But the surgeon claimed his rights.
"This is my business," said he, authoritatively. "Do not crowd on her, Gentlemen: give her air."
Whereupon the duellists and seconds stood respectfully aloof, in a mixed group, and watched with eager interest and pity.
The surgeon made a hole in the snow, and laid his fair patient's head low.
"Don't be alarmed," said he; "she has swooned; that is all."
It was all mighty fine to say, "Don't be alarmed." But her face was ashy, and her lips the color of lead; and she was so like death, they could not help being terribly alarmed; and now, for the first time, the duellists felt culprits; and as for fighting, every idea of such a thing went out of their heads. The rivals now were but rival nurses; and never did a lot of women make more fuss over a child than all these bloodthirsty men did over this Amazon manquee. They produced their legendary lore. One's grandmother had told him burnt feathers were the thing; another, from an equally venerable source, had gathered that those pink palms must be profanely slapped by the horny hand of man,—for at no less a price could resuscitation be obtained. The surgeon scorning all their legends, Griffith and Neville made hasty rushes with brandy and usquebaugh; but whether to be taken internally or externally they did not say, nor, indeed, know, but only thrust their flasks wildly on the doctor; and he declined them loftily. He melted snow in his hand, and dashed it hard in her face, and put salts close to her pretty little nostrils. And this he repeated many times without effect.
But at last her lips began to turn from lead color to white, and then from white to pink, and her heavenly eyes to open again, and her mouth to murmur things pitiably small and not bearing on the matter in hand.
Her cheek was still colorless, when her consciousness came back, and she found she was lying on the ground with ever so many gentlemen looking at her.
At that, Modesty alarmed sent the blood at once rushing to her pale cheek.
A lovely lily seemed turning to a lovely rose before their eyes.
The next thing was, she hid that blushing face in her hands, and began to whimper.
The surgeon encouraged her: "Nay, we are all friends," he whispered, paternally.
She half parted her fingers and peered through them at Neville and Gaunt. Then she remembered all, and began to cry hysterically.
New dismay of the unprofessionals!
"Now, Gentlemen, if you will lend me your flasks," said Mr. Islip, mighty calmly.
Griffith and Neville were instantly at his side, each with a flask.
The surgeon administered snow and brandy. Kate sipped these, and gulped down her sobs, and at last cried composedly.
But when it came to sipping brandied snow and crying comfortably, Major Rickards's anxiety gave place to curiosity. Without taking his eye off her, he beckoned Mr. Hammersley apart, and whispered,—
"Who the Deuse is it?"
"Don't you know?" whispered the other in return. "Why, Mistress Peyton herself."
"What! the girl it is all about? Well, I never heard of such a thing: the causa belli to come galloping and swooning on the field of battle, and so stop the fighting! What will our ladies do next? By Heaven! she is worth fighting for, though. Which is the happy man, I wonder? She doesn't look at either of them."
"Ah!" said the gentleman, "that is more than I know, more than Neville knows, more than anybody knows."
"Bet you a guinea she knows,—and lets it out before she leaves the field," said Major Rickards.
Mr. Hammersley objected to an even bet; but said he would venture one to three she did not. It was an age of bets.
"Done!" said the Major.
By this time Kate had risen, with Mr. Islip's assistance, and was now standing with her hand upon the piebald's mane. She saw Rickards and Hammersley were whispering about her, and she felt very uneasy: so she told Mr. Islip, timidly, she desired to explain her conduct to all the gentlemen present, and avert false reports.
They were soon all about her, and she began, with the most engaging embarrassment, by making excuses for her weakness. She said she had ridden all the way from home, fasting; that was what had upset her. The gentlemen took the cue directly, and vowed eagerly and unanimously it was enough to upset a porter.
"But, indeed," resumed Kate, blushing, "I did not come here to make a fuss, and be troublesome, but to prevent mischief, and clear up the strangest misunderstanding between two worthy gentlemen, that are, both of them, my good friends."
She paused, and there was a chilling silence: everybody felt she was getting on ticklish ground now. She knew that well enough herself. But she had a good rudder to steer by, called Mother-Wit.
Says she, with inimitable coolness,—
"Mr. Gaunt is an old friend of mine, and a little too sensitive where I am concerned. Some chatterbox has been and told him Mr. Neville should say I have changed horses with him; and on that the gossips put their own construction. Mr. Gaunt hears all this, and applies insulting terms to Mr. Neville. Nay, do not deny it, Mr. Gaunt, for I have it here in your own handwriting.
"As for Mr. Neville, he merely defends his honor, and is little to blame. But now I shall tell the true story about these horses, and make you all ashamed of this sorry quarrel.
"Gentlemen, thus it is. A few days ago Mr. Gaunt bade me farewell, and started for foreign parts. He had not been long gone, when word came from Bolton that Mr. Charlton was no more. You know how sudden it was. Consider, Gentlemen: him dead, and his heir riding off to the Continent in ignorance. So I thought, 'Oh, what shall I do?' Just then Mr. Neville visited me, and I told him: on that he offered me his piebald horse to carry the news after Mr. Gaunt, because my gray was too tired: it was the day we drew Yew-tree Brow, and crossed Harrowden Brook, you know,"——
Griffith interrupted her.
"Stay a bit," said he: "this is news to me. You never told me he had lent you the piebald nag to do me a good turn."
"Did I not?" said Kate, mighty innocently. "Well, but I tell you now. Ask him: he cannot deny it. As for the rest, it was all done in a hurry: Mr. Neville had no horse now to ride home with; he did me the justice to think I should be very ill pleased, were he to trudge home afoot and suffer for his courtesy; so he borrowed my gray to keep him out of the mire; and, indeed, the ways were fouler than usual, with the rains. Was there any ill in all this? HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE! say I."
The gentlemen all sided loudly with her on this appeal,—except Neville, who held his tongue, and smiled at her plausibility, and Griffith, who hung his head at her siding with Neville.
At last he spoke, and said, sorrowfully,—
"If you did exchange horses with him, of course I have only to ask his pardon—and go."
Catharine reflected a moment before she replied.
"Well," said she, "I did exchange, and I did not. Why quarrel about a word? Certainly he took my horse, and I took his; but it was only for the nonce. Mr. Neville is foreign-bred, and an example to us all: he knows his piebald is worth two of my gray, and so he was too fine a gentleman to send me back my old hunter and ask for his young charger. He waited for me to do that; and if anybody deserves to be shot, it must be Me. But, dear heart, I did not foresee all this fuss; I said to myself, 'La, Mr. Neville will be sure to call on my father or me some day, or else I shall be out on the piebald and meet him on the gray, and then we can each take our own again.' Was I so far out in my reckoning? Is not that my Rosinante yonder? Here, Tom Leicester, you put my side-saddle on that gray horse, and the man's saddle on the piebald there. And now, Griffith Gaunt, it is your turn: you must withdraw your injurious terms, and end this superlative folly."
"Come," said Kate, "consider: Mr. Neville is esteemed by all the county: you are the only gentleman in it who has ever uttered a disparaging word against him. Are you sure you are more free from passion and prejudice and wiser than all the county? Oblige me, and do what is right. Come, Griffith Gaunt, let your reason unsay the barbarous words your passion hath uttered against a worthy gentleman whom we all esteem."
Her habitual influence, and these last words, spoken with gentle and persuasive dignity, turned the scale. Griffith turned to Neville, and said in a low voice that he began to fear he had been hasty, and used harsher words than the occasion justified: he was going to stammer out something more, but Neville interrupted him with a noble gesture.
"That is enough, Mr. Gaunt," said he. "I do not feel quite blameless in the matter, and have no wish to mortify an honorable adversary unnecessarily."
"Very handsomely said," put in Major Rickards; "and now let me have a word. I say that both gentlemen have conducted themselves like men—under fire; and that honor is satisfied, and the misunderstanding at an end. As for my principal here, he has shown he can fight, and now he has shown he can hear reason against himself, when the lips of beauty utter it. I approve his conduct from first to last, and am ready to defend it in all companies, and in the field, should it ever be impugned."
Kate colored with pleasure, and gave her hand eloquently to the Major. He bowed over it, and kissed the tips of her fingers.
"Oh, Sir," she said, looking on him now as a friend, "I dreamed I saw Mr. Neville lying dead upon the snow, with the blood trickling from his temple."
At this Neville's dark cheek glowed with pleasure. So! it was her anxiety on his account had brought her here.
Griffith heard too, and sighed patiently.
Assured by Major Rickards that there neither could nor should be any more fighting, Kate made her adieus, mounted her gray horse, and rode off, discreetly declining all attendance. She beckoned Tom Leicester, however. But he pretended not to see the signal, and let her go alone. His motive for lingering behind was characteristic, and will transpire shortly.
As soon as she was gone, Griffith Gaunt quietly reminded the surgeon that there was a bullet in his arm all this time.
"Bless my soul!" said Mr. Islip, "I forgot that, I was so taken up with the lady."
Griffith's coat was now taken off, and the bullet searched for: it had entered the fleshy part of his arm below the elbow, and, passing round the bone, projected just under the skin. The surgeon made a slight incision, and then, pressing with his finger and thumb, out it rolled. Griffith put it in his pocket.
Neville had remained out of civility, and now congratulated his late antagonist, and himself, that it was no worse.
The last words that passed between the rivals, on this occasion, were worth recording, and characteristic of the time.
