Part 9 out of 12
"It is a worthy campaign, Monsieur," I interrupted.
A distant sound broke the stillness, and Auguste was near to dropping the
candle on me.
"Adieu, Monsieur," he whispered; "milles tonneres, I have done one
extraordinaire foolish thing when I am come to this house to-night."
And he disappeared, shading his candle, as he had come.
During the next two days I had more evidence of Monsieur de St. Gre's
ability, and, thanks to his conduct of my campaign, not the least
suspicion of my mission to New Orleans got abroad. Certain gentlemen
were asked to dine, we called on others, and met still others casually in
their haunts of business or pleasure. I was troubled because of the
inconvenience and discomfort to which my host put himself, for New
Orleans in the dog-days may be likened in climate to the under side of
the lid of a steam kettle. But at length, on the second evening, after
we had supped on jambalaya and rice cakes and other dainties, and the
last guest had gone, my host turned to me.
"The rest of the burrow is the same, Mr. Ritchie, until it comes to the
"And the fox has crawled out of the other end," I said.
"Precisely," he answered, laughing; "in short, if you were to remain in
New Orleans until New Year's, you would not learn a whit more. To-morrow
morning I have a little business of my own to transact, and we shall get
to Les Iles in time for dinner. No, don't thank me," he protested;
"there's a certain rough honesty and earnestness ingrained in you which I
like. And besides," he added, smiling, "you are poor indeed at thanking,
Mr. Ritchie. You could never do it gracefully. But if ever I were in
trouble, I believe that I might safely call on you."
The next day was a rare one, for a wind from somewhere had blown the
moisture away a little, the shadows were clearer cut, and by noon
Monsieur de St. Gre and I were walking our horses in the shady road
behind the levee. We were followed at a respectful distance by Andre,
Monsieur's mulatto body-servant, and as we rode my companion gave me
stories of the owners of the different plantations we passed, and spoke
of many events of interest in the history of the colony. Presently he
ceased to talk, and rode in silence for many minutes. And then he turned
upon me suddenly.
"Mr. Ritchie," he said, "you have seen my son. It may be that in him I
am paying the price of my sins. I have done everything to set him
straight, but in vain. Monsieur, every son of the St. Gre's has awakened
sooner or later to a sense of what becomes him. But Auguste is a fool,"
he cried bitterly,--a statement which I could not deny; "were it not for
my daughter, Antoinette, I should be a miserable man indeed."
Inasmuch as he was not a person of confidences, I felt the more flattered
that he should speak so plainly to me, and I had a great sympathy for
this strong man who could not help himself.
"You have observed Antoinette, Mr. Ritchie," he continued; "she is a
strange mixture of wilfulness and caprice and self-sacrifice, and she has
at times a bit of that wit which has made our house for generations the
intimates--I may say--of sovereigns."
This peculiar pride of race would have amused me in another man. I found
myself listening to Monsieur de St. Gre with gravity, and I did not dare
to reply that I had had evidence of Mademoiselle's aptness of retort.
"She has been my companion since she was a child, Monsieur. She has
disobeyed me, flaunted me, nursed me in illness, championed me behind my
back. I have a little book which I have kept of her sayings and doings,
which may interest you, Monsieur. I will show it you."
This indeed was a new side of Monsieur de St. Gre, and I reflected rather
ruefully upon the unvarnished truth of what Mr. Wharton had told me,--ay,
and what Colonel Clark had emphasized long before. It was my fate never
to be treated as a young man. It struck me that Monsieur de St. Gre had
never even considered me in the light of a possible suitor for his
"I should be delighted to see them, Monsieur," I answered.
"Would you?" he exclaimed, his face lighting up as he glanced at me.
"Alas, Madame de St. Gre and I have promised to go to our neighbors',
Monsieur and Madame Bertrand's, for to-night. But, to-morrow, if you
have leisure, we shall look at it together. And not a word of this to my
daughter, Monsieur," he added apprehensively; "she would never forgive
me. She dislikes my talking of her, but at times I cannot help it. It
was only last year that she was very angry with me, and would not speak
to me for days, because I boasted of her having watched at the bedside of
a poor gentleman who came here and got the fever. You will not tell
"Indeed I shall not, Monsieur," I answered.
"It is strange," he said abruptly, "it is strange that this gentleman and
his wife should likewise have had letters to us from Monsieur Gratiot.
They came from St. Louis, and they were on their way to Paris."
"To Paris?" I cried; "what was their name?"
He looked at me in surprise.
"Clive," he said.
"Clive!" I cried, leaning towards him in my saddle. "Clive! And what
became of them?"
This time he gave me one of his searching looks, and it was not unmixed
"Why do you ask. Monsieur?" he demanded. "Did you know them?"
I must have shown that I was strangely agitated. For the moment I could
"Monsieur Gratiot himself spoke of them to me," I said, after a little;
"he said they were an interesting couple."
"Pardieu!" exclaimed Monsieur de St. Gre, "he put it mildly." He gave me
another look. "There was something about them, Monsieur, which I could
not fathom. Why were they drifting? They were people of quality who had
seen the world, who were by no means paupers, who had no cause to travel
save a certain restlessness. And while they were awaiting the sailing of
the packet for France they came to our house--the old one in the Rue
Bourbon that was burned. I would not speak ill of the dead, but Mr.
Clive I did not like. He fell sick of the fever in my house, and it was
there that Antoinette and Madame de St. Gre took turns with his wife in
watching at his bedside. I could do nothing with Antoinette, Monsieur,
and she would not listen to my entreaties, my prayers, my commands. We
buried the poor fellow in the alien ground, for he did not die in the
Church, and after that my daughter clung to Mrs. Clive. She would not
let her go, and the packet sailed without her. I have never seen such
affection. I may say," he added quickly, "that Madame de St. Gre and I
share in it, for Mrs. Clive is a lovable woman and a strong character.
And into the great sorrow that lies behind her life, we have never
"And she is with you now, Monsieur?" I asked.
"She lives with us, Monsieur," he answered simply, "and I hope for
always. No," he said quickly, "it is not charity,--she has something of
her own. We love her, and she is the best of companions for my daughter.
For the rest, Monsieur, she seems benumbed, with no desire to go back or
to go farther."
An entrance drive to the plantation of Les Iles, unknown to Nick and me,
led off from the main road like a green tunnel arched out of the forest.
My feelings as we entered this may be imagined, for I was suddenly
confronted with the situation which I had dreaded since my meeting with
Nick at Jonesboro. I could scarcely allow myself even the faint hope
that Mrs. Clive might not prove to be Mrs. Temple after all. Whilst I
was in this agony of doubt and indecision, the drive suddenly came out on
a shaded lawn dotted with flowering bushes. There was the house with its
gallery, its curved dormer roof and its belvedere; and a white, girlish
figure flitted down the steps. It was Mademoiselle Antoinette, and no
sooner had her father dismounted than she threw herself into his arms.
Forgetful of my presence, he stood murmuring in her ear like a lover; and
as I watched them my trouble slipped from my mind, and gave place to a
vaguer regret that I had been a wanderer throughout my life. Presently
she turned up to him a face on which was written something which he could
not understand. His own stronger features reflected a vague disquiet.
"What is it, ma cherie?"
What was it indeed? Something was in her eyes which bore a message and
presentiment to me. She dropped them, fastening in the lapel of his coat
a flaunting red flower set against a shining leaf, and there was a
gentle, joyous subterfuge in her answer.
"Thou pardoned Auguste, as I commanded?" she said. They were speaking in
the familiar French.
"Ha, diable! is it that which disquiets thee?" said her father. "We will
not speak of Auguste. Dost thou know Monsieur Ritchie, 'Toinette?"
She disengaged herself and dropped me a courtesy, her eyes seeking the
ground. But she said not a word. At that instant Madame de St. Gre
herself appeared on the gallery, followed by Nick, who came down the
steps with a careless self-confidence to greet the master. Indeed, a
stranger might have thought that Mr. Temple was the host, and I saw
Antoinette watching him furtively with a gleam of amusement in her eyes.
"I am delighted to see you at last, Monsieur," said my cousin. "I am
Nicholas Temple, and I have been your guest for three days."
Had Monsieur de St. Gre been other than the soul of hospitality, it would
have been impossible not to welcome such a guest. Our host had, in
common with his daughter, a sense of humor. There was a quizzical
expression on his fine face as he replied, with the barest glance at
"I trust you have been--well entertained, Mr. Temple. My daughter has
been accustomed only to the society of her brother and cousins."
"Faith, I should not have supposed it," said Nick, instantly, a remark
which caused the color to flush deeply into Mademoiselle's face. I
looked to see Monsieur de St. Gre angry. He tried, indeed, to be grave,
but smiled irresistibly as he mounted the steps to greet his wife, who
stood demurely awaiting his caress. And in this interval Mademoiselle
shot at Nick a swift and withering look as she passed him. He returned a
"Messieurs," said Monsieur de St. Gre, turning to us, "dinner will soon
be ready--if you will be so good as to pardon me until then."
Nick followed Mademoiselle with his eyes until she had disappeared beyond
the hall. She did not so much as turn. Then he took me by the arm and
led me to a bench under a magnolia a little distance away, where he
seated himself, and looked up at me despairingly.
"Behold," said he, "what was once your friend and cousin, your
counsellor, sage, and guardian. Behold the clay which conducted you
hither, with the heart neatly but painfully extracted. Look upon a
woman's work, Davy, and shun the sex. I tell you it is better to go
blindfold through life, to have--pardon me--your own blunt features, than
to be reduced to such a pitiable state. Was ever such a refinement of
cruelty practised before? Never! Was there ever such beauty, such
archness, such coquetry,--such damned elusiveness? Never! If there is a
cargo going up the river, let me be salted and lie at the bottom of it.
I'll warrant you I'll not come to life."
"You appear to have suffered somewhat," I said, forgetting for the moment
in my laughter the thing that weighed upon my mind.
"Suffered!" he cried; "I have been tossed high in the azure that I might
sink the farther into the depths. I have been put in a grave, the earth
stamped down, resurrected, and flung into the dust-heap. I have been
taken up to the gate of heaven and dropped a hundred and fifty years
through darkness. Since I have seen you I have been the round of all the
bright places and all the bottomless pits in the firmament."
"It seems to have made you literary," I remarked judicially.
"I burn up twenty times a day," he continued, with a wave of the hand to
express the completeness of the process; "there is nothing left. I see
her, I speak to her, and I burn up."
"Have you had many tete-a-tetes?" I asked.
