Stephen, craning in his seat, caught sight of Mr. Lincoln slouched into one of his favorite attitudes, his chin resting in his hand.
But who is this, erect, compact, aggressive, searching with a confident eye the wilderness of upturned faces? A personage, truly, to be questioned timidly, to be approached advisedly. Here indeed was a lion, by the very look of him, master of himself and of others. By reason of its regularity and masculine strength, a handsome face. A man of the world to the cut of the coat across the broad shoulders. Here was one to lift a youngster into the realm of emulation, like a character in a play, to arouse dreams of Washington and its senators and great men. For this was one to be consulted by the great alone. A figure of dignity and power, with magnetism to compel moods. Since, when he smiled, you warmed in spite of yourself, and when he frowned the world looked grave.
The inevitable comparison was come, and Stephen's hero was shrunk once more. He drew a deep breath, searched for the word, and gulped. There was but the one word. How country Abraham Lincoln looked beside Stephen Arnold Douglas!
Had the Lord ever before made and set over against each other two such different men? Yes, for such are the ways of the Lord.
The preliminary speaking was in progress, but Stephen neither heard nor saw until he felt the heavy hand of his companion on his knee.
"There's something mighty strange, like fate, between them two," he was saying. "I recklect twenty-five years ago when they was first in the Legislatur' together. A man told me that they was both admitted to practice in the S'preme Court in '39, on the same day, sir. Then you know they was nip an' tuck after the same young lady. Abe got her. They've been in Congress together, the Little Giant in the Senate, and now, here they be in the greatest set of debates the people of this state ever heard; Young man, the hand of fate is in this here, mark my words—"
There was a hush, and the waves of that vast human sea were stilled. A man, lean, angular, with coat-tail: flapping-unfolded like a grotesque figure at a side-show.
No confidence was there. Stooping forward, Abraham Lincoln began to speak, and Stephen Brice hung his head and shuddered. Could this shrill falsetto be the same voice to which he had listened only that morning? Could this awkward, yellow man with his hands behind his back be he whom he had worshipped? Ripples of derisive laughter rose here and there, on the stand and from the crowd. Thrice distilled was the agony of those moments!
But what was this feeling that gradually crept over him? Surprise? Cautiously he raised his eyes. The hands were coming around to the front. Suddenly one of them was thrown sharply back, with a determined gesture, the head was raised,—and.—and his shame was for gotten. In its stead wonder was come. But soon he lost even that, for his mind was gone on a journey. And when again he came to himself and looked upon Abraham Lincoln, this was a man transformed. The voice was no longer shrill. Nay, it was now a powerful instrument which played strangely on those who heard. Now it rose, and again it fell into tones so low as to start a stir which spread and spread, like a ripple in a pond, until it broke on the very edge of that vast audience.
"Can the people of a United States Territory, in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a State Constitution?"
It was out, at last, irrevocably writ in the recording book of History, for better, for worse. Beyond the reach of politician, committee, or caucus. But what man amongst those who heard and stirred might say that these minutes even now basting into eternity held the Crisis of a nation that is the hope of the world? Not you, Judge Douglas who sit there smiling. Consternation is a stranger in your heart,—but answer the question if you can. Yes, your nimble wit has helped you out of many a tight corner. You do not feel the noose—as yet. You do not guess that your reply will make or mar the fortunes of your country. It is not you who can look ahead two short years and see the ship of Democracy splitting on the rocks at Charleston and at Baltimore, when the power of your name might have steered her safely.
But see! what is this man about whom you despise? One by one he is taking the screws out of the engine which you have invented to run your ship. Look, he holds them in his hands without mixing them, and shows the false construction of its secret parts.
For Abraham Lincoln dealt with abstruse questions in language so limpid that many a farmer, dulled by toil, heard and understood and marvelled. The simplicity of the Bible dwells in those speeches, and they are now classics in our literature. And the wonder in Stephen's mind was that this man who could be a buffoon, whose speech was coarse and whose person unkempt, could prove himself a tower of morality and truth. That has troubled many another, before and since the debate at Freeport.
That short hour came all too quickly to an end. And as the Moderator gave the signal for Mr. Lincoln, it was Stephen's big companion who snapped the strain, and voiced the sentiment of those about him.
"By Gosh!" he cried, "he baffles Steve. I didn't think Abe had it in him."
The Honorable Stephen A. Douglas, however, seemed anything but baffled as he rose to reply. As he waited for the cheers which greeted him to die out, his attitude was easy and indifferent, as a public man's should be. The question seemed not to trouble him in the least. But for Stephen Brice the Judge stood there stripped of the glamour that made him, even as Abraham Lincoln had stripped his doctrine of its paint and colors, and left it punily naked.
Standing up, the very person of the Little Giant was contradictory, as was the man himself. His height was insignificant. But he had the head and shoulders of a lion, and even the lion's roar. What at contrast the ring of his deep bass to the tentative falsetto of Mr. Lincoln's opening words. If Stephen expected the Judge to tremble, he was greatly disappointed. Mr. Douglas was far from dismay. As if to show the people how lightly he held his opponent's warnings, he made them gape by putting things down Mr. Lincoln's shirt-front and taking them out of his mouth: But it appeared to Stephen, listening with all his might, that the Judge was a trifle more on the defensive than his attitude might lead one to expect. Was he not among his own Northern Democrats at Freeport? And yet it seemed to give him a keen pleasure to call his hearers "Black Republicans." "Not black," came from the crowd again and again, and once a man: shouted, "Couldn't you modify it and call it brown?" "Not a whit!" cried the Judge, and dubbed them "Yankees," although himself a Vermonter by birth. He implied that most of these Black Republicans desired negro wives.
But quick,—to the Question, How was the Little Giant, artful in debate as he was, to get over that without offence to the great South? Very skillfully the judge disposed of the first of the interrogations. And then, save for the gusts of wind rustling the trees, the grove might have been empty of its thousands, such was the silence that fell. But tighter and tighter they pressed against the stand, until it trembled.
Oh, Judge, the time of all artful men will come at length. How were you to foresee a certain day under the White Dome of the Capitol? Had your sight been long, you would have paused before your answer. Had your sight been long, you would have seen this ugly Lincoln bareheaded before the Nation, and you are holding his hat. Judge Douglas, this act alone has redeemed your faults. It has given you a nobility of which we did not suspect you. At the end God gave you strength to be humble, and so you left the name of a patriot.
Judge, you thought there was a passage between Scylla and Charybdis which your craftiness might overcome.
"It matters not," you cried when you answered the Question, "it matters not which way the Supreme Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question whether slavery may or may not go into a territory under the Constitution. The people have the lawful means to introduce or to exclude it as they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere unless it is supported by local police regulations."
Judge Douglas, uneasy will you lie to-night, for you have uttered the Freeport Heresy.
It only remains to be told how Stephen Brice, coming to the Brewster House after the debate, found Mr. Lincoln. On his knee, in transports of delight, was a small boy, and Mr. Lincoln was serenely playing on the child's Jew's-harp. Standing beside him was a proud father who had dragged his son across two counties in a farm wagon, and who was to return on the morrow to enter this event in the family Bible. In a corner of the room were several impatient gentlemen of influence who wished to talk about the Question.
But when he saw Stephen, Mr. Lincoln looked up with a smile of welcome that is still, and ever will be, remembered and cherished.
"Tell Judge Whipple that I have attended to that little matter, Steve," he said.
"Why, Mr. Lincoln," he exclaimed, "you have had no time."
"I have taken the time," Mr. Lincoln replied, "and I think that I am well repaid. Steve," said he, "unless I'm mightily mistaken, you know a little more than you did yesterday."
"Yes, sir! I do," said Stephen.
"Come, Steve," said Mr. Lincoln, "be honest. Didn't you feel sorry for me last night?"
Stephen flushed scarlet.
"I never shall again, sir," he said.
The wonderful smile, so ready to come and go, flickered and went out. In its stead on the strange face was ineffable sadness,—the sadness of the world's tragedies, of Stephen stoned, of Christ crucified.
"Pray God that you may feel sorry for me again," he said.
Awed, the child on his lap was still. The politician had left the room. Mr. Lincoln had kept Stephen's hand in his own.
"I have hopes of you, Stephen," he said. "Do not forget me."
Stephen Brice never has. Why was it that he walked to the station with a heavy heart? It was a sense of the man he had left, who had been and was to be. This Lincoln of the black loam, who built his neighbor's cabin and hoed his neighbor's corn, who had been storekeeper and postmaster and flat-boatman. Who had followed a rough judge dealing a rough justice around a rough circuit; who had rolled a local bully in the dirt; rescued women from insult; tended the bedside of many a sick coward who feared the Judgment; told coarse stories on barrels by candlelight (but these are pure beside the vice of great cities); who addressed political mobs in the raw, swooping down from the stump and flinging embroilers east and west. This physician who was one day to tend the sickbed of the Nation in her agony; whose large hand was to be on her feeble pulse, and whose knowledge almost divine was to perform the miracle of her healing. So was it that, the Physician Himself performed His cures, and when work was done, died a martyr.
