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´╗┐Title: "George Washington's" Last Duel - 1891
Author: Page, Thomas Nelson, 1853-1922
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book ""George Washington's" Last Duel - 1891" ***

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"GEORGE WASHINGTON'S" LAST DUEL.

By Thomas Nelson Page

1891



I.

Of all the places in the county "The Towers" was the favorite with the
young people. There even before Margaret was installed the Major kept
open house with his major domo and factotum "George Washington"; and
when Margaret came from school, of course it was popular. Only one class
of persons was excluded.

There were few people in the county who did not know of the Major's
antipathy to "old women," as he called them. Years no more entered into
his definition of this class than celibacy did into his idea of an "old
bachelor." The state of single blessedness continued in the female
sex beyond the bloom of youth was in his eyes the sole basis of
this unpardonable condition. He made certain concessions to the few
individuals among his neighbors who had remained in the state of
spinsterhood, because, as he declared, neighborliness was a greater
virtue than consistency; but he drew the line at these few, and it was
his boast that no old woman had ever been able to get into his Eden.
"One of them," he used to say, "would close paradise just as readily now
as Eve did six thousand years ago." Thus, although as Margaret grew
up she had any other friends she desired to visit her as often as she
chose, her wish being the supreme law at Rock Towers, she had never even
thought of inviting one of the class against whom her uncle's ruddy face
was so steadfastly set. The first time it ever occurred to her to invite
any one among the proscribed was when she asked Rose Endicott to pay
her a visit. Rose, she knew, was living with her old aunt, Miss Jemima
Bridges, whom she had once met in R-----, and she had some apprehension
that in Miss Jemima's opinion, the condition of the South was so much
like that of the Sandwich Islands that the old lady would not permit
Rose to come without her personal escort. Accordingly, one evening after
tea, when the Major was in a particularly gracious humor, and had told
her several of his oldest and best stories, Margaret fell upon him
unawares, and before he had recovered from the shock of the encounter,
had captured his consent. Then, in order to secure the leverage of a
dispatched invitation, she had immediately written Rose, asking her
and her aunt to come and spend a month or two with her, and had without
delay handed it to George Washington to deliver to Lazarus to give
Luke to carry to the post-office. The next evening, therefore, when the
Major, after twenty-four hours of serious apprehension, reopened the
matter with a fixed determination to coax or buy her out of the notion,
because, as he used to say, "women can't be _reasoned_ out of a thing,
sir, not having been reasoned in," Margaret was able to meet him with
the announcement that it was "too late," as the letter had already been
mailed.

Seated in one of the high-backed arm-chairs, with one white hand shading
her laughing eyes from the light, and with her evening dress daintily
spread out about her, Margaret was amused at the look of desperation
on the old gentleman's ruddy face. He squared his round body before
the fire, braced himself with his plump legs well apart, as if he were
preparing to sustain the shock of a blow, and taking a deep inspiration,
gave a loud and prolonged "Whew!"

This was too much for her.

Margaret rose, and, going up to him, took his arm and looked into his
face cajolingly.

"Uncle, I was bound to have Rose, and Miss Jemima would not have let her
come alone."

The tone was the low, almost plaintive key, the effectiveness of which
Margaret knew so well.

"'Not let her!'" The Major faced her quickly. "Margaret, she is one of
those _strong-minded_ women!"

Margaret nodded brightly.

"I bet my horse she wears iron-gray curls, caught on the side of her
head with tucking combs!"

"She does," declared Margaret, her eyes dancing.

"And has a long nose--red at the end."

"Uncle, you have seen her. I _know_ you have seen her," asserted
Margaret, laughing up at him. "You have her very picture."

The Major groaned, and vowed that he would never survive it, and that
Margaret would go down to history as the slayer of her uncle.

"I have selected my place in the graveyard," he said, with a mournful
shake of the head. "Put me close to the fence behind the raspberry
thicket, where I shall be secure. Tell her there are snakes there."

"But, uncle, she is as good as gold," declared Margaret; "she is always
doing good,--I believe she thinks it her mission to save the world."

The Major burst out, "That's part of this modern devilment of
substituting humanitarianism for Christianity. Next thing they'll be
wanting to abolish hell!"

The Major was so impressed with his peril that when Jeff, who had
galloped over "for a little while," entered, announced with great
ceremony by George Washington, he poured out all his apprehensions into
his sympathetic ear, and it was only when he began to rally Jeff on the
chance of his becoming a victim to Miss Endicott's charms, that Margaret
interfered so far as to say, that Rose had any number of lovers, and one
of them was "an awfully nice fellow, handsome and rich and all that."
She wished "some one" would invite him down to pay a visit in the
neighborhood, for she was "afraid Rose would find it dreadfully dull
in the country." The Major announced that he would himself make love
to her; but both Margaret and Jeff declared that Providence manifestly
intended him for Miss Jemima. He then suggested that Miss Endicott's
friend be invited to come with her, but Margaret did not think that
would do.

"What is the name of this Paragon?" inquired Jeff.

Margaret gave his name. "Mr. Lawrence--Pickering Lawrence."

"Why, I know him, 'Pick Lawrence.' We were college-mates, class-mates.
He used to be in love with somebody up at his home then; but I
never identified her with your friend. We were great cronies at the
University. He was going to be a lawyer; but I believe somebody died
and he came into a fortune." This history did not appear to surprise
Margaret as much as might have been expected, and she said nothing more
about him.

About a week later Jeff took occasion to ride over to tea, and announced
that his friend Mr. Lawrence had promised to run down and spend a few
weeks with him. Margaret looked so pleased and dwelt so much on the
alleged charms of the expected guest that Jeff, with a pang of jealousy,
suddenly asserted that he "didn't think so much of Lawrence," that he
was one of those fellows who always pretended to be very much in love
with somebody, and was "always changing his clothes."

"That's what girls like," said Margaret, decisively; and this was all
the thanks Jeff received.



II.

There was immense excitement at the Towers next day when the visitors
were expected. The Major took twice his usual period to dress; George
Washington with a view to steadying his nerves braced them so tight that
he had great difficulty in maintaining his equipoise, and even Margaret
herself was in a flutter quite unusual to one so self-possessed as she
generally was. When, however, the carriage drove up to the door, the
Major, with Margaret a little in advance, met the visitors at the steps
in all the glory of new blue broadcloth and flowered velvet. Sir Charles
Grandison could not have been more elegant, nor Sir Roger more gracious.
Behind him yet grander stood George--George Washington--his master's
fac-simile in ebony down to the bandanna handkerchief and the trick of
waving the right hand in a flowing curve. It was perhaps this spectacle
which saved the Major, for Miss Jemima was so overwhelmed by George
Washington's portentous dignity that she exhibited sufficient humility
to place the Major immediately at his ease, and from this time Miss
Jemima was at a disadvantage, and the Major felt that he was master of
the situation.

The old lady had never been in the South before except for a few days on
the occasion when Margaret had met her and Rose Endicott at the hotel in
R----, and she had then seen just enough to excite her inquisitiveness.
Her natural curiosity was quite amazing. She was desperately bent on
acquiring information, and whatever she heard she set down in a journal,
so as soon as she became sufficiently acquainted with the Major she
began to ply him with questions. Her seat at table was at the Major's
right, and the questions which she put to him proved so embarrassing,
that the old gentleman declared to Margaret that if that old woman knew
as much as she wanted to know she would with her wisdom eclipse
Solomon and destroy the value of the Scriptures. He finally hit upon an
expedient. He either traversed every proposition she suggested, or else
answered every inquiry with a statement which was simply astounding.
She had therefore not been at the Towers a week before she was in the
possession of facts furnished by the Major which might have staggered
credulity itself.

