A Village Chronicle
S. WEIR MITCHELL, M.D., LL.D.
Author of Hugh Wynne, The Adventures of Francois, Constance Trescot, etc., etc.
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK WHICH RECALLS CERTAIN SCENES OF THE CIVIL WAR TO THE MEMORY OF MY THREE BROTHERS
R.W.M. N.C.M. E.K.M.
ALL OF WHOM SERVED IN THE ARMIES OF THEIR COUNTRY
There will be many people in this book; some will be important, others will come on the scene for a time and return no more. The life-lines of these persons will cross and recross, to meet once or twice and not again, like the ruts in a much used road. To-day the stage may be crowded, to-morrow empty. The corner novels where only a half dozen people are concerned give no impression of the multitudinous contacts which affect human lives. Even of the limited life of a village this is true. It was more true of the time of my story, which lacking plot must rely for interest on the influential relations of social groups, then more defined in small communities than they are to-day.
Long before the Civil War there were in the middle states, near to or remote from great centres, villages where the social division of classes was tacitly accepted. In or near these towns one or more families were continuously important on account of wealth or because of historic position, generations of social training, and constant relation to the larger world. They came by degrees to constitute what I may describe as an indistinct caste, for a long time accepted as such by their less fortune-favoured neighbours. They were, in fact, for many years almost as much a class by themselves as are the long-seated county families of England and like these were looked to for helpful aid in sickness and in other of the calamities of life. The democrat time, increasing ease of travel and the growth of large industries, gradually altered the relation between these small communities, and the families who in the smaller matters of life long remained singularly familiar with their poorer neighbours and in the way of closer social intimacies far apart.
It seemed to me worth while to use the life of one of these groups of people as the background of a story which also deals with the influence of politics and war on all classes.
The first Penhallow crossed the Alleghanies long before the War for Independence and on the frontier of civilisation took up land where the axe was needed for the forest and the rifle for the Indian. He made a clearing and lived a hard life of peril, wearily waiting for the charred stumps to rot away.
The younger men of the name in Colonial days and later left the place early, and for the most part took to the sea or to the army, if there were activity in the way of war. In later years, others drifted westward on the tide of border migration, where adventure was always to be had. This stir of enterprise in a breed tends to extinction in the male lines. Men are thinned out in their wooing of danger—the belle dame sans merci. Thus there were but few Penhallows alive at any one time, and yet for many years they bred in old-fashioned numbers.
As time ran on, a Penhallow prospered in the cities, and clinging to the land added fresh acres as new ambitions developed qualities which are not infrequently found in descendants of long-seated American families. It was not then, nor is it now, rare in American life to find fortune-favoured men returning in later days to the homes of their youth to become useful in many ways to the communities they loved. One of these, James Penhallow,—and there was always a James,—after greatly prospering in the ventures of the China trade, was of the many who about 1800 bought great tracts of land on the farther slope of the Pennsylvania Alleghanies. His own purchases lay near and around the few hundred acres his ancestor took up and where an aged cousin was left in charge of the farm-house. When this tenant died, the house decayed, and the next Penhallow weary of being taxed for unproductive land spent a summer on the property, and with the aid of engineers found iron in plenty and soft coal. He began about 1830 to develop the property, and built a large house which he never occupied and which was long known in the county as "Penhallow's Folly." It was considered the more notably foolish because of being set, in unAmerican fashion, deep in the woods, and remote from the highway. What was believed to be the oldest pine-tree in the county gave to the place the popular name of "Grey Pine" and being accepted by the family when they came there to live, "Penhallow's Folly" ceased to be considered descriptive.
The able and enterprising discoverer of mines had two sons. One of them, the youngest, married late in life, and dying soon after left a widow and a posthumous son John, of whom more hereafter. The elder brother was graduated from West Point, served some years with distinction, and marrying found himself obliged to resign his captaincy on his father's death to take charge of the iron-mills and mines, which had become far more important to the family than their extensive forest-holdings on the foot-hills of the western watershed of the Alleghanies.
The country had long been well settled. The farmers thrived as the mills and mines needed increasing supplies of food and the railway gave access to market. The small village of Westways was less fortunate than the county. Strung along the side of the road opposite to Penhallow's woods, it had lost the bustling prosperity of a day when the Conestoga wagons stopped over-night at the "General Wayne Inn" and when as yet no one dreamed that the new railroad would ruin the taverns set at intervals along the highway to Pittsburgh. Now that Westways Crossing, two miles away, had been made the nearest station, Westways was left to live on the mill-wages and such profits as farming furnished.
When Captain James Penhallow repaired the neglected house and kept the town busy with demands for workmen, the village woke up for a whole summer. In the autumn he brought to Grey Pine his wife, Ann Grey, of the well-known Greys of the eastern shore of Maryland. A year or two of discomfort at Western army-posts and a busy-minded, energetic personality, made welcome to this little lady a position which provided unaccustomed luxuries and a limitless range of duties, such as were to her what mere social enjoyments are to many women. Grey Pine—the house, the flower and kitchen-gardens, the church to be built—and the schools at the mills, all were as she liked it, having been bred up amid the kindly despotism of a great plantation with its many dependent slaves.
When Ann Penhallow put Grey Pine and the Penhallow crest on her notepaper, her husband said laughing that women had no rights to crests, and that although the arms were surely his by right of good Cornish descent, he thought their use in America a folly. This disturbed Ann Penhallow very little, but when they first came to Grey Pine the headings of her notepaper were matters of considerable curiosity to the straggling village of Westways, where she soon became liked, respected, and moderately feared. A busy-minded woman, few things in the life of the people about her escaped her notice, and she distributed uninvited counsel or well-considered charity and did her best to restrain the more lavish, periodical assistance when harvests were now and then bad—which made James Penhallow a favourite in the county.
Late in the summer of 1855, John Penhallow's widow, long a wandering resident in Europe, acquired the first serious illness of a self-manufactured life of invalidism and promptly died at Vevey. Her only child, John, was at once ordered home by his uncle and guardian, James Penhallow, and after some delay crossed the sea in charge of his tutor. The dependent little fellow hid under a natural reserve what grief he felt, and accustomed to being sent here and there by an absent mother, silently submissive, was turned over by the tutor to James Penhallow's agent in Philadelphia. On the next day, early in November, he was put in charge of a conductor to be left at Westways Crossing, where he was told that some one would meet him.
The day was warm when in the morning he took his seat in the train, but before noon it became clouded, and an early snow-storm with sudden fall of temperature made the boy sensible that he was ill-clothed to encounter the change of weather. He had been unfortunate in the fact that his mother had for years used the vigilant tyranny of feebleness to enforce upon the boy her own sanitary views. Children are easily made hypochondriac, and under her system of government he became self-attentive, careful of what he ate and extremely timid. There had been many tutors and only twice long residence at schools in Vevey and for a winter in Budapest. The health she too sedulously watched she was fast destroying, and her son was at the time of her death a thin, pallid, undersized boy, who disliked even the mild sports of French lads, and had been flattered and considered until he had acquired the conviction that he was an important member of an important family. His other mother—nature—had given him, happily, better traits. He was an observer, a born lover of books, intelligent, truthful, and trained in the gentle, somewhat formal, manners of an older person. Now for the first time in his guarded life he was alone on a railway journey in charge of the conductor. A more unhappy, frightened little fellow could hardly have been found.
The train paused at many stations; men and women got on or got out of the cars, very common-looking people, surely, he concluded. The day ran by to afternoon. The train had stopped at a station for lunch, but John, although hungry, was afraid of being left and kept the seat which he presumed to be his own property until a stout man took half of it. A little later, a lean old woman said, "Move up, sonny," and sat down. When she asked his name and where he lived, he replied in the coldly civil manner with which he had heard his mother repress the good-natured advances of her wandering countrymen. When again the seat was free, he fell to thinking of the unknown home, Grey Pine, which he had heard his mother talk of to English friends as "our ancestral home," and of the great forests, the mines and the iron-works. Her son would, of course, inherit it, as Captain Penhallow had no child. "Really a great estate, my dear," his mother had said. It loomed large in his young imagination. Who would meet him? Probably a carriage with the liveried driver and the groom immaculate in white-topped boots, a fur cover on his arm. It would, of course, be Captain Penhallow who would make him welcome. Then the cold, which is hostile to imagination, made him shiver as he drew his thin cloak about him and watched the snow squadrons wind-driven and the big flakes blurring his view as they melted on the panes. By and by, two giggling young women near by made comments on his looks and dress. Fragments of their talk he overheard. It was not quite pleasant. "Law! ain't he got curly hair, and ain't he just like a girl doll," and so on in the lawless freedom of democratic feminine speech. The flat Morocco cap and large visor of the French schoolboy and the dark blue cloak with the silver clasp were subjects of comment. One of them offered peanuts or sugar-plums, which he declined with "Much obliged, but I never take them." Now and then he consulted his watch or felt in his pocket to be certain that his baggage-check was secure, or looked to see if the little bag of toilet articles at his feet was safe. The kindly attentions of those who noticed his evident discomfort were neither mannerless nor, as he thought, impertinent. A woman said to him that he seemed cold, wouldn't he put around him a shawl she laid on his knees. He declined it civilly with thanks. In fact, he was thinly and quite too lightly clad, and he not only felt the cold, but was unhappy and utterly unprepared by any previous experience for the mode of travel, the crowded car and the rough kindness of the people, who liking his curly hair and refined young childlike face would have been of service if he had accepted their advances with any pleasure. Presently, after four in the afternoon, the brakeman called "All out for Westways Crossing."
