MoboReader > Literature > Westways

   Chapter 8 No.8

Westways By S. Weir Mitchell Characters: 38890

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Penhallow had gravely told John that in his absence he must look after the stables and the farm, so that now he had for the first time in his life responsibilities. The horses and the stables were to be looked over every day. Of course, too, he must ride to the Squire's farm, which was two miles away, and which was considered a model of all that a farm should be. The crop yield to the acre was most satisfactory, but when some one of the old Quaker farmers, whose apple-orchards the Squire had plundered when young, walked over it and asked, "Well, James, how much did thee clear this last year?" the owner would honestly confess that Mrs. Ann's kitchen-garden paid better; but then she gave away what the house did not use.

Very many years before slavery had become by tacit consent avoided as a subject for discussion, Mrs. Ann critical of what his farm cost, being herself country-bred, had said that if it were worked with Maryland blacks it would pay and pay well.

"You mean, dear, that if I owned the labour, it would pay."

"Yes," she returned gaily, "and with me for your farmeress."

"You are, you are!" he laughed, "and you have cultivated me. I am well broken to your satisfaction, I trust; but to me, Ann, the unpaid labour of the slave seems impossible."

"Oh, James, it is not only possible, but right for us who know what for all concerned is best."

"Well, well," he laughed, "the vegetable garden seems to be run at a profit without them-ah! Ann, how about that?"

The talk was, as they both knew, more serious than it would have seemed to any one who might have chanced to be present. The tact born of perfect love has the certainty of instinct, and to be sensitive even to tenderness in regard to the prejudices or the fixed opinions of another does much to insure happiness both in friendship and in love. Here with these two people was a radical difference of belief concerning what was to be more and more a hard subject as the differences of sentiment North and South became sharply defined. Westways and the mills understood her, and what were her political beliefs, but not the laughingly guarded silence of the much loved and usually outspoken Squire, who now and then relieved his mind by talking political history to John or Rivers.

The stables and farm were seriously inspected and opinions expressed concerning colts and horses to the amusement of the grooms. He presided in Penhallow's place at table with some sense of newly acquired importance, and on the fourth day of his uncle's absence, at Mark Rivers's request, asked Mr. Grace to join them. The good Baptist was the more pleased to come in the absence of Mrs. Penhallow, who liking neither his creed nor his manners, respected the goodness of a life of self-denial, which, as his friend Rivers knew, really left him with hardly enough to keep his preaching soul alive.

"Grace is late, as usual," said Rivers to John. "He has, I believe, no acquaintance with minutes and no more conception of time than the angels. Ah! I see him. His table-manners really distress your aunt; but manners are-well, we will leave that to another time. Good evening, Grace."

"Glad to see you, sir," said John.

On a word from Rivers, the guest offered thanks, which somewhat amazed

John by its elaborate repetitions.

The stout little preacher, carefully tucking his napkin between his paper shirt-collar and his neck, addressed himself to material illustration of his thankfulness, while the rector observed with a pitiful interest the obvious animal satisfaction of the man. John with more amusement saw the silver fork used for a time and at last abandoned for use of the knife. Unconsciously happier for an unusually good dinner, Grace accepted a tumbler of the Penhallow cider, remarking, "I never take spirits, Rivers, but I suppose cider to be a quite innocent beverage."

Rivers smiled. "It will do you no harm."

"It occurs to me, Rivers," said Grace, "that although wine is mentioned in the Bible, cider is not. There is no warning against its use."

It also occurred to Rivers that there was none against applejack. "Quite right," he said. "You make me think of that scamp, Lamb. McGregor tells me that he is very ill."

"A pity he wouldn't die," remarked the young host, who had indiscreetly taken two full tumblers of old hard cider before Rivers had noticed his unaccustomed use of this rather potent drink.

"You should not desire the death of any man, John," said Grace, "least of all the death of a sinner like Lamb."

"Really," said John with the dignity of just a trifle too much cider, "my phrase did not admit of your construction."

"No," laughed Rivers, seeing it well to intervene, "and yet to say it is a pity may be a kindly wish and leaves it open to charitable interpretation."

"He is quite unprepared to die," insisted Grace, with the clerical intonation which Rivers disliked.

