Stories by American Authors
MARSE CHAN BY THOMAS NELSON PAGE
MR. BIXBY'S CHRISTMAS VISITOR BY CHARLES S. GAGE
ELI BY C. H. WHITE
YOUNG STRONG OF "THE CLARION" BY MILICENT WASHBURN SHINN
HOW OLD WIGGINS WORE SHIP BY CAPTAIN ROLAND T. COFFIN
"——MAS HAS COME" BY LEONARD KIP
NEW YORK CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 1896
COPYRIGHT, 1885, BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
The Stories in this Volume are protected by copyright, and are printed here by authority of the authors or their representatives.
A TALE OF OLD VIRGINIA.
BY THOMAS NELSON PAGE.
Century Magazine April, 1884.
One afternoon, in the autumn of 1872, I was riding leisurely down the sandy road that winds along the top of the water-shed between two of the smaller rivers of eastern Virginia. The road I was travelling, following "the ridge" for miles, had just struck me as most significant of the character of the race whose only avenue of communication with the outside world it had formerly been. Their once splendid mansions, now fast falling to decay, appeared to view from time to time, set back far from the road, in proud seclusion among groves of oak and hickory now scarlet and gold with the early frost. Distance was nothing to this people; time was of no consequence to them. They desired but a level path in life, and that they had, though the way was longer and the outer world strode by them as they dreamed.
I was aroused from my reflections by hearing some one ahead of me calling, "Heah!—heah-whoo-oop, heah!"
Turning the curve in the road, I saw just before me a negro standing, with a hoe and a watering-pot in his hand. He had evidently just gotten over the "worm-fence" into the road, out of the path which led zigzag across the "old field" and was lost to sight in the dense growth of sassafras. When I rode up, he was looking anxiously back down this path for his dog. So engrossed was he that he did not even hear my horse, and I reined in to wait until he should turn around and satisfy my curiosity as to the handsome old place half a mile off from the road.
The numerous out-buildings and the large barns and stables told that it had once been the seat of wealth, and the wild waste of sassafras that covered the broad fields gave it an air of desolation that greatly excited my interest. Entirely oblivious of my proximity, the negro went on calling, "Whoo-oop, heah!" until along the path, walking very slowly and with great dignity, appeared a noble-looking old orange and white setter, gray with age, and corpulent with excessive feeding. As soon as he came in sight, his master began:
"Yes, dat you! You gittin' deaf as well as bline, I s'pose! Kyarnt heah me callin', I reckon? Whyn't yo' come on, dawg?"
The setter sauntered slowly up to the fence and stopped without even deigning a look at the speaker, who immediately proceeded to take the rails down, talking meanwhile:
"Now, I got to pull down de gap, I s'pose! Yo' so sp'ilt yo' kyahn' hardly walk. Jes' ez able to git over it as I is! Jes' like white folks—t'ink 'cuz you's white and I's black, I got to wait on yo' all de time. Ne'm mine, I ain' gwi' do it!"
The fence having been pulled down sufficiently low to suit his dogship, he marched sedately through, and, with a hardly perceptible lateral movement of his tail, walked on down the road. Putting up the rails carefully, the negro turned and saw me.
"Sarvent, marster," he said, taking his hat off. Then, as if apologetically for having permitted a stranger to witness what was merely a family affair, he added: "He know I don' mean nothin' by what I sez. He's Marse Chan's dawg, an' he's so ole he kyahn git long no pearter. He know I'se jes' prodjickin' wid 'im."
"Who is Marse Chan?" I asked; "and whose place is that over there—and the one a mile or two back—the place with the big gate and the carved stone pillars?"
"Marse Chan," said the darkey, "he's Marse Channin'—my young marster; an' dem places—dis one's Weall's, an' de one back dyar wid de rock gate-pos's is ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin's. Dey don' nobody live dyar now, 'cep' niggers. Arfter de war some one or nudder bought our place, but his name done kind o' slipped me. I nuvver hearn on 'im befo'; I think dey's half-strainers. I don' ax none on 'em no odds. I lives down de road heah, a little piece, an' I jes' steps down of a evenin' and looks arfter de graves."
"Well, where is Marse Chan?" I asked.
"Hi! don' you know? Marse Chan, he went in de army. I wuz wid 'im. Yo' know he warn' gwine an' lef' Sam."
"Will you tell me all about it?" I said, dismounting.
Instantly, and as if by instinct, the darkey stepped forward and took my bridle. I demurred a little; but with a bow that would have honored old Sir Roger, he shortened the reins, and taking my horse from me, led him along.
"Now tell me about Marse Chan," I said.
"Lawd, marster, hit's so long ago, I'd a'most forgit all about it, ef I hedn' been wid him ever sence he wuz born. Ez 'tis, I remembers it jes' like 'twuz yistiddy. Yo' know Marse Chan an' me—we wuz boys togedder. I wuz older'n he wuz, jes' de same ez he wuz whiter'n me. I wuz born plantin' corn time, de spring arfter big Jim an' de six steers got washed away at de upper ford right down dyar b'low de quarters ez he wuz a bringin' de Chris'mas things home; an' Marse Chan, he warn' born tell mos' to der harves' arfter my sister Nancy married Cun'l Chahmb'lin's Torm, 'bout eight years arfterwards.
"Well, when Marse Chan wuz born dey wuz de grettes' doin's at home you ever did see. De folks all hed holiday, jes' like in de Chris'mas. Ole marster (we didn' call 'im ole marster tell arfter Marse Chan wuz born—befo' dat he wuz jes' de marster, so)—well, ole marster, his face fyar shine wid pleasure, an' all de folks wuz mighty glad, too, 'cause dey all loved ole marster, and aldo' dey did step aroun' right peart when ole marster wuz lookin' at 'em, dyar warn' nyar han' on de place but what, ef he wanted anythin', would walk up to de back poach, an' say he warn' to see de marster. An' ev'ybody wuz talkin' 'bout de young marster, an' de maids an' de wimmens 'bout de kitchen wuz sayin' how 'twuz de purties' chile dey ever see; an' at dinner-time de mens (all on 'em hed holiday) come roun' de poach an' ax how de missis an' de young marster wuz, an' ole marster come out on de poach an' smile wus'n a 'possum, an' sez, 'Thankee! Bofe doin' fust rate, boys;' an' den he stepped back in de house, sort o' laughin' to hisse'f, an' in a minute he come out ag'in wid de baby in he arms, all wrapped up in flannens an' things, an' sez, 'Heah he is, boys.' All de folks den, dey went up on de poach to look at 'im, drappin' dey hats on de steps, an' scrapin' dey feets ez dey went up. An' pres'n'y ole marster, lookin' down at we all chil'en all packed togedder down deah like a parecel o' sheep-burrs, cotch sight o' me (he knowed my name, 'cause I use' to hole he hoss fur 'im sometimes; but he didn' know all de chil'en by name, dey wuz so many on 'em), an' he sez, 'Come up heah.' So up I goes tippin', skeered like, an' old marster sez, 'Ain' you Mymie's son?' 'Yass, seh,' sez I. 'Well,' sez he, 'I'm gwine to give you to yo' young Marse Channin' to be his body-servant,' an' he put de baby right in my arms (it's de truth I'm tellin' you!), an' yo' jes' ought to a-heard de folks sayin', 'Lawd! marster, dat boy'll drap dat chile!' 'Naw, he won't,' sez marster; 'I kin trust 'im.' And den he sez: 'Now, Sam, from dis time you belong to yo' young Marse Channin'; I wan' you to tek keer on 'im ez long ez he lives. You are to be his boy from dis time. An' now,' he sez, 'carry 'im in de house.' An' he walks arfter me an' opens de do's fur me, an' I kyars 'im in my arms, an' lays 'im down on de bed. An' from dat time I wuz tooken in de house to be Marse Channin's body-servant.
"Well, you nuvver see a chile grow so. Pres'n'y he growed up right big, an' ole marster sez he must have some edication. So he sont 'im to school to ole Miss Lawry down dyar, dis side o' Cun'l Chahmb'lin's, an' I use' to go 'long wid 'im an' tote he books an' we all's snacks; an' when he larnt to read an' spell right good, an' got 'bout so-o big, old Miss Lawry she died, an' ole marster said he mus' have a man to teach 'im an' trounce 'im. So we all went to Mr. Hall, whar kep' de school-house beyant de creek, an' dyar we went ev'y day, 'cep' Sat'd'ys of co'se, an' sich days ez Marse Chan din' warn' go, an' ole missis begged 'im off.
"Hit wuz down dyar Marse Chan fust took notice o' Miss Anne. Mr. Hall, he taught gals ez well ez boys, an' Cun'l Chahmb'lin he sont his daughter (dat's Miss Anne I'm talkin' about). She wuz a leetle bit o' gal when she fust come. Yo' see, her ma wuz dead, an' ole Miss Lucy Chahmb'lin, she lived wid her brudder an' kep' house for 'im; an' he wuz so busy wid politics, he didn' have much time to spyar, so he sont Miss Anne to Mr. Hall's by a 'ooman wid a note. When she come dat day in de school-house, an' all de chil'en looked at her so hard, she tu'n right red, an' tried to pull her long curls over her eyes, an' den put bofe de backs of her little han's in her two eyes, an' begin to cry to herse'f. Marse Chan he was settin' on de een' o' de bench nigh de do', an' he jes' reached out an' put he arm roun' her an' drawed her up to 'im. An' he kep' whisperin' to her, an' callin' her name, an' coddlin' her; an' pres'n'y she took her han's down an' begin to laugh.
"Well, dey 'peared to tek' a gre't fancy to each udder from dat time. Miss Anne she warn' nuthin' but a baby hardly, an' Marse Chan he wuz a good big boy 'bout mos' thirteen years ole, I reckon. Hows'ever, dey sut'n'y wuz sot on each udder an' (yo' heah me!) ole marster an' Cun'l Chahmb'lin dey 'peared to like it 'bout well ez de chil'en. Yo' see Cun'l Chahmb'lin's place j'ined ourn, an' it looked jes' ez natural fur dem two chil'en to marry an' mek it one plantation, ez it did fur de creek to run down de bottom from our place into Cun'l Chahmb'lin's. I don' rightly think de chil'en thought 'bout gittin' married, not den, no mo'n I thought 'bout marryin' Judy when she wuz a little gal at Cun'l Chahmb'lin's, runnin' 'bout de house, huntin' fur Miss Lucy's spectacles; but dey wuz good frien's from de start. Marse Chan he use' to kyar Miss Anne's books fur her ev'y day, an' ef de road wuz muddy or she wuz tired, he use' to tote her; an' 'twarn' hardly a day passed dat he didn' kyar her some'n' to school—apples or hick'y nuts, or some'n'. He wouldn' let none o' de chil'en tease her, nudder. Heh! One day, one o' de boys poked he finger at Miss Anne, an' arfter school Marse Chan he axed 'im 'roun' hine de school-house out o' sight, an' ef he didn' whop 'im!
