Infomotions, Inc.The House Behind the Cedars / Chesnutt, Charles W. (Charles Waddell), 1858-1932



Author: Chesnutt, Charles W. (Charles Waddell), 1858-1932
Title: The House Behind the Cedars
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): rena; tryon; patesville; mis' molly; warwick; wain; molly; miss rena; mis' molly's; plato; negro; george tryon; frank
Contributor(s): Callaway, Morgan, Jr., 1862-1936 [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 70,773 words (short) Grade range: 9-12 (high school) Readability score: 64 (easy)
Identifier: etext472
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The House Behind The Cedars

by Charles W. Chesnutt

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THE HOUSE BEHIND
THE CEDARS

BY CHARLES W. CHESNUTT



CONTENTS

           
I       A STRANGER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA
II      AN EVENING VISIT
III     THE OLD JUDGE
IV      DOWN THE RIVER
V       THE TOURNAMENT
VI      THE QUEEN OF LOVE AND BEAUTY
VII     'MID NEW SURROUNDINGS
VIII    THE COURTSHIP
IX      DOUBTS AND FEARS
X       THE DREAM
XI      A LETTER AND A JOURNEY
XII     TRYON GOES TO PATESVILLE
XIII    AN INJUDICIOUS PAYMENT
XIV     A LOYAL FRIEND
XV      MINE OWN PEOPLE
XVI     THE BOTTOM FALLS OUT
XVII    TWO LETTERS
XVIII   UNDER THE OLD REGIME
XIX     GOD MADE US ALL
XX      DIGGING UP ROOTS
XXI     A GILDED OPPORTUNITY
XXII    IMPERATIVE BUSINESS
XXIII   THE GUEST OF HONOR
XXIV    SWING YOUR PARTNERS
XXV     BALANCE ALL
XXVI    THE SCHOOLHOUSE IN THE WOODS
XXVII   AN INTERESTING ACQUAINTANCE
XXVIII  THE LOST KNIFE
XXIX    PLATO EARNS HALF A DOLLAR
XXX     AN UNUSUAL HONOR
XXXI    IN DEEP WATERS
XXXII   THE POWER OF LOVE
XXXIII  A MULE AND A CART





THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS

I

A STRANGER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA


Time touches all things with destroying hand;
and if he seem now and then to bestow the bloom
of youth, the sap of spring, it is but a brief
mockery, to be surely and swiftly followed by the
wrinkles of old age, the dry leaves and bare branches
of winter.  And yet there are places where Time
seems to linger lovingly long after youth has
departed, and to which he seems loath to bring the
evil day.  Who has not known some even-tempered
old man or woman who seemed to have
drunk of the fountain of youth?  Who has not
seen somewhere an old town that, having long
since ceased to grow, yet held its own without
perceptible decline?

Some such trite reflection--as apposite to the
subject as most random reflections are--passed
through the mind of a young man who came out
of the front door of the Patesville Hotel about
nine o'clock one fine morning in spring, a few years
after the Civil War, and started down Front Street
toward the market-house.  Arriving at the town
late the previous evening, he had been driven up
from the steamboat in a carriage, from which he
had been able to distinguish only the shadowy
outlines of the houses along the street; so that this
morning walk was his first opportunity to see the
town by daylight.  He was dressed in a suit of
linen duck--the day was warm--a panama straw
hat, and patent leather shoes.  In appearance he
was tall, dark, with straight, black, lustrous hair,
and very clean-cut, high-bred features.  When he
paused by the clerk's desk on his way out, to light
his cigar, the day clerk, who had just come on duty,
glanced at the register and read the last entry:--

     "`JOHN WARWICK, CLARENCE, SOUTH CAROLINA.'


"One of the South Ca'lina bigbugs, I reckon
--probably in cotton, or turpentine."  The gentleman
from South Carolina, walking down the street,
glanced about him with an eager look, in which
curiosity and affection were mingled with a touch
of bitterness.  He saw little that was not familiar,
or that he had not seen in his dreams a hundred
times during the past ten years.  There had been
some changes, it is true, some melancholy changes,
but scarcely anything by way of addition or
improvement to counterbalance them.  Here and
there blackened and dismantled walls marked the
place where handsome buildings once had stood, for
Sherman's march to the sea had left its mark upon
the town.  The stores were mostly of brick, two
stories high, joining one another after the manner
of cities.  Some of the names on the signs were
familiar; others, including a number of Jewish
names, were quite unknown to him.

A two minutes' walk brought Warwick--the
name he had registered under, and as we shall call
him--to the market-house, the central feature of
Patesville, from both the commercial and the
picturesque points of view.  Standing foursquare in
the heart of the town, at the intersection of the
two main streets, a "jog" at each street corner
left around the market-house a little public square,
which at this hour was well occupied by carts and
wagons from the country and empty drays awaiting
hire.  Warwick was unable to perceive much
change in the market-house.  Perhaps the surface
of the red brick, long unpainted, had scaled off a
little more here and there.  There might have been
a slight accretion of the moss and lichen on the
shingled roof.  But the tall tower, with its four-
faced clock, rose as majestically and uncompromisingly
as though the land had never been subjugated. 
Was it so irreconcilable, Warwick wondered, as
still to peal out the curfew bell, which at nine
o'clock at night had clamorously warned all negroes,
slave or free, that it was unlawful for them to be
abroad after that hour, under penalty of imprisonment
or whipping?  Was the old constable, whose
chief business it had been to ring the bell, still
alive and exercising the functions of his office, and
had age lessened or increased the number of times
that obliging citizens performed this duty for him
during his temporary absences in the company of
convivial spirits?  A few moments later, Warwick
saw a colored policeman in the old constable's
place--a stronger reminder than even the burned
buildings that war had left its mark upon the old
town, with which Time had dealt so tenderly.

The lower story of the market-house was open
on all four of its sides to the public square. 
Warwick passed through one of the wide brick arches
and traversed the building with a leisurely step. 
He looked in vain into the stalls for the butcher
who had sold fresh meat twice a week, on market
days, and he felt a genuine thrill of pleasure when
he recognized the red bandana turban of old
Aunt Lyddy, the ancient negro woman who had
sold him gingerbread and fried fish, and told him
weird tales of witchcraft and conjuration, in the
old days when, as an idle boy, he had loafed about
the market-house.  He did not speak to her, however,
or give her any sign of recognition.  He threw a
glance toward a certain corner where steps led to
the town hall above.  On this stairway he had
once seen a manacled free negro shot while being
taken upstairs for examination under a criminal
charge.  Warwick recalled vividly how the shot
had rung out.  He could see again the livid look
of terror on the victim's face, the gathering crowd,
the resulting confusion.  The murderer, he recalled,
had been tried and sentenced to imprisonment
for life, but was pardoned by a merciful
governor after serving a year of his sentence.  As
Warwick was neither a prophet nor the son of a
prophet, he could not foresee that, thirty years
later, even this would seem an excessive punishment
for so slight a misdemeanor.

Leaving the market-house, Warwick turned to
the left, and kept on his course until he reached
the next corner.  After another turn to the right,
a dozen paces brought him in front of a small
weather-beaten frame building, from which projected
a wooden sign-board bearing the inscription:--

ARCHIBALD STRAIGHT,
LAWYER.

He turned the knob, but the door was locked. 
Retracing his steps past a vacant lot, the young
man entered a shop where a colored man was
employed in varnishing a coffin, which stood on two
trestles in the middle of the floor.  Not at all
impressed by the melancholy suggestiveness of his
task, he was whistling a lively air with great gusto. 
Upon Warwick's entrance this effusion came to a
sudden end, and the coffin-maker assumed an air
of professional gravity.

"Good-mawnin', suh," he said, lifting his cap
politely.

"Good-morning," answered Warwick.  "Can
you tell me anything about Judge Straight's office
hours?"

"De ole jedge has be'n a little onreg'lar sence
de wah, suh; but he gin'ally gits roun' 'bout ten
o'clock er so.  He's be'n kin' er feeble fer de las'
few yeahs.  An' I reckon," continued the undertaker
solemnly, his glance unconsciously seeking a
row of fine caskets standing against the wall,--"I
reckon he'll soon be goin' de way er all de earth. 
`Man dat is bawn er 'oman hath but a sho't time
ter lib, an' is full er mis'ry.  He cometh up an' is
cut down lack as a flower.'  `De days er his life
is three-sco' an' ten'--an' de ole jedge is libbed
mo' d'n dat, suh, by five yeahs, ter say de leas'."

"`Death,'" quoted Warwick, with whose mood
the undertaker's remarks were in tune, "`is the
penalty that all must pay for the crime of
living.'"

"Dat 's a fac', suh, dat 's a fac'; so dey mus'--
so dey mus'.  An' den all de dead has ter be buried. 
An' we does ou' sheer of it, suh, we does ou' sheer. 
We conduc's de obs'quies er all de bes' w'ite folks
er de town, suh."

Warwick left the undertaker's shop and
retraced his steps until he had passed the lawyer's
office, toward which he threw an affectionate glance. 
A few rods farther led him past the old black
Presbyterian church, with its square tower, embowered
in a stately grove; past the Catholic church, with
its many crosses, and a painted wooden figure of
St. James in a recess beneath the gable; and past
the old Jefferson House, once the leading hotel of
the town, in front of which political meetings had
been held, and political speeches made, and political
hard cider drunk, in the days of "Tippecanoe
and Tyler too."

The street down which Warwick had come
intersected Front Street at a sharp angle in front of
the old hotel, forming a sort of flatiron block at
the junction, known as Liberty Point,--perhaps
because slave auctions were sometimes held there in
the good old days.  Just before Warwick reached
Liberty Point, a young woman came down Front
Street from the direction of the market-house. 
When their paths converged, Warwick kept on
down Front Street behind her, it having been
already his intention to walk in this direction.

Warwick's first glance had revealed the fact
that the young woman was strikingly handsome,
with a stately beauty seldom encountered.  As he
walked along behind her at a measured distance,
he could not help noting the details that made
up this pleasing impression, for his mind was
singularly alive to beauty, in whatever embodiment. 
The girl's figure, he perceived, was admirably
proportioned; she was evidently at the period
when the angles of childhood were rounding into
the promising curves of adolescence.  Her abundant
hair, of a dark and glossy brown, was neatly
plaited and coiled above an ivory column that rose
straight from a pair of gently sloping shoulders,
clearly outlined beneath the light muslin frock
that covered them.  He could see that she was
tastefully, though not richly, dressed, and that she
walked with an elastic step that revealed a light
heart and the vigor of perfect health.  Her face,
of course, he could not analyze, since he had
caught only the one brief but convincing glimpse
of it.

The young woman kept on down Front Street,
Warwick maintaining his distance a few rods
behind her.  They passed a factory, a warehouse
or two, and then, leaving the brick pavement,
walked along on mother earth, under a leafy
arcade of spreading oaks and elms.  Their way
led now through a residential portion of the
town, which, as they advanced, gradually declined
from staid respectability to poverty, open and
unabashed.  Warwick observed, as they passed
through the respectable quarter, that few people
who met the girl greeted her, and that some others
whom she passed at gates or doorways gave her
no sign of recognition; from which he inferred
that she was possibly a visitor in the town and not
well acquainted.

Their walk had continued not more than ten
minutes when they crossed a creek by a wooden
bridge and came to a row of mean houses standing
flush with the street.  At the door of one, an old
black woman had stooped to lift a large basket,
piled high with laundered clothes.  The girl, as
she passed, seized one end of the basket and helped
the old woman to raise it to her head, where it
rested solidly on the cushion of her head-kerchief. 
During this interlude, Warwick, though he had
slackened his pace measurably, had so nearly
closed the gap between himself and them as to
hear the old woman say, with the dulcet negro
intonation:--

"T'anky', honey; de Lawd gwine bless you
sho'.  You wuz alluz a good gal, and de Lawd
love eve'ybody w'at he'p de po' ole nigger.  You
gwine ter hab good luck all yo' bawn days."

"I hope you're a true prophet, Aunt Zilphy,"
laughed the girl in response.

The sound of her voice gave Warwick a thrill. 
It was soft and sweet and clear--quite in harmony
with her appearance.  That it had a faint
suggestiveness of the old woman's accent he
hardly noticed, for the current Southern speech,
including his own, was rarely without a touch of it. 
The corruption of the white people's speech was
one element--only one--of the negro's unconscious
revenge for his own debasement.

The houses they passed now grew scattering,
and the quarter of the town more neglected. 
Warwick felt himself wondering where the girl
might be going in a neighborhood so uninviting. 
When she stopped to pull a half-naked negro
child out of a mudhole and set him upon his feet,
he thought she might be some young lady from the
upper part of the town, bound on some errand of
mercy, or going, perhaps, to visit an old servant or
look for a new one.  Once she threw a backward
glance at Warwick, thus enabling him to catch a
second glimpse of a singularly pretty face.  Perhaps
the young woman found his presence in the 
neighborhood as unaccountable as he had deemed
hers; for, finding his glance fixed upon her, she
quickened her pace with an air of startled timidity.

"A woman with such a figure," thought Warwick,
"ought to be able to face the world with the
confidence of Phryne confronting her judges."


By this time Warwick was conscious that
something more than mere grace or beauty had
attracted him with increasing force toward this
young woman.  A suggestion, at first faint and
elusive, of something familiar, had grown stronger
when he heard her voice, and became more and
more pronounced with each rod of their advance;
and when she stopped finally before a gate, and,
opening it, went into a yard shut off from the
street by a row of dwarf cedars, Warwick had
already discounted in some measure the surprise he
would have felt at seeing her enter there had he
not walked down Front Street behind her.  There
was still sufficient unexpectedness about the act,
however, to give him a decided thrill of pleasure.

"It must be Rena," he murmured.  "Who
could have dreamed that she would blossom out
like that?  It must surely be Rena!"

He walked slowly past the gate and peered
through a narrow gap in the cedar hedge.  The
girl was moving along a sanded walk, toward a
gray, unpainted house, with a steep roof, broken
by dormer windows.  The trace of timidity he had
observed in her had given place to the more assured
bearing of one who is upon his own ground.  The
garden walks were bordered by long rows of jonquils,
pinks, and carnations, inclosing clumps of
fragrant shrubs, lilies, and roses already in bloom. 
Toward the middle of the garden stood two fine
magnolia-trees, with heavy, dark green, glistening
leaves, while nearer the house two mighty elms
shaded a wide piazza, at one end of which a
honeysuckle vine, and at the other a Virginia creeper,
running over a wooden lattice, furnished additional
shade and seclusion.  On dark or wintry
days, the aspect of this garden must have been
extremely sombre and depressing, and it might
well have seemed a fit place to hide some guilty or
disgraceful secret.  But on the bright morning
when Warwick stood looking through the cedars,
it seemed, with its green frame and canopy and its
bright carpet of flowers, an ideal retreat from the
fierce sunshine and the sultry heat of the approaching
summer.

The girl stooped to pluck a rose, and as she
bent over it, her profile was clearly outlined.  She
held the flower to her face with a long-drawn
inhalation, then went up the steps, crossed the piazza,
opened the door without knocking, and entered
the house with the air of one thoroughly at home.

"Yes," said the young man to himself, "it's
Rena, sure enough."

The house stood on a corner, around which the
cedar hedge turned, continuing along the side of
the garden until it reached the line of the front of
the house.  The piazza to a rear wing, at right
angles to the front of the house, was open to inspection
from the side street, which, to judge from its
deserted look, seemed to be but little used.  Turning
into this street and walking leisurely past the
back yard, which was only slightly screened from
the street by a china-tree, Warwick perceived the
young woman standing on the piazza, facing an
elderly woman, who sat in a large rocking-chair,
plying a pair of knitting-needles on a half-finished
stocking.  Warwick's walk led him within three
feet of the side gate, which he felt an almost
irresistible impulse to enter.  Every detail of the
house and garden was familiar; a thousand cords
of memory and affection drew him thither; but a
stronger counter-motive prevailed.  With a great
effort he restrained himself, and after a momentary
pause, walked slowly on past the house, with a
backward glance, which he turned away when he
saw that it was observed.

Warwick's attention had been so fully absorbed
by the house behind the cedars and the women
there, that he had scarcely noticed, on the other
side of the neglected by-street, two men working
by a large open window, in a low, rude building
with a clapboarded roof, directly opposite the back
piazza occupied by the two women.  Both the men
were busily engaged in shaping barrel-staves, each
wielding a sharp-edged drawing-knife on a piece of
seasoned oak clasped tightly in a wooden vise.

"I jes' wonder who dat man is, an' w'at he 's
doin' on dis street," observed the younger of the
two, with a suspicious air.  He had noticed the
gentleman's involuntary pause and his interest in
the opposite house, and had stopped work for a
moment to watch the stranger as he went on down
the street.

"Nev' min' 'bout dat man," said the elder one. 
"You 'ten' ter yo' wuk an' finish dat bairl-stave. 
You spen's enti'ely too much er yo' time stretchin'
yo' neck atter other people.  An' you need n' 'sturb
yo'se'f 'bout dem folks 'cross de street, fer dey
ain't yo' kin', an' you're wastin' yo' time both'in'
yo' min' wid 'em, er wid folks w'at comes on de
street on account of 'em.  Look sha'p now, boy, er
you'll git dat stave trim' too much."

The younger man resumed his work, but still
found time to throw a slanting glance out of the
window.  The gentleman, he perceived, stood for
a moment on the rotting bridge across the old
canal, and then walked slowly ahead until he
turned to the right into Back Street, a few rods
farther on.



II

AN EVENING VISIT


Toward evening of the same day, Warwick took
his way down Front Street in the gathering dusk. 
By the time night had spread its mantle over the
earth, he had reached the gate by which he had
seen the girl of his morning walk enter the cedar-
bordered garden.  He stopped at the gate and
glanced toward the house, which seemed dark and
silent and deserted.

"It's more than likely," he thought, "that they
are in the kitchen.  I reckon I'd better try the
back door."

But as he drew cautiously near the corner, he
saw a man's figure outlined in the yellow light
streaming from the open door of a small house
between Front Street and the cooper shop.  Wishing,
for reasons of his own, to avoid observation,
Warwick did not turn the corner, but walked on
down Front Street until he reached a point from
which he could see, at a long angle, a ray of light
proceeding from the kitchen window of the house
behind the cedars.

"They are there," he muttered with a sigh of
relief, for he had feared they might be away.  "I
suspect I'll have to go to the front door, after all. 
No one can see me through the trees."

He retraced his steps to the front gate, which
he essayed to open.  There was apparently some
defect in the latch, for it refused to work.  Warwick
remembered the trick, and with a slight sense
of amusement, pushed his foot under the gate and
gave it a hitch to the left, after which it opened
readily enough.  He walked softly up the sanded
path, tiptoed up the steps and across the piazza,
and rapped at the front door, not too loudly, lest
this too might attract the attention of the man
across the street.  There was no response to his
rap.  He put his ear to the door and heard voices
within, and the muffled sound of footsteps.  After
a moment he rapped again, a little louder than
before.

There was an instant cessation of the sounds
within.  He rapped a third time, to satisfy any
lingering doubt in the minds of those who he felt
sure were listening in some trepidation.  A moment
later a ray of light streamed through the
keyhole.

"Who's there?" a woman's voice inquired
somewhat sharply.

"A gentleman," answered Warwick, not holding
it yet time to reveal himself.  "Does Mis'
Molly Walden live here?"

"Yes," was the guarded answer.  "I'm Mis'
Walden.  What's yo'r business?"

"I have a message to you from your son
John."

A key clicked in the lock.  The door opened, and 
the elder of the two women Warwick had
seen upon the piazza stood in the doorway, peering
curiously and with signs of great excitement into
the face of the stranger.

"You 've got a message from my son, you say?"
she asked with tremulous agitation.  "Is he sick,
or in trouble?"

"No.  He's well and doing well, and sends
his love to you, and hopes you've not forgotten
him."

"Fergot him?  No, God knows I ain't fergot
him!  But come in, sir, an' tell me somethin'
mo' about him."

Warwick went in, and as the woman closed the
door after him, he threw a glance round the room. 
On the wall, over the mantelpiece, hung a steel
engraving of General Jackson at the battle of
New Orleans, and, on the opposite wall, a framed
fashion-plate from "Godey's Lady's Book."  In
the middle of the room an octagonal centre-table
with a single leg, terminating in three sprawling
feet, held a collection of curiously shaped sea-shells. 
There was a great haircloth sofa, somewhat the
worse for wear, and a well-filled bookcase.  The
screen standing before the fireplace was covered
with Confederate bank-notes of various denominations
and designs, in which the heads of Jefferson
Davis and other Confederate leaders were
conspicuous.

     "Imperious Caesar, dead, and turned to clay,
       Might stop a hole to keep the wind away,"

murmured the young man, as his eye fell upon this
specimen of decorative art.

The woman showed her visitor to a seat.  She
then sat down facing him and looked at him closely. 
"When did you last see my son?" she asked.

"I've never met your son," he replied.

Her face fell.  "Then the message comes
through you from somebody else?"

"No, directly from your son."

She scanned his face with a puzzled look.  This
bearded young gentleman, who spoke so politely
and was dressed so well, surely--no, it could
not be! and yet--

Warwick was smiling at her through a mist of
tears.  An electric spark of sympathy flashed
between them.  They rose as if moved by one
impulse, and were clasped in each other's arms.

"John, my John!  It IS John!"

"Mother--my dear old mother!"

"I didn't think," she sobbed, "that I'd ever
see you again."

He smoothed her hair and kissed her.  "And
are you glad to see me, mother?"

"Am I glad to see you?  It's like the dead
comin' to life.  I thought I'd lost you forever,
John, my son, my darlin' boy!" she answered,
hugging him strenuously.

"I couldn't live without seeing you, mother,"
he said.  He meant it, too, or thought he did,
although he had not seen her for ten years.

"You've grown so tall, John, and are such a
fine gentleman!  And you ARE a gentleman now,
John, ain't you--sure enough?  Nobody knows
the old story?"

"Well, mother, I've taken a man's chance in
life, and have tried to make the most of it; and
I haven't felt under any obligation to spoil it
by raking up old stories that are best forgotten. 
There are the dear old books: have they been
read since I went away?"

"No, honey, there's be'n nobody to read 'em,
excep' Rena, an' she don't take to books quite like
you did.  But I've kep' 'em dusted clean, an' kep'
the moths an' the bugs out; for I hoped you'd
come back some day, an' knowed you'd like to find
'em all in their places, jus' like you left 'em."

"That's mighty nice of you, mother.  You
could have done no more if you had loved them
for themselves.  But where is Rena?  I saw her
on the street to-day, but she didn't know me from
Adam; nor did I guess it was she until she opened
the gate and came into the yard."

"I've be'n so glad to see you that I'd fergot about
her," answered the mother.  "Rena, oh, Rena!"

The girl was not far away; she had been standing
in the next room, listening intently to every
word of the conversation, and only kept from
coming in by a certain constraint that made a
brother whom she had not met for so many years
seem almost as much a stranger as if he had not
been connected with her by any tie.

"Yes, mamma," she answered, coming forward.

"Rena, child, here's yo'r brother John, who's
come back to see us.  Tell 'im howdy."

As she came forward, Warwick rose, put his
arm around her waist, drew her toward him, and
kissed her affectionately, to her evident embarrassment. 
She was a tall girl, but he towered above
her in quite a protecting fashion; and she thought
with a thrill how fine it would be to have such a
brother as this in the town all the time.  How
proud she would be, if she could but walk up the
street with such a brother by her side!  She
could then hold up her head before all the world,
oblivious to the glance of pity or contempt.  She
felt a very pronounced respect for this tall
gentleman who held her blushing face between his
hands and looked steadily into her eyes.

"You're the little sister I used to read stories
to, and whom I promised to come and see some
day.  Do you remember how you cried when I
went away?"

"It seems but yesterday," she answered.  "I've
still got the dime you gave me."

He kissed her again, and then drew her down
beside him on the sofa, where he sat enthroned
between the two loving and excited women.  No
king could have received more sincere or delighted
homage.  He was a man, come into a household
of women,--a man of whom they were proud, and
to whom they looked up with fond reverence. 
For he was not only a son,--a brother--but he
represented to them the world from which circum stances
had shut them out, and to which distance
lent even more than its usual enchantment; and
they felt nearer to this far-off world because of the
glory which Warwick reflected from it.

"You're a very pretty girl," said Warwick,
regarding his sister thoughtfully.  "I followed
you down Front Street this morning, and scarcely
took my eyes off you all the way; and yet I
didn't know you, and scarcely saw your face. 
You improve on acquaintance; to-night, I find you
handsomer still."

"Now, John," said his mother, expostulating
mildly, "you'll spile her, if you don't min'."

The girl was beaming with gratified vanity. 
What woman would not find such praise sweet
from almost any source, and how much more so
from this great man, who, from his exalted station
in the world, must surely know the things whereof
he spoke!  She believed every word of it; she
knew it very well indeed, but wished to hear it
repeated and itemized and emphasized.

"No, he won't, mamma," she asserted, "for
he's flattering me.  He talks as if I was some
rich young lady, who lives on the Hill,"--the
Hill was the aristocratic portion of the town,--
"instead of a poor"

"Instead of a poor young girl, who has the hill
to climb," replied her brother, smoothing her hair
with his hand.  Her hair was long and smooth
and glossy, with a wave like the ripple of a summer
breeze upon the surface of still water.  It
was the girl's great pride, and had been
sedulously cared for.  "What lovely hair!  It has
just the wave that yours lacks, mother."

"Yes," was the regretful reply, "I've never
be'n able to git that wave out.  But her hair's
be'n took good care of, an' there ain't nary gal in
town that's got any finer."

"Don't worry about the wave, mother.  It's
just the fashionable ripple, and becomes her
immensely.  I think my little Albert favors his
Aunt Rena somewhat."

"Your little Albert!" they cried.  "You've
got a child?"

"Oh, yes," he replied calmly, "a very fine baby
boy."

They began to purr in proud contentment at
this information, and made minute inquiries about
the age and weight and eyes and nose and other
important details of this precious infant.  They
inquired more coldly about the child's mother,
of whom they spoke with greater warmth when
they learned that she was dead.  They hung
breathless on Warwick's words as he related
briefly the story of his life since he had left, years
before, the house behind the cedars--how with a
stout heart and an abounding hope he had gone
out into a seemingly hostile world, and made
fortune stand and deliver.  His story had for the
women the charm of an escape from captivity,
with all the thrill of a pirate's tale.  With the
whole world before him, he had remained in the
South, the land of his fathers, where, he
conceived, he had an inalienable birthright.  By some
good chance he had escaped military service in
the Confederate army, and, in default of older
and more experienced men, had undertaken, during
the rebellion, the management of a large estate,
which had been left in the hands of women and
slaves.  He had filled the place so acceptably, and
employed his leisure to such advantage, that at the
close of the war he found himself--he was modest
enough to think, too, in default of a better
man--the husband of the orphan daughter of the
gentleman who had owned the plantation, and who
had lost his life upon the battlefield.  Warwick's
wife was of good family, and in a more settled
condition of society it would not have been easy
for a young man of no visible antecedents to win
her hand.  A year or two later, he had taken the
oath of allegiance, and had been admitted to the
South Carolina bar.  Rich in his wife's right, he
had been able to practice his profession upon a
high plane, without the worry of sordid cares, and
with marked success for one of his age.

"I suppose," he concluded, "that I have got
along at the bar, as elsewhere, owing to the lack of
better men.  Many of the good lawyers were killed
in the war, and most of the remainder were
disqualified; while I had the advantage of being alive,
and of never having been in arms against the
government.  People had to have lawyers, and they
gave me their business in preference to the carpet-
baggers.  Fortune, you know, favors the available
man."

His mother drank in with parted lips and
glistening eyes the story of his adventures and the
record of his successes.  As Rena listened, the
narrow walls that hemmed her in seemed to draw
closer and closer, as though they must crush her. 
Her brother watched her keenly.  He had been
talking not only to inform the women, but with
a deeper purpose, conceived since his morning
walk, and deepened as he had followed, during his
narrative, the changing expression of Rena's face
and noted her intense interest in his story, her
pride in his successes, and the occasional wistful
look that indexed her self-pity so completely.

"An' I s'pose you're happy, John?" asked his
mother.

"Well, mother, happiness is a relative term,
and depends, I imagine, upon how nearly we think
we get what we think we want.  I have had my
chance and haven't thrown it away, and I suppose
I ought to be happy.  But then, I have lost my
wife, whom I loved very dearly, and who loved me
just as much, and I'm troubled about my child."

"Why?" they demanded.  "Is there anything
the matter with him?"

"No, not exactly.  He's well enough, as babies
go, and has a good enough nurse, as nurses go. 
But the nurse is ignorant, and not always careful. 
A child needs some woman of its own blood to love
it and look after it intelligently."

Mis' Molly's eyes were filled with tearful yearning. 
She would have given all the world to warm
her son's child upon her bosom; but she knew
this could not be.

"Did your wife leave any kin?" she asked with
an effort.

"No near kin; she was an only child."

"You'll be gettin' married again," suggested
his mother.

"No," he replied; "I think not."

Warwick was still reading his sister's face, and
saw the spark of hope that gleamed in her expressive eye.

"If I had some relation of my own that I could
take into the house with me," he said reflectively,
"the child might be healthier and happier, and I
should be much more at ease about him."

The mother looked from son to daughter with a
dawning apprehension and a sudden pallor.  When
she saw the yearning in Rena's eyes, she threw herself
at her son's feet.

"Oh, John," she cried despairingly, "don't take
her away from me!  Don't take her, John, darlin',
for it'd break my heart to lose her!"

Rena's arms were round her mother's neck, and
Rena's voice was sounding in her ears.  "There,
there, mamma!  Never mind!  I won't leave you,
mamma--dear old mamma!  Your Rena'll stay
with you always, and never, never leave you."

John smoothed his mother's hair with a
comforting touch, patted her withered cheek soothingly,
lifted her tenderly to her place by his side,
and put his arm about her.

"You love your children, mother?"

"They're all I've got," she sobbed, "an' they
cos' me all I had.  When the las' one's gone, I'll
want to go too, for I'll be all alone in the world. 
Don't take Rena, John; for if you do, I'll never
see her again, an' I can't bear to think of it.  How
would you like to lose yo'r one child?"

"Well, well, mother, we'll say no more about
it.  And now tell me all about yourself, and about
the neighbors, and how you got through the war,
and who's dead and who's married--and everything."

The change of subject restored in some degree
Mis' Molly's equanimity, and with returning
calmness came a sense of other responsibilities.

"Good gracious, Rena!" she exclaimed. 
"John 's be'n in the house an hour, and ain't had
nothin' to eat yet!  Go in the kitchen an' spread
a clean tablecloth, an' git out that 'tater pone, an'
a pitcher o' that las' kag o' persimmon beer, an'
let John take a bite an' a sip."

Warwick smiled at the mention of these homely
dainties.  "I thought of your sweet-potato pone
at the hotel to-day, when I was at dinner, and
wondered if you'd have some in the house.  There
was never any like yours; and I've forgotten the
taste of persimmon beer entirely."

Rena left the room to carry out her hospitable
commission.  Warwick, taking advantage of her
absence, returned after a while to the former
subject.

"Of course, mother," he said calmly, "I
wouldn't think of taking Rena away against your
wishes.  A mother's claim upon her child is a high
and holy one.  Of course she will have no chance
here, where our story is known.  The war has
wrought great changes, has put the bottom rail on
top, and all that--but it hasn't wiped THAT out. 
Nothing but death can remove that stain, if it does
not follow us even beyond the grave.  Here she
must forever be--nobody!  With me she might
have got out into the world; with her beauty she
might have made a good marriage; and, if I mistake
not, she has sense as well as beauty."

"Yes," sighed the mother, "she's got good
sense.  She ain't as quick as you was, an' don't
read as many books, but she's keerful an' painstakin',
an' always tries to do what's right.  She's
be'n thinkin' about goin' away somewhere an'
tryin' to git a school to teach, er somethin', sence
the Yankees have started 'em everywhere for po'
white folks an' niggers too.  But I don't like fer
her to go too fur."

"With such beauty and brains," continued
Warwick, "she could leave this town and make
a place for herself.  The place is already made. 
She has only to step into my carriage--after perhaps
a little preparation--and ride up the hill
which I have had to climb so painfully.  It would
be a great pleasure to me to see her at the top. 
But of course it is impossible--a mere idle dream.
YOUR claim comes first; her duty chains her
here."

"It would be so lonely without her," murmured
the mother weakly, "an' I love her so--my las'
one!"

"No doubt--no doubt," returned Warwick,
with a sympathetic sigh; "of course you love her. 
It's not to be thought of for a moment.  It's a
pity that she couldn't have a chance here--but
how could she!  I had thought she might marry
a gentleman, but I dare say she'll do as well as
the rest of her friends--as well as Mary B., for
instance, who married--Homer Pettifoot, did you
say?  Or maybe Billy Oxendine might do for her. 
As long as she has never known any better, she'll
probably be as well satisfied as though she married
a rich man, and lived in a fine house, and kept a
carriage and servants, and moved with the best in
the land."

The tortured mother could endure no more. 
The one thing she desired above all others was her
daughter's happiness.  Her own life had not been
governed by the highest standards, but about her
love for her beautiful daughter there was no taint
of selfishness.  The life her son had described had
been to her always the ideal but unattainable life. 
Circumstances, some beyond her control, and others
for which she was herself in a measure responsible,
had put it forever and inconceivably beyond her
reach.  It had been conquered by her son.  It
beckoned to her daughter.  The comparison of this
free and noble life with the sordid existence of
those around her broke down the last barrier of
opposition.

"O Lord!" she moaned, "what shall I do with
out her?  It'll be lonely, John--so lonely!"

"You'll have your home, mother," said Warwick
tenderly, accepting the implied surrender. 
"You'll have your friends and relatives, and the
knowledge that your children are happy.  I'll let
you hear from us often, and no doubt you can see
Rena now and then.  But you must let her go,
mother,--it would be a sin against her to refuse."

"She may go," replied the mother brokenly. 
"I'll not stand in her way--I've got sins enough
to answer for already."

Warwick watched her pityingly.  He had stirred
her feelings to unwonted depths, and his sympathy
went out to her.  If she had sinned, she had been
more sinned against than sinning, and it was not
his part to judge her.  He had yielded to a
sentimental weakness in deciding upon this trip to
Patesville.  A matter of business had brought him
within a day's journey of the town, and an over-
mastering impulse had compelled him to seek the
mother who had given him birth and the old town
where he had spent the earlier years of his life. 
No one would have acknowledged sooner than he
the folly of this visit.  Men who have elected to
govern their lives by principles of abstract right
and reason, which happen, perhaps, to be at variance
with what society considers equally right and
reasonable, should, for fear of complications, be
careful about descending from the lofty heights of
logic to the common level of impulse and affection. 
Many years before, Warwick, when a lad of eighteen,
had shaken the dust of the town from his feet,
and with it, he fondly thought, the blight of his
inheritance, and had achieved elsewhere a worthy
career.  But during all these years of absence he
had cherished a tender feeling for his mother, and
now again found himself in her house, amid the
familiar surroundings of his childhood.  His visit
had brought joy to his mother's heart, and was
now to bring its shrouded companion, sorrow.  His
mother had lived her life, for good or ill.  A wider
door was open to his sister--her mother must not
bar the entrance.

"She may go," the mother repeated sadly, drying
her tears.  "I'll give her up for her good."

"The table 's ready, mamma," said Rena, coming
to the door.

The lunch was spread in the kitchen, a large
unplastered room at the rear, with a wide fireplace at
one end.  Only yesterday, it seemed to Warwick,
he had sprawled upon the hearth, turning sweet
potatoes before the fire, or roasting groundpeas in
the ashes; or, more often, reading, by the light of
a blazing pine-knot or lump of resin, some volume
from the bookcase in the hall.  From Bulwer's
novel, he had read the story of Warwick the
Kingmaker, and upon leaving home had chosen it
for his own.  He was a new man, but he had the
blood of an old race, and he would select for his
own one of its worthy names.  Overhead loomed
the same smoky beams, decorated with what might
have been, from all appearances, the same bunches
of dried herbs, the same strings of onions and red
peppers.  Over in the same corner stood the same
spinning-wheel, and through the open door of an
adjoining room he saw the old loom, where in
childhood he had more than once thrown the shuttle. 
The kitchen was different from the stately
dining-room of the old colonial mansion where he
now lived; but it was homelike, and it was familiar. 
The sight of it moved his heart, and he felt for
the moment a sort of a blind anger against the
fate which made it necessary that he should visit
the home of his childhood, if at all, like a thief
in the night.  But he realized, after a moment,
that the thought was pure sentiment, and that one
who had gained so much ought not to complain if
he must give up a little.  He who would climb
the heights of life must leave even the pleasantest
valleys behind.

"Rena," asked her mother, "how'd you like to
go an' pay yo'r brother John a visit?  I guess I
might spare you for a little while."

The girl's eyes lighted up.  She would not have
gone if her mother had wished her to stay, but she
would always have regarded this as the lost opportunity
of her life.

"Are you sure you don't care, mamma?" she
asked, hoping and yet doubting.

"Oh, I'll manage to git along somehow or other. 
You can go an' stay till you git homesick, an' then
John'll let you come back home."

But Mis' Molly believed that she would never
come back, except, like her brother, under cover of
the night.  She must lose her daughter as well as
her son, and this should be the penance for her sin. 
That her children must expiate as well the sins of
their fathers, who had sinned so lightly, after the
manner of men, neither she nor they could foresee,
since they could not read the future.

The next boat by which Warwick could take his
sister away left early in the morning of the next
day but one.  He went back to his hotel with the
understanding that the morrow should be devoted
to getting Rena ready for her departure, and that
Warwick would visit the household again the following
evening; for, as has been intimated, there
were several reasons why there should be no open
relations between the fine gentleman at the hotel
and the women in the house behind the cedars, who,
while superior in blood and breeding to the people
of the neighborhood in which they lived, were yet
under the shadow of some cloud which clearly shut
them out from the better society of the town.  Almost
any resident could have given one or more of
these reasons, of which any one would have been
sufficient to most of them; and to some of them
Warwick's mere presence in the town would have
seemed a bold and daring thing.



III

THE OLD JUDGE


On the morning following the visit to his
mother, Warwick visited the old judge's office. 
The judge was not in, but the door stood open,
and Warwick entered to await his return.  There
had been fewer changes in the office, where he had
spent many, many hours, than in the town itself. 
The dust was a little thicker, the papers in the
pigeon-holes of the walnut desk were a little
yellower, the cobwebs in the corners a little more
aggressive.  The flies droned as drowsily and the
murmur of the brook below was just as audible. 
Warwick stood at the rear window and looked out
over a familiar view.  Directly across the creek, on
the low ground beyond, might be seen the dilapidated
stone foundation of the house where once
had lived Flora Macdonald, the Jacobite refugee,
the most romantic character of North Carolina
history.  Old Judge Straight had had a tree cut
away from the creek-side opposite his window, so
that this historic ruin might be visible from his
office; for the judge could trace the ties of blood
that connected him collaterally with this famous
personage.  His pamphlet on Flora Macdonald,
printed for private circulation, was highly prized
by those of his friends who were fortunate enough
to obtain a copy.  To the left of the window a
placid mill-pond spread its wide expanse, and to
the right the creek disappeared under a canopy of
overhanging trees.

A footstep sounded in the doorway, and Warwick,
turning, faced the old judge.  Time had left
greater marks upon the lawyer than upon his office. 
His hair was whiter, his stoop more pronounced;
when he spoke to Warwick, his voice had some of
the shrillness of old age; and in his hand, upon
which the veins stood out prominently, a decided
tremor was perceptible.

"Good-morning, Judge Straight," said the
young man, removing his hat with the graceful
Southern deference of the young for the old.

"Good-morning, sir," replied the judge with
equal courtesy.

"You don't remember me, I imagine," suggested Warwick.

"Your face seems familiar," returned the judge
cautiously, "but I cannot for the moment recall
your name.  I shall be glad to have you refresh
my memory."

"I was John Walden, sir, when you knew
me."

The judge's face still gave no answering light
of recognition.

"Your old office-boy," continued the younger
man.

"Ah, indeed, so you were!" rejoined the judge
warmly, extending his hand with great cordiality,
and inspecting Warwick more closely through his
spectacles.  "Let me see--you went away a few
years before the war, wasn't it?"

"Yes, sir, to South Carolina."

"Yes, yes, I remember now!  I had been
thinking it was to the North.  So many things
have happened since then, that it taxes an old
man's memory to keep track of them all.  Well,
well! and how have you been getting along?"

Warwick told his story in outline, much as he
had given it to his mother and sister, and the
judge seemed very much interested.

"And you married into a good family?" he
asked.

"Yes, sir."

"And have children?"

"One."

"And you are visiting your mother?"

"Not exactly.  I have seen her, but I am
stopping at a hotel."

"H'm!  Are you staying long?"

"I leave to-morrow."

"It's well enough.  I wouldn't stay too long. 
The people of a small town are inquisitive about
strangers, and some of them have long memories. 
I remember we went over the law, which was in
your favor; but custom is stronger than law--in
these matters custom IS law.  It was a great pity
that your father did not make a will.  Well, my
boy, I wish you continued good luck; I imagined
you would make your way."