One of the many entries in her journal was to the effect that, according
to Major B----, it was the custom on many plantations to shoot a slave
every year, on the ground that such a sacrifice was generally salutary;
that it was an expiation of past derelictions and a deterrent from
repetition. And she added this memorandum:

"The most extraordinary and revolting part of it all is that this
barbarous custom, which might well have been supposed confined to
Dahomey, is justified by such men as Major B---- as a pious act." She
inserted this query,

"Can it be true?"

If she did not wholly believe the Major, she did not altogether
disbelieve him. She at least was firmly convinced that it was quite
possible. She determined to inquire privately of George Washington.

She might have inquired of one of the numerous maids, whose useless
presence embarrassed her; but the Major foreseeing that she might pursue
her investigation in other directions, had informed her that the rite
was guarded with the greatest care, and that it would be as much as any
one's life were worth to divulge it. Miss Jemima, therefore, was too
loyal to expose one of her own sex to such danger; so she was compelled
to consult George Washington, whom she believed clever enough to take
care of himself.

She accordingly watched several days for an opportunity to see him
alone, but without success. In fact, though she was unaware of it,
George Washington had conceived for her a most violent dislike, and
carefully avoided her. He had observed with growing suspicion Miss
Jemima's investigation of matters relating to the estate, and her
persistent pursuit of knowledge at the table had confirmed him in his
idea that she contemplated the capture of his master and himself.

Like his master, he had a natural antipathy to "old women," and as
the Major's threat for years had varied between "setting him free next
morning" and giving him "a mistress to make him walk straight," George
Washington felt that prudence demanded some vigilance on his part.

One day, under cover of the hilarity incident to the presence at dinner
of Jeff and of his guest, Mr. Lawrence, Miss Jemima had pushed her
inquisition even further than usual. George Washington watched her with
growing suspicion, his head thrown back and his eyes half closed, and
so, when, just before dinner was over, he went into the hall to see
about the fire, he, after his habit, took occasion to express his
opinion of affairs to the sundry members of the family who looked down
at him from their dim gilt frames on the wall.

"I ain't pleased wid de way things is gwine on heah at all," he
declared, poking the fire viciously and addressing his remark more
particularly to an old gentlemen who in ruffles and red velvet sat with
crossed legs in a high-backed chair just over the piano. "Heah me an'
Marse Nat an' Miss Margaret been gittin' long all dese years easy an'
peaceable, an' Marse Jeff been comin' over sociable all de time, an'
d' ain' been no trouble nor nuttin' till now dat ole ooman what ax mo'
questions 'n a thousan' folks kin answer got to come heah and set up
to Marse Nat, an' talk to him so he cyarn hardly eat." He rose from
his knees at the hearth, and looking the old gentleman over the piano
squarely in the face, asserted, "She got her mine sot on bein' my
mistis, dat's what 'tis!" This relieved him so that he returned to his
occupation of "chunking" the fire, adding, "When women sets de mines on
a thing, you jes' well gin up!"

So intent was he on relieving himself of the burden on his mind that he
did not hear the door softly open, and did not know any one had entered
until an enthusiastic voice behind him exclaimed:

"Oh! what a profound observation!" George Washington started in much
confusion; for it was Miss Jemima, who had stolen away from the table to
intercept him at his task of "fixing the fires." She had, however, heard
only his concluding sentence, and she now advanced with a beaming smile
intended to conciliate the old butler. George Washington gave the hearth
a final and hasty sweep, and was retiring in a long detour around Miss
Jemima when she accosted him.

"Uncle George."

"Marm." He stopped and half turned.

"What a charming old place you have here!"

George Washington cast his eye up towards the old gentleman in the
high-backed chair, as much as to say, "You see there? What did I tell
you?" Then he said briefly:

"Yes, 'm."

"What is its extent? How many acres are there in it?"

George Washington positively started. He took in several of the family
in his glance of warning.

"Well, I declare, marm, I don't know," he began; then it occurring
to him that the honor of the family was somehow at stake and must
be upheld, he added, "A leetle mo' 'n a hundred thousan', marm." His
exactness was convincing. Miss Jemima threw up her hands:

"Prodigious! How many nee---- how many persons of the African blood are
there on this vast domain?" she inquired, getting nearer to her point.

George, observing how much she was impressed, eyed her with rising
disdain:

"Does you mean niggers, m'm? 'Bout three thousan', mum."

Another exclamation of astonishment burst from the old lady's lips.

"If you will permit me to inquire, Uncle George, how old are you?"

"She warn see if I kin wuck--dat's what she's after," said George to
himself, with a confidential look at a young gentleman in a hunting
dress on the wall between two windows. Then he said:

"Well, I declare, mum, you got me dyah. I ixpec' I is mos ninety years
ole, I reckon I'se ol'er 'n you is--I reckon I is."

"Oh!" exclaimed Miss Jemima with a little start as if she had pricked
her finger with a needle.

"Marse Nat kin tell you," continued George; "if you don't know how ole
you is, all you got to do is to ax him, an' he kin tell you--he got it
all set down in a book--he kin tell how ole you is to a day."

"Dear, how frightful!" exclaimed Miss Jemima, just as the Major entered
somewhat hastily.

"He's a gone coon," said George Washington through the crack of the door
to the old gentleman in ruffles, as he pulled the door slowly to from
the outside.

The Major had left the young people in the dining-room and had come to
get a book to settle a disputed quotation. He had found the work and was
trying to read it without the ignominy of putting on his glasses, when
Miss Jemima accosted him.

"Major, your valet appears to be a very intelligent person."

The Major turned upon her.

"My 'valet'! Madam! I have no valet!"

"I mean your body servant, your butler"--explained Miss Jemima. "I have
been much impressed by him."

"George!--George Washington?--you mean George Washington! No, madam, he
has not a particle of intelligence.--He is grossly and densely stupid. I
have never in fifty years been able to get an idea into his head."

"Oh, dear! and I thought him so clever! I was wondering how so
intelligent a person, so well informed, could be a slave."

The Major faced about.

"George! George Washington a slave! Madam, you misapprehend the
situation. _He_ is no slave. I am the slave, not only of him but of
three hundred more as arrogant and exacting as the Czar, and as lazy as
the devil!"

Miss Jemima threw up her hands in astonishment, and the Major, who was
on a favorite theme, proceeded:

"Why, madam, the very coat on my back belongs to that rascal George
Washington, and I do not know when he may take a fancy to order me out
of it. My soul is not my own. He drinks my whiskey, steals my tobacco,
and takes my clothes before my face. As likely as not he will have on
this very waistcoat before the week is out."

The Major stroked his well-filled velvet vest caressingly, as if he
already felt the pangs of the approaching separation.

"Oh, dear! You amaze me," began Miss Jemima.

"Yes, madam, I should be amazed myself, except that I have stood it
so long. Why, I had once an affair with an intimate and valued friend,
Judge Carrington. You may have heard of him, a very distinguished man!
and I was indiscreet enough to carry that rascal George Washington to
the field, thinking, of course, that I ought to go like a gentleman, and
although the affair was arranged after we had taken our positions, and I
did not have the pleasure of shooting at him.

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Miss Jemima. "_The pleasure of shooting at
your friend!_ Monstrous!"

"I say I did not have that pleasure," corrected the Major, blandly; "the
affair was, as I stated, arranged without a shot; yet do you know? that
rascal George Washington will not allow that it was so, and I understand
he recounts with the most harrowing details the manner in which 'he and
I,' as he terms it, shot my friend--murdered him."

Miss Jemima gave an "Ugh. Horrible! What depravity!" she said, almost
under her breath.

The Major caught the words.

