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Title: Jack Ballington, Forester
Author: Moore, John Trotwood
Language: English
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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Illustration: I WAS NEVER SO HAPPY (Page 80)]



                            JACK BALLINGTON
                                FORESTER


                                   BY

                          JOHN TROTWOOD MOORE

               AUTHOR OF "OLD MISTIS;" "A SUMMER HYMNAL;"
                      "THE BISHOP OF COTTONTOWN;"
                           "UNCLE WASH," ETC.



                     ILLUSTRATIONS BY GEORGE GIBBS



                             THOMAS LANGTON
                            TORONTO, CANADA.



                          Copyright, 1911, by
                        THE JOHN C. WINSTON Co.



                              TO THE TWINS
                      HELEN AND MARY DANIEL MOORE



                               *CONTENTS*


                                  *I*

                      *THE HEIR OF THE BLUEGRASS*

CHAPTER

I  Soul Dreams and the Soil
II  Little Sister


                                  *II*

                          *"A TWILIGHT PIECE"*

I  The Flame in the Wood
II  The Home-Stretch
III  The Hickories
IV  Colonel Goff
V  Pedigrees and Principles
VI  The Make-Believe
VII  The Chimes of the Wisteria
VIII  The Stone-Crop
IX  The Transplanted Pine
X  Conquering Satan
XI  Two Ways of Love
XII  Work and Mine Acre
XIII  The Unattainable
XIV  God and a Butterfly
XV  Hickories and Old Hickory
XVI  Heart’s Ease
XVII  "Lady Carfax"
XVIII  The Last Dance
XIX  The High Jump


                                 *III*

                          *THE HICKORY’S SON*

I  "Love is not Love That Alters"
II  A Dream and Its Ending
III  The Awakening
IV  The Call of the Drum
V  The First Tennessee
VI  The Battle in the Bacaue Mountains
VII  The Juramentados


                                  *IV*

                            *THE BURGEONING*

I  Two of a Kind
II  How Aunt Lucretia Ran Away
III  A Night with Captain Skipper
IV  My First Automobile
V  The Sick Tree



                            *ILLUSTRATIONS*


I Was Never So Happy . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

"Stop Her—He’ll Kill Her," I Cried

"Love is not Love that Alters."

I was on Him, My Knee on His Breast



                               *FOREWORD*


_I am the child of the Centuries.  I am the son of the Æons which were.
I have always been, and I shall always be.  To make me it has taken
fire, star-dust, and the Spirit of God—the lives of billions of people,
and the lights of a million suns._

_I have grown from sun and star-dust to the Thing-Which-Thinks._

_It were the basest ingratitude if I were not both thankful to God and
proud of my pedigree._

_What has come to me has been good; what shall come will be better: for
I am Evolution, and I grow ever to greater things.  Life has been good;
death will be better; for it is the cause of all my past, making for a
still greater future._

_And this I know, not from Books nor from Knowledge, but from the
unafraid, never silent voice of Instinct within me, which is God._

_My debt to the past is great: I can never, in full, repay it; for they,
my creditors, passed with it.  They left me a world beautiful: shall I
make it a world bare?  They left a world bountiful: shall I leave it
blazed and barren to the sands of death?_

_I am in debt to the Past.  Shall the Future present the bill to find
that I have gone to my grave a bankrupt?  Find that I have wantonly laid
waste the land, leaving no root of wild flower, no shade of tree, no
spring that falleth from the hills?_

_Shall I destroy their trees for the little gain it may bring to my
short Life-tenantry?  Shall I make of their land a desert by day and a
deluge by night? Shall I stamp with the degeneracy of gullies my own
offspring, and scar with the red birth-mark of poverty the unborn of my
own breed?_

_I live, charged with a great Goodness from the Past: I can die, paying
it, only by a greater Kindness for the Future._



                                  *I*

                      *THE HEIR OF THE BLUEGRASS*



                           *JACK BALLINGTON,
                               FORESTER*



                              *CHAPTER I*

                       *SOUL-DREAMS AND THE SOIL*


Those who live near to Nature learn much: for it is only by living close
to her that we learn from her.  The best advice ever given on longevity
was from the cheery old gentleman who said: "To live long, live
naturally; eat what you want, and walk on the sunny side of the street."

School children think that some wise man made all the hard rules of
grammar that grown-up folks try to teach them.  They do not know that
the child-man learned to talk first and that the rules were made from
his speech.  It is like the simple people at the circus who think the
trained horse is dancing to the music; it is the music that is dancing
to him.  From the facts of life we draw our rules just as the scholars
made rules of grammar from the facts of language.

Nature is the One great Fact.

I was thinking of one of her facts the other day—she has so many—but one
I had noticed very plainly: the man who lives close to her is an
optimist.

Let the farmer fail year after year, and still he plants, hoping.  Let
the merchant fall behind one year and he is shaken; another year, and he
quits. One season of deep water-hauling sends the fisherman home to his
fields.  When the wild game vanishes the pioneer hunter becomes the
pioneer farmer.  The merchant, the lawyer, the doctor,—there never was
one who did not dream, betimes, over his books, that he would yet live
to retire and till his acres.

Every failure in life goes back to the soil for a new start.

That is the fact; now for the rule.  It is this: God intended that man
should be, first of all, a soil-worker.  And tilling the soil includes
not only planting, but bringing all growing and living things thereon to
strength.

Rearing things on the soil is man’s natural vocation, since neither
drought, nor flood, nor failure, can shut out from his heart that
instinct of hope which has come down through so many centuries of
soil-loving ancestors.  The hoping instinct has been housed in him so
long that it is part of his heredity.

Maritime nations found empires, but not religions.  Religions come from
the soil.  Men, living in the open, watching their flocks by night, find
in the eternal wonder of the soul-questioning stars that which satisfies
their own souls.

Imagine fighting Rome founding a religion! Or bookish Greece!  Or the
trading Saxon!

Religions come from mangers.  All great soul-dreams were born amid
flocks and herds.

This is my own story, and the telling of it shall be in my own way.  And
as I am not a writer, but a forester, doubtless my telling will be all
awry.  For I have seen enough of life to know that the generals who have
won in the field of fiction, like the generals who have won in the field
of fact, have won because they have had the drilling.

And in my case the drilling has been only trees—trees, and their
children, the flowers.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                            *LITTLE SISTER*


This is my story, as I said, and the telling of it must be in my own
way.  That is why I am giving this chapter first—because it happened
first—four years before the real story began. Another reason is that in
the telling of it I can set forth the characters of the old general, my
grandsire, who believed in fighting; of my Aunt Lucretia, his daughter,
who believed in pedigrees; of Eloise, the beautiful and daring one, who
believed in dancing and riding and shooting, and in making those who
loved her miserable; of Colonel Goff, an Englishman, who believed in
horses and hounds; and of Little Sister, who believed in Uncle Jack; and
even of myself, Uncle Jack, who believed in trees.

Little Sister is the three-year-old daughter of my brother Ned
Ballington, who, with his lovely wife, Thesis, and his major domo, Uncle
Wash (a colored gentleman of the Old School), and his other live things
and birds, resides on the farm adjoining ours.

But Little Sister, whose real name is Mildred, and her brother, two
years younger, who was baptized Edward, but whom Uncle Jack had
nicknamed Captain Skipper, because nothing could keep him still, spent
the most of their time at The Home Stretch, the home of their great
grandsire, General John Rutherford, where also lived their Aunt
Lucretia, and Eloise, and Uncle Jack.

It was either very hot or very cold on those days when Uncle Jack did
not drive them over to spend the day, and maybe a night, too.  Once in a
great while the footing was too slippery for the pony.  But these
omissions occurred, at the most, perhaps twice each summer and winter;
for the heart of the Middle Basin, that beautiful bluegrass country in
which they live, beats in the breast of Summer.

John Rutherford, the First, built The Home Stretch in 1800.  It adjoined
the lands of Andrew Jackson, and the very spirit of the old fighter
hangs over the place.  For John Rutherford had loved him—nay, had lived,
fought, and died for him—at New Orleans.  There is a tradition that Old
Hickory himself named the place—in fact, that John Rutherford owned it
for no other reason than that his horse beat Andrew Jackson’s in the
home stretch.  The bet was a thousand acres of land.  The race track may
still be seen at Clover Bottom, just across the way, where Stone’s River
makes a bend around a hundred acres of land, rich as ever the crow made
a granary of, and as level as Chalmette Plain, where Jackson’s riflemen
stopped the British before New Orleans.

Little Sister was a fair, frail, sensitive little tot. Her bright blue
eyes, pale pink face and dark brown hair kept one thinking of full
summer moons rainbowed at night.  And her temper—she was fire and powder
there—a flash, maybe a clenched small fist, a small foot brought down in
sudden scorn—an explosion—and then she was sobbing for forgiveness in
your arms.  That was Little Sister.

Once she slapped Aunt Lucretia in the face. "I can’t see where in the
world she gets her temper from," Aunt Lucretia said; "for if there is an
angel on earth it is Thesis, her mother. General Rutherford" (Aunt
Lucretia always called her father General Rutherford), "this child ought
to be spanked till she is conquered.  Her mother sends her over here
expecting us to make her behave."

"Tut, tut, Madam," said the General (he always called his daughter
madam), "that is not the way to break colts.  That kind of a conquering
would spoil her.  She’ll need all of that temper, when she knows enough
to control it, to get through life and land anywhere near the wire
first. Besides, with her sensitiveness, don’t you see she is suffering
now more than if we had punished her?  If she were a plug now" (for the
General hated nothing so much as a plug), "she would never be sorry till
you made her sorry with a beating.  But the conscience of a thoroughbred
beats hickory, and gentleness, Madam, is away ahead of blows in
everything but war—and we are not fighting now."

Then to make sure that she did not get a whipping, Uncle Jack, who was
eighteen and preparing for college, would snatch her away from Aunt
Lucretia and take her out to see the colts.  At sight of them her
troubles vanished; for her love of all live things which are born on a
stock farm was as deep as her Ballington blood.  A great burst of
sunshine would spread over her conscience-stricken face.

"O Uncle Jack, aren’t they just too sweet for anything?  Do let me get
down this minute and hug them—every one!"  And Uncle Jack would let her,
if he had to catch each colt himself.

The clear-cut way she talked English!  And her great heart of
motherhood!  These were the two wonderful things in a tot so small.  It
was not difficult to see where she inherited the first. But how could so
tiny a thing have such a great mother-heart?  She loved everything
little—everything _just born_ on the place.  The fact that anything in
hair, hide or feathers had arrived was a cause of jollification.  "O do
let me see the dear little things!" would be her cry.  And she generally
saw them if Uncle Jack were around.

One day they missed her from the house and Uncle Jack quickly tracked
her to the cow barn. It had occurred to him that the day before he had
shown her the Short-Horn’s latest edition, a big, double-jointed, ugly,
hungry male calf, who slept all day in a bedded stall, a young Hercules
in repose, and only waked up long enough to wrinkle his huge nose and
sleep again.

There Uncle Jack found her.  She had climbed over the high stall-gate to
pet and coddle the great calf.  She had placed her own beautiful string
of beads around his tawny neck.

"Come out of there," laughed Uncle Jack. "What do you see pretty about
that great ugly calf?"

"O Uncle Jack," and she sighed affectedly, "I am truly sorry for him.
He is not pretty, to be sure—and so I have given him my beads.  And he
doesn’t seem to be very bright, nor at all well mannered, poor
dear—but—but," she added reflectively—"he has a lovely curly head and he
seems to be such a healthy child!"

On another occasion they missed her.  It was nearly night.  Everybody
started out in alarm to hunt for her.  Aunt Lucretia was the first to
find her, coming from the brood-sow’s lot.

"Where in the world have you been, child?" she asked as she picked her
up.

"Playing with the little yesterday-pigs," said Little Sister.  "And Aunt
Lucretia, I ought to have come home sooner, I know, but I kissed one of
the cunningest of the little pigs good night, and all the others looked
so hurt, and squealed so because I didn’t kiss them too, I just had to
catch and kiss every one before they would go to sleep."

Inheritance had played a tremendous part in Little Sister.  Most
children crow and lisp and talk in divers languages before they learn to
talk English; while some never learn at all.  But not so with her.  The
first long word she attempted was perfectly pronounced.  The first
sentence she put together was grammatically correct.  The correctness of
her language for one so small made it sound so quaint that Uncle Jack
had her always talking.  Her earnestness and intensity only added to her
originality.

Pete was a little darky on the farm whose chief business was to
entertain Little Sister when everything else failed.  His repertoire
consisted of all the funny tricks of a monkey.  But his two-star
performances were racking like Deacon Jones’ old clay-bank pacer and
playing ’possum.  Little Sister never tired of having Pete do these two
things.  They were very comical.  Everybody knew Deacon Jones, with his
angular, sedate, solemn way of riding, and the double-shuffling,
twisting, cork-screw gait of the old pacer.  The ludicrous motions of
the pacer had struck Pete early in life, and he had soon learned to get
down on all-fours and make Deacon Jones’s horse ashamed of himself.  The
imitation was so perfect that Ned and Uncle Jack used to call in their
friends to see the show, which consisted of Pete’s doing the racking
act, while Little Sister, astraddle of his back, with one hand in his
shirt collar, and the other wielding a hickory switch, played the
Deacon.

One evening, before company, Pete had paced around so many times that he
was leg-weary. Little Sister, astride his back, whacked him in the
flanks vigorously and exclaimed: "Come, pace along there, damn you, or
I’ll put a head on you!"

The company nearly fell out of their chairs, while Thesis blushed and
Ned stammered an apology.  Then he remembered that only a few days
before he had heard his grandsire, the swearing old Indian Fighter, make
the same remark to Pete for being slow about bringing his shaving water;
and he knew that if Little Sister was proud of anyone, it was of her
great grandsire, who fought valiantly with "Stonewall" in the Valley.

Ned and Thesis gave the old gentleman a talk, and begged him to be
careful of his oaths in the presence of Little Sister: but when he had
heard it, he laughed more than he had laughed for a year, and
straightway proceeded to buy her a doll that cost a gold eagle, and was
as large, and nearly as beautiful, as Little Sister herself.


The spring that Little Sister was four years old, the General, as was
his custom every morning before breakfast, went out to the barn and
paddock to see the brood mares and colts.  A stately brown mare,
ankle-deep in blue grass, stood in the paddock nearest the house, under
a great maple tree, its falling branches almost concealing her.  She
turned every now and then in a nervous, unhappy way, and, going up to
the brown, new-born weakling of a colt lying in the blue grass, and
which seemed unable to rise, she lowered her shapely head till her
nozzle caressed it and then she whinnied softly.  Something was very
badly wrong and she knew it.

The old General had been looking on for quite a while, frowning.  When
the General was sorry for anything he expressed his sympathy by a
nervous strutting and swearing.  When he was angry or fighting—as his
battles in Virginia proved—he was as silent as a stone wall, and as
staunch.  _Then_ he never swore.

"The damned little thing’s deformed, Jim," he said to the negro stable
boy who was standing near.  "Poor old Betty," and he rubbed his favorite
saddle mare’s nose, "she is distressed."

There was the sound of fox hunters coming up the pike.  The hounds
passed first, in a trot, nosing.  Then the two hunters rode up to the
rock fence where the General stood.  One of them rode a docked hunter
with ungainly long head and sloping rump and shoulders.  Both horse and
rider were unmistakably English; the man was middle-aged, portly, and
handsome.  The other rider was a young man riding a Tennessee saddle
horse.

"Good morning, General," said the Englishman, saluting, "can’t you join
us to-day? Thought we’d exercise the pack a bit.  The blooming old chap
was out last night—over in the hills after a negro’s chickens—and we’ll
take up his trail and have a little chase.  Fawncy striking him in that
stretch of Stone’s River bottom—aw—but we’ll have a chase!"

"No—no—Goff," said the old General, impatiently, "I’m pestered to death
with this little colt.  I don’t know what to do with it."

The hunter glanced over into the paddock.

"O that old ambling saddle mare of yours! Aw—you know what we did with
them in England—two centuries ago—anything with that Andalusian jennet
blood in it—that old pacing gait—killed ’em—aw! exterminated ’em, sir!
Always told you so.  They’re fit for nothing but for old women to ride
to church on."

The younger man broke out into a boisterous laugh.  His face was round
and weak, his mouth wide, his eyes insincere, and his laugh was affected
and betook of his eyes.

"The Colonel’s right, Grandpa.  Tell Jim to kill it an’ come on with
us."

The old General glanced at him quickly. "Braxton Bragg Rutherford, my
son, when you enter West Point you will find it a rule there that very
young officers do not try to impress their views on their superiors
until asked."

"Colonel Goff, suh," he said, turning to the Englishman, "that old mare
has carried me for fifteen years and never stumped her toe.  Her dam
carried me through the Valley campaign with Stonewall Jackson.  She
helped us chase Banks and Fremont out of God’s country.  She saved my
life once because she could outfoot Yankee cavalry.  You were with me
and know it.  I owe the whole family a debt I can never repay, and suh,
I’ll be damned if I don’t hate to kill her colt."

Colonel Goff looked over the fence at the colt lying in the grass.  Then
he said to the negro, aside: "Pull out its legs, my man—there—that will
do.  Hold them up!"

The legs were knuckled over at the ankles, deformed evidently.  When it
tried to stand it came down limply in a heap.

Colonel Goff turned and, beckoning to the negro, whispered: "Jim, take
it into the stall there and destroy it without letting the General
know."  Then he added in a louder tone, "Come, General, we’ll wait till
you get your cup of coffee and join us."

But the General shook his head.  Rough he was and used to war and death,
yet this was old Betty’s colt.  Goff, knowing his stubbornness, saluted,
and rode on after the hounds.

The old man stood thinking.  He examined the deformed limbs again.  Very
sternly he looked the colt over.  Very sternly he reached his
conclusion, and once reached it was irrevocable. Jim, knowing, put in
apologetically:

"Giner’l, hit’ll never walk, we’ll hafter kill it."

"I don’t want to see it done, Jim.  I’ll go in. Po’ ole Betty—that she
should be played off on like that!"  He stroked the mare’s neck with a
kindly pat, and went in.

Breakfast was ready for him.  He sat down, abstracted, worried.  Uncle
Jack, his grandson, eighteen, slender, and slightly lame, and who didn’t
love to talk of the war, nor the thought of going to West Point, and who
wanted always to study about trees and a better way of farming, sat next
to Little Sister.  The General told him of his misfortune.  "It is a
great disappointment to me, suh, old Betty, my favorite saddle mare—I’ve
ridden her for fifteen years—the best mare in Tennessee, by gad, suh,
the very best!

"It’s weak, puny and no-count, Jack," he went on as he tested his
coffee—"deformed or something in its front, and knuckles over, can’t
stand up."

"That’s too bad," said Uncle Jack; "I’ll go out after breakfast and see
what I can do for it, Grandfather."

"No use," said the General, gruffly.  "It’ll be merciful to destroy it.
I’ve told Jim, too; it’ll be better off dead."

Little Sister had not seemed to listen, but she had heard.  This last
remark of her grandsire stopped a spoonful of oatmeal half way to her
mouth.  The next instant, unobserved, she had slipped from her chair and
gone to the barn.

"I tell you, Jack, I think this breeding business is a poor lottery,"
went on the old General after a while.  "To think of old Betty, the
gamest, speediest, best mare I ever owned—"

There were protesting screams from the barn. They were instantly
recognized as Little Sister’s. Uncle Jack glanced at her empty place,
paled, kicked over two chairs and a setter dog which blocked the door,
and rushed to the barn.

A tragedy was on there.  A negro stood in old Betty’s stall with an ax
in his hand.  On some straw in a far corner lay a sorry-looking colt.
But it was not alone, for Little Sister stood over it, shaking her tiny
fist at the black executioner, and screaming with grief and anger:

"You shan’t kill this baby colt—you shan’t—don’t you come in here—don’t!
How dare you, Jim?"

The flash of her keen blue eyes had awed the negro in the doorway.  He
had stopped, hesitating, in confusion.

"Go away, Jim," said Uncle Jack firmly. "Come, Little Sister, let us go
back to grandpa."  But for once in her life Uncle Jack had no influence
over her.  She was indignant, grieved.  She fairly blazed through her
tears and sobs: she would never speak to grandpa again as long as she
lived! As for Jim, she would kill him as soon as she got big enough!
She wouldn’t even speak to Uncle Jack unless he promised her that the
baby colt should not be killed!

"Poor little colt," she said as she put her arms around its neck and her
tears fell over its big, soft eyes, "God sent you last night and they
want to kill you to-day."

Uncle Jack brushed away a tear himself and, stooping, picked up the
colt’s feet, one at a time, examining the little filly.

Little Sister watched him intently: to her mind Uncle Jack knew
everything.  The tears were still in her eyes when Uncle Jack looked up
quickly and said in his jolliest way: "Hello, Little Sister, this filly
is all right!  Deformed be hanged!  She’s sound as a hound’s tooth, just
weak in her tendons and we can soon fix them. Give her a little time for
strength.  No, they’ll not kill her, little one—" and he caught the
little girl up, giving her a hug.

The tears gave way to a crackling little laugh. Little Sister was
dancing in the straw for joy! What fun it was to help Uncle Jack fix her
up! She brought him the cotton batting herself and gravely watched him
as he made stays for the weak tendons and bent ankles.  Finally, when he
had the filly fixed and had called Jim, who held her in his arms to the
mother’s flank until she had had a good breakfast, the little girl could
not keep still.  In a burst Of generosity she begged Jim’s pardon and
said she intended to give him a pair of grandpa’s boots that very day.
In return for this Jim promptly named the filly "Little Sister."

But having once said that the colt was "no-count," the old General
refused to notice it. "Po’ little thing," said he, a month after it was
able to pace around without help from its stays, "po’ little thing!
What a pity they didn’t kill it."

But Uncle Jack and Little Sister, with the help of old Uncle Wash,
nursed it, petted it and helped old Betty to raise it.  And the next
spring their reward came in a nervous, high-strung but delicate looking
little slip that was indeed a beauty.  The General would surely relent
now!  But those who thought so did not know the old man.  He merely
glanced at the weanling and remarked again: "The damned little weakling!
That old Betty should ever have played off on me like that!"  He turned
indifferently away.  Whereupon both the filly and the little girl turned
up their noses behind his back.

The fall that the filly was three years old the big county fair came
off, with pacing stakes for the best three-year-old.  The purse was a
thousand dollars, but greater still was the glory!

The old General had entered a big colt named Princewood for the stakes.
This colt had been carefully trained for two seasons and had already
cost his owner more than he was worth.  "But it’s the reputation I am
after, suh," the General said to the driver, "the honor of the thing.
Our farm has already taken it twice, you know."

Now Uncle Jack was something of a whip himself.  He could not ride
because of a lame knee, so he became an expert in driving.  The old
General had failed to notice how all the fall he had been giving Betty’s
filly special attention with a hot brush now and then.  Wrapped up as he
was in Princewood’s wonderful speed, he had not noticed that Uncle Jack
had frequently called for his light road wagon, and that he and Little
Sister, now six years old, had taken delightful spins down the shady
places in the cool byways, where the footing was good and there was no
gravel or stones, and nobody could see them when they asked the
high-strung little filly "to step some," as Little Sister expressed it.

Then at supper one night, when Colonel Goff had dropped in as he often
did, the old General began to brag about Princewood’s wonderful speed
and of the way in which his favorite grandson, Braxton Bragg, could
drive him.

"Why, Goff," said the General, "that boy is a wonder!  He drove the colt
to-day a mile with one hand in 2:25."

Uncle Jack winked at Little Sister, and she had to cram her mouth full
of peach preserves to keep from laughing.  The General saw and guessed
there was a joke on him somewhere, and being one of those who loved to
joke others, but did not love to be joked himself, he flushed red and
began to praise Braxton Bragg openly, hoping it would go home to his
other grandson who sat so quietly at the table winking at Little Sister
and with something evidently up his sleeve....

"Yes, suh," said the General after a while, "Princewood will simply eat
up the field, and Braxton Bragg—ay, there’s a boy for you!—he’ll be a
great soldier some day—Braxton Bragg will simply drive the hoofs off the
whole bunch."

Then Eloise looked up.  Eloise was fifteen and lithe, with her red-gold
hair just being put up, and so graceful and beautiful that Little Sister
worshipped her, as did also Uncle Jack and Braxton Bragg, and Colonel
Goff for that matter.

Eloise had caught the wink that Uncle Jack gave, and understood it in an
instant.  For Eloise knew things, especially about horses.

"And you really think Braxton Bragg and Princewood will eat up the
field," she said ever so sweetly and respectfully to the old General.
"My, I’d like ever so much to take the field end of that," she added
indifferently, but winking at Uncle Jack.

"My dear," said the old General, "I don’t gamble with sweet school
girls; but if Princewood fails to make good, I’ll just give you that
fine Whiteman saddle you’ve been wanting all the time——"

"I can’t play a one-sided bet like that; it isn’t fair," said Eloise.
"I’d like to be as generous as you are, sir, and put up a forfeit.  But
dear me," and she sighed like the exiled queen in the fairy tale, "I’m
dowerless and own nothing."

"Good," said Colonel Goff.  "Brave girl! now that lets _me_ in.
General, just let me take the bet off your hands.  Now then, Eloise,
I’ll take you dowerless—for you are a dower all unto yourself," he said,
bowing grandly, "and I’ll bet you—mark me now—I’ll bet you that new
English saddle mare I’ve just imported, against your own sweet self,
that my friend the General’s Princewood will win that race!"

"It’s a go," cried Eloise, rising gracefully and taking his hand,
"red-leather-bargain-done-for-ever," she added laughing.

The General looked pleased—he showed it in his bland smile and the
vigorous nodding of his head.  He whispered to Goff: "By gad, Goff, but
all joking aside—she’ll make you the finest wife alive!"

Eloise heard and looked over at Jack with a smile, but Jack’s head was
down on his breast and there was no smile on his lips.

Never remotely—in any way—in his dreams—(and being a poet, he dreamed
often) had he thought of Eloise belonging to anyone but him!...

It looked as if all the county was there on the fine fall day of the
race.  It was one of those sweet old country fairs where the yeomanry of
the hills and the lassies from the valleys make holiday, and the heifers
with polished horns share the glory with the fillies, bedecked with
ribbons, and stepping proudly in air to music.

The field was a large one; for the purse was rich and the honor even
richer.

"And Princewood’s a prime favorite, suh," chuckled the old General as he
walked around, holding by the hand a little girl who went everywhere
with him, and who wondered whether, after all, Uncle Jack really knew.
And so hearing so much that was braggart of Princewood, she all but lost
faith: as is the way of us all if we do not touch, now and then, the
shrine of our Truth.

Eloise was there, now flirting with the country beaux, and now riding
Colonel Goff’s saddle mare in the rings for blue ribbons.  By two
o’clock she had the mare’s head-stall full of them, and one big one
adorned her own riding whip as "the best lady rider."  Seeing her beauty
and grace, Colonel Goff murmured to himself:

"By gad, but I’ll make her Lady Carfax some day."

The bell had already rung twice for the race and all the owners and
horses were supposed to be preparing to score down, when a new entry
drove in.  He sat in a spider-framed four-wheeled gentleman’s road cart
instead of in a sulky, which would make him at least four seconds slow
in a race like that.  And he wore a cutaway business suit and a soft
felt hat, and not a gaudy jockey cap and silk coat as did Braxton Bragg,
who drove Princewood and was bragging about what he was going to do.

The newcomer nodded familiarly to the starting judge and paced his
nervous looking little filly up the stretch.

"Who is that coming into this race in that kind of a thing?" asked the
old General of a farmer standing near, for his eyesight was failing him.

"Why, General, don’t you know yo’ own grandson? That’s young Jack
Ballington," said the man.

"The hell you say!" shouted the excited old man.  "Why dammit, has Jack
gone crazy?  He always was a fool!"  And he clattered over a bench with
his wooden leg and hobbled up the stretch to head off the pair.

"By gad, suh, Jack," he shouted, "are you going to drive in this race?"

Jack nodded and smiled, while he soothed the nervous little filly with
gentle words.

"And what’s that little rakish looking thing you’ve got there?"

"That’s Little Sister, Grandfather," he said, good-naturedly.  "I’m
really just driving her to please our little girl and see how she’ll act
in company."

The old General was amazed, indignant, outraged. "Why, you’re the daddy
of all damned fools that ever lived!" he blurted.  "They’ll lose you
both in this race!  Get off the track, Jack, for God’s sake, and don’t
disgrace old Betty this way—why, that old mare—I’ve ridden her for
fifteen years!  Why, I rode her dam clear through the war.  She helped
chase Banks and Fremont out of the valley—why that little no-count
thing—Jack, she’ll drop dead if you extend her."

Jack smiled.  "It’s just for a little fun, Grandfather, and to please
the little girl; for it’s her pet, you know.  I’ll just trail them and
if she’s too soft I’ll pull out the second heat.  But she’s better than
you think," he added indifferently.

The old General expostulated, threatened; but Jack laughed
good-naturedly and drove off.  Then the old General repented.  It was
comically pathetic to hear him call out: "Jack, Jack, don’t tell anybody
it’s old Betty’s colt, will you? Promise me, boy.  Why, I rode her for
fifteen years. I rode her dam all through the valley of Virginia with
Stonewall Jackson."  But Uncle Jack drove on, chuckling to himself:
"I’ll bet ten to one he’ll be telling it before I do."

When the little filly got into company she was positively gay.  She
forgot all about herself, and like great people the world over she lost
her nervous ways when the great effort was on, and went away at the go
of the starter with a rush that almost took Uncle Jack’s breath from
him.

He pulled her quickly down.  "Ho—ho, Little Sister—if you do that again
you’ll give us all dead away, and that will spoil the fun."  He glanced
quickly around to see if anyone saw him. But the crowd were all busy
watching Princewood. So Uncle Jack trailed behind, the very last of the
bunch, but with the little filly fighting indignantly for her head all
the way.

Nobody seemed to see them at all, that is, nobody but a little girl, who
clung nervously to the old General’s middle finger, and wondered, with
her child’s faith fiercely battered, if her Uncle Jack, her Uncle Jack
who knew it all and could do anything, if he, the mighty, was really
going to tumble from his lofty throne in her mind?

Then she got behind the General’s big Prince Albert coat tail, and wiped
away two nervous little tears.  Princewood had paced in way ahead. She
stuck her fingers in her ears, so that she could not hear the shouts,
and her little nervous lips closed tight with indignant shame.  When she
took them out the shouting was over, but she heard the old General say,
"Wasn’t it a walkover?  That fool grandson of mine has always made me
tired.  I don’t believe the little thing can go round again."

This cut into the soul of the little girl.  She pretended to go after a
glass of the big red lemonade that they sold under a near-by tree; but
really she went to cry in the dark hall under the grand stand and to
wipe her tears on the frills of the pretty little petticoat Mother
Thesis had made for her just to wear to the fair.

There was one who knew, however, because she really had horse sense.
She was riding a beautiful English saddle mare across the infield, and
she looked like a young Diana in her dark blue riding suit, and she sat
her horse like the Centaur’s wife. As she rode across the grassy
infield, Braxton Bragg came up, and catching her mare by the bit,
stopped her short.  His little round, weak face was focused into a
smile.  Eloise flushed, vexed that he should seize a moving mare by the
bit, for it is against all good horsemanship to do it; just as one pilot
would resent another interfering with his wheel.  She looked down on him
without a smile.

"Say, Eloise," he said as one who seeks a compliment, "how do you like
the way I did it?"

Long ago Eloise had said of Braxton Bragg: "Answer a fool according to
his folly."  Therefore she smiled dryly now and said, "Beautifully. How
entirely and completely you do fill that sulky seat, Braggy."  Braxton
Bragg, not knowing what satire was, took this for a compliment, and
smiled again.  Then, encouraged, he whispered low to her: "You’ve never
given me a chance to show you just how much I could do for love of you,
Eloise."

"Oh," she answered, ever so sweetly.

"Yes," he sighed affectedly, trying to look love-lorn, cocking his head
with affected sadness and succeeding only in looking ridiculous.

"Oh," she said sweetly again.  If he had had sense he would have seen
the sweetness was for ends of her own.  "Oh, how sweet of you and how
cruel of me, Braggy."  Her tone was very clear.  If he had only looked
down the past he might have remembered that whenever she had called him
Braggy she had been planning to do him.

He sighed again, which shut his mouth the second time.  Eloise,
demurely, but inwardly nearly bursting, did likewise.  "Well?" he asked,
expectantly.

"Yes," said Eloise encouragingly.

"I mean—can’t—I now?"

"There’s never a better time than the present, Braggy, you remember the
school books say."  Then she reached down and, pretending earnestness,
said:

"You’ve got a walk-over, it’s plain.  It’s yours for the asking, Braggy.
And so—well—it’s big odds I’m giving you, Braggy," and she laughed like
a wood thrush, "but if you win that race I’ll be yours alone henceforth
and forever, Braggy."

He paled, taking her hand, which fell sidewise down past her saddletree,
in his.

"Oh Eloise—dearest,"—he started bookishly, but ended in his own way,
which was mentally unlearned: "Gee—but I’ll win or bust!"

"And if you don’t," began Eloise, ever so indifferently.  "Of course you
will," she smiled; "but if you don’t, Braggy, now dear, why you’ll just
send me that set of seal-skins for that fashionable hennery I’m going to
at Washington?"

"Good!  Good!" he cried boisterously. "What odds you give me!  You
against a hundred dollar seal-skin!  Oh, my, let me get busy!"  And he
rushed off, smirking back sillily at her.

"A saddle mare, a saddle, and a set of sealskins all in one day.  Well,
that’s going some," Eloise chuckled as she rode up to the fence where
Uncle Jack stood.  Reaching down from her saddle, she tapped him on the
shoulder.

He looked up into her laughing eyes, and flushed, for he had always
loved her.

"Jack, Jack, you are a dandy!  You did it beautifully!  O, the stride of
that rush before you called her down!  Say, how do you like my mare?
Isn’t she a beauty?"

"If you say so," he said slowly, testing her, "I’ll lay up the next
heat; let _him_ win."  He had remembered Goff’s bet.

She flushed.  Then she rapped him over the shoulder lightly with her
whip.

"Why, Jack, that would be horrible!  Do you think I’d have made the bet
if I hadn’t believed in you, loved you, brother mine?"

Jack flushed.  "Do you, Eloise—do you—"

Eloise laughed.  "Like a sister.  Aunt Lucretia says we’ve got to marry
each other, so what’s the use of my kicking?  But listen—now—say,
Jack—you’ve played right into my hand. I’ll need that Whiteman saddle
for this beautiful thing.  So hold up a while till I ride over and close
that bet with the General.  Now is my time! He’s crazy about that great
lobster of his and I could win The Home Stretch on this bet if I had
anything to put up."

She wheeled her horse, threw a kiss down at Jack, and galloped off to
find the General.

When Little Sister got back from her cry the General was gone.  He was
over at the table talking to Uncle Jack.

"Now, Jack," said he, "don’t disgrace old Betty any more.  Why, I rode
her fifteen years. I rode her—"

Uncle Jack had always been so quiet that it was a distinct surprise to
the old General when he showed an unsuspected grit and gameness.

"Hang her old dam, Grandfather, and your cursed old war in Virginia!
Drop dead, will she? Well, sir, you are likely to see something drop
yourself before this heat is over."  And he turned on his heels and
walked off.

The old General looked at him astounded, and with positive admiration.

"By gad," he said to himself, "he’s either crazy or got more sense than
us all.  By gad, to think of him getting mad and having grit like that!
He may make a soldier yet," and he chuckled with pride.

Now Uncle Jack meant business.  He changed his cart for a sulky.  Again
they got the word. Princewood, having the pole and all advantage,
flashed ahead in his big lumbering pace, Little Sister in the very rear,
struggling for her head. Slowly, gradually, Uncle Jack let her have it.
Steadily, like moving machinery set in grooves of steel, she came up on
them, relentlessly, mercilessly cutting them down, one after another.
At the half there was nothing but Princewood ahead and no one even saw
her yet, for the shout was: "Princewood!  Princewood!"  This heat would
make the race his.

"Princewood’s got ’em, General!" yelled a countryman, his mouth so wide
open from excitement that tobacco juice ran down his chin whiskers and
into his shirt collar.  "Princewood’s got ’em!  There’s nothin’ that kin
head ’im!"

"He’s got ’em!" yelled the partisans of the old General, packed solidly
around him and cackling with half crazy joy.  "Now jes watch sum’thin’
drop."

But a girl sitting on her horse and looking over the crowd saw it
differently.  A daring, knowing, triumphant smile lingered around her
mouth. And not in heaven, nor in the star-lighted lake below, ever shone
two stars rippling into little wavelets of glint and glory like those in
the eyes of her.

The General, seeing her, shouted: "Yes, watch it drop!  No saddle for
you, young lady!"

Down went her keen, fun-loving eyes to those of the old soldier.  "It’s
dropped already, General—see!  I own that saddle now!"

Something had happened.  The little filly felt the reins relax and a
kindly chirrup come from her driver.  In a twinkling, in the whir of a
spinning wheel, she was up with the big fellow, half frightened at her
own speed, half doubting that it was really she who did it, half sobbing
with the keen thrill of it, like a great singer who for the first time
hears her own voice filling a great hall.

"_Princewood!  Princewood!_" shouted the crowd around their idol, the
General, "_Princewood’s broke the record!_"

The old General rose in happy anticipation: "Yes, boys, it looks like
the record is busted by—"

Here his jaw dropped as if paralyzed; for his trained eye took in the
situation and the word died in his mouth.  What was that little bay
thing that had so gamely collared his big horse? Who is that
quiet-looking fellow in the soft hat handling the reins like a veteran
and leading the march like Stonewall’s Foot-Cavalry in the Valley? His
grandson, Jack, was in a cart; this man sat in a sulky.  And Jack was
driving a little limp-waisted, hollow-flanked—

"Who the devil—" he began, when someone clinging to his middle finger
looked up, great smiles chasing tears down her cheeks and so excited she
could scarcely breathe.

"Why, it’s Little Sister, Grandpa!  Now isn’t she just too sweet for
anything?"

The next instant the little filly laughed in the big pacer’s face, who
had quit in a tangled break, as much as to say: "_You big braggart
duffer, have you quit already?_" and then, like a homing pigeon loosed
for the first time, she sailed away from the field.

"Princewood—Princewood has broke the record—" shouted the farmer who
hadn’t caught on and was shouting for Princewood, but was looking at the
champion pumpkin in the window of the Agricultural Hall.

And then the old General lost his head and what little religion he had
left.  For he jumped on a bench, his wooden leg rattling as he danced up
and down, like a flock of goats in a barn loft, and this is what the
town crier in the courthouse window, a mile away, heard him yelling:

"_Damn Princewood!  Damn the record! It’s Little Sister—Little Sister—my
own mare—old Betty’s filly.  I rode her fifteen years!  I rode her
dam—_"

"Oh—" sang out mockingly a beautiful girl, sitting her horse beside him,
with a laugh that sounded like a wood thrush’s.  "But I’ve won a saddle
and a seal-skin cloak and the sweetest mare in the world!  Say, Braggy,"
for Braxton Bragg just then drove in, the last of the whole
procession—"that engagement is all off, isn’t it?"

Then Uncle Jack, who had stopped and got out of the sulky, came up, his
face aglow.  And she, her eyes still fired to starry beauty, leaned from
the saddle and kissed him.

"You darling Jack, how can I ever get even for this?"

"I said he’d be telling about it first," said Uncle Jack, wagging his
head at the crowd, where the old General stood telling them that it was
_he_ who had bred the great little filly and that it was _his old mare_
who was the dam of her!

"And the little old no-count thing did play off on you sure enough,
didn’t she, Grandpa?" came from the tear-eyed tot beside him, so naively
in earnest and telling such a plain unvarnished truth that even the old
General’s partisans had to wink and nudge each other as they walked off.
The old General laughed as he picked her up and said: "And here’s the
little girl that saved her, gentlemen, the smartest girl in Tennessee;
and she’s got more horse sense than her old granddaddy!"

There was one more heat, of course; but it was only a procession, and
those behind—and that meant the field—cannot swear to this day which way
Little Sister went....



                                  *II*

                          *"A TWILIGHT PIECE"*


    ... "And all that I was born to be
    and do, a twilight piece."
      —_Robert Browning_.



                              *CHAPTER I*

                        *THE FLAME IN THE WOOD*


Home again and Tennessee in April!  When the train swept over the
Highland Rim, the woods, not yet in full leaf, seemed afire with the
clustering blooms of the pink azaleas.  On both sides, in little sudden
and short valleys, and farther off on dwarf-oak hillsides, they blazed.
Far beyond their faint, mist-like flush mingled with the sky line in the
distant openings, and seemed an arc of soft sunset clouds.

Cream-white dogwoods rose up in open spaces against the blurred, pink
backgrounds, clustering like evening stars in rose cloud-banks.  Anon
they grew in separate groups, down in little dells, and each of these
tiny bowls was full of them.

Their odor, soft and fragrant, swept through the train, dew-damp and
like old memories in sweetness.

This seems to me to be the main thought about all wild flowers, that
they alone are God’s idea of beauty and not those that bloom in gardens
and hot houses through the skill of man.  If, from any cause, such as
the gas from a comet’s tail, men should vanish in a night, none of these
last would live to bloom again.  Like their makers they would pass from
the earth.  But like Nature’s Maker the wild sweet things of the wood
and meadows and mountains would bloom again, although man were not,
mirroring God’s idea of beauty even to the desert.

If it is Nature’s great desire that that which is best shall live, the
wild flowers have Nature’s underwriting of approval.  Ancient Linnæus
said of one unfolding: "I saw God in his glory passing near me and bowed
my head in worship."

Through all the ages those who see, whether poet or planter, think the
same great thoughts. Tennyson said of the flower plucked from the
crannied wall, that if he could know what it was he should know what God
and man were.  They bring a larger thought even than that, for they
prove that God _is Beauty_.

Even as I was thinking this the train rushed through what had once been
a wood, but was now a burnt and scarred spot, bare of life.  The azaleas
in their beauty, were the flame in the woods which Nature had kindled:
but this desolate spot was the flame which had come from the hand of
man...

When the train stopped for water at the little station I got out and
gathered a great bunch of flowers for Eloise....

Then as we dropped down into the Middle Basin, filled with the blue
grass in its spring glory, whole acres of hepaticas twinkled up at us
like fallen fireflies.

At last I was home again, and home with a new mission, new ideas.  For
four years I had studied trees and flowers in a German university. I had
prepared myself to be a forester.  Now I was looking out of the car
window at the wantonness that had turned hillsides into gullies and rich
loam into beds of clay.  The little streams that I had remembered
running from a familiar wood, now crawled, winding amid sand dunes bare
of trees.  The folly of it hurt me.  I saw that here was work for me to
do.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                           *THE HOME-STRETCH*


How familiar were the hills around the little Hermitage Station!  And
how grateful was the sweet clear air of its dew-bathed meadows after the
noise and smoke of the train!

My Aunt Lucretia imprinted two chilly kisses from tight-shut lips on
each of my cheeks.  She was a large, strong, stout woman, with a fine,
high nose and full mouth, which, when it would, could settle quickly
into close-shut lips of determination.  Her eyes were hazel and keen:
kindly when quiet; but quick to flash and far-seeing.

Without a word and very deliberately she looked me over through her gold
nose glasses.  I smiled as I remembered how often I had seen her pass on
a horse she was purchasing in the same way. Down the six feet of my
height her keen eyes went, dwelling, I imagine, a bit longer on my legs
where the old lameness had been in my knee since my boyhood sickness
from typhoid fever.  Again I smiled, for in that same way I had seen her
linger over the doubtful tendon of a horse.  But the noted German
surgeon, Hoffman, had, in my first year at Berlin, skillfully removed
the floating cartilage, and I saw my Aunt Lucretia’s face light up,
satisfied with the straight limb, and my weight upon it.  Then she
looked lengthwise across my shoulders, and a surprised pleasure shone in
her eyes.  I had grown from a frail boy into an athlete.

We had not said a word.  I stood smiling at her, and she, as was her
custom, would not speak until her survey was done.  Very deliberately
she looked me over.  I had seen her examine Young Hickory, lineal
descendant of Andrew Jackson’s famous Truxton in the same way.

I was eager to say something and get to Eloise. I had caught a glimpse
of her face at the surrey’s door.

"I thought you would grow into that," Aunt Lucretia remarked, as she
readjusted her glasses. Then, as if to impress on me her long expressed
thought, she added, "You have grown beautifully up to your pedigree,
Jack."

I laughed.  "Well, if you have passed on me, here goes," I said
boisterously, as I seized her around the neck and gave her a kiss, which
knocked off her glasses.

"Tut—tut, Jack, that will do!  Kissing is silly and thoroughly unsanity.
There is Eloise waiting for you—but no kissing—no hugging her—none of
it," she added.

I saw the straight, fine figure draw back half haughtily into the
carriage, and a half-protesting look flash for an instant over the
pretty face, profiled through the open space.  She threw back her head
in the old tribute-demanding way, and her half-closed lids veiled her
eyes under great curving, brown-red brows.  I caught a gleam of the old
daring fun in them, as she smiled and held out both her hands, taking
mine.

"Awfully glad to see you, Jack—welcome home."

My heart betrayed itself in the quick glance I gave her.  She had
developed so wonderfully in those four years.  And how I had longed to
see her!

She sat smiling kindly into my eyes; I stood looking sillily into hers,
holding both of her hands in mine, forgetful of Aunt Lucretia, and with
no word that I could say to Eloise.

"Eloise," I began haltingly at last, "is it—have you—is it really you?"

I bent down to kiss her, but she fenced away and drew back smiling.

I dropped her hand, hurt.

"Jack," and her tone tried to compensate me, "behave now—everybody is
looking."  Then she added louder, "Have you really grown into this
handsome chap—and no lameness any more?"

"Tut—tut," broke in Aunt Lucretia, half irritated, "you two make me
tired.  Of course he has—you have both grown wonderfully up to your
pedigree—I always said so—nothing strange in that.  And as you are both
grown now," she added patronizingly and with the old return of
authority, "I intend to marry you to each other before Christmas—see if
I don’t."

I blushed and Eloise smiled—a trace of the old fun-loving tease breaking
across the corners of her mouth.  Her beautiful clear blue-hazel eyes
smiled up into mine, full of the old fun and daring.

