THOMAS NELSON PAGE
With Illustrations by George Wright
OF ONE LOIS HUNTINGTON
CHAPTER I. GORDON KEITH'S PATRIMONY II. GENERAL KEITH BECOMES AN OVERSEER III. THE ENGINEER AND THE SQUIRE IV. TWO YOUNG MEN V. THE RIDGE COLLEGE VI. ALICE YORKE VII. MRS. YORKE FINDS A GENTLEMAN VIII. MR. KEITH'S IDEALS IX. MR. KEITH IS UNPRACTICAL X. MRS. YORKE CUTS A KNOT XI. GUMBOLT XII. KEITH DECLINES AN OFFER XIII. KEITH IN NEW YORK XIV. THE HOLD-UP XV. MRS. YORKE MAKES A MATCH XVI. KEITH VISITS NEW YORK, AND MRS. LANCASTER SEES A GHOST XVII. KEITH MEETS NORMAN XVIII. MRS. LANCASTER XIX. WICKERSHAM AND PHRONY XX. MRS. LANCASTER'S WIDOWHOOD XXI. THE DIRECTORS' MEETING XXII. MRS. CREAMER'S BALL XXIII. GENERAL KEITH VISITS STRANGE LANDS XXIV. KEITH TRIES HIS FORTUNES ABROAD XXV. THE DINNER AT MRS. WICKERSHAM'S XXVI. A MISUNDERSTANDING XXVII. PHRONY TRIPPER AND THE REV. MR. RIMMON XXVIII. ALICE LANCASTER FINDS PHRONY XXIX. THE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE XXX. "SNUGGLERS' ROOST" XXXI. TERPY'S LAST DANCE AND WICKERSHAM'S FINAL THROW XXXII. THE RUN ON THE BANK XXXIII. RECONCILIATION XXXIV. THE CONSULTATION XXXV. THE MISTRESS OF THE LAWNS XXXVI. THE OLD IDEAL
She was the first to break the silence (frontispiece) "If you don't go back to your seat I'll dash your brains out," said Keith "Then why don't you answer me?" Sprang over the edge of the road into the thick bushes below "Why, Mr. Keith!" she exclaimed "Sit down. I want to talk to you" "It is he! 'Tis he!" she cried "Lois—I have come—" he began
GORDON KEITH'S PATRIMONY
Gordon Keith was the son of a gentleman. And this fact, like the cat the honest miller left to his youngest son, was his only patrimony. As in that case also, it stood to the possessor in the place of a good many other things. It helped him over many rough places. He carried it with him as a devoted Romanist wears a sacred scapulary next to the heart.
His father, General McDowell Keith of "Elphinstone," was a gentleman of the old kind, a type so old-fashioned that it is hardly accepted these days as having existed. He knew the Past and lived in it; the Present he did not understand, and the Future he did not know. In his latter days, when his son was growing up, after war had swept like a vast inundation over the land, burying almost everything it had not borne away, General Keith still survived, unchanged, unmoved, unmarred, an antique memorial of the life of which he was a relic. His one standard was that of a gentleman.
This idea was what the son inherited from the father along with some other old-fashioned things which he did not know the value of at first, but which he came to understand as he grew older.
When in after times, in the swift rush of life in a great city, amid other scenes and new manners, Gordon Keith looked back to the old life on the Keith plantation, it appeared to him as if he had lived then in another world.
Elphinstone was, indeed, a world to itself: a long, rambling house, set on a hill, with white-pillared verandahs, closed on the side toward the evening sun by green Venetian blinds, and on the other side looking away through the lawn trees over wide fields, brown with fallow, or green with cattle-dotted pasture-land and waving grain, to the dark rim of woods beyond. To the westward "the Ridge" made a straight, horizontal line, except on clear days, when the mountains still farther away showed a tenderer blue scalloped across the sky.
A stranger passing through the country prior to the war would have heard much of Elphinstone, the Keith plantation, but he would have seen from the main road (which, except in summer, was intolerably bad) only long stretches of rolling fields well tilled, and far beyond them a grove on a high hill, where the mansion rested in proud seclusion amid its immemorial oaks and elms, with what appeared to be a small hamlet lying about its feet. Had he turned in at the big-gate and driven a mile or so, he would have found that Elphinstone was really a world to itself; almost as much cut off from the outer world as the home of the Keiths had been in the old country. A number of little blacks would have opened the gates for him; several boys would have run to take his horse, and he would have found a legion of servants about the house. He would have found that the hamlet was composed of extensive stables and barns, with shops and houses, within which mechanics were plying their trades with the ring of hammers, the clack of looms, and the hum of spinning-wheels-all for the plantation; whilst on a lower hill farther to the rear were the servants' quarters laid out in streets, filled with children.
Had the visitor asked for shelter, he would have received, whatever his condition, a hospitality as gracious as if he had been the highest in the land; he would have found culture with philosophy and wealth with content, and he would have come away charmed with the graciousness of his entertainment. And yet, if from any other country or region than the South, he would have departed with a feeling of mystification, as though he had been drifting in a counter-current and had discovered a part of the world sheltered and to some extent secluded from the general movement and progress of life.
This plantation, then, was Gordon's world. The woods that rimmed it were his horizon, as they had been that of the Keiths for generations; more or less they always affected his horizon. His father appeared to the boy to govern the world; he governed the most important part of it—the plantation—without ever raising his voice. His word had the convincing quality of a law of nature. The quiet tones of his voice were irresistible. The calm face, lighting up at times with the flash of his gray eyes, was always commanding: he looked so like the big picture in the library, of a tall, straight man, booted and spurred, and partly in armor, with a steel hat over his long curling hair, and a grave face that looked as if the sun were on it. It was no wonder, thought the boy, that he was given a sword by the State when he came back from the Mexican War; no wonder that the Governor had appointed him Senator, a position he declined because of his wife's ill health. Gordon's wonder was that his father was not made President or Commander-in-Chief of the army. It no more occurred to him that any one could withstand his father than that the great oak-trees in front of the house, which it took his outstretched arms six times to girdle, could fall.
Yet it came to pass that within a few years an invading army marched through the plantation, camped on the lawn, and cut down the trees; and Gordon Keith, whilst yet a boy, came to see Elphinstone in the hands of strangers, and his father and himself thrown out on the world.
His mother died while Gordon was still a child. Until then she had not appeared remarkable to the boy: she was like the atmosphere, the sunshine, and the blue, arching sky, all-pervading and existing as a matter of course. Yet, as her son remembered her in after life, she was the centre of everything, never idle, never hurried; every one and everything revolved about her and received her light and warmth. She was the refuge in every trouble, and her smile was enchanting. It was only after that last time, when the little boy stood by his mother's bedside awed and weeping silently in the shadow of the great darkness that was settling upon them, that he knew how absolutely she had been the centre and breath of his life. His father was kneeling beside the bed, with a face as white as his mother's, and a look of such mingled agony and resignation that Gordon never forgot it. As, because of his father's teaching, the son in later life tried to be just to every man, so, for his mother's sake, he remembered to be kind to every woman.
In the great upheaval that came just before the war, Major Keith stood for the Union, but was defeated. When his State seceded, he raised a regiment in the congressional district which he had represented for one or two terms. As his duties took him from home much of the time, he sent Gordon to the school of the noted Dr. Grammer, a man of active mind and also active arm, named by his boys, from the latter quality, "Old Hickory."
Gordon, like some older men, hoped for war with all his soul. A great-grandfather an officer of the line in the Revolution, a grandfather in the navy of 1812, and his father a major in the Mexican War, with a gold-hilted sword presented him by the State, gave him a fair pedigree, and he looked forward to being a great general himself. He would be Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great at least. It was his preference for a career, unless being a mountain stage-driver was. He had seen one or two such beings in the mountains when he accompanied his father once on a canvass that he was making for Congress, enthroned like Jove, in clouds of oil-coats and leather, mighty in power and speech; and since then his dreams had been blessed at times with lumbering coaches and clanking teams.
One day Gordon was sent for to come home. When he came down-stairs next morning his father was standing in the drawing-room, dressed in full uniform, though it was not near as showy as Gordon had expected it to be, or as dozens of uniforms the boy had seen the day before about the railway-stations on his journey home, gorgeous with gold lace. He was conscious, however, that some change had taken place, and a resemblance to the man-in-armor in the picture over the library mantel suddenly struck the boy. There was the high look, the same light in the eyes, the same gravity about the mouth; and when his father, after taking leave of the servants, rode away in his gray uniform, on his bay horse "Chevalier," with his sword by his side, to join his men at the county-seat, and let Gordon accompany him for the first few miles, the boy felt as though he had suddenly been transported to a world of which he had read, and were riding behind a knight of old. Ah! if there were only a few Roundheads formed at the big-gate, how they would scatter them!
About the third year of the war, Mr. Keith, now a brigadier-general, having been so badly wounded that it was supposed he could never again be fit for service in the field, was sent abroad by his government to represent it in England in a semi-confidential, semi-diplomatic position. He had been abroad before—quite an unusual occurrence at that time.
General Keith could not bring himself to leave his boy behind him and have the ocean between them, so he took Gordon with him.
