Sally Dows by Bret Harte

Story type: Literature



What had been in the cool gray of that summer morning a dewy country lane, marked only by a few wagon tracks that never encroached upon its grassy border, and indented only by the faint footprints of a crossing fox or coon, was now, before high noon, already crushed, beaten down, and trampled out of all semblance of its former graciousness. The heavy springless jolt of gun-carriage and caisson had cut deeply through the middle track; the hoofs of crowding cavalry had struck down and shredded the wayside vines and bushes to bury them under a cloud of following dust, and the short, plunging double-quick of infantry had trodden out this hideous ruin into one dusty level chaos. Along that rudely widened highway useless muskets, torn accoutrements, knapsacks, caps, and articles of clothing were scattered, with here and there the larger wrecks of broken-down wagons, roughly thrown aside into the ditch to make way for the living current. For two hours the greater part of an army corps had passed and repassed that way, but, coming or going, always with faces turned eagerly towards an open slope on the right which ran parallel to the lane. And yet nothing was to be seen there. For two hours a gray and bluish cloud, rent and shaken with explosion after explosion, but always closing and thickening after each discharge, was all that had met their eyes. Nevertheless, into this ominous cloud solid moving masses of men in gray or blue had that morning melted away, or emerged from it only as scattered fragments that crept, crawled, ran, or clung together in groups, to be followed, and overtaken in the rolling vapor.

But for the last half hour the desolated track had stretched empty and deserted. While there was no cessation of the rattling, crackling, and detonations on the fateful slope beyond, it had still been silent. Once or twice it had been crossed by timid, hurrying wings, and frightened and hesitating little feet, or later by skulkers and stragglers from the main column who were tempted to enter it from the hedges and bushes where they had been creeping and hiding. Suddenly a prolonged yell from the hidden slope beyond–the nearest sound that had yet been heard from that ominous distance–sent them to cover again. It was followed by the furious galloping of horses in the lane, and a handsome, red-capped officer, accompanied by an orderly, dashed down the track, wheeled, leaped the hedge, rode out on the slope and halted. In another instant a cloud of dust came whirling down the lane after him. Out of it strained the heavy shoulders and tightened chain-traces of six frantic horses dragging the swaying gun that in this tempest of motion alone seemed passive and helpless with an awful foreknowledge of its power. As in obedience to a signal from the officer they crashed through the hedge after him, a sudden jolt threw an artilleryman from the limber before the wheel. A driver glanced back on the tense chain and hesitated. “Go on!” yelled the prostrate man, and the wheel went over him. Another and another gun followed out of the dust cloud, until the whole battery had deployed on the slope. Before the drifting dust had fairly settled, the falling back of the panting horses with their drivers gave a momentary glimpse of the nearest gun already in position and of the four erect figures beside it. The yell that seemed to have evoked this sudden apparition again sounded nearer; a blinding flash broke from the gun, which was instantly hidden by the closing group around it, and a deafening crash with the high ringing of metal ran down the lane. A column of white, woolly smoke arose as another flash broke beside it. This was quickly followed by another and another, with a response from the gun first fired, until the whole slope shook and thundered. And the smoke, no longer white and woolly, but darkening and thickening as with unburnt grains of gunpowder, mingled into the one ominous vapor, and driving along the lane hid even the slope from view.

The yelling had ceased, but the grinding and rattling heard through the detonation of cannon came nearer still, and suddenly there was a shower of leaves and twigs from the lower branches of a chestnut-tree near the broken hedge. As the smoke thinned again a rising and falling medley of flapping hats, tossing horses’ heads and shining steel appeared for an instant, advancing tumultuously up the slope. But the apparition was as instantly cloven by flame from the two nearest guns, and went down in a gush of smoke and roar of sound. So level was the delivery and so close the impact that a space seemed suddenly cleared between, in which the whirling of the shattered remnants of the charging cavalry was distinctly seen, and the shouts and oaths of the inextricably struggling mass became plain and articulate. Then a gunner serving the nearest piece suddenly dropped his swab and seized a carbine, for out of the whirling confusion before them a single rider was seen galloping furiously towards the gun.

The red-capped young officer rode forward and knocked up the gunner’s weapon with his sword. For in that rapid glance he had seen that the rider’s reins were hanging loosely on the neck of his horse, who was still dashing forwards with the frantic impetus of the charge, and that the youthful figure of the rider, wearing the stripes of a lieutenant,–although still erect, exercised no control over the animal. The face was boyish, blond, and ghastly; the eyes were set and glassy. It seemed as if Death itself were charging the gun.

Within a few feet of it the horse swerved before a brandished rammer, and striking the cheeks of the gun-carriage pitched his inanimate rider across the gun. The hot blood of the dead man smoked on the hotter brass with the reek of the shambles, and be-spattered the hand of the gunner who still mechanically served the vent. As they lifted the dead body down the order came to “cease firing.” For the yells from below had ceased too; the rattling and grinding were receding with the smoke farther to the left. The ominous central cloud parted for a brief moment and showed the unexpected sun glittering down the slope upon a near and peaceful river.

The young artillery officer had dismounted and was now gently examining the dead man. His breast had been crushed by a fragment of shell; he must have died instantly. The same missile had cut the chain of a locket which slipped from his opened coat. The officer picked it up with a strange feeling–perhaps because he was conscious himself of wearing a similar one, perhaps because it might give him some clue to the man’s identity. It contained only the photograph of a pretty girl, a tendril of fair hair, and the word “Sally.” In the breast-pocket was a sealed letter with the inscription, “For Miss Sally Dows. To be delivered if I fall by the mudsill’s hand.” A faint smile came over the officer’s face; he was about to hand the articles to a sergeant, but changed his mind and put them in his pocket.

Meantime the lane and woods beyond, and even the slope itself, were crowding with supports and waiting troops. His own battery was still unlimbered, waiting orders. There was a slight commotion in the lane.

“Very well done, captain. Smartly taken and gallantly held.”

It was the voice of a general officer passing with his staff. There was a note of pleasant relief in its tone, and the middle-aged, care-drawn face of its owner was relaxed in a paternal smile. The young captain flushed with pleasure.

“And you seem to have had close work too,” added the general, pointing to the dead man.

The young officer hurriedly explained. The general nodded, saluted, and passed on. But a youthful aide airily lingered.

“The old man’s feeling good, Courtland,” he said. “We’ve rolled ’em up all along the line. It’s all over now. In point of fact, I reckon you’ve fired the last round in this particular fratricidal engagement.”

The last round! Courtland remained silent, looking abstractedly at the man it had crushed and broken at his feet.

“And I shouldn’t wonder if you got your gold-leaf for to-day’s work. But who’s your sunny Southern friend here?” he added, following his companion’s eyes.

Courtland repeated his story a little more seriously, which, however, failed to subdue the young aide’s levity. “So he concluded to stop over,” he interrupted cheerfully. “But,” looking at the letter and photograph, “I say–look here! ‘Sally Dows?’ Why, there was another man picked up yesterday with a letter to the same girl! Doc Murphy has it. And, by Jove! the same picture too!–eh? I say, Sally must have gathered in the boys, and raked down the whole pile! Look here, Courty! you might get Doc Murphy’s letter and hunt her up when this cruel war is over. Say you’re ‘fulfilling a sacred trust!’ See? Good idea, old man! Ta-ta!” and he trotted quickly after his superior.

Courtland remained with the letter and photograph in his hand, gazing abstractedly after him. The smoke had rolled quite away from the fields on the left, but still hung heavily down the south on the heels of the flying cavalry. A long bugle call swelled up musically from below. The freed sun caught the white flags of two field hospitals in the woods and glanced tranquilly on the broad, cypress-fringed, lazy-flowing, and cruel but beautiful Southern river, which had all unseen crept so smilingly that morning through the very heart of the battle.


The two o’clock express from Redlands to Forestville, Georgia, had been proceeding with the languid placidity of the river whose banks it skirted for more than two hours. But, unlike the river, it had stopped frequently; sometimes at recognized stations and villages, sometimes at the apparition of straw-hatted and linen-coated natives in the solitude of pine woods, where, after a decent interval of cheery conversation with the conductor and engineer, it either took the stranger on board, or relieved him of his parcel, letter, basket, or even the verbal message with which he was charged. Much of the way lay through pine-barren and swampy woods which had never been cleared or cultivated; much through decayed settlements and ruined villages that had remained unchanged since the War of the Rebellion, now three years past. There were vestiges of the severity of a former military occupation; the blackened timbers of railway bridges still unrepaired; and along the line of a certain memorable march, sections of iron rails taken from the torn-up track, roasted in bonfires and bent while red-hot around the trunks of trees, were still to be seen. These mementos of defeat seemed to excite neither revenge nor the energy to remove them; the dull apathy which had succeeded the days of hysterical passion and convulsion still lingered; even the slow improvement that could be detected was marked by the languor of convalescence. The helplessness of a race, hitherto dependent upon certain barbaric conditions or political place and power, unskilled in invention, and suddenly confronted with the necessity of personal labor, was visible everywhere. Eyes that but three short years before had turned vindictively to the North, now gazed wistfully to that quarter for help and direction. They scanned eagerly the faces of their energetic and prosperous neighbors–and quondam foes–upon the verandas of Southern hotels and the decks of Southern steamboats, and were even now watching from a group in the woods the windows of the halted train, where the faces appeared of two men of manifestly different types, but still alien to the country in dress, features, and accent.

Two negroes were slowly loading the engine tender from a woodpile. The rich brown smoke of the turpentine knots was filling the train with its stinging fragrance. The elder of the two Northern passengers, with sharp New England angles in his face, impatiently glanced at his watch.

“Of all created shiftlessness, this beats everything! Why couldn’t we have taken in enough wood to last the ten miles farther to the terminus when we last stopped? And why in thunder, with all this firing up, can’t we go faster?”

The younger passenger, whose quiet, well-bred face seemed to indicate more discipline of character, smiled.

“If you really wish to know and as we’ve only ten miles farther to go–I’ll show you WHY. Come with me.”

He led the way through the car to the platform and leaped down. Then he pointed significantly to the rails below them. His companion started. The metal was scaling off in thin strips from the rails, and in some places its thickness had been reduced a quarter of an inch, while in others the projecting edges were torn off, or hanging in iron shreds, so that the wheels actually ran on the narrow central strip. It seemed marvelous that the train could keep the track.

“NOW you know why we don’t go more than five miles an hour, and–are thankful that we don’t,” said the young traveler quietly.

“But this is disgraceful!–criminal!” ejaculated the other nervously.

“Not at their rate of speed,” returned the younger man. “The crime would be in going faster. And now you can understand why a good deal of the other progress in this State is obliged to go as slowly over their equally decaying and rotten foundations. You can’t rush things here as we do in the North.”

The other passenger shrugged his shoulders as they remounted the platform, and the train moved on. It was not the first time that the two fellow-travelers had differed, although their mission was a common one. The elder, Mr. Cyrus Drummond, was the vice-president of a large Northern land and mill company, which had bought extensive tracts of land in Georgia, and the younger, Colonel Courtland, was the consulting surveyor and engineer for the company. Drummond’s opinions were a good deal affected by sectional prejudice, and a self-satisfied and righteous ignorance of the actual conditions and limitations of the people with whom he was to deal; while the younger man, who had served through the war with distinction, retained a soldier’s respect and esteem for his late antagonists, with a conscientious and thoughtful observation of their character. Although he had resigned from the army, the fact that he had previously graduated at West Point with high honors had given him preferment in this technical appointment, and his knowledge of the country and its people made him a valuable counselor. And it was a fact that the country people had preferred this soldier with whom they had once personally grappled to the capitalist they had never known during the struggle.

The train rolled slowly through the woods, so slowly that the fragrant pine smoke from the engine still hung round the windows of the cars. Gradually the “clearings” became larger; they saw the distant white wooden colonnades of some planter’s house, looking still opulent and pretentious, although the fence of its inclosure had broken gaps, and the gate sagged on its single hinge.

Mr. Drummond sniffed at this damning record of neglect and indifference. “Even if they were ruined, they might still have spent a few cents for nails and slats to enable them to look decent before folks, and not parade their poverty before their neighbors,” he said.

“But that’s just where you misunderstand them, Drummond,” said Courtland, smiling. “They have no reason to keep up an attitude towards their neighbors, who still know them as ‘Squire’ so-and-so, ‘Colonel’ this and that, and the ‘Judge,’–owners of their vast but crippled estates. They are not ashamed of being poor, which is an accident.”

“But they are of working, which is DELIBERATION,” interrupted Drummond. “They are ashamed to mend their fences themselves, now that they have no slaves to do it for them.”

“I doubt very much if some of them know how to drive a nail, for the matter of that,” said Courtland, still good-humoredly, “but that’s the fault of a system older than themselves, which the founders of the Republic retained. We cannot give them experience in their new condition in one day, and in fact, Drummond, I am very much afraid that for our purposes–and I honestly believe for THEIR good–we must help to keep them for the present as they are.”

“Perhaps,” said Drummond sarcastically, “you would like to reinstate slavery?”

“No. But I should like to reinstate the MASTER. And not for HIS sake alone, but for freedom’s sake and OURS. To be plain: since I have taken up this matter for the company, I have satisfied myself from personal observation that the negro–even more than his master–cannot handle his new condition. He is accustomed to his old traditional task-master, and I doubt if he will work fairly for any other–particularly for those who don’t understand him. Don’t mistake me: I don’t propose to go back to the whip; to that brutal institution, the irresponsible overseer; to the buying and selling, and separation of the family, nor any of the old wrongs; but I propose to make the old master OUR OVERSEER, and responsible to US. He is not a fool, and has already learned that it is more profitable to pay wages to his old slaves and have the power of dismissal, like any other employer, than be obliged, under the old system of enforced labor and life servitude, to undergo the cost of maintaining incompetence and idleness. The old sentiment of slave-owning has disappeared before natural common-sense and selfishness. I am satisfied that by some such process as this utilizing of the old master and the new freedom we will be better able to cultivate our lands than by buying up their estates, and setting the old owners adrift, with a little money in their pockets, as an idle, discontented class to revive old political dogmas, and foment new issues, or perhaps set up a dangerous opposition to us.

“You don’t mean to say that those infernal niggers would give the preference to their old oppressors?”

“Dollar for dollar in wages–yes! And why shouldn’t they? Their old masters understand them better–and treat them generally better. They know our interest in them is only an abstract sentiment, not a real liking. We show it at every turn. But we are nearing Redlands, and Major Reed will, I have no doubt, corroborate my impressions. He insists upon our staying at his house, although the poor old fellow, I imagine, can ill afford to entertain company. But he will be offended if we refuse.”

“He is a friend of yours, then?” asked Drummond.

“I fought against his division at Stony Creek,” said Courtland grimly. “He never tires of talking of it to me–so I suppose I am.”

A few moments later the train glided beside the Redlands platform. As the two travelers descended a hand was laid on Courtland’s shoulder, and a stout figure in the blackest and shiniest of alpaca jackets, and the whitest and broadest of Panama hats, welcomed him. “Glad to see yo’, cun’nel. I reckoned I’d waltz over and bring along the boy,” pointing to a grizzled negro servant of sixty who was bowing before them, “to tote yo’r things over instead of using a hack. I haven’t run much on horseflesh since the wah–ha! ha! What I didn’t use up for remounts I reckon yo’r commissary gobbled up with the other live stock, eh?” He laughed heartily, as if the recollections were purely humorous, and again clapped Courtland on the back.

“Let me introduce my friend, Mr. Drummond, Major Reed,” said Courtland, smiling.

“Yo’ were in the wah, sir?”

“No–I”–returned Drummond, hesitating, he knew not why, and angry at his own embarrassment.

“Mr. Drummond, the vice-president of the company,” interposed Courtland cheerfully, “was engaged in furnishing to us the sinews of war.”

Major Reed bowed a little more formally. “Most of us heah, sir, were in the wah some time or other, and if you gentlemen will honah me by joining in a social glass at the hotel across the way, I’ll introduce you to Captain Prendergast, who left a leg at Fair Oaks.” Drummond would have declined, but a significant pressure on his arm from Courtland changed his determination. He followed them to the hotel and into the presence of the one-legged warrior (who turned out to be the landlord and barkeeper), to whom Courtland was hilariously introduced by Major Reed as “the man, sir, who had pounded my division for three hours at Stony Creek!”

