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   Chapter 4 No.4

Horace Chase By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 38985

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


NOTHING could exceed the charm of the early summer, that year, in this high valley. The amphitheatre of mountains had taken on fresher robes of green, the air was like champagne; it would have been difficult to say which river danced more gayly along its course, the foam-flecked French Broad, its clear water open to the sunshine, or the little Swannanoa, frolicking through the forest in the shade.

One morning, a few days after the candy-pulling at L'Hommedieu, even Maud Muriel was stirred to admiration as she threw open the blinds of her bedroom at her usual early hour. "No humidity. And great rarefaction," she said to herself, as she tried the atmosphere with a tentative snort. Maud Muriel lived with her brother, Thomas Mackintosh; that is, she had a room under his roof and a seat at his table. But she did not spend much time at home, rather to the relief of Mrs. Thomas Mackintosh, an easy-going Southern woman, with several young children, including an obstreperous pair of twins. Maud Muriel, dismissing the landscape, took a conscientious sponge-bath, and went down to breakfast. After breakfast, on her way to her studio, she stopped for a moment to see Miss Billy. "At any rate, I walk well," she had often thought with pride. And to-day, as she approached the hotel, she was so straight that her shoulders tipped backward.

Miss Billy was staying at the inn. This hotel bore the name "The Old North State," the loving title given by native North-Carolinians to their commonwealth-a commonwealth which, in its small long-settled towns, its old farms, and in the names of its people, shows less change in a hundred years than any other portion of the Union. The Old North, as it was called, was a wooden structure painted white, with outside blinds of green; in front of it extended a row of magnificent maple-trees. Miss Billy had a small sitting-room on the second floor; Maud Muriel, paying no attention to the negro servants, went up the uncarpeted stairway to her friend's apartment, and, as she opened the door, she caught sight of this friend carefully rolling a waste bit of string into a small ball.

"Too late-I saw you," she said. (For Miss Billy had nervously tried to hide the ball.) "I know you have at least fifty more little wads of the same sort somewhere, arranged in graded rows! A new ball of string of the largest size-enough to last a year-costs a dime, Wilhelmina. You must have a singularly defective sense of proportion to be willing to give many minutes (for I have even seen you taking out knots!) to a substance whose value really amounts to about the thousandth part of a cent! I have stopped on my way to the barn to tell you two things, Wilhelmina. One is that I do not like your 'Mountain Walk.'" Here she took a roll of delicately written manuscript, tied with blue ribbons, from her pocket, and placed it on the table. "It is supposed to be about trees, isn't it? But you do not describe a single one with the least accuracy; all you do is to impute to them various allegorical sentiments, which no tree-a purely vegetable production-ever had."

"It was only a beginning-leading up to a study of the pre-Adamite trees, which I hope to make, later," Miss Billy answered. "Ruskin, you know-"

"You need not quote Ruskin to me-a man who criticises sculpture without any practical knowledge whatever of human anatomy; a man who subordinates correct drawing in a picture to the virtuous state of mind of the artist! If Ruskin's theory is true, very good persons who visit the poor and go to church, are, if they dabble in water-colors, or pen-and-ink sketches, the greatest of artists, because their piety is sincere. And vice versa. The history of art shows that, doesn't it?" commented Maud, ironically. "I am sorry to see that you sat up so late last night, Wilhelmina."

"Why, how do you know?" said Miss Billy, guiltily conscious of midnight reading.

"By the deep line between your eyebrows. You must see to that, or you will be misjudged by scientific minds. For marked, lined, or wrinkled foreheads indicate criminal tendencies; the statistics of prisons prove it. To-night put on two pieces of strong sticking-plaster at the temples, to draw the skin back. The other thing I had to tell you is that the result of my inquiries of a friend at the North who keeps in touch with the latest investigations of Liébeault and the Germans, is, that there may, after all, be something in the subject you mentioned to me, namely, the possibility of influencing a person, not present, by means of an effort of will. So we will try it now-for five minutes. Fix your eyes steadily upon that figure of the carpet, Wilhelmina"-she indicated a figure with her parasol-"and I will do the same. As subject we will take my sister-in-law. We will will her to whip the twins. Are you ready?" She took out her watch. "Begin, then."

