On went Eaton's disclosures, punctuated by heated objections from Wickham and Luther Martin, and once or twice by a scornful question from Burr himself. It was damning testimony, and the throng hung breathless on the various voices. Mocket listened also, but listened with his eyes upon his chief, and when there arose some interruption and dispute over technicalities, his freed mind proceeded to deal with Rand's change of aspect. It occurred to him to wonder if the light which showed it to him could be falling through a veil of storm cloud, but when he glanced at the high window, there was only the blue August heaven. What, then, gave Lewis so dark a look? "The black dog he talks of has got him sure," thought Tom. "What's happened to anger him like that?"
The voice of the witness again made itself heard. "Colonel Burr stated that he had secured to his interests and attached to his person the most distinguished citizens of Tennessee, Kentucky, and the territory of Orleans; that the army of the United States would act with him; that it would be reinforced by ten or twelve thousand men from the above states and territories, and that he had powerful agents in the Spanish territory. He proposed to give me a distinguished command in his army; I understood him to say the second in command. I asked him who would command in chief. He said, General Wilkinson. I said that General Wilkinson would act as lieutenant to no man in existence. 'You are in error,' said Mr. Burr. 'Wilkinson will act as lieutenant to me—'"
Mocket moved with care along the ledge until he had brought within his view another portion of the Hall. "That look of his isn't fixed on nothing! Now we'll see." He stood on tiptoe, craned his neck, and surveyed the crowded floor. "Humph!" he remarked at last. "I might have known without looking. If I were Ludwell Cary—"
The counsel for the prisoner and the prisoner himself were subjecting the witness to a riddling fire of cross-questions. Mocket, on his coign of vantage, was caught again by the more apparent drama, and looked and listened greedily. Eaton at last retired, much damaged, and Commodore Truxtun was sworn. This was a man of different calibre, and from side to side of the long room occurred a subtle intensification of respect, interest, and attention. On went the examination, this time favourable, on the whole, to Burr. "The prisoner frequently, in conversation with me, mentioned the subject of speculations in western lands, opening a canal and building a bridge. Colonel Burr also said to me that the government was weak, and that he wished me to get the navy of the United States out of my head; that it would dwindle to nothing; and that he had something to propose to me that was both honourable and profitable; but I considered this nothing more than an interest in his land speculations—"
The August heat was maddening. Now and then a puff of wind entered from the parched out-of-doors, but it hardly refreshed. The flutter of the women's fans in the gallery made a far away and ineffectual sound. "All his conversations respecting military and naval subjects and the Mexican expedition," went on Truxtun's voice, "were in event of a war with Spain. I told him my opinion was, there would be no war, but he was sanguine of it. He said that after the Mexican expedition he intended to provide a formidable navy; that he meant to establish an independent government and give liberty to an enslaved world. I declined his propositions to me because the President was not privy to the project. He asked me the best mode of attacking the Havana, Carthagena, and La Vera Cruz—"
The day wore on. Truxtun was released, and the Attorney for the United States called Blennerhassett's servants to prove the array at the island and the embarkment upon the Ohio. They did their best with a deal of verbiage, of "Colonel Burr said" and "Mr. Blennerhassett said," and with no little bewilderment under cross-examination. "Yes, sir; I'm telling you, sir. Mr. Blennerhassett allowed that Colonel Burr and he and a few friends had bought eight hundred thousand acres of land, and they wanted young men to settle it. He said he would give any young man who would go down the river one hundred acres of land, plenty of grog and victuals while going down the river, and three months' provision after they got to the end; every young man must have his rifle and blanket. When I got home, I began to think, and I asked him what kind of seed we should carry with us. He said we did not want any, the people had seeds where we were going—"
"Of what occupation were you upon the island?" demanded Mr. Wirt.
"A gardener, sir. And then Mr. Blennerhassett said to me, 'I'll tell you what, Peter, we're going to take Mexico, one of the finest and richest places in the world!' He said that Colonel Burr would be King of Mexico, and that Mrs. Alston, daughter of Colonel Burr, was to be the Queen of Mexico whenever Colonel Burr died. He said that Colonel Burr had made fortunes for many in his time, but none for himself, and now he was going to make something for himself. He said that he had a great many friends in the Spanish territory; that the Spaniards, like the French, had got dissatisfied with their government, and wanted to swap it. He told me that the British also were friends in this piece of business. I told him that the people had got it into their heads that Colonel Burr wanted to divide the Union. He sent me to Mason County with a letter, but I wasn't to deliver it until I had the promise that it should be burned before me as soon as 't was read, for, says he, it contains high treason."
"Gad!" thought Mocket to himself, "I'm glad that some one else's letters are burned as well! If I were as cool as Aaron Burr looks—"
Mr. McRae questioned the witness: "Well, who went off this December night?"
"Mr. Blennerhassett, sir, and the whole of the party."
"At what time of the night?"
"About one o'clock."
"Did all that came down to the island go away?"
"All but one, who was sick."
"Had they any guns?"
"Some of them had. Some of the people went a-shooting; but I do not know how many there were."
"What kind of guns; rifles or muskets?"
"I can't tell whether rifles or muskets. I saw no pistols but what belonged to Mr. Blennerhassett himself."
"Was there any powder or lead?"
"They had powder and they had lead. I saw some powder in a long, small barrel like a churn. Some of the men were engaged in running bullets."
"What induced them to leave the island at that hour of the night?"
"Because they were informed that the Kenawha militia were coming down."
The cross-examination of this witness and some desultory firing by the opposed counsel ended the day's proceedings. The court adjourned, and the crowd streamed forth to the open air. Mocket, among the first to leave the hail, waited for his chief beside the outer doors. Townspeople, country neighbours, and strangers poured by, and he spoke to this one or to that. A group of Federalists approached; among them Ludwell Cary. They were talking, and as they passed Mocket heard the words, "When I return to Albemarle next week—" They went on down the steps; others streamed by, and presently Rand appeared. His lieutenant joined him, and together they left the Capitol and struck down the parched slopes to Governor Street.
"Things are all right at Williamsburgh," ventured Mocket, finding the silence oppressive. "I got in too late to see you last night. Were you at the Capitol yesterday also?"
"A man told me they had Adam on the stand. They got nothing from him?"
"I've the papers all straight for the Winchester case. What do you want me to do—"
"I want you to be silent."
The other glanced aslant, with a lift of his brows and a twist of his lip. "That's a black rage," he thought; "Gideon and old Stephen and the Lord knows who beside all speaking together!"
They left Governor Street and presently arrived in silence before Rand's office. Mocket unlocked the door and they went in together. The senior partner dragged a chair before the empty fireplace and, sitting down, stared at the discoloured bricks as though he saw vistas through the wail. Tom worked among the papers on his desk, moving his fingers noiselessly, and now and then glancing over his shoulder. The clock on the wall ticked loudly.
Rand spoke at last His voice had a curious suppressed tone, and upon his forehead, between the eyes, was displayed the horseshoe frown of extreme anger. Mocket had seen it earlier in the day, and it was now distinct as a brand. "I am not going," he said, "to take the Winchester case. This damned business here will soon be over. I shall wait to hear the verdict, and then I'm going to Albemarle."
"What d'ye think the verdict will be?"
"They'll acquit him. Barring Wirt, he has all the talent on his side. I'll leave you here to clear up things."
"Does Mrs. Rand wait here for you?"
"No. She leaves Richmond with Miss Dandridge to-morrow."
Tom took out his knife and began to whittle, an occupation that in him denoted sustained mental exertion. The other sat on before the empty fireplace, the mark upon his forehead, his hand twitching where it lay upon the arm of his chair. The clock ticked loudly; the sun, now low in the heavens, sent its gold shafts through the window; outside, the locusts shrilled in a dusty sycamore. Rand rose and, going to the cupboard, took from it a bottle and a glass, poured out brandy for himself, and drank it. In an age of hard drinking he was accounted puritanically abstemious. Mocket, glancing after him, knew that the draught meant disturbance so deep that the organism needed, rather than craved, the strength within the glass. Rand came back to the fireplace.
"Do you remember when, in November, I burned here, or thought I burned here, all papers, all letters—"
"Do I?" asked Mocket, with emphasis. "There's nothing happened to make me forget."
"A man cannot weave a net so fine that some minnow will not slip through and become leviathan! It escaped and has grown. Well, that too was in the nature of things." He took the ash-stick from the corner of the hearth and handled it as though he were again holding down burning papers. "So things are all right at Williamsburgh? I had a happy home-coming."
"You always have that," said Tom simply. "You've had a wonderful fortune, and more there than anywhere. I'm always telling Vinie—"
"Vinie!" answered the other. "Vinie would always blindly worship on. The sun might darken and go out, but where's the odds since she would never know it! Faith like a dog's or a child's or Vinie's—there's comfort there! But the awakened mind, and Judgment side by side upon the throne with Love—Oh, there's verjuice in the world!" He broke into harsh laughter.
"I wish I knew what ailed you," thought Mocket. "I'll try another tack." He stopped whittling and turned from his desk. "Coming out of the Capitol, I heard Ludwell Cary say that he goes next week to Albemarle."
"It is indifferent to me," replied the other, "whether he goes or stays." His hands closed upon the ash-stick until his nails were white. Suddenly he spoke without apparent relevance. "He is one of those men who are summoned in time of trouble—when the mind is tossed and the heart is wavering. They always answer—they come down the street at night, between the box bushes, up the steps beneath the honeysuckle—on such an errand they would not fear the lion's den! They are magnanimous, they are generous, they are out of our old life, they can tell us what we ought to do!" He struck the ash-stick violently against the hearth. "Honeysuckle and box and the quiet of the night, and 'Yes, I knew, I knew. 'Twas thus and so, and I would counsel you—' Oh, world's end and hell-fire! forgiveness itself grows worthless on such terms!"
He threw the stick from him, rose abruptly, and walked to the window.