"Marse Chan, he wuz de peartes' scholar ole Mr. Hall hed, an' Mr. Hall he wuz mighty proud o' 'im. I don' think he use' to beat 'im ez much ez he did de udders, aldo' he wuz de head in all debilment dat went on, jes' ez he wuz in sayin' he lessons.
"Heh! one day in summer, jes' 'fo' de school broke up, dyah come up a storm right sudden, an' riz de creek (dat one yo' cross' back yonder), an' Marse Chan he toted Miss Anne home on he back. He ve'y off'n did dat when de parf wuz muddy. But dis day when dey come to de creek, it had done washed all de logs 'way. 'Twuz still mighty high, so Marse Chan he put Miss Anne down, an' he took a pole an' waded right in. Hit took 'im long up to de shoulders. Den he waded back, an' took Miss Anne up on his head an' kyar'd her right over. At fust she wuz skeered; but he tol' her he could swim an' wouldn' let her git hu't, an' den she let 'im kyar her 'cross, she hol'in' his han's. I warn' 'long dat day, but he sut'n'y did dat thing.
"Ole marster he wuz so pleased 'bout it, he giv' Marse Chan a pony; an' Marse Chan rode 'im to school de day arfter he come, so proud, an' sayin' how he wuz gwine to let Anne ride behine 'im; an' when he come home dat evenin' he wuz walkin'. 'Hi! where's yo' pony?' said ole marster. 'I give 'im to Anne,' says Marse Chan. 'She liked 'im, an'—I kin walk.' 'Yes,' sez ole marster, laughin', 'I s'pose you's already done giv' her yo'se'f, an' nex' thing I know you'll be givin' her this plantation and all my niggers.'
"Well, about a fortnight or sich a matter arfter dat, Cun'l Chahmb'lin sont over an' invited all o' we all over to dinner, an' Marse Chan wuz 'spressly named in de note whar Ned brought; an' arfter dinner he made ole Phil, whar wuz his ker'ige-driver, bring roun' Marse Chan's pony wid a little side-saddle on 'im, an' a beautiful little hoss wid a bran'-new saddle an' bridle on 'im; an' he gits up an' meks Marse Chan a gre't speech, an' presents 'im de little hoss; an' den he calls Miss Anne, an' she comes out on de poach in a little ridin' frock, an' dey puts her on her pony, an' Marse Chan mounts his hoss, an' dey goes to ride, while de grown folks is a-laughin' an' chattin' an' smokin' dey cigars.
"Dem wuz good ole times, marster—de bes' Sam ever see! Dey wuz, in fac'! Niggers didn' hed nothin' 't all to do—jes' hed to 'ten' to de feedin', an' cleanin' de hosses, an' doin' what de marster tell 'em to do; an' when dey wuz sick, dey had things sont 'em out de house, an' de same doctor come to see 'em whar 'ten' to de white folks when dey wuz po'ly. Dyar warn' no trouble nor nothin'.
"Well, things tuk a change arfter dat. Marse Chan he went to de bo'din' school, whar he use' to write to me constant. Ole missis use' to read me de letters, an' den I'd git Miss Anne to read 'em ag'in to me when I'd see her. He use' to write to her too, an' she use' to write to him too. Den Miss Anne she wuz sont off to school too. An' in de summer time dey'd bofe come home, an' yo' hardly knowed whether Marse Chan lived at home or over at Cun'l Chahmb'lin's. He wuz over dyah constant. 'Twuz always ridin' or fishin' down dyah, in de river; or sometimes he' go over dyah, an' 'im an' she'd go out an' set in de yard onder de trees; she settin' up mekin' out she wuz knittin' some sort o' bright-cullored some'n', wid de grarss growin' all up 'g'inst her, an' her hat th'owed back on her neck, an' he readin' to her out books; an' sometimes dey'd bofe read out de same book, fust one an' den todder. I use' to see 'em! Dat wuz when dey wuz growin' up like.
"Den ole marster he run for Congress, an' ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin he wuz put up to run 'g'inst ole marster by de Dimicrats; but ole marster he beat 'im. Yo' know he wuz gwine do dat! Co'se he wuz! Dat made ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin mighty mad, and dey stopt visitin' each udder reg'lar, like dey had been doin' all 'long. Den Cun'l Chahmb'lin he sort o' got in debt, an' sell some o' he niggers, an' dat's de way de fuss begun. Dat's whar de lawsuit cum from. Ole marster he didn' like nobody to sell niggers, an' knowin' dat Cun'l Chahmb'lin wuz sellin' o' his, he writ an' offered to buy his M'ria an' all her chil'en, 'cause she hed married our Zeek'yel. An' don' yo' t'ink, Cun'l Chahmb'lin axed ole marster mo' 'n th'ee niggers wuz wuth fur M'ria. Befo' old marster bought her, dough, de sheriff cum an' levelled on M'ria an' a whole parecel o' udder niggers. Ole marster he went to de sale, an' bid for 'em; but Cun'l Chahmb'lin he got some one to bid 'g'inst ole marster. Dey wuz knocked out to ole marster dough, an' den dey hed a big lawsuit, an' ole marster wuz agwine to co't, off an' on, fur some years, till at lars' de co't decided dat M'ria belonged to ole marster. Ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin den wuz so mad he sued ole marster for a little strip o' lan' down dyah on de line fence, whar he said belonged to 'im. Ev'ybody knowed hit belonged to ole marster. Ef yo' go down dyah now, I kin show it to yo', inside de line fence, whar it hed done bin ever since long befo' ole marster wuz born. But Cun'l Chahmb'lin wuz a mons'us perseverin' man, an' ole marster he wouldn' let nobody run over 'im. No, dat he wouldn'! So dey wuz agwine down to co't about dat, fur I don' know how long, till ole marster beat 'im.
"All dis time, yo' know, Marse Chan wuz a-goin' back'ads an' for'ads to college, an' wuz growed up a ve'y fine young man. He wuz a ve'y likely gent'man! Miss Anne she hed done mos' growed up, too—wuz puttin' her hyar up like ole missis use' to put hers up, an' 'twuz jes' ez bright ez de sorrel's mane when de sun cotch on it, an' her eyes wuz gre't big dark eyes, like her pa's, on'y bigger an' not so fierce, an' 'twarn' none o' de young ladies ez purty ez she wuz. She an' Marse Chan still set a heap o' sto' by one 'nudder, but I don' t'ink dey wuz easy wid each udder ez when he used to tote her home from school on his back. Marse Chan he use' to love de ve'y groun' she walked on, dough, in my 'pinion. Heh! His face 'twould light up whenever she come into chu'ch, or anywhere, jes' like de sun hed come th'oo a chink on it suddenly.
"Den ole marster lost he eyes. D' yo' ever hyah 'bout dat? Heish! Didn' yo'? Well, one night de big barn cotch fire. De stables, yo' know, wuz under de big barn, an' all de hosses wuz in dyah. Hit 'peared to me like 'twarn' no time befo' all de folks an' de neighbors dey come, an' dey wuz a-totin' water, an' a-tryin' to save de po' critters, an' dey got a heap on 'em out; but de ker'ige-hosses dey wouldn' come out, an' dey wuz a-runnin' back'ads an' for'ads inside de stalls, a-nikerin' an' a-screamin', like dey knowed dey time hed come. Yo' could heah 'em so pitiful, an' pres'n'y ole marster said to Ham Fisher (he wuz de ker'ige-driver), 'Go in dyah an' try to save 'em; don' let 'em bu'n to death.' An' Ham he went right in. An' jes' arfter he got in, de shed whar it hed fus' cotch fell in, an' de sparks shot 'way up in de air; an' Ham didn' come back, an' de fire begun to lick out under de eaves over whar de ker'ige-hosses' stalls wuz, an' all of a sudden ole marster tu'ned and kissed ole missis, who wuz standin' nigh him, wid her face jes' ez white ez a sperit's, an', befo' anybody knowed what he wuz gwine do, jumped right in de do', an' de smoke come po'in' out behine 'im. Well, seh, I nuvver 'specks to hyah tell Judgment sich a soun' ez de folks set up. Ole missis she jes' drapt down on her knees in de mud an' prayed out loud. Hit 'peared like her pra'r wuz heard; for in a minit, right out de same do', kyarin' Ham Fisher in his arms, come ole marster, wid his clo'es all blazin'. Dey flung water on 'im, an' put 'im out; an', ef you b'lieve me, yo' wouldn' a-knowed 'twuz ole marster. Yo' see, he hed find Ham Fisher done fall down in de smoke right by de ker'ige-hoss' stalls, whar he sont him, an' he hed to tote 'im back in his arms th'oo de fire what hed done cotch de front part o' de stable, an' to keep de flame from gittin' down Ham Fisher's th'ote he hed tuk off his own hat and mashed it all over Ham Fisher's face, an' he hed kep' Ham Fisher from bein' so much bu'nt; but he wuz bu'nt dreadful! His beard an' hyar wuz all nyawed off, an' his face an' han's an' neck wuz scorified terrible. Well, he jes' laid Ham Fisher down, an' then he kind o' staggered for'ad, an' ole missis ketch' 'im in her arms. Ham Fisher, he warnt bu'nt so bad, an' he got out in a month or two; an' arfter a long time, ole marster he got well, too; but he wuz always stone bline arfter dat. He nuvver could see none from dat night.
"Marse Chan he comed home from college toreckly, an' he sut'n'y did nuss ole marster faithful—jes' like a 'ooman. Den he took charge o' de plantation arfter dat; an' I use' to wait on 'im jes' like when we wuz boys togedder; an' sometimes we'd slip off an' have a fox-hunt, an' he'd be jes' like he wuz in ole times, befo' ole marster got bline, an' Miss Anne Chahmb'lin stopt comin' over to our house, an' settin' onder de trees, readin' out de same book.
