Part 1 out of 4
by Bret Harte
THE CONSPIRACY OF MRS. BUNKER
THE TRANSFORMATION OF BUCKEYE CAMP
THEIR UNCLE FROM CALIFORNIA
THE LAST GUN AT SNAKE RIVER.
What had been in the cool gray of that summer morning a dewy
country lane, marked only by a few wagon tracks that never
encroached upon its grassy border, and indented only by the faint
footprints of a crossing fox or coon, was now, before high noon,
already crushed, beaten down, and trampled out of all semblance of
its former graciousness. The heavy springless jolt of gun-carriage
and caisson had cut deeply through the middle track; the hoofs of
crowding cavalry had struck down and shredded the wayside vines and
bushes to bury them under a cloud of following dust, and the short,
plunging double-quick of infantry had trodden out this hideous ruin
into one dusty level chaos. Along that rudely widened highway
useless muskets, torn accoutrements, knapsacks, caps, and articles
of clothing were scattered, with here and there the larger wrecks
of broken-down wagons, roughly thrown aside into the ditch to make
way for the living current. For two hours the greater part of an
army corps had passed and repassed that way, but, coming or going,
always with faces turned eagerly towards an open slope on the right
which ran parallel to the lane. And yet nothing was to be seen
there. For two hours a gray and bluish cloud, rent and shaken with
explosion after explosion, but always closing and thickening after
each discharge, was all that had met their eyes. Nevertheless,
into this ominous cloud solid moving masses of men in gray or blue
had that morning melted away, or emerged from it only as scattered
fragments that crept, crawled, ran, or clung together in groups, to
be followed, and overtaken in the rolling vapor.
But for the last half hour the desolated track had stretched empty
and deserted. While there was no cessation of the rattling,
crackling, and detonations on the fateful slope beyond, it had
still been silent. Once or twice it had been crossed by timid,
hurrying wings, and frightened and hesitating little feet, or later
by skulkers and stragglers from the main column who were tempted to
enter it from the hedges and bushes where they had been creeping
and hiding. Suddenly a prolonged yell from the hidden slope
beyond--the nearest sound that had yet been heard from that ominous
distance--sent them to cover again. It was followed by the furious
galloping of horses in the lane, and a handsome, red-capped
officer, accompanied by an orderly, dashed down the track, wheeled,
leaped the hedge, rode out on the slope and halted. In another
instant a cloud of dust came whirling down the lane after him. Out
of it strained the heavy shoulders and tightened chain-traces of
six frantic horses dragging the swaying gun that in this tempest of
motion alone seemed passive and helpless with an awful foreknowledge
of its power. As in obedience to a signal from the officer they
crashed through the hedge after him, a sudden jolt threw an
artilleryman from the limber before the wheel. A driver glanced
back on the tense chain and hesitated. "Go on!" yelled the
prostrate man, and the wheel went over him. Another and another gun
followed out of the dust cloud, until the whole battery had deployed
on the slope. Before the drifting dust had fairly settled, the
falling back of the panting horses with their drivers gave a
momentary glimpse of the nearest gun already in position and of the
four erect figures beside it. The yell that seemed to have evoked
this sudden apparition again sounded nearer; a blinding flash broke
from the gun, which was instantly hidden by the closing group around
it, and a deafening crash with the high ringing of metal ran down
the lane. A column of white, woolly smoke arose as another flash
broke beside it. This was quickly followed by another and another,
with a response from the gun first fired, until the whole slope
shook and thundered. And the smoke, no longer white and woolly,
but darkening and thickening as with unburnt grains of gunpowder,
mingled into the one ominous vapor, and driving along the lane hid
even the slope from view.
The yelling had ceased, but the grinding and rattling heard through
the detonation of cannon came nearer still, and suddenly there was
a shower of leaves and twigs from the lower branches of a chestnut-
tree near the broken hedge. As the smoke thinned again a rising
and falling medley of flapping hats, tossing horses' heads and
shining steel appeared for an instant, advancing tumultuously up
the slope. But the apparition was as instantly cloven by flame
from the two nearest guns, and went down in a gush of smoke and
roar of sound. So level was the delivery and so close the impact
that a space seemed suddenly cleared between, in which the whirling
of the shattered remnants of the charging cavalry was distinctly
seen, and the shouts and oaths of the inextricably struggling mass
became plain and articulate. Then a gunner serving the nearest
piece suddenly dropped his swab and seized a carbine, for out of
the whirling confusion before them a single rider was seen
galloping furiously towards the gun.
The red-capped young officer rode forward and knocked up the
gunner's weapon with his sword. For in that rapid glance he had
seen that the rider's reins were hanging loosely on the neck of his
horse, who was still dashing forwards with the frantic impetus of
the charge, and that the youthful figure of the rider, wearing the
stripes of a lieutenant,--although still erect, exercised no
control over the animal. The face was boyish, blond, and ghastly;
the eyes were set and glassy. It seemed as if Death itself were
charging the gun.
Within a few feet of it the horse swerved before a brandished
rammer, and striking the cheeks of the gun-carriage pitched his
inanimate rider across the gun. The hot blood of the dead man
smoked on the hotter brass with the reek of the shambles, and be-
spattered the hand of the gunner who still mechanically served the
vent. As they lifted the dead body down the order came to "cease
firing." For the yells from below had ceased too; the rattling and
grinding were receding with the smoke farther to the left. The
ominous central cloud parted for a brief moment and showed the
unexpected sun glittering down the slope upon a near and peaceful
The young artillery officer had dismounted and was now gently
examining the dead man. His breast had been crushed by a fragment
of shell; he must have died instantly. The same missile had cut
the chain of a locket which slipped from his opened coat. The
officer picked it up with a strange feeling--perhaps because he was
conscious himself of wearing a similar one, perhaps because it
might give him some clue to the man's identity. It contained only
the photograph of a pretty girl, a tendril of fair hair, and the
word "Sally." In the breast-pocket was a sealed letter with the
inscription, "For Miss Sally Dows. To be delivered if I fall by
the mudsill's hand." A faint smile came over the officer's face;
he was about to hand the articles to a sergeant, but changed his
mind and put them in his pocket.
Meantime the lane and woods beyond, and even the slope itself, were
crowding with supports and waiting troops. His own battery was
still unlimbered, waiting orders. There was a slight commotion in
"Very well done, captain. Smartly taken and gallantly held."
It was the voice of a general officer passing with his staff.
There was a note of pleasant relief in its tone, and the middle-
aged, care-drawn face of its owner was relaxed in a paternal smile.
The young captain flushed with pleasure.
"And you seem to have had close work too," added the general,
pointing to the dead man.
The young officer hurriedly explained. The general nodded,
saluted, and passed on. But a youthful aide airily lingered.
"The old man's feeling good, Courtland," he said. "We've rolled
'em up all along the line. It's all over now. In point of fact, I
reckon you've fired the last round in this particular fratricidal
The last round! Courtland remained silent, looking abstractedly at
the man it had crushed and broken at his feet.
"And I shouldn't wonder if you got your gold-leaf for to-day's
work. But who's your sunny Southern friend here?" he added,
following his companion's eyes.
Courtland repeated his story a little more seriously, which,
however, failed to subdue the young aide's levity. "So he
concluded to stop over," he interrupted cheerfully. "But," looking
at the letter and photograph, "I say--look here! 'Sally Dows?'
Why, there was another man picked up yesterday with a letter to the
same girl! Doc Murphy has it. And, by Jove! the same picture
too!--eh? I say, Sally must have gathered in the boys, and raked
down the whole pile! Look here, Courty! you might get Doc Murphy's
letter and hunt her up when this cruel war is over. Say you're
'fulfilling a sacred trust!' See? Good idea, old man! Ta-ta!"
and he trotted quickly after his superior.
Courtland remained with the letter and photograph in his hand,
gazing abstractedly after him. The smoke had rolled quite away
from the fields on the left, but still hung heavily down the south
on the heels of the flying cavalry. A long bugle call swelled up
musically from below. The freed sun caught the white flags of two
field hospitals in the woods and glanced tranquilly on the broad,
cypress-fringed, lazy-flowing, and cruel but beautiful Southern
river, which had all unseen crept so smilingly that morning through
the very heart of the battle.
The two o'clock express from Redlands to Forestville, Georgia, had
been proceeding with the languid placidity of the river whose banks
it skirted for more than two hours. But, unlike the river, it had
stopped frequently; sometimes at recognized stations and villages,
sometimes at the apparition of straw-hatted and linen-coated
natives in the solitude of pine woods, where, after a decent
interval of cheery conversation with the conductor and engineer, it
either took the stranger on board, or relieved him of his parcel,
letter, basket, or even the verbal message with which he was
charged. Much of the way lay through pine-barren and swampy woods
which had never been cleared or cultivated; much through decayed
settlements and ruined villages that had remained unchanged since
the War of the Rebellion, now three years past. There were
vestiges of the severity of a former military occupation; the
blackened timbers of railway bridges still unrepaired; and along
the line of a certain memorable march, sections of iron rails taken
from the torn-up track, roasted in bonfires and bent while red-hot
around the trunks of trees, were still to be seen. These mementos
of defeat seemed to excite neither revenge nor the energy to remove
them; the dull apathy which had succeeded the days of hysterical
passion and convulsion still lingered; even the slow improvement
that could be detected was marked by the languor of convalescence.
The helplessness of a race, hitherto dependent upon certain
barbaric conditions or political place and power, unskilled in
invention, and suddenly confronted with the necessity of personal
labor, was visible everywhere. Eyes that but three short years
before had turned vindictively to the North, now gazed wistfully to
that quarter for help and direction. They scanned eagerly the
faces of their energetic and prosperous neighbors--and quondam
foes--upon the verandas of Southern hotels and the decks of
Southern steamboats, and were even now watching from a group in the
woods the windows of the halted train, where the faces appeared of
two men of manifestly different types, but still alien to the
country in dress, features, and accent.
Two negroes were slowly loading the engine tender from a woodpile.
The rich brown smoke of the turpentine knots was filling the train
with its stinging fragrance. The elder of the two Northern
passengers, with sharp New England angles in his face, impatiently
glanced at his watch.
"Of all created shiftlessness, this beats everything! Why couldn't
we have taken in enough wood to last the ten miles farther to the
terminus when we last stopped? And why in thunder, with all this
firing up, can't we go faster?"
The younger passenger, whose quiet, well-bred face seemed to
indicate more discipline of character, smiled.
"If you really wish to know and as we've only ten miles farther to
go--I'll show you WHY. Come with me."
He led the way through the car to the platform and leaped down.
Then he pointed significantly to the rails below them. His
companion started. The metal was scaling off in thin strips from
the rails, and in some places its thickness had been reduced a
quarter of an inch, while in others the projecting edges were torn
off, or hanging in iron shreds, so that the wheels actually ran on
the narrow central strip. It seemed marvelous that the train could
keep the track.