"Yes, madam, it is horrible to think of such depravity. Unquestionably
he deserves death; but what can one do! The law, kept feeble by
politicians, does not permit one to kill them, however worthless they
are (he observed Miss Jemima's start,)--except, of course, by way of
example, under certain peculiar circumstances, as I have stated to you."
He bowed blandly.

Miss Jemima was speechless, so he pursued.

"I have sometimes been tempted to make a break for liberty, and have
thought that if I could once get the rascal on the field, with my old
pistols, I would settle with him which of us is the master."

"Do you mean that you would--would shoot him?" gasped Miss Jemima.

"Yes, madam, unless he should be too quick for me," replied the Major,
blandly,--"or should order me from the field, which he probably would
do."

The old lady turned and hastily left the room.



III.

Though Miss Jemima after this regarded the Major with renewed suspicion,
and confided to her niece that she did not feel at all safe with him,
the old gentleman was soon on the same terms with Rose that he was on
with Margaret herself. He informed her that he was just twenty-five
his "last grass," and that he never could, would, or should grow a year
older. He notified Jeff and his friend Mr. Lawrence at the table that
he regarded himself as a candidate for Miss Endicott's hand, and had
"staked" the ground, and he informed her that as soon as he could bring
himself to break an oath which he had made twenty years before, never
to address another woman, he intended to propose to her. Rose, who had
lingered at the table a moment behind the other ladies, assured the
old fellow that he need fear no rival, and that if he could not muster
courage to propose before she left, as it was leap-year, she would
exercise her prerogative and propose herself. The Major, with his hand
on his heart as he held the door open for her, vowed as Rose swept past
him her fine eyes dancing, and her face dimpling with fun, that he was
ready that moment to throw himself at her feet if it were not for the
difficulty of getting up from his knees.

A little later in the afternoon Margaret was down among the rose-bushes,
where Lawrence had joined her, after Rose had executed that inexplicable
feminine manoeuvre of denying herself to oppose a lover's request.

Jeff was leaning against a pillar, pretending to talk to Rose, but
listening more to the snatches of song in Margaret's rich voice, or to
the laughter which floated up to them from the garden below.

Suddenly he said abruptly, "I believe that fellow Lawrence is in love
with Margaret."

Rose insisted on knowing what ground he had for so peculiar an opinion,
on which he incontinently charged his friend with being one of "those
fellows who falls in love with every pretty girl on whom he lays his
eyes," and declared that he had done nothing but hang around Margaret
ever since he had come to the county.

What Rose might have replied to this unexpected attack on one whom she
reserved for her own especial torture cannot be recorded, for the
Major suddenly appeared around the verandah. Both the young people
instinctively straightened up.

"Ah! you rascals! I catch you!" he cried, his face glowing with jollity.
"Jeff, you'd better look out,--honey catches a heap of flies, and sticks
mighty hard. Rose, don't show him any mercy,--kick him, trample on him."

"I am not honey," said Rose, with a captivating look out of her bright
eyes.

"Yes, you are. If you are not you are the very rose from which it is
distilled."

"Oh, how charming!" cried the young lady. "How I wish some woman could
hear that said to me!"

"Don't give him credit before you hear all his proverb," said Jeff. "Do
you know what he said in the dining-room?"

"Don't credit _him_ at all," replied the Major. "Don't believe
him--don't listen to him. He is green with envy at my success." And the
old fellow shook with amusement.

"What did he say? Please tell me." She appealed to Jeff, and then as he
was about to speak, seeing the Major preparing to run, she caught him.
"No, you have to listen. Now tell me," to Jeff again.

"Well, he said honey caught lots of flies, and women lots of fools."

Rose fell back, and pointing her tapering finger at the Major, who, with
mock humility, was watching her closely, declared that she would "never
believe in him again." The old fellow met her with an unblushing denial
of ever having made such a statement or held such traitorous sentiments,
as it was, he maintained, a well established fact that flies never eat
honey at all.

From this moment the Major conceived the idea that Jeff had been caught
by his fair visitor. It had never occurred to him that any one could
aspire to Margaret's hand. He had thought at one time that Jeff was in
danger of falling a victim to the charms of the pretty daughter of an
old friend and neighbor of his, and though it appeared rather a pity
for a young fellow to fall in love "out of the State," yet the claims
of hospitality, combined with the fact that rivalry with Mr. Lawrence,
against whom, on account of his foppishness, he had conceived some
prejudice, promised a delightful excitement, more than counterbalanced
that objectionable feature. He therefore immediately constituted himself
Jeff's ardent champion, and always spoke of the latter's guest as "that
fellow Lawrence."

Accordingly, when, one afternoon, on his return from his ride, he found
Jeff, who had ridden over to tea, lounging around alone, in a state
of mind as miserable as a man should be who, having come with the
expectation of basking in the sunshine of Beauty's smile, finds that
Beauty is out horseback riding with a rival, he was impelled to give him
aid, countenance, and advice. He immediately attacked him, therefore,
on his forlorn and woebegone expression, and declared that at his age
he would have long ago run the game to earth, and have carried her home
across his saddle-bow.

"You are afraid, sir--afraid," he asserted, hotly. "I don't know what
you fellows are coming to."

Jeff admitted the accusation. "He feared," he said, "that he could not
get a girl to have him." He was looking rather red when the Major cut
him short.

"'Fear,' sir! Fear catches kicks, not kisses. 'Not _get_ a girl to have
you!' Well, upon my soul! Why don't you run after her and bawl like a
baby for her to stop, whilst you get down on your knees and--_get_ her
to have you!"

Jeff was too dejected to be stung even by this unexpected attack. He
merely said, dolorously:

"Well, how the deuce can it be done?"

"_Make_ her, sir--_make_ her," cried the Major. "Coerce her--compel
her." The old fellow was in his element. He shook his grizzled head, and
brought his hollowed hands together with sounding emphasis.

Jeff suggested that perhaps she might be impregnable, but the old fellow
affirmed that no woman was this; that no fortress was too strong to be
carried; that it all depended on the assailant and the vehemence of
the assault; and if one did not succeed, another would. The young man
brightened. His mentor, however, dashed his rising hopes by saying:
"But mark this, sir, no coward can succeed. Women are rank cowards
themselves, and they demand courage in their conquerors. Do you think
a woman will marry a man who trembles before her? By Jove, sir! He must
make her tremble!"

Jeff admitted dubiously that this sounded like wisdom. The Major burst
out, "Wisdom, sir! It is the wisdom of Solomon, who had a thousand
wives!"

From this time the Major constituted himself Jeff's ally, and was ready
to take the field on his behalf against any and all comers. Therefore,
when he came into the hall one day when Rose was at the piano, running
her fingers idly over the keys, whilst Lawrence was leaning over her
talking, he exclaimed:

"Hello! what treason's this? I'll tell Jeff. He was consulting me only
yesterday about--"

Lawrence muttered an objurgation; but Rose wheeled around on the
piano-stool and faced him.

--"Only yesterday about the best mode of winning--" He stopped
tantalizingly.

"Of winning what? I am so interested." She rose and stood just before
him with a cajoling air. The Major shut his mouth tight.

"I'm as dumb as an oyster. Do you think I would betray my friend's
confidence--for nothing? I'm as silent as the oracle of Delphi."

Lawrence looked anxious, and Rose followed the old man closely.

"I'll pay you anything."

"I demand payment in coin that buys youth from age." He touched his
lips, and catching Rose leaned slowly forward and kissed her.

"Now, tell me--what did he say? A bargain's a bargain," she laughed as
Lawrence almost ground his teeth.

"Well, he said,--he said, let me see, what did he say?" paltered the
Major. "He said he could not get a girl he loved to have him."

"Oh! did he say _that?_" She was so much interested that she just knew
that Lawrence half stamped his foot.

