MoboReader> Literature > Westways

   Chapter 5 No.5

Westways By S. Weir Mitchell Characters: 33984

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


John's intimacy with the Squire prospered. Leila had been a gay comrade, but not as yet so interested as to tempt him to discussion of the confusing politics of the day. "She has not as yet a seeking mind," said the rector, who in the confessional of the evening pipe saw more and more plainly that this was a divided house. The Squire could not talk politics with Ann, his wife. She held a changeless belief in regard to slavery, a conviction of its value to owner and owned too positive to be tempted into discussing it with people who knew so little of it and did not agree with her. James Penhallow, like thousands in that day of grim self-questioning, had been forced to reconsider opinions long held, and was reaching conclusions which he learned by degrees made argument with the simplicity of his wife's political creed more and more undesirable. Leila was too young to be interested. The rector was intensely anti-slavery and saw but one side of the ominous questions which were bewildering the largest minds. The increasing interest in his nephew was, therefore, a source of real relief to the uncle. Meanwhile, the financial difficulties of the period demanded constant thought of the affairs of the mills and took him away at times to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Thus the summer ran on to an end. Buchanan and Breckenridge had been nominated and the Republicans had accepted Fremont and Dayton.

Birthdays were always pleasantly remembered at Grey Pine, and on September 20th, when John, aged sixteen, came down to breakfast, as he took his seat Ann came behind him and said as she kissed him, "You are sixteen to-day; here is my present."

The boy flushed with pleasure as he received a pair of silver spurs. "Oh! thank you, Aunt Ann," he cried as he rose.

"And here is mine," said Leila, and laughing asked with both hands behind her back, "Which hand, John?"

"Oh! both-both."

"No."

"Then the one nearest the heart." Some quick reflection passed through

Ann Penhallow's mind of this being like an older man's humour.

Leila gave him a riding-whip. He had a moment's return of the grown-up courtesies he had been taught, and bowed as he thanked her, saying, "Now, I suppose, I am your knight, Aunt Ann."

"And mine," said Leila.

"I do not divide with any one," said Mrs. Ann. "Where is your present,

James?"

He had kept his secret. "Come and see," he cried. He led them to the porch. "That is mine, John." A thorough-bred horse stood at the door, saddled and bridled. Ann thought the gift extravagant, but held her tongue.

"Oh, Uncle Jim," said John. His heart was too full for the words he wanted to say. "For me-for me." He knew what the gift meant.

"You must name him," said Leila. "I rode him once, John. He has no name.

Uncle Jim said he should have no name until he had an owner. Now I know."

John stood patting the horse's neck. "Wasn't his mother a Virginia mare,

James?" said Ann.

"Yes."

"Oh, then call him Dixy."

For a moment the Squire was of a mind to object, but said gaily, "By all means, Ann, call him Dixy if you like, and now breakfast, please." Here they heard Dixy's pedigree at length.

"Above all, Jack, remember that Dixy is of gentle birth; make friends with him. He may misbehave; never, sir, lose your temper with him. Be wary of use of whip or spur."

There was more of it, until Mrs. Ann said, "Your coffee will be cold. It is one of your uncle's horse-sermons."

John laughed. How delightful it all was! "May I ride today with you, uncle?"

"Yes, I want to introduce you to-Dixy-yes-"

"And may I ride with you?" asked Leila.

"No, my dear," said the aunt, "I want you at home. There is the raspberry jam and currant jelly and tomato figs."

"Gracious, Leila, we shall not have a ride for a week."

"Oh, not that bad, John," said Mrs. Ann, "only two days and-and Sunday. After that you may have her, and I shall be glad to be rid of her. She eats as much as she preserves."

"Oh! Aunt Ann."

A few days went by, and as it rained in the afternoon there was no riding, but there was the swimming-pool, and for rain John now cared very little. On his way he met a half dozen village lads. They swam, and hatched (it was John's device) a bit of mischief involving Billy, who was fond of watching their sports when he was tired of doing chores about the stable. John heard of it later. The likelihood of unpleasant results from their mischief was discussed as they walked homeward. There were in all five boys from the village, with whom by this time John had formed democratic intimacies and moderate likings which would have shocked his mother. He had had no quarrels since long ago he had resented Tom McGregor's rudeness to Leila and had suffered the humiliation of defeat in his brief battle with the bigger boy. The easy victor, Tom, had half forgotten or ignored it, as boys do. Now as they considered an unpleasant situation, Joe Grace, the son of the Baptist preacher, broke the silence. He announced what was the general conclusion, halting for emphasis as he spoke.