Neville addressed Gaunt with elaborate courtesy, and to this effect:—
"I find myself in a difficulty, Sir. You did me the honor to invite me to Mr. Charlton's funeral, and I accepted; but now I fear to intrude a guest, the sight of whom may be disagreeable to you. And, on the other hand, my absence might be misconstrued as a mark of disrespect, or of a petty hostility I am far from feeling. Be pleased, therefore, to dispose of me entirely in this matter."
"Sir," said he, "there is an old saying, 'Let every tub stand on its own bottom.' The deceased wished you to follow him to the grave, and therefore I would on no account have you absent. Besides, now I think of it, there will be less gossip about this unfortunate business, if our neighbors see you under my roof, and treated with due consideration there, as you will be."
"I do not doubt that, Sir, from so manly an adversary; and I shall do myself the honor to come."
Such was Neville's reply. The rivals then saluted each other profoundly, and parted.
Hammersley and Rickards lingered behind their principals to settle their little bet about Kate's affections: and, by the by, they were indiscreet enough to discuss this delicate matter within a dozen yards of Tom Leicester: they forgot that "little pitchers have long ears."
* * * * *
Catharine Peyton rode slowly home, and thought it all over as she went, and worried herself finely. She was one that winced at notoriety; and she could not hope to escape it now. How the gossips would talk about her! they would say the gentlemen had fought about her; and she had parted them for love of one of them. And then the gentlemen themselves! The strict neutrality she had endeavored to maintain on Scutchemsee Nob, in order to make peace, would it not keep them both her suitors? She foresaw she should be pulled to pieces, and live in hot water, and be "the talk of the county."
There were but two ways out: she must marry one of them, and petition the other not to shoot him; or else she must take the veil, and so escape them both.
She preferred the latter alternative. She was more enthusiastic in religion than in any earthly thing; and now the angry passions of men thrust her the same road that her own devout mind had always drawn her.
As soon as she got home, she sent a message to Father Francis, who drove her conscience, and begged him to come and advise her.
After that, she did the wisest thing, perhaps, she had done all day,—went to bed.
The sun was just setting when Catharine's maid came into her room and told her Father Francis was below. She sent down to say she counted on his sleeping at Peyton Hall, and she would come down to him in half an hour. She then ordered a refection to be prepared for him in her boudoir; and made her toilet with all reasonable speed, not to keep him waiting. Her face beamed with quiet complacency now, for the holy man's very presence in the house was a comfort to her.
Father Francis was a very stout, muscular man, with a ruddy countenance; he never wore gloves, and you saw at once he was not a gentleman by birth. He had a fine voice: it was deep, mellow, and, when he chose, sonorous. This, and his person, ample, but not obese, gave him great weight, especially with his female pupils. If he was not quite so much reverenced by the men, yet he was both respected and liked; in fact, he had qualities that make men welcome in every situation,—good humor, good sense, and tact. A good son of his Church, and early trained to let no occasion slip of advancing her interests.
I wish my readers could have seen the meeting between Catharine Peyton and this burly ecclesiastic. She came into the drawing-room with that imperious air and carriage which had made her so unpopular with her own sex; and at the bare sight of Father Francis, drooped and bent in a moment as she walked; and her whole body indicated a submissiveness, graceful, but rather abject: it was as if a young poplar should turn to a weeping willow in half a moment. Thus metamorphosed, the Beauty of Cumberland glided up to Francis, and sank slowly on her knees before him, crossed her hands on her bosom, lowered her lovely head, and awaited his benediction.
The father laid two big, coarse hands, with enormous fingers, on that thorough-bred head and golden hair, and blessed her business-like.
"The hand of less employment hath the daintier sense."—Shakspeare.
Father Francis blessed so many of these pretty creatures every week, that he had long outgrown your fine, romantic way of blessing a body. (We manage these things better in the theatre.) Then he lent her his hand to rise, and asked her in what she required his direction at present.
"In that which shall decide my whole life," said she.
Francis responded by a look of paternal interest.
"But first," murmured she, "let me confess to you, and obtain absolution, if I may. Ah, Father, my sins have been many since last confession!"
"Be it so," said Father Francis, resignedly. "Confession is the best preface to Direction." And he seated himself with a certain change of manner, an easy assumption of authority.
"Nay, Father," suggested the lady, "we shall be more private in my room."
"As you will, Mistress Catharine Peyton," said the priest, returning to his usual manner.
So then the fair penitent led her spiritual judge captive up another flight of stairs, and into her little boudoir. A cheerful wood fire crackled and flamed up the chimney, and a cloth had been laid on a side table: cold turkey and chine graced the board, and a huge glass magnum of purple Burgundy glowed and shone in the rays of the cheery fire.
Father Francis felt cozy at the sight; and at once accepted Kate's invitation to take some nourishment before entering on the labor of listening to the catalogue of her crimes. "I fasted yesterday," he muttered; and the zeal with which he attacked the viands rendered the statement highly credible.
He invited Kate to join him, but she declined.
He returned more than once to the succulent meats, and washed all down with a pint of the fine old Burgundy, perfumed and purple. Meantime she of the laity sat looking into the fire with heavenly-minded eyes.
At last, with a gentle sigh of content, the ghostly father installed himself in an arm-chair by the fire, and invited his penitent to begin.
She took a footstool and brought it to his side, so that, in confessing her blacker vices, she might be able to whisper them in his very ear. She kneeled on her little footstool, put her hands across her breast, and in this lowly attitude murmured softly after this fashion, with a contrite voice:—
"I have to accuse myself of many vices. Alas! in one short fortnight I have accumulated the wickedness of a life. I have committed the seven deadly sins. I have been guilty of Pride, Wrath, Envy, Disobedience, Immodesty, Vanity, Concupiscence, Fibs,"——
"Gently, daughter," said the priest, quietly; "these terms are too general: give me instances. Let us begin with Wrath: ah! we are all prone to that."
The fair penitent sighed, and said,—
"Especially me. Example: I was angry beyond reason with my maid, Ruth. (She does comb my hair so uncouthly!) So, then, the other night, when I was in trouble, and most needed soothing by being combed womanly, she gets thinking of Harry, that helps in the stable, and she tears away at my hair. I started up and screamed out, 'Oh, you clumsy thing! go curry-comb my horse, and send that oaf your head is running on to handle my hair.' And I told her my grandam would have whipped her well for it, but nowadays mistresses were the only sufferers: we had lost the use of our hands, we are grown so squeamish. And I stamped like a fury, and said, 'Get you gone out of the room!' and 'I hated the sight of her!' And the poor girl went from me, crying, without a word, being a better Christian than her mistress. Mea culpa! mea culpa!"
"Did you slap her?"
"Nay, Father, not so bad as that."
"Are you quite sure you did not slap her?" asked Francis, quietly.
"Nay. But I had a mind to. My heart slapped her, if my hand forbore. Alas!"
"Had she hurt you?"
"That she did,—but only my head. I hurt her heart: for the poor wench loves me dear,—the Lord knows for what."
"Humph!—proceed to Pride."
"Yes, Father. I do confess that I was greatly puffed up with the praises of men. I was proud of the sorriest things: of jumping a brook, when't was my horse jumped it, and had jumped it better with a fly on his back than the poor worm Me; of my good looks, forgetting that God gave them me; and besides, I am no beauty, when all is done; it is all their flattery. And at my Lady Munster's dinner I pridefully walked out before Mistress Davies, the rich cheesemonger's wife, that is as proud of her money as I of my old blood, (God forgive two fools!) which I had no right to do,—a maid to walk before a wife; and oh, Father, I whispered the gentleman who led me out,—it was Mr. Neville"——
Here the penitent put one hand before her face, and hesitated.
"Well, daughter, half-confession is no confession. You said to Mr. Neville?"——
"I said, 'Nothing comes after cheese.'"
This revelation was made most dolefully.
"It was pert and unbecoming," said Father Francis, gravely, though a twinkle in his eye showed that he was not so profoundly shocked as his penitent appeared to be. "But go to graver matters. Immodesty, said you? I shall be very sorry, if this is so. You did not use to be immodest."
"Well, Father, I hope I have not altogether laid aside modesty; otherwise it would be time for me to die, let alone to confess; but sure it cannot be modest of me to ride after a gentleman and take him a letter. And then that was not enough: I heard of a duel,—and what did I do but ride to Scutchemsee Nob, and interfere? What gentlewoman ever was so bold? I was not their wife, you know,—neither of them's."
"Humph!" said the priest, "I have already heard a whisper of this,—but told to your credit. Beati pacifici: Blessed are the peacemakers. You had better lay that matter before me by-and-by, as your director. As your confessor, tell me why you accuse yourself of concupiscence."
"Alas!" said the young lady, "scarce a day passes that I do not offend in that respect. Example: last Friday, dining abroad, the cooks sent up a dish of collops. Oh, Father, they smelt so nice! and I had been a-hunting. First I smelt them, and that I couldn't help. But then I forgot custodia oculorum, and I eyed them. And the next thing was, presently—somehow—two of 'em were on my plate."
"Very wrong," said Francis; "but that is a harsher term than I should have applied to this longing of a hungry woman for collops o' Friday. Pray, what do you understand by that big word?"