"Yes, he said just that, and I told him--"

"Well,--what did you say?"

"Oh! I did not bargain to tell what _I_ told _him_. I received payment
only for betraying his confidence. If you drive a bargain I will drive
one also."

Rose declared that he was the greatest old screw she ever knew, but she
paid the price, and waited.

"Well?--"

"'Well?' Of course, I told him 'well.' I gave him the best advice a man
ever received. A lawyer would have charged him five hundred dollars for
it. I'm an oracle on heart-capture."

Rose laughingly declared she would have to consult him herself, and when
the Major told her to consult only her mirror, gave him a courtesy and
wished he would teach some young men of her acquaintance to make such
speeches. The old fellow vowed, however, that they were unteachable;
that he would as soon expect to teach young moles.



IV.

It was not more than a half hour after this when George Washington came
in and found the Major standing before the long mirror, turning around
and holding his coat back from his plump sides so as to obtain a fair
view of his ample dimensions.

"George Washington," said he.

"Suh."

"I'm afraid I'm growing a little too stout."

George Washington walked around and looked at him with the critical gaze
of a butcher appraising a fat ox.

"Oh! nor, suh, you aint, not to say _too_ stout," he finally decided as
the result of this inspection, "you jis gittin' sort o' potely. Hit's
monsus becomin' to you."

"Do you think so?" The Major was manifestly flattered. "I was
apprehensive that I might be growing a trifle fat,"--he turned carefully
around before the mirror,--"and from a fat old man and a scrawny old
woman, Heaven deliver us, George Washington!"

"Nor, suh, you ain' got a ounce too much meat on you," said George,
reassuringly; "how much you weigh, Marse Nat, last time you was on de
stilyards?" he inquired with wily interest.

The Major faced him.

"George Washington, the last time I weighed I tipped the beam at one
hundred and forty-three pounds, and I had the waist of a girl."

He laid his fat hands with the finger tips touching on his round sides
about where the long since reversed curves of the lamented waist once
were, and gazed at George with comical melancholy.

"Dat's so," assented the latter, with wonted acquiescence. "I 'members
hit well, suh, dat wuz when me and you wuz down in Gloucester tryin' to
git up spunk to co'te Miss Ailsy Mann. Dat's mo'n thirty years ago."

The Major reflected. "It cannot be thirty years!--thir--ty--years," he
mused.

"Yes, suh, an' better, too. 'Twuz befo' we fit de duil wid Jedge
Carrington. I know dat, 'cause dat's what we shoot him 'bout--'cause he
co'te Miss Ailsy an' cut we out."

"Damn your memory! Thirty years! I could dance all night then--every
night in the week--and now I can hardly mount my horse without getting
the thumps."

George Washington, affected by his reminiscences, declared that he
had heard one of the ladies saying, "just the other day," what "a fine
portly gentleman" he was.

The Major brightened.

"Did you hear that? George Washington, if you tell me a lie I'll set
you free!" It was his most terrible threat, used only on occasions of
exceptional provocation.

George vowed that no reward could induce him to be guilty of such
an enormity, and followed it up by so skilful an allusion to the
progressing youth of his master that the latter swore he was right,
and that he could dance better than he could at thirty, and to prove it
executed, with extraordinary agility for a man who rode at twenty stone,
a _pas seul_ which made the floor rock and set the windows and ornaments
to rattling as if there had been an earthquake. Suddenly, with a loud
"Whew," he flung himself into an arm-chair, panting and perspiring.
"It's you, sir," he gasped--"you put me up to it."

"Nor, suh; tain me, Marse Nat--I's tellin' you de truf," asserted
George, moved to defend himself.

"You infernal old rascal, it is you," panted the Major, still mopping
his face--"you have been running riot so long you need regulation--I'll
tell you what I'll do--I'll marry and give you a mistress to manage
you--yes, sir, I'll get married right away. I know the very woman for
you--she'll make you walk chalk!"

For thirty years this had been his threat, so George was no more alarmed
than he was at the promise of being sold, or turned loose upon the world
as a free man. He therefore inquired solemnly,

"Marse Nat, le' me ax you one thing--you ain' thinkin' 'bout givin' me
that ole one for a mistis is you?"

"What old one, fool?" The Major stopped panting. George Washington
denoted the side of his head where Miss Jemima's thin curls nestled.

"Get out of this room. Tell Dilsy to pack your chest, I'll send you off
to-morrow morning."

George Washington blinked with the gravity of a terrapin. It might have
been obtuseness; or it might have been silent but exquisite enjoyment
which lay beneath his black skin.

"George Washington," said the Major almost in a whisper, "what made you
think that?"

It was to George Washington's undying credit that not a gleam flitted
across his ebony countenance as he said solemnly,

"Marse Nat, I ain say I _think_ nuttin--I jis ax you, Is you?--She been
meckin mighty partic'lar quiration 'bout de plantation and how many
niggers we got an' all an' I jis spicionate she got her eye sort o' set
on you an' me, dat's all."

The Major bounced to his feet, and seizing his hat and gloves from the
table, burst out of the room. A minute later he was shouting for his
horse in a voice which might have been heard a mile.



V.

Jeff laid to heart the Major's wisdom; but when it came to acting upon
it the difficulty arose. He often wondered why his tongue became tied
and his throat grew dry when he was in Margaret's presence these days
and even just thought of saying anything serious to her. He had known
Margaret ever since she was a wee bit of a baby, and had often carried
her in his arms when she was a little girl and even after she grew up
to be "right big." He had thought frequently of late that he would be
willing to die if he might but take her in his arms. It was, therefore,
with no little disquietude that he observed what he considered his
friend's growing fancy for her. By the time Lawrence had taken a few
strolls in the garden and a horseback ride or two with her Jeff was
satisfied that he was in love with her, and before a week was out he was
consumed with jealousy. Margaret was not the girl to indulge in repining
on account of her lover's unhappiness. If Jeff had had a finger-ache, or
had a drop of sorrow but fallen in his cup her eyes would have
softened and her face would have shown how fully she felt with him; but
this--this was different. To wring his heart was a part of the business
of her young ladyhood; it was a healthy process from which would come
greater devotion and more loyal constancy. Then, it was so delightful to
make one whom she liked as she did Jeff look so miserable. Perhaps some
time she would reward him--after a long while, though. Thus, poor Jeff
spent many a wretched hour cursing his fate and cursing Pick Lawrence.
He thought he would create a diversion by paying desperate attention to
Margaret's guest; but it resolved itself on the first opportunity into
his opening his heart and confiding all his woes to her. In doing this
he fell into the greatest contradiction, declaring one moment that no
one suspected that he was in love with Margaret, and the next vowing
that she had every reason to know he adored her, as he had been in love
with her all her life. It was one afternoon in the drawing-room. Rose,
with much sapience, assured him that no woman could have but one reason
to know it. Jeff dolefully inquired what it was.

Rising and walking up to him she said in a mysterious whisper,--.

"Tell her."

Jeff, after insisting that he had been telling her for years, lapsed
into a declaration of helpless perplexity. "How can I tell her more than
I have been telling her all along?" he groaned. Rose said she would show
him. She seated herself on the sofa, spread out her dress and placed him
behind her.

"Now, do as I tell you--no, not so,--_so_;--now lean over,--put
your arm--no, it is not necessary to touch me," as Jeff, with prompt
apprehension, fell into the scheme, and declared that he was all right
in a rehearsal, and that it was only in the real drama he failed. "Now
say 'I love you.'" Jeff said it. They were in this attitude when the
door opened suddenly and Margaret stood facing them, her large eyes
opened wider than ever. She backed out and shut the door.

Jeff sprang up, his face very red.