Warwick went away, and the old judge sat for
a moment absorbed in reflection.  "Right and
wrong," he mused, "must be eternal verities, but
our standards for measuring them vary with our
latitude and our epoch.  We make our customs
lightly; once made, like our sins, they grip us in
bands of steel; we become the creatures of our
creations.  By one standard my old office-boy
should never have been born.  Yet he is a son of
Adam, and came into existence in the way ordained
by God from the beginning of the world. 
In equity he would seem to be entitled to his
chance in life; it might have been wiser, though,
for him to seek it farther afield than South
Carolina.  It was too near home, even though the laws
were with him."



IV

DOWN THE RIVER


Neither mother nor daughter slept a great
deal during the night of Warwick's first visit. 
Mis' Molly anointed her sacrifice with tears and
cried herself to sleep.  Rena's emotions were more
conflicting; she was sorry to leave her mother, but
glad to go with her brother.  The mere journey
she was about to make was a great event for the
two women to contemplate, to say nothing of the
golden vision that lay beyond, for neither of them
had ever been out of the town or its vicinity.

The next day was devoted to preparations for
the journey.  Rena's slender wardrobe was made
ready and packed in a large valise.  Towards sunset,
Mis' Molly took off her apron, put on her
slat-bonnet,--she was ever the pink of neatness,
--picked her way across the street, which was
muddy from a rain during the day, traversed the
foot-bridge that spanned the ditch in front of the
cooper shop, and spoke first to the elder of the two
men working there.

"Good-evenin', Peter."

"Good-evenin', ma'm," responded the man
briefly, and not relaxing at all the energy with
which he was trimming a barrel-stave.

Mis' Molly then accosted the younger workman,
a dark-brown young man, small in stature, but
with a well-shaped head, an expressive forehead,
and features indicative of kindness, intelligence,
humor, and imagination.  "Frank," she asked,
"can I git you to do somethin' fer me soon in the
mo'nin'?"

"Yas 'm, I reckon so," replied the young man,
resting his hatchet on the chopping-block.  "W'at
is it, Mis' Molly?"

"My daughter 's goin' away on the boat, an' I
'lowed you would n' min' totin' her kyarpet-bag
down to the w'arf, onless you'd ruther haul it down
on yo'r kyart.  It ain't very heavy.  Of co'se I'll
pay you fer yo'r trouble."

"Thank y', ma'm," he replied.  He knew that
she would not pay him, for the simple reason that
he would not accept pay for such a service.  "Is
she gwine fur?" he asked, with a sorrowful look,
which he could not entirely disguise.

"As fur as Wilmin'ton an' beyon'.  She'll be
visitin' her brother John, who lives in--another
State, an' wants her to come an' see him."

"Yas 'm, I'll come.  I won' need de kyart--
I'll tote de bag.  'Bout w'at time shill I come
over?"

"Well, 'long 'bout seven o'clock or half pas'. 
She's goin' on the Old North State, an' it leaves
at eight."

Frank stood looking after Mis' Molly as she
picked her way across the street, until he was
recalled to his duty by a sharp word from his
father.

" 'Ten' ter yo' wuk, boy, 'ten' ter yo' wuk.  You
're wastin' yo' time--wastin' yo' time!"

Yes, he was wasting his time.  The beautiful
young girl across the street could never be anything
to him.  But he had saved her life once,
and had dreamed that he might render her again
some signal service that might win her friendship,
and convince her of his humble devotion.  For
Frank was not proud.  A smile, which Peter
would have regarded as condescending to a free
man, who, since the war, was as good as anybody
else; a kind word, which Peter would have
considered offensively patronizing; a piece of Mis'
Molly's famous potato pone from Rena's hands,
--a bone to a dog, Peter called it once;--were
ample rewards for the thousand and one small
services Frank had rendered the two women who
lived in the house behind the cedars.


Frank went over in the morning a little ahead
of the appointed time, and waited on the back
piazza until his services were required.

"You ain't gwine ter be gone long, is you, Miss
Rena?" he inquired, when Rena came out dressed
for the journey in her best frock, with broad white
collar and cuffs.

Rena did not know.  She had been asking herself
the same question.  All sorts of vague dreams
had floated through her mind during the last few
hours, as to what the future might bring forth. 
But she detected the anxious note in Frank's voice,
and had no wish to give this faithful friend of the
family unnecessary pain.

"Oh, no, Frank, I reckon not.  I'm supposed
to be just going on a short visit.  My brother
has lost his wife, and wishes me to come and stay
with him awhile, and look after his little boy."

"I'm feared you'll lack it better dere, Miss
Rena," replied Frank sorrowfully, dropping his
mask of unconcern, "an' den you won't come
back, an' none er yo' frien's won't never see you
no mo'."

"You don't think, Frank," asked Rena severely,
"that I would leave my mother and my home and
all my friends, and NEVER come back again?"

"Why, no 'ndeed," interposed Mis' Molly
wistfully, as she hovered around her daughter, giving
her hair or her gown a touch here and there;
"she'll be so homesick in a month that she'll be
willin' to walk home."

"You would n' never hafter do dat, Miss Rena,"
returned Frank, with a disconsolate smile.  "Ef
you ever wanter come home, an' can't git back no
other way, jes' let ME know, an' I'll take my mule
an' my kyart an' fetch you back, ef it's from de
een' er de worl'."

"Thank you, Frank, I believe you would," said
the girl kindly.  "You're a true friend, Frank,
and I'll not forget you while I'm gone."

The idea of her beautiful daughter riding home
from the end of the world with Frank, in a cart,
behind a one-eyed mule, struck Mis' Molly as the
height of the ridiculous--she was in a state of
excitement where tears or laughter would have
come with equal ease--and she turned away to
hide her merriment.  Her daughter was going to
live in a fine house, and marry a rich man, and
ride in her carriage.  Of course a negro would
drive the carriage, but that was different from
riding with one in a cart.

When it was time to go, Mis' Molly and Rena
set out on foot for the river, which was only a
short distance away.  Frank followed with the
valise.  There was no gathering of friends to see
Rena off, as might have been the case under
different circumstances.  Her departure had some of
the characteristics of a secret flight; it was as
important that her destination should not be known, as
it had been that her brother should conceal his
presence in the town.

Mis' Molly and Rena remained on the bank until
the steamer announced, with a raucous whistle,
its readiness to depart.  Warwick was seen for a
moment on the upper deck, from which he greeted
them with a smile and a slight nod.  He had bidden
his mother an affectionate farewell the evening
before.  Rena gave her hand to Frank.

"Good-by, Frank," she said, with a kind smile;
"I hope you and mamma will be good friends
while I'm gone."

The whistle blew a second warning blast, and
the deck hands prepared to draw in the gang-
plank.  Rena flew into her mother's arms, and
then, breaking away, hurried on board and retired
to her state-room, from which she did not emerge
during the journey.  The window-blinds were
closed, darkening the room, and the stewardess
who came to ask if she should bring her some dinner
could not see her face distinctly, but perceived
enough to make her surmise that the young lady
had been weeping.

"Po' chile," murmured the sympathetic
colored woman, "I reckon some er her folks is dead,
er her sweetheart 's gone back on her, er e'se she's
had some kin' er bad luck er 'nuther.  W'ite folks
has deir troubles jes' ez well ez black folks, an'
sometimes feels 'em mo', 'cause dey ain't ez use'
ter 'em."

Mis' Molly went back in sadness to the lonely
house behind the cedars, henceforth to be peopled
for her with only the memory of those she had
loved.  She had paid with her heart's blood another
installment on the Shylock's bond exacted
by society for her own happiness of the past and
her children's prospects for the future.

The journey down the sluggish river to the
seaboard in the flat-bottomed, stern-wheel steamer
lasted all day and most of the night.  During the
first half-day, the boat grounded now and then
upon a sand-bank, and the half-naked negro deck-
hands toiled with ropes and poles to release it. 
Several times before Rena fell asleep that night,
the steamer would tie up at a landing, and by the
light of huge pine torches she watched the boat
hands send the yellow turpentine barrels down the
steep bank in a long string, or pass cord-wood on
board from hand to hand.  The excited negroes,
their white teeth and eyeballs glistening in the
surrounding darkness to which their faces formed
no relief; the white officers in brown linen, shouting,
swearing, and gesticulating; the yellow, flickering
torchlight over all,--made up a scene of
which the weird interest would have appealed to a
more blase traveler than this girl upon her first
journey.

During the day, Warwick had taken his meals
in the dining-room, with the captain and the other
cabin passengers.  It was learned that he was a
South Carolina lawyer, and not a carpet-bagger. 
Such credentials were unimpeachable, and the
passengers found him a very agreeable traveling
companion.  Apparently sound on the subject of
negroes, Yankees, and the righteousness of the
lost cause, he yet discussed these themes in a lofty
and impersonal manner that gave his words greater
weight than if he had seemed warped by a personal
grievance.  His attitude, in fact, piqued the
curiosity of one or two of the passengers.

"Did your people lose any niggers?" asked
one of them.

"My father owned a hundred," he replied
grandly.

Their respect for his views was doubled.  It is
easy to moralize about the misfortunes of others,
and to find good in the evil that they suffer;--
only a true philosopher could speak thus lightly of
his own losses.

When the steamer tied up at the wharf at
Wilmington, in the early morning, the young lawyer
and a veiled lady passenger drove in the same
carriage to a hotel.  After they had breakfasted
in a private room, Warwick explained to his sister
the plan he had formed for her future.  Henceforth
she must be known as Miss Warwick, dropping
the old name with the old life.  He would
place her for a year in a boarding-school at
Charleston, after which she would take her place
as the mistress of his house.  Having imparted
this information, he took his sister for a drive
through the town.  There for the first time Rena
saw great ships, which, her brother told her, sailed
across the mighty ocean to distant lands, whose
flags he pointed out drooping lazily at the mast-
heads.  The business portion of the town had "an
ancient and fishlike smell," and most of the trade
seemed to be in cotton and naval stores and
products of the sea.  The wharves were piled high
with cotton bales, and there were acres of barrels
of resin and pitch and tar and spirits of turpentine. 
The market, a long, low, wooden structure,
in the middle of the principal street, was filled
with a mass of people of all shades, from blue-
black to Saxon blonde, gabbling and gesticulating
over piles of oysters and clams and freshly caught
fish of varied hue.  By ten o'clock the sun was
beating down so fiercely that the glitter of the
white, sandy streets dazzled and pained the eyes
unaccustomed to it, and Rena was glad to be
driven back to the hotel.  The travelers left
together on an early afternoon train.

Thus for the time being was severed the last tie
that bound Rena to her narrow past, and for some
time to come the places and the people who had
known her once were to know her no more.

Some few weeks later, Mis' Molly called upon
old Judge Straight with reference to the taxes on
her property.

"Your son came in to see me the other day,"
he remarked.  "He seems to have got along."

"Oh, yes, judge, he's done fine, John has; an'
he's took his sister away with him."

"Ah!" exclaimed the judge.  Then after a
pause he added, "I hope she may do as well."

"Thank you, sir," she said, with a curtsy, as
she rose to go.  "We've always knowed that you
were our friend and wished us well."

The judge looked after her as she walked away. 
Her bearing had a touch of timidity, a shade of
affectation, and yet a certain pathetic dignity.

"It is a pity," he murmured, with a sigh, "that
men cannot select their mothers.  My young friend
John has builded, whether wisely or not, very
well; but he has come back into the old life and
carried away a part of it, and I fear that this
addition will weaken the structure."


V

THE TOURNAMENT


The annual tournament of the Clarence Social
Club was about to begin.  The county fairground,
where all was in readiness, sparkled with
the youth and beauty of the town, standing here
and there under the trees in animated groups, or
moving toward the seats from which the pageant
might be witnessed.  A quarter of a mile of the
race track, to right and left of the judges' stand,
had been laid off for the lists.  Opposite the
grand stand, which occupied a considerable part
of this distance, a dozen uprights had been erected
at measured intervals.  Projecting several feet
over the track from each of these uprights was an
iron crossbar, from which an iron hook depended. 
Between the uprights stout posts were planted,
of such a height that their tops could be easily
reached by a swinging sword-cut from a mounted
rider passing upon the track.  The influence of
Walter Scott was strong upon the old South. 
The South before the war was essentially feudal,
and Scott's novels of chivalry appealed forcefully
to the feudal heart.  During the month preceding
the Clarence tournament, the local bookseller had
closed out his entire stock of "Ivanhoe," consisting
of five copies, and had taken orders for seven
copies more.  The tournament scene in this popular
novel furnished the model after which these
bloodless imitations of the ancient passages-at-
arms were conducted, with such variations as were
required to adapt them to a different age and
civilization.

The best people gradually filled the grand
stand, while the poorer white and colored folks
found seats outside, upon what would now be
known as the "bleachers," or stood alongside the
lists.  The knights, masquerading in fanciful
costumes, in which bright-colored garments, gilt
paper, and cardboard took the place of knightly
harness, were mounted on spirited horses.  Most
of them were gathered at one end of the lists,
while others practiced their steeds upon the unoccupied
portion of the race track.

The judges entered the grand stand, and one
of them, after looking at his watch, gave a signal. 
Immediately a herald, wearing a bright yellow
sash, blew a loud blast upon a bugle, and, big
with the importance of his office, galloped wildly
down the lists.  An attendant on horseback busied
himself hanging upon each of the pendent hooks
an iron ring, of some two inches in diameter,
while another, on foot, placed on top of each of
the shorter posts a wooden ball some four inches
through.

"It's my first tournament," observed a lady
near the front of the grand stand, leaning over
and addressing John Warwick, who was seated in
the second row, in company with a very handsome
girl.  "It is somewhat different from Ashby-de-
la-Zouch."

"It is the renaissance of chivalry, Mrs.
Newberry," replied the young lawyer, "and, like any
other renaissance, it must adapt itself to new times
and circumstances.  For instance, when we build
a Greek portico, having no Pentelic marble near
at hand, we use a pine-tree, one of nature's columns,
which Grecian art at its best could only
copy and idealize.  Our knights are not weighted
down with heavy armor, but much more appropriately
attired, for a day like this, in costumes
that recall the picturesqueness, without the discomfort,
of the old knightly harness.  For an iron-
headed lance we use a wooden substitute, with
which we transfix rings instead of hearts; while
our trusty blades hew their way through wooden
blocks instead of through flesh and blood.  It is
a South Carolina renaissance which has points of
advantage over the tournaments of the olden time."

"I'm afraid, Mr. Warwick," said the lady,
"that you're the least bit heretical about our
chivalry--or else you're a little too deep for me."

"The last would be impossible, Mrs. Newberry;
and I'm sure our chivalry has proved its valor on
many a hard-fought field.  The spirit of a thing,
after all, is what counts; and what is lacking
here?  We have the lists, the knights, the prancing
steeds, the trial of strength and skill.  If our
knights do not run the physical risks of Ashby-
de-la-Zouch, they have all the mental stimulus. 
Wounded vanity will take the place of wounded
limbs, and there will be broken hopes in lieu of
broken heads.  How many hearts in yonder group
of gallant horsemen beat high with hope!  How
many possible Queens of Love and Beauty are in
this group of fair faces that surround us!"

The lady was about to reply, when the bugle
sounded again, and the herald dashed swiftly back
upon his prancing steed to the waiting group of
riders.  The horsemen formed three abreast, and
rode down the lists in orderly array.  As they
passed the grand stand, each was conscious of the
battery of bright eyes turned upon him, and each
gave by his bearing some idea of his ability to
stand fire from such weapons.  One horse pranced
proudly, another caracoled with grace.  One rider
fidgeted nervously, another trembled and looked
the other way.  Each horseman carried in his hand
a long wooden lance and wore at his side a cavalry
sabre, of which there were plenty to be had since
the war, at small expense.  Several left the ranks
and drew up momentarily beside the grand stand,
where they took from fair hands a glove or a
flower, which was pinned upon the rider's breast
or fastened upon his hat--a ribbon or a veil, which
was tied about the lance like a pennon, but far
enough from the point not to interfere with the
usefulness of the weapon.

As the troop passed the lower end of the grand
stand, a horse, excited by the crowd, became
somewhat unmanageable, and in the effort to curb
him, the rider dropped his lance.  The prancing
animal reared, brought one of his hoofs down upon
the fallen lance with considerable force, and sent a
broken piece of it flying over the railing opposite
the grand stand, into the middle of a group of
spectators standing there.  The flying fragment
was dodged by those who saw it coming, but
brought up with a resounding thwack against the
head of a colored man in the second row, who
stood watching the grand stand with an eager and
curious gaze.  He rubbed his head ruefully, and
made a good-natured response to the chaffing of
his neighbors, who, seeing no great harm done,
made witty and original remarks about the
advantage of being black upon occasions where one's
skull was exposed to danger.  Finding that the
blow had drawn blood, the young man took out a
red bandana handkerchief and tied it around his
head, meantime letting his eye roam over the faces
in the grand stand, as though in search of some
one that he expected or hoped to find there.

The knights, having reached the end of the
lists, now turned and rode back in open order,
with such skillful horsemanship as to evoke a
storm of applause from the spectators.  The ladies
in the grand stand waved their handkerchiefs
vigorously, and the men clapped their hands.  The
beautiful girl seated by Warwick's side accidentally
let a little square of white lace-trimmed linen
slip from her hand.  It fluttered lightly over the
railing, and, buoyed up by the air, settled slowly
toward the lists.  A young rider in the approaching
rear rank saw the handkerchief fall, and darting
swiftly forward, caught it on the point of his
lance ere it touched the ground.  He drew up his
horse and made a movement as though to extend
the handkerchief toward the lady, who was blushing
profusely at the attention she had attracted by
her carelessness.  The rider hesitated a moment,
glanced interrogatively at Warwick, and receiving
a smile in return, tied the handkerchief around
the middle of his lance and quickly rejoined his
comrades at the head of the lists.

The young man with the bandage round his
head, on the benches across the lists, had forced
his way to the front row and was leaning against
the railing.  His restless eye was attracted by
the falling handkerchief, and his face, hitherto
anxious, suddenly lit up with animation.

"Yas, suh, yas, suh, it's her!" he muttered
softly.  "It's Miss Rena, sho's you bawn.  She
looked lack a' angel befo', but now, up dere
'mongs' all dem rich, fine folks, she looks lack a
whole flock er angels.  Dey ain' one er dem ladies
w'at could hol' a candle ter her.  I wonder w'at
dat man's gwine ter do wid her handkercher?  I
s'pose he's her gent'eman now.  I wonder ef
she'd know me er speak ter me ef she seed me? 
I reckon she would, spite er her gittin' up so in
de worl'; fer she wuz alluz good ter ev'ybody, an'
dat let even ME in," he concluded with a sigh.

"Who is the lady, Tryon?" asked one of the
young men, addressing the knight who had taken
the handkerchief.

"A Miss Warwick," replied the knight
pleasantly, "Miss Rowena Warwick, the lawyer's
sister."

"I didn't know he had a sister," rejoined the
first speaker.  "I envy you your lady.  There
are six Rebeccas and eight Rowenas of my own
acquaintance in the grand stand, but she throws
them all into the shade.  She hasn't been here
long, surely; I haven't seen her before."

"She has been away at school; she came only
last night," returned the knight of the crimson
sash, briefly.  He was already beginning to feel a
proprietary interest in the lady whose token he
wore, and did not care to discuss her with a casual
acquaintance.

The herald sounded the charge.  A rider darted
out from the group and galloped over the course. 
As he passed under each ring, he tried to catch it
on the point of his lance,--a feat which made
the management of the horse with the left hand
necessary, and required a true eye and a steady
arm.  The rider captured three of the twelve
rings, knocked three others off the hooks, and
left six undisturbed.  Turning at the end of the
lists, he took the lance with the reins in the left
hand and drew his sword with the right.  He
then rode back over the course, cutting at the
wooden balls upon the posts.  Of these he clove
one in twain, to use the parlance of chivalry, and
knocked two others off their supports.  His
performance was greeted with a liberal measure of
applause, for which he bowed in smiling acknowledgment
as he took his place among the riders.

Again the herald's call sounded, and the tourney
went forward.  Rider after rider, with varying
skill, essayed his fortune with lance and sword. 
Some took a liberal proportion of the rings; others
merely knocked them over the boundaries, where
they were collected by agile little negro boys and
handed back to the attendants.  A balking horse
caused the spectators much amusement and his
rider no little chagrin.

The lady who had dropped the handkerchief
kept her eye upon the knight who had bound it
round his lance.  "Who is he, John?" she asked
the gentleman beside her.

"That, my dear Rowena, is my good friend and
client, George Tryon, of North Carolina.  If he had
been a stranger, I should have said that he took a
liberty; but as things stand, we ought to regard it
as a compliment.  The incident is quite in accord
with the customs of chivalry.  If George were but
masked and you were veiled, we should have a
romantic situation,--you the mysterious damsel in
distress, he the unknown champion.  The parallel,
my dear, might not be so hard to draw, even as
things are.  But look, it is his turn now; I'll wager
that he makes a good run."

"I'll take you up on that, Mr. Warwick," said
Mrs. Newberry from behind, who seemed to have a
very keen ear for whatever Warwick said.

Rena's eyes were fastened on her knight, so that
she might lose no single one of his movements.  As
he rode down the lists, more than one woman found
him pleasant to look upon.  He was a tall, fair
young man, with gray eyes, and a frank, open face. 
He wore a slight mustache, and when he smiled,
showed a set of white and even teeth.  He was
mounted on a very handsome and spirited bay mare,
was clad in a picturesque costume, of which velvet
knee-breeches and a crimson scarf were the most
conspicuous features, and displayed a marked skill
in horsemanship.  At the blast of the bugle his
horse started forward, and, after the first few rods,
settled into an even gallop.  Tryon's lance, held
truly and at the right angle, captured the first ring,
then the second and third.  His coolness and steadiness
seemed not at all disturbed by the applause
which followed, and one by one the remaining rings
slipped over the point of his lance, until at the end
he had taken every one of the twelve.  Holding
the lance with its booty of captured rings in his
left hand, together with the bridle rein, he drew his
sabre with the right and rode back over the course. 
His horse moved like clockwork, his eye was true
and his hand steady.  Three of the wooden balls
fell from the posts, split fairly in the middle, while
from the fourth he sliced off a goodly piece and left
the remainder standing in its place.

This performance, by far the best up to this
point, and barely escaping perfection, elicited a
storm of applause.  The rider was not so well
known to the townspeople as some of the other
participants, and his name passed from mouth to
mouth in answer to numerous inquiries.  The girl
whose token he had worn also became an object of
renewed interest, because of the result to her in
case the knight should prove victor in the contest,
of which there could now scarcely be a doubt; for
but three riders remained, and it was very improbable
that any one of them would excel the last. 
Wagers for the remainder of the tourney stood
anywhere from five, and even from ten to one, in
favor of the knight of the crimson sash, and when
the last course had been run, his backers were
jubilant.  No one of those following him had displayed
anything like equal skill.

The herald now blew his bugle and declared the
tournament closed.  The judges put their heads
together for a moment.  The bugle sounded again,
and the herald announced in a loud voice that Sir
George Tryon, having taken the greatest number
of rings and split the largest number of balls, was
proclaimed victor in the tournament and entitled
to the flowery chaplet of victory.

Tryon, having bowed repeatedly in response to
the liberal applause, advanced to the judges' stand
and received the trophy from the hands of the chief
judge, who exhorted him to wear the garland worthily,
and to yield it only to a better man.

"It will be your privilege, Sir George,"
announced the judge, "as the chief reward of your
valor, to select from the assembled beauty of
Clarence the lady whom you wish to honor, to whom
we will all do homage as the Queen of Love and
Beauty."

Tryon took the wreath and bowed his thanks. 
Then placing the trophy on the point of his lance,
he spoke earnestly for a moment to the herald, and
rode past the grand stand, from which there was
another outburst of applause.  Returning upon his
tracks, the knight of the crimson sash paused before
the group where Warwick and his sister sat, and
lowered the wreath thrice before the lady whose
token he had won.

"Oyez! Oyez!" cried the herald; "Sir George
Tryon, the victor in the tournament, has chosen
Miss Rowena Warwick as the Queen of Love and
Beauty, and she will be crowned at the feast to-night
and receive the devoirs of all true knights."

The fair-ground was soon covered with scattered
groups of the spectators of the tournament.  In
one group a vanquished knight explained in elaborate
detail why it was that he had failed to win the
wreath.  More than one young woman wondered
why some one of the home young men could not
have taken the honors, or, if the stranger must win
them, why he could not have selected some belle of
the town as Queen of Love and Beauty instead
of this upstart girl who had blown into the town
over night, as one might say.

Warwick and his sister, standing under a spreading
elm, held a little court of their own.  A dozen
gentlemen and several ladies had sought an
introduction before Tryon came up.

"I suppose John would have a right to call me
out, Miss Warwick," said Tryon, when he had been
formally introduced and had shaken hands with
Warwick's sister, "for taking liberties with the
property and name of a lady to whom I had not
had an introduction; but I know John so well
that you seemed like an old acquaintance; and
when I saw you, and recalled your name, which
your brother had mentioned more than once, I felt
instinctively that you ought to be the queen.  I
entered my name only yesterday, merely to swell
the number and make the occasion more interesting. 
These fellows have been practicing for a
month, and I had no hope of winning.  I should
have been satisfied, indeed, if I hadn't made
myself ridiculous; but when you dropped your
handkerchief, I felt a sudden inspiration; and as soon
as I had tied it upon my lance, victory perched
upon my saddle-bow, guided my lance and sword,
and rings and balls went down before me like chaff
before the wind.  Oh, it was a great inspiration,
Miss Warwick!"

Rena, for it was our Patesville acquaintance fresh
from boarding-school, colored deeply at this frank
and fervid flattery, and could only murmur an
inarticulate reply.  Her year of instruction, while
distinctly improving her mind and manners, had
scarcely prepared her for so sudden an elevation
into a grade of society to which she had hitherto
been a stranger.  She was not without a certain
courage, however, and her brother, who remained
at her side, helped her over the most difficult
situations.

"We'll forgive you, George," replied Warwick,
"if you'll come home to luncheon with us."

"I'm mighty sorry--awfully sorry," returned
Tryon, with evident regret, "but I have another
engagement, which I can scarcely break, even by
the command of royalty.  At what time shall I
call for Miss Warwick this evening?  I believe that
privilege is mine, along with the other honors and
rewards of victory,--unless she is bound to some
one else."

"She is entirely free," replied Warwick.  "Come
as early as you like, and I'll talk to you until she's
ready."

Tryon bowed himself away, and after a number
of gentlemen and a few ladies had paid their
respects to the Queen of Love and Beauty, and
received an introduction to her, Warwick signaled
to the servant who had his carriage in charge, and
was soon driving homeward with his sister.  No one
of the party noticed a young negro, with a
handkerchief bound around his head, who followed them
until the carriage turned into the gate and swept
up the wide drive that led to Warwick's doorstep.

"Well, Rena," said Warwick, when they found
themselves alone, "you have arrived.  Your debut
into society is a little more spectacular than I should
have wished, but we must rise to the occasion
and make the most of it.  You are winning the
first fruits of your opportunity.  You are the most
envied woman in Clarence at this particular moment,
and, unless I am mistaken, will be the most
admired at the ball to-night."



VI

THE QUEEN OF LOVE AND BEAUTY


Shortly after luncheon, Rena had a visitor in
the person of Mrs. Newberry, a vivacious young
widow of the town, who proffered her services to
instruct Rena in the etiquette of the annual ball.

"Now, my dear," said Mrs. Newberry, "the
first thing to do is to get your coronation robe
ready.  It simply means a gown with a long train. 
You have a lovely white waist.  Get right into my
buggy, and we'll go down town to get the cloth,
take it over to Mrs. Marshall's, and have her run
you up a skirt this afternoon."

Rena placed herself unreservedly in the hands
of Mrs. Newberry, who introduced her to the best
dressmaker of the town, a woman of much experience
in such affairs, who improvised during the
afternoon a gown suited to the occasion.  Mrs.
Marshall had made more than a dozen ball dresses
during the preceding month; being a wise woman
and understanding her business thoroughly, she
had made each one of them so that with a few
additional touches it might serve for the Queen of
Love and Beauty.  This was her first direct order
for the specific garment.

Tryon escorted Rena to the ball, which was
held in the principal public hall of the town, and
attended by all the best people.  The champion
still wore the costume of the morning, in place
of evening dress, save that long stockings and
dancing-pumps had taken the place of riding-boots. 
Rena went through the ordeal very creditably. 
Her shyness was palpable, but it was saved from
awkwardness by her native grace and good sense. 
She made up in modesty what she lacked in
aplomb.  Her months in school had not eradicated
a certain self-consciousness born of her secret. 
The brain-cells never lose the impressions of youth,
and Rena's Patesville life was not far enough
removed to have lost its distinctness of outline. 
Of the two, the present was more of a dream,
the past was the more vivid reality.  At school she
had learned something from books and not a little
from observation.  She had been able to compare
herself with other girls, and to see wherein she
excelled or fell short of them.  With a sincere desire
for improvement, and a wish to please her brother
and do him credit, she had sought to make the
most of her opportunities.  Building upon a
foundation of innate taste and intelligence, she had
acquired much of the self-possession which comes
from a knowledge of correct standards of deportment. 
She had moreover learned without difficulty,
for it suited her disposition, to keep silence
when she could not speak to advantage.  A certain
necessary reticence about the past added strength
to a natural reserve.  Thus equipped, she held her
own very well in the somewhat trying ordeal of
the ball, at which the fiction of queenship and the
attendant ceremonies, which were pretty and graceful,
made her the most conspicuous figure.  Few
of those who watched her move with easy grace
through the measures of the dance could have
guessed how nearly her heart was in her mouth
during much of the time.

"You're doing splendidly, my dear," said Mrs.
Newberry, who had constituted herself Rena's
chaperone.

"I trust your Gracious Majesty is pleased with
the homage of your devoted subjects," said Tryon,
who spent much of his time by her side and kept
up the character of knight in his speech and
manner.

"Very much," replied the Queen of Love and
Beauty, with a somewhat tired smile.  It was
pleasant, but she would be glad, she thought, when
it was all over.

"Keep up your courage," whispered her brother. 
"You are not only queen, but the belle of the
ball.  I am proud of you.  A dozen women here
would give a year off the latter end of life to be
in your shoes to-night."

Rena felt immensely relieved when the hour
arrived at which she could take her departure, which
was to be the signal for the breaking-up of the
ball.  She was driven home in Tryon's carriage,
her brother accompanying them.  The night was
warm, and the drive homeward under the starlight,
in the open carriage, had a soothing effect upon
Rena's excited nerves.  The calm restfulness of
the night, the cool blue depths of the unclouded
sky, the solemn croaking of the frogs in a distant
swamp, were much more in harmony with her
nature than the crowded brilliancy of the ball-room. 
She closed her eyes, and, leaning back in the carriage,
thought of her mother, who she wished might
have seen her daughter this night.  A momentary
pang of homesickness pierced her tender heart,
and she furtively wiped away the tears that came
into her eyes.

"Good-night, fair Queen!" exclaimed Tryon,
breaking into her reverie as the carriage rolled up
to the doorstep, "and let your loyal subject kiss
your hand in token of his fealty.  May your
Majesty never abdicate her throne, and may she
ever count me her humble servant and devoted
knight."

"And now, sister," said Warwick, when Tryon
had been driven away, "now that the masquerade
is over, let us to sleep, and to-morrow take up the
serious business of life.  Your day has been a
glorious success!"

He put his arm around her and gave her a kiss
and a brotherly hug.

"It is a dream," she murmured sleepily, "only
a dream.  I am Cinderella before the clock has
struck.  Good-night, dear John."

"Good-night, Rowena."



VII


'MID NEW SURROUNDINGS


Warwick's residence was situated in the
outskirts of the town.  It was a fine old plantation
house, built in colonial times, with a stately colonnade,
wide verandas, and long windows with Venetian
blinds.  It was painted white, and stood
back several rods from the street, in a charming
setting of palmettoes, magnolias, and flowering
shrubs.  Rena had always thought her mother's
house large, but now it seemed cramped and narrow,
in comparison with this roomy mansion.  The
furniture was old-fashioned and massive.  The
great brass andirons on the wide hearth stood like
sentinels proclaiming and guarding the dignity of
the family.  The spreading antlers on the wall
testified to a mighty hunter in some past generation. 
The portraits of Warwick's wife's ancestors--
high featured, proud men and women, dressed in
the fashions of a bygone age--looked down from
tarnished gilt frames.  It was all very novel to
her, and very impressive.  When she ate off
china, with silver knives and forks that had come
down as heirlooms, escaping somehow the ravages
and exigencies of the war time,--Warwick told
her afterwards how he had buried them out of
reach of friend or foe,--she thought that her
brother must be wealthy, and she felt very proud
of him and of her opportunity.  The servants, of
whom there were several in the house, treated her
with a deference to which her eight months in
school had only partly accustomed her.  At school
she had been one of many to be served, and had
herself been held to obedience.  Here, for the first
time in her life, she was mistress, and tasted the
sweets of power.

The household consisted of her brother and
herself, a cook, a coachman, a nurse, and her
brother's little son Albert.  The child, with a fine
instinct, had put out his puny arms to Rena at first
sight, and she had clasped the little man to her
bosom with a motherly caress.  She had always
loved weak creatures.  Kittens and puppies had
ever found a welcome and a meal at Rena's hands,
only to be chased away by Mis' Molly, who had
had a wider experience.  No shiftless poor white,
no half-witted or hungry negro, had ever gone
unfed from Mis' Molly's kitchen door if Rena
were there to hear his plaint.  Little Albert was
pale and sickly when she came, but soon bloomed
again in the sunshine of her care, and was happy
only in her presence.  Warwick found pleasure in
their growing love for each other, and was glad
to perceive that the child formed a living link to
connect her with his home.

"Dat chile sutt'nly do lub Miss Rena, an'
dat's a fac', sho 's you bawn," remarked 'Lissa the
cook to Mimy the nurse one day.  "You'll get
yo' nose put out er j'int, ef you don't min'."

"I ain't frettin', honey," laughed the nurse
good-naturedly.  She was not at all jealous.  She
had the same wages as before, and her labors were
materially lightened by the aunt's attention to the
child.  This gave Mimy much more time to flirt
with Tom the coachman.

It was a source of much gratification to Warwick
that his sister seemed to adapt herself so
easily to the new conditions.  Her graceful
movements, the quiet elegance with which she wore
even the simplest gown, the easy authoritativeness
with which she directed the servants, were to him
proofs of superior quality, and he felt correspondingly
proud of her.  His feeling for her was something
more than brotherly love,--he was quite
conscious that there were degrees in brotherly
love, and that if she had been homely or stupid,
he would never have disturbed her in the stagnant
life of the house behind the cedars.  There had
come to him from some source, down the stream
of time, a rill of the Greek sense of proportion, of
fitness, of beauty, which is indeed but proportion
embodied, the perfect adaptation of means to
ends.  He had perceived, more clearly than she
could have appreciated it at that time, the
undeveloped elements of discord between Rena and her
former life.  He had imagined her lending grace
and charm to his own household.  Still another
motive, a purely psychological one, had more or
less consciously influenced him.  He had no fear
that the family secret would ever be discovered,--
he had taken his precautions too thoroughly, he
thought, for that; and yet he could not but feel,
at times, that if peradventure--it was a conceivable
hypothesis--it should become known, his
fine social position would collapse like a house of
cards.  Because of this knowledge, which the
world around him did not possess, he had felt now
and then a certain sense of loneliness; and there
was a measure of relief in having about him
one who knew his past, and yet whose knowledge,
because of their common interest, would not
interfere with his present or jeopardize his future. 
For he had always been, in a figurative sense, a
naturalized foreigner in the world of wide
opportunity, and Rena was one of his old compatriots,
whom he was glad to welcome into the populous
loneliness of his adopted country.



VIII

THE COURTSHIP


In a few weeks the echoes of the tournament
died away, and Rena's life settled down into a
pleasant routine, which she found much more
comfortable than her recent spectacular prominence. 
Her queenship, while not entirely forgiven
by the ladies of the town, had gained for
her a temporary social prominence.  Among her
own sex, Mrs. Newberry proved a warm and
enthusiastic friend.  Rumor whispered that the
lively young widow would not be unwilling to
console Warwick in the loneliness of the old
colonial mansion, to which his sister was a most
excellent medium of approach.  Whether this was
true or not it is unnecessary to inquire, for it is
no part of this story, except as perhaps indicating
why Mrs. Newberry played the part of the
female friend, without whom no woman is ever
launched successfully in a small and conservative
society.  Her brother's standing gave her the
right of social entry; the tournament opened wide
the door, and Mrs. Newberry performed the ceremony
of introduction.  Rena had many visitors
during the month following the tournament, and
might have made her choice from among a dozen
suitors; but among them all, her knight of the
handkerchief found most favor.


George Tryon had come to Clarence a few
months before upon business connected with the
settlement of his grandfather's estate.  A rather
complicated litigation had grown up around the
affair, various phases of which had kept Tryon
almost constantly in the town.  He had placed
matters in Warwick's hands, and had formed a
decided friendship for his attorney, for whom
he felt a frank admiration.  Tryon was only
twenty-three, and his friend's additional five years,
supplemented by a certain professional gravity,
commanded a great deal of respect from the
younger man.  When Tryon had known Warwick
for a week, he had been ready to swear by
him.  Indeed, Warwick was a man for whom
most people formed a liking at first sight.  To
this power of attraction he owed most of his
success--first with Judge Straight, of Patesville,
then with the lawyer whose office he had entered
at Clarence, with the woman who became his
wife, and with the clients for whom he transacted
business.  Tryon would have maintained
against all comers that Warwick was the finest
fellow in the world.  When he met Warwick's
sister, the foundation for admiration had
already been laid.  If Rena had proved to be a
maiden lady of uncertain age and doubtful personal
attractiveness, Tryon would probably have
found in her a most excellent lady, worthy of all
respect and esteem, and would have treated her
with profound deference and sedulous courtesy. 
When she proved to be a young and handsome
woman, of the type that he admired most, he
was capable of any degree of infatuation.  His
mother had for a long time wanted him to marry
the orphan daughter of an old friend, a vivacious
blonde, who worshiped him.  He had felt friendly
towards her, but had shrunk from matrimony. 
He did not want her badly enough to give up his
freedom.  The war had interfered with his
education, and though fairly well instructed, he had
never attended college.  In his own opinion, he
ought to see something of the world, and have his
youthful fling.  Later on, when he got ready to
settle down, if Blanche were still in the humor,
they might marry, and sink to the humdrum
level of other old married people.  The fact that
Blanche Leary was visiting his mother during his
unexpectedly long absence had not operated at
all to hasten his return to North Carolina.  He
had been having a very good time at Clarence,
and, at the distance of several hundred miles, was
safe for the time being from any immediate danger
of marriage.

With Rena's advent, however, he had seen life
through different glasses.  His heart had thrilled
at first sight of this tall girl, with the ivory
complexion, the rippling brown hair, and the
inscrutable eyes.  When he became better acquainted
with her, he liked to think that her thoughts
centred mainly in himself; and in this he was not
far wrong.  He discovered that she had a short
upper lip, and what seemed to him an eminently
kissable mouth.  After he had dined twice at
Warwick's, subsequently to the tournament,--his
lucky choice of Rena had put him at once upon
a household footing with the family,--his views
of marriage changed entirely.  It now seemed to
him the duty, as well as the high and holy privilege
of a young man, to marry and manfully to
pay his debt to society.  When in Rena's presence,
he could not imagine how he had ever contemplated
the possibility of marriage with Blanche
Leary,--she was utterly, entirely, and hopelessly
unsuited to him.  For a fair man of vivacious
temperament, this stately dark girl was the ideal
mate.  Even his mother would admit this, if she
could only see Rena.  To win this beautiful
girl for his wife would be a worthy task.  He had
crowned her Queen of Love and Beauty; since
then she had ascended the throne of his heart.
He would make her queen of his home and mistress
of his life.

To Rena this brief month's courtship came as a
new education.  Not only had this fair young man
crowned her queen, and honored her above all
the ladies in town; but since then he had waited
assiduously upon her, had spoken softly to her, had
looked at her with shining eyes, and had sought to
be alone with her.  The time soon came when to
touch his hand in greeting sent a thrill through her
frame,--a time when she listened for his footstep
and was happy in his presence.  He had been bold
enough at the tournament; he had since become
somewhat bashful and constrained.  He must be in
love, she thought, and wondered how soon he would
speak.  If it were so sweet to walk with him in the
garden, or along the shaded streets, to sit with him,
to feel the touch of his hand, what happiness would
it not be to hear him say that he loved her--to
bear his name, to live with him always.  To be thus
loved and honored by this handsome young man,
--she could hardly believe it possible.  He would
never speak--he would discover her secret and
withdraw.  She turned pale at the thought,--ah,
God! something would happen,--it was too good
to be true.  The Prince would never try on the
glass slipper.

Tryon first told his love for Rena one summer
evening on their way home from church.  They
were walking in the moonlight along the quiet street,
which, but for their presence, seemed quite deserted.

"Miss Warwick--Rowena," he said, clasping
with his right hand the hand that rested on his left
arm, "I love you!  Do you--love me?"

To Rena this simple avowal came with much
greater force than a more formal declaration could
have had.  It appealed to her own simple nature. 
Indeed, few women at such a moment criticise the
form in which the most fateful words of life--but
one--are spoken.  Words, while pleasant, are
really superfluous.  Her whispered "Yes" spoke
volumes.

They walked on past the house, along the country
road into which the street soon merged.  When
they returned, an hour later, they found Warwick
seated on the piazza, in a rocking-chair, smoking a
fragrant cigar.