John seized his bag and was at the exit-door before the train came to a stand. The conductor bade him be careful, as the steps were slippery. As the engine snorted and the train moved away, the conductor cried out, "Forgot your cane, sonny," and threw the light gold-mounted bamboo from the car. He had a new sense of loneliness as he stood on the roofless platform, half a foot deep in gathering snow, which driven by a pitiless gale from the north blew his cloak about as he looked to see that his trunk had been delivered. A man shifted a switch and coming back said, "Gi'me your check." John decided that this was not safe, and to the man's amusement said that he would wait until the carriage of Captain Penhallow arrived. The man went away. John remained angrily expectant looking up the road. Presently he heard the gay jingle of bells and around a turn of the road came a one-horse sleigh. It stopped beside him. He first saw only the odd face of the driver in a fur cap and earlets. Then, tossing off the bear skins, bounded on to the platform a young girl and shook herself snow-free as she threw back a wild mane of dark red hair.
"Halloa! John Penhallow," she cried, "I'm Leila Grey. I'm sent for you. I'm late too. Uncle James has gone to the mills and Aunt Ann is busy. Been here long?"
"Not very," said John, his teeth chattering with cold.
"Gracious! you'll freeze. Sorry I was late." She saw at a glance the low shoes, the blue cloak, the kid gloves, the boy's look of suffering, and at once took possession of him.
"Get into the sleigh. Oh! leave your check on the trunk or give it to me." She was off and away to the trunk as he climbed in, helpless. She undid the counter check, ran across to the guard's house, was back in a moment and tumbled in beside him.
"But, is it safe? My trunk, I mean," said John.
"Safe. No one will steal it. Pat will come for it. There he is now. Tuck in the rugs. Put this shawl around you and over your head." She pinned it with ready fingers.
"Now, you'll be real comfy." The chilled boy puzzled and amused her.
As he became warm, John felt better in the hands of this easy despot, but was somewhat indignant. "To send a chit of a girl for him—John Penhallow!"
"Now," she cried to the driver, "be careful. Why did they send you?"
Billy, a middle-aged man, short-legged and long of body, turned a big-featured head as he replied in an odd boyish voice, "The man was busy giving a ball in the stable."
"A ball"—said John—"in the stable?"
"Oh! that is funny," said the girl. "A ball's a big pill for Lucy, my mare. She's sick."
"Oh! I see." And they were off and away through the wind-driven snow.
The girl, instinctively aware of the shyness and discomfort of her companion, set herself to put him at ease. The lessening snow still fell, but now a brilliant sun lighted the white radiance of field and forest. He was warmer, and the disconnected chat of childhood began.
"The snow is early. Don't you love it?" said the small maid bent on making herself agreeable.
"No, I do not."
"But, oh!—see—the sun is out. Now you will like it. I suppose you don't know how to walk in snow-shoes, or it would be lovely to go right home across country."
"I never used them. Once I read about them in a book."
"Oh! you'll learn. I'll teach you."
John, used to being considered and flattered, as he became more comfortable began to resent the way in which the girl proposed to instruct him. He was silent for a time.
"Tuck in that robe," she said. "How old are you?"
"This last September, fifteen. How old are you?"
"About ten, I think." Now this was malicious.
"Ten, indeed! I'm thirteen and ten months and—and three days," she returned, with the accuracy of childhood about age. "Were you at school in Europe?"
"Yes, in France and Hungary."
"That's queer. In Hungary and France—Oh! then you can speak French."
"Of course," he replied. "Can't you?"
"A little, but Aunt Ann says I have a good accent when I read to her—we often do."
"You should say 'without accent,'" he felt better after this assertion of superior knowledge. She thought his manners bad, but, though more amused than annoyed, felt herself snubbed and was silent for a time. He was quick to perceive that he had better have held his critical tongue, and said pleasantly, "But really it don't matter—only I was told that in France."
She was as quick to reply, "You shouldn't say 'don't matter,' I say that sometimes, and then Uncle James comes down on me."
"Why? I am really at a loss—"
"Oh! you must say 'doesn't'—not 'don't.'" She shook her great mass of hair and cried merrily, "I guess we are about even now, John Penhallow."
Then they laughed gaily, as the boy said, "I wasn't very—very courteous."
"Now that's pretty, John. Good gracious, Billy!" she cried, punching the broad back of the driver. "Are you asleep? You are all over the road."
"Oh! I was thinkin' how Pole, the butcher, sold the Squire a horse that's spavined—got it sent back—funny, wasn't it?"
"Look out," said Leila, "you will upset us."
John looked the uneasiness he felt, as he said, "Do you think it is safe?"
"No, I don't. Drive on, Billy, but do be careful."
They came to the little village of Westways. At intervals Billy communicated bits of village gossip. "Susan McKnight, she's going to marry Finney—"
"Bother Susan," cried Leila. "Be careful."
John alarmed held on to his seat as the sleigh rocked about, while Billy whipped up the mare.
"This is Westways, our village. It is just a row of houses. Uncle James won't sell land on our side. Look out, Billy! Our rector lives in that small house by the church. His name is Mark Rivers. You'll like him. That's Mr. Grace, the Baptist preacher." She bade him good-day. "Stop, Billy!"
He pulled up at the sidewalk. "Good afternoon, Mrs. Crocker," she said, as the postmistress came out to the sleigh. "Please mail this. Any letters for us?"
"No, Leila." She glanced at the curly locks above the thin face and the wrapped up form in the shawl. "Got a nice little girl with you, Leila."
John indignant said nothing. "This is a boy—my cousin, John Penhallow," returned Leila.
"Law! is that so?"
"Get on," cried Leila. "Stop at Josiah's."
Here a tall, strongly built, very black negro came out. "Fine frosty day, missy."
"Come up to the house to-night. Uncle Jim wants you."
"Now, get along, Billy."
The black was strange to the boy. He thought the lower orders here disrespectful.
"Josiah's our barber," said Leila. "He saved me once from a dreadful accident. You'll like him."
"Will I?" thought John, but merely remarked, "They all seem rather intimate."
"Why not?" said the young Republican. "Ah! here's the gate. I'll get out and open it. It's the best gate to swing on in the whole place."
As she tossed the furs aside, John gasped, "To swing on—"
"Oh, yes. Aunt Ann says I am too old to swing on gates, but I do. It shuts with a bang. I'll show you some day."
"What is swinging on a gate?" said John, as she jumped out and stood in the snow laughing. Surely this was an amazing kind of boy. "Why, did you never hear the rhyme about it?"
"No," said John, "I never did."
"Well, you just get on the gate when it's wide open and give a push, and you sing—
"If I was the President of these United States, I'd suck molasses candy and swing upon the gates.
"There! Then it shuts—bang!" With this bit of child folklore she scampered away through the snow and stood holding the gate open while Billy drove through. She reflected mischievously that it must have been three years since she had swung on a gate.
John feeling warm and for the first time looking about him with interest began to notice the grandeur of the rigid snow-laden pines of an untouched forest which stood in what was now brilliant sunshine.
As Leila got into the sleigh, she said, "Now, Billy, go slowly when you make the short turn at the house. If you upset us, I—I'll kill you."
"Yes, miss. Guess I'll drive all right." But the ways of drivers are everywhere the same, and to come to the end of a drive swiftly with crack of whip was an unresisted temptation.
"Sang de Dieu!" cried John, "we will be upset."
"We are," shouted Leila. The horse was down, the sleigh on its side, and the cousins disappeared in a huge drift piled high when the road was cleared.
John was the first to return to the outer world. He stood still, seeing the horse on its legs, Billy unharnessing, Leila for an instant lost to sight. The boy was scared. In his ordered life it was an unequalled experience. Then he saw a merry face above the drift and lying around it a wide-spread glory of red hair on the white snow. In after years he would recall the beauty of the laughing young face in its setting of dark gold and sunlit silver snow.
"Oh, my!" she cried. "That Billy! Don't stand there, John; pull me out, I'm stuck."
He gave her a hand and she bounded forth out of the drift, shaking off the dry snow as a wet dog shakes off water. "What's the matter, John?"
He was trying to empty neck, pocket and shoes of snow, and was past the limits of what small endurance he had been taught. "I shall catch my death of cold. It's down my back—it's everywhere, and I—shall get—laryngitis."
The brave blue eyes of the girl stared at his dejected figure. She was at heart a gentle, little woman-child, endowed by nature with so much of tom-boy barbarism as was good for her. Just now a feeling of contemptuous surprise overcame her kindliness and her aunt's training. "There's your bag on the snow, and Billy will find your cap. What does a boy want with a bag? A boy—and afraid of snow!" she cried. "Help him with that harness."
He made no reply, but looked about for his lost cane. Then the young despot turned upon the driver. "Wait till Uncle James hears; he'll come down on you."
"My lands!" said Billy, unbuckling a trace, "I'll just say, I'm sorry; and the Squire he'll say, don't let it happen again; and I'll say, yes, sir."
"Yes, until Aunt Ann hears," said Leila, and turned to John. His attitude of utter helplessness touched her.
"Come into the house; you must be cold." She was of a sudden all tenderness.
Through an outside winter doorway-shelter they entered a hall unusually large for an American's house and warmed by two great blazing hickory wood-fires. "Come in," she cried, "you'll be all right. Sit down by the fire; I'll be down in a minute, I want to see where Aunt Ann has put you."