"He sut'n'y wuz good to me. Nothin' nuvver made no diffunce 'bout dat. He nuvver hit me a lick in his life—an' nuvver let nobody else do it, nudder.
"I 'members one day, when he wuz a leetle bit o' boy, ole marster hed done tole we all chil'en not to slide on de straw-stacks; an' one day me an' Marse Chan thought ole marster hed done gone 'way from home. We watched him git on he hoss an' ride up de road out o' sight, an' we wuz out in de field a-slidin' an' a-slidin', when up comes ole marster. We started to run; but he hed done see us, an' he called us to come back; an' sich a whoppin' ez he did gi' us!
"Fust he took Marse Chan, an' den he teched me up. He nuvver hu't me, but in co'se I wuz a-hollerin' ez hard ez I could stave it, 'cause I knowed dat wuz gwine mek him stop. Marse Chan he hed'n open he mouf long ez ole marster wuz tunin' 'im; but soon ez he commence warmin' me an' I begin to holler, Marse Chan he bu'st out cryin', an' stept right in befo' ole marster, an' ketchin' de whop, sed:
"'Stop, seh! Yo' sha'n't whop 'im; he b'longs to me, an' ef you hit 'im another lick I'll set 'im free!'
"I wish yo' hed see ole marster. Marse Chan he warn' mo'n eight years ole, an' dyah dey wuz—ole marster stan'in' wid he whop raised up, an' Marse Chan red an' cryin', hol'in' on to it, an' sayin' I b'longst to 'im.
"Ole marster, he raise' de whop, an' den he drapt it, an' broke out in a smile over he face, an' he chuck' Marse Chan onder der chin, an' tu'n right roun' an' went away, laughin' to hisse'f, an' I heah' 'im tellin' ole missis dat evenin', an' laughin' 'bout it.
"'Twan' so mighty long arfter dat when dey fust got to talkin' 'bout de war. Dey wuz a-dictatin' back'ads an' for'ads 'bout it fur two or th'ee years 'fo' it come sho' nuff, you know. Ole marster, he wuz a Whig, an' of co'se Marse Chan he tuk after he pa. Cun'l Chahmb'lin, he wuz a Dimicrat. He wuz in favor of de war, an' ole marster and Marse Chan dey wuz agin' it. Dey wuz a-talkin' 'bout it all de time, an' purty soon Cun'l Chahmb'lin he went about ev'vywhar speakin' an' noratin' 'bout Firginia ought to secede; an' Marse Chan he wuz picked up to talk agin' 'im. Dat wuz de way dey come to fight de duil. I sut'n'y wuz skeered fur Marse Chan dat mawnin', an' he was jes' ez cool! Yo' see, it happen so: Marse Chan he wuz a-speakin' down at de Deep Creek Tavern, an' he kind o' got de bes' of ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin. All de white folks laughed an' hoorawed, an' ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin—my Lawd! I t'ought he'd 'a' bu'st, he wuz so mad. Well, when it come to his time to speak, he jes' light into Marse Chan. He call 'im a traitor, an' a ab'litionis', an' I don' know what all. Marse Chan, he jes' kep' cool till de ole Cun'l light into he pa. Ez soon ez he name ole marster, I seen Marse Chan sort o' lif' up he head. D' yo' ever see a hoss rar he head up right sudden at night when he see somethin' comin' to'ds 'im from de side an' he don' know what 'tis? Ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin, he went right on. He said ole marster hed taught Marse Chan; dat ole marster wuz a wuss ab'litionis' dan he son. I looked at Marse Chan, an' sez to myse'f: 'Fo' Gord! old Cun'l Chahmb'lin better min', an' I hedn' got de wuds out, when ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin 'cuse' ole marster o' cheatin' 'im out o' he niggers, an' stealin' piece o' he lan'—dat's de lan' I tole you 'bout. Well, seh, nex' thing I knowed, I heahed Marse Chan—hit all happen right 'long togedder, like lightnin' an' thunder when dey hit right at you—I heah 'im say:
"'Cun'l Chahmb'lin, what you say is false, an' yo' know it to be so. You have wilfully slandered one of the pures' an' nobles' men Gord ever made, an' nothin' but yo' gray hyars protects you.'
"Well, ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin, he ra'ed an' he pitch'd. He said he wan' too ole, an' he'd show 'im so.
"'Ve'y well,' says Marse Chan.
"De meetin' broke up den. I wuz hol'in de hosses out dyar in de road by de een' o' de poach, an' I see Marse Chan talkin' an' talkin' to Mr. Gordon an' anudder gent'man, an' den he come out an' got on de sorrel an' galloped off. Soon ez he got out o' sight, he pulled up, an' we walked along tell we come to de road whar leads off to'ds Mr. Barbour's. He wuz de big lawyer o' de country. Dar he tu'ned off. All dis time he hedn' sed a wud, 'cep' to kind o' mumble to hisse'f now an' den. When we got to Mr. Barbour's, he got down an' went in. Dat wuz in de late winter; de folks wuz jes' beginnin' to plough fur corn. He stayed dyar 'bout two hours, an' when he come out Mr. Barbour come out to de gate wid 'im an' shake han's arfter he got up in de saddle. Den we all rode off. 'Twuz late den—good dark; an' we rid ez hard ez we could, tell we come to de ole school-house at ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin's gate. When we got dar Marse Chan got down an' walked right slow 'roun' de house. Arfter lookin' 'roun' a little while an' tryin' de do' to see ef it wuz shet, he walked down de road tell he got to de creek. He stop' dyar a little while an' picked up two or three little rocks an' frowed 'em in, an' pres'n'y he got up an' we come on home. Ez he got down, he tu'ned to me an', rubbin' de sorrel's nose, said: 'Have 'em well fed, Sam; I'll want 'em early in de mawnin'.'
"Dat night at supper he laugh an' talk, an' he set at de table a long time. Arfter ole marster went to bed, he went in de charmber an' set on de bed by 'im talkin' to 'im an' tellin' 'im 'bout de meetin' an' ev'ything; but he never mention ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin's name. When he got up to come out to de office in de yard, whar he slept, he stooped down an' kissed 'im jes' like he wuz a baby layin' dyar in de bed, an' he'd hardly let ole missis go at all. I knowed some'n wuz up, an' nex' mawnin' I called 'im early befo' light, like he tole me, an' he dressed an' come out pres'n'y jes' like he wuz goin' to chu'ch. I had de hosses ready, an' we went out de back way to'ds de river. Ez we rode along, he said:
"'Sam, you an' I wuz boys togedder, wa'n't we?'
"'Yes,' sez I, 'Marse Chan, dat we wuz.'
"'You have been ve'y faithful to me,' sez he, 'an' I have seen to it that you are well provided fur. You wan' to marry Judy, I know, an' you'll be able to buy her ef you want to.'
"Den he tole me he wuz goin' to fight a duil, an' in case he should git shot, he had set me free an' giv' me nuff to tek keer o' me an' my wife ez long ez we lived. He said he'd like me to stay an' tek keer o' ole marster an' ole missis ez long ez dey lived, an' he said it wouldn' be very long, he reckoned. Dat wuz de on'y time he voice broke—when he said dat; an' I couldn' speak a wud, my th'oat choked me so.
"When we come to de river, we tu'ned right up de bank, an' arfter ridin' 'bout a mile or sich a matter, we stopped whar dey wuz a little clearin' wid elder bushes on one side an' two big gum trees on de udder, an' de sky wuz all red, an' de water down to'ds whar de sun wuz comin' wuz jes' like de sky.
"Pres'n'y Mr. Gordon he come wid a 'hogany box 'bout so big 'fore 'im, an' he got down, an' Marse Chan tole me to tek all de hosses an' go 'roun' behine de bushes whar I tell you 'bout—off to one side; an' 'fore I got 'roun' dar, ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin an' Mr. Hennin an' Dr. Call come ridin' from tudder way, to'ds ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin's. When dey hed tied dey hosses, de udder gent'mens went up to whar Mr. Gordon wuz, an' arfter some chattin' Mr. Hennin step' off 'bout fur ez 'cross dis road, or mebbe it mout be a little furder; an' den I seed 'em th'oo de bushes loadin' de pistils, an' talk' a little while; an' den Marse Chan an' ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin walked up wid de pistils in dey han's, an' Marse Chan he stood wid his face right to'ds de sun. I seen it shine on 'im jes' ez it come up over de low groun's, an' he look' like he did sometimes when he come out of chu'ch. I wuz so skeered I couldn' say nuthin'. Ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin could shoot fust rate, an' Marse Chan he never missed.
"Den I heahed Mr. Gordon say, 'Gent'mens, is yo' ready?' and bofe of 'em sez, 'Ready,' jes' so.
"An' he sez, 'Fire, one, two'—an' ez he said 'one,' ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin raised he pistil an' shot right at Marse Chan. De ball went th'oo his hat. I seen he hat sort o' settle on he head ez de bullit hit it, an' he jes' tilted his pistil up in de a'r an' shot—bang; an' ez de pistil went bang, he sez to Cun'l Chahmb'lin, 'I mek you a present to yo' fam'ly, seh!'
"Well, dey had some talkin' arfter dat. I didn' git rightly what it wuz; but it 'peared like Cun'l Chahmb'lin he warn't satisfied, an' wanted to have anudder shot. De seconds dey wuz talkin', an' pres'n'y dey put de pistils up, an' Marse Chan an' Mr. Gordon shook han's wid Mr. Hennin an' Dr. Call, an' come an' got on dey hosses. An' Cun'l Chahmb'lin he got on his horse an' rode away wid de udder gent'mens, lookin' like he did de day befo' when all de people laughed at 'im.
"I b'lieve ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin wan' to shoot Marse Chan, anyway!
"We come on home to breakfast, I totin' de box wid de pistils befo' me on the roan. Would you b'lieve me, seh, Marse Chan he nuvver said a wud 'bout it to ole marster or nobody. Ole missis didn' fin' out 'bout it for mo'n a month, an' den, Lawd! how she did cry and kiss Marse Chan; an' ole marster, aldo' he never say much, he wuz jes' ez please' ez ole missis. He call' me in de room an' made me tole 'im all 'bout it, an' when I got th'oo he gi' me five dollars an' a pyar of breeches.