Major Reed’s house was but a few minutes’ walk down the dusty lane, and was presently heralded by the baying of three or four foxhounds and foreshadowed by a dilapidated condition of picket-fence and stuccoed gate front. Beyond it stretched the wooden Doric columns of the usual Southern mansion, dimly seen through the broad leaves of the horse-chestnut-trees that shaded it. There were the usual listless black shadows haunting the veranda and outer offices–former slaves and still attached house-servants, arrested like lizards in breathless attitudes at the approach of strange footsteps, and still holding the brush, broom, duster, or home implement they had been lazily using, in their fixed hands. From the doorway of the detached kitchen, connected by a gallery to the wing of the mansion, “Aunt Martha,” the cook, gazed also, with a saucepan clasped to her bosom, and her revolving hand with the scrubbing cloth in it apparently stopped on a dead centre.

Drummond, whose gorge had risen at these evidences of hopeless incapacity and utter shiftlessness, was not relieved by the presence of Mrs. Reed–a soured, disappointed woman of forty, who still carried in her small dark eyes and thin handsome lips something of the bitterness and antagonism of the typical “Southern rights” woman; nor of her two daughters, Octavia and Augusta, whose languid atrabiliousness seemed a part of the mourning they still wore. The optimistic gallantry and good fellowship of the major appeared the more remarkable by contrast with his cypress-shadowed family and their venomous possibilities. Perhaps there might have been a light vein of Southern insincerity in his good humor. “Paw,” said Miss Octavia, with gloomy confidence to Courtland, but with a pretty curl of the hereditary lip, “is about the only ‘reconstructed’ one of the entire family. We don’t make ’em much about yer. But I’d advise yo’ friend, Mr. Drummond, if he’s coming here carpet-bagging, not to trust too much to paw’s ‘reconstruction.’ It won’t wash.” But when Courtland hastened to assure her that Drummond was not a “carpet-bagger,” was not only free from any of the political intrigue implied under that baleful title, but was a wealthy Northern capitalist simply seeking investment, the young lady was scarcely more hopeful. “I suppose he reckons to pay paw for those niggers yo’ stole?” she suggested with gloomy sarcasm.

“No,” said Courtland, smiling; “but what if he reckoned to pay those niggers for working for your father and him?”

“If paw is going into trading business with him; if Major Reed–a So’th’n gentleman–is going to keep shop, he ain’t such a fool as to believe niggers will work when they ain’t obliged to. THAT’S been tried over at Mirandy Dows’s, not five miles from here, and the niggers are half the time hangin’ round here takin’ holiday. She put up new quarters for ’em, and tried to make ’em eat together at a long table like those low-down folks up North, and did away with their cabins and their melon patches, and allowed it would get ’em out of lying round too much, and wanted ’em to work over-time and get mo’ pay. And the result was that she and her niece, and a lot of poor whites, Irish and Scotch, that she had to pick up ”long the river,’ do all the work. And her niece Sally was mo’ than half Union woman during the wah, and up to all No’th’n tricks and dodges, and swearin’ by them; and yet, for all that–the thing won’t work.”

“But isn’t that partly the reason? Isn’t her failure a great deal due to this lack of sympathy from her neighbors? Discontent is easily sown, and the negro is still weighted down by superstition; the Fifteenth Amendment did not quite knock off ALL his chains.”

“Yes, but that is nothing to HER. For if there ever was a person in this world who reckoned she was just born to manage everything and everybody, it is Sally Dows!”

“Sally Dows!” repeated Courtland, with a slight start.

“Yes, Sally Dows, of Pineville.”

“You say she was half Union, but did she have any relations or–or–friends–in the war–on your side? Any–who–were killed in battle?”

“They were all killed, I reckon,” returned Miss Reed darkly. “There was her cousin, Jule Jeffcourt, shot in the cemetery with her beau, who, they say, was Sally’s too; there were Chet Brooks and Joyce Masterton, who were both gone on her and both killed too; and there was old Captain Dows himself, who never lifted his head again after Richmond was taken, and drank himself to death. It wasn’t considered healthy to be Miss Sally’s relations in those times, or to be even wantin’ to be one.”

Colonel Courtland did not reply. The face of the dead young officer coming towards him out of the blue smoke rose as vividly as on that memorable day. The picture and letter he had taken from the dead man’s breast, which he had retained ever since; the romantic and fruitless quest he had made for the fair original in after days; and the strange and fateful interest in her which had grown up in his heart since then, he now knew had only been lulled to sleep in the busy preoccupation of the last six months, for it all came back to him with redoubled force. His present mission and its practical object, his honest zeal in its pursuit, and the cautious skill and experience he had brought to it, all seemed to be suddenly displaced by this romantic and unreal fantasy. Oddly enough it appeared now to be the only reality in his life, the rest was an incoherent, purposeless dream.

“Is–is–Miss Sally married?” he asked, collecting himself with an effort.

“Married? Yes, to that farm of her aunt’s! I reckon that’s the only thing she cares for.”

Courtland looked up, recovering his usual cheerful calm. “Well, I think that after luncheon I’ll pay my respects to her family. From what you have just told me the farm is certainly an experiment worth seeing. I suppose your father will have no objection to give me a letter to Miss Dows?”


Nevertheless, as Colonel Courtland rode deliberately towards Dows’ Folly, as the new experiment was locally called, although he had not abated his romantic enthusiasm in the least, he was not sorry that he was able to visit it under a practical pretext. It was rather late now to seek out Miss Sally Dows with the avowed intent of bringing her a letter from an admirer who had been dead three years, and whose memory she had probably buried. Neither was it tactful to recall a sentiment which might have been a weakness of which she was ashamed. Yet, clear-headed and logical as Courtland was in his ordinary affairs, he was nevertheless not entirely free from that peculiar superstition which surrounds every man’s romance. He believed there was something more than a mere coincidence in his unexpectedly finding himself in such favorable conditions for making her acquaintance. For the rest–if there was any rest–he would simply trust to fate. And so, believing himself a cool, sagacious reasoner, but being actually, as far as Miss Dows was concerned, as blind, fatuous, and unreasoning as any of her previous admirers, he rode complacently forward until he reached the lane that led to the Dows plantation.

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Here a better kept roadway and fence, whose careful repair would have delighted Drummond, seemed to augur well for the new enterprise. Presently, even the old-fashioned local form of the fence, a slanting zigzag, gave way to the more direct line of post and rail in the Northern fashion. Beyond it presently appeared a long low frontage of modern buildings which, to Courtland’s surprise, were entirely new in structure and design. There was no reminiscence of the usual Southern porticoed gable or columned veranda. Yet it was not Northern either. The factory-like outline of facade was partly hidden in Cherokee rose and jessamine.

A long roofed gallery connected the buildings and became a veranda to one. A broad, well-rolled gravel drive led from the open gate to the newest building, which seemed to be the office; a smaller path diverged from it to the corner house, which, despite its severe simplicity, had a more residential appearance. Unlike Reed’s house, there were no lounging servants or field hands to be seen; they were evidently attending to their respective duties. Dismounting, Courtland tied his horse to a post at the office door and took the smaller path to the corner house.

The door was open to the fragrant afternoon breeze wafted through the rose and jessamine. So also was a side door opening from the hall into a long parlor or sitting-room that ran the whole width of the house. Courtland entered it. It was prettily furnished, but everything had the air of freshness and of being uncharacteristically new. It was empty, but a faint hammering was audible on the rear wall of the house, through the two open French windows at the back, curtained with trailing vines, which gave upon a sunlit courtyard. Courtland walked to the window. Just before it, on the ground, stood a small light ladder, which he gently put aside to gain a better view of the courtyard as he put on his hat, and stepped out of the open window.

In this attitude he suddenly felt his hat tipped from his head, followed almost instantaneously by a falling slipper, and the distinct impression of a very small foot on the crown of his head. An indescribable sensation passed over him. He hurriedly stepped back into the room, just as a small striped-stockinged foot was as hastily drawn up above the top of the window with the feminine exclamation, “Good gracious me!”

Lingering for an instant, only to assure himself that the fair speaker had secured her foothold and was in no danger of falling, Courtland snatched up his hat, which had providentially fallen inside the room, and retreated ingloriously to the other end of the parlor. The voice came again from the window, and struck him as being very sweet and clear:–

“Sophy, is that YOU?”

Courtland discreetly retired to the hall. To his great relief a voice from the outside answered, “Whar, Miss Sally?”

“What did yo’ move the ladder for? Yo’ might have killed me.”

“Fo’ God, Miss Sally, I didn’t move no ladder!”

“Don’t tell me, but go down and get my slipper. And bring up some more nails.”

Courtland waited silently in the hall. In a few moments he heard a heavy footstep outside the rear window. This was his opportunity. Re-entering the parlor somewhat ostentatiously, he confronted a tall negro girl who was passing through the room carrying a tiny slipper in her hand. “Excuse me,” he said politely, “but I could not find any one to announce me. Is Miss Dows at home?”

The girl instantly whipped the slipper behind her. “Is yo’ wanting Miss Mirandy Dows,” she asked with great dignity, “oah Miss Sally Dows–her niece? Miss Mirandy’s bin gone to Atlanta for a week.”

“I have a letter for Miss Miranda, but I shall be very glad if Miss Sally Dows will receive me,” returned Courtland, handing the letter and his card to the girl.

She received it with a still greater access of dignity and marked deliberation. “It’s clean gone outer my mind, sah, ef Miss Sally is in de resumption of visitahs at dis houah. In fac’, sah,” she continued, with intensified gravity and an exaggeration of thoughtfulness as the sounds of Miss Sally’s hammering came shamelessly from the wall, “I doahn know exac’ly ef she’s engaged playin’ de harp, practicin’ de languages, or paintin’ in oil and watah colors, o’ givin’ audiences to offishals from de Court House. It might be de houah for de one or de odder. But I’ll communicate wid her, sah, in de budwoh on de uppah flo’.” She backed dexterously, so as to keep the slipper behind her, but with no diminution of dignity, out of a side door. In another moment the hammering ceased, followed by the sound of rapid whispering without; a few tiny twigs and leaves slowly rustled to the ground, and then there was complete silence. He ventured to walk to the fateful window again.

Presently he heard a faint rustle at the other end of the room, and he turned. A sudden tremulousness swept along his pulses, and then they seemed to pause; he drew a deep breath that was almost a sigh, and remained motionless.

He had no preconceived idea of falling in love with Miss Sally at first sight, nor had he dreamed such a thing possible. Even the girlish face that he had seen in the locket, although it had stirred him with a singular emotion, had not suggested that. And the ideal he had evolved from it was never a potent presence. But the exquisitely pretty face and figure before him, although it might have been painted from his own fancy of her, was still something more and something unexpected. All that had gone before had never prepared him for the beautiful girl who now stood there. It was a poor explanation to say that Miss Sally was four or five years older than her picture, and that later experiences, enlarged capacity, a different life, and new ambition had impressed her youthful face with a refined mobility; it was a weird fancy to imagine that the blood of those who had died for her had in some vague, mysterious way imparted an actual fascination to her, and he dismissed it. But even the most familiar spectator, like Sophy, could see that Miss Sally had the softest pink complexion, the silkiest hair, that looked as the floss of the Indian corn might look if curled, or golden spider threads if materialized, and eyes that were in bright gray harmony with both; that the frock of India muslin, albeit home-made, fitted her figure perfectly, from the azure bows on her shoulders to the ribbon around her waist; and that the hem of its billowy skirt showed a foot which had the reputation of being the smallest foot south of Mason and Dixon’s Line! But it was something more intangible than this which kept Courtland breathless and silent.

“I’m not Miss Miranda Dows,” said the vision with a frankness that was half childlike and half practical, as she extended a little hand, “but I can talk ‘fahm’ with yo’ about as well as aunty, and I reckon from what Major Reed says heah,” holding up the letter between her fingers, “as long as yo’ get the persimmons yo’ don’t mind what kind o’ pole yo’ knock ’em down with.”

The voice that carried this speech was so fresh, clear, and sweet that I am afraid Courtland thought little of its bluntness or its conventional transgressions. But it brought him his own tongue quite unemotionally and quietly. “I don’t know what was in that note, Miss Dows, but I can hardly believe that Major Reed ever put my present felicity quite in that way.”

Miss Sally laughed. Then with a charming exaggeration she waved her little hand towards the sofa.

“There! Yo’ naturally wanted a little room for that, co’nnle, but now that yo’ ‘ve got it off,–and mighty pooty it was, too,–yo’ can sit down.” And with that she sank down at one end of the sofa, prettily drew aside a white billow of skirt so as to leave ample room for Courtland at the other, and clasping her fingers over her knees, looked demurely expectant.

“But let me hope that I am not disturbing you unseasonably,” said Courtland, catching sight of the fateful little slipper beneath her skirt, and remembering the window. “I was so preoccupied in thinking of your aunt as the business manager of these estates that I quite forget that she might have a lady’s hours for receiving.”

“We haven’t got any company hours,” said Miss Sally, “and we haven’t just now any servants for company manners, for we’re short-handed in the fields and barns. When yo’ came I was nailing up the laths for the vines outside, because we couldn’t spare carpenters from the factory. But,” she added, with a faint accession of mischief in her voice, “yo’ came to talk about the fahm?”

“Yes,” said Courtland, rising, “but not to interrupt the work on it. Will you let me help you nail up the laths on the wall? I have some experience that way, and we can talk as we work. Do oblige me!”

The young girl looked at him brightly.

“Well, now, there’s nothing mean about THAT. Yo’ mean it for sure?”

“Perfectly. I shall feel so much less as if I was enjoying your company under false pretenses.”

“Yo’ just wait here, then.”

She jumped from the sofa, ran out of the room, and returned presently, tying the string of a long striped cotton blouse–evidently an extra one of Sophy’s–behind her back as she returned. It was gathered under her oval chin by a tape also tied behind her, while her fair hair was tucked under the usual red bandana handkerchief of the negro housemaid. It is scarcely necessary to add that the effect was bewitching.

“But,” said Miss Sally, eying her guest’s smartly fitting frock-coat, “yo’ ‘ll spoil yo’r pooty clothes, sure! Take off yo’r coat–don’t mind me–and work in yo’r shirtsleeves.”

Courtland obediently flung aside his coat and followed his active hostess through the French window to the platform outside. Above them a wooden ledge or cornice, projecting several inches, ran the whole length of the building. It was on this that Miss Sally had evidently found a foothold while she was nailing up a trellis-work of laths between it and the windows of the second floor. Courtland found the ladder, mounted to the ledge, followed by the young girl, who smilingly waived his proffered hand to help her up, and the two gravely set to work. But in the intervals of hammering and tying up the vines Miss Sally’s tongue was not idle. Her talk was as fresh, as quaint, as original as herself, and yet so practical and to the purpose of Courtland’s visit as to excuse his delight in it and her own fascinating propinquity. Whether she stopped to take a nail from between her pretty lips when she spoke to him, or whether holding on perilously with one hand to the trellis while she gesticulated with the hammer, pointing out the divisions of the plantation from her coign of vantage, he thought she was as clear and convincing to his intellect as she was distracting to his senses.

She told him how the war had broken up their old home in Pineville, sending her father to serve in the Confederate councils of Richmond, and leaving her aunt and herself to manage the property alone; how the estate had been devastated, the house destroyed, and how they had barely time to remove a few valuables; how, although SHE had always been opposed to secession and the war, she had not gone North, preferring to stay with her people, and take with them the punishment of the folly she had foreseen. How after the war and her father’s death she and her aunt had determined to “reconstruct THEMSELVES” after their own fashion on this bit of property, which had survived their fortunes because it had always been considered valueless and unprofitable for negro labor. How at first they had undergone serious difficulty, through the incompetence and ignorance of the freed laborer, and the equal apathy and prejudice of their neighbors. How they had gradually succeeded with the adoption of new methods and ideas that she herself had conceived, which she now briefly and clearly stated. Courtland listened with a new, breathless, and almost superstitious interest: they were HIS OWN THEORIES–perfected and demonstrated!

“But you must have had capital for this?”

Ah, yes! that was where they were fortunate. There were some French cousins with whom she had once stayed in Paris, who advanced enough to stock the estate. There were some English friends of her father’s, old blockade runners, who had taken shares, provided them with more capital, and imported some skilled laborers and a kind of steward or agent to represent them. But they were getting on, and perhaps it was better for their reputation with their neighbors that they had not been BEHOLDEN to the “No’th.” Seeing a cloud pass over Courtland’s face, the young lady added with an affected sigh, and the first touch of feminine coquetry which had invaded their wholesome camaraderie:–

“Yo’ ought to have found us out BEFORE, co’nnle.”