"The clouds pile up, but they do not break, and the heat and fever of this August air grow intolerable. To abstract the mind—to abstract the mind"—He stood listening to the locusts and all the indefinable hum of the downward-drawing afternoon, then turned to Tom. "Give me those Winchester papers. Now what, exactly, did you do in Williamsburgh?"
THE RIVER ROAD
The days of speeches, for the Government and for Aaron Burr,—Hay, Wirt, and McRae against Edmund Randolph, Wickham, Botts, Lee, and Luther Martin,—went crackling by with bursts of heavy artillery and with running fire of musketry. It was a day of orators, and eloquence was spilled like water. At last the case rested. The Chief Justice summed up, exhaustively, with extraordinary ability, and with all the impartiality humanly possible to a Federalist Chief Justice dealing with a Republican prosecution. The jury, as is known, brought in a Scotch verdict, whereupon the prisoner was immediately upon his feet with a vehement protest. Finally the "Not proven" was expunged from the record, and Aaron Burr stood "Acquitted." The famous trial for treason was over.
As, throughout the summer, all roads led to Richmond, now, in the fierce heat and dust of early autumn, there was an exodus which left the town extremely dull after all the stir and fascination of the Government's proceedings. Burr, indeed, discharged for treason, was still held in bail to answer for the misdemeanor, judges and lawyers were still occupied, and many witnesses yet detained. But the result of the matter was a foregone conclusion. Here, too, there would be a "Not proven," with a demand on the part of the accused for a "Not guilty," and a final direction by the judges to the jury to return a verdict in the usual form. The trial of a man for a misdemeanor in levying war with Spain—a misdemeanor which, if proved, could entail only imprisonment—was an infinitely less affair than a prosecution for high treason, with the penalty of an ignominious death suspended like a sword of Damocles. The little world in Richmond felt the subsidence of excitement, realized how warm and dusty was the town, and began to think of its plantations and of country business. Witnesses and visitors of note took the homeward road. The Swan, the Eagle, the Bell, the Indian Queen, crowded all the summer, saw their patrons depart by stage, by boat, in coach and chaise, and on horseback. Many private houses were closed, and the quiet of the doldrums fell upon the place.
Jacqueline and Unity had been ten days in Albemarle. The two Carys, a servant behind them with their portmanteaus, rode away from the Swan on the first day of September. It was understood between the brothers that they were to make all haste to Greenwood. But there were houses on the way where kinsmen and friends might be trusted to do what they could to detain the two. Both were anxious to be at home—Fairfax the more eager, as was natural. The marriage was set for the middle of the month. As they rode out of town he had begun with, "I'll see her in four days," and the next morning, passing through the gates of the plantation where they had slept, he had irrelevantly remarked, "Now it is but three." The elder brother laughed and wished him Houssain's carpet.
Throughout the day they rode as rapidly as the heat permitted, but when at dusk they were captured by a kinsman with a charming wife and a bevy of pretty daughters, it was evident that they would not resume the road at dawn. It was noon, indeed, before they unclasped all these tendrils and pursued their journey, and at sunset another plantation put out a detaining hand. Fairfax Cary swore with impatience. The other laughed again, but when, late next morning, they got away with a message called to them from the porch, "You'll be at Elm Tree this afternoon. Tell Cousin William—" he looked kindly at his junior's vexed face and proposed a division of forces.
"We can't neglect Elm Tree, and then there's Cherry Hill and Malplaquet still before us. Why shouldn't you just speak to them at Elm Tree, then ride on to the inn at Deer Lick and sleep there to-night? You could start with the first light, ride around Cherry Hill, and give Malplaquet the slip. I'll make your excuses everywhere. It's hard if a man can't be forgiven something—when he's on the eve of marrying Unity Dandridge! You'll be at Greenwood to-morrow night, and I dare say they'll ask you to breakfast at Fontenoy. Come, there's a solution!"
"You're the best fellow! And what will you do?"
"I'll sleep to-night at Elm Tree and ride soberly on to-morrow, take dinner at Cherry Hill, and sleep again at Malplaquet. They'll all be disappointed at not seeing the prospective bridegroom, but I'll make them understand that a man in love can't travel like a tortoise! I'll ride from Malplaquet by the river road and be at home that afternoon. You had better take Eli with you."
They rode together to Elm Tree, and parted under these conditions.
Lewis Rand left Richmond on the third of September. He travelled rapidly. There were no kinsmen to detain him on the road, and while he had hot partisans and was not without friends, there was not within him the Virginian instinct to loiter among these last, finding the flower in the moment, and resolutely putting off the morrow. His quest was for the morrow.
He rode now in the hot September weather, by field and forest, hill and dale and stream, and rested only when he would spare the horses. Young Isham was with him; Joab had been sent on with Jacqueline. When night fell, he drew rein at the nearest house. If he knew the people, well; if he did not know them, well still; on both sides acquaintance would be enlarged. Hospitality was a Virginian virtue; no one ever dreamed of being unwelcome because he was a stranger. In the morning, after thanks and proffers of all possible service, he took the road again. It was his purpose to make the journey, despite the heat, in three days.
The last night upon the road he spent at a small tavern hard by an important crossroads. It was twilight when he dismounted, the fireflies thick in the oak scrub and up and down the pale roads, a crescent moon in the sky, and from somewhere the sound of wind in the pine-tops. Young Isham and the hostler took away the horses, and Rand, mounting the steps to the porch, found lounging there the inn's usual half-dozen haphazard guests. To most of these he was known by sight, to all by name, and as, with a "Good-evening, gentlemen!" he passed into the low, whitewashed main room, he left behind him more animation than he had found. When, a little later, he went into the supper-room, he discovered at table, making heavy inroads upon the bacon and waffles, an old acquaintance—Mr. Ned Hunter.
"Mr. Hunter, good-evening."
"Hey—what—the Devil! Good-evening to you, Mr. Rand. So, after all, your party, sir, didn't hang Colonel Burr!"
The two ate supper with the long table between them, and with no great amiability of feeling in presence. The Republican was the first to end the meal, and the Federalist answered his short bow with an even more abbreviated salute. Rand went out into the porch, where there were now only one or two lounging figures, and sat down at the head of the steps. Mr. Hunter came presently, too, into the air, and leaned against the railing, whistling to the dogs in the yard.
"You are going on in the morning, Mr. Rand?"
"Yes. At dawn."
"You'll be in Charlottesville, then, by two o'clock. Earlier, if you take the river road."
"I shall take the river road."
"It is broken riding, but it is the quickest way. Well, I won't be many hours behind you! My humble regards, if you please, to Mrs. Rand. There's nothing now at Fontenoy but wedding talk. I am sure I hope Miss Dandridge may be happy! Here, Di! here, Rover! here, Vixen!"
Rand arose. "I've had a long day and I make an early start. Good-night to you, gentlemen!"
When, in the morning, Young Isham came to his door with the first light, the boy found his master already up and partly dressed. Rand stood by the window looking out at the pink sky. "A bad night, Young Isham," he said, without turning. "Sleep's a commodity that has somehow run short with me. Are the horses ready?"
"Have you had your breakfast?"
"Help me here, then, and let's away. Roselands by one!"
Young Isham held the gilt-buttoned waistcoat, then took from the dresser the extravagant neckcloth of the period, and wound it with care around his master's throat. Rand knotted the muslin in front, put on his green riding-coat, and took from the dresser his watch and seals. "Bah! there's a chill in these September dawns! Close the portmanteau. Where did you put the holsters?"
"Dar dey is, sah, under yo' han'."
The boy, on his knees, worked at the straps of the portmanteau. Rand, waiting for him to finish, drew out a pistol from its leather case, looked it over and replaced it, then did the same with its fellow. "Are you done?" he said at last. "Bring everything and come on. I'll swallow a cup of coffee and then we'll be gone. We should pass Malplaquet by nine."
They rode away from the half-awakened inn. A mist was over the fields, and when they presently came to a stretch of forest, the leaves on either hand were wet. The grey filled arcades and hollows, and the note of the birds was as yet sleepy and without joyousness. They left the woods and, mounting a hill, saw from its summit the sun rise in splendour, then dipped again into fields where from moment to moment the gold encroached. They rode rapidly in the freshness of the morning, by wood and field and stream, so rapidly that it was hardly nine when they passed a brick house with pillars set on a hill-top in a grove of oaks. Rand looked at it fixedly as he rode by. Malplaquet was a Cary place, and it had an air of Greenwood.
Three miles further on, sunk in elder and pokeberry and shaded by a ragged willow, there appeared a wayside forge. The blacksmith was at work, and the clink, clink of iron made a cheerful sound. Rand drew rein. "Good-morning, Jack Forrest. Have a look, will you, at this shoe of Selim's."
The smith stooped and looked. "I'll give him a new one in a twinkling, Mr. Rand! From Richmond, sir?"
"Yes; from Richmond."
"Burr got off, didn't he? If the jury'd been from this county, we'd have hanged him sure! Splitting the country into kindling wood, and stirring up a yellow jacket's nest of Spaniards, and corrupting honest men! If they won't hang him, then tar and feathers, say I! Soh, Selim! You've been riding hard, sir."
"Yes. I wanted to be at home."
"'Tis mortal weather. When September's hot, it lays over July. We'll have a storm this afternoon, I'm thinking. There's a deal of travel despite the heat, and I'm not complaining of business. Mr. Cary of Greenwood is just ahead of you. There, sir, that's done!"
The smith arose, patted Selim on the shoulder, and stood back. "You've got a fine horse, Mr. Rand, and that's certain. By Meteor, ain't he, out of Fatima?"
"Yes. Which of the Carys did you say—"
"Ludwell Cary. He came from Malplaquet and rode by an hour ago. The other passed yesterday—"
"Did Mr. Cary say which road he would take at the ford?"
"No, he didn't. The main road, though, I reckon. The river road's bad just now, and he seemed to have time before him. Thankee, Mr. Rand, and good-day to you!"