Abraham Lincoln died in His name
It was nearly noon when Stephen walked into the office the next day, dusty and travel-worn and perspiring. He had come straight from the ferry, without going home. And he had visions of a quiet dinner with Richter under the trees at the beer-garden, where he could talk about Abraham Lincoln. Had Richter ever heard of Lincoln?
But the young German met him at the top of the stair—and his face was more serious than usual, although he showed his magnificent teeth in a smile of welcome.
"You are a little behind your time, my friend," said he, "What has happened you?"
"Didn't the Judge get Mr, Lincoln's message?" asked Stephen, with anxiety.
The German shrugged his shoulders.
"Ah, I know not," he answered, "He has gone is Glencoe. The Judge is ill, Stephen. Doctor Polk says that he has worked all his life too hard. The Doctor and Colonel Carvel tried to get him to go to Glencoe. But he would not budge until Miss Carvel herself comes all the way from the country yesterday, and orders him. Ach!" exclaimed Richter, impulsively, "what wonderful women you have in America! I could lose my head when I think of Miss Carvel."
"Miss Carvel was here, you say?" Stephen repeated, in a tone of inquiry.
"Donner!" said Richter, disgusted, "you don't care."
Stephen laughed, in spite of himself.
"Why should I?" he answered. And becoming grave again, added: "Except on Judge Whipple's account. Have you heard from him to-day, Carl?"
"This morning one of Colonel Carvel's servants came for his letters. He must be feeling better. I—I pray that he is better," said Richter, his voice breaking. "He has been very good to me."
Stephen said nothing. But he had been conscious all at once of an affection for the Judge of which he had not suspected himself. That afternoon, on his way home, he stopped at Carvel & Company's to inquire. Mr. Whipple was better, so Mr. Hopper said, and added that he "presumed likely the Colonel would not be in for a week." It was then Saturday. Eliphalet was actually in the Colonel's sanctum behind the partition, giving orders to several clerks at the time. He was so prosperous and important that he could scarce spare a moment to answer Stephen, who went away wondering whether he had been wise to choose the law.
On Monday, when Stephen called at Carvel & Company's, Eliphalet was too busy to see him. But Ephum, who went out to Glencoe every night with orders, told him that the "Jedge was wuss, suh." On Wednesday, there being little change, Mrs. Brice ventured to despatch a jelly by Ephum. On Friday afternoon, when Stephen was deep in Whittlesey and the New Code, he became aware of Ephum standing beside him. In reply to his anxious question Ephum answered:
"I reckon he better, suh. He an' de Colonel done commence wrastlin' 'bout a man name o' Linkum. De Colonel done wrote you dis note, suh."
It was a very polite note, containing the Colonel's compliments, asking Mr. Brice to Glencoe that afternoon with whatever papers or letters the Judge might wish to see. And since there was no convenient train in the evening, Colonel Carvel would feel honored if Mr. Brice would spend the night. The Colonel mentioned the train on which Mr. Brice was expected.
The Missouri side of the Mississippi is a very different country from the hot and treeless prairies of Illinois. As Stephen alighted at the little station at Glencoe and was driven away by Ned in the Colonel's buggy, he drew in deep breaths of the sweet air of the Meramec Valley.
There had been a shower, and the sun glistened on the drops on grass and flowers, and the great trees hung heavy over the clay road. At last they came to a white gate in the picket fence, in sight of a rambling wooden house with a veranda in front covered with honeysuckle. And then he saw the Colonel, in white marseilles, smoking a cigar. This, indeed, was real country.
As Stephen trod the rough flags between the high grass which led toward the house, Colonel Carvel rose to his full height and greeted him.
"You are very welcome, sir," he said gravely. "The Judge is asleep now," he added. "I regret to say that we had a little argument this morning, and my daughter tells me it will be well not to excite him again to-day. Jinny is reading to him now, or she would be here to entertain you, Mr. Brice. Jackson!" cried Mr. Carvel, "show Mr. Brice to his room."
Jackson appeared hurriedly, seized Stephen's bag, and led the way upstairs through the cool and darkened house to a pretty little room on the south side, with matting, and roses on the simple dressing-table. After he had sat awhile staring at these, and at the wet flower-garden from between the slats of his shutters, he removed the signs of the railroad upon him, and descended. The Colonel was still on the porch, in his easy-chair. He had lighted another, cigar, and on the stand beside him stood two tall glasses, green with the fresh mint. Colonel Carvel rose, and with his own hand offered one to Stephen.
"Your health, Mr. Brice," he said, "and I hope you will feel at home here, sir. Jackson will bring you anything you desire, and should you wish to drive, I shall be delighted to show you the country."
Stephen drank that julep with reverence, and then the Colonel gave him a cigar. He was quite overcome by this treatment of a penniless young Yankee. The Colonel did not talk politics—such was not his notion of hospitality to a stranger. He talked horse, and no great discernment on Stephen's part was needed to perceive that this was Mr. Carvel's hobby.
"I used to have a stable, Mr. Brice, before they ruined gentleman's sport with these trotters ten years ago. Yes sir, we used to be at Lexington one week, and Louisville the next, and over here on the Ames track after that. Did you ever hear of Water Witch and Netty Boone?"
Yes, Stephen had, from Mr. Jack Brinsmade.
The Colonel's face beamed.
"Why, sir," he cried, "that very nigger, Ned, who drove you here from the cars-he used to ride Netty Boone. Would you believe that, Mr. Brice? He was the best jockey ever strode a horse on the Elleardsville track here. He wore my yellow and green, sir, until he got to weigh one hundred and a quarter. And I kept him down to that weight a whole year, Mr. Brice. Yes, sirree, a whole year."
"Kept him down!" said Stephen.
"Why, yes, sir. I had him wrapped in blankets and set in a chair with holes bored in the seat. Then we lighted a spirit lamp under him. Many a time I took off ten pounds that way. It needs fire to get flesh off a nigger, sir."
He didn't notice his guest's amazement.
"Then, sir," he continued, "they introduced these damned trotting races; trotting races are for white trash, Mr. Brice."
The Colonel stopped short. Stephen was already on his feet. I wish you could have seen Miss Virginia Carvel as he saw her then. She wore a white lawn dress. A tea-tray was in her hand, and her head was tilted back, as women are apt to do when they carry a burden. It was so that these Southern families, who were so bitter against Abolitionists and Yankees, entertained them when they were poor, and nursed them when they were ill.
Stephen, for his life, could not utter a word. But Virginia turned to him with perfect self-possession.
"He has been boring you with his horses, Mr. Brice," she said. "Has he told you what a jockey Ned used to be before he weighed one hundred and a quarter?" (A laugh.) "Has he given you the points of Water Witch and Netty Boone?" (More laughter, increasing embarrassment for Stephen.) "Pa, I tell you once more that you will drive every guest from this house. Your jockey talk is intolerable."
O that you might have a notion of the way in which Virginia pronounced intolerable.
Mr. Carvel reached for another cigar asked, "My dear," he asked, "how is the Judge?"
"My dear," said Virginia, smiling, "he is asleep. Mammy Easter is with him, trying to make out what he is saying. He talks in his sleep, just as you do—"
"And what is he saying?" demanded the Colonel, interested.
Virginia set down the tray.
"'A house divided against itself,'" said Miss Carvel, with a sweep of her arm, "'cannot stand. I believe that this Government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to dissolve—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided.' Would you like any more?" added Miss Virginia.
"No," cried the Colonel, and banged his fist down on the table. "Why," said he, thoughtfully, stroking the white goatee on his chin, "cuss me if that ain't from the speech that country bumpkin, Lincoln, made in June last before the Black Republican convention in Illinois."
Virginia broke again into laughter. And Stephen was very near it, for he loved the Colonel. That gentleman suddenly checked himself in his tirade, and turned to him.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said; "I reckon that you have the same political sentiments as the Judge. Believe me, sir, I would not willingly offend a guest."
Stephen smiled. "I am not offended, sir," he said. A speech which caused Mr. Carvel to bestow a quick glance upon him. But Stephen did not see it. He was looking at Virginia.
The Colonel rose.
"You will pardon my absence for a while, sir," he said.
"My daughter will entertain you."
In silence they watched him as he strode off under the trees through tall grass, a yellow setter at his heels. A strange peace was over Stephen. The shadows of the walnuts and hickories were growing long, and a rich country was giving up its scent to the evening air. From a cabin behind the house was wafted the melody of a plantation song. To the young man, after the burnt city, this was paradise. And then he remembered his mother as she must be sitting on the tiny porch in town, and sighed. Only two years ago she had been at their own place at Westbury.
He looked up, and saw the girl watching him. He dared not think that the expression he caught was one of sympathy, for it changed instantly.
"I am afraid you are the silent kind, Mr. Brice," said she; "I believe it is a Yankee trait."
"I have known a great many who were not," said he, "When they are garrulous, they are very much so."