After a perilous night in running the blockade, when they were fired on and escaped only by sending up rockets and passing as one of the blockading squadron, General Keith and Gordon transferred at Nassau to their steamer. The vessel touched at Halifax, and among the passengers taken on there were an American lady, Mrs. Wickersham of New York, and her son Ferdy Wickersham, a handsome, black-eyed boy a year or two older than Gordon. As the two lads were the only passengers aboard of about their age, they soon became as friendly as any other young animals would have become, and everything went on balmily until a quarrel arose over a game which they were playing on the lower deck. As General Keith had told Gordon that he must be very discreet while on board and not get into any trouble, the row might have ended in words had not the sympathy of the sailors been with Gordon. This angered the other boy in the dispute, and he called Gordon a liar. This, according to Gordon's code, was a cause of war. He slapped Ferdy in the mouth, and the next second they were at it hammer-and-tongs. So long as they were on their feet, Ferdy, who knew something of boxing, had much the best of it and punished Gordon severely, until the latter, diving into him, seized him.
In wrestling Ferdy was no match for him, for Gordon had wrestled with every boy on the plantation, and after a short scuffle he lifted Ferdy and flung him flat on his back on the deck, jarring the wind out of him. Ferdy refused to make up and went off crying to his mother, who from that time filled the ship with her abuse of Gordon.
The victory of the younger boy gave him great prestige among the sailors, and Mike Doherty, the bully of the fore-castle, gave him boxing lessons during all the rest of the voyage, teaching him the mystery of the "side swing" and the "left-hand upper-cut," which Mike said was "as good as a belaying-pin."
"With a good, smooth tongue for the girlls and a good upper-cut for thim as treads on your toes, you are aall right," said Mr. Doherty; "you're rigged for ivery braize. But, boy, remimber to be quick with both, and don't forgit who taaught you."
Thus, it was that, while Gordon Keith was still a boy of about twelve or thirteen, instead of being on the old plantation rimmed by the great woods, where his life had hitherto been spent, except during the brief period when he had been at Dr. Grammer's school, he found himself one summer in a little watering-place on the shores of an English lake as blue as a china plate, set amid ranges of high green hills, on which nestled pretty white or brown villas surrounded by gardens and parks.
The water was a new element for Gordon. The home of the Keiths was in the high country back from the great watercourses, and Gordon had never had a pair of oars in his hands, nor did he know how to swim; but he meant to learn. The sight of the boats rowed about by boys of his own age filled him with envy. And one of them, when he first caught sight of it, inspired him with a stronger feeling than envy. It was painted white and was gay with blue and red stripes around the gunwale. In it sat two boys. One, who sat in the stern, was about Gordon's age; the other, a little larger than Gordon, was rowing and used the oars like an adept. In the bow was a flag, and Gordon was staring at it, when it came to him with a rush that it was a "Yankee" flag. He was conscious for half a moment that he took some pride in the superiority of the oarsman over the boys in the other boats. His next thought was that he had a little Confederate flag in his trunk. He had brought it from home among his other treasures. He would show his colors and not let the Yankee boys have all of the honors. So away he put as hard as his legs could carry him. When he got back to the waterside he hired a boat from among those lying tied at the stairs, and soon had his little flag rigged up, when, taking his seat, he picked up the oars and pushed off. It was rather more difficult than it had looked. The oars would not go together. However, after a little he was able to move slowly, and was quite elated at his success when he found himself out on the lake. Just then he heard a shout:
"Take down that flag!"
Gordon wished to turn his boat and look around, but could not do so. However, one of the oars came out of the water, and as the boat veered a little he saw the boys in the white boat with the Union flag bearing down on him.
The oarsman was rowing with strong, swift strokes even while he looked over his shoulder, and the boat was shooting along as straight as an arrow, with the clear water curling about its prow. Gordon wished for a moment that he had not been so daring, but the next second his fighting—blood was up, as the other boy called imperiously:
"Strike that flag!"
Gordon could see his face now, for he was almost on him. It was round and sunburnt, and the eyes were blue and clear and flashing with excitement. His companion, who was cheering him on, was Ferdy Wickersham.
"Strike that flag, I say," called the oarsman.
"I won't. Who are you? Strike your own flag."
"I am Norman Wentworth. That's who I am, and if you don't take that flag down I will take it down for you, you little nigger-driving rebel."
Gordon Keith was not a boy to neglect the amenities of the occasion.
"Come and try it then, will you, you nigger-stealing Yankees!" he called. "I will fight both of you." And he settled himself for defence.
"Well, I will," cried his assailant. "Drop the tiller, Ferdy, and sit tight. I will fight fair." Then to Gordon again: "I have given you fair warning, and I will have that flag or sink you."
Gordon's answer was to drop one oar as useless, seize the other, and steadying himself as well as he could, raise it aloft as a weapon.
"I will kill you if you try it," he said between clinched teeth.
However, the boy rowing the other boat was not to be frightened. He gave a vigorous stroke of his oars that sent his boat straight into the side of Gordon's boat.
The shock of the two boats coming together pitched Gordon to his knees, and came near flinging him into the water; but he was up again in a second, and raising his oar, dealt a vicious blow with it, not at the boy in the boat, but at the flag in the bow of the boat. The unsteadiness of his footing, however, caused him to miss his aim, and he only splintered his oar into fragments.
"Hit him with the oar, Norman," called the boy in the stern. "Knock him out of the boat."
The other boy made no answer, but with a quick turn of his wrist twisted his boat out of its direct course and sent it skimming off to one side. Then dropping one oar, he caught up the other with both hands, and with a rapid, dexterous swing swept a cataract of water in Gordon's face, drenching him, blinding him, and filling his eyes, mouth, and ears with the unexpected deluge. Gordon gasped and sputtered, and before he could recover from this unlooked-for flank movement, another turn of the wrist brought the attacking boat sharp across his bow, and, with a shout of triumph, Norman wrenched the defiant flag out of its socket.
Gordon had no time for thought. He had time only to act. With a cry, half of rage, half of defiance, he sprang up on the point of the bow of his boat, and with outstretched arms launched himself at the bow of the other, where the captor had flung the flag, to use both oars. His boat slipped from under his feet, and he fell short, but caught the gunwale of the other, and dragged himself up to it. He held just long enough to clutch both flags, and the next second, with a faint cheer, he rolled off and sank with a splash in the water.
Norman Wentworth had risen, and with blazing eyes, his oar uplifted, was scrambling toward the bow to repel the boarder, when the latter disappeared. Norman gazed at the spot with staring eyes. The next second he took in what was happening, and, with an exclamation of horror, he suddenly dived overboard. When he came to the top, he was pulling the other boy up with him.
Though Norman was a good swimmer, there was a moment of extreme danger; for, half unconscious, Gordon pulled him under once. But fortunately Norman kept his head, and with a supreme effort breaking the drowning boy's hold, he drew him to the top once more. Fortunately for both, a man seeing the trouble had brought his boat to the spot, and, just as Norman rose to the surface with his burden, he reached out and, seizing him, dragged both him and the now unconscious Gordon aboard his boat.
It was some days before Gordon was able to sit up, and meanwhile he learned that his assailant and rescuer had been every day to make inquiry about him, and his father, Mr. Wentworth, had written to Gordon's father and expressed his concern at the accident.
"It is a strange fate," he wrote, "that should after all these years have arrayed us against each other thus, and have brought our boys face to face in a foreign land. I hear that your boy behaved with the courage which I knew your son would show."
General Keith, in turn, expressed his gratitude for the promptness and efficiency with which the other's son had apprehended the danger and met it.
"My son owes his life to him," he said. "As to the flag, it was the fortune of war," and he thought the incident did credit to both combatants. He "only wished," he said, "that in every fight over a flag there were the same ability to restore to life those who defended it."
Gordon, however, could not participate in this philosophic view of his father's. He had lost his flag; he had been defeated in the battle. And he owed his life to his victorious enemy.
He was but a boy, and his defeat was gall and wormwood to him. It was but very little sweetened by the knowledge that his victor had come to ask after him.
He was lying in bed one afternoon, lonely and homesick and sad. His father was away, and no one had been in to him for, perhaps, an hour. The shrill voices of children and the shouts of boys floated in at the open window from somewhere afar off. He was not able to join them. It depressed him, and he began to pine for the old plantation—a habit that followed him through life in the hours of depression.
Suddenly there was a murmur of voices outside the room, and after a few moments the door softly opened, and a lady put her head in and looked at him. She was a stranger and was dressed in a travelling-suit. Gordon gazed at her without moving or uttering a sound. She came in and closed the door gently behind her, and then walked softly over to the side of the bed and looked down at him with kind eyes. She was not exactly pretty, but to Gordon she appeared beautiful, and he knew that she was a friend. Suddenly she dropped down on her knees beside him and put her arm over him caressingly.
"I am Norman's mother," she said, "and I have come to look after you and to take you home with me if they will let me have you." She stooped over and kissed him.
The boy put up his pinched face and kissed her.
"I will go," he said in his weak voice.
She kissed him again, and smiled down at him with moist eyes, and talked to him in tender tones, stroking his hair and telling him of Norman's sorrow for the trouble, of her own unhappiness, and of her regret that the doctors would not let him be moved. When she left, it was with a promise that she would come back again and see him; and Gordon knew that he had a friend in England of his own kind, and a truth somehow had slipped into his heart which set at odds many opinions which he had thought principles. He had never thought to feel kindly toward a Yankee.
When Gordon was able to be out again, his father wished him to go and thank his former foe who had rescued him. But it was too hard an ordeal for the boy to face. Even the memory of Mrs. Wentworth could not reconcile him to this.
"You don't know how hard it is, father," he said, with that assurance with which boyhood always draws a line between itself and the rest of the world. "Did you ever have to ask pardon of one who had fought you?"