"How do you know that?" asked Rivers.

"I know," said John confidently. "He told me he was a born thief and loved to lie. He was pretty drunk at the time."

"That is too nearly true to be pleasant," remarked Rivers, "'in vino veritas.' The man is a very strange nature. I think he never forgives a benefit. I sometimes think he has no sense of the difference between right and wrong-an unmoral nature, beyond your preaching or mine, Grace, even if he ever gave us a chance."

"I think he is a cruel beast," said John. "I saw him once-"

Rivers interrupted him saying, as he rose, "Suppose we smoke."

With unconscious imitation of the courteous Squire he represented, John said, "We will smoke in the library if you have had enough wine."

Rivers said, "Certainly, Squire," not altogether amused as John, a little embarrassed, said quickly, "I should have said cider."

"Of course, we have had no wine, quite a natural mistake," remarked Grace, which the representative squire felt to be a very disagreeable comment.

"You will find cigars and pipes on the table," said the rector, "and I will join you in a moment." So saying he detained John by a hand on his arm and led him aside as they crossed the hall.

"You are feeling that old hard cider, my boy. You had better go to bed. I should have warned you."

"Yes, sir-I-did not-I mean-I-"

"C'est une diablesse-a little devil. There are others, and worse ones, John. Good-night."

On the stairs the young fellow felt a deepening sense of humiliation and surprise as he became aware of the value of the banister-rail.

Rivers went into the library blaming his want of care, and a little sorry for the lad's evident distress. "What, not smoking, Grace?"

"No, I have given it up."

"But, why?"

"Well, I can't smoke cheap strong tobacco, and I can't afford better stuff."

"Then, be at ease, my friend. The Squire has sent me a large supply. I am to divide with you," which was as near to a fib as the young clergyman ever got in his blameless life.

"I shall thank him," returned Grace simply, "and return to my pipe, but I do sometimes think it is too weak an indulgence of a slavish habit."

"Hardly worth while to thank Penhallow; he will have forgotten all about it."

"But I shall not."

They smoked and talked politics, and the village and their work, until at last, after one of the pipe-filling pauses, Grace said, "I ought not to have taken that cider, but it singularly refreshed me. You did not partake."

"No, it disagrees with me."

"I feel it, Brother Rivers. I feel it slightly, and-I-a man who preaches temperance, total abstinence-"

"My dear Grace, that is not temperance. There may be intemperance in the way a man puts his opinions before others-a man may hurt his own cause-"

Grace returned quickly, "You were in our church Wednesday night-I saw you. You think I was intemperate?"

"Frankly, yes. You were abusive. You are too well self-governed to understand the working-man's temptations. You preached from the heart as you felt, without the charity of the head."

"Perhaps-perhaps," he returned humbly; and then with a quite gentle retort, "Don't you sometimes preach too much from the head, Brother Rivers?"

"Yes, that may be the case. I am conscious sometimes that I lack your power of direct appeal-your personal application of the truth. I ought to preach the first half of the sermon-the appeal to the reason, the head part-and ask you to conclude with the heart share-the personal application of my cold logic."

"Let us try it," said Grace rising and much amused; "cold, Rivers! your cold logic! There is nothing cold in all your nature. Let us go home; we have had a good talk."

As they walked down the avenue Grace said, "What are you doing about

Lamb? Is it really wise to talk to him?"

"Just now," said the rector, "he has acquired a temporary conscience in the shape of a congested stomach. I talked to him a little. He is penitent, or says he is, and as his mother is sometimes absent, I have set Billy to care for him; some one must. I have found that to keep Billy on a job you must give him a daily allowance of chewing tobacco; that answers."

"Bad company, Brother Rivers."

"Oh, there is no guile in Billy."

They parted at the Grey Pine gate. Rivers had innocently prepared remote mischief, which by no possible human foresight could he have anticipated. When, walking in the quiet of a lonely wood, a man sets his foot on a dead branch, the far end stirs another, and the motion so transmitted agitates a half dozen feet away the leaves of a group of ferns. The man stops and suspects some little woodland citizen as the cause of the unexplained movement; thus it is in the affairs of life. We do some innocent thing and are puzzled to explain how it brings about remote mischief.

