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Title: Gabriel Tolliver - A Story of Reconstruction
Author: Harris, Joel Chandler, 1848-1908
Language: English
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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.

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                              GABRIEL TOLLIVER

                         _A Story of Reconstruction_

                           By JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS

          _Author of "Uncle Remus," "The Making of a Statesman," etc._


McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.
NEW YORK
1902

COPYRIGHT, 1902, BY
JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS

_Published, October, 1902 R_

       *       *       *       *       *

           To James Whitcomb Riley

       *       *       *       *       *



CONTENTS


_Prelude_

CHAPTER ONE _Kettledrum and Fife_

CHAPTER TWO _A Town with a History_

CHAPTER THREE _The Return of Two Warriors_

CHAPTER FOUR _Mr. Goodlett's Passengers_

CHAPTER FIVE _The Story of Margaret Gaither_

CHAPTER SIX _The Passing of Margaret_

CHAPTER SEVEN _Silas Tomlin Goes A-Calling_

CHAPTER EIGHT _The Political Machine Begins Its Work_

CHAPTER NINE _Nan and Gabriel_

CHAPTER TEN _The Troubles of Nan_

CHAPTER ELEVEN _Mr. Sanders in His Cups_

CHAPTER TWELVE _Caught in a Corner_

CHAPTER THIRTEEN _The Union League Organises_

CHAPTER FOURTEEN _Nan and Her Young Lady Friends_

CHAPTER FIFTEEN _Silas Tomlin Scents Trouble_

CHAPTER SIXTEEN _Silas Tomlin Finds Trouble_

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN _Rhody Has Something to Say_

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN _The Knights of the White Camellia_

CHAPTER NINETEEN _Major Tomlin Perdue Arrives_

CHAPTER TWENTY _Gabriel at the Big Poplar_

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE _Bridalbin Follows Gabriel_

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO _The Fate of Mr. Hotchkiss_

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE _Mr. Sanders Searches for Evidence_

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR _Captain Falconer Makes Suggestions_

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE _Mr. Sanders's Riddle_

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX _Cephas Has His Troubles_

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN _Mr. Sanders Visits Some of His Old Friends_

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT _Nan and Margaret_

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE _Bridalbin Finds His Daughter_

CHAPTER THIRTY _Miss Polly Has Some News_

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE _Mr. Sanders Receives a Message_

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO _Malvern Has a Holiday_

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE _Gabriel as an Orator_

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR _Nan Surrenders_



GABRIEL TOLLIVER



_Prelude_


"Cephas! here is a letter for you, and it is from Shady Dale! I know you
will be happy now."

For several years Sophia had listened calmly to my glowing descriptions
of Shady Dale and the people there. She was patient, but I could see by
the way she sometimes raised her eyebrows that she was a trifle
suspicious of my judgment, and that she thought my opinions were unduly
coloured by my feelings. Once she went so far as to suggest that I was
all the time looking at the home people through the eyes of
boyhood--eyes that do not always see accurately. She had said, moreover,
that if I were to return to Shady Dale, I would find that the friends of
my boyhood were in no way different from the people I meet every day.
This was absurd, of course--or, rather, it would have been absurd for
any one else to make the suggestion; for at that particular time, Sophia
was a trifle jealous of Shady Dale and its people. Nevertheless, she was
really patient. You know how exasperating a man can be when he has a
hobby. Well, my hobby was Shady Dale, and I was not ashamed of it. The
man or woman who cannot display as much of the homing instinct as a cat
or a pigeon is a creature to be pitied or despised. Sophia herself was a
tramp, as she often said. She was born in a little suburban town in New
York State, but never lived there long enough to know what home was. She
went to Albany, then to Canada, and finally to Georgia; so that the only
real home she ever knew is the one she made herself--out of the raw
material, as one might say.

Well, she came running with the letter, for she is still active, though
a little past the prime of her youth. I returned the missive to her with
a faint show of dignity. "The letter is for you," I said. She looked at
the address more carefully, and agreed with me. "What in the world have
I done," she remarked, "to receive a letter from Shady Dale?"

"Why, it is the simplest thing in the world," I replied. "You have been
fortunate enough to marry me."

"Oh, I see!" she cried, dropping me a little curtsey; "and I thank you
kindly!"

The letter was from an old friend of mine--a school-mate--and it was an
invitation to Sophia, begging her to take a day off, as the saying is,
and spend it in Shady Dale.

"Your children," the letter said, "will be glad to visit their father's
old home, and I doubt not we can make it interesting for the wife." The
letter closed with some prettily turned compliments which rather caught
Sophia. But her suspicions were still in full play.

"I know the invitation is sent on your account, and not on mine," she
said, holding the letter at arm's length.

"Well, why not? If my old friend loves me well enough to be anxious to
give my wife and children pleasure, what is there wrong about that?"

"Oh, nothing," replied Sophia. "I've a great mind to go."

"If you do, my dear, you will make a number of people happy--yourself
and the children, and many of my old friends."

"He declares," said Sophia, "that he writes at the request of his wife.
You know how much of that to believe."

"I certainly do. Imagine me, for instance, inviting to visit us a lady
whom you had never met."

Whereupon Sophia laughed. "I believe you'd endorse any proposition that
came from Shady Dale," she declared.

She accepted the invitation more out of curiosity than with any
expectation of enjoying herself; but she stayed longer than she had
intended; and when she came back her views and feelings had undergone a
complete change. "Cephas, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for not
going to see those people," she declared. "Why, they are the salt of the
earth. I never expected to be treated as they treated me. If it wasn't
for your business, I would beg you to go back there and live. They are
just like the people you read about in the books--I mean the good
people, the ideal characters--the men and women you would like to meet."
Here she paused and sighed. "Oh, I wouldn't have missed that visit for
anything. But what amazes me, Cephas, is that you've never put in your
books characters such as you find in Shady Dale."

The suggestion was a fertile one; it had in it the active principle of a
germ; and it was not long before the ferment began to make itself felt.
The past began to renew itself; the sun shone on the old days and gave
them an illumination which they lacked when they were new. Time's
perspective gave them a mellower tone, and they possessed, at least for
me, that element of mystery which seems to attach to whatever is
venerable. It was as if the place, the people, and the scenes had taken
the shape of a huge picture, with just such a lack of harmony and unity
as we find in real life.

Let those who can do so continue to import harmony and unity into their
fabrications and call it art. Whether it be art or artificiality, the
trick is beyond my powers. I can only deal with things as they were; on
many occasions they were far from what I would have had them to be; but
as I was powerless to change them, so am I powerless to twist
individuals and events to suit the demands or necessities of what is
called art.

Such a feat might be possible if I were to tell the simple story of Nan
and Gabriel and Tasma Tid during the days when they roamed over the old
Bermuda hills, and gazed, as it were, into the worlds that existed only
in their dreams: for then the story would be both fine and beautiful. It
would be a wonderful romance indeed, with just a touch of tragic
mystery, gathered from the fragmentary history of Tasma Tid, a
child-woman from the heart of Africa, who had formed a part of the cargo
of the yacht _Wanderer_, which landed three hundred slaves on the coast
of Georgia in the last months of 1858. You may find the particulars of
the case of the _Wanderer_ in the files of the Savannah newspapers, and
in the records of the United States Court for that district; but the
tragic history of Tasma Tid can be found neither in the newspapers nor
in the court records.

But for this one touch of mystery and tragedy, this chronicle, supposing
it to deal only with the childhood and early youth of Nan and Gabriel,
would resolve itself into a marvellous fairy tale, made up of the
innocent dreams and hopes and beliefs, and all the extraordinary
inventions and imaginings of childhood. And even mystery and tragedy
have their own particular forms of simplicity, so that, with Tasma Tid
in the background the tale would be artless enough to satisfy the most
artful. For, even if the reader, seated on the magic cloak of some
competent story-teller, were transported to the heart of Africa, where
the mountains, with their feet in the jungle, reach up and touch the
moon, or to China, or the Islands of the Sea, the hero of the tale would
be the same. His name is Dilly Bal, and he carries on his operations
wherever there are stars in the sky. He is a restless and a roving
creature, flitting to and fro between all points of the compass.

When King Sun crawls into his trundle bed and begins to snore, Dilly
Bal creeps forth from Somewhere, or maybe from Nowhere, which is just on
the other side, fetching with him a long broom, which he swishes about
to such purpose that the katydids hear it and are frightened. They hide
under the leaves and are heard no more that night. That is why you never
hear them crying and disputing when you chance to be awake after
midnight.

But Dilly Bal knows nothing of the katydids; he has his own duties to
perform, and his own affairs to attend to; and these, as you will
presently see, are very pressing. It is his business, as well as his
pleasure, to be the Housekeeper of the Sky, which he dusts and tidies
and puts in order. It is a part of his duty to see that the stars are
safely bestowed against the moment when old King Sun shall emerge from
his tent, and begin his march over the world. And then, in the dusk of
the evening, Dilly Bal must take each star from the bag in which he
carries it, polish it bright, and put it in its proper place.

Sometimes, as you may have observed, a star will fall while Dilly Bal is
handling it. This happens when he is nervous for fear that King Sun,
instead of going to bed in his tent, has crept back and is watching from
behind the cloud mountains. Sometimes a star falls quite by accident, as
when Lucindy or Patience drops a plate in the kitchen. You will be sure
to know Dilly Bal when you see him, for, in handling the stars and
dusting the sky, his clothes get full of yellow cobwebs, which he never
bothers himself to brush off.

But Dilly Bal's most difficult job is with the Moon. Regularly the Moon
blackens her face in a vain effort to hide from King Sun. If she used
smut or soot, Dilly Bal's task would not be so difficult; but she has
found a lake of pitch somewhere in Africa, and in this lake she smears
her face till it is so black her best friends wouldn't know her. The
pitch is such sticky stuff that it is days and days before it can be
rubbed off. The truth is, Dilly Bal never does succeed in getting all
the pitch off. At her brightest, the Moon shows signs of it. So said
Tasma Tid, and so we all firmly believed.

Yes, indeed! If this chronicle could be confined to the childhood and
youth of those children, Dilly Bal would be the hero first and last. He
was so real to all of us that we used to wander out to the old Bermuda
fields almost every fine afternoon, and sit there until the light had
faded from the sky, watching Dilly Bal hanging the stars on their pegs.
The Evening Star was such a large and heavy one that Dilly Bal always
replaced it before dark, so as to be sure not to drop it.

Once when we stayed out in the Bermuda fields later than usual, a big
star fell from its place, and went flying across the sky, leaving a long
and brilliant streamer behind it. At first, Nan thought that Dilly Bal
had tried to hang the Evening Star on the wrong peg, but when she looked
in the west, there was the big star winking at her and at all of us as
hard as it could.

The pity of it was that Nan and Gabriel, and all their young friends,
had finally to come in contact with the hard practical affairs of the
world. As for Tasma Tid, contact had no special influence on her. She
was to all appearance as unchangeable as the pyramids, and as mysterious
as the Sphinx. But it was different with Nan and Gabriel, and, indeed,
with all the rest. Their story soon ceased to be a simple one. In some
directions, it appeared to be a hopeless tangle, catching a great many
other persons in its loops and meshes; so that, instead of a simple,
entrancing story, all aglow with the glamour of romance, they had
troubles that were grievous, and their full share of dulness and
tediousness, which are the essential ingredients of everyday life.

After all, it is perhaps fortunate that the marvellous dreams of Nan and
Gabriel, and the quaint imaginings of Tasma Tid are not to be
chronicled. The spinning of this glistening gossamer once begun would
have no end, for Nan was an expert dreamer both night and day, and in
the practice of this art, Gabriel was not far behind her; while Tasma
Tid, who was Nan's maid and bodyguard, could frame her face in her
hands, and tell you stories from sunrise to sundown and far into the
night.

Tasma Tid, though she was only a child in stature and nature, was
growner in years, as she said, than some of the grownest grown folks
that they knew. She was a dwarf by race, and always denied bitterly,
sometimes venomously, that she was a negro, declaring that in her
country the people were always at war with the blacks. Her color was
dark brown, light enough for the blood tints to show in her face, and
her hair was straight and glossy black. From the _Wanderer_, she soon
found herself in the slave market at Malvern, and there she fell under
the eye of Dr. Randolph Dorrington, Nan's father, who bought her
forthwith. He thought that a live doll would please his daughter. The
dwarf said that her name was Tasma Tid in her country, and she would
answer to no other.

It was a very fortunate bargain all around, especially for Nan, for in
the African woman she found both a playmate and a protector. Tasma Tid
was far above the average negro in intelligence, in courage and in
cunning. She was as obstinate as a mule, and no matter what obstacles
were thrown in her way, her own desires always prevailed in the end, a
fact that will explain her early appearance in the slave market. Those
of her owners who failed to understand her were not willing to see her
spoil on their hands, like a barrel of potatoes or a basket of shrimps.
The African was uncanny when she chose to be, outspoken, vicious, and
tender-hearted, her nature being compounded of the same qualities and
contradictions as those which belong to the great ladies of the earth,
who, with opportunity always at their elbows, have contrived to create a
great stir in the world.

When Dr. Dorrington fetched Tasma Tid home, he called out to Nan from
his gig: "I have brought you a live doll, daughter; come and see how you
like it."

Nan went running--she never learned how to walk until she was several
years older--and regarded Tasma Tid with both surprise and sympathy.
The African, seeing only the sympathy, leaped from the gig, seized Nan
around the waist, lifted her from the ground, ran this way and that, and
then released her with a loud and joyous laugh.

"What do you mean by that?" cried Nan, somewhat taken aback.

"She stan' fer we howdy," the African answered.

"Well, let's see you tell popsy howdy," suggested Nan, indicating her
father.

"Uh-uh! he we buckra."

From that hour Tasma Tid attached herself to Nan, following her
everywhere with the unquestioning fidelity of a dog. She sat on the
floor of the dining-room while Nan ate her meals, and slept on a pallet
by the child's bed at night. If the African was sweeping the yard, a
task she sometimes consented to perform, she would fling the brushbroom
away and go with Nan if the child started out at the gate. At first this
constant attendance was somewhat annoying to Nan, for she was an
independent lass; but presently, when she found that Tasma Tid was a
most accomplished and versatile playfellow, as well as the depositary of
hundreds of curious fables and quaint tales of the wildwood, Nan's
irritation disappeared.

As for Gabriel--Gabriel Tolliver--he was almost as indispensable as the
African woman. Children learn a good many things, as they grow older,
and I have heard that Nan and Gabriel were thought to be queer, and that
all who were much in their company were also thought to be queer. No
one knows why. It was a simple statement, and simple statements are
readily believed, because no one takes the trouble to inquire into them.
A man who has views different from those of the majority is called
eccentric; if he insists on promulgating them, he is known as a crank.
In the case of Nan and Gabriel, it may be said by one who knows, that,
while they were different from the majority of children, they were
neither queer nor eccentric.

They, and those whom they chose as companions, were children at a time
when the demoralisation of war was about to begin--when it was already
casting its long shadow before it--and when their elders were discussing
as hard as ever they could the questions of State rights, the true
interpretation of the Constitution, squatter sovereignty, the right of
secession--every question, in short, except the one at issue. In this
way, and for this reason, the two children and their companions were
thrown back upon themselves.

Of those who formed this merry little company, not one went to the
academies that had been established in the town early enough to be its
most ancient institutions. Nan was taught by her father, Randolph
Dorrington, and Gabriel and I said our lessons to his grandmother, Mrs.
Lucy Lumsden. Thus it happened that we were through with our school
tasks before the children in the two academies had begun their morning
recess.

"We would never have been such good friends," said Nan on one occasion,
"if I hadn't wanted to go to your house, Gabriel, to see how your
grandmother wavies her hair. I saw Cephas, and asked him to go along
with me." Child as she was, Nan had her little vanities. She desired
above all things that her hair should fall away from her brow in little
rippling waves, like those that shone in the silver-grey hair of
Gabriel's grandmother.

"Why, my grandmother doesn't wavie her hair at all," protested Gabriel.

"Of course not," replied Nan, with a toss of the hand; "I found that out
for myself. And I was very sorry; I want my hair to wavie like hers and
yours."

"Well, if your hair was to wavie like mine," said Gabriel, "you'd have a
mighty hard time combing it in the morning."

"Don't you remember," Nan went on in a reminiscent way, "that she made
you shake hands with me that day? It was funny the way you came up and
held out your arm. If I had jumped at you and said _Boo!_ I don't know
what would have happened." Gabriel grew very red at this, but Nan
ignored his embarrassment. "You had syrup on your fingers, you know, and
then we all had some in a saucer. Yes, and we all sopped our bread in
the same saucer, and Cephas here got the syrup on his face and in his
hair."

It never occurred to me in those days that Nan was beautiful, or that
Gabriel was handsome, but looking back in the light of experience, it is
easy to remember that they had in their features all the promises that
the long and slow-moving years were to fulfil. I was struck, however, by
one peculiarity of Nan's face. When her countenance was at rest, it
gave out a hint of melancholy, and there was an appealing look in her
brown eyes; but when she smiled or laughed, the sombre face broke up
into numberless dimples. Apart from her countenance, there was a charm
about her which I have never been able to trace to its source, and which
of course is beyond description; and this charm remained, and made
itself felt whether the appearance of melancholy had its dwelling-place
in her eyes, which were large, and lustrous, and full of tenderness, or
whether her face was brilliant with smiles. She had a deserved
reputation as a tomboy, but she carried off her tricksy whims with a
daintiness that preserved them from all hint of coarseness; and if
sometimes she was rude, she had a way of righting herself that none
could resist.

As for Gabriel, he was always large for his age. He was strong and
healthy, possessing every physical excuse for roughness and
boisterousness; but association with his grandmother, who was one of the
gentlest of gentlewomen, had toned him down and smoothed the rough
edges. His hair was dark and curly, and his face gave promise of great
strength of character--a promise which, it may be said here, was
fulfilled to the letter. He was as whimsical as Nan, and, in addition,
had moods to which she was a stranger.

These things did not occur to Cephas the Child, but are the fruits of
his memory and experience. He only knew at that time that Nan and
Gabriel were both very good to him. He was considerably younger than
either of them, and he often wondered then, and has wondered since, why
they were such good friends of his, and why they were constantly hunting
him up if he failed to make his appearance. Perhaps because he was so
full of unadulterated mischief. Gabriel, with all his gravity, was full
of a quaint humour, and Nan hunted for cause for laughter in everything;
and she was never more beautiful than when this same laughter had shaken
her tawny hair about her face.

We had travelled widely. Nan had been to Malvern with her father, and
had seen sights--railway trains, omilybuses, as she called them, a great
big hotel, and "oodles" of crippled persons; yes, and besides the
crippled persons, there was a blind man standing on the corner with a
big card hanging from his neck; and that very day, she had eaten
"reesins" until she never wanted 'em any more, as she said. Gabriel and
Cephas had not gone so far; but once upon a time, they went to
Halcyondale, and, among other things, had seen Major Tomlin Perdue kill
sparrows with a pistol. Nan had been anxious to go with them at the
time, but when she heard about the slaughter of the sparrows, she was
very glad she had stayed at home, for what did a grown man as old as
Major Perdue want to kill the poor little brown sparrows for? Nan's
question was never answered. Gabriel and Cephas had only seen in the
transaction the enviable skill of the Major; whereas Nan thought of
nothing but the poor little birds that had been slain for a holiday
show. "They may have been singing sparrows, or snow-birds," mourned Nan.
True enough; but Gabriel and Cephas had thought of nothing but the
skill of the marksman with his duelling pistols. Tasma Tid also had her
point of view. "Wey you no fetcha dem lil bud home fer we supper?" She
was hardly satisfied when she was told that the little birds, all put
together, would have made hardly more than a mouthful.



CHAPTER ONE

_Kettledrum and Fife_


The serene repose of Shady Dale no doubt stood for dulness and lack of
progress in that day and time. In all ages of the world, and in all
places, there are men of restless but superficial minds, who mistake
repose and serenity for stagnation. No doubt then, as now, the most
awful sentence to be passed on a community was to say that it was not
progressive. But when you examine into the matter, what is called
progress is nothing more nor less than the multiplication of the
resources of those who, by means of dicker and barter, are trying all
the time to overreach the public and their fellows, in one way and
another. This sort of thing now has a double name; it is called
civilisation, as well as progress, and those who take things as they
find them in their morning newspaper, without going to the trouble to
reflect for themselves, are no doubt duly impressed by terms that are
large enough to fill both the ear and mouth at one and the same time.

Well, whatever serene repose stands for, Shady Dale possessed it in an
eminent degree, and the people there had their full share of the sorrows
and troubles of this world, as Madame Awtry, or Miss Puella Gillum, or
Neighbour Tomlin, or even that cheerful philosopher, Mr. Billy Sanders,
could have told you; but of these Nan and Gabriel and Cephas knew
nothing except in a vague, indefinite way. They heard hints of rumours,
and sometimes they saw their elders shaking their heads as they gossiped
together, but the youngsters lived in a world of their own, a world
apart, and the vague rumours were no more interesting to them than the
reports of canals on Mars are to the average person to-day. He reads in
his newspaper that the markings in Mars are supposed to be canals;
whereat he smiles and reflects that these canals can do him no harm. Nan
and Gabriel and Cephas were as far from contemporary troubles as we are
from Mars. The most serious trouble they had was not greater than that
which they discovered one day on the Bermuda hill. As they were sitting
on the warm grass, wondering how long before peaches would be ripe, they
saw a field mouse cutting up some queer capers. Nan was not very
friendly with mice, and she instinctively gathered up her skirts; but
she did not run; her curiosity was ever greater than her fear. Presently
we found that the troubles of Mother Mouse were very real. A tremendous
black beetle had invaded her nest, and had seized one of her children, a
little bit of a thing, naked and red and about the size of a half-ripe
mulberry. We tried hard to rescue the mouse from the beetle, but soon
found that it was quite dead. Cephas crushed the beetle, which was as
venomous-looking a bug as they had ever seen. Was the beetle preparing
to eat the mouse? Tasma Tid said yes, but Gabriel thought not. His idea
was that the Mother Mouse had attacked the beetle, which was blindly
crawling about, and had fallen in the nest accidentally. The beetle,
striving to defend itself, had seized the mouse between its pinchers,
and held it there until it was quite dead.

But the Bermuda fields were not the only resource of the children. There
were seasons when Uncle Plato, who was Meriwether Clopton's
carriage-driver, came to town with the big waggon to haul home the
supplies necessary for the plantation; loads of bagging and rope; cases
of brogan shoes, and hats for the negroes; and bales on bales of
osnaburgs and blankets. The appearance of the Clopton waggon on the
public square was hailed by these youngsters with delight. They always
made a rush for it, and, in riding back and forth with Uncle Plato, they
spent some of the most delightful moments of their lives.

And then in the fall season, there was the big gin running at the
Clopton place, with old Beck, the blind mule, going round and round,
turning the cogged and pivoted post that set the machinery in motion.
But the youngsters rarely grew tired of riding back and forth with Uncle
Plato. He was the one person in the world who catered most completely to
their whims, who was most responsive to their budding and eager fancies,
and who entered most enthusiastically into the regions created and
peopled by Nan's skittish and fantastic imagination.

These children had their critics, as may well be supposed, especially
Nan, who did not always conform to the rules and theories which have
been set up for the guidance of girls; but Uncle Plato, along with
Gabriel and Cephas, accepted her as she was, with all her faults, and
took as much delight in her tricksy and capricious behaviour, as if he
were responsible for it all. She and her companions furnished Uncle
Plato with what all story-tellers have most desired since hairy man
began to shave himself with pumice-stone, and squat around a common
hearth--a faithful and believing audience. Uncle Æsop, it may be, cared
less for his audience than for the opportunity of lugging in a dismal
and perfunctory moral. Uncle Plato, like Uncle Remus, concealed his
behind text and adventure, conveying it none the less completely on that
account. Not one of his vagaries was too wild for the acceptance of his
small audience, and the elusiveness of his methods was a perpetual
delight to Nan, as hers was to Uncle Plato, though he sometimes shook
his head, and pretended to sigh over her innocent evasions.

Once when we were all riding back and forth from the Clopton Place to
Shady Dale, Nan asked Uncle Plato if he could spell.

"Tooby sho I kin, honey. What you reckon I been doin' all deze
long-come-shorts ef I dunner how ter spell? How you speck I kin git
'long, haulin' an' maulin', ef I dunner how ter spell? Why, I could
spell long 'fo' I know'd my own name."

"Long-come-shorts, what are they?" asked Nan.

"Rainy days an' windy nights," responded Uncle Plato, throwing his head
back, and closing his eyes.

"Let's hear you spell, then," said Nan.

"Dee-o-egg, dog," was the prompt response. Nan looked at Uncle Plato to
see if he was joking, but he was solemnity itself. "E-double-egg, egg!"
he continued.

"Now spell John A. Murrell," said Nan. Murrell, the land pirate, was one
of her favourite heroes at this time.

Uncle Plato pretended to be very much shocked. "Why, honey, dat man wuz
rank pizen. En spozen he wa'nt, how you speck me ter spell sump'n er
somebody which I ain't never laid eyes on? How I gwineter spell Johnny
Murrell, an' him done dead dis many a long year ago?"

"Well, spell goose, then," said Nan, seeing a flock of geese marching
stiffly in single file across a field near the road.

Uncle Plato looked at them carefully enough to take their measure, and
then shook his head solemnly. "Deyer so many un um, honey, dey'd be
monstus hard fer ter spell."

"Well, just spell one of them then," Nan suggested.

"Which un, honey?"

"Any one you choose."

Uncle Plato studied over the matter a moment, and again shook his head.
"Uh-uh, honey; dat ain't nigh gwine ter do. Ef you speck me fer ter
spell goose, you got ter pick out de one you want me ter spell."

"Well, spell the one behind all the rest."

Again Uncle Plato shook his head. "Dat ar goose got half-grown goslin's,
an' I ain't never larnt how ter spell goose wid half-grown goslin's. You
ax too much, honey."

"Then spell the one next to head." Nan was inexorable.

"Dat ar ain't no goose," replied Uncle Plato, with an air of triumph;
"she's a gander."

"I don't believe you know how to spell goose," said Nan, with something
like scorn.

"Don't you fool yo'se'f, honey," remarked Uncle Plato in a tone of
confidence. "You git me a great big fat un, not too ol', an' not too
young, an' fill 'er full er stuffin', an' bake 'er brown in de big oven,
an' save all de drippin's, an' put 'er on de table not fur fum whar I
mought be settin' at, an' gi' me a pone er corn bread, an' don't have no
talkin' an' laughin' in de game--an' ef I don't spell dat goose, I'll
come mighty nigh it, I sholy will. Ef I don't spell 'er, dey won't be
nuff lef' fer de nex' man ter spell. You kin 'pen' on dat, honey."

Nan suddenly called Uncle Plato's attention to the carriage horses,
which were hitched to the waggon. She said she knew their names well
enough when they were pulling the carriage, but now--

"Haven't you changed the horses, Uncle Plato?" she asked.

"How I gwine change um, honey?"

"I mean, haven't you changed their places?"

"No, ma'am!" he answered with considerable emphasis. "No, ma'am; ef I
wuz ter put dat off hoss in de lead, you'd see some mighty high kickin';
you sho would."

"Oh, let's try it!" cried Nan, with real eagerness.

"Dem may try it what choosen ter try it," responded Uncle Plato, dryly,
"but I'll ax um fer ter kindly le' me git win' er what deyer gwine ter
do, an' den I'll make my 'rangerments fer ter be somers out'n sight an'
hearin'."

"Well, if you haven't made the horses swap places," remarked Nan, "I'll
bet you a thrip that the right-hand horse is named Waffles, and the
left-hand one Battercakes."

At once Uncle Plato became very dignified. "Well-'um, I'm mighty glad
fer ter hear you sesso, kaze ef dey's any one thing what I want mo' dan
anudder, it's a thrip's wuff er mannyfac terbacker. Ez fer de off hoss,
dat's his name--Waffles--you sho called it right. But when it comes ter
de lead hoss, anybody on de plantation, er off'n it, I don't keer whar
dey live at, ef dey yever so much ez hear er dat lead hoss, will be glad
fer ter tell you dat he goes by de name er Muffins." He held out his
hand for the thrip.

"Well, what is the difference?" said Nan, drawing back as if to prevent
him from taking the thrip.

"De diffunce er what?" inquired Uncle Plato.

"And you expect me to give you money you haven't won," declared Nan.
"What's the difference between Battercakes and Muffins? A muffin is a
battercake if you pour three big spoonfuls in a pan and spread it out,
and a battercake is a muffin if you pen it up in a tin-thing like a
napkin ring. Anybody can tell you that, Uncle Plato--yes, anybody."

What reply the old negro would have made to this bit of home-made
casuistry will never be known. That it would have been reasonable, if
not entirely adequate, may well be supposed, but just as he had given
his head a preliminary shake, the rattle of a kettle-drum was heard, and
above the rattle a fife was shrilling.

The shrilling fife, and the roll and rattle of the drums! These were
sounds somewhat new to Shady Dale in 1860; but presently they were to be
heard all over the land.

"I can see dem niggers right now!" exclaimed Uncle Plato, as we hustled
out of his waggon. "Riley playin' de fife, Green beatin' on de
kittledrum, an' Ike Varner bangin' on de big drum. Ef de white folks pay
much 'tention ter dem niggers, dey won't be no livin' in de same county
wid um. But dey better not come struttin' 'roun' me!"

The drums were beating the signal for calling together the men whose
names had been signed to the roll of a company to be called the Shady
Dale Scouts, and the meeting was for the purpose of organizing and
electing officers. All this was accomplished in due time; but meanwhile
Nan and Gabriel and Cephas, as well as Tasma Tid and all the rest of the
children in the town, went tagging after the fife and drums listening to
Riley play the beautiful marching tunes that set Nan's blood to
tingling. Riley was a master hand with the fife, and we had never known
it, had never even suspected it! Nan thought it was very mean in Riley
not to tell somebody that he could play so beautifully.

Well, in a very short time, the company was rigged out in the finest
uniforms the children had even seen. All the men, even the privates, had
plumes in their hats and epaulettes of gold on their shoulders; and on
their coats they wore stripes of glowing red, and shiny brass buttons
without number. And at least twice a week they marched through the
streets and out into the Bermuda fields, where they had their drilling
grounds. These were glorious days for the youngsters. Nan was so
enthusiastic that she organised a company of little negroes, and
insisted on being the captain. Gabriel was the first lieutenant, and
Cephas was the second. When the company was ready to take the field, it
was discovered that Nan would also have to be orderly sergeant and
color-bearer. But she took on herself the duties and responsibilities of
these positions without a murmur. She wore a paper hat of the true
Napoleonic cut, and carried in one hand her famous sword-gun, and the
colors in the other. The oldest private in Nan's company was nine; the
youngest was four, and had as much as he could do to keep up with the
rest. The uniforms of these sun-seasoned troops was the regulation
plantation fatigue dress--a shirt coming to the knees. Two or three of
the smaller privates had evidently fallen victims to the pot-liquor and
buttermilk habits, for their bellies stuck out black and glistening from
rents in their shirts.

Their accoutrements prefigured in an absurd way the resources of the
Confederacy at a later date. They were armed with broomsticks, and
what-not. The file-leader had an old pair of tongs, which he snapped
viciously when Nan gave the word to fire. The famous sword-gun, with
which Nan did such execution, had once seen service as an umbrella
handle.

One afternoon, as Nan was drilling her troops, she chanced to glance
down the road, and saw a waggon coming along. Deploying her company
across the highway, she went forward in person to reconnoitre. She soon
discovered that the waggon was driven by Uncle Plato. Running back to
her veterans, she placed herself in front of them, and calmly awaited
events. Slowly the fat horses dragged the waggon along, when suddenly
Nan cried "Halt!" whereupon the drummer, obeying previous instructions,
began to belabour his tin-pan, while Nan levelled her famous sword-gun
at Uncle Plato. "Bang!" she exclaimed, and then, "Why didn't you fall
off the waggon?" she cried, as Uncle Plato remained immovable. "Why, you
don't know any more about real war than a baby," she said scornfully.

If the truth must be told, Uncle Plato had been dozing, and when he
awoke he viewed the scene before him with astonishment. There was no
need to cry "Halt!" or exclaim "Bang!" for as soon as the drummer began
to beat his tin-pan, the horses stood still and craned their necks
forward, with a warning snort, trying to see what this strange and
unnatural proceeding meant. Uncle Plato had involuntarily tightened the
reins when he was so rudely awakened, and the horses took this for a
hint that they must avoid the danger, and, as the shortest way is the
best way, they began to back, and had the waggon nearly turned around
before Uncle Plato could tell them a different tale.

"Ef I'd 'a' fell out'n de waggon, honey, who gwine ter pick me up?" he
asked, laughing.

"Why, no one is picked up in war!"

"Is dis war, honey?"

"Of course it is," Nan declared.

"Does bofe sides hafter take part in de rucus?" asked Uncle Plato,
making a terrible face at the little negroes.

"Why, of course," said Nan.

Seeing the scowl, Nan's veteran troops began to edge slowly toward the
nearest breach in the fence. Uncle Plato seized his whip and pretended
to be clambering from the waggon. At this a panic ensued, and Nan's army
dispersed in a jiffy. The seasoned troops dropped their arms and fled.
The four-year-old became lost or entangled in a thick growth of jimson
weed, seeing which, Uncle Plato cried out in terrible voice, "Ketch um
dar! Fetch um here!"

Then and there ensued a wild scene of demoralisation and anarchy; loud
shrieks and screams filled the air; the dogs barked, the hens cackled,
and the neighbours began to put their heads out of the windows. Mrs.
Absalom, who had charge of the Dorrington household, and who had raised
Nan from a baby, came to the door--the defeat of the troops occurred
right at Nan's own home--crying, "My goodness gracious! has the yeth
caved in?" Then, seeing the waggon crosswise the road, and mistaking
Nan's shrieks of laughter for cries of pain, she bolted from the house
with a white face.

Mrs. Absalom's reactions from her daily alarms about Nan usually
resulted in bringing her into open and direct war with everybody in
sight or hearing, except the child; but on this occasion, her fright had
been so serious that when Nan, somewhat sobered, ran to her the good
woman was shaking.

"Why, Nonny!" cried Nan, hugging her, "you are all trembling."

"No wonder," said Mrs. Absalom in a subdued voice; "I saw you under them
waggon wheels as plain as I ever saw anything in my life. I'm gittin'
old, I reckon."

And yet there were some people who wondered how Nan could endure such a
foster-mother as Mrs. Absalom.

But the complete rout of Nan's army made no change in the general
complexion of affairs. The Shady Dale Scouts continued to perfect
themselves in the tactics of war, and after awhile, when the great
controversy began to warm up--the children paid no attention to the
passage of time--the company went into camp. This was a great hour for
the youngsters. Here at last was something real and tangible. The
marching and the countermarching through the streets and in the old
field were very well in their way, but Nan and Gabriel and the rest had
grown used to these man[oe]uvres, and they longed for something new.
This was furnished by the camp, with its white tents, and the grim
sentinels pacing up and down with fixed bayonets. No one, not even an
officer, could pass the sentinels without giving the password, or
calling for the officer of the guard.

All this, from the children's point of view, was genuine war; but to the
members of the company it was a veritable picnic. The citizens of the
town, especially the ladies, sent out waggon loads of food every
day--boiled ham, barbecued shote, chicken pies, and cake; yes, and
pickles. Nan declared she didn't know there were as many pickles in the
world, as she saw unloaded at the camp.

Mr. Goodlett, who was Mrs. Absalom's husband, went out to the camp,
looked it over with the eye of an expert, and turned away with a groan.
This citizen had served both in the Mexican and the Florida wars, and he
knew that these gallant young men would have a rude awakening, when it
came to the real tug of war.

"Doesn't it look like war, Mr. Ab?" Nan asked, running after the
veteran.

Mr. Goodlett looked at the bright face lifted up to his, and frowned,
though a smile of pity showed itself around his grizzled mouth. He was a
very deliberate man, and he hesitated before he spoke. "You think that
looks like war?" he asked.

"Why, of course. Isn't that the way they do when there's a war?"

"What! gormandise, an' set in the shade? Why, it ain't no more like war
than sparrergrass is like jimson weed--not one ioter." With that, he
sighed and went on his way.

But when did the precepts of age and experience ever succeed in chilling
the enthusiasm of youth? With the children, it was "O to be a soldier
boy!" and Nan and her companions continued to linger around the edges of
the spectacle, taking it all in, and enjoying every moment. And the
Scouts themselves continued to live like lords, eating and drilling, and
dozing during the day, and at night dancing to the sweet music of
Flavian Dion's violin. Nan and Gabriel thought it was fine, and, as well
as can be remembered, Cephas was of the same opinion. As for Tasma Tid,
she thought that the fife and drums, and the general glare and glitter
of the affair were simply grand, very much nicer than war in her
country, where the Arab slave-traders crept up in the night and seized
all who failed to escape in the forest, killing right and left for the
mere love of killing. Compared with the jungle war, this pageant was
something to be admired.

And many of the older citizens held views not very different from those
of the children, for enthusiasm ran high. The Shady Dale Scouts went
away arrayed in their holiday uniforms. Many of them never returned to
their homes again, but those that did were arrayed in rags and tatters.
Their gallantry was such that the Shady Dale Scouts, disguised as
Company B, were always at the head of their regiment when trouble was on
hand. But all this is to anticipate.



CHAPTER TWO

_A Town with a History_


Before, during, and after the war, Shady Dale presented always the same
aspect of serene repose. It was, as you may say, a town with a history.
Then, as now, there were towns all about that had no such fortunate
appendage behind them to explain their origin. No one could tell what
they were begun for; no one could say whether they had for their nucleus
an old field or a cross-roads grocery, or whether a party of immigrants
pitched their tents there because the grass was fine and the water
abundant. There is one city in Georgia, and it is the most prosperous of
all, that was built on the idea that the cattle-paths and the old
government roads afford the most convenient and picturesque contours for
the streets; and to this day, the thoroughfares of that city afford a
most interesting study to those who are interested in either topography
or human nature; for it is possible to go to that city, and, with half
an eye, discover the places where the waggons and other vehicles turned
aside nearly a hundred years ago to avoid the mudholes, the fallen
trees, and other temporary obstructions. They have been preserved in the
conformation of the streets.

Shady Dale is no city, and it may be that its public-spirited citizens
stretch the meaning of the term when they call it a town. Nevertheless,
the community has a well-defined history. When Raleigh Clopton, shortly
after the signing of the treaty of peace between the United States and
Great Britain, crossed the Oconee, and settled on the lands of the
hostile Creeks, his friends declared that he was tempting Providence;
and so it seemed; but the event proved that from first to last, his
adventure was under the direct guidance of Providence. He demonstrated
anew the truth of two ancient maxims: he who risks nothing, gains
nothing; heaven helps those who help themselves. Raleigh Clopton risked
everything and gained the most beautiful domain in all the land. He had,
indeed, one stormy interview with General McGillivray, the great Creek
chief and statesman, but after that all was peace and prosperity.

General McGillivray was one of the most remarkable men of his time, and
his time was during an era of remarkable men. He possessed a genius that
enabled him to cope successfully with the ablest statesmen of his day.
He drew Washington into a secret treaty with the Creek Nation, and when
McGillivray died, the Father of his country referred to him as "my
friend," and deplored his taking off. Courageous and adventurous
himself, McGillivray was no doubt attracted by the attitude and
personality of the fearless Virginian. He became the warm friend of
Raleigh Clopton, and marked that friendship by deeding to the first
white settler two thousand acres of land lying between the Little River
hills on one side, and the meadows of Murder Creek on the other.
Moreover, he named the estate Shady Dale, and aided Raleigh Clopton to
establish a trading-post where the court-house of the town now stands;
and on a pine near by, he caused to be made the semblance of a broken
arrow, a token that between the Creeks and the Master of Shady Dale a
lasting peace had been established.

This was the beginning. When the multifarious and long-disputed treaties
between the United States and the Creek Nation had been signed, and a
general peace was assured, Raleigh Clopton communicated with his friends
in Wilkes, Burke, Columbia and Richmond counties--the choice spirits who
had fought by his side in the bloodiest battles of the War for
Independence--informed them of his good fortune, and invited them to
share it. The response was all that he could have desired. His old
friends and comrades lost no time in joining him--the Dorringtons, the
Tomlins, the Gaithers, the Awtrys, the Terrells, the Odoms, the
Lumsdens, and, later, the friends and relatives of these. For the most
part they were men of substance and character.

Well, perhaps not all. There are black sheep in every flock, and
wherever the nature of Adam survives, there we may behold wisdom and
folly dancing to the same tune, and sin and repentance occupying the
same couch. So it has been from the first, and so it will be to the end.
But, take them all in all, making due allowance for the tendencies of
human nature, the men and women who responded to the invitation of
Raleigh Clopton may be described as the salt of the earth. They had all,
women and men, been subjected to the trials and hardships of a war in
which no quarter was asked or given; and their experiences had given
them a strength of character, and a versatility in dealing with
unexpected events, that could hardly be matched elsewhere. To each of
those who responded to his invitation, Raleigh Clopton gave a part of
his domain, and laid out their settlement for them.

This was the origin of Shady Dale. But to set forth its origin is not to
describe its beauty, which is of a character that refuses to submit to
description. You go down to the old town from the city, and you say to
yourself and your friends that you are enjoying the delights of the
country. You visit it from the plantations, and you feel that you are
breathing the kind of atmosphere that should be found in the social life
of a large, refined and perfectly homogeneous community. But whether you
go there from the city, or from the plantations, you are inevitably
impressed with a sense of the attractiveness of the place; you fall
under the spell of the old town--it was old even in the old times of the
sixties. And yet if you were called upon to define the nature of the
spell, what could you say? What name could you give to the tremulous
beauty that hovers about and around the place, when the fresh green
leaves of the great trees are fluttering in the cool wind, and
everything is touched and illumined by the tender colours of spring?
Under what heading in the catalogue of things would you place the vivid
richness which animates the town and the landscape all around when the
summer is at its height? And how could you describe the harmony that
time has brought about between the fine old houses and the setting in
which they are grouped?

All these things are elusive; they make themselves keenly felt, but they
do not lend themselves to analysis.

It is a pity that those who are interested in traditions that are truer
than history could not have all the facts in regard to Shady Dale from
the lips of Mr. Obadiah Tutwiler, who had constituted himself the oral
historian of the community. Mr. Tutwiler was alive as late as 1869, and
had at his fingers'-ends all the essential facts relating to the origin
and growth of the town, and he related the story with a fluency, an
accuracy, and a relish quite surprising in so old a man.

As was fitting, the old court-house, the temple of justice, had been
reared in the centre of the town, and the square that surrounds it took
the shape of a park of considerable dimensions. On two sides were some
of the more pretentious dwellings; the tavern, with a few of the more
modest houses took up a third side; while the fourth side was taken up
by the shops and stores; and so careful had the early settlers been with
the trees, that it was possible to stand in a certain upper window of
the court-house, and look out upon the town with not a house in sight.

Naturally, the most interesting feature of Shady Dale was the Clopton
Place. It had been the home of the First Settler, and in 1860, when Nan
and Gabriel were enjoying their happiest days, it was owned and occupied
by the son, Meriwether Clopton.

From the time of the First Settler, the Clopton Place had been dedicated
and set apart to the uses of hospitality. The deed in which General
McGillivray, in the name of the Creek Nation, conveyed the domain to
Raleigh Clopton, distinctly sets forth the condition that the Clopton
Place was to be an asylum and a place of refuge for the unfortunate and
for those who needed succour. During the long and bloody contests
between the white settlers and the Creeks, it was the pleasure of the
Creek chief to pay out of his own private fortune, which was a large one
for those days, the ransoms which, under the rules of the tribal
organisations, each Indian town demanded for the prisoners captured by
its warriors. Such was the poverty of the whites in general that only
occasionally was General McGillivray reimbursed for his expenditures in
this direction.

But no matter by whom the ransoms were paid, the prisoners were one and
all forwarded to the Clopton Place, where they were cared for until such
time as they could be transferred to the white settlements. In this way
hospitality became a habit at the Place, and in the years that followed,
no wayfarer was ever turned away from those wide doors.

In the pleasant weather, it was a familiar spectacle to see Meriwether
Clopton sitting on the wide lawn, reading Virgil and Horace, two volumes
of which he never tired. His favourite seat was in the shade of a
silver maple, through the branches of which a grapevine had been
trained. This silver maple, with the vine running through it, and the
seat in the shade, were a realisation, he once told Gabriel and Cephas,
of one of the most beautiful poems in one of the volumes, but whether
Virgil or Horace, the aforesaid Cephas is unable to remember.

There were days long to be remembered when the Master of Clopton Place
read aloud to the children, translating as he went along, and smacking
his lips over the choice of words as though he were tasting a fine
quality of wine. And the children felt the charm of these ancient
verses; and they soon came to understand why words written down
centuries ago, had power to take possession of the mind. They were
charged with the qualities that brought them home to the modern hour;
and for all that was foreign in them, they might have been composed at
Shady Dale. It is no wonder that the common people in the Middle Ages
clothed Virgil with the gift and power of a prophet or a magician.

Something of the charm that dwelt all about the place had its origin and
centre in Meriwether Clopton himself. His years sat lightly upon him. He
had led an active and a temperate life, and a hale and hearty old age
was the fruit thereof. He had had his flings, and something more,
perhaps, for there were traditions of some very serious troubles in
which he had been engaged shortly after reaching his majority. But
Gabriel's grandmother, who knew--none better--declared that these
troubles were not of Meriwether Clopton's seeking. They were the results
of a legacy of feuds which Raleigh Clopton, through no desire of his
own, had left to his son. It was said of Raleigh Clopton that his sense
of justice was as strong as his temper, which was a stormy one. He
espoused the cause of young Eli Whitney, who had been despoiled of his
rights in the cotton-gin in Georgia, and this led him into a series of
difficulties without parallel in the history of the State. Raleigh
Clopton's attitude in this contest brought him in conflict with some of
the most powerful men and interests in the commonwealth. It was a
contest in which knavery, fraud and corruption, the courts, and
considerable private capital, were all combined against Whitney, who
appeared to be without a strong friend until Raleigh Clopton became his
champion.

The collusion of the courts with this high-handed robbery was so
ill-concealed that Raleigh Clopton soon discovered the fact, and his
indignation rose to such a white heat that it drove him to excesses. He
dragged one judge from a buggy, and plied him with a rawhide, he slapped
the face of another in a public house, and posted a dozen prominent men
as thieves and corruptionists, with the result that the State fairly
swarmed with his enemies, men who were able to keep him busy in the way
of troubles and difficulties. It was the day of private feuds, and it
was not surprising that some of these enemies should attack the father
through the son. Thus it fell out that Meriwether Clopton's experience
for half a score of years after he came of age was anything but
peaceful. But he came out of all these difficulties with head erect,
clean hands and a clear conscience. He was neither hardened nor
embittered by the violence with which he had to deal. On the contrary,
his character was strengthened and his temper sweetened; so that when
the lads who listened to his mellifluous translations from the Latin
poets, were old enough to appreciate the qualities that go to make up a
good man and an influential citizen, the fact dawned upon their minds
that Meriwether Clopton was the finest gentleman they had ever seen.



CHAPTER THREE

_The Return of Two Warriors_


When the great contest began, Nan was close to thirteen, and Gabriel was
fourteen. Cephas was younger; he had lived hardly as many months as he
had freckles on his face, otherwise he would have been an aged citizen.
They wandered about together, always accompanied by Tasma Tid, all of
them being children in every sense of the word. Occasionally they were
joined by some of the other boys and girls; but they were always happier
when they were left to themselves.

In the late afternoons they could always be found in the Bermuda fields,
but at other times, especially on a warm day, their favourite playground
was under the wide-spreading elms in front of the post-office. Amusing
themselves there in the fine weather, they could see the people come and
go, many of them looking for letters that never came. When the conflict
at the front became warm and serious, and when the very newspapers, as
Mrs. Absalom said, smelt of blood, there was always a large crowd of
men, old and young, gathered at the post-office when the mail-coach came
from Malvern. As few of the people subscribed for a daily newspaper,
Judge Odom (he was Judge of the Inferior Court, now called the Court of
Ordinary) took upon himself to mount a chair or a dry-goods box, and
read aloud the despatches printed in the Malvern _Recorder_. This
enterprising journal had a number of volunteer correspondents at the
front who made it a point to send with their letters the lists of the
killed and wounded in the various Georgia regiments; and these lists
grew ominously long as the days went by.

And then, in the course of time, came the collapse of the Confederacy,
an event that blew away with a breath, as it were, the hopes and dreams
of those who had undertaken to build a new government in the South; and
this march of time brought about a gradual change in the relations
between Nan and Gabriel. It was almost as imperceptible in its growth as
the movement of the shadow on the sun-dial. Somehow, and to her great
disgust, Nan awoke one morning and was told that she was a young woman,
or dreamt that she was told. Anyhow, she realised, all of a sudden, that
she was now too tall for short dresses, and too old to be playing with
the boys as if she were one of them; and the consciousness of this
change gave her many a bad quarter of an hour, and sometimes made her a
trifle irritable; for, sweet as she was, she had a temper.

She asked herself a thousand times why she should now begin to feel shy
of Gabriel, and why she should be so self-conscious, she who had never
thought of herself with any degree of seriousness until now. It was all
a puzzle to her. As it was with Nan, so it was with Gabriel. As Nan grew
shy and shyer, so the newly-awakened Gabriel grew more and more and
more timid, and the two soon found themselves very far apart without
knowing why. For a long time Cephas was the only connecting link between
them. He was a sly little rascal, this same Cephas, and he found in the
situation food for both curiosity and amusement. He had not the least
notion why the two friends and comrades were inclined to avoid each
other. He only knew that he was not having as pleasant a time as fell to
his portion when they were all going about together with no serious
notions of life or conduct.

Cephas got no satisfaction from either Nan or Gabriel when he asked them
what the trouble was. Nan tried to explain matters, but her explanation
was a very lame one. "I am getting old enough to be serious, Cephas; and
I must begin to make myself useful. That's what Miss Polly Gaither says,
and she's old enough to know. Oh, I hate it all!" said Nan.

"Is Miss Polly Gaither useful?" inquired Cephas.

"I'm sure I don't know," replied Nan; "but that's what she told me, and
then she held up her ear-trumpet for me to talk in it; but I just
couldn't, she looked so very much in earnest. It was all I could do to
keep from laughing. Did you ever notice, Cephas, how funny people are
when they are really in earnest?"

Alas! Cephas had often pinched himself in Sunday-school to keep from
laughing at old Mrs. Crafton, his teacher. She was so dreadfully in
earnest that she kept her face in a pucker the whole time. Outside of
the Sunday-school she was a very pleasant old lady.

Gabriel had no explanation to make whatever. He simply told Cephas that
Nan was becoming vain. This Cephas denied with great emphasis, but
Gabriel only shook his head and looked wise, as much as to say that he
knew what he knew, and would continue to know it for some time to come.
The truth is, however, that Gabriel was as ignorant of the feminine
nature as it is possible for a young fellow to be; whereas, Nan, by
means of the instinct or intuition which heaven has conferred on her sex
for their protection, knew Gabriel a great deal better than she knew
herself.

When the war came to a close, Gabriel was nearly eighteen, and Nan was
seventeen, though she appeared to be a year or two younger. She was
still childish in her ways and tastes, and carried with her an
atmosphere of simplicity and sweetness in which very few girls of her
age are fortunate enough to move. Simplicity was a part of her nature,
though some of her young lady friends used to whisper to one another
that it was all assumed. She was even referred to as Miss Prissy, a term
that was probably intended to be an abbreviation of Priscilla.

Regularly, she used to hunt Cephas up and carry him home with her for
the afternoon; and on the other hand, Gabriel manifested a great
fondness for the little fellow, who enjoyed his enviable popularity with
a clear conscience. It was years and years afterwards before the secret
of his popularity dawned on him. If he had suspected it at the time, his
pride, such as he had, would have had a terrible fall.

One day, it was the year of Appomattox, and the month was June, Cephas
heard his name called, and answered very promptly, for the voice was the
voice of Gabriel, and it was burdened with an invitation to visit the
woods and fields that surrounded the town. The weather itself was
burdened with the same invitation. The birds sang it, and it rustled in
the leaves of the trees. And Cephas leaped from the house, glad of any
excuse to escape from the domestic task at which he had been set. They
wandered forth, and became a part and parcel of the wild things. The
hermit thrush, with his silver bell, was their brother, and the
cat-bird, distressed for the safety of her young, was their sister. Yea,
and the gray squirrel was their playmate, a shy one, it is true, but
none the less a genuine one for all that. They roamed about the
green-wood, and over the hills and fields, and finally found themselves
in the public highway that leads to Malvern.

Cephas found a cornstalk, and with hardly an effort of his mind, changed
it into a fine saddle-horse. The contagion seized Gabriel, and though he
was close upon his eighteenth birthday, he secured a cornstalk, which at
once became a saddle-horse at his bidding. The magical powers of youth
are wonderful, and for a little while the cornstalk horses were as real
as any horses could be. The steed that Cephas bestrode was comparatively
gentle, but Gabriel's horse developed a desire to take fright at
everything he saw. A creature more skittish and nervous was never seen,
and his example was soon followed by the steed that Cephas rode. The
two boys were so busily engaged in trying to control their perverse
horses, that they failed to see a big covered waggon that came creeping
up the hill behind them. So, while they were cutting up their queer
capers, the big waggon, drawn by two large mules, was plumb upon them.
As for Cephas, he didn't care, being at an age when such capers are
permissible, but Gabriel blushed when he discovered that his childish
pranks had witnesses; and he turned a shade redder when he saw that the
occupants of the waggon were, of all the persons in the world, Mr. Billy
Sanders and Francis Bethune.

Both of the boys would have passed on but for the compelling voice of
Mr. Sanders. "Why, it's little Gabe, and he's little Gabe no longer. And
Cephas ain't growed a mite. Hello, Gabe! Hello, Cephas! Howdy, howdy?"

Francis Bethune's salutation was somewhat constrained, or if that be too
large a word, was lacking in cordiality. "What is the matter with
Gabriel?" he asked.

"It's a thousand pities, Frank," remarked Mr. Sanders, "that Sarah
Clopton wouldn't let you be a boy along with the other boys; but she
coddled you up jest like you was a gal. Be jigged ef I don't believe
you've got on pantalettes right now."

Bethune blushed hotly, while Gabriel and Cephas fairly yelled with
laughter--and there was a little resentment in Gabriel's mirth. "But I
don't see what could possess Tolliver," Bethune insisted.

"Shucks, Frank! you wouldn't know ef he was to write it down for you,
an' Nan Dorrin'ton would know wi'out any tellin'. You ain't a bit
brighter about sech matters than you was the day Nan give you a
thumpin'."

At this Gabriel laughed again, for he had been an eye-witness to the
episode to which Mr. Sanders referred. A boy has his prejudices, as
older persons have theirs. Bethune had always had the appearance of
being too fond of himself; when other boys of his age were playing and
pranking, he would be primping, and in the afternoon, before he went off
to the war, he would strut around town in the uniform of a cadet, and
seemed to think himself better than any one else. These things count
with boys as much as they do with older persons.

"Climb in the waggin, Gabe an' Cephas, an' tell us about ever'thing an'
ever'body. The Yanks didn't take the town off, did they?"

The boys accepted the invitation without further pressing, for they were
both fond of Mr. Sanders, and proceeded to give their old friend all the
information he desired. Francis Bethune asked no questions, and Gabriel
was very glad of it. At bottom, Bethune was a very clever fellow, but
the boys are apt to make up their judgments from what is merely
superficial. Francis had a very handsome face, and he could have made
himself attractive to a youngster on the lookout for friends, but he had
chosen a different line of conduct, and as a result, Gabriel had several
scores against the young man. And so had Cephas; for, on one occasion,
the latter had gone to the Clopton Place for some wine for his mother,
who was something of an invalid, and, coming suddenly on Sarah Clopton,
found her in tears. Cephas never had a greater shock than the sight gave
him, for he had never connected this self-contained, gray-haired woman
with any of the tenderer emotions. In the child's mind, she was simply a
sort of superintendent of affairs on the Clopton Place, who, in the
early mornings, stood on the back porch of the big house, and, in a
voice loud enough to be heard a considerable distance, gave orders to
the domestics, and allotted to the field hands their tasks for the day.

Sarah Clopton must have seen how shocked the child was, for she dried
her eyes and tried to laugh, saying, "You never expected to see me
crying, did you, little boy?" Cephas had no answer for this, but when
she asked if he could guess why she was crying, the child remembered
what he had heard Nan and Gabriel say, and he gave an answer that was
both prompt and blunt. "I reckon Frank Bethune has been making a fool of
himself again," said he.

"But how did you know, child?" she asked, placing her soft white fingers
under his chin, and lifting his face toward the light. "You are a wise
lad for your years," she said, when he made no reply, "and I am sure you
are sensible enough to do me a favour. Please say nothing about what you
have seen. An old woman's tears amount to very little. And don't be too
hard on Frank. He has simply been playing some college prank, and they
are sending him home."

The most interesting piece of news that Gabriel had in his budget
related to the hanging of Mr. Absalom Goodlett by some of Sherman's men,
when that commander came marching through Georgia. It seems that a negro
had told the men that Mr. Goodlett knew where the Clopton silver had
been concealed, and they took him in hand and tried to frighten him into
giving them information which he did not possess. Threats failing, they
secured a rope and strung him up to a tree. They strung him up three
times, and the third time, they went off and left him hanging; and but
for the promptness of the negro who was the cause of the trouble, and
who had been an interested spectator of the proceedings, Mr. Goodlett
would never have opened his eyes on the affairs of this world again. The
negro cut him down in the nick of time, and as soon as he recovered, he
sent the darkey with instructions to go after the men, and tell them
where they could find the plate, indicating an isolated spot. Whereupon
Mr. Goodlett took his gun, and went to the point indicated. The negro
carried out his instructions to the letter. He found the men, who had
not gone far, pointed out the spot from a safe distance, and then waited
to see what would happen. If he saw anything unusual, he never told of
it; but the men were never seen again. Some of their companions returned
to search for them, but the search was a futile one. The negro went
about with a frightened face for several days, and then he settled down
to work for Mr. Goodlett, in whom he seemed to have a strange interest.
He showed this in every way.

"You keep yo' eye on 'im," he used to say to his coloured acquaintances,
in speaking of Mr. Goodlett; "keep yo' eye on 'im, an' when you see his
under-jaw stickin' out, des turn you' back, an' put yo' fingers in yo'
ears."

"You never know," said Mr. Sanders, in commenting on the story, "what a
man will do ontell he gits rank pizen mad, or starvin' hongry, or in
love."

"What would you do, Mr. Sanders, if you were in love?" Gabriel asked
innocently enough.

"Maybe I'd do as Frank does," replied Mr. Sanders, smiling blandly;
"shed scaldin' tears one minnit, an' bite my finger-nails the next;
maybe I would, but I don't believe it."

"Now, I'll swear you ought not to tell these boys such stuff as that!"
exclaimed Francis Bethune angrily. "I don't know about Cephas, but
Tolliver doesn't like me any way."

"How do you know?" inquired Gabriel.

"Because you used to make faces at me," replied Bethune, half laughing.

"Why, so did Nan," Gabriel rejoined. "Mine must have been terrible ones
for you to remember them so well."

The reference to Nan struck Bethune, and he began to gnaw at the end of
his thumb, whereupon Mr. Sanders smiled broadly. The young man reflected
a moment and then remarked, his face a trifle redder than usual; "Isn't
the young lady old enough for you to call her Miss Dorrington?"

"She is," replied Gabriel; "but if she permits me to call her Nan, why
should any one else object?"

There was no answer to this, but presently Bethune turned to Gabriel and
said: "Why do you dislike me, Tolliver?"

For a little time the lad was silent; he was trying to formulate his
prejudices into something substantial and sufficient, but the effort was
a futile one. While he was silent, Bethune regarded him with a curious
stare. "Honestly," said Gabriel, "I can give no reason; and I'm not sure
I dislike you. But you always held your head so high that I kept away
from you. I had an idea that you felt yourself above me because my
grandmother is not as rich as the Cloptons."

The statement seemed to amaze Bethune. "You couldn't have been more than
ten or twelve when I left here for the war," he remarked.

"Yes, I was more than thirteen," Gabriel replied.

"Well, I never thought that a boy so young could have such thoughts,"
Bethune declared.

"Pooh!" exclaimed Mr. Sanders; "a fourteen-year-old boy can have some
mighty deep thoughts, specially ef he' been brung up in a house full of
books, as Gabriel was. I hope, Gabriel," he went on, "that you'll stick
to your cornstalk hoss as long as you want to. You'll live longer for
it, an' your friends will love you jest the same. Frank here has never
been a boy. Out of bib an' hippin, he jumped into long britches an' a
standin' collar, an' the only fun he ever had in his life he got kicked
out of college for, an' served him right, too. I'll bet you a thrip to a
pint of pot-licker that Nan'll ride a stick hoss tomorrer ef she takes a
notion--an' she's seventeen. Don't you forgit, Gabriel, that you'll
never be a boy but once, an' you better make the most on it whilst you
can."

The waggon came just then to the brow of the hill that overlooked Shady
Dale, and here Mr. Sanders brought his team to a standstill. It had been
many long months since his eyes or Bethune's had gazed on the familiar
scene. "I'll tell you what's the fact, boys," he said, drawing in a long
breath--"the purtiest place this side of Paradise lies right yander
before our eyes. Ef I had some un to give out the lines, I'd cut loose
and sing a hime. Yes, sirs! you'd see me break out an' howl jest like my
old coon dog, Louder, used to do when he struck a hot track. The Lord
has picked us out of the crowd, Frank, an' holp us along at every turn
an' crossin'. But before the week's out, we'll forgit to be thankful.
J'inin' the church wouldn't do us a grain of good. By next Sunday week,
Frank, you'll be struttin' around as proud as a turkey gobbler, an'
you'll git wuss an' wuss less'n Nan takes a notion for to frail you out
ag'in."

Bethune relished the remark so little that he chirped to the mules, but
Mr. Sanders seized the reins in his own hands. "We've fit an' we've
fout, an' we've got knocked out," he went on, "an' now, here we are
ready for to take a fresh start. The Lord send that it's the right
start." He would have driven on, but at that moment, a shabby looking
vehicle drew up alongside the waggon. Gabriel and Cephas knew at once
that the outfit belonged to Mr. Goodlett. His mismatched team consisted
of a very large horse and a very small mule, both of them veterans of
the war. They had been left by the Federals in a broken-down condition,
and Mr. Goodlett found them grazing about, trying to pick up a living.
He appropriated them, fed them well, and was now utilising them not only
for farm purposes, but for conveying stray travellers to and from
Malvern, earning in this way many a dollar that would have gone
elsewhere.

Mr. Goodlett drew rein when he saw Mr. Sanders and Francis Bethune, and
gave them as cordial a greeting as he could, for he was a very
undemonstrative and reticent man. At that time both Gabriel and Cephas
thought he was both sour and surly, but, in the course of events, their
opinions in regard to that and a great many other matters underwent a
considerable change.



CHAPTER FOUR

_Mr. Goodlett's Passengers_


The vehicle that Mr. Goodlett was driving was an old hack that had been
used for long years to ply between Shady Dale and Malvern. On this
occasion, Mr. Goodlett had for his passengers a lady and a young woman
apparently about Nan's age. There was such a contrast between the two
that Gabriel became absorbed in contemplating them; so much so that he
failed to hear the greetings that passed between Mr. Goodlett and Mr.
Sanders, who were old-time friends. The elder of the two women was
emaciated to a degree, and her face was pale to the point of
ghastliness; but in spite of her apparent weakness, there was an ease
and a refinement in her manner, a repose and a self-possession that
reminded Gabriel of his grandmother, when she was receiving the fine
ladies from a distance who sometimes called on her. The younger of the
two women, on the other hand, was the picture of health. The buoyancy of
youth possessed her. She had an eager, impatient way of handling her fan
and handkerchief, and there was a twinkle in her eye that spoke of
humour; but her glance never fell directly on the men in the waggon; all
her attention was for the invalid.

Mr. Goodlett, his greeting over, was for pushing on, but the voice of
the invalid detained him. "Can you tell me," she said, turning to Mr.
Sanders, "whether the Gaither Place is occupied? Oh, but I forgot; you
are just returning from that horrible, horrible war." She had lifted
herself from a reclining position, but fell back hopelessly.

"Why, Ab thar ought to be able to tell you that," responded Mr. Sanders,
his voice full of sympathy.

"Well, I jest ain't," declared Mr. Goodlett, with some show of
impatience. "I tell you, William, I been so worried an' flurried, an' so
disqualified an' mortified, an' so het up wi' fust one thing an' then
another, that I ain't skacely had time for to scratch myself on the
eatchin' places, much less gittin' up all times er night for to see ef
the Gaither Place is got folks or ha'nts in it. When you've been through
what I have, William, you won't come a-axin' me ef the Gaither house is
whar it mought be, or whar it oughter be, or ef it's popylated or
dispopylated."

The young lady stroked the invalid's hand and smiled. Something in the
frowning face and fractious tone of the old man evidently appealed to
her sense of humour. "Don't you think it is absurd," said the pale lady,
again appealing to Mr. Sanders, "that a person should live in so small a
town, and not know whether one of the largest houses in the place is
occupied--a house that belongs to a family that used to be one of the
most prominent of the county? Why, of course it is absurd. There is
something uncanny about it. I haven't had such a shock in many a day."

"But, mother," protested the young lady, "why worry about it? A great
many strange things have happened to us, and this is the least important
of all."

"Why, dearest, this is the strangest of all strange things. The driver
here says he lives at Dorringtons', and the Gaither house is not so very
far from Dorringtons'."

"Everybody knows," said Gabriel, "that Miss Polly Gaither lives in the
Gaither house." He spoke before he was aware, and began to blush.
Whereupon the young lady gave him a very bright smile.

"Humph!" grunted Mr. Goodlett, giving the lad a severe look. He started
to climb into his seat, but turned to Gabriel. "Is she got a wen?" he
asked, with something like a scowl.

"Yes, she has a wen," replied the lad, blushing again, but this time for
Mr. Goodlett.

"Well, then, ef she's got a wen, ef Polly Gaithers is got a wen, she's
livin' in that house, bekaze, no longer'n last Sat'day, she come roun'
for to borry some meal; an' whatsomever she use to have, an' whatsomever
she mought have herearter, she's got a wen now, an' I'll tell you so on
a stack of Bibles as high as the court-house."

The young lady laughed, but immediately controlled herself with a
half-petulant "Oh dear!" Laughter became her well, for it smoothed away
a little frown of perplexity that had established itself between her
eyebrows.

"Oh, we'll take the young man's word for it," said the invalid, "and we
are very much obliged to him. What is your name?" When Gabriel had told
her, she repeated the name over again. "I used to know your grandmother
very well," she said. "Tell her Margaret Bridalbin has returned home,
and would be delighted to see her."

"Then, ma'am, you must be Margaret Gaither," remarked Mr. Sanders.

"Yes, I was Margaret Gaither," replied the invalid. "I used to know you
very well, Mr. Sanders, and if I had changed as little as you have, I
could still boast of my beauty."

"Yet nobody hears me braggin' of mine, Margaret," said Mr. Sanders with
a smile that found its reflection in the daughter's face; "but I hope
from my heart that home an' old friends will be a good physic for you,
an' git you to braggin' ag'in. Anyhow, ef you don't brag on yourself,
you can take up a good part of the time braggin' on your daughter."

"Oh, thank you, sir, for the clever joke. My mother has told me long ago
how full of fun you are," said the young lady, blushing sufficiently to
show that she did not regard the compliment as altogether a joke. "You
may drive on now," she remarked to Mr. Goodlett. Whereupon that
surly-looking veteran slapped his mismatched team with the loose ends of
the reins, and the shabby old hack moved off toward Shady Dale. Mr.
Sanders waited for the vehicle to get some distance ahead, and then he
too urged his team forward.

"The word is Home," he said; "I reckon Margaret has had her sheer of
trouble, an' a few slices more. She made her own bed, as the sayin' is,
an' now she's layin' on it. Well, well, well! when time an' occasions
take arter you, it ain't no use to run; you mought jest as well set
right flat on the ground an' see what they've got ag'in you."

