MoboReader> Literature > Westways

   Chapter 9 No.9

Westways By S. Weir Mitchell Characters: 33483

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


While the two maids from Westways waited on the family at breakfast, the guest was pleased to express himself favourably in regard to the coffee and the corn bread. John being left alone in care of the guest after the meal proposed a visit to the stables. Mr. Grey preferred for a time the fire, and later would like to walk to the village. Somewhat relieved, John found for him the Baltimore paper, which Mrs. Penhallow read daily. Mr. Grey would not smoke, but before John went away remarked, "I perceive, my boy, no spittoon." He was chewing tobacco vigorously and using the fireplace for his frequent expectoration. John, a little embarrassed, thought of his Aunt Ann. The habit of chewing was strange to the boy's home experience. Certainly, Billy chewed, and others in the town, nor was it at that time uncommon at the North. He confided his difficulty to the groom, his boxing-master, who having in his room the needed utensil placed it beside the hall-fire, to Mr. Grey's satisfaction-a square tray of wood filled with sawdust.

"Not ornamental, but useful, John, in fact essential," said Mr. Grey, as John excused himself with the statement that he had to go to school. When he returned through the woods, about noon, to his relief he saw far down the avenue Mr. Grey and the gold-headed, tasselled cane he carried.

A little later Mr. Grey in the sun of a cool day early in October was walking along the village street in keen search of news of politics. He talked first to Pole, the butcher, who hearing that he was a cousin of Mrs. Penhallow assured him that the town would go solid for Buchanan. Then he met Billy, who was going a-fishing, having refused a wood-cutting job the rector offered.

"A nice fishing-rod that," said Grey.

Billy who was bird-witted and short of memory replied, "Mrs. Penhallow she gave me a dollar to pay pole-tax if I vote for-I guess it was Buchanan. I bought a nice fishing-pole."

Grey was much amused and agreeably instructed in regard to Mrs. Ann's sentiments, as he realized the simple fellow's mental condition. "A fishing-pole-tax-well-well-" and would tell John of his joke. "Any barber in this town?" he asked.

"Yes, there's Josiah," and Billy was no longer to be detained.

Mr. Grey mailed a letter, but the post-mistress would not talk politics and was busy. At last, wandering eastward, he came upon the only unoccupied person in Westways. Peter Lamb, slowly recovering strength, was seated on his mother's doorstep. His search for money had been defeated by the widow's caution, and the whisky craving was being felt anew.

"Good morning," said Grey. "You seem to be the only man here with nothing to do."

"Yes, sir. I've been sick, and am not quite fit to work. Sickness is hard on a working man, sir."

Grey, a kindly person, put his hand in his pocket, "Quite right, it is hard. How are the people here going to vote? I hope the good old ticket."

"Oh! Buchanan and Breckenridge, sir, except one or two and the darkey barber. He's a runaway-I guess. Been here these three or four years. Squire likes him because he's clever about breaking colts."

"Indeed!"

"He's a lazy nigger, sir; ought to be sent back where he belongs."

"What is his name? I suppose he can shave me."

"Calls himself Josiah," said Peter. "Mighty poor barber-cut my face last time he shaved me. You see, he's lost two fingers-makes him awkwarder."

"What! what!" said Grey, of a sudden reflecting, "two fingers-"

"Know him?" said Lamb quickly.

"I-no-Do you suppose I know every runaway nigger?"

"Oh, of course not. Might I ask your name, sir?"

"I am a cousin of Mrs. Penhallow. My name is Grey." Peter became cautious and silent. "Here is a little help, my man, until you get work. Stick to the good old Party." He left two dollars in Lamb's eager hands.

Surprised at this unusual bounty, Peter said, "Thank you, sir. God bless you. It'll be a great help." It meant for the hapless drinker whisky, and he was quick to note the way in which Grey became interested in the man who had lost fingers.

Grey lingered. "I must risk your barber's awkwardness," he said.

"Oh, he can shave pretty well when he's sober. He's our only darkey, sir.

You can't miss him. I might show you his shop." This Grey declined.