For an impulsive moment Courtland felt like telling her then and there the story of his romantic quest; but the reflection that they were standing on a narrow ledge with no room for the emotions, and that Miss Sally had just put a nail in her mouth and a start might be dangerous, checked him. To this may be added a new jealousy of her previous experiences, which he had not felt before. Nevertheless, he managed to say with some effusion:–

“But I hope we are not too late NOW. I think my principals are quite ready and able to buy up any English or French investor now or to come.”

“Yo’ might try yo’ hand on that one,” said Miss Sally, pointing to a young fellow who had just emerged from the office and was crossing the courtyard. “He’s the English agent.”

He was square-shouldered and round-headed, fresh and clean looking in his white flannels, but with an air of being utterly distinct and alien to everything around him, and mentally and morally irreconcilable to it. As he passed the house he glanced shyly at it; his eye brightened and his manner became self-conscious as he caught sight of the young girl, but changed again when he saw her companion. Courtland likewise was conscious of a certain uneasiness; it was one thing to be helping Miss Sally ALONE, but certainly another thing to be doing so under the eye of a stranger; and I am afraid that he met the stony observation of the Englishman with an equally cold stare. Miss Sally alone retained her languid ease and self-possession. She called out, “Wait a moment, Mr. Champney,” slipped lightly down the ladder, and leaning against it with one foot on its lowest rung awaited his approach.

“I reckoned yo’ might be passing by,” she said, as he came forward. “Co’nnle Courtland,” with an explanatory wave of the hammer towards her companion, who remained erect and slightly stiffened on the cornice, “is no relation to those figures along the frieze of the Redlands Court House, but a No’th’n officer, a friend of Major Reed’s, who’s come down here to look after So’th’n property for some No’th’n capitalists. Mr. Champney,” she continued, turning and lifting her eyes to Courtland as she indicated Champney with her hammer, “when he isn’t talking English, seeing English, thinking English, dressing English, and wondering why God didn’t make everything English, is trying to do the same for HIS folks. Mr. Champney, Co’nnle Courtland. Co’nnle Courtland, Mr. Champney!” The two men bowed formally. “And now, Co’nnle, if yo’ll come down, Mr. Champney will show yo’ round the fahm. When yo’ ‘ve got through yo’ll find me here at work.”

Courtland would have preferred, and half looked for her company and commentary on this round of inspection, but he concealed his disappointment and descended. It did not exactly please him that Champney seemed relieved, and appeared to accept him as a bona fide stranger who could not possibly interfere with any confidential relations that he might have with Miss Sally. Nevertheless, he met the Englishman’s offer to accompany him with polite gratitude, and they left the house together.

In less than an hour they returned. It had not even taken that time for Courtland to discover that the real improvements and the new methods had originated with Miss Sally; that she was virtually the controlling influence there, and that she was probably retarded rather than assisted by the old-fashioned and traditional conservatism of the company of which Champney was steward. It was equally plain, however, that the young fellow was dimly conscious of this, and was frankly communicative about it.

“You see, over there they work things in a different way, and, by Jove! they can’t understand that there is any other, don’t you know? They’re always wigging me as if I could help it, although I’ve tried to explain the nigger business, and all that, don’t you know? They want Miss Dows to refer her plans to me, and expect me to report on them, and then they’ll submit them to the Board and wait for its decision. Fancy Miss Dows doing that! But, by Jove! they can’t conceive of her AT ALL over there, don’t you know?”

“Which Miss Dows do you mean?” asked Courtland dryly.

“Miss Sally, of course,” said the young fellow briskly. “SHE manages everything–her aunt included. She can make those niggers work when no one else can, a word or smile from her is enough. She can make terms with dealers and contractors–her own terms, too–when they won’t look at MY figures. By Jove! she even gets points out of those traveling agents and inventors, don’t you know, who come along the road with patents and samples. She got one of those lightning-rod and wire-fence men to show her how to put up an arbor for her trailing roses. Why, when I first saw YOU up on the cornice, I thought you were some other chap that she’d asked–don’t you know–that is, at first, of course!–you know what I mean–ha, by Jove!–before we were introduced, don’t you know.”

“I think I OFFERED to help Miss Dows,” said Courtland with a quickness that he at once regretted.

“So did HE, don’t you know? Miss Sally does not ASK anybody. Don’t you see? a fellow don’t like to stand by and see a young lady like her doing such work.” Vaguely aware of some infelicity in his speech, he awkwardly turned the subject: “I don’t think I shall stay here long, myself.”

“You expect to return to England?” asked Courtland.

“Oh, no! But I shall go out of the company’s service and try my own hand. There’s a good bit of land about three miles from here that’s in the market, and I think I could make something out of it. A fellow ought to settle down and be his own master,” he answered tentatively, “eh?”

“But how will Miss Dows be able to spare you?” asked Courtland, uneasily conscious that he was assuming an indifference.

“Oh, I’m not much use to her, don’t you know–at least not HERE. But I might, if I had my own land and if we were neighbors. I told you SHE runs the place, no matter who’s here, or whose money is invested.”

“I presume you are speaking now of young Miss Dows?” said Courtland dryly.

“Miss Sally–of course–always,” said Champney simply. “She runs the shop.”

“Were there not some French investors–relations of Miss Dows? Does anybody represent THEM?” asked Courtland pointedly.

Yet he was not quite prepared for the naive change in his companion’s face. “No. There was a sort of French cousin who used to be a good deal to the fore, don’t you know? But I rather fancy he didn’t come here to look after the PROPERTY,” returned Champney with a quick laugh. “I think the aunt must have written to his friends, for they ‘called him off,’ and I don’t think Miss Sally broke her heart about him. She’s not that sort of girl–eh? She could have her pick of the State if she went in for that sort of thing–eh?”

Although this was exactly what Courtland was thinking, it pleased him to answer in a distrait sort of fashion, “Certainly, I should think so,” and to relapse into an apparently business abstraction.

“I think I won’t go in,” continued Champney as they neared the house again. “I suppose you’ll have something more to say to Miss Dows. If there’s anything else you want of ME, come to the office. But SHE’LL know. And–er–er–if you’re–er–staying long in this part of the country, ride over and look me up, don’t you know? and have a smoke and a julep; I have a boy who knows how to mix them, and I’ve some old brandy sent me from the other side. Good-by.”

More awkward in his kindliness than in his simple business confidences, but apparently equally honest in both, he shook Courtland’s hand and walked away. Courtland turned towards the house. He had seen the farm and its improvements; he had found some of his own ideas practically discounted; clearly there was nothing left for him to do but to thank his hostess and take his leave. But he felt far more uneasy than when he had arrived; and there was a singular sense of incompleteness in his visit that he could not entirely account for. His conversation with Champney had complicated–he knew not why–his previous theories of Miss Dows, and although he was half conscious that this had nothing to do with the business that brought him there, he tried to think that it had. If Miss Sally was really–a–a–distracting element to contiguous man, it was certainly something to be considered in a matter of business of which she would take a managerial part. It was true that Champney had said she was “not that sort of girl,” but this was the testimony of one who was clearly under her influence. He entered the house through the open French window. The parlor was deserted. He walked through the front hall and porch; no one was there. He lingered a few moments, a slight chagrin beginning to mingle with his uneasiness. She might have been on the lookout for him. She or Sophy must have seen him returning. He would ring for Sophy, and leave his thanks and regrets for her mistress. He looked for a bell, touched it, but on being confronted with Sophy, changed his mind and asked to SEE Miss Dows. In the interval between her departure and the appearance of Miss Sally he resolved to do the very thing which he had dismissed from his thoughts but an hour before as ill-timed and doubtful. He had the photograph and letter in his pocket; he would make them his excuse for personally taking leave of her.

She entered with her fair eyebrows lifted in a pretty surprise.

“I declare to goodness, I thought yo’ ‘d ridden over to the red barn and gone home from there. I got through my work on the vines earlier than I thought. One of Judge Garret’s nephews dropped in in time to help me with the last row. Yo’ needn’t have troubled yo’self to send up for me for mere company manners, but Sophy says yo’ looked sort of ‘anxious and particular’ when yo’ asked for me–so I suppose yo’ want to see me for something.”

Mentally objurgating Sophy, and with an unpleasant impression in his mind of the unknown neighbor who had been helping Miss Sally in his place, he nevertheless tried to collect himself gallantly.

“I don’t know what my expression conveyed to Sophy,” he said with a smile, “but I trust that what I have to tell you may be interesting enough to make you forget my second intrusion.” He paused, and still smiling continued: “For more than three years, Miss Dows, you have more or less occupied my thoughts; and although we have actually met to-day only for the first time, I have during that time carried your image with me constantly. Even this meeting, which was only the result of an accident, I had been seeking for three years. I find you here under your own peaceful vine and fig-tree, and yet three years ago you came to me out of the thunder-cloud of battle.”

“My good gracious!” said Miss Sally.

She had been clasping her knee with her linked fingers, but separated them and leaned backward on the sofa with affected consternation, but an expression of growing amusement in her bright eyes. Courtland saw the mistake of his tone, but it was too late to change it now. He handed her the locket and the letter, and briefly, and perhaps a little more seriously, recounted the incident that had put him in possession of them. But he entirely suppressed the more dramatic and ghastly details, and his own superstition and strange prepossession towards her.

Miss Sally took the articles without a tremor, or the least deepening or paling of the delicate, faint suffusion of her cheek. When she had glanced over the letter, which appeared to be brief, she said, with smiling, half-pitying tranquillity:–

“Yes!–it WAS that poor Chet Brooks, sure! I heard that he was killed at Snake River. It was just like him to rush in and get killed the first pop! And all for nothing, too,–pure foolishness!”

Shocked, yet relieved, but uneasy under both sensations, Courtland went on blindly:

“But he was not the only one, Miss Dows. There was another man picked up who also had your picture.”

“Yes–Joyce Masterton. They sent it to me. But you didn’t kill HIM, too?”

“I don’t know that I personally killed either,” he said a little coldly. He paused, and continued with a gravity which he could not help feeling very inconsistent and even ludicrous: “They were brave men, Miss Dows.”

“To have worn my picture?” said Miss Sally brightly.

“To have THOUGHT they had so much to live for, and yet to have willingly laid down their lives for what they believed was right.”

“Yo’ didn’t go huntin’ me for three years to tell ME, a So’th’n girl, that So’th’n men know how to fight, did yo’, co’nnle?” returned the young lady, with the slightest lifting of her head and drooping of her blue-veined lids in a divine hauteur. “They were always ready enough for that, even among themselves. It was much easier for these pooah boys to fight a thing out than think it out, or work it out. Yo’ folks in the No’th learned to do all three; that’s where you got the grip on us. Yo’ look surprised, co’nnle.”

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“I didn’t expect you would look at it–quite in–in–that way,” said Courtland awkwardly.

“I am sorry I disappointed yo’ after yo’ ‘d taken such a heap o’ trouble,” returned the young lady with a puzzling assumption of humility as she rose and smoothed out her skirts, “but I couldn’t know exactly what yo’ might be expecting after three years; if I HAD, I might have put on mo’ning.” She stopped and adjusted a straying tendril of her hair with the sharp corner of the dead man’s letter. “But I thank yo’, all the same, co’nnle. It was real good in yo’ to think of toting these things over here.” And she held out her hand frankly.

Courtland took it with the sickening consciousness that for the last five minutes he had been an unconscionable ass. He could not prolong the interview after she had so significantly risen. If he had only taken his leave and kept the letter and locket for a later visit, perhaps when they were older friends! It was too late now. He bent over her hand for a moment, again thanked her for her courtesy, and withdrew. A moment later she heard the receding beat of his horse’s hoofs on the road.

She opened the drawer of a brass-handled cabinet, and after a moment’s critical survey of her picture in the dead man’s locket, tossed it and the letter into the recesses of the drawer. Then she stopped, removed her little slipper from her foot, looked at THAT, too, thoughtfully, and called “Sophy!”

“Miss Sally?” said the girl, reappearing at the door.

“Are you sure you did not move that ladder?”

“I ‘clare to goodness, Miss Sally, I never teched it!”

Miss Sally directed a critical glance at her handmaiden’s red-coifed head. “No,” she said to herself softly, “it felt nicer than wool, anyway!”


In spite of the awkward termination of his visit,–or perhaps BECAUSE of it,–Courtland called again at the plantation within the week. But this time he was accompanied by Drummond, and was received by Miss Miranda Dows, a tall, aquiline-nosed spinster of fifty, whose old-time politeness had become slightly affected, and whose old beliefs had given way to a half-cynical acceptance of new facts. Mr. Drummond, delighted with the farm and its management, was no less fascinated by Miss Sally, while Courtland was now discreet enough to divide his attentions between her and her aunt, with the result that he was far from participating in Champney’s conviction of Miss Miranda’s unimportance. To the freedmen she still represented the old implacable task-mistress, and it was evident that they superstitiously believed that she still retained a vague power of overriding the Fourteenth Amendment at her pleasure, and was only to be restrained by the mediation of the good-humored and sensible Miss Sally. Courtland was quick to see the value of this influence in the transition state of the freedmen, and pointed it out to his principal. Drummond’s previous doubts and skepticism, already weakened by Miss Sally’s fascinations, vanished entirely at this prospect of beneficially utilizing these lingering evils of slavery. He was convinced, he was even enthusiastic. The foreign investors were men to be bought out; the estate improved and enlarged by the company, and the fair owners retained in the management and control. Like most prejudiced men, Drummond’s conversion was sudden and extreme, and, being a practical man, was at once acted upon. At a second and third interview the preliminaries were arranged, and in three weeks from Courtland’s first visit, the Dows’ plantation and part of Major Reed’s were merged in the “Drummond Syndicate,” and placed beyond financial uncertainty. Courtland remained to represent the company as superintendent at Redlands, and with the transfer of the English investments Champney retired, as he had suggested, to a smaller venture of his own, on a plantation a few miles distant which the company had been unable to secure.

During this interval Courtland had frequent interviews with Miss Sally, and easy and unrestrained access to her presence. He had never again erred on the side of romance or emotion; he had never again referred to the infelix letter and photograph; and, without being obliged to confine himself strictly to business affairs, he had maintained an even, quiet, neighborly intercourse with her. Much of this was the result of his own self-control and soldierly training, and gave little indication of the deeper feeling that he was conscious lay beneath it. At times he caught the young girl’s eyes fixed upon him with a mischievous curiosity. A strange thrill went through him; there are few situations so subtle and dangerous as the accidental confidences and understandings of two young people of opposite sex, even though the question of any sentimental inclination be still in abeyance. Courtland knew that Miss Sally remembered the too serious attitude he had taken towards her past. She might laugh at it, and even resent it, but she KNEW it, remembered it, knew that HE did, and this precious knowledge was confined to themselves. It was in their minds when there was a pause in their more practical and conventional conversation, and was even revealed in the excessive care which Miss Sally later took to avert at the right moment her mischievously smiling eyes. Once she went farther. Courtland had just finished explaining to her a plan for substituting small farm buildings for the usual half-cultivated garden-patches dear to the negro field-hand, and had laid down the drawings on the table in the office, when the young lady, leaning against it with her hands behind her, fixed her bright gray eyes on his serious face.

“I vow and protest, co’nnle,” she said, dropping into one of the quaint survivals of an old-time phraseology peculiar to her people, “I never allowed yo’ could just give yo’self up to business, soul and body, as yo’ do, when I first met yo’ that day.”

“Why, what did you think me?” he asked quickly.

Miss Sally, who had a Southern aptitude for gesture, took one little hand from behind her, twirled it above her head with a pretty air of disposing of some airy nothing in a presumably masculine fashion, and said, “Oh, THAT.”

“I am afraid I did not impress you then as a very practical man,” he said, with a faint color.

“I thought you roosted rather high, co’nnle, to pick up many worms in the mo’ning. But,” she added with a dazzling smile, “I reckon from what yo’ said about the photograph, yo’ thought I wasn’t exactly what yo’ believed I ought to be, either.”

He would have liked to tell her then and there that he would have been content if those bright, beautiful eyes had never kindled with anything but love or womanly aspiration; that that soft, lazy, caressing voice had never been lifted beyond the fireside or domestic circle; that the sunny, tendriled hair and pink ears had never inclined to anything but whispered admiration; and that the graceful, lithe, erect figure, so independent and self-contained, had been satisfied to lean only upon his arm for support. He was conscious that this had been in his mind when he first saw her; he was equally conscious that she was more bewilderingly fascinating to him in her present inaccessible intelligence and practicality.

“I confess,” he said, looking into her eyes with a vague smile, “I did not expect you would be so forgetful of some one who had evidently cared for you.”