I bent over her.  "Eloise, aren’t you really going to kiss me?"

"It is unsanitary, Jack,—and—" she glanced at Aunt Lucretia—"bad form
and—"

I turned, hurt, and shook hands with old Thomas, the driver.

"Mighty glad to see you back home, Marse Jack, mighty glad!" said he.

I looked closely at his horses, with that pretended admiration that I
knew would please him, in order to hide my chagrin.  There was
embarrassment in it too, for I knew I was under inspection from the eyes
of Eloise.

"I declare, Marse Jack," he went on, "dis sho’ly ain’t you, is it?  I
declar to goodness if you ain’t biggern yo’ daddy wuz, and yo’
gran’pa—the ole Jineral."  He grew easily loquacious. "When I fust seed
you a-comin’ out dat cyar dore, I didn’t know you, and yit I sed to
myself, _sholy I’ve seed dat face—hit ’pears mighty complicated to me
somehow_."

A smothered laugh from Eloise.  "That is what I’ve been trying to say,
Thomas, but couldn’t, to save me, think of the right word.  Thank you so
much—’_complicated,_’ Jack—that’s too good!"

I showed plainly that I did not like this from Eloise.  Ridicule we may
bear, but not from our beloved.  And I had loved Eloise always, but
never so much as now.  Then she suddenly broke into a smile, and said in
her sweet sisterly way of old: "Forgive me, Jack—I haven’t lost my old
teasing way with you, have I?"

"I don’t want you to," I said quietly.

"Well, what do you think of her?" broke in Aunt Lucretia.

"I can’t tell you how beautiful I think she is, Aunt Lucretia," said I.

Eloise laughed, and looked dreamily up.  How quickly her eyes had
changed from daring to dreams.  In her low, even laugh lay four years of
fashionable Washington schooling.  In the soft tones of her voice were a
thousand music lessons.  In the well-gowned girl before me was training,
the spirit of gentlefolk, centuries of correct pedigrees.  She had
always been strong, and with a form as lithe as a young frost-pinched
hickory.  How she could ride a horse and handle a gun!  Her hair had
been yellowish and flossy, now it was like the distant flush of a
red-top meadow, mower-ripe.  I had left her an over-long school girl,
thin and callow, daring, caring for nothing so much as running a risk of
her neck and limbs in trees, and bare-back gallops on any half-broken
colt on the farm.  But now—

Aunt Lucretia, watching me, guessed.

"Oh, well, she’ll pass, won’t she?" she said rather braggartly for her,
I thought.  "You’ll believe what I kept writing you now, eh?  Though you
never referred to it once, not once."

"Oh!  Aunt Lucretia," began Eloise protestingly. Even her voice had
changed.  It was not the imperative, rollicking, colt-breaking voice of
the school girl I had known four years ago.  It was now like a fall of
soft, freestone water over a moss-lined rock bed, purling into a deep
pool below, sand-bordered and waveless.

"Please don’t tease him," she began again.

Aunt Lucretia laughed triumphantly: "Oh, never mind.  I want to rub it
in on Jack.  He needs it curried into him.  He hasn’t written me a line
to show that he intended to carry out my wishes until I grew positively
uneasy, for fear he’d marry one of those Hessians, whose ancestors
Washington crossed the Delaware to whip that night."

(Hadn’t written, I thought.  But no one shall ever know what I had
dreamed and hoped in those four years.)

I was looking into Eloise’s eyes; she flushed, for I saw she knew my
thoughts.

"You shan’t be hard on Jack," she said, taking my part as it seemed to
save herself.  "Jack, dear," and she took my hand in hers, her eyes for
the first time flashed with sympathy, "we must do as of old, we must
pool interests, when she is against us we must combine to beat her.  And
to prove it I am going to defy her and kiss you, for you’ve heard her
say that we are betrothed, and this is always the first thing after a
betrothal," and with the old daring in her eyes she looked up at me.

I remember into what a perfect Cupid’s bow her hitherto straight lips
curved, and I flushed crimson as my lips met hers.  Aunt Lucretia,
seeing this, said with emphatic shame, "Tut—tut, unsanitary and silly!
Get into the surrey, Jack. Thomas, drive these two fools home!"

In my heart I thanked Aunt Lucretia for that tirade.  I knew Eloise of
old.  She was always on the side of the under dog.  For that reason she
had kissed me.  Still, with all her pretense I noticed that Aunt
Lucretia had arranged that we should sit together, and had seated
herself in front with Thomas, where she could watch her roan span trot
off.

"Eloise," I whispered, dropping my hand on hers, "is it really you?  I
never dreamed you would be so beautiful.  I have loved you always,
Little Sister.  Don’t you love me a little?"

She laughed at my low voice.  Then she suddenly grew serious, and said
in a tone that hurt me, "Of course I do, Jack, as your adopted sister.
But don’t!" she protested, as I tried to kiss her cheek.  "You are
acting so queerly; as if we were really in love!"

I drew back, very much hurt.  "Eloise!"

"Don’t be silly, Jack, or you’ll spoil it all. Haven’t I always been
your little sister?"

"But surely, Eloise," I said, my heart in my throat, "after all these
years—you don’t know how I’ve loved you always, and lately yearned for
home and you."

She gave me a startled look.  "Jack, we must stop this.  I have
something to tell you."

The hills swayed as the surrey rushed by.  I saw the old field mistily,
the distant trees and the white lime roads.  I was almost reeling in the
fear which her tone had brought.

"What do you think of them?" asked Aunt Lucretia proudly.

I looked at the handsome pair, stepping like one, at a good three
minutes’ gait.

"Splendid," I said.  "I should guess they were Young Hickory’s, and
their dam, Nuthunter."

Uncle Thomas could not restrain a laugh. These horses were his pride.
"Ain’t los’ none of yo’ hoss sense hobnobbin’ with them furrin’ folks,
Marse Jack.  You sho’ hit it ’zactly!"

"I was afraid," went on Aunt Lucretia, "that I might not be successful
in straightening out the Nuthunter legs; he hasn’t the best of hocks,
you know.  But did you ever see anything more beautiful?" she added.

"I never," I answered, looking steadily into Eloise’s eyes.

"Jack," laughed Eloise, "I must discipline you."

For answer I caught up her hand behind Aunt Lucretia’s back and kissed
it.

"I’m sorry for you, Jack," she said with her old quietness,
"but—but—well, I’ll see you to-night and explain."  Then she looked out
and exclaimed, "The Home Stretch, Jack!  Isn’t it beautiful?  Has it
changed any?"



                             *CHAPTER III*

                            *THE HICKORIES*


We drove up to the great mansion built of home-baked bricks.  It sat on
a blue grass slope, and before it lay twenty acres of blue grass lawn,
tree-peopled: oaks, ash, poplars; and elms, red and white; and a great
broad-topped gum.  Eloise and I remembered this last best of all, for in
the fall it early turned into a great, flaming brushheap of red, crimson
streaked with black. Scattered about on the lawn, filling the gaps, were
single trees of dogwood.  In the dusk they shone like silver nosegays in
dark vases.

The evening dank was in the air as we drove up; that rare odor, which is
really no odor, but only a memory of one; and as we whirled up the drive
there came a whisp of perfume, blue grass cut before its time, fresh
spring hay, for a sick brood mare, in the meadow beyond.

The night sounds made me homesick, even though I was at home; a
whippoorwill, a whinnying mare, the lowing of a lonesome calf in the
barn.  Far off, in the faint purple twilight, stood the hills; and
nearer was the black fringe of trees which moated Stone’s River.  Here
was home and April, and my heart was eager for them.

This was The Home Stretch, the home of my grandsire, General John
Rutherford.  His daughter, my Aunt Lucretia, ran the farm for him, as
she did everything else within ten miles of her, for my grandsire was
old, and had lost a leg while fighting with Stonewall Jackson in the
Valley.

Eloise guessed my thoughts.  Her voice was quiet and tender as she said,
"You should see our hickories, Jack!"

I jumped from the surrey at the door, and drew her with me.  "Let us
look at them first of all," I said, "because there was our playhouse,
there were our dreams."

She smiled as she pointed to the walks still lined with sunken ale
bottles, their mouths projecting upward as borders for our flower beds.

Aunt Lucretia had gone into the house. Thomas had wheeled the surrey and
team to the barn.

The land we stood on had once belonged to Andrew Jackson.  Here he had
lived before he had moved to the farm four miles away known as the
Hermitage.  Clover Bottom had been the pride of a great, strong heart.
In the field beyond had stood the pioneer store where Jackson and Coffee
had traded, with Indians.  Beyond that was the far-famed circular field,
in the great bend of Stone’s River, and level as a floor, where Truxton
and Plowboy and the unbeaten Maria had once raced.  Still farther beyond
Stone’s River circled like a tube of quicksilver through the green of
the wooded hills.

Never before was honesty put to such a test as when Andrew Jackson gave
up this home to pay an unjust debt.  Without complaint he moved further
into the wilderness, and built his great double log-cabin home.  That
cabin is now a shrine!

Here stood the giant hickories in a group, the rugged, stately trees.
Why did he plant them here?  Or had the old hero, with that love of his
for the unbending tree for which he was named, let them stand unscathed,
as Nature had placed them?  They stood in a great group, cathedral-like,
one taller and more stately than his fellows, like a spire.

Of all the trees the hickory is the conqueror. Its purpose in life is to
withstand.  It is a fighting tree, rough of dress, careless of manner,
rude in its unpolished bark.  To be frightened by the hails of heaven is
not for it.  The hurricane cannot quell it.  From its youth it has
fought the storm, and when the storm has tired it has still stood,
tattered but glorious.

Every fall in one great flaming pyre as of a burning bush wherein there
is Divinity, they have blazed and burned before our wondering eyes.  A
warrior tree, and yet, withal, what no warrior ever was: a giver of
gifts, not a wrecker of those already garnered; not bullets, not shells,
not grape shot dropped on the land; but nuts.  Some day, truly, the real
conqueror of the world will conquer like this tree—overcoming in a hail
of kindness flung from loving hands.

"It was these trees," I said, turning to Eloise, "that sent me to
Germany to study forestry; these trees and Dr. Gottlieb.  How is he?  I
can hardly wait till morning to run over to his cabin."

Eloise laughed.  "Oh! you were always a poet, Jack.  Dr. Gottlieb is the
same, and he is famous now; such books he has written of flowers and
trees!"

"Do you know they use his text-books in Germany?" I asked proudly; "and
that last work of his, ’Tree Influence on Precipitation,’ was talked
about in all the universities.  Look," I said, pointing to a scarred and
gullied hillside across the road, showing bare even in the twilight,
"there is the great work to be done in our land, there is the coming
field for the young brains of our country—that, and better farming, and
the watering of our great barren spots in the West. We’ve cut down our
trees wantonly—our pioneer sires did so before us,—for the land had to
be cleared or they would have died.  But now if I can only get them to
change!  You should see the German and French system.  When I came
through France, along their coasts, both on the Mediterranean and the
Channel, were great forests planted to break the winds and storms. I was
told that a century ago the winds began to make deserts of their coasts,
encroaching mile after mile into the land.  Now, with the trees planted,
it is a garden again."

Eloise was listening silently.  Then she said, "Jack, that is all very
fine, and it took courage in you to do it, to go over there.  It was not
Aunt Lucretia’s idea; hers was a horse-farm for you; and the General’s
was West Point and war. He has never been the same toward you, Jack—I
can see it—since you would not go to West Point."

"He never cared for me as he did for Braxton," I said.  I winced, for I
loved my old grandsire.

"He has not written me a line since I have been gone," I went on.

"Poor Jack," and she took my hand in hers in the old way, "and I have
always teased you cruelly, Jack."

"And Eloise," I said, "I have always loved you."

"Jack," she said, "Little Brother,"—those words I knew of old meant
condescension—"I knew it would not do.  I wanted you to love someone
else.  You know Aunt Lucretia’s silly conditions."  She flushed in the
twilight.  "I hoped while you were away," she went on, "if we didn’t
write you’d forget me."

"And instead," I said, bringing her hand to my lips, "I thought of no
one else but you.  I came back loving you, Eloise, more than ever; as a
man’s love is greater than a boy’s."

She grew suddenly stern.  "Jack, Jack, haven’t I told you not to?"

"Not?" I cried.  "Did any real lover ever have a choice?  It’s not his
part to decide—"

"Listen, Jack; you know I would not lie to you, but you must understand
how foolish—how useless—"

"Come to supper, Jack—Eloise."  It was Aunt Lucretia calling.  "Here is
father and Colonel Goff," she added as we walked up the steps.  "Father
has grown quite deaf, Jack, since you saw him."

Colonel Goff, handsome, alert, and quick even to bluntness, came
forward, and shook my hand.

"Glad to see you back again, Jack—welcome home."

My grandfather sat in his great chair, facing the lawn.  His wooden leg
rested on the railing. Great curls of tobacco smoke rose from his corner
of the porch.

There was the old nervous, staccato clatter of wood and cane meeting on
the floor as he arose to greet me.  I saw the stern, unyielding face
give back no smile of pleasure as he took my hand. He stood looking at
me doubtfully, his mind evidently weakening with old age.  The sadness
of it flashed over me, for his mind had been the mind of a strong man in
his day.  My Aunt Lucretia promptly screamed in his ear, "This is Jack,
Father; he has come home."

"Jack, ah—ah—Jack, glad to see you, suh; and who did you say it was,
Lucretia?"

"Your grandson, Jack Ballington.  He has been away studying in Germany,"
she screamed again.

"Aha," said the old man, "aha—of course—wouldn’t go to West Point,
though the President himself gave him the appointment in my behalf.
Aha—Jack—a brooding, dreaming sort of a feller—always mooning around
trees and writing poetry.  Won’t fight—not a damn one of ’em will.  And
what a chance to fight you would have now!  What a bully scrap we are
going to have!  Have you heard, suh," he turned, and spoke sharply to
me, "have you heard that the Spaniards blew up our battleship the other
month, and that we are going to blow hell out of ’em?  And they’ve been
needing it for two centuries.  Ah!  If I were only younger, wouldn’t I
be in!  Imagine it, Goff," he said, turning to him, "imagine me fighting
under the old flag again!  Didn’t think I’d ever live to see that day
when we were charging Banks in the Valley.  Ah, ’twas a family
scrap—only a family fight—like old man Tully and wife—have to fight a
little at home now and then, so they’d love each other more when they
made up.  Ah, suh, I’d give this farm to be your age again, and a chance
to fight under the old flag once more. Joe Wheeler wrote me the other
day that President McKinley would make me a Brigadier, if I’d go in.  By
gad, suh, I sat down, and shed tears to think I was too old!"

He was silent awhile; then, "Ha, ha, but I read in the paper to-day that
the Spanish Prime Minister is out in a statement saying it’ll be easy to
whip us, because we’re divided North and South, and that the Southern
Confederacy will arise again!  He is right.  We have already arisen.  I
see in every Southern State ten times more have volunteered than their
quota calls for. Yes, we’ll arise, and will help McKinley whip hell out
of them!"  He stamped his wooden leg on the floor.

"Now, Braxton Bragg—ah, he’s in it.  Do you know, suh, that he’s a
Captain in the First Tennessee, and they are preparing now to go to the
Philippines?  Ah, what a chance, what a chance you had, suh!  And what
do you say you did in Germany?"

"I studied forestry and farming, sir," I said, flushing hot under his
words, "and with it I took two years’ training in the military school at
Berlin, taking instructions up to the rank of captain in the Emperor’s
Guards."

"The hell you did!" he shouted excitedly. "Did you have sense enough to
do that?  Those soldiers are the best drilled soldiers in the world,
Goff.  Your damned English to the contrary notwithstanding," he added,
smiling at the Colonel.  "In the Emperor’s Guards!  Strike a match,
Lucretia, and let me see him."  In the light of the match he stood up I
stood above him six good inches.  That and my shoulders breadth
surprised him, for he went on: "You left here a crippled stripling,
mooning all the time over flowers and such cat-hair, and crying if
anybody cut down a tree.  But you’ll never fight, none of you ever have!
Sissy is the word for the whole kit of the world’s mooners.  Still, you
do surprise me, suh, now and then; I’ll be honest about it; like this
studying military in Germany.  Ha—ha—think of it!"

"And beating you and your whole bragging bunch with Little Sister—have
you forgotten that, sir?" asked Eloise, nervily thrusting her intense
face into his, her eyes flashing, ready as she always had been to fight
my battles for me.

My grandsire laughed good-naturedly.  He had always had respect for
Eloise in her fighting moods, as had everybody else on the farm.  His
voice was decidedly conciliatory as he said, "There, dear,—maybe I am
too hard on Jack—ha—ha—guess that was neatly turned, and we took our
medicine like men and soldiers.  Eh, Goff?"  He turned to me suddenly.
"If you’d only quit this tree foolishness and fight; but you won’t do
it, suh—not a damned one of you ever did!  And your lameness?"

"It was a cartilage in my knee, sir; Dr. Hoffman, the famous surgeon,
took it out soon after I went over.  I am not lame now, sir, at all."

"Glad to hear it, suh, glad to hear it."

He was silent for a moment, looking out into the dusk.  "And you know
all about trees—aha—well, there’s only one tree in the world I care a
damn for; there it is, and it is dying.  My mother loved it.  She used
to nurse me there," he added tenderly, his voice dropping low.

"It’s that beautiful elm at the dining-room window, Jack," explained my
Aunt.

"The most perfect tree I ever saw," went on my grandsire, reminiscently.
"The others just grew up any way, but that one stood like the great
feathered eagle plume in the hair of the Comanche chief, Setting Sun.
He was the first Indian I killed on the plains—in a hand to hand
fight—and that eagle feather in his hair—I’ll never forget it.  And that
elm was like it—and—and my mother loved it," he said, his voice muffled
up in huskiness.  He blew his nose vigorously, and went on more
cheerily, "Make yourself at home, suh—do what you please.  I wanted you
to be a soldier, suh, like Braxton Bragg, ah, what a man that boy has
developed into at West Point!  But it isn’t born in you—can’t make a
fighter out of a dreamer."

He sat down, and Aunt Lucretia, taking my hand, led me in.  "Goff," I
heard him say, "that fight at Winchester when we charged into the
town—you led me a little you know, and—"

I felt Eloise’s hand in mine as we went down the hall.  "I hate him,"
she said, tossing her head back toward the old man.  "It’s mean and
sinful; but I hate him!  After all these years to greet you in that way.
And Braxton Bragg—you should see what a fool he is, Jack, in his
captain’s straps, and living hourly up to his name!"



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                             *COLONEL GOFF*


Colonel Goff followed us shortly afterwards into the hall.  He had
ridden over on his English hunter while Eloise and I had been on the
lawn greeting our tree friends.  He was immaculately groomed, in
polished boots, puttees and cap, an English crop in his hands.  Fifty
years old, his black hair slightly streaked with gray, he was handsome,
and there was a masterful air about him that even an enemy must have
admired.  A younger son of the Earl of Carfax, he had come to America
when my grandsire was fighting with Stonewall Jackson in Virginia.  He
had volunteered for service, and had been placed in Jackson’s corps, and
on my grandsire’s staff. Here his real, sterling qualities found birth
and he proved to be a brilliant soldier.  It was he who charged ahead of
the rebel yell and led the advance that scattered Banks.  It was he who
led again at Cedar Creek, caught the brilliant Sheridan napping, and
sent his command reeling back in a retreat which would have meant
demoralization for anyone but Sheridan.  His fondness for my grandsire
was no less than the old man’s for him, and after the war Colonel Goff,
being in disgrace, it was said, with his father at home, moved to
Tennessee to be near his old commander.  He had bought a fine place near
ours, and here he had lived the life of an English gentleman, with his
hounds, his horses, and his utter disregard of all the local and
established ideas of country temperance or morals.  He was not a man who
asked for things, he took them.

Even before I left home I had secretly rebelled at his admiration for
Eloise.  In all her masterful ways, her riding, her fox chasing, her
hunting with the men, following Goff or the General all day on her pony,
and killing quail dead-straight, in the flush of the covey, he had
openly admired her.  Afterwards I heard him say that she was a duchess
born, and the only one he had seen in America.  He had humored, petted
and helped to spoil her as a child.  As a girl, there never was a costly
thing she wanted but he gave it to her.

In the dining-room, when supper had been announced, I noticed the
flushed pleasure in Eloise’s eyes at sight of him.  It was half a daring
look, as of the hunted defying the hunter, that I saw in her eyes, but I
could not rightly decipher it, or tell whether it meant she was
conquered or as yet unconquered.

My heart burned with jealousy at the sight of it.  The great joy of my
home-coming was gone!  I knew his way, and that he would stay for
supper.

"I had thought," I whispered sourly to Eloise, "that I would at least
have this first evening alone with you."

Eloise laughed.  "Oh, he comes when he pleases, and I—I send him home
when I please."

He had greeted me pleasantly, but during supper he paid little attention
to me.  Once he laughed at my study of forestry, and added, "And to go
to Germany for it, when you might have gone to England!"

After supper, when I had gone with Aunt Lucretia to the barn to help her
with a sick colt, I smelt the odor of his cigar coming up from our old
seat under the elm.  I grew bitter at the thought that anyone but I
should sit there with Eloise.  My Aunt must have noticed this, for she
called: "Come in here—both of you.  This isn’t fair to Jack."

Aunt Lucretia and Colonel Goff could never meet ten minutes in their
lives without a heated argument over American and English horses. She
generally worsted him, because she had all the records at her tongue’s
end, and because in any kind of controversy she was fearless.  For an
hour to-night, and until he left, she scored him fearlessly.  "Take that
nick-tailed horse of yours," said Aunt Lucretia, "Colonel Goff, couldn’t
you do better than that in England?"  There were two things which always
especially incensed her; one was to cut off a horse’s tail and the other
to import an animal from England, when a better one might be had here.

Colonel Goff explained that there were no such horses in America.  "He
is a four-mile hurdler," said he.  "You’ve nothing of the kind in this
blooming country."

"Why, madam, he holds the record jump behind the Quoin hounds at
Melton-Mowbry.  The kill was in the main driveway of a manor and his
rider cleared the picket fence to be in first.  That fence measured five
and a half feet and to this day it is the record at Melton-Mowbry."

"A four-miler, that means a running horse," said my Aunt.  "Of course we
have them.  And a hurdler—that’s only a jumping horse.  Now, we’ve never
cared much for jumpers.  Why, I’ve a mule in my barn that can go over a
ten rail fence any day.  Uncle Ned says she just climbs it; anyway, I’ve
never been able to build one high enough to keep her out of the
cornfield on the other side.  But there’s Eloise’s Satan, son of Young
Hickory, scion of General Jackson’s Truxton.  The man his sire is named
for used to beat your English at any kind of a game at New Orleans, and
I’ll wager that Satan would be a mighty hurdler and high jumper if he
only had a chawnce," she said, smiling, in funny mimicry of Goff.

"Fawncy!" laughed Goff, twisting his mustache.  "Why, he couldn’t jump
over a chalk line!  It’s all in the training and pedigree!  My Nestor
colt holds the record for the Melton-Mowbry meet, and his high jump was
five feet six."

My Aunt turned the subject as if it were forgotten.  But I knew she
never forgot, and that she had something up her sleeve.

I was worried that Goff should linger so on my first night, for I saw
plainly that he hoped we would retire and that he wanted to get Eloise
off for a _tête-à-tête_.  Aunt Lucretia saw this also, and whispered to
me when she got the chance, "Freeze him out, Jack; he shan’t have her
to-night!"

"Why, Major Hawthorn," she said presently, turning and rising abruptly.

The major came in on us silently, in his soft, well-bred way.  I rose
instantly to greet him.

"Jack, my boy!" said he, throwing one arm around me, and drawing me to
him.  "How you have grown!  I heard you had come home, and I had to see
you to-night."

"And you didn’t want to see _me_?" said Eloise, coming up, and kissing
him; for the Major was her ideal, and she was always his pet.  "Now,
Major, you always said that you loved me as much as you did Jack," she
teased, winding an arm into his.

"Just the same as ever, my dear; you are both my two children always,"
he laughed.  "Why, good evening, Goff—and the General, where is he?" he
asked my Aunt Lucretia.  "I have news that will please him."

My Aunt went after my grandfather.

"Jack," he turned to me, "what a man you have grown into!  I’m hungry
for a long talk with you."

The Major sat down, and Colonel Goff offered him a cigar.  He struck a
match, but before using it, held it a moment to my face. "Inspection,
Jack," said he, smiling; "you know how hard it is to break an old
soldier of his habits."

I saw his finely-cut, sensitive face light up.  I noticed the familiar
turn of his mustache, his kindly mouth, the correct dress, the straight,
martial bearing, and the courtesy, that seemed a gift of his own.

"And it looks as if I might die in harness," he went on.  "Ah, here’s
the General."

He rose and shook hands with my grandsire. "I have come over to tell
you, General, of a telegram I received this afternoon from the
President, and I should so like to have your advice before answering—the
advice of all of you," he said kindly, turning and bowing our way.

"Ah, Hawthorne," said my grandsire, "I know what it is—I knew it was
coming—I wrote Joe Wheeler—"

"I thought you had something to do with it," said the Major, "and I
shall abide by your decision, my General," he added softly.

"McKinley has appointed you Brigadier-General," went on my grandsire
quietly.  "The First Tennessee will be in your brigade.  I can’t talk of
it, Hawthorne—I want to go to the Philippines with you so bad, and give
the damned Yankees—ah, pardon—pardon me—I mean the damned Spaniards
another good drubbing!"

There was a burst of laughter from us all. My grandsire sat down
confused.

"It is as you said," Major Hawthorne replied, "and I am going to do as
you say, General.  I have taken your orders in Virginia too often to
refuse now."

"Hawthorne, I envy you; by gad, I envy you," said the old man.

"General, do you know that I never was so happy before?  I have so
wanted to fight under the old flag.  Jack," he turned to me, his face
smiling, "Jack, I have come to see you for this purpose—I want you on my
staff—I know the training you have had, I know the stuff that is in you.
I want you, my boy.  I’ve ridden ten miles to-night to tell you."

"Tut—tut—Hawthorne—nonsense!" broke in the General.  "Don’t start out
making breaks like that.  Jack is a good boy, but he is not a
fighter—now, there’s Braxton Bragg—"

"My grandfather is doubtless right, General Hawthorne," I said quietly.
"I thank you from my heart for your kindness—but—"

Eloise arose flushing, indignant.  "Jack _is_ a fighter; a better
fighter than some people who strut around in khaki, and make great
pretense, but amount to nothing," she said deliberately and with
emphasis.

Then she came over and put one arm affectionately on my shoulder.  "And
General Rutherford," she went on, her voice trembling with anger, "I
mean this for you, and I mean no disrespect; but it is cruel of you the
way you have slurred Jack, and I almost doubt that you ever made the
good fighting record you have, when I think how easily you can be fooled
into taking a tin soldier for the real thing!  I do, and now you know
what _I_ think."

Colonel Goff laughed, pleased.  "You pinked him just right, Eloise.
Been thinking I’d tell the General that myself—eh, General?" and he
slapped the old man familiarly on the back.

The old General answered testily, "Tut—tut—madam;" and then he laughed.
"Gad, but I wish you were a man!  Damned if _you_ wouldn’t fight!"



                              *CHAPTER V*

                       *PEDIGREES AND PRINCIPLES*


My Aunt Lucretia undoubtedly was the real master of The Home Stretch.
She ruled its thousand acres of low, rolling, blue grass land, which
bore in pioneer days the canebrake and the poplar, and for a century had
been the nursery of thoroughbreds.

My Aunt lived and dreamed in pedigrees. Heaven, according to her, was a
blue-grass meadow filled with pedigreed people, and hell—I remember how
I had laughed when she said, "Why, Jack, if there is such a place, it’s
a low jockey-yard filled with scrubs!"

Pedigrees, I am certain, was her gauge of life. She was more man than
woman, handsome though she was.  She should have been a bewigged,
knee-breeched, ruffle-shirted, horse-racing Virginia gentleman of the
old school, as many of her ancestors had been.  She still clung to a few
blooded horses, though her immaculate dairy of Jersey cows was her
greatest pride.  When my parents died, even before I could remember, she
had adopted me.  She intended that I should inherit The Home Stretch.
Then, true to her ideas, she had planned a proper mate for me.  She had
been a success in mating everything but herself.  Her ribbons won at
State Fairs and in Horse Shows proved it; for her Merino sheep she held
a great cup from the International Exhibit in Paris. The wool of her
Tennessee sheep had gone back across the ocean, and beaten the parent
wool on its own soil.  This great, heavy, solid silver cup sat on the
mantel in the library, and every spring, when I had a cold, she had
given me punch cobbler out of it.

She had early paired me off with Eloise Ward, who was an orphan, and a
distant relative of her mother.  My Aunt had adopted her, as she had me,
and given her every grace of a fashionable education.  At ten she had,
as she expressed it, engaged us.  I remember it was Eloise’s tenth
birthday and my twelfth.  She bought a little turquoise ring and made me
give it to Eloise.

"Now, Jack, Eloise is yours!  Eloise, you will marry him when you are
grown.  Now kiss each other as sensibly engaged people do, to seal it.
After this no more kissing."

The last advice was unneeded.  Up to then we had never kissed, but had
fought continually. Knowing Aunt Lucretia, and that if we did not do as
she said, something uncomfortable would happen to us, we screwed up our
mouths, each trying to outdo the other in mock martyrdom, and complied.

After that Aunt Lucretia was very gracious. I think we showed remarkable
horse-sense, young as we were, in carrying out her wishes, inasmuch as
we expected some day to own the great farm and house.

To comfort me she used to say—for she knew my love of blooded stock:
"She is beautiful, Jack, well built and coupled just right in the back.
One link more of vertebræ would have spoiled her, turned her up too
sloping between the shoulders, and made her gangling in the hips.  If
there’s too many links in a filly’s back, when the pinch of contest
comes, you know, Jack, as well as I do, there will be a crumpling—and it
is generally in their legs.  And Eloise’s, Jack—well, you should see
it—thoroughbred—taut as a bow string—holding hip and head together.  And
not too short, either, Jack; the little dicky, short-backed ones, with
schooner hips, are a sure sign of several vertebræ being lost by sitting
on them for too many generations at the loom or the wheel, or carrying
home the week’s washing on their heads!  It’s the scrub sign, my boy.
And Eloise is clean-limbed with good flat bones.  Jack, as you love me
and your God, never marry a woman that can’t span her ankle with her
thumb and forefinger—that kind of a fetlock is a scrub of the most
pronounced type!  It came from ancestors before them for a thousand
years, who had all their weight on their ankles—just hauling plows like
beasts of burden.  And Eloise has great style with a fine sweep and
action.  Look how boldly she steps and clean and true!  No loblolling,
lazy ambling there—hitting even on the ground—and her hair,
Jack—red-chestnut—it is beautiful and not too much.  Shun the brood-mare
with mane thick and heavy.  It is pretty but comes from the scrub
Shetlands or Andalusian jennets.  Look—look, Jack—isn’t she beautiful?"

I watched her myself, tall, her scornful, daring head thrown back, her
fine braids of sorrel, silken hair flying out, as in a long-limbed,
leaping sweep, she chased the collie across the yard.

The comparison was fitting—as a thoroughbred, Eloise was superb.  My
Aunt had copied it all by herself, tabulating for me, most elaborately
and artistically, on a great sheet of parchment, Eloise’s pedigree.  It
was such a tabulation as I had seen her work over night after night,
often for months, handing down volume after volume of the English and
Bruce’s Stud Book and the Trotting and Pacing Register.  In bold, block,
decorated letters, she gradually evolved Eloise’s sire and dam, as she
grimly called them, and thence on to granddams and g. g. dams (every g.
as I learned standing for another generation) until it looked, when
finished, like a great river, with a hundred branching streams flowing
in, and an endless row of g. g. g. g. g.’s

Under each sire and dam, and in red ink, in contrast to the black of
their names, she had written their records, short and pointed, and often
with astonishing frankness.  I remember that under her grandsire—a
Governor of Virginia—the red ink ran: _Died of a wetting, while drunk at
a horse race!  Watch your children for too much crude liquor!_

Under one of her dams, daughter of a Carolina judge, she had: _She had a
streak of common, for she ate onions.  If you have daughters, don’t
plant the things in your garden!_

Another of her great Virginia ancestors was a preacher, noted for his
zeal in proselyting; under him was: _Too religious—the reaction may come
in your grandson, who is likely to be an infidel, Nature maintaining her
balance in morals as in matter_.

Now that I had come home from Germany it was evidently my Aunt’s
intention that Eloise and I should marry.

"Come, Eloise," said she, after our guests had left, and my grandfather
had retired, "we will light Jack to bed in the old way."

Eloise jumped up, slipping her arm into mine. Then she two-stepped with
me up the hall, humming "A Hot Time In The Old Town To-night."

Aunt Lucretia looked on, her stern face relaxed into a satisfied smile.

I slipped my arm around Eloise’s slim waist, and, bending over, tried to
kiss her cheek.  But she drew back laughing, and Aunt Lucretia’s voice
came sternly from behind.  "Jack—Eloise!"

We stopped instantly under the chandelier. Aunt Lucretia shut the heavy
doors, and came up with all the sternness of a Roman lictor in her face.

"Turn her loose, Jack.  Listen, both of you: I had intended to inform
you to-morrow finally, but this is as good a time as any."

We stood silent before her.  Eloise’s pretty mouth drooped in pretended
humbleness.

"You know how I love you both, and—well, how you respect each other.
You know that I have planned and dreamed for you both, ever since I
brought you together here.  Now let me see.  This is April—well, I am
going to marry you to each other in the fall, and until I marry you
off," she went on sternly, "I have only one rule—no hugging—no kissing.
It is bad before marriage, and after you are married," she added with
becoming stiffness, "you will not want to."

"Don’t you think your conditions are awfully severe for engaged people?"
asked Eloise demurely.

"And I may seal it with a kiss surely, Aunt Lucretia," I said, "for
once."

"No, not for once.  That silly performance has caused more trouble in
the world than all the sins of Satan combined.  We will never have a
decent race of people till kissing is cut out," she exclaimed.  "There,
no more at present—march!"

And she marched us into my room.

"Isn’t this fine!" I said, looking around at the old room, glad to be
home again.

It was twenty by twenty, the pioneer size, with a great fireplace, built
of oak and ash.  In a corner was my old mahogany tester bed, big posted
and canopy-topped.  The little cherry writing desk stood near, and so
did the quaint mahogany bureau, resting on dragon claws, with great
drawers for a base, and ending pyramid-like in a top of granite finish,
set off by a little mirror, and with a tiny shaving drawer for my
razors. Big windows looked out on all sides.

After Eloise had left Aunt Lucretia sat quietly thinking, looking now
and then at a pedigree of Eloise which she had once made and hung over
my mantel.  It was framed in walnut and decorated with fancy letters.
At last she smiled.

"Isn’t she a thoroughbred, Jack?"

"I haven’t really got my breath yet, Aunt Lucretia," I answered.  "I
never dreamed she would grow into a being so beautiful.  Don’t you
really believe you might er—er—hurry up this—er—affair—" and I stopped,
blushing.

Aunt Lucretia broke out in her rare, good-humored laugh.

"Poor boy!  Jack, you must be careful.  You talk as if you had a real
case of the silly, unsensible thing."

"Always had it, Aunt Lucretia," I smiled weakly.

"Jack, that would be very unfortunate.  I want you to marry on common
sense—not love."

"You know how I have always loved her," I went on.  Aunt Lucretia
glanced sharply at me. "I mean how I’ve cared for her," I amended. "But
do you—do you honestly believe, Aunt Lucretia, that she loves me—cares
for me that way?"

"Tut—tut," she said sharply, "what nonsense you talk!  What does it
matter?  This silly love business has spoiled more good pedigrees and
brought more fools into the world, I tell you, than anything else under
the sun.  What a fine breed of folks we’d have had in the world by now
if so many idiots had not fallen in love and married without a moment’s
thought of results.  You ought to be grateful to me, Jack," she
continued after a while; "you will be grateful, I am sure, some day,
that you had me to select a wife for you and didn’t just happen to fall
in love.  That’s an accident often as fatal as happening to fall down
the steps.

"It is awful, Jack, this haphazard of humanity!" she went on in a
moment.  "No wonder only one in a hundred is born who has got any brains
in his head.  Think of it, Jack, our race is so pig-headed from
thoughtless marryings that it took them three hundred years after they
invented a saddle before it dawned upon them that they needed stirrups
to complete it.  Rode three centuries on bare saddles for lack of sense
enough to invent stirrups!  Some day for the benefit of humanity I am
going to open a human Registry.  I want to do this because I think it is
our duty to try to teach people to take as much interest in their own
children’s pedigree as they do in their horses’ or dogs’.  Many a man
falls in love with and marries a woman whose qualities and character,
and pedigree, if she were a horse, he wouldn’t be caught trading a blind
mule for! And many a woman, under the same divine influence, marries
some vicious brute of a man for no other reason than because she has
just fallen in love with him, or maybe wants to reform him, who, if he
were turned into a buggy horse she wouldn’t be caught risking her neck
behind.

"And this is the way I’d go to registering my people," she continued.
"In all registration there must be a foundation stock.  For man, I’d let
Truthfulness, Bravery, Honesty, Manliness, and Ability to Do Things,
count as Foundations. This would change the present social system
radically and let into good society and life a flood of good blood that
is at present badly needed but is shut out, unless it suddenly happens
to get rich and comes in under a dress suit.  I would make
accomplishments, the _Ability to Do Things_, from the Ability to do
Poetry, Art, Drama, Music—everything that is worth while—to the ability
to make two blades of grass grow, the greatest of them all, count as my
classes, and it wouldn’t take me long to straighten out Old Humanity and
breed a race of people, who, in a few generations, as old Horace says,
would strike the stars with their uplifted heads!"

She laughed.  "Look, Jack, here it is.  I have worked it all out, just
for fun."  She unrolled a parchment, as immaculately executed in
decorated letters as Eloise’s pedigree had been.  Then she read,
glancing over her glasses now and then to emphasize her remarks.


                  "_A STANDARD OF HUMAN REGISTRATION_.

When white men and women meet the following requirements and are duly
registered, they shall be accepted as standard bred, and shall be
permitted to marry:

FIRST: Any white man, who has a home of his own and is honest,
industrious, and truthful, and sound in wind, limb and eye.

SECOND: Any white woman, who can cook a good meal, make her own clothes,
keep a home clean, lives a pure life, and has some moral standard for
herself and children, and will agree to raise them under it.

THIRD: Every man who is the father of a great man or woman.

FOURTH: Every woman who is the mother of a great man or woman.

_NON-STANDARD_:

The following shall be Non-Standard, and neither they nor their children
shall be registered.

FIRST: Fools.

SECOND: Liars.

THIRD: Cranks.

FOURTH: Idiots.

FIFTH: Geniuses.  They are freaks merely, and fools in another form.

SIXTH: Sissy men.

SEVENTH: Consumptives, the cancerous, the insane.

EIGHTH: Impure women.

NINTH: Society people wherever found, and their one child.

TENTH: Married men who lead Germans.

ELEVENTH: The children of women who play cards for money and prizes.

TWELFTH: Evangelists who preach slang from the pulpit.

THIRTEENTH: Praying lawyers.

FOURTEENTH: Trading preachers.

FIFTEENTH: Professional politicians.

SIXTEENTH: Bank cashiers who run Sunday Schools.

SEVENTEENTH: Doctors who cut open people quickly, or dope them with much
medicine.

LUCRETIA RUTHERFORD,
       Registrar."


I laughed.  "It wouldn’t do any harm to try it awhile, Aunt Lucretia;
but—referring again to Eloise—"

"We’ll not refer again to Eloise," she said, seeing what I was coming
to; "this thing is settled. You two will marry this fall, and until then
I want no foolishness around me."

"But, suppose she—" I began.

"She is not to suppose anything—nor you. Get her a beautiful ring the
next time you go to town.  I’ll attend to the rest of it."

We talked for an hour or two.  I could see how glad she was that I was
at home again, for, with all of her stern ways, my Aunt Lucretia was
very fond of me.

"And to think of your being the man you are, Jack," she said finally,
"and that lameness all gone. Ah, but that is what I’m telling you—the
Germans are the greatest thinkers in the world—because—well, because
they have been bred to think.  Yes, it is good to see you here again,
Jack, and sound, and you will earn your oats from now on, young man,
remember that."



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                           *THE MAKE-BELIEVE*


After Aunt Lucretia had gone there was a faint tap at my window, which I
knew of old. When I raised the sash Eloise stood outside, smiling at me.
On the veranda she slipped her arm through mine, and led the way to our
old seat under the hickories.

"Jack," she began, and her serious tone seemed to bode no good, "I just
couldn’t go to sleep until I had talked with you.  Aunt Lucretia thinks
I’m in bed; just as she used to think we both were when we weren’t,
Little Brother."  She smiled half tenderly.  "I think I ought to speak
to you.  This thing is getting serious, don’t you think?"

"It’s been that way with me all the time," I said earnestly, "if I could
only get you to look at it seriously—"

For reply she thumped my cheek with her thumb and forefinger.  It was a
trick Aunt Lucretia had used when I had been naughty as a boy, and
Eloise knew that nothing made me madder.

"Now, Jack—no nonsense—listen.  We must do something—about—"

"Our marriage this fall?" I interrupted.

Eloise laughed.  "Isn’t it nonsense?"

"Well, I don’t know," I said.  "She has always said so, and we have
always done as she said. I have always found it was the best thing for
me," I added.

Eloise pretended indignation.  "Well, now, let me tell you, Jack, this
is my funeral as well as yours, and for once this isn’t the right idea!"

"Oh," said I, "maybe you’ve grown big enough since I saw you to defy
Aunt Lucretia.  Well, _I_ haven’t; and dear, dear Little Sister," I went
on, taking her slim hand in mine with more warmth than she seemed to
like, "I have learned to hold my own among men, but Aunt Lucretia is a
very different thing!  I am not going to defy her, or go contrary to her
wishes—I’ve tried it and know better!  And you?"

"Of course I am," she said, moving a little away from me; "the idea!
Why, Jack, it is absurd!  Jack—" and instantly she stopped.  Her voice
dropped with a sad little wilt, and she laid her head upon my shoulder.

I knew that she was brave and never cried, or else I would have believed
she was in tears.

"Dear Little Sister," I said consolingly, "why, what is it?  What has
happened since I left? This has been Aunt Lucretia’s dream all her life,
and mine too," I said, tenderly kissing her cheek.

Eloise sighed; then after a while she answered. "Of course, Jack, she
has said that always, ever since we were children, and being children,
why we couldn’t say anything, for our very home and living depended on
it.  But Jack, I see it all now. I’m ashamed of it—though I couldn’t
help it—this—this awful buy-and-sell way, this bartering me because I am
poor and an orphan, this closing the chance of the great dream of my
life for me—that one dream which every woman loves more than life, Jack.
It’s—why, I’ve treated you so badly.  I wonder that you care for me at
all.  But—oh, Jack, I had such ideas of love, and now to be mated off
like her cattle!"

"I know it," I said, "only you were never as mean as you say.  Young as
we were I felt it, too, and that is why I didn’t blame you.  But it
never made any difference with me, Eloise—I have loved you always, and
I’m as proud of you now as anyone can be."

"Oh, you dear boy," said she.  She laid her head upon my shoulder, then
reached up and kissed me on the cheek.  She was silent and I was never
so happy, with her head lying there, and the perfume of her hair in my
face.

At last she laughed.  "Jack, you neglected me shamefully while you were
away, studying."

"I wrote you a love letter every week!" I exclaimed.

"But people in love write to each other every day," she said.  "You
don’t really love me, Jack!"

"Eloise, I couldn’t write every day, but I thought of you the last thing
every night before I went to sleep, and I slept with your picture under
my pillow, and I used to play that we were married, and that my dressing
gown in the chair was you."

"O, Jack," and she clasped my hand in hers, "you dear boy!  And I must
say I never dreamed you’d be so big and handsome!"

I seized her hands, holding them in mine: "And let me tell you, Eloise,
you almost took my breath when I saw you for the first time this
morning!"

There was a long silence before Eloise spoke. "Jack, what are we going
to do about—about—Aunt Lucretia?"

"Why, I tell you there is nothing to do but to do as she says—marry—you
know how she has planned this all her life.  It would break her heart;
and mine," I added softly.

"Listen now," said Eloise earnestly.  "Jack, that is nonsense.  I don’t
love you that way nor you me.  I don’t care what she says.  Love is made
from higher, nobler motives, and true marriages should be made in heaven
as they say.  I," she went on with a sigh, "Jack, I have given up; I was
not made for love like that—as you want to love me.  I am too selfish, I
care too much for the fine world around me, for my own self, for
pleasure.  I love to will, to conquer, Jack.  I don’t want to love, to
give myself up to any man and his whims unless—"

"Unless what?" I asked eagerly.

"Well, two things," she said.  "First; unless I loved him—oh, if I only
could!  How I would love him!  And if not that—well, for—for—it would
have to be compensation of another kind, such as great wealth, and all
that, to have a great name like that of the Countess of Carfax."

"The Countess of Carfax?" I asked.

She was looking at me very earnestly.  I felt her eyes on my face.
Something unpleasant began to dawn upon me.

"Jack, I cannot deceive you.  I do not, I cannot love anyone that
way—that one sweet way. It is not in me.  I might have loved you that
way, Jack, it is the truth, but Aunt Lucretia has thwarted the chance
you had with me, with her blooded stock idea of it.  That is why I’ve
treated you so all my life; it was not I, it was Love resenting this
profanity of itself."

I could not speak.  Eloise, I saw, had much to tell that I did not know.

"Four years is a long time to be away, and after you left I was so
lonely, I had no comrade, no Little Brother in my summer vacations.  And
you were far away, and Colonel Goff—you know how queerly he has always
persisted in wanting to marry me some day—not quite as bad as Aunt
Lucretia’s way, but almost as bad—because, well, I think for no other
reason than because I ride well—" she was speaking brokenly.  "Aunt
Lucretia wants me to marry you because I’ve got a good pedigree, and
Colonel Goff wants me to marry him because I ride well, but I want to
marry someone because I love him.  You know how grandfather is about
Colonel Goff, Jack?  Oh, I can’t tell it all, but he has made it so
unpleasant for me since you left, worrying me about—that I should marry
Colonel Goff—that I had nothing, and how great a man Colonel Goff
was—and—oh, he has seemed to become childish of late, so irritable and
strange, and so he has almost driven me away from home or into marrying
Colonel Goff; and you were far away, Jack.  And so when Colonel
Goff—well, he was as persistent as grandfather, and so kind always and
good to me—Jack, you see how I was placed between them—"

"Well?" I said bitterly, "go on."