"I suppose, sir," said Peter, curious, "all darkies look so much alike that it is hard to tell them apart."

"Oh, not for us-not for us."

Then Peter was still more sure that the gentleman with the gold-headed cane was from the South. As Grey lingered thoughtful, Lamb was maliciously inspired by the size of Grey's donation and the prospect it offered. He studied the face of the Southern gentleman and ventured to say, "Excuse me, sir, but if you want to get that man back-"

"I want him! Good gracious! I did not own him. My inquiries were, I might say, casual, purely casual."

Lamb, thanks to the Penhallows, had had some education at the school for the mill children, but what was meant by "purely casual" he did not know. If it implied lack of interest, that was not the case, or why the questions and this gift, large for Westways. But if the gentleman did not own Josiah's years of lost labour, some one else did, and who was it?

As Grey turned away, he said, "I may see you again. I am with my cousin at Grey Pine. By the bye, how will the county vote?"

Peter assured him that the Democratic Party would carry the county. "I am glad," said Grey, "that the people, the real backbone of the country, desire to do justice to the South." He felt himself on the way to another exposition of constitutional rights, but realising that it was unwise checked the outflow of eloquence. He could not, however, refrain from adding, "Your people then are a law-abiding community."

"Yes, sir," said the lover of law, "we are just that, and good sound

Democrats."

Grey, curious and mildly interested, determined to be reassured in regard to this black barber's former status. He walked slowly by Josiah's shop followed at a distance by Peter. The barber was shaving Mr. Pole, and intent on his task. Grey caught sight of the black's face. One look was enough-it was familiar-unmistakable. In place of going in to be shaved he turned away and quickened his steps. Peter grinned and went home. "The darn nigger horse-thief," murmured Grey. "I'll write to Woodburn." Then he concluded that first it would be well without committing himself to know more surely how far this Democratic community would go in support of the fugitive-slave law. He applauded his cautiousness.

A moment later Pole, well shaven, overtook him. Grey stopped him, chatted as they went on, and at last asked if there was in Westways a good Democratic lawyer. Pole was confident that Mr. Swallow would be all that he could desire, and pointed out his house.

Meanwhile Peter Lamb began to suspect that there was mischief brewing for the man who had brought down on him the anger of Mark Rivers, and like enough worse things as soon as Penhallow came home.

As Pole turned into his shop-door, Mr. Grey went westward in deep thought. He was sure of the barber's identity. If Josiah had been his own property, he would with no hesitation have taken the steps needful to reclaim the fugitive, but it was Mr. Woodburn who had lost Josiah's years of service and it was desirable not hastily to commit his friend. He knew with what trouble the fugitive-slave law had been obeyed or not obeyed at the North. He was not aware that men who cared little about slavery were indignant at a law which set aside every safeguard with which the growth of civilization had surrounded the trial of even the worst criminal. As he considered the situation, he walked more and more slowly until he paused in front of Swallow's house. Every one had assured him that since General Jackson's time the town and county had changelessly voted the good old Democratic ticket. Here at least the rights of property would be respected, and there would be no lawless city mobs to make the restoration of a slave difficult. The brick house and ill-kept garden before which he paused looked unattractive. Beside the house a one-storey wooden office bore the name "Henry W. Swallow, Attorney-at-law." There was neither bell nor knocker. Mr. Grey rapped on the office door with his cane, and after waiting a moment without hearing any one, he entered a front room and looked about him.

Swallow was a personage whose like was found too often in the small Pennsylvania villages. The only child of a close-fisted, saving farmer, he found himself on his father's death more than sufficiently well-off to go to college and later to study law. He was careful and penurious, but failing of success in Philadelphia returned to Westways when about thirty years old, bought a piece of land in the town, built a house, married a pretty, commonplace young woman, and began to look for business. There was little to be had. The Squire drew his own leases and sold lands to farmers unaided. Then Swallow began to take interest in politics and to lend money to the small farmers, taking mortgages at carefully guarded, usurious interest. Merciless foreclosures resulted, and as by degrees his operations enlarged, he grew richer and became feared and important in a county community where money was scarce. Some of his victims went in despair to the much loved Squire for help, and got, over and over, relief, which disappointed Swallow who disliked him as he did no other man in the county. The Squire returned his enmity with contemptuous bitterness and entire distrust of the man and all his ways.