"I am much obliged," said John shivering. He was alone, but wet as he was the place captured an ever active imagination. He looked about him as he stood before the roaring fire. To the right was an open library, to the left a drawing-room rarely used, the hall being by choice the favoured sitting-room. The dining-room was built out from the back of the hall, whence up a broad stairway Leila had gone. The walls were hung with Indian painted robes, Sioux and Arapahoe weapons, old colonial rifles, and among them portraits of three generations of Penhallows. Many older people had found interesting the strange adornment of the walls, where amid antlered trophies of game, buffalo heads and war-worn Indian relics, could be read something of the owner's tastes and history. John stood by the fire fascinated. Like many timid boys, he liked books of adventure and to imagine himself heroic in situations of peril.
"It's all right. Come up," cried Leila from the stair. "Your trunk's there now. There's a fine fire."
Forgetful of the cold ride and of the snow down his back, he was standing before the feathered head-dress of a Sioux Chief and touching the tomahawk below it. He turned as she spoke. "Those must be scalp-locks—three." He saw the prairie, the wild pursuit—saw them as she could not. He went after her upstairs, the girl talking, the boy rapt, lost in far-away battles on the plains.
"This is your room. See what a nice fire. You can dry yourself. Your trunk is here already." She lighted two candles. "We dine at half-past six."
"Thank you; I am very much obliged," he said, thinking what a mannerless girl.
Leila closed the door and stood still a moment. Then she exclaimed, "Well, I never! What will Uncle Jim say?" She listened a moment. No one was in the hall. Then she laughed, and getting astride of the banister-rail made a wild, swift and perilous descent, alighting at the foot in the hall, and readjusting her short skirts as she heard her aunt and uncle on the porch. "I was just in time," she exclaimed. "Wouldn't I have caught it!"
The Squire, as the village called him, would have applauded this form of coasting, but Aunt Ann had other views. "Well!" he said as they came in, "what have you done with your young man?"
Now he was for Leila anything but a man or manly, but she was a loyal little lady and unwilling to expose the guest to Uncle Jim's laughter. "He's all right," she said, "but Billy upset the sleigh." She was longing to tell about that ball in the stable, but refrained.
"So Billy upset you; and John, where is he?"
"He's upstairs getting dried."
"It is rather a rough welcome," remarked her aunt.
"He lost his cap and his cane," said Leila.
"His cane!" exclaimed her uncle, "his cane!"
"I must see him," said his wife.
"Better let him alone, Ann." But as usual she took her own way and went upstairs. She came down in a few minutes, finding her husband standing before the fire—an erect, soldierly figure close to forty years of age.
"Well, Ann?" he queried.
"A very nice lad, with such good manners, James."
"Billy found his cap," said Leila, "but he couldn't get the sleigh set up until the stable men came."
"And that cane," laughed Penhallow. "Was the boy amused or—or scared?"
"I don't know," which was hardly true, but the chivalry of childhood forbade tale-telling and he learned very little. "He was rather tired and cold, so I made him go to his room and rest."
"Poor child!" said Aunt Ann.
James Penhallow looked at Leila. Some manner of signals were interchanged. "I saw Billy digging in the big drift," he said. "I trust he found the young gentleman's cane." Some pitying, dim comprehension of the delicately nurtured lad had brought to the social surface the kindliness of the girl and she said no more.
"It is time to dress for dinner," said Ann. Away from the usages of the city she had wisely insisted on keeping up the social forms which the Squire would at times have been glad to disregard. For a moment Ann Penhallow lingered. "We must try to make him feel at home, James."
"Of course, my dear. I can imagine how Susan Penhallow would have educated a boy, and now I know quite too well what we shall have to undo—and—do."
"You won't, oh! you will not be too hard on him."
"I—no, my dear—but—I suspect his American education has begun already."
"What do you mean?"
"Ask Leila—and Billy. But that can wait." They separated.
While his elders were thus briefly discussing this new addition to the responsibilities of their busy lives, the subject of their talk had been warmed into comfortable repossession of his self-esteem. He set in order his elaborate silver toilet things marked with the Penhallow crest, saw in the glass that his dress and unboylike length of curly hair were as he had been taught they should be; then he looked at his watch and went slowly downstairs.
"Halloa! John," he heard as he reached the last turn of the stairs. "Most glad to see you. You are very welcome to your new home." The man who hailed him was six feet two inches, deep-chested, erect—the West Point figure; the face clean-shaven, ruddy, hazel-eyed, was radiant with the honest feeling of desire to put this childlike boy at ease.
The little gentleman needed no aid and replied, "My dear uncle, I cannot sufficiently thank you." A little bow went with his words, and he placidly accepted his aunt's embrace, while the hearty Miss Leila looked on in silence. The boy's black suit, the short jacket, the neat black tie, made the paleness of his thin large-featured face too obvious. Then Leila took note of the court shoes and silk socks, and looked at Uncle Jim to see what he thought. The Squire reserved what criticism he may have had and asked cheerfully about the journey, Aunt Ann aiding him with eager will to make the boy feel at home. He was quite enough at home. It was all agreeable, these handsome relations and the other Penhallows on the walls. He had been taught that which is good or ill as men use it, pride of race, and in his capacity to be impressed by his surroundings was years older than Leila. He felt sure that he would like it here at Grey Pine, but was surprised to see no butler and to be waited on at dinner by two neat little maids.
When Ann Penhallow asked him about his schools and his life in Europe, he became critical, and conversed about picture-galleries and foreign life with no lack of accuracy, while the Squire listened smiling and Leila sat dumb with astonishment as the dinner went on. He ate little and kept in mind the endless lessons in regard to what he should or should not eat. Meanwhile, he silently approved of the old silver and these well-bred kinsfolk, with a reserve of doubt concerning his silent cousin.
His uncle had at last his one glass of Madeira, and as they rose his aunt said, "You may be tired, John; you ought to go to bed early."
"It is not yet time," he said. "I always retire at ten o'clock."
"He 'retires,'" murmured his uncle. "Come, Ann, we will leave Leila to make friends with the new cousin. Try John at checkers, Leila. She defeats me easily."
"I—never saw any one could beat me at jeu des dames," said John. It was a fine chance to get even with Leila for the humiliating adventures of a not very flattering day.
"Well, take care," said the Squire, not altogether amused. "Come, Ann." Entering the large library room he closed the door, drew over it a curtain, filled his pipe but did not light it, and sat down at the fire beside his wife.
"Well, James," she said, "did you ever see a better mannered lad, and so intelligent?"
"Never—nor any lad who has as good an opinion of his small self. He is too young for his years, and in some ways too old. I looked him over a bit. He is a mere scaffolding, a sickly-looking chap. He eats too little. I heard him remark to you that potatoes disagreed with him and that he never ate apples."
"But, James, what shall we do with him? It is a new and a difficult responsibility."
"Do with him? Oh! make a man of him. Give him and Leila a week's holiday. Turn him loose with that fine tom-boy. Then he must go to school to Mark Rivers with Leila and those two young village imps, the doctor's boy and Grace's, that precious young Baptist. They will do him good. When Mark reports, we shall see further. That is all my present wisdom, Ann. Has the Tribune come? Oh! I see—it is on the table."
Ann was still in some doubt and returned to the boy. "And where do I come in?"
"Feed the young animal and get the tailor in the village to make him some warm rough clothes, and get him boots for the snow—and thick gloves—and a warm ready-made overcoat."
"I will. But, James, Leila will half kill him. He is so thin and pale. He looks hardly older than she does." Then Ann rose, saying, "Well, we shall see, I suppose you are right," and after some talk about the iron-works left him to his pipe.
When she returned to the hall, the two children were talking of Europe—or rather Leila was listening. "Well," said the little lady, Ann Penhallow, "how did the game go, John?"
"I am rather out of practice," said John. Leila said nothing. He had been shamefully worsted. "I think I shall go to bed," he remarked, looking at his watch.
"I would," she said. "There are the candles. There is a bathroom next to you."
He was tired and disgusted, but slept soundly. When at breakfast he said that he was not allowed tea or coffee, he was fed with milk, to which with hot bread and new acquaintance with griddle cakes he took kindly. After breakfast he was driven to the village with his aunt and equipped with a rough ready-made overcoat and high boots. He found the dress comfortable, but not to his taste.
When he came back, the Squire and Leila had disappeared and he was left to his own devices. He was advised by his aunt to walk about and see the stables and the horses. That any boy should not want to see the horses was inconceivable in this household. He did go out and walk on the porch, but soon went in chilled and sat down to lose himself in a book of polar travel. He liked history, travel and biographies of soldiers, fearfully desiring to have his own courage tested—a more common boy-wish than might be supposed. He thought of it as he laid down the book and began to inspect again the painted buffalo skins on the wall, letting his imagination wander when once more he touched a Sioux tomahawk with its grim adornment of scalp-locks. He was far away when he heard his aunt say, "You were not out long, John. Did they show you the horses?"
Shy and reserved in novel surroundings, he was rather too much at his ease amid socially familiar things, and now said lightly that he had not seen the stables. "Really, Aunt Ann, I prefer to read or to look at these interesting Indian relics."
"Ask your uncle about them," she said, "but you will find out that horses are important in this household." She left him with the conviction that James Penhallow was, on the whole, right as to the educational needs of this lad.
After lunch his uncle said, "Leila will show you about the place. You will want to see the horses, of course, and the dogs."
"And my guinea pigs," added Leila.
He took no interest in either, and the dogs somewhat alarmed him. His cousin, a little discouraged, led him away into the woods where the ancient pines stood snow laden far apart with no intrusion between them of low shrubbery. Leila was silent, half aware that he was hard to entertain, and then mischievously wilful to give this indifferent cousin a lesson. Presently he stood still, looking up at the towering cones of the motionless pines.