The remark was not original, nor very deep, but it recurred to Gabriel
when trouble plucked at his own sleeve, or when he saw disaster run
through a family like a contagion.

In no long time the waggon reached the outskirts of the town, where the
highway became a part of the wide street that ran through the centre of
Shady Dale, flowing around the old court-house in the semblance of a
wide river embracing a small island. Gabriel and Cephas were on the
point of leaving the waggon here, but Mr. Sanders was of another mind.

"Ride on to Dorrin'tons' wi' us," he said. "I want to swap a joke or two
wi' Mrs. Ab."

"She's sure to get the best of it," Gabriel warned him.

"Likely enough, but that won't spile the fun," responded Mr. Sanders.

Mrs. Absalom, as she was called, was the wife of Mr. Goodlett, and was
marked off from the great majority of her sex by her keen appreciation
of humour. Her own contributions were spoiled for some, for the reason
that she gave them the tone of quarrelsomeness; whereas, it is to be
doubted whether she ever gave way to real anger more than once or twice
in her life. She was Dr. Randolph Dorrington's housekeeper, and was a
real mother to Nan, who was motherless before she had drawn a dozen
breaths of the poisonous air of this world.

By the time the waggon reached Dorrington's, Gabriel, acting on the
instructions of Mr. Sanders, had crawled under the cover of the waggon,
and was holding out a pair of old shoes, so that a passer-by would
imagine that some one was lying prone in the waggon with his feet
sticking out.

When the waggon reached the Dorrington Place, Mr. Sanders drew rein, and
hailed the house, having signed to Cephas to make himself invisible.
Evidently Mrs. Absalom was in the rear, or in the kitchen, which was a
favourite resort of hers, for the "hello" had to be repeated a number of
times before she made her appearance. She came wiping her face on her
ample apron, and brushing the hair from her eyes. She was always a busy
housekeeper.

"We're huntin', ma'am, for a place called Cloptons'," said Mr. Sanders
in a falsetto voice, his hat pulled down over his eyes; "an' we'd thank
you might'ly ef you'd put us on the right road. About four mile back, we
picked up a' old snoozer who calls himself William H. Sanders, an' he
keeps on talkin' about the Clopton Place."

"Why, the Clopton Place is right down the road a piece. What in the
world is the matter wi' old Billy?" she inquired with real solicitude.
"Was he wounded in the war, or is he jest up to some of his old-time
devilment?"

"Well, ma'am, from the looks of the jimmyjon we found by his side, he
must 'a' shot hisself in the neck. He complains of cold feet, an' he's
got 'em stuck out from under the kiver."

"Don't you worry about that," said Mrs. Absalom; "the climate will never
strike in on old Billy's feet till he gits better acquainted wi' soap
an' water."

"An' he talks in his sleep about a Mrs. Absalom," Mr. Sanders went on,
"an' he cries, an' says she used to be his sweetheart, but he had to
jilt her bekaze she can't cook a decent biscuit."

"The old villain!" exclaimed Mrs. Absalom, with well simulated
indignation; "he can't tell the truth even when he's drunk. If he ever
sobers up in this world, I'll give him a long piece of my mind. Jest
drive on the way you've started, an' ef you can keep in the middle of
the road wi' that drunken old slink in the waggin, you'll come to
Cloptons' in a mighty few minutes."

At this juncture Mr. Sanders was obliged to laugh, whereupon, Mrs.
Absalom, looking narrowly at the travellers, had no difficulty in
recognising them. "Well, my life!" she exclaimed, raising her hands
above her head in a gesture of amazement. "Why, that's old Billy, an'
him sober; and Franky Bethune, an' him not a primpin'! Well, well! I'd
'a' never believed it ef I hadn't 'a' seed it. I vow I'm beginnin' to
believe that war's a real good thing; it's like a revival meetin' for
some folks. I'm sorry Ab didn't take his gun an' jine in--maybe he'd 'a'
shed his stinginess. But I declare to gracious, I'm glad to see you all;
the sight of you is good for the sore eyes. An' Frank tryin' to raise a
beard! Well, honey, I'll send you a bottle of bergamot grease to rub on
it."

Mrs. Absalom came out to the waggon and shook hands with the returned
warriors very heartily, and, sharp as her tongue was, there were tears
in her eyes as she greeted them; for in that region, nearly all had
feelings of kinship for their neighbours and friends, and in that day
and time, people were not ashamed of their emotions.

"Margaret Gaither has come back," remarked Mr. Sanders. "Ab fetched her
in his hack."

"Well, the poor creetur'!" exclaimed Mrs. Absalom; "they say she's had
trouble piled on her house-high."

"She won't have much more in this world ef looks is any sign," Mr.
Sanders replied. "She ain't nothin' but a livin' skeleton, but she's got
a mighty lively gal."

The waggon moved on and left Mrs. Absalom leaning on the gate, a
position that she kept for some little time. Farther down the road,
Gabriel, whose example was followed by Cephas, bade Mr. Sanders
good-bye, nodded lightly to Francis Bethune, and jumped from the waggon.

"Wait a moment, Tolliver," said Bethune. "I want you to come to see
me--and bring Cephas with you. I am going to make you like me if I can.
The home folks have been writing great things about you. Oh, you _must_
come," he insisted, seeing that Gabriel was hesitating. "I want to show
you what a good fellow I can be when I try right hard."

"Yes, you boys must come," said Mr. Sanders; "an' ef Frank is off
courtin' that new gal--I ketched him cuttin' his eye at her--you can
hunt me up, an' I'll tell you some old-time tales that'll make your hair
stan' on end."



CHAPTER FIVE

_The Story of Margaret Gaither_


Gabriel and Cephas started toward their homes, which lay in the same
direction. Instead of going around by road or street, they cut across
the fields and woods. Before they had gone very far, they heard a
rustling, swishing sound in the pine-thicket through which they were
passing, but gave it little attention, both being used to the noises
common to the forest. In their minds it was either a rabbit or a grey
fox scuttling away; or a poree scratching in the bushes, or a
ground-squirrel running in the underbrush.

But a moment later, Nan Dorrington, followed by Tasma Tid, burst from
the pine-thicket, crying, "Oh, you walk so fast, you two!" She was
panting and laughing, and as she stood before the lads, one little hand
at her throat, and the other vainly trying to control her flying hair, a
delicious rosiness illuminating her face, Gabriel knew that he had just
been doing her a gross injustice. As he walked along the path, followed
by his faithful Cephas, he had been mentally comparing her to a young
woman he had just seen in Mr. Goodlett's hack; and had been saying to
himself that the new-comer was, if possible, more beautiful than Nan.

But now here was Nan herself in person, and Gabriel's comparisons
appeared to be shabby indeed. With Nan before his eyes, he could see
what a foolish thing it was to compare her with any one in this world
except herself. There was a flavour of wildness in her beauty that gave
it infinite charm and variety. It was a wildness that is wedded to grace
and vivacity, such as we see embodied in the form and gestures of the
wood-dove, or the partridge, or the flying squirrel, when it is un-awed
by the presence of man. The flash of her dark brown eyes, her tawny hair
blowing free, and her lithe figure, with the dark green pines for a
background, completed the most charming picture it is possible for the
mind to conceive. All that Gabriel was conscious of, beyond a dim
surprise that Nan should be here--the old Nan that he used to know--was
a sort of dawning thrill of ecstasy as he contemplated her. He stood
staring at her with his mouth open.

"Why do you look at me like that, Gabriel?" she cried; "I am no ghost.
And why do you walk so fast? I have been running after you as hard as I
can. And, wasn't that Francis Bethune in the waggon with Mr. Sanders?"

"Did you run hard just to ask me that? Mrs. Absalom could have saved you
all this trouble." The mention of Bethune's name had brought Gabriel to
earth, and to commonplace thoughts again. "Yes, that was Master Bethune,
and he has grown to be a very handsome young man."

"Oh, he was always good-looking," said Nan lightly. "Where are you and
Cephas going?"

"Straight home," replied Gabriel.

"Well, I'm going there, too. I heard Nonny" (this was Mrs. Absalom) "say
that Margaret Gaither has come home again, and then I remembered that
your grandmother promised to tell me a story about her some day. I'm
going to tease her to-day until she tells it."

"And didn't Mrs. Absalom tell you that Bethune was in the waggon with
Mr. Sanders?" Gabriel inquired, in some astonishment.

"Oh, Gabriel! you are so--" Nan paused as if hunting for the right term
or word. Evidently she didn't find it, for she turned to Gabriel with a
winning smile, and asked what Mr. Sanders had had to say. "I'm so glad
he's come I don't know what to do. I wouldn't live in a town that didn't
have its Mr. Sanders," she declared.

"Well, about the first thing he said was to remind Bethune of the time
when you whacked him over the head with a cudgel."

"And what did Master Francis say to that?" inquired Nan, with a laugh.

"Why, what could he say? He simply turned red. Now, if it had been me,
I----"

The path was so narrow, that Nan, the two lads, and Tasma Tid were
walking in Indian file. Nan stopped so suddenly and unexpectedly that
Gabriel fell against her. As he did so, she turned and seized him by the
arm, and emphasised her words by shaking him gently as each was uttered.
"Now--Gabriel--don't--say--disagreeable--things!"

What she meant he had not the least idea, and it was not the first nor
the last time that his wit lacked the nimbleness to follow and catch her
meaning.

"Disagreeable!" he exclaimed. "Why, I was simply going to say that if I
had been in Bethune's shoes to-day, I should have declared that you did
the proper thing."

Nan dropped a low curtsey, saying, "Oh, thank you, sir--what was the
gentleman's name, Cephas--the gentleman who was such a cavalier?"

"Was he a Frenchman?" asked Cephas.

"Oh, Cephas! you should be ashamed. You have as little learning as I."
With that she turned and went along the path at such a rapid pace that
it was as much as the lads could do to keep up with her, without
breaking into an undignified trot.

Nan went home with Gabriel; was there before him indeed, for he paused a
moment to say something to Cephas. She ran along the walk, took the
steps two at a time, and as she ran skipping along the hallway, she
cried out: "Grandmother Lumsden! where are you? Oh, what do you think?
Margaret Gaither has come home!" When Gabriel entered the room, Nan had
fetched a footstool, and was already sitting at Mrs. Lumsden's feet,
holding one of the old lady's frail, but beautiful white hands.

Here was another picture, the beauty of which dawned on Gabriel
later--youth and innocence sitting at the feet of sweet and wholesome
old age. The lad was always proud of his grandmother, but never more so
than at that moment when her beauty and refinement were brought into
high relief by her attitude toward Nan Dorrington. Gabriel was very
happy to be near those two. Not for a weary time had Nan been so
friendly and familiar as she was now, and he felt a kind of exaltation.

"Margaret Gaither! Margaret Gaither!" Gabriel's grandmother repeated the
name as if trying to summon up some memory of the past. "Poor girl! Did
you see her, Gabriel? And how did she look?" With a boy's bluntness, he
described her physical condition, exaggerating, perhaps, its worst
features, for these had made a deep impression on him. "Oh, I'm so sorry
for her! and she has a daughter!" said Mrs. Lumsden softly. "I will call
on them as soon as possible. And then if poor Margaret is unable to
return the visit, the daughter will come. And you must be here, Nan;
Gabriel will fetch you. And you, Gabriel--for once you must be polite
and agreeable. Candace shall brush up your best suit, and if it is to be
mended, I will mend it."

Nan and Gabriel laughed at this. Both knew that this famous best suit
would not reach to the lad's ankles, and that the sleeves of the coat
would end a little way below the elbow.

"I can't imagine what you are laughing at," said Mrs. Lumsden, with a
faint smile. "I am sure the suit is a very respectable one, especially
when you have none better."

"No, Grandmother Lumsden; Gabriel will have to take his tea in the
kitchen with Aunt Candace."

However, the affair never came off. The dear old lady, in whom the
social instinct was so strong, had no opportunity to send the invitation
until long afterward. Nan was compelled to beg very hard for the story
of Margaret Gaither. It was never the habit of Gabriel's grandmother to
indulge in idle gossip; she could always find some excuse for the faults
of those who were unfortunate; but Nan had the art of persuasion at her
tongue's end. Whether it was this fact or the fact that Mrs. Lumsden
believed that the story carried a moral that Nan would do well to
digest, it would be impossible to say. At any rate, the youngsters soon
had their desire. The story will hardly bear retelling; it can be
compressed into a dozen lines, and be made as uninteresting as a
newspaper paragraph; but, as told by Gabriel's grandmother, it had the
charm which sympathy and pity never fail to impart to a narrative. When
it came to an end, Nan was almost in tears, though she could never tell
why.

"It happened, Nan, before you and Gabriel were born," said Mrs. Lumsden.
"Margaret Gaither was one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen,
and at that time Pulaski Tomlin was one of the handsomest young men in
all this region. Naturally these two were drawn together. They were in
love with each other from the first, and, finally, a day was set for the
wedding. They were to have been married in November, but one night in
October, the Tomlin Place was found to be on fire. The flames had made
considerable headway before they were discovered, and, to me, it was a
most horrible sight. Yet, horrible as it was, there was a fascination
about it. The sweeping roar of the flames attracted me and held me
spellbound, but I hope I shall never be under such a spell again.

"Well, it was impossible to save the house, and no one attempted such a
preposterous feat. It was all that the neighbours could do to prevent
the spread of the flames to the nearby houses. Some of the furniture was
saved, but the house was left to burn. All of a sudden, Fanny
Tomlin----"

"You mean Aunt Fanny?" interrupted Nan.

"Yes, my dear. All of a sudden Fanny Tomlin remembered that her mother's
portrait had been left hanging on the wall. Without a word to any one
she ran into the house. How she ever passed through the door safely, I
never could understand, for every instant, it seemed to me, great
tongues and sheets of flame were darting across it and lapping and
licking inward, as if trying to force an entrance. You may be sure that
we who were looking on, helpless, held our breaths when Fanny Tomlin
disappeared through the doorway. Pulaski Tomlin was not a witness to
this performance, but he was quickly informed of it; and then he ran
this way and that, like one distraught. Twice he called her name, and
his voice must have been heard above the roar of the flames, for
presently she appeared at an upper window, and cried out, 'What is it,
brother?' 'Come down! Come out!' he shouted. 'I'm afraid I can't,' she
answered; and then she waved her hand and disappeared, after trying
vainly to close the blinds.

"But no sooner had Pulaski Tomlin caught a glimpse of his sister, and
heard her voice, than he lowered his head like an angry bull, and rushed
through the flames that now had possession of the door. I, for one,
never expected to see him again; and I stood there frightened,
horrified, fascinated, utterly helpless. Oh, when you go through a trial
like that, my dear," said Mrs. Lumsden, stroking Nan's hair gently, "you
will realise how small and weak and contemptible human beings are when
they are engaged in a contest with the elements. There we stood,
helpless and horror-stricken, with two of our friends in the burning
house, which was now almost completely covered with the roaring flames.
What thoughts I had I could never tell you, but I wondered afterward
that I had not become suddenly grey.

"We waited an age, it seemed to me. Major Tomlin Perdue, of Halcyondale,
who happened to be here at the time, was walking about wringing his
hands and crying like a child. Up to that moment, I had thought him to
be a hard and cruel man, but we can never judge others, not even our
closest acquaintances, until we see them put to the test. Suddenly, I
heard Major Perdue cry, 'Ah!' and saw him leap forward as a wild animal
leaps.

"Through the doorway, which was now entirely covered with a roaring
flame, a blurred and smoking figure had rushed--a bulky, shapeless
figure, it seemed--and then it collapsed and fell, and lay in the midst
of the smoke, almost within reach of the flames. But Major Perdue was
there in an instant, and he dragged the shapeless mass away from the
withering heat and stifling smoke. After this, he had more assistance
than was necessary or desirable.

"'Stand back!' he cried; and his voice had in it the note that men never
fail to obey. 'Stand back there! Where is Dorrington? Why isn't he
here?' Your father, my dear, had gone into the country to see a patient.
He was on his way home when he saw the red reflection of the flames in
the sky, and he hastened as rapidly as his horse could go. He arrived
just in the nick of time. He heard his name called as he drove up, and
was prompt to answer. 'Make way there!' commanded Major Perdue; 'make
way for Dorrington. And you ladies go home! There's nothing you can do
here.' Then I heard Fanny Tomlin call my name, and Major Perdue repeated
in a ringing voice, 'Lucy Lumsden is wanted here!'

"I don't know how it was, but every command given by Major Perdue was
obeyed promptly. The crowd dispersed at once, with the exception of two
or three, who were detailed to watch the few valuables that had been
saved, and a few men who lingered to see if they could be of any
service.

"Pulaski Tomlin had been kinder to his sister than to himself. Only the
hem of her dress was scorched. It may be absurd to say so, but that was
the first thing I noticed; and, in fact, that was all the injury she had
suffered. Her brother had found her unconscious on a bed, and he simply
rolled her in the quilts and blankets, and brought her downstairs, and
out through the smoke and flame to the point where he fell. Fanny has
not so much as a scar to show. But you can look at her brother's face
and see what he suffered. When they lifted him into your father's buggy,
his outer garments literally crumbled beneath the touch, and one whole
side of his face was raw and bleeding.

"But he never thought of himself, though the agony he endured must have
been awful. His first word was about his sister: 'Is Fanny hurt?' And
when he was told that she was unharmed, he closed his eyes, saying,
'Don't worry about me.' We brought him here--it was Fanny's wish--and by
the time he had been placed in bed, the muscles of his mouth were drawn
as you see them now. There was nothing to do but to apply cold water,
and this was done for the most part by Major Perdue, though both Fanny
and I were anxious to relieve him. I never saw a man so devoted in his
attentions. He was absolutely tireless; and I was so struck with his
tender solicitude that I felt obliged to make to him what was at once a
confession and an apology. 'I once thought, Major Perdue, that you were
a hard and cruel man,' said I, 'but I'll never think so again.'

"'But why did you think so in the first place?' he asked.

"'Well, I had heard of several of your shooting scrapes,' I replied.

"He regarded me with a smile. 'There are two sides to everything,
especially a row,' he said. 'I made up my mind when a boy that
turn-about is fair play. When I insult a man, I'm prepared to take the
consequences; yet I never insulted a man in my life. The man that
insults me must pay for it. Women may wipe their feet on me, and
children may spit on me; but no man shall insult me, not by so much as
the lift of an eyelash, or the twitch of an upper-lip. Pulaski here has
done me many a favour, some that he tried to hide, and I'd never get
through paying him if I were to nurse him night and day for the rest of
my natural life. In some things, Ma'am, you'll find me almost as good as
a dog.'

"I must have given him a curious stare," continued Mrs. Lumsden, "for he
laughed softly, and remarked, 'If you'll think it over, Ma'am, you'll
find that a dog has some mighty fine qualities.' And it is true."

"But what about Margaret Gaither?" inquired Nan, who was determined that
the love-story should not be lost in a wilderness of trifles--as she
judged them to be.

"Poor Margaret!" murmured Gabriel's grandmother. "I declare! I had
almost forgotten her. Well, bright and early the next morning, Margaret
came and asked to see Pulaski Tomlin. I left her in the parlour, and
carried her request to the sick-room.

"'Brother,' said Fanny, 'Margaret is here, and wants to see you. Shall
she come in?'

"I saw Pulaski clench his hands; his bosom heaved and his lips quivered.
'Not for the world!' he exclaimed; 'oh, not for the world!'

"'I can't tell her that,' said I. 'Nor I,' sobbed Fanny, covering her
face with her hands. 'Oh, it will kill her!'

"Major Perdue turned to me, his eyes wet. 'Do you know why he doesn't
want her to see him?' I could only give an affirmative nod. 'Do you
know, Fanny?' She could only say, 'Yes, yes!' between her sobs. 'It is
for her sake alone; we all see that,' declared Major Perdue. 'Now,
then,' he went on, touching me on the arm, 'I want you to see how hard a
hard man can be. Show me where the poor child is.'

"I led him to the parlour door. He stood aside for me to enter first,
but I shook my head and leaned against the door for support. 'This is
Miss Gaither?' he said, as he entered alone. 'My name is Perdue--Tomlin
Perdue. We are very sorry, but no one is permitted to see Pulaski,
except those who are nursing him.' 'That is what I am here for,' she
said, 'and no one has a better right. I am to be his wife; we are to be
married next month.' 'It is not a matter of right, Miss Gaither. Are you
prepared to sustain a very severe shock?' 'Why, what--what is the
trouble?' 'Can you not conceive a reason why you should not see him
now--at this time, and for many days to come?' 'I cannot,' she replied
haughtily. 'That, Miss Gaither, is precisely the reason why you are not
to see him now,' said Major Perdue. His tone was at once humble and
tender. 'I don't understand you at all,' she exclaimed almost violently.
'I tell you I will see him; I'll beat upon the wall; I'll lie across the
door, and compel you to open it. Oh, why am I treated so and by his
friends!' She flung herself upon a sofa, weeping wildly; and there I
found her, when, a moment later, I entered the room in response to a
gesture from Major Perdue.

"Whether she glanced up and saw me, or whether she divined my presence,
I could never guess," Gabriel's grandmother went on, "but without
raising her face, she began to speak to me. 'This is your house, Miss
Lucy,' she said--she always called me Miss Lucy--'and why can't I, his
future wife, go in and speak to Pulaski; or, at the very least, hold his
hand, and help you and Fanny minister to his wants?' I made her no
answer, for I could not trust myself to speak; I simply sat on the edge
of the sofa by her, and stroked her hair, trying in this mute way to
demonstrate my sympathy. She seemed to take some comfort from this, and
finally put her request in a different shape. Would I permit her to sit
in a chair near the door of the room in which Pulaski lay, until such
time as she could see him? 'I will give you no trouble whatever,' she
said. 'I am determined to see him,' she declared; 'he is mine, and I am
his.' I gave a cordial assent to this proposition, carried a comfortable
chair and placed it near the door, and there she stationed herself.

"I went into the room where the others were, and was surprised to see
Fanny Tomlin looking so cheerful. Even Major Perdue appeared to be
relieved. Fanny asked me a question with her eyes, and I answered it
aloud. 'She is sitting by the door, and says she will remain there until
she can see Pulaski.' He beat his hand against the headboard of the bed,
his mental agony was so great, and kept murmuring to himself. Major
Perdue turned his back on his friend's writhings, and went to the
window. Presently he returned to the bedside, his watch in his hand.
'Pulaski,' he said, 'if she's there fifteen minutes from now, I shall
invite her in.' Pulaski Tomlin made no reply, and we continued our
ministrations in perfect silence.

"A few minutes later, I had occasion to go into my own room for a strip
of linen, and to my utter amazement, the chair I had placed for Margaret
Gaither was empty. Had she gone for a drink of water, or for a book? I
went from room to room, calling her name, but she had gone; and I have
never laid eyes on her from that day to this. She went away to Malvern
on a visit, and while there eloped with a Louisiana man named Bridalbin,
whose reputation was none too savoury, and we never heard of her again.
Even her Aunt Polly lost all trace of her."

"What did Mr. Tomlin say when you told him she was gone?" Nan inquired.

"We never told him. I think he understood that she was gone almost as
soon as she went, for his spiritual faculties are very keen. I remember
on one occasion, and that not so very long ago, when he refused to
retire at night, because he had a feeling that he would be called for;
and his intuitions were correct. He was summoned to the bedside of one
of his friends in the country, and, as he went along, he carried your
father with him. Margaret Gaither, such as she was, was the sum and the
substance of his first and last romance. He suffered, but his suffering
has made him strong.

"Yes," Mrs. Lumsden went on, "it has made him strong and great in the
highest sense. Do you know why he is called Neighbour Tomlin? It is
because he loves his neighbours as he loves himself. There is no
sacrifice that he will not make for them. The poorest and meanest person
in the world, black or white, can knock at Neighbour Tomlin's door any
hour of the day or night, and obtain food, money or advice, as the case
may be. If his wife or his children are ill, Neighbour Tomlin will get
out of bed and go in the cold and rain, and give them the necessary
attention. To me, there never was a more beautiful countenance in the
world than Neighbour Tomlin's poor scarred face. But for that misfortune
we should probably never have known what manner of man he is. The
Providence that urged Margaret Gaither to fly from this house was
arranging for the succour of many hundreds of unfortunates, and Pulaski
Tomlin was its instrument."

"If I had been Margaret Gaither," said Nan, clenching her hands
together, "I never would have left that door. Never! They couldn't have
dragged me away. I've never been in love, I hope, but I have feelings
that tell me what it is, and I never would have gone away."

"Well, we must not judge others," said Gabriel's grandmother gently.
"Poor Margaret acted according to her nature. She was vain, and lacked
stability, but I really believe that Providence had a hand in the whole
matter."

"I know I'm pretty," remarked Nan, solemnly, "but I'm not vain."

"Why, Nan!" exclaimed Mrs. Lumsden, laughing; "what put in your head the
idea that you are pretty?"

"I don't mean my own self," explained Nan, "but the other self that I
see in the glass. She and I are very good friends, but sometimes we
quarrel. She isn't the one that would have stayed at the door, but my
own, own self."

Mrs. Lumsden looked at the girl closely to see if she was joking, but
Nan was very serious indeed. "I'm sure I don't understand you," said
Gabriel's grandmother.

"Gabriel does," replied Nan complacently. Gabriel understood well
enough, but he never could have explained it satisfactorily to any one
who was unfamiliar with Nan's way of putting things.

"Well, you are certainly a pretty girl, Nan," Gabriel's grandmother
admitted, "and when you and Francis Bethune are married, you will make a
handsome pair."

"When Francis Bethune and I are married!" exclaimed Nan, giving a swift
side-glance at Gabriel, who pretended to be reading. "Why, what put such
an idea in your head, Grandmother Lumsden?"

"Why, it is on the cards, my dear. It is what, in my young days, they
used to call the proper caper."

"Well, when Frank and I are to be married, I'll send you a card of
invitation so large that you will be unable to get it in the front
door." She rose from the footstool, saying, "I must go home; good-bye,
everybody; and send me word when you have chocolate cake."

This was so much like the Nan who had been his comrade for so long that
Gabriel felt a little thrill of exultation. A little later he asked his
grandmother what she meant by saying that it was on the cards for Nan to
marry Bethune.

"Why, I have an idea that the matter has already been arranged," she
answered with a knowing smile. "It would be so natural and appropriate.
You are too young to appreciate the wisdom of such arrangements,
Gabriel, but you will understand it when you are older. Nan is not
related in any way to the Cloptons, though a great many people think so.
Her grandmother was captured by the Creeks when only a year or two old.
She was the only survivor of a party of seven which had been ambushed by
the Indians. She was too young to give any information about herself.
She could say a few words, and she knew that her name was Rosalind, but
that was all. She was ransomed by General McGillivray, and sent to Shady
Dale. Under the circumstances, there was nothing for Raleigh Clopton to
do but adopt her. Thus she became Rosalind Clopton. She married Benier
Odom when, as well as could be judged, she was more than forty years
old. Randolph Dorrington married her daughter, who died when Nan was
born. Marriage, Gabriel, is not what young people think it is; and I do
hope that when you take a wife, it will be some one you have known all
your life."

"I hope so, too," Gabriel responded with great heartiness.



CHAPTER SIX

_The Passing of Margaret_


The day after the return of Mr. Sanders and Francis Bethune from the
war, Gabriel's grandmother had an early caller in the person of Miss
Fanny Tomlin. For a maiden lady, Miss Fanny was very plump and
good-looking. Her hair was grey, and she still wore it in short curls,
just as she had worn it when a girl. The style became her well. The
short curls gave her an air of jauntiness, which was in perfect keeping
with her disposition, and they made a very pretty frame for her rosy,
smiling face. Socially, she was the most popular person in the town,
with both young and old. A children's party was a dull affair in Shady
Dale without Miss Fanny to give it shape and form, to suggest games, and
to make it certain that the timid ones should have their fair share of
the enjoyment. Indeed, the community would have been a very dull one but
for Miss Fanny; in return for which the young people conferred the
distinction of kinship on her by calling her Aunt Fanny. She had
remained single because her youngest brother, Pulaski, was unmarried,
and needed some one to take care of him, so she said. But she had
another brother, Silas Tomlin, who was twice a widower, and who seemed
to need some one to take care of him, for he presented a very mean and
miserable appearance.

It chanced that when Miss Fanny called, Gabriel was studying his
lessons, using the dining-room table as a desk, and he was able to hear
the conversation that ensued. Miss Fanny stood on no ceremony in
entering. The front door was open and she entered without knocking,
saying, "If there's nobody at home I'll carry the house away. Where are
you, Lucy?"

"In my room, Fanny; come right in."

"How are you, and how is the high and mighty Gabriel?" Having received
satisfactory answers to her friendly inquiries, Miss Fanny plunged at
once into the business that had brought her out so early. "What do you
think, Lucy? Margaret Gaither and her daughter have returned. They are
at the Gaither Place, and Miss Polly has just told me that there isn't a
mouthful to eat in the house--and there is Margaret at the point of
death! Why, it is dreadful. Something must be done at once, that's
certain. I wouldn't have bothered you, but you know what the
circumstances are. I don't know what Margaret's feelings are with
respect to me; you know we never were bosom friends. Yet I never really
disliked her, and now, after all that has happened, I couldn't bear to
think that she was suffering for anything. Likely enough she would be
embarrassed if I called and offered assistance. What is to be done?"

"Wouldn't it be best for some one to call--some one who was her
friend?" The cool, level voice of Gabriel's grandmother seemed to clear
the atmosphere. "Whatever is to be done should be done sympathetically.
If I could see Polly, there would be no difficulty."

"Well, I saw Miss Polly," said Miss Fanny, "and she told me the whole
situation, and I was on the point of saying that I'd run back home and
send something over, when an upper window was opened, and Margaret
Gaither's daughter stood there gazing at me--and she's a beauty, Lucy;
there's a chance for Gabriel there. Well, you know how deaf Miss Polly
is; if I had said what I wanted to say, that child would have heard
every word, and there was something in her face that held me dumb. Miss
Polly talked and I nodded my head, and that was all. The old soul must
have thought the cat had my tongue." Miss Fanny laughed uneasily as she
made the last remark.

"If Margaret is ill, she should have attention. I will go there this
morning." This was Mrs. Lumsden's decision.

"I'll send the carriage for you as soon as I can run home," said Miss
Fanny. With that she rose to go, and hustled out of the room, but in the
hallway she turned and remarked: "Tell Gabriel that he will have to
lengthen his suspenders, now that Nan has put on long dresses."

"Oh, no!" protested Mrs. Lumsden. "We mustn't put any such nonsense in
Gabriel's head. Nan is for Francis Bethune. If it isn't all arranged it
ought to be. Why, the land of Dorrington joins the land that Bethune
will fall heir to some day, and it seems natural that the two estates
should become one." Gabriel's grandmother had old-fashioned ideas about
marriage.

"Oh, I see!" replied Miss Fanny with a laugh; "you are so intent on
joining the two estates in wedlock that you take no account of the
individuals. But brother Pulaski says that for many years to come, the
more land a man has the poorer he will become."

"Upon my word, I don't see how that can be," responded Mrs. Lumsden.
This was the first faint whiff of the new order that had come to the
nostrils of the dear old lady.

Miss Fanny went home, and in no long time Neighbour Tomlin's carriage
came to the door. At the last moment, Mrs. Lumsden decided that Gabriel
should go with her. "It may be necessary for you to go on an errand. I
presume there are servants there, but I don't know whether they are to
be depended on."

So Gabriel helped his grandmother into the carriage, climbed in after
her, and in a very short time they were at the Gaither Place. The young
woman whom Gabriel had seen in Mr. Goodlett's hack was standing in the
door, and the little frown on her forehead was more pronounced than
ever. She was evidently troubled.

"Good-morning," said Mrs. Lumsden. "I have come to see Margaret. Does
she receive visitors?"

"My name is Margaret, too," said the young woman, after returning Mrs.
Lumsden's salutation, and bowing to Gabriel. "But of course you came to
see my mother. She is upstairs--she would be carried there, though I
begged her to take one of the lower rooms. She is in the room in which
she was born."

"I know the way very well," said Mrs. Lumsden. She was for starting up
the stairway, but the young woman detained her by a gesture and turned
to Gabriel.

"Won't you come in?" she inquired. "We are old acquaintances, you know.
Your name is Gabriel--wait!--Gabriel Tolliver. Don't you see how well I
know you? Come, we'll help your grandmother up the stairs." This they
did--the girl with the firm and practised hand of an expert, and Gabriel
with the awkwardness common to young fellows of his age. The young woman
led Mrs. Lumsden to her mother's bedside, and presently came back to
Gabriel.

"We will go down now, if you please," she said. "My mother is very
ill--worse than she has ever been--and you can't imagine how lonely I
am. Mother is at home here, while my home, if I have any, is in
Louisiana. I suppose you never had any trouble?"

"My mother is dead," he said simply. Margaret reached out her hand and
touched him gently on the arm. It was a gesture of impulsive sympathy.

"What is it?" Gabriel asked, thinking she was calling his attention to
something she saw or heard.

"Nothing," she said softly. Gabriel understood then, and he could have
kicked himself for his stupidity. "Your grandmother is a very beautiful
old lady," she remarked after a period of silence.

"She is very good to me," Gabriel replied, at a loss what to say, for he
always shrank from praising those near and dear to him. As he sat
there, he marvelled at the self-possession of this young woman in the
midst of strangers, and with her mother critically ill.

In a little while he heard his grandmother calling him from the head of
the stairs. "Gabriel, jump in the carriage and fetch Dr. Dorrington at
once. He's at home at this hour."

He did as he was bid, and Nan, who was coming uptown on business of her
own, so she said, must needs get in the carriage with her father. The
combination was more than Gabriel had bargained for. There was a twinkle
in Dr. Dorrington's eye, as he glanced good-humouredly from one to the
other, that Gabriel did not like at all. For some reason or other, which
he was unable to fathom, the young man was inclined to fight shy of
Nan's father; and there was nothing he liked less than to find himself
in Dr. Dorrington's company--more especially when Nan was present, too.
Noting the quizzical glances of the physician, Gabriel, like a great
booby, began to blush, and in another moment, Nan was blushing, too.

"Now, father"--she only called him father when she was angry, or
dreadfully in earnest--"Now, father! if you begin your teasing, I'll
jump from the carriage. I'll not ride with a grown man who doesn't know
how to behave in his daughter's company."

Her father laughed gaily. "Teasing? Why, I wasn't thinking of teasing. I
was just going to remark that the weather is very warm for the season,
and then I intended to suggest to Gabriel that, as I proposed to get
you a blue parasol, he would do well to get him a red one."

"And why should Gabriel get a parasol?" Nan inquired with a show of
indignation.

"Why, simply to be in the fashion," her father replied. "I remember the
time when you cried for a hat because Gabriel had one; I also remember
that once when you were wearing a sun-bonnet, Gabriel borrowed one and
wore it--and a pretty figure he cut in it."

"I don't see how you can remember it," said Gabriel laughing and
blushing.

"Well, I don't see how in the world I could forget it," Dr. Dorrington
responded in tone so solemn that Nan laughed in spite of her
uncomfortable feelings.

"You say Margaret Gaither has a daughter, Gabriel?" said Dr. Dorrington,
suddenly growing serious, much to the relief of the others. "And about
Nan's age? Well, you will have to go in with me, daughter, and see her.
If her mother is seriously ill, it will be a great comfort to her to
have near her some one of her own age."

Nan made a pretty little mouth at this command, to show that she didn't
relish it, but otherwise she made no objection. Indeed, as matters fell
out, it became almost her duty to go in to Margaret Bridalbin; for when
the carriage reached the house, the young girl was standing at the gate.

"Is this Dr. Dorrington? Well, you are to go up at once. They are
constantly calling to know if you have come. I don't know how my dearest
is--I dread to know. Oh, I am sure you will do what you can." There was
an appeal in the girl's voice that went straight to the heart of the
physician.

"You may make your mind easy on that score, my dear," said Dr.
Dorrington, laying his hand lightly on her shoulder. There was something
helpful and hopeful in the very tone of his voice. "This is my daughter
Nan," he added.

Margaret turned to Nan, who was lagging behind somewhat shyly. "Will you
please come in?--you and Gabriel Tolliver. It is very lonely here, and
everything is so still and quiet. My name is Margaret Bridalbin," she
said. She took Nan's hand, and looked into her eyes as if searching for
sympathy. And she must have found it there, for she drew Nan toward her
and kissed her.

That settled it for Nan. "My name is Nan Dorrington," she said,
swallowing a lump in her throat, "and I hope we shall be very good
friends."

"We are sure to be," replied the other, with emphasis. "I always know at
once."

They went into the dim parlour, and Nan and Margaret sat with their arms
entwined around each other. "Gabriel told me yesterday that you were a
young girl," Nan remarked.

"I am seventeen," replied the other.

"Only seventeen! Why, I am seventeen, and yet I seem to be a mere child
by the side of you. You talk and act just as a grown woman does."

"That is because I have never associated with children of my own age. I
have always been thrown with older persons. And then my mother has been
ill a long, long time, and I have been compelled to do a great deal of
thinking. I know of nothing more disagreeable than to have to think. Do
you dislike poor folks?"

"No, I don't," replied Nan, snuggling up to Margaret. "Some of my very
bestest friends are poor."

Margaret smiled at the childish adjective, and placed her cheek against
Nan's for a moment. "I'm glad you don't dislike poverty," she said, "for
we are very poor."

"When it comes to that," Nan responded, "everybody around here is
poor--everybody except Grandfather Clopton and Mr. Tomlin. They have
money, but I don't know where they get it. Nonny says that some folks
have only to dream of money, and when they wake in the morning they find
it under their pillows."

Dr. Dorrington came downstairs at this moment. "Your mother is very much
better than she was awhile ago," he said to Margaret. "She never should
have made so long a journey. She has wasted in that way strength enough
to have kept her alive for six months."

"I begged and implored her not to undertake it," the daughter explained,
"but nothing would move her. Even when she needed nourishing food, she
refused to buy it; she was saving it to bring her home."

"Well, she is here, now, and we'll do the best we can. Gabriel, will you
run over, and ask Fanny Tomlin to come? And if Neighbour Tomlin is there
tell him I want to see him on some important business."

It was very clear to Gabriel from all this that there was small hope
for the poor lady above. She might be better than she was when the
doctor arrived, but there was no ray of hope to be gathered from Dr.
Dorrington's countenance.

Pulaski Tomlin and his sister responded to the summons at once; and with
Gabriel's grandmother holding her hand, the poor lady had an interview
with Pulaski Tomlin. But she never saw his face nor he hers. The large
screen was carried upstairs from the dining-room, and placed in front of
the bed; and near the door a chair was placed for Pulaski Tomlin. It was
the heart's desire of the dying lady that Neighbour Tomlin should become
the guardian of her daughter. He was deeply affected when told of her
wishes, but before consenting to accept the responsibility, asked to see
the daughter, and went to the parlour, where she was sitting with Nan
and Gabriel. When he came in Nan ran and kissed him as she never failed
to do, for, though his face on one side was so scarred and drawn that
the sight of it sometimes shocked strangers, those who knew him well,
found his wounded countenance singularly attractive.

"This is Margaret," he said, taking the girl's hand. "Come into the
light, my dear, where you may see me as I am. Your mother has expressed
a wish that I should become your guardian. As an old and very dear
friend of mine, she has the right to make the request. I am willing and
more than willing to meet her wishes, but first I must have your
consent."

They went into the hallway, which was flooded with light. "Are you the
Mr. Tomlin of whom I have heard my mother speak?" Margaret asked,
fixing her clear eyes on his face; and when he had answered in the
affirmative--"I wonder that she asked you, after what she has told me.
She certainly has no claims on you."

"Ah, my dear, that is where you are wrong," he insisted. "I feel that
every one in this world has claims on me, especially those who were my
friends in old times. It is I who made a mistake, and not your mother;
and I should be glad to rectify that mistake now, as far as I can, by
carrying out her wishes. You know, of course, that she is very ill; will
you go up and speak with her?"

"No, not now; not when there are so many strangers there," Margaret
replied, and stood looking at him with almost childish wonder.

At this moment, Nan, who knew by heart all the little tricks of
friendship and affection, left Margaret, and took her stand by Neighbour
Tomlin's side. It was an indorsement that the other could not withstand.
She followed Nan, and said very firmly and earnestly, "It shall be as my
mother wishes."

"I hope you will never have cause to regret it," remarked Pulaski Tomlin
solemnly.

"She never will," Nan declared emphatically, as Pulaski Tomlin turned to
go upstairs.

He went up very slowly, as if lost in thought. He went to the room and
stood leaning against the framework of the door. "Pulaski is here," said
Miss Fanny, who had been waiting to announce his return.

"You remember, Pulaski," the invalid began, "that once when you were
ill, you would not permit me to see you. I was so ignorant that I was
angry; yes, and bitter; my vanity was wounded. And I was ignorant and
bitter for many years. I never knew until eighteen months ago why I was
not permitted to see you. I knew it one day, after I had been ill a long
time. I looked in the mirror and saw my wasted face and hollow eyes. I
knew then, and if I had known at first, Pulaski, everything would have
been so different. I have come all this terrible journey to ask you to
take my daughter and care for her. It is my last wish that you should be
her guardian and protector. Is she in the room? Can she hear what I am
about to say?"

"No, Margaret," replied Pulaski Tomlin, in a voice that was tremulous
and husky. "She is downstairs; I have just seen her."

"Well, she has no father according to my way of thinking," Margaret
Bridalbin went on. "Her father is a deserter from the Confederate army.
She doesn't know that; I tried to tell her, but my heart failed me.
Neither does she know that I have been divorced from him. These things
you can tell her when the occasion arises. If I had told her, it would
have been like accusing myself. I was responsible--I felt it and feel
it--and I simply could not tell her."

"I shall try to carry out your wishes, Margaret," said Pulaski Tomlin;
"I have seen your daughter, as Fanny suggested, and she has no objection
to the arrangement. I shall do all that you desire. She shall be to me a
most sacred charge."

"If you knew how happy you are making me, Pulaski--Oh, I am
grateful--grateful!"

"There should be no talk of gratitude between you and me, Margaret."

At a signal from Pulaski Tomlin, Judge Odom cleared his throat, and read
the document that he had drawn up, and his strong, business-like voice
went far toward relieving the strain that had been put on those who
heard the conversation between the dying woman and the man who had
formerly been her lover. Everything was arranged as she desired, every
wish she expressed had been carried out; and then, as if there was
nothing else to be done, the poor lady closed her eyes with a sigh, and
opened them no more in this world. It seemed that nothing had sustained
her but the hope of placing her daughter in charge of Pulaski Tomlin.



CHAPTER SEVEN

_Silas Tomlin Goes A-Calling_


When the solemn funeral ceremonies were over, it was arranged that Nan
should spend a few days with her new friend, Margaret Gaither--she was
never called by the name of her father after her mother died--and
Gabriel took advantage of Nan's temporary absence to pay a visit to Mrs.
Absalom. He was very fond of that strong-minded woman; but since Nan had
grown to be such a young lady, he had not called as often as he had been
in the habit of doing. He was afraid, indeed, that some one would accuse
him of a sneaking desire to see Nan, and he was also afraid of the
quizzing which Nan's father was always eager to apply. But with Nan
away--her absence being notorious, as you may say--Gabriel felt that he
could afford to call on the genial housekeeper.

Mrs. Absalom had for years been the manager of the Dorrington household,
and she retained her place even after Randolph Dorrington had taken for
his second wife Zepherine Dion, who had been known as Miss Johns, and
who was now called Mrs. Johnny Dorrington. In that household, indeed,
Mrs. Absalom was indispensable, and it was very fortunate that she and
Mrs. Johnny were very fond of each other. Her maiden name was Margaret
Rorick, and she came of a family that had long been attached to the
Dorringtons. In another clime, and under a different system, the Roricks
would have been described as retainers. They were that and much more.
They served without fee or reward. They were retainers in the highest
and best sense; for, in following the bent of their affections, they
retained their independence, their simple dignity and their
self-respect; and in that region, which was then, and is now, the most
democratic in the world, they were as well thought of as the Cloptons or
the Dorringtons.

It came to pass, in the order of events, that Margaret Rorick married
Mr. Absalom Goodlett, who was the manager of the Dorrington plantation.
Though she was no chicken, as she said herself, Mr. Goodlett was her
senior by several years. She was also, in a sense, the victim of the
humour that used to run riot in Middle Georgia; for, in spite of her
individuality, which was vigorous and aggressive, she lost her own name
and her husband's too. At Margaret Rorick's wedding, or, rather, at the
infair, which was the feast after the wedding, Mr. Uriah Lazenby, whose
memory is kept green by his feats at tippling, and who combined fiddling
with farming, furnished the music for the occasion. Being something of a
privileged character, and having taken a thimbleful too much dram, as
fiddlers will do, the world over, Mr. Lazenby rose in his place, when
the company had been summoned to the feast, and remarked:

"Margaret Rorick, now that the thing's been gone and done, and can't be
holp, I nominate you Mrs. Absalom, an' Mrs. Absalom it shall be
herearter. Ab Goodlett, you ought to be mighty proud when you can fling
your bridle on a filly like that, an' lead her home jest for the bar'
sesso."

The loud laughter that followed placed the bride at a temporary
disadvantage. She joined in, however, and then exclaimed: "My goodness!
Old Uriah's drunk ag'in; you can't pull a stopper out'n a jug in the
same house wi' him but what he'll dribble at the mouth an' git shaky in
the legs."

But drunk or sober, Uriah had "nominated" Mrs. Absalom for good and all.
One reason why this "nomination" was seized on so eagerly was the sudden
change that had taken place in Miss Rorick's views in regard to
matrimony. She was more than thirty years old when she consented to
become Mrs. Absalom. Up to that time she had declared over and over
again that there wasn't a man in the world she'd look at, much less
marry.

Now, many a woman has said the same thing and changed her mind without
attracting attention; but Mrs. Absalom's views on matrimony, and her
pithy criticisms of the male sex in general, had flown about on the
wings of her humour, and, in that way, had come to have wide
advertisement. But her "nomination" interfered neither with her
individuality, nor with her ability to indulge in pithy comments on
matters and things in general. Of Mr. Lazenby, she said later: "What's
the use of choosin' betwixt a fool an' a fiddler, when you can git both
in the same package?"

She made no bad bargain when she married Mr. Goodlett. His irritability
was all on the surface. At bottom, he was the best-natured and most
patient of men--a philosopher who was so thoroughly contented with the
ways of the world and the order of Providence, that he had no desire to
change either--and so comfortable in his own views and opinions that he
was not anxious to convert others to his way of thinking. If anything
went wrong, it was like a garment turned inside out; it would "come out
all right in the washin'."

Mrs. Absalom's explanation of her change of views in the subject of
matrimony was very simple and reasonable. "Why, a single 'oman," she
said, "can't cut no caper at all; she can't hardly turn around wi'out
bein' plumb tore to pieces by folks's tongues. But now--you see Ab over
there? Well, he ain't purty enough for a centre-piece, nor light enough
for to be set on the mantel-shelf, but it's a comfort to see him in that
cheer there, knowin' all the time that you can do as you please, and
nobody dastin to say anything out of the way. Why, I could put on Ab's
old boots an' take his old buggy umbrell, an' go an' jine the muster.
The men might snicker behind the'r han's, but all they could say would
be, 'Well, ef that kind of a dido suits Ab Goodlett, it ain't nobody
else's business.'"

It happened that Mr. Sanders was the person to whom Mrs. Absalom was
addressing her remarks, and he inquired if such an unheard of proceeding
would be likely to suit Mr. Goodlett.

"To a t!" she exclaimed. "Why, he wouldn't bat his eye. He mought grunt
an' groan a little jest to let you know that he's alive, but that'd be
all. An' that's the trouble: ef Ab has any fault in the world that you
can put your finger on, it's in bein' too good. You know,
William--anyhow, you'd know it ef you belonged to my seck--that there's
lots of times and occasions when it'd make the wimmen folks feel lots
better ef they had somethin' or other to rip and rare about. My old cat
goes about purrin', the very spit and image of innocence; but she'd die
ef she didn't show her claws sometimes. Once in awhile I try my level
best for to pick a quarrel wi' Ab, but before I say a dozen words, I
look at him an' have to laugh. Why the way that man sets there an' says
nothin' is enough to make a saint ashamed of hisself."

It was the general opinion that Mr. Goodlett, who was shrewd and
far-seeing beyond the average, had an eye to strengthening his relations
with Dr. Dorrington, when he "popped the question" to Margaret Rorick.
But such was not the case. His relations needed no strengthening. He
managed Dorrington's agricultural interests with uncommon ability, and
brought rare prosperity to the plantation. Unlettered, and, to all
appearances, taking no interest in public affairs, he not only foresaw
the end of the Civil War, but looked forward to the time when the
Confederate Government, pressed for supplies, would urge upon the States
the necessity of limiting the raising of cotton.

He gave both Meriwether Clopton and Neighbour Tomlin the benefit of
these views; and then, when the rumours of Sherman's march through
Georgia grew rifer he made a shrewd guess as to the route, and succeeded
in hiding out and saving, not only all the cotton the three plantations
had grown, but also all the livestock. Having an ingrained suspicion of
the negroes, and entertaining against them the prejudices of his class,
Mr. Goodlett employed a number of white boys from the country districts
to aid him with his refugee train. And he left them in charge of the
camp he had selected, knowing full well that they would be glad to
remain in hiding as long as the Federal soldiers were about.

The window of the dining-room at Dorringtons' commanded a view of the
street for a considerable distance toward town, and it was at this
window that Mrs. Absalom had her favourite seat. She explained her
preference for it by saying that she wanted to know what was going on in
the world. She looked out from this window one day while she was talking
to Gabriel Tolliver, whose visits to Dorringtons' had come to be
coincident with Nan's absence, and suddenly exclaimed:

"Well, my gracious! Ef yonder ain't old Picayune Pauper! I wonder what
we have done out this way that old Picayune should be sneakin' around
here? I'll tell you what--ef Ab has borried arry thrip from old Silas
Tomlin, I'll quit him; I won't live wi' a man that'll have anything to
do wi' that old scamp. As I'm a livin' human, he's comin' here!"

Now, Silas Tomlin was Neighbour Tomlin's elder brother, but the two men
were as different in character and disposition as a warm bright day is
different from a bitter black night. Pulaski Tomlin gave his services
freely to all who needed them, and he was happy and prosperous; whereas
Silas was a miserly money-lender and note-shaver, and always appeared to
be in the clutches of adversity. To parsimony he added the sting--yes,
and the stain--of a peevish and an irritable temper. It was as Mrs.
Absalom had said--"a picayunish man is a pauper, I don't care how much
money he's got."

"I'll go see ef Johnny is in the house," said Mrs. Absalom. "Johnny" was
Mrs. Dorrington, who, in turn, called Mrs. Absalom "Nonny," which was
Nan's pet name for the woman who had raised her--"I'll go see, but I
lay she's gone to see Nan; I never before seed a step-mammy so wropped
up in her husband's daughter." Nan, as has been said, was spending a few
days with poor Margaret Bridalbin, whose mother had just been buried.

Mrs. Absalom called Mrs. Dorrington, and then looked for her, but she
was not to be found at the moment. "I reckon you'll have to go to the
door, Gabe," said Mrs. Absalom, as the knocker sounded. "Sence freedom,
we ain't got as many niggers lazyin' around an' doin' nothin' as we use
to have."

"Is Mr. Goodlett in?" asked Silas Tomlin, when Gabriel opened the door.

"I think he's in Malvern," Gabriel answered, as politely as he could.

"No, no, no!" exclaimed Silas Tomlin, with a terrible frown; "you don't
know a thing about it, not a thing in the world. He got back right after
dinner."

"Well, ef he did," said Mrs. Absalom, coming forward, "he didn't come
here. He ain't cast a shadow in this house sence day before yistiddy,
when he went to Malvern."

"How are you, Mrs. Absalom?--how are you?" said Silas, with a tremendous
effort at politeness. "I hope you are well; you are certainly looking
well. You say your husband is not in? Well, I'm sorry; I wanted to see
him on business; I wanted to get some information."

"Ab don't owe you anything, I hope," remarked Mrs. Absalom, ignoring the
salutation.

"Not a thing--not a thing in the world. But why do you ask? Many people
have the idea that I'm rolling in money--that's what I hear--and they
think that I go about loaning it to Tom, Dick and Harry. But it is not
so--it is not so; I have no money."

Mrs. Absalom laughed ironically, saying, "I reckon if your son Paul was
to scratch about under the house, he'd find small change about in
places."

Silas Tomlin looked hard at Mrs. Absalom, his little black eyes
glistening under his coarse, heavy eyebrows like those of some wild
animal. He was not a prepossessing man. He was so bald that he was
compelled to wear a skull-cap, and the edge of this showed beneath the
brim of his chimney-pot hat. His face needed a razor; and the grey beard
coming through the cuticle, gave a ghastly, bluish tint to the pallor of
his countenance. His broadcloth coat--Mrs. Absalom called it a
"shadbelly"--was greasy at the collar, and worn at the seams, and his
waistcoat was stained with ambeer. His trousers, which were much too
large for him, bagged at the knees, and his boots were run down at the
heels. Though he was temperate to the last degree, he had the appearance
of a man who is the victim of some artificial stimulant.

"What put that idea in your head, Mrs. Goodlett?" he asked, after
looking long and searchingly at Mrs. Absalom.

"Well, I allowed that when you was countin' out your cash, a thrip or
two mought have slipped through the cracks in the floor," she replied;
"sech things have happened before now."

He wiped his thin lips with his lean forefinger, and stood hesitating,
whereupon Mrs. Absalom remarked: "It sha'n't cost you a cent ef you'll
come in. Ab'll be here purty soon ef somebody ain't been fool enough to
give him his dinner. His health'll fail him long before his appetite
does. Show Mr. Tomlin in the parlour, Gabriel, an' I'll see about Ab's
dinner; I don't want it to burn to a cracklin' before he gits it."

Silas Tomlin went into the parlour and sat down, while Gabriel stood
hesitating, not knowing what to do or say. He was embarrassed, and Silas
Tomlin saw it. "Oh, take a seat," he said, with a show of impatience.
"What are you doing for yourself, Tolliver? You're a big boy now, and
you ought to be making good money. We'll all have to work now: we'll
have to buckle right down to it. The way I look at it, the man who is
doing nothing is throwing money away; yes, sir, throwing it away. What
does Adam Smith say? Why, he says----"

Gabriel never found out what particular statement of Adam Smith was to
be thrown at his head, for at that moment, Mr. Goodlett called out from
the dining-room: "Si Tomlin in there, Gabriel? Well, fetch him out here
whar I live at. I ain't got no parlours for company." By the time that
Gabriel had led Mr. Silas Tomlin into the dining-room, Mr. Goodlett had
a plate of victuals carrying it to the kitchen; and he remarked as he
went along, "I got nuther parlours nor dinin'-rooms: fetch him out here
to the kitchen whar we both b'long at."

If Silas Tomlin objected to this arrangement, he gave no sign; he
followed without a word, Mr. Goodlett placed his plate on the table
where the dishes were washed, and dropped his hat on the floor beside
him, and began to attack his dinner most vigorously. Believing,
evidently, that ordinary politeness would be wasted here, Silas entered
at once on the business that had brought him to Dorringtons'.

"Sorry to trouble you, Goodlett," he said by way of making a beginning.

"I notice you ain't cryin' none to hurt," remarked Mr. Goodlett
placidly. "An' ef you was, you'd be cryin' for nothin'. You ain't
troublin' me a mite. Forty an' four like you can't trouble me."

"You'll have to excuse Ab," said Mrs. Goodlett, who had preceded Gabriel
and Silas to the kitchen. "He's lost his cud, an' he won't be right well
till he finds it ag'in." She placed her hand over her mouth to hide her
smiles.

Silas Tomlin paid no attention to this by-play. He stood like a man who
is waiting an opportunity to get in a word.

"Goodlett, who were the ladies you brought from Malvern to-day?" His
face was very serious.

"You know 'em lots better'n I do. The oldest seed you out in the field,
an' she axed me who you mought be. I told her, bekaze I ain't got no
secrets from my passengers, specially when they're good-lookin' an'
plank down the'r money before they start. Arter I told 'em who you was,
the oldest made you a mighty purty bow, but you wer'n't polite enough
for to take off your hat. I dunno as I blame you much, all things
considered. Then the youngest, she's the daughter, she says, says she,
'Is that reely him, ma?' an' t'other one, says she, 'Ef it's him, honey,
he's swunk turrible.' She said them very words."

"I wonder who in the world they can be?" said Silas Tomlin, as if
talking to himself.

"You'll think of the'r names arter awhile," Mr. Goodlett remarked by way
of consolation, but his tone was so suspicious that Silas turned on his
heel--he had started out--and asked Mr. Goodlett what he meant.

"Adzackly what I said, nuther more nor less."

Mrs. Absalom was so curious to find out something more that Silas was
hardly out of the house before she began to ply her husband with
questions. But they were all futile. Mr. Goodlett knew no more than
that he had brought the women from Malvern; that they had chanced to
spy old Silas Tomlin in a field by the side of the road, and that when
the elder of the two women found out what his name was, she made him a
bow, which Silas wasn't polite enough to return.

"That's all I know," remarked Mr. Goodlett. "Dog take the wimmen
anyhow!" he exclaimed indignantly; "ef they'd stay at home they'd be all
right; but here they go, a-trapesin' an' a-trollopin' all over creation,
an' a-givin' trouble wherever they go. They git me so muddled an'
befuddled wi' ther whickerin' an' snickerin' that I dunner which een'
I'm a-stannin' on half the time. Nex' time they want to ride wi' me,
I'll say, 'Walk!' By jacks! I won't haul 'em."

This episode, if it may be called such, made small impression on
Gabriel's mind, but it tickled Mrs. Goodlett's mind into activity, and
the lad heard more of Silas Tomlin during the next hour than he had ever
known before. In a manner, Silas was a very important factor in the
community, as money-lenders always are, but according to Gabriel's idea,
he was always one of the poorest creatures in the world.

When he was a young man, Silas joined the tide of emigration that was
flowing westward. He went to Mississippi, where he married his first
wife. In a year's time, he returned to his old home. When asked about
his wife--for he returned alone--he curtly answered that she was well
enough off. Mrs. Absalom was among those who made the inquiry, and her
prompt comment was, "She's well off ef she's dead; I'll say that much."

But there was a persistent rumour, coming from no one knew where, that
when a child was born to Silas, the wife was seized with such a horror
of the father that the bare sight of him would cause her to scream, and
she constantly implored her people to send him away. It is curious how
rumours will travel far and wide, from State to State, creeping through
swamps, flying over deserts and waste places, and coming home at last as
the carrier-pigeon does, especially if there happens to be a grain of
truth in them.

It turned out that the lady, in regard to whom Silas Tomlin expressed
such curiosity, was a Mrs. Claiborne, of Kentucky, who, with her
daughter, had refugeed from point to point in advance of the Federal
army. Finally, when peace came, the lady concluded to make her home in
Georgia, where she had relatives, and she selected Shady Dale as her
place of abode on account of its beauty. These facts became known later.

Evidently the new-comers had resources, for they arranged to occupy the
Gaither house, taking it as it stood, with Miss Polly Gaither, furniture
and all. This arrangement must have been satisfactory to Miss Polly in
the first place, or it would never have been made; and it certainly
relieved her of the necessity of living on the charity of her
neighbours, under pretence of borrowing from them. But so strange a
bundle of contradictions is human nature, that no sooner had Miss Polly
begun to enjoy the abundance that was now showered upon her in the shape
of victuals and drink than she took her ear-trumpet in one hand and her
work-bag in the other, and went abroad, gossiping about her tenants,
telling what she thought they said, and commenting on their
actions--not maliciously, but simply with a desire to feed the curiosity
of the neighbours.

In order to do this more effectually, Miss Polly returned visits that
had been made to her before the war. There was nothing in her talk to
discredit the Claibornes or to injure their characters. They were
strangers to the community, and there was a natural and perfectly
legitimate curiosity on the part of the town to learn something of their
history. Miss Polly could not satisfy this curiosity, but she could whet
it by leaving at each one's door choice selections from her catalogue of
the sayings and doings of the new-comers--wearing all the time a dress
that Miss Eugenia, the daughter, had made over for her. Miss Polly was a
dumpy little woman, and, with her wen, her ear-trumpet, and her
work-bag, she cut a queer figure as she waddled along.

There was one piece of information she gave out that puzzled the
community no little. According to Miss Polly, the Claibornes had hardly
settled themselves in their new home before Silas Tomlin called on them.
"I can't hear as well as I used to," said Miss Polly--she was deaf as a
door-post--"but I can see as well as anybody; yes indeed, as well as
anybody in the world. And I tell you, Lucy Lumsden"--she was talking to
Gabriel's grandmother--"as soon as old Silas darkened the door, I knew
he was worried. I never saw a grown person so fidgety and nervous,
unless it was Micajah Clemmons, and he's got the rickets, poor man. So I
says to myself, 'I'll watch you,' and watch I did. Well, when Mrs.
Claiborne came into the parlour, she bowed very politely to old Silas,
but I could see that she could hardly keep from laughing in his face;
and I don't blame her, for the way old Silas went on was perfectly
ridiculous. He spit and he spluttered, and sawed the air with his arms,
and buttoned and unbuttoned his coat, and jerked at the bottom of his
wescut till I really thought he'd pull the front out. I wish you could
have seen him, Lucy Lumsden, I do indeed. And when the door was shut on
him, Mrs. Claiborne flung herself down on a sofa, and laughed until she
frightened her daughter. I don't complain about my afflictions as a
general thing, Lucy, but I would have given anything that day if my
hearing had been as good as it used to be."

And though Gabriel's grandmother was a woman of the highest principles,
holding eavesdropping in the greatest contempt, it is possible that she
would have owned to a mild regret that Miss Polly Gaither was too deaf
to hear what Silas Tomlin's troubles were. This was natural, too, for,
on account of the persistent rumours that had followed Silas home from
Mississippi, there was always something of a mystery in regard to his
first matrimonial venture. There was none about his second. A year or
two after he returned home he married Susan Pritchard, whose father was
a prosperous farmer, living several miles from town. Susan bore Silas a
son and died. She was a pious woman, and with her last breath named the
child Paul, on account of the conjunction of the names of Paul and Silas
in the New Testament. Paul grew up to be one of the most popular young
men in the community.



CHAPTER EIGHT

_The Political Machine Begins its Work_


All that has been set down thus far, you will say, is trifling,
unimportant and wearisome. Your decision is not to be disputed; but if,
by an effort of the mind, you could throw yourself back to those dread
days, you would understand what a diversion these trifling events and
episodes created for the heart-stricken and soul-weary people of that
region. The death of Margaret Bridalbin moved them to pity, and awoke in
their minds pleasing memories of happier days, when peace and prosperity
held undisputed sway in all directions. The arrival of the Claibornes
had much the same effect. It gave the community something to talk about,
and, in a small measure, took them out of themselves. Moreover, the
Claibornes, mother and daughter, proved to be very attractive additions
to the town's society. They were both bright and good-humoured, and the
daughter was very beautiful.

To a people overwhelmed with despair, the most trifling episode becomes
curiously magnified. The case of Mr. Goodlett is very much to the point.
He was merely an individual, it is true, but in some respects an
individual represents the mass. When Sherman's men hanged him to a
limb, under the mistaken notion that he was the custodian of the Clopton
plate, the last thing he remembered as he lost consciousness, was the
ticking of his watch. It sounded in his ears, he said, as loud as the
blows of a sledge-hammer falling on an anvil. From that day until he
died, he never could bear to hear the ticking of a watch. He gave his
time-piece to his wife, who put it away with her other relics and
treasures.

How it was with other communities it is not for this chronicler to say,
but the collapse of the Confederacy, coming when it did, was an event
that Shady Dale least expected. The last trump will cause no greater
surprise and consternation the world over, than the news of Lee's
surrender caused in that region. The public mind had not been prepared
for such an event, especially in those districts remote from the centres
of information. Almost every piece of news printed in the journals of
the day was coloured with the prospect of ultimate victory: and when the
curtain suddenly came down and the lights went out, no language can
describe the grief, the despair, and the feeling of abject humiliation
that fell upon the white population in the small towns and village
communities. How it was in the cities has not been recorded, but it is
to be presumed that then, as now, the demands and necessities of trade
and business were powerful enough to overcome and destroy the worst
effects of a calamity that attacked the sentiments and emotions.

It has been demonstrated recently on some very wide fields of action
that the atmosphere of commercialism is unfavourable to the growth of
sentiments of an ideal character. That is why wise men who believe in
the finer issues of life are inclined to be suspicious of what is
loosely called civilisation and progress, and doubtful of the theories
of those who clothe themselves in the mantle of science.

Whatever the feeling in the cities may have been when news of the
surrender came, it caused the most poignant grief and despair in the
country places: and there, as elsewhere in this world, whenever
suffering is to be borne, the most of the burden falls on the shoulders
of the women. It is at once the strength and weakness of the sex that
woman suffers more than man and is more capable of enduring the pangs of
suffering.

As for the men they soon recovered from the shock. They were startled
and stunned, but when they opened their eyes to the situation they found
themselves confronted by conditions that had no precedent or parallel in
the history of the world. It is small fault if their minds failed at
first to grasp the significance and the import of these conditions, so
new were they and so amazing.

A few years later, Gabriel Tolliver, who, when the surrender came, was a
lad just beyond seventeen, took himself severely to task before a public
assemblage for his blindness in 1865, and the years immediately
following; and his criticisms must have gone home to others, for the
older men who sat in the audience rose to their feet and shook the house
with their applause. They, too, had been as blind as the boy.

It was perhaps well for Shady Dale that Mr. Sanders came home when he
did. He had been in the field, if not on the forum. He had mingled with
public men, and, as he himself contended, had been "closeted" with one
of the greatest men the country ever produced--the reference being to
Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Sanders had to tell over and over again the story of
how he and Frank Bethune didn't kidnap the President; and he brought
home hundreds of rich and racy anecdotes that he had picked up in the
camp. In those awful days when there was little ready money to be had,
and business was at a standstill, and the courts demoralised, and the
whole social fabric threatening to fall to pieces, it was Mr. Billy
Sanders who went around scattering cheerfulness and good-humour as
carelessly as the children scatter the flowers they have gathered in the
fields.

Mr. Sanders and Francis Bethune had formed a part of the escort that
went with Mr. Davis as far as Washington in Wilkes County. On this
account, Mr. Sanders boasted that at the last meeting of the Confederate
Cabinet held in that town, he had elected himself a member, and was duly
installed. "It was the same," he used to say, "as j'inin' the
Free-masons. The doorkeeper gi' me the grip an' the password, the head
man of the war department knocked me on the forrerd, an' the thing was
done. When Mr. Davis was ready to go, he took me by the hand, an' says,
'William,' says he, 'keep house for the boys till I git back, an' be
shore that you cheer 'em up.'"

This sort of nonsense served its purpose, as Mr. Sanders intended that
it should. Wherever he appeared on the streets a crowd gathered around
him--as large a crowd as the town could furnish. To a spectator standing
a little distance away and out of hearing, the attitude and movements of
these groups presented a singular appearance. The individuals would move
about and swap places, trying to get closer to Mr. Sanders. There would
be a period of silence, and then, suddenly, loud shouts of laughter
would rend the air. Such a spectator, if a stranger, might easily have
imagined that these men and boys, standing close together, and shouting
with laughter at intervals, were engaged in practising a part to be
presented in a rural comedy--or that they were a parcel of simpletons.

One peculiarity of Mr. Sanders's humour was that it could not be
imitated with any degree of success. His raciest anecdote lost a large
part of its flavour when repeated by some one else. It was the way he
told it, a cut of the eye, a lift of the eyebrow, a movement of the
hand, a sudden air of solemnity--these were the accessories that gave
point and charm to the humour.