Lawyers know that the actions of a man on being charged with a crime are
by no means infallible evidence of his guilt,--but it is hard to satisfy
juries of this fact. If the juries were composed of women perhaps it
would be impossible.

The ocular demonstration of a man's arm around a girl's waist is
difficult to explain on more than one hypothesis.

After this Margaret treated Jeff with a rigor which came near destroying
the friendship of a lifetime; and Jeff became so desperate that inside
of a week he had had his first quarrel with Lawrence, who had begun to
pay very devoted attention to Margaret, and as that young man was in no
mood to lay balm on a bruised wound, mischief might have been done had
not the Major arrived opportunely on the scene just as the quarrel
came to a white-heat. It was in the hall one morning. There had been a
quarrel. Jeff had just demanded satisfaction; Lawrence had just promised
to afford him this peculiar happiness, and they were both glaring at
each other, when the Major sailed in at the door, ruddy and smiling, and
laying his hat on the table and his riding-whip across it, declared
that before he would stand such a gloomy atmosphere as that created by a
man's glowering looks, when there was so much sunshine just lying around
to be basked in, he would agree to be "eternally fried in his own fat."

"Why, I had expected at least two affairs before this," he said
jovially, as he pulled off his gloves, "and I'll be hanged if I shan't
have to court somebody myself to save the honor of the family."

Jeff with dignity informed him that an affair was then brewing, and
Lawrence intimated that they were both interested, when the Major
declared that he would "advise the young lady to discard both and accept
a soberer and a wiser man." They announced that it was a more serious
affair than he had in mind, and let fall a hint of what had occurred.
The Major for a moment looked gravely from one to the other, and
suggested mutual explanations and retractions; but when both young men
insisted that they were quite determined, and proposed to have a meeting
at once, he changed. He walked over to the window and looked out for a
moment. Then turned and suddenly offered to represent both parties. Jeff
averred that such a proceeding was outside of the Code; this the Major
gravely admitted; but declared that the affair even to this point
appeared not to have been conducted in entire conformity with that
incomparable system of rules, and urged that as Mr. Lawrence was a
stranger and as it was desirable to have the affair conducted with as
much secrecy and dispatch as possible, it might be well for them to meet
as soon as convenient, and he would attend rather as a witness than as a
second. The young men assented to this, and the Major, now thoroughly in
earnest, with much solemnity, offered the use of his pistols, which was
accepted.

In the discussion which followed, the Major took the lead, and suggested
sunset that afternoon as a suitable time, and the grass-plat between the
garden and the graveyard as a convenient and secluded spot. This also
was agreed to, though Lawrence's face wore a soberer expression than had
before appeared upon it.

The Major's entire manner had changed; his levity had suddenly given
place to a gravity most unusual to him, and instead of his wonted
jollity his face wore an expression of the greatest seriousness.
He, after a casual glance at Lawrence, suddenly insisted that it was
necessary to exchange a cartel, and opening his secretary, with much
pomp proceeded to write. "You see--if things were not regular it would
be butchery," he explained, considerately, to Lawrence, who winced
slightly at the word. "I don't want to see you murder each other,"
he went on in a slow comment as he wrote, "I wish you, since you are
determined to shoot--each other--to do it like--gentlemen." He took a
new sheet. Suddenly he began to shout,--

"George--George Washington." There was no answer, so as he wrote on he
continued to shout at intervals, "George Washington!"

After a sufficient period had elapsed for a servant crossing the yard
to call to another, who sent a third to summon George, and for that
functionary to take a hasty potation from a decanter as he passed
through the dining-room at his usual stately pace, he appeared at the
door.

"Did you call, suh?" he inquired, with that additional dignity which
bespoke his recourse to the sideboard as intelligibly as if he had
brought the decanters in his hand. "Did I call!" cried the Major,
without looking up. "Why don't you come when you hear me?"

George Washington steadied himself on his feet, and assumed an aggrieved
expression.

"Do you suppose I can wait for you to drink all the whiskey in my
sideboard? Are you getting deaf-drunk as well as blind-drunk?" he asked,
still writing industriously.

George Washington gazed up at his old master in the picture on the wall,
and shook his head sadly.

"Nor, suh, Marse Nat. You know I ain' drink none to git drunk. I is a
member o' de church. I is full of de sperit."

The Major, as he blotted his paper, assured him that he knew he was
much fuller of it than were his decanters, and George Washington was
protesting further, when his master rose, and addressing Jeff as the
challenger, began to read. He had prepared a formal cartel, and all
the subsequent and consequential documents which appear necessary to a
well-conducted and duly bloodthirsty meeting under the duello, and
he read them with an impressiveness which was only equalled by the
portentious dignity of George Washington. As he stood balancing himself,
and took in the solemn significance of the matter, his whole air
changed; he raised his head, struck a new attitude, and immediately
assumed the position of one whose approval of the affair was of the
utmost moment.

The Major stated that he was glad that they had decided to use the
regular duelling pistols, not only as they were more convenient--he
having a very fine, accurate pair--but as they were smooth bore and
carried a good, large ball, which made a clean, pretty hole, without
tearing. "Now," he explained kindly to Lawrence, "the ball from one of
these infernal rifled concerns goes gyrating and tearing its way through
you, and makes an orifice like a _posthole_." He illustrated his meaning
with a sweeping spiral motion of his clenched fist.

Lawrence grew a shade whiter, and wondered how Jeff felt and looked,
whilst Jeff set his teeth more firmly as the Major added blandly that
"no gentleman wanted to blow another to pieces like a Sepoy mutineer."

George Washington's bow of exaggerated acquiescence drew the Major's
attention to him.

"George Washington, are my pistols clean?" he asked.

"Yes, suh, clean as yo' shut-front," replied George Washington, grandly.

"Well, clean them again."

"Yes, suh," and George was disappearing with ponderous dignity, when the
Major called him, "George Washington."

"Yes, suh."

"Tell carpenter William to come to the porch. His services may be
needed," he explained to Lawrence, "in case there should be a casualty,
you know."

"Yes, suh." George Washington disappeared. A moment later he reopened
the door.

"Marse Nat."

"Sir."

"Shall I send de overseer to dig de graves, suh?"

Lawrence could not help exclaiming, "Good----!" and then checked
himself; and Jeff gave a perceptible start.

"I will attend to that," said the Major, and George Washington went out
with an order from Jeff to take the box to the office.

The Major laid the notes on his desk and devoted himself to a brief
eulogy on the beautiful symmetry of "the Code," illustrating his
views by apt references to a number of instances in which its absolute
impartiality had been established by the instant death of both parties.
He had just suggested that perhaps the two young men might desire to
make some final arrangements, when George Washington reappeared, drunker
and more imposing than before. In place of his ordinary apparel he had
substituted a yellowish velvet waistcoat and a blue coat with brass
buttons, both of which were several sizes too large for him, as they
had for several years been stretched over the Major's ample person. He
carried a well-worn beaver hat in his hand, which he never donned except
on extraordinary occasions.

"De pistils is ready, suh," he said, in a fine voice, which he
always employed when he proposed to be peculiarly effective. His
self-satisfaction was monumental.

"Where did you get that coat and waistcoat from, sir?" thundered the
Major. "Who told you you might have them?"

George Washington was quite taken aback at the unexpectedness of the
assault, and he shuffled one foot uneasily.

"Well, you see, suh," he began, vaguely, "I know you warn' never gwine
to wear 'em no mo', and seein' dat dis was a very serious recasion,
an' I wuz rip-ripresentin' Marse Jeff in a jewel, I thought I ought to
repear like a gent'man on dis recasion."

"You infernal rascal, didn't I tell you that the next time you took my
clothes without asking my permission, I was going to shoot you?"

The Major faced his chair around with a jerk, but George Washington had
in the interim recovered himself.