"And so when Colonel Goff asked me, I—"

The great trees above me seemed to reel, and my heart to stop, and then
thump fiercely in my throat.

"Eloise, please don’t," I begged.  "Do you—you don’t love that man!"

"Of course not," she answered coolly, and very quietly, "but—and this is
my secret, Jack. Promise me—it isn’t known yet, but it will be before
long.  You know since he came home from the war with grandfather and
lived here he has been at outs with his people in England.  You know how
he had to leave them.  Well, it seems that all of his brothers over
there have died but one, and that Colonel Goff is next heir, and that he
has received a letter from the physician asking him to come and see his
brother before he dies, that he wants to arrange about the estates, for
they are large, and the brother is the Earl of Carfax."

I had dropped her hand, and my head was bent.  I knew what was coming.

"But you don’t love him, Eloise, surely—" I arose, the stars whirling
above my head, the great trees soughing as in sorrow.  She came up in
the starlight and put her arms around my neck. She tried to laugh and
pull me back to our seat.

"Jack," she said, "I want you to help me—will you not do something—the
last something I shall ever ask you for?"

"I love you enough to give you my life," I said.

"You were always so good to me.  It is this, Jack—our secret: Colonel
Goff and I will be married as soon as he can arrange to go back to
England, in a month or two.  I don’t want any scene with Aunt Lucretia,
and so, and so, Jack, we’ll just make-believe—let her believe it is all
right—that we are carrying out her plans up to the very day."

"I’ll say nothing," I answered; "you and Aunt Lucretia can arrange it."

"You’ll have to act as if you loved me, Jack."

"I cannot act any other way," I said.

She laughed, her voice floating up triumphantly. "And you will have to
send me that diamond ring, you know—"

"Eloise," I said again, after a moment, "this is desecration!  You know
you don’t love that old man!"

"I like him enough to be the Countess of Carfax.  If I’ve got to be sold
to anyone, Jack," she said with bitterness, "got to be traded off like a
Jersey, why I’d rather be traded off as the Countess of Carfax than any
other way!"

I flushed hot.

"But Jack, think of grandfather.  It is that or be turned out."

"Eloise," I cried, "you know I wouldn’t stand for that!"

"No," she whispered softly, "not if you could help.  But Jack, I forgot
to tell you, you are already out."

I could only look my astonishment.

"I wanted to write you," she went on, "but I was afraid.  I learned it
all from Braxton Bragg."

"What did he have to do with it?"

"You know he has had a silly idea that he was going to marry me himself
some day, though you know how I have always despised him.  Well, Jack,
you’ll never know what he has done; because you don’t know the
conditions on The Home Stretch.  I, myself, didn’t, till Braxton Bragg
showed me the papers the very month you left. You know how grandfather
has always kept that secret drawer in his safe locked?  But you remember
how we children learned all about it?"

"I remember Braxton showed it to me," I said. "I never knew how he found
it out."

"Nor I, nor how he stole the parchment from it, the one that grandfather
kept from all eyes, even Aunt Lucretia’s, for she knows nothing of it
yet. But he did, and he showed it to me, thinking—well, you’ll guess
why.  Jack, we’re outcasts, you and I, we have nothing."

She hesitated a moment, then went on.  "It seems that the first John
Rutherford, the Old Indian fighter, who was killed at New Orleans, left
a secret paper with his will, in which he begged the heir who inherited
from him, your great-grandfather, John Rutherford, second, who fought in
the Mexican war, you know, to bequeath the estate to that son of his who
should be a soldier, and that it should be passed on in that way
secretly to each generation.  Now John Rutherford the second, had only
one son, your grandfather, and his son, Braxton’s father, was killed in
the war.

"Oh, I see now," I said amazed, "and that was why he wanted me to go to
West Point."

"And why Braxton Bragg, who is a coward," she cried indignantly, "did go
to West Point, after he stole that parchment and read it.  And as proof
of it, when grandfather was trying to persuade me to listen to Colonel
Goff, he told me he was going to leave The Home Stretch so that it would
go to Braxton Bragg after Aunt Lucretia’s death."

In an instant I saw it all.  I understood things that I had given no
serious thought to before.

"Yes, I am out," I agreed.

"Jack, Little Brother, I hope I haven’t made you unhappy on your first
night at home."

I did not speak; she sighed.

"And so I am going to marry Colonel Goff, Jack, and be the Countess of
Carfax, and you’ll do as I say—you’ll make-believe with me.  I’d so hate
to have Aunt Lucretia know now."

"I’ll go on as if it were I," I said bitterly. "I’d do anything for you,
Eloise—and—and I do hope you’ll be happy yet."

She shook her head: "Jack, you do not know me—that kind of happiness
that I have craved all my life is not for me, and it is so hard that it
should be, for I have always had such beautiful dreams of that kind of
happiness—I, who could love so if I only might—I who wish it so, to be
widowed of it all my life."

"I could make you if you’d only wait—give me a chance to prove mine—to
make you love me, Eloise."

"It is too late.  O, Jack, you deserve better of me than this; you do
not deserve so poor return as this make-believe—a make-belief—only
this—a little sisterly kiss," and she held up her face in the starlight
to mine.

But I sat silent.  My heart—it would not take such a make-believe
tribute.

I rose from our seat.  "Good night, Eloise, I wish now that I had stayed
in Germany," I said as I walked in.

"Jack, come back, don’t be angry with me. I’ve done the best I could."

I saw her turn defiantly, like one who, receiving a hurt, fights back.
I left her sitting under the trees.



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                      *THE CHIMES OF THE WISTERIA*


I was up and out the next morning before Aunt Lucretia or any of the
servants.  I wanted to get to the dairy in time to see Tammas milk.  I
longed to see his whitewashed cottage and the clean, stone dairy under
the hill, near the spring.

I walked through the lot where the Jersey herd had lain the night
before, leaving shimmering shapes of themselves impressed in the hollow
mold of blue grass, crushed and shining for lack of dew.  Nearby was the
brood-mare paddock, sloping downward to the meadow.  Beyond, the
tree-covered hills.

It was a perfect picture; the sun flushing the green of the hills, the
air damp and tainted with the earth-odor of early day.  But I had not
beaten Tammas nor Marget, his good wife; nobody ever beat them up, not
even the cows.  He was calling them to the barn in the same way as of
old, in the voice that I had heard ever since I could remember.  He
stood squarely in the barn door, blocky and bowed of legs, his broad
Scotch face split wide across with a big, kindly mouth from which came,
like the deep tones of a cathedral’s bell down the valley: "Coom,
lassies—coom, noo!"

Like children called into supper they obeyed; silver grays, fawns,
chocolates, red-fawns and pied, crumpled of horns and slim of tail,
marching solemnly down.  One, a three-year old heifer, with her first
calf, answered him like a school girl, whirling half around in awkward
romp and elephantine effort to kick up her stiff heels even as she had
seen the standard-bred filly do!

How restful and natural Tammas’s cottage looked!  I could see Marget
bestirring herself for greater cleanliness of an already over-clean
cottage.  She was humming, and I guessed it was one of her old kirk
hymns or maybe Bobbie Burns.  For it was Marget who could read Bobbie
Burns!  How rich and grand the lines came in her broad dialect!  I was a
child when she had begun to read Bobbie Burns to me; and though I knew
not what she said I hung upon her numbers, and a queer, fine feeling
swept over me.  I was nearly grown before I learned the dialect myself,
from hearing them talk to each other, and knew the greatness of Bobbie
Burns in the original.

Tammas and Marget were good people, as genuine as the rocksalt they gave
the herd to lick, hiding it in the deep grasses of the meadow, where the
thirsty cows would come upon it in unexpected places.  Once when I found
a cube of it, gleaming in the grass for the cows, I thought how much
their own lives were like that pure cube of comfort, doing their work in
kindliness and obscurity. Then the clamoring tongues of the beagles
thrilled me as of old, as the game little fellows came down the slope of
the hill.  They had followed me from the house and struck the trail of
an early stray rabbit.  Across the hills they went, their little piping
tongues echoing slowly as they nosed along.


For many years Tammas and Marget had run my Aunt’s dairy in the hollow
where the great stream came tumbling down from the hills.  I looked at
it there in the valley, and I tasted again in anticipation the cottage
cheese, the buttermilk, and the Scotch rye bread.

Now I saw Marget bestirring herself and again up the valley I heard the
call, "_Coom, lassies, coom, noo!_"

In changing their home, Tammas and Marget had changed little else.  Even
after twenty-five years of life at The Home Stretch they still spoke to
each other in their native tongue, though to others they often spoke
English with their broad brogue.  Even then, Scotch words would break in
on their English with the suddenness and sweep of a tidal wave flowing
in from the firth. Though they could speak English purely, and were well
read in their way, their earnestness might always be gauged by the
number of Scotch words which crept into their talk.

Marget had not yet seen me.  I went up the path to the little cottage
porch, over which wisteria, in full bloom, hung in purple bunches, and
whorls of clustering chimes.  As I stood there listening, I seemed to
hear their chimes, for the odor of the wisteria is a chime of memory.  I
heard the melody of other days, faint and yet so clear, memories that
were almost legendary, of the little boy, motherless, and who had never
seen his father, always a nature-worshiper, and a tree-lover; of his
Aunt Lucretia; of his adopted sister, Eloise; of his fighting old
grandsire, who had been the right hand to Stonewall Jackson when he
swept clean the valley of the Shenandoah; and of these two good Scotch
people who had taken him to their hearts even as their own.  Here had he
dreamed and grown up, loving them and the things they loved, and his
dreams had been of writing, of poetry, of music; and not of war, as his
grandsire had wished.  Young as he was he had seen war with clear eyes.
How it took the bravest and the best,—and left the weaklings to
reproduce themselves.  It reversed all the laws of Nature.  If Nature
had done the same thing for the flowers, not a larkspur purpling the
meadows in blossoming ladders, not a wild lupine in whorls of stars, not
a nodding head of clover blossom, not a stone-crop of the early spring,
nor the flushes of wild hepatica would have survived to-day.

Dog fennel alone would inherit the earth!

Marget, her keen black eyes lighting up with that joy I knew so well,
came to meet me. She seized my hands in both of hers, and shouted to
Tammas: "Tammas, whaur are ye, Tammas?  Come quick an’ see whit I hae to
show ye!"

"Weel, weel, I’m comin’, wumman," said Tammas, wobbling up in his great
awkward way, his broad mouth smiling.  He grasped both my hands in his.
"It’s Jack, oor Jack!  Whit wey did ye no’ tell me ye were here?  Eh,
Marget, but jist see whit a man oor Jack is!"

I felt Marget’s keen eyes sweep over me. "Ay, Tammas, but is na he a wee
bit shilpit like? I dinna like to see him sae pale like."

I laughed.  "Oh, Marget, you and Tammas, come, you make me think of the
lecture room and the discipline of the German drill-master.  I smell
those Scotch scones right there upon the table, and the cottage cheese,
I haven’t had any for four years."

"Oh," laughed Marget, "he’s jist like he aye was, oor laddie.  His
appetite and his heart were aye the biggest pairts o’ him.  Eh, but I’m
that glad tae see ye laddie, if ever I kissed ony that was o’ the male
gender, it’s you I’d be kissing. Come on ben."

They led me in, Marget holding my hand and beaming up into my face.
"Wha ever wad hae thocht it, oor wee Jack," she kept saying proudly to
Tammas.

"Wheest," said Tammas, vainly trying to say one thing and mean another,
"Wheest wumman, it’s Mr. Jack noo."

For answer I stopped and looked at him with feigned pain, and Marget
clapped her hands and laughed.

"Where is Elsie?" I said, suddenly remembering. "Has she grown any?"

I thought Tammas’s smile would spread over the rest of him when I asked
for his granddaughter.

"Has she grown any?  My, my!  Why listen, Jack, ’tis four years since
you saw her—she was twelve then—our little lassie, and four years make a
deal o’ difference in a lassie."

"She has jist gane oot to the dairy to get some cream for breakfast,"
said Marget.  "See, yonder she comes.  Look an’ tell me if she’s the
same," and Marget pointed with a smile.

I saw a tall girl coming down the little path, carrying a pitcher of
cream in one hand and twirling a Scotch sunbonnet in the other.  Her
dark red-brown hair fell in two school girl braids down her back.  Her
every line showed gentleness of breeding; and her beauty of face was
really wonderful.

"She’s jist pat on ane o’ her low necked morning gowns, an’ she’s that
thin that they show ower muckle o’ her neck," said Marget
apologetically.

"She is lovely," I said; "you should have named her Annie Laurie," and I
hummed the old song:

    "Her cheek is like the snow drift,
    Her neck is like the swan."


"Dae ye really think she is that bonnie?"  Tammas smiled, pleased that I
should have compared her to Annie Laurie.

"It is not exactly beauty so much, Tammas," I said; "it is something
like royalty.  She looks like some Greek nymph of the woods that has
stepped out of a water lily."

Marget was smiling at my praise.

"Ay, but it’s jist as ye say, Jack," said Tammas.  "Oor lassie looks
that way."  He stopped and his voice dropped.  "An’ her bonnie mother,
oor daughter,—it is that like her that Elsie is,—aye, the very twin star
o’ oor ain bairn, Marget."

"Look," said Marget, "dae you ken I canna mak her wear her shoes yet,
when there’s nobody aboot, and the pools o’ the spring sae inviting.
Look ye, if ever there was a child," and she laughed, pulling Tammas and
me to the door to see better.

Elsie had stopped, and sat down on the grass above the pool, her pitcher
beside her, and was splashing her feet in the water.

"She may be grown, Tammas, but she is the same child I’ve known always.
I remember the funny little thing when she was two years old."

"Three," corrected Marget, "that was when we took her after the passing
of oor bonnie lassie."

"And how she loved to follow me around like a kitten."

I had never asked Tammas and Marget for Elsie’s history.  I knew it had
been sad to them.

"I did not tell you about her.  I did not tell you, lad, it was all too
sad," said Marget, as if guessing my thoughts, "but noo that it is so
long ago and you have grown, you and Elsie, I think it only fair that we
tell you only a bit of it, so that you may not misjudge her, nor us,"
and she looked inquiringly at Tammas.

Tammas nodded.

"She was oor only daughter," she said, "we never saw him.  He stole oor
lassie when she lookit jist as ye see yon ane, and nae aulder, an’
because she wasna’ o’ his station, his graun’ folk scorned her and her
bairn.  Aye, but he was true, tho’, standing up for oor lassie
till—till.  Weel, there was a tragedy, an’ he had to flee for his life.
He gaed to the war somewhere—we never saw him—an’ we dinna ken.  Then
she died, and syne we cam’ here wi’ Elsie."

I saw the tears start into her eyes.  "E-lsie, E-lsie, here’s our Mr.
Jack come back," she called.

Instantly there was a flutter of feet withdrawn from the pool.  The
pitcher was left on the bank, and the hat also.  She came running, her
blue eyes smiling at me, quite unembarrassed, and even singularly calm.

She came up, put both her hands into mine, and her blue eyes flashed at
me.

"Kiss him," laughed Marget, "it’s oor ain Mr. Jack."

She instantly obeyed, touching me lightly on one cheek.  Then in an
earnest little voice she said, "Mr. Jack, I’m so glad you have come
home. How I have missed you these four years!"

"If I had dreamed that you had grown to be so beautiful," I said
teasingly, "I’d have come home sooner."

She glanced at me quickly and seriously.  "Oh, I’ve forgotten my cream
and it’s time for breakfast," she said hastily, and ran back down the
path.

"I should say so, Marget," I said.  "How hungry I am!"

"It’s good to be here again," I added, as I sat down to the little
table; "and, Tammas, there is Elsie back with the cream.  Put on some of
that clotted cream in the pot, cream thick, for it is a long lost
brother that I’ve been separated from."

"Ay, but the cottage cheese.  Don’t forget that is your appetizer,"
cried Marget authoritatively, as she pushed a great saucer, flaked up to
white foaminess, toward me.

For answer I fell to.

"Hold!" cried Tammas, his hand going up and the great fun-loving mouth
changing to quick solemnity.  Often as a boy I had seen his hand raised
most unexpectedly, and never had I failed to obey.  My head bent.  Then
Tammas, his great knotted hand uplifted, prayed in Scotch, as was his
wont:

    "’Oh, Thou wha kindly dost provide,
      For every creature’s want!
    We bless Thee, God o’ Nature wide,
      For a’ Thy goodness lent:
    An’ gin it please Thee, heavenly guide,
      May never waur be sent;
    But whether granted or denied,
      Lord, bless us wi’ content!’

And to-day thanks be added, greatest of all, that our Jackie is with us
again.  Amen!"

"Amen," chimed in Marget.

I looked over the table at the Scotch scones, the poached eggs, the
funny little cuts of butter, miniature loaves of it pressed and
decorated.  "I see you’ve got the same bill of fare, Marget," I said.

"Well," she answered, falling again into English, "we are two old people
set in our ways, and it seems to suit us."

"Noo, if you’d only told us you were coming," said Tammas, trying to
speak ironically, "I’d ’a had some o’ thae auld things ye’re sae fond
o’, Jackie, such as sliced Indian turnips like ye got up in the lodge of
the rocks on the hill yon day," and he laughed as he recalled the
burning my lips got from the raw turnip.

I laughed.  "Tammas, it must not go back to Aunt Lucretia that I ate my
first breakfast with you."

"It’s a mile to the hoose," said Marget, "an it’s only sax o’clock, sae
there’s a graun’ excuse for ye to eat anither breakfast, when ye gang
back."  She smiled with that funny little smile I had known of old when
she wanted one to know that she was meaning the opposite, but was too
Scotch to express it.

"Weel, we winna say onything about it," said Tammas.  "Jackie, lad, if
ye’ve got onything like ye’re auld appetite, ye’ll be ready for anither
at the hoose when ye get back.  Dae ye mind hoo ye used to dae that when
ye were jist oor wee laddie, running aboot the dairy an’ dipping your
fingers on the sly in oor cream pots?"

So I let him launch into his favorite subject, the cows, and the
wonderful record they had made since I left.  Of Gladys Gaily, who had
made her pound of butter from less than five pounds of milk.

"Aye, lad, ’tis the ould Top Sawyer bluid that’s doing it," he said
proudly.  And that I would find it all in the last "Butter Tests of
Jersey Cows."  Several of my old friends had died and one—"Ou, but it
hurts me sadly, my boy, to tell it—Gladys Gaily, herself, has passed
with that milk fever.  Aye, but it takes only the rich ones."



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                            *THE STONE-CROP*


I remember that April day when I first saw the stone-crop in bloom.

Across the valley from the dairy is the blue grass pasture of the cows;
and on a hillside studded with dwarf cedars, Nature’s first efforts to
cover up her nakedness after man’s ax has passed, runs a streak of bare,
brown limestone, winding across the hills an acre wide.  Above it the
grass and cedars grew down to the bare rocks, and then they stopped
short, for no soil was there.  Years before, pioneer men, fighting,
unthinking, world-conquering, with the primal instinct of the Aryan
_wander-lust_ in their blood, had stripped that spot of earth of its
clothing, leaving the naked ground beneath, lifeless and bare.  In all
the beautiful blue grass pasture this was the one scar: on this green
shield of Nature, the one rent.  The birds, which love the deep shade of
the cedars, stopped at its borders and flew back from the strip of brown
desert.

The rabbits, hiding in the tangled thickets above, and whose
spring-water ran in the glen below, made a path around it, through the
concealing grass and cedar boughs that brushed their furry coats.  None
would cross this bare spot, hot to their feet in summer and freezing to
them in winter, where they would be stared at by every bird, or hunted
by the eyes of men.

Even the crows drew their line there, and would not fly over it; for the
crow makes no path in the sky above that does not parallel a path of
supplies below.  Often had I seen the Jersey herd, brown and gray and
chocolate, browsing in a phalanx, following the earliest grass which
grew closest to the rocks, come to the very border of this scar in the
cheek of the earth and then in sudden anger plunge in and seek the
cedars on the hill, anywhere to forget this outrage on Nature!

I remember the spring I first saw the stone-crop. The winter had been
long and raw.  Even the blue grass had had a struggle to keep green, and
the cedars’ stems had become black under the bite of frost.  But blacker
yet lay the earth’s scar beyond them.

Then one day in the spring I went over the hill to Tammas’s home.  As I
came up from the slope and out from the great lindens, and looked across
at the other hill for the ugly scar, I stopped thrilled with a strange
and nameless beauty.  I have no word for the exultation that swept over
me.

But I remembered when Elizabeth Browning was dying—she so unbeautiful in
face and so star-like in mind,—she uttered a poem which seemed to me to
surpass all that great woman ever wrote. For the characters in it were
she, her husband, and her God: and the subject was The Beauty of
Immortality.

"How do you feel, dearest?" he asked, holding her in his arms and
looking into her dying face.

"Oh, I feel beautiful," she said, as she smiled back into his face and
died.

Oh, frail little woman, who never wrote a weak line!  O, earth-bound and
earth-found one, who never created save of heaven!  O, little homely
one, whose portrait I did not till then even love to recall, so
different it seemed from the soul which could write as it wrote: now it
hangs the most beautiful thing on my study wall.

I stood there, looking, steeped in the thrill of it.  I thought a pink
rainbow had fallen across the hills.

Then the nobility of this pink flower went into me, for there is
nobleness even among flowers and trees.  The blue grass is the
aristocrat, who sits only at the richest tables, with cedars to wait on
him, refreshed with the waters of a thousand hills. The bermuda runs
hither and yon, sending its stolons after the fat things of earth; and
the redtop grows only where it can reach the richest granaries.  The
stone-crop alone clings to this bare brown rock, shielding its poverty.

Seeing this, I gloried in the chance that faced me, the chance to be
another type of pioneer, and to undo the wrongs and ravages of my
forbears. For this I had sacrificed the love of my grandsire, the
General, who had wanted me to be a soldier, and of my Aunt Lucretia, and
even of Eloise, it seemed, that one sweet dream of my life.  For in the
four years I had been gone from her I had lost my chance to win her.
What did her talk of the night before mean but that she meant to wed
another?



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                        *THE TRANSPLANTED PINE*


Tradition, that greatest of all historians, had it, that the first
settlers on the lands of The Home Stretch had been a young pioneer and
his bride from Virginia; and that she, leaving her old home for a new
one in the wilderness, yielded to the pretty sentiment of her girl’s
heart, and brought away with her a young pine from under her own roof
tree.  Nursed and watered through all the long journey, over mountains,
wilderness and river, she planted it among the great oaks and poplars of
her western home.  Tradition told how, when the young husband had built
his double log-cabin from the solid trunks of the black walnut and
thatched it with the rich red hearts of the cedar shingles, the little
bride cherished the pine. The story was full of pathos; she and her baby
had died that first year, and both were buried in the same grave under
the little pine.  It was a great pine now, but lonely.  It had been a
great pine since I could remember.  It had always appealed to me,
standing alone amid the other trees. For miles I could see it, towering
above all the others.  And always a little tremor of loneliness came, as
one who passes a deserted schoolhouse door where once children have
played.  The great trees around it, oaks, elms, poplars, maples, seemed
at home.  This was _their soil_, these were their friends and kindred.
But the pine was not of them.  It had been transplanted.  Were trees
men, the pine would be a Highlander of the clan McGregor.  And away from
its clan, in a valley where it belonged not, in soil that made for
fatness and richness but not for religion and art, it was lonely.  For
trees are but men who are dumb.

Often, as a boy, staying with Dr. Gottlieb in his cabin, I would awake
at night and hear the pine sighing.  Once I remember there had been a
fierce storm, and as it swept through the forest it maddened the other
trees until they roared in their wrath.  But the lonely pine tree had
called above the roar of the others.  One would not look in the Swiss
mountains for the cherries of the valley, nor for the cedars of Lebanon
in the rich loam of the rivers.  This pine was the Scotch McGregor in an
English court.  It was Bonaparte on Elba. It was Thomas Carlyle in
Gaiety street.  It was a tree without a country....

Dr. Gottlieb lived among the trees in a double log-cabin, and had lived
there since I could remember.  My Aunt Lucretia’s heart was as big as
her farm, and for many years she and Dr. Gottlieb had been friends.  He,
being a scholar and a botanist, a very babe in a strange land in spite
of all his learning, had been easily parted from what little he had
brought to America, and had actually come to sickness and want.  Then it
was that my Aunt Lucretia took him in and gave him this cabin on her
farm.  Since then he had grown famous, and was known over two continents
as one of the greatest living botanists.  In fall and winter he was dean
of that department in a noted college, but in spring and summer nothing
could keep him from his walnut log-cabin by the great pine in the little
valley, where his wild flowers grew in the hills behind him and the
trees were his friends and comrades.

His story was like that of many who claim America as home.  In the
discontent of the Bavarians in their struggle for a more liberal
government, many republican ideas were advanced. Gottlieb, then a
student in Munich, with a number of other young men, attempted to
celebrate Washington’s birthday in the Bavarian capital with speeches so
revolutionary that they brought on a riot.  In the fighting his roommate
and best friend killed a police officer.  Gottlieb’s family was
influential and stood high in royal favor.  But the boy who had done the
killing was not so fortunate.  To be found out meant certain death for
him.  So Gottlieb pleaded guilty for his friend’s sake, and would have
been executed, but for the influence of his family.  Even they could not
save him from banishment, and so he had lived with us, as great a
patriot as I ever knew, loving his country so that the thought of it
would bring tears to his eyes, loving his Fatherland, and yet himself a
man without a country.

Now I stood looking down on the double log-cabin that was his home.  All
around it was peace and calmness.  Here had I learned under Dr. Gottlieb
to love the flowers, and the trees, and his books.

What a picture his home made!  A great wooded blue grass hill rose
gradually, slope on slope, above it, and on a little plateau sat the
solid log-cabin.  At the foot of the slope and running like a horseshoe
around it, was a bubbling stream, coming from the hills to the north,
circling around and running into the valley below.  Over this, a rustic
foot-bridge led to the house.  The meadows lay in front of it all.  I
stood back and wondered how that young pioneer had known so accurately
and artistically where to place this cabin?  Had it been placed ten
yards either way, to right or left, it would have ruined the center of
the background of trees beyond, and fifty feet further in front would
have placed it too far down the dead level of the center.

In stately distances around stood maples, beeches and poplars, some
towering high above the cabin.  Lengthwise to the rustic bridge it
stood, a beautiful, solid home of walnut, and the red heart of the
cedar, its dark, rich logs chinked with the white cement of the lime
hills.  Clear across the front ran the big porch, solid floored; both
ends flanked with purple stars of clematis, hanging overhead, and
drooping low over the entrance its great masses of bloom.

The orchard, of apple, peach, plum, and cherry trees, lay off to the
right.  The old-fashioned flowers were all to the right and the pine
tree towered over them all.

I raised the latch and entered.  Dr. Gottlieb stood before me, framed by
shelves of dried flowers and herbs, a small man with a large head, kind
blue eyes.  The broad brow wrinkled into its smile as he saw me.  I
pointed to the stone-crop running across the hill.  "Oh, Dr. Gottlieb,"
I cried, "what is it that in one night makes the bare spots so
beautiful?"

He quit his books and came forward, taking both of my hands in his.
"Jack, Jack, my boy, you have come back to us again—and from the
Fatherland—the Fatherland! ... Let me hold your hand—it has touched the
soil of the Fatherland—let me look into your eyes, they have seen the
Rhine!"  There were tears in his blue eyes.

"Do you remember how it changes every spring, Dr. Gottlieb?" I asked,
pointing to the distant crowned hills, the rainbow of stone-crop
beneath, and the level stretches of pasture land.

He smiled as he looked across at the crimson covering of the bare
hillside.  "Ay; but I’ve not been idle, Jack, since you left.  You
remember what I had done before you went away—fifteen hundred species
all catalogued in my book."  He turned and pointed to the glass shelves
around. "Now I have added four hundred more."

We talked long over our pipes.  He had saved some rare old German ale in
cobwebbed bottles, and these we broke in honor of my return.  I had to
go over my entire life in Germany, and all the four years’ work there.
As I dwelt on this, as I told of the old places and scenes, he sat with
his head down, and I suspected tears.

I cannot remember when Dr. Gottlieb was not in love with my Aunt
Lucretia, though he had never spoken to her on the subject.  He spoke
only to me, and that always in the same way. So I knew what was coming.
I had heard it before, and when I arose to go I could not help but smile
as he said, "Ah, Jack, but your Aunt Lucretia!  That most beautiful and
charming of women!  Did you know that each of us has our prototype in a
plant or flower; did you know that she resembles the great red wood
lily—_lilium Philadelphicum_?  Ah, Jack, it has always been my
favorite."



                              *CHAPTER X*

                           *CONQUERING SATAN*


Eloise and I had always enjoyed riding over The Home Stretch with Aunt
Lucretia.  Since I could remember she had ridden the same horse, a great
raw-boned sorrel pacer, full seventeen hands high, and so powerful that
he carried my aunt, large woman though she was, as if she had been a
child. "His beauty is in his gait," she used to say; "there is but one
saddle gait fit for business, and that is the nodding fox-trot, and
Tempest has that perfectly."

It was amusing to watch them in action.  With his head down and nodding
with every stride, Tempest seemed fairly to butt his way into space,
reeling off the miles like a great machine in motion, and Aunt Lucretia,
in her great, high-pommeled side saddle, double girthed and double
decked, sat him as comfortably as if she were in her rocker.

Her saddle-bags, thrown over the saddle, were in themselves unusual, for
they held everything needed in an emergency on the farm.  In one pocket
were the hatchet and nails, for she never rode by a loose plank but she
nailed it on again, and in the other were her medicines, everything
needed on the farm from a hypodermic syringe to a package of salts.

The day after I came home I rode over the farm with her.  "It’s good to
ride Little Sister," I said, stroking her crest.  "What a beautiful
saddle mare she has made."

"Eloise did it," said my Aunt.  "Jack, do you know she was always
foolish about that mare after you left?"

She squared her big horse up to me.  "Jack," she whispered, "I don’t
believe in the stuff, of course.  It is all foolishness and not fit to
marry on, but there is a great vein of sentiment in that girl in spite
of her make-believe and her indifference.  After you left she wouldn’t
ride anything but that mare and I knew it was because of you, and the
clever way you did up those two old braggarts of ours in that race."

"Did she, Aunt Lucretia?"

She looked at me cuttingly and then burst into a laugh.  "Jack, what
shall I do with you?  You are so in love with Eloise that it’s
positively painful.  You must overcome it before you marry her; it’s not
good policy, not manly nor becoming. The greatest race of men was in the
days when a man took his wife by force, conquered her and beat her into
submission.  He couldn’t own her until he proved he was a better man
than she. Now, the woman rules in everything.  Take your silly weddings;
they’re a glorification of the bride. To see them one would think the
poor devil of a groom was a kind of matrimonial valet, a second fiddler,
used chiefly to make a background for the bride to show off on—he is not
marrying—oh, no, it is the woman—and it’s the same everywhere.  The
women are writing our novels, our magazines, our poetry, running our
conventions, starring in our theatres and churches, and doing everything
else worth while except making the money.  The men have become
unconsciously so enslaved that the few of them who do write novels or
poetry write effeminate things because the age is under the influence of
woman.  There is no man-poetry any longer, that’s why I never read it.
If we don’t get a man-age into the world again," she added vehemently,
"we are all going to the devil, going to be wiped out by some heathen
man-race of the Nibelungen woods, not yet born!"

I smiled guiltily, for I saw Eloise coming out of the house and my heart
fluttered queerly at sight of her.  She came forward and I saw Goff’s
roses pinned on her breast.

"This is like old times, Jack," she said laughing, "but where is my
horse?"  She looked around, glancing at the little pony-mare we had
saddled for her.

"I thought you’d like to ride the pony-mare again," said Jim, who stood
holding the reins, "like you useter ride with Mr. Jack," he added.

Eloise tossed her head.  "No, no; now, Jim, you may saddle Satan for me.
Why, I’ve been dreaming of this for months, a chance to show the
splendid fellow and his paces to Jack.  I wouldn’t miss it for
anything."

Jim stood scratching his chin thoughtfully. "Dat devil horse, he ain’t a
good horse, this mohnin’, ma’am, ’specially for ladies."

"Jim," she said sternly, "look me in the eye! What have you been doing
to Satan?"

Jim grinned apologetically.  "I had to ride him las’ night for some
med’cine for my sick chile."

"And I told you never to ride him, that he hated the very smell of a
negro."

Jim still grinned.

"But you tried him?" she went on.

"Yes’um, and he flung me!"

Eloise laughed.  "Served you right.  You know that horse doesn’t like
you."

"An’ when I went into the stall to saddle him, he remembered it."

"Of course he did.  I told him never to let you or anyone else ride
him—no one but me."

"That horse," said Aunt Lucretia, as we followed Eloise to the barn, "is
dangerous.  I have been expecting to hear of him killing her.  It’s all
in his pedigree, Jack; he can’t help being mean. His sire was a
rattle-headed but game and iron horse—fast, but utterly unreliable.  You
may remember how fast he was, but would go crazy, and ran away in a
race, running into another horse and getting a sulky shaft driven
through his heart. All of his colts I ever saw are crazy, fast and
game—but cruelly mean when roused.  Still I’m to blame for this one.  I
thought Little Sister’s brain and sweet temper might overcome it in the
sire."

"Little Sister is his dam, then?" I said, patting the neck of the mare I
was riding.

"Yes, he was foaled the year after you left for school, and is now
three," she answered.

I heard Satan before I saw him.  He was walking the length of his
halter, now and then neighing, then whinnying to Eloise softly.  It was
the sound of her voice that had softened him.  Above the anger which
shook his frame, maddened at the sight of the groom who had offended
him, he had heard the soothing voice of Eloise, and responded with a
gentle whinny.

She smiled.  "Just listen to him!  Dangerous—he’s an angel!  Bring him
out, Jim."  She winked at Aunt Lucretia and me.

Jim grinned sillily.  "’Scuse me, Miss ’Leeze; you’s jes’ sayin’ that to
guy me.  He loves my leetle boy, an’ he feeds him an’ keers for ’im," he
added, "but it looks like he thinks I put an insultment on him.  ’Scuse
me, Miss Leeze, but I wouldn’t go in there for no money."

It was true.  At the sound of Jim’s voice, Satan’s eyes had kindled, and
he threw back his head, trying to break his halter to get to him.

"You try him, Jack," said Eloise; "I’m sure he loves you.  I never knew
one that didn’t."

I opened the door.  Never had I looked upon so superb a horse: a great
star stood out beneath the tangled foretop of his mane, on a great
square, broad forehead, so black it was silken.  The rest of him, too,
was midnight, except one white satin foot.  His tail was a heavy hemp of
black, shiny silk; his shoulders sloped in the line of strength. His
chest was splendid, his muscles, fore and aft, bunched above the
cleanest of bony legs.  There was great strength, brain, and self-will
in his head.

He was watching me keenly, as a wild beast eyes a new keeper.  An animal
knows friend or foe instantly.  Their instinct is unerring and surpasses
man’s reason.  I saw his eyes light up doubtfully, hesitate, and then
gleam when I put my hands out and rubbed his cheek.  "You splendid
fellow; mean?  It’s not true.  Did Jim put an insultment on you, old
boy?"  I laughed.

Then he rubbed my shoulder with his clean-cut nose.

Eloise laughed behind me.  "I knew he’d love you, Jack."

Satan came out playing.  Rearing, he stood on two legs like a great boy,
showing off before another.  Then he came up, rubbing his nose on my
shoulder and reaching for the apple Eloise had for him.  Meanwhile Aunt
Lucretia sat smiling doubtfully.

I saddled him, and when Eloise sprang up they looked superbly splendid,
the horse proud of his rider.

"Well, we’ll go," said Aunt Lucretia, starting off.

We turned to go to the left.  Satan made two quick leaps, playfully, as
if to follow, and then, taking the bit he wheeled to the right despite
Eloise’s protest.  He saw Jim holding the gate open for us.  He wheeled
and refused to go through it; he laid back his ears and quivered with
rage at the sight of the negro.

Aunt Lucretia stopped.  I pulled up sharply. Eloise sat white with anger
on her uncontrollable mount.

"Oh, don’t be angry with him," said Aunt Lucretia.  "You will have to go
as he says."

Eloise touched him with her whip and he reared, leaping high into the
air.  I caught my breath when she came down firmly with him.  He stood
backing his ears at Jim.  Again she urged him, again he refused.  She
brought her whip down sharply.

"Don’t, Eloise," I cried, "he’s dangerous."

Again he leaped high in the air, tossing his head.

Eloise slid down, white with anger.  "Jack, put your saddle on him," she
said quietly.

"I think we’d better," I said.  "I’ll ride him for you for a while.
It’s Jim.  He’ll never forget him."

"You have a sharp knife?" asked Eloise, after I had put my saddle on the
horse.  She took the reins in her hands.  "No, no, I’ll hold him. Don’t
put my saddle on your mare.  Wait."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Eloise," said Aunt Lucretia, "you shan’t get up on that horse again."

But Eloise did not notice her; her lips were set; her face white.  I
knew the meaning of old.

"Jack," she said quietly, "grasp my skirt at the hem, petticoat and all,
and cut it clean down from above my knees.  Don’t listen to Aunt
Lucretia.  Please, Jack, it is life and death with the horse and me.
I’d rather die than have him conquer me."

I knew from her voice that she meant it.

Grasping her skirts at the hem in an instant I had ripped them through.

"Now behind," she said; "it’s my old riding skirt, Jack."

In an instant it, too, was split.

She smiled, a flash of her old humor behind her sternness.  "Now, turn,
Jack."

When I turned back again she had slipped both her garters over her
divided skirts, so that they were held firmly to her ankles.  The next
instant she was in my saddle, astride.

"You, dear, sweet, old, stubborn Satan," she said softly, "I am sorry I
must punish you.  Shut the gate, Jim; I am going to make him do his best
stunt to pay for this."

At the first blow from her whip he sprang up in anger, but the whip fell
fast and with fury. Her lithe body sat him easily, like a part of him,
her two heels buried in his flanks.  He made leap after leap, but still
she sat him, cutting his sides into whelks.  He leaped high to dismount
her; he wheeled suddenly, but never caught her off her guard.  The whip
never let up.  Frighted, angry, he bolted for the plank fence.  The gate
was shut, but Eloise gave him the whip at every jump.

"Stop her—he’ll kill her!" I cried, as I saw him rise for the leap.

[Illustration: "STOP HER—HE’LL KILL HER," I CRIED.]

I expected to see him strike the fence midway, and come back on her in a
heap.  Instead I saw Eloise lift him, with a quick firm hand, straight
up towards the sky and I saw the horse land on the other side clean, and
clear, without losing a stride.  Then they vanished in a whirl of dust
up the pike.

"I’ll ride after her," I cried to Aunt Lucretia. "He’ll kill her yet."

"Don’t worry," she smiled, "she’s more apt to kill him.  But that jump,
Jack, that jump—did you see it?"

My Aunt’s eyes were ablaze with a kindled fire. I had seen it often when
a race was on.  She rode up to the fence.  "Five feet six, Jack," she
said laughing; "why, the record cross-country is five feet six—that’s
the record held by Colonel Goff’s horse—" and she laughed again
meaningly.

It was fifteen minutes before we saw Satan coming back!  He came in a
gentle canter, his great head held high in pride, because Eloise was
laughing and joking with him, patting his mane and calling him sweet
names.  "You darling Satan," she cried, as she leaped down, "I did so
hate to punish you!"

They say horses do not weep, but there were tears in the eyes of Satan
as he rubbed his head against her breast, and nibbled the apple she held
out to him.

Up the road cantered a horseman in haste, riding an English hunter.
Eloise looked up and smiled.  "I can’t go with you to-day, Jack. Here
comes Colonel Goff.  I wanted you to see that jump.  Isn’t he great?
He’s done it a dozen times, and yet Colonel Goff really thinks he owns
the champion."  She laughed, her eyes shining. "I must run in and change
my habit for the scolding I know is coming."

I turned sullenly in my saddle and rode off.  I did not wish to see Goff
take her away from us.

I did not enjoy the ride over the farm.  The sick brood mare, with the
young colt, which nickered so distressingly for Aunt Lucretia, alone
excited my sympathy.  I was heartsick myself.  I did not even enjoy
seeing Tammas and Marget.

As we rode away from the dairy we met Elsie coming down the wooded path,
a smile on her pretty lips.

"That girl," said my Aunt, "is a fine creature, and do you know, Jack,
if I know anything of breeding, she’s got rare blood in her.  It shows
in a hundred ways.  Now, watch her."

She was dressed in white, her hair hanging in two plaits down her back.
"I am playing at being in Scotland," she said as we came up, "and I have
gathered these Scotch wild flowers for Mr. Jack."  She handed them up to
me, and when my eyes met hers in thanks Aunt Lucretia saw the blush that
flushed her face.  She looked sharply at me a moment and then smiled.  I
walked to the barn gate, Elsie going with us, and telling me of the
Scotch flowers and trees.  "I would be quite happy here," she said, "if
we only had the heather on these hills."

Aunt Lucretia turned at the gate.  "You must come up to the house some
night this week, and we’ll have a Bobbie Burns evening," said she.

"Oh, thank you," Elsie answered, smiling at me instead of at Aunt
Lucretia.

"Who was that you were talking to before we met you?" I asked.  "The
gentleman who rode off when he saw us coming?"

"That was Captain Braxton.  He has asked my hand in marriage, but I
dinna think I shall," she added, with a little sigh.  "I dinna like him
as I should, but I dinna say yet, for I shall think it over.  He’s noo
like Mr. Jack."  Her little Scotch words would slip in now and then.

I flushed and looked at Aunt Lucretia, who sat biting her lips as if in
anger.  Elsie was all frankness.  She put her hand in mine trustingly,
and instantly I knew why she had told me.

"No brother could love you more than I do," I said.  "Tammas and Marget
raised me, too, so I’m really your brother."  I laughed to hide my anger
at Braxton Bragg and the turn affairs had taken.

She had lifted my hand with a loyal little gesture and pressed it to her
cheek before I could withdraw it.  "You’ll come to see me, often, won’t
you, Mr. Jack?  I need you to help me."

"Jack," I said, smiling at her, "just Jack from now on."

"Oh, but that’s not respectful, and I’d not be wanting in respect for
you for the world."

"I’ll not call you Elsie then, any more," I answered, "nor make the
request of you I’m going to make."

"Jack, then," she said.  "And your request—it is already granted."

"That you’ll not see Braxton Bragg alone until—well, until I have talked
with you," I said earnestly.

"O—h," and her eyes opened wide.  "Jack, why, of course.  If he writes
to me again I’ll send the letter to you before I answer it."

"Bring it," I said; "I want to see it right away."

We rode back to the house.

"Jack," said my aunt, "he is the most contemptible reversion to a scrub
that ever came from a good pedigree!  But if he tries that game on that
child—he has played it recklessly since you left—I’ll kill him
myself—damn him!"

I soon forgot Elsie.  I caught sight of Eloise entertaining Goff in our
old bower, and I could see that as he sat there, smoking and watching
her, he already thought she was the Countess of Carfax.



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                           *TWO WAYS OF LOVE*


I knew that Colonel Goff would not only stay the afternoon but the
evening also.  He had been doing it ever since the war, for he regarded
his General’s home as his also.  The assurance of the man incensed me.
The divine right of his old kings seemed to have been born in him; and
now that he had won Eloise, she and The Home Stretch and all that it
contained were his whenever he chose to have them.

Eloise would tease him in pure wantonness, and scorn him, and even
ridicule him; for all of which he worshipped her, as is apt to be the
way with men.  Yet I very quickly noticed the little touch of sadness,
which, despite her efforts, fell over her so suddenly.  To her wit and
repartee, her fun and humor, his only answer would be flashes of his
fine teeth, and his favorite exclamation, "Fawncy now, but isn’t that a
blooming good one?"  I was convinced that he loved Eloise and was proud
of her; but I thought it was such a feeling as he might have for any
beautiful animal, the same worship he might easily have bestowed upon an
Arab mare of the desert.

It was not long before Colonel Goff and Aunt Lucretia were in their
usual dispute about horses and he was scolding her for letting Eloise
ride Satan: "Ah, that unregistered fool!  Really, my dear madam, you
should not let her go near him, he’ll be the death of her yet.  Now,
there is my imported Irish hunter; he’s got a head as well as legs; say
now—suppose I just send him over for her," and he looked at Eloise to
see what she would say.

Eloise threw up her fine head significantly.

"The idea, Colonel Goff!  Why, I wouldn’t be caught riding him!  That
big thing better than Satan!  Why His Satanic Majesty can gallop rings
all around him."

Colonel Goff laughed.  "Fawncy!"

"Yes, fawncy!" said Eloise, mimicking him, which made him flush again
and then look at her admiringly.

Aunt Lucretia broke in.  "He can," she said very firmly.  "I wonder,
Colonel Goff, why you should send to England for a horse when you have
better ones at home?"

Colonel Goff laughed loudly.

"Why you even think that bang-tailed son of Nestor can jump," went on
Aunt Lucretia, laying her trap quietly for him.

This was the one strong point of the son of Nestor, and the one thing
about him that his owner had published on his arrival.

"Madam," he said with great seriousness, a bit offended, "madam, I think
I told you before that he held the championship for cross-country at
Melton-Mowbry."

"Oh, so you did," said my Aunt Lucretia, ever so sweetly, "and yet I
believe Satan can beat him both at the distance and over the hurdles."

Goff laughed, but not as though pleased.  He was too well-bred to reply
to Aunt Lucretia in her kind.  So he only tapped his boot, and looked at
Eloise, who smiled sweetly at him, as if urging him on.

"I was talking the other day to Secretary Roswick of our State Fair,"
went on Aunt Lucretia calmly, "and was entering some of my own things.
Now, Roswick, you know, makes me put up about half of his programmes.
He has asked me to get up some novelties on the side.  We’ll just have a
hurdle race if you say so."

