THROUGH STAINED GLASS
A novel by
GEORGE AGNEW CHAMBERLAIN
Author of "Home"
New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers
Copyright, 1915, by
GEORGE AGNEW CHAMBERLAIN
Published March, 1915
In 1866 the American minister at Rio de Janeiro turned from the reality of a few incongruous and trouble-breeding Kentucky colonels, slouched-hatted and frock-coated, wandering through the unfamiliar streets of the great South American capital, and saw a nightmare. There is a touch of panic in the despatch which he sent to Mr. Seward at a time when both secretary and public were held too closely in the throes of reconstruction to take alarm at so distant a chimera. Agents of the Southern States, wrote the minister, claimed that not thousands of families, but a hundred thousand families, would come to Brazil.
As a matter of fact, this exodus, when it took place, was so small that it failed to raise a ripple on the social pool of the Western Hemisphere. But to the self-chosen few who suffered shipwreck and privation, financial loss from their already depleted store, disaster to their Utopian dreams, and a great void in their hearts where once had been love of country, it became a tragedy—the tragedy of existence.
The ardor that led a small band of irreconcilables to gather their households and their household goods about them and flee from a personal oppression, as had their ancestors before them, was destined to be short lived. From the first, fate frowned upon their enterprise. They looked for calm seas and favorable winds, but they found storms and shipwreck. Their scanty resources were calculated to meet the needs of only the crudest life, but upon the threshold of their goal they fell into the red-tape trammels of a civilization older than their own. Where they looked for a free country, a wilderness flowing with milk and honey, which in their ignorance they imagined unpeopled, they found the squatter had been intrenched since the Jesuit fathers and their following explored the continent four centuries before. Finally, they believed themselves to be the vanguard of a horde, but, once in the breach, they found there was no following host.
Most of those who had the means reversed their flight. Others, with nothing left but their broken pride, sought aid from the government they abhorred, and were given a free passage back in returning men-of-war. But when the reflux had waned and died, there was still a residue of half a hundred families, most of whom were so destitute that they could not reach the coast. With them stayed a very few who were held by their premature investments or by a deeper loyalty or a greater pride. Among the latter was the head of the divided house of Leighton.
The Reverend Orme Leighton was one of those to whom the war had brought a double portion of bitterness, for the Leightons of Leighton, Virginia, had fought not alone against the North, but against the North and the Leightons of Leighton, Massachusetts.
To the Reverend Orme Leighton, a schism in the church would have meant nothing unless it came to the point of cracking heads; but a schism in governmental policy, which placed the right to govern one's self and own black chattel in the balance, found him taking sides from the first, thundering out from the pulpit, supported by text and verse, the divine right of personal dominion by purchase, and in superb contradiction voicing the constitutional right to self-government. When the day of words was past, he did not wait for the desperate cry of the South in her later need. Abandoning gown and pulpit for charger and saber, he was of the first to rally, of the last to muster out. Nor at the end of the long struggle did he find solace in the knowledge that he had fought a good fight. To him more than the South had fallen. God had withheld his hand from the just cause, and Leighton had fought against Leighton!
It was characteristic of the Reverend Orme Leighton that the rancor which came with defeat was not visited upon those members of his clan who had fought against him. But for that very reason it was all the more poignantly directed against that vague entity, the North. Never, while life lasted, would he bow to the dominion of a tyranny, much more, of a tyranny which, by dividing the Leightons, had in a measure forced neutrality upon the gods.
Leighton House, Virginia, found a ready and fitting purchaser in one of the Leightons of Massachusetts. With the funds thus provided, the Reverend Orme Leighton moved, lock, stock, and barrel, six thousand miles to the south. He settled at San Paulo, where he bought for a song a considerable property on the outskirts of the city. He rented, besides, a large building in the center of the town, and established therein the Leighton Academy. Here he labored single handed until his worth as an instructor became known; then the sudden prosperity of the venture drove him to engage an ever-increasing staff. The academy developed rapidly into a recognized local institution. The first material revenue from the successful school was applied to building a fitting home on the property bought for a song.
The character of this new Leighton House, which was never known as Leighton House, but acquired the name of Consolation Cottage by analogy with the Street of the Consolation near which it stood, was as different as could well be both from the prevailing local style of architecture and from the stately colonial type dear to the heart of every Virginian. The building was long and low, with sloping roofs of flat French tiles. A broad veranda bordered it on three sides. The symmetry of the whole was saved from ugliness by a large central gable the overhanging porch of which cast a deep and friendly shadow over the great front door and over the wide flights of steps that led down to the curving driveway.
In that luxuriant clime the new house did not long remain bare. A clambering wistaria, tree-like geraniums, a giant fuchsia and trellised rose-vines soon embowered the verandas, while, on the south side, English ivy was gradually coaxed up the bare brick wall. This medley of leaf and bloom gave to the whole house that air of friendliness and homeliness that marks the shrine of the Anglo-Saxon's household gods the world over.
Such was the nest that the Reverend Orme built by the sweat of his brow to harbor his little family, which, at the beginning of this history, consisted of himself; Ann Leighton, his wife; and Mammy, black as the ace of spades without, white within.
Ann Sutherland Leighton was one of those rare religionists that occasionally bloom in a most unaccountable manner on a family tree having its roots in the turf rather than clinging to Plymouth Rock. Isaac Sutherland, her father, had been knowing in horse-flesh, and would have looked askance on the Reverend Orme Leighton as a suitor had he not also been knowing in men. The truth was that in Leighton the man was bigger than the parson, and to the conceded fact that all the world loves a lover he added the prestige of the less-bandied truth that all the world loves a fighter. He, also, knew horse-flesh. He finally won Ann's father over on the day when Ike Sutherland learned to his cost that the Reverend Orme could discern through the back of his head that distension of the capsular ligament of the hock commonly termed a bog spavin.
Ann did not share her husband's extreme views. It was a personal loyalty that had brought her uncomplaining to a far country, unbuoyed by the Reverend Orme's dreams of a new state, but seeking with an inward fervidness some scene of lasting peace wherewith to blot out the memory of long years of turmoil and wholesale bereavement.
To her those first years in Consolation Cottage were long—long with the weight of six thousand miles from home. Then, with the suddeness of answered prayer, a light came into her darkness. He was named Shenton. Mammy's broad, homesick face broke into an undying smile. "Sho is mo' lak ole times, Mis' Ann, havin' a young Marster abeout." And when, two years later, on a Christmas day, Natalie was born, Mammy mixed smiles with tears and sobbed, "Oh, Mis' Ann, sho is mo' an' mo' lak ole times."
She, too, had her clinging memories of halls, now empty, that echoed once to the cries and gurgling laughter of a race in full flower.
As Ann sat one evening on the embowered veranda looking away to the north, a child within the circle of each arm, the old aching in her breast was stilled. The restless Leighton paused in his stride to gaze through fiery, but gloomy, eyes upon his fair-haired baby daughter and his son, pale, crowned with dark curls, and cried, with a toss of his own dark mane: "As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them!"
This realization of the preciousness of children in adversity paved the way for the reception of one who was to come to them from under the shadow of a family cloud, a certain mysterious personage of tender years, Lewis Leighton, by name.
For weeks the name of Lewis Leighton had been whispered about the house, first by the grown-ups and finally, when the Reverend Orme and his wife had come to the great decision, by the children. The children knew nothing of the great decision nor did they know the sources of their sudden joy. Their spirits were reaching out to clasp this new thread in life at an age when all new threads are golden.
On the appointed day the Reverend Orme went to the nearest seaport to meet the youthful voyager and convoy him home. As evening drew near, great was the excitement at Consolation Cottage. To Natalie and to Shenton, the sudden arrival of an entirely new brother, not in swaddling-clothes, but handed down ready-made from the shelf, was an event that loomed to unusual proportions. At last the great gate swung open, and a cab rattled its leisurely way up the drive.
In an instant the children were on their feet, jumping up and down and clapping their hands. "Mother," shouted Shenton, "they're coming!" Little Natalie clambered in stumbling haste up the steps and clutched Mrs. Leighton's skirts. "Muvver," she cried, in an agony of ecstasy, "they're coming!"
"Yes, yes, dear; I see. Oh, look how you've rumpled your dress! What will Lewis say to that? Come, Shenton, give mother your hand." Slowly she led them down the steps, her eyes fixed on the approaching cab.
The Reverend Orme sprang out and up to meet them. He kissed his wife and children. Shenton clung to his arm.
"O Dad," he cried, "didn't you bring him?"
"Bring him? I should say I did. Here, step out, young man."
A chubby face above a blouse, a short kilt and fat legs, appeared from the shadows of the cab. Grave eyes passed fearlessly over the group on the steps until they settled on the broad black face of Mammy.
Mrs. Leighton gasped and arrested herself in the very movement of welcome. Mammy's genial face assumed a terrible scowl, her white eyes bulged, and her vast arms went suddenly akimbo.
"Wha' 's that yo' say, yo' young Marster?" she thundered.
"Go—go—good nigger," stuttered the chubby face and smiled. With that he was swept from the cab into Mrs. Leighton's arms, and Mammy, grinning from ear to ear, caught him by one fat leg and demanded in soft negro tones:
"Wha' fo' you call yo' mammy 'bad niggah,' young Marster? Ho! ho! 'Go—go—good niggah!' Did yo' hea' him, Mis' Ann?"
Shenton and Natalie jumped up and down, with, cries of "Please, Mother," and "Muvver, oh, please!" Mrs. Leighton set Lewis on his feet between them. Shenton held out his hand. "How d' ye."