Followed by Young isham, Rand travelled on by the dusty road, between the parching elder and ironweed, blackberry and love vine. There was dust upon the wayside cedars, and the many locust trees let fall their small yellow leaves. As the sun mounted the heat increased, and with it the interminable, monotonous, and trying zirr, zirr, of the underworld on blade and bush. He rode with a dark face, and with lines of anger between his brows. It had come to him like a chance spark to a mine that Ludwell Cary was not at Greenwood, was yet upon the road before him. He knew day and hour when the other had left Richmond, and there had been more than time to make his journey.
Before him, on the lower ground, a belt of high and deep woods proclaimed a watercourse, and he presently arrived beside a shrunken stream. Here was a mill, and the miller and a man or two were apparent in the doorway. The ford lay a hundred yards beyond, and on the far side of the stream the river road and the main road branched. Travellers paused as a matter of course to give and take the time of day, and now the miller, dusty and white, came out into the road. "Morning, morning, Mr. Rand! From Richmond, sir? So we couldn't hang Aaron Burr, after all. Well, he ought to have been, that's all I've got to say!"
"Give me a gourd of water, will you, Bates? This dust is choking."
"'Tis that, sir. But we'll have a storm before the day is over. There's a deal of travel just now. Mr. Cary of Greenwood passed a short while ago."
A negro brought a dripping gourd. Rand put it to his lips and drank the cool water. "Which road," he asked, as he gave back the gourd,—"which road did Mr. Cary take? The main road or the river road?"
The miller looked over his shoulder. "Jim and Bob and Shirley, which road did Mr. Cary take?"
"I didn't notice."
"Reckon he took the main road, Bates."
"I wasn't looking, but you could hear his horse's hoofs, and that wouldn't have been so on the river road."
"'Twuz de main road, sah."
Rand and Young Isham went on, down by the mill and along the bank to the clear, brown, shallow ford, crossed, and paused beneath a guide-post upon the crest of the further bank. The trees hid the mill. Before them stretched the main road, to the right dipped between fern and under arching boughs the narrow, broken river road. "If he went this way," said Rand slowly, "I'll go that. Young Isham—"
"The mare's spent. No need to give her this rough travelling. Take the main road and take it slowly. Let her walk, and when you reach Red Fields, stop and have her fed. I'll go and go fast by the river road."
Master and slave parted, the latter keeping to the sunny thoroughfare, the former plunging into the narrow, heavily shaded track that ran through ravine and over ridge, now beside the water and now in close woods of birch and hemlock. The road was bad, but Selim and his master bent to it grimly, with no nice avoidance of rut or stone or sunken place. To the horse there was before him food and rest, to the man his home. They took at the same pace the much of rough and the little of smooth, and the miles fell behind them. The sun was high, but there were threatening masses of clouds, with now and then a distant roll of thunder. The road was solitary, little used at any time, and to-day as lonely a woodland way as might well be conceived.
Rand rode with closed lips, and with the mark between his brows. Passion was having its way with him, such passion as had lived with him, now drowsing, now fiercely awake, in the days at Richmond between his return from Williamsburgh and the close of the trial. He saw Roselands and Jacqueline beneath the beech tree, but he also saw, and that with more distinctness, the face and form of the man who rode toward Greenwood. He longed for Jacqueline, but he had not forgiven her. He knew that he would when he saw her face—would forgive her with a cry for the waste of the hot, revengeful days, the sleepless nights, since they had parted. Her face swam before him, between the hemlock boughs, but he was not ready yet to forgive, not yet, not until he got to Roselands and she met him with her wistful eyes! He was not a fool; the Absolute within him knew where lay the need for forgiveness, but it was deeply overlaid with human pride and wrath. He was at the old, old trick of anger with another when the fault was all his own. As for Ludwell Cary—
His hand closed with force upon the bridle and his eyes narrowed. "From the first, from that day upon the Justice's Bench, from that day when we gathered nuts together, I must have hated. Now it is warp and woof, warp and woof!" He touched Selim with the spur. "If there were truly a heaven and truly a hell, and I, in flames myself, saw him in Abraham's bosom, not to escape from that torment would I call to him, 'Once we were neighbours, once it seemed that we might have been friends—come down, come down and help me, Cary!'"
He laughed, a harsh sound that came back from the rock above him. By no means always, far from even often, a hardened or an evil man, to-day the stream of thought was stirred and sullied from every black pool and weedy depth, and there came floating up folly, waste, and sin. His reason slept. Had he, by some Inquisitor not to be disobeyed, been suddenly obliged to give why and wherefore for his hatred, the trained intellect must have agreed with the questioner. "These causes fail of sufficiency." That was true, but the truth was sophistry. He dealt now with the fact that he hated, and in his mind, as he rode at speed along the river road, he did not even review the past which had given birth to this present. He hated, and his hand closed upon the rein within it as though there was there, in addition, another thread.
A hemlock bough brushed violently against his face. He struck it aside, and, coming to the rocky top of a little rise, checked Selim for a moment of the fresher air. It came like a sigh from the darkening clouds. Rand looked out over field and forest to the massed horizon, then shook the reins, and Selim picked his way down the ridge to a woodland bottom through which flowed a stream. Rand heard the ripple of the water. A jutting boulder, crowned by a mountain ash, hid the road before him; he turned it and saw the stream, some yards away, flowing over mossed rocks and beneath a dark fringe of laurel. He saw more than the stream, for a horseman had paused upon the little rocky strand, and, hearing hoofs behind him, had partly turned his own steed. Rand's hand dragged at the bridle-rein and Selim stood still.
For a moment the two men, so suddenly confronted, sat their horses and stared at each other. Between them was a narrow rocky space, about Rand a heavy frame of leaves, behind Cary the clear flowing stream. Above the treetops the mounting clouds were dark, but the sun rode hot and high in a round of unflecked azure. The silence held for a heartbeat, then Rand spoke thickly: "So you, too, took the river road?"
"Yes. It is rough but short. When did you leave Richmond?"
"As soon as I could. You would have been better pleased, would you not, had I never left it? In your opinion, I should be in durance there, laid by the heels with Aaron Burr!"
"You are not yourself, Mr. Rand."
"Do not push innocence upon the board! When did it begin, your deep interest in my concerns? Before the world was made, I think, for always we have been at odds. But this—this especial matter, Ludwell Cary, this began with the letter which you wrote and signed 'Aurelius'!"
"A letter that told the truth, Mr. Rand."
"That is as may be. Telling the truth is at times an occupation full of danger."
"The nineteenth of February—ah, I have you there! Was it not—was it not a pleasant employment for a snowy night to sit by the fire and learn news of an enemy—news the more piquant for the lips that gave it!"
"You are speaking, sir, both madly and falsely!"
They pressed their horses more closely together. Cary was pale with anger, but upon Rand's face was a curious darkness. Men had seen Gideon look so, and in old Stephen Rand the peculiarity had been marked. When he spoke, it was in a voice that matched his aspect. "Last October in the Charlottesville court room—even that insult was not insult merely, but a trap as well! It is to be acknowledged that yours was the master mind. I walked into your trap."
"That which I did is not to be called a trap. Your ambition enmeshed you then, as your passion blinds you now."
Rand's voice darkened and fell. "Who gave you—who gave you the right of inquisition? What has your soul or your way of thinking to do with mine? You are not my keeper. I would not take salvation at your hands—by God, no! Why should the thought of you lie at the bottom of each day? It shall not lie at the bottom of this one! I do not know where first we met, but now we'll part. You have laid your finger here and you have laid it there, now take your hand away!"
"Do you well, and I will," said Cary sternly.
The other drew a labouring breath. "Two weeks ago I was in Williamsburgh, in the Apollo, listening in the heat to idle talk—and you in Richmond, you came at her call! You came down the quiet street, and in between the box bushes, and up the steps under the honeysuckle. What did you say to her there in the dusk, by the window? You were a Cary—you were part and parcel of the loved past—you had all the shibboleths—you could comfort, commiserate, and counsel! Ha! I wish I might have heard. 'Aurelius' dealing with the forsworn and the absent! 'Here the blot, and there the stain, and yon a rent that's hard to mend. If there's salvation, I see it not at present.' So you resolved all her doubts, and laid within her hand every link of a long chain. You have my thanks."
"I will not," said Cary, after a silence,—"I will not be moved by you now, and I will not talk with you now. You are beside yourself. I will say good-day to you, Mr. Rand, and in a less passionate hour I will tell you that you have judged me wrongly."
He gathered up his reins and slightly turned his horse. It had been wiser to break into violent speech, or even to deal the other a blow. As it was, the very restraint of his action was spark to gunpowder. Rand's hand fell to a holster, drew and raised a pistol. Cary saw and flung out his arm, swerving his horse, but too late. There was a flash and a report. The reins dropped from Cary's grasp; he sank forward upon his horse's neck, then, while the terrified animal reared and plunged, fell heavily to earth and lay beside the stream with a ball through his heart.
The frightened birds rose in numbers from the forest trees. Cary's horse, with a snort of terror, reared and turned. Rand flung himself from Selim and dashed forward to the black's bridle, but he was too late. The horse clattered down the little strand, plunged into the flashing water, and in another moment reached the opposite bank and tore away along the river road.
The sound of hoofs died away. All sound seemed to die, that of the stream, of the birds, of the air in the trees. It was as still as the desert. Very quietly and subtly the outward world put itself in accord with the inward; never again would sky or earth, tree or leaf or crystal water, be what it was an hour ago. Life and the scenery of life had a new aspect.
The murderer moved to the side of the murdered, knelt stiffly, and laid his hand upon the heart. It, too, was still. Rand stood up. The pistol was yet in his clasp; he swung his arm above his head and hurled the weapon into the stream. A pace or two away was a smooth and rounded rock like a giant pebble. He sat down upon it, locked his hands, and looked about him. The sky was blue, the leaves were green, the sun shone hot, the water was at its ancient song—whence, then, came the noxious change, and what was the matter with the universe? Cary lay among the stones, with head thrown back and one arm stretched out as though the hand were pointing. The face was quiet, set in the icy beauty of death, and young. There came a roll of thunder. Rand looked at his clasped hands, opened them, and moved the right one slightly to and fro. There was blood upon his coatsleeve—a great smear. He drew a sighing breath. He felt as a voyager might who awakened on a planet not his own and at midnight saw the faint star where once he lived. As yet the wonder numbed. The complete cessation of anger, too, was confusing. There was only the plane of existence, grey and featureless. This lasted some moments, then the lights began to play.
