Part 2 out of 9
"Father's all right, Sue. He's always right," Oliver
answered. "He believes in Mr. Crocker, just as
he believes in a lot of things that a good many people
around here don't understand. He believes the
time will come when they will value his pictures,
and be proud to own them. But I don't care who
owns mine; I just want the fun of painting them.
Just think of what a man can do with a few tubes
of color, a brush, and a bit of canvas. So I don't
care if they never buy what I paint. I can get along
somehow, just as Mr. Crocker does. He's poor, but
just see how happy he is. Why, when he does a
good thing he's nothing but a boy, he's so glad about
it. I always know how his work has gone when I
see his face."
"But, Ollie, he's so shabby, and his daughter gives
music-lessons. Nobody THINKS of inviting her anywhere."
Sue's eyes were shut tight, with an expression
of assumed contempt, and her little nose was
"Yes--but that doesn't hurt his pictures, Sue."
There was a slight trace of impatience in Oliver's
"Well, perhaps it doesn't--but you don't want to
be like him. I wouldn't like to see you, Ollie, going
about with a picture under your arm that everybody
knew you had painted yourself. And suppose that
they would want to buy your pictures? How would
you feel now to be taking other people's money for
things you had painted?"
The boy caught his breath. It seemed useless to
pursue the talk with Sue. She evidently had no
sympathy with his aspirations.
"No--but I wish I could paint as he does," he
Sue saw the change in his manner. She realized,
too, that she had hurt him in some way. She drew
nearer and put her hand on his arm.
"Why, you can, Ollie. You can do anything you
want to; Miss Lavinia told me so." The little witch
was mistress of one art--that of holding her lover--
but that was an art of which all the girls about Kennedy
"No, I can't," he replied, forgetting in the caressing
touch of her hand the tribute to his ability,
and delighted that she was once more in sympathy
with him. "Mother wouldn't think of my being an
artist. She doesn't understand how I feel about it,
and Miss Lavinia, somehow, doesn't seem to be favorable
to it either. I've talked to her lots of times--
she was more encouraging at first, but she doesn't
seem to like the idea now. I've been hoping she'd
fix it so I could speak to mother about it. Now she
tells me I had better wait. I can't see why Miss
Lavinia knows what an artist's life can be, for she
knew plenty of painters when she was in London with
her father, and she loves pictures, too, and is a good
judge--nobody here any better. She told me only
a week ago how much one of these Englishmen was
paid for a little thing as big as your hand, but I've
forgotten the amount. I don't see why I can't paint
as well as those fellows. Do you know, Sue, I'm beginning
to think that about half the people in Kennedy
Square are asleep? They really don't seem
to think there is anything respectable but the law. If
they are right, how about all the men who painted
the great pictures and built all the cathedrals, or the
men who wrote all the poems and histories? Mother,
of course, wants me to be a lawyer. Because I'm
fitted for it?--not a bit of it! Simply because father
was one before me and his father before him, and
Uncle John Tilghman another, and so on back to the
Sue drew away a little and turned her head toward
the Square as if in search of someone. Oliver noticed
the movement and his heart sank again. He
saw but too clearly how little impression the story of
his ambitions had made upon her. Then the thought
flashed into his mind that he might have offended her
in some way, clashing against her traditions and her
prejudices as he had done. He bent toward her and
laid his hand in hers.
"Little girl," he said, in a softened tone, "I can't
make you unhappy, too. Mother is enough for me
to worry about--I haven't talked it all out to you
before, but don't you get a wrong idea of what I'm
going to do--" and he looked up into her face and
tightened his hold upon her fingers, his eyes never
wavering from her own.
The girl allowed his hand to remain an instant, then
quickly withdrew her own and started up. Coyness
is sometimes fear in the timid heart that is stepping
into the charmed circle for the first time.
"There goes Ella Dorsey and Jack--" she cried,
springing down the steps. "Ella! El--la!" and an
answering halloo came back, and the two started from
Malachi's steps and raced up the street to join their
AN OLD-FASHIONED MORTGAGE
Pretty Sue Clayton with her ringlets and rosy
cheeks had not been Oliver's only listener.
His mother had been sitting inside the drawing-
room, just beside the open window. She had spoken
to Sue and Oliver when they first mounted the steps,
and had begged them both to come in, but they had
forgotten her presence. Unintentionally, therefore,
she had heard every word of the conversation. Her
old fears rushed over her again with renewed force.
She had never for a moment supposed that Oliver
wanted to be a painter--like Mr. Crocker! Now
at last she understood his real object in talking to
Lavinia the night of the musical.