"Yes, suh, I remembers dat," he said, complacently, "but dat didn't have
no recose to dese solemn recasions when I rip-ripresents a gent'man in
de Code."

"Yes, sir, it did, I had this especially in mind," declared the Major,
unblushingly--"I gave you fair notice, and damn me! if I don't do it
too before I'm done with you--I'd sell you to-morrow morning if it would
not be a cheat on the man who was fool enough to buy you. My best coat
and waistcoat!"--he looked affectionately at the garments.

George Washington evidently knew the way to soothe him--"Who ever heah
de beat of dat!" he said in a tone of mild complaint, partly to the
young men and partly to his old master in the ruffles and velvet over
the piano, "Marse Nat, you reckon I ain' got no better manners 'n to
teck you _bes'_ coat and weskit! Dis heah coat and weskit nuver did you
no favor anyways--I hear Miss Marg'ret talkin' 'bout it de fust time you
ever put 'em on. Dat's de reason I tuck 'em." Having found an excuse he
was as voluble as a river--"I say to myself, I ain' gwine let my
young marster wyar dem things no mo' roun' heah wid strange ladies an'
gent'man stayin' in de house too,--an' I so consarned about it, I say,
'George Wash'n'n, you got to git dem things and wyar 'em yo'self to keep
him f'om doin' it, dat's what you got to do,' I say, and dat's de reason
I tuk 'em." He looked the picture of self-sacrifice.

But the Major burst forth on him: "Why, you lying rascal, that's three
different reasons you have given in one breath for taking them."
At which George Washington shook his woolly head with doleful
self-abnegation.

"Just look at them!" cried the Major--"My favorite waistcoat! There is
not a crack or a brack in them--They look as nice as they did the day
they were bought!"

This was too much for George Washington. "Dat's the favor, suh, of
de pussen what has I t 'em on," he said, bowing grandly; at which the
Major, finding his ire giving way to amusement, drove him from the room,
swearing that if he did not shoot him that evening he would set him free
to-morrow morning.



VI.

As the afternoon had worn away, and whilst the two principals in the
affair were arranging their matters, the Major had been taking every
precaution to carry out the plan for the meeting. The effect of the
approaching duel upon the old gentleman was somewhat remarkable. He was
in unusually high spirits; his rosy countenance wore an expression of
humorous content; and, from time to time as he bustled about, a smile
flitted across his face, or a chuckle sounded from the depths of his
satin stock. He fell in with Miss Jemima, and related to her a series of
anecdotes respecting duelling and homicide generally, so lurid in their
character that she groaned over the depravity of a region where such
barbarity was practised; but when he solemnly informed her that he felt
satisfied from the signs of the time that some one would be shot in the
neighborhood before twenty-four hours were over, the old lady determined
to return home next day.

It was not difficult to secure secrecy, as the Major had given
directions that no one should be admitted to the garden.

For at least an hour before sunset he had been giving directions to
George Washington which that dignitary would have found some difficulty
in executing, even had he remained sober; but which, in his existing
condition, was as impossible as for him to change the kinks in his hair.
The Major had solemnly assured him that if he got drunk he would shoot
him on the spot, and George Washington had as solemnly consented that he
would gladly die if he should be found in this unprecedented condition.
Immediately succeeding which, however, under the weight of the momentous
matters submitted to him, he had, after his habit, sought aid and
comfort of his old friends, the Major's decanters, and he was shortly in
that condition when he felt that the entire universe depended upon him.
He blacked his shoes at least twenty times, and marched back and
forth in the yard with such portentous importance that the servants
instinctively shrunk away from his august presence. One of the children,
in their frolics, ran against him; George Washington simply said, "Git
out my way," and without pausing in his gait or deigning to look at him,
slapped him completely over.

A maid ventured to accost him jocularly to know why he was so finely
dressed. George Washington overwhelmed her with a look of such infinite
contempt and such withering scorn that all the other servants forthwith
fell upon her for "interferin' in Unc' George Wash'n'ton's business." At
last the Major entered the garden and bade George Washington follow
him; and George Washington having paid his twentieth visit to the
dining-room, and had a final interview with the liquor-case, and having
polished up his old beaver anew, left the office by the side door,
carrying under his arm a mahogany box about two feet long and one foot
wide, partially covered with a large linen cloth. His beaver hat was
cocked on the side of his head, with an air supposed to be impressive.
He wore the Major's coat and flowered velvet waistcoat respecting which
he had won so signal a victory in the morning, and he flaunted a large
bandanna handkerchief, the ownership of which he had transferred still
more recently. The Major's orders to George Washington were to convey
the box to the garden in a secret manner, but George Washington was far
too much impressed with the importance of the part he bore in the affair
to lose the opportunity of impressing the other servants. Instead,
therefore, of taking a by-path, he marched ostentatiously through the
yard with a manner which effected his object, if not his master's,
and which struck the entire circle of servants with inexpressible awe.
However, after he gained the garden and reached a spot where he was no
longer in danger of being observed by any one, he adopted a manner
of the greatest secrecy, and proceeded to the place selected for the
meeting with a degree of caution which could not have been greater had
he been covertly stealing his way through a band of hostile Indians. The
spot chosen for the meeting was a grass plot bounded on three sides
by shrubbery and on the fourth by the wall of the little square within
which had been laid to rest the mortal remains of some half dozen
generations of the Burwells. Though the grass was green and the sky
above was of the deep steely hue which the late afternoon brings; yet
the thick shrubbery which secluded the place gave it an air of wildness,
and the tops of the tall monuments gleaming white over the old wall
against the dark cedars, added an impression of ghostliness which had
long caused the locality to be generally avoided by the negroes from the
time that the afternoon shadows began to lengthen.

George Washington, indeed, as he made his way stealthily down towards
the rendezvous glanced behind him once or twice as if he were not at
all certain that some impalpable pursuer were not following him, and he
almost jumped out of his shoes when the Major, who had for ten minutes
been pacing up and down the grass-plat in a fume of impatience, caught
sight of him and suddenly shouted, "Why don't you come on, you--rascal?"

As soon as George Washington recognized that the voice was not
supernatural, he recovered his courage and at once disarmed the Major,
who, watch in hand, was demanding if he supposed he had nothing else
to do than to wait for him all night, by falling into his vein and
acquiescing in all that he said in abuse of the yet absent duellists, or
at least of one of them.

He spoke in terms of the severest reprobation of Mr. Lawrence, declaring
that he had never had a high opinion of his courage, or, indeed, of any
quality which he possessed. He was, perhaps, not quite prepared to join
in an attack on Jeff, of whose frequent benefactions he entertained a
lively recollection amounting to gratitude, at least in the accepted
French idea of that virtue, and as he had constituted himself Jeff's
especial representative for this "solemn recasion," he felt a personal
interest in defending him to some extent.

At last the Major ordered him to take out the weapons and some little
time was spent in handling them, George Washington examining them with
the air of a connoisseur. The Major asserted that he had never seen a
prettier spot, and George Washington, immediately striking an attitude,
echoed the sentiment. He was, indeed, so transported with its beauty
that he declared it reminded him of the duel he and the Major fought
with Judge Carrington, which he positively declared, was "a jewel like
you been read about," and he ended with the emphatic assertion, "Ef dese
gent'mens jes plump each urr like we did de Judge dat evelin!----"
A wave of the hand completed the period.

The Major turned on him with a positive denial that he had ever even
shot at the Judge, but George Washington unblushingly insisted that they
had, and in fact had shot him twice. "We hit him fyah an' squar'."
He levelled a pistol at a tree a few yards distant, and striking an
attitude, squinted along the barrel with the air of an old hand at the
weapon.