"Not one," he retorted fiercely; "do you think there is any sense in the
damnable French custom? I am an honorable man, and, besides, I am not
equipped for an elopement. No priest in Louisiana would marry us. I see
her at dinner, at supper. Sometimes we sew on the gallery," he went on,
"but I give you my oath that I have not had one word with her alone."
"An oath is not necessary," I said. "But you seem to have made some
"Do you call that progress?" he demanded.
"It is surely not retrogression."
"God knows what it is," said Nick, helplessly, "but it's got to stop. I
have sent her an ultimatum."
"A summons. Her father and mother are going to the Bertrands' to-night,
and I have written her a note to meet me in the garden. And you," he
cried, rising and slapping me between the shoulders, "you are to keep
watch, like the dear, careful, canny, sly rascal you are."
"And--and has she accepted?" I inquired.
"That's the deuce of it," said he; "she has not. But I think she'll
I stood for a moment regarding him.
"And you really love Mademoiselle Antoinette?" I asked.
"Have I not exhausted the language?" he answered. "If what I have been
through is not love, then may the Lord shield me from the real disease."
"It may have been merely a light case of--tropical enthusiasm, let us
say. I have seen others, a little milder because the air was more
"Tropical--balderdash," he exploded. "If you are not the most
exasperating, unfeeling man alive--"
"I merely wanted to know if you wished to marry Mademoiselle de St. Gre,"
He gave me a look of infinite tolerance.
"Have I not made it plain that I cannot live without her?" he said; "if
not, I will go over it all again."
"That will not be necessary," I said hastily.
"The trouble may be," he continued, "that they have already made one of
their matrimonial contracts with a Granpre, a Beausejour, a Bernard."
"Monsieur de St. Gre is a very sensible man," I answered. "He loves his
daughter, and I doubt if he would force her to marry against her will.
Tell me, Nick," I asked, laying my hand upon his shoulder, "do you love
this girl so much that you would let nothing come between you and her?"
"I tell you, I do; and again I tell you, I do," he replied. He paused,
suddenly glancing at my face, and added, "Why do you ask, Davy?"
I stood irresolute, now that the time had come not daring to give voice
to my suspicions. He had not spoken to me of his mother save that once,
and I had no means of knowing whether his feeling for the girl might not
soften his anger against her. I have never lacked the courage to come to
the point, but there was still the chance that I might be mistaken in
this after all. Would it not be best to wait until I had ascertained in
some way the identity of Mrs. Clive? And while I stood debating, Nick
regarding me with a puzzled expression, Monsieur de St. Gre appeared on
"Come, gentlemen," he cried; "dinner awaits us."
The dining room at Les Iles was at the corner of the house, and its
windows looked out on the gallery, which was shaded at that place by
dense foliage. The room, like others in the house, seemed to reflect the
decorous character of its owner. Two St. Gre's, indifferently painted,
but rigorous and respectable, relieved the whiteness of the wall. They
were the Commissary-general and his wife. The lattices were closed on
one side, and in the deep amber light the family silver shone but dimly.
The dignity of our host, the evident ceremony of the meal,--which was
attended by three servants,--would have awed into a modified silence at
least a less irrepressible person than Nicholas Temple. But Nick was one
to carry by storm a position which another might wait to reconnoitre.
The first sensation of our host was no doubt astonishment, but he was
soon laughing over a vivid account of our adventures on the keel boat.
Nick's imitation of Xavier, and his description of Benjy's terrors after
the storm, were so perfect that I laughed quite as heartily; and Madame
de St. Gre wiped her eyes and repeated continually, "Quel drole monsieur!
it is thus he has entertained us since thou departed, Philippe."
As for Mademoiselle, I began to think that Nick was not far wrong in his
diagnosis. Training may have had something to do with it. She would not
laugh, not she, but once or twice she raised her napkin to her face and
coughed slightly. For the rest, she sat demurely, with her eyes on her
plate, a model of propriety. Nick's sufferings became more
To give the devil his due, Nick had an innate tact which told him when to
stop, and perhaps at this time Mademoiselle's superciliousness made him
subside the more quickly. After Monsieur de St. Gre had explained to me
the horrors of the indigo pest and the futility of sugar raising, he
turned to his daughter.
"'Toinette, where is Madame Clive?" he asked. The girl looked up,
startled into life and interest at once.
"Oh, papa," she cried in French, "we are so worried about her, mamma and
I. It was the day you went away, the day these gentlemen came, that we
thought she would take an airing. And suddenly she became worse."
Monsieur de St. Gre turned with concern to his wife.
"I do not know what it is, Philippe," said that lady; "it seems to be
mental. The loss of her husband weighs upon her, poor lady. But this is
worse than ever, and she will lie for hours with her face turned to the
wall, and not even Antoinette can arouse her."
"I have always been able to comfort her before," said Antoinette, with a
catch in her voice.
I took little account of what was said after that, my only notion being
to think the problem out for myself, and alone. As I was going to my
room Nick stopped me.
"Come into the garden, Davy," he said.
"When I have had my siesta," I answered.
"When you have had your siesta!" he cried; "since when did you begin to
indulge in siestas?"
"To-day," I replied, and left him staring after me.
I reached my room, bolted the door, and lay down on my back to think.
Little was needed to convince me now that Mrs. Clive was Mrs. Temple, and
thus the lady's relapse when she heard that her son was in the house was
accounted for. Instead of forming a plan, my thoughts drifted from that
into pity for her, and my memory ran back many years to the text of good
Mr. Mason's sermon, "I have refined thee, but not with silver, I have
chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." What must Sarah Temple have
suffered since those days! I remembered her in her prime, in her beauty,
in her selfishness, in her cruelty to those whom she might have helped,
and I wondered the more at the change which must have come over the woman
that she had won the affections of this family, that she had gained the
untiring devotion of Mademoiselle Antoinette. Her wit might not account
for it, for that had been cruel. And something of the agony of the
woman's soul as she lay in torment, facing the wall, thinking of her son
under the same roof, of a life misspent and irrevocable, I pictured.
A stillness crept into the afternoon like the stillness of night. The
wide house was darkened and silent, and without a sunlight washed with
gold filtered through the leaves. There was a drowsy hum of bees, and in
the distance the occasional languishing note of a bird singing what must
have been a cradle-song. My mind wandered, and shirked the task that was
set to it.
Could anything be gained by meddling? I had begun to convince myself
that nothing could, when suddenly I came face to face with the
consequences of a possible marriage between Nick and Mademoiselle
Antoinette. In that event the disclosure of his mother's identity would
be inevitable. Not only his happiness was involved, but Mademoiselle's,
her father's and her mother's, and lastly that of this poor hunted woman
herself, who thought at last to have found a refuge.
An hour passed, and it became more and more evident to me that I must see
and talk with Mrs. Temple. But how was I to communicate with her? At
last I took out my portfolio and wrote these words on a sheet:--
"If Mrs. Clive will consent to a meeting with Mr. David Ritchie, he will
deem it a favor. Mr. Ritchie assures Mrs. Clive that he makes this
request in all friendliness."
I lighted a candle, folded the note and sealed it, addressed it to Mrs.
Clive, and opening the latticed door I stepped out. Walking along the
gallery until I came to the rear part of the house which faced towards
the out-buildings, I spied three figures prone on the grass under a
pecan tree that shaded the kitchen roof. One of these figures was Benjy,
and he was taking his siesta. I descended quietly from the gallery, and
making my way to him, touched him on the shoulder. He awoke and stared
at me with white eyes.
"Marse Dave!" he cried.
"Hush," I answered, "and follow me."
He came after me, wondering, a little way into the grove, where I
"Benjy," I said, "do you know any of the servants here?"
"Lawsy, Marse Dave, I reckon I knows 'em,--some of 'em," he answered with
"You talk to them?"
"Shucks, no, Marse Dave," he replied with a fine scorn, "I ain't no hand
at dat ar nigger French. But I knows some on 'em, and right well too."
"How?" I demanded curiously.
Benjy looked down sheepishly at his feet. He was standing pigeon-toed.
"I done c'ressed some on 'em, Marse Dave," he said at length, and there
was a note of triumph in his voice.
"You did what?" I asked.
"I done kissed one of dem yaller gals, Marse Dave. Yass'r, I done kissed
"Do you think Melisse would do something for you if you asked her?" I
Benjy seemed hurt.
"Marse Dave--" he began reproachfully.
"Very well, then," I interrupted, taking the letter from my pocket,
"there is a lady who is ill here, Mrs. Clive--"
I paused, for a new look had come into Benjy's eyes. He began that
peculiar, sympathetic laugh of the negro, which catches and doubles on
itself, and I imagined that a new admiration for me dawned on his face.
"Yass'r, yass, Marse Dave, I reckon M'lisse 'll git it to her 'thout any
one tekin' notice."
I bit my lips.
"If Mrs. Clive receives this within an hour, Melisse shall have one
piastre, and you another. There is an answer."
Benjy took the note, and departed nimbly to find Melisse, while I paced
up and down in my uneasiness as to the outcome of the experiment. A
quarter of an hour passed, half an hour, and then I saw Benjy coming
through the trees. He stood before me, chuckling, and drew from his
pocket a folded piece of paper. I gave him the two piastres, warned him
if his master or any one inquired for me that I was taking a walk, and
bade him begone. Then I opened the note.
"I will meet you at the bayou, at seven this evening. Take the path that
leads through the garden."
I read it with a catch of the breath, with a certainty that the happiness
of many people depended upon what I should say at that meeting. And to
think of this and to compose myself a little, I made my way to the garden
in search of the path, that I might know it when the time came. Entering
a gap in the hedge, I caught sight of the shaded seat under the tree
which had been the scene of our first meeting with Antoinette, and I
hurried past it as I crossed the garden. There were two openings in the
opposite hedge, the one through which Nick and I had come, and another.
I took the second, and with little difficulty found the path of which the
note had spoken. It led through a dense, semi-tropical forest in the
direction of the swamp beyond, the way being well beaten, but here and
there jealously crowded by an undergrowth of brambles and the prickly
Spanish bayonet. I know not how far I had walked, my head bent in
thought, before I felt the ground teetering under my feet, and there was
the bayou. It was a narrow lane of murky, impenetrable water, shaded now
by the forest wall. Imaged on its amber surface were the twisted boughs
of the cypresses of the swamp beyond,--boughs funereally draped, as
though to proclaim a warning of unknown perils in the dark places. On
that side where I stood ancient oaks thrust their gnarled roots into the
water, and these knees were bridged by treacherous platforms of moss. As
I sought for a safe resting-place a dull splash startled me, the
pink-and-white water lilies danced on the ripples, and a long, black
snout pushed its way to the centre of the bayou and floated there
I sat down on a wide knee that seemed to be fashioned for the purpose,
and reflected. It may have been about half-past five, and I made up my
mind that, rather than return and risk explanations, I would wait where I
was until Mrs. Temple appeared. I had much to think of, and for the rest
the weird beauty of the place, with its changing colors as the sun fell,
held me in fascination. When the blue vapor stole through the cypress
swamp, my trained ear caught the faintest of warning sounds. Mrs. Temple
I could not repress the exclamation that rose to my lips when she stood
"I have changed somewhat," she began quite calmly; "I have changed since
you were at Temple Bow."