"How do do," replied Lewis, gravely. Natalie was plucking at his arm. He turned to her. They were almost of a size, but to Natalie he towered an inch above her. She held up her lips, and he kissed them. Then they stood and stared at each other. Natalie's short forefinger found its way to her mouth.
"My dwess is wumpled," she said.
"I got a dog at home," declared Lewis—"a big dog."
To Natalie, Shenton, and Lewis the scant twenty acres that surrounded Consolation Cottage was a vast demesne. Even on a full holiday one could choose one's excursions within its limits. From the high-plumed wall of bamboos that lined Consolation Street, through the orange-grove, across the hollow where were stable and horses, cows and calves, then up again to the wood on the other hillside—ah, that was a journey indeed, never attempted in a single day. They chose their playground. To-day the bamboos held them, to-morrow the distant grove, where were pungent fruits, birds'-nests, fantastic insects, and elusive butterflies and moths.
Then there was the brier-patch, with its secret chamber. By dint of long hours of toil and a purloined kitchen-knife they had tunneled into a clearing in the center of the thicket. Of all their retreats, this one alone had foiled their watchful overseers. Here was held, undetected, many an orgy over stolen fruit.
Nor did they have to seek far for a realm of terror. Behind the brier-patch was the priest's wall. Over it was wafted the fragrance of unknown flowers and of strange fruits—and the barking of a fierce dog. With the same kitchen-knife they pried loose a brick and slipped it out. They took turns at peeking through this tiny window on a strange world. What ecstasy when first they glimpsed the flat-hatted, black-robed figure strolling in the wondrous garden! Then terror seized them, for the quick-eyed priest had seen the hole, and before they could flee his toe was in it, and his frowning face, surmounted by the flaring hat, popped above the wall and glared down upon them.
"Do you hear my dog?" whispered the priest.
It was Natalie, trembling with fright, who answered, feeling a certain kinship for anything in skirts.
"Yeth, I do."
"Well," whispered the priest, his face twitching in the effort to look stern, "he eats little children." With that he dropped from view.
Lewis and Shenton stared at each other. Natalie began to cry. Lewis picked up the brick and slipped it back into place. Shenton helped him wedge it in with twigs; then all three stole away, to break into giggles and laughter when distance gave them courage.
Natalie and Lewis had another terror, unshared by Shenton. Manoel, the Portuguese gardener, who lived in a little two-room house in the hollow, had nothing but scowls for them. They feared him with the instinctive fear of children, but Shenton was his friend. Did any little tiff arise, Shenton was off to see Manoel. He knew the others were afraid to follow. Sometimes Manoel took him to his little house.
To Lewis this strange friendship was the one cloud in childhood's happy sky. He could not have defined what he felt. It was jealousy mixed with hurt pride—jealousy of the hated Manoel, hurt pride at the thought that Shenton went where he could not follow.
One day Shenton had been gone an hour. Lewis had seen him with Manoel. He knew he was in Manoel's house. What were they doing? Lewis turned to Natalie.
"I am going to Manoel's house. Stay here."
Natalie stared at him with wide eyes.
"O, Lewis," she cried after him, "aren't you 'fraid?"
Lewis crawled stealthily to a back window. He stood on tiptoe and tried to look in. His eyes were just below the level of the window-sill. He dragged a log of wood beneath the window and climbed upon it. For a long time he kept his face glued against one of the little square panes of glass.
He forgot fear. In the room which the window commanded was a broad, rough table, and Manoel was seated on a bench before it, leaning forward, his long arms outstretched along its edge. The table was pushed almost against the wall, and in its center stood Shenton, laughing till the tears ran down his cheeks. His curly hair was damp and clung to his white forehead. His blouse was soiled, his kilt awry. One short stocking had fallen down over his shoe. Manoel was also laughing, but silently.
Lewis did not have to wait long to divine the source of mirth, for Shenton soon essayed to walk the length of the table. Lifting his arm, he pointed along a crack, and swung one leg around to take a first step. But he seemed unable to place his foot as he wished. He reeled and fell in a giggling ball, which Manoel saved from rolling to the floor.
Shrieks of laughter, deadened by the closed window, came from the child, and Manoel's broad shoulders shook with enjoyment. He stood Shenton on his feet, and held him till he got his balance; then the play began again. Now Lewis felt fear steal over him, yet he could not go away. There was something inexpressibly comical in the scene, but it was not this that held him. A strange terror had seized him. Something was the matter with Shenton. Lewis did not know what it was.
Suddenly Shenton's mood changed to sullen stupor, and Manoel, whose gait was also unsteady, picked him up and carried him to a spigot, where he carefully unbuttoned the child's waist and soaked his head in cold water. The charm was broken. Lewis fled.
Routine is the murderer of time. Held by the daily recurring duties of her household, Ann Leighton awoke with a gasp to the day that Natalie's hair went into pigtails and the boys shed kilts for trousers. At the evening hour she gathered the children to her with an increased tenderness. Natalie, plump and still rosy, sat in her lap; Shenton, a mere wisp of a boy, his face pale with a pallor beyond the pallor of the tropics, pressed his dark, curly head against her heart. Her other arm encircled Lewis and held him tight, for he was prone to fidget.
They sat on the west veranda and watched the sun plunge to the horizon from behind a bank of monster clouds. Before them stretched a valley, for Consolation Cottage was set upon a hill. Beyond the valley, and far away, rose a line of hills. Suddenly that line became a line of night. Black night seized upon all the earth; but beyond there arose into the heavens a light that was more glorious than the light of day. A long sea of gold seemed to slope away ever so gently, up and up, until it lost itself beneath the slumberous mass of clouds that curtained its farther shore. Here and there within the sea hung islets of cloud, as still as rocks in a waveless ocean.
Natalie stretched out her hand, with chubby fingers outspread, and squinted between the black bars they made against the light.
"Mother, what's all that?"
Mrs. Leighton was silent for a moment. The children looked up expectantly into her face, but she was not looking down at them. Her gaze was fixed upon the afterglow.
"Why," she said at last, "it's a painting of heaven and earth. You see the black plain that stretches away and away? That's our world, so dark, so full of ruts, so ugly; but it is the rough plain we all must travel to reach the shore of light. When life is over, we come to the end of night—over there. Then we sail out on the golden sea."
"Are those islands?" asked Lewis, pointing to the suspended cloudlets.
"D'you see that biggest one—the one with a castle and smoke and trees?" continued Lewis. "That's the one I'm going to sail to."
"Me, too," said Natalie.
"No, Natalie, you can't. Not to that one, because you're littlest. You must sail to that littlest one 'way, 'way over there." Lewis pointed far to the south.
Natalie shook her head solemnly.
"No. I'll sail to the big island, too."
"And you, dear?" said Mrs. Leighton to Shenton, looking down at his motionless head. Shenton did not answer. He was held by a sudden, still, unhealthy sleep.
Mrs. Leighton let Lewis go, pushed Natalie gently from her lap, and gathered her first-born in her arms.
"Run to mammy, children," she said.
Holding the sleeping Shenton close to her, she turned a troubled face toward the afterglow. The golden sea was gone. There was a last glimmer of amber in the heavens, but it faded suddenly, as though somewhere beyond the edge of the world some one had put out the light. Night had fallen.
Mrs. Leighton carried her boy into the house. She stopped at her husband's study door.
"Orme, are you there?" she called. "Please come."
There was the sound of a chair scraping back. The door was flung open. Leighton looked from Ann's face to her burden, and his own face paled.
"Again?" he asked.
"O, Orme," cried Ann, "I'm frightened. What is it, Orme? Dr. MacDonald must come. Send for him. We must know!"
The Reverend Orme took the boy from her arms and carried him into a spare bedroom. He laid him down. Shenton's head fell limply to one side upon the pillow. The pillow was white, but not whiter than the boy's face.
MacDonald's gruff voice was soon heard in the hall.
"Not one of the bairns, Mammy? Young Shenton, eh?" He came into the room and sat down beside the boy. He felt his pulse, undid his waist, listened to his heart and lungs. The doctor shook his head and frowned. "Nothing extra-ordinary—nothing." Then he brought his face close to the boy's mouth, closer and closer.
The doctor sank back in his chair. His shrewd eyes darted from boy to father, then to the mother.
"Do not be alarmed," he said to Mrs. Leighton; "the lad is pheesically sound. He will awake anon." The doctor arose, and stretched his arms. "Eh, but I've had a hard day. Will ye be sae gude as to give me a glass of wine, Mistress Leighton?"
Ann started as though from a trance.
"Wine, Doctor?" she stammered. "I'm sorry. We have no wine in the house."
"Not even a drop of whisky?"
Ann shook her head.
"Nae whisky in the medicine-chest, nae cooking sherry in the pantry? Weel, weel, I must be gaeing." And without a look at Ann's rising color or the Reverend Orme's twitching face the doctor was gone.
The Reverend Orme fixed his eyes upon his wife.
"When the boy awakes," he said, "not a word to him. Send him to my study." Ann nodded. As the door closed, she fell upon her knees beside the bed.
An hour later the study door opened. Shenton entered. His father was seated, his nervous hands gripping the arms of his chair. On the desk beside him lay a thin cane. He motioned to his son to stand before him.
"My boy," he said, "tell me each thing you have done to-day."
There was a slight pause.
"I have forgotten what I did to-day," answered Shenton, his eyes fixed on his father's face.
"That is a falsehood," breathed Leighton, tensely, "I am going to thrash you until you remember."
Leighton saw his boy's frail body shrink, he saw a flush leap to his cheeks and fade, leaving them dead-white again. Then he looked into his son's eyes, and the hand with which he was groping for the cane stopped, poised in air. In those eyes there was something that no man could thrash. Scorn, anguish, pride, the knowledge of ages, gazed out from a child's eyes upon Leighton, and struck terror to his soul. His boy's frail body was the abiding-place of a power that laughed at the strength of man's hands.