The Major reiterated his statement and recalled the fact that, as he had
told him and others a thousand times, they had shaken hands on the spot,
which George Washington with easy adaptability admitted, but claimed
that "ef he hadn't 'a'shook hands we'd 'a'shot him, sho! Dis here
gent'man ain' gwine git off quite so easy," he declared, having already
decided that Lawrence was to experience the deadly accuracy of his and
Jeff's aim. He ended with an unexpected "Hie!" and gave a little lurch,
which betrayed his condition, but immediately gathered himself together
again.

The Major looked at him quizzically as he stood pistols in hand in all
the grandeur of his assumed character. The shadow of disappointment at
the non-appearance of the Juel-lists which had rested on his round face,
passed away, and he suddenly asked him which way he thought they had
better stand. George Washington twisted his head on one side and, after
striking a deliberative attitude and looking the plat well over, gave
his judgment.

"Ah--so," said the Major, and bade him step off ten paces.

George Washington cocked his hat considerably more to the side, and
with a wave of his hand, caught from the Major, took ten little mincing
steps; and without turning, glanced back over his shoulder and inquired,
"Ain' dat mighty fur apart?"

The Major stated that it was necessary to give them some chance. And
this appeared to satisfy him, for he admitted, "Yas, suh, dat's so, dee
'bleeged to have a chance," and immediately marked a point a yard or
more short of that to which he had stepped.'

The Major then announced that he would load the pistols without waiting
for the advent of the other gentlemen, as he "represented both of them."

This was too much for so accomplished an adept at the Code as
George Washington, and he immediately asserted that such a thing was
preposterous, asking with some scorn, as he strutted up and down, "Who
ever heah o' one gent'man ripresentin' two in a jewel, Marse Nat?"

The Major bowed politely. "I was afraid it was a little incompatible,"
he said.

"Of cose it's incomfatible," said George Washington. "I ripresents one
and you de t'urr. Dat's de way! I ripresents _Marse Jeff_. I know _he_
ain' gwine fly de track. I done know him from a little lad. Dat urr
gent'man I ain' know nuttin tall about. You ripresents him." He waved
his hand in scorn.

"Ah!" said the Major, as he set laboriously about loading the pistols,
handling the balls somewhat ostentatiously.

George Washington asserted, "I b'lieve I know mo' 'bout the Code 'n you
does, Marse Nat."

The Major looked at him quizzically as he rammed the ball down hard. He
was so skilful that George at length added condescendingly, "But I see
you ain' forgit how to handle dose things."

The Major modestly admitted, as he put on a cap, that he used to be a
pretty fair shot, and George Washington in an attitude as declarative of
his pride in the occasion as his inebriated state admitted, was looking
on with an expression of supreme complacency, when the Major levelled
the weapon and sighted along its barrel. George Washington gave a jump
which sent his cherished beaver bouncing twenty feet.

"Look out, Marse Nat! Don' handle dat thing so keerless, please, suh."

The Major explained that he was just trying its weight, and declared
that it "came up beautifully;" to which George Washington after he had
regained his damaged helmet assented with a somewhat unsteady voice. The
Major looked at his watch and up at the trees, the tops of which were
still brightened with the reflection from the sunset sky, and muttered
an objurgation at the failure of the principals to appear, vowing that
he never before knew of a similar case, and that at least he had not
expected Jeff to fail to come to time. George Washington again proudly
announced that he represented Jeff and that it was "that urr gent'man
what had done fly de track, that urr gent'man what you ripre-sents,
Marse Nat." He spoke with unveiled contempt.

The Major suddenly turned on him.

"George Washington!"

"Suh!" He faced him.

"If my principal fails to appear, I must take his place. The rule is,
the second takes the place of his non-appearing principal."

"In cose dat's de rule," declared George Washington as if it were
his own suggestion; "de secon' tecks de place o' de non-repearin'
sprinciple, and dat's what mecks me say what I does, dat man is done run
away, suh, dat's what's de motter wid him. He's jes' nat-chelly skeered.
He couldn' face dem things, suh." He nodded towards the pistols, his
thumbs stuck in the armholes of his flowered velvet vest. As the Major
bowed George Washington continued with a hiccough, "He ain' like we
gent'mens whar's ust to 'em an' don' mine 'em no mo' 'n pop-crackers."

"George Washington," said the Major, solemnly, with his eyes set
on George Washington's velvet waistcoat, "take your choice of these
pistols."

The old duellist made his choice with due deliberation. The Major
indicated with a wave of his hand one of the spots which George had
marked for the expected duellists. "Take your stand there, sir." George
Washington marched grandly up and planted himself with overwhelming
dignity, whilst the Major, with the other pistol in his hand, quietly
took his stand at the other position, facing him.

"George," he said, "George Washington."

"Suh." George Washington was never so imposing.

"My principal, Mr. Pickering Lawrence, having failed to appear at the
designated time and place to meet his engagement with Mr. Jefferson
Lewis, I, as his second and representative, offer myself to take his
place and assume any and all of his obligations."

George Washington bowed grandly.

"Yes, suh, of cose,--dat is accordin' to de Code," he said with
solemnity befitting the occasion.

The Major proceeded.

"And your principal, Mr. Jefferson Lewis, having likewise failed to
appear at the proper time, you take his place."

"Suh," ejaculated George Washington, in sudden astonishment, turning his
head slightly as if he were not certain he had heard correctly, "Marse
Nat, jis say dat agin, please, suh?"

The Major elevated his voice and advanced his pistol slightly.

"I say, your principal, Mr Jefferson Lewis, having in like manner
failed to put in his appearance at the time and place agreed on for the
meeting, you as his representative take his place and assume all his
obligations."

"Oh! nor, suh, I don't!" exclaimed George Washington, shaking his head
so violently that the demoralized beaver fell off again and rolled
around unheeded. "I ain' bargain for no sich thing as dat. Nor, suh!"

But the Major was obdurate.

"Yes, sir, you do. When you accept the position of second, you assume
all the obligations attaching to that position, and----" the Major
advanced his pistol--"I shall shoot at you."

George Washington took a step towards him. "Oh! goodness! Marse Nat, you
ain' gwine do nuttin like dat, is you!" His jaw had fallen, and when
the Major bowed with deep solemnity and replied, "Yes, sir, and you can
shoot at me," he burst out.

"Marse Nat, I don' warn' shoot at you. What I warn' shoot at you for? I
ain' got nuttin 'ginst you on de fatal uth. You been good master to me
all my days an'----" The Major cut short this sincere tribute to his
virtues, by saying: "Very well, you can shoot or not as you please. I
shall aim at that waistcoat." He raised his pistol and partially closed
one eye. George Washington dropped on his knees.

"Oh, Marse Nat, please, suh. What you want to shoot me for? Po' ole
good-for-nuttin George Washington, whar ain' nuver done you no harm"
(the Major's eye glanced over his blue coat and flowered vest; George
saw it), "but jes steal you' whiskey an' you' clo'es an'--Marse Nat, ef
you le' me off dis time I oon nuver steal no mo' o' you' clo'es, er you'
whiskey, er nuttin. Marse Nat, you wouldn' shoot po' ole good-for-nuttin
George Washington, whar fotch' up wid you?"

"Yes, sir, I would," declared the Major, sternly. "I am going to give
the word, and--" he raised the pistol once more. George Washington began
to creep toward him. "Oh, Lordy! Marse Nat, please, suh, don' pint dat
thing at me dat away--hit's loaded! Oh, Lordy!" he shouted. The Major
brandished his weapon fiercely.

"Stand up, sir, and stop that noise--one--two--three," he counted, but
George Washington was flat on the ground.