"Richard," she called softly to her husband sitting
in the adjoining room, in the chair that Malachi,
in accordance with the old custom, had with his
sweeping bow made ready for him. The inventor
had been there since tea was over, lying back in his
seat, his head resting on his hand. He had had one
of his thoughtful days, worrying over some detail of
his machine, still incomplete. The new device of
which he had told her with such glee had failed, as
had the others. The motor was still incomplete.
"Richard," she repeated.
"Yes, my dear," he answered, in his gentle voice.
He had not heard her at first.
"Bring your chair over here."
The inventor rose instantly and, crossing the room,
took a seat beside her, his hand finding hers in the
"What is this you have been saying to Oliver
about artists being great men?" she asked. "He's
got a new idea in his head now--he wants to be a
painter. I've thought for some time that Mr.
Crocker was not a proper person for him to be so
much with. He has evidently worked on the boy's
imagination until he has determined to give up the
law and study art."
"How do you know?"
"I've just heard him tell Sue Clayton so. All
he wants now is my consent--he says he has
The inventor paused, and gently smoothed his
wife's fingers with his own.
"And you would not give it?" he inquired.
"How could I? It would ruin him--don't you
know it?" There was a slight tinge of annoyance
in her voice--not one of fault-finding, but rather of
"That depends, my dear, on how well he could
succeed," he answered, gently.
"Why, Richard!" She withdrew her hand quickly
from his caressing touch, and looked at him in undisguised
astonishment. "What has his SUCCEEDING
to do with it? Surely you cannot be in earnest? I
am willing he should do anything to make his living,
but not that. No one we know has ever been a
painter. It is neither respectable nor profitable.
You see what a dreadful existence Mr. Crocker leads
--hardly an associate in town, and no acquaintances
for his daughter, and he's been painting ever since
he was a boy. Oliver could not earn a penny at
"Money is not everything, my dear, nor social
recognition. There are many things I would value
"What are they?" She was facing him now, her
brows knit, a marked antagonism in her voice.
"Good manners and good taste, Sallie, and kindly
consideration for another's feelings," he answered.
He spoke calmly and kindly, as was his custom. He
had lived almost all his life with this high-strung Sallie
Horn, whose eyes flashed now and then as they
had done in the old days when he won her hand.
He knew every side of her temperament. "Good
manners, and good taste"--he repeated, as if wishing
to emphasize his thoughts--"Oliver has all of
these, and he has, besides, loyalty to his friends. He
never speaks of Mr. Crocker but with affection, and
I love to hear him. That man is an artist of great
talent, and yet it seems to be the fashion in this town
to ridicule him. If Ollie has any gifts which would
fit him to be a painter, I should be delighted to
see him a painter. It is a profession despised now,
as are many others, but it is the profession of a gentleman,
for all they say, and a noble one!" Then
he stopped and said, thoughtfully, as if communing
with himself--"I wish he could be a painter. Since
Gilbert Stuart's time we have had so few men of
whom we can boast. This country will one day be
proud to honor her artists."
Mrs. Horn sank back in her chair. She felt the
hopelessness of all further discussion with her husband.
"He would not have talked this way ten
years ago," she said to herself. "Everything has
gone wrong since he left the law." But to her
husband she said:
"You always measure everything by your hopes,
Richard, and you never look at the practical side of
anything. Ollie is old enough to begin to think how
he will earn his bread. I see now how hopeless it
is for us to try and make a lawyer of him--his heart
is not in it. I have come little by little to the
conclusion that what he wants most is hard work, and
he wants it right away, just as soon as we can find
something for him to do--something with his hands,
if necessary, not something full of dreams and imaginings,"
and her voice rose in its earnestness. "I am
getting more and more anxious about him every
day," she added, suddenly controlling herself, "and
when you encourage him in foolish vagaries you only
make it harder for me, dear," and her voice softened
and broke with emotion.
"He ought to have gone into the laboratory, Sallie,"
Richard added quickly, in a reflective tone--laying
his hand on her shoulder as he noticed the change
of voice--" just as I wanted him to do when he left
school. There is a future for scientific men in this
country which you do not see--a future which few
around me seem to see. Great changes are coming,
not only in science, but in the arts and in all useful
knowledge. If Ollie can add to the brilliancy of this
future by becoming a brilliant painter, able to help
educate those about him, there could be no higher
calling for him. Three things are coming, my dear
--perhaps four." The inventor had risen from his
seat and stood beside her, his eyes turned away into
the dark as if he were addressing some unseen person.