"But ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin he nuvver did furgive Marse Chan, and Miss Anne she got mad too. Wimmens is mons'us onreasonable nohow. Dey's jes' like a catfish: you cann' tek' hole on 'em like udder folks, an' when you gits 'em yo' can n' always hole 'em.
"What meks me think so? Heaps o' things—dis: Marse Chan he done gi' Miss Anne her pa jes' ez good ez I gi' Marse Chan's dawg sweet 'taters, an' she git mad wid 'im ez if he hed kill 'im 'stid o' sen'in' 'im back to her dat mawnin' whole an' soun'. B'lieve me! she wouldn' even speak to 'im arfter dat!
"Don' I 'member dat mawnin'!
"We wuz gwine fox-huntin', 'bout six weeks or sich a matter arfter de duil, an' we met Miss Anne ridin' 'long wid anudder lady an' two gent'mens whar wuz stayin' at her house. Dyar wuz always some one or nudder dyar co'ting her. Well, dat mawnin' we meet 'em right in de road. 'Twuz de fust time Marse Chan had see her sence de duil, an' he raises he hat ez he pahss, an' she looks right at 'im wid her head up in de yair like she nuvver see 'im befo' in her born days; an' when she comes by me, she sez, 'Good-mawnin', Sam!' Gord! I nuvver see nuthin' like de look dat come on Marse Chan's face when she pahss 'im like dat. He gi' de sorrel a pull dat fotch 'im back settin' down in de san' on he hanches. He ve'y lips wuz white. I tried to keep up wid 'im, but 'twarn' no use. He sont me back home pres'n'y, an' he rid on. I sez to myself, 'Cun'l Chahmb'lin, don' yo' meet Marse Chan dis mawnin'. He ain' bin lookin' 'roun' de ole school-house, whar he an' Miss Anne use' to go to school to ole Mr. Hall together, fur nuffin'. He won' stan' no prodjickin' to-day.'
"He nuvver come home dat night tell 'way late, an' ef he'd been fox-huntin' it mus' ha' been de ole red whar lives down in de greenscum mashes he'd been chasin'. De way de sorrel wuz gormed up wid sweat an' mire sut'n'y did hu't me. He walked up to de stable wid he head down all de way, an' I'se seen 'im go eighty miles of a winter day, an' prance into de stable at night ez fresh ez ef he hed jes' cantered over to ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin's to supper. I nuvver seen a hoss beat so sence I knowed de fetlock from de fo'lock, an' bad ez he wuz he wan' ez bad ez Marse Chan.
"Whew! he didn' git over dat thing, seh—he nuvver did git over it.
"De war come on jes' den, an' Marse Chan wuz elected cap'n; but he wouldn' tek it. He said Firginia hadn' seceded, an' he wuz gwine stan' by her. Den dey 'lected Mr. Gordon cap'n.
"I sut'n'y did wan' Marse Chan to tek de place, cuz I knowed he wuz gwine tek me wid 'im. He wan' gwine widout Sam. An' beside, he look so po' an' thin, I thought he wuz gwine die.
"Of co'se ole missis she heard 'bout it, an' she met Miss Anne in de road, an' cut her jes' like Miss Anne cut Marse Chan.
"Ole missis, she wuz proud ez anybody! So we wuz mo' strangers dan ef we hadn' live' in a hunderd miles of each udder. An' Marse Chan he wuz gittin' thinner an' thinner, an' Firginia she come out, an' den Marse Chan he went to Richmond an' listed, an' come back an' sey he wuz a private, an' he didn' know whe'r he could tek me or not. He writ to Mr. Gordon, hows'ever, and 'twuz decided that when he went I wuz to go 'long an' wait on him, an' de cap'n too. I didn' min' dat, yo' know, long ez I could go wid Marse Chan, an' I like' Mr. Gordon, anyways.
"Well, one night Marse Chan come back from de offis wid a telegram dat say, 'Come at once,' so he wuz to start nex' mawnin'. He uniform wuz all ready, gray wid yaller trimmin's, an' mine wuz ready too, an' he had ole marster's sword, whar de State gi' 'im in de Mexikin war; an' he trunks wuz all packed wid ev'rything in 'em, an' my chist wuz packed too, an' Jim Rasher he druv 'em over to de depo' in de waggin, an' we wuz to start nex' mawnin' 'bout light. Dis wuz 'bout de las' o' spring, you know. Dat night ole missis made Marse Chan dress up in he uniform, an' he sut'n'y did look splendid wid he long mustache an' he wavin' hyar and he tall figger.
"Arfter supper he come down an' sez: 'Sam, I wan' you to tek dis note an' kyar it over to Cun'l Chahmb'lin's, an' gi' it to Miss Anne wid yo' own han's, an' bring me wud what she sez. Don' let any one know 'bout it, or know why you've gone.' 'Yes, seh,' sez I.
"Yo' see, I knowed Miss Anne's maid over at ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin's—dat wuz Judy whar is my wife now—an' I knowed I could wuk it. So I tuk de roan an' rid over, an' tied 'im down de hill in de cedars, an' I wen' 'roun' to de back yard. 'Twuz a right blowy sort o' night; de moon wuz jes' risin', but de clouds wuz so big it didn' shine 'cep' th'oo a crack now an' den. I soon foun' my gal, an' arfter tellin' her two or three lies 'bout herse'f, I got her to go in an' ax Miss Anne to come to de do'. When she come, I gi' her de note, an' arfter a little while she bro't me anudder, an' I tole her good-by, an' she gi' me a dollar, an' I come home an' gi' de letter to Marse Chan. He read it, an' tole me to have de hosses ready at twenty minits to twelve at de corner of de garden. An' jes' befo' dat he come out ez ef he wuz gwine to bed, but instid he come, an' we all struck out to'ds Cun'l Chahmb'lin's. When we got mos' to de gate, de hosses got sort o' skeered, an' I see dey wuz some'n or somebody standin' jes' inside; an' Marse Chan he jumpt off de sorrel an' flung me de bridle and he walked up.
"She spoke fust ('twuz Miss Anne had done come out dyar to meet Marse Chan), an' she sez, jes' ez cold ez a chill, 'Well, seh, I granted your favor. I wished to relieve myse'f of de obligations you placed me under a few months ago, when you made me a present of my father, whom you fust insulted an' then prevented from gittin' satisfaction.'
"Marse Chan he didn' speak fur a minit, an' den he said: 'Who is with you?' (Dat wuz ev'y wud.)
"'No one,' sez she; 'I came alone.'
"'My God!' sez he, 'you didn' come all through those woods by yourse'f at this time o' night?'
"'Yes, I'm not afraid,' sez she. (An' heah dis nigger! I don' b'lieve she wuz.)
"De moon come out, an' I cotch sight o' her stan'in' dyar in her white dress, wid de cloak she had wrapped herse'f up in drapped off on de groun', an' she didn' look like she wuz 'feared o' nuthin'. She wuz mons'us purty ez she stood dyar wid de green bushes behine her, an' she hed jes' a few flowers in her breas'—right hyah—and some leaves in her sorrel hyar; an' de moon come out an' shined down on her hyar an' her frock, an' 'peared like de light wuz jes' stan'in' off it ez she stood dyar lookin' at Marse Chan wid her head tho'd back, jes' like dat mawnin' when she pahss Marse Chan in de road widout speakin' to 'im, an' sez to me, 'Good mawnin', Sam.'
"Marse Chan, he den tole her he hed come to say good-by to her, ez he wuz gwine 'way to de war nex' mawnin'. I wuz watchin' on her, an' I tho't when Marse Chan tole her dat, she sort o' started an' looked up at 'im like she wuz mighty sorry, an' 'peared like she didn' stan' quite so straight arfter dat. Den Marse Chan he went on talkin' right fars' to her; an' he tole her how he had loved her ever sence she wuz a little bit o' baby mos', an' how he nuvver 'membered de time when he hedn' 'spected to marry her. He tole her it wuz his love for her dat hed made 'im stan' fust at school an' collige, an' hed kep' 'im good an' pure; an' now he wuz gwine 'way, wouldn' she let it be like 'twuz in ole times, an' ef he come back from de war wouldn' she try to t'ink on him ez she use' to do when she wuz a little guirl?
"Marse Chan he had done been talkin' so serious, he hed done tuk Miss Anne's han', an' wuz lookin' down in her face like he wuz list'nin' wid his eyes.
"Arfter a minit Miss Anne she said somethin', an' Marse Chan he cotch her udder han' an' sez:
"'But if you love me, Anne?'
"When he sed dat, she tu'ned her head 'way from 'im, an' wait' a minit, an' den she sed—right clear:
"'But I don' love yo'.' (Jes' dem th'ee wuds!) De wuds fall right slow—like dirt falls out a spade on a coffin when yo's buryin' anybody an' seys, 'Uth to uth.' Marse Chan he jes' let her hand drap, an' he stiddy hisse'f 'g'inst de gate-pos', an' he didn' speak toreckly. When he did speak, all he sez wuz:
"'I mus' see you home safe.'
"I 'clar, marster, I didn' know 'twuz Marse Chan's voice tell I look at 'im right good. Well, she wouldn' let 'im go wid her. She jes' wrap' her cloak 'roun' her shoulders, an' wen' 'long back by herse'f, widout doin' more'n jes' look up once at Marse Chan leanin' dyah 'g'inst de gate-pos' in he sodger clo'es, wid he eyes on de groun'. She said 'Good-by' sort o' sorf, an' Marse Chan, widout lookin' up, shake han's wid her, an' she wuz done gone down de road. Soon ez she got 'mos' 'roun' de curve, Marse Chan he followed her, keepin' under de trees so ez not to be seen, an' I led de hosses on down de road behine 'im. He kep' 'long behine her tell she wuz safe in de house, an' den he come an' got on he hoss, an' we all come home.