"Well, children," he observed with mock severity,
"you are late in getting home from church.  The
sermon must have been extremely long."

"We have been attending an after-meeting,"
replied Tryon joyfully, "and have been discussing
an old text, `Little children, love one another,'
and its corollary, `It is not good for man to live
alone.'  John, I am the happiest man alive.  Your
sister has promised to marry me.  I should like to
shake my brother's hand."

Never does one feel so strongly the universal
brotherhood of man as when one loves some other
fellow's sister.  Warwick sprang from his chair and
clasped Tryon's extended hand with real emotion. 
He knew of no man whom he would have preferred
to Tryon as a husband for his sister.

"My dear George--my dear sister," he
exclaimed, "I am very, very glad.  I wish you
every happiness.  My sister is the most fortunate
of women."

"And I am the luckiest of men," cried Tryon.

"I wish you every happiness," repeated Warwick;
adding, with a touch of solemnity, as a certain
thought, never far distant, occurred to him,
"I hope that neither of you may ever regret your
choice."

Thus placed upon the footing of an accepted
lover, Tryon's visits to the house became more
frequent.  He wished to fix a time for the marriage,
but at this point Rena developed a strange reluctance.

"Can we not love each other for a while?" she
asked.  "To be engaged is a pleasure that comes
but once; it would be a pity to cut it too short."

"It is a pleasure that I would cheerfully dispense
with," he replied, "for the certainty of possession. 
I want you all to myself, and all the time.  Things
might happen.  If I should die, for instance, before
I married you"--

"Oh, don't suppose such awful things," she
cried, putting her hand over his mouth.

He held it there and kissed it until she pulled it
away.

"I should consider," he resumed, completing the
sentence, "that my life had been a failure."

"If I should die," she murmured, "I should die
happy in the knowledge that you had loved me."

"In three weeks," he went on, "I shall have
finished my business in Clarence, and there will be
but one thing to keep me here.  When shall it be? 
I must take you home with me."

"I will let you know," she replied, with a troubled
sigh, "in a week from to-day."

"I'll call your attention to the subject every day
in the mean time," he asserted.  "I shouldn't like
you to forget it."

Rena's shrinking from the irrevocable step of
marriage was due to a simple and yet complex
cause.  Stated baldly, it was the consciousness of
her secret; the complexity arose out of the various
ways in which it seemed to bear upon her
future.  Our lives are so bound up with those of
our fellow men that the slightest departure from
the beaten path involves a multiplicity of small
adjustments.  It had not been difficult for Rena
to conform her speech, her manners, and in a
measure her modes of thought, to those of the
people around her; but when this readjustment
went beyond mere externals and concerned the
vital issues of life, the secret that oppressed her
took on a more serious aspect, with tragic possibilities. 
A discursive imagination was not one of her
characteristics, or the danger of a marriage of
which perfect frankness was not a condition might
well have presented itself before her heart had
become involved.  Under the influence of doubt and
fear acting upon love, the invisible bar to
happiness glowed with a lambent flame that threatened
dire disaster.

"Would he have loved me at all," she asked
herself, "if he had known the story of my past? 
Or, having loved me, could he blame me now for
what I cannot help?"

There were two shoals in the channel of her life,
upon either of which her happiness might go
to shipwreck.  Since leaving the house behind the
cedars, where she had been brought into the
world without her own knowledge or consent, and
had first drawn the breath of life by the
involuntary contraction of certain muscles, Rena had
learned, in a short time, many things; but she
was yet to learn that the innocent suffer with the
guilty, and feel the punishment the more keenly
because unmerited.  She had yet to learn that the
old Mosaic formula, "The sins of the fathers
shall be visited upon the children," was graven
more indelibly upon the heart of the race than
upon the tables of Sinai.

But would her lover still love her, if he knew
all?  She had read some of the novels in the
bookcase in her mother's hall, and others at boarding-
school.  She had read that love was a conqueror,
that neither life nor death, nor creed nor
caste, could stay his triumphant course.  Her secret
was no legal bar to their union.  If Rena could
forget the secret, and Tryon should never know it,
it would be no obstacle to their happiness.  But
Rena felt, with a sinking of the heart, that happiness
was not a matter of law or of fact, but lay
entirely within the domain of sentiment.  We are
happy when we think ourselves happy, and with a
strange perversity we often differ from others with
regard to what should constitute our happiness. 
Rena's secret was the worm in the bud, the skeleton
in the closet.

"He says that he loves me.  He DOES love me. 
Would he love me, if he knew?"  She stood
before an oval mirror brought from France by one
of Warwick's wife's ancestors, and regarded her
image with a coldly critical eye.  She was as little
vain as any of her sex who are endowed with
beauty.  She tried to place herself, in thus passing
upon her own claims to consideration, in the
hostile attitude of society toward her hidden
disability.  There was no mark upon her brow to
brand her as less pure, less innocent, less desirable,
less worthy to be loved, than these proud women
of the past who had admired themselves in this
old mirror.

"I think a man might love me for myself," she
murmured pathetically, "and if he loved me truly,
that he would marry me.  If he would not marry
me, then it would be because he didn't love me. 
I'll tell George my secret.  If he leaves me, then
he does not love me."

But this resolution vanished into thin air before
it was fully formulated.  The secret was not hers
alone; it involved her brother's position, to whom
she owed everything, and in less degree the future
of her little nephew, whom she had learned to love
so well.  She had the choice of but two courses of
action, to marry Tryon or to dismiss him.  The
thought that she might lose him made him seem
only more dear; to think that he might leave her
made her sick at heart.  In one week she was
bound to give him an answer; he was more likely
to ask for it at their next meeting.


IX

DOUBTS AND FEARS


Rena's heart was too heavy with these misgivings
for her to keep them to herself.  On the
morning after the conversation with Tryon in
which she had promised him an answer within a
week, she went into her brother's study, where he
usually spent an hour after breakfast before going
to his office.  He looked up amiably from the
book before him and read trouble in her face.

"Well, Rena, dear," he asked with a smile,
"what's the matter?  Is there anything you
want--money, or what?  I should like to have
Aladdin's lamp--though I'd hardly need it--
that you might have no wish unsatisfied."

He had found her very backward in asking for
things that she needed.  Generous with his means,
he thought nothing too good for her.  Her success
had gratified his pride, and justified his course in
taking her under his protection.

"Thank you, John.  You give me already more
than I need.  It is something else, John.  George
wants me to say when I will marry him.  I am
afraid to marry him, without telling him.  If he
should find out afterwards, he might cast me off,
or cease to love me.  If he did not know it, I
should be forever thinking of what he would do if
he SHOULD find it out; or, if I should die without
his having learned it, I should not rest easy in
my grave for thinking of what he would have
done if he HAD found it out."

Warwick's smile gave place to a grave expression
at this somewhat comprehensive statement.  He
rose and closed the door carefully, lest some one
of the servants might overhear the conversation. 
More liberally endowed than Rena with imagination,
and not without a vein of sentiment, he had
nevertheless a practical side that outweighed them
both.  With him, the problem that oppressed his
sister had been in the main a matter of argument,
of self-conviction.  Once persuaded that he had
certain rights, or ought to have them, by virtue of
the laws of nature, in defiance of the customs of
mankind, he had promptly sought to enjoy them. 
This he had been able to do by simply concealing
his antecedents and making the most of his
opportunities, with no troublesome qualms of conscience
whatever.  But he had already perceived, in their
brief intercourse, that Rena's emotions, while less
easily stirred, touched a deeper note than his, and
dwelt upon it with greater intensity than if they
had been spread over the larger field to which a
more ready sympathy would have supplied so many
points of access;--hers was a deep and silent current
flowing between the narrow walls of a self-
contained life, his the spreading river that ran
through a pleasant landscape.  Warwick's
imagination, however, enabled him to put himself in touch
with her mood and recognize its bearings upon her
conduct.  He would have preferred her taking the
practical point of view, to bring her round to which
he perceived would be a matter of diplomacy.

"How long have these weighty thoughts been
troubling your small head?" he asked with assumed
lightness.

"Since he asked me last night to name our
wedding day."

"My dear child," continued Warwick, "you take
too tragic a view of life.  Marriage is a reciprocal
arrangement, by which the contracting parties give
love for love, care for keeping, faith for faith.  It
is a matter of the future, not of the past.  What
a poor soul it is that has not some secret chamber,
sacred to itself; where one can file away the things
others have no right to know, as well as things that
one himself would fain forget!  We are under no
moral obligation to inflict upon others the history
of our past mistakes, our wayward thoughts, our
secret sins, our desperate hopes, or our heartbreaking
disappointments.  Still less are we bound
to bring out from this secret chamber the dusty
record of our ancestry.

     `Let the dead past bury its dead.'

George Tryon loves you for yourself alone; it is
not your ancestors that he seeks to marry."

"But would he marry me if he knew?" she
persisted.

Warwick paused for reflection.  He would have
preferred to argue the question in a general way,
but felt the necessity of satisfying her scruples, as
far as might be.  He had liked Tryon from the
very beginning of their acquaintance.  In all their
intercourse, which had been very close for several
months, he had been impressed by the young man's
sunny temper, his straightforwardness, his intellectual
honesty.  Tryon's deference to Warwick as
the elder man had very naturally proved an
attraction.  Whether this friendship would have stood
the test of utter frankness about his own past was
a merely academic speculation with which Warwick
did not trouble himself.  With his sister the
question had evidently become a matter of conscience,
--a difficult subject with which to deal in a person
of Rena's temperament.

"My dear sister," he replied, "why should he
know?  We haven't asked him for his pedigree;
we don't care to know it.  If he cares for ours, he
should ask for it, and it would then be time enough
to raise the question.  You love him, I imagine,
and wish to make him happy?"

It is the highest wish of the woman who loves. 
The enamored man seeks his own happiness; the
loving woman finds no sacrifice too great for the
loved one.  The fiction of chivalry made man serve
woman; the fact of human nature makes woman
happiest when serving where she loves.

"Yes, oh, yes," Rena exclaimed with fervor,
clasping her hands unconsciously.  "I'm afraid
he'd be unhappy if he knew, and it would make me
miserable to think him unhappy."

"Well, then," said Warwick, "suppose we
should tell him our secret and put ourselves in his
power, and that he should then conclude that he
couldn't marry you?  Do you imagine he would be
any happier than he is now, or than if he should
never know?"

Ah, no! she could not think so.  One could
not tear love out of one's heart without pain and
suffering.

There was a knock at the door.  Warwick
opened it to the nurse, who stood with little Albert
in her arms.

"Please, suh," said the girl, with a curtsy, "de
baby 's be'n oryin' an' frettin' fer Miss Rena, an'
I 'lowed she mought want me ter fetch 'im, ef it
wouldn't'sturb her."

"Give me the darling," exclaimed Rena, coming
forward and taking the child from the nurse.  "It
wants its auntie.  Come to its auntie, bless its
little heart!"

Little Albert crowed with pleasure and put up
his pretty mouth for a kiss.  Warwick found the
sight a pleasant one.  If he could but quiet his
sister's troublesome scruples, he might erelong see
her fondling beautiful children of her own.  Even
if Rena were willing to risk her happiness, and he
to endanger his position, by a quixotic frankness,
the future of his child must not be compromised.

"You wouldn't want to make George unhappy,"
Warwick resumed when the nurse retired.  "Very
well; would you not be willing, for his sake, to keep
a secret--your secret and mine, and that of the
innocent child in your arms?  Would you involve
all of us in difficulties merely to secure your own
peace of mind?  Doesn't such a course seem just
the least bit selfish?  Think the matter over from
that point of view, and we'll speak of it later in the
day.  I shall be with George all the morning, and
I may be able, by a little management, to find out
his views on the subject of birth and family, and
all that.  Some men are very liberal, and love is a
great leveler.  I'll sound him, at any rate."

He kissed the baby and left Rena to her own
reflections, to which his presentation of the case had
given a new turn.  It had never before occurred to
her to regard silence in the light of self-sacrifice. 
It had seemed a sort of sin; her brother's argument
made of it a virtue.  It was not the first
time, nor the last, that right and wrong had been
a matter of view-point.

Tryon himself furnished the opening for
Warwick's proposed examination.  The younger man
could not long remain silent upon the subject
uppermost in his mind.  "I am anxious, John," he said,
"to have Rowena name the happiest day of my
life--our wedding day.  When the trial in Edgecombe
County is finished, I shall have no further
business here, and shall be ready to leave for home. 
I should like to take my bride with me, and surprise
my mother."

Mothers, thought Warwick, are likely to prove
inquisitive about their sons' wives, especially when
taken unawares in matters of such importance. 
This seemed a good time to test the liberality of
Tryon's views, and to put forward a shield for his
sister's protection.

"Are you sure, George, that your mother will
find the surprise agreeable when you bring home a
bride of whom you know so little and your mother
nothing at all?"

Tryon had felt that it would be best to surprise
his mother.  She would need only to see Rena to
approve of her, but she was so far prejudiced in
favor of Blanche Leary that it would be wisest to
present the argument after having announced the
irrevocable conclusion.  Rena herself would be a
complete justification for the accomplished deed.

"I think you ought to know, George," continued
Warwick, without waiting for a reply to his question,
"that my sister and I are not of an old family,
or a rich family, or a distinguished family; that
she can bring you nothing but herself; that we
have no connections of which you could boast, and
no relatives to whom we should be glad to introduce
you.  You must take us for ourselves alone--we
are new people."

"My dear John," replied the young man
warmly, "there is a great deal of nonsense about
families.  If a man is noble and brave and
strong, if a woman is beautiful and good and true,
what matters it about his or her ancestry?  If an
old family can give them these things, then it is
valuable; if they possess them without it, then of
what use is it, except as a source of empty pride,
which they would be better without?  If all new
families were like yours, there would be no advantage
in belonging to an old one.  All I care to
know of Rowena's family is that she is your sister;
and you'll pardon me, old fellow, if I add that she
hardly needs even you,--she carries the stamp of
her descent upon her face and in her heart."

"It makes me glad to hear you speak in that
way," returned Warwick, delighted by the young
man's breadth and earnestness.

"Oh, I mean every word of it," replied Tryon. 
"Ancestors, indeed, for Rowena!  I will tell you
a family secret, John, to prove how little I care for
ancestors.  My maternal great-great-grandfather, a
hundred and fifty years ago, was hanged, drawn,
and quartered for stealing cattle across the Scottish
border.  How is that for a pedigree?  Behold
in me the lineal descendant of a felon!"

Warwick felt much relieved at this avowal. 
His own statement had not touched the vital point
involved; it had been at the best but a half-truth;
but Tryon's magnanimity would doubtless protect
Rena from any close inquiry concerning her past. 
It even occurred to Warwick for a moment that
he might safely disclose the secret to Tryon; but
an appreciation of certain facts of history and
certain traits of human nature constrained him
to put the momentary thought aside.  It was a
great relief, however, to imagine that Tryon might
think lightly of this thing that he need never
know.

"Well, Rena," he said to his sister when he
went home at noon:  "I've sounded George."

"What did he say?" she asked eagerly.

"I told him we were people of no family, and
that we had no relatives that we were proud of. 
He said he loved you for yourself, and would
never ask you about your ancestry."

"Oh, I am so glad!" exclaimed Rena joyfully. 
This report left her very happy for about three
hours, or until she began to analyze carefully her
brother's account of what had been said.  Warwick's
statement had not been specific,--he had
not told Tryon THE thing.  George's reply, in turn,
had been a mere generality.  The concrete fact
that oppressed her remained unrevealed, and her
doubt was still unsatisfied.

Rena was occupied with this thought when her
lover next came to see her.  Tryon came up the
sanded walk from the gate and spoke pleasantly
to the nurse, a good-looking yellow girl who was
seated on the front steps, playing with little
Albert.  He took the boy from her arms, and
she went to call Miss Warwick.

Rena came out, followed by the nurse, who
offered to take the child.

"Never mind, Mimy, leave him with me," said
Tryon.

The nurse walked discreetly over into the garden,
remaining within call, but beyond the hearing
of conversation in an ordinary tone.

"Rena, darling," said her lover, "when shall
it be?  Surely you won't ask me to wait a week. 
Why, that's a lifetime!"

Rena was struck by a brilliant idea.  She
would test her lover.  Love was a very powerful
force; she had found it the greatest, grandest,
sweetest thing in the world.  Tryon had said that
he loved her; he had said scarcely anything else
for several weeks, surely nothing else worth remembering. 
She would test his love by a hypothetical question.

"You say you love me," she said, glancing at
him with a sad thoughtfulness in her large dark
eyes.  "How much do you love me?"

"I love you all one can love.  True love has no
degrees; it is all or nothing!"

"Would you love me," she asked, with an air
of coquetry that masked her concern, pointing
toward the girl in the shrubbery, "if I were
Albert's nurse yonder?"

"If you were Albert's nurse," he replied, with
a joyous laugh, "he would have to find another
within a week, for within a week we should be
married."

The answer seemed to fit the question, but in
fact, Tryon's mind and Rena's did not meet.  That
two intelligent persons should each attach a different
meaning to so simple a form of words as
Rena's question was the best ground for her
misgiving with regard to the marriage.  But love
blinded her.  She was anxious to be convinced. 
She interpreted the meaning of his speech by her
own thought and by the ardor of his glance, and
was satisfied with the answer.

"And now, darling," pleaded Tryon, "will you
not fix the day that shall make me happy?  I
shall be ready to go away in three weeks.  Will
you go with me?"

"Yes," she answered, in a tumult of joy.  She
would never need to tell him her secret now.  It
would make no difference with him, so far as she
was concerned; and she had no right to reveal her
brother's secret.  She was willing to bury the past
in forgetfulness, now that she knew it would have
no interest for her lover.



X

THE DREAM


The marriage was fixed for the thirtieth of the
month, immediately after which Tryon and his
bride were to set out for North Carolina.  Warwick
would have liked it much if Tryon had
lived in South Carolina; but the location of his
North Carolina home was at some distance from
Patesville, with which it had no connection by
steam or rail, and indeed lay altogether out of the
line of travel to Patesville.  Rena had no
acquaintance with people of social standing in North
Carolina; and with the added maturity and charm
due to her improved opportunities, it was unlikely
that any former resident of Patesville who might
casually meet her would see in the elegant young
matron from South Carolina more than a passing
resemblance to a poor girl who had once lived in an
obscure part of the old town.  It would of course
be necessary for Rena to keep away from Patesville;
save for her mother's sake, she would hardly
be tempted to go back.

On the twentieth of the month, Warwick set
out with Tryon for the county seat of the adjoining
county, to try one of the lawsuits which had
required Tryon's presence in South Carolina for
so long a time.  Their destination was a day's
drive from Clarence, behind a good horse, and the
trial was expected to last a week.

"This week will seem like a year," said Tryon
ruefully, the evening before their departure, "but
I'll write every day, and shall expect a letter as
often."

"The mail goes only twice a week, George,"
replied Rena.

"Then I shall have three letters in each mail."

Warwick and Tryon were to set out in the cool
of the morning, after an early breakfast.  Rena
was up at daybreak that she might preside at the
breakfast-table and bid the travelers good-by.

"John," said Rena to her brother in the
morning, "I dreamed last night that mother was ill."
     
"Dreams, you know, Rena," answered Warwick
lightly, "go by contraries.  Yours undoubtedly
signifies that our mother, God bless her
simple soul! is at the present moment enjoying
her usual perfect health.  She was never sick in
her life."

For a few months after leaving Patesville with
her brother, Rena had suffered tortures of
homesickness; those who have felt it know the pang. 
The severance of old ties had been abrupt and
complete.  At the school where her brother had
taken her, there had been nothing to relieve the
strangeness of her surroundings--no schoolmate
from her own town, no relative or friend of the
family near by.  Even the compensation of human
sympathy was in a measure denied her, for Rena
was too fresh from her prison-house to doubt that
sympathy would fail before the revelation of
the secret the consciousness of which oppressed
her at that time like a nightmare.  It was not
strange that Rena, thus isolated, should have been
prostrated by homesickness for several weeks
after leaving Patesville.  When the paroxysm
had passed, there followed a dull pain, which
gradually subsided into a resignation as profound, in
its way, as had been her longing for home.  She
loved, she suffered, with a quiet intensity of which
her outward demeanor gave no adequate expression. 
From some ancestral source she had derived
a strain of the passive fatalism by which alone
one can submit uncomplainingly to the inevitable. 
By the same token, when once a thing had been
decided, it became with her a finality, which only
some extraordinary stress of emotion could disturb. 
She had acquiesced in her brother's plan;
for her there was no withdrawing; her homesickness
was an incidental thing which must be endured,
as patiently as might be, until time should
have brought a measure of relief.

Warwick had made provision for an occasional
letter from Patesville, by leaving with his mother a
number of envelopes directed to his address.  She
could have her letters written, inclose them in
these envelopes, and deposit them in the post-
office with her own hand.  Thus the place of
Warwick's residence would remain within her own
knowledge, and his secret would not be placed at
the mercy of any wandering Patesvillian who
might perchance go to that part of South Carolina. 
By this simple means Rena had kept as closely in
touch with her mother as Warwick had considered
prudent; any closer intercourse was not consistent
with their present station in life.

The night after Warwick and Tryon had ridden
away, Rena dreamed again that her mother
was ill.  Better taught people than she, in regions
more enlightened than the South Carolina of that
epoch, are disturbed at times by dreams.  Mis'
Molly had a profound faith in them.  If God, in
ancient times, had spoken to men in visions of the
night, what easier way could there be for Him to
convey his meaning to people of all ages?  Science,
which has shattered many an idol and destroyed
many a delusion, has made but slight inroads
upon the shadowy realm of dreams.  For Mis'
Molly, to whom science would have meant nothing
and psychology would have been a meaningless
term, the land of dreams was carefully mapped
and bounded.  Each dream had some special significance,
or was at least susceptible of classification
under some significant head.  Dreams, as a general
rule, went by contraries; but a dream three times
repeated was a certain portent of the thing defined. 
Rena's few years of schooling at Patesville
and her months at Charleston had scarcely disturbed
these hoary superstitions which lurk in the
dim corners of the brain.  No lady in Clarence,
perhaps, would have remained undisturbed by a vivid
dream, three times repeated, of some event bearing
materially upon her own life.

The first repetition of a dream was decisive of
nothing, for two dreams meant no more than one. 
The power of the second lay in the suspense, the
uncertainty, to which it gave rise.  Two doubled
the chance of a third.  The day following this
second dream was an anxious one for Rena.  She
could not for an instant dismiss her mother from
her thoughts, which were filled too with a certain
self-reproach.  She had left her mother alone; if
her mother were really ill, there was no one at home
to tend her with loving care.  This feeling grew
in force, until by nightfall Rena had become very
unhappy, and went to bed with the most dismal
forebodings.  In this state of mind, it is not
surprising that she now dreamed that her mother was
lying at the point of death, and that she cried out
with heart-rending pathos:--

"Rena, my darlin', why did you forsake yo'r
pore old mother?  Come back to me, honey; I'll
die ef I don't see you soon."

The stress of subconscious emotion engendered
by the dream was powerful enough to wake Rena,
and her mother's utterance seemed to come to her
with the force of a fateful warning and a great
reproach.  Her mother was sick and needed her,
and would die if she did not come.  She felt that
she must see her mother,--it would be almost
like murder to remain away from her under such
circumstances.

After breakfast she went into the business part
of the town and inquired at what time a train
would leave that would take her toward Patesville. 
Since she had come away from the town, a railroad
had been opened by which the long river
voyage might be avoided, and, making allowance
for slow trains and irregular connections, the town
of Patesville could be reached by an all-rail route
in about twelve hours.  Calling at the post-office
for the family mail, she found there a letter from
her mother, which she tore open in great excitement. 
It was written in an unpracticed hand and
badly spelled, and was in effect as follows:--


MY DEAR DAUGHTER,--I take my pen in hand
to let you know that I am not very well.  I have
had a kind of misery in my side for two weeks,
with palpitations of the heart, and I have been in
bed for three days.  I'm feeling mighty poorly, but
Dr. Green says that I'll get over it in a few days. 
Old Aunt Zilphy is staying with me, and looking
after things tolerably well.  I hope this will find
you and John enjoying good health.  Give my
love to John, and I hope the Lord will bless him
and you too.  Cousin Billy Oxendine has had a
rising on his neck, and has had to have it lanced. 
Mary B. has another young one, a boy this time. 
Old man Tom Johnson was killed last week while
trying to whip black Jim Brown, who lived down
on the Wilmington Road.  Jim has run away. 
There has been a big freshet in the river, and it
looked at one time as if the new bridge would be
washed away.

Frank comes over every day or two and asks
about you.  He says to tell you that he don't
believe you are coming back any more, but you are
to remember him, and that foolishness he said
about bringing you back from the end of the
world with his mule and cart.  He's very good to
me, and brings over shavings and kindling-wood,
and made me a new well-bucket for nothing.  It's
a comfort to talk to him about you, though I
haven't told him where you are living.

I hope this will find you and John both well,
and doing well.  I should like to see you, but if
it's the Lord's will that I shouldn't, I shall be
thankful anyway that you have done what was
the best for yourselves and your children, and that
I have given you up for your own good.
             Your affectionate mother,
                         MARY WALDEN.


Rena shed tears over this simple letter, which,
to her excited imagination, merely confirmed the
warning of her dream.  At the date of its writing
her mother had been sick in bed, with the symptoms
of a serious illness.  She had no nurse but a
purblind old woman.  Three days of progressive
illness had evidently been quite sufficient to reduce
her parent to the condition indicated by the third
dream.  The thought that her mother might die
without the presence of any one who loved her
pierced Rena's heart like a knife and lent wings
to her feet.  She wished for the enchanted horse
of which her brother had read to her so many
years before on the front piazza of the house
behind the cedars, that she might fly through the air
to her dying mother's side.  She determined to go
at once to Patesville.

Returning home, she wrote a letter to Warwick
inclosing their mother's letter, and stating that
she had dreamed an alarming dream for three
nights in succession; that she had left the house in
charge of the servants and gone to Patesville; and
that she would return as soon as her mother was
out of danger.

To her lover she wrote that she had been called
away to visit a sick-bed, and would return very
soon, perhaps by the time he got back to Clarence. 
These letters Rena posted on her way to the train,
which she took at five o'clock in the afternoon. 
This would bring her to Patesville early in the
morning of the following day.



XI

A LETTER AND A JOURNEY


War has been called the court of last resort. 
A lawsuit may with equal aptness be compared to
a battle--the parallel might be drawn very closely
all along the line.  First we have the casus belli,
the cause of action; then the various protocols and
proclamations and general orders, by way of pleas,
demurrers, and motions; then the preliminary
skirmishes at the trial table; and then the final
struggle, in which might is quite as likely to prevail
as right, victory most often resting with the
strongest battalions, and truth and justice not
seldom overborne by the weight of odds upon the
other side.

The lawsuit which Warwick and Tryon had
gone to try did not, however, reach this ultimate
stage, but, after a three days' engagement, resulted
in a treaty of peace.  The case was compromised
and settled, and Tryon and Warwick set out on
their homeward drive.  They stopped at a farm-
house at noon, and while at table saw the stage-
coach from the town they had just left, bound for
their own destination.  In the mail-bag under the
driver's seat were Rena's two letters; they had
been delivered at the town in the morning, and
immediately remailed to Clarence, in accordance
with orders left at the post-office the evening
before.  Tryon and Warwick drove leisurely homeward
through the pines, all unconscious of the fateful
squares of white paper moving along the road
a few miles before them, which a mother's yearning
and a daughter's love had thrown, like the apple of
discord, into the narrow circle of their happiness.

They reached Clarence at four o'clock.  Warwick
got down from the buggy at his office.  Tryon
drove on to his hotel, to make a hasty toilet before
visiting his sweetheart.

Warwick glanced at his mail, tore open the
envelope addressed in his sister's handwriting, and
read the contents with something like dismay. 
She had gone away on the eve of her wedding, her
lover knew not where, to be gone no one knew
how long, on a mission which could not be frankly
disclosed.  A dim foreboding of disaster flashed
across his mind.  He thrust the letter into his
pocket, with others yet unopened, and started
toward his home.  Reaching the gate, he paused a
moment and then walked on past the house.  Tryon
would probably be there in a few minutes, and
he did not care to meet him without first having
had the opportunity for some moments of reflection. 
He must fix upon some line of action in this
emergency.

Meanwhile Tryon had reached his hotel and
opened his mail.  The letter from Rena was read
first, with profound disappointment.  He had
really made concessions in the settlement of that
lawsuit--had yielded several hundred dollars of
his just dues, in order that he might get back to
Rena three days earlier.  Now he must cool his
heels in idleness for at least three days before she
would return.  It was annoying, to say the least. 
He wished to know where she had gone, that he
might follow her and stay near her until she should
be ready to come back.  He might ask Warwick--
no, she might have had some good reason for not
having mentioned her destination.  She had
probably gone to visit some of the poor relations of
whom her brother had spoken so frankly, and she
would doubtless prefer that he should not see her
amid any surroundings but the best.  Indeed, he
did not know that he would himself care to endanger,
by suggestive comparisons, the fine aureole of
superiority that surrounded her.  She represented
in her adorable person and her pure heart the
finest flower of the finest race that God had ever
made--the supreme effort of creative power, than
which there could be no finer.  The flower would
soon be his; why should he care to dig up the soil
in which it grew?

Tryon went on opening his letters.  There were
several bills and circulars, and then a letter from
his mother, of which he broke the seal:--


MY DEAREST GEORGE,--This leaves us well. 
Blanche is still with me, and we are impatiently
awaiting your return.  In your absence she seems
almost like a daughter to me.  She joins me in
the hope that your lawsuits are progressing favorably,
and that you will be with us soon. . . .

On your way home, if it does not keep you
away from us too long, would it not be well for
you to come by way of Patesville, and find out
whether there is any prospect of our being able
to collect our claim against old Mr. Duncan
McSwayne's estate?  You must have taken the papers
with you, along with the rest, for I do not find
them here.  Things ought to be settled enough now
for people to realize on some of their securities. 
Your grandfather always believed the note was
good, and meant to try to collect it, but the war
interfered.  He said to me, before he died, that if
the note was ever collected, he would use the money
to buy a wedding present for your wife.  Poor
father! he is dead and gone to heaven; but I am
sure that even there he would be happier if he
knew the note was paid and the money used as he
intended.

If you go to Patesville, call on my cousin, Dr.
Ed. Green, and tell him who you are.  Give him
my love.  I haven't seen him for twenty years. 
He used to be very fond of the ladies, a very gallant
man.  He can direct you to a good lawyer,
no doubt.  Hoping to see you soon,
             Your loving mother,
                    ELIZABETH TRYON.

P. S. Blanche joins me in love to you.


This affectionate and motherly letter did not
give Tryon unalloyed satisfaction.  He was glad
to hear that his mother was well, but he had
hoped that Blanche Leary might have finished her
visit by this time.  The reasonable inference from
the letter was that Blanche meant to await his
return.  Her presence would spoil the fine romantic
flavor of the surprise he had planned for his
mother; it would never do to expose his bride to
an unannounced meeting with the woman whom he
had tacitly rejected.  There would be one advantage
in such a meeting: the comparison of the
two women would be so much in Rena's favor
that his mother could not hesitate for a moment
between them.  The situation, however, would
have elements of constraint, and he did not care
to expose either Rena or Blanche to any disagreeable
contingency.  It would be better to take his
wife on a wedding trip, and notify his mother,
before he returned home, of his marriage.  In the
extremely improbable case that she should disapprove
his choice after having seen his wife, the ice
would at least have been broken before his arrival
at home.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed suddenly, striking
his knee with his hand, "why shouldn't I run up
to Patesville while Rena's gone?  I can leave here
at five o'clock, and get there some time to-morrow
morning.  I can transact my business during the
day, and get back the day after to-morrow; for
Rena might return ahead of time, just as we did, and
I shall want to be here when she comes; I'd rather
wait a year for a legal opinion on a doubtful old
note than to lose one day with my love.  The
train goes in twenty minutes.  My bag is already
packed.  I'll just drop a line to George and tell
him where I've gone."

He put Rena's letter into his breast pocket, and
turning to his trunk, took from it a handful of
papers relating to the claim in reference to which
he was going to Patesville.  These he thrust into
the same pocket with Rena's letter; he wished to
read both letter and papers while on the train.  It
would be a pleasure merely to hold the letter before
his eyes and look at the lines traced by her hand. 
The papers he wished to study, for the more practical
purpose of examining into the merits of his
claim against the estate of Duncan McSwayne.

When Warwick reached home, he inquired if
Mr. Tryon had called.

"No, suh," answered the nurse, to whom he had
put the question; "he ain't be'n here yet, suh."

Warwick was surprised and much disturbed.

"De baby 's be'n cryin' for Miss Rena,"
suggested the nurse, "an' I s'pec' he'd like to see you,
suh.  Shall I fetch 'im?"

"Yes, bring him to me."

He took the child in his arms and went out upon
the piazza.  Several porch pillows lay invitingly
near.  He pushed them toward the steps with his
foot, sat down upon one, and placed little Albert
upon another.  He was scarcely seated when a
messenger from the hotel came up the walk from
the gate and handed him a note.  At the same
moment he heard the long shriek of the afternoon
train leaving the station on the opposite side of the
town.

He tore the envelope open anxiously, read the
note, smiled a sickly smile, and clenched the paper
in his hand unconsciously.  There was nothing he
could do.  The train had gone; there was no
telegraph to Patesville, and no letter could leave
Clarence for twenty-four hours.  The best laid
schemes go wrong at times--the stanchest ships
are sometimes wrecked, or skirt the breakers
perilously.  Life is a sea, full of strange currents
and uncharted reefs--whoever leaves the traveled
path must run the danger of destruction.  Warwick
was a lawyer, however, and accustomed to
balance probabilities.

"He may easily be in Patesville a day or two
without meeting her.  She will spend most of her
time at mother's bedside, and he will be occupied
with his own affairs."

If Tryon should meet her--well, he was very
much in love, and he had spoken very nobly of
birth and blood.  Warwick would have preferred,
nevertheless, that Tryon's theories should not be
put to this particular test.  Rena's scruples had so
far been successfully combated; the question would
be opened again, and the situation unnecessarily
complicated, if Tryon should meet Rena in Patesville.

"Will he or will he not?" he asked himself. 
He took a coin from his pocket and spun it upon
the floor.  "Heads, he sees her; tails, he does
not."

The coin spun swiftly and steadily, leaving upon
the eye the impression of a revolving sphere.  Little
Albert, left for a moment to his own devices, had
crept behind his father and was watching the whirling
disk with great pleasure.  He felt that he would
like to possess this interesting object.  The coin
began to move more slowly, and was wabbling to its
fall, when the child stretched forth his chubby fist
and caught it ere it touched the floor.



XII

TRYON GOES TO PATESVILLE


Tryon arrived in the early morning and put
up at the Patesville Hotel, a very comfortable inn. 
After a bath, breakfast, and a visit to the barbershop,
he inquired of the hotel clerk the way to the
office of Dr. Green, his mother's cousin.

"On the corner, sir," answered the clerk, "by the
market-house, just over the drugstore.  The doctor
drove past here only half an hour ago.  You'll
probably catch him in his office."

Tryon found the office without difficulty.  He
climbed the stair, but found no one in except a
young colored man seated in the outer office, who
rose promptly as Tryon entered.

"No, suh," replied the man to Tryon's question,
"he ain't hyuh now.  He's gone out to see a
patient, suh, but he'll be back soon.  Won't you
set down in de private office an' wait fer 'im, suh?"

Tryon had not slept well during his journey, and
felt somewhat fatigued.  Through the open door
of the next room he saw an inviting armchair,
with a window at one side, and upon the other a
table strewn with papers and magazines.

"Yes," he answered, "I'll wait."

He entered the private office, sank into the armchair,
and looked out of the window upon the square
below.  The view was mildly interesting.  The old
brick market-house with the tower was quite
picturesque.  On a wagon-scale at one end the public
weighmaster was weighing a load of hay.  In the
booths under the wide arches several old negro
women were frying fish on little charcoal stoves--
the odor would have been appetizing to one who
had not breakfasted.  On the shady side stood half
a dozen two-wheeled carts, loaded with lightwood
and drawn by diminutive steers, or superannuated
army mules branded on the flank with the cabalistic
letters "C. S. A.," which represented a vanished
dream, or "U. S. A.," which, as any negro about
the market-house would have borne witness, signified
a very concrete fact.  Now and then a lady or
gentleman passed with leisurely step--no one ever
hurried in Patesville--or some poor white sandhiller
slouched listlessly along toward store or bar-room.

Tryon mechanically counted the slabs of gingerbread
on the nearest market-stall, and calculated
the cubical contents of several of the meagre loads
of wood.  Having exhausted the view, he turned
to the table at his elbow and picked up a medical
journal, in which he read first an account of a
marvelous surgical operation.  Turning the leaves
idly, he came upon an article by a Southern writer,
upon the perennial race problem that has vexed
the country for a century.  The writer maintained
that owing to a special tendency of the negro blood,
however diluted, to revert to the African type, any
future amalgamation of the white and black races,
which foolish and wicked Northern negrophiles
predicted as the ultimate result of the new conditions
confronting the South, would therefore be an
ethnological impossibility; for the smallest trace
of negro blood would inevitably drag down the
superior race to the level of the inferior, and reduce
the fair Southland, already devastated by the hand
of the invader, to the frightful level of Hayti, the
awful example of negro incapacity.  To forefend
their beloved land, now doubly sanctified by the
blood of her devoted sons who had fallen in the
struggle to maintain her liberties and preserve her
property, it behooved every true Southron to stand
firm against the abhorrent tide of radicalism, to
maintain the supremacy and purity of his all-
pervading, all-conquering race, and to resist by
every available means the threatened domination of
an inferior and degraded people, who were set to
rule hereditary freemen ere they had themselves
scarce ceased to be slaves.

When Tryon had finished the article, which
seemed to him a well-considered argument, albeit
a trifle bombastic, he threw the book upon the table. 
Finding the armchair wonderfully comfortable, and
feeling the fatigue of his journey, he yielded to a
drowsy impulse, leaned his head on the cushioned
back of the chair, and fell asleep.  According to
the habit of youth, he dreamed, and pursuant to his
own individual habit, he dreamed of Rena.  They
were walking in the moonlight, along the quiet road
in front of her brother's house.  The air was
redolent with the perfume of flowers.  His arm
was around her waist.  He had asked her if she
loved him, and was awaiting her answer in tremulous
but confident expectation.  She opened her lips
to speak.  The sound that came from them seemed
to be:--

"Is Dr. Green in?  No?  Ask him, when he comes
back, please, to call at our house as soon as he can."

Tryon was in that state of somnolence in which
one may dream and yet be aware that one is
dreaming,--the state where one, during a dream,
dreams that one pinches one's self to be sure that
one is not dreaming.  He was therefore aware of a
ringing quality about the words he had just heard
that did not comport with the shadowy converse
of a dream--an incongruity in the remark, too,
which marred the harmony of the vision.  The
shock was sufficient to disturb Tryon's slumber,
and he struggled slowly back to consciousness. 
When fully awake, he thought he heard a light
footfall descending the stairs.

"Was there some one here?" he inquired of
the attendant in the outer office, who was visible
through the open door.

"Yas, suh," replied the boy, "a young cullud
'oman wuz in jes' now, axin' fer de doctuh."

Tryon felt a momentary touch of annoyance that
a negro woman should have intruded herself into
his dream at its most interesting point.  Nevertheless,
the voice had been so real, his imagination had
reproduced with such exactness the dulcet tones so
dear to him, that he turned his head involuntarily
and looked out of the window.  He could just see
the flutter of a woman's skirt disappearing around
the corner.

A moment later the doctor came bustling in,--
a plump, rosy man of fifty or more, with a frank,
open countenance and an air of genial good nature. 
Such a doctor, Tryon fancied, ought to enjoy a
wide popularity.  His mere presence would suggest
life and hope and healthfulness.

"My dear boy," exclaimed the doctor cordially,
after Tryon had introduced himself, "I'm delighted
to meet you--or any one of the old blood. 
Your mother and I were sweethearts, long ago,
when we both wore pinafores, and went to see our
grandfather at Christmas; and I met her more
than once, and paid her more than one compliment,
after she had grown to be a fine young woman. 
You're like her! too, but not quite so handsome--
you've more of what I suppose to be the Tryon
favor, though I never met your father.  So one of
old Duncan McSwayne's notes went so far as that? 
Well, well, I don't know where you won't find
them.  One of them turned up here the other day
from New York.

"The man you want to see," he added later in
the conversation, "is old Judge Straight.  He's
getting somewhat stiff in the joints, but he knows
more law, and more about the McSwayne estate,
than any other two lawyers in town.  If anybody
can collect your claim, Judge Straight can.  I'll
send my boy Dave over to his office.  Dave," he
called to his attendant, "run over to Judge
Straight's office and see if he's there.

"There was a freshet here a few weeks ago,"
he want on, when the colored man had departed,
"and they had to open the flood-gates and let the
water out of the mill pond, for if the dam had
broken, as it did twenty years ago, it would have
washed the pillars from under the judge's office
and let it down in the creek, and"--

"Jedge Straight ain't in de office jes' now,
suh," reported the doctor's man Dave, from the
head of the stairs.

"Did you ask when he'd be back?"

"No, suh, you didn't tell me ter, suh."

"Well, now, go back and inquire.

"The niggers," he explained to Tryon, "are
getting mighty trifling since they've been freed. 
Before the war, that boy would have been around
there and back before you could say Jack Robinson;
now, the lazy rascal takes his time just like
a white man."