I stood staring at her, at a loss to know whether by these words she
sought to gain an advantage. I knew not whether to pity or to be angry,
such a strange blending she seemed of former pride and arrogance and
later suffering. There were the features of the beauty still, the eyes
defiant, the lips scornful. Sorrow had set its brand upon this
protesting face in deep, violet marks under the eyes, in lines which no
human power could erase: sorrow had flecked with white the gold of the
hair, had proclaimed her a woman with a history. For she had a new and
remarkable beauty which puzzled and astonished me,--a beauty in which
maternity had no place. The figure, gowned with an innate taste in
black, still kept the rounded lines of the young woman, while about the
shoulders and across the open throat a lace mantilla was thrown. She
stood facing me, undaunted, and I knew that she had come to fight for
what was left her. I knew further that she was no mean antagonist.
"Will you kindly tell me to what circumstance I owe the honor of
this--summons, Mr. Ritchie?" she asked. "You are a travelled person for
one so young. I might almost say," she added with an indifferent laugh,
"that there is some method and purpose in your travels."
"Indeed, you do me wrong, Madame," I replied; "I am here by the merest
Again she laughed lightly, and stepping past me took her seat on the oak
from which I had risen. I marvelled that this woman, with all her
self-possession, could be the same as she who had held her room,
cowering, these four days past. Admiration for her courage mingled with
my other feelings, and for the life of me I knew not where to begin. My
experience with women of the world was, after all, distinctly limited.
Mrs. Temple knew, apparently by intuition, the advantage she had gained,
and she smiled.
"The Ritchies were always skilled in dealing with sinners," she began;
"the first earl had the habit of hunting them like foxes, so it is said.
I take it for granted that, before my sentence is pronounced, I shall
have the pleasure of hearing my wrong-doings in detail. I could not ask
you to forego that satisfaction."
"You seem to know the characteristics of my family, Mrs. Temple," I
answered. "There is one trait of the Ritchies concerning which I ask
your honest opinion."
"And what is that?" she said carelessly.
"I have always understood that they have spoken the truth. Is it not
She glanced at me curiously.
"I never knew your father to lie," she answered; "but after all he had
few chances. He so seldom spoke."
"Your intercourse with me at Temple Bow was quite as limited," I said.
"Ah," she interrupted quickly, "you bear me that grudge. It is another
trait of the Ritchies."
"I bear you no grudge, Madame," I replied. "I asked you a question
concerning the veracity of my family, and I beg that you will believe
what I say."
"And what is this momentous statement?" she asked.
I had hard work to keep my temper, but I knew that I must not lose it.
"I declare to you on my honor that my business in New Orleans in no way
concerns you, and that I had not the slightest notion of finding you
here. Will you believe that?"
"And what then?" she asked.
"I also declare to you that, since meeting your son, my chief anxiety has
been lest he should run across you."
"You are very considerate of others," she said. "Let us admit for the
sake of argument that you come here by accident."
It was the opening I had sought for, but despaired of getting.
"Then put yourself for a moment in my place, Madame, and give me credit
for a little kindliness of feeling, and a sincere affection for your
There was a new expression on her face, and the light of a supreme effort
in her eyes.
"I give you credit at least for a logical mind," she answered. "In spite
of myself you have put me at the bar and seem to be conducting my trial."
"I do not see why there should be any rancor between us," I answered.
"It is true that I hated you at Temple Bow. When my father was killed
and I was left a homeless orphan you had no pity for me, though your
husband was my mother's brother. But you did me a good turn after all,
for you drove me out into a world where I learned to rely upon myself.
Furthermore, it was not in your nature to treat me well."
"Not in my nature?" she repeated.
"You were seeking happiness, as every one must in their own way. That
happiness lay, apparently, with Mr. Riddle."
"Ah," she cried, with a catch of her breath, "I thought you would be
"I am stating facts. Your son was a sufficient embarrassment in this
matter, and I should have been an additional one. I blame you not, Mrs.
Temple, for anything you have done to me, but I blame you for embittering
"And he?" she said. It seemed to me that I detected a faltering in her
"I will hide nothing from you. He blames you, with what justice I leave
you to decide."
She did not answer this, but turned her head away towards the bayou. Nor
could I determine what was in her mind.
"And now I ask you whether I have acted as your friend in begging you to
She turned to me swiftly at that.
"I am at a loss to see how there can be friendship between us, Mr.
Ritchie," she said.
"Very good then, Madame; I am sorry," I answered. "I have done all that
is in my power, and now events will have to take their course."
I had not gone two steps into the wood before I heard her voice calling
my name. She had risen, and leaned with her hand against the oak.
"Does Nick--know that you are here?" she cried.
"No," I answered shortly. Then I realized suddenly what I had failed to
grasp before,--she feared that I would pity her.
I started violently at the sound of my name, at the new note in her
voice, at the change in the woman as I turned. And then before I
realized what she had done she had come to me swiftly and laid her hand
upon my arm.
"David, does he hate me?"
All the hope remaining in her life was in that question, was in her face
as she searched mine with a terrible scrutiny. And never had I known
such an ordeal. It seemed as if I could not answer, and as I stood
staring back at her a smile was forced to her lips.
"I will pay you one tribute, my friend," she said; "you are honest."
But even as she spoke I saw her sway, and though I could not be sure it
were not a dizziness in me, I caught her. I shall always marvel at the
courage there was in her, for she straightened and drew away from me a
little proudly, albeit gently, and sat down on the knee of the oak,
looking across the bayou towards the mist of the swamp. There was the
infinite calmness of resignation in her next speech.
"Tell me about him," she said.
She was changed indeed. Were it not so I should have heard of her own
sufferings, of her poor, hunted life from place to place, of countless
nights made sleepless by the past. Pride indeed was left, but the fire
had burned away the last vestige of selfishness.
I sat down beside her, knowing full well that I should be judged by what
I said. She listened, motionless, though something of what that
narrative cost her I knew by the current of sympathy that ran now between
us. Unmarked, the day faded, a new light was spread over the waters, the
mist was spangled with silver points, the Spanish moss took on the
whiteness of lace against the black forest swamp, and on the yellow face
of the moon the star-shaped leaves of a gum were printed.
At length I paused. She neither spoke, nor moved--save for the rising
and falling of her shoulders. The hardest thing I had to say I saved for
the last, and I was near lacking the courage to continue.
"There is Mademoiselle Antoinette--" I began, and stopped,--she turned on
me so quickly and laid a hand on mine.
"Nick loves her!" she cried.
"You know it!" I exclaimed, wondering.
"Ah, David," she answered brokenly, "I foresaw it from the first. I,
too, love the girl. No human being has ever given me such care and such
affection. She--she is all that I have left. Must I give her up? Have
I not paid the price of my sins?"
I did not answer, knowing that she saw the full cruelty of the
predicament. What happiness remained to her now of a battered life stood
squarely in the way of her son's happiness. That was the issue, and no
advice or aid of mine could change it. There was another silence that
seemed to me an eternity as I watched, a helpless witness, the struggle
going on within her. At last she got to her feet, her face turned to the
"I will go, David," she said. Her voice was low and she spoke with a
steadiness that alarmed me. "I will go."
Torn with pity, I thought again, but I could see no alternative. And
then, suddenly, she was clinging to me, her courage gone, her breast
shaken with sobs. "Where shall I go?" she cried. "God help me! Are
there no remote places where He will not seek me out? I have tried them
all, David." And quite as suddenly she disengaged herself, and looked at
me strangely. "You are well revenged for Temple Bow," she said.
"Hush," I answered, and held her, fearing I knew not what, "you have not
lacked courage. It is not so bad as you believe. I will devise a plan
and help you. Have you money?"
"Yes," she answered, with a remnant of her former pride; "and I have an
annuity paid now to Mr. Clark."
"Then listen to what I say," I answered. "To-night I will take you to
New Orleans and hide you safely. And I swear to you, whether it be right
or wrong, that I will use every endeavor to change Nick's feelings
towards you. Come," I continued, leading her gently into the path, "let
us go while there is yet time."
"Stop," she said, and I halted fearfully. "David Ritchie, you are a good
man. I can make no amends to you,"--she did not finish.
Feeling for the path in the blackness of the wood, I led her by the hand,
and she followed me as trustfully as a child. At last, after an age of
groping, the heavy scents of shrubs and flowers stole to us on the night
air, and we came out at the hedge into what seemed a blaze of light that
flooded the rows of color. Here we paused, breathless, and looked. The
bench under the great tree was vacant, and the garden was empty.
It was she who led the way through the hedge, who halted in the garden
path at the sound of voices. She turned, but there was no time to flee,
for the tall figure of a man came through the opposite hedge, followed by
a lady. One was Nicholas Temple, the other, Mademoiselle de St. Gre.
Mrs. Temple's face alone was in the shadow, and as I felt her hand
trembling on my arm I summoned all my resources. It was Nick who spoke
"It is Davy!" he cried. "Oh, the sly rascal! And this is the promenade
of which he left us word, the solitary meditation! Speak up, man; you
are forgiven for deserting us."
He turned, laughing, to Mademoiselle. But she stood with her lips parted
and her hands dropped, staring at my companion. Then she took two steps
forward and stopped with a cry.
The woman beside me turned, and with a supreme courage raised her head
and faced the girl.
"Yes, Antoinette, it is I," she answered.
And then my eyes sought Nick, for Mrs. Temple had faced her son with a
movement that was a challenge, yet with a look that questioned, yearned,
appealed. He, too, stared, the laughter fading from his eyes, first
astonishment, and then anger, growing in them, slowly, surely. I shall
never forget him as he stood there (for what seemed an age) recalling one
by one the wrongs this woman had done him. She herself had taught him to
brook no restraint, to follow impetuously his loves and hates, and
endurance in these things was moulded in every line of his finely cut
features. And when he spoke it was not to her, but to the girl at his
"Do you know who this is?" he said. "Tell me, do you know this woman?"