"Why, you explained it yourself, in your last sermon. It means 'unruly and inordinate desires.' Example: Edith Hammersley told me I was mad to ride in scarlet, and me so fair and my hair so light. 'Green or purple is your color,' says she; and soon after this didn't I see in Stanhope town the loveliest piece of purple broadcloth? Oh, Father, it had a gloss like velvet, and the sun did so shine on it as it lay in the shop-window; it was fit for a king or a bishop; and I stood and gloated on it, and pined for it, and died for it, and down went the Tenth Commandment."
"Ah," said Francis, "the hearts of women are set on vanity! But tell me,—these unruly affections of yours, are they ever fixed on persons of the other sex?"
The fair sinner reflected.
"On gentlemen?" said she. "Why, they come pestering one of their own accord. No, no,—I could do without them very well. What I sinfully pine for is meat on a Friday as sure as ever the day comes round, and high-couraged horses to ride, and fine clothes to wear every day in the week. Mea culpa! mea culpa!"
Such being the dismal state of things, Francis slyly requested her to leave the seven deadly sins in peace, and go to her small offences: for he argued, shrewdly enough, that, since her sins were peccadilloes, perhaps some of her peccadilloes might turn out to be sins.
"Small!" cried the culprit, turning red,—"they are none of them small."
I really think she was jealous of her reputation as a sinner of high degree.
However, she complied, and, putting up her mouth, murmured a miscellaneous confession without end. The accents were soft and musical, like a babbling brook; and the sins, such as they were, poor things, rippled on in endless rotation.
Now nothing tends more to repose than a purling brook; and ere long something sonorous let the fair culprit know she had lulled her confessor asleep.
She stopped, indignant. But at that he instantly awoke, (sublata causa, tollitur effectus,) and addressed her thus, with sudden dignity,—
"My daughter, you will fast on Monday next, and say two Aves and a Credo. Absolvo te."
"And now," said he, "as I am a practical man, let us get back from the imaginary world into the real. Speak to me at present as your director; and mind, you must be serious now, and call things by their right names."
Upon this Kate took a seat, and told her story, and showed him the difficulty she was in.
She then reminded him, that, notwithstanding her unfortunate itch for the seven deadly sins, she was a good Catholic, a zealous daughter of the Church; and she let him know her desire to retire from both lovers into a convent, and so, freed from the world and its temptations, yield up her soul entire to celestial peace and divine contemplation.
"Not so fast," said the priest. "Even zeal is nought without obedience. If you could serve the Church better than by going into a convent, would you be wilful?"
"Oh, no, Father! But how can I serve the Church better than by renouncing the world?"
"Perhaps by remaining in the world, as she herself does,—and by making converts to the faith. You could hardly serve her worse than by going into a convent: for our convents are poor, and you have no means; you would be a charge. No, daughter, we want no poor nuns; we have enough of them. If you are, as I think, a true and zealous daughter of the Church, you must marry, and instil the true faith, with all a mother's art, a mother's tenderness, into your children. Then the heir to your husband's estates will be a Catholic, and so the true faith get rooted in the soil."
"Alas!" said Catharine, "are we to look but to the worldly interests of the Church?"
"They are inseparable from her spiritual interests here on earth: our souls are not more bound to our bodies."
Catharine was deeply mortified.
"So the Church rejects me because I am poor," said she, with a sigh.
"The Church rejects you not, but only the Convent. No place is less fit for you. You have a high spirit, and high religious sentiments: both would be mortified and shocked in a nunnery. Think you that convent-walls can shut out temptation? I know them better than you: they are strongholds of vanity, folly, tittle-tattle, and all the meanest vices of your sex. Nay, I forbid you to think of it: show me now your faith by your obedience."
"You are harsh to me, Father," said Catharine, piteously.
"I am firm. You are one that needs a tight hand, Mistress. Come, now, humility and obedience, these are the Christian graces that best become your youth. Say, can the Church, through me, its minister, count on these from you? or" (suddenly letting loose his diapason) "did you send for me to ask advice, and yet go your own way, hiding a high stomach and a wilful heart under a show of humility?"
Catharine looked at Father Francis with dismay. This was the first time that easy-going priest had shown her how impressive he could be. She was downright frightened, and said she hoped she knew better than to defy her director; she laid her will at his feet, and would obey him like a child, as was her duty.
"Now I know my daughter again," said he, and gave her his horrible paw, the which she kissed very humbly, and that matter was settled to her entire dissatisfaction.
Soon after that, they were both summoned to supper; but as they went down, Kate's maid drew her aside and told her a young man wanted to speak to her.
"A young man?" screamed Kate. "Hang young men! They have got me a fine scolding just now! Which is it, pray?"
"He is a stranger to me."
"Perhaps he comes with a message from some fool. You may bring him to me in the hall, and stay with us: it may be a thief, for aught I know."
The maid soon reappeared, followed by Mr. Thomas Leicester.
That young worthy had lingered on Scutchemsee Nob, to extract the last drop of enjoyment from the situation, by setting up his hat at ten paces, and firing the gentlemen's pistols at it. I despair of conveying to any rational reader the satisfaction, keen, though brief, this afforded him; it was a new sensation: gentlemen's guns he had fired many; but duelling-pistols, not one, till that bright hour.
He was now come to remind Catharine of his pecuniary claims. Luckily for him, she was one who did not need to be reminded of her promises.
"Oh, it is you, child!" said she. "Well, I'll be as good as my word."
She then dismissed her maid, and went up stairs, and soon returned with two guineas, a crown piece, and three shillings in her hand.
"There," said she, smiling, "I am sorry for you, but that is all the money I have in the world."
The boy's eyes glittered at sight of the coin: he rammed the silver into his pocket with hungry rapidity; but he shook his head about the gold.
"I'm afeard o' these," said he, and eyed them mistrustfully in his palm. "These be the friends that get you your throat cut o' dark nights. Mistress, please you keep 'em for me, and let me have a shilling now and then when I'm dry."
"Nay," said Kate, "but are you not afraid I shall spend your money, now I have none left of my own?"
Tom seemed quite struck with the reasonableness of this observation, and hesitated. However, he concluded to risk it.
"You don't look one of the sort to wrong a poor fellow," said he; "and besides, you'll have brass to spare of your own before long, I know."
Kate opened her eyes.
"Oh, indeed!" said she; "and pray, how do you know that?"
Mr. Leicester favored her with a knowing wink. He gave her a moment to digest this, and then said, almost in a whisper,—
"Hearkened the gentlefolks on Scutchemsee Nob, after you was gone home, Mistress."
Kate was annoyed.
"What! they must be prating as soon as one's back is turned! Talk of women's tongues! Now what did they say, I should like to know?"
"It was about the bet, ye know."
"A bet? Oh, that is no affair of mine."
"Ay, but it is. Why, 'twas you they were betting on. Seems that old soger and Squire Hammersley had laid three guineas to one that you should let out which was your fancy of them two."
Kate's cheeks were red as fire now; but her delicacy overpowered her curiosity, and she would not put any more questions. To be sure, young Hopeful needed none; he was naturally a chatterbox, and he proceeded to tell her, that, as soon as ever she was gone, Squire Hammersley took a guinea and offered it to the old soldier, and told him he had won, and the old soldier pocketed it. But after that, somehow, Squire Hammersley let drop that Mr. Neville was the favorite.
"Then," continued Mr. Leicester, "what does the old soger do, but pull out guinea again, and says he,—
"'You must have this back; bet is not won: for you do think 'tis Neville; now I do think 'tis Gaunt.'
"So then they fell to argufying and talking a lot o' stuff."
"No doubt, the insolent meddlers! Can you remember any of their nonsense?—not that it is worth remembering, I'll be bound."
"Let me see. Well, Squire Hammersley, he said you owned to dreaming of Squire Neville,—and that was a sign of love, said he; and, besides, you sided with him against t'other. But the old soger, he said you called Squire Gaunt 'Griffith'; and he built on that. Oh, and a said you changed the horses back to please our Squire. Says he,—
"'You must look to what the lady did; never heed what she said. Why, their sweet lips was only made to kiss us, and deceive us,' says that there old soger."
"I'll—I'll——And what did you say, Sir?—for I suppose your tongue was not idle."
"Oh, me? I never let 'em know I was hearkening, or they'd have 'greed in a moment for to give me a hiding. Besides, I had no need to cudgel my brains; I'd only to ask you plump. You'll tell me, I know. Which is it, Mistress? I'm for Gaunt, you know, in course. Alack, Mistress," gabbled this voluble youth, "sure you won't be so hard as sack my Squire, and him got a bullet in his carcass, for love of you, this day."
Kate started, and looked at him in surprise.
"Oh," said she, "a bullet! Did they fight again the moment they saw my back was turned? The cowards!"
And she began to tremble.
"No, no," said Tom; "that was done before ever you came up. Don't ye remember that single shot while we were climbing the Nob? Well, 't was Squire Gaunt got it in the arm that time."
"But I say, wasn't our man game? Never let out he was hit while you was there; but as soon as ever you was gone, they cut the bullet out of him, and I seen it."
"Doctor takes out his knife,—precious sharp and shiny 't was!—cuts into his arm with no more ado than if he was carving a pullet,—out squirts the blood, a good un."
"Oh, no more! no more! You cruel boy! how could you bear to look?"
And Kate hid her own face with both hands.
"Why, 't wasn't my skin as was cut into Squire Gaunt, he never hollered; a winced, though, and ground his teeth; but 't was over in a minute, and the bullet in his hand.
"'That is for my wife,' says he, 'if ever I have one,'—and puts it in his pocket.