Miss Billy, though secretly disappointed in the choice of subject, tried hard to fix her mind upon the proposed castigation. But in spite of her efforts her thoughts would stray to the carpet itself, to the pattern of the figure, and its reds and greens.

"Time's up," announced Maud, replacing her watch in the strong watch-pocket on the outside of her skirt; "I'll tell you whether the whipping comes off. Do you think it is decent, Wilhelmina, to be dressing and undressing yourself whenever you wish to know what time it is?" (For Miss Billy, who tried to follow the fashions to some extent, was putting her own watch back in her bodice, which she had unbuttoned for the purpose.) "Woman will never be the equal of man until she has grasped the conception that the position of her pockets should be unchangeable," Maud went on.

"I think I will go with you as far as L'Hommedieu," suggested Billy, ignoring the subject of the watch-pocket (an old one). "I have some books to take, so I may as well." She put on her hat, and piled eight dilapidated paper-covered volumes on her arm.

"Are you still collecting vapid literature for that feather-headed woman?" inquired Maud. For Billy went all over Asheville, to every house she knew, and probed in old closets and bookcases in search of novels for Mrs. Franklin. For years she had performed this office. When Mrs. Franklin had finished reading one set of volumes, Billy carried them back to their owners, and then roamed and foraged for more.

"If you do go as far as L'Hommedieu, you must stop there definitely; you must not go on to the barn," Maud Muriel announced, as they went down the stairs. "For if you do, you will stay. And then I shall be going back with you, to see to you. And then you will be coming part way back with me, to talk. And thus we shall be going home with each other all the rest of the day!" She passed out and crossed the street, doing it in the face of the leaders of a team of six horses attached to one of the huge mountain wagons, which are shaped like boats tilted up behind; for two files of these wagons, heavily loaded, were coming slowly up the road. Miss Billy started to cross also, but after three or four steps she turned and hurried back to the curb-stone. Then suddenly she started a second time, running first in one direction, then in another, and finally and unexpectedly in a third, so that the drivers of the wagons nearest to her, and even the very horses themselves, were filled with perplexity as to the course which she wished to pursue. Miss Billy, meanwhile, finding herself hemmed in, began to shriek wildly. The drivers in front stretched their necks round the corners of the canvas hoods erected, like gigantic Shaker bonnets, over their high-piled loads, in order to see what was the matter. And the drivers who were behind stood up and peered forward. But they could make out nothing, and, as Miss Billy continued her yells, the whole procession, and with it the entire traffic of the main street, came slowly to a pause. The pause was not long. The energetic Maud Muriel, jerking up the heads of two of the leaders, made a dive, caught hold of her frightened friend, and drew her out by main strength. The horses whom she had thus attacked, shook themselves. "Hep!" called their driver. "Hep!" called the other drivers, in various keys. And then, one by one, with a jerk and a creak, the great wains started on again.

When the friends reached L'Hommedieu, Billy was still trembling.

"I'd better take them in for you," said Maud Muriel, referring to the load of books which Billy was carrying for her companion. They found Dolly in the parlor, winding silk for her next pair of stockings. "Here are some volumes which Wilhelmina is bringing to Mrs. Franklin," said Maud Muriel, depositing the pile on a table.

"More novels?" said Dolly. "I'm so glad. Thank you, Miss Billy. For mother really has nothing for to-day. The one she had yesterday was very dull; she said she was 'worrying' through it. It was a story about female suffrage-as though any one could care for that!"

"Care for it or not, it is sure to come," declared Miss Mackintosh.

"Yes, in A.D. 5000."

"Sooner, much sooner. We may not see it," pursued Maud Muriel, putting up her finger impressively. "But, mark my words, our children will."

Miss Billy listened to this statement with the deepest interest.

"Well, Maud Muriel-Miss Billy, yourself, and myself as parents-that certainly is a new idea!" Dolly replied.

Ruth came in. At the same moment Maud Muriel turned to go; and, unconsciously, Billy made a motion as if about to follow.

"Wilhelmina, you are to stay," said Maud, sternly, as she departed, straighter than ever.

"Yes, Miss Billy, please stay," said Ruth. "I want you to go with me to see Genevieve."