"My boy, O, my boy!" groaned Leighton.
"Father!" cried Shenton, with the cry of a bursting heart, and hurled himself into his father's arms.
The next day was the first of the long vacation, and with it came an addition to the Leighton household. Mammy was given a temporary helper, a shrewd little maid, with a head thirty years old on shoulders of twelve. Lalia was her name. The Reverend Orme had chosen her from among his charity pupils. He himself gave her his instructions—never to leave Shenton except to run and report the moment he escaped from her charge.
Lalia was accepted without suspicion by the children not as a nurse, but as a playmate. Weeks passed. The four played together with a greater harmony than the three had ever attained. Day after day the Reverend Orme sat waiting in his study and brooding. The dreaded call never came. He began to distrust his messenger.
Then one stifling afternoon as he sat dozing in his chair a sharp rap on the study door awakened him with a start.
"Master! Master!" called Lalia's voice.
"Yes, yes," cried Leighton; "come in."
As he rose from his chair Lalia entered. She was breathless with running.
"Master," she said, "Shenton did quarrel with us. He has gone to Manoel—to his house."
"Manoel!" cried Leighton, "Manoel!" and strode hatless out into the glaring sun, across the lawn, and down the loquat avenue.
Lewis, standing with Natalie in the orange-orchard, stared, wondering, at that hurrying figure. Never had he seen the Reverend Orme walk like that, hatless, head hanging and swinging from side to side, fists clenched. Where could he he going? Suddenly he knew. The Reverend Orme was going to Manoel's house. Shenton was there. Lalia came running to them. "Hold Natalie!" Lewis cried to her, and sped away to warn Shenton of danger. He ran with all the speed of his eight years, but from the first he felt he was too late. The low-hanging branches of the orange-trees hindered him.
When he burst through the last of them, he saw the Reverend Orme's tall figure, motionless now, standing at the soiled, small-paned window of Manoel's house. As he stared, the tall figure crouched and stole out of sight, around the corner toward the door. Lewis rushed to the window and looked in. It seemed to him only a day since he had had to drag a log to stand on to see through this same window.
Shenton was sitting on the bench beside the table, his black, curly head hanging to one side. Beyond him sat Manoel, leering and jabbering. Between them was a bottle. Lewis's lips were opening for a cry of warning when the door was flung wide, and the Reverend Orme stepped into the room. Lewis could not see Shenton's face, but he saw his slight form suddenly straighten.
Then he realized with a great relief that the Reverend Orme was not looking at Shenton; his gaze was fastened on Manoel. Lewis, too, turned his eyes on Manoel. Cold sweat came out over him as he saw the terror in Manoel's face. The leer was still there, frozen. Over it and through it, like a double exposure on a single negative, hung the film of terror. The Reverend Orme, his hands half outstretched, walked slowly toward Manoel.
Suddenly the Portuguese crouched as though to spring. As quick as the gleam of a viper's tongue, Leighton's long arms shot out. Straight for the man's throat went his hands. They closed, the long, white fingers around a swarthy neck, thumbs doubled in, their knuckles sinking into the throat. Lewis felt as though it were his own eyes that started from their sockets. With a scream, he turned and ran.
He cast himself beneath the shelter of the first low-hanging orange-tree. He saw the Reverend Orme stalk by, bearing Shenton in his arms. For the first time in his life Lewis heard the sobs of a grown man, and instinctively knew himself the possessor of a secret thing—a thing that must never be told.
At the house, alarmed by Natalie's incoherent, excited chatter and Lalia's stubborn silence, Mrs. Leighton waited in suspense. Leighton entered with his burden and laid it down. Then he turned. She saw his face.
"Orme!" she cried, "Orme!" and started toward him, groping as though she had been blinded.
"Touch me not, Ann," spoke Leighton, with a strange calmness. "Thank God! the mark of Cain is on my brow."
That very night Leighton sought out his friend, the chief of police. He told him his story from the first creeping fear for his boy to the moment of terrible vengeance.
"So you killed him, eh?" said the chief, tossing his cigarette from him and thoughtfully lighting another. "Too bad. You ought to have come to me first, my friend, turned him over to us for a beating. It would have come to the same thing in the end and saved you a world of trouble. But what's done, is done. Now we must think. What do you suggest?"
Amazement dawned in Leighton's haggard face.
"What do I suggest?" he answered. "What does the law suggest, sir? Are there no courts and prison-bars In this country for—for——"
"There, there," interrupted the chief. "As you say, there are courts, of course, gaols, too; but our accommodations for criminals are not suitable for gentlemen."
"It is not for me to choose my accommodation, sir. I am here to pay the penalty of my crime. I have come to be arrested."
"Arrested?" repeated the chief, staring at Leighton. "Are you not my friend? Are you not the friend of all of us that count?"
"But—but——" stammered Leighton.
"Yes, sir," repeated the chief, "my friend."
"What do you mean?" cried Leighton. "Do you mean you will leave my punishment to my conscience—to my God?"
The chief looked at him quizzically.
"Your punishment? Why, certainly. To your God, if you like. But let us get down to business. You are nervous. Quite natural. When I was an irresponsible student, I killed a servant for waking me on the morning after a spree. I remember I was nervous for weeks. Now sit still. Calm yourself. Let me think for you. In fact, while we've been chatting, I have thought for you."
The chief leaned back in his chair and placed his finger-tips together.
"Listen. When it becomes necessary, I shall block all roads—all exits from the city—by telegraph. There is one highway—the road into the interior—without telegraph as yet. We should never think of blocking that.
"Now, as to time available. Let us be on the safe side. You must get away to-morrow. You have horses, a wagon, stable-hands. Have you a tent? I will lend you one—a large bell tent.
"Now, as to affairs—your property in this town. You will sign papers making your friend Lawyer Lima. Rodolpho and me joint trustees. He is my bitterest enemy, and I am his. In this way you can rest assured that neither of us will rob you."
Leighton made a deprecating gesture. The chief raised his hand and smiled.
"Ah," he said, "do not rob me of that thought. It was a stroke of genius. Between us," he continued, "we will advance you all the money you will need for a year. By that time we can send you more." He rose, and held out his hand. "Now, my friend, go, and God go with you!"
Leighton took the chief's hand.
"Good-by. I—I thank you."
"Not at all," said the chief, with a hearty grip. "To-morrow, eh? Get away to-morrow."
Leighton walked out and home in a daze. The remembrance of the agony in which he had resigned himself to the abandonment of his family, to notoriety, disgrace, and retribution, clung to him. What had seemed a nightmare, with an awakening bound to come, now became a waking dream, more terrible, because no dawn could give it end.
But the chief had been wise. He had left Leighton no time for disastrous introspection. Action, work, that sovereign antidote for troubled minds, seized upon him. He told Mrs. Leighton in as few words as possible what had happened.
She, too, was dazed by the chief's philosophy of friendship.
"But, Orme——" she began.
"I know, I know, Ann," he interrupted. "Only, we haven't time to think now, nor time to talk. Call mammy. Remember, we have but the one wagon. Pack carefully."
He himself hurried off to arouse the stable-hand. The stable-hand had not been to Manoel's house. He knew nothing of what had happened. He worked most of the night cheerfully, preparing for the welcome camping-trip.
By noon on the following day, when streets and country roads lay deserted under the tropic sun, the cavalcade was off. The wagon, drawn by two mules in charge of the stable-hand, led the way. It was laden with tent, baggage, and the women-folk, Ann, Natalie, and mammy. Behind followed Leighton on his favorite horse and Shenton and Lewis on their ponies. By sundown they reached the banks of the Tiete. It took men and boys an hour to set the big bell tent.
Because the road led north, they traveled north. Week after week, month after month, sometimes by hard, long stretches where water was scarce, sometimes lingering where pasturage was good, sometimes halting to let a fever run its course, they pushed northward. The farther they went, the more barren became the wilderness. The feudal mansions of the wealthy coffee-planters gave way to the miserable abodes of a land of drought. But houses were never far between, and wherever there were houses, there was cane rum. It was so cheap it was often given away for a smile.
Twice in the long months Shenton had eluded his watchful father, once by slipping his saddle-cloth and going back to pick it up, and once by riding ahead on a misty morning. Each time he stole back with hanging and drooping shoulders. The look of utter despondency and gloomy despair in his eyes wrung his parents' hearts, held back his father's hand from wrath.
Of them all, Shenton suffered most from fever. There came a time when he could no longer ride. Natalie, grown pale and thin, but strong withal, took his place on the pony and he hers on the wagon. There he lay long hours in his mother's arms.
When all the storms of life had swept over her, Ann Leighton looked back upon those days as the abiding-place of her dearest memories. Safe within the circle of her arms lay her boy. There no evil could reach him, no gnawing temptation ravage his child's will. Her watchful love warded off the gloomy hour. His prattle of childish things warmed her heart until it swelled to an exquisite agony of content.
One day they awoke to a new presence on the flat horizon. Far, far away rose a mountain from the plain. It was wonderfully symmetrical, rising to a single peak. All day long they traveled toward it. All day long Shenton kept his somber eyes fixed upon it. Toward evening he raised his face to his mother's. She leaned over him.
"Mother," he whispered, "I should like to reach the mountain."
Tears welled from her eyes and trickled down her cheeks. She held Shenton's curly head against her face so that he could not see. She stifled a sob and whispered back:
"My boy, you will reach the mountain."