"I should prefer a garrulous one," said Virginia.
"I should think a Yankee were bad enough, but a noisy Yankee not to be put up with," he ventured.
Virginia did not deign a direct reply to this, save by the corners of her mouth.
"I wonder," said she, thoughtfully, "whether it is strength of mind or a lack of ideas that makes them silent."
"It is mostly prudence," said Mr. Brice. "Prudence is our dominant trait."
Virginia fidgeted. Usually she had an easier time.
"You have not always shown it," she said, with an innocence which in women is often charged with meaning.
Stephen started. Her antagonism was still there. He would have liked greatly to know whether she referred to his hasty purchase of Hester, or to his rashness in dancing with her at her party the winter before.
"We have something left to be thankful for," he answered. "We are still capable of action."
"On occasions it is violence," said Virginia, desperately. This man must not get ahead of her.
"It is just as violent," said he, "as the repressed feeling which prompts it."
This was a new kind of conversation to Virginia. Of all the young men she knew, not one had ever ventured into anything of the sort. They were either flippant, or sentimental, or both. She was at once flattered and annoyed, flattered, because, as a woman, Stephen had conceded her a mind. Many of the young men she knew had minds, but deemed that these were wasted on women, whose language was generally supposed to be a kind of childish twaddle. Even Jack Brinsmade rarely risked his dignity and reputation at an intellectual tilt. This was one of Virginia's grievances. She often argued with her father, and, if the truth were told, had had more than one victory over Judge Whipple.
Virginia's annoyance came from the fact that she perceived in Stephen a natural and merciless logic,—a faculty for getting at the bottom of things. His brain did not seem to be thrown out of gear by local magnetic influences,—by beauty, for instance. He did not lose his head, as did some others she knew, at the approach of feminine charms. Here was a grand subject, then, to try the mettle of any woman. One with less mettle would have given it up. But Virginia thought it would be delightful to bring this particular Yankee to his knees; and—and leave him there.
"Mr. Brice," she said, "I have not spoken to you since the night of my party. I believe we danced together."
"Yes, we did," said he, "and I called, but was unfortunate."
"They did not tell you!" cried Stephen.
Now Miss Carvel was complacency itself.
"Jackson is so careless with cards," said she, "and very often I do not take the trouble to read them."
"I am sorry," said he, "as I wished for the opportunity to tell you how much I enjoyed myself. I have found everybody in St. Louis very kind to strangers."
Virginia was nearly disarmed. She remembered how, she had opposed his coning. But honesty as well as something else prompted her to say: "It was my father who invited you."
Stephen did not reveal the shock his vanity had received.
"At least you were good enough to dance with me."
"I could scarcely refuse a guest," she replied.
He held up his head.
"Had I thought it would have given you annoyance," he said quietly, "I should not have asked you."
"Which would have been a lack of good manners," said Virginia, biting her lips.
Stephen answered nothing, but wished himself in St. Louis. He could not comprehend her cruelty. But, just then, the bell rang for supper, and the Colonel appeared around the end of the house.
It was one of those suppers for which the South is renowned. And when at length he could induce Stephen to eat no more, Colonel Carvel reached for his broad-brimmed felt bat, and sat smoking, with his feet against the mantle. Virginia, who had talked but little, disappeared with a tray on which she had placed with her own hands some dainties to tempt the Judge.
The Colonel regaled Stephen, when she was gone, with the pedigree and performance of every horse he had had in his stable. And this was a relief, as it gave him an opportunity to think without interruption upon Virginia's pronounced attitude of dislike. To him it was inconceivable that a young woman of such qualities as she appeared to have, should assail him so persistently for freeing a negress, and so depriving her of a maid she had set her heart upon. There were other New England young men in society. Mr. Weston and Mr. Carpenter, and more. They were not her particular friends, to be sure. But they called on her and danced with her, and she had shown them not the least antipathy. But it was to Stephen's credit that he did not analyze her further.
He was reflecting on these things when he got to his room, when there came a knock at the door. It was Mammy Easter, in bright turban and apron,—was hospitality and comfort in the flesh.
"Is you got all you need, suh?" she inquired.
Stephen replied that he had. But Mammy showed no inclination to go, and he was too polite to shut the door:
"How you like Glencoe, Mistah Bride?"
He was charmed with it.
"We has some of de fust fam'lies out heah in de summer," said she. "But de Colonel, he a'n't much on a gran' place laik in Kaintuck. Shucks, no, suh, dis ain't much of a 'stablishment! Young Massa won't have no lawns, no greenhouses, no nothin'. He say he laik it wil' and simple. He on'y come out fo' two months, mebbe. But Miss Jinny, she make it lively. Las' week, until the Jedge come we hab dis house chuck full, two-three young ladies in a room, an' five young gemmen on trunnle beds."
"Until the Judge came?" echoed Stephen.
"Yassuh. Den Miss Jinny low dey all hatter go. She say she a'n't gwineter have 'em noun' 'sturbin' a sick man. De Colonel 'monstrated. He done give the Judge his big room, and he say he and de young men gwine ober to Mista, Catherwood's. You a'n't never seen Miss Jinny rise up, suh! She des swep' 'em all out" (Mammy emphasized this by rolling her hands) "an' declah she gwine ten' to the Jedge herself. She a'n't never let me bring up one of his meals, suh." And so she left Stephen with some food for reflection.
Virginia was very gay at breakfast, and said that the Judge would see Stephen; so he and the Colonel, that gentleman with his hat on, went up to his room. The shutters were thrown open, and the morning sunlight filtered through the leaves and fell on the four-poster where the Judge sat up, gaunt and grizzled as ever. He smiled at his host, and then tried to destroy immediately the effect of the smile.
"Well, Judge," cried the Colonel, taking his hand, "I reckon we talked too much."
"No such thing, Carvel," said the Judge, forcibly, "if you hadn't left the room, your popular sovereignty would have been in rags in two minutes."
Stephen sat down in a corner, unobserved, in expectation of a renewal. But at this moment Miss Virginia swept into the room, very cool in a pink muslin.
"Colonel Carvel," said she, sternly, "I am the doctor's deputy here. I was told to keep the peace at any cost. And if you answer back, out you go, like that!" and she snapped her fingers.
The Colonel laughed. But the Judge, whose mind was on the argument, continued to mutter defiantly until his eye fell upon Stephen.
"Well, sir, well, sir," he said, "you've turned up at last, have you? I send you off with papers for a man, and I get back a piece of yellow paper saying that he's borrowed you. What did he do with you, Mr. Brice?"
"He took me to Freeport, sir, where I listened to the most remarkable speech I ever expect to hear."
"What!" cried the Judge, "so far from Boston?"
Stephen hesitated, uncertain whether to laugh, until he chanced to look at Virginia. She had pursed her lips.
"I was very much surprised, sir," he said.
"Humph!" grunted Mr. Whipple, "and what did you chink of that ruffian, Lincoln?"
"He is the most remarkable man that I have ever met, sir," answered Stephen, with emphasis.
It seemed as if the grunt this time had in it something of approval. Stephen had doubt as to the propriety of discussing Mr. Lincoln there, and he reddened. Virginia's expression bore a trace of defiance, and Mr. Carvel stood with his feet apart, thoughtfully stroking his goatee. But Mr. Whipple seemed to have no scruples.
"So you admired Lincoln, Mr. Brice?" he went on. "You must agree with that laudatory estimation of him which I read in the Missouri Democrat."
"I do, sir, most decidedly," he answered.
"I should hardly expect a conservative Bostonian, of the class which respects property, to have said that. It might possibly be a good thing if more from your town could hear those debates."
"They will read them, sir; I feel confident of it."
At this point the Colonel could contain himself no longer.
"I reckon I might tell the man who wrote that Democrat article a few things, if I could find out who he is," said he.
"Pa!" said Virginia, warningly.
But Stephen had turned a fiery red, "I wrote it, Colonel Carvel," he said.
For a dubious instant of silence Colonel Carvel stared. Then—then he slapped his knees, broke into a storm of laughter, and went out of the room. He left Stephen in a moist state of discomfiture.
The Judge had bolted upright from the pillows.
"You have been neglecting your law, sir," he cried.
"I wrote the article at night," said Stephen, indignantly.
"Then it must have been Sunday night, Mr. Brice."
At this point Virginia hid her face in her handkerchief which trembled visibly. Being a woman, whose ways are unaccountable, the older man took no notice of her. But being a young woman, and a pretty one, Stephen was angry.
"I don't see what right you have to ask me that sir," he said.
"The question is withdrawn, Mr. Brice," said the Judge, "Virginia, you may strike it from the records. And now, sir, tell me something about your trip."
An hour later Stephen descended to the veranda, and it was with apprehension that he discerned Mr. Carvel seated under the vines at the far end. Virginia was perched on the railing.
To Stephen's surprise the Colonel rose, and, coming toward him, laid a kindly hand on his shoulder.