Mr. Sanders had cut out a very large piece of work for himself. He kept
it up for some time, but he gradually allowed himself longer and longer
intervals of seriousness. The multitude of problems growing out of the
new and strange conditions were of a thought-compelling nature; and they
grew larger and more ominous as the days went by. Gabriel Tolliver might
take to the woods, as the saying is, and so escape from the prevailing
depression. But Mr. Sanders and the rest of the men had no such
resource; responsibility sat on their shoulders, and they were compelled
to face the conditions and study them. Gabriel could sit on the fence by
the roadside, and see neither portent nor peril in the groups and gangs
of negroes passing and repassing, and moving restlessly to and fro, some
with bundles and some with none. He watched them, as he afterward
complained, with a curiosity as idle as that which moves a little child
to watch a swarm of ants. He noticed, however, that the negroes were no
longer cheerful. Their child-like gaiety had vanished. In place of their
loud laughter, their boisterous play, and their songs welling forth and
filling the twilight places with sweet melodies, there was silence.
Gabriel had no reason to regard this silence as ominous, but it was so
regarded by his elders.

He thought that the restless and uneasy movements of the negroes were
perfectly natural. They had suddenly come to the knowledge that they
were free, and they were testing the nature and limits of their freedom.
They desired to find out its length and its breadth. So much was clear
to Gabriel, but it was not clear to his elders. And what a pity that it
was not! How many mistakes would have been avoided! What a dreadful
tangle and turmoil would have been prevented if these grown children
could have been judged from Gabriel's point of view! For the boy's
interpretation of the restlessness and uneasiness of the blacks was the
correct one. Your historians will tell you that the situation was
extraordinary and full of peril. Well, extraordinary, if you will, but
not perilous. Gabriel could never be brought to believe that there was
anything to be dreaded in the attitude of the blacks. What he scored
himself for in the days to come was that his interest in the matter
never rose above the idle curiosity of a boy.

And yet there were some developments calculated to pique curiosity. A
few years before the war, one of Madame Awtry's nephews from
Massachusetts came in to the neighbourhood preaching freedom to the
negroes. As a result, a large body of the Clopton negroes gathered
around the house one morning with many breathings and mutterings. Uncle
Plato, the carriage-driver, went to his master with a very grave face,
and announced that the hands, instead of going to work, had come in a
body to the house.

"Well, go and see what they want, Plato," said the master of the Clopton
Place.

"I done ax um dat, suh," replied Uncle Plato, "an' dey say p'intedly dat
dey want ter see you."

"Very well; where is Mr. Sanders?"

"He out dar, suh, makin' fun un um."

When Meriwether Clopton went out, he was told by old man Isaiah, the
foreman of the field-hands, that the boys didn't want to be "Bledserd."
It was some time before the master could understand what the old man
meant, but Mr. Sanders finally made it clear, and Meriwether Clopton
sent the negroes about their business with a promise that none of them
should ever be "Bledserd" by his consent.

A year or two before this "rising" occurred, General Jesse Bledsoe had
died leaving a will, by the terms of which all his negroes were given
their freedom, and provision was made for their transportation to a free
State. But the General had relatives, who put in their claims, and
succeeded in breaking the will, with the result that many of the negroes
were carried to the West and Southwest, bringing about a wholesale
separation of families, the first that had ever occurred in that
section. The impression it made on both whites and negroes was a lasting
one. In the minds of the blacks, freedom was only another name for
"Bledserin'."

Nevertheless, when, after the collapse of the Confederacy and the advent
of Sherman's army, the Clopton negroes were told that they were free, a
large number of them joined the restless, migratory throng that passed
to and fro along the public highway, some coming, some going, but all
moved by the same irresistible impulse to test their freedom--to see if
they really could come hither and go yonder without let or hinderance.
Uncle Plato and his family, with a dozen others who were sagacious
enough to follow the old man's example, remained in their places and
fared better than the rest.

For a time Shady Dale rested peacefully in its seclusion, watching the
course of events with apparent tranquillity. But behind this appearance
of repose there was a good deal of restlessness and uneasiness.
Sometimes its bosom (so to speak) was inflamed with anger, and sometimes
it would be sunk in despair. One of the events that brought Shady Dale
closer to the troubles that the newspapers were full of, was a circular
letter issued by Major Tomlin Perdue, of Halcyondale. Major Perdue had
returned home thoroughly reconstructed. He was full of admiration for
General Grant's attitude toward General Lee, and he endorsed with all
his heart the tone and spirit of Lee's address to his old soldiers; but
when he saw the unexpected turn that the politicians had been able to
give to events, he found it hard to hold his peace. Finally, when he
could restrain himself no longer, he incited his friends to hold a
meeting and propose his name as a candidate for Congress. This was done,
and the Major seized the opportunity to issue a circular letter
declining the nomination, and giving his reasons therefor. This letter
remains to this day the most scathing arraignment of carpet-baggery,
bayonet rule, and the Republican Party generally that has ever been put
in print. It contained some decidedly picturesque references to the
personality of the commander of the Georgia district, who happened to be
General Pope, the famous soldier who had his head-quarters in the saddle
at a very interesting period of the Civil War.

Major Perdue did not intend it so, but his letter was a piece of pure
recklessness. The effect of this scorching document was to bring a
company of Federal troops to Halcyondale, and in the course of a few
weeks a detachment was stationed at Shady Dale. In each case they
brought their tents with them, and went into camp. This was taken as a
signal by the carpet-baggers that the region round-about was to be
cultivated for political purposes, and forthwith they began operations,
receiving occasional accessions in the person of a number of scalawags,
the most respectable and conscientious of these being Mr. Mahlon Butts,
who had been a vigorous and consistent Union man all through the war. He
could be neither convinced nor intimidated, and his consistency won for
him the respect of his neighbours. But when the carpet-baggers made
their appearance, and Mahlon Butts began to fraternise with them, he was
ostracised along with the rest.

It soon became necessary for the whites to take counsel together, and
Shady Dale became, as it had been before the war, the Mecca of the
various leaders. Before the war, the politicians of both parties were in
the habit of meeting at Shady Dale, enjoying the barbecues for which the
town was famous, and taking advantage of the occasion to lay out the
programme of the campaign. And now, when it was necessary to organise a
white man's party, the leaders turned their eyes and their steps to
Shady Dale.

Then it was that Gabriel had an opportunity to see Toombs, and Stephens,
and Hill, and Herschel V. Johnson--he who was on the national ticket
with Douglas in 1860--and other men who were to become prominent later.
There were some differences of opinion to be settled. A few of the
leaders had advised the white voters to take no part in the political
farce which Congress had arranged, but to leave it all to the negroes
and the aliens, especially as so many of the white voters had been
disfranchised, or were labouring under political disabilities. Others,
on the contrary, advised the white voters to qualify as rapidly as
possible. It was this difference of opinion that remained to be settled,
so far as Georgia was concerned.

It was Gabriel's acquaintance with Mr. Stephens that first fired his
ambition. Here was a frail, weak man, hardly able to stand alone, who
had been an invalid all his life, and yet had won renown, and by his
wisdom and conservatism had gained the confidence and esteem of men of
all parties and of all shades of opinion. His willpower and his energy
lifted him above his bodily weakness and ills, and carried him through
some of the most arduous campaigns that ever occurred in Georgia, where
heated canvasses were the rule and not the exception. Watching him
closely, and noting his wonderful vivacity and cheerfulness, Gabriel
Tolliver came to the conclusion that if an invalid could win fame a
strong healthy lad should be able to make his mark.

It fell out that Gabriel attracted the attention of Mr. Stephens, who
was always partial to young men. He made the lad sit near him, drew him
out, and gave him some sound advice in regard to his studies. At the
suggestion of Mr. Stephens, the lad was permitted to attend the
conferences, which were all informal, and the kindly statesman took
pains to introduce the awkward, blushing youngster to all the prominent
men who came.

It was curious, Gabriel thought, how easily and naturally the invalid
led the conversation into the channel he desired. He was smoking a clay
pipe, which his faithful body-servant replenished from time to time.
"Mr. Sanders," he began, "I have heard a good deal about your attempt
to kidnap Lincoln. What did you think of Lincoln anyhow?"

"Well, sir, I thought, an' still think that he was the best all-'round
man I ever laid eyes on."

"He certainly was a very great man," remarked Mr. Stephens. "I knew him
well before the war. We were in Congress together. It is odd that he
showed no remarkable traits at that time."

"Well," replied Mr. Sanders, "arter the Dimmycrats elected him
President, he found hisself in a corner, an' he jest had to be a big
man."

"You mean after the Republicans elected him," some one suggested.

"Not a bit of it,--not a bit of it!" exclaimed Mr. Sanders. "Why the
Republicans didn't have enough votes to elect three governors, much less
a President. But the Dimmycrats, bein' perlite by natur' an' not
troubled wi' any surplus common sense, divided up the'r votes, an' the
Republicans walked in an' took the cake. If you ever hear of me votin'
the Dimmycrat ticket--an' I reckon I'll have to do it--you may jest put
it down that it ain't bekase I want to, but bekase I'm ableege to. The
party ain't hardly got life left in it, an' yit here you big men are
wranglin' an' jowerin' as to whether you'll set down an' let a drove of
mules run over you, or whether you'll stan' up to the rack, fodder or no
fodder."

"This brings us to the very point we are to discuss," said Mr. Stephens,
laughing. "I may say in the beginning that I am much of Mr. Sanders's
opinion. Some very able men insist that if we take no part in this
reconstruction business, we'll not be responsible for it. That is true,
but we will have to endure the consequences just the same. Radicalism
has majorities at present, but these will disappear after a time."

"I reckon some of us can be trusted to wear away a few majorities," said
Mr. Sanders, dryly, and it was his last contribution to the discussion.
As might be supposed, no definite policy was hit upon. The conditions
were so new to those who had to deal with them, that, after an
interchange of views, the company separated, feeling that the policy
proper to be pursued would arise naturally out of the immediate
necessities of the occasion, or the special character of the situation.
This was the view of Mr. Stephens, who, as he was still suffering from
his confinement in prison, accepted the invitation of Meriwether Clopton
to remain at Shady Dale for a week or more.

During that week, there was hardly a day that Gabriel did not go to the
Clopton Place. He went because he could see that his presence was
agreeable to Mr. Stephens, as well as to Meriwether Clopton. He was led
along to join in the conversation which the older men were carrying on,
and in that way he gained more substantial information about political
principles and policies than he could have found in the books and the
newspapers.

Moreover, Gabriel came in closer contact with Francis Bethune. That
young gentleman seized the opportunity to invite Gabriel to his room,
where they had several familiar and pleasant talks. Bethune told Gabriel
much that was interesting about the war, and about the men he had met
in Richmond and Washington. He also related many interesting incidents
and stories of adventure, in which he had taken part. But he never once
put himself forward as the hero of an exploit. On the contrary, he was
always in the background; invariably, it was some one else to whom he
gave the credit of success, taking upon himself the responsibility of
the failures.

Gabriel had never suspected this proud-looking young man of modesty, and
he at once began to admire and like Bethune, who was not only genial,
but congenial. He seemed to take a real interest in Gabriel, and gave
him a good deal of sober advice which he should have taken himself.

"I'll never be anything but plain Bethune," he said to Gabriel. "I'd
like to do something or be something for the sake of those who have had
the care of me; but it isn't in me. I don't know why, but the other
fellow gets there first when there's something to be won. And when I am
first it leads to trouble. Take my college scrape; you've heard about
it, no doubt. Well, the boys there have been playing poker ever since
there was a college, and they'll play it as long as the college remains;
but the first game I was inveigled into, the Chancellor walked in upon
us while I was shuffling the cards, and stood at my back and heard me
cursing the others because they had suddenly turned to their books.
'That will do, Mr. Bethune,' said the Chancellor; 'we have had enough
profanity for to-night.' Well, that has been the way all through. I
wanted to win rank in the army--and I did; I ranked everybody as the
king-bee of insubordination. That isn't all. Take my gait--the way I
walk; everybody thinks I hold my head up and swagger because I am vain.
But look at the matter with clear eyes, Tolliver; I walk that way
because it is natural to me. As for vanity, what on earth have I to be
vain of?"

"Well, you are young, you know," said Gabriel--"almost as young as I am;
and though you have been unlucky, that is no sign that it will always be
so."

"No, Tolliver, I am several years older than you. All your opportunities
are still to come; and if I can do nothing myself, I should like to see
you succeed. I have heard my grandfather say some fine things about
you."

Now, such talk as that, when it carries the evidence of sincerity along
with it, is bound to win a young fellow over; youth cannot resist it.
Bethune won Gabriel, and won him completely. It was so pleasing to
Gabriel to be able to have a cordial liking for Bethune that he had the
feelings of those who gain a moral victory over themselves in the matter
of some evil habit or passion. His grandmother smiled fondly on his
enthusiasm, remarking:

"Yes, Gabriel; he is certainly a fine young gentleman, and I am glad of
it for Nan's sake. He will be sure to make her happy, and she deserves
happiness as much as any human being I ever knew."

Gabriel also thought that Nan deserved to be very happy, but he could
imagine several forms of happiness that did not include marriage with
Bethune, however much he might admire his friend. And his enthusiastic
praises of Bethune ceased so suddenly that his grandmother looked at him
curiously. The truth is, her remarks about Nan and Bethune always gave
Gabriel a cold chill. His grandmother was to him the fountain-head of
wisdom, the embodiment of experience. When he was a bit of a lad, she
used to untie all the hard knots, and untangle all the tangles that
persisted in invading his large collection of string, cords and twines,
and the ease with which she did this--for the knots seemed to come
untied of their own accord, and the tangles to vanish as soon as her
fingers touched them--gave Gabriel an impression of her ability that he
never lost. Her word was law with him, though he had frequently broken
the law, and her judgment was infallible.



CHAPTER NINE

_Nan and Gabriel_


Gabriel renewed his enthusiasm for Bethune as soon as he had an
opportunity to see Nan. These opportunities became rarer and rarer as
the days went by. Sometimes she was friendly and familiar, as on the day
when she went home with him to hear the story of poor Margaret Gaither;
but oftener she was cool and dignified, and appeared to be inclined to
patronise her old friend and comrade. This was certainly her attitude
when Gabriel began to sing the praises of Francis Bethune when, on one
occasion, he met her on the street.

"I'm sure it is very good of you, Gabriel, to speak so kindly of Mr.
Bethune," she said. "No doubt he deserves it all. He also says some very
nice things about you, so I've heard. Nonny says there's some sort of an
agreement between you--'you tickle me and I'll tickle you.' Oh, there's
nothing for you to blush about, Gabriel," she went on very seriously.
"Nonny may laugh at it, but I think it speaks well for both you and Mr.
Bethune."

Gabriel made no reply, and as he stood there looking at Nan, and
realising for the first time what he had only dimly suspected before,
that they could no longer be comrades and chums, he presented a very
uncomfortable spectacle. He was the picture of awkwardness. His hands
and his feet were all in his way, and for the first time in his life he
felt cheap. Nan had suddenly loomed up as a woman grown. It is true that
she resolutely refused to follow the prevailing fashion and wear
hoop-skirts, but this fact and her long dress simply gave emphasis to
the fact that she was grown.

"Well, Nan, I'm very sorry," said Gabriel, by way of saying something.
He spoke the truth without knowing why.

"Sorry! Why should you be sorry?" cried Nan. "I think you have
everything to make you glad. You have your Mr. Bethune, and no longer
than yesterday I heard Eugenia Claiborne say that you are the handsomest
man she ever saw--yes, she called you a man. She declared that she never
knew before that curly hair could be so becoming to a man. And Margaret
says that you and Eugenia would just suit each other, she a blonde and
you a brunette."

Gabriel blushed again in spite of himself, and laughed, too--laughed at
the incongruity of the situation. This Nan, with her long gingham frock,
and her serious ways, was no more like the Nan he had known than if she
had come from another world. It was laughable, of course, and pathetic,
too, for Gabriel could laugh and feel sorry at the same moment.

"You haven't told me why you are sorry," said Nan, when the lad's
silence had become embarrassing to her.

"Well, I am just sorry," Gabriel replied.

"You are angry," she declared.

"No," he insisted, "I am just sorry. I don't know why, unless it's
because you are not the same. You have been changing all the time, I
reckon, but I never noticed it so much until to-day." His tone was one
of complaint.

As Nan stood there regarding Gabriel with an expression of perplexity in
her countenance, and tapping the ground impatiently with one foot, the
two young people got their first whiff of the troubles that had been
slowly gathering over that region. Around the corner near which they
stood, two men had paused to finish an earnest conversation. Evidently
they had been walking along, but their talk had become so interesting,
apparently, that they paused involuntarily. They were hid from Nan and
Gabriel by the high brick wall that enclosed Madame Awtry's back yard.

"As president of this league," said a voice which neither Nan nor
Gabriel could recognise, "you will have great responsibility. I hope you
realise it."

"I'm in hopes I does, suh," replied the other, whose voice there was no
difficulty in recognising as that of the Rev. Jeremiah Tomlin.

"As you so aptly put it last night at your church, the bottom rail is
now on top, and it will stay there if the coloured people know their own
interests. Every dollar that has been made in the South during the parst
two hundred years was made by the niggeroes and belongs to them."

"Dat is so, suh; dat is de Lord's trufe. I realise dat, suh; an' I'll
try fer ter make my people reelize it," responded the Rev. Jeremiah.

"What you lack in experience," continued the first speaker, "you make up
in numbers. It is important to remember that. Organise your race, get
them together, impress upon them the necessity of acting as one man.
Once organised, you will find leaders. All the arrangements have been
made for that."

"I hears you, suh; an' b'lieves you," replied the Rev. Jeremiah with
great ceremony.

"You have seen white men from a distance coming and going. Where did
they go?"

"Dey went ter Clopton's, suh; right dar an' nowhars else. I seed um,
suh, wid my own eyes."

"You don't know what they came for. Well, I will tell you: they came
here to devise some plan by which they can deprive the niggeroes of the
right to vote. Now, what do you suppose would be the simplest way to do
this?" The Rev. Jeremiah made no reply. He was evidently waiting in awe
to hear what the plan was. "You don't know," the first speaker went on
to say; "well, I will tell you. They propose to re-enslave the coloured
people. They propose to take the ballots out of their hands and put in
their place, the hoe and the plough-handles. They propose to deprive you
of the freedom bestowed upon you by the martyr President."

"You don't tell me, suh! Well, well!"

"Yes, that is their object, and they will undoubtedly succeed if your
people do not organise, and stand together, and give their support to
the Republican Party."

"I has b'longed ter de Erpublican Party, suh, sense fust I heard de
name."

"We meet to-night in the school-house. Bring only a few--men whom you
can trust, and the older they are the better."

"I ain't so right down suttin and sho' 'bout dat, suh. Some er de ol'
ones is mighty sot in der ways; dey ain't got de l'arnin', suh, an' dey
dunner what's good fer 'm. But I'll pick out some, suh; I'll try fer ter
fetch de ones what'll do us de mos' good."

"Very well, Mr. Tommerlin; the old school-house is the place, and
there'll be no lights that can be seen from the outside. Rap three times
slowly, and twice quickly--so. The password is----"

He must have whispered it, for no sound came to the ears of Nan and
Gabriel. The latter motioned his head to Nan, and the two walked around
the corner. As they turned Nan was saying, "You must go with me some
day, and call on Eugenia Claiborne; she'll be delighted to see you--and
she's just lovely."

What answer Gabriel made he never knew, so intently was he engaged in
trying to digest what he had heard. The Rev. Jeremiah took off his hat
and smiled broadly, as he gave Nan and Gabriel a ceremonious bow. They
responded to his salute and passed on. The white man who had been
talking to the negro was a stranger to both of them, though both came to
know him very well--too well, in fact--a few months later. He had about
him the air of a preacher, his coat being of the cut and colour of the
garments worn by clergymen. His countenance was pale, but all his
features, except his eyes, stood for energy and determination. The eyes
were restless and shifty, giving him an appearance of uneasiness.

"What does he mean?" inquired Nan, when they were out of hearing.

"He means a good deal," replied Gabriel, who as an interested listener
at the conferences of the white leaders, had heard several prominent men
express fears that just such statements would be made to the negroes by
the carpet-bag element; and now here was a man pouring the most alarming
and exciting tidings into the ears of a negro on the public streets.
True, he had no idea that any one but the Rev. Jeremiah was in hearing,
but the tone of his voice was not moderated. What he said, he said right
out.

"But what do you mean by a good deal?" Nan asked.

"You heard what he said," Gabriel answered, "and you must see what he is
trying to do. Suppose he should convince the negroes that the whites are
trying to put them back in slavery, and they should rise and kill the
whites and burn all the houses?"

"Now, Gabriel, you know that is all nonsense," replied Nan, trying to
laugh. In spite of her effort to smile at Gabriel's explanation, her
face was very serious indeed.

"Yonder comes Miss Claiborne," said Gabriel. "Good-bye, Nan; I'm still
sorry you are not as you used to be. I must go and see Mr. Sanders."
With that, he turned out of the main street, and went running across the
square.

"That child worries me," said Nan, uttering her thought aloud, and
unconsciously using an expression she had often heard on Mrs. Absalom's
tongue. "Did you see that great gawk of a boy?" she went on, as Eugenia
Claiborne came up. "He hasn't the least dignity."

"Well, you should be glad of that, Nan," Eugenia suggested.

"I? Well, please excuse me. If there is anything I admire in other
people, it is dignity." She straightened herself up and assumed such a
serious attitude that Eugenia became convulsed with laughter.

"What did you do to Gabriel, Nan, that he should be running away from
you at such a rate? Or did he run because he saw me coming?" Before Nan
could make any reply, Eugenia seized her by both elbows--"And, oh, Nan!
you know the Yankee captain who is in command of the Yankee soldiers
here? Well, his name is Falconer, and mother says he is our cousin. And
would you believe it, she wanted to ask him to tea. I cried when she
told me; I never was so angry in my life. Why, I wouldn't stay in the
same house nor eat at the same table with one who is an enemy of my
country."

"Nor I either," said Nan with emphasis. "But he's very handsome."

"I don't care if he is," cried the other impulsively. "He has been
killing our gallant young men, and depriving us of our liberties, and
he's here now to help the negroes lord it over us."

"Oh, now I know what Gabriel intends to do!" exclaimed Nan, but she
refused to satisfy Eugenia's curiosity, much to that young lady's
discomfort. "I must go," said Nan, kissing her friend good-bye. Eugenia
stood watching her until she was out of sight, and wondered why she was
in such a hurry.

Nan had changed greatly in the course of two years, and, in some
directions, not for the better, as some of the older ones thought and
said. They remembered how charming she was in the days when she threw
all conventions to the winds, and was simply a wild, sweet little
rascal, engaged in performing the most unheard-of pranks, and cutting up
the most impossible capers. Until Margaret Gaither and Eugenia Claiborne
came to Shady Dale, Nan had no girl-friends. All the others were either
ages too old or ages too young, or disagreeable, and Nan had to find her
amusements the best way she could.

Margaret Gaither and Eugenia Claiborne had a very subduing effect upon
Nan. They had been brought up with the greatest respect for all the
small formalities and conventions, and the attention they paid to these
really awed Nan. The young ladies were free and unconventional enough
when there was no other eye to mark their movements, but at table, or in
company, they held their heads in a certain way, and they had rules by
which to seat themselves in a chair, or to rise therefrom; they had been
taught how to enter a room, how to bow, and how to walk gracefully, as
was supposed, from one side of a room to the other. Nan tried hard to
learn a few of these conventions, but she never succeeded; she never
could conform to the rules; she always failed to remember them at the
proper time; and it was very fortunate that this was so. The native
grace with which she moved about could never have been imparted by rule;
but there were long moments when her failure to conform weighed upon her
mind, and subdued her.

This was a part of the change that Gabriel found in her. She could no
longer, in justice to the rules of etiquette, seize Gabriel by the
lapels of his coat and give him a good shaking when he happened to
displease her, and she could no longer switch him across the face with
her braided hair--that wonderful tawny hair, so fine, so abundant, so
soft, and so warm-looking. No, indeed! the day for that was over, and
very sorry she was for herself and for Gabriel, too.

And while she was going home, following in the footsteps of that young
man (for Dorringtons' was on the way to Cloptons'), a thought struck
her, and it seemed to be so important that she stopped still and clapped
the palms of her hands together with an energy unusual to young ladies.
Then she gathered her skirt firmly, drew it up a little, and went
running along the road as rapidly as Gabriel had run. Fortunately, a
knowledge of the rules of etiquette had not had the effect of paralysing
Nan's legs. She ran so fast that she was wellnigh breathless when she
reached home. She rushed into the house, and fell in a chair, crying:

"Oh, Nonny!"



CHAPTER TEN

_The Troubles of Nan_


"Why, what on earth ails the child?" exclaimed Mrs. Absalom. Nan was
leaning back in the chair, her face very red, making an effort to fan
herself with one little hand, and panting wildly. "Malindy!" Mrs.
Absalom yelled to the cook, "run here an' fetch the camphire as you
come! Ain't you comin'? The laws a massy on us! the child'll be cold and
stiff before you start! Honey, what on earth ails you? Tell your Nonny.
Has anybody pestered you? Ef they have, jest tell me the'r name, an'
I'll foller 'em to the jumpin'-off place but what I'll frail 'em out.
You Malindy! whyn't you come on? You'll go faster'n that to your own
funeral."

But when Malindy came with the camphor, and a dose of salts in a
tumbler, Nan waved her away. "I don't want any physic, Nonny," she said,
still panting, for her run had been a long one; "I'm just tired from
running. And, oh, Nonny! I have something to tell you."

"Well, my life!" exclaimed Mrs. Absalom indignantly, withdrawing her
arms from around Nan, and rising to her feet. "A little more, an' you'd
'a' had me ready for my coolin'-board. I ain't had such a turn--not
sence the day a nigger boy run in the gate an' tol' me the Yankees was
a-hangin' Ab. An' all bekaze you've hatched out some rigamarole that
nobody on the green earth would 'a' thought of but you."

She fussed around a little, and was for going about the various
unnecessary duties she imposed on herself; but Nan protested. "Please,
Nonny, wait until I tell you." Thereupon Nan told as well as she could
of the conversation she and Gabriel had overheard in town, and the
recital gave Mrs. Absalom a more serious feeling than she had had in
many a day. Her muscular arms, bare to the elbow, were folded across her
ample bosom, and she seemed to be glaring at Nan with a frown on her
face, but she was thinking.

"Well," she said with a sigh, "I knowed there was gwine to be trouble of
some kind--old Billy Sanders went by here this mornin' as drunk as a
lord."

"Drunk!" cried Nan with blanched face.

"Well, sorter tollerbul how-come-you-so. The last time old Billy was
drunk, was when sesaytion was fetched on. Ev'ry time he runs a straw in
a jimmy-john, he fishes up trouble. An' my dream's out. I dremp last
night that a wooden-leg man come to the door, an' ast me for a pair of
shoes. I ast him what on earth he wanted wi' a pair, bein's he had but
one foot. He said that the foot he didn't have was constant a-feelin'
like it was cold, an' he allowed maybe it'd feel better ef it know'd
that he had a shoe ready for it ag'in colder weather."

"Oh, I hate him! I just naturally despise him!" cried Nan. When she was
angry her face was pale, and it was very pale now.

"Why do you hate the wooden-leg man, honey? It was all in a dream," said
Mrs. Absalom, soothingly.

"Oh, I don't know what you are talking about, Nonny!" exclaimed Nan,
ready to cry. "I mean old Billy Sanders. And if I don't give him a piece
of my mind when I see him. Now Gabriel will go to that place to-night,
and he's nothing but a boy."

"A boy! well, I dunner where you'll find your men ef Gabriel ain't
nothin' but a boy. Where's anybody in these diggin's that's any bigger
or stouter? I wish you'd show 'em to me," remarked Mrs. Absalom.

"I don't care," Nan persisted; "I know just what Gabriel will do. He'll
go to that place to-night, and--and--I'd rather go there myself."

"Well, my life!" exclaimed Mrs. Absalom, with lifted eyebrows.

The pallor of Nan's face was gradually replaced by a warmer glow. "Now,
Nonny! don't say a word--don't tease--don't tease me about Gabriel. If
you do, I'll never tell you anything more for ever and ever."

"All this is bran new to me," Mrs. Absalom declared. "You make me feel,
Nan, like I was in some strange place, talkin' wi' some un I never seed
before. You ain't no more like yourself--you ain't no more like you used
to be--than day is like night, an' I'm jest as sorry as I can be."

"That's what Gabriel says," sighed Nan. "He said he was sorry, and now
you say you are sorry. Oh, Nonny, I don't want any one to be sorry for
me."

"Well, then, behave yourself, an' be like you use to be, an' stop
trollopin' aroun' wi' them highfalutin' gals downtown. They look like
they know too much. All they talk about is boys, boys, boys, from
mornin' till night; an' I noticed when they was spendin' a part of the'r
time here that you was just as bad. It was six of one an' twice three of
the rest. Now you know that ain't a sign of good health for gals to be
eternally talkin' about boys, 'specially sech ganglin', lop-sided
creeturs as we've got aroun' here."

"Where's Johnny?" asked Nan, who evidently had no notion of getting in a
controversy with Mrs. Absalom on the subject of boys. "Johnny" was her
name for her step-mother, whose surname of Dion had been changed to
"Johns" the day after she arrived at Shady Dale. The story of little
Miss Johns has been told in another place and all that is necessary to
add to the record is the fact that she had managed to endear herself to
the critical, officious, and somewhat jealous Mrs. Absalom. Mrs.
Dorrington had the tact and the charm of the best of her race. She was
Nan's dearest friend and only confidante, and though she was not many
years the girl's senior, she had an influence over her that saved Nan
from many a bad quarter of an hour.

Mrs. Dorrington was in her own room when Nan found her, sewing and
singing softly to herself, the picture of happiness and content. Nan
dropped on her knees beside her chair, and threw her arms impulsively
around the little woman's neck.

"Tell me ever what it is, Nan, before you smother-cate me," said Mrs.
Dorrington, smoothing the girl's hair. The two had a language of their
own, which the elder had learned from the younger.

"It is the most miserable misery, Johnny. Do you remember what I told
you about those people?"

"How could I forget, Nan?"

"Well, those people are going head foremost into trouble, and whatever
happens, I want to be there."

"Oh, is that so? Well, it is too bad," said the little woman
sympathetically. "Perhaps if you would say something about it--not too
much, but just enough for me to get it through my thick numskull----"

Whereupon Nan told of all the fears by which she was beset, and of all
the troubles that racked her mind, and the two had quite a consultation.

"You are not afraid for yourself; why should you be afraid for those
people?" inquired Mrs. Dorrington, laying great stress on "those
people," the name that Gabriel went by when Nan and Johnny were
referring to him.

"Oh, I don't know," replied Nan, helplessly. "It isn't because of what
you would guess if you knew no better. I have a very great friendship
for those people; but it isn't the other feeling--the kind that you were
telling me about. If it is--oh, if it is--I shall never forgive myself."

"In time--yes. It is quite easy to forgive yourself on account of those
people. I found it so."

"Oh, don't! You make me feel as if I ought never to speak to myself."

"Then don't," said Mrs. Dorrington, calmly. "You can speak to me instead
of to that ignorant girl."

"Oh, you sweetest!" cried Nan, hugging her step-mother; "I am going to
have you for my doll."

"Very well, then," said Mrs. Dorrington, shrugging her shoulders; "but
you will have some trouble on your hands--yes, more than those people
give you."

"Johnny, you are my little mother, and you never gave me any trouble in
your life. I am the one that is troublesome; I am troubling you now."

"Silly thing! will you be good?" cried Mrs. Dorrington, tapping Nan
lightly on the cheek. "How can you trouble me when I don't know what you
mean? You haven't told me."

"I thought you could guess as well as I can," replied Nan.

"About some things--yes; but not about this terrible danger that is to
overcome those people."

Whereupon, Nan told Mrs. Dorrington of the conversation she and Gabriel
had overheard. To this information she added her suspicions that Gabriel
intended to do something desperate; and then she gave a very vivid
description of the strange white man, of his pale and eager countenance,
his glittering, shifty eyes, and his thin, cruel lips.

Instead of shuddering, as she should have done, Mrs. Dorrington laughed.
"But I don't see what the trouble is," she declared. "That boy is ever
so large; he can take care of himself. But if you think not, then ask
him to tea."

Nan frowned heavily. "But, Johnny, tea is so tame. Think of rescuing a
friend from danger by means of a cup of tea! Doesn't it seem
ridiculous?"

"Of course it is," responded Mrs. Dorrington. "But it isn't half so
ridiculous as your make-believe. Oh, Nan! Nan! when will you come down
from your clouds?"

Now, Nan's world of make-believe was as natural to her as the persons
and things all about her. No sooner had she guessed that it was
Gabriel's intention to find out what the Union League was for, and, in a
way, expose himself to some possible danger of discovery, than she
carried the whole matter into her land of make-believe as naturally as a
mocking-bird carries a flake of thistle-down to its nest. Once there,
nothing could be more reasonable or more logical than the terrible
danger to which Gabriel would be exposed. While it lasted, Nan's feeling
of anxiety and alarm was both real and sincere. Mrs. Absalom could never
enter into this world of Nan's; she was too practical and downright. And
yet she had a ready sympathy for the girl's troubles and humoured her
without stint, though she sometimes declared that Nan was queer and
flighty.

Mrs. Dorrington, on the other hand, inheriting the sensitive and
artistic temperament of Flavian Dion, her father, was able to enter
heartily into the most of Nan's vagaries. Sometimes she humoured them,
but more frequently she laughed at them as the girl grew older.
Occasionally, in her twilight conversations with her father, whose
gentleness and shyness kept him in the background, Mrs. Dorrington
would deplore Nan's tendency to exploit her imagination.

"But she was born thus, my dear," Flavian Dion would reply, speaking the
picturesque patois of New France. "It will either be her great misery,
or her great happiness. How was it with me? Once it was my great misery,
but now--you see how it is. Come! we will have some music, if
Mademoiselle the Dreamer is willing."

And then they would go into the parlour, where, with Mrs. Dorrington at
the piano, Flavian Dion with his violin, and Nan with her voice, which
was rich and strong, they would render the beautiful folk-songs of
France. Moreover, Flavian Dion had caught many of the plantation
melodies, of which Nan knew the words, and when the French songs were
exhausted, they would fall back on these. It frequently happened that
Mademoiselle the Dreamer would add feet as well as voice to the negro
melodies, especially if Tasma Tid were there to incite her, and the way
that Nan reproduced steps and poses was both wonderful and inimitable.

The reader who takes the trouble to make inferences as he goes along,
will perceive that Nan's solicitude for Gabriel was no compliment to
him; it was not flattering to the heroism of a young man who was
threatening to grow a moustache, for a young lady to believe, or even
pretend to believe, that he needed to be rescued from some imaginary
danger. Gabriel was strong enough to take a man's place at a
log-rolling, and he would have had small relish for the information if
he had been told that Nan Dorrington was planning to rescue him.

Let the simple truth be told. Gabriel was no hero in Nan's eyes. He was
merely a friend and former comrade, who now was in sad need of some one
to take care of him. That was her belief, and she would have shrunk from
the idea that Gabriel would one day be her lover. She had quite other
views. Yes, indeed! Her lover must be a man who had passed through some
desperate experiences. He must be a hero with sword and plume, a cutter
and slasher, a man who had a relish for bloodshed, such as she had read
about in the romances she had appropriated from her father's library.

Nan had brought over from her childhood many queer dreams and fancies.
Once upon a time, she had heard her elders talking of John A. Murrell,
the notorious land-pirate and highwayman. The man was one of the
coarsest and cruellest of modern ruffians, but about his name the common
people had placed a halo of romance. It was said of him that he rescued
beautiful maidens from their abductors, and restored them to their
friends, and that he robbed the rich only to give to the poor. Sad to
say, this ruffian was Nan's ideal hero.

And now, when she was racking her brains to invent some bold and simple
plan for the rescue of Gabriel, her mind reverted to this ideal hero of
her childhood.

"If you insist, Johnny, I'll ask Gabriel to tea," Nan remarked for the
second time; "but, as you say, it is perfectly ridiculous. Whoever heard
of rescuing persons by inviting them to supper?" She paused a moment,
and then went on with a sigh that would have sounded very real in Mrs.
Absalom's ears, but which simply brought a smile to Mrs. Dorrington's
face--"Heigh-ho! What a pity John A. Murrell isn't alive to-day!"

"And who is this Mr. Murrell?" Mrs. Dorrington asked.

"He was a fierce robber-chief," replied Nan, placidly. "He wore a big
black beard, and a hat with a red feather in it. Over his left shoulder
was a red sash, and he rode a big white horse. He carried two big
pistols and a bowie-knife--Nonny can tell you all about him."

Whereupon, Mrs. Dorrington jumped from her chair, and made an effort to
catch the young romancer; and in a moment, the laughter of the pursuer,
and the shrieks of the pursued, when she thought she was in danger of
being caught, roused the echoes in the old house. Mrs. Absalom, who was
in the kitchen, laughed and shook her head. "I believe them two scamps
will be children when they are sixty year old!"

But after awhile, when their romp was over, Nan suddenly discovered that
she had been in very high spirits, and this, according to the
constitution and by-laws of the land of make-believe, was an
unpardonable offence, especially when, as now, a very dear friend was in
danger. So she went out upon the veranda, and half-way down the steps,
where she seated herself in an attitude of extreme dejection.

While sitting there, Nan suddenly remembered that she did have a
grievance and a very real one. Tasma Tid was in a state of insurrection.
She had not been permitted to accompany her young mistress when the
latter visited her girl-friends, and for a long time she had been
sulking and pouting. An effort had been made to induce Tasma Tid to make
herself useful, but even the strong will of Mrs. Absalom collapsed when
it found itself in conflict with the bright-eyed African.

Tasma Tid had been wounded in her tenderest part--her affections. Her
sentiments and emotions, being primitive, were genuine. Her grief, when
separated from Nan, was very keen. She refused to eat, and for the most
part kept herself in seclusion, and no one was able to find her
hiding-place. Now, when Nan threw herself upon the steps in an attitude
of dejection, with her head on her arm, it happened that Tasma Tid was
prowling about with the hope of catching a glimpse of her. The African,
slipping around the house, suddenly came plump upon the object of her
search. She stood still, and drew a long breath. Here was Honey Nan
apparently in deep trouble. Tasma Tid crept up the steps as silently as
a ghost, and sat beside the prostrate form. If Nan knew, she made no
sign; nor did she move when the African laid a caressing hand on her
hair. It was only when Tasma Tid leaned over and kissed Nan on the hand
that she stirred. She raised her head, saying,

"You shouldn't do that, Tasma Tid; I'm too mean."

"How come you dis away, Honey Nan?" inquired the African in a low tone.
"Who been-a hu't you?"

"No one," replied Nan; "I am just mean."

"'Tis ain't so, nohow. Somebody been-a hu't you. You show dem ter Tasma
Tid--dee ain't hu't you no mo'."

"Where have you been? Why did you go away and leave me?"

"Nobody want we fer stay. You go off, an' den we go off. We go off an'
walk, walk, walk in de graveyard--walk, walk, walk in de graveyard; an'
den we go home way off yander in de woods."

"Home! why this is your home; it shall always be your home," cried Nan,
touched by the forlorn look in Tasma Tid's eyes, and the despairing
expression in her voice.

"No, no, Honey Nan; 'tis-a no home fer we when you drive we 'way fum
foller you, when you shak-a yo' haid ef we come trot, trot 'hind you. We
no want home lak dat. No, no, Honey Nan. We make home in de woods."

"Where is your home?" Nan inquired, full of curiosity.

"We take-a you dey when dem sun go 'way."

"Well, you must stay here," said Nan, emphatically. "You shall follow me
wherever I go."

"You talk-a so dis time, Honey Nan; nex' time--" Tasma Tid ran down the
steps, and went along the walk mimicking Nan's movements, shaking her
frock first on one side and then on the other. Then she looked over her
shoulder, turned around with a frown, stamped her foot and made menacing
gestures with her hands. "Dat how 'twill be nex' time, Honey Nan."

Hearing Mrs. Absalom laughing, Nan conjectured that she had witnessed
Tasma Tid's performance. "Nonny," she cried, "do I really walk that way,
and finger my skirt so?"

"To a t," said Mrs. Absalom, laughing louder. "Ef she was a foot an' a
half higher, I'd 'a' made shore it was you practisin' ag'in the time
when you'll mince by the store where old Silas Tomlin's yearlin' is
clerkin', or by the tavern peazzer, where Frank Bethune an' the rest of
the loafers set at. It's among the merikels that Gabe Tolliver don't mix
wi' that crowd. I reckon maybe it's bekaze he jest natchally too
wuthless."

"Now, Nonny! I don't think you ought to make fun of me," protested Nan.
"I am perfectly certain that I don't mince when I walk, and you are
always complaining that I don't care how my clothes look."

"Go roun' to the kitchen, you black slink," exclaimed Mrs. Absalom,
addressing Tasma Tid, "an' git your dinner! You've traipsed and
trolloped until I bet you can gulp down all the vittles on the place."

"And when you have finished your dinner, come to my room," said Nan.

It was not often that Nan was to be found in her own room during the
day, but now she remembered that she had promised to spend the night
with Eugenia Claiborne; and how was she to invite Gabriel to tea, as
Mrs. Dorrington had suggested? There was but one thing to do, and that
was to break her engagement with Eugenia. She was of half a dozen minds
what to say to her friend. She wrote note after note, only to destroy
each one. She pulled her nose, stuck out her tongue, looked at the
ceiling, and bit her thumb, but all to no purpose.

Tasma Tid, who had finished her dinner, sat on the floor eying Nan as an
intelligent dog eyes its master, ready to respond to look, word or
gesture. Finally, the African, seeing Nan's perplexity, made a
suggestion.

"Make dem cuss-words come," she said. Tasma Tid had heard men use
profane language when fretted or irritated, and she supposed that it was
a remedy for troubles both small and large.

"Be jigged if I haven't a mind to," cried Nan, laughing at the African's
earnestness.

But at last she flung her pen down, seized her hat, and, with an
unspoken invitation to Tasma Tid, went out into the street, determined
to go to the Gaither Place, where Eugenia lived, and present her excuses
in person.



CHAPTER ELEVEN

_Mr. Sanders in His Cups_


When Nan came in sight of the court-house she saw a crowd of men and
boys gazing at some spectacle on the side opposite her. Some were
laughing, while others had serious faces. Among them she noticed Francis
Bethune, and she also saw Gabriel, who was standing apart from the rest
with a very gloomy countenance. Arriving near the crowd, she paused to
discover what had excited their curiosity; and there before her eyes,
seated on the court-house steps, was Mr. Billy Sanders, relating to an
imaginary audience some choice incidents in his family history. His hat
was off, and his face was very red.

As Nan listened, he was telling how his "pa" and "ma" had married in
South Carolina, and had subsequently moved to Jasper County in Georgia.
In coming away (according to Mr. Sanders's version), they had fetched a
half dozen hogs too many, and maybe a cow or two that didn't belong to
them. By-and-by the owners of the stock appeared in the neighbourhood
where Mr. Sanders, Sr., had settled, found the missing property, and
carried him away with them. They had, or claimed to have, a warrant, and
they hustled the pioneer off to South Carolina, and put him in jail.

"Now, Sally Hart was Nancy's own gal," said Mr. Sanders, pausing to take
a nip from a bottle he carried in his pocket. "She was a chip off'n the
old block ef they ever was a block that had a chip. So Sally (that was
ma) she went polin' off to Sou' Ca'liny. The night she got to whar she
was agwine, she tore a hole in the side of the jail that you could 'a'
driv a buggy through. Then she took poor pa by one ear, an' fetched him
home. An' that ain't all. Arter she got him home, she took a rawhide an'
liter'ly wore pa out. She said arterwards that she didn't larrup him for
fetchin' the stock off, but for layin' up there in jail an' lettin' his
crap spile. Well, that frailin' made a good Christian of pa. He j'ined
the church, an' would 'a' been a preacher, but ma wouldn't let him. She
allowed they'd be too much gaddin' about, an' maybe a little too much
honeyin' up wi' the sisterin'. 'No,' says she, 'ef you want to do good
prayin', pray whilst you're ploughin'. I'll look arter the hoein'
myself,' says she."

Mr. Sanders was not regarded as a dangerous man in his cups, but on one
well-remembered occasion he had fired into a crowd of men who were
inclined to be too familiar, and since that day he had been given a wide
berth when he took a seat on the court-house steps and began to recite
his family history. While Nan stood there, Mr. Sanders drew a pistol
from his pocket, and, smiling blandly, began to flourish it around. As
he did so, Gabriel Tolliver sprang into the street and ran rapidly
toward him. Some one in the crowd uttered a cry of warning. Seized by
some blind impulse Nan ran after Gabriel. Francis Bethune caught her
arm as she ran by him, but she wrenched herself from his grasp, and ran
faster than ever.

"Stand back there!" exclaimed Mr. Sanders in an angry voice, raising his
pistol. For one brief moment, the spectators thought that Gabriel was
doomed, for he went on without wavering. But he was really in no danger.
Mr. Sanders had mistaken him for some of the young men who had been
taunting him as they stood at a safe distance. But when he saw who it
was, he replaced the pistol in his pocket, remarking, "You ought to hang
out your sign, Gabe. Ef I hadn't 'a' had on my furseein' specks, I'm
afear'd I'd a plugged you."

At that moment Nan arrived on the scene, her anger at white heat. She
caught her breath, and then stood looking at Mr. Sanders, with eyes that
fairly blazed with scorn and anger. "Ef looks'd burn, honey, they
wouldn't be a cinder left of me," said Mr. Sanders, moving uneasily.
"Arter she's through wi' me, Gabriel, plant me in a shady place, an'
make old Tar-Baby thar," indicating Tasma Tid, who had followed
Nan--"make old Tar-Baby thar set on my grave, an' warm it up once in
awhile. I leave you my Sunday shirts wi' the frills on 'em, Gabriel, an'
my Sunday boots wi' the red tops; an' have a piece put in the Malvern
paper, statin' that I was one of the most populous and public-sperreted
citizens of the county. An' tell how I went about killin' jimson weeds
an' curkle-burrs for my neighbours by blowin' my breath on 'em."

What Nan had intended to say, she left unsaid. Her feelings reacted
while Mr. Sanders was talking, and she turned her back on him and began
to cry. Under the circumstances, it was the very thing to do. Mr.
Sanders's face fell. "I'll tell you the honest truth, Gabriel--I never
know'd that anybody in the roun' world keer'd a continental whether I
was drunk or sober, alive or dead; an' I'd lots ruther some un 'd stick
a knife through my gizzard than to see that child cryin'."

He rose and went to Nan--he was not too tipsy to walk--and tried to lay
his hand on her arm, but she whirled away from him. "Honey," he said,
"what must I do? I'll do anything in the world you say."

"Go home and try to be decent," she answered.

"I will, honey, ef you an' Gabriel will go wi' me. I need some un for to
keep the boogers off. You git on the lead side, honey, an' Gabriel, you
be the off-hoss. Now, hitch on here"--he held out both elbows, so that
each could take him by an arm--"an' when you're ready to start, give the
word."

Nan dried her eyes as quickly as she could, but before she would consent
to go with Mr. Sanders, insisted on searching him. She found a flask of
apple-brandy, and hurled it against the side of the court-house.

"Nan," he said ruefully, "that's twice you've broke my heart in a
quarter of an hour. Ain't there some way you can break Gabriel's?" He
paused and sniffed the fumes of the apple-brandy. "It's a mighty good
thing court ain't in session," he remarked, "bekaze the judge an' jury
an' all the lawyers would come pourin' out for to smell at that wall
there. You say they ain't no way for you to break Gabriel's heart,
too?" he asked again, turning to Nan.

"I just know my eyes are a sight," she said in reply. "Are they red and
swollen, Gabriel?"

"They are somewhat red, but----"

"But what?" she asked, as Gabriel paused.

"They are just as pretty as ever."

"Mr. Sanders, that is the first compliment he ever paid me in his life."

"You'll remember it longer on that account," said Mr. Sanders. "Gabriel
is lazy-minded, but he'll brighten up arter awhile. Speakin' of fust an'
last, an' things of that kind," he went on, "I reckon this is the fust
time I ever come betwixt you children. I hope no harm's done."

"Well, sir," said Nan, addressing Gabriel with a pretty formality,
"since you are kind enough to pay me a compliment, I'll be bold enough
to ask you to take tea with me this evening; and I'll have no refusal."

Gabriel found himself in an awkward predicament. He felt bound to
discover what part the Union League was playing. He had read of its
sinister influence in other parts of the South, and he judged that the
hour of its organisation at Shady Dale was the aptest time for such a
discovery. He couldn't tell Nan what his plans were--he had no idea that
she had already guessed them--and he hardly knew what to say. He was
thoroughly uncomfortable. He was silent so long that Mr. Sanders had an
opportunity to ask Nan if she hadn't made a remark to Gabriel.

"Yes; I asked him to tea," she replied in a low voice; "he has forgotten
it by this time." But Nan well knew why Gabriel was silent; she was
neither vexed nor surprised at his hesitation. Nevertheless, she must
play her part.

"Give him time, Nan; give him time," said Mr. Sanders, consolingly.
"Gabriel comes of a stuttering family. They say it took his grandma e'en
about seven year to tell Dick Lumsden she'd have him. I lay Gabriel is
composin' in his mind a flowery piece sorter like, 'Here's my heart, an'
here's my hand; ef you ax me to tea, I'm your'n to command.'"

"I'm sorry I can't come, Nan, but I can't; and it's just my luck that
you should invite me to-day," said Gabriel, finally.

"You have another engagement?" asked Nan.

"No, not an engagement," he replied.

"Well, you are going to do something very unnecessary and improper,"
said Nan, with the air and tone of a mature woman. "You are sure to get
into trouble. Why don't you ask your Mr. Bethune to take your place, or
at least go with you?"

"Why, you talk as if you knew what I am going to do," remarked Gabriel;
"but you couldn't guess in a week."

At this point Mr. Sanders tried to stop in order to deliver an address.
"I bet you--I bet you a seven-pence ag'in a speckled hen that Nan knows
precisely what you're up to."

But Nan and Gabriel pulled him along in spite of his frequently
expressed desire to "lay down in the road an' take a nap." "It's a
shame," he said, "for a great big gal an' a great big boy to be harryin'
a man as old as me. Why don't you ketch hands an' run to play? No,
nothin' will do, but you must worry William H. Sanders, late of said
county." He received no reply to this, and continued: "I'm glad I took
too much, Gabriel, ef only for one thing. You know what I told you about
Nan's temper--well, you've seed it for yourself. She's frailed Frank,
she'd 'a' frailed me jest now ef you hadn't 'a' been on hand, an' she'll
frail you out before long. She's jest turrible."

Mr. Sanders kept up his good-humour all the way home, and when he had
been placed in charge of Uncle Plato, who knew how to deal with him, he
said: "Now, fellers, I had a mighty good reason for restin' my mind. You
cried bekase old Billy Sanders was drunk, didn't you, Nan? Well, I'm
mighty glad you did. I never know'd before that a sob or two would make
a Son of Temperance of a man; but that's what they'll do for me. Nobody
in this world will ever see me drunk ag'in. So long!"

It may be said here that Mr. Sanders kept his promise. The events which
followed required clear heads and steady hands for their shaping, but
each crisis, as it arose, found Mr. Sanders, and a few others who acted
with him, fully prepared to meet it, though there were times and
occasions when he, as well as the rest, was overtaken by a profound
sense of his helplessness. Some fell into melancholy, and some were
overtaken by dejection, but Mr. Sanders never for a moment forgot to be
cheerful.

"I don't suppose there is another girl in the country who would make
such a spectacle of herself as I made to-day," said Nan, as she and
Gabriel walked slowly in the direction of town.

"What do you mean?" inquired Gabriel.

"You know well enough," replied Nan. "Why, think of a young woman
rushing across the public square in the face of a crowd, and doing as I
did! I'll be the talk of the town. What is your opinion?"

"Well, considering who the man was, and everything, I think it was very
becoming in you," replied Gabriel.

"Oh, thank you!" said Nan. "Under the circumstances, you could say no
less. You have changed greatly, Gabriel, since Eugenia Claiborne began
to make eyes at you. You seem to think it is a mark of politeness to pay
compliments right and left, and to agree with everybody. No doubt, if an
invitation to tea had come from further up the street, you would have
found some excuse for accepting."

Nan's logic was quite feminine, but Gabriel took no advantage of that
fact. "I'm sorry I can't come, Nan, and I hope you'll not be angry."

"Angry! why should I be angry?" Nan exclaimed. "An invitation to tea is
not so important."

"But this one is important to me," said Gabriel. "It is the first time
you have asked me, and I hope it won't be the last."

Nan said nothing more until she bade Gabriel good-bye at her father's
gate. He thought she was angry, while she was wondering if he considered
her bold.



CHAPTER TWELVE

_Caught in a Corner_


It was no difficult matter for Nan Dorrington to infer what course of
action Gabriel intended to pursue. The Union Leagues established in the
South under the auspices of the political department of the Freedman's
Bureau had already excited the suspicion of the whites. The reputation
they instantly achieved was extremely sinister, and they had become the
source of much uneasiness. There was an air of mystery about them which,
however pleasing it might be to the negroes, was not at all relished by
those who had been made the victims of radical legislation. There were
wild rumours to the effect that the object of these leagues was to
organise the negroes and prepare them for an armed attack on the whites.

These rumours were to be seen spread out in the newspapers, and were to
be heard wherever people gathered together. Nan was familiar with them,
and, while both she and Gabriel were possibly too young to harbour all
the anxieties entertained by their elders, they nevertheless took a very
keen interest in the situation; and it was not less keen because it had
curiosity for its basis.

Gabriel had no sooner digested the purport of the conversation to which
he had listened than he made up his mind to unravel, if he could, the
mystery of the Union League, and to discover what part the new-comer,
the companion of the Rev. Jeremiah Tomlin, proposed to play. It was
characteristic of the lad that he should act promptly. When he left Nan
so unceremoniously, he ran to the Clopton Place to report what he had
heard to Mr. Sanders, but he found that worthy citizen in no condition
to give him aid, or even advice. Meriwether Clopton chanced to be in
consultation with some gentleman from Atlanta, and could not be seen,
while Francis Bethune was said to be in town somewhere.

It was then that Gabriel made up his mind that he would act alone. He
knew the old school-house in which the league was to be organised, as
well as he knew his own home. It had formerly been called the Shady Dale
Male Academy, and its reputation, before the war, had gone far and wide.
Gabriel had spent many a happy hour there, and some that were memorably
unpleasant, especially during the term that a school-master by the name
of McManus wielded the rod. Among the things that Gabriel remembered was
the fact that the space under the stairway--the building had two
stories--was boarded up so as to form a large closet, where the pupils
deposited their extra coats and wraps, as well as their lunches. The
closet had also been used as a reformatory for refractory pupils, and
this was one reason why Gabriel remembered it so well; he had spent
numerous uncomfortable hours there at a time when darkness and isolation
had real terrors for him.

The building had been abandoned by the whites during the war, and was
for a time used as a hospital. At the close of the war it was turned
over to the negroes, who established there a flourishing school, which
was presided over by a native Southerner, an old gentleman whom the war
had stripped of this world's goods.

Gabriel thought it best to begin operations before the sun went down. He
made a detour wide enough to place the school-house between him and
Shady Dale, so that if by any chance his movements should attract
attention he would have the appearance of approaching the building quite
by accident. Under the circumstances, it was perhaps fortunate that he
took this precaution, for when he drew near the school-house, the Rev.
Jeremiah Tomlin was standing in the back door flourishing a broom.

"Hello, Jeremiah!" said Gabriel by way of salutation. "What's up now?"

"Good-evenin', Mister Gabe," responded the Rev. Jeremiah. "Dey been
havin' some plasterin' done in my chu'ch, suh, an' we 'lowd we'd hol'
pra'r-meetin' here ter-night. An' I'll tell you why, suh: You know
mighty well how we coloured folks does--we ain't got nothin' fer ter
hide, an' we couldn't hide it ef we did had sump'n. Well, suh, dem
mongst us what got any erligion is bleeze ter show it; when de sperret
move um, dey bleeze ter let one an'er know it; an' in dat way, suh, dey
do a heap er movin' 'bout. Dey rastles wid Satan, ez you may say, when
dey gits in a weavin' way; an' I wuz fear'd, suh, dat dey mought shake
de damp plasterin' down."

"But you have no pulpit here," suggested Gabriel, who associated a
pulpit with all religious gatherings.

"So much de better, suh," replied the Rev. Jeremiah. "Ef you wuz ter
come ter my chu'ch, you'd allers see me come down when I gits warmed up.
Dey ain't no pulpit big nuff for me long about dat time. No, suh; I'm
bleeze ter have elbow-room, an' I'm mighty glad dey ain't no pulpit in
here. But whar you been, Mr. Gabe?" inquired the Rev. Jeremiah, craftily
changing the subject.

"Just walking about in the woods and fields," answered Gabriel.

"'Twant no use fer ter ax you, suh; you been doin' dat sence you wuz big
nuff ter clime a fence. Ef you wan't wid Miss Nan, you wuz by yo'se'f. I
uv seed you many a day, suh, when you didn't see me. You wuz wid Miss
Nan dis ve'y day." The Rev. Jeremiah dropped his head to one side, and
smiled a knowing smile. "Oh, you needn't be shame un it, suh," the negro
went on as the colour slowly mounted to Gabriel's face. "I uv said it
befo' an' I'll say it ag'in, an' I don't keer who hears me--Miss Nan is
boun' ter make de finest 'oman in de lan'. An' dat ain't all, suh: when
I hear folks hintin' dat she's gwine ter make a match wid Mr. Frank
Bethune, sez I, 'Des keep yo' eye on Mr. Gabe'; dat zackly what I sez."

"Oh, the dickens and Tom Walker!" exclaimed Gabriel impatiently; "who's
been talking of the affairs of Miss Dorrington in that way?"

"Why, purty nigh eve'ybody, suh," remarked the Rev. Jeremiah, smacking
his lips. "What white folks say in de parlour, you kin allers hear in de
kitchen."

After firing this homely truth at Gabriel, the Rev. Jeremiah went to
work with his broom and made a great pretence of sweeping and moving the
benches about. The lad followed him in, and looked about him with
interest. It was the first time he had revisited the old school-house
since he was a boy of ten, and he was pleased to find that there had
been few changes. The desk at which he had sat was intact. His initials,
rudely carved, stared him in the face, and there, too, was the hole he
had cut in the seat. He remembered that this was a dungeon in which he
had imprisoned many a fly. These mute evidences of his idleness seemed
to be as solid as the hills. Between those times and the present, the
wild and furious perspective of war lay spread out, and Gabriel could
imagine that the idler who had hacked the desk belonged to another
generation altogether.

He went to the blackboard, found a piece of chalk, and wrote in a large,
bold hand: "Rev. Jeremiah Tomlin will lecture here to-night, beginning
at early candle-light."

The Rev. Jeremiah, witnessing the performance, had his curiosity
aroused: "What is de word you uv writ, suh?" he inquired, and when
Gabriel had read it off, the negro exclaimed, "Well, suh! You put all
dat down, an' it didn't take you no time; no, suh, not no time. But I
might uv speckted it, bekase I hear lots er talk about how smart you is
on all sides--dey all sesso."

"Does Tasma Tid belong to your church?" Gabriel inquired with a most
innocent air.

"Do which, suh?" exclaimed Rev. Jeremiah, pausing with his broom
suspended in the air. When Gabriel repeated his inquiry, the Rev.
Jeremiah drew a deep breath, his nostrils dilated, and he seemed to grow
several inches taller. "No, suh, she do not; no, suh, she do not belong
ter my chu'ch. You kin look at her, suh, an' see de mark er de Ol' Boy
on her. She got de hoodoo eye, suh; an' de blue gums dat go long wid it,
an' ef she wuz ter jine my chu'ch, she'd be de only member."

It was very clear to Gabriel that nothing was to be gained by remaining,
so he bade the Rev. Jeremiah good-bye, and went toward Shady Dale. When
he was well out of sight, the negro approached the blackboard, and, with
the most patient curiosity, examined the inscription or announcement
that Gabriel had written. With his forefinger, he traced over the lines,
as if in that way he might absorb the knowledge that was behind the
writing. Then, stepping back a few paces, he viewed the writing
critically. Finally he shook his head doubtfully, exclaiming aloud:
"Dat's whar dey'll git us--yes, suh, dat's whar dey sho' will git us."

After which, he carefully closed the doors of the school-house and
followed the path leading to Shady Dale--the path that Gabriel had
taken. The Rev. Jeremiah mumbled as he walked along, giving oral
utterance to his thoughts, but in a tone too low to reveal their import.
He had taken a step which it was now too late to retrace. He was not a
vicious negro. In common with the great majority of his race--in
common, perhaps with the men of all races--he was eaten up by a desire
to become prominent, to make himself conspicuous. Generations of
civilisation (as it is called) have gone far to tone down this desire in
the whites, and they manage to control it to some extent, though now and
then we see it crop out in individuals. But there had been no toning
down of the Rev. Jeremiah's egotism; on the contrary, it had been fed by
the flattery of his congregation until it was gross and rank.

It was natural, therefore, under all the circumstances, that the Rev.
Jeremiah should become the willing tool of the politicians and
adventurers who had accepted the implied invitation of the radical
leaders of the Republican Party to assist in the spoliation of the
South. The Rev. Jeremiah, once he had been patted on the back, and
addressed as Mr. Tomlin by a white man, and that man a representative of
the Government, was quite ready to believe anything he was told by his
new friends, and quite as ready to aid them in carrying out any scheme
that their hatred of the South and their natural rapacity could suggest
or invent.

Therefore, let it not be supposed that the Rev. Jeremiah, as he went
along the path, mumbling out his thoughts, was expressing any doubt of
the wisdom or expediency of the part he was expected to play in arraying
the negroes against the whites. No; he was simply putting together as
many sonorous phrases as he could remember, and storing them away in
view of the contingency that he would be called on to address those of
his race who might be present at the organisation of the Union League.
He had been very busy since his conference with the agent of the
Freedman's Bureau, and, in one way and another, had managed to convey
information of the proposed meeting to quite a number of the negroes;
and in performing this service he was careful that a majority of those
notified should be members of his church--negroes with whom his
influence was all-powerful. But he had also invited Uncle Plato,
Clopton's carriage-driver, Wiley Millirons, and Walthall's Jake, three
of the worthiest and most sensible negroes to be found anywhere.

While the Rev. Jeremiah, full of his own importance, and swelling with
childish vanity, was making his way toward Neighbour Tomlin's, on whose
lot he had a house, rent free, there were other plotters at work. In
addition to Gabriel Tolliver, Nan Dorrington was a plotter to be
reckoned with, especially when she had as her copartner Tasma Tid, who
was as cunning as some wild thing.

When the day was far spent, or, as Mrs. Absalom would say, "along to'rds
the shank of the evenin'," Nan and Tasma Tid went wandering out of town
in the direction of the school-house. The excuse Nan had given at home
was that she wanted to see Tasma Tid's hiding-place. As they passed
Tomlin's, they saw the Rev. Jeremiah splitting wood for his wife, who
was the cook. At sight of Jeremiah, Tasma Tid began to laugh, and she
laughed so long and so loud that the parson paused in his labours and
looked at her. He took off his hat and bowed to Nan, whereupon Tasma Tid
raised her hand above her head, and indulged in a series of wild
gesticulations, which, to the Rev. Jeremiah, were very mysterious and
puzzling. He shook his head dubiously, and mopped his face with a large
red handkerchief.

"What are you trying to do to Jeremiah?" inquired Nan, as they went
along.

"Him fool nigger. We make him dream bad dream," responded Tasma Tid
curtly.

The two were in no hurry. They sauntered along leisurely, and, although
the sun had not set, by the time they had entered the woods in which the
school-house stood, the deep shadows of the trees gave the effect of
twilight to the scene. Tasma Tid led Nan to the old building, and told
her to wait a moment. The African crawled under the house, and then
suddenly reappeared at the back door, near which Nan stood waiting.
Tasma Tid had crawled under the house, and lifted a loose plank in the
floor of the closet, making her entrance in that way. The front door was
locked and the key was safe in the pocket of the Rev. Jeremiah, but the
back door was fastened on the inside, and Tasma Tid had no trouble in
getting it open.

It is fair to say that Nan hesitated before entering. Some instinct or
presentiment held her a moment. She was not afraid; her sense of fear
had never developed itself; it was one of the attributes of human nature
that was foreign to her experience; and this was why some of her
actions, when she was younger, and likewise when she was older, were
inexplicable to the rest of her sex, and made her the object of
criticism which seemed to have good ground to go upon. Nan hesitated
with her foot on the step, but it was not her way to draw back, and she
went in. Tasma Tid refastened the door very carefully, and then turned
and led the way toward the closet. The room was not wholly dark; one or
two of the shutters had fallen off, and in this way a little light
filtered in. Nan followed Tasma Tid to the closet, the door of which was
open.

"Dis-a we house," said Tasma Tid; "dis-a de place wey we live at."

"Why did you come here?" Nan asked.

"We had no nurrer place; all-a we frien' gone; da's why."

What further comment Nan may have made cannot even be guessed, for at
that moment there was a noise at one of the windows; some one was trying
to raise the sash. Nan and Tasma Tid held their breath while they
listened, and then, when they were sure that some one was preparing to
enter the building, the African closed the closet door noiselessly, and
pulled Nan after her to the narrowest and most uncomfortable part of the
musty and dusty place--the space next the stairway, where it was so low
that they were compelled to sit flat on the floor.

The intruder, whoever he might be, crawled cautiously through the
window--they could hear the buttons of his coat strike against the
sill--and leaped lightly to the floor. He lowered the window again, and
then, after tiptoeing about among the benches, came straight to the
closet. As Tasma Tid had not taken time to fasten it on the inside, the
door was easily opened. Dark as it was, Nan and the African could see
that the intruder was a man, but, beyond this, they could distinguish
nothing. Nan and her companion would have breathed freer if recognition
had been possible, for the new-comer was Gabriel, who had determined to
take this method of discovering the aim and object of the Union League.

Once in the closet, Gabriel took pains to make the inside fastenings
secure. It was one of the whims of Mr. McManus, the school-master, who
had so often caused Gabriel's head and the blackboard to meet, that the
fastenings of this closet should be upon the inside. It tickled his
humour to feel that a refractory boy should be his own jailer, able, and
yet not daring, to release himself until the master should rap sharply
on the door.

Gabriel was less familiar with these fastenings than he had formerly
been, and he fumbled about in the dark for some moments before he could
adjust them to his satisfaction. He made no effort to explore the
closet, taking for granted that it could have no other occupant. This
was fortunate for Nan, for if he had moved about to any extent, he would
inevitably have stumbled over the African and her young mistress, who
were crouched and huddled as far under the stairway as they could get.

Gabriel stood still a moment, as if listening, and then he sat flat on
the floor, and stretched out his legs with a sigh of relief. After that
there was a long period of silence, during which Nan had a fine
opportunity to be very sorry that she had ever ventured out on such a
fool's errand. "If I get out of this scrape," she thought over and over
again, "I'll never be a tomboy; I'll never be a harum-scarum girl any
more." She had no physical fear, but she realised that she was placed in
a very awkward position.

She was devoured with curiosity to know whether the intruder really was
Gabriel. She hoped it was, and the hope caused her to blush in the dark.
She knew she was blushing; she felt her ears burn--for what would
Gabriel think if he knew that she was crouching on the floor, not more
than an arm's length from him? Why, naturally, he would have no respect
for her. How could he? she asked herself.

As for Gabriel, he was sublimely unconscious of the fact that he was not
alone. Once or twice he fancied he heard some one breathing, but he was
a lad who was very close to nature, and he knew how many strange and
varied sounds rise mysteriously out of the most profound silence; and
so, instead of becoming suspicious, he became drowsy. He made himself as
comfortable as he could, and leaned against the wall, pitting his
patience against the loneliness of the place and the slow passage of
time.

Being a healthy lad, Gabriel would have gone to sleep then and there,
but for a mysterious splutter and explosion, so to speak, which went off
right at his elbow, as he supposed. He was in that neutral territory
between sleeping and waking and he was unable to recognise the sound
that had startled him; and it would have remained a mystery but for the
fact that a sneeze is usually accompanied by its twin. Nan had for some
time felt an inclination to sneeze, and the more she tried to resist it
the greater the inclination grew, until finally, it culminated in the
spluttering explosion that had aroused Gabriel. This was followed by a
sneeze which he had no difficulty in recognising.