"Why, Mistress, you be as white as your smock!"
"No, no! Did he faint, poor soul?"
"Not he! What was there to faint about?"
"Then why do I feel so sick, even to hear of it?"
"Because you ha'n't got no stomach," said the boy, contemptuously. "Your courage is skin-deep, I'm thinking. However, I'm glad you feel for our Squire, about the bullet; so now I hope you will wed with him, and sack Squire Neville. Then you and I shall be kind o' kin: Squire Gaunt's feyther was my feyther. That makes you stare, Mistress. Why, all the folk do know it. Look at this here little mole on my forehead. Squire Gaunt have got the fellow to that."
At this crisis of his argument he suddenly caught a glimpse of his personal interest; instantly he ceased his advocacy of Squire Gaunt, and became ludicrously impartial.
"Well, Mistress; wed whichever you like," said he, with sublime indifference; "only whichever you do wed, prithee speak a word to the gentleman, and get me to be his gamekeeper. I'd liever be your goodman's gamekeeper than king of England."
He was proceeding with vast volubility to enumerate his qualifications for that confidential post, when the lady cut him short, and told him to go and get his supper in the kitchen, for she was wanted elsewhere. He made a scrape, and clattered away with his hobnailed shoes.
Kate went to the hall window and opened it, and let the cold air blow over her face.
Her heart was touched, and her bosom filled with pity for her old sweetheart.
How hard she had been. She had sided with Neville against the wounded man. And she thought how sadly and patiently he had submitted to her decision,—and a bullet in his poor arm all the time.
The gentle bosom heaved, and heaved, and the tears began to run.
* * * * *
She entered the dining-room timidly, expecting some comment on her discourteous absence. Instead of that, both her father and her director rose respectfully, and received her with kind and affectionate looks. They then pressed her to eat this and that, and were remarkably attentive and kind. She could see that she was deep in their good books. This pleased her; but she watched quietly, after the manner of her sex, to learn what it was all about. Nor was she left long in the dark. Remarks were made that hit her, though they were none of them addressed to her.
Father Francis delivered quite a little homily on Obedience, and said how happy a thing it was, when zeal, a virtue none too common in these degenerate days, was found tempered by humility, and subservient to ghostly counsel and authority.
Mr. Peyton dealt in no general topics of that kind; his discourse was secular: it ran upon Neville's Cross, Neville's Court, and the Baronetcy; and he showed Francis how and why this title must sooner or later come to George Neville and the heirs of his body.
Francis joined in this topic for a while, but speedily diverged into what might be called a collateral theme. He described to Kate a delightful spot on the Neville estate, where a nunnery might be built and endowed by any good Catholic lady having zeal, and influence with the owner of the estate, and with the lord-lieutenant of the county.
"It is three parts an island, (for the river Wey curls round it lovingly,) but backed by wooded slopes that keep off the north and east winds: a hidden and balmy place, such as the forefathers of the Church did use to choose for their rustic abbeys, whose ruins still survive to remind us of the pious and glorious days gone by. Trout and salmon come swimming to the door; hawthorn and woodbine are as rife there as weeds be in some parts; two broad oaks stand on turf like velvet, and ring with songbirds. A spot by nature sweet, calm, and holy,—good for pious exercises and heavenly contemplation: there, methinks, if it be God's will I should see old age, I would love to end my own days, at peace with Heaven and with all mankind."
Kate was much moved by this picture, and her clasped hands and glistening eyes showed the glory and delight it would be to her to build a convent on so lovely a spot. But her words were vague. "How sweet! how sweet!" was all she committed herself to. For, after what Tom Leicester had just told her, she hardly knew what to say or what to think or what to do; she felt she had become a mere puppet, first drawn one way, then another.
One thing appeared pretty clear to her now: Father Francis did not mean her to choose between her two lovers; he was good enough to relieve her of that difficulty by choosing for her. She was to marry Neville.
She retired to rest directly after supper; for she was thoroughly worn out. And the moment she rose to go, her father bounced up, and lighted the bed-candle for her with novel fervor, and kissed her on the cheek, and said in her ear,—
"Good night, my Lady Neville!"
What with the day's excitement, and a sweet secluded convent in her soul, and a bullet in her bosom, and a ringing in her ear, that sounded mighty like "Lady Neville! Lady Neville! Lady Neville!" Kate spent a restless night, and woke with a bad headache.
She sent her maid to excuse her, on this score, from going to Bolton Hall. But she was informed, in reply, that the carriage had been got ready expressly for her; so she must be good enough to shake off disease and go; the air would do her a deal more good than lying abed.
Thereupon she dressed herself in her black silk gown, and came down, looking pale and languid, but still quite lovely enough to discharge what in this age of cant I suppose we should call "her mission": videlicet, to set honest men by the ears.
At half past eight o'clock the carriage came round to the front door. Its body, all glorious with the Peyton armorials and with patches of rusty gilding, swung exceedingly loose on long leathern straps instead of springs; and the fore-wheels were a mile from the hind-wheels, more or less. A pretentious and horrible engine; drawn by four horses; only two of them being ponies impaired the symmetry and majestic beauty of the pageant. Old Joe drove the wheelers; his boy rode the leaders, and every now and then got off and kicked them in the pits of their stomachs, or pierced them with hedge-stakes, to rouse their mettle. Thus encouraged and stimulated, they effected an average of four miles and a half per hour, notwithstanding the snow, and reached Bolton just in time. At the lodge, Francis got out, and lay in ambush,—but only for a time. He did not think it orthodox to be present at a religious ceremony of his Protestant friends,—nor common-sense-o-dox to turn his back upon their dinner.
The carriage drew up at the hall-door. It was wide open, and the hall lined with servants, male and female, in black. In the midst, between these two rows, stood Griffith Gaunt, bareheaded, to welcome the guests. His arm was in a sling. He had received all the others in the middle of the hall; but he came to the threshold to meet Kate and her father. He bowed low and respectfully, then gave his left hand to Kate to conduct her, after the formal fashion of the day. The sight of his arm in a sling startled and affected her; and with him giving her his hand almost at the same moment, she pressed it, or indeed squeezed it nervously, and it was in her heart to say something kind and womanly: but her father was close behind, and she was afraid of saying something too kind, if she said anything at all; so Griffith only got a little gentle nervous pinch. But that was more than he expected, and sent a thrill of delight through him; his brown eyes replied with a volume, and holding her hand up in the air as high as her ear, and keeping at an incredible distance, he led her solemnly to a room where the other ladies were, and left her there with a profound bow.
The Peytons were nearly the last persons expected; and soon after their arrival the funeral procession formed. This part was entirely arranged by the undertaker. The monstrous custom of forbidding ladies to follow their dead had not yet occurred even to the idiots of the nation, and Mr. Peyton and his daughter were placed in the second carriage. The first contained Griffith Gaunt alone, as head mourner. But the Peytons were not alone: no other relation of the deceased being present, the undertaker put Mr. Neville with the Peytons, because he was heir to a baronetcy.
Kate was much startled, and astonished to see him come out into the hall. But when he entered the carriage, she welcomed him warmly.
"Oh, I am so glad to see you here!" said she.
"Guess by that what my delight at meeting you must be," said he.
She blushed and turned it off.
"I mean, that your coming here gives me good hopes there will be no more mischief."
She then lowered her voice, and begged him on no account to tell her papa of her ride to Scutchemsee Nob.
"Not a word," said George.
He knew the advantage of sharing a secret with a fair lady. He proceeded to whisper something very warm in her ear: she listened to some of it; but then remonstrated, and said,—
"Are you not ashamed to go on so at a funeral? Oh, do, pray, leave compliments a moment, and think of your latter end."
He took this suggestion, as indeed he did everything from her, in good part; and composed his visage into a decent gravity.
Soon after this they reached the church, and buried the deceased in his family vault.
People who are not bereaved by the death are always inclined to chatter, coming home from a funeral. Kate now talked to Neville of her own accord, and asked him if he had spoken to his host. He said yes, and, more than that, had come to a clear understanding with him.
"We agreed that it was no use fighting for you. I said, if either of us two was to kill the other, it did not follow you would wed the survivor."
"Me wed the wretch!" said Kate, "I should abhor him, and go into a convent in spite of you all, and end my days praying for the murdered man's soul."
"Neither of us is worth all that," suggested Neville, with an accent of conviction.
"That is certain," replied the lady, dryly; "so please not to do it."
He bade her set her mind at ease: they had both agreed to try and win her by peaceful arts.
"Then a pretty life mine will be!"
"Well, I think it will, till you decide."
"I could easily decide, if it were not for giving pain to—somebody."
"Oh, you can't help that. My sweet mistress, you are not the first that has had to choose between two worthy men. For, in sooth, I have nothing to say against my rival, neither. I know him better than I did: he is a very worthy gentleman, though he is damnably in my way."
"And you are a very noble one to say so."
"And you are one of those that make a man noble: I feel that petty arts are not the way to win you, and I scorn them. Sweet Mistress Kate, I adore you! You are the best and noblest, as well as the loveliest of women!"
"Oh, hush, Mr. Neville! I am a creature of clay,—and you are another,—and both of us coming home from a funeral. Do think of that."
Here they were interrupted by Mr. Peyton asking Kate to lend him a shilling for the groom. Kate replied aloud that she had left her purse at home, then whispered in his ear that she had not a shilling in the world: and this was strictly true; for her little all was Tom Leicester's now. With this they reached the Hall, and the coy Kate gave both Neville and Gaunt the slip, and got amongst her mates. There her tongue went as fast as her neighbors', though she had just come back from a funeral.