General Keith's face wore a singular expression. Suddenly he felt a curious sensation in a spot in his right side, and he was standing in a dewy glade in a piece of woodland on a Spring morning, looking at a slim, serious young man standing very straight and still a few paces off, with a pistol gripped in his hand, and, queerly enough, his name, too, was Norman Wentworth. But he was not thinking of him. He was thinking of a tall girl with calm blue eyes, whom he had walked with the day before, and who had sent him away dazed and half maddened. Then some one a little to one side spoke a few words and began to count, "One, two—" There was a simultaneous report of two pistols, two little puffs of smoke, and when the smoke had cleared away, the other man with the pistol was sinking slowly to the ground, and he himself was tottering into the arms of the man nearest him.
He came back to the present with a gasp.
"My son," he said gravely, "I once was called on and failed. I have regretted it all my life, though happily the consequences were not as fatal as I had at one time apprehended. If every generation did not improve on the follies and weaknesses of those that have gone before, there would be no advance in the world. I want you to be wiser and stronger than I."
Gordon's chance of revenge came sooner than he expected. Not long after he got out of doors again he was on his way down to the lake, where he was learning to swim, when a number of boys whom he passed began to hoot at him. In their midst was Ferdy Wickersham, the boy who had crossed the ocean with him. He was setting the others on. The cry that came to Gordon was: "Nigger-driver! Nigger-driver!" Sometimes Fortune, Chance, or whatever may be the deity of fortuitous occurrence, places our weapons right to hand. What would David have done had there not been a stony brook between him and Goliath that day? Just as Gordon with burning face turned to defy his deriders, a pile of small stones lay at his feet. It looked like Providence. He could not row a boat, but he could fling a stone like young David. In a moment he was sending stones up the hill with such rapidity that the group above him were thrown into confusion.
Then Gordon fell into an error of more noted generals. Seizing a supply of missiles, he charged straight up the hill. Though the group had broken at the sudden assault, by the time he reached the hill-top they had rallied, and while he was out of ammunition they made a charge on him. Wheeling, he went down the hill like the wind, while his pursuers broke after him with shouts of triumph. As he reached the stone-pile he turned and made a stand, which brought them to a momentary stop. Just then a shout arose below him. Gordon turned to see rushing up the hill toward him Norman Wentworth. He was picking up stones as he ran. Gordon heard him call out something, but he did not wait for his words. Here was his arch-enemy, his conqueror, and here, at least, he was his equal. Without wasting further time with those above him, Gordon sprang toward his new assailant, and steadying himself, hurled his heaviest stone. Fortunately, Norman Wentworth had been reared in the country and knew how to dodge as well as to throw a stone, or his days might have ended then and there.
"Hold on! don't throw!" he shouted "I am coming to help you," and, without waiting, he sent a stone far over Gordon's head at the party on the height above. Gordon, who was poising himself for another shot, paused amazed in the midst of his aim, open-mouthed and wide-eyed.
"Come on," cried Norman. "You and I together can lick them. I know the way, and we will get above them." So saying, he dashed down a side alley, Gordon close at his heels, and, by making a turn, they came out a few minutes later on the hill above their enemies, who were rejoicing in their easy victory, and, catching them unprepared, routed them and scattered them in an instant.
Ferdy Wickersham, finding himself defeated, promptly surrendered and offered to enlist on their side. Norman, however, had no idea of letting him off so easy.
"I am going to take you prisoner, but not until I have given you a good kicking. You know better than to take sides against an American."
"He is a rebel," said Ferdy.
"He is an American," said Norman. And he forthwith proceeded to make good his word, and to do it in such honest style that Ferdy, after first taking it as a joke, got angry and ran away howling.
Gordon was doubtful as to the wisdom of this severity.
"He will tell," he said.
"Let him," said Norman, contemptuously. "He knows what he will get if he does. I was at school with him last year, and I am going to school with him again. I will teach him to fight with any one else against an American!"
This episode made the two boys closer allies than they would have been in a year of peace.
General Keith, finding his mission fruitless, asked leave to return home immediately, so that Gordon saw little more of his former foe and new ally.
A few days before their departure, Gordon, passing along a road, came on a group of three persons, two children and a French governess with much-frizzled hair, very black eyes, and a small waist. One of the children was a very little girl, richly dressed in a white frock with a blue sash that almost covered it, with big brown eyes and yellow ringlets; the other child was a ragged girl several years older, with tangled hair, gray eyes, and the ruddy, chubby cheeks so often seen in children of her class. The governess was in a state of great excitement, and was talking French so fast that it was a wonder any tongue could utter the words. The little girl of the fine frock and brown eyes was clutching to her bosom with a defiant air a large doll which the governess was trying to get from her, while the other child stood by, looking first toward one of them and then toward the other, with an expression divided between timidity and eagerness. A big picture of a ballet-dancer with a gay frock and red shoes in a flaring advertisement on a sign-board had something to do with the trouble. Now the girl drew nearer to the other child and danced a few steps, holding out her hand; now she cast a look over her shoulder down the hill, as if to see that her retreat were not cut off.
"Mais, c'est a moi—it's my doll. I will have it," insisted the little girl, backing away and holding it firmly; at which the governess began again almost tearing her hair in her desperation, though she ended by giving it a pat to see that it was all right.
The approach of Gordon drew her attention to him.
"Oh," she exclaimed in desperation, "c'est epouvantable—it ees terr-e-ble! Dese young ladie weel give de doll to dat meeseerable creature!"
"She is not a 'meeseerable creature'!" insisted the little girl, mocking her, her brown eyes flashing. "She danced for me, and I will give it to her—I like her."
"Oh, ciel! What shall I do! Madame weel abuse me—weel keel me!"
"Mamma will not mind; it is my doll. Aunt Abby gave it to me. I can get a plenty more, and I will give it to her," insisted the little girl again. Then suddenly, gaining more courage, she turned quickly, and, before the governess could stop her, thrust the doll into the other child's arms.
"Here, you shall have it."
The governess, with a cry of rage, made a spring for the child, but too late: the grimy little hands had clutched the doll, and turning without a word of thanks, the little creature sped down the road like a frightened animal, her ragged frock fluttering behind her.
"Why, she did not say 'Thank you'!" exclaimed the child, in a disappointed tone, looking ruefully after the retreating figure.
The governess broke out on her vehemently in French, very comically mingling her upbraidings of her charge, her abuse of the little girl, and her apprehension of "Madame."
"Never mind; she does not know any better," said Gordon.
The child's face brightened at this friendly encouragement.
"She is a nasty little creature! You shall not play with her," cried the governess, angrily.
"She is not nasty! I like her, and I will play with her," declared the child, defiantly.
"What is your name?" asked the boy, much amused by such sturdiness in so small a tot.
"Lois Huntington. What is your name?" She looked up at him with her big brown eyes.
"How do you do, Gordon Keith?" She held out her hand.
"How do you do, Lois Huntington?"
She shook hands with him solemnly.
A day or two later, as Gordon was passing through one of the streets in the lower part of the village, he came upon a hurdy-gurdy playing a livelier tune than most of them usually gave. A crowd of children had gathered in the street. Among them was a little barelegged girl who, inspired by the music, was dancing and keeping perfect time as she tripped back and forth, pirouetted and swayed on the tips of her bare toes, flirting her little ragged frock, and kicking with quite the air of a ballet-dancer. She divided the honors with the dismal Savoyard, who ground away at his organ, and she brought a flicker of admiration into his bronzed and grimy face, for he played for her the same tune over and over, encouraging her with nods and bravas. She was enjoying her triumph quite as much as any prima donna who ever tripped it on a more ambitious stage.
Gordon recognized in the little dancer the tangled-haired child who had run away with the little girl's doll a few days before.
GENERAL KEITH BECOMES AN OVERSEER
When the war closed, though it was not recognized at first, the old civilization of the South passed away. Fragments of the structure that had once risen so fair and imposing still stood for a time, even after the foundations were undermined: a bastion here, a tower there; but in time they followed the general overthrow, and crumbled gradually to their fall, leaving only ruins and decay.
For a time it was hoped that the dilapidation might be repaired and the old life be lived again. General Keith, like many others, though broken and wasted in body, undertook to rebuild with borrowed money, but with disastrous results. The conditions were all against him.
Three or four years' effort to repair his fallen fortunes only plunged him deeper in debt. General Keith, like most of his neighbors and friends, found himself facing the fact that he was hopelessly insolvent. As soon as he saw he could not pay his debts he stopped spending and notified his creditors.
"I see nothing ahead of me," he wrote, "but greater ruin. I am like a horse in a quicksand: every effort I make but sinks me deeper."
Some of his neighbors took the benefit of the bankrupt-law which was passed to give relief. General Keith was urged to do likewise, but he declined.
"Though I cannot pay my debts," he said, "the least I can do is to acknowledge that I owe them. I am unwilling to appear, even for a short time, to be denying what I know to be a fact."
He gave up everything that he owned, reserving nothing that would bring in money.
When Elphinstone was sold, it brought less than the debts on it. The old plate, with the Keith coat-of-arms on it, from which generations of guests had been served, and which old Richard, the butler, had saved during the war, went for its weight in silver. The library had been pillaged until little of it remained. The old Keith pictures, some of them by the best artists, which had been boxed and stored elsewhere until after the war, now went to the purchaser of the place for less than the price of their frames. Among them was the portrait of the man in the steel coat and hat, who had the General's face.
What General Keith felt during this transition no one, perhaps, ever knew; certainly his son did not know it, and did not dream of it until later in life.