The next day a man of the country joined them. He was dressed in a suit and hat of deerskin. On his feet were sandals. Across one shoulder he carried a stick from which dangled a bundle. His quick, springy stride carried him easily beside the cavalcade.
"The blessing of God be upon your Mercies," was his greeting. "Whence do you come and whither do you go? Tell him who so rudely asks, I beg you. I am John, the Courier."
Ann and the Reverend Orme looked vaguely at each other. They had no answer. But Shenton spoke.
"Friend," he said, "we come from the South. We journey to yonder mountain. What is it called?
"It is called the Sorcerer."
"The Sorcerer?" cried Shenton. "That is a strange-name."
"It is called the Sorcerer," said the man, "because it deceives. It is a landmark in the wilderness, but it shows no man the way. So equal are its sides, that it points neither east nor west nor south nor north. Upon, its summit is a single tree, planted by no human hands."
"I see the tree," said Shenton. "Mother, do you see the tree? It is like the steeple on a church." Then he turned to the courier. "Friend, the mountain points upward."
They camped at the foot of the mountain, for fever had laid its final grip upon Shenton. He was too weak to stand the jolting of the wagon. One night, while lying in his mother's arms, he slipped away from life.
Leighton looked upon his boy's face, still alight with content at having reached the mountain, upon his white, blue-veined body, so pitifully frail, and marveled that a frame so weak, so tender, so peaceful, had been only now a mighty battle-field.
He gathered up the body in his arms, and calling roughly to Lewis to bring an ax, he started up the barren mountainside.
Ann, dumb and tearless, stood before the tent, and watched him with unseeing eyes. Natalie, crying, clutched her skirt. At her feet sat mammy, her face upturned, tears flowing, her body swaying to her sobs.
Up and up climbed Leighton with Lewis panting behind him. They reached the towering summit of the mountain.
A great rock stood at the foot of the lonely tree. Beneath it Leighton dug with ax and hands. He tore branches from the tree and spread them within. Upon the fresh, green couch he laid the body of his boy. He fell upon his knees before it and tried to pray, but could not.
"O, Death," he groaned, "to this young soul hast thou been kind." Then with many stones they closed the tomb.
Leighton looked wistfully about him. He was seized by the primitive desire of man to leave some visible sign of overwhelming grief. His eyes rose above the rock to the lonely tree. Grasping the ax, he climbed the tree. High above the mountain-top he cut its stem. Then limb after limb fell crashing to the earth until only two were left. Out one and then the other he clambered and cut them off. The lonely tree was no more; in its place stood a mighty cross.
From far away across the plain, John, the Courier, looked back. His keen eyes fell upon the mountain. He stopped and stared.
"Ah, Sorcerer," he murmured, "hast thou now a heart? What power has crowned thy brow with the holy cross? Behold! one arm points to the rising sun and one to its setting. I shall no longer call thee Sorcerer, for thou art become the Guide."
At the edge of the plain stretched a line of hills. Within them was a little valley that looked toward the distant mountain. Leighton purchased the valley from its owner, Dom Francisco, who prized it lightly beside his vast herds of cattle.
At the top of the valley, and facing the mountain, Leighton built his new abode, four walls and a roof of homemade tiles. When it was finished, he looked upon its ugliness and said, "The Lord hath crushed my heart to infinite depths. Let us call this place Nadir."
The Leightons, who settled at Nadir after a long year of pilgrimage, looked, back upon the happy years at Consolation Cottage as the dead might look back upon existence. They were changed indeed. Ann's skin had lost the pale pink of transplanted Northern blood. Her sweet face had almost lost the dignity of sorrow. It was lined, weather-beaten, at times almost vacant. The Reverend Orme's black mane had suddenly turned white in streaks. A perpetual scowl knitted his brows. To mammy's broad countenance, built for vast smiles, had come a look of plaintive despair.
Natalie and Lewis were at the weedy age of nine. It was natural that they should have changed, but their change had gone beyond nature. Upon them, as upon their elders, had settled the silences and the vaguely wondering expression of those who live in lands of drought and hardship, who look upon fate daily.
Both of the children had become thin and hard; but to Lewis had come a greater change. His brown hair and eyes had darkened almost to black, his skin taken on an olive tinge. His face, with its eager eyes sometimes shining like the high lights in a deep pool or suddenly grown slumberous with dreams, began to proclaim him a Leighton of the Leightons. So evident became the badge of lineage that Ann and the Reverend Orme both noticed it. To Ann it meant nothing, but in the Reverend Orme it aroused bitter memories of his own boy. He began to avert his eyes from Lewis.
It was about this time that Natalie and Lewis cut their names to Lew and Nat. The two were inseparable. Each had a pony, and they roved at will until the sad day when a school was first opened in that wilderness.
It happened that Dom Francisco, the cattle king from whom Leighton had purchased Nadir, was a widower twice over and the father of twenty children, many of them still of tender years. When he learned that Leighton had been a schoolmaster, he did not rest until he had persuaded him to undertake the instruction of such of his children as were not already of use on the ranch. The Reverend Orme consented from necessity. His cash from the sale of Leighton Academy was gone; the rents from Consolation Cottage were small and reached him at long intervals.
Once more routine fell upon the Leighton household; once more the years stole by.
Lewis's school days were short. The Reverend Orme found that he could not stand the constant sight of the boy's face. To save himself from the shame of an outburst, he had bought a flock of goats and put Lewis in charge. Sometimes on his pony, sometimes on foot, Lewis wandered with his flock over the low hills. When the rains had been kind and the wilderness was a riot of leaf and bloom above long reaches of verdant young grass, his journeys were short. But when the grass was dry, the endless thorn-trees leafless, and the whole earth, stripped of Nature's awnings, weltered under a brazen sky, the hardy goats carried him far in their search for sustenance.
When he was near, Natalie joined him as soon as school and household duties would let her. Those were happy, quiet hours. Sometimes she brought cookies, hot from mammy's oven, sometimes the richer roly-poly, redolent of cinnamon and spice, a confection prized to this day, openly by the young, secretly by the old. Nor did Lewis receive her with empty hands. One day a monster guava, kept cool under moist leaves, greeted her eyes; the next, a brimming hatful of the tart imbu. If fruit failed, there was some wondrous toy of fingered clay or carved wood, or, perhaps, merely a glimpse of some furry little animal drawn to Lewis's knee by the power of vast stillness.
Lewis could not have told what it was he felt for Natalie. She was not beautiful, as children of the world go. Her little nose was saddled with freckles. Her eyes were brown, with a tinge of gold, but they were too big for her pale face. She was thin and lanky. Her hair, which matched the color of her eyes, might have been beautiful, but hair done in hard, tight braids has no chance to show itself. Lewis only knew that even when most grave Natalie's note was a note of joy—the only note of joy in all Nadir. To hear her cry, panting from her haste, "What is it to-day, Lew? A guava? O, Lew, what a beauty!" was ample reward for the longest search.
But there were days when Lewis and his goats were too far afield for Natalie to come. On those days Lewis carried with him sometimes a book, but more often a lump of clay, wrapped in a wet cloth. He would capture some frolicking kid and handle him for an hour, gently, but deeply, seeking out bone and muscle with his thin, nervous fingers. Then he would mold a tiny and clumsy image of the kid in clay. No sooner was it done than idleness would pall upon him. Back would go the clay into the wet cloth, to be kneaded into a shapeless mass from which a new creation might spring forth, a full-grown goat, his pony, any live thing upon which he could first lay his hands.
Even so, those days were long. The books he had read many, many times. Sometimes the clay would turn brittle under the morning sun, sometimes his fingers forgot what cunning they had, sometimes black thought fell upon him and held him till he felt a vague despair. He stood within the threshold of manhood. Who was he? What was life? Was this life?
About him men married and begat children, goats begat goats, cattle begat cattle, one day begat another. Lewis sat with hands locked about his knees and stared across the low hills out into the wide plain. "The Bible is wrong," he breathed to himself. "The world will never, never end."
Little do we know when our present world will end. A day came when Dom Francisco, the cattle king, whose herds by popular account were as the sands of the desert, asked in marriage the hand of Natalie.
As, toward evening, Lewis headed his flock for home, he saw in the distance a pillar of dust. It came rapidly to him. From it emerged Natalie on her pony. She jumped down, slipped the reins over her arm, and joined him.
"You have come far and fast," he said, glancing at the sweating pony. "Is anything the matter?"
"No," said Natalie, hesitatingly, and then repeated—"no. I've just come to talk to you."
For some time they walked in silence behind the great herd of nervous goats, which occasionally stopped to pasture, but more often scampered ahead till a call from Lewis checked them. Natalie laid her hand on the sleeve of Lewis's leather coat, a gesture with which she was wont to claim his close attention.
"Lew," she said, "what is marriage?"
Lewis turned and looked down at her. They were both seventeen, but his inch start of her had grown to half a foot.
"Marriage? Why, marriage——" He stopped. A faint color flared in his cheeks. He looked away from her. Then he said calmly: "Marriage, Nat, is just mating—like birds mate. First you see them flying about anyhow; then two fly together. They build a nest; they mate; they have little birds. The little birds grow up and do the whole thing over again. That's—that's marriage."
"So?" said Natalie. A little frown came to her brows. Was that marriage, indeed? Then she shook the frown from her. "Lew," she said gravely, but placidly, "they tell me I'm to marry Dom Francisco. Isn't it—isn't it funny?"
Lewis stopped in his tracks and shook her hand from his arm. His eyes flared.
"What did you say? They tell you—who told you?"
"Why, Lew!" cried Natalie, tears in her eyes and her lips twitching.