"Nex' mawnin' we all come off to j'ine de army. An' dey wuz a-drillin' an' a-drillin' all 'bout for a while an' dey went 'long wid all de res' o' de army, an I went wid Marse Chan an' clean he boots, an' look arfter de tent, an' tek keer o' him an' de hosses. An' Marse Chan, he wan' a bit like he use' to be. He wuz so solum an' moanful all de time, at leas' 'cep' when dyah wuz gwine to be a fight. Den he'd peartin' up, an' he alwuz rode at de head o' de company 'cause he wuz tall; an' hit wan' on'y in battles whar all his company wuz dat he went, but he use' to volunteer whenever de cun'l wanted anybody to fine out anythin', an' 'twuz so dangersome he didn' like to mek one man go no sooner'n anudder, yo' know, an' ax'd who'd volunteer. He 'peared to like to go prowlin' aroun' 'mong dem Yankees, an' he use' to tek me wid 'im whenever he could. Yes, seh, he sut'n'y wuz a good sodger! He didn' mine bullets no more'n he did so many draps o' rain. But I use' to be pow'ful skeered sometimes. It jes' use' to 'pear like fun to 'im. In camp he use' to be so sorrerful he'd hardly open he mouf. You'd 'a' tho't he wuz seekin', he used to look so moanful; but jes' le' 'im git into danger, an' he use' to be like ole times—jolly an' laughin' like when he wuz a boy.
"When Cap'n Gordon got he leg shot off, dey mek Marse Chan cap'n on de spot, 'cause one o' de lieutenants got kilt de same day, an' tor'er one (named Mr. Ronny) wan' no 'count, an' all de company sed Marse Chan wuz de man.
"An' Marse Chan he wuz jes' de same. He didn' never mention Miss Anne's name, but I knowed he wuz thinkin' on her constant. One night he wuz settin' by de fire in camp, an' Mr. Ronny—he wuz de secon' lieutenant—got to talkin' 'bout ladies, an' he say all sorts o' things 'bout 'em, an' I see Marse Chan kinder lookin' mad; an' de lieutenant mention Miss Anne's name. He hed been courtin' Miss Anne 'bout de time Marse Chan fit de duil wid her pa, an' Miss Anne hed kicked 'im, dough he wuz mighty rich, 'cause he warn' nuthin' but a half-strainer, an' 'cause she like Marse Chan, I believe, dough she didn' speak to 'im; an' Mr. Ronny he got drunk, an' 'cause Cun'l Chahmb'lin tole 'im not to come dyah no more, he got mighty mad. An' dat evenin' I'se tellin' yo' 'bout, he wuz talkin', an' he mention' Miss Anne's name. I see Marse Chan tu'n he eye 'roun' on 'im an' keep it on he face, an' pres'n'y Mr. Ronny said he wuz gwine hev some fun dyah yit. He didn' mention her name dat time; but he said dey wuz all on 'em a parecel of stuck-up 'risticrats, an' her pa wan' no gent'man anyway, and she——I don' know what he wuz gwine say (he nuvver said it), fur ez he got dat far Marse Chan riz up an' hit 'im a crack, an' he fall like he hed been hit wid a fence-rail. He challenged Marse Chan to fight a duil, an' Marse Chan he excepted de challenge, an' dey wuz gwine fight; but some on 'em tole 'im Marse Chan wan' gwine mek a present o' him to his fam'ly, an' he got somebody to bre'k up de duil; 'twan' nuthin' dough, but he wuz 'fred to fight Marse Chan. An' purty soon he lef' de comp'ny.
"Well, I got one o' de gent'mens to write Judy a letter for me, an' I tole her all 'bout de fight, an' how Marse Chan knock Mr. Ronny over fur speakin' discontemptuous o' Cun'l Chahmb'lin, an' I tole her how Marse Chan wuz a-dyin' fur love o' Miss Anne. An' Judy she gits Miss Anne to read de letter fur her. Den Miss Anne she tells her pa, an'—you mind, Judy tells me all dis arfterwards, an' she say when Cun'l Chahmb'lin hear 'bout it, he wuz settin' on de poach, an' he set still a good while, an' den he sey to hisse'f:
"'Well, he carn' he'p bein' a Whig.'
"An' den he gits up an' walks up to Miss Anne an' looks at her right hard; an' Miss Anne she hed done tu'n away her head an' wuz makin' out she wuz fixin' a rose-bush 'g'inst de poach; an' when her pa kep' lookin' at her, her face got jes' de color o' de roses on de bush, an' pres'n'y her pa sez:
"An' she tu'ned 'roun', an' he sez:
"'Do yo' want 'im?'
"An' she sez, 'Yes,' an' put her head on he shoulder an' begin to cry; an' he sez:
"'Well, I won' stan' between yo' no longer. Write to 'im an' say so.'
"We didn' know nuthin' 'bout dis den. We wuz a-fightin' an' a-fightin' all dat time; an' come one day a letter to Marse Chan, an' I see 'im start to read it in his tent, an' he face hit look so cu'ious, an' he han's trembled so I couldn' mek out what wuz de matter wid 'im. An' he fold' de letter up an' wen' out an' wen' 'way down 'hine de camp, an' stayed dyah 'bout nigh an hour. Well, seh, I wuz on de lookout for 'im when he come back, an', fo' Gord, ef he face didn' shine like a angel's. I say to myse'f, 'Um'm! ef de glory o' Gord ain' done shine on 'im!' An' what yo' 'spose 'twuz?
"He tuk me wid 'im dat evenin', an' he tell me he hed done git a letter from Miss Anne, an' Marse Chan he eyes look like gre't big stars, an' he face wuz jes' like 'twuz dat mawnin' when de sun riz up over de low groun's, an' I see 'im stan'in' dyah wid de pistil in he han', lookin' at it, an' not knowin' but what it mout be de lars' time, an' he done mek up he mine not to shoot ole Cun'l Chahmb'lin fur Miss Anne's sake, what writ 'im de letter.
"He fold' de letter wha' was in his han' up, an' put it in he inside pocket—right dyar on de lef' side; an' den he tole me he tho't mebbe we wuz gwine hev some warm wuk in de nex' two or th'ee days, an arfter dat ef Gord speared 'im he'd git a leave o' absence fur a few days, an' we'd go home.
"Well, dat night de orders come, an' we all hed to git over to'ds Romney; an' we rid all night till 'bout light; an' we halted right on a little creek, an' we stayed dyah till mos' breakfas' time, an' I see Marse Chan set down on de groun' 'hine a bush an' read dat letter over an' over. I watch 'im, an' de battle wuz a-goin' on, but we hed orders to stay 'hine de hill, an' ev'y now an' den de bullets would cut de limbs o' de trees right over us, an' one o' dem big shells what goes 'Awhar—awhar—awhar!' would fall right 'mong us; but Marse Chan he didn' mine it no mo'n nuthin'! Den it 'peared to git closer an' thicker, an' Marse Chan he calls me, an' I crep' up, an' he sez:
"'Sam, we'se goin' to win in dis battle, an' den we'll go home an' git married; an' I'se goin' home wid a star on my collar.' An' den he sez, 'Ef I'm wounded, kyar me home, yo' hear?' An' I sez, 'Yes, Marse Chan.'
"Well, jes' den dey blowed boots an' saddles an' we mounted; an' de orders come to ride 'roun' de slope, an' Marse Chan's company wuz de secon'; an' when we got 'roun' dyah, we wuz right in it. Hit wuz de wust place ever dis nigger got in. An' dey said, 'Charge 'em!' an' my king! ef ever you see bullets fly, dey did dat day. Hit wuz jes' like hail; an' we wen' down de slope (I long wid de res') an' up de hill right to'ds de cannons, an' de fire wuz so strong dyar (dey hed a whole rigiment o' infintrys layin' down dyar onder de cannons) our lines sort o' broke an' stop; de cun'l was kilt, an' I b'lieve dey wuz jes' 'bout to bre'k all to pieces, when Marse Chan rid up an' cotch hol' de fleg an' hollers, 'Foller me!' an' rid strainin' up de hill 'mong de cannons. I seen 'im when he went, de sorrel four good lengths ahead o' ev'y udder hoss, jes' like he use' to be in a fox-hunt, an' de whole rigiment right arfter 'im. Yo' ain' nuvver hear thunder! Fust thing I knowed, de roan roll' head over heels an' flung me up 'g'inst de bank, like yo' chuck a nubbin over 'g'inst de foot o' de corn pile. An' dat's what kep' me from bein' kilt, I 'specks. Judy she say she think 'twuz Providence, but I think 'twuz de bank. Of co'se, Providence put de bank dyar, but how come Providence nuvver saved Marse Chan! When I look' 'roun', de roan wuz layin' dyah by me, stone dead, wid a cannon-ball gone 'mos' th'oo him, an' our men hed done swep' dem on t' udder side from de top o' de hill. 'Twan' mo'n a minit, de sorrel come gallupin' back wid his mane flyin', an' de rein hangin' down on one side to his knee. 'Dyar!' says I, 'fo' Gord! I 'specks dey done kill Marse Chan, an' I promised to tek care on him.'
"I jumped up an' run over de bank, an' dyar wid a whole lot o' dead men, an' some not dead yit, onder one o' de guns wid de fleg still in he han', an' a bullet right th'oo he body, lay Marse Chan. I tu'n' 'im over an' call 'im 'Marse Chan!' but 'twan' no use, he wuz done gone home, sho' 'nuff. I pick' 'im up in my arms wid de fleg still in he han's, an' toted 'im back jes' like I did dat day when he wuz a baby, an' ole marster gin 'im to me in my arms, an' sez he could trus' me, an' tell me to tek keer on 'im long ez he lived. I kyar'd 'im 'way off de battlefiel' out de way o' de balls, an' I laid 'im down onder a big tree tell I could git somebody to ketch de sorrel for me. He wuz cotched arfter awhile, an' I hed some money, so I got some pine plank an' made a coffin dat evenin', an' wrapt Marse Chan's body up in de fleg, an' put 'im in de coffin; but I didn' nail de top on strong, 'cause I knowed ole missis wan' see 'im; an' I got a' ambulance an' set out for home dat night. We reached dyar de nex' evenin', arfter travellin' all dat night an' all nex' day.
"Hit 'peared like somethin' hed tole ole missis we wuz comin' so; for when we got home she wuz waitin' for us—done drest up in her best Sunday-clo'es, an' stan'in' at de head o' de big steps, an' ole marster settin' in his big cheer—ez we druv up de hill to'ds de house, I drivin' de ambulance an' de sorrel leadin' 'long behine wid de stirrups crost over de saddle.