It was, however, not only in the South that fortunes were lost by the war. As vast as was the increase of riches at the North among those who stayed at home, it did not extend to those who took the field. Among these was a young officer named Huntington, from Brookford, a little town on the sunny slope that stretches eastwardly from the Alleghanies to the Delaware. Captain Huntington, having entered the army on the outbreak of the war, like Colonel Keith rose to the rank of general, and, like General Keith, received a wound that incapacitated him for service. His wife was a Southern woman, and had died abroad, just at the close of the war, leaving him a little girl, who was the idol of his heart. He was interested in the South, and came South to try and recuperate from the effects of his wound and of exposure during the war.
The handsomest place in the neighborhood of Elphinstone was "Rosedale," the family-seat of the Berkeleys. Mr. Berkeley had been killed in the war, and the plantation went, like Elphinstone and most of the other old estates, for debt. And General Huntington purchased it.
As soon as General Keith heard of his arrival in the neighborhood, he called on him and invited him to stay at his house until Rosedale should be refurnished and made comfortable again. The two gentlemen soon became great friends, and though many of the neighbors looked askance at the Federal officer and grumbled at his possessing the old family-seat of the Berkeleys, the urbanity and real kindness of the dignified, soldierly young officer soon made his way easier and won him respect if not friendship. When a man had been a general at the age of twenty-six, it meant that he was a man, and when General Keith pronounced that he was a gentleman, it meant that he was a gentleman. Thus reasoned the neighbors.
His only child was a pretty little girl of five or six years, with great brown eyes, yellow curls, and a rosebud face that dimpled adorably when she laughed. When Gordon saw her he recognized her instantly as the tot who had given her doll to the little dancer two years before. Her eyes could not be mistaken. She used to drive about in the tiniest of village carts, drawn by the most Liliputian of ponies, and Gordon used to call her "Cindy,"—short for Cinderella,—which amused and pleased her. She in turn called him her sweetheart; tyrannized over him, and finally declared that she was going to marry him.
"Why, you are not going to have a rebel for a sweetheart?" said her father.
"Yes, I am. I am going to make him Union," she declared gravely.
"Well, that is a good way. I fancy that is about the best system of Reconstruction that has yet been tried."
He told the story to General Keith, who rode over very soon afterwards to see the child, and thenceforth called her his fairy daughter.
One day she had a tiff with Gordon, and she announced to him that she was not going to kiss him any more.
"Oh, yes, you are," said he, teasing her.
"I am not." Her eyes flashed. And although he often teased her afterwards, and used to draw a circle on his cheek which, he said, was her especial reservation, she kept her word, even in spite of the temptation which he held out to her to take her to ride if she would relent.
One Spring General Huntington's cough suddenly increased, and he began to go downhill so rapidly as to cause much uneasiness to his friends. General Keith urged him to go up to a little place on the side of the mountains which had been quite a health-resort before the war.
"Ridgely is one of the most salubrious places I know for such trouble as yours. And Dr. Theophilus Balsam is one of the best doctors in the State. He was my regimental surgeon during the war. He is a Northern man who came South before the war. I think he had an unfortunate love-affair."
"There is no place for such trouble as mine," said the younger man, gravely. "That bullet went a little too deep." Still, he went to Ridgely.
Under the charge of Dr. Balsam the young officer for a time revived, and for a year or two appeared on the way to recovery. Then suddenly his old trouble returned, and he went down as if shot. The name Huntington had strong association for the old physician; for it was a Huntington that Lois Brooke, the younger sister of Abigail Brooke, his old sweetheart, had married, and Abigail Brooke's refusal to marry him had sent him South. The Doctor discovered early in his acquaintance with the young officer that he was Abigail Brooke's nephew. He, however, made no reference to his former relation to his patient's people.
Division bitterer than that war in which he had fought lay between them, the division that had embittered his life and made him an exile from his people. But the little girl with her great, serious eyes became the old physician's idol and tyrant, and how he worked over her father! Even in those last hours when the end had unexpectedly appeared, and General Huntington was making his last arrangements with the same courage which had made him a noted officer when hardly more than a boy, the Doctor kept his counsel almost to the end.
"How long have I to live, Doctor?" panted the dying man, when he rallied somewhat from the attack that had struck him down.
"Not very long."
"Then I wish you to send for General Keith. I wish him to take my child to my aunt, Miss Abigail Brooke."
"I will attend to it" said the Doctor.
"So long as she lives she will take care of her. But she is now an old woman, and when she dies, God knows what will become of her."
"I will look after her as long as I live," said the Doctor.
"Thank you, Doctor." There was a pause. "She is a saint." His mind had gone back to his early life. To this Dr. Balsam made no reply. "She has had a sad life. She was crossed in love but instead of souring, it sweetened her."
"I was the man," said the Doctor, quietly. "I will look after your child."
"You were! I never knew his name. She never married."
He gave a few directions, and presently said: "My little girl? I wish to see her. It cannot hurt me?"
"No, it will not hurt you," said the Doctor, quietly.
The child was brought, and the dying man's eyes lit up as they rested on her pink face and brown eyes filled with a vague wonder.
"You must remember papa."
She stood on tiptoe and, leaning over, kissed him.
"And you must go to Aunt Abby when I have gone."
"I will take Gordon Keith with me," said the child.
The ghost of a smile flickered about the dying man's eyes. Then came a fit of coughing, and when it had passed, his head, after a few gasps, sank back.
At a word from the Doctor, an attendant took the child out of the room.
That evening the old Doctor saw that the little girl was put to bed, and that night he sat up alone with the body. There were many others to relieve him, but he declined them and kept his vigil alone.
What memories were with him; what thoughts attended him through those lonely hours, who can tell!
General Keith went immediately to Ridgely on hearing of General Huntington's death. He took Gordon with him, thinking that he would help to comfort the little orphaned girl. The boy had no idea how well he was to know the watering-place in after years. The child fell to his care and clung to him, finally going to sleep in his arms. While the arrangements were being made, they moved for a day or two over to Squire Rawson's, the leading man of the Ridge region, where the squire's granddaughter, a fresh-faced girl of ten or twelve years, took care of the little orphan and kept her interested.
The burial, in accordance with a wish expressed by General Huntington, took place in a corner of the little burying-ground at Ridgely, which lay on a sunny knoll overlooking the long slope to the northeastward. The child walked after the bier, holding fast to Gordon's hand, while Dr. Balsam and General Keith walked after them.
As soon as General Keith could hear from Miss Brooke he took the child to her; but to the last Lois said that she wanted Gordon to come with her.
Soon afterwards it appeared that General Huntington's property had nearly all gone. His plantation was sold.
Several times Lois wrote Gordon quaint little letters scrawled in a childish hand, asking about the calves and pigeons and chickens that had been her friends. But after a while the letters ceased to come.
When Elphinstone was sold, the purchaser was a certain Mr. Aaron Wickersham of New York, the father of Ferdy Wickersham, with whom Gordon had had the rock-battle. Mr. Wickersham was a stout and good-humored man of fifty, with a head like a billiard-bail, and a face that was both shrewd and kindly. He had, during the war, made a fortune out of contracts, and was now preparing to increase it in the South, where the mountain region, filled with coal and iron, lay virgin for the first comer with sufficient courage and astuteness to take it. He found the new legislature of the State an instrument well fitted to his hands. It could be manipulated.
The Wickershams had lately moved into a large new house on Fifth Avenue, where Fashion was climbing the hill toward the Park in the effort to get above Murray Hill, and possibly to look down upon the substantial and somewhat prosaic mansions below, whose doors it had sometimes been found difficult to enter. Mrs. Wickersham was from Brookford, the same town from which the Huntingtons came, and, when a young and handsome girl, having social ambitions, had married Aaron Wickersham when he was but a clerk in the banking-house of Wentworth & Son. And, be it said, she had aided him materially in advancing his fortunes. She was a handsome woman, and her social ambitions had grown. Ferdy was her only child, and was the joy and pride of her heart. Her ambition centred in him. He should be the leader of the town, as she felt his beauty and his smartness entitled him to be. It was with this aim that she induced her husband to build the fine new house on the avenue. She knew the value of a large and handsome mansion in a fashionable quarter. Aaron Wickersham knew little of fashion; but he knew the power of money, and he had absolute confidence in his wife's ability. He would furnish the means and leave the rest to her. The house was built and furnished by contract, and Mrs. Wickersham took pride in the fact that it was much finer than the Wentworth mansion on Washington Square, and more expensive than the house of the Yorkes, which was one of the big houses on the avenue, and had been the talk of the town when it was built ten years before. Will Stirling, one of the wags, said that it was a good thing that Mr. Wickersham did not take the contract for himself.
Mr. Wickersham, having spent a considerable sum in planning and preparing his Southern enterprise, and having obtained a charter from the legislature of the State that gave him power to do almost anything he wished, suddenly found himself balked by the fact that the people in the mountain region which he wished to reach with his road were so bitterly opposed to any such innovation that it jeopardized his entire scheme. From the richest man in that section, an old cattle-dealer and lumberman named Rawson, to Tim Gilsey, who drove the stage from Eden to Gumbolt Gap, they were all opposed to any "newfangled" notions, and they regarded everything that came from carpet-baggers as "robbery and corruption."
He learned that "the most influential man down there" was General Keith, and that his place was for sale.
"I can reach him," said Mr. Wickersham, with a gleam in his eye. "I will have a rope around his neck that will lead him." So he bought the place.
Fortunately, perhaps, for Mr. Wickersham, he hinted something of his intentions to his counsel, a shrewd old lawyer of the State, who thought that he could arrange the matter better than Mr. Wickersham could.