"There, there, Nat," said Lewis, softly. He laid his arm across her shoulders in an awkward gesture of affection. "Tell me, Nat. Who was it told you—told you that?"
"Father," sobbed Natalie.
Before she knew what he was doing, Lew had leaped upon her pony and was off at a gallop.
"Lew!" cried Natalie, "Lew! Shall I bring in the goats?"
He did not heed her.
Lewis stopped at Nadir only long enough to learn that the Reverend Orme had remained at the school-house as had been his wont of late. He found him there, idle, sitting at the rough table that served as his desk, and brooding. Lewis walked half the length of the room before Leighton saw him.
"What are you doing here?"
"What have you been telling Nat?"
The questions were almost simultaneous.
"What have I been telling Natalie?" repeated the Reverend Orme. "Well, what have I been telling her?"
Lewis fixed his eyes on Leighton's face.
"Are you really going to marry Nat to that—to that old man?"
The Reverend Orme shifted in his chair.
"Lewis," he said, "I don't know that it's any of your business, but it is probable that Natalie will marry Dom Francisco."
Lewis moved awkwardly from one foot to the other, but his eyes never shifted.
"Does Mother—Mrs. Leighton know about this? Does mammy? Do they agree?"
"Young man," answered Leighton, angrily, "they know that, as this world goes, Natalie is a lucky girl. Dom Francisco is the wealthiest man in the province. Look around you, sir. Whom would you have her marry if not Dom Francisco? Some pauper, I suppose. Some foundling."
Lewis's cheeks burned red.
"You need not go so far as to marry her to a foundling," he answered, "but you might be kinder to her than to marry her to—to that old man. You might choke her to death."
The Reverend Orme leaped from his chair.
"Choke her to death, you—you interloper!" He strode toward Lewis, his trembling hands held before him.
"Hold on!" cried Lewis, his eyes flaming. "I'm no drunkard—no cowardly Manoel."
The Reverend Orme stopped in his stride. A ghastly pallor came over his face.
"Manoel!" he whispered. "What do you know about Manoel?"
Lewis's heart sank low within him. His unbroken silence of years had been instinctive. Now, when it was too late, he suddenly realized that it had been the thread that held him to Nadir. He had broken it. Never more could he and the Reverend Orme sleep beneath the same roof, eat at the same table. He saw it in the Reverend Orme's face.
Leighton had staggered back to his chair and sat staring vacantly at the floor. Lewis looked at his head, streaked with white, at his brow, terribly lined, and at his vacant, staring eyes. He felt a sudden great pity for his foster-father, but pity had come too late.
"Sir," he said, "I am going away. I shall need some money." He felt no shame at asking for money. For seven years he had tended Leighton's goats—tended them so well that in seven years they had increased sevenfold.
Leighton unlocked the drawer of his table and took out a small roll of bank-notes. He tossed it on the table. Lewis picked out two notes from the roll, and pushed the rest back. He started toward the door. Half-way he paused and turned to his foster-father.
"Good-by, sir. I'm sorry I let you know that—that I knew."
Leighton did not look up.
"Good-by, Lewis," he said quietly.
Lewis hurried to his little room. He took out all his boyish treasures and laid them on the bed. How silly they looked, how childish! He swept them away, and spread a large red handkerchief in their place. He heard Natalie come in and call for him, but he did not answer. In the handkerchief he packed his scanty wardrobe. As he knotted the corners together he heard Mrs. Leighton and mammy chatting lightly with Natalie, helping her to dress.
Lewis, heavy-hearted, looked about his ugly little room, so bare, but as friendly as a plain face endeared by years of kindness. From among his discarded treasures he chose the model in clay of a kid, jumping, the best he had ever made. He tucked it into his bundle; then he picked up the bundle, and walked out into the great room, kitchen, sitting and dining room combined.
Mrs. Leighton and mammy were seated at the table. Beside them stood Natalie. They turned and looked at Lewis, surprised. Lewis stared at Natalie. She wore a dress he had seen but twice before and then on great occasions. It had been a birthday present from her parents. It was a red, pleated dress. Accordion silk, the women called it.
About Natalie's shoulders was a white, filmy scarf. For the first time in her life her hair was loosely piled upon her head. Through it and over it ran a bright ribbon. The gloss of the satin ribbon was as naught beside the gloss of her shining hair. Her neck, and her arms from the elbows, were bare. Her neck was very thin. One could almost see the bones.
"Where are you going, Lewis?" said Mrs. Leighton, listlessly.
Lewis felt the tears rise to his eyes. He was ashamed of them.
"Do not speak to me," he said roughly. "You are a wicked woman. You have sold Natalie." Then he turned fiercely on mammy. "And you," he said—"you have dressed her for the market. You are a bad nigger."
Mrs. Leighton gasped and then began to cry softly. Mammy's eyes stared at Lewis.
"Bad niggah, young Marster?" she mumbled vaguely.
Natalie grasped the table and leaned forward. "Lew!" she cried. "Why, Lew!"
Lewis struck a tear from his cheek, turned, and fled. He went to the rough lean-to that served as a stable and began to saddle his pony.
In all the heavens there was not a cloud. It was what the natives, too often scourged by drought, called an ugly night. The full moon rose visibly into the pale bowl of blue. Above her tropic glare the satellite stars shone wanly and far away.
As Lewis was about to mount, Natalie came running from the house. She held her new dress above her knees. Her white scarf streamed out like two wings behind her.
"Lew!" she called. "Wait! What are you doing?"
Lewis waited for her. She came close to him and laid her hand upon his arm. Her brown eyes, shot with gold, were bigger than ever. They looked their question into his face.
"Nat," he said, "I've quarreled with your dad. There's nothing to talk about. I must go."
"Go, Lew? Go where?"
Lewis shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know," he said. "Just go."
Natalie laid her head against him. Her two hands gripped his shoulders. She sobbed as though her heart would break. Lewis put his arm about her. He felt the twitching bones of her thin, warm body. His face was in her hair.
"Ah, Natalie," he murmured, brokenly, "don't cry! don't cry!"
They were children. They did not think to kiss.
Lewis traveled toward the ancient town of Oeiras. He had cast about in his mind for some means of livelihood and had decided to become a goatskin-buyer. He was hoping to come to an arrangement with some merchant in Oeiras.
One morning as he jogged along, his eyes on the ground, his thoughts far away, he heard the patter of many hoofs on the hard clay trail. A pack-train was coming toward him. At its head rode a guide. The guide stopped upon meeting Lewis, and immediately every mule behind him stopped, too.
"The blessing of God be upon you, friend!" he drawled. "Whence do you come and whither do you go?"
"God's blessing be praised," answered Lewis. "I come from the hills. I go to Oeiras."
"To Oeiras? We come thence. It is a long road, Oeiras."
"I go to seek a merchant who will start me as a goat-skin-buyer. Do you know of any such?"
"A goatskin-buyer? Friend, for almost every goat there is a goatskin-buyer. My brother is one, my father-in-law another. I myself shall become one after this trip is over. You would do well to choose some other occupation."
Lewis did not smile at the man's guile, though it had not escaped him. He was gazing open-mouthed at a horseman who was forcing his way past the laden mules. From some distance the horseman yelled in English:
"What the devil's the matter now? Ye gods and little fishes! what are you stopping for now?"
The guide shrugged his shoulders and tapped his head.
"Mad," he said; "an idiot. Imagine! He thinks those are words!"
The horseman drew up beside them, wrath in his face.
"Sir," said Lewis, "your guide stopped to greet me. It is the custom of the country."
Lewis and Natalie spoke English with the precision of the adults from whom they had learned it. They had never heard the argot of American childhood, but from mammy and from the tongue of their adopted land they had acquired a soft slurring of speech which gave a certain quaintness to their diction.
It was the turn of the stranger to stare open-mouthed. Lewis wore the uniform of the local cow-boy: a thick, wide-brimmed leather hat, fastened under the chin with a thong; a loose deerskin jumper and deerskin breeches that fitted tightly to the leg and ended in a long flap over the instep. On his feet were sandals and grotesque, handwrought spurs. His red bundle was tied to the cantle of his saddle. At hearing precise English from such a source, the stranger felt an astonishment almost equal to Balaam's surprise on hearing his ass speak.
No less was Lewis's wonder at the stranger's raiment. A pith helmet, Norfolk jacket, moleskin riding-breeches, leather puttees, and stout, pigskin footwear—these were strange apparel.
The stranger was not old. One would have placed him at forty-five. As a matter of fact, he was only forty. He was the first to recover poise. He peered keenly into Lewis's face.
"May I ask your name?"
"My name is Lewis Leighton. And yours?"
The stranger waved his hand impatiently.
"Where are you going?"
"I am on my way to Oeiras to seek employment," said Lewis.
"To seek employment, eh?" said the stranger, thoughtfully. "Will you tell this misbegotten guide that I wish to return to the water we passed a little while ago? I should like to talk to you, if you don't mind."
Lewis translated the order.
"So they are words, after all," said the guide. He shook his head from side to side, as one who suspects witchcraft.
When the pack-train was headed back on the road it had come, Lewis turned to the guide.
"Whither was your master bound?" he asked.
"Him?" said the guide, with a shrug of his shoulder. "Who knows? No sooner does he reach one town than he is off for another. It is his life, the madman, to bore a hole through this world of Christ. Just now we were headed for the ranch of Dom Francisco. After that, who knows? But he pays, friend. Gold oozes from him like matter from a sore."
They came to a spring. The stranger ordered up the fly of a tent. From his baggage he took two wonderful folding-chairs and a folding-table, opened them, and placed them under the fly. "Sit down," he said to Lewis.