Mademoiselle de St. Gre did not answer him. She drew near, gently, to
Mrs. Temple, whose head was bowed, whose agony I could only guess.
"Mrs. Clive," she said softly, though her voice was shaken by a
prescience, "won't you tell me what has happened? Won't you speak to
The poor lady lifted up her arms, as though to embrace the girl, dropped
them despairingly, and turned away.
"Antoinette," she murmured, "Antoinette!"
For Nick had seized Antoinette by the hand, restraining her.
"You do not know what you are doing?" he cried angrily. "Listen!"
I had stood bereft of speech, watching the scene breathlessly. And now I
would have spoken had not Mademoiselle astonished me by taking the lead.
I have thought since that I might have pieced together this much of her
character. Her glance at Nick surprised him momentarily into silence.
"I know that she is my dearest friend," she said, "that she came to us in
misfortune, and that we love her and trust her. I do not know why she is
here with Mr. Ritchie, but I am sure it is for some good reason." She
laid a hand on Mrs. Temple's shoulder. "Mrs. Clive, won't you speak to
"My God, Antoinette, listen!" cried Nick; "Mrs. Clive is not her name. I
know her, David knows her. She is an--adventuress!"
Mrs. Temple gave a cry, and the girl shot at him a frightened, bewildered
glance, in which a new-born love struggled with an older affection.
"An adventuress!" she repeated, her hand dropping, "oh, I do not believe
it. I cannot believe it."
"You shall believe it," said Nick, fiercely. "Her name is not Clive.
Ask David what her name is."
Antoinette's lips moved, but she shirked the question. And Nick seized
"Tell her," he said, "tell her! My God, how can I do it? Tell her,
For the life of me I could not frame the speech at once, my pity and a
new-found and surprising respect for her making it doubly hard to
pronounce her sentence. Suddenly she raised her head, not proudly, but
with a dignity seemingly conferred by years of sorrow and of suffering.
Her tones were even, bereft of every vestige of hope.
"Antoinette, I have deceived you, though as God is my witness, I thought
no harm could come of it. I deluded myself into believing that I had
found friends and a refuge at last. I am Mrs. Temple."
"Mrs. Temple!" The girl repeated the name sorrowfully, but perplexedly,
not grasping its full significance.
"She is my mother," said Nick, with a bitterness I had not thought in
him, "she is my mother, or I would curse her. For she has ruined my life
and brought shame on a good name."
He paused, his breath catching for very anger. Mrs. Temple hid her face
in her hands, while the girl shrank back in terror. I grasped him by the
"Have you no compassion?" I cried. But Mrs. Temple interrupted me.
"He has the right," she faltered; "it is my just punishment."
He tore himself away, and took a step to her.
"Where is Riddle?" he cried. "As God lives, I will kill him without
His mother lifted her head again.
"God has judged him," she said quietly; "he is beyond your vengeance--he
is dead." A sob shook her, but she conquered it with a marvellous
courage. "Harry Riddle loved me, he was kind to me, and he was a better
man than John Temple."
Nick recoiled. The fierceness of his anger seemed to go, leaving a more
"Then I have been blessed with parents," he said.
At that she swayed, but when I would have caught her she motioned me away
and turned to Antoinette. Twice Mrs. Temple tried to speak.
"I was going away to-night," she said at length, "and you would never
have seen or heard of me more. My nephew David--Mr. Ritchie--whom I
treated cruelly as a boy, had pity on me. He is a good man, and he was
to have taken me away--I do not attempt to defend myself, my dear, but
I pray that you, who have so much charity, will some day think a little
kindly of one who has sinned deeply, of one who will love and bless you
and yours to her dying day."
She faltered, and Nick would have spoken had not Antoinette herself
stayed him with a gesture.
"I wish--my son to know the little there is on my side. It is not much.
Yet God may not spare him the sorrow that brings pity. I--I loved Harry
Riddle as a girl. My father was ruined, and I was forced into marriage
with John Temple for his possessions. He was selfish, overbearing,
cruel--unfaithful. During the years I lived with him he never once spoke
kindly to me. I, too, grew wicked and selfish and heedless. My head was
turned by admiration. Mr. Temple escaped to England in a man-of-war; he
left me without a line of warning, of farewell. I--I have wandered over
the earth, haunted by remorse, and I knew no moment of peace, of
happiness, until you brought me here and sheltered and loved me. And
even here I have had many sleepless hours. A hundred times I have
summoned my courage to tell you,--I could not. I am justly punished,
Antoinette." She moved a little, timidly, towards the girl, who stood
motionless, dazed by what she heard. She held out a hand, appealingly,
and dropped it. "Good-by, my dear; God will bless you for your kindness
to an unfortunate outcast."
She glanced with a kind of terror in her eyes from the girl to Nick, and
what she meant to say concerning their love I know not, for the flood,
held back so long, burst upon her. She wept as I have never seen a woman
weep. And then, before Nick or I knew what had happened, Antoinette had
taken her swiftly in her arms and was murmuring in her ear:--
"You shall not go. You shall not. You will live with me always."
Presently the sobs ceased, and Mrs. Temple raised her face, slowly,
wonderingly, as if she had not heard aright. And she tried gently to
push the girl away.
"No, Antoinette," she said, "I have done you harm enough."
But the girl clung to her strongly, passionately. "I do not care what
you have done," she cried, "you are good now. I know that you are good
now. I will not cast you out. I will not."
I stood looking at them, bewildered and astonished by Mademoiselle's
loyalty. She seemed to have forgotten Nick, as had I, and then as I
turned to him he came towards them. Almost roughly he took Antoinette by
"You do not know what you are saying," he cried. "Come away, Antoinette,
you do not know what she has done--you cannot realize what she is."
Antoinette shrank away from him, still clinging to Mrs. Temple. There
was a fearless directness in her look which might have warned him.
"She is your mother," she said quietly.
"My mother!" he repeated; "yes, I will tell you what a mother she has
been to me--"
It passes my power to write down the pity of that appeal, the
hopelessness of it, the yearning in it. Freeing herself from the girl,
Mrs. Temple took one step towards him, her arms held up. I had not
thought that his hatred of her was deep enough to resist it. It was
Antoinette whose intuition divined this ere he had turned away.
"You have chosen between me and her," he said; and before we could get
the poor lady to the seat under the oak, he had left the garden. In my
perturbation I glanced at Antoinette, but there was no other sign in her
face save of tenderness for Mrs. Temple.
Mrs. Temple had mercifully fainted. As I crossed the lawn I saw two
figures in the deep shadow beside the gallery, and I heard Nick's voice
giving orders to Benjy to pack and saddle. When I reached the garden
again the girl had loosed Mrs. Temple's gown, and was bending over her,
murmuring in her ear.
* * * * * * *
Many hours later, when the moon was waning towards the horizon, fearful
of surprise by the coming day, I was riding slowly under the trees on the
road to New Orleans. Beside me, veiled in black, her head bowed, was
Mrs. Temple, and no word had escaped her since she had withdrawn herself
gently from the arms of Antoinette on the gallery at Les Iles. Nick had
gone long before. The hardest task had been to convince the girl that
Mrs. Temple might not stay. After that Antoinette had busied herself,
with a silent fortitude I had not thought was in her, making ready for
the lady's departure. I shall never forget her as she stood, a slender
figure of sorrow, looking down at us, the tears glistening on her cheeks.
And I could not resist the impulse to mount the steps once more.
"You were right, Antoinette," I whispered; "whatever happens, you will
remember that I am your friend. And I will bring him back to you if I
She pressed my hand, and turned and went slowly into the house.
THE RIGHTS OF MAN
Were these things which follow to my thinking not extraordinary, I should
not write them down here, nor should I have presumed to skip nearly five
years of time. For indeed almost five years had gone by since the warm
summer night when I rode into New Orleans with Mrs. Temple. And in all
that time I had not so much as laid eyes on my cousin and dearest friend,
her son. I searched New Orleans for him in vain, and learned too late
that he had taken passage on a packet which had dropped down the river
the next morning, bound for Charleston and New York.
I have an instinct that this is not the place to relate in detail what
occurred to me before leaving New Orleans. Suffice it to say that I made
my way back through the swamps, the forests, the cane-brakes of the
Indian country, along the Natchez trail to Nashville, across the barrens
to Harrodstown in Kentucky, where I spent a week in that cabin which had
so long been for me a haven of refuge. Dear Polly Ann! She hugged me as
though I were still the waif whom she had mothered, and wept over the
little presents which I had brought the children. Harrodstown was
changed, new cabins and new faces met me at every turn, and Tom, more
disgruntled than ever, had gone a-hunting with Mr. Boone far into the
I went back to Louisville to take up once more the struggle for practice,
and I do not intend to charge so much as a page with what may be called
the even tenor of my life. I was not a man to get into trouble on my own
account. Louisville grew amazingly; white frame houses were built, and
even brick ones. And ere Kentucky became a State, in 1792, I had gone as
delegate to more than one of the Danville Conventions.
Among the nations, as you know, a storm raged, and the great swells from
that conflict threatened to set adrift and wreck the little republic but
newly launched. The noise of the tramping of great armies across the Old
World shook the New, and men in whom the love of fierce fighting was born
were stirred to quarrel among themselves. The Rights of Man! How many
wrongs have been done under that clause! The Bastille stormed; the Swiss
Guard slaughtered; the Reign of Terror, with its daily procession of
tumbrels through the streets of Paris; the murder of that amiable and
well-meaning gentleman who did his best to atone for the sins of his
ancestors; the fearful months of waiting suffered by his Queen before
she, too, went to her death. Often as I lighted my candle of an evening
in my little room to read of these things so far away, I would drop my
Kentucky Gazette to think of a woman whose face I remembered, to wonder
sadly whether Helene de St. Gre were among the lists. In her, I was
sure, was personified that courage for which her order will go down
eternally through the pages of history, and in my darker moments I
pictured her standing beside the guillotine with a smile that haunted me.
The hideous image of that strife was reflected amongst our own people.
Budget after budget was hurried by the winds across the sea. And swift
couriers carried the news over the Blue Wall by the Wilderness Trail
(widened now), and thundered through the little villages of the Blue
Grass country to the Falls. What interest, you will say, could the
pioneer lawyers and storekeepers and planters have in the French
Revolution? The Rights of Man! Down with kings! General Washington and
Mr. Adams and Mr. Hamilton might sigh for them, but they were not for the
free-born pioneers of the West. Citizen was the proper term
now,--Citizen General Wilkinson when that magnate came to town,
resplendent in his brigadier's uniform. It was thought that Mr.