"Stephen," said he, "there will be no law until Monday you must stay with us until then. A little rest will do you good."
Stephen was greatly touched.
"Thank you, sir," he said. "I should like to very much. But I can't."
"Nonsense," said the Colonel. "I won't let the Judge interfere."
"It isn't that, sir. I shall have to go by the two o'clock train, I fear."
The Colonel turned to Virginia, who, meanwhile, had sat silently by.
"Jinny," he said, "we must contrive to keep him."
She slid off the railing.
"I'm afraid he is determined, Pa," she answered. "But perhaps Mr. Brice would like to see a little of the place before he goes. It is very primitive," she explained, "not much like yours in the East."
Stephen thanked her, and bowed to the Colonel. And so she led him past the low, crooked outbuildings at the back, where he saw old Uncle Ben busy over the preparation of his dinner, and frisky Rosetta, his daughter, playing with one of the Colonel's setters. Then Virginia took a well-worn path, on each side of which the high grass bent with its load of seed, which entered the wood. Oaks and hickories and walnuts and persimmons spread out in a glade, and the wild grape twisted fantastically around the trunks. All this beauty seemed but a fit setting to the strong girlish figure in the pink frock before him. So absorbed was he in contemplation of this, and in wondering whether indeed she were to marry her cousin, Clarence Colfax, that he did not see the wonders of view unrolling in front of him. She stopped at length beside a great patch of wild race bushes. They were on the edge of the bluff, and in front of them a little rustic summer-house, with seats on its five sides. Here Virginia sat down. But Stephen, going to the edge, stood and marvelled. Far, far below him, down the wooded steep, shot the crystal Meramec, chafing over the shallow gravel beds and tearing headlong at the deep passes.
Beyond, the dimpled green hills rose and fell, and the stream ran indigo and silver. A hawk soared over the, water, the only living creature in all that wilderness.
The glory of the place stirred his blood. And when at length he turned, he saw that the girl was watching him.
"It is very beautiful," he said.
Virginia had taken other young men here, and they had looked only upon her. And yet she was not offended. This sincerity now was as new to her as that with which he had surprised her in the Judge's room.
And she was not quite at her ease. A reply to those simple words of his was impossible. At honest Tom Catherwood in the same situation she would have laughed, Clarence never so much as glanced at scenery. Her replies to him were either flippant, or else maternal, as to a child.
A breeze laden with the sweet abundance of that valley stirred her hair. And with that womanly gesture which has been the same through the ages she put up her hand; deftly tucking in the stray wisp behind.
She glanced at the New Englander, against whom she had been in strange rebellion since she had first seen him. His face, thinned by the summer in town, was of the sternness of the Puritan. Stephen's features were sharply marked for his age. The will to conquer was there. Yet justice was in the mouth, and greatness of heart. Conscience was graven on the broad forehead. The eyes were the blue gray of the flint, kindly yet imperishable. The face was not handsome.
Struggling, then yielding to the impulse, Virginia let herself be led on into the years. Sanity was the word that best described him. She saw him trusted of men, honored of women, feared by the false. She saw him in high places, simple, reserved, poised evenly as he was now.
"Why do you go in this afternoon?" she asked abruptly.
He started at the change in her tone.
"I wish that I might stay," he said regretfully. "But I cannot, Miss Carvel."
He gave no reason. And she was too proud to ask it. Never before had she stooped to urge young men to stay. The difficulty had always been to get them to go. It was natural, perhaps, that her vanity was wounded. But it hurt her to think that she had made the overture, had tried to conquer whatever it was that set her against him, and had failed through him.
"You must find the city attractive. Perhaps," she added, with a little laugh, "perhaps it is Bellefontaine Road."
"No," he answered, smiling.
"Then" (with a touch of derision), "then it is because you cannot miss an afternoon's work. You are that kind."
"I was not always that kind," he answered. "I did not work at Harvard. But now I have to or—or starve," he said.
For the second time his complete simplicity had disarmed her. He had not appealed to her sympathy, nor had he hinted at the luxury in which he was brought up. She would have liked to question Stephen on this former life. But she changed the subject suddenly.
"What did you really think of Mr. Lincoln?" she asked.
"I thought him the ugliest man I ever saw, and the handsomest as well."
"But you admired him?"
"Yes," said Stephen, gravely.
"You believe with him that this government cannot exist half slave and half free. Then a day will come, Mr. Brice, when you and I shall be foreigners one to the other."
"You have forgotten," he said eagerly, "you have forgotten the rest of the quotation. 'I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but cease to be divided.' It will become all one thing or all the other."
Virginia laughed. "That seemed to me very equivocal," said she. "Your rail-sputter is well named."
"Will you read the rest of that speech?" he asked
"Judge Whipple is very clever. He has made a convert of you," she answered.
"The Judge has had nothing to do with it," cried Stephen. "He is not given to discussion with me, and until I went to Springfield had never mentioned Lincoln's name to me."
Glancing at her, he surprised a sparkle of amusement in her eyes. Then she laughed openly.
"Why do you suppose that you were sent to Springfield?" she asked.
"With an important communication for Mr. Lincoln," he answered.
"And that most important communication was—your self. There, now, I have told you," said Virginia.
"Was myself? I don't understand."
Virginia puckered her lips.
"Then you haven't the sense I thought you had," she replied impatiently. "Do you know what was in that note? No? Well, a year ago last June this Black Republican lawyer whom you are all talking of made a speech before a convention in Illinois. Judge Whipple has been crazy on the subject ever since—he talks of Lincoln in his sleep; he went to Springfield and spent two days with him, and now he can't rest until you have seen and known and heard him. So he writes a note to Lincoln and asks him to take you to the debate—"
She paused again to laugh at his amazement.
"But he told me to go to Springfield!" he exclaimed.
"He told you to find Lincoln. He knew that you would obey his orders, I suppose."
"But I didn't know—" Stephen began, trying to come pass within an instant the memory of his year's experience with Mr. Whipple.
"You didn't know that he thought anything about you," said Virginia. "That is his way, Mr. Brice. He has more private charities on his list than any man in the city except Mr. Brinsmade. Very few know it. He thinks a great deal of you. But there," she added, suddenly blushing crimson, "I am sorry I told you."
"Why?" he asked.
She did not answer, but sat tapping the seat with her fingers. And when she ventured to look at him, he had fallen into thought.
"I think it must be time for dinner," said Virginia, "if you really wish to catch the train."
The coldness in her voice, rather than her words, aroused him. He rose, took one lingering look at the river, and followed her to the house.
At dinner, when not talking about his mare, the Colonel was trying to persuade Stephen to remain. Virginia did not join in this, and her father thought the young man's refusal sprang from her lack of cordiality. Colonel Carvel himself drove to the station.
When he returned, he found his daughter sitting idly on the porch.
"I like that young man, if he is a Yankee," he declared.
"I don't," said Virginia, promptly.
"My dear," said her father, voicing the hospitality of the Carvels, "I am surprised at you. One should never show one's feelings toward a guest. As mistress of this house it was your duty to press him to stay."
"He did not want to stay."
"Do you know why he went, my dear," asked the Colonel.
"No," said Virginia.
"I asked him," said the Colonel.
"Pa! I did not think it of you!" she cried. And then, "What was it?" she demanded.
"He said that his mother was alone in town, and needed him."
Virginia got up without a word, and went into Judge Whipple's room. And there the Colonel found her some hours later, reading aloud from a scrap-book certain speeches of Mr. Lincoln's which Judge Whipple had cut from newspapers. And the Judge, lying back with his eyes half closed, was listening in pure delight. Little did he guess at Virginia's penance!
By Winston Churchill
I am going ahead two years. Two years during which a nation struggled in agony with sickness, and even the great strength with which she was endowed at birth was not equal to the task of throwing it off. In 1620 a Dutch ship had brought from Guinea to his Majesty's Colony of Virginia the germs of that disease for which the Nation's blood was to be let so freely. During these years signs of dissolution, of death, were not wanting.
In the city by the Father of Waters where the races met, men and women were born into the world, who were to die in ancient Cuba, who were to be left fatherless in the struggle soon to come, who were to live to see new monsters rise to gnaw at the vitals of the Republic, and to hear again the cynical laugh of Europe. But they were also to see their country a power in the world, perchance the greatest power. While Europe had wrangled, the child of the West had grown into manhood and taken a seat among the highest, to share with them the responsibilities of manhood.
Meanwhile, Stephen Brice had been given permission to practise law in the sovereign state of Missouri. Stephen understood Judge Whipple better. It cannot be said that he was intimate with that rather formidable personage, although the Judge, being a man of habits, had formed that of taking tea at least once a week with Mrs. Brice. Stephen had learned to love the Judge, and he had never ceased to be grateful to him for a knowledge of that man who had had the most influence upon his life, —Abraham Lincoln.
For the seed, sowed in wisdom and self-denial, was bearing fruit. The sound of gathering conventions was in the land, and the Freeport Heresy was not for gotten.