"She come down to de gate to meet us. We took de coffin out de ambulance an' kyar'd it right into de big parlor wid de pictures in it, whar dey use' to dance in ole times when Marse Chan wuz a school-boy, an' Miss Anne Chahmb'lin use' to come over, an' go wid ole missis into her chamber an' tek her things off. In dyar we laid de coffin on two o' de cheers, an' ole missis nuvver said a wud; she jes' looked so ole an' white.
"When I had tell 'em all 'bout it, I tu'ned right 'roun' an' rid over to Cun'l Chahmb'lin's, 'cause I knowed dat wuz what Marse Chan he'd 'a' wanted me to do. I didn' tell nobody whar I wuz gwine, 'cause yo' know none on 'em hadn' nuvver speak to Miss Anne, not sence de duil, an' dey didn' know 'bout de letter.
"When I rid up in de yard, dyar wuz Miss Anne a-stan'in' on de poach watchin' me ez I rid up. I tied my hoss to de fence, an' walked up de parf. She knowed by de way I walked dyar wuz somethin' de motter, an' she wuz mighty pale. I drapt my cap down on de een' o' de steps an' went up. She nuvver opened her mouf; jes' stan' right still an' keep her eyes on my face. Fust, I couldn' speak; den I cotch my voice, an' I say, 'Marse Chan, he done got he furlough.'
"Her face was mighty ashy, an' she sort o' shook, but she didn' fall. She tu'ned roun' an' said, 'Git me de ker'ige!' Dat wuz all.
"When de ker'ige come 'roun', she hed put on her bonnet, an' wuz ready. Ez she got in, she sey to me, 'Hev yo' brought him home?' an' we drove 'long, I ridin' behine.
"When we got home, she got out, an' walked up de big walk—up to de poach by herse'f. Ole missis hed done fin' de letter in Marse Chan's pocket, wid de love in it, while I wuz 'way, an' she wuz a-waitin' on de poach. Dey sey dat wuz de fust time ole missis cry when she find de letter, an' dat she sut'n'y did cry over it, pintedly.
"Well, seh, Miss Anne she walks right up de steps, mos' up to ole missis stan'in' dyar on de poach, an' jes' falls right down mos' to her, on her knees fust, an' den flat on her face right on de flo', ketchin' at ole missis' dress wid her two han's—so.
"Ole missis stood for 'bout a minit lookin' down at her, an' den she drapt down on de flo' by her, an' took her in bofe her arms.
"I couldn' see, I wuz cryin' so myse'f, an' ev'ybody wuz cryin'. But dey went in arfter a while in de parlor, an' shet de do'; an' I hyard 'em say, Miss Anne she tuk de coffin in her arms an' kissed it, an' kissed Marse Chan, an' call 'im by his name, an' her darlin', an' ole missis lef' her cryin' in dyar tell some on 'em went in, an' found her done faint on de flo'.
"Judy (she's my wife) she tell me she heah Miss Anne when she axed ole missis mout she wear mo'nin' fur 'im. I don' know how dat is; but when we buried 'im nex' day, she wuz de one whar walked arfter de coffin, holdin' ole marster, an' ole missis she walked next to 'em."
"Well, we buried Marse Chan dyar in de ole grabeyard, wid de fleg wrapped roun' 'im, an' he face lookin' like it did dat mawnin' down in de low groun's, wid de new sun shinin' on it so peaceful.
"Miss Anne she nuvver went home arfter dat; she stay wid ole marster an' ole missis ez long ez dey lived. Dat warn' so mighty long, 'cause ole marster he died dat fall, when dey wuz fallerin' fur wheat—I had jes' married Judy den—an' ole missis she warn' long behine him. We buried her by him next summer. Miss Anne she went in de hospitals toreckly arfter ole missis died; an' jes' fo' Richmond fell she come home sick wid de fever. Yo' nuvver would 'a' knowed her fur de same ole Miss Anne. She wuz light ez a piece o' peth, an' so white, 'cep' her eyes an' her sorrel hyar, an' she kep' on gittin' whiter an' weaker. Judy she sut'n'y did nuss her faithful. But she nuvver got no betterment! De fever an' Marse Chan's bein' kilt hed done strain her, an' she died jes' 'fo' de folks wuz sot free.
"So we buried Miss Anne right by Marse Chan, in a place whar ole missis hed tole us to leave, an' dey's bofe on 'em sleep side by side over in de ole grabeyard at home.
"An' will yo' please tell me, marster? Dey tells me dat de Bible sey dyar won' be marryin' nor givin' in marriage in heaven, but I don' b'lieve it signifies dat—does yo'?"
I gave him the comfort of my earnest belief in some other interpretation, together with several spare "eighteen-pences," as he called them, for which he seemed humbly grateful. And as I rode away I heard him calling across the fence to his wife, who was standing in the door of a small whitewashed cabin, near which we had been standing for some time:
"Judy, have Marse Chan's dawg got home?"
MR. BIXBY'S CHRISTMAS VISITOR.
BY CHARLES S. GAGE.
Appleton's Journal, December 30, 1871.
At the head of the first flight of stairs, and on opposite sides of the landing, were the respective rooms of Mr. Bixby and Mr. Bangs. The house in which they lived stood in a quiet and retired street on the lower and western side of New York, a locality which was once inhabited by fashionable families, afterward by old-fashioned families, and at the time of our story by the keepers of boarding-houses for single men.
Mr. Henry Bixby and Mr. Alfred Bangs were single men—Mr. Bangs, the wine-merchant, because he liked wine and song so well that he never had leisure to think of women, because he was fat, because he was red in the face, and, if more reasons are necessary, because his fingers were chubby and short. For twenty years, day by day, Mr. Bangs had been absorbed in business. For twenty years, night after night, it had been his custom to entertain his friends at his apartment in not a very quiet way. He was so happy, and bulbous, and jolly, that he had never thought of marriage. Yet he might easily have been mistaken by the casual observer for a family man. He wore a white vest when it wasn't too cold; his linen was painfully plain. There was not a sign of jewelry about him. He wore low shoes, which he tied with a ribbon. This was Mr. Bangs.
Not quite so old in years as the opposite lodger was Mr. Bixby, known to his few friends as a genial philosopher and poet, to the public as the literary critic of one of the great daily papers. He might have been thirty-five years of age, but, as he had lived more for others than for himself, as he had made a study and not a pleasure of life, his gray eyes and the other features of his face suggested to whoever met him a longer past. There was something about him that caused men to wonder, not what he was, but what he had been.
For ten years Mr. Bangs and Mr. Bixby had been inmates of the house together. Mr. Bangs had been there longer. The present landlady had received as a legacy from her predecessor, who did not care to take him away, Mr. Bangs. As she said, she made a present of Bangs.
Long as they had known each other, the two lodgers were only acquaintances. Sometimes, on a Sunday afternoon, they would walk out in company, stroll down to the Battery, and there smoke their cigars and watch the ships, but beyond this point of sociability, which neither enjoyed, there was nothing more. Never had Bixby read Bangs any poem he had made, nor did ever Bangs invite Bixby to meet his convivial friends of an evening to play whist or to partake of his mulled ale. In fact, Mr. Bixby had been often and with great enthusiasm voted an unsocial fellow by the cronies of Mr. Bangs, but he rose somewhat in their estimation when they were informed that he had consented to exchange rooms with their host.
"He isn't such a grouty fellow, after all," said Bangs. "I told him that we were too near the street, and that some one had been complaining to the landlady of our singing. He didn't even stop to think, but agreed to do it at once. He thought the light would be better here. Now, fellows, I call that doing the fair thing."
And the speech of Mr. Bangs was applauded.
It was the morning of the day before Christmas that the change was effected. In the closet where had been the bottles, the decanters, glasses, and pickle-jars of the late occupant, Mr. Bixby had arranged shelves, and filled them with his books. Over the mantel, from which Mr. Bangs had taken away a colored print of a bull-dog in an overcoat, Mr. Bixby hung a fine engraving of the Madonna, and on the mantel itself he had placed his clock. It was a small French clock under a crystal, so that its rapidly-swinging pendulum could be easily seen. All bachelors, however negligent of their surroundings, have some one hobby among articles of furniture. It may be an easy-chair, or a book-case, or a chandelier—there is one thing that must be the best of its kind. There could be no doubt, from the care with which Mr. Bixby placed his clock in its position, and from time to time compared it with his watch, that this was his hobby. It had the three requisites which he demanded in a clock. It kept correct time without failing, its pendulum swung rapidly, and was plainly visible. Time past was the happiness of Mr. Bixby, and this clock told him continually that all was being done that could be done to induce the hours of every day to go over to the majority. He depended upon this clock. He was surer of its mechanism than of that of his own heart.
What with hanging his pictures and arranging his furniture, and with many other little things which had to be done, Mr. Bixby was busily employed all day. But the task was not an unpleasant one. His heart was in the work, for there was hardly an object in the room not nearly associated with some event in his past life. After carefully brushing the dust from an old writing-desk, which had evidently once belonged to a lady, he placed it upon the rug in front of the fire. Only on Christmas-eves was this desk opened.
"It is curious," thought Mr. Bixby, "that I should have moved this day, of all days in the year!"
Often in his work he thought of stopping to take from the desk an old packet of letters, and reading them once more. But it was not yet time, and, moreover, he was continually interrupted. First, there came some one to his door with "Two dozen Congress-water for Mr. Bangs;" then one with "Mr. Bangs's boots," and another to tell Mr. Bangs that "the pup was big enough to take away." Finally, came Bangs himself, to complain of like interruptions, and to bid him good-by.
"Here is some manuscript a boy left for you. You will have to attend both doors now. I am off to spend Christmas. We are going to have a Tom-and-Jerry party in Jersey. You know—
"'The Tom-and-Jerry days have come, the happiest in the year!'
"Good rendering, eh? That isn't all:
"'I only wish to live till the juleps come again!'"
And Mr. Bangs laughed uproariously, even after he had said, "Good-by," and shut the door behind him.
"What a personification of Bacchus!" thought Mr. Bixby—
"'Ever laughing, ever young.'
"He will be young as long as he lives, but I am afraid that won't be long. If ever there was a man in immediate danger of apoplexy, Bangs is that man."