Wilkinson would plot less were he in the army under the watchful eye of
his superiors. Little they knew him! Thus the Republic had a reward for
adroitness, for treachery, and treason. But what reward had it for the
lonely, embittered, stricken man whose genius and courage had gained for
it the great Northwest territory? What reward had the Republic for him
who sat brooding in his house above the Falls--for Citizen General Clark?
In those days you were not a Federalist or a Democrat, you were an
Aristocrat or a Jacobin. The French parties were our parties; the French
issue, our issue. Under the patronage of that saint of American
Jacobinism, Thomas Jefferson, a Jacobin society was organized in
Philadelphia,--special guardians of Liberty. And flying on the March
winds over the mountains the seed fell on the black soil of Kentucky:
Lexington had its Jacobin society, Danville and Louisville likewise their
patrons and protectors of the Rights of Mankind. Federalists were not
guillotined in Kentucky in the summer of 1793, but I might mention more
than one who was shot.
In spite of the Federalists, Louisville prospered, and incidentally I
prospered in a mild way. Mr. Crede, behind whose store I still lived,
was getting rich, and happened to have an affair of some importance in
Philadelphia. Mr. Wharton was kind enough to recommend a young lawyer
who had the following virtues: he was neither handsome nor brilliant, and
he wore snuff-colored clothes. Mr. Wharton also did me the honor to say
that I was cautious and painstaking, and had a habit of tiring out my
adversary. Therefore, in the early summer of 1793, I went to
Philadelphia. At that time, travellers embarking on such a journey were
prayed over as though they were going to Tartary. I was absent from
Louisville near a year, and there is a diary of what I saw and felt and
heard on this trip for the omission of which I will be thanked. The
great news of that day which concerns the world--and incidentally this
story--was that Citizen Genet had landed at Charleston.
Citizen Genet, Ambassador of the great Republic of France to the little
Republic of America, landed at Charleston, acclaimed by thousands, and
lost no time. Scarcely had he left that city ere American privateers had
slipped out of Charleston harbor to prey upon the commerce of the hated
Mistress of the Sea. Was there ever such a march of triumph as that of
the Citizen Ambassador northward to the capital? Everywhere toasted and
feasted, Monsieur Genet did not neglect the Rights of Man, for without
doubt the United States was to declare war on Britain within a fortnight.
Nay, the Citizen Ambassador would go into the halls of Congress and
declare war himself if that faltering Mr. Washington refused his duty.
Citizen Genet organized his legions as he went along, and threw
tricolored cockades from the windows of his carriage. And at his
glorious entry into Philadelphia (where I afterwards saw the great man
with my own eyes), Mr. Washington and his Federal-Aristocrats trembled in
It was late in April, 1794, when I reached Pittsburg on my homeward
journey and took passage down the Ohio with a certain Captain Wendell of
the army, in a Kentucky boat. I had known the Captain in Louisville, for
he had been stationed at Fort Finney, the army post across the Ohio from
that town, and he had come to Pittsburg with a sergeant to fetch down the
river some dozen recruits. This was a most fortunate circumstance for
me, and in more ways than one. Although the Captain was a gruff and
blunt man, grizzled and weather-beaten, a woman-hater, he could be a
delightful companion when once his confidence was gained; and as we
drifted in the mild spring weather through the long reaches between the
passes he talked of Trenton and Brandywine and Yorktown. There was more
than one bond of sympathy between us, for he worshipped Washington,
detested the French party, and had a hatred for "filthy Democrats" second
to none I have ever encountered.
We stopped for a few days at Fort Harmar, where the Muskingum pays its
tribute to the Ohio, built by the Federal government to hold the
territory which Clark had won. And leaving that hospitable place we took
up our journey once more in the very miracle-time of the spring. The
sunlight was like amber-crystal, the tall cottonwoods growing by the
water-side flaunted a proud glory of green, the hills behind them that
formed the first great swells of the sea of the wilderness were clothed
in a thousand sheens and shaded by the purple budding of the oaks and
walnuts on the northern slopes. On the yellow sandbars flocks of geese
sat pluming in the sun, or rose at our approach to cast fleeting shadows
on the water, their HONK-HONKS echoing from the hills. Here and there a
hawk swooped down from the azure to break the surface and bear off a
wriggling fish that gleamed like silver, and at eventide we would see at
the brink an elk or doe, with head poised, watching us as we drifted. We
passed here and there a lonely cabin, to set my thoughts wandering
backwards to my youth, and here and there in the dimples of the hills
little clusters of white and brown houses, one day to become marts of the
My joy at coming back at this golden season to a country I loved was
tempered by news I had heard from Captain Wendell, and which I had
discussed with the officers at Fort Harmar. The Captain himself had
broached the subject one cool evening, early in the journey, as we sat
over the fire in our little cabin. He had been telling me about
Brandywine, but suddenly he turned to me with a kind of fierce gesture
that was natural to the man.
"Ritchie," he said, "you were in the Revolution yourself. You helped
Clark to capture that country," and he waved his hand towards the
northern shore; "why the devil don't you tell me about it?"
"You never asked me," I answered.
He looked at me curiously.
"Well," he said, "I ask you now."
I began lamely enough, but presently my remembrance of the young man who
conquered all obstacles, who compelled all men he met to follow and obey
him, carried me strongly into the narrative. I remembered him, quiet,
self-contained, resourceful, a natural leader, at twenty-five a bulwark
for the sorely harried settlers of Kentucky; the man whose clear vision
alone had perceived the value of the country north of the Ohio to the
Republic, who had compelled the governor and council of Virginia to see
it likewise. Who had guarded his secret from all men, who in the face of
fierce opposition and intrigue had raised a little army to follow
him--they knew not where. Who had surprised Kaskaskia, cowed the tribes
of the North in his own person, and by sheer force of will drew after him
and kept alive a motley crowd of men across the floods and through the
ice to Vincennes.
We sat far into the night, the Captain listening as I had never seen a
man listen. And when at length I had finished he was for a long time
silent, and then he sprang to his feet with an oath that woke the
sleeping soldiers forward and glared at me.
"My God!" he cried, "it is enough to make a man curse his uniform to
think that such a man as Wilkinson wears it, while Clark is left to rot,
to drink himself under the table from disappointment, to plot with the
"To plot!" I cried, starting violently in my turn.
The Captain looked at me in astonishment.
"How long have you been away from Louisville?" he asked.
"It will be a year," I answered.
"Ah," said the Captain, "I will tell you. It is more than a year since
Clark wrote Genet, since the Ambassador bestowed on him a general's
commission in the army of the French Republic."
"A general's commission!" I exclaimed. "And he is going to France?" The
nation which had driven John Paul Jones from its service was now to lose
George Rogers Clark!
"To France!" laughed the Captain. "No, this is become France enough. He
is raising in Kentucky and in the Cumberland country an army with a
cursed, high-sounding name. Some of his old Illinois scouts--McChesney,
whom you mentioned, for one--have been collecting bear's meat and venison
hams all winter. They are going to march on Louisiana and conquer it for
the French Republic, for Liberty, Equality--the Rights of Man, anything
"On Louisiana!" I repeated; "what has the Federal government been doing?"
The Captain winked at me and sat down.
"The Federal government is supine, a laughing-stock--so our friends the
Jacobins say, who have been shouting at Mr. Easton's tavern all winter.
Nay, they declare that all this country west of the mountains, too, will
be broken off and set up into a republic, and allied with that most
glorious of all republics, France. Believe me, the Jacobins have not
been idle, and there have been strange-looking birds of French plumage
dodging between the General's house at Clarksville and the Bear Grass."
I was silent, the tears almost forcing themselves to my eyes at the
pathetic sordidness of what I had heard.
"It can come to nothing," continued the Captain, in a changed voice.
"General Clark's mind is unhinged by--disappointment. Mad Anthony is
not a man to be caught sleeping, and he has already attended to a little
expedition from the Cumberland. Mad Anthony loves the General, as we all
do, and the Federal government is wiser than the Jacobins think. It may
not be necessary to do anything." Captain Wendell paused, and looked at
me fixedly. "Ritchie, General Clark likes you, and you have never
offended him. Why not go to his little house in Clarksville when you get
to Louisville and talk to him plainly, as I know you can? Perhaps you
might have some influence."
 General Wayne of Revolutionary fame was then in command of that
I shook my head sadly.
"I intend to go," I answered, "but I will have no influence."
THE HOUSE ABOVE THE FALLS
It was May-day, and shortly after dawn we slipped into the quiet water
which is banked up for many miles above the Falls. The Captain and I sat
forward on the deck, breathing deeply the sharp odor which comes from the
wet forest in the early morning, listening to the soft splash of the
oars, and watching the green form of Eighteen Mile Island as it gently
drew nearer and nearer. And ere the sun had risen greatly we had passed
Twelve Mile Island, and emerging from the narrow channel which divides
Six Mile Island from the northern shore, we beheld, on its terrace above
the Bear Grass, Louisville shining white in the morning sun. Majestic in
its mile of width, calm, as though gathering courage, the river seemed to
straighten for the ordeal to come, and the sound of its waters crying
over the rocks far below came faintly to my ear and awoke memories of a
day gone by. Fearful of the suck, we crept along the Indian shore until
we counted the boats moored in the Bear Grass, and presently above the
trees on our right we saw the Stars and Stripes floating from the log
bastion of Fort Finney. And below the fort, on the gentle sunny slope to
the river's brink, was spread the green garden of the garrison, with its
sprouting vegetables and fruit trees blooming pink and white.
We were greeted by a company of buff and blue officers at the landing,
and I was bidden to breakfast at their mess, Captain Wendell promising to
take me over to Louisville afterwards. He had business in the town, and
about eight of the clock we crossed the wide river in one of the barges
of the fort and made fast at the landing in the Bear Grass. But no
sooner had we entered the town than we met a number of country people on
horseback, with their wives and daughters--ay, and sweethearts--perched
up behind them: the men mostly in butternut linsey hunting shirts and
trousers, slouch hats, and red handkerchiefs stuck into their bosoms; the
women marvellously pretty and fresh in stiff cotton gowns and Quaker
hats, and some in crimped caps with ribbons neatly tied under the chin.
Before Mr. Easton's tavern Joe Handy, the fiddler, was reeling off a few
bars of "Hey, Betty Martin" to the familiar crowd of loungers under the
"It's Davy Ritchie!" shouted Joe, breaking off in the middle of the tune;
"welcome home, Davy. Ye're jest in time for the barbecue on the island."