He rose from the stone and, going to the water's edge, knelt and tried to wash the blood from his sleeve, but without success. He stood up with a frown. The clouds were high above the treetops, though the sun yet shone. At a little distance Selim was quietly grazing, the birds had returned to their song, the squirrels to their play along the leafy boughs. Rand looked at his watch. "Twelve o'clock—twelve o'clock." Suddenly a thought struck him. "The pistol, with my name engraved on it—"
He had flung the weapon far into the water. The stream was hardly more than a wide brook, but its bed was broken, and above and below the little ford the water fell over ledges into small, deep pools. Where had the pistol fallen? If into one of these, he could not find it again. He had no time to sound them one by one. He moved along the bank, his keen eyes searching the water. The pistol was nowhere visible; it must have gone into midstream, into a pool below a cascade. If so, it might lie there, undiscovered, a thousand years. He stood irresolute. Could he have done so, he would have dragged the stream, but there was now no time to squander. Once more he made certain that it lay nowhere in clear water or near the shore, then abruptly left the search.
He stood in thought for another moment, then with deliberation moved to his victim's side and looked down upon him with a face almost as blank and still as the dead man's own. Presently he spoke: "Good-bye, Cary." The sound of his own voice, strained and strange, hardly raised above a whisper and yet, in the silence of this new world, more loud than thunder, broke the spell. He uttered a strangled cry, dashed up the strand to the grazing horse, flung himself into the saddle, and applied the spur.
He and Selim did not cross the stream. His mind worked automatically, but it was a trained mind, and knew what the emergency demanded. He retraced the river road to a point beyond the rock and the mountain ash, and there left it. Once in the burned herbage under the trees, he looked back to the road. There was rock and there was black leaf-mould. If in the latter any hoof-prints showed confusedly, the coming storm held promise of a pelting and obliterating rain. He pushed into a thick-set wood, and began a desperate ride across country. It was necessary to strike the main road below Red Fields.
Their way was now dangerous enough, but he and Selim made no stay for that. They went at speed over stock and stone, between resinous pines, through sumach and sassafras. Lightnings were beginning to play, and the thunder to roll more loudly. The sunbeams were gone, the trees without motion, the air hot and laden. Horse and man panted on. Rand's mind made swift calculation. He had ordered Young Isham to walk the mare. For all that time had seemed to stop, there at the stream behind him, the minutes were no longer than other minutes, and there had passed of them no great number. He had ridden from the ford to the stream at speed, and now he was going as rapidly. He would presently reach the main road, and Young Isham would not have passed.
It fell as he had foreseen. One last burst through brush and vine and scrub and they reached the edge of the wood. Before them through the trees he saw the main road. Rand checked the horse. "Stand a bit, Selim, while I play the scout."
Dismounting, he moved with caution through a mass of dogwood and laurel to the bank. At a distance beneath him lay the road, bare under the storm clouds. Above and below where he stood it was visible for some rods, and upon it appeared neither man nor beast. He went back to Selim, mounted, and together they made shift to descend the red bank. As, with a noise of breaking twigs and falling earth and stone, they reached the road, a man, hitherto hidden by the giant bole of the oak beneath which he had sat down to rest, rose and came round his tree to see what made the commotion. Between the cause and the investigator was perhaps fifty feet of road. Rand muttered an oath, then, with a characteristic cool resolve, rode up to M. Achille Pincornet and wished him good-day.
"Good-day, Mr. Rand," echoed the dancing master, and stared at the bank. "Parbleu, sir! Why did you come that way?"
"I left my servant a little way down the road and struck into the woods after a doe I started. I'll gallop back and meet him now. Are you for Charlottesville, Mr. Pincornet?"
"Not to-day, sir. I have a dancing class at Red Fields." Mr. Pincornet still stared. "I would say, sir, that the chase had been long and hard."
Rand laughed. "Am I so torn and breathless? No, no; it was short but rough—a few minutes and perhaps half a mile! Well, I will rejoin my negro and we'll make for town before the storm breaks."
"Wait here and your negro will come to you."
"Mahomet to the mountain? No; he is a sleepy-head, and I shall find him loitering. Good-day, good-day!"
With a wave of his hand he left the dancing master still staring and turned Selim's head to the east. He rode quickly, but no longer headlong, and he scanned with deliberation the long stretch of the main road. When at last he saw that which he sought, he backed his horse into the shadow of a great wayside walnut, drew rein, and awaited Young Isham's approach.
The boy and the mare came steadily on, moving at quickened speed under the lowering skies. Young Isham did not see his master until he was almost beneath the walnut tree; when he did so, he uttered a cry and well-nigh fell from the mare.
Rand spoke without moving. "Get down, Young Isham, and come here."
The negro obeyed, though with shaking knees. "Lawd hab mercy, marster, whar you come f'om? I done lef' you at de ford."
"I'll speak to you of that presently. Whom have you passed on the road since you left the ford? How many people and what kind of people? Think now."
"I ain' pass skeerce a soul, sah. Eberybody skurryin' in f'om de storm. Jes' some niggahs wid mules, an' a passel ob chillern, an' a man I don' know. Dey ain' stop ter speak ter me, an I ain' stop ter speak ter dem."
Rand leaned from his saddle and laid the butt of his riding-whip upon the boy's shoulder. "Look at me, Young Isham."
"You did not leave me at the ford. We took the main road together, and we've been travelling together ever since, except that perhaps ten minutes ago I rode on ahead and waited for you beneath this tree." He raised the whip handle and brought it down heavily. "Look at me, Young Isham,—in the eyes."
The boy whimpered. "Yaas, marster."
"We crossed the ford at the mill."
"And we kept on together by the main road."
"We have travelled together all the way from Richmond, and we have travelled by the main road. Now say what I have said."
"Don', marster, don'! I'll say jes' what you say! We done cross de ford an' tek de main road—"
"An' we done keep de main road, jes' lak dis."
"That's enough. If you forget and say the wrong thing, Young Isham,—"
"Don', marster! Fer de Lawd's sake, don' look at me lak dat! I ain' gwine fergit, sah,—de Lawd Jesus know I ain'!"
Rand lifted the whip handle from his shoulder. "Mount, then, and come on. There's no good in idling here."
A few moments later they overtook and passed Mr. Pincornet, now briskly walking, kit under arm, toward his dancing class. They bowed in passing, and Rand, turning in his saddle, looked back at the figure in faded finery. "There's danger there," he thought. "Where isn't it now?" As he faced again toward Charlottesville, his glance fell upon Young Isham, and he saw that the boy was looking fixedly at his sleeve.
The master made no movement of avoidance. "The mare's going well enough," he said quietly. "We'll draw rein at Red Fields, and then hurry home. Use your whip and bring her on."
They paused at Red Fields, then went on to the edge of town. The forked lightnings were playing and the trees beginning to sway. "We'll stop a moment," Rand said over his shoulder, "at Mr. Mocket's."
Door and window of the small house where Tom and Vinie lived were shut against the storm. Tom was yet in Richmond, and Vinie was afraid of lightning. In the darkened atmosphere the zinnias and marigolds up and down the path struck a brave note of red and yellow. The grapevine on the porch was laden with purple bunches that the rising wind bade fair to break and scatter. Rand dismounted, with a gesture bidding the boy to await him, entered the broken gate, and, walking up the path between the marigolds, knocked upon the closed door.
There was a sound within as of some one rising hastily, an exclamation, and Vinie opened the door. "I knew 'twas you! I just said to myself, 'That ith Mr. Rand's knock,' and it was! Wait, thir, and I'll make the room light."
She threw open the closed shutters. "I'm jutht afraid of lightning when I'm by myself. How are you, thir?"
"Very well. Vinie, I want a basin of warm water and soap."
"Yeth, thir. The kettle's on. I'll fix it in Tom's room."
In the bare little chamber Rand washed the blood from his coat-sleeve. It was not easy to do, but at last the cloth was clean. He came out of the room with the basin in his hands. Vinie, waiting in the little hall, started forward. "Open the back door," he said, "and let me throw this out." Vinie tried to take the basin. "I'll empty it, thir." Her eyes fell upon the water. "You've hurt yourself!"
"No," answered Rand. "I have not. It is nothing—a bit of a cut that I gave myself."
He pushed the door open and poured out the stained water upon the ground, then took fresh from a bucket standing by and rinsed the basin before he set it down upon the table. "Vinie—"
"I want a promise from you."
"Yeth, Mr. Rand."
"You've always been my good friend, ever since long ago when you came from the little house in Richmond to this little house in Charlottesville, and I was reading law with Mr. Henning. Why, I don't know what I should do without you and Tom!"
Vinie's eyes filled. "I couldn't—Tom and me couldn't—do without you, Mr. Rand. You're our best friend, and we'd die for you, and you know it. I'll promise you anything, and I'll keep my promise."
"I know that you will. It's nothing more than this. Vinie, I don't want it known that I stopped here to-day, and I want you to forget—look at me, Vinie."
"I want you to forget what I asked you for, and what I did in Tom's room.
"Yeth, thir," said Vinie, with large eyes. "And that you cut yourself?"
"That, too. Everything, Vinie, except that, coming along the main road, I stopped a moment at the gate to say how d'ye do, and to tell you that Tom would be at home in two or three days. That is all, and my coming into the house and the rest of it never was. Do you understand?"
"I won't say anything at all, thir."
"It's a promise?"
"Yeth, thir. I promise."
They went out into the porch together. "Ithn't there anything else?"
Rand, studying in silence the clouds and the whirling dust, had started down the step or two to the path between the marigolds. He paused. "I can't think of anything, Vinie"; then, after a moment, and very oddly, "Would you give me, once more, a cup of cool water?"
Vinie brought it in her hand. "You always thaid this water washed the dust off clean."