But soon the ladies and gentlemen were all invited to the reading of the will.
And now chance, which had hitherto befriended Neville by throwing him into one carriage with Kate, gave Gaunt a turn. He found her a moment alone and near the embrasure of a window. He seized the opportunity, and asked her, might he say a word in her ear?
"What a question!" said she, gayly; and the next moment they had the embrasure to themselves.
"Kate," said he, hurriedly, "in a few minutes, I suppose, I shall be master of this place. Now you told me once you would rather be an abbess or a nun than marry me."
"Did I?" said Kate. "What a sensible speech! But the worst of it is, I'm never in the same mind long."
"Well," replied Griffith, "I think of all that falls from your lips, and your will is mine; only for pity's sake do not wed any man but me. You have known me so long; why, you know the worst of me by this time; and you have only seen the outside of him."
"Detraction! is that what you wanted to say to me?" asked Kate, freezing suddenly.
"Nay, nay; it was about the abbey. I find you can be an abbess without going and shutting yourself up and breaking one's heart. The way is, you build a convent in Ireland, and endow it; and then you send a nun over to govern it under you. Bless your heart, you can do anything with money; and I shall have money enough before the day is over. To be sure, I did intend to build a kennel and keep harriers, and you know that costs a good penny: but we couldn't manage a kennel and an abbey too; so now down goes the English kennel, and up goes the Irish abbey."
"But you are a Protestant gentleman. You could not found a nunnery."
"But my wife could. Whose business is it what she does with her money?"
"With your money, you mean."
"Nay, with hers, when I give it her with all my heart."
"Well, you astonish me," said Kate, thoughtfully. "Tell me, now, who put it into your head to bribe a poor girl in this abominable way?"
"Who put it in my head?" said Griffith, looking rather puzzled; "why, I suppose my heart put it in my head."
Kate smiled very sweetly at this answer, and a wild hope thrilled through Griffith that perhaps she might be brought to terms.
But at this crisis the lawyer from London was announced, and Griffith, as master of the house, was obliged to seat the company. He looked bitterly disappointed at the interruption, but put a good face on it, and had more chairs in, and saw them all seated, beginning with Kate and the other ladies.
The room was spacious, and the entire company sat in the form of a horse-shoe.
The London solicitor was introduced by Griffith, and bowed in a short, business-like way, seated himself in the horse-shoe aforesaid, and began to read the will aloud.
It was a lengthy document, and there is nothing to be gained by repeating every line of it. I pick out a clause here and there.
"I, Septimus Charlton, of Hernshaw Castle and Bolton Grange, in the County of Cumberland, Esquire, being of sound mind, memory, and understanding,—thanks be to God,—do make this my last will and testament, as follows:—
"First, I commit my soul to God who gave it, and my body to the earth from which it came. I desire my executors to discharge my funeral and testamentary expenses, my just debts, and the legacies hereinafter bequeathed, out of my personal estate."
Then followed several legacies of fifty and one hundred guineas; then several small legacies, such as the following:—
"To my friend Edward Peyton, of Peyton Hall, Esquire, ten guineas to buy a mourning ring.
"To the worshipful gentlemen and ladies who shall follow my body to the grave, ten guineas each, to buy a mourning ring."
"To my wife's cousin, Griffith Gaunt, I give and bequeath the sum of two thousand pounds, the same to be paid to him within one calendar month from the date of my decease.
"And as to all my messuages, or tenements, farms, lands, hereditaments, and real estate, of what nature or what kind soever, and wheresoever situate, together with all my moneys, mortgages, chattels, furniture, plate, pictures, wine, liquors, horses, carriages, stock, and all the rest, residue, and remainder of my personal estate and effects whatsoever, (after the payment of the debts and legacies hereinbefore mentioned,) I give, devise, and bequeath the same to my cousin, Catharine Peyton, daughter of Edward Peyton, Esquire, of Peyton Hall, in the County of Cumberland, her heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, forever."
* * * * *
When the lawyer read out this unexpected blow, the whole company turned in their seats and looked amazed at her who in a second and a sentence was turned before their eyes from the poorest girl in Cumberland to an heiress in her own right, and proprietor of the house they sat in, the chairs they sat on, and the lawn they looked out at.
Ay, we turn to the rising sun. Very few looked at Griffith Gaunt to see how he took his mistress's good fortune, that was his calamity; yet his face was a book full of strange matter. At first a flash of loving joy crossed his countenance; but this gave way immediately to a haggard look, and that to a glare of despair.
As for the lady, she cast one deprecating glance, swifter than lightning, at him she had disinherited, and then she turned her face to marble. In vain did curious looks explore her to detect the delight such a stroke of fortune would have given to themselves. Faulty, but great of soul, and on her guard against the piercing eyes of her own sex, she sat sedate, and received her change of fortune with every appearance of cool composure and exalted indifference; and as for her dreamy eyes, they seemed thinking of heaven, or something almost as many miles away from money and land.
But the lawyer had not stopped a moment to see how people took it; he had gone steadily on through the usual formal clauses; and now he brought his monotonous voice to an end, and added, in the same breath, but in a natural and cheerful tone,—
"Madam, I wish you joy."
This operated like a signal. The company exploded in a body; and then they all came about the heiress, and congratulated her in turn. She curtsied politely, though somewhat coldly, but said not a word in reply, till the disappointed one spoke to her.
He hung back at first. To understand his feelings, it must be remembered, that, in his view of things, Kate gained nothing by this bequest, compared with what he lost. As his wife, she would have been mistress of Bolton Hall, etc. But now she was placed too far above him. Sick at heart, he stood aloof while they all paid their court to her. But by-and-by he felt it would look base and hostile, if he alone said nothing; so he came forward, struggling visibly for composure and manly fortitude.
The situation was piquant; and the ladies' tongues stopped in a moment, and they were all eyes and ears.
THREE MONTHS AMONG THE RECONSTRUCTIONISTS.
I spent the months of September, October, and November, 1865, in the States of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. I travelled over more than half the stage and railway routes therein, visited a considerable number of towns and cities in each State, attended the so-called reconstruction conventions at Raleigh, Columbia, and Milledgeville, and had much conversation with many individuals of nearly all classes.
I was generally treated with civility, and occasionally with courteous cordiality. I judge, from the stories told me by various persons, that my reception was, on the whole, something better than that accorded to the majority of Northern men travelling in that section. Yet at one town in South Carolina, when I sought accommodations for two or three days at a boarding-house, I was asked by the woman in charge, "Are you a Yankee or a Southerner?" and when I answered, "Oh, a Yankee, of course," she responded, "No Yankee stops in this house!" and turned her back upon me and walked off. In another town in the same State I learned that I was the first Yankee who had been allowed to stop at the hotel since the close of the war. In one of the principal towns of Western North Carolina, the landlord of the hotel said to a customer, while he was settling his bill, that he would be glad to have him say a good word for the house to any of his friends; "but," added he, "you may tell all d——d Yankees I can git 'long jest as well, if they keep clar o' me"; and when I asked if the Yankees were poor pay, or made him extra trouble, he answered, "I don't want 'em 'round. I ha'n't got no use for 'em nohow." In another town in the same State, a landlord said to me, when I paid my two-days' bill, that "no d—n Yankee" could have a bed in his house. In Georgia, I several times heard the people of my hotel expressing the hope that the passenger-train wouldn't bring any Yankees; and I have good reason for believing that I was quite often compelled to pay an extra price for accommodations because I was known to be from the North. In one town, several of us, passengers by an evening train, were solicited to go to a certain hotel; but the clerk declined to give me a room, when he learned that I was from Massachusetts, though I secured one after a time through the favor of a travelling acquaintance, who sharply rebuked the landlord.
It cannot be said that freedom of speech has been fully secured in either of these three States. Personally, I have very little cause of complaint, for my role was rather that of a listener than of a talker; but I met many persons who kindly cautioned me, that at such and such places, and in such and such company, it would be advisable to refrain from conversation on certain topics. Among the better class of people, resident in the cities and large towns, I found a fair degree of liberality of sentiment and courtesy of speech; but in travelling off the main railway-lines, and among the average of the population, any man of Northern opinions must use much circumspection of language; while, in many counties of South Carolina and Georgia, the life of an avowed Northern radical would hardly be worth a straw but for the presence of the military. In Barnwell and Anderson districts, South Carolina, official records show the murder of over a dozen Union men in the months of August and September; and at Atlanta, a man told me, with a quiet chuckle, that in Carroll County, Georgia, there were "four d—n Yankees shot in the month of October." Any Union man, travelling in either of these two States, must expect to hear many very insulting words; and any Northern man is sure to find his principles despised, his people contemned, and himself subjected to much disagreeable contumely. There is everywhere extreme sensitiveness concerning the negro and his relations; and I neither found nor learned of any village, town, or city in which it would be safe for a man to express freely what are here, in the North, called very moderate views on that subject. Of course the war has not taught its full lesson, till even Mr. Wendell Phillips can go into Georgia and proclaim "The South Victorious."
