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Title: Dorothy South
 - A Love Story of Virginia Just Before the War
Author: Eggleston, George Carry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dorothy South
 - A Love Story of Virginia Just Before the War" ***

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                        [Illustration: DOROTHY

                                SOUTH]

                            [Illustration:

             “_SHALL WE HAVE ONE OF OUR OLD-TIME HORSEBACK
                RIDES ‘SOON’ IN THE MORNING, DOROTHY?_”

                          (_See page 440._)]

                    [Illustration: _DOROTHY SOUTH_

           A LOVE STORY _of_ VIRGINIA JUST BEFORE _the_ WAR

                      _By_ GEORGE CARY EGGLESTON

                              AUTHOR _of_

 “A CAROLINA CAVALIER” “THE BALE MARKED CIRCLE X” “CAMP VENTURE” “THE
                        LAST OF THE FLATBOATS”

                     ILLUSTRATED BY C. D. WILLIAMS

                New York: GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers]

    [Illustration: COPYRIGHT, 1902, BY LOTHROP PUBLISHING COMPANY.

                         ALL RIGHTS RESERVED]

                    PUBLISHED MARCH, 1902

                    _12th THOUSAND, March 20_
                    _17th THOUSAND, May 20_
                    _22d THOUSAND, June 28_
                    _27th THOUSAND, July 25_
                    _32d THOUSAND, Aug. 20_
                    _37th THOUSAND, Nov. 4_
                    _40th THOUSAND, Nov. 8_
                    _42d THOUSAND, May 4_

                    BERWICK AND SMITH
                    PRINTERS
                    NORWOOD, MASS.



_CONTENTS_

[Illustration]


CHAPTER        PAGE

I. TWO ENCOUNTERS                                                     11

II. WYANOKE                                                           25

III. DR. ARTHUR BRENT                                                 36

IV. DR. BRENT IS PUZZLED                                              47

V. ARTHUR BRENT’S TEMPTATION                                          62

VI. NOW YOU MAY CALL ME DOROTHY                                       77

VII. SHRUB HILL CHURCH                                                91

VIII. A DINNER AT BRANTON                                            101

IX. DOROTHY’S CASE                                                   117

X. DOROTHY VOLUNTEERS                                                135

XI. THE WOMAN’S AWAKENING                                            150

XII. MAMMY                                                           156

XIII. THE “SONG BALLADS” OF DICK                                     166

XIV. DOROTHY’S AFFAIRS                                               175

XV. DOROTHY’S CHOICE                                                 184

XVI. UNDER THE CODE                                                  191

XVII. A REVELATION                                                   199

XVIII. ALONE IN THE CARRIAGE                                         217

XIX. DOROTHY’S MASTER                                                222

XX. A SPECIAL DELIVERY LETTER                                        230

XXI. HOW A HIGH BRED DAMSEL CONFRONTED
FATE, AND DUTY                                                       237

XXII. THE INSTITUTION OF THE DUELLO                                  253

XXIII. DOROTHY’S REBELLION                                           263

XXIV. TO GIVE DOROTHY A CHANCE                                       27O

XXV. AUNT POLLY’S VIEW OF THE RISKS                                  286

XXVI. AUNT POLLY’S ADVICE                                            295

XXVII. DIANA’S EXALTATION                                            306

XXVIII. THE ADVANCING SHADOW                                         314

XXIX. THE CORRESPONDENCE OF DOROTHY                                  322

XXX. AT SEA                                                          346

XXXI. THE VIEWS AND MOODS OF ARTHUR BRENT                            363

XXXII. THE SHADOW FALLS                                              377

XXXIII. “AT PARIS IT WAS”                                            391

XXXIV. DOROTHY’S DISCOVERY                                           404

XXXV. THE BIRTH OF WAR                                               424

XXXVI. THE OLD DOROTHY AND THE NEW                                   429

XXXVII. AT WYANOKE                                                   435

XXXVIII. SOON IN THE MORNING                                         441



LIST _of_ ILLUSTRATIONS

[Illustration]


“_Shall we have one of our old-time horseback
rides ‘soon’ in the morning, Dorothy?_”

(_Frontispiece._)

“_Who is your Miss Dorothy?_”

(_Page 17._)

“_I won’t call you a fool because the Bible says
I mustn’t._”

(_Page 178._)

_Dorothy South._

(_Page 304._)

“_In that music my soul laid itself bare to yours
and prayed for your love._”

(_Page 417._)

_“Aunt Polly!” he said abruptly, “I want
your permission to marry Dorothy.”_

(_Page 452._)

[Illustration: DOROTHY

SOUTH]



DOROTHY SOUTH

[Illustration]



I

TWO ENCOUNTERS


_I_t was a perfect day of the kind that Mr. Lowell has celebrated in
song--“a day in June.” It was, moreover, a day glorified even beyond Mr.
Lowell’s imagining, by the incomparable climate of south side Virginia.

A young man of perhaps seven and twenty, came walking with vigor down
the narrow roadway, swinging a stick which he had paused by the wayside
to cut. The road ran at this point through a luxuriantly growing
woodland, with borders of tangled undergrowth and flowers on either
side, and with an orchestra of bird performers all around. The road was
a public highway, though it would never have been taken for such in any
part of the world except in a south side county of Virginia in the late
fifties. It was a narrow track, bearing few traces of any heavier
traffic than that of the family carriages in which the gentle, high-born
dames and maidens of the time and country were accustomed to make their
social rounds.

There was a gate across the carriage track--a gate constructed in
accordance with the requirement of the Virginia law that every gate set
up across a public highway should be “easily opened by a man on
horseback.”

Near the gate the young man slackened his vigorous pace and sat down
upon a recently fallen tree. He remembered enough of his boyhood’s
experience in Virginia to choose a green log instead of a dry one for
his seat. He had had personal encounters with chigoes years ago, and
wanted no more of them. He sat down not because he was tired, for he was
not in the least so, but simply because, finding himself in the midst of
a refreshingly and inspiringly beautiful scene, he desired to enjoy it
for a space. Besides, he was in no hurry. Nobody was expecting him, and
he knew that dinner would not be served whither he was going until the
hour of four--and it was now only a little past nine.

The young man was fair to look upon. A trifle above the medium height,
his person was symmetrical and his finely formed head was carried with
an ease and grace that suggested the reserve strength of a young bull.
His features were about equally marked by vigor and refinement. His was
the countenance of a man well bred, who, to his inheritance of good
breeding had added education and such culture as books, and earnest
thinking, and a favorable association with men of intellect are apt to
bring to one worthy to receive the gift.

He seemed to know the spot wherein he lingered. Indeed he had asked no
questions as to his way when less than an hour ago he had alighted from
the pottering train at the village known as the Court House. He had said
to the old station agent, “I will send for my baggage later.” Then he
had set off at a brisk walk down one of the many roads that converged at
this centre of county life and affairs. The old station master, looking
after him, had muttered: “He seems to think he knows his way. Mebbe he
does, but anyhow he’s a stranger in these parts.”

And indeed that would have been the instant conclusion of any one who
should have looked at him as he sat there by the roadside enjoying the
sweet freshness of the morning, and the exquisite abandon with which
exuberant nature seemed to mock at the little track made through the
tangled woodlands by intrusive man. The youth’s garb betrayed him
instantly. In a country where black broadcloth was then the universal
wear of gentlemen, our young gentleman was clad in loosely fitting but
perfectly shaped white flannels, the trousers slightly turned up to
avoid the soil of travel, the short sack coat thrown open, and the full
bosomed shirt front of bishop’s lawn or some other such sheer stuff,
being completely without a covering of vest. Obviously the young
pedestrian did not belong to that part of the world which he seemed to
be so greatly enjoying.

That is what Dick thought, when Dick rode up to the gate. Dick was a
negro boy of fourteen summers or about that. His face was a bright,
intelligent one, and he looked a good deal of the coming athlete as he
sat barebacked upon the large roan that served him for steed. Dick wore
a shirt and trousers, and nothing else, except a dilapidated straw hat
which imperfectly covered his closely cropped wool. His feet were bare,
but the young man made mental note of the fact that they bore the
appearance of feet accustomed to be washed at least once in every twenty
four hours.

“Does your mammy make you wash your feet every night, or do you do it of
your own accord?” The question was the young man’s rather informal
beginning of a conversation.

“Mammy makes me,” answered the boy, with a look of resentment in his
face. “Mammy’s crazy about washin’. She makes me git inter a bar’l o’
suds ev’ry night an’ scrub myself like I was a floor. That’s cause she’s
de head washerwoman at Wyanoke. She’s got washin’ on de brain.”

“So you’re one of the Wyanoke people, are you? Whom do you belong to
now?”

“I don’t jes’ rightly know, Mahstah”--Dick sounded his a’s like “aw” in
“claw.” “I don’t jes’ rightly know, Mahstah. Ole Mas’r he’s done daid,
an’ de folks sez a young Yankee mahstah is a comin’ to take position.”

“To take possession, you mean, don’t you?”

“I dunno. Somefin o’ dat sort.”

“Why do you call him a Yankee master?”

“O ’cause he libs at de Norf somewhar. I reckon mebbe he ain’t quite so
bad as dat. Dey say he was born in Ferginny, but I reckon he’s done lib
in de Norf among the Yankees so long dat he’s done forgit his manners
an’ his raisin.”

“What’s your name?” asked the young man, seemingly interested in Dick.

“My name’s Dick, Sah.”

“Dicksah--or Dick?”

“Jes’ Dick, so,” answered the boy.

“Oh! Well, that’s a very good name. It’s short and easy to say.”

“_Too_ easy!” said the boy.

“‘Too easy?’ How do you mean?” queried the young man.

“Oh, nuffin’, only it’s allus ‘Dick, do dis!’ ‘Dick do dat.’ ‘Dick go
dar,’ ’Dick come heah,’ an’ ‘Dick, Dick, Dick’ all de day long.”

“Then they work you pretty hard do they? You don’t look emaciated.”

“Maishy what, Mahstah?”

“Oh, never mind that. It’s a Chinese word that I was just saying to
myself. Do they work you too hard? What do you do?”

“Oh, I don’t do nuffin’ much. Only when I lays down in de sun an’ jes’
begins to git quiet like, Miss Polly she calls me to pick some peas in
de gyahden, er Miss Dorothy she says, ‘Dick, come heah an’ help me range
dese flowers,’ or Mammy, she says, ‘Dick, you lazy bones, come heah an’
put some wood under my wash biler.’”

“But what is your regular work?”

“Reg’lar wuk?” asked the boy, his eyes growing saucer-like in
astonishment, “I ain’t

[Illustration: “_WHO IS YOUR MISS DOROTHY?_”]

got no reg’lar wuk. I feeds de chickens, sometimes, and fin’s hens’
nests an’ min’s chillun, an’ dribes de tukkeys into de tobacco lots to
eat de grasshoppers an’ I goes aftah de mail. Dat’s what I’se a doin’
now. Leastways I’se a comin’ back wid de mail wot I done been an’ gone
after.”

“Is that all?”

“Dat’s nuff, ain’t it, Mahstah?”

“I don’t know. I wonder what your new master will think when he comes.”

“Golly, so do I. Anyhow, he’s a Yankee, an’ he won’t know how much wuk a
nigga ought to do. I’ll be his pussonal servant, I reckon. Leastways
dat’s what Miss Dorothy say she tink.”

“Who is your Miss Dorothy?” the young man asked with badly simulated
indifference, for this was a member of the Wyanoke family of whom Dr.
Arthur Brent had never before heard.

“Miss Dorothy? Why, she’s jes’ Miss Dorothy, so.”

“But what’s her other name?”

“I dunno. I reckon she ain’t got no other name. Leastways I dunno.”

“Is Wyanoke a fine plantation?”

“Fine, Mahstah? It’s de very finest dey is. It’s all out o-doors and I
reckon dey’s a thousand cullud people on it.”

“Oh, hardly that,” answered the young man--“say eight or nine
hundred--or perhaps one hundred would be nearer the mark.”

“No, _Sir_! De Brents is quality folks, Mahstah. Dey’s got more’n a
thousan’ niggas, an’ two or three thousan’ horses, an’ as fer cows an’
hawgs you jes’ cawn’t count ’em! Dey eats dinner offen chaney plates
every day an’ de forks at Wyanoke is all gold.”

“How many carriages do they keep, Dick?”

“Sebenteen, besides de barouche an’ de carryall.”

“Well, now you’d better be moving on. Your Miss Polly and your Miss
Dorothy may be waiting for their letters.”

As the boy rode away, Dr. Arthur Brent resumed his brisk walk. He no
longer concerned himself with the landscape, or the woods, or the wild
flowers, or the beauty of the June morning, or anything else. He was
thinking, and not to much purpose.

“Who the deuce,” he muttered, “can this Miss Dorothy be? Of course I
remember dear old Aunt Polly. She has always lived at Wyanoke. But who
is Dorothy? As my uncle wasn’t married of course he had no daughter.
And besides, if he had, she would be his heir, and I should never have
inherited the property at all. I wonder if I have inherited a family,
with the land? Psha! Dick invented Miss Dorothy, of course. Why didn’t I
think of that? I remember my last stay of a year at Wyanoke, and
everything about the place. There was no Dorothy there then, and pretty
certainly there is none now. Dick invented her, just as he invented the
gold forks, and the thousand negroes, and all those multitudinous
horses, carriages, cows and hogs. That black rascal has a creative
genius--a trifle ill regulated perhaps, but richly productive. It failed
him for the moment when I demanded a second name for Dorothy. But if I
had persisted in that line of inquiry he would pretty certainly have
endowed the girl with a string of surnames as completely fictitious as
the woman herself is. I’ll have some fun out of that boy. He has
distinct psychological possibilities.”

Continuing his walk in leisurely fashion like one whose mind is busy
with reflection, Dr. Arthur Brent came at last to a great gate at the
side of the road--a gate supported by two large pillars of hewn stone,
and flanked by a smaller gate intended for the use of foot farers like
himself.

“That’s the entrance gate to the plantation,” he reflected. “I had
thought it half a mile farther on. Memory has been playing me its usual
trick of exaggerating everything remembered from boyhood. I was only
fifteen or sixteen when I was last at Wyanoke, and the road seems
shorter now than it did then. But this is surely the gate.”

Passing through the wicket, he presently found himself in a forest of
young hickory trees. He remembered these as having been scarcely higher
than the head of a man on horseback at the time of his last visit. They
had been planted by his uncle to beautify the front entrance to the
plantation, and, with careful foresting they had abundantly fulfilled
that purpose. Growing rather thickly, they had risen to a height of
nearly fifty feet, and their boles had swelled to a thickness of eight
or ten inches, while all undergrowth of every kind had been carefully
suppressed. The tract of land thus timbered by cultivation to replace
the original pine forest, embraced perhaps seventy-five or a hundred
acres, and the effect of it in a country where forest growths were
usually permitted to lead riotous lives of their own, was impressive.

As the young man turned one of the curves of the winding carriage road,
four great hounds caught sight of him and instantly set upon him. At
that moment a young girl, perched upon a tall chestnut mare galloped
into view. Thrusting two fingers of her right hand into her mouth, she
whistled shrilly between them, thrice repeating the searching sound.
Instantly the huge hounds cowered and slunk away to the side of the
girl’s horse. Their evident purpose was to go to heel at once, but their
mistress had no mind for that.

“Here!” she cried. “Sit up on your haunches and take your punishment.”

The dogs obediently took the position of humble suppliants, and the girl
dealt to each, a sharp cut with the flexible whip she carried slung to
her pommel. “Now go to heel, you naughty fellows!” she commanded, and
with a stately inclination of her body she swept past the young man, not
deigning even to glance in his direction.

“By Jove!” exclaimed Dr. Brent, “that was done as a young queen might
have managed it. She saved my life, punished her hounds to secure their
future obedience, and barely recognizing my existence--doing even that
for her own sake, not mine--galloped away as if this superb day belonged
to her! And she isn’t a day over fifteen either.” In that Dr. Brent was
mistaken. The girl had passed her sixteenth birthday, three months ago.
“I doubt if she is half as long as that graceful riding habit she is
wearing.” Then after a moment he said, still talking to himself, “I’ll
wager something handsome that that girl is as shy as a fawn. They always
are shy when they behave in that queenly, commanding way. The shyer they
are the more they affect a stately demeanor.”

Dr. Arthur Brent was a man of a scientific habit of mind. To him
everything and everybody was apt to assume somewhat the character of a
“specimen.” He observed minutely and generalized boldly, even when his
“subject” happened to be a young woman or, as in this case, a slip of a
girl. All facts were interesting to him, whether facts of nature or
facts of human nature. He was just now as earnest in his speculations
concerning the girl he had so oddly encountered, as if she had been a
new chemical reaction.

Seating himself by the roadside he tried to recall all the facts
concerning her that his hasty glance had enabled him to observe.

“If I were an untrained observer,” he reflected, “I should argue from
her stately dignity and the reserve with which she treated me--she
being only an unsophisticated young girl who has not lived long enough
to ‘adopt’ a manner with malice aforethought--I should argue from her
manner that she is a girl highly bred, the daughter of some blue blooded
Virginia family, trained from infancy by grand dames, her aunts and that
sort of thing, in the fine art of ‘deportment.’ But as I am not an
untrained observer, I recall the fact that stage queens do that sort of
thing superbly, even when their mothers are washerwomen, and they
themselves prefer corned beef and cabbage to truffled game. Still as
there are no specimens of that kind down here in Virginia, I am forced
to the conclusion that this young Diana is simply the highly bred and
carefully dame-nurtured daughter of one of the great plantation owners
hereabouts, whose manner has acquired an extra stateliness from her
embarrassment and shyness. Girls of fifteen or sixteen don’t know
exactly where they stand. They are neither little girls nor young women.
They have outgrown the license of the one state without having as yet
acquired the liberty of action that belongs to the other.” Thus the
youth’s thoughts wandered on. “That girl is a rigid disciplinarian,” he
reflected. “How sternly she required those hounds to sit on their
haunches and take the punishment due to their sins! I’ll be bound she
has herself been set in a corner for many a childish naughtiness. Yet
she is not cruel. She struck each dog only a single blow--just
punishment enough to secure better manners in future. An ill tempered
woman would have lashed them more severely. And a woman less
self-controlled would have struck out with her whip without making the
dogs sit up and realize the enormity of their offence. A less well-bred
girl would have said something to me in apology for her hounds’
misbehavior. This one was sufficiently sensible to see that unless I
were a fool--in which case I should have been unworthy of attention--her
disciplining of the dogs was apology enough without supplementary
speech. I must find out who she is and make her acquaintance.”

Then a sudden thought struck him; “By Jove!” he exclaimed aloud, “I
wonder if her name is Dorothy!”

Then the young man walked on.



II

WYANOKE


_H_alf an hour later Arthur Brent entered the house grounds of
Wyanoke--the home of his ancestors for generations past and his own
birthplace. The grounds about the mansion were not very large--two acres
in extent perhaps--set with giant locust trees that had grown for a
century or more in their comfortable surrounding of closely clipped and
luxuriant green sward. Only three trees other than the stately locusts,
adorned the house grounds. One of these was a huge elm, four feet thick
in its stem, with great limbs, branching out in every direction and
covering, altogether, a space of nearly a quarter acre of ground, but so
high from the earth that the carpet of green sward grew in full
luxuriance to the very roots of the stupendous tree. How long that
aboriginal monarch had been luxuriating there, the memory of man could
make no report. The Wyanoke plantation book, with its curiously minute
record of everything that pertained to the family domain, set forth the
fact that the “new mansion house”--the one still in use,--was built in
the year 1711, and that its southeasterly corner stood “two hundred and
thirty nine feet due northwest of the Great Elm which adorns the lawn.”
A little later than the time of Arthur Brent’s return, that young man of
a scientific mental habit made a survey to determine whether or not the
Great Elm of 1859 was certainly the same that had been named “the Great
Elm” in 1711. Finding it so he reckoned that the tree must be many
hundreds--perhaps even a thousand years of age. For the elm is one of
the very slowest growing of trees, and Arthur Brent’s measurements
showed that the diameter of this one had increased not more than six
inches during the century and a half since it had been accepted as a
conspicuous landmark for descriptive use in the plantation book.

The other trees that asked of the huge locusts a license to live upon
that lawn, were two quick-growing Asiatic mulberries, planted in
comparatively recent times to afford shade to the front porch.

The house was built of wood, heavily framed, large roomed and gambrel
roofed. Near it stood the detached kitchen in the edge of the apple
orchard, and farther away the quarters of the house servants.

As Arthur Brent strolled up the walk that led to the broad front doors
of the mansion his mind was filled with a sense of peace. That was the
dominant note of the house and all of its surroundings. The great,
self-confident locust trees that had stood still in their places while
generations of Brents had come and gone, seemed to counsel rest as the
true philosophy of life. The house itself seemed to invite repose. Even
the stately peacock that strolled in leisurely laziness beneath the
great elm seemed, in his very being, a protest against all haste, all
worry, all ambition of action and change.

“I do not know,” thought the young man, as he contemplated the
immeasurably restful scene, “what the name Wyanoke signifies in the
Indian tongue from which it was borrowed. But surely it ought to mean
rest, contentment, calm.”

That thought, and the inspiration of it, were destined to play their
part as determinative influences in the life of the young man whose mind
was thus impressed. There lay before him, though he was unconscious of
the fact, a life struggle between stern conviction and sweet
inclination, between duty and impulse, between intensity of mind and
lassitude of soul. There were other factors to complicate the problem,
but these were its chief terms, and it is the purpose of this chronicle
to show in what fashion the matter was wrought out.

Advancing to the porch, Arthur rapped thrice with the stick that he
carried. That was because he had passed the major part of his life
elsewhere than in Virginia. If such had not been the case he would have
interpreted the meaning of the broad open doors aright, and would have
walked in without any knocking at all.

As it was, Johnny, the “head dining room servant,” as he was called in
Virginia--the butler, as he would have been called elsewhere--heard the
unaccustomed sound of knocking, and went to the door to discover what it
might mean. To him Arthur handed a visiting card, and said simply: “Your
Miss Polly.”

The comely and intelligent serving man was puzzled by the card. He had
not the slightest notion of its use or purpose. In his bewilderment he
decided that the only thing to be done with it was to take it to his
“Miss Polly,” which, of course, was precisely what Arthur Brent desired
him to do. There was probably not another visiting card in all that
country side--for the Virginians of that time used few formalities, and
very simple ones in their social intercourse. They went to visit their
friends, not to “call” upon them. Pasteboard politeness was a factor
wholly unknown in their lives.

Miss Polly happened to be at that moment in the garden directing old
Michael,--the most obstinately obstructive and wilful of gardeners,--to
do something to the peas that he was resolutely determined not to do,
and to leave something undone to the tomatoes which he was bent upon
doing. On receipt of the card, she left Michael to his own devices, and
almost hurried to the house. “Almost hurried,” I say, for Miss Polly was
much too stately and dignified a person to quicken a footstep upon any
occasion.

She was “Miss Polly” to the negro servants. To everybody else she was
“Cousin Polly,” or “Aunt Polly,” and she had been that from the period
described by the old law writers as “the time whereof the memory of man
runneth not to the contrary.” How old she was, nobody knew. She looked
elderly in a comfortable, vigorous way. Gray hair was at that time
mistakenly regarded as a reproach to women--a sign of advancing age
which must be concealed at all costs. Therefore Aunt Polly’s white locks
were kept closely shaven, and covered with a richly brown wig. For the
rest, she was a plump person of large proportions, though not in the
least corpulent. Her dignity was such as became her age and her
lineage--which latter was of the very best. She knew her own value, and
respected, without aggressively asserting it. She had never been
married--unquestionably for reasons of her own--but her single state had
brought with it no trace or tinge of bitterness, no suggestion of
discontent. She was, and had always been, a woman in perfect health of
mind and body, and the fact was apparent to all who came into her
comfortable presence.

She had a small but sufficient income of her own, but, being an
“unattached female”--as the phrase went at a time when people were too
polite to name a woman an “old maid,”--she had lived since early
womanhood at Wyanoke; and since the late bachelor owner of the estate,
Arthur Brent’s uncle, had come into the inheritance, she had been
mistress of the mansion, ruling there with an iron rod of perfect
cleanliness and scrupulous neatness, according to housekeeping standards
from which she would abate no jot or tittle upon any conceivable
account. Fortunately for her servitors, there were about seven of them
to every one that was reasonably necessary.

She was a woman of high intelligence and of a pronounced wit,--a wit
that sometimes took humorous liberties with the proprieties, to the
embarrassment of sensitive young people. She was well read and well
informed, but she never did believe that the world was round, her
argument being that if such were the case she would be standing on her
head half the time. She also refused to believe in railroads. She was
confident that “the Yankees” had built railroads through Virginia, with
a far seeing purpose of overrunning and conquering that state and
possessing themselves of its plantations. Finally, she regarded Virginia
as the only state or country in the world in which a person of taste and
discretion could consent to be born. Her attitude toward all dwellers
beyond the borders of Virginia, closely resembled that of the Greeks
toward those whom they self assertively classed as “the barbarians.” How
far she really cherished these views, or how far it was merely her humor
to assert them, nobody ever found out. To all this she added the
sweetest temper and the most unselfish devotion to those about her,
that it is possible to imagine. She was very distantly akin to Arthur,
if indeed she was akin to him at all. But in his childhood he had
learned to call her “Aunt Polly,” and during that year of his boyhood
which he had spent at Wyanoke, he had known her by no other title. So
when she came through the rear doors to meet him in the great hall which
ran through the house from front to rear, he advanced eagerly and
lovingly to greet her as “Aunt Polly.”

The first welcome over, Aunt Polly became deeply concerned over the fact
that Arthur Brent had walked the five or six miles that lay between the
Court House and Wyanoke.

“Why didn’t you get a horse, Arthur, or better still why didn’t you send
me word that you were coming? I would have sent the carriage for you.”

“Which one, Aunt Polly?”

“Why, there’s only one, of course.”

“Why, I was credibly informed this morning that there were seventeen
carriages here besides the barouche and the carryall.”

“Who could have told you such a thing as that? And then to think of
anybody accusing Wyanoke of a ‘carryall!’”

“How do you mean, Aunt Polly?”

“Why, no _gentleman_ keeps a carryall. I believe Moses the storekeeper
at the Court House has one, but then he has nine children and needs it.
Besides he doesn’t count.”

“Why not, Aunt Polly? Isn’t he a man like the rest of us?”

“A man? Yes, but like the rest of us--no. He isn’t a gentleman.”

“Does he misbehave very grossly?”

“Oh, no. He is an excellent man I believe, and his children are as
pretty as angels; but, Arthur, he _keeps a store_.”

Aunt Polly laid a stress upon the final phrase as if that settled the
matter beyond even the possibility of further discussion.

“Oh, that’s it, is it?” asked the young man with a smile. “In Virginia
no man keeps a carryall unless he is sufficiently depraved to keep a
store also. But I wonder why Dick told me we had a carryall at Wyanoke
besides the seventeen carriages.”

“Oh, you saw Dick, then? Why didn’t you take his horse and make him get
you a saddle somewhere? By the way, Dick had an adventure this morning.
Out by the Garland gate he was waylaid by a man dressed all in white
‘jes’ like a ghos’,’ Dick says, with a sword and two pistols. The fellow
tried to take the mail bag away from him, but Dick, who is
quick-witted, struck him suddenly, made his horse jump the gate, and
galloped away.”

“Aunt Polly,” said the young man with a quizzical look on his face,
“would you mind sending for Dick to come to me? I very much want to hear
his story at first hands, for now that I am to be master of Wyanoke, I
don’t intend to tolerate footpads and mail robbers in the neighborhood.
Please send for Dick. I want to talk with him.”

Aunt Polly sent, but Dick was nowhere to be found for a time. When at
last he was discovered in a fodder loft, and dragged unwillingly into
his new master’s presence, the look of consternation on his face was so
pitiable that Arthur Brent decided not to torture him quite so severely
as he had intended.

“Dick,” he said, “I want you to get me some cherries, will you?”

“‘Cou’se I will, Mahstah,” answered the boy, eagerly and turning to
escape.

“Wait a minute, Dick. I want you to bring me the cherries on a china
plate, and give me one of the gold forks to eat them with. Then go to
the carriage-house and have all seventeen of my carriages brought up
here for me to look at. Tell the hostlers to send me one or two hundred
of the horses, too. There! Go and do as I tell you.”

“What on earth do you mean, Arthur?” asked Aunt Polly, who never had
quite understood the whimsical ways of the young man. “I tell you there
is only one carriage--”

“Never mind, Aunt Polly. Dick understands me. He and I had an interview
out there by the Garland gate this morning. Mail robbers will not
trouble him again, I fancy, now that his ‘Yankee Master’ is ‘in
position,’ as he puts it. But please, Aunt Polly, send some one with a
wagon to the Court House after my trunks.”



III

DR. ARTHUR BRENT


_A_rthur Brent had been born at Wyanoke, twenty seven years or so before
the time of our story. His father, one of a pair of brothers, was a man
imbued with the convictions of the Revolutionary period--the convictions
that prompted the Virginians of that time to regard slavery as an
inherited curse to be got rid of in the speediest possible way
compatible with the public welfare. There were still many such
Virginians at that time. They were men who knew the history of their
state and respected the teachings of the fathers. They remembered how
earnestly Thomas Jefferson had insisted upon writing into Virginia’s
deed of cession of the North West Territory, a clause forever
prohibiting slavery in all the fair “Ohio Country”--now constituting
Indiana, Illinois and the other great states of the Middle West. They
held in honor, as their fathers before them had done, the memory of
Chancellor George Wythe, who had well-nigh impoverished himself in
freeing the negroes he had inherited and giving them a little start in
the world. They were the men to whom Henry Clay made confident appeal in
that effort to secure the gradual extirpation of the system which was
the first and was repeated as very nearly the last of his labors of
statesmanship.

These men had no sympathy or tolerance for “abolitionist” movements.
They desired and intended that slavery should cease, and many of them
impoverished themselves in their efforts to be personally rid of it. But
they resented as an impertinence every suggestion of interference with
it on the part of the national government, or on the part of the
dwellers in other states.

For these men accepted, as fully as the men of Massachusetts once did,
the doctrine that every state was sovereign except in so far as it had
delegated certain functions of sovereignty to the general government.
They held it to be the absolute right of each state to regulate its
domestic affairs in its own way, and they were ready to resent and
resist all attempts at outside interference with their state’s
institutions, precisely as they would have resisted and resented the
interference of anybody with the ordering of their personal households.

Arthur Brent’s father, Brandon Brent, was a man of this type. Upon
coming of age and soon afterwards marrying, he determined, as he
formulated his thought, to “set himself free.” When Arthur was born he
became more resolute than ever in this purpose, under the added stimulus
of affection for his child. “The system” he said to his wife, “is
hurtful to young white men, I do not intend that Arthur shall grow up in
the midst of it.”

So he sold to his brother his half interest in the four or five thousand
acres which constituted Wyanoke plantation, and with the proceeds
removed those of the negroes who had fallen to his share to little farms
which he had bought for them in Indiana.

This left him with a wife, a son, and a few hundred dollars with which
to begin life anew. He went West and engaged in the practice of the law.
He literally “grew up with the country.” He won sufficient distinction
to represent his district in Congress for several successive terms, and
to leave behind him when he died a sweetly savored name for all the
higher virtues of honorable manhood.

He left to his son also, a fair patrimony, the fruit of his personal
labors in his profession, and of the growth of the western country in
which he lived.

At the age of fifteen, the boy had been sent to pass a delightful year
at Wyanoke, while fitting himself for college under the care of the same
tutor who had personally trained the father, and whose influence had
been so good that the father invoked it for his son in his turn. The old
schoolmaster had long since given up his school, but when Brandon Brent
had written to him a letter, attributing to his influence and teaching
all that was best in his own life’s success, and begging him to crown
his useful life’s labors with a like service to this his boy, he had
given up his ease and undertaken the task.

Arthur had finished his college course, and was just beginning, with
extraordinary enthusiasm, his study of medicine when his father died,
leaving him alone in the world; for the good mother had passed away
while the boy was yet a mere child.

After his father’s death, Arthur found many business affairs to arrange.
Attention to these seriously distracted him, greatly to his annoyance,
for he had become an enthusiast for scientific acquirement, and grudged
every moment of time that affairs occupied to the neglect of his
studies. In this mood of irritation with business details, the young man
decided to convert the whole of his inheritance into cash and to invest
the proceeds in annuities. “I shall never marry,” he told himself. “I
shall devote my whole life to science. I shall need only a moderate
income to provide for my wants, but that income must come to me without
the distraction of mind incident to the earning of it. I must be
completely a free man--free to live my own life and pursue my own
purposes.”

So he invested all that he had in American and English annuity
companies, and when that business was completed, he found himself secure
in an income, not by any means large but quite sufficient for all his
needs, and assured to him for all the years that he might live. “I shall
leave nothing behind me when I die,” he reflected, “but I shall have
nobody to provide for, and so this is altogether best.”

Then he set himself to work in almost terrible earnest. He lived in the
laboratories, the hospitals, the clinics and the libraries. When his
degree as a physician was granted his knowledge of science, quite
outside the ordinary range of medical study was deemed extraordinary by
his professors. A place of honor in one of the great medical colleges
was offered to him, but he declined it, and went to Germany and France
instead. He had fairly well mastered the languages of those two
countries, and he was minded now to go thither for instruction, under
the great masters in biology and chemistry and physics.

Two years later--and four years before the beginning of this story,
there came to Arthur Brent an opportunity of heroic service which he
promptly embraced. There broke out, in Norfolk, in his native state, in
the year 1855, such an epidemic of yellow fever as had rarely been known
anywhere before, and it found a population peculiarly susceptible to the
subtle poison of the scourge.

Facing the fact that he was in no way immune, the young physician
abandoned the work he had returned from Paris to New York to do, and
went at once to the post of danger as a volunteer for medical service.
Those whose memories stretch back to that terrible year of 1855,
remember the terms in which Virginia and all the country echoed the
praises of Dr. Arthur Brent, the plaudits that everywhere greeted his
heroic devotion. The newspapers day by day were filled with despatches
telling with what tireless devotion this mere boy--he was scarcely more
than twenty three years of age--was toiling night and day at his self
appointed task, and how beneficent his work was proving to be. The same
newspapers told with scorching scorn of physicians and clergymen--a very
few of either profession, but still a few--who had quitted their posts
in panic fear and run away from the danger. Day by day the readers of
the newspapers eagerly scanned the despatches, anxious chiefly to learn
that the young hero had not fallen a victim to his own compassionate
enthusiasm for the relief of the stricken.

Dr. Arthur Brent knew nothing of all this at the time. His days and
nights were too fully occupied with his perilous work for him even to
glance at a newspaper. He was himself stricken at last, but not until
the last, not until that grand old Virginian, Henry A. Wise had
converted his Accomac plantation into a relief camp and, arming his
negroes for its defence against a panic stricken public, had robbed the
scourge of its terrors by drawing from the city all those whose presence
there could afford opportunity for its spread.

Dr. Arthur Brent was among the very last of those attacked by the
scourge, and it was to give that young hero a meagre chance for life
that Henry A. Wise went in person to Norfolk and brought the physician
away to his own plantation home, in armed and resolute defiance alike of
quarantine restrictions and of the protests of an angry and frightened
mob.

Such in brief had been the life story of Arthur Brent. On his recovery
from a terribly severe attack of the fever, he had gone again to Europe,
not this time for scientific study, but for the purpose of restoring his
shattered constitution through rest upon a Swiss mountain side. After a
year of upbuilding idleness, he had returned to New York with his health
completely restored.

There he had taken an inexpensive apartment, and resumed his work of
scientific investigation upon lines which he had thought out during his
long sojourn in Switzerland.

Three years later there came to him news that his uncle at Wyanoke was
dead, and that the family estate had become his own as the only next of
kin. It pleased Arthur’s sense of humor to think of a failure of “kin”
in Virginia, where, as he well remembered, pretty nearly everybody he
had met in boyhood had been his cousin.

But the news that he was sole heir to the family estate was not
altogether agreeable to the young man. “It will involve me in affairs
again,” he said to himself, “and that is what I meant should never
happen to me. There is a debt on the estate, of course. I never heard of
a Virginia estate without that adornment. Then there are the negroes,
whose welfare is in my charge. Heaven knows I do not want them or their
value. But obviously they and the debt saddle me with a duty which I
cannot escape. I suppose I must go to Wyanoke. It is very provoking,
just as I have made all my arrangements to study the problem of sewer
gas poisoning with a reasonable hope of solving it this summer!”

He thought long and earnestly before deciding what course to pursue. On
the one hand he felt that his highest duty in life was to science as a
servant of humanity. He realized, as few men do, how great a beneficence
the discovery of a scientific fact may be to all mankind. “And there are
so few men,” he said to himself, “who are free as I am to pursue
investigations untrammeled by other things--the care of a family, the
ordering of a household, the education of children, the earning of a
living! If I could have this summer free, I believe I could find out how
to deal with sewer gas, and that would save thousands of lives and
immeasurable suffering! And there are my other investigations that are
not less pressing in their importance. Why should I have to give up my
work, for which I have the equipment of a thorough training, a
sufficient income, youth, high health, and last but not least,
enthusiasm?”

He did not add, as a less modest man might, that he had earned a
reputation which commanded not only the attention but the willing
assistance of his scientific brethren in his work, that all laboratories
were open to him, that all men of science were ready to respond to his
requests for the assistance of their personal observation and
experience, that the columns of all scientific journals were freely his
to use in setting forth his conclusions and the facts upon which they
rested.

“I wish I could put the whole thing into the hands of an agent, and bid
him sell out the estate, pay off the debts and send me the remainder of
the proceeds, with which to endow a chair of research in some scientific
school! But that would mean selling the negroes, and I’ll never do that.
I wish I could set them all free and rid myself of responsibility for
them. But I cannot do that unless I can get enough money out of the
estate to buy little farms for them as my father did with his negroes. I
mustn’t condemn them to starvation and call it freedom. I wish I knew
what the debt is, and how much the land will bring. Then I could plan
what to do. But as I do not know anything of the kind, I simply must go
to Wyanoke and study the problem as it is. It will take all summer and
perhaps longer. But there is nothing else for it.”

That is how it came about that Dr. Arthur Brent sat in the great hallway
at Wyanoke, talking with Aunt Polly, when Dorothy South returned,
accompanied by her hounds.



IV

DR. BRENT IS PUZZLED


_D_orothy came up to the front gate at a light gallop. Disdaining the
assistance of the horse block, she nimbly sprang from the saddle to the
ground and called to her mare “Stand, Chestnut!”

Then she gathered up the excessively long riding skirt which the Amazons
of that time always wore on horseback, and walked up the pathway to the
door, leaving the horse to await the coming of a stable boy. Arthur
could not help observing and admiring the fact that she walked with
marked dignity and grace even in a riding skirt--a thing so exceedingly
difficult to do that not one woman in a score could accomplish it even
with conscious effort. Yet this mere girl did it, manifestly without
either effort or consciousness. As an accomplished anatomist Dr. Brent
knew why. “That girl has grown up,” he said to himself, “in as perfect a
freedom as those locust trees out there, enjoy. She is as straight as
the straightest of them, and she has perfect use of all her muscles. I
wonder who she is, and why she gives orders here at Wyanoke quite as if
she belonged to the place, or the place belonged to her.”

This last thought was suggested by the fact that just before mounting
the two steps that led to the porch, Dorothy had whistled through her
fingers and said to the negro man who answered her call:--“Take the
hounds to the kennels, and fasten them in. Turn the setters out.”

But the young man had little time for wondering. The girl came into the
hall, and, as Aunt Polly had gone to order a little “snack,” she
introduced herself.

“You are Dr. Brent, I think? Yes? well, I’m Dorothy South. Let me bid
you welcome as the new master of Wyanoke.”

With that she shook hands in a fashion that was quite child-like, and
tripped away up the stairs.

Arthur Brent found himself greatly interested in the girl. She was
hardly a woman, and yet she was scarcely to be classed as a child. In
her manner as well as in her appearance she seemed a sort of compromise
between the two. She was certainly not pretty, yet Arthur’s quick
scrutiny informed him that in a year or two she was going to be
beautiful. It only needed a little further ripening of her womanhood to
work that change. But as one cannot very well fall in love with a woman
who is yet to be, Arthur Brent felt no suggestion of other sentiment
than one of pleased admiration for the girl, mingled with respect for
her queenly premature dignity. He observed, however, that her hair was
nut brown and of luxuriant growth, her complexion, fair and clear in
spite of a pronounced tan, and her eyes large, deep blue and finely
overarched by their dark brows.

Before he had time to think further concerning her, Aunt Polly returned
and asked him to “snack.”

“Dorothy will be down presently,” she said. “She’s quick at changing her
costume.”

Arthur was about to ask, “Who is Dorothy? And how does she come to be
here?” but at that moment the girl herself came in, white gowned and as
fresh of face as a newly blown rose is at sunrise.

“It’s too bad, Aunt Polly,” she said, “that you had to order the snack.
I ought to have got home in time to do my duty, and I would, only that
Trump behaved badly--Trump is one of my dogs, Doctor--and led the others
into mischief. He ran after a hare, and, of course, I had to stop and
discipline him. That made me late.”

“You keep your dogs under good control Miss--by the way how am I to call
you?”

“I don’t know just yet,” answered the girl with the frankness of a
little child.

“How so?” asked Arthur, as he laid a dainty slice of cold ham on her
plate.

“Why, don’t you see, I don’t know you yet. After we get acquainted I’ll
tell you how to call me. I think I am going to like you, and if I do,
you are to call me Dorothy. But of course I can’t tell yet. Maybe I
shall not like you at all, and then--well, we’ll wait and see.”

“Very well,” answered the young master of the plantation, amused by the
girl’s extraordinary candor and simplicity. “I’ll call you Miss South
till you make up your mind about liking or detesting me.”

“Oh, no, not that,” the girl quickly answered. “That would be _too_
grown up. But you might say ‘Miss Dorothy,’ please, till I make up my
mind about you.”

“Very well, Miss Dorothy. Allow me to express a sincere hope that after
you have come to know what sort of person I am, you’ll like me well
enough to bid me drop the handle to your name.”

“But why should you care whether a girl like me likes you or not?”

“Why, because I am very strongly disposed to like a girl like you.”

“How can you feel that way, when you don’t know me the least little
bit?”

“But I do know you a good deal more than ‘the least little bit,’”
answered the young man smiling.

“How can that be? I don’t understand.”

“Perhaps not, and yet it is simple enough. You see I have been training
my mind and my eyes and my ears and all the rest of me all my life, into
habits of quick and accurate observation, and so I see more at a glance
than I should otherwise see in an hour. For example, you’ll admit that I
have had no good chance to become acquainted with your hounds, yet I
know that one of them has lost a single joint from his tail, and another
had a bur inside one of his ears this morning, which you have since
removed.”

The girl laid down her fork in something like consternation.

“But I shan’t like you at all if you see things in that way. I’ll never
dare come into your presence.”

“Oh, yes, you will. I do not observe for the purpose of criticising;
especially I never criticise a woman or a girl to her detriment.”

“That is very gallant, at any rate,” answered the girl, accenting the
word “gallant” strongly on the second syllable, as all Virginians of
that time properly did, and as few other people ever do. “But tell me
what you started to say, please?”

“What was it?”

“Why, you said you knew me a good deal. I thought you were going to tell
me what you knew about me.”

“Well, I’ll tell you part of what I know. I know that you have a low
pitched voice--a contralto it would be called in musical nomenclature.
It has no jar in it--it is rich and full and sweet, and while you always
speak softly, your voice is easily heard. I should say that you sing.”

“No. I must not sing.”

“Must not? How is that?”

The girl seemed embarrassed--almost pained. The young man, seeing this,
apologized:

“Pardon me! I did not mean to ask a personal question.”

“Never mind!” said the girl. “You were not unkind. But I must not sing,
and I must never learn a note of music, and worst of all I must not go
to places where they play fine music. If I ever get to liking you very
well indeed, perhaps I’ll tell you why--at least all the why of it that
I know myself--for I know only a little about it. Now tell me what else
you know about me. You see you were wrong this time.”

“Yes, in a way. Never mind that. I know that you are a rigid
disciplinarian. You keep your hounds under a sharp control.”

“Oh, I _must_ do that. They would eat somebody up if I didn’t. Besides
it is good for them. You see dogs and women need strict control. A
mistress will do for dogs, but every woman needs a master.”

The girl said this as simply and earnestly as she might have said that
all growing plants need water and sunshine. Arthur was astonished at the
utterance, delivered, as it was, in the manner of one who speaks the
veriest truism.

“Now,” he responded, “I have encountered something in you that I not
only do not understand but cannot even guess at. Where did you learn
that cynical philosophy?”

“Do you mean what I said about dogs?”

“No. Though ‘cynic’ means a dog. I mean what you said about women. Where
did you get the notion that every woman needs a master?”

“Why, anybody can see that,” answered the girl. “Every girl’s father or
brother is her master till she grows up and marries. Then her husband is
her master. Women are always very bad if they haven’t masters, and even
when they mean to be good, they make a sad mess of their lives if they
have nobody to control them.”

If this slip of a girl had talked Greek or Sanscrit or the differential
calculus at him, Arthur could not have been more astounded than he was.
Surely a girl so young, so fresh, and so obviously wholesome of mind
could never have formulated such a philosophy of life for herself, even
had she been thrown all her days into the most complex of conditions and
surroundings, instead of leading the simplest of lives as this girl had
manifestly done, and seeing only other living like her own. But he
forbore to question her, lest he trespass again upon delicate ground, as
he had done with respect to music. He was quick to remember that he had
already asked her where she had learned her philosophy, and that she had
nimbly evaded the question--defending her philosophy as a thing obvious
to the mind, instead of answering the inquiry as to whence she had
drawn the teaching.

Altogether, Arthur Brent’s mind was in a whirl as he left the luncheon
table. Simple as she seemed and transparent as her personality appeared
to him to be, the girl’s attitude of mind seemed inexplicable even to
his practised understanding. Her very presence in the house was a
puzzle, for Aunt Polly had offered no explanation of the fact that she
seemed to belong there, not as a guest but as a member of the household,
and even as one exercising authority there. For not only had the girl
apologized for leaving Aunt Polly to order the luncheon, but at table
and after the meal was finished, it was she, and not the elder woman who
gave directions to the servants, who seemed accustomed to think of her
as the source of authority, and finally, as she withdrew from the dining
room, she turned to Arthur and said:

“Doctor, it is the custom at Wyanoke to dine at four o’clock. Shall I
have dinner served at that hour, or do you wish it changed?”

The young man declared his wish that the traditions of the house should
be preserved, adding playfully--“I doubt if you could change the dinner
hour, Miss Dorothy, even if we all desired it so. I remember Aunt
Kizzey, the cook, and I for one should hesitate to oppose my will to
her conservatism.”

“Oh, as to that,” answered the girl, “I never have any trouble managing
the servants. They know me too well for that.”

“What could you do if you told Kizzey to serve dinner at three and she
refused?” asked the young man, really curious to hear the answer.

“I would send for Aunt Kizzey to come to me. Then I would look at her.
After that she would do as I bade her.”

“I verily believe she would,” said the young man to himself as he went
to the sideboard and filled one of the long stemmed pipes. “But I really
cannot understand why.”

He had scarcely finished his pipe when Dorothy came into the hall
accompanied by a negro girl of about fourteen years, who bore a work
basket with her. Seating herself, Dorothy gave the girl some instruction
concerning the knitting she had been doing, and added: “You may sit in
the back porch to-day. It is warm.”

“Is it too warm, Miss Dorothy, for you to make a little excursion with
me to the stables?”

“Certainly not,” she quickly answered. “I’ll go at once.”

“Thank you,” he said, “and we’ll stop in the orchard on our way back
and get some June apples. I remember where the trees are.”

“You want me to show you the horses, I suppose,” she said as the two set
off side by side.

“No; any of the negroes could do that. I want you to render me a more
skilled service.”

“What is it?”

“I want you, please, to pick out a horse for me to ride while I stay at
Wyanoke.”

“While you stay at Wyanoke!” echoed the girl. “Why, that will be for all
the time, of course.”

“I hardly think so,” answered the young man, with a touch of not
altogether pleased uncertainty in his tone. “You see I have important
work to do, which I cannot do anywhere but in a great city--or at any
rate,”--as the glamour of the easy, polished and altogether delightful
contentment of Virginia life came over him anew, and its attractiveness
sang like a siren in his ears,--“at any rate it cannot be so well done
anywhere else as in a large city. I have come down here to Virginia only
to see what duties I have to do here. If I find I can finish them in a
few months or a year, I shall go back to my more important work.”

The girl was silent for a time, as if pondering his words. Finally she
said:

“Is there anything more important than to look after your estate? You
see I don’t understand things very well.”

“Perhaps it is best that you never shall,” he answered. “And to most men
the task of looking after an ancestral estate, and managing a plantation
with more than a hundred negroes--”

“There are a hundred and eighty seven in all, if you count big and
little, old and young together,” broke in the girl.

“Are there? How did you come to know the figures so precisely?”

“Why, I keep the plantation book, you know.”

“I didn’t know,” he answered.

“Yes,” she said, “I’ve kept it ever since I came to Wyanoke three or
four years ago. You see your uncle didn’t like to bother with details,
and so I took this off his hands, when I was so young that I wrote a
great big, sprawling hand and spelled my words ever so queerly. But I
wanted to help Uncle Robert. You see I liked him. If you’d rather keep
the plantation book yourself, I’ll give it up to you when we go back to
the house.”

“I would much rather have you keep it, at least until you make up your
mind whether you like me or not. Then, if you don’t like me I’ll take
the book.”

“Very well,” she replied, treating his reference to her present
uncertainty of mind concerning himself quite as she might have treated
his reference to a weather contingency of the morrow or of the next
week. “I’ll go on with the book till then.”

By this time the pair had reached the stables, and Miss Dorothy, in that
low, soft but penetrating voice which Arthur had observed and admired,
called to a negro man who was dozing within:

“Ben, your master wants to see the best of the saddle horses. Bring them
out, do you hear?”

The question “do you hear?” with which she ended her command was one in
universal use in Virginia. If an order were given to a negro without
that admonitory tag to it, it would fall idly upon heedless ears. But
the moment the negro heard that question he gathered his wits together
and obeyed the order.

“What sort of a horse do you like, Doctor?” asked the girl as the
animals were led forth. “Can you ride?”

“Why, of course,” he answered. “You know I spent a year in Virginia when
I was a boy.”

“Oh, yes, of course--if you haven’t forgotten. Then you don’t mind if a
horse is spirited and a trifle hard to manage?”

“No. On the contrary, Miss Dorothy, I should very much mind if my riding
horse were not spirited, and as for managing him, I’m going to get you
to teach me the art of command, as you practise it so well on your dogs,
your horse and the house servants.”

“Very well,” answered the girl seeming not to heed the implied
compliment. “Put the horses back in their stalls, Ben, and go over to
Pocahontas right away, and tell the overseer there to send Gimlet over
to me. Do you hear? You see, Doctor,” she added, turning to him, “your
uncle’s gout prevented him from riding much during the last year or so
of his life, and so there are no saddle horses here fit for a strong man
like you. There’s one fine mare, four years old, but she’s hardly big
enough to carry your weight. You must weigh a hundred and sixty pounds,
don’t you?”

“Yes, about that. But whose horse is Gimlet?”

“He’s mine, and he’ll suit you I’m sure. He is five years old, nearly
seventeen hands high and as strong as a young ox.”

“But are you going to sell him to me?”

“Sell him? No, of course not. He is my pet. He has eaten out of my hand
ever since he was a colt, and I was the first person that ever sat on
his back. Besides, I wouldn’t _sell_ a horse to _you_. I’m going to lend
him to you till--till I make up my mind. Then, if I like you I’ll give
him to you. If I don’t like you I’ll send him back to Pocahontas. Hurry
up, Ben. Ride the gray mare and lead Gimlet back, do you hear?”