Mr. Grey saw in the further room the back of a thin figure in a white jacket seated at a desk. The man thus occupied on hearing his entrance said, without looking back, "Sit down, and in a moment I'll attend to you."

Grey replied, "In a moment you won't see me;" and, his voice rising, "I am accustomed to be treated with civility."

Swallow rose at once, and seeing a well-dressed stranger said, "Excuse me, I was drawing a mortgage for a farmer I expected. Take a seat. I am at your service."

Somewhat mollified, Grey sat down. As he took his seat he was not at all sure of what he was really willing to say or do. He was not an indecisive person at home, but here in a Northern State, on what might be hostile ground, he was in doubt concerning that which he felt he honourably owed as a duty to his neighbour. The word had for him limiting definitions, as indeed it has for most of us. Resolving to be cautious, he said with deliberate emphasis, "I should like what I have to say to be considered, sir, as George Washington used to remark, as 'under the rose'-a strictly professional confidence."

"Of course," said Swallow.

"My name is George Grey. I am at Grey Pine on a visit to my cousin, Mrs.

Penhallow."

"A most admirable lady," said the lawyer; "absent just now, I hear." He too determined on caution.

"I have been wandering about your quiet little town this morning and made some odd acquaintances. One Billy, he called himself, most amusing-most amusing. It seems that my cousin gave him money to pay his poll-tax. The poor simple fellow bought a fishing-pole and line. He was, I fancy, to vote for Buchanan. My cousin, I infer, must be like all our people a sound Democrat."

"I have heard as much," returned Swallow. "I am doing what I can for the party, but the people here are sadly misled and our own party is slowly losing ground."

"Indeed! I talked a little with a poor fellow named Lamb, out-of-work and sick. He assured me that the town was solid for Buchanan, and also the county."

Swallow laughed heartily. "What! Peter Lamb. He is our prize drunkard, sir, and would have been in jail long ago but for Penhallow. They are foster-brothers."

"Indeed!" Mr. Grey felt that his knowledge of character had been sadly at fault and that he had been wise in not having said more to the man out-of-work.

"Do you think, Mr. Swallow, that if a master reclaimed a slave in this county that there would be any trouble in carrying out the law?"

"No, sir," said Swallow. "The county authorities are all Democrats and would obey the law. Suppose, sir, that you were frankly to put before me the whole case, relying on my secrecy. Where is the man?"

"Let me then tell you my story. As a sound Democrat it will at least have your sympathy."

"Certainly, I am all attention."

"About the tenth of June over four years ago I rode with my friend Woodburn into our county-town. At the bank we left our horses with his groom Caesar, an excellent servant, much trusted; used to ride quarter races for my father when a boy. When we came out, Woodburn's horse was hitched to a post and mine was gone, and that infernal nigger on him. He was traced to the border, but my mare had no match in the county."

"So he stole the horse; that makes it an easy case."

"No, sir. To be precise, he left the horse at a tavern in this State, with my name and address. Some Quakers helped him on his way."

"And he is in this county?" asked Swallow.

"Yes, sir. His name here is Josiah-seems to be known by that name alone."

"Josiah!" gasped Swallow. "A special favourite of Penhallow. A case to be gravely considered-most gravely. The Squire-"

"But surely he will obey the law."

"Yes-probably-but who can say? He was at one time a Democrat, but now is, I hear, likely to vote for Fremont."

"That seems incredible."

"And yet true. I should like, sir, to think the matter over for a day or two. Did the man see you-I mean, recognize you?"

"No, but as I went by his shop, I at once recognized him; and he has lost two fingers. Oh! I know the fellow. I can swear to him, and it is easy to bring his master Woodburn here."

"I see. Well, let me think it over for a day or two."

"Very good," returned Grey, "and pray consider yourself as in my debt for your services."

"All right, Mr. Grey."