I often had occasion to notice, both in Georgia and the Carolinas, the wide and pitiful difference between the residents of the cities and large towns and the residents of the country. There is no homogeneity, but everywhere a rigid spirit of caste. The longings of South Carolina are essentially monarchical rather than republican; even the common people have become so debauched in loyalty, that very many of them would readily accept the creation of orders of nobility. In Georgia there is something less of this spirit; but the upper classes continually assert their right to rule, and the middle and lower classes have no ability to free themselves. The whole structure of society is full of separating walls; and it will sadden the heart of any Northern man, who travels in either of these three States, to see how poor, and meagre, and narrow a thing life is to all the country people. Even with the best class of townsfolk it lacks very much of the depth and breadth and fruitfulness of our Northern life, while with these others it is hardly less materialistic than that of their own mules and horses. Thus, Charleston has much intelligence, and considerable genuine culture; but go twenty miles away, and you are in the land of the barbarians. So, Raleigh is a city in which there is love of beauty, and interest in education; but the common people of the county are at least forty years behind the same class of people in Vermont. Moreover, in Macon are many very fine residences, and the city may boast of its gentility and its respect for the nourishing elegancies of life; but a dozen miles out are large neighborhoods not yet half-civilized. The contrast between the inhabitants of the cities and those of the country is hardly less striking than that between the various classes constituting the body of the common people. Going from one county into another is frequently going into a foreign country. Travel continually brings novelty, but with that always came pain. Till all these hateful walls of caste are thrown down, we can have neither intelligent love of liberty, decent respect for justice, nor enlightened devotion to the idea of national unity. "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?"
It has been the purpose of the ruling class, apparently, to build new barriers between themselves and the common people, rather than tear away any of those already existing. I think no one can understand the actual condition of the mass of whites in Georgia and the Carolinas, except by some daily contact with them. The injustice done to three fourths of them was hardly less than that done to all the blacks. There were two kinds of slavery, and negro slavery was only more wicked and debasing than white slavery. Nine of every ten white men in South Carolina had almost as little to do with even State affairs as the negroes had. Men talk of plans of reconstruction;—that is the best plan which proposes to do most for the common people. Till civilization has been carried down into the homes and hearts of all classes, we shall have neither regard for humanity nor respect for the rights of the citizen. In many sections of all these States human life is quite as cheap as animal life. What a mental and moral condition does this indicate! Any plan of reconstruction is wrong that does not assure toleration of opinion, and the elevation of the common people to the consciousness that ours is a republican form of government. Whether they are technically in the Union or out of the Union, it is the national duty to deal with these States in such manner as will most surely exalt the lower and middle classes of their inhabitants. The nation must teach them a knowledge of their own rights, while it also teaches them respect for its rights and the rights of man as man.
Stopping for two or three days in some back county, I was always seeming to have drifted away from the world which held Illinois and Ohio and Massachusetts. The difficulty in keeping connection with our civilization did not so much lie in the fact that the whole structure of daily life is unlike ours, nor in the other fact that I was forced to hear the Union and all loyal men reviled, as in the greater fact that the people are utterly without knowledge. There is everywhere a lack of intellectual activity. Schools, books, newspapers,—why, one may almost say there are none outside the cities and towns. The situation is horrible enough, when the full force of this fact is comprehended; yet there is a still lower deep,—there is small desire, even feeble longing, for schools and books and newspapers. The chief end of man seems to have been "to own a nigger." In the important town of Charlotte, North Carolina, I found a white man who owned the comfortable house in which he lived, who had a wife and three half-grown children, and yet had never taken a newspaper in his life. He thought they were handy for wrapping purposes, but he couldn't see why anybody wanted to bother with the reading of them. He knew some folks spent money for them, but he also knew a-many houses where none had ever been seen. In that State I found several persons—whites, and not of the "clay-eater" class, either—who never had been inside a school-house, and who didn't mean to 'low their children to go inside one. In the upper part of South Carolina, I stopped one night at the house of a moderately well-to-do farmer who never had owned any book but a Testament, and that was given to him. When I expressed some surprise at this fact, he assured me that he was as well off as some other people thereabouts. Between Augusta and Milledgeville I rode in a stage-coach in which were two delegates of the Georgia Convention. When I said that I hoped the day would soon come in which school-houses would be as numerous in Georgia as in Massachusetts, one of them answered: "Well, I hope it'll never come,—popular education is all a d—n humbug in my judgment"; whereunto the other responded, "That's my opinion, too." These are exceptional cases, I am aware, but they truly index the situation of thousands of persons. It is this general ignorance, and this general indifference to knowledge, that make a Southern trip such wearisome work. You can touch the masses with few of the appeals by which we move our own people. There is very little aspiration for larger life; and, more than that, there is almost no opportunity for its attainment. That education is the stairway to a nobler existence is a fact which they either fail to comprehend or to which they are wholly indifferent.
Where there is such a spirit of caste, where the ruling class has a personal interest in fostering prejudice, where the masses are in such an inert condition, where ignorance so generally prevails, where there is so little ambition for improvement, where life is so hard and material in its tone, it is not strange to find much hatred and contempt. Ignorance is generally cruel, and frequently brutal. The political leaders of this people have apparently indoctrinated them with the notion that they are superior to any other class in the country. Hence there is usually very little effort to conceal the prevalent scorn of the Yankee,—this term being applied to the citizen of any Northern State. Any plan of reconstruction is wrong that tends to leave these old leaders in power. A few of them give fruitful evidence of a change of heart,—by some means save these for the sore and troubled future; but for the others, the men who not only brought on the war, but ruined the mental and moral force of their people before unfurling the banner of rebellion,—for these there should never any more be place or countenance among honest and humane and patriotic people. When the nation gives them life, and a chance for its continuance, it shows all the magnanimity that humanity in such case can afford.
In North Carolina there is a great deal of something that calls itself Unionism; but I know nothing more like the apples of Sodom than most of this North Carolina Unionism. It is a cheat, a Will-o'-the-wisp; and any man who trusts it will meet with overthrow. Its quality is shown in a hundred ways. An old farmer came into Raleigh to sell a little corn. I had some talk with him. He claimed that he had been a Union man from the beginning of the war, but he refused to take "greenback money" for his corn. In a town in the western part of the State I found a merchant who prided himself on the fact that he had always prophesied the downfall of the so-called Confederacy and had always desired the success of the Union arms; yet when I asked him why he did not vote in the election for delegates to the Convention, he answered, sneeringly—"I shall not vote till you take away the military." The State Convention declared by a vote of ninety-four to nineteen that the Secession ordinance had always been null and void; and then faced squarely about, and, before the Presidential instructions were received, impliedly declared, by a vote of fifty-seven to fifty-three, in favor of paying the war debt incurred in supporting that ordinance! This action on these two points exactly exemplifies the quality of North Carolina Unionism. There may be in it the seed of loyalty, but woe to him who mistakes the germ for the ripened fruit! In all sections of the State I found abundant hatred of some leading or local Secessionist; but how full of promise for the new era of national life is the Unionism which rests only on this foundation?
In South Carolina there is very little pretence of loyalty. I believe I found less than fifty men who admitted any love for the Union. There is everywhere a passionate devotion to the State, and the common sentiment holds that man guilty of treason who prefers the United States to South Carolina. There is no occasion to wonder at the admiration of the people for Wade Hampton, for he is the very exemplar of their spirit,—of their proud and narrow and domineering spirit. "It is our duty," he says, in his letter of last November, "it is our duty to support the President of the United States so long as he manifests a disposition to restore all our rights as a sovereign State." That sentence will forever stand as a model of cool arrogance, and yet it is in full accord with the spirit of the South-Carolinians. He continues:—"Above all, let us stand by our State,—all the sacred ties that bind us to her are intensified by her suffering and desolation.... It only remains for me, in bidding you farewell, to say, that, whenever the State needs my services, she has only to command, and I shall obey." The war has taught this people only that the physical force of the nation cannot be resisted. They will be obedient to the letter of the law, perhaps, but the whole current of their lives flows in direct antagonism to its spirit.
In Georgia there is something worse than sham Unionism or cold acquiescence in the issue of battle: it is the universally prevalent doctrine of the supremacy of the State. Even in South Carolina a few men stood up against the storm, and now claim credit for faith in dark days. In Georgia that man is hopelessly dead who doubted or faltered. The common sense of all classes pushes the necessity of allegiance to the State into the domain of morals as well as into that of politics; and he who did not "go with the State" in the Rebellion is held to have committed the unpardonable sin. At Macon I met a man who was one of the leading Unionists in the winter of 1860-61. He told me how he suffered then for his hostility to Secession, and yet he added,—"I should have considered myself forever disgraced, if I hadn't heartily gone with the State, when she decided to fight." And Ben Hill, than whom there are but few more influential men in the State, advises the people after this fashion,—"I would vote for no man who could take the Congressional test-oath, because it is the highest evidence of infidelity to the people of the State." I believe it is the concurrent testimony of all careful travellers in Georgia, that there is everywhere only cold toleration for the idea of national sovereignty, very little hope for the future of the State as a member of the Federal Union, and scarcely any pride in the strength and glory and renown of the United States of America.