"I say, fellows, there will be an awful row."

"That's so," said William, the butcher's son.

"Anyhow," remarked Ashton, whose father was a foreman at the mills, "it was great fun; didn't think Billy could run like that."

It will be observed that the young gentleman of ten months ago had become comfortably democratic in his associations and had shed much of his too-fine manners as the herding instincts of the boy made the society of comrades desirable when Leila's company was not attainable.

"Oh!" he said, "Billy can run, but I had none of the fun." Then he asked anxiously, "Did Billy get as far as the house?"

"You bet," said Baynton, the son of the carpenter, "I saw him, heard him shout to the Squire. Guess it's all over town by this time."

"Anyhow it was you, John, set it up," said a timid little boy, the child of the blacksmith.

"That's so," said Grace, "guess you'll catch it hot."

John considered the last spokesman with scorn as Tom, his former foe, said, "Shut up, Joe Grace, you were quick enough to go into it-and me too."

"Thanks," said John, reluctantly acknowledging the confession of partnership in the mischief, "I am glad one of you has a little-well, honour."

They went on their way in silence and left him alone. Nothing was said of the matter at the dinner-table, where to John's relief Mr. Rivers was a guest. John observed, however, that Mrs. Ann had less of her usual gaiety, and he was not much surprised when his uncle leaving the table said, "Come into the library, John." The Captain lighted his pipe and sat down.

"Now, sir," he said, "Billy is a poor witness. I desire to hear what happened."

The stiffened hardness of the speaker in a measure affected the boy. He stood for a moment silent. The Captain, impatient, exclaimed, "Now, I want the simple truth and nothing else."

The boy felt himself flush. "I do not lie, sir. I always tell the truth."

"Of course-of course," returned Penhallow. "This thing has annoyed me.

Sit down and tell me all about it."

Rather more at his ease John said, "I went to swim with some of the village boys, sir. We played tag in the water-"

The Squire had at once a divergent interest, "Tag-tag-swimming? Who invented that game? Good idea-how do you play it?"

John a little relieved continued, "You see, uncle, you can dive to escape or come up under a fellow to tag him. It's just splendid!" he concluded with enthusiasm.

Then the Captain remembered that this was a domestic court-martial, and self-reminded said, "The tag has nothing to do with the matter in question; go on."

"We got tired and sat on the bank. Billy was wandering about. He never can keep still. I proposed that I should hide in the bushes and the boys should tell Billy I was drowned."

"Indeed!"

"We went into the water; I hid in the bushes and the boys called out I was drowned. When Billy heard it, he gathered up all my clothes and my shoes, and before I could get out he just yelled, 'John's drowned, I must take his clothes home to his poor aunt.' Then he ran. The last I heard was, 'He's drowned, he's drowned!'"

"And then?"

"Well, the other fellows put on something and went after him; they caught him in the cornfield and took away my clothes. Then Billy ran to the house. That is all I know."

The Squire was suppressing his mirth. "Aren't you ashamed?"

"No, sir, but I am sorry."

"I don't like practical jokes. Billy kept on lamenting your fate. He might have told Leila or your aunt. Luckily I received his news, and no one else. You will go to Westways and say there is to be no swimming for a week in my pool."

"Yes, sir."

"You are not to ride Dixy or any other horse for ten days." This was terrible. "Now, be off with you, and tell Mr. Rivers to come in."

"Yes, sir."

When Rivers sat down, the Squire suppressing his laughter related the story. "The boy's coming on, Mark. He's Penhallow all over."

"But, Squire, by the boy's looks I infer you did not tell him that."

"Oh, hardly. I hate practical jokes, and I have stopped his riding for ten days."

"I suppose you are right," and they fell to talking politics and of the confusion of parties with three candidates in the field.