“Meaning Mr. Chet Brooks, or Mr. Joyce Masterton, or both. That’s like most yo’ men, co’nnle. Yo’ reckon because a girl pleases yo’ she ought to be grateful all her life–and yo’rs, too! Yo’ think different now! But yo’ needn’t act up to it quite so much.” She made a little deprecating gesture with her disengaged hand as if to ward off any retaliating gallantry. “I ain’t speaking for myself, co’nnle. Yo’ and me are good enough friends. But the girls round here think yo’ ‘re a trifle too much taken up with rice and niggers. And looking at it even in yo’r light, co’nnle, it ain’t BUSINESS. Yo’ want to keep straight with Major Reed, so it would be just as well to square the major’s woman folks. Tavy and Gussie Reed ain’t exactly poisonous, co’nnle, and yo’ might see one or the other home from church next Sunday. The Sunday after that, just to show yo’ ain’t particular, and that yo’ go in for being a regular beau, yo’ might walk home with ME. Don’t be frightened–I’ve got a better gown than this. It’s a new one, just come home from Louisville, and I’ll wear it for the occasion.”

He did not dare to say that the quaint frock she was then wearing–a plain “checked” household gingham used for children’s pinafores, with its ribbons of the same pattern, gathered in bows at the smart apron pockets–had become a part of her beauty, for he was already hopelessly conscious that she was lovely in anything, and he might be impelled to say so. He thanked her gravely and earnestly, but without gallantry or effusion, and had the satisfaction of seeing the mischief in her eyes increase in proportion to his seriousness, and heard her say with affected concern: “Bear up, co’nnle! Don’t let it worry yo’ till the time comes,” and took his leave.

On the following Sunday he was present at the Redlands Episcopal Church, and after the service stood with outward composure but some inward chafing among the gallant youth who, after the local fashion, had ranged themselves outside the doors of the building. He was somewhat surprised to find Mr. Champney, evidently as much out of place as himself, but less self-contained, waiting in the crowd of expectant cavaliers. Although convinced that the young Englishman had come only to see Miss Sally, he was glad to share his awkward isolation with another stranger, and greeted him pleasantly. The Dows’ pew, being nearer to the entrance than the Reeds’, gave up its occupants first. Colonel Courtland lifted his hat to Miss Miranda and her niece at the same moment that Champney moved forward and ranged himself beside them. Miss Sally, catching Courtland’s eye, showed the whites of her own in a backward glance of mischievous significance to indicate the following Reeds. When they approached, Courtland joined them, and finding himself beside Miss Octavia entered into conversation. Apparently the suppressed passion and sardonic melancholy of that dark-eyed young lady spurred him to a lighter, gayer humor even in proportion as Miss Sally’s good-natured levity and sunny practicality always made him serious. They presently fell to the rear with other couples, and were soon quite alone.

A little haughty, but tall and erect in her well-preserved black grenadine dress, which gave her the appearance of a youthful but implacable widow, Miss Reed declared she had not seen the co’nnle for “a coon’s age,” and certainly had not expected to have the honor of his company as long as there were niggers to be elevated or painted to look like white men. She hoped that he and paw and Sally Dows were happy! They hadn’t yet got so far as to put up a nigger preacher in the place of Mr. Symes, their rector, but she understood that there was some talk of running Hannibal Johnson–Miss Dows’ coachman–for county judge next year! No! she had not heard that the co’nnle HIMSELF had thought of running for the office! He might laugh at her as much as he liked–he seemed to be in better spirits than when she first saw him–only she would like to know if it was “No’th’n style” to laugh coming home from church? Of course if it WAS she would have to adopt it with the Fourteenth Amendment. But, just now, she noticed the folks were staring at them, and Miss Sally Dows had turned round to look. Nevertheless, Miss Octavia’s sallow cheek nearest the colonel–the sunny side–had taken a faint brunette’s flush, and the corners of her proud mouth were slightly lifted.

“But, candidly, Miss Reed, don’t you think that you would prefer to have old Hannibal, whom you know, as county judge, than a stranger and a Northern man like ME?”

Miss Reed’s dark eyes glanced sideways at the handsome face and elegant figure beside her. Something like a saucy smile struggled to her thin lips.

“There mightn’t be much to choose, Co’nnle.”

“I admit it. We should both acknowledge our mistress, and be like wax in her hands.”

“Yo’ ought to make that pooty speech to Sally Dows, she’s generally mistress around here. But,” she added, suddenly fixing her eyes on him, “how does it happen that yo’ ain’t walking with her instead of that Englishman? Yo’ know that it’s as plain as day that he took that land over there just to be near her, when he was no longer agent.”

But Courtland was always master of himself and quite at ease regarding Miss Sally when not in that lady’s presence. “You forget,” he said smilingly, “that I’m still a stranger and knew little of the local gossip; and if I did know it, I am afraid we didn’t bargain to buy up with the LAND Mr. Champney’s personal interest in the LANDLADY.”

“Yo’ ‘d have had your hands full, for I reckon she’s pooty heavily mortgaged in that fashion, already,” returned Miss Reed with mere badinage than spitefulness in the suggestion. “And Mr. Champney was run pooty close by a French cousin of hers when he was here. Yo’ haven’t got any French books to lend me, co’nnle–have yo’? Paw says you read a heap of French, and I find it mighty hard to keep up MY practice since I left the Convent at St. Louis, for paw don’t knew what sort of books to order, and I reckon he makes awful mistakes sometimes.”

The conversation here turning upon polite literature, it appeared that Miss Octavia’s French reading, through a shy, proud innocence and an imperfect knowledge of the wicked subtleties of the language, was somewhat broad and unconventional for a young lady. Courtland promised to send her some books, and even ventured to suggest some American and English novels not intensely “No’th’n” nor “metaphysical”–according to the accepted Southern beliefs. A new respect and pitying interest in this sullen, solitary girl, cramped by tradition, and bruised rather than enlightened by sad experiences, came over him. He found himself talking quite confidentially to the lifted head, arched eyebrows, and aquiline nose beside him, and even thinking what a handsome high-bred BROTHER she might have been to some one. When they had reached the house, in compliance with the familiar custom, he sat down on one of the lower steps of the veranda, while she, shaking out her skirt, took a seat a step or two above him. This enabled him, after the languid local fashion, to lean on his elbow and gaze up into the eyes of the young lady, while she with equal languor looked down upon him. But in the present instance Miss Reed leaned forward suddenly, and darting a sharp quick glance into his very consciousness said:–

“And yo’ mean to say, co’nnle, there’s nothing between yo’ and Sally Dows?”

Courtland neither flushed, trembled, grew confused, nor prevaricated.

“We are good friends, I think,” he replied quietly, without evasion or hesitation.

Miss Reed looked at him thoughtfully, “I reckon that is so–and no more. And that’s why yo’ ‘ve been so lucky in everything,” she said slowly.

“I don’t think I quite understand,” returned Courtland, smiling. “Is this a paradox–or a consolation?”

“It’s the TRUTH,” said Miss Reed gravely. “Those who try to be anything more to Sally Dows lose their luck.”

“That is–are rejected by her. Is she really so relentless?” continued Courtland gayly.

“I mean that they lose their luck in everything. Something is sure to happen. And SHE can’t help it either.”

“Is this a Sibylline warning, Miss Reed?”

“No. It’s nigger superstition. It came from Mammy Judy, Sally’s old nurse. It’s part of their regular Hoo-doo. She bewitched Miss Sally when she was a baby, so that everybody is bound to HER as long as they care for her, and she isn’t bound to THEM in any way. All their luck goes to her as soon as the spell is on them,” she added darkly.

“I think I know the rest,” returned Courtland with still greater solemnity. “You gather the buds of the witch-hazel in April when the moon is full. You then pluck three hairs from the young lady’s right eyebrow when she isn’t looking”–

“Yo’ can laugh, co’nnle, for yo’ ‘re lucky–because yo’ ‘re free.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” he said gallantly, “for I ought to be riding at this moment over to the Infirmary to visit my Sunday sick. If being made to pleasantly forget one’s time and duty is a sign of witchcraft I am afraid Mammy Judy’s enchantments were not confined to only one Southern young lady.”

The sound of quick footsteps on the gravel path caused them both to look up. A surly looking young fellow, ostentatiously booted and spurred, and carrying a heavy rawhide riding-whip in his swinging hand, was approaching them. Deliberately, yet with uneasy self-consciousness, ignoring the presence of Courtland, he nodded abruptly to Miss Reed, ascended the steps, brushed past them both without pausing, and entered the house.

“Is that yo’r manners, Mr. Tom?” called the young lady after him, a slight flush rising to her sallow cheek. The young man muttered something from the hall which Courtland did not catch. “It’s Cousin Tom Higbee,” she explained half disdainfully. “He’s had some ugliness with his horse, I reckon; but paw ought to teach him how to behave. And–I don’t think he likes No’th’n men,” she added gravely.

Courtland, who had kept his temper with his full understanding of the intruder’s meaning, smiled as he took Miss Reed’s hand in parting. “That’s quite enough explanation, and I don’t know why it shouldn’t be even an apology.”

Yet the incident left little impression on him as he strolled back to Redlands. It was not the first time he had tasted the dregs of former sectional hatred in incivility and discourtesy, but as it seldom came from his old personal antagonists–the soldiers–and was confined to the callow youth, previous non-combatants and politicians, he could afford to overlook it. He did not see Miss Sally during the following week.


On the next Sunday he was early at church. But he had perhaps accented the occasion by driving there in a light buggy behind a fast thoroughbred, possibly selected more to the taste of a smart cavalry officer than an agricultural superintendent. He was already in a side pew, his eyes dreamily fixed on the prayer-book ledge before him, when there was a rustle at the church door, and a thrill of curiosity and admiration passed over the expectant congregation. It was the entrance of the Dows party, Miss Sally well to the fore. She was in her new clothes, the latest fashion in Louisville, the latest but two in Paris and New York.

It was over twenty years ago. I shall not imperil the effect of that lovely vision by recalling to the eye of to-day a fashion of yesterday. Enough, that it enabled her to set her sweet face and vapory golden hair in a horseshoe frame of delicate flowers, and to lift her oval chin out of a bewildering mist of tulle. Nor did a certain light polonaise conceal the outlines of her charming figure. Even those who were constrained to whisper to each other that “Miss Sally” must “be now going on twenty-five,” did so because she still carried the slender graces of seventeen. The organ swelled as if to welcome her; as she took her seat a ray of sunlight, that would have been cruel and searching to any other complexion, drifted across the faint pink of her cheeks, and nestling in her nebulous hair became itself transfigured. A few stained-glass Virtues on the windows did not come out of this effulgence as triumphantly, and it was small wonder that the devotional eyes of the worshipers wandered from them to the face of Sally Dows.

When the service was over, as the congregation filed slowly into the aisle, Courtland slipped mutely behind her. As she reached the porch he said in an undertone:

“I brought my horse and buggy. I thought you might possibly allow me to drive”–But he was stopped by a distressful knitting of her golden brows. “No,” she said quickly, but firmly, “you must not–it won’t do.” As Courtland hesitated in momentary perplexity, she smiled sweetly: “We’ll walk round by the cemetery, if you like; it will take about as long as a drive.” Courtland vanished, gave hurried instructions and a dollar to a lounging negro, and rejoined Miss Sally as the delighted and proud freedman drove out of the gate. Miss Sally heaved a slight sigh as the gallant equipage passed. “It was a mighty pooty turnout, co’nnle, and I’d have just admired to go, but it would have been rather hard on the other folks. There’s the Reeds and Maxwells and Robertsons that are too pooah to keep blood horses, and too proud to ride behind anything else. It wouldn’t be the right thing for us to go whirling by, scattering our dust over them.” There was something so subtly pleasant in this implied partnership of responsibility, that Courtland forgot the abrupt refusal and thought only of the tact that prompted it. Nevertheless, here a spell seemed to fall upon his usually ready speech. Now that they were together for the first time in a distinctly social fashion, he found himself vacantly, meaninglessly silent, content to walk beside this charming, summery presence, brushed by its delicate draperies, and inhaling its freshness. Presently it spoke.

“It would take more than a thousand feet of lumber to patch up the cowsheds beyond the Moseley pasture, and an entirely new building with an improved dairy would require only about two thousand more. All the old material would come in good for fencing, and could be used with the new post and rails. Don’t yo’ think it would be better to have an out-and-out new building?”

“Yes, certainly,” returned Courtland a little confusedly. He had not calculated upon this practical conversation, and was the more disconcerted as they were passing some of the other couples, who had purposely lingered to overhear them.

“And,” continued the young girl brightly, “the freight question is getting to be a pretty serious one. Aunt Miranda holds some shares in the Briggsville branch line, and thinks something could be done with the directors for a new tariff of charges if she put a pressure on them; Tyler says that there was some talk of their reducing it one sixteenth per cent. before we move this year’s crop.”

Courtland glanced quickly at his companion’s face. It was grave, but there was the faintest wrinkling of the corner of the eyelid nearest him. “Had we not better leave these serious questions until to-morrow?” he said, smiling.

Miss Sally opened her eyes demurely. “Why, yo’ seemed SO quiet, I reckoned yo’ must be full of business this morning; but if yo’ prefer company talk, we’ll change the subject. They say that yo’ and Miss Reed didn’t have much trouble to find one last Sunday. She don’t usually talk much, but she keeps up a power of thinking. I should reckon,” she added, suddenly eying him critically, “that yo’ and she might have a heap o’ things to say to each other. She’s a good deal in yo’ fashion, co’nnle, she don’t forget, but”–more slowly–“I don’t know that THAT’S altogether the best thing for YO’!”

Courtland lifted his eyes with affected consternation. “If this is in the light of another mysterious warning, Miss Dows, I warn you that my intellect is already tottering with them. Last Sunday Miss Reed thrilled me for an hour with superstition and Cassandra-like prophecy. Don’t things ever happen accidentally here, and without warning?”

“I mean,” returned the young lady with her usual practical directness, “that Tave Reed remembers a good many horrid things about the wah that she ought to forget, but don’t. But,” she continued, looking at him curiously, “she allows she was mighty cut up by her cousin’s manner to yo’.”

“I am afraid that Miss Reed was more annoyed than I was,” said Courtland. “I should be very sorry if she attached any importance to it,” he added earnestly.

“And YO’ don’t?” continued Miss Sally.

“No. Why should I?” She noticed, however, that he had slightly drawn himself up a little more erect, and she smiled as he continued, “I dare say I should feel as he does if I were in his place.”

“But YO’ wouldn’t do anything underhanded,” she said quietly. As he glanced at her quickly she added dryly: “Don’t trust too much to people always acting in yo’ fashion, co’nnle. And don’t think too much nor too little of what yo’ hear here. Yo’ ‘re just the kind of man to make a good many silly enemies, and as many foolish friends. And I don’t know which will give yo’ the most trouble. Only don’t yo’ underrate EITHER, or hold yo’ head so high, yo’ don’t see what’s crawlin’ around yo’. That’s why, in a copperhead swamp, a horse is bitten oftener than a hog.”

She smiled, yet with knitted brows and such a pretty affectation of concern for her companion that he suddenly took heart.

“I wish I had ONE friend I could call my own,” he said boldly, looking straight into her eyes. “I’d care little for other friends, and fear no enemies.”

“Yo’ ‘re right, co’nnle,” she said, ostentatiously slanting her parasol in a marvelous simulation of hiding a purely imaginative blush on a cheek that was perfectly infantine in its unchanged pink; “company talk is much pootier than what we’ve been saying. And–meaning me–for I reckon yo’ wouldn’t say that of any other girl but the one yo’ ‘re walking with–what’s the matter with me?”

He could not help smiling, though he hesitated. “Nothing! but others have been disappointed.”

“And that bothers YO’?”

“I mean I have as yet had no right to put your feelings to any test, while”–

“Poor Chet had, yo’ were going to say! Well, here we are at the cemetery! I reckoned yo’ were bound to get back to the dead again before we’d gone far, and that’s why I thought we might take the cemetery on our way. It may put me in a more proper frame of mind to please yo’.”

As he raised his eyes he could not repress a slight start. He had not noticed before that they had passed through a small gateway on diverging from the road, and was quite unprepared to find himself on the edge of a gentle slope leading to a beautiful valley, and before him a long vista of tombs, white head-stones and low crosses, edged by drooping cypress and trailing feathery vines. Some vines had fallen and been caught in long loops from bough to bough, like funeral garlands, and here and there the tops of isolated palmettos lifted a cluster of hearse-like plumes. Yet in spite of this dominance of sombre but graceful shadow, the drooping delicacy of dark-tasseled foliage and leafy fringes, and the waving mourning veils of gray, translucent moss, a glorious vivifying Southern sun smiled and glittered everywhere as through tears. The balm of bay, southernwood, pine, and syringa breathed through the long alleys; the stimulating scent of roses moved with every zephyr, and the closer odors of jessamine, honeysuckle, and orange flowers hung heavily in the hollows. It seemed to Courtland like the mourning of beautiful and youthful widowhood, seductive even in its dissembling trappings, provocative in the contrast of its own still strong virility. Everywhere the grass grew thick and luxuriant; the quick earth was teeming with the germination of the dead below.