The fact that some unknown person was a joint occupant of the closet
upset him so little that he was surprised at himself. He remained
perfectly quiet for awhile, endeavouring to map out a course of action,
little knowing that Nan Dorrington was chewing her nails with anger a
few feet from where he sat.

"Who are you?" he asked finally. He spoke in a firm low tone.

In another moment Nan's impulsiveness would have betrayed her, but Tasma
Tid came to her rescue.

"Huccum you in we house? Whaffer you come dey? How you call you' name?"

"Oh, shucks! Is that you, Tiddy Me Tas?"--this was the way Gabriel
sometimes twisted her name. "I thought you were the booger-man. You'd
better run along home to your Miss Nan. She says she wants to see you.
What are you hiding out here for anyway?"

"We no hide, Misser Gable. 'Tis-a we house, dis. Honey Nan no want we;
she no want nobody. She talkin' by dat Misser Frank what live-a down dey
at Clopton. Dee got cake, dee got wine, dee got all de bittle dee want."

Tasma Tid told this whopper in spite of the fact that Nan was giving her
warning nudges and pinches.

"Yes, I reckon they are having a good time," said Gabriel gloomily.
"Miss Nan gave me an invitation, but I couldn't go." It was something
new in Nan's experience to hear Gabriel call her Miss Nan, and she
rather relished the sensation it gave her. She was now ready to believe
that she was really and truly a young lady.

"Whaffer you ain't gone down dey?" inquired Tasma Tid. "Ef you kin come
dis-a way, you kin go down dey."

"I was obliged to come here," responded Gabriel.

"Shoo! dem fib roll out lak dey been had grease on top um," exclaimed
Tasma Tid derisively. "Who been ax you fer come by dis way? 'Tis-a we
house, dis. You better go, Misser Gable; go by dat place wey Honey Nan
live, an' look in de blin' wey you see dat Misser Frank, and dat Misser
Paul Tomlin, an' watch um how dee kin make love. Maybe you kin fin' out
how fer make love you'se'f."

Gabriel laughed uneasily. "No, Tiddy Me Tas--no love-making for me. I'm
either too old or too young, I forget which."

They ceased talking, for they heard footsteps outside, and the sound of
voices. Presently some one opened the door, and it seemed from the noise
that was made, the shuffling of feet, and the repressed tones of
conversation, that a considerable number of negroes had responded to the
Rev. Jeremiah's invitation.

The first-comers evidently lit a candle, for a phantom-like shadow of
light trickled through a small crack in the closet door, and a faint,
but unmistakable, odour of a sulphur match readied Gabriel's nostrils.
There were whispered consultations, and a good deal of muffled and
subdued conversation, but every word that was distinctly enunciated was
clearly heard in the sound-box of a closet. But suddenly all
conversation ceased, and complete silence took possession of those
present.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

_The Union League Organises_


The silence was presently broken by a very clear and distinct voice,
which both Nan and Gabriel recognised as that of the stranger whom they
had overheard talking to the Rev. Jeremiah.

"Before we proceed to the business that has called us together," said
the voice, "it is best that we should come to some clear understanding.
I am not here in my own behalf. I have nothing to lose except my life,
and nothing to gain but the betterment of those who have been released
from the horrors of slavery. Very few of you know even my name, but the
very fact that I am here with you to-night should go far to reassure
you. It is sufficient to say that I represent the great party that has
given you your freedom. That fact constitutes my credentials."

"Bless God!" exclaimed the Rev. Jeremiah, piously. He rolled the word
"credentials" under his tongue, and resolved to remember it and bring it
out in one of his sermons. The stranger had a very smooth and pleasing
delivery. There was a sort of Sunday-school cadence to his voice well
calculated to impress his audience. The language he employed was far
above the heads of those to whom he spoke, but his persuasive tone, and
his engaging manner carried conviction. The great majority of the
negroes present were ready to believe what he said whether they
understood it or not.

"My name," he went on, "is Gilbert Hotchkiss, and I belong to a family
that has been striving for more than a generation to bring about the
emancipation of the negroes. My father worked until the day of his death
for the abolition of slavery; and now that slavery has been abolished,
I, with thousands of devoted women and men whom you have never seen and
doubtless never will see, have begun the work of uplifting the coloured
people in order that they may be placed in a position to appreciate the
benefits that have been conferred on them, and enable them to enjoy the
fruits of freedom. It is a great work, a grand work, and all we ask is
the active co-operation and assistance of the coloured people
themselves."

These were the words of Mr. Hotchkiss, the philanthropist; but now Mr.
Hotchkiss, the politician, took his place, and there was an indefinable
change in the tone of his voice.

"There is no need to ask," he said, "why we do not, in this great work
of uplifting the coloured race, ask the assistance of those who were
lately in rebellion against the best and the greatest Government on
which the sun ever shone. It would be foolish and unreasonable to expect
their assistance. They fought to destroy the Union, and they were
defeated; they fought to perpetuate slavery, and they failed. More than
that, there is every reason to believe that they will refuse to abide
by the results of the war. They are very quiet now, but they are merely
waiting their opportunity. With our troops withdrawn, and with the
Republican Party weakened by opposition, what is to prevent your late
masters from placing you back in slavery? Could we expect anything less
from those who have been brought up to believe that slavery is a divine
institution?"

"You hear dat, people?" cried the Rev. Jeremiah.

"You cannot help believing," continued Mr. Hotchkiss, "that your former
masters would force the chains of slavery on you if they could; all they
lack is the opportunity; and if you are not careful, they will find an
opportunity, or make one. Slavery was profitable to them once, and it
would be profitable again. There is one fact you should never forget,"
said the speaker, warming up a little. "It is a most stupendous fact,
namely: that every dollar's worth of property in all this Southern land
has been earned by the labour of your hands and by the sweat of your
brows. It has been earned by you, not once, but many times over. You
have earned every dollar that has ever circulated here. The lands, the
houses, the stock, and all the farm improvements are a part of the
fruits of negro labour; and when right and justice prevail, this
property, or a very large part of it, will be yours."

This statement was received with demonstrations of approval, one of the
audience exclaiming: "You sho' is talkin' now, boss!"

"But how are right and justice to prevail? Only by the constant and
continued success of the party of which the martyred Lincoln was the
leader. The mission of that party has not yet been fulfilled. First, it
made you freemen. Then it went a step further, and made you citizens and
voters. Should you sustain it by your votes, it will take still another
step, and give you an opportunity to reap some of the fruits of your
toil, as well as the toil of the unfortunates who pined away and died or
who were starved under the infamous system of slavery."

"Ain't it de trufe!" exclaimed the Rev. Jeremiah fervently.

"We have met here to-night to organise a Union League," continued Mr.
Hotchkiss. "The object of this league is to bring about a unity of
purpose and action among its members, to give them opportunities to
confer together, and to secure a clear understanding. No one knows what
will happen. Your former masters are jealous of your rights; they will
try by every means in their power to take these rights away from you.
They will employ both force and fraud, and the only way for you to meet
and overcome this danger is to organise. Ten men who understand one
another and act together are more powerful than a hundred who act as
individuals. You must be as wise as serpents, but not as harmless as
doves. Your rights have been bought for you by the blood of thousands of
martyrs, and you must defend them. If necessary arm yourselves. Yea! if
necessary apply the torch."

There was a certain air of plausibility about this harangue, a degree
of earnestness, that impressed Gabriel, and he does not know to this day
whether this ill-informed emissary of race hatred and sectional
prejudice really believed all that he said. Who shall judge? Certainly
not those who remember the temper of those times, the revengeful
attitude of the radical leaders at the North, and the distorted fears of
those who suddenly found themselves surrounded by a horde of ignorant
voters, pliant tools in the hands of unscrupulous carpet-baggers.

Hotchkiss brought his remarks to a close, and then proceeded to read the
constitution and by-laws of the proposed Union League, under which, he
explained, hundreds of leagues had been organised. Each one who desired
to become a member was to make oath separately and individually that he
would not betray the secrets of the league, nor disclose the signs and
passwords, nor tolerate any opposition to the Republican Party, nor have
any unnecessary dealings with rebels and former slave-holders. He was to
keep eyes and ears open, and report all important developments to the
league.

"We are now ready, I presume, for the ceremonies to begin," remarked Mr.
Hotchkiss. "First we will elect officers of the league, and I suggest
that the Honourable Jeremiah Tomlin be made President."

"Dat's right!" "He sho is de man!" "No needs fer ter put dat ter de
question!" were some of the indorsements that came from various parts of
the room.

The Rev. Jeremiah was immensely tickled by the title of Honourable that
had been so unexpectedly bestowed on him. He hung his head with as much
modesty as he could summon, and, bearing in mind his calling, one might
have been pardoned for suspecting that he was offering up a brief prayer
of thanksgiving. He rose in his place, however, passed the back of his
hand across his mouth, paused a moment, and then began:

"Mr. Cheer, I thank you an' deze friends might'ly fer de renomination er
my name, an' de gener'l endossments er de balance er deze gentermen. So
fur, so good. But, Mr. Cheer, 'fo' we gits right spang down ter
business, I moves dat some er de br'ers be ax'd fer ter give der idee er
dis plan which have been laid befo' us by our hon'bul frien'. I moves
dot we hear fum Br'er Plato Clopton, ef so be de sperret is on him fer
ter gi' us his sesso."

Uncle Plato, taken somewhat by surprise, was slow in responding, but
when he rose, he presented a striking figure. He was taller than the
average negro, and there was a simple dignity--an air of gentility and
serene affability--in his attitude and bearing that attracted the
attention of Mr. Hotchkiss. The Rev. Jeremiah was still standing, and
Uncle Plato, after bowing gracefully to Mr. Hotchkiss, turned with a
smile to the negro who had called on him.

"You know mighty well, Br'er Jerry, dat I ain't sech a talker ez ter git
up an' say my say des dry so, an' let it go at dat. Howsomever, I laid
off ter say sump'n, an' I ain't sorry you called my name. In what's been
said dey's a heap dat I 'gree wid. I b'lieve dat de cullud folks oughter
work tergedder, an' stan tergedder fer ter he'p an' be holped. But when
you call on me fer ter turn my back on my marster, an' go to hatin' 'im,
you'll hatter skuzen me. You sho will."

"He ain't yo' marster now, Br'er Plato, an' you know it," said the Rev.
Jeremiah.

"I know dat mighty well," replied Uncle Plato, "but ef it don't hurt my
feelin's fer ter call him dat it oughtn't ter pester yuther people. How
it may be wid you all, I dunno; but me an' my marster wus boys
tergedder. We useter play wid one an'er, an' fall out an' fight, an'
I've whipped him des ez many times ez he ever whipped me--an' he'll tell
you de same."

"But all this," suggested Mr. Hotchkiss coldly, "has nothing to do with
the matter in hand. The coloured race is facing conditions that amount
to a crisis--a crisis that has no parallel in the world's history."

"Dat is suttinly so!" the Rev. Jeremiah ejaculated, though he had but a
dim notion of what Hotchkiss was talking about.

"They have been made citizens," pursued the organiser, "and it is their
duty to demand all their rights and to be satisfied with nothing less.
The best men of our party believe that the rebels are still rebellious,
and that they will seize the first opportunity to re-enslave the
coloured people."

"Ah-yi!" exclaimed the Rev. Jeremiah triumphantly.

"Does you reely b'lieve, Br'er Jerry, dat Pulaski Tomlin will ever try
ter put you back in slav'ry?" asked Uncle Plato.

The inquiry was a poser, and the Rev. Jeremiah was unable to make any
satisfactory reply. Perceiving this, Mr. Hotchkiss came to the rescue.
"You must bear in mind," he blandly remarked, "that this is not a
question of one person here and another person there. It concerns a
whole race. Should all the former slave-owners of the South succeed in
reclaiming their slaves, Mr. Tomlin and Mr. Clopton would be compelled
by public sentiment to reclaim theirs. If they refused to do so, their
former slaves would fall into the hands of new masters. It is not a
question of individuals at all."

"Well, suh, we'll fin' out atter awhile dat we'll hatter do like de
white folks. Eve'y tub'll hatter stan' on its own bottom. I'm des ez
free now ez I wuz twenty year ago----"

"I can well believe that, after what you have said," Mr. Hotchkiss
interrupted.

The tone of his voice was as smooth as velvet, but his words carried the
sting of an imputation, and Uncle Plato felt it and resented it. "Yes,
suh,--an' I wuz des ez free twenty year ago ez you all will ever be. My
marster has been good ter me fum de work go. I ain't stayin' wid 'im
bekaze he got money. Ef him an' Miss Sa'ah di'n'a have a dollar in de
worl', an no way ter git it, I'd work my arms off fer 'm. An' ef I
'fused ter do it, my wife'd quit me, an' my chillun wouldn't look at me.
But I'll tell you what I'll do: when my marster tu'ns his back on me
I'll tu'n my back on him."

"I'm really sorry that you persist in making this question a personal
one when it affects all the negroes now living and millions yet to be
born," said Mr. Hotchkiss.

"Well, suh, le's look at it dat away," Uncle Plato insisted. "Spoz'n you
ban' tergedder like dis, an' try ter tu'n de white folks ag'in you, an'
dey see what you up ter, an' tu'n der backs, den what you gwine ter do?
You got ter live here an' you got ter make yo' livin' here. Is you gwine
ter cripple de cow dat gives de cream?"

Uncle Plato paused and looked around. He saw at once that he was in a
hopeless minority, and so he reached for his hat. "I'm mighty glad ter
know you, suh," he said to Mr. Hotchkiss, with a bow that Chesterfield
might have envied, "but I'll hatter bid you good-night." With that, he
went out, followed by Wiley Millirons and Walthall's Jake, much to the
relief of the Rev. Jeremiah, who proceeded to denounce "white folks'
niggers," and to utter some very violent threats.

Then, in no long time, the Union League was organised. Those in the
closet failed to hear the words that constituted the ceremony of
initiation. Only low mutterings came to their ears. But the ceremony
consisted of a lot of mummery well calculated to impress the
simple-minded negroes. After a time the meeting adjourned, the solitary
candle was blown out, and the last negro departed.

Gabriel waited until all sounds had died away, and then, with a brief
good-night to Tasma Tid, he opened the closet door, slipped out, and was
soon on his way home. But before he was out of the dark grove, some one
went flitting by him--in fact, he thought he saw two figures dimly
outlined in the darkness; yet he was not sure--and presently he thought
he heard a mocking laugh, which sounded very much as if it had issued
from the lips of Nan Dorrington. But he was not sure that he heard the
laugh, and how, he asked himself, could he imagine that it was Nan
Dorrington's even if he had heard it? He told himself confidentially,
the news to go no further, that he was a drivelling idiot.

As Gabriel went along he soon forgot his momentary impressions as to the
two figures in the dark and the laugh that had seemed to come floating
back to him. The suave and well-modulated voice of Mr. Hotchkiss rang in
his ears. He had but one fault to find with the delivery: Mr. Hotchkiss
dwelt on his r's until they were as long as a fishing-pole, and as sharp
as a shoemaker's awl. Though these magnified r's made Gabriel's flesh
crawl, he had been very much impressed by the address, only part of
which has been reported here. Boylike, he never paused to consider the
motives or the ulterior purpose of the speaker. Gabriel knew of course
that there was no intention on the part of the whites to re-enslave the
negroes; he knew that there was not even a desire to do so. He knew,
too, that there were many incendiary hints in the address--hints that
were illuminated and emphasised more by the inflections of the speaker's
voice than by the words in which they were conveyed. In spite of the
fact that he resented these hints as keenly as possible, he could see
the plausibility of the speaker's argument in so far as it appealed to
the childish fears and doubts and uneasiness of the negroes. If anything
could be depended on, he thought, to promote a spirit of incendiarism
among the negroes such an address would be that thing.

If Gabriel had attended some of the later meetings of the league, he
would have discovered that the address he had heard was a milk-and-water
affair, compared with some of the harangues that were made to the
negroes in the old school-house.

All that Gabriel had heard was duly reported to Meriwether Clopton, and
to Mr. Sanders, and in a very short time all the whites in the community
became aware of the fact that the negroes were taking lessons in
race-hatred and incendiarism, and as a natural result, Hotchkiss became
a marked man. His comings and goings were all noted, so much so that he
soon found it convenient as well as comfortable to make his
head-quarters in the country, at the home of Judge Mahlon Butts, whose
Union principles had carried him into the Republican Party. The Judge
lived a mile and a half from the corporation line, and Mr. Hotchkiss's
explanation for moving there was that the exercise to be found in
walking back and forth was necessary to his health.

Uncle Plato was very much surprised the next day to be called into the
house where Mr. Sanders was sitting with Meriwether Clopton and Miss
Sarah in order that they might shake hands with him.

"I want to shake your hand, Plato," said his old master. "I've always
thought a great deal of you, but I think more of you to-day than ever
before."

"And you must shake hands with me, Plato," remarked Sarah Clopton.

"Well, sence shakin' han's is comin' more into fashion these days, I
reckon you'll have to shake wi' me," declared Mr. Sanders.

"I declar' ter gracious I dunner whedder you all is makin' fun er me or
not!" exclaimed Uncle Plato. "But sump'n sholy must 'a' happened, kaze
des now when I wuz downtown Mr. Alford call me in his sto' an' 'low,
'Plato, when you wanter buy anything, des come right in, money er no
money, kaze yo' credit des ez good in here ez de best man in town.' I
dunner what done come over eve'ybody." He went away laughing.

Nevertheless, Uncle Plato was more seriously affected by the schemes of
Mr. Hotchkiss than any other inhabitant of Shady Dale. He had been a
leader in the Rev. Jeremiah's church, and up to the day of the
organisation of the Union League, had wielded an influence among the
negroes second only to that of the Rev. Jeremiah himself. But now all
was changed. He soon found that he would have to resign his deaconship,
for those whom he had regarded as his spiritual brethren were now his
enemies--at any rate they were no longer his friends.

But Uncle Plato had one consolation in his troubles, and that was the
strong indorsement and support of Aunt Charity, his wife, who was the
cook at Clopton's, famous from one end of the State to the other for her
biscuits and waffles. Uncle Plato had been somewhat dubious about her
attitude, for the negro women had developed the most intense
partisanship, and some of them were loud in their threats, going much
further than the men. No doubt Aunt Charity would have taken a different
course had she been in her husband's place, if only for the sake of her
colour, as she called her race. She was very fond of her own white
folks, but she had her prejudices against the rest.

When Uncle Plato reached home and told his wife what he had said and
done, she drew a long breath and looked at him hard for some time. Then
she took up her pipe from the chimney-corner, remarking, "Well, what you
done, you done; dar's yo' supper."

Uncle Plato had a remarkably good appetite, and while he ate, Aunt
Charity sat near a window and looked out at the stars. She was getting
together in her mind a supply of personal reminiscences, of which she
had a goodly store. Presently, she began to shake with laughter, which
she tried to suppress. Uncle Plato mistook the sound he heard for an
evidence of grief, and he spoke up promptly:

"I declar' ef I'd 'a' know'd I wuz gwine ter hurt yo' feelings, I'd 'a'
j'ined in wid um den an' dar. An' 'taint too late yit. I kin go ter
Br'er Jerry an' tell him whilst I ain't change my own min' I'll j'ine in
wid um druther dan be offish an' mule-headed."

"No you won't! no you won't! no you won't!" exclaimed Aunt Charity. "I
mought 'a' done diffunt, an' I mought 'a' done wrong. We'll hatter git
out'n de church, ef you kin call it a church, but dat ain't so mighty
hard ter do. Yit, 'fo' we does git out I'm gwine ter preach ol' Jerry's
funer'l one time--des one time. Dat what make me laugh des now; I was
runnin' over in my min' how I kin raise his hide. Some folks got de
idee dat kaze I'm fat I'm bleeze ter be long-sufferin'; but you know
better'n dat, don't you?"

"Well, I know dis," said Uncle Plato, wiping his mouth with the back of
his hand, "when you git yo' dander up you kin talk loud an' long."

"Miss Sa'ah done tol' me dat when I git mad, I kin keep up a
conversation ez long ez de nex' one," remarked Aunt Charity, with real
pride. "An' den dar's dat hat Miss Sa'ah gi' me; I laid off ter w'ar it
ter church nex' Sunday, but now--well, I speck I better des w'ar my
head-hankcher, kaze dey's sho gwine ter be trouble ef any un um look at
me cross-eyed."

"You gwine, is you?" Uncle Plato asked.

"Ef I live," replied Aunt Charity, "I'm des ez good ez dar right now.
An' mo' dan dat, you'll go too. 'Tain't gwineter be said dat de Clopton
niggers hung der heads bekaze dey stood by der own white folks. Ef it's
said, it'll hatter be said 'bout some er de yuthers."

"I'll go," said Uncle Plato, "but I hope I won't hatter frail Br'er
Jerry out."

"Now, dat's right whar we gits crossways," Aunt Charity declared. "I
hope you'll hatter frail 'im out."

Fortunately, Uncle Plato had no excuse for using his walking-cane on the
Rev. Jeremiah, when Sunday came. None of the church-members made any
active show of animosity. They simply held themselves aloof. Aunt
Charity had her innings, however. When services were over, and the
congregation was slowly filing out of the building, followed by the Rev.
Jeremiah, she remarked loud enough for all to hear her:

"Br'er Jerry, de nex' time you want me ter cook pullets fer dat ar
Lizzie Gaither, des fetch um 'long. I'll be glad ter 'blige you."

As the Rev. Jeremiah's wife was close at hand, the closing scenes can be
better imagined than described. In this chronicle the veil of silence
must be thrown over them.

It may be said, nevertheless, that Uncle Plato and his wife felt very
keenly the awkward position in which they were placed by the increasing
prejudice of the rest of the negroes. They were both sociable in their
natures, but now they were practically cut off from all association with
those who had been their very good friends. It was a real sacrifice they
had to make. On the other hand, who shall say that their firmness in
this matter was not the means of preventing, at least in Shady Dale,
many of the misfortunes that fell to the lot of the negroes elsewhere?
There can hardly be a doubt that their attitude, firm and yet modest,
had a restraining influence on some of the more reckless negroes, who,
under the earnest but dangerous teachings of Hotchkiss and his
fellow-workers, would otherwise have been led into excesses which would
have called for bloody reprisals.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

_Nan and Her Young Lady Friends_


Nan Dorrington found a pretty howdy-do at her house when she reached
home the night the Union League was organised. The members of the
household were all panic-stricken when the hours passed and Nan failed
to return. Ordinarily, there would have been no alarm whatever, but a
little after dark, Eugenia Claiborne, accompanied by a little negro
girl, came to Dorrington's to find out why Nan had failed to keep her
engagement. She had promised to take supper with Eugenia, and to spend
the night.

It will be remembered that Nan was on her way to present her excuses to
Eugenia when the spectacle of Mr. Sanders, tipsy and talkative, had
attracted her attention. She thought no more of her engagement, and for
the time being Eugenia was to Nan as if she had never existed.
Meanwhile, the members of the Dorrington household, if they thought of
Nan at all, concluded that she had gone to the Gaither Place, where
Eugenia lived. But when Miss Claiborne came seeking her, why that put
another face on affairs. Eugenia decided to wait for her; but when the
long minutes, and the half hours and the hours passed, and Nan failed to
make her appearance, Mrs. Absalom began to grow nervous, and Mrs.
Dorrington went from room to room with a very long face. She could have
made a very shrewd guess as to Nan's whereabouts, but she didn't dare to
admit, even to herself, that the girl had been so indiscreet as to go in
person to the rescue of Gabriel.

They waited and waited, until at last Mrs. Dorrington suggested that
something should be done. "I don't know what," she said, "but something;
that would be better than sitting here waiting."

Mrs. Absalom insisted on keeping up an air of bravado. "The child's safe
wherever she is. She's been a rippittin' 'round all day tryin' to git
old Billy Sanders sober, an' more'n likely she's sot down some'rs an'
fell asleep. Ef folks could sleep off the'r sins, Nan'd be a saint."

"But wherever she is, she isn't here," remarked Mrs. Dorrington,
tearfully; "and here is where she should be. I wonder what her father
will say when he comes?" Dr. Dorrington had gone to visit a patient in
the country.

"Perhaps she went with him," Eugenia suggested.

"No fear of that," said Mrs. Absalom. "Ridin' in a gig is too much like
work for Nan to be fond of it. No; she's some'rs she's got no business,
an' ef I could lay my hand on her, I'd jerk her home so quick, her head
would swim worse than old Billy Sanders's does when he's full up to the
chin."

After awhile, Eugenia said she had waited long enough, but Mrs.
Dorrington looked at her with such imploring eyes that she hesitated.
"If you go," said the lady, "I will feel that Nan is not coming, but as
long as you stay, I have hope that she will run in any moment. She is
with that Tasma Tid, and I think it is terrible that we can't get rid of
that negro. I have never been able to like negroes."

"Well, you needn't be too hard on the niggers," declared Mrs. Absalom.
"Everything they know, everything they do, everything they
say--everything--they have larnt from the white folks. Study a nigger
right close, an' you'll ketch a glimpse of how white folks would look
an' do wi'out the'r trimmin's."

"Oh, perhaps so," assented Mrs. Dorrington, with a little shrug of the
shoulders which said a good deal plainer than words, "You couldn't make
me believe that."

Just as Dr. Dorrington drove up, and just as Mrs. Absalom was about to
get her bonnet, for the purpose, as she said, of "scouring the town,"
Nan came running in out of breath. "Oh, such a time as I've had!" she
exclaimed. "You'll not be angry with me, Eugenia, when you hear all!
Talk of adventures! Well, I have had one at last, after waiting all
these years! Don't scold me, Nonny, until you know where I've been and
what I've done. And poor Johnny has been crying, and having all sorts of
wild thoughts about poor me. Don't go, Eugenia; I am going with you in a
moment--just as soon as I can gather my wits about me. I am perfectly
wild."

"Tell us something new," said Mrs. Absalom drily. "Here we've been on
pins and needles, thinkin' maybe some of your John A. Murrells had
rushed into town an' kidnapped you, an' all the time you an' that slink
of a nigger have been gallivantin' over the face of the yeth. I declare
ef Randolph don't do somethin' wi' you they ain't no tellin' what'll
become of you."

But Dr. Dorrington was not in the humour for scolding; he rarely ever
was; but on that particular night less so than ever. For one brief
moment, Nan thought he was too angry to scold, and this she dreaded
worse than any outbreak; for when he was silent over some of her capers
she took it for granted that his feelings were hurt, and this thought
was sufficient to give her more misery than anything else. But she soon
discovered that his gravity, which was unusual, had its origin
elsewhere. She saw him take a tiny tin waggon, all painted red, from his
pocket and place it on the mantel-piece, and both she and Mrs.
Dorrington went to him.

"Oh, popsy! I'm so sorry about everything! He didn't need it, did he?"

"No, the little fellow has no more use for toys. He sent you his love,
Nan. He was talking about you with his last breath; he remembered
everything you said and did when you went with me to see him. He said
you must be good."

Now, if Nan was a heroine, or anything like one, it would never do to
say that she hid her face in her hands and wept a little when she heard
of the death of the little boy who had been her father's patient for
many months. In the present state of literary criticism, one must be
very careful not to permit women and children to display their
sensitive and tender natures. Only the other day, a very good book was
damned because one of the female characters had wept 393 times during
the course of the story. Out upon tears and human nature! Let us go out
and reform some one, and leave tears to the kindergarten, where steps
are taking even now to dry up the fountains of youth.

Nevertheless, Nan cried a little, and so did Eugenia Claiborne, when she
heard the story of the little boy who had suffered so long and so
patiently. The news of his death tended to quiet Nan's excitement, but
she told her story, and, though the child's death took the edge off
Nan's excitement, the story of her adventure attracted as much attention
as she thought it would. She said nothing about Gabriel, and it was
supposed that only she and Tasma Tid were in the closet; but the next
morning, when Dr. Dorrington drove over to Clopton's to carry the
information, he was met by the statement that Gabriel had told of it the
night before. A little inquiry developed the fact that Gabriel had
concealed himself in the closet in order to discover the mysteries of
the Union League.

Dorrington decided that the matter was either very serious or very
amusing, and he took occasion to question Nan about it. "You didn't tell
us that Gabriel was in the closet with you," he said to Nan.

"Well, popsy, so far as I was concerned he was not there. He certainly
has no idea that I was there, and if he ever finds it out, I'll never
speak to him again. He never will find it out unless he is told by some
one who dislikes me. Outside of this family," Nan went on with dignity,
"not a soul knows that I was there except Eugenia Claiborne, and I'm
perfectly certain she'll never tell any one."

Dorrington thought his daughter should have a little lecture, and he
gave her one, but not of the conventional kind. He simply drew her to
him and kissed her, saying, "My precious child, you must never forget
the message the little boy sent you. About the last thing he said was,
'Tell my Miss Nan to be dood.' And you know, my dear, that it is neither
proper nor good for my little girl to be wandering about at night. She
is now a young lady, and she must begin to act like one--not too much,
you know, but just enough to be good."

Now, you may depend upon it, this kind of talk, accompanied by a smile
of affection, went a good deal farther with Nan than the most tremendous
scolding would have gone. It touched her where she was weakest--or, if
you please, strongest--in her affections, and she vowed to herself that
she would put off her hoyden ways, and become a demure young lady, or at
least play the part to the best of her ability.

Eugenia Claiborne declared that Nan had acted more demurely in the
closet than she could have done, if, instead of Gabriel, Paul Tomlin had
come spying on the radicals where she was. "I don't see how you could
help saying something. If I had been in your place, and Paul had come in
there, I should certainly have said something to him, if only to let him
know that I was as patriotic as he was." Miss Eugenia had grand ideas
about patriotism.

"Oh, if it had been Paul instead of Gabriel I would have made myself
known," said Nan; "but Gabriel----"

"I don't see what the difference is when it comes to making yourself
known to any one in the dark, especially to a friend," remarked Eugenia.
"For my part, horses couldn't have dragged me in that awful place. I'm
sure you must be very brave, to make up your mind to go there. Weren't
you frightened to death?"

"Why there was nothing to frighten any one," said Nan; "not even rats."

"Ooh!" cried Eugenia with a shiver. "Why of course there were rats in
that dark, still place. I wouldn't go in there in broad daylight."

This conversation occurred while Nan was visiting Eugenia, and in the
course thereof, Nan was given to understand that her friend thought a
good deal of Paul Tomlin. As soon as Nan grasped the idea that Eugenia
was trying to convey--there never was a girl more obtuse in
love-matters--she became profuse in her praises of Paul, who was really
a very clever young man. As Mrs. Absalom had said, it was not likely
that he would ever be brilliant enough to set the creek on fire, but he
was a very agreeable lad, entirely unlike Silas Tomlin, his father.

If Eugenia thought that Nan would exchange confidences with her, she was
sadly mistaken. Nan had a horror of falling in love, and when the name
of Gabriel was mentioned by her friend, she made many scornful
allusions to that youngster.

"But you know, Nan, that you think more of Gabriel than you do of any
other young man," said Eugenia. "You may deceive yourself and him, but
you can't deceive me. I knew the moment I saw you together the first
time that you were fond of him; and when I was told by some one that you
were to marry Mr. Bethune, I laughed at them."

"I'm glad you did," replied Nan. "I care no more for Frank Bethune than
for Gabriel. I'll tell you the truth, if I thought I was in love with a
man, I'd hate him; I wouldn't submit to it."

"Well, you have been acting as if you hate Gabriel," suggested Eugenia.

"Oh, I don't like him half as well as I did when we were playfellows. I
think he's changed a great deal. His grandmother says he's timid, but to
me it looks more like conceit. No, child," Nan went on with an
affectation of great gravity; "the man that I marry must be somebody. He
must be able to attract the attention of everybody."

"Then I'm afraid you'll have to move away from this town, or remain an
old maid," said the other. "Or it may be that Gabriel will make a great
man. He and Paul belong to a debating society here in town, and Paul
says that Gabriel can make as good a speech as any one he ever heard.
They invited some of the older men not long ago, and mother heard Mr.
Tomlin say that Gabriel would make a great orator some day. Paul thinks
there is nobody in the world like Gabriel. So you see he is already
getting to be famous."

"But will he ever wear a red feather in his hat and a red sash over his
shoulder?" inquired Nan gravely. She was reverting now to the ideal hero
of her girlish dreams.

"Why, I should hope not," replied Eugenia. "You don't want him to be the
laughing-stock of the people, do you?"

"Oh, I'm not anxious for him to be anything," said Nan, "but you know
I've always said that I never would marry a man unless he wore a red
feather in his hat, and a red sash over his shoulder."

"When I was a child," remarked Eugenia, "I always said I would like to
marry a pirate--a man with a long black beard, a handkerchief tied
around his head to keep his hair out of his eyes, and a shining sword in
one hand and a pistol in the other."

"Oh, did you?" cried Nan, snuggling closer to her friend. "Let's talk
about it. I am beginning to be very old, and I want to talk about things
that make me feel young again."

But they were not to talk about their childish ideals that day, for a
knock came on the door, and Margaret Gaither was announced--Margaret,
who seemed to have no ideals, and who had confessed that she never had
had any childhood. She came in dignified and sad. Her face was pale, and
there was a weary look in her eyes, a wistful expression, as if she
desired very much to be able to be happy along with the rest of the
people around her.

The two girls greeted her very cordially. Both were fond of her, and
though they could not understand her troubles, she had traits that
appealed to both. She could be lively enough on occasion, and there was
a certain refinement of manner about her that they both tried to
emulate--whenever they could remember to do so.

"I heard Nan was here," she said, with a beautiful smile, "and I thought
I would run over and see you both together."

"That is a fine compliment for me," Eugenia declared.

"Miss Jealousy!" retorted Margaret, "you know I am over here two or
three times a week--every time I can catch you at home. But I wish you
were jealous," she added with a sigh. "I think I should be perfectly
happy if some one loved me well enough to be jealous."

"You ought to be very happy without all that," said Nan.

"Yes, I know I should be; but suppose you were in my shoes, would you be
happy?" She turned to the girls with the gravity of fate itself. As
neither one made any reply, she went on: "See what I am--absolutely
dependent on those who, not so very long ago, were entire strangers. I
have no claims on them whatever. Oh, don't think I am ungrateful," she
cried in answer to a gesture of protest from Nan. "I would make any
sacrifice for them--I would do anything--but you see how it is. I can do
nothing; I am perfectly helpless. I--but really, I ought not to talk so
before you two children."

"Children! well, I thank you!" exclaimed Eugenia, rising and making a
mock curtsey. "Nan is nearly as old as you are, and I am two days
older."

"No matter; I have no business to be bringing my troubles into this
giddy company; but as I was coming across the street, I happened to
think of the difference in our positions. Talk about jealousy! I am
jealous and envious. Yes, and mean; I have terrible thoughts sometimes.
I wouldn't dare to tell you what they are."

"I know better," said Nan; "you never had a mean thought in your life.
Aunt Fanny says you are the sweetest creature in the world."

"Don't! don't tell me such things as that, Nan. You will run me wild.
There never was another woman like Aunt Fanny. And, oh, I love her! But
if I could get away and become independent, and in some way pay them
back for all they have done for me, and for all they hope to do, I'd be
the happiest girl in the world."

"I think I know how you feel," said Nan, with a quick apprehension of
the situation; "but if I were in your place, and couldn't help myself, I
wouldn't let it trouble me much."

"Very well said," Mrs. Claiborne remarked, as she entered the room.
"Nan, you are becoming quite a philosopher. And how is Margaret?" she
inquired, kissing that blushing maiden on the check.

"I am quite well, I thank you, but I'd be a great deal better if I
thought you hadn't heard my foolish talk."

"I heard a part of it, and it wasn't foolish at all. The feeling does
you credit, provided you don't carry it too far. You are alone too
much; you take your feelings too seriously. You must remember that you
are nothing but a child; you are just beginning life. You should
cultivate bright thoughts. My dear, let me tell you one thing--if
Pulaski Tomlin had any idea that you had such feelings as you have
expressed here, he would be miserable; he would be miserable, and you
would never know it. You said something about gratitude; well if you
want to show any gratitude and make those two people happy, be happy
yourself--and if you can't really be happy, pretend that you are happy.
And the first thing you know, it will be a reality. Now, I have had
worse troubles than ever fell to your portion and if I had brooded over
them, I should have been miserable. Your lot is a very fortunate one, as
you will discover when you are older."

This advice was very good, though it may have a familiar sound to the
reader, and Margaret tried hard for the time being to follow it. She
succeeded so well that her laughter became as loud and as joyous as that
of her companions, and when she returned home, her countenance was so
free from care and worry that both Neighbour Tomlin and his sister
remarked it, and they were the happier for it.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN

_Silas Tomlin Scents Trouble_


One day--it was a warm Saturday, giving promise of a long hot Sunday to
follow--Mr. Sanders was on his way home, feeling very blue indeed. He
had been to town on no particular business--the day was a half-holiday
with the field-hands--and he had wandered about aimlessly, making
several unsuccessful efforts to crack a joke or two with such
acquaintances as he chanced to meet. He had concluded that his liver was
out of order, and he wondered, as he went along, if he would create much
public comment and dissatisfaction if he should break his promise to Nan
Dorrington by purchasing a jug of liquor and crawling into the nearest
shuck-pen. It was on this warm Saturday, the least promising of all
days, as he thought, that he stumbled upon an adventure which, for a
season, proved to be both interesting and amusing.

He was walking along, as has been said, feeling very blue and
uncomfortable, when he heard his name called, and, turning around, saw a
negro girl running after him. She came up panting and grinning.

"Miss Ritta say she wish you'd come dar right now," said the girl. "I
been runnin' an' hollin atter you tell I wuz fear'd de dogs 'd take
atter me. Miss Ritta say she want to see you right now."

The girl was small and very slim, bare-legged and good-humoured. Mr.
Sanders looked at her hard, but failed to recognise her; nor had he the
faintest idea as to the identity of "Miss Ritta." The girl bore his
scrutiny very well, betraying a tendency to dance. As Mr. Sanders tried
in vain to place her in his memory, she slapped her hands together, and
whirled quickly on her heel more than once.

"You're a way yander ahead of me," he remarked, after reflecting awhile.
"I reckon I've slipped a cog some'rs in my machinery. What is your
name?"

"I'm name Larceeny. Don't you know me, Marse Billy? I use ter b'long ter
de Clopton Cadets, when Miss Nan was de Captain; but I wan't ez big den
ez I is now. I been knowin' you most sence I was born."

"What is your mammy's name?"

"My mammy name Creecy," replied the girl, grinning broadly. "She cookin'
fer Miss Ritta."

Mr. Sanders remembered Creecy very well. She had belonged to the Gaither
family before the war. "Where do you stay?" he inquired. He was not
disposed to admit, even indirectly, that he didn't know every human
being in the town.

"I stays dar wid Miss Ritta," replied Larceeny. "I goes ter de do', an'
waits on Miss Nugeeny."

"Ah!" exclaimed Mr. Sanders, with a smile of satisfaction. Here was a
clew. Miss Nugeeny must be Eugenia Claiborne, and Miss Ritta was
probably her mother.

"Miss Ritta say she wanter see you right now," insisted Larceeny. "When
she seed you on de street, you wuz so fur, she couldn't holla at you,
an' time she call me outer de gyarden, you wuz done gone. I wuz at de
fur een' er de gyarden, pickin' rasbe'ies, an' I had ter drap
ever'thing."

"Do you pick raspberries with your mouth?" inquired Mr. Sanders, with a
very solemn air.

"Is my mouf dat red?" inquired Larceeny, with an alarmed expression on
her face. She seized her gingham apron by the hem, and, using the
underside, proceeded to remove the incriminating stains, remarking, "I'm
mighty glad you tol' me, kaze ef ol' Miss Polly had seed dat--well, she
done preach my funer'l once, an' I don't want ter hear it no mo'."

Mr. Sanders, following Larceeny, proceeded to the Gaither Place, and was
ushered into the parlour, where, to his surprise, he found Judge
Vardeman, of Rockville, one of the most distinguished lawyers of the
State. Mr. Sanders knew the Judge very well, and admired him not only on
account of his great ability as a lawyer, but because of the genial
simplicity of his character. They greeted each other very cordially, and
were beginning to discuss the situation--it was the one topic that never
grew stale during that sad time--when Mrs. Claiborne came in; she had
evidently been out to attend to some household affairs.

"I'm very glad to see you, Mr. Sanders," she said. "I have sent for you
at the suggestion of Judge Vardeman, who is a kinsman of mine by
marriage. He is surprised that you and I are not well acquainted; but I
tell him that in such sad times as these, it is a wonder that one knows
one's next-door neighbours."

Mr. Sanders made some fitting response, and as soon as he could do so
without rudeness, closely studied the countenance of the lady. There was
a vivacity, a gaiety, an archness in her manner that he found very
charming. Her features were not regular, but when she laughed or smiled,
her face was beautiful. If she had ever experienced any serious trouble,
Mr. Sanders thought, she had been able to bear it bravely, for no marks
of it were left on her speaking countenance. "Give me a firm faith and a
light heart," says an ancient writer, "and the world may have everything
else."

"I have sent for you, Mr. Sanders," said the lady, laughing lightly, "to
ask if you will undertake to be my drummer."

"Your drummer!" exclaimed Mr. Sanders. "Well, I've been told that I have
a way of blowin' my own horn, when the weather is fine and the spring
sap is runnin', but as for drummin', I reely hain't got the knack on
it."

"Oh, I only want you to do a little talking here and there, and give out
various hints and intimations--you know what I mean. I am anxious to
even up matters with a friend of yours, who, I am afraid, isn't any
better than he should be."

While the lady was talking, Mr. Sanders was staring at a couple of
crayon portraits on the wall. He rose from his seat, walked across the
room, and attentively studied one of the portraits. It depicted a man
between twenty-five and thirty-five.

"Well, I'll be jigged!" he exclaimed as he resumed his seat. "Ef that
ain't Silas Tomlin I'm a Dutchman!"

"Why, I shouldn't think you would recognise him after all these years,"
the lady said, smiling brightly. "Don't you think the portrait flatters
him?"

"Quite a considerbul," replied Mr. Sanders; "but Silas has got p'ints
about his countenance that a coat of tar wouldn't hide. Trim his
eyebrows, an' give him a clean, close shave, an' he's e'en about the
same as he was then. An' ef I ain't mighty much mistaken, the pictur' by
his side was intended to be took for you. The feller that took it forgot
to put the right kind of a sparkle in the eye, an' he didn't ketch the
laugh that oughter be hov'rin' round the mouth, like a butterfly tryin'
to light on a pink rose; but all in all, it's a mighty good likeness."

"Now, don't you think I should thank Mr. Sanders?" said the lady,
turning to Judge Vardeman. "It has been many a day since I have had such
a compliment. Actually, I believe I am blushing!" and she was.

"It wasn't much of a compliment to the artist," the Judge suggested.

"Well, when it comes to paintin' a purty 'oman," remarked Mr. Sanders,
"it's powerful hard for to git in all the p'ints. A feller could paint
our picturs in short order, Judge. A couple of kags of pink paint, a
whitewash brush, an' two or three strokes, bold an' free, would do the
business."

The Judge's eye twinkled merrily, and Mrs. Claiborne laughingly
exclaimed, "Why, you'd make quite an artist. You certainly have an eye
for colour."

Thereupon Judge Vardeman suggested to Mrs. Claiborne that she begin at
the beginning, and place Mr. Sanders in possession of all the facts
necessary to the successful carrying out of the plan she had in view. It
was a plan, the Judge went on to say, that he did not wholly indorse,
bordering, as it did, on frivolity, but as the lady was determined on
it, he would not advise against it, as the results bade fair to be
harmless.

It must have been quite a story the lady had to tell Mr. Sanders, for
the sun was nearly down when he came from the house; and it must have
been somewhat amusing, too, for he came down the steps laughing
heartily. When he reached the sidewalk, he paused, looked back at the
closed door, shook his head, and threw up his hands, exclaiming to
himself, "Bless Katy! I'm powerful glad I ain't got no 'oman on my
trail. 'Specially one like her. Be jigged ef she don't shake this old
town up!"

He heard voices behind him, and turned to see Eugenia Claiborne and Paul
Tomlin walking slowly along, engaged in a very engrossing conversation.
Mr. Sanders looked at the couple long enough to make sure that he was
not mistaken as to their identity, and then he went on his way.

He had intended to go straight home, but, yielding to a sudden whim or
impulse, he went to the tavern instead. This old tavern, at a certain
hour of the day, was the resort of all the men, old and young, who
desired to indulge in idle gossip, or hear the latest news that might be
brought by some stray traveller, or commercial agent, or cotton-buyer
from Malvern. For years, Mr. Woodruff, the proprietor--he had come from
Vermont in the forties, as a school-teacher--complained that the
hospitality of the citizens was enough to ruin any public-house that had
no gold mine to draw upon. But, after the war, the tide, such as it was,
turned in his favour, and by the early part of 1868, he was beginning to
profit by what he called "a pretty good line of custom," and there were
days in the busy season when he was hard put to it to accommodate his
guests in the way he desired.

During the spring and summer months, there was no pleasanter place than
the long, low veranda of Mr. Woodruff's tavern, and it was very popular
with those who had an idle hour at their disposal. This veranda was much
patronised by Mr. Silas Tomlin, who, after the death of his wife, had no
home-life worthy of the name. Silas was not socially inclined; he took
no part in the gossip and tittle-tattle that flowed up and down the
veranda. The most interesting bit of news never caused him to turn his
head, and the raciest anecdote failed to bring a smile to his face.
Nevertheless, nothing seemed to please him better than to draw a chair
some distance away from the group of loungers, yet not out of ear-shot,
lean back against one of the supporting pillars, close his eyes and
listen to all that was said, or dream his own dreams, such as they might
be.

Mr. Sanders was well aware of Silas Tomlin's tavern habits, and this
was what induced him to turn his feet in that direction. He expected to
find Silas there at this particular hour and he was not disappointed.
Silas was sitting aloof from the crowd, his chair leaning against one of
the columns, his legs crossed, his eyes closed, and his hands folded in
his lap. But for an occasional nervous movement of his thin lips, and
the twitching of his thumbs, he might have served as a model for a
statue of Repose. As a matter of fact, all his faculties were alert.

The crowd of loungers was somewhat larger than usual, having been
augmented during the day by three commercial agents and a couple of
cotton-buyers. Lawyer Tidwell was taking advantage of the occasion to
expound and explain several very delicate and intricate constitutional
problems. Mr. Tidwell was a very able man in some respects, and he was a
very good talker, although he wanted to do all the talking himself. He
lowered his voice slightly, as he saw Mr. Sanders, but kept on with his
exposition of our organic law.

"Hello, Mr. Sanders!" said one of the cotton-buyers, taking advantage of
a momentary pause in Mr. Tidwell's monologue; "how are you getting on
these days?"

"Well, I was gittin' on right peart tell to-day, but this mornin' I
struck a job that's made me weak an' w'ary."

"You're looking mighty well, anyhow. What has been the trouble to-day?"

"Why, I'll tell you," responded Mr. Sanders, with a show of animation.
"I've been gwine round all day tryin' to git up subscriptions for to
build a flatform for Gus Tidwell. Gus needs a place whar he can stand
an' explutterate on the Constitution all day, and not be in nobody's
way."

"Well, of course you succeeded," remarked Mr. Tidwell, good-naturedly.

"Middlin' well--middlin' well. A coloured lady flung a dime in the box,
an' I put in a quarter. In all, I reckon I've raised a dollar an' a
half. But I reely believe I could 'a' raised a hunderd dollars ef I'd
'a' told 'em whar the flatform was to be built."

"Where is that?" some one inquired.

"In the pine-thicket behind the graveyard," responded Mr. Sanders, so
earnestly and promptly that the crowd shouted with laughter. Even Mr.
Tidwell, who was "case-hardened," as Mrs. Absalom would say, to Mr.
Sanders's jokes, joined in with the rest.

"Gus is a purty good lawyer," said Mr. Sanders, lifting his voice a
little to make sure that Silas Tomlin would hear every syllable of what
he intended to say; "but he'll never be at his best till he finds out
that the Constitution, like the Bible, can be translated to suit the
idees of any party or any crank. But I allers brag on Gus because I
believe in paternizin' home industries. Howsomever, between us boys an'
gals, an' not aimin' for it to go any furder, there's a lawyer in town
to-day--an' maybe he'll be here to-morrow--who knows more about the law
in one minnit than Gus could tell you in a day and a half. An' when it
comes to explutterations on p'ints of constitutional law, Gus wouldn't
be in it."

"Is that so? What is the gentleman's name?" asked Mr. Tidwell.

"Judge Albert Vardeman," replied Mr. Sanders. "Now, when you come to
talk about lawyers, you'll be doin' yourself injustice ef you leave out
the name of Albert Vardeman. He ain't got much of a figure--he's shaped
somethin' like a gourdful of water--but I tell you he's got a head on
him."

"Is the Judge really here?" Mr. Tidwell asked. "I'd like very much to
have a talk with him."

"I don't blame you, Gus," remarked Mr. Sanders, "you can git more
straight p'ints from Albert Vardeman than you'll find in the books. He's
been at Mrs. Claiborne's all day; I reckon she's gittin' him to ten' to
some law business for her. They's some kinder kinnery betwixt 'em. His
mammy's cat ketched a rat in her gran'mammy's smokehouse, I reckon.
We've got more kinfolks in these diggin's, than they has been sence the
first generation arter Adam."

At the mention of Mrs. Claiborne's name Silas Tomlin opened his eyes and
uncrossed his legs. This movement caused him to lose his balance, and
his chair fell from a leaning position with a sharp bang.

"What sort of a dream did you have, Silas?" Mr. Sanders inquired with
affected solicitude. "You'd better watch out; Dock Dorrin'ton says that
when a man gits bald-headed, it's a sign that his bones is as brittle as
glass. He found that out on one of his furrin trips."

"Don't worry about me, Sanders," replied Silas. He tried to smile.

"Well, I don't reckon you could call it worry, Silas, bekaze when I
ketch a case of the worries, it allers sends me to bed wi' the jimmyjon.
I can be neighbourly wi'out worryin', I hope."

"For a woman with a grown daughter," remarked Mr. Tidwell, speaking his
thoughts aloud, as was his habit, "Mrs. Claiborne is well
preserved--very well preserved." Mr. Tidwell was a widower, of several
years' standing.

"Why, she's not only preserved, she's the preserves an' the preserver,"
Mr. Sanders declared. "To look in her eye an' watch her thoughts
sparklin' like fire, to watch her movements, an' hear her laugh, not
only makes a feller young agin, but makes him glad he's a-livin'. An'
that gal of her'n--well, she's a thoroughbred. Did you ever notice the
way she holds her head? I never see her an' Nan Dorrington together but
what I'm sorry I never got married. I'd put up wi' all the tribulation
for to have a gal like arry one on 'em."

Mr. Sanders paused a moment, and then turned to Silas Tomlin. "Silas, I
think Paul is fixin' for to do you proud. As I come along jest now, him
an' Jinny Claiborne was walkin' mighty close together. They must 'a'
been swappin' some mighty sweet secrets, bekaze they hardly spoke above
a whisper. An' they didn't look like they was in much of a hurry."

While Mr. Sanders was describing the scene he had witnessed,
exaggerating the facts to suit his whimsical humour, Silas Tomlin sat
bold upright in his chair, his eyes half-shut, and his thin lips working
nervously. "Paul knows which side his bread is buttered on," he snapped
out.

"Bread!" exclaimed Mr. Sanders, pretending to become tremendously
excited; "bread! shorely you must mean poun'-cake, Silas. And whoever
heard of putting butter on poun'-cake?"

When the loungers began to disperse, some of them going home, and others
going in to supper in response to the tavern bell, Mr. Silas Tomlin
called to Lawyer Tidwell, and the two walked along together, their homes
lying in the same direction.

"Gus," said Silas, somewhat nervously, "I want to put a case to you.
It's purely imaginary, and has probably never happened in the history of
the world."

"You mean what we lawyers call a hypothetical case," remarked Mr.
Tidwell, in a tone that suggested a spacious and a tolerant mind.

"Precisely," replied Mr. Silas Tomlin, with some eagerness. "I was
readin' a tale in an old copy of _Blackwood's Magazine_ the other day,
an' the whole business turned on just such a case. The sum and substance
of it was about this: A man marries a woman and they get along together
all right for awhile. Then, all of a sudden she takes a mortal dislike
to the man, screams like mad when he goes about her, and kicks up
generally when his name is mentioned. He, being a man of some spirit,
and rather touchy at best, finally leaves her in disgust. Finally her
folks send him word that she is dead. On the strength of that
information, he marries again, after so long a time. All goes well for
eighteen or twenty years, and then suddenly the first wife turns up.
Now what, in law, is the man's status? Where does he stand? Is this
woman really his wife?"

"Why, certainly," replied Mr. Tidwell. "His second marriage is no
marriage at all. The issue of such a marriage is illegitimate."

"That's just what I thought," commented Silas Tomlin. "But in the tale,
when the woman comes back, and puts in her claim, the judge flings her
case out of court."

"That was in England," Mr. Tidwell suggested.

"Or Scotland--I forget which," Silas Tomlin replied.

"Well, it isn't the law over here," Mr. Tidwell declared confidently.
They walked on a little way, when the lawyer suddenly turned to Silas
and said: "Mr. Tomlin, will you fetch that magazine in to-morrow? I want
to see the ground on which the woman's case was thrown out. It's
interesting, even if it is all fiction. Perhaps there was some
technicality."

"All right, Gus; I'll fetch it in to-morrow."



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

_Silas Tomlin Finds Trouble_


When Silas Tomlin reached home, he found his son reading a book. No word
of salutation passed between them; Paul simply changed his position in
the chair, and Silas grunted. They had no confidences, and they seemed
to have nothing in common. As a matter of fact, however, Silas was very
fond of this son, proud of his appearance--the lad was as neat as a pin,
and fairly well-favoured,--and proud of his love for books. Unhappily,
Silas was never able to show his affection and his fair-haired son never
knew to his dying day how large a place he occupied in his father's
heart. Miserly Silas was with money, but his love for his son was
boundless. It destroyed or excluded every other sentiment or emotion
that was in conflict with it. His miserliness was for his son's sake,
and he never put away a dollar without a feeling of exultation; he
rejoiced in the fact that it would enable his son to live more
comfortably than his father had cared to live. Silas loved money, not
for its own sake, but for the sake of his son.

Mrs. Absalom would have laughed at such a statement. The social
structure of the Southern people, and the habits and traditions based
thereon, were of such a character that a great majority could not be
brought to believe that it was possible for parsimony to exist side by
side with any of the finer feelings. All the conditions and
circumstances, the ability to command leisure, the very climate itself,
promoted hospitality, generosity, open-handedness, and that fine spirit
of lavishness that seeks at any cost to give pleasure to others. Popular
opinion, therefore, looked with a cold and suspicious eye on all
manifestations of selfishness.

But Silas Tomlin's parsimony, his stinginess, had no selfish basis. He
was saving not for himself, but for his son, in whom all his affections
and all his ambitions were centered. He had reared Paul tenderly without
displaying any tenderness, and if the son had speculated at all in
regard to the various liberties he had been allowed, or the indulgent
methods that had been employed in his bringing up, he would have traced
them to the carelessness and indifference of his father, rather than to
the ardent affection that burned unseen and unmarked in Silas's bosom.

He had never, by word or act, intentionally wounded the feelings of his
son; he had never thrown himself in the path of Paul's wishes. There was
a feeling in Shady Dale that Silas was permitting his son to go to the
dogs; whereas, as a matter of fact, no detective was ever more alert.
Without seeming to do so, he had kept an eye on all Paul's comings and
goings. When the lad's desires were reasonable, they were promptly
gratified; when they were unreasonable, their gratification was
postponed until they were forgotten. Books Paul had in abundance. Half
of the large library of Meredith Tomlin had fallen to Silas, and the
other half to Pulaski Tomlin, and the lad had free access to all.

Paul was very fond of his Uncle Pulaski and his Aunt Fanny, and he was
far more familiar with these two than he was with his father. His
association with his uncle and aunt was in the nature of a liberal
education. It was Pulaski Tomlin who really formed Paul's character, who
gathered together all the elements of good that are native to the mind
of a sensitive lad, and moulded them until they were strong enough to
outweigh and overwhelm the impulses of evil that are also native to the
growing mind. Thus it fell out that Paul was a young man to be admired
and loved by all who find modest merit pleasing.

When his father arrived at home on that particular evening, as has been
noted, Paul was reading a book. He changed his position, but said
nothing. After awhile, however, he felt something was wrong. His father,
instead of seating himself at the table, and consulting his note-book,
walked up and down the floor.

"What is wrong? Are you ill?" Paul asked after awhile.

"No, son; I am as well in body as ever I was; but I'm greatly troubled.
I wish to heaven I could go back to the beginning, and tell you all
about it; but I can't--I just can't."

Paul also had his troubles, and he regarded his father gloomily enough.
"Why can't you tell me?" he asked, somewhat impatiently. "But I needn't
ask you that; you never tell me anything. I heard something to-day that
made me ashamed."

"Ashamed, Paul?" gasped his father.

"Yes--ashamed. And if it is true, I am going away from here and never
show my face again."

Silas fell, rather than leaned, against the mantel-piece, his face
ghastly white. He tried to say, "What did you hear, Paul?" His lips
moved, but no sound issued from his throat.

"Two or three persons told me to-day," Paul went on, "that they had
heard of your intention to join the radicals, and run for the
legislature. I told each and every one of them that it was an infernal
lie; but I don't know whether it is a lie or not. If it isn't I'll leave
here."

Silas Tomlin's heart had been in his throat, as the saying is, but he
gulped it down again and smiled faintly. If this was all Paul had heard,
well and good. Compared with some other things, it was a mere matter of
moonshine. Paul took up his book again, but he turned the leaves
rapidly, and it was plain that he was impatiently waiting for further
information.

At last Silas spoke: "All the truth in that report, Paul, is this--It
has been suggested to me that it would be better for the whites here if
some one who sympathises with their plans, and understands their
interests, should pretend to become a Republican, and make the race for
the legislature. This is what some of our best men think."

"What do you mean by our best men, father?"

"Why, I don't know that I am at liberty to mention names even to you,
Paul," said Silas, who had no notion of being driven into a corner. "And
then, on the other hand, the white Republicans are not as fond of the
negroes as they pretend to be. And if they can't get some native-born
white man to run, who do you reckon they'll have to put up as a
candidate? Why, old Jerry, Pulaski's man of all work."

"Well, what of it?" Paul asked with rising indignation. "Jerry is a
great deal better than any white man who puts himself on an equality
with him."

"Have you met Mr. Hotchkiss?" asked Silas. "He seems to be a very clever
man."

"No, I haven't met him and I don't want to meet him." Paul rose from his
seat, and stood facing his father. He was a likely-looking young man,
tall and slim, but broad-shouldered. He had the delicate pink complexion
that belongs to fair-haired persons. "This is a question, father, that
can't be discussed between us. You beat about the bush in such a way as
to compel me to believe the reports I have heard are true. Well, you can
do as you like; I'll not presume to dictate to you. You may disgrace
yourself, but you sha'n't disgrace me."

With that, the high-strung young fellow seized his hat, and flung out of
the house, carrying his book with him. He shut the door after him with a
bang, as he went out, demonstrating that he was full of the heroic
indignation that only young blood can kindle.

Silas Tomlin sank into a chair, as he heard the street-door slammed.
"Disgrace him! My God! I've already disgraced him, and when he finds it
out he'll hate me. Oh, Lord!" If the man's fountain of tears had not
been dried up years before, he would have wept scalding ones.

An inner door opened and a negro woman peeped in. Seeing no one but
Silas, she cried out indignantly, "Who dat slammin' dat front do'?
You'll break eve'y glass in de house, an' half de crock'ry-ware in de
dinin'-room, an' den you'll say I done it."

"It was Paul, Rhody; he was angry about something."

The negro woman gave an indignant snort. "I don't blame 'im--I don't
blame 'im; not one bit. Ain't I been tellin' you how 'twould be? Ain't I
been tellin' you dat you'd run 'im off wid yo' scrimpin' an' pinchin'?
But 'tain't dat dat run'd 'im off. It's sump'n wuss'n dat. He ain't
never done dat away befo'. Ef dat boy ain't had de patience er Job, he'd
'a' been gone fum here long ago."

Rhody came into the room where she could look Silas in the eyes. He
regarded her with curiosity, which appeared to be the only emotion left
him. Certainly he had never seen his cook and aforetime slave in such a
tantrum. What would she say and do next?

"Home!" she exclaimed in a loud voice. Then she turned around and
deliberately inspected the room as if she had never seen it before. "An'
so dis is what you call Home--you, wid all yo' money hid away in holes
in de groun'! Dis de kinder place you fix up fer dat boy, an' him de
onliest one you got! Well!" Rhody's indignation could only be accounted
for on the ground that she had overheard the whole conversation between
father and son.

"Why, you never said anything about it before," remarked Silas Tomlin.

"No, I didn't, an' I wouldn't say it now, ef dat boy hadn't 'a' foun'
out fer hisse'f what kinder daddy he got."

"Blast your black hide! I'll knock your brains out if you talk that way
to me!" exclaimed Silas Tomlin, white with anger.

"Well, I bet you nobody don't knock yo' brains out," remarked Rhody
undismayed. "An' while I'm 'bout it, I'll tell you dis: Yo' supper's in
dar in de pots an' pans; ef you want it you go git it an' put on de
table, er set flat on de h'ath an' eat it. Dat chile's gone, an' I'm
gwine."

"You dratted fool!" Silas exclaimed, "you know Paul hasn't gone for
good. He'll come back when he gets hungry, and be glad to come."

"Is you ever seed him do dis away befo' sence he been born?" Rhody
paused and waited for a reply, but none was forthcoming. "No, you ain't!
no, you ain't! You don't know no mo' 'bout dat chile dan ef he want
yone. But I--me--ol' Rhody--I know 'im. I kin look at 'im sideways an'
tell ef he feelin' good er bad er diffunt. What you done done ter dat
chile? Tell me dat."

But Silas Tomlin answered never a word. He sat glowering at Rhody in a
way that would have subdued and frightened a negro unused to his ways.
Rhody started toward the kitchen, but at the door leading to the
dining-room she paused and turned around. "Oh, you got a heap ter answer
fer--a mighty heap; an' de day will come when you'll bar in mind eve'y
word I been tellin' you 'bout dat chile fum de time he could wobble
'roun' an' call me mammy."

With that she went out. Silas heard her moving about in the back part of
the house, but after awhile all was silence. He sat for some time
communing with himself, and trying in vain to map out some consistent
course of action. What a blessing it would be, he thought, if Paul would
make good his threat, and go away! It would be like tearing his father's
heart-strings out, but better that than that he should remain and be a
witness to his own disgrace, and to the bitter humiliation of his
father.

Silas had intended to warn his son that he was throwing away his time by
going with Eugenia Claiborne--that marriage with her was utterly
impossible. But it was a very delicate subject, and, once embarked in
it, he would have been unable to give his son any adequate or
satisfactory reason for the interdiction. Many wild and whirling
thoughts passed through the mind of Silas Tomlin, but at the end, he
asked himself why he should cross the creek before he came to it?

The reflection was soothing enough to bring home to his mind the fact
that he had had no supper. Unconsciously, and through force of habit, he
had been waiting for Rhody to set the small bell to tinkling, as a
signal that the meal was ready, but no sound had come to his ears. He
rose to investigate. A solitary candle was flaring on the dining-table.
He went to the door leading to the kitchen and called Rhody, but he
received no answer.

"Blast your impudent hide!" he exclaimed, "what are you doing out there?
Why don't you put supper on the table?"

He would have had silence for an answer, but for the barking of a nearby
neighbour's dog. He went into the kitchen, and found the fire nearly
out, whereupon he made dire threats against his cook, but, in the end,
he was compelled to fish his supper from the pans as best he could.

When he had finished he looked at the clock, and was surprised to find
that it was only a little after eight. During the course of an hour and
a half, he seemed to have lived and suffered a year and a half. The
early hour gave him an opportunity to display one of his characteristic
traits. It had never been his way to run from trouble. When a small boy,
if his nurse told him the booger-man was behind a bush, he always
insisted on investigating. The same impulse seized him now. If this Mrs.
Claiborne proposed to make any move against him--as he inferred from the
hints which the jovial Mr. Sanders had flung at his head--he would beard
the lioness in her den, and find out what she meant, and what she
wanted.

Silas was prompt to act on the impulse, and as soon as he could make the
house secure, he proceeded to the Gaither Place. His knock, after some
delay, was answered by Eugenia. The girl involuntarily drew back when
she saw who the visitor was. "What is it you wish?" she inquired.

"If your mother is at home, please ask her if she will see Silas Tomlin
on a matter of business."

Eugenia left the door open, and in a moment, from one of the rear rooms
came the sound of merry, unrestrained laughter, which only ceased when
some one uttered a warning "Sh-h!"

Eugenia returned almost immediately, and invited the visitor into the
parlour, saying, "It is rather late for business, mamma says, but she
will see you."

Silas seated himself on a sofa, and had time to look about him before
the lady of the house came in. It was his second visit to Mrs.
Claiborne, and he observed many changes had taken place in the
disposition of the furniture and the draperies. He noted, too, with a
feeling of helpless exasperation, that his own portrait hung on the wall
in close proximity to that of Rita Claiborne. He clenched his hands with
inward rage. "What does this she-devil mean?" he asked himself, and at
that moment, the object of his anger swept into the room. There was
something gracious, as well as graceful, in her movements. She had the
air of a victor who is willing to be magnanimous.

"What is your business with me?" she asked with lifted eyebrows. There
was just the shadow of a smile hovering around her mouth. Silas caught
it, and looking into a swinging mirror opposite, he saw how impossible
it was for a man with a weazened face and a skull-cap to cope with such
a woman as this. However, he had his indignation, his sense of
persecution, to fall back upon.

"I want to know what you intend to do," said Silas. There was a note of
weakness and helplessness in his voice. "I want to know what to expect.
I'm tired of leading a dog's life. I hear you have been colloguing with
lawyers."

"Do you remember your first visit here?" inquired Mrs. Claiborne very
sweetly. If she was an enemy, she certainly knew how to conceal her
feelings. "Do you remember how wildly you talked--how insulting you
were?"

"I declare to you on my honour that I never intended to insult you,"
Silas exclaimed.

"Why, all your insinuations were insulting. You gave me to understand
that my coming here was an outrage--as if you had anything to do with my
movements. But you insisted that my coming here was an attack on you and
your son. When and where and how did I ever do you a wrong?"

"Why didn't you--didn't--" Silas tried hard to formulate his wrongs, but
they were either so many or so few that words failed him.

"Did I desert you when you were ill and delirious? Did I put faith in an
anonymous letter and believe you to be dead?" The lady spoke with a
calmness that seemed to be unnatural and unreal.

For a little while, Silas made no reply, but sat like one dazed, his
eyes fixed on the crayon portrait of himself. "Did you hang that thing
up there for Paul to see it and ask questions about it?" he asked,
after awhile.

"I hung it there because I chose to," she replied. "Judge Vardeman
thinks it is a very good likeness of you, but I don't agree with him. Do
you think it does you justice?" she asked.

"And then there's Paul," said Silas, ignoring her question. "Do you
propose to let him go ahead and fall in love with the girl?"

"Paul is not my son," the lady calmly answered.

"But the girl is your daughter," Silas insisted.

"I shall look after her welfare, never fear," said the lady.

"But suppose they should take a notion to marry; what would you do to
stop 'em?"

"Oh, well, that is a question for the future," replied the lady,
serenely. "It will be time enough to discuss that matter when the
necessity arises."

Her composure, her indifference, caused Silas to writhe and squirm in
his chair, and she, seeing the torture she was inflicting, appeared to
be very well content.

"I didn't come to argue," said Silas presently. "I came for information;
I want to know what you intend to do. I don't ask any favours and I
don't want any; I'm getting my deserts, I reckon. What I sowed that I'm
reaping."