"Capital, capital!" said Goff, for the first time showing excitement.
Then he quieted down suddenly.  "What am I thinking about?  What, in
this unregistered country, could go against Nestor, champion hurdler of
his class?"

"Satan," said Aunt Lucretia, smiling sweetly.

"Fawncy!" shouted the Colonel decisively.

"I’ll lay you five hundred that he can," said my Aunt, "and I don’t know
a thing in the world about your game."

"Madam," said Goff, quietly, "I have never taken an unfair advantage of
a woman."

"Colonel Goff," said my Aunt very seriously, "you know as well as you
know anything, that if I know anything it is horses, that I am of age,
and that I am good for all my obligations.  I’ll bet you five hundred
dollars that Satan will beat your horse at his own game."

"Do you know, madam," said Goff, "that a jumping horse is born to jump?
Not one in a thousand can go over a three-foot hurdle, and this brute of
yours—"

"Brute?" said Eloise, icily.  "Brute, Colonel Goff, he is an angel!  He
can do anything."

"And you will ride him?" he asked.

"Nobody else can," said my Aunt.  "Yes, she’ll ride him and beat you,
too."

"I’ll take your bet," said he.  "I’d give five hundred dollars to ride
once in a race with the only girl in America who is really English.  How
she ever got into this blooming country I can’t see!"

I left my Aunt and the Colonel arranging their new game for the
Cumberland meeting.  I did not take much interest in Eloise riding
against him!

I had ordered my horse, intending to ride over to Ned’s; I wanted to see
my pets there, Little Sister, and Captain Skipper and the new arrival.
Eloise followed me through the wood lot.  She came up and slipped her
arm through mine, and its very touch carried a sadness, it seemed as if
the quick electric pulse was gone.  In her eyes there was a weariness,
an indefinable longing.  It touched me to see her so, my live,
light-hearted, foster sister of old.

"Jack," she sighed, "I am—I am—"  She stopped and looked up into my
face.

"What?" I asked.  "I should think you would be happy, so soon to marry
an Earl."

"It is sooner than you suppose," she said seriously.  "He does not wish
it known yet because the proper notification has not come from his
attorneys in England, but—but—Jack—Jack, his brother is already dead and
he wants me to marry him.  I have already promised to marry him next
month."

I knew she saw me pale.  I could have cursed myself for the weakness.

She went on.  "When I promised him six months ago it was all so vague,
so far off, and I was so miserable, Jack—so homeless and badgered, and
dependent, it was all so far off, I thought—waiting for his brother to
die, and now!  You know how these English are, they take these things so
seriously, their marriages and promises, they are so matter-of-fact
about it, and so consistent: why, Jack, he looks on me already as his
bride.  He is just as busy planning for our future, arranging how the
estate is to be remodeled, what home we are to have, I couldn’t get out
of it honorably even—Jack, even if—"

"Even if you should happen to love me?" I said, looking very earnestly
into her eyes.

She nodded, her head dropped low.  For the first time in her life I saw
tears in her eyes.

"Oh, Jack, I am miserable!  It was all so far off once,—now—only next
month,—and you know I’d die before I’d deceive him—big boy that he is,
and trusting and worshipping me, Jack. Yes, that is what hurts
me—worshipping me as he does—I couldn’t.  I couldn’t, Jack!  If I have
any one strong thing in me, you know it is—"

"Keeping your faith with your friends," said I.  She nodded.  "Do you
think I am wicked to marry him this way?  Won’t you come, in after
years, to despise me?"

For answer I stooped and kissed her.  She put both her arms around my
neck.  "Please stay with me," she cried, "I do so need you.  I just
heard it to-day.  It was why he came and stayed so long.  Please stay
and be with me till he leaves. Just stay with me, Little Brother, this
time."

"Why," I said, "this time?  Surely he will resent it.  Any man would
want this night of all others to be with you."

"Jack, you don’t understand.  I am miserable. That is why I rode Satan
as I did.  When I put him at that fence I hoped—it is wicked I know—but
I hoped that he would kill me."

She was sobbing in my arms.

"Eloise, don’t," I said; "let me go.  Don’t you know that it is harder
on me than it is on you?  Do you think I am made of stone—of wood—to
come home expecting sweetness and find it all rue—my dreams about you—"

"Just to-night, Jack.  You’ll—you’ll laugh at me when I say why, but,
but, you know how punctilious these Englishmen are, and he thinks I must
kiss him to-night when he goes."

I felt the hot blood rush to my heart.  It was instinct, the reversion
of a past ancestor who fought another man for kissing his wilderness
bride.

"Eloise, you wouldn’t?"

"If you’ll kiss me again, Jack, as you did just now.  I never felt so
before—until—but it you’ll kiss me again—that way, I’ll never kiss
him—never!"

I held her in my arms.  I kissed her eyes, which were moist.  I kissed
her mouth, and it seemed as though my soul went into hers; for when, in
desperation, in an exhilaration which was all but madness I broke away I
heard her cry faintly, "_Jack, Jack!_" ...

I saw her arms around the great fatherly tree, her head against it.



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                          *WORK AND MINE ACRE*


There is but one balm for a heartache, and that is work.

Nothing in all my life had left me so stranded; had killed so utterly
the sweetness of all my dreams as this giving up of Eloise.  And with no
dream there is no life.

I felt that she was lost to me now: if she were not engaged to Colonel
Goff, there was nothing in me now, I thought bitterly, that could awaken
in her the real love she had never felt for anyone. Yet with all her
spirit, her apparent indifference, and even recklessness, I knew she had
a throne in her heart of hearts for love on a higher plane than those
who love easily.  I knew that only one side of her had ever been
revealed, either to herself or to the world; that beautiful as she was
there was a yet more beautiful side to her; and that brave as she was
there were yet deeper depths of bravery within her, a moral bravery
which under the spur of her soul would take another leap, as far greater
than that she took on Satan as the brave leap of Pegasus over the
clouds.  I had known her always.  I knew what she did not know: that I
was loving an Eloise that was yet, and forever would be, an unseen star
in an unknown heaven, above the head of the man who had never yet
learned to look up.  Should I sit still and let him take her, let him do
this irreparable wrong both to himself, and to her and to me?  My heart
cowered a moment at the thought of its hopelessness.  Then—how wonderful
is the word of the soul unto the soul, the passed soul to the passing
soul, the absent soul to the present soul,—I thought of the words of
Aunt Lucretia: "What would Andrew Jackson do, Jack?"  Into my soul came
the steel of Andrew Jackson.  With the quickness of the thought came the
change.  "_Aye, my unseeing old grandsire," I said, "you shall see
whether I am a fighter or not! ... For Eloise._"

From that moment I resolved to fight.  God’s blessings on the memory of
Andrew Jackson!

But I would fight in my own way.  For I knew that Eloise’s idea of love
was a love of life and death: she who would ride a mad horse over a
five-foot fence for the conquering instinct of a mastering nature, what
would she not do for love—_her love_—and she a woman?  For let it be
writ both of history and life, ’tis woman at last who loves.  Man knows
not love.  Even as his own life came to him the babe of Love and
Passion, so only can he give that unto another.  But she who gave it
being, _her name was Love_! Oh, to win such a love as I knew Eloise
would bring to me; which she herself knew not was there.

I lost my bitterness of it all when it came clear to me.  Before, I had
been maddened to think she would barter this love of hers for title and
wealth and the place it bought.  But now I saw clearly, now I knew that
she was blameless, because never having had that love, she knew not what
she was giving away.  Like an Indian princess, who owned an island of
pearls, but did not know their value, she would give them to the first
foreigner, coming down in ships, for the baubles of his forecastle.

But I would show my Princess what her pearls were worth.  I would string
them in globes of beauty around her neck, and brow, and belt, and I
would put my crowning Great Pearl of Sacrifice into the diadem of her
hair, and then I would lead her down to the sweet glassy sea of her own
unbartered, unbought home, her own sweet kingdom of kindness and
content, and by the still waters, in God’s own groves, I would lead her
until her feet dipped into the mirroring pools, and, kissing her, bid
her look for the first time and behold Love crowned.


Would she barter herself for baubles then? Would she not know the
difference between pearls and paste beads?  I, yes, happy I, would show
it to her; I would introduce Eloise to herself—Eloise loveless to Eloise
in love.

I laughed now in the happiness of my little conceit.  Very distinctly I
could hear my Aunt Lucretia say: "_Sure, Jack, that is the way Andrew
Jackson did—took her from the toad who had deceived her, right out of
his arms, and then killed every other toad who croaked about it.
Sure!_" ...

There was much for me to do, both of love and duty.  My duty was work,
and that came first. For I had faith both in God and myself, and if I
did my duty and my work, God would give the rest to me.

Work—the glory and sweetness of it!  And to find one’s work in one’s
life—that One Work which fits the One Life: this to me has always been
the greatest gift of the Giver.

There was so much for me to do.  I was the pioneer of a great truth in
the world’s greatest country.  In all great causes it is the pioneer who
is the sacrifice, it is he who is held up to contempt and scorn.
Strange that it should be so!  That he who sees first the Great New
Truth, the Blessing that has been withheld because of no one to see it,
the Great Invention uplifting through one man all men into a new world,
that it is he who must suffer....

The hurt does not matter from those who love us not.  I was willing that
the herd should think of me as it would, as its own little light
permitted, but I had that pride of race which every honest man has, and
I wanted the love of my fighting old grandsire.  And he openly despised
my profession, and he secretly despised me.  "What’s the use of worrying
about making more on an acre of this rich soil?" he would say.  "Ain’t
The Home Stretch rich enough?  And fiddling about saving trees—why damn
it, ain’t there too many of them already?  Didn’t I have all the hard
work of my life clearing some of the land, and my father before me, that
it might make us a living!"

He would never understand me, of course.  The discoverer is never
understood, and the forester falls in the same class, more maligned than
any of them.  He would never understand that it was not a sentimental
dream to save trees because they are trees, but to grow them and harvest
them in the right way, even as wheat is harvested: that we did not want
to see rich acres, the homes of unborn people, covered only with trees,
when the land was needed for bread, but the unfertile hillside, and the
heads of our water streams.  There, we insisted, trees should remain
because that was Nature’s own way of protecting the land from droughts
and floods.  Nor could I hope to make him understand that rich as the
land was—even as a man of genius—it should have a chance to bring forth
all the fruit that was in it.  That our waste was something appalling,
our methods crude, and that our people, with all their plenty, were only
half fed; that while we were rich and The Home Stretch was a garden, the
poor farmers of the hills and less fertile places were living only half
lives, they and their families, because there was no one to show them
something better.

My Aunt I knew was sorry for me; but I could see she hoped and believed
I would yet get over it.  And in my own heart I felt that if I had
chosen West Point, perhaps Eloise—

I flushed, ashamed.  How prone our little weak Self always is to play
Arnold with our Soul!

I began at once to work.  It is what one does with one’s own acre, not
what one preaches should be done to the acres of others, that convinces
his neighbors at last, and settles the standard of his life’s text among
them.

I started it on a gullied hillside of The Home Stretch.  These gullies I
filled.  Young trees were easy to transplant from the over-crowded
growth of the woodland.  Nature is at last her own greatest doctor.  I
gave her the soil she had been begging for, and very quickly she studded
it with little pioneers of the game black locust, to hold back that
which she had, to shadow it with coolness and damp that grass might grow
beneath, and mold form, and the blistered soil have yet another chance,
and that later the trees might rear their great heads high, stealing
from the clouds the moisture for the earth.

My neighbors knew me, had known me from a boy, and it was not difficult
to get them to meet me at the little schoolhouse once a week and hear my
talk.  Now talks all depend upon one’s honesty and earnestness, not on
one’s brightness; in a month they became interested and were one with
me.  They had always looked upon a forest as a necessary evil, as a
great wood put there to be cut down, burnt, destroyed, that man might
till the land.  Indeed, from their pioneer fathers, whose greatest
burden was clearing the land, there had come down to them the instinct
of forest hatred, just as had come their instinct of Indian hatred, bear
and wolf and panther hatred.  But at the same time I knew that they had
in the heart of their pedigrees another and sweeter instinct, and that
it came from their forest-loving Briton and Saxon and even remote Aryan
sires, whose ancestors before them, had long ago gone through the same
fight with the primeval forest, but whose children after them for a
thousand years, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean, were forced to
go back to tree-planting, to forest preservation, or die with their
soil.  It did not take much to make this forest preserving,
land-preserving, life-preserving instinct outcrop again among their
children here.  It was a revelation to them when I explained that the
true forester was he who assisted the farmer and the lumberman in
rearing more trees and better trees where they should be, and destroying
the worthless ones, even all of them if need were, where they should not
be.  In their prejudice they thought a forester was a dreamer, an
impractical person, who preached forest preservation from sentiment, and
would let the trees grow where children ought to grow.  I won them all
when I explained that a tree, when ripe, should be garnered, just as
corn or wheat, or any other product of the soil.  But during the years
while it ripens for the saw, the young things beneath it, which should
take its place, must be protected, and their life preserved in the
harvesting of the ripe trees; or if the land was to be cleared for
tilling, other places on the farm, especially the unproductive hillside,
and the sources of the stream, should be given over to forestry.  This
would save the hillsides from washing and depositing their flinty soil
over the rich valleys below, and guarding the water head, preserve the
springs. But when the tree is ripe it should be harvested, unless it
stood in some park or yard or town for a street ornament or shade.  If
it were in any of these places it should die in the ripeness of
beautiful old age, a younger one taking its place. It was not long
before I had a class of forestry, and there was much of the German
methods I had learned in every branch of farming which I gave them for
nothing, that helped me greatly. It is what one gives for nothing that
brings in the greatest returns at last.

But my greatest help was in a flood early in May.  The headwaters of the
Cumberland lie in the Appalachian range, that great wooded mountain
strip which mothers the headwaters of the Ohio, the Tennessee, and the
Cumberland, and so of all the states they water.  That long ridge of
wooded slope had been a sponge, the gauge that controlled the flow from
half the tillable Union.  On the Tennessee, the forest had been brutally
butchered, and on the Cumberland as badly treated.  The flood came.
There was but little to hold, and check it, and we had a deluge such as
was never known before.  Even my grandsire, seeing it, admitted what I
said. The seemingly wasted word had fallen as the drift of the elm
tree’s shaft had taken root in a corner of the old field.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                           *THE UNATTAINABLE*


My work took me daily to Tammas’s cottage. There was nothing so restful
to me as these two good people, and their sweetness and cheer, and Elsie
held my interest.  I had always been fond of her, and now that she had
grown into this rare, delicate flower, so sensitively turned, so
romantically original, I found the greatest pleasure in studying her,
and, in humoring her, as everybody did who came into her sphere.  She
commanded obedience as readily as she gave it. Every day was a different
mood, and always a romance with her.  One day she had on a large white
apron, and was helping Tammas with the churning.

"I am playing a new game, to-day, Jack," she said, pulling me to a
corner of the dairy where the spring water whirled through the stone
troughs.  "You’ll laugh when you hear it," she added, her eyes shining
into mine.

"I’ll not," I said, "I’ll be more apt to play with you.  What is the
game to-day?"

She laughed merrily.  "Well, to-day I am a duke’s daughter, who was
secretly exchanged in her cradle with the dairyman’s baby.  Now only
three people know it; the dairyman, who is old, and about to die; and
who is so sorry that he ever did it, but he did so want his own daughter
to be a lady in the land; and me, whom he has told at the last minute,
and the bad, bold knight, very dashing, who has bribed the dairyman to
tell him, and who wishes very much to marry me. But I want to marry my
own bonny prince, you see."

"I should think he’d be proud and loyally love his dairymaid bride," I
laughed, pinching her cheek.

"But, Jack, you are so stupid," she said, pouting.  "You don’t catch on.
I can’t play a game by myself.  I want you to play the prince."

Tammas stood looking on, his face in its favorite Scotch grin.  "Weel,
weel, did ye ever hear the like o’ that, an’ it’s no’ leap-year either!"

I could see that he was pleased and proud.

"And it is the prince I’ll play from now on, my ane braw lassie," I
said, dropping into her own dialect.  "Isn’t that what you call them in
Scotch?" I asked.

"An’ noo," said Tammas, "a’ lasses get unco thrang when their lovers are
aboot, to gar them think they are unco worthy."

Elsie laughed and went vigorously to work, molding butter pounds.  I
stood watching her while I talked to Tammas.  She was not all a child.
There was a certain queenliness, a quiet dignity about her that was very
attractive.  In her fine-cut face, deep down in her great blue eyes, in
her very poise there was a quiet naturalness, a pretty aloofness which
spoke of reserve forces, that seemed to soothe me.  God only knew how I
needed it!

After an hour with her and Tammas I felt, as I went down the wooded
path, under the great trees of the dairy lot, as I had when I heard for
the first time, in the deep hours of the night, the chimes of the bells
of Munich.  I had not cared for the service with all its symbols and, to
me, its meaningless metaphors; but I had loved its music, the great
bells which calmed my soul.

I wish to join a new church.  I am tired of these which preach.  I want
to join one where there is no preaching, no talking, nothing but music,
music which makes you feel God.  Why all this preaching anyway?  God and
talk do not go together.  Religion is not a science to be proven, not a
thesis to be demonstrated, not a problem to be solved, but a silent
Soul-Force to be felt.

Preachers and priests in their vanity to be heard, or their zeal to
proselyte, or their over-humanness just to talk, talk, talk, have robbed
the church of half its sweetness and power.  Will they never learn that
God’s house was made for God’s children and in it they should do as God
does,—be silent and worship?  And if there be a voice to break it, let
it be the Voice of that which is nearest to God on earth—Music.... It
was this feeling that Elsie gave me—of calmness, of restfulness, of
devotion.  There are those who irritate us, and they cannot help it;
there are those who provoke us, anger us, madden us by their very
presence.  There are others who stir us up for trade and money-making;
the sound of whose very voice makes us wish to own land, or buy stock or
build houses; and there are those—God help them—whose talk, be it ever
so brief, falls over us like an unwholesome thing.

Elsie read much of romance, and her small library was choice; but the
love-poems of Burns she knew best of all, and she always read them to me
when I was about to leave, as if she would hold me longer.  Then I would
remember them far into the night and the radiant-faced, spiritual girl
with the deep eyes, reading them.  I needed the restfulness which
Elsie’s friendship gave.  I needed her sweetness that calmed me, her
fresh friendship that was like a great rose at the window of my soul.
In her utter unseekingness, her loyal trustfulness, I saw that she did
not even suspect that I loved Eloise.

I stayed all day at the cottage and she flitted around with her great
white apron on, now and then calling me her bonny prince, especially if
Tammas and Marget were not around.  I humored her, seeing how much
pleasure she took in it.

"If I am your Prince," I said, when I had her alone in the butter room,
"I am going to call you my Heart’s-Ease."

She looked up quickly and a faint blush came into her face.  She did not
reply, but busied herself about the house, while Tammas and I talked of
the new test of Lass o’ Lowrie, one of his cows, which, from five
gallons of milk daily was making three pounds of butter.

"Dae ye ken Mr. Jack, whit’s daeing it?" said the old man.  "It’s nae
ither than the auld Top Sawyer bluid!"

Elsie, daintily gowned in a pretty white frock and for the first time
with her hair up in a comical little Scotch top-knot, walked with me
down the wooded path to the parting of our ways.  A tiny heart’s-ease
had just thrust out its fragrant leaves in the rich mold under the
trees.  She plucked the leaf, and there was the faintest trace of a
twinkle in her blue eyes as she came up and pinned it on my lapel.

"Here is your heart’s-ease, my Prince," she said slyly.

I felt a flush upon my cheek.  She was silent, and then she said slowly,
"Do you know Mr. Jack—Jack, that I believe every prince at times has
need of a heart’s-ease friend, and—and—well, maids need a prince to help
them."

I looked at her quickly.

"I am your good Knight always if I can help you, Elsie."

She flushed and turned her face aside that I might not see it.

"And you won’t misunderstand?" she asked.

"I don’t think I could misunderstand you, Elsie.  I don’t think anybody
could."

She came up closer.

"Well, it’s this, Jack.  Sit down here by me. I have no one I can
confide in but you.  You know how kind you have always been to me. Ever
since I was a wee bairn in a strange land. I can’t talk to Tammas about
it, but I feel there is something strange between Colonel Goff and me.
I feel that there is—"

I started.  She was pale, but went on.

"Well, you know, I didn’t come here with them.  I didn’t come here with
them—with my grandparents; that was so long ago I don’t remember what is
back of it.  Anyway, soon after I came I remember Colonel Goff.  And do
you know," she went on, "he has been so good to me that—that I cannot
understand it at all—only I feel when I am with him that I am drawn to
him so!  Oh, I have seen so much in him that others don’t see—and when I
see him watching me so closely and saying nothing, it hurts me."

She did not finish, but looked down the path, up which Colonel Goff,
himself, was riding towards us.

Elsie paled and then flushed quickly.  He was smiling at us, his little
eyes twinkling kindly. He gave us a quick military salute.

"My word, a _tête-à-tête_, and a bloomin’ fool it is who’d break in on
it.  Hello, lassie—Jack!"

He got down from his horse, shaking hands with us gravely.  I noticed
that he was watching Elsie, and she, knowing it, was reddening.

"You are a good guesser, Colonel," I said, with feigned lightness, for I
felt that he was taking it too seriously, "and pray tell me who would
not like to be with so fine a lassie?"

He looked at me quickly.  "If you mean that, Jack," he said, in his
blunt, unseeing English way, "here is my hand."

Elsie broke into a little confused laugh.  "The idea of pinning Mr. Jack
down like that," she said, looking bravely into Goff’s eyes.  "What else
could he say?  Now give me that box of candy.  I see it sticking out of
your pocket."

Goff pulled out the box of candy, and catching her to him, kissed her on
the cheek.

"She is my own lassie, Jack," he said, holding her an instant in his
arms.  "I have loved her since she was so high."  He paused.  "Well,
perhaps it was because I was an exile in your country, and she is the
Scotch flower I found blooming here.  Eh, lassie?"

Elsie kissed his cheek.

"You have been mighty good to me, Colonel Goff.  But go your way.
Tammas said he wanted to see you if you came by and—well—Mr. Jack and I
want some candy!"

For a moment he looked at us queerly, trying to smile.  He glanced into
my eyes, but I met his squarely and unflinchingly.  He was not a man
whose mental action was quick.  He saw but one side of things at a time.
I saw that he was embarrassed in his slow way.  Very awkwardly he left
us, going up to Tammas’s cottage.  Elsie walked on with me.

The wind blew her hair around her temples and the reflection of the blue
hills of Scotland was in her eyes.  "This is such an inconsistent world,
Jack," she said after a while.  "I can’t ever learn it, and I get so
lonely up here with only Tammas and Marget, I often wish that they would
tell me more of myself.  I should so love to know who my father is."

"Did it ever occur to you that it might not be at all pleasant for you
to know?  They love you and they want you to be happy."

She paled.  "I had never thought of that.  I had never thought of
that—oh, why didn’t I think of it!"

"Elsie," I said, taking her hand in mine, and drawing her to me as I had
when she was a child, and I her big brother, "you have no better friend
than I.  Tell me what it is that is troubling you?"

"You would hate me, Jack," she said, looking up quickly into my face
with great, earnest eyes.

"Hate you?  Nonsense," and I laughed, pinching her ear.  "Tell me," I
pleaded, smiling.

"Nay, nay, bide a wee—bide a wee," she said abstractedly falling into
her childhood’s dialect as she so often did when she forgot.  "And
first," she went on, "why, first I’d have to kind of explain it, Jack;
but it is like this now: suppose one was not satisfied with one’s lot
and had those feelings I have been telling you of."

I nodded.

"And suppose—now this is the worst of it—now suppose one really loved
another—one found one’s soul dream," she paused, blushing.

"Soul dreams, Elsie, ay, I think I understand," I said.  "I too have
them—they are the great, unattainable things of our life.  Do you know I
think that their being unattainable is what makes them great?"

She looked up.  "If it is worth so much—this unattainable thing—why then
does it hurt so?"

"Ay, ay, that’s it.  It is the things that hurt which count.  ’Our
sweetest love is always sweetest pain,’" I said, quoting the line of a
poem.

"Oh," she said, clasping my arm.  "You have said it, Jack."

I looked at her quickly.

"Elsie," I said, "you once told me—do you remember what you said to me
and Aunt Lucretia—about your hand being sought in marriage? Is it the
same person you now speak of?"

"It is Captain Rutherford," she said, her face drawn tensely.

I started, angry, flushed.

"Elsie, this will never do.  Do you love him at all?"

"No, Jack, not as compared to the other—the unattainable.  Well, I
should say about as the difference between a—well—say a star and a
little firefly."

A dry, fighting anger clinched my throat and I could scarcely speak.  I
could have throttled Braxton Bragg then!

"Tell me, Elsie," I said, controlling my anger and trying to speak
calmly, "tell your big brother all."

But she was silent, her face turned from me; at last she said, "It is
all so strange, Jack; those we love, love us not, and those we do not
love want to marry us even if they are not fit to."

"Not fit to hold your shoe, let alone your heart," I added angrily.

She put her hand over my mouth.

"Have I done wrong?  Have I said too much? Come, I must go.  I see the
Colonel waiting for me."

I took her by both hands, holding her before me, for I was strangely
worried and I wished to know—I looked earnestly into her eyes.

"Do you love me, Elsie?"

She blushed crimson.  In an instant her arms were around my neck.

Shamed and stricken with my own thoughtlessness I tore her arms from me.

"Elsie, forgive me, you don’t understand!"

In reply she gave me one shamed, hurt look and fled up the path.  I saw
Goff waiting for her.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                         *GOD AND A BUTTERFLY*


I saw a race for life the other day.  It occurred in mid-air in a
kingdom not of earth—not of our own; but the air was sweet where the
fight was on, and the fields were green, and the woods lay calm and
soothing beneath, and the great, kind sun was above.

It was the pursuit of a golden-winged butterfly, one of those filmy
creatures that is more of sky than of earth, made of rainbow and a rose,
of light and a lily’s blossom.  It seemed strange to me that this
beautiful thing, thrown off from the rim of a rainbow, living on the
nectar of a flower, sleeping on the bosom of a nodding lily and floating
on the breath of a zephyr, so spiritual it was, should fall under the
cruel laws of life, and be forced to fight for its brief but beautiful
existence.

Who were its enemies?  Two glorious mocking birds that had sung like
spirits from an heavenly choir around the house all spring and summer,
that had been permitted to live and rear their young in contentment and
happiness and should have held no grudge against any other creature.

Golden-Wings was in the garden, and he was content until that which
sustained life gave out—food.  Ay, there is the rub!  We would all be
angels if it were not for food, we would be saints but for our stomachs.
He had sucked every flower in his pasture, he must go to pastures fresh
or die.  The distance was only a few hundred yards of air, but he knew
that in that air was death.  He thought of it a long time as he hovered
from flower to flower; of life, of his mate, of death.  Had he been all
spirit he would have stayed forever among the flowers, but he was like
all of us, half spirit and half flesh, and the flesh of him was
rebelling and begging for food.  He must go.  He rose slowly, and with
uncertain wing, frightened, straight up, every sense awake, every nerve
keyed, his eyes on the lookout for his enemy.  Up, up he rose,
quivering, scared, frightened, then he winged his way across the ether
in a flight which proved to be for his life.

The mocking bird is a flycatcher, but not an expert one.  Compared with
the swallow, the martin, the crested flycatcher or the bold king bird he
is a poor imitation; but the mocking bird is also a poet and everything
is grist that comes to the poet’s mill, from the grasshopper on the
ground to the butterfly in the air.

The male bird saw Golden-Wings and gave him the first heat for his life;
up in the air he darted, circled and swooped.  Golden-Wings, terrified,
ducked, dived and escaped.  The poet dropped to a twig in disgust and
his mate took up the fight.  Golden-Wings saw her coming and his heart
swelled with fear; he stood quivering in the air, he knew not which way
to turn.  She darted straight and all but caught him; for a moment in
mid-air they whirled, twisted and tumbled, Golden-Wings, panting and
fluttering for a chance once more for home and love and life, and the
poetess for a morsel to eat.  It ended in the butterfly getting above
the bird, which always seemed to be his tactics, and the latter dropped
down in disgust to her mate.

Then, maddened, they both started after Golden-Wings, and it looked as
if this flight was to be his last.

It was a terrible chase that the two poets gave him, the tumbling,
darting, circling of the birds in maddened earnestness.  Their wings
were often so close that they fanned him about like a whiff of gold
tissue paper in the wind.  Twice they got above him, dropped and missed!
Then he was lost altogether, and only by watching the circling of the
birds could one guess where he was.  When seen again he had got above
his enemies, and was steadily pursuing his zigzag, frightened,
graceless, paper-fluttering flight for the distant trees and life!

"Luck to you, O Golden-Wings!" I cried. "For already you have taught me
a lesson for Life.  Let us keep _above_ our enemies if we would be safe,
not beneath them—for there we are a prey to their talons, besmirched
with dirt; nor on their level, for there we are no better than they; but
_above_ them where they cannot reach us, and where we may go on to our
destiny with only the sunlight around us and the unseen stars above."

The birds dropped down, baffled, to rest in the top of a sugar-maple
tree.  Like all poets, in losing their game they had lost their temper,
and now between panting and hard breathing they could be heard
quarreling.  "It was you," said the wife, "you conceited thing; it is
all your fault! I had him once if you had let me alone."  "Oh, you had
him, did you," sneered the mate; "if your talents only equaled your
tongue you would be better off!"  They almost spat upon each other; they
were beaten and angry and they took it out that way.

Golden-Wings was safe.  He was high up in the air.  His very flight was
now the flight of victory.  Twenty yards more and he would drop down
into the great splotch of green below where his wife was waiting him on
the blossom of a wild cherry.

I was about to cheer him with the silent approval of true applause when
I saw a lightning bolt of red drop from the jagged bar of the dead limb
of a great oak near by, in the midst of the forest and high above the
weary, yet happy Golden-Wings.  I paled at the sight, for I knew that no
butterfly would ever escape this new-comer.  Even Golden-Wings
recognized his fate, and, paralyzed with fear, stopped his flight in
mid-air in a few yards of his home, and lay quivering in hopeless fear.
Well he might, for the red and white bolt was a red-headed woodpecker, a
very king in the tribe of the flycatchers. Often I had seen him poise
above an air-bound moth, then drop like a dead bird in the air and no
moth would be there.

The hand of the world is against the marauder, be he bird or man.  But
they revere the man who robs by rule.

Straight at Golden-Wings he went.  The race was up.  He used the same
old tactics: above the butterfly he soared, then, gauging the distance
from his own great beak to butterfly beneath he folded his wings and
dropped like a plummet of lead.

I was out that morning with the twelve gauge, smokeless shells and seven
and a half chilled shot. It was thieving crow I had come after, thinking
I might get a shot.  To the marauder my thought was as lightning, for
when I caught the first flash of his crimson head, this went distinctly
through my mind: "_Nature is Nature even to tooth and claw, and yet
there is that which says even when a butterfly shall fall.  He makes our
lives and marks out our destiny.  Sometimes amid injustice, He calls
himself Retribution.  And then He has been known to raise up a man, and
a gun, invent smokeless powder and deadly chilled shot, give accuracy of
aim, and, most wonderful of all, the Voice of a Purpose to say that harm
shall not happen to a Butterfly._"

There was no smoke from the report, and so I distinctly saw Golden-Wings
drop joyfully among the green leaves.  But a red marauder lies in the
field where he fell.



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                      *HICKORIES AND OLD HICKORY*


June, and June as it breaks only over the Middle Basin.

There had been great rains, saturating the leaves and grasses until they
were almost blackened in their deep greenness.  There had followed,
flushing the grass on all the hills around the Hermitage, the mauve
tints of coming dandelions, followed by the red, white, and blue flags
of the clovers, until across deep valleys and on distant slopes there
was a pale light much like moonlight.

I had been very busy.  There was much for me to do, and I sought it
eagerly, for I wished to forget and not to see.  It is what we fail to
forget that hurts.  And so I worked.

Colonel Goff, as was his race, had acted straight-forwardly in the
matter of his marriage to Eloise. Over a month ago he had sought out
Aunt Lucretia and told her frankly that he sought the hand of her ward
in marriage, that he wished to marry her and take her at once to
England.  He said that his brother, the Earl of Carfax, had died without
heirs, and that he inherited the estate.  The family name, he told her,
was Goff, and he had kept it while in America.  In the early fall his
attorneys would have every legal provision complete for his return, and
for immediate occupation of his estate.  And he told her with equal
frankness why it could not be done sooner, that in his younger days he
had married out of his class, and had been blacklisted by his family for
it, especially by his elder brother; that they had had not only hot
words but a stand-up fight in which he had all but killed, and had
really maimed the older brother for life.  "I had to get out," he said
brusquely, "and get out quick. As it was they tried to disinherit me,
but England’s laws are greater than England’s men.  My wife was to
follow, but she died."

My Aunt was a woman of great sense and said nothing.  But I noticed that
she thought much, because she was very silent, and that she grew
suddenly very tender to me.  When Eloise had gone to Washington my Aunt
went with her. Two things happened before they left, which I remember
quite distinctly.

My Aunt’s admiration for the character and achievements of Andrew
Jackson bordered on the idolatrous.  As a boy she would take me often to
the Hermitage, and tell me of the wilderness giant who lived there.  She
knew more about him than anyone I ever met.  She understood the thousand
sides of this man’s great nature, from his horse-racing to his religion.
In the spot where he had lived so long there was, of course, a world of
tradition.  It came down from lip to lip.  Of these stories my Aunt
remembered all. A few days after Goff had talked with her as my Aunt and
I were going over the grounds she stopped before the log-cabin in the
pasture near the great spring where Jackson lived before he built the
present Hermitage.

"Jack," said she, "Andrew Jackson was the gamest thing God ever gave to
humanity, and the gentlest.  It is staggering to think what he had to
overcome to do his life’s work.  The fights, the sicknesses, the
suffering, the slander, the insults, the lies, the butcheries they
called battles, starvation, mutinies of his own men, all met and
overcome by one tall, slim, sallow, pain-wracked man, on one
thoroughbred horse, with a gun in his hand, and two in his eyes.  Talk
of Indian fights—Mills, and Cooks and Custers—they were child’s play to
the great Creek Nation Jackson had to fight.  And England behind
them—selfish always and forever wanting that of others."

She looked at me quickly, and went on: "But he waited and then hit them
hard.  No one, from Hannibal to Cæsar and Bonaparte, would ever have
attacked Keane and his troops, just landed and in an open plain with New
Orleans at their mercy before them, in the night-time as did Jackson and
his ragged, half-armed militia.  No one would ever have risked it but
Jackson; he was greater than them all!  For that seemingly foolhardy
night attack saved him.  He cut the very vitals out of them in the dark.
He hacked them as a game cock does when he sticks his gaffs into the
very heart of his foe.  That was why on January eighth they could not go
over his breastworks, even with the combined force of Packenham and
Gibbs and the troops that afterwards won Waterloo.  He had gaffed them
in the ditch in the dark.  He cut them into giblets.  It was hell with
the lid on.  They say it was a useless battle, but they lie, Jack.  If
Jackson hadn’t stopped them, they would never have given up the
Louisiana Purchase until we drove them out with another war.  There are
two kinds of men, Jack—talkers and doers.  The talkers are all
orators—they are all liars.  They began with Aaron, whom God made a
mouthpiece to Moses.  Moses was the doer, but he could not talk.  Aaron,
the orator, talked for him, but it is Moses who lives.  Jackson was a
Moses, Clay an Aaron, a dead one, Jack, as all Aarons are, and growing
deader every year.  All orators, being liars, fool people while they
live.  Dead, they do not even fool themselves.

It was Clay and Crawford who let the British make that treaty of
December twenty-fourth in which they said that they would not be bound
by Bonaparte’s constructions.  At that time Lord Castlereagh had every
reason to believe that Packenham, sent out November twenty-fourth, with
the best army and navy that ever left Portsmouth for a foreign shore,
had taken the ’crown colony of Louisiana,’ as they called it.  And under
that treaty they would have held it.  It was Jackson who stopped them,
just one day before that treaty was signed.

"Yes, Clay is dead," she said laconically; "he ought to be.

"They wanted New Orleans, and they wanted it bad.  ’Booty and Beauty’
was the word they passed down the line when they landed and started
across the Chalmette plain, to take the fair Creole City.  They were
going to take her and then rape her as they did the cities of Spain, and
they would if Jackson had not gaffed their very vitals out in that night
attack of December twenty-third."

She turned suddenly on me, her eyes ablaze. "Do you think, Jack, if he
had loved a girl and an Englishman wanted her bad enough to take her
right out of his arms that he would have given her up?"

I looked up quickly and her face flushed with fighting fire.

"And he was the tenderest, Jack," she went on calmly.  "Old Parton tells
a pretty story about him.  One bitter, sleeting March day, an early lamb
had all but died in the field here, and his little adopted grandchild, a
tot of four, found the lamb and cried for it; and so Jackson brought
them both to the house, and by the fire; and to comfort the child he
took them both into his arms and so sat here, before this great hearth,
holding them both in his arms.

"He, who had killed bad men as he had dogs, who had cut to death the
pick of the army that later won Waterloo, he sat coddling a lamb and a
child and thinking of his dead wife, and she,—oh, Jack, I all but shed
tears when I think of it!  The night she died, and he would not have it
so, but lay all night beside her, holding her in his arms, and trying to
get her warm again, with the great love of his own great heart."

There were tears in Aunt Lucretia’s eyes.  Oh, the depths of her stern
heart!  It is like the mountain capped with snow.  But when the snow
melts and the flowers come up among the crannied rocks there are no
flowers in the valleys below that equal them.

The other recollection was of Eloise.  It was the night before she left
for Washington.  Colonel Goff, who had spent the evening with her, had
ridden off.  I, pretending to work, was really listening for her
footstep, as she came back to her room up the great steps.

"Jack," she said, standing just outside the window, "come."  And she
beckoned to me.

We sat down under the wisteria vine, which grew over the porch.

"Jack," she said, "I want you to do me one favor.  No one loves Satan
here but you and me. Won’t you take care of him while I am gone? Ride
him whenever you can, the harder the better, for he is made of iron and
needs it."

"He and I are good friends," I said.  "I have ridden him daily.  We
understand each other," I added softly; "we both love you."

"And Jack," her hand was instantly in mine in the old way, "in after
years you won’t think evil of me for selling myself this way, will you?"

"Why, no," I said seriously.  "I have been thinking of it, and all life
is just a barter and trade."

I saw her face in the starlight.

"I’ve no right to make you wretched like this, Jack," she said, rising.
"I am going in; and when I return do you be gone Jack,
somewhere—anywhere."  Her voice trembled.  She stood quiet, and I by
her, dazed and helpless.

"There is one thing I am going to take to England with me, Jack," and
she pulled out from beneath her gown yoke, a little token I had
forgotten.  I recognized the locket and the chain I had given her years
ago.  "And this little picture in it is you, Jack.  You gave them both
to me the day I helped you lick Braxton Bragg."

Then she turned quickly and left me.

"Jack," said my Aunt, as we parted the next day at the station, "I am
afraid things are all against us.  Father, I see, is going to will The
Home Stretch to Braxton Bragg.  If I were you—"

"I have already done it," I said.  "I am going to move to-day to Dr.
Gottlieb’s; there I shall work out my plans."

My Aunt smiled grimly.  "I want you to remember one thing when I am
gone.  Don’t give up—remember Old Hickory."

I looked up at her quickly.  I saw something in her eye that gave me
heart again.  I bade her good-by.  I dared not say it to Eloise.  I
slipped away, but I watched the train of cars die away behind the trail
of smoke in the distance as I rode back home, and it seemed as if my
whole afterlife lay clouded in that path of smoke.  It was hard to give
up my home, the old home, every tree I knew, and with them Eloise and my
life-dream....

One’s dream and one’s home—what else is there which grips so the very
tendrils of one’s soul. To give up one cuts deeply into the roots of the
heart, but when the blow is doubled, there is only one thing that can
make one stand upright and not fall, and that is the Spirit Within.
People have different ideas of God as their souls reveal.  It runs all
the way from the pitiable, crude, faint conception which comes to the
savage in cloud, a sun, or star or image of stone, to the higher mind
which perceives Him in the Great Spirit of the Universe.  None of these
is my idea of God.  I have never been able to dissociate God from my own
self.  I have never been able to conceive of Him as apart from me....
And not always the same, but always there....  In my meaner self so
little of Him is there, so tiny a spot of the divine light ... so faint,
so seemingly nothing.  And this is the greatest of it—this is the
test—the very divinest evidence. _He is always there_; and when a blow
comes, humbling the material, the meaner of me, then He claims His
own—my nobler self—taking it unto His care, flooding it with His
presence.  It is then, searching yourself and your own heart that you
find Him—that you know that you are a part of God because He is there!

Riding home it all swept over me so.  In my innermost soul I knew it:
like a flash came the inspiration of it, the old Prophet of Deuteronomy:
"_As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth
abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings._"  Did God
mean in this, the wrecking of my nest, that I should fly—even as a young
eagle?

"And remember Satan, Jack, to keep him fit," I heard Eloise’s voice say.



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                             *HEART’S-EASE*


Never was there a quieter, better place to work than at Dr. Gottlieb’s,
whither I had gone after Aunt Lucretia and Eloise had left.  In a short
while I had become reconciled, in my hard work, to my lot; for to live
with Dr. Gottlieb meant to work, to classify, to probe into things, and
this meant to put aside all else, even for awhile one’s heart’s trouble
for the hard mental strain of it.  I remember those study nights well
and with such pleasure.  I can recall the little quiet man with his
books, his abstraction, his quaint comments, the learned deductions that
fell now and then from his lips as if he were unconscious that he was
speaking.  From studying the pollen of a flower he would look up
abstractedly and drawl, "_Ah, Jack; and Miss Lucretia—that most
beautiful and charming of women!  Did I ever tell you that each of us
has our prototype in a plant? And how much to my mind—ah, Jack, and to
my heart, how much she resembles the beautiful red wood lily!_"

He would put down his book, and look longingly out over the hills.  It
was the only foolish thing he ever did, I thought, and so I forgave him,
knowing that each of us has at least one foolish thought within us.

He always had a smile for me; often he would walk around all the evening
thinking abstractedly, or puttering among his books and plants and
geographical specimens, and then start into real work at midnight.  And
I would work with him; for, besides studying my forestry, I was carrying
on some experiments, testing the various effects of fertilizers on the
soil of The Home Stretch. Dr. Gottlieb would say: "It is not the time,
it is the inspiration, Jack; catch it when it comes."

Exercising Satan daily as I did, I became as attached to the great game
fellow as did he to me. He was a singular horse, of a type entirely his
own. The harder the ride, the more difficult the feat, the stubborner,
gamer he grew.  Not every horse is an individual, in fact few are; they
are horses merely.  But Satan was one, almost human in his
idiosyncrasies.  If he had been a man he would have been one of the
world’s leaders.  There was nothing he would not do for me after he
learned to love me.

Even in my heartache, in my despair at giving up Eloise, I thought often
of Elsie; for, having known her since she was a tot of three years, when
she came to live with Tammas and Marget, riding her, a wee girl in front
of me on my pony, going with her, a little maid, over the hills to hunt
for some Scotch flowers, I had that attachment for her that one has for
a little sister.  She had developed far more beautifully than I had
dreamed of, both spiritually and in body; for the connection between
them at last is the same.  I had never thought before that there was any
mystery about Elsie.  Tammas and Marget, with all their apparent
frankness, had the greatest inherited trait of their race, a shrewd
secretiveness when it was best.  Heretofore I had thought of Elsie only
as their orphaned grandchild.  I supposed her father was some sturdy
Scotchman of their own class, who, perhaps, died after his wife, or, if
alive, had given her to her grandparents. But now I saw differently;
perhaps her beauty, and the romantic turn events had taken; the Juliet
outpouring of her own exquisite nature had touched in me some subtle
instinct.

It was this affair of Braxton Bragg which worried me most of all.  I had
not seen him since I returned.  I did not want to.  There are those born
into our lives who seem always to oppose, thwart, counteract what we do.
Braxton Bragg had played this part in my life.  I could not escape him,
try as I would.  Even when I was in Germany, with an ocean between us,
had he not cheated me of my own birthright?  He was with his company in
the city of Nashville, where the Tennessee troops were mobilized for the
war. They expected orders to sail for the Philippines any day.  All his
life Braxton Bragg, weak as he was in character and mind, with that
conceit which often goes with weakness, had really believed that, after
he had acquired The Home Stretch, or a greater military reputation in
the army, he would marry Eloise.  All his life he had openly proclaimed
it.  His mentality was not great, and he had not yet learned that in
real love monies, farms, reputation, fame, are the least that count.

Goff had won her.  Braxton Bragg now knew that.  Goff had always
befriended him, and bore with him more than anyone else.  Goff had
confided in him and trusted him.  Braxton Bragg was as immoral as he was
weak.  Therefore I reasoned this matter lay in one of two ways. Either
he was recklessly scheming to deceive and ruin Elsie, or else he had
found out something that none of us knew and was scheming to marry her
on account of it.  Besides deceiving my grandsire, as he had all his
life, I now learned that he had further deceived him:—that, graduating
from West Point, he had been appointed to the army, but even before he
went on duty, he had been caught in an act unbecoming a soldier and
gentleman, and to escape courtmartial had resigned.  My grandfather’s
influence had saved him and got him elected captain of a company which
my grandsire had himself raised and equipped for the war.

Absorbed in my own affairs, numbed by the wreckage which had come to my
soul’s dream, I had neglected Elsie of late.  When I realized it, and
what it meant to a sensitive nature such as hers, I went over at once,
fearing that, since our last meeting she might have misunderstood my
absence, and brooded over imaginary wrongs to her own hurt.  I found it
was high time when I learned the real situation.

Tammas met me, his face weary; for the first time in all our greetings
with no broad smile.

"Tammas," I said, "where is Elsie?  I want to see her."

"Come, Mr. Jack," said he, taking off his big butter apron; "we’ll gang
ben into Marget’s room, for we baith want to talk to you."

I found Marget quite as troubled as Tammas.