Rand drank, and gave back the cup. "Thank you. I'll go on now. How your vine has borne this year!"
"Yeth. I'm going to make some wine this week. Good-bye."
Her visitor passed through the little yard, between the vivid flowers. At the gate he turned his head. "Tom is really coming, Vinie, in two or three days."
"Yeth, thir," said Vinie. "I'll be mighty glad to see him."
Rand mounted, and he and Young Isham rode away. Vinie stood upon the porch and watched them as far as the turn in the road. A gust of hot wind blew against her, ruffling her calico dress and lifting light tendrils of hair from her forehead and neck. In the southwest the lightning flashed fiercely and there came a crash of thunder. Vinie uttered a startled cry, clapped her hands to her ears, and ran into the house.
Rand rode through a portion of the main street of Charlottesville. He kept the pace of a man who wishes to be at home before the rain falls, but his manner of going showed no undue haste and no trepidation. Faces at doors and windows, men gathered before the Eagle and the post-office, greeted him. He answered each salute in kind, and at the Eagle drew rein long enough to reply to the inevitable questions as to Richmond and the trial, and to agree that the rain was needed, since the main road, from Bates's Mill on, was nothing but a trough of dust.
"That's so," chimed in one. "If it wasn't so rough, the river road would be pleasanter travelling. There's the first drop!"
Rand looked up at the clouds. "I'll gallop on, gentlemen. A rain is coming that will lay the dust."
Once upon the road to Roselands, neither horse nor mare was spared. Rand travelled at speed beneath an inky sky. At the turn to Greenwood he looked once toward the distant house, half hidden by mighty oaks. It was no more than once. He had a vision of a riderless horse, tearing away from a stream, through the woods, and he thought, "How soon?" He drew a difficult breath, and he put for a moment his hand before his eyes, then spurred Selim on, and in a little while came within sight of his own gates.
HUSBAND AND WIFE
As he rode up the drive, he saw Jacqueline waiting for him, a gleam of white upon the grey doorstone, beyond the wind-tossed beech. He dismounted, sent Young Isham around with the horses, and walked across the burned grass. She met him with outstretched arms, beneath the beech tree. "Lewis, Lewis!"
He held her to him, bent back her face, kissed her brow and eyes and mouth. There was a wild energy in clasp and touch. "You love me still?" he cried. "That's true—that's true, Jacqueline?"
"You know—you know it's true! I was born only to love you—and I thought that you would never come!"
The thunder crashed above them, and the advance of the rain was heard upon the beech leaves. "Come indoors—come out of the storm!" She drew his hand that she held to her and laid it on her bosom. "Oh, welcome home, my dear!"
They went together into the house and into their own chamber. The windows were dark with the now furious rain, but a light fire burned upon the hearth. Rand stood looking down upon it. His wife watched him, her arms resting upon the back of a great flowered chair. Suddenly she spoke. "Lewis, what is the matter?"
He half turned toward her. "I believed that you would see. And yet you were blind to that earlier course of mine."
"Something dreadful is the matter. Tell me at once."
After a moment he repeated sombrely, "'At once.' How can I tell you at once? There are things that are slowly brought about by all time, and to show them as they truly are would require all time again. How can I tell you at all? My God!"
"I feel," she answered, "years older than I did two weeks ago. If there was something then to forgive, I have forgiven it. Our souls did not come together to share only the lit paths, the honey in the cup. Tell me, Lewis."
"It is black and bitter—there is no light, and it will kill the sweetness. If I could live with you and you never know it, I would try to do so—try to keep it secret from you as I did that lesser thing. I cannot—even now, without a word, you know in part."
"Tell me all—that lesser thing."
Rand turned from the fire and, coming to the great chair against whose back she leaned, knelt in its flowered lap and bowed his forehead upon her hands. "I am glad," he said, in a voice so low that she bent to hear it,—"I am glad now that I have no son."
There was a silence while the rain dashed against the window-panes and the thunder rolled overhead; then Jacqueline pressed her cheek against his bowed head. "What have you done?" she whispered. "Tell me—oh, tell me!"
After a moment he told her. "I have killed a man."
"Killed—It was by accident!"
"No. It was not accident. I came upon him by accident—I'll claim no more than that. The black rage was there to blind me, make me deaf—mole and adder! But it was not accident, what I did. I'll not cheat you here, and I'll not cheat myself. The name of it is murder."
He felt her hands quiver beneath his forehead, and he put up his own and clasped her wrist. "Are you thinking, 'I should have left him in the tobacco-fields'? As for me, I know that I ought never to have spoken to you there beneath the apple tree."
"Lewis, who was the man?"
He made no answer, and after a moment or two, numbed and grey, had passed, she needed none. The truth fell like a stroke from glowing iron. With a cry she dragged her hands from Rand's, left the chair, and, crossing the room, flung herself down beside the chintz-covered couch and cowered there with a hidden face. Rand arose and, walking to the window, stared at the veil of rain and the stabbing lightning. The clock ticked, a log upon the hearth parted with a soft sound, from the back of the house came faintly the homely cheer of the servants' voices. How deadly, how solemnly still, how wet and cold, was now a rocky strand upon the river road! He left the window and, coming to the couch, looked down upon the crouching figure of his wife. His brain was not numbed; it was pitilessly awake, and he suffered. The name of his star was Wormwood.
At last she stirred, lifted her head from her arm, and arose, moving stiffly and slowly as though she had grown old. Her face was drawn and colorless. She moved, mechanically, to the fire, laid fresh wood upon it, and, taking a small broom from the corner, made the hearth clean; then, returning, sat down upon the couch that was printed with bright roses and held out her hands. "Come," she said, in her low, musical voice. "Come, tell me—"
He sank upon his knees beside her and bowed his head upon her lap. "Jacqueline, Jacqueline! I rode away from Richmond, in black anger—"
He told her all, now speaking with a forced and hard deliberation, now with a broken and strangled voice, short words and short sentences—at the last, monosyllables.
When the tale was done, they stayed for a little, motionless. There was yet bright lightning with long peals of thunder, and the rain beat with passion against the panes. Jacqueline moistened her ups, tried to speak, at last found a broken and uncertain voice. "You left him—lying there?"
"The horse broke away—ran on through the wood. It will have been caught ere now, or it will make its way to Greenwood. Is Fairfax Cary at home?"
"He came last night. He was at Fontenoy this morning."
Rand stood up. "It is done, and all the rueing in the world will not make the breath alight again." With a gesture, singular and decided, he walked to the window and again looked out at the rain and lightning. "If I know—if I know Fairfax Cary—Has the horse been captured—and where? It may be known now, and it may not be known for hours." He stood, reviewing chances, and the shaken soul began to settle to its ancient base. At last he turned. "There's danger enough, but the struggle must be made. If you love me still, I'll find the heart to make it; ay, and to succeed!" Coming back to her, he took her in his arms. "You do love me? That isn't dead?"
"I love you, Lewis."
"Then, by God, I'll fight it out! Jacqueline, Jacqueline—"
She presently freed herself. "What are you going to do—what are you going to do now, Lewis?"
"I will tell you what I have done, and where the danger's greatest—"
"The danger of discovery."
"Lewis—will you not tell them?"
"Is it not—oh, Lewis, is it not the only thing to do? Sin and suffering—yes, yes, the whole world sins and suffers! But oh, ignoble to sin and to reject the suffering!"
He stared at her incredulously. "Do you know, Jacqueline,—do you know what you are saying?"
"Will it be so hard?" she asked, and put out her arms to him. "It is right."
"Let me understand," he said. "When the mist cleared and I saw him lying there, I sat down upon a stone, and I said to myself, 'This is a strange land, and I am to eat the fruits thereof.' For a while I did not think of moving. You would have had me stay there as he stayed, watch there beside him until men came?"
She answered almost inaudibly, "It had been nobler."
"And then and there to have given myself up?"
"Lewis, if it was right—I would have said to God and the world and him, 'It is the least that I can do!'"
He stared at her. "By God, the amende honorable!"
There came blinding lightning, followed by thunder which seemed to shake the room. Rand crossed to the hearth and, with his booted foot upon the iron dogs, rested his arm upon the mantel-shelf and his head upon his hand. "I'll think of that awhile," he said harshly. "That means disgrace and may mean death."
He heard the drawing of her breath. There was a knock at the door followed by Mammy Chloe's voice. "De bread an' meat an' wine on de table, marster."
"Very well, Mammy, I'll come presently," the master answered; then, when she was gone, "This is the earth, Jacqueline. It was long while I sat there upon the stone and saw matters as they might be upon another plane, but that appearance passed. Because for those moments I saw its shape, I know the aspect that is before your eyes. But it is not reality that you see; it is an appearance, thin and unsubstantial as the mist upon the hills. Expiation, purgation, aided retribution, the criminal to spare Justice the search, and the offender against Society to turn and throw his weight into the proper scale!—that is a dream of the world as it may become. This is the present earth,—earth of the tobacco-fields, earth of the struggle, earth of the fight for standing-room! I have fought—and I have fought—I cannot cease to fight."
With his foot he pushed back the burning wood. "I did not kill him in self-defence. I killed him in anger. That is murder. Say, for argument, that it is confessed murder. I will tell you, as a lawyer, what that means. It means a full stop. Life stopped, work stopped, fame stopped—a period black as ink, and never to be erased! A stop deep as the grave and sharp as the hangman's drop, and the record that it closes empty, vile, read at the best with horror and pity, read at the worst with a glance aside at every man and woman whom the stained hand had ever touched! That is what would come if I followed this appearance." He struck the hand at which he looked against the mantel-shelf. "And if he says, 'Ay, Lewis Rand, it is so that I would do,' I will answer, 'Yes! being you!—but what, Ludwell Cary, had you lain in my cradle?" His face worked and he turned from the mantel to the great chair. "Oh, mother!" he said beneath his breath.
Jacqueline came and knelt beside him. "Lewis, Lewis, is it all so dark?"