"Genevieve?" repeated Dolly, surprised.

"Yes. She has bought another new dress for me, and this time she is going to fit it herself, she says, so that there may be no more bagging," answered Ruth, laughing. "I know she intends to squeeze me up. And so I want Miss Billy to come and say it's dangerous!"

Ruth was naturally what is called short-waisted; this gave her the long step which in a tall, slender woman is so enchantingly graceful. Genevieve did not appreciate grace of this sort. In her opinion Ruth's waist was too large. If she had been told that it was the waist of Greek sculpture, the statement would not have altered her criticism; she had no admiration for Greek sculpture; the few life-sized casts from antique statues which she had seen had appeared to her highly unpleasant objects. Her ideas of feminine shape were derived, in fact, from the season's fashion plates. Her own costumes were always of one unbroken tint, the same from head to foot. To men's eyes, therefore, her attire had an air of great simplicity. Women perceived at once that this unvarying effect was not obtained without much thought, and Genevieve herself would have been the last to disclaim such attention. For she believed that it was each woman's duty to dress as becomingly as was possible, because it increased her attraction; and the greater her attraction, the greater her influence. If she had been asked, "influence for what?" she would have replied unhesitatingly, "influence for good!" Her view of dress, therefore, being a serious one, she was disturbed by the entire indifference of her husband's family to the subject, both generally and in detail. She had the most sincere desire to assist them, to improve them; most of all she longed to improve Ruth (she had given up Dolly), and more than once she had denied herself something, and taken the money it would have cost, to buy a new costume for the heedless girl, who generally ruined the gifts (in her sister-in-law's opinion) by careless directions, or no directions at all, to the Asheville dressmaker.

Ruth bore Miss Billy away. But as they crossed the garden towards the cottage she said: "I may as well tell you-there will be no fitting. For Mr. Chase is there; I have just caught a glimpse of him from the upper window."

"Then why go now?" inquired Miss Billy, who at heart was much afraid of Genevieve.

"To see Mr. Chase, of course. I wish to thank him for my philopena, which came late last night. Mother and Dolly are not pleased. But I am, ever so much." She took a morocco case from her pocket, and, opening it, disclosed a ring of very delicate workmanship, the gold circlet hardly more than a thread, and enclosing a diamond, not large, but very pure and bright.

"Oh-ooh!" said Miss Billy, with deep admiration.

"Yes; isn't it lovely? Mother and Dolly say that it is too much. But I have never seen anything in the world yet which I thought too much! I should like to have ever so many rings, each set with one gem only, but that gem perfect. And I should like to have twenty or thirty bracelets, all of odd patterns, to wear on my arms above the elbow. And I should like close rows of jewels to wear round my throat. And clasps of jewels for the belt; and shoe-buckles too. I have never had an ornament, except one dreadful silver thing. Let me see; it's on now!" And feeling under her sleeve, she drew off a thin silver circlet, and threw it as far as she could across the grass.

"Oh, your pretty bracelet!" exclaimed Miss Billy.

"Pretty? Horrid!"

Horace Chase had called at the Cottage in answer to a note from Genevieve, offering to take him to the Colored Home. "As you have shown so much kindly interest in the Mission, I feel sure that this second good work of ours will also please you," she wrote.

"I think I won't go to-day, Gen, if it's all the same to you," said Chase, when he entered. "For my horses have come and I ought not to delay any longer about making some arrangements for them."

"Any other time will do for the Home," answered Genevieve, graciously. "But can't you stay for a little while, Horace? Let me show you my house."

Chase had already seen her parlor, with its velvet carpet, its set of furniture covered with green, its pictures arranged according to the size of the frames, with the largest below on a line with the eye, and the others above in pyramidical gradations, so that the smallest were near the cornice. At that distance the subjects of the smaller pictures were more or less indistinguishable; but at least the arrangement of the frames was full of symmetry. In the second story, at the end of the house, was "Jay's smoking-room." "Jay likes to smoke; it is a habit he acquired in the navy; I have therefore fitted up this room on purpose," said Jay's wife.

It was a small chamber, with a sloping ceiling, a single window overlooking the kitchen roof, oil-cloth on the floor, one table, and one chair.