The stranger took off his helmet and tossed it on the ground. Lewis pulled off his hat hurriedly and laid it aside. The stranger looked at him long and earnestly.
"Are you hungry?"
Lewis shrugged his shoulders.
"One can always eat," he said.
"Good," said the stranger. "Please tell these loafers to off-load the mules and set camp. And call that one here—the black fellow with a necklace of chickens."
Lewis did as he was bidden. The man with the chickens stood before the stranger and grinned.
The stranger raised his eyes on high.
"Ah, God," he said, "I give Thee thanks that at last I can talk to this low-browed, brutal son of a degenerate race of cooks." He turned to Lewis. "Tell him," he continued—"tell him that I never want to see anything boiled again unless it's his live carcass boiling in oil. Tell him that I hate the smell, the sight, and the sound of garlic. Tell him that jerked beef is a fitting sustenance for maggots, but not for hungering man. Tell him there is a place in the culinary art for red peppers, but not by the handful. Tell him, may he burn hereafter as I have burned within and lap up with joy the tears that I have shed in pain. Tell him—tell him that."
For the first time in the presence of the stranger Lewis smiled. His smile was rare and, as is often the case with a rare smile, it held accumulated charm.
"Sir," he said, "let me cook a meal for you."
While Lewis cooked, the stranger laid the table for two. In less than an hour the meal was ready. A young fowl, spitchcocked, nestled in a snowy bed of rice, each grain of which was a world unto itself. The fowl was basted with the sovereign gravy of the South; thick, but beaten smooth, dusted with pepper and salt, breathing an essence of pork. Beside the laden platter was a plate of crisp bread—bread that had been soaked into freshness in a wet cloth and then toasted lightly. Beside the bread lay a pat of fresh butter on a saucer. It was butter from the tin, but washed white in the cool water of the spring, and then sprinkled with salt.
The stranger nodded approval as he started to eat.
"A simple meal, my accomplished friend," he said to Lewis, "but I know the mouths of the gods are watering."
When nothing was left of the food, the stranger, through Lewis, ordered the table cleared, then he turned to his guest.
"You have already had occasion to see how useful you would be to me," he said. "I propose that you seek employment no further. Join me not as cook, but as interpreter, companion, friend in very present trouble. I will pay you a living wage."
Lewis's eyes lighted up. What wage should he demand for accompanying this strange man, who drew him as Lewis himself drew shy, wild creatures to his knee? No wage. No wage but service. "I will go with you," he said.
"Good!" said the stranger. "Now—where shall we go?"
"Where shall we go?" repeated Lewis, puzzled.
"Yes. Where shall we go?"
"That is for you to say," said Lewis, gravely, fearing a joke.
"Not at all," said the stranger. "To me it is a matter of complete indifference. Of all the spots on the face of the earth, this is the last; no game, no water, no scenery, no women, no food. And having seen the last spot on earth, direction no longer interests me. What would you like to see?"
Lewis felt himself inside a book of fairy-tales.
"I?" he said, smiling shyly. "I should like to see the sea again."
"Right you are!" said the stranger. "Tell the guide to start for the sea."
The stranger was accompanied by two muleteers, a cook, a wash-boy, and the guide. Not one of these was a menial, for menials do not breed in open country. When the stranger shouted for one of them, they all gathered round him and stood at ease, smiling at his gestures, guessing genially at what he was trying to say, and in the end calmly doing things their own way.
When Lewis called the guide, they all came, as was their custom.
"Your master," said Lewis to the guide, "wishes to go to the sea. He bids you start for the sea."
The guide stared at Lewis, then at the stranger.
"The sea! What is the sea?"
"The sea," said Lewis, gravely, "is the ocean, the great water where ships sail."
"Bah!" said the guide. "More madness. How shall I guide him to the sea if I know not where it is? Tell him there is no sea."
One of the muleteers broke in.
"Indeed, there is a sea, but it is far, far away. It is thirty days away."
"And how do you go?" asked Lewis.
"I do not know. I only know that one must go to Joazeiro, and from there they say there is a road of iron that leads one to the sea."
"Joazeiro!" exclaimed the guide. "Ah, that is some sense. Joazeiro is a place. It is on the river. Petrolina is on this side, Joazeiro on that. As for this road of iron, hah!" He turned on the muleteer. "Thou, too, art mad."
The stranger listened to what Lewis had to say, then he drew out a map from his pocket, unfolded it, and spread it on the table. "A road of iron, eh? Well, let's see."
The guide grinned at Lewis.
"It is a picture of the world," he said. "He stares at it daily."
"Yes," said the stranger, "here we are—Joazeiro."
Lewis leaned over his shoulder. He saw the word "Joazeiro." From it a straight red line ran eastward to the edge of the map.
The stranger measured distances with a pencil. "We can make Joazeiro in fifteen days," he said. "Tell the men we will rest to-day and to-night. To-morrow we start."
The marvels of that camp were a revelation to Lewis. He kept his mouth shut, but his eyes were open. One battered thing after another revealed its mystery to him. He turned to the stranger.
"You are a great traveler," he said.
The stranger started. He had been day-dreaming.
"A great traveler? Yes. I have been a wanderer on all the faces of the earth. I have lived seven lives. I'll give them to you, if you like."
Lewis smiled, puzzled, but somehow pleased.
"Give them to me—your seven lives?"
The stranger did not answer. Gloom had settled on the face that Lewis had seen only alight. Lewis, too, was silent. His life with Ann and the Reverend Orme had taught him much. He recognized the dwelling-place of sorrow.
Presently the stranger shook his mood from him.
"Come," he said, "let us begin." From one of his bags he took a pack of cards. He sat at the table and shuffled them. "There are many games of patience," he continued. "They are all founded on averages and thousands of combinations, so intricate that the law of recurrence can be determined only by months of figuring. However, one can learn a patience without bothering with the law of recurrence. I shall now teach you a game called Canfield."
Time after time the cards were laid out, played, and reshuffled.
"Now," said the stranger, "do you think you know the game?"
"Yes," said Lewis, "I think so."
He played, with some success.
"You have got out fourteen cards," said the stranger. "You have beaten the game."
"How can that be?" asked Lewis.
"It can be," said the stranger, "because this is one of the few games of patience that has been reduced to a scientific gambling basis. The odds, allowing for the usual advantage to the banker, have been determined at five to one. Say I'm the banker. I sell you the pack for fifty-two pennies, and I pay you five pennies for every card you get out. Five to one. Do you see that?"
"Well," said the stranger. "You got out fourteen cards. If you had paid a penny a card for the pack, how much would you have gained over what you spent?"
"Eighteen pennies," said Lewis, after a moment. "If I had got them all out," he added, "it would have been two hundred and eight pennies."
"Right!" said the stranger. "You have a head for figures. Now, have you any money?"
Lewis colored slightly.
"Yes," he said. He fished out his two bank-notes and laid them on the table.
The stranger picked them up.
"All right," he said. "I'll sell you the pack for one of these. Now, go ahead."
All afternoon Lewis played against the bank with varying fortune. When he was ahead, some instinct made him ashamed to call off; when he was behind, a fever seized him—a fever to hold his own, to win. His eyes began to ache. Toward evening three successive bad hands suddenly wiped out his store of money. A feeling of despair came over him.
"Don't worry," said the stranger. He pushed the two notes and another toward Lewis. "I'll give you those for your pony. Now, at it you go. Win him back."
Lewis played feverishly. In an hour he had lost the three notes.
"Never mind," said the stranger; "I'll give you another chance." He pushed one of the notes toward Lewis. "That for your bundle in the red handkerchief. You may win the whole lot back in one hand."
Lewis played and lost. Despair seized upon him now with no uncertain hand. His money, his pony, even his little bundle gone! This was calamity. He suffered as only the young can suffer. His world had suddenly become a blank. Through bloodshot eyes he looked upon the stranger and tried to hate him, but could not.
"Come," said the stranger, rising and lighting a lantern. "I'm going to make you a foolish offer of big odds against me. I'll wager all I've won from you against one year's service that you can't beat the game in one hand. Eleven cards out of the fifty-two beats the game."
What was a year's service? thought Lewis. He had been willing to give that for nothing. He played and lost. Suddenly shame was added to his despair. To give service is noble, but to have it bought from you, won from you! Lewis fought back his tears desperately. What a fool, what a fool this man, this stranger, had made of him!
The stranger took out his watch and looked at it.
"In seven hours and seven minutes," he remarked, "I have given you one of my seven lives that it took almost seven years to live. Seven, by the way, is one of the mystic numbers."
At his first words Lewis felt a wave of relief—the relief of the diver in deep waters who feels himself rising to the surface. Perhaps all was not lost. Perhaps this man could restore their imperiled friendship, so sudden, already so dear.
The stranger went on:
"Ashamed to stop when you're ahead, too keen to stop when you're behind, you've lost all you possessed, jarred your trust in your fellow-man, and bartered freedom for slavery—mortgaged a year of your life. You've climbed the cliff of greed, got one whiff of sordid elation at the top, and tumbled down the precipice of despair. In short, you've lived the whole life of a gambler—all in seven hours."
He picked up Lewis's two notes and stuffed them into his own well-filled wallet. "They say," he continued, "that only experience teaches. You may gamble all the rest of your life, but take it from me, my friend, gambling holds no emotion you haven't gone through today."
Their eyes met. Lewis's gaze was puzzled, but intent. The stranger's eyes were almost twinkling.
"By the way," he said, "what's in the bundle? Let's see."
Lewis brought his sorry little bundle and laid it on the table. He untied the knots with trembling fingers. The stranger poked around the contents with his finger. He picked out the little kid of clay, already minus a leg.
"Hallo! What's this?"