“You are very kind to me, Miss Dorothy, and I--”

“Oh, no. I’m only polite and neighborly. You see Wyanoke and Pocahontas
are adjoining plantations. There comes Jo with your trunks, so we shall
not have time for the June apples to-day--or may be we might stop long
enough to get just a few, couldn’t we?”

With that she took the young man’s hand as a little girl of ten might
have done, and skipping by his side, led the way into the orchard. The
thought of the June apples seemed to have awakened the child side of her
nature, completely banishing the womanly dignity for the time being.



V

ARTHUR BRENT’S TEMPTATION


_D_uring the next three or four days Arthur was too much engaged with
affairs and social duties to pursue his scientific study of the young
girl--half woman, half child--with anything like the eagerness he would
have shown had his leisure been that of the Virginians round about him.
He had much to do, to “find out where he stood,” as he put the matter.
He had with him for two days Col. Majors the lawyer, who had the
estate’s affairs in charge. That comfortable personage assured the young
man that the property was “in good shape” but that assurance did not
satisfy a man accustomed to inquire into minute details of fact and to
rest content only with exact answers to his inquiries.

“I will arrange everything for you,” said the lawyer; “the will gives
you everything and it has already been probated. It makes you sole
executor with no bonds, as well as sole inheritor of the estate. There
is really nothing for you to do but hang up your hat. You take your late
uncle’s place, that is all.”

“But there are debts,” suggested Arthur.

“Oh, yes, but they are trifling and the estate is a very rich one. None
of your creditors will bother you.”

“But I do not intend to remain in debt,” said the young man impatiently.
“Besides, I do not intend to remain a planter all my life. I have other
work to do in the world. This inheritance is a burden to me, and I mean
to be rid of it as soon as possible.”

“Allow me to suggest,” said the lawyer in his self-possessed way, “that
the inheritance of Wyanoke is a sort of burden that most men at your
time of life would very cheerfully take upon their shoulders.”

“Very probably,” answered Arthur. “But as I happen not to be ‘most men
at my time of life’ it distinctly oppresses me. It loads me with duties
that are not congenial to me. It requires my attention at a time when I
very greatly desire to give my attention to something which I regard as
of more importance than the growing of wheat and tobacco and corn.”

“Every one to his taste,” answered the lawyer, “but I confess I do not
see what better a young man could do than sit down here at Wyanoke and,
without any but pleasurable activities, enjoy all that life has to give.
Your income will be large, and your credit quite beyond question. You
can buy whatever you want, and you need never bother yourself with a
business detail. No dun will ever beset your door. If any creditor of
yours should happen to want his money, as none will, you can borrow
enough to pay him without even going to Richmond to arrange the matter.
I will attend to all such things for you, as I did for your late uncle.”

“Thank you very much,” Arthur answered in a tone which suggested that he
did not thank him at all. “But I always tie my own shoe strings. I do
not know whether I shall go on living here or not, whether I shall give
up my work and my ambitions and settle down into a life of inglorious
ease, or whether I shall be strong enough to put that temptation aside.
I confess it is a temptation. Accustomed as I am to intensity of
intellectual endeavor, I confess that the prospect of sitting down here
in lavish plenty, and living a life unburdened by care and unvexed by
any sense of exacting duty, has its allurements for me. I suppose,
indeed, that any well ordered mind would find abundant satisfaction in
such a life programme, and perhaps I shall presently find myself growing
content with it. But if I do, I shall not consent to live in debt.”

“But everybody has his debts--everybody who has an estate. It is part of
the property, as it were. Of course it would be uncomfortable to owe
more than you could pay, but you are abundantly able to owe your debts,
so you need not let them trouble you. All told they do not amount to the
value of ten or a dozen field hands.”

“But I shall never sell my negroes.”

“Of course not. No gentleman in Virginia ever does that, unless a negro
turns criminal and must be sent south, or unless nominal sales are made
between the heirs of an estate, simply by way of distributing the
property. Far be it from me to suggest such a thing. I meant only to
show you how unnecessary it is for you to concern yourself about the
trifling obligations on your estate--how small a ratio they bear to the
value of the property.”

“I quite understand,” answered Arthur. “But at the same time these debts
do trouble me and will go on troubling me till the last dollar of them
is discharged. This is simply because they interfere with the plans I
have formed--or at least am forming--for so ordering my affairs that I
may go back to my work. Pray do not let us discuss the matter further. I
will ask you, instead, to send me, at your earliest convenience, an
exact schedule of the creditors of this estate, together with the
amount--principal and interest--that is owing to each. I intend to make
it my first business to discharge all these obligations. Till that is
done, I am not my own master, and I have a decided prejudice in favor of
being able to order my own life in my own way.”

Behind all this lay the fact that Arthur Brent was growing dissatisfied
with himself and suspicious of himself. The beauty and calm of Wyanoke,
the picturesque contentment of that refined Virginia life which was
impressed anew upon his mind every time a neighboring planter rode over
to take breakfast, dinner, or supper with him, or drove over in the
afternoon with his wife and daughters to welcome the new master of the
plantation--all this fascinated his mind and appealed strongly to the
partially developed æsthetic side of his nature, and at times the
strong, earnest manhood in him resented the fact almost with bitterness.

There was never anywhere in America a country life like that of
Virginia in the period before the war. In that state, as nowhere else on
this continent, the refinement, the culture, the education and the
graceful social life of the time were found not in the towns, but in the
country. There were few cities in the state and they were small. They
existed chiefly for the purpose of transacting business for the more
highly placed and more highly cultivated planters. The people of the
cities, with exceptions that only emphasized the general truth, were
inferior to the dwellers on the plantations, in point of education,
culture and social position. It had always been so in Virginia. From the
days of William Byrd of Westover to those of Washington, and Jefferson
and Madison and John Marshall, and from their time to the middle of the
nineteenth century, it had been the choice of all cultivated Virginians
to live upon their plantations. Thence had always come the scholars, the
statesmen, the great lawyers and the masterful political writers who had
conferred untold lustre upon the state.

Washington’s career as military chieftain and statesman, had been one
long sacrifice of his desire to lead the planter life at Mount Vernon.
Jefferson’s heart was at Monticello while he penned the Declaration of
Independence, and it was the proud boast of Madison that he like
Jefferson, quitted public office poorer than he was when he undertook
such service to his native land, and rejoiced in his return to the
planter life of his choice at Montpélièr.

In brief, the entire history of the state and all its traditions, all
its institutions, all its habits of thought tended to commend the
country life to men of refined mind, and to make of the plantation
owners and their families a distinctly recognized aristocracy, not only
of social prestige but even more of education, refinement and
intellectual leadership.

To Arthur Brent had come the opportunity to make himself at once and
without effort, a conspicuous member of this blue blooded caste. His
plantation had come to him, not by vulgar purchase, but by inheritance.
It had been the home of his ancestors, the possession and seat of his
family for more than two hundred years. And his family had been from the
first one of distinction and high influence. One of his great, great,
great grandfathers, had been a member of the Jamestown settlement and a
soldier under John Smith. His great, great grandfather had shared the
honor of royal proscription as an active participant in Bacon’s
rebellion. His great grandfather had been the companion of young George
Washington in his perilous expeditions to “the Ohio country,” and had
fallen by Washington’s side in Braddock’s blundering campaign. His
grandfather had been a drummer boy at Yorktown, had later become one of
the great jurists of the state and had been a distinguished soldier in
the war of 1812. His father, as we know, had strayed away to the west,
as so many Virginians of his time did, but he had won honors there which
made Virginia proud of him. And fortunately for Arthur Brent, that
father’s removal to the west was not made until this his son had been
born at the old family seat.

“For,” explained Aunt Polly to the young man, in her own confident way,
“in spite of your travels, you are a native Virginian, Arthur, and when
you have dropped into the ways of the country, people will overlook the
fact that you have lived so much at the north, and even in Europe.”

“But why, Aunt Polly,” asked Arthur, “should that fact be deemed
something to be ‘overlooked?’ Surely travel broadens one’s views and--”

“Oh, yes, of course, in the case of people not born in Virginia. But a
Virginian doesn’t need it, and it upsets his ideas. You see when a
Virginian travels he forgets what is best. He actually grows like other
people. You yourself show the ill effects of it in a hundred ways. Of
course you haven’t quite lost your character as a Virginian, and you’ll
gradually come back to it here at Wyanoke; but ‘evil communications
corrupt good manners,’ and I can’t help seeing it in you--at least in
your speech. You don’t pronounce your words correctly. You say ‘cart’
‘carpet’ and ‘garden’ instead of ‘cyart’ ‘cyarpet’ and ‘gyarden.’ And
you flatten your a’s dreadfully. You say ‘grass’ instead of ‘grawss’ and
‘basket’ instead of ‘bawsket’ and all that sort of thing. And you roll
your r’s dreadfully. It gives me a chill whenever I hear you say
‘master’ instead of ‘mahstah.’ But you’ll soon get over that, and in the
meantime, as you were born in Virginia and are the head of an old
Virginia family, the gentlemen and ladies who are coming every day to
welcome you, are very kind about it. They overlook it, as your
misfortune, rather than your fault.”

“That is certainly very kind of them, Aunt Polly. I can’t imagine
anything more generous in the mind than that. But--well, never mind.”

“What were you going to say, Arthur?”

“Oh, nothing of any consequence. I was only thinking that perhaps my
Virginia neighbors do not lay so much stress upon these things as you
do.”

“Of course not. That is one of the troubles of this time. Since we let
the Yankees build railroads through Virginia, everybody here wants to
travel. Why, half the gentlemen in this county have been to New York!”

“How very shocking!” said Arthur, hiding his smile behind his hand.

“That’s really what made the trouble for poor Dorothy,” mused Aunt
Polly. “If her father hadn’t gone gadding about--he even went to Europe
you know--Dorothy never would have been born.”

“How fortunate that would have been! But tell me about it, Aunt Polly.
You see I don’t quite understand in what way it would have been better
for Dorothy not to have been born--unless we accept the pessimist
philosophy, and consider all human life a curse.”

“Now you know, I don’t understand that sort of talk, Arthur,” answered
Aunt Polly. “I never studied philosophy or chemistry, and I’m glad of
it. But I know it would have been better for Dorothy if Dr. South had
stayed at home like a reasonable man, and married--but there, I mustn’t
talk of that. Dorothy is a dear girl, and I’m fitting her for her
position in life as well as I can. If I could stop her from thinking,
now, or--”

“Pray don’t, Aunt Polly! Her thinking interests me more than anything I
ever studied,--except perhaps the strange and even inexplicable
therapeutic effect of champagne in yellow fever--”

“There you go again, with your outlandish words, which you know I don’t
understand or want to understand, though sometimes I remember them.”

“Tell me of an instance, Aunt Polly.”

“Why, you said to me the other night that Dorothy was a ‘psychological
enigma’ to your mind, and that you very much wished you might know ‘the
conditions of heredity and environment’ that had produced ‘so strange a
phenomenon.’ There! I remember your words, though I haven’t the
slightest notion what they mean. I went upstairs and wrote them down. Of
course I couldn’t spell them except in my own way--and that would make
you laugh I reckon if you could see it, which you never shall--but I
haven’t a glimmering notion of what the words mean. Now I want to tell
you about Dorothy.”

“Good! I am anxious to hear!”

“Oh, I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear. That would be
gossip, and no Virginia woman ever gossips.”

That was true. The Virginians of that time, men and women alike, locked
their lips and held their tongues in leash whenever the temptation came
to them to discuss the personal affairs of their neighbors. They were
bravely free and frank of speech when telling men to their faces what
opinions they might hold concerning them; but they did that only when
necessity, or honor, or the vindication of truth compelled. They never
made the character or conduct or affairs of each other a subject of
conversation. It was the very crux of honor to avoid that.

“Then tell me what you are minded to reveal, Aunt Polly,” responded
Arthur. “I do not care to know anything else.”

“Well, Dorothy is in a peculiar position--not by her own fault. She
_must_ marry into a good family, and it has fallen to me to prepare her
for her fate.”

“Surely, Aunt Polly,” interjected the young man with a shocked and
distressed tone in his voice, “surely you are not teaching that child
to think of marriage--yet?”

“No, no, no!” answered Aunt Polly. “I’m only trying to train her to
submissiveness of mind, so that when the time comes for her to make the
marriage that is already arranged for her, she will interpose no foolish
objections. It’s a hard task. The girl has a wilful way of thinking for
herself. I can’t cure her of it, do what I will.”

“Why should you try?” asked Arthur, almost with excitement in his tone.
“Why should you try to spoil nature’s fine handiwork? That child’s
intellectual attitude is the very best I ever saw in one so young, so
simple and so childlike. For heaven’s sake, let her alone! Let her live
her own life and think in her own honest, candid and fearless way, and
she will develop into a womanhood as noble as any that the world has
seen since Eve persuaded Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge and quit
being a fool.”

“Arthur, you shock me!”

“I’m sorry, Aunt Polly, but I shall shock you far worse than that, if
you persist in your effort to warp and pervert that child’s nature to
fit it to some preconceived purpose of conventionality.”

“I don’t know just what you mean, Arthur,” responded the old lady, “but
I know my duty, and I’m going to do it. The one thing necessary in
Dorothy’s case, is to stop her from thinking, and train her to settle
down, when the time comes, into the life of a Virginia matron. It is her
only salvation.”

“Salvation from what?” asked Arthur, almost angrily.

“I can’t tell you,” the old lady answered. “But the girl will never
settle into her proper place if she goes on thinking, as she does now.
So I’m going to stop it.”

“And I,” the young man thought, though he did not say it, “am going to
teach her to think more than ever. I’ll educate that child so long as I
am condemned to lead this idle life. I’ll make it my business to see
that her mind shall not be put into a corset, that her extraordinary
truthfulness shall not be taught to tell lies by indirection, that she
shall not be restrained of her natural and healthful development. It
will be worth while to play the part of idle plantation owner for a year
or two, to accomplish a task like that. I can never learn to feel any
profound interest in the growing of tobacco, wheat and corn--but the
cultivation of that child into what she should be is a nobler work than
that of all the agriculturists of the south side put together. I’ll make
it my task while I am kept here away from my life’s chosen work.”

That day Arthur Brent sent a letter to New York. In it he ordered his
library and the contents of his laboratory sent to him at Wyanoke. He
ordered also a good many books that were not already in his library. He
sent for a carpenter on that same day, and set him at work in a hurry,
constructing a building of his own designing upon a spot selected
especially with reference to drainage, light and other requirements of a
laboratory. He even sent to Richmond for a plumber to put in chemical
sinks, drain pipes and other laboratory fittings.



VI

“NOW YOU MAY CALL ME DOROTHY”


_A_rthur Brent had now come to understand, in some degree at least, who
Dorothy South was. He remembered that the Pocahontas plantation which
immediately adjoined Wyanoke on the east, was the property of a Dr.
South, whom he had never seen. At the time of his own boyhood’s year at
Wyanoke he had understood, in a vague way that Dr. South was absent
somewhere on his travels. Somehow the people whom he had met at Wyanoke
and elsewhere, had seemed to be sorry for Dr. South but they never said
why. Apparently they held him in very high esteem, as Arthur remembered,
and seemed deeply to regret the necessity--whatever it was--which
detained him away, and to all intents and purposes made of Pocahontas a
closed house. For while the owner of that plantation insisted that the
doors of his mansion should always remain open to his friends, and that
dinner should be served there at the accustomed hour of four o’clock
every day during his absence, so that any friend who pleased might avail
himself of a hospitality which had never failed,--there was no white
person on the plantation except the overseer. Gentlemen passing that way
near the dinner hour used sometimes to stop and occupy places at the
table, an event which the negro major-domo always welcomed as a pleasing
interruption in the loneliness of the house. The hospitality of
Pocahontas had been notable for generations past, and the old servant
recalled a time when the laughter of young men and maidens had made the
great rooms of the mansion vocal with merriment. Arthur himself had once
taken dinner there with his uncle, and had been curiously impressed with
the rule of the master that dinner should be served, whether there were
anybody there to partake of it or not. He recalled all these things now,
and argued that Dr. South’s long absence could not have been caused by
anything that discredited him among the neighbors. For had not those
neighbors always regretted his absence, and expressed a wish for his
return? Arthur remembered in what terms of respect and even of
affection, everybody had spoken of the absent man. He remembered too
that about the time of his own departure from Wyanoke, there had been a
stir of pleased expectation, over the news that Dr. South was soon to
return and reopen the hospitable house.

He discovered now that Dr. South had in fact returned at that time and
had resumed the old life at Pocahontas, dispensing a graceful
hospitality during the seven or eight years that had elapsed between his
return and his death. This latter event, Arthur had incidentally
learned, had occurred three years or so before his own accession to the
Wyanoke estate. Since that time Dorothy had lived with Aunt Polly, the
late master of Wyanoke having been her guardian.

So much and no more, Arthur knew. It did not satisfy a curiosity which
he would not satisfy by asking questions. It did not tell him why Aunt
Polly spoke of the girl with pity, calling her “poor Dorothy.” It did
not explain to him why there should be a special effort made to secure
the girl’s marriage into a “good family.” What could be more probable
than that that would happen in due course without any managing whatever?
The girl was the daughter of as good a family as any in Virginia. She
was the sole heir of a fine estate. Finally, she promised to become a
particularly beautiful young woman, and one of unusual attractiveness
of mind.

Yet everywhere Arthur heard her spoken of as “poor Dorothy,” and he
observed particularly that the universal kindness of the gentlewomen to
the child was always marked by a tone or manner suggestive of
compassion. The fact irritated the young man, as facts which he could
not explain were apt to do with one of his scientific mental habit.
There were other puzzling aspects of the matter, too. Why was the girl
forbidden to sing, to learn music, or even to enjoy it? Where had she
got her curious conceptions of life? And above all, what did Aunt Polly
mean by saying that this mere child’s future marriage had been “already
arranged?”

“The whole thing is a riddle,” he said to himself. “I shall make no
effort to solve it, but I have a mind to interfere somewhat with the
execution of any plans that a stupid conventionality may have formed to
sacrifice this rarely gifted child to some Moloch of social propriety.
Of course I shall not try in any way to control her life or direct her
future. But at any rate I shall see to it that she shall be compelled to
nothing without her own consent. Meanwhile, as they won’t let her learn
music, I’ll teach her science. I see clearly that it will take me three
or four years to do what I have planned to do at Wyanoke--to pay off the
debts, and set the negroes up as small farmers on their own account in
the west. During that time I shall have ample opportunity to train the
child’s mind in a way worthy of it, and when I have done that I fancy
she will order her own life with very little regard to the plans of
those who are arranging to make of her a mere pawn upon the chess board.
Thank heaven, this thing gives me a new interest. It will prevent my
mind from vegetating and my character from becoming mildewed. It opens
to me a duty and an occupation--a duty untouched with selfish
indulgence, an occupation which I can pursue without a thought of any
other reward than the joy of worthy achievement.”

“Miss Dorothy,” he said to the girl that evening, “I observe that you
are an early riser.”

“Oh, yes,” she replied. “You see I must be up soon in the morning”--that
use of “soon” for “early” was invariable in Virginia--“to see that the
maids begin their work right. You see I carry the keys.”

“Yes, I know, you are housekeeper, and a very conscientious one I think.
But I wonder if your duties in the early morning are too exacting to
permit you to ride with me before breakfast. You see I want to make a
tour of inspection over the plantation and I’d like to have you for my
guide. The days are so warm that I have a fancy to ride in the cool of
the morning. Would it please you to accompany me and tell me about
things?”

“I’ll like that very much. I’m always down stairs by five o’clock, so if
you like we can ride at six any morning you please. That will give us
three hours before breakfast.”

“Thank you very much,” Arthur replied. “If you please, then, we’ll ride
tomorrow morning.”

When Arthur came down stairs the next morning he found the maids busily
polishing the snow-white floors with pine needles and great log and husk
rubbers, while their young mistress was giving her final instructions to
Johnny, the dining room servant. Hearing Arthur’s step on the stair she
commanded the negro to bring the coffee urn and in answer to the young
master’s cheery good morning, she handed him a cup of steaming coffee.

“This is a very pleasant surprise,” he exclaimed. “I had not expected
coffee until breakfast time.”

“Oh, you must never ride soon in the morning without taking coffee
first,” she replied. “That’s the way to keep well. We always have a big
kettle of coffee for the field hands before they go to work. Their
breakfast isn’t ready till ten o’clock, and the coffee keeps the chill
off.”

“Why is their breakfast served so late?”

“Oh, they like it that way. They don’t want anything but coffee soon in
the morning. They breakfast at ten, and then the time isn’t so long
before their noonday dinner.”

“I should think that an excellent plan,” answered the doctor. “As a
hygienist I highly approve of it. After all it isn’t very different from
the custom of the French peasants. But come, Miss Dorothy, Ben has the
horses at the gate.”

The girl, fresh-faced, lithe-limbed and joyous, hastily donned her long
riding skirt which made her look, Arthur thought, like a little child
masquerading in some grown woman’s garments, and nimbly tripped down the
walk to the gate way. There she quickly but searchingly looked the
horses over, felt of the girths, and, taking from her belt a fine white
cambric handkerchief, proceeded to rub it vigorously on the animals’
rumps. Finding soil upon the dainty cambric, she held it up before
Ben’s face, and silently looked at him for the space of thirty seconds.
Then she tossed the handkerchief to him and commanded:--“Go to the house
and fetch me another handkerchief.”

There was something almost tragic in the negro’s humiliation as he
walked away on his mission. Arthur had watched the little scene with
amused interest. When it was over the girl, without waiting for him to
offer her a hand as a step, seized the pommel and sprang into the
saddle.

“Why did you do that, Miss Dorothy?” the young man asked as the horses,
feeling the thrill of morning in their veins, began their journey with a
waltz.

“What? rub the horses?”

“No. Why did you look at Ben in that way? And why did it seem such a
punishment to him?”

“I wanted him to remember. He knows I never permit him to bring me a
horse that isn’t perfectly clean.”

“And will he remember now?”

“Certainly. You saw how severely he was punished this time. He doesn’t
want that kind of thing to happen again.”

“But I don’t understand. You did nothing to him. You didn’t even scold
him.”

“Of course I didn’t. Scolding is foolish. Only weak-minded people
scold.”

“But I shouldn’t have thought Ben fine enough or sensitive enough to
feel the sort of punishment you gave him. Why should he mind it?”

“Oh, everybody minds being looked at in that way--everybody who has been
doing wrong. You see one always knows when one has done wrong. Ben knew,
and when I looked at him he saw that I knew too. So it hurt him. You’ll
see now that he’ll never bring you or me a horse on which we can soil
our handkerchiefs.”

“Where did you learn all that?” asked Arthur, full of curiosity and
interest.

“I suppose my father taught me. He taught me everything I know. I
remember that whenever I was naughty, he would look at me over his
spectacles and make me ever so sorry. You see even if I knew I had done
wrong I didn’t think much about it, till father looked at me. After that
I would think about it all day and all night, and be, oh, so sorry! Then
I would try not to displease my father again.”

“Your father must have been a very wise as well as a very good man!”

“He was,” and two tears slipped from the girl’s eyes as she recalled the
father who had been everything to her from her very infancy. “That is
why I always try, now that he is gone, never to do anything that he
would have disliked. I always think ‘I won’t do that, for if I do father
will look at me.’ You see I must be a great deal more careful than other
girls.”

“Why? I see no reason for that.”

“That’s because you don’t know about--about things. I was born bad, and
if I’m not more careful than other girls have to be, I shall be very bad
when I grow up.”

“Will you forgive me if I say I don’t believe that?” asked Arthur.

“Oh, but it’s true,” answered the girl, looking him straight in the
face, with an expression of astonishment at his incredulity.

Arthur saw fit to change the conversation. So he returned to Ben’s case.

“Most women would have sent Ben to the overseer for punishment, wouldn’t
they?”

“Some would, but I never find that necessary. Besides I hate _your_
overseer.”

“Why? What has he done to incur your displeasure, Miss Dorothy?”

“Now you’re mocking me for minding things that are none of my business,”
said the girl with a touch of contrition in her voice.

“Indeed I am not,” answered the young man with earnestness. “And you
have not been doing anything of the kind. I asked you to tell me about
things here at Wyanoke, because it is necessary that I should know them.
So when you tell me that you hate the overseer here, I want to know why.
It is very necessary for me to know what sort of man he is, so that I
may govern myself accordingly. I have great confidence in your judgment,
young as you are. I am very sure you would not hate the overseer without
good cause. So you will do me a favor if you’ll tell me why you hate
him.”

“It is because he is cruel and a coward.”

“How do you know that?”

“I’ve seen it for myself. He strikes the field hands for nothing. He has
even cruelly whipped some of the women servants with the black snake
whip he carries. I told him only a little while ago that if I ever
caught him doing that again, I’d set my dogs on him. No Virginia
gentleman would permit such a thing. Uncle Robert--that’s the name I
always called your uncle by--would have shot the fellow for that, I
think.”

“But why did Uncle Robert employ such a man for overseer?”

“He never did. Uncle Robert never kept any overseer. He used to say that
the authority of the master of a plantation was too great to be
delegated to any person who didn’t care for the black people and didn’t
feel his responsibility.”

“But how did the fellow come to be here then? Who employed him?”

“Mr. Peyton did--Mr. Madison Peyton. When your uncle was ill, Mr. Peyton
looked after things for him, and he kept it up after Uncle Robert died.
He hired this overseer. He said he was too busy on his own plantation to
take care of things here in person.”

“Uncle Robert was quite right,” said Arthur meditatively. “And now that
I am charged with the responsibility for these black people, I will not
delegate my power to any overseer, least of all to one whom you have
found out to be a cruel coward. Where do you suppose we could find him
now?”

“Down in the tobacco new grounds,” the girl answered. “I was going there
to-day to set my dogs on him, but I remembered that you were master
now.”

“What was the special occasion for your anger this time?” Arthur asked
in a certain quiet, seemingly half indifferent tone which Dorothy found
inscrutable.

“He whipped poor old Michael, the gardener last night,” answered the
girl with a glint as of fire in her eyes. “He had no right to do that.
Michael isn’t a field hand, and he isn’t under the overseer’s control.”

“Do you mean the shambling old man I saw in the garden yesterday? Surely
he didn’t whip that poor decrepit old man!”

“Yes, he did. I told you he was a cruel coward.”

“Let’s ride to the tobacco new grounds at once,” said Arthur quite as he
might have suggested the most indifferent thing. But Dorothy observed
that on the way to the new grounds Arthur Brent spoke no word. Twice she
addressed him, but he made no response.

Arrived at the new grounds Arthur called the overseer to him and without
preface asked him:

“Did you strike old Michael with your whip last night?”

“Yes, and there wan’t a lick amiss unless I made a lick at him and
missed him.”

The man laughed at his own clumsy witticism, but the humor of it seemed
not to impress the new master of the plantation. For reply he said:

“Go to your house at once and pack up your belongings. Come to me after
I have had my breakfast, and we’ll have a settlement. You are to leave
my plantation to-day and never set foot upon it again. Come, Miss
Dorothy, let’s continue our ride!”

With that the two wheeled about, the girl saying:

“Let’s run our horses for a stretch.” Instantly she set off at breakneck
speed across the fields and over two stiff fences before regaining the
main plantation road. There she drew rein and turning full upon her
companion she said:

“Now you may call me Dorothy.”



VII

SHRUB HILL CHURCH


_T_he following day was Sunday, and to Arthur’s satisfaction it was one
of the two Sundays in the month, on which services were held at Shrub
Hill Church. For Arthur remembered the little old church there in the
woods, with the ancient cemetery, in which all the Brents who had lived
before him were buried, and in which rested also all the past
generations of all the other good families of the region round about.

Shrub Hill Church represented one of the most attractive of Virginia
traditions. Early in his career as statesman, Thomas Jefferson had
rendered Virginia a most notable service. He had secured the complete
separation of church from state, the dissolution of that unholy alliance
between religion and government, with which despotism and class
privilege have always buttressed the fabric of oppression. But church
and family remained, and in the course of generations that relation had
assumed characteristics of a most wholesome, ameliorating and
liberalizing character.

Thus at Shrub Hill all the people of character and repute in the region
round about, found themselves at home. They were in large degree
Baptists and Presbyterians in their personal church relations, but all
of them deemed themselves members of Shrub Hill--the Episcopal church
which had survived from that earlier time when to be a gentleman carried
with it the presumption of adherence to the established religion. All of
them attended service there. All contributed to the cost of keeping the
edifice and the graveyard grounds in repair. All of them shared in the
payment of the old rector’s salary and he in his turn preached
scrupulously innocuous sermons to them--sermons ten minutes in length
which might have been repeated with entire propriety and acceptance in
any Baptist or Presbyterian pulpit.

When the Easter elections came, all the gentlemen of the neighborhood
felt themselves entitled to vote for the wardens and vestrymen already
in office, or for the acceptable person selected by common consent to
take the place of any warden or vestryman who might have been laid to
rest beneath the sod of the Shrub Hill churchyard during the year. And
the wardens and vestrymen were Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians or
gentlemen professing no faith, quite indifferently.

These people were hot debaters of politics and religion--especially
religion. When the question of immersion or pedo-baptism was up, each
was ready and eager to maintain the creed of his own church with all the
arguments that had been formulated for that purpose generations before
and worn smooth to the tongue by oft-repeated use. But this fervor made
no difference whatever in the loyalty of their allegiance to their old
family church at Shrub Hill. There they found common ground of tradition
and affection. There they were all alike in right of inheritance. There
all of them expected to be buried by the side of their forefathers.

It has been said already that services were held at Shrub Hill on two
Sundays of the month. As the old rector lived within a few minutes’ walk
of the church, and had no other duty than its ministry, there might have
been services there every Sunday in the year, except that such a
practice would have interfered with the desire of those who constituted
its congregation to attend their own particular Baptist or Presbyterian
churches, which held services on the other Sundays. It was no part of
the spirit or mission of the family church thus to interfere with the
religious preferences of its members, and so, from time immemorial,
there had been services at Shrub Hill only upon two Sundays of the
month.

Everybody attended those services--every gentleman and every gentlewoman
at least. That is to say, all went to the church and the women with a
few of the older men went in. The rest of the gentlemen gathered in
groups under the trees outside--for the church stood in the midst of an
unbroken woodland--and chatted in low tones while the service was in
progress. Thus they fulfilled their gentlemanly obligations of church
going, without the fatigue of personal participation in the services.

The gentlemen rode to church on horseback. The ladies, old and young
alike, went thither in their family carriages. Many of these, especially
the younger ones, were accustomed to go everywhere else in the saddle,
but to church, propriety and tradition required them to go decorously in
the great lumbering vehicles of family state.

The gentlemen arrived first and took their places at the church door to
greet the gentlewomen and give them a hand in alighting from the
high-hung carriages.

As soon as the service was over the social clearing-house held its
session. It was not known by that name, but that in fact was what it
amounted to. Every young woman present invited every other young woman
present to go home with her to dinner and to stay for a few days or for
a week. There was a babel of insistent tongues out of which nothing less
sagacious than feminine intelligence could have extracted a resultant
understanding. But after a few minutes all was as orderly as the
domestic arrangements over which these young women were accustomed to
preside. Two or three of them had won all the others to their will, and
the company, including all there was of young and rich voiced femininity
in the region round about, was divided into squads and assigned to two
or three hospitable mansions, whither trunks would follow in the early
morning of the Monday.

The young men accommodated themselves at once to these arrangements,
each accepting at least a dinner invitation to the house, to which the
young woman most attractive to himself had elected to go. As there was
no afternoon or evening service, the religious duties of the day were at
an end before one of the clock.

Out under the trees before and during the service the men discussed
affairs of interest to themselves, and on this his first Sunday, Arthur
found that his own affairs constituted the subject of most general
interest. He was heartily welcomed as the new master of Wyanoke, the
welcome partaking somewhat of the nature of that given to one who
returns to right ways of living after erratic wanderings. There was a
kindly disposition to recognize Arthur’s birthright as a Virginian,
together with a generous readiness to forgive his youthful indiscretion
in living so much elsewhere.

Only one man ventured to be censorious, and that was Madison Peyton, who
was accustomed to impress himself upon the community in ways which were
sometimes anything but agreeable, but to which everybody was accustomed
to submit in a nameless sort of fear of his sharp tongue--everybody,
that is to say, except Aunt Polly and John Meaux.

Aunt Polly was not afraid of Madison Peyton for several reasons. The
first was that Aunt Polly was not accustomed to stand in awe of anybody.
The second was that her blood was quite the bluest in all that part of
the State and she had traditions behind her. Finally she was a shrewdly
penetrative person who had long ago discovered the nature of Madison
Peyton’s pretensions and subjected them to sarcastic analysis. As for
John Meaux, everybody knew him as by odds the most successful planter
and most capable man of business in the county. Madison Peyton could
teach him nothing, and he had a whiplash attachment to his tongue, the
sting of which Peyton did not care to invoke.

For the rest, Madison Peyton was dominant. It was his habit to lecture
his neighbors upon their follies and short-comings and rather
arrogantly, though with a carefully simulated good nature, to dictate to
them what they should or should not do, assuming with good-natured
insolence an authority which in no way belonged to him. In this way,
during the late Robert Brent’s last illness, Peyton had installed as
overseer at Wyanoke, a man whom the planters generally refused to employ
because of his known cruelty, but whose capacity to make full crops was
well attested by experience.

Arthur Brent had summarily dismissed this man as we know, and Peyton was
distinctly displeased with him for doing so. Taking the privilege of an
old friend of the young man’s uncle, Peyton called him by his first
name, without any prefix whatever.

“Why in the world, Arthur,” he said by way of introducing the subject,
“why in the world have you sent Williams away?”

Something in Peyton’s manner, something that was always in his manner,
had given Arthur a feeling of resentment when the man had called upon
him soon after his arrival. This direct interrogatory concerning a
matter exclusively his own, almost angered the young man, as the others
saw when, instead of answering it directly, he asked:

“Are you specially interested in Williams’s welfare, Mr. Peyton?”

Peyton was too self-satisfied to be sensitive, so he took the rebuff
with a laugh.

“Oh, no,” he answered. “It is you that I’m troubled about. Knowing
nothing of planting you need a capable overseer more than anybody else
does, and here you’ve sent away the best one in the county without even
consulting anybody.”

“I did not need to consult anybody,” answered Arthur, “in order to know
that I did not want that man on my plantation.”

“Oh, of course! But you can’t get another overseer at this time of year,
you know.”

“On the whole, I don’t think I want another at any time of year.”

“You imagine perhaps that you know something about planting. I’ve known
other young men to make the same mistake.”

“Perhaps I can learn,” answered Arthur in placid tones. “I have learned
some things quite as difficult in my life.”

“But you don’t know anything about planting, and if you try it without
an overseer you’ll find your account at your commission merchant’s
distressingly short at the end of the year.”

“I don’t know about that,” broke in John Meaux. “You predicted the same
thing in my case, you remember, Mr. Peyton, when I came back after
graduating at West Point, and yet I’ve managed to keep some hams in my
meat house for fifteen years now,--and I never had an overseer.”

Ignoring Meaux’s interruption Peyton said to Arthur:

“And you know you’ve got a law-suit on your hands.”

“Have I? I didn’t know it.”

“Why, of course, Williams will sue. You see he was engaged for the year,
and the contract lasts till January.”

“Who made the contract?” asked Arthur.

“Well, I did--acting for your uncle.”

“Had you my uncle’s power of attorney to bind him to a year’s
arrangement?”

“Of course not. He was ill and I merely did a neighbor’s part.”

“Then suppose Williams should sue you instead of me? You see it is you
who are liable for non-fulfilment of that contract. You bargained with
this man to serve you for a year as overseer on my plantation, and I
have declined to accept the arrangement. If he has a right of action
against anybody, it is against you. However, I don’t think he will sue
you, for I have paid him his wages for the full year. Fortunately I
happened to have money enough in bank for that. There is the
voluntary--let’s go into church.”

Arthur Brent entered the place of service, one or two of the gentlemen
following him.

He had made an enemy of Madison Peyton--an enemy who would never admit
his enmity but would never lose an opportunity to indulge it.



VIII

A DINNER AT BRANTON


_I_t fell to Arthur Brent’s share to dine on that Sunday at Branton, the
seat of the most princely hospitality in all that part of Virginia. The
matter was not at all one of his own arranging, although it was
altogether agreeable to him. The master of Branton--a young man scarcely
older than himself, who lived there with his only sister, Edmonia
Bannister, had been the first of all the neighbors to visit Arthur,
dining with him and passing the night at Wyanoke. He had been most
kindly and cordial in his welcome and Arthur had been strongly drawn to
him as a man of character, intelligence and very winning manners. No
sooner had Arthur dismounted at church on that first Sunday, than young
Archer Bannister had come to shake his hand and say--“I want to preëmpt
you, Doctor Brent. All your neighbors will clamor for your company for
the dinner and the night, but I have done my best to establish the
priority of my claim. Besides my good sister wants you--and as a
confidence between you and me, I will tell you that when my sister wants
anything she is extremely apt to get it. I’m something of a laggard at
dressing myself for church, but this morning she began upon me early,
sending three servants to help me put on my clothes, and laying her
particular commands upon me to be the first man to arrive at Shrub Hill,
lest some other get before me with an invitation to dinner. So you are
to be my guest, please, and I’ll send one of my people over to Wyanoke
for anything you want. By the way I’ve cleared out a wardrobe for you at
Branton, and a dressing case. You’ll need to send over a supply of
linen, coats, boots, underwear, and the like and leave it in your room
there, so that you shall be quite at home to come and go at your will,
with the certainty of always finding ready for you whatever you need in
the way of costume.”

Arthur Brent’s one extravagance was in the matter of clothes. He always
dressed himself simply, but he was always dressed well, and especially
it was his pleasure to change his garments as often as the weather or
the circumstances might suggest the desirability of a change.
Accordingly he had brought fat trunks to Wyanoke, but by the time that
three others of his new neighbors had informed him, quite casually and
as a matter of course, that they had prepared rooms for him and expected
him to send to those rooms a supply of clothing sufficient for any need,
he was pleased to remember that he had left careful measurements with
his tailor, his shirt maker, his fabricator of footwear, and his “gents’
furnisher” in New York. And he had also acquired a new and broader
conception than ever before, of the comprehensive heartiness of Virginia
hospitality.

“You see,” said young Bannister, later in the day, “Branton is to be one
of your homes. As a young man you will be riding about a good deal, and
you mustn’t be compelled to ride all the way to Wyanoke every time you
want to change your coat or substitute low quarter shoes for your riding
boots. If you’ll ask little Miss Dorothy to show you my room at Wyanoke
you’ll find that I have everything there that any gentleman could
possibly need with which to dress himself properly for any occasion,
from a fish fry to a funeral, from a fox hunt to a wedding. You are to
do the same at Branton. You don’t do things in that way in a city, of
course, but here it is necessary, because of the distance between
plantations. A man doesn’t want all his belongings in one place when
that place may be ten or a dozen miles away when he wants them.”

Arthur found Branton to be substantially a reproduction of Wyanoke,
except that the great gambrel-roofed house had many wings and
extensions, and several one storied, two roomed “offices” built about
the grounds for the accommodation of any overflow of guests that might
happen there. The house had been built about the time at which the
Wyanoke mansion had come into being. It was of wood, but by no means of
such structure as we now expect in a wooden house. The frame was made of
great hewn timbers of forest pine, twelve inches square as to floor
beams and rafter plates, and with ten inch timbers in lieu of studding.
The vast chimneys were supported, not upon arches nicely calculated to
sustain their superincumbent weight with a factor of safety, but upon a
solid mass of cellar masonry that would have sustained the biggest of
Egyptian monoliths. The builders of the old colonial time may not have
known the precise strength of materials or the niceties of calculation
by which the supporting capacity of an arch is determined, but they
knew--and they acted upon the knowledge--that twelve inch, heart pine
timbers set on end will sustain any weight that a dwelling is called
upon to bear, and that a chimney built upon a solid mass of masonry,
twenty feet in diameter, is not likely to fall down for lack of
underpinning.

One full half of the ground floor of the great mansion constituted the
single drawing room, wainscoted to the ceiling and provided with three
huge fire places built for the burning of cord wood. The floors were as
white as snow, the wainscoting as black as night with age and jealous
polishing with beeswax. After the architectural manner of the country,
there was a broad porch in front and another in rear, each embowered in
honeysuckles and climbing rose bushes. A passageway, more than twenty
feet in width ran through the building, connecting the two porches and
constituting the most generally used sitting room of the house. It had
broad oaken doors reaching across its entire width. They stood always
open except during the very coldest days of the mild Virginia winter,
there being no thought of closing them even at night. For there were no
criminal classes in that social fabric, and if there had been, the
certainty that the master of the mansion slept upon its ground floor
and knew what to do with a shot gun, would have been a sufficient
deterrent to invasion of the premises.

There were two large fire places in the hall for winter use. But the
glory of the place was the stairway, with its broad ashen steps and its
broader landings. Up and down it had passed generations of happy maidens
and matrons. Up and down it, prattling children had played and romped
and danced in happy innocence. Up and down it wedding guests and funeral
attendants had come and gone, carrying their burdens of flowers for the
bride and blossoms for the bier. Upon it had been whispered words of
love and tenderness that prepared the way for lives of happiness, and
sorrowful utterances that soothed and softened grief. Upon its steps
young men of chivalric soul had wooed maidens worthy of their devotion.
Upon its landings young maidens had softly spoken those words of consent
which ushered in lives of rejoicing.

The furniture of the house was in keeping with its spaciousness and its
solidity. Huge sofas were everywhere, broad enough for beds and long
enough for giants to stretch their limbs upon. Commodious,
plantation-made chairs of oak invited every guest to repose in the
broad hallway. In the drawing room, and in the spacious dining hall the
sedate ticking of high standing clocks marked time only to suggest its
abundance in that land of leisure, and to invite its lavish use in
enjoyment.

Now add to all this still life, the presence of charming people--men of
gracious mien and young women of immeasurable charm, young women whose
rich and softly modulated voices were exquisite music, and whose
presence was a benediction--and you may faintly understand the
surroundings in which Arthur Brent found himself on that deliciously
perfect Sunday afternoon in June, in the year of our Lord, 1859.

Is it surprising that the glamour of it all took hold upon his soul and
tempted him to rest content with a life so picturesquely peaceful? Is it
surprising that his set purpose of speedily returning to his own life of
strenuous, scientific endeavor, somewhat weakened in presence of a
temptation so great? All this was his for the taking. All of it was open
to him to enjoy if he would. All of it lay before him as a gracious
inheritance. Why should he not accept it? Why should he return to the
struggle of science, the pent life of cities? Why should he prowl about
tenement houses in an endeavor to solve the problem of mephitic gases,
when all this free, balsamic air offered itself gratis to his
breathing? He had but one life to live, he reflected. Why should he not
live it here in sweet and wholesome ways? Why should he not make himself
a part of this exquisitely poised existence?

All these vexed and vexing questions flitted through his brain even
before he had opportunity to meet his hostess in her own home,
surrounded by her bevy of variously attractive young women.

Edmonia Bannister was everywhere recognized as the belle of the state in
which she lived. Suitors for her hand had come from afar and anear to
woo this maiden of infinite charm, and one by one they had gone away
sorrowing but with only the kindliest memory of the gentleness with
which she had withheld her consent to their wooings.

She was scarcely beautiful. The word “comely” seemed a better one with
which to describe her appearance, but her comeliness was allied to a
charm at once indefinable and irresistible. John Meaux had said that “it
is a necessary part of every young man’s education to fall in love with
Edmonia Bannister at least once,” and had predicted that fate for Arthur
Brent. Whether the prediction was destined to be fulfilled or not,
Arthur could not decide on this his first day as a guest at Branton. He
was sure that he was not in love with the girl at the end of his visit,
but he drew that assurance chiefly from his conviction that it was
absurd to fall in love with any woman upon acquaintance so slight. While
holding firmly to that conviction he nevertheless felt strongly that the
girl had laid a spell upon him, under control of which he was well nigh
helpless. He was by no means the first young man to whom this experience
had come, and he was not likely to be the last.

And yet the young woman was wholly free from intent thus to enslave
those who came into her life. Her artlessness was genuine, and her
seriousness profound. There was no faintest suggestion of frivolity or
coquetry in her manner. She was too self-respecting for that, and she
had too much of character. One of those who had “loved and lost” her,
had said that “the only art she used was the being of herself,” and all
the rest who had had like experience were of the same mind. So far
indeed was she from seeking to bring men to her feet that on more than
one occasion she had been quick to detect symptoms of coming love and
had frankly and solemnly said to prospective wooers for whom she felt a
particular kindness--“please don’t fall in love with me. I shall never
be able to reciprocate the sentiment, and it would distress me to reject
your suit.” It is not upon record, however, that any one of those who
were thus warned profited by the wise counsel. On the contrary, in many
instances, this mark of kindliness on her part had served only to
precipitate the catastrophe she sought to avert.

Arthur Brent had a stronger shield. He saw clearly that for him to marry
this or any other of that fair land’s maidens would make an end of his
ambitions.

“If I should fall in love down here in Virginia,” he reflected, “I
should never have strength of mind enough to shake off the glamour of
this life and go back to my work. The fascination of it all is already
strong upon me. I must not add another to the sources of danger. I must
be resolute and strong. That way alone safety lies for me. I will set to
work at once to carry out my mission here, and then go away. I shall
know this week how matters stand with the estate. I shall busy myself at
once with my fixed purpose. I shall find means of discharging all the
debts of the plantation. Then I shall sell the land and with the
proceeds take the negroes to the west and settle them there on little
farms of their own. Then I shall be free again to resume my proper work
in the world. Obviously I must not complicate matters by marrying here
or even falling in love. A man with such a duty laid upon him has no
right to indulge himself in soft luxury. I must be strong and resolute.”

Nevertheless Arthur Brent felt an easily recognizable thrill of delight
when at dinner he found himself assigned to a seat on Edmonia
Bannister’s left hand.

There were sixteen at dinner, and all were happy. Arthur alone was a
guest unused to occupy that place at Branton, and to him accordingly all
at table devoted special attention. Three at least of the younger men
present, had been suitors in their time for their hostess’s hand, for it
was a peculiarity of Edmonia’s rejections of her wooers, that they
usually soothed passion into affection and made of disappointed lovers
most loyal friends. Before the dinner came to an end, Arthur found
himself deliberately planning to seek this relation of close friendship
without the initiatory process of a love making. For he found his
hostess to be wise in counsel and sincere in mind, beyond her years.
“She is precisely the person to advise me in the delicate affairs that I
must manage,” he thought. “For in the present state of public
feeling”--it was the era of Kansas-Nebraska bills and violent
agitation--“it will require unusual tact and discretion to carry out my
plans without making of myself an object of hatred and loathing. This
young woman has tact in infinite measure; she has discretion also, and
an acquaintance with sentiment here, such as I cannot even hope to
acquire. Above all she has conscience, as I discover every time she has
occasion to express an opinion. I’ll make her my friend. I’ll consult
her with regard to my plans.”

By way of preparation for this he said to Edmonia as they sat together
in the porch one evening: “I am coming often to Branton, because I want
you to learn to know me and like me. I have matters in hand concerning
which I very much want your counsel. Will you mind giving it to me if I
behave well, resist the strong temptation to pay court to you as a
lover, and teach you after a while to feel that I am a friend to whom
your kindliness will owe counsel?”

“If you will put matters on that level, Cousin Arthur, and keep them
there I shall be glad to have it so. I don’t know that I can give you
advice of any account, but, at any rate, as I think your impulses will
be right and kindly, I can give you sympathy, and that is often a help.
I’ll give you my opinion also, whenever you want it--especially if I
think you are going wrong and need admonition. Then I’ll put on all the
airs of a Minerva and advise you oracularly. But remember that you must
win all this, by coming often to Branton and--and the rest of it.”

“I’ll come often to Branton, be sure of that,” he answered. But he did
not feel himself quite strong enough of purpose, to promise that he
would not make love to the mistress of the mansion.

At the dinner each gentleman had a joint or a pair of fowls before him
to carve, and every gentleman in that time and country was confidently
expected to know how to carve whatever dish there might be assigned to
him. Carving was deemed as much a necessary part of every gentleman’s
education as was the ability to ride and shoot and catch a mettlesome
fish. The barbarity of having the joints clumsily cut up by a butler at
a side table and served half cold in an undiscriminating way, had not
then come into being. Dining was a fine art in that time and country, a
social function, in which each carver had the joy of selecting tidbits
for those he served, and arranging them daintily and attractively upon
the plate brought to him for that purpose by a well trained servant.
Especially each took pleasure in remembering and ministering to the
particular fancies of all the rest in the act of helping. Refined people
had not yet borrowed from barbaric Russians the practice of having
themselves fed, like so many cattle, by servitors appointed to deal out
rations.

There was no wine served with the meal. That came later in its proper
place. Each gentleman had been invited to partake of a “toddy”--a mild
admixture of whiskey, water, sugar and nutmeg--before sitting down to
the meal. After that there was no drink served until the meal was over.
When the cloth was removed after the dessert, there came upon the
polished board some dishes of walnuts of which all partook sparingly.
Then came the wine--old sherry or, if the house were a fortunate one,
rare old Madeira, served from richly carved decanters, in daintily
stemmed cut glasses. The wine was poured into all the glasses. Then the
host proposed “the ladies,” and all drank, standing. Then the host
gallantly held the broad dining room door open while the ladies, bowing
and smiling, graciously withdrew. After that politics and walnuts,
religion and raisins, sherry and society divided the attention of the
gentlemen with cigars that had been kept for a dozen years or more
drying in a garret. For the modern practice of soaking cigars in a
refrigerator and smoking them limp and green was an undreamed of insult
to the tongues and palates of men who knew all about tobacco and who
smoked for flavor, not for the satisfaction of a fierce and intemperate
craving for narcotic effect.

After half an hour or so over the rich, nutty wine, the gentlemen joined
the gentlewomen in the drawing room, the hallway or the porches
according to the weather, and a day well spent ended with a light supper
at nine o’clock. Then there was an ordering of horses and a making of
adieux on the part of such of the gentlemen as were not going to remain
over night.

“You will stay, Cousin Arthur,” Edmonia said. “You will stay, of course.
You and I have a compact to carry out. We are to learn to like each
other. It will be very easy, I think, but we must set to work at it
immediately. Will you ride with me in the morning--soon?”

She called him “Cousin Arthur,” of course. Had not a distant relative of
his once married a still more distant kinswoman of her own? It would
have been deemed in Virginia a distinct discourtesy in her not to call
him “Cousin Arthur.”



IX

DOROTHY’S CASE


_A_fter a few weeks of work Arthur Brent’s laboratory was ready for use,
with all its apparatus in place and all its reserve supply of chemicals
safely bestowed in a small, log built hut standing apart.

His books too had been brought to the house and unpacked. He provided
shelf room for them in the various apartments, in the broad hallway, and
even upon the stairs. There were a multitude of volumes--largely the
accumulations of years of study and travel on his own and his father’s
part. The collection included all that was best in scientific
literature, and much that was best in history, in philosophy and in
_belles lettres_. To this latter department he had ordered large
additions made when sending for his books--this with an eye to Dorothy’s
education.

There was already a library of some importance at Wyanoke, the result of
irregular buying during two hundred years past. Swift was there in time
stained vellum. The poets, from Dryden and Pope to the last quarter of
the eighteenth century were well represented, and there were original
editions of “Childe Harold,” and “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers” on
the shelves. Scott was present in leathern cuirass of binding--both in
his novels and in his poems. But there was not a line of Coleridge or
Wordsworth or Shelley or Rogers or Campbell or John Keats, not a
suggestion of Matthew Arnold. Tennyson, Browning and their fellows were
completely absent, though Bailey’s “Festus” was there to represent
modern poetry.