"NOW you know why we don't go more than five miles an hour, and--
are thankful that we don't," said the young traveler quietly.
"But this is disgraceful!--criminal!" ejaculated the other
"Not at their rate of speed," returned the younger man. "The crime
would be in going faster. And now you can understand why a good
deal of the other progress in this State is obliged to go as slowly
over their equally decaying and rotten foundations. You can't rush
things here as we do in the North."
The other passenger shrugged his shoulders as they remounted the
platform, and the train moved on. It was not the first time that
the two fellow-travelers had differed, although their mission was a
common one. The elder, Mr. Cyrus Drummond, was the vice-president
of a large Northern land and mill company, which had bought
extensive tracts of land in Georgia, and the younger, Colonel
Courtland, was the consulting surveyor and engineer for the
company. Drummond's opinions were a good deal affected by
sectional prejudice, and a self-satisfied and righteous ignorance
of the actual conditions and limitations of the people with whom he
was to deal; while the younger man, who had served through the war
with distinction, retained a soldier's respect and esteem for his
late antagonists, with a conscientious and thoughtful observation
of their character. Although he had resigned from the army, the
fact that he had previously graduated at West Point with high
honors had given him preferment in this technical appointment, and
his knowledge of the country and its people made him a valuable
counselor. And it was a fact that the country people had preferred
this soldier with whom they had once personally grappled to the
capitalist they had never known during the struggle.
The train rolled slowly through the woods, so slowly that the
fragrant pine smoke from the engine still hung round the windows of
the cars. Gradually the "clearings" became larger; they saw the
distant white wooden colonnades of some planter's house, looking
still opulent and pretentious, although the fence of its inclosure
had broken gaps, and the gate sagged on its single hinge.
Mr. Drummond sniffed at this damning record of neglect and
indifference. "Even if they were ruined, they might still have
spent a few cents for nails and slats to enable them to look decent
before folks, and not parade their poverty before their neighbors,"
"But that's just where you misunderstand them, Drummond," said
Courtland, smiling. "They have no reason to keep up an attitude
towards their neighbors, who still know them as 'Squire' so-and-so,
'Colonel' this and that, and the 'Judge,'--owners of their vast but
crippled estates. They are not ashamed of being poor, which is an
"But they are of working, which is DELIBERATION," interrupted
Drummond. "They are ashamed to mend their fences themselves, now
that they have no slaves to do it for them."
"I doubt very much if some of them know how to drive a nail, for
the matter of that," said Courtland, still good-humoredly, "but
that's the fault of a system older than themselves, which the
founders of the Republic retained. We cannot give them experience
in their new condition in one day, and in fact, Drummond, I am very
much afraid that for our purposes--and I honestly believe for THEIR
good--we must help to keep them for the present as they are."
"Perhaps," said Drummond sarcastically, "you would like to
"No. But I should like to reinstate the MASTER. And not for HIS
sake alone, but for freedom's sake and OURS. To be plain: since I
have taken up this matter for the company, I have satisfied myself
from personal observation that the negro--even more than his
master--cannot handle his new condition. He is accustomed to his
old traditional task-master, and I doubt if he will work fairly for
any other--particularly for those who don't understand him. Don't
mistake me: I don't propose to go back to the whip; to that brutal
institution, the irresponsible overseer; to the buying and selling,
and separation of the family, nor any of the old wrongs; but I
propose to make the old master OUR OVERSEER, and responsible to US.
He is not a fool, and has already learned that it is more profitable
to pay wages to his old slaves and have the power of dismissal, like
any other employer, than be obliged, under the old system of
enforced labor and life servitude, to undergo the cost of maintaining
incompetence and idleness. The old sentiment of slave-owning has
disappeared before natural common-sense and selfishness. I am
satisfied that by some such process as this utilizing of the old
master and the new freedom we will be better able to cultivate our
lands than by buying up their estates, and setting the old owners
adrift, with a little money in their pockets, as an idle,
discontented class to revive old political dogmas, and foment new
issues, or perhaps set up a dangerous opposition to us.
"You don't mean to say that those infernal niggers would give the
preference to their old oppressors?"
"Dollar for dollar in wages--yes! And why shouldn't they? Their
old masters understand them better--and treat them generally
better. They know our interest in them is only an abstract
sentiment, not a real liking. We show it at every turn. But we
are nearing Redlands, and Major Reed will, I have no doubt,
corroborate my impressions. He insists upon our staying at his
house, although the poor old fellow, I imagine, can ill afford to
entertain company. But he will be offended if we refuse."
"He is a friend of yours, then?" asked Drummond.
"I fought against his division at Stony Creek," said Courtland
grimly. "He never tires of talking of it to me--so I suppose I
A few moments later the train glided beside the Redlands platform.
As the two travelers descended a hand was laid on Courtland's
shoulder, and a stout figure in the blackest and shiniest of alpaca
jackets, and the whitest and broadest of Panama hats, welcomed him.
"Glad to see yo', cun'nel. I reckoned I'd waltz over and bring
along the boy," pointing to a grizzled negro servant of sixty who
was bowing before them, "to tote yo'r things over instead of using
a hack. I haven't run much on horseflesh since the wah--ha! ha!
What I didn't use up for remounts I reckon yo'r commissary gobbled
up with the other live stock, eh?" He laughed heartily, as if the
recollections were purely humorous, and again clapped Courtland on
"Let me introduce my friend, Mr. Drummond, Major Reed," said
"Yo' were in the wah, sir?"
"No--I"--returned Drummond, hesitating, he knew not why, and angry
at his own embarrassment.
"Mr. Drummond, the vice-president of the company," interposed
Courtland cheerfully, "was engaged in furnishing to us the sinews
Major Reed bowed a little more formally. "Most of us heah, sir,
were in the wah some time or other, and if you gentlemen will honah
me by joining in a social glass at the hotel across the way, I'll
introduce you to Captain Prendergast, who left a leg at Fair Oaks."
Drummond would have declined, but a significant pressure on his arm
from Courtland changed his determination. He followed them to the
hotel and into the presence of the one-legged warrior (who turned
out to be the landlord and barkeeper), to whom Courtland was
hilariously introduced by Major Reed as "the man, sir, who had
pounded my division for three hours at Stony Creek!"
Major Reed's house was but a few minutes' walk down the dusty lane,
and was presently heralded by the baying of three or four foxhounds
and foreshadowed by a dilapidated condition of picket-fence and
stuccoed gate front. Beyond it stretched the wooden Doric columns
of the usual Southern mansion, dimly seen through the broad leaves
of the horse-chestnut-trees that shaded it. There were the usual
listless black shadows haunting the veranda and outer offices--
former slaves and still attached house-servants, arrested like
lizards in breathless attitudes at the approach of strange
footsteps, and still holding the brush, broom, duster, or home
implement they had been lazily using, in their fixed hands. From
the doorway of the detached kitchen, connected by a gallery to the
wing of the mansion, "Aunt Martha," the cook, gazed also, with a
saucepan clasped to her bosom, and her revolving hand with the
scrubbing cloth in it apparently stopped on a dead centre.
Drummond, whose gorge had risen at these evidences of hopeless
incapacity and utter shiftlessness, was not relieved by the
presence of Mrs. Reed--a soured, disappointed woman of forty, who
still carried in her small dark eyes and thin handsome lips
something of the bitterness and antagonism of the typical "Southern
rights" woman; nor of her two daughters, Octavia and Augusta, whose
languid atrabiliousness seemed a part of the mourning they still
wore. The optimistic gallantry and good fellowship of the major
appeared the more remarkable by contrast with his cypress-shadowed
family and their venomous possibilities. Perhaps there might have
been a light vein of Southern insincerity in his good humor.
"Paw," said Miss Octavia, with gloomy confidence to Courtland, but
with a pretty curl of the hereditary lip, "is about the only
'reconstructed' one of the entire family. We don't make 'em much
about yer. But I'd advise yo' friend, Mr. Drummond, if he's coming
here carpet-bagging, not to trust too much to paw's 'reconstruction.'
It won't wash." But when Courtland hastened to assure her that
Drummond was not a "carpet-bagger," was not only free from any of
the political intrigue implied under that baleful title, but was a
wealthy Northern capitalist simply seeking investment, the young
lady was scarcely more hopeful. "I suppose he reckons to pay paw
for those niggers yo' stole?" she suggested with gloomy sarcasm.
"No," said Courtland, smiling; "but what if he reckoned to pay
those niggers for working for your father and him?"
"If paw is going into trading business with him; if Major Reed--a
So'th'n gentleman--is going to keep shop, he ain't such a fool as
to believe niggers will work when they ain't obliged to. THAT'S
been tried over at Mirandy Dows's, not five miles from here, and
the niggers are half the time hangin' round here takin' holiday.
She put up new quarters for 'em, and tried to make 'em eat together
at a long table like those low-down folks up North, and did away
with their cabins and their melon patches, and allowed it would get
'em out of lying round too much, and wanted 'em to work over-time
and get mo' pay. And the result was that she and her niece, and a
lot of poor whites, Irish and Scotch, that she had to pick up
''long the river,' do all the work. And her niece Sally was mo'
than half Union woman during the wah, and up to all No'th'n tricks
and dodges, and swearin' by them; and yet, for all that--the thing
"But isn't that partly the reason? Isn't her failure a great deal
due to this lack of sympathy from her neighbors? Discontent is
easily sown, and the negro is still weighted down by superstition;
the Fifteenth Amendment did not quite knock off ALL his chains."
"Yes, but that is nothing to HER. For if there ever was a person
in this world who reckoned she was just born to manage everything
and everybody, it is Sally Dows!"
"Sally Dows!" repeated Courtland, with a slight start.
"Yes, Sally Dows, of Pineville."
"You say she was half Union, but did she have any relations or--
or--friends--in the war--on your side? Any--who--were killed in
"They were all killed, I reckon," returned Miss Reed darkly.
"There was her cousin, Jule Jeffcourt, shot in the cemetery with
her beau, who, they say, was Sally's too; there were Chet Brooks
and Joyce Masterton, who were both gone on her and both killed too;
and there was old Captain Dows himself, who never lifted his head
again after Richmond was taken, and drank himself to death. It
wasn't considered healthy to be Miss Sally's relations in those
times, or to be even wantin' to be one."
Colonel Courtland did not reply. The face of the dead young
officer coming towards him out of the blue smoke rose as vividly as
on that memorable day. The picture and letter he had taken from
the dead man's breast, which he had retained ever since; the
romantic and fruitless quest he had made for the fair original in
after days; and the strange and fateful interest in her which had
grown up in his heart since then, he now knew had only been lulled
to sleep in the busy preoccupation of the last six months, for it
all came back to him with redoubled force. His present mission and
its practical object, his honest zeal in its pursuit, and the
cautious skill and experience he had brought to it, all seemed to
be suddenly displaced by this romantic and unreal fantasy. Oddly
enough it appeared now to be the only reality in his life, the rest
was an incoherent, purposeless dream.