Meanwhile an unendurable craving for drink beset the man Lamb, who was the prey of slowly lessening delusions. Guardian Billy chewed his daily supply of tobacco and sat at the window in the hot second-storey room feeding Lamb with brief phrases concerning what he saw on the street.

"Oh! there go Squire's horses for exercise; Joe's on Lucy."

"Damn Lucy! Do you go to mother's room-"

"What for?"

"Oh, she keeps her money in it, and Mrs. Penhallow paid her in advance the day she left."

"Can't do it," said Billy, who had strict orders not to leave Lamb alone.

"Oh, just look in the top drawer. She keeps a bit of money rolled up in one of her stockings. That will get me a little whisky and you lots of tobacco."

"Can't do it," said Billy. "Want me to steal? Won't do it."

"Then I'll get even with you some day."

Billy laughed. "Why I could lick you-like Mr. John licked the doctor's son. Gosh! there goes Pole's wagon."

Lamb fell to thought of how to get that whisky. The ingenuity of the man who craves alcohol or morphia is sometimes surprising even to the most experienced doctor. The immorality of the means of attainment is never considered. If, as with Lamb, a lie or worse be needed, there is a certain satisfaction in having outwitted nurse and doctor.

On the day after the two clergymen had heard John's final opinion of Lamb, the bed-fast man received his daily visit from his spiritual physician, and the clergyman met at the house door the doctor of the body. "I suppose," said McGregor, "that you and I as concerns this infernal rascal are under orders from Penhallow and his wife. I at least have the satisfaction of being paid-"

"Oh, I am paid, Doctor," the clergyman smiled.

"Of course, any one and every one who serves that very efficient and positive saint, Mrs. Penhallow, is paid. She's too terrifyingly good. It must be-well, inconvenient at times. Now she wants this animal looked after because of Mrs. Lamb; and the squire has some sort of absurd belief that because the same breasts that nursed him nursed our patient, he must befriend the fellow-and he does. Truth is, Rivers, that man's father was a sodden drunkard but, I am told, not otherwise bad. It's a pretty sure doom for the child. This man's body has damned his soul, and now the soul is paying it back in kind."

"The damnation will be settled elsewhere," said Rivers gravely. "You are pleading for him when you say he had a father who drank."

"Well, yes, yes. That is true, but I do confoundedly mistrust him. He never remembers a kindness and never forgets the smallest injury. But when Mrs. Penhallow puts a hand on your arm and you look at her, you just go and do what she wants done. Oh, me too! Let's get out of this unreasonable sun and see this fellow."

Billy was chasing blue-bottle flies on the window panes, and the patient in bed was lying still, flushed, with red eyes. He was slowly recovering from an attack of delirium tremens and reassembling his scattered wits.

"Well," said McGregor, "better, I see. Bugs gone?"

"Yes, sir; but if I had a little, just a nip of whisky to taper off on,

I'd be all right."

"Not a drop, Peter."

"I'll die if I don't get it."

"Then die sober."

Peter made no reply. McGregor felt his pulse, made his usual careful examination, and said at last, "Now keep quiet, and in a few days you'll be well."

"For God's sake, give me whisky-a little. I'm so weak I can't stand up."

"No," said McGregor, "it will pass. Now I must go. A word with you, Mr. Rivers." When outside of the room he said, "We must trust Billy, I suppose?"

"Yes, there is no one else."

"That man is giving his whole mind to thinking how he can get whisky. He will lie, cheat, steal, do anything to get it."

"How can he? Neither Billy nor his old mother will help him. He will get well, Doctor, I suppose?"

"Yes, I told him he would. More's the pity. He is a permanent nuisance, up to any wickedness, a hopelessly ruined wild beast."

"Perhaps," said Rivers; "perhaps. Who can be sure of that?" He despaired of no one.

The sadly experienced doctor shook his head. "He will live to do much mischief. The good die young; you may be sure the wicked do not. In some ways the man's case has its droll side. Queer case! in some ways interesting."

"How is it interesting?" said Rivers.

"Oh, what he saw-his delusions when he was at his worst."

"What did he see?"

"Oh, bugs-snakes-the common symptoms, and at last the 'Wilmot Proviso.' Imagine it. He knew no more of that than of the physiology of the man in the moon. He described it as a 'plucked chicken.'"