The latest novels in the list, apart from Scott, were “Evelina,” “The
Children of The Abbey,” “Thaddeus of Warsaw,” “Scottish Chiefs” and some
others of their kind. But all the abominations of Smollett, all the
grossness of Fielding, all the ribaldry of Richardson, and all the
sentimental indecency of Laurence Sterne were present in full force--on
top shelves, out of consideration for maidenly modesty.

In history there were Josephus and Rollin, and scarcely anything else.
Hume was excluded because of his scepticism, and Gibbon had been passed
over as a monster of unbelief.

Arthur found that Dorothy had browsed somewhat in this old library,
particularly among the British Essayists and in some old volumes of
Dramas. Her purity had revolted at Fielding, Smollett and their kind,
and she had found the sentimentalities of Miss Burney insipid. But she
knew her “Don Quixote” almost by heart, and “Gil Blas” even more
minutely. She had read much of Montaigne and something of Rousseau in
the original also, and the Latin classics were her familiars. For her
father had taught her from infancy, French and Latin, not after the
manner of the schools, as grammatical gymnastics, but with an eye single
to the easy and intelligent reading of the rich literatures that those
languages offer to the initiated. The girl knew scarcely a single rule
of Latin grammar--in text book terms at least--but she read her Virgil
and Horace almost as easily as she did her Bible.

It was with definite reference to the deficiencies of this and other old
plantation libraries, that Arthur Brent ordered books. He selected
Dorothy’s own sitting room--opening off her chamber--as the one in which
to bestow the treasures of modern literature--Tennyson, Dickens,
Thackeray, Bulwer, Coleridge, Keats, Rogers, Campbell, Shelley and their
later successors--Longfellow, Bryant, Willis, Halleck, and above all
Irving, Paulding and Hawthorne.

In arranging these treasures in Dorothy’s outer room, Arthur resorted to
a little trick or two. He would pick up a volume with ostensible purpose
of placing it upon a shelf, but would turn to a favorite passage and
read a little aloud. Then, suddenly stopping, he would say:--

“But you’ll read all that for yourself,” and would add some bit of
comment or suggestion of a kind to awaken the girl’s attention and
attract her to the author in question. Before he had finished arranging
the books in that room Dorothy was almost madly eager to read all of
them. A new world was opening to her, a world of modern thought far more
congenial to her mind than the older literature which alone she had
known before. Here was a literature of which she had scarcely known even
the existence. It was a clean, wholesome, well-aired literature; a
literature founded upon modern ways of thinking; a literature that dealt
with modern life and character; a literature instinct with the thought
and sentiment of her own time. The girl was at once bewildered by the
extent of it and fascinated by its charm. Her sleep was cut short in her
eagerness to read it all. Its influence upon her mind and character
became at once and insistently manifest.

“Here endeth the first lesson,” quoted Arthur Brent when he had thus
placed all that is best in modern literature temptingly at this eager
girl’s hand. “It will puzzle them to stop her from thinking now,” he
added, “or to confine her thinking within their strait-laced
conventions. Now for science.”

The age of Darwin, Huxley and Herbert Spencer had not yet come, in 1859.
Haeckel was still unheard of, outside of Berlin and Jena. The science of
biology, in which all other science finds its fruition and justifies its
being, was then scarcely “a borning.” Otherwise, Arthur Brent would have
made of Dorothy’s amateurish acquaintance with botany the basis of a
systematic study, leading up to that conception which came later to
science, that all life is one, whether animal or vegetable; that species
are the results of differentiation by selection and development, and
that the scheme of nature is one uniform, consistent whole, composed of
closely related parts. But this thought had not yet come to science.
Darwin’s “Origin of Species” was not published until later in that year,
Wallace was off on his voyages and had not yet reached those all
embracing conclusions. Huxley was still only a young man of promise.
Virchow was bound in those trammels of tradition from which he was
destined never quite to disentangle himself, even with the stimulus of
Haeckel, his wonderful pupil. But the thought that has since made
science alive had been dreamed of even then. There were suggestions of
it in the manuscripts,--written backwards--of Leonardo da Vinci, and
Goethe had foreshadowed much of it.

Nevertheless, it was not for such sake or with a purpose so broad that
Arthur Brent set out to interest Dorothy South in science. His only
purpose was to teach her to think, to implant in her mind that divine
thirst for sound knowledge which he clearly recognized as a specific
remedy for conventional narrowness of mind.

The girl was quick to learn rudiments and general principles, and in
laboratory work she soon surpassed her master as a maker of experiments.
In such work her habits of exactitude stood her in good stead, and her
conscientiousness had its important part to play.

But science did not become a very serious occupation with Dorothy. It
was rather play than study at first, and when she had acquired some
insight into it, so that its suggestions served to explain the phenomena
about her, she was fairly well content. She had no passion for original
research and of that Arthur was rather glad. “That sort of thing is
masculine,” he reflected, “and she is altogether a woman. I don’t want
her to grow into anything else.”

But to her passion for literature there was no limit. “Literature
concerns itself with people,” she said to Arthur one day, “and I care
more for people than for gases and bases and reactions.”

But literature, in its concern for people, records the story of human
life through all the centuries, and the development of human thought. It
includes history and speculative philosophy and Dorothy manifested
almost a passion for these.

It was at this point that trouble first arose. So long as the girl was
supposed to be devouring novels and poetry, the community admired and
approved. But when it was noised abroad that she knew Gibbon as
familiarly as she did her catechism, that she had read Hume’s Essays and
Locke on the Understanding, together with the elder Mill, and Jeremy
Bentham and much else of like kind, the wonder was not unmixed with
doubt as to the fitness of such reading for a young girl.

For a time even Aunt Polly shared this doubt but she was quickly cured
of it when Madison Peyton, with his customary impertinence protested.
Aunt Polly was not accustomed to agree in opinion with Madison Peyton,
and she resented the suggestion that the girl could come to any harm
while under her care. So she combated Peyton’s view after a destructive
fashion. When he spoke of this literature as unfit, Aunt Polly meekly
asked him, “Why?” and naturally he could not answer, having never read a
line of it in his life. He sought to evade the question but Aunt Polly
was relentless, greatly to the amusement of John Meaux and Col. Majors,
the lawyer of the old families. She insisted upon his telling her which
of the books were dangerous for Dorothy to read. “How else can I know
which to take away from her?” she asked. When at last he unwisely
ventured to mention Gibbon--having somehow got the impression, which was
common then, that the “Decline and Fall” was a sceptical work, Aunt
Polly--who had been sharing Dorothy’s reading of it,--plied him with
closer questions.

“In what way is it harmful?” she asked, and then, quite innocently,
“what is it all about any how, Madison?”

“Oh, well, we can’t go into that,” he said evasively.

“But why not? That is precisely what we must go into if we are to direct
Dorothy’s reading properly. What is this book that you think she ought
not to read? What does it treat of? What is there in it that you object
to?”

Thus baited on a subject that he knew nothing about, Peyton grew angry,
though he knew it would not do for him to manifest the fact. He
unwisely, but with an air of very superior wisdom, blurted out:--

“If you had read that book, Cousin Polly, you wouldn’t like to make it
the subject of conversation.”

“So?” asked the old lady. “It is in consideration of my ignorance then
that you graciously pardon my discretion?”

“It’s a very proper ignorance. I respect you for never having indulged
in such reading,” he answered.

“Then you must respect me less,” calmly responded the old lady, “for I
have read the book and I’m reading it a second time. I don’t see that it
has hurt me, but I’ll bow to your superior wisdom if you’ll only tell
me what there is in the book that is likely to undermine my morals.”

The laugh that followed from Col. Majors and John Meaux--for the idea
that anything, literary or otherwise, could undermine the vigorous
morals of this high bred dame was too ludicrous to be resisted--nettled
Peyton anew. Still further losing his temper he broke out:

“How should I know what is in the book? I never read such stuff. But I
know it is unfit for a young girl, and in this case I have a right to
dictate. I tell you now, Cousin Polly, that I will not have Dorothy’s
mind perverted by such reading. My interest in this case is paramount
and I mean to assert it. I have been glad to have her with you for the
sake of the social and moral training I expected you to give her. But I
tell you now, that if you don’t stop all this kind of reading and all
this slopping in a laboratory, trying to learn atheistical science--for
all science is atheistical as you well know--”

“Pardon me, Madison,” broke in the old lady, “I didn’t know that. Won’t
you explain it to me, please?”--this with the meekness of a reverent
disciple, a meekness which Peyton knew to be a mockery.

“Oh, everybody knows that,” testily answered the man. “And it is
indecent as well. I hear that Arthur has been teaching Dorothy a lot
about anatomy and that sort of thing that no woman ought to know, and--”

“Why shouldn’t a woman know that?” asked Aunt Polly, still delivering
her hot shot as if they had been balls of the zephyr she was knitting
into a nubia. “Does it do her any harm to know how--”

“Oh, please don’t ask me to go into that, Cousin Polly,” the man
impatiently responded. “You see it isn’t a proper subject of
conversation.”

“Oh, isn’t it? I didn’t know, you see. And as you will not enlighten me,
let us return to what you were about to say. I beg pardon for
interrupting.”

“I don’t remember what I was going to say,” said Peyton, anxious to end
the discussion. “Besides it was of no consequence. Let’s talk of
something else.”

“Not yet, please,” placidly answered the old lady. “I remember that you
were about to threaten me with something. Now I never was threatened in
my life, and I’m really anxious to know how it feels. So please go on
and threaten me, Madison.”

“I never thought of threatening you, Cousin Polly, I assure you. You’re
mistaken in that, surely.”

“Not at all. You said you had been pleased to have Dorothy under my
charge. I thank you for saying that. But you added that if I didn’t stop
her reading and her scientific studies you’d--you didn’t say just what
you’d do. That is because I interrupted. I beg pardon for doing so, but
now you must complete the sentence.”

“Oh, I only meant that if the girl was to be miseducated at Wyanoke, I
should feel myself obliged to take her away to my own house and--”

“You need not continue,” answered the old lady, rising in stately wrath.
“You have said quite enough. Now let me make my reply. It is simply that
if you ever attempt to put such an affront as that upon me, you’ll wish
you had never been born.”

She instantly withdrew from the piazza of the house in which all were
guests, John Meaux gallantly accompanying her. She paid no more heed to
Peyton’s clamorous protestations of apology than to the buzzing of the
bees that were plundering the honeysuckles of their sweets.

When she had gone Peyton began to realize the mistake he had made. In
that Col. Majors, who was left alone with him, greatly assisted him. In
the slow, deliberate way in which he always spoke, Col. Majors said:

“You know, Peyton, that I do not often volunteer advice before I am
asked to give it, but in this case I am going to do so. It seems to me
that you have overlooked certain facts which present themselves to my
mind, as important, and of which I think the courts would take
cognizance.”

“Oh, I only meant to give Cousin Polly a hint,” broke in Peyton. “Of
course I didn’t seriously mean that I would take the girl away from
her.”

“It is well that you did not,” answered the lawyer, “for the sufficient
reason that you could not do that if you were determined upon it.”

“Why, surely,” Peyton protested. “I have a right to look after the
girl’s welfare?”

“Absolutely none whatever.”

“Why, you forget the arrangement between me and Dr. South.”

“Not at all. That arrangement was at best a contract without
consideration, and therefore nonenforcible. Even if it had been reduced
to writing and formally executed, it would be so much waste paper in
the eyes of a court. Dorothy is a ward in chancery. The court would
never permit the enforcement of a contract of that kind upon her, so
long as she is under age; and when she attains her majority she will be
absolutely free, if I know anything of the law, to repudiate an
arrangement disposing of her life, made by others without her consent.”

“Do you mean that on a mere whim of her own, that girl can upset the
advantageous arrangements made for her by her father and undo the whole
thing?”

“I mean precisely that. But pardon me, the time has not come to consider
that question. What I would impress upon your mind at present is that on
the whole you’d better make your peace with Miss Polly. She has the girl
in charge, and if you antagonize her, she may perhaps train Miss Dorothy
to repudiate the arrangement altogether. In that case you may not wish
that you had never been born, as Miss Polly put the matter, but you’ll
wish that you hadn’t offended the dear old lady.”

“Then I must take the girl away from her at once,” exclaimed Peyton in
alarm. “I mustn’t leave her for another day under Cousin Polly’s
influence.”

“But you cannot take her away, Peyton. That is what I am trying to
impress upon your mind.”

“But why not? Surely I have a right--”

“You have absolutely _no_ rights in the premises. The will of the late
Dr. South, made Robert Brent Dorothy’s guardian.”

“But Robert Brent is dead,” broke in Peyton, impatiently, “and I am to
be the girl’s guardian after the next term of the court.”

“Perhaps so,” answered the lawyer. “The court usually allows the ward to
choose her guardian in such a case, and if you strongly commend yourself
to her, she may choose you. But I may be allowed to suggest that that
will depend a good deal upon what advice Miss Polly may give her. She is
very fond of Miss Polly, and apt to be guided by her. However that again
is a matter that has no bearing upon the question in hand. Even were you
already appointed guardian of Miss Dorothy’s estate you could not take
the girl away from Miss Polly.”

“Why not? Has a guardian no authority?”

“Oh, yes--a very large authority. But it happens in this case that by
the terms of the late Dr. South’s will, Miss Polly is made sole and
absolute guardian of Miss Dorothy’s person until such time as she shall
come of age or previously marry with Miss Polly’s consent. Neither
Robert Brent, during his life, nor any person appointed to succeed him
as guardian of Miss Dorothy’s estate, had, or has, or can have the
smallest right to take her away from the guardian of her person. That
could be done only by going into court and showing that the guardian of
the person was of immoral life and unfit to have charge of a child. It
would be risky, to say the least of it, to suggest such a thing as that
in the case of Miss Polly, wouldn’t it? She has no very near relatives
but there isn’t a young or a middle-aged man in this county who
wouldn’t, in that case, adopt the relation of nearest male relation to
her and send inconvenient billets-doux to you by the hands of insistent
friends.”

“Oh, that’s all nonsense,” answered Peyton. “Of course nobody would
think of such a thing as questioning Cousin Polly’s eminent fitness to
bring up a girl.”

“And yet that is precisely what you did, by implication at least, a
little while ago. My advice to you is to repair your blunder at the
earliest possible moment.”

Peyton clearly saw the necessity of doing so, especially now that he had
learned that Dorothy must in any case remain in Aunt Polly’s charge. It
would ruin all his plans to have Aunt Polly antagonize them even
passively. But how to atone for his error was a difficult problem. With
anybody else he would have tried his favorite tactics of “laughing the
thing off,” treating it as a jest and being more good naturedly insolent
than ever. But with Aunt Polly he could not do that. She was much too
shrewdly penetrative to be deceived by such measures and much too
sensitively self-respectful to tolerate familiarity as a substitute for
an apology.

Moreover he knew that he needed something more than Aunt Polly’s
forgiveness. He wanted her coöperation. For the dread which had inspired
his blundering outbreak, was not mainly, if at all, a dread of English
literature as a perverting educational force. He knew next to nothing of
literature and he cared even less. Under ordinary circumstances he would
never have bothered himself over any question of Dorothy’s reading. But
Dorothy was doing her reading under the tutelage and with the sympathy
of Arthur Brent, and Madison Peyton foresaw that the close, daily
association of the girl--child as she was--with a man so gifted and so
pleasing was likely, after a year or two at least to grow into a warmer
attachment. And even if that should not happen, he felt that her
education under the influence of such a man might give her ideals and
standards which would not be satisfied by the life plans made for her
between himself and her father.

It was not to remove her from Aunt Polly’s control, or even to save her
from too much serious reading--though he was suspicious of that--that he
cared. He wanted to keep her away from Arthur Brent’s influence, and it
was in a blundering attempt to bring that about that he had managed to
offend Aunt Polly, making a possible enemy of his most necessary ally.

It was with a perturbed mind therefore that he rode away from the
hospitable house where the discussion had occurred, making some hastily
manufactured excuse to the hostess, for not remaining to dinner.



X

DOROTHY VOLUNTEERS


_A_ll this while Arthur Brent was a very busy man. It was true, as
Madison Peyton had said, that he knew little of planting, but he had two
strong coadjutors in the cultivation of his crops. John Meaux--perhaps
in unconscious spite of Peyton--frequently rode over to Wyanoke and
visited all its fields in company with the young master of the
plantation. There was not much in common between Meaux and Arthur, not
much to breed a close intimacy. Meaux was an educated man, within the
rather narrow limits established by the curriculum at West Point--for
Robert E. Lee had not yet done his work of enlargement and betterment at
the military academy when Meaux was a cadet in that institution--but he
was not a man of much reading, and intellectually he was indolent.
Nevertheless he was a pleasant enough companion, his friendship for
Arthur was genuine, and he knew more about the arts of planting than
anybody else in that region. He freely gave Arthur the benefit of his
judgment and skill greatly to the advantage of the growing crops at
Wyanoke.

Archer Bannister, too, was often Arthur’s guest. He came and went as he
pleased, sometimes remaining for three or four days at a time, sometimes
staying only long enough to advise Arthur to have a tobacco lot cut
before a rain should come to wash off the “molasses”--as the thick gum
on a ripening tobacco leaf was called. He was himself a skilful planter
and his almost daily counsel was of great value to Arthur’s
inexperience.

But it was not of things agricultural only that these two were
accustomed to talk with each other. There had quickly grown up between
them an almost brotherly intimacy. They were men of congenial tastes and
close intellectual sympathies, and there was from the first a strong
liking on either side which was referable rather to similarity of
character than to anything merely intellectual. Both men cherished high
ideals of conduct, and both were loyal to those ideals. Both were
thoroughly educated, and both had been broadened by travel. Both
indulged in intellectual activities not always attractive even to men of
culture. Arthur loved science with the devotion of a disciple; Archer
rejoiced in a study of its conclusions and their consequences rather
than of its processes, its methods, its details. Above all, so far as
intellectual sympathies were concerned, both young men were almost
passionately devoted to literature. Between two such men, thrown
together in that atmosphere of leisure which was the crowning glory of
Virginia plantation life, it was inevitable that something more and
stronger than ordinary friendship should grow up. And between them stood
also Archer’s sister Edmonia--a woman whom both held in tender
affection, the one loving her as a sister, the other as--he scarcely
knew what. She shared the ideas, the impulses, the high principles of
both, and in her feminine way she shared also their intellectual tastes
and aspirations.

Arthur had still another coadjutor in his management of affairs, in the
person of Dorothy. Throughout the summer and autumn the girl rode with
him every morning during the hours before breakfast, and, in her queer,
half childish, half womanly way, she instructed him mightily in many
things. Her habits of close observation had given her a large and
accurate knowledge of plantation affairs which was invaluable to him,
covering as it did many points of detail left unmentioned by Meaux and
Bannister.

But his interest in the girl was chiefly psychological. The
contradiction he observed between her absolutely child-like simplicity
and the strangely sage and old way she had of thinking now and then,
interested him beyond measure. Her honesty was phenomenal--her
truthfulness astonishing.

One morning as the two rode together through the corn they came upon a
watermelon three fourths grown. Instantly the girl slipped to the ground
with the request:--

“Lend me your knife, please.”

He handed her the knife wondering what she would do with it. After an
effort to open it she handed it back, saying: “Won’t you please open it?
Knives are not fit for women’s use. Our thumb nails are not strong
enough to open them. But we use them, anyhow. That’s because women’s
masters are not severe enough with them.”

Receiving the knife again, with a blade opened, the girl stooped and
quickly scratched Arthur’s initials “A. B.,” upon the melon.

“I’ve observed you do that before, Dorothy,” said Arthur as the girl
again mounted Chestnut, without assistance. “Why do you do it?”

“To keep the servants from stealing the melon,” she replied. “Everybody
does that. I wonder if it’s right.”

“But how can that keep a negro from taking the melon some dark night
after it is ripe and secretly eating it?”

“Oh, that’s because of their ignorance. They are very ignorant--much
more so than you think, Cousin Arthur. I may call you ‘Cousin Arthur,’
may I not? You see I always called your uncle ‘Uncle Robert,’ and if
your uncle was my uncle, of course you and I are cousins. Besides I like
to call you ‘Cousin Arthur.’”

“And I like to have you call me so. But tell me about the marking of the
watermelon.”

“Oh, that’s simple enough. When you have marked your initials on a
melon, the negroes know you have seen it and so they are afraid to steal
it.”

“But how should I know who took it?”

“That’s their ignorance. They never think of that. Or rather I suppose
they think educated people know a great deal more than they do. I wonder
if it is right?”

“If what is right, Dorothy?”

“Why, to take advantage of their ignorance in that way. Have educated
people a right to do that with ignorant people? Is it fair?”

“I see your point, Dorothy, and I’m not prepared to give you an answer,
at least in general terms. But, at any rate, it is right to use any
means we can to keep people from stealing.”

“Oh, yes, I’ve thought of that. But is it stealing for the negroes to
take a watermelon which they have planted and cultivated? They do the
work on the plantation. Aren’t they entitled to all they want to eat?”

“Within reasonable bounds, yes,” answered Arthur, meditatively. “They
are entitled to all the wholesome food they need, and to all the warm
clothing, and to comfortable, wholesome quarters to live in. But we
mustn’t leave the smoke house door unlocked. If we did that the
dishonest ones among them would take all the meat and sell it, and the
rest would starve. Besides, the white people are entitled to something.
They take care of the negroes in sickness and in childhood and in old
age. They must feed and clothe them and nurse them and have doctors for
them no matter what it may cost. It is true, the negroes do the work
that produces the food and clothing and all the rest of it, but their
masters contribute the intelligent management that is quite as
necessary as the work. Imagine this plantation, Dorothy, or your own
Pocahontas, left to the negroes. They could do as much work as they do
now, but do you suppose their crops would feed them till Christmas if
there were no white man to manage for them?”

“Of course not. Indeed they never would make a crop. Still I don’t like
the system.”

“Neither do I, Dorothy, but in the present state of the public mind
neither of us must say so.”

“Why not, Cousin Arthur? Is there any harm in telling the truth?”

“Sometimes I suppose it is better to keep silence,” answered Arthur,
hesitating.

“For women, yes,” quickly responded the girl. “But men can fight. Why
shouldn’t they tell the truth?”

“I don’t quite understand your distinction, Dorothy.”

“I’m not sure,” she answered, “that I understand it myself. Oh, yes, I
do, now that I think of it. Women tell lies, of course, because they
can’t fight. Or, if they don’t quite tell lies they at least keep silent
whenever telling the truth would make trouble. That’s because they can’t
fight. Men can fight, and so there’s not the slightest excuse for them
if they tell lies or even if they keep silent.”

“But, Dorothy, I don’t yet understand. Women can’t fight, of course, but
then they are never called upon to fight. Why--”

“That’s just it, Cousin Arthur. If a woman speaks out, nobody can hold
her responsible. But anybody can hold her nearest male friend
responsible and he must fight to maintain what she has said, whether he
thinks she was right in saying it or not. The other day Jeff.
Peyton--Mr. Madison Peyton’s son, you know,--was over at Wyanoke, when
you had gone to Branton. So I had to entertain him.” Dorothy did not
know that the youth had been sent to Wyanoke by his father for the
express purpose of being entertained by herself. “I found him a pretty
stupid fellow, as I always do, but as he pretends to have been a student
at the University, I supposed he had read a great deal. So I talked to
him about Virgil but he knew so little that I asked him if he had read
‘The Vicar of Wakefield,’ and he told me a deliberate lie. He professed
a full acquaintance with that book, and presently I found out that he
had never read a line of it. I was so shocked that I forgot myself. I
asked him, ‘Why did you lie to me?’ It was dreadfully rude, of course,
but I could not help it. Now of course he couldn’t challenge _me_ for
that. But if he had been a man of spirit, he would have challenged
_you_, and you see how terribly wrong I should have been to involve you
in a quarrel of that kind. Of course if I had been a man, instead of a
woman--if I had been answerable for my words--I should have been
perfectly free to charge him with lying. But what possible right had I
to risk your life in a duel by saying things that I might as well have
left unsaid?”

“But you said the other day,” responded Arthur, “that you did not
believe in duelling?”

“Of course I don’t. It is a barbarous thing. But it is the custom of our
country and we can’t help it. I’ve noticed that if a man fights a duel
on proper provocation, everybody says he ought not to have done it. But
if he refuses to fight, everybody says he’s a coward. So, under certain
circumstances, a man in Virginia who respects himself is absolutely
compelled to fight. If Jefferson Peyton had asked you to meet him on
account of what I said to him, you couldn’t have refused, could you,
Cousin Arthur?”

“I wouldn’t,” was all the answer the young man made; but he put a strong
stress upon the last word.

“Oh, I know you wouldn’t,” answered the girl, treating his response as
quite a matter of course. “But you see now why a woman must keep silent
where a man should speak out. If a man tells the truth he can be called
to account for it; so if he is manly he will tell it and take the
consequences. But a woman has to remember that if she tells the truth,
and the truth happens to be ugly, some man must be shot at for her
words.”

“Dorothy,” asked Arthur, with unusual seriousness, “are you afraid of
anything?”

“Afraid? No. Of course not.”

“If you were needed very badly for the sake of other people--even
negroes--if you could save their lives and ease their sufferings, you’d
want to do it, wouldn’t you?”

“Why, of course, Cousin Arthur. I’ve read in Aunt Polly’s old
newspapers, how you went to Norfolk in the yellow fever time, and how
bravely you--never mind. I’ve read all about that, over and over again,
and it’s part of what makes me like you.”

“But courage is not expected of women.”

“Oh, yes, it is,” quickly responded the girl. “Not the courage of
fighting, of course--but that’s only because men won’t fight with women,
except in mean ways. Women are expected to show courage in other ways,
and they do it too. In the newspapers that tell about your heroism at
Norfolk, there is a story of how one of your nurses went always to the
most dangerous cases, and how, when she died, you officiated at her
funeral, instead of the clergyman who had got scared and run away like a
coward that did not trust his God. I remember what the newspaper says
that you said at the grave, Cousin Arthur. I’ve got it all by heart. You
said, at the end of your address:--‘We are accustomed to pay honor and
to set up monuments to men who have dared, where daring offered its rich
reward of fame and glory. Let us reverently bow our heads and abase our
feeble, selfish souls, in presence of the courage of this frail woman,
who, in her weakness, has achieved greater things in the sight of God
than any that the valor and strength of man have ever accomplished since
the foundations of the world were laid. Let us reverently and lovingly
make obeisance to the courage of a devoted woman--a courage that we men
can never hope to match.’ You see I remember all that you said then,
Cousin Arthur, and so you needn’t tell me now that you do not expect
courage at the hands of women.”

Arthur made no immediate reply, and the two rode on in silence for a
time. After a while, as they neared the house gates, he spoke.

“Dorothy,” he said, “I need your help very badly. You cannot render me
the help I want without very serious danger to yourself. So I don’t want
you to give me any answer to what I am about to say until tomorrow. I
want you to think the matter over very carefully first.”

“Tell me what it is, Cousin Arthur.”

“Why, I find that we are to have a very dangerous epidemic of typhoid
fever among the negroes here. When the first case occurred ten days ago
I hoped that might be all; but two days later I found two more cases;
day before yesterday there were five more. So it is obvious that we are
to have an epidemic. All the cases have appeared among the field hands
and their families out at the far quarters, and so I hope that the house
servants and the people around the stables will escape. But the outbreak
is really very serious and the disease is of the most virulent type. I
must literally fight it with fire. I have already set men at work
building new quarters down by the Silver Spring, a mile away from the
infected place, and as soon as I can I’m going to move all the people
and set fire to all the old quarters. I’ve bought an old circus tent in
Richmond, and I expect it by express today. As soon as it comes I’m
going to set it up on the Haw Branch hill, and put all the sick people
into it, so as to separate them from those that are well. As fast as
others show symptoms of the disease, I’ll remove them also to the
hospital tent, and for that purpose I have ordered forty cots and a lot
of new blankets and pillows.”

Dorothy ejaculated her sorrow and sympathy with the poor blacks, and
quickly added the question: “What is it that I can do, Cousin Arthur?
Tell me; you know I will do it.”

“But, Dorothy, dear, I don’t want you to make up your mind till you have
thought it all over.”

“My mind is already made up. You want me to nurse these poor sick
people, and of course I’m going to do it. You are thinking that the
disease is contagious--”

“No, it is only infectious,” he broke in with the instinct of scientific
exactitude strong upon him.

“Well, anyhow, it’s catching, and you think I may catch it, and you
want me to think out whether I’m afraid of that or not. Very well. I’ve
already thought that out. _You_ are going to be with the sick people
night and day. Cousin Arthur, I am only a girl, but I’m no more a coward
than you are. Tell me what I’m to do. It doesn’t need any thinking out.”

“But, Dorothy, listen to me. These are not your people. If this outbreak
had occurred at Pocahontas, the matter would have been different. You
might well think that you owed a duty to the people on your own
plantation, but you owe none to these people of mine.”

“Oh, yes, I do. I live at Wyanoke. Besides they are human beings and
they are in need of help. I don’t know how I can help, but you are going
to tell me, and I’m going to do what you want. I will not waste a day in
thinking.”

“But, my child, the danger in this case is really very great. Indeed it
is extremely probable that if you do what you propose to do, you will
have the fever, and as I have already said, it has assumed an unusually
virulent form.”

“It can’t be more dangerous than the yellow fever was at Norfolk, and
you braved that in order to save the lives of people you had never heard
of--people to whom you owed nothing whatever. Cousin Arthur, do you
think me less brave than you are?”

“No, dear, but--”

“Very well. You shall tell me after breakfast precisely what I can do,
and then I’ll do it. Women are naturally bad, and so they mustn’t lose
any opportunity of doing good when they can.”

At that moment they arrived at the house gates. Slipping from her
saddle, Dorothy turned her great, earnest eyes full upon her companion,
and said with tense lips:

“Promise me one thing, Cousin Arthur! Promise me that if I die in this
work you won’t ask any clergyman to mutter worn-out words from a prayer
book over my grave, but will yourself say to my friends that I did not
shirk like a coward!”

Instantly, and without waiting for the promise she had besought, the
girl turned, caught up her long riding skirt and fled like a deer to the
house.



XI

THE WOMAN’S AWAKENING


_I_t was upon a momentary impulse that Arthur Brent had suggested to
Dorothy that she should help him in the battle with pestilence which lay
before him. As a physician he had been accustomed to practise his
profession not in the ordinary, perfunctory way, and not for gain, but
in the spirit of a crusader combating disease as the arch enemy of
humanity, and partly too for the joy of conquering so merciless a foe.
His first thought in this case therefore had been to call to his aid the
best assistance available. His chief difficulty, he clearly foresaw,
would be in getting his measures intelligently carried out. He must
secure the accurate, prompt and intelligent execution of his directions,
whether for the administration of medicines prescribed or for hygienic
measures ordered. The ignorance, the prejudice, and the inert
carelessness of the negroes, he felt, would be his mightiest and wiliest
foes in this, and there could be no abler adjutant for this purpose
than Dorothy, with her quick wit, her scrupulous conscientiousness and
her habit of compelling exact and instant obedience to all her commands.
So he had thought first of calling upon Dorothy for help. But when she
had so promptly responded, he began to feel that he had made a mistake.
The physician in him, and the crusader too, sanctioned and approved the
use of the best means available for the accomplishment of his high
purpose. But the man in him, the friend, the affectionate protector,
protested against such an exposure of the child to dreadful danger.

When he reflected upon the matter and thought of the peril; when he
conjured up a picture of dear little Dorothy stricken and perhaps dead
in a service of humanity to which no duty called her, and to which she
had been induced only by her loyalty to him, he shrank back in horror
from the program he had laid out.

Yet he knew that he could not easily undo what he had done. There was a
child side to Dorothy, and it was that which usually presented itself to
his mind when he thought of her. But there was a strong woman side to
her also, as he very well knew, and over that he had established no
influence or control. He had won the love of the child. He had not yet
won the love of the woman. He realized that it was the masterful, woman
side of her nature that he had called into activity in this matter. Now
that the heroism of the brave woman’s soul was enlisted, he knew that he
could not easily bid it turn back.

Yet something might be done by adroit management, and he resolved upon
that. After breakfast he sent for Dorothy and said, lightly:

“I’m glad I have taught you to handle drugs skilfully, Dorothy. I shall
need certain medicines frequently in this conflict. They are our
ammunition for the battle, and we must have them always ready. I’m going
to write some prescriptions for you to fill. I want you to spend today
and tomorrow in the laboratory preparing them. One of them will tax your
skill a good deal. It may take you several days to get it ready. It
involves some very careful chemical processes--for you must first
manufacture a part of your chemicals out of their raw materials. I’ll
write detailed instructions for that, but you may fail half a dozen
times before you succeed. You must be patient and you’ll get it right.
You always do in the end. Then there’s another thing I want you to do
for me. I’m going to burn all the clothing, bedding and so forth at the
quarters. I’ll make each of the well negroes put on the freshest
clothing he has before removing to the sanitary camp, and I’ll burn all
the rest. I sent Dick early this morning to the Court House, telling
Moses to send me all the blankets and all the cloth he has of every
kind, from calico and osnaburgs to heavy woollen goods, and I’ve written
to Richmond for more. We must clothe the negroes anew--men, women and
children. So I want you to get together all your seamstresses--every
woman on the plantation indeed who can sew even a little bit--and set
them all at work making clothes. I’ve cleared out the prize barn for the
purpose, and the men are now laying a rough floor in it and putting up
some tables on which you and Aunt Polly can ‘cut out’--that’s what you
call it, isn’t it?”

“Cousin Arthur,” said the girl, looking at him with something of
reproach in her great, dark blue eyes, “I’ll do all this of course, and
everything else that you want done. But please, Cousin Arthur, don’t
tell lies to me, even indirectly. I couldn’t stand that from you.”

“What do you mean, child?”

“Oh, you have made up your mind to keep me busy with all these things so
that I shall not go into your hospital to serve as a nurse. I’ll do
these things for you, but I’ll do the nursing too. So please let us be
good friends and please don’t try to play tricks.”

The young man was astonished and abashed. Under ordinary circumstances
he might truthfully have pleaded that the work he was thus laying out
for her was really and pressingly necessary. But Dorothy anticipated him
in that.

“Don’t tell me that these things are necessary, Cousin Arthur. I know
that perfectly well. But you know that I am not necessary to
them--except so far as the prescriptions are concerned. Aunt Polly can
direct the clothes making better than I can, and her maid, Jane, is
almost as good. So after I compound the prescriptions I shall go to my
duty at the hospital. I don’t think I like you very well today, Cousin
Arthur, and I’ll not like you at all if you go on trying to make up
things to keep me busy, away from the sick people. If you do that again
I’ll stop calling you ‘Cousin Arthur’ and you’ll be just ‘Dr. Brent’ to
me.”

“Please don’t do that, Dorothy,” he said very pleadingly. “I only
meant--”

“Oh, I know what you meant,” she interrupted. “But you shouldn’t treat
me in that way. I won’t call you ‘Dr. Brent,’ unless you do that sort of
thing again, and if you let me do my duty without trying to play tricks,
I’ll go on liking you just as much as ever.”

“Thank you, Dorothy,” he replied with fervor. “You must forgive me,
please. I didn’t want to expose you to this danger--that was all.”

“Oh, I understand all that,” she quickly responded. “But it wasn’t
treating me quite fairly--and you know I hate unfairness. And--why
shouldn’t I be exposed to the danger if I can do any good? Even if the
worst should happen--even if I should take the fever and die, after
saving some of these poor creatures’ lives, could you or anybody have
made a better use of a girl like me than that?”

Arthur looked at the child earnestly, but the child was no longer there.
The eyes that gazed into his were those of a woman!



XII

MAMMY


_W_hen Arthur Brent reached the “quarters” that morning he found matters
in worse condition than he had feared.

“The whole spot is pestilential,” he said. “How any sane man ever
selected it for quarters, I can’t imagine. Gilbert,” calling to the head
man who had come in from the field at his master’s summons, “I want you
to take all the people out of the crop at once, and send for all the
house servants too. Take them with you over to the Haw Branch hill and
put every one of them at work building some sort of huts. You must get
enough of them done before night, to hold the sick people, for I’m going
to clear out these quarters today. I must have enough huts for the sick
ones at once. Those who are well will have to sleep out of doors at the
Silver Spring tonight.”

“But, Mahstah,” remonstrated Gilbert, “dey ain’t no clapboa’ds to roof
wif. Dey ain’t no nuffin--”

“Use fence rails then and cover them with pine tops. I’ll ride over and
direct you presently. Send me eight or ten of the strongest young women
at once, and then get everybody to work on the shelters. Do you hear?”

When the women came he instructed them how to carry the sick on
improvised litters, and half an hour later, with his own hand he set
fire to the little negro village. He had allowed nothing to be carried
away from it, and he left nothing to chance. One of the negroes came
back in frantic haste to save certain “best clothes” and a banjo that he
had laboriously made. Arthur ordered him instead to fill up the well
with rubbish, so that no one might drink of its waters again.

As soon as the fire was completely in possession the young master rode
away to Haw Branch hill to look after the sick ones and direct the work
of building shelters for them. Dorothy was already there, tenderly
looking to the comfort of the invalids. The litter-bearers would have
set their burdens down anywhere and left them there but for Dorothy’s
quiet insistence that they should place them in such shade as she could
find, and gather an abundance of broomstraw grass for them to lie upon.
To Arthur she offered no explanation of her presence, nor was any
needed. Arthur understood, and all that he said was:

“God bless you, Dorothy!” a sentiment to which one of the stricken ones
responded:

“He’ll do dat for shuah, Mahstah, ef he knows he business.”

“Dick has returned from the Court House,” said Dorothy reporting. “He
says the big tent is there and I’ve sent a man with a wagon to fetch it.
These shelters will do well enough for tonight, and we’ll get our
hospital tent up soon tomorrow morning.”

“Very well,” responded Arthur. “Now, Dorothy, won’t you ride over to
Silver Spring and direct the men there how to lay out the new quarters?
I drew this little diagram as I rode over here. You see I want the
houses built well apart for the sake of plenty of air. I’m going to put
the quarters there ‘for all the time’ as you express it. That is to say
I’m going to build permanent quarters. I’ve already looked over the
ground carefully as to drainage and the like and roughly laid out the
plan of the village so that it shall be healthy. Please go over there
and show the men what I want, I’ll be over there in an hour and then
you can come back here. I must remain here till the doctors come.”

“What doctors, Cousin Arthur?”

“All the doctors within a dozen miles. I’ve sent for all of them.”

“But what for? Surely you know more about fighting disease than our
old-fashioned country doctors do.”

“Perhaps so. But there are several reasons for consulting them. First of
all they know this country and climate better than I do. Secondly, they
are older men, most of them, and have had experience. Thirdly, I don’t
want all the responsibility on my shoulders, in case anything goes
wrong, and above all I don’t want to offend public sentiment by assuming
too much. These gentlemen have all been very courteous to me, and it is
only proper for me to send for them in consultation. I shall get all the
good I can out of their advice, but of course I shall myself remain
physician in charge of all my cases.”

The explanation was simple enough, and Dorothy accepted it. “But I don’t
like anybody to think that country doctors can teach you anything,
Cousin Arthur,” she said as she mounted. “And remember you are to come
over to Silver Spring as soon as you can. I must be back here in an hour
or so at most.”

Just as she was about to ride away Dorothy was confronted with an old
negro woman--obviously very old indeed, but still in robust health, and
manifestly still very strong, if one might estimate her strength from
the huge burden she carried on her well poised head.

“Why, Mammy, what are you doing here?” asked the girl in surprise. “You
don’t belong here, and you must go back to Pocahontas at once.”

“What’s you a talkin’ ’bout, chile?” answered the old woman. “Mammy
don’t b’long heah, don’t she? Mammy b’longs jes whah somever her
precious chile needs her. So when de tidins done comes dat Mammy’s
little Dorothy’s gwine to ’spose herself in de fever camp jes to take
kyar of a lot o’ no ’count niggas what’s done gone an’ got dey selves
sick, why cou’se dey ain’t nuffin fer Mammy to do but pack up some
necessary ingridiments an come over and take kyar o’ her baby. So jes
you shet up yer sweet mouf, you precious chile, an’ leave ole Mammy
alone. I ain’t a gwine to take no nonsense from a chile what’s my own to
kyar fer.”

“You dear old Mammy!” exclaimed the girl with tears in her voice. “But I
really don’t need you, and I will not have you exposed to the fever.”

“What’s Mammy kyar fer de fever? Fever won’t nebber dar tetch Mammy.
Mammy ain’t nebber tuk no fevers an’ no nuffin else. Lightnin’ cawn’t
hu’t Mammy anymore’n it kin split a black gum tree. G’long ’bout yer
business, chile, an don’t you go fer to give no impidence to yer ole
Mammy. She’s come to take kyar o’ her chile an’ she’s a gwine to do it.
Do you heah?”

Further argument and remonstrance served only to make plain the utter
futility of any and every endeavor to control the privileged and
devotedly loving old nurse. She had come to the camp to stay, and she
was going to stay in spite of all protest and all authority.

“There’s nothing for it, Cousin Arthur,” said Dorothy, with the tears
slipping out from between her eyelids, “but to let dear old Mammy have
her way. You see she’s had charge of me ever since I was born, and I
suppose I belong to her. It was she who taught me how badly women need
somebody to control them and how bad they are if they haven’t a master.
She’ll stay here as long as I do, you may be sure of that, and she’ll
love me and scold me, and keep me in order generally, till this thing is
over, no matter what you or anybody else may say to the contrary. So
please, Cousin Arthur, make some of the men build a particularly
comfortable shelter for her and me. She wouldn’t care for herself, even
if she slept on the ground out of doors, but she’ll be a turbulent
disturber of the camp if you don’t treat me like a princess--though
personally I only want to serve and could make myself comfortable
anywhere.”

“I’ll see that you have good quarters, Dorothy,” answered the young man
in a determined tone. “I’d do that anyhow. But what’s all that you’ve
got there in your big bundle, Mammy?”

“Oh, nuffin but a few dispensable ingridiments, Mas’ Arthur. Jes’ a few
blankets an’ quilts an’ pillars an’ four cha’rs an’ a feather bed an’ a
coffee pot an’ some andirons an’ some light wood, an’ a lookin’ glass,
and a wash bowl and pitcher an’ jes a few other little inconveniences
fer my precious chile.”

For answer Arthur turned to Randall, the head carpenter of the
plantation, and said:

“Randall, there’s a lot of dressed lumber under the shed of the wheat
barn. I’ll have it brought over here at once. I want you to take all the
men you need--your Mas’ Archer Bannister is sending over four carpenters
to help and your Mas’ John Meaux is sending three--and if you don’t get
a comfortable little house for your Miss Dorothy built before the moon
rises, I shall want to know why. Get to work at once. Put the house on
this mound. Build a stick and mud chimney to it, so that there can be a
fire tonight. Three rooms with a kitchen at the back will be enough, but
mind you are to have it ready before the moon rises, do you hear?”

“It’ll be ready Mahstah, er Randall won’t let nobody call him a
carpenter agin fer a mighty long time. Ef Miss Dorothy is a gwine to
nuss de folks while dey’s sick you kin jes bet yer sweet life de folks
what’s well an’ strong is a gwine to make her comfortable.”

“Amen!” shouted three or four of the others in enthusiastic unison.
Dorothy was not there to hear. She had already ridden away on her
mission to direct matters at the Silver Spring.

“It’s queer,” thought the young master of the plantation, “how devotedly
loyal all the negroes are to Dorothy. Nobody--not even Williams the
overseer,--was ever so exacting as she is in requiring the most rigid
performance of duty. Ever since she punished Ben for bringing her an
imperfectly groomed horse, that chronically lazy fellow has taken the
trouble every night to put her mare’s mane and tail into some sort of
equine crimping apparatus, so that they may flow gracefully in the
morning. And he does it for affection, too, for when she told him, one
night, that he needn’t do it, as we were late in returning from
Pocahontas, I remember the fervor with which he responded: ‘Oh, yes,
Miss Dorothy, I’ll do de mar’ up in watered silk style tonight cause
yar’s a gwine to Branton fer a dinin’ day tomorrer, an’ Ben ain’t a
gwine fer to let his little Missus ride in anything but de bes’ o’
style.’ The fact is,” continued Arthur, reflecting, “these people
understand Dorothy. They know that she is always kindly, always
compassionate, always sympathetic in her dealings with them. But they
realize that she is also always just. She never grows angry. She never
scolds. She punishes a fault severely in her queer way, but after it is
punished she never refers to it again. She never ‘throws up things,’ to
them. In a word, Dorothy is just, and after all it is justice that
human beings most want, and it is the one thing of which they get least
in this world. What a girl Dorothy is, anyhow!”



XIII

THE “SONG BALLADS” OF DICK


_I_t was “endurin of de feveh”--to use his own phrase by which he meant
during the fever--that Dick’s genius revealed itself. Dick had long ago
achieved the coveted dignity of being his master’s “pussonal servant.”
It was Dorothy who appointed him to that position and it was mainly
Dorothy who directed his service and saw to it that he did not neglect
it.

For many of the services of a valet, Arthur had no use whatever. It was
his habit, as he had long ago said, to “tie his own shoe strings.” He
refused from the first very many of Dick’s proffered attentions. But he
liked to have his boots thoroughly polished and his clothing well
brushed. These things he allowed Dick to attend to. For the rest he made
small use of him except to send him on errands.

The position suited Dick’s temperament and ambition thoroughly and he
had no mind to let the outbreak of fever on the plantation rob him of
it. When Arthur established himself at the quarantine camp, taking for
his own a particularly small brush shelter, he presently found Dick in
attendance, and seriously endeavoring to make himself useful. For the
first time Arthur felt that the boy’s services were really of value to
him. He was intelligent, quick-witted, and unusually accurate in the
execution of orders. He could deliver a message precisely as it was
given to him, and his “creative imagination” was kept well in hand when
reporting to his master and when delivering his messages to
others--particularly to those in attendance upon the sick. Arthur was
busy night and day. He saw every patient frequently, and often he felt
it necessary to remain all night by a bedside. In the early morning,
before it was time for the field hands to go to their work in the crops,
he inspected them at their new quarters, and each day, too, he rode over
all the fields in which crop work was going on.

In all his goings Dick was beside him, except when sent elsewhere with
messages. In the camp he kept his master supplied with fuel and cooked
his simple meals for him, at whatever hours of the night or day the
master found time to give attention to his personal wants.

In the meanwhile--after the worst of the epidemic was over--Dick made
himself useful as an entertainer of the camp. Dick had developed
capacities as a poet, and after the manner of Homer and other great
masters of the poetic art, it was his custom to chant his verses to
rudely fashioned melodies of his own manufacture. Unfortunately Dorothy,
who took down Dick’s “Song Ballads,” as he called them, and preserved
their text in enduring form, was wholly ignorant of music, as we know,
and so the melodies of Dick are lost to us, as the melodies of Homer
are. But in the one case as in the other, some at least of the poems
remain to us.

Like all great poets, Dick was accustomed to find his inspiration in the
life about him. Thus the fever outbreak itself seems to have suggested
the following:

    Nigga got de fevah,
      Nigga he most daid;
    Long come de Mahstah,
      Mahstah shake he haid.

    Mahstah he look sorry,
      Nigga fit to cry;
    Mahstah he say “Nebber min’,
      Git well by am by.”

    Mahstah po’ de medicine,
      Mix it in de cup,
    Nigga mos’ a chokin’
      As he drinks it up.

    Nigga he git well agin
      Den he steal de chicken,
    Den de Mahstah kotches him
      An’ den he gits a lickin’.

The simplicity and directness of statement here employed fulfil the
first of the three requirements which John Milton declared to be
essential to poetry of a high order, which, he tells us must be “simple,
sensuous, passionate.” The necessary sensuousness is present also, in
the reference made to the repulsiveness of the medicine. But that
quality is better illustrated in another of Dick’s Song Ballads which
runs as follows:

    Possum up a ’simmon tree--
      Possum dunno nuffin,
    He nebber know how sweet and good
      A possum is wid stuffin.

    Possum up a ’simmon tree--
      A eatin’ of de blossom,
    Up creeps de nigga an’
      It’s “good-by Mistah Possum.”

    Nigga at de table
      A cuttin’ off a slice,
    An’ sayin’ to de chillun--
      “Possum’s mighty nice.”

Here the reader will observe the instinctive dramatic skill with which
the poet, having reached the climax of the situation, abruptly rings
down the curtain, as it were. There is no waste of words in unnecessary
explanations, no delaying of the action with needless comment. And at
the end of the second stanza we encounter a masterly touch. Instead of
telling us with prosaic literalness that the nigga succeeded in slaying
his game, the poet suggests the entire action with the figurative
phrase--“It’s ‘good-by, Mistah Possum.’”

There is a fine poetic reserve too in the abrupt shifting of the scene
from tree to table, and the presentation of the denouement without other
preparation than such as the reader’s imagination may easily furnish for
itself. We are not told that the possum was dressed and cooked; even the
presence of stuffing as an adjunct to the savor of the dish is left to
be inferred from the purely casual suggestion made in the first stanza
of the fact that stuffing tends to enrich as well as to adorn the viand.

These qualities and some others of a notable kind appear in the next
example we are permitted to give of this poet’s work.

    Ole crow flyin’ roun’ de fiel’,
      A lookin’ fer de cawn;
    Mahstah wid he shot gun
      A settin’ in de bawn.

    Ole crow see a skeer crow
      A standin’ in the cawn;
    Nebber see de Mahstah
      A settin’ in de bawn.

    Ole crow say:--“De skeer crow,
      He ain’t got no gun,--
    Jes’ a lot o’ ole clo’es
      A standin’ in de sun;

    Ole crow needn’t min’ him,
      Ole crow git some cawn;
    But he nebber see de Mahstah
      A settin’ in de bawn.

    Ole crow wuk like nigga
      A pullin’ up de cawn--
    Mahstah pull de trigga,
      Ober in de bawn.

    Ole crow flop an’ flutter--
     He’s done got it, _sho’!_
    Skeer crow shakin’ in he sleeve
      A laughin’ at de crow.

There is a compactness of statement here--a resolute elimination of the
superfluous which might well commend the piece to those modern
theatrical managers who seem to regard dialogue as an impertinence in a
play.

Sometimes the poet went even further and presented only the barest
suggestion of the thought in his mind, leaving the reader to supply the
rest. Such is the case in the poem next to be set down as an example,
illustrative of the poet’s method. It consists of but a single stanza:

    De day’s done gone, de wuk’s done done,
      An’ Mahstah he smoke he pipe;
    But nigga he ain’t done jes yit,
      Cause--de watermillion’s ripe.

Here we have in four brief lines an entirely adequate suggestion of the
predatory habits of “Nigga,” and of his attitude of mind toward
“watermillions.” With the bare statement of the fact that the fruit in
question has attained its succulent maturity, we are left to discover
for ourselves the causal relation between that fact and the intimated
purpose of “Nigga” to continue his activities during the hours of
darkness. The exceeding subtlety of all this cannot fail to awaken the
reader’s admiring sympathy.

Perhaps the most elaborately wrought out of these song ballads is the
one which has been reserved for the last. Its text here follows:

    Possum’s good an’ hoe cake’s fine,
      An’ so is mammy’s pies,
    But bes’ of all good t’ings to eat
      Is chickens, fryin’ size.

    How I lubs a moonlight night
      When stars is in de skies!
    But sich nights ain’t no good to git
      De chickens, fryin’ size.

    De moonlight night is shiny bright,
      Jes’ like a nigga’s eyes,
    But dark nights is the bes’ to git
      De chickens, fryin’ size.

    When Mahstah he is gone to sleep,
      An’ black clouds hides de skies,
    Oh, den’s de time to crawl an’ creep
      Fer chickens, fryin’ size.