"The superseding of steam, aerial locomotion,
and the education of the common people, black and
white. One other may come--the freeing of the
slaves--but the others are sure. Science, not money,
nor family traditions, nor questions of birth, will
shape the destinies of the country. We may not live
to see it, but Oliver will, and I want him to be where
he can help on the movement. You were opposed to
his becoming a scientist, and I feel assured made a
mistake. Don't stand in his way again, dear."
"Yes, Richard, I was opposed to it, because I did
not want him to waste his time over all sorts of foolish
experiments, which would certainly--" She did
not finish the sentence. Her anxiety had not yet
gone as far as that. With a quick gesture she rose
from her chair and drawing her white gossamer
shawl about her shoulders--left the room and walked
out onto the front steps, followed by Richard.
If the inventor heard the thrust he did not reply.
He would not argue with his wife over it, nor did it
check the flow of his courtesy. She had never seen
the value of what he was striving for, but she would
in time he knew.
"Yes, I think it is cooler out here," was all he
said, as he placed a cushion to soften her seat on
the threshold. When he had arranged another pillow
behind her back and hunted round the dark parlor
for a stool for her feet, he found a chair for
himself and sat down beside her. She thanked him,
but her thoughts were evidently far away. She was
weighing in her mind what must be her next move
if Oliver persisted in this new departure. Richard
broke the silence.
"I haven't told you of the good offer I've had
for the farm, Sallie."
"No, but we're not going to sell it, of course."
She was leaning back against the jamb of the door
as she spoke, the shawl hanging loose, her delicate
white hands in her lap. It was an idle answer to
an idle question, for her mind was still with
"Well, I hadn't thought of doing so until to-day,"
he answered, slowly, "but I had a notice from the
bank that they must call in the mortgage, and so I
thought I might as well sell the whole place, pay
off the debt, and use the balance for--"
"Sell the farm, Richard?" It was her hand now
that sought his, and with a firm grasp as if she would
restrain him then and there in his purpose.
"Yes, I can get several thousand dollars over and
above the mortgage, and I need the money, Sallie.
It will only be a temporary matter--" and he
smoothed her arm tenderly, speaking as a lover of
long standing might do who is less absorbed with the
caress than with the subject under discussion. "The
motor will be ready in a few weeks--as soon as the
new batteries are finished. Then, my dear, you won't
have to curtail your expenses as you have done." His
voice was full of hope now, a smile lighting his face
as he thought of all the pleasure and comfort his
success would bring her.
"But you said that same thing when you were
working on the steam-valve, for which you put that
very mortgage on the farm, and now that's all gone
"The failure of the steam-valve, as I have always
told you, was due to my own carelessness, Sallie. I
should have patented it sooner. They are making
enormous sums on it, I hear, and are using my cut-
off, and I think dishonestly. But the motor has
been protected at every new step that I have taken.
My first patent of August 13, 1856, supersedes all
others, and cannot be shaken. Now, my dear, don't
worry about it--you have never known me to fail,
and I won't now. Besides, you forget my successes,
Sallie--the turbine water-wheel and the others. It
will all come, right."
"It will never come right." She had risen from
her seat, and was standing over, him, both hands on
his shoulders, her eyes looking down into his, her
voice trembling. "Oh, Richard, Richard! Give up
this life of dreams you are living, and go back to
your law-office. You always succeeded in the law.
This new career of yours is ruining us. I can economize,
dear, just as I have always done," she added,
with another sudden change of tone, bending over
him and slipping her hand caressingly into his. "I
will do everything to help you. I did not mean to
be cross a moment ago. I was worried about Oliver's
talk. I have been silent so long--I must speak.
Don't be angry, dear, but you must keep the farm.
I will go myself and see about the mortgage at the
bank--we cannot--we must not; go on this way--
we will have nothing left."
He patted her arm again in his gentle way--not
to calm her fears, he knew so well that she was wrong,
but to quiet the nerves that he thought unstrung.
"But I need this extra money for some improvements
"Yes, I know you THINK so, but you don't, Richard,
you don't?" For Heaven's sake, throw the motor
out into the street, and be done with it. It will ruin
us all if things go on as they have done."
The inventor raised his eyes quickly. He had
never seen her so disturbed in all their married life.
She had never spoken in this way before.
"Don't excite yourself, Sallie," he said, gravely,
and with a certain air of authority in his manner.
"You'll bring on one of your headaches--it will all
come right. Come, my dear, let us go into the house.
People are passing, and will wonder."
She followed him back into the drawing-room, his
hand still held fast in hers.
