the parched turf beneath the mulberries. There was a principle of division. The Federalists, who were in the minority, held one end of the porch; the more prominent Republicans the other, while the steps were free to both, and the space below was given over to a rabble almost entirely Republican. Rand, with several associates, lawyers or planters, stood near the head of the steps;—all waited for the sorting and distribution of the mail. The sun was low over the Ragged Mountains, and after the breathless heat of the day, a wind had arisen that refreshed like wine.
Rand, his back to the light, and paying grave attention to a colleague's low-voiced exposition of a point in law, did not at first observe a movement of the throng, coupled with the utterance of a well-known name, but presently, as though an unseen hand had tapped him on the shoulder, he turned abruptly, and looked with all the rest. Mr. Jefferson was coming up the street, riding slowly on a big, black horse and followed by a negro groom. The tall, spare form sat very upright, the reins loosely held in the sinewy hand. Above the lawn neckcloth the face, sanguine in complexion and with deep-set eyes, looking smilingly from side to side of the village street. He came on to the post-office amid a buzz of voices, and the more prominent men of his party started down the steps to greet him. The few Federalists stiffly held their places, but they, too, as he rode up, lifted their hats to their ancient neighbour and the country's Chief Magistrate. A dozen hands were ready to help him dismount, but he shook his head with a smile. "Thank you, gentlemen, but I will keep my seat. I have but ridden down to get my mail.—Mr. Coles, if you will be so good!—It is a pity, is it not, to see this drouth? There has been nothing like it these fifty years.—Mr. Holliday, I have news of Meriwether Lewis. He has seen the Pacific.
"Tiphysque novos Detegat orbes; nec sit terris Ultima Thule.
"Mr. Massie, I want some apples from Spring Valley for my guest, the Abbe Correa.—Mr. Cocke, my Merinos are prospering despite the burned pastures."
Mr. Coles came down the steps with a great handful of letters and newspapers. The President took them from him, and, without running them over, deposited all together in a small cotton bag which hung from his saddle-bow. This done, he raised his head and let his glance travel from one end to the other of the porch above him. Of the men standing there many were his bitter political enemies, but also they were his old neighbours, lovers, like himself, of Albemarle and Virginia, and once, in the old days when all were English, as in the later time when all were patriots, his friends and comrades. He bowed to them, and they returned his salute, not genially, but with the respect due to his fame and office. His eye travelled on. "Mr. Rand, may I have a word with you?"
Rand left the pillar against which he had leaned and came down the steps to the waiting horseman. He moved neither fast nor slow, but yet with proper alacrity, and his dark face was imperturbable. The fact of some disagreement, some misunderstanding between Mr. Jefferson and the man who had entered the public arena as his protege, had been for some time in the air of Albemarle. What it was, and whether great or small, Albemarle was not prepared to say. There was a chill in the air, it thought, but the cloud might well prove the merest passing mist, if, indeed, Rumour was not entirely mistaken, and the coolness a misapprehension. The President's voice had been quiet and friendly, and Rand himself moved with a most care-free aspect. He was of those who draw observation, and all eyes followed him down the steps. He crossed the yard or two of turf to the black horse, and stood beside the rider. "You wished me, sir?"
"I wish to know if you will be so good as to come to Monticello to-night? After nine the house will be quiet."
"Certainly I will come, sir."
"I will look for you then." He bowed slightly and gathered up his reins. Rand stood back, and with a "Good-afternoon to you all, gentlemen," the President wheeled his horse and rode down the street towards his mountain home. The crowd about the post-office received its mail and melted away to town house and country house, to supper at both, and to a review, cheerful or acrimonious, of the events of the day, including the fact that, as far as appearances went, Lewis Rand was yet the President's staff and confidant. The Churchills and Fairfax Cary rode away together. In passing, the latter just bent his head to Rand, but Colonel Dick and Major Edward sat like adamant. Rand took the letters doled out to him by Mr. Smock, glanced at the superscriptions, and put them in his pocket, then walked to the Eagle and spoke to the hostler there, and finally, as the big red ball of the sun dipped behind the mountains, betook himself to Tom Mocket's small house on the edge of town.
He found Vinie on the porch. "Is Adam here?" he asked. She nodded. "That's well," he said. "I want a talk with him—a long talk. And, Vinie, can you give me a bit of supper? I won't go home until late to-night;—I have sent my wife word. Tell Adam, will you? that I am here, and let us have the porch to ourselves."