He touched her hair with his fingers. "Dark! I feel as though I were in a bare, light place. Underground, you know, but bare and flooded with light. Well, Jacqueline, well—"
She clung to him without speech, and he went on. "There is enough to create suspicion. We were travelling at the same hour, and it is known that we were opponents. The crossroads where I slept last night—there was nothing, I think, said at the inn. Then the forge, and the mill. At the mill they will swear to telling me that he took the main road, and since they could not see the ford, they must suppose that I, too, went that way. The main road. There's the insistence. I kept to the main road. As for Young Isham, I can manage him. That old Frenchman is more difficult. Danger there—unless he holds his tongue. There's a witness indeed lying at the bottom of some pool below the strand, but the strand may sink into the sea before that witness is found! There is this and there is that, but they'll serve no warrant on the this and that the world can see. I have won more difficult cases."
"You propose," she cried, "to lie—and lie—and lie!"
After a moment he answered, with bitterness, "I am not unreasonable. I do not match white with black. The dyer's hand accepts the hue it works in. I'll not win rest, forgiveness, sleep! But, by God, I'll keep what men care for. I'll keep strength and reputation, name, and room to work a lever in! Ay, and I'll not endure the world to say, 'This was his friend, and that his lover; look how they are stained!' O God, O God!"
She put her arms around him. "There is no stain! I will forever love you. Love casts off soil as it casts out fear. Will you not come with me—and tell them?"
He sat for some minutes, still in her clasp, then, leaning forward, took her face in his hands and kissed her on the brow. "No!" he said, with finality.
Another moment and he arose. "I am hungry. I have not eaten since daybreak. As for sleep—I don't know when I slept. It is not only the darkness of the storm; it is growing late. I think that we will hear nothing to-night. We will sleep, and I need it." He moved to a table and took up the pair of holsters which, on entering, he had laid there In a corner of the room stood a heavy chest of drawers. He placed the holsters in one of these, locked the drawer, and withdrew the key. "I'll think that out," he muttered, "just as soon as may be," then turned again to his wife. "I'll go now and get some meat and wine. Stay here by the fire, Jacqueline, and try to see that all this must be fought, and fought as I have said! Think of yourself, and think of Deb, Unity, your uncles—at last you will come to see that there is no other way."
He was gone. Jacqueline dragged herself from the chair to the hearth, sank down before the glowing logs, and saw at once a picture of the river road.
* * * * *
She had been lying throughout the night almost without motion, but toward three o'clock he was aware that she had left the bed. A moment, and he heard the tap of her slippers across the polished floor of the chamber, the hail, and the dining-room. She paused, he could tell, at the sideboard; when, presently, she slipped again into bed, she was trembling violently. He turned and put his arms about her. "I am so cold," she said. "It is cold indoors and out-of-doors."
"I have brought you misery," he answered, and then lay in silence.
They heard the clock ticking, and the sighing of the branches after the storm. For awhile she was quiet within his clasp, then the shuddering recommenced. He arose, put on his dressing-gown, and, going to the fireplace where the logs yet smouldered, threw on light wood and built a cheerful fire, then took her in his arms and carried her to the great chair of flowered chintz, set in the light of the dancing flames. "The wine will warm you. Look, too, what a fire I have made!"
She still shuddered, staring over her shoulder. "Draw the blinds closer. There's a sound as of some one sighing."
"It is the wind in the beech leaves."
She put an arm across her eyes. "How long is he to lie there, stretched out upon the wet rocks, beside the stream? Oh, heartless!"
"The storm and darkness have made it long. He will be found this morning."
"He never was your enemy, Lewis. You thought him that, but he never was, he never was!"
"I want to tell you," he said, "that all rage is dead. I feel as though I had left anger far behind, and why there was in my mind so great venom and rancour I no longer know. Envy and jealousy, too, are gone. They have been struck out of life, and other things have come to take their place."
"Ay," she cried, "what other things! O God, O God!"
There was a long silence, while the wind sighed in the beech tree and the fire muttered on the hearth. Jacqueline sat in the flowered chair, her raised arms resting upon its back, her head buried in her arms. Rand, leaning against the mantel, gazed with sombre eyes at her strained and motionless form. As he stood there, his mind began to move through the galleries where she was painted. He saw her, a child, beneath the apple tree, and in her blue gown that day in the Fontenoy garden, and then again beneath the apple tree, a child no longer, but the woman whom he loved. He saw her face above him the afternoon they laid him in the blue room, and he saw her singing to her harp in the Fontenoy drawing-room,—
"The thirst that from the soul doth rise—"
He saw the next morning—the summer-house, the box, the mockingbird in the poplar tree, the Seven Sisters rose—and then their marriage eve, and that fair first summer on the Three-Notched Road, and all the three years of their wedded life. The picture of her was everywhere, and not least in the house on Shockoe Hill. He saw her as she had been one snowy evening in February, and he saw her as she had looked the hour of his return from Williamsburgh—the pleading, the passion, and the beauty. And now—now—
The wind sighed again without the windows, and Jacqueline drew a shuddering breath. He spoke. "Jacqueline!"
She moved slightly. "Yes, Lewis."
"The night is quiet, after the storm. He lies at rest beside the stream. This morning he will be found, lifted tenderly, lamented, mourned. It is not a gruesome place. I remember trees and fluttering birds. He sleeps—he sleeps—like Duncan he sleeps well at last. Is he to be so pitied?"
She moaned, "Yes—but you also, you also! Oh, break, break!"
"Listen, Jacqueline. It lacks but an hour of dawn. When it is day, you may give me up. Rouse Joab and send for the sheriff and your uncles and for Fairfax Cary. I will dress and await them in the library. Indeed, you may do it now—there's no need to wait for dawn."
She rose from her chair and went the length of the room, resting at last, with raised arms and covered face, against the farthest window. He spoke on. "If all thought alike, Jacqueline, if all saw action and consequence with one vision—but we do not so, no, not on this earth! You and I are sundered there. Perhaps it is to my shame that it is so,—I cannot tell. What you asked for this afternoon, that confession, that decision, that accord with justice and acceptance of penalty, I cannot give freely and of conviction, Jacqueline. Why did you think I had that exaltation of mind? I have it not; no, nor one man in five hundred thousand! The man I—murdered—perhaps possessed it; indeed, I think that he did. But I—I do not own it, nor can I see matters with another's vision. I see a struggle to prevent disgrace and disaster, to retrieve and hold an endangered standing-room—a struggle determined and legitimate. I am capable of making it. But though I'll avow that another man's vision transcends mine, I'll dispute with him the power of loving! I love you with a passion as deep, strong, and abiding as if I, too, walked in that rarer air. I am of the earth and rooted in the earth, but I love you utterly. If you want this thing, I will give it to you. It was unmanly of me to say but now, 'You may do this, you may do that, and I will not lift a finger to prevent you.' I will not leave it to you, Jacqueline. I will awaken Joab and send him with a note to your uncles."
He moved toward the door, but before he could reach it his wife was before him, her weight thrown against him, her raised hands thrusting him back to the hearth. She shook her head, and her long hair shadowed her; she strove for utterance, but could find only a strangled "No—no"; then, still clinging to him, she slipped to her knees and so to her face, and lay there in a swoon in the red zone of the firelight.
At Fontenoy the deluging rain and pitchy blackness of the night sufficiently warranted Colonel Dick's assertion that it was an evening for a sensible man to stay where he was, and that a bowl of punch and wedding-talk and Unity at the harpsichord were to be preferred to a progress to Greenwood through such a downpour and a foot of mud. Ludwell!—Ludwell wouldn't be there anyway. He was a man of sense and would be sleeping at Red Fields, if indeed he had ever left Malplaquet. Fairfax Cary was persuaded, and after a very happy evening in the drawing-room, went to bed and to sleep in the blue room.
Dressing, next morning, he gazed around him. The room was familiar to him, and he had a liking for it, from the mandarin on the screen to General Washington on the wall. The storm had passed away early in the night, and it was now a lovely morning, clear-washed, fresh, and fragrant. He looked out of the window toward the blue hills, and down into the garden where autumn flowers were in bloom, and as he dressed he hummed an air that Unity had sung.
"Give me pleasure, give me pain, Give me wine of life again! Death is night without a morn, Give the rose and give the thorn."
Downstairs he found Miss Dandridge and Major Edward upon the wide porch. The wind had torn away a great bough from one of the poplars, and Colonel Dick and Deb upon the drive below were superintending its removal. Birds were singing, delicate airs astir. "It's going to be the divinest day!" said Unity, and led the way to the dining-room.
Breakfast went happily on with talk of politics, county affairs, and now and then from Colonel Dick a sly allusion to the approaching marriage. The meal was nearly over when old Cato, coming in from the hail, said something in a low voice to his master. Colonel Churchill pushed back his chair. "Excuse me a moment, Unity, my dear. There's a man wants to see me."
He left the room. Fairfax Cary and Major Edward continued a discussion of the latest Napoleonic victory; Unity played with her spoon and thought of her wedding-gown; Deb drank her glass of milk and planned a visit with Miranda to a blasted pine tree, lived in, all the quarter agreed, by a ha'nt that came out at night, like a ring of smoke out of a great black pipe!
Colonel Dick's figure appeared for an instant in the doorway. "Edward, come here a moment, will you?"
"A thousand hussars, and the thing went off like flaming tinder," finished Major Edward. He laid down his napkin and arose. "Excuse me, Unity. Very well, Dick," and left the room.
"Unity," enquired Deb. "Are there any ha'nts?"
"No, honey, no!"
"Just make believe?"
"Just make believe."
"Oh!" exclaimed Deb, and fell to wondering if the ha'nt would come out if only she and Miranda sat long enough before the tree. It might get hungry.
"Will you have another cup?" asked Unity of the guest, her hand upon the coffee-urn. "No? Then let us go and see what is the matter. They are not coming back."
"I want," whispered Fairfax Cary, as they left the table, "to talk to you about—about two weeks from now. Don't you think it would be sweet and shady this morning, under the catalpa tree?"
He managed to touch her hand, and she turned her velvety eyes upon him with both laughter and moisture in their black depths. "I've chosen the place for Unity Dandridge's grave. Would you like to see it? It's underneath the flowering almond."