"Ah!" the lady exclaimed softly, and with an air of satisfaction. "Do
you really feel so?" She leaned forward a little, and there was that in
her eyes that denoted something else besides satisfaction; compassion
shone there. Her mood had not been a serious one up to this point, but
she was serious now, and Silas could but observe how beautiful she was.
"Do you really feel that I would be justified if I confirmed the
suspicions you have expressed?"

"So far as I am concerned, you'd be doing exactly right," said Silas
bluntly. "But what about Paul?"

"Well, what about Paul?" Mrs. Claiborne asked.

"Well, for one thing, he's never done you any harm. And there's another
thing," said Silas rising from his seat: "I'd be willing to have my body
pulled to pieces, inch by inch, and my bones broken, piece by piece, to
save that boy one single pang."

He stood towering over the lady. For once he had been taken clean out of
himself, and he seemed to be transfigured. Mrs. Claiborne rose also.

"Paul is a very good young man," she said.

"Yes, he is!" exclaimed Silas. "He never had a mean thought, and he has
never been guilty of a mean action. But that would make no difference in
my feelings. It would be all the same to me if he was a thief and a
scoundrel or if he was deformed, or if he was everything that he is not.
No matter what he was or might be, I would be willing to live in eternal
torment if I could know that he is happy."

His face was not weazened now. It was illuminated with his love for his
son, the one passion of his life, and he was no longer a contemptible
figure. The lady refixed her eyes upon him, and wondered how he could
have changed himself right before her eyes, for certainly, as it seemed
to her, this was not the mean and shabby figure she had found in the
parlour when she first came in. She sighed as she turned her eyes away.

"Do you remember what I told you on the occasion of your first visit?"
she inquired very seriously. "You were both rude and disagreeable, but I
said that I'd not trouble you again, so long as you left me alone."

"Well, haven't I left you alone?" asked Silas.

"What do you call this?" There was just the shadow of a smile on her
face.

"That's a fact," said Silas after a pause. "But I just couldn't help
myself. Honestly I'm sorry I came. I'm no match for you. I must bid you
good-night. I hardly know what's come over me. If I've worried you, I'm
truly sorry."

"One of these days," she said very kindly, as she accompanied him to the
door, "I'll send for you. At the proper time I'll give you some
interesting news."

"Well, I hope it will be good news; if so, it will be the first I have
heard in many a long day. Good-night."

The lady closed the door, and returned to the parlour and sat down.
"Why, I thought he was a cold-blooded, heartless creature," she said to
herself. Then, after some reflection she uttered an exclamation and
clasped her hands together. Suppose he were to make way with himself!
The bare thought was enough to keep the smiles away from the face of
this merry-hearted lady for many long minutes. Finally, she caught a
glimpse of herself in the swinging mirror. She snapped her fingers at
her reflection, saying, "Pooh! I wouldn't give that for your firmness of
purpose!"



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

_Rhody Has Something to Say_


Now, all this time, while the mother was engaged with Silas, Eugenia,
the daughter, was having an experience of her own. When Rhody, Silas
Tomlin's cook and housekeeper, discovered that Paul had left the house
in a fit of anger, she knew at once that something unusual had occurred,
and her indignation against Silas Tomlin rose high. She was familiar
with every peculiarity of Paul's character, and she was well aware of
the fact that behind his calm and cool bearing, which nothing ever
seemed to ruffle, was a heart as sensitive and as tender as that of a
woman, and a temper hot, obstinate and unreasonable when aroused.

So, without taking time to serve Silas's supper, she went in search of
Paul. She went to the store where he was the chief clerk, but the doors
were closed; she went to the tavern, but he was not to be seen; and she
walked along the principal streets, where sometimes the young men
strolled after tea. There she met a negro woman, who suggested that he
might be at the Gaither Place. "Humph!" snorted Rhody, "how come dat
ain't cross my mind? But ef he's dar dis night, ef he run ter dat gal
when he in trouble, I better be layin' off ter cook some weddin'
doin's."

There wasn't a backyard in the town that Rhody didn't know as well as
she knew her own, and she stood on no ceremony in entering any of them.
She went to the Gaither Place, swung back the gate, shutting it after
her with a bang, and stalked into the kitchen as though it belonged to
her. At the moment there was no one in sight but Mandy, the house-girl,
a bright and good-looking mulatto.

"Why, howdy, Miss Rhody!" she exclaimed, in a voice that sounded like a
flute. "What wind blowed you in here?"

"Put down dem dishes an' wipe yo' han's," said Rhody, by way of reply.
The girl silently complied, expressing no surprise and betraying no
curiosity. "Now, den, go in de house, an' ax ef Paul Tomlin is in dar,"
commanded Rhody. "Ef he is des tell 'im dat Mammy Rhody want ter see
'im."

"I hope dey ain't nobody dead," suggested Mandy with a musical laugh.
"I'm lookin' out for all sorts er trouble, because I've had mighty funny
dreams for three nights han'-runnin'. Look like I can see blood. I wake
up, I do, cryin' an' feelin' tired out like de witches been ridin' me.
Then I drop off to sleep, an' there's the blood, plain as my han'."

She went on in the house and Rhody followed close at her heels. She was
determined to see Paul if she could. She was very willing for Silas
Tomlin to be drawn through a hackle; she was willing to see murder done
if the whites were to be the victims; but Paul--well, according to her
view, Paul was one of a thousand. She had given him suck; she had
fretted and worried about him for twenty years; and she couldn't break
off her old habits all at once. She had listened to and indorsed the
incendiary doctrines of the radical emissary who pretended to be
representing the government; she had wept and shouted over the strenuous
pleadings of the Rev. Jeremiah; but all these things were wholly apart
from Paul. And if she had had the remotest idea that they affected his
interests or his future, she would have risen in the church and
denounced the carpet-bagger and his scalawag associates, and likewise
the Rev. Jeremiah.

When Mandy, closely followed by Rhody, went into the house, she heard
voices in the parlour, but Eugenia was in the sitting-room reading by
the light of a lamp.

"Miss Genia," said the girl, "is Mr. Paul here?"

"Why do you ask?" inquired Eugenia.

"They-all cook wanter speak with him." At this moment, Eugenia saw the
somewhat grim face of Rhody peering over the girl's shoulder.

"Paul isn't here," said the young lady, rising with a vague feeling of
alarm. "What is the matter?" And then, feeling that if there was any
trouble, Rhody would feel freer to speak when they were alone together,
Eugenia dismissed Mandy, and followed to see that the girl went out.
"Now, what _is_ the trouble, Rhody? Mr. Silas Tomlin is in the parlour
talking to mother."

Rhody opened her eyes wide at this. "_He_ in dar? What de name er
goodness he doin' here?" Eugenia didn't know, of course, and said so.
"Well, he ain't atter no good," Rhody went on; "you kin put dat down in
black an' white. Dat man is sho' ter leave a smutty track wharsomever he
walk at. You better watch 'im; you better keep yo' eye on 'im. Is he
yever loant yo' ma any money?"

"Why, no," replied Eugenia, laughing at the absurdity of the question.
"What put that idea in your head?"

"Bekaze dat's his business--loanin' out a little dab er money here an' a
little dab dar, an' gittin' back double de dab he loant," said Rhody.
"Deyer folks in dis county, which he loant um money, an' now he got all
de prop'ty dey yever had; an' deyer folks right here in dis town, which
he loant um dat ar Conferick money when it want wuff much mo dan
shavin's, an' now dey got ter pay 'im back sho nuff money. I hear 'im
sesso. Oh, dat's him! dat's Silas Tomlin up an' down. You kin take a
thrip an' squeeze it in yo' han' tell it leave a print, an' hol' it up
whar folks kin see it, an' dar you got his pictur'; all it'll need will
be a frame. He done druv Paul 'way fum home."

She spoke with some heat, and really went further than she intended, but
she was swept away by her indignation. She was certain, knowing Paul as
well as she did, that he had left the house in a fit of anger at
something his father had said or done and she was equally as certain
that he would have to be coaxed back.

"Surely you are mistaken," said Eugenia. "It is too ridiculous. Why,
Paul--Mr. Paul is----" She paused and stood there blushing.

"Go on, chile: say it out; don't be shame er me. Nobody can't say
nothin' good 'bout dat boy but what I kin put a lots mo' on what dey er
tellin'. Silas Tomlin done tol' me out'n his own mouf dat Paul went fum
de house vowin' he'd never come back."

Eugenia was so sure that Rhody (after her kind and colour) was
exaggerating, that she refused to be disturbed by the statement. "Why
did you come here hunting for Paul?" the young lady asked.

"Oh, go away, Miss Genia!" exclaimed Rhody, laughing. "'Tain't no needs
er my answerin' dat, kaze you know lots better'n I does."

"Are you very fond of him?" Eugenia inquired.

"Who--_me_? Why, honey, I raised 'im. Sick er well, I nussed 'im fer
long years. I helt 'im in deze arms nights an' nights, when all he had
ter do fer ter leave dis vale wuz ter fetch one gasp an' go. Ef his
daddy had done all dat, he wouldn't 'a' druv de boy fum home."

Alas! how could Rhody, in her ignorance and blindness, probe the
recesses of a soul as reticent as that of Silas Tomlin?

"Oh, don't say he was driven from home!" cried Eugenia, rising and
placing a hand on Rhody's arm. "If you talk that way, other people will
take it up, and it won't be pleasant for Paul."

"Dat sho is a mighty purty han'," exclaimed Rhody enthusiastically,
ignoring the grave advice of the young woman. "I'm gwine ter show
somebody de place whar you laid it, an' I bet you he'll wanter cut de
cloff out an' put it in his alvum."

Eugenia made a pretence of pushing Rhody out of the room, but she was
blushing and smiling. "Well'm, he ain't here, sho, an' here's whar he
oughter be; but I'll fin' 'im dis night an' ef he ain't gwine back home,
I ain't gwine back--you kin put dat down." With that, she bade the young
lady good-night, and went out.

As Rhody passed through the back gate, she chanced to glance toward
Pulaski Tomlin's house, and saw a light shining from the library window.
"Ah-yi!" she exclaimed, "he's dar, an' dey ain't no better place fer
'im. Dey's mo' home fer 'im right dar den dey yever wus er yever will be
whar he live at."

So saying, she turned her steps in the direction of Neighbour Tomlin's.
In the kitchen, she asked if Paul was in the house. The cook didn't
know, but when the house-girl came out, she said that Mr. Paul was
there, and had been for some time. "Deyer holdin' a reg'lar expeunce
meetin' in dar," she said. "Miss Fanny sho is a plum sight!"

The house-girl went in again to say that Rhody would like to speak with
him, and Rhody, as was her custom, followed at her heels.

"Come in, Rhody," said Miss Fanny. "I know you are there. You always
send a message, and then go along with it to see if it is delivered
correctly. 'Twould save a great deal of trouble if the rest of us were
to adopt your plan."

"I hope you all is well," remarked Rhody, as she made her appearance.
"I declar', Miss Fanny, you look good enough to eat."

"Well, I do eat," responded Miss Fanny, teasingly.

"I mean you look good enough ter be etted," said Rhody, correcting
herself.

"Now, that is what I call a nice compliment," Miss Fanny observed
complacently. "Brother Pulaski, if I am ever 'etted' you won't have to
raise a monument to my memory."

"No wonder you look young," laughed Rhody. "Anybody what kin git fun
out'n a graveyard is bleeze ter look young."

Paul was lying on the wide lounge that was one of the features of the
library. His eyes were closed, and his Aunt Fanny was gently stroking
his hair. Pulaski Tomlin leaned back in an easy chair, lazily enjoying a
cigar, the delicate flavour of which filled the room. There was
something serene and restful in the group, in the furniture, in all the
accessories and surroundings. The negro woman turned around and looked
at everything in the room, as if trying to discover what produced the
effect of perfect repose.

It is the rule that everything beautiful and precious in this world
should have mystery attached to it. There is the enduring mystery of
art, the mystery that endows plain flesh and blood with genius. A little
child draws you by its beauty; there is mystery unfathomable in its
eyes. You enter a home, no matter how fine, no matter how humble; it may
be built of logs, and its furnishings may be of the poorest; but if it
is a home, a real home, you will know it unmistakably the moment you
step across the threshold. Some subtle essence, as mysterious as thought
itself, will find its way to your mind and enlighten your instinct. You
will know, however fine the dwelling, whether the spirit of home dwells
there.

Rhody, as she looked around in the vain effort to get a clew to the
secret, wondered why she always felt so comfortable in this house. She
sighed as she seated herself on the floor at the foot of the lounge on
which Paul lay. This was her privilege. If Miss Fanny could sit at his
head, Rhody could sit at his feet.

"You wanted to speak to Paul," suggested Miss Fanny.

"Yes'm; he lef' de house in a huff, an' I wanter know ef he gwine
back--kaze ef he ain't, I'm gwineter move way fum dar. He ain't take
time fer ter git his supper."

"Why, Paul!" exclaimed Miss Fanny.

"I couldn't eat a mouthful to save my life," said Paul.

"Whar Miss Margaret?" Rhody inquired; and she seemed pleased to hear
that the young lady was spending the night with Nan Dorrington. "Honey,"
she said to Paul, "how come yo' pa went ter de Gaither Place ter-night?
What business he got dar?"

This was news to Paul, and he could make no reply to Rhody's question.
He reflected over the matter a little while. "Was he really there?" he
asked finally.

"I hear 'im talkin' in de parlour, an' Miss Genia say it's him."

"What were _you_ doing there?" inquired Miss Fanny, pushing her jaunty
grey curls behind her ears.

"A coloured 'oman recommen' me ter go dar ef I wan' ter fin' dat chile."

"Why, Paul! And is the wind really blowing in that quarter?" cried Miss
Fanny, leaning over and kissing him on the forehead.

"Now, Mammy Rhody, why did you do that?" Paul asked with considerable
irritation. "What will Miss Eugenia and her mother think?" He sat bolt
upright on the sofa.

"Well, her ma ain't see me, an' Miss Genia look like she wuz sorry I
couldn't fin' you dar."

Miss Fanny laughed, but Rhody was perfectly serious. "Miss Fanny," she
said, turning to the lady, "how come dat chile lef' home?"

"Shall I tell her, Paul? I may as well." Whereupon she told the negro
woman the cause of Paul's anger, and ended by saying that she didn't
blame him for showing the spirit of a Southern gentleman.

"Well, he'll never j'ine de 'Publican Party in dis county," Rhody
declared emphatically.

"He will if he has made up his mind to do so. You don't know Silas,"
said Miss Fanny.

"Who--me? Me not know dat man? Huh! I know 'im better'n he know hisse'f;
an' I know some yuther folks, too. I tell you right now, he'll never
j'ine; an' ef you don't believe me, you wait an' see. Time I git thoo
wid his kaycter, de 'Publicans won't tetch 'im wid a ten-foot pole."

"I hope you are right," said Pulaski Tomlin, speaking for the first
time. "There's enough trouble in the land without having a scalawag in
the Tomlin family."

"Well, you nee'nter worry 'bout dat, kaze I'll sho put a stop ter dem
kinder doin's. Honey," Rhody went on, addressing Paul, "you come on home
when you git sleepy; I'm gwineter set up fer you, an' ef you don't come,
yo' pa'll hatter cook his own vittles ter-morrer mornin'."

"Good-night, Rhody, and pleasant dreams," said Miss Fanny, as the negro
woman started out.

"I dunner how anybody kin have pleasin' drams ef dey sleep in de same
lot wid Marse Silas," replied Rhody. "Good-night all."

Now, the cook at the Tomlin Place was the wife of the Rev. Jeremiah. She
was a tall, thin woman, some years older than her husband, and she ruled
him with a rod of iron. The new conditions, combined with the insidious
flattery of the white radicals, had made her vicious against the whites.
Rhody knew this, and from the "big house," she went into the kitchen,
where Mrs. Jeremiah was cleaning up for the night. Her name was Patsy.

"You gittin' mighty thick wid de white folks, Sis' Rhody," said Patsy,
pausing in her work, as the other entered the door.

For answer, Rhody fell into a chair, held both hands high above her
head, and then let them drop in her lap. The gesture was effective for a
dozen interpretations. "Well!" she exclaimed, and then paused, Patsy
watching her narrowly the while. "I dunner how 'tis wid you, Sis' Patsy,
but wid me, it's live an' l'arn--live an' l'arn. An' I'm a-larnin',
mon, spite er de fack dat de white folks think niggers ain't got no
sense."

"Dey does! Dey does!" exclaimed Patsy. "Dey got de idee dat we all ain't
got no mo' sense dan a passel er fryin'-size chickens. But dey'll fin'
out better, an' den--Ah-h-h!" This last exclamation was a hoarse
gutteral cry of triumph.

"You sho is talkin' now!" cried Rhody, with an admiring smile. "I knows
it ter-night, ef I never is know'd it befo'."

Patsy knew that some disclosure was coming, and she invited it by
putting Rhody on the defensive. "It's de trufe," she declared. "Dat what
make me feel so quare, Sis' Rhody, when I see you so ready fer ter
collogue wid de white folks. I wuz talkin' wid Jerry 'bout it no
longer'n las' night. Yes'm, I wuz. I say, 'Jerry, what de matter wid
Sis' Rhody?' He say, 'Which away, Pidgin?'--desso; he allers call me
Pidgin," explained Patsy, with a smile of pride. "I say, 'By de way she
colloguin' wid de white folks.'"

"What Br'er Jerry say ter dat?" inquired Rhody.

"He des shuck his head an' groan," was the reply.

Rhody leaned forward with a frown that was almost tragic in its
heaviness, and spoke in a deep, unnatural tone that added immensely to
the emphasis of her words. "'Oman, lemme tell you: I done it, an' I'm
glad I done it; an' you'll be glad I done it; an' he'll be glad I done
it." Patsy was drying the dish-pan with a towel, but suspended
operations the better to hear what Rhody had to say. "Dey done got it
fixt up fer ol' Silas ter j'ine in wid de 'Publican Party. He gwineter
j'ine so he kin fin' out all der doin's, an' all der comin's an' der
gwines, so he kin tell de yuthers."

"Huh! Oh, yes--yes, yes, yes! Oh, yes! We er fools; we ain't got no
sense!" cackled Patsy viciously.

"He des gwineter make out he's a 'Publican," Rhody went on; "dey got it
all planned. He gwineter j'ine de Nunion League, an' git all de names.
Dey talk 'bout it, Sis' Patsy, right befo' my face an' eyes. Dey mus'
take me fer a start-natchel fool."

"Dey does--dey does!" cried Patsy; "dey takes us all fer fools. But
won't dey be a wakin' up when de time come?"

Then and there was given the death-blow to Silas Tomlin's ambition to
become a Republican politician. The Rev. Jeremiah was apprised of the
plan, which so far as Rhody was concerned, was a pure invention. Word
went round, and when Silas put in his application to become a member of
the Union League, he was informed that orders had come from Atlanta that
no more members were to be enrolled.

When Rhody went out into the street, after her talk with Patsy, a
passer-by would have said that her actions were very queer. She leaned
against the fence and went into convulsions of silent laughter. "Oh, I
wish I wuz some'rs whar I could holler," she said aloud between gasps.
"He calls her 'Pidgin!' Pidgin! Ef she's a pidgin, I'd like ter know
what gone wid de cranes!"

She recurred to this name some weeks afterward, when the Rev. Jeremiah
informed her confidentially that his wife had discovered Silas Tomlin's
plan to unearth the secrets of the Union League. Rhody's comment
somewhat surprised the Rev. Jeremiah. "I allers thought," she said with
a laugh, "dat Pidgin had sump'n else in her craw 'sides corn."

Rhody waited in the kitchen that night until Paul returned, and then she
went to bed. Silas and his son were up earlier than usual the next
morning, but they found breakfast ready and waiting. The attitude of
father and son toward each other was constrained and reserved. Silas
felt that he must certainly say something to Paul about Eugenia
Claiborne. He hardly knew how to begin, but at last he plunged into the
subject with the same shivering sense of fear displayed by a small boy
who is about to jump into a pond of cold water--dreading it, and yet
determined to take a header.

"I hear, Paul," he began, "that you are very attentive to Eugenia
Claiborne."

"I call on her occasionally," said Paul. "She is a very agreeable young
lady." He spoke coolly, but the blood mounted to his face.

"So I hear--so I hear," remarked Silas in a business-like way. "Still, I
hope you won't carry matters too far."

"What do you mean?" Paul inquired.

"I wish I could go into particulars; I wish I could tell you exactly
what I mean, but I can't," said Silas. "All I can say is that it would
be impossible for you to marry the young woman. My Lord!" he exclaimed,
as he saw Paul close his jaws together. "Ain't there no other woman in
the world?"

"Do you know anything against the young lady's character?" the son
asked.

"Nothing, absolutely nothing," was the response.

"Well," said Paul, "I hadn't considered the question of marriage at all,
but since you've brought the subject up, we may as well discuss it. You
say it will be impossible for me to marry this young lady, and you
refuse to tell me why. Don't you think I am old enough to be trusted?"

"Why, certainly, Paul--of course; but there are some things--" Silas
paused, and caught his breath, and then went on. "Honestly, Paul, if I
could tell you, I would; I'd be glad to tell you; but this is a matter
in which you will have to depend on my judgment. Can't you trust me?"

"Just as far as you can trust me, but no farther," was the reply. "I'm
not a child. In a few months I'll be of age. But if I were only ten
years old, and knew the young lady as well as I know her now, you
couldn't turn me against her by insinuations." He rose, shook himself,
walked the length of the room and back again, and stood close to his
father. "You've already settled the question of marriage. I asked you
last night about the report that you intended to act with the radicals,
and you refused to give me a direct answer. That means that the report
is true. Do you suppose that Eugenia Claiborne, or any other decent
woman would marry the son of a scalawag?" he asked with a voice full of
passion. "Why, she'd spit in his face, and I wouldn't blame her."

The young man went out, leaving Silas sitting at the table. "Lord! I
hate to hurt him, but he'd better be dead than to marry that girl."

Rhody, who was standing in the entryway leading from the dining-room to
the kitchen, and who had overheard every word that passed between father
and son, entered the room at this moment, exclaiming:

"Well, you des ez well call 'im dead den, kaze marry her he will, an' I
don't blame 'im; an' mo'n dat I'll he'p 'im all I can."

"You don't know what you are talking about," said Silas, wiping his
lips, which were as dry as a bone.

"Maybe I does, an' maybe I don't," replied Rhody. "But what I does know,
I knows des ez good ez anybody. You say dat boy sha'n't marry de gal;
but how come you courtin' de mammy?"

"Doing what?" cried Silas, pushing his chair back from the table.

"Courtin' de mammy," answered Rhody, in a loud voice. "You wuz dar las'
night, an' fer all I know you wuz dar de night befo', an' de night 'fo'
dat. You may fool some folks, but you can't fool me."

"Courting! Why you blasted idiot! I went to see her on business."

Rhody laughed so heartily that few would have detected the mockery in
it. "Business! Yasser; it's business, an' mighty funny business. Well,
ef you kin git her, you take her. Ef she don't lead you a dance, I ain't
name Rhody."

"I believe you've lost what little sense you used to have," said Silas
with angry contempt.

"I notice dat nobody roun' here ain't foun' it," remarked Rhody,
retiring to the kitchen with a waiter full of dishes.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

_The Knights of the White Camellia_


Matters have changed greatly since those days, and all for the better.
The people of the whole country understand one another, and there is no
longer any sectional prejudice for the politicians to feed and grow fat
upon. But in the days of reconstruction everything was at white heat,
and every episode and every development appeared to be calculated to add
to the excitement. In all this, Shady Dale had as large a share as any
other community. The whites had witnessed many political outrages that
seemed to have for their object the renewal of armed resistance. And it
is impossible, even at this late day, for any impartial person to read
the debates in the Federal Congress during the years of 1867-68 without
realising the awful fact that the prime movers in the reconstruction
scheme (if not the men who acted as their instruments and tools) were
intent on stirring up a new revolution in the hope that the negroes
might be prevailed upon to sack cities and towns, and destroy the white
population. This is the only reasonable inference; no other conceivable
conclusion can explain the wild and whirling words that were uttered in
these debates: unless, indeed, some charitable investigator shall
establish the fact that the radical leaders were suffering from a sort
of contagious dementia.

It is all over and gone, but it is necessary to recall the facts in
order to explain the passionate and blind resistance of the whites of
the South and their hatred of everything that bore the name or earmarks
of Republicanism. Shady Dale, in common with other communities, had
witnessed the assembling of a convention to frame a new constitution for
the State. This body was well named the mongrel convention. It was made
up of political adventurers from Maine, Vermont, and other Northern
States, and boasted of a majority composed of ignorant negroes and
criminals. One of the most prominent members had served a term in a
Northern penitentiary. The real leaders, the men in whose wisdom and
conservatism the whites had confidence, were disqualified from holding
office by the terms of the reconstruction acts, and the convention
emphasised and adopted the policy of the radical leaders in
Washington--a policy that was deliberately conceived for the purpose of
placing the governments of the Southern States in the hands of ignorant
negroes controlled by men who had no interest whatever in the welfare of
the people.

But this was not all, nor half. When the military commandant who had
charge of affairs in Georgia, found that the State government
established under the terms of Mr. Lincoln's plan of reconstruction, had
no idea of paying the expenses of the mongrel convention out of the
State's funds, he issued an order removing the Governor and Treasurer,
and "detailed for duty as Governor of Georgia," one of the members of
his staff.

The mongrel convention, which would have been run out of any Northern
State in twenty-four hours, had provided for an election to be held in
April, 1868, for the ratification or rejection of the new constitution
that had been framed, and for the election of Governor and members of
the General Assembly. Beginning on the 20th, the election was to
continue for three days, a provision that was intended to enable the
negroes to vote at as many precincts as they could conveniently reach in
eighty-three hours. No safeguard whatever was thrown around the
ballot-box, and it was the remembrance of this initial and overwhelming
combination of fraud and corruption that induced the whites, at a later
day, to stuff the ballot-boxes and suppress the votes of the ignorant.

These things, with the hundreds of irritating incidents and episodes
belonging to the unprecedented conditions, gradually worked up the
feelings of the whites to a very high pitch of exasperation. The worst
fears of the most timid bade fair to be realised, for the negroes,
certain of their political supremacy, sure of the sympathy and support
of Congress and the War Department, and filled with the conceit produced
by the flattery and cajolery of the carpet-bag sycophants, were
beginning to assume an attitude which would have been threatening and
offensive if their skins had been white as snow.

Gabriel was now old enough to appreciate the situation as it existed,
though he never could bring himself to believe that there were elements
of danger in it. He knew the negroes too well; he was too familiar with
their habits of thought, and with their various methods of accomplishing
a desired end. But he was familiar with the apprehensions of the
community, and made no effort to put forward his own views, except in
occasional conversations with Meriwether Clopton. After a time, however,
it became clear, even to Gabriel, that something must be done to
convince the misguided negroes that the whites were not asleep.

He conformed himself to all the new conditions with the ready
versatility of youth. He studied hard both night and day, but he spent
the greater part of his time in the open air. It was perhaps fortunate
for him at this time that there was a lack of formality in his methods
of acquiring knowledge. He had no tutor, but his line of study was
mapped out for him by Meriwether Clopton, who was astonished at the
growing appetite of the lad for knowledge--an appetite that seemed to be
insatiable.

What he most desired to know, however, he made no inquiries about. He
ached, as Mrs. Absalom would have said, to know why he had suddenly come
to be afraid of Nan Dorrington. He had been somewhat shy of her before,
but now, in these latter days, he was absolutely afraid of her. He liked
her as well as ever, but somehow he became panic-stricken whenever he
found himself in her company, which was not often.

It was impossible that his desire to avoid her should fail to be
observed by Nan, and she found a reason for it in the belief that
Gabriel had discovered in some way that she was in the closet with Tasma
Tid the night the Union League had been organised. Nan would never have
known what a crime--this was the name she gave the escapade--what a
crime she had committed but for the shock it gave her step-mother. This
lady had been trained and educated in a convent, where every rule of
propriety was emphasised and magnified, and most rigidly insisted upon.

One day, when Nan was returning home from the village, she saw Gabriel
coming directly toward her. She studied the ground at her feet for a
considerable distance, and when she looked up again Gabriel was gone; he
had disappeared. This episode, insignificant though it was, was the
cause of considerable worry to Nan. She gave Mrs. Dorrington the
particulars, and then asked her what it all meant.

"Why should it mean anything?" that lady asked with a laugh.

"Oh, but it must mean something, Johnny. Gabriel has avoided me before,
and I have avoided him, but we have each had some sort of an excuse for
it. But this time it is too plain."

"What silly children!" exclaimed Mrs. Dorrington, with her cute French
accent.

Nan went to a window and looked out, drumming on a pane. Outside
everything seemed to be in disorder. The flowers were weeds, and the
trees were not beautiful any more. Even the few birds in sight were all
dressed in drab. What a small thing can change the world for us!

"I know why he hid himself," Nan declared from the window. "He has found
out that I was in the closet with Tasma Tid." How sad it was to be
compelled to realise the awful responsibilities that rest as a burden
upon Girls who are Grown!

"Well, you were there," replied Mrs. Dorrington, "and since that is so,
why not make a joke of it? Gabriel has no squeamishness about such
things."

"Then why should he act as he does?" Nan was about to break down.

"Well, he has his own reasons, perhaps, but they are not what you think.
Oh, far from it. Gabriel knows as well as I do that it would be
impossible for you to do anything _very_ wrong."

"Oh, but it isn't impossible," Nan insisted. "I feel wicked, and I know
I am wicked. If Gabriel Tolliver ever dares to find out that I was in
that closet, I'll tell him what I think of him, and then I'll--" Her
threat was never completed. Mrs. Dorrington rose from her chair just in
time to place her hand over Nan's mouth.

"If you were to tell Gabriel what you really think of him," said the
lady, "he would have great astonishment."

"Oh, no, he wouldn't, Johnny. You don't know how conceited Gabriel is.
I'm just ready to hate him."

"Well, it may be good for your health to dislike him a little
occasionally," remarked Mrs. Dorrington, with a smile.

"Now, what _do_ you mean by that, Johnny?" cried Nan. But the only
reply she received was an eloquent shrug of the shoulders.

Gabriel was as much mystified by his own dread of meeting Nan, as he was
by her coolness toward him. He could not recall any incident which she
had resented; but still she was angry with him. Well, if it was so, so
be it; and though he thought it was cruel in his old comrade to harbour
hard thoughts against him, he never sought for an explanation. He had
his own world to fall back upon--a world of books, the woods and the
fields. And he was far from unhappiness; for no human being who loves
Nature well enough to understand and interpret its meaning and its
myriad messages to his own satisfaction, can be unhappy for any length
of time. Whatever his losses or his disappointments, he can make them
all good by going into the woods and fields and taking Nature, the great
comforter, by the hand.

So Gabriel confined his communications for the most part to his old and
ever-faithful friends, the woods and the velvety Bermuda fields. He
walked about among these old friends with a lively sense of their
vitality and their fruitfulness. He was certain that the fields knew him
as well as he knew them--and as for the trees, he had a feeling that
they knew his name as well as he knew theirs. He was so familiar with
some of them, and they with him, that the katydids in the branches
continued their cries even while he was leaning against the trunks of
the friends of his childhood: whereas, if a stranger or an alien to the
woods had so much as laid the tip of his little finger on the rugged
bark of one of them, a shuddering signal would have been sent aloft, and
the cries would have ceased instantly.

Gabriel's grandmother went to bed early and rose early--a habit that
belongs to old age. But it was only after the darkness and silence of
night had descended upon the world that all of Gabriel's faculties were
alert. It was his favourite time for studying and reading, and for
walking about in the woods and fields, especially when the weather was
too warm for study. Every Sunday night found him in the Bermuda fields,
long since deserted by Nan and Tasma Tid. To think of the old days
sometimes brought a lump in his throat; but the skies, and the
constellations (in their season) remained, and were as fresh and as
beautiful as when they looked down in pity on the sufferings of Job.

Gabriel's favourite Bermuda field was crowned by a hill, which,
gradually sloping upward, commanded a fine view of the surrounding
country; and though it was close to Shady Dale, it was a lonely place.
Here the killdees ran, and bobbed their heads, and uttered their
plaintive cries unmolested; here the partridge could raise her brood in
peace; and here the whippoorwill was free to play upon his flute.

Many and many a time, while sitting on this hill, Gabriel had watched
the village-lights go out one by one till all was dark; and the silence
seemed to float heaven-ward, and fall again, and shift and move in vast
undulations, keeping time to a grand melody which the soul could feel
and respond to, but which the ear could not hear. And at such time,
Gabriel believed that in the slow-moving constellations, with their
glittering trains, could be read the great secrets that philosophers and
scientists are searching for.

Beyond the valley, still farther away from the town, was the negro
church, of which the Rev. Jeremiah Tomlin was the admired pastor.
Ordinarily, there were services in this church three times a week,
unless one of the constantly recurring revivals was in progress, and
then there were services every night in the week, and sometimes all
night long. The Rev. Jeremiah was a preacher who had lung-power to
spare, and his voice was well calculated to shatter our old friend the
welkin, so dear to poets and romancers. But if there was no revival in
progress, the nights devoted to prayer-meetings were mainly musical, and
the songs, subdued by the distance, floated across the valley to Gabriel
with entrancing sweetness.

One Wednesday night, when the political conditions were at their worst,
Gabriel observed that while the lights were lit in the church, there was
less singing than usual. This attracted his attention and then excited
his curiosity. Listening more intently, he failed to hear the sound of a
single voice lifted in prayer, in song or in preaching. The time was
after nine o'clock, and this silence was so unusual that Gabriel
concluded to investigate.

He made his way across the valley, and was soon within ear-shot of the
church. The pulpit was unoccupied, but Gabriel could see that a white
man was standing in front of it. The inference to be drawn from his
movements and gestures was that he was delivering an address to the
negroes. Hotchkiss was standing near the speaker, leaning in a familiar
way on one of the side projections of the pulpit. Gabriel knew
Hotchkiss, but the man who was speaking was a stranger. He was flushed
as with wine, and appeared to have no control of his hands, for he flung
them about wildly.

Gabriel crept closer, and climbed a small tree, in the hope that he
might hear what the stranger was saying, but listen as he might, no
sound of the stranger's voice came to Gabriel. The church was full of
negroes, and a strange silence had fallen on them. He marvelled somewhat
at this, for the night was pleasant, and every window was open. The
impression made upon the young fellow was very peculiar. Here was a man
flinging his arms about in the heat and ardour of argument or
exhortation, and yet not a sound came through the windows.

Suddenly, while Gabriel was leaning forward trying in vain to hear the
words of the speaker, a tall, white figure, mounted on a tall white
horse, emerged from the copse at the rear of the church. At the first
glance, Gabriel found it difficult to discover what the figures were,
but as horse and rider swerved in the direction of the church, he saw
that both were clad in white and flowing raiment. While he was gazing
with all his eyes, another figure emerged from the copse, then another,
and another, until thirteen white riders, including the leader, had come
into view. Following one another at intervals, they marched around the
church, observing the most profound silence. The hoofs of their horses
made no sound. Three times this ghostly procession marched around the
church. Finally they paused, each horseman at a window, save the leader,
who, being taller than the rest, had stationed himself at the door.

He was the first to break the silence. "Brothers, is all well with you?"
his voice was strong and sonorous.

"All is not well," replied twelve voices in chorus.

"What do you see?" the impressive voice of the leader asked.

"Trouble, misery, blood!" came the answering chorus.

"Blood?" cried the leader.

"Yes, blood!" was the reply.

"Then all is well!"

"So mote it be! All is well!" answered twelve voices in chorus.

Once more the ghostly procession rode round and round the church, and
then suddenly disappeared in the darkness. Gabriel rubbed his eyes. For
an instant he believed that he had been dreaming. If ever there were
goblins, these were they. The figures on horseback were so closely
draped in white that they had no shape but height, and their heads and
hands were not in view.

It may well be believed that the sudden appearance and disappearance of
these apparitions produced consternation in the Rev. Jeremiah's
congregation. The stranger who had been addressing them was left in a
state of collapse. The only person in the building who appeared to be
cool and sane was the man Hotchkiss. The negroes sat paralysed for an
instant after the white riders had disappeared--but only for an instant,
for, before you could breathe twice, those in the rear seats made a
rush for the door. This movement precipitated a panic, and the entire
congregation joined in a mad effort to escape from the building. The
Rev. Jeremiah forgot the dignity of his position, and, umbrella in hand,
emerged from a window, bringing the upper sash with him. Benches were
overturned, and wild shrieks came from the women. The climax came when
five pistol-shots rang out on the air.

Gabriel, in his tree, could hear the negroes running, their feet
sounding on the hard clay like the furious scamper of a drove of wild
horses. Years afterward, he could afford to laugh at the events of that
night, but, at the moment, the terror of the negroes was contagious, and
he had a mild attack of it.

The pistol-shots occurred as the Rev. Jeremiah emerged from the window,
and were evidently in the nature of a signal, for before the echoes of
the reports had died away, the white horsemen came into view again, and
rode after the fleeing negroes. Gabriel did not witness the effect of
this movement, but it came near driving the fleeing negroes into a
frenzy. The white riders paid little attention to the mob itself, but
selected the Rev. Jeremiah as the object of their solicitude.

He had bethought him of his dignity when he had gone a few hundred
steps, and found he was not pursued, and, instead of taking to the
woods, as most of his congregation did, he kept to the public road.
Before he knew it, or at least before he could leave the road, he found
himself escorted by the entire band. Six rode on each side, and the
leader rode behind him. Once he started to run, but the white riders
easily kept pace with him, their horses going in a comfortable canter.
When he found that escape was impossible, he ceased to run. He would
have stopped, but when he tried to do so he felt the hot breath of the
leader's horse on the back of his neck, and the sensation was so
unexpected and so peculiar, that the frightened negro actually thought
that a chunk of fire, as he described it afterward, had been applied to
his head. So vivid was the impression made on his mind that he declared
that he had actually seen the flame, as it circled around his head; and
he maintained that the back of his head would have been burned off if
"de fier had been our kind er fier."

Finding that he could not escape by running, he began to walk, and as he
was a man of great fluency of speech, he made an effort to open a
conversation with his ghostly escort. He was perspiring at every pore,
and this fact called for a frequent use of his red pocket-handkerchief.

"Blood!" cried the leader, and twelve voices repeated the word.

"Bosses--Marsters! What is I ever done to you?" To this there was no
reply. "I ain't never hurted none er you-all; I ain't never had de idee
er harmin' you. All I been doin' for dis long time, is ter try ter fetch
sinners ter de mercy-seat. Dat's all I been doin', an' dat's all I
wanter do--I tell you dat right now." Still there was no response, and
the Rev. Jeremiah made bold to take a closer look at the riders who were
within range of his vision. He nearly sunk in his tracks when he saw
that each one appeared to be carrying his head under his arm. "Name er
de Lord!" he cried; "who is you-all anyhow? an' what you gwineter do wid
me?"

Silence was the only answer he received, and the silence of the riders
was more terrifying than their talk would have been. "Ef you wanter know
who been tryin' fer ter 'casion trouble, I kin tell you, an' dat mighty
quick." But apparently the white riders were not seeking for
information. They asked no questions, and the perspiration flowed more
freely than ever from the Rev. Jeremiah's pores. Again his red
handkerchief came out of his pocket, and again the rider behind him
cried out "Blood!" and the others repeated the word.

The Rev. Jeremiah, in despair, caught at what he thought was the last
straw. "Ef you-all think dey's blood on dat hankcher, you mighty much
mistooken. 'Twuz red in de sto', long 'fo' I bought it, an' ef dey's any
blood on it, I ain't put it dar--I'll tell you dat right now."

But there was no answer to his protest, and the ghostly cortège
continued to escort him along the road. The white riders went with him
through town and to the Tomlin Place. Once there, each one filed between
him and the gate he was about to enter, and the last word of each was
"Beware!"



CHAPTER NINETEEN

_Major Tomlin Perdue Arrives_


Gabriel was struck by the fact that Hotchkiss seemed to be undisturbed
by the events that had startled and stampeded the negroes and the white
stranger. He remained in the church for some time after the others were
gone, and he showed no uneasiness whatever. He had seated himself on one
of the deacons' chairs near the pulpit, and, with his head leaning on
his hand, appeared to be lost in thought. After awhile--it seemed to be
a very long time to Gabriel--he rose, put on his hat, blew out one by
one the lamps that rested in sconces along the wall, and went out into
the darkness.

Gabriel had remained in the tree, and with good reason. He knew that
whoever fired the pistol, the reports of which added so largely to the
panic among the negroes, was very close to the tree where he had hid
himself, and so he waited, not patiently, perhaps, but with a very good
grace. When Hotchkiss was out of sight, and presumably out of hearing,
Gabriel heard some one calling his name. He made no answer at first, but
the call was repeated in a tone sufficiently loud to leave no room for
mistake.

"Tolliver, where are you? If you're asleep, wake up and show me a
near-cut to town."

"Who are you?" Gabriel asked.

"One," replied the other.

"I don't know your voice," said Gabriel; "how did you know me?"

"That is a secret that belongs to the Knights of the White Camellia,"
answered the unknown. "If you don't come down, I'm afraid I'll have to
shake you out of that tree. Can't you slide down without hurting your
feelings?"

Gabriel slid down the trunk of the small tree as quickly as he could,
and found that the owner of the voice was no other than Major Tomlin
Perdue, of Halcyondale.

"You didn't expect to find me roosting around out here, did you?" the
irrepressible Major asked, as he shook Gabriel warmly by the hand.
"Well, I fully expected to find you. Your grandmother told me an hour
ago that I'd find you mooning about on the hills back there. I didn't
find you because I didn't care to go about bawling your name; so I came
around by the road. I was loafing around here when you came up, and I
knew it was you, as soon as I heard you slipping up that tree. But that
hill business, and the mooning--how about them? You're in love, I
reckon. Well, I don't blame you. She's a fine gal, ain't she?"

"Who?" inquired Gabriel.

"Who!" cried Major Perdue, mockingly. "Why, there's but one gal in the
Dale. You know that as well as I do. She never has had her match, and
she'll never have one. And it's funny, too; no matter which way you
spell her first name, backwards or forwards, it spells the same. Did you
ever think of that, Tolliver? But for Vallic--you know my daughter,
don't you?--I never would have found it out in the world."

Gabriel laughed somewhat sheepishly, wondering all the time how Major
Perdue could think and talk of such trivial matters, in the face of the
spectacle they had just witnessed.

"Well, you deserve good luck, my boy," the Major went on. "Everybody
that knows you is singing your praises--some for your book-learning,
some for your modesty, and some for the way you ferreted out the designs
of that fellow who was last to leave the church."

"I'm sure I don't deserve any praise," protested Gabriel.

"Continue to feel that way, and you'll get all the more," observed the
Major, sententiously. "But for you these dirty thieves might have got
the best of us. Why, we didn't know, even at Halcyondale, what was up
till we got word of your discovery. Well, sir, as soon as we found out
what was going on, we got together, and wiped 'em up. Why, you've got
the pokiest crowd over here I ever heard of. They just sit and sun
themselves, and let these white devils do as they please. When they do
wake up, the white rascals will be gone, and then they'll take their
spite out of the niggers--and the niggers ain't no more to blame for all
this trouble than a parcel of two-year-old children. You mark my words:
the niggers will suffer, and these white rascals will go scot-free. Why
don't the folks here wake up? They can't be afraid of the Yankee
soldiers, can they? Why the Captain here is a rank Democrat in politics,
and a right down clever fellow."

"He is a clever gentleman," Gabriel assented. "I have met him walking
about in the woods, and I like him very much. He is a Kentuckian, and
he's not fond of these carpet-baggers and scalawags at all. But I never
told anybody before that he is a good friend of mine. You know how they
are, especially the women--they hate everything that's clothed in blue."

"Well, by George! you are the only person in the place that keeps his
eyes open, and finds out things. You saw that rascal talking to the
niggers awhile ago, didn't you? Well, he's the worst of the lot. He has
been preaching his social equality doctrine over in our town, but I
happened to run across him t'other day, and I laid the law down to him.
I told him I'd give him twenty-four hours to get out of town. He stayed
the limit; but when he saw me walk downtown with my shot-gun, he took a
notion that I really meant business, and he lit out. Minervy Ann found
out where he was headed for, and I've followed him over here. He's the
worst of the lot, and they're all rank poison."

Major Perdue paused a moment in his talk, as if reflecting. "Can you
keep a secret, Tolliver?" he asked after awhile.

"Well, I haven't had much practice, Major, but if it is important, I'll
do my best to keep it."

"Oh, it is not so important. That fellow you saw talking to the negroes
awhile ago is named Bridalbin."

"Bridalbin!" exclaimed Gabriel.

"Yes; he goes by some other name, I've forgotten what. He used to hang
around Malvern some years before the war, and a friend of mine who lived
there knew him the minute he saw him. He's the fellow that married
Margaret Gaither; you remember her; she came home to die not so very
long ago. Pulaski Tomlin adopted her daughter, or became the girl's
guardian. Now, Tolliver, whatever you do, don't breathe a word about
this Bridalbin--don't mention his name to a soul, not even to your
grandmother. There's no need of worrying that poor girl; she has already
had trouble enough in this world. I'm telling you about him because I
want you to keep your eye on him. He's up to some kind of devilment
besides exciting the niggers."

Gabriel promptly gave his word that he would never mention anything
about Bridalbin's name, and then he said--"But this parade--what does it
mean?"

The Major laughed. "Oh, that was just some of the boys from our
settlement. They are simply out for practice. They want to get their
hands in, as the saying is. They heard I was coming over, and so they
followed along. They don't belong to the Kuklux that you've read so much
about. A chap from North Carolina came along t'other day, and told about
the Knights of the White Camellia, and the boys thought it would be a
good idea to have a bouquet of their own. They have no signs or
passwords, but simply a general agreement. You'll have to organise
something of that kind here, Tolliver. Oh, you-all are so infernally
slow out here in the country! Why, even in Atlanta, they have a Young
Men's Democratic Club. You've got to get a move on you. There's no way
out of it. The only way to fight the devil is to use his own weapons.
The trouble is that some of the hot-headed youngsters want to hold the
poor niggers responsible, as I said just now, and the niggers are no
more to blame than the chicken in a new-laid egg. Don't forget that,
Tolliver. I wouldn't give my old Minervy Ann for a hundred and
seventy-five thousand of these white thieves and rascals; and Jerry
Tomlin, fool as he is, is more of a gentleman than any of the men who
have misled him."

They walked back to the village the way Gabriel had come. On top of the
Bermuda hill, Major Perdue paused and looked toward Shady Dale. Lights
were still twinkling in some of the houses, but for the most part the
town was in darkness.

The Major waved his hand in that direction, remarking, "That's what
makes the situation so dangerous, Tolliver--the women and the children.
Here, and in hundreds of communities, and in the country places all
about, the women and children are in bed asleep, or they are laughing
and talking, with only dim ideas of what is going on. It looks to me, my
son, as if we were between the devil and the deep blue sea. I, for one,
don't believe that there's any danger of a nigger-rising. But look at
the other side. I may be wrong; I may be a crazy old fool too fond of
the niggers to believe they're really mean at heart. Suppose that such
men as this--ah, now I remember!--this Boring--that is what Bridalbin
calls himself now--suppose that such men as he were to succeed in what
they are trying to do? I don't believe they will, even if we took no
steps to prevent it; but then there's the possibility--and we can't
afford to take any chances."

Gabriel agreed with all this very heartily. He was glad to feel that his
own views were also those of this keen, practical, hard-headed man of
the world.

"But men of my sort will be misjudged, Tolliver," pursued the Major;
"violent men will get in the saddle, and outrages will be committed, and
injustice will be done. Public opinion to the north of us will say that
the old fire-eaters, who won't permit even a respectable white man to
insult them with impunity--the old slave-drivers--are trying to destroy
the coloured race. But you will live, my son, to see some of these same
radicals admit that all the injustice and all the wrong is due to the
radical policy."

This prophecy came true. Time has abundantly vindicated the Major and
those who acted with him.

"Yes, yes," Major Perdue went on musingly, "injustice will be done. The
fact is, it has already begun in some quarters. Be switched if it
doesn't look like you can't do right without doing wrong somewhere on
the road."

Gabriel turned this paradox over in his mind, as they walked along; but
it was not until he was a man grown that it straightened itself out in
his mind something after this fashion: When a wrong is done the
innocent suffer along with the guilty; and the innocent also suffer in
its undoing.

Shady Dale woke up the next morning to find the walls and the fences in
all public places plastered with placards, or handbills, printed in red
ink. The most prominent feature of the typography, however, was not its
colour, but the image of a grinning skull and cross-bones. The handbill
was in the nature of a proclamation. It was dated "Den No. Ten, Second
Moon. Year 21,000 of the Dynasty." It read as follows:

"To all Lovers of Peace and Good Order--Greeting: Whereas, it has come
to the knowledge of the Grand Cyclops that evil-minded white men, and
deluded freedmen, are engaged in stirring up strife; and whereas it is
known that corruption is conspiring with ignorance--

"Therefore, this is to warn all and singular the persons who have made
or are now making incendiary propositions and threats, and all who are
banded together in secret political associations to forthwith cease
their activity. And let this warning be regarded as an order, the
violation of which will be followed by vengeance swift and sure. The
White Riders are abroad.

"Thrice endorsed by the Venerable, the Grand Cyclops, in behalf of the
all-powerful Klan. (. (. (. K. K. K. .) .) .)"

Now, if this document had been in writing, it might have passed for a
joke, but it was printed, and this fact, together with its grave and
formal style, gave it the dignity and importance of a genuine
proclamation from a real but an unseen and unknown authority. It had
the advantage of mystery, and there are few minds on which the
mysterious fails to have a real influence. In addition to this, the
spectacular performance at the Rev. Jeremiah's church the night before
gave substance to the proclamation. That event was well calculated to
awe the superstitious and frighten the timid.

The White Riders had disappeared as mysteriously as they came. Only one
person was known to have seen them after they had left the church--it
was several days before the Rev. Jeremiah could be induced to relate his
experience--and that person was Mr. Sanders. What he claimed to have
witnessed was even more alarming than the brief episode that occurred at
the Rev. Jeremiah's church. Mr. Sanders was called on to repeat the
story many times during the next few weeks, but it was observed by a few
of the more thoughtful that he described what he had seen with greater
freedom and vividness when there was a negro within hearing. His
narrative was something like this:

"Gus Tidwell sent arter me to go look at his sick hoss, an' I went an'
doctored him the best I know'd how, an' then started home ag'in. I had
but one thought on my mind; Gus had offered to pay me for my trouble
sech as it was, an' I was tryin' for to figger out in my mind what in
the name of goodness had come over Gus. I come mighty nigh whirlin'
roun' in my tracks, an' walkin' all the way back jest to see ef he
didn't need a little physic. He was cold sober at the time, an' all of a
sudden, when he seed that I had fetched his hoss through a mighty bad
case of the mollygrubs, he says to me, 'Mr. Sanders,' says he, 'you've
saved me a mighty fine hoss, an' I want to pay you for it. You've had
mighty hard work; what is it all wuth?' 'Gus,' says I, 'jest gi' me a
drink of cold water for to keep me from faintin', an' we'll say no more
about it.'

"Well, I didn't turn back, though I was much of a mind to. I mosied
along wondering what had come over Gus. I had got as fur on my way home
as the big 'simmon tree--you-all know whar that is--when all of a
sudden, I felt the wind a-risin'. It puffed in my face, an' felt warm,
sorter like when the wind blows down the chimbley in the winter time.
Then I heard a purrin' sound, an' I looked up, an' right at me was a
gang of white hosses an' riders. They was right on me before I seed 'em,
an' I couldn't 'a' got out'n the'r way ef I'd 'a' had the wings of a
hummin'-bird. So I jest ketched my breath, an' bowed my head, an' tried
to say, 'Now I lay me down to sleep.' I couldn't think of the rest, an'
it wouldn't 'a' done no good nohow. I cast my eye aroun', findin' that I
wasn't trompled, an' the whole caboodle was gone. I didn't feel nothin'
but the wind they raised, as they went over me an' up into the elements.
Did you ever pass along by a pastur' at night, an' hear a cow fetch a
long sigh? Well, that's jest the kind of fuss they made as they passed
out'n sight."

This story made a striking climax to the performances that the negroes
themselves had witnessed, and for a time they were subdued in their
demeanour. They even betrayed a tendency to renew their old familiar
relations with the whites. The situation was not without its pathetic
side, and if Mr. Sanders professed to find it simply humourous, it was
only because of the effort which men make--an effort that is only too
successful--to hide the tenderer side of their natures. But the episode
of the White Riders soon became a piece of history; the alarm that it
had engendered grew cold; and Hotchkiss, aided by Bridalbin, who called
himself Boring, soon had the breach between the two races wider than
ever.



CHAPTER TWENTY

_Gabriel at the Big Poplar_


Late one afternoon, at a date when the tension between the two races was
at its worst, Gabriel chanced to be sitting under the great poplar which
was for years, and no doubt is yet, one of the natural curiosities of
Shady Dale, on account of its size and height. He had been reading, but
the light had grown dim as the sun dipped behind the hills, and he now
sat with his eyes closed. His seat at the foot of the tree was not far
from the public highway, though that fact did not add to its attractions
from Gabriel's point of view. He preferred the seat for sentimental
reasons. He had played there when a little lad, and likewise Nan had
played there; and they had both played there together. The old poplar
was hollow, and on one side the bark and a part of the trunk had
sloughed away. Here Gabriel and Nan had played housekeeping, many and
many a day before the girl had grown tired of her dolls. The hollow
formed a comfortable playhouse, and the youngsters, in addition to
housekeeping, had enjoyed little make-believe parties and picnics there.

As Gabriel sat leaning against the old poplar, his back to the road and
his eyes closed, he heard the sound of men's voices. The conversation
was evidently between country folk who had been spending a part of the
day in town. Turning his head, Gabriel saw that there were three
persons, one riding and two walking. Directly opposite the tree where
Gabriel sat, they met an acquaintance who was apparently making a
belated visit to town.

"Hello, boys!" said the belated one by way of salutation. "I 'low'd I'd
find you in town, an' have company on my way home."

"What's the matter, Sam?" asked one of the others. "This ain't no time
of day to be gwine away from home."

"Well, I'm jest obliged to git some ammunition," replied Sam. "I've been
off to mill mighty nigh all day, an' this evenin', about four o'clock,
whilst my wife was out in the yard, a big buck nigger stopped at the
gate, an' looked at her. She took no notice of him one way or another,
an' presently, he ups an' says, 'Hello, Sissy! can't you tell a feller
howdy?'"

"_He did?_" cried the others. Gabriel could hear their gasps of
astonishment and indignation from where he sat.

"He said them very words," replied Sam; "'Hello, Sissy! can't you tell a
feller howdy?'"

"Did you leave anybody at home?" inquired one of the others.

"You bet your sweet life!" replied Sam in the slang of the day. "Johnny
Bivins is there, an' he ain't no slouch, Johnny ain't. I says to Molly,
says I, 'Johnny will camp here till I can run to town, an' git me some
powder an' buckshot.'"

"We have some," one of the others suggested.

"Better let 'im go on an' git it," said another; "we can't have too much
in our neck of the woods when things look like they do now. We'll wait
for you, Sam, if you'll hurry up."

"Good as wheat!" responded Sam, who went rapidly toward town.

"I tell you what, boys, we didn't make up our minds about this business
a single minute too soon," remarked one of the three who were waiting
for the return of their neighbour. "Somethin's got to be done, an' the
sooner it's done, the sooner it'll be over with."

"You're talkin' now with both hands and tongue!" declared one of the
others, in a tone of admiration.

"You'll see," remarked the one who had proposed to wait, "that Sam is
jest as ripe as we are. We know what we know, an' Sam knows what he
knows. I don't know as I blame the niggers much. Look at it from their
side of the fence. They see these d--d white hellians goin' roun',
snortin' an' preachin' ag'in the whites, an' they see us settin' down,
hands folded and eyes shet, and they jest natchally think we're whipped
and cowed. Can you blame 'em? I hate 'em all right enough, but I don't
blame 'em."

Gabriel knew that the man who was speaking was George Rivers, a small
farmer living a short distance in the country. His companions were Tom
Alford and Britt Hanson, and the man who had gone to town for the
ammunition was Sam Hathaway.

"Are you right certain an' shore that this man Hotchkiss is stayin' wi'
Mahlon Butts?" George Rivers inquired.

"He lopes out from there every mornin'," replied Tom Alford.

"Mahlon allers was the biggest skunk in the woods," remarked Hanson.
"He's runnin' for ordinary. I happened to hear him talkin' to a lot of
niggers t'other day, and I went up and cussed him out. I wanted the
niggers to see how chicken-hearted he is. Well, sirs, he never turned a
feather. I never seed a more lamblike man in my life. I started to spit
in his face, and then I happened to think about his wife. Yes, sirs, it
seemed to me for about the space of a second or two that I was lookin'
right spang in Becky's big eyes, an' I couldn't 'a' said a word or done
a thing to save my life. I jest whirled in my tracks and went on about
my business. You-all know Becky Butts--well, there's a woman that comes
mighty nigh bein' a saint. Why she married sech a rapscallion as Mahlon,
I'll never tell you, an' I don't believe she knows herself. But she's
all that's saved Mahlon."

"That's the Lord's truth," responded Tom Alford.

"Why, when he first j'ined the stinkin' radicals," continued Britt
Hanson, "a passel of the boys, me among 'em, laid off to pay him a party
call, an' string him up. Well, the very day we'd fixed on, here comes
Becky over to my house; an' she fetched the baby, too. I knowed, time I
laid eyes on her, that she had done got wind of what we was up to. Says
she to me, 'Britt, I hear it whispered around that you are fixin' up to
do me next to the worst harm a man can do to a woman.' 'Why, Becky,'
says I, 'I wouldn't harm you for the world, and I wouldn't let anybody
else do it.' 'Oh, yes, you would, Britt,' says she. She laughed as she
said it, but when I looked in her big eyes, I could see trouble and pain
in 'em. I says to her, says I, 'What put that idee in your head, Becky?'
And says she, 'No matter how it got there, Britt, so long as it's there.
You're fixin' up to hurt me an' my baby.'

"Well, sirs, you can see where she had me. I says, says I, 'Becky,
what's to hender you from takin' supper here to-night?' This kinder took
her by surprise. She says, 'I'd like it the best in the world, Britt;
but don't you think I'd better be at home--to-night?' 'No,' says I, 'a
passel of the boys'll be here d'reckly after supper, and I reckon maybe
they'd like to see you. You know yourself that they're all mighty fond
of you, Becky,' says I. She sorter studied awhile, an' then she says,
'I'll tell you what I'll do, Britt--I'll come over after supper an' set
awhile.' 'You ain't afeard to come?' says I. 'No, Britt,' says she; 'I
ain't afeard of nothin' in this world except my friends.' She was
laughin', but they ain't much diff'ence betwixt that kind of laughin'
an' cryin'.

"About that time, mother come in. Says she, 'An' be shore an' fetch the
baby, Becky.' The minnit mother said that, I know'd that she was the one
that told Becky what we had laid off to do. You-all know what happened
after that."

"We do that away," said George Rivers. "When I walked in on you, and
seen Becky an' the baby, I know'd purty well that the jig was up, but I
thought I'd set it out and see what'd happen."

"I never seen a baby do like that'n done that night," remarked Tom
Alford. "It laughed an' it crowed, an' helt out its han's to go to ever'
blessed feller in the crowd; an' Becky looked like she was the happiest
creetur in the world. I was the fust feller to cave, an' I didn't feel a
bit sheepish about it, neither. I rose, I did, an' says, 'Well, boys,
it's about my bedtime, an' I reckon I'll toddle along,' an' so I handed
the baby to the next feller, an' mosied off home."

"You did," said Britt Hanson, "an' by the time the boys got through
passin' the baby to the next feller, there wan't any feller left but me.
An' then the funniest thing happened that you ever seed. You know how
Becky was gwine on, laughin' an' talkin'. Well, the last man hadn't
hardly shet the door behind him, when Becky flopped down and put her
head in mother's lap, and cried like a baby. I'm mighty glad I ain't
married," Britt Hanson went on. "There ain't a man in the world that
knows a woman's mind. Why, Becky was runnin' on and laughin' jest like a
gal at picnic up to the minnit the last man slammed the door, and then,
down she went and began to boohoo. Now, what do you think of that?"

"I know one thing," remarked George Rivers--"the meaner a man is, the
quicker he gits the pick of the flock. The biggest fool in the world
allers gits the best or the purtiest gal."

Then there was a pause, as if the men were listening. "Well," said Tom
Alford, after awhile, "we ain't after the gals now. That Hotchkiss
feller goes out to Mahlon's by fust one road and then the other. You
know where Ike Varner lives; well, Ike's wife is a mighty good-lookin'
yaller gal, an' when Hotchkiss knows that Ike ain't at home, he goes by
that road. I got all that from a nigger that works for me. If Ike ain't
at home, he goes in for a drink of water, an' then he tells the yaller
gal how to convert Ike into bein' a radical--Ike, you know, don't flock
with that crowd. That's what the gal tells my nigger. Well, I put a flea
in Ike's ear t'other day, an' night before last, Ike comes to me to
borry my pistol. You know that short, single-barrel shebang? Well, I
loant it to him on the express understandin' that he wasn't to shoot any
spring doves nor wild pea-fowls."

The men laughed, and then sat or stood silent, each occupied with his
own reflections, until Sam Hathaway returned. Whereupon, they moved on,
one of them singing, in a surprisingly sweet tenor, the ballad of "Nelly
Gray."

It was now dark, and ordinarily, Gabriel would have gone to supper. But,
instead of doing that, he went on toward town, and met Hotchkiss and
Boring on the outskirts. They were engaged in a close discussion when
Gabriel met them. It would have been a great deal better for him and his
friends if he had passed on without a word; but Gabriel was Gabriel, and
he was compelled to act according to Gabriel's nature. So, without
hesitation, he walked up to the two men.

"Is this Mr. Hotchkiss?" he inquired.

"That is my name," replied Hotchkiss in his smoothest tone.

"Are you going out to Butts's to-night?"

"Now, that is a queer question," remarked Hotchkiss, after a pause--"a
very queer question. What is your name?"

"Tolliver--Gabriel Tolliver."

"Gabriel Tolliver--h'm--yes. Well, Mr. Tolliver, why are you so desirous
of knowing whether I go to Butts's to-night?"

"Honestly," replied Gabriel, a little nettled at the man's airs, "I
don't want to know at all. I simply wanted to advise you not to go there
to-night."

"Oh, you wanted to _advise_ me not to go. Now, then, let's go a little
further into the matter. _Why_ do you want to advise me?" Hotchkiss was
a man who was not only ripe for a discussion at all times, and upon any
subject, but made it a point to emphasise all the most trifling details.
"Have you any special interest in my welfare?"

"I think not," replied Gabriel, bluntly. "I simply wanted to drop you a
hint. You can take it or not, just as you choose." With that, he turned
on his heel, and went home to supper, little dreaming that his kindness
of heart, and his sincere efforts to do a stranger a favour would
involve him in a tangled web of circumstances, from which he would find
it almost impossible to escape.

Gabriel heard Hotchkiss laugh, but he did not hear the remark that
followed.

"Why, even the children and the young men think I am a coward. They have
the idea that courage exists nowhere but among themselves. It is the
most peculiar mental delusion I ever heard, and it persists in the face
of facts. The probability is that the young man who has just delivered
this awful warning has laid a wager with some of his companions that he
can fill me full of fright and prevent my going to Butts's."

"Now, I don't think that," replied Boring, or Bridalbin. "I know these
people to the core. I had their ideas and thought their thoughts until I
found that sentiment doesn't pay. That young man has probably heard some
threat made against you, and he thinks he is doing the chivalrous thing
to give you a warning. Chivalry! Why, I reckon that word has done more
harm to this section, first and last, than the war itself."

"Or, more probable still," suggested Hotchkiss, his voice as smooth and
as flexible as a snake, "he was simply trying to find out whether I
propose to go to Butts's to-night. If I had some one to keep an eye on
him, we might be able to procure some important information, disclosing
a conspiracy against the officers of the Government. A few arrests in
this neighbourhood might have a wholesome and subduing effect."

"Don't you believe it," said Bridalbin. "I know these people a great
deal better than you do."

"I know them a great deal better than I care to," remarked Hotchkiss
drily. "I have not a doubt that this young Tolliver was one of that
marauding band of conspirators that surrounded the church recently, and
endeavoured to intimidate our coloured fellow-citizens. Nor do I doubt
that these same conspirators will make an effort to frighten me. I have
no doubt that they will make a strong effort to run me away. But they
can't do it, my friend. I feel that I have a mission here, and here I
propose to stay until there is no work for me to do."

"Well, I can keep an eye on Tolliver if you think it best," Bridalbin
suggested somewhat doubtfully. "I know where he lives."

"Do that, Boring," exclaimed Hotchkiss with grateful enthusiasm. "Come
to the lodge about nine or half-past, and report." The "lodge" was the
new name for the old school-house, and in that direction Hotchkiss
turned his steps.



CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

_Bridalbin Follows Gabriel_


Boring, or Bridalbin--no one ever discovered why he changed his name,
for he changed neither his nature nor his associations--followed along
after Gabriel, and was in time to see him enter the door and close it
behind him. The Lumsden Place was somewhat in the open, but the trees,
where Bridalbin took up his position of watcher, made such dense and
heavy shadows that it was almost impossible to distinguish objects more
than a few feet away. In these heavy shadows Bridalbin stood while
Gabriel was supposed to be eating his supper.

A dog trotting along the walk shied and growled when he saw the
motionless figure, but after that, there was a long period of silence,
which was finally broken by voices on a veranda not far away. The owners
of the voices had evidently come out for a breath of fresh air, and were
carrying on a conversation which had begun inside. Bridalbin could see
neither the house nor the occupants of the veranda, but he could hear
every word that was said. One of the voices was soft and clear, while
the other was hard, almost harsh, yet it was the voice of a woman. If
Bridalbin had been at all familiar with Shady Dale, he would have known
that one of the speakers was Madame Awtry and the other Miss Puella
Gillum.

"It was only a few weeks ago that they told the poor child about her
father," said Miss Puella. "Neighbour Tomlin couldn't muster up the
courage to do it, and so it became Fanny's duty. I know it nearly broke
her heart."

"Why did they tell her at all? Why did they think it was necessary?"
inquired Madame Awtry. Her voice had in it the quality that attracts
attention and compels obedience.

"Well, you know Margaret is of age now, and Neighbour Tomlin, who is
made up of heart and conscience, felt that it would be wrong to keep her
in ignorance, but he couldn't make up his mind to be the bearer of bad
news; so it fell to Fanny's lot. But it seems that Margaret already
knew, and on that occasion Fanny had to do all the crying that was done.
Margaret had known it all along, and had only feigned ignorance in order
not to worry her mother. 'I have known it from the first,' she said.
'Please don't tell Nan.' But Nan had known it all along, and Fanny told
Margaret so. It is a pity about her father. If he was what he should be,
he'd be very proud of Margaret."

"His name was Bridlebin, or something of that kind, was it not?" Madame
Awtry asked.

"Something like that," replied Miss Puella. "The world is full of
trouble," she said after awhile, and her voice was as gentle as the
cooing of a dove--"so very full of trouble. I sometimes think that we
should have as much pity for those who are the cause of it as for those
who are the victims." Alas! Miss Puella was thinking of Waldron Awtry,
whose stormy spirit had passed away.

"That is the Christian spirit, certainly," said Waldron's mother, in her
firm, clear tones. "Let those live up to it who can!"

"The girl is in good hands," remarked Miss Puella, after a pause, "and
she should be happy. Neighbour Tomlin and Fanny fairly worship her."

"Yes, she's in good hands," responded Madame Awtry, "yet when she comes
here, which she is kind enough to do sometimes, it seems to me that I
can see trouble in her eyes. It is hard to describe, but it's such an
expression as you or I would have if we were dependent, and something
was wrong or going wrong with those on whom we depended. But it may be
merely my imagination."

"It certainly must be," Miss Puella declared, "for there is nothing
wrong or going wrong with Neighbour Tomlin and Fanny."

