THE LAST OF THE FORESTERS:
HUMORS ON THE BORDER;
A STORY OF THE
Old Virginia Frontier.
JOHN ESTEN COOKE
AUTHOR OF "THE VIRGINIA COMEDIANS," "LEATHER STALKING AND SILK," "ELLIE," "THE YOUTH OF JEFFERSON," INC.
CHAPTER I.—At Apple Orchard II.—Verty and his Companions III.—Introduces a Legal Porcupine IV.—How Verty thought, and played, and dreamed V.—Winchester VI.—In which Mr. Roundjacket flourishes his ruler VII.—In which Mr. Roundjacket reads his great Poem VIII.—How Verty shot a White Pigeon IX.—Hawking without a Hawk X.—Verty makes the acquaintance of Mr. Jinks XI.—How Verty discovered in himself a great fondness for Apples XII.—How Strephon talked with Chloe in an Arbor XIII.—Verty expresses a desire to imitate Mr. Jinks XIV.—The Thirteenth of October XV.—The Pedlar and the Necklace XVI.—Mr. Roundjacket makes himself agreeable XVII.—Mr. Jinks at Home XVIII.—How Miss Lavinia developed her Theories on Matrimony XIX.—Only a few tears XX.—How Miss Fanny slammed the door in Verty's face XXI.—In which Redbud suppresses her feelings, and behaves with decorum XXII.—How Miss Sallianna fell in love with Verty XXIII.—The Result XXIV.—Of the effect of Verty's violin-playing upon Mr. Rushton XXV.—A Young Gentleman just from William and Mary College XXVI.—The Necklace XXVII.—Philosophical XXVIII.—Consequences of Miss Sallianna's passion for Verty XXIX.—Interchange of Compliments XXX.—What occurred at Bousch's Tavern XXXI.—Mr. Jinks on Horseback going to take Revenge XXXII.—An old Bible XXXIII.—Fanny's views upon Heraldry XXXIV.—How Miss Sallianna alluded to vipers, and fell into hysterics XXXV.—How Miss Fanny made merry with the passion of Mr. Verty XXXVI.—Ralph makes love to Miss Sallianna XXXVII.—Verty states his private opinion of Miss Sallianna XXXVIII.—How Longears showed his gallantry in Fanny's service. XXXIX.—Up the Hill, and under the Chestnuts XL.—Under the Greenwood Tree XLI.—Use of Coats in a Storm XLII.—How Mr. Jinks requested Ralph to hold him XLIII.—Verty's heart goes away in a chariot XLIV.—In which the History returns to Apple Orchard XLV.—Hours in the October Woods XLVI.—The Happy Autumn Fields XLVII.—Days that are no more XLVIII.—The Harvest Moon XLIX.—Back to Winchester, where Editorial Iniquity is discoursed of L.—How Verty discovered a Portrait, and what ensued LI.—A Child and a Logician LII.—How Mr. Jinks determined to spare Verty LIII.—Projects of Revenge, involving Historical details LIV.—Exploits of Fodder LV.—Woman-traps laid by Mr. Jinks LVI.—Takes Verty to Mr. Roundjacket's LVII.—Contains an Extraordinary Disclosure LVIII.—How Mr. Rushton proved that all men were selfish, himself included LIX.—The Portrait smiles LX.—The Lodge in the Hills LXI.—Mrs. O'Calligan's Wooers LXII.—Verty Muses LXIII.—How Verty and Miss Lavinia ran a-tilt at each other, and who was overthrown LXIV.—The Rose of Glengary LXV.—Providence LXVI.—The Hour and the Necklace LXVII.—How St. Patrick encountered St. Michael, and what ensued LXVIII.—The End of the Chain LXIX.—Conclusion
Perhaps this story scarcely needs a Preface, but the child of the writer's invention comes to possess a place in his affections, and he is reluctant to send it forth into the wide world, without something in the nature of a letter of introduction, asking for it a kindly and charitable reception. It would be unjust to apply to this volume the tests which are brought to bear upon an elaborate romance. In his narrative of the adventures of Verty and Redbud, the writer has not endeavored to mount into the regions of tragedy, or chronicle the details of bloodshed on the part of heroes—but rather, to find in a picturesque land and period such traits of life and manners as are calculated to afford innocent entertainment. Written under the beautiful autumn skies of our beloved Virginia, the author would ask for the work only a mind in unison with the mood of the narrative—asking the reader to laugh, if he can, and, above all, to carry with him, if possible, the beautiful autumn sunshine, and the glories of the mountains.
Of the fine old border town, in which many of the scenes of the story are laid, much might be said, if it were here necessary, that Thomas Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron, and formerly half-owner of Virginia, sleeps there—that Morgan, the Ney of the Revolution, after all his battles, lies there, too, as though to show how nobles and commoners, lords and frontiersmen, monarchists and republicans, are equal in death—and that the last stones of old Fort Loudoun, built by Lieutenant, afterwards General, Washington, crumble into dust there, disappearing like a thousand other memorials of that noble period, and the giants who illustrated it:—this, and much more, might be said of Winchester, the old heart of the border, which felt every blow, and poured out her blood freely in behalf of the frontier. But of the land in which this old sentinel stands it is impossible to speak in terms of adequate justice. No words can describe the loveliness of its fair fields, and vainly has the present writer tried to catch the spirit of those splendid pictures, which the valley unrolls in autumn days. The morning splendors and magnificent sunsets—the noble river and blue battlements, forever escape him. It is in the midst of these scenes that he has endeavored to place a young hunter—a child of the woods—and to show how his wild nature was impressed by the new life and advancing civilization around him. The process of his mental development is the chief aim of the book.
Of the other personages of the story it is not necessary here to speak—they will relieve the author of that trouble; yet he cannot refrain from asking in advance a friendly consideration for Miss Redbud. He trusts that her simplicity and innocence will gain for her the hearts of all who admire those qualities; and that in consideration of her liking for her friend Verty, that these friends of her own will bestow a portion of their approbation upon the young woodman: pity him when he incurs the displeasure of Mr., Jinks: sympathise with him when he is overwhelmed by the reproaches of Mr. Roundjacket, and rejoice with him when, in accordance with the strictest rules of poetic justice, he is rewarded for his kindness and honesty by the possession of the two things which he coveted the most in the world.
RICHMOND, June, 1856.
THE LAST OF THE FORESTERS.
"If we shadows have offended, Think but this, (and all is mended,) That you have but slumbered here While these visions did appear; And this weak and idle theme No more yielding than a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend."
THE LAST OF THE FORESTERS,
AT APPLE ORCHARD.
On a bright October morning, when the last century was rapidly going down hill, and all old things began to give way to the new, the sun was shining in upon the breakfast room at Apple Orchard with a joyous splendor, which, perhaps, he had never before displayed in tarrying at that domain, or any other.
But, about Apple Orchard, which we have introduced to the reader in a manner somewhat abrupt and unceremonious. It was one of those old wooden houses, which dot our valleys in Virginia almost at every turn—contented with their absence from the gay flashing world of cities, and raising proudly their moss-covered roofs between the branches of wide spreading oaks, and haughty pines, and locusts, burdening the air with perfume. Apple Orchard had about it an indefinable air of moral happiness and domestic comfort. It seemed full of memories, too; and you would have said that innumerable weddings and christenings had taken place there, time out of mind, leaving their influence on the old homestead, on its very dormer-windows, and porch trellis-work, and clambering vines, and even on the flags before the door, worn by the feet of children and slow grandfathers.
Within, everything was quite as old-fashioned; over the mantel-piece a portrait, ruffled and powdered, hung; in the corner a huge clock ticked; by the window stood a japanned cabinet; and more than one china ornament, in deplorably grotesque taste, spoke of the olden time.
This is all we can say of the abode of Mr. Adam Summers, better known as Squire Summers, except that we may add, that Apple Orchard was situated not very far from Winchester, and thus looked upon the beauty of that lovely valley which poor Virginia exiles sigh for, often, far away from it in other lands.
The sun shines for some time upon the well-ordered room, wherein the breakfast-table is set forth, and in whose wide country fire-place a handful of twigs dispel with the flame which wraps them the cool bracing air of morning; then the door opens, and a lady of some thirty autumns, with long raven curls and severe aspect, enters, sailing in awful state, and heralded by music, from the rattling keys which agitate themselves in the basket on her arm, drowning the rustle of her dress. This is Miss Lavinia, the Squire's cousin, who has continued to live with him since the death of his wife, some years since.
The severe lady is superintending the movements of the brisk negro boy who attends to breakfast, when the Squire himself, a fat, rosy, good-humored old gentleman, in short breeches and ruffles, makes his appearance, rubbing his hands and laughing.
Then, behind him, rosier than her father, dewy like the morning, and angelic generally, behold our little heroine—Miss Redbud Summers.
Redbud—she received this pretty name when she was a baby, and as usually befalls Virginia maidens, never has been able to get rid of it. Redbud is a lovely little creature, whom it is a delight to look upon. She has a profusion of light, curling hair, a fine fresh, tender complexion, deep, mild eyes, and a mouth of that innocent and artless expression which characterizes childhood. She is about sixteen, and has just emerged from short dresses, by particular request and gracious permission from Miss Lavinia, who is major-domo and manager in general. Redbud is, therefore, clad in the morning-dress of young ladies of the period. Her sleeves are ornamented with fluttering ribbons, and her hair is brushed back in the fashion now styled Pompadour, but quite unpowdered. Her ears, for even heroines are possessed of them, are weighed down by heavy golden ear-rings, and a cloud of plain lace runs round her neck, and gently rubs her throat. Pensiveness and laughter chase each other over her fresh little face, like floating clouds;—she is a true child of the South.
The Squire sits down in the large chair, in the corner of the fire-place, and takes Miss Redbud on his knee. Then commences a prattle on the part of the young lady, interrupted by much laughter from the old gentleman; then the Squire swears profanely at indolent Caesar, his spaniel, who, lying on the rug before the fire, stretches his hind feet sleepily, and so makes an assault upon his master's stockings; then breakfast is ready, and grace being devoutly said, they all sit down, and do that justice to the meal which Virginians never omit. Redbud is the soul of the room, however, and even insists upon a romp with the old gentleman, as he goes forth to mount his horse.