Dave returned more promptly than from his
first trip.  "Jedge Straight's dere now, suh," he
said.  "He's done come in."

"I'll take you right around and introduce you,"
said the doctor, running on pleasantly, like a
babbling brook.  "I don't know whether the judge
ever met your mother or not, but he knows a
gentleman when he sees one, and will be glad to
meet you and look after your affair.  See to the
patients, Dave, and say I'll be back shortly, and
don't forget any messages left for me.  Look
sharp, now!  You know your failing!"

They found Judge Straight in his office.  He
was seated by the rear window, and had fallen
into a gentle doze--the air of Patesville was
conducive to slumber.  A visitor from some
bustling city might have rubbed his eyes, on any but a
market-day, and imagined the whole town asleep
--that the people were somnambulists and did not
know it.  The judge, an old hand, roused himself
so skillfully, at the sound of approaching footsteps,
that his visitors could not guess but that he had
been wide awake.  He shook hands with the doctor,
and acknowledged the introduction to Tryon with
a rare old-fashioned courtesy, which the young man
thought a very charming survival of the manners
of a past and happier age.

"No," replied the judge, in answer to a question
by Dr. Green, "I never met his mother; I was a
generation ahead of her.  I was at school with her
father, however, fifty years ago--fifty years ago! 
No doubt that seems to you a long time, young
gentleman?"

"It is a long time, sir," replied Tryon.  "I
must live more than twice as long as I have in
order to cover it."

"A long time, and a troubled time," sighed the
judge.  "I could wish that I might see this unhappy
land at peace with itself before I die. 
Things are in a sad tangle; I can't see the way
out.  But the worst enemy has been slain, in spite
of us.  We are well rid of slavery."

"But the negro we still have with us,"
remarked the doctor, "for here comes my man
Dave.  What is it, Dave?" he asked sharply, as
the negro stuck his head in at the door.

"Doctuh Green," he said, "I fuhgot ter tell
you, suh, dat dat young 'oman wuz at de office
agin jes' befo' you come in, an' said fer you to go
right down an' see her mammy ez soon ez you
could."

"Ah, yes, and you've just remembered it!  I'm
afraid you're entirely too forgetful for a doctor's
office.  You forgot about old Mrs. Latimer, the
other day, and when I got there she had almost
choked to death.  Now get back to the office, and
remember, the next time you forget anything, I'll
hire another boy; remember that!  That boy's
head," he remarked to his companions, after Dave
had gone, "reminds me of nothing so much as a
dried gourd, with a handful of cowpeas rattling
around it, in lieu of gray matter.  An old woman
out in Redbank got a fishbone in her throat, the
other day, and nearly choked to death before I got
there.  A white woman, sir, came very near losing
her life because of a lazy, trifling negro!"

"I should think you would discharge him, sir,"
suggested Tryon.

"What would be the use?" rejoined the doctor. 
"All negroes are alike, except that now and then
there's a pretty woman along the border-line. 
Take this patient of mine, for instance,--I'll call
on her after dinner, her case is not serious,--thirty
years ago she would have made any man turn his
head to look at her.  You know who I mean,
don't you, judge?"

"Yes.  I think so," said the judge promptly.
"I've transacted a little business for her now and
then."

"I don't know whether you've seen the daughter
or not--I'm sure you haven't for the past
year or so, for she's been away.  But she's in
town now, and, by Jove, the girl is really beautiful. 
And I'm a judge of beauty.  Do you remember
my wife thirty years ago, judge?"

"She was a very handsome woman, Ed," replied
the other judicially.  "If I had been twenty years
younger, I should have cut you out."

"You mean you would have tried.  But as I
was saying, this girl is a beauty; I reckon we
might guess where she got some of it, eh, Judge? 
Human nature is human nature, but it's a d--d
shame that a man should beget a child like that
and leave it to live the life open for a negro.  If
she had been born white, the young fellows would
be tumbling over one another to get her.  Her
mother would have to look after her pretty closely
as things are, if she stayed here; but she
disappeared mysteriously a year or two ago, and has
been at the North, I'm told, passing for white. 
She'll probably marry a Yankee; he won't know
any better, and it will serve him right--she's
only too white for them.  She has a very striking
figure, something on the Greek order, stately and
slow-moving.  She has the manners of a lady, too
--a beautiful woman, if she is a nigger!"

"I quite agree with you, Ed," remarked the
judge dryly, "that the mother had better look
closely after the daughter."

"Ah, no, judge," replied the other, with a
flattered smile, "my admiration for beauty is purely
abstract.  Twenty-five years ago, when I was
younger"--

"When you were young," corrected the judge.

"When you and I were younger," continued
the doctor ingeniously,--"twenty-five years ago, I
could not have answered for myself.  But I would
advise the girl to stay at the North, if she can. 
She's certainly out of place around here."

Tryon found the subject a little tiresome, and
the doctor's enthusiasm not at all contagious.  He
could not possibly have been interested in a colored
girl, under any circumstances, and he was
engaged to be married to the most beautiful white
woman on earth.  To mention a negro woman in
the same room where he was thinking of Rena
seemed little short of profanation.  His friend the
doctor was a jovial fellow, but it was surely doubtful
taste to refer to his wife in such a conversation. 
He was very glad when the doctor dropped the
subject and permitted him to go more into detail
about the matter which formed his business in
Patesville.  He took out of his pocket the papers
concerning the McSwayne claim and laid them on
the judge's desk.

"You'll find everything there, sir,--the note,
the contract, and some correspondence that will
give you the hang of the thing.  Will you be able
to look over them to-day?  I should like," he added
a little nervously, "to go back to-morrow."

"What!" exclaimed Dr. Green vivaciously,
"insult our town by staying only one day?  It
won't be long enough to get acquainted with our
young ladies.  Patesville girls are famous for their
beauty.  But perhaps there's a loadstone in South
Carolina to draw you back?  Ah, you change color! 
To my mind there's nothing finer than the ingenuous
blush of youth.  But we'll spare you if you'll
answer one question--is it serious?"

"I'm to be married in two weeks, sir," answered
Tryon.  The statement sounded very pleasant, in
spite of the slight embarrassment caused by the
inquiry.

"Good boy!" rejoined the doctor, taking his
arm familiarly--they were both standing now. 
"You ought to have married a Patesville girl, but
you people down towards the eastern counties
seldom come this way, and we are evidently too late
to catch you."

"I'll look your papers over this morning," said
the judge, "and when I come from dinner will
stop at the court house and examine the records
and see whether there's anything we can get hold
of.  If you'll drop in around three or four o'clock,
I may be able to give you an opinion."

"Now, George," exclaimed the doctor, "we'll
go back to the office for a spell, and then I'll take
you home with me to luncheon."

Tryon hesitated.

"Oh, you must come!  Mrs. Green would never
forgive me if I didn't bring you.  Strangers are
rare birds in our society, and when they come we
make them welcome.  Our enemies may overturn
our institutions, and try to put the bottom rail on
top, but they cannot destroy our Southern hospitality. 
There are so many carpet-baggers and other
social vermin creeping into the South, with the
Yankees trying to force the niggers on us, that it's
a genuine pleasure to get acquainted with another
real Southern gentleman, whom one can invite into
one's house without fear of contamination, and before
whom one can express his feelings freely and
be sure of perfect sympathy."



XIII

AN INJUDICIOUS PAYMENT


When Judge Straight's visitors had departed,
he took up the papers which had been laid loosely
on the table as they were taken out of Tryon's breast-
pocket, and commenced their perusal.  There was
a note for five hundred dollars, many years overdue,
but not yet outlawed by lapse of time; a
contract covering the transaction out of which the
note had grown; and several letters and copies of
letters modifying the terms of the contract.  The
judge had glanced over most of the papers, and
was getting well into the merits of the case, when
he unfolded a letter which read as follows:--


MY DEAREST GEORGE,-- I am going away
for about a week, to visit the bedside of an old
friend, who is very ill, and may not live.  Do not
be alarmed about me, for I shall very likely be
back by the time you are.
             Yours lovingly,
                         ROWENA WARWICK.


The judge was unable to connect this letter with
the transaction which formed the subject of his
examination.  Age had dimmed his perceptions
somewhat, and it was not until he had finished
the letter, and read it over again, and noted the
signature at the bottom a second time, that he
perceived that the writing was in a woman's hand,
that the ink was comparatively fresh, and that
the letter was dated only a couple of days before. 
While he still held the sheet in his hand, it
dawned upon him slowly that he held also one of
the links in a chain of possible tragedy which he
himself, he became uncomfortably aware, had had
a hand in forging.

"It is the Walden woman's daughter, as sure as
fate!  Her name is Rena.  Her brother goes by
the name of Warwick.  She has come to visit her
sick mother.  My young client, Green's relation, is
her lover--is engaged to marry her--is in town,
and is likely to meet her!"

The judge was so absorbed in the situation
thus suggested that he laid the papers down and
pondered for a moment the curious problem
involved.  He was quite aware that two races had
not dwelt together, side by side, for nearly three
hundred years, without mingling their blood in
greater or less degree; he was old enough, and had
seen curious things enough, to know that in this
mingling the current had not always flowed in
one direction.  Certain old decisions with which
he was familiar; old scandals that had crept along
obscure channels; old facts that had come to the
knowledge of an old practitioner, who held in the
hollow of his hand the honor of more than one
family, made him know that there was dark blood
among the white people--not a great deal, and
that very much diluted, and, so long as it was
sedulously concealed or vigorously denied, or lost
in the mists of tradition, or ascribed to a foreign or
an aboriginal strain, having no perceptible effect
upon the racial type.

Such people were, for the most part, merely on
the ragged edge of the white world, seldom rising
above the level of overseers, or slave-catchers, or
sheriff's officers, who could usually be relied upon
to resent the drop of black blood that tainted them,
and with the zeal of the proselyte to visit their
hatred of it upon the unfortunate blacks that fell
into their hands.  One curse of negro slavery
was, and one part of its baleful heritage is, that
it poisoned the fountains of human sympathy. 
Under a system where men might sell their own
children without social reprobation or loss of
prestige, it was not surprising that some of them
should hate their distant cousins.  There were
not in Patesville half a dozen persons capable
of thinking Judge Straight's thoughts upon the
question before him, and perhaps not another who
would have adopted the course he now pursued
toward this anomalous family in the house behind
the cedars.

"Well, here we are again, as the clown in the
circus remarks," murmured the judge.  "Ten years
ago, in a moment of sentimental weakness and of
quixotic loyalty to the memory of an old friend,--
who, by the way, had not cared enough for his own
children to take them away from the South, as he
might have done, or to provide for them handsomely,
as he perhaps meant to do,--I violated the traditions
of my class and stepped from the beaten path
to help the misbegotten son of my old friend out of
the slough of despond, in which he had learned, in
some strange way, that he was floundering.  Ten
years later, the ghost of my good deed returns to
haunt me, and makes me doubt whether I have
wrought more evil than good.  I wonder," he mused,
"if he will find her out?"

The judge was a man of imagination; he had
read many books and had personally outlived some
prejudices.  He let his mind run on the various
phases of the situation.

"If he found her out, would he by any
possibility marry her?"

"It is not likely," he answered himself.  "If he
made the discovery here, the facts would probably
leak out in the town.  It is something that a man
might do in secret, but only a hero or a fool would
do openly."

The judge sighed as he contemplated another
possibility.  He had lived for seventy years under
the old regime.  The young man was a gentleman
--so had been the girl's father.  Conditions were
changed, but human nature was the same.  Would
the young man's love turn to disgust and repulsion,
or would it merely sink from the level of worship
to that of desire?  Would the girl, denied marriage,
accept anything less?  Her mother had,--but
conditions were changed.  Yes, conditions were
changed, so far as the girl was concerned; there
was a possible future for her under the new order
of things; but white people had not changed their
opinion of the negroes, except for the worse.  The
general belief was that they were just as inferior as
before, and had, moreover, been spoiled by a
disgusting assumption of equality, driven into their
thick skulls by Yankee malignity bent upon humiliating
a proud though vanquished foe.

If the judge had had sons and daughters of his
own, he might not have done what he now proceeded
to do.  But the old man's attitude toward society
was chiefly that of an observer, and the narrow
stream of sentiment left in his heart chose to flow
toward the weaker party in this unequal conflict,
--a young woman fighting for love and opportunity
against the ranked forces of society, against
immemorial tradition, against pride of family and
of race.

"It may be the unwisest thing I ever did," he
said to himself, turning to his desk and taking up
a quill pen, "and may result in more harm than
good; but I was always from childhood in sympathy
with the under dog.  There is certainly as much
reason in my helping the girl as the boy, for being
a woman, she is less able to help herself."

He dipped his pen into the ink and wrote the
following lines:--


MADAM,--If you value your daughter's happiness,
keep her at home for the next day or two.


This note he dried by sprinkling it with sand
from a box near at hand, signed with his own name,
and, with a fine courtesy, addressed to "Mrs. Molly
Walden."  Having first carefully sealed it in an
envelope, he stepped to the open door, and spied,
playing marbles on the street near by, a group
of negro boys, one of whom the judge called by
name.

"Here, Billy," he said, handing the boy the
note, "take this to Mis' Molly Walden.  Do you
know where she lives--down on Front Street, in
the house behind the cedars?"

"Yas, suh, I knows de place."

"Make haste, now.  When you come back and
tell me what she says, I'll give you ten cents.  On
second thoughts, I shall be gone to lunch, so
here's your money," he added, handing the lad
the bit of soiled paper by which the United States
government acknowledged its indebtedness to the
bearer in the sum of ten cents.

Just here, however, the judge made his mistake. 
Very few mortals can spare the spring of hope,
the motive force of expectation.  The boy kept
the note in his hand, winked at his companions,
who had gathered as near as their awe of the judge
would permit, and started down the street.  As
soon as the judge had disappeared, Billy beckoned
to his friends, who speedily overtook him.  When
the party turned the corner of Front Street and
were safely out of sight of Judge Straight's office,
the capitalist entered the grocery store and
invested his unearned increment in gingerbread. 
When the ensuing saturnalia was over, Billy
finished the game of marbles which the judge had
interrupted, and then set out to execute his
commission.  He had nearly reached his objective
point when he met upon the street a young white
lady, whom he did not know, and for whom, the
path being narrow at that point, he stepped out
into the gutter.  He reached the house behind
the cedars, went round to the back door, and
handed the envelope to Mis' Molly, who was
seated on the rear piazza, propped up by pillows
in a comfortable rocking-chair.

"Laws-a-massy!" she exclaimed weakly, "what
is it?"

"It's a lettuh, ma'm," answered the boy, whose
expanding nostrils had caught a pleasant odor
from the kitchen, and who was therefore in no
hurry to go away.

"Who's it fur?" she asked.

"It's fuh you, ma'm," replied the lad.

"An' who's it from?" she inquired, turning
the envelope over and over, and examining it with
the impotent curiosity of one who cannot read.

"F'm ole Jedge Straight, ma'm.  He tole me
ter fetch it ter you.  Is you got a roasted 'tater
you could gimme, ma'm?"

"Shorely, chile.  I'll have Aunt Zilphy fetch
you a piece of 'tater pone, if you'll hol' on a
minute."

She called to Aunt Zilphy, who soon came
hobbling out of the kitchen with a large square of
the delicacy,--a flat cake made of mashed sweet
potatoes, mixed with beaten eggs, sweetened and
flavored to suit the taste, and baked in a Dutch
oven upon the open hearth.

The boy took the gratuity, thanked her, and
turned to go.  Mis' Molly was still scanning the
superscription of the letter.  "I wonder," she
murmured, "what old Judge Straight can be writin'
to me about.  Oh, boy!"

"Yas 'm," answered the messenger, looking
back.

"Can you read writin'?"

"No 'm."

"All right.  Never mind."

She laid the letter carefully on the chimney-
piece of the kitchen.  "I reckon it's somethin'
mo' 'bout the taxes," she thought, "or maybe
somebody wants to buy one er my lots.  Rena'll
be back terreckly, an' she kin read it an' find out. 
I'm glad my child'en have be'n to school.  They
never could have got where they are now if they
hadn't."



XIV

A LOYAL FRIEND


Mention has been made of certain addressed
envelopes which John Warwick, on the occasion
of his visit to Patesville, had left with his
illiterate mother, by the use of which she might
communicate with her children from time to time. 
On one occasion, Mis' Molly, having had a letter
written, took one of these envelopes from the chest
where she kept her most valued possessions, and
was about to inclose the letter when some one
knocked at the back door.  She laid the envelope
and letter on a table in her bedroom, and went to
answer the knock.  The wind, blowing across the
room through the open windows, picked up the
envelope and bore it into the street.  Mis' Molly,
on her return, missed it, looked for it, and being
unable to find it, took another envelope.  An hour
or two later another gust of wind lifted the bit
of paper from the ground and carried it into the
open door of the cooper shop.  Frank picked it
up, and observing that it was clean and unused,
read the superscription.  In his conversations with
Mis' Molly, which were often about Rena,--the
subject uppermost in both their minds,--he had
noted the mystery maintained by Mis' Molly about
her daughter's whereabouts, and had often wondered
where she might be.  Frank was an intelligent
fellow, and could put this and that together. 
The envelope was addressed to a place in South
Carolina.  He was aware, from some casual remark
of Mis' Molly's, that Rena had gone to live
in South Carolina.  Her son's name was John--
that he had changed his last name was more than
likely.  Frank was not long in reaching the
conclusion that Rena was to be found near the town
named on the envelope, which he carefully preserved
for future reference.

For a whole year Frank had yearned for a smile
or a kind word from the only woman in the world. 
Peter, his father, had rallied him somewhat upon
his moodiness after Rena's departure.

"Now 's de time, boy, fer you ter be lookin'
roun' fer some nice gal er yo' own color, w'at'll
'preciate you, an' won't be 'shamed er you.  You're
wastin' time, boy, wastin' time, shootin' at a mark
outer yo' range."

But Frank said nothing in reply, and afterwards
the old man, who was not without discernment,
respected his son's mood and was silent in turn;
while Frank fed his memory with his imagination,
and by their joint aid kept hope alive.

Later an opportunity to see her presented itself. 
Business in the cooper shop was dull.  A barrel
factory had been opened in the town, and had
well-nigh paralyzed the cooper's trade.  The best
mechanic could hardly compete with a machine. 
One man could now easily do the work of Peter's
shop.  An agent appeared in town seeking laborers
for one of the railroads which the newly organized
carpet-bag governments were promoting. 
Upon inquiry Frank learned that their destination
was near the town of Clarence, South Carolina. 
He promptly engaged himself for the service, and
was soon at work in the neighborhood of Warwick's
home.  There he was employed steadily
until a certain holiday, upon which a grand
tournament was advertised to take place in a
neighboring town.  Work was suspended, and foremen and
laborers attended the festivities.

Frank had surmised that Rena would be present
on such an occasion.  He had more than guessed,
too, that she must be looked for among the white
people rather than among the black.  Hence the
interest with which he had scanned the grand stand. 
The result has already been recounted.  He had
recognized her sweet face; he had seen her
enthroned among the proudest and best.  He had
witnessed and gloried in her triumph.  He had seen
her cheek flushed with pleasure, her eyes lit up with
smiles.  He had followed her carriage, had made
the acquaintance of Mimy the nurse, and had
learned all about the family.  When finally he left
the neighborhood to return to Patesville, he had
learned of Tryon's attentions, and had heard the
servants' gossip with reference to the marriage,
of which they knew the details long before the
principals had approached the main fact.  Frank
went away without having received one smile or
heard one word from Rena; but he had seen her:
she was happy; he was content in the knowledge of
her happiness.  She was doubtless secure in the
belief that her secret was unknown.  Why should he,
by revealing his presence, sow the seeds of doubt
or distrust in the garden of her happiness?  He
sacrificed the deepest longing of a faithful heart,
and went back to the cooper shop lest perchance she
might accidentally come upon him some day and
suffer the shock which he had sedulously spared her.

"I would n' want ter skeer her," he mused, "er
make her feel bad, an' dat's w'at I'd mos' lackly do
ef she seed me.  She'll be better off wid me out'n
de road.  She'll marry dat rich w'ite gent'eman,--
he won't never know de diffe'nce,--an' be a w'ite
lady, ez she would 'a' be'n, ef some ole witch had n'
changed her in her cradle.  But maybe some time
she'll 'member de little nigger w'at use' ter nuss
her w'en she woz a chile, an' fished her out'n de ole
canal, an' would 'a' died fer her ef it would 'a' done
any good."

Very generously too, and with a fine delicacy,
he said nothing to Mis' Molly of his having seen
her daughter, lest she might be disquieted by the
knowledge that he shared the family secret,--no
great mystery now, this pitiful secret, but more far-
reaching in its consequences than any blood-curdling
crime.  The taint of black blood was the unpardonable
sin, from the unmerited penalty of which there
was no escape except by concealment.  If there be
a dainty reader of this tale who scorns a lie, and
who writes the story of his life upon his sleeve for
all the world to read, let him uncurl his scornful
lip and come down from the pedestal of superior
morality, to which assured position and wide
opportunity have lifted him, and put himself in the
place of Rena and her brother, upon whom God had
lavished his best gifts, and from whom society would
have withheld all that made these gifts valuable. 
To undertake what they tried to do required great
courage.  Had they possessed the sneaking, cringing,
treacherous character traditionally ascribed
to people of mixed blood--the character which the
blessed institutions of a free slave-holding republic
had been well adapted to foster among them; had
they been selfish enough to sacrifice to their
ambition the mother who gave them birth, society would
have been placated or humbugged, and the voyage
of their life might have been one of unbroken
smoothness.

When Rena came back unexpectedly at the
behest of her dream, Frank heard again the music
of her voice, felt the joy of her presence and the
benison of her smile.  There was, however, a subtle
difference in her bearing.  Her words were not less
kind, but they seemed to come from a remoter
source.  She was kind, as the sun is warm or the
rain refreshing; she was especially kind to Frank,
because he had been good to her mother.  If Frank
felt the difference in her attitude, he ascribed it to
the fact that she had been white, and had taken on
something of the white attitude toward the negro;
and Frank, with an equal unconsciousness, clothed
her with the attributes of the superior race.  Only
her drop of black blood, he conceived, gave him the
right to feel toward her as he would never have
felt without it; and if Rena guessed her faithful
devotee's secret, the same reason saved his worship
from presumption.  A smile and a kind word were
little enough to pay for a life's devotion.

On the third day of Rena's presence in Patesville,
Frank was driving up Front Street in the
early afternoon, when he nearly fell off his cart
in astonishment as he saw seated in Dr. Green's
buggy, which was standing in front of the Patesville
Hotel, the young gentleman who had won the
prize at the tournament, and who, as he had learned,
was to marry Rena.  Frank was quite certain that
she did not know of Tryon's presence in the town. 
Frank had been over to Mis' Molly's in the morning,
and had offered his services to the sick woman,
who had rapidly become convalescent upon her
daughter's return.  Mis' Molly had spoken of some
camphor that she needed.  Frank had volunteered
to get it.  Rena had thanked him, and had spoken
of going to the drugstore during the afternoon.  It
was her intention to leave Patesville on the following day.

"Ef dat man sees her in dis town," said Frank
to himself, "dere'll be trouble.  She don't know
HE'S here, an' I'll bet he don't know SHE'S here."

Then Frank was assailed by a very strong
temptation.  If, as he surmised, the joint presence of the
two lovers in Patesville was a mere coincidence, a
meeting between them would probably result in the
discovery of Rena's secret.

"If she's found out," argued the tempter,
"she'll come back to her mother, and you can see
her every day."

But Frank's love was not of the selfish kind. 
He put temptation aside, and applied the whip to
the back of his mule with a vigor that astonished the
animal and moved him to unwonted activity.  In
an unusually short space of time he drew up before
Mis' Molly's back gate, sprang from the cart, and
ran up to Mis' Molly on the porch.

"Is Miss Rena here?" he demanded breathlessly.

"No, Frank; she went up town 'bout an hour ago
to see the doctor an' git me some camphor gum."

Frank uttered a groan, rushed from the house,
sprang into the cart, and goaded the terrified mule
into a gallop that carried him back to the market
house in half the time it had taken him to reach
Mis' Molly's.

"I wonder what in the worl 's the matter with
Frank," mused Mis' Molly, in vague alarm.  "Ef
he hadn't be'n in such a hurry, I'd 'a' axed him
to read Judge Straight's letter.  But Rena'll be
home soon."

When Frank reached the doctor's office, he saw
Tryon seated in the doctor's buggy, which was
standing by the window of the drugstore.  Frank
ran upstairs and asked the doctor's man if Miss
Walden had been there.

"Yas," replied Dave, "she wuz here a little
w'ile ago, an' said she wuz gwine downstairs ter de
drugsto'.  I would n' be s'prise' ef you'd fin' her
dere now."



XV

MINE OWN PEOPLE


The drive by which Dr. Green took Tryon to
his own house led up Front Street about a mile, to
the most aristocratic portion of the town, situated
on the hill known as Haymount, or, more briefly,
"The Hill."  The Hill had lost some of its former
glory, however, for the blight of a four years' war
was everywhere.  After reaching the top of this
wooded eminence, the road skirted for some little
distance the brow of the hill.  Below them lay the
picturesque old town, a mass of vivid green, dotted
here and there with gray roofs that rose above the
tree-tops.  Two long ribbons of streets stretched
away from the Hill to the faint red line that marked
the high bluff beyond the river at the farther side
of the town.  The market-house tower and the
slender spires of half a dozen churches were sharply
outlined against the green background.  The face
of the clock was visible, but the hours could have
been read only by eyes of phenomenal sharpness. 
Around them stretched ruined walls, dismantled
towers, and crumbling earthworks--footprints of
the god of war, one of whose temples had crowned
this height.  For many years before the rebellion a
Federal arsenal had been located at Patesville. 
Seized by the state troops upon the secession of
North Carolina, it had been held by the Confederates
until the approach of Sherman's victorious
army, whereupon it was evacuated and partially
destroyed.  The work of destruction begun by the
retreating garrison was completed by the conquerors,
and now only ruined walls and broken cannon
remained of what had once been the chief ornament
and pride of Patesville.

The front of Dr. Green's spacious brick house,
which occupied an ideally picturesque site, was
overgrown by a network of clinging vines,
contrasting most agreeably with the mellow red
background.  A low brick wall, also overrun with
creepers, separated the premises from the street
and shut in a well-kept flower garden, in which
Tryon, who knew something of plants, noticed
many rare and beautiful specimens.

Mrs. Green greeted Tryon cordially.  He did
not have the doctor's memory with which to fill out
the lady's cheeks or restore the lustre of her hair
or the sparkle of her eyes, and thereby justify her
husband's claim to be a judge of beauty; but her
kind-hearted hospitality was obvious, and might
have made even a plain woman seem handsome. 
She and her two fair daughters, to whom Tryon
was duly presented, looked with much favor upon
their handsome young kinsman; for among the
people of Patesville, perhaps by virtue of the
prevalence of Scottish blood, the ties of blood were
cherished as things of value, and never forgotten
except in case of the unworthy--an exception, by
the way, which one need hardly go so far to seek.

The Patesville people were not exceptional in
the weaknesses and meannesses which are common
to all mankind, but for some of the finer social
qualities they were conspicuously above the average. 
Kindness, hospitality, loyalty, a chivalrous
deference to women,--all these things might be
found in large measure by those who saw Patesville
with the eyes of its best citizens, and accepted
their standards of politics, religion, manners, and
morals.

The doctor, after the introductions, excused
himself for a moment.  Mrs. Green soon left
Tryon with the young ladies and went to look
after luncheon.  Her first errand, however, was
to find the doctor.

"Is he well off, Ed?" she asked her husband.

"Lots of land, and plenty of money, if he is
ever able to collect it.  He has inherited two
estates."

"He's a good-looking fellow," she mused.  "Is
he married?"

"There you go again," replied her husband,
shaking his forefinger at her in mock reproach. 
"To a woman with marriageable daughters all
roads lead to matrimony, the centre of a woman's
universe.  All men must be sized up by their
matrimonial availability.  No, he isn't married."

"That's nice," she rejoined reflectively.  "I
think we ought to ask him to stay with us while he
is in town, don't you?"

"He's not married," rejoined the doctor slyly,
"but the next best thing--he's engaged."

"Come to think of it," said the lady, "I'm
afraid we wouldn't have the room to spare, and
the girls would hardly have time to entertain him. 
But we'll have him up several times.  I like his
looks.  I wish you had sent me word he was coming;
I'd have had a better luncheon."

"Make him a salad," rejoined the doctor, "and
get out a bottle of the best claret.  Thank God,
the Yankees didn't get into my wine cellar!  The
young man must be treated with genuine Southern
hospitality,--even if he were a Mormon and married
ten times over."

"Indeed, he would not, Ed,--the idea!  I'm
ashamed of you.  Hurry back to the parlor and
talk to him.  The girls may want to primp a little
before luncheon; we don't have a young man
every day."

"Beauty unadorned," replied the doctor, "is
adorned the most.  My profession qualifies me to
speak upon the subject.  They are the two handsomest
young women in Patesville, and the daughters
of the most beautiful"--

"Don't you dare to say the word," interrupted
Mrs. Green, with placid good nature.  "I shall
never grow old while I am living with a big boy
like you.  But I must go and make the salad."

At dinner the conversation ran on the family
connections and their varying fortunes in the late
war.  Some had died upon the battlefield, and
slept in unknown graves; some had been financially
ruined by their faith in the "lost cause,"
having invested their all in the securities of the
Confederate Government.  Few had anything left
but land, and land without slaves to work it was a
drug in the market.

"I was offered a thousand acres, the other day,
at twenty-five cents an acre," remarked the doctor. 
"The owner is so land-poor that he can't
pay the taxes.  They have taken our negroes and
our liberties.  It may be better for our grandchildren
that the negroes are free, but it's confoundedly
hard on us to take them without paying
for them.  They may exalt our slaves over us
temporarily, but they have not broken our spirit,
and cannot take away our superiority of blood and
breeding.  In time we shall regain control.  The
negro is an inferior creature; God has marked
him with the badge of servitude, and has adjusted
his intellect to a servile condition.  We will not
long submit to his domination.  I give you a
toast, sir:  The Anglo-Saxon race: may it remain
forever, as now, the head and front of creation,
never yielding its rights, and ready always to die,
if need be, in defense of its liberties!"

"With all my heart, sir," replied Tryon, who
felt in this company a thrill of that pleasure which
accompanies conscious superiority,--"with all my
heart, sir, if the ladies will permit me."

"We will join you," they replied.  The toast
was drunk with great enthusiasm.

"And now, my dear George," exclaimed the
doctor, "to change one good subject for another,
tell us who is the favored lady?"

"A Miss Rowena Warwick, sir," replied Tryon,
vividly conscious of four pairs of eyes fixed upon
him, but, apart from the momentary embarrassment,
welcoming the subject as the one he would
most like to speak upon.

"A good, strong old English name," observed
the doctor.

"The heroine of `Ivanhoe'!" exclaimed Miss
Harriet.

"Warwick the Kingmaker!" said Miss Mary. 
"Is she tall and fair, and dignified and stately?"

"She is tall, dark rather than fair, and full of
tender grace and sweet humility."

"She should have been named Rebecca instead
of Rowena," rejoined Miss Mary, who was well up
in her Scott.

"Tell us something about her people," asked
Mrs. Green,--to which inquiry the young ladies
looked assent.

In this meeting of the elect of his own class and
kin Warwick felt a certain strong illumination
upon the value of birth and blood.  Finding Rena
among people of the best social standing, the
subsequent intimation that she was a girl of no family
had seemed a small matter to one so much in love. 
Nevertheless, in his present company he felt a
decided satisfaction in being able to present for his
future wife a clean bill of social health.

"Her brother is the most prominent lawyer of
Clarence.  They live in a fine old family mansion,
and are among the best people of the town."

"Quite right, my boy," assented the doctor. 
"None but the best are good enough for the best. 
You must bring her to Patesville some day.  But
bless my life!" he exclaimed, looking at his
watch, "I must be going.  Will you stay with the
ladies awhile, or go back down town with me?"

"I think I had better go with you, sir.  I shall
have to see Judge Straight."

"Very well.  But you must come back to supper,
and we'll have a few friends in to meet you. 
You must see some of the best people."

The doctor's buggy was waiting at the gate. 
As they were passing the hotel on their drive
down town, the clerk came out to the curbstone
and called to the doctor.

"There's a man here, doctor, who's been taken
suddenly ill.  Can you come in a minute?"

"I suppose I'll have to.  Will you wait for
me here, George, or will you drive down to the
office?  I can walk the rest of the way."

"I think I'll wait here, doctor," answered
Tryon.  "I'll step up to my room a moment.  I'll
be back by the time you're ready."

It was while they were standing before the hotel,
before alighting from the buggy, that Frank
Fowler, passing on his cart, saw Tryon and set out
as fast as he could to warn Mis' Molly and her
daughter of his presence in the town.

Tryon went up to his room, returned after a
while, and resumed his seat in the buggy, where
he waited fifteen minutes longer before the doctor
was ready.  When they drew up in front of the
office, the doctor's man Dave was standing in the
doorway, looking up the street with an anxious
expression, as though struggling hard to keep
something upon his mind.

"Anything wanted, Dave?" asked the doctor.

"Dat young 'oman's be'n heah ag'in, suh, an'
wants ter see you bad.  She's in de drugstore dere
now, suh.  Bless Gawd!" he added to himself
fervently, "I 'membered dat.  Dis yer recommemb'ance
er mine is gwine ter git me inter trouble ef
I don' look out, an' dat's a fac', sho'."

The doctor sprang from the buggy with an
agility remarkable in a man of sixty.  "Just keep
your seat, George," he said to Tryon, "until I
have spoken to the young woman, and then we'll
go across to Straight's.  Or, if you'll drive along
a little farther, you can see the girl through the
window.  She's worth the trouble, if you like a
pretty face."

Tryon liked one pretty face; moreover, tinted
beauty had never appealed to him.  More to show
a proper regard for what interested the doctor than
from any curiosity of his own, he drove forward a
few feet, until the side of the buggy was opposite
the drugstore window, and then looked in.

Between the colored glass bottles in the window
he could see a young woman, a tall and slender girl,
like a lily on its stem.  She stood talking with the
doctor, who held his hat in his hand with as much
deference as though she were the proudest dame
in town.  Her face was partly turned away from
the window, but as Tryon's eye fell upon her, he
gave a great start.  Surely, no two women could be
so much alike.  The height, the graceful droop of the
shoulders, the swan-like poise of the head, the well-
turned little ear,--surely, no two women could
have them all identical!  But, pshaw! the notion
was absurd, it was merely the reflex influence of
his morning's dream.

She moved slightly; it was Rena's movement. 
Surely he knew the gown, and the style of hair-
dressing!  She rested her hand lightly on the
back of a chair.  The ring that glittered on her
finger could be none other than his own.

The doctor bowed.  The girl nodded in response,
and, turning, left the store.  Tryon leaned forward
from the buggy-seat and kept his eye fixed on the
figure that moved across the floor of the drugstore. 
As she came out, she turned her face casually
toward the buggy, and there could no longer be
any doubt as to her identity.

When Rena's eyes fell upon the young man in
the buggy, she saw a face as pale as death, with
starting eyes, in which love, which once had
reigned there, had now given place to astonishment
and horror.  She stood a moment as if turned to
stone.  One appealing glance she gave,--a look
that might have softened adamant.  When she
saw that it brought no answering sign of love or
sorrow or regret, the color faded from her cheek,
the light from her eye, and she fell fainting to the
ground.



XVI

THE BOTTOM FALLS OUT


The first effect of Tryon's discovery was,
figuratively speaking, to knock the bottom out of things
for him.  It was much as if a boat on which he
had been floating smoothly down the stream of
pleasure had sunk suddenly and left him struggling
in deep waters.  The full realization of the truth,
which followed speedily, had for the moment reversed
his mental attitude toward her, and love
and yearning had given place to anger and
disgust.  His agitation could hardly have escaped
notice had not the doctor's attention, and that of
the crowd that quickly gathered, been absorbed by
the young woman who had fallen.  During the
time occupied in carrying her into the drugstore,
restoring her to consciousness, and sending her
home in a carriage, Tryon had time to recover in
some degree his self-possession.  When Rena had
been taken home, he slipped away for a long walk,
after which he called at Judge Straight's office and
received the judge's report upon the matter
presented.  Judge Straight had found the claim, in
his opinion, a good one; he had discovered property
from which, in case the claim were allowed,
the amount might be realized.  The judge, who had
already been informed of the incident at the drugstore,
observed Tryon's preoccupation and guessed
shrewdly at its cause, but gave no sign.  Tryon
left the matter of the note unreservedly in the
lawyer's hands, with instructions to communicate
to him any further developments.

Returning to the doctor's office, Tryon listened
to that genial gentleman's comments on the accident,
his own concern in which he, by a great effort,
was able to conceal.  The doctor insisted upon his
returning to the Hill for supper.  Tryon pleaded
illness.  The doctor was solicitous, felt his pulse,
examined his tongue, pronounced him feverish, and
prescribed a sedative.  Tryon sought refuge in his
room at the hotel, from which he did not emerge
again until morning.

His emotions were varied and stormy.  At first
he could see nothing but the fraud of which he had
been made the victim.  A negro girl had been
foisted upon him for a white woman, and he had
almost committed the unpardonable sin against his
race of marrying her.  Such a step, he felt, would
have been criminal at any time; it would have
been the most odious treachery at this epoch, when
his people had been subjugated and humiliated by
the Northern invaders, who had preached negro
equality and abolished the wholesome laws decreeing
the separation of the races.  But no Southerner
who loved his poor, downtrodden country, or
his race, the proud Anglo-Saxon race which traced
the clear stream of its blood to the cavaliers of
England, could tolerate the idea that even in distant
generations that unsullied current could be
polluted by the blood of slaves.  The very thought
was an insult to the white people of the South. 
For Tryon's liberality, of which he had spoken so
nobly and so sincerely, had been confined unconsciously,
and as a matter of course, within the boundaries
of his own race.  The Southern mind, in
discussing abstract questions relative to humanity,
makes always, consciously or unconsciously, the
mental reservation that the conclusions reached do
not apply to the negro, unless they can be made to
harmonize with the customs of the country.

But reasoning thus was not without effect upon
a mind by nature reasonable above the average. 
Tryon's race impulse and social prejudice had
carried him too far, and the swing of the mental
pendulum brought his thoughts rapidly back in
the opposite direction.  Tossing uneasily on the
bed, where he had thrown himself down without
undressing, the air of the room oppressed him, and
he threw open the window.  The cool night air
calmed his throbbing pulses.  The moonlight,
streaming through the window, flooded the room
with a soft light, in which he seemed to see Rena
standing before him, as she had appeared that
afternoon, gazing at him with eyes that implored
charity and forgiveness.  He burst into tears,--
bitter tears, that strained his heartstrings.  He
was only a youth.  She was his first love, and he
had lost her forever.  She was worse than dead
to him; for if he had seen her lying in her shroud
before him, he could at least have cherished her
memory; now, even this consolation was denied
him.

The town clock--which so long as it was wound
up regularly recked nothing of love or hate, joy or
sorrow--solemnly tolled out the hour of midnight
and sounded the knell of his lost love.  Lost she
was, as though she had never been, as she had
indeed had no right to be.  He resolutely determined
to banish her image from his mind.  See
her again he could not; it would be painful to
them both; it could be productive of no good to
either.  He had felt the power and charm of love,
and no ordinary shook could have loosened its
hold; but this catastrophe, which had so rudely
swept away the groundwork of his passion, had
stirred into new life all the slumbering pride of
race and ancestry which characterized his caste. 
How much of this sensitive superiority was essential
and how much accidental; how much of it
was due to the ever-suggested comparison with a
servile race; how much of it was ignorance and
self-conceit; to what extent the boasted purity of
his race would have been contaminated by the fair
woman whose image filled his memory,--of these
things he never thought.  He was not influenced
by sordid considerations; he would have denied
that his course was controlled by any narrow
prudence.  If Rena had been white, pure white (for
in his creed there was no compromise), he would
have braved any danger for her sake.  Had she
been merely of illegitimate birth, he would have
overlooked the bar sinister.  Had her people
been simply poor and of low estate, he would have
brushed aside mere worldly considerations, and
would have bravely sacrificed convention for love;
for his liberality was not a mere form of words. 
But the one objection which he could not overlook
was, unhappily, the one that applied to the only
woman who had as yet moved his heart.  He tried
to be angry with her, but after the first hour he
found it impossible.  He was a man of too much
imagination not to be able to put himself, in some
measure at least, in her place,--to perceive that for
her the step which had placed her in Tryon's world
was the working out of nature's great law of self-
preservation, for which he could not blame her. 
But for the sheerest accident,--no, rather, but for
a providential interference,--he would have married
her, and might have gone to the grave unconscious
that she was other than she seemed.

The clock struck the hour of two.  With a
shiver he closed the window, undressed by the
moonlight, drew down the shade, and went to bed. 
He fell into an unquiet slumber, and dreamed
again of Rena.  He must learn to control his
waking thoughts; his dreams could not be curbed. 
In that realm Rena's image was for many a day
to remain supreme.  He dreamed of her sweet
smile, her soft touch, her gentle voice.  In all her
fair young beauty she stood before him, and then
by some hellish magic she was slowly transformed
into a hideous black hag.  With agonized eyes he
watched her beautiful tresses become mere wisps
of coarse wool, wrapped round with dingy cotton
strings; he saw her clear eyes grow bloodshot,
her ivory teeth turn to unwholesome fangs.  With
a shudder he awoke, to find the cold gray dawn
of a rainy day stealing through the window.