"Is--is--Miss Sally married?" he asked, collecting himself with an
"Married? Yes, to that farm of her aunt's! I reckon that's the
only thing she cares for."
Courtland looked up, recovering his usual cheerful calm. "Well, I
think that after luncheon I'll pay my respects to her family. From
what you have just told me the farm is certainly an experiment
worth seeing. I suppose your father will have no objection to give
me a letter to Miss Dows?"
Nevertheless, as Colonel Courtland rode deliberately towards Dows'
Folly, as the new experiment was locally called, although he had
not abated his romantic enthusiasm in the least, he was not sorry
that he was able to visit it under a practical pretext. It was
rather late now to seek out Miss Sally Dows with the avowed intent
of bringing her a letter from an admirer who had been dead three
years, and whose memory she had probably buried. Neither was it
tactful to recall a sentiment which might have been a weakness of
which she was ashamed. Yet, clear-headed and logical as Courtland
was in his ordinary affairs, he was nevertheless not entirely free
from that peculiar superstition which surrounds every man's
romance. He believed there was something more than a mere
coincidence in his unexpectedly finding himself in such favorable
conditions for making her acquaintance. For the rest--if there was
any rest--he would simply trust to fate. And so, believing himself
a cool, sagacious reasoner, but being actually, as far as Miss Dows
was concerned, as blind, fatuous, and unreasoning as any of her
previous admirers, he rode complacently forward until he reached
the lane that led to the Dows plantation.
Here a better kept roadway and fence, whose careful repair would
have delighted Drummond, seemed to augur well for the new
enterprise. Presently, even the old-fashioned local form of the
fence, a slanting zigzag, gave way to the more direct line of post
and rail in the Northern fashion. Beyond it presently appeared a
long low frontage of modern buildings which, to Courtland's
surprise, were entirely new in structure and design. There was no
reminiscence of the usual Southern porticoed gable or columned
veranda. Yet it was not Northern either. The factory-like outline
of facade was partly hidden in Cherokee rose and jessamine.
A long roofed gallery connected the buildings and became a veranda
to one. A broad, well-rolled gravel drive led from the open gate
to the newest building, which seemed to be the office; a smaller
path diverged from it to the corner house, which, despite its
severe simplicity, had a more residential appearance. Unlike
Reed's house, there were no lounging servants or field hands to be
seen; they were evidently attending to their respective duties.
Dismounting, Courtland tied his horse to a post at the office door
and took the smaller path to the corner house.
The door was open to the fragrant afternoon breeze wafted through
the rose and jessamine. So also was a side door opening from the
hall into a long parlor or sitting-room that ran the whole width of
the house. Courtland entered it. It was prettily furnished, but
everything had the air of freshness and of being uncharacteristically
new. It was empty, but a faint hammering was audible on the rear
wall of the house, through the two open French windows at the back,
curtained with trailing vines, which gave upon a sunlit courtyard.
Courtland walked to the window. Just before it, on the ground,
stood a small light ladder, which he gently put aside to gain a
better view of the courtyard as he put on his hat, and stepped out
of the open window.
In this attitude he suddenly felt his hat tipped from his head,
followed almost instantaneously by a falling slipper, and the
distinct impression of a very small foot on the crown of his head.
An indescribable sensation passed over him. He hurriedly stepped
back into the room, just as a small striped-stockinged foot was as
hastily drawn up above the top of the window with the feminine
exclamation, "Good gracious me!"
Lingering for an instant, only to assure himself that the fair
speaker had secured her foothold and was in no danger of falling,
Courtland snatched up his hat, which had providentially fallen
inside the room, and retreated ingloriously to the other end of the
parlor. The voice came again from the window, and struck him as
being very sweet and clear:--
"Sophy, is that YOU?"
Courtland discreetly retired to the hall. To his great relief a
voice from the outside answered, "Whar, Miss Sally?"
"What did yo' move the ladder for? Yo' might have killed me."
"Fo' God, Miss Sally, I didn't move no ladder!"
"Don't tell me, but go down and get my slipper. And bring up some
Courtland waited silently in the hall. In a few moments he heard a
heavy footstep outside the rear window. This was his opportunity.
Re-entering the parlor somewhat ostentatiously, he confronted a
tall negro girl who was passing through the room carrying a tiny
slipper in her hand. "Excuse me," he said politely, "but I could
not find any one to announce me. Is Miss Dows at home?"
The girl instantly whipped the slipper behind her. "Is yo' wanting
Miss Mirandy Dows," she asked with great dignity, "oah Miss Sally
Dows--her niece? Miss Mirandy's bin gone to Atlanta for a week."
"I have a letter for Miss Miranda, but I shall be very glad if Miss
Sally Dows will receive me, returned Courtland, handing the letter
and his card to the girl.
She received it with a still greater access of dignity and marked
deliberation. "It's clean gone outer my mind, sah, ef Miss Sally
is in de resumption of visitahs at dis houah. In fac', sah," she
continued, with intensified gravity and an exaggeration of
thoughtfulness as the sounds of Miss Sally's hammering came
shamelessly from the wall, "I doahn know exac'ly ef she's engaged
playin' de harp, practicin' de languages, or paintin' in oil and
watah colors, o' givin' audiences to offishals from de Court House.
It might be de houah for de one or de odder. But I'll communicate
wid her, sah, in de budwoh on de uppah flo'." She backed
dexterously, so as to keep the slipper behind her, but with no
diminution of dignity, out of a side door. In another moment the
hammering ceased, followed by the sound of rapid whispering
without; a few tiny twigs and leaves slowly rustled to the ground,
and then there was complete silence. He ventured to walk to the
fateful window again.
Presently he heard a faint rustle at the other end of the room, and
he turned. A sudden tremulousness swept along his pulses, and then
they seemed to pause; he drew a deep breath that was almost a sigh,
and remained motionless.
He had no preconceived idea of falling in love with Miss Sally at
first sight, nor had he dreamed such a thing possible. Even the
girlish face that he had seen in the locket, although it had
stirred him with a singular emotion, had not suggested that. And
the ideal he had evolved from it was never a potent presence. But
the exquisitely pretty face and figure before him, although it
might have been painted from his own fancy of her, was still
something more and something unexpected. All that had gone before
had never prepared him for the beautiful girl who now stood there.
It was a poor explanation to say that Miss Sally was four or five
years older than her picture, and that later experiences, enlarged
capacity, a different life, and new ambition had impressed her
youthful face with a refined mobility; it was a weird fancy to
imagine that the blood of those who had died for her had in some
vague, mysterious way imparted an actual fascination to her, and he
dismissed it. But even the most familiar spectator, like Sophy,
could see that Miss Sally had the softest pink complexion, the
silkiest hair, that looked as the floss of the Indian corn might
look if curled, or golden spider threads if materialized, and eyes
that were in bright gray harmony with both; that the frock of India
muslin, albeit home-made, fitted her figure perfectly, from the
azure bows on her shoulders to the ribbon around her waist; and
that the hem of its billowy skirt showed a foot which had the
reputation of being the smallest foot south of Mason and Dixon's
Line! But it was something more intangible than this which kept
Courtland breathless and silent.
"I'm not Miss Miranda Dows," said the vision with a frankness that
was half childlike and half practical, as she extended a little
hand, "but I can talk 'fahm' with yo' about as well as aunty, and I
reckon from what Major Reed says heah," holding up the letter
between her fingers, "as long as yo' get the persimmons yo' don't
mind what kind o' pole yo' knock 'em down with."
The voice that carried this speech was so fresh, clear, and sweet
that I am afraid Courtland thought little of its bluntness or its
conventional transgressions. But it brought him his own tongue
quite unemotionally and quietly. "I don't know what was in that
note, Miss Dows, but I can hardly believe that Major Reed ever put
my present felicity quite in that way."
Miss Sally laughed. Then with a charming exaggeration she waved
her little hand towards the sofa.
"There! Yo' naturally wanted a little room for that, co'nnle, but
now that yo' 've got it off,--and mighty pooty it was, too,--yo'
can sit down." And with that she sank down at one end of the sofa,
prettily drew aside a white billow of skirt so as to leave ample
room for Courtland at the other, and clasping her fingers over her
knees, looked demurely expectant.
"But let me hope that I am not disturbing you unseasonably," said
Courtland, catching sight of the fateful little slipper beneath her
skirt, and remembering the window. "I was so preoccupied in
thinking of your aunt as the business manager of these estates that
I quite forget that she might have a lady's hours for receiving."
"We haven't got any company hours," said Miss Sally, "and we
haven't just now any servants for company manners, for we're short-
handed in the fields and barns. When yo' came I was nailing up the
laths for the vines outside, because we couldn't spare carpenters
from the factory. But," she added, with a faint accession of
mischief in her voice, "yo' came to talk about the fahm?"
"Yes," said Courtland, rising, "but not to interrupt the work on
it. Will you let me help you nail up the laths on the wall? I
have some experience that way, and we can talk as we work. Do
The young girl looked at him brightly.
"Well, now, there's nothing mean about THAT. Yo' mean it for
"Perfectly. I shall feel so much less as if I was enjoying your
company under false pretenses."
"Yo' just wait here, then."
She jumped from the sofa, ran out of the room, and returned
presently, tying the string of a long striped cotton blouse--
evidently an extra one of Sophy's--behind her back as she returned.
It was gathered under her oval chin by a tape also tied behind her,
while her fair hair was tucked under the usual red bandana
handkerchief of the negro housemaid. It is scarcely necessary to
add that the effect was bewitching.
"But," said Miss Sally, eying her guest's smartly fitting frock-
coat, "yo' 'll spoil yo'r pooty clothes, sure! Take off yo'r coat--
don't mind me--and work in yo'r shirtsleeves."