The Squire thus disappears toward the barn. Miss Lavinia superintends the household operation of "washing up the tea things," and Redbud puts on her sun-bonnet, and goes to take a stroll.
VERTY AND HIS COMPANIONS.
Redbud is sauntering over the sward, and listening to the wind in the beautiful fallwoods, when, from those woods which stretch toward the West, emerges a figure, which immediately rivets her attention. It is a young man of about eighteen, mounted on a small, shaggy-coated horse, and clad in a wild forest costume, which defines clearly the outline of a person, slender, vigorous, and graceful. Over his brown forehead and smiling face, droops a wide hat, of soft white fur, below which, a mass of dark chestnut hair nearly covers his shoulders with its exuberant and tangled curls. Verty—for this is Verty the son, or adopted son of the old Indian woman, living in the pine hills to the west—Verty carries in one hand a strange weapon, nothing less than a long cedar bow, and a sheaf of arrows; in the other, which also holds his rein, the antlers of a stag, huge and branching in all directions; around him circle two noble deer-hounds. Verty strongly resembles an amiable wild cat; and when he sees Redbud, smiles more than ever.
The girl runs toward him, laughing gaily—
"Oh, Verty!" she says, "indeed I am very glad to see you. Where have you been?"
With which, she gives him her hand.
"At home," says Verty, with his bright, but dreamy smile; "I've got the antlers for the Squire, at last."
And Verty throws the rein on the neck of his little horse, who stands perfectly still, and leaps lightly to the ground. He stands for a moment gazing at Redbud with his dreamy and smiling eyes, silent in the sunshine like a shadow, then he pushes back his tangled chestnut curls, and laughs.
"I had a long chase," he says.
"For the deer?"
"Yes," says Verty, "and there are his horns. Oh, how bright you look."
Redbud returns his smile.
"I think I didn't live before I knew you; but that was long years ago," says Verty, "a very long time ago."
And leaning for a moment on his bow, the forest boy gazes with his singular dreamy look on Redbud, who smiles.
"Papa has gone out riding," she says, "but come, let's go in, and put up the antlers."
Verty assents readily to this, and speaking to his horse in some outlandish tongue, leaves him standing there, and accompanies Redbud toward the house.
"What was that you said?" she asked; "I didn't understand."
"Because you don't know Delaware," said Verty, smiling.
"Was it Indian?"
"Yes, indeed. I said to Cloud—that's his name you know—I told him to crouch; that means, in hunter language, keep still."
"Is it? But I like the English better, because you don't speak Delaware, my own tongue; you speak English."
"Oh, yes!" Redbud says.
"I don't complain of your not speaking Delaware," says Verty, "for how could you, unless ma mere had taught you? She is the only Indian about here."
"You say ma mere—that means, 'my mother,' don't it?"
"Yes; oh, she knows French, too. You know the Indian and the French—I wonder who the French are!—used to live and fight together."
Verty nods, and replies—"In the old days, a long, long time ago."
Redbud looks down for a moment, as they walk on toward the house, perusing the pebbles. Then she raises her head and says—
"How did you ever come to be the old Indian woman's son, Verty?"
Verty's dreamy eyes fall from the sky, where a circling hawk had attracted his attention, to Redbud's face.
"Anan?" he says.
Redbud greets this exhibition of inattention with a little pout, which is far from unbecoming, and too frank to conceal anything, says, smiling—
"You are not listening to me. Indeed, I think I am worth more attention than that hawk."
"Oh yes, indeed you are!" cries Verty; "but how can you keep a poor Indian boy from his hunting? How that fellow darts now! Look what bright claws he has! Hey, come a little nearer, and you are mine!"
Verty laughs, and takes an arrow.
Redbud lays her hand upon his arm. Verty looks at the hand, then at her bright face, laughing.
"What's the matter?" he says.
"Don't kill the poor hawk."
"Poor hawk? poor chickens!" says Verty, smiling. "Who could find fault with me for killing him? Nothing to my deer! You ought to have seen the chase, Redbud; how I ran him; how he doubled and turned; and when I had him at bay, with his eyes glaring, his head drooping, how I plunged my knife into his throat, and made the blood spout out gurgling!"
Verty smiled cheerfully at this recollection of past enjoyment, and added, with his dreamy look—
"But I know what I like better even than hunting. I like to come and see you, and learn my lessons, and listen to your talking and singing, Redbud."
By this time they had reached the house, and they saw Miss Lavinia sitting at the window. Verty took off his white fur hat, and made the lady a low bow, and said—
"How do you do, Miss Lavinia?"
"Thank you, Verty," said that lady, solemnly, "very well. What have you there?"
"Some deer horns, ma'am."
"Oh, the Squire said he wanted them," Verty replied.
"Hum," said Miss Lavinia, going on with her occupation of sewing.
Verty made no reply to this latter observation, but busied himself fixing up the antlers in the passage. Having arranged them to his satisfaction, he stated to Redbud that he thought the Squire would like them; and then preferred a request that she would get her Bible, and read some to him. To this, Redbud, with a pleasant look in her kind eyes, gave a delighted assent, and, running up stairs, soon returned, and both having seated themselves, began reading aloud to the boy.
Miss Lavinia watched this proceeding with an elderly smile; but Verty's presence in some way did not seem agreeable to her,
Redbud closed the book, and said:—
"That is beautiful, isn't it, Verty?"
"Yes," replied the boy, "and I would rather hear it than any other book. I'm coming down every day to make you read for me."
"Why, you can read,"
"So I can, but I like to hear it," said Verty; "so I am coming."
Redbud shook her head with a sorrowful expression.
"I don't think I can," she said. "I'm so sorry!"
"Don't think you can!"
"Not read the Bible to me?" Verty said, smiling.
"I'm going away."
"Going away!—you going away? Oh no! Redbud, you mus'nt; for you know I can't possibly get along without you, because I like you so much."
"Hum!" said Miss Lavinia, who seemed to be growing more and more dissatisfied with the interview.
"I must go, though," Redbud said, sorrowfully, "I can't stay."
"Go where?" asked the boy. "I'll follow you. Where are you going?"
"Stop, Verty!" here interposed Miss Lavinia, with dignity. "It is not a matter of importance where Redbud is going—and you must not follow her, as you promise. You must not ask her where she is going."
Verty gazed at Miss Lavinia with profound astonishment, and was about to reply, when a voice was heard at the door, and all turned round.
INTRODUCES A LEGAL PORCUPINE.
This was the voice of the Squire. It came just in time to create a diversion.
"Why, there are my antlers!" cried the good-humored Squire. "Look, Rushton! did you ever see finer!"
"Often," growled a voice in reply; and the Squire and his companion entered.
Mr. Rushton was a rough-looking gentleman of fifty or fifty-five, with a grim expression about the compressed lips, and heavy grey eyebrows, from beneath which rolled two dark piercing eyes. His hair was slowly retreating, and thought or care had furrowed his broad brow from temple to temple. He was clad with the utmost rudeness, and resembled nothing so much as a half-civilized bear.
He nodded curtly to Miss Lavinia, and took no notice whatever of either Redbud or Verty.
"Why, thank for the antlers, Verty!" said the good-humored Squire. "I saw Cloud, and knew you were here, but I had no idea that you had brought me the horns."
And the Squire extended his hand to Verty, who took it with his old dreamy smile.
"I could have brought a common pair any day," he said, "but I promised the best, and there they are. Oh, Squire!" said Verty, smiling, "what a chase I had! and what a fight with him! He nearly had me under him once, and the antlers you see there came near ploughing up my breast and letting out my heart's blood! They just grazed—he tried to bite me—but I had him by the horn with my left hand, and before a swallow could flap his wings, my knife was in his throat!"
As Verty spoke, his eyes became brighter, his lips more smiling, and pushing his tangled curls back from his face, he bestowed his amiable glances even upon Miss Lavinia.
Mr. Rushton scowled.
"What do you mean by saying this barbarous fight was pleasant?" he asked.
Verty smiled again:—he seemed to know Mr. Rushton well.
"It is my nature to love it," he said, "just as white people love books and papers."
"What do you mean by white people?" growled Mr. Rushton, "you know very well that you are white."
"I?" said Verty.
"Yes, sir; no affectation: look in that mirror."
"What do you see!"
"An Indian!" said Verty, laughing, and raising his shaggy head.
"You see nothing of the sort," said Mr. Rushton, with asperity; "you see simply a white boy tanned—an Anglo-Saxon turned into mahogany by wind and sun. There, sir! there," added Mr. Rushton, seeing Verty was about to reply, "don't argue the question with me. I am sick of arguing, and won't indulge you. Take this fine little lady here, and go and make love to her—the Squire and myself have business."
Then Mr. Rushton scowled upon the company generally, and pushed them out of the room, so to speak, with his eyes; even Miss Lavinia was forced to obey, and disappeared.
Five minutes afterwards, Verty might have been seen taking his way back sadly, on his little animal, toward the hills, while Redbud was undergoing that most disagreeable of all ceremonies, a "lecture," which lecture was delivered by Miss Lavinia, in her own private apartment, with a solemnity, which caused Redbud to class herself with the greatest criminals which the world had ever produced. Miss Lavinia proved, conclusively, that all persons of the male sex were uninterruptedly engaged in endeavoring to espouse all persons of the female sex, and that the world, generally, was a vale of tears, of scheming and deception. Having elevated and cheered Redbud's spirits, by this profound philosophy, and further enlivened her by declaring that she must leave Apple Orchard on the morrow, Miss Lavinia descended.
She entered the dining-room where the Squire and Mr. Rushton were talking, and took her seat near the window. Mr. Rushton immediately became dumb.
Miss Lavinia said it was a fine day.
Mr. Rushton growled.
Miss Lavinia made one or two additional attempts to direct the conversation on general topics; but the surly guest strangled her incipient attempts with pitiless indifference. Finally, Miss Lavinia sailed out of the room with stately dignity, and disappeared.