"You don't know how to deal with these old fellows," he said.
"I know men," said Mr. Wickersham, "and I know that when I have a hold on a man—"
"You don't know General Keith," said Mr. Bagge. The glint in his eye impressed the other and he yielded.
So Mr. Wickersham bought the Keith plantation and left it to Greene Bagge, Esq., to manage the business. Mr. Bagge wrote General Keith a diplomatic letter eulogistic of the South and of Mr. Wickersham's interest in it, and invited the General to remain on the place for the present as its manager.
General Keith sat for some time over that letter, his face as grave as it had ever been in battle. What swept before his mental vision who shall know? The history of two hundred years bound the Keiths to Elphinstone. They had carved it from the forest and had held it against the Indian. From there they had gone to the highest office of the State. Love, marriage, death—all the sanctities of life—were bound up with it. He talked it over with Gordon.
Gordon's face fell.
"Why, father, you will be nothing but an overseer."
General Keith smiled. Gordon remembered long afterwards, with shame for his Speech, how wistful that smile was.
"Yes; I shall be something more than that. I shall be, at least, a faithful one. I wish I could be as successful a one."
He wrote saying that, as he had failed for himself, he did not see how he could succeed for another. But upon receiving a very flattering reassurance, he accepted the offer. Thus, the General remained as an employe on the estate which had been renowned for generations as the home of the Keiths. And as agent for the new owner he farmed the place with far greater energy and success than he had ever shown on his own account. It was a bitter cup for Gordon to have his father act as an "overseer"; but if it contained any bitterness for General Keith, he never gave the least evidence of it, nor betrayed his feeling by the slightest sign.
When Mr. Wickersham visited his new estate he admitted that Mr. Bagge knew better than he how to deal with General Keith.
When he was met at the station by a tall, gray-haired gentleman who looked like something between a general and a churchwarden, he was inclined to be shy; but when the gentleman grasped his hand, and with a voice of unmistakable sincerity said he had driven out himself to meet him, to welcome him among them, he felt at home.
"It is gentlemen like yourself to whom we must look for the preservation of our civilization," said General Keith, and introduced him personally to every man he met as, "the gentleman who has bought my old place—not a 'carpet-bagger,' but a gentleman interested in the development of our country, sir."
Mr. Wickersham, in fact, was treated with a distinction to which he had been a stranger during his former visits South. He liked it. He felt quite like a Southern gentleman, and with one or two Northerners whom he met held himself a little distantly.
Once or twice the new owner of Elphinstone came down with parties of friends—"to look at the country." They were interested in developing it, and had been getting sundry acts passed by the legislature with this in view. (General Keith's nose always took a slight elevation when the legislature was mentioned.) General Keith entertained the visitors precisely as he had done when he was the master, and Mr. Wickersham and his guests treated him, in the main, as if he were still the master. General Keith sat at the foot of the table opposite Mr. Wickersham, and directed the servants, who still called him "Master," and obeyed him as such.
Mr. Wickersham conceived a great regard for General Keith, not unmingled with a certain contempt for his inability to avail himself of the new conditions. "Fine old fellow," he said to his friends. "No more business-sense than a child. If he had he would go in with us and make money for himself instead of telling us how to make it." He did not know that General Keith would not have "gone in" with him in the plan he had carried through that legislature to save his life. But he honored the old fellow all the more. He had stood up for the General against Mrs. Wickersham, who hated all Keiths on Ferdy's account. The old General, who was as oblivious of this as a child, was always sending Mrs. Wickersham his regards.
"Perhaps, she might like to come down and see the place?" he suggested. "It is not what it used to be, but we can make her comfortable." His glance as it swept about him was full of affection.
Mr. Wickersham said he feared that Mrs. Wickersham's health would not permit her to come South.
"This is the very region for her," said the General. "There is a fine health-resort in the mountains, a short distance from us. I have been there, and it is in charge of an old friend of mine, Dr. Balsam, one of the best doctors in the State. He was my regimental surgeon. I can recommend him. Bring her down, and let us see what we can do for her."
Mr. Wickersham thanked him with a smile. Time had been when Mrs. Wickersham had been content with small health-resorts. But that time was past. He did not tell General Keith that Mrs. Wickersham, remembering the fight between her son and Gordon, had consented to his buying the place from a not very noble motive, and vowed that she would never set her foot on it so long as a Keith remained there. He only assured the General that he would convey his invitation.
Mr. Wickersham's real interest, however, lay in the mountains to the westward. And General Keith gave him some valuable hints as to the deposits lying in the Ridge and the mountains beyond the Ridge.
"I will give you letters to the leading men in that region," he said. "The two most influential men up there are Dr. Balsam and Squire Rawson. They have, like Abraham and Lot, about divided up the country."
Mr. Wickersham's eyes glistened. He thanked him, and said that he might call on him.
Once there came near being a clash between Mr. Wickersham and General Keith. When Mr. Wickersham mentioned that he had invited a number of members of the legislature—"gentlemen interested in the development of the resources of the State"—to meet him, the General's face changed. There was a little tilting of the nose and a slight quivering of the nostrils. A moment later he spoke.
"I will have everything in readiness for your—f—for your guests; but I must ask you to excuse me from meeting them."
Mr. Wickersham turned to him in blank amazement.
The expression on the old gentleman's face answered him. He knew that at a word he should lose his agent, and he had use for him. He had plans that were far-reaching, and the General could be of great service to him.
When the statesmen arrived, everything on the place was in order; they were duly met at the station, and were welcomed at the house by the owner. Everything for their entertainment was prepared. Even the fresh mint was in the tankard on the old sideboard. Only the one who had made these preparations was absent.
Just before the vehicles were to return from the railway, General Keith walked into the room where Mr. Wickersham was lounging. He was booted and spurred for riding.
"Everything is in order for your guests, sir. Richard will see that they are looked after. These are the keys. Richard knows them all, and is entirely reliable. I will ask you to excuse me till—for a day or two."
Mr. Wickersham had been revolving in his mind what he should say to the old gentleman. He had about decided to speak very plainly to him on the folly of such narrowness. Something, however, in the General's air again deterred him: a thinning of the nostril; an unwonted firmness of the mouth. A sudden increase in the resemblance to the man-in-armor over the mantel struck him—a mingled pride and gravity. It removed him a hundred years from the present.
The keen-eyed capitalist liked the General, and in a way honored him greatly. His old-fashioned ideas entertained him. So what he said was said kindly. He regretted that the General could not stay; he "would have liked him to know his friends."
"They are not such bad fellows, after all. Why, one of them is a preacher," he said jocularly as he walked to the door, "and a very bright fellow. J. Quincy Plume is regarded as a man of great ability."
"Yes, sir; I have heard of him. His doctrine is from the 'Wicked Bible'; he omits the 'not.' Good morning." And General Keith bowed himself out.
When the guests arrived, Mr. Wickersham admitted to himself that they were a strange lot of "assorted statesmen." He was rather relieved that the General had not remained. When he looked about the table that evening, after the juleps were handed around and the champagne had followed, he was still more glad. The set of old Richard's head and the tilt of his nose were enough to face. An old and pampered hound in the presence of a pack of puppies could not have been more disdainful.
The preacher he had mentioned, Mr. J. Quincy Plume, was one of the youngest members of the party and one of the most striking—certainly one of the most convivial and least abashed. Mr. Plume had, to use his own expression, "plucked a feather from many wings, and bathed his glistening pinions in the iridescent light of many orbs." He had been "something of a doctor"; then had become a preacher—to quote him again, "not exactly of the gospel as it was understood by mossbacked theologians, of 'a creed outworn,'" but rather the "gospel of the new dispensation, of the new brotherhood—the gospel of liberty, equality, fraternity." Now he had found his true vocation, that of statesmanship, where he could practise what he had preached; could "bask in the light of the effulgent sun of progress, and, shod with the sandals of Mercury, soar into a higher empyrean than he had yet attained." All of which, being translated, meant that Mr. Plume, having failed in several professions, was bent now on elevating himself by the votes of the ignorant followers whom he was cajoling into taking him as a leader.
Mr. Wickersham had had some dealing with him and had found him capable and ready for any job. When he had been in the house an hour Mr. Wickersham was delighted with him, and mentally decided to secure him for his agent. When he had been there a day Mr. Wickersham mentally questioned whether he had not better drop him out of his schemes altogether.
One curious thing was that each guest secretly warned him against all the others.
The prices were much higher than Mr. Wickersham had expected. But they were subject to scaling.
"Well, Richard, what do you think of the gentlemen?" asked Mr. Wickersham of the old servant, much amused at his disdain.
"Why, our guests." He used the possessive that the General used.
"Does you call dem 'gent'mens?'" demanded the old servant, fixing his eyes on him.
"Well, no; I don't think I do—all of them."
"Nor, suh; dee ain't gent'mens; dee's scalawags!" said Richard, with contempt. "I been livin' heah 'bout sixty years, I reckon, an' I never seen nobody like dem eat at de table an' sleep in de beds in dis house befo'."
When the statesmen were gone and General Keith had returned, old Richard gave Mr. Wickersham an exhibition of the manner in which a gentleman should be treated.
THE ENGINEER AND THE SQUIRE
Marius amid the ruins of Carthage is not an inspiring figure to us while we are young; it is Marius riding up the Via Sacra at the head of his resounding legions that then dazzles us. But as we grow older we see how much greater he was when, seated amid the ruins, he sent his scornful message to Rome. So, Gordon Keith, when a boy, thought being a gentleman a very easy and commonplace thing. He had known gentlemen all his life—had been bred among them. It was only later on, after he got out into the world, that he saw how fine and noble that old man was, sitting unmoved amid the wreck not only of his life and fortunes, but of his world.