"How stately they are—how like old Vikings!" he said. His imagination was the oldest mental characteristic of this over-guarded, repressed boyhood.
Leila turned, surprised. This was beyond her appreciative capacity. "Once I heard Uncle Jim say something like that. He's queer about trees. He talks to them sometimes just like that. There's the biggest pine over there—I'll show it to you. Why! he will stop and pat it and say, 'How are you?'—Isn't it funny?"
"No, it isn't funny at all. It's—it's beautiful!"
"You must be like him, John."
"I—like him! Do you think so?" He was pleased. The Indian horseman of the plains who could talk to the big tree began to be felt by the boy as somehow nearer.
"Let's play Indian," said Leila. "I'll show you." She was merry, intent on mischief.
"Oh! whatever you like." He was uninterested.
Leila said, "You stand behind this tree, I will stand behind that one." She took for herself the larger shelter. "Then you, each of us, get ready this way a pile of snowballs. I say, Make ready! Fire! and we snowball one another like everything. The first Indian that's hit, he falls down dead. Then the other rushes at him and scalps him."
"But," said John, "how can he?"
"Oh! he just gives your hair a pull and makes believe."
"Then we play it five times, and each scalp counts one. Now, isn't that real jolly?"
John had his doubts as to this, but he took his place and made some snowballs clumsily.
"Make ready! Fire!" cried Leila. The snowballs flew. At last, the girl seeing how wildly he threw exposed herself. A better shot took her full in the face. Laughing gaily, she dropped, "I'm dead."
The game pleased him with its unlooked-for good luck. "Now don't stand there like a ninny—scalp me," she cried.
He ran to her side and knelt down. The widespread hair affected him curiously. He touched it daintily, let it fall, and rose. "To pull at a girl's hair! I couldn't do it."
Leila laughed. "A good pull, that's how to scalp."
"I couldn't," said John.
"Well, you are a queer sort of Indian!" She was less merciful, but in the end, to her surprise, he had three scalps. "Uncle Jim will laugh when I tell him," she said. "Shall we go home?"
"No, I want to see Uncle Jim's big tree."
"Oh! he's only Uncle Jim to me. Aunt don't like it. He will tell you some day to call him Uncle Jim. He says I got that as brevet rank the day my mare refused the barnyard fence and pitched me off. I just got on again and made her take it! That's why he's Uncle Jim."
John became thoughtful about that brevet privilege of a remote future. He had, however, persistent ways. "I want to see the big pine, Leila."
"Oh! come on then. It's a long way. We must cut across." He followed her remorselessly swift feet through the leafless bushes and drifts until they came upon a giant pine in a wide space cleared to give the veteran royal solitude. "That's him," cried Leila, and carelessly cast herself down on the snow.
The boy stood still in wonder. Something about the tree disturbed him emotionally. With hands clasped behind his back, he stared up at its towering heights. He was silent.
"What's the matter? What do you see?" She was never long silent. He was searching for a word.
"It's solemn. I like it." He moved forward and patted the huge hole with a feeling of reverence and affection. "I wish he could speak to us. How are you, old fellow?"
Leila watched him. As yet she had no least comprehension of this sense of being kindred to nature. It is rare in youth. As he spoke, a little breeze stirred the old fellow's topmost crest and a light downfall of snow fell on the pair. Leila laughed, but the boy cried, "There! he has answered. We are friends."
"Now, if that isn't Uncle Jim all over. He just does make me laugh."
John shook off the snow. "Let's go home," he said. He Was warm and red with the exercise, and in high good-humour over his success. "Did you never read a poem called 'The Talking Oak'? I had a tutor used to read it to me."
"Now, the idea of a tree talking!" she said. "No, I never heard of it. Come along, we'll be late. That's funny about a tree talking. Can you run?"
They ran, but not far, because deep snow makes running hard. It was after dark when they tramped on to the back porch. John's experience taught him to expect blame for being out late. No one asked a question or made a remark. He was ignored, to his amazement. Whether, as he soon learned, he was in or out, wet or dry, seemed to be of no moment to any one, provided he was punctual at meal-times. It was at first hard to realize the reasonable freedom suddenly in his possession. The appearance of complete want of interest in his health and what he did was as useful a moral tonic as was for the body the educational out-of-doors' society of the fearless girl, his aunt's niece whom he was told to consider as his cousin. To his surprise, he was free to come and go, and what he or Leila did in the woods or in the stables no one inquired. Aunt Ann uneasy would have known all about them, but the Squire urged, that for a time, "let alone" was the better policy. This freedom was so unusual, so unreservedly complete, as to rejoice Leila, who was very ready to use the liberty it gave. In a week the rector's school would shut them up for half of the day of sunlit snow. Meanwhile, John wondered with interest every morning where next those thin active young legs would lead him.
The dogs he soon took to, when Leila's whistle called them,—a wild troop, never allowed beyond the porch or in the house. For some occult reason Mrs. Ann disliked dogs and liked cats, which roamed the house at will and were at deadly feud with the stable canines. No rough weather ever disturbed Leila's out-of-door habits, but when for two days a lazy rain fell and froze on the snow, John declared that he could not venture to get wet with his tendency to tonsilitis. As Leila refused indoor society and he did not like to be left alone, he missed the gay and gallant little lady, and still no one questioned him. On the third day at breakfast Leila was wildly excited. The smooth ice-mailed snow shone brilliant in the sunshine.
"Coasting weather, Uncle Jim," Leila said.
"First class," said her uncle. "Get off before the sun melts the crust."
"Do be careful, dear," said Ann Penhallow, "and do not try the farm hill."
"Yes, aunt." The Squire exchanged signal glances with Leila over the teacup he was lifting. "Come, John," she said. "No dogs to-day. It's just perfect. Here's your sled."
John had seen coasting in Germany and had been strictly forbidden so perilous an amusement. As they walked over the crackling ice-cover of the snow, he said, "Why do you want to sled, Leila? I consider it extremely dangerous. I saw two persons hurt when we were in Switzerland." His imagination was predicting all manner of disaster, but he had the moral courage which makes hypocrisy impossible. From the hill crest John looked down the long silvery slope and did not like it. "It's just a foolish risk. Do you mean to slide down to that brook?"
"Slide! We coast, we don't slide. I think you had better go back and tell Uncle Jim you were afraid."
He was furious. "I tell you this, Miss Grey—I am afraid—I have been told—well, never mind—that—well—-I won't say I'm not afraid—but I'm more afraid of Uncle James than—than—of death."
She stood still a moment as she faced him, the two pair of blue eyes meeting. He was very youthful for his years and was near the possibility of the tears of anger, and, too, the virile qualities of his race were protesting forces in the background of undeveloped character. The sweet girl face grew red and kinder. "I was mean, John Penhallow. I am sorry I was rude."
"No—no," he exclaimed, "it was I who was—was—ill-mannered. I—mean to coast if I die."
"Die," she laughed gaily. "Let me go first."
"Go ahead then." She was astride of the sled and away down the long descent, while he watched her swift flight. He set his teeth and was off after her. A thrill of pleasure possessed him, the joy of swift movement. Near the foot was an abrupt fall to a frozen brook and then a sharp ascent. He rolled over at Leila's feet seeing a firmament of stars and rose bewildered.
"Busted?" cried Leila, who picked up the slang of the village boys to her aunt's disgust.
"I am not what you call busted," said John, "but I consider it most disagreeable." Without a word more he left her, set out up the hill and coasted again. He upset half-way down, rolled over, and got on again laughing. This time somehow he got over the brook and turned crossly on Leila with, "I hope now you are satisfied, Miss Grey."
"You'll do, I guess," said she. "I just wondered if you would back out, John. Let's try the other hills." He went after her vexed at her way of ordering him about, and not displeased with John Penhallow and his new experience in snatching from danger a fearful joy.
The difficult lessons on the use of snow-shoes took up day after day, until weary but at last eager he followed her tireless little figure far into the more remote woods. "What's that?" he said.
"I wanted you to see it, John." It was an old log cabin. "That's where the first James Penhallow lived. Uncle Jim keeps it from tumbling to pieces, but it's no use to anybody."
"The first Penhallow," said John. "It must be very old."
"Oh! I suppose so—I don't know—ask Uncle Jim. They say the Indians attacked it once—that first James Penhallow and his wife fought them till help came. I thought you would like to see it."
He went in, kicking off his snow-shoes. She was getting used to his silences, and now with some surprise at his evident interest followed him. He walked about making brief remarks or eagerly asking questions.
"They must have had loop-holes to shoot. Did they kill any Indians?"
"Yes, five. They are buried behind the cabin. Uncle Jim set a stone to mark the place."
He made no reply. His thoughts were far away in time, realizing the beleaguered cabin, the night of fear, the flashing rifles of his ancestors. The fear—would he have been afraid?
"When I was little, I was afraid to come here alone," said the girl.
"I should like to come here at night," he returned.
"Why? I wouldn't. Oh! not at night. I don't see what fun there would be in that."
"Then I would know—"
"Know what, John? What would you know?"
"Oh! no matter." He had a deep desire to learn if he would be afraid. "Some day," he added, "I will tell you. Let's go home."
"Are you tired?"
"I'm half dead," he laughed as he slipped on his snow-shoes.