"Do put in two chairs," suggested Chase, jocularly. For though he thought the husband of Genevieve a fortunate man, he could not say that his smoking-room was a cheerful place.

"Oh, I never sit here," answered Genevieve. "Now come down and take a peep at my kitchen, Horace. I have been kneading the bread; there it is on the table. I prefer to knead it myself, though I hope that in time Susannah will be able to do it according to my method" (with a glance towards the negro servant, who returned no answering smile). "And this is my garden. I can never tell you how glad I am that we have at last a fixed home of our own, Horrie. No more wandering about! Jay is able to spend a large part of his summers here, and, later, when he has made a little more money, he will come for the whole summer-four months. And I go to Raleigh to be with him in the winter; I am hoping that we can have a winter home there too, very soon. We are so much more comfortable in every way than we used to be. And looking at it from another point of view, it is inexpressibly better for Jay himself to be out of the navy. It always disturbed me-such a limited life!"

Jared Franklin, when an ensign, had met Genevieve Gray, fallen in love with her, and married her, in the short space of three months. He had remained in the navy throughout the war, and for two years longer; then, yielding at last to his wife's urgent entreaties, he had resigned. After his resignation he had been for a time a clerk in Atlanta. Now he was in business for himself in a small way at Raleigh; it was upon his establishment there that Genevieve had started this summer home in Asheville. "Our prospects are much brighter," she went on, cheerfully; "for at present we have a future. No one has a future in the navy; no one can make money there. But now there is no reason why Jay should not succeed, as other men have succeeded; that is what I always tell him. And I am not thinking only of ourselves, Horrie, as I say that; when Jay is a rich man, my principal pleasure in it will be the power which we shall have to give more in charity, to do more in all good works." And in saying this, Genevieve Franklin was entirely sincere.

"You must keep me posted about the railroad," she went on, as she led the way across the garden.

"Oh yes; if we decide to take hold of it, you shall be admitted into the ring," answered Chase-"the inside track."

"I could buy land here beforehand-quietly, you know?"

"You've got a capital head for business, haven't you, Gen! Better than any one has at your mother-in-law's, I reckon?"

"They are not clever in that way; I have always regretted it. But they are very amiable."

"Not that Dolly!"

"Oh, Dolly? My principal feeling for poor Dolly, of course, is simply pity. This is my little dairy, Horrie; come in. I have been churning butter this morning."

Ruth and Miss Billy, finding no one in the house, had followed to the dairy; and they entered in time to hear this last phrase.

"She does churning and everything else, Mr. Chase, at three o'clock in the morning," said Ruth, with great seriousness.

"Not quite so early," Genevieve corrected.

The point was not taken up. The younger Mrs. Franklin, a fresh, strong, equable creature, who woke at dawn as a child wakes, liked an early breakfast as a child likes it. She found it difficult, therefore, to understand her mother-in-law's hour of nine, or half-past nine. "But you lose so much time, mamma," she had remarked during the first weeks of her own residence at Asheville.

"Yes," Dolly answered. (It was always Dolly who answered Genevieve; Dolly delighted in it.) "We do lose it at that end of the morning-the raw end, Genevieve. But when we are once up, we remain up, available, fully awake, get-at-able, until midnight; we do not go off and seclude ourselves impregnably for two hours or so in the middle of the day." For Dolly was aware that it was her sister-in-law's habit to retire to her room immediately after her one o'clock dinner, and take a nap; often a long one.

"Do you wish to see something pretty, Genevieve?" said Ruth, giving her the morocco case. "Thank you, Mr. Chase; I have wanted a ring so long; you can't think how long!"

"Have you?" said Chase, smiling.

"Yes. And this is such a beauty."

"Well, to me it seemed rather small. I wrote to a friend of mine to get it; it was my partner, in fact, Mr. Willoughby. I told him that it was for a young lady. That's his taste, I suppose."

"The taste is perfect," said Miss Billy. For poor Miss Billy, browbeaten though she was by almost everybody, possessed a very delicate and true perception in all such matters.

"I have been perfectly happy ever since it came," Ruth declared, as she took the ring, slipped it on her finger, and looked

at the effect.

"You make me proud, Miss Ruth."