General Keith was unable to raise even the small sum necessary to send the boy to college, but among the debris of the old home still remained the relics of a once choice library, and General Keith became himself his son's instructor. It was a very irregular system of study, but the boy, without knowing it, was browsing in those pastures that remain ever fresh and green. There was nothing that related to science in any form.
"I know no more of science, sir, than an Indian," the General used to say. "The only sciences I ever thought I knew were politics and war, and I have failed in both."
He knew very little of the world—at least, of the modern world. Once, at table, Gordon was wishing that they had money.
"My son," said his father, quietly, "there are some things that gentlemen never discuss at table. Money is one of them." Such were his old-fashioned views.
It was fortunate for his son, then, that there came to the neighborhood about this time a small engineering party, sent down by Mr. Wickersham to make a preliminary survey for a railroad line up into the Ridge country above General Keith's home. The young engineer, Mr. Grinnell Rhodes, brought a letter to General Keith from Mr. Wickersham. He had sent his son down with the young man, and he asked that the General would look after him a little and would render Mr. Rhodes any assistance in his power. The tall young engineer, with his clear eyes, pleasant voice, and quick ways, immediately ingratiated himself with both General Keith and Gordon. The sight of the instruments and, much more, the appearance of the young "chief," his knowledge of the world, and his dazzling authority as, clad in corduroy and buttoned in high yellow gaiters, he day after day strode forth with his little party and ran his lines, sending with a wave of his hand his rodmen to right or left across deep ravines and over eminences, awakened new ambitions in Gordon Keith's soul. The talk of building great bridges, of spanning mighty chasms, and of tunnelling mountains inspired the boy. What was Newton making his calculations from which to deduce his fundamental laws, or Galileo watching the stars from his Florentine tower? This young captain was Archimedes and Euclid, Newton and Galileo, all in one. He made them live.
It was a new world for Gordon. He suddenly awoke.
Both the engineer and Gordon could well have spared one of the engineer's assistants. Ferdy Wickersham had fulfilled the promise of his boyhood, and would have been very handsome but for an expression about the dark eyes which raised a question. He was popular with girls, but made few friends among men, and he and Mr. Rhodes had already clashed. Rhodes gave some order which Ferdy refused to obey. Rhodes turned on him a cold blue eye. "What did you say?"
"I guess this is my father's party; he's paying the freight, and I guess I am his son."
"I guess it's my party, and you'll do what I say or go home," said Mr. Rhodes, coldly. "Your father has no 'son' in this party. I have a rodman. Unless you are sick, you do your part of the work."
Ferdy submitted for reasons of his own; but his eyes lowered, and he did not forget Mr. Rhodes.
The two youngsters soon fell out. Ferdy began to give orders about the place, quite as if he were the master. The General cautioned Gordon not to mind what he said. "He has been spoiled a little; but don't mind him. An only child is at a great disadvantage." He spoke as if Gordon were one of a dozen children.
But Ferdy Wickersham misunderstood the other's concession. He resented the growing intimacy between Rhodes and Gordon. He had discovered that Gordon was most sensitive about the old plantation, and he used his knowledge. And when Mr. Rhodes interposed it only gave the sport of teasing Gordon a new point.
One morning, when the three were together, Ferdy began, what he probably meant for banter, to laugh at Gordon for bragging about his plantation.
"You ought to have heard him, Mr. Rhodes, how he used to blow about it."
"I did not blow about it," said Gordon, flushing.
Rhodes, without looking up, moved in his seat uneasily.
"Ferdy, shut up—you bother me. I am working."
But Ferdy did not heed either this warning or the look on Gordon's face. His game had now a double zest: he could sting Gordon and worry Rhodes.
"I don't see why my old man was such a fool as to want such a dinged lonesome old place for, anyhow," he said, with a little laugh. "I am going to give it away when I get it."
Gordon's face whitened and flamed again, and his eyes began to snap.
"Then it's the only thing you ever would give away," said Mr. Rhodes, pointedly, without raising his eyes from his work.
Gordon took heart. "Why did you come down here if you feel that way about it?"
"Because my old man offered me five thousand if I'd come. You didn't think I'd come to this blanked old place for nothin', did you? Not much, sonny."
"Not if he knew you," Said Mr. Rhodes, looking across at him. "If he knew you, he'd know you never did anything for nothing, Ferdy."
Ferdy flushed. "I guess I do it about as often as you do. I guess you struck my governor for a pretty big pile."
Mr. Rhodes's face hardened, and he fixed his eyes on him. "If I do, I work for it honestly. I don't make an agreement to work, and then play 'old soldier' on him."
"I guess you would if you didn't have to work."
"Well, I wouldn't," said Mr. Rhodes, firmly, "and I don't want to hear any more about it. If you won't work, then I want you to let me work."
Ferdy growled something under his breath about guessing that Mr. Rhodes was "working to get Miss Harriet Creamer and her pile"; but if Mr. Rhodes heard him he took no notice of it, and Ferdy turned back to the boy.
Meantime, Gordon had been calculating. Five thousand dollars! Why, it was a fortune! It would have relieved his father, and maybe have saved the place. In his amazement he almost forgot his anger with the boy who could speak of such a sum so lightly.
Ferdy gave him a keen glance. "What are you so huffy about, Keith?" he demanded. "I don't see that it's anything to you what I say about the place. You don't own it. I guess a man has a right to say what he chooses of his own."
Gordon wheeled on him with blazing eyes, then turned around and walked abruptly away. He could scarcely keep back his tears. The other boy watched him nonchalantly, and then turned to Mr. Rhodes, who was glowering over his papers. "I'll take him down a point or two. He's always blowing about his blamed old place as if he still owned it. He's worse than the old man, who is always blowing about 'before the war' and his grandfather and his old pictures. I can buy better ancestors on Broadway for twenty dollars."
Mr. Rhodes gathered up his papers and rose to his feet.
"You could not make yourself as good a descendant for a million," he said, fastening his eye grimly on Ferdy.
"Oh, couldn't I? Well, I guess I could. I guess I am about as good as he is, or you either."
"Well, you can leave me out of the case," said Mr. Rhodes, sharply. "I will tell you that you are not as good as he, for he would never have said to you what you have said to him if your positions had been reversed."
"I don't understand you."
"I don't expect you do," said Mr. Rhodes. He stalked away. "I can't stand that boy. He makes me sick," he said to himself. "If I hadn't promised his governor to make him stick, I would shake him."
Ferdy was still smarting under Mr. Rhodes's biting sarcasm when the three came together again. He meant to be even with Rhodes, and he watched his opportunity.
Rhodes was a connection of the Wentworths, and had been helped at college by Norman's father, which Ferdy knew. One of the handsomest girls in their set, Miss Louise Caldwell, was a cousin of Rhodes, and Norman was in love with her. Ferdy, who could never see any one succeeding without wishing to supplant him, had of late begun to fancy himself in love with her also, but Mr. Rhodes, he knew, was Norman's friend. He also knew that Norman was Mr. Rhodes's friend in a little affair which Mr. Rhodes was having with one of the leading belles of the town, Miss Harriet Creamer, the daughter of Nicholas Creamer of Creamer, Crustback & Company.
Ferdy had received that day a letter from his mother which stated that Louise Caldwell's mother was making a set at Norman for her daughter. Ferdy's jealousy was set on edge, and he now began to talk about Norman. Rhodes sniffed at the sneering mention of his name, and Gordon, whose face still wore a surly look, pricked up his ears.
"You need not always be cracking Norman up," said Wickersham to Rhodes. "You would not be if I were to tell you what I know about him. He is no better than anybody else."
"Oh, he is better than some, Ferdy," said Mr. Rhodes. Gordon gave an appreciative grunt which drew Ferdy's eyes on him.
"You think so too, Keith, I suppose?" he said. "Well, you needn't. You need not be claiming to be such a friend of his. He is not so much of a friend of yours, I can tell you. I have heard him say as many mean things about you as any one."
It was Gordon's opportunity. He had been waiting for one.
"I don't believe it. I believe it's a lie," he declared, his face whitening as he gathered himself together. His eyes, which had been burning, had suddenly begun to blaze.
Mr. Rhodes looked up. He said nothing, but his eyes began to sparkle.
"You're a liar yourself," retorted Wickersham, turning red.
Gordon reached for him. "Take it back!" At the same moment Rhodes sprang and caught him, but not quite in time. The tip of Gordon's fingers as he slapped at Ferdy just reached the latter's cheek and left a red mark there.
"Take it back," he said again between his teeth as Rhodes flung his arm around him.
For answer Ferdy landed a straight blow in his face, making his nose bleed and his head ring.
Gordon struggled to get free, but in vain. Rhodes with one arm swept Wickersham back. With the other he held Gordon in an iron grip. "Keep off, or I will let him go," he said.
The boy ceased writhing, and looked up into the young man's face. "You had just as well let me go. I am going to whip him. He has told a lie on my friend, who saved my life. And he's hit me. Let me go." He began to whimper.
"Now, look here, boys," said Rhodes; "you have got to stop right here and make up. I won't have this fighting."
"Let him go. I can whip him," said Ferdy, squaring himself, and adding an epithet.
Gordon was standing quite still. "I am going to fight him," he said, "and whip him. If he whips me, I am going to fight him again until I do whip him."