We shall not mention the number of clients thronging to Mr. Whipple's office to consult Mr. Brice. These things are humiliating. Some of Stephen's income came from articles in the newspapers of that day. What funny newspapers they were, the size of a blanket! No startling headlines such as we see now, but a continued novel among the advertisements on the front page and verses from some gifted lady of the town, signed Electra. And often a story of pure love, but more frequently of ghosts or other eerie phenomena taken from a magazine, or an anecdote of a cat or a chicken. There were letters from citizens who had the mania of print, bulletins of different ages from all parts of the Union, clippings out of day-before-yesterday's newspaper of Chicago or Cincinnati to three-weeks letters from San Francisco, come by the pony post to Lexington and then down the swift Missouri. Of course, there was news by telegraph, but that was precious as fine gold,—not to be lightly read and cast aside.
In the autumn of '59, through the kindness of Mr. Brinsmade, Stephen had gone on a steamboat up the river to a great convention in Iowa. On this excursion was much of St. Louis's bluest blood. He widened his circle of acquaintances, and spent much of his time walking the guards between Miss Anne Brinsmade and Miss Puss Russell. Perhaps it is unfair to these young ladies to repeat what they said about Stephen in the privacy of their staterooms, gentle Anne remonstrating that they should not gossip, and listening eagerly the while, and laughing at Miss Puss, whose mimicry of Stephen's severe ways brought tears to her eyes.
Mr. Clarence Colfax was likewise on the boat, and passing Stephen on the guards, bowed distantly. But once, on the return trip, when Stephen had a writing pad on his knee, the young Southerner came up to him in his frankest manner and with an expression of the gray eyes which was not to be withstood.
"Making a case, Brice?" he said. "I hear you are the kind that cannot be idle even on a holiday."
"Not as bad as all that," replied Stephen, smiling at him.
"Reckon you keep a diary, then," said Clarence, leaning against the rail. He made a remarkably graceful figure, Stephen thought. He was tall, and his movements had what might be called a commanding indolence. Stephen, while he smiled, could not but admire the tone and gesture with which Colfax bade a passing negro to get him a handkerchief from his cabin. The alacrity of the black to do the errand was amusing enough. Stephen well knew it had not been such if he wanted a handkerchief.
Stephen said it was not a diary. Mr. Colfax was too well bred to inquire further; so he never found out that Mr. Brice was writing an account of the Convention and the speechmaking for the Missouri Democrat.
"Brice," said the Southerner, "I want to apologize for things I've done to you and said about you. I hated you for a long time after you beat me out of Hester, and—" he hesitated.
Stephen looked up. For the first time he actually liked Colfax. He had been long enough among Colfax's people to understand how difficult it was for him to say the thing he wished.
"You may remember a night at my uncle's, Colonel Carvel's, on the occasion of my cousin's birthday?"
"Yes," said Stephen, in surprise.
"Well," blurted Clarence, boyishly, "I was rude to you in my uncle's house, and I have since been sorry."
"He held out his hand, and Stephen took it warmly.
"I was younger then, Mr. Colfax," he said, "and I didn't understand your point of view as well as I do now. Not that I have changed my ideas," he added quickly, "but the notion of the girl's going South angered me. I was bidding against the dealer rather than against you. Had I then known Miss Carvel—" he stopped abruptly.
The winning expression died from the face of the other.
He turned away, and leaning across the rail, stared at the high bluffs, red-bronzed by the autumn sun. A score of miles beyond that precipice was a long low building of stone, surrounded by spreading trees,—the school for young ladies, celebrated throughout the West, where our mothers and grandmothers were taught,—Monticello. Hither Miss Virginia Carvel had gone, some thirty days since, for her second winter.
Perhaps Stephen guessed the thought in the mind of his companion, for he stared also. The music in the cabin came to an abrupt pause, and only the tumbling of waters through the planks of the great wheels broke the silence. They were both startled by laughter at their shoulders. There stood Miss Russell, the picture of merriment, her arm locked in Anne Brinsmade's.
"It is the hour when all devout worshippers turn towards the East," she said. "The goddess is enshrined at Monticello."
Both young men, as they got to their feet, were crimson. Whereupon Miss Russell laughed again. Anne, however, blushed for them. But this was not the first time Miss Russell had gone too far. Young Mr. Colfax, with the excess of manner which was his at such times, excused himself and left abruptly. This to the further embarrassment of Stephen and Anne, and the keener enjoyment of Miss Russell.
"Was I not right, Mr. Brice?" she demanded. "Why, you are even writing verses to her!"
"I scarcely know Miss Carvel," he said, recovering. "And as for writing verse—"
"You never did such a thing in your life! I can well believe it."
Miss Russell made a face in the direction Colfax had taken.
"He always acts like that when you mention her," she said.
"But you are so cruel, Puss," said Anne. "You can't blame him."
"Hairpins!" said Miss Russell.
"Isn't she to marry him?" said Stephen, in his natural voice.
He remembered his pronouns too late.
"That has been the way of the world ever since Adam and Eve," remarked Puss. "I suppose you meant to ask: Mr. Brice, whether Clarence is to marry Virginia Carvel."
Anne nudged her.
"My dear, what will Mr. Brice think of us?"
"Listen, Mr. Brice," Puss continued, undaunted. "I shall tell you some gossip. Virginia was sent to Monticello, and went with her father to Kentucky and Pennsylvania this summer, that she might be away from Clarence. Colfax."
"Oh, Puss!" cried Anne.
Miss Russell paid not the slightest heed.
"Colonel Carvel is right," she went on. "I should do the same thing. They are first cousins, and the Colonel doesn't like that. I am fond of Clarence. But he isn't good for anything in the world except horse racing and—and fighting. He wanted to help drive the Black Republican emigrants out of Kansas, and his mother had to put a collar and chain on him. He wanted to go filibustering with Walker, and she had to get down on her knees. And yet," she cried, "if you Yankees push us as far as war, Mr. Brice, just look out for him."
"But—" Anne interposed.
"Oh, I know what you are going to say,—that Clarence has money."
"Puss!" cried Anne, outraged. "How dare you!"
Miss Russell slipped an arm around her waist.
"Come, Anne," she said, "we mustn't interrupt the Senator any longer. He is preparing his maiden speech."
That was the way in which Stephen got his nickname. It is scarcely necessary to add that he wrote no more until he reached his little room in the house on Olive Street.
They had passed Alton, and the black cloud that hung in the still autumn air over the city was in sight. It was dusk when the 'Jackson' pushed her nose into the levee, and the song of the negro stevedores rose from below as they pulled the gang-plank on to the landing-stage. Stephen stood apart on the hurricane deck, gazing at the dark line of sooty warehouses. How many young men with their way to make have felt the same as he did after some pleasant excursion. The presence of a tall form beside him shook him from his revery, and he looked up to recognize the benevolent face of Mr. Brinsmade.
"Mrs. Brice may be anxious, Stephen, at the late hour," said he. "My carriage is here, and it will give me great pleasure to convey you to your door."
Dear Mr. Brinsmade! He is in heaven now, and knows at last the good he wrought upon earth. Of the many thoughtful charities which Stephen received from him, this one sticks firmest in his remembrance: A stranger, tired and lonely, and apart from the gay young men and women who stepped from the boat, he had been sought out by this gentleman, to whom had been given the divine gift of forgetting none.
"Oh, Puss," cried Anne, that evening, for Miss Russell had come to spend the night, "how could you have talked to him so? He scarcely spoke on the way up in the carriage. You have offended him."
"Why should I set him upon a pedestal?" said Puss, with a thread in her mouth; "why should you all set him upon a pedestal? He is only a Yankee," said Puss, tossing her head, "and not so very wonderful."
"I did not say he was wonderful," replied Anne, with dignity.
"But you girls think him so. Emily and Eugenie and Maude. He had better marry Belle Cluyme. A great man, he may give some decision to that family. Anne!"
"Shall I tell you a secret?"
"Yes," said Anne. She was human, and she was feminine.
"Then—Virginia Carvel is in love with him."
"With Mr. Brice!" cried astonished Anne. "She hates him!"
"She thinks she hates him," said Miss Russell, calmly.
Anne looked up at her companion admiringly. Her two heroines were Puss and Virginia. Both had the same kind of daring, but in Puss the trait had developed into a somewhat disagreeable outspokenness which made many people dislike her. Her judgments were usually well founded, and her prophecies had so often come to pass that Anne often believed in them for no other reason.
"How do you know?" said Anne, incredulously.
"Do you remember that September, a year ago, when we were all out at Glencoe, and Judge Whipple was ill, and Virginia sent us all away and nursed him herself?"
"Yes," said Anne.
"And did you know that Mr. Brice had gone out, with letters, when the Judge was better?"
"Yes," said Anne, breathless.
"It was a Saturday afternoon that he left, although they had begged him to stay over Sunday. Virginia had written for me to come back, and I arrived in the evening. I asked Easter where Jinny was, and I found her —"
"You found her—?" said Anne.