Fairfax Cary glanced behind him. The servants were out of the room; Deb was gathering crumbs for the birds. "Give me one kiss! If you knew how much I love you! The world's tuned to-day just to that."
"Such an old tune! The world has other things to think of and other airs than that!"
They went out into the hail. It was empty, but through the open doors voices sounded from the porch at the back of the house. Another moment and Major Edward appeared, stood still at the sight of Cary, then came on up the hall to meet the two. He looked intensely grey and meagre, and his thin lips twitched. "Fairfax," he said,—"Fairfax, look here—"
The other, who had been laughing, grew suddenly grave. "I have never heard you, sir, use a voice like that. Has anything happened?"
Major Edward made a little noise in his throat, then stiffened himself as if on parade. "There may have been an accident. It looks that way, Fair. It was Eli who came."
"Eli! What has happened at Greenwood? Ludwell's home?
"Unity, my dear," said the Major, "let him come with me. Let's go into the library, Fair."
But Fairfax Cary was halfway down the hail. The Major hastened after him, and at the porch door laid a thin old hand upon the other's arm. "Fair, my boy, you are going to need all a man's courage. Think of Dick and me as of Fauquier Cary's—as of your father's—old, old friend Come, now."
They found on the square porch at the back of the house, Colonel Churchill, the negro Eli, and a white man, roughly dressed. The first, seated on the steps, his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands, looked up with a gasp. "Fair, Fair—"
Cary spoke with steadiness "What has brought you here, Eli? Mr. Ludwell came home last night?"
Eli, trembling violently, and of the ashen hue that a negro takes in terror, tried to answer, but at first there came only jabbered and meaningless words. He fell on his knees, and finally became coherent. "Marse Fair—Marse Fair—ain' I done lif' you bofe in dese ahms w'en you wuz jes' little fellers—he er lot de oldes' an' you nuttin' but er baby, toddlin' after him eberywhar he went! Ain' I done ride behin' you bofe dese yeahs an' yeahs? Oh, Gawd-a-moughty! O Lawd, hab mercy—"
Cary took him by the shoulder. "Eli, stop that crying out and tell me at once what is the matter! What has happened to Mr. Ludwell?"
"I'll tell you, Fair," answered the Major, in a shaking voice. "The negro can't do it. Ludwell did not come home last night, and this morning James Wilson, here, found Saladin—"
"Far up the river road, near my house," said the man upon the steps. "'Twas just about daybreak. I didn't know, sir, whose horse he was, so I put him in my stable. Then my son and me and Joe White, a neighbour of mine, we set out down the river road."
"Oh, my young marster! Oh, my young marster!" wailed Eli. "De kindes' an' de bes'! Oh, Lawd hab mercy!"
"It was just dawn, sir, and we went down the road—we were on horseback—quite a good bit of miles. There wasn't any sign until we came to where Indian Run crosses the road; but on the further side, where there's a strip of rocks, you know, sir—"
The speaker stopped short. "They found him there, Fair," finished Major Edward.
The young man turned squarely to the old. "Thank you, sir. You are the man for me. Was he—is he badly hurt?"
"There's nothing can ever hurt him more, my dear. It is you, and we with you, who must suffer now. They found him—they found him dead, Fair."
There was a silence; then, "Ludwell—Ludwell dead?" said Cary. "I don't believe you, Major Churchill."
He turned, walked to a bench that ran along the wall, and sat down. "Eli, get up from there and stop that camp-meeting wailing! Mr. Wilson, you perhaps do not yet know my brother's horse—black with a white star. Colonel Dick, they've got hold of the wrong end of some damned rigmarole or other—"
"I didn't know the horse, sir," replied Wilson, not without gentleness, "for I've been out of the county for a long time, and your brother used to ride a bay. But I knew your brother, sir."
"That's what I said, too, Fair," groaned Colonel Churchill from the steps. "I said it was all a damned mistake. But I was wrong. You listen to Edward. Edward, tell him all!"
"Yes, Dick. It is true, Fair, damnably, devilishly true. He had been dead for hours, Fair."
"Joe White's something of a doctor, sir," put in Wilson. "Joe said he would have been lying there since before the storm."
Fairfax Cary drew a gasping breath "Lying there, suffering, through the storm and darkness? Thrown? Ill and fallen from his horse? Major Edward, don't play with me!" He started up. "Where is he now?"
"We left him there, sir, just as he was, with Joe White to guard him. My son, he undertook to rouse the nearest people. I happened to know, sir, that the sheriff was staying overnight near Red Fields, and I sent him there first. I told the coroner myself, and then I came as hard as I could ride to Greenwood, where I heard that you were here—"
"It was thought best not to move him at once, Fair. They are intelligent men, and they were right." The Major's hand closed around the other's wrist. "He did not suffer, Fair. He was not thrown. He was shot—shot through the heart!"
"And there, by God," came from the steps Colonel Dick's deep voice, "there, at least, there's something to be done! But oh, my poor boy, my poor boy!"
Unity came from the doorway, took her lover's hands, and pressed them to her lips. "Fair," she whispered, "Fair!"
He kissed her on the forehead. "There, dear! We won't sit under the catalpa tree this morning. Eli! get the horses."
"They have been ordered, Fair," said the Colonel. "We'll go together, you and Edward and I."
The little rocky strand above the stream upon the river road lay half in sun and half in shade. After the storm the air was crystal. Birds sang in the forest trees, and the stream laughed as it slid over ledges into deep pools. The sky was blue, the day brilliant, a cool wind rustled through the laurels, and the wet earth sent out odours of mould and trodden leaf. Perhaps a score of men and boys, engaged in excited talk and in as close a scrutiny of one quiet figure as a line which the sheriff had drawn would permit, turned at the sound of rapid hoofs and watched the Churchills and Fairfax Cary, with Wilson and Eli, come down to the stream.
"Back, all of you, men!" ordered the sheriff, in a low voice. "That is Mr. Fairfax Cary"; then turned to a spectator or two of importance: "Mr. Morris, Mr. Page—I hope you'll be so good as to meet them with me? This is a dreadful thing!"
The Fontenoy party splashed through Indian Run and dismounted. It was not an ungentle people, and the little strand, from the woods to the water, was now free from intruding figures. Only the sheriff, the coroner, and the two planters, old friends and neighbours, remained, and these joined the Churchills. Fairfax Cary walked alone to his brother's side and stood, looking down.
Ludwell Cary lay peacefully. One arm was outstretched, the head a little back, the face quiet, with nothing in it of wrath or fear or pain. The storm had not hurt him. There was little disarray. It was much as though he had thrown himself down there, beside the water, with a sigh for the pleasure of rest. The younger Cary waited motionless for the blood to come back to his heart and the mist before his eyes to clear. It cleared; he saw plainly his brother, guide, and friend, and with a cry he flung himself down and across the body.
The men at the water's edge turned away their faces. The rudest unit of the small throng beneath the trees put up a sudden hand and removed his cap, and his example was followed. It had been a known thing, the comradeship of these brothers, and there were few in the county more loved than the Carys.
Moments passed. The sheriff spoke in a low voice to Mr. Morris, whereupon the latter whispered to Colonel Churchill. "Edward," said the Colonel, "time's being lost. Hadn't you better try to get him away?"
Major Edward moved along the bank to the two forms and stood in silence, gazing with twitching lips at the dead man's countenance, so impassive, cold, remote, alien now from all interests of this flesh, quite indifferent to love or to hate, supremely careless as to whether his story were ever told. The Major put his hand to his fierce old eagle eyes, and took it away wet with tears, slow, acrid, and difficult. He stooped and touched the living man. "Fair,—come, Fair!"
The other moved slightly, but did not offer to rise. Major Edward waited, then touched him again. "Fair, we want to mark closely how he lies, and then we want to take him to Greenwood. He has been here long, you know."
His words elicited only a low groan, but presently Cary lifted himself from the body, remained for a moment upon his knees, then rose to his feet. "Yes, to Greenwood," he said. "He lay here last night in the wind and rain, and I was warm and happy—I was asleep and dreaming! Why did I leave him at Elm Tree? If I had been with him—"
His face changed, startlingly. He stooped with rapidity, looked at and touched the dark stain upon the coat, straightened himself, and turned violently upon the Major and the little group which had now approached. "Who?" he demanded in a voice that rose to a hoarse cry. "Who?"
Colonel Churchill answered him. "We don't know, Fair, but by the living God, we'll find out!" and the sheriff, "We've no clue yet, sir, but if 'twas plain murder—and it looks that way, for your brother wasn't armed—then I reckon the man who did it will as soon find his ease in hell as in old Virginia!"
The farmer who had been first upon the ground spoke from the edge of the group. "I never heard a soul in this county say a hard word of Mr. Cary. I shouldn't ha' thought, barring politics, that he had an enemy."
"Ha!" said Major Edward, but not loudly.
The sheriff spoke again. "Mr. Fairfax Cary, we've got a kind of litter here, made of branches, and we'd best be going on. The sooner the law has its hand on this, the better. Shall we lift him now, sir?"
All were by this time gathered about the form on the earth, and the throng at the edge of the wood had also come nearer. Fairfax Cary, who had looked at each speaker in turn, now again bent his eyes upon his brother. That still figure, so fixed, so uncaring in the midst of harsh emotion, had apparently no accusation to make, was there only to state the all-inclusive fact, "I am in death, who, yesterday, could move and speak, could feel joy and grief, like you and these."
The little knot of men, who had been gazing at the dead as at the chief actor in a drama, began to look, instead, at Fairfax Cary, and to look the more steadily for their first glance. They saw a curious thing; they witnessed a transformation. Had he, like Proteus, slipped before their eyes into another shape, the vital change had hardly been more marked. He had been, even this morning, a young man, handsome and gallant, with a bright eye, a most happy manner, a charm and spirit wholly admirable. All Albemarle knew and liked him under that aspect. The men about him had seen grief and horror and rage, each exhibited strongly out of a strong nature. They now saw, from out of youth and the war of emotions, the man emerge. He came slowly but steadfastly, a man with a set purpose, which he was like to pursue through life. The growth of years took place almost at once, though not the growth that would have been but for this releasing stroke. Latencies in the backward and abysm of inheritance that would not have stirred under a less tremendous stimulus stirred under this, grew, and pushed aside the gay and even life that might have been. The growth was rapid and visible, as visible the sharp turn from every former shining goal to one which, an hour before, the runner had not seen. The men who watched him somewhat held their breath.