Mr. Rhodes's face wore a puzzled expression. He looked down at the sturdy face with its steady eyes, tightly gripped mouth, and chin which had suddenly grown squarer.
"If I let you go will you promise not to fight?"
"I will promise not to fight him here if he will come out behind the barn," said Gordon. "But if he don't, I'm going to fight him here. I am going to fight him and I am going to whip him."
Mr. Rhodes considered. "If I go out there with you and let you have two rounds, will you make up and agree never to refer to the subject again?"
"Yes," said Wickersham.
"If I whip him," said Gordon.
"Come along with me. I will let you two boys try each other's mettle for two rounds, but, remember, you have got to stop when I call time."
So they came to a secluded spot, where the two boys took off their coats.
"Come, you fellows had better make up now," said Mr. Rhodes, standing above them good-humored and kindly.
"I don't see what we are fighting about," said Ferdy.
"Take back what you said about Norman," demanded Gordon.
"There is nothing to take back," declared Ferdy.
"Then take that!" said Gordon, stepping forward and tapping him in the mouth with the back of his hand.
He had not expected the other boy to be so quick. Before he could put himself on guard, Ferdy had fired away, and catching him right in the eye, he sent him staggering back. He was up again in a second, however, and the next moment was at his opponent like a tiger. The rush was as unlooked for on Wickersham's part as Wickersham's blow had been by Gordon, and after a moment the lessons of Mike Doherty began to tell, and Gordon was ducking his head and dodging Wickersham's blows; and he began to drive him backward.
"By Jove! he knows his business," said Rhodes to himself.
Just then he showed that he knew his business, for, swinging out first with his right, he brought in the cut which was Mr. Doherty's chef d'oeuvre, and catching Wickersham under the chin, he sent him flat on his back on the ground.
Mr. Rhodes called time and picked him up.
"Come, now, that's enough," he said.
Gordon wiped the blood from his face.
"He has got to take back what he said about Norman, or I have another round."
"You had better take it back, Ferdy. You began it," said the umpire.
"I didn't begin it. It's a lie!"
"You did," said Mr. Rhodes, coldly. He turned to Gordon. "You have one more round."
"I take it back," growled Ferdy.
Just then there was a step on the grass, and General Keith stood beside them. His face was very grave as he chided the boys for fighting; but there was a gleam in his eyes that showed Mr. Rhodes and possibly the two combatants that he was not wholly displeased. At his instance and Mr. Rhodes's, the two boys shook hands and promised not to open the matter again.
As Wickersham continued to shirk the work of rodman, Rhodes took Gordon in his party, instructed him in the use of the instruments, and inspired him with enthusiasm for the work, none the less eager because he contrasted him with Ferdy. Rhodes knew what General Keith's name was worth, and he thought his son being of his party would be no hindrance to him.
The trouble came when he proposed to the General to pay Gordon for his work.
"He is worth no salary at present, sir," said the General. "I shall be delighted to have him go with you, and your instruction will more than compensate us."
The matter was finally settled by Rhodes declining positively to take Gordon except on his own terms. He needed an axeman and would pay him as such. He could not take him at all unless he were under his authority.
Mr. Rhodes was not mistaken. General Keith's name was one to conjure with. Squire Rawson was the principal man in all the Ridge region, and he had, as Rhodes knew, put himself on record as unalterably opposed to a railroad. He was a large, heavy man, deep-chested and big-limbed, with grizzled hair and beard, a mouth closer drawn than might have been expected in one with his surroundings, and eyes that were small and deep-set, but very keen. His two-storied white house, with wings and portico, though not large, was more pretentious than most of those in the section, and his whitewashed buildings, nestled amid the fruit-trees on a green hill looking up the valley to the Gap, made quite a settlement. He was a man of considerable property and also of great influence, and in the Ridge region, as elsewhere, wealth is a basis of position and influence. The difference is one of degree. The evidences of wealth in the Ridge country were land and cattle, and these Squire Rawson had in abundance. He was esteemed the best judge of cattle in all that region.
Consistency is a jewel; but there are regions where Hospitality is reckoned before Consistency, and as soon as the old squire learned that General Keith's son was with the surveying party, even though it was, to use a common phrase, "comin' interferin'" with that country, he rode over to their camp and invited Gordon and his "friends" to be his guests as long as they should remain in that neighborhood.
"I don't want you to think, young man," he said to Rhodes, "that I'm goin' to agree to your dod-rotted road comin' through any land of mine, killin' my cattle; but I'll give you a bed and somethin' to eat."
Rhodes felt that he had gained a victory; Gordon was doubtful.
Though the squire never failed to remind the young engineer that the latter was a Yankee, and as such the natural and necessary enemy of the South, he and Rhodes became great friends, and the squire's hospitable roof remained the headquarters of the engineering party much longer than there was any necessity for its being so.
The squire's family consisted of his wife, a kindly, bustling little old dame, who managed everything and everybody, including the squire, with a single exception. This was her granddaughter, Euphronia Tripper, a plump and fresh young girl with light hair, a fair skin, and bright eyes. The squire laid down the law to those about him, but Mrs. Rawson—"Elizy"-laid down the law for him. This the old fellow was ready enough to admit. Sometimes he had a comical gleam in his deep eyes when he turned them on his guests as he rose at her call of "Adam, I want you."
"Boys, learn to obey promptly," he said; "saves a sight o' trouble. It's better in the family 'n a melojeon. It's got to come sooner or later, and the sooner the better for you. The difference between me and most married men around here is that they lies about it, and I don't. I know I belongs to Eliza. She owns me, but then she treats me well. I'm sort o' meek when she's around, but then I make up for it by bein' so durned independent when I'm away from home. Besides, it's a good deal better to be ordered about by somebody as keers for you than not to have anybody in the world as keers whether you come or stay."
Besides Mrs. Rawson, there were in the family a widowed daughter, Mrs. Tripper, a long, pale, thin woman, with sad eyes, who had once been pretty, and her daughter Euphronia, already referred to, who, in right of being very pretty, was the old squire's idol and was never thwarted in anything. She was, in consequence, a spoiled little damsel, self-willed, very vain, and as susceptible as a chameleon. The ease with which she could turn her family around her finger gave her a certain contempt for them. At first she was quite enamoured of the young engineer; but Mr. Rhodes was too busy to give any thought to a girl whom he regarded as a child, and she turned her glances on Gordon. Gordon also was impervious to her charms. He was by no means indifferent to girls; several little damsels who attended St. Martin's Church had at one time or another been his load-stars for a while; but he was an aristocrat at heart, and held himself infinitely above a girl like Miss Euphronia.
Ferdy Wickersham had no such motives for abstaining from a flirtation with the young girl as those which restrained Rhodes and Keith.
Euphronia had not at first taken much notice of him. She had been inclined to regard Ferdy Wickersham with some disfavor as a Yankee; but when the other two failed her, Wickersham fell heir to her blandishments. Her indifference to him had piqued him and awakened an interest which possibly he might not otherwise have felt. He had seen much of the world for a youngster, and could make a good show with what he knew. He could play on the piano, and though the aged instrument which the old countryman had got at second-hand for his granddaughter gave forth sounds which might have come from a tinkling cymbal, yet Ferdy played with a certain dash and could bring from it tunes which the girl thought very fine. The two soon began to be so much together that both Rhodes and Keith fell to rallying Ferdy as to his conquest. Ferdy accepted it with complacency.
"I think I shall stay here while you are working up in the mountains," he said to his chief as the time drew near for them to leave.
"You will do nothing of the kind. I promised to take you with me, and I will take you dead or alive."
A frown began on the youngster's face, but passed away quickly, and in its place came a look of covert complacency.
"I thought your father had offered you five thousand dollars if you would stick it out through, the whole trip?" Keith said.
Ferdy shut one eye slowly and gazed at Gordon with the other.
"Sickness was barred. I'll tell the old man I've studied. He'd never drop on to the game. He is a soft old bird, anyway."
"Do you mean you are going to lie to him?" asked Gordon.
"Oh, you are sappy! All fellows lie to their governors," declared Ferdy, easily. "Why, I wouldn't have any fun at all if I did not lie. You stay with me a bit, my son, and I'll teach you a few useful things."
"Thank you. I have no doubt you are a capable teacher," sniffed Gordon; "but I think I won't trouble you."
That evening, as Keith was coming from his work, he took a cross-cut through the fields and orchard, and under an overshadowing tree he came on Ferdy and Euphronia. They were so deeply engaged that Keith hastily withdrew and, making a detour, passed around the orchard to the house.
At supper Mrs. Tripper casually inquired of her daughter where she had been, a remark which might have escaped Keith's observation had not Ferdy Wickersham answered it in some haste.
"She went after the cows," he said, with a quick look at her, "and I went fishing, but I did not catch anything."
"I thought, Phrony, I saw you in the orchard," said her mother.
Wickersham looked at her quickly again.
"No, she wasn't in the orchard," he said, "for I was there."
"No, I wasn't in the orchard this evening," said Euphronia. "I went after the cows." She looked down in her plate.
Keith ate the rest of his supper in silence. He could not tell on Ferdy; that would not be "square." He consulted his mentor, his chief, who simply laughed at him.
"Leave 'em alone," he counselled. "I guess she knew how to lie before he came. Ferdy has some sense. And we are going to leave for the mountains in a little while. I am only waiting to bring the old squire around."
Gordon shook his head.
"My father says you mistake his hospitality for yielding," he said. "You will never get him to consent to your plan."