"Promise me one thing," she said, stopping at
the door and looking up into his eyes, "and I won't
say another word. Please do nothing more about the
farm unless you let me know. Let me think first
how I can help. It will all come out right, as you
say, but it will be because we will make it come
right, dear." She drew his face down toward her
with one hand and kissed him tenderly on his cheek.
Then she bade him good-night and resumed her seat
by the window, to watch for Oliver's return.
Try as she would, she could not banish her fears.
The news of Richard's intention to pay off the loan by
selling the farm had sent a shudder through her heart
such as she had never before experienced, for that
which she had dreaded had come to pass. Loyal as
she had always been to her husband, and proud as she
was of his genius and accomplishments, and sympathetic
as they were in all else that their lives touched
upon, her keen, penetrating mind had long since divined
the principal fault that lay at the bottom of her
husband's genius. She saw that the weak point in his
make-up was not his inventive quality, but his inability
to realize any practical results from his inventions
when perfected. She saw, too, with equal
certainty how rapidly their already slender means
were being daily depleted in costly experiments--
many of which were abandoned as soon as tried, and
she knew full well that the end was but a question
of time. Even when he had abandoned the law, and
had exchanged his office near the Court-house for his
shop in the back yard, and had given his library to
his young students, she had not despaired; she still
had faith in his genius.
She had first become uneasy when the new steam
cut-off had failed to reimburse him. When this catastrophe
was followed by his losing every dollar of his
interest in the improved cotton-gin, because of his
generosity to a brother inventor, her uneasiness had
become the keenest anxiety. And now here was this
new motor, in which he seemed more absorbed than
in any other of his inventions. This was to plunge
them into still greater difficulties and jeopardize even
Richard had not been disturbed by it all. Serene
and hopeful always, the money question had counted
for nothing with him. His compensation lay in the
fact that his theories had been proved true. More-
over, there were, he knew, other inventions ahead,
and more important discoveries to be made. If
money were necessary, these new inventions would
supply it. Such indifference to practical questions
was an agony to one of her temperament, burdened
as she was by the thought of their increasing daily
expenses, the magnitude of which Richard never
seemed to appreciate.
And yet until to-night, when Richard had made
his announcement about the mortgage, she had made
no protest, uttered no word of censure. Neither had
any jar or discord ever disturbed the sweet harmony
of their home-life. And she had only behaved as
any other wife in Kennedy Square would have done
in like circumstances. Remonstrances against a husband's
business methods were never made in the best
families. In his own house Richard was master. So
she had suffered on and held her peace, while Richard
walked with his head in the clouds, unconscious
of her doubts. The situation must now be met, and
she determined to face it with all her might. "The
farm shall not be sacrificed, if I can help it," she
kept repeating to herself; "any economy is better
than that disaster."
When at last the shock of the news of the threatened
disaster had passed, and she had regained her
customary composure, she decided to act at once and
at head-quarters, outside of Richard's help or knowledge.
She would send for Colonel Clayton, one of
the directors of the bank, in the morning, and see
what could be done to postpone for a time the bank's
action. This would give her time to think what next
could best be done to save the property. This settled
in her mind, she gave herself up to the more
important and pressing need of the moment--the
dissuading of Oliver from this new act of folly.
At the end of an hour she was still sitting by the
drawing-room window, straining her eyes across the
Square, noting every figure that passed into the radiance
of the moonlight, her mind becoming clearer
as her indomitable will, which had never failed her
in domestic crises, began to assert itself.
When her eye fell at last upon her son, he was
walking with swinging gait up the long path across
the Square, whistling as he came, his straw hat tilted
on one side, his short coat flying free. He had taken
Sue home, and the two had sat on her father's steps
in the moonlight long after the other boys and girls
had scattered to their homes. The Colonel had come
in while they were talking, and had bade them good-
night and gone up to bed.
Girl as she was, Sue already possessed that subtle
power of unconscious coquetry which has distinguished
all the other Sue Claytons of all the other
Kennedy Squares the South over since the days of
Pocahontas. She had kept Oliver's mind away from
the subject that engrossed him, and on herself; and
when, at last, standing between the big columns of
the portico she had waved her hand, good-night, and
had gained his promise to stop in the morning on his
way to the office, for just another word, she felt
sure that his every thought was of her. Then she
had closed the big front door--she was the last person
in the house awake--and tripped upstairs, not
lighting her candle until she had peeped through her
shutters, and had found him standing on the other
side of the street looking toward the house. He made
a handsome picture of a lover, as he stood in the
moonlight, and Sue smiled complacently to herself
at the delicate attention paid her, but Oliver's eyes,
the scribe is ashamed to say, were not fixed on the
particular pair of green blinds that concealed this
adorable young lady, certainly not with any desire to
break through their privacy. One of the unforgivable
sins--nay, one of the impossible sins--about Kennedy
Square would have been to have recognized a lady
who looked, even during the daytime, out from a
bedroom window: much less at night. That was why
Sue did not open her blinds.