It was after dinner when Mr. Bixby lighted his drop-light and sat down before the fire. He pushed an ottoman in front of him, on which to rest his feet, which he had comfortably encased in his slippers. But the shadows in his new room did not please him. He could hardly see the clock on the mantel. The Madonna above was completely in the shade. So he lighted the chandelier above and sat down again, hoping that no friend, either of his own or of Mr. Bangs, would interrupt him. The desk was open at his feet. The package of letters lay near him on the table. He placed his hand upon them, but let it rest there. The hour had not quite arrived when he would read them. He fell again into the reveries of the day. He lingered over the thoughts of his better life ere he opened the packet which told of its end. For the last ten years he had labored without ambition, and had been successful. His name was well known as a journalist, and his salary was ample. Before that time he had striven ambitiously, but fruitlessly, patiently, but as in a quicksand, until, on a day, he had none to strive for but himself, and then success had come. Since noon, seven hours and twenty-nine minutes, said the clock before him. His anniversary was near. Mr. Bixby drew the letters near him, and untied the package. Just then there came a knock at his door, and, before he had determined whether or not he should say, "Come in," the door opened, and an elderly gentleman stepped into the apartment. Quietly he came in. There was no sound attending his entrance except the knock. Mr. Bixby, looking up, saw a man of more than ordinary height, with countenance rigid and puritanical in expression, as though the mind which had formed it was one influenced more by justice than mercy. His eyes were concealed by a pair of colored spectacles, but these, as they caught and reflected the light, were brighter and more startling than any eyes could have been. He was dressed in a long surtout, which he wore closely buttoned, high dickey, and high black-silk stock, which covered his throat to his chin. His iron-gray hair was brushed somewhat pompously backward over his forehead, and his whole effect was that of a gentleman of the generation which wore bell-crowned hats and carried enormous canes with tassels. But what attracted Mr. Bixby's particular attention were the wrinkles of his face. These were in all places where wrinkles should not be. One ran straight through the centre of his forehead, continuing the line of the nose upward to the hair. Two others, starting from the bridge of the nose, ran diagonally down to the nostrils. He was close-shaven, and his lips were straight and thin. These peculiarities of his visitor Mr. Bixby had barely time to mark when the gentleman said:
"Ah, Mr. Bangs, I am glad to find you in!"
Mr. Bixby never in his life more desired to be alone, and yet there was something in this old man which so attracted him that he could not correct his mistake. He felt a sudden fascination and desire to know more of him. Bangs was away and could not be seen. The gentleman could not be very well acquainted with Bangs, very probably never had seen him, or he would not have made such an error. But nothing but the influence which seemed to proceed from his visitor could have induced Mr. Bixby to answer as he did.
"Thank you, sir. Pray, take this chair."
As he said this, he arose and wheeled an easy-chair to the other side of the table.
The elderly gentleman sat down.
"You have a very cheerful apartment here, Mr. Bangs."
"Yes. I always like to be comfortable."
"Of course," said the elderly gentleman.
"Will you remove your overcoat, sir?" asked Mr. Bixby, and immediately repented it.
"Oh, no, I shall stop but a moment."
There was an interval of silence. A block of coal broke open in the grate and fell apart. A jet of gas burst forth and burned, then sputtered and went out. Mr. Bixby wondered on what business he had come, and why he did not open the subject at once, if he was only intending to stop a moment.
"It is very disagreeable weather out," said the man with the pompous forelock, interrupting his reflections.
"Snowing?" asked Bixby.
"Very unpleasant to have far to go such a night," suggested Bixby, who could think of nothing better to say.
"Not at all," responded the old gentleman, authoritatively.
Bixby was silent again.
The old gentleman, leaning with his elbow on the table, began again.
"You like to live well, Mr. Bangs?"
"I try to," answered Mr. Bixby.
"This must be some relative of Bangs come to deliver him a lecture on his course of life. Why don't he broach his advice at once?" thought Mr. Bixby. The visitor here pulled a glove from his right hand, ran his fingers through his hair, and then, in a more business-like tone, spoke again:
"Although a stranger to you personally, Mr. Bangs, I have always taken a great interest in your family. Mr. Bangs, I knew your father."
"Indeed! I never heard him speak—"
"No, I dare say; it was near the end of his life. I was near by, and rendered him some assistance, when he died suddenly of apoplexy. He was not so much of a man as your grandfather."
"Was he not?" asked Mr. Bixby, musingly. He was thinking how old the grandfather of his friend Bangs must have been.
"No," continued the elderly gentleman; "but even his judgment I never considered equal to that of your great-grandfather."
"Here is, indeed, a friend—a friend of the family. Why is Mr. Bangs away?" thought Mr. Bixby, and he bent his head a little, and looked under the drop-light, to get a view of his visitor. He saw only the reflection on his spectacles, and drew back suddenly, for fear of being detected.
"You like a good song, I have heard, Mr. Bangs," came from the other side of the table. "Have you any favorite?"
Mr. Bixby did not understand this at all. The question puzzled him. Should he as Bangs fall in the estimation of some relative if he admitted the fact? Or did his visitor intend to sing? However, he felt compelled to be frank, so he said:
"Oh, yes; I like a good song. Some of the Scotch ballads please me most. There is 'The Land o' the Leal.'"
"A very fine song, sir. A very fine song. It is a credit to any man to like that song."
The old gentleman was excited. Mr. Bixby was just congratulating himself on having given Bangs a lift, when his thoughts were turned into an altogether new channel by the following remark:
"It was my impression, however, that your taste ran rather in the way of drinking-songs. I should have thought now you would have said, 'The Coal-Black Wine.'"
There was something in the tone with which this was uttered that made Mr. Bixby shudder. It ran through his mind that this man was some enemy of Bangs—that he was dangerous. Startled by this sudden suspicion, tremblingly he again peered under the shade. The wrinkle in the line of the frontal suture was more deeply indented. The light on the spectacles was brighter than ever.
"Mr. Bangs, I called on your opposite neighbor, Mr. Bixby, to-night. I knocked on the door, but he was away."
"Yes," said Mr. Bixby, somewhat confused. He wished that Bangs had stayed at home, and determined to end the interview as soon as possible.
"Yes. I am sorry. I had a positive appointment with him. I am a great friend of his."
"Does he know you?"
"Oh, no; we have never met personally that he remembers. I am an old friend of the family. He suffers from the heart-disease, and has been expecting me."
"Oh, you are a physician?"
"Yes, sir. I attended his father at his last illness."
Mr. Bixby's heart began to beat rapidly. His mind became equally active, and, although he had no experience to be guided by, he began to suspect the nature of this man's business with Bangs. He almost determined to discover himself, but the letters were yet unread. If that were only done, he would do anything his visitor might request. Recalling the old gentleman's last words, he said, at last, calmly:
"And his mother?"
"Yes, and his mother."
The old man's voice assumed almost a kindly tone.
"He is, indeed, a friend of my family," thought Mr. Bixby; and then he started, for fear he might have spoken aloud.
His eyes fell upon the packet of letters. He must read them. He must end the interview. The old doctor must have noticed Mr. Bixby's eyes, with the tears rising in them, as he tenderly touched the letters one by one, for it was with a voice very gentle and low that he spoke again.
"I attended once a very dear friend of his. It must be quite ten years ago now. Her name was Margaret. I think she loved him, for I remember—yes—it was one Christmas-eve, she said, and after that she said no more, 'Has Harry come?'"
Mr. Bixby could bear no more. His sobs were striving for utterance. His fingers grasped the strong oak arms of his chair. It was only the thought of the letters which gave him strength to say:
"I am sorry, sir. You mistake me. I must ask you to leave me. You may come again. I shall be here, but I have something I would do to-night. I have given you much of my time. It is already late."
"It is you who mistake, Mr. Bangs. But I am going now. I said I would stop but a moment. I have kept my promise, as you will see by your clock."
Before his hands fell listless from the arms of the chair—before his lips parted, but not for speech—ay, just before that quick, strong pain in his heart, Mr. Bixby saw on the white dial the black hands yet pointing to the seven hours and the twenty-nine minutes, the pendulum moveless, still, half-way on the upward journey of the arc.
The elderly gentleman arose, walked round the table, and smiled, himself, as he saw a smile of perfected happiness on the face of the dead, when so lately sorrow itself had been pictured on the face of the living.
"It was hard to deceive him, but he will thank me now," said he of the gray locks and wrinkled visage. "And here are the letters which he does not need."
Had the old man no more appointments to keep? For he took up one of the letters and opened it. A lock of golden hair fell unnoticed to the floor. Then he read silently, and, after a while, aloud:
"I hope you will come and see me on Christmas-eve, for I am not well. I long for you more than I can say. You must be tired with your struggle in the great city, and need rest. O Harry! come and comfort her that loves you, as you well know.
The bells of Trinity commenced ringing.
"He was tired, and he needed rest," said Death.
BY C. H. WHITE.
Century Magazine, November, 1881.
Under a boat, high and dry, at low tide, on the beach, John Wood was seated in the sand, sheltered from the sun in the boat's shadow, absorbed in the laying on of verdigris. The dull, worn color was rapidly giving place to a brilliant, shining green. Occasionally a scraper, which lay by, was taken up to remove the last trace of a barnacle.
It was Wood's boat, but he was not a boatman; he painted cleverly, but he was not a painter. He kept the brown store under the elms of the main street, now hot and still, where at this moment his blushing sister was captivating the heart of an awkward farmer's boy, as she sold him a pair of striped suspenders.
As the church-clock struck the last of twelve decided blows, three children came rushing out of the house on the bank above the beach. It was one of those deceptive New England cottages, weather-worn without, but bright and bountifully home-like within—with its trim parlor, proud of a cabinet organ; with its front hall, now cooled by the light sea-breeze drifting through the blind-door, where a tall clock issued its monotonous call to a siesta on the rattan lounge; with its spare room, open now, opposite the parlor, and now, too, drawing in the salt air through close-shut blinds, in anticipation of the joyful arrival this evening of Sister Sarah, with her little brood, from the city.
The children scampered across the road, and then the eldest hushed the others and sent a little brother ahead to steal, barefoot, along the shining sea-weed to his father.
The plotted surprise appeared to succeed completely. The painter was seized by the ears from behind, and captured.
"Guess who's here, or you can't get up," said the infant captor.
"It's Napoleon Bonaparte; don't joggle," said his father, running a brush steadily along the water-line.