"I feel that I’ve been neglecting you," I said, trying to talk
cheerfully, "but—I have—there have been great changes in my life—I have
gone to live with—"

"Ay, we ken aboot it," said Marget, "and though we didna understand, we
thocht ye’d come ower in your ain guid time to tell us."

"If we can help you, Mr. Jack," began Tammas quietly, "we will be glad
to do it."

"Thank you, good friends," I said, taking his hand.  "I can’t explain it
all now; only this," I went on, forcing a smile that I did not feel,
"there has been scheming against me all around, everywhere, since I left
home, and—well," I smiled, "I’ve been turned out of home,
and—and—everything."

Marget’s eyes flashed: "They’ll no’ turn ye oot o’ onything," she cried
hotly, "no’ as long as we’re here, Tammas an’ me.  Ye’ll jist come ower
and bide wi’ us.  Here’s your room, Mr. Jack.  An’ Tammas an’ me—we love
ye as much as we dae oor ain bairn.  I ken fine wha it is.  Tammas,
didna I tell ye?  It’s juist that Braxton Bragg! He’s been plotting
against ye ever since he was a wee bairn, an’ ye’re no’ the only one
that he’s mistreating; an’ it breaks ma heart to think that ony man in
this country whaur we and oor lassie hae lived so correctly, should be
sae bold as to write this, an’ it’s been wanting to see ye we have, an’
to show it to ye.  Ye are a’ we hae to protect her, Jack; we are
truthful folks, an’ oor lassie is a sweet and pure lass, that has been
a’ her life here in this valley, like as to ony lily in it, an’ we dinna
think she should be insulted by the like o’ that."

She had taken a note from her bosom and handed it to me.

"Haud on a wee, afore ye read it," said Tammas. "Afore ye cam’ hame," he
went on, "I didna like his attention to oor lassie, an’ the untoward way
he had o’ trying to meet her secretly gin she but gaed oot o’ oor sicht,
an’ ye ken Mr. Jack, hoo fond she was since a bairn, to hunt flo’ers an’
birds on the hills aroun’.  Sae very frankly I gaed to him, as I thocht
it my duty to do, an I tell’t him we had oor ain plans for the lassie,
an that he was in anither class frae her, an’ any attention he showed
her wad be to the hurt o’ the lassie, an’ it wad be maist unbecoming in
him as a gentleman to persist.  Eh, but it maddened me to hear him
explain and pass it a’ aff as a joke, an’ the flattery o’ him fair
scunnert me, it did.  But for a’ I said till him he didna stop it, but
kept dogging the steps o’ the lassie an’ writing her love notes.  Sae I
gaed till him again an’ maist pintedly I made him understaun’, that I
wad appeal to his grandfaither for protection. I am a man of peace, but
this maitter has reached its leemit, an’ noo we’re gaun to turn it ower
to you.  Marget an’ masel’ hae thocht it a’ oot, because if ever Elsie
had a brither it’s oor Jack," he added.  "There’s only ae thing mair
I’ll be asking ye afore ye act, an’ it’s jist this, that seeing the
matter’s sae delicate an’ talking aboot it micht injure oor lassie, I’ll
jist ask ye to consult wi’ Colonel Goff in the maitter."

"Ay, an’ ae day ye’ll ken the reason," said Marget very quietly, nodding
approval to Tammas’s remarks.

I never was so angry as when I read the letter. I was fighting mad, no
other word will do.

"Where is Elsie?" I asked, controlling myself. "I must talk with our
little lassie."

"Weel, ye see," said Marget, "Jack, I dinna ken.  The puir bairn is a’
but crushed—she’s just like a lily that has grown a’ simmer in the
valley, an’ opens for the first time ae morning to find there’s such a
thing in God’s worl’ as rain an’ hail."

Tammas came up to me whispering quietly. "We maun tell ye this, Mr.
Jack, it’s only fair that ye should ken.  We hae keepit’ oor ain counsel
a’ these years about oor lassie, an’ that which we wad like ye to ken
aboot her Colonel Goff will tell ye.  But this ye maun ken, there is
behind her on her faither’s side that verra intensity of nature so
highly keyed for joy or sorrow, that it has sent mony o’ her forbears
amang the gentle leddies o’ her hoose to early deaths, even to taking
their ain lives.  Ay, Elsie is jist sae like her faither’s sister, the
bonnie ane that suicided for love.  Eh, but oor hearts are wae aboot oor
bairn.  She’s shut hersel’ in her room a’ day, but jist afore ye cam’
she gaed off to the wood ower yonder."

"Ay, ay, if there’s ony ane in this worl’ that can help us it’s you, as
I said to Tammas afore ye cam’.  The Lord be thankit for your coming!"

"Ay, but the lassie;—Mr. Jack, would you let them that raised you be
plain to your face as becomes honest folks with those they love?"

I nodded.  "Then Elsie cares na’ a bawbee for this bold rascallion—it’s
you she loves, Mr. Jack, an’ wi’ a’ respect and deference for so
delicate a thing, you’ll sune ken that ye hae the love o’ a lassie wham
the highest in England and Scotland wad be prood to mate wi’."

At first I could not find her.  She was hidden in her favorite place, a
natural arbor of low dogwoods overgrown with a beautiful root of tangled
wild-grape.

I was never before more calm, for the seriousness of it all was on me.
Not only was her own reputation, her future happiness and life at stake,
but that of others also.  The hint given me by Marget made things clear.
If I ever needed tact I needed it now.  I was ready for any concession
to save her from the position she was in, even to forget Eloise, if I
could.

I decided that it was best that she should not know that I knew
anything.  My first glance showed me how seriously she was taking her
trouble.  I had never seen such sorrow in her eyes, eyes which now
fought defiantly the gloom that was settling in them, as a child’s when
it knows for the first time its mother has died.

I sat down beside her, and without speaking drew her to me.  "My little
Heart’s-Ease," I said, "you’ll let your prince help you?"  I let her cry
on my shoulder until she cared to talk—stroking her hair.

"I thought you had forgotten me," she said. "Where have you been so
long?"

"Oh, I had much to do—to think about—that needed doing quickly.  First I
had to move and get settled.  I live with Dr. Gottlieb now—well—it is a
long story, but I’m—I have no home now, Heart’s-Ease."

"You shall live with us if you wish—if you will—Tammas and Marget and
me."

I laughed boyishly.  "I will if it comes to a rub."

"I am so glad you’ve come.  I have been so troubled, Jack.  Just before
you came I was sitting here, and I thought I saw Ophelia in that pool
down there where the spring branch goes into the deep hole under the
willows, like my picture in Shakespeare."

"Nonsense," I said, drawing her to me.  "Tell me what you ate for supper
last night?  I believe you are in love."

She turned white, and her lips were drawn.

"No one loves me," she said, and she blushed crimson, "no one in the
right way.  It is just like Ophelia, and so I was thinking—"

"No one shall love you any other way," I said, "unless they first reckon
with me, for I love you," I added tenderly, for I pitied her so much.

She looked up, smiling through her tears.

Then both of her arms were around my neck. "Jack, Jack!"

Her hands were in mine: her eyes, looking up to mine, had tears in them.
I saw that she had misunderstood, but I saw that if I were to save her I
must save her through love.  I felt the hot blood rush, for very shame,
into my face, stinging it red for punishment.

"Forgive me, Elsie," I began, my throat choked with shame, "I can’t
explain, I didn’t—"

For answer she kissed me, both arms around my neck, as she said, "Oh, I
am so happy."

She was silent, her hands in mine.  They burned me, yet to turn them
loose, to tell her truthfully, and she keyed so to the sensitiveness and
unthinking romance—I thought of the pool and Ophelia....  She laughed
happily: "Tell me, Jack, your Elsie, when did you find that you loved me
so?  Was it because of my thoughts of you in the horror and folly of my
flirtation with Braxton Bragg?"

"Never mind," I said; "you are never to mention that name to me."

"Oh, Jack," she hid her face on my bosom.

"You are not to speak of anything disagreeable. Only we’ll just love
each other, Elsie."

"Oh, please, please, just let me tell you a little, so that you will
always understand me—your silly Heart’s-Ease.  It was this way, Jack:
suppose now, suppose you were placed this way—that you were very
lonely—always had lived in a cabin, and so much you wished to see the
world—that in you was a strange, queer longing, a feeling that you had
been born for higher things—and—all at once right out of the sky—that
which you longed for came—the star of your soul."

She hid her head on my arm.  She was weeping.

"Go on, child," I said; "I am listening.

"And he—he would not tell you he was your prince; then you felt that
strange feeling again, only worse—to go away—to leave yourself—well,
then another comes—I do not know, only he did—I had only seen him twice,
and each time he was very kind, but so fulsome and so bold, that well—I
would not meet him again and so he wrote...."

She was silent for a moment and then she spoke suddenly.  "Oh, I fear I
did wrong to see the other—to answer his note.  I was so unhappy then—so
wretched then, for I did not know that—that—you loved me—then!"

"Elsie, promise me—" I began.

"Please don’t, Jack, dear Jack, it is all right now.  I have written him
already.  I wrote him I’d never see him again and never to write me."

"And if he does, will you tell me, turn his note over to me?"

She laughed.  "Why, Jack, of course I will."

The setting sunlight streamed on her hair till it looked like banked
western clouds.  The very skies of Heaven were in her eyes, and her
dignity and poise were like a queen’s.

She took off the heart’s-ease she had pinned on my coat.

"You don’t need this now, my sweet prince."

"Don’t, Elsie," I said; "my God, I can’t explain, but, child—I need it
now more than I ever did in my life."

For a moment she looked at me with pretended offended eyes.

"Ay, ay, I see; but you shall have me when you will, and you will need
it, my bonny prince, until I am there," and she pinned it back between
hot flushes and tears.  "And you will see me soon, Jack, right here in
our sweet trysting place?

"Good-by," she said in time.  "You will see me soon, Jack?"  Then taking
my hand before I could prevent, she pressed it to her bosom, kissing it.

"Elsie, Elsie, don’t—I would die to save you pain!  I would die to save
you pain!  Don’t!"

"I am so happy.  Good-by, Jack."

"Elsie!" I called.  "Oh, you misunderstood me—you don’t understand."

But she only laughed back gladly as a child would, throwing kisses to me
as she ran like the doe of her own heather up the hill.

I saw Marget and Tammas at the door, smiling; and I knew that they saw
Elsie’s happiness.



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                            *"LADY CARFAX"*


I knew that I must save Elsie from the false, unthinking fate her own
romantic nature and Braxton Bragg’s infamy might thrust upon her. I
loved Elsie as my own sister and knew that now I stood in a false
position toward her.  Once as I strode home in the gathering darkness I
was tempted to turn back.  I would right myself.  I could not stand my
false position even until to-morrow.  I had but a few days to act.
Elsie had gone home happy—I, miserable—hating myself. Always before me
was the glad smile I saw on Tammas’ and Marget’s faces as Elsie went up
the path—the smile of hopes fulfilled, of Elsie safe, of a great wish
come to pass....  How they stabbed me now—Elsie’s words: "You shall have
me when you will, your Heart’s-Ease."

And yet if I did?  Great God!  I might be a murderer!  I saw how much
Elsie was like Ophelia.  I saw it all: the pale, conscience-stricken,
helpless little soul, the proud spirit scorned, the unthinking creature,
of romance and of hopes destroyed.  The deep pool in the valley might
hide her in its waters before another day. So I went on, choosing what
seemed to be the lesser of two wrongs.

As I rode Satan over to The Manor after supper I thought of all my past
life in which Braxton Bragg had figured.  I remembered him first as a
large, bullying, overgrown boy, three years older and much larger than
I.  I remembered his small, bullet-shaped head, the fat, heavy jowls,
the short neck, and the loud laugh.  From the first he had teased and
derided me.  I did not understand it then, but it was plain now.  Young
as he was, he had set his plans to work to discredit me with my
grandsire; to own The Home Stretch himself, and to win Eloise.  The
conceit of him!  Only one great thing Braxton Bragg had in him, his aim.
That was something to his credit: but without brain and heart behind it,
of what availed the aim?  He was like a wharf-rat, stealing on board a
man-of-war, to shoot a thirteen-inch gun at the moon!  He had never been
a boy, a real playmate to me.  He had always been cruel to the little
negroes around us, and to dumb animals, and in everything he had been a
coward and a bully.  I had never taken his designs on Eloise seriously,
nor had she.  Yet his persistency was notable, even up to now, when her
engagement to Colonel Goff had been announced.

Braxton Bragg, I decided, meant to deceive Elsie, to play with her, this
little creature of fun and love, this pure little flower that was as
much of The Home Stretch as the flowers on the hills, the locust
blossoms that perfumed all the air in spring.

He had beaten me out of my birthright by deceit and make-believe.  I
could stand that.  I could make my own Home Stretch, as every man must
make his, whether he will it or not, if he and his home shall ever
become two halves that make one.  And he must make it by work of heart
as well as of brain and of body if he hold it truly: for God is
inexorable, and His law of possession is: _if you have not earned it,
you shall not hold it_! In vain do men subterfuge with that law, by
gifts, inheritance, entail, by trustees and trusts; shambling along they
may go a generation: then God and His Higher Court decrees, and the
little tenants by courtesy pass out.  The little mice who have not the
love of it, which has been born of labor, the pride of it begot of
sacrifices given, find themselves food in the claws of the great eagles
which work and dare.

This last act of Braxton Bragg roused me to an anger I had never felt
before in all my life.  I had always been for quietness and peace.  I
did not know it then, but I know now that there are Three of me—Me,
Myself, and my Soul—which are almost as distinct one from another as
three separate personalities.

In grief and despair, in times of crisis only, do we see them most
distinctly; or, after a sweet sleep at night you do not quite waken in
the morning, they are then all so plainly distinct: there is Me—the
carnal one, selfish one, the animal one: the lowest: and there is
Myself, that is part of both, that would be spiritual, would be good,
only that not always may it be.  And highest and loftiest, and
altogether greatest, and incomprehensible, and exclusive, standing
alone, and aloof above Me and Myself, the Supreme Judge of the others,
and the final arbiter of all their little efforts and aims is I, the
Spiritual, God-given small, silent-voiced I.

It governs, controls, is king.

Me—is a man merely: given to eating and drinking, to stomach troubles
and pills; to subterfuges and make-believes; to vacillations—changes: to
thinking this one day and that another—full of policies and conceits and
deceits; of whims and caprices: changeable; consistent only in one thing
that it is always animal, deceiving its own self all the time, and
Myself half the time, but deceiving _I—never_!

I only smiles, and lets the other two go on till they need the judgment
and the whip—then they get them.

ME—a miserable, little animal that came from the fishes, or perhaps what
is left of my anthropoid ancestors, full of fun one day and to-morrow a
lion full of fight, always an animal, sensual; money-getting,
love-getting, land-getting, place-getting, fame-getting—always and
forever, with an eye out for ME and My Chance.

ME—a thing with a liver and two legs—Me! And above that is the second
Me, Myself—half spirit and half flesh.

It is this that weeps, laughs or curses the acts of the First, yet has
no power to change them; it can arrest him somewhat, haul him up a
little while before the court—a kind of a police officer for a brief
trial—but only the Supreme Judge—only _I_ may pass the act that stops
him.  When the First has groveled in the dust of things, it is This that
fights back with the spirit’s disgust, giving due notice to the flesh
that it is not all supreme, not all in all, that there is really
something else, somewhere, somehow, or else we would not have sorrow
after sin, penitence after pain, fear after a fall.

MYSELF, my little soul—a half-bred mongrel Compromising Thing it is—a
bird with gills and a bladder, a chrysalis that has yet to burst and be
a butterfly; a tadpole with a tail unshed, which one day may be dropped
in that metamorphosis to a higher state and yet more likely to die a
tadpole!

And then there is I, the still, small, silent I. ME, it talks, and
struts and brags; and MYSELF and its little soul is full of whines and
little pretenses, of platitudes to Men and Things.  But I—it never
speaks, never sleeps, never compromises, but always commands.

It exercises its authority as it is needed in great sorrows, or the
great crises of the other little lives. And it comes sweetest and
clearest (which is proof positive that it exists) before even the others
are awake, in the first dawn of day, or in the still night watches of
dreams; and it fairly crushes you with the sweetness of its presence, in
that quiet kingdom through which you loiter, and then pass through—that
Kingdom between the Dawn and the Daylight.  Suddenly we awake enough to
know that we are there—_It_ is there—in another world—painfully,
awfully, preciously there. Then we see how truly Me and Myself—my little
body of ME may die and pass away, and be as naught—but that _I_, the
still, small, silent I of Me has come from Æons to go on to Eternities;
and after all the little plans of me, and the braggart, _this I will do
and that I will not do of Me, this I will be and that I will not be of
Me_, and after all my resolves and final decisions, and my well-laid
plans of Me—_I_, the kingly _I of Me_ has only to appear, sitting silent
as a burning flame in the throne room of my soul, and all My’s plans
both of doing and being, and all of my soul’s resolve of purpose—the
great decisions of my very soul—become as slaves to fall down before and
crawl to do its bidding! ...

Braxton Bragg’s perfidy had aroused me to an anger that I had never
known before: I had been a quiet boy, I loved not strife, "_Oh, he won’t
fight, not one of them will,_" I caught myself mimicking my grandsire,
and in hot forgetfulness, I struck the big horse I was riding with a
quick touch of my heel—I was almost unseated with the leap he made.

"Steady, quiet, forgive me, old boy!" I cried, stroking his crest to
calmness—"that only means I see things differently; that in this little
world our ethics is one thing, our little religions, laws, our
civilization is one thing, and God and His laws are another.  One says
if he smite you, turn your other cheek; the other says, if he strike
you, strike back harder.  One says peace—the other says it is war, even
in the name of peace; one says Justice and her scales, the other says
the Eagle and the Battleship.  There is a time in every honest man’s
life when he must fight or die.  Satan, old boy, I am going to fight
awhile!"

I was lusty and twenty—ME.

So I pondered as I rode over to see Colonel Goff.  I found him in the
library of The Manor, and was soon seated with him.  I noticed the
sterling beauty of the furniture, the trophies of the chase, both in
India and America, and a full portrait of Eloise over the mantel.  I had
been a boy to Colonel Goff until my return.  Now I imagined that my
sudden change into a full-grown man had never quite come home to him,
remembering me only as he had known me last.

"You have given me an unexpected pleasure, my boy," he said with a touch
of cordiality in his voice.  "I have been beastly lonely since Eloise
left."  He eyed me through his half-closed lids as he lighted a cigar
and watched me light mine.

I flushed, and I fear he noticed it.  Then I broke abruptly into my
subject.  "It is your help and advice I want to-night, sir.  I have come
to talk of Elsie."

He looked at me surprised, holding a half-lit match in his finger.
Instantly the match was snuffed out with a sudden twist and a smile
broke over his face.

"It’s all right, Jack," he said warmly; "I think I can guess—I have seen
for a month that you have cut me out—all of us—why—"

"I fear you are mistaken, Colonel Goff," I said quietly.  "I know how
much you think of her, that you are her friend, and I thought the two of
us together might help her out of an unfortunate affair."

He turned on me quickly.

"Why, what has happened?  I saw her to-day; she was all right."

"Nothing has happened yet," I said; "nor is it likely to now, since I am
going to do some acting myself, with your help."

I handed him the note.  I had heard my old grandsire say that in
critical places Goff was always coolest.  He smoked while he read, not a
muscle moving.

"This thing is so out of all our English ideas of sense and decency, and
so unusual, that I’m lost in it," he said quietly at last.  "It seems
that he has actually induced my romantic little girl to agree to a
secret clandestine marriage with him, and his regiment leaves for the
Philippines to-morrow, marry her secretly, and claim her when he comes
back!"

Instead of being angry Goff laughed, half ironically but with intent
behind it.  He rose and walked to the door, calling his butler.  "Tell
James to saddle my horse at once," I heard him say.  Then he closed the
door and came up to me.  "Jack, this is the damnedest piece of
blackguardism I ever had to kick out of my mind; we’ll settle it in a
jiffy with him,—just as I’d kick a little cur out of my pack of running
hounds. You’ll ride with me, of course, and witness it."

"I will, Colonel Goff," I said sullenly, "if you’ll let me do it in my
own way.  It is I who want you to witness it."

He slapped me on the shoulder.

"You’re all right, Jack, I’ve always known that: and if it is nothing
rash—you see if it were, why, the child would be talked about.  Oh, yes,
damn him, if it wasn’t for her I’d kill him myself."

"Colonel Goff," I said rising, "I’m going to thrash him to-night before
I go to bed.  I’m going to do it in my own way."

He laughed outright and grasped my hand. "You must not," he said, "and I
will tell you why; you’ve earned it.  This is my great secret. I’ve seen
all along that you have loved her—and, well, it’s plain she loves you.
But I see through this affair much further than you because you don’t
know.  I’ll tell you, you have earned both my friendship and my
gratitude.  First, there is no insult here, in this note.  I’ve been the
scoundrel’s friend all his life.  He had so few, and I told him in
confidence what I’ve never told anyone—did not intend to tell till the
announcement of my marriage next month—Elsie is my daughter—she is Lady
Carfax by birthright and by title, and this little scoundrel has taken
advantage of my confidence.  He has always had a sneaking idea that he
would marry Eloise, and now that he can’t, he loves me so much he’d like
to be my son-in-law, though he ruined my daughter’s chances in life to
do it, with his fool secret marriage."

He stopped and looked at me, thinking quietly for a moment.

"You’ll excuse me, Jack, for plainness, but we’ve no time for anything
else, and I mean it all kindly.  But you, yourself, are mostly to blame
for this.  I have read it in Elsie, but I thought you’d never see it,
never tell her of your love. Now, it’s this way, my boy; and I’ll be
frank.  I am going to take Lady Carfax home and finish her education,
and give her the chance her place demands.  You are always welcome to
come and be with us at any time as long as you choose, and if, on her
majority, she still loves you, and you her, why—" he stopped, smiling
kindly.

"Colonel Goff," I said rising, "you certainly misunderstand me.  All
that I’ll talk to you about later.  I’m in a mood to-night I’ve never
been in before.  Get your horse and go with me.  I want you to see that
I have a fair fight."

"It won’t do, Jack," he said.  "I’ll not even let you go with me.  It’s
Elsie I’m thinking of, Elsie and you.  The quieter this thing is
settled, the better for all.  I see through it—as I told you.  I’ll ride
over to see him.  I’ll catch him to-night, and when I have finished with
him, he’ll never mention Elsie again, let alone try to marry her
secretly.  I saw her to-night just before you came.  Jack, my little
girl is happy.  It pleases me—let her stay happy, and you shall be, some
day, if you will—"

I did not reply.  We rose to go.  At the parting of the road I galloped
home, he to the city.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                            *THE LAST DANCE*


It was a night in early June.  The Home Stretch was all a-glitter, its
porches and the great trees on the lawn lighted with rows of colored
lanterns.

My Aunt and Eloise had returned; the Cumberland races, the social event
of the year, began the next day, and in accordance with her custom my
Aunt was giving her annual ball.  This time it was to serve a two-fold
purpose; for it was also in honor of Eloise and Colonel Goff and was to
be the formal announcement of their coming marriage.

I rode over early.  If I was needed I wanted to help as of old; and I
had seen neither of them since they had returned a week ago, for I had
been away for several weeks, in an adjoining county, earning my first
fee in forestry.  I had been employed by a corporation to pass upon a
large tract of timber, to report its millage and availability, but best
of all I was to put my plans into effect in its harvesting, cutting out
only the ripe trees, and preserving the young ones beneath from death
and mutilation.

I had spent two weeks among them.  There were many different kinds, and
they had become almost like children to me, and like children, they each
had different temperaments—these trees—different forms, dispositions,
dreams, and they always talked to me, through their little leaves, but
sweetest of all in the night, even as children do, when, full of
themselves and of life, they gossip so friendly in the balm of the June
moon.  They told me like village gossipers, of their every little
affair, their little vexes, turmoils, the very little scandals of their
wood.  And in more stirring moods when the night winds would arise and
sweep through them the writers, minstrels and poets, stirred to historic
flights, quivered with their greater dreams, sang their tales of tree
tragedies, of wars had, of fights for life and of martyr and hero
deaths.

And I had lain and listened, and felt my heart grow big with throbbing
even as when I first read of the wanderings of Ulysses.

I came from out among them older, braver, better.  I came with higher
motives for my own life and eyes which saw clearer into the future and
read more kindly the lives of others.

And gladly would I have stayed in the wood among them, to go back—rather
than to see what I must see—Eloise betrothed to another.  No tree
tragedy could be more cruel than that which had killed the love of my
own life.

In withholdingness and sorrow I left them: "duty" not as someone has
said, "is the sublimest word in the English language" because duty is
often done in pleasure, but the real sublimity of duty is the duty done
in pain.  To fail to go were cowardice, and I was no coward even if my
grandsire did think so.

But when I went into the great hall of The Home Stretch, filled with
chattering guests, the contrast was poignant.  It was as if deep in the
sleeping and silent forces a cloud of chattering birds had landed
suddenly among my trees.

"It is good to see you home again, Jack."

It was Eloise who spoke.  Her eyes told me that she had been waiting,
and a brave lingering smile went with her words.  There were little
tired, hard lines around her sweet mouth.  She looked tired but game, as
when, in a long day’s hunt after quail and the route home was long, and
our luck nil, it needed a good heart to smile.

She stood with Goff in the reception room, as though she were Countess
of Carfax already. The hand I held trembled for the first time in mine.

"Glad to see you back, Jack," said Goff, his face aglow with the pride
he felt.

"Where have you been, Jack?  I thought you were never coming to see me
again?" Eloise asked.

She gradually moved away with me from the crowd in the center of the
room until we stood apart in the large bay window.

"Come," I said teasingly, "you have got away from your lord; he will
miss you."

It was not fun to her.  Her face flushed, then paled.  "Jack, you must
dance with me once to-night—our last dance.  I have something to tell
you then."

"I don’t think you ought to punish me any more than you have already,
Eloise," I said frankly.

"Maybe I am punishing myself more," she said softly.

"Eloise, Eloise—"

But she had turned and was receiving the newly arrived and merry crowd
behind us.

My Aunt held to some customs which she permitted none of the innovations
of society to alter.  One was that her balls must open with the Virginia
Reel.  I saw her coming and understood.

"Jack," she nodded, commandingly, "we are ready, you and Eloise open it
up."

Eloise stood behind her smiling.  She placed both her hands in mine and
together we glided to the head of the line.  We stood holding hands and
waiting for the music.  Coming closer, my Aunt smiled and whispered, "I
wish you two children could see what a fine pair you make. Pedigree
counts even in a Virginia Reel, and you two were bred for it."

We both laughed.

"Look into that mirror across yonder," she laughed, "and see how much
better I am at pairing off people than they are themselves."

We glanced across and saw Goff and a fat lady from town.

"They are matched perfectly," said my Aunt Lucretia, "both grass-fed."

"Please don’t, Aunt Lucretia," said Eloise, "that isn’t fair.  You are
trying your best to keep me from being a countess."  Then she added
suddenly, "Oh, Jack, tell me about Satan. You don’t know how I’ve missed
him.  Where have you two been?"

"In the wood together.  No—n-o—you shall never have him, such a
horse—such a comrade."

Eloise pouted.  "You’ll see.  Why Colonel Goff has promised I shall take
him to England with me.  And Jack—how about his exercise? My heart is
set on beating him in that hurdle race, and Aunt Lucretia would have
apoplexy if she lost that bet."

"Oh, he’s hard enough.  I rode him two hundred miles to Obion County and
back.  I honestly believe he could run across the county to-morrow; and
jump!  I am glad you mentioned it—-it was wonderful—he is foolish about
me.  It is because he knows I love you, dear," I said, whispering in her
ear.

"Please don’t, Jack, you only hurt me."

"I was across a small ravine from him one day, had hitched him and was
looking at some timber. He broke his halter and came to me.  I heard his
calling neigh and I answered him, and he came to me, clearing a ten-foot
ravine in a jump."

Eloise clapped her hands, and my Aunt, who had come up and heard it,
smiled.  Then she said, with her usual red-tape accuracy, "I hope you
took the measurements.  Was it really ten feet, Jack?"

"I measured it," I said, "and it was nearly bottomless.  If one foot had
missed—"

My Aunt nodded to Eloise.  "That little branch in Cumberland Park is
only ten across from bank to bank.  Oh, we’ll play it on his lordship
fine!  Come!"

There was a crash of music.  With radiant cheeks and eyes that I saw
many a night afterwards in my dreams, and a proud smile she went with me
down the line.

There was a pretty surprise for us at the supper.  We had filed into the
dining hall.  My grandfather sat alone, his hair white under the
candles.  On the right of him stood Eloise and Colonel Goff, and the
long line of expectant guests stood around down the long table.

My grandfather rapped, and, raising his glass, proposed a toast to the
future Earl and Countess of Carfax.  There was a burst of applause.  The
guests lifted their glasses.

"My friends," said Colonel Goff, bravely, when the room became quiet, "I
came to you years ago, an exiled Englishman, and I found a home here,
following my old commander from the war.  I came lonely and alone.  I go
back with a sorrow in my heart at leaving many friends behind, but
instead of going alone, I return taking with me one who will be the peer
of any countess of the long line of Carfax."

He turned, bowing grandly to Eloise, who, pale, and with trembling lips
listened.  I could see her breast faltering with quickened breathing.
Her parted lips panted for air, even though she stood beaming graciously
to the greeting.  "I have another announcement to make," he went on very
quietly, "and I think it right that I do it now, that I may be just to
myself, to the good people who have reared her, and to my child whom I
love.  My coming here was not altogether purposeless.  You will
understand when I introduce to you my daughter, Lady Elsie."

There was a stir at the lower end of the table, and I saw my Aunt
Lucretia open the folding doors and Tammas followed by Marget enter.
Elsie followed, her face ablaze with that beauty which was always hers
when excited.  She was more like an angel of light than a girl, and
around her neck and in her hair were the jewels of the house of Carfax.

Goff met and kissed her, and very simply and sweetly she advanced and
kissed Eloise, graciously, almost unconsciously, a kiss both of love and
tribute.  She stood between them, bowing and smiling so graciously down
the table that her breeding was evident.

All who knew her loved her, and for the next ten minutes they thronged
around her with kisses and congratulations.

I did not go, for there were tears in my eyes and a great choking in my
throat.  When I looked up Tammas and Marget were standing by me, Tammas
making a bold effort at winking his tears away and smiling.  He mopped
his brow vigorously, and said mechanically, "’Tis a bonny night for us,
a bonny night and a glorious for our lassie!"

"Ay, weel," said Marget between her sobs, "but dinna she look it—like
her ain sweet mother?  Oh, but she was that bonny, and ’tis she, our
lassie, Tammas, can be looking down on her this blessed minute, her
bairn who has come into her own."

Then Elsie saw us and came quietly forward. She clasped me impulsively
around the neck and kissed me, whispering, "Oh, it is mine, Jack, that I
felt but could not tell.  ’Tis the unattainable come true, and now,
Jack, dear Jack, that I am Lady Elsie, now that I am worthy of you—" she
could not speak.  Her lips were deadly white as if with faintness.  I
held her, stroking her hair.

"You were always worthy of anyone, sweet one.  Be brave, be brave, now,"
I whispered, "and go back to your father’s side."

I looked up to find Eloise’s eyes upon me, and a strange understanding
in their depths.

"I am staying with papa, at The Manor now," said Elsie as she left me
and Marget.  "You will not let it keep you from coming to see me often,
will you, Jack?"

"Ay, weel, to be sure, lassie," broke in Tammas, and I caught the
pleased look that seemed part of his countenance that night as if now
his heart’s desire had already come to pass, "ay, weel, to be sure, for
our Mr. Jack will always be our Mr. Jack to us, lassie." ...

It was the last waltz.  Eloise beckoned to me, and when I reached her,
she opened her arms and I took her in mine.  I could not speak, my heart
beating almost strangled me.  I held her tight, and into the sweetness
of the music and the lure of the waltz came again all the past sweetness
from her girlhood up, all blending in memory with the perfume of her
hair, the whiteness of her throat, and the firm supple touch of her
lithe, strong body against mine.  Again she was my Little Sister and
comrade of the long past.  My life, my love, my all that I dreamed and
hoped, danced with her in that last dance....

I felt her heart beating against mine.  Her breathing was a sob.  I felt
her wilt, her limbs give way beneath her, her arms hang limp, her head
fall back.  I carried her in my arms to the sofa....

"A little ice water," said my Aunt Lucretia. When I looked up Colonel
Goff stood over her bathing her face.  "I should not have let her dance
so much—it was all too much for her."  He bent again, stroking the
beautiful hair.  I could not see more for my anger.

In the cool air outside I came to myself.  My anger died, all but my own
bitterness.  I saw the long line of carriages and the men sleeping on
boxes, and then I heard a nicker, a friendly little recalling whinny
from Satan’s stall, and the next instant I had swung into his saddle,
and touched my heel to his flank.

I saw the grooms on the boxes sit up, and stare into the night, for
straight to the banks of a little creek I rode him, not down the old
road.  He leaped high into the air, enjoying even more than I did the
glory of the risk and jump.  He swept like a whirlwind through the gate.
The mad ride home soothed me.



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                            *THE HIGH JUMP*


From the crush of the great crowds around the grand stand at the
race-course, lining up far down the in-field, and jamming the betting
sheds, I saw my Aunt Lucretia forcing her sorrel horse through the
gathering.  She had been a familiar figure at every fair and race
meeting as far back as I could remember.  No secretary for twenty years
had questioned her judgment or her orders; they were too glad to have
her help.  I was in the judges’ stand helping them out.  I had ridden
over early, leaving Satan to my Aunt’s stable boy, who had already
worked him out with a stiff gallop of two miles, and rubbed him down for
the hurdle race and the high jump.

My Aunt Lucretia rode up close to the little canopied stand and beckoned
to me.  "Ever see such a crowd?" she said, smiling proudly.  "I told
Roswick this special high jump and hurdle would draw ’em.  I’ll bet
there are twenty thousand people in that crowd."

"What is the programme?" I asked indifferently, though I knew it as well
as she.  I had come out under protest with myself as it were; I would
rather have been deep in the heart of my wood where I might not see
Eloise.  I had tossed all night on my bed.  If I dozed it was only to
awaken, feeling that I held Eloise fainting in my arms.  I did not want
to see her, for in my heart, since I last danced, there had been such a
tempest of conflicting emotions as made me pace the floor all night; and
by day I knew not my own mind. Yet somehow it was not all sorrow.  For I
knew now that Eloise loved me and at thought of it my heart almost burst
with gladness.  Gladness was mingled so with sorrow that I wondered if
both were not sweeter for the mingling.

"Colonel Goff and I have put up a few three-foot hurdles," my Aunt said,
sweeping the track with her hand, "and he and Eloise and a few of the
younger people are going to gallop over them just for fun.  Goff really
wants to show off his record-breaking jumper and his _fiancée_ at the
same time," she said, smiling carelessly at me. "The hurdles will be for
any of them who care to go over them, but the high jump," and she
pointed to a movable gate of bars, flanked with high panels on each
side, "will be put across the wire at the finish for Goff and his hunter
only," and she laughed, winking at me slyly.  "The record is five feet
six; Goff thinks that is what he is going after again; but I’ve put up
another bar for fun.  I want to see Goff’s imported record-breaking
’lepper,’ as he calls him, break his blooming knees on that top bar."

I turned impatiently.  "Aunt Lucretia, that’s dangerous, six feet—and
under the whip, after a mile dash!"

Aunt Lucretia smiled.  "None of them is supposed to go after the high
jump but the Colonel, and he swears he can do it.  H-u-s-h!" she
whispered.  "Not a word of this.  Just let Eloise fix him.  I’ve been
twenty years arguing with him about importing these worthless brutes and
the superiority of our own horses, now I am going to make him pay for
his obstinacy—s-sh!  There they come now," and she pointed to the
in-field, through which a jolly group of riders came, society people
mostly, girls and boys and members of the hunting club who were out for
the mile gallop over the short hurdles.

"There are ten couples of them in all," she said, "our smartest boys and
girls.  Many of them will not even try the low hurdles and none of them
the high jump except the Colonel."

"You ought not to try it," I said resolutely. "Don’t you know that
nothing can keep Eloise and Satan from trying that gate of bars?"

"Of course," said my Aunt, "but Goff doesn’t know it, and that is where
he will part with his ducats.  He has even forgotten the bet, he has
been so happy; but I’ll remind him.  He hasn’t the least idea that Satan
could jump over his shadow in the road.  O-h, no!"

As we talked they rode up.  "Now see here," said Colonel Goff to his
crowd, as he lined them up, "some of these hurdles are going to take a
bit of going, and you boys must give the ladies the front, for your dust
might blind the horses to the hurdles and make them rush over them with
chances for bad tumbles and broken knees.  We’ll finish the last quarter
flat; but I’ll go over the gate and bars here for exhibition.  It’s a
pretty stiff affair and will take a bit of going, so the rest of you
will please be so kind as to give me the lead here and an open field;
just hack around this last quarter, following me, and dodge the gate.
There’s plenty of room."

The Colonel sat his horse near me as I stood, watch in hand in the
judges’ stand.  Eloise had not looked my way.  She sat her great,
steel-limbed mount as unconcernedly as if she were going on a fox chase.
The others were laughing and excited, the untried horses nervous and
restless, but Satan stood still, looking as if carved out of the black
granite of the hills.  Eloise glanced up and saw me.  I turned my head
quickly, but she came over, her face pale, but her eyes smiling kindly
into mine.  The old fun was in them, the old daring, colt-breaking fun I
had not seen there since my return.

"Jack," she said, laughing, "if I could only get you behind the barn to
split my skirts again; this side-saddle is too heavy."  She was looking
me bravely in the eye, laughing as she said it. Then all at once I saw
all the make-believe go out of her face and her eyes fall before mine.

Riding up softly she whispered, "Jack, do you remember the Story of
Atalanta?"

I nodded.

"If he doesn’t beat me this mile, and over that high jump he shall never
have me, I have told him so."

There are little things even in big events that count more than the big
things themselves.  I sat utterly wretched.  I heard her calling her
horse pet names, and saw her rubbing his neck with her whip.  I saw the
old daring nervousness that showed in the very shoulders of her, the
keen, fine play of her eyes, and the white lines that lay like a rim of
moonlight around the red of her lips.  The next five minutes were spent
by the starter telling of the record of Goff’s horse.

They lined up ready for the word.  It was I who gave it.  Instantly from
Eloise, even in the thunder of the great leap of her horse I saw two
fingers fly to her lips in a kiss to me in her old daring, fun-loving
way.  "Go!" I had cried.

"But I am coming back, Jack.  Good-by."

The Colonel’s horse, trained as he was, strode easily ahead of the
noisy, awkward bunch.  I saw Eloise turn Satan loose, and in an instant
he had collared the imported one.  They went over the first hurdle like
a pair, the field behind Nestor and Satan running neck and neck.  With
my glasses I could see that Goff was smiling in the delight of the race
she was giving him.  They were not going fast—it was more of a
gallop—for the Colonel set the pace to suit the slower field of amateurs
behind him.  They mounted the last hurdle together, and came into the
back stretch for the last quarter of the mile.  The six-foot gate sat in
the middle of the track.  The judges rose and stood with their timers in
their hands.  I heard the grand stand hum and buzz with expectancy.

"Now, hold back!" shouted Goff to all as he turned his horse loose in
the stretch.  "Give me the right of way!"

He came the last quarter with great speed, and then I saw the grand
stand rise to its feet, and a wild roar followed, for Eloise had passed
him as a full-set yacht a tug, headed straight for the bars. I heard
Goff shouting to her; he had lost his head in the fear for her safety.
They rose for the leap, Eloise two lengths ahead.  I saw Satan rise
high, true to his stride, high up—straight up, his great form
silhouetted against the sky, Eloise smiling, triumphantly, beautifully,
splendidly lifting him over.

It was Goff’s horse that did it.  In the excitement his rider did not
hold him true; he wavered a moment, dodged faint-heartedly, ducked,
shied the perilous leap before him, and, bolting, struck the nigh post
of the movable gate, hurling it forward ten feet, full under the flanks
of Satan, who had cleared it.  It caught him cruelly as he came down,
under the flanks, making him turn a summersault, hurling Eloise into the
fence.  I heard the grand stand groan.

It was I who held her lifeless form in my arms....

I remember but little of the tent and the surgeons.  I heard someone
say, "_She’ll die, her back is broken!_"

A horse, riderless, had followed us to the tent’s very door; he had
thrust his head in, whinnying. It broke my heart to feel his cold nose
against my cheek.  It was then I led him away, so blinded by tears that
I did not see where we went.



                                 *III*

                          *THE HICKORY’S SON*



                              *CHAPTER I*

       *"LOVE IS NOT LOVE THAT ALTERS WHEN IT ALTERATION FINDS"*


Three weeks after Eloise was injured and while her life was yet
despaired of by the physician, my Aunt Lucretia came to me.  I was
sitting on the rustic bench beneath the hickories.  Night after night I
had sat there, watching the light from her window, and the coming and
going of the physician and nurses.  To-day there had been a
consultation.  My Aunt had sent for a famous surgeon of Philadelphia,
and all afternoon he had been in the sick room.  When I saw my Aunt I
knew that his decision had been reached, and though I sat still,
apparently calm, my heart was smothered within me.  She said very
distinctly, "It’s her spine, Jack, he says she will never walk again."


I found myself an hour afterwards taking the old path to the dairy.  I
saw the light from Tammas’s cottage shining far out into the night. I
was wandering around numbed, stunned.  As I passed the paddock I heard
Satan whinny appealingly to me.  From the little window in his stall he
had thrust out his great head.  This was the horse we had all feared,
and had cruelly misnamed.  The great vicious horse that had almost
killed the groom, that had only been conquered by one woman, had his
head on my shoulder and was whinnying softly.  I knew that he was
begging for news of Eloise, and for sympathy; and, dumb as he was, he
knew that I would understand.


"She insists that she must see you to-night," said my Aunt Lucretia,
when I reached the house.

She led me up the old, familiar stairs, and down the great hall to
Eloise’s room.  She stopped at the door.

"You will find her very brave," said my Aunt, "very brave, and so must
you be," she added, giving me a quick look.

Then she opened the door, and I stood looking at Eloise, with drawn,
tied lips, and a great choking in my throat, trying to return the smile
she was giving me from among her pillows.  I stood still, I could not
move, my limbs seemed to have caught the dead numbness of my heart.

"I want you right here by me a moment, Jack," she said calmly.  "You’ll
let him sit on the side of the bed, Miss Rose, just a moment.  I’ll not
exert myself."

She was more beautiful than ever.  Her brave body had lost none of its
suppleness and grace; her face shone, and over the pillow her hair was
massed in great red-gold waves against the white of the linen.

"See," she said, taking my hand, "see, Jack, I can move my head and both
my arms.  Isn’t that fine?  And the doctor says I shall always be able
to do that, and, well—" she smiled, "he says there is no reason why I
should not outlive all of you to be an old woman.  A crippled old
woman—"

I turned my head quickly.  As she had spoken I saw again the brave,
beautiful creature, coming in head-long flight at the six-foot bar, and
the triumphant smile that lit her face, sky-lined forever in my memory,
as she lifted her horse almost straight up towards the sky.

She was speaking now to the nurse.  "If you please, just a moment Miss
Rose—Aunt Lucretia, I would like to speak to Jack alone.  I shall not
exert myself."  I heard them go out.  "There! I have been thinking,
Jack, all these weeks—one can think so very much lying in bed, and see
so very, very far.  I have been thinking and seeing, Jack.  It’s so easy
to think and so hard to see. But—but—I have prayed, too, about it—to
help me see.  Praying is seeing’s eyesight, Jack. I want you to promise
me something.  It is what I have seen in my prayer—it is the last thing
I shall ever ask of you—for you have done me so many favors, dear Jack."

I could not speak.

"The Earl—Colonel Goff—they let me see him to-day.  It hurt me more than
my own hurt to see the poor man suffer so in the blame he puts upon
himself for the accident.  He won’t see, Jack,—he can’t—that it was
God’s way of settling it—God’s way.  For He alone knew how foolish I
was—how wicked to sell myself as I did—and how my heart, though I did
not know it till that day, Jack—has always been yours!"

I took her in my arms, my face pressed against her cheek.

She lay still, patting my face with her hand and saying: "I am—it
is—well, it seems also to be one of God’s ways:

    ’We look before and after
    And pine for what is not.’"


I heard her try to laugh in her old, brave way. She was looking again
into my eyes, and I sat holding her hand.

"But Colonel Goff," she went on, "gentleman that he is, thinks he must
settle the account for his blundering ride, and begs me to marry him
anyway; I, a cripple for life.  He forgets that God balanced it when he
stopped me from the sin of selling my heart for—for—his bauble—

"I have sent him away satisfied, Jack.  I believe he would love me
truly," and she smiled, "now that he sees that I cannot ride.  Love me
for myself and not for my riding; but I shall love only you, Jack, till
I die—the old crippled woman."

She was silent for a moment.  "And the compensation for my admitting
it—you know it is costing me something—you don’t know how hard it is for
me to say it first, Jack; but the compensation I claim, will you give it
to your little lame girl?  It is this, and now nod your head, say
’_yes_’ Jack.  I’ve seen—Elsie loves you, and you must—you must marry
the child.  She is everything you want, and you half-way love her
already. It will be easy now, Jack, promise it; for your sake—for both
your sakes, I’m asking.  Promise me, Jack, I want to see you happy."

She had my hand against her cheek, fondling it.  Her eyes had never
seemed so beautiful.

[Illustration: "LOVE IS NOT LOVE THAT ALTERS."]

"Do you remember the kind of love I said I had for you that first night
after I came home?"  She pressed my hand against her cheek again. "And
the kind you said you’d never felt, but would give your life to feel?"
Again I felt the pressure.  "That kind which I told you of, and which I
have had for you all the time, is that kind that Shakespeare told of
when he said:

    "’Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds.’


"That’s the kind I have for you, Eloise—have always had; and do you
remember the love you said you wanted, you’d give your life for,
yourself, your soul and your body.  ’_I, who wish it so, to be widowed
of it all my life_’—those were your words.  How they cut into my
heart—that love, Eloise, can’t you see?  Don’t you know that it is yours
and you are widowed of it no longer?"

She put her arms around my neck and pulled my face down to hers,
smothering her mouth in my kisses.