Mrs. Ann who suspected what had been the result of this court-martial was disposed towards pity, but John retired to a corner and a book and slipped away to bed early. Penalties he had suffered at school, but this was a terrible experience, and now he was to let the other boys know that the swimming-pool was closed for a week. At breakfast he made believe to be contented in mind, and asked in his best manner if his uncle had any errands for him in Westways or at the mills. When the Captain said no and remarked further that if he wished to walk, he would find the wood-roads cooler than the highway John expressed himself grateful for his advice with such a complete return of his formal manner as came near to unmasking the inner amusement which the Squire was getting from the evident annoyance he was giving Mrs. Ann, who thought that he was needlessly irritating a boy who to her mind was hurt and sore.

"Come, Leila," she said rising. "We may meet you in the village, John; and do get your hair cut, and see Mr. Spooner and tell him-no, I will write it."

John was pleased to feel that he had other reasons for visiting Westways than his uncle's order. He went down the avenue whistling, and in no hurry.

Leila had some dim comprehension of John's state of mind. Of Billy and of the Squire's court-martial she had heard from Mrs. Ann, and although that lady said little, the girl very well knew that her aunt thought her husband had been too severe. She stood on the porch, vaguely troubled for this comrade, and watched him as he passed from view, taking a short cut through the trees. The girl checked something like a sob as she went into the house.

It was the opinion of the county that Mrs. Penhallow was a right good woman and masterful; but of Leila the judgment of the village was that she was just sweet through and through. The rector said she radiated the good-nature of perfect health. What more there was time would show. Westways knew well these two young people, and Leila was simply Leila to nearly every one. "Quite time," reflected Mrs. Ann, "that she was Miss Leila." As she went with her through the town there were pleasant greetings, until at last they came to the butcher's. Mr. Pole, large after the way of his craft, appeared in a white apron. "Well, now, how you do grow, Leila."

"Not enough yet," said Leila.

"Fine day, Mrs. Penhallow." He was a little uneasy, divining her errand.

"Now, Pole, before I make a permanent change to the butcher at the mills, I wish to say that it is because a pound of beef weighs less at Grey Pine than in your shop."

At this time John was added to the hearers, being in search of William Pole with the Squire's order about the swimming. He waited until his aunt should be through. He was a little amused, which on the whole was, just then, good for him.

"Now ma'am, after all these years you won't drop me like that."

"Short weights are reason enough."

Leila listened, sorry for Pole, who reddened and replied, "Fact is, ma'am, I don't always do the weighing myself, and the boys they are real careless. What with Hannah's asthma keeping me awake and a lot of fools loafing around and talking politics, I do wonder I ever get things right. It's Fremont and it's Buchanan-a man can't tell what to do."

Mrs. Penhallow was not usually to be turned aside, and meant now to deal out even justice. But if the butcher knew it or not, she was offered what she liked and at home could not have. "I hope, Pole, you are not going to vote for Fremont."

"Well, ma'am, it ain't easy to decide. I've always followed the Squire."

Ann Penhallow knew, alas! what this would mean.

"I've been thinking I'll stand to vote for Buchanan. Was you wanting a saddle of lamb to-day? I have one here, and a finer I never saw."

"Well, Pole, keep your politics and your weights in order. Send me the lamb."

The butcher smiled as Mrs. Ann turned away. Whether the lady of Grey Pine was conscious of having bought a vote or not, it was pretty clear to her nephew that Peter Pole's weights would not be further questioned as long as his politics were Democratic.

When his aunt had gone, John called Bill Pole out of the shop and said, "There's to be no swimming for a week, for any of us. Where are the other fellows?"

"Guessed we would catch it. They're playing ball back of the church. I'll go along with you."

He was pleased to see how the others would take their deprivation of a swim in the September heat. They came on the other culprit's, who called to John to come and play. He was not so minded, and was in haste to get through with a disagreeable errand. As he hesitated, Pole eager to distribute the unpleasant news cried out, "The Squire says that we can't swim in the pool for a week-none of us. How do you fellows like that?"

"It's mighty mean of him."

"What's that?" said John. "He was right and you know it. I don't like it any better than you do-but-"

Bill Baynton, the youngest boy, broke in, "Who told the Squire what fellows was in it?"

"It wasn't Billy," said another lad; "he just kept on yelling you was dead."