The night was hot and dark when Rand, riding Selim, left the town and took the Monticello road. He forded the creek, and the horse, scrambling up the farther side, struck fire from the loose stones. Farther on, the way grew steep, and the heavy shadow of the overhanging trees made yet more oppressive the breathless night. The stars could hardly be seen between the branches, but from the ground to the leafy roof the fireflies sparkled restlessly. Rand thought, as he rode, of the future and the present, but not of the past. It was so old and familiar, this road, that he might well feel the eyes of the past fixed upon him from every bush and tree; but if he felt the gaze, he set his will and would not return it. For some time he climbed through the thick darkness, shot with those small and wandering fires, but at last he came upon the higher levels and saw below him the wide and dark plain. In the east there was heat lightning. Here on the mountain-top the air blew, and a man was free from the dust of the valley. He drew a long breath, checked Selim for a moment, and, sitting there, looked out over the vast expanse; but the eyes of the past grew troublesome, and he hurried on. It was striking nine when a negro opened the house gate for him and, following him to the portico, took the horse from which he dismounted. Light streamed from the open door, and from the library windows. Except for a glimmer in the Abbe Correa's room, the rest of the house was in darkness. If Mrs. Randolph and her daughters were there, they had retired. He heard no voices. In the hot and sulphurous night the pillared, silent house with its open portal provoked a sensation of strangeness. Rand crossed the portico and paused at the door. Time had been when he would have made no pause, but, familiar to the house and assured of his welcome, would have passed through the wide hall to the library and his waiting friend and mentor. Now he laid his hand upon the knocker, but before it could sound, a door halfway down the hall opened, and there appeared the tall figure of the President. He stood for a moment, framed in the doorway, gazing at his visitor, and there was in his regard a curious thoughtfulness, an old regret, and—or so Rand thought—a faint hostility. The look lasted but a moment; he raised his hand, and, with a movement that was both a gesture of welcome and an invitation to follow him, turned and entered the passage which led to the library. Rand moved in silence through the hall, where Indian curiosities, horns of elk, and prehistoric relics were arranged above the marble heads of Buonaparte and Alexander the First, Franklin and Voltaire, and down the narrow passage to the room that had been almost chief of all his sacred places. It was now somewhat dimly lit, with every window wide to the night. Jefferson, sitting beside the table in his particular great chair, motioned the younger man to a seat across from him, evidently placed in anticipation of his coming. Rand took the chair, but as he did so, he slightly moved the candles upon the table so that they did not illumine, as they had been placed to illumine, his face and figure. It was he who began the conversation, and he wasted no time upon preliminaries. The night was in his blood, and he was weary of half measures. This storm had long been brewing: let it break and be over with; better the open lightning than the sullen storing up of unpaid scores, unemptied vials of wrath! There were matters of quarrel: well, let the quarrel come! The supreme matter, unknown and undreamed of by the philosopher opposite him, would sleep secure beneath the uproar over little things. He craved the open quarrel. It would be easier after the storm. The air would be cleared, though by forces that were dire, and he could go more easily through the forest when he had laid the trees low. It was better to hurry over the bared plain towards the shining goal than to stumble and be deterred amid these snares of old memories, habits, affections, and gratitudes. The past—the past was man's enemy. He was committed to the future, and in order to serve that strong master there was work—disagreeable work—to be done in the present. Ingratitude!—that, too, was but a word, though a long one. He was willing to deceive himself, and so ideas and images came at his bidding, but they hung his path with false lights, and they served, not him, but his inward foe.
He spoke abruptly. "That Militia Bill,—the matter did not approve itself to my reason, and so I could not push it through. I understood, of course, at the time that you were vexed—"
"I should not say that 'vexed' was the word. I was surprised. You will do me the justice to acknowledge that I cheerfully accepted the explanation which you gave me. You are fully aware that I, of all men, would be the last to deny your right—any man's right—of private judgment. All this was last winter, and might have been buried out of sight."
"I have heard that a letter of mine in the Enquirer gave you umbrage. It was my opinion that the country's honour demanded less milk and water, less supineness in our dealings with England, and I expressed my opinion—"
"The country's honour! That expression of your opinion placed you among the critics of the administration, and that at an hour when every friend was needed. It came without warning, and if it was meant to wound me, it succeeded."
Rand moved restlessly. "It was not," he said sombrely; "it was not meant to wound you, sir. Let me, once for all, sitting in this room amid the shades of so many past kindnesses, utterly disavow any personal feeling toward you other than respect and gratitude. It was apparent to me that the letter must be written, but I take God to witness that I regretted the necessity."
"The regret," answered the other, "will doubtless, in the sight of the Power you invoke, justify the performance. Well, the nine days' wonder of the letter is long over! A man in public life cannot live sixty years without suffering and forgiving many a similar stab. The letter was in February. Afterwards—"