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They moved slowly along side by side, speaking only of the beauty of the spot and the glory of that summer day, which seemed to have completed its perfection here. Perhaps from the heat, the overpowering perfume, or some unsuspected sentiment, the young lady became presently as silent and preoccupied as her companion. She began to linger and loiter behind, hovering like a butterfly over some flowering shrub or clustered sheaf of lilies, until, encountered suddenly in her floating draperies, she might have been taken for a somewhat early and far too becoming ghost. It seemed to him, also, that her bright eyes were slightly shadowed by a gentle thoughtfulness. He moved close to her side with an irresistible impulse of tenderness, but she turned suddenly, and saying, “Come!” moved at a quicker pace down a narrow side path. Courtland followed. He had not gone far before he noticed that the graves seemed to fall into regular lines, the emblems became cheaper and more common; wooden head and foot stones of one monotonous pattern took the place of carved freestone or marble, and he knew that they had reached that part of the cemetery reserved for those who had fallen in the war. The long lines drawn with military precision stretched through the little valley, and again up the opposite hill in an odd semblance of hollow squares, ranks, and columns. A vague recollection of the fateful slope of Snake River came over him. It was intensified as Miss Sally, who was still preceding him, suddenly stopped before an isolated mound bearing a broken marble shaft and a pedestal with the inscription, “Chester Brooks.” A few withered garlands and immortelles were lying at its base, but encircling the broken shaft was a perfectly fresh, unfaded wreath.

“You never told me he was buried here!” said Courtland quickly, half shocked at the unexpected revelation. “Was he from this State?”

“No, but his regiment was,” said Miss Sally, eying the wreath critically.

“And this wreath, is it from you?” continued Courtland gently.

“Yes, I thought yo’ ‘d like to see something fresh and pooty, instead of those stale ones.”

“And were they also from you?” he asked even more gently.

“Dear no! They were left over from last anniversary day by some of the veterans. That’s the only one I put there–that is–I got Mr. Champney to leave it here on his way to his house. He lives just yonder, yo’ know.”

It was impossible to resist this invincible naivete. Courtland bit his lip as the vision arose before him of this still more naif English admirer bringing hither, at Miss Sally’s bidding, the tribute which she wished to place on the grave of an old lover to please a THIRD man. Meantime, she had put her two little hands behind her back in the simulated attitude of “a good girl,” and was saying half smilingly, and he even thought half wistfully:–

“Are yo’ satisfied?”


“Then let’s go away. It’s mighty hot here.”

They turned away, and descending the slope again re-entered the thicker shade of the main avenue. Here they seemed to have left the sterner aspect of Death. They walked slowly; the air was heavy with the hot incense of flowers; the road sinking a little left a grassy bank on one side. Here Miss Sally halted and listlessly seated herself, motioning Courtland to do the same. He obeyed eagerly. The incident of the wreath had troubled him, albeit with contending sensations. She had given it to please HIM; why should HE question the manner, or torment himself with any retrospective thought? He would have given worlds to have been able to accept it lightly or gallantly,–with any other girl he could; but he knew he was trembling on the verge of a passionate declaration; the magnitude of the stake was too great to be imperiled by a levity of which she was more a mistress than himself, and he knew that his sentiment had failed to impress her. His pride kept him from appealing to her strangely practical nature, although he had recognized and accepted it, and had even begun to believe it an essential part of the strong fascination she had over him. But being neither a coward nor a weak, hesitating idealist, when he deliberately took his seat beside her he as deliberately made up his mind to accept his fate, whatever it might be, then and there.

Perhaps there was something of this in his face. “I thought yo’ were looking a little white, co’nnle,” she said quietly, “and I reckoned we might sit down a spell, and then take it slowly home. Yo’ ain’t accustomed to the So’th’n sun, and the air in the hollow WAS swampy.” As he made a slight gesture of denial, she went on with a pretty sisterly superiority: “That’s the way of yo’ No’th’n men. Yo’ think yo’ can do everything just as if yo’ were reared to it, and yo’ never make allowance for different climates, different blood, and different customs. That’s where yo’ slip up.”

But he was already leaning towards her with his dark earnest eyes fixed upon her in a way she could no longer mistake. “At the risk of slipping up again, Miss Dows,” he said gently, dropping into her dialect with utterly unconscious flattery, “I am going to ask you to teach me everything YOU wish, to be all that YOU demand–which would be far better. You have said we were good friends; I want you to let me hope to be more. I want you to overlook my deficiencies and the differences of my race and let me meet you on the only level where I can claim to be the equal of your own people–that of loving you. Give me only the same chance you gave the other poor fellow who sleeps yonder–the same chance you gave the luckier man who carried the wreath for you to put upon his grave.”

She had listened with delicately knitted brows, the faintest touch of color, and a half-laughing, half-superior disapprobation. When he had finished, she uttered a plaintive little sigh. “Yo’ oughtn’t to have said that, co’nnle, but yo’ and me are too good friends to let even THAT stand between us. And to prove it to yo’ I’m going to forget it right away–and so are yo’.”

“But I cannot,” he said quickly; “if I could I should be unworthy of even your friendship. If you must reject it, do not make me feel the shame of thinking you believe me capable of wanton trifling. I know that this avowal is abrupt to you, but it is not to me. You have known me only for three months, but these three months have been to me the realization of three years’ dreaming!” As she remained looking at him with bright, curious eyes, but still shaking her fair head distressedly, he moved nearer and caught her hand in the little pale lilac thread glove that was, nevertheless, too wide for her small fingers, and said appealingly: “But why should YOU forget it? Why must it be a forbidden topic? What is the barrier? Are you no longer free? Speak, Miss Dows–give me some hope. Miss Dows!–Sally!”

She had drawn herself away, distressed, protesting, her fair head turned aside, until with a slight twist and narrowing of her hand she succeeded in slipping it from the glove which she left a prisoner in his eager clasp. “There! Yo’ can keep the glove, co’nnle,” she said, breathing quickly. “Sit down! This is not the place nor the weather for husking frolics! Well!–yo’ want to know WHY yo’ mustn’t speak to me in that way. Be still, and I’ll tell yo’.”

She smoothed down the folds of her frock, sitting sideways on the bank, one little foot touching the road. “Yo’ mustn’t speak that way to me,” she went on slowly, “because it’s as much as yo’ company’s wo’th, as much as OUR property’s wo’th, as much maybe as yo’ life’s wo’th! Don’t lift yo’ comb, co’nnle; if you don’t care for THAT, others may. Sit still, I tell yo’! Well, yo’ come here from the No’th to run this property for money–that’s square and fair business; THAT any fool here can understand–it’s No’th’n style; it don’t interfere with these fools’ family affairs; it don’t bring into their blood any No’th’n taint; it don’t divide their clannishness; it don’t separate father and son, sister and brother; and even if yo’ got a foothold here and settled down, they know they can always outvote yo’ five to one! But let these same fools know that yo’ ‘re courtin’ a So’th’n girl known to be ‘Union’ during the wah, that girl who has laughed at their foolishness; let them even THINK that he wants that girl to mix up the family and the race and the property for him, and there ain’t a young or old fool that believes in So’th’n isolation as the price of So’th’n salvation that wouldn’t rise against yo’! There isn’t one that wouldn’t make shipwreck of yo’r syndicate and yo’r capital and the prosperity of Redlands for the next four years to come, and think they were doing right! They began to suspect yo’ from the first! They suspected yo’ when yo’ never went anywhere, but stuck close to the fahm and me. That’s why I wanted yo’ to show yourself among the girls; they wouldn’t have minded yo’ flirting with them with the chance of yo’ breaking yo’ heart over Tave Reed or Lympy Morris! They’re fools enough to believe that a snub or a jilt from a So’th’n girl would pay them back for a lost battle or a ruined plantation!”

For the first time Miss Sally saw Courtland’s calm blood fly to his cheek and kindle in his eye. “You surely do not expect ME to tolerate this blind and insolent interference!” he said, rising to his feet.

She lifted her ungloved hand in deprecation. “Sit still, co’nnle. Yo’ ‘ve been a soldier, and yo’ know what duty is. Well! what’s yo’ duty to yo’ company?”

“It neither includes my private affairs nor regulates the beating of my heart. I will resign.”

“And leave me and Aunt Miranda and the plantation?”

“No! The company will find another superintendent to look after your aunt’s affairs and carry out our plans. And you, Sally–you will let me find you a home and fortune North? There is work for me there; there is room for you among my people.”

She shook her head slowly with a sweet but superior smile. “No, co’nnle! I didn’t believe in the wah, but the least I could do was to stand by my folks and share the punishment that I knew was coming from it. I despise this foolishness as much as yo’, but I can’t run away from it. Come, co’nnle, I won’t ask yo’ to forget this; mo’, I’ll even believe yo’ MEANT it, but yo’ ‘ll promise me yo’ won’t speak of it again as long as yo’ are with the company and Aunt Miranda and me! There mustn’t be more–there mustn’t even SEEM to be more–between us.”

“But then I may hope?” he said, eagerly grasping her hand.

“I promise nothing, for yo’ must not even have THAT excuse for speaking of this again, either from anything I do or may seem to do.” She stopped, released her hand, as her eyes were suddenly fixed on the distance. Then she said with a slight smile, but without the least embarrassment or impatience: “There’s Mr. Champney coming here now. I reckon he’s looking to see if that wreath is safe.”

Courtland looked up quickly. He could see the straw hat of the young Englishman just above the myrtle bushes in a path intersecting the avenue. A faint shadow crossed his face. “Let me know one thing more,” he said hurriedly. “I know I have no right to ask the question, but has–has–has Mr. Champney anything to do with your decision?”

She smiled brightly. “Yo’ asked just now if yo’ could have the same chance he and Chet Brooks had. Well, poor Chet is dead, and Mr. Champney–well!–wait and see.” She lifted her voice and called, “Mr. Champney!” The young fellow came briskly towards them; his face betrayed a slight surprise, but no discomfiture, as he recognized her companion.

“Oh, Mr. Champney,” said Miss Sally plaintively, “I’ve lost my glove somewhere near pooah Brooks’s tomb in the hollow. Won’t you go and fetch it, and come back here to take me home? The co’nnle has got to go and see his sick niggers in the hospital.” Champney lifted his hat, nodded genially to Courtland, and disappeared below the cypresses on the slope. “Yo’ mustn’t be mad,” she said, turning in explanation to her companion, “but we have been here too long already, and it’s better that I should be seen coming home with him than yo’.”

“Then this sectional interference does not touch him?” said Courtland bitterly.

“No. He’s an Englishman; his father was a known friend of the Confederacy, and bought their cotton bonds.”

She stopped, gazing into Courtland’s face with a pretty vague impatience and a slight pouting of her lip.


“Miss Sally.”

“Yo’ say yo’ had known me for three years before yo’ saw me. Well, we met once before we ever spoke to each other!”

Courtland looked in her laughing eyes with admiring wonder. “When?” he asked.

“The first day yo’ came! Yo’ moved the ladder when I was on the cornice, and I walked all ever yo’ head. And, like a gentleman, yo’ never said a word about it. I reckon I stood on yo’ head for five minutes.”

“Not as long as that,” said Courtland laughing, “if I remember rightly.”

“Yes,” said Miss Sally with dancing eyes. “I, a So’th’n girl, actually set my foot on the head of a No’th’n scum of a co’nnle! My!”

“Let that satisfy your friends then.”

“No! I want to apologize. Sit down, co’nnle.”

“But, Miss Sally”–

“Sit down, quick!”

He did so, seating himself sideways on the bank. Miss Sally stood beside him.

“Take off yo’ hat, sir.”

He obeyed smilingly. Miss Sally suddenly slipped behind him. He felt the soft touch of her small hands on his shoulders; warm breath stirred the roots of his hair, and then–the light pressure on his scalp of what seemed the lips of a child.

He leaped to his feet, yet before he could turn completely round–a difficulty the young lady had evidently calculated upon–he was too late! The floating draperies of the artful and shameless Miss Sally were already disappearing among the tombs in the direction of the hollow.


The house occupied by the manager of the Drummond Syndicate in Redlands–the former residence of a local lawyer and justice of the peace–was not large, but had an imposing portico of wooden Doric columns, which extended to the roof and fronted the main street. The all-pervading creeper closely covered it; the sidewalk before it was shaded by a row of broad-leaved ailantus. The front room, with French windows opening on the portico, was used by Colonel Courtland as a general office; beyond this a sitting-room and dining-room overlooked the old-fashioned garden with its detached kitchen and inevitable negro cabin. It was a close evening; there were dark clouds coming up in the direction of the turnpike road, but the leaves of the ailantus hung heavy and motionless in the hush of an impending storm. The sparks of lazily floating fireflies softly expanded and went out in the gloom of the black foliage, or in the dark recesses of the office, whose windows were widely open, and whose lights Courtland had extinguished when he brought his armchair to the portico for coolness. One of these sparks beyond the fence, although alternately glowing and paling, was still so persistent and stationary that Courtland leaned forward to watch it more closely, at which it disappeared, and a voice from the street said:–

“Is that you, Courtland?”

“Yes. Come in, won’t you?”

The voice was Champney’s, and the light was from his cigar. As he opened the gate and came slowly up the steps of the portico the usual hesitation of his manner seemed to have increased. A long sigh trilled the limp leaves of the ailantus and as quickly subsided. A few heavy perpendicular raindrops crashed and spattered through the foliage like molten lead.

“You’ve just escaped the shower,” said Courtland pleasantly. He had not seen Champney since they parted in the cemetery six weeks before.

“Yes!–I–I thought I’d like to have a little talk with you, Courtland,” said Champney. He hesitated a moment before the proffered chair, and then added, with a cautious glance towards the street, “Hadn’t we better go inside?”

“As you like. But you’ll find it wofully hot. We’re quite alone here; there’s nobody in the house, and this shower will drive any loungers from the street.” He was quite frank, although their relations to each other in regard to Miss Sally were still so undefined as to scarcely invite his confidence.

Howbeit Champney took the proffered chair and the glass of julep which Courtland brought him.

“You remember my speaking to you of Dumont?” he said hesitatingly, “Miss Dows’ French cousin, you know? Well–he’s coming here: he’s got property here–those three houses opposite the Court House. From what I hear, he’s come over with a lot of new-fangled French ideas on the nigger question–rot about equality and fraternity, don’t you know–and the highest education and highest offices for them. You know what the feeling is here already? You know what happened at the last election at Coolidgeville–how the whites wouldn’t let the niggers go to the polls and the jolly row that was kicked up over it? Well, it looks as if that sort of thing might happen HERE, don’t you know, if Miss Dows takes up these ideas.”

“But I’ve reason to suppose–I mean,” said Courtland correcting himself with some deliberation, “that any one who knows Miss Dows’ opinions knows that these are not her views. Why should she take them up?”

“Because she takes HIM up,” returned Champney hurriedly; “and even if she didn’t believe in them herself, she’d have to share the responsibility with him in the eyes of every unreconstructed rowdy like Tom Higbee and the rest of them. They’d make short work of her niggers all the same.”

“But I don’t see why she should be made responsible for the opinions of her cousin, nor do I exactly knew what ‘taking him up’ means,” returned Courtland quietly.

Champney moistened his dry lips with the julep and uttered a nervous laugh. “Suppose we say her husband–for that’s what his coming back here means. Everybody knows that; you would, too, if you ever talked with her about anything but business.”

A bright flash of lightning that lit up the faces of the two men would have revealed Champney’s flushed features and Courtland’s lack of color had they been looking at each other. But they were not, and the long reverberating crash of thunder which followed prevented any audible reply from Courtland, and covered his agitation.

For without fully accepting Champney’s conclusions he was cruelly shocked at the young man’s utterance of them. He had scrupulously respected the wishes of Miss Sally and had faithfully–although never hopelessly–held back any expression of his own love since their conversation in the cemetery. But while his native truthfulness and sense of honor had overlooked the seeming insincerity of her attitude towards Champney, he had never justified his own tacit participation in it, and the concealment of his own pretensions before his possible rival. It was true that she had forbidden him to openly enter the lists with her admirers, but Champney’s innocent assumption of his indifference to her and his consequent half confidences added poignancy to his story. There seemed to be only one way to extricate himself, and that was by a quarrel. Whether he did or did not believe Champney’s story, whether it was only the jealous exaggeration of a rival, or Miss Sally was actually deceiving them both, his position had become intolerable.