"Oh, Jack, why did you say it—see it?  Why did you not let me fool
myself—fool you? Why—and—oh, if you had only not seen it—not let me know
you saw it!  Love?  Don’t you know now that the kind I said I’d have is
as I said it was?  Worth life—worth death—worth all—worth all—then God
help me, Jack, if I sin—God forgive me, but I’d rather hold it to my
heart a helpless cripple that I am—hold it never to satisfy it—never to
know what it means, helpless, bed-ridden cripple that I am than to be
the well, strong thing I was without it.  Oh, Jack, don’t you know now
what I mean?"

She kissed me again and again, holding my cheek to hers.

"Good-by, you’ll not see me again, Jack, so good-by, Jack, forever.  And
in time, though you’ll never forget me nor cease to love me, you will do
as I said; for yours is youth and love and strength, and they must be
mated.  When you can think of me without tears, without sorrow or pity,
but as one who has lived and is gone—only as the memory of a sweet dream
that might have been—then, dear, dear Jack, remember the last request I
made of you, remember to make Elsie happy; and in time—in time, Jack,
oh, what a love-maker he is! be happy yourself.  Hold me a moment, just
a moment to your heart—then—kiss me again and say with me the little
prayer Aunt Lucretia used to make us say, holding hands in the long
ago."

Holding her face against mine, and with clasped hands as of old, we
said:

    "Now I lay me down to sleep,
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
    If I should die before I wake,
    I pray the Lord my soul to take."


Although the words of Eloise came to me again and again as I rode home
that night, I was never so happy, nor so hopeful.  Yet she had said,
"Good-by, good-by, Jack, I shall never see you again."

"I shall see her to-morrow night," my heart kept saying over and over.
"I will not give her up; I will marry her, if I have to carry her in my
arms through life!"

But the next night when I rode over my grandfather met me at the door.
He greeted me with petulant indifference.  Both Eloise and Aunt Lucretia
had left that morning—where, he did not know.  She was a hopeless
cripple with a broken spine, and was carried away in a cot to some
institution where she might be cared for properly for the balance of her
life.  I forgave the old man because he was old—the reiterated statement
that he had made allowance for her care himself, for although she was no
blood kin, and had no claim upon him, she had been with him all her
life, and was a ward of his daughter.

I could learn nothing from the servants.  Aunt Lucretia, Eloise, and the
nurse had gone.  They had carried Eloise in a cot to the train and
boarded it.  It was Thomas, the driver, who gave me Aunt Lucretia’s
letter.  She wrote, "I have thought it all over, Jack, and this is the
only thing to do. All of them are agreed, that she can never walk again.
To keep her at home will only make life a tragedy to you both.  It is
best that you never see her again, nor she you.  Sentiment is one thing,
and life another.  Sometimes they go together, and it is well.  But when
they cannot, when sentiment lives and that love of nature which
reproduces life is dead, it is folly to quibble, for the loss of being
is the loss of life.  Be sensible, brave, and manly as you have always
been and forget Eloise.  Changed conditions change one’s life.  You must
change yours.  I have a request to make.  I shall be at home in a month,
but I do not want you ever to mention Eloise to me, for I shall not tell
you where she is.  This is hard, but I am doing it for your good, as I
have always done, my dear boy.  When I return if she is alive you may
write to her, since she has begged me so, and this is the only one
happiness the poor child will have in her stunted life, and I will see
that she gets the letters, though she can never reply.  It is best to
forget."

The little note Eloise sent brought tears.  It was a heart’s-ease that
Aunt Lucretia had evidently gathered for her, and under it was written,
"_I am widowed of love but I am wedded.  Forgive me, forget me, but love
me always, Jack, as I shall you—Eloise._"



                              *CHAPTER II*

                        *A DREAM AND ITS ENDING*


In my grief at the going of Eloise I remember little of what I did in
the next few days.  Then I received a note from Colonel Goff asking me
to ride over to The Manor, as both he and Elsie wanted to see me.

On the way I stopped to see Tammas and Marget.  In their worship of
Elsie I believe they thought only of her and her happiness.  They had
certainly not understood about my relations with Eloise.  Their
happiness was plain to be seen, the very laughter which at times broke
over their honest faces told me clearly their pride and happiness in the
turn affairs had taken with Elsie and me.

But despite my efforts not to show what was crushing my heart, they
perceived that something was very seriously wrong with me.

"Ay, Jackie, ’tis a hard time you have been having, my lad," said
Tammas, "and it’s unreasonable to think the old General would turn you
out of home like this; but the final word in the book of every honest
man’s life is the word good, and you’ll not be losing out in the end—na,
na."

"I think you are going now to see our lassie," said Marget, smiling
slyly, "and sure, Jackie, if ever man had recompense in the sweetness of
love ’tis you.  Never have I seen anything sae near an angel of light in
spirit and sae beautiful in body, since she came up the hill to us that
evening with her doubts all gone; ay, it is Tammas and I who are as
happy as you, Jackie!"

She sighed.  "I dinna ken that it’s a’ gladness," she went on; "for the
Earl is preparing to leave soon for his estate in the auld country, and
he wants us to gang wi’ him—of course—but—" and she looked at me gravely
as if seeking answer.

But I only shook my head sadly.  "I do not know, Marget—I do not know.
My plans—you see—Aunt Lucretia and Eloise—that awful accident!"

Marget started to speak, but Tammas stopped her quickly, whispering to
her, "Wheest, wumman, dinna ye see, dinna ye understaun—she was as his
ain sister.  It’s that that’s saddening him."  And then he added louder,
"Eh, but it was a terrible thing—she that was sae young an’ daring and
sae bonnie—to be an invalid a’ her days—the bold beautiful thing that
loved life sae weel! An’ it’s a’ but upset the Earl.  I hae never kent
him to be sae troubled, for he was unco fond o’ her, an’ a grand
Countess she wad hae made him. An’ to think it was his ain horse!  The
puir man is nearly daft!"

I was silent.  I could not speak.  For once the kindly talk of these two
good folks annoyed me. Marget saw this, and with a motherly tenderness
that touched me deeply, said, "Weel—weel, Jackie, dinna take it sae to
heart.  When you go to her ain land an’ see what you have won in oor
lassie, ye’ll be sayin’ with Rabbie Burns that ’tis the only place to
live and love in.  But awa’ ye gang," she said, giving me a gentle push;
"it’s near supper time a’ ready an’ fine I ken that she an’ the Earl are
wanting ye at The Manor.  For three days she has come ower here,
wondering whit wey ye had na come; she kens aboot the accident an’ is
sorrowfu’, tae, but she’s sae keen to see ye, Jackie, an’ she’ll be a
bit o’ comfort till ye if ye will."

Colonel Goff was already making preparations for his going.  I found him
more quiet and serious than I had ever seen him.  I understood that he
would give anything in the world to undo the accident, and that he now
found that he cared more for Eloise since she was lost to us than he had
himself known, and that, like me, he was in total ignorance as to where
Aunt Lucretia had taken her.

"Jack, Jack!" he kept repeating as he walked the floor, "I can never
forgive myself!  That beastly, beastly ride!  To have loved horses as I
have all my life, to have done so much for them and their sport and to
have my pride in them all thrown away and the whole of my life changed
like that! ... There is Elsie—go with her, Jack—the child wants you!" he
added as he headed towards his stable.

I pitied him, but I pitied myself more.  For, looking at him, hearing
him talk, I saw that he did not know and would never know.  God had not
made him to know as Eloise and I knew, not even as Elsie would know.  In
spite of all that had passed before him, and all that he had seen, he
did not know that as he talked of Eloise it was I who was suffering
most.  He did not even see remotely that it was I who loved her, not
he.... There are fish in the deep sea which carry their own electric
light....  There are others there which have not even eyes! ...

Elsie was openly happy all the afternoon with me.  Such dreams as she
had dreamt of our future!  Such dreams as had come true even in her own
castle!

I let her talk and plan for our future.  I did not know what it all
meant, whither Fate was hurrying me.  I could not see the end, but I
knew that the end would be well.  For the real architect of our lives is
God.  The very shadow of our doubt becomes pictures done in beauty.

It takes shadows to make pictures.  In the foreground of every shadow
already stands the picture from His hand.  And as for the sorrows sent
of Him, they are not sorrows; rather are they crowns of Great Joy for
brows chosen of Martyrdom.... So I let her dream and love and plan,
knowing that whatever was coming to me would be good, that behind the
Wish of our own little dreams lay the larger Will of the Great
Dreamer....

In the afternoon I had slipped away to a place where two great maples
threw their shadows across the lawn.  I was tired, and my heart was full
of conflicts.  I wanted to think of Eloise.

It was a quiet, sweet place.  Then I heard Elsie coming, full of
happiness, to judge from the very tread of her feet on the grass.

I was lying half propped against a tree.  Looking up I saw she was
kneeling above me, her eyes laughing as she shyly peeped from behind the
trunk.  There was a sofa pillow in her hands and she was trying to place
it under my head.  "You must sleep, now," she said softly.  "You are so
tired and hollow-cheeked, Jack, my bonnie Jack. I am going to begin to
learn now to take care of you.  I will come to waken you in an hour,
then we are going to drive into town, father and you and me!"

She lingered a moment slyly; then stooped to kiss my forehead and was
gone.

I had not come to sleep, I had come to think of Eloise, to dream of her
once more.  I took her note from my pocket; I kissed it and with tears I
read it.  "_I was widowed of love but I am wedded.  Forgive me, forget
me, but love me always, Jack, as I shall you,—Eloise._"  How strange it
is, this joy-sorrow!  There can be but one explanation of it: down the
endless chain of our ancestry so much sorrow has come that the taint of
it lies sweetly in the pedigree of our own breast.

I kissed the withered heart’s-ease.  Later I must have fallen asleep...

It was Colonel Goff who wakened me, coming on a run.

"Quick, Jack!" he cried.

I was up in an instant.  He stood beside me panting, almost faint.  He
held a little slip in his hand.  His face was white, his lips drawn, but
a battle coolness that went like cold steel into my own soul was in his
voice.

"Elsie, Jack!  Stone’s River bridge—you may save her yet!  She is
drowning herself! Your horse, quick!  I’ll follow as best I can!"

Instantly I understood.  I glanced down.  Eloise’s note was gone.
Elsie’s hat lay on the grass instead.

Satan had been saddled for my ride to town and stood at the rack.  In
two quick leaps I was by his side.  The next minute I held the reins.

"If you ever rode in your life," I heard her father saying behind me,
"if you ever rode in your life, Jack!  You may save her yet—straight
down the pike to the bridge!"

The horse seemed to know.  He wheeled as the reins went over his head,
pivoted, as I’d seen him so often do, on two legs, for quickness, up
into the air, wheeling.

I held a good clutch on the pommel and as I rose his own great bound
jerked me like a bolt into the saddle.  I saw the old butler,
bare-headed, running to open the gate, and Colonel Goff panting,
helpless, crossing the grass.  But even Satan knew we’d lose if we
waited.  It was only a four-foot rock wall; it was play for him to clear
it.  He landed squarely and already in a full run.

The bridge was a mile away.  It was made of iron and its sides were
protected by a railing.  It was high where the pike reached it, spanning
a gorge cut through the hills.

A rock fence ran along the pike up to the bridge on each side.  There
the bluff was sheer twenty feet straight down to the river.  Satan ran
like a tube of quick-silver down the long white pathway of the pike.  As
we flashed up the slope leading to it, I caught just a glimpse of a
white gown going over the bridge from the middle railing.  I had to
throw all my weight on his left rein to send him over the rock fence at
the foot of the bridge and I knew when he felt my heel go into his flank
and my pull that shot his great game head into the fence, that he
thought I was crazy, was sending us both to death!

But he never faltered.  It all depended on how he cleared that four-foot
fence and the twenty feet down to the river.  I knew when he rose for
the leap that he expected firm ground on the other side.  Would he balk,
falter and fail me when he saw?

I drove my heel into him.  I felt him quiver just a moment beneath me.
Then I held my breath.  A white figure floated midway of the river
before me.  Up went his head, the water only flashed beneath him twenty
full feet below. I watched the play of his ears for his thoughts. If
they fluttered, wavered, showed fright, I knew he would balk and quit.
For an instant I saw them flutter back and forth, little tell-tales of
surprise, then down they came angrily, glued to his neck as one grits
one’s teeth in a crisis, and he shot over the wall, balanced squarely,
holding himself superbly, down!

I clutched the pommel with both hands, locking my legs under his chest
as we struck the stinging, biting waters and went under.  It seemed long
before we came up and I could see the white gown going down again.  I
clutched it with one hand, drawing her head clear of the water against
my breast.  I felt the horse moving easily beneath me.  Would he see the
great bluffs and understand, or would he strike straight across for them
and drown us all, whirling round and round, trying to find a passway up
straight walls of rock? It all lay with him.  It was correct instinct
now or death.

I threw the reins over his head, crying, "_Go out—your way, Satan!_"

It was his good sense that saved us, his instinct rather, that is
greater than sense.  He lost no strength in useless floundering against
steep walls for a landing.  He seemed to know instantly.  I felt him
moving beneath me down stream while I held Elsie safe.  Two, three, four
hundred feet he swam, the great game chap, till we passed the bluff;
then he floundered up and out on the bank like a great dog, shaking
himself.



                             *CHAPTER III*

                            *THE AWAKENING*


It was Colonel Goff who met me at the door of The Manor when I called
the next night. Marget and Tammas were both there, silent, and with
awed, sorrowful faces.  Two doctors were in the house, for Elsie’s life
and mind lay in the balance, and it seemed that a straw would turn them
either way.

It was Marget who spoke first.  "Ay, Jackie—Jackie—’tis as I hinted to
you, lad," said she, "it was in the blood of the Carfaxes, and but for
your ride and leap, lad, our lassie had done what two of her grandames,
two of the ladies of Carfax, did before her."

Tammas, tears standing in his eyes, could only hold my hand.

Colonel Goff led me into the library.  For a while he was silent, his
stolid face expressionless. Then he said very quietly, "Jack, the
chances are all against her, one way or the other; it looks as if my
little lassie is doomed to go the way of her house.  If she survives the
shock I am afraid her mind will not; that is what is hinging now, that
is why we have sent for you again.  It is only a chance—one chance in
ten—but the doctors thought—as the shock that unminded her came through
you, that you might—"

I nodded.  "I understand.  I would give my life for her."

He pressed my hand, his voice choking.  "You proved that, my boy, you
proved that.  How you escaped, how that horse ever cleared that fence
and cliff—

"Jack," he went on, turning impulsively, "I am a blunt man, plain and
not farseeing in things like all of these, that have come to me so swift
and fast.  I don’t mean these accidents—I’m used to them—life and the
whole little game of it is all a blind chance.  I have taken mine all my
life—and—and—well, they’ve always been against me, Jack—always, even
now.  I’ve lost—always—even as I shall lose now—Elsie.  The great hand
of Fate that flings the dice for us has always thrown them loaded for
me—Jack."

He was silent.  I thought of God and the Butterfly.  I pitied him,
seeing nothing as he did.

"No, I am not farseeing—not farseeing—in things like the other side of
all this—not the blind chance side which has always been mine—but the
side you make yourself, someway, somehow, like this."

He drew a blurred and crumpled note from his pocket.  It was Eloise’s.
I had seen it last when, holding it to my breast, I had fallen asleep
that afternoon under the trees.

"This kind of a little thing, Jack," he said, handing me the little
relic.  "I am a blundering fool—and I have to tell you so—to tell you
what an unseeing fool I have been.  I see it all now—and yet I’d never
have seen.  I found this clutched in Elsie’s hand.  This was her
shock—this was my folly—my unseeing folly.  No, no," he cried quickly,
seeing I was about to say something.  "No, no, Jack, I see it all—don’t
say a word.  You’ve been a man all through it—a white man, Jack.  I am
not talking to put you on trial.  I’m passing judgment on myself for
your sake, my boy; that you may understand what a selfish, unseeing fool
I have been.

"Well, it’s down to this—it’s all past—let it go," he added.  "But
Elsie—she is of the living present.  You must help me, help me a little
yet awhile Jack—till—till the crisis is past."

I pressed his hand silently.  "Thank you," he said simply, "and now just
a word of explanation. This trouble of hers runs in the blood of the
Carfaxes.  My grandmother, my own sister, went this way.  They are keyed
high, and if a shock like this comes, it’s death or an unbalancing.
When she read that," he said, "which unseeing one that I have been, was
all my fault, when she read it, Jack, she lost her reason, she was
temporarily insane when she made that leap. She is conscious now and
stronger; but still she remembers nothing up to that mental shock, the
shock of that note, that showed her all, and—oh well, I’m only a blunt
kind of a man—I can’t tell it—you alone could do that.  But it’s this
now, Jack, you go in and talk to her.  You stay with her—till we get her
right—and we’ve a chance to yet—Jack, until we get her right—just let
her believe—believe—  Oh, you know, Jack!"

The tears were in his eyes as he led me into Elsie’s room.

Tammas and Marget were by the bed.  Elsie lay amid her pillows, a
strange startled look in her eyes.

"You and the old people, Jack," whispered the doctor, rising and taking
Goff by the arm, "you all just talk to her, get her back to the dairy
and the old ways again, if you can.  If she can be quieted and her mind
bridged over the shock, she’ll be all right again.  And to-night will
tell," he added quietly, "so be very calm.  I have given her all the
morphine she’ll stand, tried everything, but if she can’t be made to
sleep she’ll lose her mind and if she doesn’t sleep to-night her mind is
doomed."

I was not certain, but I had always suspected that I possessed the power
of suggestion.  I had felt it in dealing with dumb animals and weaker
people.

I sat by her, talking to her in the old way. "It is Jack, Elsie," I
said, "your own Jack. We’ve met in our old trysting place.  We are under
our old trees, and Tammas and Marget are here and you are tired and are
going to sleep while your head is on my lap.  I’ll watch you sleep—sleep
now," I said softly, stroking her forehead.

There was a deep sigh, then the frightened wild look died out of her
eyes and with a smile like her old one she slept.

The doctor beckoned me.  "That’s good," he said in the hallway.  "Just
let the nurse and Marget stay with her, let her sleep all night if she
will."

"But I will have to waken her," I said.

He smiled.  "Oh no; she’ll waken herself."

"I’ll stay here all night, Colonel Goff," I assured her father.

"Thank you, Jack," he said, his face brightening for the first time.
"Of course you will stay with her."

"The crisis will come with her awakening," said the doctor.  "She will
awaken sound of mind and at death’s door, or she will awaken to live,
her mind gone.  It is all in her sleeping, and to-night will decide it.
I will retire, waken me if I am needed."

All night Colonel Goff and I sat up.  Every little while we went into
her room to see Elsie sleeping, Marget by her side, the nurse asleep on
the cot.

Twice the doctor came in.  "Her pulse and temperature are normal," he
would say.  "That’s good.  Let her sleep."

But Colonel Goff and I could not sleep.  All night he smoked, talked and
walked the floor.  He told me his life’s story, and in the hopefulness
of Elsie’s sleeping he seemed to have taken a new hold of things.  "If
the hand that has flung the loaded dice for me all my life will only
give me one clean deal now," he cried, as he paced the floor with his
steady military stride.

"It will," I said, "Colonel Goff.  It gives a clean deal to a clean
heart always, and yours is a different heart now.  I see it; you are a
different man now.  Now, I would give my very life for you and my poor
little Elsie."

There was deep emotion in the man before me, his eyes were moist.
"Great God, Jack, do you mean that, man?  Do you know you have said it?
It is even so—I see it—have seen it all night—wondering, how—

"God help me," he went on, "and save Elsie as He has saved me—from
myself—through it all.  I see it now—through all my life—my own fool
will, my obstinacy, madness, sin—unseeingness: brought me through it
all, back to my own, my family name, my earldom—my own—Great God, think
of it—what has been done to unseeing, uncaring me!  How much I have
received—how little I have earned!"

I left him a strong man pacing the floor, his face aglow with a new
life.

Elsie had slept twelve hours.

"We can’t awaken her," said the doctor as I went in after a short sleep.
"I suspect you possess unconsciously hypnotic power, Jack.  It all looks
like it.  You must awaken her if you can. I don’t wish to use heroic
means."

"If I have," I said, "I am not aware of it. But let me talk to her.  And
if you please I would rather only Marget stayed."

"Surely," he said nodding.  "If she wakens we want no one with her but
you.  And you’ll just keep her thinking she’s at her old place by the
dairy."

I sat down by her, taking her hand in the old way.  She was smiling in
her sleep.  Then I said laughingly in her ear, slapping her cheek with
the back of my hand, "Wake up, little Heart’s Ease; we are going to the
spring.  It’s Jack.  I will not go unless you go with me, to gather the
Bluebells of Scotland on the hills—come—wake up!"

Instantly she sat up, her blue eyes resting calmly on me.

"Jack," she said, putting her arms about my neck, "I had wondered—I have
worried because—for so long a time I seem not to be able to
remember—where you were."

I laughed.  "Nonsense; you have only dreamed a bad dream last night,"
said I.

Marget was bustling around the room pretending to clean up.  Her voice
choked so that she could scarcely speak and yet she said bravely,
"Surely, Elsie.  It is as Mr. Jack says.  You’ve been sick a little and
had bad dreams."

Elsie clung to me sobbing.  "Jack, my bonny Jack," she said, "it’s good
of you, but I am all right now; I am strong again, so much stronger than
you would ever believe."

"You must not let yourself think of anything unpleasant," I said
quietly, "for my sake now, Elsie, and daddy’s."

"I couldn’t, Jack," she said with all her old frank candor, "with you
here.  It all came because I thought you were gone.  Call Daddy in," she
said firmly, "I want to talk to you all."

Colonel Goff was already in the room, the smile on his face telling of
his great joy.  He knelt by the bedside, kissing her.  He was laughing
boyishly.  "Bless me, but my Lady Elsie is feeling fine, isn’t she?"
said he.

Elsie nodded happily.

"And you and I have been so blind, Daddy," she said, laying her hand on
mine.  "So blind, both of us.  Now, you know what we are going to do?  I
am going to be very strong and well in a few days and then we are all
going to our English home, you and me, Marget and Tammas, and we are
going to find Eloise.  Find her, Daddy, and make her well—for Jack—if it
takes half of all that earldom of yours."

Colonel Goff kissed her again and again, and reaching out, gripped my
hand.  "Thank God, Jack!  Elsie," he added, "you’re not to talk now, but
sleep again.  I’ll do as you say."

"Now look here," she said in her old teasing way, "don’t you for a
moment—don’t you try any funny things on me.  I’m as well as any of you,
and I’m going to get up, right soon.  And I don’t want ever to hear of
that dream I had again," she said, raising a commanding little finger at
us.

"We have both been very foolish, Daddy, you and me," she went on,
"foolish and unseeing; but now we’re both going to be very sensible and
brave, so you’ll all go out but Marget, and Mr. Jack."  She turned to
me, her eyes smiling in the old way, "You’ll kiss me good-by now till
you come to see us at Carfax Hall—you and—and—"  She clasped my neck,
kissing me quickly, "Good-by, my bonny, bonny Prince!  I’ll bring her
back to you, see if I don’t!"



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                         *THE CALL OF THE DRUM*


The Tennessee troops were to make a last parade before leaving for the
war in the Philippines.

All the night before they left a strange, weird feeling had been upon
me.  For hours I could not sleep, and when I did it seemed as if I were
going down a dimly remembered path, hearing a far-off call in far-away
mountains, the battle cry of my ancient Aryan people rallying against
the Mongrel and the Mongol.  Then I awoke with the fire of battle in my
heart and the hot sweat of the conflict beaded over my face, to call it
a dream. But it was no dream.  There are dreams, and there is that which
is more than dreams.  There is the spirit’s walk into wayside lands.

I rose and dressed.  I went out for calmness among my trees.  They had
been my friends, my thousand-voiced leaf-whispering friends.  But in
this strange feeling, this fighting mood which, despite all my efforts,
had overwhelmed me, I cared for them no longer.  And they scorned me.
Not one leaf whispered to me.  I had not one friend among them.  They
were no longer my brothers in green.  They were merely trees.  My soul
had been torn up to its very roots by the Hand that had planted it and
told to grow into another soul or die!

Everything I had held to in life had reversed itself on me.  Every
star-enthroned truth which I had worshipped had fallen to earth, a clay
idol to mock me with its grinning lying lips of dirt! I had been turned
out from my home unjustly; the love of my very life was gone, dead,
perhaps; and Elsie—

Nothing since the tragedy that had fallen to Eloise had cut into my soul
like that nightmare leap over a rock wall into cold air and the stinging
whirl of yellow water and the glory of her courage and unselfishness as
she had said, "I’ll bring her back to you, Jack—see if I don’t!"

And there had been the good-by of Tammas and Marget.  Tammas could not
speak, he could only hold my hand with tears in his eyes.  But Marget
spoke, kissing me for the first and last time.  "Ay, but our Jackie,
good-by, ’tis God that stirs up the nest of His eagles.  An’ so God bide
ye, lad.  God bless and God guide ye—for ’tis God that leads ye,
Jackie!"

At the cabin Dr. Gottlieb had tried to explain to me the great book he
was writing, which was called "The Effect of the Insect Pollen-Gatherers
on Flower Life."

But I would have none of it.  I could not listen. I slipped out, knowing
he could read it all night to the big arm chair I had sat in, and not
know it was empty.

The drum was calling to me—I who had been for peace, for trees, for
love, for poems, I knew I must now fight or my soul would die within me,
die like a Chinese foot in its wooden shoe.

I saddled Satan and rode over to the Hermitage. Was it this horse, this
brave-souled, unafraid brute that had sent the fighting spirit into me,
since my first touch of him?  For on him I felt that I could ride over a
regiment.  I walked alone in the moonlight over the grounds of the
Hermitage.

How bulwarked, restful and yet martial-walled was the old brick mansion!
And down the long avenues of cedars which ran from the gate to the home,
I met the fighting ghosts of my ancestors.

Was it a dream or not?  But what is the difference, since they are the
same.  What is the difference?

If a child comes into your home, smiling, from out the sunshine, is it
any more your child than the one which enters from out the still, dead
night, motherless and homeless, a fantastic waif, but your very own?

I had walked through the old-fashioned garden, rose bordered and lined
with hollyhocks and rare old pinks that Aunt Rachel loved.  And I had
stood bareheaded before the tomb of the old warrior and his bride.  I
had gone across the meadow to the log cabin they had loved best of
all....

Then, very plainly I saw the great fireplace light up with the blaze of
hickory logs, and the shadows come and go across the smoked rafters
above.  And before that fire sat the slim, grim, sword-faced fighter and
lover, with a child on one knee and a lamb on the other, even as old
Parton had told it.

He turned, smiled, and reaching, took his sword from the wall behind him
and, beckoning to me, pointed to the west....

I rushed toward him.  The solid door met me, knocking me to my knees on
the grass.  I arose stunned, but thrilled.  My doubts had gone, the
spirit of Andrew Jackson pointed me the way. On the grass I knelt for a
moment before that hut which is a shrine.  _A lamb and a child and the
sword of the Lord and of Gideon: I thank thee, Lord; for it takes them
all to make a man!_ ... I had not slept but had ridden into town to see
the Tennessee troops go by in their last parade.

They came by in battalions, the old battle flag of Jackson at their
head, and beside it rode old Hawthorne, sitting his horse as gallantly
as when in younger days he rode with Forrest and Morgan.

He saw me, smiled, and saluted.

I watched Braxton Bragg go by at the head of his company, and I saw him
look covetously at the beautiful horse I rode.

Following an old custom, a fife and drum corps followed.  I heard them
coming and my blood leaped fiercely as they marched by, playing "_The
Girl I Left Behind Me_."

It was their last call for enlistment, and as they passed I stepped in
behind the big drum, throwing my silver dollar into its head.

So I enlisted for the war.

The old drummer smiled and nodded, the crowd cheered—I looked up—Old
Hawthorne had ridden back and sat his horse smiling down on me. "God
bless you, Jack, Jack!" he cried.  "Do you know that I rode back to see
you do it?  I knew you would do it—’tis the call of the drum—the blood
of the men of your tribe who could both pray and fight!  Come, you shall
be on my staff.  Captain Jack Ballington from the home of Old Hickory."

I smiled.  "General, you are good to me, too good.  But let me prove my
own worth, if there is any in me.  No soldier was ever made except by
merit.  Give me a chance to make myself.  I am going to the war and I am
going with you. But under two conditions: that this horse I am riding
goes with us, is yours.  This is Eloise’s," I added softly, "and I loved
her.  ’Tis the only horse in Tennessee fit to carry our General.  She
gave him to me.  I give him to you."

He was silent; he understood.

"And the other is that you give me a rifle in the ranks." ...

After I had enlisted I wanted to see the homestead again, the hickories
that Eloise and I had loved, and to bid my old grandsire farewell.

He was sitting under his favorite elm tree smoking when I rode up.  I
did not see who was with him until I had dismounted and stood before
him, hat off, holding my horse’s reins.

Then I saw that it was Braxton Bragg who was talking excitedly and
loudly; and I knew that he had been drinking.  He did not speak to me
nor see me.  The old man did not know me in the gathering darkness.

"I am Jack, Grandfather, Jack Ballington. And I have come to bid you
good-by."

"Ah, Jack—Jack—" he repeated—"and you are my grandson—ha-ha.  I’d about
forgotten it.  And you have come to tell me good-by—why I thought you
had gone, somewhere—ha-ha."

I heard a short laugh from Braxton Bragg.  I saw the sneering smile that
was unconcealed in his face.  I turned on him with fighting anger, cut
to the heart.  And then I remembered the first lesson of every soldier
is to command himself. Very calmly I said, "I have not gone far, sir;
only to Dr. Gottlieb’s; but to-morrow I am going to the war.  I have
enlisted with the First Tennessee, and I felt that it was my duty, sir,
to call and tell you good-by."

Instantly he was on his feet, holding to a crutch he now carried.

"Going to the war!  Enlisted with the First Tennessee?  By God, sir, do
you really mean that?"

"I am, sir," I said.

He pulled me to him and clasped me.  "Jack, Jack, my boy!"

He turned to Braxton Bragg.  "Braxton, now by God, sir, this boy is
indeed my grandson; the lost has been found, the prodigal has returned!
I knew the old Rutherford blood would redeem him yet!"

He laughed happily, still holding me to him. "Braxton, take him by the
hand, for ’by the Eternal,’ as Old Hickory would say, he is the same
blood kin as you, and I am going to give him the same chance!  Hey
there, Thomas!  Oh, Thomas!" he called to his old body servant.  "Bring
me a light, and paper and pencil!  I’ll drop a line to Hawthorne—to put
you on his staff as Captain. And my check book, Thomas!  By God,
sir—Jack—my grandson, Jack, I’ll give you a little ready money, only a
thousand dollars to see that you go like a soldier and a
Rutherford—ha-ha—damn him, I knew he’d do it!"

"I’m going as a private, Grandfather; General Hawthorne has already
offered me the rank you suggest—but—"

"You damned mooning fool, you shall not do it!" he cried.  "No
Rutherford ever went to any war a private.  Tut—tut—I’ll fix that.  You
are now my grandson, Jack."

His voice fell.  He spoke through tears. "Your mother, Jack—Emily—ay, my
boy—I can see her now with her sweet dreamy eyes of poetry, the finely
chiseled half sad face of religion, the heart of romance and of sorrow.
I loved her best of them all—Jack—and you are her son—my grandson."

"Grandfather," I said, "I thank you, and I shall try to be worthy of you
and of my mother and my father who died a gentleman.  But I shall ask
only for this horse, for our General to ride, and that he shall be near
me, for I promised Eloise I would always care for him.  She gave him to
me," I added.

Instantly Braxton Bragg was on his feet.

"Eloise never owned him.  Why, it’s what I have come by for,
Grandfather.  What you had just promised me I could have when he rode
up."  He came up to me, catching at the reins.  "No sir, you shall never
ride him off this place, he is mine."

My grandfather rose and stood between us. "Sit down, Braxton Bragg," he
said angrily. "You’ve been drinking and you’ve not too much sense when
you are sober.  Now, I had forgotten—I forget so much of late: come to
think of it, it was Eloise’s horse, no one else could touch him, and the
way that girl could ride him—no—no—if she gave him to Jack he shall have
him."

"He has lied," Braxton Bragg cried, pushing the old man angrily aside to
shoulder up to me. "He is lying.  She didn’t give him the horse—"

My fist shut the rest of his words in his mouth. I felt the cut of his
teeth where my knuckles struck them as I sent him suddenly full length
on the ground.

He tried to rise, drawing his Colt’s.  But my grandfather struck it from
his hand with his crutch, knocking the weapon across the road.

Cursing he tried to rise, but I was on him, my knee on his breast, his
two arms pinned to the ground.

[Illustration: I WAS ON HIM, MY KNEE ON HIS BREAST.]

"Grandfather," I said, "I don’t want to hurt him, but you heard him give
me the lie."

"I did," said the old man grimly.  "I did, and I waited to see if you
would strike.  If you had not, I was going to knock you down with my
crutch!  Mount your horse and go to war, Jack Ballington, my grandson;
for by the living God I know now I’ll have a fighter in that war worthy
the name of Rutherford when this cur turns coward and quits!"



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                         *THE FIRST TENNESSEE*


I do not know where you are, Eloise.  I do not even know that you are
alive; but if you are, I have the promise of Aunt Lucretia that this
letter shall go to you; and Aunt Lucretia, you know, does not break her
promises.

And if you be dead, Dear Heart, as I do deep in my mind fear, for I have
not heard from you, nor Aunt Lucretia since that June day was turned
into December in a night—that day when I went to the old familiar, sweet
places, to find no longer there her who had made them sweet—why, what
matters so much?  For the passing of the soul of a dear one, when we see
that it is passed, is such a natural thing at last, such a little change
to make so great a transition!  While they lived and life looked full
and wholesome, it all seemed so large, their life and ours.  But they go
in a night, in a breath’s draught.  And then we see how small it was: a
little finger-width zone across the world of things.  A little too much
heat, a little too much cold, a tiny vein broken, a severed cord, and it
is whiffed out.  Even in the fullness of strength and brave life a dash
at bars on a great game horse....

Forgive me, dear one, if you be alive to read this; for I would not
remind you now of a time you were different.  ’Tis God’s way, and since
He has kept in my heart my love of you, and through your accident showed
me your love for me, have we not His two greatest gifts for our very
own?

And as to that other world, do you know what instinct tells me it is?
That there we will have a hundred senses where we now have but five; and
there we shall see the Thought as well as the Thing: every thought,
every dream, every hope, every love, these we know not as words but as
beautiful beings whom we shall meet face to face. And its only law is
Balance, Compensation, Recompense, Poise; the Equation of the Universe.
We wonder here why there should be such things as sin and sorrow and
injustice.  But there we shall know that sin is not sin, but the prism
which shows us goodness, that sorrow is not sorrow but the prism of
gladness, and that death, as we now know it, is not a stopping, but the
prism through which we see another light.  Here, on our little earth,
with only our five small senses, we see only the prism.  There we shall
see the rays.  It is the difference between the star and its light.

And if we hold the prism of sorrow here, Dear Heart, as I do now, shall
I not hold a handful of the joys which stream through it there?  For
here ’tis a poem written, but there the meaning of it.  Here ’tis the
sun rising, there the dawn. Here the giving of alms, there the joy of
the giving.  Here it is the instrument that makes music, there the
music.  Here ’tis only a picture, there the soul that made it.

And if you be passed, Eloise, if you be passed, even yet will I keep
writing to you.  For if letters be written with one’s heart’s blood, I
know, in my soul of souls, that our dead will read them. For though I
have lived but a little while according to the span of things, and less
according to the knowledge of things, yet the little span and the little
knowledge have made known to me the greatest of all truths: _that I do
not know_: that even with my little knowing I have seen things come to
pass which were more wonderful than those which I thought could ever be;
that we live on the borderland of a world wonderful, mysterious; that we
are clasping hands with eternity, and need only the language that will
yet come to spell out the touch for us.  And so I shall write to you
even though you are dead, write to you, sweetheart, a love letter for
your heaven, knowing that not only will you read it, but that I, in the
writing, as in all giving, will at last be the one who will get.

It is selfishness in me at last, Eloise, selfishness that I may hold
through life and forever this love of you in my heart, now that it has
only memory and not your own sweet self to live on. And no greater love
and more constant can there be than that which lives on memory.  For the
living-love, being flesh, must change with the years.  But memory-love,
being eternal, can never change.

I am at Iloilo; and the gap is great since that long ago June, that June
of Tennessee blue grass and roses, and the old home and you, sweetheart.

                     *      *      *      *      *

There is little to tell of my leaving; of my quick decision to fight for
my country and for you, Eloise.  For, cast from my father’s house there
was nothing left but my country’s, and losing the love of my kindred
there was only your own great love left me, yours and my country’s.  For
these I am fighting.  But at the last—I know you will want to hear it
all—at the last our old grandsire seemed strangely touched, and the
memory of it has burned my heart, once strangely amid flying Filipino
bullets on the firing line, and once amid the thunders of the great
thirteen-inch guns from the Monadnoc.  And right glad I believe he will
be when he learns, that though he called me a fool for refusing a soft
place as aide to dear old Hawthorne, and a greater fool because I
refused a commission which he himself could have got for me for the
asking, and took a musket in the ranks instead, that I have risen from a
private to the Captaincy of the crack company of the First Tennessee.
So say the Regulars of the Bloody Fourth that we backed to a fight to
the death against the Filipino trenches.  So says old Hawthorne
himself—God’s blessing on his old white head!—now commanding our
brigade, who led us in with the rebel yell in his throat!  And riding
Satan, Dear Heart; cannot you see the picture, such a man on such a
horse!  And you should have seen how Satan loves the firing line and how
he hates the smell of a Filipino and his pony!

                     *      *      *      *      *

But this story must be told straight even in a love letter to my unseen
love in an unknown land.

When I left home I only took my father’s sword and Satan.  I took him
because of my love of you, and that old Hawthorne, our General, might
have a horse to ride into battle that should be worthy of his rider.
For if you have ever thought of it, sweetheart, you will know that no
great soldier ever owned a mean horse.

I joined a company of the First Tennessee. In the company next to me was
Braxton Bragg, commanding it by the influence of our old grandsire.

My first promotion came in San Francisco, where we camped for a month
before sailing for Manila, via Honolulu.  Our Captain was a Tennessee
lawyer who knew little of the game.  It was I who drilled the company,
my German work stood me in good stead, and we won on dress parade drill.
We were the best drilled company of the First Tennessee.  Then our
Captain resigned to practice law in San Francisco, and I was made First
Lieutenant.

We dropped anchor off the city of Manila, November 28.  It was an
inspiring sight as we sailed into the Bay, to see the sunken Spanish
ships, and Dewey’s flag ship with Old Glory flying, proclaiming
Republican Liberty for the first time to the waters of the great Far
East.

Our first fight came early in February.  We had lain outside of the
walled city on the Lunetta Driveway for nearly three months.  We knew
that Aguinaldo, with eighty thousand men, armed with guns we had given
him, and those of the Spanish, was in our front, feeling his way.

It was nine o’clock Saturday night, February 4th, when the attack began.
We heard shots from the enemy, then three in rapid succession from our
pickets.  It meant help.  The men, who had been grumbling for three
months for fear they would have to go back home without a scrap, sprang
like school boys to a playground.  Then the front lit up with a crackle
of fire.  Our rear was another sheet of it from the fleet in the bay,
firing over our heads.

It was a hot fighting front, the First Colorado, Tenth Pennsylvania,
Thirteenth Minnesota, Fifty-First Iowa, and First North Dakota standing
the brunt.  We chafed all night, standing in line down by the beach,
away in the rear, the very base of our half-circle battle line.  All
night we stood hoping that we might go into it before it was over, our
blood stirred by the battle and roar in front, and the thunder behind.

At breakfast Sunday morning we still stood in line, expectant, keyed to
a fiddle’s string, eager. The cook passed our Sunday fare up the line,
chicken and hot coffee.  How little things stick in excitement!  Then we
saw a courier come out of the smoke and flame, and old Hawthorne rode
Satan to our front.

"Boys," he said quietly, "they have asked us to take the Filipino
trenches, and we are going to take them.  Attention, regiment! right
shoulder arms, fours right, march!"

A Utah battery and the Nebraska boys supported us as we charged over San
Juan bridge under fire and across a rice field.

We kept step to the _boom—boom—boom_—of the thirteen-inch shells firing
over us from the guns of the Monadnoc.  Down the bloody lane we charged,
the bullets humming like hornets.

"Listen, boys," said a man in my company, "listen how they hum!"

An old sergeant of the Regulars passed us, going to the rear.  He was
binding a handkerchief around his arm, from which the blood was
squirting. But he laughed and called to us, "Oh, don’t worry about those
that you hear humming—them you hear won’t hurt you!"

Then the trenches grinned in our front, spitting fire.  We prepared to
charge.  Behind us were Regulars, and in the crisis of it all I saw
Braxton Bragg.  I hate to write this of the blood of a Rutherford.  My
shame, my sorrow was greater than his.  His nerve had simply left him.
He had got down from the hissing bullets behind a sandhill.  He had quit
before his own men. They did not shoot him, they did not have time; they
charged with me, backing my own company. It was a quick rush and soon
over.  The Filipinos left their breakfast of rice in the trenches.  But
we left some of our bravest there, too.

But battered and tired as we were, the real fight was just on.  In
sweeping the Filipinos out of their trenches we had hurled them to the
left on our own water-works that supplied the city and the army.  If
these were held by the Filipinos and our supply cut off our fight would
be in vain. It is said that twenty thousand of them stood between our
water and our line.  Luck again was with us.  The First Tennessee
happened to be nearest to them and it was we who cut through, and only
four hundred, a battalion, at that.  In a quick bloody charge we took
the works.  Old Hawthorne and Satan led us as if on dress parade, a
target for twenty thousand Filipino rifles, and not a bullet touched
them.  With cheers we followed the white hair of the old Confederate on
his black horse with the north star on his head. We were holding a
perilous place, for we were in the rear of the Filipino army, with our
backs against the water-tanks, and foes in front and rear. But we held
it for two days until help came. And the first battalion and third
battalion had equally as good a record when the fighting was over.

A week afterwards old Hawthorne came to my tent.  He was holding a
telegram from the Secretary of War.  "Jack," he said, "I am a Major
General, and you are the Captain of Braxton Bragg’s company.  The boys
of it wired petitions and elected you.  They said you led them twice to
victory.  They want you to lead them always."

Our hardest fight was at Iloilo last week.  We took the city, but once
out of the water we had to fight down barricaded walls, hemmed in and
shot at from walls and house tops.  For two hours we were busier than a
bull-terrier in a den of cats. They were the best fighters we struck.
They were officered, we learned, by the brave and brainy little Japs.

At the Lapaz sugar mill they tried to cut off some of the Regulars.  We
were nearest.  It was merely our luck.  Any other regiment would have
cut through the enemy to save their comrades. At Naglocan they made a
stand and there we finished them.

                     *      *      *      *      *

That was written a month ago.  I will finish and let it all go together,
finding you if it can; and if not, well my heart has found yours
somewhere, sweetheart; in the writing my thoughts have met, somewhere,
yours.

We stay and hold Iloilo, but General Hawthorne with a battalion of our
boys went a month ago to Cebu to help out the Twenty-third regiment of
Regulars who were hemmed up there in the mountains and fighting for
their lives.

Would you like to hear how close I came to death yesterday, and not on
the firing line at that?  It was a nasty close call I had and the horror
of it still twangs on my nerves.  It is that, and not knowing what the
morrow may bring, that has brought me to the writing of this last love
letter should either of us pass into the shadow of things.

On the nearby Island of Mindanao live the savage fanatics, the Moros.
These people have been a terror to the Spaniards and are the nightmare
of our own men.  They are Mohammedans, and the fiercest, most
treacherous fighters of all the Philippine Islands.  They cannot be
civilized, they cannot be conquered, they can only be killed. There is a
bloody tradition about them and the Spaniards; how, hemmed up for
slaughter, when their warriors have all fallen, the women have been
known to rush on the Spanish lines with their babes in their arms, and,
as the Spaniards would meet them with their bayonets, hurl their babes
onto the steel, blocking both it and the fire behind it, and cut down
the soldiers with the deadly _borangs_ of their dead husbands.  Then
there with their babes on the bayonets they would die.

Of these Moros, there is one the soldier dreads more than the firing
line of death, more than the panther that springs at night, or the
rattlesnake that strikes in the grass.  It is the _Juramentado_.

When one of the Moros is adjudged guilty of thieving, impurity or half a
hundred other crimes and sentenced to death he becomes a _Juramentado_.
Strange, mystic ceremonies are performed over him by the priest in the
black wood of the black night.  Cruel tortures are inflicted; his head,
face, eyebrows, and mustache are shaved clean, his face painted, his
body left half naked.

There is but one atonement for him.  He must kill as many Christians as
he can before dying himself.  Dying in the act he is transplanted to
Paradise.

They are great sailors and are liable to run amuck and then float out to
distant places, to any place where they can find a Christian.
Stealthily they creep into a camp, or town, or church, or wherever there
is a gathering.  Their keen _borang_ is sheathed between two bamboo
reeds; its blade is a razor, its weight that of lead.  With a blow they
have cut heads clean from shoulders, or split a soldier from neck to
hip.

At a word they will turn in a crowd and kill all those around them.  The
Spaniards tell how five of these fanatics slipped up to a company of
their men peacefully, and then in sudden frenzy killed nineteen soldiers
before they could shoot them down.

Our orders are strict concerning them: a soldier must never be out of
lines without his side arms.  And so nameless a danger is in their very
name that it is the unwritten law of the camp to courtmartial any
soldier who cries out for a joke, _Juramentado_!

I was visiting the camp of the Regulars and as I went through the gate a
file passed out for guard mounting.  A _Juramentado_ had paddled over
from Mindanao, slipped in, and suddenly attacked a soldier of the
Eighteenth Regulars, as he was returning on a pony from some duty.  The
first blow of the _borang_ took off the man’s arm at the shoulder.
Clapping spurs to his pony he rushed for the main entrance just as I
passed out, with the file of soldiers behind me.  In an instant the
frenzied, howling, painted thing was on us.