"I suppose that was a wild contribution from the endless political talk of the town."

"Well, a 'plucked chicken' was not so bad. He saw also 'Bleeding Kansas.'

A 'stuck pig' that was; and more-more, but I must go."

Rivers went back to the room. "Here is your tobacco, Billy, and wait downstairs; don't go away."

The big man turned over in bed as the clergyman entered. "Mr. Rivers. I'm bad. I might have died. Won't you pray for me?"

Rivers hesitated, and then fell on his knees at the bedside, his face in his hands. Peter lay still smiling, grimly attentive. As Rivers rose to his feet, Lamb said, "Couldn't I have just a little whisky? Doctors don't always know. I've been in this scrape before, and just a little liquor does help and it don't do any harm. I can't think, I'm so harried inside. I can't even pray, and I want to pray. Now, you will, sir, won't you?"

This mingling of low cunning, of childlike appeal and of hypocrisy, obviously suggested anything but the Christian charity of reply; what should he say? Putting aside angry comment, he fell back upon his one constant resource, What would Christ have said to this sinful man? He stood so long silent by the bed, which creaked as Lamb sat up, that the man's agony of morbid thirst caught from his silence a little hope, and he said, "Now you will, I know."

Rivers made no direct answer. Was it hopeless? He tried to read the face-the too thin straight nose, white between dusky red cheeks, the projecting lower lip, and the lip above it long, the eyes small, red, and eagerly attentive. This was not the time for reason. He said, "I should be your worst enemy, Peter. Every one has been good to you; over and over the Squire has saved you from jail. Mrs. Penhallow asked me to help you. Try to bear what your sin has brought on you, oh! do try. Pray God for help to bear it patiently."

"I'm in hell. What's the use of praying in hell? Get me whisky and I'll pray."

Rivers felt himself to be at the end of his resources, and that the enfeebled mind was incapable of response to any appeal to head or heart. "I will come again," he said. "Good-bye."

"Oh, damn everybody," muttered Peter.

Rivers went out and sent Billy up to take charge. Lamb was still sitting up in bed when Billy returned. The simple fellow poured out in brief sentences small bits of what he had seen at the street door.

"Oh, shut up," said Peter. "The doctor says I'll feel better if I'm shaved-ain't been shaved these three weeks. Doctor wants you to go and get Josiah to come and fix me up to-night. You tell him it's the doctor's orders. Don't you be gone long. I'm kind of lonely."

"All right," said Billy, in the cheerful way which made him a favourite despite his disinclination for steady work.

"Now, don't be gone long. I need a good shave, Billy."

"Guess you do-way you look you wouldn't fetch five cents at one of them rummage-sales. Ain't had but one in four years."

"Oh, get out, Billy." Once rid of his guard he tried in vain to stand up and fell back cursing.

The order from the doctor was to be obeyed. "Guess he's too shaky to shave himself," said Josiah. "I'll come about half-past eight."

As Josiah walked to the far end of the village, he thought in his simple way of his last three years. After much wandering and fear of being traced, he had been used at the stables by Penhallow. That he had been a slave was suspected, but that troubled no one in Westways. He had long felt at ease and safe. He lived alone, a man of some forty years, cooked for himself, and had in the county bank a small amount of carefully saved earnings. He had his likes and dislikes, but he had the prudently guarded tongue of servitude. Long before John Penhallow had understood better the tall black man's position and won the confidence of a friendly hour, he saw with his well-bred courtesy how pleased was the man to be called Mr. Josiah. It sounded queer, as Pole remarked, to call a runaway darkey Mister, but this in no way disturbed John. The friendly feeling for the black grew as they fished together in the summer afternoons, or trapped muskrats, or dug up hellbenders. The barber had one half-concealed dislike. The man he was now to shave he both feared and hated. "Couldn't tell you why, Master John. It's like the way Crocker's wife's 'feared of cats. They ain't never hurt her none."

"Well," he said, "here I am," and in unusual silence set about his work by dim candlelight. The patient was as silent. When Josiah had finished, he said no word of his fee, knowing it to be a hopeless debt.