At this point the conversation ceased, and the two women sat silent,
each occupied with her own thoughts. Miss Puella wondered that Madame
Awtry could even imagine trouble at the Tomlin Place, while the Madame
was smiling grimly to herself, and pitying Miss Puella because she could
not perceive what the trouble really was. "What a world it is! what a
world!" Madame Awtry said to herself with a sigh.

And Bridalbin stood wondering at the freak of chance or circumstance
that had enabled him to hear two persons unknown to him discussing the
dependence of his daughter. "Dependent" was the word that grated on his
ear. He never thought of Providence--how few of us do!--he never dreamed
that his presence at that particular place at that particular moment was
to be the means of providing a sure remedy for the most serious trouble,
short of bereavement, that his daughter would ever be called on to face.

Bridalbin walked slowly in the direction of the Lumsden Place, which
having fewer trees around it could be dimly seen in the starlight.
Before he emerged from the denser shadows he heard the door open and
close, and then Gabriel came down the steps whistling, and was soon in
the thoroughfare. But, instead of going toward town, he turned and went
toward the fields. Following the road for a hundred yards or more he
soon came to the bars, which formed a sort of gateway to the rich
pastures of Bermuda, and, vaulting lightly over these, he was soon lost
to view, though the stars were shining as brightly as they could. He was
making his way toward his favourite Bermuda hill.

Now, Bridalbin knew enough about the topography of Shady Dale to know
that the path or roadway, leading from the bars across the Bermuda
fields, was a short cut to one of the highways that led from town past
the door of Mahlon Butts. He paused a moment, and then, more sedate than
Gabriel, climbed the bars and followed the path across the field. He
walked rapidly, for he was anxious to discover what course Gabriel had
taken. He crossed the fields and saw no one; he reached the highway,
and followed it for a quarter of a mile or more, but he could see no
sign of Gabriel.

And for a very good reason. That young man had followed the field-path
only a short distance. He had turned sharply, to the right, making for
the Bermuda hill, where, with no fear of the dewy dampness to disturb
him, he flung himself at full length on the velvety grass, and gulped
down great draughts of the cool, sweet air. He heard the sound of
Bridalbin's footsteps, as that worthy went rapidly along the path, and
he had a boy's mischievous impulse to hail the passer-by. But he was so
fond of the hill, and so jealous of his possession of the silence, the
night, and the remote stars, that he suppressed the impulse, and
Bridalbin went on his way, firm in the belief that Gabriel had crossed
the field to the public highway, and was now going in the direction of
Mahlon Butts's home. He believed it, and continued to believe it to his
dying day, though the only evidence he had was the hint conveyed in the
surmises of Hotchkiss.

Bridalbin finally abandoned his wild-goose chase, and returned to the
neighbourhood of Gabriel's home, where he waited and watched until his
engagement with Hotchkiss compelled him to abandon his post. The
business of the Union League was not very pressing that night, or it had
been dispatched with unusual celerity, for when Bridalbin reached the
old school-house, the Rev. Jeremiah, who had taken upon himself the
duties of janitor, was in the act of closing the doors.

"I been waitin' fer you, Mr. Borin'," said the Rev. Jeremiah, after he
had responded to Bridalbin's salutation. "De Honerbul Mr. Hotchkiss tol'
me ter tell you, in case I seed you, dat he gwine on home; an' he say
p'intedly dat dey's no need fer ter worry 'bout him, kaze eve'ything's
all right. Ez he gun it ter me, so I gin it ter you. You oughter been
here ter-night. Me an' Mr. Hotchkiss took an' put all de business thoo
'fo' you kin bat yo' eye; yes, suh, we did fer a fack."

"I'm very sorry he didn't wait for me," said Bridalbin.

As for Gabriel, he lay out on the Bermuda hill, contemplating himself
and the rest of the world. The stars rode overhead, all moving together
like some vast fleet of far-off ships. In the northwest, while Gabriel
was watching, a huge star seemed to break away from its companions and
rush hurtling toward the west, leaving a trail of white vapour behind
it. The illumination was but momentary. The Night was quick to snuff out
all lights but its own. Whatever might be taking place on the other side
of the world, Night had possession here, and proposed to maintain it as
long as possible. A bird might scream when Brother Fox seized it; a
mouse might squeak when Cousin Screech-Owl swooped down on noiseless
wing and seized it; Uncle Wind might rustle the green grass in search of
Brother Dust: nevertheless, the order of the hour was silence, and Night
was prompt to enforce it.

It is a fine night, Gabriel thought--and the Silence might have
answered, "Yes, a fine night and a fateful." It was a night that was to
leave its mark on many lives.

At supper, Gabriel's grandmother had informed him that three of his
friends had come by to invite him to accompany them to a country dance
on the further side of Murder Creek--a dance following a neighbouring
barbecue. These friends, his grandmother said, were Francis Bethune,
Paul Tomlin, and Jesse Tidwell. They had searched the town over for
Gabriel, and were disappointed at not finding him at home.

"Where do you hide yourself, Gabriel?" his grandmother had asked him.
"And why do you hide? This is not the first time by a dozen that your
friends have been unable to find you."

Gabriel shook his curly head and laughed. "Let me see, grandmother:
directly after dinner, I said my Latin and Greek lessons to Mr. Clopton.
Bethune was upstairs in his own room, for I heard him singing. After
that, I went into the library, and read for an hour or more. Then I
selected a book and went over the hill to the big poplar--you know where
it is--and there I stayed until dark."

"It is all very well to read and study, Gabriel, and I am sure I am glad
to know that you are doing both," said his grandmother, with a smile,
"but you must remember that there are social obligations which cannot be
ignored. You will have to go out into the world after awhile, and you
should begin to get in the habit of it now. You should not avoid your
friends. I don't mean, of course, that you should run after them, or
fling yourself at their heads; I wouldn't have you do that for the
world; but you shouldn't make a hermit of yourself. To be popular, you
should mix and mingle freely with your equals. I know how it was in my
day. I was not fond of society myself, but my mother always insisted
that I should sacrifice my own inclinations for the pleasure of others,
and in this way earn the only kind of popularity that is really
gratifying. And I really believe I was the most popular of all the
girls." The dear old lady tossed her head triumphantly.

"That's what Mr. Clopton says," remarked Gabriel; "but you know,
grandmother, your time was different from our time"--oh, these
youngsters who persist in reminding us of our fogyism--"and you were a
girl in those days, while I am a boy in these. I am lazy, I know; I can
loaf with a book all day long; but for the life of me, I can't do as
Bethune does. He doesn't read, and he doesn't study; he just dawdles
around, and calls on the girls, and talks with them by the hour. He used
to be in love with Nan (so Mr. Sanders says) and now he's in love with
Margaret Bridalbin; he's just crazy about her. Now, I'm not in love with
anybody"--"oh, Gabriel!" protested a still, small voice in his
bosom--"and if I were, I wouldn't dawdle around, and whittle on
dry-goods boxes, and go and sit for hours at a time with Sally, and
Susy, and Bessy, and Molly." Decidedly, Gabriel was coming out; here he
was with strong views of his own.

His grandmother laughed aloud at this, saying, "You are very much like
your grandfather, Gabriel. He was a very serious and masterful man. He
detested small-talk and tittle-tattle, and I was the only girl he ever
went with. But Francis Bethune is very foolish not to stick to Nan; she
is such a delightful girl. It would be very unfortunate indeed if those
two were not to marry."

If the dear old lady had not been so loyal to her sex, she would have
told Gabriel that Nan had visited her that very day, and had asked a
thousand and one questions about her old-time comrade. Indeed, Nan, with
that delightful spirit of unconventionality that became her so well, had
made bold to rummage through Gabriel's books and papers. She found one
sheet on which he had evidently begun a letter. It started out well, and
then stopped suddenly: "Dear Nan: I hardly know----" Then the attempt
was abandoned in despair, and on the lower part of the sheet was
scrawled: "Dearest Nan: I hardly know, in fact I don't know, and you'll
never know till Gabriel blows his horn." This sheet the fair forager
promptly appropriated, saying to herself "Boys are such funny
creatures."

The conversation between Gabriel and his grandmother, as has been said,
took place while they were eating their supper. The youngster was not
sorry that he was absent when his friends called for him. It was a long
ride to the Samples plantation, where the dance was to be, and a long,
long ride back home, when the fiddles were in their bags, the dancers
fagged out, and the fun and excitement all over and done with. The
Bermuda hill was good enough for Gabriel, unless he could arrange his
own dances, and have one partner--just one--from early candle-light till
the grey dawn of morning.

It was late when Gabriel returned from the Bermuda hill, later than he
thought, for he had completely lost himself in the solemn imaginings
that overtake and overwhelm a young man who is just waking up to the
serious side of existence, and on whose mind are beginning to dawn the
possibilities and responsibilities of manhood. Ah, these young men! How
lovable they are when they are true to themselves--when they try boldly
to live up to their own ideals!

Once in his room, Gabriel looked about for the book he had been reading
during the afternoon. It was his habit to read a quarter of an hour at
least--sometimes longer--before going to bed. But the book was not to be
found. This was surprising until he remembered that he had not entered
his bed-room since the dinner-hour; and then it suddenly dawned on his
mind that he had left the book at the foot of the big poplar.

Well! that was a pretty come-off for a young man who was inclined to be
proud of his careful and systematic methods. And the book was a borrowed
one, and very valuable--one of the early editions of Franklin's
autobiography, bound in leather. What would Meriwether Clopton think,
if, through Gabriel's carelessness, the dampness and the dew had injured
the volume, which, after Horace and Virgil, was one of Mr. Clopton's
favourites?

There was but one thing to be done, and that Gabriel was prompt to do.
He went softly downstairs, so as not to disturb his grandmother, and
made his way to the big poplar, where he was fortunate enough to find
the book. Thanks to the sheltering arms of the tree, and the
leaf-covered ground, the volume had sustained no damage.

As Gabriel recovered the book, and while he was examining it, he heard a
chorus of whistlers coming along the road. Mingled with the whistling
chorus were the various sounds made by a waggon drawn by horses. Gabriel
judged that the waggon contained the young men who had been to the dance
at the Samples plantation, and in this his judgment turned out to be
correct. The young men were in a double-seated spring waggon, drawn by
two horses. They drew up in response to Gabriel's holla, and he climbed
into the waggon.

"Well, what in the name of the seven stars are you doing out here in the
woods at this time of night?" cried Jesse Tidwell, and he laughed with
humourous scorn when Gabriel told him.

"But the book belongs to Bethune's grandfather," explained Gabriel. "It
might have been ruined by rain, or by the damp night-air, if left out
until morning. If it had been my own book, perhaps I'd have trusted to
luck."

"You missed it to-night, Tolliver," said Francis Bethune. "Feel
Samples"--his name was Felix--"was considerably put out because you
didn't come. And the girls--Tolliver, when did you get acquainted with
them? They all know you. Nelly Kendrick tossed her head and turned up
her nose, and said that a dance wasn't a dance unless Mr. Tolliver was
present. Tidwell, who was the red-headed girl that raved so about
Tolliver's curls?"

"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Jesse Tidwell, "that was Amy Rowland. If she wasn't
the belle of the ball, I'll never want any more money in this world.
It's no use for Gabriel to blow his horn, when he has all the girls in
that part of the country to blow it for him. My son, when and where did
you come to know all these young ladies?"

"Why, I used to go out there to church with Mr. Sanders, and sometimes
with Mrs. Absalom. There are some fine people in that settlement."

"Fine!" exclaimed Jesse Tidwell, with real enthusiasm; "why, split silk
is as coarse as gunny-bagging by the side of those girls. I told 'em I
was coming back. 'You must!' they declared, 'and be sure and bring Mr.
Tolliver!'" Young Tidwell mimicked a girl's voice with such ridiculous
completeness that his companions shouted with laughter. "There's another
thing you missed, Tolliver," he went on. "Feel Samples has a cow that
gives apple-brandy, and old Burrel Bohannon, the one-legged fiddler,
must have milked her dry, for along about half-past ten he kind of
rolled his eyes, and fetched a gasp, and wobbled out of his chair, and
lay on the floor just as if he was stone dead."

In a short time the young men had reached the tavern, where the team and
vehicle belonged. As they drew up in front of the door, Jesse Tidwell,
continuing and completing his description of the condition of Burrel
Bohannon, exclaimed: "Yes, sir, he fell and lay there. He may have
kicked a time or two, and I think he mumbled something, but he was as
good as dead."

Bridalbin, restless and uneasy, had been wandering about the town, and
he came up just in time to hear this last remark. At that moment, a
negro issued from the tavern with a lantern, and Bridalbin was not at
all surprised to see Gabriel Tolliver with the rest; and he wondered
what mischief the young men had been engaged in. Some one had been badly
hurt or killed. That much he could gather from Tidwell's declaration;
but who?

He went to his lodging and to bed in a very uncomfortable frame of
mind.



CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

_The Fate of Mr. Hotchkiss_


Mr. Hotchkiss, after leaving the Union League, had decided not to wait
for his co-worker, whom he knew as Boring. So far as he was concerned,
he had no fears. He knew, of course, that he was playing with fire, but
what of that? He had the Government behind him, and he had two companies
of troops within call. What more could any man ask? More than that, he
was doing what he conceived to be his duty. He belonged to that large
and pestiferous tribe of reformers, who go through the world without
fixed principles. He had been an abolitionist, but he was not of the
Garrison type. On the contrary, he thought that Garrison was a
time-server and a laggard who needed to be spurred and driven. He was
one of the men who urged John Brown to stir up an insurrection in which
innocent women and children would have been the chief sufferers; and he
would have rejoiced sincerely if John Brown had been successful. He
mistook his opinions for first principles, and went on the theory that
what he thought right could not by any possibility be wrong. He belonged
to the Peace Society, and yet nothing would have pleased him better
than an uprising of the blacks, followed by the shedding of innocent
blood.

In short, there were never two sides to any question that interested
Hotchkiss. He held the Southern people responsible for American slavery,
and would have refused to listen to any statement of facts calculated to
upset his belief. He was narrow-minded, bigoted, and intensely in
earnest. Some writer, Newman, perhaps, has said that a man will not
become a martyr for the sake of an opinion; but Newman probably never
came in contact with the whipper-snappers of Exeter Hall, or their
prototypes in this country--the men who believe that philanthropy, and
reform, and progress generally are worthless unless it be accompanied by
strife, and hate, and, if possible, by bloodshed. You find the type
everywhere; it clings like a leech to the skirts of every great
movement. The Hotchkisses swarm wherever there is an opening for them,
and they always present the same general aspect. They are as productive
of isms as a fly is of maggots, and they live and die in the belief that
they are promoting the progress of the world; but if their success is to
be measured by their operations in the South during the reconstruction
period, the world would be much better off without them. They succeeded
in dedicating millions of human beings to misery and injustice, and
warped the minds of the whites to such an extent that they thought it
necessary to bring about peace and good order by means of various acute
forms of injustice and lawlessness.

Mr. Hotchkiss was absolutely sincere in believing that the generation
of Southern whites who were his contemporaries were personally
responsible for slavery in this country, and for all the wrongs that he
supposed had been the result of that institution. He felt it in every
fibre of his cultivated but narrow mind, and he went about elated at the
idea that he was able to contribute his mite of information to the
negroes, and breed in their minds hatred of the people among whom they
were compelled to live. If there had been a Booker Washington in that
day, he would have been denounced by the Hotchkisses as a traitor to his
race, and an enemy of the Government, just as they denounced and
despised such negroes as Uncle Plato.

Hotchkiss went along the road in high spirits. He had delivered a
blistering address to the negroes at the meeting of the league, and he
was feeling happy. His work, he thought, was succeeding. Before he
delivered his address, he had initiated Ike Varner, who was by all odds
the most notorious negro in all that region. Ike was a poet in his way;
if he had lived a few centuries earlier, he would have been called a
minstrel. He could stand up before a crowd of white men, and spin out
rhymes by the yard, embodying in this form of biography the weak points
of every citizen. Some of his rhymes were very apt, and there are men
living to-day who can repeat some of the extemporaneous satires composed
by this negro. He had the reputation among the blacks of being an
uncompromising friend of the whites. In the town, he was a privileged
character; he could do and say what he pleased. He was a fine cook, and
provided possum suppers for those who sat up late at night, and
ice-cream for those who went to bed early. He tidied up the rooms of the
young bachelors, he sold chicken-pies and ginger-cakes on public days,
and Cephas, whose name was mentioned at the beginning of this chronicle,
is willing to pay five dollars to the man or woman who can bake a
ginger-cake that will taste as well as those that Ike Varner made. He
was a happy-go-lucky negro, and spent his money as fast as he made it,
not on himself, but on Edie, his wife, who was young, and bright, and
handsome. She was almost white, and her face reminded you somehow of the
old paintings of the Magdalene, with her large eyes and the melancholy
droop of her mouth. Edie was the one creature in the world that Ike
really cared for, and he had sense enough to know that she cared for him
only when he could supply her with money. Yet he watched her like a
hawk, madly jealous of every glance she gave another man; and she gave
many, in all directions. Ike's jealousy was the talk of the town among
the male population, and was the subject for many a jest at his expense.
His nature was such that he could jest about it too, but far below the
jests, as any one could see, there was desperation.

In spite of all this, Ike was the most popular negro in the town. His
wit and his good-humour commended him to the whole community. He had
moved his wife and his belongings into the country, two or three miles
from town, on the ground that the country is more conducive to health.
Ike's white friends laughed at him, but the negro couldn't see the joke.
Why should a negro be laughed at for taking precautions of this sort,
when there is a whole nation of whites that keeps its women hid, or
compels them to cover their faces when they go out for a breath of fresh
air? The fact is that Ike didn't know what else to do, and so he sent
his handsome wife into exile, and went along to keep her company.
Nevertheless, all his interests were within the corporate limits of
Shady Dale, and he was compelled by circumstances to leave Edie to pine
alone, sometimes till late at night. Whether Edie pined or not, or
whether she was lonely, is a question that this chronicler is not called
on to discuss.

Now, the fact of Ike's popularity with the whites had struck Mr.
Hotchkiss as a very unfavourable sign, and he set himself to work to
bring about a change. He sent some of the negro leaders to talk with
Ike, who sent them about their business in short order. Then Mr.
Hotchkiss took the case in hand, and called on Ike at his house. The two
had an argument over the matter, Ike interspersing his remarks with
random rhymes which Hotchkiss thought very coarse and crude. At the
conclusion of the argument, Hotchkiss saw that the negro had been
laughing at him all the way through, and he resented this attitude more
than another would. He went away in a huff, resolved to leave the negro
with his idols.

This would have been very well, if the matter had stopped there, but
Edie put her finger in the pie. One day when Ike was away, she called to
Hotchkiss as he was passing on his way to town, and invited him into the
house. There was something about the man that had attracted the wild
and untamed passions of the woman. He was not a very handsome man, but
his refinement of manner and speech stood for something, and Edie had
resolved to cultivate his acquaintance. He went in, in response to her
invitation, and found that she desired to ask his advice as to the best
and easiest method of converting Ike into a Union Leaguer. Hotchkiss
gave her such advice as he could in the most matter-of-fact way, and
went on about his business. Otherwise he paid no more attention to her
than if she had been a sign in front of a cigar-store. Edie was not
accustomed to this sort of thing, and it puzzled her. She went to her
looking-glass and studied her features, thinking that perhaps something
was wrong. But her beauty had not even begun to fade. A melancholy
tenderness shone in her lustrous eyes, her rosy lips curved archly, and
the glow of the peach-bloom was in her cheeks.

"I didn't know the man was a preacher," she said, laughing at herself in
the glass.

Time and again she called Mr. Hotchkiss in as he went by, and on some
occasions they held long consultations at the little gate in front of
her door. Ike was not at all blind to these things; if he had been,
there was more than one friendly white man to call his attention to
them. The negro was compelled to measure Hotchkiss by the standard of
the most of the white men he knew. He was well aware of Edie's purposes,
and he judged that Hotchkiss would presently find them agreeable.

Ike listened to Edie's arguments in behalf of the Union League with a
great deal of patience. Prompted by Hotchkiss, she urged that
membership in that body would give him an opportunity to serve his race
politically; he might be able to go to the legislature, and, in that
event, Edie could go to Atlanta with him, where (she said to herself)
she would be able to cut a considerable shine. Moreover, membership in
the league, with his aptitude for making a speech, would give him
standing among the negro leaders all over the State.

Ike argued a little, but not much, considering his feelings. He pointed
out that all his customers, the people who ate his cakes and his cream,
and so forth and so on, were white, and felt strongly about the
situation. Should they cease their patronage, what would he and Edie do
for victuals to eat and clothes to wear?

"Oh, we'll git along somehow; don't you fret about that," said Edie with
a toss of her head.

"Maybe you will, but not me," replied Ike.

At last, however, he had consented to join the league, and appeared to
be very enthusiastic over the matter. As Mr. Hotchkiss went along home
that night--the night on which the young men had gone to the country
dance--he was feeling quite exultant over Ike's conversion, and the
enthusiasm he had displayed over the proceedings. After he had decided
to go home rather than wait for Bridalbin, he hunted about in the crowd
for Ike, but the negro was not to be found. As their roads lay in the
same direction Hotchkiss would have been glad of the negro's company
along the way, and he was somewhat disappointed when he was told that
Ike had started for home as soon as the meeting adjourned. Mr. Hotchkiss
thereupon took the road and went on his way, walking a little more
rapidly than usual, in the hope of overtaking Ike. At last, however, he
came to the conclusion that the negro had remained in town. He was
sorry, for there was nothing he liked better than to drop gall and venom
into the mind of a fairly intelligent negro.

As for Ike, he had his own plans. He had told Edie that in all
probability he wouldn't come home that night, and advised her to get a
nearby negro woman to stay all night with her. This Edie promised to do.
When the league adjourned, Ike lost no time in taking to the road, and
for fear some one might overtake him he went in a dog-trot for the first
mile, and walked rapidly the rest of the way. Before he came to the
house, he stopped and pulled off his shoes, hiding them in a
fence-corner. He then left the road, and slipped through the woods until
he was close to the rear of the house. Here his wariness was redoubled.
He wormed himself along like a snake, and crept and crawled, until he
was close enough to see Edie sitting on the front step--there was but
one--of their little cabin. He was close enough to see that she had on
her Sunday clothes, and he thought he could smell the faint odour of
cologne; he had brought her a bottle home the night before.

He lay concealed for some time, but finally he heard footsteps on the
road, and he rose warily to a standing position. Edie heard the
footsteps too, for she rose and shook out her pink frock, and went to
the gate. The lonely pedestrian came leisurely along the road, having no
need for haste. When he found that it was impossible to overtake Ike,
Mr. Hotchkiss ceased to walk rapidly, and regulated his pace by the
serenity of the hour and the deliberate movements of nature. The hour
was rapidly approaching when solitude would be at its meridian on this
side of the world, and a mocking-bird not far away was singing it in.

Mr. Hotchkiss would have passed Ike's gate without turning his head, but
he heard a voice softly call his name. He paused, and looked around, and
at the gate he saw the figure of Edie. "Is that you, Mr. Hotchkiss? What
you do with Ike?"

"Isn't he at home? He started before I did."

"He ain't comin' home to-night, an' I was so lonesome that I had to set
on the step here to keep myse'f company," said Edie. "Won't you come in
an' rest? I know you must be tired; I got some cold water in here, fresh
from the well."

"No, I'll not stop," replied Mr. Hotchkiss. "It is late, and I must be
up early in the morning."

"Well, tell me 'bout Ike," said Edie. "You got 'im in the league all
right, I hope?" She came out of the gate, as she said this, and moved
nearer to Hotchkiss. In her hand she held a flower of some kind, and
with this she toyed in a shamefaced sort of way.

"Mr. Varner is now a member in good standing," replied Hotchkiss, "and I
think he will do good work for his race and for the party."

Edie moved a step or two nearer to him, toying with her flower. Now, Mr.
Hotchkiss was a genuine reformer of the most approved type, and, as
such, he was entitled to as many personal and private fads as he chose
to have. He was a vegetarian, holding to the theory that meat is a
poison, though he was not averse to pie for breakfast. His pet aversion,
leaving alcohol out of the question, was all forms of commercial
perfumes. As Edie came close to him, he caught a whiff of her
cologne-scented clothes, and his anger rose.

"Why will you ladies," he said, "persist in putting that sort of stuff
on you?"

"I dunner what you mean," replied Edie, edging still closer to
Hotchkiss.

"Why that infernal----"

He never finished the sentence. A pistol-shot rang out, and Hotchkiss
fell like a log. Edie, fearing a similar fate for herself, ran screaming
down the road, and never paused until she had reached the dwelling of
Mahlon Butts. She fell in the door when it was opened and lay on the
floor, moaning and groaning. When she could be persuaded to talk, her
voice could have been heard a mile.

"They've killt him!" she screamed; "they've killt him! an' he was sech a
good man! Oh, he was sech a good man!"



CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

_Mr. Sanders Searches for Evidence_


The news of the shooting of Hotchkiss spread like wildfire, and startled
the community, giving rise to various emotions. It created consternation
among the negroes, who ran to and fro, and hither and yonder, like wild
creatures. Many of the whites, especially the thoughtless and the
irresponsible, contemplated the tragedy with a certain degree of
satisfaction, feeling that a very dangerous man had been providentially
removed. On the other hand, the older and more conservative citizens
deplored it, knowing well that it would involve the whole community in
trouble, and give it a conspicuous place in the annals which radical
rage was daily preparing, in order still further to inflame the public
mind of the North.

Bridalbin promptly disappeared from Shady Dale, but returned in a few
days, accompanied by a squad of soldiers. It was the opinion of the
community, when these fresh troops made their appearance, that they were
to be added to the detachment stationed in the town; but this proved to
be a mistake. Two nights after their arrival, when the officer in
charge, who was a member of the military commander's staff, had
investigated the killing, he gave orders for the arrest of Gabriel
Tolliver, Francis Bethune, Paul Tomlin, and Jesse Tidwell. The arrests
were made at night, and so quietly that when the town awoke to the
facts, and was ready to display its rage at such a high-handed
proceeding, the soldiers and their prisoners were well on their way to
Malvern.

The people felt that something must be done, but what? One by one the
citizens instinctively assembled at the court-house. No call was issued;
the meeting was not preconcerted; there was no common understanding; but
all felt that there must be a conference, a consultation, and there was
no place more convenient than the old court-house, where for long years
justice had been simply and honestly administered.

It was, indeed, a trying hour. Meriwether Clopton and his daughter Sarah
were the first to make their appearance at the court-house, and it was
perhaps owing to their initiative that a large part of the community
shortly assembled there. At first, there was some talk of a rescue, and
this would have been feasible, no doubt; but while Lawyer Tidwell was
violently advocating this course, Mr. Sanders mounted the judge's bench,
and rapped loudly for order. When this had been secured, he moved that
Meriwether Clopton be called to the chair. The motion had as many
seconds as there were men in the room, for the son of the First Settler
was as well-beloved and as influential as his father had been.

"My friends," he said, after thanking the meeting for the honour
conferred upon him, "I feel as if we were all in the midst of a dream,
and therefore I am at a loss what to say to you. As it is all very
real, and far removed from the regions of dreams, the best that I can do
is to counsel moderation and calmness. The blow that has fallen on a few
of us strikes at all, for what has happened to some of our young men may
easily happen to the rest, especially if we meet this usurpation of
civil justice with measures that are violent and retaliatory. We can
only hope that the Hand that has led us into the sea of troubles by
which we have been overwhelmed of late will lead us safely out again.
For myself, I am fully persuaded that what now seems to be a calamity
will, in some shape or other, make us all stronger and better. I am an
old man, and this has been my experience. You need have no fears for the
welfare of the young men. They may be deprived for a time of the
comforts to which they are accustomed, but their safety is assured. They
will probably be tried before a military court, but if there is a spark
of justice in such a tribunal, our young men will shortly be restored to
us. We all know that these lads never dreamed of assassination, and this
is what the killing of this unfortunate man amounts to. We have met here
to-day, not to discuss measures of vengeance and retaliation, but to
consult together as to the best means of securing evidence of the
innocence of the young men. Speaking for myself, I think it would be
well to place the whole matter in the hands of Mr. Sanders, leaving him
to act as he thinks best."

This was agreed to by the meeting, more than one of the audience
declaring loudly that Mr. Sanders was the very man for the occasion. By
unanimous agreement it was decided that one of the most distinguished
lawyers in the State should be retained to defend the young men and that
he should be authorised to employ such assistant counsel as he might
deem necessary.

It was the personality of Meriwether Clopton, rather than his remarks,
that soothed and subdued the crowd which had assembled at the
court-house. He was serenity itself; his attitude breathed hope and
courage; and in the tones of his voice, in his very gestures, there was
a certainty that the young men would not be made the victims of
political necessity. In his own mind, however, he was not at all sure
that the radical leaders at Washington would not be driven by their
outrageous rancour to do the worst that could be done.

As may be supposed, Mr. Sanders did not allow the grass to grow under
his feet. He was the first to leave the court-room, but he was followed
and overtaken by Silas Tomlin.

"Be jigged, Silas, ef you don't look like you've seed a ghost!"
exclaimed Mr. Sanders, whose good-humour had been restored by the
prospect of prompt action.

"Worse than that, Sanders; Paul has been carried off. If you'll fetch
him back, you may show me an army of ghosts. But I wanted to see you,
Sanders, about this business. You'll need money, and if you can't get it
anywhere else, come to me; I'll take it as a favour."

Mr. Sanders frowned and pursed his lips as if he were about to whistle.
"You mean, Silas, that if I need money, and can't beg, nor borry, nor
steal it, maybe you'll loan me a handful of shinplasters. Why, man, I
wouldn't give you the wroppin's of my little finger for all the money
you eber seed or saved. Do you think that I'm tryin' to make money?"

"But there'll be expenses, William, and money's none too plentiful among
our people." Silas spoke in a pleading tone, and his lips were trembling
from grief or excitement.

Noticing this, Mr. Sanders relented a little in his attitude toward the
man. "Well, Silas, when I reely need money, I'll call on you. But don't
lose any sleep on account of that promise, for it'll be many a long day
before I call on you."

With that, Mr. Sanders mounted his horse--known far and wide as the
Racking Roan--and was soon out of sight. His destination was the
residence of Mahlon Butts, and in no long time his horse had covered the
distance.

Although the murder of Hotchkiss was more than a week old, a
considerable number of negroes were lounging about the premises of Judge
Butts--he had once been a Justice of the Peace--and in the road near by,
drawn to the spot by that curious fascination which murder or death
exerts on the ignorant. They moved about with something like awe,
talking in low tones or in whispers. Mr. Sanders tied his horse to a
swinging limb and went in. He was met at the door by Mahlon himself.

"Why, come in, William; come in an' make yourself welcome. You uv heard
of the trouble, I make no doubt, or you wouldn't be here. It's turrible,
William, turrible, for a man to be overcome in this off-hand way, wi' no
time for to say his pra's or even so much as to be sorry for his
misdeeds."

Judge Butts's dignity was of the heavy and oppressive kind. His
enunciation was slow and deliberate, and he had a way of looking over
his spectacles, and nodding his head to give emphasis to his words. This
dignity, which was fortified in ignorance, had received a considerable
reinforcement from the fact that he was a candidate for a county office
on the Republican ticket.

Before Mr. Sanders could make any reply to Mahlon's opening remark, Mrs.
Becky Butts came into the room. She was not in a very good humour, and,
at first, she failed to see Mr. Sanders.

"Mahlon, if you don't go and run that gang of niggers off, I'll take the
shot-gun to 'em. They've been hanging around--why, howdye, Mr. Sanders?
I certainly am glad to see you. I hope you'll stay to dinner; it looks
like old times to see you in the house."

There was something about Mrs. Becky Butts that was eminently satisfying
to the eye. She was younger than her husband, who, at fifty, appeared to
be an old man. Her sympathies were so keen and persistent that they
played boldly in her face, running about over her features as the
sunshine ripples on a pond of clear water.

"Set down, Becky," said Mr. Sanders, after he had responded to her
salutation. "I've come to find out about the killing of that feller
Hotchkiss."

"You may well call it killin', William, bekaze Friend Hotchkiss was
stone dead a few hours arter the fatal shot was fired," declared Judge
Butts.

"Where was the killin' done?" inquired Mr. Sanders. He addressed himself
to Mrs. Butts, but Mahlon made reply.

"We found him, William, right spang in front of Ike Varner's
cabin--right thar, an' nowhar else. He war doin' his level best for to
git on his feet, an' he tried to talk, but not more than two or three
words did he say."

"Well, what did he say?" inquired Mr. Sanders.

"It was the same thing ever' time--'Why, Tolliver, Tolliver'--them was
his very words."

"Are you right certain about that, Mahlon?" asked Mr. Sanders.

"As certain an' shore, William, as I am that I'm settin' here. Ef he
said it once, he said it a dozen times."

"I reckon maybe he had been talking with young Tolliver before he came
from town," remarked Mrs. Butts, noting Mr. Sanders's serious
countenance.

"Whar was he wounded, Becky?" asked Mr. Sanders.

"Between the left ear and the temple."

"Becky's right, William," was the solemn comment of Mahlon. "Yes, sir,
he was hit betwixt the year an' the temple."

"Did you have a doctor?"

"We sent for one, but if he come, we never saw him," Mrs. Butts replied.

"Would you uv believed it, William? An' yit it's the plain truth," said
Mahlon.

"What time was Hotchkiss killed?"

"'Bout half-past ten; maybe a little sooner."

This was all the information Mr. Sanders could get, and it was a great
deal more than he wanted in one particular. He knew that Gabriel
Tolliver was innocent of the killing; but the fact that his name was
called by the dying man was almost as damaging as an ante-mortem
accusation would have been.

Mr. Sanders rode to Ike Varner's cabin, a few hundred yards away. Tying
his horse to the fence on the opposite side of the road, he entered the
house without ceremony.

"Who is that? La! Mr. Sanders, you sho did skeer me," exclaimed Edie.
"Why, when did you come? I would as soon have spected to see a ghost!"

"You'll see 'em here before you're much older," replied Mr. Sanders,
grimly. "They ain't fur off. Wher's Ike?"

"La! ef you know anything about Ike you know more than I does. I ain't
laid eyes on that nigger man, not sence----" She paused, and looked at
Mr. Sanders with a smile.

"Not sence the night Hotchkiss was killed," said Mr. Sanders, completing
her sentence for her.

"La, Mr. Sanders! how'd you know that? But it's the truth: I ain't never
seen Ike sence that night."

"I know a heap more'n you think I do," Mr. Sanders remarked. "Hotchkiss
was talkin' to you at the gate thar when he was shot. What was he
sayin'?"

The woman was a bright mulatto, and, remembering her own designs and
desires so far as Hotchkiss was concerned, her face flushed and she
turned her eyes away. "Why, he wan't sayin' a word, hardly; I was doin'
all the talkin'. I was settin' on the step there, an' I seen him
passin', an' hollad at him. I ast him if he wouldn't have a drink of
cold water, an' he said he would, an' I took it out to the gate, an'
while I was talkin', they shot him. They certainly did."

"Did you ask Ike about it?" Mr. Sanders inquired.

"La! I ain't seen Ike sence that night," exclaimed Edie, flirting her
apron with a coquettish air that was by no means unbecoming.

"Now, Edie," said Mr. Sanders, with a frown to match the severity of his
voice, "you know as well as I do, that when you heard the pistol go off,
and saw what had happened, you run in the house an' flung your apern
over your head." It was a wild guess, but it was close to the truth.

"La, Mr. Sanders! you talk like you was watchin' me. 'Twa'n't my apern,
'twas my han's. I didn't have on no apern that night; I had on my Sunday
frock."

"An' you know jest as well as I do that Ike come in here an' stood over
you, an' said somethin' to you."

"No, sir; he didn't stand over me; I was here"--she illustrated his
position by her movements--"an' when Ike come in, he stood over there."

"What did he say?"

"He said," replied Edie, smiling to show her pretty teeth, "'If you want
him, go out there an' git him.' Yes, sir, he said that. La! I never
heard of a nigger killin' a white man on _that_ account; did you, Mr.
Sanders?"

"I don't know as I ever did," replied Mr. Sanders, regarding her with an
expression akin to pity. "But times has changed."

"They certainly has," said Edie. "I tell you what, Mr. Sanders, I don't
b'live Mr. Hotchkiss was a man." She looked up at Mr. Sanders, as she
made the remark. Catching his eye, she exclaimed--"I don't; I declare I
don't! I never will believe it." She gave a chirruping laugh, as she
made the remark.

It is to be doubted if, in the history of the world, a man ever had a
higher compliment paid to his devotion and his singleness of purpose.

As Mr. Sanders mounted his horse, Edie watched him, and, as she stood
with her arms extended, each hand grasping a side of the doorway,
smiling and showing her white teeth, she presented a picture of wild and
irresponsible beauty that an artist would have admired. Finally, she
turned away with a laugh, saying, "I declare that Mr. Sanders is a
sight!"

In due time the Racking Roan carried Mr. Sanders across Murder Creek to
the plantation of Felix Samples, where the news of the arrest of the
young men occasioned both grief and indignation. They had arrived at the
dance about nine o'clock, and had started home between eleven and
twelve. Gabriel, Mr. Samples said, was not one of the party. Indeed, he
remembered very well that when some of the young people asked for
Gabriel, Francis Bethune had said that the town had been searched for
Gabriel, and he was not to be found.

Evidently, there was no case against the three young men who had gone to
the dance. They could prove an alibi by fifty persons. "Be jigged ef I
don't b'lieve Gabriel is in for it," said Mr. Sanders to himself as he
was going back to Shady Dale. "An' that's what comes of moonin' aroun'
an' loafin' about in the woods wi' the wild creeturs."

Mr. Sanders went straight to the Lumsden Place to consult with Gabriel's
grandmother. Meriwether Clopton and Miss Fanny Tomlin were already
there, each having called for the purpose of offering her such comfort
and consolation as they could. This fine old gentlewoman had had the
care of Gabriel almost from the time he was born, for his birth left his
mother an invalid, the victim of one of those mysterious complaints that
sometimes seize on motherhood. It was well known in that community,
whose members knew whatever was to be known about one another, that Lucy
Lumsden's mind and heart were wholly centred on Gabriel and his affairs.
She was a frail, delicate woman, gentle in all her ways, and ever ready
to efface herself, as it were, and give precedence to others. Her
manners were so fine that they seemed to cling to her as the perfume
clings to the rose.

So these old friends--Meriwether Clopton, and Miss Fanny
Tomlin--considered it to be their duty, as it was their pleasure, to
call on Lucy Lumsden in her trouble. They expected to find her in a
state of collapse, but they found her walking about the house,
apparently as calm as a June morning.

"Good-morning, Meriwether," she said pleasantly; "it is a treat indeed,
and a rare one, to see you in this house. And here is Fanny! I am glad
to see you, my dear. It is very good of you to come to an old woman who
is in trouble. I think we are all in trouble together. No, don't sit
here, my dear; the library is cooler, and you must be warm. Come into
the library, Meriwether."

"Upon my word, you look twenty years younger," said Miss Fanny Tomlin.

"Do I, indeed? Then trouble must be good for me. Still, I don't
appreciate it. I am an old woman, my dear, and all the years of my life
I have had a contempt for those who fly into a rage, or lose their
tempers. And now, look at me! Never in all your days have you seen a
woman in such a rage as I have felt all day and still feel!"

"The idea!" exclaimed Miss Fanny. "Why, you look as cool as a cucumber."

"Yes, the idea!" echoed Mrs. Lumsden. "If I had those miserable
creatures in my power, do you know what I would do? Do you know,
Meriwether?"

"I can't imagine, Lucy," he replied gently. He saw that the apparent
calmness of Gabriel's grandmother was simply the result of suppressed
excitement.

"Well, I'll not tell you if you don't know." She seated herself, but
rose immediately, and went to the window, where she stood looking out,
and tapping gently on the pane with her fingers. She stood there only a
short time. "You may imagine that I am nervous," she said, turning away
from the window, "but I am not." She held out her hand to illustrate. It
was frail, but firm. "No," she went on, "I am not nervous; I am simply
furious. I know what you came for, my friends, and it is very kind of
you; but it is useless. I love you both well, and I know what you would
say. I have said such things to my friends, and thought I was performing
a duty."

"Well, you know the old saying, Lucy," said Meriwether Clopton. "Misery
loves company. We are all in the same boat, and it seems to be a leaky
one. I have heard it said that a woman's wit is sometimes better than a
man's wisdom, and, for my part, I have not come to see if you needed to
be consoled, but to find out your views."

"I have none," she said somewhat curtly. "Show me a piece of blue cloth,
and I'll tear it to pieces. That is the only thought or idea I have."

"Well, that doesn't help us much," Meriwether Clopton remarked.

At that moment, Mr. Sanders was announced, and word was sent to him to
come right in. "Howdy, everybody," he said in his informal way, as he
entered the room. He was warm, and instead of leaving his hat on the
hall-rack, he had kept it in his hand, and was using it as a fan. "Miss
Lucy," he said, "I won't take up two minutes of your time----"

"Mr. Sanders, you may take up two hours of my time. Time!" Mrs. Lumsden
exclaimed bitterly--"why, time is about all I have left."

"Oh, it ain't nigh as bad as you think," remarked Mr. Sanders, as
cheerfully as he could. "But I want to settle a p'int or two. Do you
remember what time it was when Gabriel come home the night Hotchkiss was
killed?"

Mrs. Lumsden reflected a moment. "Why, he went out directly after
supper, and came in--well, I don't remember when he came in. I must have
been asleep."

"Um-m," grunted Mr. Sanders.

"Is it important?" Mrs. Lumsden asked.

"It may turn out to be right down important," replied Mr. Sanders, and
then he said no more, but sat looking at the floor, and wondering how
Gabriel could be released from the tangled web that the spider,
Circumstance, had woven about him.

As Mr. Sanders went out, he met Nan at the door, and he was amazed at
the change that had come over her. Perplexity and trouble looked forth
from her eyes, and there was that in her face that Mr. Sanders had never
seen there before. "Why, honey!" he exclaimed, "you look like you've
lost your best friend."

"Well, perhaps I have. Who is in there?" And when Mr. Sanders told her,
she cried out, "Oh, why don't they leave her alone?"

"Well, they ain't pesterin' her much, honey. Go right in. Lucy Lumsden
has got as much grit as a major gener'l, an' she'll be glad to see
you."

But Nan stood staring at Mr. Sanders, as if she wanted to ask him a
question, and couldn't find words for it. Her face was pale, and she had
the appearance of one who is utterly forspent.

"Why, honey, what ails you? I never seed you lookin' like this before."

"You've never seen me ill before," answered Nan. "I thought the walk
would do me good, but the sun--oh, Mr. Sanders! please don't ask me
anything else."

With that, she ran up the steps very rapidly for an ill person, and
stood a moment in the hallway.

"Be jigged ef she ain't wuss hit than any on us!" declared Mr. Sanders,
to himself, as he turned away. "What a pity that she had to go an' git
grown!"

Following the sound of voices, Nan went into the library. Mrs. Lumsden,
who was still walking about restlessly, paused and tried to smile when
she saw Nan; but it was only a make-believe smile. Nan went directly to
her, and stood looking in the old gentlewoman's eyes. Then she kissed
her quite suddenly and impulsively.

"Nan, you must be ill," Miss Fanny Tomlin declared.

"I am, Aunt Fanny; I am not feeling well at all."

"Lie there on the sofa, child," Mrs. Lumsden insisted. Taking Nan by the
arm, she almost forced her to lie down.

"If you-all are talking secrets, I'll go away," said Nan.

"No, child," remarked Mrs. Lumsden; "we are talking about trouble, and
trouble is too common to be much of a secret in this world." She seated
herself on the edge of the sofa, and held Nan's hand, caressing it
softly.

"This is the way I used to cure Gabriel, when he was ill or weary," she
said in a tone too low for the others to hear.

"Did you?" whispered Nan, closing her eyes with a sigh of satisfaction.

"This is the second time I have been able to sit down since breakfast,"
remarked Mrs. Lumsden.

"I have walked miles and miles," replied Nan, wearily.

There was a noise in the hall, and presently Tasma Tid peeped cautiously
into the room. "Wey you done wit Honey Nan?" she asked. "She in dis
house; you ain' kin fool we."

"Come in, and behave yourself if you know how," said Mrs. Lumsden. "Come
in, Tid."

"How come we name Tid? How come we ain't name Tasma Tid?"

No one thought it worth while to make any reply to this, and the African
came into the room, acting as if she were afraid some one would jump at
her. "Sit in the corner there at the foot of the sofa," said Mrs.
Lumsden. Tasma Tid complied very readily with this command, since it
enabled her to be near Nan. The African squatted on the floor, and sat
there motionless.

Meriwether Clopton and Miss Fanny went away after awhile, but Mrs.
Lumsden continued to sit by Nan, caressing her hand. Not a word was said
for a long time, but the silence was finally broken by Nan, who spoke to
the African.

"Tasma Tid, I want you to go home and tell Miss Johnny that I will spend
the rest of the day and the night with Grandmother Lumsden."

"Don't keer; we comin' back," said Tasma Tid.

"Yes, come back," said Mrs. Lumsden; whereupon, the African whisked out
of the room as quick as a flash.

After Tasma Tid had gone, a silence fell on the house--a silence so
profound that Nan could hear the great clock ticking in the front hall,
and the bookshelves cracked just as they do in the middle of the night.

"If I had known what was going to happen when Gabriel came and kissed me
good-bye," said Mrs. Lumsden, after awhile, "I would have gone out there
where those men were, and--well, I don't know what I wouldn't have
done!"

"Didn't Gabriel tell you? Why----" Nan paused.

"Not he! Not Gabriel!" cried Mrs. Lumsden in a voice full of pride. "He
wanted to spare his grandmother one night's worry, and he did."

"Didn't you know when he kissed you good-night that something was
wrong?" Nan inquired.

"How should I? Why, he sometimes comes and kisses me in the middle of
the night, even after he has gone to bed. He says he sleeps better
afterwards."

What was there in this simple statement to cause Nan to catch her
breath, and seize the hand that was caressing her. For one thing, it
presented the tender side of Gabriel's nature in a new light; and for
the rest--well, who shall pretend to fathom a young woman's heart?

"Yes, he was always doing something of that kind," remarked the
grandmother proudly; "and I have often thought that he should have been
a girl."

"A girl!" cried Nan.

"Yes; he will marry some woman who doesn't appreciate his finer
qualities--the tenderness and affection that he tries to hide from
everybody but his grandmother; and he will go about with a hungry heart,
and his wife will never suspect it. I am afraid I dislike her already."

"Oh, don't say that!" Nan implored.

"But if he was a girl," the grandmother went on, "he would be better
prepared to endure coldness and neglect. This is partly what we were
born for, my dear, as you will find out one day for yourself."



CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

_Captain Falconer Makes Suggestions_


It was not often that Mr. Sanders had a surprise, but he found one
awaiting him when he left the Lumsden Place, and started in the
direction of home. He had not taken twenty steps before he met the young
Captain who had charge of the detachment of Federal troops stationed at
Shady Dale.

"This is Mr. Sanders, I believe," he said without ceremony. "My name is
Falconer. I have just been to call on Mr. Clopton, but they tell me
there that he is at Mrs. Lumsden's."

"Well, I wouldn't advise you to go there," said Mr. Sanders, bluntly.
"The lady is in a considerbul state of mind about her gran'son."

"It is a miserable piece of business all the way through," remarked
Captain Falconer. There was a note of sympathy in his voice, which Mr.
Sanders could not fail to catch, and it interested him.

"I called upon my cousin, Mrs. Claiborne, for the first time to-day,"
the Captain went on. "She has invited me to tea often, but I have
refused the invitation on account of the state of feeling here. I know
how high it is. It is natural, of course, but it is not justifiable.
Take my case, for instance: I am a Democrat, and I come from a family of
Democrats, who have never voted anything else but the Democratic ticket,
except when Henry Clay was a candidate, and when Lincoln was running for
a second term."

"You don't tell me!" cried Mr. Sanders, with genuine astonishment.

"It is a fact," said Captain Falconer, with emphasis. "If you think that
I, or any of the men under me, or any of the men who fought at all,
intended to bring about such a condition as now exists in this part of
the country, you are doing us a great wrong. Don't mistake me! I am not
apologising for the part I took. I would do it all over again a hundred
times if necessary. Yet I do not believe in negro suffrage, and I abhor
and detest every exaction that the politicians in Washington have placed
upon the people of the South."

Mr. Sanders was too much astonished to make appropriate comment. He
could only stare at the young man. And Captain Falconer was very good to
look upon. He was of the Kentucky type, tall, broad-shouldered and
handsome. His undress uniform became him well, and he had the
distinctive and pleasing marks that West Point leaves on all young men
who graduate at the academy there.

"Well, as I told you, I called on my cousin to-day for the first time,
and after we had talked of various matters, especially the unfortunate
events that have recently occurred, she insisted that I make it my
business to see you or Mr. Clopton. She told me," the Captain said,
with a pleasant smile, "that you are the man that kidnapped Mr.
Lincoln."

"She's wrong about that," replied Mr. Sanders; "I'm the man that didn't
kidnap him. But I want to ask you: ain't you some kin to John Barbour
Falconer?"

"He was my father," the Captain replied.

"Well, I've heard Meriwether Clopton talk about him hundreds of times.
They ripped around in Congress together before the war."

"Now, that is very interesting to me," said the Captain, his face
brightening.

He was silent for some time, as they walked slowly along, and during
this period of silence, Meriwether Clopton came up behind them. He would
have passed on, with a polite inclination of his head, but Mr. Sanders
drew his attention.

"Mr. Clopton," he said, "here's a gentleman I reckon you'd like to
know--Captain Falconer. He's a son of John Barbour Falconer."

"Is that so?" exclaimed Meriwether Clopton, a wonderful change passing
over his face. "Well, I am glad to see a son of my dear old friend,
anywhere and at any time." He shook hands very cordially with the
Captain. "Let me see--let me see: if I am not mistaken, your first name
is Garnett; you were named after your maternal grandfather."

"That is true, sir," replied the Captain, with a boyish laugh that was
pleasing to the ear--he was not more than thirty. "But I am surprised
that you should remember these things so well."

"Why, my dear sir, it is not surprising at all. I have dandled you on my
knee many and many a time; I know the very house, yes, the very room, in
which you were born. Some of the happiest hours of my manhood were spent
with your father and mother in Washington. Your father is dead, I
believe. Well, he was a good man; among the best I ever knew. What of
your mother?"

"She has broken greatly," responded the Captain. "The war was a great
burden to her. She was a Virginian, you know."

"Yes--yes!" said Meriwether Clopton. "The war has been a dreadful
nightmare to the people on both sides; and it seems to be still going on
disguised as politics. Only last night, as you perhaps know, a posse of
soldiers arrested and carried off four of our worthiest young men."

"Yes, sir, I know of it and regret it," responded Captain Falconer. "And
I have no doubt that a majority of the people here are incensed at the
soldiers, forgetting that they are the mere instruments of their
superiors, and that their superiors themselves take their orders from
other superiors who are engaged in the game of politics. It is the duty
of a soldier to blindly obey orders. To pause to ask a question would be
charged to a spirit of insubordination. The army is at the beck and call
of what is called the Government, and to-day the Government happens to
be the radical contingent of the Republican Party. A soldier may detest
the service he is called on to perform, but he is bound to obey orders.
I can answer for the officer who was sent to arrest these young men. He
was boiling over with rage because he had been sent here on such an
errand."

"I am glad to hear that," declared Meriwether Clopton, with great
heartiness.

"His feelings were perfectly natural, sir," said Captain Falconer. "Take
the army as it stands to-day, and it would be hard, if not impossible,
to find a man in it who does not shrink from doing the dirty work of the
politicians. Can you imagine that my mission here is pleasant to me? I
can assure you, sir, it is the most disagreeable duty that ever fell to
my lot. I am glad you spoke of these arrests. At your convenience, I
should like to have a little conversation with you and Mr. Sanders on
this subject."

"There is no time like the present," replied Meriwether Clopton. "Will
you come with me to my house?"

"Certainly, sir; and with the more pleasure because I called on my
cousin Mrs. Claiborne to-day. I have forborne to call on her heretofore
on account of the prejudice against us. But these arrests made it
necessary for me to communicate with some of the influential friends of
the young men. I was afraid my visit to-day would prove to be
embarrassing to her. If I visit you at your invitation, the probability
is she will have no social penalty to pay. I know what the feeling is."

Indeed, he knew too well. He had passed along the streets apparently
perfectly oblivious to the attitude and movements of those whom he
chanced to meet, but all his faculties had been awake, for he was a man
of the keenest sensibilities. He had seen women and young girls curl
their lips in a sneer, and toss their heads in scorn, as he passed them
by; and some of them pulled their skirts aside, lest his touch should
pollute them. He had observed all this, and he was wounded by it; and
yet he had no resentment. Being a Southerner himself, he knew that the
feelings which prompted such actions were perfectly natural, the fitting
accompaniment of the humiliation which the radical element compelled the
whites to endure.

In the course of his long and frequent walks in the countryside, Captain
Falconer had made the acquaintance of Gabriel Tolliver, in whose nature
the spirit of a gypsy vagrant seemed to have full sway; and Gabriel was
the only person native to Shady Dale, except the ancient postmaster,
with whom the young officer had held communication. He seemed to be cut
off not only from all social intercourse, but even from
acquaintanceship.

"You may rest assured," declared Meriwether Clopton, "that if I had
known you were the son of my old friend, I would have sought you out,
much as I detest the motives and purposes of those who have inaugurated
this era of bayonet rule. And you may be sure, too, that in my house you
will be a welcome guest."

"I appreciate your kindness, sir, and I shall remember it," said Captain
Falconer.

That portion of Shady Dale which was moving about the streets with its
eyes open was surprised and shocked--nay, wellnigh paralysed--to see the
"Yankee Captain" on parade, as it were, with Meriwether Clopton on one
side of him, and Mr. Sanders on the other. Yes, and the hand of the son
of the First Settler (could their eyes deceive them?) was resting
familiarly on the shoulder of the "Yankee!" Surely, here was food for
thought. Were Meriwether Clopton and Mr. Sanders about to join the
radicals? Well, well, well! At last one of the loungers, a man of middle
age, who had seen service, raised his voice and put an end to comment.

"You can bet your sweet life," he declared, "that Billy Sanders knows
what he's up to. He may not git the game he's after, but he'll fetch
back a handful of feathers or hair. Mr. Clopton I don't know so well,
but I was in the war wi' Billy Sanders, and I wish you'd wake me up and
let me know when somebody fools him. There ain't a living man on the
continent, nor under it neither, that can git on his blind side."

"Now you are whistlin'!" exclaimed one of his companions, and this
seemed to settle the matter. If Mr. Sanders didn't know what he was
about, why, then, everybody else in that neighbourhood might as well
give up, "and let natur' cut her caper."

"I understand now why Mrs. Claiborne referred me to you," said Captain
Falconer, when Mr. Sanders had related the nature and extent of the
information which he had been able to gather during the morning.

"The lady is kinder partial," remarked Mr. Sanders, "but she's as bright
as a new dollar, somethin' I ain't seed sence I cut my wisdom teeth."

"You already know what I intended to tell you," said the Captain. But
it turned out, nevertheless, that he was able to give them some very
startling information. It was the general understanding in Shady Dale
that the prisoners were to be sent to Atlanta; but the military
authorities, fearing an attempt at rescue, perhaps, had ordered them to
be sent to Fort Pulaski, below Savannah. There were other reasons, the
Captain explained, for sending the young men there. They would be
isolated from their friends, and, so placed, might be induced to
confess; and if the circumstances surrounding them were not sufficient
to produce such a result then other measures were to be taken.

Meanwhile, the circumstantial evidence against Gabriel was very
strong--stronger even than Mr. Sanders had imagined. Bridalbin, whom
Captain Falconer knew as Boring, had informed that officer of his own
supposed discoveries with respect to Gabriel's movements; and the
evidence he was prepared to give, coupled with the fact that Hotchkiss
had pronounced the lad's name with his last breath, made out a case of
exceptional strength. Urged on by the vindictiveness of the radical
leaders in Congress, it was more than probable that the military court
before which the young men were to be tried, would convict any or all of
them on much slighter evidence than that which had accumulated against
Gabriel. It was all circumstantial evidence of course, but even in the
civil courts, and before juries made up of their peers, men accused of
crime have frequently been convicted on circumstantial evidence
alone--that is to say, on probability.

"Now, this is what I wanted to say," remarked Captain Falconer, as they
sat in the library at the Clopton Place, and after he had gone over the
evidence, item by item: "I was given to understand by the officer who
made the arrests that I would shortly be transferred to Savannah, or,
rather, to Fort Pulaski, and placed in charge of the prisoners, the idea
being that I, knowing something of the young men, would be able to
extract a confession from them by fair means. This failing, there are
others who could be depended on to employ foul. The officer, who is a
very fine soldier, and thoroughly in love with his profession, dropped a
hint that, all other means failing, the young men are to be put through
a course of sprouts in order to extort a confession."

Mr. Sanders looked hard at the Captain; he was taking the young man's
measure. What he saw or divined must have been satisfactory, for his
face, which had been in a somewhat puckered condition, as he himself
would have expressed it, suddenly cleared up, and he rose from his chair
with a laugh.

"Do you-all know what I've gone an' done?" he asked.

"You do so many clever things, William, that we cannot possibly imagine
what the newest is," said Meriwether Clopton.

"Well, sir, this is the cleverest yit. I've come off from Lucy Lumsden's
an' clean forgot my hoss. It's a wonder I didn't forgit my head. Now,
you might 'a' said, an' said truly, that I'd forgit a man, or a 'oman,
but when William H. Sanders, Esquire, walks off in the broad light of
day, an' forgits his hoss, an' that hoss the Rackin' Roan, you may know
that his thinkin' machine has slipped a cog. Ef you'll excuse me, I'll
go right arter that creetur. I'm mighty glad he can't talk--it's about
the only thing he can't do--bekaze he'd gi' me a long an' warm piece of
his mind."

Captain Falconer rose also, but Meriwether Clopton protested. "I should
be glad if you would stay to dinner," he said. "I have several things to
show you--some interesting letters from your father, for instance."

"But the ladies?" suggested the Captain, with a comically doubtful lift
of the eyebrows. He had no notion of bearding any of the Confederate
lionesses in their dens. "You know how they regard us here."

"Only my daughter Sarah is here. She knew your father well, and has a
very lively remembrance of him. She was fifteen when you were three, and
many a day she was your volunteer nurse."

So it was arranged that the Captain should remain to dinner, and it may
be said that he spent a very pleasant time, after his long period of
social isolation. "I shall call you Garnett, to begin with," said Sarah
Clopton, as she shook his hand, "but you must not expect me to be very
cordial to-day. It was only last night, you must remember, that some of
the people you associate with arrested and carried off a young man who
is very dear to me."

"You may be very sure, Miss Clopton, that the officer who did that piece
of work had no relish for it. He simply obeyed orders. He had no
discretion in the matter whatever."

"Well, I shall be very glad to think that, Garnett, for your sake. But
that fact doesn't restore our young men," she said with a sigh. "Oh, I
wonder when we'll all be at peace and happy again?"

"In God's own time, and not before," declared Meriwether Clopton
solemnly.

"Well, we'll try an' help that time to come," said Mr. Sanders, entering
the room at that moment. He was followed by Cephas, who was one of
Gabriel's favourites among the small boys. Cephas was bashful enough,
but he always felt at ease at the Clopton Place, where everything moved
along the lines of simplicity and perfect openness. The small boy had a
sort of chilly feeling when he saw the officer, but he soon got over
that.

"I went an' got my hoss," said Mr. Sanders, "an' he paid me back for my
forgitfulness by purty nigh bitin' a piece out'n my arm; an' whilst I
was a-rubbin' the place, up comes Cephas for to find out somethin' about
the boys. When I got through makin' a few remarks sech as you don't hear
at church, a kinder blind idee popped in my head, an' so I tuck Cephas
up behind me, an' fetched him here."

"Sit on the sofa, Cephas. Have a chair, William, and tell us about your
blind idea."

"Ef you'll promise not to laugh," Mr. Sanders stipulated. "You know Mrs.
Ab's sayin' that ef the old sow knowed she was swallerin' a tree ev'ry
time she crunched an acorn, she'd grunt a heap louder'n she does: well,
I know what I'm fixin' for to swaller, and you won't hear much loud
gruntin' from me."

"Well, we are ready to hear from you," said Meriwether Clopton.
Whereupon, Mr. Sanders threw his head back and laughed.



CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

_Mr. Sanders's Riddle_


"I tell you how it is," said Mr. Sanders: "The riddle is how to git a
message to Gabriel; I could git the Captain thar to take it, but the
Captain will have as much as he can attend to, an' for that matter, so
have I. Wi' this riddle I'm overcrapped. Sence I left here, I've gone
over the whole matter in my mind, ef you can call it a mind. I could go
down thar myself, an' I'd be glad to, but could I git to have a private
talk wi' Gabriel? I reckon not."

The remark was really interrogative, and was addressed to Captain
Falconer, who made a prompt reply--"I hardly think the scheme would
work. My impression is that orders have been issued from Atlanta for
these young men to be isolated. If that is so they can hold
communication with no one but the sentinel on duty, or the officer who
has charge of them. They are to be treated as felons, though nothing has
been proved against them. I am not sure, but I think that is the
programme."

"That is about what I thought," said Mr. Sanders, "an' that's what I
told Cephas here. When I was fetchin' my horse, Cephas, he comes up, an'
he says, 'Mr. Sanders, have you heard from Gabriel?' an' I says, 'No,
Cephas, we ain't had time for to git a word from 'em.' An' then he went
on to say, Cephas did, that he'd like mighty well to see Gabriel. I told
him that maybe we could fix it up so as he could see Gabriel. You can't
imagine how holp up the little chap was. To see him then, an' see him
now, you'd think it was another boy."

Captain Falconer looked at Cephas, and could see no guile. On the
contrary, he saw a freckled lad who appeared to be about ten years old;
he was really nearly fourteen. Cephas was so ugly that he was ugly when
he laughed, as he was doing now; but there was something about him that
attracted the attention of those who were older. It was a fact much
talked about that this freckled little boy never went with children of
his own age, but was always to be found with those much older. He was
Gabriel's chum when Gabriel wanted a chum; he went hunting with Francis
Bethune; and he could often be found at the store in which Paul Tomlin
was the chief clerk. He knew all the secrets of these young men, and
kept them, and they frequently advised with him about the young ladies.

But he was fonder of Gabriel than of all the rest, and he was also fond
of Nan, who had been kind to him in many ways. Cephas was one of those
ill-favoured little creatures, who astonish everybody by never
forgetting a favour. Gratitude ran riot in his small bosom, and he was
ever ready to sacrifice himself for his friends.

Seeing that Captain Falconer continued to look at him, Cephas hung his
head. He was only too conscious of his ugliness, and was very sensitive
about it. He wanted to be large and strong and handsome like Gabriel, or
dark and romantic-looking like Francis Bethune; and sometimes he was
very miserable because of the unkindness of fate or Providence in this
matter.

"And so you want to see your friends," said the Captain, very kindly.
Every feature of his face showed that his sympathies were keen. "They
are very far away, or will be when they get to their journey's end--too
far, I should think, for a little boy to travel."

"Maybe so," said Cephas, "but Gabriel had to go."

"I see," said the Captain; "wherever Gabriel goes, you are willing to
go?"

"Yes, sir," replied Cephas very simply.

"I hope Gabriel appreciates it," remarked Sarah Clopton.

"Oh, he does!" exclaimed Cephas. "Gabriel knows. Why, one day----" Then,
remembering the company he was in, he blushed, and refused to go on with
what he intended to say.

Seeing his embarrassment, Mr. Sanders came to his rescue. "What I want
to know, Captain, is this: if that little chap comes down to Savannah,
will you allow him to see Gabriel and talk to him?"

Again the Captain looked at the boy, and Cephas, catching a certain
humourous gleam in the gentleman's eye, began to smile. "Now, then,"
said Captain Falconer, with an answering smile, "how would you like to
go with me?"

"I think I would like it," replied Cephas, with a broad grin; "I think
that would be fine."

"And what does Mr. Sanders think of it?" the Captain asked.

"Well, I hadn't looked at it from that p'int of view," said Mr. Sanders.
"I 'lowed maybe that the best an' cheapest plan would be for me to take
the little chap down an' fetch him back."

"My opinion may not be worth much, Mr. Sanders," said Sarah Clopton,
"but I think it would be a shame to take that child so far away from
home. I don't believe his mother will allow him to go."

"That is a matter that was jest fixin' for to worry me," remarked Mr.
Sanders. "I could feel it kinder fermentin' in my mind, like molasses
turnin' to vinegar, an' now that you've fetched it to the top, Sarah,
we'll settle it before we go any furder. Come, Cephas; we'll go an' see
your mammy, an' see ef we can't coax her into lettin' you go. You'll
have to do your best, my son; I'll coax, an' you must wheedle."

As they went out, Cephas was laughing at Mr. Sanders's remark about
wheedling. The youngster was an expert in that business. He was his
mother's only child, and he had learned at a very early age just how to
manage her.

"What troubles me, Cephas," said Mr. Sanders, "is how you can git a
message to Gabriel wi'out lettin' the cat out'n the bag. He'll be
surrounder'd in sech a way that you can't git a word wi' 'im wi'out
tellin' the whole caboodle."

At that moment, Mr. Sanders heard a small voice cry out something like
this: "Phazasee! Phazasee! arawa ooya ingagog?"

To which jabbering Cephas made prompt reply: "Iya ingagog ota annysavvy
ota eesa gibbleable!"

"Ooya ibfa! Ooya ibfa!" jeered the small voice.

Mr. Sanders looked at Cephas in astonishment. "What kinder lingo is
that?" he asked.

"It's the way we school-children talk when we don't want anybody to know
what we are saying. Johnny asked me where I was going, and I told him I
was going to Savannah to see Gabriel."

"Did he know what you said?"

"Why, he couldn't help but know, but he didn't believe it; he said it
was a fib."

"Well, I'll be jigged!" exclaimed Mr. Sanders. "Call that boy over
here."

Cephas turned around--they had passed the house where the little boy
lived--and called out: "Onnaja! Onnaja! Stermera Andersa antwasa ota
eesa ooya."

The small boy came running, though there was a doubtful look on his
face. He had frequently been the victim of Cephas's practical jokes.

Mr. Sanders questioned him closely, and he confirmed the interpretation
of the lingo which Cephas had given to Mr. Sanders.

"Do you mean to tell me," said Mr. Sanders to Cephas when they had
dismissed the small boy, "that this kinder thing has been goin' on right
under my nose, an' I not knowin' a word about it? How'd you pick up the
lingo?"

"Gabriel teached it to me," replied Cephas. "He talks it better than any
of the boys, and I come next." This last remark Cephas made with a
blush.

"Do I look pale, my son?" inquired Mr. Sanders, mopping his red face
with his handkerchief. Cephas gave a negative reply by shaking his head.
"Well, I may not look pale, but I shorely feel pale. You'll have to loan
me your arm, Cephas; I feel like Christopher Columbus did when he
discovered Atlanta, Ga."

"Why, he didn't discover Atlanta, Mr. Sanders," protested Cephas.

"He didn't!" exclaimed Mr. Sanders. "Well, it was his own fault ef he
didn't. All he had to do was to read the country newspapers. But that's
neither here nor thar. Here I've been buttin' my head ag'in trees, an'
walkin' in my sleep tryin' for to study up some plan to git word to
Gabriel, an' here you walk along the street an' make me a present of the
very thing I want, an' I ain't even thanked you for it."

Cephas couldn't guess what Mr. Sanders was driving at, and he asked no
questions. His mind was too full of his proposed trip. When the
proposition was first broached to Cephas's mother, she scouted the idea
of allowing her boy to make the journey. He was all she had, and should
anything happen to him--well, the world wouldn't be the same world to
her. And it was so far away; why, she had heard some one say that
Savannah was right on the brink of the ocean--that great monster that
swallowed ships and men by the thousand, and was just as hungry
afterward as before. But Cephas began to cry, saying that he wanted to
see Gabriel; and Mr. Sanders told Gabriel's side of the story. Between
the two, the poor woman had no option but to say that she'd consider the
matter, and when a woman begins to consider--well, according to the
ancient philosophers, it's the same as saying yes.