"Look here," said Tom McGregor turning to John, "did you tell the Squire we fellows set it up?"

John was insulted. He knew well the playground code of honour, but remembered in time his boxing-master's advice, the more mad you are the cooler you keep yourself. He replied in his old formal way, "The question is one you have no right to ask; it is an insult."

To the boys the failure to say "no" meant evasion. "Then, of course, you told," returned the older lad. "If I wasn't afraid you'd run home and complain, I'd spank you."

It had been impossible for John to be angry with his uncle, although the punishment and the shame of carrying the news to the other boys he felt to be a too severe penalty. But here was cause for letting loose righteous anger. He had meant to wait, having been wisely counselled by his boxing-master to be in no haste to challenge his enemy, until further practice had made success possible; but now his rising wrath overcame his prudence, "Well, try it," he said. "You beat me once. If you think I'll tell if I am licked, I assure you, you are safe. I took the whole blame about Billy and I was asked no names."

Tom hesitated and said, "I never heard that."

"I will accept an apology," said John in his most dignified way. The boys laughed. John flushed a little, and as Tom remained silent added, "If you won't, then lick me if you can."

As he spoke, he slipped off his coat and rolled up his sleeves. The long lessons in self-defence had given him some confidence and, what was as useful, had developed chest and arms.

"Hit him, Tom," said the small boy. In a moment the fight was on, the non-combatants delighted.

To Tom's surprise his wild blows somehow failed to get home. It was characteristic of John then as in later days that he became cool as he realized his danger, while Tom quite lost his head as the success of the defence disappointed his attack. To hit hard, to rush in and throw his enemy, was all he had of the tactics of offence. The younger lad, untouched, light on his feet, was continually shifting his ground; then at last he struck right and left. He had not weight enough to knock down his foe, but as Tom staggered, John leaped aside and felt the joy of battle as he got in a blow under the ear and Tom fell.

"Get on him-hit him," cried the boys. "By George, if he ain't licked!"

John stood still. Tom rose, and as he made a furious rush at the victor, a loud voice called out, "Halloa! quit that."

Both boys stood still as Mark

Rivers climbed over the fence and stood between them. John was not sorry for the interruption. He was well aware that in the rough and tumble of a close he had not weight enough to encounter what would have lost him the fight he had so far won. He stood still panting, smiling, and happy.

"Hadn't you boys better shake hands?" said the rector. Tom, furious, was collecting blood from his nose on his handkerchief. Neither boy spoke. "Well, John," said Rivers waiting.

"I'll shake hands, sir, when Tom apologizes."

The rector smiled. Apologies were hardly understood as endings to village fights. "He won't do it," said John with a glance at the swollen face; "another time I'll make him."

"Will you!" exclaimed Tom.

The rector felt that on the whole it might have been better had they fought it out. Now the peacemaking business was clearly not blessed. "You are a nice pair of young Christians," he said. "At all events, you shall not fight any more to-day. Come, John."

The boy put on his jacket and went away with Rivers, who asked presently what was this about. "Mr. Rivers, soon after I came that fellow was rough to Leila; I hit him, and he beat me like-like a dog."

"And you let all these suns go down upon your wrath?"

"There wasn't any wrath, sir. He wouldn't apologize to Leila; he wouldn't do it."

"Oh! indeed."

"Then he said something to-day about Uncle Jim."

"Anything else?"

"Yes, he made it pretty clear that he thought me a liar."

"Well, but you knew you were not."

"Yes, sir, but he didn't appear to know."

"Do you think you convinced him?"

"No, sir, but I feel better."

"Ah! is that so? Morally better, John?" and he laughed as he bade him good-bye.

The lad who left him was tired, but entirely satisfied with John

Penhallow. He went to the stable and had a technical talk with the

English groom, who deeply regretted not to have seen the fight.

There being no riding or swimming to fill the time, he took a net, some tackle and a bucket, and went down to the river and netted a "hellbender." He put him in a bucket of water and carried him to the stable, where he was visited by Leila and Rivers, and later departed this life, much lamented. In the afternoon, being in a happy mood, John easily persuaded Leila to abandon her ride, and walk with him.