A long and heavy rain cleared away the snow, and the more usual softness of the end of November set in. Their holiday sports were over for a time, to John's relief. On a Monday he went through the woods with Leila to the rectory. Mark Rivers, who had only seen John twice, made him welcome. The tall, thin, pale man, with the quiet smile and attentive grey eyes, made a ready capture of the boy. There were only two other scholars, the sons of the doctor and the Baptist preacher, lads of sixteen, not very mannerly, rather rough country boys, who nudged one another and regarded John with amused interest. In two or three days John knew that he was in the care of an unusually scholarly man, who became at once his friend and treated the lazy village boys and him with considerate kindliness. John liked it. To his surprise, no questions were asked at home about the school, and the afternoons were often free for lonely walks, when Leila went away on her mare and John was at liberty to read or to do as best pleased him. At times Leila bored him, and although with his well-taught courteous ways he was careful not to show impatience, he had the imaginative boy's capacity to enjoy being alone and a long repressed curiosity which now found indulgence among people who liked to answer questions and were pleased when he asked them. Very often, as he came into easier relations with his aunt, he was told to take some query she could not answer to Uncle James or the rector. A rather sensitive lad, he soon became aware that his uncle appeared to take no great interest in him, and, too, the boy's long cultivated though lessening reserve kept them apart. Meanwhile, Ann watched with pleasure his gain in independence, in looks and in appetite. While James Penhallow after his game of whist at night growled in his den over the bitter politics of the day, North and South, his wife read aloud to the children by the fireside in her own small sitting-room or answered as best she could John's questions, confessing ignorance at times or turning to books of reference. It was not always easy to satisfy this restless young mind in a fast developing body. "Were guinea pigs really pigs? What was the hematite iron-ore his uncle used at the works?" Once he was surprised. He asked one evening, "What was the Missouri Compromise?" He had read so much about it in the papers. "Hasn't it something to do with slavery? Aunt Ann, it must seem strange to own a man." His eager young ears had heard rather ignorant talk of it from his mother's English friends.
His aunt said quietly, "My people in Maryland own slaves, John. It is not a matter for a child to discuss. The abolitionists at the North are making trouble. It is a subject—we—I do not care to talk about."
"But what is an abolitionist, aunt?" he urged.
She laughed and said gaily, "I will answer no more conundrums; ask your uncle."
Leila who took no interest in politics fidgeted until she got her chance when Mrs. Ann would not answer John. "I want to hear about that talking oak, John."
She was quicker than he to observe her aunt's annoyance, and Ann, glad to be let off easily, found the needed book, and for a time they fell under the charm of Tennyson, and then earlier than usual were sent to bed.
The days ran on into weeks of school, and now there were snow-shoe tramps or sleigh rides to see some big piece of casting at the forge, where persistently-curious John did learn from some one what hematite was. The life became to him steadily more and more pleasant as he shed with ease the habits of an over regulated life, and living wholesome days prospered in body and mind.
Christmas was a disappointment to Leila and to him. There was an outbreak of measles at Westways and there would be no carols, nor children gathered at Grey Pine. Ann's usual bounty of toys was sent to the village. John's present from his uncle was a pair of skates, and then Leila saw a delightful chance to add another branch of education. Next morning, for this was holiday-week, she asked if he would like to learn to skate. They had gone early to the cabin and were lazily enjoying a rest after a snow-shoe tramp. He replied, in an absent way, "I suppose I may as well learn. How many Indians were there?"
"I don't know. Who cares now?"
"I never saw such a boy. You can't ride and you can't skate. You are just good for nothing. You're just fit to be sold at a rummage-sale."
He was less easily vexed than made curious. "What's a rummage-sale?"
"Oh! we had one two years ago. Once in a while Aunt Ann says there must be one, so she gathers up all the trash and Uncle Jim's old clothes (he hates that), and the village people they buy things. And Mr. Rivers sells the things at auction, you know—and oh, my! he was funny."
"So they sell what no one wants. Then why does any one buy?"
"I'm sure, I don't know."
"I wonder what I would fetch, Leila?"
"Not much," she said.
"Maybe you're right." He had one of the brief boy-moods of self-abasement.
Leila changed quickly. "I'll bid for you," she said coyly.
He laughed and looked up, surprised at this earliest indication of the feminine. "What would you give?" he asked.
"Well, about twenty-five cents."
He laughed. "I may improve, Leila, and the price go up. Let us go and learn to skate—you must teach me."
"Of course," said Leila, "but you will soon learn. It's hard at first."
At lunch, on Christmas day, John had thanked his uncle for the skates in the formal way which Ann liked and James Penhallow did not. He said, "I am very greatly obliged for the skates. They appear to me excellent."
"What a confoundedly civil young gentleman," thought Penhallow. "I have been thinking you must learn to skate. The pond has been swept clear of snow."
"Thank you," returned the boy, with a grin which his uncle thought odd.
"Leila will teach you."
John was silent, regarding his uncle with never dying interest, the soldier of Indian battles, the perfect rider and good shot, adored in the stables and loved, as John was learning, in all the country side. John was in the grip of a boy's admiration for a realized ideal—the worship, by the timid, of courage. Of the few things he did well, he thought little; and an invalid's fears had discouraged rough games until he had become like a timorous girl. He had much dread of horses, and was alarmingly sure that he would some day be made to ride. Once in Paris he had tried, had had a harmless accident and, willingly yielding to his mother's fears, had tried no more.
Late in the afternoon, Leila, with her long wake of flying hair, burst into the Squire's den. "What the deuce is the matter?" asked Penhallow.
"Oh! Uncle Jim, he can skate like—like a witch. I couldn't keep near him. He skated an 'L' for my name. Uncle Jim, he's a fraud."
Penhallow knew now why the boy had grinned at him. "I think, Leila, he will do. Where did he learn to skate?"
"At Vevey, he says, on the Lake."
"Yes, of Geneva."
"Tom McGregor was there and Bob Grace. We played tag. John knows a way to play tag on skates. You must chalk your right hand and you must mark with it the other fellow's right shoulder. It must be jolly. We had no chalk, but we are to play it to-morrow. Isn't it interesting, Uncle John?"
Penhallow laughed. "Interesting, my dear? Oh! your aunt will be after you with a stick."
"Aunt Ann's—stick!" laughed Leila.
"My dear Leila," he said gravely, "this boy has had all the manliness coddled out of him, but he looks like his father. I have my own ideas of how to deal with him. I suppose he will brag a bit at dinner."
"He will not, Uncle Jim."
"Bet you a pound of bonbons, Leila."
"Can he coast? I did not ask you."
"Well! pretty well," said Leila. For some unknown reason she was unwilling to say more.
"Doesn't the rector dine here, to-day, Leila?"
"Yes, but—oh! Uncle Jim, we found a big hornets' nest yesterday on the log cabin. They seemed all asleep. I told John we would fight them in the spring."
"And what did he say?"
"He said: 'Did they sting?'—I said: 'That was the fun of it!'"
"Better not tell your aunt."
"No, sir. I'm an obedient little girl."
"You little scamp! You were meant to be a boy. Is there anything you are afraid of?"
"Oh! get out," and she fled.
At dinner John said no word of the skating, to the satisfaction of Leila who conveyed to her uncle a gratified sense of victory by some of the signs which were their private property.
Leaving the cousins to their game of chess, Penhallow followed his wife and Mark Rivers into his library. "Well, Mark," he said, "you have had this boy long enough to judge; it is time I heard what you think of him. You asked me to wait. The youngster is rather reticent, and Leila is about the only person in the house who really knows much about him. He talks like a man of thirty."
"I do not find him reticent," remarked Mrs. Ann, "and his manners are charming—I wish Leila's were half as good."
"Well, let's hear about him."
"May I smoke?" asked the rector.
"Anywhere but in my drawing-room. I believe James would like to smoke in church."
"It might have its consolations," returned Penhallow.
"Thanks," said Rivers smiling. Neither man took advantage of her unusual permission. "But you, Squire, have been closer than I to this interesting boy. What do you make of him?"
"He can't ride—he hardly knows a horse from a mule."
"That's not his fault," said Mrs. Penhallow, "he's afraid of horses."
"Afraid!" said her husband. "By George! afraid of horses."
"He speaks French perfectly," said Mark Rivers.
"He can't swim. I got that out of Leila. I understand he tried it once and gave it up."
"But his mother made him, James. You know Susan. She was as timid as a house-fly for herself, and I suppose for him."
"I asked him," said Rivers, "if he knew any Latin. He answered me in Latin and told me that at Budapest where he was long at school the boys had to speak Latin."
"And the rest, Rivers. Is he well up in mathematics?"
"No, he finds that difficult. But, upon my word, Squire, he is the most doggedly persistent fellow I have ever had to teach and I handled many boys when I was younger. I can take care of my side of the boy."
"He can skate, James," said Mrs. Ann.
"Yes, so I hear. I suppose that under Leila's care and a good out-of-door life he will drop his girl-ways—but—"
"But what, James?"
"Oh! he has been taught that there is no shame in failure, no disgrace in being afraid."
"How do you know he is afraid, my dear James?"
"Oh! I know." Leila's unwillingness to talk had given him some suspicion of the truth. "Well, we shall see. He needs some rough boy-company. I don't like to have the village boys alone with Leila, but when she has John with her it may be as well to ask Dr. McGregor's son Tom to coast and play with them."
"He has no manners," said Mrs. Penhallow.
"Then he may get some from John. He never will from Leila. I will take care of the rest, Rivers. He has got to learn to ride."
"You won't be too hard on him, James?" said his wife.
"Not unless he needs it. Let us drop him."
"Have you seen yesterday's papers?" asked Rivers. "Our politics, North and South, look to me stormy."