    Fer den prehaps you won’t git kotched
      Nor hab to tell no lies,
    An’ mebbe you’ll git safe away
      Wid chickens, fryin’ size.

    But you mus’ look out sharp fer noise
      An’ hush de chicken’s cries,
    Fer mighty wakin’ is de squawks
      Of chickens, fryin’ size.

To gross minds this abrupt, admonitory ending of the poem will be
disappointing. It leaves the reader wishing for more--more chicken, if
not more poetry. And yet in this self-restrained ending of the piece the
poet is fully justified by the practice of other great masters of the
poetic art. Who that has read Coleridge’s superb fragment “Kubla Khan,”
does not long to know more of the “stately pleasure dome” and of those
“caverns measureless to man” through which “Alph the sacred river ran,
down to a sunless sea”?

We present these illustrative examples of Dick’s verse in full
confidence that both his inspiration and his methods will make their own
appeal to discriminating minds. If there be objection made to the
somewhat irregular word forms employed by this poet, the ready answer is
that the same characteristic marks many of the writings of Robert Burns,
and that Homer himself employed a dialect. If it is suggested that
Dick’s verbs are sometimes out of agreement with their nominatives, it
is easy to imagine Dick contemptuously replying, “Who keers ’bout dat?”



XIV

DOROTHY’S AFFAIRS


_A_ good many things happened “endurin’ of the feveh”--if Dick’s
expressive and by no means inapt phrase may again be employed.

First of all the outbreak gave Madison Peyton what he deemed his
opportunity. It seemed to him to furnish occasion for that
reconciliation with Aunt Polly which he saw to be necessary to his
plans, and, still more important, it seemed to afford an opportunity for
him to withdraw Dorothy from the influence of Dr. Arthur Brent.

Accordingly, as soon as news came to him of the epidemic, and of Arthur
Brent’s heroic measures in meeting it, he hurried over to Wyanoke, full
of confident plans.

“This is dreadful news, Cousin Polly,” he said, as soon as he had
bustled into the house.

“What news, Madison?” answered the old lady. “What have you come to tell
me?”

“Oh I mean this dreadful fever outbreak--it is terrible--”

“I don’t know,” answered Aunt Polly, reflectively. “We have had only ten
or a dozen cases so far, and you had three or four times that many at
your quarters last year.”

“Oh, yes, but of course this is very much worse. You see Arthur has had
to burn down all the quarters, and destroy all the clothing. He’s a
scientific physician, you know, and--”

“But all science is atheistic, Madison. You told me so yourself over at
Osmore, and so of course you don’t pay any attention to Arthur’s
scientific freaks.”

“Now you know I didn’t mean that, Cousin Polly,” answered Peyton,
apologetically. “Of course Arthur knows all about fevers. You know how
he distinguished himself at Norfolk.”

“Yes, I know, but what has that to do with this case?”

“Why, if this fever is so bad that a scientific physician like Arthur
finds it necessary to burn all his negro quarters and build new ones, it
must be very much worse than anything ever known in this county before.
Nobody here ever thought of such extreme measures.”

“No, I suppose not,” answered Aunt Polly. “At any rate you didn’t do
anything of the kind when an epidemic broke out in your quarters last
year. But you had fourteen deaths and thus far we have had only one, and
Arthur tells me he hopes to have no more. Perhaps if you had been a
scientific physician, you too would have burned your quarters and moved
your hands to healthier ones.”

This was a home shot, as Aunt Polly very well knew. For the physicians
who had attended Peyton’s people, had earnestly recommended the
destruction of his negro quarters and the removal of his people to a
more healthful locality, and he had stoutly refused to incur the
expense. He had ever since excused himself by jeering at the doctors and
pointing, in justification of his neglect of their advice to the fact
that in due time the epidemic on his plantation had subsided. He
therefore felt the sting of Aunt Polly’s reference to his experience,
and she emphasized it by adding:

“If you had done as Arthur has, perhaps you wouldn’t have so many deaths
to answer for when Judgment Day comes!”

“Oh, that’s all nonsense, Cousin Polly,” he quickly responded. “And
besides we’re wasting time. Of course you and Dorothy can’t remain here,
exposed to this dreadful danger. So I’ve ordered my driver to bring the
carriage over here for you this afternoon. You two must be our guests at
least as long as the fever lasts at Wyanoke.”

Aunt Polly looked long and intently at Peyton. Then she slowly said:

“The Bible forbids it, Madison, though I never could see why.”

“Forbids what, Cousin Polly?”

“Why, it says we mustn’t call anybody a fool even when he is so, and I
never could understand why.”

“But I don’t understand you, Cousin Polly--”

“Of course you don’t. I didn’t imagine that you would. But that’s
because you don’t want to.”

“But I protest, Cousin Polly, that I’ve come over only because I’m
deeply anxious about your health and Dorothy’s. You simply mustn’t
remain here.”

“Madison Peyton,” answered the old lady, rising in her stately majesty
of indignation, “I won’t call you a fool because the Bible says I
mustn’t. But it is plain that you think me one. You know very well that
you’re not in the least concerned about my health. You know there hasn’t
been a single case of fever in this house

[Illustration: “_I WON’T CALL YOU A FOOL BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAYS I
MUSTN’T._”]

or within a mile of it. You know you never thought of removing your own
family from your house when the fever was raging in your negro quarters.
You know that I know what you want. You want to get Dorothy under your
own control, by taking her to your house. Very well, I tell you you
cannot do that. It would endanger the health of your own family, for
Dorothy has been in our fever camp for two days and nights now, as head
nurse and Arthur’s executive officer. Why do you come here trying to
deceive me as if I were that kind of person that the Bible doesn’t allow
me to call you? Isn’t it hard enough for me to do my duty in Dorothy’s
case without that? Do you imagine I find it a pleasant thing to carry
out my orders and train that splendid girl to be the obedient wife of
such a booby as your son is? You are making a mistake. You tried once to
intimidate me. You know precisely how far you succeeded. You are trying
now to deceive me. You may guess for yourself what measure of success
you are achieving. There are spirits in the sideboard, if you want
something to drink after ---- well, after your ride. I must ask you to
excuse me now, as I have to go to the prize barn to superintend the work
of the sewing women.”

With that the irate old lady courtesied low, in mock respect, and took
her departure, escorted by her maid.

Madison Peyton was angry, of course. That, indeed is a feeble and
utterly inadequate term with which to describe his state of mind. He
felt himself insulted beyond endurance--and that, probably, was what
Aunt Polly intended that he should feel. But he was baffled in his
purpose also, and he knew not how to endure that. He was not a coward.
Had Aunt Polly been a man he would instantly have called her to account
for her words. Had she been a young woman, he would have challenged her
brother or other nearest male relative. As it was he had only the poor
privilege of meditating such vengeance as he might wreak in sly and
indirect ways. He was moved to many things, as he madly galloped away,
but one after another each suggested scheme of vengeance was abandoned
as manifestly foolish, and with the abandonment of each his chagrin grew
greater and his anger increased. When he met his carriage on its way to
Wyanoke in obedience to the orders he had given in the morning, he
became positively frantic with rage, so that the driver and the black
boy who rode behind the vehicle grew ashen with terror as the carriage
was turned about in its course, and took up its homeward way.

A few weeks later the court met, and a message was sent to Aunt Polly
directing her to bring Dorothy before the judge for the purpose of
having her choose a guardian. When Dorothy was notified of this she sent
Dick with a note to Col. Majors, the lawyer. It was not such a note as a
young woman more accustomed than she to the forms of life and law would
have written. It ran as follows:

     “DEAR COL. MAJORS:--Please tell the judge I can’t come. Poor Sally
     is very, very ill and I mustn’t leave her for a moment. The others
     need me too, and I’ve got a lot of work to do putting up
     prescriptions--for I’m the druggist, you know. So tell the judge he
     must wait till he comes to this county next time. Give my love to
     Mrs. Majors and dear Patty.

“Sincerely yours,

“DOROTHY SOUTH.”


On receipt of this rather astonishing missive, Colonel Majors smiled and
in his deliberate way ordered his horse to be brought to him after
dinner. Riding over to Wyanoke he “interviewed” Dorothy at the fever
camp.

He explained to the wilful young lady the mandatory character of a court
order, particularly in the case of a ward in chancery.

“But why can’t you do the business for me?” she asked. “I tell you Sally
is too ill for me to leave her.”

“But you must, my dear. In any ordinary matter I, as your counsel, could
act for you, but in this case the court must have you present in person,
because you are to make choice of a guardian and the court must be
satisfied that you have made the choice for yourself and that nobody
else has made it for you. So you simply must go. If you don’t the court
will send the sheriff for you, and then it will punish Miss Polly
dreadfully for not bringing you.”

This last appeal conquered Dorothy’s resistance. If only herself had
been concerned she would still have insisted upon having her own way.
But the suggestion that such a course might bring dire and dreadful “law
things,” as she phrased it, upon Aunt Polly appalled her, and she
consented.

“How long shall I have to leave poor Sally?” she asked.

“Only an hour or two. You and Miss Polly can leave here in your carriage
about ten o’clock and as soon as you get to the Court House I’ll ask
the judge to suspend other business and bring your matter on. He will
ask you whom you choose for your guardian, and you will answer ‘Madison
Peyton.’ Then the judge will ask you if you have made your choice
without compulsion or influence on the part of anybody else, and you
will answer ‘yes.’ Then he will politely bid you good morning, and you
can drive back to Wyanoke at once.”

“Is that exactly how the thing is done?” she asked, with a peculiar look
upon her face.

“Exactly. You see it will give you no trouble.”

“Oh, no! I don’t mind anything except leaving Sally. Tell the judge I’ll
come.”

Col. Majors smiled at this message, but made no answer, except to say:

“I’ll be there of course, and you can sit by me and speak to me if you
wish to ask any question.”

The lawyer made his adieux and rode away. Dorothy, with a peculiar smile
upon her lips returned to her patients.



XV

DOROTHY’S CHOICE


_T_he judge himself was not so stately or so imposing of presence as was
Aunt Polly, when she and Dorothy entered the court, escorted by Col.
Majors. Dorothy was entirely self possessed, as it was her custom to be
under all circumstances. “When people feel embarrassed,” she once said,
“it must be because they know something about themselves that they are
afraid other people will find out.” As Dorothy knew nothing of that kind
about herself, she had no foolish trepidation, even in the solemn
presence of a court.

The judge ordered her case called, and speaking very gently explained to
her what was wanted.

“You are a young girl under the age at which the law supposes you to be
capable of managing your own affairs. The law makes it the duty of this
Court to guard you and your estate against every danger. By his will
your father wisely placed your person in charge of an eminently fit and
proper lady, whose character and virtues this Court and the entire
community in which we live, hold in the highest esteem and honour.” At
this point the judge profoundly bowed to Aunt Polly, and she
acknowledged the courtesy with stately grace. The judge then continued:

“By his will your father also placed the estate which he left to you, in
charge of the late Mr. Robert Brent, a gentleman in every possible way
worthy of the trust. Thus far, therefore, this Court has had no occasion
to take action of any kind in your behalf or for your protection.
Unhappily, however, your guardian, the late Robert Brent, has passed
away, and it becomes now the duty of this Court to appoint some fit
person in his stead as guardian of your estate. The Court has full
authority in the matter. It may appoint whomsoever it chooses for this
position of high responsibility. But it is the immemorial custom of the
Court in cases where the ward in chancery has passed his or her
sixteenth year--an age which you have attained--to permit the ward to
make choice of a guardian for himself or herself, as the case may be. If
the ward is badly advised, and selects a person whom the Court deems for
any reason unfit, the Court declines to make the appointment asked, and
itself selects some other. But if the person selected by the ward is
deemed fit, the Court is pleased to confirm the choice. It is now my
duty to ask you, Miss Dorothy, what person you prefer to have for
guardian of your estate.”

“May I really choose for myself?” asked the girl in a clear and
perfectly calm voice, to the astonishment of everybody.

“Certainly, Miss Dorothy. Whom do you choose?”

“Did my father say in his will that I must choose some particular
person?” she continued, interrogating the Court as placidly as she might
have put questions to Aunt Polly.

“No, my dear young lady. Your father’s will lays no injunction whatever
upon you respecting this matter.”

“Then, if you please, I choose Dr. Arthur Brent for my guardian. May we
go now?”

No attention was given to the naive question with which the girl asked
permission to withdraw. Her choice of guardian was a complete surprise.
There was astonishment on every face except that of the judge, who
officially preserved an expression of perfect self-possession. Even Aunt
Polly was astounded, and she showed it. It had been understood by
everybody that Madison Peyton was to succeed to Dorothy’s guardianship,
and the submission of the choice to her had been regarded as a matter of
mere form. Even to Aunt Polly the girl had given no slightest intimation
of her purpose to defeat the prearranged program, and so Aunt Polly
shared the general surprise. But Aunt Polly was distinctly pleased with
the substitution as soon at least as she had given it a moment’s
thought. She had come to like Arthur Brent even more in his robust
manhood than she had done during his boyish sojourn at Wyanoke. She had
learned also to respect his judgment, and she saw clearly, now that it
was suggested, that he was obviously the best person possible to assume
the office of guardian. She was pleased, too, with Madison Peyton’s
discomfiture. “He needed to have his comb cut,” she reflected in homely
metaphor. “It may teach him better manners.”

As for Peyton, who was present in Court, having come for the purpose of
accepting the guardianship, his rage exceeded even his astonishment. He
had in his youth gone through what was then the easy process of securing
admission to the bar, and so, although he had never pretended to
practise law, he was entitled to address the Court as an attorney. He
had never done so before, but on this occasion he rose, almost choking
for utterance and plunged at once into a passionate protest, in which
the judge, who was calm, presently checked him, saying:

“Your utterance seems to the Court to be uncalled for, while its manner
is distinctly such as the Court must disapprove. The person named by the
ward as her choice for the guardianship, bears a high reputation for
integrity, intelligence and character. Unless it can be shown to the
Court that this reputation is undeserved, the ward’s choice will be
confirmed. At present the Court is aware of nothing whatever in Dr.
Brent’s character, circumstances or position that can cast doubt upon
his fitness. If you have any information that should change the Court’s
estimate of his character you will be heard.”

“He is unfit in every way,” responded the almost raving man. “He has
deliberately undermined my fatherly influence over the girl. He has
taken a mean advantage of me. He has overpersuaded the girl to set aside
an arrangement made for her good and--”

“Oh, no, Mr. Peyton,” broke in Dorothy, utterly heedless of court
formalities, “he has done nothing of the kind. He knows nothing about
this. I don’t think he will even like it.”

“Pardon me, Miss Dorothy,” interrupted the judge. “Please address the
Court--me--and not Mr. Peyton. Tell me, have you made your choice of
your own free will?”

“Why, certainly, Judge, else I wouldn’t have made it.”

“Has anybody said anything to you on the subject?”

“No, sir. Nobody has ever mentioned the matter to me except Col. Majors,
and he told me I was to choose Mr. Peyton, but you told me I could
choose for myself, you know. I suppose Col. Majors didn’t know you’d let
me do that.”

A little laugh went up in the bar, and even the judge smiled. Presently
he said:

“The Court knows of no reason why it should not confirm the choice made
by the ward. Accordingly it is ordered that Dr. Arthur Brent of Wyanoke
be appointed guardian of the property and estate of Dorothy South, with
full authority, subject only to such instructions as this Court may from
time to time see fit to give for his guidance. Mr. Clerk, make the
proper record, and call the next case. This proceeding is at an end.
You are at liberty now to withdraw, Miss Dorothy, you and Miss Polly.”

Aunt Polly rose and bowed her acknowledgments in silence. Dorothy bowed
with equal grace, but added: “Thank you, Judge. I am anxious to get back
to my sick people. So I will bid you good morning. You have been
extremely nice to me.”

With that she bowed again and swept out of the court room, quite
unconscious of the fact that even by her courteous adieu she had
offended against all the traditions of etiquette in a court of Justice.
The judge bowed and smiled, and every lawyer at the bar instinctively
arose, turned his face respectfully toward the withdrawing pair, and
remained standing till they had passed through the outer door, Col.
Majors escorting them.



XVI

UNDER THE CODE


_I_t was Madison Peyton’s habit to have his own way, and he greatly
prided himself upon getting it, in other people’s affairs as well as in
those that concerned himself. He loved to dominate others, to trample
upon their wills and to impose his own upon them. In a large degree he
accomplished this, so that he regarded himself and was regarded by
others as a man of far more than ordinary influence. He was so, in a
certain way, but it was not a way that tended to make men like him. On
the contrary, the aggressive self assertion by which he secured
influence, secured for him also the very general dislike of his
neighbors, especially of those who most submissively bowed to his will.
They hated him because they felt themselves obliged to submit their
wills to his.

There was, therefore, a very general chuckle of pleasure among the crowd
gathered at the Court House--a crowd which included nearly every
able-bodied white man in the county--as the news of his discomfiture and
of his outbreak of anger over it, was discussed. There were few who
would have cared to twit him with it, and if he had himself maintained a
discreet and dignified silence concerning the matter, he would have
heard little or nothing about it. But he knew that everybody was in fact
talking of it, out of his hearing. He interpreted aright the all
pervading atmosphere of amused interest, and the fact that every group
of men he approached became silent and seemed embarrassed when he joined
it. After his aggressive manner, therefore, he refused to remain silent.
He thrust the subject upon others’ attention at every turn. He
protested, he declaimed, at times he very nearly raved over what he
called the outrage. He even went further in some cases and demanded
sympathy and acquiescence in his complainings. For the most part he got
something quite different. His neighbors were men not accustomed to
fear, and while they were politely disposed to refrain from voluntary
expressions of opinion on this matter, at least in his presence, they
were ready enough with answers unwelcome to him when he demanded their
opinions.

“Isn’t it an outrage,” he asked of John Meaux, “that Arthur Brent has
undermined me in this way?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” answered Meaux with a drawl which always affected
his speech when he was most earnest, “I cannot see it in that light.
Dorothy declares that he knew nothing of her intentions, and we all know
that Dorothy South never tells anything but the truth. Besides, I don’t
see why he isn’t entitled to serve as her guardian if she wants him to
do so. He is a man of character and brains, and I happen to know that he
has a good head for business.”

“Yes,” snarled Peyton, “I know you’ve been cultivating him--”

“I’ll trouble you to leave me out of your remarks, Mr. Peyton,”
interrupted Meaux. “If you don’t you may have a quarrel on your hands.”

“Oh, you know me, Meaux; you know I didn’t mean any harm so far as you
are concerned. You know my way--”

“Yes, I know your way, and I don’t like it. In fact I won’t tolerate
it.”

“Oh, come now, come now, John, don’t fly off the handle like that. You
see I’m not angry with you, but how you can like this interloper--”

“His family is as old in Virginia as your own is,” answered Meaux, “and
he is the master of the very oldest plantation in this county. Besides
he was born in Virginia and--but never mind that. I’m not counsel for
his defence. I only interrupted to tell you that I am accustomed to
choose my own friends, and that I fully intend to adhere to that
custom.”

In another group Peyton used even less temperate terms than “interloper”
in characterizing Arthur, and added:

“He didn’t even dare come to court and brazen out his treachery. He left
the job, like a sneak, to the little girl whose mind he has poisoned.”

Archer Bannister was standing near, and heard the offensive words. He
interrupted:

“Mr. Peyton, I earnestly advise you to retract what you have just said,
and to put your retraction into writing, giving it to me to deliver to
my friend Dr. Brent; who is absent today, as you very well know, simply
because he has imperative duties of humanity elsewhere. I assure you
that I shall report your offensive utterance to him, and it will be well
for you if your retraction and apology can be delivered to him at the
same time. Arthur Brent is rapidly falling into Virginia ways--adopting
the customs of the country, he calls it--and there is one of those
customs which might subject you to a deal of inconvenience, should he
see fit to adopt it.”

“What have you to do with my affairs?” asked Peyton in a tone of
offence.

“Nothing whatever--_at present_,” answered the young man, turning upon
his heel.

But the warning sobered Peyton’s anger. It had not before occurred to
him that Arthur might have become so far indoctrinated with Virginia
ways of thinking as to call him to account for his words, in the hostile
fashion usual at that time. Indeed, relying upon the fixed habit of
Virginians never to gossip, he had not expected that Arthur would ever
hear of his offensive accusations. Bannister’s notification that he
would exercise the privilege accorded by custom to the personal friend
of a man maligned when not present to defend himself, suggested grave
possibilities. He knew that custom fully warranted Bannister in doing
what he had threatened to do, and he had not the smallest doubt that the
young man would do it.

It was in a mood of depression, therefore, that Peyton ordered his horse
and rode homeward. His plantation lay within two or three miles of the
Court House, but by the time that he had arrived there he had thought
out a plan of procedure. He knew that Bannister would remain at the
village inn over night, having jury service to perform the next morning.
There was time, therefore, in which to reach him with a placative
message, and Peyton set himself at once to work upon the preparation of
such a message.

“I hope you will forgive me,” he wrote, “for the rudeness with which I
spoke to you today. I was extremely angry at the time, and I had reasons
for being so, of which you know nothing, and of which I must not tell
you anything. Perhaps in my extreme irritation, I used expressions with
regard to Dr. Brent, which I should not have used had I been calmer. For
my discourtesy to you personally, I offer very sincere apologies, which
I am sure your generous mind will accept as an atonement. For the rest I
must trust your good feeling not to repeat the words I used in a moment
of extreme excitement.”

Archer Bannister wrote in reply:

“The apology you have made to me was quite unnecessary. I had not
demanded it. As for the rest, I shall do my duty as a friend unless you
make apology where it is due, namely to Dr. Arthur Brent whom you have
falsely accused, and to whom you have applied epithets of a very
offensive character. If you choose to make me the bearer of your apology
to him, I will gladly act for you. I prefer peace to war, at all times.”

This curt note gave Peyton a very bad quarter hour. He was not a coward;
or, to put the matter more accurately, he was not that kind of a coward
that cannot face physical danger. But he was a man of middle age or a
trifle more. He was the father of a family and an elder in the
Presbyterian church. Conscience did not largely influence him in any
case, but he was keenly sensitive to public opinion. He knew that should
he fight a duel, all the terrors of religious condemnation would fall
upon him. Worse still, he would be laughed at for having so entangled
himself in a matter his real relation to which he was not free to
explain. Madison Peyton dreaded and feared nothing in the world so much
as being laughed at. Added to this, he knew that the entire community
would hold him to be altogether in the wrong. Arthur Brent’s reputation
achieved by his heroic devotion under fearful danger at Norfolk, had
been recalled and emphasized by his conduct in the present fever
outbreak on his own plantation. It was everywhere the subject of
admiring comment, and Peyton very well knew that nobody in that
community would for a moment believe that Arthur Brent was guilty of any
meanness or cowardly treachery. His own accusations, unless supported by
some sort of proof, would certainly recoil upon himself with crushing
force. He could in no way explain the anger that had betrayed him into
the error of making such accusations. He could not make it appear to
anybody that he had been wronged by the fact that Dorothy South had
chosen another than himself for her guardian. His anger, upon such an
occasion, would be regarded as simply ridiculous, and should he permit
the matter to come to a crisis he must at once become the butt of
contemptuous jesting.

There was but one course open to him, as he clearly saw. He wrote again
to Archer Bannister, withdrawing his offensive words respecting Arthur,
apologizing for them on the ground of momentary excitement, asking
Archer to convey this his apology to Dr. Brent, and authorizing the
latter to make any other use of the letter which he might deem proper.

This apology satisfied all the requirements of “the code.”



XVII

A REVELATION


_I_t was Dorothy who gave Arthur the first news of his appointment as
her guardian. On her return from court to the fever camp she went first
to see Sally and the two or three others whose condition was
particularly serious. Then she went to Arthur, and told him what had
happened.

“The judge was very nice to me, Cousin Arthur, and told me I might
choose anybody I pleased for my guardian, and of course I chose you.”

“You did?” asked the young man in a by no means pleased astonishment.
“Why on earth did you do that, Dorothy?”

“Why, because I wanted you to be my guardian, of course. Don’t you want
to be my guardian, Cousin Arthur?”

“I hardly know, child. It involves a great responsibility and a great
deal of hard work.”

“Won’t you take the responsibility and undertake the work for my sake,
Cousin Arthur?”

“Certainly I will, my child. I wasn’t thinking of that exactly--but of
some other things. But tell me, how did you come to do this? Who
suggested it to you?”

“Why, nobody. That’s what I told the judge, and when Mr. Peyton got
angry and said you had persuaded me to do it, I told him he was wrong.
Then the judge stopped him from speaking and asked me about the matter
and I told him. Then he said very nice things about you, and said you
were to be my guardian, and then he told me I might go home and I
thanked him and said good day, and Col. Majors escorted us to the
carriage. I wonder why Mr. Peyton was so angry about it. He seems to
have been very anxious to be my guardian. I wonder why?”

“I wonder, too,” said Arthur, to whom of course the secret of Peyton’s
concern with Dorothy’s affairs was a mystery. He had not been present on
the occasion when Peyton entered his protest against the girl’s reading,
nor had any one told him of the occurrence. Neither had he heard of
Peyton’s visit to Aunt Polly on the occasion of the outbreak of fever.
He therefore knew of no reason for Peyton’s desire to intermeddle in
Dorothy’s affairs, beyond his well known disposition to do the like with
everybody’s concerns. But Arthur had grown used to the thought of
mystery in everything that related to Dorothy.

Presently the girl said, “I’m going to write a note to Mr. Peyton, now,
and send it over by Dick.”

“What for, Dorothy?”

“Oh, I want to tell him how wrong and wicked he is when he says you
persuaded me to do this.”

“Did he say that?”

“Yes, I told you so before, but you weren’t paying attention. Perhaps
you were thinking about the poor sick people, so I’ll forgive you and
you needn’t apologize. I must run away now and write my note.”

“Please don’t, Dorothy.”

“But why not?”

“He will say I persuaded you to do that, too. It would embarrass me very
seriously if you should send him any note now.”

Dorothy was quick to see this aspect of the matter, though without
suggestion it would never have occurred to her extraordinarily simple
and candid mind.

It was not long after Dorothy left him when Edmonia Bannister made her
daily visit to the fever camp, accompanied by her maid and bearing
delicacies for the sick. After her visit to Dorothy’s quarters Arthur
engaged her in conversation. He told her of what had happened, and
expressed his repugnance to the task thus laid upon him.

“I cannot sympathize with you in the least,” said the young woman. “I am
glad it has happened--glad on more accounts than one.”

“Yes, I suppose you are,” he answered, meditatively, “but that’s because
you do not understand. I wish I could have a good, long talk with you,
Edmonia, about this thing--and some other things.”

He added the last clause after a pause, and in a tone which suggested
that perhaps the “other things” were weightier in his mind than this
one.

“Why can’t you?” the girl asked.

“Why, I can’t leave my sick people long enough for a visit to Branton.
It will be many weeks yet before I shall feel free to leave this
plantation.”

The girl thought a moment, and then said, with unusual deliberation:

“I can spare an hour now; surely you might give a like time. Why can’t
we sit in Dorothy’s little porch and have our talk now? Dorothy has
gone to the big tent, and is busy with the sick, and if you should be
needed you will be here to respond to any call. I see how worried you
are, and perhaps I may be able to help you with advice--or at the least
with sympathy.”

Arthur gladly assented and the two repaired to the little shaded
verandah which Dick had built out of brushwood and boughs across the
front of Dorothy’s temporary dwelling.

“This thing troubles me greatly, Edmonia,” Arthur began, “and it
depresses me as pretty nearly everything else does nowadays. It
completely upsets my plans and defeats all my ambitions. It adds another
to the ties of obligation that compel me to remain here and neglect my
work.”

“Is it not possible, Arthur”--their friendship had passed the
“cousining” stage and they used each other’s names now without
prefix--“Is it not possible, Arthur, for you to find work enough here to
occupy your life and employ your abilities worthily? There is no doubt
that you have already saved many lives by the skill and energy with
which you have met this fever outbreak, and your work will bear still
better fruit. You have taught all of us how to save lives in such a
case, how to deal with the epidemics that are common enough on
plantations. You may be sure that nobody in this region will ever again
let a dozen or twenty negroes perish in unwholesome quarters after they
have seen how easily and surely you have met and conquered the fever.
Dorothy tells me you have had only two deaths out of forty-two cases,
and that no new cases are appearing. Surely your conscience should
acquit you of neglecting your work, or burying your talents.”

“Oh, if there were such work for me to do all the time,” the young man
answered, “I should feel easy on that score. But this is an
extraordinary occasion. It will pass in a few weeks, and then--”

“Well, and then--what?”

“Why, then a life of idleness and ease, with no duties save such as any
man of ordinary intelligence could do as well as I, or better--a life
delightful enough in its graceful repose, but one which must condemn me
to rust in all my faculties, to stand still or retrograde, to leave
undone all that I have spent my youth and early manhood in fitting
myself to do. Please understand me, Edmonia. I love Virginia, its
people, and all its traditions of honor and manliness. But I am not fit
for the life I must lead here. All the education, all the experience I
have had have tended to unfit me for it in precisely that degree in
which they have helped to equip me for something quite different. Then
again the work I had marked out for myself in the world needs me far
more than you can easily understand. There are not many men so
circumstanced that they could do it in my stead. Other men as well or
better equipped with scientific acquirements, and all that, are not free
as I am--or was before this inheritance in Virginia came to blight my
life. They have their livings to make and must work only in fields that
promise a harvest of gain. I was free to go anywhere where I might be
needed, and to minister to humanity in ways that make no money return.
My annuities secured me quite all the money I needed for my support so
that I need never take thought for the morrow. I have never yet received
a fee for my ministry--for I regard my work as a ministry, for which I
am set apart. Other men have families too, and owe a first duty to them,
while I--well, I decided at the outset that I would never marry.”

Arthur did not end that sentence as he would have ended it a year or
even half a year before. He was growing doubtful of himself. Presently
he continued:

“I am free to work for humanity. My time is my own. I can spend it
freely in making experiments and investigations that can hardly fail to
benefit mankind. Few men who are equipped for such studies can spare
time for them from the breadwinning. Then again when great epidemics
occur anywhere, and multitudes need me, I am free to go and serve them.
I have no family, no wife, no children, nobody dependent upon me, in
short no obligations of any kind to restrain me from such service. Such
at least was my situation before my Uncle Robert died. His death imposed
upon me the duty of caring for all these black people. My first thought
was of how I might most quickly free myself of this restraining
obligation. Had the estate consisted only of houses and lands and other
inanimate property I should have made short work of the business. I
should have sold the whole of it for whatever men might be willing to
give me for it; I should have devoted the proceeds to some humane
purpose, and then, being free again I should have returned to my work.
Unfortunately, however, in succeeding to my uncle’s estate I succeeded
also to his obligations. I planned to fulfil them once for all by
selling the plantation and using the proceeds in carrying the negroes to
the west and establishing them upon farms of their own. I still cherish
that purpose, but I am delayed in carrying it out by the fact that other
obligations must first be discharged. There are debts--the hereditary
curse of us Virginians--and I find that the value of the plantation,
without the negroes, would not suffice to discharge them and leave
enough to give the negroes the little farms that I must provide for them
if I take the responsibility of setting them free. Still I see ways in
which I think I can overcome that difficulty within two or three years,
by selling crops that Virginians never think of selling and devoting
their proceeds to the discharge of debts. But now comes this new and
burdensome duty of caring for Dorothy’s estate. She is now sixteen years
of age, so that this new burden must rest upon my shoulders for five
full years to come.”

“I quite understand,” Edmonia slowly replied, “and in great part I
sympathize with you. But not altogether. For one thing I do not share
your belief in freedom for the negroes. I am sure they are unfit for it,
and it would be scarcely less than cruelty to take them out of the
happy life to which they were born, exile them to a strange land, and
condemn them to a lifelong struggle with conditions to which they are
wholly unused, with poverty for their certain lot and starvation perhaps
for their fate. They are happy now. Why should you condemn them to
unhappy lives? They are secure now in the fact that, sick or well, in
age and decrepitude as well as in lusty health, they will be abundantly
fed and clothed and well housed. Why should you condemn them to an
incalculably harder lot?”

“So far as the negroes are concerned, you may be right. Yet I cannot
help thinking that if I make them the owners of fertile little farms in
that rapidly growing western country, without a dollar of debt, they
will find it easy enough to put food into their mouths and clothes on
their backs and keep a comfortable roof over their heads. However that
is a large question and perhaps a difficult one. If it could have been
kept out of politics Virginia at least would long ago have found means
to free herself of the incubus. But it is not of the negroes chiefly
that I am thinking. I am trying to set Arthur Brent free while taking
care not to do them any unavoidable harm in the process. I want to
return to my work, and I am sufficiently an egotist to believe that my
freedom to do that is of some importance to the world.”

“Doubtless it is,” answered the young woman, hesitatingly, “but there
are other ways of looking at it, Arthur. I have read somewhere that the
secret of happiness is to reconcile oneself with one’s environment.”

“Yes, I know. That is an abominable thought, a paralyzing philosophy. In
another form the privileged classes have written it into catechisms,
teaching their less fortunate fellow beings that it is their duty to ‘be
content in that state of existence to which it hath pleased God’ to call
them. As a buttress to caste and class privilege and despotism of every
kind, that doctrine is admirable, but otherwise it is the most damnable
teaching imaginable. It is not the duty of men to rest content with
things as they are. It is their duty to be always discontented, always
striving to make conditions better. ‘Divine discontent’ is the very
mainspring of human progress. The contented peoples are the backward
peoples. The Italian lazzaroni are the most contented people in the
world, and the most worthless, the most hopeless. No, no, no! No man who
has brains should ever reconcile himself to his environment. He should
continually struggle to get out of it and into a better. We have liberty
simply because our oppressed ancestors refused to do as the prayer book
told them they must. Men would never have learned to build houses or
cook their food if they had been content to live in caves or bush
shelters and eat the raw flesh of beasts. We owe every desirable thing
we have--intellectual, moral and physical--to the fact that men are by
nature discontented. Contentment is a blight.”

Edmonia thought for a while before answering. Then she said:

“I suppose you are right, Arthur. I never thought of the matter in that
way. I have always been taught that discontent was wicked--a rebellion
against the decrees of Providence.”

“You remember the old story of the miller who left to Providence the
things he ought to have done for himself, and how he was reminded at
last that ‘ungreased wheels will not go?’”

“Oh, yes.”

“Well, in my view the most imperative decree of Providence is that we
shall use the faculties it has bestowed upon us in an earnest and
ceaseless endeavor to better conditions, for ourselves and for others.”

“But may it not sometimes be well to accept conditions as a guide--to
let them determine in what direction we shall struggle?”

“Certainly, and that is precisely my case. When I consider the peculiar
conditions that specially fit me to do my proper work in the world it is
my duty, without doubt, to fight against every opposing influence. I
feel that I must get rid of the conditions that are now restraining me,
in order that I may fulfil the destiny marked out for me by those higher
conditions.”

“Perhaps. But who knows? It may be that some higher work awaits you,
here, some nobler use of your faculties, to which the apparently adverse
conditions that now surround you, are leading, guiding, compelling you.
It may be that in the end your unwilling detention here will open to you
some opportunity of service to humanity, of which you do not now dream.”

“Of course that is possible,” Arthur answered doubtfully, “but I see no
such prospect. I see only danger in my present situation, danger of
falling into the lassitude and inertia of contentment. I saw that
danger from the first, especially when I first knew you. I felt myself
in very serious danger of falling in love with you like the rest. In
that case I might possibly have won you, as none of the rest had done.
Then I should joyfully, and almost without a thought of other things,
have settled into the contented life of a well to do planter, leaving
all my duties undone.”

Edmonia flushed crimson as he so calmly said all this, but he, looking
off into the nothingness of space, failed to see it, and a few seconds
later she had recovered her self-control. Presently he added, still
unheeding the possible effect of his words:

“You saved me from that danger. You put me under bonds not to fall in
love with you, and you have helped me to keep the pact. That danger is
past, but I begin to fear another, and my only safety would be to go
back to my work if that were possible.”

For a long time Edmonia did not speak. Perhaps she did not trust herself
to do so. Finally, in a low, soft voice, she asked:

“Would you mind telling me what it is you fear? We are sworn friends and
comrades, you know.”

“It is Dorothy,” he answered. “From the first I have been fond of the
child, but now, to my consternation, I find myself thinking of her no
longer as a child. The woman in her is dawning rapidly, especially since
she has been called upon to do a woman’s part in this crisis. She still
retains her childlike simplicity of mind, her extraordinary candor, her
trusting truthfulness. She will always retain those qualities. They lie
at the roots of her character. But she has become a woman, nevertheless,
a woman at sixteen. You must have observed that.”

“I have,” the young woman answered in a voice that she seemed to be
managing with difficulty. “And with her womanhood her beauty has come
also. You must have seen how beautiful she has become.”

“Oh, yes,” he answered; “no one possessed of a pair of eyes could fail
to observe that. Now that we are talking so frankly and in the sympathy
of close friendship, let me tell you all that I fear. I foresee that if
I remain here, as apparently I must, I shall presently learn to love
Dorothy madly. If that were all I might brave it. But in an intercourse
so close and continual as ours must be, there is danger that her
devoted, childlike affection for me, may presently ripen into something
more serious. In that case I could not stifle her love as I might my
own. I could not sacrifice her to my work as I am ready to sacrifice
myself. I almost wish you had let me fall in love with you as the others
did.”

Again Edmonia paused long before answering. When she spoke at last, it
was to say:

“It is too late now, Arthur.”

“Oh, I know that. The status of things between you and me is too firmly
fixed now--”

“I did not mean that,” she answered, “though that is a matter of course.
I was thinking of the other case.”

“What?”

“Why, Dorothy. It is too late to prevent her from loving you. She has
fully learned that lesson already though she does not know the fact. And
it is too late for you also, though you, too, do not know it--or did not
till I told you.”

It was now Arthur’s turn to pause and think before replying. Presently,
in a voice that was unsteady in spite of himself, he asked:

“Why do you think these dreadful things, Edmonia?”

“I do not think them. I know. A woman’s instinct is never at fault in
such a case--at least when she feels a deep affection for both the
parties concerned. And there is nothing dreadful about it. On the
contrary it offers the happiest possible solution of Dorothy’s
misfortune, and it assures you of something far better worth your while
to live for than the objects you have heretofore contemplated. I must go
now. Of course you will say nothing of this to Dorothy for the present.
That must wait for a year or two. In the meantime in all you do toward
directing Dorothy’s education, you must remember that you are educating
your future wife. Help me into my carriage, please. I will not wait for
my maid. Dick can bring her over later, can’t he?”

“But tell me, please,” Arthur eagerly asked as the young woman seated
herself alone in the carriage, “what is this ‘misfortune’ of Dorothy’s,
this mystery that is so closely kept from me, while it darkly intervenes
in everything done or suggested with regard to her.”

“I cannot--not now at least.” Then after a moment’s meditation she
added:

“And yet you are entitled to know it--now. You are her guardian in a
double sense. Whenever you can find time to come over to Branton, I’ll
tell you. Good-bye!”

As the carriage was starting Edmonia caught sight of Dick and called him
to her.

“Have you any kittens at Wyanoke, Dick?” she asked.

“Yes, Miss Mony, lots uv ’em.”

“Will you pick out a nice soft one, Dick, and bring it to me at Branton?
Every old maid keeps a cat, you know, Dick, and so I want one.”

All that was chivalric in Dick’s soul responded.

“I’ll put a Voodoo[A] on anybody I ever heahs a callin’ you a ole maid,
Miss Mony, but I’ll git you de cat.”

As she sank back among the cushions the girl relaxed the rein she had so
tightly held upon herself, and the tears slipped softly and silently
from her eyes. For the first time in her life this brave woman was sorry
for herself.



XVIII

ALONE IN THE CARRIAGE


_A_fter the blind and blundering fashion of a man, Arthur Brent was
utterly unconscious of the blow he had dealt to this woman who had given
him the only love of her life. For other men she had felt friendship,
and to a few she had willingly given that affection which serves as a
practical substitute for love in nine marriages out of ten, and which
women themselves so often mistake for love. But to this woman love in
its divinest form had come, the love that endureth all things and
surpasseth all things, the love that knows no ceasing while life lasts,
the love that makes itself a willing sacrifice. Until that day she had
not herself known the state of her own soul. She had not understood how
completely this man had become master of her life, how utterly she had
given herself to him. And in the very moment that revealed the truth to
her the man she loved had, with unmeant cruelty, opened her eyes also to
that other truth that her love for him was futile and must ever remain
hopeless.

She bade her driver go slowly, that she might think the matter out
alone, and she thought it out. She was too proud a woman to pity herself
for long. She knew and felt that Arthur had never dreamed of the change
which had so unconsciously come upon her. She knew that had he so much
as entertained a hope of her love a little while ago, he would have bent
all the energies of his soul to the winning of her. She knew in brief
that this man to whom she had unconsciously given the one love of her
life, would have loved her in like manner, if she had permitted that.
She knew too that it was now too late.

As the carriage slowly toiled along the sandy road, she meditated,
sometimes even uttering her thought in low tones.

“There is no fault in him,” she reflected. “It is not that he is blind,
but that I have hoodwinked him. In deceiving myself, I have deceived
him.”

Then came the pleasanter thought:

“At any rate in ruining my own life, I have not ruined his, but
glorified it. Had he loved and married me he would have been happy, but
it would have been in a commonplace way. His ambitions would have died
slowly but surely. That discontent, which he has taught me to understand
as the mainspring of all that is highest and noblest in human endeavor,
would have given place to a blighting contentment in such a life as that
which he and I would have led together. It will be quite different when
he marries Dorothy. She too has the ‘divine discontent’ that does
things. She will be a help immeasurably more meet for him than I could
ever have hoped to be. She will share his enthusiasms, and strengthen
them. And it is his enthusiasm that makes him worthy of a woman’s love.
It is that which takes him out of the commonplace. It is that which sets
him apart from other men. It is that which makes him Arthur Brent.”

Then her thought reverted for a moment to her own pitiful case.

“What am I to do?” she asked herself. “What use can I make of my life
that shall make it worthy of him? First of all I must be strong. He must
never so much as suspect the truth, and of course nobody else must be
permitted even to guess it. I must be a help to him, and not a
hindrance. He must feel that my friendship, on which he places so high
an estimate, is a friendship to be trusted and leant upon. I must more
and more make myself his counsellor, a stimulating helpful influence in
his life. His purposes are mainly right, and I must encourage him to
seek their fulfilment. Such a man as he should not be wasted upon a
woman like me, or led by such into a life of inglorious ease and inert
content. After all perhaps I may help him as his friend, where, as his
wife, my influence over his life and character would have been
paralyzing. If I can help, him, my life will not be lost or ruined. It
need not even be unhappy. If my love for him is such as he deserves, it
will meet disappointment bravely. It will discipline itself to service.
It will scorn the selfishness of idle bemoaning. The sacrifice that is
burnt upon the altar is not in vain if the odors of it placate the gods.
Better helpful sacrifice than idle lamentation.”

Then after a little her mind busied itself with thoughts less subjective
and more practical.

“How shall I best help?” she asked herself. “First of all I must utterly
crush selfishness in my heart. I must be a cheerful, gladsome influence
and not a depressing one. From this hour there are no more tears for me,
but only gladdening laughter. I must help toward that end which I see to
be inevitable. I must do all that is possible to make it altogether
good. I must help to prepare Dorothy to be the wife he needs. She has
not been educated for so glorious a future. She has been carefully
trained, on the contrary, for a humdrum life for which nature never
intended her, the life of submissive wifehood to a man she could never
love, a man whom she could not even respect when once her eyes were
opened to better things in manhood. I must have her much with me. I must
undo what has been done amiss in her education. I must help to fit her
for a high ministry to the unselfish ambitions of the one man who is
worthy of such a ministry. I must see to it that she is taught the very
things that she has been jealously forbidden to learn. I must introduce
her to that larger life from which she has been so watchfully secluded.
So shall I make of my own life a thing worth while. So shall my love
find a mission worthy of its object. So shall it be glorified.”



XIX

DOROTHY’S MASTER


_W_hen Edmonia drove away, leaving Arthur alone, he bade Dick bring his
horse, and, mounting, he set off at a gallop toward the most distant
part of the plantation. He was dazed by the revelation that Edmonia’s
words had made to him as to the state of his own mind, and almost
frightened by what she had declared with respect to Dorothy’s feeling.
He wanted to be alone in order that he might think the matter out.

It seemed to him absurd that he should really be in love with the mere
child whom he had never thought of as other than that. And yet--yes, he
must admit that of late he had half unconsciously come to think of the
womanhood of her oftener than of the childhood. He saw clearly, when he
thought of it, that his fear that he might come to love the girl had
been born of a subconsciousness that he had come to love her already.

It was a strange condition of mind in which he found himself. His
strongest impulse was to run away and thus save the girl from himself
and his love. But would that save her? She was not the kind of woman--he
caught himself thinking of her now as a woman and not as a child--she
was not the kind of woman to love lightly or to lay a love aside as one
might do with a misfit garment. What if it should be true, as Edmonia
had declared, that Dorothy had already given him her heart? What would
happen to her in that case, should he go away and leave her? “But,
psha!” he thought; “that cannot be true. The child does not know what
love is. And yet, and yet. Why did she choose me to be her guardian, and
why, when I expressed regret that she had done so, did she look at me
so, out of those great, solemn, sad eyes of hers, and ask me, with so
much intensity if I did not _want_ to be her guardian? Was it not that
she instinctively, and in obedience to her love, longed to place her
life in my keeping? After all she is not a child. It is only habit that
makes me think of her in that way--habit and her strangely childlike
confidence in me. But is that confidence childlike, after all? Do not
women feel in that way toward the men they love? Dorothy is fully grown
and sixteen years of age. Many a woman is married at sixteen.”

Of his own condition of mind Arthur had now no doubt. The thought had
come to him that should he go away she would forget him, and he had
angrily rejected it as a lie. He knew she would never forget. The
further thought had come to him that in such case she would marry some
other man, and it stung him like a whip lash to think of that. In brief
he knew now, though until a few hours ago he had not so much as
suspected it, that he loved Dorothy as he had never dreamed of loving
any woman while he lived. He remembered how thoughts of her had colored
all his thinking for a month agone and had shaped every plan he had
formed.

But what was he now to do? “My life--the life I have marked out for
myself,” he reflected, “would not be a suitable one for her.” He had not
fully formulated the thought before he knew it to be a falsehood. “She
would be supremely happy in such a life. It would give zest and interest
to her being. She would rejoice in its sacrifices and share mightily in
its toil and its triumphs. She cares nothing for the life of humdrum
ease and luxury that has been marked out for her to live. She would
care intensely for a life of high endeavor. And yet I must save her from
the sacrifice if I can. I must save her from myself and from my love if
it be not indeed too late.”

His horse had long ago slowed down to a walk, and was pursuing a course
of its own selection. It brought him now to the hickory plantation near
the outer gate of the Wyanoke property. Awakening to consciousness of
his whereabouts, Arthur drew rein.

“It was here that I first met Dorothy”--he liked now the sound of her
name in his ears--“on that glorious June morning when the hickory leaves
that now strew the ground were in the full vigor of their first
maturity. How confidently she whistled to her hounds, and how promptly
they obeyed her call! What a queen she seemed as she disciplined them,
and with what stately grace she passed me by without recognition save
that implied in a sweeping inclination of her person! That was a bare
five months ago! It seems five years, or fifty! How much I have lived
since then! And how large a part of my living Dorothy has been!”

Presently he turned and set off at a gallop on his return to the fever
camp, his mien that of a strong man who has made up his mind. His plan
of action was formed, and he was hastening to carry it out.

It was growing dark when he arrived at the camp, and Dorothy met him
with her report as to the condition of the sick. She took his hand as he
dismounted, and held it between her own, as was her custom, quite
unconscious of the nature of her own impulses.

“I’m very tired, Cousin Arthur,” she said after her report was made.
“The journey to Court and all the rest of it have wearied me; and I sat
up with Sally last night. You’re glad she’s better, aren’t you?”

“I certainly am,” he replied. “I feared yesterday for her life, but your
nursing has saved her, just as it has saved so many others. Sally has
passed the crisis now, and has nothing to do but obey you and get well.”

He said this in a tone of perplexity and sadness, which Dorothy’s ears
were quick to catch.

“You’re tired too, Cousin Arthur?” she half said, half asked.

“Oh, no. I’m never tired. I--”

“Then you are troubled. You are unhappy, and you must never be that. You
never deserve it. Tell me what it is! I won’t have you troubled or
unhappy.”

“I’m troubled about you, Dorothy. You’ve been over-straining your
strength. There are dark shadows under your eyes, and your cheeks are
wan and pale. You must rest and make up your lost sleep. Here, Dick! Go
over to the great house and bring Chestnut for your Miss Dorothy, do you
hear?”

“No, no, no!” Dorothy answered quickly. “Don’t go, Dick. I do not want
the mare. No, Cousin Arthur, I’m not going to quit my post. I only want
to sleep now for an hour or two,--just to rest a little. The sick people
can’t spare me now.”

“But they must, Dorothy. I will not have you make yourself ill. You must
go back to the great house tonight and get a good night’s rest. I’ll
look after your sick people.”

Dorothy loosened her hold of his hand, and retreated a step, looking
reproachfully at him as she said:

“Don’t you want me here, Cousin Arthur? Don’t you care?”

“I do care, Dorothy, dear! I care a great deal more than I can ever tell
you. That is why I want you to go home for a rest tonight. I am
seriously anxious about you. Let me explain to you. When one is well and
strong and gets plenty of sleep, there is not much danger of infection.
But when one is worn out with anxiety and loss of sleep as you are, the
danger is very great. You are not afraid of taking the fever. I don’t
believe you are afraid of anything, and I am proud of you for that. But
I am afraid for you. Think how terrible it would be for me, Dorothy, if
you should come down with this malady. Will you not go home for my sake,
and for my sake get a good night’s sleep, so that you may come back
fresh and well and cheery in the morning? You do not know, you can’t
imagine how much I depend upon you for my own strength and courage.
Several things trouble me just now, and I have a real need to see you
bright and well and strong in the morning. Won’t you try to be so for my
sake, Dorothy? Won’t you do as I bid you, just once?”

“Just once?” she responded, with a rising inflection. “Just _always_,
you ought to say. As long as I live I’ll do whatever you tell me to
do--at least when you tell me the truth as you are doing now. You see I
always know when you are telling the truth. With other people it is
different. Sometimes I can’t tell how much or how little they mean. But
I know you so well! And besides you’re always clumsy at fibbing, even
when you do it for a good purpose. That’s why I like you so much--or,”
pausing,--“that’s one of the reasons. Has Dick gone for Chestnut?”

“Yes, Dick always obeys me.”

“Oh, but that’s quite different. You are Dick’s master you know--” Then
she hesitated again, presently adding, “of course you are my master
too--only in a different way. Oh, I see now; you’re my guardian. Of
course I must obey my guardian, and I’ll show him a bright, fresh face
in the morning. Here comes Dick with Chestnut. Good night--Master!”

From that hour Dorothy thought of Arthur always by that title of
“master,” though in the presence of others she never so addressed him.

Arthur watched her ride away in the light of the rising November moon,
Dick following closely as her groom. And as he saw her turn at the
entrance to the woodlands to wave him a final adieu, he said out loud:

“I fear it is indeed too late!”



XX

A SPECIAL DELIVERY LETTER


_W_hen Dorothy had disappeared, Arthur became conscious of a great
loneliness, which he found it difficult to shake off. Presently he
remembered that he had a letter to write, a letter which he had decided
upon out there under the hickory trees. He had writing materials and a
table in his own small quarters, but somehow he felt himself impelled to
write this letter upon Dorothy’s own little lap desk and in Dorothy’s
own little camp cottage.