When they sat down beside the Indian graves, to his surprise she suddenly shifted the talk and said, "John, who would you vote for? I asked Aunt Ann, and she said, 'Buchanan, of course'; and when I asked Uncle Jim, he said, 'Fremont'; but I want to understand. I saw in the paper that it was wicked to keep slaves, but my cousins in Maryland have slaves; it can't be wicked."

"Would you like to be bought and sold?" he said.

"But, I am not black, John."

"I believe old Josiah was a slave."

"Every one knows that. Why did he run away, John?"

"Because he wanted to be free, I suppose, and not have to work without pay."

"And don't they pay slaves?" asked Leila.

"No, they don't." John felt unable to make clear to her why the two people they respected and loved never discussed what the village talked about so freely. These intelligent children were in the toils of a question which was disturbing the consciences and the interests of a continent. The simpler side was clear to both of them. The idea of selling the industrious old barber was as yet enough to settle their politics.

"Aunt Ann must have good reasons," said John. "Mr. Rivers says she is the most just woman he ever knew." It puzzled him. "I suppose we are too young to understand."

"Aunt Ann will never talk about slaves. I asked her last week."

"But Uncle Jim will talk, and he likes to be asked when we are alone. I don't believe in slavery."

"It seems so queer, John, to own a man."

John grinned, "Or a girl, Leila."

"Well, no one owns me, I tell you; they'd have a hard time."

She shook what Rivers called her free-flowing cascade of hair in the pride of conscious freedom. The talk ran on. At last she said, "I'll tell you a queer thing. I heard Mr. Rivers say to uncle-I heard him say, we were all slaves. He said that no one owns himself. I think that's silly," said the young philosopher, "don't you, John?"

"I don't know," returned John; "I think it's a big puzzle. Let's go."

No word reached the Squire of the battle behind the church until four days later, when Rivers came in after dinner and found Penhallow in his library deep in thought.

"Worried, Squire?" he asked.

"Yes, affairs are in a bad way and will be until the election is over. It always disturbs commerce. The town will go Democratic, I suppose."

"Yes, as I told you, unless you take a hand and are in earnest and outspoken."

"I could be, but it has not yet the force of imperative duty, and it would hurt Ann more than I feel willing to do. Talk of something else. She would cease her mild canvass if she thought it annoyed me."

"I see-sir. I think I ought to tell you that John has had another battle with Tom McGregor."

"Indeed?" The Squire sat up, all attention. "He does not show any marks of it."

"No, but Tom does."

"Indeed! What happened?"

"Well, I believe, Tom thought John told you what boys were in that joke on Billy. I fancy something was said about you-something personal, which John resented."

"That is of no moment. What else? I ought to be clear about it."

"Well, Squire, Tom was badly mauled and John was tired when I arrived as peacemaker. I stopped the battle, but he was not at all disposed to talk about it. I am sure of one thing-he has had a grudge against Tom-since he was rude to Leila."

The Squire rose and walked about the room. "H'm! very strange that-what a mere child he was when he got licked-boys don't remember injuries that way." Then seeming to become conscious of Rivers' presence, he stopped beside him and added, "What with my education and Leila's, he has grown amazingly. He was as timid as a foal."

"He is not now, Squire, and John has been as useful mentally to Leila.

She is learning to think."

"Sorry for it, Mark, women ought not to think. Now if my good Ann wouldn't think, I should be the happier."

"My dear Squire," said Rivers, setting an affectionate hand on his arm, "my dear Mrs. Penhallow doesn't think, except about the every-day things of life. Her politics and religion are sacred beliefs not to be rudely jostled by the disturbance of thinking. If there is illness, debt or trouble, at the mills or in Westways, she becomes seraphic and intelligent enough."

"Yes, Rivers, and if I put before her, as I sometimes do, a perplexing business matter, I am surprised at her competence. Of course, she is as able as you or I to reason, but on one subject she does not reason or believe that it admits of discussion; and by Heaven! my friend, I am sometimes ashamed to keep out of this business. So far as this State is concerned, it is hopeless. You know, dear friend, what you have been to us, and that to no other man on earth could I speak as I have done to you; but Mark, if things get worse-and they will-what then? John asked me what we should do if the Southern States did really secede. Things seem to stick in his mind like burrs-he was at it again next day."

Rivers smiled. "Like me, I suppose."

