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Through stained glass By George Agnew Chamberlain Characters: 6364

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


In 1866 the American minister at Rio de Janeiro turned from the reality of a few incongruous and trouble-breeding Kentucky colonels, slouched-hatted and frock-coated, wandering through the unfamiliar streets of the great South American capital, and saw a nightmare. There is a touch of panic in the despatch which he sent to Mr. Seward at a time when both secretary and public were held too closely in the throes of reconstruction to take alarm at so distant a chimera. Agents of the Southern States, wrote the minister, claimed that not thousands of families, but a hundred thousand families, would come to Brazil.

As a matter of fact, this exodus, when it took place, was so small that it failed to raise a ripple on the social pool of the Western Hemisphere. But to the self-chosen few who suffered shipwreck and privation, financial loss from their already depleted store, disaster to their Utopian dreams, and a great void in their hearts where once had been love of country, it became a tragedy-the tragedy of existence.

The ardor that led a small band of irreconcilables to gather their households and their household goods about them and flee from a personal oppression, as had their ancestors before them, was destined to be short lived. From the first, fate frowned upon their enterprise. They looked for calm seas and favorable winds, but they found storms and shipwreck. Their scanty resources were calculated to meet the needs of only the crudest life, but upon the threshold of their goal they fell into the red-tape trammels of a civilization older than their own. Where they looked for a free country, a wilderness flowing with milk and honey, which in their ignorance they imagined unpeopled, they found the squatter had been intrenched since the Jesuit fathers and their following explored the continent four centuries before. Finally, they believed themselves to be the vanguard of a horde, but, once in the breach, they found there was no following host.

Most of those who had the means reversed their flight. Others, with nothing left but their broken pride, sought aid from the government they abhorred, and were given a free passage back in returning men-of-war. But when the reflux had waned and died, there was still a residue of half a hundred families, most of whom were so destitute that they could not reach the coast. With them stayed a very few who were held by their premature investments or by a deeper loyalty or a greater pride. Among the latter was the head of the divided house of Leighton.

The Reverend Orme Leighton was one of those to whom the war had brought a double portion of bitterness, for the Leightons of Leighton, Virginia, had fought not alone against the North, but against the North and the Leightons of Leighton, Massachusetts.

To the Reverend Orme Leighton, a schism in the church would have meant nothing unless it came to the point of cracking heads; but a schism in governmental policy, which placed the right to govern one's self and own black chattel in the balance, found him taking sides from the first, thundering out from the pulpit, supported by text and verse, the divine right of personal dominion by

purchase, and in superb contradiction voicing the constitutional right to self-government. When the day of words was past, he did not wait for the desperate cry of the South in her later need. Abandoning gown and pulpit for charger and saber, he was of the first to rally, of the last to muster out. Nor at the end of the long struggle did he find solace in the knowledge that he had fought a good fight. To him more than the South had fallen. God had withheld his hand from the just cause, and Leighton had fought against Leighton!

It was characteristic of the Reverend Orme Leighton that the rancor which came with defeat was not visited upon those members of his clan who had fought against him. But for that very reason it was all the more poignantly directed against that vague entity, the North. Never, while life lasted, would he bow to the dominion of a tyranny, much more, of a tyranny which, by dividing the Leightons, had in a measure forced neutrality upon the gods.

Leighton House, Virginia, found a ready and fitting purchaser in one of the Leightons of Massachusetts. With the funds thus provided, the Reverend Orme Leighton moved, lock, stock, and barrel, six thousand miles to the south. He settled at San Paulo, where he bought for a song a considerable property on the outskirts of the city. He rented, besides, a large building in the center of the town, and established therein the Leighton Academy. Here he labored single handed until his worth as an instructor became known; then the sudden prosperity of the venture drove him to engage an ever-increasing staff. The academy developed rapidly into a recognized local institution. The first material revenue from the successful school was applied to building a fitting home on the property bought for a song.

The character of this new Leighton House, which was never known as Leighton House, but acquired the name of Consolation Cottage by analogy with the Street of the Consolation near which it stood, was as different as could well be both from the prevailing local style of architecture and from the stately colonial type dear to the heart of every Virginian. The building was long and low, with sloping roofs of flat French tiles. A broad veranda bordered it on three sides. The symmetry of the whole was saved from ugliness by a large central gable the overhanging porch of which cast a deep and friendly shadow over the great front door and over the wide flights of steps that led down to the curving driveway.

In that luxuriant clime the new house did not long remain bare. A clambering wistaria, tree-like geraniums, a giant fuchsia and trellised rose-vines soon embowered the verandas, while, on the south side, English ivy was gradually coaxed up the bare brick wall. This medley of leaf and bloom gave to the whole house that air of friendliness and homeliness that marks the shrine of the Anglo-Saxon's household gods the world over.

Such was the nest that the Reverend Orme built by the sweat of his brow to harbor his little family, which, at the beginning of this history, consisted of himself; Ann Leighton, his wife; and Mammy, black as the ace of spades without, white within.

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