“I must remind you, Champney,” he said, with freezing deliberation, “that Miss Miranda Dows and her niece now represent the Drummond Company equally with myself, and that you cannot expect me to listen to any reflections upon the way they choose to administer their part in its affairs, either now, or to come. Still less do I care to discuss the idle gossip which can affect only the PRIVATE interests of these ladies, with which neither you nor I have any right to interfere.”

But the naivete of the young Englishman was as invincible as Miss Sally’s own, and as fatal to Courtland’s attitude. “Of course I haven’t any RIGHT, you know,” he said, calmly ignoring the severe preamble of his companion’s speech, “but I say! hang it all! even if a fellow has no chance HIMSELF, he don’t like to see a girl throw herself and her property away on a man like that.”

“One moment, Champney,” said Courtland, under the infection of his guest’s simplicity, abandoning his former superior attitude. “You say you have no chance. Do you want me to understand that you are regularly a suitor of Miss Dows?”

“Y-e-e-s,” said the young fellow, but with the hesitation of conscientiousness rather than evasion. “That is–you know I WAS. But don’t you see, it couldn’t be. It wouldn’t do, you know. If those clannish neighbors of hers–that Southern set–suspected that Miss Sally was courted by an Englishman, don’t you know–a poacher on their preserves–it would be all up with her position on the property and her influence over them. I don’t mind telling you that’s one reason why I left the company and took that other plantation. But even that didn’t work; they had their suspicions excited already.”

“Did Miss Dows give that as a reason for declining your suit?” asked Courtland slowly.

“Yes. You know what a straightforward girl she is. She didn’t come no rot about ‘not expecting anything of the kind,’ or about ‘being a sister to me,’ and all that, for, by Jove! she’s always more like a fellow’s sister, don’t you know, than his girl. Of course, it was hard lines for me, but I suppose she was about right.” He stopped, and then added with a kind of gentle persistency: “YOU think she was about right, don’t you?”

With what was passing in Courtland’s mind the question seemed so bitterly ironical that at first he leaned half angrily forward, in an unconscious attempt to catch the speaker’s expression in the darkness. “I should hardly venture to give an opinion,” he said, after a pause. “Miss Dows’ relations with her neighbors are so very peculiar. And from what you tell me of her cousin it would seem that her desire to placate them is not always to be depended upon.”

“I’m not finding fault with HER, you know,” said Champney hastily. “I’m not such a beastly cad as that; I wouldn’t have spoken of my affairs at all, but you asked, you know. I only thought, if she was going to get herself into trouble on account of that Frenchman, you might talk to her–she’d listen to you, because she’d know you only did it out of business reasons. And they’re really business reasons, you know. I suppose you don’t think much of my business capacity, colonel, and you wouldn’t go much on my judgment–especially now; but I’ve been here longer than you and”–he lowered his voice slightly and dragged his chair nearer Courtland–“I don’t like the looks of things here. There’s some devilment plotting among those rascals. They’re only awaiting an opportunity; a single flash would be enough to set them in a blaze, even if the fire wasn’t lit and smouldering already like a spark in a bale of cotton. I’d cut the whole thing and clear out if I didn’t think it would make it harder for Miss Dows, who would be left alone.”

“You’re a good fellow, Champney,” said Courtland, laying his hand on the young man’s shoulder with a sudden impulse, “and I forgive you for overlooking any concern that I might have. Indeed,” he added, with an odd seriousness and a half sigh, “it’s not strange that you should. But I must remind you that the Dowses are strictly the agents and tenants of the company I represent, and that their rights and property under that tenancy shall not be interfered with by others as long as I am here. I have no right, however,” he added gravely, “to keep Miss Dows from imperiling them by her social relations.”

Champney rose and shook hands with him awkwardly. “The shower seems to be holding up,” he said, “and I’ll toddle along before it starts afresh. Good-night! I say–you didn’t mind my coming to you this way, did you? By Jove! I thought you were a little stand-offish at first. But you know what I meant?”

“Perfectly, and I thank you.” They shook hands again. Champney stepped from the portico, and, reaching the gate, seemed to vanish as he had come, out of the darkness.

The storm was not yet over; the air had again become close and suffocating. Courtland remained brooding in his chair. Whether he could accept Champney’s news as true or not, he felt that he must end this suspense at once. A half-guilty consciousness that he was thinking more of it in reference to his own passion than his duty to the company did not render his meditations less unpleasant. Yet while he could not reconcile Miss Sally’s confidences in the cemetery concerning the indifference of her people to Champney’s attentions with what Champney had just told him of the reasons she had given HIM for declining them, I am afraid he was not shocked by her peculiar ethics. A lover seldom finds fault with his mistress for deceiving his rival, and is as little apt to consider the logical deduction that she could deceive him also, as Othello was to accept Brabantio’s warning, The masculine sense of honor which might have resented the friendship of a man capable of such treachery did not hesitate to accept the love of a woman under the same conditions. Perhaps there was an implied compliment in thus allowing her to take the sole ethical responsibility, which few women would resist.

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In the midst of this gloomy abstraction Courtland suddenly raised his head and listened.


“Yes, sah.”

There was a sound of heavy footsteps in the hall coming from the rear of the house, and presently a darker bulk appeared in the shadowed doorway. It was his principal overseer–a strong and superior negro, selected by his fellow-freedmen from among their number in accordance with Courtland’s new regime.

“Did you come here from the plantation or the town?”

“The town, sah.”

“I think you had better keep out of the town in the evenings for the present,” said Courtland in a tone of quiet but positive authority.

“Are dey goin’ to bring back de ole ‘patter rollers,’* sah?” asked the man with a slight sneer.

* The “patrol” or local police who formerly had the surveillance of slaves.

“I don’t know,” returned Courtland calmly, ignoring his overseer’s manner. “But if they did you must comply with the local regulations unless they conflict with the Federal laws, when you must appeal to the Federal authorities. I prefer you should avoid any trouble until you are sure.”

“I reckon they won’t try any games on me,” said the negro with a short laugh.

Courtland looked at him intently.

“I thought as much! You’re carrying arms, Cato! Hand them over.”

The overseer hesitated for a moment, and then unstrapped a revolver from his belt, and handed it to Courtland.

“Now how many of you are in the habit of going round the town armed like this?”

“Only de men who’ve been insulted, sah.”

“And how have YOU been insulted?”

“Marse Tom Highee down in de market reckoned it was high time fancy niggers was drov into de swamp, and I allowed that loafers and beggars had better roost high when workin’ folks was around, and Marse Tom said he’d cut my haht out.”

“And do you think your carrying a revolver will prevent him and his friends performing that operation if you provoked them?”

“You said we was to pertect ourse’fs, sah,” returned the negro gloomily. “What foh den did you drill us to use dem rifles in de armory?”

“To defend yourselves TOGETHER under orders if attacked, not to singly threaten with them in a street row. Together, you would stand some chance against those men; separately they could eat you up, Cato.”

“I wouldn’t trust too much to some of dem niggers standing together, sah,” said Gate darkly. “Dey’d run before de old masters–if they didn’t run to ’em. Shuah!”

A fear of this kind had crossed Courtland’s mind before, but he made no present comment. “I found two of the armory rifles in the men’s cabins yesterday,” he resumed quietly. “See that it does not occur again! They must not be taken from the armory except to defend it.”

“Yes, sah.”

There was a moment of silence. Then it was broken by a sudden gust that swept through the columns of the portico, stirring the vines. The broad leaves of the ailantus began to rustle; an ominous pattering followed; the rain had recommenced. And as Courtland rose and walked towards the open window its blank panes and the interior of the office were suddenly illuminated by a gleam of returning lightning.

He entered the office, bidding Cato follow, and lit the lamp above his desk. The negro remained standing gloomily but respectfully by the window.

“Cato, do you know anything of Mr. Dumont–Miss Dows’ cousin?”

The negro’s white teeth suddenly flashed in the lamplight. “Ya! ha! I reckon, sah.”

“Then he’s a great friend of your people?”

“I don’t know about dat, sah. But he’s a pow’ful enemy of de Reeds and de Higbees!”

“On account of his views, of course?”

“‘Deed no!” said Cato with an astounded air. “Jess on account of de vendetta!”

“The vendetta?”

“Yes, sah. De old blood quo’ll of de families. It’s been goin’ on over fifty years, sah. De granfader, fader, and brudder of de Higbees was killed by de granfader, fader, and brudder of de Doomonts. De Reeds chipped in when all de Higbees was played out, fo’ dey was relations, but dey was chawed up by some of de Dowses, first cousins to de Doomonts.”

“What? Are the Dows in this vendetta?”

“No, sah. No mo’. Dey’s bin no man in de family since Miss Sally’s fader died–dat’s let de Dows out fo’ ever. De las’ shootin’ was done by Marse Jack Doomont, who crippled Marse Tom Higbee’s brudder Jo, and den skipped to Europe. Dey say he’s come back, and is lying low over at Atlanty. Dar’ll be lively times of he comes here to see Miss Sally.”

“But he may have changed his ideas while living abroad, where this sort of thing is simple murder.”

The negro shook his head grimly. “Den he wouldn’t come, sah. No, sah. He knows dat Tom Higbee’s bound to go fo’ him or leave de place, and Marse Jack wouldn’t mind settlin’ HIM too as well as his brudder, for de scores is agin’ de Doomonts yet. And Marse Jack ain’t no slouch wid a scatter gun.”

At any other time the imminence of this survival of a lawless barbarism of which he had heard so much would have impressed Courtland; now he was only interested in it on account of the inconceivable position in which it left Miss Sally. Had she anything to do with this baleful cousin’s return, or was she only to be a helpless victim of it?

A white, dazzling, and bewildering flash of lightning suddenly lit up the room, the porch, the dripping ailantus, and the flooded street beyond. It was followed presently by a crash of thunder, with what seemed to be a second fainter flash of lightning, or rather as if the first flash had suddenly ignited some inflammable substance. With the long reverberation of the thunder still shaking the house, Courtland slipped quickly out of the window and passed down to the gate.

“Did it strike anything, sah?” said the startled negro, as Courtland returned.

“Not that I can see,” said his employer shortly. “Go inside, and call Zoe and her daughter from the cabin and bring them in the hall. Stay till I come. Go!–I’ll shut the windows myself.”

“It must have struck somewhere, sah, shuah! Deh’s a pow’ful smell of sulphur right here,” said the negro as he left the room.

Courtland thought so too, but it was a kind of sulphur that he had smelled before–on the battlefield! For when the door was closed behind his overseer he took the lamp to the opposite wall and examined it carefully. There was the distinct hole made by a bullet which had missed Cato’s head at the open window by an inch.


In an instant Courtland had regained complete possession of himself. His distracting passion–how distracting he had never before realized–was gone! His clear sight–no longer distorted by sentiment–had come back; he saw everything in its just proportion–his duty, the plantation, the helpless freedman threatened by lawless fury; the two women–no longer his one tantalizing vision, but now only a passing detail of the work before him. He saw them through no aberrating mist of tenderness or expediency–but with the single directness of the man of action.

The shot had clearly been intended for Cato. Even if it were an act of mere personal revenge, it showed a confidence and security in the would-be assassin that betokened cooperation and an organized plan. He had availed himself of the thunderstorm, the flash and long reverberating roll of sound–an artifice not unknown to border ambush–to confuse discovery at the instant. Yet the attack might be only an isolated one; or it might be the beginning of a general raid upon the Syndicate’s freedmen. If the former he could protect Cato from its repetition by guarding him in the office until he could be conveyed to a place of safety; if the latter, he must at once collect the negroes at their quarters, and take Cato with him. He resolved upon the latter course. The quarters were half a mile from the Dows’ dwelling–which was two miles away.

He sat down and wrote a few lines to Miss Dows stating that, in view of some threatened disturbances in the town, he thought it advisable to keep the negroes in their quarters, whither he was himself going. He sent her his housekeeper and the child, as they had both better remain in a place of security until he returned to town. He gave the note to Zoe, bidding her hasten by the back garden across the fields. Then he turned to Cato.

“I am going with you to the quarters tonight,” he said quietly, “and you can carry your pistol back to the armory yourself.” He handed him the weapon. The negro received it gratefully, but suddenly cast a searching glance at his employer. Courtland’s face, however, betrayed no change. When Zoe had gone, he continued tranquilly, “We will go by the back way through the woods.” As the negro started slightly, Courtland continued in the same even tone: “The sulphur you smelled just now, Cato, was the smoke of a gun fired at YOU from the street. I don’t propose that the shot shall be repeated under the same advantages.”

The negro became violently agitated. “It was dat sneakin’ hound, Tom Higbee,” he said huskily.

Courtland looked at him sharply. “Then there was something more than WORDS passed between him and you, Cato. What happened? Come, speak out!”

“He lashed me with his whip, and I gib him one right under the yeah, and drupped him,” said Cato, recovering his courage with his anger at the recollection. “I had a right to defend myse’f, sah.”

“Yes, and I hope you’ll be able to do it, now,” said Courtland calmly, his face giving no sign of his conviction that Cato’s fate was doomed by that single retaliating blow, “but you’ll be safer at the quarters.” He passed into his bedroom, took a revolver from his bedhead and a derringer from the drawer, both of which he quickly slipped beneath his buttoned coat, and returned.

“When we are in the fields, clear of the house, keep close by my side, and even try to keep step with me. What you have to say, say NOW; there must be no talking to betray our position–we must go silently, and you’ll have enough to do to exercise your eyes and ears. I shall stand between you and any attack, but I expect you to obey orders without hesitation.” He opened the back door, motioned to Cato to pass out, followed him, locked the door behind them, and taking the negro’s arm walked beside the low palings to the end of the garden, where they climbed the fence and stood upon the open field beyond.

Unfortunately, it had grown lighter with the breaking of the heavy clouds, and gusty gleams of moonlight chased each other over the field, or struck a glitter from standing rain-pools between the little hillocks. To cross the open field and gain the fringe of woods on the other side was the nearest way to the quarters, but for the moment was the most exposed course; to follow the hedge to the bottom of the field and the boundary fence and then cross at right angles, in its shadow, would be safer, but they would lose valuable time. Believing that Cato’s vengeful assailant was still hovering near with his comrades, Courtland cast a quick glance down the shadowy line of Osage hedge beside them. Suddenly Cato grasped his arm and pointed in the same direction, where the boundary fence he had noticed–a barrier of rough palings–crossed the field. With the moon low on the other side of it, it was a mere black silhouette, broken only by bright silver openings and gaps along its surface that indicated the moonlit field beyond. At first Courtland saw nothing else. Then he was struck by the fact that these openings became successively and regularly eclipsed, as with the passing of some opaque object behind them. It was a file of men on the other side of the fence, keeping in its shelter as they crossed the field towards his house. Roughly calculating from the passing obscurations, there must have been twelve or fifteen in all.

He could no longer doubt their combined intentions, nor hesitate how to meet them. He must at once make for the quarters with Cato, even if he had to cross that open field before them. He knew that they would avoid injuring him personally, in the fear of possible Federal and political complications, and he resolved to use that fear to insure Cato’s safety. Placing his hands on the negro’s shoulders, he shoved him forwards, falling into a “lock step” so close behind him that it became impossible for the most expert marksman to fire at one without imperiling the other’s life. When half way across the field he noticed that the shadows seen through the openings of the fence had paused. The ambushed men had evidently seen the double apparition, understood it, and, as he expected, dared not fire. He reached the other side with Cato in safety, but not before he saw the fateful shadows again moving, and this time in their own direction. They were evidently intending to pursue them. But once within the woods Courtland knew that his chances were equal. He breathed more freely. Cato, now less agitated, had even regained something of his former emotional combativeness which Courtland had checked. Although far from confident of his henchman’s prowess in an emergency, the prospect of getting him safe into the quarters seemed brighter.

It was necessary, also, to trust to his superior wood-craft and knowledge of the locality, and Courtland still walking between him and his pursuers and covering his retreat allowed him to lead the way. It lay over ground that was beginning to slope gently; the underbrush was presently exchanged for springy moss, the character of the trees changed, the black trunks of cypresses made the gloom thicker. Trailing vines and parasites brushed their faces, a current of damp air seemed to flow just above the soil in which their lower limbs moved sluggishly as through stagnant water. As yet there was no indication of pursuit. But Courtland felt that it was not abandoned. Indeed, he had barely time to check an exclamation from the negro, before the dull gallop of horse-hoofs in the open ahead of them was plain to them both. It was a second party of their pursuers, mounted, who had evidently been sent to prevent their final egress from the woods, while those they had just evaded were no doubt slowly and silently following them on foot. They were to be caught between two fires!