“Positively, I am growing sentimental!” he said to himself as he walked
toward Dorothy’s house. “I didn’t suspect such a possibility in myself.
After all a man knows less about himself than about anybody else. I can
detect tuberculosis in another, at a glance. I doubt if I should
recognize it in myself. I can discover cardiac trouble by a mere look at
the eyes of the man afflicted with it. I know instantly when I look at a
man, what his temperament is, what tendencies he has, what
probabilities, and even what possibilities inhere in his nature. But
what do I know about Arthur Brent? I suppose that any of my comrades at
Bellevue could have told me years ago the things I am just now finding
out concerning myself. If any of them had predicted my present condition
of mind a year ago, I should have laughed in derision of the stupid
misconception of me. I thought I knew myself. What an idiot any man is
to think that!”

Touching a match to the little camphene lamp on Dorothy’s table, he
opened her desk and wrote.

“MY DEAR EDMONIA:

     “When you left me this afternoon, it was with a promise that on my
     next visit to Branton you would tell me of the things that limit
     Dorothy’s life. It was my purpose then to make an early opportunity
     for the hearing. I have changed my mind. I do not want to hear now,
     because when this knowledge comes to me, I must act upon it, in one
     way or another, and I must act promptly. Should it come to me now,
     I should not be free to act. I simply cannot, because I must not,
     leave my work here till it is done. I do not refer now to those
     plans of which we spoke today, but simply to the fever. I must not
     quit my post till that is at an end. I am a soldier in the midst of
     a campaign. I cannot quit my colors till the enemy is completely
     put to rout. This enemy--the fever--is an obstinate one, slow to
     give way. It will be many weeks, possibly several months, before I
     can entirely conquer it. Until then I must remain at my post, no
     matter what happens. Until then, therefore, I do not want to know
     anything that might place upon me the duty of withdrawing from
     present surroundings. I shall ride over to Branton now and then, as
     matters here grow better, and I hope, too, that you will continue
     your compassionate visits to our fever camp. But please, my dear
     Edmonia, do not tell me anything of this matter, until the last
     negro in the camp is well and I am free to take the next train for
     New York, and perhaps the next ship for Havre.

     “You will understand me, I am sure. I do not want to play a
     halting, hesitating part in a matter of such consequence. I do not
     wish to be compelled to sit still when the time comes for me to
     act. So I must wait till I am free again from this present and most
     imperative service, before I permit myself to hear that which may
     make it my duty to go at once into exile.

     “In the meantime I shall guard my conduct against every act, and
     lock my lips against every utterance that might do harm.

     “I have formulated a plan of action, and of that I will tell you at
     the first opportunity, because I want your counsel respecting it.
     As soon as I am free, I shall act upon it, if you do not think it
     too late.

     “I cannot tell you, my dear Edmonia, how great a comfort it is to
     me in my perplexity, that I have your sympathy and may rely upon
     your counsel in my time of need. I have just now begun to realize
     how little I know of myself, and your wise words, spoken today,
     have shown me clearly how very much you know of me. To you,
     therefore, I shall look, in this perplexity, for that guidance for
     which I have always, hitherto, relied,--in mistaken and conceited
     self-confidence,--upon my own judgment. Could there be anything
     more precious than such friendship and ready sympathy as that which
     you give to me? Whatever else may happen, now or hereafter, I shall
     always feel that in enriching my life with so loyal, so unselfish a
     friendship as that which you have given to me, my Virginian
     episode has been happy in its fruit.

     “Poor Dorothy is almost broken down with work and loss of sleep.
     You will be glad to know that I have sent her to the house for a
     night of undisturbed rest. I had to use all my influence with her
     to make her go. And at the last she went, I think, merely because
     she felt that her going would relieve me of worry and apprehension.
     She is a real heroine, but she has so much of the martyr’s spirit
     in her that she needs restraint and control.”

Dick returned to the camp before this letter was finished, and his
master delivered it into his hands with an injunction to carry it to
Branton in the early morning of the next day. He knew the habit of young
women in Virginia, which was to receive and answer all letters carried
by the hands of special messengers, before the nine o’clock breakfast
hour. And there were far more of such letters interchanged than of those
that came and went by the post. For the post, in those years, was not
equipped with free delivery devices. Most of the plantations were nearer
to each other than to the nearest postoffice, and there were young
negroes in plenty to carry the multitudinous missives with which the
highly cultured young women of the time and country maintained what was
in effect a continuous conversation with each other. They wrote to each
other upon every conceivable occasion, and often upon no occasion at
all, but merely because the morning was fine and each wanted to call the
other’s attention to the fact. If one read a novel that pleased her, she
would send it with a note,--usually covering two sheets and heavily
crossed,--to some friend whom she desired to share her enjoyment of it.
Or if she had found a poem to her liking in Blackwood, or some other of
the English magazines, for American periodicals circulated scarcely at
all in Virginia in those days--except the Southern Literary Messenger,
for which everybody subscribed as a matter of patriotic duty--she would
rise “soon” in the morning, make half a dozen manuscript copies of it,
and send them by the hands of little darkeys to her half dozen bosom
friends, accompanying each with an astonishingly long “note.” I speak
with authority here. I have seen Virginia girls in the act of doing this
sort of thing, and I have read many hundreds of their literary
criticisms. What a pity it is that they are lost to us! For some of them
were mightily shrewd both in condemnation and in ecstatic approval, and
all of them had the charm of perfect and fearless honesty in utterance,
and all of them were founded upon an actual and attentive reading of the
works criticised, as printed criticism usually is not.



XXI

HOW A HIGH BRED DAMSEL CONFRONTED FATE AND DUTY


Quite unconsciously Arthur Brent had prepared a very bad morning hour
for the best friend he had ever known. His letter was full of dagger
thrusts for the loving girl’s soul. Every line of it revealed his state
of mind, and that state of mind was a very painful thing for the
sensitive woman, who loved him so, to contemplate. The very intimacy of
it was a painful reminder; the affection it revealed so frankly stung
her to the quick. The missive told her, as no words so intended could
have done, how far removed this man’s attitude toward her was from that
of the lover. Had his words been angry they might not have indicated any
impossibility of love--they might indeed have meant love itself in such
a case,--love vexed or baffled, but still love. Had they been cold and
indifferent, they might have been interpreted merely as the language of
reserve, or as a studied concealment of passion. But their very warmth
and candor of friendship would have set the seal of impossibility upon
her hope that he might ever come to love her, if she had cherished any
such hope, as she did not.

The letter told her by its tone more convincingly than any other form of
words could have done, that this man held her in close affection as a
friend, and that no thought of a dearer relationship than that could at
any time come to him.

Edmonia Bannister was a strong woman, highly bred and much too proud to
give way to the weakness of self-pity. She made no moan over her lost
love as she laid it away to rest forever in the sepulchre of her heart.
Nor did she in her soul repine or complain of fate.

“It is best for him as it is,” she told herself, as she had told herself
before during that long, solitary drive in the carriage; “and I must
rejoice in it, and not mourn.”

The sting of it did not lie in disappointment. She met that with calm
mind as the soldier faces danger without flinching when it comes to him
hand in hand with duty. The agony that tortured her was of very
different origin. All her pride of person, all her pride of race and
family, even her self-respect itself, was sorely stricken by the
discovery that she had given her love unasked.

This truth she had not so much as suspected until that conversation in
Dorothy’s little porch on the day before had revealed it to her. Then
the revelation had so stunned her that she did not realize its full
significance. And besides, her mind at that time was fully occupied with
efforts so to bear herself as to conceal what she regarded as her shame.
Now that she had passed a sleepless night in company with this hideous
truth, and now that it came to her anew with its repulsive nakedness
revealed in the gray of the morning, she appreciated and exaggerated its
deformity, and the realization was more than she could bear.

She had been bred in that false school of ethics which holds a woman
bound to remain a stock, a stone, a glacier of insensibility to love
until the man shall graciously give her permission to love, by declaring
his own love for her. She believed that false teaching implicitly. She
was as deeply humiliated, as mercilessly self-reproachful now as if she
had committed an immodesty. She told herself that her conduct in
permitting herself, however unconsciously, to love this man who had
never asked for her love, had “unsexed” her--a term not understanded of
men, but one to which women attach a world of hideous meaning.

“I am not well this morning,” she said to her maid as she passed up the
stairs in retreat. “No, you need not attend me,” she added quickly upon
seeing the devoted serving woman’s purpose; “stay here instead and make
my apologies to my brother when he comes out of his room, for leaving
him to breakfast alone.”

“Why, Miss Mony, is you done forgot? Mas’ Archer he ain’t here. You know
he done stayed at de tavern at de Co’t House las’ night, an’ a mighty
poor white folksey breakfas’ he’ll git too.”

“Oh, yes, I had forgotten. So much the better. But don’t accompany me. I
want to be alone.”

The maid stared at her in blank amazement. When she had entered her
chamber and carefully shut the door, the woman exclaimed:

“Well, I ’clar to gracious! I ain’t never seed nuffin like dat wid Miss
Mony before!”

Then with that blind faith which her class at that time cherished in the
virtues of morning coffee as a panacea, Dinah turned into the dining
room, and with a look of withering scorn at the head dining room
servant, demanded:

“Is you a idiot, Polydore? Couldn’t you see dat Miss Mony is seriously
decomposed dis mawnin’? What you means by bein’ so stupid? What fer
didn’t you give her a cup o’ coffee? An’ why don’t you stir yourself now
an’ bring me de coffee urn, an’ de cream jug? Don’t stan’ dar starin’,
nigga! Do you heah?”

Having “hopes” in the direction of this comely maid, Polydore was duly
abashed by her rebuke while full of admiration for the queenly way in
which she had administered it. He brought the urn and its adjuncts and
admiringly contemplated the grace with which Dinah prepared a cup for
her mistress.

“I ’clar, Dinah, you’se mos’ as fine as white ladies dey selves!” he
ventured to say in softly placative tones. But Dinah had no notion of
relaxing her dignity, so instead of acknowledging the compliment she
rebuffed it, saying:

“Why don’t Mas’ Archer sen’ you to the cawnfiel’, anyhow? Dat’s all
you’se fit for. Don’ you see I’se a waitin’ fer you to bring me a tray
an’ a napkin, an’ a chaney plate with a slice o’ ham on it?”

Equipped at last, the maid, disregarding her mistress’s injunction,
marched up the stairs and entered Edmonia’s room. The young woman gently
thanked her, and then, after a moment’s thought, said:

“Dinah, I wish you would get some jellies and nice things ready this
morning and take them over to your Miss Dorothy for her sick people. You
can use the carriage, but go as soon as you can get away; and give my
love to your Miss Dorothy, and tell her I am not feeling well this
morning. But tell her, Dinah, that I’ll drive over this afternoon about
two o’clock and she must be ready to go with me for a drive. Poor child,
she needs some relaxation!”

Having thus secured immunity from Dinah’s kindly but at present
unwelcome attentions, Edmonia Bannister proceeded, as she phrased it in
her mind, to “take herself seriously in hand.”

After long thought she formulated a program for herself.

“My pride ought to have saved me from this humiliation,” she thought.
“Having failed me in that, it must at least save me from the
consequences of my misconduct. I’ll wear a cheerful face, whatever I may
feel. I’ll cultivate whatever there is of jollity in me, and still
better, whatever I possess of dignity. I’ll be social. I’ll entertain
continually, as brother always wants me to do. I’ll have some of my girl
friends with me every day and every night. I’ll busy myself with every
duty I can find to do, and especially I shall devote myself to dear
Dorothy. By the way, Arthur will expect a reply to his letter. I’ll
begin my duty-doing with that.”

And so she wrote:

     “You are by all odds the most ridiculous fellow, my dear Arthur,
     that I have yet encountered--the most preposterous, wrong headed,
     cantankerous (I hope that word is good English--and anyhow it is
     good Virginian, because it tells the truth) sort of human animal I
     ever yet knew. Do you challenge proof of my accusations? Think a
     bit and you’ll have it in abundance. Let me help you think by
     recounting your absurdities.

     “You were a young man, practically alone in the world, with no
     fortune except an annuity, which must cease at your death. You had
     no associates except scientific persons who never think of anything
     but trilobites and hydrocyanic acid and symptoms and all that sort
     of thing. Suddenly, and by reason of no virtuous activity of your
     own, you found yourself the owner of one of the finest estates in
     Virginia, and the head of one of its oldest and most honored
     houses. In brief you came into an inheritance for which any
     reasonable young man of your size and age would have been glad to
     mortgage his hopes of salvation and cut off the entail of all his
     desires. There, that’s badly quoted, I suppose, but it is from
     Shakespeare, I think, and I mean something by it--a thing not
     always true of a young woman’s phrases when she tries her hand at
     learned utterance.

     “Never mind that. This favored child of Fortune, Arthur Brent, M.
     D., Ph. D., etc., bitterly complains of Fate for having poured such
     plenty into his lap, rescuing him from a life of toil and trouble
     and tuberculosis--for I’m perfectly satisfied you would have
     contracted that malady, whatever it is, if Fate hadn’t saved you
     from it by compelling you to come down here to Virginia.

     “Don’t criticise if I get my tenses mixed up a little, so long as
     my moods are right. Very well, to drop what my governess used to
     call ‘the historical present,’ this absurd and preposterous young
     man straightway ‘kicked against the pricks’--that’s not slang but a
     Biblical quotation, as you would very well know if you read your
     Bible half as diligently as you study your books on therapeutics.
     Better than that, it is truth that I’m telling you. You actually
     wanted to get rid of your heritage, to throw away just about the
     finest chance a young man ever had to make himself happy and
     comfortable and contented. You might even have indulged yourself in
     the pastime of making love to me, and getting your suit so sweetly
     rejected that you would ever afterwards have thought of the episode
     as an important part of your education. But you threw away even
     that opportunity.

     “Now comes to you the greatest good fortune of all, and it
     positively frightens you so badly that you are planning to run away
     from it--if you can.

     “Badinage aside, Arthur,--or should that word be ‘bandinage?’ You
     see I don’t know, and my dictionary is in another room, and anyhow
     the phrase sounds literary. Now to go on. Really, Arthur, you are a
     ridiculous person. You have had months of daily, hourly, intimate
     association with Dorothy. With your habits of observation, and
     still more your splendid gifts in that way, you cannot have failed
     to discover her superiority to young women generally. If you have
     failed, if you have been so blind as not to see, let me point out
     the fact to you. Did you ever know a better mind than hers? Was
     there ever a whiter soul? Has she not such a capacity of devotion
     and loyalty and love as you never saw in any other woman? Isn’t her
     courage admirable? Is not her truthfulness something that a man may
     trust his honor and his life to, knowing absolutely that his faith
     must always be secure?

     “Fie upon you, Arthur. Why do you not see how lavishly Providence
     has dealt with you?

     “But that is only one side of the matter, and by no means the
     better side of it. On that side lies happiness for you, and you
     have a strange dislike of happiness for yourself. You distrust it.
     You fear it. You put it aside as something unworthy of you,
     something that must impair your character and interrupt your work.
     Oh, foolish man! Has not your science taught you that it is the men
     of rich, full lives who do the greatest things in this world, and
     not the starvelings? Do you imagine for a moment that any monkish
     ascetic could have written Shakespeare’s plays or Beethoven’s music
     or fought Washington’s campaigns or rendered to the world the
     service that Thomas Jefferson gave?

     “But there, I am wandering from my point again. Don’t you see that
     it is your duty to train Dorothy, to give to her mind a larger and
     better outlook than the narrow horizon of our Virginian life
     permits?

     “Anyhow, you shall see it, and you shall see it now. For in spite
     of your unwillingness to hear, and in spite of your injunction that
     I shall not tell you now, I am going to tell you some things that
     you must know. Listen then.

     “Certain circumstances which I may not tell you either now or
     hereafter, render Dorothy’s case a peculiar one. She was only a
     dozen years old, or so, when her father died, and he never dreamed
     of her moral and intellectual possibilities. He was oppressed with
     a great fear for her. He foresaw for her dangers so grave and so
     great that he ceaselessly planned to save her from them. To that
     end he decreed that she should learn nothing of music, or art or
     any other thing which he believed would prove a temptation to her.
     His one supreme desire was to save her from erratic ways of living,
     and so to hedge her life about that she should in due course marry
     into a good Virginia family and pass all her days in a round of
     commonplace duties and commonplace enjoyments. He had no conception
     of her character, her genius or her capacities for enjoyment or
     suffering. He fondly believed that she would be happy in the life
     he planned for her as the wife of young Jefferson Peyton, to whom,
     in a way, he betrothed her in her early childhood, when Jeff
     himself was a well ordered little lad, quite different from the
     arrogant, silly young donkey he has grown up to be, with dangerous
     inclinations toward dissoluteness and depravity.

     “Dr. South and Mr. Madison Peyton planned this marriage, as
     something that was to be fulfilled in that future for which Dr.
     South was morbidly anxious to provide. Like many other people, Dr.
     South mistook himself for Divine Providence, and sought to order a
     life whose conditions he could not foresee. He wanted to save his
     daughter from a fate which he, perhaps, had reason to fear for her.
     On the other side of the arrangement Madison Peyton wanted his
     eldest son to become master of Pocahontas plantation, so that his
     own possessions might pass to his other sons and daughters. So
     these two bargained that Dorothy should become Jefferson Peyton’s
     wife when both should be grown up. Dr. South did not foresee what
     sort of man the boy was destined to become. Still less did he dream
     what a woman Dorothy would be. His only concern was that his
     daughter should marry into a family as good as his own.

     “Now that Peyton sees what his son’s tendencies are he is more
     determined than ever to have that mistaken old bargain carried out.
     He is willing to sacrifice Dorothy in the hope of saving his son
     from the evil courses to which he is so strongly inclined.

     “Are you going to let this horrible thing happen, Arthur Brent? You
     love Dorothy and she loves you. She does not yet suspect either
     fact, but you are fully aware of both. You alone can save her from
     a fate more unhappy than any that her father, in his foolishness,
     feared for her, and in doing so you can at the same time fulfil her
     father’s dearest wish, which was that she should marry into a
     Virginia family of high repute. Your family ranks as well in this
     commonwealth as any other--better than most. You are the head of
     it. You can save Dorothy from a life utterly unworthy of her, a
     life in which she must be supremely unhappy. You can give to her
     mind that opportunity of continuous growth which it needs. You can
     offer to her the means of culture and happiness, and of worthy
     intellectual exercise, which so rare and exceptional a nature must
     have for its full development.

     “Are you going to do this, Arthur Brent, or are you not? Are you
     going to do the high duty that lies before you, or are you going to
     put it aside for some imagined duty which would be of less
     consequence even if it were real? Is it not better worth your while
     to save Dorothy than to save any number of life’s failures who
     dwell in New York’s tenements? Are not Dorothy South’s mind and
     soul and superb capacities of greater consequence than the lives of
     thousands of those whose squalor and unwholesome surroundings are
     after all the fruit of their own hereditary indolence and
     stupidity? Is not one such life as hers of greater worth in the
     world, than thousands or even millions of those for whose
     amelioration you had planned to moil and toil? You know, Arthur,
     that I have little sympathy with the thought that those who fail in
     life should be coddled into a comfort that they have not earned. I
     do not believe that you can rescue dulness of mind from the
     consequences of its own inertia. Nine tenths of the poverty that
     suffers is the direct consequence of laziness and drink. The other
     tenth is sufficiently cared for. I am a heretic on this subject, I
     suppose. I do not think that such a man as you are should devote
     his life to an attempt to uplift those who have sunk into squalor
     through lack of fitness for anything better. Your abilities may be
     much better employed in helping worthier lives. I never did see why
     we should send missionaries to the inferior races, when all our
     efforts might be so much more profitably employed for the
     betterment of worthier people. Why didn’t we let the red Indians
     perish as they deserve to do, and spend the money we have
     fruitlessly thrown away upon them, in providing better educational
     opportunities for a higher race?

     “The moral of all this is that you have found your true mission in
     the rescue of Dorothy South from a fate she does not deserve. I’m
     going to help you in doing that, but I will not tell you my plans
     till you get through with your fever crusade and have time to
     listen attentively to my superior wisdom.

     “In the meantime you are to humble yourself by reflecting upon your
     great need of such counsel as mine and your great good fortune in
     having a supply of it at hand.

     “I hope your patients continue to do credit to your medical skill
     and to Dorothy’s excellent nursing. I have sent Dinah over this
     morning with some delicacies for the convalescent among them, and
     in the afternoon I shall go over to the camp myself and steal
     Dorothy from them and you, long enough to give her a good long
     drive.

“Always sincerely your Friend,

  “EDMONIA BANNISTER.”



XXII

THE INSTITUTION OF THE DUELLO


_W_hen Arthur Brent had read Edmonia’s letter, he mounted Gimlet and
rode away with no purpose except to think. The letter had revealed some
things to him of which he had not before had even a suspicion. He
understood now why Madison Peyton had been so anxious to become
Dorothy’s guardian and so angry over his disappointment in that matter.
For on the preceding evening Archer Bannister had ridden over from the
Court House to tell him of Peyton’s offensive words and to deliver the
letter of apology into his hands.

“I don’t see how you can challenge him after that” said Archer, with
some uncertainty in his tone.

“Why should I wish to do so?” Arthur asked in surprise. “I have
something very much more important to think about just now than Madison
Peyton’s opinion of me. You yourself tell me that when he was saying
all these things about me, he only got himself laughed at for his
pains. Nobody thought the worse of me for anything that he said, and
certainly nobody would think the better of me for challenging him to a
duel and perhaps shooting him or getting shot. Of course I could not
challenge him now, as he has made a written withdrawal of his words and
given me an apology which I am at liberty to tack up on the court house
door if I choose, as I certainly do not. But I should not have
challenged him in any case.”

“I suppose you are right,” answered Archer; “indeed I know you are. But
it requires a good deal of moral courage--more than I suspect myself of
possessing--to fly in the face of Virginia opinion in that way.”

“But what is Virginia opinion on the subject of duelling, Archer? I
confess I can’t find out.”

“How do you mean?” asked the other.

“Why, it seems to me that opinion here on that subject is exceedingly
inconsistent and contradictory. Dorothy once said, when she was a
child,”--there was a world of significance in the past tense of that
phrase--“that if a man in Virginia fights a duel for good cause,
everybody condemns him for being so wicked and breaking the laws in
that fashion; but if he doesn’t fight when good occasion arises,
everybody calls him a coward and blames him more than in the other case.
So I do not know what Virginia opinion is. And even the laws do not
enlighten me. Many years ago the Legislature adopted a statute making
duelling a crime, but I have never heard of anybody being punished for
that crime. On the contrary the statute seems to have been carefully
framed to prevent the punishment of anybody for duelling. It makes a
principal in the crime of everybody who in any capacity participates in
a duel, whether as fighter or second, or surgeon or mere looker on. In
other words it makes a principal of every possible witness, and then
excuses all of them from testifying to the fact of a duel on the ground
that to testify to that fact would incriminate themselves. I saw a very
interesting farce of that sort played in a Richmond court a month or so
ago. Are you interested to hear about it?”

“Yes, tell me!”

“Well, Mr. P.”--Arthur named a man who has since become a famous
judge--“had had something to do with a duel. As I understand it he was
neither principal nor second, but at any rate he saw the duel fought.
The principals, or one of them, had been brought before the judge for
trial, and Mr. P. was called as a witness. When a question was put to
him by the judge himself, Mr. P. replied: ‘I am not a lawyer. I ask the
privilege of consulting counsel before answering that question.’ To this
the judge responded: ‘To save time Mr. P., I will myself be your
counsel. As such I advise you to decline to answer the question. Now, as
the judge of this court, and not in my capacity as your counsel, I again
put the question to you and require you, under penalty of the law to
answer it.’ Mr. P. answered: ‘Under advice of counsel, your Honor, I
decline to answer the question.’ The judge responded: ‘Mr. Sheriff, take
Mr. P. into custody. I commit him for contempt of court.’ Then resuming
his attitude as counsel, the judge said: ‘Mr. P., as your counsel I
advise you to ask for a writ of Habeas Corpus.’

“‘I ask for a writ of Habeas Corpus, your Honor,’ answered P.

“‘The court is required to grant the writ,’ said the judge solemnly,
‘and it is granted. Prepare it for signature, Mr. Clerk, and serve it on
the sheriff.’

“The clerical work occupied but a brief time. When it was done the
sheriff addressing the court said: ‘May it please your Honor, in
obedience to the writ of Habeas Corpus this day served upon me, I
produce here the body of R. A. P., and I pray my discharge from further
obligation in the premises.’

“Then the judge addressed the prisoner, saying: ‘Mr. P. you are
arraigned before this court, charged with contempt and disobedience of
the court’s commands. What have you to say in answer to the charge?’
Then instantly he added: ‘In my capacity as your counsel, Mr. P., I
advise you to plead that the charge of contempt which is brought against
you, rests solely upon your refusal to answer a question the answer to
which might tend to subject you to a criminal accusation.’

“‘I do so make my answer, your Honor,’ said Mr. P.

“‘The law in this case,’ said the judge, ‘is perfectly clear. No citizen
can be compelled to testify against himself. Mr. P., you are discharged
under the writ. There being no other testimony to the fact that the
prisoners at the bar have committed the crime charged against them, the
court orders their discharge. Mr. Clerk, call the next case on the
calendar.’[B] Now wasn’t all that a roaring farce, with the judge
duplicating parts after the ‘Protean’ manner of the low comedians?”

“It certainly was,” answered young Bannister. “But what are we to do?”

“Why, make up your minds--or our minds I should say, for I am a
Virginian now with the best of you--whether we will or will not permit
duelling, and make and enforce the laws accordingly. If duelling is
right let us recognize it and put an end to our hypocritical paltering
with it. I’m not sure that in the present condition of society and
opinion that would not be the best course to pursue. But if we are not
ready for that, if we are to go on legislating against the practice, for
heaven’s sake let us make laws that can be enforced, and let us enforce
them. The little incident I have related is significant in its way, but
it doesn’t suggest the half or the quarter or the one-hundredth part of
the absurdity of our dealing with this question.”

“Tell me about the rest of it,” responded Archer, “and then I shall have
some questions to ask you.”

“Well, as to the rest of it, you have only to look at the facts. Years
ago the Virginia Legislature went through the solemn process of
enacting that no person should be eligible to a seat in either house of
our law making body, who had been in any way concerned in a duel, either
as principal or second, since a date fixed by the statute. If that meant
anything it meant that in the opinion of the Legislature of Virginia no
duellist ought to be permitted to become a lawgiver. It was a statute
prescribing for those who have committed the crime of duelling precisely
the same penalty of disfranchisement that the law applies to those who
have committed other felonies. But there was this difference. The laws
forbidding other felonies, left open an opportunity to prove them and to
convict men of committing them, while the law against duelling carefully
made it impossible to convict anybody of its violation. To cover that
point, the Legislature enacted that every man elected to either house of
that body, should solemnly make oath that he had not been in any wise
engaged in duelling since the date named in the statute. Again the
lawgivers were not in earnest, for every year since that time men who
have been concerned in duelling within the prohibited period have been
elected to the Legislature; and every year the Legislature’s first act
has been to bring forward the date of the prohibition and admit to
seats in the law making body all the men elected to it who have
deliberately defied and broken the law. It deals in no such fashion with
men disfranchised for the commission of any other crime. Is not all this
in effect an annual declaration by the Legislature that its laws in
condemnation of duelling do not mean what they say? Is it not a case in
which a law is enacted to satisfy one phase of public sentiment and
deliberately nullified by legislative act in obedience to public
sentiment of an opposite character?”

“It certainly seems so. And yet I do not see what is to be done. You
said just now that perhaps it would be best to legalize duelling. Would
not that be legalizing crime?”

“Not at all. Duelling is simply private, personal war. It is a crime
only by circumstance and statute. Under certain conditions such war is
as legitimate as any other, and the right to wage it rests upon
precisely the same ethical grounds as those upon which we justify
public, national war. In a state of society in which the law does not
afford protection to the individual and redress of wrongs inflicted upon
him, I conceive that he has an indisputable right to wage war in his own
defence, just as a nation has. But we live in a state of society quite
different from that. If Madison Peyton or any other man had inflicted
hurt of any kind upon me, I could go into court with the certainty of
securing redress. I have no right, therefore, to make personal war upon
him by way of securing the redress which the courts stand ready to give
me peaceably. So I say we should forbid duelling by laws that can be
enforced, and public sentiment should imperatively require their
enforcement. Till we are ready to do that, we should legalize duelling
and quit pretending.”

“After all, now that I think of it,” said young Bannister, “most of the
duels of late years in Virginia have had their origin in cowardice, pure
and simple. They have been born of some mere personal affront, and the
principals on either side have fought not to redress wrongs but merely
because they were afraid of being called cowards. You at least can never
be under any necessity of proving that you are not a coward. The people
of Virginia have not forgotten your work at Norfolk. But I’m glad Peyton
apologized. For even an open quarrel between you and him, and especially
one concerning Dorothy, would have been peculiarly embarrassing and it
would have given rise to scandal of an unusual sort.”

“But why, Archer? Why should a quarrel between him and me be more
productive of scandal than one between any other pair of men? I do not
understand.”

“And I cannot explain,” answered the other. “I can only tell you the
fact. I must go now. I have a long ride to a bad bed at the Court House,
with tedious jury duty to do tomorrow. So, good night.”



XXIII

DOROTHY’S REBELLION


_T_he conversation reported in the last preceding chapter of this
record, occurred on the evening before Edmonia Bannister’s letter was
written. The letter, therefore, when Arthur received it at noon of the
next day, supplemented and in some measure explained what Archer had
said with respect to the peculiar inconvenience of a quarrel between Dr.
Brent and Madison Peyton.

Yet it left him in greater bewilderment than ever concerning Dorothy’s
case. That is why he mounted Gimlet and rode away to think.

He understood now why Madison Peyton so eagerly desired to become
Dorothy’s guardian. That would have been merely to take charge of his
own son’s future estate. But why should any such fate have been decreed
for Dorothy under a pretence of concern for her welfare? What but
wretchedness and cruel wrong could result from a marriage so ill
assorted? Why should a girl of Dorothy’s superior kind have been
expected to marry a young man for whom she could never feel anything but
contempt? Why should her rare and glorious womanhood have been bartered
away for any sort of gain? Why had her father sought to dispose of her
as he might of a favorite riding horse or a cherished picture?

All these questions crowded upon Arthur’s mind, and he could find no
answer to any of them. They made him the angrier on that account, and
presently he muttered:

“At any rate this hideous wrong shall not be consummated. Whether I
succeed in setting myself free, or fail in that purpose, I will prevent
this thing. Whether I marry Dorothy myself or not, she shall never be
married by any species of moral compulsion to this unworthy young
puppy.”

Perhaps Doctor Brent’s disposition to call young Peyton by offensive
names, was a symptom of his own condition of mind. But just at this
point in his meditations a thought occurred which almost staggered him.

“What if Dr. South has left somewhere a written injunction to Dorothy to
carry out his purpose? Would she not play the part of martyr to duty?
Would she not, in misdirected loyalty, obey her dead father’s command,
at whatever cost to herself?”

Arthur knew with how much of positive worship Dorothy regarded the
memory of her father. He remembered how loyally she had accepted that
father’s commands forbidding her to learn music or even to listen to it
in any worthy form. He remembered with what unquestioning faith the girl
had accepted his strange dictum about every woman’s need of a master,
and how blindly she believed his teaching that every woman must be bad
if she is left free. Would she not crown her loyalty to that dead
father’s memory by making this final self-sacrifice, when she should
learn of his command, as of course she must? In view of the extreme care
and minute attention to detail with which Dr. South had arranged to hold
his daughter’s fate in mortmain, there could be little doubt that he had
somehow planned to have her informed of this his supreme desire, at some
time selected by himself.

At this moment Arthur met the Branton carriage, bearing Edmonia and
Dorothy.

“You are playing truant, Arthur,” called Edmonia. “You must go back to
your sick people at once, for I’ve kidnapped your head nurse and I don’t
mean to return her to you till six. She is to dine with me at Branton.
So ride back to your duty at once, before Dick shall be seized with an
inspiration to give somebody a dose of strychnine as a substitute for
sweet spirits of nitre.”

“Oh, no, Edmonia,” broke in Dorothy, “we must drive back to the camp at
once. Cousin Arthur needs his ride. You don’t know. I tell you he’s
breaking down. Yes you are, Cousin Arthur, so you needn’t shake your
head. That isn’t quite truthful in you. You work night and day, and
lately you’ve had a dreadfully worn and tired look in your eyes. I’ve
noticed it and all last night, when you had sent me away to sleep, I lay
awake thinking about it.”

Edmonia smiled at this. Perhaps she recognized it as a symptom--in
Dorothy. She only said in reply:

“Don’t worry about Arthur. I am worried only about you, and I’m going to
take you to Branton. Am I not, Arthur?”

“I sincerely hope so,” he replied. “And there is not the slightest
reason why you shouldn’t keep her for the night if you will. She is
really not needed at the hospital till tomorrow. I’m honest and truthful
when I say that, Dorothy. Dick and I can take care of everything till
tomorrow, and I’ll see to it that Dick’s inspirations are restricted to
poetry. So take her, Edmonia, and keep her till tomorrow. And don’t let
her talk too much.”

“Oh, I’m going to take her. She is impolite enough not to want to go but
she is much too young to have a will of her own--yet. As for Dick, he’s
already in the throes. He is constructing a new ‘song ballad’ on the
sorrowful fate of the turkey. It begins:

    ‘Tukkey in de bacca lot,
     A pickin’ off de hoppa’s,’

but it goes no further as yet because Dick can’t find any rhyme for
‘hopper’ except ‘copper’ and ‘proper’ and ‘stopper,’ which I suggested,
and they don’t serve his turn. He came to me to ask if ‘gobblers’ would
not do, but I discouraged that extreme of poetic license.”

“Edmonia,” said Dorothy as soon as the carriage had renewed its journey,
“did you really think it impolite in me not to want to go with you?”

“No, you silly girl.”

“I’m glad of that. You see I think there is nothing so unkind as
impoliteness. But really I think it is wrong for me to go. Why didn’t
you take Cousin Arthur instead? You don’t know how badly he needs
rest.”

Edmonia made no direct reply to this. Instead, she said presently:

“Arthur is one of the best men I know. Don’t you think so, Dorothy?”

“Oh, he’s altogether the best. I can’t think of anybody to compare him
with--not even Washington. He’s a hero you know. I often read over again
all the newspapers that told about what he did in Norfolk, and of course
he’s just like that now. He never thinks of himself, but always of
others. There never was any man like him in all the world. That’s why I
can’t bear to think of going to Branton and leaving him alone when if I
were at my post, he might get some of the sleep that he needs so much.
Edmonia, I’m not going to Branton! Positively I can’t and I won’t. So if
you don’t tell the driver to turn back, I’ll open the carriage door and
jump out and walk back.”

Curiously enough Edmonia made no further resistance. Perhaps she had
already accomplished the object she had had in view. At any rate she
bade the driver turn about, and upon her arrival at the camp she offered
Arthur no further explanation than he might infer from her telling him:

“I’ve brought back the kidnapped nurse. I couldn’t win her away from
you even for a few hours. See that you reward her devotion with all
possible good treatment.”

“You are too funny for anything, Edmonia,” said Dorothy as she stepped
from the carriage. “As if Cousin Arthur could treat me in any but the
best of ways!”

“Oh, I’m not so sure on that point. He’ll bear watching anyhow. He’s
‘essenteric’ as Dick said the other day in a brave but hopeless struggle
with the word ‘eccentric.’ But I must go now or I shall be late for
dinner, and I’m expecting some friends who care more than Dorothy does
for my hospitality.”

“Oh, please, Edmonia--”

“Don’t mind me, child. I was only jesting. You are altogether good and
sweet and _lovable_.”

She looked at Arthur significantly as she emphasized that last word.

The young man thereupon took Dorothy’s hands in his, looked her in the
eyes, and said:

“Edmonia is right, dear. You are altogether good and sweet and lovable.
But you ought to have taken some rest and recreation.”

“How could I, when I knew you needed me?”



XXIV

TO GIVE DOROTHY A CHANCE


_I_t was nearly the Christmas time when Arthur finally broke up the
fever camp. He decided that the outbreak was at an end and the need of a
hospital service no longer pressing. The half dozen patients who
remained at the camp were now so far advanced on the road to recovery
that he felt it safe to remove them to the new quarters at the Silver
Spring.

He had sent Dorothy home a week before, saying:

“Now, Dorothy, dear, we have conquered the enemy--you and I--and a
glorious conquest it has been. We have had forty-seven cases of the
disease, some of them very severe, and there have been only two deaths.
Even they were scarcely attributable to the fever, as both the victims
were old and decrepit, having little vitality with which to resist the
malady. It is a record that ought to teach the doctors and planters of
Virginia something as to the way in which to deal with such outbreaks. I
shall prepare a little account of it for their benefit and publish it in
a medical journal. But I never can tell you how greatly I thank you for
your help.”

“Please don’t talk in that way,” Dorothy hastily rejoined. “Other people
may thank me for things whenever they please, but you never must.”

“But why not, Dorothy?”

“Why, because--well, because you are the Master. I won’t have you
thanking me just like other people. It humiliates me. It is like telling
me you didn’t expect me to do my duty. No, that isn’t just what I mean.
It is like telling me that you think of Dorothy just as you do of other
people, or something of that kind. I can’t make out just what I mean,
but I will not let you thank me.”

“I think I understand,” he answered. “But at any rate you’ll permit me
to tell you, that in my honest judgment as a physician, there would have
been many more deaths than there have been, if I had not had you to help
me. Your own tireless nursing, and the extraordinary way in which you
have made all the negro nurses carry out my orders to the letter, have
saved many lives without any possibility of doubt.”

“Then I have really helped?”

“Yes, Dorothy. I cannot make you know how much you have helped--how
great an assistance, how great a comfort you have been to me in all this
trying time.”

“I am very glad--very glad.”

That was all the answer she could make for tears. It was quite enough.

“Now I’m going to send you home, Dorothy, to get some badly needed rest
and sleep, and to bring the color back to your cheeks. I am going home
myself too. I need only ride over here twice a day to see that the
getting well goes on satisfactorily, and in a week’s time I shall break
up the camp entirely, and send the convalescents to their quarters. It
will be safe to do so then. In the meantime I want you to think of
Christmas. We must make it a red letter day at Wyanoke, to celebrate our
victory. We’ll have a ‘dining day,’ as a dinner party is queerly called
here in Virginia, with a dance in the evening. I’ll have some musicians
up from Richmond. You are to send out the invitations at once, please,
and we’ll make this the very gladdest of Christmases.”

“May I take my Mammy home with me?” the girl broke in. “She has been so
good to me, you know.”

“Yes, Dorothy, and I wish you would keep her there ‘for all the time,’
as you sometimes say. There’s a comfortable house by the garden you
know, and we’ll give her that for her home as long as she lives. You
shall pick out one or two of the nicest of the negro girls to wait on
her and keep house for her, and make her old age comfortable.”

Dorothy ejaculated a little laugh.

“Mammy would drive them all out of the house in ten seconds,” she said,
“and call them ‘dishfaced devils’ and more different kinds of other ugly
names than you ever heard of. Old as she is, she’s very strong, and
she’ll never let anybody wait on her. She calls the present generation
of servants ‘a lot o’ no ’count niggas, dat ain’t fit fer nothin’ but to
be plaguesome.’ But you are very good to let me give her the house.
Thank you, Cousin Arthur.”

“Oh, Dorothy,” answered Arthur, “I thought you always ‘played fair’ as
the children say.”

“Why, what have I done?” the girl asked almost with distress in her
tone.

“Why, you thanked me, after forbidding me to thank you for an
immeasurably greater service.”

“Oh, but that’s different,” she replied. “You are the Master. I am only
a woman.”

“Dorothy,” said Arthur seriously, “don’t you know I think there is
nothing in the world better or nobler than a woman?”

“That’s because you are a man and don’t know,” she answered out of a
wisdom so superior that it would not argue the point.

During the next week Arthur found time in which to prepare and send off
for publication a helpful article on “The Plantation Treatment of
Typhoid Epidemics.” He also found time in which to ride over to Branton
and hold a prolonged conference with Edmonia Bannister. Before a hickory
wood fire in the great drawing room they went over all considerations
bearing upon Arthur’s affairs and plans and possibilities.

“This is the visitation you long ago threatened me with,” said Edmonia.
“You said you would come when the stress of the fever should be over,
and you told me you had some plan in your mind. Tell me what it was.”

“Oh, your past tense is correct there; that was before you wrote to me
about Dorothy. Your letter put an end to that scheme at once.”

“Did it? I’m very glad.”

“But why? You don’t know what it was that I had in mind.”

“Perhaps not. Perhaps I have a shrewd idea as to the general features of
your plan. At any rate I’m perfectly sure that it was unworthy of you.”

“Why do you think that, Edmonia? Surely I have not--”

“Oh, yes you have--if you mean that you haven’t deserved to be thought
ill of. You have wanted to run away from your duty and your happiness,
and it was that sort of thing you had in mind. Otherwise you wouldn’t
have needed to plan at all. Besides, you said you didn’t want to have
this conversation with me, or to hear about Dorothy till you should be
‘free to act.’ You meant by that ‘free to run away.’ That is why I wrote
you about Dorothy.”

“Listen, Edmonia!” said the young man pleadingly. “Don’t think of me as
a coward or a shirk! Don’t imagine that I have been altogether selfish
even in my thoughts! I did plan to run away, as you call it. But it was
not to escape duty--for I didn’t know, then, that I had a duty to do. Or
rather I thought that my duty called upon me to ‘run away.’ Will you
let me tell you just what I felt and thought, and what the plan was that
I had in mind?”

“Surely, Arthur. I did not really think you selfish, and certainly I did
not think you cowardly. If I had, I should have taken pains to save
Dorothy from you. But tell me the whole story.”

“I will. When we began our conversation in Dorothy’s little porch, I was
just beginning to be afraid that I might learn to love her. She had so
suddenly matured, somehow. Her womanhood seemed to have come upon her as
the sunrise does in the tropics without any premonitory twilight. It was
the coming of serious duty upon her, I suppose that wrought the change.
At any rate, with the outbreak of the fever, she seemed to take on a new
character. Without losing her childlike trustfulness and simplicity, she
suddenly became a woman, strong to do and to endure. And her beauty came
too, so that I caught myself thinking of her when I ought to have been
thinking of something else.”

“Oh, yes,” Edmonia broke in. “I know all that and sympathize with it.
You remember I found it all out before you did.”

“Yes, I was coming to that. Perhaps I wandered from my story a bit--”

“You did, of course. But under the circumstances I forgive you. Go on.”

“Well, when you told me it was too late for me to save myself from
loving Dorothy, I knew you were right, though I had not suspected it
before. I hoped, however, that it might not be too late to save Dorothy
from myself. I did not want to lure her to a life that was sure to bring
much of trial and hard work and sympathetic suffering to her.”

“But why not? Isn’t such a life, with the man she loves, very greatly
the happiest one she could lead? Have you studied her character to so
little purpose as to imagine--”

“No, no, no!” he broke in. “I saw all that when I thought the matter
out, after you left the camp that day. But at first I didn’t see it, and
I didn’t want Dorothy sacrificed--especially to me.”

“No woman is sacrificed when she is permitted to share the work, the
purposes, the aspirations of the man she loves. How men do misjudge
women and misunderstand them! It is not ease, or wealth, or luxury that
makes a woman happy--for many a woman is wretched with all these--it is
love, and love never does its work so perfectly in a woman’s soul as
when it demands sacrifice at her hands.”

Edmonia said this oracularly, as she sat staring into the fire. Arthur
wondered where she had learned this truth, seeing that love had never
come to her either to offer its rewards or to demand sacrifice at her
hands. She caught his look and was instantly on her guard lest his
shrewd gift of observation should penetrate her secret.

“You wonder how I know all this, Arthur,” she quickly added. “I see the
question in your face. For answer I need only remind you that I am a
woman, and a woman’s intuitions sometimes serve her as well as
experience might. Go on, and tell me what it was you planned before I
wrote you concerning Dorothy’s case. What was the particular excuse you
invented at that time for running away?”

“It is of no consequence now, but I don’t mind telling you. I conceived
the notion of freeing myself from the obligations that tie me here in
Virginia by giving Wyanoke and all that pertains to it to Dorothy.”

“I almost wish you had proposed that to Dorothy. I should have been an
interested witness of the scorn and anger which she would have visited
upon your poor foolish head. It would have taken you five years to undo
that mistake. But those five years would have been years of suffering to
Dorothy; so on the whole I’m glad you didn’t make the suggestion. What
spasm of returning reason restrained you from that crowning folly?”

“Your letter, of course. When you told me that those who had assumed the
rôle of Special Providence to Dorothy had planned to marry her to that
young Jackanapes--”

“Don’t call him contemptuous names, Arthur. He doesn’t need them as a
label, and it only ruffles your temper. Go on with what you were
saying.”

“Well, of course, you see how the case stood. Even if I had not cared
for Dorothy in any but a friendly way, I should have felt it to be the
very highest duty of my life to save her from this hideous thing. I
decided instantly that whatever else might happen I would save Dorothy
from this fate. So I have worked out a new plan, and I want you to help
me carry it out.”

“Go on. You know you may count upon me.”

“Well, I want you to take Dorothy away from here. I want you to show her
a larger world than she has ever dreamed of. I want you to take her to
Washington, Baltimore and New York and introduce her to the best society
there is there. Then I want you to take her to Europe for a year. She
must see pictures and sculpture, and the noblest examples of
architecture there are in the world. That side of her nature which has
been so wickedly cramped and crippled and dwarfed, must be cultivated
and developed. She must hear the greatest music there is, and see the
greatest plays and the greatest players. Fortunately she is fluent in
her French and she readily understands Italian. Her capacity for
enjoyment is matchless. It is that of a full-souled woman who has been
starved on this side of her nature. You once bade me remember that in
anything I did toward educating her I was educating my future wife. I
don’t know whether it will prove to be so or not. But in any case this
thing must be done. She must know all these higher joys of life while
yet she is young enough to enjoy them to the full, and she must have the
education they will bring to her. She will be seventeen in March--only
three months hence. She is at the age of greatest susceptibility to
impressions.”

“Your thought mightily pleases me, Arthur,” said Edmonia. “But I warn
you there is serious danger in it.”

“Danger for Dorothy?”

“No. But danger for you.”

“That need not matter. You mean that--”

“I mean just that. In all this Dorothy will rapidly change--at least in
her points of view. Her conceptions of life will undergo something like
a revolution. At the end of it all she may not care for any such life as
you can offer her, especially as she will meet many brilliant men under
circumstances calculated to make the most of their attractions. She may
transfer her love for you, which is at present a thing quite
unconsciously felt, to some one who shall ask for it. For I suppose you
will say nothing to her now that might make her conscious of her state
of mind and put her under bonds to you?”

“Quite certainly, no! My tongue shall be dumb and even my actions and
looks shall be kept in leash till she is gone. Can’t you understand,
Edmonia--”

“I understand better than you think, and I honor you for your courage
and your unselfishness. You want this thing done in order that Dorothy
may have the fullest possible chance in life and in love--in order that
if there be in this world a higher happiness for her than any that you
can offer, she may have it?”

“That is precisely my thought, Edmonia. You have expressed it far better
than I could have done. I don’t want to take an unfair advantage of
Dorothy, as I suppose I easily might. I don’t want her to accept my love
and agree to share my life, in ignorance of what better men and better
things there may be for her elsewhere. If I am ever to make her my own,
it must be after she knows enough to choose intelligently. Should she
choose some other life than that which I can offer, some other love than
mine, she must never know the blight that her choice cannot fail to
inflict upon me. As for myself, I have my crucibles and my work, and I
should be better content, knowing that she was happy in some life of her
own choosing, than knowing that I had made her mine by taking unfair
advantage of her inexperience.”

“Arthur Brent,” said Edmonia, rising, not to dismiss him, but for the
sake of giving emphasis to her utterance, “you are--well, let me say it
all in a single phrase--you are _worthy of Dorothy South_. You are such
a man as women of the higher sort dream of, but rarely meet. It is not
quite convenient for me to undertake this mission for you just now, but
convenience must courtesy to my will. I’ll arrange the matter with
Dorothy at once and we’ll be off in a fortnight or less. Fortunately no
dressmaking need detain us, for we must have our first important gowns
made in Richmond and Baltimore, a larger supply in New York, and then
Paris will take care of its own. I’ll have some trouble with Aunt Polly,
of course; she regards travel very much as she does manslaughter, but
you may safely leave her to me.”

“But, Edmonia, you said this thing would subject you to some
inconvenience?”

“So it will. But that’s a trifle. I had half promised to spend July at
the White Sulphur, but that can wait for another July. Now you are to
tell me goodby a few minutes hence and ride away. For I must write a
note to Dorothy--no, on second thoughts I’ll drive over and see her and
Aunt Polly, and you are to remain here and dine with brother. Dorothy
and I are going to talk about clothes, and we shan’t want any men folk
around. I’ll dine at Wyanoke, and by tomorrow we’ll have half a dozen
seamstresses at work making things enough to last us to Baltimore.”

“But tell me, Edmonia,” said Arthur, beginning to think of practical
things, “can you and Dorothy travel alone?”

“We could, if it were necessary. You know I’ve been abroad twice and I
know ‘the tricks and the manners’ of Europe. But it will not be
necessary. I enjoy the advantage of having been educated at Le Febvre’s
School, in Richmond. That sort of thing has its compensations. Among
them is the fact that it is apt to locate one’s friendships variously as
to place. I have a schoolmate in New York--a schoolmate of five or six
years ago, and a very dear friend--Mildred Livingston. She is married
and rich and restless. She likes nothing so much as travel and I happen
to know that she is just now planning a trip to Europe. I’ll write to
her today and we’ll go together. As her husband, Nicholas Van Rensselaer
Livingston, hasn’t anything else to do he’ll go along just to look after
the baggage and swear in English, which they don’t understand, at the
Continental porters and their kind. He’s really very good at that sort
of thing.”

“It is well for a man to be good at something.”

“Yes, isn’t it? I’ve often said so to Mildred. Besides he worships the
ground--or the carpets, rather,--that she walks on. For he never lets
her put her foot on the ground if he can help it. He’s a dear fellow--in
his way--and Mildred is really fond of him--especially when he’s looking
after the tickets and the baggage. Now you must let me run away. You are
to stay here and dine with brother, you know.”



XXV

AUNT POLLY’S VIEW OF THE RISKS


_O_ddly enough Edmonia had very little of the difficulty she had
anticipated in securing Aunt Polly’s consent to the proposed trip.
Perhaps the old lady’s opinions with respect to the detrimental effects
of travel were held like her views on railroads and the rotundity of the
earth, humorously rather than with seriousness. Perhaps she appreciated,
better than she would admit, the advantages Dorothy was likely to reap
from an introduction to a larger world. Perhaps she did not like the
task set her of cramping Dorothy’s mind and soul to the mould of a
marriage with young Jeff Peyton. Certain it is that she did not look
forward to that fruition of her labors as Dorothy’s personal guardian
with anything like pleasure. While she felt herself bound to carry out
her instructions, she felt no alarm at the prospect of having their
purpose defeated in the end by an enlargement of horizon which would
prompt Dorothy to rebellion. Perhaps all these things, and perhaps
something else. Perhaps Aunt Polly suspected the truth, and rejoiced in
it. Who shall say? Who shall set a limit to the penetration of so shrewd
a woman, after she has lived for more than half a century with her eyes
wide open and her mind always quick in sympathy with those whom she
loves?

Whatever the reason of her complaisance may have been, she yielded
quickly to Edmonia’s persuasions, offering only her general deprecation
of travel as an objection and quickly brushing even that aside.

“I can’t understand,” she said, “why people who are permitted to live
and die in Virginia should want to go gadding about in less desirable
places. But we’ve let the Yankees build railroads down here, and we must
take the consequences. Everybody wants to travel nowadays and Dorothy is
like all the rest, I suppose. Anyhow, you’ll be with her, Edmonia, and
so she can’t come to any great harm, unless it’s true that the world is
round. If that’s so, of course your ship will fall off when you get over
on the other side of it.”