Mr. Rushton looked after her, smiling grimly.
"The fact is, Squire," he said, "that your cousin, Miss Lavinia, is a true woman. Hang it, can't a man come and talk a little business with a neighbor without being intruded upon? Outrageous!"
The Squire seemed to regard his guest's surliness with as little attention as Verty had displayed.
"A true woman in other ways is she, Rushton," he said, smiling—"I grant you she is a little severe and prim, and fond of taking her dignified portion of every conversation; but she's a faithful and high-toned woman. You have seen too much character in your Courts to judge of the kernel from the husk."
"The devil take the Courts! I'm sick of 'em," said Mr. Rushton, with great fervor, "and as to character, there is no character anywhere, or in anybody." Having enunciated which proposition, Mr. Rushton rose to go.
The Squire rose too, holding him by the button.
"I'd like to argue that point with you," he said, laughing. "Come now, tell me how—"
"I won't—I refuse—I will not argue."
"Stay to dinner, then, and I promise not to wrangle."
"No—I never stay to dinner! A pretty figure my docket would cut, if I staid to your dinners and discussions! You've got the deeds I came to see you about; my business is done; I'm going back."
"To that beautiful town of Winchester!" laughed the Squire, following his grim guest out.
"Abominable place!" growled Rushton; "and that Roundjacket is positively growing insupportable. I believe that fellow has a mania on the subject of marrying, and he runs me nearly crazy. Then, there's his confounded poem, which he persists in reading to himself nearly aloud."
"His poem?" asked the Squire.
"Yes, sir! his abominable, trashy, revolting poem, called—'The Rise and Progress of the Certiorari.' The consequence of all which, is—here's my horse; find the martingale, you black cub!—the consequence is, that my office work is not done as it should be, and I shall be compelled to get another clerk in addition to that villain, Roundjacket."
"Why not exchange with some one?"
"Roundjacket going elsewhere—to Hall's, say."
Mr. Rushton scowled.
"Because he is no common clerk; would not live elsewhere, and because I can't get along without him," he said. "Hang him, he's the greatest pest in Christendom!"
"I have heard of a young gentleman called Jinks," the Squire said, with a sly laugh, "what say you to him for number two?"
"Burn Jinks!" cried Mr. Rushton, "he's a jack-a-napes, and if he comes within the reach of my cane, I'll break it over his rascally shoulders! I'd rather have this Indian cub who has just left us."
"That's all very well; but you can't get him."
"Can't get him?" asked Rushton, grimly, as he got into the saddle.
"He would never consent to coop himself up in Winchester. True, my little Redbud, who is a great friend of his, has taught him to read, and even to write in a measure, but he's a true Indian, whether such by descent or not. He would die of the confinement. Remember what I said about character just now, and acknowledge the blunder you committed when you took the position that there was no such thing."
Rushton growled, and bent his brows on the laughing Squire.
"I said," he replied, grimly, "that there was no character to be found anywhere; and you may take it as you choose, you'll try and extract an argument out of it either way. I don't mean to take part in it. As to this cub of the woods, you say I couldn't make anything of him—see if I don't! You have provoked me into the thing—defied me—and I accept the challenge."
"What! you will capture Verty, that roving bird?"
"Yes; and make of this roving swallow another bird called a secretary. I suppose you've read some natural history, and know there's such a feathered thing."
"Very well," said Mr. Rushton, kicking his horse, and cramming his cocked hat down on his forehead. "I'll show you how little you know of human nature and character. I'll take this wild Indian boy, brought up in the woods, and as free and careless as a deer, and in six months I'll change him into a canting, crop-eared, whining pen-machine, with quills behind his ears, and a back always bending humbly. I'll take this honest barbarian and make a civilized and enlightened individual out of him—that is to say, I'll change him into a rascal and a hypocrite."
With which misanthropic words Mr. Rushton nodded in a surly way to the smiling Squire, and took his way down the road toward Winchester.
"Well, well," said the old gentleman, looking after him, "Rushton seems to be growing rougher than ever;—what a pity that so noble a heart should have such a husk. His was a hard trial, however—we should not be surprised. Rough-headed fellow! he thinks he can do everything with that resolute will of his;—but the idea of chaining to a writing-desk that wild boy, Verty!"
And the old gentleman re-entered the house smiling cheerfully, as was his wont.
HOW VERTY THOUGHT, AND PLAYED, AND DREAMED.
Verty took his weary way westward through the splendid autumn woods, gazing with his dreamy Indian expression on the variegated leaves, listening to the far cries of birds, and speaking at times to Longears and Wolf, his two deer hounds.
Then his head would droop—a dim smile would glimmer upon his lips, and his long, curling hair would fall in disordered masses around his burnt face, almost hiding it from view. At such moments Verty dreamed—the real world had disappeared—perforce of that imagination given him by heaven, he entered calm and happy into the boundless universe of reverie and fancy.
For a time he would go along thus, his arms hanging down, his head bent upon his breast, his body swinging from side to side with every movement of his shaggy little horse. Then he would rouse himself, and perhaps fit an arrow to his bow, and aim at some bird, or some wild turkey disappearing in the glades. Happy birds! the arrow never left the string. Verty's hand would fall—the bow would drop at his side—he would fix his eyes upon the autumn woods, and smile.
He went on thus through the glades of the forest, over the hills, and along the banks of little streams towards the west. The autumn reigned in golden splendor—and not alone in gold: in purple, and azure and crimson, with a wealth of slowly falling leaves which soon would pass away, the poor perished glories of the fair golden year. The wild geese flying South sent their faint carol from the clouds—the swamp sparrow twittered, and the still copse was stirred by the silent croak of some wandering wild turkey, or the far forest made most musical with that sound which the master of Wharncliffe Lodge delighted in, the "belling of the hart."
Verty drank in these forest sounds, and the full glories of the Autumn, rapturously—while he looked and listened, all his sadness passed away, and his wild Indian nature made him happy there, in the heart of the woods. Ever and anon, however, the events of the morning would occur to him, sweeping over his upraised brow like the shadow of a cloud, and dimming the brightness of his dreamy smiles.
"How red the maples grow!" he said, "they are burning away—and the dogwood! Poor oaks! I'm sorry for you; you are going, and I think you look like kings—going? That was what Redbud said! She was going away—going away!"
And a sigh issued from Verty's lips, which betrayed the importance he attached to Redbud's departure. Then his head drooped; and he murmured—"going away!"
Poor Verty! It does not require any very profound acuteness to divine your condition. You are one more added to the list which Leander heads in the old Grecian fable. Your speech betrays you.
"Wild geese! They are early this year. Ho, there! good companions that you are, come down and let me shoot at you. 'Crake! crake!' that is all you say—away up there in the white clouds, laughing at me, I suppose, and making fun of my bow. Listen! they are answering me from the clouds! I wish I could fly up in the clouds! Travelling, as I live, away off to the south!—leaving us to go and join their fellows. They are wild birds; I've shot many of em'. Hark, Longears! see up there! There they go—'crake! crake! crake!' I can see their long necks stretched out toward the South—they are almost gone—going away from me—like Redbud!"
And Verty sighed piteously.
"I wonder what makes my breast feel as if there was a weight upon it," he said, "I'll ask ma mere."
And putting spurs to Cloud, Verty scoured through the pine hills, and in an hour drew near his home.
It was one of those mountain huts which are frequently met with to this day in our Virginian uplands. Embowered in pines, it rather resembled, seen from a distance, the eyrie of some huge eagle, than the abode of human beings, though eagles' eyries are not generally roofed in, with poles and clapboards.
The hut was very small, but not as low pitched as usual, and the place had about it an air of wild comfort, which made it a pleasant object in the otherwise unbroken landscape of pines, and huge rocks, and browling streams which stretched around it. The door was approached by a path which wound up the hill; and a small shed behind a clump of firs was visible—apparently the residence of Cloud.
Verty carefully attended to his horse, and then ascended the hill toward the hut, from whose chimney a delicate smoke ascended.
He was met at the door by an old Indian woman, who seemed to have reached the age of three-score at least. She was clad in the ordinary linsey of the period; and the long hair falling upon her shoulders was scarcely touched with grey. She wore beads and other simple trinkets, and the expression of her countenance was very calm and collected.
Verty approached her with a bright smile, and taking her hand in his own, placed it upon his head; then saying something in the Delaware tongue, he entered the hut.
Within, the mountain dwelling was as wild as without. From the brown beams overhead were suspended strings of onions, tin vessels, bridles, dried venison, and a thousand other things, mingled in inextricable confusion. In the wide fire-place, which was supplied with stones for and-irons, a portion of the lately slaughtered deer was broiling on an impromptu and primitive species of gridiron, which would have disgusted Soyer and astonished Vatel. This had caused the smoke; and as Verty entered, the old woman had been turning the slices. Longears and Wolf were already stretched before the fire, their eyes fixed upon the venison with admiring attention and profound seriousness.
In ten minutes the venison was done, and Verty and his mother ate in silence—Verty not forgetting his dogs, who growled and contended for the pieces, and then slept upon the rude pine floor.
The boy then went to some shelves in the corner, just by the narrow flight of steps which led to the old woman's room above, and taking down a long Indian pipe, filled it with tobacco, and lit it. This having been accomplished, he took his seat on a sort of wicker-work bench, just outside of the door, and began to smoke with all the gravity and seriousness of a Sachem of the Delawares.
In a moment he felt the hand of the old woman on his shoulder.
"Verty has been asleep and dreamed something," she said, calmly, in the Delaware tongue.
"No, ma mere, Verty has been wide awake," said the boy, in the same language.
"Then the winds have been talking to him."
"Hum," said Verty.
"Something is on my son's mind, and he has tied his heart up—mal!"
"No, no," said Verty, "I assure you, ma mere, I'm quite happy."
And having made this declaration, Verty stopped smoking and sighed.
The old woman heard this sigh, slight as it was, with the quick ear of the Indian, and was evidently troubled by it.
"Has Verty seen the dove?" she said.