“What is there to the left of us?” whispered Courtland quickly.

“De swamp.”

Courtland set his teeth together. His dull-witted companion had evidently walked them both into the trap! Nevertheless, his resolve was quickly made. He could already see through the thinning fringe of timber the figures of the mounted men in the moonlight.

“This should be the boundary line of the plantation? This field beside us is ours?” he said interrogatively.

“Yes,” returned the negro, “but de quarters is a mile furder.”

“Good! Stay here until I come back or call you; I’m going to talk to these fellows. But if you value your life, don’t YOU speak nor stir.”

He strode quickly through the intervening trees and stepped out into the moonlight. A suppressed shout greeted him, and half a dozen mounted men, masked and carrying rifles, rode down towards him, but he remained quietly waiting there, and as the nearest approached him, he made a step forward and cried, “Halt!”

The men pulled up sharply and mechanically at that ring of military imperiousness.

“What are you doing here?” said Courtland.

“We reckon that’s OUR business, co’nnle.”

“It’s mine, when you’re on property that I control.”

The man hesitated and looked interrogatively towards his fellows. “I allow you’ve got us there, co’nnle,” he said at last with the lazy insolence of conscious power, “but I don’t mind telling you we’re wanting a nigger about the size of your Cato. We hain’t got anything agin YOU, co’nnle; we don’t want to interfere with YOUR property, and YOUR ways, but we don’t calculate to have strangers interfere with OUR ways and OUR customs. Trot out your nigger–you No’th’n folks don’t call HIM ‘property,’ you know–and we’ll clear off your land.”

“And may I ask what you want of Cato?” said Courtland quietly.

“To show him that all the Federal law in h-ll won’t protect him when he strikes a white man!” burst out one of the masked figures, riding forward.

“Then you compel me to show YOU,” said Courtland immovably, “what any Federal citizen may do in the defense of Federal law. For I’ll kill the first man that attempts to lay hands upon him on my property. Some of you, who have already tried to assassinate him in cold blood, I have met before in less dishonorable warfare than this, and THEY know I am able to keep my word.”

There was a moment’s silence; the barrel of the revolver he was holding at his side glistened for an instant in the moonlight, but he did not move. The two men rode up to the first speaker and exchanged words. A light laugh followed, and the first speaker turned again to Courtland with a mocking politeness.

“Very well, co’nnle, if that’s your opinion, and you allow we can’t follow our game over your property, why, we reckon we’ll have to give way TO THOSE WHO CAN. Sorry to have troubled YOU. Good-night.”

He lifted his hat ironically, waved it to his followers, and the next moment the whole party were galloping furiously towards the high road.

For the first time that evening a nervous sense of apprehension passed over Courtland. The impending of some unknown danger is always more terrible to a brave man than the most overwhelming odds that he can see and realize. He felt instinctively that they had uttered no vague bravado to cover up their defeat; there was still some advantage on which they confidently reckoned–but what? Was it only a reference to the other party tracking them through the woods on which their enemies now solely relied? He regained Cato quickly; the white teeth of the foolishly confident negro were already flashing his imagined triumph to his employer. Courtland’s heart grew sick as he saw it.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, Cato,” he said dryly; “nor are they. Keep your eyes and ears open, and attend to me. How long can we keep in the cover of these woods, and still push on in the direction of the quarters?”

“There’s a way roun’ de edge o’ de swamp, sah, but we’d have to go back a spell to find it.”

“Go on!”

“And dar’s moccasins and copperheads lying round here in de trail! Dey don’t go for us ginerally–but,” he hesitated, “white men don’t stand much show.”

“Good! Then it is as bad for those who are chasing us as for me. That will do. Lead on.”

They retraced their steps cautiously, until the negro turned into a lighter by-way. A strange mephitic odor seemed to come from sodden leaves and mosses that began to ooze under their feet. They had picked their way in silence for some minutes; the stunted willows and cypress standing farther and farther apart, and the openings with clumps of sedge were frequent. Courtland was beginning to fear this exposure of his follower, and had moved up beside him, when suddenly the negro caught his arm, and trembled violently. His lips were parted over his teeth, the whites of his eyes glistened, he seemed gasping and speechless with fear.

“What’s the matter, Cato?” said Courtland glancing instinctively at the ground beneath. “Speak, man!–have you been bitten?”

The word seemed to wring an agonized cry from the miserable man.

“Bitten! No; but don’t you hear ’em coming, sah! God Almighty! don’t you hear dat?”


“De dogs! de houns!–DE BLOODHOUNS! Dey’ve set ’em loose on me!”

It was true! A faint baying in the distance was now distinctly audible to Courtland. He knew now plainly the full, cruel purport of the leader’s speech,–those who could go anywhere were tracking their game!

Every trace of manhood had vanished from the negro’s cowering frame. Courtland laid his hand assuringly, appealingly, and then savagely on his shoulder.

“Come! Enough of this! I am here, and will stand by you, whatever comes. These dogs are no more to be feared than the others. Rouse yourself, man, and at least help ME make a fight of it.”

“No! no!” screamed the terrified man. “Lemme go! Lemme go back to de Massas! Tell ’em I’ll come! Tell ’em to call de houns off me, and I’ll go quiet! Lemme go!” He struggled violently in his companion’s grasp.

In all Courtland’s self-control, habits of coolness, and discipline, it is to be feared there was still something of the old Berserker temper. His face was white, his eyes blazed in the darkness; only his voice kept that level distinctness which made it for a moment more terrible than even the baying of the tracking hounds to the negro’s ear. “Cato,” he said, “attempt to run now, and, by God! I’ll save the dogs the trouble of grappling your living carcass! Come here! Up that tree with you!” pointing to a swamp magnolia. “Don’t move as long as I can stand here, and when I’m down–but not till then–save yourself–the best you can.”

He half helped, half dragged, the now passive African to the solitary tree; as the bay of a single hound came nearer, the negro convulsively scrambled from Courtland’s knee and shoulder to the fork of branches a dozen feet from the ground. Courtland drew his revolver, and, stepping back a few yards into the open, awaited the attack.

It came unexpectedly from behind. A sudden yelp of panting cruelty and frenzied anticipation at Courtland’s back caused him to change front quickly, and the dripping fangs and snaky boa-like neck of a gray weird shadow passed him. With an awful supernaturalness of instinct, it kept on in an unerring line to the fateful tree. But that dread directness of scent was Courtland’s opportunity. His revolver flashed out in an aim as unerring. The brute, pierced through neck and brain, dashed on against the tree in his impetus, and then rolled over against it in a quivering bulk. Again another bay coming from the same direction told Courtland that his pursuers had outflanked him, and the whole pack were crossing the swamp. But he was prepared; again the same weird shadow, as spectral and monstrous as a dream, dashed out into the brief light of the open, but this time it was stopped, and rolled over convulsively before it had crossed. Flushed, with the fire of fight in his veins, Courtland turned almost furiously from the fallen brutes at his feet to meet the onset of the more cowardly hunters whom he knew were at his heels. At that moment it would have fared ill with the foremost. No longer the calculating steward and diplomatic manager, no longer the cool-headed arbiter of conflicting interests, he was ready to meet them, not only with the intrepid instincts of a soldier, but with an aroused partisan fury equal to their own. To his surprise no one followed; the baying of a third hound seemed to be silenced and checked; the silence was broken only by the sound of distant disputing voices and the uneasy trampling of hoofs. This was followed by two or three rifle shots in the distance, but not either in the direction of the quarters nor the Dows’ dwelling-house. There evidently was some interruption in the pursuit,–a diversion of some kind had taken place,–but what he knew not. He could think of no one who might have interfered on his behalf, and the shouting and wrangling seemed to be carried on in the accents of the one sectional party. He called cautiously to Cato. The negro did not reply. He crossed to the tree and shook it impatiently. Its boughs were empty; Cato was gone! The miserable negro must have taken advantage of the first diversion in his favor to escape. But where, and how, there was nothing left to indicate.

As Courtland had taken little note of the trail, he had no idea of his own whereabouts. He knew he must return to the fringe of cypress to be able to cross the open field and gain the negro quarters, where it was still possible that Cato had fled. Taking a general direction from the few stars visible above the opening, he began to retrace his steps. But he had no longer the negro’s woodcraft to guide him. At times his feet were caught in trailing vines which seemed to coil around his ankles with ominous suggestiveness; at times the yielding soil beneath his tread showed his perilous proximity to the swamp, as well as the fact that he was beginning to incline towards that dread circle which is the hopeless instinct of all lost and straying humanity. Luckily the edge of the swamp was more open, and he would be enabled to correct his changed course again by the position of the stars. But he was becoming chilled and exhausted by these fruitless efforts, and at length, after a more devious and prolonged detour, which brought him back to the swamp again, he resolved to skirt its edge in search of some other mode of issuance. Beyond him, the light seemed stronger, as of a more extended opening or clearing, and there was even a superficial gleam from the end of the swamp itself, as if from some ignis fatuus or the glancing of a pool of unbroken water. A few rods farther brought him to it and a full view of the unencumbered expanse. Beyond him, far across the swamp, he could see a hillside bathed in the moonlight with symmetrical lines of small white squares dotting its slopes and stretching down into a valley of gleaming shafts, pyramids, and tombs. It was the cemetery; the white squares on the hillside were the soldiers’ graves. And among them even at that distance, uplifting solemnly, like a reproachful phantom, was the broken shaft above the dust of Chester Brooks.

With the view of that fateful spot, which he had not seen since his last meeting there with Sally Dows, a flood of recollection rushed upon him. In the white mist that hung low along the farther edge of the swamp he fancied he could see again the battery smoke through which the ghostly figure of the dead rider had charged his gun three years before; in the vapory white plumes of a funereal plant in the long avenue he was reminded of the light figure of Miss Sally as she appeared at their last meeting. In another moment, in his already dazed condition, he might have succumbed to some sensuous memory of her former fascinations, but he threw it off savagely now, with a quick and bitter recalling of her deceit and his own weakness. Turning his back upon the scene with a half-superstitious tremor, he plunged once more into the trackless covert. But he was conscious that his eyesight was gradually growing dim and his strength falling. He was obliged from time to time to stop and rally his sluggish senses, that seemed to grow heavier under some deadly exhalation that flowed around him. He even seemed to hear familiar voices,–but that must be delusion. At last he stumbled. Throwing out an arm to protect himself, he came heavily down upon the ooze, striking a dull, half-elastic root that seemed–it must have been another delusion–to move beneath him, and even–so confused were his senses now–to strike back angrily upon his prostrate arm. A sharp pain ran from his elbow to shoulder and for a moment stung him to full consciousness again. There were voices surely,–the voices of their former pursuers! If they were seeking to revenge themselves upon him for Cato’s escape, he was ready for them. He cocked his revolver and stood erect. A torch flashed through the wood. But even at that moment a film came over his eyes; he staggered and fell.

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An interval of helpless semi-consciousness ensued. He felt himself lifted by strong arms and carried forward, his arm hanging uselessly at his side. The dank odor of the wood was presently exchanged for the free air of the open field; the flaming pine-knot torches were extinguished in the bright moonlight. People pressed around him, but so indistinctly he could not recognize them. All his consciousness seemed centred in the burning, throbbing pain of his arm. He felt himself laid upon the gravel; the sleeve cut from his shoulder, the cool sensation of the hot and bursting skin bared to the night air, and then a soft, cool, and indescribable pressure upon a wound he had not felt before. A voice followed,–high, lazily petulant, and familiar to him, and yet one he strove in vain to recall.

“De Lawdy-Gawd save us, Miss Sally! Wot yo’ doin’ dah? Chile! Chile! Yo’ ‘ll kill yo’se’f, shuah!”

The pressure continued, strange and potent even through his pain, and was then withdrawn. And a voice that thrilled him said:–

“It’s the only thing to save him! Hush, ye chattering black crow! Say anything about this to a living soul, and I’ll have yo’ flogged! Now trot out the whiskey bottle and pour it down him.”


When Courtland’s eyes opened again, he was in bed in his own room at Redlands, with the vivid morning sun occasionally lighting up the wall whenever the closely drawn curtains were lightly blown aside by the freshening breeze. The whole events of the night might have been a dream but for the insupportable languor which numbed his senses, and the torpor of his arm, that, swollen and discolored, lay outside the coverlet on a pillow before him. Cloths that had been wrung out in iced water were replaced upon it from time to time by Sophy, Miss Dows’ housekeeper, who, seated near his bedhead, was lazily fanning him. Their eyes met.

“Broken?” he said interrogatively, with a faint return of his old deliberate manner, glancing at his helpless arm.

“Deedy no, cunnle! Snake bite,” responded the negress.

“Snake bite!” repeated Courtland with languid interest, “what snake?”

“Moccasin o’ copperhead–if you doun know yo’se’f which,” she replied. “But it’s all right now, honey! De pizen’s draw’d out and clean gone. Wot yer feels now is de whiskey. De whiskey STAYS, sah. It gets into de lubrications of de skin, sah, and has to be abso’bed.”

Some faint chord of memory was touched by the girl’s peculiar vocabulary.

“Ah,” said Courtland quickly, “you’re Miss Dows’ Sophy. Then you can tell me”–

“Nuffin, sah absomlutely nuffin!” interrupted the girl, shaking her head with impressive official dignity. “It’s done gone fo’bid by de doctor! Yo’ ‘re to lie dar and shut yo’r eye, honey,” she added, for the moment reverting unconsciously to the native maternal tenderness of her race, “and yo’ ‘re not to bodder yo’se’f ef school keeps o’ not. De medical man say distinctly, sah,” she concluded, sternly recalling her duty again, “no conversation wid de patient.”

But Courtland had winning ways with all dependents. “But you will answer me ONE question, Sophy, and I’ll not ask another. Has”–he hesitated in his still uncertainty as to the actuality of his experience and its probable extent–“has–Cato–escaped?”

“If yo’ mean dat sassy, bull-nigger oberseer of yo’se, cunnle, HE’S safe, yo’ bet!” returned Sophy sharply. “Safe in his own quo’tahs night afo’ las’, after braggin’ about the bloodhaowns he killed; and safe ober the county line yes’day moan’in, after kicking up all dis rumpus. If dar is a sassy, highfalutin’ nigger I jiss ‘spises–its dat black nigger Cato o’ yo’se! Now,”–relenting–“yo’ jiss wink yo’ eye, honey, and don’t excite yo’se’f about sach black trash; drap off to sleep comfor’ble. Fo’ you do’an get annuder word out o’ Sophy, shuah!”

As if in obedience, Courtland closed his eyes. But even in his weak state he was conscious of the blood coming into his cheek at Sophy’s relentless criticism of the man for whom he had just periled his life and position. Much of it he felt was true; but how far had he been a dupe in his quixotic defense of a quarrelsome blusterer and cowardly bully? Yet there was the unmistakable shot and cold-blooded attempt at Cato’s assassination! And there were the bloodhounds sent to track the unfortunate man! That was no dream–but a brutal inexcusable fact!

The medical practitioner of Redlands he remembered was conservative, old-fashioned, and diplomatic. But his sympathies had been broadened by some army experiences, and Courtland trusted to some soldierly and frank exposition of the matter from him. Nevertheless, Dr. Maynard was first healer, and, like Sophy, professionally cautious. The colonel had better not talk about it now. It was already two days old; the colonel had been nearly forty-eight hours in bed. It was a regrettable affair, but the natural climax of long-continued political and racial irritation–and not without GREAT provocation! Assassination was a strong word; could Colonel Courtland swear that Cato was actually AIMED AT, or was it not merely a demonstration to frighten a bullying negro? It might have been necessary to teach him a lesson–which the colonel by this time ought to know could only be taught to these inferior races by FEAR. The bloodhounds! Ah, yes!–well, the bloodhounds were, in fact, only a part of that wholesome discipline. Surely Colonel Courtland was not so foolish as to believe that, even in the old slave-holding days, planters sent dogs after runaways to mangle and destroy THEIR OWN PROPERTY? They might as well, at once, let them escape! No, sir! They were used only to frighten and drive the niggers out of swamps, brakes, and hiding-places–as no nigger had ever dared to face ’em. Cato might lie as much as he liked, but everybody knew WHO it was that killed Major Reed’s hounds. Nobody blamed the colonel for it,–not even Major Reed,–but if the colonel had lived a little longer in the South, he’d have known it wasn’t necessary to do that in self-preservation, as the hounds would never have gone for a white man. But that was not a matter for the colonel to bother about NOW. He was doing well; he had slept nearly thirty hours; there was no fever, he must continue to doze off the exhaustion of his powerful stimulant, and he, the doctor, would return later in the afternoon.