The truth is, a great deal of pressure was brought to bear on Cephas's
mother, in one way and another. Meriwether Clopton called on her,
bringing Captain Falconer. She was not at all pleased to see the
Captain, and she made no effort to conceal her prejudice. "I never did
think that I'd speak to a man in that uniform," she said with a very red
face. But she was better satisfied when Meriwether Clopton told her that
the Captain was the son of his dearest friend, and that he was utterly
opposed to the radical policy.

The upshot of the matter was that, with many a sigh and some tears, she
gave her consent for her onliest, her dearest, and her bestest, to go on
the long journey. And then, after consenting, she was angry with herself
because she had consented. In short, she was as miserable and as anxious
as mother-love can make a woman, and poor Cephas never could understand
until he became a grown man, and had children of his own, how his mother
could make such a to-do over the opportunity that Providence had thrown
in his way. To tell the truth, he was almost irritated at the obstacles
and objections that the vivid imagination of his mother kept conjuring
up. She said he must be sure not to fall in the ocean, and he must keep
out of the way of the railroad trains. She cried silently all the time
she was packing his modest supply of clothes in a valise, and put some
tea-cakes in one corner, and a little Testament in the other.

It is no wonder that children who do not understand such feelings should
be impatient of them, and Cephas is to be excused if he watched the
whole proceeding with something like contempt for woman's weakness. But
he has bitterly regretted, oh, tens of thousands of times, that, instead
of standing aloof from his mother's feelings, he did not throw his arms
around her, and tell how much he appreciated her love, and how every
tear she shed for him was worth to him a hundred times more than a
diamond. But Cephas was a boy, and, being a boy, he could not rise
superior to his boy's nature.

It was arranged that Cephas was to go to Savannah with Captain Falconer,
and return with Mr. Sanders, who would take advantage of the occasion to
settle up some old business with the firm that had acted as factor for
Meriwether Clopton before the war. The arrangement took place when Mr.
Sanders returned home after his visit to Cephas's mother, and was of
course conditional on her consent, which was not obtained at once.

Mr. Sanders was shrewd enough not to dwell too much on the plight of the
young men on his return. By some method of his own, he seemed to sweep
the whole matter from his mind, and both he and Meriwether Clopton
addressed themselves to such topics as they imagined the Federal Captain
would find interesting; and in this they were seconded by Sarah Clopton,
whom Robert Toombs declared to be one of the finest conversationalists
of her time when she chose to exert her powers. But for the softness
and fine harmony of her features, her face would have been called
masculine. Her countenance was entirely responsive to her emotions, and
it was delightful to watch the eloquent play of her features. Captain
Falconer fell quickly under the spell of her conversation, for one of
its chiefest charms was the ease with which she brought out the best
thoughts of his mind--thoughts and views that were a part of his inner
self.

It was the same at dinner, where, without monopolising the talk, she led
it this way and that, but always in channels that were congenial and
pleasing to the Captain, and that enabled him to appear at his best. In
honour of his guest, Meriwether Clopton brought out some fine old claret
that had lain for many years undisturbed in the cellar.

"Thank you, Sarah," said Mr. Sanders, when the hostess pressed him to
have a glass, "I'll not trouble you for any to-day. I've made the
acquaintance of that claret. It ain't sour enough for vinegar, nor
strong enough for liquor; it's a kind of a cross betwixt a second
drawin' of tea an' the syrup of squills; an' no matter how hard you hit
it it'll never hit you back. It's lots too mild for a Son of Temp'rance
like me. No; gi' me a full jug an' a shuck-pen to crawl into, an' you
may have all the wine, red or yaller."

But the fine old claret was thoroughly enjoyed by those who could
appreciate the flower of its age and the flavour of its vintage; and
when dinner was over, and Captain Falconer was on his way to camp, he
felt that, outside of his own home, he had never had such a pleasant
experience.

In the course of a few days orders came from Atlanta for Captain
Falconer to turn over the command of the detachment to the officer next
in rank, and proceed to Malvern, where he would find further
instructions awaiting him. When the time came for Cephas to be off with
the Captain, you may well believe that his mother saw all sorts of
trouble ahead for him. She had dreamed some very queer dreams, she said,
and she was very sure that no good would follow. And at the last moment,
she would have taken Cephas from the barouche which had come for him, if
the driver, following the instructions of Mr. Sanders, had not whipped
up his horses, and left the lady standing in the street.

As for Cephas, he found that parting from his mother was not such a fine
thing after all. He watched her through a mist of tears, and waved his
handkerchief as long as he could see her; and then after that he was the
loneliest little fellow you have ever seen. He refused to eat the extra
tea-cake that his mother had put in the pocket of his jacket, and made
up his mind to be perfectly miserable until he got back home. But, after
all, boys are boys, and the feeling of loneliness and dejection wore
away after awhile, and before he had gone many miles, what with making
the acquaintance of the driver, who was a private soldier, and getting
on friendly terms with Captain Falconer, he soon arrived at the point
where he relished his tea-cake, and when this had been devoured, he felt
as if travelling was the most delightful thing in the world, especially
if a fellow has been intrusted with a tremendous secret that nobody else
in the world knew besides Mr. Sanders and himself.

For as soon as Mr. Sanders discovered that the Captain would be willing
to have Cephas go along, he had taken the little chap in hand, and
thoroughly impressed upon his mind everything he wanted him to say to
Gabriel, and he was not satisfied until Cephas had written the message
out in the dog-latin of the school-children, and had learned it by
heart. Mr. Sanders also impressed on the little lad's mind the
probability that the Captain would be curious as to the nature of the
message; and he gave Cephas a plausible answer for every question that
an inquisitive person could put to him, and made him repeat these
answers over and over again. In fact, Cephas was compelled to study as
hard as if he had been in school, but he relished the part he was to
play, and learned it with a zest that was very pleasing to Mr. Sanders.
Only an hour before he was to leave with the Captain, Mr. Sanders went
to Cephas's home, and made him repeat over everything he had been
taught, and the glibness with which the little lad repeated the answers
to the questions was something wonderful in so small a chap.

"Don't git lonesome, Cephas," was the parting injunction of Mr. Sanders.
"Don't forgit that I'll be on the train when the whistle blows. I'm
gwine to start right off. You may not see me, but I'll not be far off.
Keep a stiff upper lip, an' don't git into no panic. The whole thing is
gwine through like it was on skids, an' the skids greased."



CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

_Cephas Has His Troubles_


Usually there is a yawning gulf between youth and old age; but in the
case of Mrs. Lumsden and Nan Dorrington, it was spanned by the
simplicity and tenderness common to both. Whether any of the ancients or
moderns have mentioned the fact, it is hardly worth while to inquire,
but good-humour is a form of tenderness. Those who are easy to laugh are
likewise ready to be sorry, and they have a fund of sympathy to draw on
whenever the necessity arises. Simplicity and tenderness connect the
highest wisdom with the deepest ignorance, and find the elements of
brotherhood where the intellect is unable to discern it. It was
simplicity and tenderness that bridged the gulf of years that lay
between the old gentlewoman and the young girl. Age can find no comfort
for itself unless it can make terms with youth. Where it stands alone,
depending upon the respect that should belong to what is venerable,
there is something gruesome about it. It quenches the high spirits of
children and young people, and chills their enthusiasm. All that it does
for them is to give notorious advertisement to the complexion to which
they must all come at last. "You see these wrinkled and flabby
features, this gray hair, these faded and watery eyes, these shaking
limbs and trembling hands: well, this is what you must come to." And,
indeed, it is an object lesson well calculated to sober and subdue the
giddy.

Now, age had dealt very gently with Gabriel's grandmother; it became her
well. Her white hair was even more beautiful now than it had been when
she was young, as Meriwether Clopton often declared. Her eyes were
bright, and all her sympathies were as keenly alive as they had been
fifty years before. She had kept in touch with Gabriel and the young
people about her, and none of her faculties had been impaired. She was
the gentlest of gentlewomen.

Once Nan had asked her--"Grandmother Lumsden, what is the perfume I
smell every time I come here? You have it on your clothes."

"Life Everlasting, my dear." For one brief and fleeting instant, Nan had
the odd feeling that she could see millions and millions of years into
the future. Life Everlasting! She caught her breath. But the vision or
feeling was swept away by the placid voice of Mrs. Lumsden. "I believe
you and Gabriel call it rabbit tobacco," she explained.

Nan had a great longing to be with Mrs. Lumsden the moment she heard
that Gabriel had been spirited away by the strong arm of the Government.
She felt that she would be more comfortable there than at home.

"My dear, what put it into that wise little head of yours to come and
comfort an old woman?" Mrs. Lumsden asked, when Meriwether Clopton and
Miss Fanny Tomlin had taken their departure. She was still sitting close
to Nan, caressing her hand.

"I thought you would be lonely with Gabriel gone, and I just made up my
mind to come. I was afraid until I reached the door, and then I wasn't
afraid any more. If you don't want me, I'll soon find it out."

"I can't tell you how glad I am, Nan, to have you here; and I can guess
your feelings. No doubt you were shocked to hear that Francis Bethune
had been taken with the rest." The dear old lady had the knack of
clinging to her ideas.

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Grandmother Lumsden. I care no
more for Mr. Bethune than I do for the others--perhaps not so much."

"I don't know why it is," said Mrs. Lumsden, "but I have always looked
forward to the day when you and Francis would be married."

"I've heard you talk that way before, and I've often wondered why you
did it."

"Oh, well! perhaps it is one of my foolish dreams," said Mrs. Lumsden
with a sigh.

"Your father's plantation and that of Francis's grandfather are side by
side, and I have thought it would be romantic for the heirs to join
hands and make the two places one."

"I can't see anything romantic in that, Grandmother Lumsden. It's like a
sum in arithmetic."

"Well, you must allow old people to indulge in their dreams, my dear.
When you are as old as I am, and have seen as much of life, you will
have different ideas about romance."

"I hope, ma'am, that your next dream will be truer," said Nan, almost
playfully.

That night, Nan lay awake for a long time. At last she slipped out of
bed, felt her way around it, and leaned over and kissed Gabriel's
grandmother. In an instant she felt the motherly arms of the old
gentlewoman around her.

"Is that the way you do, when Gabriel comes and kisses you in the
night?" whispered Nan wistfully.

"Yes, yes, my dear--many times."

"Oh, I am so glad!" the words exhaled from the girl's lips in a
long-drawn, trembling sigh. Then she went back to her place in bed, and
soon both the comforter and the comforted were sound asleep.

As has been hinted, the moment Mr. Sanders discovered there was some
slight chance of getting a message to Gabriel, he became one of the
busiest men in Shady Dale, though his industry was not immediately
apparent to his friends and neighbours. Among those whom he took
occasion to see was Mr. Tidwell, whose son Jesse was among the
prisoners.

"Gus," said Mr. Sanders, without any ceremony, "you remember the row you
come mighty nigh havin' wi' Tomlin Perdue, not so many years ago?"

"Yes; I remember something of it," replied Mr. Tidwell. He was a man who
ordinarily went with his head held low, as though engaged in deep
thought. When spoken to he straightened up, and thereby seemed to add
several inches to his height.

"Well, it's got to be done over ag'in," remarked Mr. Sanders. "It
happened in Malvern, didn't it?"

"Yes, in the depot," replied Mr. Tidwell. "We were both on our way to
Atlanta, and the Major misunderstood something I had said."

"Egzackly! Well, it must be done over ag'in."

Mr. Tidwell lowered his head and appeared to reflect. Then he
straightened up again, and his face was very serious. "Mr. Sanders, has
Tomlin Perdue been dropping his wing about that fuss? Has he been making
remarks?"

"Oh, I reckon not," replied Mr. Sanders cheerfully. "But I've got a
mighty good reason for axin' you about it. Come in your office, Gus, an'
I'll tell you all I know, an' it won't take me two minnits."

They went in and closed the door, and remained in consultation for some
time. While they were thus engaged, Silas Tomlin came to the door, tried
the bolt, and finding that it would not yield, walked restlessly up and
down, preyed upon by many strange and conflicting emotions. He had
evidently gone through much mental suffering. His face was drawn and
haggard, and his clothes were shabbier than ever. He took no account of
time, but walked up and down, waiting for Mr. Tidwell to come out, and
as he walked he was the victim both of his fears and his affections. One
moment, he heartily wished that he might never see his son again; the
next he would have given everything he possessed to have the boy back,
and hear once more the familiar, "Hello, father!"

After awhile, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Tidwell came forth from the lawyer's
office. They appeared to be in fine humour, for both were laughing, as
though some side-splitting joke had just passed between them.

"There's no doubt about it, Mr. Sanders," Lawyer Tidwell was saying,
"you ought to be a major-general!"

"I declare, Tidwell!" exclaimed Silas, with something like indignation,
"I don't see how you can go around happy and laughing under the
circumstances. You do like you could fetch your son back with a laugh. I
wish I could fetch Paul back that way."

"Well, he'd stay whar he is, Silas," said Mr. Sanders, with a benevolent
smile, "ef his comin' back had to be brung about by any hilarity from
you. Why, you ain't laughed but once sence you was a baby, an' when you
heard the sound of it you set up a howl that's lasted ever sence."

"If you think, Silas, that crying will bring the boys back," said Mr.
Tidwell, "I'll join you in a crying-match, and stand here and boohoo
with you just as long as you want to."

"I just called by to see if you had heard any news," remarked Silas,
taking no offence at the sarcastic utterances of the two men. "I am just
obliged to get some news. I am on pins: I can't sleep at night; and my
appetite is gone."

Mr. Sanders looked at the man's haggard face, and immediately became
serious and sympathetic. "Well, I tell you, Silas, you needn't worry
another minnit. The only one amongst 'em that's in real trouble is
Gabriel Tolliver. I've looked into the case from A to Izzard, an' that's
the way it stan's."

"That is perfectly true," assented Mr. Tidwell. "We can account for the
movements of all the boys on the night of the killing except those of
Tolliver; and he is in considerable danger. By the way, Silas, you said
some time ago--oh, ever so long ago--that you would bring me a copy of
_Blackwood's Magazine_. You remember there was a story in it you wanted
me to read."

"No, I--well, I tried to find it; I hunted for it high and low; but I
haven't been able to put my hands on it. But I've had so much trouble of
one kind and another, that I clean forgot it. I'm glad you mentioned it;
I'll try to find it again."

"Well, as a lawyer," said Mr. Tidwell, somewhat significantly--or so it
seemed to Silas--"I don't charge you a cent for telling you that your
case wouldn't stand a minnit."

"My case--my case! What case? I have no case. Why, I don't know what you
are talking about." He shook his head and waved his hand nervously.

"Oh, I remember now; your case was purely hypothetical," said Mr.
Tidwell. "Well, your _Blackwood_ was wrong about it."

"That's what I thought," Silas assented with a grunt; and with that, he
turned abruptly away, and went in the direction of his house.

"I'll tell you what's the fact," remarked Mr. Sanders, as he watched the
shabby and shrunken figure retreat; "I'm about to change my mind about
Silas. I used to think he was mean all through; but he's got a nice warm
place in his heart for that son of his'n. I declare I feel right sorry
for the man."

Before Cephas went away, he was not too busy learning the lessons Mr.
Sanders had set for him to forget to hunt up Nan Dorrington and tell her
the wonderful news; to-wit, that he was about to go on a journey, and
that while he was gone he would most likely see Gabriel.

"Well," said Nan, drawing herself up a little stiffly, "what is that to
me?" Unfortunately, Cephas had come upon the girl when she was talking
with Eugenia Claiborne, who had sought her out at the Lumsden Place.

Cephas looked at her hard a moment, and then his freckled face turned
red. He was properly angry. "Well, whatever it may be to you, it's a
heap to me," he said. "I hope it's nothing to you."

"Cephas, will you see Paul Tomlin?" asked Eugenia. "If you do, tell him
that one of his friends sent him her love."

"Is it sure enough love?" inquired Cephas.

"Yes, Cephas, it is," replied Eugenia simply and seriously--but her face
was very red. "Tell him that Eugenia Claiborne sent him her love."

"All right," said Cephas, and turned away without looking at Nan. She
had hurt his feelings.

This turn of affairs didn't suit Nan at all. She ran after Cephas, and
caught him by the arm. "Aren't you ashamed of yourself, Cephas, to treat
me so? How could I tell you anything before others? If you see Gabriel,
tell him--oh, I don't know what to say. If I was to tell you what I want
to, you'd say that Nan Dorrington had lost her mind. No, I'll not send
any word, Cephas. It wouldn't be proper in a young lady. If he asks
about me, just tell him that I am well and happy."

She turned away, in response to a call from Eugenia Claiborne, but she
kept her eyes on Cephas for some time. Evidently she wished to send a
message, but was afraid to. "Don't be angry with me, Cephas," she said,
before the youngster got out of hearing. Cephas made no reply, but
trudged on stolidly. He was at the age when a boy is easily disgusted
with girls and young women. You may call them sweet creatures if you
want to, but a twelve-year-old boy is not to be deceived by fine words.
The sweet creatures are under no restraints when dealing with small
boys, and the small boys are well acquainted with all their worst
traits. What is most strange is that this intimate knowledge is of no
service to them when they grow a little older. They forget all about it
and fall into the first trap that love sets for them.

Cephas was angry without knowing why. He felt that both Gabriel and
himself had been insulted, though he couldn't have explained the nature
of the insult; and he was all the angrier because he was fond of Nan.
She had been very kind to the little boy--kinder, perhaps, than he
deserved, for he had made the impulsive young lady the victim of many a
practical joke.

As Cephas went along, it suddenly occurred to him that he had done wrong
to say anything about his proposed journey, and the thought took away
all his resentment. He whirled in his tracks, and ran back to where he
had left the girls. He saw Eugenia Claiborne sauntering along the
street, but Nan was nowhere in sight. He had no trouble in pledging Miss
Claiborne to secrecy, for she was very fond of all sorts of secrets, and
could keep them as well as another girl.

Nan, she informed Cephas, had expressed a determination to visit him at
his own home, and, in fact, Cephas found her there. She was as sweet as
sugar, and was not at all the same Nan who had drawn herself up proudly
and as good as told Cephas that it was nothing to her that he was going
to see Gabriel. No; this was another Nan, and she had a troubled look in
her eyes that Cephas had never seen there before.

"I came to see if you were still angry, Cephas," she said by way of
explanation. "I wasn't very nice to you, was I?"

"Well, I hope you don't mind Cephas," said the lad's mother. "If you do,
he'll keep you guessing. Has he been rude to you, Nan?"

And it was then that Cephas heard praise poured on his name in a steady
stream. Cephas rude! Cephas saucy! A thousand times no! Why, he was the
best, the kindest, and the brightest child in the town. Nan was so much
in earnest that Cephas had to blush.

"I didn't know," said his mother. "He has been going with those large
boys so much that I was afraid he was getting too big for his breeches."
She loved her son, but she had no illusions about the nature of boys;
she knew them well.

"Are you still angry, Cephas?" Nan asked. She appeared very anxious to
be sure on that score.

"N-o-o," replied Cephas, somewhat doubtfully; he hesitated to surrender
the advantage that he saw he had.

"Yes, you are," said Nan, "and I think it is very unkind of you. I am
sorry you misunderstood me; if you only knew how I really feel, and how
much trouble I have, you would be sorry instead of angry."

"I'm the one to blame," said Cephas penitently. "Gabriel says you
dislike him, and I thought he was only guessing. But he knew better than
I did. I had no business to bother you."

Nan caught her breath. "Did Gabriel say I disliked him?"

"He didn't say that word," replied Cephas. "I think he said you detested
him, and I told him he didn't know what he was talking about. But he
did; he knew a great deal better than I did, because I didn't really
know until just now."

"But, Cephas!" cried Nan; "what could have put such an idea in his
head?" Cephas's mother was now busy about the house.

"I didn't know then, but I know now," remarked the boy stolidly.

"Don't be unkind, Cephas. If you knew me better, you'd be sorry for me.
You and Gabriel are terribly mistaken. I'm very fond of both of you."

"Oh, _I_ don't count in this game," Cephas declared.

"Oh, yes, you do," said Nan. "You are one of my dearest friends, and so
is Gabriel."

"All right," said Cephas. "If you treat all your dearest friends as you
do Gabriel, I'm very sorry for them."

"Cephas, if you tell Gabriel what I said while Eugenia Claiborne was
standing there, all ears, I'll never forgive you." Nan was at her wit's
end.

"Tell him that!" cried Cephas; "why, I wouldn't tell him that, not for
all the world. I'll tell him nothing."

"Please, Cephas," said Nan. "Tell him"--she paused, and threw her hair
away from her pale face--"tell him that if he doesn't come home soon, I
shall die!" Then her face turned from pale to red, and she laughed
loudly.

"Well, I certainly sha'n't tell him that," said Cephas.

"I didn't think you would," said Nan. "You are a nice little boy, and I
am going to kiss you good-bye. If you don't have something sweet to tell
me when you come back, I'll think you detest me--wasn't that Gabriel's
word? Poor Gabriel! he's in prison, and here we are joking about him."

"I'm not joking about him!" exclaimed Cephas.

"Just as much as I am," said Nan; and then she leaned over and kissed
Cephas's freckled face, leaving it very red after the operation.



CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

_Mr. Sanders Visits Some of His Old Friends_


It will be observed by those who are accustomed to make note of trifles,
that the chronicler, after packing Cephas off in a barouche with the
handsome Captain Falconer, still manages to retain him in Shady Dale.
For the sake of those who may be puzzled over the matter, let us say
that it is a mistake of the reporter. That is the way our public men
dispose of their unimportant inconsistencies--and the reporter, for his
part, can say that the trouble is due to a typographical error. The
truth is, however, that when a cornfield chronicler finds himself
entangled in a rush of events, even if they are minor ones, he feels
compelled to resort to that pattern of the "P. S." which is so
comforting to the lady writers, and so captivating to their readers.

Mr. Sanders is supposed to be on his way to Savannah on the same train
with Cephas and Captain Falconer, supposing the train to be on time.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to give a further account of his movements
before he started on the journey that was to prove to be such an
important event in Gabriel's career.

On the third morning after the arrest of the young men, Mrs. Lumsden
expressed a desire to see Mr. Sanders, but he was nowhere to be found.
Many sympathetic persons, including Nan Dorrington, joined in the
search, but it proved to be a fruitless one. As a matter of fact, Mr.
Sanders had gone to bed early the night before, but a little after
midnight he awoke with a start. This was such an unusual experience that
he permitted it to worry him. He had had no dream, he had heard no
noise; yet he had suddenly come out of a sound and refreshing sleep with
every faculty alert. He struck a match, and looked at his watch. It was
a quarter to one.

"I wish, plague take 'em!" he said with a snort, "that somebody would
whirl in an' make a match that wouldn't smifflicate the whole house an'
lot."

He lit the candle, and then proceeded to draw on his clothes. In the
course of this proceeding, he lay back on the bed with his hands under
his head. He lay thus for some minutes, and then suddenly jumped to his
feet with an exclamation. He put on his clothes in a hurry, and went out
to the stables, where he gave his horse a good feed--seventeen ears of
corn and two bundles of fodder.

Then he returned to the house, and rummaged around until he found a
pitcher of buttermilk and a pone of corn-bread, which he disposed of
deliberately, and with great relish. This done, he changed his clothes,
substituting for those he wore every day the suit he wore on Sundays and
holidays. When all these preparations were complete, the hands of his
watch stood at quarter past three. He had delayed and dillydallied in
order to give his horse time to eat. The animal had taken advantage of
the opportunity, for when Mr. Sanders went to the stables, the Racking
Roan was playfully tossing the bare cobs about in the trough with his
flexible upper lip.

"Be jigged ef your appetite ain't mighty nigh as good as mine," he
remarked, whereupon the roan playfully bit at him. "Don't do that, my
son," protested Mr. Sanders. "Can't you see I've got on my Sunday duds?"

To bridle and saddle the horse was a matter of a few moments only, and
when Mr. Sanders mounted, the spirited horse was so evidently in for a
frolic that he was going at a three-minute gait by the time the rider
had thrown a leg over the saddle.

A horseback ride, when the weather is fine and the sun is shining, is a
very pleasing experience, but it is not to be compared to a ride in the
dark, provided you are on good terms with your horse, and are familiar
with the country. You surrender yourself entirely to the creature's
movements, and if he is a horse equipped with courage, common-sense and
energy, you are lifted entirely out of your everyday life into the
regions of romance and derring-do--whatever that may be. There is no
other feeling like it, no other pleasure to be compared to it; all the
rest smell of the earth.

"I'm sorter glad I lit that match," Mr. Sanders remarked to the horse.
"It's like gittin' a whiff of the Bad Place, an' then breathin' the
fresh air of heav'n." The reply of the roan was a sharp affirmative
snort.

The sun was just rising when Mr. Sanders rode into Halcyondale.
Coincident with his arrival, the train from Atlanta came in with a
tremendous clatter. There was much creaking and clanking as it slowed up
at the modest station. It paused just long enough for the mail-bag and a
trunk to be thrown off with a bang, and then it went puffing away. Short
as the pause had been, one of the passengers, in the person of Colonel
Bolivar Blasengame, had managed to escape from it. The Colonel, with his
valise in his hand, paused to watch the train out of sight, and then
leisurely made his way toward his home. To reach that point, he was
compelled to cross the public square, and as he emerged from the side
street leading to the station, he met Mr. Sanders, who had also been
watching the train.

"Hello, Colonel, how are you? We belong apparently to the early bird
society."

"Good-morning, Mr. Sanders," replied the Colonel, with a smile of
friendly welcome. "What wind has blown you over here?"

"Why, I want to see Major Perdue. You know we have had trouble in our
settlement."

"And you want to see Tomlin because you have had trouble; but why is it,
Mr. Sanders, that your people never think of me when you have trouble?
Am I losing caste in your community?"

"Well, you know, Colonel, you haven't been over sence the year one; an'
then the Major is kinder kin to one of the chaps that's been took off."

"Exactly; but did it ever occur to you that whoever is kin to Tomlin is
a little kin to me," remarked the Colonel. "Tomlin is my
brother-in-law--But where are you going now?"

"Well, I thought I would go to the tavern, have my hoss put up an' fed,
git a snack of somethin' to eat, an' then call on the Major."

"You hadn't heard, I reckon, that the tavern is closed, and the
livery-stable broke up," said the Colonel, by way of giving the visitor
some useful information.

At that moment a negro came out on the veranda of the hotel--only the
older people called it a tavern--and rang the bell that meant breakfast
in half an hour.

"What's that?" inquired Mr. Sanders, though he knew well enough.

"It's pure habit," replied the Colonel. "That nigger has been ringing
the bell so long that he can't quit it. Anyhow, you can't go to the
tavern, and you can't go to Tomlin's. He's got a mighty big family to
support, Tomlin has. He's fixin' up to have a son-in-law, and he's
already got a daughter, and old Minervy Ann, who brags that she can eat
as much as she can cook. No, you can't impose on Tomlin."

"Then, what in the world will I do?" Mr. Sanders asked with a laugh. He
was perfectly familiar with the tactics of the Colonel.

"Well, there wasn't any small-pox or measles at my house when I left day
before yesterday. Suppose we go there, and see if there's anything the
matter. If the stable hasn't blown away or burned down, maybe you'll
find a place for your horse, and then we can scuffle around maybe, and
find something to eat. That's a fine animal you're on. He's the one, I
reckon, that walked the stringer, after the bridge had been washed away.
I never could swallow that tale, Mr. Sanders."

"Nor me nuther," replied Mr. Sanders. "All I know is that he took me
across the river one dark night after a fresh, an' some folks on t'other
side wouldn't believe I had come across. They got to the place whar the
bridge ought to 'a' been long before dark, and they found it all gone
except one stringer. I seed the stringer arterwards, but I never could
make up my mind that my hoss walked it wi' me a-straddle of his back."

"Still, if he was my horse," Colonel Blasengame remarked, "I wouldn't
take a thousand dollars for him, and I reckon you've heard it rumoured
around that I haven't got any more money than two good steers could
pull."

Mr. Sanders turned his horse's head in the direction that Colonel
Blasengame was going, and when they arrived at his home, he stopped at
the gate. "Mr. Sanders," he said, taking out his watch, "I'll bet you
two dollars and a half to a horn button that breakfast will be ready in
ten minutes, and that everything will be fixed as if company was
expected."

And it was true. By the time the horse had been put in the stable and
fed, breakfast was ready, and when Mr. Sanders was ushered into the
room, Mrs. Blasengame was sitting in her place at the table pouring out
coffee. She was a frail little woman, but her eyes were bright with
energy, and she greeted the unexpected guest as cordially as if he had
come on her express invitation. She had little to say at any time, but
when she spoke her words were always to the purpose.

"What did you accomplish?" she asked her husband, after Mr. Sanders, as
in duty bound, had praised the coffee and the biscuit, and the meal was
well under way.

"Nothing, honey; not a thing in the world. I thought the boys had been
carried to Atlanta, but they are at Fort Pulaski."

Mrs. Blasengame said nothing more, and the Colonel was for talking about
something else, but the curiosity of Mr. Sanders was aroused.

"What boys was you referrin' to, Colonel?" he asked.

"I don't like to tell you, Mr. Sanders," replied Colonel Blasengame,
"but if you'll take no offence, I'll say that the boys are from a little
one-horse country settlement called Shady Dale, a place where the people
are asleep day and night. A parcel of Yankees went over there the other
night, snatched four boys out of their beds, and walked off with them."

"That's so," Mr. Sanders assented.

"Yes, it's so," cried the Colonel hotly. "And it's a----" He caught the
eye of his wife and subsided. "Excuse me, honey; I'm rather wrought up
over this thing. What worries me," he went on, "is that the boys were
yerked out of bed, and carried off, and then their own families went to
sleep again. But suppose they didn't turn over and go back to sleep:
doesn't that make matters worse? I can't understand it to save my life.
Why, if it had happened here, the whole town would have been wide awake
in ten minutes, and the boys would never have been carried across the
corporation line. Tomlin is mighty near wild about it. If I hadn't gone
to Atlanta, he would have gone; and you know how he is, honey. Somebody
would have got hurt."

Yet, strange to say, Major Tomlin Perdue was far cooler and more
deliberate than his brother-in-law, Colonel Blasengame. It was the
peculiarity of each that he was anxious to assume all the dangerous
responsibilities with which the other might be confronted; and the only
serious dispute between the two men was in the shape of a hot
controversy as to which should call to account the writer of a card in
which Major Perdue was criticised somewhat more freely than politeness
warranted.

"You are correct in your statement about the four boys bein' took away,"
said Mr. Sanders, "but you'll have to remember that the woods ain't so
full of Blasengames an' Perdues as they used to be; an' you ain't got in
this town a big, heavy balance-wheel the size an' shape of Meriwether
Clopton."

"Yes, dear, you were about to be too hasty in your remarks," suggested
Mrs. Blasengame. Her soft voice had a strangely soothing effect on her
husband. "If some of our young men had been seized, all of us, including
you, my dear, would have been in a state of paralysis, just as our
friends in Shady Dale were."

"The only man in town that know'd it," Mr. Sanders explained, "was Silas
Tomlin. He was sleepin' in the same room wi' Paul, an' they rousted him
out, an' took him along. They carried him four or five mile. He had to
walk back, an' by the time he got home, the sun was up."

"That puts a new light on it," said the Colonel, "and Tomlin will be as
glad to hear it as I am. But I wonder what the rest of the State will
think of us."

"My dear, didn't these young men, and the Yankees who arrested them,
take the train here?" inquired Mrs. Blasengame. She nodded to Mr.
Sanders, and a peculiar smile began to play over that worthy's features.

"By George! I believe they did, honey!" exclaimed the Colonel.

"And in broad daylight?" persisted the lady.

To this the Colonel made no reply, and Mr. Sanders became the
complainant. "I dunner what we're comin' to," he declared, "when a
passel of Yankees can yerk four of our best young men on a train in this
town in broad daylight, an' all the folks a-stanin' aroun' gapin' at
'em, an' wonderin' what they're gwine to do next."

"Say no more, Mr. Sanders; say no more--the mule is yours." This in the
slang of the day meant that the point at issue had been surrendered.

"I suppose Lucy Lumsden is utterly crushed on Gabriel's account,"
remarked Mrs. Blasengame.

"Crushed!" exclaimed Mr. Sanders; "no, ma'am! not much, if any. She's
fightin' mad."

"I know well how she feels," said the pale, bright-eyed little woman.
"It is a pity the men can't have the same feeling."

"Why, honey, what good would it do?" the Colonel asked, somewhat
querulously.

"It would do no good; it would do harm--to some people."

"And yet," said the Colonel, turning to Mr. Sanders with a protesting
frown on his face, "when I want to show some fellow that I'm still on
top of the ground, or when Tomlin takes down his gun and goes after some
rascal, she makes such a racket that you'd think the world was coming to
an end."

"A racket! I make a racket? Why, Mr. Blasengame, I'm ashamed of you! the
idea!"

"Well, racket ain't the word, I reckon; but you look so sorry, honey,
that to me it's the same as making a racket. It takes all the grit out
of me when I know that you are sitting here, wondering what minute I'll
be brought home cut into jiblets, or shot full of holes."

Mrs. Blasengame laughed, as she rose from the table. She stood tiptoe to
pin a flower in her husband's button-hole.

"You've missed a good deal, Mr. Sanders," said the Colonel, stooping to
kiss his wife. "You don't know what a comfort it is to have a little bit
of a woman to boss you, and cuss you out with her eyes when you git on
the wrong track."

"Yes," said Mr. Sanders, "I allers feel like a widower when I see a man
reely in love wi' his wife. It's a sight that ain't as common as it used
to be. We'll go now, if you're ready, an' see the Major. I ain't got
much time to tarry."

"Oh, you want me to go too?" said the Colonel eagerly. "Well, I'm your
man; you can just count on me, no matter what scheme you've got on
hand."

They went to Major Perdue's, and were ushered in by Minervy Ann. "I'm
mighty glad you come," said she; "kaze 'taint been ten minnits sence
Marse Tomlin wuz talkin' 'bout gwine over dar whar you live at; an' he
ain't got no mo' business in de hot sun dan a rabbit is got in a blazin'
brushpile. Miss Vallie done tole 'im so, an' I done tole 'im so. He went
ter bed wid de headache, an' he got up wid it; an' what you call dat, ef
'taint bein' sick? But, sick er well, he'll be mighty glad ter see you."

Aunt Minervy Ann made haste to inform the Major that he had visitors. "I
tuck 'em in de settin'-room," she said, "kaze dat parlour look ez cold
ez a funer'l. It give me de shivers eve'y time I go in dar. De cheers
set dar like dey waitin' fer ter make somebody feel like dey ain't
welcome, an' dat ar sofy look like a coolin'-board."

Mr. Sanders was very much at home in the Major's house; he had dandled
Vallie on his knee when she was a baby; and he had made the Major's
troubles his own as far as he could. Consequently the greeting he
received was as cordial as he could have desired. "Major," he said, when
he found opportunity to state the nature of his business, "do you know
young Gabe Tolliver?"

"Mighty well--mighty well," responded Major Perdue, "and a fine boy he
is. He'll make his mark some day."

"Not onless we do somethin' to help him out. They ain't no way in the
world he can prove that he didn't kill that feller Hotchkiss. Ike Varner
done the killin', but he's gone, an' I think his wife is fixin' to go to
Atlanta. They've got the dead wood on Gabriel. They ain't no case at all
ag'in the rest; but you know how Gabriel is--he goes moonin' about in
the fields both day an' night, an' it's mighty hard for to put your
finger on him when you want him. An' to make it wuss, Hotchkiss called
his name more'n once before he died. It looks black for Gabriel, an' we
must do somethin' for him."

Major Perdue leaned forward a little, a frown on his face, and stretched
forth his left hand, in the palm of which he placed the forefinger of
his right. "I'll tell you what, Mr. Sanders, I'm just as much obliged to
you for coming to me as if you had saved me from drowning. I have come
to the point where I can't hold in much longer, and maybe you'll keep me
from making a fool of myself. I'll say beforehand, I don't care what
your plan is; I don't care to know it--just count on me."

"And where do I come in?" Colonel Blasengame inquired.

"Right by my side," responded Major Perdue.

Without further preliminaries, Mr. Sanders set forth the details of the
programme that had arranged itself in his mind, and when he was through,
Major Perdue leaned back in his chair, and gazed with admiration at the
bland and child-like countenance of this Georgia cracker. The innocence
of childhood shone in Mr. Sanders's blue eyes.

"I swear, Mr. Sanders, I'm sorry I didn't have the pleasure of serving
with you in Virginia. If there is anything in this world that I like
it's a man with a head on him, and that's what you've got. You can count
on us if we are alive. I don't know how Bolivar feels about it, but I
feel that you have done me a great favour in thinking of me in
connection with this business. You couldn't pay either of us a higher
compliment."

"Tomlin expresses my views exactly," said Colonel Blasengame; "yet I
feel that one of us will be enough. It may be that your scheme will
fail, and that those who are engaged in it will have to take the
consequence. Now, I'd rather take 'em alone than to have Tumlin mixed up
with it."

"Fiddlesticks, Bolivar! you couldn't keep me out of it unless you had a
bench-warrant served on me five minutes before the train left, and if
you try that, I'll have one served on you. Now, don't forget to tell
Tidwell that I'll be glad to renew that dispute. I bear no malice, but
when it comes to a row, I don't need malice to keep my mind and my gun
in working order. I'm going down to Malvern to-morrow, and before I come
away, I'll have everything fixed. There are some details, you know, that
never occurred to you: the police, for instance. Well, the chief of
police is a very good friend of mine, and the major was Bolivar's
adjutant."

"Well, I thank the Lord for all his mercies!" cried Mr. Sanders; and he
meant what he said.



CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

_Nan and Margaret_


It was hinted in some of the early chapters of this chronicle that none
of the characters would turn out to be very heroic, but this was a
mistake. The chronicler had forgotten a few episodes that grew out of
the expedition of Cephas to Fort Pulaski--episodes that should have
stood out clear in his memory from the first. Cephas was very meek and
humble when he started on his expedition, so much so that there were
long moments when he would have given a large fortune, if he had
possessed it, to be safe at home with his mother. A hundred times he
asked himself why he had been foolish enough to come away from home, and
trust himself to the cold mercy of the world; and he promised himself
faithfully that if he ever got back home alive, he would never leave
there again.

Captain Falconer was very kind and attentive to the lad, but he was also
very inquisitive. He asked Cephas a great many artful questions, all
leading up to the message he was to deliver to Gabriel; but the
instructions he had received from Mr. Sanders made Cephas more than a
match for the Captain. When the lad came to the years of maturity, he
often wondered how a plain and comparatively ignorant countryman could
foresee the questions that were to be asked, and provide simple and
satisfactory answers to them; and the matter is still a mystery.

Well, Cephas was not a hero when he started, and if the truth is to be
told, he developed none of the symptoms until he had returned home
safely, accompanied by Mr. Sanders. Then he became the lion of the
village, and was sought after by old and young. All wanted to hear the
story of his wonderful adventures. He speedily became a celebrated
Cephas, and when he found that he was really regarded as a hero by his
schoolmates, and by some of the young women, he was quick to appropriate
the character. He became reticent; he went about with a sort of weary
and travel-worn look, as if he had seen everything that was worth
seeing, and heard everything that was worth hearing.

Now, what Cephas had seen and heard was bad enough. He could hardly be
brought to believe that the haggard and wild-eyed young fellow who
answered to Gabriel's name at the fort was the Gabriel that he had
known, and when he made up his mind that it really was Gabriel, he
couldn't hold the tears back. "Brace up, old man," said Gabriel. It was
then in a choking voice that Cephas delivered Mr. Sanders's message,
using the dog-latin which they both knew so well. And in that tongue
Gabriel told Cephas of the tortures to which he and his fellow-prisoners
had been subjected, of the horrors of the sweat-boxes, and the terrors
of the wrist-rack. So effective was the narrative that Gabriel rattled
off in the school tongue, that when he was ordered back to his solitary
cell, Cephas turned away weeping. He was no hero then; he was simply a
small boy with a tender heart.

There were grave faces at Shady Dale when Cephas told what he had seen
and heard. Major Tomlin Perdue, of Halcyondale, became almost savage
when he heard of the indignities to which the unfortunate young men had
been subjected. He wrote a card and published it in the _Malvern
Recorder_, and the card was so much to the purpose, and created such
indignation in the State, that the authorities at Washington took
cognisance thereof, and issued orders that there was to be no more
torture of the prisoners. This fact, however, was not known until months
afterward, and, meanwhile, the newspapers of Georgia were giving a wide
publicity to the cruelties which had been practised on the young men,
and radicalism became the synonym of everything that was loathsome and
detestable. Reprisals were made in all parts of the State, and as was to
be expected, the negroes were compelled to bear the brunt of all the
excitement and indignation.

The tale that Cephas told to Mr. Sanders was modest when compared to the
inventions that occurred to his mind after he found how easy it was to
be a hero. Though he pretended to be heartily tired of the whole
subject, there was nothing that tickled him more than to be cornered by
a crowd of his schoolmates and comrades, all intent on hearing anew the
awful recital which Cephas had prepared after his return.

One of the first to seek Cephas out was Nan Dorrington, and this was
precisely what the young hero wanted. He was very cold and indifferent
when Nan besought him to tell her all about his trip. How did he enjoy
himself? and didn't he wish he was back at home many a time? And what
did Paul and Jesse have to say? Ah, Cephas had his innings now!

"I didn't see Paul and Jesse," replied Cephas, "and I didn't see Francis
Bethune."

"Did they have them hid?" asked Nan.

"I don't know. The one I saw was in a black dungeon. I couldn't hardly
see his face, and when I did see it, I was sorry I saw it." Cephas
leaned back against the fence with the air of a fellow who has seen too
much. Nan was dying to ask a hundred questions about the one Cephas had
seen, but she resented his indifferent and placid attitude. All heroes
are placid and indifferent when they discuss their deeds, but they
wouldn't be if the public in general felt toward them as Nan felt toward
Cephas. The only reason she didn't seize the little fellow and give him
a good shaking was the fact that she was dying to hear all he had to say
about his visit, and all about Gabriel.

Gradually Cephas thawed out. One or the other had to surrender, and the
small boy had no such incentive to silence as Nan had. His pride was not
involved, whereas Nan would have gone to the rack and suffered herself
to be pulled to pieces before she would have asked any direct questions
about Gabriel.

"I'm mighty sorry I went," said Cephas finally, and then he stopped
short.

"Why?" inquired Nan.

"Oh, well--I don't know exactly. I thought I would find everybody just
like they were before they went away, but the one I saw looked like a
drove of mules had trompled on him. He didn't have on any coat, and his
shirt was torn and dirty, and his face looked like he had been sick a
month. His eyes were hollow, and had black circles around them."

"Did he say anything?" asked Nan in a low tone.

"Yes, he said, 'Brace up, old man.'"

"Was that all?"

"And then he asked if anybody had sent him any word, and I said, 'Nobody
but Mr. Sanders'; and then he said, 'I might have known that he wouldn't
forget me.'" Cephas could see Nan crushing her handkerchief in her hand,
and he enjoyed it immensely.

"Was he angry with any one?" Nan asked.

"Why, when did anybody ever hear of his being angry with any one he
thought was a friend?" exclaimed Cephas scornfully. Nan writhed at this,
and Cephas went on. "He had been tied up by the wrists, and then he had
been put in a sweat-box, and nearly roasted--yes, by grabs! pretty nigh
cooked."

"Why, you didn't tell his grandmother that," said Nan.

"Well, I should say not!" exclaimed Cephas. "What do you take me for? Do
you reckon I'd tell that to anybody that cared anything for him? Why, I
wouldn't tell his grandmother that for anything in the world, and if she
was to ask me about it, I'd deny it."

This arrow went home. Cephas had the unmixed pleasure of seeing Nan turn
pale. "I think you are simply awful," she gasped. "You are cruel, and
you are unkind. You know very well that I care something for Gabriel.
Haven't we been friends since we were children together? Do you suppose
I have no feelings?"

"I know what you said when I told you I was going to see Gabriel."

"What was that?" inquired Nan.

"Why, you said, 'Well, what is that to me?'" exclaimed Cephas. He
twisted his face awry, and mimicked Nan's voice with considerable
success, only he made it more spiteful than that charming young woman
could have done.

"Yes, I did say that, but didn't I go to your house, and tell you what
to say to Gabriel?"

Cephas laughed scornfully. "Did you think I was going to swallow the
joke that you and that Claiborne girl hatched up between you? Do you
reckon I'm fool enough to tell Gabriel that you'll die if he don't come
home soon?"

"You didn't tell him, then?"

"No, I didn't," replied Cephas. "I would cut off one of my fingers
before I'd let him know that there were people here at home making fun
of him."

Nan gazed at Cephas as if she suspected him of a joke. But she saw that
he was very much in earnest. "I'm glad you didn't tell him," she said
finally. Then she laughed, saying, "Cephas, I really did think you had a
little sense."

"I have sense enough not to hurt the feelings of them that like me," the
boy replied. And he went on his way, trying to reconcile the Nan
Dorrington who used to be so kind to him with the Nan Dorrington who was
flirting and flitting around with long skirts on. He failed, as older
and more experienced persons have failed.

But you may be sure that he felt himself no less a hero because Nan
Dorrington had hinted that he had no sense. He knew where the lack of
sense was. After awhile, when interested persons ceased to run after him
to get all the particulars of his visit to Fort Pulaski, he threw
himself in their way, and when the details of his journey began to pall
on the appetite of his friends, he invented new ones, and in this way
managed to keep the centre of the stage for some time. When he could no
longer interest the older folk, he had the school-children to fall back
upon, and you may believe that he caused the youngsters to sit with
open-mouthed wonder at the tales he told. The fact that he stammered a
little, and sometimes hesitated for a word, made not the slightest
difference with his audience of young people.

There was one fact that bothered Cephas. He had been told that Francis
Bethune was in love with Margaret Gaither, and he knew that the young
man was a constant caller at Neighbour Tomlin's, where Margaret lived.
Indeed, he had carried notes to her from the young man, and had
faithfully delivered the replies. He judged, therefore, as well as a
small boy can judge, that there was some sort of an understanding
between the two, and he itched for the opportunity to pour the tale of
his adventures into Margaret's ears. He loitered around the house, and
threw himself in Margaret's way when she went out visiting or shopping.
She greeted him very kindly on each particular occasion, but not once
did she betray any interest in Francis Bethune or his fellow-prisoners.

When Nan met Cephas, on the occasion of the interview which has just
been reported, she was on her way to Neighbour Tomlin's to pay a visit
to Margaret, and thither she went, after giving Cephas the benefit of
her views as to his mental capacity. Margaret happened to be out at the
moment, but Miss Fanny insisted that Nan should come in anyhow.

"Margaret will be back directly," Miss Fanny said; "she has only gone to
the stores to match a piece of ribbon. Besides, I want to talk to you a
little while. But good gracious! what is the matter with you? I expected
cheerfulness from you at least, but what do I find? Well, you and
Margaret should live in the same house; they say misery loves company.
Here I was about to ask you why Margaret is unhappy, and I find you
looking out of Margaret's eyes. Are you unhappy, too?"

"No, Aunt Fanny, I'm not unhappy; I'm angry. I don't see why girls
should become grown. Why, I was always in a good humour until I put on
long skirts, and then my troubles began. I can neither run nor play; I
must be on my dignity all the time for fear some one will raise her
hands and say, 'Do look at that Nan Dorrington! Isn't she a bold piece?'
I never was so tired of anything in my life as I am of being grown. I
never will get used to it."

"Oh, you'll get in the habit of it after awhile, child," said Miss
Fanny. "But I never would have believed that Nan Dorrington would care
very much for what people said."

"Oh, it isn't on my account that I care," remarked Nan, with a toss of
her head, "but I don't want my friends to have their feelings hurt by
what other people say. If there is anything in this world I detest it is
dignity--I don't mean Margaret's kind, because she was born so and can't
help it--but the kind that is put on and taken off like a summer bonnet.
If I can't be myself, I'll do like Leese Clopton did, I'll go into a
convent."

"Well, you certainly would astonish the nuns when you began to cut some
of your capers," Miss Fanny declared.

"Am I as bad as all that? Tell me honestly, Aunt Fanny, now while I am
in the humour to hear it, what do I do that is so terrible?"

"Honestly, Nan, you do nothing terrible at all. Not even Miss Puella
Gillum could criticise you."

"Why, Miss Puella never criticises any one. She's just as sweet as she
can be."

"Well, she's an old maid, you know, and old maids are supposed to be
critical," said Miss Fanny. "I'll tell you where all the trouble is,
Nan: you are sensitive, and you have an idea that you must behave as
some of the other girls do--that you must hold your hands and your head
just so. If you would be yourself, and forget all about etiquette and
manners, you'd satisfy everybody, especially yourself."

"Why, that is what worries me now; I do forget all about those things,
and then, all of a sudden, I realise that I am acting like a child, and
a very noisy child at that, and then I'm afraid some one will make
remarks. It is all very miserable and disagreeable, and I wish there
wasn't a long skirt in the world."

"Well, when you get as old as I am," sighed Miss Fanny, "you won't mind
little things like that. Margaret is coming now. I'll leave you with
her. Try to find out why she is unhappy. Pulaski is nearly worried to
death about it, and so am I."

Margaret Gaither came in as sedately as an old woman. She was very fond
of Nan, and greeted her accordingly. Whatever her trouble was, it had
made no attack on her health. She had a fine color, and her eyes were
bright; but there was the little frown between her eyebrows that had
attracted the attention of Gabriel, and it gave her a troubled look.

"If you'll tell me something nice and pleasant," she said to Nan, "I'll
be under many obligations to you. Tell me something funny, or if you
don't know anything funny, tell me something horrible--anything for a
change. I saw Cephas downtown; that child has been trying for days to
tell me of his adventures, and I have been dying to hear them. But I
keep out of his way; I am so perverse that I refuse to give myself that
much pleasure. Oh, if you only knew how mean I am, you wouldn't sit
there smiling. I hear that the dear boys are having a good deal of
trouble. Well, it serves them right; they had no business to be boys.
They should have been girls; then they would have been perfectly happy
all the time. Don't you think so, sweet child?"

Nan regarded her friend with astonishment. She had never heard her talk
in such a strain before. "Why, what is the matter with you, Margaret?
You know that girls can be as unhappy as boys; yes, and a thousand times
more so."

"Oh, I'll never believe it! never!" cried Margaret. "Why, do you mean to
tell me that any girl can be unhappy? You'll have to prove it, Nan;
you'll have to give the name, and furnish dates, and then you'll have to
give the reason. Do you mean to insinuate that you intend to offer
yourself as the horrible example? Fie on you, Nan! You're in love, and
you mistake that state for unhappiness. Why, that is the height of
bliss. Look at me! I'm in love, and see how happy I am!"

"I know one thing," said Nan, and her voice was low and subdued, "if you
go on like that, you'll frighten me away. Do you want to make your best
friends miserable?"

"Why, certainly," replied Margaret. "What are friends for? I should
dislike very much to have a friend that I couldn't make miserable. But
if you think you are going to run away, come up to my room and we'll
lock ourselves in, and then I know you can't get away."

"Now, what is the matter?" Nan insisted, when they had gone upstairs,
and were safe in Margaret's room. She had seized her friend in her arms,
and her tone was imploring.

"I don't think I can tell you, Nan; you would consider me a fool, and I
want to keep your good opinion. But I can tell you a part of my
troubles. He wants me to marry Francis Bethune! Think of that!" She
paused and looked at Nan. "Well, why don't you congratulate me?"

"I'll never believe that," said Nan, decisively. "Did he say that he
wanted you to marry Frank Bethune?" The "he" in this case was Pulaski
Tomlin.

"Well, he didn't insist on it; he's too kind for that. But Francis has
been coming here very often, until our friends in blue gave him a
much-needed rest, and I suppose I must have been going around looking
somewhat gloomy; you know how I am--I can't be gay; and then he asked me
what the trouble was, and finally said that Francis would make me a good
husband. Why, I could have killed myself! Think of me, in this house,
and occupying the position I do!"

Such heat and fury Nan had never seen her friend display before. "Why,
Margaret!" she cried, "you don't know what you are saying. Why, if he or
Aunt Fanny could hear you, they would be perfectly miserable. I don't
see how you can feel that way."

"No, you don't, and I hope you never will!" exclaimed Margaret. "Nobody
knows how I feel. If I could, I would tell you--but I can't, I can't!"

"Margaret," said Nan, in a most serious tone, "has he or Aunt Fanny
ever treated you unkindly?" Nan was prepared to hear the worst.

"Unkindly!" cried Margaret, bursting into tears; "oh, I wish they would!
I wish they would treat me as I deserve to be treated. Oh, if he would
treat me cruelly, or do something to wound my feelings, I would bless
him."

Margaret had led Nan into a strange country, so to speak, and she knew
not which way to turn or what to say. Something was wrong, but what? Of
all Nan's acquaintances, Margaret was the most self-contained, the most
evenly balanced. Many and many a time Nan had envied Margaret's
serenity, and now here she was in tears, after talking as wildly as some
hysterical person.

"Come home with me, Margaret," cried Nan. "Maybe the change would do you
good."

"I thank you, Nan. You are as good as you can be; you are almost as good
as the people here; but I can't go. I can't leave this house for any
length of time until I leave it for good. I'd be wild to get back; my
misery fascinates me; I hate it and hug it."

"I am sure that I don't understand you at all," said Nan, in a tone of
despair.

"No, and you never will," Margaret affirmed. "To understand you would
have to feel as I do, and I hope you may be spared that experience all
the days of your life."

After awhile Nan decided that Margaret would be more comfortable if she
were alone, and so she bade her friend good-bye, and went downstairs,
where she found Miss Fanny awaiting her somewhat impatiently.

"Well, what is the trouble, child?" she asked.

Nan shook her head. "I don't know, Aunt Fanny, and I don't believe she
knows herself."

"But didn't she give you some hint--some intimation? I don't want to be
inquisitive, child; but if she's in trouble, I want to find some remedy
for it. Pulaski is in a terrible state of mind about her, and I am
considerably worried myself. We love her just as much as if she were our
own, and yet we can't go to her and make a serious effort to discover
what is worrying her. She is proud and sensitive, and we have to be very
careful. Oh, I hope we have done nothing to wound that child's
feelings."

"It isn't that," replied Nan. "I asked her, and she said that you
treated her too kindly."

"Well," sighed Miss Fanny, "if she won't confide in us, she'll have to
bear her troubles alone. It is a pity, but sometimes it is best."

And then there came a knock on the door, and it was so sudden and
unexpected that Nan gave a jump.



CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

_Bridalbin Finds His Daughter_


"They's a gentleman out there what says he wanter see Miss Bridalbin,"
said the house-girl who had gone to the door. "I tol' him they wan't no
sech lady here, but he say they is. It's that there Mr. Borin'," the
girl went on, "an' I didn't know if you'd let him go in the parlour."

"Yes, ask him in the parlour," said Miss Fanny, "and then go upstairs
and tell Miss Margaret that some one wants to see her."

"Oh, yessum!" said the house-girl with a laugh; "it's Miss Marg'ret; I
clean forgot her yuther name."

"The rascal certainly has impudence," remarked Miss Fanny. "Pulaski
should know about this." Whereupon, she promptly called Neighbour Tomlin
out of the library, and he came into the room just as Margaret came
downstairs.

"Wait one moment, Margaret," he said. "It may be well for me to see what
this man wants--unless----" He paused. "Do you know this Boring?"

"No; I have heard of him. I have never even seen him that I know of."

"Then I'll see him first," said Neighbour Tomlin. He went into the
parlour, and those who were listening heard a subdued murmur of voices.

"What is your business with Miss Bridalbin?" Neighbour Tomlin asked,
ignoring the proffered hand of the visitor.

"I am her father."

Neighbour Tomlin stood staring at the man as if he were dazed.
Bridalbin's face bore the unmistakable marks of alcoholism, and he had
evidently prepared himself for this interview by touching the bottle,
for he held himself with a swagger.

Neighbour Tomlin said not a word in reply to the man's declaration. He
stared at him, and turned and went back into the sitting-room where he
had left the others.

"Why, Pulaski, what on earth is the matter?" cried Miss Fanny, as he
entered the room. "You look as if you had seen a ghost." And indeed his
face was white, and there was an expression in his eyes that Nan thought
was most piteous.

"Go in, my dear," he said to Margaret. "The man has business with you."
And then, when Margaret had gone out, he turned to Miss Fanny. "It is
her father," he said.

"Well, I wonder what's he up to?" remarked Miss Fanny. There was a touch
of anger in her voice. "She shan't go a step away from here with such a
creature as that."

"She is her own mistress, sister. She is twenty years old," replied
Neighbour Tomlin.

"Well, she'll be very ungrateful if she leaves us," said Miss Fanny,
with some emphasis.

"Don't, sister; never use that word again; to me it has an ugly sound.
We have had no thought of gratitude in the matter. If there is any debt
in the matter, we are the debtors. We have not been at all happy in the
way we have managed things. I have seen for some time that Margaret is
unhappy; and we have no business to permit unhappiness to creep into
this house." So said Neighbour Tomlin, and the tones of his voice seemed
to issue from the fountains of grief.

"Well, I am sure I have done all I could to make the poor child happy,"
Miss Fanny declared.

"I am sure of that," said Neighbour Tomlin. "If any mistake has been
made it is mine. And yet I have never had any other thought than to make
Margaret happy."

"I know that well enough, Pulaski," Miss Fanny assented, "and I have
sometimes had an idea that you thought too much about her for your own
good."

"That is true," he replied. He was a merciless critic of himself in
matters both great and small, and he had no concealments to make. He was
open as the day, except where openness might render others unhappy or
uncomfortable. "Yes, you are right," he insisted; "I have thought too
much about her happiness for my own good, and now I see myself on the
verge of great trouble."

"If Margaret understood the situation," said Miss Fanny, "I think she
would feel differently."

"On the contrary, I think she understands the situation perfectly well;
that is the only explanation of her troubles which she has not sought to
conceal."

At that moment Margaret came to the door. Her face was very pale, almost
ghastly, indeed, but whatever trouble may have looked from her eyes
before, they were clear now. She came into the room with a little smile
hovering around her mouth. She had no eyes for any one but Pulaski
Tomlin, and to him she spoke.

"My father has come," she said. "He is not such a father as I would have
selected; still, he is my father. I knew him the moment I opened the
door. He wants me to go with him; he says he is able to provide for me.
He has claims on me."

"Have we none?" Miss Fanny asked.

"More than anybody in the world," replied Margaret, turning to her;
"more than all the rest of the world put together. But I have always
said to myself," she addressed Neighbour Tomlin again, "that if it
should ever happen that I found myself unable to carry out your wishes,
sir, it would be best for me to leave your roof, where all my happiness
has come to me." She was very humble, both in speech and demeanour.

Neighbour Tomlin looked at her with a puzzled and a grieved expression.
"Why, I don't understand you, Margaret," said Neighbour Tomlin. "What
wish of mine have you found yourself unable to carry out?"

"Only one, sir; but that was a very important one; you desired me to
marry Mr. Bethune."

"I? Why, you were never more mistaken in your life," replied Neighbour
Tomlin, with what Miss Fanny thought was unnecessary energy. "I may have
suggested it; I saw you gloomy and unhappy, and I had observed the
devotion of the young man. What more natural than for me to suggest
that--Margaret! you are giving me a terrible wound!" He turned and went
into the library, and Margaret ran after him.

It is probable that Nan knows better than any outsider what occurred
then. It seems that Margaret, in her excitement, forgot to close the
door after her, and Nan was sitting where she could see pretty much
everything that happened; and she had a delicious little tale to tell
her dear Johnny when she went home, a tale so impossible and romantic
that she forgot her own troubles, and fairly glowed with happiness. But
it is best not to depend too much on what Nan saw, though her sight was
fairly good where her interests were enlisted.

Margaret ran after Neighbour Tomlin and seized him by the arm. "Oh, I
never meant to wound you," she cried--"you who have been so kind, and so
good! Oh, if you could only read my heart, you would forgive me,
instantly and forever."

"I can read my own heart," said Neighbour Tomlin, "and it has but one
feeling for you."

"Then kiss me good-bye," she said. "I am going with my father."

"If I kiss you," he replied, "you'll not go."

She looked at him, and he at her, and she found herself in the focus of
a light that enabled her to see everything more clearly. She caught his
secret and he hers, and there was no longer any room for
misunderstanding. Her father, weak as he was, had been strong enough to
provide his daughter with a remedy for the only serious trouble, short
of bereavement, that his daughter was ever to know. She refused to
return to the parlour, where he awaited her.

"Shall I go?" said Neighbour Tomlin.

"If you please, sir," said Margaret, with a faint smile. She could
hardly realise the change that had so suddenly taken place in her hopes
and her plans, so swift and unexpected had it been.

Neighbour Tomlin went into the parlour, and made Bridalbin acquainted
with the facts.

"Margaret has changed her mind," said Neighbour Tomlin. "She thinks it
is best to remain under the care and protection of those whom she knows
better than she knows her father."

"Why, she seemed eager to go a moment ago," said Bridalbin; "and you
must remember that she is my daughter."

"Her friends couldn't forget that under all the circumstances,"
Neighbour Tomlin remarked drily.

"I believe her mind has been poisoned against me," Bridalbin declared.

"That is quite possible," replied Neighbour Tomlin; "and I think you
could easily guess the name of the poisoner."

"May I see my daughter?"

"That rests entirely with her," said Neighbor Tomlin.

But Margaret refused to see him again. Since her own troubles had been
so completely swept away, her memory reverted to all the troubles her
mother had to endure, as the result of Bridalbin's lack of fixed
principles, and she sent him word that she would prefer not to see him
then or ever afterward; and so the man went away, more bent on doing
mischief than ever, though he was compelled to change his field of
operations.

And then, after he was gone, a silence fell on the company. Nan appeared
to be in a dazed condition, while Miss Fanny sat looking out of the
window. Margaret, very much subdued, was clinging to Nan, and Neighbour
Tomlin was pacing up and down in the library in a glow of happiness. All
his early dreams had come back to him, and they were true. The romance
of his youth had been changed into a reality.

Margaret was the first to break the silence. She left Nan, and went
slowly to Miss Fanny, and stood by her chair. "What do you think of me?"
she said, in a low voice.

For answer, Miss Fanny rose and placed her arms around the girl, and
held her tightly for a moment, and then kissed her.

"But I do think, my dear," she said with an effort to laugh, "that the
matter might have been arranged without frightening us to death."

"I had no thought of frightening you. Oh, I am afraid I had no thought
for anything but my own troubles. Did you know? Did you guess?"

"I knew about Pulaski, but I had to go away from home to learn the news
about you. Madame Awtry called my attention to it, and then with my
eyes upon, I could see a great many things that were not visible
before."

"Why, how could she know?" cried Margaret. "I have talked with her not
more than a half dozen times."

"She is a very wise woman," Miss Fanny remarked, by way of explanation.

"Well, when I get in love, I'll not visit Madame Awtry," said Nan.

"My dear, you have been there once too often," Miss Fanny declared.

"Why, what has she been telling you?" inquired Nan, blushing very red.

"I'll not disclose your secrets, Nan," answered Miss Fanny.

"I would thank you kindly, if I had any," said Nan.

And then, suddenly, while Margaret was standing with her arms around
Miss Fanny, she began to blush and show signs of embarrassment.

"Nan," she said, "will you take a boarder for--for--for I don't know how
long?"

"Not for long, Nan. Say a couple of weeks." It was Neighbour Tomlin who
spoke, as he came out of the library.

"Oh, for longer than that," protested Margaret.

"You must remember that I am getting old, child," he said very solemnly.

"So am I, sir," she said archly. "I am quite as old as you are, I
think."

"This is the first quarrel," Nan declared, "and who knows how it will
all end? You are to come and stay as long as you please, and then after
that, you are to stay as long as I please."

"I declare, Nan, you talk like an old woman!" exclaimed Miss Fanny;
whereupon Nan laughed and said she had to be serious sometimes.

And so it was arranged that Margaret was to stay with Nan for an
indefinite period. "I hope you will come to see me occasionally, Mr.
Tomlin, and you too, Aunt Fanny," she said with mock formality. "We
shall have days for receiving company, just as the fine ladies do in the
cities; and you'll have to send in your cards."

The two young women refused to go in the carriage.

"It is so small and stuffy," said Margaret to Neighbour Tomlin, "and
to-day I want to be in the fresh air. If you please, sir, don't look at
me like that, or I can never go." She went close to him. "Oh, is it all
true? Is it really and truly true, or is it a dream?"

"It is true," he said, kissing her. "It is a dream, but it is my dream
come true."

"I didn't think," she said, as she went along with Nan, "that the world
was as beautiful as it seems to be to-day."

"Mr. Sanders says," replied Nan, "that it is the most comfortable world
he has ever found; but somehow--well, you know we can't all be happy the
same way at the same time."

"Your day is still to come," said Margaret, "and when it does, I want to
be there."

"You say that," remarked Nan, "but you know you would have felt better
if you hadn't had so much company. For a wonder Tasma Tid wouldn't go in
the house with me. She said something was happening in there. Now, how
did she know?" Tasma Tid had joined them as they came through the gate,
and now Nan turned to her with the question.

"Huh! we know dem trouble w'en we see um. Dee ain't no trouble now. She
done gone--dem trouble. But yan' come mo'." She pointed to Miss Polly
Gaither, who came toddling along with her work-bag and her turkey-tail
fan.

"Howdy, girls? I'm truly glad to see you. You are looking well both of
you, and health is a great blessing. I have just been to Lucy Lumsden's,
Nan, and she thinks a great deal of you. I could tell you things that
would turn your head. But I'm really sorry for Lucy; she's almost as
lonely as I am. They say Gabriel is sure to be dealt with; I'm told
there is no other way out of it. Have you two heard anything?" Margaret
and Nan shook their heads, but gestures of that kind were not at all
satisfactory to Miss Polly. "They say that little Cephas was sent down
to prepare Gabriel for the worst. But I didn't say a word about that to
Lucy, and if you two girls go there, you must be very careful not to
drop a word about it. Lucy is getting old, and she can't bear up under
trouble as she used to could. She has aged wonderfully in the past few
weeks. Don't you think so, Nan?"

She held up her ear-trumpet as she spoke, and Nan made a great pretence
of yelling into it, though not a sound issued from her lips. Miss Polly
frowned. "Don't talk so loud, my dear; you will make people think I'm a
great deal deafer than I am. But you always would yell at me, though I
have asked you a dozen times to speak only in ordinary tones. Well, I
don't agree with you about Lucy. She has broken terribly since Gabriel
was carried off; she is not the same woman, she takes no interest in
affairs at all. I told her a piece of astonishing news, and she paid no
more attention to it than if she hadn't heard it; and she didn't use to
be that way. Well, we all have our troubles, and you two will have yours
when you grow a little older. That is one thing of which there is always
enough left to go around. The supply is never exhausted."

After delivering this truism, Miss Polly waved her turkey-tail fan as
majestically as she knew how, and went toddling along home. Miss Polly
was a kind-hearted woman, but she couldn't resist the inclination to
gossip and tattle. Her tattle did no harm, for her weakness was well
advertised in that community; but, unfortunately, her deafness had made
her both suspicious and irritable. When in company, for instance, she
insisted on feeling that people were talking about her when the
conversation was not carried on loud enough for her to hear the sound of
the voices, if not the substance of what was said, and she had a way of
turning to the one closest at hand, with the remark, "They should have
better manners than to talk of the afflictions of an old woman, for it
is not at all certain that they will escape." Naturally this would call
out a protest on the part of all present, whereupon Miss Polly would
shake her head, and remark that she was not as deaf as many people
supposed; that, in fact, there were days when she could hear almost as
well as she heard before the affliction overtook her.

"I wonder," said Nan, whose curiosity was always ready to be aroused,
"what piece of astonishing news Miss Polly has been telling Grandmother
Lumsden. Perhaps she has told her of the events of the morning at Mr.
Tomlin's."

"That is absurd, Nan," Margaret declared. "Still, it would make no
difference to me. He was the only person that I ever wanted to hide my
feelings from. I never so much as dreamed that he could care for
me--and, oh, Nan! suppose that he should be pretending simply to please
me!"