Courtland obediently flung aside his coat and followed his active
hostess through the French window to the platform outside. Above
them a wooden ledge or cornice, projecting several inches, ran the
whole length of the building. It was on this that Miss Sally had
evidently found a foothold while she was nailing up a trellis-work
of laths between it and the windows of the second floor. Courtland
found the ladder, mounted to the ledge, followed by the young girl,
who smilingly waived his proffered hand to help her up, and the two
gravely set to work. But in the intervals of hammering and tying
up the vines Miss Sally's tongue was not idle. Her talk was as
fresh, as quaint, as original as herself, and yet so practical and
to the purpose of Courtland's visit as to excuse his delight in it
and her own fascinating propinquity. Whether she stopped to take a
nail from between her pretty lips when she spoke to him, or whether
holding on perilously with one hand to the trellis while she
gesticulated with the hammer, pointing out the divisions of the
plantation from her coign of vantage, he thought she was as clear
and convincing to his intellect as she was distracting to his
She told him how the war had broken up their old home in Pineville,
sending her father to serve in the Confederate councils of
Richmond, and leaving her aunt and herself to manage the property
alone; how the estate had been devastated, the house destroyed, and
how they had barely time to remove a few valuables; how, although
SHE had always been opposed to secession and the war, she had not
gone North, preferring to stay with her people, and take with them
the punishment of the folly she had foreseen. How after the war
and her father's death she and her aunt had determined to
"reconstruct THEMSELVES" after their own fashion on this bit of
property, which had survived their fortunes because it had always
been considered valueless and unprofitable for negro labor. How
at first they had undergone serious difficulty, through the
incompetence and ignorance of the freed laborer, and the equal
apathy and prejudice of their neighbors. How they had gradually
succeeded with the adoption of new methods and ideas that she
herself had conceived, which she now briefly and clearly stated.
Courtland listened with a new, breathless, and almost superstitious
interest: they were HIS OWN THEORIES--perfected and demonstrated!
"But you must have had capital for this?"
Ah, yes! that was where they were fortunate. There were some
French cousins with whom she had once stayed in Paris, who advanced
enough to stock the estate. There were some English friends of her
father's, old blockade runners, who had taken shares, provided them
with more capital, and imported some skilled laborers and a kind of
steward or agent to represent them. But they were getting on, and
perhaps it was better for their reputation with their neighbors
that they had not been BEHOLDEN to the "No'th." Seeing a cloud
pass over Courtland's face, the young lady added with an affected
sigh, and the first touch of feminine coquetry which had invaded
their wholesome camaraderie:--
"Yo' ought to have found us out BEFORE, co'nnle."
For an impulsive moment Courtland felt like telling her then and
there the story of his romantic quest; but the reflection that they
were standing on a narrow ledge with no room for the emotions, and
that Miss Sally had just put a nail in her mouth and a start might
be dangerous, checked him. To this may be added a new jealousy of
her previous experiences, which he had not felt before.
Nevertheless, he managed to say with some effusion:--
"But I hope we are not too late NOW. I think my principals are
quite ready and able to buy up any English or French investor now
or to come."
"Yo' might try yo' hand on that one," said Miss Sally, pointing to
a young fellow who had just emerged from the office and was
crossing the courtyard. "He's the English agent."
He was square-shouldered and round-headed, fresh and clean looking
in his white flannels, but with an air of being utterly distinct
and alien to everything around him, and mentally and morally
irreconcilable to it. As he passed the house he glanced shyly at
it; his eye brightened and his manner became self-conscious as he
caught sight of the young girl, but changed again when he saw her
companion. Courtland likewise was conscious of a certain
uneasiness; it was one thing to be helping Miss Sally ALONE, but
certainly another thing to be doing so under the eye of a stranger;
and I am afraid that he met the stony observation of the Englishman
with an equally cold stare. Miss Sally alone retained her languid
ease and self-possession. She called out, "Wait a moment, Mr.
Champney," slipped lightly down the ladder, and leaning against it
with one foot on its lowest rung awaited his approach.
"I reckoned yo' might be passing by," she said, as he came forward.
"Co'nnle Courtland," with an explanatory wave of the hammer towards
her companion, who remained erect and slightly stiffened on the
cornice, "is no relation to those figures along the frieze of the
Redlands Court House, but a No'th'n officer, a friend of Major
Reed's, who's come down here to look after So'th'n property for
some No'th'n capitalists. Mr. Champney," she continued, turning
and lifting her eyes to Courtland as she indicated Champney with
her hammer, "when he isn't talking English, seeing English,
thinking English, dressing English, and wondering why God didn't
make everything English, is trying to do the same for HIS folks.
Mr. Champney, Co'nnle Courtland. Co'nnle Courtland, Mr. Champney!"
The two men bowed formally. "And now, Co'nnle, if yo'll come down,
Mr. Champney will show yo' round the fahm. When yo' 've got
through yo'll find me here at work."
Courtland would have preferred, and half looked for her company
and commentary on this round of inspection, but he concealed his
disappointment and descended. It did not exactly please him that
Champney seemed relieved, and appeared to accept him as a bona fide
stranger who could not possibly interfere with any confidential
relations that he might have with Miss Sally. Nevertheless, he met
the Englishman's offer to accompany him with polite gratitude, and
they left the house together.
In less than an hour they returned. It had not even taken that
time for Courtland to discover that the real improvements and the
new methods had originated with Miss Sally; that she was virtually
the controlling influence there, and that she was probably retarded
rather than assisted by the old-fashioned and traditional
conservatism of the company of which Champney was steward. It was
equally plain, however, that the young fellow was dimly conscious
of this, and was frankly communicative about it.
"You see, over there they work things in a different way, and, by
Jove! they can't understand that there is any other, don't you
know? They're always wigging me as if I could help it, although
I've tried to explain the nigger business, and all that, don't you
know? They want Miss Dows to refer her plans to me, and expect me
to report on them, and then they'll submit them to the Board and
wait for its decision. Fancy Miss Dows doing that! But, by Jove!
they can't conceive of her AT ALL over there, don't you know?"
"Which Miss Dows do you mean?" asked Courtland dryly.
"Miss Sally, of course," said the young fellow briskly. "SHE
manages everything--her aunt included. She can make those niggers
work when no one else can, a word or smile from her is enough. She
can make terms with dealers and contractors--her own terms, too--
when they won't look at MY figures. By Jove! she even gets points
out of those traveling agents and inventors, don't you know, who
come along the road with patents and samples. She got one of those
lightning-rod and wire-fence men to show her how to put up an arbor
for her trailing roses. Why, when I first saw YOU up on the
cornice, I thought you were some other chap that she'd asked--don't
you know--that is, at first, of course!--you know what I mean--ha,
by Jove!--before we were introduced, don't you know."
"I think I OFFERED to help Miss Dows," said Courtland with a
quickness that he at once regretted.
"So did HE, don't you know? Miss Sally does not ASK anybody.
Don't you see? a fellow don't like to stand by and see a young lady
like her doing such work." Vaguely aware of some infelicity in his
speech, he awkwardly turned the subject: "I don't think I shall
stay here long, myself."
"You expect to return to England?" asked Courtland.
"Oh, no! But I shall go out of the company's service and try my
own hand. There's a good bit of land about three miles from here
that's in the market, and I think I could make something out of it.
A fellow ought to settle down and be his own master," he answered
"But how will Miss Dows be able to spare you?" asked Courtland,
uneasily conscious that he was assuming an indifference.
"Oh, I'm not much use to her, don't you know--at least not HERE.
But I might, if I had my own land and if we were neighbors. I told
you SHE runs the place, no matter who's here, or whose money is
"I presume you are speaking now of young Miss Dows?" said Courtland
"Miss Sally--of course--always," said Champney simply. "She runs
"Were there not some French investors--relations of Miss Dows?
Does anybody represent THEM?" asked Courtland pointedly.
Yet he was not quite prepared for the naive change in his
companion's face. "No. There was a sort of French cousin who used
to be a good deal to the fore, don't you know? But I rather fancy
he didn't come here to look after the PROPERTY," returned Champney
with a quick laugh. "I think the aunt must have written to his
friends, for they 'called him off,' and I don't think Miss Sally
broke her heart about him. She's not that sort of girl--eh? She
could have her pick of the State if she went in for that sort of
Although this was exactly what Courtland was thinking, it pleased
him to answer in a distrait sort of fashion, "Certainly, I should
think so," and to relapse into an apparently business abstraction.
"I think I won't go in," continued Champney as they neared the
house again. "I suppose you'll have something more to say to Miss
Dows. If there's anything else you want of ME, come to the office.
But SHE'LL know. And--er--er--if you're--er--staying long in this
part of the country, ride over and look me up, don't you know? and
have a smoke and a julep; I have a boy who knows how to mix them,
and I've some old brandy sent me from the other side. Good-by."
More awkward in his kindliness than in his simple business
confidences, but apparently equally honest in both, he shook
Courtland's hand and walked away. Courtland turned towards the
house. He had seen the farm and its improvements; he had found
some of his own ideas practically discounted; clearly there was
nothing left for him to do but to thank his hostess and take his
leave. But he felt far more uneasy than when he had arrived; and
there was a singular sense of incompleteness in his visit that he
could not entirely account for. His conversation with Champney had
complicated--he knew not why--his previous theories of Miss Dows,
and although he was half conscious that this had nothing to do with
the business that brought him there, he tried to think that it had.
If Miss Sally was really--a--a--distracting element to contiguous
man, it was certainly something to be considered in a matter of
business of which she would take a managerial part. It was true
that Champney had said she was "not that sort of girl," but this
was the testimony of one who was clearly under her influence. He
entered the house through the open French window. The parlor was
deserted. He walked through the front hall and porch; no one was
there. He lingered a few moments, a slight chagrin beginning to
mingle with his uneasiness. She might have been on the lookout for
him. She or Sophy must have seen him returning. He would ring for
Sophy, and leave his thanks and regrets for her mistress. He
looked for a bell, touched it, but on being confronted with Sophy,
changed his mind and asked to SEE Miss Dows. In the interval
between her departure and the appearance of Miss Sally he resolved
to do the very thing which he had dismissed from his thoughts but
an hour before as ill-timed and doubtful. He had the photograph
and letter in his pocket; he would make them his excuse for
personally taking leave of her.
She entered with her fair eyebrows lifted in a pretty surprise.
"I declare to goodness, I thought yo' 'd ridden over to the red
barn and gone home from there. I got through my work on the vines
earlier than I thought. One of Judge Garret's nephews dropped in
in time to help me with the last row. Yo' needn't have troubled
yo'self to send up for me for mere company manners, but Sophy says
yo' looked sort of 'anxious and particular' when yo' asked for me--
so I suppose yo' want to see me for something."
Mentally objurgating Sophy, and with an unpleasant impression in
his mind of the unknown neighbor who had been helping Miss Sally in
his place, he nevertheless tried to collect himself gallantly.
"I don't know what my expression conveyed to Sophy," he said with a
smile, "but I trust that what I have to tell you may be interesting
enough to make you forget my second intrusion." He paused, and
still smiling continued: "For more than three years, Miss Dows, you
have more or less occupied my thoughts; and although we have
actually met to-day only for the first time, I have during that
time carried your image with me constantly. Even this meeting,
which was only the result of an accident, I had been seeking for
three years. I find you here under your own peaceful vine and fig-
tree, and yet three years ago you came to me out of the thunder-
cloud of battle."
"My good gracious!" said Miss Sally.