The young man nodded with a smile.
"Did they laugh?"
"Did he come away singing?"
Verty hesitated, then said, with an overshadowed brow—
"No, no, ma mere—I really believe he did not."
The old woman pressed his hand between her own.
"Speak," she said, "the dove is not sick?"
"No; but she is going away," he said, "and Miss Lavinia would not tell me where. What a hawk she is—oh! she shall not harm my dove!"
And Verty betook himself to gazing with shadowy eyes upon the sky. The old Indian was silent for some time. Then she said—
"Trust in the Good Spirit, my son. We are not enough for ourselves. We think we are strong and mighty, and can do everything; but a wind blows us away. Listen, there is the wind in the pines, and look how it is scattering the leaves. Men are like leaves—the breath of the Great Spirit is the wind which scatters them."
And the old Indian woman gazed with much affection on the boy.
"What you say is worthy to be written on bark, mother," he said, returning her affectionate glance; "the Great Spirit holds everything in the hollow of his hand, and we are nothing. Going away!" added Verty after a pause—"Going away!"
And he sighed.
"What did my son say?" asked the old woman.
"Nothing, ma mere. Ah le bon temp que ce triste jour!" he murmured.
The old woman's head drooped.
"My son does not speak with a straight tongue," she said; "his words are crooked."
"Non non" said Verty, smiling; "but I am a little unwell, ma mere. All the way coming along, I felt my breast weighed down—my heart was oppressed. Look! even Longears knows I'm not the Verty of the old time."
Longears, who was standing at the door in a contemplative attitude, fancied that his master called him, and, coming up, licked Verty's hand affectionately.
"Good Longears!" said. Verty, caressing him, "lie down at my feet."
Longears obeyed with much dignity, and was soon basking in the sunlight before the door.
"Now, ma mere" Verty said, with his habitual smile, "we have been calling for the clouds to come up, and shut out the sun; let us call for the sunlight next. You know I am your Verty, and every day as I grow, I get able to do more for you. I shall, some day, make a number of pistoles—who knows?—and then think how much I could buy for you. Good mother!—happy Verty!"
And taking the old woman's hand, Verty kissed it.
Then, leaning back, he reached through the window, and took down a rude violin, and began to play an old air of the border, accompanying the tune with a low chant, in the Indian fashion.
The old woman looked at him for some moments with great affection, a sad smile lighting up her aged features; then saying in a low tone, as if to herself, "good Verty!" went into the house.
Verty played for some time longer. Tired at last of his violin, he laid it down, and with his eyes fixed upon the sand at his feet, began to dream. As he mused, his large twilight eyes slowly drooped their long lashes, which rested finally on the ruddy cheek.
For some moments, Verty amused himself tracing figures on the sand near Longears' nose, causing that intelligent animal to growl in his sleep, and fight imaginary foes with his paws.
From the window, the old Indian woman watched the young man with great affection, her lips moving, and her eyes, at times, raised toward the sky.
Verty reclined more and more in his wicker seat; the scenes and images of the day were mingled together in his mind, and became a dim wrack of cloud; his tangled hair shaded his face from the sun; and, overcome by weariness, the boy sank back, smiling even in his sleep. As he did so, the long-stemmed Indian pipe fell from his hand across Longears' nose, half covering the letters he had traced with it on the sand.
Those letters were, in rude tracing:
And to these Verty had added, with melancholy and listless smiles, the further letters:
Unfortunately he was compelled to leave the remainder of the sentence unwritten.
Having followed the Indian boy from Apple Orchard to his lodge in the wilderness, and shown how he passed many of his hours in the hills, it is proper now that we should mount—in a figurative and metaphorical sense—behind Mr. Rushton, and see whither that gentleman also bends his steps. We shall thus arrive at the real theatre of our brief history—we mean at the old town of Winchester,
Every body knows, or ought to know, all about Winchester. It is not a borough of yesterday, where the hum of commerce and the echo of the pioneer's axe mingle together, as in many of our great western cities of the Arabian Nights:—Winchester has recollections about it, and holds to the past—to its Indian combats, and strange experiences of clashing arms, and border revelries, and various scenes of wild frontier life, which live for us now only in the chronicles;—to its memories of Colonel Washington, the noble young soldier, who afterwards became, as we all have heard, so distinguished upon a larger field;—to Thomas Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron, who came there often when the deer and the wolves of his vast possessions would permit him—and to Daniel Morgan, who emptied many fair cups on Loudoun-street, and one day passed, with trumpets sounding, going to Quebec; again on his way to debate questions of importance with Tarleton, at the Cowpens—lastly, to crush the Tory rising on Lost River, about the time when "it pleased heaven so to order things, that the large army of Cornwallis should be entrapped and captured at Yorktown, in Virginia," as the chronicles inform us. All these men of the past has Winchester looked upon, and many more—on strange, wild pictures, and on many histories. For you walk on history there and drink the chronicle:—Washington's old fort is crumbling, but still visible;—Morgan, the strong soldier, sleeps there, after all his storms;—and grim, eccentric Fairfax lies where he fell, on hearing of the Yorktown ending.
When we enter the town with Mr. Rushton, these men are elsewhere, it is true; but none the less present. They are there forever.
The lawyer's office was on Loudoun-street, and cantering briskly along the rough highway past the fort, he soon reached the rack before his door, and dismounted. The rack was crooked and quailed—the house was old and dingy—the very knocker on the door frowned grimly at the wayfarer who paused before it. One would have said that Mr. Rushton's manners, house, and general surrounding, would have repelled the community, and made him a thousand enemies, so grim were they. Not at all. No lawyer in the town was nearly so popular—none had as much business of importance entrusted to them. It had happened in his case as in a thousand others, which every one's experience must have furnished. His neighbors had discovered that his rude and surly manners concealed a powerful intellect and an excellent heart—and even this rudeness had grown interesting from the cynical dry humor not unfrequently mingled with it.
A huge table, littered with old dingy volumes, and with dusty rolls of papers tied with red tape—a tall desk, with a faded and ink-bespattered covering of brown cloth—a lofty set of "pigeon holes," nearly filled with documents of every description—and a set of chairs and stools in every state of dilapidation:—there was the ante-room of Joseph Rushton, Esq., Attorney-at-Law and Solicitor in Chancery.
No window panes ever had been seen so dirty as those which graced the windows—no rag-carpet so nearly resolved into its component elements, had ever decorated human dwelling—and perhaps no legal den, from the commencement of the world to that time, had ever diffused so unmistakeable an odor of parchment, law-calf, and ancient dust!
The apartment within the first was much smaller, and here Mr. Rushton held his more confidential interviews. Few persons entered it, however; and even Roundjacket would tap at the door before entering, and generally content himself with thrusting his head through the opening, and then retiring. Such was the lawyer's office.
IN WHICH MR. ROUNDJACKET FLOURISHES HIS RULER.
Roundjacket was Mr. Rushton's clerk—his "ancient clerk"—though the gentleman was not old. The reader has heard the lawyer say as much. Behold Mr. Roundjacket now, with his short, crisp hair, his cynical, yet authoritative face, his tight pantaloons, and his spotless shirt bosom—seated on his tall stool, and gesticulating persuasively. He brandishes a ruler in his right hand, his left holds a bundle of manuscript; he recites.
Mr. Rushton's entrance does not attract his attention; he continues to brandish his ruler and to repeat his poem.
Mr. Rushton bestows an irate kick upon the leg of the stool.
"Hey!" says Roundjacket, turning his head.
"You are very busy, I see," replies Mr. Rushton, with his cynical smile, "don't let me interrupt you. No doubt perusing that great poem of yours, on the 'Certiorari.'"
"Yes," says Mr. Roundjacket, running his fingers through his hair, and causing it to stand erect, "I pride myself on this passage. Just listen"—
"I'd see your poem sunk first; yes, sir! burned—exterminated. I would see it in Chancery!" cried the lawyer, in the height of his wrath.
Mr. Roundjacket's hand fell.
"No—no!" he said, with a reproachful expression, "you wouldn't be so cruel, Judge!"
"I would!" said Mr. Rushton, with a snap.
"Are you in earnest?"
"I am, sir."
"You distinctly state that you would see my poem consigned to—"
"Before you would listen to it?"
Roundjacket gazed for a moment at the lawyer in a way which expressed volumes. Then slowly rubbing his nose:
"Well, sir, you are more unchristian than I supposed—but go on! Some day you'll write a poem, and I'll handle it without gloves. Don't expect any mercy."
"When I write any of your versified stuff, called poetry, I give you leave to handle it in any way you choose," said the Judge, as we may call him, following the example of Mr. Roundjacket. "Poetry is a thing for school-boys and bread and butter Misses, who fancy themselves in love—not for men!"
"There you are," he said, "with your heretical doctrines—doctrines which are astonishing in a man of your sense. You prefer law to poetry—divine poetry!" cried Roundjacket, flourishing his ruler.
"Roundjacket," said Mr. Rushton.
"Don't be a ninny."
"No danger. I'm turning into a bear from association with you."
"A bear, sir?"
"Yes sir—a bear, sir!"
"Do you consider me a bear, do you?"
"An unmitigated grizzly bear, sir, of the most ferocious and uncivilized description," replied Roundjacket, with great candor.
"Very well, sir," replied Mr. Rushton, who seemed to relish these pleasantries of Mr. Roundjacket—"very well, sir, turn into a bear as much as you choose; but, for heaven sake, don't become a poetical bear."
"There it is again!"
"You are finding fault with the harmless amusement of my leisure hours. It's not very interesting here, if your Honor would please to remember. I have no society—none, sir. What can I do but compose?"
"You want company?"
"I want a wife, sir; I acknowledge it freely."
Mr. Rushton smiled grimly.
"Why don't you get one, then?" he said; "but this is not what I meant. I'm going to give you a companion."
"An assistant, sir."
"Very well," said Mr. Roundjacket, "I shall then have more time to devote to my epic."
"Epic, the devil! You'll be obliged to do more than ever."
"Yes—you will have to teach the new comer office duty."
"Who is he?"