"Don't you want to be a little prouder?" and she came up to him coaxingly. "I am sure Genevieve has been asking you to go with her to the Colored Home?" This quick guess made Chase laugh. "For it is the weekly reception day, and all her old women have on their clean turbans. The Colored Home is excellent, of course, but it won't fly away; there'll be more clean turbans next week. Meanwhile, I have something very pressing. I have long wanted Miss Mackintosh to make a bust of Petie Trone, Esq. And she won't, because she thinks it is frivolous. But if you will go with me, Mr. Chase, and speak of it as a fine thing to do, she will be impressed, I know; for she has a sort of concealed liking for you." Chase made a grimace. "I don't mean anything fiery," Ruth went on; "it's only a reasonable scientific interest. She is at the barn now: won't you come? For Petie Trone, Esq., is not a young dog any longer. He is more than eight years old," concluded the girl, mournfully.

Genevieve, who had been greatly struck by the ring, glanced at Chase with inward despair, as her sister-in-law made this ineffective conclusion. They had left the dairy, and were standing in the garden, and her despair renewed itself as, in the brighter light, she noted Ruth's faded dress, and the battered garden hat, whose half-detached feather had been temporarily secured with a large white pin.

But Chase was not looking at the hat. "Of course I'll go," he answered. "We'll have the little scamp in bronze, if you like. Don't worry about his age, Miss Ruth; he is so tremendously lively that he will see us all out yet."

"Come, then," said Ruth, exultingly. She linked her arm in Miss Billy's. "You must go, too, Miss Billy, so that you can tell mother that I did not tease Mr. Chase too hard."

Maud Muriel's studio was in an unused hay-barn. Here, ranged on rough shelves, were her "works," as Miss Billy called them-many studies of arms, and hands, and a dozen finished portrait-busts in clay. The subjects of the busts appeared to have been selected, one and all, for their strictly commonplace aspect; they had not even the distinction of ugliness. There were three old men with ordinary features, and no marked expression of any kind; there were six middle-aged women, each with the type of face which one forgets the moment after seeing it; and there were three uncompromisingly uninteresting little boys. The modelling was conscientious, and it was evident in each case that the likeness was faithful.

"But Petie Trone, Esq., is a pretty dog," objected the sculptress, when Ruth had made her request, backed up by Chase, who described the "dogs and animals of all sorts" which he had seen in bronze and marble in the galleries abroad. No one laughed, as the formal title came out from Maud's lips, Asheville had long ago accepted the name; Petie Trone, Esq., was as well known as Mount Pisgah.

"Don't you like pretty things?" Chase asked, gazing at the busts, and then at the studies of arms and hands-scraggy arms with sharp elbows and thin fingers, withered old arms with clawlike phalanges, lean arms of growing boys with hands like paws, hard-worked arms with distorted muscles-every and any human arm and hand save a beautiful one.

"Prettiness is the exception, not the rule," replied Maud, with decision. "I prefer to model the usual, the average; for in that direction, and in that only, lies truth."

"Yes; and I suppose that if I should make a usual cur of Petie Trone, Esq., cover him with average mud, and beat him so that he would cower and slink in his poor little tail, then you would do him?" said Ruth, indignantly.

"See here, Miss Mackintosh, your principles needn't be upset by one small dog. Come, do him; not his bust, but the whole of him. A life-sized statue," added Chase, laughing; "he must be about eleven inches long! Do him for me," he went on, boldly, looking at her with secret amusement; for he had never seen such an oaken bearing as that of this Asheville spinster.

Maud Muriel did not relax the tension of her muscles; in fact, she could not. The condition called "clinched," which with most persons is occasional only, had with her become chronic. Nevertheless, somehow, she consented.

"I'll get the darling this minute," cried Ruth, hurrying out. And Chase followed her.

"Well, here you are again! What did I tell you?" said the sculptress to Miss Billy, when they were left alone.

"I did not mean to come, Maud Muriel. I really did not intend-" Billy began.

"What place, Wilhelmina, is paved with good intentions? Now, of course, we shall be going home with each other all the rest of the day!" declared the sculptress, good-humoredly.

Meanwhile, outside, Ruth was suggesting to Horace Chase, coaxingly, that he should wait until she could find her dog, and bring him to the barn. "Because if you are not with me, Maud Muriel will be sure to change her mind!"