She had been clasping her knee with her linked fingers, but
separated them and leaned backward on the sofa with affected
consternation, but an expression of growing amusement in her bright
eyes. Courtland saw the mistake of his tone, but it was too late
to change it now. He handed her the locket and the letter, and
briefly, and perhaps a little more seriously, recounted the
incident that had put him in possession of them. But he entirely
suppressed the more dramatic and ghastly details, and his own
superstition and strange prepossession towards her.
Miss Sally took the articles without a tremor, or the least
deepening or paling of the delicate, faint suffusion of her cheek.
When she had glanced over the letter, which appeared to be brief,
she said, with smiling, half-pitying tranquillity:--
"Yes!--it WAS that poor Chet Brooks, sure! I heard that he was
killed at Snake River. It was just like him to rush in and get
killed the first pop! And all for nothing, too,--pure foolishness!"
Shocked, yet relieved, but uneasy under both sensations, Courtland
went on blindly:
"But he was not the only one, Miss Dows. There was another man
picked up who also had your picture."
"Yes--Joyce Masterton. They sent it to me. But you didn't kill
"I don't know that I personally killed either," he said a little
coldly. He paused, and continued with a gravity which he could not
help feeling very inconsistent and even ludicrous: "They were brave
men, Miss Dows."
"To have worn my picture?" said Miss Sally brightly.
"To have THOUGHT they had so much to live for, and yet to have
willingly laid down their lives for what they believed was right."
"Yo' didn't go huntin' me for three years to tell ME, a So'th'n
girl, that So'th'n men know how to fight, did yo', co'nnle?"
returned the young lady, with the slightest lifting of her head and
drooping of her blue-veined lids in a divine hauteur. "They were
always ready enough for that, even among themselves. It was much
easier for these pooah boys to fight a thing out than think it out,
or work it out. Yo' folks in the No'th learned to do all three;
that's where you got the grip on us. Yo' look surprised, co'nnle."
"I didn't expect you would look at it--quite in--in--that way,"
said Courtland awkwardly.
"I am sorry I disappointed yo' after yo' 'd taken such a heap o'
trouble," returned the young lady with a puzzling assumption of
humility as she rose and smoothed out her skirts, "but I couldn't
know exactly what yo' might be expecting after three years; if I
HAD, I might have put on mo'ning." She stopped and adjusted a
straying tendril of her hair with the sharp corner of the dead
man's letter. "But I thank yo', all the same, co'nnle. It was
real good in yo' to think of toting these things over here." And
she held out her hand frankly.
Courtland took it with the sickening consciousness that for the
last five minutes he had been an unconscionable ass. He could not
prolong the interview after she had so significantly risen. If he
had only taken his leave and kept the letter and locket for a later
visit, perhaps when they were older friends! It was too late now.
He bent over her hand for a moment, again thanked her for her
courtesy, and withdrew. A moment later she heard the receding beat
of his horse's hoofs on the road.
She opened the drawer of a brass-handled cabinet, and after a
moment's critical survey of her picture in the dead man's locket,
tossed it and the letter into the recesses of the drawer. Then she
stopped, removed her little slipper from her foot, looked at THAT,
too, thoughtfully, and called "Sophy!"
"Miss Sally?" said the girl, reappearing at the door.
"Are you sure you did not move that ladder?"
"I 'clare to goodness, Miss Sally, I never teched it!"
Miss Sally directed a critical glance at her handmaiden's red-
coifed head. "No," she said to herself softly, "it felt nicer than
In spite of the awkward termination of his visit,--or perhaps
BECAUSE of it,--Courtland called again at the plantation within the
week. But this time he was accompanied by Drummond, and was
received by Miss Miranda Dows, a tall, aquiline-nosed spinster of
fifty, whose old-time politeness had become slightly affected, and
whose old beliefs had given way to a half-cynical acceptance of new
facts. Mr. Drummond, delighted with the farm and its management,
was no less fascinated by Miss Sally, while Courtland was now
discreet enough to divide his attentions between her and her aunt,
with the result that he was far from participating in Champney's
conviction of Miss Miranda's unimportance. To the freedmen she
still represented the old implacable task-mistress, and it was
evident that they superstitiously believed that she still retained
a vague power of overriding the Fourteenth Amendment at her
pleasure, and was only to be restrained by the mediation of the
good-humored and sensible Miss Sally. Courtland was quick to
see the value of this influence in the transition state of the
freedmen, and pointed it out to his principal. Drummond's previous
doubts and skepticism, already weakened by Miss Sally's fascinations,
vanished entirely at this prospect of beneficially utilizing these
lingering evils of slavery. He was convinced, he was even
enthusiastic. The foreign investors were men to be bought out; the
estate improved and enlarged by the company, and the fair owners
retained in the management and control. Like most prejudiced men,
Drummond's conversion was sudden and extreme, and, being a practical
man, was at once acted upon. At a second and third interview the
preliminaries were arranged, and in three weeks from Courtland's
first visit, the Dows' plantation and part of Major Reed's were
merged in the "Drummond Syndicate," and placed beyond financial
uncertainty. Courtland remained to represent the company as
superintendent at Redlands, and with the transfer of the English
investments Champney retired, as he had suggested, to a smaller
venture of his own, on a plantation a few miles distant which the
company had been unable to secure.
During this interval Courtland had frequent interviews with Miss
Sally, and easy and unrestrained access to her presence. He had
never again erred on the side of romance or emotion; he had never
again referred to the infelix letter and photograph; and, without
being obliged to confine himself strictly to business affairs, he
had maintained an even, quiet, neighborly intercourse with her.
Much of this was the result of his own self-control and soldierly
training, and gave little indication of the deeper feeling that he
was conscious lay beneath it. At times he caught the young girl's
eyes fixed upon him with a mischievous curiosity. A strange thrill
went through him; there are few situations so subtle and dangerous
as the accidental confidences and understandings of two young
people of opposite sex, even though the question of any sentimental
inclination be still in abeyance. Courtland knew that Miss Sally
remembered the too serious attitude he had taken towards her past.
She might laugh at it, and even resent it, but she KNEW it,
remembered it, knew that HE did, and this precious knowledge was
confined to themselves. It was in their minds when there was a
pause in their more practical and conventional conversation, and
was even revealed in the excessive care which Miss Sally later took
to avert at the right moment her mischievously smiling eyes. Once
she went farther. Courtland had just finished explaining to her a
plan for substituting small farm buildings for the usual half-
cultivated garden-patches dear to the negro field-hand, and had
laid down the drawings on the table in the office, when the young
lady, leaning against it with her hands behind her, fixed her
bright gray eyes on his serious face.
"I vow and protest, co'nnle," she said, dropping into one of the
quaint survivals of an old-time phraseology peculiar to her people,
"I never allowed yo' could just give yo'self up to business, soul
and body, as yo' do, when I first met yo' that day."
"Why, what did you think me?" he asked quickly.
Miss Sally, who had a Southern aptitude for gesture, took one
little hand from behind her, twirled it above her head with a
pretty air of disposing of some airy nothing in a presumably
masculine fashion, and said, "Oh, THAT."
"I am afraid I did not impress you then as a very practical man,"
he said, with a faint color.
"I thought you roosted rather high, co'nnle, to pick up many worms
in the mo'ning. But," she added with a dazzling smile, "I reckon
from what yo' said about the photograph, yo' thought I wasn't
exactly what yo' believed I ought to be, either."
He would have liked to tell her then and there that he would have
been content if those bright, beautiful eyes had never kindled with
anything but love or womanly aspiration; that that soft, lazy,
caressing voice had never been lifted beyond the fireside or
domestic circle; that the sunny, tendriled hair and pink ears had
never inclined to anything but whispered admiration; and that the
graceful, lithe, erect figure, so independent and self-contained,
had been satisfied to lean only upon his arm for support. He was
conscious that this had been in his mind when he first saw her; he
was equally conscious that she was more bewilderingly fascinating
to him in her present inaccessible intelligence and practicality.
"I confess," he said, looking into her eyes with a vague smile, "I
did not expect you would be so forgetful of some one who had
evidently cared for you."
"Meaning Mr. Chet Brooks, or Mr. Joyce Masterton, or both. That's
like most yo' men, co'nnle. Yo' reckon because a girl pleases yo'
she ought to be grateful all her life--and yo'rs, too! Yo' think
different now! But yo' needn't act up to it quite so much." She
made a little deprecating gesture with her disengaged hand as if to
ward off any retaliating gallantry. "I ain't speaking for myself,
co'nnle. Yo' and me are good enough friends. But the girls round
here think yo' 're a trifle too much taken up with rice and
niggers. And looking at it even in yo'r light, co'nnle, it ain't
BUSINESS. Yo' want to keep straight with Major Reed, so it would
be just as well to square the major's woman folks. Tavy and Gussie
Reed ain't exactly poisonous, co'nnle, and yo' might see one or the
other home from church next Sunday. The Sunday after that, just to
show yo' ain't particular, and that yo' go in for being a regular
beau, yo' might walk home with ME. Don't be frightened--I've got a
better gown than this. It's a new one, just come home from
Louisville, and I'll wear it for the occasion."
He did not dare to say that the quaint frock she was then wearing--
a plain "checked" household gingham used for children's pinafores,
with its ribbons of the same pattern, gathered in bows at the smart
apron pockets--had become a part of her beauty, for he was already
hopelessly conscious that she was lovely in anything, and he might
be impelled to say so. He thanked her gravely and earnestly, but
without gallantry or effusion, and had the satisfaction of seeing
the mischief in her eyes increase in proportion to his seriousness,
and heard her say with affected concern: "Bear up, co'nnle! Don't
let it worry yo' till the time comes," and took his leave.
On the following Sunday he was present at the Redlands Episcopal
Church, and after the service stood with outward composure but some
inward chafing among the gallant youth who, after the local
fashion, had ranged themselves outside the doors of the building.
He was somewhat surprised to find Mr. Champney, evidently as much
out of place as himself, but less self-contained, waiting in the
crowd of expectant cavaliers. Although convinced that the young
Englishman had come only to see Miss Sally, he was glad to share
his awkward isolation with another stranger, and greeted him
pleasantly. The Dows' pew, being nearer to the entrance than the
Reeds', gave up its occupants first. Colonel Courtland lifted his
hat to Miss Miranda and her niece at the same moment that Champney
moved forward and ranged himself beside them. Miss Sally, catching
Courtland's eye, showed the whites of her own in a backward glance
of mischievous significance to indicate the following Reeds. When
they approached, Courtland joined them, and finding himself beside
Miss Octavia entered into conversation. Apparently the suppressed
passion and sardonic melancholy of that dark-eyed young lady
spurred him to a lighter, gayer humor even in proportion as Miss
Sally's good-natured levity and sunny practicality always made him
serious. They presently fell to the rear with other couples, and
were soon quite alone.