"The Indian boy Verty—you have seen him, I know."
Mr. Roundjacket uttered a prolonged whistle.
"There!" cried Mr. Rushton—"you are incredulous, like everybody!"
"Yes, I am!"
"You doubt my ability to capture him?"
"Well, sir! we'll see. I have never yet given up what I have once undertaken. Smile as you please, you moon-struck poet; and if you want an incident to put in your trashy law-epic, new nib your pen to introduce a wild Indian. Stop! I'm tired talking! Don't answer me. If any one calls, say I'm gone away, or dead, or anything. Get that old desk ready for the Indian. He will be here on Monday."
And Mr. Rushton passed into his sanctum, and slammed the door after him.
On the next day the lawyer set out toward the pine hills. On the road he met Verty strolling along disconsolately. A few words passed between them, and they continued their way in company toward the old Indian woman's hut. Mr. Rushton returned to Winchester at twilight.
On Monday morning Verty rode into the town, and dismounted at the door of the law office.
IN WHICH ROUNDJACKET READS HIS GREAT POEM.
Three days after the events which we have just related, or rather after the introduction of the reader to the three localities with which our brief history will concern itself, Mr. Roundjacket was sitting on his high stool in one corner of the office, preparing the papers in a friendly suit in Chancery.
It was about ten o'clock in the morning, and Verty, who rode home every evening, had just come in and had taken his seat at the desk in the corner appropriated to him, beneath the small dingy window, looking out upon the yard. Longears was stretched at his feet.
Verty's face was more dreamy and thoughtful than ever. The dim smile still dwelt upon his lips, and though his countenance had as much of the forest Indian character as ever, there was a languor about the drooping eyelids, with their long lashes, and a stoop in the usually erect neck, which betrayed the existence in the boy's mind of some ever-present sadness. His costume was just what it had always been—moccasins, deerskin leggings, a shaggy forest paletot, and fringed leather gauntlets, which now lay by him near his white fur hat. He had not changed by becoming a lawyer's clerk; but, on the contrary, grown more wild, apparently from the very contrast between his forest appearance and the dingy office.
At times Verty would stretch out his hand, and, taking his cedar bow from a chair, bend it thoughtfully, and utter the low Indian murmur, which has been represented by the letters, "ough" so unsuccessfully; then he would allow the weapon to slide from his nerveless hand—his head would droop—the dim dreamy smile would light up his features for an instant, and he would lean upon the desk and ponder—his countenance half enveloped by the long tangled chestnut hair which still flowed upon his shoulders in wild luxuriance.
Tired of thinking at last, Verty sighed, and took up his pen. For some moments it glided slowly over the law parchment, and the contortions of Verty's face betrayed the terrible effort necessary for him to make in copying. Then his eyes no longer sought the paper to be transcribed—his face lit up for a moment, and his pen moved faster. Finally, he rose erect, and surveyed the sheet, which he had been writing upon, with great interest.
Just beneath the words, "messuages, tenements, water courses, and all that doth thereunto pertain," Verty had made a charming sketch of a wild-fowl, with expanded wings, falling from the empyrean, with an arrow through his breast.
For some moments, the drawing afforded Verty much gratification: it finally, however, lost its interest, and the boy leaned his head upon his hand, and gazed through the window upon the waving trees which overshadowed the rear of the building.
Then his eyes slowly drooped—the dusky lashes moved tremulously—the head declined—and in five minutes Verty was asleep, resting his forehead on his folded arms.
The office was disturbed, for the next quarter of an hour, by no sound but the rapid scratching of Mr. Roundjacket's pen, which glided over the paper at a tremendous rate, and did terrible execution among plaintiffs, executors, administrators, and assigns.
At the end of that time, Mr. Roundjacket raised his head, uttered a prolonged whistle, and, wiping his pen upon the sleeve of his old office coat, which bore a striking resemblance to the gaberdine of a beggar, addressed himself to speech—
"Now, that was not wanted till to-morrow evening," he observed, confidentially, to the pigeon-holes; "but, to-morrow evening, I may be paying my addresses to some angelic lady, or be engaged upon my epic. I have done well; it is true philosophy to 'make assurance doubly sure, and to take a bond of fate.' Now for a revisal of that last stanza; and, I think, I'll read it aloud to that young cub, as Rushton calls him. No doubt his forest character, primitive and poetical, will cause him to appreciate its beauties. Hallo!"
Verty replied by a snore.
"What, asleep!" cried Mr. Roundjacket. "Now, you young sluggard! do you mean to say that the atmosphere of this mansion, this temple of Chancery, is not enlivening, sprightly, and anti-slumbrous? Ho, there! do you presume to fall asleep over that beautiful and entertaining conveyance, you young savage! Wake up!"
And Mr. Roundjacket hurled his ruler at Verty's desk, with the accuracy of an experienced hand. The ruler came down with a crash, and aroused the sleeper. Longears also started erect, looked around, and then laid down again.
"Ah!" murmured Verty, who woke like a bird upon the boughs, "what was that, ma mere?"
"There's his outlandish lingo—Delaware or Shawnee, I have no doubt!" said Mr. Roundjacket.
Verty rose erect.
"Was I asleep? he said, smiling.
"I think you were."
"This place makes me go to sleep," said the boy. "How dull it is!"
"Dull! do you call this office dull? No, sir, as long as I am here this place is sprightly and even poetical."
"Anan?" said Verty.
"Which means, in Iroquois or some barbarous language, that you don't understand," replied Mr. Roundjacket. "Listen, then, young man, I mean that the divine spirit of poesy dwells here—that nothing, therefore, is dull or wearisome about this mansion—that all is lively and inspiring. Trust me, my dear young friend, it was copying that miserable deed which put you to sleep, and I can easily understand how that happened. The said indenture was written by the within."
And Mr. Roundjacket pointed toward the sanctum of Mr. Rushton.
Verty only smiled.
Mr. Roundjacket descended from his stool, and cast his eyes upon the paper.
"What!" he cried, "you made that picture! How, sir Upon my word, young man, you are in a bad way. The youngster who stops to make designs upon a copy of a deed in a law office, is on the high-road to the gallows. It is an enormity, sir—horrible! dreadful!"
"What the devil are you shouting about there!" cried the voice of Mr. Rushton, angrily. And opening the door between the two rooms, the shaggy-headed gentleman appeared upon the threshold.
Roundjacket turned over the sheet of paper upon which Verty's design had been made; and then turned to reply to the words addressed to him.
"I am using my privilege to correct this youngster," he replied, with a flourish of his ruler, apparently designed to impress the shaggy head with the idea that he, Mr. Roundjacket, would not permit any infringement of his rights and privileges.
"You are, are you?" said Mr. Rushton.
"Yes, sir," replied the clerk.
"And what do you find to correct in Mr. Verty?"
And Mr. Roundjacket, inserting one thumb into the pocket of his long waistcoat, pointed with the ruler to Verty's costume.
"Do you call that a proper dress for a lawyer's clerk?" he said. "Is the profession to be disgraced by the entrance of a bear, a savage, a wild boy of the woods, who resembles a catamountain? Answer that, sir. Look at those leggins!"
And Mr. Roundjacket indicated the garments which reached to Verty's knees, with the end of his ruler.
"Well," said Mr. Rush ton, smiling, "I should think you might have them changed without troubling me, Verty."
The boy raised his head with a smile.
"How would you like a new suit of clothes?"
"I don't want any, sir."
"But these won't do."
"Why not, sir?"
"They're too primitive, you cub. Clothes, sir, are the essence of human society, and a man is known by his shell. If you wish to reap those numerous advantages for your mother, you must be re-habited."
"Anan?" said Verty.
"I mean you must dress like a Christian—get new clothes."
"You are willing, I suppose?"
"Very well—that does honor to your filial affection, you handsome savage. Roundjacket, take this young man up to O'Brallaghan's to-morrow, and have his measure taken."
"With pleasure," said Mr. Roundjacket, who had evidently taken a great liking to Verty; "what sort of clothes?"
Mr. Rushton looked at the subject of the conversation. Verty was gazing through the window and dreaming. A smile passed over the grim features, and a sort of sigh issued from the compressed lips of the lawyer.
"Three suits, Roundjacket," said Mr. Rushton; "one common, another rich, another as elegant as O'Brallaghan can make. I really believe this boy is going to amuse me."
"A most remarkable youth," observed the clerk, "and draws sketches with astonishing ease."
"Don't you, young man?"
Verty turned round, and interrogated Mr. Roundjacket with a look. He had evidently not heard the question.
"There, you are dreaming again, sir," said Mr. Rushton; "this will never do—come, write away. The idleness of this world is revolting!" he growled, returning to his sanctum, and closing the door with a bang.
Roundjacket pointed after him with his ruler.
"An odd fish, young man," he said, shaking his head; "take care not to make him your model. If you want a proper model to imitate, you need not go far. Modesty, which is my weakness, prevents my saying more."
And Mr. Roundjacket cleared his throat, and looked dignified.
"It was my purpose, before this interruption," he said, after a pause of some moments, "to read to you some portions of a work which will, probably, be spoken of extensively by the world."
And Mr. Roundjacket paused. Verty also was silent.
"All countries," said the poetical gentleman, with a preparatory flourish of his ruler, "have possessed localities famous in the history of literature:—as Athens, in Greece; the Island of Scio, where Homer first saw the light; and Stratford, where Shakspeare appeared. Now, sir, reasoning from analogy, which is the finest possible way of reasoning, we must conclude that Virginia has such a locality, and I leave you to decide the probable situation of it. It cannot be Williamsburg, the seat of government, for that place is given up to the vanity of life—to balls and horseraces, meetings of the House of Burgesses, and other varieties. Williamsburg, sir, cannot become famous—it is too near the sea. Then there is the thriving village of Richmond, to which they speak of moving the seat of government. I suppose, sir, that no one asserts that Richmond is ever likely to produce any remarkable men. Mark me, sir, that place will never be famous—it is too far from the sea. Now, what is the irresistible conclusion we arrive at from a view of these incontestable facts," observed Mr. Roundjacket, endeavoring to catch Verty's wandering eye; "why, my young friend, that Winchester here is to be the celebrated locality—that the great poet of Virginia will here arise! Is it not plain, sir?"