He rose, dressed himself, went down to
breakfast, then entered the writing-room and penned a
letter which, after reading it over, he tore into
small pieces and threw into the waste basket.  A
second shared the same fate.  Giving up the task,
he left the hotel and walked down to Dr. Green's
office.

"Is the doctor in?" he asked of the colored
attendant.

"No, suh," replied the man; "he's gone ter see
de young cullud gal w'at fainted w'en de doctah
was wid you yistiddy."

Tryon sat down at the doctor's desk and hastily
scrawled a note, stating that business compelled
his immediate departure.  He thanked the doctor
for courtesies extended, and left his regards for
the ladies.  Returning.  to the hotel, he paid his
bill and took a hack for the wharf, from which a
boat was due to leave at nine o'clock.

As the hack drove down Front Street, Tryon
noted idly the houses that lined the street.  When
he reached the sordid district in the lower part of
the town, there was nothing to attract his
attention until the carriage came abreast of a row of
cedar-trees, beyond which could be seen the upper
part of a large house with dormer windows.  Before
the gate stood a horse and buggy, which Tryon
thought he recognized as Dr. Green's.  He leaned
forward and addressed the driver.

"Can you tell me who lives there?" Tryon
asked, pointing to the house.

"A callud 'oman, suh," the man replied,
touching his hat.  "Mis' Molly Walden an' her daughter
Rena."

The vivid impression he received of this house,
and the spectre that rose before him of a pale,
broken-hearted girl within its gray walls, weeping
for a lost lover and a vanished dream of happiness,
did not argue well for Tryon's future peace of
mind.  Rena's image was not to be easily expelled
from his heart; for the laws of nature are higher
and more potent than merely human institutions,
and upon anything like a fair field are likely to
win in the long ran.



XVII

TWO LETTERS


Warwick awaited events with some calmness
and some philosophy,--he could hardly have had
the one without the other; and it required much
philosophy to make him wait a week in patience
for information upon a subject in which he was so
vitally interested.  The delay pointed to disaster. 
Bad news being expected, delay at least put off
the evil day.  At the end of the week he received
two letters,--one addressed in his own hand
writing and postmarked Patesville, N. C.; the
other in the handwriting of George Tryon.  He
opened the Patesville letter, which ran as follows:--


MY DEAR SON,--Frank is writing this letter
for me.  I am not well, but, thank the Lord, I
am better than I was.

Rena has had a heap of trouble on account of
me and my sickness.  If I could of dreamt that I
was going to do so much harm, I would of died and
gone to meet my God without writing one word to
spoil my girl's chances in life; but I didn't know
what was going to happen, and I hope the Lord
will forgive me.

Frank knows all about it, and so I am having
him write this letter for me, as Rena is not well
enough yet.  Frank has been very good to me
and to Rena.  He was down to your place and
saw Rena there, and never said a word about it to
nobody, not even to me, because he didn't want
to do Rena no harm.  Frank is the best friend I
have got in town, because he does so much for me
and don't want nothing in return.  (He tells me
not to put this in about him, but I want you to
know it.)

And now about Rena.  She come to see me,
and I got better right away, for it was longing for
her as much as anything else that made me sick,
and I was mighty mizzable.  When she had been
here three days and was going back next day, she
went up town to see the doctor for me, and while
she was up there she fainted and fell down in the
street, and Dr. Green sent her home in his buggy
and come down to see her.  He couldn't tell what
was the matter with her, but she has been sick ever
since and out of her head some of the time, and
keeps on calling on somebody by the name of
George, which was the young white man she told
me she was going to marry.  It seems he was in
town the day Rena was took sick, for Frank saw
him up street and run all the way down here to tell
me, so that she could keep out of his way, while she
was still up town waiting for the doctor and getting
me some camphor gum for my camphor bottle.  Old
Judge Straight must have knowed something about
it, for he sent me a note to keep Rena in the house,
but the little boy he sent it by didn't bring it till
Rena was already gone up town, and, as I couldn't
read, of course I didn't know what it said.  Dr.
Green heard Rena running on while she was out of
her head, and I reckon he must have suspicioned
something, for he looked kind of queer and went
away without saying nothing.  Frank says she met
this man on the street, and when he found out she
wasn't white, he said or done something that broke
her heart and she fainted and fell down.

I am writing you this letter because I know you
will be worrying about Rena not coming back.  If
it wasn't for Frank, I hardly know how I could
write to you.  Frank is not going to say nothing
about Rena's passing for white and meeting this
man, and neither am I; and I don't suppose Judge
Straight will say nothing, because he is our good
friend; and Dr. Green won't say nothing about it,
because Frank says Dr. Green's cook Nancy says
this young man named George stopped with him
and was some cousin or relation to the family, and
they wouldn't want people to know that any of their
kin was thinking about marrying a colored girl,
and the white folks have all been mad since J. B.
Thompson married his black housekeeper when she
got religion and wouldn't live with him no more.

All the rest of the connection are well.  I have
just been in to see how Rena is.  She is feeling
some better, I think, and says give you her love
and she will write you a letter in a few days, as
soon as she is well enough.  She bust out crying
while she was talking, but I reckon that is better
than being out of her head.  I hope this may find
you well, and that this man of Rena's won't say
nor do nothing down there to hurt you.  He has
not wrote to Rena nor sent her no word.  I reckon
he is very mad.
             Your affectionate mother,
                         MARY WALDEN.


This letter, while confirming Warwick's fears,
relieved his suspense.  He at least knew the worst,
unless there should be something still more disturbing
in Tryon's letter, which he now proceeded to
open, and which ran as follows:--


JOHN WARWICK, ESQ.

Dear Sir,--When I inform you, as you are
doubtless informed ere the receipt of this, that I
saw your sister in Patesville last week and learned
the nature of those antecedents of yours and hers
at which you hinted so obscurely in a recent
conversation, you will not be surprised to learn that
I take this opportunity of renouncing any pretensions
to Miss Warwick's hand, and request you to
convey this message to her, since it was through
you that I formed her acquaintance.  I think
perhaps that few white men would deem it necessary
to make an explanation under the circumstances,
and I do not know that I need say more than
that no one, considering where and how I met your
sister, would have dreamed of even the possibility
of what I have learned.  I might with justice
reproach you for trifling with the most sacred
feelings of a man's heart; but I realize the hardship
of your position and hers, and can make allowances. 
I would never have sought to know this thing; I
would doubtless have been happier had I gone
through life without finding it out; but having the
knowledge, I cannot ignore it, as you must understand
perfectly well.  I regret that she should be
distressed or disappointed,--she has not suffered
alone.

I need scarcely assure you that I shall say
nothing about this affair, and that I shall keep
your secret as though it were my own.  Personally,
I shall never be able to think of you as other than
a white man, as you may gather from the tone of
this letter; and while I cannot marry your sister,
I wish her every happiness, and remain,
             Yours very truly,
                    GEORGE TRYON.


Warwick could not know that this formal epistle
was the last of a dozen that Tryon had written and
destroyed during the week since the meeting in
Patesville,--hot, blistering letters, cold, cutting
letters, scornful, crushing letters.  Though none of
them was sent, except this last, they had furnished
a safety-valve for his emotions, and had left him in
a state of mind that permitted him to write the
foregoing.

And now, while Rena is recovering from her
illness, and Tryon from his love, and while Fate is
shuffling the cards for another deal, a few words
may be said about the past life of the people who
lived in the rear of the flower garden, in the quaint
old house beyond the cedars, and how their lives
were mingled with those of the men and women
around them and others that were gone.  For connected
with our kind we must be; if not by our
virtues, then by our vices,--if not by our services,
at least by our needs.



XVIII

UNDER THE OLD REGIME


For many years before the civil war there had
lived, in the old house behind the cedars, a free
colored woman who went by the name of Molly
Walden--her rightful name, for her parents
were free-born and legally married.  She was a tall
woman, straight as an arrow.  Her complexion in
youth was of an old ivory tint, which at the period
of this story, time had darkened measurably.  Her
black eyes, now faded, had once sparkled with the
fire of youth.  High cheek-bones, straight black
hair, and a certain dignified reposefulness of manner
pointed to an aboriginal descent.  Tradition
gave her to the negro race.  Doubtless she had a
strain of each, with white blood very visibly
predominating over both.  In Louisiana or the West
Indies she would have been called a quadroon, or
more loosely, a creole; in North Carolina, where
fine distinctions were not the rule in matters
of color, she was sufficiently differentiated when
described as a bright mulatto.

Molly's free birth carried with it certain
advantages, even in the South before the war.  Though
degraded from its high estate, and shorn of its
choicest attributes, the word "freedom" had
nevertheless a cheerful sound, and described a
condition that left even to colored people who could
claim it some liberty of movement and some control
of their own persons.  They were not citizens,
yet they were not slaves.  No negro, save in books,
ever refused freedom; many of them ran frightful
risks to achieve it.  Molly's parents were of the
class, more numerous in North Carolina than elsewhere,
known as "old issue free negroes," which
took its rise in the misty colonial period, when race
lines were not so closely drawn, and the population
of North Carolina comprised many Indians, runaway
negroes, and indentured white servants from
the seaboard plantations, who mingled their blood
with great freedom and small formality.  Free
colored people in North Carolina exercised the
right of suffrage as late as 1835, and some of them,
in spite of galling restrictions, attained to a
considerable degree of prosperity, and dreamed of a
still brighter future, when the growing tyranny of
the slave power crushed their hopes and crowded
the free people back upon the black mass just
beneath them.  Mis' Molly's father had been at
one time a man of some means.  In an evil hour,
with an overweening confidence in his fellow men,
he indorsed a note for a white man who, in a
moment of financial hardship, clapped his colored
neighbor on the back and called him brother.  Not
poverty, but wealth, is the most potent leveler. 
In due time the indorser was called upon to meet
the maturing obligation.  This was the beginning
of a series of financial difficulties which speedily
involved him in ruin.  He died prematurely, a
disappointed and disheartened man, leaving his family
in dire poverty.

His widow and surviving children lived on for
a little while at the house he had owned, just
outside of the town, on one of the main traveled roads. 
By the wayside, near the house, there was a famous
deep well.  The slim, barefoot girl, with sparkling
eyes and voluminous hair, who played about the
yard and sometimes handed water in a gourd to
travelers, did not long escape critical observation. 
A gentleman drove by one day, stopped at the
well, smiled upon the girl, and said kind words.  He
came again, more than once, and soon, while
scarcely more than a child in years, Molly was
living in her own house, hers by deed of gift, for
her protector was rich and liberal.  Her mother
nevermore knew want.  Her poor relations could
always find a meal in Molly's kitchen.  She did
not flaunt her prosperity in the world's face; she
hid it discreetly behind the cedar screen.  Those
who wished could know of it, for there were few
secrets in Patesville; those who chose could as
easily ignore it.  There were few to trouble
themselves about the secluded life of an obscure woman
of a class which had no recognized place in the
social economy.  She worshiped the ground upon
which her lord walked, was humbly grateful for
his protection, and quite as faithful as the forbidden
marriage vow could possibly have made her.  She
led her life in material peace and comfort, and
with a certain amount of dignity.  Of her false
relation to society she was not without some
vague conception; but the moral point involved
was so confused with other questions growing out
--of slavery and caste as to cause her, as a rule, but
little uneasiness; and only now and then, in the
moments of deeper feeling that come sometimes to
all who live and love, did there break through the
mists of ignorance and prejudice surrounding her
a flash of light by which she saw, so far as she
was capable of seeing, her true position, which in
the clear light of truth no special pleading could
entirely justify.  For she was free, she had not
the slave's excuse.  With every inducement to do
evil and few incentives to do well, and hence
entitled to charitable judgment, she yet had
freedom of choice, and therefore could not wholly
escape blame.  Let it be said, in further extenuation,
that no other woman lived in neglect or sorrow
because of her.  She robbed no one else.  For
what life gave her she returned an equivalent; and
what she did not pay, her children settled to the
last farthing.

Several years before the war, when Mis' Molly's
daughter Rena was a few years old, death had
suddenly removed the source of their prosperity.

The household was not left entirely destitute. 
Mis' Molly owned her home, and had a store of
gold pieces in the chest beneath her bed.  A small
piece of real estate stood in the name of each of
the children, the income from which contributed to
their maintenance.  Larger expectations were
dependent upon the discovery of a promised will,
which never came to light.  Mis' Molly wore black
for several years after this bereavement, until the
teacher and the preacher, following close upon the
heels of military occupation, suggested to the
colored people new standards of life and character, in
the light of which Mis' Molly laid her mourning
sadly and shamefacedly aside.  She had eaten of
the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  After the war
she formed the habit of church-going, and might
have been seen now and then, with her daughter, in
a retired corner of the gallery of the white Episcopal
church.  Upon the ground floor was a certain
pew which could be seen from her seat, where once
had sat a gentleman whose pleasures had not interfered
with the practice of his religion.  She might
have had a better seat in a church where a Northern
missionary would have preached a sermon better
suited to her comprehension and her moral needs,
but she preferred the other.  She was not white,
alas! she was shut out from this seeming paradise;
but she liked to see the distant glow of the celestial
city, and to recall the days when she had basked in
its radiance.  She did not sympathize greatly with
the new era opened up for the emancipated slaves;
she had no ideal love of liberty; she was no broader
and no more altruistic than the white people around
her, to whom she had always looked up; and she
sighed for the old days, because to her they had
been the good days.  Now, not only was her king
dead, but the shield of his memory protected her
no longer.

Molly had lost one child, and his grave was
visible from the kitchen window, under a small
clump of cedars in the rear of the two-acre lot. 
For even in the towns many a household had its
private cemetery in those old days when the living
were close to the dead, and ghosts were not the
mere chimeras of a sick imagination, but real
though unsubstantial entities, of which it was
almost disgraceful not to have seen one or two. 
Had not the Witch of Endor called up the shade
of Samuel the prophet?  Had not the spirit of
Mis' Molly's dead son appeared to her, as well
as the ghostly presence of another she had loved?

In 1855, Mis' Molly's remaining son had grown
into a tall, slender lad of fifteen, with his father's
patrician features and his mother's Indian hair,
and no external sign to mark him off from the
white boys on the street.  He soon came to know,
however, that there was a difference.  He was
informed one day that he was black.  He denied the
proposition and thrashed the child who made it. 
The scene was repeated the next day, with a
variation,--he was himself thrashed by a larger boy. 
When he had been beaten five or six times, he
ceased to argue the point, though to himself he
never admitted the charge.  His playmates might
call him black; the mirror proved that God, the
Father of all, had made him white; and God, he
had been taught, made no mistakes,--having
made him white, He must have meant him to be
white.

In the "hall" or parlor of his mother's house
stood a quaintly carved black walnut bookcase,
containing a small but remarkable collection of
books, which had at one time been used, in his
hours of retreat and relaxation from business and
politics, by the distinguished gentleman who did
not give his name to Mis' Molly's children,--to
whom it would have been a valuable heritage, could
they have had the right to bear it.  Among the
books were a volume of Fielding's complete works,
in fine print, set in double columns; a set of
Bulwer's novels; a collection of everything that Walter
Scott--the literary idol of the South--had ever
written; Beaumont and Fletcher's plays, cheek by
jowl with the history of the virtuous Clarissa
Harlowe; the Spectator and Tristram Shandy, Robinson
Crusoe and the Arabian Nights.  On these secluded
shelves Roderick Random, Don Quixote, and Gil
Blas for a long time ceased their wanderings, the
Pilgrim's Progress was suspended, Milton's mighty
harmonies were dumb, and Shakespeare reigned
over a silent kingdom.  An illustrated Bible, with a
wonderful Apocrypha, was flanked on one side by
Volney's Ruins of Empire and on the other by
Paine's Age of Reason, for the collector of the
books had been a man of catholic taste as well as
of inquiring mind, and no one who could have
criticised his reading ever penetrated behind the
cedar hedge.  A history of the French Revolution
consorted amiably with a homespun chronicle of
North Carolina, rich in biographical notices of
distinguished citizens and inscriptions from their
tombstones, upon reading which one might well
wonder why North Carolina had not long ago
eclipsed the rest of the world in wealth, wisdom,
glory, and renown.  On almost every page of this
monumental work could be found the most ardent
panegyrics of liberty, side by side with the slavery
statistics of the State,--an incongruity of which
the learned author was deliciously unconscious.

When John Walden was yet a small boy, he
had learned all that could be taught by the faded
mulatto teacher in the long, shiny black frock
coat, whom local public opinion permitted to teach
a handful of free colored children for a pittance
barely enough to keep soul and body together. 
When the boy had learned to read, he discovered
the library, which for several years had been
without a reader, and found in it the portal of a new
world, peopled with strange and marvelous beings. 
Lying prone upon the floor of the shaded front
piazza, behind the fragrant garden, he followed
the fortunes of Tom Jones and Sophia; he wept
over the fate of Eugene Aram; he penetrated with
Richard the Lion-heart into Saladin's tent, with
Gil Blas into the robbers' cave; he flew through
the air on the magic carpet or the enchanted horse,
or tied with Sindbad to the roc's leg.  Sometimes
he read or repeated the simpler stories to his little
sister, sitting wide-eyed by his side.  When he had
read all the books,--indeed, long before he had
read them all,--he too had tasted of the fruit of
the Tree of Knowledge: contentment took its flight,
and happiness lay far beyond the sphere where
he was born.  The blood of his white fathers, the
heirs of the ages, cried out for its own, and after
the manner of that blood set about getting the
object of its desire.

Near the corner of Mackenzie Street, just one
block north of the Patesville market-house, there
had stood for many years before the war, on the
verge of the steep bank of Beaver Creek, a small
frame office building, the front of which was level
with the street, while the rear rested on long brick
pillars founded on the solid rock at the edge of the
brawling stream below.  Here, for nearly half a
century, Archibald Straight had transacted legal
business for the best people of Northumberland
County.  Full many a lawsuit had he won, lost, or
settled; many a spendthrift had he saved from
ruin, and not a few families from disgrace.  Several
times honored by election to the bench, he
had so dispensed justice tempered with mercy as
to win the hearts of all good citizens, and
especially those of the poor, the oppressed, and the
socially disinherited.  The rights of the humblest
negro, few as they might be, were as sacred to
him as those of the proudest aristocrat, and he
had sentenced a man to be hanged for the murder
of his own slave.  An old-fashioned man, tall and
spare of figure and bowed somewhat with age, he
was always correctly clad in a long frock coat of
broadcloth, with a high collar and a black stock. 
Courtly in address to his social equals (superiors
he had none), he was kind and considerate to
those beneath him.  He owned a few domestic
servants, no one of whom had ever felt the weight
of his hand, and for whose ultimate freedom he
had provided in his will.  In the long-drawn-out
slavery agitation he had taken a keen interest,
rather as observer than as participant.  As the heat
of controversy increased, his lack of zeal for the
peculiar institution led to his defeat for the bench
by a more active partisan.  His was too just a
mind not to perceive the arguments on both sides;
but, on the whole, he had stood by the ancient
landmarks, content to let events drift to a conclusion
he did not expect to see; the institutions of
his fathers would probably last his lifetime.

One day Judge Straight was sitting in his
office reading a recently published pamphlet,--
presenting an elaborate pro-slavery argument, based
upon the hopeless intellectual inferiority of the
negro, and the physical and moral degeneration
of mulattoes, who combined the worst qualities of
their two ancestral races,--when a barefooted boy
walked into the office, straw hat in hand, came
boldly up to the desk at which the old judge was
sitting, and said as the judge looked up through
his gold-rimmed glasses,--

"Sir, I want to be a lawyer!"

"God bless me!" exclaimed the judge.  "It is
a singular desire, from a singular source, and
expressed in a singular way.  Who the devil are
you, sir, that wish so strange a thing as to become
a lawyer--everybody's servant?"

"And everybody's master, sir," replied the lad
stoutly.

"That is a matter of opinion, and open to
argument," rejoined the judge, amused and secretly
flattered by this tribute to his profession, "though
there may be a grain of truth in what you say. 
But what is your name, Mr. Would-be-lawyer?"

"John Walden, sir," answered the lad.

"John Walden?--Walden?" mused the judge.
"What Walden can that be?  Do you belong in
town?"

"Yes, sir."

"Humph!  I can't imagine who you are.  It's
plain that you are a lad of good blood, and yet I
don't know whose son you can be.  What is your
father's name?"

The lad hesitated, and flushed crimson.

The old gentleman noted his hesitation.  "It
is a wise son," he thought, "that knows his own
father.  He is a bright lad, and will have this
question put to him more than once.  I'll see
how he will answer it."

The boy maintained an awkward silence, while
the old judge eyed him keenly.

"My father's dead," he said at length, in a low
voice.  "I'm Mis' Molly Walden's son."  He
had expected, of course, to tell who he was, if
asked, but had not foreseen just the form of the
inquiry; and while he had thought more of his
race than of his illegitimate birth, he realized at
this moment as never before that this question too
would be always with him.  As put now by Judge
Straight, it made him wince.  He had not read his
father's books for nothing.

"God bless my soul!" exclaimed the judge in
genuine surprise at this answer; "and you want
to be a lawyer!"  The situation was so much
worse than he had suspected that even an old
practitioner, case-hardened by years of life at the
trial table and on the bench, was startled for a
moment into a comical sort of consternation, so
apparent that a lad less stout-hearted would have
weakened and fled at the sight of it.

"Yes, sir.  Why not?" responded the boy,
trembling a little at the knees, but stoutly holding
his ground.

"He wants to be a lawyer, and he asks me why
not!" muttered the judge, speaking apparently to
himself.  He rose from his chair, walked across
the room, and threw open a window.  The cool
morning air brought with it the babbling of the
stream below and the murmur of the mill near by. 
He glanced across the creek to the ruined foundation
of an old house on the low ground beyond the
creek.  Turning from the window, he looked back
at the boy, who had remained standing between
him and the door.  At that moment another lad
came along the street and stopped opposite the
open doorway.  The presence of the two boys in
connection with the book he had been reading
suggested a comparison.  The judge knew the lad
outside as the son of a leading merchant of the
town.  The merchant and his wife were both of
old families which had lived in the community
for several generations, and whose blood was
presumably of the purest strain; yet the boy
was sallow, with amorphous features, thin shanks,
and stooping shoulders.  The youth standing in
the judge's office, on the contrary, was straight,
shapely, and well-grown.  His eye was clear, and
he kept it fixed on the old gentleman with a look
in which there was nothing of cringing.  He was
no darker than many a white boy bronzed by the
Southern sun; his hair and eyes were black, and
his features of the high-bred, clean-cut order that
marks the patrician type the world over.  What
struck the judge most forcibly, however, was the
lad's resemblance to an old friend and companion
and client.  He recalled a certain conversation
with this old friend, who had said to him one day:

"Archie, I'm coming in to have you draw my
will.  There are some children for whom I would
like to make ample provision.  I can't give them
anything else, but money will make them free of
the world."

The judge's friend had died suddenly before
carrying out this good intention.  The judge had
taken occasion to suggest the existence of these
children, and their father's intentions concerning
them, to the distant relatives who had inherited
his friend's large estate.  They had chosen to take
offense at the suggestion.  One had thought it in
shocking bad taste; another considered any mention
of such a subject an insult to his cousin's
memory.  A third had said, with flashing eyes, that
the woman and her children had already robbed
the estate of enough; that it was a pity the little
niggers were not slaves--that they would have
added measurably to the value of the property. 
Judge Straight's manner indicated some disapproval
of their attitude, and the settlement of the estate
was placed in other hands than his.  Now, this son,
with his father's face and his father's voice, stood
before his father's friend, demanding entrance to
the golden gate of opportunity, which society barred
to all who bore the blood of the despised race.

As he kept on looking at the boy, who began at
length to grow somewhat embarrassed under this
keen scrutiny, the judge's mind reverted to certain
laws and judicial decisions that he had looked up
once or twice in his lifetime.  Even the law, the
instrument by which tyranny riveted the chains
upon its victims, had revolted now and then against
the senseless and unnatural prejudice by which a
race ascribing its superiority to right of blood
permitted a mere suspicion of servile blood to
outweigh a vast preponderance of its own.

"Why, indeed, should he not be a lawyer, or
anything else that a man might be, if it be in him?"
asked the judge, speaking rather to himself than
to the boy.  "Sit down," he ordered, pointing to
a chair on the other side of the room.  That he
should ask a colored lad to be seated in his presence
was of itself enough to stamp the judge as eccentric. 
"You want to be a lawyer," he went on, adjusting
his spectacles.  "You are aware, of course, that
you are a negro?"

"I am white," replied the lad, turning back his
sleeve and holding out his arm, "and I am free, as
all my people were before me."

The old lawyer shook his head, and fixed his eyes
upon the lad with a slightly quizzical smile.  "You
are black."  he said, "and you are not free.  You
cannot travel without your papers; you cannot
secure accommodations at an inn; you could not
vote, if you were of age; you cannot be out after
nine o'clock without a permit.  If a white man
struck you, you could not return the blow, and you
could not testify against him in a court of justice. 
You are black, my lad, and you are not free.  Did
you ever hear of the Dred Scott decision, delivered
by the great, wise, and learned Judge Taney?"

"No, sir," answered the boy.

"It is too long to read," rejoined the judge,
taking up the pamphlet he had laid down upon the
lad's entrance, "but it says in substance, as quoted
by this author, that negroes are beings `of an
inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate
with the white race, either in social or political
relations; in fact, so inferior that they have no
rights which the white man is bound to respect, and
that the negro may justly and lawfully be reduced
to slavery for his benefit.'  That is the law of
this nation, and that is the reason why you cannot
be a lawyer."

"It may all be true," replied the boy, "but it
don't apply to me.  It says `the negro.'  A negro
is black; I am white, and not black."

"Black as ink, my lad," returned the lawyer,
shaking his head.  "`One touch of nature makes
the whole world kin,' says the poet.  Somewhere,
sometime, you had a black ancestor.  One drop of
black blood makes the whole man black."

"Why shouldn't it be the other way, if the
white blood is so much superior?" inquired the lad.

"Because it is more convenient as it is--and
more profitable."

"It is not right," maintained the lad.

"God bless me!" exclaimed the old gentleman,
"he is invading the field of ethics!  He will be
questioning the righteousness of slavery next!  I'm
afraid you wouldn't make a good lawyer, in any
event.  Lawyers go by the laws--they abide by the
accomplished fact; to them, whatever is, is right. 
The laws do not permit men of color to practice
law, and public sentiment would not allow one of
them to study it."

"I had thought," said the lad, "that I might
pass for white.  There are white people darker
than I am."

"Ah, well, that is another matter; but"--

The judge stopped for a moment, struck by the
absurdity of his arguing such a question with a
mulatto boy.  He really must be falling into
premature dotage.  The proper thing would be to
rebuke the lad for his presumption and advise him
to learn to take care of horses, or make boots, or
lay bricks.  But again he saw his old friend in the
lad's face, and again he looked in vain for any sign
of negro blood.  The least earmark would have
turned the scale, but he could not find it.

"That is another matter," he repeated.  "Here
you have started as black, and must remain so. 
But if you wish to move away, and sink your past
into oblivion, the case might be different.  Let us
see what the law is; you might not need it if you
went far enough, but it is well enough to be within
it--liberty is sweeter when founded securely on
the law."

He took down a volume bound in legal calf and
glanced through it.  "The color line is drawn in
North Carolina at four generations removed from
the negro; there have been judicial decisions to
that effect.  I imagine that would cover your
case.  But let us see what South Carolina may
say about it," he continued, taking another book. 
"I think the law is even more liberal there.  Ah,
this is the place:--

"`The term mulatto,'" he read, "`is not invariably
applicable to every admixture of African blood
with the European, nor is one having all the features
of a white to be ranked with the degraded class
designated by the laws of this State as persons of
color, because of some remote taint of the negro
race.  Juries would probably be justified in holding
a person to be white in whom the admixture
of African blood did not exceed one eighth.  And
even where color or feature are doubtful, it is a
question for the jury to decide by reputation, by
reception into society, and by their exercise of the
privileges of the white man, as well as by admixture
of blood.'"

"Then I need not be black?" the boy cried,
with sparkling eyes.

"No," replied the lawyer, "you need not be
black, away from Patesville.  You have the somewhat
unusual privilege, it seems, of choosing
between two races, and if you are a lad of spirit,
as I think you are, it will not take you long to make
your choice.  As you have all the features of a
white man, you would, at least in South Carolina,
have simply to assume the place and exercise the
privileges of a white man.  You might, of course,
do the same thing anywhere, as long as no one knew
your origin.  But the matter has been adjudicated
there in several cases, and on the whole I think
South Carolina is the place for you.  They're more
liberal there, perhaps because they have many
more blacks than whites, and would like to lessen
the disproportion."

"From this time on," said the boy, "I am white."

"Softly, softly, my Caucasian fellow citizen,"
returned the judge, chuckling with quiet
amusement.  "You are white in the abstract, before the
law.  You may cherish the fact in secret, but I
would not advise you to proclaim it openly just
yet.  You must wait until you go away--to South
Carolina."

"And can I learn to be a lawyer, sir?" asked
the lad.

"It seems to me that you ought to be reasonably
content for one day with what you have
learned already.  You cannot be a lawyer until
you are white, in position as well as in theory, nor
until you are twenty-one years old.  I need an
office boy.  If you are willing to come into my
office, sweep it, keep my books dusted, and stay
here when I am out, I do not care.  To the rest
of the town you will be my servant, and still a
negro.  If you choose to read my books when no
one is about and be white in your own private
opinion, I have no objection.  When you have
made up your mind to go away, perhaps what you
have read may help you.  But mum 's the word! 
If I hear a whisper of this from any other source,
out you go, neck and crop!  I am willing to help
you make a man of yourself, but it can only be
done under the rose."

For two years John Walden openly swept the
office and surreptitiously read the law books of old
Judge Straight.  When he was eighteen, he asked
his mother for a sum of money, kissed her good-
by, and went out into the world.  When his sister,
then a pretty child of seven, cried because her
big brother was going away, he took her up in his
arms, gave her a silver dime with a hole in it for
a keepsake, hugged her close, and kissed her.

"Nev' min', sis," he said soothingly.  "Be a
good little gal, an' some o' these days I'll come
back to see you and bring you somethin' fine."

In after years, when Mis' Molly was asked what
had become of her son, she would reply with sad
complacency,--

"He's gone over on the other side."

As we have seen, he came back ten years later.


Many years before, when Mis' Molly, then a
very young woman, had taken up her residence in
the house behind the cedars, the gentleman heretofore
referred to had built a cabin on the opposite
corner, in which he had installed a trusted slave
by the name of Peter Fowler and his wife Nancy. 
Peter was a good mechanic, and hired his time
from his master with the provision that Peter and
his wife should do certain work for Mis' Molly and
serve as a sort of protection for her.  In course of
time Peter, who was industrious and thrifty, saved
enough money to purchase his freedom and that
of his wife and their one child, and to buy the little
house across the street, with the cooper shop behind
it.  After they had acquired their freedom,
Peter and Nancy did no work for Mis' Molly save
as they were paid for it, and as a rule preferred
not to work at all for the woman who had been
practically their mistress; it made them seem less
free.  Nevertheless, the two households had
remained upon good terms, even after the death of
the man whose will had brought them together,
and who had remained Peter's patron after he had
ceased to be his master.  There was no intimate
association between the two families.  Mis' Molly
felt herself infinitely superior to Peter and his
wife,--scarcely less superior than her poor white
neighbors felt themselves to Mis' Molly.  Mis'
Molly always meant to be kind, and treated Peter
and Nancy with a certain good-natured condescension. 
They resented this, never openly or offensively,
but always in a subconscious sort of
way, even when they did not speak of it among
themselves--much as they had resented her
mistress-ship in the old days.  For after all, they
argued, in spite of her airs and graces, her white
face and her fine clothes, was she not a negro,
even as themselves? and since the slaves had been
freed, was not one negro as good as another?

Peter's son Frank had grown up with little
Rena.  He was several years older than she, and
when Rena was a small child Mis' Molly had often
confided her to his care, and he had watched over
her and kept her from harm.  When Frank became
old enough to go to work in the cooper shop,
Rena, then six or seven, had often gone across
to play among the clean white shavings.  Once
Frank, while learning the trade, had let slip a sharp
steel tool, which flying toward Rena had grazed
her arm and sent the red blood coursing along the
white flesh and soaking the muslin sleeve.  He
had rolled up the sleeve and stanched the blood
and dried her tears.  For a long time thereafter
her mother kept her away from the shop and was
very cold to Frank.  One day the little girl
wandered down to the bank of the old canal.  It had
been raining for several days, and the water was
quite deep in the channel.  The child slipped and
fell into the stream.  From the open window of
the cooper shop Frank heard a scream.  He ran
down to the canal and pulled her out, and carried
her all wet and dripping to the house.  From that
time he had been restored to favor.  He had
watched the girl grow up to womanhood in the
years following the war, and had been sorry when
she became too old to play about the shop.

He never spoke to her of love,--indeed, he
never thought of his passion in such a light. 
There would have been no legal barrier to their
union; there would have been no frightful menace
to white supremacy in the marriage of the negro
and the octoroon: the drop of dark blood bridged
the chasm.  But Frank knew that she did not
love him, and had not hoped that she might.  His
was one of those rare souls that can give with
small hope of return.  When he had made the
scar upon her arm, by the same token she had
branded him her slave forever; when he had saved
her from a watery grave, he had given his life to
her.  There are depths of fidelity and devotion in
the negro heart that have never been fathomed or
fully appreciated.  Now and then in the kindlier
phases of slavery these qualities were brightly
conspicuous, and in them, if wisely appealed to, lies
the strongest hope of amity between the two races
whose destiny seems bound up together in the
Western world.  Even a dumb brute can be won
by kindness.  Surely it were worth while to try
some other weapon than scorn and contumely and
hard words upon people of our common race,--
the human race, which is bigger and broader than
Celt or Saxon, barbarian or Greek, Jew or Gentile,
black or white; for we are all children of a
common Father, forget it as we may, and each one
of us is in some measure his brother's keeper.



XIX

GOD MADE US ALL


Rena was convalescent from a two-weeks'
illness when her brother came to see her.  He arrived
at Patesville by an early morning train before the
town was awake, and walked unnoticed from the
station to his mother's house.  His meeting with
his sister was not without emotion: he embraced
her tenderly, and Rena became for a few minutes
a very Niobe of grief.

"Oh, it was cruel, cruel!" she sobbed.  "I
shall never get over it."

"I know it, my dear," replied Warwick
soothingly,--"I know it, and I'm to blame for it.  If
I had never taken you away from here, you would
have escaped this painful experience.  But do not
despair; all is not lost.  Tryon will not marry
you, as I hoped he might, while I feared the
contrary; but he is a gentleman, and will be silent. 
Come back and try again."

"No, John.  I couldn't go through it a second
time.  I managed very well before, when I thought
our secret was unknown; but now I could never
be sure.  It would be borne on every wind, for
aught I knew, and every rustling leaf might
whisper it.  The law, you said, made us white;
but not the law, nor even love, can conquer
prejudice.  HE spoke of my beauty, my grace, my
sweetness!  I looked into his eyes and believed
him.  And yet he left me without a word!  What
would I do in Clarence now?  I came away
engaged to be married, with even the day set; I
should go back forsaken and discredited; even the
servants would pity me."

"Little Albert is pining for you," suggested
Warwick.  "We could make some explanation
that would spare your feelings."

"Ah, do not tempt me, John!  I love the child,
and am grieved to leave him.  I'm grateful, too,
John, for what you have done for me.  I am not
sorry that I tried it.  It opened my eyes, and I
would rather die of knowledge than live in ignorance. 
But I could not go through it again, John;
I am not strong enough.  I could do you no good;
I have made you trouble enough already.  Get a
mother for Albert--Mrs. Newberry would marry
you, secret and all, and would be good to the child. 
Forget me, John, and take care of yourself.  Your
friend has found you out through me--he may
have told a dozen people.  You think he will be
silent;--I thought he loved me, and he left me
without a word, and with a look that told me how
he hated and despised me.  I would not have
believed it--even of a white man."

"You do him an injustice," said her brother,
producing Tryon's letter.  "He did not get off
unscathed.  He sent you a message."

She turned her face away, but listened while he
read the letter. "He did not love me," she cried
angrily, when he had finished, "or he would not
have cast me off--he would not have looked at
me so.  The law would have let him marry me.  I
seemed as white as he did.  He might have gone
anywhere with me, and no one would have stared
at us curiously; no one need have known.  The
world is wide--there must be some place where a
man could live happily with the woman he loved."

"Yes, Rena, there is; and the world is wide
enough for you to get along without Tryon."

"For a day or two," she went on, "I hoped
he might come back.  But his expression in that
awful moment grew upon me, haunted me day and
night, until I shuddered at the thought that I might
ever see him again.  He looked at me as though I
were not even a human being.  I do not love him
any longer, John; I would not marry him if I
were white, or he were as I am.  He did not love
me--or he would have acted differently.  He
might have loved me and have left me--he could
not have loved me and have looked at me so!"

She was weeping hysterically.  There was little
he could say to comfort her.  Presently she dried
her tears.  Warwick was reluctant to leave her in
Patesville.  Her childish happiness had been that
of ignorance; she could never be happy there again. 
She had flowered in the sunlight; she must not
pine away in the shade.

"If you won't come back with me, Rena, I'll
send you to some school at the North, where you
can acquire a liberal education, and prepare
yourself for some career of usefulness.  You may
marry a better man than even Tryon."

"No," she replied firmly, "I shall never marry
any man, and I'll not leave mother again.  God
is against it; I'll stay with my own people."

"God has nothing to do with it," retorted
Warwick.  "God is too often a convenient stalking-
horse for human selfishness.  If there is anything
to be done, so unjust, so despicable, so wicked that
human reason revolts at it, there is always some
smug hypocrite to exclaim, `It is the will of God.'"

"God made us all," continued Rena dreamily,
"and for some good purpose, though we may not
always see it.  He made some people white, and
strong, and masterful, and--heartless.  He made
others black and homely, and poor and weak"--

"And a lot of others `poor white' and shiftless,"
smiled Warwick.

"He made us, too," continued Rena, intent upon
her own thought, "and He must have had a reason
for it.  Perhaps He meant us to bring the others
together in his own good time.  A man may make
a new place for himself--a woman is born and
bound to hers.  God must have meant me to stay
here, or He would not have sent me back.  I shall
accept things as they are.  Why should I seek the
society of people whose friendship--and love--
one little word can turn to scorn?  I was right,
John; I ought to have told him.  Suppose he had
married me and then had found it out?"

To Rena's argument of divine foreordination
Warwick attached no weight whatever.  He had
seen God's heel planted for four long years upon
the land which had nourished slavery.  Had God
ordained the crime that the punishment might
follow?  It would have been easier for Omnipotence
to prevent the crime.  The experience of his sister
had stirred up a certain bitterness against white
people--a feeling which he had put aside years ago,
with his dark blood, but which sprang anew into
life when the fact of his own origin was brought
home to him so forcibly through his sister's
misfortune.  His sworn friend and promised brother-in-
law had thrown him over promptly, upon the
discovery of the hidden drop of dark blood.  How many
others of his friends would do the same, if they
but knew of it?  He had begun to feel a little of
the spiritual estrangement from his associates that
he had noticed in Rena during her life at Clarence. 
The fact that several persons knew his secret had
spoiled the fine flavor of perfect security hitherto
marking his position.  George Tryon was a man of
honor among white men, and had deigned to extend
the protection of his honor to Warwick as a man,
though no longer as a friend; to Rena as a woman,
but not as a wife.  Tryon, however, was only human,
and who could tell when their paths in life might
cross again, or what future temptation Tryon might
feel to use a damaging secret to their disadvantage? 
Warwick had cherished certain ambitions, but these
he must now put behind him.  In the obscurity of
private life, his past would be of little moment; in
the glare of a political career, one's antecedents are
public property, and too great a reserve in regard
to one's past is regarded as a confession of something
discreditable.  Frank, too, knew the secret
--a good, faithful fellow, even where there was no
obligation of fidelity; he ought to do something for
Frank to show their appreciation of his conduct. 
But what assurance was there that Frank would
always be discreet about the affairs of others? 
Judge Straight knew the whole story, and old men
are sometimes garrulous.  Dr. Green suspected the
secret; he had a wife and daughters.  If old Judge
Straight could have known Warwick's thoughts, he
would have realized the fulfillment of his prophecy. 
Warwick, who had builded so well for himself, had
weakened the structure of his own life by trying to
share his good fortune with his sister.

" Listen, Rena," he said, with a sudden impulse,
"we'll go to the North or West--I'll go with
you--far away from the South and the Southern
people, and start life over again.  It will be easier
for you, it will not be hard for me--I am young,
and have means.  There are no strong ties to bind
me to the South.  I would have a larger outlook
elsewhere."

"And what about our mother?" asked Rena.

It would be necessary to leave her behind, they
both perceived clearly enough, unless they were
prepared to surrender the advantage of their whiteness
and drop back to the lower rank.  The mother
bore the mark of the Ethiopian--not pronouncedly,
but distinctly; neither would Mis' Molly, in all
probability, care to leave home and friends and the
graves of her loved ones.  She had no mental
resources to supply the place of these; she was,
moreover, too old to be transplanted; she would
not fit into Warwick's scheme for a new life.