"Oh, won't I! I have had these old countrymen to deal with before. Just give them time and show them the greenbacks. He will come around. Wait until I dangle the shekels before him."
But Mr. Rhodes found that in that provincial field there were some things stronger than shekels. And among these were prejudices. The more the young engineer talked, the more obstinate appeared the old countryman.
"I raise cattle," he said in final answer to all his eloquence.
"Raise cattle! You can make more by raising coal in one year than you can by raising cattle all your life. Why, you have the richest mineral country back here almost in the world," said the young diplomat, persuasively.
"And that's the reason I want to keep the railroads out," said the squire, puffing quietly. "I don't want the Yankees to come down and take it away from us."
Rhodes laughed. "I'd like to see any one take anything from you. They will develop it for you."
"I never seen anybody develop anything for another man, leastways a Yankee," said Squire Rawson, reflectively.
Just then Ferdy chipped in. He was tired of being left out.
"My father'll come down here and show you old mossbacks a thing or two," he laughed.
The old man turned his eyes on him slowly. Ferdy was not a favorite with him. For one thing, he played on the piano. But there were other reasons.
"Who is your father, son?" The squire drew a long whiff from his pipe.
"Aaron Wickersham of Wickersham & Company, who is setting up the chips for this railroad. We are going to run through here and make it one of the greatest lines of the country."
"Oh, you're goin' to run it! From the way you talked I thought maybe you had run it. Was a man named Aaron once thought he knew more 'bout runnin' a' expedition than his brother did. Ever heard what became of him?"
"No," said Ferdy.
"Well, he run some of 'em in the ground. He didn't have sense to know the difference between a calf and God."
"Well, my old man knows enough to run this railroad. He has run bigger things than this."
"If he knows as much as his son, he knows a lot. He ought to be able to run the world." And the squire turned back to Rhodes:
"What are you goin' to do, my son, when you've done all you say you're goin' to do for us? You will be too good to live among them Yankees; you will have to come back here, I reckon."
"No; I'm going to marry and settle down," said Rhodes, jestingly. "Maybe I'll come back here sometime just to receive your thanks for showing you how benighted you were before I came, and for the advice I gave you."
"He is trying to marry a rich woman," said Ferdy, at which Rhodes flushed a little.
The old man took no notice of the interruption.
"Well, you must," he said to Rhodes, his eyes resting on him benevolently. "You must come back sometime and see me. I love to hear a young man talk who knows it all. But you take my advice, my son; don't marry no rich man's daughter. They will always think they have done you a favor, and they will try to make you think so too, even if your wife don't do it. You take warnin' by me. When I married, I had just sixteen dollars and my wife she had seventeen, and I give you my word I have never heard the last of that one dollar from that day to this."
Rhodes laughed and said he would remember his advice.
"Sometimes I think," said the old man, "I have mistaken my callin'. I was built to give advice to other folks, and instid of that they have been givin' me advice all my life. It's in and about the only thing I ever had given me, except physic."
The night before the party left, Ferdy packed his kit with the rest; but the next morning he was sick in his bed. His pulse was not quick, but he complained of pains in every limb. Dr. Balsam came over to see him, but could find nothing serious the matter. He, however, advised Rhodes to leave him behind. So, Ferdy stayed at Squire Rawson's all the time that the party was in the mountains. But he wrote his father that he was studying.
During the time that Rhodes's party was in the mountains Squire Rawson rode about with them examining lands, inspecting coal-beds, and adding much to the success of the undertaking.
He appeared to be interested mainly in hunting up cattle, and after he had introduced the engineers and secured the tardy consent of the landowners for them to make a survey, he would spend hours haggling over a few head of mountain cattle, or riding around through the mountains looking for others.
Many a farmer who met the first advances of the stranger with stony opposition yielded amicably enough after old Rawson had spent an hour or two looking at his "cattle," or had conversed with him and his weather-beaten wife about the "craps" and the "child'en."
"You are a miracle!" declared young Rhodes, with sincere admiration. "How do you manage it?"
The old countryman accepted the compliment with becoming modesty.
"Oh, no; ain't no miracle about it. All I know I learned at the Ridge College, and from an old uncle of mine, and in the war. He used to say, 'Adam, don't be a fool; learn the difference between cattle.' Now, before you come, I didn't know nothin' about all them fureign countries—they was sort of vague, like the New Jerusalem—or about coal. You've told me all about that. I had an idea that it was all made jest so,—jest as we find it,—as the Bible says 'twas; but you know a lot—more than Moses knowed, and he was 'skilled in all the learnin' of the Egyptians.' You haven't taken to cattle quite as kindly as I'd 'a' liked, but you know a lot about coal. Learn the difference between cattle, my son. There's a sight o' difference between 'em."
Rhodes declared that he would remember his advice, and the two parted with mutual esteem.
TWO YOUNG MEN
The young engineer, on his return to New York, made a report to his employer. He said that the mineral resources were simply enormous, and were lying in sight for any one to pick up who knew how to deal with the people to whom they belonged. They could be had almost for the asking. But he added this statement: that the legislative charters would hardly hold, and even if they did, it would take an army to maintain what they gave against the will of the people. He advised securing the services of Squire Rawson and a few other local magnates.
Mr. Wickersham frowned at this plain speaking, and dashed his pen through this part of the report. "I am much obliged to you for the report on the minerals. The rest of it is trash. You were not paid for your advice on that. When I want law I go to a lawyer."
Mr. Rhodes rose angrily.
"Well, you have for nothing an opinion that is worth more than that of every rascally politician that has sold you his opinion and himself, and you will find it out."
Mr. Wickersham did find it out. However much was published about it, the road was not built for years. The legislative charters, gotten through by Mr. J. Quincy Plume and his confreres, which were to turn that region into a modern Golconda, were swept away with the legislatures that created them, and new charters had to be obtained.
Squire Rawson, however, went on buying cattle and, report said, mineral rights, and Gordon Keith still followed doggedly the track along which Mr. Rhodes had passed, sure that sometime he should find him a great man, building bridges and cutting tunnels, commanding others and sending them to right or left with a swift wave of his arm as of old. Where before Gordon studied as a task, he now worked for ambition, and that key unlocked unknown treasures.
Mr. Rhodes fell in with Norman just after his interview with Mr. Wickersham. He was still feeling sore over Mr. Wickersham's treatment of his report. He had worked hard over it. He attributed it in part to Ferdy's complaint of him. He now gave Norman an account of his trip, and casually mentioned his meeting Gordon Keith.
"He's a good boy," he said, "a nice kid. He licked Ferdy-a very pretty little piece of work. Ferdy had both the weight and the reach on him."
"Licked Ferdy! It's an old grudge, I guess?" said Norman.
"No. They started in pretty good friends. It was about you."
"About me?" Norman's face took on new interest.
"Yes; Ferdy said something, and Keith took it up. He seems pretty fond of you. I think he had it in for Ferdy, for Ferdy had been bedevilling him about the place. You know old Wickersham owns it. Ferdy's strong point is not taste. So I think Gordon was feeling a bit sore, and when Ferdy lit into you, Keith slapped him."
Norman was all alert now.
"Well? Which licked?"
"Oh, that was all. Keith won at the end of the first round. He'd have been fighting now if he had not licked him."
The rest of the talk was of General Keith and of the hardship of his position.
"They are as poor as death," said Rhodes. He told of his surroundings.
When Norman got home, he went to his mother. Her eye lighted up as it rested on the alert, vigorous figure and fresh, manly, eager face. She knew he had something on his mind.
"Mother, I have a plan," he said. "You remember Gordon Keith, the boy whose boat I sank over in England—'Keith the rebel'?"
Mrs. Wentworth remembered well. She remembered an older fight than that, between a Keith and a Wentworth.
"Well, I have just heard of him. Rhodes—you remember Rhodes? Grinnell Rhodes? Used to be stroke, the greatest stroke ever was. Well, Rhodes has been down South and stayed at Keith's father's home. He says it's a beautiful old place, and now belongs to Mr. Wickersham, Ferdy's father, and the old gentleman, General Keith, who used to own it farms it for him. Think of that! It's as if father had to be a bookkeeper in the bank! Rhodes says he's a fine old fellow, and that Gordon is one of the best. He was down there running a railway line for Mr. Wickersham, and took Gordon with him. And he says he's the finest sort of a fellow, and wants to go to college dreadfully, but hasn't a cent nor any way to get anything. Rhodes says it's awful down there. They are so poor."
Mrs. Wentworth smiled. "Well?"
Norman blushed and stammered a little, as he often did when he was embarrassed.
"Well, you know I have some money of my own, and I thought if you don't mind it I'd like to lend him a little. I feel rather piggish just spending it right and left for nothing, when a fellow like that would give his eyes for the chance to go to college. Grinnell Rhodes says that he is ever so fond of me; that Ferdy was blowing once and said something against me, and Gordon jumped right into him—said I was a friend of his, and that Ferdy should not say anything against me in his presence. He knocked Ferdy down. I tell you, when a fellow is ready to fight for another years after he has seen him, he is a good friend."
Mrs. Wentworth's face showed that she too appreciated such a friend.
"How do you know he needs it, or would accept it if he did?"
"Why, Rhodes says we have no idea of the poverty down there. He says our poorest clerks are rich compared with those people. And I'll write him a letter and offer to lend it to him. I'll tell him it's mine."
Mrs. Wentworth went over and kissed the boy. The picture rose to her mind of a young man fresh from fields where he had won renown, honored by his State, with everything that wealth and rank could give, laying his honors at the feet of a poor young girl.