"Anan?" said Verty, smiling, and roused from his abstraction by the silence.
"Ah, you are not very well accustomed to these trains of reasoning, I perceive, sir," said Mr. Roundjacket; "but you will be able to comprehend my meaning. I designed only to say, that this town will probably be mentioned in many books, hereafter, as the residence of some distinguished man. Of course, I do not express any opinion upon that point—I don't know who it will be; but I presume he will follow the poetical calling from the vicinity of the mountains. Those beautiful mountains will make his cheeks flush, sir, at all times. The Shenandoah, more noble than even the Mississippi, will inspire him, and possibly he will turn his attention to humor—possibly, sir, the proceedings in courts of law may attract his attention—justification, and cognovit, and certiorari. Let me read you a small portion of a poem written upon those subjects by a very humble poet—are you listening, Mr. Verty?"
Verty aroused himself, and smiled upon Mr. Roundjacket—a proceeding which seemed to be eminently satisfactory to that gentleman.
With many preparatory, "hems," therefore, the poet commenced reading.
At the risk of bringing down upon our heads the anathema of antiquaries in general, we are compelled to forbear from making any quotations from the Roundjacket Iliad. It was not quite equal to Homer, and inferior, in many points, to both the Aeniad and the Dunciad;—but not on that account did the poet undervalue it. He read with that deep appreciation which authors in all ages have brought to bear upon their own productions.
Verty preserved a profound and respectful silence, which flattered the poet hugely. He recited with new energy and pleasure—becoming, at times, so enthusiastic, indeed, that a smothered growl from the adjoining apartment bore soothing testimony to his eloquence.
Mr. Roundjacket wound up with a gigantic figure, in which the muse of Chancery was represented as mounted upon a golden car, and dispensing from her outstretched hands all sorts of fruits, and flowers, and blessings on humanity;—and having thus brought his noble poem to a noble termination, the poet, modestly smiling, and ready for applause, rolled up his manuscript, and raised his eyes to the countenance of his silent and admiring listener—that listener who had been so rapt in the glowing images and sonorous couplets, that he had not uttered so much as a word.
Verty was asleep.
HOW VERTY SHOT A WHITE PIGEON.
Mr. Roundjacket's illusions were all dissipated—the attentive listener was a sleeping listener—his poem, dreadful to think of, had absolutely lulled Verty to slumber.
We may understand the mortification of the great writer; the irritable genus had in him no unfit representative, thus far at least. He caught Verty by the shoulder and shook him.
"Wake up, you young savage!" he cried, "sleeping when I am reading to you; rouse! rouse! or by the immortal gods I'll commit an assault and battery upon your barbarous person! Savage! barbarian! monster!"
Suddenly Mr. Roundjacket heard a hoarse growl, and something like a row of glittering steel knives attracted his attention in the direction of his legs. This phenomenon was caused by the opening of Longears' huge mouth—that intelligent animal having espoused the cause of his master, so rudely assaulted, and prepared for instant battle.
Fortunately, Verty woke up before the combat commenced; and seeing the hound standing in a threatening attitude, he ordered him to lie down. Longears obeyed with great alacrity, and was soon dozing again.
Then commenced, on the part of Mr. Roundjacket, an eloquent and animated remonstrance with Verty on the impropriety of that proceeding which he had just been guilty of. It was unfeeling, and barbarous, and unheard of, the poet observed, and but one thing induced him to pardon it—the wild bringing up of the young man, which naturally rendered him incapable of appreciating a great work of art.
Verty explained that he had been hunting throughout the preceding night—setting traps, and tramping over hill and through dale—and thus he had been overcome by drowsiness. He smiled with great good nature upon Mr. Roundjacket, as he uttered this simple excuse, and so winning was the careless sunshine of his countenance, that honest Roundjacket, uttering an expiring grumble, declared that nothing was more natural than his drowsiness. In future, he said, he would select those seasons when his—Verty's—senses were bright and wide-awake; and he begged the young man not to fear a repetition of what he might have heard—there were fifteen more cantos, all of which he would read, slowly and carefully explaining, as he went along, any difficulties.
Verty received this announcement with great good humor, and then began tracing over his paper, listlessly, the word "Redbud." That word had been the key-note of his mind throughout the morning—that was the real secret of his abstraction.
Miss Lavinia had informed him on that morning, when she had dismissed him from Apple Orchard, that Redbud was going away for the purpose of being educated; and that he, Verty, would act very incorrectly if he asked any one whither Redbud was going. Thus the boy had been rendered gloomy and sad—he had wandered about Apple Orchard, never daring to ask whither the young girl had gone—and so, in one of his wanderings, had encountered Mr. Rushton, who indeed was seeking him. He had easily yielded to the representations of that gentleman, when he assured him that he ought to apply his mind to something in order to provide for all the wants of his Indian mother—and this scheme was all the more attractive, as the neighborhood of Apple Orchard, to which his steps ever wandered, occasioned him more sadness than he had ever felt before. Redbud was gone—why should he go near the place again? The sunshine had left it—he had better seek new scenes, and try what effect they would have.
Therefore was it that Verty had become a lawyer's clerk; and it was the recollection of these causes of sadness which had made the boy so dull and languid.
Without Redbud, everything seemed dim to him; and he could not ask whither she had flown.
This was his sad predicament.
After receiving the assurance of Roundjacket's pardon, Verty, as we have said, began scrawling over the copy of the deed he was making the name of Redbud. This persevering and thoughtful occupation at last attracted the attention of his companion.
"Redbud!" asked the poet, "who is Redbud, my young friend? I should conjecture that she was a young lady, from the name.—Stay, is there not a Miss Redbud Summers, daughter of the Squire of said name?"
"A friend of yours?"
"Yes," sighed Verty.
Mr. Roundjacket smiled.
"Perhaps you are making love to her?" he said.
"Making love?" asked Verty, "what is that?"
"How!" cried the poet, "you don't mean to say you are ignorant of the nature of that divine sentiment which elevates and ennobles in so remarkable a degree—hem!—all humanity!"
"Anan!" said Verty, with an inquiring look.
Mr. Roundjacket returned this look for some moments, preserving a profound silence.
"My young friend," he said at last, "how old are you?"
"Eighteen, ma mere says."
"Who's mommer, pray?"
"Oh," said the poet, with some confusion, "the fact is, your pronunciation—but don't let us discuss that. I was going to say, that it is impossible for you to have reached your present period of life without making love to some lady."
Verty looked bewildered, but smiled.
Mr. Roundjacket was astounded at finding such savage ignorance in his companion;—he revolved in his mind the means of enlightening Verty, in vain.
At last he placed the end of his ruler upon his waistcoat, and said, mysteriously:
"Do you see me?"
"Yes," replied Verty.
"Well, sir, I made love to a young woman when I was six."
Verty looked interested.
"At twelve I had already had my heart broken three times," continued Mr. Roundjacket; "and now, sir, I make it a point to pay my addresses—yes, to proceed to the last word, the 'will you,' namely,—once, at least, a year."
Verty replied that this was very kind in Mr. Roundjacket, and then rising, stretched himself, and took up his bow.
"I feel very tired," he said, "I wish I was in the woods."
And Verty turned his back on Mr. Roundjacket, strolled to the door, and leaning on his bow, gazed languidly out upon the busy street.
He presented a strange appearance there, at the door of the dingy office, in the middle of the busy and thriving town. He seemed to have been translated thither, from the far forest wilds, by the wave of some magician's wand, so little did he appear to be a portion of the scene. Verty looked even wilder than ever, from the contrast, and his long bow, and rugged dress, and drooping hat of fur, would have induced the passers-by to take him for an Indian, but for the curling hair and the un-Indian face.
Verty gazed up into the sky and mused—the full sunlight of the bright October morning falling in a flood upon his wild accoutrements.
By gazing at the blue heavens, over which passed white clouds, ever-changing and of rare loveliness, the forest boy forgot the uncongenial scenes around him, the reality;—and passing perforce of his imagination into the bright realm of cloud-land, was again on the hills, breathing the pure air, and following the deer.
Verty had always loved the clouds; he had dreamed of Redbud often, while gazing on them; and now he smiled, and felt brighter as he looked.
His forest instincts returned, and, bending his bow, he carelessly fitted an arrow upon the leather string. What should he shoot at?
There was a very handsome fish upon a neighboring belfry, which was veering in the wind; and this glittering object seemed to Verty an excellent mark. As he was about to take aim, however, his quick eye caught sight of a far speck in the blue sky; and he lowered his bow again.
Placing one hand above his eyes, he raised his head, and fixed his penetrating gaze upon the white speck, which rapidly increased in size as it drew nearer. It was a bird with white wings, clearly defined against the azure.
Verty selected his best arrow, and placing it on the string, waited until the air-sailer came within striking distance. Then drawing the arrow to its head, he let it fly at the bird, whose ruffled breast presented an excellent mark.
The slender shaft ascended like a flash of light into the air—struck the bird in full flight; and, tumbling headlong, the fowl fell toward Verty, who, with hair thrown back, and outstretched arms, ran to catch it.
It was a white pigeon; the sharp pointed arrow had penetrated and lodged in one of its wings, and it had paused in its onward career, like a bark whose slender mast, overladen with canvas, snaps in a sudden gust.
Verty caught the pigeon, and drew the arrow from its wing, which was all stained with blood.
"Oh, what large eyes you have!" he said, smiling; "you're a handsome pigeon. I will not kill you. I will take you home and cure your wing, and then, if ever I again see Redbud, I will give you to her, my pretty bird."
Poor Verty sighed, and his eyes drooped as he thought of the girl.
Suddenly, however, a small scroll of yellow paper encircling the pigeon's neck, and concealed before by the ruffled plumage, caught his eye.
"Paper! and writing on it!" he said; "why, this is somebody's pet-pigeon I have shot!"