“But Europe isn’t on the other side of it Aunt Polly, and besides I’ve
been there twice already you know, and I didn’t fall off the earth
either time.”

“No, you were lucky, and maybe you’ll be lucky this time. Anyhow you
have all made up your minds and I’ll interpose no objections.”

It was by no means so easy to win Dorothy’s consent to the proposed
journey.

“I ought not to run away from my duty,” she said, in objection to a
proposal which opened otherwise delightful prospects to her mind.

“But it’s your duty to go, child,” Edmonia answered. “You need the trip
and all the education it will give you. What is there for you to do
here, anyhow?”

“Why, Cousin Arthur might need me! You know he never tells lies, and he
says I have really helped him to save people’s lives in this fever
time.”

“But that is all over now and it won’t occur again. Arthur has taken
care of that by burning the old quarters and building new ones in a
wholesome place. By the way, Dorothy, you’ll be glad to know that his
example is already having its influence. Brother has decided to build
new quarters for our servants at a spot which Arthur has selected as the
best one for the purpose on the plantation. Anyhow there’ll be no
further fever outbreaks at Wyanoke or at Pocahontas, now that Arthur is
master there also.”

“But he might need me in other ways,” answered the persistently
reluctant Dorothy. “And besides he is teaching me chemistry and other
scientific things that will make me useful in life. No, I can’t go away
now.”

“But, you absurd child,” answered Edmonia, “there will be plenty of time
to learn all that when you come back. You are ridiculously young yet.
You won’t be seventeen till March, and you know a great deal more about
science than Arthur did at your age. Besides this is his plan for you,
not mine. He wants you to learn the things this trip will teach you, a
great deal more than he wants you to learn chemistry and that sort of
thing. He knows what you need in the way of education, and it is at his
suggestion that I’m going to take you North and to Europe. He
appreciates your abilities as you never will, and it is his earnest wish
that you shall make this trip as a part of your education.”

“Very well,” answered Dorothy. “I’ll ask him if he wants me to go, and
if he says yes, I’ll go. Of course it will be delightful to see great
cities and the ocean and Pompeii and pictures and all the rest of it.
But a woman mustn’t think of enjoyment alone. That’s the way women
become bad. My father often told me so, and I don’t want to be bad.”

“You never will, Dorothy, dear. You couldn’t become bad if you wanted
to. And as for Arthur, I assure you it was he who planned this journey
for you and asked me to take you on it. Don’t you think he knows what is
best for you?”

“Why, of course, he does! I never questioned that. But maybe he isn’t
just thinking of what is best for me. Maybe he is only thinking of what
would give me pleasure. Anyhow I’ll ask him and make sure. He won’t
deceive me. And he couldn’t if he tried. I always know when he’s making
believe and when I get angry with him for pretending he always quits it
and tells me the truth.”

“Then you’ll go if Arthur tells you he really wants you to go, and
really thinks it best for you to go?”

“Of course, I will! I’ll do anything and everything he wants me to do,
now and always. He’s the best man in the world, and the greatest,
Edmonia. Don’t you believe that? If you don’t I shall quit loving you.”

“Oh, you may safely go on loving me then,” answered Edmonia bowing her
head very low to inspect something minute in the fancy work she had in
her lap, and in that way hiding her flushed face for the moment. “I
think all the good things about Arthur that you do, Dorothy. As I know
what his answer to your questions will be, we’ll order the seamstresses
to begin work tomorrow morning. I’ll have everything made at Branton, so
you are to come over there soon in the morning.”

The catechising of Arthur yielded the results that Edmonia had
anticipated.

“Yes, Dorothy,” he said, “I am really very anxious that you shall make
this trip. It will give you more of enjoyment than you can possibly
anticipate, but it will do something much better than that. It will
repair certain defects in your education, which have been stupidly
provided for by people who did not appreciate your wonderful gifts and
your remarkable character. For Dorothy, dear, though you do not know it,
you are a person of really exceptional gifts both of mind and
character--gifts that ought to be cultivated, but which have been
suppressed instead. You do not know it, and perhaps you won’t quite
believe it, but you have capacities such as no other woman in this
community can even pretend to possess. You are very greatly the
superior of any woman you ever saw.”

“Oh, not of Edmonia!” the girl quickly replied.

“Yes--even of Edmonia,” he answered.

The girl’s face was hotly flushed. She did not know why, but such
praise, so sincerely given, and coming from the man whom she regarded as
“the best man in the world, and the greatest,” was gladsome to her soul.
Her native modesty forbade her to believe it, quite, “but,” she argued
with herself, “of course he knows better than I do, better than anybody
else ever can. And, of course, I must do all I can to improve myself in
order that I may satisfy his expectations of me. I’ll ask him all about
that before I leave.”

And she did.

“Cousin Arthur,” she said one evening as they two sat with Aunt Polly
before a crackling fire in “the chamber”--let the author suspend that
sentence in mid air while he explains.

The chamber, in an old plantation house, was that room on the ground
floor in which the master of the plantation, whether married or
unmarried, slept. It was the family room always. Into it came those
guests whose intimacy was sufficient to warrant intrusion upon the
penetralia. The others were entertained in the drawing room. The word
chamber was pronounced “chawmber,” just as the word “aunt” was properly
pronounced “awnt.” The chamber had a bed in it and a bureau. In a closet
big enough for a modern bedroom there was a dressing case with its fit
appurtenances. In the chamber there was a lounge that tempted to
afternoon siestas, and there were great oaken arm chairs whose skilful
fashioning for comfort rendered cushions an impertinence. In the chamber
was always the broadest and most cavernous of fire places and the most
satisfactory of fires when the weather was such as to render artificial
heating desirable. In the chamber was usually a carpet softly cushioned
beneath, itself and its cushions being subject to a daily flagellation
out-of-doors in the “soon” hours of morning in order that they might be
relaid before the breakfast-time. All other rooms in the house were apt
to be carpetless, their immaculate white ash floors undergoing a daily
polishing with pine needles and rubbing brushes. The chamber alone was
carpeted in most houses. Why this distinction the author does not
undertake to say. He merely records a fact which was well-nigh universal
in the great plantation houses.

So much for the chamber. Let us return to the sentence it interrupted.

“Cousin Arthur,” Dorothy said, “I wish you would mark out a course of
study for me to pursue during this journey, so that I may get out of it
all the good I can.”

Arthur picked up a dry sponge and dropped it into a basin of water.

“Look, Dorothy,” he said. “That is the only course I shall mark out for
you.”

“It is very dull of me, I suppose,” said the girl, “but I really don’t
understand.”

“Why, I didn’t tell the sponge what to absorb, and yet as you see it has
drunk up all the water it can hold. It is just so with you and your
journey. You need no instruction as to what you shall learn by travel or
by mingling in the social life of great cities. You are like that
sponge. You will absorb all that you need of instruction, when once you
are cast into the water of life. You have very superior gifts of
observation. There is no fear that you will fail to get all that is best
out of travel and society. It is only the stupid people who need be told
what they should see and what they should think about it, and the stupid
people would much better stay at home.”



XXVI

AUNT POLLY’S ADVICE


_I_f Aunt Polly had entertained any real desire to forbid the expedition
planned for Dorothy, the prompt interference of Madison Peyton in that
behalf would have dissipated it.

No sooner had Peyton learned of the contemplated journey than he bustled
over to Wyanoke to see Aunt Polly regarding it.

It is not a comfortable thing to visit a man with whom one has recently
quarrelled and to whom one has had to send a letter of apology. Even
Peyton, thick-skinned and self-assured as he was, would probably have
hesitated to make himself a guest at Wyanoke at this time but for the
happy chance that Arthur was absent in Richmond for a few days.

Seizing upon the opportunity thus afforded, Peyton promptly visited Aunt
Polly to enter a very earnest and insistent protest. He was genuinely
alarmed. He realized Dorothy’s moral and intellectual superiority to his
son. He was shrewd enough to foresee that travel and a year’s
association with men and women of attractive culture and refined
intellectual lives would, of necessity, increase this disparity and
perhaps--nay, almost certainly--make Jefferson Peyton seem a distinctly
unworthy and inferior person in Dorothy’s eyes. He realized that the
arrangement made some years before between himself and Dr. South, was
not binding upon Dorothy, except in so far as it might appeal to her
conscience and to her loyalty to her father’s memory when the time
should be ripe to reveal it to her. For as yet she knew nothing of the
matter.

She had liked young Peyton when he and she were children together. His
abounding good nature had made him an agreeable playmate. But as they
had grown up, the sympathy between them had steadily decreased. The good
nature which had made him agreeable as a playmate, had become a distinct
weakness of character as he had matured. He lacked fixity of purpose,
industry and even conscience--while Dorothy, born with these attributes,
had strengthened them by every act and thought of her life.

The young man had courage enough to speak the truth fearlessly on all
occasions that strongly called for truth and courage, but Dorothy had
discovered that in minor matters he was untruthful. To her integrity of
mind it was shocking that a young man should make false pretences, as he
had done when they had talked of literature and the like. She could not
understand a false pretence, and she had no toleration for the weakness
that indulges in it.

Moreover in intellectual matters, Dorothy had completely outgrown her
former playmate. The bright boy, whom Dorothy’s father had chosen as one
destined to be a fit life companion for her, had remained a bright boy.
And that which astonishes us as brilliancy in a child ceases to impress
us as the child grows into manhood, if the promise of it is not
fulfilled by growth. A bright boy, ten or twelve years old, is a very
pleasant person to contemplate; but a youth who remains nothing more
than a bright boy as he grows into manhood, is distinctly disappointing
and depressing.

It is to be said to the credit of Madison Peyton that he had done all
that he could--or rather all that he knew how--to promote the
intellectual development of this his first born son. He had lavished
money upon tutors for him, when he ought instead to have sent him to
some school whose all dominating democracy would have compelled the boy
to work for his standing and to realize the value of personal endeavor.
In brief Madison Peyton had made that mistake which the much richer men
of our day so often make. He had tried to provide for his son a royal
road to learning, only to find that the pleasures of the roadside had
won the wayfarer away from the objects of his journey.

Madison Peyton now realized all this. He understood how little profit
his son had got out of the very expensive education provided for him,
how completely he had failed to acquire intellectual tastes, and in a
dimly subconscious way, he understood how ill equipped the young man was
to win the love of such a girl as Dorothy, or to make her happy as his
wife. And he realized also that if travel and culture and a larger
thinking should weaken in Dorothy’s mind--as it easily might--that sense
of obligation to fulfil her father’s desires, on which mainly he had
relied for the carrying out of the program of marriage between these
two, with Pocahontas plantation as an incidental advantage, the youth
must win Dorothy by a worthiness of her love, or lose her for lack of
it.

The worthiness in his son was obviously wanting. There remained only
Dorothy’s overweening loyalty to her father’s memory and will as a
reliance for the accomplishment of Madison Peyton’s desires. It was to
prevent the weakening of that loyalty that he appealed to Aunt Polly to
forbid the travel plan.

Aunt Polly from the first refused. “Dorothy is a wonderful girl,” she
said, “and she has wonderful gifts. I shall certainly not stand in the
way of their development.”

“But let me remind you, Cousin Polly,” answered Peyton, “that Dorothy’s
life is marked out for her. Don’t you think it would be a distinct
injustice to her to unfit her as this trip cannot fail to do, for the
life that she must lead? Will not that tend to render her unhappy?”

“Happiness is not a matter of circumstance, Madison. It is a matter of
character. But that isn’t what I meant to say. You want me to keep
Dorothy here in order that she may not grow, or develop, or whatever
else you choose to call it. You want to keep her as ignorant as you can,
simply because you know she is already the superior of the young man
whom you and Dr. South, in your ignorant assumption of the attributes of
Divine Providence, have selected to be her husband. You are afraid that
she will outgrow him. Isn’t that what you mean, Madison?”

“Well, yes, in a way. You put it very baldly, but----”

“But that’s the truth, isn’t it? That’s what you’re afraid of?”

“Well, the fact is I don’t believe in educating girls above their
station in life.”

“How can anything be above Dorothy’s station, Madison? She is the
daughter and sole heir of one of the oldest and best families in
Virginia. I have never heard of anything higher than that.”

“Oh, certainly. But that isn’t what I mean. You see Dorothy has been
permitted to read a lot of books that young women don’t usually read,
and study a lot of subjects that young women don’t usually study. She
has got her head full of notions, and this trip will make the matter
worse. I think women should look up to their husbands and not down upon
them, and how can Dorothy----”

“How would it do, Madison, for the young men to make an effort on their
own account, to improve their minds and build up their characters so
that their wives might look up to them without an effort? There are some
men to whom the most highly cultivated women can look up in real
respect, and it is quite natural that the best of the young women should
choose these for their husbands. Many young men refuse to make
themselves worthy in that way, or fail in such efforts as they may make
to accomplish it. If I understand you properly, you would forbid the
girls to cultivate what is best in them lest they grow superior to their
coming husbands.”

“That’s it, Cousin Polly. The happy women are those who feel the
superiority of their husbands and find pleasure in bowing to it.”

“I thought that was your idea. It is simply abominable. It makes no more
of a woman than of a heifer or a filly. It regards her as nothing more
or better than a convenience. I’ll have nothing to do with such a
doctrine. Dorothy South is a girl of unusual character, and unusual
mind, so far as I can judge. She has naturally done all she could to
cultivate what is best in herself, and, so far as I can control the
matter she shall go on doing so, as every woman and every man ought to
do. When she has made the best she can of herself, she may perhaps meet
some man worthy of her, some man fit to be her companion in life. If she
does, she’ll probably marry him. If she meets none such she can remain
single. That isn’t at all the worst thing that can happen to a woman. It
is a hideous thing to marry a girl to her inferior. You have yourself
suggested that such a marriage can only mean wretchedness to both. And
your plan of avoiding such marriages is to keep the girls inferior by
denying them the privilege of self-cultivation. I tell you it is an
abominable plan. It’s Turkish, and the only right way to carry it out is
to shut women up in harems and forbid them to learn how to read. For if
a woman or a man of brains learns that much, the rest cannot be
prevented. So you may make up your mind that Dorothy is going to make
this trip. I’ve already consented to it, and the more I think about it,
the more I am in favor of it. My only fear is that she may fall off the
earth when she gets to the other side, and I reckon that will not
happen, for both Arthur and Edmonia assure me they didn’t fall off when
they were over there.”

Peyton saw the necessity of making some stronger appeal to Aunt Polly,
than any he had yet put forward. So he addressed himself to her
conscience and her exalted sense of honor.

“Doubtless you are right, Cousin Polly,” he said placatively, “at least
as to the general principle. But, as you clearly understand, this is a
peculiar case. You see Dorothy _must_ marry Jefferson in any event.
Don’t you think it would be very unfair and even cruel to her, to let
her unfit herself for happiness in the only marriage she is permitted to
make? Will it not be cruel to let her get her head full of notions, and
perhaps even accept some man’s attentions, and then find yourself in
honor bound to show her the letter you hold from Dr. South, instructing
her to carry out his will? You know she will obey her dead father and
marry Jefferson. Isn’t it clearly your duty to shield and guard her
against influences that cannot fail to unfit her for happiness in the
marriage she must make?”

“I am sole judge of that matter, Madison. I am the guardian of Dorothy’s
person during her nonage--four years longer. By the terms of Dr. South’s
will she must not marry until she is twenty-one, except with my consent.
With my consent she may marry at any time. As to the letter you speak
of, you have never had the privilege of reading it, and I do not intend
to show it to you. It is less peremptory, perhaps than you think. It
does not command Dorothy to marry your son. It only recommends such a
marriage to her as a safe and prudent one, securing to her the
advantages of marriage into as good a family as her own. But there are
other families than yours as good as her own, and I may see fit not to
show Dorothy her father’s letter at all. I am not bound to let her read
it, by any clause in his will, or by any promise to him, or even by any
injunction from him. I am left sole judge as to that. If I had not been
so left free to use my own discretion I should never have accepted the
responsibility of the girl’s guardianship.”

“You astonish me!” exclaimed Peyton. “I had supposed this matter settled
beyond recall. I had trusted Dr. South’s honor----”

“Stop, Madison!” interposed Aunt Polly. “If you say one word in question
of Dr. South’s honor and integrity, I will burn that letter now, and
never, so long as I live mention its existence.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean--”

“It seems to me you say a good many things you do not mean today,
Madison. As for me, I am saying only what I mean, and perhaps not quite
all of that. Let me end the whole matter by telling you this: I am going
to let Dorothy make this trip. I am going to give her every chance I can
to cultivate herself into a perfect womanhood--many chances that I
longed for

[Illustration: _DOROTHY SOUTH._]

in my own girlhood, but could not command. I may or may not some day
show her Dr. South’s letter. That shall be as my judgment dictates. I
shall not consent now or hereafter, while my authority or influence
lasts, to Dorothy’s marriage to anybody except some man of her own
choosing, who shall seem to me fit to make her happy. If you want
Jefferson to marry her, I notify you now that he must fairly win her.
And my advice to you is very earnest that he set to work at once to
render himself worthy of her; to repair his character; to cultivate
himself, if he can, up to her moral and intellectual level; to make of
himself a man to whom she can look up, as you say, and not down. There,
that is all I have to say.”

Madison Peyton saw this to be good advice, and he decided to act upon
it. But, as so often happens with good advice, he “took it wrong end
first,” in the phrase of that time and country. He decided that his son
should also go north and to Europe, following the party to which Dorothy
belonged as closely as possible, seeing as much as he could of her, and
paying court to her upon every opportunity.



XXVII

DIANA’S EXALTATION


_I_t was the middle of January, 1860, when Dorothy bade Arthur good-by
and went away upon her mission of enjoyment and education.

It is not easy for us now to picture to ourselves what travel in this
country was in that year which seems to the older ones among us so
recent. In 1860 there was not such a thing as a sleeping car in all the
world. The nearest approach to that necessity of modern life which then
existed, was a car with high backed seats, which was used on a few of
the longer lines of railroad. For another thing there were no such
things in existence as through trains. Every railroad in the country was
an independent line, whose trains ran only between its own termini. The
traveller must “change cars” at every terminus, and usually the process
involved a delay of several hours and a long omnibus ride--perhaps at
midnight--through the streets of some city which had thriftily provided
that its several railroads should place their stations as far apart as
possible in order that their passengers might “leave money in the town.”
The passenger from a south side county of Virginia intending to go to
New York, for example, must take a train to Richmond; thence after
crossing the town in an omnibus and waiting for an hour or two, take
another train to Acquia Creek, near Fredericksburg; there transfer to a
steamboat for Washington; there cross town in an omnibus, and, after
another long wait, take a train for the Relay House; there wait four
hours and then change cars for Baltimore, nine miles away; then take
another omnibus ride to another station; thence a train to Havre de
Grace, where he must cross a river on a ferry boat; thence by another
train to Philadelphia, where, after still another omnibus transfer and
another delay, one had a choice of routes to New York, the preferred one
being by way of Camden and Amboy, and thence up the bay twenty miles or
so, to the battery in New York. There was no such thing as a dining car,
a buffet car or a drawing room car in all the land. There were none but
hand brakes on the trains, and the cars were held together by loose
coupling links. The rails were not fastened together at their badly
laminated ends, and it was the fashion to call trains that reached a
maximum speed of twenty miles an hour, “lightning expresses,” and to
stop them at every little wayside station. The engines were fed upon
wood, and it was a common thing for trains to stop their intolerable
jolting for full twenty minutes to take fresh supplies of wood and
water.

There was immeasurably more of weariness then, in a journey from
Richmond or Cincinnati or Buffalo to New York, than would be tolerated
now in a trip across the continent. As a consequence few people
travelled except for short distances and a journey which we now think
nothing of making comfortably in a single night, was then a matter of
grave consequence, to be undertaken only after much deliberation and
with much of preparation. New York seemed more distant to the dweller in
the West or South than Hong Kong and Yokohama do in our time, and the
number of people who had journeyed beyond the borders of our own country
was so small that those who had done so were regarded as persons of
interestingly adventurous experience.

Quite necessarily all parts of the country were markedly provincial in
speech, manner, habits and even in dress. New England had a nasal
dialect of its own, so firmly rooted in use that it has required two or
three generations of exacting Yankee school marms to eradicate it from
the speech even of the educated class. New York state had another, and
the Southerner was known everywhere by a speech which “bewrayed” him.

And as it was with speech, so also was it with manners, customs, ideas.
Prejudice was everywhere rampant, opinion intolerant, and usage
merciless in its narrow illiberality. Only in what was then the
West--the region between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi--was there
anything of cosmopolitan liberality and tolerance. They were found in
that region because the population of the West had been drawn from all
parts of the country. Attrition of mind with mind, and the mingling of
men of various origin had there in a large degree worn off the angles of
provincial prejudice and bred a liberality of mind elsewhere uncommon in
our country.

Edmonia and Dorothy were to make their formidable journey to New York in
easy stages. They remained for several days with friends in Richmond,
while completing those preliminary preparations which were necessary
before setting out for the national capital. They were to stay in
Washington for a fortnight, in Baltimore for three weeks, in
Philadelphia for a week or two, and in New York for nearly two months
before sailing for Europe in May.

The time was a very troubled one, on the subject of slavery. Not only
was it true that if the owner of a slave took the negro with him into
any one of the free states he by that act legally set him free, but it
was also true that the most devoted and loyal servant thus taken from
the South into a Northern state was subjected to every form of
persuasive solicitation to claim and assert his freedom. It was
nevertheless the custom of Southern men, and still more of Southern
women, to take with them on their travels one or more of their personal
servants, trusting to their loyalty alone for continued allegiance. For
the attitude of such personal servants in Virginia at that time was
rather that of proud and voluntary allegiance to loved masters and
mistresses who belonged to them as a cherished possession, than that of
men and women held in unwilling bondage.

Accordingly it was arranged that Edmonia’s maid, Dinah--or Diana as she
had come to call herself since hearing her mistress read a “history
pome” aloud--should accompany the two young women as their joint
servitor.

As soon as this arrangement was announced at Branton, Diana began what
Polydore called “a puttin’ on of airs.” In plainer phrase she began to
snub Polydore mercilessly, whereas she had recently been so gracious in
her demeanor towards him as to give him what he called “extinct
discouragement.”

After it was settled that she was to accompany “Miss Mony an’ Miss
Dorothy” to “de Norf” and to “Yurrop”--as she wrote to all her friends
who were fortunate enough to know how to “read writin’,” there was, as
Polydore declared, “no livin’ in de house wid her.” She sailed about the
place like a frigate, delivering her shots to the right and left--most
of them aimed at Polydore, with casual and contemptuous attention, now
and then, to the other house servants.

“I ’clar’ to gracious,” said Elsie, one of the housemaids, “ef Diana
ain’t a puttin’ on of jes’ as many airs as ef she’d been all over
a’ready, an’ she ain’t never been out of dis county yit.”

“Wonder ef she’ll look at folks when she gits back,” said Fred, the
cadet of the dining room, who was being trained under Polydore’s
tutelage to keep his nails clean and to offer dishes to guests at their
left hands.

“Don’ you be in too big a hurry to fin’ out dat, you nigga,” rejoined
Polydore, the loyalty of whose love for Diana would brook no criticism
of her on the part of an underling. “You’se got enough to attend to in
gittin’ yer manners into shape. Diana’s a superior pusson, an’ you ain’t
got no ’casion to criticise her. You jes’ take what yer gits an’ be
thankful like Lazarus wuz when de rich man dropped water outer his hand
on his tongue.”

Polydore’s biblical erudition seems to have been a trifle at fault at
this point. But at any rate his simile had its intended effect upon the
young darkey, who, slipping a surreptitious beaten biscuit into his
pocket, retreated to the distant kitchen to devour it.

At that moment Diana entered the dining room with the air of a Duchess,
and, with unwonted sweetness, said:

“Please, Polydore, bring me de tea things. De ladies is faint.”

Polydore, anxious that Diana’s gentle mood should endure, made all haste
to bring what she desired. He made too much haste, unluckily, for in his
hurry he managed to spill a little hot water from a pitcher he was
carrying on a tray, and some drops of it fell upon the sleeve of Diana’s
daintily laundered cambric gown.

The stately bronze colored namesake of the ancient goddess rose in
offended dignity, and looked long at the offender before addressing him.
Then she witheringly put the question:

“Whar’s your manners dis mawnin’, Polydore? Jes’ spose I was Miss Mony
now; would you go sloppin’ things over her dat way?”

Even a worm will turn, we are told, and Polydore was prouder than a
worm. For once he lost his self-control so far as to say in reply:

“But you _ain’t_ Miss Mony, dough you seems to think you is. I’se tired
o’ yer highty tighty airs. Git de tea things for yerse’f!” With that
Polydore left the dining room, and Diana, curiously enough, made no
reference to the incident when next she encountered him, but was all
smiles and sweetness instead.



XXVIII

THE ADVANCING SHADOW


_N_o sooner were Dorothy and Edmonia gone than Arthur turned again to
affairs. It was a troubled uneasy time in Virginia, a time of sore
apprehension and dread. The “irrepressible conflict” over slavery had
that year taken on new and more threatening features than ever before.

There was now a strong political party at the North the one important
article of whose creed was hostility to the further extension of slavery
into the territories. It was a strictly sectional party in its
composition, having no existence anywhere at the South. It was
influential in Congress, and in 1856 it had strongly supported a
candidate of its own for president. By the beginning of 1860 its
strength had been greatly increased and circumstances rendered probable
its success in electing a president that year, for the hopeless division
of the Democratic party, which occurred later in the year, was already
clearly foreshadowed, an event which in fact resulted in the nomination
of three rival candidates against Mr. Lincoln and made his election
certain in spite of a heavy popular majority against him.

Had this been all, Virginia would not have been greatly disturbed by the
political situation and prospect. But during the preceding autumn the
Virginians had been filled with apprehension for the safety of their
homes and families by John Brown’s attempt, at Harper’s Ferry, to create
a negro insurrection, the one catastrophe always most dreaded by them.
That raid, quickly suppressed as it was, wrought a revolution in
Virginian feeling and sentiment. The Virginians argued from it, and from
the approval given to it in some parts of the North, that Northern
sentiment was rapidly ripening into readiness for any measures, however
violent they might be, for the extinction of slavery and the destruction
of the autonomy of the Southern States.

They found it difficult under the circumstances to believe the
Republican party’s disclaimer of all purpose or power to interfere with
the institution in the states. They were convinced that only opportunity
was now wanting to make the Southern States the victims of an
aggressive war, with a servile insurrection as a horrible feature of it.
They cherished a warm loyalty to that Union which Virginia had done so
much to create, but they began seriously to fear the time when there
would be no peace or safety for their state or even for their wives and
children within the Union. They were filled with resentment, too, of
what they regarded as a wanton and unlawful purpose to interfere with
their private concerns, and to force the country into disunion and civil
war.

There were hot heads among them, of course, who were ready to welcome
such results; but these were very few. The great body of Virginia’s
people loved the Union, and even to the end--a year later--their
strongest efforts were put forth to persuade both sides to policies of
peace.

But in the meantime a marked change came over the Virginian mind with
respect to slavery. Many who had always regarded the institution as an
inherited evil to be got rid of as soon as that might be safely
accomplished, modified or reversed their view when called upon to stand
always upon the defensive against what they deemed an unjust judgment of
themselves.

Arthur Brent did not share this change of view, but he shared in the
feelings of resentment which had given it birth. In common with other
Virginians he felt that this was a matter belonging exclusively to the
individual states, and still more strongly he felt that the existing
political situation and the methods of it gravely menaced the Union in
ways which were exceedingly difficult for Southern men who loved the
Union to meet. He saw with regret the great change that was coming over
public and private sentiment in Virginia--sentiment which had been so
strongly favorable to the peaceable extinction of slavery, that John
Letcher--a lifelong advocate of emancipation as Virginia’s true
policy--had been elected Governor the year before upon that as the only
issue of a state campaign.

But Arthur was still bent upon carrying out his purpose of emancipating
himself and, incidentally his slaves. And the threatening aspect of
political affairs strengthened his determination at any rate to rid both
his own estate and Dorothy’s of debt.

“When that is done, we shall be safe, no matter what happens,” he told
himself.

To that end he had already done much. In spite of his preöccupation with
the fever epidemic he had found time during the autumn to institute
many economies in the management of both plantations. He had shipped and
sold the large surplus crops of apples and sweet potatoes--a thing
wholly unprecedented in that part of Virginia, where no products of the
soil except tobacco and wheat were ever turned to money account. He was
laughed at for what his neighbors characterized as “Yankee farming,” but
both his conscience and his bank account were comforted by the results.
In the same way, having a large surplus of corn that year, he had
fattened nearly double the usual number of hogs, and was now preparing
to sell so much of the bacon as he did not need for plantation uses. In
these and other ways he managed to diminish the Wyanoke debt by more
than a third and that of Pocahontas by nearly one-half, during his first
year as a planter.

“If they don’t quit laughing at me,” he said to Archer Bannister one
day, “I’ll sell milk and butter and even eggs next summer. I may
conclude to do that anyhow. Those are undignified crops, perhaps, but
I’m not sure that they could not be made more profitable than wheat and
tobacco.”

“Be careful, Arthur,” answered his friend. “It isn’t safe to make
planting too profitable. It is apt to lead to unkindly remark.”

“How so? Isn’t planting a business, like any other?”

“A business, yes, but not like any other. It has a certain dignity to
maintain. But I wasn’t thinking of that. I was thinking of Robert
Copeland.”

“I wish you’d tell me about him, Archer. What has he done? I observe
that everybody seems to shun him--or at least nobody seems quite willing
to recognize him as a man in our class, though they tell me his family
is fairly good, and personally he seems agreeable. Nobody says anything
to his discredit, and yet I observe a general shoulder shrugging
whenever his name is mentioned.”

“He makes too many hogsheads of tobacco to the hand,” answered Archer
smiling but speaking with emphasis and slowly.

“Is he cruel to his negroes?”

“Yes, and no. He is always good natured with them and kindly in his
fashion, but he works them much too hard. He doesn’t drive them
particularly. Indeed I never heard of his striking one of them. But he
has invented a system of money rewards and the like, by which he keeps
them perpetually racing with each other in their work. They badly
overtax themselves, and the community regards the matter with marked
disfavor. In the matter of family he isn’t in our class at all, but his
father was much respected. He was even a magistrate for some years
before his death. But the son has shut himself out of all social
position by over working his negroes, and the fact that he does it in
ways that are ingenious and not brutal doesn’t alter the fact, at least
not greatly. Of course, if he did it in brutal ways he would be driven
out of the county. As it is he is only shut out of society. I was
jesting when I warned you of danger of that sort. But if you are not
careful in your application of ‘practical’ methods down here, you’ll get
a reputation for money loving, and that wouldn’t be pleasant.”

Arthur stoutly maintained his right and his duty to market all that the
two plantations produced beyond their own needs, especially so long as
there were debts upon them. Till these should be discharged, he
contended, he had no moral right to let products go to waste which could
be turned into money. Archer admitted the justice of his view, but
laughingly added:

“It isn’t our way, down here, and we are so conservative that it is
never quite prudent to transgress our traditions. At the same time I
wish we could all rid our estates from debt before the great trouble
comes. For it is surely coming and God only knows what the upshot of it
all will be. Don’t quote me as saying that, please. It isn’t fashionable
with us to be pessimistic, or to doubt either the righteousness or the
ultimate triumph of our cause. But nobody can really foresee the outcome
of our present troubles, and whatever it may be, the men who are out of
debt when it comes--if there are any--will be better equipped to meet
fate with a calm mind than the rest of us.”



XXIX

THE CORRESPONDENCE OF DOROTHY


_F_rom the very beginning of her travels Dorothy revealed herself to
Arthur in rapidly succeeding letters which were--at the first, at
least--as frank as had been her talks with him during their long morning
rides together. If in the end her utterance became more guarded, with a
touch of reserve in it, and with a growing tendency to write rather of
other things than of her own emotions, Arthur saw in the fact only an
evidence of that increasing maturity of womanhood which he had intended
her to gain. For Arthur Brent studied Dorothy’s letters as
scrutinizingly as if they had been lessons in biology. Or, more
accurately speaking, he studied Dorothy herself in her letters, in that
way.

From Richmond she wrote half rejoicings, half lamentations over the long
separation she must endure from him and from all else that had hitherto
constituted her life. Arthur observed that while she mentioned as a
troublesome thing the necessity of having still another gown made
before leaving for the North, she told him nothing whatever about the
gown itself.

“Gowns,” he reflected, “are merely necessary adjuncts of life to
Dorothy--as yet. She’ll think of them differently after a while.”

From Washington she wrote delightedly of things seen, for although the
glory of the national capital had not come upon it in 1860, there was
even then abundant interest there for a country damsel.

From Baltimore she wrote:

“I’ve been wicked, and I like it. Edmonia took me to Kunkel and Moxley’s
Front Street Theatre last night to hear an opera, and I haven’t yet
wakened from the delicious dream. I think I never shall. I think I never
want to. Yet I am very sorry that I went, for I shall want to go again
and again and again, and you know that I mustn’t listen to such music as
that. It will make me bad, and really and truly I’d rather die than be
bad. I don’t understand it at all. Why is it wrong for me to hear great
music when it isn’t wrong for Edmonia? And Edmonia has heard the
greatest music there is, in New York and Paris and Vienna and Naples,
and it hasn’t hurt her in the least. I wish you would tell me why I am
so different, won’t you, Cousin Arthur?”

From New York she wrote of music again and many times, for she had
accepted Arthur’s assurance that there was no harm but only good for her
in listening to music; and in obedience to his injunction she went twice
each week to the opera, where Edmonia’s friends, whose guest she was,
had a box of their own. Presently came from her a pleading letter,
asking if she might not herself learn to play a little upon the violin,
and availing herself of Arthur’s more than ready permission, she toiled
ceaselessly at the instrument until after a month or so Edmonia reported
that the girl’s music master was raving about the extraordinary gifts
she was manifesting.

“I am a trifle worried about it, Arthur,” Edmonia added. “Perhaps her
father was right to forbid all this. Music is not merely a delight to
her--it is a passion, an intoxication, almost a madness. She is very
fond of dancing too, but I think dancing is to her little more than a
physical participation in the music.

“And she mightily enjoys society. Still more does society enjoy her. Her
simplicity, her directness and her perfect truthfulness, are qualities
not very common, you know, in society, in New York or anywhere else.
People are delighted with her, and, without knowing it, she is the
reigning attraction in every drawing room. Ah me! She will have to know
it presently, for I foresee that ‘the young Virginia belle’ as they all
call her, will have many suitors for her hand before we sail--two weeks
hence.

“She astonishes society in many ways. She is so perfectly well always,
for one thing. She is never tired and never has a headache. Most
astonishing of all, to the weary butterflies of fashion, she gets up
early in the morning and takes long rides on horseback before breakfast.

“In certain companies--the sedater sort--she is reckoned a brilliant
conversationalist. That is because she reads and thinks, as not many
girls of her age ever do. In more frivolous society she talks very
little and is perhaps a rather difficult person for the average young
man to talk to. That also is because she reads and thinks.

“On the whole, Arthur, Dorothy is developing altogether to my
satisfaction, but I am troubled about the music. Dr. South had a reason,
of which you know nothing, for fearing music in her case, as a dangerous
intoxication. Perhaps we ought not to disobey his instructions on the
subject. Won’t you think the matter over, Arthur, and advise me?”

To this request Arthur’s reply came promptly. It was an oracular
deliverance, such as he was accustomed to give only when absolutely sure
of his judgment.

“Have no fear as to the music,” he wrote. “It is not an intoxication to
Dorothy, as your report shows that indulgence in it is not followed by
reaction and lassitude. That is the sure test of intoxication. For the
rest Dorothy has a right to cultivate and make the most of the divine
gifts she possesses. Every human being has that right, and it is a cruel
wrong to forbid its exercise in any case. I am delighted to see from
your letters and hers that she has not permitted her interest in music
to impair her interest in other things. She tells me she has been
reading a book on ‘The Origin of Species’ by Charles Darwin. I have
heard of it but haven’t seen it yet, as it was published in England only
a few months ago and had not been reprinted here when I last wrote to
New York for some books. So please ask Dorothy to send me her copy as
soon as she has finished it, and tell her please not to rub out the
marginal notes she tells me she has been making in it. They will be
helpfully suggestive to me in my reading, and, as expressions of her
uninfluenced opinion, I shall value them even more than the text of the
book itself. She tells me she thinks the book will work a revolution in
science, giving us a new foundation to build upon. I sincerely hope so.
We have long been in need of new foundations. But, pardon me, you are
not interested in scientific studies and I will write to Dorothy herself
about all that.”

At this point in her reading Edmonia laid the letter in her lap and left
it there for a considerable time before taking it up again. She was
thinking, a trifle sadly, perhaps, but not gloomily or with pain.

“He is right,” she reflected. “I sympathize with him in his high
purposes and I share the general admiration of his character and genius.
But I do not share his real enthusiasms as Dorothy does. I have none of
that love for scientific truth for its own sake, which is an essential
part of his being. I have none of his self-sacrificing earnestness, none
of that divine discontent which is the mainspring of all his acts and
all his thinking. It is greatly better as Fate has ordered it. I am no
fit life partner for him. Had he married me I should have made him happy
in a way, perhaps, but it would have been at cost of his deterioration.
It is better as it is--immeasurably better,--and I must school myself
to think of it in that way. If I am worthy even of the friendship that
he so generously gives me, I shall learn to rejoice that he gives the
love to Dorothy instead, and not to me. I must learn to think of his
good and the fit working out of his life as the worthiest thing I can
strive for. And I _am_ learning this lesson. It is a little hard at
first, but I shall master it.”

A few days later Dorothy, in one of her unconsciously self-revealing
letters, wrote:

“I am sending you the Darwin book, with all my crude little notes in the
margins. I have sealed it up quite securely and paid full letter postage
on it, because it would be unjust to the government to send a book with
writing in it, at book postage rates. Besides, I don’t want anybody but
you to read the notes. Edmonia asked me to let her see the book before
sending it, but I told her I couldn’t because I should die of shame if
anybody should read my presumptuous comments on so great a book. For it
is great, really and truly great. It is the greatest explanation of
nature that anybody ever yet offered. At least that is the way it
impresses me. Edmonia asked me why I was so chary of letting her see
notes that I was entirely willing for you to see, and at first I
couldn’t explain it even to myself, for, of course, I love Edmonia
better than anybody else in the world, and I have no secrets from her. I
told her I would have to think the matter over before I could explain
it, and she said: ‘Think it out, child, and when you find out the
explanation you may tell me about it or not, just as you please.’ She
kindly laughed it off, but it troubled me a good deal. I couldn’t
understand why it was that I couldn’t bear to let her see the notes,
while I rather _wanted_ you to read them. I found it all out at last,
and explained it to her, and she seemed satisfied. It’s because you know
so much. You are my Master, and you always know how to allow for your
pupil’s wrong thinking even while you set me right. Besides, somehow I
am never ashamed of my ignorance when only you know of it. Edmonia said
that was quite natural, and that I was entirely right not to show the
scribbled book to her. So I don’t think I hurt her feelings, do you?

“Now, I want to tell you about another thought of mine which may puzzle
you--or it may make you laugh as it does other people. There’s a woman
here--a very bright woman but not, to my taste, a lovely one--who is
very learned in a superficial way. She knows everything that is current
in science, art, literature, and fashion, though she seems to me
deficient in thoroughness. She ‘has the patter of it all at her tongue’s
end,’ as they say here, but I don’t think she knows much behind the
patter. A wise editor whom I met at dinner a few days ago, described her
as ‘a person who holds herself qualified to discuss and decide anything
in heaven or earth from the standpoint of the cyclopædia and her own
inner consciousness.’ She writes for one of the newspapers, though I
didn’t know it when she talked with me about Darwin. I told her I
thought of Darwin’s book as a great poem. You would have understood me,
if I had said that to you, wouldn’t you? You know I always think of the
grass, and the trees and the flowers, and the birds and the butterflies,
and all the rest, as nature’s poems, and this book seems to me a great
epic which dominates and includes, and interprets them all, just as
Homer and Milton and Virgil and Tasso and especially Shakespeare,
dominate all the little twitterings of all the other poets. Anyhow it
seems to me that a book which tells us how all things came about, is a
poem and a very great one. I said so to this woman, and next day I saw
it all printed in the newspaper for which she writes. I shouldn’t have
minded that as she didn’t tell my name, but I thought she seemed to
laugh and jeer at my thought. She said something witty about trying to
turn Darwin into dactyls and substitute dithyrambics for dogmatics in
the writings of Sir Isaac Newton. Somehow it all sounded bright and
witty as one read it in the newspaper. But is that the way in which a
serious thought ought to be treated? Do the newspapers, when they thus
flippantly deal with serious things, really minister to human
advancement? Do they not rather retard it by making jests of things that
are not jests? I have come to know a good many newspaper writers since I
have been here, and I am convinced that they have no real seriousness in
their work, no controlling conscience. ‘The newspaper’ said one of the
greatest of them to me not long ago, ‘is a mirror of today. It doesn’t
bother itself much with tomorrow or yesterday.’ I asked him why it
should not reflect today accurately, instead of distorting if with
smartness. ‘Oh,’ he answered, ‘we can’t stop to consider such things. We
must do that which will please and attract the reader, regardless of
everything else. Dulness is the only thing we must avoid as we shun the
pestilence, and erudition and profundity are always dull.’

“‘But doesn’t the newspaper assume to teach men and women?’ I asked.
‘And is it not in conscience bound to teach them the truth and not
falsehood?’

“‘Oh, yes, that’s the theory,’ he answered. ‘But how can we live up to
it? Take this matter of Darwinism, for example. We can’t afford to
employ great scientific men to discuss it seriously in our columns. And
if we did, only a few would read what they wrote about it. We have
bright fellows on our editorial staffs who know how to make it
interesting by playing with it, and for our purpose that is much better
than any amount of learning.’

“I have been thinking this thing over and I have stopped the reading of
newspapers. For I find that they deal in the same way with everything
else--except politics, perhaps, and, of course, I know nothing of
politics. I read a criticism of a concert the other day in which a
singer was--well, never mind the details. The man that wrote that
criticism didn’t hear the concert at all, as he confessed to me. He was
attending another theatre at the time. Yet he assumed to criticise a
singer to her detriment, utterly ignoring the fact that she has her
living to make by singing and that his criticism might seriously affect
her prospects. He laughed the matter off, and when I seemed disturbed
about it he said: ‘For your sake, Miss South, I’ll make amends. She
sings again tomorrow, and while I shall not be able to hear her, I’ll
give her such a laudation as shall warm the cockles of her heart and
make her manager mightily glad. You’ll forgive me, then, for censuring
her yesterday, I’m sure.’ I’m afraid I misbehaved myself then. I told
him I shouldn’t read his article, that I hated lies and shams and false
pretences, and that I didn’t consider his articles worth reading because
they had no truth or honesty behind them. It was dreadfully rude, I
know, and yet I’m not sorry for it. For it seemed to make an impression
on him. He told me that he only needed some such influence as mine to
give him a conscience in his work, and he actually asked me to marry
him! Think of the absurdity of it! I told him I wasn’t thinking of
marrying anybody--that I was barely seventeen, that--oh, well, I
dismissed the poor fellow as gently as I could.”

But while the proposal of marriage by the newspaper man, and several
other such solicitations which followed it, struck Dorothy at first as
absurdities, they wrought a marked change in her mental attitude. Two at
least of these proposals were inspired by higher considerations than
those of the plantation which Dorothy represented, and were pressed with
fervor and tenderness by men quite worthy to aspire to Dorothy’s hand.
These were men of substance and character, in whose minds the
fascination which the Virginia girl unwittingly exercised over everybody
with whom she came into contact--men and women alike--had quickly
ripened into a strong and enduring passion. Dorothy suffered much in
rejecting such suits as theirs, but she learned something of herself in
the process. She for the first time realized that she was a woman and
that she had actually entered upon that career of womanhood which had
before seemed so far away in the future that thoughts of it had never
before caused her to blush and tremble as they did now.

These things set her thinking, and in her thinking she half realized her
own state of mind. She began dimly to understand the change that had
come over her attitude and feeling towards Arthur Brent. She would not
let herself believe that she loved him as a woman loves but one man
while she lives; but she admitted to herself that she might come to
love him in that way if he should ever ask her to do so with the
tenderness and manifest sincerity which these others had shown. But of
that she permitted herself to entertain no hope and even no thought. His
letters to her, indeed, seemed to put that possibility out of the
question. For at this time Arthur held himself under severe restraint.
He was determined that he should not in any remotest way take advantage
of his position with respect to Dorothy, or use his influence over her
as a means of winning her. He knew now his own condition of mind and
soul in all its fulness. He was conscious now that the light of his life
lay in the hope of some day winning Dorothy’s love and making her all
and altogether his own. But he was more than ever determined, as he
formulated the thought in his own mind, to give Dorothy a chance, to
take no advantage of her, to leave her free to make choice for herself.
It was his fixed determination, should she come back heart whole from
this journey, to woo her with all the fervor of his soul; but the more
determined he became in this resolution, the more resolutely did he
guard his written words against the possibility that they might reveal
aught of this to her. “If she ever comes to love me as my wife,” he
resolved, “it shall be only after she has had full opportunity to make
another choice.”

Accordingly his letters to her continued to concern themselves with
intellectual and other external things. He wrote her half a ream of
comment upon Darwin’s book, taking up for discussion every marginal note
she had made concerning it. But that part of his letter was as coldly
intellectual as any of their horseback conversations had been. In all
the intimate parts of that and his other letters, he wrote only as one
might to a sympathetic friend, as he might have written to Edmonia, for
example. He even took half unconscious pains to emphasize the fatherly
character of his relations with her, lest they assume some other aspect
to her apprehension.

On her side Dorothy began now to write outside of herself, as it were.
She described to him all her new gowns and bonnets, laughing at the
confusion of mind in which a study of such details must involve him. In
her childlike loyalty she told him of the wooings that so distressed
her, but she did so quite as she might have written to him of the loves
of Juliet and Ophelia and the Lady of Lyons. For the rest she wrote
objectively now, in the main, and speculatively concerning certain of
those social problems in which she knew him to be profoundly interested,
and which she was somewhat studying now, because of the interest they
had for him.

The word “slumming” had not been invented at that time by the insolence
that does the thing it means. But Dorothy, chiefly under the guidance of
her friends among the newspaper men, went to see how the abjectly poor
of a great city lived, and she wrote long letters of comment to Arthur
in which she told him how great and distressing the revelation was, and
how she honored his desire to do something for the amelioration of these
people’s lives. “Your aspiration is indeed a noble one,” she wrote in
one of her letters; “the life you proposed to yourself, and from which
you were diverted by your inheritance of a plantation, is the very
greatest, the very noblest that any man could lead. I once thought you
were doing even better in the care you are taking of the negroes at
Wyanoke and Pocahontas, and in your efforts ultimately to set them free.
But that was when I did not know. I know now, in part at least, and I
understand your feeling in the matter as I never could have done had I
not seen for myself.

“People here sometimes say things to me that hurt. But I am ready with
my answer now. One woman--very intellectual, but a cat--asked me
yesterday how I could bear to hold negroes in slavery, and to buy fine
gowns with the proceeds of their toil. I told her frankly that I didn’t
like it, but that I couldn’t help it, and in reply to her singularly
ignorant inquiries as to why I didn’t end the wrong or at least my
participation in it, I explained some difficulties to her that she had
never taken the trouble to ask about. I told her how hard you were
working to discharge the debts of your estate in order that you might
send your negroes to the west to be free, and that you might yourself
return to New York to do what you could for the immeasurably worse
slaves here. She caught at my phrase and challenged it. I told her what
I meant, and as it happened to be in a company of highly intellectual
people, I suppose I ought not to have talked so much, but somehow they
seemed to want to hear. I said:

“‘In Virginia I always visit every sick person on the plantation every
day. We send for a doctor in every case, and we women sit up night after
night to nurse every one that needs it. We provide proper food for the
sick and the convalescent from our own tables. We take care of the old
and decrepit, and of all the children. From birth to death they know
that they will be abundantly provided for. What poor family around the
Five Points has any such assurance? Who provides doctors and medicine
and dainties for them when they are ill? Who cares for their children?
Who assures them, in childhood and in old age, of as abundant a supply
of food and clothing, and as good a roof, as we give to the negroes? I
go every morning, as I just now said, to see every sick or afflicted
negro on my own plantation and on that of my guardian. How often have
you gone to the region of the Five Points to minister to those who are
ill and suffering and perhaps starving there?’

“‘Oh, that is all cared for by the charitable organizations’ she said,
‘and by the city missionaries.’

“‘Is it?’ I answered. ‘I do not find it so. I have emptied my purse a
dozen times in an effort to get a doctor for a very ill person here, and
to buy the medicines he prescribed, and to provide food for starving
ones. And then, next day I have found that the sick have died because
the well did not know how to cook the food I had provided, or how to
follow the doctor’s directions in the giving of medicine. I tell you
these poor people are immeasurably worse off than any negro slave at the
South is, or ever was. So far as I can learn there is no working
population in the world that gets half so much of comfort and care and
reward of every sort for its labor, as the negroes of Virginia get.’

“Then the woman broke out. She said: ‘You are dressed in a superb
satin’--it was at a social function--‘and every dollar of its cost was
earned by a negro slave on your plantation.’ I answered, ‘You are
equally well dressed. Will you tell me who earned the money that paid
for your satin gown?’ Then, Cousin Arthur, I lost my temper and my
manners. I told her that while we in Virginia profited by the labor of
our negroes, we gave them, as the reward of their labor, every desire of
their hearts and, besides that, an assurance of support in absolute
comfort for their old age, and for their children; while the laboring
class in New York, from whose labor she profited, and whose toil
purchased her gown, had nobody to care for them in infancy or old age,
in poverty and illness and suffering. ‘It is all wrong on both sides,’ I
said. ‘The toilers ought to have the full fruits of their toil in both
cases. The luxury of the rich is a robbery of the poor always and
everywhere. There ought not to be any such thing anywhere. The woman who
made your underclothing was robbed when you bought it at the price you
did. You wronged and defrauded the silk spinners and weavers and the
sewing women when you bought your gown. Worse than that; you have among
you men who have accumulated great fortunes in manufactures and
commerce. How did they do it? Was it not in commerce by paying the
producers for their products less than they were worth? Was it not in
manufactures by paying men and women and children less than they have
earned? Was not the great Astor estate based upon a shrewd robbery of
the Indian trappers and hunters? And has it not been swelled to its
present proportions by the growth of a city to whose growth the Astors
have never contributed a single dollar? Isn’t the whole thing a wrong
and a robbery? Isn’t the “Song of the Shirt” a reflection of truth?
Isn’t there slavery in New York as actually as in Virginia, and isn’t it
infinitely more cruel?’

“Then the woman shifted her ground. ‘But at least our laborers are
free,’ she said. ‘Are they?’ I answered. ‘Are they free to determine for
whom they will work or at what wages? Cannot their masters, who are
their employers, discharge them at will, when they get old or feeble or
otherwise incompetent, and leave them to starve? No master of a Virginia
plantation can do that. His neighbors would actually lynch him should he
turn a decrepit old negro out to die or even should he deny to him the
abundant food and clothing and housing that he gives to the able-bodied
negroes who make crops. And,’ I added, for I was excited, ‘this cruelty
is not confined to what are ordinarily called the laboring classes. I
know a man of unusual intellectual capacity, who has worked for years to
build up the fortunes of his employers. He has had what is regarded as a
very high salary. But being a man of generous mind he has spent his
money freely in educating the ten or a dozen sons and daughters of his
less fortunate brother. He is growing old now. He has earned for his
master, a thousand dollars for every dollar of salary that he ever
received just as all his fellow workers in the business have done. But
he is growing old now, and under the strain of night and day work, he
has acquired the habit of drinking too much. He hasn’t a thousand
dollars in the world as his reward for helping to make this other man,
his master, absurdly, iniquitously rich. Yet in his age and infirmity,
the other man, luxuriating in his palatial summer home which is only one
of the many palaces that other men’s toil late into the night has
provided for him, decides that the old servitor is no longer worth his
salary, and decrees his discharge. Is there anything so cruel as that in
negro slavery? Is that man half so well off as my negro mammy, who has a
house of her own and all the food and clothes she wants at the age of
eighty, and who could have the service of a dozen negro attendants for
the mere asking?’