"A toy," said Lewis, coloring.
"Who made it?"
"You did, eh? Well, I'll keep it." The stranger fingered around until he found the missing leg. "You can take the rest of your things away. I'll lend 'em to you, and your pony. Now let's eat."
That night Lewis, too excited to sleep, lay awake for hours smiling at the moon. He was smiling because he felt that somehow, out of the wreck, friendship had been saved.
The country through which they traveled was familiar to Lewis, tedious to the stranger. Sand, sparse grass, and thorn-trees; thorn-trees and sand, was their daily portion. The sun beat down and up. They traveled long hours by night, less and less by day. They talked little, for night has a way of sealing the lips of those who journey under her wing.
Water was scarce. The day before that on which they hoped to make the river, a forced march brought them to a certain water-hole. The stranger, Lewis, and the guide arrived at it far ahead of the pack-train. The water-hole was dry. They were thirsty. They pushed on to a little mud house a short way off the trail. The stranger looked up as they approached it.
"Do you think it will stand till we get there?" he asked.
Lewis smiled. The house was leaning in three directions. The weight of its tiled roof threatened at any moment to crush the long-suffering walls to the ground. At one corner stood a great earthen jar, and beside the jar an old hag. She held a gourd to her lips. On some straw in the shade of the eaves was a setting hen.
"Auntie," called Lewis, "we thirst. Give us water."
The old woman turned and stared at them. Her face, all but her eyes, was as dilapidated as her house. Her black eyes, brilliant and piercing, shone out of the ruin.
"I have no water for thee to drink, my pretty son," she answered.
"Shameless one!" cried Lewis. "Dost thou drink thyself and deny the traveler?"
"Eh, eh!" cackled the old woman. "Thou wouldst share my gourd? Then drink, for thy tongue is not so pretty as thy face." She held up the gourd to Lewis in both her hands. He took it from her and passed it to the stranger.
The stranger made a grimace, but sipped the water. Then he flung gourd and water to the ground with; half an oath.
"Bah!" he said to Lewis. "It is salt."
"Salt!" cried Lewis. "But she drank of it. I saw her drink."
"Yes," said the stranger; "she's got an alkalified stomach. Let those who hanker after immortality look upon this woman. She will never die."
The old hag laughed.
"Ah, shameless one, eh?" she mumbled. "'Tis the young one should have tasted, but no matter, for the son is the spit of the father."
"Auntie," said Lewis, smiling, "give us of thy shade."
"Willingly, my pretty son, for thou hast smiled."
They dismounted. The stranger and Lewis entered the house.
"Here," cried the old woman, "sit here; for when the house falls, the weight will go yonder."
Lewis explained to the stranger. He glanced at the old woman.
"Old Immortality has brains," he said. "Might have known it, with those eyes."
They sat on the floor of beaten earth. The old woman went out. Through the gaps in the walls Lewis saw her build a fire and put a pot of the brackish water on to boil. Then he saw her drag the setting hen from her nest and wring its neck. He jumped up and rushed out.
"What are you doing?" he cried. "Why kill a setting hen?"
"Aye," said the old woman, "it is a pity, for she is the last chicken in the world."
Lewis and the stranger were hungry. Night was falling. There was no sign of their belated pack-train. When boiling had done its utmost, they ate the last chicken on earth. Before they had finished, a child, pitifully thin, came in, bearing on her head a small jar of water.
"Now drink," said the old woman, "for this water came from the river, twelve miles away."
They drank, then the stranger set his helmet on the floor for a pillow, laid his head upon it, and slept. Lewis sat beside him. The child had curled up in a corner. The guide was snoring outside. In the doorway the old woman crouched and crooned.
Presently she turned and peered into the house. She beckoned to Lewis. He rose and followed her. She led him around the house, through a thicket of thorn-trees, and up the slope of a small sand-dune. Toward the west sand-dunes rose and fell in monotonous succession.
At the top of the dune the old woman crouched on her heels and motioned to Lewis to sit.
"My son," she said, "thou hast taken my carcass for the common clay of these parts. I cannot blame thee, but had I the water to wash this cursed dust from my face and hands, I would show thee a skin that was stained at birth with the olive and veins whose blood flows unmixed through generations without end. These wrinkled feet have flattened the face of the earth bit by bit. Bear witness those who left me here behind to die! My eyes have looked upon things seen and unseen. I am old. To youth is given folly; to the old, wisdom. To-night my wisdom shall suckle thy folly, for the heavens have shown me a sign."
Lewis stared at the old woman with wondering eyes. He had never seen a Gipsy. What was she? he asked himself. No native. The native's mind was keen with knowledge of horses, cattle, and goats, but stolid, almost stupid, when it came to words and thoughts. There was an exception—the mad. The mad prattled and sometimes said extraordinary things. Perhaps this woman was mad. He turned half toward her.
"Look up," she commanded. "Dost thou see no sign?"
Lewis lay on his back and gazed into the sky. "I see the moon and the stars, Auntie—a young moon and very old stars—but no sign. Not even a cloud to remind the world of rain."
The old woman leaned forward and touched his arm. He started.
"Look over there!" She pointed to the west and south. "See how the young moon is held within the claws of Scorpion. His back is arched across the quarter. His tail points to the south. The Cross that some call Holy hangs like a pendent upon its tip. Look up. Upon his arched back he bears the circlet—the seven worlds of women."
"I see the Scorpion, Auntie," said Lewis, humoring her. "I see the circlet too, but it is far above his back. It is like a crown. Read me the sign of the seven worlds of women."
Lewis propped his head on one elbow. Before him squatted the old woman. Her hands were locked about her legs. Her chin rested on her knees. Her beady eyes shone like two black stars.
"And shall I not read thee a sign?" she continued, swaying from side to side. "Child of love art thou. At thy birth was thy mother rent asunder, for thou wert conceived too near the heart. Thy path through the world is blazed as one blazes a path in the forest. He who is at thy side is before thee and after thee. Thou travelest in darkness, but thou art cursed and blessed with the gift of sight. The worlds of women are seven: spirit, weed, flower, the blind, the visioned, libertine, and saint. None of these is for thee. For each child of love there is a woman that holds the seven worlds within a single breast. Hold fast to thy birthright, even though thou journey with thy back unto the light. I have spoken."
A long silence fell upon the sand-dune. Lewis felt held, oppressed. He was tired. He wished to sleep, but the woman's words rang in his brain like shouts echoing in an empty hall.
Presently came sounds from the mud hut beyond the thorn-thicket. Men were calling. There was the patter and scrape of mules' hoofs, the whistle of those that urged them on. Lewis and the old hag hurried down. The guide, the muleteers, and the stranger were having a wordy struggle.
"Hallo," said the stranger, "where have you been? What are they trying to say? I need you even in my sleep."
"They say," said Lewis, "that there is no help for it; we must push on to the river now. The mules must have water."
"Right you are," said the stranger. He pointed to one heavily laden mule. "We don't need those provisions. Give them to Old Immortality. They'll last her a hundred years."
They arrived in Petrolina at dawn. Before them swept the vast river. Beyond it could be seen the dazzling walls and restful, brown-tiled roofs of Joazeiro. The distant whistle of a shunting locomotive jarred on the morning stillness.
For the first time Lewis saw the stranger in action. Off came the loads. They were sorted rapidly. Tent, outfit, and baggage were piled into one of the ponderous ferry-canoes that lined the shore. All that was left was handed over to the guide for equal division among the men.
"Now," cried the stranger, "there's always a marketplace. Tell them to take this worn-out bunch along and find the cattle corner." He waved at the ponies and mules.
The market was in full swing. Rubber, goatskins, hides, and orchids from the interior; grain, tobacco, sugar, and rum from the river valley, met, mingled, and passed at this crossways of commerce. The stranger stood beside his mules. The dome of his pith helmet rose above the average level of heads. People gazed upon it in mild wonder, and began to crowd around.
"Now," said the stranger, poking Lewis's thin pony in the ribs, "offer this jack-rabbit for sale, cash and delivery on the minute."
"Offer my—my pony——" stammered Lewis.
The stranger eyed him grimly.
Suddenly Lewis remembered. He threw up his head and called out as he was bidden. People nudged one another, but no man spoke. Then a wag on the outskirts of the crowd shouted:
"I'll give thee a penny for what's left of that horse, brother."
There was a ripple of laughter. Lewis colored, and his eyes grew moist.
"He says he will give a penny," he said.
"A penny?" said the stranger, gravely. "Take it. Cash, mind you. Cash on delivery."
The sale was made amid general consternation. As the dazed wag led his purchase away, he trembled as though from a first stroke of paralysis. The marketplace began to buzz, to hum, and then to shout, "A stranger sells horses for a penny, cash on delivery!" They laughed and crowded nearer. Merchants forgot their dignity, and came running from the streets of the town.
"Now, boy, this one," said the stranger, poking a mule; "but be careful. Be careful to wait for the highest bid."
The stranger's warning came just in time. No sooner had Lewis called the mule for sale than bids rained on him from every side. One after the other, in rapid succession, the animals were sold; but no more went for a penny.
His pockets stuffed with notes and silver, the stranger pushed his way through the crowd, suddenly grown silent. On the way to the river he paid off his men. He climbed into the canoe, and Lewis followed. The boatmen shoved off.
The wag, leading Lewis's pony, had followed them to the river-bank.
"Show me thy hoof, partner," he shouted, laughing, to the stranger. "Thou shouldst deal in souls, not in horses. I would I had shaken thy hand. God go with thee!"
The stranger calmly counted his money.
"Boy," he said, "I have just given you a five-year life in five minutes. Write this down in your mind. In high finance he who knows figures starves on two dollars a day; success comes to him who knows men."