"And Cap Wendell! Howdy, Cap!" drawled another, a huge, long-haired,
sallow, dirty fellow. But the Captain only glared.
"Damn him!" he said, after I had spoken to Joe and we had passed on, "HE
ought to be barbecued; he nearly bit off Ensign Barry's nose a couple of
months ago. Barry tried to stop the beast in a gouging fight."
The bright morning, the shady streets, the homelike frame and log houses,
the old-time fragrant odor of cornpone wafted out of the open doorways,
the warm greetings,--all made me happy to be back again. Mr. Crede
rushed out and escorted us into his cool store, and while he waited on
his country customers bade his negro brew a bowl of toddy, at the mention
of which Mr. Bill Whalen, chief habitue, roused himself from a stupor on
a tobacco barrel. Presently the customers, having indulged in the toddy,
departed for the barbecue, the Captain went to the fort, and Mr. Crede
and myself were left alone to talk over the business which had sent me to
At four o'clock, having finished my report and dined with my client, I
set out for Clarksville, for Mr. Crede had told me, among other things,
that the General was there. Louisville was deserted, the tavern porch
vacant; but tacked on the logs beside the door was a printed bill which
drew my curiosity. I stopped, caught by a familiar name in large type at
the head of it.
"GEORGE R. CLARK, ESQUIRE, "MAJOR-GENERAL IN THE ARMIES OF FRANCE
AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY LEGION ON THE
"For raising volunteers for the reduction of the Spanish posts on the
Mississippi, for opening the trade of the said river and giving freedom
to all its inhabitants--"
I had got so far when I heard a noise of footsteps within, and Mr.
Easton himself came out, in his shirt-sleeves.
"By cricky, Davy," said he, "I'm right glad ter see ye ag'in. Readin'
the General's bill, are ye? Tarnation, I reckon Washington and all his
European fellers east of the mountains won't be able ter hold us back
this time. I reckon we'll gallop over Louisiany in the face of all the
Spaniards ever created. I've got some new whiskey I 'low will sink
tallow. Come in, Davy."
As he took me by the arm, a laughter and shouting came from the back
"It's some of them Frenchy fellers come over from Knob Licks. They're in
it," and he pointed his thumb over his shoulder to the proclamation, "and
thar's one young American among 'em who's a t'arer. Come in."
I drank a glass of Mr. Easton's whiskey, and asked about the General.
"He stays over thar to Clarksville pretty much," said Mr. Easton. "Thar
ain't quite so much walkin' araound ter do," he added significantly.
I made my way down to the water-side, where Jake Landrasse sat alone on
the gunwale of a Kentucky boat, smoking a clay pipe as he fished. I had
to exercise persuasion to induce Jake to paddle me across, which he
finally agreed to do on the score of old friendship, and he declared that
the only reason he was not at the barbecue was because he was waiting to
take a few gentlemen to see General Clark. I agreed to pay the damages
if he were late in returning for these gentlemen, and soon he was
shooting me with pulsing strokes across the lake-like expanse towards the
landing at Fort Finney. Louisville and the fort were just above the head
of the Falls, and the little town of Clarksville, which Clark had
founded, at the foot of them. I landed, took the road that led parallel
with the river through the tender green of the woods, and as I walked the
mighty song which the Falls had sung for ages to the Wilderness rose
higher and higher, and the faint spray seemed to be wafted through the
forest and to hang in the air like the odor of a summer rain.
It was May-day. The sweet, caressing note of the thrush mingled with the
music of the water, the dogwood and the wild plum were in festal array;
but my heart was heavy with thinking of a great man who had cheapened
himself. At length I came out upon a clearing where fifteen log houses
marked the grant of the Federal government to Clark's regiment. Perched
on a tree-dotted knoll above the last spasm of the waters in their
two-mile race for peace, was a two-storied log house with a little,
square porch in front of the door. As I rounded the corner of the house
and came in sight of the porch I halted--by no will of my own--at the
sight of a figure sunken in a wooden chair. It was that of my old
Colonel. His hands were folded in front of him, his eyes were fixed but
dimly on the forests of the Kentucky shore across the water; his hair,
uncared for, fell on the shoulders of his faded blue coat, and the
stained buff waistcoat was unbuttoned. For he still wore unconsciously
the colors of the army of the American Republic.
"General!" I said.
He started, got to his feet, and stared at me.
"Oh, it's--it's Davy," he said. "I--I was expecting--some
friends--Davy. What--what's the matter, Davy?"
"I have been away. I am glad to see you again, General.
"Citizen General, sir, Major-general in the army of the French Republic
and Commander-in-chief of the French Revolutionary Legion on the
"You will always be Colonel Clark to me, sir," I answered.
"You--you were the drummer boy, I remember, and strutted in front of the
regiment as if you were the colonel. Egad, I remember how you fooled the
Kaskaskians when you told them we were going away." He looked at me, but
his eyes were still fixed on the point beyond. "You were always older
than I, Davy. Are you married?"
In spite of myself, I laughed as I answered this question.
"You are as canny as ever," he said, putting his hand on my shoulder.
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,--they are only possible for the
bachelor." Hearing a noise, he glanced nervously in the direction of the
woods, only to perceive his negro carrying a pail of water. "I--I was
expecting some friends," he said. "Sit down, Davy."
"I hope I am not intruding, General," I said, not daring to look at him.
"No, no, my son," he answered, "you are always welcome. Did we not
campaign together? Did we not--shoot these very falls together on our
way to Kaskaskia?" He had to raise his voice above the roar of the
water. "Faith, well I remember the day. And you saved it, Davy,--you, a
little gamecock, a little worldly-wise hop-o'-my-thumb, eh? Hamilton's
scalp hanging by a lock, egad--and they frightened out of their five wits
because it was growing dark." He laughed, and suddenly became solemn
again. "There comes a time in every man's life when it grows dark, Davy,
and then the cowards are afraid. They have no friends whose hands they
can reach out and feel. But you are my friend. You remember that you
said you would always be my friend? It--it was in the fort at Vincennes."
"I remember, General."
He rose from the steps, buttoned his waistcoat, and straightened himself
with an effort. He looked at me impressively.
"You have been a good friend indeed, Davy, a faithful friend," he said.
"You came to me when I was sick, you lent me money,"--he waved aside my
protest. "I am happy to say that I shall soon be in a position to repay
you, to reward you. My evil days are over, and I spurn that government
which spurned me, for the honor and glory of which I founded that
city,"--he pointed in the direction of Louisville,--"for the power and
wealth of which I conquered this Northwest territory. Listen! I am now
in the service of a republic where the people have rights, I am
Commander-in-chief of the French Revolutionary Legion on the Mississippi.
Despite the supineness of Washington, the American nation will soon be at
war with Spain. But my friends--and thank God they are many--will follow
me--they will follow me to Natchez and New Orleans,--ay, even to Santa Fe
and Mexico if I give the word. The West is with me, and for the West I
shall win the freedom of the Mississippi. For France and Liberty I shall
win back again Louisiana, and then I shall be a Marechal de Camp."
I could not help thinking of a man who had not been wont to speak of his
intentions, who had kept his counsel for a year before Kaskaskia.
"I need my drummer boy, Davy," he said, his face lighting up, "but he
will not be a drummer boy now. He will be a trusted officer of high
rank, mind you. Come," he cried, seizing me by the arm, "I will write
the commission this instant. But hold! you read French,--I remember the
day Father Gibault gave you your first lesson." He fumbled in his
pocket, drew out a letter, and handed it to me. "This is from Citizen
Michaux, the famous naturalist, the political agent of the French
Republic. Read what he has written me."
I read, I fear in a faltering voice:--
"Un homme qui a donne des preuves de son amour pour la Liberte et de sa
haine pour le despotisme ne devait pas s'adresser en vain au ministre de
la Republique francaise. General, il est temps que les Americains libres
de l'Ouest soient debarasses d'un ennemie aussi injuste que meprisable."
When I had finished I glanced at the General, but he seemed not to be
heeding me. The sun was setting above the ragged line of forest, and a
blue veil was spreading over the tumbling waters. He took me by the arm
and led me into the house, into a bare room that was all awry. Maps hung
on the wall, beside them the General's new commission, rudely framed.
Among the littered papers on the table were two whiskey bottles and
several glasses, and strewn about were a number of chairs, the arms of
which had been whittled by the General's guests. Across the rough
mantel-shelf was draped the French tricolor, and before the fireplace on
the puncheons lay a huge bearskin which undoubtedly had not been shaken
for a year. Picking up a bottle, the General poured out generous
helpings in two of the glasses, and handed one to me.
"The mists are bad, Davy," said he "I--I cannot afford to get the fever
now. Let us drink success to the army of the glorious Republic, France."
"Let us drink first, General," I said, "to the old friendship between
"Good!" he cried. Tossing off his liquor, he set down the glass and
began what seemed a fruitless search among the thousand papers on the
table. But at length, with a grunt of satisfaction, he produced a form
and held it under my eyes. At the top of the sheet was that much-abused
and calumniated lady, the Goddess of Liberty.
"Now," he said, drawing up a chair and dipping his quill into an almost
depleted ink-pot, "I have decided to make you, David Ritchie, with full
confidence in your ability and loyalty to the rights of liberty and
mankind, a captain in the Legion on the Mississippi."
I crossed the room swiftly, and as he put his pen to paper I laid my hand
on his arm.
"General, I cannot," I said. I had seen from the first the futility of
trying to dissuade him from the expedition, and I knew now that it would
never come off. I was willing to make almost any sacrifice rather than
offend him, but this I could not allow. The General drew himself up in
his chair and stared at me with a flash of his old look.
"You cannot?" he repeated; "you have affairs to attend to, I take it."
I tried to speak, but he rode me down.
"There is money to be made in that prosperous town of Louisville." He
did not understand the pain which his words caused me. He rose and laid
his hands affectionately on my shoulders. "Ah, Davy, commerce makes a
man timid. Do you forget the old days when I was the father and you the
son? Come! I will make you a fortune undreamed of, and you shall be my
fianancier once more."
"I had not thought of the money, General," I answered, "and I have always
been ready to leave my business to serve a friend."
"There, there," said the General, soothingly, "I know it. I would not
offend you. You shall have the commission, and you may come when it
He sat down again to write, but I restrained him.
"I cannot go, General," I said.
"Thunder and fury," cried the General, "a man might think you were a
weak-kneed Federalist." He stared at me, and stared again, and rose and
recoiled a step. "My God," he said, "you cannot be a Federalist, you
can't have marched to Kaskaskia and Vincennes, you can't have been a
friend of mine and have seen how the government of the United States has
treated me, and be a Federalist!"