“Now, Cousin Arthur, please don’t misunderstand me. Even what I have
seen at the Five Points doesn’t tempt me to believe in slavery. I want
of all things to see that exterminated. But, really and truly, I find an
immeasurably worse slavery here in New York than I ever saw in Virginia,
and I want to see it all abolished together, not merely the best and
kindliest and most humane part of it. I want to see the time when every
human being who works shall enjoy the full results of his work; when no
man shall be any other man’s master; when no man shall grow rich by
pocketing the proceeds of any other man’s genius or industry. I said all
this to that woman, and she replied: ‘You are obviously a pestilent
socialist. You are as bad as Fourier and Albert Brisbane and Horace
Greeley.’ That was very rude of her, seeing that Mr. Greeley was
present, but I’ve noticed that the people who most highly pride
themselves on good manners are often rude and inconsiderate of others to
a degree that would not be tolerated in Virginia society--except perhaps
from Mr. Madison Peyton. By the way, Mr. Jefferson Peyton was present,
and to my regret he said some things in defence of slavery which I could
not at all approve. Mr. Greeley interrupted him to say something like
this:

“‘The dear young lady is quite right. We have a horrible slavery right
here in New York, and we ought to make war on that as earnestly as we do
on African slavery at the South. I’m trying to do it in the
Try-bune’--that’s the way he pronounces the name of his paper--‘and I’m
going to keep on trying.’

“That encouraged me, for I find myself more and more disposed to respect
Mr. Greeley as I come to know him better. I don’t always agree with him.
I sometimes think he is onesided in his views, and of course he is
enormously self-conceited. But he is, at any rate, an honest man, and a
brave and sincere one. He isn’t afraid to say what he thinks, any more
than you are, and I like him for that. Another great editor whom I have
met frequently, seems to me equally courageous, but far less
conscientious. He is inclined to take what he calls ‘the newspaper view’
of things,--by which he means the view that appeals to the multitude for
the moment, without much regard for any fixed principle. Socially he is
a much more agreeable man than Mr. Greeley, but I don’t think him so
trustworthy. Mr. Greeley impresses me as a man who may be enormously
wrong-headed, under the influence of his prejudiced misconceptions, but
who, wrong-headed or right-headed, will never consciously wrong others.
If he had been born the master of a Virginia plantation he would have
dealt with his negroes in the same spirit in which he has insisted upon
giving to his fellow workers on the Tribune a share in the profits of
their joint work. Mr. Greeley is odd, but I like him better than any
editor I have met.”

So the girl went on, writing objectively and instinctively avoiding the
subjective. But she did not always write so seriously. She had “caught
the patter” of society and she often filled pages with a sparkling,
piquant flippancy, which had for Arthur a meaning all its own.



XXX

AT SEA


_T_he voyage to Europe in 1860 was a much more serious undertaking than
the like voyage is in our later time. It occupied a fortnight or three
weeks, for one thing, where now a week is ample time for the passage.
The steamers were small and uncomfortable--the very largest of them
being only half the size of the very smallest now regarded as fit for
passenger service. There was no promenade deck or hurricane deck then,
above the main deck, which was open to the sky throughout its length and
breadth, except for the interruption of one small deck house, covering
the companion way, a ventilator pipe here and there, and perhaps a
chicken coop to furnish emaciated and sea sick fowls for the table
d’hôte. There was no ice machine on board, and no distilling apparatus
for the production of fresh water. As a consequence, after two days out,
the warm water which passengers must drink began to taste of the ancient
wood of the water tanks; at the end of a week it became sickeningly
foul; and before the end of the voyage it became so utterly undrinkable
that the most aggressive teetotaler among the passengers was compelled
to order wine for his dinner and to abstain from coffee at breakfast.

The passenger who did not grow seasick in those days was a rare
exception to an otherwise universal rule, while, in our time, when the
promenade deck is forty or fifty feet above the waves, and the
passengers are abundantly supplied both with palatable food and with
wholesome water, only those suffer with _mal de mer_ who are bilious
when they go on board, or who are beset by a senseless apprehension of
the sea.

The passenger lists were small, too, even allowing for the diminutive
size of the ships. One person crossed the ocean then where perhaps a
hundred cross in our time.

There were perhaps twenty passengers in the cabin of the ship in which
Dorothy sailed. By the second day out only two of the ship’s company
appeared at meals or at all regularly took the air on deck. Dorothy was
one of these two. The other she herself introduced, as it were, to
Arthur, in a long, diary-like letter which she wrote on shipboard and
mailed at Liverpool.

“I’m sitting on a great coil of rope, just behind the deck house,” she
wrote, “where I am sheltered from the wind and where I can breathe my
whole body full of the delicious sea air. The air is flavored with great
quantities of the finest sunshine imaginable. Every now and then I lay
my paper down, and a very nice old sailor comes and puts two big iron
belaying pins on it, to keep it from blowing overboard while I go
skipping like a ten-year-old girl up and down the broad, clean deck, and
enjoying the mere being alive, just as I do on horseback in Virginia
when the sun is rising on a perfect morning.

“I ought to be down stairs--no, I mustn’t say ‘down stairs,’ when I’m at
sea, I must say ‘below.’ Well, I ought to be below ministering to
Edmonia and her friend Mrs. Livingston,--or Mildred, as she insists on
my calling her--both of whom are frightfully sick; but really and truly,
Edmonia won’t let me. She fairly drove me out, half an hour ago. When I
didn’t want to go she threatened to throw her shoes at my head, saying
‘You dear little idiot, go on deck and keep your sea-well on, if you
can.’ And when I protested that she seemed very ill and that I hadn’t
the heart to go on the beautiful deck and be happy in the delicious air
and sunshine while she was suffering so, she said: ‘Oh, I’m always so
for the first three or four days, and I’m best let alone. My temper is
frightful when I’m seasick. That’s why I took separate staterooms for
you and me. I don’t want you to find out what a horribly ill-tempered,
ill-mannered woman I am when I’m seasick. How can I help it? I’ve got a
mustard plaster on my back and two on my chest, and I’ve drunk half a
bottle of that detestable stuff, champagne, and I’m really fighting mad.
Go away, child, and let me fight it out with myself and the
stewardesses. They don’t mind it, the dear good creatures. They’re used
to it. I threw a coffee cup full of coffee all over one of them this
morning because she presumed to insist upon my swallowing the horrible
stuff, and she actually laughed, Dorothy. I couldn’t get up a quarrel
with her no matter what I did, and so I tried my hand on the ship’s
doctor. I don’t like him anyhow. He’s just the kind that would make love
to me if he dared, and I don’t like men that do that.’ Then Edmonia
added: ‘He wouldn’t quarrel at all. When I told him he was trying to
poison me with bicarbonate of soda in my drinking water, he seriously
assured me that bicarbonate of soda isn’t poisonous in the least
degree, that it corrects acidity, and all that sort of thing. I gave him
up as hopeless,--but remind me, Dorothy, that when we go ashore I must
put half a dozen sovereigns into his hand--carefully wrapped up in
paper, so that he shan’t even guess what they are--as his well earned
fee for enduring my bad temper. But now, Dorothy, you see clearly that
this ship doesn’t provide any proper person for me to quarrel with, and
so I must fall back upon you, if you persist in staying here and
arrogantly insulting me with your sublime superiority to seasickness. So
get out of my room and stay out till I come on deck with my mind
restored to a normal condition.’ I really think she meant it, and so I’m
obeying her. And I should be very happy with the air and the sunshine
and my dear old sailorman who tells me sailor stories and sings to me
the very quaintest old sailor songs imaginable, if I could be sure that
I’m doing right in being happy while Edmonia is so very miserable.

“As for Mildred--Mrs. Livingston--she lies white-faced and helpless in
her bunk--there, I got the sailor term right that time at the first
effort--while her husband simply sleeps and moans on the sofa. The
doctor says they are ‘progressing very satisfactorily’ and so I am
taking his advice and letting them alone. But why anybody should be
seasick, _how_ anybody _can_ be sick at sea, I simply cannot understand.
The ship’s doctor tried to explain it to me this morning, but he forgot
his explanation. He--well, never mind. He ought to have a wife with a
plantation or something of that sort, so that his abilities might have
an opportunity. I don’t think much of his abilities, and I don’t like
him half as well as I do my old sailor. He is going to tell me--the old
sailor, I mean and not the doctor--all about his life history tonight.
We are to have a moon, you know, and, as he’s on the ‘port watch,’
whatever that may mean, he’s going to come on deck and tell me all about
himself. I’ll tell you about it in tomorrow’s instalment of this
rambling letter.”

On the following day, or perhaps a day later even than that, Dorothy
wrote:

“This is another day. I don’t just know what day. You know they keep
changing the clock at sea, and I’ve got mixed up. Edmonia still throws
shoes and medicine bottles and coffee cups at me whenever I thrust my
head inside the portière of her stateroom, and Mildred, though she has
sufficiently recovered to come on deck, lies helpless in a deck chair
which my sailor has ‘made fast’--you see I’m getting to be an expert in
nautical terms--to a mast or a spar or something, and when I speak to
her, says, ‘Go away, child, and be happy in the midst of human misery,
if you can. Let me alone.’ When I ask her concerning her husband she
answers: ‘I suppose he’s comfortable in his misery. At any rate, he has
two bottles of champagne by his side, and he is swearing most hopefully.
I always know he is getting over it when he begins to swear in real
earnest, and with a certain discretion in the choice of his oaths. Now,
run away, you ridiculously well girl or I’ll begin to borrow from Rex’s
vituperative vocabulary.’ Rex is her husband you know.

“The sailor’s story didn’t amount to anything, so I’ll not bother you
with a repetition of it.”

[As a strictly confidential communication, not to be mentioned to
anybody, the author so far intrudes upon attention at this point, as to
report that the sailorman, at the end of his picturesque and imaginative
narrative, professed a self-sacrificing willingness to abandon the
delights of a sea-faring existence, and to content himself thereafter
with the homelier and less romantic duties of master of Pocahontas
plantation. Dorothy, in continuing her letter, was quite naturally
reticent upon this point. But she went on liking that old sailorman, in
whose devotion to her comfort on deck nothing seemed to make the
slightest difference. Perhaps this chronic mariner already had ‘a wife
in every port’ and was only ‘keeping his hand in’ at courtship. At any
rate after duly disciplining him, Dorothy went on liking him and
accepting his manifold, sailorly attentions. Ah, these women! How very
human they are in face of all their airs and pretensions!]

It was a day later that Dorothy wrote:

“There is a very extraordinary lady on board, and I have become
acquainted with her, in a way. I didn’t see her at all during the first
day out. As she tells me she is never seasick, I suppose she kept her
cabin for some other reason. At any rate the first time I met her was on
the morning of that second day out, when I was skipping about the deck
and making believe that I was little Dorothy again--little ten-year-old
Dorothy, who didn’t care if people were seeing her when she skipped. The
captain saw me first. He’s a dear old fellow with a big beard and nine
children and a nice little baby at home. And, think of it, the people
that hire him to run their ship won’t let him bring his wife on board
or any of his children on any account! That isn’t quite correct either,
for two voyages ago it was the twenty-first anniversary of his marriage,
and when he asked permission to bring his wife and baby with him on his
trip to New York and back, just to celebrate, you see, the company gave
permission without any hesitation. But when he came on board, he found
another captain in command for that one trip, and himself only a
passenger. That’s because the company don’t want a captain’s attention
distracted, and I suppose a new baby whom he had never seen before would
have distracted him a great deal. Anyhow that’s the way it was and the
only reason the captain told me about it was that I asked him why he
didn’t have his wife and children on board with him always. But I set
out to tell you about the lady. After the captain had ‘captured’ me, as
he put it, and had taken me up on the bridge, and had shown me how to
take an observation and how to steer--he let me steer all by myself for
more than a mile and I didn’t run the ship into anything, perhaps
because there wasn’t anything within five hundred miles to run into--I
went down on deck again, hoping that maybe Diana had got well enough to
come out, but she hadn’t. She isn’t violently ill, but she’s the most
entirely, hopelessly, seasick person I’ve seen yet. She--well, never
mind. She’ll get well again, and in the meanwhile I must tell you about
the lady. She spoke to me kindly and said:

“‘As you and I seem to be the only well passengers on board, I think I’m
entitled to a sea acquaintance with you, Miss Dorothy. You know sea
acquaintances carry no obligations with them beyond the voyage, and so
no matter how chummy we may become out here on the ocean you needn’t
even bow to me if we meet again on shore.’ She seemed so altogether nice
that I told her I wouldn’t have a mere sea acquaintance with her, but
would get acquainted with her ‘for truly,’ as the children say. She
seemed glad when I said that, and we talked for two hours or more, after
which we went to luncheon and sat side by side--as everybody else is
seasick we had the table all to ourselves and didn’t need to mind whose
chairs we sat in.

“Well, she is a strangely fascinating person, and the more I know of her
the more she fascinates me. Sometimes she seems as young as I myself am;
sometimes she seems very old. She is tall and what I call willowy. That
is to say she bends as easily in any direction as a willow wand could,
and with as much of grace. Indeed grace is her dominant characteristic,
as I discovered when she danced a Spanish fandango to my playing--just
all to ourselves you know, behind the deck house. She knows everybody
worth knowing, too--all the editors and artists and actors and singers
and pianists and people in society that I have met, and a great many
others that I haven’t met at all. And she really does know them, too,
for one day in her cabin I saw a great album of hers, and when she saw I
was interested in it she bade me take it on deck, saying that perhaps it
might amuse me during the hour she must give to sleep. And when I read
it, I found it full of charming things in prose and verse, all addressed
to her, and all signed by great people, or nearly all. She told me
afterwards that she valued the other things most--the things signed by
people whose names meant nothing to me. ‘For those,’ she said, ‘are my
real friends. The rest--well, no matter. They are professionals, and
they do such things well.’ I don’t just know what she meant by that, but
I have a suspicion that she loves truth better than anything else, and
that she doesn’t think distinguished people always tell the truth when
they write in albums. At any rate when I asked her if I might write and
sign a little sentiment in her album, she said, with more of emotion
than the occasion seemed to call for: ‘Not in that book, my child! Not
as a tag to all those people. If you will write me three or four lines
of your own on a simple sheet of paper and sign it, I’ll have it
sumptuously bound when I get to Paris, in a book all to itself, and
nobody else shall ever write a line to go with it while I live.’

“Wasn’t it curious? And especially when you reflect how many
distinguished people she knows! But she brought me a sheet of very fine
paper that afternoon, and said: ‘I don’t want you to write now. I don’t
want you to write till our voyage is nearly over. Then I want you to
write the truth as to your feeling for me. No matter what it is, I want
it to be the truth, so that I may keep it always.’ I took the sheet and
wrote on it, ‘I wish you were my mother.’ That was the truth. I do wish
every hour that this woman were my mother. But she refused to read what
I had written, saying: ‘I will keep it, child, unread until the end of
the voyage. Then I’ll give it back to you if you wish, and you shall
write again whatever you are prompted to write, be it this or something
quite different.’

“Curiously enough, her name is in effect the same as my own, translated
into French. She is Madame Le Sud. That means Mrs. South, of course, and
when I called her attention to the fact, she said: ‘perhaps that may
suggest an additional bond of affection between us.’”

Several days passed before Dorothy resumed her writing.

“I haven’t added a line to my letter for two or three days past. That’s
because I have been so busy learning to know and love Madame Le Sud. She
is the very sweetest and most charming woman I ever saw in my life. She
is a trifle less than forty--just old enough I tell her, to be my mother
if it had happened in that way. Then she asked me about my real mother
and I couldn’t tell her anything. I couldn’t even tell when she died, or
what her name had been or anything about her. Isn’t it a strange thing,
Cousin Arthur, that nobody has ever told me anything about my mother? It
makes me ashamed when I think of it, and still more ashamed when I
remember that I never asked anything about her, except once. That time I
asked my father some question and he answered only by quickly rising and
going out to mount his horse and ride away all alone. That is the way he
always did when things distressed him, and as I didn’t want to distress
him I never asked him anything more about my mother. But why haven’t I
been told about her? Was she bad? And is that why everybody has been so
anxious about me, fearing that I might be bad? Even if that were so they
ought to have told me about my mother, especially after I began to grow
up and know how to stand things bravely. May be when I was too little to
understand it was better to keep silent. But when I grew older there was
no excuse for not telling me the truth. I don’t think there ever is any
excuse for that. The truth is the only thing in the world that a sane
person ought to love. I’m only seventeen years old, but I’m old enough
to have found out that much, and I don’t think I shall ever quite
forgive those who have shut out from me the truth about my mother. You,
Cousin Arthur, haven’t had any hand in that. I never asked you, but I
know. If you had known about my mother you’d have told me. You could not
have helped it. The only limitation to your ability that I ever
discovered is your utter inability to tell lies. If you tried to do that
you’d make such a wretched failure of the attempt that the truth would
come out in spite of you. So, of course, you are as ignorant as I am
about my mother.

“But I wanted to tell you about Madame Le Sud. To me she is the most
beautiful woman in the world, and yet most people would call her
hideously ugly. Indeed, I’ve heard people on the ship call her that way,
for they’re beginning at last to come out on deck and try to get well.
She has a terribly disfiguring scar. It begins in her hair and extends
down over her left eye which it has put out, and down her cheek by the
side of her nose, almost, but not quite to her upper lip. The scar is
very ugly, of course, but the woman is altogether beautiful. She
impresses me as wonderfully fine and fragile--delicate in the same way
that a piece of old Sèvres china is. She plays the violin divinely. She
wouldn’t play for me at first, and she has since confessed that she
feared to make me afraid to play for her. ‘For I am a professional
musician,’ she said, ‘or rather I was, till I got this disfiguring scar.
After that how could I present myself to an audience?’ Then she told me
how she got the scar. She was celebrating something or other with a
company of friends. They drank champagne too freely, and one of them,
taking from Madame Le Sud’s mantelpiece a perfume bottle, playfully
emptied its contents on her head. It was a perfume bottle, but it held
nitric acid which somebody had been using medicinally. In an instant
the mischief was done and Madame Le Sud’s career as a famous musician
was ended forever.

“When she got well she was very poor, having spent all her money during
her illness. A manager came to her and wanted her to go on as ‘the
veiled violinist,’ he pretending that she was some woman of
distinguished family and high social position whose love of music
tempted her to exercise her skill upon the stage, but whose social
position forbade her to show her face or reveal her name. He offered her
large sums if she would do this, but she refused to make herself a party
to such a deception. She secured employment, as she puts it, in a much
humbler capacity which enables her to turn her artistic taste to account
in earning a living, and it is in connection with this employment that
she is now on her way to Paris. She did not tell me what her employment
is, and of course I did not ask her. But now that I have learned
something of her misfortunes, and have seen how bravely she bears them,
I love her better than ever.

“Diana has come upon deck at last, ‘dressed and in her right mind.’ She
is very proud of having been ‘seasick jes’ like white folks.’ She so far
asserts her authority as to order Edmonia--who is quite herself
again--and me to array ourselves in some special gowns of her personal
selection for the captain’s dinner today. It is to be a notable affair
and Madame Le Sud is to play a violin solo. They asked me to play also,
but I refused, till Madame Le Sud asked me to give ‘Home, Sweet Home,’
with her to play second violin. Think of it! This wonderful musical
artist volunteering to ‘play second fiddle’ to a novice like me! But she
insists upon liking my rendering of the dear old melody and she has
taken the trouble to compose a special second part, which, she
generously says, ‘will bring out the beauty’ of my performance.

“We expect to make land during tonight, and by day after tomorrow, I’ll
mail this letter at Liverpool.”



XXXI

THE VIEWS AND MOODS OF ARTHUR BRENT


_W_hen Dorothy had gone Arthur Brent felt a double necessity for
diligence in the ordering of plantation affairs. He realized for the
first time what he had done in thus sending Dorothy away. For the first
time he began to understand his own condition of mind and the extent to
which this woman had become a necessity to his life. Quite naturally,
too, her absence and the loss of his daily association with her served
to depress him, as nothing else had ever done before. The sensation of
needing some one was wholly novel to him, and by no means agreeable.
“What if I should never have her with me again--never as _my_ Dorothy?”
he reflected. “That may very easily happen. In fact I sent her away in
order that it might happen, if it would. Her affection for me is still
quite that of a child for one much older than herself. Edmonia does not
so regard it, but perhaps she is wrong. Perhaps her conviction that
Dorothy the woman loves me even more than Dorothy the child ever did,
and that her love will survive acquaintance with other and more
attractive men, and other and more attractive ways of life, is born only
of her eager desire to have that come about. A year’s absence will not
make Dorothy forget me or even love me less than she does now. But how
much does she love me now, in very truth? May it not happen that when
she returns a year hence she will have given her woman’s heart to some
other, bringing back to me only the old, child love unchanged? I must be
prepared for that at all events. I must school myself to think of it as
a probability without the distress of mind it gives me now. And I must
be ready, when it happens, to go away from here at once and take up
again my life of strenuous endeavor and absorbing study. I mustn’t let
this thing ruin me as it might some weakling in character.”

In order that he might be ready thus to leave Virginia when the time
should come, rejoicing instead of grieving over Dorothy’s good fortune
in finding some fitter life than his to share, Arthur knew that he must
this year discharge the last dollar of debt that rested upon the Wyanoke
estate. He must be a free man on Dorothy’s return--free to reënter the
world of scientific work, free to make and keep himself master of his
own mind, as he had always been until this strange thing had come over
his life.

He thus set himself two tasks, one of which he might perhaps fulfil by
hard work and discreet management. The other promised to be greatly more
difficult. He made a very bad beginning at it by sitting up late at
night to read and ponder Dorothy’s letters, to question them as to the
future, to study every indication of character or impulse, or temporary
mood of mind they might give.

With the debt-paying problem he got on much better. He had now a whole
year’s accumulated income from his annuity, and he devoted all of it at
once to the lightening of this burden. He studied markets as if they had
been problems in physics, and guided himself in his planting by the
results of these studies. He had sold apples and bacon and sweet
potatoes the year before, as we know, with results that encouraged him
to go further in the direction of “Yankee farming.” This year he planted
large areas in watermelons and other large areas in other edible things
that the people of the cities want, but which no south side Virginia
planter had ever thought of growing for sale.

He was laughed at while doing all this, and envied when the results of
it appeared.

He deliberately implicated Dorothy in these his misdeeds, also, doing on
her plantation precisely as he did on his own, so that when late in the
autumn he gave account of his stewardship he was able to inform the
court, to its astonishment and to that of the entire community, that he
had discharged every dollar of debt that had rested upon his ward’s
estate. The judge applauded such management of a trust estate, and
Arthur Brent’s neighbors wondered. Some of them saw in his success
ground of approval of “Yankee farming”; all of them conceived a new
respect for the ability of a man who had thus, in so brief a time, freed
two old estates from the hereditary debts that had been accumulating for
slow generations.

Arthur had been additionally spurred and stimulated to the
accomplishment of this end, by the forebodings of evil in connection
with national politics which had gravely haunted him throughout the
year.

In May the Republican party had nominated Mr. Lincoln, and about the
same time the Democrats made his election a practical certainty. There
was clearly a heavy majority of the people opposed to his election, but
the division of that opposition into three hostile camps with three
rival candidates, rendered Republican success a foregone conclusion. By
some at least of the politicians the division was deliberately intended
to produce that result, while the great mass of the people opposed to
Mr. Lincoln and seriously fearing the consequences of his election,
deeply deplored the condition thus brought about.

The Republican party at that time existed only at the North. For the
first time in history the election threatened the country with the
choice of a president by an exclusively sectional vote, and in
opposition to the will of the majority of the people. On the popular
vote, in fact, Mr. Lincoln was in a minority of nearly a million, and
every electoral vote cast for him came from the northern states. In most
of the southern states indeed there was no canvass made for him, no
electoral nominations presented in his behalf.

Added to this was the fact that the one point on which his party was
agreed, the one bond of opinion that held it together for political
action, the one impulse held in common by all its adherents, was
hostility to slavery, which the men of the South construed to mean
hostility--intense and implacable--to the states in which that
institution existed and even to the people of those states.

The “platform” on which Mr. Lincoln was nominated, did indeed protest,
as he had himself done in many public utterances, that this was a
misinterpretation of attitude and purpose; that the party disclaimed all
intent to interfere with slavery in the slave states; that it held
firmly to the right of each state to regulate that matter for itself,
and repudiated the assumption of any power on the part of the Federal
government to control the action of the several states or in any wise to
legislate for them on this subject.

But these pledges were taken at the South to mean no more than a desire
to secure united action in an election. The party proclaimed its
purpose, while letting slavery alone in the states, to forbid its
extension to the new territories. This alone was deemed a program of
injustice by that very active group of Southern men who, repudiating the
teachings of Jefferson, and Wythe and Henry Clay, had come to believe in
African slavery as a thing right in itself, a necessity of the South, a
labor system to be upheld and defended and extended, upon its own
merits. These men contended that the new territories were the common and
equal possession of all the people; that any attempt by Federal
authority to deny to the states thereafter to be formed out of those
territories, the right to determine for themselves whether they would
permit or forbid slavery, was a wrong to the South which had contributed
of its blood and treasure even more largely than the North had done to
their acquisition. They further contended that any such legislation
would of necessity involve an assumption of Federal authority to control
states in advance of their formation,--an assumption which might easily
be construed to authorize a like Federal control of states already
existing, including those that had helped to create the Union.

All this Arthur Brent contemplated with foreboding from the first. He
anticipated Mr. Lincoln’s election from the beginning of the absurd
campaign. And while he could not at all agree with those who were
prepared to see in that event an occasion for secession and revolution,
he foreboded those calamities as results likely in fact to follow. And
even should a kindly fate avert them for a time, he saw clearly that the
alignment of parties in the nation upon sectional issues must be
productive of new and undreamed of irritations, full of threatening to
the peace of the Republic.

No more than any of his neighbors could he forecast the events of the
next few years. “But,” he wrote to Dorothy in the autumn “I see that the
election of Mr. Lincoln is now a certainty; I foresee that it will lead
to a determined movement in the South in favor of secession and the
dissolution of the Federal Union. It ought to be possible, if that must
come, to arrange it on a basis of peaceable agreement to disagree--the
Southern States assuming all responsibility for slavery till they can
rid themselves of it with safety to society, and the Northern people
washing their hands once for all of an iniquity from which they have
derived the major part of the profit. This they did, particularly during
those years after 1808, in which the African slave trade was prohibited
by law, but was carried on by New England ship masters and New England
merchants with so great a profit that Justice Joseph Story of the United
States supreme court, though himself a New Englander, was denounced by
the New England press and even threatened with a violent ejection from
the bench, because he sought to prevent and punish it, in obedience to
the national statute.

“But I am wandering from my theme,” he continued. “I wanted to say that
while I think there is no real occasion for a disruption of the Union, I
gravely fear that it is coming. And while I think it should be possible
to accomplish it peaceably I do not believe it will be done in that way.
There are too many hot heads on both sides, for that. There is too much
gunpowder lying around, and there will be too many sparks flying about.
Listen, Dorothy! I foresee that Mr. Lincoln will be elected in November.
I anticipate an almost immediate attempt on the part of the cotton
states to dissolve the Union by secession. I shall do everything I can
to help other sober minded Virginians to keep Virginia out of this
movement, and if Virginia can be kept out of it, the other border states
will accept her action as controlling, and they too will stay out of the
revolutionary enterprise. In that case the states farther South will be
amenable to reason, and if there is reason and discretion exercised at
Washington and in the North, some means may possibly be found for
adjusting the matter--Virginia and Kentucky perhaps acting successfully
as mediators. But I tell you frankly, I do not expect success in the
program to which I intend to devote all my labors and all I have of
influence. I look to see Virginia drawn into the conflict. I look for
war on a scale far more stupendous than any this country has ever seen.

“I can no more foresee what the result of such a war will be than you
can--so far at least as military operations are concerned. But some of
the results I think I do see very clearly. Virginia will be the
battle-ground, and Virginia will be desolated as few lands have ever
been in the history of the world. Another thing, Dorothy. If this war
comes, as I fear it will, it will make an end of African slavery in this
country. For if we of the South are beaten in the conflict of arms, the
complete extinction of slavery will be decreed as a part of the penalty
of war and the price of peace. If we are successful, we shall have set
up a Canada at our very doors. The Ohio and the Potomac will become a
border beyond which every escaping negro will be absolutely free, and
across which every conceivable influence will be brought to bear upon
the negroes to induce them to run away. Under such conditions the
institution must become an intolerable as well as an unprofitable
annoyance, and it will speedily disappear.

“Now I come to what I set out to say. Before election day this present
fall I shall have paid off every dollar of the debts that rest upon
Pocahontas and Wyanoke. You and I will be free, at least, from that
source of embarrassment, and whatever the military or political, or
legal or social results of the war may be, you and I will be owners of
land that is subject to no claim of any kind against us. I have
grievously compromised your dignity as well as my own in my efforts to
bring this about, but you are not held responsible for my ‘Yankee
doings,’ at Pocahontas, and as for me, I am not thin-skinned in such
matters. I’d far rather be laughed at for paying debts in undignified
ways than be dunned for debts that I cannot pay.”

This letter reached Dorothy in Paris, on her return through Switzerland,
from an Italian journey, undertaken in the early summer before the
danger of Roman fever should be threatening. Had such a letter come to
her a few months earlier, her response to it would have been an utterly
submissive assent to all that her guardian had done, with perhaps a
wondering question or two as to why he should feel it necessary to ask
her consent to anything he might be minded to do, or even to tell her
what he had done. But Dorothy had grown steadily more reserved in her
writing to him, as experience had slowly but surely awakened womanly
consciousness in her soul. She was still as loyally devoted as ever to
Arthur, but she shrank now as she had not been used to do, from too
candid an expression of her devotion. The child had completely given
place to the woman in her nature and the woman was far less ready than
the child had been to reveal her feelings. A succession of suitors for
her hand had taught Dorothy to think of herself as a woman bound to
maintain a certain reserve in her intercourse with men. They had
awakened in her a consciousness of the fact, of which she had scarcely
even thought in the old, childish days, that Arthur Brent was a young
man and Dorothy South a young woman, and that it would ill become
Dorothy South to reveal herself too frankly to this young man. She did
not quite know what there was in her mind to reveal or to withhold from
revelation, but she instinctively felt the necessity strong upon her to
guard herself against her own impulsive truthfulness. She had no more
notion that she had dared give her woman’s love to Arthur unasked, than
she had that he--who had never asked for it--desired her love. He
remained to her in fact the enormously superior being that she had
always held him to be, but she found herself blushing sometimes when
she remembered the utter abandon with which she had been accustomed to
lay bare her innermost thoughts and sentiments, her very soul, indeed,
to his scrutiny.

She knew of no reason why she should now alter her attitude or her
demeanor towards him, and she resolutely determined that she would not
in the least change either, yet the letter she wrote to him on this
occasion was altogether unlike that which she would have written a few
months earlier upon a like occasion. She expressed her approval of all
that he had done with respect to her estate, where in like case a few
months earlier she would have asked him wonderingly what she had to do
with things planned and accomplished by him. She expressed acquiescence
as one might who has the right to approve or to criticise, where before
she would have concerned herself only with rejoicings that her guardian
had got things as he wanted them, in accordance with his unquestioned
and unquestionable right to have everything as he wanted it to be in a
world quite unworthy of him.

In brief, Dorothy’s letter depressed Arthur Brent almost unendurably.
Because he missed something from it that long use had taught him to
expect in all her utterances to him, he read into it much of coldness,
alienation, indifference, which it did not contain. He sat up all night,
torturing himself with doubts for which a frequent reperusal of the
letter furnished him no shadow of justification; and when the gray
morning came he ordered his horse, meaning to ride purposely nowhither.
But when the horse was brought, a new and overpowering sense of
Dorothy’s absence and perhaps her alienation, came over him. He
remembered vividly every detail of that first morning’s ride he had had
with her, and instinctively he copied her proceeding on that occasion.
Drawing forth his handkerchief he rubbed the animal’s flanks and rumps
with it to its soiling.

“I’ll not ride this morning, Ben,” he said. “I’ll go back to the house
and write a letter to your Mis’ Dorothy and I’ll enclose that
handkerchief for her inspection.”



XXXII

THE SHADOW FALLS


_W_ith the autumn came that shadow over the land which Arthur Brent had
so greatly dreaded. Mr. Lincoln’s election was quickly succeeded by the
secession of South Carolina. One after another the far Southern States
followed, and presently the seceding states allied themselves in a new
confederacy.

The whole country was in a ferment. The founders of the Union had made
no provision whatever for such a state of things as this, and even the
wisest men were at a loss to say what ought to be done or what could be
done. There seemed to be nowhere any power or authority adequate to deal
with the situation in one way or in another. All was chaos in the
coolest minds while the hotheads on either side were daily making
matters worse by their intemperate utterances and by the unyielding
arrogance of their attitude.

In the meantime the administration at Washington seemed intent only upon
preventing the outbreak of open war until its term should end on the
fourth of March, 1861, while those into whose hands the government must
pass on that date had not only no authority to act but no privilege even
of advising.

It seemed fortunate at the time, that Virginia refused to join in the
secession movement. Her refusal and her commanding influence over the
other border states seemed for a time to provide an opportunity for wise
counsels to assert themselves. There were radical secessionists in
Virginia and uncompromising opponents of secession on any terms. But the
attitude of the great majority of Virginians, as was shown in the
election of a constitutional convention on the fourth of February, was
one of earnestness for peace and reconciliation and the preservation of
the Federal Union.

The Virginians believed firmly in the constitutional right of any state
to withdraw from the Union, but the majority among them saw in Mr.
Lincoln’s election no proper occasion for the exercise of that right.
They regarded the course of the cotton states in withdrawing from the
Union as one strictly within their right, but as utterly unwise and
unnecessary. On the other hand they firmly denied the right of the
national government to coerce the seceding states or in any manner to
make war upon them.

Arthur Brent was an uncompromising believer in the right of a state to
secede, and equally an uncompromising opponent of secession as a policy.
That part of Virginia in which he lived was divided in opinion and
sentiment, with a distinct preponderance of opinion in behalf of
secession. But when the call came for the election of a constitutional
convention to decide upon Virginia’s course the secessionists of his
district were represented by two rival candidates, both fiercely
favoring secession. The only discoverable difference in their views was
that one of them wanted the convention to adopt the ordinance of
secession “before breakfast on the day of its first assembling,” while
the other contended that it would be more consonant with the dignity of
the state to have muffins and coffee first.

Neither of these candidates was a person of conspicuous influence in the
community. Neither was a man of large ability or ripe experience or
commanding social position--the last counting for much in Virginia in
those days when there was no such thing as a ballot in that state, and
when every man must go to the polls and openly proclaim his vote.

Under these circumstances a number of the conservative men of the
district got together and decided to make Arthur Brent a candidate. It
was certain that the secession vote would be in the majority in the
district, but if it were divided between the two rival candidates, as it
was certain to be, these gentlemen were not without hope that their
candidate might secure a plurality and be elected.

Arthur strenuously objected to the program so far at least as it
concerned his own candidacy. He had a pronounced distaste for politics
and public life, and he stoutly argued that some one who had lived all
his life in that community would be better able than he to win all there
was of conservatism to his support. He entreated these his friends to
adopt that course. It was significant of the high place he had won in
the estimation of the community’s best, that they refused to listen to
his protest, and, by a proclamation over their own signatures, announced
him as their candidate and urged all men who sincerely desired wise and
prudent counsels to prevail in a matter which involved Virginia’s entire
future, to support him at the polls.

Thus compelled against his will to be a candidate, Arthur entered at
once upon a canvass of ceaseless activity. He did not mean to be
defeated. He spoke every day and many times every day, and better still
he talked constantly to the groups of men who surrounded him, setting
forth his views persuasively and so convincingly that when the polls
closed on that fateful fourth of February, it was found that Arthur
Brent had been elected by a plurality which amounted almost to a
majority, to represent his district in that constitutional convention
which must decide Virginia’s commanding course, and in large degree,
perhaps, determine the final issue of war or peace.

When the convention met nine days later it was found that an
overwhelming majority of the members held views identical, or nearly so,
with those of Arthur Brent. There were a very few uncompromising
secessionists in the body, and also a few unconditional Union men, who
declared their hostility to secession upon any terms, at any time, under
any circumstances. Among these unconditional Union men, curiously enough
were two who afterwards became notable fighters for the Southern
cause--namely Jubal A. Early and William C. Wickham.

But the overwhelming majority opposed secession as a mistaken policy,
uncalled for by anything in the then existing circumstances, and certain
to precipitate a devastating war; while at the same time maintaining the
constitutional right of each state to secede, and holding themselves
ready to vote for Virginia’s secession, should the circumstances so
change as to render that course in their judgment obligatory upon the
state under the law of honor.

That change occurred in the end, as we shall presently see. But, in the
meantime, these representatives of the Virginia people wrought with all
their might for the maintenance of peace and the preservation of the
Union. They counselled concession and sweet reasonableness, on both
sides. They urged upon both the commanding necessity of endeavoring, in
a spirit of mutual forbearance, to find some basis of adjustment by
which that Union which Virginia had done so much to bring about, and
under which the history of the Republic had been a matter of universal
pride both North and South, might be preserved and established anew upon
secure foundations. More important than all this was the fact that these
representative men of Virginia denied to the seceding cotton states the
encouragement of Virginia’s sanction for their movement, the absolutely
indispensable moral and material support of the mother state.

For a time there was an encouraging prospect of the success of these
Virginian efforts. Nobody, North or South, believed that the cotton
states would long stand alone in their determination, if Virginia and
the other border states that looked to her for guidance--Kentucky, North
Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Maryland--should continue to hold
aloof.

In the meantime Mr. Lincoln, after his inauguration, had a somewhat
similar problem to deal with at the North. There was a party there
clamorous for instant war with a declared purpose of abolishing slavery.
The advocates of that policy pressed it upon the new president as
urgently as the extreme secessionists at the South pressed secession
upon Virginia. Mr. Lincoln saw clearly, as these his advisers did not,
that their policy was utterly impracticable. From the very beginning he
insisted upon confining his administration’s efforts rigidly to the task
of preserving the Union with the traditional rights of all the states
unimpaired. He saw clearly that there were men by hundreds of thousands
at the North, who would heart and soul support the administration’s
efforts to preserve the Union, even by war if that should be necessary,
but who would antagonize by every means in their power a war for the
extirpation of slavery at cost of Federal usurpation of control over any
state in its domestic affairs.

Accordingly, Mr. Lincoln held to his purpose. He would make no attempt
to interfere with slavery where it constitutionally existed, and he
would make no direct effort to compel seceding states to return to the
Union; but he would use whatever force he might find necessary to
repossess the forts, arsenals, post-offices and custom houses which the
seceding states had seized upon within their borders, and he would
endeavor to enforce the Federal laws there.

But in order to accomplish this, military forces were necessary, and the
government at Washington did not possess them. There was only the
regular army, and it consisted of a mere handful of men, scattered from
Eastport, Maine, to San Diego, California, from St. Augustine, Florida
to Puget’s Sound, and charged with the task--for which its numbers were
utterly inadequate--of keeping the Indians in order and proper
subjection. It is doubtful that Mr. Lincoln could have concentrated a
single full regiment of regulars at any point, even at risk of
withdrawing from the Indian country the men absolutely necessary to
prevent massacre there. He therefore called for volunteers with whom to
conduct such military operations as he deemed necessary. He apportioned
the call among the several states that had not yet seceded. He called
upon Virginia for her quota.

That was the breaking point. Virginia had to choose. She must either
furnish a large force of volunteers with which the Federal government
might in effect coerce the seceding states into submission, or she must
herself secede and cast in her lot with the cotton states. To the
Virginian mind there was only one course possible. The Virginians
believed firmly and without doubt or question in the right of any state
to withdraw from the Union at will. They looked with unimagined horror
upon every proposal that the Federal power should coerce a seceding
state into submission. They regarded that as an iniquity, a crime, a
proceeding unspeakably wrongful and subversive of liberty. They could
have nothing to do with such an attempt without dishonor of the basest
kind. Accordingly, almost before the ink was dry upon the call upon
Virginia for volunteers with which to make war upon the seceding
Southern States, the Virginia, pro-Union convention, adopted an
ordinance of secession, and the Civil War was on.

The men who had, so long and so earnestly, and in face of such
contumely, labored to keep Virginia in the Union and to use all that
state’s commanding influence in behalf of peace, felt themselves obliged
to yield to the inevitable, and to consent to a sectional war for which
they saw no necessity and recognized no occasion. They had wasted their
time in a futile endeavor to bring about a reconciliation where the
conflict had been all the while hopelessly “irrepressible.” There was
nothing for it now but war, and Virginia, deeply deprecating war, set
herself at work in earnest to prepare for the conflict.

In accordance with his lifelong habit of mind, Arthur Brent in this
emergency put aside all thoughts of self-interest, and looked about him
to discover in what way he might render the highest service to his
native land, of which he was capable. He was unanimously chosen by each
of two companies of volunteers in his native county, to be their
captain. In their rivalry with each other, they agreed to make him major
in command of a battalion to be formed of those two companies and two
others that were in process of organization.

He peremptorily declined. “I know nothing of the military art,” he wrote
to the committee that had laid the proposal before him. “There are
scores of men in the community better fit than I am for military
command. Especially there is your fellow citizen, John Meaux, trained at
West Point and eminently fit for a much higher command than any that you
can offer him. Put him, I earnestly adjure you, into the line of
promotion. Elect him to the highest military office within your gift,
and let me serve as a private under him, in either of your companies, if
no opportunity offers for me to render a larger service and a more
valuable one than that. There is scarcely a man among you who couldn’t
handle a military force more effectively than I could. Let your most
capable men be your commanders, big and little. I believe firmly in the
dictum ‘the tools to him who can use them.’ For myself I see a more
fruitful opportunity of service than any that military command could
bring to me. I have a certain skill which, I think, is going to be
sorely needed in this war. It is my firm belief that the struggle upon
which we are entering is destined to last through long years of
suffering and sore want. We are mainly dependent upon importation not
only for the most pressingly necessary of our medicines but for that
absolute necessity of life, salt. If war shall shut us in, as it is
extremely likely to do, we must find means which we do not now possess
of producing these and other things for ourselves, including the
materials for that prime requisite of war--gunpowder. It so happens that
I have skill in such manufactures as these, and I purpose to turn it to
account whenever the necessity shall come upon us. In the meantime, as a
surgeon and, upon occasion, as a private soldier I may perhaps be able
to do more for Virginia and for the South than I could ever hope to do
by assuming those functions of military command for which I have neither
natural fitness nor the fitness of training.”

All this was deemed very absurd at the time. The war, it was thought,
could not last more than sixty days--an opinion which Mr. Secretary of
State Seward, on the other side of the line, confidently shared, though
his anticipations of the end of it were quite different from those
entertained at the South. Why a young man of spirit, such as Arthur
Brent was, should refuse to enter upon the brief but glorious struggle
in the capacity of a major with the prospect of coming out of it a
brigadier-general, his neighbors could not understand. Nor could any of
them, with one exception, understand his anticipations of a long war, or
his conviction that, end as it might, the war would make an early end of
slavery, overturning the South’s industrial system and bringing sore
poverty upon the people. The one exception was Robert Copeland, the
thrifty young man who had lost caste by “making too many hogsheads of
tobacco to the hand.” He shared Arthur’s views, and he acted upon them
in ways that Arthur would have scorned to do. He sent all his negroes to
Richmond to be sold by auction to the traders to the far South. He
converted his plantation, with all its live stock and other
appurtenances into money, and with the proceeds of these his sellings he
hurried to New York and purchased diamonds. These he bestowed in a belt
which he buckled about his person and wore throughout the war, upon the
principle that whatever value there might or might not be in other
things when the war should be over, diamonds always command their price
throughout the civilized world. When after this was done he sought to
enlist in one of the companies forming in his neighborhood, he was
rejected by unanimous vote, because he had sold negroes, while the men
of the company held rigidly to a social standard of conduct which he had
flagrantly defied. He went to Richmond. He raised a company of ruffians,
which included many “jailbirds” and the like. He made himself its
captain, and went into the field as the leader of a “fighting battery.”
He distinguished himself for daring, and came out of the war, four years
later, a brigadier-general. As such he was excluded from the benefits of
the early amnesty proclamation. But he cared little about that. He went
to New York, sold his diamonds for fifty per cent more than their cost,
and accepted high office in the army of the Khedive of Egypt. He thus
continued active in that profession of arms in which he had found his
best opportunity to exercise his peculiar gift of “getting out of men
all there is in them”--which was the phrase chosen by himself to
describe his own special capabilities.[C]



XXXIII

“AT PARIS IT WAS”


_D_uring all this year of wandering on the part of Dorothy Edmonia did
her duty as a correspondent with conspicuous fidelity. To her letters
far more than to Dorothy’s own, Arthur was indebted for exact
information as to Dorothy’s doings and Dorothy’s surroundings and
Dorothy’s self. For Dorothy’s reticence concerning herself grew upon her
as the months went on. She wrote freely and with as much apparent candor
and fulness as ever, but she managed never to reveal herself in the old
familiar fashion. Not that there was anything of estrangement in her
words or tone, for there was nothing of the kind. It was only that she
manifested a certain shyness and reserve concerning her own thought and
feeling when these became intimate,--a reserve like that which every
woman instinctively practises concerning details of the toilet. A woman
may frankly admit to a man that she finds comfort in the use of a
little powder, but she does not want him to see the powder box and puff.
She may mention her shoe-strings quite without hesitation, but if one of
them comes unfastened, she will climb two flights of stairs rather than
let him see her readjust it.

In somewhat that way Dorothy at this time wrote to Arthur. If she read a
book or saw a picture that pleased her, she would write to him, telling
him quite all her external thought concerning it; but if it inspired any
emotion of a certain sort in her, she had nothing whatever to say
concerning that. In one particular, too, she deliberately abstained from
telling him even of her pursuits and ambitions. He was left to hear of
that from Edmonia, who wrote:

“Apparently we are destined to remain here in Paris during the rest of
our stay abroad. For Dorothy has a new craze which she will in no wise
relinquish or abate. For that, you, sir, are responsible, for you
planted the seed that are now producing this luxuriant growth of quite
unfeminine character. You taught Dorothy the rudiments of chemistry and
physics. You awakened in her a taste for such studies which has grown
into an uncontrollable passion.

“She has become the special pupil of one of the greatest chemists in
France, and she almost literally lives in his laboratory, at least
during the daylight hours. She goes to operas about twice a week, and
she takes violin lessons from a woman before breakfast; but during the
rest of the time she does nothing but slop at a laboratory sink. Her
master in this department is madly in love--not with her, though he
calls her, in the only English phrase he speaks without accent, ‘the
apple of his eye,’--but with her enthusiasm in science. He describes it
as a ‘grand passion’ and positively raves in ejaculatory French and
badly broken English, over the extraordinary rapidity with which she
learns, the astonishing grasp she has of principles, and the readiness
with which she applies principles to practice. ‘Positively’ he exclaimed
to me the other day, ‘she is no longer a student--she is a
chemist,--almost a great chemist. If I had to select one to take
absolute control of a laboratory for the nice production of the most
difficult compounds, I would this day choose not any man in all France,
but Mademoiselle by herself.’ Then he paid you a compliment. He added;
‘and she tells me she has studied under a master for only a few months!
It is marvellous! It is incredible, except that we must believe
Mademoiselle, who is the soul of honor and truth. Ah--that is what
gives her her love of science--for science loves nothing but truth. But
her first master must be a wonder, a born teacher, an enthusiast, a real
master who inspires his pupil with a passion like his own.’

“I confirmed Dorothy’s statement that she had received only a few
months’ tuition in a little plantation laboratory, but--at the risk of
making you disagreeably conceited, I will tell you this--I fully
confirmed the judgment he had formed of Dorothy’s master.

“‘Ah, you know him then?’ the enthusiastic Frenchman broke out; ‘and you
will tell me his name, which Mademoiselle refused to speak in answer to
my inquiry? And you will give me a letter which may excuse me for the
deep presumption when I write to him? I _must_ write to him. I must know
a master who has no other such in all France. His name Mademoiselle
Bannister, his name, I pray you.’

“Now comes the curious part of the story. I told Monsieur your name and
address, and his eyes instantly lighted up. ‘Ah, that accounts for all!’
he exclaimed. ‘I know the Dr. Brent. He was my own pupil till I could
teach him nothing that he did not know. Then he taught me all the
original things he had learned for himself during his stay in my
laboratory and before that. Then we ceased to be master and pupil. We
were after that two masters working together and every day finding out
much that the world can never be enough grateful for. He is truly a
wonder, Mister the Doctor Brent! I no longer am surprised at
Mademoiselle Sout’s accomplishments and her enthusiasm. But why did she
not want to speak to me his name? Is it that she loves him and he loves
her not--ah, no, that cannot be! He _must_ love Mademoiselle Sout’ after
he has taught her. Nothing else is possible. But is it then that he is
dull to find out, and that he doubts the reaction of her love in return
for his? Ah, no! He is too great a chemist for that. There must be some
other explanation and I cannot find it out. But Mister the Doctor Brent
is after all only an American. The Americans are what you call alert in
everything but one. Mister the Doctor Brent would quickly discover the
smallest error in a reaction and he would know the cause of it. But he
did not note the affinity in Mademoiselle for himself. I am not a
greater chemist than he is, and yet I see it instantly, when she does
not want to speak to me his name! He is a man most fortunate, in that I
am old and have Madame at home and three young sons in the École
Polytechnique! Ah, how ardently I should have wooed Mademoiselle, the
charming, if she had come to me as a pupil twenty five years ago!’

“Now, I’m not quite sure Arthur that your danger in that quarter is
altogether past. Yes, I am. That was a sorry jest. But I sincerely hope
that on our return you may be a trifle more alert than you have hitherto
been in discovering ‘reactions.’ You don’t at all deserve that I should
thus enlighten and counsel you. And it may very easily prove to be too
late when we return. For, in spite of her absorption in chemistry, and
the horribly stained condition of her fingers sometimes, I drag her to
all sorts of entertainments, and at the Tuileries especially she is a
favorite. The Empress is so gracious to ‘the charming American,’ as she
calls her, that she even summons me to her side for the sake of
Dorothy’s company. The entire ‘eligible list’ of the diplomatic corps
has gone daft about her beauty, her naïveté and her wonderful
accomplishments. The Duc de Morny has even ventured to call twice at our
hotel, begging the privilege of ‘paying his respects to the charming
young American.’ But the Duc de Morny is a beast--an accomplished,
fascinating beast, if you please, but a beast, nevertheless,--and I have
used my woman’s privilege of fibbing so far as to send him word, each
time, that Mademoiselle was not at home.

“‘Why did the Duc de Morny want to call upon me?’ queried the simple,
honest minded Dorothy, when she heard of the visits of this greatest
potentate in France next to the Emperor. I could not explain, so I
fibbed a bit further and told her it was only his extreme politeness and
the French friendship for Americans.