"I left her once," said Rena, "and it brought
pain and sorrow to all three of us.  She is not
strong, and I will not leave her here to die alone. 
This shall be my home while she lives, and if I
leave it again, it shall be for only a short time, to
go where I can write to her freely, and hear from
her often.  Don't worry about me, John,--I shall
do very well."

Warwick sighed.  He was sincerely sorry to leave
his sister, and yet he saw that for the time being
her resolution was not to be shaken.  He must bide
his time.  Perhaps, in a few months, she would tire
of the old life.  His door would be always open to
her, and he would charge himself with her future.

"Well, then," he said, concluding the argument,
"we'll say no more about it for the present.  I'll
write to you later.  I was afraid that you might
not care to go back just now, and so I brought
your trunk along with me."

He gave his mother the baggage-check.  She
took it across to Frank, who, during the day,
brought the trunk from the depot.  Mis' Molly
offered to pay him for the service, but he would
accept nothing.

"Lawd, no, Mis' Molly; I did n' hafter go out'n
my way ter git dat trunk.  I had a load er sperrit-
bairls ter haul ter de still, an' de depot wuz right
on my way back.  It'd be robbin' you ter take
pay fer a little thing lack dat."

"My son John's here," said Mis' Molly "an'
he wants to see you.  Come into the settin'-room. 
We don't want folks to know he's in town; but
you know all our secrets, an' we can trust you like
one er the family."

"I'm glad to see you again, Frank," said
Warwick, extending his hand and clasping Frank's
warmly.  "You've grown up since I saw you last,
but it seems you are still our good friend."

"Our very good friend," interjected Rena.

Frank threw her a grateful glance.  "Yas, suh,"
he said, looking Warwick over with a friendly eye,
"an' you is growed some, too.  I seed you, you
know, down dere where you live; but I did n' let
on, fer you an' Mis' Rena wuz w'ite as anybody;
an' eve'ybody said you wuz good ter cullud folks,
an' he'ped 'em in deir lawsuits an' one way er
'nuther, an' I wuz jes' plum' glad ter see you
gettin' 'long so fine, dat I wuz, certain sho', an' no
mistake about it."

"Thank you, Frank, and I want you to understand
how much I appreciate"--

"How much we all appreciate," corrected Rena.

"Yes, how much we all appreciate, and how
grateful we all are for your kindness to mother for
so many years.  I know from her and from my
sister how good you've been to them."

"Lawd, suh!" returned Frank deprecatingly,
"you're makin' a mountain out'n a molehill.  I
ain't done nuthin' ter speak of--not half ez much
ez I would 'a' done.  I wuz glad ter do w'at little
I could, fer frien'ship's sake."

"We value your friendship, Frank, and we'll
not forget it."

"No, Frank," added Rena, "we will never
forget it, and you shall always be our good friend."

Frank left the room and crossed the street with
swelling heart.  He would have given his life for
Rena.  A kind word was doubly sweet from her
lips; no service would be too great to pay for her
friendship.


When Frank went out to the stable next morning
to feed his mule, his eyes opened wide with
astonishment.  In place of the decrepit, one-eyed
army mule he had put up the night before, a fat,
sleek specimen of vigorous mulehood greeted his
arrival with the sonorous hehaw of lusty youth. 
Hanging on a peg near by was a set of fine new
harness, and standing under the adjoining shed, as
he perceived, a handsome new cart.

"Well, well!" exclaimed Frank; "ef I did n'
mos' know whar dis mule, an' dis kyart, an' dis
harness come from, I'd 'low dere 'd be'n witcheraf'
er cunjin' wukkin' here.  But, oh my, dat is a
fine mule!--I mos' wush I could keep 'im."

He crossed the road to the house behind the
cedars, and found Mis' Molly in the kitchen. 
"Mis' Molly," he protested, "I ain't done nuthin'
ter deserve dat mule.  W'at little I done fer you
wa'n't done fer pay.  I'd ruther not keep dem
things."

"Fer goodness' sake, Frank!" exclaimed his
neighbor, with a well-simulated air of mystification,
"what are you talkin' about?"

"You knows w'at I'm talkin' about, Mis'
Molly; you knows well ernuff I'm talkin' about
dat fine mule an' kyart an' harness over dere in
my stable."

"How should I know anything about 'em?"
she asked.

"Now, Mis' Molly!  You folks is jes' tryin' ter
fool me, an' make me take somethin' fer nuthin'. 
I lef' my ole mule an' kyart an' harness in de
stable las' night, an' dis mawnin' dey 're gone, an'
new ones in deir place.  Co'se you knows whar
dey come from!"

"Well, now, Frank, sence you mention it, I did
see a witch flyin' roun' here las' night on a broom-
stick, an' it 'peared ter me she lit on yo'r barn, an'
I s'pose she turned yo'r old things into new ones. 
I wouldn't bother my mind about it if I was you,
for she may turn 'em back any night, you know;
an' you might as well have the use of 'em in the
mean while."

"Dat's all foolishness, Mis' Molly, an' I'm
gwine ter fetch dat mule right over here an' tell
yo' son ter gimme my ole one back."

"My son's gone," she replied, "an' I don't
know nothin' about yo'r old mule.  And what
would I do with a mule, anyhow?  I ain't got no
barn to put him in."

"I suspect you don't care much for us after
all, Frank," said Rena reproachfully--she had
come in while they were talking.  "You meet
with a piece of good luck, and you're afraid of it,
lest it might have come from us."

"Now, Miss Rena, you oughtn't ter say dat,"
expostulated Frank, his reluctance yielding immediately. 
"I'll keep de mule an' de kyart an' de
harness--fac', I'll have ter keep 'em, 'cause I
ain't got no others.  But dey 're gwine ter be yo'n
ez much ez mine.  W'enever you wants anything
hauled, er wants yo' lot ploughed, er anything--
dat's yo' mule, an' I'm yo' man an' yo' mammy's."

So Frank went back to the stable, where he
feasted his eyes on his new possessions, fed and
watered the mule, and curried and brushed his
coat until it shone like a looking-glass.

"Now dat," remarked Peter, at the breakfast-
table, when informed of the transaction, "is somethin'
lack rale w'ite folks."

No real white person had ever given Peter a
mule or a cart.  He had rendered one of them
unpaid service for half a lifetime, and had paid for
the other half; and some of them owed him
substantial sums for work performed.  But "to him
that hath shall be given"--Warwick paid for the
mule, and the real white folks got most of the
credit.



XX

DIGGING UP ROOTS


When the first great shock of his discovery wore
off, the fact of Rena's origin lost to Tryon some of
its initial repugnance--indeed, the repugnance was
not to the woman at all, as their past relations were
evidence, but merely to the thought of her as a wife. 
It could hardly have failed to occur to so reasonable
a man as Tryon that Rena's case could scarcely
be unique.  Surely in the past centuries of free
manners and easy morals that had prevailed in
remote parts of the South, there must have been
many white persons whose origin would not have
borne too microscopic an investigation.  Family
trees not seldom have a crooked branch; or, to use
a more apposite figure, many a flock has its black
sheep.  Being a man of lively imagination, Tryon
soon found himself putting all sorts of hypothetical
questions about a matter which he had already
definitely determined.  If he had married Rena in
ignorance of her secret, and had learned it afterwards,
would he have put her aside?  If, knowing
her history, he had nevertheless married her, and
she had subsequently displayed some trait of
character that would suggest the negro, could he have
forgotten or forgiven the taint?  Could he still
have held her in love and honor?  If not, could
he have given her the outward seeming of affection,
or could he have been more than coldly tolerant? 
He was glad that he had been spared this ordeal. 
With an effort he put the whole matter definitely
and conclusively aside, as he had done a hundred
times already.

Returning to his home, after an absence of several
months in South Carolina, it was quite apparent
to his mother's watchful eye that he was in
serious trouble.  He was absent-minded, monosyllabic,
sighed deeply and often, and could not always
conceal the traces of secret tears.  For Tryon was
young, and possessed of a sensitive soul--a source
of happiness or misery, as the Fates decree.  To
those thus dowered, the heights of rapture are
accessible, the abysses of despair yawn threateningly;
only the dull monotony of contentment is
denied.

Mrs. Tryon vainly sought by every gentle art
a woman knows to win her son's confidence. 
"What is the matter, George, dear?" she would
ask, stroking his hot brow with her small, cool
hand as he sat moodily nursing his grief.  "Tell
your mother, George.  Who else could comfort
you so well as she?"

"Oh, it's nothing, mother,--nothing at all,"
he would reply, with a forced attempt at lightness. 
"It's only your fond imagination, you best of
mothers."

It was Mrs. Tryon's turn to sigh and shed
a clandestine tear.  Until her son had gone away
on this trip to South Carolina, he had kept no
secrets from her: his heart had been an open
book, of which she knew every page; now, some
painful story was inscribed therein which he meant
she should not read.  If she could have abdicated
her empire to Blanche Leary or have shared it
with her, she would have yielded gracefully; but
very palpably some other influence than Blanche's
had driven joy from her son's countenance and
lightness from his heart.


Miss Blanche Leary, whom Tryon found in the
house upon his return, was a demure, pretty little
blonde, with an amiable disposition, a talent for
society, and a pronounced fondness for George
Tryon.  A poor girl, of an excellent family
impoverished by the war, she was distantly related
to Mrs. Tryon, had for a long time enjoyed that
lady's favor, and was her choice for George's wife
when he should be old enough to marry.  A woman
less interested than Miss Leary would have
perceived that there was something wrong with Tryon. 
Miss Leary had no doubt that there was a woman
at the bottom of it,--for about what else should
youth worry but love? or if one's love affairs run
smoothly, why should one worry about anything
at all?  Miss Leary, in the nineteen years of her
mundane existence, had not been without mild
experiences of the heart, and had hovered for some
time on the verge of disappointment with respect
to Tryon himself.  A sensitive pride would have
driven more than one woman away at the sight of
the man of her preference sighing like a furnace
for some absent fair one.  But Mrs. Tryon was
so cordial, and insisted so strenuously upon her
remaining, that Blanche's love, which was strong,
conquered her pride, which was no more than a
reasonable young woman ought to have who sets
success above mere sentiment.  She remained in the
house and bided her opportunity.  If George
practically ignored her for a time, she did not throw
herself at all in his way.  She went on a visit to
some girls in the neighborhood and remained away
a week, hoping that she might be missed.  Tryon
expressed no regret at her departure and no
particular satisfaction upon her return.  If the house
was duller in her absence, he was but dimly conscious
of the difference.  He was still fighting a
battle in which a susceptible heart and a reasonable
mind had locked horns in a well-nigh hopeless
conflict.  Reason, common-sense, the instinctive
ready-made judgments of his training and environment,--
the deep-seated prejudices of race and
caste,--commanded him to dismiss Rena from
his thoughts.  His stubborn heart simply would
not let go.



XXI

A GILDED OPPORTUNITY


Although the whole fabric of Rena's new life
toppled and fell with her lover's defection, her
sympathies, broadened by culture and still more by
her recent emotional experience, did not shrink, as
would have been the case with a more selfish soul,
to the mere limits of her personal sorrow, great as
this seemed at the moment.  She had learned to
love, and when the love of one man failed her, she
turned to humanity, as a stream obstructed in its
course overflows the adjacent country.  Her early
training had not directed her thoughts to the darker
people with whose fate her own was bound up so
closely, but rather away from them.  She had been
taught to despise them because they were not so
white as she was, and had been slaves while she was
free.  Her life in her brother's home, by removing
her from immediate contact with them, had given
her a different point of view,--one which emphasized
their shortcomings, and thereby made vastly
clearer to her the gulf that separated them from
the new world in which she lived; so that when
misfortune threw her back upon them, the reaction
brought her nearer than before.  Where once she
had seemed able to escape from them, they were
now, it appeared, her inalienable race.  Thus doubly
equipped, she was able to view them at once with
the mental eye of an outsider and the sympathy
of a sister: she could see their faults, and judge
them charitably; she knew and appreciated their
good qualities.  With her quickened intelligence
she could perceive how great was their need and
how small their opportunity; and with this illumination
came the desire to contribute to their help. 
She had not the breadth or culture to see in all its
ramifications the great problem which still puzzles
statesmen and philosophers; but she was conscious
of the wish, and of the power, in a small way, to do
something for the advancement of those who had
just set their feet upon the ladder of progress.

This new-born desire to be of service to her
rediscovered people was not long without an
opportunity for expression.  Yet the Fates willed that
her future should be but another link in a connected
chain: she was to be as powerless to put
aside her recent past as she had been to escape
from the influence of her earlier life.  There are
sordid souls that eat and drink and breed and die,
and imagine they have lived.  But Rena's life
since her great awakening had been that of the
emotions, and her temperament made of it a
continuous life.  Her successive states of
consciousness were not detachable, but united to form a
single if not an entirely harmonious whole.  To
her sensitive spirit to-day was born of yesterday,
to-morrow would be but the offspring of to day.

One day, along toward noon, her mother
received a visit from Mary B. Pettifoot, a second
cousin, who lived on Back Street, only a short
distance from the house behind the cedars.  Rena
had gone out, so that the visitor found Mis' Molly
alone.

"I heared you say, Cousin Molly," said Mary
B. (no one ever knew what the B. in Mary's name
stood for,--it was a mere ornamental flourish),
"that Rena was talkin' 'bout teachin' school.  I've
got a good chance fer her, ef she keers ter take
it.  My cousin Jeff Wain 'rived in town this
mo'nin', f'm 'way down in Sampson County, ter
git a teacher fer the nigger school in his deestric'. 
I s'pose he mought 'a' got one f'm 'roun' Newbern,
er Goldsboro, er some er them places eas', but he
'lowed he'd like to visit some er his kin an' ole
frien's, an' so kill two birds with one stone."

"I seed a strange mulatter man, with a bay hoss
an' a new buggy, drivin' by here this mo'nin' early,
from down to'ds the river," rejoined Mis' Molly. 
"I wonder if that wuz him?"

"Did he have on a linen duster?" asked Mary B.

"Yas, an' 'peared to be a very well sot up man,"
replied Mis' Molly, " 'bout thirty-five years old, I
should reckon."

"That wuz him," assented Mary B.  "He's got
a fine hoss an' buggy, an' a gol' watch an' chain,
an' a big plantation, an' lots er hosses an' mules
an' cows an' hawgs.  He raise' fifty bales er cotton
las' year, an' he's be'n ter the legislatur'."

" My gracious!" exclaimed Mis' Molly, struck
with awe at this catalogue of the stranger's possessions--
he was evidently worth more than a great
many "rich" white people,--all white people in
North Carolina in those days were either "rich" or
"poor," the distinction being one of caste rather
than of wealth.  "Is he married?" she inquired
with interest?

"No,--single.  You mought 'low it was quare
that he should n' be married at his age; but he
was crossed in love oncet,"--Mary B. heaved a
self-conscious sigh,--"an' has stayed single ever
sence.  That wuz ten years ago, but as some
husban's is long-lived, an' there ain' no mo' chance
fer 'im now than there wuz then, I reckon some
nice gal mought stan' a good show er ketchin' 'im,
ef she'd play her kyards right."

To Mis' Molly this was news of considerable
importance.  She had not thought a great deal of
Rena's plan to teach; she considered it lowering
for Rena, after having been white, to go among
the negroes any more than was unavoidable.  This
opportunity, however, meant more than mere
employment for her daughter.  She had felt Rena's
disappointment keenly, from the practical point of
view, and, blaming herself for it, held herself all
the more bound to retrieve the misfortune in any
possible way.  If she had not been sick, Rena
would not have dreamed the fateful dream that
had brought her to Patesville; for the connection
between the vision and the reality was even closer in
Mis' Molly's eyes than in Rena's.  If the mother
had not sent the letter announcing her illness and
confirming the dream, Rena would not have ruined
her promising future by coming to Patesville.  But
the harm had been done, and she was responsible,
ignorantly of course, but none the less truly, and
it only remained for her to make amends, as far as
possible.  Her highest ambition, since Rena had
grown up, had been to see her married and
comfortably settled in life.  She had no hope that
Tryon would come back.  Rena had declared that
she would make no further effort to get away from
her people; and, furthermore, that she would never
marry.  To this latter statement Mis' Molly secretly
attached but little importance.  That a woman
should go single from the cradle to the grave did
not accord with her experience in life of the customs
of North Carolina.  She respected a grief she could
not entirely fathom, yet did not for a moment
believe that Rena would remain unmarried.

"You'd better fetch him roun' to see me, Ma'y
B.," she said, "an' let's see what he looks like. 
I'm pertic'lar 'bout my gal.  She says she ain't
goin' to marry nobody; but of co'se we know that's
all foolishness."

"I'll fetch him roun' this evenin' 'bout three
o'clock," said the visitor, rising.  "I mus' hurry
back now an' keep him comp'ny.  Tell Rena ter
put on her bes' bib an' tucker; for Mr. Wain is
pertic'lar too, an' I've already be'n braggin' 'bout
her looks."

When Mary B., at the appointed hour, knocked
at Mis' Molly's front door,--the visit being one of
ceremony, she had taken her cousin round to the
Front Street entrance and through the flower
garden,--Mis' Molly was prepared to receive them. 
After a decent interval, long enough to suggest
that she had not been watching their approach and
was not over-eager about the visit, she answered
the knock and admitted them into the parlor.  Mr.
Wain was formally introduced, and seated himself
on the ancient haircloth sofa, under the framed
fashion-plate, while Mary B. sat by the open door
and fanned herself with a palm-leaf fan.

Mis' Molly's impression of Wain was favorable. 
His complexion was of a light brown--not quite
so fair as Mis' Molly would have preferred; but
any deficiency in this regard, or in the matter of
the stranger's features, which, while not unpleasing,
leaned toward the broad mulatto type, was
more than compensated in her eyes by very
straight black hair, and, as soon appeared, a great
facility of complimentary speech.  On his introduction
Mr. Wain bowed low, assumed an air of great
admiration, and expressed his extreme delight in
making the acquaintance of so distinguished-looking a lady.

"You're flatt'rin' me, Mr. Wain," returned Mis'
Molly, with a gratified smile.  "But you want to
meet my daughter befo' you commence th'owin'
bokays.  Excuse my leavin' you--I'll go an' fetch
her."

She returned in a moment, followed by Rena. 
"Mr. Wain, 'low me to int'oduce you to my daughter
Rena.  Rena, this is Ma'y B.'s cousin on her
pappy's side, who's come up from Sampson to git
a school-teacher."

Rena bowed gracefully.  Wain stared a moment
in genuine astonishment, and then bent himself
nearly double, keeping his eyes fixed meanwhile
upon Rena's face.  He had expected to see a pretty
yellow girl, but had been prepared for no such
radiant vision of beauty as this which now confronted him.

"Does--does you mean ter say, Mis' Walden,
dat--dat dis young lady is yo' own daughter?"
he stammered, rallying his forces for action.

"Why not, Mr. Wain?" asked Mis' Molly,
bridling with mock resentment.  "Do you mean
ter 'low that she wuz changed in her cradle, er is
she too good-lookin' to be my daughter?"

"My deah Mis' Walden! it 'ud be wastin' wo'ds
fer me ter say dat dey ain' no young lady too good-
lookin' ter be yo' daughter; but you're lookin'
so young yo'sef dat I'd ruther take her fer yo'
sister."

"Yas," rejoined Mis' Molly, with animation,
"they ain't many years between us.  I wuz ruther
young myself when she wuz bo'n."

"An', mo'over," Wain went on, "it takes me
a minute er so ter git my min' use' ter thinkin' er
Mis' Rena as a cullud young lady.  I mought 'a'
seed her a hund'ed times, an' I'd 'a' never dreamt
but w'at she wuz a w'ite young lady, f'm one er de
bes' families."

"Yas, Mr. Wain," replied Mis' Molly
complacently, "all three er my child'en wuz white, an'
one of 'em has be'n on the other side fer many
long years.  Rena has be'n to school, an' has
traveled, an' has had chances--better chances than
anybody roun' here knows."

"She's jes' de lady I'm lookin' fer, ter teach ou'
school," rejoined Wain, with emphasis.  "Wid
her schoolin' an' my riccommen', she kin git a fus'-
class ce'tifikit an' draw fo'ty dollars a month; an'
a lady er her color kin keep a lot er little niggers
straighter 'n a darker lady could.  We jus' got ter
have her ter teach ou' school--ef we kin git her."

Rena's interest in the prospect of employment
at her chosen work was so great that she paid little
attention to Wain's compliments.  Mis' Molly led
Mary B. away to the kitchen on some pretext, and
left Rena to entertain the gentleman.  She questioned
him eagerly about the school, and he gave
the most glowing accounts of the elegant school-
house, the bright pupils, and the congenial society
of the neighborhood.  He spoke almost entirely in
superlatives, and, after making due allowance for
what Rena perceived to be a temperamental tendency
to exaggeration, she concluded that she would
find in the school a worthy field of usefulness, and
in this polite and good-natured though somewhat
wordy man a coadjutor upon whom she could rely
in her first efforts; for she was not over-confident
of her powers, which seemed to grow less as the
way opened for their exercise.

"Do you think I'm competent to teach the
school?" she asked of the visitor, after stating
some of her qualifications.

"Oh, dere 's no doubt about it, Miss Rena,"
replied Wain, who had listened with an air of great
wisdom, though secretly aware that he was too
ignorant of letters to form a judgment; "you kin
teach de school all right, an' could ef you didn't
know half ez much.  You won't have no trouble
managin' de child'en, nuther.  Ef any of 'em gits
onruly, jes' call on me fer he'p, an' I'll make 'em
walk Spanish.  I'm chuhman er de school committee,
an' I'll lam de hide off'n any scholar dat
don' behave.  You kin trus' me fer dat, sho' ez
I'm a-settin' here."

"Then," said Rena, "I'll undertake it, and do
my best.  I'm sure you'll not be too exacting."

"Yo' bes', Miss Rena,'ll be de bes' dey is. 
Don' you worry ner fret.  Dem niggers won't
have no other teacher after dey've once laid eyes
on you:  I'll guarantee dat.  Dere won't be no
trouble, not a bit."

"Well, Cousin Molly," said Mary B. to Mis'
Molly in the kitchen, "how does the plan strike
you?"

"Ef Rena's satisfied, I am," replied Mis' Molly. 
"But you'd better say nothin' about ketchin' a
beau, or any such foolishness, er else she'd be just
as likely not to go nigh Sampson County."

"Befo' Cousin Jeff goes back," confided Mary
B., "I'd like ter give 'im a party, but my house
is too small.  I wuz wonderin'," she added tentatively,
"ef I could n' borry yo' house."

"Shorely, Ma'y B. I'm int'rested in Mr.
Wain on Rena's account, an' it's as little as I kin
do to let you use my house an' help you git things
ready."

The date of the party was set for Thursday
night, as Wain was to leave Patesville on Friday
morning, taking with him the new teacher.  The
party would serve the double purpose of a compliment
to the guest and a farewell to Rena, and it
might prove the precursor, the mother secretly
hoped, of other festivities to follow at some later
date.



XXII

IMPERATIVE BUSINESS


One Wednesday morning, about six weeks after
his return home, Tryon received a letter from
Judge Straight with reference to the note left
with him at Patesville for collection.  This
communication properly required an answer, which
might have been made in writing within the compass
of ten lines.  No sooner, however, had Tryon
read the letter than he began to perceive reasons
why it should be answered in person.  He had
left Patesville under extremely painful circumstances,
vowing that he would never return; and
yet now the barest pretext, by which no one could
have been deceived except willingly, was sufficient
to turn his footsteps thither again.  He explained
to his mother--with a vagueness which she found
somewhat puzzling, but ascribed to her own feminine
obtuseness in matters of business--the reasons
that imperatively demanded his presence in
Patesville.  With an early start he could drive
there in one day,--he had an excellent roadster,
a light buggy, and a recent rain had left the road
in good condition,--a day would suffice for the
transaction of his business, and the third day
would bring him home again.  He set out on
his journey on Thursday morning, with this programme
very clearly outlined.

Tryon would not at first have admitted even to
himself that Rena's presence in Patesville had any
bearing whatever upon his projected visit.  The
matter about which Judge Straight had written
might, it was clear, be viewed in several aspects. 
The judge had written him concerning the one of
immediate importance.  It would be much easier
to discuss the subject in all its bearings, and clean
up the whole matter, in one comprehensive personal
interview.

The importance of this business, then, seemed
very urgent for the first few hours of Tryon's
journey.  Ordinarily a careful driver and merciful
to his beast, his eagerness to reach Patesville
increased gradually until it became necessary to
exercise some self-restraint in order not to urge
his faithful mare beyond her powers; and soon he
could no longer pretend obliviousness of the fact
that some attraction stronger than the whole
amount of Duncan McSwayne's note was urging
him irresistibly toward his destination.  The old
town beyond the distant river, his heart told him
clamorously, held the object in all the world to
him most dear.  Memory brought up in vivid detail
every moment of his brief and joyous courtship,
each tender word, each enchanting smile,
every fond caress.  He lived his past happiness
over again down to the moment of that fatal
discovery.  What horrible fate was it that had
involved him--nay, that had caught this sweet
delicate girl in such a blind alley?  A wild hope
flashed across his mind: perhaps the ghastly story
might not be true; perhaps, after all, the girl was
no more a negro than she seemed.  He had heard
sad stories of white children, born out of wedlock,
abandoned by sinful parents to the care or adoption
of colored women, who had reared them as
their own, the children's future basely sacrificed to
hide the parents' shame.  He would confront this
reputed mother of his darling and wring the truth
from her.  He was in a state of mind where any
sort of a fairy tale would have seemed reasonable. 
He would almost have bribed some one to tell him
that the woman he had loved, the woman he still
loved (he felt a thrill of lawless pleasure in the
confession), was not the descendant of slaves,--
that he might marry her, and not have before his
eyes the gruesome fear that some one of their
children might show even the faintest mark of the
despised race.

At noon he halted at a convenient hamlet, fed
and watered his mare, and resumed his journey
after an hour's rest.  By this time he had well-
nigh forgotten about the legal business that formed
the ostensible occasion for his journey, and was
conscious only of a wild desire to see the woman
whose image was beckoning him on to Patesville
as fast as his horse could take him.

At sundown he stopped again, about ten miles
from the town, and cared for his now tired beast. 
He knew her capacity, however, and calculated
that she could stand the additional ten miles without
injury.  The mare set out with reluctance,
but soon settled resignedly down into a steady jog.

Memory had hitherto assailed Tryon with the
vision of past joys.  As he neared the town,
imagination attacked him with still more moving
images.  He had left her, this sweet flower of
womankind--white or not, God had never made
a fairer!--he had seen her fall to the hard
pavement, with he knew not what resulting injury. 
He had left her tender frame--the touch of her
finger-tips had made him thrill with happiness--
to be lifted by strange hands, while he with heartless
pride had driven deliberately away, without a
word of sorrow or regret.  He had ignored her as
completely as though she had never existed.  That
he had been deceived was true.  But had he not
aided in his own deception?  Had not Warwick
told him distinctly that they were of no family,
and was it not his own fault that he had not
followed up the clue thus given him?  Had not Rena
compared herself to the child's nurse, and had
he not assured her that if she were the nurse, he
would marry her next day?  The deception had
been due more to his own blindness than to any
lack of honesty on the part of Rena and her
brother.  In the light of his present feelings they
seemed to have been absurdly outspoken.  He
was glad that he had kept his discovery to himself. 
He had considered himself very magnanimous
not to have exposed the fraud that was
being perpetrated upon society: it was with a very
comfortable feeling that he now realized that the
matter was as profound a secret as before.

"She ought to have been born white," he
muttered, adding weakly, "I would to God that I had
never found her out!"

Drawing near the bridge that crossed the river
to the town, he pictured to himself a pale girl,
with sorrowful, tear-stained eyes, pining away in
the old gray house behind the cedars for love of
him, dying, perhaps, of a broken heart.  He would
hasten to her; he would dry her tears with kisses;
he would express sorrow for his cruelty.

The tired mare had crossed the bridge and was
slowly toiling up Front Street; she was near the
limit of her endurance, and Tryon did not urge
her.

They might talk the matter over, and if they
must part, part at least they would in peace and
friendship.  If he could not marry her, he would
never marry any one else; it would be cruel for
him to seek happiness while she was denied it,
for, having once given her heart to him, she could
never, he was sure,--so instinctively fine was
her nature,--she could never love any one less
worthy than himself, and would therefore probably
never marry.  He knew from a Clarence acquaintance,
who had written him a letter, that Rena had
not reappeared in that town.

If he should discover--the chance was one in
a thousand--that she was white; or if he should
find it too hard to leave her--ah, well! he was a
white man, one of a race born to command.  He
would make her white; no one beyond the old
town would ever know the difference.  If, perchance,
their secret should be disclosed, the world was
wide; a man of courage and ambition, inspired by
love, might make a career anywhere.  Circumstances
made weak men; strong men mould circumstances
to do their bidding.  He would not
let his darling die of grief, whatever the price
must be paid for her salvation.  She was only a
few rods away from him now.  In a moment he
would see her; he would take her tenderly in his
arms, and heart to heart they would mutually
forgive and forget, and, strengthened by their love,
would face the future boldly and bid the world do
its worst.



XXIII

THE GUEST OF HONOR


The evening of the party arrived.  The house
had been thoroughly cleaned in preparation for the
event, and decorated with the choicest treasures of
the garden.  By eight o'clock the guests had gathered. 
They were all mulattoes,--all people of
mixed blood were called "mulattoes" in North
Carolina.  There were dark mulattoes and bright
mulattoes.  Mis' Molly's guests were mostly of the
bright class, most of them more than half white,
and few of them less.  In Mis' Molly's small circle,
straight hair was the only palliative of a dark
complexion.  Many of the guests would not have
been casually distinguishable from white people of
the poorer class.  Others bore unmistakable traces
of Indian ancestry,--for Cherokee and Tuscarora
blood was quite widely diffused among the free
negroes of North Carolina, though well-nigh lost
sight of by the curious custom of the white people
to ignore anything but the negro blood in those
who were touched by its potent current.  Very few
of those present had been slaves.  The free colored
people of Patesville were numerous enough before
the war to have their own "society," and human
enough to despise those who did not possess
advantages equal to their own; and at this time they still
looked down upon those who had once been held in
bondage.  The only black man present occupied a
chair which stood on a broad chest in one corner,
and extracted melody from a fiddle to which a
whole generation of the best people of Patesville
had danced and made merry.  Uncle Needham
seldom played for colored gatherings, but made an
exception in Mis' Molly's case; she was not white,
but he knew her past; if she was not the rose,
she had at least been near the rose.  When the
company had gathered, Mary B., as mistress of
ceremonies, whispered to Uncle Needham, who
tapped his violin sharply with the bow.

"Ladies an' gent'emens, take yo' pa'dners fer a
Fuhginny reel!"

Mr. Wain, as the guest of honor, opened the
ball with his hostess.  He wore a broadcloth coat
and trousers, a heavy glittering chain across the
spacious front of his white waistcoat, and a large
red rose in his buttonhole.  If his boots were
slightly run down at the heel, so trivial a detail
passed unnoticed in the general splendor of his
attire.  Upon a close or hostile inspection there
would have been some features of his ostensibly
good-natured face--the shifty eye, the full and
slightly drooping lower lip--which might have
given a student of physiognomy food for reflection. 
But whatever the latent defects of Wain's character,
he proved himself this evening a model of
geniality, presuming not at all upon his reputed
wealth, but winning golden opinions from those
who came to criticise, of whom, of course, there
were a few, the company being composed of human
beings.

When the dance began, Wain extended his
large, soft hand to Mary B., yellow, buxom, thirty,
with white and even teeth glistening behind her
full red lips.  A younger sister of Mary B.'s was
paired with Billy Oxendine, a funny little tailor,
a great gossip, and therefore a favorite among the
women.  Mis' Molly graciously consented, after
many protestations of lack of skill and want of
practice, to stand up opposite Homer Pettifoot,
Mary B.'s husband, a tall man, with a slight stoop,
a bald crown, and full, dreamy eyes,--a man of
much imagination and a large fund of anecdote. 
Two other couples completed the set; others were
restrained by bashfulness or religious scruples,
which did not yield until later in the evening.

The perfumed air from the garden without and
the cut roses within mingled incongruously with the
alien odors of musk and hair oil, of which several
young barbers in the company were especially
redolent.  There was a play of sparkling eyes and
glancing feet.  Mary B. danced with the languorous
grace of an Eastern odalisque, Mis' Molly with
the mincing, hesitating step of one long out of
practice.  Wain performed saltatory prodigies.  This
was a golden opportunity for the display in which
his soul found delight.  He introduced variations
hitherto unknown to the dance.  His skill and
suppleness brought a glow of admiration into the
eyes of the women, and spread a cloud of jealousy
over the faces of several of the younger men, who
saw themselves eclipsed.

Rena had announced in advance her intention
to take no active part in the festivities.  "I don't
feel like dancing, mamma--I shall never dance
again."

"Well, now, Rena," answered her mother, "of
co'se you're too dignified, sence you've be'n 'sociatin'
with white folks, to be hoppin' roun' an' kickin'
up like Ma'y B. an' these other yaller gals;
but of co'se, too, you can't slight the comp'ny
entirely, even ef it ain't jest exac'ly our party,--
you'll have to pay 'em some little attention, 'specially
Mr. Wain, sence you're goin' down yonder
with 'im."

Rena conscientiously did what she thought
politeness required.  She went the round of the guests
in the early part of the evening and exchanged
greetings with them.  To several requests for dances
she replied that she was not dancing.  She did not
hold herself aloof because of pride; any instinctive
shrinking she might have felt by reason of her recent
association with persons of greater refinement
was offset by her still more newly awakened zeal
for humanity; they were her people, she must not
despise them.  But the occasion suggested painful
memories of other and different scenes in
which she had lately participated.  Once or twice
these memories were so vivid as almost to
overpower her.  She slipped away from the company,
and kept in the background as much as possible
without seeming to slight any one.

The guests as well were dimly conscious of a
slight barrier between Mis' Molly's daughter and
themselves.  The time she had spent apart from
these friends of her youth had rendered it impossible
for her ever to meet them again upon the plane
of common interests and common thoughts.  It
was much as though one, having acquired the
vernacular of his native country, had lived in a foreign
land long enough to lose the language of his childhood
without acquiring fully that of his adopted
country.  Miss Rowena Warwick could never again
become quite the Rena Walden who had left the
house behind the cedars no more than a year and
a half before.  Upon this very difference were
based her noble aspirations for usefulness,--one
must stoop in order that one may lift others.  Any
other young woman present would have been importuned
beyond her powers of resistance.  Rena's
reserve was respected.

When supper was announced, somewhat early in
the evening, the dancers found seats in the hall or
on the front piazza.  Aunt Zilphy, assisted by Mis'
Molly and Mary B., passed around the refreshments,
which consisted of fried chicken, buttered
biscuits, pound-cake, and eggnog.  When the first
edge of appetite was taken off, the conversation
waxed animated.  Homer Pettifoot related, with
minute detail, an old, threadbare hunting lie,
dating, in slightly differing forms, from the age of
Nimrod, about finding twenty-five partridges sitting
in a row on a rail, and killing them all with a
single buckshot, which passed through twenty-four
and lodged in the body of the twenty-fifth, from
which it was extracted and returned to the shot
pouch for future service.

This story was followed by a murmur of
incredulity--of course, the thing was possible, but
Homer's faculty for exaggeration was so well
known that any statement of his was viewed with
suspicion.  Homer seemed hurt at this lack of
faith, and was disposed to argue the point, but
the sonorous voice of Mr. Wain on the other side
of the room cut short his protestations, in much
the same way that the rising sun extinguishes the
light of lesser luminaries.

"I wuz a member er de fus' legislatur' after de
wah," Wain was saying. "When I went up f'm
Sampson in de fall, I had to pass th'ough Smithfiel',
I got in town in de afternoon, an' put up at
de bes' hotel.  De lan'lo'd did n' have no s'picion
but what I wuz a white man, an' he gimme a room,
an' I had supper an' breakfas', an' went on ter
Rolly nex' mornin'.  W'en de session wuz over,
I come along back, an' w'en I got ter Smithfiel', I
driv' up ter de same hotel.  I noticed, as soon as I
got dere, dat de place had run down consid'able--
dere wuz weeds growin' in de yard, de winders wuz
dirty, an' ev'ything roun' dere looked kinder lonesome
an' shif'less.  De lan'lo'd met me at de do';
he looked mighty down in de mouth, an' sezee:--

"`Look a-here, w'at made you come an' stop at
my place widout tellin' me you wuz a black man? 
Befo' you come th'ough dis town I had a fus'-class
business.  But w'en folks found out dat a nigger
had put up here, business drapped right off,
an' I've had ter shet up my hotel.  You oughter
be'shamed er yo'se'f fer ruinin' a po' man w'at
had n' never done no harm ter you.  You've done
a mean, low-lived thing, an' a jes' God'll punish
you fer it.'

"De po' man acshully bust inter tears,"
continued Mr. Wain magnanimously, "an' I felt so
sorry fer 'im--he wuz a po' white man tryin' ter
git up in de worl'--dat I hauled out my purse
an' gin 'im ten dollars, an' he 'peared monst'ous
glad ter git it."

" How good-hearted!  How kin'!" murmured
the ladies.  "It done credit to yo' feelin's."

" Don't b'lieve a word er dem lies," muttered
one young man to another sarcastically.  "He
could n' pass fer white, 'less'n it wuz a mighty dark
night."

Upon this glorious evening of his life, Mr.
Jefferson Wain had one distinctly hostile critic,
of whose presence he was blissfully unconscious. 
Frank Fowler had not been invited to the party,--
his family did not go with Mary B.'s set.  Rena
had suggested to her mother that he be invited,
but Mis' Molly had demurred on the ground that
it was not her party, and that she had no right to
issue invitations.  It is quite likely that she would
have sought an invitation for Frank from Mary
B.; but Frank was black, and would not harmonize
with the rest of the company, who would not have
Mis' Molly's reasons for treating him well.  She
had compromised the matter by stepping across the
way in the afternoon and suggesting that Frank
might come over and sit on the back porch and
look at the dancing and share in the supper.

Frank was not without a certain honest pride. 
He was sensitive enough, too, not to care to go
where he was not wanted.  He would have curtly
refused any such maimed invitation to any other
place.  But would he not see Rena in her best
attire, and might she not perhaps, in passing, speak
a word to him?

"Thank y', Mis' Molly," he replied, "I'll
prob'ly come over."

"You're a big fool, boy," observed his father after
Mis' Molly had gone back across the street, "ter
be stickin' roun' dem yaller niggers 'cross de street,
an' slobb'rin' an' slav'rin' over 'em, an' hangin'
roun' deir back do' wuss 'n ef dey wuz w'ite folks. 
I'd see 'em dead fus'!"

Frank himself resisted the temptation for half
an hour after the music began, but at length he
made his way across the street and stationed himself
at the window opening upon the back piazza. 
When Rena was in the room, he had eyes for her
only, but when she was absent, he fixed his
attention mainly upon Wain.  With jealous
clairvoyance he observed that Wain's eyes followed
Rena when she left the room, and lit up when she
returned.  Frank had heard that Rena was going
away with this man, and he watched Wain closely,
liking him less the longer he looked at him.  To
his fancy, Wain's style and skill were affectation,
his good-nature mere hypocrisy, and his glance at
Rena the eye of the hawk upon his quarry.  He
had heard that Wain was unmarried, and he could
not see how, this being so, he could help wishing
Rena for a wife.  Frank would have been content
to see her marry a white man, who would have
raised her to a plane worthy of her merits.  In
this man's shifty eye he read the liar--his wealth
and standing were probably as false as his seeming
good-humor.

"Is that you, Frank?" said a soft voice near at
hand.

He looked up with a joyful thrill.  Rena was
peering intently at him, as if trying to distinguish
his features in the darkness.  It was a bright
moonlight night, but Frank stood in the shadow of
the piazza.

"Yas 'm, it's me, Miss Rena.  Yo' mammy said
I could come over an' see you-all dance.  You ain'
be'n out on de flo' at all, ter-night."

" No, Frank, I don't care for dancing.  I shall
not dance to-night."

This answer was pleasing to Frank.  If he could
not hope to dance with her, at least the men inside
--at least this snake in the grass from down the
country--should not have that privilege.

"But you must have some supper, Frank," said
Rena.  "I'll bring it myself."

"No, Miss Rena, I don' keer fer nothin'--I
did n' come over ter eat--r'al'y I didn't."

"Nonsense, Frank, there's plenty of it.  I have
no appetite, and you shall have my portion."

She brought him a slice of cake and a glass of
eggnog.  When Mis' Molly, a minute later, came
out upon the piazza, Frank left the yard and
walked down the street toward the old canal.  Rena
had spoken softly to him; she had fed him with
her own dainty hands.  He might never hope that
she would see in him anything but a friend; but
he loved her, and he would watch over her and
protect her, wherever she might be.  He did not
believe that she would ever marry the grinning
hypocrite masquerading back there in Mis' Molly's
parlor; but the man would bear watching.

Mis' Molly had come to call her daughter into
the house.  "Rena," she said, "Mr. Wain wants
ter know if you won't dance just one dance with
him."

"Yas, Rena," pleaded Mary B., who followed
Miss Molly out to the piazza, "jes' one dance.  I
don't think you're treatin' my comp'ny jes' right,
Cousin Rena."

"You're goin' down there with 'im," added her
mother, "an' it 'd be just as well to be on friendly
terms with 'im."