It was an argument and an appeal which I had foreseen, yet which I knew
not how to answer. Suddenly there came, unbidden, his own counsel which
he had given me long ago, "Serve the people, as all true men should in a
Republic, but do not rely upon their gratitude." This man had bidden me
"General," I said, trying to speak steadily, "it was you who gave me my
first love for the Republic. I remember you as you stood on the heights
above Kaskaskia waiting for the sun to go down, and you reminded me that
it was the nation's birthday. And you said that our nation was to be a
refuge of the oppressed of this earth, a nation made of all peoples, out
of all time. And you said that the lands beyond," and I pointed to the
West as he had done, "should belong to it until the sun sets on the sea
I glanced at him, for he was silent, and in my life I can recall no
sadder moment than this. The General heard, but the man who had spoken
these words was gone forever. The eyes of this man before me were fixed,
as it were, upon space. He heard, but he did not respond; for the spirit
was gone. What I looked upon was the tortured body from which the
genius--the spirit I had worshipped--had fled. I turned away, only to
turn back in anger.
"What do you know of this France for which you are to fight?" I cried.
"Have you heard of the thousands of innocents who are slaughtered, of the
women and children who are butchered in the streets in the name of
Liberty? What have those blood-stained adventurers to do with Liberty,
what have the fish-wives who love the sight of blood to do with you that
would fight for them? You warned me that this people and this government
to which you have given so much would be ungrateful,--will the butchers
and fish-wives be more grateful?"
He caught only the word GRATEFUL, and he rose to his feet with something
of the old straightness and of the old power. And by evil chance his
eye, and mine, fell upon a sword hanging on the farther wall. Well I
remembered when he had received it, well I knew the inscription on its
blade, "Presented by the State of Virginia to her beloved son, George
Rogers Clark, who by the conquest of Illinois and St. Vincennes extended
her empire and aided in the defence of her liberties." By evil chance, I
say, his eye lighted on that sword. In three steps he crossed the room
to where it hung, snatched it from its scabbard, and ere I could prevent
him he had snapped it across his knee and flung the pieces in a corner.
"So much for the gratitude of my country," he said.
* * * * * * *
I had gone out on the little porch and stood gazing over the expanse of
forest and waters lighted by the afterglow. Then I felt a hand upon my
shoulder, I heard a familiar voice calling me by an old name.
"Yes, General!" I turned wonderingly.
"You are a good lad, Davy. I trust you," he said. "I--I was expecting
He lifted a hand that was not too steady to his brow and scanned the road
leading to the fort. Even as he spoke four figures emerged from the
woods,--undoubtedly the gentlemen who had held the council at the inn
that afternoon. We watched them in silence as they drew nearer, and then
something in the walk and appearance of the foremost began to bother me.
He wore a long, double-breasted, claret-colored redingote that fitted
his slim figure to perfection, and his gait was the easy gait of a man
who goes through the world careless of its pitfalls. So intently did I
stare that I gave no thought to those who followed him. Suddenly, when
he was within fifty paces, a cry escaped me,--I should have known that
smiling, sallow, weakly handsome face anywhere in the world.
The gentleman was none other than Monsieur Auguste de St. Gre. At the
foot of the steps he halted and swept his hand to his hat with a military
"Citizen General," he said gracefully, "we come and pay our respec's to
you and mek our report, and ver' happy to see you look well. Citoyens,
Vive la Republique!--Hail to the Citizen General!"
"Vive la Republique! Vive le General!" cried the three citizens behind
"Citizens, you are very welcome," answered the General, gravely, as he
descended the steps and took each of them by the hand. "Citizens, allow
me to introduce to you my old friend, Citizen David Ritchie--"
"Milles diables!" cried the Citizen St. Gre, seizing me by the hand,
"c'est mon cher ami, Monsieur Reetchie. Ver' happy you have this honor,
Monsieur;" and snatching his wide-brimmed military cocked hat from his
head he made me a smiling, sweeping bow.
"What!" cried the General to me, "you know the Sieur de St. Gre, Davy?"
"He is my guest once in Louisiane, mon general," Monsieur Auguste
explained; "my family knows him."
"You know the Sieur de St. Gre, Davy?" said the General again.
"Yes, I know him," I answered, I fear with some brevity.
"Podden me," said Auguste, "I am now Citizen Captain de St. Gre. And you
are also embark in the glorious cause--Ah, I am happy," he added,
embracing me with a winning glance.
I was relieved from the embarrassment of denying the impeachment by
reason of being introduced to the other notables, to Citizen Captain
Sullivan, who wore an undress uniform consisting of a cotton butternut
hunting shirt. He had charge on the Bear Grass of building the boats for
the expedition, and was likewise a prominent member of that august body,
the Jacobin Society of Lexington. Next came Citizen Quartermaster
Depeau, now of Knob Licks, Kentucky, sometime of New Orleans. The
Citizen Quartermaster wore his hair long in the backwoods fashion; he had
a keen, pale face and sunken eyes.
"Ver' glad mek you known to me, Citizen Reetchie."
The fourth gentleman was likewise French, and called Gignoux. The
Citizen Gignoux made some sort of an impression on me which I did not
stop to analyze. He was a small man, with a little round hand that
wriggled out of my grasp; he had a big French nose, bright eyes that
popped a little and gave him the habit of looking sidewise, and grizzled,
chestnut eyebrows over them. He had a thin-lipped mouth and a round
"Citizen Reetchie, is it? I laik to know citizen's name glorified by
gran' cause. Reetchie?"
"Will you enter, citizens?" said the General.
I do not know why I followed them unless it were to satisfy a
devil-prompted curiosity as to how Auguste de St. Gre had got there. We
went into the room, where the General's slovenly negro was already
lighting the candles and the General proceeded to collect and fill six of
the glasses on the table. It was Citizen Captain Sullivan who gave the
"Citizens," he cried, "I give you the health of the foremost apostle of
Liberty in the Western world, the General who tamed the savage tribes,
who braved the elements, who brought to their knees the minions of a
despot king." A slight suspicion of a hiccough filled this gap. "Cast
aside by an ungrateful government, he is still unfaltering in his
allegiance to the people. May he lead our Legion victorious through the
"Vive la Republique!" they shouted, draining their glasses. "Vive le
citoyen general Clark!"
"Louisiana!" shouted Citizen Sullivan, warming, "Louisiana, groaning
under oppression and tyranny, is imploring us with uplifted hands. To
those remaining veteran patriots whose footsteps we followed to this
distant desert, and who by their blood and toil have converted it into a
smiling country, we now look. Under your guidance, Citizen General, we
fought, we bled--"
How far the Citizen Captain would have gone is problematical. I had
noticed a look of disgust slowly creeping into the Citizen
Quartermaster's eyes, and at this juncture he seized the Citizen Captain
and thrust him into a chair.
"Sacre vent!" he exclaimed, "it is the proclamation--he recites the
proclamation! I see he have participate in those handbill. Poof, the
world is to conquer,--let us not spik so much."
"I give you one toast," said the little Citizen Gignoux, slyly, "we all
bring back one wife from Nouvelle Orleans!
"Ha," exclaimed the Sieur de St. Gre, laughing, "the Citizen Captain
Depeau--he has already one wife in Nouvelle Orleans."
 It is unnecessary for the editor to remind the reader that these
are not Mr. Ritchie's words, but those of an adventurer. Mr. Depeau was
an honest and worthy gentleman, earnest enough in a cause which was more
to his credit than to an American's. According to contemporary evidence,
Madame Depeau was in New Orleans.
The Citizen Quartermaster was angry at this, and it did not require any
great perspicacity on my part to discover that he did not love the
Citizen de St. Gre.
"He is call in his country, Gumbo de St. Gre," said Citizen Depeau. "It
is a deesh in that country. But to beesness, citizens,--we embark on
glorious enterprise. The King and Queen of France, she pay for her
treason with their haids, and we must be prepare' for do the sem."
"Ha," exclaimed the Sieur de St. Gre, "the Citizen Quartermaster will
lose his provision before his haid."
The inference was plain, and the Citizen Quartermaster was quick to take
"We are all among frien's," said he. "Why I call you Gumbo de St. Gre?
When I come first settle in Louisiane you was wild man--yes. Drink
tafia, fight duel, spend family money. Aristocrat then. No, I not hold
my tongue. You go France and Monsieur le Marquis de St. Gre he get you
in gardes du corps of the King. Yes, I tell him. You tell the Citizen
General how come you Jacobin now, and we see if he mek you Captain."
A murmur of surprise escaped from several of the company, and they all
stared at the Sieur de St. Gre. But General Clark brought down his fist
on the table with something of his old-time vigor, and the glasses
"Gentlemen, I will have no quarrelling in my presence," he cried; "and I
beg to inform Citizen Depeau that I bestow my commissions where it
Auguste de St. Gre rose, flushing, to his feet. "Citizens," he said,
with a fluency that was easy for him, "I never mek secret of my
history--no. It is true my relation, Monsieur le Marquis de St. Gre,
bought me a pair of colors in the King's gardes du corps."
"And is it not truth you tremple the coackade, what I hear from
Philadelphe?" cried Depeau.
Monsieur Auguste smiled with a patient tolerance.
"If you hev pains to mek inquiry," said he, "you must learn that I join
le Marquis de La Fayette and the National Guard. That I have since fight
for the Revolution. That I am come now home to fight for Louisiane, as
Monsieur Genet will tell you whom I saw in Philadelphe."
"The Citizen Capitaine--he spiks true."
All eyes were turned towards Gignoux, who had been sitting back in his
chair, very quiet.
"It is true what he say," he repeated, "I have it by Monsieur Genet
"Gentlemen," said General Clark, "this is beside the question, and I will
not have these petty quarrels. I may as well say to you now that I have
chosen the Citizen Captain to go at once to New Orleans and organize a
regiment among the citizens there faithful to France. On account of his
family and supposed Royalist tendencies he will not be suspected. I fear
that a month at least has yet to elapse before our expedition can move."
"It is one wise choice," put in Monsieur Gignoux.
"Monsieur le general and gentlemen," said the Sieur de St. Gre,
gracefully, "I thank you ver' much for the confidence. I leave by first
flatboat and will have all things stir up when you come. The citizens of
Louisiane await you. If necessair, we have hole in levee ready to cut."