During the long hours in the dirty train that jerked them toward the coat and civilization the stranger began to grow nervous. Lewis looked up more than once to find himself the object of a troubled gaze. They were the only passengers. There were moments when the road-bed permitted snatches of conversation, but it was during a long stop on a side-track that the stranger unburdened himself.
"Boy," he said, "the time is coming when I must tell you my name."
"I know your name," said Lewis.
"What!" cried the stranger.
"I know your name," repeated Lewis; "it is Leighton."
"How? How do you know?" The stranger was frowning.
"No," said Lewis, quietly; "I haven't been looking through your things. One day my—my foster-father and my foster-mother were talking. They did not know I was near. I didn't realize they were talking about me until mammy spoke up. Mammy is—well, you know, she's just a mammy——"
"Yes," said the stranger. "What did mammy say?"
"She said," continued Lewis, coloring slightly, "that a Leighton didn't have to have his name written in a family Bible because God never forgets to write it in his face."
"Good for mammy!" said the stranger. "So that's what they were talking about." For a moment he sat silent and thoughtful; then he said: "Boy, don't you worry about any family Bible business. Your name's written in the family Bible all right. Take it from me; I know. I'm Glendenning Leighton—your father." His eyes glistened.
"I'm glad about the name," said Lewis, his face alight. "I'm glad you're my dad, too. But I knew that."
"Knew it? How did you know it?"
"The old woman—Old Immortality. Don't you remember? She said, 'The son is the spit of the father.'"
"Did she?" said Leighton. "Do you believe everything as easily as that?"
"The heart believes easily," said Lewis.
"Eh? Where'd you get that?"
"I suppose I read it somewhere. I think it is true. She told me my fortune."
"Told you your fortune, did she? I thought I was missing something when I snored the hours away instead of talking to that bright old lady. Fortunes are silly things. Do you remember what she told you?"
"Yes," said Lewis, "I think I remember every word. She said, 'Child of love art thou. At thy birth was thy mother rent asunder, for thou wert conceived too near the heart——'"
Lewis looked up. His father's face was livid. His breast heaved as though he gasped for air. Then he clenched his fists. Lewis saw the veins on his forehead swell as he fought for self-mastery. He calmed himself deliberately; then slowly he dropped his face in his hands.
"Some day," he said in a voice so low that Lewis could hardly hear the words, "I shall tell you of your mother. Not now."
Gloom, like a tangible presence, filled the car. It pressed down upon Lewis. He felt it, but in his heart he knew that for him the day was a glad day. The train started. He leaned far out of a window. The evening breeze was blowing from the east. To his keen nostrils came a faint breath of the sea. When he drew his head in again, the twinkle he had already learned to watch for was back in his father's eyes.
"What do you smell, boy?"
"I smell the sea," said Lewis.
"How do you know? How old were you when you made your first voyage?"
"Don't you know?"
Leighton shook his head.
Lewis, looking at his father with wondering eyes, regretted the spoken question.
"I was three years old. I suppose I remember the smell of the sea, though it seems as if I couldn't possibly. I remember the funnel of the steamer, though."
"Seems like looking back on a quite separate life, doesn't it?"
"Yes," said Lewis, nodding, "it does."
"Of course it does, and in that fact you've got the germ of an individual philosophy. Every man who goes through the stress of life has need of an individual philosophy."
"What's yours, sir?"
"I was going to tell you. Life, to me, is like this train, a lot of sections and a lot of couplings. When you're through with a car, side-track it and—yank out the coupling. Like all philosophies, this one has its flaw. Once in a while your soul looks out of the window and sees some long-forgotten, side-tracked car beckoning to be coupled on again. If you try to go back and pick it up, you're done. Never look back, boy; never look back. Live ahead even if you're only living a compensation."
"What's a compensation?" asked Lewis.
"A compensation," said Leighton thoughtfully, "is a thing that doesn't quite compensate."
Above the rattle of the train sounded the deep bellow of a steamer's throttle. Lewis turned to the window. Night had fallen.
"Oh, look, sir!" he cried. "We're almost there!"
Leighton joined him. Before them were spangled, in a great crescent, a hundred thousand lights. Along the water-front the lights clustered thickly. They climbed a cliff in long zigzags. At the top they clustered again. Out on the bay they swayed from halyards, their reflections glimmering back from the rippling water like so many agitated moons.
"Right you are—Bahia," said Leighton. "We're almost there, and it's no fishing-hamlet, either."
The next morning, as they were sitting, after their coffee and rolls, at a little iron table on the esplanade of the Sul Americano, Leighton said: "It takes a man five years to learn how to travel in a hurry and fifteen more to learn how not to hurry. You may consider that you've been a traveler for twenty years." He stretched and yawned. "Let's take a walk, slowly."
They started down the broad incline which, in long, descending zigzags, cut the cliff that divided lower town from upper. The closely laid cobblestones were slippery with age.
"It took a thousand slaves a century to pave these streets," said Leighton. "Do you know anything about this town, Bahia?"
"It was once the capital of the empire," said Lewis.
"Yes," said Leighton. "Capital of the empire, seat of learning, citadel of the church, last and greatest of the great slave-marts. That's a history. Never bother your mind about a man, a woman, or a town that hasn't got a history. They may be happy, but they're stupid."
The principal street of the lower town was swarming with a strange mixture of humanity. Here and there hurried a foreigner in whites, his flushed cheeks and nose flying the banner of John Barleycorn.
Along the sidewalks passed leisurely the doctorated product of the universities—doctors of law, doctors of medicine, embryo doctors still in the making—each swinging a light cane. Their black hats and cutaway coats, in the fashion of a temperate clime, would have looked exotic were it not for the serene dignity with which they were worn. With them, merchants lazed along, making a deal as they walked. Clerks, under their masters' eyes, hurried hither and thither.
These were all white or near-white. The middle of the street, which held the great throng, was black. Slaves with nothing on but a loin-cloth staggered under two bags of coffee or under a single monster sack of cocoa. Their sweating torsos gleamed where the slanting sun struck them. Other slaves bore other burdens: a basket of chickens or a bundle of sugar-cane on the way to market; a case of goods headed for the stores of some importer; now and then a sedan-chair, with curtains drawn; and finally a piano, unboxed, on a pilgrimage.
The piano came up the middle of the street borne on the heads of six singing negroes. For a hundred yards they would carry it at a shuffling trot, their bare feet keeping time to their music, then they would set it down and, clapping their hands and still singing, do a shuffle dance about it. This was the shanty of piano-movers. No other slave dared sing it. It was the badge of a guild.
"D'you hear that?" asked Leighton, nodding his head. "That's a shanty. They're singing to keep step."
In shady nooks and corners and in the cool, wide doorways sat still other slaves: porters waiting for a stray job; grayheads, too old for burdens, plaiting baskets; or a fat mammy behind her pot of couscous.
Three porters sat on little benches on the top step of a church porch. Leighton approached one of them.
"Brother," he said, "give me your stool."
The slave rose, and straightened to a great height. He held up his hands for a blessing. He grinned when Leighton sat down on his bench. Then he looked keenly at Lewis's face, and promptly dragged the black at his side to his feet.
"Give thy bench to the young master, thou toad."
Leighton nodded his head.
"No fool, the old boy, eh? The son's the spit of the father." His eyes swept the swarming street. "What men! What men!" He was looking at the blacks. "Boy, did you ever hear of a general uprising among the slaves at home, in the States?"
"No," said Lewis; "there never was one."
"Exactly," said Leighton. "There never was one because in the early days our planters found out what not to buy in the way of black meat. They weren't looking for the indomitable spirit. They weren't looking for men, but for slaves, and the black-birders soon learned that if they didn't want to carry their cargo farther than New Orleans they had to load up with members of the gentlest tribes. Now, there have been terrible uprisings of blacks in the West Indies, in Demerara and here. Ask this old chap of what race he is."
Lewis turned and asked the question. The tall black straightened, his face grew stern, his eyes moist.
"Tito, my name. I am of the tribe of Minas. In the time of thy grandfather I was traded as ransom for a king."
"Hm—m, I can believe it," said Leighton. "Now ask the next one, the copper-colored giant."
"And thou?" said Lewis.
"I? I am a Fulah of the Fulahs. Before blacks were, or whites, we were thus, the color of both."
"You see?" said Leighton. "Pride. He was afraid you'd take him for a mulatto. Now the other fellow, there."
"And thou?" said Lewis.
The third black had remained seated. He turned his eyes slowly to Lewis.
"I am no slave," he began. "I am of the tribe of Houssa. To my master's wealth. I added fifteen of my sons. In the great rebellion they fell, one and all."
"The great rebellion," said Leighton. "He means the last Houssa uprising. Thirty thousand of 'em, and they fought and fell to a man. The Government was glad of the chance to wipe 'em out. Ask him how he escaped."
"Escaped?" The black's eyes gleamed. "Child, I did not escape. My master's son was a babe in arms. My master bade me bear him to safety. When I came back, alone I bore my master to the grave. Then it was too late. They would not kill me. Now the babe is grown. He tells me I am a free man. It is written on paper."
While Leighton and Lewis watched the crowd, they themselves did not remain unnoticed. A small group of the leisurely class began to block the pavement before them. Father and son were a strange pair. Lewis was still in his leather cow-boy clothes. Alone, he would not have attracted more notice than a man with a beard and a carpet-bag on Broadway; but the juxtaposition of pith helmet, a thing unknown in those parts, and countryman's flat leather hat, and the fact of their wearers usurping the seats of two black carriers was too much for one native son, dressed in the latest Paris fashion.