Penhallow shook his head at the tall rector. The angry strife of sections and parties was the one matter he never discussed with Ann Penhallow. The rector recalled it as he saw Mrs. Ann sit up and drop on her lap the garment upon which her ever industrious hands were busy. Accepting Penhallow's hint, Rivers said quickly, "But really there is nothing new," and then, "Tom McGregor will certainly be the better for our little gentleman's good manners, and he too has something to learn of Tom."
"I should say he has," said Penhallow.
"A little dose of West Point, I suppose," laughed Mrs. Ann. "It is my husband's one ideal of education."
"It must once, I fancy, have satisfied Ann Grey," retorted the Squire smiling.
"I reserve any later opinion of James Penhallow," she said laughing, and gathering up her sewing bag left them, declaring that now they might smoke. The two men rose, and when alone began at once to talk of the coming election in the fall of 1856 and the endless troubles arising out of the Fugitive Slave Act.
The boy who had been the subject of their conversation was slowly becoming used to novel surroundings and the influence they exerted. Ann talked to him at times of his mother, but he had the disinclination to speak of the dead which most children have, and had in some ways been kept so much of a child as to astonish his aunt. Neither Leila nor any one could have failed to like him and his gentle ways, and as between him and the village boys she knew Leila preferred this clever, if too timid, cousin. So far they had had no serious quarrels. When she rode with the Squire, John wandered in the woods, enjoying solitude, and having some appreciative relation to nature, the great pine woods, the strange noises of the breaking ice in the river, the sunset skies.
Among the village boys with whom at the rector's small school and in the village John was thrown, he liked least the lad McGregor, who had now been invited to coast or skate with the Grey Pine cousins. Tom had the democratic boy-belief that very refined manners imply lack of some other far more practical qualities, and thus to him and the Westways boys John Penhallow was simply an absurd Miss Nancy kind of lad, and it was long after the elders of the little town admired and liked him that the boys learned to respect him. It was easy to see why the generous, good-tempered and pleasant lad failed to satisfy the town boys. John had been sedulously educated into the belief that he was of a class to which these fellows did not belong, and of this the Squire had soon some suspicion when, obedient as always, John accepted his uncle's choice of his friend the doctor's son as a playmate.
He was having his hair cut when Tom McGregor came into the shop of Josiah, the barber. "Wait a minute," said John. "Are you through, Mr. Josiah?"
Tom grinned, "Got a handle to your name?"
"Yes, because Master John is a gentleman."
"Then I'll call you Mister too."
"It won't ever make you Mister," said the barber, "that kind's born so."
John disliked this outspoken expression of an opinion he shared. "Nonsense," he said. "Come up, Tom, this afternoon. Don't forget the muskrat traps, Mr. Josiah."
"No, sir. Too early yet."
"All right," returned Tom. "I'll come."
March had come and the last snow still lay on the land when thus invited Tom joined John and Leila in the stable-yard. "Let's play tag," cried Leila. Tom was ready.
"Here's a stick." They took hold of it in turn. Tom's hand came out on top. "I'm tagger. Look out!" he cried.
They played the game. At last he caught Leila, and crying out, "You're tagged," seized her boy-cap and threw it up on to the steep slope of the stable roof.
"Oh! that's not fair," cried the girl. "You are a rude boy. Now you've got to get it."
"No, indeed. Get the stable-man to get it."
She turned to John, "Please to get it."
"How can I?" he said.
"Go up inside—there's a trap door. You can slide down the snow and get it."
"But I might fall."
"There's your chance," said Tom grinning. John stood, still irresolute. Leila walked away into the stable.
"She'll get a man," said Tom a little regretful of his rudeness, as she disappeared.
In a moment Leila was up in the hayloft and out on the roof. Spreading out arms and thin legs she carefully let herself slide down the soft snow until, seizing her cap, she set her feet on the roof gutter, crying out, "Get a ladder quick." Alarmed at her perilous position, they ran and called out a groom, a ladder was brought, and in a moment she was on the ground.
Leila turned on the two lads. "You are a coward, Tom McGregor, and you too, John Penhallow. I never—never will play with you again."
"It was just fun," said Tom; "any of the men could have poked it down."
"Cowards," said the girl, tossing back her dark mass of hair and moving away without a look at the discomfited pair.
"I suppose now you will go and tell the Squire," said Tom. He was alarmed.
She turned, "I—a tell-tale!" Her child-code of conduct was imperative. "I am neither a tell-tale nor a coward. 'Tell-tale pick a nail and hang him to a cow's tail!'" and with this well-known declaration of her creed of playground honour, she walked away.
"She'll tell," said Tom.
"She won't," said John.
"Guess I'll go home," said Tom, and left John to his reflections. They were most disagreeable.
John went into the woods and sat down on a log. "So," he said aloud, "she called me a coward—and I am—I was—I can't bear it. What would my uncle say?" His eyes filled. He brushed away the tears with his sleeve. A sudden remembrance of how good she had been to him, how loyally silent, added to his distress. He longed for a chance to prove that he was not that—that—Eager and yet distrustful, he got up and walked through the melting snow to the cabin, where he lay on the floor thinking, a prey to that fiend imagination, of which he had a larger share than is always pleasant when excuses are needed.
Leila was coldly civil and held her tongue, but for a few days would not go into the woods with him and rode alone or with her uncle. Tom came no more for a week, until self-assured that the Squire had not heard of his behaviour, as he met him on the road with his usual hearty greeting. Ann Penhallow saw that the boy was less happy than usual and suspected some mild difficulty with Leila, but in her wise way said nothing and began to use him for some of her many errands of helpfulness in the village and on the farms, where always he made friends. Seeing at last that the boy was too silent and to her eye unhappy, she talked of it to Mark Rivers. The next day, after school, he said to John, "I want to see that old cabin in the woods. Long as I have lived here I have never been that far. Come and show me the way. I tried once to find it and got lost. We can have a jolly good talk, you and I."
The word of kindly approach was timely. John felt the invitation as a compliment, and was singularly open to the approval his lessons won from this gentle dark-eyed man. "Oh!" he said, "I should like that."
After lunch, Leila, a little penitent, said with unwonted shyness, "The woods are very nice to-day, and I found the first arbutus under the snow."
When John did not respond, she made a further propitiatory advance, "It will soon be time for that hornets' nest, we must go and see."
"What are you about?" said Mrs. Ann; "you will get stung."
"Pursuit of natural history," said Penhallow smiling.
"You are as bad as Leila, James."
"Won't you come?" asked the girl at last.
"Thank you. I regret that I have an engagement with Mr. Rivers," said John, with the prim manner he was fast losing.
"By George!" murmured Penhallow as he rose.
John looked up puzzled, and his uncle, much amused, went to get his boots and riding-dress. "Wait till I get you on a horse, my Lord Chesterfield," he muttered. "He and Leila must have had a row. What about, I wonder." He asked no questions.
With a renewal of contentment and well-pleased, John called for the rector. They went away into the forest to the cabin.
"And so," said Rivers, "this is where the first Penhallow had his Indian fight. I must ask the Squire."
"I know about it," said John. "Leila told me, and"—he paused, "I saw it."
"Oh! did you? Let's hear." They lay down, and the rector lazily smoked. "Well, go ahead, Jack, I like stories." He had early rechristened him Jack, and the boy liked it.
"Well, sir, they saw them coming near to dusk and ran. You see, it was a clearing then; the trees have grown here since. That was at dusk. They barred the door and cut loop-holes between the logs. Next morning the Indians came on. She fired first, and she cried out, 'Oh! James, I've killed a man.'"
"She said that?" asked Rivers.
"Yes, and she wouldn't shoot again until her man was wounded, then she was like a raging lioness."
"A lioness!" echoed Rivers.
"By evening, help came."
"How did you know all this?"
"Oh! Leila told me some—and the rest—well, sir, I saw it. I've been here often."
The rector studied the excited young face. "Would you like to have been there, Jack?"
"I should have been afraid, and—" Then quickly, "I suppose he was; she was; any one would have been."
"Like as not. He for her, most of all. But there are many kinds of fear, Jack."
John was silent, and the rector waited. Then the boy broke out, "Leila told me last week I was a coward."
"Indeed! Leila told you that! That wasn't like her, Jack. Why did she say it?"
This was a friendly hearer, whose question John had invited. To-day the human relief of confession was great to the boy. He told the story, in bits, carefully, as if to have it exact were essential. Mark Rivers watched him through his pipe smoke, trying to think of what he could or should say to this small soul in trouble. The boy was lying on the floor looking up, his hands clasped behind his head. "That's all, sir. It's dreadful."
The young rector's directness of character set him on the right path. "I don't know just what to say to you, Jack. You see, you have been taught to be afraid of horses and dogs, of exposure to rain, and generally of being hurt, until—Well, Jack, if your mother had not been an invalid, she would not have educated you to fear, to have no joy in risks. Now you are in more wholesome surroundings—and—in a little while you will forget this small trouble."
The young clergyman felt that in his puzzle he had been rather vague, and added pleasantly, "You have the courage of truth. That's moral courage. Tom would have explained or denied, or done anything to get out of the scrape, if the Squire had come down on him. You would not."
"Oh! thank you," said John. "I'm sorry I troubled you."
"You did in a way; but you did not when you trusted a man who is your friend. Let us drop it. Where are those Indian graves?"
They went out and wandered in the woods, until John said, "Oh! this must be that arbutus Leila talks about, just peeping out from under the snow." They gathered a large bunch.
"It is the first breath of the fragrance of spring," said Rivers.
"Oh! yes, sir. How sweet it is! It does not grow in Europe."
"No, we own it with many other good and pleasant things."