"Citizens," interrupted General Clark, sitting down before the ink-pot,
"let us hear the Quartermaster's report of the supplies at Knob Licks,
and Citizen Sullivan's account of the boats. But hold," he cried,
glancing around him, "where is Captain Temple? I heard that he had come
to Louisville from the Cumberland to-day. Is he not going with you to
New Orleans, St. Gre?"
I took up the name involuntarily.
"Captain Temple," I repeated, while they stared at me. "Nicholas
It was Auguste de St. Gre who replied.
"The sem," he said. "I recall he was along with you in Nouvelle Orleans.
He is at ze tavern, and he has had one gran' fight, and he is ver'--I am
I know not how I made my way through the black woods to Fort Finney,
where I discovered Jake Landrasse and his canoe. The road was long, and
yet short, for my brain whirled with the expectation of seeing Nick
again, and the thought of this poor, pathetic, ludicrous expedition
compared to the sublime one I had known.
George Rogers Clark had come to this!
"They have gran' time in Louisville to-night, Davy," said Jake Landrasse,
as he paddled me towards the Kentucky shore; "you hear?"
"I should be stone deaf if I didn't," I answered, for the shouting which
came from the town filled me with forebodings.
"They come back from the barbecue full of whiskey," said Jake, "and a
young man at the tavern come out on the porch and he say, 'Get ready you
all to go to Louisiana! You been hole back long enough by tyranny.' Sam
Barker come along and say he a Federalist. They done have a gran' fight,
he and the young feller, and Sam got licked. He went at Sam just like a
"And then?" I demanded.
"Them four wanted to leave," said Jake, taking no trouble to disguise his
disgust, "and I had to fetch 'em over. I've got to go back and wait for
'em now," and he swore with sincere disappointment. "I reckon there
ain't been such a jamboree in town for years."
Jake had not exaggerated. Gentlemen from Moore's Settlement, from
Sullivan's Station on the Bear Grass,--to be brief, the entire male
population of the county seemed to have moved upon Louisville after the
barbecue, and I paused involuntarily at the sight which met my eyes as I
came into the street. A score of sputtering, smoking pine-knots threw a
lurid light on as many hilarious groups, and revealed, fantastically
enough, the boles and lower branches of the big shade trees above them.
Navigation for the individual, difficult enough lower down, in front of
the tavern became positively dangerous. There was a human eddy,--nay, a
maelstrom would better describe it. Fights began, but ended abortively
by reason of the inability of the combatants to keep their feet; one man
whose face I knew passed me with his hat afire, followed by several
companions in gusts of laughter, for the torch-bearers were careless and
burned the ears of their friends in their enthusiasm. Another person
whom I recognized lacked a large portion of the front of his attire, and
seemed sublimely unconscious of the fact. His face was badly scratched.
Several other friends of mine were indulging in brief intervals of rest
on the ground, and I barely avoided stepping on them. Still other
gentlemen were delivering themselves of the first impressive periods of
orations, only to be drowned by the cheers of their auditors. These were
the snatches which I heard as I picked my way onward with exaggerated
"Gentlemen, the Mississippi is ours, let the tyrants who forbid its use
beware!" "To hell with the Federal government!" "I tell you, sirs, this
land is ours. We have conquered it with our blood, and I reckon no
Spaniard is goin' to stop us. We ain't come this far to stand still. We
settled Kaintuck, fit off the redskins, and we'll march across the
Mississippi and on and on--" "To Louisiany!" they shouted, and the
whole crowd would take it up, "To Louisiany! Open the river!"
So absorbed was I in my own safety and progress that I did not pause to
think (as I have often thought since) of the full meaning of this, though
I had marked it for many years. The support given to Wilkinson's plots,
to Clark's expedition, was merely the outward and visible sign of the
onward sweep of a resistless race. In spite of untold privations and
hardships, of cruel warfare and massacre, these people had toiled over
the mountains into this land, and impatient of check or hindrance would,
even as Clark had predicted, when their numbers were sufficient leap the
Mississippi. Night or day, drunk or sober, they spoke of this thing with
an ever increasing vehemence, and no man of reflection who had read their
history could say that they would be thwarted. One day Louisiana would
be theirs and their children's for the generations to come. One day
Louisiana would be American.
That I was alive and unscratched when I got as far as the tavern is a
marvel. Amongst all the passion-lit faces which surrounded me I could
get no sight of Nick's, and I managed to make my way to a momentarily
quiet corner of the porch. As I leaned against the wall there, trying to
think what I should do, there came a great cheering from a little way up
the street, and then I straightened in astonishment. Above the cheering
came the sound of a drum beaten in marching time, and above that there
burst upon the night what purported to be the "Marseillaise," taken up
and bawled by a hundred drunken throats and without words. Those around
me who were sufficiently nimble began to run towards the noise, and I ran
after them. And there, marching down the middle of the street at the
head of a ragged and most indecorous column of twos, in the centre of a
circle of light cast by a pine-knot which Joe Handy held, was Mr.
Nicholas Temple. His bearing, if a trifle unsteady, was proud, and--if I
could believe my eyes--around his neck was slung the thing which I prized
above all my possessions,--the drum which I had carried to Kaskaskia and
Vincennes! He had taken it from the peg in my room.
I shrink from putting on paper the sentimental side of my nature, and
indeed I could give no adequate idea of my affection for that drum. And
then there was Nick, who had been lost to me for five years! My impulse
was to charge the procession, seize Nick and the drum together, and drag
them back to my room; but the futility and danger of such a course were
apparent, and the caution for which I am noted prevented my undertaking
it. The procession, augmented by all those to whom sufficient power of
motion remained, cheered by the helpless but willing ones on the ground,
swept on down the street and through the town. Even at this late day I
shame to write it! Behold me, David Ritchie, Federalist, execrably
sober, at the head of the column behind the leader. Was it twenty
minutes, or an hour, that we paraded? This I know, that we slighted no
street in the little town of Louisville. What was my bearing,--whether
proud or angry or carelessly indifferent,--I know not. The glare of Joe
Handy's torch fell on my face, Joe Handy's arm and that of another
gentleman, the worse for liquor, were linked in mine, and they saw fit to
applaud at every step my conversion to the cause of Liberty. We passed
time and time again the respectable door-yards of my Federalist friends,
and I felt their eyes upon me with that look which the angels have for
the fallen. Once, in front of Mr. Wharton's house, Mr. Handy burned my
hair, apologized, staggered, and I took the torch! And I used it to good
advantage in saving the drum from capture. For Mr. Temple, with all the
will in the world, had begun to stagger. At length, after marching
seemingly half the night, they halted by common consent before the house
of a prominent Democrat who shall be nameless, and, after some minutes of
vain importuning, Nick, with a tattoo on the drum, marched boldly up to
the gate and into the yard. A desperate cunning came to my aid. I flung
away the torch, leaving the head of the column in darkness, broke from
Mr. Handy's embrace, and, seizing Nick by the arm, led him onward through
the premises, he drumming with great docility. Followed by a few
stragglers only (some of whom went down in contact with the trees of the
orchard), we came to a gate at the back which I knew well, which led
directly into the little yard that fronted my own rooms behind Mr.
Crede's store. Pulling Nick through the gate, I slammed it, and he was
only beginning to protest when I had him safe within my door, and the
bolt slipped behind him. As I struck a light something fell to the floor
with a crash, an odor of alcohol filled the air, and as the candle caught
the flame I saw a shattered whiskey bottle at my feet and a room which
had been given over to carousing. In spite of my feelings I could not
but laugh at the perfectly irresistible figure my cousin made, as he
stood before me with the drum slung in front of him. His hat was gone,
his dust-covered clothes awry, but he smiled at me benignly and without a
trace of surprise.
"Sho you've come back at lasht, Davy," he said. "You're--you're
very--irregular. You'll lose--law bishness. Y-you're worse'n Andy
Jackson--he's always fightin'."
I relieved him, unprotesting, of the drum, thanking my stars there was so
much as a stick left of it. He watched me with a silent and exaggerated
interest as I laid it on the table. From a distance without came the
shouts of the survivors making for the tavern.
"'Sfortunate you had the drum, Davy," he said gravely, "'rwe'd had no
"It is fortunate I have it now," I answered, looking ruefully at the
battered rim where Nick had missed the skin in his ardor.
"Davy," said he, "funny thing--I didn't know you wash a Jacobite. Sh'ou
hear," he added relevantly, "th' Andy Jackson was married?"
"No," I answered, having no great interest in Mr. Jackson. "Where have
you been seeing him again?"
"Nashville on Cumberland. Jackson'sh county sholicitor,--devil of a man.
I'll tell you, Davy," he continued, laying an uncertain hand on my
shoulder and speaking with great earnestness, "I had Chicashaw
horse--Jackson'd Virginia thoroughbred--had a race--'n' Jackson wanted to
shoot me 'n' I wanted to shoot Jackson. 'N' then we all went to the Red
"What the deuce is the Red Heifer?" I asked.
"'N'dishtillery over a shpring, 'n' they blow a horn when the liquor
runsh. 'N' then we had supper in Major Lewish's tavern. Major Lewis
came in with roast pig on platter. You know roast pig, Davy? . . . 'N'
Jackson pulls out's hunting knife n'waves it very mashestic. . . . You
know how mashestic Jackson is when he--wantshtobe?" He let go my
shoulder, brushed back his hair in a fiery manner, and, seizing a knife
which unhappily lay on the table, gave me a graphic illustration of Mr.
Jackson about to carve the pig, I retreating, and he coming on. "N' when
he stuck the pig, Davy,--"
He poised the knife for an instant in the air, and then, before I could
interpose, he brought it down deftly through the head of my precious
drum, and such a frightful, agonized squeal filled the room that even I
shivered involuntarily, and for an instant I had a vivid vision of a pig
struggling in the hands of a butcher. I laughed in spite of myself. But
Nick regarded me soberly.
"Funny thing, Davy," he said, "they all left the room." For a moment he
appeared to be ruminating on this singular phenomenon. Then he
continued: "'N' Jackson was back firsht, 'n' he was damned impolite....
'n' he shook his fist in my face" (here Nick illustrated Mr. Jackson's
gesture), "'n' he said, 'Great God, sir, y' have a fine talent but if y'
ever do that again, I'll--I'll kill you.' . . . That'sh what he said,
"How long have you been in Nashville, Nick?" I asked.
"A year," he said, "lookin' after property I won rattle-an'-shnap--you
"And why didn't you let me know you were in Nashville?" I asked, though I
realized the futility of the question.
"Thought you was--mad at me," he answered, "but you ain't, Davy. You've
been very good-natured t' let me have your drum." He straightened. "I
am ver' much obliged."
"And where were you before you went to Nashville?" I said.