Sitting alone in the summer-house over the river. Easter said she had been there for two hours. And I have never known Jinny to be such miserable company as she was that night."
"Did she mention Stephen?" asked Anne.
"But you did," said Anne, with conviction.
Miss Russell's reply was not as direct as usual.
"You know Virginia never confides unless she wants to," she said.
"Virginia has scarcely seen him since then," she said. "You know that I was her room-mate at Monticello last year, and I think I should have discovered it."
"Did she speak of him?" demanded Miss Russell.
"Only when the subject was mentioned. I heard her repeat once what Judge Whipple told her father of him; that he had a fine legal mind. He was often in my letters from home, because they have taken Pa's house next door, and because Pa likes them. I used to read those letters to Jinny," said Anne, "but she never expressed any desire to hear them."
"I, too, used to write Jinny about him," confessed Puss.
"Did she answer your letter?"
"No," replied Miss Puss,—"but that was just before the holidays, you remember. And then the Colonel hurried her off to see her Pennsylvania relatives, and I believe they went to Annapolis, too, where the Carvels come from."
Stephen, sitting in the next house, writing out his account, little dreamed that he was the subject of a conference in the third story front of the Brinsmades'. Later, when the young ladies were asleep, he carried his manuscript to the Democrat office, and delivered it into the hands of his friend, the night editor, who was awaiting it.
Toward the end of that week, Miss Virginia Carvel was sitting with her back to one of the great trees at Monticello reading a letter. Every once in a while she tucked it under her cloak and glanced hastily around. It was from Miss Anne Brinsmade.
"I have told you all about the excursion, my dear, and how we missed you. You may remember" (ah, Anne, the guile there is in the best of us), "you may remember Mr. Stephen Brice, whom we used to speak of. Pa and Ma take a great interest in him, and Pa had him invited on the excursion. He is more serious than ever, since he has become a full-fledged lawyer. But he has a dry humor which comes out when you know him well, of which I did not suspect him. His mother is the dearest lady I have ever known, so quiet, so dignified, and so well bred. They come in to supper very often. And the other night Mr. Brice told Pa so many things about the people south of Market Street, the Germans, which he did not know; that Pa was astonished. He told all about German history, and how they were persecuted at home, and why they came here. Pa was surprised to hear that many of them were University men, and that they were already organizing to defend the Union. I heard Pa say, 'That is what Mr. Blair meant when he assured me that we need not fear for the city.'
"Jinny dear, I ought not to have written you this, because you are for Secession, and in your heart you think Pa a traitor, because he comes from a slave state and has slaves of his own. But I shall not tear it up.
"It is sad to think how rich Mrs. Brice lived in Boston, and what she has had to come to. One servant and a little house, and no place to go to in the summer, when they used to have such a large one. I often go in to sew with her, but she has never once mentioned her past to me.
"Your father has no doubt sent you the Democrat with the account of the Convention. It is the fullest published, by far, and was so much admired that Pa asked the editor who wrote it. Who do you think, but Stephen Brice! So now Pa knows why Mr. Brice hesitated when Pa asked him to go up the river, and then consented. This is not the end. Yesterday, when I went in to see Mrs. Brice, a new black silk was on her bed, and as long as I live I shall never forget how sweet was her voice when she said, 'It is a surprise from my son, my dear. I did not expect ever to have another.' Jinny, I just know he bought it with the money he got for the article. That was what he was writing on the boat when Clarence Colfax interrupted him. Puss accused him of writing verses to you."
At this point Miss Virginia Carvel stopped reading. Whether she had read that part before, who shall say? But she took Anne's letter between her fingers and tore it into bits and flung the bits into the wind, so that they were tossed about and lost among the dead leaves under the great trees. And when she reached her room, there was the hated Missouri Democrat lying, still open, on her table. A little later a great black piece of it came tossing out of the chimney above, to the affright of little Miss Brown, teacher of Literature, who was walking in the grounds, and who ran to the principal's room with the story that the chimney was afire.
THE COLONEL IS WARNED
It is difficult to refrain from mention of the leave-taking of Miss Virginia Carvel from the Monticello "Female Seminary," so called in the 'Democrat'. Most young ladies did not graduate in those days. There were exercises. Stephen chanced to read in the 'Republican' about these ceremonies, which mentioned that Miss Virginia Carvel, "Daughter of Colonel Comyn Carvel, was without doubt the beauty of the day. She wore —" but why destroy the picture? I have the costumes under my hand. The words are meaningless to all males, and young women might laugh at a critical time. Miss Emily Russell performed upon "that most superb of all musical instruments the human voice." Was it 'Auld Robin Gray' that she sang? I am sure it was Miss Maude Catherwood who recited 'To My Mother', with such effect. Miss Carvel, so Stephen learned with alarm, was to read a poem by Mrs. Browning, but was "unavoidably prevented." The truth was, as he heard afterward from Miss Puss Russell, that Miss Jinny had refused point blank. So the Lady Principal, to save her reputation for discipline, had been forced to deceive the press.
There was another who read the account of the exercises with intense interest, a gentleman of whom we have lately forborne to speak. This is Mr. Eliphalet Hopper. Eliphalet has prospered. It is to be doubted if that somewhat easy-going gentleman, Colonel Carvel, realized the full importance of Eliphalet to Carvel & Company. Mr. Hood had been superseded. Ephum still opened the store in the mornings, but Mr. Hopper was within the ground-glass office before the place was warm, and through warerooms and shipping rooms, rubbing his hands, to see if any were late. Many of the old force were missed, and a new and greater force were come in. These feared Eliphalet as they did the devil, and worked the harder to please him, because Eliphalet had hired that kind. To them the Colonel was lifted high above the sordid affairs of the world. He was at the store every day in the winter, and Mr. Hopper always followed him obsequiously into the ground-glass office, called in the book-keeper, and showed him the books and the increased earnings.
The Colonel thought of Mr. Hood and his slovenly management, and sighed, in spite of his doubled income. Mr. Hopper had added to the Company's list of customers whole districts in the growing Southwest, and yet the honest Colonel did not like him. Mr. Hopper, by a gradual process, had taken upon his own shoulders, and consequently off the Colonel's, responsibility after responsibility. There were some painful scenes, of course, such as the departure of Mr. Hood, which never would have occurred had not Eliphalet proved without question the incapacity of the ancient manager. Mr. Hopper only narrowed his lids when the Colonel pensioned Mr. Hood. But the Colonel had a will before which, when roused, even Mr. Hopper trembled. So that Eliphalet was always polite to Ephum, and careful never to say anything in the darkey's presence against incompetent clerks or favorite customers, who, by the charity of the Colonel, remained on his books.
One spring day, after the sober home-coming of Colonel Carvel from the Democratic Convention at Charleston, Ephum accosted his master as he came into the store of a morning. Ephum's face was working with excitement.
"What's the matter with you, Ephum?" asked the Colonel, kindly. "You haven't been yourself lately."
"No, Marsa, I ain't 'zactly."
Ephum put down the duster, peered out of the door of the private office, and closed it softly.
"Marse Comyn, I ain't got no use fo' dat Misteh Hoppa', Ise kinder sup'stitious 'bout him, Marsa."
The Colonel put down his newspaper.
"Has he treated you badly, Ephum?" he asked quietly.
The faithful negro saw another question in his master's face. He well knew that Colonel Carvel would not descend to ask an inferior concerning the conduct of a superior.
"Oh no, suh. And I ain't sayin' nuthin' gin his honesty. He straight, but he powerful sharp, Marse Comyn. An' he jus' mussiless down to a cent."
The Colonel sighed. He realized that which was beyond the grasp of the negro's mind. New and thriftier methods of trade from New England were fast replacing the old open-handedness of the large houses. Competition had begun, and competition is cruel. Edwards, James, & Company had taken a Yankee into the firm. They were now Edwards, James, & Doddington, and Mr. Edwards's coolness towards the Colonel was manifest since the rise of Eliphalet. They were rivals now instead of friends. But Colonel Carvel did not know until after years that Mr. Hopper had been offered the place which Mr. Doddington filled later.
As for Mr. Hopper, increase of salary had not changed him. He still lived in the same humble way, in a single room in Miss Crane's boarding-house, and he paid very little more for his board than he had that first week in which he swept out Colonel Carvel's store. He was superintendent, now, of Mr. Davitt's Sunday School, and a church officer. At night, when he came home from business, he would read the widow's evening paper, and the Colonel's morning paper at the office. Of true Puritan abstemiousness, his only indulgence was chewing tobacco. It was as early as 1859 that the teller of the Boatman's Bank began to point out Mr. Hopper's back to casual customers, and he was more than once seen to enter the president's room, which had carpet on the floor.
Eliphalet's suavity with certain delinquent customers from the Southwest was A wording to Scripture. When they were profane, and invited him into the street, he reminded them that the city had a police force and a jail. While still a young man, he had a manner of folding his hands and smiling which is peculiar to capitalists, and he knew the laws concerning mortgages in several different states.