"Guess you do look the better for a shave," he remarked, as he was about to leave. "I'll send up Billy." The uneasy guardian had seized on the chance to get a little relief.

"No, don't go," said Lamb. "I'm in a hell of thirst. I want you to get me some whisky. I'll pay you when I get work."

Josiah was prudent and had no will to oblige the drunkard nor any belief in future repayment. "Couldn't do tha

t-doctor wouldn't like it."

"What, you won't do it?"

"No, I can't do it."

"If you don't, I'll tell what I know about you."

"What do you know?" The long lost terror returned-but what could he know?

"Oh, you ran away-I know all about it. You help me now and I'll keep quiet-you'd better."

A fierce desire rose in the mind of Josiah to kill the rascal, and then, by long habit prudent, he said, "I'll have to think about it." But what could this man know?

"Best to think damn quick, or you'll have your old master down on you. I give you till to-morrow morning early. Do you hear? It's just a nip of whisky I want."

"Yes, I hear-got to think about it." He went out into the night, a soul in fear. No one knew his former master's name. Then his very good intelligence resumed control. No one really knew-only John-and he very little. He put it aside, confident in the young fellow's discretion. Of course, the town suspected that he was a fugitive slave, but nobody cared or seemed to care. And yet, at times in his altogether prosperous happy years of freedom, when he read of the fugitive-slave act, and he read much, he had disturbing hours. He stood still a moment and crossed the road. The Episcopal church, which he punctually attended, was on Penhallow's land, and near by was the rectory where Mark lived with an old woman cook and some help from Mrs. Lamb. The night was warm, the windows were open, and the clergyman was seen writing. Josiah at the window spoke.

"Excuse me, sir, could I talk to you? I am in a heap of trouble."

"In trouble, Josiah? Come in, the front door is open."

As he entered the rector's study, Rivers said, "Sit down."

Something in the look of the man made him think of hunted animals. "No one else is in the house. What is it?" The black poured out his story.

"So then," said Rivers, "he lied to you about the doctor and threatened you with a lie. Why, Josiah, if he had known who was your master, he would have told you, and whether or not you ran away from slavery is none of his business. Mr. Penhallow believes you did, others suspect it, but no one cares. You are liked and you have the respect of the town. There would be trouble if any man tried to claim you."

"I'd like to tell you all about it, sir."

"No-no-on no account. Tell no one. Now go home. I will settle with that drunken liar."

"Thank you. May God bless-and thank you."

The clergyman sat in thought a while, and the more he considered the matter which he had made light of to the scared black, the less he liked it. He dismissed it for a time as a lie told to secure whisky, but the fear Josiah showed was something pitiful in this strong black giant. He knew Lamb well enough to feel sure that Josiah would now have in him an enemy who was sure in some way to get what he called "even" with the barber, and was a man known and spoken of in Westways as "real spiteful."

When next day Rivers entered the room where Lamb lay abed, he saw at once that he was better. He meant to make plain to a revengeful man that Josiah had friends and that the attempt to blackmail him would be dangerous. Lamb was sitting up in bed apparently relieved, and was reading a newspaper. The moment he spoke Rivers knew that he was a far more intelligent person than the man of yesterday.

Lamb said, "Billy, set a chair for Mr. Rivers. The heat's awful for

October." Billy obeyed and stepped out glad to escape.

Rivers said, "No, I won't sit down. I have something to say to you, and I advise you to listen. You lied to Billy about the doctor yesterday, and you tried to frighten Josiah into getting you whisky-you lied to him."

Josiah had not returned, and now it was plain that he had told the clergyman of the threat. Lamb was quick to understand the situation, and the cleverness of his defence interested and for a moment half deceived the rector.

"Who says I lied? Maybe I did. I don't remember. It's just like a dream-I don't feel nowise accountable. If-I-abused Josiah, I'm sorry. He did shave me. Let me think-what was it scared Josiah?" He had the slight frown of a man pursuing a lost memory.

"It is hardly worth while, Peter, to go into the matter if you don't recall what you said." He realized that the defence was perfect. Its too ready arguments added to his disbelief in its truth.

Lamb was now enjoying the game. "Was Josiah really here, sir? But, of course, he was, for he shaved me. I do remember that. Won't you sit down, sir?"