"Not she. She is no more changeable than a telegraph pole. I am afraid I must leave you now, Miss Ruth; for the men are waiting to see me about the horses."

"Whose horses?"

"Mine."

"Did you send for them? Oh, I love horses too. Where are they?"

"At the Old North stables. So you like horses? I'll drive the pair round, then, in a day or two, to show them to you." And after shaking hands with her-Chase always shook hands-he went towards the village; for Maud Muriel's barn was on the outskirts. In figure he was tall, thin, and muscular. He never appeared to be in haste; all his movements were leisurely, even his words coming out with deliberation. His voice was pitched in a low key; his articulation was extremely distinct; sometimes, when amused, he had a slight humorous drawl.

Ruth looked after him for a moment. Then she went in search of her dog.

A little later Anthony Etheridge paid his usual morning visit to the post-office. On his return, when near his own abode, he met Horace Chase.

"A mail in?" inquired Chase, quickly, as he saw the letters.

"No; they came last night. I am never in a hurry about mails," answered Etheridge. "You younger fellows have not learned, as I have, that among every six letters, say, four at least are sure to be more or less disagreeable. Well, have you decided? Are you coming to my place?" For Etheridge had rooms in a private house, where he paid for a whole wing in order that his night's rest should not be disturbed by other tenants, who might perhaps bring in young children; with his usual thriftiness, he had offered his lower floor to Chase.

"Well, no, I guess not; I'm thinking of coming here," Chase answered, indicating the hotel near by with a backward turn of his thumb. "My horses are here; they came last night. I'm making some arrangements for them, now."

Anthony Etheridge cared more for a good horse than for anything else in the world. In spite of his title of Commodore, sailing had only a second place in his list of tastes. He had commanded a holiday squadron only, a fleet of yachts. Some years before, he had resigned his commandership in the Northern club. But he was still a commodore, almost in spite of himself, for he had again been elected, this time by the winter yacht club of St. Augustine. At the word "horses" his face had lighted up. "Can I have a look at them?" he said, eagerly. "Did they stand the journey well?"

"O. K. They're round in the stable, if you want to come."

The three horses were beautiful specimens of their kind. "The pair, I intend to drive; I found that there was nothing in Asheville, and as I'm going to stay awhile longer (for the air is bringing me right up), I had to have something," Chase remarked. "The mare is for riding."

"She looks like a racer?"

"Well, she has taken one prize. But I shall never race her again; I don't care about it. I remember when I thought a race just heaven! When I wasn't more than nineteen, I took a prize with a trotter; 'twas a very small race, to be sure; but a big thing to me. Not long after that, there was another prize offered for a well-matched pair, and by that time I had a pair-temporarily-bays. One of them, however, had a white spot on his nose. Well, sir, I painted his nose, and won the premium!" He broke into a laugh.

"Was that before you invented the Bubble Baking-powder?" inquired Etheridge.

In this question, there was a tinge of superciliousness. Chase did not suspect it; in his estimation, a baking-powder was as good a means as anything else, the sole important point being its success. But even if he had perceived the tinge, it would only have amused him; with his far-stretching plans-plans which extended across a continent-his large interests and broad ambitions, criticism from this obscure old man would have seemed comical. Anthony Etheridge was not so obscure a personage as Chase fancied. But he was not known in the world of business or of speculation, and he had very little money. This last fact Chase had immediately divined. For he recognized in Etheridge a man who would never have denied himself luxury unless forced to do it, a man who would never have been at Asheville if he could have afforded Newport; the talk about "nature undraped" was simply an excuse. And he had discovered also another secret which no one (save Mrs. Franklin) suspected, namely, that the handsome commodore was in reality far older than his gallant bearing would seem to indicate.

"I didn't invent the Bubble," he had said, explanatorily. "I only bought it. Then the inventor and I ran it together, in a sort of partnership, as long as he lived. 'Twas as good as a silver mine for a while. Nothing could stand against it, sir-nothing."

But Etheridge was not interested in the Bubble. "I should like greatly to see your mare go," he said. "Here, boy, isn't that track in the field in pretty fair condition still?"