"Yes, Mark. He is persistent about everything-lessons, sports, oh! everything; an uncomfortably curious lad, too. These Southern opinions about reclaiming a man's slaves bother the boy. He reads my papers, and how can I stop him? I don't want to. There! we are at it again."

"Yes, there is no escape from these questions."

"And he has even got Leila excited and she wants to know-I told her to ask Ann Penhallow-I have not heard of the result. Well, you are going. Good-night."

The Squire sat still in the not very agreeable company of his thoughts. Leila was to go to school this September, Buchanan's election in November was sure, and John-He had come to love the lad, and perhaps he had been too severe. Then he thought of the boy's fight and smiled. The rector and he had disagreed. Was it better for boys to abuse one another or to settle things by a fight? The rector had urged that his argument for the ordeal of battle would apply with equal force to the duel of men. He had said, "No, boys do not kill; and after all even the duel has its values." Then the rector said he was past praying for and had better read the Decalogue.

When next day Mark Rivers was being shaved by the skilled hand of Josiah, he heard the voice of his friend and fishing-companion, the Rev. Isaac Grace, "What about the trout-brook this afternoon?"

"Of course," said Mark, moveless under the razor. "Call for me at five."

"Seen yesterday's Press?"

"No. I can't talk, Grace."

"This town's all for Buchanan and Breckenridge. How will the Squire vote?"

"Ask him. Take care, Josiah."

"If the Squire isn't taking any active part, Mrs. Penhallow is. She is taking a good deal of interest in the roof of my chapel and-and-other things."

The rector did not like it. "I can't talk, Grace."

"But I can."-"Well," thought the rector, "for an intelligent man you are slow at taking hints." The good-natured rotund preacher went on, amazing his helpless friend, "I wonder if the Squire would like her canvassing-"

"Ask him."

"Guess not. She's a good woman, but not just after the fashion of St.

Paul's women."

"She hasn't done no talking to me," said Josiah, chuckling. "There, sir,

I'm through."

Then the released rector said, "If you talk politics again to me for the next two months, Grace, I will never tie for you another trout-fly. Your turn," and he left the chair to Grace, who sat down saying with the persistency of the good-humoured and tactless, "If I want a roof to my chapel, I've got to keep out of talking Republican polities, that's clear-"

"And several other things," returned Mark sharply.

"Such as," said Grace, but the rector had gone and Josiah was lathering the big red face.

"Got to make believe sometimes, sir," said Josiah. "She's an uncommon kind lady, and the pumpkins she gives me are fine. A fellow's got time to think between this and November. Pumpkins and leaky roofs do make a man kind of thoughtful." He grinned approval of his own wisdom. "Now don't talk, sir. Might chance to cut you."

This sly unmasking of motives, his own and those of others, was disagreeable to the good little man who was eager to get his chapel roofed and no more willing than Mrs. Penhallow to admit that how he would vote had anything to do with the much needed repairs. His people were poor and the leaks were becoming worse and worse. He kept his peace, and the barber smiling plied the razor.

Now the Squire paused at the open door, where he met his nephew. "Come to get those scalp-locks trimmed, John? They are perilously long. If you were to get into a fight and a fellow got hold of them, you would have a bad time." Then as his uncle went away laughing, John knew that the Squire must have heard of his battle from Mark Rivers. He did not like it. Why he did not know or ask himself, being as yet too immature for such self-analysis.

Mr. Grace got up clean-shaven, adjusted a soiled paper-collar, and said, "Good-morning, John. I am sorry to hear that a Christian lad like you should be fighting. I am sure that neither Mr. Rivers nor your aunt would approve of it. My son told me about it, and I think it my duty-"

John broke in, "Then your son is a tell-tale, Mr. Grace, and allow me to say that this is none of his business. When I am insulted, I resent it." To be chaffed by his own uncle when under sentence of a court-martial had not been agreeable, but this admonition was unendurable. He entered the shop.

"Well, I never," exclaimed the preacher, as John went by him.

The barber was laughing. "Set down, Mr. John."

"I suppose the whole of Westways knows it, Mr. Josiah?"

"They do, sir. Wish I'd seen it."

"Damn!" exclaimed John, swearing for the first time in his life. "Cut my hair short, please, and don't talk."