"No, I must go. I am pleased to find you so much better."

"Thank you, sir. I don't want whisky now. I'll be fit for work in a week or so. I wonder what I did say to Josiah?"

This was a little too much for Rivers's patience. "Whatever you said had better never be said again or you will find yourself in very serious trouble with Mr. Penhallow."

"Why, Mr. Rivers, I know I drink, and then I'm not responsible, but how could I say to that poor old darkey what I don't mind I said yesterday?"

"Well, you may chance to remember," said Rivers; "at least I have done my duty in warning you."

"I'd like, sir," returned Lamb, leaning forward with his head bent and uplift of lids over watchful eyes-"Oh, I want you to know how much I thank you, sir, for all your kind-"

"You may credit the Squire for that. Good-bye," and he went out.

Neither man had been in the least deceived, but the honours of the game were with the big man in the bed, which creaked under his weight as he fell back grinning in pleased self-approval. "Damn that black cuss," he muttered, "and the preacher too. I'll make them sorry."

At the outer doorstep Mark Rivers stood still and wiped the sweat from his forehead. There must be minutes in the life of the most spiritually minded clergyman when to bow a little in the Rimmon House of the gods of profane language would be a relief. He may have had the thought, for he smiled self-amused and remembered his friend Grace. Then he took himself to task, reflecting that he should have been more gently kind, and was there not some better mode of approaching this man? Was he not a spirit in prison, as St. Peter said? What right had he with his beliefs to despair of any human soul? Then he dismissed the matter and went home to his uncompleted sermon. He would have to tell the Squire; yes, that would be advisable.

The days at Grey Pine ran on in the routine of lessons, riding, and the pleasure for John of representing his uncle in the oversight of the young thoroughbred colts and the stables. Brief talks with Rivers of books and politics filled the after-dinner hour, and when he left John fell with eagerness on the newspapers of the day. His uncle's mail he forwarded to Pittsburgh, and heard from him that he would not return until mid-October. His aunt would be at home about the 8th, and Leila was now at her school. The boy felt the unaccustomed loneliness, and most of all the absence of Leila. One letter for his aunt lay on the hall table. It came too late to be sent on its way, nor had she asked to have letters forwarded.

Two days before her return was to be expected, when John came down dressed for dinner, he found Mr. Rivers standing with his back to a fire, which the evening coolness of October in the hills made desirable. The rector was smiling.

"Mr. George Grey came just after you went upstairs. It seems that he wrote to your aunt the letter on the table in the hall. As no one met him at Westways Crossing, he was caught in a shower and pretty well soaked before he got some one to bring him to Grey Pine. I think he feels rather neglected."

"Has he never been here before?" asked John, curious in regard to the guest who he thought, from hearing his aunt speak of him, must be a person of importance.

"No, not for a long while. He is only a second cousin of Mrs. Penhallow; but as all Greys are for her-well, the Greys-we must do our best to make it pleasant for him until your aunt and uncle return."

"Of course," said John, with some faint feeling that it was needless to remind him, his uncle's representative, of his duties as the host. Rivers said, smiling, "It may not be easy to amuse Mr. Grey. I did not tell you that your aunt wrote me, she will not be here until the afternoon train on the 9th. Ah! here is Mr. Grey."

John was aware of a neatly built, slight man in middle life, clad in a suit of dark grey. He came down the stairs in a leisurely way. "Not much of a Grey!" thought Rivers, as he observed the clean-shaven face, which was sallow, or what the English once described as olivaster, the eyes small and dark, the hair black and so long as to darkly frame the thin-featured, clean-shaven refinement of a pleasant and now smiling face.

John went across the hall to receive him, saying, "I am John Penhallow, sir. I am sorry we did not know you were to be here to-day."

"It is all right-all right. Rather chilly ride. Less moisture outside and more inside would have been agreeable; in fact, would be at present, if I may take the liberty."

Seeing that the host did not understand him, Rivers said promptly, "I think, John, Mr. Grey is pleasantly reminding us that we should offer him some of your uncle's rye."

"Of course," said John, who had not had the dimmest idea what the

Maryland gentleman meant.