With this Mr. Grey went away a thoughtful man. He attracted some attention as he moved along the fronts of the houses. Strangers were rare. Being careful not to go near Josiah's little shop, he crossed the road and climbing the fence went through the wood, reflecting that until this matter was settled he would feel that his movements must be unpleasantly governed by the need to avoid Josiah. He felt this to be humiliating. Other considerations presented themselves in turn. This ungrateful black had run away with his, George Grey's, horse-a personal wrong. His duty to Woodburn was plain. Then, if this black fellow was as Swallow said, a favourite of Captain Penhallow, to plan his capture while himself a guest in Penhallow's house was rather an awkward business. However, he felt that he must inform his friend Woodburn, after which he would turn him over to Swallow and not appear in the business at all. It did not, however, present itself to the Maryland gentleman as a nice situation. If his cousin Ann were, as he easily learned, a strong Democrat, it might be well to sound her on the general situation. She had lived half her life among slaves and those who owned them. She would know how far Penhallow was to be considered as a law-abiding citizen, or whether he might be offended, for after all, as George Grey knew, his own share in the matter would be certain to become known. "A damned unpleasant affair," he said aloud as he walked up the avenue, "but we as Southern gentlemen have got to stand by one another. I must let Woodburn know, and decide for himself."

Neither was the lawyer Swallow altogether easy about the matter on which he had desired time for thought. It would be the first case in the county under the fugitive-slave act. If the man were reclaimed, he, Swallow, would be heard of all through the State; but would that help him before the people in a canvass for the House? He could not answer, for the old political parties were going to pieces and new ones were forming. Moreover, Josiah was much liked and much respected. Then, too, there was the fee. He walked about the room singularly disturbed. Some prenatal fate had decreed that he should be old-aged at forty. He had begun to be aware that his legs were aging faster than his mind. Except the pleasure of accumulating money, which brought no enjoyment, he had thus far no games in life which interested him; but now the shifting politics of the time had tempted him, and possibly this case might be used to his advantage. The black eyebrows under fast whitening hair grew together in a frown, while below slowly gathered the long smile of satisfaction. "How Penhallow will hate it." This thought was for him what the stolen mare was for George G

rey. He must look up the law.

Meanwhile George Grey, under the necessity of avoiding the village for a time, was rather bored. He had criticized the stables and the horses, and had been told that the Squire relied with good reason on the judgment of Josiah in regard to the promise of good qualities in colts. Then, used to easy roadsters, he had been put on the Squire's rough trotter and led by the tireless lad had come back weary from long rides across rough country fields and over fences. The clergyman would talk no more politics, John pleaded lessons, and it was on the whole dull, so that Mr. Grey was pleased to hear of the early return of his cousin. A letter to John desired him to meet his aunt on the 8th, and accordingly he drove to the station at Westways Crossing, picking up Billy on the way. Mrs. Ann got out of the car followed by the conductor and brakeman carrying boxes and bundles, which Billy, greatly excited, stowed away under the seats of the Jersey wagon. Mrs. Penhallow distributed smiles and thanks to the men who made haste to assist, being one of the women who have no need to ask help from any man in sight.

"Now, Billy," she said, "be careful with those horses. When you attend, you drive very well."

She settled herself on the back seat with John, delighted to be again where her tireless sense of duty kept her busy-quite too busy at times, thought some of the village dames. "Your Uncle James will soon be at home. Is his pet scamp any better?"

John did not know, but Josiah's rheumatism was quite well.

"Sister-in-law has a baby. Six trout I ketched; they're at the house for you-weighs seven pounds," said Billy without turning round.

"Trout or baby?" said Ann, laughing.

"Baby, ma'am."

"Thanks, but don't talk any more."

"Yes, ma'am."

"How is Leila?" asked John. "Does she like it at school?"

"No, not at all; but she will."

"I don't, Aunt Ann."

"I suppose not."

"Am I to be allowed to write to her?"

"I think not. There is some rule that letters, but-" and she laughed merrily. The rector, who worshipped her, said once that her laugh was like the spring song of birds. "But sometimes I may be naughty enough to let you slip a few lines into my letters."