And tearing off the scroll, Verty read these words, written in a delicate, running-hand:
"I am Miss Redbud's pigeon; and Fanny gave me to her!" Verty remained for a moment motionless—his eyes expanded till they resembled two rising moons;—"I am Miss Redbud's pigeon!" Then Redbud was somewhere in the neighborhood of the town—she had not gone far out into the wide, unknown world—this pigeon might direct him;—Verty found a thousand thoughts rushing through his mind, like so many deer in a herd, jostling each other, and entangling their horns.
Surely, it would not be wrong for him to embrace this chance of discovering Redbud's residence—a chance which seemed to have been afforded him by some unseen power. Why should he not keep the bird until its wing was healed, and then observe the direction of its flight? Why not thus find the abode of one in whose society so much of his happiness consisted? Was there any thing wrong in it—would any one blame him?
These were the questions which Verty asked himself, standing in the October sunshine, and holding the wounded pigeon to his breast. And the conclusion was ere long reached. He decided, to his own perfect satisfaction, that he had the full right to do as he wished; and then he re-entered the office.
Mr. Roundjacket was busy at some more law papers, and did not observe the object which he carried. Verty sat down at his desk; betook himself to copying, having rejected the sketch-ornamented sheet; and by evening had done a very fair day's work.
Then he put on his hat, placed the wounded pigeon in his bosom, and, mounting his horse, set forward toward the hills.
"In three days," he said, "you will be cured, pretty pigeon, and then I will let you go; and it will be hard if I don't follow your flight, and find out where your mistress lives. Oh, me! I must see Redbud—I can't tell why, but I know I must see her!"
And Verty smiled, and went on with a lighter heart than he had possessed for many a day.
HAWKING WITHOUT A HAWK.
Verty nursed the wounded pigeon with the tenderness of a woman and the skill of a physician; so that on the third day, as he had promised himself, the bird was completely "restored to health." The wing had healed, the eyes grown bright again, every movement of the graceful head and burnished neck showed how impatient the air-sailer was to return to his mistress and his home.
"Ma mere" said Verty, standing at the door of the old Indian woman's lodge, "I think this pretty pigeon is well. Now I shall carry it back, and I know I shall find Redbud."
Verty, it will be seen, had concealed nothing from his mother; indeed, he never concealed anything from anybody. He had told her quite simply that he wanted to see Redbud again; that they wouldn't tell him where she was; and that the pigeon would enable him to find her. The old woman had smiled, and muttered something, and that was all.
Verty now stood with one hand on Cloud's mane, in the early morning, ready to set forth.
The pigeon was perched upon his left hand, secured to Verty's arm by a ribbon tied around one of its feet. This ribbon had been given him by Redbud.
In the other hand he carried his rifle, for some days disused—at his feet lay Longears and Wolf, in vain pleading with down-cast eyes for permission to accompany him.
"What a lovely morning!" said Verty, "and look at Cloud, ma mere!—he seems to know it's fall. Then there's Wolf, who can't understand what I told him about Mr. Rushton's not liking so many dogs—see how sorry he is."
"The gun makes him so," said the old woman; "he thinks my boy is going a hunting."
"Maybe I shall—who knows?" Verty said. "If I see a deer upon my way, good-bye to the law work!"
And bounding lightly into the saddle—a movement which caused the pigeon to open and flutter its wings—Verty smiled on the old woman, placed his hand on his breast, and touched Cloud with his heel.
Cloud shook his head, and set forward cheerfully, Longears galloping by his master's side.
Verty drank in the Autumn loveliness with that delight which he always experienced in the fresh pure hills, with the mountain winds around him. The trees seemed to be growing more and more gorgeous in their coloring, and the cries of wild birds were far more jubilant than ever. As he went on along the narrow bridle path, under the magnificent boughs, his countenance was brighter and more joyous, and he broke once or twice into a song.
Suddenly, while he was humming thus in a low tune, to himself, a still "croak!" attracted his attention, and he stopped abruptly.
"Ah!" he murmured, "that's a good big gobbler, and I'll see about him!"
And Verty cautiously dismounted, and with one foot raised, listened for a repetition of the sound.
It was not long before the turkey's call was again heard from a thick copse on his left.
The young hunter turned, and imprisoning Cloud's nostril in his nervous grasp, looked fixedly into that intelligent animal's eyes. Cloud seemed to understand very well—nodded his head—drew a long breath—and stood like a statue. Verty then placed his foot upon Longears, made a gesture with his hand, and Longears showed himself equally docile. He laid down, and without moving, followed his master with his eyes, and listened.
Verty crept noiselessly, without treading on a leaf or a twig, to a neighboring thicket, from which the horse and dog were not visible. He then lay down in the bushy top of a fallen pine, and without the assistance of any "call," such as hunters generally make use of, uttered the low, cautious cry of the wild turkey. This he repeated a number of times, and then remained still.
For ten or fifteen minutes no noise disturbed the stillness of the forest; all was quiet. Then a slight agitation of the leaves was visible at the distance of fifty or sixty yards, and a magnificent gobbler made his appearance, moving his bright head, and darting upon every side glances of curiosity and circumspection.
He was looking for the female who had called him.
Verty cocked his rifle, and uttered the low croak again.
This seemed to remove any fears which the turkey had—he replied to it, and advanced toward Verty's impromptu "blind." A streak of sunlight through the boughs fell on his burnished neck and brilliant head, and he paused again.
Verty ran his eye along the barrel—covered the turkey bashaw's head, and fired. The ball passed through the fowl's throat, and he fell back with violent flutterings—no longer anything but the memory of a living turkey.
"Very well," said Verty, smoothing the head of his pigeon, which had been greatly startled by the explosion, "I can shoot better than that—I ought to have hit your eye, Monsieur."
And going to the spot he took up the turkey, and then returned to Cloud, who, with Longears at his feet, remained perfectly quiet,
Verty tied the turkey to his saddle-bow, and went on laughing. He made his entry into Winchester in this extremely lawyer-like guise; that is to say, in moccasins and leggins, with a rifle in one hand, a pigeon on the wrist of the other, and a turkey dangling at his horse's side. Cloud, in order to complete the picture, was shaggier than ever, and Verty himself had never possessed so many tangled curls. His shoulders were positively covered with them.
Unfortunately Winchester had no artist at the period.
Mr. Roundjacket was standing at the door of the office, and he greeted Verty with a loud laugh.
"You young savage!" he said, "there you are looking like a barbarous backwoodsman, when we are trying our very best to make a respectable lawyer of you."
Verty smiled, and let Cloud dip his muzzle into the trough of a pump which stood by the door, venerable-looking and iron-handled, like all parish pumps.
"What excuse have you, young man?" said Mr. Roundjacket. "The individual who arrives late at the locality of his daily exercitation will eventually become a candidate for the high and responsible position of public suspension."
"Anan? said Verty, who was not accustomed to paraphrase. Then turning his eyes toward the pigeon, he said:
"Pretty fellow! Oh! will you show me the way? You shall—to see Redbud!"
And Verty, for the first time, seemed to realize the fact, that he could see her again. His countenance became brilliant—his eyes were filled with light—his lips wreathed with smiles.
Mr. Roundjacket was astounded.
"Young man," he said, sticking his pen behind his ear, "I should be pleased to know what you are thinking about! You are really extravagant, sir—you need the purifying and solidifying influence of the law; believe me—hey! what are you doing there?"
Verty was gnawing off the ribbon from the pigeon's foot, tied too tightly; he could not undo it, and having no knife, used his sharp white teeth for the purpose.
The pigeon sank down toward the horizon—seemed about to disappear—Verty uttered a deep sigh. But no: the bird suddenly pauses, drops from the clouds, and settles upon the roof of a house crowning a grassy hill, which hill was distant from Verty not more than a quarter of a mile.
A smile of delight passed over Verty's countenance. He had found Redbud—she was there!
There was no longer any necessity for such headlong speed—he could go on slowly now—the goal was near, and would not fly as he approached.
Verty drew near the house, which was a tall, wooden structure, embowered in trees, and carefully reconnoitered with true huntsman-like precision. He thought that the place looked like the residence of Redbud—it was so bright, and sunny, and cheerful.
On the roof sat the returned pigeon, cooing, and pluming his wings among his fellows.
VERTY MAKES THE ACQUAINTANCE OF MR. JINKS.
Just as Verty was making this latter observation, his smiling eyes fixed on the mansion before him, he heard a voice at his feet, so to speak, which had the effect of bringing him to earth once more, and this voice said, loftily—
"You seem to be interested, sir—handsome house, sir—very handsome house, sir—also the occupants thereof."
Verty looked, and descried a gentleman of very odd appearance, who was looking at him intently. This gentleman was slender of limb, and tall; his lower extremities were clad in a tight pair of short breeches, beneath which, scarlet stockings plunged themselves into enormous shoes, decorated with huge rosettes; his coat was half-military, half-fop; and a long sword buckled round his waist, knocked against his fantastic grasshopper legs. His hair was frizzled; his countenance, a most extraordinary one; his manner, a mixture of the hero and the bully, of noble dignity and truculent swagger, as if Ancient Pistol had taken the part of Coriolanus, and had not become proficient wholly in his lofty personation.
When this gentleman walked, his long sword bobbed, as we have said, against his legs; when he bowed, his attitude was full of dignity; when he grimaced, he presented an appearance which would have made Punchinello serious, and induced a circus clown to fall into convulsions of despair.
This was the figure which now stood before Verty, and caused that young man to lower his eyes from the roof and the pigeons. Verty looked at the gentleman for a moment, and smiled.
"It is a handsome house," he said.
"Handsome?" said the tall gentleman, with dignity. "I believe you. That house, sir, is the finest I ever saw."
"Is it?" said Verty.
"I am a traveller, sir."
"I am," said the military gentleman, solemnly. "I have been everywhere, sir; and even in Philadelphia and Paris there is nothing like that house."
"Indeed?" Verty said, surveying the remarkable edifice.
"Do you see the portico?" said the gentleman, frowning.
"Yes," said Verty.
"That, sir, is exactly similar to the Acropolis—Pantheon at Rome."