A little haughty, but tall and erect in her well-preserved black
grenadine dress, which gave her the appearance of a youthful but
implacable widow, Miss Reed declared she had not seen the co'nnle
for "a coon's age," and certainly had not expected to have the
honor of his company as long as there were niggers to be elevated
or painted to look like white men. She hoped that he and paw and
Sally Dows were happy! They hadn't yet got so far as to put up a
nigger preacher in the place of Mr. Symes, their rector, but she
understood that there was some talk of running Hannibal Johnson--
Miss Dows' coachman--for county judge next year! No! she had not
heard that the co'nnle HIMSELF had thought of running for the
office! He might laugh at her as much as he liked--he seemed to be
in better spirits than when she first saw him--only she would like
to know if it was "No'th'n style" to laugh coming home from church?
Of course if it WAS she would have to adopt it with the Fourteenth
Amendment. But, just now, she noticed the folks were staring at
them, and Miss Sally Dows had turned round to look. Nevertheless,
Miss Octavia's sallow cheek nearest the colonel--the sunny side--
had taken a faint brunette's flush, and the corners of her proud
mouth were slightly lifted.
"But, candidly, Miss Reed, don't you think that you would prefer to
have old Hannibal, whom you know, as county judge, than a stranger
and a Northern man like ME?"
Miss Reed's dark eyes glanced sideways at the handsome face and
elegant figure beside her. Something like a saucy smile struggled
to her thin lips.
"There mightn't be much to choose, Co'nnle."
"I admit it. We should both acknowledge our mistress, and be like
wax in her hands."
"Yo' ought to make that pooty speech to Sally Dows, she's generally
mistress around here. But," she added, suddenly fixing her eyes on
him, "how does it happen that yo' ain't walking with her instead of
that Englishman? Yo' know that it's as plain as day that he took
that land over there just to be near her, when he was no longer
But Courtland was always master of himself and quite at ease
regarding Miss Sally when not in that lady's presence. "You
forget," he said smilingly, "that I'm still a stranger and knew
little of the local gossip; and if I did know it, I am afraid we
didn't bargain to buy up with the LAND Mr. Champney's personal
interest in the LANDLADY."
"Yo' 'd have had your hands full, for I reckon she's pooty heavily
mortgaged in that fashion, already," returned Miss Reed with mere
badinage than spitefulness in the suggestion. "And Mr. Champney
was run pooty close by a French cousin of hers when he was here.
Yo' haven't got any French books to lend me, co'nnle--have yo'?
Paw says you read a heap of French, and I find it mighty hard to
keep up MY practice since I left the Convent at St. Louis, for paw
don't knew what sort of books to order, and I reckon he makes awful
The conversation here turning upon polite literature, it appeared
that Miss Octavia's French reading, through a shy, proud innocence
and an imperfect knowledge of the wicked subtleties of the
language, was somewhat broad and unconventional for a young lady.
Courtland promised to send her some books, and even ventured to
suggest some American and English novels not intensely "No'th'n"
nor "metaphysical"--according to the accepted Southern beliefs. A
new respect and pitying interest in this sullen, solitary girl,
cramped by tradition, and bruised rather than enlightened by sad
experiences, came over him. He found himself talking quite
confidentially to the lifted head, arched eyebrows, and aquiline
nose beside him, and even thinking what a handsome high-bred
BROTHER she might have been to some one. When they had reached the
house, in compliance with the familiar custom, he sat down on one
of the lower steps of the veranda, while she, shaking out her
skirt, took a seat a step or two above him. This enabled him,
after the languid local fashion, to lean on his elbow and gaze up
into the eyes of the young lady, while she with equal languor
looked down upon him. But in the present instance Miss Reed leaned
forward suddenly, and darting a sharp quick glance into his very
"And yo' mean to say, co'nnle, there's nothing between yo' and
Courtland neither flushed, trembled, grew confused, nor prevaricated.
"We are good friends, I think," he replied quietly, without evasion
Miss Reed looked at him thoughtfully, "I reckon that is so--and no
more. And that's why yo' 've been so lucky in everything," she
"I don't think I quite understand," returned Courtland, smiling.
"Is this a paradox--or a consolation?"
"It's the TRUTH," said Miss Reed gravely. "Those who try to be
anything more to Sally Dows lose their luck."
"That is--are rejected by her. Is she really so relentless?"
continued Courtland gayly.
"I mean that they lose their luck in everything. Something is sure
to happen. And SHE can't help it either."
"Is this a Sibylline warning, Miss Reed?"
"No. It's nigger superstition. It came from Mammy Judy, Sally's
old nurse. It's part of their regular Hoo-doo. She bewitched Miss
Sally when she was a baby, so that everybody is bound to HER as
long as they care for her, and she isn't bound to THEM in any way.
All their luck goes to her as soon as the spell is on them," she
"I think I know the rest," returned Courtland with still greater
solemnity. "You gather the buds of the witch-hazel in April when
the moon is full. You then pluck three hairs from the young lady's
right eyebrow when she isn't looking"--
"Yo' can laugh, co'nnle, for yo' 're lucky--because yo' 're free."
"I'm not so sure of that," he said gallantly, "for I ought to be
riding at this moment over to the Infirmary to visit my Sunday
sick. If being made to pleasantly forget one's time and duty is a
sign of witchcraft I am afraid Mammy Judy's enchantments were not
confined to only one Southern young lady."
The sound of quick footsteps on the gravel path caused them both to
look up. A surly looking young fellow, ostentatiously booted and
spurred, and carrying a heavy rawhide riding-whip in his swinging
hand, was approaching them. Deliberately, yet with uneasy self-
consciousness, ignoring the presence of Courtland, he nodded
abruptly to Miss Reed, ascended the steps, brushed past them both
without pausing, and entered the house.
"Is that yo'r manners, Mr. Tom?" called the young lady after him, a
slight flush rising to her sallow cheek. The young man muttered
something from the hall which Courtland did not catch. "It's
Cousin Tom Higbee," she explained half disdainfully. "He's had
some ugliness with his horse, I reckon; but paw ought to teach him
how to behave. And--I don't think he likes No'th'n men," she added
Courtland, who had kept his temper with his full understanding of
the intruder's meaning, smiled as he took Miss Reed's hand in
parting. "That's quite enough explanation, and I don't know why it
shouldn't be even an apology."
Yet the incident left little impression on him as he strolled back
to Redlands. It was not the first time he had tasted the dregs of
former sectional hatred in incivility and discourtesy, but as it
seldom came from his old personal antagonists--the soldiers--and
was confined to the callow youth, previous non-combatants and
politicians, he could afford to overlook it. He did not see Miss
Sally during the following week.
On the next Sunday he was early at church. But he had perhaps
accented the occasion by driving there in a light buggy behind a
fast thoroughbred, possibly selected more to the taste of a smart
cavalry officer than an agricultural superintendent. He was
already in a side pew, his eyes dreamily fixed on the prayer-book
ledge before him, when there was a rustle at the church door, and a
thrill of curiosity and admiration passed over the expectant
congregation. It was the entrance of the Dows party, Miss Sally
well to the fore. She was in her new clothes, the latest fashion
in Louisville, the latest but two in Paris and New York.
It was over twenty years ago. I shall not imperil the effect of
that lovely vision by recalling to the eye of to-day a fashion of
yesterday. Enough, that it enabled her to set her sweet face and
vapory golden hair in a horseshoe frame of delicate flowers, and to
lift her oval chin out of a bewildering mist of tulle. Nor did a
certain light polonaise conceal the outlines of her charming
figure. Even those who were constrained to whisper to each other
that "Miss Sally" must "be now going on twenty-five," did so
because she still carried the slender graces of seventeen. The
organ swelled as if to welcome her; as she took her seat a ray of
sunlight, that would have been cruel and searching to any other
complexion, drifted across the faint pink of her cheeks, and
nestling in her nebulous hair became itself transfigured. A few
stained-glass Virtues on the windows did not come out of this
effulgence as triumphantly, and it was small wonder that the
devotional eyes of the worshipers wandered from them to the face
of Sally Dows.
When the service was over, as the congregation filed slowly into
the aisle, Courtland slipped mutely behind her. As she reached the
porch he said in an undertone:
"I brought my horse and buggy. I thought you might possibly allow
me to drive"-- But he was stopped by a distressful knitting of her
golden brows. "No," she said quickly, but firmly, "you must not--
it won't do." As Courtland hesitated in momentary perplexity, she
smiled sweetly: "We'll walk round by the cemetery, if you like; it
will take about as long as a drive." Courtland vanished, gave
hurried instructions and a dollar to a lounging negro, and rejoined
Miss Sally as the delighted and proud freedman drove out of the
gate. Miss Sally heaved a slight sigh as the gallant equipage
passed. "It was a mighty pooty turnout, co'nnle, and I'd have just
admired to go, but it would have been rather hard on the other
folks. There's the Reeds and Maxwells and Robertsons that are too
pooah to keep blood horses, and too proud to ride behind anything
else. It wouldn't be the right thing for us to go whirling by,
scattering our dust over them." There was something so subtly
pleasant in this implied partnership of responsibility, that
Courtland forgot the abrupt refusal and thought only of the tact
that prompted it. Nevertheless, here a spell seemed to fall upon
his usually ready speech. Now that they were together for the
first time in a distinctly social fashion, he found himself
vacantly, meaninglessly silent, content to walk beside this
charming, summery presence, brushed by its delicate draperies,
and inhaling its freshness. Presently it spoke.
"It would take more than a thousand feet of lumber to patch up the
cowsheds beyond the Moseley pasture, and an entirely new building
with an improved dairy would require only about two thousand more.
All the old material would come in good for fencing, and could be
used with the new post and rails. Don't yo' think it would be
better to have an out-and-out new building?"
"Yes, certainly," returned Courtland a little confusedly. He had
not calculated upon this practical conversation, and was the more
disconcerted as they were passing some of the other couples, who
had purposely lingered to overhear them.
"And," continued the young girl brightly, "the freight question is
getting to be a pretty serious one. Aunt Miranda holds some shares
in the Briggsville branch line, and thinks something could be done
with the directors for a new tariff of charges if she put a
pressure on them; Tyler says that there was some talk of their
reducing it one sixteenth per cent. before we move this year's
Courtland glanced quickly at his companion's face. It was grave,
but there was the faintest wrinkling of the corner of the eyelid
nearest him. "Had we not better leave these serious questions
until to-morrow?" he said, smiling.
Miss Sally opened her eyes demurely. "Why, yo' seemed SO quiet, I
reckoned yo' must be full of business this morning; but if yo'
prefer company talk, we'll change the subject. They say that yo'
and Miss Reed didn't have much trouble to find one last Sunday.
She don't usually talk much, but she keeps up a power of thinking.
I should reckon," she added, suddenly eying him critically, "that
yo' and she might have a heap o' things to say to each other.
She's a good deal in yo' fashion, co'nnle, she don't forget, but"--
more slowly--"I don't know that THAT'S altogether the best thing
Courtland lifted his eyes with affected consternation. "If this is
in the light of another mysterious warning, Miss Dows, I warn you
that my intellect is already tottering with them. Last Sunday Miss
Reed thrilled me for an hour with superstition and Cassandra-like
prophecy. Don't things ever happen accidentally here, and without
"I mean," returned the young lady with her usual practical
directness, "that Tave Reed remembers a good many horrid things
about the wah that she ought to forget, but don't. But," she
continued, looking at him curiously, "she allows she was mighty cut
up by her cousin's manner to yo'."
"I am afraid that Miss Reed was more annoyed than I was," said
Courtland. "I should be very sorry if she attached any importance
to it," he added earnestly.
"And YO' don't?" continued Miss Sally.
"No. Why should I?" She noticed, however, that he had slightly
drawn himself up a little more erect, and she smiled as he
continued, "I dare say I should feel as he does if I were in his
"But YO' wouldn't do anything underhanded," she said quietly. As
he glanced at her quickly she added dryly: "Don't trust too much to
people always acting in yo' fashion, co'nnle. And don't think too
much nor too little of what yo' hear here. Yo' 're just the kind
of man to make a good many silly enemies, and as many foolish
friends. And I don't know which will give yo' the most trouble.
Only don't yo' underrate EITHER, or hold yo' head so high, yo'
don't see what's crawlin' around yo'. That's why, in a copperhead
swamp, a horse is bitten oftener than a hog."
She smiled, yet with knitted brows and such a pretty affectation of
concern for her companion that he suddenly took heart.
"I wish I had ONE friend I could call my own," he said boldly,
looking straight into her eyes. "I'd care little for other
friends, and fear no enemies."
"Yo' 're right, co'nnle," she said, ostentatiously slanting her
parasol in a marvelous simulation of hiding a purely imaginative
blush on a cheek that was perfectly infantine in its unchanged
pink; "company talk is much pootier than what we've been saying.
And--meaning me--for I reckon yo' wouldn't say that of any other
girl but the one yo' 're walking with--what's the matter with me?"
He could not help smiling, though he hesitated. "Nothing! but
others have been disappointed."
"And that bothers YO'?"
"I mean I have as yet had no right to put your feelings to any
"Poor Chet had, yo' were going to say! Well, here we are at the
cemetery! I reckoned yo' were bound to get back to the dead again
before we'd gone far, and that's why I thought we might take the
cemetery on our way. It may put me in a more proper frame of mind
to please yo'."
As he raised his eyes he could not repress a slight start. He had
not noticed before that they had passed through a small gateway on
diverging from the road, and was quite unprepared to find himself
on the edge of a gentle slope leading to a beautiful valley, and
before him a long vista of tombs, white head-stones and low
crosses, edged by drooping cypress and trailing feathery vines.
Some vines had fallen and been caught in long loops from bough to
bough, like funeral garlands, and here and there the tops of
isolated palmettos lifted a cluster of hearse-like plumes. Yet in
spite of this dominance of sombre but graceful shadow, the drooping
delicacy of dark-tasseled foliage and leafy fringes, and the waving
mourning veils of gray, translucent moss, a glorious vivifying
Southern sun smiled and glittered everywhere as through tears. The
balm of bay, southernwood, pine, and syringa breathed through the
long alleys; the stimulating scent of roses moved with every
zephyr, and the closer odors of jessamine, honeysuckle, and orange
flowers hung heavily in the hollows. It seemed to Courtland like
the mourning of beautiful and youthful widowhood, seductive even in
its dissembling trappings, provocative in the contrast of its own
still strong virility. Everywhere the grass grew thick and
luxuriant; the quick earth was teeming with the germination of the
They moved slowly along side by side, speaking only of the beauty
of the spot and the glory of that summer day, which seemed to have
completed its perfection here. Perhaps from the heat, the
overpowering perfume, or some unsuspected sentiment, the young lady
became presently as silent and preoccupied as her companion. She
began to linger and loiter behind, hovering like a butterfly over
some flowering shrub or clustered sheaf of lilies, until,
encountered suddenly in her floating draperies, she might have been
taken for a somewhat early and far too becoming ghost. It seemed
to him, also, that her bright eyes were slightly shadowed by a
gentle thoughtfulness. He moved close to her side with an
irresistible impulse of tenderness, but she turned suddenly, and
saying, "Come!" moved at a quicker pace down a narrow side path.
Courtland followed. He had not gone far before he noticed that
the graves seemed to fall into regular lines, the emblems became
cheaper and more common; wooden head and foot stones of one
monotonous pattern took the place of carved freestone or marble,
and he knew that they had reached that part of the cemetery
reserved for those who had fallen in the war. The long lines drawn
with military precision stretched through the little valley, and
again up the opposite hill in an odd semblance of hollow squares,
ranks, and columns. A vague recollection of the fateful slope of
Snake River came over him. It was intensified as Miss Sally, who
was still preceding him, suddenly stopped before an isolated mound
bearing a broken marble shaft and a pedestal with the inscription,
"Chester Brooks." A few withered garlands and immortelles were
lying at its base, but encircling the broken shaft was a perfectly
fresh, unfaded wreath.
"You never told me he was buried here!" said Courtland quickly,
half shocked at the unexpected revelation. "Was he from this
"No, but his regiment was," said Miss Sally, eying the wreath
"And this wreath, is it from you?" continued Courtland gently.
"Yes, I thought yo' 'd like to see something fresh and pooty,
instead of those stale ones."
"And were they also from you?" he asked even more gently.
"Dear no! They were left over from last anniversary day by some of
the veterans. That's the only one I put there--that is--I got Mr.
Champney to leave it here on his way to his house. He lives just
yonder, yo' know."
It was impossible to resist this invincible naivete. Courtland bit
his lip as the vision arose before him of this still more naif
English admirer bringing hither, at Miss Sally's bidding, the
tribute which she wished to place on the grave of an old lover to
please a THIRD man. Meantime, she had put her two little hands
behind her back in the simulated attitude of "a good girl," and was
saying half smilingly, and he even thought half wistfully:--
"Are yo' satisfied?"
"Then let's go away. It's mighty hot here."
They turned away, and descending the slope again re-entered the
thicker shade of the main avenue. Here they seemed to have left
the sterner aspect of Death. They walked slowly; the air was heavy
with the hot incense of flowers; the road sinking a little left a
grassy bank on one side. Here Miss Sally halted and listlessly
seated herself, motioning Courtland to do the same. He obeyed
eagerly. The incident of the wreath had troubled him, albeit with
contending sensations. She had given it to please HIM; why should
HE question the manner, or torment himself with any retrospective
thought? He would have given worlds to have been able to accept it
lightly or gallantly,--with any other girl he could; but he knew he
was trembling on the verge of a passionate declaration; the
magnitude of the stake was too great to be imperiled by a levity of
which she was more a mistress than himself, and he knew that his
sentiment had failed to impress her. His pride kept him from
appealing to her strangely practical nature, although he had
recognized and accepted it, and had even begun to believe it an
essential part of the strong fascination she had over him. But
being neither a coward nor a weak, hesitating idealist, when he
deliberately took his seat beside her he as deliberately made up
his mind to accept his fate, whatever it might be, then and there.
Perhaps there was something of this in his face. "I thought yo'
were looking a little white, co'nnle," she said quietly, "and I
reckoned we might sit down a spell, and then take it slowly home.
Yo' ain't accustomed to the So'th'n sun, and the air in the hollow
WAS swampy." As he made a slight gesture of denial, she went on
with a pretty sisterly superiority: "That's the way of yo' No'th'n
men. Yo' think yo' can do everything just as if yo' were reared to
it, and yo' never make allowance for different climates, different
blood, and different customs. That's where yo' slip up."
But he was already leaning towards her with his dark earnest eyes
fixed upon her in a way she could no longer mistake. "At the risk
of slipping up again, Miss Dows," he said gently, dropping into her
dialect with utterly unconscious flattery, "I am going to ask you
to teach me everything YOU wish, to be all that YOU demand--which
would be far better. You have said we were good friends; I want
you to let me hope to be more. I want you to overlook my
deficiencies and the differences of my race and let me meet you on
the only level where I can claim to be the equal of your own
people--that of loving you. Give me only the same chance you gave
the other poor fellow who sleeps yonder--the same chance you gave
the luckier man who carried the wreath for you to put upon his
She had listened with delicately knitted brows, the faintest touch
of color, and a half-laughing, half-superior disapprobation. When
he had finished, she uttered a plaintive little sigh. "Yo'
oughtn't to have said that, co'nnle, but yo' and me are too good
friends to let even THAT stand between us. And to prove it to yo'
I'm going to forget it right away--and so are yo'."
"But I cannot," he said quickly; "if I could I should be unworthy
of even your friendship. If you must reject it, do not make me
feel the shame of thinking you believe me capable of wanton
trifling. I know that this avowal is abrupt to you, but it is not
to me. You have known me only for three months, but these three
months have been to me the realization of three years' dreaming!"
As she remained looking at him with bright, curious eyes, but still
shaking her fair head distressedly, he moved nearer and caught her
hand in the little pale lilac thread glove that was, nevertheless,
too wide for her small fingers, and said appealingly: "But why
should YOU forget it? Why must it be a forbidden topic? What is
the barrier? Are you no longer free? Speak, Miss Dows--give me
some hope. Miss Dows!--Sally!"
She had drawn herself away, distressed, protesting, her fair head
turned aside, until with a slight twist and narrowing of her hand
she succeeded in slipping it from the glove which she left a
prisoner in his eager clasp. "There! Yo' can keep the glove,
co'nnle," she said, breathing quickly. "Sit down! This is not the
place nor the weather for husking frolics! Well!--yo' want to know
WHY yo' mustn't speak to me in that way. Be still, and I'll tell
She smoothed down the folds of her frock, sitting sideways on the
bank, one little foot touching the road. "Yo' mustn't speak that
way to me," she went on slowly, "because it's as much as yo'
company's wo'th, as much as OUR property's wo'th, as much maybe as
yo' life's wo'th! Don't lift yo' comb, co'nnle; if you don't care
for THAT, others may. Sit still, I tell yo'! Well, yo' come here
from the No'th to run this property for money--that's square and
fair business; THAT any fool here can understand--it's No'th'n
style; it don't interfere with these fools' family affairs; it
don't bring into their blood any No'th'n taint; it don't divide
their clannishness; it don't separate father and son, sister and
brother; and even if yo' got a foothold here and settled down, they
know they can always outvote yo' five to one! But let these same
fools know that yo' 're courtin' a So'th'n girl known to be 'Union'
during the wah, that girl who has laughed at their foolishness; let
them even THINK that he wants that girl to mix up the family and
the race and the property for him, and there ain't a young or old
fool that believes in So'th'n isolation as the price of So'th'n
salvation that wouldn't rise against yo'! There isn't one that
wouldn't make shipwreck of yo'r syndicate and yo'r capital and the
prosperity of Redlands for the next four years to come, and think
they were doing right! They began to suspect yo' from the first!
They suspected yo' when yo' never went anywhere, but stuck close to
the fahm and me. That's why I wanted yo' to show yourself among
the girls; they wouldn't have minded yo' flirting with them with
the chance of yo' breaking yo' heart over Tave Reed or Lympy
Morris! They're fools enough to believe that a snub or a jilt from
a So'th'n girl would pay them back for a lost battle or a ruined
For the first time Miss Sally saw Courtland's calm blood fly to his
cheek and kindle in his eye. "You surely do not expect ME to
tolerate this blind and insolent interference!" he said, rising to
She lifted her ungloved hand in deprecation. "Sit still, co'nnle.
Yo' 've been a soldier, and yo' know what duty is. Well! what's
yo' duty to yo' company?"
"It neither includes my private affairs nor regulates the beating
of my heart. I will resign."
"And leave me and Aunt Miranda and the plantation?"
"No! The company will find another superintendent to look after
your aunt's affairs and carry out our plans. And you, Sally--you
will let me find you a home and fortune North? There is work for
me there; there is room for you among my people."
She shook her head slowly with a sweet but superior smile. "No,
co'nnle! I didn't believe in the wah, but the least I could do was
to stand by my folks and share the punishment that I knew was
coming from it. I despise this foolishness as much as yo', but I
can't run away from it. Come, co'nnle, I won't ask yo' to forget
this; mo', I'll even believe yo' MEANT it, but yo' 'll promise me
yo' won't speak of it again as long as yo' are with the company and
Aunt Miranda and me! There mustn't be more--there mustn't even
SEEM to be more--between us."
"But then I may hope?" he said, eagerly grasping her hand.
"I promise nothing, for yo' must not even have THAT excuse for
speaking of this again, either from anything I do or may seem to
do." She stopped, released her hand, as her eyes were suddenly
fixed on the distance. Then she said with a slight smile, but
without the least embarrassment or impatience: "There's Mr.
Champney coming here now. I reckon he's looking to see if that
wreath is safe."
Courtland looked up quickly. He could see the straw hat of the
young Englishman just above the myrtle bushes in a path intersecting
the avenue. A faint shadow crossed his face. "Let me know one
thing more," he said hurriedly. "I know I have no right to ask the
question, but has--has--has Mr. Champney anything to do with your
She smiled brightly. "Yo' asked just now if yo' could have the
same chance he and Chet Brooks had. Well, poor Chet is dead, and
Mr. Champney--well!--wait and see." She lifted her voice and
called, "Mr. Champney!" The young fellow came briskly towards
them; his face betrayed a slight surprise, but no discomfiture, as
he recognized her companion.
"Oh, Mr. Champney," said Miss Sally plaintively, "I've lost my
glove somewhere near pooah Brooks's tomb in the hollow. Won't you
go and fetch it, and come back here to take me home? The co'nnle
has got to go and see his sick niggers in the hospital." Champney
lifted his hat, nodded genially to Courtland, and disappeared below
the cypresses on the slope. "Yo' mustn't be mad," she said,
turning in explanation to her companion, "but we have been here too
long already, and it's better that I should be seen coming home
with him than yo'."
"Then this sectional interference does not touch him?" said
"No. He's an Englishman; his father was a known friend of the
Confederacy, and bought their cotton bonds."
She stopped, gazing into Courtland's face with a pretty vague
impatience and a slight pouting of her lip.
"Yo' say yo' had known me for three years before yo' saw me. Well,
we met once before we ever spoke to each other!"
Courtland looked in her laughing eyes with admiring wonder.
"When?" he asked.
"The first day yo' came! Yo' moved the ladder when I was on the
cornice, and I walked all ever yo' head. And, like a gentleman,
yo' never said a word about it. I reckon I stood on yo' head for
"Not as long as that," said Courtland laughing, "if I remember
"Yes," said Miss Sally with dancing eyes. "I, a So'th'n girl,
actually set my foot on the head of a No'th'n scum of a co'nnle!
"Let that satisfy your friends then."
"No! I want to apologize. Sit down, co'nnle."
"But, Miss Sally"--
"Sit down, quick!"
He did so, seating himself sideways on the bank. Miss Sally stood
"Take off yo' hat, sir."
He obeyed smilingly. Miss Sally suddenly slipped behind him. He
felt the soft touch of her small hands on his shoulders; warm
breath stirred the roots of his hair, and then--the light pressure
on his scalp of what seemed the lips of a child.
He leaped to his feet, yet before he could turn completely round--a
difficulty the young lady had evidently calculated upon--he was too
late! The floating draperies of the artful and shameless Miss
Sally were already disappearing among the tombs in the direction of
The house occupied by the manager of the Drummond Syndicate in
Redlands--the former residence of a local lawyer and justice of the
peace--was not large, but had an imposing portico of wooden Doric
columns, which extended to the roof and fronted the main street.
The all-pervading creeper closely covered it; the sidewalk before
it was shaded by a row of broad-leaved ailantus. The front room,
with French windows opening on the portico, was used by Colonel
Courtland as a general office; beyond this a sitting-room and
dining-room overlooked the old-fashioned garden with its detached
kitchen and inevitable negro cabin. It was a close evening; there
were dark clouds coming up in the direction of the turnpike road,
but the leaves of the ailantus hung heavy and motionless in the
hush of an impending storm. The sparks of lazily floating
fireflies softly expanded and went out in the gloom of the black
foliage, or in the dark recesses of the office, whose windows were
widely open, and whose lights Courtland had extinguished when he
brought his armchair to the portico for coolness. One of these
sparks beyond the fence, although alternately glowing and paling,
was still so persistent and stationary that Courtland leaned
forward to watch it more closely, at which it disappeared, and a
voice from the street said:--
"Is that you, Courtland?"
"Yes. Come in, won't you?"
The voice was Champney's, and the light was from his cigar. As he
opened the gate and came slowly up the steps of the portico the
usual hesitation of his manner seemed to have increased. A long
sigh trilled the limp leaves of the ailantus and as quickly
subsided. A few heavy perpendicular raindrops crashed and
spattered through the foliage like molten lead.
"You've just escaped the shower," said Courtland pleasantly. He
had not seen Champney since they parted in the cemetery six weeks
"Yes!--I--I thought I'd like to have a little talk with you,
Courtland," said Champney. He hesitated a moment before the
proffered chair, and then added, with a cautious glance towards the
street, "Hadn't we better go inside?"
"As you like. But you'll find it wofully hot. We're quite alone
here; there's nobody in the house, and this shower will drive any
loungers from the street." He was quite frank, although their
relations to each other in regard to Miss Sally were still so
undefined as to scarcely invite his confidence.
Howbeit Champney took the proffered chair and the glass of julep
which Courtland brought him.
"You remember my speaking to you of Dumont?" he said hesitatingly,
"Miss Dows' French cousin, you know? Well--he's coming here: he's
got property here--those three houses opposite the Court House.
From what I hear, he's come over with a lot of new-fangled French
ideas on the nigger question--rot about equality and fraternity,
don't you know--and the highest education and highest offices for
them. You know what the feeling is here already? You know what
happened at the last election at Coolidgeville--how the whites
wouldn't let the niggers go to the polls and the jolly row that was
kicked up over it? Well, it looks as if that sort of thing might
happen HERE, don't you know, if Miss Dows takes up these ideas."
"But I've reason to suppose--I mean," said Courtland correcting
himself with some deliberation, "that any one who knows Miss Dows'
opinions knows that these are not her views. Why should she take
"Because she takes HIM up," returned Champney hurriedly; "and even
if she didn't believe in them herself, she'd have to share the
responsibility with him in the eyes of every unreconstructed rowdy
like Tom Higbee and the rest of them. They'd make short work of
her niggers all the same."
"But I don't see why she should be made responsible for the
opinions of her cousin, nor do I exactly knew what 'taking him up'
means," returned Courtland quietly.
Champney moistened his dry lips with the julep and uttered a
nervous laugh. "Suppose we say her husband--for that's what his
coming back here means. Everybody knows that; you would, too, if
you ever talked with her about anything but business."
A bright flash of lightning that lit up the faces of the two men
would have revealed Champney's flushed features and Courtland's
lack of color had they been looking at each other. But they were
not, and the long reverberating crash of thunder which followed
prevented any audible reply from Courtland, and covered his
For without fully accepting Champney's conclusions he was cruelly
shocked at the young man's utterance of them. He had scrupulously
respected the wishes of Miss Sally and had faithfully--although
never hopelessly--held back any expression of his own love since
their conversation in the cemetery. But while his native
truthfulness and sense of honor had overlooked the seeming
insincerity of her attitude towards Champney, he had never
justified his own tacit participation in it, and the concealment of
his own pretensions before his possible rival. It was true that
she had forbidden him to openly enter the lists with her admirers,
but Champney's innocent assumption of his indifference to her and
his consequent half confidences added poignancy to his story.
There seemed to be only one way to extricate himself, and that was
by a quarrel. Whether he did or did not believe Champney's story,
whether it was only the jealous exaggeration of a rival, or Miss
Sally was actually deceiving them both, his position had become
"I must remind you, Champney," he said, with freezing deliberation,
"that Miss Miranda Dows and her niece now represent the Drummond
Company equally with myself, and that you cannot expect me to
listen to any reflections upon the way they choose to administer
their part in its affairs, either now, or to come. Still less do I
care to discuss the idle gossip which can affect only the PRIVATE
interests of these ladies, with which neither you nor I have any
right to interfere."
But the naivete of the young Englishman was as invincible as Miss
Sally's own, and as fatal to Courtland's attitude. "Of course I
haven't any RIGHT, you know," he said, calmly ignoring the severe
preamble of his companion's speech, "but I say! hang it all! even
if a fellow has no chance HIMSELF, he don't like to see a girl
throw herself and her property away on a man like that."
"One moment, Champney," said Courtland, under the infection of his
guest's simplicity, abandoning his former superior attitude. "You
say you have no chance. Do you want me to understand that you are
regularly a suitor of Miss Dows?"
"Y-e-e-s," said the young fellow, but with the hesitation of
conscientiousness rather than evasion. "That is--you know I WAS.
But don't you see, it couldn't be. It wouldn't do, you know. If
those clannish neighbors of hers--that Southern set--suspected that
Miss Sally was courted by an Englishman, don't you know--a poacher
on their preserves--it would be all up with her position on the
property and her influence over them. I don't mind telling you
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