Much is said of the hypocrisy of the South. I found but little of it anywhere. The North-Carolinian calls himself a Unionist, but he makes no special pretence of love for the Union. He desires many favors, but he asks them generally on the ground that he hated the Secessionists. He expects the nation to recognize rare virtue in that hatred, and hopes it may win for his State the restoration of her political rights; but he wears his mask of nationality so lightly that there is no difficulty in removing it. The South-Carolinian demands only something less than he did in the days before the war, but he offers no plea of Unionism as a guaranty for the future. He rests his case on the assumption that he has fully acquiesced in the results of the war, and he honestly believes that he has so acquiesced. His confidence in South Carolina is so supreme that he fails to see how much the conflict meant. He walks by such light as he has, and cannot yet believe that Destiny has decreed his State a secondary place in the Union. The Georgian began by believing that rebellion in the interest of Slavery was honorable, and the result of the war has not changed his opinion. He is anxious for readmission to fellowship with New York and Pennsylvania and Connecticut, but he supports his application by no claim of community of interest with other States. His spirit is hard and uncompromising; he demands rights, but does not ask favors; and he is confident that Georgia is fully as important to the United States as they are to Georgia.
Complaint is made that the Southern people have recently elected military men to most of their local State offices. We do ourselves a wrong in making this complaint. I found it almost everywhere true in Georgia and the Carolinas that the best citizens of to-day are the Confederate soldiers of yesterday. Of course, in many individual cases they are bitter and malignant; but in general the good of the Union, no less than the hope of the South, lies in the bearing of the men who were privates and minor officers in the armies of Lee and Johnston. It may not be pleasant to us to recognize this fact; but I am confident that we shall make sure progress toward securing domestic tranquillity and the general welfare, just in proportion as we act upon it. It should be kept in mind that comparatively few of those who won renown on the field were promoters of rebellion or secession. The original malcontents,—ah! where are they? Some of them at least are beyond interference in earthly affairs; others are in hopeless poverty and chilling neglect; others are struggling to mount once more the wave of popular favor. A few of these last have been successful,—to see that no more of them are so is a national duty. I count it an omen of good, when I find that one who bore himself gallantly as a soldier has received preferment. We cannot afford to quarrel on this ground; for, though their courage was for our wounding, their valor was the valor of Americans.
The really bad feature of the situation with respect to the relations of these States to the General Government is, that there is not only very little loyalty in their people, but a great deal of stubborn antagonism, and some deliberate defiance. Further war in the field I do not deem among the possibilities. Be the leaders never so bloodthirsty, the common people have had enough of fighting. The bastard Unionism of North Carolina, the haughty and self-complacent State pride of South Carolina, the arrogant dogmatism and insolent assumption of Georgia,—how shall we build nationality on such foundations? That is the true plan of reconstruction which makes haste very slowly. It does not comport with the character of our Government to exact pledges of any State which are not exacted of all. The one sole needful condition is, that each State establish a republican form of government, whereby all civil rights at least shall be assured in their fullest extent to every citizen. The Union is no Union, unless there is equality of privileges among the States. When Georgia and the Carolinas establish this republican form of government, they will have brought themselves into harmony with the national will, and may justly demand readmission to their former political relations in the Union. Each State has some citizens, who, wiser than the great majority, comprehend the meaning of Southern defeat with praiseworthy insight. Seeing only individuals of this small class, a traveller might honestly conclude that the States were ready for self-government. Let not the nation commit the terrible mistake of acting on this conclusion. These men are the little leaven in the gross body politic of Southern communities. It is no time for passion or bitterness, and it does not become our manhood to do anything for revenge. Let us have peace and kindly feeling; yet, that our peace may be no sham or shallow affair, it is painfully essential that we keep these States awhile within national control, in order to aid the few wise and just men therein who are fighting the great fight with stubborn prejudice and hidebound custom. Any plan of reconstruction is wrong which accepts forced submission as genuine loyalty, or even as cheerful acquiescence in the national desire and purpose.
Before the war, we heard continually of the love of the master for his slave, and the love of the slave for his master. There was also much talk to the effect that the negro lived in the midst of pleasant surroundings, and had no desire to change his situation. It was asserted that he delighted in a state of dependence, and throve on the universal favor of the whites. Some of this language we conjectured might be extravagant; but to the single fact that there was universal good-will between the two classes every Southern white person bore evidence. So, too, in my late visit to Georgia and the Carolinas, they generally seemed anxious to convince me that the blacks had behaved well during the war,—had kept at their old tasks, had labored cheerfully and faithfully, had shown no disposition to lawlessness, and had rarely been guilty of acts of violence, even in sections where there were many women and children, and but few white men.
Yet I found everywhere now the most direct antagonism between the two classes. The whites charge generally that the negro is idle, and at the bottom of all local disturbances, and credit him with most of the vices and very few of the virtues of humanity. The negroes charge that the whites are revengeful, and intend to cheat the laboring class at every opportunity, and credit them with neither good purposes nor kindly hearts. This present and positive hostility of each class to the other is a fact that will sorely perplex any Northern man travelling in either of these States. One would say, that, if there had formerly been such pleasant relations between them, there ought now to be mutual sympathy and forbearance, instead of mutual distrust and antagonism. One would say, too, that self-interest, the common interest of capital and labor, ought to keep them in harmony; while the fact is, that this very interest appears to put them in an attitude of partial defiance toward each other. I believe the most charitable traveller must come to the conclusion, that the professed love of the whites for the blacks was mostly a monstrous sham or a downright false pretence. For myself, I judge that it was nothing less than an arrant humbug.
The negro is no model of virtue or manliness. He loves idleness, he has little conception of right and wrong, and he is improvident to the last degree of childishness. He is a creature,—as some of our own people will do well to keep carefully in mind,—he is a creature just forcibly released from slavery. The havoc of war has filled his heart with confused longings, and his ears with confused sounds of rights and privileges: it must be the nation's duty, for it cannot be left wholly to his late master, to help him to a clear understanding of these rights and privileges, and also to lay upon him a knowledge of his responsibilities. He is anxious to learn, and is very tractable in respect to minor matters; but we shall need almost infinite patience with him, for he comes very slowly to moral comprehensions.
Going into the States where I went,—and perhaps the fact is true also of the other Southern States,—going into Georgia and the Carolinas, and not keeping in mind the facts of yesterday, any man would almost be justified in concluding that the end and purpose in respect to this poor negro was his extermination. It is proclaimed everywhere that he will not work, that he cannot take care of himself, that he is a nuisance to society, that he lives by stealing, and that he is sure to die in a few months; and, truth to tell, the great body of the people, though one must not say intentionally, are doing all they well can to make these assertions true. If it is not said that any considerable number wantonly abuse and outrage him, it must be said that they manifest a barbarous indifference to his fate, which just as surely drives him on to destruction as open cruelty would.
There are some men and a few women—and perhaps the number of these is greater than we of the North generally suppose—who really desire that the negro should now have his full rights as a human being. With the same proportion of this class of persons in a community of Northern constitution, it might be justly concluded that the whole community would soon join or acquiesce in the effort to secure for him at least a fair share of those rights. Unfortunately, however, in these Southern communities the opinion of such persons cannot have such weight as it would in ours. The spirit of caste, of which I have already spoken, is an element figuring largely against them in any contest involving principle,—an element of whose practical workings we here know very little. The walls between individuals and classes are so high and broad, that the men and women who recognize the negro's rights and privileges as a freeman are almost as far from the masses as we of the North are. Moreover, that any opinion savors of the "Yankee"—in other words, is new to the South—is a fact that even prevents its consideration by the great body of the people. Their inherent antagonism to everything from the North—an antagonism fostered and cunningly cultivated for half a century by the politicians in the interest of Slavery—is something that no traveller can photograph, that no Northern man can understand, till he sees it with his own eyes, hears it with his own ears, and feels it by his own consciousness. That the full freedom of the negroes would be acknowledged at once is something we had no warrant for expecting. The old masters grant them nothing, except at the requirement of the nation,—as a military and political necessity; and any plan of reconstruction is wrong which proposes at once or in the immediate future to substitute free-will for this necessity.
Three fourths of the people assume that the negro will not labor, except on compulsion; and the whole struggle between the whites on the one hand and the blacks on the other hand is a struggle for and against compulsion. The negro insists, very blindly perhaps, that he shall be free to come and go as he pleases; the white insists that he shall come and go only at the pleasure of his employer. The whites seem wholly unable to comprehend that freedom for the negro means the same thing as freedom for them. They readily enough admit that the Government has made him free, but appear to believe that they still have the right to exercise over him the old control. It is partly their misfortune, and not wholly their fault, that they cannot understand the national intent, as expressed in the Emancipation Proclamation and the Constitutional Amendment. I did not anywhere find a man who could see that laws should be applicable to all persons alike; and hence even the best men hold that each State must have a negro code. They acknowledge the overthrow of the special servitude of man to man, but seek through these codes to establish the general servitude of man to the commonwealth. I had much talk with intelligent gentlemen in various sections, and particularly with such as I met during the conventions at Columbia and Milledgeville, upon this subject, and found such a state of feeling as warrants little hope that the present generation of negroes will see the day in which their race shall be amenable only to such laws as apply to the whites.