But Eliphalet was content still to remain in the sphere in which Providence had placed him, and so to be an example for many of us. He did not buy, or even hire, an evening suit. He was pleased to superintend some of the details for a dance at Christmas-time before Virginia left Monticello, but he sat as usual on the stair-landing. There Mr. Jacob Cluyme (who had been that day in conversation with the teller of the Boatman's Bank) chanced upon him. Mr. Cluyme was so charmed at the facility with which Eliphalet recounted the rise and fall of sugar and cotton and wheat that he invited Mr. Hopper to dinner. And from this meal may be reckoned the first appearance of the family of which Eliphalet Hopper was the head into polite society. If the Cluyme household was not polite, it was nothing. Eliphalet sat next to Miss Belle, and heard the private history of many old families, which he cherished for future use. Mrs. Cluyme apologized for the dinner, which (if the truth were told) needed an apology. All of which is significant, but sordid and uninteresting. Jacob Cluyme usually bought stocks before a rise.
There was only one person who really bothered Eliphalet as he rose into prominence, and that person was Captain Elijah Brent. If, upon entering the ground-glass office, he found Eliphalet without the Colonel, Captain Lige would walk out again just as if the office were empty. The inquiries he made were addressed always to Ephum. Once, when Mr. Hopper had bidden him good morning and pushed a chair toward him, the honest Captain had turned his back and marched straight to the house or Tenth Street, where he found the Colonel alone at breakfast. The Captain sat down opposite.
"Colonel," said he, without an introduction. "I don't like this here business of letting Hopper run your store. He's a fish, I tell you."
The Colonel drank his coffee in silence.
"Lige," he said gently, "he's nearly doubled my income. It isn't the old times, when we all went our own way and kept our old customers year in and year out. You know that."
The Captain took a deep draught of the coffee which Jackson had laid before him.
"Colonel Carvel," he said emphatically, "the fellow's a damned rascal, and will ruin you yet if you don't take advice."
The Colonel shifted uneasily.
"The books show that he's honest, Lige."
"Yes," cried Lige, with his fist on the table. "Honest to a mill. But if that fellow ever gets on top of you, or any one else, he'll grind you into dust."
"He isn't likely to get on top of me, Lige. I know the business, and keep watch. And now that Jinny's coming home from Monticello, I feel that I can pay more attention to her—kind of take her mother's place," said the Colonel, putting on his felt hat and tipping his chair. "Lige, I want that girl to have every advantage. She ought to go to Europe and see the world. That trip East last summer did her a heap of good. When we were at Calvert House, Dan read her something that my grandfather had written about London, and she was regularly fired. First I must take her to the Eastern Shore to see Carvel Hall. Dan still owns it. Now it's London and Paris."
The Captain walked over to the window, and said nothing. He did not see the searching gray eyes of his old friend upon him.
"Lige!" said the Colonel.
The Captain turned.
"Lige, why don't you give up steamboating and come along to Europe? You're not forty yet, and you have a heap of money laid by."
The Captain shook his head with the vigor that characterized him.
"This ain't no time for me to leave," he said. "Colonel; I tell you there's a storm comin'."
The Colonel pulled his goatee uneasily. Here, at last, was a man in whom there was no guile.
"Lige," he said, "isn't it about time you got married?"
Upon which the Captain shook his head again, even with more vigor. He could not trust himself to speak. After the Christmas holidays he had driven Virginia across the frozen river, all the way to Monticello, in a sleigh. It was night when they had reached the school, the light of its many windows casting long streaks on the snow under the trees. He had helped her out, and had taken her hand as she stood on the step.
"Be good, Jinny," he had said. "Remember what a short time it will be until June. And your Pa will come over to see you."
She had seized him by the buttons of his great coat, and said tearfully: "O Captain Lige! I shall be so lonely when you are away. Aren't you going to kiss me?"
He had put his lips to her forehead, driven madly back to Alton, and spent the night. The first thing he did the next day when he reached St. Louis was to go straight to the Colonel and tell him bluntly of the circumstance.
"Lige, I'd hate to give her up," Mr. Carvel said; "but I'd rather you'd marry her than any man I can think of."
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
In that spring of 1860 the time was come for the South to make her final stand. And as the noise of gathering conventions shook the ground, Stephen Brice was not the only one who thought of the Question at Freeport. The hour was now at hand for it to bear fruit.
Meanwhile, his hero, the hewer of rails and forger of homely speech, Abraham Lincoln, had made a little tour eastward the year before, and had startled Cooper Union with a new logic and a new eloquence. They were the same logic and the same eloquence which had startled Stephen.
Even as he predicted who had given it birth, the Question destroyed the great Democratic Party. Colonel Carvel travelled to the convention in historic Charleston soberly and fearing God, as many another Southern gentleman. In old Saint Michael's they knelt to pray for harmony, for peace; for a front bold and undismayed toward those who wronged them. All through the week chosen orators wrestled in vain. Judge Douglas, you flattered yourself that you had evaded the Question. Do you see the Southern delegates rising in their seats? Alabama leaves the hall, followed by her sister stakes. The South has not forgotten your Freeport Heresy. Once she loved you now she will have none of you.
Gloomily, indeed, did Colonel Carvel return home. He loved the Union and the flag for which his grandfather Richard had fought so bravely. That flag was his inheritance. So the Judge, laying his hand upon the knee of his friend, reminded him gravely. But the Colonel shook his head. The very calmness of their argument had been portentous.
"No, Whipple," said he. "You are a straightforward man. You can't disguise it. You of the North are bent upon taking away from us the rights we had when our fathers framed the Constitution. However the nigger got to this country, sir, in your Bristol and Newport traders, as well as in our Virginia and Maryland ships, he is here, and he was here when the Constitution was written. He is happier in slavery than are your factory hands in New England; and he is no more fit to exercise the solemn rights of citizenship, I say, than the halfbreeds in the South American states."
The Judge attempted to interrupt, but Mr. Carvel stopped him.
"Suppose you deprive me of my few slaves, you do not ruin me. Yet you do me as great a wrong as you do my friend Samuels, of Louisiana, who depends on the labor of five hundred. Shall I stand by selfishly and see him ruined, and thousands of others like him?"
Profoundly depressed, Colonel Carvel did not attend the adjourned Convention at Baltimore, which split once more on Mason and Dixon's line. The Democrats of the young Northwest stood for Douglas and Johnson, and the solid South, in another hall, nominated Breckenridge and Lane. This, of course, became the Colonel's ticket.
What a Babel of voices was raised that summer! Each with its cure for existing ills. Between the extremes of the Black Republican Negro Worshippers and the Southern Rights party of Breckenridge, your conservative had the choice of two candidates,—of Judge Douglas or Senator Bell. A most respectable but practically extinct body of gentlemen in ruffled shirts, the Old Line Whigs, had likewise met in Baltimore. A new name being necessary, they called themselves Constitutional Unionists Senator Bell was their candidate, and they proposed to give the Nation soothing-syrup. So said Judge Whipple, with a grunt of contempt, to Mr. Cluyme, who was then a prominent Constitutional Unionist. Other and most estimable gentlemen were also Constitutional Unionists, notably Mr. Calvin Brinsmade. Far be it from any one to cast disrespect upon the reputable members of this party, whose broad wings sheltered likewise so many weak brethren.
One Sunday evening in May, the Judge was taking tea with Mrs. Brice. The occasion was memorable for more than one event—which was that he addressed Stephen by his first name for the first time.
"You're an admirer of Abraham Lincoln," he had said.
Stephen, used to Mr. Whipple's ways, smiled quietly at his mother. He had never dared mention to the Judge his suspicions concerning his journey to Springfield and Freeport.
"Stephen," said the Judge (here the surprise came in), "Stephen, what do you think of Mr. Lincoln's chances for the Republican nomination?"
"We hear of no name but Seward's, sir," said Stephen, When he had recovered.
The Judge grunted.
"Do you think that Lincoln would make a good President?" he added.
"I have thought so, sir, ever since you were good enough to give me the opportunity of knowing him."
It was a bold speech—the Judge drew his great eyebrows together, but he spoke to Mrs. Brice.
"I'm not as strong as I was once, ma'am," said he. "And yet I am going to that Chicago convention."
Mrs. Brice remonstrated mildly, to the effect that he had done his share of political work. He scarcely waited for her to finish.
"I shall take a younger man with me, in case anything happens. In fact, ma'am, I had thought of taking your son, if you can spare him."
And so it was that Stephen went to that most dramatic of political gatherings,—in the historic Wigwam. It was so that his eyes were opened to the view of the monster which maims the vitality of the Republic, —the political machine. Mr. Seward had brought his machine from New York, —a legion prepared to fill the Wigwam with their bodies, and to drown with their cries all names save that of their master.