Mr. Grey took the whisky slowly, remarking that he knew the brand,

"Peach-flavoured, sir. Very good, does credit to Penhallow's taste. As

Mr. Clay once remarked, the mellowing years, sir, have refined it."

"Dinner is ready," said John.

There was no necessity to entertain Mr. Grey. He talked at length, what James Penhallow later described as "grown-up prattle." Horses, the crops, and at length the proper methods of fining wine-a word of encouragement from Rivers set him off again. Meanwhile the dinner grew cold on his plate. At last, abruptly conscious of the lingering meal, Mr. Grey said, "This comes, sir, of being in too interesting society."

Was this mere quaint humour, thought Rivers; but when Grey added, "I should have said, sir, too interested company," he began to wonder at the self-absorption of what was evidently a provincial gentleman. At last, with "Your very good health!" he took freely of the captain's Madeira.

Rivers, who sipped a single glass slowly, was about to rise when to his amusement, using his uncle's phrase, John said, "My uncle thinks that Madeira and tobacco do not go well together; you may like to smoke in the library."

Grey remarked, "Quite right, as Henry Clay once said, 'There is nothing as melancholy as the old age of a dinner; who, sir, shall pronounce its epitaph?' That, sir, I call eloquence. No more wine, thank you." As he spoke, he drew a large Cabana from his waistcoat pocket and lighted it from one of the candles on the table.

Rivers remarked, "We will find it warmer in the library."

When the two men settled down to pipe or cigar at the library fire, John, who had felt the r?le of host rather difficult, was eager to get a look at the Tribune which lay invitingly on the table, and presently caught the eye of Mr. Grey.

"I see you have the Tribune" he said. "A mischief-making paper-devilish. I presume Penhallow takes it to see what the other side has to say. Very wise, sir, that."

Rivers, unwilling to announce his friend's political opinions, said, smiling, "I must leave Mr. Penhallow to account for that wicked journal."

Grey sat up with something like the alert look of a suddenly awakened terrier on his thin face. "I presume the captain (he spoke of him usually as the captain) must be able to control a good many votes in the village and at the iron-works."

"I rather fancy," said Rivers, "that he has taken no active part in the coming election."

"Unnecessary, perhaps. It is, I suppose, like my own county. We haven't a dozen free-soil voters. 'Bleeding Kansas' is a dead issue with us. It is bled to death, politically dead, sir, and buried."

"Not here," said John imprudently. "Uncle James says Buchanan will carry the State by a small majority, but he may not carry this county."

"Then he should see to it," said Grey. "Elect Fremont, my boy, and the Union will go to pieces. Does the North suppose we will endure a sectional President? No, sir, it would mean secession-the death-knell of the Union. Sir, we may be driven to more practical arguments by the scurrilous speeches of the abolitionists. It is an attack on property, on the ownership of the inferior race by the supremely superior. That is the vital question."

He spoke with excitement and gesticulated as if at a political meeting.

Mark Rivers, annoyed, felt a strong inclination to box John's ears. He

took advantage of the pause to say, "Would you like a little more rye,

Mr. Grey?"

"Why, yes, sir. I confess to being a trifle dry. But to resume our discussion-"

"Pardon me. John, ask for the whisky."

To John this was interesting and astonishing. He had never heard talk as wild. The annoyance on Rivers's face was such as to be easily read by the least observant. Elsewhere Mr. Rivers would have had a ready answer, but as Grey sat still a little while enjoying his own eloquence, the fire and the whisky, Rivers's slight negative hint informed John that he was to hold his tongue.

As the clergyman turned to speak to Grey, the latter said, "I wish to add a word more, sir. You will find that the men at the South cling to State rights; if these do not preserve for me and others my property and the right, sir, to take my body-servant to Boston or Kansas, sure that he will be as secure as my-my-shirt-studs, State rights are of no practical use."

"You make it very plain," said Rivers, feeling at last that he must defend his own opinions. "I have myself a few words to say-but, is that all?"

"Not quite-not quite. I am of the belief that the wants of the Southern States should be considered, and the demand for their only possible labour considered. I would re-open the slave-trade. I may shock you, reverend sir, but that is my opinion."

"And, as I observe," said Rivers, "that also of some governors of

States." He disliked being addressed as "reverend," and knew how

Penhallow would smile when captained.