I heard the officer in charge cry "fire," and a dozen Krags snarled
their smokeless call, sending twelve steel-jacketed bullets into the
charging demon whose painted face, and sharp black teeth were grinning
like a wolf in my very face, and whose _borang_ was at my throat.

The bugler got him with his Colt’s 45.  Twelve steel bullets had cut
twelve clean pin-point holes through him, and not one had stopped him,
not being in the brain.

The Krag is a failure.  It shoots too clean and hard to kill quick.
That old time Colt 45 saved my life.  I saw the dead snarling thing all
night. When I waked his black painted teeth grinned in my face.  I was
never un-nerved before.

And so I am writing you, Dear Heart, for I realize now how near to death
I have been, how nearer I may yet be.  And maybe another thing makes me
write to-night.  It is such a story as Clarke, our First Lieutenant, has
brought back to me to-night.  It has set me to dreaming, and made the
camp and men and guns sleeping under the mango trees seem like ghosts
from another land.  Like ghosts, Dear Heart, for in the dream which is
always more real than the real, it is you and Old Tennessee that I see
to-night, not slumbering guns under mango trees, nor tropical mountain
tops, smoking mistily to the moonlighted skies, nor the palm trees,
sentineling the ghostly beach.

Clarke has filled my thoughts to overflowing to-night.  So I have left
him and the sleeping camp. And I lie alone on the beach looking across
the ocean toward home.

He told of a girl in Cebu, where our main hospital is, one of the Red
Cross nurses from the States.  She came over a month ago.  Clarke has
talked of her till I can see only you.  If I did not know you were ill
I’d swear it could be only you, peerless, bravest, gamest, most
beautiful woman that ever was.  She is a trained nurse, but she rode
with old Hawthorne, rode Satan, too, to the relief of the Twenty-third
Regulars.

Who could have done what she did but you and Satan, clear a ten-foot
fissure of a yawning volcanic abyss, outfooting the Filipino ponies when
they thought they had cut her off?  And her shooting!  Again I saw the
brown stubble of Tennessee wheatfields, the blue hills circling the sky
line, the flush and whir and the crack of the sweet little twenty gauge!
If you are not dead or in the hospital it was you—the only one in all
the world—there can be no other!

But I shall not see her, for we leave for the States in the fall.  They
are sending other boys to relieve us, others who want to serve their
country.

I shall go home then to my work.  I shall take up the life I left, the
life of labor and of love, of love, Dear Heart, love of all loves, love
of a Memory.  And now good-night and for my pen, good-by, Eloise! ...



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                  *THE BATTLE IN THE BACAUE MOUNTAINS*


I wrote you last from Iloilo, but no word has come back to me.  And
toward the late fall, our term of service having expired, and so many
others crowding for a chance to serve, we were mustered out and ordered
home.  The big transport Indiana stood by for our home-taking.

It was good news for the boys, but sad for me. They were going home to
wife or sweetheart, but I had no home.

There is one great thing about war, the steel it puts into the heart to
stand things, to die smiling and unafraid, to take life as a battle, and
fight it out on the firing line.  There are many living, but few on the
firing line of life.  They think they are soldiers, but they are
sutlers.

In a short time we sighted Cebu.  Our General, Hawthorne, and a
battalion of us were there, as I wrote you before, sent to help out the
Regulars.  We were ordered to pick up this battalion; it completed what
was left of the First Tennessee, for some would sleep forever under
far-off Pacific skies.

Cebu is a little city on the island of the same name in the center tier
of the Archipelago.  Bitter and desperate are the inhabitants and savage
in the extreme, and to take the place has cost us a hard battle; and to
hold it almost cost the life of the Twenty-third, for they had been cut
off in the mountains and all but lost when Hawthorne came to their aid,
three months before.

It is a long narrow island with a backbone of volcanic mountains, in the
recesses of which live a race of savage fighters who do not quibble to
rush, half naked, and with bolos and spears, upon lines of steel and
Gatlings.

Their mountain fastnesses are all but impregnable. The volcanic
mountains run sheer up straight and the level plateaus yawn with the
most dangerous and sudden chasms.

Here were the forts and fortifications of the savage Insurgents, and
here they had again threatened portions of the Sixth, Nineteenth and
Twenty-third Regulars under General Snyder.

It was night when we heard it; we had anchored and prepared to take
General Hawthorne and our boys on the homeward journey.

Then like a bolt came the news: portions of the Nineteenth Regulars were
surrounded and cut off in the mountains by ten thousand yellow savages.
They were doomed.

And Hawthorne and his battalion, instead of being on the beach to embark
for home, had already gone back to the mountains to fight.

I drew up our men in line of dress parade on the Indiana’s decks.
"Men," I said, "we have been mustered out!  We are no longer soldiers
but citizens of the Republic, homeward bound, with all it means to every
man of you who has done his duty as you all have.  No man of you may be
ordered to go one step from this transport’s deck till you reach your
own land.  But news has come that the enemy has attacked and cut off our
comrades.  Our General and a small battalion have already gone to their
aid.  I ask no man to follow me.  I am going, and every man who would go
with me take two steps forward."

The First Tennessee to a man moved two steps forward on the deck.

At daybreak we were off for the mountains eight miles away.  All
forenoon we marched under the hot sun, passed mango trees and squalid
huts over ashes of dead volcanoes.  We established headquarters on
Elpado Mountain across the Labanyon Valley.  Along the low mountains in
our front ran the forts of the Filipinos, a rude fringe to the crest of
the hills.

A detachment of the Sixth and Nineteenth Regulars had been over-daring.
They had got in behind the enemy, and being a new regiment sent to
relieve us, they had not known the true situation.  They were surrounded
in front and rear. It was for us to cut through to them.

They are peculiar little mountains.  Volcanic in origin they have been
shaken by earthquakes until often their sides are precipices; on top
there are narrow plateaus, and along their whole length bristle the
savage fortifications.

There we found old Hawthorne waiting for us. He knew we would come!

At his word we began the ascent.  It was a hand over hand climb, from
rock to rock, from scrub to scrub, with a spear or a bolo at any time
from above or behind any rock.  And at unlooked for intervals would come
avalanches of rock and volcanic stones, rolled down by the savages
above.

It was five hundred feet up, but it took us all the afternoon to reach
the first plateau, and half the night to derrick our cannon up with rope
and pulley.  The tired men had had no sleep for eighteen hours and at
daylight they must fight. We camped within three hundred and fifty yards
of their fortifications, with all lights out.  We made the assault at
daylight.

Our guns knocked their forts down around their ears and when we charged
they went over the other ridge to the last line of what was left of the
forts.

At the bloodiest angle of it when I came back to report to the General
our burying squad was already busy:

"This," said a tough old sergeant to me as he pointed to their dead
piled up, "is a cordwood of good Filipinos."

Such are the genialities of war.

Our fiercest fighting was before us.  Hand over hand and holding to
trees we went up to the next fort in an avalanche of stones, arrows,
bolos, and spears.

We fought from rock to rock.  Often a Krag or a Colt would speak
straight up, and a dead Filipino would come vaulting down to our feet.

Again came the derricking of guns.  Then we went through a deep aisle
where only one man could rush in at a time, with Filipino sharp-shooters
above us.  But our last fight cut them from our front and we reached the
Regulars.  They had held their place and escaped death only because they
had lain for two days in an old fissure with empty shells beside it and
canteens as dry as the old volcano.  But weak as they were they charged
with us after the Filipinos, scattering them like mountain goats over
the hills.

There was a tropic moon that tropic night. The Mango trees circled the
farther mountain sides and the bamboos stood in groups in the valley
below.  The kingly palms towered high over all.  The weird tropic night
sounds were borne to us on the breeze.  The tired battle line of my
brave boys lolled by camp fires in one long line of sentinel light with
the last wrecked forts of the beaten enemy at their backs.  The field
guns, rapid of fire, poked their long blue noses out into the night.
"Still smellin’ for the varmints loike blood houns for nagurs," said
Moriarty, our fighting Irishman, and the wit of the regiment.

Then he would walk over and pet the blue steel beauties, for they were
his.  Moriarty it was who had brought them over mountain side and
_crevasses_ where no man dreamed they could go.

"An’ it’s aisy it is," he would laugh and say when I praised him to his
face.  "It’s aisy, Cap’n; I’ve done nothin’ but pet ’em, an’ so they
jus’ foller me loike dogs."

Half a mile out a line of pickets faced the way the beaten enemy had
fled.  Our fighting was over.  Cebu’s island would no longer be troubled
with Insurgents.  And the next day would be the Indiana and home!

Our General had thrown off his sword belt and come over to my camp, and
together we had smoked and talked of home and the war, of everything but
you, sweetheart.  But when he left he smiled and said a puzzling thing
to me.  "I’ve a surprise for you to-morrow, at Cebu, Jack, that will
knock the war and even the homegoing out of your head."

Then he twisted his gray mustache and smiled delightedly.  Had the old
man, as we all loved to call him, received word of another promotion for
me, I wondered.  For myself I wanted no more war.  I wanted only you,
Eloise, somewhere, somehow, living; or the memory of you amid my own
Tennessee trees.

"General," I said, "there are worthier men here than I for any promotion
you may have.  I will go back to my land and my work; but if you could
arrange for Moriarty here—" I added, pointing to the game little
Irishman.

"Oh, Pat’s fixed already," he answered.  "He has brought these guns over
hills, through fissures, and the walls of hell.  He’ll be First
Lieutenant in the regular army as soon as I can wire this day’s work to
the President.  But you, Jack,—"

I pressed his hand.  "General, dear General, believe me, I want nothing
more, nothing but a chance to work and make a home in Tennessee."

I was serious almost to that old gripping in the throat.  But he laughed
and pressed my hand.

"To-morrow, Jack, to-morrow!  You are tired now; I want you to sleep.
You have earned your reward this day, my boy, and it shall be yours
to-morrow, a promotion that you will love."

I followed him to his own tent door.  A black horse stood haltered near
by, saddled as he had been for two days and nights.

I took the General’s whistle, the one I had used to train Satan to my
call in the old days, and which on the firing line the General himself
used in calls for his aides and orderlies.  I blew softly the three
blasts I had taught him to know in the forest. He had not seen me for
months.  He did not know I was there; but his head went up quickly with
the old devil fire in his eyes.  The next minute he had thrown his great
weight back on the halter, snapping it.

His head was on my shoulder, and he was whinnying.

The General laughed.  "It beats the world, Jack, that horse’s love for
you.  Take him to your own tent to-night, he’ll rage like a hyena around
here all night, now that he knows you are here."

It was true.  But tethered at my own camp he was quiet.  The confusion
had been so great and my men were so scattered that when I came back I
ordered Moriarty to call the roll before taps. He came back quickly with
word that Ross and Billings of our company were absent.  I was
surprised.  Investigation among the men, tired and half asleep, showed
that they had not stopped when we took the last fort, but had been swept
on with a squad of the Regulars after the flying Filipinos, carried away
with the excitement of it.

I went quickly to the bivouac of the Regulars. They remembered the two
men, but thought they had returned, as they went off toward the right of
the little village Colena, two miles in our front and through which the
enemy had fled.

"If they aren’t here now," said an old sergeant, "no use to look for ’em
again; when we come back through that village, there wasn’t a sound, not
a kid, nor a chicken, nor a coon, nor a dog; and when you don’t hear
nothin’ in a Filipino village, when you go through, look out for hell
when you come back."

I looked at my watch.  It had been full three hours since the Regulars
had returned.

"I am going after them," I said, turning to go.

"Ballington," it was the swarthy old Captain, of the Nineteenth who
spoke, "you’d be a fool to risk it."  He pointed silently to a faint
glow across the valley on the side of the mountain beyond.  I had
thought it was a rising star.  "Yonder," he said, "see that other one on
the mountain top, that’s the signal fire of the little yellow hyenas,
that means guerrilla bands in them mountains, they go in packs like
wolves, and the night is their time. They know every foot of the
mountain, every gorge, valley and _crevasse_.  Why, two men lost over
there ain’t got no more show than a pair of fool goats in a jungle.
Why, if them little hyenas couldn’t see ’em, which they can—for they see
better by night than by day—they can smell ’em, like all jungle breeds."

"Boy," he said again, looking at me kindly and smiling an apology for
the title which we both bore, "I wouldn’t let you go.  I’d go to old
Hawthorne and have you arrested first.  You Tennessee fellows," he said,
laying his big rough hand on my shoulder, "have done the whitest thing
ever done in this war.  It ain’t often we old Regulars that never go
home and have to serve ’till the last taps, takes much notice of you
volunteer fellows that fights awhile for fun and quits when the time is
up; but when you biled out of that transport and came over them
mountains an’ cut through to us, you done a thing that’ll warm the
cockles of our boys till the last tattoo and the taps.  Now I ain’t
goin’ to let you go out there in no such fool thing.  I’m an old
soldier, I fought with Miles and Cook on the plains, and I tell you now,
Sitting Bull and his Sioux were lambs to them little mountain savages.
You go back now," he said kindly, taking my hand in his own, "go back
and go to sleep.  You are a boy yet, though you proved you are full
grown to-day, my lad, and ain’t even got up a beard.  Of course you have
got a sweetheart waiting in Tennessee.  Go back to her, and the next
year send old Brawley of the Nineteenth a picture of her and the kid.
He ain’t never had no time to marry, it’s been fighting all his life
with him from hell to breakfast."

I smiled, saluted, and went back to camp.

Moriarty was waiting for me, and, when Moriarty does not smile, I know
what to expect.

"Cap’n," he said, "it’s not Moriarty that can sleep peaceful the night
till we find them, dead or alive."

"And I, too, if you please, Cap’n," said Davis, my corporal, who had
been listening.

"There is no need for a call then, men," I said, "we three will go down
to the village, we will doubtless find them near it.  A Krag for rapid
firing and two Colts each," I added, "and plenty of shells.  Don’t let
the other men know; we’ll be back by midnight."

As we slipped out of the lines of camp I saw a thing that touched me.
Moriarty had stopped at the long, slim, blue-barreled rapid fire and for
a moment, lingering over it, one arm around it, he laid his cheek
against its lips.  It was Moriarty’s farewell kiss to the only bride he
had ever known.



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                           *THE JURAMENTADOS*


There was a mistiness among the mango trees as we went out into the
moonlight.  It was a mist from the ocean, but it made an uncanny
milkiness in the air, which seemed to cling to the long dew-damp leaves
of the tropic trees as we descended into the Labanyon Valley; and that
queer uncanniness stayed with me.  I could not throw it off.

At the picket line I left a note to be carried back with the relief.  It
was to my First Lieutenant, explaining my absence and stating that, if I
were not back by daylight, he was to assume the command.  And if, before
daylight, he heard any continual rapid fire, he was to send the company
to the sound of it, for it would mean that we needed help.

The picket would be relieved at midnight.  I asked him not to awaken
Lieutenant Clarke until then.

"Captain," said the picket, touching his cap, "excuse me, but if you
weren’t here I’d arrest Moriarty and Davis and send them back into camp.
’Tis a fool thing they are doing."

"But what about our comrades out there, cut off, doubtless, and
surrounded by these savages?"

"Then why not take a company?" he asked respectfully.

"They’d be butchered," said Moriarty.  "It’s the three of us slippin’
around an’ nosin’ in that can save ’em if we find ’em.  And with these
rifles and six Colts we’ll be all of a company for arrows and bolos."

"Look," said the sentinel, "do you see that?" He pointed to a dim red
star, glowing just above the mountain top.  "That’s a signal fire—and
that, and that.  Captain," he pleaded earnestly, "go back and let the
boys all go with you.  It’s a fool thing, but if you will go—now
listen—when I hear you shoot, if shooting is on, I am going to fire and
waken the camp; the boys will want to come to your relief."

Moriarty laughed.  "Now don’t let your old gun go off too suddent loike.
We’ll be back without firin’ a shot!"

But I, Eloise, as I went down into that valley, became for a moment all
but a weakling when I thought of you!  We went quietly out into the
moonlight, slipping along from the shadow of one great mango to another.
Sometimes these trees made a continuous shadow—so thick they were—and
our going was easy.  But when we emerged into a moonlit space we stooped
and crawled through the high grass, for we were an easy target for their
sharpshooters on the peaks above.

We were fully a mile from camp before we crossed a _crevasse_, about
twelve feet wide, spanned by a culvert or small bridge.  I remember
noticing the little bridge and thinking that if it should be burnt by
the enemy in our rear, we would never be likely to get back into our
camp again.

There was a Filipino village which lay off to the left in a mountain
gorge, and, scouting carefully around the side of the mountain, we
approached it over the last one-hundred yards, crawling through the
grass and under mango and cocoanut trees up to within fifty yards.  It
lay before us, a dozen shacks on bamboo cane shocked with the coarse
straw of the rice stalk.  The usual squalor and emptiness was around,
but there was not a sound, not a living thing.  Moriarty nudged me.
"There’s hell in there somewhere, Cap’n," he whispered, "it looks too
peaceful loike."

It was a Filipino cur that gave us the first clue. They are a half wild
breed but little beyond the wild things from which they came.  As we lay
in the grass listening, this dog which had come back for some morsel he
knew of, smelt us, and, barking, bolted down a wooded path to the right.
We saw him clearly as he ran up a hillside and over into a gorge beyond.

"There’s where we’ll find the family," said Moriarty.  "We’ll cut around
and go into the rear."

It took us a good hour to do it, crawling through bamboo and cane, under
mango and desert palm, through the tall grasses, and over _crevasses_.
Often we lay quiet in them, resting.

It was a weird and unexpected sight that we saw.  Before us lay a little
cup in the mountain gorge, a natural amphitheater, framed by a small
grove of palms and cocoanuts.  Savage figures were going through queer
rites.

We stopped, puzzled.  "That isn’t the village people," whispered Davis.
"There are no women or children there, they are headmen and warriors,
and that is some ceremony they are performing."

We crawled up within fifty yards, and then I wished I had not come, for
Moriarty gripped me quickly, and pointing to two naked men bound and
laid out on the ground, whispered, "Ross and Billings!"

"We’re too late, Captain, they’ve been killed and now they are fixing to
mutilate them, cut off their heads and cut out their hearts and fill
their stomachs with stones."

I nodded.  It was the savage’s way of mutilating all our dead.

We recognized the fighting men easily.  There were dozens of them,
squatted in a circle, armed with _bolos_, _borangs_, and _spears_.  But
in the center stood a strange figure in a long black robe, his parted
hair hanging down his back.  Around him stood six men, fierce savages,
with shaved heads, and half naked bodies.

"_Juramentado!_" I whispered.  "That’s a Mohammedan priest in the center
and he is making _Juramentado_ of the six—look!"

I heard both Davis and Moriarty slip the bolts of their Krags.  To say
_Juramentado_ to any soldier was like crying wolf to a shepherd and his
flock.

We lay still, seeing the mystic savage rite no white man ever saw
before.  We could hear the words of the priest which, spoken in a mixed
Moro-Spanish, we easily interpreted.  The six we soon learned were Moros
from Mindanao and had sailed over to sacrifice themselves to our army.

It was indeed a weird rite he went through, and strange words he
used:—how, if each killed his Christian before dying, it meant first
heaven and an _houri_; and if two Christians a second heaven and two
_houri_, up to the seventh heaven and a harem if they died within our
lines with seven of our dead each to his credit.

"And now behead them," he ordered, pointing to the two American
soldiers, "and anoint your bodies with their blood!"

Instantly we saw our error in supposing our friends were dead, for when
the bound soldiers saw two of the _Juramentados_ seize their _borangs_,
each made a violent effort to break his bonds.

"That priest is mine," said Moriarty, "I’ve always loved ’em."

We fired together.  The priest, two _Juramentados_, and five warriors
lay dead or dying. The others were instantly an awakened den of wolves.

I flinch, Eloise, in writing you this, for it brings the tears even now
as I write.  Its ending was in blood and the passing of two I loved as
only one man learns to love another who has backed him to death in the
last ditch.  They rushed us quickly, for their leaders were
_Juramentados_ and they never retreat, but like a wounded jungle lion
charge instantly the men who have wounded them. They were ten to one
against us, and fast and furious was their rush, but, though it was only
a short distance, we bunched, and shoulder to back shingled the ground
with their dead, stopping many of them, who died at our very feet.  The
others swarmed upon us, led by howling _Juramentados_, until even now I
awake at night with their twanging hyena howl in my ears.  Our Colts
crackled fiercely for an instant in their faces.  Then Davis fell and I
would have followed him had not Moriarty, shooting quick and shouldering
between us, blown out the brute’s brains with the last shell in his
revolver....

I was dazed, bloody, and knocked down into the fissure at our backs by
the glancing _borang_ blow of the last of the _Juramentados_....  When I
came fully to myself I crawled for protection under an outcropping rock,
and none too soon, for the fanatic above hurled a spear the next instant
that quivered in the spot I had just left.

And, emboldened by the frenzied _Juramentado_, and seeking my blood, I
saw other heads, peering from over the fissure side and around boulder
and rock.

I was protected for a time under the boulder. I was faint, and hearing
running water I drank.

                     *      *      *      *      *

I prayed that I might not faint again.  The wound on my head was a clean
cut.  "If only I do not faint again," I kept saying while I bathed my
wound, and, packing my cap with my handkerchief, pulled it tight over my
temples to shut off the blood.

Then I became calm and indifferent.  I marvel even now to think how
undreading of death I was, feeling that I was so soon to die;
undreading, for in all the queerness of my head and the dizziness and
throbbing and the bitterness of the knowledge of the unequal fight, I
thought always of you and of Andrew Jackson, who when shot by Dickinson,
clinched his teeth on a bullet to keep from biting his tongue, clinched,
stood, and killed his man! ...

Down in that death hole with savages above me waiting for a chance to
brain me or bolo me to death, I heard—I’ll swear I heard Aunt Lucretia
say, "_Would Andrew Jackson faint or fight here, Jack?_"

Yes, Eloise, believe me or not, but then I knew I would not faint again.
I crawled further under the rock, lying flat, face up, and drew both my
Colts....

My belt still held the shells.  The fight I had with myself must have
been long, for they found forty-three empty shells at my side next
day.... I don’t remember distinctly what happened, for my head would
spin every now and then and I had to close my eyes.

Then I fired twice, thrice...  A fool was starting down to see where I
was, a fool, and he met a fool’s fate at my feet...  So for hours I shot
that way and none dared to try to come down again, none but one who
suddenly dropped upon me from the left like a tiger from a cliff, the
last of the red painted things who sought death in order to gain
Paradise.

He died literally on me; and he died quickly. He did not know that
having killed his companions with my right, I was on my back with a Colt
also in my left.  So died the last of the _Juramentados_....

I knew this would end it, and I was glad, for I was beginning to forget,
with the fever flame licking amid the fagots of my brain.  I had strange
deliriums....  Æons passed with me wallowing in the water beneath me,
thrusting my burning head into it and not knowing it....  And then came
the end of the delirium in the great joy of the volley of shots above me
and the cheers of the First Tennessee.  I heard our General telling me I
was all right, and then the dreams returned, for I saw you on Satan, in
_khaki_, riding with the firing line; and then my head was in your lap,
and you were crying over me and kissing me, before all the boys.  And
like one in a nightmare, when strange things happen, I told them it was
not real, that I was touched of a _borang_ in my head, and was a double
weakling for dreaming and then being such a fool as to weep over a
dream.  But they only cheered me and laughed.

                     *      *      *      *      *

I remember very distinctly when I awoke in the hospital at Cebu.  It was
night and the tropic moon lay half masted in the sea.  I saw the
gunboats out in the bay and Old Glory floating from fort and mast head.
But I did not see the Indiana.  I knew I was feverish and yet so sane,
so sane that it hurt as does all great saneness which follows a great
sleep.  Then a sea-gull cried as it swept past my window, and that lone
sea-gull’s cry quite overcame me: for then I remembered my first dream,
and you, and now I awoke and you were not there....  I turned my face to
the wall. Then I felt someone kneeling by me, her arms around me, her
kisses on my cheek.  I heard someone saying, "Jack, Jack, be still, and
be very calm, for it is I, Eloise, your Eloise.  I have nursed you a
month—I have slept by your side, darling, right here by your side, your
own Eloise.  And now it is all right and so sweet that—hold my
hands—Jack—tight—tight Jack—we are going to say again our little prayer,
thanking God together as of old...."

Then the next day when I was stronger and the danger had passed, we
spent the morning alone in the little hospital ward holding hands
sillily, talking always, and kissing when we could.  And you told me how
it had all been: how Elsie and her father had found you and taken you
home with them to the great English surgeon who had cured you: how,
knowing I was here in the Philippines you had come as a trained nurse to
be near me: and how it had been fixed between the General and you that
we were to meet the very day that came so near being my last.  And you
told of the strange dream you had that night, of my call that seemed to
come to you, and how, mounting a pony and dressed in _khaki_ that you
might pass the line as a soldier, you rode to our camp alone through the
night, following the army’s path over the mountain, reaching our last
line at daylight, to find the battalion gone since midnight, to our
rescue.  Taking Satan you followed: and it was Satan and you who found
me: for they had rescued Ross and Billings and found the bodies of poor
Davis and Moriarty, but they could not find me.  All day they had ridden
and searched; and all day, delirious and fever stricken, I had lain in
the fissure under the boulder: and in the still of the evening, when the
boys had all but despaired, and you, heart-wrung and broken, had rested
a moment in the General’s fly, suddenly there came a strange whistling
up the canyon, and Satan had broken loose going to it, the boys
following: and they had found me in wild delirium, but dreaming of home
and blowing the call of old for Satan with the whistle I had forgotten
was in my pocket. Even as you told me all this, old Hawthorne came in
with the familiar twinkle in his eye and bending over me stroked my
forehead as my dead sire would have done, saying, "Well, Colonel
Ballington, how do you feel to-day?

"Jack," you cried, "he shall not tell you first! I hadn’t got to that,
General.  Please let me tell it all to him, my own self."

The General laughed and nodded, enjoying our happiness as if it were his
own.

"It is all too good, Jack," you went on, "but the President himself has
appointed you a Colonel in the regular army.  And see—we have saved it
till you wakened—our dear old General and I—here is the message
President McKinley sent when he heard you had led them from the
Indiana’s deck to the rescue of the Regulars."

Then you read the message yourself, with tremor and tears:


"No more splendid exhibition of patriotism was ever shown than was shown
a few days ago in the Philippines. That gallant Tennessee Regiment from
our Southern border, that had been absent from home and family and
friends for more than a year, and was embarked on the good ship
_Indiana_ homeward bound—when the enemy attacked our forces remaining
near Cebu, these magnificent soldiers disembarked from their ship,
joined their comrades on the firing line and achieved a glorious triumph
for American arms.  That is an example of patriotism that should be an
inspiration to duty to all of us in every part of our common country."


"It is good of him," I said, "God bless him—the sweetest, gentlest man
who ever sat in that chair.  But if I get well I am going home and to my
trees."

But still the old General stood smiling, and I knew there was more to
come.  And, seeing it, you came over, smiling funnily yourself, and with
little tears, too; and kneeling, you laid your face against mine.
"Jack, forgive us, it was a mean thing to do, but you have been married
a month to-day and don’t know it!  But when we brought you here, you
talked all right—though you were a little flighty—and begged so hard for
me to marry you then—and—and—somebody had to sleep right here with you,
nursing you day and night, for the surgeon said it would all be in the
nursing and a mighty poor little chance at that—Jack—for it was a
terrible blow, cutting to your brain—and you begged so—and—I didn’t want
ever to leave you again while you lived, and after the Chaplain married
us holding your hands in mine and kneeling here just as I am now—it
looked as if marrying had killed you, Jack—you went down so quickly and
deeply into the valley—and now to see you well—"

You were crying in my arms.  I could only kiss you, calling you wife.

Then your old fun came back as of old.  "It wasn’t a square deal,
Jack—to take advantage of a sick man like that, and so, well—well, if
you are willing we will call it all off and wait till we get back home
where we will have a grand wedding at The Home Stretch; for I have been
cheated out of my _trousseau_, and my honeymoon, my new shoes and the
rice that ought to be in my back."

"I have had make-believe enough," I said, kissing you again.  "That
marriage holds and is good enough for me."

Then the home going, overtaking the regiment at San Francisco and the
thunder of guns and welcoming whistles as we reached our native
Tennessee.  And there, amid the great hubbub, and the welcoming
committee as our train rolled in, stood the old General, my grandsire,
holding back the crowd with his crutch that he might get to me first,
and rattling around on his wooden leg, shouting to my great
embarrassment:—"_By God, there he is—Jack—my grandson, Jack!  I raised
him—He’s my daughter’s son—a game cock—the old blue hen’s chicken!..._"

We have it framed now, Eloise, that telegram from the President.


"EXECUTIVE MANSION,
       WASHINGTON.  NOVEMBER 21, 1899.

On the Nation’s roll of honor is the First Tennessee Regiment U.S.
Volunteers, and nobly has the distinction been won.  Their country’s
gratitude awaits the homecoming of these brave men.

WILLIAM McKINLEY."

                     *      *      *      *      *

Home again, Eloise, Home and June.  Born of the same May mother, but
differing so, this and that other June!  How un-of-kin they seem to be!
That last dance, the death ride over the bars, homeless, the despair of
that June a year ago.

And now home again and The Home Stretch mine!

June, and writing this to you as I sit in the old sweet place under the
old sweet trees, under the hickories we loved so, and afar off is the
flush of old gold above the violet of the western hills.

And the same June sounds come over to me: the call of an ewe to an
errant lamb; the neigh of a mare and the answering whinny of her colt;
the distant staccato clatter of binders amid the wheat.

And a wood-thrush deep in our laurel thicket rinsing clear the air
around with her liquid notes....

Since Christmas I have seen it all, for it was Christmas when the boys
came marching home, seen it again and again, never tiring of seeing it,
life as it shuttles across the loom of the Middle Basin.  If the canvas
were a meadow backgrounded in green, this is how the picture would be: a
patch of red-bud now and then for early spring; and later, a green sheen
creeping like a high-tide over the hills.  But later still, after the
wheat is harvested it were a stubblefield canvassed to cleanness; there
would run a riot of passion flowers and morning glories in brave, bold
colors of beauty.  And the picture would be June in the Middle Basin.

I have sat this afternoon watching the trees on the round breast of the
hill across the way, a shield of green on the round shoulder of the
hill; and as I looked I had a strange upliftingness which I knew was of
poetry and that it was the melting of my heart because it was June again
and home and because of the love of you.

Why should I potter and make excuse of it? If there be love there is a
poem.

Take mine as it is—this voice of the trees—as the sweetness of it all
came over me, listening, listening and loving you, Eloise.

    WHAT SAY THE BEECHES?

    What say the beeches, heart of my heart?
      (Comrades we three!)
    Wise in their canopied gallery of art—
    Clear-visioned, true, in their cloisters apart
    From the life which dwarfs when the soul is the mart
      Of passions set free.
    Write it, dear beeches—historian tree—
      Write it for me.

    My heart, it hath doubted; my soul, it hath slept.
    Alone with the trees and the stars it hath wept,
    Not knowing the mystery, not seeing the end—
    Oh, be to it, beeches—calm beeches—its friend!
    For part of the Infinite—you and the stars—
    Sing it the Truth with your infinite bars.

    The little leaves whisper’d, baby-voiced, low;
    The finger-limbs wrote it ’mid starlighted glow:
      "_Love and believe, and be kind as you go!_"
        (O Heart, it is so!)


Why should you care for me to write of war and that last bloody fight,
now that I am at home again, and my heart in the melting?  Is it because
it takes it all to make life, the melting, the June days, and the fight?

And why have I written all this, here, at The Home Stretch, months after
it has happened, with you coming, even as I write it, down the old sweet
path to me, in the old sweet way?  Coming to see if I have finished my
letter to you.  And I wrote it because but yesterday you said, "Jack,
dear, I want you to finish that letter you wrote me in the Philippines,
the one you wrote to _your love that was lost_.  Finish it, Jack, this
one here at home for me, in our own home, _ours_, and _for your love
that was found!_"

And so I have done it, sweetheart.



                                  *IV*

                            *THE BURGEONING*


    "Now burgeons every maze of quick
    About the flowering squares, and thick
    By ashen roots the violets blow."
      —Tennyson.



                              *CHAPTER I*

                            *TWO OF A KIND*


As I said at the beginning, this is my story, and the telling of it must
be in my own way.  It does not satisfy me to end it with our
home-coming, and I hold that no story is complete unless it satisfies,
first of all, him who tells it.

Why should love stories end at the altar?  For there is that in life
which surpasses the altar in sweetness.  It is the hearth.  And there is
that which is greater than love making.  It is the home making.  And
there are those in every marriage that is a marriage, of far greater
worth to the world—since only through them may the world’s work go
on—than the two who joined their lives at the altar, and they are the
children who come of the marriage.

If my love for Eloise was great before, it is greater now, for in the
sweet years that have passed have I not proved it a thousand times, as
hath she, in the little things of life, the knight-errantries of love,
the battle and the gauge that tests us all daily?  And are not the
still, calm depths in the eyes of the wife more satisfying to the soul
than the merry frothy shoals that gleam so riotously in the eyes of the
sweetheart?

No man has truly loved a woman until she has borne him children; not for
the child alone, uplifting as is the first sight of this tiny sweet seed
of the blossoming of their doubly growing souls, but as an evidence that
there is nothing worth while in the world except love, since not only
does it create every great, beautiful, sweet dream that has been given
to the world, but even the dreamer himself!

No man has loved until he has seen the child of his love.  It is not the
row-boat of the calm waters that the sailor loves as his very life, but
the good ship of the mid-seas that holds fast and true, even in the
throes of the tempest, bringing him to port and to joy in the morning.

And so I have small respect, and a wholesome contempt for those
story-tellers who make of married love a marred love; who paint its
ending with the coming of children; and who would leave the wife at the
last page waiting for a lover’s love lost in the husband’s love.

I did not know at first what it was that made Eloise change that first
year, from the brilliant, riding, hunting, dancing Eloise of old to this
thoughtful, beautiful creature who wanted always to slip off and read
Keats by herself, and was slyly making what I thought were doll clothes
for Little Sister; and when I was most happy with her to see now and
then, through the day, little strange, unnatural flashes of sadness come
into her deep, thoughtful eyes, and little, queer, unsatisfying doubts
that would creep in.  Unknowing, I would see her watching me; and it
would end at night in our own room with her in my lap in tears and her
arms around me.

"Jack!  Jack!" she cried.  "Oh, I am so foolish; but are you sure that
you will never love anybody better than you do me, not even your own
child?"

How well I remember that day of my greatest agony and blessing, and the
long, long hours in which her life hung in the balance.  I remember the
good old doctor who came first, and then, as the day wore on, the
graveness that settled in his eyes and the hurried sending to the city
for another one.  I walked sorrowfully among the trees, a coward, a
weakling, for the first time in my life.

Aunt Lucretia was my only comforter, and a stern, unflinching, rude
comforter she was. "Jack, _Colonel_ Ballington, actually wilted, a
weakling, ruined by matrimony and too much love, as I always said you’d
be, if you didn’t look out. Jack, you make me tired; born on this stock
farm, seeing my crop of colts and calves, my spring lambs, too, and
whatnots; the finest and most high-bred matrons of my paddock, bringing
in their first borns and not a fool doctor in ten miles to meddle with
them and Nature and her ways!  And now Eloise, the gamiest, nerviest,
bravest thoroughbred of them all!  You make me tired! Come, I want to
make a man of you."

She seized my arm and led me into the house. In the library she took
down her huge silver goblet, an international trophy won in France, her
prize for the best merino wool, and then she led me down into the
cellar.

I had never been in it but once before.  It was cool and damp, its
sleepers lined with cobwebs. She lit a lantern and led me into the
farthest, darkest, cobwebbiest corner.  She stood before a small
ten-gallon cask, and said with some show of grim humor, "Jack, it was
fifteen years ago to-day—Did you know this was an anniversary?  Well,
fifteen years ago to-day I brought Eloise here, adopted her and gave her
to you; and that day I told my old friend, Jack Daniel, to send me this
ten-gallon cask of pure whiskey, to be put away, and to get good and
mellow for just what I knew would one day happen—the first colt!  And
now we are going to tap it in his honor!"

"_His_ honor, Aunt Lucretia?" I said shamedly. "I had set my heart on
her being a—a—why, we are going to name her Lucretia," I added timidly
and with some confusion.

"Jack, you were always a fool; a bigger one since you married, just as I
knew you’d be, all of ’em are.  Why, of course he’ll be a good lusty
chap; and I have already named him _Andrew Jackson_, and that’s what
he’ll be, name and all.  I am going to give his daddy a drink; he needs
it, weak-kneeing around here like an old run-down selling-plater in the
home stretch."

In the dining-room she took down a cut-glass goblet and pottered around
in the side-board till she had found her old-time loaf sugar.  This she
broke into bits, and, putting a piece in the goblet, she held it up to
the light and eyed me queerly.

I knew Aunt Lucretia, and that this ceremony was her way of playing for
time and a kindly way of diverting my mind from Eloise.

"Very few people, Jack," she went on, "know how to make a toddy.  Now
you pour a little water over this sugar and let it melt; if you crush it
with the spoon it spoils the whole thing, and then pour the whiskey in
slowly, stirring it all the time. The nutmeg; ah—"

We took one each, and Aunt Lucretia smiled. "Feel better?  Well, you’d
better stop at that! Another one might make you see double—directly—and
that would be horrible—twins! Why, Jack, I’ve known men to be driving
along, single, and after taking two of these to swear they were driving
a span!  One more makes them think they are holding a four-in-hand!
Now, that boy of yours," she began, "why, Jack, I wouldn’t have him
divided up into twins for anything."

We stopped and looked quickly up.  The old doctor was smiling at us.  He
had slipped into the room while we were talking.

"You have missed it, Miss Lucretia," he said, pouring out a half-glass
for himself and taking it straight.  "Phew!  But I need a bracer myself
after all that!  It’s a girl, Jack, a most beautiful, bloodlike little
girl."

"Jack!" cried my Aunt, throwing up both hands, "Jack, get out of my
sight!  But we’ll drink to her," she added gamely.

And we did.

"Two of them!" cried the doctor, warmly shaking my hand.  "Two beautiful
little girls, Jack!  My boy, I congratulate you!  And the mother is
doing fine, just tickled to death and begging me to let you come in at
once!"

"Heaven help us!" cried my Aunt Lucretia, with feigned anger, but real
exultation shining in her eyes.  "Twin colts never amount to a hill of
beans.  We’ll go in directly, Doctor, and drown one of them; it will
give the other a chance in life."

I turned quickly.  "Hand me that glass, Doctor," I said firmly.  "I am
never going to be partial to my little ones.  We’ve drunk to the first
one, here’s to the second!"

"Yes, even in our disappointment let us be just," said my Aunt, joining
me.

And we drank to the second one, my Aunt laughing, pleased for all her
seeming anger.

But my own heart was pounding under me with the same gripping in my
throat that I had felt as I stood on the deck of the Indiana and,
looking up, beheld Old Glory above me....

They were lying together by their mother, pink and white little
creatures, with heads quite hairless, and blue eyes that were already
smiling as plain as could be, twinkling, fun-loving eyes, which said,
then, as they have always said, "_It’s a joke on Daddy we’ve played!_"

Eloise, lying smiling by them, was holding out her arms to me.  "I am
quite comfortable, and oh, so happy, Jack!" she whispered as I kissed
her again and again.  "You can’t love them both better than you do me!
And please don’t inspect them too closely, Daddy," she went on, "for you
know what old Josh Billings said: ’_There is two things no man is ever
prepared for—twins!_’  So we’ve had to dress up one of them in Aunt
Lucretia’s old flannel skirt and a crash towel, but she’s just as sweet
as the other one and so like her own, sweet daddy!"

"That Jack Daniel whiskey, sweetheart," I said, choking up sillily,—"but
I am so thankful, now that you are safe—and—and—I was so proud and happy
that I drank to each of their healths, till, Eloise, really are you
sure, but I’ll swear I am seeing four little heads here under the
cover—and if there are—of course, if it is, it’s all right with
me—and—and—Eloise, aren’t they holding hands already?"

Eloise broke out into her old laugh.  "Of course they are," she cried
happily, "and there aren’t but two of them, Jack; honest, just two—on my
word of honor, none of them have got away; but that’s the funniest part
of it all—they clasped hands as soon as they were placed together—just
two sweet for anything!  Such devotion to each other!  Look!  And oh,
Jack, you must never, never show any partiality, or love one more than
the other, or either of them more than me. And don’t take any more of
Aunt Lucretia’s Jack Daniel, for it makes me afraid to have you see
double this way!  Don’t now, for if you took two more of those old
drinks you might see triplets—oh,—the thought of it!  Now kiss us all
goodnight; we want to sleep.  And here—your hands, Jack, and our little
prayer."



                              *CHAPTER II*

                      *HOW AUNT LUCRETIA RAN AWAY*


There never was a fall like Aunt Lucretia’s when she did fall in love.
It is historic at The Home Stretch to this day, and the record is as
Aunt Lucretia wrote it to me after she had married Dr. Gottlieb.

"Ran away!" exclaimed Eloise, after she had read the letter; "and
everybody on the place has been trying to marry them off to each other
for twenty years.  But of course Aunt Lucretia had to do something
different!"

"Of course, I knew, Jack," wrote Aunt Lucretia from Dr. Gottlieb’s old
home in Germany, where they were spending their honeymoon, "that old
Gott,—bless the dear heart of him!—had been loving me all these years.
Women folks have a kind of a dog nose for the man that really loves
them—they know it by instinct.  There are some men who court women
naturally, but there are lots of them every sensible woman has to court
a little herself.  Old Gott was one of these.  I knew if I ever married
him I’d have to court him myself, although he was crazy about me.  But I
didn’t love him then; he was so silly and made me so mad the way he did
it—always hinting around that I was that great red flower he was trying
to find, and writing me silly letters, begging me to kiss the postage
stamp when I replied, so he might kiss it also!  Of course I was proud
of Gott and awfully fond of him.  I knew he had a great mind and an
international reputation as a botanist, but as a lover, Jack, he was
very poor.

"He courted me every way but the right way. Now there is only one way to
court a woman and that is to kiss her.  You can get some of them to
marry you the other way—that is, by making them think they are little
tin goddesses, or stars ’way up above you, and all that, or by writing
them poetry and not daring to look at them except through a
long-distance telescope!

"After five or six years and an innumerable number of family prayers and
pink teas you can get that kind to wed you.  But she isn’t worth much
after you win her; for you get a little pink-tea wife who presents you,
in the course of the first ten years, with one little offspring, and
devotes the rest of her time to pills and hospital operations for
appendicitis.  Instead of going in for addition they go in for
subtraction, Jack."

"Well, Jack, after you and Eloise married, I began to feel lonesome, and
I felt sorry for poor old Gott, pottering around out there among his
books and flowers, with nobody to take care of him.  I used to ride by
to see him every day, thinking maybe he’d have sense enough to court me
in a decent way; but every time he would act worse, until it got so that
the poor man couldn’t talk at all in my presence; he could only fold his
hands and sigh.

"I knew the disease was running its course, and I became very uneasy.
In this stage the patient, in addition to all the previous symptoms, has
a steady rising temperature and becomes mentally unbalanced.  This is
shown in intense jealousy, a disease of mind produced by nothing else in
the world but this malady.  This hallucination takes violent possession
of the mind, so that he is ready to shoot, kill or stab anyone whom he
thinks stands in the way of his one great love; or, failing in that, to
kill himself on the slightest provocation.  It makes them do all kinds
of queer things.

"And he rapidly developed into the last stage, which is complete
imbecility.

"There was nothing for me to do, Jack; I must save poor Gott’s life and
mind.  It would be hard on me, I knew, but for thirty years I had taken
care of him, even giving him a home; and I could not bear to see the
poor man, in his old age, become an imbecile and a suicide for want of a
little help from me.

"As he was practically an imbecile already I decided to treat him as
such; to cajole him, to entrap him, to lead him into matrimony by making
him think it was something beautiful, and enchanting, ’up a winding
stair,’ so to speak; a hot house at the end of a rainbow!

"And this is the way it happened: I first hunted up that old red flower
and pinned it over my heart.  Then I took a flask of Tennessee whiskey
in my saddle-bag and rode over to his house.

"I caught him just right.  He had been up all night, writing a thesis
for the University of Berlin on the ’Propagation of Pollen by
Differentiation,’ and having finished that, he was beginning to tell his
pet parrot how much I resembled that great, red flower he was so fond
of, and talking about the evening star which he said was just rising.
It was ten o’clock in the morning and I knew at once what had happened.
He had begun his thesis the afternoon before, and had become so absorbed
that he had worked all night without knowing it, and now thought it was
tea time!

"I was greatly distressed at the inroads the disease had made in his
mind, and I knew I must act with the greatest tact and foresight.  He
was just telling the parrot all the beautiful things about me and my
resemblance to the red flower when I walked in, wearing the flower over
my heart.

"He gave one look at me and the flower, and that was almost too much for
him.  He began to mumble something, and then became speechless in his
chair.

"I was almost heartbroken to see the swift inroads the disease had made
on him, poor dear.

"’Gott,’ I said gently, sitting down by him, ’you must take a little of
this,’ and I made him drink a good stiff toddy.

"He drank it, looking bewilderingly around, like the poor inmates of the
insane asylum I have seen, and every now and then looking at the red
lily and sighing as if in great pain.

"At last he spoke.  ’Er—Miss—Miss—er’—

"’Lucretia,’ I said, smiling encouragingly at him; ’just Lucretia
always, dear Gott, between you and me!’

"This would have landed any sensible man, but thirty years of the
disease had made Gott abnormal.

"Again I saw the color leave his cheek, and his face turn pale.  Another
good bracer, and he was better.

"’As I was just going to remark,’ he said, turning pale again,
’Lu—Lu—Lu—ere—’ he stammered.

"’Lucretia,’ I said.  ’Of course, Gott, dear heart, dear heart, that is
my name—your name for me.’

"He tried to faint again, but the Tennessee whiskey stood staunch.  So
he threw up his hands with a little happy, pitiful gesture, and again
lost his voice!

"After awhile I said to him: ’I am going to scold you, dear Gott; I am
going to take better care of you.  You have been sitting up all night
writing and you are tired.’

"’Oh, no,’ he said; ’oh, no.  I began to write a few hours ago.  It is
now tea time.  Won’t you take tea with me?’