"That is more than I hoped for. I am-I was so glad to get you back, Aunt

Ann, that I forgot to tell you, Mr. George Grey has come."

"How delightful! He has been promising a visit for years. How pleased James will be! I wonder how the old bachelor ever made up his mind. I hope you made it pleasant, John."

"I tried to, aunt." Whether James Penhallow would like it was for John doubtful, but he said nothing further.

"The cities are wild about politics, and there is no end of trouble in

Philadelphia over the case of a fugitive slave. I was glad to get away to

Grey Pine."

John had never heard her mention this tender subject and was not surprised when she added quickly, "But I never talk politics, John, and you are too young to know anything about them." This was by no means true, as she well knew. "How are my chickens?" She asked endless questions of small moment.

"Got a new fishing-rod," said Billy, but to John's amusement did not pursue the story concerning which George Grey had gleefully enlightened him.

"Well, at last, Cousin George," she cried, as the cousin gave her his hand on the porch. "Glad to see you-most glad. Come in when you have finished your cigar."

She followed John into the hall. "Ah! the dear home." Then her eyes fell on the much used spittoon by the fireside. "Good gracious, John, a-a spittoon!"

"Yes, aunt. Mr. Grey chews."

"Indeed!" She looked at the box and went upstairs. For years to come and in the most incongruous surroundings John Penhallow now and then laughed as he saw again the look with which Mrs. Ann regarded the article so essential to Mr. Grey's comfort. She disliked all forms of tobacco use, and the law of the pipe had long ago been settled at Grey Pine as Mrs. Penhallow decreed, because that was always what James Penhallow decided to think desirable.

"But this! this!" murmured the little lady, as she came down the staircase ready for dinner. She rang for the maid. "Take that thing away and wash it well, and put in fresh sawdust twice a day."

"I hope John has been a good host," she said, as Grey entered the hall.

"Couldn't be better, and I have had some delightful rides. I found the mills interesting-in fact, most instructive." He spoke in short childlike sentences unless excited by politics.

Mrs. Ann noted without surprise the free use of whisky, and later the appreciative frequency of resort to Penhallow's Madeira. A glass of wine at lunch and after dinner were her husband's sole indulgence. The larger potations of her cousin in no way affected him. He talked as usual to Mark Rivers and John about horses, crops and the weather, while Mrs. Ann listened to the flow of disconnected trifles in some wonder as to how James Penhallow would endure it. Grey for the time kept off the danger line of politics, having had of late such variously contributed knowledge as made him careful.

When to Mrs. Ann's relief dinner was over, the rector said his sermon for to-morrow must excuse him and went home. John decided that his role of host was over and retired to his algebra and to questions more easy to solve than of how to entertain Mr. George Grey. It was not difficult, as Mrs. Penhallow saw, to make Grey feel at home; all he required was whisky, cigars, and some mild appearance of interest in his talk. She had long anticipated his visit with pleasure, thinking that James Penhallow would be pleased and the better for some rational male society. Rivers had now deserted her, and she really would not sit with her kinsman's cigar a whole evening in the library. She said, "The night is warm for October, come out onto the porch, George."

"With all the pleasure in the world," said Grey, as he followed her.

By habit and training hospitable and now resigned to her fate, Mrs. Ann said, "Light your cigar, George; I do not mind it out-of-doors."

"I am greatly indebted-I was given to understand that it was disagreeable to you-like-politics-ah! Cousin Ann."

"We are not much given to talking politics," she said rather sharply.

"Not talk politics!" exclaimed Grey. "What else is there to talk about nowadays? But why not, Cousin Ann?"

"Well, merely because while I am Southern-and a Democrat, James has seen fit to abandon our party and become a Republican."

"Incomprehensible!" said Grey. "Ours is the party of gentlemen-of old traditions. I cannot understand it."

"Nor I," said she, "but now at least," and she laughed-"there will be one Republican gentleman. However, George, as we are both much in earnest, we keep politics out of the house."

"It must be rather awkward, Ann."

"What must be rather awkward?"

Did he really mean to discuss, to criticize her relations to James

Penhallow? The darkness was for a time the grateful screen.