"No! no! no!" with shouts of laughter from the whole attacking party.
"Then it's Captain Ezekiel?"
This excited great merriment: Captain Ezekiel was an aged, purblind man, who leaned on a cane.
After attempts to identify the invader—with the tax-collector come for taxes, then with the elderly minister making a pastoral call, with the formal schoolmaster, and with Samuel J. Tilden—the victim reached over his shoulder, and, seizing the assailant by a handful of calico jacket, brought him around, squirming, before him.
"Now," he said, "I'll give you a coat of verdigris."
(Great applause from the reserve force behind.)
"I suppose Mother sent you to say dinner's ready," said the father, rising and surveying the green bottom of the boat. "I must eat quick, so as to do the other side before half-flood."
And with a child on each shoulder, and the third pushing him from behind with her head, he marched toward the vine-covered kitchen, where, between two opposite netted doors, the table was trimly set.
"Father, you look like a mermaid, with your green hands," said his wife, laughing, as she handed him the spirits of turpentine. "A woman could paint that boat, in a light dress, and not get a spot on her."
He smiled good-naturedly: he never spoke much.
"I guess Louise won't have much trade to-day," said his wife, as they all sat down; "it's so hot in the sun that everybody'll wait till night. But she has her tatting-work to do, and she's got a book, too, that she wanted to finish."
Her husband nodded, and ate away.
"Oh, can't we go up street and see her, this afternoon?" said one of the children.
"Who can that be?" said the mother, as an elderly, half-official-looking man stopped his horse at the front gate and alighted. The man left the horse unchecked to browse by the road-side, and came to the door.
"Oh, it's you, Captain Nourse," said Wood, rising to open the netting door, and holding out his hand. "Come to summons me as a witness in something about the bank case, I suppose. Let me introduce Captain Nourse, Mary," he said, "deputy sheriff. Sit down, Captain, and have some dinner with us."
"No, I guess I won't set," said the captain. "I cal'lated not to eat till I got home, in the middle o' the arternoon. No, I'll set down in eye-shot of the mare, and read the paper while you eat."
"I hope they don't want me to testify anywhere to-day," said Wood; "because my boat's half verdigris'd, and I want to finish her this afternoon."
"No testimony to-day," said the captain. "Hi! hi! Kitty!" he called to the mare, as she began to meander across the road; and he went out to a tree by the front fence, and sat down on a green bench, beside a work-basket and a half-finished child's dress, and read the country paper which he had taken from the office as he came along.
After dinner Wood went out bare-headed, and leaned on the fence by the captain. His wife stood just inside the door, looking out at them.
The "bank case" was the great sensation of the town, and Wood was one of the main witnesses, for he had been taking the place of the absent cashier when the safe was broken open and rifled, to the widespread distress of depositors and stock-holders and the ruin of Hon. Edward Clark, the president. Wood had locked the safe on the afternoon before the eventful night, and had carried home the key with him, and he was to testify to the contents of the safe as he had left it.
"I guess they're glad they've got such a witness as John," said his wife to herself, as she looked at him fondly, "and I guess they think there won't be much doubt about what he says."
"Well, Captain," said Wood, jocosely, breaking a spear of grass to bits in his fingers, "I didn't know but you'd come to arrest me."
The captain calmly smiled as only a man can smile who has been accosted with the same humorous remark a dozen times a day for twenty years. He folded his paper carefully, put it in his pocket, took off his spectacles and put them in their silver case, took a red silk handkerchief from his hat, wiped his face, and put the handkerchief back. Then he said, shortly:
"That's what I have come for."
Wood, still leaning on the fence, looked at him, and said nothing.
"That's just what I've come for," said Captain Nourse. "I've got to arrest you; here's the warrant." And he handed it to him.
"What does this mean?" said Wood. "I can't make head nor tail of this."
"Well," said the captain, "the long and short is: these high-toned detectives that they've had down from town, seein' as our own force wasn't good enough, allow that the safe was unlocked with a key, in due form, and then the lock was broke afterward, to look as if it had been forced open. They've had the foreman of the safe-men down, too, and he says the same thing. Naturally, the argument is: there were only two keys in existence; one was safe with the president of the bank, and is about all he's got to show out of forty years' savings; the only other one you had: consequently it heaves it on to you."
"I see," said Wood. "I will go with you. Do you want to come into the house with me while I get my coat?"
"Well, I suppose I must keep you in sight—now, you know."
And they went into the house.
"Mary," said her husband, "the folks that lost by Clark when the bank broke have been at him until he's felt obliged to pitch on somebody, and he's pitched on me; and Captain Nourse has come to arrest me. I shall get bail before long."
She said nothing, and did not shed a tear till he was gone.
Wide wastes of salt marsh to the right, imprisoning the upland with a vain promise of infinite liberty, and, between low, distant sand-hills, a rim of sea. Stretches of pine woods behind, shutting in from the great outer world, and soon to darken into evening gloom. Ploughed fields and elm-dotted pastures to the left, and birch-lined roads leading by white farm-houses to the village, all speaking of cheer and freedom to the prosperous and the happy, but to the unfortunate and the indebted, of meshes invisible but strong as steel. But, before, no lonesome marshes, no desolate forest, no farm or village street, but the free blue ocean, rolling and tumbling still from the force of an expended gale.
In the open door-way of a little cottage, warmed by the soft slanting rays of the September sun, a rough man, burnt and freckled, was sitting, at his feet a net, engaged upon some handiwork which two little girls were watching. Close by him lay a setter, his nose between his paws. Occasionally the man raised his eyes to scan the sea.
"There's Joel," he said, "comin' in around the Bar. Not much air stirrin' now!"
Then he turned to his work again.
"First, you go so fash'," he said to the children, as he drew a thread; "then you go so fash'."
And as he worked he made a great show of labor, much to their diversion.
But the sight of Joel's broad white sail had not brought pleasant thoughts to his mind. For Joel had hailed him, off the Shoal, the afternoon before, and had obligingly offered to buy his fish, right there, and so let him go directly home, omitting to mention that sudden jump of price due to an empty market.
"Wonder what poor man he's took a dollar out of to-day! Well, I s'pose it's all right: those that's got money, want money."
"What be you, Eli—ganging on hooks?" said Aunt Patience, as she tip-toed into the kitchen behind him, from his wife's sick-room, and softly closed the door after her.
"No," said the elder of the children; "he's mending our stockings, and showing me how."
"Well, you do have a hard time, don't you?" said Aunt Patience, looking down over his shoulder; "to slave and tug and scrape to get a house over your head, and then to have to turn square 'round, and stay to home with a sick woman, and eat all into it with mortgages!"
"Oh, well," he said, "we'll fetch, somehow."
Aunt Patience went to the glass, and holding a black pin in her mouth, carefully tied the strings of her sun-bonnet.
"Anyway," she says, "you take it good-natured. Though if there is one thing that's harder than another, it is to be good-natured all the time, without being aggravating. I have known men that was so awfully good-natured that they was harder to live with than if they was cross!"
And without specifying further, she opened her plaid parasol, and stepped out at the porch.
* * * * *
Though, on this quiet afternoon of Saturday, the peace of the approaching Sabbath seemed already brooding over the little dwelling, peace had not lent her hand to the building of the home. Every foot of land, every shingle, every nail, had been wrung from the reluctant sea. Every voyage had contributed something. It was a great day when Eli was able to buy the land. Then, between two voyages, he dug a cellar and laid a foundation; then he saved enough to build the main part of the cottage and to finish the front room, lending his own hand to the work. Then he used to get letters at every port, telling of progress—how Lizzie, his wife, had adorned the front room with a bright nine-penny paper, of which a little piece was inclosed, which he kept as a sort of charm about him and exhibited to his friends; how she and her little brother had lathed the entry and the kitchen, and how they had set out blackberry vines from the woods. Then another letter told of a surprise awaiting him on his return; and, in due time, coming home as third mate from Hong Kong to a seaman's tumultuous welcome, he had found that a great, good-natured mason, with whose sick child his wife had watched, night after night, had appeared one day with lime and hair and sand, and in white raiment, and had plastered the entry and the kitchen, and finished a room upstairs.
And so, for years, at home and on the sea, at New York, and at Valparaiso, and in the Straits of Malacca, the little house and the little family within it had grown into the fibre of Eli's heart. Nothing had given him more delight than to meet, in the strange streets of Calcutta or before the Mosque of Omar, some practical Yankee from Stonington or Machias, and, whittling, to discuss with him, among the turbans of the Orient, the comparative value of shaved and of sawed shingles, or the economy of "Swedes-iron" nails, and to go over with him the estimates and plans which he had worked out in his head under all the constellations of the skies.
* * * * *
The supper things were cleared away. The children had said good-night and gone to bed, and Eli had been sitting for an hour by his wife's bedside. He had had to tax his patience and ingenuity heavily during the long months that she had lain there to entertain her for a little while in the evening, after his hard, wet day's work. He had been talking now of the coming week, when he was to serve upon the jury in the adjoining county-town.
"I cal'late I can come home about every night," he said, "and it'll be quite a change, at any rate."
"But you don't seem so cheerful about it as I counted you would be," said his wife. "Are you afraid you'll have to be on the bank-case?"
"Not much!" he answered. "No trouble 'n that case! Jury won't leave their seats. These city fellers'll find they've bit off more'n they can chew when they try to figure out John Wood done that. I only hope I'll have the luck to be on that case—all hands on the jury whisper together a minute, and then clear him, right on the spot, and then shake hands with him all 'round!"
"But something is worrying you," she said. "What is it? You have looked it since noon."
"Oh, nothin'," he replied—"only George Cahoon came up to-noon to say that he was goin' West next week, and that he would have to have that money he let me have a while ago. And where to get it—I don't know."
The court-room was packed. John Wood's trial was drawing to its close. Eli was on the jury. Some one had advised the prosecuting attorney, in a whisper, to challenge him, but he had shaken his head and said:
"Oh, I couldn't afford to challenge him for that; it would only leak out, and set the jury against me. I'll risk his standing out against this evidence."
The trial had been short. It had been shown how the little building of the bank had been entered. Skilled locksmiths from the city had testified that the safe was opened with a key, and that the lock was broken afterward, from the inside—plainly to raise the theory of a forcible entry by strangers.