There was a brief silence, what Rivers used to call the punctuation value of the pipe. The Maryland gentleman was honestly clear in the statement of his political creed, and Rivers felt some need to be amiable and watchful of his own words in what he was longing to say. John listened, amazed. He had had his lesson in our history from two competent masters and was now intensely interested as he listened to the ultimate creed of the owner of men.

Grey had at last given up the cigar he had lighted over and over and let go out as often. He set down his empty glass, and said with perfect courtesy, "I may have been excessive in statement. I beg pardon for having spoken of, or rather hinted at, the need for a resort to arms. That is never a pleasant hint among gentlemen. I should like to hear how this awful problem presents itself to you, a clergyman of, sir, I am glad to know, my own church."

"Yes, that is always pleasant to hear," said Rivers. "There at least we are on common ground. I dislike these discussions, Mr. Grey, but I cannot leave you without a reply, although in this house (and he meant the hint to have its future usefulness) politics are rarely discussed."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Grey. "At home we talk little else. I do believe the watermelons and the pumpkins talk politics."

Rivers smiled. "I shall reply to you, of course. It will not be a full answer. I want to say that this present trouble is not a quarrel born within the memory of any living man. The colonial life began with colonial differences and aversions due to religion-Puritan, Quaker and Church of England, intercolonial tariffs and what not. For the planter-class we were mere traders; they for us were men too lightly presumed to live an idle life of gambling, sport and hard drinking-a life foreign to ours. The colonies were to one another like foreign countries. In the Revolution you may read clearly the effect of these opinions, when Washington expressed the wish that his officers would forget that they came from Connecticut or Virginia, and remember only they were Americans."

Grey said, "We did our share, sir."

"Yes, but all Washington's important generals were Northern men; but that is not to the point. Washington put down the whisky-tax revolt with small regard for State rights. The Constitution unhappily left those State rights in a condition to keep up old differences. That is clear, I regret to say. Then came the tariff and a new seed of dissension. Slavery and its growing claims added later mischief, but it was not the only cause of our troubles, nor is it to-day with us, although it is with you, the largest. We have tried compromises. They are of the history of our own time, familiar to all of us. Well, Mr. Grey, the question is shall we submit to the threat of division, a broken land and its consequences?-one moment and I have done. I am filled with gloom when I look forward. When nations differ, treaties or time, or what not, may settle disputes; too often war. But, Mr. Grey, never are radical, civil or religious differences settled without the sword, if I have read history aright. You see," and he smiled, "I could not let pass your hint without a word."

"If it comes to that-to war," said Grey, "we would win. In that belief lies the certainty I dread."

"Ah! sir, in that Southern belief lies the certainty I too dread. You think we live merely lives of commerce. You do not realise that there is with us a profound sentiment of affection for the Union. No people worth anything ever lived without the very human desire of national self-preservation. It has the force of a man's personal desire for self-preservation. Pardon me, I suppose that I have the habit of the sermon."

Grey replied, "You are very interesting, but I am tired. A little more rye, John. I must adjourn this discussion-we will talk again."

"Not if I can help it," laughed Rivers. "I ought to say that I shall vote the Republican ticket."

"I regret it-I deeply regret it. Oh! thanks, John." He drank the whisky and went upstairs to bed.

Rivers sat down. "This man is what I call a stateriot. I am or try to be that larger thing, a patriot. I did not say all, it was useless. Your uncle cares little-oh, too little-about slavery, and generally the North cares as little; but the antislavery men are active and say, as did Washington, that the Union of the States was or will be insecure until slavery comes to an end. It may be so, John; it is the constant seed of discord. I would say, let them go in peace, but that would be only to postpone war to a future day. I rarely talk about this matter. What made you start him? You ought to have held your tongue."

The young fellow smiled. "Yes, sir, I suppose so."

"However, we won't have it again if I can help it."

"It was very interesting."

"Quite too interesting, but will he try it on the Squire and your aunt? Now I am going home. I hate these talks. Don't sit up and read the Tribune."

"No, sir, and I will take Mr. Grey to ride to-morrow."

"Do, and send him home too tired to talk politics."

"I think if I put him on uncle's big John it will answer."

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