Wain himself had followed the women.  "Sho'ly,
Miss Rena, you're gwine ter honah me wid one
dance?  I'd go 'way f'm dis pa'ty sad at hea't ef
I had n' stood up oncet wid de young lady er de
house."

As Rena, weakly persuaded, placed her hand
on Wain's arm and entered the house, a buggy,
coming up Front Street, paused a moment at the
corner, and then turning slowly, drove quietly up
the nameless by-street, concealed by the intervening
cedars, until it reached a point from which the
occupant could view, through the open front window,
the interior of the parlor.



XXIV

SWING YOUR PARTNERS


Moved by tenderness and thoughts of self-sacrifice,
which had occupied his mind to the momentary
exclusion of all else, Tryon had scarcely
noticed, as be approached the house behind the
cedars, a strain of lively music, to which was added,
as he drew still nearer, the accompaniment of other
festive sounds.  He suddenly awoke, however, to
the fact that these signs of merriment came from
the house at which he had intended to stop;--
he had not meant that Rena should pass another
sleepless night of sorrow, or that he should himself
endure another needless hour of suspense.

He drew rein at the corner.  Shocked surprise,
a nascent anger, a vague alarm, an insistent
curiosity, urged him nearer.  Turning the mare into
the side street and keeping close to the fence, he
drove ahead in the shadow of the cedars until he
reached a gap through which he could see into the
open door and windows of the brightly lighted
hall.

There was evidently a ball in progress.  The
fiddle was squeaking merrily so a tune that he
remembered well,--it was associated with one of
the most delightful evenings of his life, that of
the tournament ball.  A mellow negro voice was
calling with a rhyming accompaniment the figures
of a quadrille.  Tryon, with parted lips and slowly
hardening heart, leaned forward from the buggy-
seat, gripping the rein so tightly that his nails
cut into the opposing palm.  Above the clatter of
noisy conversation rose the fiddler's voice:--

     "Swing yo' pa'dners; doan be shy,
       Look yo' lady in de eye!
       Th'ow yo' ahm aroun' huh wais';
       Take yo' time--dey ain' no has'e!"

To the middle of the floor, in full view through
an open window, advanced the woman who all day
long had been the burden of his thoughts--not
pale with grief and hollow-eyed with weeping, but
flushed with pleasure, around her waist the arm
of a burly, grinning mulatto, whose face was
offensively familiar to Tryon.

With a muttered curse of concentrated
bitterness, Tryon struck the mare a sharp blow with
the whip.  The sensitive creature, spirited even
in her great weariness, resented the lash and
started off with the bit in her teeth.  Perceiving
that it would be difficult to turn in the narrow
roadway without running into the ditch at the
left, Tryon gave the mare rein and dashed down
the street, scarcely missing, as the buggy crossed
the bridge, a man standing abstractedly by the old
canal, who sprang aside barely in time to avoid
being run over.

Meantime Rena was passing through a trying
ordeal.  After the first few bars, the fiddler
plunged into a well-known air, in which Rena,
keenly susceptible to musical impressions,
recognized the tune to which, as Queen of Love and
Beauty, she had opened the dance at her entrance
into the world of life and love, for it was there
she had met George Tryon.  The combination of
music and movement brought up the scene with
great distinctness.  Tryon, peering angrily through
the cedars, had not been more conscious than she
of the external contrast between her partners on
this and the former occasion.  She perceived, too,
as Tryon from the outside had not, the difference
between Wain's wordy flattery (only saved by his
cousin's warning from pointed and fulsome adulation),
and the tenderly graceful compliment,
couched in the romantic terms of chivalry, with
which the knight of the handkerchief had charmed
her ear.  It was only by an immense effort that she
was able to keep her emotions under control until
the end of the dance, when she fled to her chamber
and burst into tears.  It was not the cruel Tryon
who had blasted her love with his deadly look that
she mourned, but the gallant young knight who
had worn her favor on his lance and crowned her
Queen of Love and Beauty.


Tryon's stay in Patesville was very brief.  He
drove to the hotel and put up for the night.  During
many sleepless hours his mind was in a turmoil
with a very different set of thoughts from those
which had occupied it on the way to town.  Not
the least of them was a profound self-contempt for
his own lack of discernment.  How had he been
so blind as not to have read long ago the character
of this wretched girl who had bewitched him? 
To-night his eyes had been opened--he had seen
her with the mask thrown off, a true daughter of
a race in which the sensuous enjoyment of the
moment took precedence of taste or sentiment or any
of the higher emotions.  Her few months of boarding-
school, her brief association with white people,
had evidently been a mere veneer over the underlying
negro, and their effects had slipped away as
soon as the intercourse had ceased.  With the
monkey-like imitativeness of the negro she had copied
the manners of white people while she lived among
them, and had dropped them with equal facility
when they ceased to serve a purpose.  Who but
a negro could have recovered so soon from what
had seemed a terrible bereavement?--she herself
must have felt it at the time, for otherwise she
would not have swooned.  A woman of sensibility,
as this one had seemed to be, should naturally feel
more keenly, and for a longer time than a man,
an injury to the affections; but he, a son of the
ruling race, had been miserable for six weeks about
a girl who had so far forgotten him as already to
plunge headlong into the childish amusements of
her own ignorant and degraded people.  What
more, indeed, he asked himself savagely,--what
more could be expected of the base-born child of
the plaything of a gentleman's idle hour, who to
this ignoble origin added the blood of a servile
race?  And he, George Tryon, had honored her
with his love; he had very nearly linked his fate
and joined his blood to hers by the solemn sanctions
of church and state.  Tryon was not a devout
man, but he thanked God with religious fervor
that he had been saved a second time from a
mistake which would have wrecked his whole future. 
If he had yielded to the momentary weakness of
the past night,--the outcome of a sickly sentimentality
to which he recognized now, in the light
of reflection, that he was entirely too prone,--he
would have regretted it soon enough.  The black
streak would have been sure to come out in some
form, sooner or later, if not in the wife, then in
her children.  He saw clearly enough, in this hour
of revulsion, that with his temperament and training
such a union could never have been happy. 
If all the world had been ignorant of the dark
secret, it would always have been in his own
thoughts, or at least never far away.  Each fault
of hers that the close daily association of husband
and wife might reveal,--the most flawless of
sweethearts do not pass scathless through the long
test of matrimony,--every wayward impulse of
his children, every defect of mind, morals, temper,
or health, would have been ascribed to the dark
ancestral strain.  Happiness under such conditions
would have been impossible.

When Tryon lay awake in the early morning,
after a few brief hours of sleep, the business which
had brought him to Patesville seemed, in the cold
light of reason, so ridiculously inadequate that he
felt almost ashamed to have set up such a pretext
for his journey.  The prospect, too, of meeting
Dr. Green and his family, of having to explain
his former sudden departure, and of running a
gauntlet of inquiry concerning his marriage to the
aristocratic Miss Warwick of South Carolina;
the fear that some one at Patesville might have
suspected a connection between Rena's swoon and
his own flight,--these considerations so moved
this impressionable and impulsive young man that
he called a bell-boy, demanded an early breakfast,
ordered his horse, paid his reckoning, and started
upon his homeward journey forthwith.  A certain
distrust of his own sensibility, which he felt to
be curiously inconsistent with his most positive
convictions, led him to seek the river bridge by a
roundabout route which did not take him past the
house where, a few hours before, he had seen the
last fragment of his idol shattered beyond the hope
of repair.


The party broke up at an early hour, since most
of the guests were working-people, and the travelers
were to make an early start next day.  About
nine in the morning, Wain drove round to Mis'
Molly's.  Rena's trunk was strapped behind the
buggy, and she set out, in the company of Wain,
for her new field of labor.  The school term was
only two months in length, and she did not expect
to return until its expiration.  Just before taking
her seat in the buggy, Rena felt a sudden sinking
of the heart.

"Oh, mother," she whispered, as they stood
wrapped in a close embrace, "I'm afraid to leave
you.  I left you once, and it turned out so miserably."

"It'll turn out better this time, honey," replied
her mother soothingly.  "Good-by, child.  Take
care of yo'self an' yo'r money, and write to yo'r
mammy."

One kiss all round, and Rena was lifted into
the buggy.  Wain seized the reins, and under his
skillful touch the pretty mare began to prance and
curvet with restrained impatience.  Wain could
not resist the opportunity to show off before the
party, which included Mary B.'s entire family and
several other neighbors, who had gathered to see
the travelers off.

"Good-by ter Patesville!  Good-by, folkses all!"
he cried, with a wave of his disengaged hand.

"Good-by, mother!  Good-by, all!" cried Rena,
as with tears in her heart and a brave smile on her
face she left her home behind her for the second
time.

When they had crossed the river bridge, the
travelers came to a long stretch of rising ground,
from the summit of which they could look back
over the white sandy road for nearly a mile. 
Neither Rena nor her companion saw Frank Fowler
behind the chinquapin bush at the foot of the hill,
nor the gaze of mute love and longing with which
he watched the buggy mount the long incline.  He
had not been able to trust himself to bid her
farewell.  He had seen her go away once before with
every prospect of happiness, and come back, a dove
with a wounded wing, to the old nest behind the
cedars.  She was going away again, with a man
whom he disliked and distrusted.  If she had met
misfortune before, what were her prospects for
happiness now?

The buggy paused at the top of the hill, and
Frank, shading his eyes with his hand, thought he
could see her turn and look behind.  Look back,
dear child, towards your home and those who love
you!  For who knows more than this faithful
worshiper what threads of the past Fate is weaving
into your future, or whether happiness or misery
lies before you?



XXV

BALANCE ALL


The road to Sampson County lay for the most
part over the pine-clad sandhills,--an alternation
of gentle rises and gradual descents, with now and
then a swamp of greater or less extent.  Long
stretches of the highway led through the virgin
forest, for miles unbroken by a clearing or sign of
human habitation.

They traveled slowly, with frequent pauses in
shady places, for the weather was hot.  The journey,
made leisurely, required more than a day,
and might with slight effort be prolonged into
two.  They stopped for the night at a small
village, where Wain found lodging for Rena with an
acquaintance of his, and for himself with another,
while a third took charge of the horse, the
accommodation for travelers being limited.  Rena's
appearance and manners were the subject of much
comment.  It was necessary to explain to several
curious white people that Rena was a woman of
color.  A white woman might have driven with
Wain without attracting remark,--most white
ladies had negro coachmen.  That a woman of
Rena's complexion should eat at a negro's table, or
sleep beneath a negro's roof, was a seeming breach
of caste which only black blood could excuse.  The
explanation was never questioned.  No white person
of sound mind would ever claim to be a
negro.

They resumed their journey somewhat late in the
morning.  Rena would willingly have hastened, for
she was anxious to plunge into her new work; but
Wain seemed disposed to prolong the pleasant drive,
and beguiled the way for a time with stories of
wonderful things he had done and strange experiences
of a somewhat checkered career.  He was shrewd
enough to avoid any subject which would offend a
modest young woman, but too obtuse to perceive
that much of what he said would not commend
him to a person of refinement.  He made little
reference to his possessions, concerning which so
much had been said at Patesville; and this
reticence was a point in his favor.  If he had not
been so much upon his guard and Rena so much
absorbed by thoughts of her future work, such a
drive would have furnished a person of her discernment
a very fair measure of the man's character. 
To these distractions must be added the entire
absence of any idea that Wain might have amorous
designs upon her; and any shortcomings of
manners or speech were excused by the broad
mantle of charity which Rena in her new-found zeal for
the welfare of her people was willing to throw over
all their faults.  They were the victims of
oppression; they were not responsible for its results.

Toward the end of the second day, while nearing
their destination, the travelers passed a large
white house standing back from the road at the
foot of a lane.  Around it grew widespreading
trees and well-kept shrubbery.  The fences were
in good repair.  Behind the house and across the
road stretched extensive fields of cotton and
waving corn.  They had passed no other place that
showed such signs of thrift and prosperity.

"Oh, what a lovely place!" exclaimed Rena. 
"That is yours, isn't it?"

"No; we ain't got to my house yet," he
answered.  "Dat house b'longs ter de riches' people
roun' here.  Dat house is over in de nex' county. 
We're right close to de line now."

Shortly afterwards they turned off from the
main highway they had been pursuing, and struck
into a narrower road to the left.

"De main road," explained Wain, "goes on to
Clinton, 'bout five miles er mo' away.  Dis one
we're turnin' inter now will take us to my place,
which is 'bout three miles fu'ther on.  We'll git
dere now in an hour er so."

Wain lived in an old plantation house, somewhat
dilapidated, and surrounded by an air of neglect
and shiftlessness, but still preserving a remnant
of dignity in its outlines and comfort in its interior
arrangements.  Rena was assigned a large room on
the second floor.  She was somewhat surprised at
the make-up of the household.  Wain's mother--
an old woman, much darker than her son--kept
house for him.  A sister with two children lived
in the house.  The element of surprise lay in the
presence of two small children left by Wain's wife,
of whom Rena now heard for the first time.  He
had lost his wife, he informed Rena sadly, a couple
of years before.

"Yas, Miss Rena," she sighed, "de Lawd give
her, an' de Lawd tuck her away.  Blessed be de
name er de Lawd."  He accompanied this sententious
quotation with a wicked look from under his
half-closed eyelids that Rena did not see.

The following morning Wain drove her in his
buggy over to the county town, where she took the
teacher's examination.  She was given a seat in a
room with a number of other candidates for
certificates, but the fact leaking out from some remark
of Wain's that she was a colored girl, objection
was quietly made by several of the would-be teachers
to her presence in the room, and she was requested
to retire until the white teachers should
have been examined.  An hour or two later she
was given a separate examination, which she passed
without difficulty.  The examiner, a gentleman of
local standing, was dimly conscious that she might
not have found her exclusion pleasant, and was
especially polite.  It would have been strange,
indeed, if he had not been impressed by her sweet
face and air of modest dignity, which were all the
more striking because of her social disability.  He
fell into conversation with her, became interested
in her hopes and aims, and very cordially offered
to be of service, if at any time he might, in
connection with her school.

"You have the satisfaction," he said, "of
receiving the only first-grade certificate issued to-day. 
You might teach a higher grade of pupils than you
will find at Sandy Run, but let us hope that you
may in time raise them to your own level."

"Which I doubt very much," he muttered to
himself, as she went away with Wain.  "What a
pity that such a woman should be a nigger!  If
she were anything to me, though, I should hate
to trust her anywhere near that saddle-colored
scoundrel.  He's a thoroughly bad lot, and will
bear watching."

Rena, however, was serenely ignorant of any
danger from the accommodating Wain.  Absorbed
in her own thoughts and plans, she had not sought
to look beneath the surface of his somewhat overdone
politeness.  In a few days she began her work
as teacher, and sought to forget in the service of
others the dull sorrow that still gnawed at her heart.



XXVI

THE SCHOOLHOUSE IN THE WOODS


Blanche Leary, closely observant of Tryon's
moods, marked a decided change in his manner
after his return from his trip to Patesville.  His
former moroseness had given way to a certain
defiant lightness, broken now and then by an
involuntary sigh, but maintained so well, on the
whole, that his mother detected no lapses whatever. 
The change was characterized by another feature
agreeable to both the women:  Tryon showed
decidedly more interest than ever before in Miss
Leary's society.  Within a week he asked her
several times to play a selection on the piano,
displaying, as she noticed, a decided preference for
gay and cheerful music, and several times suggesting
a change when she chose pieces of a sentimental
cast.  More than once, during the second week
after his return, he went out riding with her; she
was a graceful horsewoman, perfectly at home in
the saddle, and appearing to advantage in a riding-
habit.  She was aware that Tryon watched her now
and then, with an eye rather critical than indulgent.

"He is comparing me with some other girl,"
she surmised.  "I seem to stand the test very well. 
I wonder who the other is, and what was the
trouble?"

Miss Leary exerted all her powers to interest
and amuse the man she had set out to win, and
who seemed nearer than ever before.  Tryon, to
his pleased surprise, discovered in her mind depths
that he had never suspected.  She displayed a
singular affinity for the tastes that were his--he
could not, of course, know how carefully she had
studied them.  The old wound, recently reopened,
seemed to be healing rapidly, under conditions
more conducive than before to perfect recovery. 
No longer, indeed, was he pursued by the picture
of Rena discovered and unmasked--this he had
definitely banished from the realm of sentiment to
that of reason.  The haunting image of Rena loving
and beloved, amid the harmonious surroundings
of her brother's home, was not so readily displaced. 
Nevertheless, he reached in several weeks a point
from which he could consider her as one thinks of
a dear one removed by the hand of death, or smitten
by some incurable ailment of mind or body. 
Erelong, he fondly believed, the recovery would
be so far complete that he could consign to the
tomb of pleasant memories even the most thrilling
episodes of his ill-starred courtship.

"George," said Mrs. Tryon one morning while
her son was in this cheerful mood, "I'm sending
Blanche over to Major McLeod's to do an errand
for me.  Would you mind driving her over?  The
road may be rough after the storm last night, and
Blanche has an idea that no one drives so well as
you."

"Why, yes, mother, I'll be glad to drive Blanche
over.  I want to see the major myself."

They were soon bowling along between the pines,
behind the handsome mare that had carried Tryon
so well at the Clarence tournament.  Presently he
drew up sharply.

"A tree has fallen squarely across the road," he
exclaimed.  "We shall have to turn back a little
way and go around."

They drove back a quarter of a mile and turned
into a by-road leading to the right through the
woods.  The solemn silence of the pine forest is
soothing or oppressive, according to one's mood. 
Beneath the cool arcade of the tall, overarching
trees a deep peace stole over Tryon's heart.  He
had put aside indefinitely and forever an unhappy
and impossible love.  The pretty and affectionate
girl beside him would make an ideal wife.  Of
her family and blood he was sure.  She was his
mother's choice, and his mother had set her heart
upon their marriage.  Why not speak to her now,
and thus give himself the best possible protection
against stray flames of love?

"Blanche," he said, looking at her kindly.

"Yes, George?"  Her voice was very gentle,
and slightly tremulous.  Could she have divined
his thought?  Love is a great clairvoyant.

"Blanche, dear, I"--

A clatter of voices broke upon the stillness of
the forest and interrupted Tryon's speech.  A
sudden turn to the left brought the buggy to a
little clearing, in the midst of which stood a small
log schoolhouse.  Out of the schoolhouse a swarm
of colored children were emerging, the suppressed
energy of the school hour finding vent in vocal
exercise of various sorts.  A group had already
formed a ring, and were singing with great volume
and vigor:--

     "Miss Jane, she loves sugar an' tea,
       Miss Jane, she loves candy.
       Miss Jane, she can whirl all around
       An' kiss her love quite handy.

             "De oak grows tall,
               De pine grows slim,
               So rise you up, my true love,
               An' let me come in."


"What a funny little darkey!" exclaimed Miss
Leary, pointing to a diminutive lad who was walking
on his hands, with his feet balanced in the air. 
At sight of the buggy and its occupants this sable
acrobat, still retaining his inverted position, moved
toward the newcomers, and, reversing himself with
a sudden spring, brought up standing beside the
buggy.

"Hoddy, Mars Geo'ge!" he exclaimed, bobbing
his head and kicking his heel out behind in
approved plantation style.

"Hello, Plato," replied the young man, "what
are you doing here?"

"Gwine ter school, Mars Geo'ge," replied the
lad; "larnin' ter read an' write, suh, lack de w'ite
folks."

"Wat you callin' dat w'ite man marster fur?"
whispered a tall yellow boy to the acrobat addressed
as Plato.  "You don' b'long ter him no mo'; you're
free, an' ain' got sense ernuff ter know it."

Tryon threw a small coin to Plato, and holding
another in his hand suggestively, smiled toward the
tall yellow boy, who looked regretfully at the coin,
but stood his ground; he would call no man master,
not even for a piece of money.

During this little colloquy, Miss Leary had kept
her face turned toward the schoolhouse.

"What a pretty girl!" she exclaimed.  "There,"
she added, as Tryon turned his head toward her,
"you are too late.  She has retired into her castle. 
Oh, Plato!"

"Yas, missis," replied Plato, who was prancing
round the buggy in great glee, on the strength of
his acquaintance with the white folks.

"Is your teacher white?"

"No, ma'm, she ain't w'ite; she's black.  She
looks lack she's w'ite, but she's black."

Tryon had not seen the teacher's face, but the
incident had jarred the old wound; Miss Leary's
description of the teacher, together with Plato's
characterization, had stirred lightly sleeping
memories.  He was more or less abstracted during the
remainder of the drive, and did not recur to the
conversation that had been interrupted by coming
upon the schoolhouse.

The teacher, glancing for a moment through the
open door of the schoolhouse, had seen a handsome
young lady staring at her,--Miss Leary had
a curiously intent look when she was interested in
anything, with no intention whatever to be rude,--
and beyond the lady the back and shoulder of a
man, whose face was turned the other way.  There
was a vague suggestion of something familiar about
the equipage, but Rena shrank from this close
scrutiny and withdrew out of sight before she had
had an opportunity to identify the vague resemblance
to something she had known.

Miss Leary had missed by a hair's-breadth the
psychological moment, and felt some resentment
toward the little negroes who had interrupted her
lover's train of thought.  Negroes have caused a
great deal of trouble among white people.  How
deeply the shadow of the Ethiopian had fallen
upon her own happiness, Miss Leary of course
could not guess.



XXVII

AN INTERESTING ACQUAINTANCE


A few days later, Rena looked out of the
window near her desk and saw a low basket phaeton,
drawn by a sorrel pony, driven sharply into the
clearing and drawn up beside an oak sapling. 
The occupant of the phaeton, a tall, handsome,
well-preserved lady in middle life, with slightly
gray hair, alighted briskly from the phaeton, tied
the pony to the sapling with a hitching-strap, and
advanced to the schoolhouse door.

Rena wondered who the lady might be.  She
had a benevolent aspect, however, and came forward
to the desk with a smile, not at all embarrassed
by the wide-eyed inspection of the entire
school.

"How do you do?" she said, extending her
hand to the teacher.  "I live in the neighborhood
and am interested in the colored people--a good
many of them once belonged to me.  I heard
something of your school, and thought I should
like to make your acquaintance."

"It is very kind of you, indeed," murmured
Rena respectfully.

"Yes," continued the lady, "I am not one of
those who sit back and blame their former slaves
because they were freed.  They are free now,--it
is all decided and settled,--and they ought to be
taught enough to enable them to make good use of
their freedom.  But really, my dear,--you mustn't
feel offended if I make a mistake,--I am going
to ask you something very personal."  She looked
suggestively at the gaping pupils.

"The school may take the morning recess now,"
announced the teacher.  The pupils filed out in
an orderly manner, most of them stationing
themselves about the grounds in such places as would
keep the teacher and the white lady in view.  Very
few white persons approved of the colored schools;
no other white person had ever visited this one.

"Are you really colored?" asked the lady, when
the children had withdrawn.

A year and a half earlier, Rena would have met
the question by some display of self-consciousness. 
Now, she replied simply and directly.

"Yes, ma'am, I am colored."

The lady, who had been studying her as closely
as good manners would permit, sighed regretfully.

"Well, it's a shame.  No one would ever think
it.  If you chose to conceal it, no one would ever
be the wiser.  What is your name, child, and where
were you brought up?  You must have a romantic
history."

Rena gave her name and a few facts in regard
to her past.  The lady was so much interested,
and put so many and such searching questions,
that Rena really found it more difficult to suppress
the fact that she had been white, than she had
formerly had in hiding her African origin.  There
was about the girl an air of real refinement that
pleased the lady,--the refinement not merely of
a fine nature, but of contact with cultured people;
a certain reserve of speech and manner quite
inconsistent with Mrs. Tryon's experience of
colored women.  The lady was interested and slightly
mystified.  A generous, impulsive spirit,--her
son's own mother,--she made minute inquiries
about the school and the pupils, several of whom
she knew by name.  Rena stated that the two
months' term was nearing its end, and that she
was training the children in various declamations
and dialogues for the exhibition at the close.

"I shall attend it," declared the lady positively. 
"I'm sure you are doing a good work, and it's
very noble of you to undertake it when you might
have a very different future.  If I can serve you
at any time, don't hesitate to call upon me.  I
live in the big white house just before you turn
out of the Clinton road to come this way.  I'm
only a widow, but my son George lives with me
and has some influence in the neighborhood.  He
drove by here yesterday with the lady he is going
to marry.  It was she who told me about you."

Was it the name, or some subtle resemblance
in speech or feature, that recalled Tryon's image
to Rena's mind?  It was not so far away--the
image of the loving Tryon--that any powerful
witchcraft was required to call it up.  His mother
was a widow; Rena had thought, in happier days,
that she might be such a kind lady as this.  But
the cruel Tryon who had left her--his mother
would be some hard, cold, proud woman, who
would regard a negro as but little better than a
dog, and who would not soil her lips by addressing
a colored person upon any other terms than as a
servant.  She knew, too, that Tryon did not live
in Sampson County, though the exact location of
his home was not clear to her.

"And where are you staying, my dear?" asked
the good lady.

"I'm boarding at Mrs. Wain's," answered
Rena.

"Mrs. Wain's?"

"Yes, they live in the old Campbell place."

"Oh, yes--Aunt Nancy.  She's a good enough
woman, but we don't think much of her son Jeff. 
He married my Amanda after the war--she used
to belong to me, and ought to have known better. 
He abused her most shamefully, and had to be
threatened with the law.  She left him a year or
so ago and went away; I haven't seen her lately. 
Well, good-by, child; I'm coming to your
exhibition.  If you ever pass my house, come in and
see me."

The good lady had talked for half an hour, and
had brought a ray of sunshine into the teacher's
monotonous life, heretofore lighted only by the
uncertain lamp of high resolve.  She had satisfied
a pardonable curiosity, and had gone away
without mentioning her name.

Rena saw Plato untying the pony as the lady
climbed into the phaeton.

"Who was the lady, Plato?" asked the teacher
when the visitor had driven away.

"Dat 'uz my ole mist'iss, ma'm," returned Plato
proudly,-- "ole Mis' 'Liza."

"Mis' 'Liza who?" asked Rena.

"Mis' 'Liza Tryon.  I use' ter b'long ter her. 
Dat 'uz her son, my young Mars Geo'ge, w'at driv
pas' hyuh yistiddy wid 'is sweetheart."



XXVIII

THE LOST KNIFE


Rena had found her task not a difficult one so
far as discipline was concerned.  Her pupils were
of a docile race, and school to them had all the
charm of novelty.  The teacher commanded some
awe because she was a stranger, and some, perhaps,
because she was white; for the theory of blackness
as propounded by Plato could not quite counter-
balance in the young African mind the evidence of
their own senses.  She combined gentleness with
firmness; and if these had not been sufficient,
she had reserves of character which would have
given her the mastery over much less plastic
material than these ignorant but eager young people. 
The work of instruction was simple enough, for
most of the pupils began with the alphabet, which
they acquired from Webster's blue-backed spelling-
book, the palladium of Southern education at that
epoch.  The much abused carpet-baggers had put
the spelling-book within reach of every child of
school age in North Carolina,--a fact which is
often overlooked when the carpet-baggers are held
up to public odium.  Even the devil should have
his due, and is not so black as he is painted.

At the time when she learned that Tryon lived
in the neighborhood, Rena had already been subjected
for several weeks to a trying ordeal.  Wain
had begun to persecute her with marked attentions. 
She had at first gone to board at his house,--or,
by courtesy, with his mother.  For a week or two
she had considered his attentions in no other light
than those of a member of the school committee
sharing her own zeal and interested in seeing the
school successfully carried on.  In this character
Wain had driven her to the town for her examination;
he had busied himself about putting the
schoolhouse in order, and in various matters
affecting the conduct of the school.  He had jocularly
offered to come and whip the children for her, and
had found it convenient to drop in occasionally,
ostensibly to see what progress the work was
making.

"Dese child'en," he would observe sonorously,
in the presence of the school, "oughter be monst'ous
glad ter have de chance er settin' under
yo' instruction, Miss Rena.  I'm sho' eve'body in
dis neighbo'hood 'preciates de priv'lege er havin'
you in ou' mids'."

Though slightly embarrassing to the teacher,
these public demonstrations were endurable so long
as they could be regarded as mere official
appreciation of her work.  Sincerely in earnest about
her undertaking, she had plunged into it with
all the intensity of a serious nature which love
had stirred to activity.  A pessimist might have
sighed sadly or smiled cynically at the notion that
a poor, weak girl, with a dangerous beauty and a
sensitive soul, and troubles enough of her own,
should hope to accomplish anything appreciable
toward lifting the black mass still floundering
in the mud where slavery had left it, and where
emancipation had found it,--the mud in which,
for aught that could be seen to the contrary, her
little feet, too, were hopelessly entangled.  It might
have seemed like expecting a man to lift himself
by his boot-straps.

But Rena was no philosopher, either sad or
cheerful.  She could not even have replied to
this argument, that races must lift themselves,
and the most that can be done by others is to
give them opportunity and fair play.  Hers was
a simpler reasoning,--the logic by which the
world is kept going onward and upward when
philosophers are at odds and reformers are not
forthcoming.  She knew that for every child she
taught to read and write she opened, if ever so
little, the door of opportunity, and she was happy
in the consciousness of performing a duty which
seemed all the more imperative because newly
discovered.  Her zeal, indeed, for the time being was
like that of an early Christian, who was more
willing than not to die for his faith.  Rena had
fully and firmly made up her mind to sacrifice her
life upon this altar.  Her absorption in the work
had not been without its reward, for thereby she
had been able to keep at a distance the spectre of
her lost love.  Her dreams she could not control,
but she banished Tryon as far as possible from her
waking thoughts.

When Wain's attentions became obviously
personal, Rena's new vestal instinct took alarm, and
she began to apprehend his character more clearly. 
She had long ago learned that his pretensions to
wealth were a sham.  He was nominal owner of
a large plantation, it is true; but the land was
worn out, and mortgaged to the limit of its security
value.  His reputed droves of cattle and hogs
had dwindled to a mere handful of lean and
listless brutes.

Her clear eye, when once set to take Wain's
measure, soon fathomed his shallow, selfish soul,
and detected, or at least divined, behind his mask
of good-nature a lurking brutality which filled her
with vague distrust, needing only occasion to
develop it into active apprehension,--occasion which
was not long wanting.  She avoided being alone
with him at home by keeping carefully with the
women of the house.  If she were left alone,--and
they soon showed a tendency to leave her on any
pretext whenever Wain came near,--she would
seek her own room and lock the door.  She preferred
not to offend Wain; she was far away from home
and in a measure in his power, but she dreaded his
compliments and sickened at his smile.  She was
also compelled to hear his relations sing his praises.

"My son Jeff," old Mrs. Wain would say, "is
de bes' man you ever seed.  His fus' wife had de
easies' time an' de happies' time er ary woman in
dis settlement.  He's grieve' fer her a long time, but
I reckon he's gittin' over it, an' de nex' 'oman w'at
marries him'll git a box er pyo' gol', ef I does say
it as is his own mammy."

Rena had thought Wain rather harsh with his
household, except in her immediate presence.  His
mother and sister seemed more or less afraid of
him, and the children often anxious to avoid him.

One day, he timed his visit to the schoolhouse
so as to walk home with Rena through the woods. 
When she became aware of his purpose, she called
to one of the children who was loitering behind the
others, "Wait a minute, Jenny.  I'm going your
way, and you can walk along with me."

Wain with difficulty hid a scowl behind a
smiling front.  When they had gone a little distance
along the road through the woods, he clapped his
hand upon his pocket.

"I declare ter goodness," he exclaimed, "ef I
ain't dropped my pocket-knife!  I thought I felt
somethin' slip th'ough dat hole in my pocket jes'
by the big pine stump in the schoolhouse ya'd. 
Jinny, chile, run back an' hunt fer my knife, an'
I'll give yer five cents ef yer find it.  Me an'
Miss Rena'll walk on slow 'tel you ketches us."

Rena did not dare to object, though she was afraid
to be alone with this man.  If she could have had
a moment to think, she would have volunteered to
go back with Jenny and look for the knife, which,
although a palpable subterfuge on her part, would
have been one to which Wain could not object;
but the child, dazzled by the prospect of reward,
had darted back so quickly that this way of escape
was cut off.  She was evidently in for a declaration
of love, which she had taken infinite pains to
avoid.  Just the form it would assume, she could
not foresee.  She was not long left in suspense. 
No sooner was the child well out of sight than
Wain threw his arms suddenly about her waist
and smilingly attempted to kiss her.

Speechless with fear and indignation, she tore
herself from his grasp with totally unexpected
force, and fled incontinently along the forest path. 
Wain--who, to do him justice, had merely meant
to declare his passion in what he had hoped might
prove a not unacceptable fashion--followed in
some alarm, expostulating and apologizing as he
went.  But he was heavy and Rena was light, and
fear lent wings to her feet.  He followed her until
he saw her enter the house of Elder Johnson, the
father of several of her pupils, after which he
sneaked uneasily homeward, somewhat apprehensive
of the consequences of his abrupt wooing,
which was evidently open to an unfavorable
construction.  When, an hour later, Rena sent one of
the Johnson children for some of her things, with
a message explaining that the teacher had been
invited to spend a few days at Elder Johnson's,
Wain felt a pronounced measure of relief.  For an
hour he had even thought it might be better to
relinquish his pursuit.  With a fatuousness born of
vanity, however, no sooner had she sent her excuse 
than he began to look upon her visit to Johnson's as
a mere exhibition of coyness, which, together with
her conduct in the woods, was merely intended to
lure him on.

Right upon the heels of the perturbation caused
by Wain's conduct, Rena discovered that Tryon
lived in the neighborhood; that not only might she
meet him any day upon the highway, but that he
had actually driven by the schoolhouse.  That he
knew or would know of her proximity there could
be no possible doubt, since she had freely told his
mother her name and her home.  A hot wave of
shame swept over her at the thought that George
Tryon might imagine she were following him, throwing
herself in his way, and at the thought of the
construction which he might place upon her actions. 
Caught thus between two emotional fires, at the
very time when her school duties, owing to the
approaching exhibition, demanded all her energies,
Rena was subjected to a physical and mental strain
that only youth and health could have resisted, and
then only for a short time.



XXIX

PLATO EARNS HALF A DOLLAR


Tryon's first feeling, when his mother at the
dinner-table gave an account of her visit to the
schoolhouse in the woods, was one of extreme
annoyance.  Why, of all created beings, should this
particular woman be chosen to teach the colored
school at Sandy Run?  Had she learned that he
lived in the neighborhood, and had she sought the
place hoping that he might consent to renew, on
different terms, relations which could never be
resumed upon their former footing?  Six weeks before,
he would not have believed her capable of following
him; but his last visit to Patesville had revealed her
character in such a light that it was difficult to
predict what she might do.  It was, however, no affair
of his.  He was done with her; he had dismissed her
from his own life, where she had never properly
belonged, and he had filled her place, or would soon
fill it, with another and worthier woman.  Even
his mother, a woman of keen discernment and
delicate intuitions, had been deceived by this girl's
specious exterior.  She had brought away from her
interview of the morning the impression that Rena
was a fine, pure spirit, born out of place, through
some freak of Fate, devoting herself with heroic
self-sacrifice to a noble cause.  Well, he had
imagined her just as pure and fine, and she had
deliberately, with a negro's low cunning, deceived
him into believing that she was a white girl.  The
pretended confession of the brother, in which he
had spoken of the humble origin of the family, had
been, consciously or unconsciously, the most
disingenuous feature of the whole miserable
performance.  They had tried by a show of frankness to
satisfy their own consciences,--they doubtless had
enough of white blood to give them a rudimentary
trace of such a moral organ,--and by the same
act to disarm him against future recriminations, in
the event of possible discovery.  How was he to
imagine that persons of their appearance and
pretensions were tainted with negro blood?  The more
he dwelt upon the subject, the more angry he became
with those who had surprised his virgin heart
and deflowered it by such low trickery.  The man
who brought the first negro into the British colonies
had committed a crime against humanity and a
worse crime against his own race.  The father of
this girl had been guilty of a sin against society
for which others--for which he, George Tryon--
must pay the penalty.  As slaves, negroes were
tolerable.  As freemen, they were an excrescence, an
alien element incapable of absorption into the body
politic of white men.  He would like to send them
all back to the Africa from which their forefathers
had come,--unwillingly enough, he would admit,
--and he would like especially to banish this girl
from his own neighborhood; not indeed that her
presence would make any difference to him, except
as a humiliating reminder of his own folly and
weakness with which he could very well dispense.

Of this state of mind Tryon gave no visible
manifestation beyond a certain taciturnity, so
much at variance with his recent liveliness that the
ladies could not fail to notice it.  No effort upon
the part of either was able to affect his mood, and
they both resigned themselves to await his lordship's
pleasure to be companionable.

For a day or two, Tryon sedulously kept away
from the neighborhood of the schoolhouse at
Sandy Rim.  He really had business which would
have taken him in that direction, but made a
detour of five miles rather than go near his
abandoned and discredited sweetheart.

But George Tryon was wisely distrustful of his
own impulses.  Driving one day along the road to
Clinton, he overhauled a diminutive black figure
trudging along the road, occasionally turning a
handspring by way of diversion.

"Hello, Plato," called Tryon, "do you want a
lift?"

"Hoddy, Mars Geo'ge.  Kin I ride wid you?"

"Jump up."

Plato mounted into the buggy with the agility
to be expected from a lad of his acrobatic
accomplishments.  The two almost immediately fell into
conversation upon perhaps the only subject of
common interest between them.  Before the town
was reached, Tryon knew, so far as Plato could
make it plain, the estimation in which the teacher
was held by pupils and parents.  He had learned
the hours of opening and dismissal of the school,
where the teacher lived, her habits of coming to
and going from the schoolhouse, and the road she
always followed.

"Does she go to church or anywhere else with
Jeff Wain, Plato?" asked Tryon.

"No, suh, she don' go nowhar wid nobody
excep'n' ole Elder Johnson er Mis' Johnson, an' de
child'en.  She use' ter stop at Mis' Wain's, but
she's stayin' wid Elder Johnson now.  She alluz
makes some er de child'en go home wid er f'm
school," said Plato, proud to find in Mars Geo'ge
an appreciative listener,--"sometimes one an'
sometimes anudder.  I's be'n home wid 'er twice,
ann it'll be my tu'n ag'in befo' long."

"Plato," remarked Tryon impressively, as they
drove into the town, "do you think you could
keep a secret?"

"Yas, Mars Geo'ge, ef you says I shill."

"Do you see this fifty-cent piece?"  Tryon
displayed a small piece of paper money, crisp and
green in its newness.

"Yas, Mars Geo'ge," replied Plato, fixing his
eyes respectfully on the government's promise to
pay.  Fifty cents was a large sum of money.  His
acquaintance with Mars Geo'ge gave him the privilege
of looking at money.  When he grew up, he
would be able, in good times, to earn fifty cents a
day.

"I am going to give this to you, Plato."

Plato's eyes opened wide as saucers.  "Me,
Mars Geo'ge?" he asked in amazement.

"Yes, Plato.  I'm going to write a letter while
I'm in town, and want you to take it.  Meet me
here in half an hour, and I'll give you the letter. 
Meantime, keep your mouth shut."

"Yas, Mars Geo'ge," replied Plato with a grin
that distended that organ unduly.  That he did
not keep it shut may be inferred from the fact that
within the next half hour he had eaten and drunk
fifty cents' worth of candy, ginger-pop, and other
available delicacies that appealed to the youthful
palate.  Having nothing more to spend, and the
high prices prevailing for some time after the war
having left him capable of locomotion, Plato
was promptly on hand at the appointed time and
place.

Tryon placed a letter in Plato's hand, still sticky
with molasses candy,--he had inclosed it in a
second cover by way of protection.  "Give that
letter," he said, "to your teacher; don't say a
word about it to a living soul; bring me an answer,
and give it into my own hand, and you shall
have another half dollar."

Tryon was quite aware that by a surreptitious
correspondence he ran some risk of compromising
Rena.  But he had felt, as soon as he had indulged
his first opportunity to talk of her, an irresistible
impulse to see her and speak to her again. 
He could scarcely call at her boarding-place,--
what possible proper excuse could a young white
man have for visiting a colored woman?  At the
schoolhouse she would be surrounded by her pupils,
and a private interview would be as difficult, with
more eyes to remark and more tongues to comment
upon it.  He might address her by mail, but
did not know how often she sent to the nearest
post-office.  A letter mailed in the town must pass
through the hands of a postmaster notoriously
inquisitive and evil-minded, who was familiar with
Tryon's handwriting and had ample time to attend
to other people's business.  To meet the teacher
alone on the road seemed scarcely feasible,
according to Plato's statement.  A messenger, then, was
not only the least of several evils, but really the
only practicable way to communicate with Rena. 
He thought he could trust Plato, though miserably
aware that he could not trust himself where this
girl was concerned.

The letter handed by Tryon to Plato, and by
the latter delivered with due secrecy and precaution,
ran as follows:--


DEAR MISS WARWICK,--You may think it
strange that I should address you after what has
passed between us; but learning from my mother
of your presence in the neighborhood, I am
constrained to believe that you do not find my
proximity embarrassing, and I cannot resist the wish
to meet you at least once more, and talk over the
circumstances of our former friendship.  From a
practical point of view this may seem superfluous,
as the matter has been definitely settled.  I have
no desire to find fault with you; on the contrary,
I wish to set myself right with regard to my own
actions, and to assure you of my good wishes.  In
other words, since we must part, I would rather we
parted friends than enemies.  If nature and society
--or Fate, to put it another way--have decreed
that we cannot live together, it is nevertheless
possible that we may carry into the future a pleasant
though somewhat sad memory of a past friendship. 
Will you not grant me one interview?  I
appreciate the difficulty of arranging it; I have
found it almost as hard to communicate with you
by letter.  I will suit myself to your convenience
and meet you at any time and place you may
designate.  Please answer by bearer, who I think is
trustworthy, and believe me, whatever your answer may be,
             Respectfully yours,
                              G. T.