Perhaps it was his very inability to grasp in that exhausted state the full comprehension of the doctor’s meaning, perhaps because the physical benumbing of his brain was stronger than any mental excitement, but he slept again until the doctor reappeared. “You’re doing well enough now, colonel,” said the physician, after a brief examination of his patient, “and I think we can afford to wake you up a bit, and even let you move your arm. You’re luckier than poor Tom Higbee, who won’t be able to set his leg to the floor for three weeks to come. I haven’t got all the buckshot out of it yet that Jack Dumont put there the other night.”

Courtland started slightly. Jack Dumont! That was the name of Sally Dows cousin of whom Champney had spoken! He had resolutely put aside from his returning memory the hazy recollection of the young girl’s voice–the last thing he had heard that night–and the mystery that seemed to surround it. But there was no delusion in this cousin–his rival, and that of the equally deceived Champney. He controlled himself and repeated coldly:–

“Jack Dumont!”

“Yes. But of course you knew nothing of all that, while you were off in the swamp there. Yet, by Jingo! it was Dumont’s shooting Higbee that helped YOU to get off your nigger a darned sight more than YOUR killing the dogs.”

“I don’t understand,” returned Courtland coldly.

“Well, you see, Dumont, who had taken up No’th’n principles, I reckon, more to goad the Higbees and please Sally Dows than from any conviction, came over here that night. Whether he suspected anything was up, or wanted to dare Higbee for bedevilment, or was only dancing attendance on Miss Sally, no one knows. But he rode slap into Highee’s party, called out, ‘If you’re out hunting, Tom, here’s a chance for your score!’ meaning their old vendetta feud, and brings his shot-gun up to his shoulder. Higbee wasn’t quick enough, Dumont lets fly, drops Higbee, and then gallops off chased by the Reeds to avenge Higbee, and followed by the whole crowd to see the fun, which was a little better than nigger-driving. And that let you and Cato out, colonel.”

“And Dumont?”

“Got clean away to Foxboro’ Station, leaving another score on his side for the Reeds and Higbees to wipe out as best they can. You No’th’n men don’t believe in these sort of things, colonel, but taken as a straight dash and hit o’ raiding, that stroke of Sally Dows’ cousin was mighty fine!”

Courtland controlled himself with difficulty. The doctor had spoken truly. The hero of this miserable affair was HER cousin–HIS RIVAL! And to him–perhaps influenced by some pitying appeal of Miss Sally for the man she had deceived–Courtland owed his life! He instinctively drew a quick, sharp breath.

“Are you in pain?”

“Not at all. When can I get up?”

“Perhaps to-morrow.”

“And this arm?”

“Better not use it for a week or two.” He stopped, and, glancing paternally at the younger man, added gravely but kindly: “If you’ll take my unprofessional advice, Colonel Courtland, you’ll let this matter simmer down. It won’t hurt you and your affairs here that folks have had a taste of your quality, and the nigger a lesson that his fellows won’t forget.”

“I thank you,” returned Courtland coldly; “but I think I already understand my duty to the company I represent and the Government I have served.”

“Possibly, colonel,” said the doctor quietly; “but you’ll let an older man remind you and the Government that you can’t change the habits or relations of two distinct races in a few years. Your friend, Miss Sally Dows–although not quite in my way of thinking–has never attempted THAT.”

“I am fully aware that Miss Dows possesses diplomatic accomplishments and graces that I cannot lay claim to,” returned Courtland bitterly.

The doctor lifted his eyebrows slightly and changed the subject.

When he had gone, Courtland called for writing materials. He had already made up his mind, and one course alone seemed proper to him. He wrote to the president of the company, detailing the circumstances that had just occurred, admitting the alleged provocation given by his overseer, but pointing out the terrorism of a mob-law which rendered his own discipline impossible. He asked that the matter be reported to Washington, and some measures taken for the protection of the freedmen, in the mean time he begged to tender his own resignation, but he would stay until his successor was appointed, or the safety of his employees secured. Until then, he should act upon his own responsibility and according to his judgment. He made no personal charges, mentioned no names, asked for no exemplary prosecution or trial of the offenders, but only demanded a safeguard against a repetition of the offense. His next letter, although less formal and official, was more difficult. It was addressed to the commandant of the nearest Federal barracks, who was an old friend and former companion-in-arms. He alluded to some conversation they had previously exchanged in regard to the presence of a small detachment of troops at Redlands during the elections, which Courtland at the time, however, had diplomatically opposed. He suggested it now as a matter of public expediency and prevention. When he had sealed the letters, not caring to expose them to the espionage of the local postmaster or his ordinary servants, he intrusted them to one of Miss Sally’s own henchmen, to be posted at the next office, at Bitter Creek Station, ten miles distant.

Unfortunately, this duty accomplished, the reaction consequent on his still weak physical condition threw him back upon himself and his memory. He had resolutely refused to think of Miss Sally; he had been able to withstand the suggestions of her in the presence of her handmaid–supposed to be potent in nursing and herb-lore–whom she had detached to wait upon him, and he had returned politely formal acknowledgments to her inquiries. He had determined to continue this personal avoidance as far as possible until he was relieved, on the ground of that BUSINESS expediency which these events had made necessary. She would see that he was only accepting the arguments with which she had met his previous advances. Briefly, he had recourse to that hopeless logic by which a man proves to himself that he has no reason for loving a certain woman, and is as incontestably convinced by the same process that he has. And in the midst of it he weakly fell asleep, and dreamed that he and Miss Sally were walking in the cemetery; that a hideous snake concealed among some lilies, over which the young girl was bending, had uplifted its triangular head to strike. That he seized it by the neck, struggled with it until he was nearly exhausted, when it suddenly collapsed and shrunk, leaving in his palm the limp, crushed, and delicately perfumed little thread glove which he remembered to have once slipped from her hand.

When he awoke, that perfume seemed to be still in the air, distinct from the fresh but homelier scents of the garden which stole through the window. A sense of delicious coolness came with the afternoon breeze, that faintly trilled the slanting slats of the blind with a slumberous humming as of bees. The golden glory of a sinking southern sun was penciling the cheap paper on the wall with leafy tracery and glowing arabesques. But more than that, the calm of some potent influence–or some unseen presence–was upon him, which he feared a movement might dispel. The chair at the foot of his bed was empty. Sophy had gone out. He did not turn his head to look further; his languid eyes falling aimlessly upon the carpet at his bedside suddenly dilated. For they fell also on the “smallest foot in the State.”

He started to his elbow, but a soft hand was laid gently yet firmly upon his shoulder, and with a faint rustle of muslin skirts Miss Sally rose from an unseen chair at the head of his bed, and stood beside him.

“Don’t stir, co’nnle, I didn’t sit where I could look in yo’r face for fear of waking yo’. But I’ll change seats now.” She moved to the chair which Sophy had vacated, drew it slightly nearer the bed, and sat down.

“It was very kind of you–to come,” said Courtland hesitatingly, as with a strong effort he drew his eyes away from the fascinating vision, and regained a certain cold composure, “but I am afraid my illness has been greatly magnified. I really am quite well enough to be up and about my business, if the doctor would permit it. But I shall certainly manage to attend to my duty to-morrow, and I hope to be at your service.

“Meaning that yo’ don’t care to see me NOW, co’nnle,” she said lightly, with a faint twinkle in her wise, sweet eyes. “I thought of that, but as my business wouldn’t wait, I brought it to yo’.” She took from the folds of her gown a letter. To his utter amazement it was the one he had given his overseer to post to the commandant that morning. To his greater indignation the seal was broken.

“Who has dared?” he demanded, half rising.

Her little hand was thrust out half deprecatingly. “No one yo’ can fight, co’nnle; only ME. I don’t generally open other folks’ letters, and I wouldn’t have done it for MYSELF; I did for yo’.”

“For me?”

“For yo’. I reckoned what yo’ MIGHT do, and I told Sam to bring ME the letters first. I didn’t mind what yo’ wrote to the company–for they’ll take care of yo’, and their own eggs are all in the same basket. I didn’t open THAT one, but I did THIS when I saw the address. It was as I expected, and yo’ ‘d given yo’self away! For if yo’ had those soldiers down here, yo’ ‘d have a row, sure! Don’t move, co’nnle, YO’ may not care for that, it’s in YO’R line. But folks will say that the soldiers weren’t sent to prevent RIOTING, but that Co’nnle Courtland was using his old comrades to keep order on his property at Gov’ment expense. Hol’ on! Hol’ on! co’nnle,” said the little figure, rising and waving its pretty arms with a mischievous simulation of terrified deprecation. “Don’t shoot! Of course yo’ didn’t mean THAT, but that’s about the way that So’th’n men will put it to yo’r Gov’ment. For,” she continued, more gently, yet with the shrewdest twinkle in her gray eyes, “if yo’ really thought the niggers might need Federal protection, yo’ ‘d have let ME write to the commandant to send an escort–not to YO, but to CATO–that HE might be able to come back in safety. Yo’ ‘d have had yo’r soldiers; I’d have had back my nigger, which”–demurely–“yo’ don’t seem to worry yo’self much about, co’nnle; and there isn’t a So’th’n man would have objected. But,” still more demurely, and affectedly smoothing out her crisp skirt with her little hands, “yo’ haven’t been troubling me much with yo’r counsel lately.”

A swift and utterly new comprehension swept over Courtland. For the first time in his knowledge of her he suddenly grasped what was, perhaps, the true conception of her character. Looking at her clearly now, he understood the meaning of those pliant graces, so unaffected and yet always controlled by the reasoning of an unbiased intellect; her frank speech and plausible intonations! Before him stood the true-born daughter of a long race of politicians! All that he had heard of their dexterity, tact, and expediency rose here incarnate, with the added grace of womanhood. A strange sense of relief–perhaps a dawning of hope–stole over him.

“But how will this insure Cato’s safety hereafter, or give protection to the others?” he said, fixing his eyes upon her.

“The future won’t concern YO’ much, co’nnle, if as yo’ say here yo’r resignation is sent in, and yo’r successor appointed,” she replied, with more gravity than she had previously shown.

“But you do not think I will leave YOU in this uncertainty,” he said passionately. He stopped suddenly, his brow darkened. “I forgot,” he added coldly, “you will be well protected. Your–COUSIN–will give you the counsel of race–and–closer ties.”

To his infinite astonishment, Miss Sally leaned forward in her chair and buried her laughing face in both of her hands. When her dimples had become again visible, she said with an effort, “Don’t yo’ think, co’nnle, that as a peacemaker my cousin was even a bigger failure than yo’self?”

“I don’t understand,” stammered Courtland.

“Don’t yo’ think,” she continued, wiping her eyes demurely, “that if a young woman about my size, who had got perfectly tired and sick of all this fuss made about yo’, because yo’ were a No’th’n man, managing niggers–if that young woman wanted to show her people what sort of a radical and abolitionist a SO’TH’N man of their own sort might become, she’d have sent for Jack Dumont as a sample? Eh? Only, I declare to goodness, I never reckoned that he and Higbee would revive the tomfooling of the vendetta, and take to shootin’ each other at once.”

“And your sending for your cousin was only a feint to protect me?” said Courtland faintly.

“Perhaps he didn’t have to be SENT for, co’nnle,” she said, with a slight touch of coquetry. “Suppose we say, I LET HIM COME. He’d be hanging round, for he has property here, and wanted to get me to take it up with mine in the company. I knew what his new views and ideas were, and I thought I’d better consult Champney–who, being a foreigner, and an older resident than yo’, was quite neutral. He didn’t happen to tell YO’ anything about it–did he, co’nnle?” she added with a grave mouth, but an indescribable twinkle in her eyes.

Courtland’s face darkened. “He did–and he further told me, Miss Dows, that he himself was your suitor, and that you had refused him because of the objections of your people.”

She raised her eyes to his swiftly and dropped them.

“And yo’ think I ought to have accepted him?” she said slowly.

“No! but–you know–you told me”–he began hurriedly. But she had already risen, and was shaking out the folds of her dress.

“We’re not talking BUSINESS co’nnle–and business was my only excuse for coming here, and taking Sophy’s place. I’ll send her in to yo’, now.”

“But, Miss Dows!–Miss Sally!”

She stopped–hesitated–a singular weakness for so self-contained a nature–and then slowly produced from her pocket a second letter–the one that Courtland had directed to the company. “I didn’t read THIS letter, as I just told yo’ co’nnle, for I reckon I know what’s in it, but I thought I’d bring it with me too, in case YO’ CHANGED YO’R MIND.”

He raised himself on his pillow as she turned quickly away; but in that single vanishing glimpse of her bright face he saw what neither he nor any one else had ever seen upon the face of Sally Dows–a burning blush!

“Miss Sally!” He almost leaped from the bed, but she was gone. There was another rustle at the door–the entrance of Sophy.

“Call her back, Sophy, quick!” he said.

The negress shook her turbaned head. “Not much, honey! When Miss Sally say she goes–she done gone, shuah!”

“But, Sophy!” Perhaps something in the significant face of the girl tempted him; perhaps it was only an impulse of his forgotten youth. “Sophy!” appealingly–“tell me!–is Miss Sally engaged to her cousin?”

“Wat dat?” said Sophy in indignant scorn. “Miss Sally engaged to dat Dumont! What fo’? Yo’ ‘re crazy! No!”

“Nor Champney? Tell me, Sophy, has she a LOVER?”

For a moment the whites of Sophy’s eyes were uplifted in speechless scorn. “Yo’ ask dat! Yo’ lyin’ dar wid dat snake-bit arm! Yo’ lyin’ dar, and Miss Sally–who has only to whistle to call de fust quality in de State raoun her–coming and going here wid you, and trotting on yo’r arrants–and yo’ ask dat! Yes! she has a lover, and what’s me’, she CAN’T HELP IT; and yo’ ‘re her lover; and what’s me’, YO’ can’t help it either! And yo’ can’t back out of it now–bo’fe of yo’–nebber! Fo’ yo’ ‘re hers, and she’s yo’rs–fo’ ebber. For she sucked yo’ blood.”

“What!” gasped Courtland, aghast at what he believed to be the sudden insanity of the negress.

“Yes! Whar’s yo’r eyes? whar’s yo’r years? who’s yo’ dat yo’ didn’t see nor heah nuffin? When dey dragged yo’ outer de swamp dat night–wid de snake-bite freshen yo’r arm–didn’t SHE, dat poh chile!–dat same Miss Sally–frow herself down on yo’, and put dat baby mouf of hers to de wound and suck out de pizen and sabe de life ob yo’ at de risk ob her own? Say? And if dey’s any troof in Hoodoo, don’t dat make yo’ one blood and one soul! Go way, white man! I’m sick of yo’. Stop dar! Lie down dar! Hol’ on, co’nnle, for massy’s sake. Well, dar–I’ll call her back!”

And she did!

“Look here–don’t you know–it rather took me by surprise,” said Champney, a few days later, with a hearty grip of the colonel’s uninjured hand; “but I don’t bear malice, old fellow, and, by Jove! it was SUCH a sensible, all-round, business-like choice for the girl to make that no wonder we never thought of it before. Hang it all, you see a fellow was always so certain it would be something out of the way and detrimental, don’t you know, that would take the fancy of a girl like that–somebody like that cousin of hers or Higbee, or even ME, by Jove that we never thought of looking beyond our noses–never thought of the BUSINESS! And YOU all the time so cold and silent and matter-of-fact about it! But I congratulate you! You’ve got the business down on a safe basis now, and what’s more, you’ve got the one woman who can run it.”

They say he was a true prophet. At least the Syndicate affairs prospered, and in course of time even the Reeds and the Higbees participated in the benefits. There were no more racial disturbances; only the districts polled a peaceful and SMALLER Democratic majority at the next election. There were not wanting those who alleged that Colonel Courtland had simply become MRS. COURTLAND’S SUPERINTENDENT; that she had absorbed him as she had every one who had come under her influence, and that she would not rest until she had made him a Senator (to represent Mrs. Courtland) in the councils of the nation. But when I last dined with them in Washington, ten years ago, I found them both very happy and comfortable, and I remember that Mrs. Courtland’s remarks upon Federal and State interests, the proper education of young girls, and the management of the family, were eminently wise and practical.

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