"Oh, Marse Nat, please, suh, don't. I'se feared o' dem things." A sudden
idea struck him. "Marse Nat, you is about to loss a mighty valuable
nigger," he pleaded; but the Major simply shouted to him to stand up and
not disgrace the gentleman he represented. George Washington seized on
the word; it was his final hope.

"Marse Nat, I don't ripresent nobody, suh, nobody at all, suh. I ain'
nuttin but a good-for-nuttin, wuthless nigger, whar brung de box down
heah cuz you tole me to, suh, dat's all. An' I'll teek off you' coat an'
weskit dis minit ef you'll jis le' me git up off de groun', suh." Jeff
suddenly appeared. George lay spraddled out on the ground as flat as
a field lark, but at Jeff's appearance, he sprang behind him. Jeff, in
amazement, was inquiring the meaning of all the noise he had heard, when
Lawrence appeared on the scene. The Major explained briefly.

"It was that redoubtable champion bellowing. As our principals failed to
appear on time, he being-an upholder of the Code, suggested that we were
bound to take the places respectively of those we represented----"

"Nor, suh, I don' ripresent nobody," interrupted George Washington; but
at a look from the Major he dodged again behind Jeff. The Major, with
his eye on Lawrence, said:

"Well, gentlemen, let's to business. We have but a few minutes of
daylight left. I presume you are ready?"

Both gentlemen bowed, and the Major proceeded to explain that he had
loaded both pistols himself with precisely similar charges, and that
they were identical in trigger, sight, drift, and weight, and had been
tested on a number of occasions, when they had proved to be "excellent
weapons and remarkably accurate in their fire." The young men bowed
silently; but when he turned suddenly and called "George Washington,"
that individual nearly jumped out of his coat. The Major ordered him
to measure ten paces, which, after first giving notice that he "didn't
ripre-sent nobody," he proceeded to do, taking a dozen or more gigantic
strides, and hastily retired again behind the safe bulwark of Jeff's
back. As he stood there in his shrunken condition, he about as much
resembled the pompous and arrogant duellist of a half-hour previous as
a wet and bedraggled turkey does the strutting, gobbling cock of the
flock. The Major, with an objurgation at him for stepping "as if he had
on seven league boots," stepped off the distance himself, explaining
to Lawrence that ten paces was about the best distance, as it was
sufficiently distant to "avoid the unpleasantness of letting a gentleman
feel that he was within touching distance," and yet "near enough to
avoid useless mutilation."

Taking out a coin, he announced that he would toss up for the choice
of position, or rather would make a "disinterested person" do so, and,
holding out his hand, he called George Washington to toss it up. There
was no response until the Major shouted, "George Washington, where are
you--you rascal!"

"Heah me, suh," said George Washington, in a quavering voice, rising
from the ground, where he had thrown himself to avoid any stray bullets,
and coming slowly forward, with a pitiful, "Please, suh, don' p'int dat
thing dis away."

The Major gave him the coin, with an order to toss it up, in a tone so
sharp that it made him jump; and he began to turn it over nervously
in his hand, which was raised a little above his shoulder. In his
manipulation it slipped out of his hand and disappeared. George
Washington in a dazed way looked in his hand, and then on the ground.
"Hi! whar' hit?" he muttered, getting down on his knees and searching in
the grass. "Dis heah place is evil-sperited."

The Major called to him to hurry up, but he was too intent on solving
the problem of the mysterious disappearance of the quarter.

"I ain' nuver like dis graveyard bein' right heah," he murmured. "Marse
Nat, don' you have no mo' to do wid dis thing."

The Major's patience was giving out. "George Washington, you rascal!" he
shouted, "do you think I can wait all night for you to pull up all the
grass in the garden? Take the quarter out of your pocket, sir!"

"'Tain' in my pocket, suh," quavered George Washington, feeling there
instinctively, however, when the coin slipped down his sleeve into
his hand again. This was too much for him. "Hi! befo' de king," he
exclaimed, "how it git in my pocket? Oh, Marster! de devil is 'bout
heah, sho'! Marse Nat, you fling it up, suh. I ain' nuttin but a po'
sinful nigger. Oh, Lordy!" And handing over the quarter tremulously,
George Washington flung himself flat on the ground and, as a sort of
religious incantation, began to chant in a wild, quavering tone the
funeral hymn:

"Hark! from the tombs a doleful sound."

The Major tossed up and posted the duellists, and with much solemnity
handed them the pistols, which both the two young men received quietly.
They were pale, but perfectly steady. The Major then asked them,
"Gentlemen, are you ready?" whilst at the omnious sound George
Washington's voice in tremulous falsetto, struck in,

     "Ye-ee--so-ons off meenn co-ome view-ew the-ee groun',
     Wher-ere you-ou m--uss' shor-ort-ly lie."

They announced themselves ready just as George Washington, looking
up from the ground, where he, like the "so-ons off meenn," was lying,
discovered that he was not more than thirty yards out of the line of
aim, and with a muttered "Lordy!" began to crawl away.

There was a confused murmur from the direction of the path which led to
the house, and the Major shouted, "Fire--one--two--three."

Both young men, facing each other and looking steadily in each other's
eyes, with simultaneous action fired their pistols into the air.

At the report a series of shrieks rang out from the shrubbery towards
the house, whilst George Washington gave a wild yell and began to kick
like a wounded bull, bellowing that he was "killed--killed."

The Major had just walked up to the duellists, and, relieving them of
their weapons, had with a comprehensive wave of the hand congratulated
them on their courage and urged them to shake hands, which they were
in the act of doing, when the shrubbery parted and Margaret, followed
closely by Rose and by Miss Jemima panting behind, rushed in upon them,
crying at the tops of their voices, "Stop! Stop!"

The two young ladies addressed themselves respectively to Jeff and
Lawrence, and both were employing all their eloquence when Miss Jemima
appeared. Her eye caught the prostrate form of George Washington, who
lay flat on his face kicking and groaning at intervals. She pounced upon
the Major with so much vehemence that he was almost carried away by the
sudden onset.

"Oh! You wretch! What have you done?" she panted, scarcely able to
articulate.

"Done, madam?" asked the Major, gravely.

"Yes; what have you done to _that_ poor miserable creature--_there!_"
She actually seized the Major and whirled him around with one hand,
whilst with the other she pointed at the prostrate and now motionless
George Washington.

"What have I been doing with him?"

"Yes, with _him_. Have you been carrying out your barbarous rite on his
inoffensive person!" she gasped.

The Major's eye lit up.

"Yes, madam," he said, taking up one of the pistols, "and I rejoice that
you are here to witness its successful termination. George Washington
has been selected as the victim this year; his monstrous lies, his
habitual drunken worthlessness, his roguery, culminating in the open
theft to-day of my best coat and waistcoat, marked him naturally as the
proper sacrifice. I had not the heart to cheat any one by selling him
to him. I was therefore constrained to shoot him. He was, with his usual
triflingness, not killed at the first fire, although he appears to be
dead. I will now finish him by putting a ball into his back; observe
the shot." He advanced, and cocking the pistol, "click--click," stuck
it carefully in the middle of George Washington's fat back. Miss Jemima
gave a piercing shriek and flung herself on the Major to seize the
pistol; but she might have spared herself; for George Washington
suddenly bounded from the ground and, with one glance at the levelled
weapon, rushed crashing through the shrubbery, followed by the laughter
of the young people, the shrieks of Miss Jemima, and the shouts of the
Major for him to come back and let him kill him.

That evening, when Margaret, seated on the Major's knee, was rummaging
in his vest pockets for any loose change which might be there (which by
immemorial custom belonged to her), she suddenly pulled out two large,
round bullets. The Major seized them; but it was too late. When,
however, he finally obtained possession of them he presented them to
Miss Jemima, and solemnly requested her to preserve them as mementoes of
George Washington's miraculous escape.





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