"Jack, it was pitiful.  I thought I’d take him in my arms and kiss him
then and there—just make him my own—only I was afraid the shock might
kill him!  I must do it gradually.  So I went on humoring him.  ’Sure,
Gott, dear, old, precious Gott,’ I said.  ’Sure, it is just tea time,
and I’m going to sit out on the little porch under the wisteria vine and
the stars.  Won’t you come with me, precious?’

"Jack, it proved near being fatal.  He tried to speak, but had only a
kind of a gurgling spasm of a breath, panted violently, and turned red.

"I let that soak in and got up and got busy. I thought if anything in
the world would fetch him, or any man, it would be to see a good-looking
woman, in a white apron, with rosy cheeks and eyes full of fun, buzzing
around in his old bachelor’s den getting him a meal that was worth
while.

"Poor old Gott!  The disease of thirty years’ standing had nearly ruined
him!

"I cooked him one of my famous steaks, Jack; you know how.  Skillet red
hot, a little butter on it, then drop the steak on, and, as quick as it
sears on that side, over it goes on the other, and quick again back, and
so on, holding the juice in rich and sweet.  And the tea, Jack, the rare
old china I had brought in my saddle-bags, too; and the omelet; if
anything in the world would put heart into a man!

"Eat it?  You should have seen the dear old sweetheart.  It almost made
me cry.  God only knows when he’d had a meal before.  I found out
afterwards that he had been writing two days, Jack, and then thought
every day was to-morrow!

"He was so near gone, you may judge of it yourself.  After those two
toddies and that good meal he—he—well, he didn’t seem to catch on yet!
His mind didn’t seem to be any clearer. But it helped him, for he had
courage enough to take my hand in his, and say, ’Lucretia, shall we sit
out under the wisteria—and—and—look at the moon?’

"’I said _spoon_,’ I replied firmly, for I saw then, Jack, that I must
be very gentle and firm with Gott, he was so badly afflicted!

"I felt his hand quiver beneath mine.  He tried to faint, but very
firmly I led him out into the full daylight under the wisteria vine.
And then very gently but firmly I began to woo him; poor dear, he was
nearly gone!

"He looked so killing, too, Jack; the little fellow with his gray hair,
his handsome, red face, the fine turn of his large, intellectual head!
Oh, that horrid disease!  For he sat there in broad daylight mistaking
the sun for the moon, and the little white jasmine blossoms above us for
stars! I thought the best way to win him would be through the red lily
he had worshipped so long.  So, after sitting by him and taking his hand
in mine, I said, ’Dear heart, do you notice what flower I am wearing
to-day?’

"Imagine my exasperation when he stammered, shook all over, and began
mechanically, ’Yes, madam, it is the _Lilium Philadelphium_, the red,
wood, flame, or Philadelphia Lily.  Flowers: erect, tawny, or
red-tinted, outside: vermilion or sometimes reddish orange, and spotted
with madder brown within; one to five on separate peduncles, borne at
the summit.  Periant of six distincts, spreading spatulate segments,
each narrowing into a claw and with a nectar groove at the base: six
stamens: one style; the club-shaped stigma three-lobed.  Stem: one to
three feet tall, from a bulb composed of narrow jointed fleshy scales.
Leaves: in whorls of threes to eights, lance-shaped, sealed at intervals
on the stem.  Preferred habitat: dry-woods, sandy soil, borders and
thickets; flower season, June and July; distribution, Northern border
United States and westward to Ontario, south to the Carolinas and
Virginia!’

"He said it all like a parrot, looking up at the wisteria vine.  Jack, I
saw that I must fight hard to save him.  ’Dear heart,’ I said, holding
his hand, ’don’t you think you need someone always with you to take care
of you, cook your meals, nurse you?  I fear you are sick now, darling,’
I added, laying my head on his bosom.

"I could feel his heart panting like a trip-hammer. I saw him wince,
struggle, grit his teeth, as one who tries to overcome a terrible thing,
fighting for mastery of his mind; and then, Jack—I was so mad I could
have choked him!  That terrible disease!

"’Yes—Lucretia—dear—Miss—er—Miss Lucretia, I mean—do you think I could
hire some good old woman who—ah—whom would you suggest?’

"’I could suggest a great many, Gott, I said, my arm around him; ’but I
will suggest only one. _I_ need a husband for my old age, and _you_,’ I
said, ’darling,’ and I put one arm around his neck.

"He shivered, paled, and I thought he was dying; but I went on,
’Gott—you dear, old Gott—I have loved you a long time, but I’ve been too
busy to tell you so; but now, dear sweetheart, I want to make you my
wife—I mean, Gott, my husband, of course, and—and—kiss me, Gott; kiss
me, dearie!’

"Oh, Jack, the divinity of it!  I am ashamed of all I have said before!
Tear down that pedigree from your wall!  Forget all I’ve said about
marrying people off like animals—about improving the breed—about
anything but love—love—love. For, when my lips touched his, life grew
different!  I had never felt it before!  From that moment I was in
love—divinely, gloriously in love!

"He keeled over, of course.  It all but killed him.  It was the crisis
of the disease of thirty years’ standing, but I had my nerve with me,
and when he came to he was so bashful and happy, Jack.  He said shyly,
’But, darling Lucretia, don’t you think our parents might object;
wouldn’t it be romantic if we ran away?’

"And we did, Jack, that very night.  I had him put a ladder up to his
bed room window, and that night I slipped out, brought him down the
ladder, and we ran off to town and were married!

"Oh, it was so romantic, such a sweet dream! And here we are in his old
home in Germany and so happy!

"Forgive and forget all that I have ever said about people falling in
love, for mine at last was the hardest fall!"



                             *CHAPTER III*

                     *A NIGHT WITH CAPTAIN SKIPPER*


Blessed is that man who is born with the saving grace of humor!
Blessings on the memory of my Celtic sires!

One night when Eloise and the twins were away, I rode over to spend the
night with my brother Ned.  He had been elected to Congress from the
Hermitage District, and together we were to frame a Forestry Bill—the
first of that series of acts which have steadily legislated toward the
Conservation of our national resources, and which will yet lead on to
greater things; first and foremost of which, and most vital, will be the
taking over for preservation by the national Government of the entire
Appalachian mountain range, the forests of which are at the headwaters
of nearly all the Eastern half of our country.

My brother was not home, but the others were, and to my great delight a
girl baby as much like her mother as two turquoise shells.  Little
Sister had grown into a slim, pretty girl, and Captain Skipper, more
positive than ever, began early begging his mother, since his father was
away, to let him sleep with his Uncle Jack that night.

"Oh, do, Thesis," I said, after supper.  "Let him have his way."

"And that’s where you’ll drop your candy," said Little Sister in her
serio-quaint way.

Thesis, who is so good that she says only what she thinks and is so
honest that she never suspects others of diplomatic pretenses, took me
at my word.  Captain Skipper should sleep with his dear Uncle Jack that
night!

You who read this, did you ever sleep with a boy?  I don’t mean one of
those good boys that you read of in Sunday-school books—the impossible
kind—who lives like a saint every day and says his prayers and retires
like a gentleman at night: but one of those lusty, growing young devils,
born with a spring in his back, who howls out the first year, sleeps out
the second, and by the time of the third is ready to chase the cat
around and fight brave battles with the hen folks.  At four he is ready
for the birds’ nests and tin cans for the dogs’ tails, and a little
later he breaks every colt that tries to keep the Sabbath in the meadow
by the still waters.

When night comes—ay, there is the rub!  He howls away the twilight hours
and spends the night kicking, coughing, rolling out of bed or having
fits, and yet sleeping through it all like a cub in winter quarters.

The weather that night was warm, one of those hot April nights that lies
humid and close.  "The dear little fellow will be so proud to sleep with
his Uncle Jack," said his fond mother, when she kissed him good night;
"and he does sleep so sound and quietly."

Never having owned a boy, I believed all of this.  Did you ever try to
undress a lad of four that had chased the cat around until he was hot?
His clothes stick to him like a plaster.  Being a novice, I got
everything unbuttoned and then skinned him, peeled them off.  To my
surprise—and I found later that there were all kinds of surprises in
that boy—in fact, that he was made out of surprises—he insisted upon
saying his prayers! But I never saw anything go more promptly to sleep
at his devotions.  I had to derrick him up into the bed.

One of the strange things about a boy is that when he starts to wiggle
around over the bed in his sleep he does it diagonally.  I pulled him
back on his own side of the bed five times within the next hour.  Then I
would hear him scuffling and flopping about, always ending in a
long-drawn, dismal and dreary sigh, that would have made his fortune as
Romeo.  It always ended in his rounding up against the footboard in the
opposite corner, flat on his back, each limb and arm pointing to its own
cardinal point of the compass, his nightgown rolled up in a wad under
his neck, and his body looking like that of a young bull frog in a
Kentucky horse-pond.

If there is anything more absurd than a boy in this attitude I have
never seen it.  I tried to awaken him and get him back, but he only
sighed one of those long sighs, unlimbered and slept on. I went back to
my window and began to work on my bill, but my thoughts were soon
dispelled with a start.  I heard a choking, gasping, frightfully
suffocating sound, mingled with a dolorous wheezing:
"_O-woo,—oo—oo—wow—O-woo—oo!_"

I was at his side in an instant, this time frightened. He was sitting
stolidly up in bed, a strange gaze in his wide-open eyes, his face
beaded with a clammy moisture, his face drawn in a spasm.  I had seen a
boy have a fit before and I went upstairs after his mother, two jumps at
a time.

"Quick," I cried, "hurry down!  He’ll not live until we can get the
doctor!"

She was rocking the baby to sleep.  She did not become excited, but
smiled and whispered, "He isn’t dying, Jack, it is just poor
circulation. Don’t notice him at all."

This made me cynical, bitter.

"Poor circulation?" I said in disgust.  "He has the best circulation I
ever saw; he has circulated all over that bed three times already.  Not
notice him?  It would take the mental aberration of a stone man to do
it."

I fear I was a bit satirical, for it is not pleasant to be made a
laughing stock of by a boy who was not even awake.  I was not assured,
however, and half expected to find him dead when I got back.  But I was
disappointed.  He had flopped across his pillow on his back, his arms
and legs curled up.  And sleeping!  No ground-hog in mid-winter ever
surpassed it.

I spent the next hour planning how I would like to fix him so as to keep
him on his side of the bed and let me go to sleep.  In fact, I quit
everything else and thought.  If there is anything I like to do it is to
sleep when the time comes.  These are some of the stunts that boy did in
that hour: Fits, three;—very distinct and prolonged: snorts,—one every
ten minutes: choking spells, at intervals: kicked the pitcher off of the
table near the bed twice: jumped up and talked perfectly naturally—so
naturally that I felt that he was awake,—but he was not.  More snorts;
and then: "_Catch him!  There he goes in that hole—hooray!_"

I would have sworn then that he was awake, and examined him closely,
cuffing and shaking him. But he was not.  He sighed and slept on....

The brilliant plan I finally settled on was to put the pillows between
us.  It was nearly midnight before I had courage enough to retire at
all.  I pulled him up on his side, straightened him out and put the
barrier between us, and then crept gingerly in.  I lay still for a while
listening.  My success was so complete I wanted to stay awake a while
and enjoy it.  He would start out on his journey across the bed, but
would wind up suddenly against my barricade.  There he would lie a
while, and I could feel his thumps against it.

In my vanity I chuckled.

I had dozed off in this state of self-conceit when I felt something
rammed into my mouth.  I thought at first that burglars had entered and
that I had been chloroformed and gagged.  It was not so.  That boy had
shot his foot through under the pillow and popped me square in the
mouth.  I had been told that it was not well to sleep with one’s mouth
open—now I knew it.

When people treat me that way, asleep or awake, I resent it.  I fight.
I boxed that boy’s ears.  I pounded his head against the headboard so
that I would awaken him.  I shook him, kicked him, and used words I
should not have wished his mother to hear.  When I had finished, he
quietly sighed another of his long, peaceful, happy sighs, and slept on.

Sleep was not for me after that, and I spent the next hour lying awake
and cataloguing the different things he would do.  These were only a few
of them:—Another fit; seeing cats, and wolves and dragons around his
bed; chasing rabbits; talking in his sleep; telling of seeing a bear
ride a bicycle down the pike; breaking a colt; swimming in the creek;
fighting another boy; wheezing and thumping and making strange noises;
dreaming he was an infant again and imbibing from an imaginary bottle;
smacking his lips so loud that the noise could be heard all over the
house.

It was three o’clock before a bright idea entered into my head.  I
remembered that the only request that his mother had made of me was to
see that he did not fall out of bed.  I remembered that in all his
circulations and maneuverings, this was the one thing that he never did,
like a runaway mule he knew how to take care of himself even in his
sleep.  I began to anticipate him.  I determined to humor some of his
little whims.  I put a pitcher of ice water by the bed.  I got a link of
the garden hose that felt clammy and looked like a snake.  I doubled up
my pillow so I could strike hard with it.  Then I sat up and waited.  I
would make him realize all he dreamed.

I did not have long to wait.  This time he was falling from a tree or
down an endless precipice, for he sat on the edge of the bed, yelling:
"Catch me—catch me—I’m falling!"

I let him fall.  In fact I helped him along.  I put a lot of force into
that pillow and it caught him squarely under the ear.  He went out of
the bed, hitting the floor in a heap.  It wakened him. "Where am I,
mamma?  O, mamma?" he called.

"Come to your mamma," I said softly; "dear little boy, you have fallen
out of the bed.  Be careful how you roll."

He was asleep before he touched the pillow. But in the next half hour he
did not roll any more, and so I learned that a boy may be taught things
even in his sleep if only the proper implements are used.

But he was not yet cured of swimming in his sleep, for, just as I began
to doze off, thinking that he was properly broken, he began to splash
around in the bed, lamming me on the head and stomach, and shouting:
"Look out!  There’s a snake—pull for the shore!"

This gave me my cue.  Seizing a water pitcher I turned it over on him,
at the same time wrapping the clumsy hose around his leg.

"Snakes," I cried in his ear, "dive for the shore!"

He gave a wide-awake yell that time, and rolled backward out of bed.
One jump and he had cleared the room, going up stairs yelling: "Snakes,
mamma, s-n-a-k-e-s!"

I let him go.  Nay, I locked the door behind him and went to sleep.

The breakfast bell rang twice, but I did not hear it.  Little Sister had
to come to awaken me. They were all at breakfast when I came down,
Thesis, the baby, and the boy.

"How soundly you must have slept!" she said, smiling.  "I forgot to tell
you that the dear little fellow sometimes walks in his sleep; and do you
know, this morning I found him fast asleep on the first stair landing?"

Little Sister, however, was wiser.  She looked at me in her quaint way
and said, funnily: "Uncle Jack, you look real tired; like you’d dropped
your candy last night, sure enough."



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                         *MY FIRST AUTOMOBILE*


It was one of those beautiful December mornings when the frost had hung
his laces everywhere, and a hunting fever fairly burned within me.  It
comes over me at times, and then—well—I run away and obey it.

As though through mental telepathy my telephone rang.  "Hello!  Is that
you, Jack?  This is Horace Raymond, your old neighbor.  I’m in town
to-day.  Ever see such a pretty day?  Let’s take a quail hunt."

"Glad to hear your voice again, Horace.  No, I never did.  I am ready
for a quail hunt any day except Sunday.  Never had any luck on Sunday at
all."

"I have just bought a new automobile," he went on, "and I want to try it
out to-day.  I will be right out in a hurry."

"Oh, say, Horace, now that’s another thing. I have never ridden in one
of those things; they aren’t bred right, don’t like their gait; and
loving horses as I do, confound them, I’ve got religious scruples on the
subject.  Now you come out here in the thing and I will have the little
mare and the buggy hooked up, a good lunch and the setters in, and—"

I heard him laugh derisively.  "Nonsense! Why, man, we’re going way out
beyond you on the Lebanon pike—ten miles—and we want to go in a hurry.
I’ll have you there in thirty minutes.  Now the little mare would be
fully an hour making it, and then dead tired for a long drive back, with
a pointer and two setters crowding us out of the buggy.  I’ll be at your
place in twenty minutes with two dogs—have that champion pointer of
yours ready."  And he rang off.

I hung up the receiver.  "I guess I’m up against it," I said, as I went
off to put on my hunting clothes, "but if it gets out on me I can prove
I didn’t want to do it.  Besides, this new hunting cap I’ve just bought
would make Moses look like a Turk in Hades; nobody would recognize me."

"Jack, I’m ashamed of you," said Eloise with becoming scorn.  "What
would Satan say?  But of course, if you are going in that thing, and
happen to bag any birds—which I know you’ll never do—please remember the
luncheon I am going to give to-morrow, dear.  But you’ll never get them,
going back on your raising like that—see if you do!"

"No, see if you do," said one of the twins, now aged four.

And the other added, "No, see if you do!"

For which I kissed them both, because they were so femininely
consistent.

The truth is, I wanted to go hunting.  It was in my blood that morning,
and these beautiful December days with a hazy glow on the blue hills and
that stillness that comes like a dropping nut in a forest would put it
into anybody’s blood, anybody who had it.  And when the infection hits
you there is only one antidote, a dog, a gun, a tramp over the hills,
and—whir! bang! bang!

And to-day was ideal.  I had felt it all morning; the cool, bracing air
with that little frosty aroma of leaves curling to crispness under the
first blight of things, and that other delightful odor of pungent
woodland damp with frost-biting dew. And the hills blue and beautiful
are alone worth going to meet, and the trees crimson in the hectic flush
of the dying year.

Dick, my pointer, was jumping all over me and turning dogsprings of
delight.

"Down, Dick!  Heigh ho, old boy; that machine is against my religion,
but I’d go hunting in a negro hearse to-day.  Besides," I said, with a
twinge of conscience, "he’ll get us to the field in forty minutes, and
the little mare is getting old and we’ve got a late start."

I sighed and felt better.  I had fought so long and said so much for the
horse, and now—now—it was inexorable; they were being driven to their
fate; they had to go before the relentless wheel of progress.  I was
virtually admitting it, I, who had said I’d never—

I shouldered my gun.  Somehow it didn’t seem like the old, joyous hunt.

At the front gate the automobile stood, a pretty thing, to be sure.  Its
owner was smiling, goggle-eyed and all aglow, his hand on the wheel, or
whatever you call the steering end of it.

"Jump in, Jack, old man; we must be in a hurry.  Slap Dick in there
behind with my two setters.  Be in a hurry!  By George!  I know where
there are a dozen coveys, and we’ll be there in forty minutes.  Hi,
Dick!  What’s the matter? Get in!  Confound him, what’s the matter with
that old dog?"

I was lugging Dick and trying to get him in. He was kicking like a
half-roped steer.  He had always jumped to his place in the little
buggy, but now—

I knew what was the matter.  Even Dick, dog that he was, had his
principles, and he was man enough to say so.  While I—

I turned crimson.

"Get in, old boy," I begged.  "We’ll be there in a jiffy.  Dead
bird—good doggie."

I got him in, with his head down and his tail between his legs.  To all
intents he was going to a funeral.  I turned quickly away, for I could
not stand the scorn and dumb reproach of his eyes. Right then I would
have quit and gone back, but I didn’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings.

"Jump in, jump in, let’s be going," he shouted, in his nervous, business
way.  "Oh, just a minute!  There—you’re on the ground.  Say, here, take
this and give that starting crank a turn. I’m not very expert myself,"
he went on, "and I sometimes forget; but you’re on the
ground—there—right there!"

I gave her a whirl, several of them.  I whirled her like blue blazes.  I
kept on whirling, while her owner grasped the wheel and his eyes danced
nervously, as he expected her to flash into the throb that said steam
was on.

But she didn’t fire, and I kept cranking.

"Faster, Jack, harder!" he cried.

I whirled and whirled.  I began to get warm. The sweat began to pour
off.

"Say," I said, gasping for breath, "this beats turning a grindstone.
What the devil—"

"Why, I canth—thee," he lisped, "turnth again—quick—a tharp, sthnappy
onth!"

I turned her again, quick, sharp and snappy. The thing pulled heavy and
felt like an unoiled grindstone, just out of the store.  My arms ached,
the sweat poured off, and my back was nearly broken.

I gave her a final desperate twist, and—there she was!  Dead as a log
wagon.

"Confound it," I said, mopping my forehead and staggering up; "I could
have curried the mare and hitched her up six times.  Why, something’s
wrong with your old gas wagon," I went on, getting hot.  "I’ll not turn
this crank any more," I said; "I’ll be so sore in my arms I couldn’t
hold my gun straight to-day."

He looked puzzled, annoyed.

"Why, I can’t thee—" he began to lisp again.

"What’s that you’ve got in your mouth?" I jerked out.  "You don’t lisp
that way naturally."

A smile broke over his face.  He took out a little, black peg, and
roared.  It was too funny—to him.

"Beg yo’ pardon, old boy—beg yo’ pardon—ha-ha-ha!  Good joke.  That’s
the switch plug.  You take it out when the machine’s idle, and I forgot
to put it back in the little hole. Here," he said, sticking it in, "it
connects the current—ha-ha—good joke—now give her a whirl."  I gave the
whirl, but in no manner to enjoy the joke.  I heard her fire up and
begin to throb.  We moved off beautifully.  We began to fly up the
smooth pike, my hand back in Dick’s collar, for fear he’d jump out and
commit suicide. I dared not turn round to look the honest dog in the
eyes.

"Fine, fine—ain’t this fine, old man?" cried my friend enthusiastically,
as he buzzed up the road.  "Look at your watch—nine-twenty. Ah, now
we’ll be in the field at ten sharp—sharp—two good hours for hunting
before we eat our pocket lunch.

"Now your little old mare," he laughed, "would take up those fifteen
miles by now?  Say, ha! ha!—acknowledge the corn, old man—the decree has
gone forth—it’s all over with the old pacers."

I growled and said nothing.  So did Dick. It was good, though, the way
we were eating up space and getting nearer to the birds, those game,
nervy, whirring birds that dart like winged flashes of thunder before
your gun.  We whirled over the bridge at the river at lightning speed.
I saw the sign up about the fine for going faster than a walk, but how—

"How can an automobile walk—ha! ha!" he shouted, for he had read it also
and divined my thoughts and winked knowingly at me.  "That applies to
horses and jackasses and such," he laughed—"things that walk.  But this
don’t walk, eh?"

Honk!  Honk!

He was blowing for a stray mule to get out of his way.

The mule got, tail up, and settled into a barbed wire fence, which he
tried to jump, but only succeeded in cutting up his countenance.

Honk!  Honk!  "Get out of the way, if that’s all the sense, you’ve got.
My! but ain’t we buzzing?"

I nodded, beginning to become exhilarated myself.

"This is pretty good," I admitted.  "I begin to see how you people soon
become speed-crazy. We’ll get the birds to-day," I warmed up, "and I
thank you for—look out!  Stop!"

He stopped, but not in time.  It was a nervous-looking, old, fleabitten,
gray mare, full of Stackpole, Traveler, Dan Rice and Boston blood.  I
had seen it so often that I knew the very turn of its tail.  In the
buckboard she was pulling were three country girls, fat, solid, happy,
their lines wabbling around anywhere, and the old mare going where she
listeth.  They were the kind of girls I knew and loved in my sappy days.
I used to commence to kiss ’em about Christmas, knowing they’d wake up
and respond about the Fourth of July.  Two of them amply filled up the
buckboard, but, as usual, a third one had piled on top of the others
somewhere, and—

"Great heaven, Horace!" I shouted.  "Stop—that one there on top is
holding a baby!"

I sprang out, for I saw the old mare begin to squat, her old, scared,
brown eyes blazing in her white face like holes in a big lard can.  I
heard her snort like a scared bear and saw her feet pattering jigs all
over the pike.  Then she whirled, running into a fence, where, between
the overturned buckboard, the shafts and the rail fence, she stood
wedged upon her hind legs, pawing the air.

But the girls surprised me.  Without a change in their fat, immutable,
expressionless faces, they simply rolled out on the pike in a bunch, the
baby on top, like snow folks tilted over by a boy.

They got up, dusting their frocks.  They had taken it for granted.  It
was all right.  There was not a squawk, not even from the baby, as one
of them picked it up and I grabbed the bits and straightened out the old
mare.

"I hope you ladies aren’t hurt," said my friend from the roadside, in
his machine.

"Sally, is you hurt?" asked the fattest one.

"Naw," she grunted.

"Mamie, is you?"

Mamie merely wiggled.

"Is Tootsy hurt?"

Tootsy was eating an apple, with unblinking eyes fixed on the wonderful
machine.

Nothing was hurt but the harness.

That was hurt before they started, but I had to spend the next twenty
minutes patching it up. Finally we got them all in, Tootsy on top.  No
word had they spoken, but I could see they were eyeing me, with that
country suspicion that makes every maid of them rate every man she meets
in the road as Lothario, Jr., or a prince in disguise.

"Now, ladies, you are all right," I said, trying to keep cheerful.  "And
I am so glad none of you was hurt."

Then one of them drawled, but looking over toward the distant horizon,
"Ain’t you named Mister Jack?"

I turned red and pleaded guilty.

"After all you’ve writ, I don’t think you had oughter done this," she
said, and then they all drove sedately off, still looking toward the
horizon.

"Now that’s the worst thing about automobiles," said Horace, after we
started again, "these fool country horses.  Why, I waited till this time
of day, thinking they’d all be in town by now, for they get up with the
chickens.  Anyway, we’re not likely to meet any more of them."

"I hope not," I sighed, pulling out a cigar and a match, as I’d always
done in the buggy.  It was blown out before the sulphur burned.

"You can’t do that in an automobile," he yelled, "we’re going too fast.
Like to stop for you, but we’re fairly humming—be there in half an hour,
old man."  Honk!  Honk!

We had turned a bend in the road.

"Great Cæsar!" I shouted.  "Nobody going to town!  Look!"

His jaws dropped.  There they were.  We could see for half a mile, and
so help me heaven, but this was the procession that passed as we pulled
out of the narrow pike on the roadside, consumed with impatience to get
to the field, the machine throbbing beneath us like a loft over a barn
dance:

First an old sorrel mare, a worn-out buggy of the vintage of 1874, and
two old ladies.

The whole thing approached gingerly, creeping up like a yellow cat.  It
was a toss-up as to which of the two’s eyes popped the biggest, or which
had her mouth shut tightest.  The old mare was game, and sidled up, and
just as I saw the wheels begin to form in her head the occupants threw
down the lines and began to pop two pairs of country-yarned legs out of
the two sides of the buggy, exclaiming, "Fur ther Lord’s sake thar,
Mister, ketch ’er!"

I jumped out and had her by the bits.

One of them relieved herself by spitting snuff over the dashboard, while
the other took it out on me, deprecating the day when "Sech folks an’
things blocks up ther public trail—an’ so help me, ain’t that thar
Mister Jack, an’ my old man bred this mar’ by his say so!
Jack,—Ananias," she sniffed, as she drove off.

The next were right on us, two slick, three-year-old sugar-mules,
hauling a load of darkies. They came on at a rattling clip, making more
noise than a freight train, jollying, laughing and cackling.  The men
were on plank seats across the wagon, the women in high-back hickory
chairs, squatting low and feeling as good as Senegambians usually do in
a white man’s country, where he does all the worrying and thinking and
they do all the loafing and eating.

They passed us without a wabble.  I expected that, for a mule, like a
negro, never sees anything until he has passed it.  I saw the gate of
the wagon had been taken out in the rear to let the damsels in: also the
chickens, the coop of ducks, a bundle of coon-skins, pumpkins, a sack of
unwashed wool, some spare ribs and a tub of only such nice chitlings as
a country mammy can prepare.  They passed, and then the scare got into
those three-year-old corn feds good by way of their tails.  For I saw
these straighten out first, then their ears.  I saw the big driver fall
back on the lines, and—

"Whoa, dar!"

They jumped twenty feet in the first jump, and ran half a mile in spite
of his lugging and sawing. But the first jump was enough.  The damage
was done then, for everything in it but the driver, who held on to the
reins, came boiling out of the rear.  Up the road for half a mile was a
telegraph line of chitlings, the rest were mixed up. They all rose but
one damsel, weighing close to 468 pounds.  She sat still.  A young buck
went to help her up.

"G’way f’m heah, nigger, wait till I see ef my condiments is busted,"
she cried, feeling her sides and her chest.  "’Sides, I wants Brer Simon
to hope me up."

Brother Simon helped her and she was all right.

We gave her a dollar and the others a quarter each.  It was expensive,
but I deemed it just.

The following then passed with more or less hesitancy, shying and
plunging: a surrey and team; a boy and his best girl; a log wagon and
four mules, the leaders rushing by in terror, pulling the wheelers by
the neck, as they were trying to go the other way.

Then came Old ’Squire Jones on his roan Hal pacer.  The horse got
half-way by before he decided that the goggle eyes on the roadside had
him.  Well—no goggle eyes had ever caught any of his tribe—not yet!  In
bucking to wheel, he tapped the old ’Squire in the mouth with his poll.
The old man had been raised a Presbyterian, with Baptist propensities,
and he made the ozone sulphuric.  He brought his horse back to the
scratch, spurring and swearing.  It was all right this time, till the
old horse looked into the back of the machine.  True to the fool in his
pedigree, he knew what the machine was, because he had never seen one
before; but the dogs—they were things he had seen all his life, and he
bolted backward again, jamming the old ’Squire’s stomach against the
pommel and his back against the cantle.  It was the time to go, and we
shot out, leaving the old horse waltzing into town on his hind legs.

"I didn’t hear his last remarks," I said, as we went along.  "They
seemed to be rather personal."

"Let ’em go," said Horace.  "You wouldn’t want to put them in your
scrap-book."

"I don’t think the mare and buggy would have made us all these enemies,"
I remarked, "and we would have been there by now.  Do you know it’s
eleven o’clock?"

"We’ve got a fine run, now," he apologized. "We’ll be there in thirty
minutes."

"We’ll be there by night," I snarled.  "Say, we’ll just call it a possum
hunt, eh?"

This made him mad, and he did not speak till he got to the big hill.

Here at the foot we stopped and sat, throbbing.

Horace fumbled with a side brake a moment, touched a pedal and looked
wise.

"What’s all this for?" I said.

"I’m resting for a little headway before taking that steep hill.  And
say, while we’re at it, you ought to know something about a machine, you
might be called on to help me in an emergency."

I turned pale.  Up to this time I had felt secure.  Now I understood
something of the feelings of that pair of mules that never saw danger
until they had passed it.

"Why, I thought you knew all about it," I began.

"Of course I do, but something might happen to me.  You might be thrown
on your own resources.  Now here," he went on.  "This little lever on
the wheel is the spark-control—it quickens things—the next one is the
throttle; that means more power.  This is the switch-plug here: this is
the clutch, and this the brake.  Now, remember, and watch me start."

He did, the thing starting slowly up the hill and then beginning to go
in little jumps, exactly like a horse galloping.

"Pull him down," I growled, "he’s broken his gait."  For I felt every
moment as if it would soon wabble and quit.  But he kept galloping and I
settled down and began unconsciously to wabble my body as I would in
motion to a galloping horse.  I couldn’t help it.  I glanced at Horace,
he was doing the same, but hitching at the side lever all the time, and
we were bobbing like two Muscovy ducks over a mud hole.

It was uncomfortable, it was uncanny.

"Confound you," I growled, "I tell you the thing’s galloping—he’s all
tangled up; bring him down."

_Snap_ went something, and Horace breathed easy.

"All right now," he said, as we began to climb the hill beautifully.
Over the top we went, and then—down—down!  How she did fly!  My heart
jumped into my throat!  I held my breath and felt that same feeling I
used to feel pumping in a swing when I’d soar up to the top and start
down again, the same when I started down the elevator from the 19th
story of the Masonic Temple and felt my legs give way and threw my arms
around the neck of the elevator boy and begged him for heaven’s sake to
stop until I got my breath and my legs in speaking distance of each
other, and collected the rest of myself.

"Stop her," I cried, "down-this-hill-I’m-feeling-queer-Lord-I’m-stop, I
tell you!"

"It’s easy," he laughed.  "Do it yourself—on that brake—there—just to
teach you—there!"

Gasping for breath and pale with fright, I kicked up a little pedal.

The thing jumped twenty feet!

"Don’t!" I heard him yell, "Good Lord, that’s the throttle!"

I saw a big ditch on the other side of us.  I saw his hand dart quickly
to his side.

Like all man and woman-kind, in emergencies with a horse, I do the fool
thing, grab at the reins. This instinct overpowered me.  I grabbed the
brakes to help him.  I over-did it.  It stopped too quickly; it actually
kicked up behind.  It stopped like a twelve-inch ball striking armor
plate.  I went over clear across the ditch.  The three dogs were
faithful and they followed.

Horace tried it, but the steering wheel stopped him.

"It was my fault," I said, as I limped up, after the dogs got off of me.
"I grabbed at your reins, I guess—thought you were running away."

But the sudden stop had sprung something, and Horace was out fixing it.
He had pulled off his cap and got under the machine, and I saw the
beaded sweat begin to rise on the crown of his bald head, like bubbles
on a mill pond.

This did me a world of good.  I lighted a cigar, propped up and began to
smoke.

For half an hour he tinkered and tinkered.  I smoked and gave him such
bits of sarcastic encouragement as happened into my head.  I reminded
him that Tempus was fugiting, and that it was already quite 9:50 and we
were still ten miles from nowhere; that the little mare would have been
there by now, and we would still have some friends left on the pike.

"Consider the lilies that ride in automobiles," I quoted, "they toil
not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that old gray mare, in
all her glory, never worked as hard as you are working now."

It was my time, and Dick and I enjoyed it, sensible dog that he was.
After every bit of such talk he’d wink and fairly guffaw.

Horace was working hard.  He was groveling in the dirt to do it, too,
and that suited me also.  I could gauge his efforts by the sweat drops
that arose on his bald spot, growing and then bursting like soap
bubbles, to roll down his collar.

"Plague it!" he said at last, rising, "I can’t see very well without my
glasses.  Say, stop your guying, now, and look under here and see if you
can see what’s wrong."

I got out as leisurely as a lord; all I could see was a small coil of
wire, red hot.  "I see it," I said, solemnly.  "The thing’s appendix is
red hot.  Give me an axe and I’ll open it up."

Dick howled with delight.  I thought he’d die. Horace smiled grimly, but
it was a smile that said, "I’ll even this up yet."

"Put in your shells; we’ll hunt around toward that farm house, and up
there I’ll ’phone to town and have Smith come out and fix it."

Thus he spoke, and I agreed.  In fact, there was nothing else to do.  We
rolled the machine aside, the dogs were let out, and we were soon
quartering a field toward a farm house.

"Whose place is this?" I asked, as the dogs began to hunt down the wind.

"Old Bogair’s, a French Canadian.  He came here three years ago from
Canada; ticklish old fellow, but he knows me, and it’s all right."

I felt secure, for while the game law is very strict, requiring written
permission to hunt on one’s premises, intended as a guard against pot
hunters, no gentleman ever objected to another hunting on his farm.

We started through a cedar wood in a gladey spot and I saw Dick
beginning to nose the wind and to throw up his head for quail.  Then I
heard my companion calling lustily for me to come.  I rushed up, Dick at
my heels.

"What is it?" I asked.

"A coon—a big coon—up in that cedar tree. Get on the other side, quick!"

I ran around, and, sure enough, up among the branches, trying to hide,
but showing the end of a brindled and streaked tail, was the coon.

In a trice I let him have it, and he came crashing through the branches.
Dick ran up and seized it, shaking.  I saw yellow eyes, ears laid back,
and the coon spitting and fighting for life. It was dying, but struck
out, tearing Dick’s nose to threads.  I ran up and planted the heel of
my hunting boot on its neck, while Dick howled with his lacerated nose.

"That’s a funny looking coon," I said, as I eyed the thing suspiciously.
I heard Horace laugh and saw him turn and make a break for the road.  I
looked up.  Old Bogair had run up, red-faced and breathless.

"By gar," he yelled, as soon as he saw what I’d done, "vut fur you
keeled ze house cat fur? Vut fur?"

It was true; but never had I seen a tomcat look more like a coon.  On a
distant hillside I could see my deserting friend rolling on the grass
and shouting.

In vain I apologized.  Old Bogair kept dancing around and shouting, "Vut
fur you keel ze house cat fur?  Vut fur?"

"What are you damaged?" I said at last, with disgust.

"Ah, en passant—dees one from T’ronto, I breeng.  Hee’s registraire—fife
taller, an’ fife fur treespaire."

I paid it like a man.  Old Bogair smiled and bowed, with his hand on his
stomach.

"Eet vus all right now."

I took up the cat by the tail.

"Vut fur?  You don’t vant heem?" he gasped.

"Yes, I do," I said, hotly.  "He’s mine.  I’ve paid for him and I want
to take him over yonder and rub him under the nose of that villain that
induced me to go hunting in an automobile and steered me on the premises
of a damned Dago who keeps registered cats that look exactly like coons
when up a tree."

He thought I was complimenting him.

"Voilà—I t’ank you," he said, bowing again, with his hand on his
stomach.

I hunted around an hour before I went to the machine.  I waited to cool
off.  Dick found a fine covey, and I missed them right and left.  I had
lost my nerve and my luck.

When I reached the machine, Horace was in, blinking, and we said not a
word.  It was my time to freeze.  Smith had run out from town and fixed
it.  A little wire the size of a pencil-point had got an inch out of
place, and it had been as dead as a log wagon on us.

It was now exactly 3:30, but we decided we still had a chance to get a
covey.  We made the next three miles in beautiful time, meeting only one
man driving a game, high-headed horse that swept by us without giving us
the least notice.

"If they were all bred like that one," I said, "a man in a machine might
think he had some rights on the road."

"Glad you are beginning to see the other side," said Horace.

"We’ll be there by four," he said; "just the time the birds begin to
feed good.  Oh, we’ll get a few yet.  It’s a long lane, you know.  Our
luck is turning."

"This is fun," I said, as we flew along the newly-graveled road parallel
with the creek, "fine, give it to her."

The scenery was beautiful; the bluffs were draped in clustering red
berries, and the woods old gold and crimson.  The water foamed over the
lime rocks, glowing iridescent in the sun, and the air was bracing as we
buzzed along.

_Honk!  Honk!_  "Let her out!" I cried, as a touch of speed mania got
into me.  "Say, I see how it is," I said, "why a man soon gets the speed
mania in him.  Horsemen can’t blame you, for they have got it, too."

"Oh, we’re riding," he cried.  "You have an hour yet."

We were indeed riding, along a narrow path of the road rising to a
rather abrupt hill.  Rising and peeping over, I saw a long procession of
creeping things, their ears just shining above the hill we were both
ascending.

"Halt!  Stop!" I cried.

It was too late, everlastingly too late!  We were meeting a negro
funeral procession, that of good old Uncle Thomas, as good an old time
darky as ever lived.  I had known him well, a fellow of infinite jest.
But I did not recognize him promptly now.

I hate to write what followed.  I felt faint and sick.

Be it known that every negro loves to be buried behind white mules.  It
is his glory and his religion.  This kind was hauling Uncle Thomas. Now,
a white mule is an old mule, and the older the mule, the bigger the
fool, and when they peeped over the top of that hill, only to butt into
a goggle-eyed demon, they did what mules always do.  When I first saw
them I was looking at the north end of that negro hearse.  The next
instant I was looking at the south end.  And as the thing turned over
once to adjust itself to different direction, a venerable old darkey
shot out of the rear end of that hearse, followed by a two-dollar
coffin, and everything in that two miles of vehicles turned tail at the
same time.

I jumped out, grabbing my hunting coat, which I knew held a flask of
whiskey, and rushed pell-mell through the woods for the creek bank.  All
I wanted was a little water in that whiskey.

After satisfying myself I would not faint, I went back in time to see
that everything had been fixed and the procession headed north again.

"No, sah, it didn’t hurt Brer Thomas," the preacher was explaining to
Horace; "but it did upsot some of the sisterin, an’ they fainted when he
come outer the back end of that kerridge so nachul an’ briefly.  No,
sah; nobody’s hurt, sah; it wuz jes’ a sivigerus accerdent."

"How much money have you, Horace?  I’ve spent all mine on dead and
registered cats," I said, bitterly.

He had plenty, and tipped the whole two miles of them, as they passed
by, singing: "_Jordan is a hard road to travel._"

Never had that old song seemed so real to me!

"I stop right here," I said, after assuring myself that I would not
faint again.  "The sun is setting; we’ve been out all day, and found
nothing but a cat and a corpse."

Our experience had taken our nerve, and we waited two hours by the
roadside, way after dark, until we’d seen everything we met in the
morning go back home.

Then we lit up, and reached home at ten o’clock.

Eloise and the twins met me at the gate, scared to death.

"So glad you’re safe," she cried, kissing me. "I know you’ve got a full
bag, you’ve never failed, and, oh, dearie, I’ve invited a dozen ladies
over to-morrow for lunch, promising quail on toast, so I hope nothing
has happened."

By this time one of the twins was climbing over me, shouting, "Daddy,
show me old Bob White—show me old Brer Rabbit."  And the other echoed,
"Daddy, show me old Bob White—show me old Brer Rabbit."

The bitterness of it went into me.

"Quail on toast?" I cried with sarcasm. "Change it now, my dear; write
them all a note at once and tell them tomcat is better, for that’s all
I’ve killed to-day!  Just make it tomcat on toast!"

Eloise looked at me curiously.  "Jack, I believe you have taken one of
those cheap drinks."

"One?" I said.  "I drank a flask of it.  I had to or faint when I saw
poor old Uncle Thomas come out of the rear end of that hearse as natural
as life."

"Oh!" said Eloise, putting her fingers in her ears.  "Come in, dearie,
and I’ll give you another, poor dear!"

But it was rubbed in on me that night.  It was midnight when Eloise came
to my room.  I heard one of the twins crying.  "Come here, Jack," she
said laughing.  "One of them wants you, has waked up crying for you."

She was sitting up in bed and her lamentations were loud.  At sight of
me she broke out, "Daddy—you brought sister a dead cat
and—and—wouldn’t—bring me—me—one!"

To jolly her into good humor, as I often did, I picked her up and turned
her a somersault in the bed: I was unfortunate again—that accursed cat
and automobile!

Accidentally her head was bumped.

In blazing indignation, she sat up and spat upon me!

I retreated as best I could: "Your mother will spank you for that"—I
said.

She quieted—ashamed: but almost instantly the other one sat up in bed,
crying lustily.

"What do _you_ want?" I said.  "I thought you were asleep."

"Tum back here," she wailed heart-brokenly, "_and let me spit on you
too!_"

I heard Eloise laugh.

"Hang an automobile and a dead cat," I said, as I went out—"they are two
Jonahs that will always smell alike to me hereafter!"



                              *CHAPTER V*

                            *THE SICK TREE*


The going of my old grandsire was pathetic, for towards the last he lost
interest in the living, in everything except the great elm he had always
loved because his mother had nursed him under it.

"And it is dying, Jack, just as I am going; but I do so want it to live
until I am gone!"

"It shall, Grandfather," I said, "it is sick, but with a little surgery
I can save it.  It shall live twenty years longer."

The old tree, tall and beautiful even in death, was half rotted as it
stood.  Any violent wind was likely to snap it off.  Any great storm
would beat it to the earth.

Every morning the old man would rise and look first of all to see if his
tree was still standing.

He was greatly interested in the way I cured it. I cut away the dead rot
up the entire trunk; and when I had finished, little, except a shell,
remained.  Into this I drove a section of iron railing from a railway
track, fully fifteen feet high, driven five feet into the ground, down
among the old roots of the tree.  Around this and entirely filling the
hollow to the top of the iron rail, I poured cement, casing it in to fit
the old body that was gone, tucking sheets of zinc under the edges of
the bark whose layers carry the sap up and down.

When this was painted and treated to a coating of tar, it looked like
the great tree in its youth, and under a strong wind it swayed,
supported by the cement and its rod of steel, with all the strength of
its younger days.

There one evening, clasping it in the twilight, we found the old General
asleep.  It was the last sleep of a second childhood, and having no
mother for the lullaby, he had slept, his arms around the tree she had
loved.

The sun had set; the twilight had come; the great trees shadowed the
eternal hills.

The old warrior had died a tree-lover; the young tree-lover had been
forced, of God, to fight.

We plan, and, like the rough ashlar, we cut and hew; but the Sculptor is
God....


I do not know why Eloise should have risked it, but she did; and though
I would not have her try it again for The Home Stretch nor feel again
that memory-pang of horror when, for one brief second, I saw what she
meant to do, yet when it was done my heart beat fiercely with pride and
love for her.  How blessed are those children who have a mother both
brave and beautiful!

We had ridden to town one day, as we often did when the weather was fit.
And for a pretense she had me ride out to the Fair Grounds to see a new
colt in training.  I suspect she had fixed it all before; for I had seen
her practicing Satan on nearly every little ride, at jumps, stone walls,
mainly, and old rail fences up to four feet.

"Oh, it’s just to see if age and the campaigns of honorable war," she
laughed, "have stiffened the old fellow’s muscles or softened his
heart"; and she would reach over and pat his great neck.

At the track the old bars stood across.

I sickened at the sight of them, remembering. But Eloise, pretending not
to notice, glanced quickly at me.

"Who’s put them back there?" I asked, paling with fear of my own
suspicion.  "I’ll tear them down now and burn them," I said, dismounting
quickly.

But Eloise was too quick for me.  Even Satan knew her thought and at the
sound of her bantering laugh and the old sideway flash of the whip above
his ears, he flew like a winged horse at the bars.

I did not breathe, when, for one short, awful moment, I saw them mount
straight up toward the sky.  Then, realizing that age and service had
hampered his driving power behind, the game horse threw his front easily
over, and like a great see-saw swung across, bringing his rear limbs,
not straight, to tap the bars and be tangled, but sidewise and parallel,
barely saving his neck!

"Well, I did it!"  She rode up laughing, Satan trembling so with
excitement and the effort I could see his knees quivering, his flank
fluttering wildly.  And in Eloise’s face there was the white flag of
peril yet lingering before the red of victory.

She rode up close to me, her eyes lit with the tenderness of love’s
light, and bedewed with its tears: "_Kiss me, Jack, dearest—for that is
what I had sworn all the time I would do.   If—if they had only let me
break the world’s record that first time._"



                                THE END





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