"You goose!" cried Nan. "Whoever heard of that man pretending, or trying
to deceive any one? If he was a young man, now, it would be different."

"Not with all young men," Margaret asserted. "There is Gabriel
Tolliver--I don't believe he would deceive any one."

"Oh, Gabriel--but why do you mention Gabriel?"

"Because his eyes are so beautiful and honest," answered Margaret.

But Nan tossed her head; she would never believe anything good about
Gabriel unless she said it herself--or thought it, for she could think
hundreds, yes, thousands, of things about Gabriel that she wouldn't dare
to breathe aloud, even though there was no living soul within a hundred
miles. And that fact needn't make Gabriel feel so awfully proud, for
there were other persons and things she could think about.

Ah, well! love is such a restless, suspicious thing, such an irritating,
foolish, freakish, solemn affair, that it is not surprising the two
young women were somewhat afraid of it when they found themselves in its
clutches.



CHAPTER THIRTY

_Miss Polly Has Some News_


The news which Miss Polly had laid as a social offering at Mrs. Lucy
Lumsden's feet, and which she boasted was very astonishing, had the
appearance of absurdity on the face of it. Miss Polly, with her work-bag
and her turkey-tail fan, had paid a very early visit to the Lumsden
Place. She went in very quietly, greeted her old friend in a subdued
manner, and then sat staring at her with an expression that Mrs. Lumsden
failed to understand. It might have been the result of special and
unmitigated woe, or of physical pain, or of severe fatigue. Whatever the
cause, it was unnatural, and so Gabriel's grandmother made haste to
inquire about it.

"Why, what in the world is the matter, Polly? Are you ill?"

At this Miss Polly acted as if she had been aroused from a dream or a
revery. Her work-bag slid from her lap, and her turkey-tail fan would
have fallen had it not been attached to her wrist by a piece of faded
ribbon. "I declare, Lucy, I don't know that I ought to tell you; and I
wouldn't if I thought you would repeat it to a living soul. It is more
than marvellous; it is, indeed, Lucy"--leaning a little nearer, and
lowering her voice, which was never very loud--"I honestly believe that
Ritta Claiborne is in love with old Silas Tomlin! I certainly do."

"You must have some reason for believing that," said Mrs. Lumsden, with
a benevolent smile, the cause of which the ear-trumpet could not
interpret.

"Reasons! I have any number, Lucy. I'm certain you won't believe me, but
it has come to that pass that old Silas calls on her every night, and
they sit in the parlour there and talk by the hour, sometimes with
Eugenia, and sometimes without her. It would be no exaggeration at all
if I were to tell you that they are talking together in that parlour
five nights out of the seven. Now, what do they mean by that?"

"Why, there's nothing in that, Polly. I have heard that they are old
acquaintances. Surely old acquaintances can talk together, and be
interested in one another, without being in love. Why, very frequently
of late Meriwether Clopton comes here. I hope you don't think I'm in
love with him."

"Certainly not, Lucy, most certainly not. But do you have Meriwether's
portrait hanging in your parlour? And do you go and sit before it, and
study it, and sometimes shake your finger at it playfully? I tell you,
Lucy, there are some queer people in this world, and Ritta Claiborne is
one of them."

"She is excellent company," said Mrs. Lumsden.

"She is, she is," Miss Polly assented. "She is full of life and fun; she
sees the ridiculous side of everything; and that is why I can't
understand her fondness for old Silas. It is away beyond me. Why, Lucy,
she treats that portrait as if it were alive. What she says to it, I
can't tell you, for my hearing is not as good now as it was before my
ears were affected. But she says something, for I can see her lips move,
and I can see her smile. My eyesight is as good now as ever it was. I'm
telling you what I saw, not what I heard. The way she went on over that
portrait was what first attracted my attention; but for that I would
never have had a suspicion. Now, what do you think of it, Lucy?"

"Nothing in particular. If it is true, it would be a good thing for
Silas. He is not as mean as a great many people think he is."

"He may not be, Lucy," responded Miss Polly, "but he brings a bad taste
in my mouth every time I see him."

"Well, directly after Sherman passed through," said Mrs. Lumsden, "and
when few of us had anything left, Silas came to me, and asked if I
needed anything, and he was ready to supply me with sufficient funds for
my needs."

"Well, he didn't come to me," Miss Polly declared with emphasis, "and if
anybody in this world had needs, I did. You remember Robert Gaither?
Well, Silas loaned him some money during the war, and although Robert
was in a bad way, old Silas collected every cent down to the very last,
and Robert had to go to Texas. Oh, I could tell you of numberless
instances where he took advantage of those who had borrowed from him."

"I suppose that Mr. Lumsden had been kind to Silas when he was sowing
his wild oats; indeed, I think my husband advanced him money when he had
exhausted the supply allowed him by the executors of the Tomlin estate."

"And just think of it, Lucy--Ritta Claiborne sits there and plays the
piano for old Silas, and sometimes Eugenia goes in and sings, and she
has a beautiful voice; I'm not too deaf to know that."

It was then that Mrs. Lumsden leaned over and gave the ear-trumpet some
very good advice. "If I were in your place, Polly, I wouldn't tell this
to any one else. Mrs. Claiborne is an excellent woman; she comes of a
good family, and she is cultured and refined. No doubt she is sensitive,
and if she heard that you were spreading your suspicions abroad, she
would hardly feel like staying in a house where----" Mrs. Lumsden
paused. She had it on her tongue's-end to say, "in a house where she is
spied upon," but she had no desire in the world to offend that
simple-minded old soul, who, behind all her peculiarities and
afflictions, had a very tender heart.

"I know what you mean, Lucy," said Miss Polly, "and your advice is good;
but I can't help seeing what goes on under my eyes, and I thought there
could be no harm in telling you about it. I am very fond of Ritta
Claiborne, and as for Eugenia, why she is simply angelic. I love that
child as well as if she were my own. If there's a flaw in her character,
I have never found it. I'll say that much."

The explanation of Miss Polly's suspicions is not as simple as her
recital of them. No one can account for some of the impulses of the
human heart, or the vagaries of the human mind. It is easy to say that
after Silas Tomlin had his last interview with Mrs. Claiborne, he
permitted his mind to dwell on her personality and surroundings, and so
fell gradually under a spell. Such an explanation is not only easy to
imagine, but it is plausible; nevertheless, it would not be true. There
is a sort of tradition among the brethren who deal with character in
fiction that it must be consistent with itself. This may be necessary in
books, for it sweeps away at one stroke ten thousand mysteries and
problems that play around the actions of every individual, no matter how
high, no matter how humble. How often do we hear it remarked in real
life that the actions of such and such an individual are a source of
surprise and regret to his friends; and how often in our own experience
have we been shocked by the unexpected as it crops out in the actions of
our friends and acquaintances!

For this and other reasons this chronicler does not propose to explain
Silas's motives and movements and try to show that they are all
consistent with his character, and that, therefore, they were all to be
predicated from the beginning. What is certainly true is that Silas was
one day stopped in the street by Eugenia, who inquired about Paul. He
looked at the girl very gloomily at first, but when he began to talk
about the troubles of his son, he thawed out considerably. In this case
Eugenia's sympathies abounded, in fact were unlimited, and she listened
with dewy eyes to everything Silas would tell her about Paul.

"You mustn't think too much about Paul," remarked Silas grimly, as they
were about to part.

"Thank you, sir," replied Eugenia, with a smile, "I'll think just enough
and no more. But it was my mother that told me to ask about him if I saw
you. She is very fond of him. You never come to see us now," the sly
creature suggested.

Silas stared at her before replying, and tried to find the gleam of
mockery in her eyes, or in her smile. He failed, and his glances became
shifty again. "Why, I reckon she'd kick me down the steps if I called
without having some business with her. If you were to ask her who her
worst enemy is, she'd tell you that I am the man."

"Well, sir," replied Eugenia archly, "I have been knowing mother a good
many years, but I've never seen her put any one out of the house yet. We
were talking about you to-day, and she said you must be very lonely, now
that Paul is away, and I know she sympathises with those who are lonely;
I've heard her say so many a time."

"Yes; that may be true," remarked Silas, "but she has special reasons
for not sympathising with me. She knows me a great deal better than you
do."

"I'm afraid you misjudge us both," said Eugenia demurely. "If you knew
us better, you'd like us better. I'm sure of that."

"Humph!" grunted Silas. Then looking hard at the girl, he bluntly asked,
"Is there anything between you and Paul?"

"A good many miles, sir, just now," she answered, making one of those
retorts that Paul thought so fine.

"H-m-m; yes, you are right, a good many miles. Well, there can't be too
many."

"I think you are cruel, sir. Is Paul not to come home any more? Paul is
a very good friend of mine, and I could wish him well wherever he might
be; but how would you feel, sir, if he were never to return?"

"Well, I must go," said Silas somewhat bluntly. When Beauty has a glib
tongue, abler men than Silas find themselves without weapons to cope
with it.

"Shall I tell mother that you have given your promise to call soon?"
Eugenia asked.

"Now, I hope you are not making fun of me," cried Silas with some
irritation.

"How could that be, sir? Don't you think it would be extremely pert in a
young girl to make fun of a gentleman old enough to be her father?"

Silas winced at the comparison. "Well, I have seen some very pert ones,"
he insisted, and with that he bade her good-day with a very ill grace,
and went on about his business, of which he had a good deal of one kind
and another.

"Mother," said Eugenia, after she had given an account of her encounter
with Silas, "I believe the man has a good heart and is ashamed of it."

"Why, I think the same may be said of most of the grand rascals that we
read about in history; and the pity of it is that they would have all
been good men if they had had the right kind of women to deal with them
and direct their careers."

"Do you really think so, mother?" the daughter inquired.

"I'm sure of it," said the lady.

Then after all there might be some hope for old Silas Tomlin. And his
instinct may have given him an inkling of the remedy for his particular
form of the whimsies, for it was not many days before he came knocking
at the lady's door, where he was very graciously received, and most
delightfully entertained. Both mother and daughter did their utmost to
make the hours pass pleasantly, and they succeeded to some extent. For
awhile Silas was suspicious, then he would resign himself to the
temptations of good music and bright conversation. Presently he would
remember his suspicions, and straighten himself up in his chair, and
assume an attitude of defiance; and so the first evening passed. When
Silas found himself in the street on his way home, he stopped still and
reflected.

"Now, what in the ding-nation is that woman up to? What is she trying to
do, I wonder? Why, she's as different from what she was when I first
knew her as a butterfly is from a caterpillar. Why, there ain't a
pearter woman on the continent. No wonder Paul lost his head in that
house! She's up to something, and I'll find out what it is."

Silas was always suspicious, but on this occasion he bethought himself
of the fact that he had not been dragged into the house; he had been
under no compulsion to knock at the door; indeed, he had taken advantage
of the slightest hint on the part of the daughter--a hint that may have
been a mere form of politeness. He remembered, too, that he had
frequently gone by the house at night, and had heard the piano going,
accompanied by the singing of one or the other of the ladies. His
reflections would have made him ashamed of himself, but he had never
cultivated such feelings. He left that sort of thing to the women and
children.

In no long time he repeated his visit, and met with the same pleasurable
experience. On this occasion, Eugenia remained in the parlour only a
short time. For a diversion, the mother played a few of the old-time
tunes on the piano, and sang some of the songs that Silas had loved in
his youth. This done, she wheeled around on the stool, and began to talk
about Paul.

"If I had a son like that," she said, "I should be immensely proud of
him."

"You have a fine daughter," Silas suggested, by way of consolation.

She shrugged her shoulders. "Yes, but you know we always want that which
we have not. Yet they say that envy is among the mortal sins."

"Well, a sin's a sin, I reckon," remarked Silas.

"Oh, no! there are degrees in sin. I used to know a preacher who could
run the scale of evil-doing and thinking, just as I can trip along the
notes on the piano."

"They once tried to make a preacher out of me," remarked Silas, "but
when I slipped in the church one day and went up into the pulpit, I
found it was a great deal too big for me."

"They make them larger now," said the lady, "so that they will hold the
exhorter and the horrible example at the same time."

"Did Paul ever see my picture there?" asked Silas, changing the
conversation into a more congenial channel.

"Why, I think so," replied the lady placidly. "I think he asked about
it, and I told him that we had known each other long ago, which was not
at all the truth."

"What did Paul say to that?" asked Silas eagerly.

"He said that while some people might think you were queer, you had been
a good dad to him. I think he said dad, but I'll not be sure."

"Yes, yes, he said it," cried Silas, all in a glow. "That's Paul all
over; but what will the poor boy think when he finds out what you know?"

"Why, he'll enjoy the situation," said the lady, laughing. "As you
Georgians say, he'll be tickled to death."

Silas regarded her with astonishment, his hands clenched and his thin
lips pressed together. "Do you think, Madam, that it is a matter for a
joke? You women----"

"Can't I have my own views? You have yours, and I make no objection."

"But think of what a serious matter it is to me. Do you realise that
there is nothing but a whim betwixt me and disgrace--betwixt Paul and
disgrace?"

"A whim? Why, you are another Daniel O'Connell! Call me a hyperbole, a
rectangled triangle, a parenthesis, or a hyphen." She was laughing, and
yet it was plain to be seen that she had no relish for the term which
Silas had unintentionally applied to her.

"I meant to say that if the notion seized you, you would fetch us down
as a hunter bags a brace of doves."

"Doves!" exclaimed Mrs. Claiborne, with a comical lift of the eyebrows.

"Buzzards, then!" said Silas with some heat.

"Oh, you overdo everything," laughed the lady.

"Well, there's nobody hurt but me," was Silas's gruff reply.

"And Paul," suggested the lady, with a peculiar smile.

"Well, when I say Paul, I mean myself. I've been called worse names than
buzzard by people who were trying to walk off with my money. Oh, they
didn't call me that to my face," said Silas, noticing a queer expression
in the lady's eyes. "And people who should have known better have hated
me because I didn't fling my money away after I had saved it."

"Well, you needn't worry about that," Mrs. Claiborne remarked. "You will
have plenty of company in the money-grabbing business before long. I can
see signs of it now, and every time I think of it I feel sorry for our
young men, yes, and our young women, and the long generations that are
to come after them. In the course of a very few years you will find your
business to be more respectable than any of the professions. You
remember how, before the war, we used to sneer at the Yankees for their
money-making proclivities? Well, it won't be very long before we'll beat
them at their own game; and then our politicians will thrive, for each
and all of them will have their principles dictated by Shylock and his
partners."

"Why, you talk as if you were a politician yourself. But why are you
sorry for our young women?"

"That was a hasty remark. I am sorry for those who will grow weary and
fall by the wayside. The majority of them, and the best of them, will
make themselves useful in thousands of ways, and new industries will
spring up for their benefit. They will become workers, and, being
workers, they will be independent of the men, and finally begin to look
down on them as they should."

"Well!" exclaimed Silas, and then he sat and gazed at the lady for the
first time with admiration. "Where'd you learn all that?" he asked after
awhile.

"Oh, I read the newspapers, and such books as I can lay my hands on, and
I remember what I read. Didn't you notice that I recited my piece much
as a school-boy would?"

"No, I didn't," replied Silas. "I do a good deal of reading myself, but
all those ideas are new to me."

"Well, they'll be familiar to you just as soon as our people can look
around and get their bearings. As for me, I propose to become an
advanced woman, and go on the stage; there's nothing like being the
first in the field. I always told my husband that if he died and left
me without money, I proposed to earn my own living."

"You told your husband that? When did you tell him?" inquired Silas with
some eagerness.

"Oh, long before he died," replied the lady.

Silas sat like one stunned. "Do you mean to tell me that your husband is
dead?"

"Why, certainly," replied Mrs. Claiborne. "What possible reason could I
have for denying or concealing the fact?"

Silas straightened himself in his chair, and frowned. "Then why did you
come here and pretend--pretend--ain't you Ritta Rozelle, that used to
be?"

"There were two of them," the lady replied. "They were twins. One was
named Clarita, and the other Floretta, but both were called Ritta by
those who could not distinguish them apart. I had reason to believe that
you hadn't treated my sister as you should have done, and I came here to
see if you would take the bait. You snapped it up before the line
touched the water. It was not even necessary for me to try to deceive
you. You simply shut your eyes and declared that I was your wife and
that I had come."

"You are the sister who was going to school in--wasn't it Boston?"

"Yes; that is why I am broad-minded and free from guile," remarked the
lady with a laugh so merry that it irritated Silas.

"Then you have never been married to me," Silas suggested, still
frowning.

"I thank you kindly, sir, I never have been."

"Well, you never denied it," he said.

"You never gave me an opportunity," she retorted.

"You simply sat back, and watched me make a fool of myself."

"You express it very well."

Silas squirmed on his chair. "Why, you knew me the minute you saw me!"
he cried.

"Therefore you are still sure I am the woman you married in Louisiana.
Well, the man who was driving the hack the day of my arrival, saw you in
the fields, and he made a remark I have never forgotten. He said--she
mimicked Mr. Goodlett as well as she could--'Well, dang my hide! ef thar
ain't old Silas Tomlin out huntin'! Ef he shoots an' misses he'll pull
all his ha'r out.' 'Why?' I asked. 'Bekaze he can't afford to waste a
load of powder an' shot.'"

Silas tried to smile. He knew that the point of Mr. Goodlett's joke was
lost on the lady.

Silas tried to smile, but the effort was too much for him, and he
frowned instead. "You did all you could to humour my mistake," he
declared.

"I certainly did," said Mrs. Claiborne, very seriously. "I had good
reason to believe that your treatment of my sister was not what it
should have been."

"Good Lord! she wouldn't let me treat her well. Why, we hadn't been
married three months before she took a dislike to me, and she never got
over it. The truth is, she couldn't bear the sight of me. I did what any
other young man would have done. I packed up my things and came back
home. I told Dorrington about it when I came back, and he said the
trouble was a form of hysterics that finally develops into insanity."

"Yes, that was what happened to my poor sister," said Mrs. Claiborne,
"and I never knew the facts until a few months ago. Our aunt, you know,
always contended that you were the cause of it all. But Judge Vardeman,
quite by accident, met the physician who had charge of the case, and I
have a letter from him which clearly explains the whole matter."

Silas Tomlin sat silent for a long time, his gaze fixed on the floor.
"Well, well! here I have been going on for years under the impression
that I was partly responsible for that poor girl's troubles; and it has
been a nightmare riding me every minute that I had time to think." He
stood up, stretched his arms above his head, and drew a long breath. "I
thank you for laying my ghost, and I'll bid you good-night."



CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

_Mr. Sanders Receives a Message_


The demeanour of Mr. Sanders about this time was a seven days' wonder in
Shady Dale. As Mrs. Absalom declared, he had tucked his good-humour
under the bed, and was now going about in a state of gloom. This at
least was the general impression; but Mr. Sanders was not gloomy. He was
filled to the brim with impatience, and was to be seen constantly
walking the streets, or occupying his favourite seat on the court-house
steps, the seat that had always attracted him when he was communing with
John Barleycorn. But he and John Barleycorn were strangers now; they
were not on speaking terms. He avoided the companionship of those who
were in the habit of seeking him out to enjoy his drolleries; and
various rumours flew about as to the cause of his apparent troubles. He
was on the point of joining the church, having had enough of the world's
sinfulness; he had lost the money he made by selling cotton directly
after the war; he had been jilted by some buxom country girl. In short,
when a man is as prominent in a community as Mr. Sanders was in Shady
Dale, he must pay such penalty as gossip levies when his conduct becomes
puzzling or problematical.

The tittle-tattle of the town ran in a different direction when some one
discovered that the Racking Roan was tied every day to the rack behind
the court-house. Then the gossips were certain that the Yankees were
after Mr. Sanders, and his horse was placed close at hand in order to
give him an opportunity to escape. Mr. Sanders apparently confirmed this
rumour when he told Cephas to take the horse to Clopton's, should he
find the animal standing at the rack after sundown.

As Mr. Sanders walked about, or sat on the court-house steps, he
wondered if he had made all the arrangements necessary to the scheme he
had in view. Hundreds and hundreds of times he went over the ground in
his mind, and reviewed every step he had taken, trying to discover if
anything had been omitted, or if there were any flaw in the plan he
proposed to follow. He had made all his arrangements beforehand. He had
made a visit to Malvern, and remained there several days. He had met the
Mayor of the city, the Chief of Police, and the latter had casually
introduced him to the Chief of the Fire Department.

Mr. Sanders accounted himself very fortunate in making the acquaintance
of the Fire Chief, who was what might be termed one of the
unreconstructed. He was something more than that, he was an
irreconcilable, who would have been glad of an opportunity to take up
arms again. This official took an eager interest in the scheme which Mr.
Sanders had in view; in fact, as he said himself, it was a personal
interest. He invited Mr. Sanders to the head-quarters of the Fire
Department.

"I'll tell you why I want you to come," he said. "There's a man in my
office, or he will be there when we arrive, who is likely to take as
much interest in this thing as I do--he couldn't take more--and I want
him to hear your plan. Have you ever heard of Captain Buck Sanford?"

Mr. Sanders paused in the street, and stared at the Fire Chief. "Heard
of him? Well, I should say! He's the feller that fights a duel before
breakfast to git up an appetite. Well, well! How many men has Buck
Sanford winged?"

"Oh, quite a number, but not as many as he gets credit for. He comes in
my private office every morning, and he's a great help to me. He was
rather down at the heels right after the war, and then I happened to
find out that he had a great talent in getting the truth out of
criminals. We sometimes arrest a man against whom there is no direct
evidence of guilt, and if we didn't have some one skilful enough to make
him own up, we could do nothing. Buck always knows whether a fellow is
guilty or not, and we turn over the suspects to him, and whatever he
says goes. He sits in my office like a piece of furniture, and you'd
think he was a wooden man. Now you go down with me, and go over your
scheme so that Buck can hear you, and whatever he says do, will be the
thing to do."

When Mr. Sanders and the Chief arrived at the head-quarters of the
department, and entered the private office, they found a pale and
somewhat emaciated young man sitting in a chair, which was leaned
against the wall at a somewhat dangerous angle. He was apparently
asleep; his eyes were closed, and he held between his teeth a short but
handsome pipe. He made no movement whatever when the two entered the
room. His hat was on the floor at the side of his chair, and had
evidently fallen from his head. If Mr. Sanders had been called on to
describe the young man, he would have said that he was a weasly looking
creature, half gristle and half ghost. His hands were small and thin,
and the skin of his face had the appearance of parchment.

At the request of the Chief, Mr. Sanders went over the details of his
plan from beginning to end, and at the close the young man, who had
apparently been asleep, remarked in a thin, smooth voice, "Won't it be a
fine day for a parade!"

His eyes remained closed; he had not even taken the pipe out of his
mouth. There was a silence of many long seconds. But the weasly looking
man made no movement, nor did he add anything to his remark. Evidently,
he had no more to say.

"Buck is right," said the Chief.

"What does he mean?" Mr. Sanders inquired.

"Why, he means that it will be a fine day for a general turn-out of the
department," replied the Chief.

Mr. Sanders reflected a moment, and then made one of his characteristic
comments. "Be jigged ef he ain't saved my life!"

"Captain Sanford, this is Mr. Sanders, of Shady Dale," said the Chief,
by way of introducing the two men. Both rose, and Mr. Sanders found
himself looking into the eyes of one of the most interesting characters
that Georgia ever produced. Captain Buck Sanford was one of the last of
the knights-errant, the self-constituted champion of all women, old or
young, good or bad. He said of himself, with some drollery, that he was
one of the scavengers of society, and he declared that the job was
important enough to command a good salary.

No man in his hearing ever used the name of a woman too freely without
answering for it; and it made no difference whether the woman was rich
or poor, good or bad. Otherwise he was the friendliest and simplest of
men, as modest as a woman, and entirely unobtrusive. His duel with
Colonel Conrad Asbury, one of the most sensational events in the annals
of duelling, owing to the fact that the weapons were shot-guns at ten
paces, was the result of a remark the Colonel had made about a lady whom
Sanford had never seen. But so far as the general public knew, it grew
out of the fact that the Colonel had spilled some water on Sanford's
pantaloons.

"Well, sir," said Mr. Sanders, "I've heard tell of you many a time, an'
I'm right down glad to see you."

"You haven't heard much good of me, I reckon," Captain Sanford remarked.

"Yes; not so very long ago I heard a fine old lady say that if they was
more Buck Sanfords, the wimmen would be better off."

A faint colour came into the face of the duellist. "Is that so?" he
asked with some eagerness.

"It's jest like I tell you, an' the lady was Lucy Lumsden, the
grandmother of this chap that we're tryin' to git out'n trouble."

"I wonder if Tomlin Perdue wouldn't let me into the row?" inquired
Captain Sanford. "You see, it's this way: If the boy can't break away,
it would be well for a serious accident to happen, and in that case,
you'll need a man that's perfectly willing to bear the brunt of such an
accident."

"We'll see about that," said Mr. Sanders.

"Suppose it's a rainy day, Buck; what then?" asked the Chief.

"And you a grown man!" exclaimed Mr. Sanford, sarcastically. "Did you
ever hear of a false alarm? Or were you at a Sunday-school picnic when
it was rung in? Oh, I'm going to get a blacksmith and have your head
worked on," and with that, Captain Buck Sanford turned on his heel and
went out.

"I know Buck was pleased with your plan," the Chief declared. "He nodded
at me a time or two when you wasn't looking. If you can work him into
the row, it will tickle him mightily. He ain't flighty; he never gets
mad; and he always knows just what to do, and when to shoot."

Thus, long before he became impatient enough to walk the streets, or
seek consolation on the court-house steps, which he called his
liquor-post, Mr. Sanders had made all the arrangements necessary to the
success of his scheme. He had sent a suit of clothes to a friend in
Malvern, he had shipped three bales of cotton to the firm of Vardeman &
Stark, who had been informed of the use to which Mr. Sanders desired to
put it; he had hired an ox-cart, and made a covered waggon of it; and
the yoke of oxen he proposed to use had been driven through the country
and were now at Malvern.

In short, no matter how deeply Mr. Sanders might ponder over the matter,
there was nothing he could think of to add to the details of the
arrangement that he had already made.

One morning, while Nan, who was on her way to borrow a book from Eugenia
Claiborne, was leaning on the court-house fence talking to Mr. Sanders,
Tasma Tid cried out, "Yonner dee come! yonner dee come!" The African,
who had heard the rumour that the Yankees were after Mr. Sanders,
concluded that this was the advance guard, and she therefore sounded the
alarm. But only a solitary rider was in sight, and he was coming as fast
as a tired horse could fetch him. By the time this rider had reached the
public square, Mr. Sanders had mounted the Racking Roan, and was
awaiting him. The rider was no other than Colonel Blasengame, who had
insisted on bringing the message himself.

He was the bearer of a telegram addressed to Major Perdue. "Consignment
will be shipped to-morrow night. Reach Malvern next morning. Invoice by
mail." This was signed by the firm of factors with whom Meriwether
Clopton had had dealings for many years. It was the form of announcement
that had been agreed on, and to Mr. Sanders the message read, "The
prisoners will go to Atlanta to-morrow night, and they will reach
Malvern the next morning. This information can be relied on."

"It's a joy to see you, Colonel," cried Mr. Sanders. "One more day of
waitin' would 'a' pulled the rivets out. You know Miss Nan Dorrington,
don't you, Colonel Blasengame? I lay you used to dandle her on your knee
when she was a baby."

The Colonel bowed lower to Nan than if she had been a queen. "You are
not to go to the tavern," remarked Mr. Sanders. "Meriwether Clopton
wants the messenger to go straight to his house, an' he'll be all the
gladder bekaze it's you. Gus Tidwell will drive you home in his buggy in
the cool of the evenin', an' you can leave your hoss at Clopton's for a
day or two. Ef you see Tidwell, Nan, please tell him that the Colonel is
at Clopton's. I reckon you'll be willin' to buss me, honey, the next
time you see me."

"If you have earned it, Mr. Sanders," said Nan, trying to smile.

Thereupon, Mr. Sanders waved his hand miscellaneously, as he would have
described it, and moved away at a clipping gait, stirring up quite a
cloud of dust as he went. He reached Halcyondale, and at once sought out
Major Tomlin Perdue, and found that a telegram had already been sent to
Captain Buck Sanford, whose prompt reply over the wire had been. "All
skue vee," which was as satisfactory as any other form of reply would
have been--more so, perhaps, for it showed that the Captain was in high
good-humour.

Mr. Tidwell and Colonel Blasengame arrived in time to eat a late
supper, and the next morning found them all ready to take the train for
Malvern. Major Perdue and Mr. Sanders were in high feather. Somehow
their spirits always rose when a doubtful issue was to be faced. On the
other hand, Colonel Blasengame and Mr. Tidwell were somewhat
thoughtful--the Colonel because he had an idea that they were trying to
"crowd him into a back seat," as he expressed it, and Mr. Tidwell
because it had occurred to him that his presence might tend to
jeopardise the case of his son. They were not gloomy; on the contrary
they were cheerful; but their spirits failed to run as high as those of
Mr. Sanders and Major Perdue, who were engaged all the way to Malvern in
relating anecdotes and narrating humourous stories. It seemed that
everything either one of them said reminded the other of a story or a
humourous incident, and they kept the car in a roar until Malvern was
reached.

Mr. Sanders did not go at once to the hotel, but turned his attention to
the various details which he had arranged for. Mr. Tidwell went to the
hotel opposite the railway station, while Major Perdue and Colonel
Blasengame, for obvious reasons, went to the rival hotel. There they
found Captain Buck Sanford lounging about with a Winchester rifle slung
across his shoulder. A great many people were interested when this pale
and weary-looking little man appeared in public with a gun in his hands,
and he was compelled to answer many questions in regard to the event. To
all he made the same reply, namely, that he had been out practising at a
target.

"I'm getting so I can't miss," he said to Major Perdue. "I wasted
twenty-four cartridges trying to miss the bull's eye, but I couldn't do
it. I don't know what to make of it," he complained. "There must be
something wrong with me. That kind of shooting don't look reasonable.
I'm afraid something is going to happen to me. It may be a sign that I'm
going to fall over a cellar-door and break my neck, or tumble downstairs
and injure my spine."

Then he left his gun with a clerk in the hotel, and, taking Major Perdue
by the arm, went into a corner and discussed the scheme which Mr.
Sanders had mapped out. They were joined presently by Colonel
Blasengame; and as they sat there, whispering together, and making many
emphatic gestures, they were the centre of observation, and word went
around that some personal difficulty, in which these noted men were to
act together, was imminent.



CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

_Malvern Has a Holiday_


Very early the next morning Malvern aroused itself to the fact that the
firemen and the police, and a very large crowd of the rag, tag and
bobtail that hangs on the edge of all holiday occasions, were out for a
frolic. A band was playing, and the old-fashioned apparatus with which
fire departments were provided in that day and time, was showing the
amazed and amused crowd how to put out an imaginary conflagration. And
it succeeded, too. Worked as it was by hand-power, it sent a famously
strong stream into the very midst of the imaginary conflagration; and
when the fire raged no longer, the gallant firemen turned the stream on
the rag, tag and bobtail, and such screams and such a scattering as
ensued has no parallel in the history of Malvern, which is a long and
varied one.

But what did it all mean? It was some kind of a celebration, of course,
but why then did the _Malvern Recorder_, one of the most enterprising
newspapers in the State, as its editors and proprietors were willing to
admit, why, then, did the _Recorder_ fail to have an appropriate
announcement of an event so interesting and important? Was our public
press, the palladium of our liberties, losing its prestige and
influence? Certainly it seemed so, when such an affair as this could be
devised and carried out without an adequate announcement in the organ of
public opinion.

After awhile there was a lull in the display. The Chief, who was
stationed near the depot, received authoritative information that the
train from Savannah was approaching. He waved his trumpet, and the
firemen formed themselves into a procession, and passed twice in review
before their Chief, and then halted, with their hose reels, and their
hook and ladder waggons almost completely blocking up the entrance to
the station. The crowd had followed them, but the police managed to keep
the street clear, so that vehicles might effect a passage.

It was well that the officers of the law had been thus thoughtful in the
matter, otherwise a countryman who chanced to be coming along just then
would have found it difficult to drive his team even half way through
the jam. He was a typical Georgia farmer in his appearance. He wore a
wide straw hat to preserve his complexion, a homespun shirt and jeans
trousers, the latter being held in place by a dirty pair of home-made
suspenders. He drove what is called a spike-team, two oxen at the
wheels, and a mule in the lead. The day was warm, but he was warmer. The
crowd had flurried him, and he was perspiring more profusely than usual.
He was also inclined to use heated language, as those nearest him had no
difficulty in discovering. In fact, he was willing to make a speech, as
the crowd into which he was wedging his team grew denser and denser. It
was observed that when the crowd really impeded the movements of his
team, he had a way of touching the mule in the flank with the long whip
he carried. This was invariably the signal for such gyrations on the
part of the mule as were calculated to make the spectators pay due
respect to the animal's heels.

"I don't see," said the countryman, "why you fellers don't get out
some'rs an' go to work. They's enough men in this crowd to make a crop
big enough to feed a whole county, ef they'd git out in the field an'
buckle down to it stidder loafin' roun' watchin' 'em spurt water at
nothin'. It's a dad-blamed shame that the courts don't take a han' in
the matter. Ef you lived in my county, you'd have to work or go to the
poor-house. Whoa, Beck! Gee, Buck! Why don't you gee, contrive your
hide!"

At a touch from the whip, the rearing, plunging, and kicking of the mule
were renewed, and the team managed to fight its way to a point opposite
where the chief officials of the Police and Fire Department were
standing. The waggon to which the team was attached was a ramshackle
affair apparently, but was strong enough, nevertheless, to sustain the
weight of three bales of cotton, one of the bales being somewhat larger
than the others.

"My friend," said the Chief of Police, elevating his voice so that the
countryman could hear him distinctly, "this is not a warehouse. If you
want to sell your cotton, carry it around the corner yonder, and there
you'll find the warehouse of Vardeman & Stark."

"If I want to sell my cotton? Well, you don't reckon I want to give it
away, do you? Way over yander in the fur eend of town, they told me that
the cotton warehouse was down here some'rs, an' that it was made of
brick. This shebang is down yander, an' it's made of brick. How fur is
t'other place?"

"Right around the corner," said one in the crowd.

"Humph--yes; that's the way wi' ever'thing in this blamed town; it's
uther down yander, or right around the corner. But ef it was right here,
how could I git to it? Deliver me from places whar they celebrate
Christmas in the hottest part of June! Ef I ever git out'n the town
you'll never ketch me here ag'in--I'll promise you that."

"Oh, Mister, please don't say that!" wailed some humourist in the crowd.
"There's hundreds of us that couldn't live without you."

"Oh, is that you?" cried the countryman. "Tell your sister Molly that
I'll be down as soon as I sell my cotton." This set the crowd in a roar,
for though the humourist had no sister Molly, the retort was accepted as
a very neat method of putting an end to impertinence.

Inside the station another scene was in the full swing of action.
Certain well-known citizens of Halcyondale had been pacing up and down
the planked floor of the station apparently awaiting with some
impatience for the moment to come when the train for Atlanta would be
ready to leave. But the train itself seemed to be in no particular
hurry. The locomotive was not panting and snorting with suppressed
energy, as the moguls do in our day, but stood in its place with the
blue smoke curling peacefully from its black chimney. Presently an
access of energy among the employees of the station gave notice to those
who were familiar with their movements that the train from Savannah was
crossing the "Y."

Mr. Tidwell, of Shady Dale, who was also among those who were apparently
anxious to take the train for Atlanta, ceased his restless walking, and
stood leaning against one of the brick pillars supporting the rear end
of the structure. Major Tomlin Perdue, on the other hand, leaned
confidently on the counter of the little restaurant, where a weary
traveller could get a cup of hasty and very nasty coffee for a dime. The
Major was acquainted with the vendor of these luxuries, and he informed
the man confidentially that he was simply waiting a fair opportunity to
put a few lead plugs into the carcass of the person at the far end of
the station, who was no other than Mr. Tidwell.

"Is that so?" asked the clerk breathlessly. "Well, I don't mind telling
you that he has been having some of the same kind of talk about you, and
you'd better keep your eye on him. They say he's 'most as handy with his
pistol as Buck Sanford."

Slowly the Savannah train backed in, and slowly and carelessly Major
Perdue sauntered along the raised floor. They had decided that the
prisoners would most likely be in the second-class coach, and they
purposed to make that coach the scene of their sham duel. It was a very
delicate matter to decide just when to begin operations. A moment too
soon or too late would be decisive. When this point was referred to Mr.
Sanders, he settled it at once. "What's your mouth for, Gus? Shoot wi'
that tell the time comes to use your gun. And the Major has got about as
much mouth as you. Talk over the rough places, an' talk loud. Don't
whisper; rip out a few damns an' then cut your caper. This is about the
only chance you'll have to cuss the Major out wi'out gittin' hurt. I
wisht I was in your shoes; I'd rake him up one side an' down the other.
You can stand to be cussed out in a good cause, I reckon, Major."

"Yes--oh, yes! It'll make my flesh crawl, but I'll stand it like a
baby."

"Don't narry one on you try to be too polite," said Mr. Sanders, and
this was his parting injunction.

The two men were the length of the car apart when the Savannah train
came to a standstill. "Perdue! they tell me that you have been hunting
for me all over the city," said Mr. Tidwell. He was a trained speaker,
and his voice had great carrying power. The firemen of both trains heard
it distinctly, caught the note of passion in it and looked curiously out
of their cabs.

"Yes, I've been hunting you, and now that I've found you you'll not get
away until you apologise to me for the language you have used about me,"
cried Major Perdue. He was not as loud a talker as Mr. Tidwell, but his
voice penetrated to every part of the building.

"What I've said I'll stand to," declared Mr. Tidwell, "and if you think
I have been trying to keep out of your way, you will find out
differently, you blustering blackguard!" (The Major insisted afterward
that Tidwell took advantage of the occasion to give his real views.)

"Are you ready, you cowardly hellian?" cried the Major, apparently in a
rage.

"As ready as you will ever be," replied Tidwell hotly. He was the better
actor of the two.

And then just as the prisoners were coming out of the coach--as soon as
Gabriel, lean and haggard, had reached the floor of the station, Major
Perdue whipped out his pistol and a shot rang out, clear and distinct,
and it was immediately reproduced from the further end of the car by Mr.
Tidwell, and then the shooting became a regular fusillade. There was a
wild scattering on the part of the crowd assembled in the station, a
scuffling, scurrying panic, and in the midst of it all Gabriel ducked
his head, and made a rush with the rest. He had been handcuffed, but his
wrist was nearly as large as his hand, and he had found early in his
experience with these bracelets that by placing his thumb in the palm of
his hand, he would have no difficulty in freeing himself from the irons.
This he had accomplished without much trouble, as soon as he started out
of the car, and when he ducked his head and ran, he had nothing to
impede his movements.

And Gabriel was always swift of foot, as Cephas will tell you. On the
present occasion, he brought all his strength, and energy, and will to
bear on his efforts to escape. Running half-bent, he was afraid the
crowd which he saw all about him, pushing and shoving, and apparently
making frantic efforts to escape, would give him some trouble. But
strangely enough, this struggling crowd seemed to help him along. He saw
men all around him with uniforms on, and wearing queerly shaped hats.
They opened a way before him and closed in behind him. He heard a sharp
cry, "Prisoner escaped!" and he heard the energetic commands of the
officer in charge, but still the crowd opened a way in front of him, and
closed up behind him. This pathway, formed of struggling firemen, led
Gabriel away from the main entrance, and conducted him to the side,
where there was an opening between the pillars. Not twenty feet away was
the countryman with his queer-looking team. He was still complaining of
the way he had been taken in by the town fellers who had told him that
the station was a cotton warehouse.

Gabriel recognised the voice and ran toward it, jumped into the waggon,
and crawled under the cover. "Now here--now here!" cried the countryman,
"you kin rob me of my money, an' make a fool out'n me about your cotton
warehouses, but be jigged ef I'll let you take my waggin an' team. I
dunner what you're up to, but you'll have to git out'n my waggin." With
that he stripped the cover from the top, and, lo! there was no one
there!

He turned to the astonished crowd with open mouth. "Wher' in the nation
did he go?" he cried. There was no answer to this, for the spectators
were as much astonished as Mr. Sanders professed to be. The man who had
crawled under the waggon-cover had disappeared.

He turned to the astonished crowd with a face on which amazement was
depicted, crying out, "Now, you see, gentlemen, what honest men have to
endyore when they come to your blame town. Whoever he is, an' wharsoever
he may be, that chap ain't up to no good." Then he looked under the
waggon and between the bales of cotton, and, finally, took the cover and
shook it out, as if it might be possible for one of the "slick city
fellers" to hide in any impossible place.

There was a tremendous uproar in the station, caused by the soldiers
trying to run over the firemen and the efforts of the firemen to prevent
them. In a short time, however, a squad of soldiers had forced
themselves through the crowd, and as they made their appearance, Mr.
Sanders gave the word to old Beck, saying as he moved off, "Ef you gents
will excuse me, I'll mosey along, an' the next time I have a crap of
cotton to sell, I'll waggin it to some place or other wher' w'arhouses
ain't depots, an' wher' jugglers don't jump on you an' make the'r
disappearance in broad daylight. This is my fust trip to this great
town, an' it'll be my last ef I know myself, an' I ruther reckon I do."

As he spoke, his team Was moving slowly off, and the soldiers who were
in pursuit of Gabriel had no idea that it was worth their while to give
the countryman and his superannuated equipment more than a passing
glance. It was providential that Captain Falconer, who was to have
conveyed the prisoners to Atlanta, should have been confined to his bed
with an attack of malarial fever when the order for their removal came.
The Captain would surely have recognised the countryman as Mr. Sanders,
and the probability is that Gabriel would have been recaptured, though
Captain Buck Sanford, who was sitting in an upper window of the hotel,
with his Winchester across his lap, says not.

The officer in charge did all that he could have been expected to do
under the circumstances. By a stroke of good-luck, as he supposed, he
found the Chief of Police near the entrance of the station and
interested that official in his effort to recapture the prisoner who had
escaped. By order of the military commander in Atlanta, the train was
held a couple of hours while the search for Gabriel proceeded. The whole
town was searched and researched, but all to no purpose. Gabriel had
disappeared, and was not to be found by any person hostile to his
interests.

Mr. Sanders drove his team around to the warehouse of Vardeman & Stark,
where he was met by Colonel Tom Vardeman, who, besides being a cotton
factor, was one of the political leaders of the day, and as popular a
man as there was in the State.

"I heard a terrible fusillade in the direction of the depot," he said to
Mr. Sanders, as the latter drove up. "I hope nobody's hurt."

"Well, they ain't much damage done, I reckon. Gus Tidwell an' Major
Perdue took a notion to play a game of tag wi' pistols. They're doin' it
jest for fun, I reckon. They want to show you city fellers that all the
public sperrit an' enterprise ain't knocked out'n the country chaps."

"Well, they're almost certain to get in the lock-up," remarked Colonel
Tom Vardeman.

"It reely looks that away," said Mr. Sanders, drily; "the Chief of
Police was standin' in front of the depot, an' ev'ry time a gun'd go off
he'd wink at me."

Colonel Tom laughed, and then turned to Mr. Sanders with a serious air.
"What did I tell you about that wild plan of yours to rescue one of the
prisoners? You've had all your trouble for nothing, and the probability
is that you are out considerable cash first and last. You don't catch
grown men asleep any more. Why, if the officer in charge of those poor
boys were to permit one of them to escape, he'd be court-martialled, and
it would serve him right."

"So it would," replied Mr. Sanders, "an' I'm mighty glad it wa'n't
Captain Falconer. This feller that had the boys in tow is a stranger to
me, an' I'm glad of it. He'll never know who lost him his job. He's a
right nice-lookin' feller, too, but when he run out'n the depot awhile
ago, his face kinder spoke up an' said he had had a dram too much some
time endyorin' of the night; or his colour mought 'a' been high bekaze
he was flurried or skeered. Now, then, Colonel Tom, ef you've done what
you laid off to do, an' I don't misdoubt it in the least, you've got a
safe place wher' I kin store a bale of long-staple cotton, ag'in a rise
in prices. Ef you've got it fixed, I'll drive right in, bekaze the kind
of cotton I'm dealin' in will spile ef it lays in the sun too long."

"Do you mean to tell me----"

"I'm mean enough for anything, Colonel Tom; but right now, I want to
git wher' I can drench a long-sufferin' friend of mine wi' a big
gourdful of cold water."

"But, Mr. Sanders----"

"Ef you'd 'a' stuck in the William H., you'd 'a' purty nigh had my whole
name," remarked Mr. Sanders with a solemn air.

"Why, dash it, man! you've taken my breath away. Drive right in there.
John! Henry! come here, you lazy rascals, and take this team out! I told
you," said Colonel Tom to Mr. Sanders as the negroes came forward, "that
you couldn't get any better prices for your cotton than I offered you.
We treat everybody right over here, and that's the way we keep our
trade."

The two negroes were detailed to convey the mule and the oxen to the
stable where Mr. Sanders had arranged for their "keep," as he termed it,
and as soon as they were out of sight, Mr. Sanders went to the rear of
the waggon, and said playfully, "Peep eye, Gabriel!" Receiving no
answer, he was suddenly seized with the idea that the young man had
suffocated behind the loose cotton which was intended to conceal him.
But no such thing had happened. Gabriel had plenty of breathing-room,
and the practical and unromantic rascal was sound asleep. His quarters
were warm, but the sweat-boxes at Fort Pulaski were hotter. It was very
fortunate for Gabriel that the reaction from the strain under which he
had been, took the blessed shape of sleep.

Gabriel's place of concealment was simplicity itself. With his own hands
Mr. Sanders had constructed a stout box of oak boards, and around this
he had packed cotton until the affair, when complete, had the
appearance of an extra large bale of cotton, covered with bagging, and
roped as the majority of cotton-bales were in those days. The only way
to discover the sham was to pull out the cotton that concealed the
opening in the end of the box. In delivering his message to Cephas, Mr.
Sanders had called this loose cotton a plug, and the fact that the word
was new to the vocabulary of the school-children gave great trouble to
Gabriel, causing him to lose considerable sleep in the effort to
translate it satisfactorily to himself. The meaning dawned on him one
night when he had practically abandoned all hope of discovering it, and
then the whole scheme became so clear to him that he could have shouted
for joy.

It was thought that a search would be made for Gabriel in the
neighbourhood of Shady Dale, and it was decided that it would be best
for him to remain in the city until all noise of the pursuit had died
away. But no pursuit was ever made, and it soon became apparent to the
public at large that radicalism was burning itself out at last, after a
weary time. When rage has nothing to feed upon it consumes itself,
especially when various chronic maladies common to mankind take a hand
in the game.

Not only was no pursuit made of Gabriel, but the detachment of Federal
troops which had been stationed at Shady Dale was withdrawn. The young
men who had been arrested with Gabriel were placed on trial before a
military court, but with the connivance of counsel for the prosecution,
the trial dragged along until the military commander issued a
proclamation announcing that civil government had been restored in the
State, and the prisoners were turned over to the State courts. And as
there was not the shadow of a case against them, they were never brought
to trial, a fact which caused some one to suggest to Mr. Sanders that
all his work in behalf of Gabriel had been useless.

"Well, it didn't do Gabriel no good, maybe," remarked the veteran, "but
it holp me up mightily. It gi' me somethin' to think about, an' it holp
me acrosst some mighty rough places. You have to pass the time away
anyhow, an' what better way is they than workin' for them you like? Why,
I knowed a gal, an' a mighty fine one she was, who knit socks for a
feller she had took a fancy to. The feller died, but she went right
ahead wi' her knittin' just the same. Now, that didn't do the feller a
mite of good, but it holp the gal up might'ly."



CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

_Gabriel as an Orator_


The _Malvern Recorder_ was very kind to Gabriel, and said nothing in
regard to his escape. This was due to a timely suggestion on the part of
Colonel Tom Vardeman, who rightly guessed that the Government
authorities would be more willing to permit the affair to blow over,
provided the details were not made notorious in the newspapers. As the
result of the Colonel's discretion, there was not a hint in the public
press that one of the prisoners had eluded the vigilance of those who
had charge of him. There was a paragraph or two in the _Recorder_,
stating that the Shady Dale prisoners--"the victims of Federal
tyranny"--had passed through the city on their way to Atlanta, and a
long account was given of their sufferings in Fort Pulaski. The facts
were supplied by Gabriel, but the printed account went far beyond
anything he had said. "They are not the first martyrs that have suffered
in the cause of liberty," said the editor of the _Recorder_, in
commenting on the account in the local columns, "and they will not be
the last. Let the radicals do their worst; on the old red hills of
Georgia, the camp-fires of Democracy have been kindled, and they will
continue to burn and blaze long after the tyrants and corruptionists
have been driven from power."

Gabriel read this eloquent declaration somewhat uneasily. There was
something in it, and something in the exaggeration of the facts that he
had given to the representative of the paper that jarred upon him. He
had already in his own mind separated the Government and its real
interests from the selfish aims and desires of those who were
temporarily clothed with authority, and he had begun to suspect that
there might also be something selfish behind the utterances of those who
made such vigorous protests against tyranny. The matter is hardly worth
referring to in these days when shams and humbugs appear before the
public in all their nakedness; but it was worth a great deal to Gabriel
to be able to suspect that the champions of constitutional liberty, and
the defenders of popular rights, in the great majority of instances had
their eyes on the flesh-pots. The suspicions he entertained put him on
his guard at a time when he was in danger of falling a victim to the
rhetoric of orators and editors, and they preserved him from many a
mistaken belief.

During the period that intervened between his escape and the
announcement of the restoration of civil government in Georgia, Gabriel
settled down to a course of reading in the law office of Judge Vardeman,
Colonel Tom's brother. He did this on the advice of those who were old
enough to know that idleness does not agree with a healthy youngster,
especially in a large city. His experience in Judge Vardeman's office
decided his career. He was fascinated from the very beginning. He found
the dullest law-book interesting; and he became so absorbed in his
reading that the genial Judge was obliged to warn him that too much
study was sometimes as bad as none.

Yet the lad's appetite grew by what it fed on. A new field had been
opened up to him, and he entered it with delight. Here was what he had
been longing for, and there were moments when he felt sure that he had
heard delivered from the bench, or had dreamed, the grave and sober
maxims and precepts that confronted him on the printed page. He pursued
his studies in a state of exaltation that caused the days to fly by
unnoted. He thought of home, and of his grandmother, and a vision of Nan
sometimes disturbed his slumbers; but for the time being there was
nothing real but the grim commentators and expounders of the common law.

When Mr. Sanders returned home, bearing the news of Gabriel's escape,
Nan Dorrington laid siege to his patience, and insisted that he go over
every detail of the event, not once but a dozen times. To her it was a
remarkable adventure, which fitted in well with the romances which she
had been weaving all her life. How did Gabriel look when he ran from the
depot at Malvern? Was he frightened? And how in the world did he manage
to get in the waggon, and crawl on the inside of the sham bale of cotton
and hide so that nobody could see him? And what did he say and how did
he look when Mr. Sanders found him asleep in the cotton-bale box, or the
cotton-box bale, whichever you might call it?

"Why, honey, I've told you all I know an' a whole lot more," protested
Mr. Sanders. "Ef ever'body was name Nan, I'd be the most populous man in
the whole county."

"Well, tell me this," Nan insisted; "what did he talk about when he woke
up? Did he ask about any of the home-folks?"

"Lemme see," said Mr. Sanders, pretending to reflect; "he turned over in
his box, an' got his ha'r ketched in a rough plank, an' then he bust out
cryin' jest like you use to do when you got hurt. I kinder muched him
up, an' then he up an' tol' me a whole lot of stuff about a young lady:
how he was gwine to win her ef he had to stop chawin' tobacco, an'
cussin'. I'll name no names, bekaze I promised him I wouldn't."

"I think that is disgusting," Nan declared. "Do you mean to tell me he
never asked about his grandmother?"

"Fiddlesticks, Nan! he looked at me like he was hungry, an' I told him
all about his grandmother, an' he kep' on a-lookin' hungry, an' I told
him all about her neighbours. What he said I couldn't tell you no more
than the man in the moon. He done jest like any other healthy boy would
'a' done, an' that's all I know about it."

"That's what I thought," said Nan wearily; "boys are so tiresome!"

"Well, Gabriel didn't look much like a boy when I seed him last. He
hadn't shaved in a month of Sundays, and his beard was purty nigh as
long as my little finger. He couldn't go to a barber-shop in Malvern
for fear some of the niggers might know him an' report him to the
commander of the post there. I begged him not to shave the beard off. He
looks mighty well wi' it."

"His beard!" cried Nan. "If he comes home with a beard I'll never speak
to him again. Gabriel with a beard! It is too ridiculous!"

"Don't worry," Mr. Sanders remarked soothingly. "Ef I git word of his
comin' I'll git me a pa'r of shears, an' meet him outside the
corporation line, an' lop his whiskers off for him; but I tell you now,
it won't make him look a bit purtier--not a bit."

"You needn't trouble yourself," said Nan, with considerable dignity. "I
have no interest in the matter at all."

"Well, I thought maybe you'd be glad to git Gabriel's beard an' make it
in a sofy pillow."

"Why, whoever heard of such a thing?" cried Nan. In common with many
others, she was not always sure when Mr. Sanders was to be taken
seriously.

"I knowed a man once," replied Mr. Sanders, by way of making a practical
application of his suggestion, "that vowed he'd never shave his beard
off till Henry Clay was elected President. Well, it growed an' growed,
an' bimeby it got so long that he had to wrop it around his body a time
or two for to keep it from draggin' the ground. It went on that away for
a considerbul spell, till one day, whilst he was takin' a nap, his wife
took her scissors an' whacked it off. The reason she give was that she
wanted to make four or five sofy pillows; but I heard afterwards that
she changed her mind, an' made a good big mattress."

Nan looked hard at the solemn countenance of Mr. Sanders, trying to
discover whether he was in earnest, but older and wiser eyes than hers
had often failed to penetrate behind the veil of child-like serenity
that sometimes clothed his features.

One day while Gabriel was deep in a law-book, Colonel Tom Vardeman came
in smiling. He had a telegram in his hand, which he tossed to Gabriel.
It was from Major Tomlin Perdue, and contained an urgent request for
Gabriel to take the next train for Halcyondale, where he would meet the
prisoners who had been released pending their trial by the State courts,
an event that never came off. Gabriel had seen in the morning paper that
the prisoners were to be released in a day or two; but undoubtedly Major
Perdue had the latest information, for he was in communication with
Meriwether Clopton and other friends of the prisoners who were in
Atlanta watching the progress of the case.

Gabriel lost no time in making his arrangements to leave, and he was in
Halcyondale some hours before the Atlanta train was due. When all had
arrived, they were for going home at once; but the citizens of
Halcyondale, led by Major Perdue and Colonel Blasengame, would not hear
of such a thing.

"No, sirs!" exclaimed Major Perdue. "You young ones have been away from
home long enough to be weaned, and a day or two won't make any
difference to anybody's feelings. We have long been wanting a red-letter
day in this section, and now that we've got the excuse for making one,
we're not going to let it go by. Everything is fixed, or will be by day
after to-morrow. We're going to have a barbecue half-way between this
town and Shady Dale. The time was ripe for it anyhow, and you fellows
make it more binding. The people of the two counties haven't had a
jollification since the war, and they couldn't have one while it was
going on. They haven't had an excuse for it; and now that we have the
excuse we're not going to turn it loose until the jollification is
over."

And so it was arranged. Notice was given to the people in the
old-fashioned way, and nearly everybody in the two counties not only
contributed something to the barbecue, but came to enjoy it, and when
they were assembled they made up the largest crowd that had been seen
together in that section since the day when Alexander Stephens and Judge
Cone had their famous debate--a debate which finally ended in a personal
encounter between the two.

The details of the barbecue were in the hands of Mr. Sanders, who was
famous in those days for his skill in such matters. The fires had been
lighted the night before, and when the sun rose, long lines of carcasses
were slowly roasting over the red coals, contributing to the breezes an
aroma so persistent and penetrating that it could be recognised miles
away, and so delicious that, as Mr. Sanders remarked, "it would make a
sick man's mouth water."

A speaker's stand had been erected, and everything was arranged just as
it would have been for a political meeting. There was a good deal of
formality too. Major Perdue prided himself on doing such things in
style. He was a great hand to preside at political meetings, in which
there is considerable formality. As the Major managed the affair, the
friends of the young men caught their first glimpse of them as they went
upon the stand. By some accident, or it may have been arranged by Major
Perdue, Gabriel was the first to make his appearance, but he was closely
followed by the rest. A tremendous shout went up from the immense
audience, which was assembled in front of the stand, and this was what
the Major had arranged for. The shouts and cheers of a great assemblage
were as music in his ears. He comported himself with as much pride as if
all the applause were a tribute to him. He advanced to the front, and
stood drinking it in greedily, not because he was a vain man, but
because he was fond of the excitement with which the presence of a crowd
inspired him. It made his blood tingle; it warmed him as a glass of
spiced wine warms a sick person.

When the applause had subsided, the Major made quite a little speech, in
which he referred to the spirit of martyrdom betrayed by the young
patriots, who had been seized and carried into captivity by the strong
hand of a tyrannical Government, and he managed to stir the crowd to a
great pitch of excitement. He brought his remarks to a close by
introducing his young friend, Gabriel Tolliver.

There was tremendous cheering at this, and all of a sudden Gabriel woke
up to the fact that his name had been called, and he looked around with
a dazed expression on his face. He had been trying to see if he could
find the face of Nan Dorrington in the crowd, but so far he had failed,
and he woke out of a dream to hear a multitude of voices shouting his
name. "Why, what do they mean?" he asked.

"Get up there and face 'em," said Major Perdue.

Now, Nan was not so very far from the stand, so close, indeed, that she
had not been in Gabriel's field of vision while he was sitting down; but
when he rose to his feet she was the first person he saw, and he
observed that she was very pale. In fact, Nan had shrunk back when the
Major announced that Gabriel would speak for his fellow-martyrs, and for
a moment or two she fairly hated the man. She might not be very fond of
Gabriel, but she didn't want to see him made a fool of before so many
people.

Somehow or other, the young fellow divined her thought, and he smiled in
spite of himself. He had no notion what to say, but he had the gift of
saying something, very strongly developed in him; and he knew the moment
he saw Nan's scared face that he must acquit himself with credit. So he
looked at her and smiled, and she tried to smile in return, but it was a
very pitiful little smile. Gabriel walked to the small table and leaned
one hand on it, and his composure was so reassuring to everybody but
Nan, that the cheering was renewed and kept up while the youngster was
trying to put his poor thoughts together.

He began by thanking Major Perdue for his sympathetic remarks, and then
proceeded to take sharp issue with the whole spirit of the Major's
speech, using as the basis of his address an idea that had been put into
his head by Judge Vardeman. The day before he left Malvern, the Judge
had asked him this question: "Why should a parcel of politicians turn us
against a Government under which we are compelled to live?"

This was the basis of Gabriel's remarks. He elaborated it, and was
perhaps the first person in the country to ask if there was any
Confederate soldier who had feelings of hatred against the soldiers of
the Union. He had not gone far before he had the audience completely
under his control. Almost every statement he made was received with
shouts of approval, and in some instances the applause was such that he
had time to stand and gaze at Nan, whose colour had returned, and who
occasionally waved the little patch of lace-bordered muslin that she
called a handkerchief.

She was almost frightened at Gabriel's composure. The last time she had
seen him, he was an awkward young man, whose hands and feet were always
in his way. She felt that she was his superior then; but how would she
feel in the presence of this grave young man, who was as composed while
addressing an immense crowd as if he had been talking to Cephas, and who
was dealing out advice to his seniors right and left? Nan was very sure
in her own mind that she would never understand Gabriel again, and the
thought robbed the occasion of a part of its enjoyment. She allowed her
thoughts to wander to such an extent that she forgot the speech, and
had her mind recalled to it only when the frantic screams of the
audience split her ears, and she saw Gabriel, flushed and triumphant,
returning to his seat. Then the real nature of his triumph dawned on
her, as she saw Meriwether Clopton and all the others on the stand
crowding around Gabriel and shaking his hand. She sat very quiet and
subdued until she felt some one touch her shoulder. It was Cephas, and
he wanted to know what she thought of it all. Wasn't it splendiferous?

Nan made no reply, but gave the little lad a message for Gabriel, which
he delivered with promptness. He edged his way through the crowd,
crawled upon the stand, and pulled at Gabriel's coat-tails. The great
orator--that's what Cephas thought he was--seized the little fellow and
hugged him before all the crowd; and though many years have passed,
Cephas has never had a triumph of any kind that was quite equal to the
pride he felt while Gabriel held him in his arms. The little fellow took
this occasion to deliver his message, which was to the effect that
Gabriel was to ride home in the Dorrington carriage with Nan.



CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

_Nan Surrenders_


It was all over at last, and Gabriel found himself seated in the
carriage, side by side with the demurest and the quietest young lady he
had ever seen. He had shaken hands until his arm was sore, and he had
hunted for Nan everywhere; and finally, when he had given up the search,
he heard her calling him and saw her beckoning him from a carriage.
There was not much of a greeting between them, and he saw at once that,
while this was the Nan he had known all his life, she had changed
greatly. What he didn't know was that the change had taken place while
he was in the midst of his speech. She was just as beautiful as ever; in
fact, her loveliness seemed to be enhanced by some new light in her
eyes--or was it the way her head drooped?--or a touch of new-born
humility in her attitude? Whatever it was, Gabriel found it very
charming.

To his surprise, he found himself quite at ease in her presence. The
change, if it could be called such, had given him an advantage. "You
used to be afraid of me, Gabriel," said Nan, "and now I am afraid of
you. No, not afraid; you know what I mean," she explained.

"If I thought you were afraid of me, Nan, I'd get out of the carriage
and walk home," and then, as the carriage rolled and rocked along the
firm clay road, Gabriel sat and watched her, studying her face whenever
he had an opportunity. Neither seemed to have any desire to talk.
Gabriel had forgotten all about his sufferings in the sweat-boxes of
Fort Pulaski; but those experiences had left an indelible mark on his
character, and on his features. They had strengthened him every
way--strengthened and subdued him. He was the same Gabriel, and yet
there was a difference, and this difference appealed to Nan in a way
that astonished her. She sat in the carriage perfectly happy, and yet
she felt that a good cry would help her wonderfully.

"I had something I wanted to say to you, Nan," he remarked after awhile.
"I've wanted to say it for a long time. But, honestly, I'm afraid----"

"Don't say you are afraid, Gabriel. You used to be afraid; but now I'm
the one to be afraid. I mean I should be afraid, but I'm not."

"I was feeling very bold when I was mouthing to those people; and every
time I looked into your eyes, I said to myself, 'You are mine; you are
mine! and you know it!' And I thought all the time that you could hear
me. It was a very queer impression. Please don't make fun of me to-day;
wait till to-morrow."

"I couldn't hear you," said Nan, "but I could feel what you said."

"That was why you were looking so uneasy," remarked Gabriel. "Perhaps
you were angry, too."

"No, I was very happy. I didn't hear your speech, but I knew from the
actions of the people around me that it was a good one. But, somehow, I
couldn't hear it. I was thinking of other things. Did you think I was
bold to send for you?"

"Why, I was coming to you anyway," said Gabriel.

"Well, if you hadn't I should have come to you," said Nan with a sigh.
"Since I received your letter, I haven't been myself any more."

"Did I send you a letter?" asked Gabriel.

"No; you wrote part of one," answered Nan. "But that was enough. I found
it among your papers. And then when I heard you had been arrested--well,
it is all a dream to me. I didn't know before that one could be
perfectly happy and completely miserable at the same time."

Then, for the first time since he had entered the carriage she looked at
him. Her eyes met his, and--well, nothing more was said for some time.
Nan had as much as she could do to straighten her hat, and get her hair
smoothed out as it should be, so that people wouldn't know that she and
Gabriel were engaged. That was what she said, and she was so cute and
lovely, so sweet and gentle that Gabriel threatened to crush the hat and
get the hair out of order again. And they were very happy.

When they arrived at Shady Dale, Gabriel insisted that Nan go home with
him, and he gave what seemed to the young woman a very good reason. "You
know, Nan, my grandmother has been Bethuning me every time I mentioned
your name, and I have heard her Bethuning you. We'll just go in hand in
hand and tell her the facts in the case."

"Hand in hand, Gabriel? Wouldn't she think I was very bold?"

"No, Nan," replied Gabriel, very emphatically. "There are two things my
grandmother believes in. She believes in her Bible, and she believes in
love."

"And she believes in you, Gabriel. Oh, if you only knew how much she
loves you!" cried Nan.

They didn't go in to the dear old lady hand in hand, for when they
reached the Lumsden Place, they found Miss Polly Gaither there, and they
interrupted her right in the midst of some very interesting gossip. Miss
Polly, after greeting Gabriel as cordially as her lonely nature would
permit, looked at Nan very critically. There was a question in her eyes,
and Nan answered it with a blush.

"I thought as much," said Miss Polly, oracularly. "I declare I believe
there's an epidemic in the town. There's Pulaski Tomlin, Silas Tomlin,
Paul Tomlin, and now Gabriel Tolliver. Well, I wish them well,
especially you, Gabriel. Nan is a little frivolous now, but she'll
settle down."

"She isn't frivolous," said Gabriel, speaking in the ear-trumpet; "she
is simply young."

"Is that the trouble?" inquired Miss Polly, with a smile, "well, she'll
soon recover from that." And then she turned to Gabriel's grandmother,
and took up the thread of her gossip where it had been broken by the
arrival of Nan and Gabriel.

"I declare, Lucy, if anybody had told me, and I couldn't see for
myself, I never would have believed it. Why, Silas Tomlin is a changed
man. He looks better than he did twenty-five years ago. He goes about
smiling, and while he isn't handsome--he never could be handsome, you
know--he is very pleasant-looking. Yes, he is a changed man. He was
going into the house just now as I came out, and he stopped and shook
hands with me, and asked about my health, something he never did before.
Honestly I don't know what to make of it; I'm clean put out. Why, the
man had two or three quarrels with Ritta Claiborne when she first came
here, and now he is going to marry her, or she him--I don't know which
one did the courting, but I'll never believe it was old Silas. I am
really and truly sorry for Ritta Claiborne. We who know Silas Tomlin
better than she does ought to warn her of the step she is about to take.
I have been on the point of doing so several times; but really, Lucy, I
haven't the heart. She is one of the finest characters I ever knew--she
is perfectly lovely. She is all heart, and I am afraid Silas Tomlin has
imposed on her in some way. But she is perfectly happy, and so is Silas.
If I thought such a thing was possible, I'd say they were very much in
love with each other."

"Possible!" cried Gabriel's grandmother; "why, love is the only thing
worth thinking about in this world. Even the Old Testament is full of
it, and there is hardly anything else in the New Testament. Read it,
Polly, and you'll find that all the sacrifice and devotion are based on
love--real love, and unselfish because it is real."

"It may be so, Lucy; I'll not deny it," and then, after some more gossip
less interesting, Miss Polly Gaither took her leave, saying, "I'll
leave you with your grand-children, Lucy."

When she was gone, Gabriel stood up and beckoned to Nan, and she went to
him without a word. He placed his arm around her, and then called the
attention of his grandmother.

"You've been Bethuning Nan and me for ever so long, grandmother: what do
you think of this?"

"Why, I think it is very pretty, if it is real. I have known it all
along; I mean since the night you were carried away. Nan told me."

"Why, Grandmother Lumsden! I never said a word to you about it; I
wouldn't have dared."

"I knew it when you came in the door that day--the day that Meriwether
Clopton was here. Do you suppose I would have sat by you on the sofa,
and held your hand if I had not known it?"

"I'm glad you knew it," said Nan. "I wanted you to know it, but I didn't
dare to tell you in so many words. I am going home now, Gabriel, and you
mustn't call on me to-day or to-night. I want to be alone. I am so
happy," she said to Mrs. Lumsden, as she kissed her, "that I don't want
to talk to any one, not even to Gabriel."

And this was Gabriel's thought too. He saw none of his friends that day,
and when night fell he went out to the old Bermuda hill, and lay upon
the warm damp grass, the happiest person in the world.

THE END





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