When they came to the house, Leila was dismounting after her ride. John said, "Here Leila, I gathered these for you."
When she said, "Thank you, John," he knew by her smiling face that he was forgiven, and without a word followed her into the hall, still pursued by the thought; but I was afraid. He put aside this trouble for a time, and the wood sports with Leila were once more resumed. What thought of his failure the girl still kept in mind, if she thought of it at all, he never knew, or not for many days. He had no wish to talk of it, but fearfully desired to set himself right with her and with John Penhallow.
One day in early April she asked him to go to the stable and order her horse. He did so, and alone with an unpleasant memory, in the stable-yard he stood still a moment, and then with a sudden impulse threw his cap up on to the roof. He took a moment to regret it, and then saying, "I've got to do it!" he went into the stable and out of the hay-loft on to the sloping roof. He did not dare to wait, but let himself slide down the frozen snow, seized his cap, and knew of a sudden that the smooth ice-coating was an unsuspected peril. He rolled over on his face, straightened himself, and slid to the edge. He clutched the gutter, hung a moment, and dropped some fifteen feet upon the hard pavement. For a moment the shock stunned him. Then, as he lay, he was aware of Billy, who cried, "He's dead! he's dead!" and ran to the house, where he met Mrs. Ann and Leila on the porch. "He's killed—he's dead!"
"Who? Who?" they cried.
"Mr. John, he's dead!"
As Billy ran, the dead got his wits about him, sat up, and, hearing Billy howling, got on his feet. His hands were torn and bleeding, but he was not otherwise damaged. He ran after Billy, and was but a moment behind him.
Mrs. Ann was shaking the simple fellow, vainly trying to learn what had happened. Leila white to the lips was leaning against a pillar. John called out, "I'm all right, aunt. I had a fall—and Billy, do hold your tongue."
Billy cried, "He's not dead!" and fled as he had come.
"My poor boy," said Mrs. Ann, "sit down." He gladly obeyed.
At this moment James Penhallow came downstairs. "What's all this row about, Ann? I heard Billy—Oh, so you're the dead man, John. How did you happen to die?"
"I fell off the stable roof, sir."
"Well, you got off easily." He asked no other questions, to John's relief, but said, "Your hands look as if you had fought our big tom-cat."
John had risen on his uncle's approach. Now Penhallow said, "Sit down. Put some court-plaster on those scratches, Ann, or a postage stamp—or—so—Come, Leila, the horses are here. Run upstairs and get my riding-whip. That fool brought me down in a hurry. When the chimney took fire last year he ran through the village yelling that the house was burned down. Don't let your aunt coddle you, John."
"Do let the boy alone, James."
"Come, Leila," he said.
"I think I won't ride to-day, Uncle Jim."
A faint signal from his wife sent him on his way alone with, "All right, Leila. Any errands, my dear?"
"No—but please call at the grocer's and ask him why he has sent no sugar—and tell Mrs. Saul I want her. If Pole is in, you might mention that when I order beef I do not want veal."
While John was being plastered and in dread of the further questions which were not asked, Leila went upstairs, and the Squire rode away to the iron-works smiling and pleased. "He'll do," he murmured, "but what the deuce was my young dandy doing on the roof?" The Captain had learned in the army the wisdom of asking no needless questions. "Leila must have been a pretty lively instructor in mischief. By and by, Ann will have it out of the boy, and—I must stop that. Now she will be too full of surgery. She is sure to think Leila had something to do with it." He saw of late that Ann was resolute as to what to him would be a sad loss. Leila was to be sent to school before long—accomplishments! "Damn accomplishments! I have tried to make a boy out of her—now the inevitable feminine appears—she was scared white—and the boy was pretty shaky. I am sure Leila will know all about it." That school business had already been discussed with his wife, and then, he thought, "There is to come a winter in the city, society, and—some nice young man, and so good-bye, my dear comrade. Get up, Brutus." He dismissed his cares as the big bay stretched out in a gallop.
After some surgical care, John was told to go to his room and lie down. He protested that he was in no need of rest, but Ann Penhallow, positive in small ways with every one, including her husband, sent John away with an imperative order, nor on the whole was he sorry to be alone. No one had been too curious. He recognized this as a reasonable habit of the family. And Leila? He was of no mind to be frank with her; and this he had done was a debt paid to John Penhallow! He may not have so put it, but he would not admit to himself that Leila's contemptuous epithet had had any influence on his action. The outcome was a keen sense of happy self-approval. When he had dressed for dinner, feeling pretty sore all over, he found Leila waiting at the head of the stairs.
"John Penhallow, you threw your cap on the roof and went up to get it, you did."
"I did, Leila, but how did you know?"
She smiled and replied, "I—I don't know, John. I am sorry for what I said, and oh! John, Uncle Jim, he was pleased!"
"Do you think so?"
"Yes." She caught his hand and at the last landing let it fall. At dinner, the Squire asked kindly: "Are you all right, my boy?"
"Yes, sir," and that was all.
Mark Rivers, who had heard of this incident from Mrs. Penhallow, and at last from Leila, was alone in a position to comprehend the motives which combined to bring about an act of rashness. The rector had some sympathy with the boy and liked him for choosing a time when no one was present to witness his trial of himself. He too had the good sense like the Squire to ask no questions.
Meanwhile, Tom McGregor came no more, feeling the wound to his pride, but without the urgent need felt by John to set himself in a better position with himself. He would have thought nothing of accepting Leila's challenge, but very much wanted to see the polite girl-boy brought to shame. In fact, even the straightforward Squire, with all his ready cordiality, at times found John's extreme politeness ridiculous at his age, but knew it to be the result of absurd training and the absence of natural association with other and manly boys. To Tom it was unexplained and caused that very common feeling of vague suspicion of some claim to superiority which refined manners imply to those who lack manners altogether.
April passed, the arbutus fragrance was gone, while the maples were putting forth ruddy buds which looked like a prophecy of the distant autumn and made gay with colour the young greenery of spring. Meanwhile, school went on, and John grew stronger and broader in this altogether wholesome atmosphere of outdoor activity and indoor life of kindness and apparently inattentive indifference on the part of his busy uncle.
On an evening late in May, 1856 (John long remembered it), the Squire as usual left their little circle and retired to the library, where he busied himself over matters involving business letters, and then fell to reading in the Tribune the bitter politics of Fremont's contest with Buchanan and the still angry talk over Brooks's assault on Senator Sumner. He foresaw defeat and was with cool judgment aware of what the formation of the Republican Party indicated in the way of trouble to come. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise had years before disturbed his party allegiance, and now no longer had he been able to see the grave question of slavery as Ann his wife saw it. He threw aside the papers, set his table in order, and opening the door called John to come in and pay him a visit. The boy rose surprised. Never once had this over-occupied man talked to him at length and he had never been set free to wander in the tempting wilderness of books, which now and then when James Penhallow was absent were remorselessly dusted by Mrs. Ann and the maid, with dislocating consequences over which James Penhallow growled in belated protest.
John went in, glanced up at the Captain's sword over the mantelpiece, and sat down as desired by the still-needed fire.
"John," said his uncle in his usual direct way, "have you ever been on the back of a horse?"
"Yes, sir, once—in Paris at a riding-school."
"Once! You said 'once'—well?"
"I fell off—mother was with me."
"And you got on again?"
John flushed and hesitated, watched by the dark-eyed Squire. "I was afraid!" He would not say that his mother forbade it.
"What is your name?"
"John, sir," he returned astonished.
"And the rest—the rest, sir," added his uncle abruptly.
John troubled by the soldier's impatient tones said: "Penhallow, sir." He was near to a too emotional display.
"And you, John Penhallow, my brother's son, were afraid?"
"I was." It was only in part true. His mother had forbidden the master to remount him.
"By George!" said Penhallow angrily, "I don't believe you, I can't!"
John rose, "I may be a coward, Uncle James, but I never lie."
Penhallow stood up, "I beg your pardon, John."
"Oh! no, Uncle James. I—please not." He felt as if the tall soldier was humiliating himself, but could not have put it in words.
"I was hasty, my boy. You must, of course, learn to ride. By the way, do you ever read the papers?"
"Not often, sir—hardly ever. They are kept in your library or Aunt Ann's."
"Well, it is time you did read them. Come in here when you want to be alone—or any time. You won't bother me. Take what books you want, and ask me about the politics of the day. The country is going to the devil, but don't discuss this election with your aunt."
"No, sir." He had gathered from the rector enough to make him understand the warning.
John went out with the idea that this business of learning to ride was somewhere in the future. He was a little disturbed when the next day after breakfast his uncle said, "Come, John, the horses are in the training-ring."
Mrs. Ann said, "James, if you are going to apply West Point riding-school methods to John, I protest."
"Then protest, my dear," he said.
"You will kill him," she returned.
"My dear Ann, I am not going to kill him, I am going to teach him to live. Come, John. I am going to teach him to ride." Raising horses was one of the Squire's amusements, and the training-course where young horses were broken usually got an hour of his busy day.
"May I come?" asked Leila.
"Please, not," said John, anticipating disaster and desiring no amused spectators.
"In a week or so, yes, Leila," said Penhallow, "not now."
There were two stable-boys waiting and a pony long retired on grassy pension. "Now," said Penhallow, "put a foot on my knee and up you go."
"But, there's no saddle."
"There are two. The Lord of horses put one on the back of a horse and another under a man. Up! sir." John got on. "Grip him with your legs, hold on to the mane if you like, but not by the reins." The pony feeling no urgency to move stood still and nibbled the young grass. A smart tap of the Squire's whip started him, and John rolled off.