I think the freedmen divide themselves into four classes: one fourth recognizing; very clearly, the necessity of work, and going about it with cheerful diligence and wise forethought; one fourth comprehending that there must be labor, but needing considerable encouragement to follow it steadily; one fourth preferring idleness, but not specially averse to doing some job-work about the towns and cities; and one fourth avoiding labor as much as possible, and living by voluntary charity, persistent begging, or systematic pilfering. It is true, that thousands of the aggregate body of this people appear to have hoped, and perhaps believed, that freedom meant idleness; true, too, that thousands are drifting about the country or loafing about the centres of population in a state of vagabondage. Yet of the hundreds with whom I talked, I found less than a score who seemed beyond hope of reformation. It is a cruel slander to say that the race will not work, except on compulsion. I made much inquiry, wherever I went, of great numbers of planters and other employers, and found but very few cases in which it appeared that they had refused to labor reasonably well, when fairly treated and justly paid. Grudgingly admitted to any of the natural rights of man, despised alike by Unionists and Secessionists, wantonly outraged by many and meanly cheated by more of the old planters, receiving a hundred cuffs for one helping hand and a thousand curses for one kindly word,—they bear themselves toward their former masters very much as white men and women would under the same circumstances. True, by such deportment they unquestionably harm themselves; but consider of how little value life is from their stand-point. They grope in the darkness of this transition period, and rarely find any sure stay for the weary arm and the fainting heart. Their souls are filled with a great, but vague longing for freedom; they battle blindly with fate and circumstance for the unseen and uncomprehended, and seem to find every man's hand raised against them. What wonder that they fill the land with restlessness!
However unfavorable this exhibit of the negroes in respect to labor may appear, it is quite as good as can be made for the whites. I everywhere found a condition of affairs in this regard that astounded me. Idleness, not occupation, seemed the normal state. It is the boast of men and women alike, that they have never done an hour's work. The public mind is thoroughly debauched, and the general conscience is lifeless as the grave. I met hundreds of hale and vigorous young men who unblushingly owned to me that they had not earned a penny since the war closed. Nine tenths of the people must be taught that labor is even not debasing. It was pitiful enough to find so much idleness, but it was more pitiful to observe that it was likely to continue indefinitely. The war will not have borne proper fruit, if our peace does not speedily bring respect for labor, as well as respect for man. When we have secured one of these things, we shall have gone far toward securing the other; and when we have secured both, then indeed shall we have noble cause for glorying in our country,—true warrant for exulting that our flag floats over no slave.
Meantime, while we patiently and helpfully wait for the day in which
"All men's good shall Be each man's rule, and Universal Peace Lie like a shaft of light across the land,"
there are at least five things for the nation to do; make haste slowly in the work of reconstruction; temper justice with mercy, but see to it that justice is not overborne; keep military control of these lately rebellious States, till they guaranty a republican form of government; scrutinize carefully the personal fitness of the men chosen therefrom as representatives in the Congress of the United States; and sustain therein some agency that shall stand between the whites and the blacks, and aid each class in coming to a proper understanding of its privileges and responsibilities.
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Herman; or, Young Knighthood. By E. FOXTON. Boston: Lee & Shepard.
We are entirely uncertain whether this work will be recognized for what it is by our young country-folk; but we are very certain, if it is not, it will be our young country-folk's loss. It is, we suppose, a novel. Its author admits that it is a story; but it is not at all the kind of banquet to which novel-readers are usually invited. We can fancy the consternation which awaits the devourers of story-books,—those persons, we mean, whose reading is confined to novels, who lie in wait for Mrs. Wood and Miss Braddon, and stretch their sales into the double-figured thousands, through whose passive brains plot after plot travels in quick succession and leaves no sign, and whose name, we fear, is Legion. They will eagerly seize this new story with the romantic title, be launched auspiciously into gay ball-rooms, glide graciously among the familiar flounces, dances, and small talk, only to find themselves suddenly and without warning in some gulf of grave discussion opening out deceptively from the sparkling stream of the story, or stranded on some lofty sentiment never dreamt of in their philosophy. For the author's mind is, in the best sense of the word, a discursive one. It is full of positive thought, and strikes out right and left like a school-boy who must needs relieve his superabundant spirits by pinching his sister's ear, thrusting his fists in his brother's face, kicking aside the foot-cushion, and making a plunge at the cat, while he is performing the simple operation of walking across the room. This book is written out of a mind so full of wit and wisdom that it overflows at the gentlest touch. It has more sense and learning and power than go to the making up of a dozen ordinary novels. The very prodigality of its resources is a stumbling-block. Its great fault is its muchness, if we may borrow a term from Hawthorne's mint. It is like a young minister's first sermon, into which he frantically attempts to cram the whole body of divinity. Especially in the early part of the book, we are constantly drawn away front the story by delightful little essays, sometimes read to us by the author himself,—sometimes wrought into the conversations by playful anecdotes, by effective character-sketches, and vivid scene and scenery-paintings. They do not always materially help forward the story, nor do they always hinder it. They often give it an air of reality, and they always help to utilize the author's idea. If they do not avail his art, they avail his didactics. Where they are not good for the story, they are good for something. By many thoughtless, and by all mere novel-readers, they will probably be skipped; but for ourselves, we confess, that, though high art may regard them as blemishes, we should not know how to give the order for their removal. Considered in themselves, in their style and sentiment, the little digressions, the long conversations, the carefully wrought side-scenes are so rich in a certain tender religious wisdom, yet crisp and piquant withal, and so full of living thought on the great questions of the day, that we dwell in them with enjoyment, though with a compunctious half-consciousness that they ought not to be there.
But though we are tolerant of discursiveness where it affects only the flow of the story, we like it less where it disturbs the flow of the style. A paragraph ought never, by the mere form into which it is cast, to require to be read over and over in order to get at the meaning. Yet we are confident that nine readers out of ten would need to read the following sentence more than once in order to get at its true construction:—
"Oh, that I were able to conform myself to that further fictitious, not to say factitious, standard of taste, according to which, just as,—though a hemorrhage from the nose, howsoever ill-timed, distressing, or even dangerous to the patient, is comic,—one from the lungs is poetical and tragic; and an extravasation of blood about the heart is not inappropriate to the demise of the most romantic civil hero, (who would seem, indeed, capable of escaping an earthly immortality only by means of pulmonary disease or some accident, unless pounced upon by some convenient and imposing epidemic,) while a similar affection of the brain of an imaginary personage can be rendered affecting or excusable only by a weight of years and virtues in the patient; so certain moral diseases, alias sins, in actual life making the sinner by no means peculiarly engaging, have in fiction acquired a prescriptive right to our regard!"
But the true power and pathos of the book rise ever high and higher, and all minor defects are flooded out of sight. It is no small happiness that we have to do from the beginning with a family hitherto wellnigh unknown in American noveldom,—a family rich and not vulgar, beautiful and not frivolous, highly educated and fastidious, yet neither bitter nor disdainful,—refined, honorable, serene, affectionate. We are not merely told that they are so. We mingle with them, we see it for ourselves, and are refreshed and revived thereby. It is pleasant to miss for once the worldly mother, the empty daughter, the glare and glitter of shoddy, the low rivalry, the degrading strife, which can hardly be held up even to our reprobation without debasing us. Whether or not the best mode of inculcating virtue is that which gives us an example to imitate rather than a vice to shun, we are sure it is the most agreeable. It is infinitely sweeter to be attracted by the fragrance of Paradise than to be repelled by the sulphurous fumes of Pandemonium. The contemplation of such a home as this book opens to us is pleasant to the eyes and good for the heart's food, and to be desired to make one wise. A pure domestic love shines through it, tender, tranquil, and intense. Its inmates are daintily, delicately, yet distinctly drawn. They are courteous without being cold, playful without rudeness, serious, yet sensible, reticent or demonstrative as the case may be, yet in all things natural. It is not book, it is life. Each is a type of character matchless in its way, but each is also a living soul, whose outward elegance and grace are but the fit adjuncts of its inward purity and peace. Even if such a home never existed, we should still defend its portrayal, as the Vicar of Wakefield wrote his wife's epitaph during her life that she might have a chance to become worthy of its praise.
It is a happiness also to make the acquaintance of women who are brilliant and not bad, whose innocence does not run into insipidity, who are no less queens than vassals, worthily the one, royally the other. We meet in books many single-women, but they are usually embittered by disappointment or by hope deferred,—angular, envious, busybodies in other women's matters; or they are comically odd, self-ridiculing, and unrestful; or, worst of all, they have become morally attenuated by a thwarted love or a long course of dismal and absurd self-sacrifice and are so resigned, colorless, and impassive, that, like Naaman, we are tempted to go away in a rage. But where shall we find another Clara,—beautiful, attractive, radiant, serenely living her happy life, "aimless," but not "anxious," doing every day the duty that lies next her hand, scarcely knowing that it is duty, never fancying that she is out of her sphere or thinking whether she is in it, tranced in tranquil reveries that spiritualize instead of spoiling her, and, shining ever along her untroubled way,
"With the moon's beauty and the moon's soft pace"?
All the chief actors in the book are clever, rising often into the high latitudes of genius, yet without that perverse kink which is wont to mar all satisfaction. There is no taint of poison in the air they breathe. There is no passion hovering on the border-land of crime, or defiling its garments with the dust of earthliness. Love is what it ever should be, all noble and elevating,—worship as well as devotion,—annihilating only selfishness, sanctifying, not sacrificing, duty. There is no yielding to a depraved popular taste, no abdication of an inherited throne to stand on a level with the unthinking crowd and receive its worthless applauses. Rather the crowd is bidden higher, to enter upon its own rightful, royal possessions. This is the true missionary work. Manhood and womanhood in their best development are the theme of the book; and they are touched with so fine a grace, outlined with so true a pencil, tinted with so imperial a splendor, that the most discontented may be satisfied. Does this seem slight praise? In truth it can most rarely be bestowed. Why, it is matter for thanksgiving when we are not outraged!