"No, sir. You ain't even got a scratch."

"Oh, do shut up," said John. There was a long silence while the curly locks fell.

"You gave it to the Baptist man hot. I don't like him. He calls me Joe.

It isn't respectable. My name's Josiah."

"Haven't you any other name?" said John, having recovered his good-humour.

"Yes, sir, but I keeps that to myself."

"But why?" urged John.

Josiah hesitated. "Well, Mr. John, I ran away, and-so it was best to get a new name."

"Indeed! Of course, every one knows you must have run away-but no one cares."

"Might say I was run away with-can't always hold a horse," he laughed aloud in a leisurely way. "When he took me over the State-line, I didn't go back."

"I see," said John laughing, as he rose and paid the barber. The cracked mirror satisfied him that he was well shorn.

"You looks a heap older now you're shorn. Makes old fellows look younger-ever notice that?"

"No."

Then Josiah, of a sudden wisely cautious, said, "You won't tell Mrs.

Penhallow, nor no one, about me, what I said?"

"Of course not; but why my aunt, Mr. Josiah? She, like my uncle, must know you ran away."

When John first arrived the black barber's appearance so impressed the lad that he spoke to him as Mr. Josiah, and seeing later how much this pleased him continued in his quite courteous way to address him now and then as Mr. Josiah. The barber liked it. He hesitated a moment before answering.

"You needn't talk about it if you don't want to," said John.

"Guess whole truth's better than half truth-nothin' makes folk curious like knowin' half. When I first came here, I guessed I'd best change my name, so I said I was Josiah. Fact is, Mr. John, I didn't know Mrs. Penhallow came from Maryland till I had been here quite a while and got to like the folks and the Captain."

John's experience was enlarging. He could hardly have realized the strange comfort the black felt in his confession. What it all summed up for Josiah in the way of possible peril of loss of liberty John presently had made plain to him. He was increasingly urgent in his demand for answers to the many questions life was bringing. The papers he read had been sharp schoolmasters, and of slave life he knew nothing except from his aunt's pleasant memories of plantation life when a girl on a great Maryland manor. That she could betray to servitude the years of grey-haired freedom seemed to John incredible of the angel of kindly helpfulness. He stood still in thought, troubled by his boy-share of puzzle over a too mighty problem.

Josiah, a little uneasy, said, "What was you thinkin', Mr. John?"

The young fellow replied smiling, "Do you think Aunt Ann would hurt anybody? Do you think she would send word to some one-to take you back? Anyhow she can't know who was your master."

The old black nodded slowly, "Mr. John, she born mistress and I born slave; she can't help it-and they was good people too-all the people that owned me. They liked me too. I didn't have to work except holdin' horses and trainin' colts-and housework. They was always kind to me."

"But why did you run away?"

"Well, Mr. John, it was sort of sudden. You see ever since I could remember there was some one to say, Caesar you do this, or you go there. One day when I was breakin' a colt, Mr. Woodburn says to me-I was leanin' against a stump-how will that colt turn out? I said, I don't know, but I did. It wasn't any good. My mind was took up watchin' a hawk goin' here and there over head like he was enjoyin' hisself. Then-then it come over me-that he'd got no boss but God. It got a grip on me like-" The lad listened intently.

"You wanted to be free like the hawk."

"I don't quite know-never thought of it before-might have seen lots of hawks. I ain't never told any one."

"Are you glad to be free?"

"Ah, kind of half glad, sir. I ain't altogether broke in to it. You see

I'm old for change."

As he ended, James Penhallow reappeared. "Got through, John? You look years older. Your aunt will miss those curly locks." He went into the shop as John walked away, leaving Josiah who would have liked to add a word more of caution and who nevertheless felt somehow a sense of relief in having made a confession the motive force of which he would have found it impossible to explain.

John asked himself no such question as he wandered deep in boy-thought along the broken line of the village houses. Josiah's confidence troubled and yet flattered him. His imagination was captured by the suggested idea of the wild freedom of the hawk. He resolved to be careful, and felt more and more that he had been trusted with a secret involving danger.

While John wandered away, the barber cut the Squire's hair, and to his surprise Josiah did not as usual pour out his supply of village gossip.

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