"Come, sir, get on." The boys from the stable grinned. John set his teeth. "Don't stiffen yourself. That's better."
He fell once again, and at the close of an hour his uncle said, "There that will do for to-day, and not so bad either."
"I'd like to try it again, sir," gasped John.
"You young humbug," laughed Penhallow. "Go and console your distracted aunt. I am off to the mills."
The ex-captain was merciless enough, and day after day John was so stiff that, as he confessed to Leila, a jointed doll was a trifle to his condition. She laughed, "I went through it once, but one day it came."
"What came, Leila?"
"Oh! the joy of the horse!"
"I shall never get to that." But he did, for the hard riding-master scolded, smiled, praised, and when at last John sat in the saddle the bareback lessons gave him a certain confidence. The training went on day after day, under the rule of patient but relentless efficiency. It was far into June when, having backed without serious misadventures two or three well-broken horses, Penhallow mounted him on Leila's mare, Lucy, and set out to ride with him.
"Let us ride to the mills, John." The mare was perfectly gaited and easy. They rode on, talking horses.
"You will have to manage the mills some day," said Penhallow. "You own quite a fifth of them. Now I have three partners, but some day you and I will run them." The boy had been there before with Rivers, but now the Squire presented him to the foreman and as they moved about explained the machinery. It was altogether delightful, and this was a newly discovered uncle. On the way home the Squire talked of the momentous November elections and of his dread of the future with Buchanan in power, while he led the way through lanes and woods until they came to the farm.
"We will cross the fields," he said, and dismounting took down the upper bars of a fence. Then he rode back a little, and returning took the low fence, crying, "Now, John, sit like a sack—loosely. The mare jumps like a frog; go back a bit. Now, then, give her her head!" For a moment he was in the air as his uncle cried, "You lost a stirrup. Try it again. Oh! that was better. Now, once more, come," and he was over at Penhallow's side. He had found the joy of the horse! "A bit more confidence and practice and you will do. I want you to ride Venus. She shies at a shadow—at anything black. Don't forget that."
"Oh, thank you, Uncle James!"
"It is Uncle Jim now, my boy. I knew from the first you would come out all right. I believe in blood—horses and men. I believe in blood." This was James Penhallow all over. A reticent man, almost as tenderly trustful as a woman, of those who came up to his standards of honour, truth and the courage which rightly seemed to him the backbone of all the virtues.
What John thought may be readily imagined. Accustomed to be considered and flattered, his uncle's quiet reserve had seemed to him disappointing, and now of late this abrupt praise and accepting comradeship left the sensitive lad too grateful for words. The man at his side was wise enough to say no more, and they rode home and dismounted without further speech.
After dinner John sought a corner with Leila, where he could share with her his new-born enthusiasm about horses. The Squire called to the rector and Mrs. Ann to come into his library. "Sit down, Mark," he said, "I am rash to invite you; both you and Ann bore me to death with your Sunday schools and the mill men who won't come to church. I don't hear our Baptist friend complain."
"But he does," said Rivers.
"I do not wonder," said Ann, "that they will not attend the chapel."
"If," said Penhallow, "you were to swap pulpits, Mark, it would draw. There are many ways—oh, I am quite in earnest, Ann. Don't put on one of your excommunicating looks. I remember once in Idaho at dusk, I had two guides. They were positive, each of them, that certain trails would lead to the top. I tossed up which to go with. It was pretty serious—Indians and so on—I'll tell you about it some time, rector. Well, we met at dawn on the summit. How about the moral, Ann?"
Ann Penhallow laughed. In politics, morals and religion, she held unchanging sentiments. "My dear James, people who make fables supply the morals. I decline."
"Very good, but you see mine."
"I never see what I do not want to see," which was pretty close to the truth.
"The fact is," said Rivers, "I have preaccepted the Squire's hint. Grace is sick again. I tell him it is that last immersion business. I have promised to preach for him next Sunday, as your young curate at the mills wants to air his eloquence here."
"Not really!" said Mrs. Ann, "at his chapel?"
"Yes, and I mean to use a part of our service."
"If the Bishop knew it."
"If! he would possibly forbid it, or be glad I did it."
Mrs. Ann totally disapproved. She took up her knitting and said no more, while Rivers and Penhallow talked of a disturbance at the works of no great moment. The rector noticed Mrs. Penhallow's sudden loss of interest in their talk and her failure to comment on his statement, an unusual thing with this woman, who, busy-minded as the bee, gathered honey of interest from most of the affairs of life. In a pause of the talk he turned to her, "I am sorry to have annoyed you," he said—"I mean about preaching for Grace."
"But why do you do it?"
"Because," he returned, "my Master bids me. Over and over one finds in His Word that he foreknew how men would differ and come to worship Him and use His revelations in ways which would depend on diversity of temperaments, or under the leadership of individual minds of great force. It may be that it was meant that we should disagree, and yet—I—yet as to essentials we are one. That I never can forget."
"Then," she said quickly, "you are of many creeds."
"No and yes," he returned smiling. "In essentials yes, in ceremonial usage no; in some other morsels of belief held by others charitably dubious—I dislike argument about religion in the brief inadequateness of talk—especially with you from whom I am apt to differ and to whom I owe so much—so very much."
She took up her knitting again as she said, "I am afraid the balance of debt is on our side."
"Then," said Penhallow, who, too, disliked argument on religion, "if you have got through with additions to the useless squabbles of centuries, which hurt and never help, I—"
"But," broke in his wife, "I have had no answer."
"Oh, but you have, Ann; for me, Rivers is right."
"Then I am in a minority of one," she returned, "but I have not had my say."
"Well, dear, keep it for next time. Now I want, as I said, a little counsel about John."
"And about Leila, James. Something has got to be done."
The Squire said ruefully, "Yes, I suppose so. I do not know that anything needs to be done. You saw John's condition before dinner. He had a swollen nose and fair promise of a black eye. I asked you to take no notice of it. I wanted first to hear what had happened. I got Leila on the porch and extracted it by bits. It seems that Tom was rude to Leila."
"I never liked your allowing him to play with the children, James."
"But the boy needs boy-company."
"And what of Leila? She needs girl-company."
"I fear," said Rivers, "that may be the case."
"It is so," said Mrs. Ann decisively, pleased with his support. "What happened, James?"
"I did not push Leila about what Tom did. John slapped his face and got knocked down. He got up and went at Tom like a wildcat. Tom knocked him down again and held him. He said that John must say he had had enough."
"He didn't," said Rivers, "I am sure he didn't."
"No, Mark, he said he would die first, which was what he should have said. Then Billy had the sense to pull the big boy off, and as Leila was near tears I asked no more questions. It was really most satisfactory."
"How can you say that?" said his wife. "It was brutal."
"You do not often misunderstand me, Ann. I mean, of course, that our boy did the right thing. How does it strike you, Mark?"
He had a distinct intention to get the rector into trouble. "Not this time, Squire," and he laughed. "The boy did what his nature bade him. Of course, being a nice little boy, he should have remonstrated. There are several ways—"
"Thanks," said Penhallow. "Of course, Ann, the playing with Tom will end. I fancy there is no need to interfere."
"He should be punished for rudeness to Leila," said Mrs. Penhallow.
"Oh, well, he's a rough lad and like enough sorry. How can I punish him without making too much of a row."
"You are quite right, as I see it," said Rivers. "Let it drop; but, indeed, it is true that Leila should have other than rough lads as school-companions."
"Oh, Lord! Rivers."
"I am glad to agree with you at least about one thing," said Mrs. Penhallow. "In September John will be sixteen, and Leila a year or so younger. She is now simply a big, daring, strong boy."
"If you think that, Ann, you are oddly mistaken."
"I am," she said; "I was. It was only one end of my reasons why she must go to school. Before John came and when we had cousins here—girls, she simply despised them or led them into dreadful scrapes."
"Well, Ann, we will talk it over another time."
Rivers smiled and Ann Penhallow went out, longing to attend to the swollen face now bent low over a book. The two men she left smoked in such silence as is one of the privileges of friendship. At last Penhallow said, "Of course, Mark, my wife is right, but I shall miss the girl. My wife cannot ride with me, and now I am to lose Leila. After school come young men. Confound it, rector, I wish the girl had less promise of beauty—of—well, all the Greys have it—attractiveness for our sex. Some of them are fools, but they have it all the same, and they keep it to the end. What is most queer about it is that they are not easily won. The men who trouble hearts for a game do not win these women."
"Some one will suffer," said Rivers reflectively. He wondered if the wooing of Ann Grey by this masterful man had been a long one. A moment he gave to remembrance of his own long and tender care of the very young wife he had won easily and seen fade with terrible slowness as her life let fall its joys as it were leaf by leaf, with bitter sense of losing the fair heritage of youth. Now he said, "Were all these women, Squire, who had the gift of bewitchment, good?"
"No, now and then hurtful, or honest gentlewomen, or like Ann Grey too entirely good for this wicked world—"
"As Westways knows," said Rivers, thinking how the serene beauty of a life of noble ways had contributed spiritual charm to whatever Ann Penhallow had of attractiveness. "But," he went on, "Leila cannot go until the fall, and you will still have the boy. I had my doubts of your method of education, but it has worked well. He has a good mind and is so far ahead of his years in education that he will be ready for college too early."
"Well, I hate to think of these changes. He must learn to box."
"Another physical virtue to be added," laughed Rivers.
"Yes, he must learn to face these young country fellows." After a brief pause he added, "I am looking forward to Buchanan's nomination and election, Mark, with anxiety. Both North and South are losing temper."