"Yes, boss," answered the negro, whom he had addressed.

"Why not let her go round it, Chase? It will do her good to stretch her legs this fine morning."

Here a shadow in the doorway caused them both to turn their heads. It was Ruth Franklin.

"Good heavens, Ruth, what are you doing here in the stables?" asked Etheridge, astonished.

"I have come to see the horses," replied Ruth, confidently. She addressed Chase. She had already learned that she could count upon indulgence from him, no matter what fancies might seize her.

"Here they are, then," Chase answered. "Come closer. This is Peter, and that is Piper. And here is the mare, Kentucky Belle. Your friend, the commodore, was urging me, as you came in, to send Kentucky round a race-course you have here somewhere."

"Yes, I know; the old ring," said Ruth. "Oh, please do! Please have a real race."

"But there's nothing to run against her, Miss Ruth. The pair are not racers."

"You go to Cyrus Jaycox," said Etheridge to the negro, "and ask him for-for" (he could not remember the name)-"for the colt," he concluded, in an enraged voice.

"Fer Tipkinoo, sah? Yassah."

"Tell him to come himself."

"Yassah." The negro started off on a run.

"It's the landlord of the Old North," Etheridge explained. "He has a promising colt, Tippecanoe" (he brought it out this time sonorously). "No match, of course, for your mare, Chase. Still, it will make a little sport." His color had risen; his face was young with anticipation. "Now, Ruth, go home; you have seen the horses, and that is enough. Your mother would be much displeased if she knew you were here."

For answer, Ruth looked at Chase. "I won't be the least trouble," she said, winningly.

"Oh, do be! I like trouble-feel all the better for lots of it," he answered. "Come along with me. And make all the trouble you can!"

Three little negro boys, highly excited, had already started off to act as pilots to the field. Ruth put her hand in Chase's arm; for if the owner of Kentucky Belle wished to have her with him, or at least if he had the appearance of wishing it, there was less to be said against her presence. They led the way, therefore. Then came Chase's man with the mare, Etheridge keeping close to the beautiful beast, and watching her gait with critical eyes. All the hangers-on of the stable brought up the rear. The field, where an amateur race had been held during the preceding year, was not far distant; its course was a small one. Some minutes later their group was completed by the arrival of Cyrus Jaycox with his colt, Tippecanoe.

"But where is Groves?" said Chase to his men. "Groves is the only one of you who can ride her properly." It turned out, however, that Groves had gone to bed ill; he had taken a chill on the journey.

"I didn't observe that he wasn't here," said Chase. (This was because he had been talking to Ruth.) "We shall have to postpone it, commodore."

"Let her go round with one of the other men just once, to show her action," Etheridge urged.

"Yes, please, please," said Ruth.

The mare, therefore, went round the course with the groom Cartright, followed by the Asheville colt, ridden by a little negro boy, who clung on with grins and goggling eyes.

"There is Mr. Hill, watching us over the fence," said Ruth. "How astonished he looks!" And she beckoned to the distant figure.

Malachi Hill, who had been up the mountain to pay a visit to a family in bereavement, had recognized them, and stopped his horse in the road to see what was going on. In response to Ruth's invitation, he found a gate, opened it by leaning from his saddle, and came across to join them. As he rode up, Etheridge was urging another round. "If I were not such a heavy weight, I'd ride the mare myself!" he declared, with enthusiasm. Cyrus Jaycox offered a second little negro, as jockey. But Chase preferred to trust Cartright, unfitted though he was. In reality he consented not on account of the urgency of Etheridge, but solely to please the girl by his side.

There was trouble about this second start; the colt, not having been trained, boggled and balked. Kentucky Belle, on her side, could not comprehend such awkwardness. "I'll go a few paces with them, just to get them well off," suggested Malachi Hill. And, touching Daniel with his whip, he rode forward, coming up behind the other two.