“Young Jefferson Peyton, you know, has been following us from the
beginning. Dorothy expresses surprise, now and then, that his route
happens, so singularly to coincide with our own. I think he will explain
all that to her presently. He has greatly improved by travel. He has
learned that his name and family count for nothing outside Virginia, and
that he is personally a man of far less consequence than he has been
brought up to consider himself. Now that he has been cured of a conceit
that was due rather to his provincial bringing up than to any innate
tendency in that direction, now that he has seen enough of the world to
acquire a new perspective in contemplating himself, he has become in
truth a very pleasing young man. His father did well to act upon Aunt
Polly’s advice and send him abroad for education and culture. He is
going to propose to Dorothy at the very first opportunity. He has told
me so himself, and as she has a distinct liking for the amiable and
really very handsome young fellow, I cannot venture upon any confident
prediction as to the consequences.”

That letter came as a Christmas gift to Arthur Brent. One week later, on
the New Year’s day, came one from Dorothy which made amends by reason of
its resumption of much of the old tone of candor and confidence which he
had so sadly missed from her letters during many months past.

“I want to go home, Cousin Arthur,” she began. “I want to go home at
once. I want my dear old mammy to put her arms around me as she used to
do when I was a little child, and croon me to sleep, so that I may
forget all that has happened to me. And, I want to talk with you again,
Cousin Arthur, as freely as I used to do when you and I rode together
through the woodlands or the corn at sunrise, when we didn’t mind a
wetting from the dew, and when our horses and my dear dogs seemed to
enjoy the glory of the morning as keenly as we did. It is in memory of
those mornings that I send you back the soiled handkerchief you mailed
to me. I want you, please, to give it to Ben, and tell him I make him a
present of it, because it is no longer fit for you to use. You needn’t
tell him anything more than that. He will understand. But I mustn’t
leave you any longer to the mercy of such neglect on the part of
servants to whom you are always so good. I must get home again before
this terrible war breaks out. I have read all your letters about it a
hundred times each, and I have tried to fit myself for my part in it.
When you told me how great the need was likely to be for somebody
qualified to make medicines, and salt, and saltpetre and soda and potash
for gunpowder--no, you didn’t tell me of all that, you wrote to Edmonia
about it, and that hurt my feelings because it seemed to put me out of
your life and work--but when Edmonia told me what you had written about
it, I set myself to work again at my chemistry, and I have worked so
diligently at it that my master, Mons. X. declares that I am capable of
taking complete charge of a laboratory and doing the most difficult and
delicate of all the work needed. I believe I am. Anyhow, he has somehow
found out,--though I certainly never told him of it--that you taught me
at the beginning and he insists upon giving me a letter to you about my
qualifications.

“You say you hope Virginia will not secede, and that perhaps, after all,
there will be no war. But I see clearly that you have no great
confidence in your own hopes. So I am in a great hurry to get home
before trouble comes. After it comes it may be too late for me to get
home at all.

“So I should just compel Edmonia to take the first ship for New York, if
we had any money. But we haven’t any, because I have spent all my own
and borrowed and spent all of hers. We must wait now until you and
Archer Bannister can send us new letters of credit or whatever it is
that you call the papers on which the banking people here are so ready
to give us all the money we want. Now I must ’fess up about the
expenses. They have not been incurred for new gowns or for any other
feminine frivolities. I’ve spent all my own money and all of Edmonia’s
for chemicals and chemical apparatus, which I foresee that you and I
will need in order to make medicines and salt and soda and saltpetre for
our soldiers and people. I’ve ordered all these things sent by a ship
that is going to Nassau, in the Bahama Islands, and the captain of the
ship promises me that whether there is a blockade or not, he will get
them through to you somehow or other. By the way the foolish fellow, who
is a French naval officer, detailed for the merchant service, wanted me
to marry him--isn’t it absurd?--and I told him we’d keep that question
open till the chemicals and apparatus should be safe in your hands, and
till he could come to you in the uniform of a Virginia officer, and ask
you as my guardian, for permission to pay his addresses. Was it wrong,
Cousin Arthur, thus to play with a fellow who never really loved
anybody, but who simply wanted Pocahontas plantation? You see I’ve
become very bad, and very knowing, since I’ve been without control, as I
told you I would. But, anyhow, that Frenchman will get the things to you
in safety.

“But all this nonsense isn’t what I wanted to write to you. I want to go
home and I will go home, even if I have to accept Jefferson Peyton’s
offer to furnish the money necessary. We simply mustn’t be shut out of
Virginia when the war comes, and nobody can tell when it will come now.
But of course I shall not let Jeff furnish the money. That was only a
strong way of putting it. For Jeff has insulted me, I think. I’m not
quite certain, but I think that is what it amounts to. You will know,
and I’m going to tell you all about it, just as I used to tell you all
about everything, before--well before all this sort of thing. Jeff has
been travelling about ever since we began our journey, and he has really
been very nice to us, and very useful sometimes. But a few days ago he
proposed marriage to me. I was disposed to be very kindly in my
treatment of him, because I rather like the poor fellow. But when I told
him I didn’t in the least think of marrying him or anybody else, he lost
his temper, and had the assurance to say that the time would come when I
would be very grateful to him for being willing to offer me _such a road
out of my difficulties_. He didn’t explain, for I instantly rang for a
servant to show him out of the hotel parlor, and myself retired by
another door. But, I think I know what he meant, because I have found
out all about myself and my mother, all the things that people have been
so laboriously endeavoring to keep me from finding out. And among other
things I have found out that I must marry Jeff Peyton or nobody. So I
will marry nobody, so long as I live. I’ll be like Aunt Polly, just good
and useful in the world.

“I’ll write you all about this by the next steamer, if I can make up my
mind to do it--that is to say if I find that in spite of all, I may go
on thinking of you as my best friend on earth, and telling you
everything that troubles me just as I used to tell dear old mammy, when
the bees stung me or the daisies wilted before I could make them into a
pretty chain. I have a great longing to tell you things in the old,
frank, unreserved way, and to feel the comfort of your strong support in
doing what it is right for me to do. Somehow, all this distance has
seemed to make it difficult to do that. But now that my fate in life is
settled and my career fully marked out as a woman whose only ambition is
to be as useful as possible, I may talk to you, mayn’t I, in the old,
unreserved way, in full assurance that you won’t let me make any
mistakes?

“That is what I want. So I have this moment decided that I will not wait
for you to send me a new letter of credit, but will find somebody here
to lend me enough money to go home on. In the meantime I’m going to
begin being the old, frank, truthful Dorothy, by writing you, by the
next steamer, all that I have learned about myself.”



XXXIV

DOROTHY’S DISCOVERY


_D_orothy’s next letter came at the beginning of the spring. There were
mail steamers at that time only once a fortnight and the passage
occupied a fortnight more--or perhaps a longer time as the sea and the
west wind might determine.

“I hope this letter will reach you before I do, Cousin Arthur,” Dorothy
began. “But I’m not quite sure of that, for we hope to sail by the Asia
on her next trip and she is a much faster ship they say than the one
that is to carry this. The money things arranged themselves easily and
without effort. For when I asked Mr. Livingston,--Mildred’s husband, you
know--to go with me to the bankers to see if they wouldn’t lend me a few
hundred dollars, he laughed and said:

‘You needn’t bother, you little spendthrift. I provided for all that
before we started. I knew you women would spend all your money, so I
gave myself a heavy credit with my bankers here, and of course you can
have all the money you want.’ I didn’t like it for him to think we’d
spent our money foolishly, but I couldn’t explain, so I just thanked him
and said, with all the dignity I could command: ‘I’ll give you a letter
of credit on my guardian Dr. Brent.’ I suppose I got the terms wrong,
for he laughed in his careless way--he always laughs at things as if
nothing in the world mattered. He even laughed at his own seasickness on
the ship. Anyhow, he told me I needn’t give him any kind of papers--that
you would settle the bill when the time came, and that I could have all
the money I needed. So at first we thought we should get off by the ship
that is to carry this letter. But something got the matter with
Mildred’s teeth, so we had to wait over for the Asia. Why do things get
the matter with people’s teeth? Nothing ever got the matter with mine,
and I never heard of anything getting the matter with yours or
Edmonia’s. Mr. Livingston says that’s because we eat corn bread. How I
wish I had some at this moment!

“But that isn’t what I want to write to you about. I have much more
serious things to tell you--things that alter my whole life, and make it
sadder than I ever expected it to be.

“I have seen my mother, and she has told me the whole terrible story.
She wouldn’t have told me now or ever, but that she thought she was
going to die under a surgical operation.

“You remember I wrote to you about Madame Le Sud, whom I met on
shipboard and learned to love so much. I’m glad I learned to love her,
because she is my mother. She calls herself Madame Le Sud, because that
is only the French way of calling herself Mrs. South, you know.

“The way of it was this: When we parted at Liverpool I told her what our
trip was to be. She was coming direct to Paris, and I made her promise
to let me visit her here if she did not leave before our arrival, as she
thought she probably would. When we got here I rather hoped to hear from
her, for somehow, though I did not dream of the relationship between us,
I had formed a very tender attachment to her, and I longed to see her
again.

“As the weeks passed and I heard nothing, I made up my mind that she had
gone back to New York before we reached Paris, and I was not undeceived
until a few weeks ago, when she sent me a sad little note, telling me
she was ill and asking me to call upon her in her apartments in the Rue
Neuve des Petits Champs.

“I went at once and found her in very pitiful condition. Her apartments
were mere garrets, ill furnished and utterly uncomfortable, and she
herself was manifestly suffering. When I asked her why she had not sent
for me before, she answered: ‘It was better not, child. You were in your
proper place. You were happy. You were receiving social recognition of
the highest kind and it was good for you because you are fit for it and
deserve it. I have sent for you now only because I have something that I
must give to you before I die. For I’m going to die almost immediately.’
She wouldn’t let me interrupt her. ‘I’m going to have a surgical
operation tomorrow, and I do not expect to get over it.’

“I found out presently that she was going to a charity hospital for her
treatment, and that it was because she is so poor; for by reason of her
sickness, she has lost her employment, which was that of a dresser for
an opera company. Think of it, Cousin Arthur! My mother,--though I
didn’t know then that she was my mother--a dresser to those opera
people! I’m glad she didn’t tell me she was my mother until after I had
told her she should not go to a charity hospital, to be operated on
before a class of gaping students and treated very much as if she were a
subject in a dissecting room. I took all that in my own hands. I went
down to the concierge and secured a comfortable apartment for my mother
on the entresol, with a nice French maid to look after her. Then I sent
for the best surgeon I could hear of to treat her, and he promised me to
get her quite well again in a few weeks, which he has done. It was after
I had moved her down to the new apartments and sent the maid out for a
little dinner--for my mother hadn’t anything to eat or any money--it was
after all that that she told me her story.

“First she gave me a magnificent ring, a beautiful fire opal set round
with diamonds. Think of it! She with that in her possession and
belonging to her, which would have sold for enough to keep her in luxury
for months, yet shivering there without a fire and without food, and
waiting for the morrow, to go to a charity hospital like a pauper, while
I have the best rooms in the best hotel in Paris! And she my mother, all
the while!

“When she put the ring on my finger, saying, ‘It fits you as it once
fitted me--but you are worthy of it as I never was,’ I cried a little
and begged her to tell me what it all meant. Then she broke down and,
clasping me in her arms, told me that she was my own mother. I won’t
tell you all the details of our weeping time, for they are too sacred
even for you to hear. Let me simply copy here, as accurately as I can,
my mother’s account of herself.

“‘I was born,’ she said, ‘the daughter of a Virginian of good family--as
good as any. My father lived as many Virginians do, far beyond his
means. Perhaps he did wrong things--I do not know, and after all it is
no matter. At any rate when he died people seemed to care very little
for us--my mother and me--when everything we had was sold and we went
out into the world to hunt for bread. I was seventeen then, I had what
they call a genius for music. We went to New York and lived wretchedly
there for a time. But I earned something with my violin and my ’cello,
and now and then by singing, for I had a voice that was deemed good. We
lived in that wretched, ill-mannered, loose-moraled, dissolute and
financially reckless set which calls itself Bohemia, and excuses itself
from all social and moral obligation on the ground that its members are
persons of genius, though in fact most of them are anything else. My
mother never liked these people. She simply tolerated them, and she did
that only because she had no choice. She did her best to shield me
against harm to my soul in contact with them, but she could not prevent
the contact itself. Our bread and butter and the roof over our heads
depended upon that. Finally there came into our set a manager who was
looking out for opportunities. He heard me play, and he heard me sing.
He proposed that I should go to Europe for instruction at his expense,
and that he should bring me out as a genius in the autumn. I went, and I
received some brief instruction of great value to me--not that it made
me a better musician but that it taught me how to captivate an audience
with such gifts as I had. Well the manager brought me out, and I
succeeded even beyond his expectations. I don’t think it was my musical
ability altogether, though that was thought to be remarkable, I believe.
I was beautiful then, as you are now, Dorothy; I had all the charm of a
willowy grace, which, added to my beauty, made men and women go mad over
me. I made money in abundance for my manager, and that was all that he
cared for. I made money for myself too, and my mother and I were eagerly
sought after by the leaders of fashion. We ceased to know the old
Bohemia and came to be members of a new and perhaps not a better
set--except in its conformity to those rules of life which are supposed
to hedge respectability about, without really improving its morals. For
I tell you child I saw more of real wickedness in my contact with those
who call themselves the socially elect than I ever dreamed of among my
old-time Bohemian associates. The only advantage these dissolutes had
over the others was, that having bank accounts they drew checks for
their debts where the others shirked and shuffled to escape from theirs.

“‘I was glad, therefore, when your father came into my life. He was a
man of a higher type than any that I had known since early childhood--a
man of integrity, of honor, of high purposes. His courtesy was
exquisite, and it was sincere. It is often said of a man that he would
not tell a lie to save his life. Your father went further than that, my
child. He would not tell a lie even to please a woman, and with such a
man as he was, pleasing a woman was a stronger temptation than saving
his life. He was in New York taking a supplementary medical course--what
they now call a post graduate course,--in order, as he said, that he
might the better fulfil his life-saving mission as a physician. He fell
madly in love with me, and I--God help me! I loved him as well as one of
my shallow nature and irregular bringing up could love any man. After a
little I married him. I went with him for a brief trip abroad, and after
that I went to be mistress of Pocahontas. I looked forward longingly to
the beautiful life of refinement there, as he so often pictured it to
me. I was tired of the whirl and excitement. I was weary of the
footlights and of having to take my applause and my approval over the
heads of the orchestra. I thought I should be perfectly happy, playing
grand lady in an old, historic Virginia house. I was only nineteen years
old then,--I am well under forty still--and for a time I did enjoy the
new life amazingly. But after a little it wearied me. It seemed to me
too narrow, too conventional, too uninteresting. When I had company and
poured my whole soul into a violin obligato,--rendering the great music
in a way which had often brought down the house and called for repeated
encores while delighted audiences threatened to bury me under
flowers--when I did that sort of thing at Pocahontas, the guests would
say coldly how well I played and all the other parrot like things that
people say when they mean to be polite but have no real appreciation of
music. Little by little I grew utterly weary of the life. The very
things in it that had at first delighted and rested me, became like
thorns in my flesh. As the rescued children of Israel longed for the
flesh pots of Egypt, so at last I came to long again for the delights of
the old life on the stage, with its excitements, its ever changing
pleasures, its triumphs and even its failures and disappointments. Yet
it was not so much a longing for that old life which oppressed me, as an
intolerable impatience to get out of the new one from which I had
expected so much of happiness. It seemed to me a tread-mill life of
self-indulgence. I was surrounded by every luxury that a well-ordered
woman could desire. But I was not a well-ordered woman, and the very
luxury of my surroundings, the very exemption they gave me from all
care, all responsibility, all endeavor, seemed to drive me almost insane
with impatience. I had nothing to do. I was surrounded by skilled
servants who provokingly anticipated every wish I could form. If I
wanted even to rinse my fingers after eating a peach, I was not
permitted to do it in any ordinary way. There was always a maid standing
ready with a bowl and napkin for my use. My bed was prepared for me
before I went to it, and the maid waited to put out the candle after I
had gone to rest. Your father worshipped me, and surrounded me with
attentions on his own part and on that of others, which were intolerable
in the perfection of their service. I knew that I was not worthy of his
worship and I often told him so, to no effect. He only worshipped me the
more. The only time I ever saw him angry was once soon after you were
born. I loved you as I had never dreamed of loving anybody or anything
before in my life--even better ten thousand times than I had ever loved
music itself. I wanted to do something for you with my own hands. I
wanted to feel that I was your mother and you altogether my own child.

“‘So, just as old mammy was preparing to give you your bath, I pretended
to be faint and sent her below stairs to bring me a cup of coffee. When
she had gone I seized you and in ecstatic triumph, set to work to make
your little baby toilet with my own hands. Just as I began, your father
came stalking up the stairs and entered the nursery. For mammy had told
him I was faint, and he had hurried to my relief. When he found me
bathing you he rang violently for all the servants within call and as
they came one after another upon the scene he challenged each to know
why their mistress was thus left to do servile offices for herself. But
for my pleading I think he would have taken the whole company of them
out to the barn and chastised them with his own hand, though I had never
known him to strike a servant.

“‘I know now that I ought to have explained the matter to him. I ought
to have told him how the mother love in me longed to do something for
you. I know he would have understood even in his rage over what he
regarded as neglect of me, and he would have sympathized with my
feeling. But I was enraged at the baffling of my purpose, and I hastily
put on a riding habit, mounted my horse, which, your father, seeing my
purpose, promptly ordered brought to the block, and rode away,
unattended except by a negro groom. For when your father offered his
escort I declined it, begging him to let me ride alone.

“‘It was not long after that that I sat hour after hour by your cradle,
composing a lullaby which should be altogether your own, and as worthy
of you as I could make it. When the words and the music were complete
and satisfying to my soul, I began singing the little song to you, and
your father, whose love of music was intense, seemed entranced with it.
He would beg me often to sing it, and to play the violin accompaniment I
had composed to go with it. I would never do so except over your cradle.
Understand me, child, if you can understand one of so wayward a temper
as mine. I had put all my soul into that lullaby. Every word in it,
every note of the music, was an expression of my mother love--the best
there was in me. I was jealous of it for you. I would not allow even
your father to hear a note of that outpouring of my love for my child,
except as a listener while I sang and played for you alone. So your
cradle with you in it must always be brought before I would let your
father hear.

“‘One day, when you were six or eight months old, we had a houseful of
guests, as we often did at Pocahontas. They stayed over night of course,
and in the evening when I asked their indulgence while I should go and
sing you to sleep, your father madly pleaded that I should sing and play
the lullaby in the drawing room in order that the guests might hear what
he assured them was his supreme favorite among all musical compositions.
I suppose I was in a more than usually complaisant mood. At any rate, I
allowed myself to

[Illustration: “_IN THAT MUSIC MY SOUL LAID ITSELF BARE TO YOURS AND
PRAYED FOR YOUR LOVE_.”]

be persuaded against my will, and mammy brought you in, in your cradle.
I remember that you had a little pink sack over your night gown--a thing
I had surreptitiously knitted for you without anybody’s knowledge, and
without even the touch of a servant’s hand.

“‘You were crowing with glee at the lights and the great, flaring fire.
Everybody in the room wanted to caress you, but I peremptorily ordered
them off, and took you for a time into my own arms. At last, when the
lights were turned down at my command, and the firelight hidden behind a
screen, I took the violin--a rare old instrument for which your father
had paid a king’s ransom--and began to play. After the prelude had been
twice played, I began to sing. Never in my life had I been so
overwhelmingly conscious of you--so completely unconscious of everybody
else in the world. I played and sang only to my child. All other human
beings were nonexistent. I played with a perfection of which I had never
for a moment thought myself capable. I sang with a tenderness which I
could never have commanded had I been conscious for the time of any
other existence than your own. In that music my soul laid itself bare to
yours and prayed for your love. I told you in every tone all that a
mother love means--all that an intensely emotional woman is capable of
feeling; I gave free rein to all there was in me of passion, and made
all of it your own. I was in an ecstasy. I was entranced. My soul was
transfigured and all was wrought into the music.

“‘In the midst of it all someone whispered a cold blooded, heartlessly
appreciative comment upon my playing, or the music, or my voice, or the
execution, or something else--it matters not what. It was the sort of
thing that people say for politeness’ sake when some screeching girl
sings “Hear Me, Norma.” It wakened me instantly from my trance. It
brought me back to myself. It revealed to me how completely I had been
wasting the sacred things of my soul upon a company of Philistines. It
filled me with a wrath that considered not consequences. I ceased to
play. I seized the precious violin by its neck--worn smooth by the touch
of artist hands--and dashed it to pieces over the piano. Then I snatched
my baby from the cradle and retreated to your nursery, where I double
locked the door, and refused to admit anybody but mammy, whose affection
for you I felt, had been wounded as sorely as my own. I sent your father
word that I would pass the night in the nursery, and at daylight I left
home forever, taking you and mammy with me in the carriage.

“‘I had taken pains to learn that your father had been summoned that
night, on an emergency call, to the bedside of a patient, ten miles
away. This gave me my opportunity. With you in my arms and mammy by my
side, I drove to Richmond, and sending the carriage back, I drew what
money there was to my credit in the bank, and took the steamer sailing
that day for New York. All this was seventeen years ago, remember, when
there were no railroads of importance, and no quicker way of going from
Richmond to New York than by the infrequently sailing steamers. It was
in the early forties.

“‘Your father had loaded my dressing case with splendid jewels, in the
selection of which his taste was unusually good. I left them all behind,
all but this ring, which he had given me when you were born and asked me
to regard as his thank offering for you. I have kept it all these years.
I have suffered and starved many times rather than profane it by
pawning, though often my need has been so sore that I have had to put
even my clothes in pledge for the money with which to buy a dinner of
bread and red herrings.

“‘I had money enough at first, for your father’s generosity had made my
bank deposit large. But I had to spend the money in keeping myself
hidden away with you, and I could not earn more by my music, as that
would make me easily found. It was then that I translated my name. Mammy
remained with me, caring for nothing in the world but you.

“‘It was several years before your father found me out. I was shocked
and distressed at the way in which sorrow had written its signature upon
his face. I loved him then far better than I had ever done before. For
the first time I fully understood how greatly good and noble he was. But
I would not, I could not, go back with him to the home I had disgraced.
I could have borne all the scorn and contempt with which his friends
would have looked upon me. I could have faced all that defiantly and
with an erect head, giving scorn for scorn and contempt for contempt,
where I knew that my censors were such only because in their
commonplaceness they could not understand a nature like mine or even
believe in its impulses. But I could not bear to go back to Pocahontas
and witness the pity with which everybody there would look upon him.

“‘I resisted all his entreaties for my return, but for your sake I tore
my heart out by consenting to give you up to him. You were rapidly
growing in intelligence and I perfectly knew that such bringing up as I
could give you would ruin your life in one way or another. Never mind
the painful memory of all that. I consented at last to let your father
take you back to Pocahontas and bring you up in a way suited to your
birth and condition. Mammy went with you of course. Your father begged
for the privilege of providing for my support in comfort while I should
live, but I refused. I begged him to go into the courts and free himself
from me. He could have got his divorce in Virginia upon the ground of my
desertion. I shall never forget his answer. ‘When I married you,
Dorothy’--for your name, my child, is the same as my own--‘When I
married you, Dorothy, it was not during good behavior but forever. You
are my wife, and you will be always the one woman I love, the one woman
whose name I will protect at all hazards and all costs. No complaint of
you has ever passed my lips. I have suffered no human being to say aught
to your hurt in my presence or within my knowledge. Nor shall I to the
end. You are my wife. I love you. That is all of it.’

“‘He went away sorrowful, leaving me broken hearted. I could appear in
public now and I returned to my profession. The beauty which had been so
great an aid to me before, was impaired, and the old vivacity was gone.
But I could play still and sing, and with my violin and my voice I
easily earned enough for all my wants, until I got the scar. After that
I sank into a wretched poverty, and was glad at last to secure
employment as a stage dresser. My illness here has lost me that--.’

“I cannot tell you any more, Cousin Arthur. It pains me too much. But I
am going to take my mother with me to America and provide for her in
some way that she will permit. She has recovered from the surgery now,
and I have simply taken possession of her. She refuses to go to
Pocahontas, or in any other way to take her position as my father’s
widow. But if this war comes, as you fear it will, she has decided to go
into service as a field nurse, and you must arrange that for her.

“I understand now why my father forbade me to learn music, and why he
taught me that a woman must have a master. I can even guess what
Jefferson Peyton meant when I rejected his suit. My father, I suppose,
planned to provide a master for me; but I decline to serve the one he
selected. I am a woman and a proud one. I will never consent to be
disposed of in marriage by the orders of other people as princesses and
other chattel women are. But, oh, you cannot know how sorrowful my soul
is, and how I long to be at home again! I hope the war will come. That
is wicked in me, I suppose, but I cannot help it. I must have occupation
or I shall go mad. I shall set to work at once, on my return, fitting up
our laboratory, and there I’ll find work enough to fill all my hours,
and it will be useful, humane, patriotic work, such as it is worth a
woman’s while to do.”



XXXV

THE BIRTH OF WAR


_I_t was the seventeenth of April, 1861. It was the fateful day on which
the greatest, the most terrible, the most disastrous of modern wars was
born.

On that day the long struggle of devoted patriots to keep Virginia in
the Union and to throw all her influence into the scale of peace, had
ended in failure.

A few days before, Fort Sumter had been bombarded and had fallen. Still
the Virginia convention had resisted all attempts to drag or force the
Mother State into secession. Then had come Mr. Lincoln’s call upon
Virginia for her quota of troops with which to make war upon the
seceding sister states of the South and the alternative of secession or
dishonor presented itself to this body of Union men. They decided at
once, and on that seventeenth day of April they made a great war
possible and indeed inevitable, by adopting an ordinance of secession
and casting Virginia’s fate, Virginia’s strength, and Virginia’s
matchless influence, into the scale of disunion and war.

Richmond was in delirium--a delirium which moved men to ecstatic joy or
profound grief, or deeply rooted apprehension, according to their
several temperaments. The thoughtless went parading excitedly up and
down the streets singing songs, and making a gala time of it, wearing
cockades by day and carrying torches by night, precisely as if some long
hoped for and supremely desired good fortune had come upon the land of
their birth. The more thoughtful looked on and kept silent. But mostly
the spirit manifested was one of grim determination to meet fate--be it
good or bad--with stout hearts and calmly resolute minds.

In that purpose all men were as one now. The vituperation with which the
people’s representatives in the convention had been daily assailed for
their hesitation to secede, was absolutely hushed. The sentiment of
affection for the Union which had been growing for seventy years and
more, gave way instantly to a determination to win a new independence or
sacrifice all in the attempt.

Jubal A. Early, who had from the beginning opposed secession with all
his might, reckoning it not only insensate folly but a political crime
as well, voted against it to the last, and then, instantly sent to Gov.
Letcher a tender of his services in the war, in whatever capacity his
state might see fit to employ him. In the same way William C. Wickham,
an equally determined opponent of secession, quitted his seat in the
convention only to make hurried preparation for his part as a military
leader on the Southern side.

No longer did men discuss the merits and demerits of one policy or
another; there could be but one policy now, one course of action, one
sentiment of devotion to Virginia, and an undying determination to
maintain her honor at all hazards and at all costs.

The state of mind that was universal among Virginians at that time, has
never been quite understood in other parts of the Union. These men’s
traditions extended back to a time before ever the Union was thought of,
before ever Virginia had invited her sister states to unite with her, in
a convention at Annapolis, called for the purpose of forming that “more
perfect Union,” from which, in 1861, Virginia decided to withdraw.
Devotion to the Union had been, through long succeeding decades, as
earnest and as passionate in Virginia as the like devotion had been in
any other part of the country. Through three great wars the Virginians
had faltered not nor failed when called upon to contribute of their
substance or their manhood to the national defence.

The Virginians loved the Union of which their state had been so largely
the instigator, and they were self-sacrificingly loyal to it. But they
held their allegiance to it to be solely the result of their state’s
allegiance, and when their state withdrew from it, they held themselves
absolved from all their obligations respecting it. Their very loyalty to
it had been a prompting of their state, and when their state elected to
transfer its allegiance to another Confederacy, they regarded themselves
as bound by every obligation of law, of honor, of tradition, of history
and of manhood itself, to obey the mandate.

Return we now to Richmond, on that fateful seventeenth day of April,
1861. There had been extreme secessionists, and moderate ones,
uncompromising Union men, and Union men under conditions of
qualification. There were none such when that day was ended. Waitman T.
Willey and a few others from the Panhandle region, who had served in the
convention, departed quickly for their homes, to take part with the
North in the impending struggle, in obedience to their convictions of
right. The rest accepted the issue as determinative of Virginia’s
course, and ordered their own courses accordingly. They were, before all
and above all Virginians, and Virginia had decided to cast in her lot
with the seceding Southern States. There was an end of controversy.
There was an end of all division of sentiment. The supreme moment had
come, and all men stood shoulder to shoulder to meet the consequences.



XXXVI

THE OLD DOROTHY AND THE NEW


_J_ust as Arthur Brent was quitting his seat in the convention on that
day so pregnant of historic happenings, a page put a note into his
hands. It was from Edmonia, and it read:

“We have just arrived and are at the Exchange Hotel and Ballard House.
We are all perfectly well, though positively dazed by what you statesmen
in the convention have done today. I can hardly think of the thing
seriously--of Virginia withdrawing from the Union which her legislature
first proposed to the other states, which her statesmen--Washington,
Jefferson, Marshall, Madison, Mason, and the rest so largely contributed
to form, and over which her Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe,
Harrison and Tyler have presided in war and peace. And yet nothing could
be more serious. It seems to me a bad dream from which we shall
presently wake to find ourselves rejoicing in its untruth.

“You will come to the hotel to a six o’clock dinner, of course. I want
to show you what a woman Dorothy has grown to be. Poor dear girl! She
has been greatly disturbed by the hearing of her mother’s story, and she
is a trifle morbid over it. However, you’ll see her for yourself this
evening. We were charmingly considerate, I think in not telegraphing to
announce our coming. We shall expect you to thank us properly for thus
refraining from disturbing you. Come to the hotel the moment your public
duties will let you.”

Arthur hastily left the convention hall and hurried across Capitol
Square and on to the big, duplex hostelry. He entered on the Exchange
Hotel side and learned by inquiry at the office that Edmonia’s rooms
were in the Ballard House on the other side of the street. It had begun
to rain and he had neither umbrella nor overcoat, having forgotten and
left both in the cloak room of the convention. So he mounted the
stairway, and set out to cross by the covered crystal bridge that
spanned the street connecting the two great caravansaries. The bridge
was full of people, gathered there to look at the pageant in the streets
below, where companies of volunteer cavalry from every quarter of
eastern Virginia were marching past, on their way to the
newly-established camp of instruction on the Ashland race track. For
Governor Letcher had so far anticipated the inevitable result of the
long debate as to establish two instruction camps and to accept the
tenders of service which were daily sent to him by the volunteer
companies in every county.

As Arthur was making his way through the throng of sight-seers on the
glass bridge some movement in the crowd brought him into contact with a
gentlewoman, to whom he hastily turned with apologetic intent.

It was Dorothy! Not the Dorothy who had bidden him good-by a year ago,
but a new, a statelier Dorothy, a Dorothy with the stamp of travel and
society upon her, a Dorothy who had learned ease and self-possession and
dignity by habit in the grandest drawing rooms in all the world. Yet the
old Dorothy was there too--the Dorothy of straight-looking eyes and
perfect truthfulness, and for the moment the new Dorothy forgot herself,
giving place to the old.

“Oh, Master!” she cried, impulsively seizing both his hands, and,
completely forgetful of the crowd about her, letting the glad tears slip
out between her eyelashes. “I was not looking at the soldiers; I was
looking for you, and wondering when you would come. Oh, I am so happy,
and so glad!”

An instant later the new Dorothy reasserted herself, and Arthur did not
at all like the change. The girl became so far self-conscious as to grow
dignified, and in very shame over her impulsive outbreak, she
exaggerated her dignity and her propriety of demeanor into something
like coldness and stately hauteur.

“How you have grown!” Arthur exclaimed when he had led her to one of the
parlors almost deserted now for the sight-seeing vantage ground of the
bridge.

“No,” she answered as she might have done in a New York or a Paris
drawing room, addressing some casual acquaintance. “I have not grown a
particle. I was quite grown up before I left Virginia. It is a Paris
gown, perhaps. The Parisian dressmakers know all the art of bringing out
a woman’s ‘points,’ and they hold my height and my slenderness to be my
best claims upon attention.”

Arthur felt as if she had struck him. He was about to remonstrate, when
Edmonia broke in upon the conversation with her greeting. But Dorothy
had seen his face and read all that it expressed. The old Dorothy was
tempted to ask his forgiveness; the new Dorothy dismissed the thought
as quite impossible. She had already sufficiently “compromised” herself
by her impulsiveness, and to make amends she put stays upon her dignity
and throughout the evening they showed no sign of bending.

Arthur was tortured by all this. Edmonia was delighted over it. So
differently do a man and a woman sometimes interpret another woman’s
attitude and conduct.

Arthur was compelled to leave them at nine to meet Governor Letcher, who
had summoned him for consultation with respect to the organization of a
surgical staff, of which he purposed to make Arthur Brent one of the
chiefs. Before leaving he asked as to Edmonia’s and Dorothy’s home-going
plans. Learning that they intended to go by the eight o’clock train the
next morning, he said:

“Very well, I’ll send Dick up by the midnight train to have the Wyanoke
carriage at the station to meet you.”

“Is Dick with you?” Dorothy asked with more of enthusiasm than she had
shown since her outbreak on the bridge. “How I do want to see Dick!
Can’t you send him here before train time, please?”

Already grieved and resentful, Arthur was stung by the manner of this
request. For the moment he was disposed to interpret it as an intended
affront. He quickly dismissed that thought and answered with a laugh:

“Yes, Dorothy, he shall come to you at once. Perhaps he has a ‘song
ballad’ ready for your greeting. At any rate he at least will pleasantly
remind you of the old life.”

“I wonder why he put it in that way--why he said ‘he _at least_,’” said
Dorothy when Arthur had gone and the two women were left alone.

“I think I know,” Edmonia answered. But she did not offer the
explanation. Neither did Dorothy ask for it.



XXXVII

AT WYANOKE


_I_t was three days later before Arthur Brent was able to leave the
duties that detained him in Richmond. When at last he found himself
free, one of the infrequent trains of that time had just gone, and there
would be no other for many hours to come. His impatience to be at
Wyanoke was uncontrollable. For three days he had brooded over Dorothy’s
manner to him at the hotel, and wondered, with much longing, whether she
might not meet him differently at home. He recalled the frankly
impulsive eagerness with which she had greeted him in the first moment
of their meeting, and he argued with himself that her later reserve
might have been simply a reaction from that first outburst of joy, a
maidenly impulse to atone to her pride for the lapse into old, childlike
manners. This explanation seemed a very probable one, and yet--he
reflected that there were no strangers standing by when she had relapsed
into a reserve that bordered upon hauteur--nobody before whom she need
have hesitated to be cordial. He had asked her about her mother,
thinking thus to awaken some warmth of feeling in her and reëstablish a
footing of sympathy. But her reply had been a business-like statement
that Madame Le Sud would remain in New York for a few days, to secure
the clothing she would need for her field ministrations to the wounded,
after which she would take some very quiet lodging in Richmond until
duty should call her.

Altogether Arthur Brent’s impatience to know the worst or
best--whichever it might be--grew greater with every hour, and when he
learned that he must idly wait for several hours for the next train, he
mounted Gimlet and set out upon the long horseback journey, for which
Gimlet, weary of the stable, manifested an eagerness quite equal to his
own.

When the young man dismounted at Wyanoke, Dorothy was the first to meet
him, and there was something in her greeting that puzzled him even more
than her manner on the former occasion had done. For Dorothy too had
been thinking of the hotel episode, and repenting herself of her
coldness on that occasion. She understood it even less than Arthur did.
She had not intended to be reserved with him, and several times during
that evening she had made an earnest effort to be natural and cordial
instead, but always without success, for some reason that she could not
understand. So she had carefully planned to greet him on his
home-coming, with all the old affection and without reserve. To that end
she had framed in her own mind the things she would say to him and the
manner of their saying. Now that he had come, she said the things she
had planned to say, but she could not adopt the manner she had intended.

The result was something that would have been ludicrous had it been less
painful to both the parties concerned. It left Arthur worse puzzled than
ever and obviously pained. It sent Dorothy to her chamber for that “good
cry,” which feminine human nature holds to be a panacea.

At dinner Dorothy “rattled” rather than conversed, as young women are
apt to do when they are embarrassed and are determined not to show their
embarrassment. She seemed bent upon alternately amusing and astonishing
Aunt Polly, with her grotesquely distorted descriptions of things seen
and people encountered during her travels. Arthur took only so much
part in the conversation as a man thinking deeply, but disposed to be
polite, might.

When the cloth was removed he lighted a cigar and went to the stables
and barns, avowedly to inquire about matters on the plantation.

When he returned, full of a carefully formed purpose to “have it out”
with Dorothy, he found guests in the house who had driven to Wyanoke for
supper and a late moonlight drive homeward. From that moment until the
time of the guests’ departure, he was eagerly beset with questions
concerning the political situation and the prospects of war.

“The war is already on,” he answered, “and we are not half prepared for
it. Fortunately the North is in no better case, and still more
fortunately, we are to have with us the ablest soldier in America.”

“Who? Beauregard?”

“No, Robert E. Lee, to whom the Federal administration a little while
ago offered the command of all the United States armies. He has resigned
and is now in Richmond to organize our forces.”

Arthur talked much, too, of the seriousness of the war, of the certainty
in his mind, that it would last for years, taxing the resources of the
South to the point of exhaustion. For this some of his guests called him
a pessimist, and applauded the prediction of young Jeff Peyton, that
“within twenty days we shall have twenty thousand men on the Potomac,
and after perhaps one battle of some consequence we shall dictate terms
of peace in Washington.” He added: “You must make haste to get into the
service, Doctor, if you expect to see the fun.”

“I do not expect to see the fun,” Arthur answered quietly. “I do not see
the humorous side of slaughter. But in my judgment you, sir, will have
ample time in which to wear out many uniforms as gorgeous as the one you
now have on, before peace is concluded at Washington or anywhere else.
An army of twenty thousand men will be looked upon as a mere detachment
before this struggle is over. We shall hear the tramp of armies
numbering hundreds of thousands, and their tramping will desolate
Virginia fields that are now as fair as any on earth. We shall see
historic mansions vanish in smoke, and thousands of happy homes made
prey by the demon War. War was never yet a pastime for any but the most
brutish men. It is altogether horrible; it is utterly hellish, if the
ladies will pardon the term, and only fools can welcome it as a holiday
pursuit. Unhappily there are many such on both sides of the Potomac.”

As he paused there was a complete hush among the company for thirty
seconds or so. Then Dorothy advanced to Arthur, took his hand, and said:

“Thank you, Master!”

Arthur answered only by a look. But it was a look that told her all that
she wanted to know.

When the guests were gone, Dorothy prepared for a hasty retreat to her
room, but Arthur called to her as she reached the landing of the stairs,
and asked:

“Shall we have one of our old time horseback rides ‘soon’ in the
morning, Dorothy?”

“Yes. It delights me to hear our Virginia phrase ‘soon in the morning.’
Thank you, I’ll be ready. Good night.”



XXXVIII

SOON IN THE MORNING


_I_t was Dick who brought the horses on that next morning--Dick grown
into a tall and comely fellow, and no longer dressed in the careless
fashion of a year ago. For had not Dick spent two months in Richmond as
his master’s body servant? And had he not there developed his native
dandy instincts? And had not the sight of the well-nigh universal
uniforms of that time bred in him a great longing to wear some sort of
“soldier clothes”?

His master had indulged the fancy. He meant to keep Dick as his body
servant throughout the coming war, and, at any rate while he sat as a
member of that august body the constitutional convention, he wanted his
“boy” to present the appearance of a gentleman’s servitor. So, when he
took Dick to a tailor to be dressed in suitable fashion, he readily
acquiesced in the young negro’s preference for a suit of velveteen and
corduroys with brass buttons shining all over it like the stars in Ursa
Major. The tailor, recognizing the shapeliness of the young negro’s
person as something that afforded him an opportunity to display his
skill in the matter of “fit” had brought all his art to bear upon the
task of perfecting Dick’s livery.

Dick in his turn had employed strategy in securing an opportunity to
show himself in his new glory to his “Mis’ Dorothy.” Ben, the hostler
who usually brought the horses had recently “got religion”--a bilious
process which at that time was apt to render a negro specially
indifferent to the obligations of morality with respect to “chickens
fryin’ size,” and gloomily unfit for the performance of his ordinary
duties. Dick had labored over night with “Bro’ Ben,” persuading him that
he was really ill, and inducing him to swallow two blue mass pills--the
which Dick had adroitly filched from the medicine chest in the
laboratory. And as Dick, since his service “endurin’ of de feveh,” had
enjoyed the reputation of knowing “‘mos as much as a sho’ ’nuff doctah,”
Ben readily acquiesced in Dick’s suggestion that he, Ben, should lie
abed in the morning, Dick kindly volunteering to feed and curry his
mules for him and “bring de hosses.”

Dick’s strategy accomplished its purpose, and so it was Dick,
resplendent in a livery that might have done credit to a field marshal
on dress parade, who presented himself at the gate that morning in
charge of his master’s and Dorothy’s mounts.

Arthur looked at him and asked:

“Why are you in full-dress uniform today, General Dick?”

“It’s my respec’ful compliments to Mis’ Dorothy, sah,” answered the boy.

“Thank you, Dick!” said the girl. “I appreciate the attention. But where
is Ben?”

“Bro’ Ben he dun got religion, Mis’ Dorothy, an’ he dun taken two blue
pills las’ night, an’--”

“Give him a dose of Epsom salts at once, Dick,” broke in Arthur, “or
he’ll be salivated. And don’t give him oxalic acid by mistake. I’ll
trouble you to keep your fingers out of the medicine chest hereafter.
Come, Dorothy!”

But as Dorothy was about to put her foot into Arthur’s hand and spring
from it into the saddle, Dick drew forth a white handkerchief, heavily
perfumed with a cooking extract of lemon, and offered it to Dorothy,
saying:

“You haint rubbed de hosses, Mis’ Dorothy, to see ef dey’s clean ’nuff
fer dis suspicious occasion.”

Dick probably meant “auspicious,” but he was accustomed, both in prose
and in verse, to require complaisant submission to his will on the part
of the English language.

“Did you clean them, Dick?” asked Dorothy with a little laugh.

“I’se proud to say I did,” answered the boy.

“Then there is no need for me to rub them,” she replied. “You always do
your work well. Your master tells me so. And now I want you to take this
handkerchief of mine, and keep it for your own. I bought it in Paris,
Dick. You can carry it in your breast pocket, with a corner of the lace
protruding--sticking out, you know. And if you will come to me when we
get back from our ride, I’ll give you a bottle of something better than
a cooking extract to perfume it with.”

With that the girl handed him a dainty, lace-edged mouchoir, for which
she had paid half a hundred francs in Paris, and which she had carried
at the Tuileries.

“It is just in celebration of my home-coming,” she said to Arthur in
explanation, “and because we are going to have one of our old ‘soon in
the morning’ rides together.”

As she mounted, Dorothy turned to Dick and commanded:

“Turn the hounds loose, Dick, and put them on our track.” Then to
Arthur:

“It is a glorious morning, and I want the dogs to enjoy it.”

The horses were full of the enthusiasm of the morning. They broke at
once into a gallop, which neither of the riders was disposed to
restrain. Five minutes later the hounds, bellowing as they followed the
trail, overtook the riders. Dorothy brought her mare upon her haunches,
and greeted the dogs as they leaped to caress her hands. Then she
cracked her whip and blew her whistle, and sent the excited animals to
heel, with moans and complainings on their part that they were thus
banished from the immediate presence of their beloved mistress.

“Your dogs still love and obey you, Dorothy,” said Arthur as they
resumed their ride more soberly than before.

“Yes,” she answered. “They are better in that respect than women are.”

Arthur thought he understood. At any rate he accepted the remark as one
implying an apology, and he saw no occasion for apology.

“Never mind that,” he said. “A woman is entitled to her perfect freedom.
Every human being born into this world has an absolute right to do
precisely as he pleases, so long as in doing as he pleases he does not
trespass upon or abridge the equal right of any other human being to do
as he pleases. It is this equality of right that furnishes the
foundation of all moral codes which are worthy of respect. And this
equality of right belongs to women as fully as to men.”

“In a way, yes,” answered Dorothy. “Yet in another way, no. I control my
hounds, chiefly for their own good. My right to control them rests upon
my superior knowledge of what their conduct ought to be. It is the same
way with women. They do not know as much as men do, concerning what
their conduct ought to be. Take my dear mother’s case for example. If
she had frankly told my father that she could not be happy in the life
into which he had brought her, that in fact it tortured her, he would
have taken her away out of it. Her mistake was in taking the matter into
her own hands. She needed a master. She ought to have made my father
her master. She ought to have told him what she suffered, and why she
suffered. She ought to have trusted him to find the remedy. Instead of
that--well, you know the story. My father loved my mother with all his
soul. She loved him in return. He could have been her master, if he had
so willed. For when any woman loves any man that man has only to assume
that he is her master in order to be so, and in order to make her
supremely happy in his being so. If my father had understood that, there
would have been no stain upon me now.”

“What on earth do you mean, Dorothy?” asked Arthur, intensely, as the
girl broke into tears. “There is no stain upon you. I will horsewhip
anybody that shall so much as suggest such a thing.”

“Yes, I know. You are good and true always. But think of it, Cousin
Arthur. My mother is in hiding in Richmond, because of her shame. And my
father has posthumously insulted her--pure, clean woman that she is--and
insulted me, too, in my helplessness. Let me tell you all about it,
please. Oh, Cousin Arthur, you do not know how I have longed for an
opportunity to tell you! You alone of all people in this world are
broad enough to sympathize with me in my wretchedness. You alone are
true to Truth and Justice and Right. Let me tell you!”

“Tell me, Dorothy,” he answered tenderly. “I beg of you tell me
absolutely all that is in your mind. Tell me as freely as you told me
once why you marked a watermelon with my initials. But please, Dorothy,
do not tell me anything at all, unless you can put aside the strange
reserve that you have lately set up as a barrier between us, and talk to
me in the old, free, unconstrained way. It was in hope of that that I
asked you to take this ride.”

She replied, “I beg your pardon for that. I could not help the
constraint, and it pained me as greatly as it distressed you. We are
free now, on our horses. We can talk without restraint, and when we have
talked the matter out, perhaps you will understand. Listen, then!”

She waited a full minute, the horses walking meanwhile, before she
resumed. Finally Arthur said: “I am listening, Dorothy.”

Then she answered.

“My mother was never a bad woman, Arthur Brent. I want you to understand
that clearly before we go on. She abandoned my father because she could
not endure the life he provided for her. But she was always a pure
woman, in spite of all her surroundings and conditions. She offered
freedom to my father, but she asked no freedom for herself. She made no
complaint of him, and his memory is still to her the dearest thing on
earth. It is convention alone that censures her; convention alone that
forbids her to come to Pocahontas; convention alone that refuses to me
permission to love her openly as my mother and to honor her as such. If
I had my way, I should bring her to Pocahontas, and set up housekeeping
there; and I should send out a proclamation to everybody, saying in
effect: ‘My mother, Mrs. South, is with me. You who shall come promptly
to pay your respects to her, I will count my friends. All the rest shall
be my enemies.’ But that may not be. My mother forbids, and I bow to my
mother’s command. Then comes my father’s command, and to that I will
never bow.”

“What is it, Dorothy?”

“Aunt Polly has shown me his letter. He tells me that because of my
mother’s misbehavior, he has great fear on my account. He explains that
he forbids me to learn music because he thought it was music that led
my mother into wrong ways. He tells me that in order to preserve my
‘respectability’ he has arranged that I shall marry into a Virginia
family as good as my own, and as if to make the matter of my
inconsequence as detestably humiliating as possible he tells me as I
learned before and wrote to you from Paris, that he has betrothed me to
Jeff Peyton. If there had been any chance that I would submit to be thus
disposed of like a hogshead of tobacco or a carload of wheat, Jeff
Peyton’s conduct would have destroyed it. The last time I met him in
Europe you remember, he threatened me with this command of my father,
and I instantly ordered him out of my presence. He had the impudence to
come to Wyanoke last night--knowing that I was there, and that I was
acting as hostess. It was nearly as bad as if I had been entertaining at
Pocahontas. He made it worse by asking me if I had read my father’s
letter, and if I did not now realize the necessity of marrying him in
order that I might ally myself with a good Virginia family. He had just
finished that insolence when you made your little speech, not only
calling him a fool by plain implication, but proving him to be one.
That’s why I thanked you, as I did.”

“Yes, I quite understood that,” answered Arthur. “Let us run our horses
for a bit. I have a fancy to do that.”

Dorothy understood. She joined him in a quarter mile stretch, and then
he suddenly reined in his horse and faced her.

“It was right here, Dorothy, after a run like that,” he said, “that you
told me I might call you Dorothy. Now I ask you to let me call you
Wife.”

The girl hesitated. Presently she said:

“I have made up my mind to be perfectly true with you. I don’t know
whether I had thought of this or not, at any rate I have tried not to
think of it.”

“But now that I have forced the thought upon you, Dorothy? Is it yes, or
no?”

Again the girl paused in thought before answering. Her dogs, seeing that
she was paying no attention to them, broke away in pursuit of a hare.
She suddenly recovered her self-possession. She whistled through her
fingers to recall the hounds, and when they returned, crouching to
receive the punishment they knew they deserved, she bade them go to
heel, adding: “You’re naughty fellows, but you haven’t been kept under
control, and so I forgive you.” Then, turning to Arthur she said,

“Yes, Master.”

       *       *       *       *       *

On their return to the house Arthur was mindful of his duty to Aunt
Polly, guardian of the person of Dorothy South, and, as such endowed
with authority to approve or forbid any marriage to which that eighteen
year old young person might be inclined, before attaining her twenty
first year.

“Aunt Polly!” he said abruptly, “I want your permission to marry
Dorothy.”

“Why of course, Arthur,” she replied. “That is what I have intended all
the time.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was four years later, in June, 1865. Arthur and Dorothy--with an
abiding consciousness of duty faithfully done--stood together in the
porch at Wyanoke. The war was over. Virginia was ruined beyond recovery.
All of evil that Arthur had foreseen, had been accomplished. “But the
good has also come,” said Dorothy as they talked. “Slavery is at an end.
You, Arthur, are free. You may again address yourself to your work in
the world without the embarrassment of other duty. Shall we go back to
New York?”

[Illustration: _“AUNT POLLY!” HE SAID ABRUPTLY, “I WANT YOUR PERMISSION
TO MARRY DOROTHY.”_]

“No, Dorothy. My work in life lies in the cradle in the chamber there,
where our two children sleep.”

“Thank you!” said Dorothy, and silence fell for a time.

Presently Dorothy added:

“And my mother’s work is done. It consoles me for all, when I remember
that she lies where she fell, a martyr. The stone under which she sleeps
is a rude one, but soldier hands have lovingly carved upon it the words:

                            ‘MADAME LE SUD
                    THE ANGEL OF THE BATTLEFIELD.’”

Then Dorothy whistled, and Dick came in response.

“Bring the horses at six o’clock tomorrow, Dick, your master and I are
going to ride soon in the morning.”

                                THE END

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FOOTNOTES:

 [A] The negroes always properly called this word “Voodoo.” Among
 theatrical folk it has been strangely and senselessly corrupted into
 “Hoodoo.” The negroes believed in the Voodoo as firmly as the player
 people do.--AUTHOR.

 [B] The court incident here related is a fact. The author of this book
 was present in court when it occurred.--AUTHOR.

 [C] This story of Robert Copeland is historical fact, except
 for such disguises of name, etc. as are necessary under the
 circumstances.--AUTHOR.





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