Grey, a courteous man, felt the reproof in her question, and replied, "I beg pardon, my dear Ann, I have heard of the captain's unfortunate change of opinion. I shall hope, however, to be able to convince him that to elect Fremont will be to break up the Union. I think I could put it so clearly that-"

Ann laughed low laughter as vastly amused she laid a hand on her cousin's arm. "You don't know James Penhallow. He has been from his youth a Democrat. There never was any question about how he would vote. But now, since 1850-" and she paused, "in fact, I do not care to discuss with you what I will not with James." Her great love, her birth, training, education and respect for the character of her husband, made this discussion hateful. Her eyes filled, and, much troubled, she was glad of the mask of night.

"But answer me one question, Ann. Why did he change?"

"He was becoming dissatisfied and losing faith in his own party, but it was at last my own dear South and its friends at the North who drove him out." Again she paused.

"What do you mean, Ann?" asked Grey, still persistent.

"It began long ago, George. He said to me one day, 'That fool Fillmore has signed the Fugitive-Slave Act; it is hardly possible to obey it.' Then I said, 'Would you not, James?' I can never forget it. He said, 'Yes, I obey the law, Ann, but this should be labelled 'an act to exasperate the North.' I am done with the Democrat and all his ways. Obey the law! Yes, I was a soldier.' Then he said, 'Ann, we must never talk politics again.' We never do."

"And yet, Ann," said Grey, "that act was needed."

"Perhaps," she returned, and then followed a long silence, as with thought of James Penhallow she sat smiling in the darkness and watched the rare wandering lanterns of the belated fireflies.

The man at her side was troubled into unnatural silence. He had hoped to find an ally in his cousin's husband, and now what should he do? He had concluded that as an honest man he had done his duty when he had written to Woodburn; but now as a man of honour what should he say to James Penhallow? To conceal from his host what he had done was the obvious business-like course. This troubled a man who was usually able to see his way straight on all matters of social conduct and was sensitive on points of honour. While Ann sat still and wondered that her guest was so long silent, he was finding altogether unpleasant his conclusion that he must be frank with Penhallow. He felt sure, however, that Ann would naturally be on his side. He introduced the matter lightly with, "I chanced to see in the village a black man who is said to be a vagabond scamp. He is called Josiah-a runaway slave, I fancy."

Ann sat up in her chair. "Who said he was a scamp?"

"Oh, a man named Lamb." Then he suddenly remembered Mr. Swallow's characterization, and added, "not a very trustworthy witness, I presume."

Ann laughed. "Peter Lamb! He is a drunken, loafing fellow, who to his good fortune chances to have been James's foster-brother. As concerns Josiah, he turned up here some years ago, got work in the stables, and was set up by James as the village barber. No one knew whence he came. I did, of course, suspect him to be a runaway. He is honest and industrious. Last year I was ill when James was absent. We have only maids in the house, and when I was recovering Josiah carried me up and downstairs until James returned. A year after he came, Leila had an accident. Josiah stopped her horse and got badly hurt-" Then with quick insight, she added, "What interest have you in our barber, George? Is it possible you know Josiah?"

Escape from truthful reply was impossible. "Yes, I do. He is the property of my friend and neighbour Woodburn. I knew him at once-the man had lost three fingers-he did not see me."

"Well!" she said coldly, "what next, George Grey?"

"I must inform his master. As a Southern woman you, of course, see that no other course is possible. It is unpleasant, but your sense of right must make you agree with me."

She returned, speaking slowly, "I do wish you would not do it, George."

Then she said quickly, "Have you taken any steps in this matter?"

He was fairly cornered. "Yes, I wrote to Woodburn. He will be here in a couple of days. I am sure he will lose no time-and will take legal measures at once to reclaim his property."

"I suppose it is all right," she said despairingly, "but I am more than sorry-what James will say I do not know. I hope he will not be called on to act-under the law he may."

"When does he return?" said Grey. "I shall, of course, be frank with him."

"That will be advisable. He may be absent for a week longer, or so he writes. I leave you to your cigar. I am tired, and to-morrow is Sunday. Shall you go to church?"