"Eh?" said Verty.
"Yes, sir; and then the wings—do you see the wings?"
"Plainly," said Verty.
"Those, sir, are modeled on the State-House in Paris, and are intended to shelter the youthful damsels, here assembled, as the wings of a hen do the chickens of her bosom—hem! Cause and effect, sir—philosophy and poetry unite to render this edifice the paragon and brag of architectural magnificence."
"Anan?" said Verty.
"I see you speak French."
"That ain't French."
"No? Then it's something else. Going up there?"
"Yes," said Verty.
"Fine turkey that. For the old lady?"
"Who's the old lady?"
"Old Mrs. Scowley—a model of the divine sex, sir."
"No, it ain't for her," said Verty, smiling.
"For Miss Sallianna?"
"I see, sir, that you are not acquainted with this still more divine specimen of the—hum—I said that once before. Miss Sallianna, sir, is the beautiful sister of the respected Scowley."
"And who is here besides, if you please?" said Verty.
"A number of charming young ladies, sir. It is a seminary, sir,—an abode of science and accomplishments generally, sir;—the delights of philosophy, sir, take up their chosen dwelling here, and—stop! there's my soul's idol! Jinks will never have another!"
And Mr. Jinks kissed his hand, and grimaced at a young lady who appeared at the gate, with a book in her hand.
This young lady was Redbud.
HOW VERTY DISCOVERED IN HIMSELF A GREAT FONDNESS FOR APPLES.
Verty threw himself from his horse, and ran forward toward Redbud with an expression of so much joy, that even Longears perceived it; and, in the excess of his satisfaction, reared up on Mr. Jinks, claiming his sympathy.
Mr. Jinks brushed his clothes, and protested, frowning. Verty did not hear him, however—he was at the gate with Redbud.
"Oh!" he cried, "how glad I am to see you! What in the world made you come here, Redbud, and stay away from me so long!"
Redbud blushed, and murmured something.
"Never mind," said Verty; "I'm so glad to see you, that I won't quarrel."
And he pressed the little hand which he held with such ardor, that Redbud blushed more than ever.
But she had scarcely uttered a word—scarcely smiled on him. What did it mean? Poor Verty's face began to be overclouded.
What did it mean. That is not a very difficult question to us, however much it might have puzzled Verty. It meant that Miss Lavinia had suggested to Redbud the impropriety of remaining on terms of cordiality and friendship with a young gentleman, who, after the fashion of all youths, in all ages of the world, was desperately anxious to become some young lady's husband. It meant that the "lecture" of this great female philosopher had produced its effect,—that Miss Redbud had waked to a consciousness of the fact, that she was a "young lady," and that her demeanor toward Verty was improper.
Before, she had thought that there was no great impropriety in running to meet the forest boy, with whom she had played for years, and whom she knew so very well. Now this was changed. Cousin Lavinia saw a decided impropriety in her meeting Verty with a bright smile, and giving him her hand, and saying, in her frank, affectionate voice: "Oh! I'm so glad to see you!" Of course, cousin Lavinia knew all about it; and it was very dreadful in her to have been treating Verty with so little ceremony—very, very dreadful. Was she not growing up, and even did she not wear long dresses? Was such conduct in a lady of sixteen proper?
So, innocence listened to worldly wisdom, and pride overturned simplicity; and, in consequence, our friend Verty found himself opposite a young lady who blushed, and exhibited a most unaccountable constraint, and only gave him the tips of her fingers, when he was ready for, and expected, the most enthusiastic greeting.
We must, however, speak of another influence which made Redbud so cool;—and this will, very probably, have occurred to our lady readers, if we have any, as the better explanation. Separation! Yes, the separation which stimulates affection, and bathes the eyes in the languid dews of memory. Strephon is never so devoted as when Chloe has been removed from him—when his glances seek for her in vain on the well-remembered lawn. And Chloe, too, is disconsolate, when she no longer sees the crook of her shepherd, or hears the madrigals he sings. Absence smoothes all rough places; and the friend from whom we are separated, takes the dearest place in the heart of hearts.
Redbud did not discover how much she loved Verty, until she was gone from him, and the fresh music of his laughter was no longer in her ears. Then she found that he held a very different place in her heart from what she had supposed;—or rather, to speak more accurately, she did not reflect in the least upon the matter, but only felt that he was not there near her, and that she was not happy.
This will explain the prim little ladylike air of bashfulness and constraint which Redbud exhibited, when her eyes fell on Verty, and the coolness with which she gave him her hand. The old things had passed away—Verty could be the boy-playmate no more, however much it grieved her. Thus reflected Miss Redbud; and in accordance with this train of reasoning, did she conduct herself upon the occasion of which we speak.
So, to Strephon's request to be informed why she came thither, without telling him, Chloe replied with a blush:
"Oh, I came to school—sir," she was about to add, but did not.
"To school? Is this a school for young ladies?"
Redbud, with a delicate little inclination of the head, said yes.
"Well," Verty went on, "I am glad I found you; for, Redbud, you can't tell how I've been feeling, ever since you went away. It seemed to me that there was a big weight resting on my breast."
Redbud colored, and laughed.
"Sometimes," said Verty, smiling, "I would try and get it away by drawing in my breath, and ever so long; but I could'nt," he added, shaking his head; "I don't know what it means."
Mr. Jinks, who was dusting his rosetted shoes with a white pocket handkerchief, grimaced at this.
"Well, well," Verty went on, "I begin to feel better now, since I've seen you; and, I think, I'll do better in my office work."
"Office work?" asked Redbud, beginning to grow more like her former self.
"Oh, yes!" Verty replied; "I'm in Mr. Rushton's office now, and I'm a lawyer's clerk;—that's what they call it, I believe."
Redbud returned his bright smile. Her eye wandered toward Cloud, who stood perfectly still—the turkey, which had not been removed, yet dangling at his saddle-bow.
Verty followed the young girl's glance, and smiled.
"I know what you are looking at," he said; "you are looking at that wild turkey, and thinking that I am a poor sort of a lawyer, with such a book to read out of. But I shot him coming along."
Redbud laughed; her coolness could not last in Verty's presence; his fresh voice, so full of their old happy times, made her a child again.
"And how did you find me'?" she said, in her old tone.
"By your pigeon!"
"Yes, indeed; I shot him."
"You shot him, Verty?"
Verty experienced,—he knew not why,—a feeling of extreme delight, on hearing his name from her lips.
"Yes, I did so, Redbud," he replied, confidentially, "and I cured him, too. Look at him, up there on the roof, coo-cooing! He was sailing over the town, and I sent an arrow after him, and brought him straight down."
"Oh, Verty! how cruel!"
"I never would 'a shot him if I had seen the name on his neck."
"Yours, Redbud. There was a piece of paper, and on it—but here's the paper."
And Verty took from his bosom the yellow scroll, and placed it in Redbud's hand.
She took it, smiling, and read the words—"I am Miss Redbud's pigeon, and Fanny gave me to her."
"Oh, yes," she said, "and I am glad he's come back; poor fellow, I hav'nt seen him for days!"
"I had him," said Verty.
"You know that was what I wanted. I cured him, and then let him go, and followed him, and found you."
Verty, in an absent way, took Miss Redbud's hand, and was guilty of the bad taste of squeezing it.
The reply and the action seemed to recall Redbud to herself; and she suddenly drew back with a blush.
Verty looked astounded. In the midst of his confusion a martial "hem!" was heard, and Mr. Jinks, who had been carefully adjusting his toilette, drew near the lovers.
"Hem!" said Mr. Jinks, "a very fine day, Miss Redbud. Loveliest of your sex and delight of the world, have I the pleasure of seeing you in that high state of happiness and health which of right should belong to you?"
With this Mr. Jinks bowed and gesticulated, and spread out his arms like a graceful giraffe, and dispensed on every side the most engaging grimaces.
Redbud bowed, with an amused look in her little blushing face; and just as she had got through with this ceremony, another personage was added to the company.
This was an elderly lady of severe aspect, who, clad in black, and with an awfully high cap, which cast a shadow as it came, appeared at the door of the house, and descended like a hawk upon the group.
"Well, Miss Summers!" she said, in a crooked and shrill voice, "talking to gentlemen, I see! Mr. Jinks, against rules, sir—come, Miss, you know my wishes on this subject."
As she spoke, her eyes fell upon the turkey hanging from Cloud's saddle-bow.
"Young man," she said to Verty, "what's the price of that turkey?"
Verty was looking at Redbud, and only knew that the awful Mrs. Scowley had addressed him, from Redbud's whispering to him.
"Anan?" he said.
"I say, what's the price of that turkey?" continued the old lady; "if you are moderate, I'll buy it. Don't think, though, that I am going to give you a high price. You mountain people," she added, looking at Verty's wild costume, "can get along with very little money. Come, how much?"
Verty on that occasion did the only artful thing which he ever accomplished—but what will not a lover do?
He went to Cloud, took the fine gobbler from the saddle, and bringing it to Mrs. Scowley, laid it at the feet of that awful matron with a smile.
"You may have him," said Verty, "I don't want him."
"Don't want him!"
"No, ma'am—I just shot him so—on my way to my writing."
"Your writing, sir?" said Mrs. Scowley, gazing at Verty with some astonishment—"what writing?"
"I'm in Mr. Rushton's office, and I write," Verty replied, "but I don't like it much."
Mrs. Scowley for a moment endeavored to look Verty out of countenance, but finding that the young man seemed to have no consciousness of the fact, and that he returned her gaze with friendly interest, the ogress uttered a sound between a snort and a cough, and said:—
"Then you did'nt come to sell the turkey?"
"No, indeed, ma'am."
"For what, then?"
"I came to see Redbud," replied Verty; "you know, ma'am, that we know each other very well; I thought I'd come." And Verty smiled.
Mrs. Scowley was completely puzzled—she had never before seen a gentleman of Verty's candor, and could find no words to reply. She thought of saying to our friend that visiting a young lady at school was highly criminal and reprehensible, but a glance at the fat turkey lying on the grass at her feet, caused her to suppress this speech.