The next day but one Tryon received through
the mail the following reply to his letter:--

GEORGE TRYON, ESQ.

Dear Sir,--I have requested your messenger
to say that I will answer your letter by mail, which
I shall now proceed to do.  I assure you that
I was entirely ignorant of your residence in this
neighborhood, or it would have been the last place
on earth in which I should have set foot.

As to our past relations, they were ended by
your own act.  I frankly confess that I deceived
you; I have paid the penalty, and have no
complaint to make.  I appreciate the delicacy which
has made you respect my brother's secret, and
thank you for it.  I remember the whole affair
with shame and humiliation, and would willingly
forget it.

As to a future interview, I do not see what
good it would do either of us.  You are white, and
you have given me to understand that I am black. 
I accept the classification, however unfair, and the
consequences, however unjust, one of which is that
we cannot meet in the same parlor, in the same
church, at the same table, or anywhere, in social
intercourse; upon a steamboat we would not sit at
the same table; we could not walk together on the
street, or meet publicly anywhere and converse,
without unkind remark.  As a white man, this
might not mean a great deal to you; as a woman,
shut out already by my color from much that
is desirable, my good name remains my most valuable
possession.  I beg of you to let me alone. 
The best possible proof you can give me of your
good wishes is to relinquish any desire or attempt
to see me.  I shall have finished my work here in
a few days.  I have other troubles, of which you
know nothing, and any meeting with you would
only add to a burden which is already as much as
I can bear.  To speak of parting is superfluous--
we have already parted.  It were idle to dream of
a future friendship between people so widely
different in station.  Such a friendship, if possible
in itself, would never be tolerated by the lady
whom you are to marry, with whom you drove by
my schoolhouse the other day.  A gentleman so
loyal to his race and its traditions as you have
shown yourself could not be less faithful to the
lady to whom he has lost his heart and his memory
in three short months.

No, Mr. Tryon, our romance is ended, and
better so.  We could never have been happy.  I have
found a work in which I may be of service to
others who have fewer opportunities than mine
have been.  Leave me in peace, I beseech you,
and I shall soon pass out of your neighborhood as
I have passed out of your life, and hope to pass
out of your memory.
             Yours very truly,
                    ROWENA WALDEN.


XXX

AN UNUSUAL HONOR


To Rena's high-strung and sensitive nature,
already under very great tension from her past
experience, the ordeal of the next few days was a
severe one.  On the one hand, Jeff Wain's infatuation
had rapidly increased, in view of her speedy
departure.  From Mrs. Tryon's remark about
Wain's wife Amanda, and from things Rena had
since learned, she had every reason to believe that
this wife was living, and that Wain must be aware
of the fact.  In the light of this knowledge, Wain's
former conduct took on a blacker significance than,
upon reflection, she had charitably clothed it with
after the first flush of indignation.  That he had
not given up his design to make love to her was
quite apparent, and, with Amanda alive, his attentions,
always offensive since she had gathered their
import, became in her eyes the expression of a
villainous purpose, of which she could not speak to
others, and from which she felt safe only so long
as she took proper precautions against it.  In a
week her school would be over, and then she would
get Elder Johnson, or some one else than Wain,
to take her back to Patesville.  True, she might
abandon her school and go at once; but her work
would be incomplete, she would have violated her
contract, she would lose her salary for the month,
explanations would be necessary, and would not be
forthcoming.  She might feign sickness,--indeed,
it would scarcely be feigning, for she felt far from
well; she had never, since her illness, quite
recovered her former vigor--but the inconvenience
to others would be the same, and her self-sacrifice
would have had, at its very first trial, a lame and
impotent conclusion.  She had as yet no fear of
personal violence from Wain; but, under the
circumstances, his attentions were an insult.  He was
evidently bent upon conquest, and vain enough to
think he might achieve it by virtue of his personal
attractions.  If he could have understood
how she loathed the sight of his narrow eyes, with
their puffy lids, his thick, tobacco-stained lips, his
doubtful teeth, and his unwieldy person, Wain,
a monument of conceit that he was, might have
shrunk, even in his own estimation, to something
like his real proportions.  Rena believed that, to
defend herself from persecution at his hands, it
was only necessary that she never let him find her
alone.  This, however, required constant watchfulness. 
Relying upon his own powers, and upon
a woman's weakness and aversion to scandal, from
which not even the purest may always escape
unscathed, and convinced by her former silence
that he had nothing serious to fear, Wain made it
a point to be present at every public place where
she might be.  He assumed, in conversation with
her which she could not avoid, and stated to
others, that she had left his house because of a
previous promise to divide the time of her stay
between Elder Johnson's house and his own.  He
volunteered to teach a class in the Sunday-school
which Rena conducted at the colored Methodist
church, and when she remained to service, occupied
a seat conspicuously near her own.  In addition
to these public demonstrations, which it was
impossible to escape, or, it seemed, with so thick-
skinned an individual as Wain, even to discourage,
she was secretly and uncomfortably conscious that
she could scarcely stir abroad without the risk of
encountering one of two men, each of whom was
on the lookout for an opportunity to find her
alone.

The knowledge of Tryon's presence in the
vicinity had been almost as much as Rena could
bear.  To it must be added the consciousness that
he, too, was pursuing her, to what end she could
not tell.  After his letter to her brother, and the
feeling therein displayed, she found it necessary to
crush once or twice a wild hope that, her secret
being still unknown save to a friendly few, he might
return and claim her.  Now, such an outcome
would be impossible.  He had become engaged to
another woman,--this in itself would be enough
to keep him from her, if it were not an index of
a vastly more serious barrier, a proof that he had
never loved her.  If he had loved her truly, he
would never have forgotten her in three short
months,--three long months they had heretofore
seemed to her, for in them she had lived a lifetime
of experience.  Another impassable barrier lay in
the fact that his mother had met her, and that she
was known in the neighborhood.  Thus cut off
from any hope that she might be anything to
him, she had no wish to meet her former lover;
no possible good could come of such a meeting;
and yet her fluttering heart told her that if he
should come, as his letter foreshadowed that he
might,--if he should come, the loving George of
old, with soft words and tender smiles and specious
talk of friendship--ah! then, her heart
would break!  She must not meet him--at any
cost she must avoid him.

But this heaping up of cares strained her
endurance to the breaking-point.  Toward the middle of
the last week, she knew that she had almost reached
the limit, and was haunted by a fear that she
might break down before the week was over.  Now
her really fine nature rose to the emergency, though
she mustered her forces with a great effort.  If she
could keep Wain at his distance and avoid Tryon
for three days longer, her school labors would be
ended and she might retire in peace and honor.

"Miss Rena," said Plato to her on Tuesday,
"ain't it 'bout time I wuz gwine home wid you
ag'in?"

"You may go with me to-morrow, Plato,"
answered the teacher.

After school Plato met an anxious eyed young
man in the woods a short distance from the schoolhouse.

"Well, Plato, what news?"

"I's gwine ter see her home ter-morrer, Mars
Geo'ge."

"To-morrow!" replied Tryon; "how very
fortunate!  I wanted you to go to town to-morrow
to take an important message for me.  I'm sorry,
Plato--you might have earned another dollar."

To lie is a disgraceful thing, and yet there are
times when, to a lover's mind, love dwarfs all
ordinary laws.  Plato scratched his head
disconsolately, but suddenly a bright thought struck him.

"Can't I go ter town fer you atter I've seed her
home, Mars Geo'ge?"

"N-o, I'm afraid it would be too late," returned Tryon
doubtfully.

"Den I'll haf ter ax 'er ter lemme go nex' day,"
said Plato, with resignation.  The honor might be
postponed or, if necessary, foregone; the opportunity
to earn a dollar was the chance of a lifetime
and must not be allowed to slip.

"No, Plato," rejoined Tryon, shaking his head,
"I shouldn't want to deprive you of so great a
pleasure."  Tryon was entirely sincere in this
characterization of Plato's chance; he would have
given many a dollar to be sure of Plato's place and
Plato's welcome.  Rena's letter had re-inflamed his
smouldering passion; only opposition was needed
to fan it to a white heat.  Wherein lay the great
superiority of his position, if he was denied the
right to speak to the one person in the world whom
he most cared to address?  He felt some dim
realization of the tyranny of caste, when he found
it not merely pressing upon an inferior people who
had no right to expect anything better, but barring
his own way to something that he desired.  He
meant her no harm--but he must see her.  He
could never marry her now--but he must see her. 
He was conscious of a certain relief at the thought
that he had not asked Blanche Leary to be his
wife.  His hand was unpledged.  He could not
marry the other girl, of course, but they must meet
again.  The rest he would leave to Fate, which
seemed reluctant to disentangle threads which it
had woven so closely.

"I think, Plato, that I see an easier way out of
the difficulty.  Your teacher, I imagine, merely
wants some one to see her safely home.  Don't
you think, if you should go part of the way, that
I might take your place for the rest, while you did
my errand?"

"Why, sho'ly, Mars Geo'ge, you could take keer
er her better 'n I could--better 'n anybody could
--co'se you could!"

Mars Geo'ge was white and rich, and could do
anything.  Plato was proud of the fact that he
had once belonged to Mars Geo'ge.  He could
not conceive of any one so powerful as Mars
Geo'ge, unless it might be God, of whom Plato
had heard more or less, and even here the
comparison might not be quite fair to Mars Geo'ge,
for Mars Geo'ge was the younger of the two.  It
would undoubtedly be a great honor for the teacher
to be escorted home by Mars Geo'ge.  The teacher
was a great woman, no doubt, and looked white;
but Mars Geo'ge was the real article.  Mars
Geo'ge had never been known to go with a black
woman before, and the teacher would doubtless
thank Plato for arranging that so great an honor
should fall upon her.  Mars Geo'ge had given him
fifty cents twice, and would now give him a dollar. 
Noble Mars Geo'ge! Fortunate teacher!  Happy
Plato!

"Very well, Plato.  I think we can arrange it
so that you can kill the two rabbits at one shot. 
Suppose that we go over the road that she will
take to go home."

They soon arrived at the schoolhouse.  School
had been out an hour, and the clearing was
deserted.  Plato led the way by the road through
the woods to a point where, amid somewhat thick
underbrush, another path intersected the road they
were following.

"Now, Plato," said Tryon, pausing here, "this
would be a good spot for you to leave the teacher
and for me to take your place.  This path leads
to the main road, and will take you to town very
quickly.  I shouldn't say anything to the teacher
about it at all; but when you and she get here,
drop behind and run along this path until you
meet me,--I'll be waiting a few yards down the
road,--and then run to town as fast as your legs
will carry you.  As soon as you are gone, I'll
come out and tell the teacher that I've sent you
away on an errand, and will myself take your
place.  You shall have a dollar, and I'll ask her
to let you go home with her the next day.  But
you mustn't say a word about it, Plato, or you
won't get the dollar, and I'll not ask the teacher
to let you go home with her again."

"All right, Mars Geo'ge, I ain't gwine ter say
no mo' d'n ef de cat had my tongue."



XXXI

IN DEEP WATERS


Rena was unusually fatigued at the close of her
school on Wednesday afternoon.  She had been
troubled all day with a headache, which, beginning
with a dull pain, had gradually increased in intensity
until every nerve was throbbing like a trip-
hammer.  The pupils seemed unusually stupid.  A
discouraging sense of the insignificance of any part
she could perform towards the education of three
million people with a school term of two months
a year hung over her spirit like a pall.  As the
object of Wain's attentions, she had begun to feel
somewhat like a wild creature who hears the
pursuers on its track, and has the fear of capture
added to the fatigue of flight.  But when this
excitement had gone too far and had neared the limit
of exhaustion came Tryon's letter, with the resulting
surprise and consternation.  Rena had keyed
herself up to a heroic pitch to answer it; but when
the inevitable reaction came, she was overwhelmed
with a sickening sense of her own weakness.  The
things which in another sphere had constituted her
strength and shield were now her undoing, and
exposed her to dangers from which they lent her
no protection.  Not only was this her position in
theory, but the pursuers were already at her heels. 
As the day wore on, these dark thoughts took on
an added gloom, until, when the hour to dismiss
school arrived, she felt as though she had not a
friend in the world.  This feeling was accentuated
by a letter which she had that morning
received from her mother, in which Mis' Molly
spoke very highly of Wain, and plainly expressed
the hope that her daughter might like him so well
that she would prefer to remain in Sampson
County.

Plato, bright-eyed and alert, was waiting in the
school-yard until the teacher should be ready to
start.  Having warned away several smaller children
who had hung around after school as though
to share his prerogative of accompanying the
teacher, Plato had swung himself into the low
branches of an oak at the edge of the clearing,
from which he was hanging by his legs, head
downward.  He dropped from this reposeful attitude
when the teacher appeared at the door, and took
his place at her side.

A premonition of impending trouble caused the
teacher to hesitate.  She wished that she had kept
more of the pupils behind.  Something whispered
that danger lurked in the road she customarily
followed.  Plato seemed insignificantly small and
weak, and she felt miserably unable to cope with
any difficult or untoward situation.

"Plato," she suggested, "I think we'll go round
the other way to-night, if you don't mind."

Visions of Mars Geo'ge disappointed, of a dollar
unearned and unspent, flitted through the narrow
brain which some one, with the irony of ignorance
or of knowledge, had mocked with the name
of a great philosopher.  Plato was not an untruthful
lad, but he seldom had the opportunity to earn
a dollar.  His imagination, spurred on by the
instinct of self-interest, rose to the emergency.

"I's feared you mought git snake-bit gwine
roun' dat way, Miss Rena.  My brer Jim kill't a
water-moccasin down dere yistiddy 'bout ten feet
long."

Rena had a horror of snakes, with which the
swamp by which the other road ran was infested. 
Snakes were a vivid reality; her presentiment
was probably a mere depression of spirits due to
her condition of nervous exhaustion.  A cloud had
come up and threatened rain, and the wind was
rising ominously.  The old way was the shorter;
she wanted above all things to get to Elder
Johnson's and go to bed.  Perhaps sleep would rest
her tired brain--she could not imagine herself
feeling worse, unless she should break down altogether.

She plunged into the path and hastened forward
so as to reach home before the approaching
storm.  So completely was she absorbed in her
own thoughts that she scarcely noticed that Plato
himself seemed preoccupied.  Instead of capering
along like a playful kitten or puppy, he walked by
her side unusually silent.  When they had gone a
short distance and were approaching a path which
intersected their road at something near a right
angle, the teacher missed Plato.  He had dropped
behind a moment before; now he had disappeared
entirely.  Her vague alarm of a few moments
before returned with redoubled force.

"Plato!" she called; "Plato!"

There was no response, save the soughing of the
wind through the swaying treetops.  She stepped
hastily forward, wondering if this were some childish
prank.  If so, it was badly timed, and she
would let Plato feel the weight of her displeasure.

Her forward step had brought her to the
junction of the two paths, where she paused
doubtfully.  The route she had been following was the
most direct way home, but led for quite a distance
through the forest, which she did not care to
traverse alone.  The intersecting path would soon
take her to the main road, where she might find
shelter or company, or both.  Glancing around
again in search of her missing escort, she became
aware that a man was approaching her from each
of the two paths.  In one she recognized the eager
and excited face of George Tryon, flushed with
anticipation of their meeting, and yet grave with
uncertainty of his reception.  Advancing confidently
along the other path she saw the face of
Jeff Wain, drawn, as she imagined in her anguish,
with evil passions which would stop at nothing.

What should she do?  There was no sign of
Plato--for aught she could see or hear of him,
the earth might have swallowed him up.  Some
deadly serpent might have stung him.  Some
wandering rabbit might have tempted him aside. 
Another thought struck her.  Plato had been
very quiet--there had been something on his
conscience--perhaps he had betrayed her!  But to
which of the two men, and to what end?

The problem was too much for her overwrought
brain.  She turned and fled.  A wiser instinct
might have led her forward.  In the two conflicting
dangers she might have found safety.  The
road after all was a public way.  Any number of
persons might meet there accidentally.  But she
saw only the darker side of the situation.  To
turn to Tryon for protection before Wain had by
some overt act manifested the evil purpose which
she as yet only suspected would be, she imagined,
to acknowledge a previous secret acquaintance
with Tryon, thus placing her reputation at Wain's
mercy, and to charge herself with a burden of
obligation toward a man whom she wished to avoid
and had refused to meet.  If, on the other hand,
she should go forward to meet Wain, he would
undoubtedly offer to accompany her homeward. 
Tryon would inevitably observe the meeting, and
suppose it prearranged.  Not for the world would
she have him think so--why she should care
for his opinion, she did not stop to argue.  She
turned and fled, and to avoid possible pursuit,
struck into the underbrush at an angle which she
calculated would bring her in a few rods to another
path which would lead quickly into the main
road.  She had run only a few yards when she
found herself in the midst of a clump of prickly
shrubs and briars.  Meantime the storm had
burst; the rain fell in torrents.  Extricating
herself from the thorns, she pressed forward, but
instead of coming out upon the road, found herself
penetrating deeper and deeper into the forest.

The storm increased in violence.  The air grew
darker and darker.  It was near evening, the
clouds were dense, the thick woods increased the
gloom.  Suddenly a blinding flash of lightning
pierced the darkness, followed by a sharp clap of
thunder.  There was a crash of falling timber. 
Terror-stricken, Rena flew forward through the
forest, the underbrush growing closer and closer
as she advanced.  Suddenly the earth gave way
beneath her feet and she sank into a concealed
morass.  By clasping the trunk of a neighboring
sapling she extricated herself with an effort, and
realized with a horrible certainty that she was
lost in the swamp.

Turning, she tried to retrace her steps.  A flash
of lightning penetrated the gloom around her, and
barring her path she saw a huge black snake,--
harmless enough, in fact, but to her excited
imagination frightful in appearance.  With a wild
shriek she turned again, staggered forward a few
yards, stumbled over a projecting root, and fell
heavily to the earth.

When Rena had disappeared in the underbrush,
Tryon and Wain had each instinctively set out in
pursuit of her, but owing to the gathering darkness,
the noise of the storm, and the thickness of
the underbrush, they missed not only Rena but
each other, and neither was aware of the other's
presence in the forest.  Wain kept up the chase
until the rain drove him to shelter.  Tryon, after
a few minutes, realized that she had fled to escape
him, and that to pursue her would be to defeat
rather than promote his purpose.  He desisted,
therefore, and returning to the main road, stationed
himself at a point where he could watch Elder
Johnson's house, and having waited for a while
without any signs of Rena, concluded that she had
taken refuge in some friendly cabin.  Turning
homeward disconsolately as night came on, he
intercepted Plato on his way back from town, and
pledged him to inviolable secrecy so effectually
that Plato, when subsequently questioned, merely
answered that he had stopped a moment to gather
some chinquapins, and when he had looked around
the teacher was gone.

Rena not appearing at supper-time nor for an
hour later, the elder, somewhat anxious, made
inquiries about the neighborhood, and finding his
guest at no place where she might be expected to
stop, became somewhat alarmed.  Wain's house
was the last to which he went.  He had surmised
that there was some mystery connected with her
leaving Wain's, but had never been given any
definite information about the matter.  In response
to his inquiries, Wain expressed surprise, but
betrayed a certain self-consciousness which did not
escape the elder's eye.  Returning home, he organized
a search party from his own family and several
near neighbors, and set out with dogs and
torches to scour the woods for the missing teacher. 
A couple of hours later, they found her lying
unconscious in the edge of the swamp, only a few
rods from a well-defined path which would soon
have led her to the open highway.  Strong arms
lifted her gently and bore her home.  Mrs. Johnson
undressed her and put her to bed, administering
a homely remedy, of which whiskey was
the principal ingredient, to counteract the effects
of the exposure.  There was a doctor within five
miles, but no one thought of sending for him, nor
was it at all likely that it would have been possible
to get him for such a case at such an hour.

Rena's illness, however, was more deeply seated
than her friends could imagine.  A tired body,
in sympathy with an overwrought brain, had left
her peculiarly susceptible to the nervous shock of
her forest experience.  The exposure for several
hours in her wet clothing to the damps and miasma
of the swamp had brought on an attack of brain
fever.  The next morning, she was delirious.  One
of the children took word to the schoolhouse that
the teacher was sick and there would be no school
that day.  A number of curious and sympathetic
people came in from time to time and suggested
various remedies, several of which old Mrs. Johnson,
with catholic impartiality, administered to
the helpless teacher, who from delirium gradually
sunk into a heavy stupor scarcely distinguishable
from sleep.  It was predicted that she would
probably be well in the morning; if not, it would
then be time to consider seriously the question of
sending for a doctor.



XXXII

THE POWER OF LOVE


After Tryon's failure to obtain an interview
with Rena through Plato's connivance, he decided
upon a different course of procedure.  In a few
days her school term would be finished.  He was
not less desirous to see her, was indeed as much
more eager as opposition would be likely to make
a very young man who was accustomed to having
his own way, and whose heart, as he had discovered,
was more deeply and permanently involved than
he had imagined.  His present plan was to wait
until the end of the school; then, when Rena went
to Clinton on the Saturday or Monday to draw
her salary for the month, he would see her in the
town, or, if necessary, would follow her to
Patesville.  No power on earth should keep him from
her long, but he had no desire to interfere in any
way with the duty which she owed to others. 
When the school was over and her work completed,
then he would have his innings.  Writing
letters was too unsatisfactory a method of
communication--he must see her face to face.

The first of his three days of waiting had passed,
when, about ten o'clock on the morning of the
second day, which seemed very long in prospect,
while driving along the road toward Clinton, he
met Plato, with a rabbit trap in his hand.

"Well, Plato," he asked, "why are you absent
from the classic shades of the academy to-day?"

"Hoddy, Mars Geo'ge.  W'at wuz dat you
say?"

"Why are you not at school to-day?"

"Ain' got no teacher, Mars Geo'ge.  Teacher's
gone!"

"Gone!" exclaimed Tryon, with a sudden leap
of the heart.  "Gone where?  What do you
mean?"

"Teacher got los' in de swamp, night befo' las',
'cause Plato wa'n't dere ter show her de way out'n
de woods.  Elder Johnson foun' 'er wid dawgs and
tawches, an' fotch her home an' put her ter bed. 
No school yistiddy.  She wuz out'n her haid las'
night, an' dis mawnin' she wuz gone."

"Gone where?"

"Dey don' nobody know whar, suh."

Leaving Plato abruptly, Tryon hastened down
the road toward Elder Johnson's cabin.  This was
no time to stand on punctilio.  The girl had been
lost in the woods in the storm, amid the thunder
and lightning and the pouring rain.  She was
sick with fright and exposure, and he was the
cause of it all.  Bribery, corruption, and falsehood
had brought punishment in their train, and the
innocent had suffered while the guilty escaped. 
He must learn at once what had become of her. 
Reaching Elder Johnson's house, he drew up by
the front fence and gave the customary halloa,
which summoned a woman to the door.

"Good-morning," he said, nodding unconsciously,
with the careless politeness of a gentleman to his
inferiors.  "I'm Mr. Tryon.  I have come to
inquire about the sick teacher."

"Why, suh," the woman replied respectfully,
"she got los' in de woods night befo' las', an' she
wuz out'n her min' most er de time yistiddy. 
Las' night she must 'a' got out er bed an' run
away w'en eve'ybody wuz soun' asleep, fer dis
mawnin' she wuz gone, an' none er us knows whar
she is."

"Has any search been made for her?"

"Yas, suh, my husban' an' de child'en has been
huntin' roun' all de mawnin', an' he's gone ter
borry a hoss now ter go fu'ther.  But Lawd knows
dey ain' no tellin' whar she'd go, 'less'n she got
her min' back sence she lef'."

Tryon's mare was in good condition.  He had
money in his pocket and nothing to interfere with
his movements.  He set out immediately on the
road to Patesville, keeping a lookout by the
roadside, and stopping each person he met to inquire
if a young woman, apparently ill, had been seen
traveling along the road on foot.  No one had met
such a traveler.  When he had gone two or three
miles, he drove through a shallow branch that
crossed the road.  The splashing of his horse's
hoofs in the water prevented him from hearing a
low groan that came from the woods by the
roadside.

He drove on, making inquiries at each
farmhouse and of every person whom he encountered. 
Shortly after crossing the branch, he met a young
negro with a cartload of tubs and buckets and
piggins, and asked him if he had seen on the road
a young white woman with dark eyes and hair,
apparently sick or demented.  The young man
answered in the negative, and Tryon pushed forward
anxiously.

At noon he stopped at a farmhouse and swallowed
a hasty meal.  His inquiries here elicited no
information, and he was just leaving when a young
man came in late to dinner and stated, in response
to the usual question, that he had met, some two
hours before, a young woman who answered
Tryon's description, on the Lillington road, which
crossed the main road to Patesville a short distance
beyond the farmhouse.  He had spoken to the
woman.  At first she had paid no heed to his
question.  When addressed a second time, she had
answered in a rambling and disconnected way,
which indicated to his mind that there was
something wrong with her.

Tryon thanked his informant and hastened to
the Lillington road.  Stopping as before to inquire,
he followed the woman for several hours, each
mile of the distance taking him farther away from
Patesville.  From time to time he heard of the
woman.  Toward nightfall he found her.  She
was white enough, with the sallowness of the
sandhill poor white.  She was still young, perhaps, but
poverty and a hard life made her look older than
she ought.  She was not fair, and she was not
Rena.  When Tryon came up to her, she was sitting
on the doorsill of a miserable cabin, and held in
her hand a bottle, the contents of which had never
paid any revenue tax.  She had walked twenty
miles that day, and had beguiled the tedium of the
journey by occasional potations, which probably
accounted for the incoherency of speech which
several of those who met her had observed.  When
Tryon drew near, she tendered him the bottle with
tipsy cordiality.  He turned in disgust and
retraced his steps to the Patesville road, which he
did not reach until nightfall.  As it was too dark
to prosecute the search with any chance of success,
he secured lodging for the night, intending to
resume his quest early in the morning.



XXXIII

A MULE AND A CART


Frank Fowler's heart was filled with longing
for a sight of Rena's face.  When she had gone away
first, on the ill-fated trip to South Carolina, her
absence had left an aching void in his life; he had
missed her cheerful smile, her pleasant words, her
graceful figure moving about across the narrow
street.  His work had grown monotonous during
her absence; the clatter of hammer and mallet,
that had seemed so merry when punctuated now
and then by the strains of her voice, became a mere
humdrum rapping of wood upon wood and iron
upon iron.  He had sought work in South Carolina
with the hope that be might see her.  He had
satisfied this hope, and had tried in vain to do
her a service; but Fate had been against her; her
castle of cards had come tumbling down.  He felt
that her sorrow had brought her nearer to him. 
The distance between them depended very much
upon their way of looking at things.  He knew
that her experience had dragged her through the
valley of humiliation.  His unselfish devotion had
reacted to refine and elevate his own spirit.  When
he heard the suggestion, after her second departure,
that she might marry Wain, he could not but
compare himself with this new aspirant.  He, Frank,
was a man, an honest man--a better man than
the shifty scoundrel with whom she had ridden
away.  She was but a woman, the best and sweetest
and loveliest of all women, but yet a woman. 
After a few short years of happiness or sorrow,--
little of joy, perhaps, and much of sadness, which
had begun already,--they would both be food for
worms.  White people, with a deeper wisdom perhaps
than they used in their own case, regarded
Rena and himself as very much alike.  They were
certainly both made by the same God, in much the
same physical and mental mould; they breathed
the same air, ate the same food, spoke the same
speech, loved and hated, laughed and cried, lived
and would die, the same.  If God had meant to
rear any impassable barrier between people of
contrasting complexions, why did He not express the
prohibition as He had done between other orders
of creation?

When Rena had departed for Sampson County,
Frank had reconciled himself to her absence by
the hope of her speedy return.  He often stepped
across the street to talk to Mis' Molly about her. 
Several letters had passed between mother and
daughter, and in response to Frank's inquiries his
neighbor uniformly stated that Rena was well and
doing well, and sent her love to all inquiring
friends.  But Frank observed that Mis' Molly,
when pressed as to the date of Rena's return, grew
more and more indefinite; and finally the mother,
in a burst of confidential friendship, told Frank of
all her hopes with reference to the stranger from
down the country.

"Yas, Frank," she concluded, "it'll be her own
fault ef she don't become a lady of proputty, fer
Mr. Wain is rich, an' owns a big plantation, an'
hires a lot of hands, and is a big man in the county. 
He's crazy to git her, an' it all lays in her own
han's."

Frank did not find this news reassuring.  He
believed that Wain was a liar and a scoundrel. 
He had nothing more than his intuitions upon
which to found this belief, but it was none the less
firm.  If his estimate of the man's character were
correct, then his wealth might be a fiction, pure
and simple.  If so, the truth should be known
to Mis' Molly, so that instead of encouraging
a marriage with Wain, she would see him in his
true light, and interpose to rescue her daughter
from his importunities.  A day or two after this
conversation, Frank met in the town a negro from
Sampson County, made his acquaintance, and
inquired if he knew a man by the name of Jeff
Wain.

"Oh, Jeff Wain!" returned the countryman
slightingly; "yas, I knows 'im, an' don' know no
good of 'im.  One er dese yer biggity, braggin'
niggers--talks lack he own de whole county, an'
ain't wuth no mo' d'n I is--jes' a big bladder wid
a handful er shot rattlin' roun' in it.  Had a wife,
when I wuz dere, an' beat her an' 'bused her so
she had ter run away."

This was alarming information.  Wain had
passed in the town as a single man, and Frank had
had no hint that he had ever been married.  There
was something wrong somewhere.  Frank determined
that he would find out the truth and, if
possible, do something to protect Rena against the
obviously evil designs of the man who had taken
her away.  The barrel factory had so affected the
cooper's trade that Peter and Frank had turned
their attention more or less to the manufacture of
small woodenware for domestic use.  Frank's mule
was eating off its own head, as the saying goes.  It
required but little effort to persuade Peter that
his son might take a load of buckets and tubs and
piggins into the country and sell them or trade
them for country produce at a profit.

In a few days Frank had his stock prepared, and
set out on the road to Sampson County.  He went
about thirty miles the first day, and camped by
the roadside for the night, resuming the journey
at dawn.  After driving for an hour through the
tall pines that overhung the road like the stately
arch of a cathedral aisle, weaving a carpet for the
earth with their brown spines and cones, and
soothing the ear with their ceaseless murmur, Frank
stopped to water his mule at a point where the
white, sandy road, widening as it went, sloped
downward to a clear-running branch.  On the
right a bay-tree bending over the stream mingled
the heavy odor of its flowers with the delicate
perfume of a yellow jessamine vine that had overrun
a clump of saplings on the left.  From a neighboring 
tree a silver-throated mocking-bird poured
out a flood of riotous melody.  A group of minnows;
startled by the splashing of the mule's feet, darted
away into the shadow of the thicket, their quick
passage leaving the amber water filled with laughing
light.

The mule drank long and lazily, while over
Frank stole thoughts in harmony with the peaceful
scene,--thoughts of Rena, young and beautiful,
her friendly smile, her pensive dark eyes.  He
would soon see her now, and if she had any cause
for fear or unhappiness, he would place himself at
her service--for a day, a week, a month, a year,
a lifetime, if need be.

His reverie was broken by a slight noise from
the thicket at his left.  "I wonder who dat is?"
he muttered.  "It soun's mighty quare, ter say de
leas'."

He listened intently for a moment, but heard
nothing further.  "It must 'a' be'n a rabbit er
somethin' scamp'in' th'ough de woods.  G'long
dere, Caesar!"

As the mule stepped forward, the sound was
repeated.  This time it was distinctly audible, the
long, low moan of some one in sickness or distress.

"Dat ain't no rabbit," said Frank to himself. 
"Dere's somethin' wrong dere.  Stan' here, Caesar,
till I look inter dis matter."

Pulling out from the branch, Frank sprang
from the saddle and pushed his way cautiously
through the outer edge of the thicket.

"Good Lawd!" he exclaimed with a start, "it's
a woman--a w'ite woman!"

The slender form of a young woman lay stretched
upon the ground in a small open space a few yards
in extent.  Her face was turned away, and Frank
could see at first only a tangled mass of dark brown
hair, matted with twigs and leaves and cockleburs,
and hanging in wild profusion around her neck.

Frank stood for a moment irresolute, debating
the serious question whether he should investigate
further with a view to rendering assistance, or
whether he should put as great a distance as possible
between himself and this victim, as she might
easily be, of some violent crime, lest he should
himself be suspected of it--a not unlikely contingency,
if he were found in the neighborhood and
the woman should prove unable to describe her
assailant.  While he hesitated, the figure moved
restlessly, and a voice murmured:--

"Mamma, oh, mamma!"

The voice thrilled Frank like an electric shock. 
Trembling in every limb, he sprang forward toward
the prostrate figure.  The woman turned her head,
and he saw that it was Rena.  Her gown was torn
and dusty, and fringed with burs and briars. 
When she had wandered forth, half delirious,
pursued by imaginary foes, she had not stopped to put
on her shoes, and her little feet were blistered and 
swollen and bleeding.  Frank knelt by her side
and lifted her head on his arm.  He put his hand
upon her brow; it was burning with fever.

"Miss Rena!  Rena! don't you know me?"

She turned her wild eyes on him suddenly. 
"Yes, I know you, Jeff Wain.  Go away from
me!  Go away!"

Her voice rose to a scream; she struggled in
his grasp and struck at him fiercely with her
clenched fists.  Her sleeve fell back and disclosed
the white scar made by his own hand so many
years before.

"You're a wicked man," she panted.  "Don't
touch me!  I hate you and despise you!"

Frank could only surmise how she had come
here, in such a condition.  When she spoke of
Wain in this manner, he drew his own conclusions. 
Some deadly villainy of Wain's had brought her
to this pass.  Anger stirred his nature to the
depths, and found vent in curses on the author of
Rena's misfortunes.

"Damn him!" he groaned.  "I'll have his
heart's blood fer dis, ter de las' drop!"

Rena now laughed and put up her arms
appealingly.  "George," she cried, in melting tones,
"dear George, do you love me?  How much do
you love me?  Ah, you don't love me!" she
moaned; "I'm black; you don't love me; you
despise me!"

Her voice died away into a hopeless wail. 
Frank knelt by her side, his faithful heart breaking
with pity, great tears rolling untouched down
his dusky cheeks.

"Oh, my honey, my darlin'," he sobbed, "Frank
loves you better 'n all de worl'."

Meantime the sun shone on as brightly as before,
the mocking-bird sang yet more joyously. 
A gentle breeze sprang up and wafted the odor of
bay and jessamine past them on its wings.  The
grand triumphal sweep of nature's onward march
recked nothing of life's little tragedies.

When the first burst of his grief was over,
Frank brought water from the branch, bathed
Rena's face and hands and feet, and forced a few
drops between her reluctant lips.  He then pitched
the cartload of tubs, buckets, and piggins out into
the road, and gathering dried leaves and pine-
straw, spread them in the bottom of the cart.  He
stooped, lifted her frail form in his arms, and laid
it on the leafy bed.  Cutting a couple of hickory
withes, he arched them over the cart, and gathering
an armful of jessamine quickly wove it into
an awning to protect her from the sun.  She was
quieter now, and seemed to fall asleep.

"Go ter sleep, honey," he murmured caressingly,
"go ter sleep, an' Frank'll take you home ter
yo' mammy!"

Toward noon he was met by a young white man,
who peered inquisitively into the canopied cart.

"Hello!" exclaimed the stranger, "who've you
got there?"

"A sick woman, suh."

"Why, she's white, as I'm a sinner!" he
cried, after a closer inspection.  "Look a-here,
nigger, what are you doin' with this white woman?"

"She's not w'ite, boss,--she's a bright mulatter."

"Yas, mighty bright," continued the stranger
suspiciously.  "Where are you goin' with her?"

"I'm takin' her ter Patesville, ter her mammy."

The stranger passed on.  Toward evening Frank
heard hounds baying in the distance.  A fox,
weary with running, brush drooping, crossed the
road ahead of the cart.  Presently, the hounds
straggled across the road, followed by two or three
hunters on horseback, who stopped at sight of the
strangely canopied cart.  They stared at the sick
girl and demanded who she was.

"I don't b'lieve she's black at all," declared
one, after Frank's brief explanation.  "This nigger
has a bad eye,--he's up ter some sort of
devilment.  What ails the girl?"

" 'Pears ter be some kind of a fever," replied
Frank; adding diplomatically, "I don't know
whether it's ketchin' er no--she's be'n out er
her head most er de time."

They drew off a little at this.  "I reckon it's
all right," said the chief spokesman.  The hounds
were baying clamorously in the distance.  The
hunters followed the sound and disappeared m the
woods.

Frank drove all day and all night, stopping only
for brief periods of rest and refreshment.  At
dawn, from the top of the long white hill, he
sighted the river bridge below.  At sunrise he
rapped at Mis' Molly's door.


Upon rising at dawn, Tryon's first step, after
a hasty breakfast, was to turn back toward Clinton. 
He had wasted half a day in following the
false scent on the Lillington road.  It seemed,
after reflection, unlikely that a woman seriously
ill should have been able to walk any considerable
distance before her strength gave out.  In her
delirium, too, she might have wandered in a wrong
direction, imagining any road to lead to Patesville. 
It would be a good plan to drive back home,
continuing his inquiries meantime, and ascertain
whether or not she had been found by those who
were seeking her, including many whom Tryon's
inquiries had placed upon the alert.  If she should
prove still missing, he would resume the journey
to Patesville and continue the search in that
direction.  She had probably not wandered far from
the highroad; even in delirium she would be likely
to avoid the deep woods, with which her illness
was associated.

He had retraced more than half the distance
to Clinton when he overtook a covered wagon. 
The driver, when questioned, said that he had met
a young negro with a mule, and a cart in which
lay a young woman, white to all appearance, but
claimed by the negro to be a colored girl who
had been taken sick on the road, and whom he
was conveying home to her mother at Patesville. 
From a further description of the cart Tryon
recognized it as the one he had met the day before. 
The woman could be no other than Rena.  He
turned his mare and set out swiftly on the road to
Patesville.

If anything could have taken more complete
possession of George Tryon at twenty-three than
love successful and triumphant, it was love thwarted
and denied.  Never in the few brief delirious
weeks of his courtship had he felt so strongly
drawn to the beautiful sister of the popular lawyer,
as he was now driven by an aching heart toward
the same woman stripped of every adventitions
advantage and placed, by custom, beyond the pale
of marriage with men of his own race.  Custom
was tyranny.  Love was the only law.  Would
God have made hearts to so yearn for one another
if He had meant them to stay forever apart?  If
this girl should die, it would be he who had killed
her, by his cruelty, no less surely than if with
his own hand he had struck her down.  He had
been so dazzled by his own superiority, so blinded
by his own glory, that he had ruthlessly spurned
and spoiled the image of God in this fair creature,
whom he might have had for his own treasure,--
whom, please God, he would yet have, at any cost,
to love and cherish while they both should live. 
There were difficulties--they had seemed insuperable,
but love would surmount them.  Sacrifices
must be made, but if the world without love would
be nothing, then why not give up the world for
love?  He would hasten to Patesville.  He would
find her; he would tell her that he loved her, that
she was all the world to him, that he had come to
marry her, and take her away where they might
be happy together.  He pictured to himself the
joy that would light up her face; he felt her soft
arms around his neck, her tremulous kisses upon
his lips.  If she were ill, his love would woo her
back to health,--if disappointment and sorrow
had contributed to her illness, joy and gladness
should lead to her recovery.

He urged the mare forward; if she would but
keep up her present pace, he would reach Patesville
by nightfall.


Dr. Green had just gone down the garden path
to his buggy at the gate.  Mis' Molly came out to
the back piazza, where Frank, weary and haggard,
sat on the steps with Homer Pettifoot and Billy
Oxendine, who, hearing of Rena's return, had
come around after their day's work.

"Rena wants to see you, Frank," said Mis'
Molly, with a sob.

He walked in softly, reverently, and stood by her
bedside.  She turned her gentle eyes upon him
and put out her slender hand, which he took in his
own broad palm.

"Frank," she murmured, "my good friend--
my best friend--you loved me best of them all."

The tears rolled untouched down his cheeks. 
"I'd 'a' died, fer you, Miss Rena," he said brokenly.

Mary B. threw open a window to make way for
the passing spirit, and the red and golden glory
of the setting sun, triumphantly ending his daily
course, flooded the narrow room with light.


Between sunset and dark a traveler, seated in a
dusty buggy drawn by a tired horse, crossed the
long river bridge and drove up Front Street. 
Just as the buggy reached the gate in front of the
house behind the cedars, a woman was tying a
piece of crape upon the door-knob.  Pale with
apprehension, Tryon sat as if petrified, until a
tall, side-whiskered mulatto came down the garden
walk to the front gate.

"Who's dead?" demanded Tryon hoarsely,
scarcely recognizing his own voice.

"A young cullud 'oman, sah," answered
Homer Pettifoot, touching his hat, "Mis' Molly
Walden's daughter Rena."





End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The House Behind The Cedars


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