Mr. Hill's Daniel was the laughing-stock of the irreverent; he was a very tall, ancient horse, lean and rawboned, with a rat tail. But he must have had a spark of youthful fire left in him somewhere, or else a long-thwarted ambition, for he made more than the start which his rider had intended; breaking into a pounding pace, he went round the entire course, in spite of the clergyman's efforts to pull him up. The mare, hearing the thundering sound of his advance behind her, began to go faster. Old Daniel passed the Asheville colt as though he were nothing at all; then, stretching out his gaunt head, he went in pursuit of the steed in front like a mad creature, the dust of the ring rising in clouds behind him. Nothing could now stop either horse. Cartright was powerless with Kentucky Belle, and Daniel paid no heed to his rider. But, the second time round, it was not quite clear whether the clergyman was trying to stop or not. The third time there was no question-he would not have stopped for the world; his flushed face showed the deepest delight.

Meanwhile people had collected as flies collect round honey; the negroes who lived in the shanties behind the Old North had come running to the scene in a body, the big children "toting" the little ones; and down the lane which led from the main street had rushed all the whites within call, led by the postmaster himself, a veteran of the Mexican War. After the fourth round, Kentucky Belle decided to stop of her own accord. She was, of course, ahead. But not very far behind her, still thundering along with his rat tail held stiffly out, came old Daniel, in his turn ahead of Tippecanoe.

As Daniel drew near, exhausted but still ardent, there rose loud laughter and cheers. "Good gracious!" murmured the missionary, as he quickly dismounted, pulled his hat straight, and involuntarily tried to hide himself between Etheridge and Chase. "What have I done!"

His perturbation was genuine. "Come along," said Chase, who had been laughing uproariously himself; "we'll protect you." He gave his arm to Mr. Hill, and with Ruth (who still kept her hold tightly) on his left, he made with his two companions a stately progress back to the hotel, followed by the mare led by Cartright, with Etheridge as body-guard; then by Cyrus Jaycox, with Tippecanoe; and finally by all the spectators, who now numbered nearly a hundred. But at the head of the whole file (Chase insisted upon this) marched old Daniel, led by the other groom.

"Go round to the front," called Chase. And round they all went to the main street, amid the hurrahs of the accompanying crowd, white and black. At the door of the Old North, Ruth escaped and took refuge within, accompanied by the troubled clergyman; and a moment later Chase and Etheridge followed. Ruth had led the way to Miss Billy's sitting-room. Miss Billy received her guests with wonder; Maud Muriel was with her (for her prophecy had come true; the two had already begun the "going home" with each other).

"We have had the most exciting race, Miss Billy," explained Ruth. "A real horse-race round the old track out in the field. And Mr. Hill came in second on Daniel!"

The eyes of Miss Billy, turning to the clergyman with horror, moved Chase to fresh laughter. "I say-why not all stay and dine with me?" he suggested. "To celebrate Daniel's triumph, you know? I am coming here to stay, so I might as well begin. The dinner hour is two o'clock, and it is almost that now. We can have a table to ourselves, and perhaps they can find us some champagne."

"That will be great fun; I'll stay," said Ruth. "And the commodore will, I'm sure. Mr. Hill, too."

"Thanks, no. I must go. Good-day," said the missionary, hastening out.

Chase pursued him. "Why, you are the hero of the whole thing," he said; "the man of the hour! We can't bring old Daniel into the dining-room. So we must have you, Hill."

"I am sorry to spoil it; but you will have to excuse me," answered the other man, hurriedly. Then, with an outburst of confidence: "It is impossible for me to remain where Miss Mackintosh is present. There is something perfectly awful to me, Mr. Chase, in that woman's eye!"

"Is that all? Come back; I'll see to her," responded Chase. And see to her he did. Aided by Etheridge, who liked nothing better than to assail the sculptress with lovelorn compliments, Chase paid Maud Muriel such devoted attention that for the moment she forgot poor Hill, or rather she left him to himself. He was able, therefore, to eat his dinner. But he still said, mutely, "Good gracious!" and, taking out his handkerchief, he furtively wiped his brow.

The Old North had provided for its patrons that day roast beef, spring chickens, new potatoes, and apple puddings. All the diners at the other tables asked for "a dish of gravy." A saucer containing gravy was then brought and placed by the side of each plate. Small hot buscuits were offered instead of bread, and eaten with the golden mountain butter. Mrs. Jaycox, stimulated by the liberal order for champagne, sent to Chase's table the additional splendors of three kinds of fresh cake, peach preserves, and a glass jug of cream.

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