Stephen indeed had his eyes opened. Through the kindness of Judge Whipple he heard many quiet talks between that gentleman and delegates from other states—Pennsylvania and Illinois and Indiana and elsewhere. He perceived that the Judge was no nonentity in this new party. Mr. Whipple sat in his own room, and the delegates came and ranged themselves along the bed. Late one night, when the delegates were gone, Stephen ventured to speak what was in his mind.
"Mr. Lincoln did not strike me as the kind of man, sir; who would permit a bargain."
"Mr. Lincoln's at home playing barn-ball," said the Judge, curtly. "He doesn't expect the nomination."
"Then," said Stephen, rather hotly, "I think you are unfair to him."
You are expecting the Judge to thunder. Sometimes he liked this kind of speech.
"Stephen, I hope that politics may be a little cleaner when you become a delegate," he answered, with just the suspicion of a smile. "Supposing you are convinced that Abraham Lincoln is the only man who can save the Union, and supposing that the one way to get him nominated is to meet Seward's gang with their own methods, what would you do, sir? I want a practical proposition, sir," said Mr. Whipple, "one that we can use to-night. It is now one 'clock."
As Stephen was silent, the Judge advised him to go to bed. And the next morning, while Mr. Seward's henchmen, confident and uproarious, were parading the streets of Chicago with their bands and their bunting, the vast Wigwam was quietly filling up with bony Westerners whose ally was none other than the state of Pennsylvania. These gentlemen possessed wind which they had not wasted in processions. And the Lord delivered Seward and all that was his into their hands.
How the light of Mr. Seward's hope went out after the first ballot, and how some of the gentlemen attached to his person wept; and how the voices shook the Wigwam, and the thunder of the guns rolled over the tossing water of the lake, many now living remember. That day a name was delivered to the world through the mouths political schemers which was destined to enter history that of the saviour of the Nation.
Down in little Springfield, on a vacant lot near the station, a tall man in his shirt sleeves was playing barn-ball with some boys. The game finished, he had put on his black coat and was starting homeward under the tree—when a fleet youngster darted after him with a telegram. The tall man read it, and continued on his walk his head bent and his feet taking long strides, Later in the day he was met by a friend.
"Abe," said the friend, "I'm almighty glad there somebody in this town's got notorious at last."
In the early morning of their return from Chicago Judge Whipple and Stephen were standing in the front of a ferry-boat crossing the Mississippi. The sun was behind them. The Judge had taken off his hat, and his gray hair was stirred by the river breeze. Illness had set a yellow seal on the face, but the younger man remarked it not. For Stephen, staring at the black blur of the city outline, was filled with a strange exaltation which might have belonged to his Puritan forefathers. Now at length was come his chance to be of use in life,—to dedicate the labor of his hands and of his brains to Abraham Lincoln uncouth prophet of the West. With all his might he would work to save the city for the man who was the hope of the Union.
The bell rang. The great paddles scattered the brow waters with white foam, and the Judge voiced his thoughts.
"Stephen," said he, "I guess we'll have to put on shoulders to the wheel this summer. If Lincoln is not elected I have lived my sixty-five years for nothing."
As he descended the plank, he laid a hand on Stephen's arm, and tottered. The big Louisiana, Captain Brent's boat, just in from New Orleans, was blowing off her steam as with slow steps they climbed the levee and the steep pitch of the street beyond it. The clatter of hooves and the crack of whips reached their ears, and, like many others before them and since, they stepped into Carvel & Company's. On the inside of the glass partition of the private office, a voice of great suavity was heard. It was Eliphalet Hopper's.
"If you will give me the numbers of the bales, Captain Brent, I'll send a dray down to your boat and get them."
It was a very decisive voice that answered.
"No, sir, I prefer to do business with my friend, Colonel Carvel. I guess I can wait."
"I could sell the goods to Texas buyers who are here in the store right now."
"Until I get instructions from one of the concern," vowed Captain Lige, "I shall do as I always have done, sir. What is your position here, Mr. Hopper?"
"I am manager, I callate."
The Captain's fist was heard to come down on the desk.
"You don't manage me," he said, "and I reckon you don't manage the Colonel."
Mr. Hopper's face was not pleasant to see as he emerged. But at sight of Judge Whipple on the steps his suavity returned.
"The Colonel will be in any minute, sir," said he.
But the Judge walked past him without reply, and into the office. Captain Brent, seeing him; sprang to his feet.
"Well, well, Judge," said he, heartily, "you fellows have done it now, sure. I'll say this for you, you've picked a smart man."
"Better vote for him, Lige," said the Judge, setting down.
The Captain smiled at Stephen.
"A man's got a lot of choice this year;" said he. "Two governments, thirty-three governments, one government patched up for a year ox two."
"Or no government," finished the Judge. "Lige, you're not such a fool as to vote against the Union?"
"Judge," said the Captain, instantly, "I'm not the only one in this town who will have to decide whether my sympathies are wrong. My sympathies are with the South."
"It's not a question of sympathy, Captain," answered the Judge, dryly. "Abraham Lincoln himself was born in Kentucky."
They had not heard a step without.
"Gentlemen, mark my words. If Abraham Lincoln is elected, the South leaves this Union."
The Judge started, and looked up. The speaker was Colonel Carvel himself.
"Then, sir," Mr. Whipple cried hotly, "then you will be chastised and brought back. For at last we have chosen a man who is strong enough, —who does not fear your fire-eaters,—whose electors depend on Northern votes alone."
Stephen rose apprehensively, So did Captain Lige The Colonel had taken a step forward, and a fire was quick to kindle in his gray eyes. It was as quick to die. Judge Whipple, deathly pale, staggered and fell into Stephen' arms. But it was the Colonel who laid him on the horsehair sofa.
"Silas!" he said, "Silas!"
Nor could the two who listened sound the depth of the pathos the Colonel put into those two words.
But the Judge had not fainted. And the brusqueness in his weakened voice was even more pathetic— "Tut, tut," said he. "A little heat, and no breakfast."
The Colonel already had a bottle of the famous Bourbon day his hand, and Captain Lige brought a glass of muddy iced water. Mr. Carvel made an injudicious mixture of the two, and held it to the lips of his friend. He was pushed away.
"Come, Silas," he said.
"No!" cried the Judge, and with this effort he slipped back again. Those who stood there thought that the stamp of death was already on Judge Whipple's face.
But the lips were firmly closed, bidding defiance, as ever, to the world. The Colonel, stroking his goatee, regarded him curiously.
"Silas," he said slowly, "if you won't drink it for me, perhaps you will drink it—for—Abraham—Lincoln."
The two who watched that scene have never forgotten it. Outside, in the great cool store, the rattle of the trucks was heard, and Mr. Hopper giving commands. Within was silence. The straight figure of the Colonel towered above the sofa while he waited. A full minute passed. Once Judge Whipple's bony hand opened and shut, and once his features worked. Then, without warning, he sat up.
"Colonel," said he, "I reckon I wouldn't be much use to Abe if I took that. But if you'll send Ephum after, cup of coffee—"
Mr. Carvel set the glass down. In two strides he had reached the door and given the order. Then he came hack and seated himself on the sofa.
Stephen found his mother at breakfast. He had forgotten the convention He told her what had happened at Mr. Carvel's store, and how the Colonel had tried to persuade Judge Whipple to take the Glencoe house while he was in Europe, and how the Judge had refused. Tears were in the widow's eyes when Stephen finished.
"And he means to stay here in the heat and go through, the campaign?" she asked.
"He says that he will not stir."
"It will kill him, Stephen," Mrs. Brice faltered.
"So the Colonel told him. And he said that he would die willingly—after Abraham Lincoln was elected. He had nothing to live for but to fight for that. He had never understood the world, and had quarrelled with at all his life."
'He said that to Colonel Carvel?"
He didn't dare to look at his mother, nor she at him. And when he reached the office, half an hour later, Mr. Whipple was seated in his chair, defiant and unapproachable. Stephen sighed as he settled down to his work. The thought of one who might have accomplished what her father could not was in his head. She was at Monticello.
Some three weeks later Mr. Brinsmade's buggy drew up at Mrs. Brice's door. The Brinsmade family had been for some time in the country. And frequently, when that gentleman was detained in town by business, he would stop at the little home for tea. The secret of the good man's visit came out as he sat with them on the front steps afterward.
"I fear that it will be a hot summer, ma'am," he had said to Mrs. Brice. "You should go to the country."
"The heat agrees with me remarkably, Mr. Brinsmade," said the lady, smiling.
"I have heard that Colonel Carvel wishes to rent his house at Glencoe," Mr. Brinsmade continued, "The figure is not high." He mentioned it. And it was, indeed nominal. "It struck me that a change of air would do you good, Mrs. Brice, and Stephen. Knowing that you shared in our uneasiness concerning Judge Whipple, I thought—"
He stopped, and looked at her. It was a hard task even for that best and roost tactful of gentlemen, Mr. Brinsmade. He too had misjudged this calm woman.
"I understand you, Mr. Brinsmade," she said. She saw, as did Stephen, the kindness behind the offer—Colonel Carvel's kindness and his own. The gentleman's benevolent face brightened: