The Battle Ground
Part 3 out of 8
Dan could have kicked him for the words, but he merely said savagely, "Have
you left your pocket handkerchief?" and turned Prince Rupert toward the
road. When he looked back from beneath the silver poplars, the girls were
still standing at the open window, the cold wind flushing their cheeks and
blowing the brown hair and the red together.
Virginia was the first to turn away. "Come in, you'll take cold," she said,
going to the fire. "Peggy Harrison never goes out when the wind blows, you
know, she says it's dreadful for the complexion. Once when she had to come
back from town on a March day, she told me she wore six green veils. I
wonder if that's the way she keeps her lovely colour?"
"Well, I wouldn't be Peggy Harrison," returned Betty, gayly, and she added
in the same tone, "so Mr. Morson got your camellia, after all, didn't he?"
"Oh, he begged so hard with his eyes," answered Virginia. "He had seen me
give Dan a white rose on Christmas Eve, you know, and he said it wasn't
fair to be so unfair."
"You gave Dan a white rose?" repeated Betty, slowly. Her face was pale, but
she was smiling brightly.
Virginia's soft little laugh pealed out. "And it was your rose, too,
darling," she said, nestling to Betty like a child. "You dropped it on the
stair and I picked it up. I was just going to take it to you because it
looked so lovely in your hair, when Dan came along and he would have it,
whether or no. But you don't mind, do you, just a little bit of white
rosebud?" She put up her hand and stroked her sister's cheek. "Men are so
silly, aren't they?" she added with a sigh.
For a moment Betty looked down upon the brown head on her bosom; then she
stooped and kissed Virginia's brow. "Oh, no, I don't mind, dear," she
answered, "and women are very silly, too, sometimes."
She loosened Virginia's arms and went slowly upstairs to her bedroom, where
Petunia was replenishing the fire. "You may go down, Petunia," she said as
she entered. "I am going to put my things to rights, and I don't want you
to bother me--go straight downstairs."
"Is you gwine in yo' chist er draws?" inquired Petunia, pausing upon the
"Yes, I'm going into my chest of drawers, but you're not," retorted Betty,
sharply; and when Petunia had gone out and closed the door after her, she
pulled out her things and began to straighten rapidly, rolling up her
ribbons with shaking fingers, and carefully folding her clothes into
compact squares. Ever since her childhood she had always begun to work at
her chest of drawers when any sudden shock unnerved her. After a great
happiness she took up her trowel and dug among the flowers of the garden;
but when her heart was heavy within her, she shut her door and put her
clothes to rights.
Now, as she worked rapidly, the tears welled slowly to her lashes, but she
brushed them angrily away, and rolled up a sky-blue sash. She had worn the
sash at Chericoke on Christmas Eve, and as she looked at it, she felt, with
the keenness of pain, a thrill of her old girlish happiness. The figure of
Dan, as he stood upon the threshold with the powdering of snow upon his
hair, rose suddenly to her eyes, and she flinched before the careless
humour of his smile. It was her own fault, she told herself a little
bitterly, and because it was her own fault she could bear it as she should
have borne the joy. There was nothing to cry over, nothing even to regret;
she knew now that she loved him, and she was glad--glad even of this. If
the bitterness in her heart was but the taste of knowledge, she would not
let it go; she would keep both the knowledge and the bitterness.
In the next room Mammy Riah was rocking back and forth upon the hearth,
crooning to herself while she carded a lapful of wool. Her cracked old
voice, still with its plaintive sweetness, came faintly to the girl who
leaned her cheek upon the sky-blue sash and listened, half against her
"Oh, we'll all be done wid trouble, by en bye, little chillun,
We'll all be done wid trouble, by en bye.
Oh, we'll set en chatter wid de angels, by en bye, little chillun,
We'll set en chatter wid de angels, by en bye."
The door opened and Virginia came softly into the room, and stopped short
at the sight of Betty.
"Why, your things were perfectly straight, Betty," she exclaimed in
surprise. "I declare, you'll be a real old maid."
"Perhaps I shall," replied Betty, indifferently; "but if I am, I'm going to
be a tidy one."
"I never heard of one who wasn't," remarked Virginia, and added, "you've
put all your ribbons into the wrong drawer."
"I like a change," said Betty, folding up a muslin skirt.
"Oh, we'll slip en slide on de golden streets, by en bye,
We'll slip en slide on de golden streets, by en bye,"
sang Mammy Riah, in the adjoining room.
"Aunt Lydia found six red pinks in bloom in her window garden," observed
Virginia, cheerfully. "Why, where are you going, Betty?"
"Just for a walk," answered Betty, as she put on her bonnet and cloak. "I'm
not afraid of the cold, you know, and I'm so tired sitting still," and she
added, as she fastened her fur tippet, "I shan't be long, dear."
She opened the door, and Mammy Riah's voice followed her across the hall
and down the broad staircase:--
"Oh, we'll ride on de milk w'ite ponies, by en bye, little chillun,
We'll ride on de milk w'ite ponies, by en bye."
At the foot of the stair she called the dogs, and they came bounding
through the hall and leaped upon her as she crossed the portico. Then, as
she went down the drive and up the desolate turnpike, they ran ahead of her
with short, joyous barks.
The snow had melted and frozen again, and the long road was like a gray
river winding between leafless trees. The gaunt crows were still flying
back and forth over the meadows, but she did not have corn for them to-day.
Had she been happy, she would not have forgotten them; but the pain in her
breast made her selfish even about the crows.
With the dogs leaping round her, she pressed bravely against the wind,
flying breathlessly from the struggle at her heart. There was nothing to
cry over, she told herself again, nothing even to regret. It was her own
fault, and because it was her own fault she could bear it quietly as she
should have borne the joy.
She had reached the spot where he had lifted her upon the wall, and leaning
against the rough stones she looked southward to where the swelling meadows
dipped into the projecting line of hills. He was before her then, as he
always would be, and shrinking back, she put up her hand to shut out the
memory of his eyes. She could have hated that shallow gayety, she told
herself, but for the tenderness that lay beneath it--since jest as he might
at his own scars, when had he ever made mirth of another's? Had she not
seen him fight the battles of free Levi? and when Aunt Rhody's cabin was in
flames did he not bring out one of the negro babies in his coat? That
dare-devil courage which had first caught her girlish fancy, thrilled her
even to-day as the proof of an ennobling purpose. She remembered that he
had gone whistling into the burning cabin, and coming out again had coolly
taken up the broken air; and to her this inherent recklessness was clothed
with the sublimity of her own ideals.
The cold wind had stiffened her limbs, and she ran back into the road and
walked on rapidly. Beyond the whitened foldings of the mountains a deep red
glow was burning in the west, and she wanted to hold out her hands to it
for warmth. Her next thought was that a winter sunset soon died out, and as
she turned quickly to go homeward, she saw that she was before Aunt
Ailsey's cabin, and that the little window was yellow from the light
Aunt Ailsey had been dead for years, but the free negro Levi had moved into
her hut, and as Betty looked up she saw him standing beneath the blasted
oak, with a bundle of brushwood upon his shoulder. He was an honest-eyed,
grizzled-haired old negro, who wrung his meagre living from a blacksmith's
trade, bearing alike the scornful pity of his white neighbours and the
withering contempt of his black ones. For twenty years he had moved from
spot to spot along the turnpike, and he had lived in the dignity of
loneliness since the day upon which his master had won for himself the
freedom of Eternity, leaving to his servant Levi the labour of his own
As the girl spoke to him he answered timidly, fingering the edge of his
Yes, he had managed to keep warm through the winter, and he had worn the
red flannel that she had given him.
"And your rheumatism?" asked Betty, kindly.
He replied that it had been growing worse of late, and with a sympathetic
word the girl was passing by when some newer pathos in his solitary figure
stayed her feet, and she called back quickly, "Uncle Levi, were you ever
"Dar, now," cried Uncle Levi, halting in the path while a gleam of the
wistful humour of his race leaped to his eyes. "Dar, now, is you ever hyern
de likes er dat? Mah'ed! Cose I'se mah'ed. I'se mah'ed quick'en Marse
Bolling. Ain't you never hyern tell er Sarindy?"
"Sarindy?" repeated the girl, questioningly.
"Lawd, Lawd, Sarindy wuz a moughty likely nigger," said Uncle Levi,
proudly; "she warn' nuttin' but a fiel' han', but she 'uz a moughty
"And did she die?" asked Betty, in a whisper.
Uncle Levi rubbed his hands together, and shifted the brushwood upon his
"Who say Sarindy dead?" he demanded sternly, and added with a chuckle, "she
warn' nuttin' but a fiel' han', young miss, en I 'uz Marse Bolling's body
sarvent, so w'en dey sot me loose, dey des sol' Sarindy up de river. Lawd,
Lawd, she warn' nuttin' but a fiel' han', but she 'uz pow'ful likely."
He went chuckling up the path, and Betty, with a glance at the fading
sunset, started briskly homeward. As she walked she was asking herself, in
a wonder greater than her own love or grief, if Uncle Levi really thought
it funny that they sold Sarindy up the river.
THE MAJOR LOSES HIS TEMPER
When Betty reached home the dark had fallen, and as she entered the house
she heard the crackling of fresh logs from the library, and saw her mother
sitting alone in the firelight, which flickered softly on her pearl-gray
silk and ruffles of delicate lace.
She was humming in a low voice one of the old Scotch ballads the Governor
loved, and as she rocked gently in her rosewood chair, her shadow flitted
to and fro upon the floor. One loose bell sleeve hung over the carved arm
of the rocker, and the fingers of her long white hand, so fragile that it
was like a flower, played silently upon the polished wood.
As the girl entered she looked up quickly. "You haven't been wandering off
by yourself again?" she asked reproachfully.
"Oh, it is quite safe, mamma," replied Betty, impatiently. "I didn't meet a
soul except free Levi."
"Your father wouldn't like it, my dear," returned Mrs. Ambler, in the tone
in which she might have said, "it is forbidden in the Scriptures," and she
added after a moment, "but where is Petunia? You might, at least, take
Petunia with you."
"Petunia is such a chatterbox," said Betty, tossing her wraps upon a chair,
"and if she sees a cricket in the road she shrieks, 'Gawd er live, Miss
Betty,' and jumps on the other side of me. No, I can't stand Petunia."
She sat down upon an ottoman at her mother's feet, and rested her chin in
her clasped hands.
"But did you never go walking in your life, mamma?" she questioned.
Mrs. Ambler looked a little startled. "Never alone, my dear," she replied
with dignity. "Why, I shouldn't have thought of such a thing. There was a
path to a little arbour in the glen at my old home, I remember,--I think it
was at least a quarter of a mile away,--and I sometimes strolled there with
your father; but there were a good many briers about, so I usually
preferred to stay on the lawn."
Her voice was clear and sweet, but it had none of the humour which gave
piquancy to Betty's. It might soothe, caress, even reprimand, but it could
never jest; for life to Mrs. Ambler was soft, yet serious, like a continued
prayer to a pleasant and tender Deity.
"I'm sure I don't see how you stood it," said Betty, sympathetically.
"Oh, I rode, my dear," returned her mother. "I used to ride very often with
your father or--or one of the others. I had a brown mare named Zephyr."
"And you never wanted to be alone, never for a single instant?"
"Alone?" repeated Mrs. Ambler, wonderingly, "why, of course I read my Bible
and meditated an hour every morning. In my youth it would have been
considered very unladylike not to do it, and I'm sure there's no better way
of beginning the day than with a chapter in the Bible and a little
meditation. I wish you would try it, Betty." Her eyes were upon her
daughter, and she added in an unchanged voice, "Don't you think you might
manage to make your hair lie smoother, dear? It's very pretty, I know; but
the way it curls about your face is just a bit untidy, isn't it?"
Then, as the Governor came in from his day in town, she turned eagerly to
hear the news of his latest speech.
"Oh, I've had a great day, Julia," began the Governor; but as he stooped to
kiss her, she gave a little cry of alarm. "Why, you're frozen through!" she
exclaimed. "Betty, stir the fire, and make your father sit down by the
fender. Shall I mix you a toddy, Mr. Ambler?"
"Tut, tut!" protested the Governor, laughing, "a touch of the wind is good
for the blood, my dear."
There was a light track of snow where he had crossed the room, and as he
rested his foot upon the brass knob of the fender, the ice clinging to his
riding-boot melted and ran down upon the hearth.
"Oh, I've had a great day," he repeated heartily, holding his plump white
hands to the flames. "It was worth the trip to test the spirit of Virginia;
and it's sound, Julia, as sound as steel. Why, when I said in my
speech--you'll remember the place, my dear--that if it came to a choice
between slavery and the Union, we'd ship the negroes back to Africa, and
hold on to the flag, I was applauded to the echo, and it would have done
you good to hear the cheers."
"I knew it would be so, Mr. Ambler," returned his wife, with conviction.
"Even if they thought otherwise I was sure your speech would convince them.
Dr. Crump was talking to me only yesterday, and he said that he had heard
both Mr. Yancey and Mr. Douglas, and that neither of them--"
"I know, my love, I know," interposed the Governor, waving his hand. "I
have myself heard the good doctor commit the same error of judgment. But,
remember, it is easy to convince a man who already thinks as you do; and
since the Major has gone over to the Democrats, the doctor has grown
Whiggish, you know."
Mrs. Ambler flushed. "I'm sure I don't see why you should deny that you
have a talent for oratory," she said gravely. "I have sometimes thought it
was why I fell in love with you, you made such a beautiful speech the first
day I met you at the tournament in Leicesterburg. Fred Dulany crowned me,
you remember; and in your speech you brought in so many lovely things about
flowers and women."
"Ah, Julia, Julia," sighed the Governor, "so the sins of my youth are
rising to confound me," and he added quickly to Betty, "Isn't that some one
coming up the drive, daughter?"
Betty ran to the window and drew back the damask curtains. "It's the Major,
papa," she said, nodding to the old gentleman through the glass, "and he
does look so cold. Go out and bring him in, and don't--please don't talk
horrid politics to-night."
"I'll not, daughter, on my word, I'll not," declared the Governor, and he
wore the warning as a breastplate when he went out to meet his guest.
The Major, in his tight black broadcloth, entered, with his blandest smile,
and bowed over Mrs. Ambler's hand.
"I saw your firelight as I was passing, dear madam," he began, "and I
couldn't go on without a glimpse of you, though I knew that Molly was
waiting for me at the end of three cold miles."
He put his arm about Betty and drew her to him.
"You must borrow some of your sister's blushes, my child," he said; "it
isn't right to grow pale at your age. I don't like to see it," and then, as
Virginia came shyly in, he held out his other hand, and accused her of
stealing his boy's heart away from him. "But we old folks must give place
to the young," he continued cheerfully; "it's nature, and it's human
"It will be a dull day when you give place to any one else, Major,"
returned the Governor, politely.
"And a far off one I trust," added Mrs. Ambler, with her plaintive smile.
"Well, maybe so," responded the Major, settling himself in an easy chair
beside the fire. "Any way, you can't blame an old man for fighting for his
own, as my friend Harry Smith put it when he lost his leg in the War of
1812. 'By God, it belongs to me,' he roared to the surgeon, 'and if it
comes off, I'll take it off myself, sir.' It took six men to hold him, and
when it was over all he said was, 'Well, gentlemen, you mustn't blame a man
for fighting for his own.' Ah, he was a sad scamp, was Harry, a sad scamp.
He used to say that he didn't know whether he preferred a battle or a
dinner, but he reckoned a battle was better for the blood. And to think
that he died in his bed at last like any Christian."
"That reminds me of Dick Wythe, who never needed any tonic but a fight,"
returned the Governor, thoughtfully. "You remember Dick, don't you,
Major?--a hard drinker, poor fellow, but handsome enough to have stepped
out of Homer. I've been sitting by him at the post-office on a spring day,
and seen him get up and slap a passer-by on the face as coolly as he'd take
his toddy. Of course the man would slap back again, and when it was over
Dick would make his politest bow, and say pleasantly, 'Thank you, sir, I
felt a touch of the gout.' He told me once that if it was only a twinge, he
chose a man of his own size; but if it was a positive wrench, he struck out
at the biggest he could find."
The Major leaned back, laughing. "That was Dick, sir, that was Dick!" he
exclaimed, "and it was his father before him. Why, I've had my own blows
with Taylor Wythe in his day, and never a hard word afterward, never a
word." Then his face clouded. "I saw Dick's brother Tom in town this
morning," he added. "A sneaking fellow, who hasn't the spirit in his whole
body that was in his father's little finger. Why, what do you suppose he
had the impudence to tell me, sir? Some one had asked him, he said, what he
should do if Virginia went to war, and he had answered that he'd stay at
home and build an asylum for the fools that brought it on." He turned his
indignant face upon Mrs. Ambler, and she put in a modest word of sympathy.
"You mustn't judge Tom by his jests, sir," rejoined the Governor,
persuasively. "His wit takes with the town folks, you know, and I hear that
he's becoming famous as a post-office orator."
"There it is, sir, there it is," retorted the Major. "I've always said that
the post-offices were the ruin of this country--and that proves my words.
Why, if there were no post-offices, there'd be fewer newspapers; and if
there were fewer newspapers, there wouldn't be the _Richmond Whig_."
The Governor's glance wandered to his writing table.
"Then I should never see my views in print, Major," he added, smiling; and
a moment afterward, disregarding Mrs. Ambler's warning gestures, he plunged
headlong into a discussion of political conditions.
As he talked the Major sat trembling in his chair, his stern face flushing
from red to purple, and the heavy veins upon his forehead standing out like
cords. "Vote for Douglas, sir!" he cried at last. "Vote for the biggest
traitor that has gone scot free since Arnold! Why, I'd sooner go over to
the arch-fiend himself and vote for Seward."
"I'm not sure that you won't go farther and fare worse," replied the
Governor, gravely. "You know me for a loyal Whig, sir, but I tell you
frankly, that I believe Douglas to be the man to save the South. Cast him
off, and you cast off your remaining hope."
"Tush, tush!" retorted the Major, hotly. "I tell you I wouldn't vote to
have Douglas President of Perdition, sir. Don't talk to me about your
loyalty, Peyton Ambler, you're mad--you're all mad! I honestly believe that
I am the only sane man in the state."
The Governor had risen from his chair and was walking nervously about the
room. His eyes were dim, and his face was pallid with emotion.
"My God, sir, don't you see where you are drifting?" he cried, stretching
out an appealing hand to the angry old gentleman in the easy chair.
"Drifting! Pooh, pooh!" protested the Major, "at least I am not drifting
into a nest of traitors, sir."
And with his wrath hot within he rose to take his leave, very red and
stormy, but retaining the presence of mind to assure Mrs. Ambler that the
glimpse of her fireside would send him rejoicing upon his way.
Such burning topics went like strong wine to his head, and like strong wine
left a craving which always carried him back to them in the end. He would
quarrel with the Governor, and make his peace, and at the next meeting
quarrel, without peace-making, again.
"Don't, oh, please don't talk horrid politics, papa," Betty would implore,
when she saw the nose of his dapple mare turn into the drive between the
"I'll not, daughter, I give you my word I'll not," the Governor would
answer, and for a time the conversation would jog easily along the well
worn roads of county changes and by the green graves of many a long dead
jovial neighbour. While the red logs spluttered on the hearth, they would
sip their glasses of Madeira and amicably weigh the dust of "my friend Dick
Wythe--a fine fellow, in spite of his little weakness."
But in the end the live question would rear its head and come hissing from
among the quiet graves; and Dick Wythe, who loved his fight, or Plaintain
Dudley, in his ruffled shirt, would fall back suddenly to make way for the
wrangling figures of the slaveholder and the abolitionist.
"I can't help it, Betty, I can't help it," the Governor would declare, when
he came back from following the old gentleman to the drive; "did you see
Mr. Yancey step out of Dick Wythe's dry bones to-day? Poor Dick, an honest
fellow who loved no man's quarrel but his own; it's too bad, I declare it's
too bad." And the next day he would send Betty over to Chericoke to stroke
down the Major's temper. "Slippery are the paths of the peacemaker," the
girl laughed one morning, when she had ridden home after an hour of
persuasion. "I go on tip-toe because of your indiscretions, papa. You
really must learn to control yourself, the Major says."
"Control myself!" repeated the Governor, laughing, though he looked a
little vexed. "If I hadn't the control of a stoic, daughter, to say nothing
of the patience of Job, do you think I'd be able to listen calmly to his
tirades? Why, he wants to pull the Government to pieces for his pleasure,"
then he pinched her cheek and added, smiling, "Oh, you sly puss, why don't
you play your pranks upon one of your own age?"
Through the long winter many visits were exchanged between Uplands and
Chericoke, and once, on a mild February morning, Mrs. Lightfoot drove over
in her old coach, with her knitting and her handmaid Mitty, to spend the
day. She took Betty back with her, and the girl stayed a week in the queer
old house, where the elm boughs tapped upon her window as she slept, and
the shadows on the crooked staircase frightened her when she went up and
down at night. It seemed to her that the presence of Jane Lightfoot still
haunted the home that she had left. When the snow fell on the roof and the
wind beat against the panes, she would open her door and look out into the
long dim halls, as if she half expected to see a girlish figure in a muslin
gown steal softly to the stair.
Dan was less with her in that stormy week than was the memory of his
mother; even Great-aunt Emmeline, whose motto was written on the ivied
glass, grew faint beside the outcast daughter of whom but one pale
miniature remained. Before Betty went back to Uplands she had grown to know
Jane Lightfoot as she knew herself.
When the spring came she took up her trowel and followed Aunt Lydia into
the garden. On bright mornings the two would work side by side among the
flowers, kneeling in a row with the small darkies who came to their
assistance. Peter, the gardener, would watch them lazily, as he leaned upon
his hoe, and mutter beneath his breath, "Dat dut wuz dut, en de dut er de
flow'r baids warn' no better'n de dut er de co'n fiel'."
Betty would laugh and shake her head as she planted her square of pansies.
She was working feverishly to overcome her longing for the sight of Dan,
and her growing dread of his return.
But at last on a sunny morning, when the lilacs made a lane of purple to
the road, the Major drove over with the news that "the boys would not be
back again till autumn. They'll go abroad for the summer," he added
proudly. "It's time they were seeing something of the world, you know. I've
always said that a man should see the world before thirty, if he wants to
stay at home after forty," then he smiled down on Virginia, and pinched her
cheek. "It won't hurt Dan, my dear," he said cheerfully. "Let him get a
glimpse of artificial flowers, that he may learn the value of our own
"Of Great-aunt Emmeline, you mean, sir," replied Virginia, laughing.
"Oh, yes, my child," chuckled the Major. "Let him learn the value of
Great-aunt Emmeline, by all means."
When the old gentleman had gone, Betty went into the garden, where the
grass was powdered with small spring flowers, and gathered a bunch of white
violets for her mother. Aunt Lydia was walking slowly up and down in the
mild sunshine, and her long black shadow passed over the girl as she knelt
in the narrow grass-grown path. A slender spray of syringa drooped down
upon her head, and the warm wind was sweet with the heavy perfume of the
lilacs. On the whitewashed fence a catbird was calling over the meadow, and
another answered from the little bricked-up graveyard, where the gate was
opened only when a fresh grave was to be hollowed out amid the periwinkle.
As Betty knelt there, something in the warm wind, the heavy perfume, or the
old lady's flitting shadow touched her with a sudden melancholy, and while
the tears lay upon her lashes, she started quickly to her feet and looked
about her. But a great peace was in the air, and around her she saw only
the garden wrapped in sunshine, the small spring flowers in bloom, and Aunt
Lydia moving up and down in the box-bordered walk.
THE MEETING IN THE TURNPIKE
On a late September afternoon Dan rode leisurely homeward along the
turnpike. He had reached New York some days before, but instead of hurrying
on with Champe, he had sent a careless apology to his expectant
grandparents while he waited over to look up a missing trunk.
"Oh, what difference does a day make?" he had urged in reply to Champe's
remonstrances, "and after going all the way to Paris, I can't afford to
lose my clothes, you know. I'm not a Leander, my boy, and there's no Hero
awaiting me. You can't expect a fellow to sacrifice the proprieties for
"Well, I'm going, that's all," rejoined Champe, and Dan heartily responded,
"God be with you," as he shook his hand.
Now, as he rode slowly up the turnpike on a hired horse, he was beginning
to regret, with an impatient self-reproach, the three tiresome days he had
stolen from his grandfather's delight. It was characteristic of him at the
age of twenty-one that he began to regret what appeared to be a pleasure
only after it had proved to be a disappointment. Had the New York days been
gay instead of dull, it is probable that he would have ridden home with an
easy conscience and a lordly belief that there was something generous in
the spirit of his coming back at all.
A damp wind was blowing straight along the turnpike, and the autumn fields,
brilliant with golden-rod and sumach, stretched under a sky which had
clouded over so suddenly that the last rays of sun were still shining upon
He had left Uplands a mile behind, throwing, as he passed, a wistful glance
between the silver poplars. A pink dress had fluttered for an instant
beyond the Doric columns, and he had wondered idly if it meant Virginia,
and if she were still the pretty little simpleton of six months ago. At the
thought of her he threw back his head and whistled gayly into the
threatening sky, so gayly that a bluebird flying across the road hovered
round him in the air. The joy of living possessed him at the moment, a mere
physical delight in the circulation of his blood, in the healthy beating of
his pulses. Old things which he had half forgotten appealed to him suddenly
with all the force of fresh impressions. The beauty of the September
fields, the long curve in the white road where the tuft of cedars grew, the
falling valley which went down between the hills, stood out for him as if
bathed in a new and tender light. The youth in him was looking through his
And the thought of Virginia went merrily with his mood. What a pretty
little simpleton she was, by George, and what a dull world this would be
were it not for the pretty simpletons in pink dresses! Why, in that case
one might as well sit in a library and read Horace and wear red flannel.
One might as well--a drop of rain fell in his face and he lowered his head.
When he did so he saw that Betty was coming along the turnpike, and that
she wore a dress of blue dimity.
In a flash of light his first wonder was that he should ever have preferred
pink to blue; his second that a girl in a dimity gown and a white chip
bonnet should be fleeing from a storm along the turnpike. As he jumped from
his horse he faced her a little anxiously.
"There's a hard shower coming, and you'll be wet," he said.
"And my bonnet!" cried Betty, breathlessly. She untied the blue strings and
swung them over her arm. There was a flush in her cheeks, and as he drew
nearer she fell back quickly.
"You--you came so suddenly," she stammered.
He laughed aloud. "Doesn't the Prince always come suddenly?" he asked. "You
are like the wandering princess in the fairy tale--all in blue upon a
lonely road; but this isn't just the place for loitering, you know. Come up
behind me and I'll carry you to shelter in Aunt Ailsey's cabin; it isn't
the first time I've run away, with you, remember." He lifted her upon the
horse, and started at a gallop up the turnpike. "I'm afraid the steed
doesn't take the romantic view," he went on lightly. "There, get up,
Barebones, the lady doesn't want to wet her bonnet. Lean against me, Betty,
and I'll try to shelter you."
But the rain was in their faces, and Betty shut her eyes to keep out the
hard bright drops. As she clung with both hands to his arm, her wet cheek
was hidden against his coat, and the blue ribbons on her breast were blown
round them in the wind. It was as if one of her dreams had awakened from
sleep and come boldly out into the daylight; and because it was like a
dream she trembled and was half ashamed of its reality.
"Here we are!" he exclaimed, in a moment, as he turned the horse round the
blasted tree into the little path amid the vegetables. "If you are soaked
through, we might as well go on; but if you're half dry, build a fire and
get warm." He put her down upon the square stone before the doorway, and
slipping the reins over the branch of a young willow tree, followed her
into the cabin. "Why, you're hardly damp," he said, with his hand on her
arm. "I got the worst of it."
He crossed over to the great open fireplace, and kneeling upon the hearth
raked a hollow in the old ashes; then he kindled a blaze from a pile of
lightwood knots, and stood up brushing his hands together. "Sit down and
get warm," he said hospitably. "If I may take upon myself to do the duties
of free Levi's castle, I should even invite you to make yourself at home."
With a laugh he glanced about the bare little room,--at the uncovered
rafters, the rough log walls, and the empty cupboard with its swinging
doors. In one corner there was a pallet hidden by a ragged patchwork quilt,
and facing it a small pine table upon which stood an ash-cake ready for the
The laughter was still in his eyes when he looked at Betty. "Now where's
the sense of going walking in the rain?" he demanded.
"I didn't," replied Betty, quickly. "It was clear when I started, and the
clouds came up before I knew it. I had been across the fields to the woods,
and I was coming home along the turnpike." She loosened her hair, and
kneeling upon the smooth stones, dried it before the flames. As she shook
the curling ends a sparkling shower of rain drops was scattered over Dan.
"Well, I don't see much sense in that," he returned slowly, with his gaze
She laughed and held out her moist hands to the fire. "Well, there was more
than you see," she responded pleasantly, and added, while she smiled at him
with narrowed eyes, "dear me, you've grown so much older."
"And you've grown so much prettier," he retorted boldly.
A flush crossed her face, and her look grew a little wistful. "The rain has
bewitched you," she said.
"You may call me a fool if you like," he pursued, as if she had not spoken,
"but I did not know until to-day that you had the most beautiful hair in
the world. Why, it is always sunshine about you." He put out his hand to
touch a loose curl that hung upon her shoulder, then drew it quickly back.
"I don't suppose I might," he asked humbly.
Betty gathered up her hair with shaking hands, which gleamed white in the
firelight, and carelessly twisted it about her head.
"It is not nearly so pretty as Virginia's," she said in a low voice.
"Virginia's? Oh, nonsense!" he exclaimed, and walked rapidly up and down
Beyond the open door the rain fell heavily; he heard it beating softly on
the roof and dripping down upon the smooth square stone before the
threshold. A red maple leaf was washed in from the path and lay a wet bit
of colour upon the floor. "I wonder where old man Levi is?" he said
"In the rain, I'm afraid," Betty answered, "and he has rheumatism, too; he
was laid up for three months last winter."
She spoke quietly, but she was conscious of a quiver from head to foot, as
if a strong wind had swept over her. Through the doorway she saw the young
willow tree trembling in the storm and felt curiously akin to it.
Dan came slowly back to the hearth, and leaning against the crumbling
mortar of the chimney, looked thoughtfully down upon her. "Do you know what
I thought of when I saw you with your hair down, Betty?"
She shook her head, smiling.
"I don't suppose I'd thought of it for years," he went on quickly; "but
when you took your hair down, and looked up at me so small and white, it
all came back to me as if it were yesterday. I remembered the night I first
came along this road--God-forsaken little chap that I was--and saw you
standing out there in your nightgown--with your little cold bare feet. The
moonlight was full upon you, and I thought you were a ghost. At first I
wanted to run away; but you spoke, and I stood still and listened. I
remember what it was, Betty.--'Mr. Devil, I'm going in,' you said. Did you
take me for the devil, I wonder?"
She smiled up at him, and he saw her kind eyes fill with tears. The
wavering smile only deepened the peculiar tenderness of her look.
"I had been sitting in the briers for an hour," he resumed, after a moment;
"it was a day and night since I had eaten a bit of bread, and I had been
digging up sassafras roots with my bare fingers. I remember that I rooted
at one for nearly an hour, and found that it was sumach, after all. Then I
got up and went on again, and there you were standing in the moonlight--"
He broke off, hesitated an instant, and added with the gallant indiscretion
of youth, "By George, that ought to have made a man of me!"
"And you are a man," said Betty.
"A man!" he appeared to snap his fingers at the thought. "I am a
weather-vane, a leaf in the wind, a--an ass. I haven't known my own mind
ten minutes during the last two years, and the only thing I've ever gone
honestly about is my own pleasure. Oh, yes, I have the courage of my
inclinations, I admit."
"But I don't understand--what does it mean?--I don't understand," faltered
Betty, vaguely troubled by his mood.
"Mean? Why, it means that I've been ruined, and it's too late to mend me.
I'm no better than a pampered poodle dog. It means that I've gotten
everything I wanted, until I begin to fancy there's nothing under heaven I
can't get." Then, in one of his quick changes of temper, his face cleared
with a burst of honest laughter.
She grew merry instantly, and as she smiled up at him, he saw her eyes like
rays of hazel light between her lashes. "Has the black crow gone?" she
asked. "Do you know when I have a gray day Mammy calls it the black crow
flying by. As long as his shadow is over you, there's always a gloom at the
brain, she says. Has he quite gone by?"
"Oh, he flew by quickly," he answered, laughing, "he didn't even stay to
flap his wings." Then he became suddenly grave. "I wonder what kind of a
man you'll fall in love with, Betty?" he said abruptly.
She drew back startled, and her eyes reminded him of those of a frightened
wild thing he had come upon in the spring woods one day. As she shrank from
him in her dim blue dress, her hair fell from its coil and lay like a gold
bar across her bosom, which fluttered softly with her quickened breath.
"I? Why, how can I tell?" she asked.
"He'll not be black and ugly, I dare say?"
She shook her head, regaining her composure.
"Oh, no, fair and beautiful," she answered.
"Ah, as unlike me as day from night?"
"As day from night," she echoed, and went on after a moment, her girlish
visions shining in her eyes:--
"He will be a man, at least," she said slowly, "a man with a faith to fight
for--to live for--to make him noble. He may be a beggar by the roadside,
but he will be a beggar with dreams. He will be forever travelling to some
great end--some clear purpose." The last words came so faintly that he bent
nearer to hear. A deep flush swept to her forehead, and she turned from him
to the fire. These were things that she had hidden even from Virginia.
But as he looked steadily down upon her, something of her own pure fervour
was in his face. Her vivid beauty rose like a flame to his eyes, and for a
single instant it seemed to him that he had never looked upon a woman until
"So you would sit with him in the dust of the roadside?" he asked, smiling.
"But the dust is beautiful when the sun shines on it," answered the girl;
"and on wet days we should go into the pine woods, and on fair ones rest in
the open meadows; and we should sing with the robins, and make friends with
the little foxes."
He laughed softly. "Ah, Betty, Betty, I know you now for a dreamer of
dreams. With all your pudding-mixing and your potato-planting you are
moon-mad like the rest of us."
She made a disdainful little gesture. "Why, I never planted a potato in my
"Don't scoff, dear lady," he returned warningly; "too great literalness is
the sin of womankind, you know."
"But I don't care in the least for vegetable-growing," she persisted
The humour twinkled in his eyes. "Thriftless woman, would you prefer to
"When the Major rode by," laughed Betty; "but when I heard you coming, I'd
lie hidden among the briers, and I'd scatter signs for other gypsies that
read, 'Beware the Montjoy.'"
His face darkened and he frowned. "So it's the Montjoy you're afraid of,"
he rejoined gloomily. "I'm not all Lightfoot, though I'm apt to forget it;
the Montjoy blood is there, all the same, and it isn't good blood."
"Your blood is good," said Betty, warmly.
He laughed again and met her eyes with a look of whimsical tenderness.
"Make me your beggar, Betty," he prayed, smiling.
"You a beggar!" She shook a scornful head. "I can shut my eyes and see your
fortune, sir, and it doesn't lie upon the roadside. I see a well-fed
country gentleman who rises late to breakfast and storms when the birds are
overdone, who drinks his two cups of coffee and eats syrup upon his
"O pleasant prophetess!" he threw in.
"I look and see him riding over the rich fields in the early morning,
watching from horseback the planting and the growing and the ripening of
the corn. He has a dozen servants to fetch the whip he drops, and a dozen
others to hold his bridle when he pleases to dismount; the dogs leap round
him in the drive, and he brushes away the one that licks his face. I see
him grow stout and red-faced as he reads a dull Latin volume beside his
bottle of old port--there's your fortune, sir, the silver, if you please."
She finished in a whining voice, and rose to drop a courtesy.
"On my word, you're a witch, Betty," he exclaimed, laughing, "a regular
witch on a broomstick."
"Does the likeness flatter you? Shall I touch it up a bit? Just a dash more
of red in the face?"
"Well, I reckon it's true as prophecy ever was," he said easily. "It isn't
likely that I'll ever be a beggar, despite your kindly wishes for my soul's
welfare; and, on the whole, I think I'd rather not. When all's said and
done, I'd rather own my servants and my cultivated acres, and come down
late to hot cakes than sit in the dust by the roadside and eat sour grapes.
It may not be so good for the soul, but it's vastly more comfortable; and
I'm not sure that a fat soul in a lean body is the best of life, Betty."
"At least it doesn't give one gout," retorted Betty, mercilessly, adding as
she went to the door: "but the rain is holding up, and I must be going.
I'll borrow your horse, if you please, Dan." She tied on her flattened
bonnet, and with her foot on the threshold, stood looking across the wet
fields, where each spear of grass pieced a string of shining rain drops.
Over the mountains the clouds tossed in broken masses, and loose streamers
of vapour drifted down into the lower foldings of the hills. The cool smell
of the moist road came to her on the wind.
Dan unfastened the reins from the young willow, and led the horse to the
stone at the entrance. Then he threw his coat over the dampened saddle and
lifted Betty upon it. "Pooh! I'm as tough as a pine knot." He scoffed at
her protests. "There, sit steady; I'd better hold you on, I suppose."
Slipping the reins loosely over his arm, he laid his hand upon the blue
folds of her skirt. "If you feel yourself going, just catch my shoulder,"
he added; "and now we're off."
They left the little path and went slowly down the turnpike, under the
dripping trees. Across the fields a bird was singing after the storm, and
the notes were as fresh as the smell of the rain-washed earth. A fuller
splendour seemed to have deepened suddenly upon the meadows, and the
golden-rod ran in streams of fire across the landscape.
"Everything looks so changed," said Betty, wistfully; "are you sure that we
are still in the same world, Dan?"
"Sure?" he looked up at her gayly. "I'm sure of but one thing in this life,
Betty, and that is that you should thank your stars you met me."
"I don't doubt that I should have gotten home somehow," responded Betty,
ungratefully, "so don't flatter yourself that you have saved even my
bonnet." From its blue-lined shadow she smiled brightly down upon him.
"Well, all the same, I dare to be grateful," he rejoined. "Even if you
haven't saved my hat,--and I can't honestly convince myself that you
have,--I thank my stars I met you, Betty." He threw back his head and sang
softly to himself as they went on under the scudding clouds.
IF THIS BE LOVE
An hour later, Cephas, son of Cupid, gathering his basketful of chips at
the woodpile, beheld his young master approaching by the branch road, and
started shrieking for the house. "Hi! hit's Marse Dan! hit's Marse Dan!" he
yelled to his father Cupid in the pantry; "I seed 'im fu'st! Fo' de Lawd, I
seed 'im fu'st!" and the Major, hearing the words, appeared instantly at
the door of his library.
"It's the boy," he called excitedly. "Bless my soul, Molly, the boy has
The old lady came hurriedly downstairs, pinning on her muslin cap, and by
the time Dan had dismounted at the steps the whole household was assembled
to receive him.
"Well, well, my boy," exclaimed the Major, moving nervously about, "this is
a surprise, indeed. We didn't look for you until next week. Well, well."
He turned away to wipe his eyes, while Dan caught his grandmother in his
arms and kissed her a dozen times. The joy of these simple souls touched
him with a new tenderness; he felt unworthy of his grandmother's kisses and
the Major's tears. Why had he stayed away when his coming meant so much?
What was there in all the world worth the closer knitting of these strong
"By George, but I'm glad to get here," he said heartily. "There's nothing
I've seen across the water that comes up to being home again; and the sight
of your faces is better than the wonders of the world, I declare. Ah,
Cupid, old man, I'm glad to see you. And Aunt Rhody and Congo, how are you
all? Why, where's Big Abel? Don't tell me he isn't here to welcome me."
"Hyer I is, young Marster, hyer I is," cried Big Abel, stretching out his
hand over Congo's head, and "Hyer I is, too," shouted Cephas from behind
him. "I seed you fu'st, fo' de Lawd, I seed you fu'st!"
They gathered eagerly round him, and with a laugh, and a word for one and
all, he caught the outstretched hands, scattering his favours like a young
Jove. "Yes, I've remembered you--there, don't smother me. Did you think I'd
dare to show my face, Aunt Rhody, without the gayest neckerchief in Europe?
Why, I waited over in New York just to see that it was safe. Oh, don't
smother me, I say." The dogs came bounding in, and he greeted them with
much the same affectionate condescension, caressing them as they sprang
upon him, and pushing away the one that licked his face. When the overseer
ran in hastily to shake his hand, there was no visible change in his
manner. He greeted black and white with a courtesy which marked the social
line, with an affability which had a touch of the august. Had the gulf
between them been less impassable, he would not have dared the hearty
handshake, the genial word, the pat upon the head--these were a tribute
which he paid to the very humble.
When the servants had streamed chattering out through the back door, he put
his arms about the old people and led them into the library. "Why, what's
become of Champe?" he inquired, glancing complacently round the book-lined
"Ah, you mustn't expect to see anything of Champe these days," replied the
Major, waiting for Mrs. Lightfoot to be seated before he drew up his chair.
"His heart's gone roving, I tell him, and he follows mighty closely after
it. If you don't find him at Uplands, you've only to inquire at Powell
"Uplands!" exclaimed Dan, hearing the one word. "What is he doing at
The Major chuckled as he settled himself in his easy chair and stretched
out his slippered feet. "Well, I should say that he was doing a very
commendable thing, eh, Molly?" he rejoined jokingly.
"He's losing his head, if that's what you mean," retorted the old lady.
"Not his head, but his heart, my dear," blandly corrected the Major, "and I
repeat that it is a very commendable thing to do--why, where would you be
to-day, madam, if I hadn't fallen in love with you?"
Mrs. Lightfoot sniffed as she unwound her knitting. "I don't doubt that I
should be quite as well off, Mr. Lightfoot," she replied convincingly.
"Ah, maybe so, maybe so," admitted the Major, with a sigh; "but I'm very
sure that I shouldn't be, my dear."
The old lady softened visibly, but she only remarked:--
"I'm glad that you have found it out, sir," and clicked her needles.
Dan, who had been wandering aimlessly about the room, threw himself into a
chair beside his grandmother and caught at her ball of yarn.
"It's Virginia, I suppose," he suggested.
The Major laughed until his spectacles clouded.
"Virginia!" he gasped, wiping the glasses upon his white silk handkerchief.
"Listen to the boy, Molly, he believes every last one of us--myself to
boot, I reckon--to be in love with Miss Virginia."
"If he does, he believes as many men have done before him," interposed Mrs.
Lightfoot, with a homely philosophy.
"Well, isn't it Virginia?" asked Dan.
"I tell you frankly," pursued the Major, in a confidential voice, "that if
you want a rival with Virginia, you'll be apt to find a stout one in Jack
Morson. He was back a week ago, and he's a fine fellow--a first-rate
fellow. I declare, he came over here one evening and I couldn't begin a
single quotation from Horace that he didn't know the end of it. On my word,
he's not only a fine fellow, but a cultured gentleman. You may remember,
sir, that I have always maintained that the two most refining influences
upon the manners were to be found in the society of ladies and a knowledge
of the Latin language."
Dan gave the yarn an impatient jerk. "Tell me, grandma," he besought her.
As was her custom, the old lady came quickly to the point and appeared to
transfix the question with the end of her knitting-needle. "I really think
that it is Betty, my child," she answered calmly.
"What does he mean by falling in love with Betty?" demanded Dan, while he
rose to his feet, and the ball of yarn fell upon the floor.
"Don't ask me what he means, sir," protested the Major. "If a man in love
has any meaning in him, it takes a man in love to find it out. Maybe you'll
be better at it than I am; but I give it up--I give it up."
With a gloomy face Dan sat down again, and resting his arms on his knees,
stared at the vase of golden-rod between the tall brass andirons. Cupid
came in to light the lamps, and stopped to inquire if Mrs. Lightfoot would
like a blaze to be started in the fireplace. "It's a little chilly, my
dear," remarked the Major, slapping his arm. "There's been a sharp change
in the weather;" and Cupid removed the vase of golden-rod and laid an
armful of sticks crosswise on the andirons.
"Draw up to the hearth, my boy," said the Major, when the fire burned.
"Even if you aren't cold, it looks cheerful, you know--draw up, draw up,"
and he at once began to question his grandson about the London streets,
evoking as he talked dim memories of his own early days in England. He
asked after St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey half as if they were personal
friends of whose death he feared to hear; and upon being answered that they
still stood unchanged, he pressed eagerly for the gossip of the Strand and
Fleet Street. Was Dr. Johnson's coffee-house still standing? and did Dan
remember to look up the haunts of Mr. Addison in his youth? "I've gotten a
good deal out of Champe," he confessed, "but I like to hear it again--I
like to hear it. Why, it takes me back forty years, and makes me younger."
And when Champe came in from his ride, he found the old gentleman upon the
hearth-rug, his white hair tossing over his brow, as he recited from Mr.
Addison with the zest of a schoolboy of a hundred years ago.
"Hello, Beau! I hope you got your clothes," was Champe's greeting, as he
shook his cousin's hand.
"Oh, they turned up all right," said Dan, carelessly, "and, by-the-way,
there was an India shawl for grandma in that very trunk."
Champe crossed to the fireplace and stood fingering one of the tall vases.
"It's a pity you didn't stop by Uplands," he observed. "You'd have found
Virginia more blooming than ever."
"Ah, is that so?" returned Dan, flushing, and a moment afterward he added
with an effort, "I met Betty in the turnpike, you know."
Six months ago, he remembered, he had raved out his passion for Virginia,
and to-day he could barely stammer Betty's name. A great silence; seemed to
surround the thought of her.
"So she told me," replied Champe, looking steadily at Dan. For a moment he
seemed about to speak again; then changing his mind, he left the room with
a casual remark about dressing for supper.
"I'll go, too," said Dan, rising from his seat. "If you'll believe me, I
haven't spoken to my old love, Aunt Emmeline. So proud a beauty is not to
be treated with neglect."
He lighted one of the tall candles upon the mantel-piece, and taking it in
his hand, crossed the hall and went into the panelled parlour, where
Great-aunt Emmeline, in the lustre of her amber brocade, smiled her
changeless smile from out the darkened canvas. There was wit in her curved
lip and spirit in her humorous gray eyes, and the marble whiteness of her
brow, which had brought her many lovers in her lifetime, shone undimmed
beneath the masses of her chestnut hair. With her fair body gone to dust,
she still held her immortal apple by the divine right of her remembered
As Dan looked at her it seemed to him for the first time that he found a
likeness to Betty--to Betty as she smiled up at him from the hearth in Aunt
Ailsey's cabin. It was not in the mouth alone, nor in the eyes alone, but
in something indefinable which belonged to every feature--in the kindly
fervour that shone straight out from the smiling face. Ah, he knew now why
Aunt Emmeline had charmed a generation.
He blew out the candle, and went back into the hall where the front door
stood half open. Then taking down his hat, he descended the steps and
strolled thoughtfully up and down the gravelled drive.
The air was still moist, and beyond the gray meadows the white clouds
huddled like a flock of sheep upon the mountain side. From the branches of
the old elms fell a few yellowed leaves, and among them birds were flying
back and forth with short cries. A faint perfume came from the high urns
beside the steps, where a flowering creeper was bruised against the marble
With a cigar in his mouth, Dan passed slowly to and fro against the lighted
windows, and looked up tenderly at the gray sky and the small flying birds.
There was a glow in his face, for, with a total cessation of time, he was
back in Aunt Ailsey's cabin, and the rain was on the roof.
In one of those rare moods in which the least subjective mind becomes that
of a mystic, he told himself that this hour had waited for him from the
beginning of time--had bided patiently at the crossroads until he came up
with it at last. All his life he had been travelling to meet it, not in
ignorance, but with half-unconscious knowledge, and all the while the fire
had burned brightly on the hearth, and Betty had knelt upon the flat stones
drying her hair. Again it seemed to him that he had never looked into a
woman's face before, and the shame of his wandering fancies was heavy upon
him. He called himself a fool because he had followed for a day the flutter
of Virginia's gown, and a dotard for the many loves he had sworn to long
before. In the twilight he saw Betty's eyes, grave, accusing, darkened with
reproach; and he asked himself half hopefully if she cared--if it were
possible for a moment that she cared. There had been humour in her smile,
but, for all his effort, he could bring back no deeper emotion than pity or
disdain--and it seemed to him that both the pity and the disdain were for
The library window was lifted suddenly, as the Major called out to him that
"supper was on its way"; and, with an impatient movement of the shoulders,
he tossed his cigar into the grass and went indoors.
The next afternoon he rode over to Uplands, and found Virginia alone in the
dim, rose-scented parlour, where the quaint old furniture stood in the
gloom of a perpetual solemnity. The girl, herself, made a bright spot of
colour against the damask curtains, and as he looked at her he felt the
same delight in her loveliness that he felt in Great-aunt Emmeline's.
Virginia had become a picture to him, and nothing more.
When he entered she greeted him with her old friendliness, gave him both
her cool white hands, and asked him a hundred shy questions about the
countries over sea. She was delicately cordial, demurely glad.
"It seems an age since you went away," she said flatteringly, "and so many
things have happened--one of the big trees blew down on the lawn, and Jack
Powell broke his arm--and--and Mr. Morson has been back twice, you know."
"Yes, I know," he answered, "but I rather think the tree's the biggest
thing, isn't it?"
"Well, it is the biggest," admitted Virginia, sweetly. "I couldn't get my
arms halfway round it--and Betty was so distressed when it fell that she
cried half the day, just as if it were a human being. Aunt Lydia has been
trying to build a rockery over the root, and she's going to cover it with
portulaca." She went to the long window and pointed out the spot where it
had stood. "There are so many one hardly misses it," she added cheerfully.
At the end of an hour Dan asked timidly for Betty, to hear that she had
gone riding earlier with Champe. "She is showing him a new path over the
mountain," said Virginia. "I really think she knows them all by heart."
"I hope she hasn't taken to minding cattle," observed Dan, irritably. "I
believe in women keeping at home, you know," and as he rose to go he told
Virginia that she had "an Irish colour."
"I have been sitting in the sun," she answered shyly, going back to the
window when he left the room.
Dan went quickly out to Prince Rupert, but with his foot in the stirrup, he
saw Miss Lydia training a coral honeysuckle at the end of the portico, and
turned away to help her fasten up a broken string. "It blew down
yesterday," she explained sadly. "The storm did a great deal of damage to
the flowers, and the garden looked almost desolate this morning, but Betty
and I worked there until dinner. I tell Betty she must take my place among
the flowers, she has such a talent for making them bloom. Why, if you will
come into the garden, you will be surprised to see how many summer plants
are still in blossom."
She spoke wistfully, and Dan looked down on her with a tender reverence
which became him strangely. "Why, I shall be delighted to go with you," he
answered. "Do you know I never see you without thinking of your roses? You
seem to carry their fragrance in your clothes." There was a touch of the
Major's flattery in his manner, but Miss Lydia's pale cheeks flushed with
Smiling faintly, she folded her knitted shawl over her bosom, and he
followed her across the grass to the little whitewashed gate of the garden.
There she entered softly, as if she were going into church, her light steps
barely treading down the tall grass strewn with rose leaves. Beyond the
high box borders the gay October roses bent toward her beneath a light
wind, and in the square beds tangles of summer plants still flowered
untouched by frost. The splendour of the scarlet sage and the delicate
clusters of the four-o'clocks and sweet Williams made a single blur of
colour in the sunshine, and under the neatly clipped box hedges, blossoms
of petunias and verbenas straggled from their trim rows across the walk.
As he stood beside her, Dan drew in a long breath of the fragrant air. "I
declare, it is like standing in a bunch of pinks," he remarked.
"There has been no hard frost as yet," returned Miss Lydia, looking up at
him. "Even the verbenas were not nipped, and I don't think I ever had them
bloom so late. Why, it is almost the first of October."
They strolled leisurely up and down the box-bordered paths, Miss Lydia
talking in her gentle, monotonous voice, and Dan bending his head as he
flicked at the tall grass with his riding-whip.
"He is a great lover of flowers," said the old lady after he had gone, and
thought in her simple heart that she spoke the truth.
For two days Dan's pride held him back, but the third being Sunday, he went
over in the afternoon with the pretence of a message from his grandmother.
As the day was mild the great doors were standing open, and from the drive
he saw Mrs. Ambler sitting midway of the hall, with her Bible in her hand
and her class of little negroes at her feet. Beyond her there was a strip
of green and the autumn glory of the garden, and the sunlight coming from
without fell straight upon the leaves of the open book.
She was reading from the gospel of St. John, and she did not pause until
the chapter was finished; then she looked up and said, smiling: "Shall I
ask you to join my class, or will you look for the girls out of doors?
Virginia, I think, is in the garden, and Betty has just gone riding down
the tavern road."
"Oh, I'll go after Betty," replied Dan, promptly, and with a gay "good-by"
he untied Prince Rupert and started at a canter for the turnpike.
A quarter of a mile beyond Uplands the tavern road branched off under a
deep gloom of forest trees. The white sand of the turnpike gave place to a
heavy clay soil, which went to dust in summer and to mud in winter,
impeding equally the passage of wheels. On either side a thick wood ran for
several miles, and the sunshine filtered in bright drops through the green
When Dan first caught sight of Betty she was riding in a network of sun and
shade, her face lifted to the bit of blue sky that showed between the
tree-tops. At the sound of his horse she threw a startled look behind her,
and then, drawing aside from the sunken ruts in the "corduroy" road,
waited, smiling, until he galloped up.
"Why, it's never you!" she exclaimed, surprised.
"Well, that's not my fault, Betty," he gayly returned. "If I had my way, I
assure you it would be always I. You mustn't blame a fellow for his ill
luck, you know." Then he laid his hand on her bridle and faced her sternly.
"Look here, Betty, you haven't been treating me right," he said.
She threw out a deprecating little gesture. "Do I need to put on more
humility?" she questioned, humbly. "Is it respect that I have failed in,
"Oh, bosh!" he interposed, rudely. "I want to know why you went riding
three afternoons with Champe--it wasn't fair of you, you know."
Betty sighed sadly. "No one has ever asked me before why I went riding with
Champe," she confessed, "and the mighty secret has quite gnawed into my
"Share it with me," begged Dan, gallantly, "only I warn you that I shall
have no mercy upon Champe."
"Poor Champe," said Betty.
"At least he went riding with you three afternoons--lucky Champe!"
"Ah, so he did; and must I tell you why?"
He nodded. "You shan't go home until you do," he declared grimly.
Betty reached up and plucked a handful of aspen leaves, scattering them
upon the road.
"By what right, O horse-taming Hector (isn't that the way they talk in
"By the right of the strongest, O fair Helena (it's the way they talk in
translations of Homer)."
"How very learned you are!" sighed Betty.
"How very lovely you are!" sighed Dan.
"And you will really force me to tell you?" she asked.
"For your own sake, don't let it come to that," he replied.
"But are you sure that you are strong enough to hear it?"
"I am strong enough for anything," he assured her, "except suspense."
"Well, if I must, then let me whisper it--I went because--" she drew back,
"I implore you not to uproot the forest in your wrath."
"Speak quickly," urged Dan, impatiently.
"I went because--brace yourself--I went because he asked me."
"O Betty!" he cried, and caught her hand.
"O Dan!" she laughed, and drew her hand away.
"You deserve to be whipped," he went on sternly. "How dare you play with
the green-eyed monster I'm wearing on my sleeve? Haven't you heard his
"He's a pretty monster," said Betty. "I should like to pat him."
"Oh, he needs to be gently stroked, I tell you."
"Does he wake often--poor monster?"
Dan lowered his abashed eyes to the road.
"Well, that--ah, that depends--" he began awkwardly.
"Ah, that depends upon your fancies," finished Betty, and rode on rapidly.
It was a moment before he came up with her, and when he did so his face was
"Do you mind about my fancies, Betty?" he asked humbly.
"I?" said Betty, disdainfully. "Why, what have I to do with them?"
"With my fancies? nothing--so help me God--nothing."
"I am glad to hear it," she replied quietly, stroking her horse. Her cheeks
were glowing and she let the overhanging branches screen her face. As they
rode on silently they heard the rustling of the leaves beneath the horses'
feet, and the soft wind playing through the forest. A chain of lights and
shadows ran before them into the misty purple of the distance, where the
dim trees went up like gothic spires.
Betty's hands were trembling, but fearing the stillness, she spoke in a
"When do you go back to college?" she inquired politely.
"In two days--but it's all the same to you, I dare say."
"Indeed it isn't. I shall be very sorry."
"You needn't lie to me," he returned irritably. "I beg your pardon, but a
lie is a lie, you know."
"So I suppose, but I wasn't lying--I shall be very sorry."
A fiery maple branch fell between them, and he impatiently thrust it aside.
"When you treat me like this you raise the devil in me," he said angrily.
"As I told you before, Betty, when I'm not Lightfoot I'm Montjoy--it may be
this that makes you plague me so."
"O Dan, Dan!" she laughed, but in a moment added gravely: "When you're
neither Lightfoot nor Montjoy, you're just yourself, and it's then, after
all, that I like you best. Shall we turn now?" She wheeled her horse about
on the rustling leaves, and they started toward the sunset light shining
far up the road.
"When you like me best," said Dan, passionately. "Betty, when is that?" His
ardent look was on her face, and she, defying her fears, met it with her
beaming eyes. "When you're just yourself, Dan," she answered and galloped
on. Her lips were smiling, but there was a prayer in her heart, for it
cried, "Dear God, let him love me, let him love me."
"Dear God, let him love me," she prayed again in the cool twilight of her
chamber. Before the open window she put her hands to her burning cheeks and
felt the wind trickle between her quivering fingers. Her heart fluttered
like a bird and her blood went in little tremours through her veins. For a
single instant she seemed to feel the passage of the earth through space.
"Oh, let him love me! let him love me!" she cried upon her knees.
When Virginia came in she rose and turned to her with the brightness of
tears on her lashes.
"Do you want me to help you, dear?" she asked, gently.
"Oh, I'm all dressed," answered Virginia, coming toward her. She held a
lamp in her hand, and the light fell over her girlish figure in its muslin
gown. "You are so late, Betty," she added, stopping before the bureau.
"Were you by yourself?"
"Not all the way," replied Betty, slowly.
"Who was with you? Champe?"
"No, not Champe--Dan," said Betty, stooping to unfasten her boots.
Virginia was pinning a red verbena in her hair, and she turned to catch a
side view of her face.
"Do you know I really believe Dan likes you best," she carelessly remarked.
"I asked him the other afternoon what colour hair he preferred, and he
snapped out, 'red' as suddenly as that. Wasn't it funny?"
For a moment Betty did not speak; then she came over and stood beside her
"Would you mind if he liked me better than you, dear?" she asked,
doubtfully. "Would you mind the least little bit?"
Virginia laughed merrily and stooped to kiss her.
"I shouldn't mind if every man in the world liked you better," she answered
gayly. "If they only had as much sense as I've got, they would, foolish
"I never knew but one who did," returned Betty, "and that was the Major."
"But Champe, too."
"Well, perhaps,--but Champe's afraid of you. He calls you Penelope, you
know, because of the 'wooers.' We counted six horses at the portico
yesterday, and he made a bet with me that all of them belonged to the
'wooers'--and they really did, too."
"Oh, but wooing isn't winning," laughed Virginia, going toward the door.
"You'd better hurry, Betty, supper's ready. I wouldn't touch my hair, if I
were you, it looks just lovely." Her white skirts fluttered across the
dimly lighted hall, and in a moment Betty heard her soft step on the stair.
Two days later Betty told Dan good-by with smiling lips. He rode over in
the early morning, when she was in the garden gathering loose rose leaves
to scatter among her clothes. There had been a sharp frost the night
before, and now as it melted in the slanting sun rays, Miss Lydia's summer
flowers hung blighted upon their stalks. Only the gay October roses were
still in their full splendour.
"What an early Betty," said Dan, coming up to her as she stood in the wet
grass beside one of the quaint rose squares. "You are all dewy like a
"Oh, I had breakfast an hour ago," she answered, giving him her moist hand
to which a few petals were clinging.
"Ye Gods! have I missed an hour? Why, I expected to sit waiting on the
door-step until you had had your sleep out."
"Don't you know if you gather rose leaves with the dew on them, their
sweetness lasts twice as long?" asked Betty.
"So you got up to gather ye rosebuds, after all, and not to wish me God
speed?" he said despondently.
"Well, I should have been up anyway," replied Betty, frankly. "This is the
loveliest part of the day, you know. The world looks so fresh with the
first frost over it--only the poor silly summer flowers take cold and die."
"If you weren't a rose, you'd take cold yourself," remarked Dan, pointing,
with his riding-whip, to the hem of her dimity skirt. "Don't stand in the
grass like that, you make me shiver."
"Oh, the sun will dry me," she laughed, stepping from the path to the bare
earth of the rose bed. "Why, when you get well into the sunshine it feels
like summer." She talked on merrily, and he, paying small heed to what she
said, kept his ardent look upon her face. His joy was in her bright
presence, in the beauty of her smile, in the kind eyes that shone upon him.
Speech meant so little when he could put out his arm and touch her if he
"I am going away in an hour, Betty," he said, at last.
"But you will be back again at Christmas."
"At Christmas! Heavens alive! You speak as if it were to-morrow."
"Oh, but time goes very quickly, you know."
Dan shook his head impatiently. "I dare say it does with you," he returned,
irritably, "but it wouldn't if you were as much in love as I am."
"Why, you ought to be used to it by now," urged Betty, mercilessly. "You
were in love last year, I remember."
"Betty, don't punish me for what I couldn't help. You know I love you."
"Oh, no," said Betty, nervously plucking rose leaves. "You have been too
often in love before, my good Dan."
"But I was never in love with you before," retorted Dan, decisively.
She shook her head, smiling. "And you are not in love with me now," she
replied, gravely. "You have found out that my hair is pretty, or that I can
mix a pudding; but I do not often let down my hair, and I seldom cook, so
you'll get over it, my friend, never fear."
He flushed angrily. "And if I do not get over it?" he demanded.
"If you do not get over it?" repeated Betty, trembling. She turned away
from him, strewing a handful of rose leaves upon the grass. "Then I shall
think that you value neither my hair nor my housekeeping," she added,
"If I swear that I love you, will you believe me, Betty?"
"Don't tempt my faith, Dan, it's too small."
"Whether you believe it or not, I do love you," he went on. "I may have
been a fool now and then before I found it out, but you don't think that
was falling in love, do you? I confess that I liked a pair of fine eyes or
rosy cheeks, but I could laugh about it even while I thought it was love I
felt. I can't laugh about being in love with you, Betty."
"I thank you, sir," replied Betty, saucily.
"When I saw you kneeling by the fire in free Levi's cabin, I knew that I
loved you," he said, hotly.
"But I can't always kneel to you, Dan," she interposed.
He put her words impatiently aside, "and what's more I knew then that I had
loved you all my life without knowing it," he pursued. "You may taunt me
with fickleness, but I'm not fickle--I was merely a fool. It took me a long
time to find out what I wanted, but I've found out at last, and, so help me
God, I'll have it yet. I never went without a thing I wanted in my life."
"Then it will be good for you," responded Betty. "Shall I put some rose
leaves into your pocket?" She spoke indifferently, but all the while she
heard her heart singing for joy.
In the rage of his boyish passion, he cut brutally at the flowers growing
at his feet.
"If you keep this up, you'll send me to the devil!" he exclaimed.
She caught his hand and took the whip from his fingers. "Ah, don't hurt the
poor flowers," she begged, "they aren't to blame."
"Who is to blame, Betty?"
She looked up wistfully into his angry face. "You are no better than a
child, Dan," she said, almost sadly, "and you haven't the least idea what
you are storming so about. It's time you were a man, but you aren't, you're
"Oh, I know, I'm just a pampered poodle dog," he finished, bitterly.
"Well, you ought to be something better, and you must be."
"I'll be anything you please, Betty; I'll be President, if you wish it."
"No, thank you, I don't care in the least for Presidents."
"Then I'll be a beggar, you like beggars."
"You'll be just yourself, if you want to please me, Dan," she said
earnestly. "You will be your best self--neither the flattering Lightfoot,
nor the rude Montjoy. You will learn to work, to wait patiently, and to
love one woman. Whoever she may be, I shall say, God bless her."
"God bless her, Betty," he echoed fervently, and added, "Since it's a man
you want, I'll be a man, but I almost wish you had said a President. I
could have been one for you, Betty."
Then he held out his hand. "I don't suppose you will kiss me good-by?" he
"No, I shan't kiss you good-by," she answered.
Smiling brightly, she gave him her hand. "When you have loved me two years,
perhaps,--or when you marry another woman. Good-by, dear, good-by."
He turned quickly away and went up the little path to the gate. There he
paused for an instant, looked back, and waved his hand. "Good-by, my
darling!" he called, boldly, and passed under the honeysuckle arbour. As he
mounted his horse in the drive he saw her still standing as he had left
her, the roses falling about her, and the sunshine full upon her bended
Until he was hidden by the trees she watched him breathlessly, then,
kneeling in the path, she laid her cheek upon the long grass he had trodden
underfoot. "O my love, my love," she whispered to the ground.
Miss Lydia called her from the house, and she went to her with some loose
roses in her muslin apron. "Did you call me, Aunt Lydia?" she asked,
lifting her radiant eyes to the old lady's face. "I haven't gathered very
"I wanted you to pot some white violets for me, dear," answered Miss Lydia,
from the back steps. "My winter garden is almost full, but there's a spot
where I can put a few violets. Poor Mr. Bill asked for a geranium for his
window, so I let him take one."
"Oh, let me pot them for you," begged Betty, eager to be of service. "Send
Petunia for the trowel, and I'll choose you a lovely plant. It's too bad to
see all the dear verbenas bitten by the frost." She tossed a rose into Miss
Lydia's hands, and went back gladly into the garden.
A fortnight after this the Major came over and besought her to return with
him for a week at Chericoke. Mrs. Lightfoot had taken to her bed, he said
sadly, and the whole place was rapidly falling to rack and ruin. "We need
your hands to put it straight again," he added, "and Molly told me on no
account to come back without you. I am at your mercy, my dear."
"Why, I should love to go," replied Betty, with the thought of Dan at her
heart. "I'll be ready in a minute," and she ran upstairs to find her
mother, and to pack her things.
The Major waited for her standing; and when she came down, followed by
Petunia with her clothes, he helped her, with elaborate courtesy, into the
old coach before the portico.
"It takes me back to my wedding day, Betty," he said, as he stepped in
after her and slammed the door. "It isn't often that I carry off a pretty
girl so easily."
"Now I know that you didn't carry off Mrs. Lightfoot easily," returned
Betty, laughing from sheer lightness of spirits. "She has told me the whole
story, sir, from the evening that she wore the peach-blow brocade, that
made you fall in love with her on the spot, to the day that she almost
broke down at the altar. You had a narrow escape from bachelorship, sir, so
you needn't boast."
The Major chuckled in his corner. "I don't doubt that Molly told you so,"
he replied, "but, between you and me, I don't believe it ever occurred to
her until forty years afterwards. She got it out of one of those silly
romances she reads in bed--and, take my word for it, you'll find it
somewhere in the pages of her Mrs. Radcliffe, or her Miss Burney. Molly's a
sensible woman, my child,--I'm the last man to deny it--but she always did
read trash. You won't believe me, I dare say, but she actually tried to
faint when I kissed her in the carriage after her wedding--and, bless my
soul, I came to find that she had 'Evelina' tucked away under her cape."
"Why, she is the most sensible woman in the world," said Betty, "and I'm
quite sure that she was only fitting herself to your ideas, sir. No, you
can't make me believe it of Mrs. Lightfoot."
"My ideas never took the shape of an Evelina," dissented the Major, warmly,
"but it's a dangerous taste, my dear, the taste for trash. I've always said
that it ruined poor Jane, with all her pride. She got into her head all
kind of notions about that scamp Montjoy, with his pale face and his long
black hair. Poor girl, poor girl! I tried to bring her up on Homer and
Milton, but she took to her mother's bookshelf as a duck to water." He
wiped his eyes, and Betty patted his hand, and wondered if "the scamp
Montjoy" looked the least bit like his son.
When they reached Chericoke she shook hands with the servants and ran
upstairs to Mrs. Lightfoot's chamber. The old lady, in her ruffled
nightcap, which she always put on when she took to bed, was sitting upright
under her dimity curtains, weeping over "Thaddeus of Warsaw." There was a
little bookstand at her bedside filled with her favourite romances, and at
the beginning of the year she would start systematically to read from the
first volume upon the top shelf to the last one in the corner near the
door. "None of your newfangled writers for me, my dear," she would protest,
snapping her fingers at literature. "Why, they haven't enough sentiment to
give their hero a title--and an untitled hero! I declare, I'd as lief have
a plain heroine, and, before you know it, they'll be writing about their
Sukey Sues, with pug noses, who eloped with their Bill Bates, from the
nearest butcher shop. Ugh! don't talk to me about them! I opened one of Mr.
Dickens's stories the other day and it was actually about a chimney
sweep--a common chimney sweep from a workhouse! Why, I really felt as if I
had been keeping low society."
Now, as she caught sight of Betty, she laid aside her book, wiped her eyes
on a stiffly folded handkerchief, and became cheerful at once. "I warned
Mr. Lightfoot not to dare to show his face without you," she began; "so I
suppose he brought you off by force."
"I was only too glad to come," replied Betty, kissing her; "but what must I
do for you first? Shall I rub your head with bay rum?"
"There's nothing on earth the matter with my head, child," retorted Mrs.
Lightfoot, promptly, "but you may go downstairs, as soon as you take off
your things, and make me some decent tea and toast. Cupid brought me up two
waiters at dinner, and I wouldn't touch either of them with a ten-foot
Betty took off her bonnet and shawl and hung them on a chair. "I'll go down
at once and see about it," she answered, "and I'll make Car'line put away
my things. It's my old room I'm to have, I suppose."
"It's the whole house, if you want it, only don't let any of the darkies
have a hand at my tea. It's their nature to slop."
"But it isn't mine," Betty answered her, and ran, laughing, down into the
"Dar ain' been no sich chunes sense young Miss rid away in de dead er de
night time," muttered Cupid, in the pantry. "Lawd, Lawd, I des wish you'd
teck up wid Marse Champe, en move 'long over hyer fer good en all. I reckon
dar 'ud be times, den, I reckon, dar 'ould."
"There are going to be times now, Uncle Cupid," responded Betty,
cheerfully, as she arranged the tray for Mrs. Lightfoot. "I'm going to make
some tea and toast right on this fire for your old Miss. You bring the
kettle, and I'll slice the bread."
Cupid brought the kettle, grumbling. "I ain' never hyern tell er sich a
mouf es ole Miss es got," he muttered. "I ain' sayin' nuttin' agin er
stomick, case she ain' never let de stuff git down dat fur--en de stomick
hit ain' never tase it yit."
"Oh, stop grumbling, Uncle Cupid," returned Betty, moving briskly about the
room. She brought the daintiest tea cup from the old sideboard, and leaned
out of the window to pluck a late microphylla rosebud from the creeper upon
the porch. Then, with the bread on the end of a long fork, she sat before
the fire and asked Cupid about the health and fortunes of the house
servants and the field hands.
"I ain' mix wid no fiel' han's," grunted Cupid, with a social pride
befitting the Major. "Dar ain' no use er my mixin' en I ain' mix. Dey stay
in dere place en I stay in my place--en dere place hit's de quarters, en my
place hit's de dinin' 'oom."
"But Aunt Rhody--how's she?" inquired Betty, pleasantly, "and Big Abel? He
didn't go back to college, did he?"
"Zeke, he went," replied Cupid, "en Big Abel he wuz bleeged ter stay behint
'case his wife Saphiry she des put 'er foot right down. Ef'n he 'uz gwine
off again, sez she, she 'uz des gwine tu'n right in en git mah'ed agin. She
ain' so sho', nohow, dat two husban's ain' better'n one, is Saphiry, en she
got 'mos' a min' ter try hit. So Big Abel he des stayed behint."
"That was wise of Big Abel," remarked Betty. "Now open the door, Uncle
Cupid, and I'll carry this upstairs," and as Cupid threw open the door, she
went out, holding the tray before her.
The old lady received her graciously, ate the toast and drank the tea, and
even admitted that it couldn't have been better if she had made it with her
own hands. "I think that you will have to come and live with me, Betty,"
she said good-humouredly. "What a pity you can't fancy one of those useless
boys of mine. Not that I'd have you marry Dan, child, the Major has spoiled
him to death, and now he's beginning to repent it; but Champe, Champe is a
good and clever lad and would make a mild and amiable husband, I am sure.
Don't marry a man with too much spirit, my dear; if a man has any extra
spirit, he usually expends it in breaking his wife's."
"Oh, I shan't marry yet awhile," replied Betty, looking out upon the
falling autumn leaves.
"So I said the day before I married Mr. Lightfoot," rejoined the old lady,
settling her pillows, "and now, if you have nothing better to do, you might
read me a chapter of 'Thaddeus of Warsaw'; you will find it to be a book of
very pretty sentiment."
THE MONTJOY BLOOD
In the morning Betty was awakened by the tapping of the elm boughs on the
roof above her. An autumn wind was blowing straight from the west, and when
she looked out through the small greenish panes of glass, she saw eddies of
yellowed leaves beating gently against the old brick walls. Overhead light
gray clouds were flying across the sky, and beyond the waving tree-tops a
white mist hung above the dim blue chain of mountains.
When she went downstairs she found the Major, in his best black broadcloth,
pacing up and down before the house. It was Sunday, and he intended to
drive into town where the rector held his services.
"You won't go in with me, I reckon?" he ventured hopefully, when Betty
smiled out upon him from the library window. "Ah, my dear, you're as fresh
as the morning, and only an old man to look at you. Well, well, age has its
consolations; you'll spare me a kiss, I suppose?"
"Then you must come in to get it," answered Betty, her eyes narrowing.
"Breakfast is getting cold, and Cupid is calling down Aunt Rhody's wrath
upon your head."
"Oh, I'll come, I'll come," returned the Major, hurrying up the steps, and
adding as he entered the dining room, "My child, if you'd only take a fancy
to Champe, I'd be the happiest man on earth."
"Now I shan't allow any matchmaking on Sunday," said Betty, warningly, as
she prepared Mrs. Lightfoot's breakfast. "Sit down and carve the chicken
while I run upstairs with this."
She went out and came back in a moment, laughing merrily. "Do you know, she
threatens to become bedridden now that I am here to fix her trays," she
explained, sitting down between the tall silver urns and pouring out the
Major's coffee. "What an uncertain day you have for church," she added as
she gave his cup to Cupid.
With his eyes on her vivid face the old man listened rapturously to her
fresh young voice--the voice, he said, that always made him think of clear
water falling over stones. It was one of the things that came to her from
Peyton Ambler, he knew, with her warm hazel eyes and the sweet, strong
curve of her mouth. "Ah, but you're like your father," he said as he
watched her. "If you had brown hair you'd be his very image."
"I used to wish that I had," responded Betty, "but I don't now--I'd just as
soon have red." She was thinking that Dan did not like brown hair so much,
and the thought shone in her face--only the Major, in his ignorance,
mistook its meaning.
After breakfast he got into the coach and started off, and Betty, with the
key basket on her arm, followed Cupid and Aunt Rhody into the storeroom.
Then she gathered fresh flowers for the table, and went upstairs to read a
chapter from the Bible to Mrs. Lightfoot.
The Major stayed to dinner in town, returning late in a moody humour and
exhausted by his drive. As Betty brushed her hair before her bureau, she
heard him talking in a loud voice to Mrs. Lightfoot, and when she went in
at supper time the old, lady called her to her bedside and took her hand.
"He has had a touch of the gout, Betty," she whispered in her ear, "and he
heard some news in town which upset him a little. You must try to cheer him
up at supper, child."
"Was it bad news?" asked Betty, in alarm.
"It may not be true, my dear. I hope it isn't, but, as I told Mr.
Lightfoot, it is always better to believe the worst, so if any surprise
comes it may be a pleasant one. Somebody told him in church--and they had
much better have been attending to the service, I'm sure,--that Dan had
gotten into trouble again, and Mr. Lightfoot is very angry about it. He had
a talk with the boy before he went away, and made him promise to turn over
a new leaf this year--but it seems this is the most serious thing that has
happened yet. I must say I always told Mr. Lightfoot it was what he had to
"In trouble again?" repeated Betty, kneeling by the bed. Her hands went
cold, and she pressed them nervously together.
"Of course we know very little about it, my dear," pursued Mrs. Lightfoot.
"All we have heard is that he fought a duel and was sent away from the
University. He was even put into gaol for a night, I believe--a Lightfoot
in a common dirty gaol! Well, well, as I said before, all we can do now is
to expect the worst."
"Oh, is that all?" cried Betty, and the leaping of her heart told her the
horror of her dim foreboding. She rose to her feet and smiled brightly down
upon the astonished old lady.
"I don't know what more you want," replied Mrs. Lightfoot, tartly. "If he
ever gets clean again after a whole night in a common gaol, I must say I
don't see how he'll manage it. But if you aren't satisfied I can only tell
you that the affair was all about some bar-room wench, and that the papers
will be full of it. Not that the boy was anything but foolish," she added
hastily. "I'll do him the justice to admit that he's more of a fool than a
villain--and I hardly know whether it's a compliment that I'm paying him or
not. He got some quixotic notion into his head that Harry Maupin insulted
the girl in his presence, and he called him to account for it. As if the
honour of a barkeeper's daughter was the concern of any gentleman!"
"Oh!" cried Betty, and caught her breath. The word went out of her in a
sudden burst of joy, but the joy was so sharp that a moment afterwards she
hid her wet face in the bedclothes and sobbed softly to herself.
"I don't think Mr. Lightfoot would have taken it so hard but for Virginia,"
said the old lady, with her keen eyes on the girl. "You know he has always
wanted to bring Dan and Virginia together, and he seems to think that the
boy has been dishonourable about it."
"But Virginia doesn't care--she doesn't care," protested Betty.
"Well, I'm glad to hear it," returned Mrs. Lightfoot, relieved, "and I hope
the foolish boy will stay away long enough for his grandfather to cool off.
Mr. Lightfoot is a high-tempered man, my child. I've spent fifty years in
keeping him at peace with the world. There now, run down and cheer him up."
She lay back among her pillows, and Betty leaned over and kissed her with
cold lips before she dried her eyes and went downstairs to find the Major.
With the first glance at his face she saw that Dan's cause was hopeless for
the hour, and she set herself, with a cheerful countenance, to a discussion
of the trivial happenings of the day. She talked pleasantly of the rector's
sermon, of the morning reading with Mrs. Lightfoot, and of a great hawk
that had appeared suddenly in the air and raised an outcry among the
turkeys on the lawn. When these topics were worn threadbare she bethought
herself of the beauty of the autumn woods, and lamented the ruined garden
with its last sad flowers.
The Major listened gloomily, putting in a word now and then, and keeping
his weak red eyes upon his plate. There was a heavy cloud on his brow, and
the flush that Betty had learned to dread was in his face. Once when she
spoke carelessly of Dan, he threw out an angry gesture and inquired if she
"found Mrs. Lightfoot easier to-night?"
"Oh, I think so," replied the girl, and then, as they rose from the table,
she slipped her hand through his arm and went with him into the library.
"Shall I sit with you this evening?" she asked timidly. "I'd be so glad to
read to you, if you would let me."
He shook his head, patted her affectionately upon the shoulder, and smiled
down into her upraised face. "No, no, my dear, I've a little work to do,"
he replied kindly. "There are a few papers I want to look over, so run up
to Molly and tell her I sent my sunshine to her."
He stooped and kissed her cheek; and Betty, with a troubled heart, went
slowly up to Mrs. Lightfoot's chamber.
The Major sat down at his writing table, and spread his papers out before
him. Then he raised the wick of his lamp, and with his pen in his hand,
resolutely set himself to his task. When Cupid came in with the decanter of
Burgundy, he filled a glass and held it absently against the light, but he
did not drink it, and in a moment he put it down with so tremulous a hand
that the wine spilled upon the floor.
"I've a touch of the gout, Cupid," he said testily. "A touch of the gout
that's been hanging over me for a month or more."
"Huccome you ain' fit hit, Ole Marster?"
"Oh, I've been fighting it tooth and nail," answered the old gentleman,
"but there are some things that always get the better of you in the end,
Cupid, and the gout's one of them."
"En rheumaticks hit's anurr," added Cupid, rubbing his knee.
He rolled a fresh log upon the andirons and went out, while the Major
returned, frowning, to his work.
He was still at his writing table, when he heard the sound of a horse
trotting in the drive, and an instant afterwards the quick fall of the old
brass knocker. The flush deepened in his face, and with a look at once
angry and appealing, he half rose from his chair. As he waited the outside
bars were withdrawn, there followed a few short steps across the hall, and
Dan came into the library.
"I suppose you know what's brought me back, grandpa?" he said quietly as he
The Major started up and then sat down again.
"I do know, sir, and I wish to God I didn't," he replied, choking in his
Dan stood where he had halted upon his entrance, and looked at him with
eyes in which there was still a defiant humour. His face was pale and his
hair hung in black streaks across his forehead. The white dust of the
turnpike had settled upon his clothes, and as he moved it floated in a
little cloud about him.
"I reckon you think it's a pretty bad thing, eh?" he questioned coolly,
though his hands trembled.
The Major's eyes flashed ominously from beneath his heavy brows.
"Pretty bad?" he repeated, taking a long breath. "If you want to know what
I think about it, sir, I think that it's a damnable disgrace. Pretty
bad!--By God, sir, do you call having a gaol-bird for a grandson pretty
"Stop, sir!" called Dan, sharply. He had steadied himself to withstand the
shock of the Major's temper, but, in the dash of his youthful folly, he had
forgotten to reckon with his own. "For heaven's sake, let's talk about it
calmly," he added irritably.
"I am perfectly calm, sir!" thundered the Major, rising to his feet. The
terrible flush went in a wave to his forehead, and he put up one quivering
hand to loosen his high stock. "I tell you calmly that you've done a
damnable thing; that you've brought disgrace upon the name of Lightfoot."
"It is not my name," replied Dan, lifting his head. "My name is Montjoy,
"And it's a name to hang a dog for," retorted the Major.
As they faced each other with the same flash of temper kindling in both
faces, the likeness between them grew suddenly more striking. It was as if
the spirit of the fiery old man had risen, in a finer and younger shape,
from the air before him.
"At all events it is not yours," said Dan, hotly. Then he came nearer, and
the anger died out of his eyes. "Don't let's quarrel, grandpa," he pleaded.
"I've gotten into a mess, and I'm sorry for it--on my word I am."
"So you've come whining to me to get you out," returned the Major, shaking
as if he had gone suddenly palsied.
Dan drew back and his hand fell to his side.
"So help me God, I'll never whine to you again," he answered.
"Do you want to know what you have done, sir?" demanded the Major. "You
have broken your grandmother's heart and mine--and made us wish that we had
left you by the roadside when you came crawling to our door. And, on my
oath, if I had known that the day would ever come when you would try to
murder a Virginia gentleman for the sake of a bar-room hussy, I would have
left you there, sir."
"Stop!" said Dan again, looking at the old man with his mother's eyes.
"You have broken your grandmother's heart and mine," repeated the Major, in
a trembling voice, "and I pray to God that you may not break Virginia
Ambler's--poor girl, poor girl!"
"Virginia Ambler!" said Dan, slowly. "Why, there was nothing between us,
"And you dare to tell me this to my face, sir?" cried the Major.
"Dare! of course I dare," returned Dan, defiantly. "If there was ever
anything at all it was upon my side only--and a mere trifling fancy."
The old gentleman brought his hand down upon his table with a blow that
sent the papers fluttering to the floor. "Trifling!" he roared. "Would you
trifle with a lady from your own state, sir?"
"I was never in love with her," exclaimed Dan, angrily.
"Not in love with her? What business have you not to be in love with her?"
retorted the Major, tossing back his long white hair. "I have given her to
understand that you are in love with her, sir."
The blood rushed to Dan's head, and he stumbled over an ottoman as he
"Then I call it unwarrantable interference," he said brutally, and went
toward the door. There the Major's flashing eyes held him back an instant.
"It was when I believed you to be worthy of her," went on the old man,
relentlessly, "when--fool that I was--I dared to hope that dirty blood
could be made clean again; that Jack Montjoy's son could be a gentleman."
For a moment only Dan stood motionless and looked at him from the
threshold. Then, without speaking, he crossed the hall, took down his hat,
and unbarred the outer door. It slammed after him, and he went out into the
A keen wind was still blowing, and as he descended the steps he felt it
lifting the dampened hair from his forehead. With a breath of relief he
stood bareheaded in the drive and raised his face to the cool elm leaves
that drifted slowly down. After the heated atmosphere of the library there
was something pleasant in the mere absence of light, and in the soft
rustling of the branches overhead. The humour of his blood went suddenly
quiet as if he had plunged headlong into cold water.
While he stood there motionless his thoughts were suspended, and his
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