The change that was wrought was profound. The man who was stretched upon the earth looked now the younger of the two. He seemed also to have given something of the calmness of his state, for Fairfax Cary no longer grieved with voice or gesture or convulsion of feature. He was quiet, pale, and resolute, and he now spoke to the sheriff evenly enough. "Yes, Mr. Garrett, we'll take him home. Where is the litter?"
Four men brought it forward. Ludwell Cary was lifted by his brother and Colonel Churchill and laid reverently upon the stretcher of branches where the green leaves nodded above his quiet face. The little procession formed and, with the younger Cary walking beside the litter, crossed the shallow ford and moved slowly up the winding river road.
The murder, by an unknown hand, of Ludwell Cary, shot through the heart, beside Indian Run, as he rode from Malplaquet to Greenwood, became the overwhelming topic of interest in Albemarle, and a chief subject far and wide throughout the great state. His kinsmen and connections were numerous, and he had himself been a man widely known, by many greatly liked, and by a few well loved. There arose from town and country a cry of grief and wrath, a great wave of sympathy for the one man left of all the Greenwood Carys, solitary now in the old brick house behind the line of oaks, and a loud demand for the speedy discovery and apprehension of the murderer. Indignation was high, the Court House and the Court House yard crowded on the morning of the inquest, the verdict brought in by the coroner's jury received by the county at large with incredulous disappointment. Death at the hands of a person unknown.
No evidence was produced in the court room which threw any clear light upon the commission of the deed, its motive, or its perpetrator. There were ample accounts of the capture of the horse, the finding of the body, its position, and the nature of the wound,—medical opinion in addition that death had been instantaneous, and probably received before the breaking of the storm. If there had been any telltale track or mark in the soil of the river road, the continued and beating rain had made the way impossible to read. Witnesses from Malplaquet told of Ludwell Cary's setting forth that morning, and Forrest, the blacksmith, vouched for his passing the forge, alone. Men from the mill at the ford swore to his pausing to answer their questions as to the trial of Aaron Burr, and to his riding on—by the main road. Here arose the confusion. They were certain that Mr. Cary had taken the main road. They thought so then, and they did not see yet how they were mistaken. They told the next man who came riding by that he had taken that road—the main road. It was not the next man,—boatmen and others had passed going up country,—but when Mr. Rand came up, they told him that Mr. Cary was on the road before him—the main road. Yes, sir, it was Mr. Rand and his negro boy, and he could speak for it that Mr. Cary was supposed to be riding to Greenwood by the usual road—the main road. The river road was after all very little shorter, and everybody knew that it was mortal bad.
Lewis Rand was called. He testified that he had left Richmond upon the third, having with him a negro boy known as Young Isham. The night of the sixth he had slept at the Cross Roads Tavern and gone on the next morning, passing Malplaquet about nine. His horse loosening a shoe, he stopped at Forrest's forge, and there learned from the smith that there was considerable travel, and that Mr. Cary of Greenwood had passed some time before. "You remember, Forrest? I asked you if Mr. Cary had mentioned which road he would take at the ford, and you answered that he had not, but that you supposed the main road the other had been very bad all summer. Again, at the mill below the ford where I paused to ask for water, the miller, remarking on the travel home from Richmond, informed me that Mr. Cary had passed not long before. I asked him which road Mr. Cary had taken, the main road or the river road. He answered—or the men behind him answered, I cannot now remember which—'The main road.'"
"Ay, that's what we said, and what we thought," interjected the miller.
"It was thus my impression, gained first at the forge," continued the witness, "that Mr. Cary was before me upon the main road. Until then, knowing him to have left Richmond several days before me, I had supposed him at Greenwood. I was not averse to a word with him on certain matters, and I rode rapidly, hoping to overtake him—"
"Upon the main road, sir?"
"The main road, of course. As I did not do so, I concluded that the approaching storm had caused him to hasten. It was very threatening, and the few that my boy and I passed were hurrying to shelter. At Red Fields I paused for a moment"—He looked toward a well-known planter, standing near. "Certainly, Mr. Rand," said the latter promptly. "We tried to make you stay out the storm, but you would be getting home."
"From Red Fields my boy and I rode on into town. I stopped at my partner's house to tell his sister when to expect him home from Richmond, and at the Eagle I drew rein for a moment and exchanged greetings with two or three gentlemen upon the porch. The rain was close at hand, and my boy and I pushed on to Roselands—where, next morning, a neighbour brought the news of this murder. I corroborate, sir, as I have been called to do, the statements of Mr. Forrest and Mr. Bates that it was the impression of all who greeted him as he passed that Mr. Cary was riding home by the usual road—the main road. I have nothing further to offer, sir."
"Thank you, Mr. Rand," said the coroner, and the witness left the stand.
He was followed by the keeper of a small ordinary upon the main road, halfway between the ford and Red Fields. "No, sir, Mr. Ludwell Cary didn't travel by the main road. I sat in my door with my glass and my pipe almost the whole day—until after the storm broke, anyhow. There wasn't any custom—folk seemed to know it was going to rain like Noah's flood. There was hardly anybody on the road after about ten. Yes, I might have shut my eyes now and then, though I don't doze over my pipe and glass half as much as some people say I do. Anyhow, Mr. Ludwell Cary didn't ride that way—events prove that, don't they, sir? Yes, I remember well enough when Mr. Rand passed. I wasn't dozing then, for the negro boy spoke to me, said there was going to be a big storm. It must have been after midday, Mr. Rand?"
"Yes, something after midday."
The witness knew, for he always had his glass at noon. He might have been dozing when the negro spoke to him, but he spoke plain enough. "'It's going to be an awful storm,' he said, and then I believe you said something, sir, though I don't remember what it was, and you both rode on. I wasn't that sleepy that I couldn't see straight. That's all that I know, Mr. Galt."
Two or three other witnesses were called, but they were of the main road, and the main road had nothing to show further than that it had been travelled upon by Lewis Rand and his negro boy. They had not seen Mr. Ludwell Cary since he rode to Richmond early in the summer. Yes, they were sure they had seen Mr. Rand and his negro boy—but the clouds were dark, and the dust blowing so that you had to hold your head down, and people were thinking of getting indoors. The boy was riding a mare with a white foot.
"I think we can leave the main road, gentlemen," declared the coroner. "Now the river road and the stream where this thing was done—"
Indian Run—where did Indian Run come from or lead to, and who might have been upon that lonely road, or lurking in the laurel and hemlock that clothed the banks of the stream? Three miles up the water was a camping-ground used by gypsies; at a greater distance down the stream a straggling settlement of poor whites, long looked at askance by the county. It might be that some wandering gypsy, some Ishmaelite with a grudge—The enquiry turned again to Fairfax Cary.
"When you went on, Mr. Cary, from Elm Tree, you too supposed that your brother would follow by the same road? You thought—"
"I did not think at all," answered Cary harshly. "I was lost in my own self and my own concerns. I was a selfish and heedless wretch, and I hurried away without a thought or care. What he told me I forgot at the time. But I have remembered it since. He told me that he would take the river road."
"And on your own way home you repeated that to no one?"
"To no one. I never spoke of him, I do not know that I ever thought of him from Elm Tree to Greenwood. Oh, my brother!"
A sigh like the wind over corn went through the room. The coroner bent forward. "Mr. Cary, can you think of any one who bore him ill-will—a runaway negro, perhaps, or some vagrant who might have been along that stream?"
"No. His slaves loved him. We had no runaways. I do not believe there is a man on Indian Run who would have touched him."
"Mr. Cary, had he any enemy?"
"He had one. He sits yonder. You have heard his testimony."
The court room murmured again. The old rivalry between Lewis Rand and Ludwell Cary, the antagonism of years, and the fact of a duel were sufficiently in men's minds—but what of it all? The duel was a year gone by; political animosities in Virginia might be, and often were, bitter enough, but they led no further than to such a meeting. The coroner looked disturbed. The murmur was followed by a curious hush; but if for an instant an idea was poised in the air of the court room, it did not descend, it was banished as preposterous. The moment's silence was broken by Lewis Rand. From his place at the side of the room he spoke with a grave simplicity and straightforwardness, characteristic and impressive, familiar to most there who had heard him before now, in this court room, on questions of life and death. "Everything is to be pardoned to Mr. Fairfax Cary's most natural grief. My testimony, sir, is as I gave it."
The coroner's voice broke in upon a deep murmur of assent. "I presume, Mr. Cary, that you bring no accusation against Mr. Rand?"
Fairfax Cary looked from under the hand with which, as he sat, he shaded his brow. "I have, here and now, no sufficient proof whereon to base accusation of any man. I will only say that I shall seek such proof."
A little longer, and the proceedings were over. The crowd dispersed, unsatisfied, hungry for further details and hazardous of solutions. The better class went home, but others hung long about the Court House yard, reading the notices pasted upon the Court House doors, the "WHEREAS upon the seventh day of September and on the river road where it is crossed by Indian Run"—commenting upon the rewards offered, relating this or that story of the Greenwood Carys, and recalling every murder in Albemarle since the Revolution. "Dole was shot down like that, three years ago, in North Garden—but then, Fitch was suspected from the first. Fitch had been heard to swear he'd do it, and they knew, too, it was his gun, and a child had seen him come and go. Lewis Rand was for the State. Don't you remember the speech he made? No; Tom Mocket made it, but Mr. Rand wrote it! Either way it hung Fitch. Curious, wasn't it, that passage between Mr. Rand and Fairfax Cary? D'ye suppose he thought—d'ye suppose Fairfax Cary thought—"