"Certainly, Ann. Good-night."

At the door she turned back with a new and relieving thought. "Suppose

I-or we-buy this man's freedom."

"If I owned him that would not be required after what you have told me, but Woodburn is an obstinate, rather stern man, and will refuse, I fear, to sell-"

"What will he do with Josiah if he is returned to him as the Act orders?"

"Oh! once a runaway-and the man is no good?-he would probably sell him to be sent South."

She rose and for a moment stood still in the darkness, and then crying, "The pity of it, my God, the pity of it!" went away without the usual courtesy of good-night.

George Grey, when left to his own company, somewhat amazed, began to wish he had never had a hand in this business. Ann Penhallow went up to her room, although it was as yet early, leaving John in the library and Grey with a neglected cigar on the porch. In the bedroom over his shop the man most concerned sat industriously reading the Tribune.

Ann sat down to think. The practical application of a creed to conduct is not always easy. All her young life had been among kindly considered slaves. Mr. Woodburn had a right to his property. The law provided for the return of slaves if they ran away. She suddenly realized that this man's future fate was in her power, and she both liked and respected him, and he had been hurt in their service. Oh! why was not James at home? Could she sit still and let things go their way while the mechanism of the law worked. Between head and heart there was much argument. Her imagination pictured Josiah's future. Had he deserved a fate so sad? She fell on her knees and prayed for help. At last she rose and went down to the library. John laid down his book and stood up. The young face greeted her pleasantly, as she said, "Sit down, John, I want to talk to you. Can you keep a secret?"

"Why-yes-Aunt Ann. What is it?"

"I mean, John, keep it so that no one will guess you have a secret."

"I think I can," he replied, much surprised and very curious.

"You are young, John, but in your uncle's absence there is no one else to whom I can turn for help. Now, listen. Has Mr. Grey gone to bed?"

"Yes, aunt."

She leaned toward him, speaking low, almost in a whisper, "I do not want to explain, I only want to tell you something. Josiah is a runaway slave, John."

"Yes, aunt, he told me all about it."

"Did he, indeed!"

"Yes, we are great friends-I like him-and he trusted me. What's the matter now?" He was quick to understand that Josiah was in some danger. Naturally enough he remembered the man's talk and his one fear-recapture.

"George Grey has recognised Josiah as a runaway slave of a Mr.

Woodburn-" She was most unwilling to say plainly, "Go and warn him."

He started up. "And they mean to take him back?"

She was silent. The indecisions of the habitually decisive are hard to deal with. The lad was puzzled by her failure to say more.

"It is dreadful, Aunt Ann. I think I ought to go and tell

Josiah-now-to-night."

She made no comment except to say, "Arrest is not possible on Sunday-and he is safe until Monday or Tuesday."

John Penhallow looked at her for a moment surprised that she did not say go, or else forbid him to go; it was unlike her. He had no desire to wait for Sunday and was filled with anxiety. "I think I must go now-now," he said.

"Then I shall go to bed," she said, and kissing him went away slowly step by step up the stairs.

Staircases are apt to suggest reflections, and there are various ways of rendering the French phrase "esprit de l'escalier." Aware that want of moral courage had made her uncertain what to do, or like the Indian, having two hearts, Ann had been unable to accept bravely the counsel of either. The loyal decisiveness of a lad of only sixteen years had settled the matter and relieved her of any need to personally warn Josiah. Some other influences aided to make her feel satisfied that there should be a warning. She was resentful because George Grey had put her in a position where she had been embarrassed by intense sectional sense of duty and by kindly personal regard for a man who not being criminal was to be deprived of all the safeguards against injustice provided by the common law. There were other and minor causes which helped to content her with what she well knew she had done to disappoint Mr. Woodburn of his prey. George Grey was really a bore of capacity to wreck the social patience of the most courteous. The rector fled from him, John always had lessons and how would James endure his vacuous talk. It all helped her to be comfortably angry, and there too was that horrible spittoon.

The young fellow who went with needless haste out of the house and down the avenue about eleven o'clock had no indecisions. Josiah trusted him, and he felt the compliment this implied.

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