Nor, indeed, was Oliver occupied with the question
of Sue's blinds at all. He had for the moment
in fact completely forgotten the existence of his lady-
love. He was, if the truth must be told, studying
the wonderful effect of the white light of the moon
flooding with its radiance the columns and roof of the
Clayton house, the dark magnolias silhouetted against
the flight of steps and the indigo-blue of the sky. He
had already formulated in his mind the palette with
which he would paint it, and had decided that the magnolias
were blue-black and not green, and the steps
greenish-white. He had, furthermore, determined to
make an outline of it in the daylight, and talk to Mr.
Crocker about it. Sue's eyes, which but a moment before
had so charmed him, no longer lingered in his
memory--nor even in any one of the far corners of his
head and heart. It was only when her light flashed up
that he awoke to the realization of what he was doing,
and even this breach of good manners was forgotten
by him in his delight over the effect which the
red glow of the candle gave to the whole composition.
With the picture clearly stamped upon his brain,
he turned and stepped quickly across the Square, and
in another moment he had thrown his mother a kiss
through the window, and rushing inside had caught
her in his arms.
"Poor motherkins--and you all alone," he cried.
"Why, I thought you and father had gone to bed
"No, son--I was waiting for you." He laid his
fresh young face against hers, insisting that she must
go to bed at once; helping her upstairs awkwardly,
laughing as he went--telling her she was the sweetest
girl he ever knew and his best sweetheart--kissing
her pale cheeks as they climbed the steps together
to his room.
She had determined, as she sat by the window,
to talk to him of what she had overheard him say to
Sue, and of her anxiety over Richard's revelations,
but his joyous kiss had robbed her of the power. She
would wait for another time--she said to herself--
not to-night, when he was so happy.
"Anybody at Sue's, Ollie?" she asked, lighting
"Only the boys and girls--Tom Pitts, Charley
Bowman, Nellie Talbot, and one or two others. The
Colonel came in just before I left."
"But the Colonel will be home to-morrow, will
he not?" she asked, quickly, as if something forgotten
had been suddenly remembered.
"Yes--think so--" answered Oliver, taking off
his coat and hanging it over the chair--"because he
was just up from Pongateague. He and Major Pitts
got thirty-seven woodcock in two days. Tom wants
me to go down with him some day next week. "
A shade of anxiety crossed the mother's face.
"What did you tell him, son?" She moved a
chair nearer the bureau and sat down to watch him
undress, as she had always done since the day she
first tucked him into his crib.
"Oh, I said I would ask you." He was loosening
his cravat, his chin thrown up, the light of the candle
falling over his well-knit shoulders and chest
outlined through his white shirt.
"Better not go, Ollie--you've been away so much
"Oh, dearie," he protested, in a tone as a child
would have done, "what does a day or two matter?
Be a darling old mother and let me go. Tom has a
gun for me, and Mr. Talbot is going to lend us his
red setter. Tom's sister is going, too, and so are her
cousins. Just think, now, I haven't had a day in the
country for a coon's age." His arms were round her
neck now. He seemed happier over the excuse to
caress her than anxious about her possible refusal.
She loosened one of his hands and laid it on her
"No holidays, son? Why you had two last week,
when you all went out to Stemmer's Run," she said,
looking up into his face, his hand still in hers.
"Yes, but that was fishing!" he laughed as he
waved an imaginary rod in his hands.
"And the week before, when you spent the day
at Uncle Tilghman's?" she continued, smiling sadly
at him, but with the light of an ill-concealed admiration
on her face.
"Ah, but mother, I went to see the Lely! That's
an education. Oh, that portrait in pink!" He was
serious now, looking straight down into her eyes--
talking with his hands, one thumb in air as if it
were a bit of charcoal and he was outlining the Lely
on an equally real canvas. "Such color, mother--
such an exquisite poise of the head and sweep to the
shoulder--" and the thumb described a curve in the
air as if following every turn of Lely's brush.
Her eyes followed his gestures--she loved his enthusiasm,
although she wished it had been about
"And you don't get any education out of the
"No, I wish I did." The joyous look on his face
was gone now--his hand had fallen to his side. "It
gets to be more of a muddle every day--" and then
he added, with the illogical reasoning of youth--"all
the lawyers that ever lived couldn't paint a picture
like the Lely."
Mrs. Horn closed her eyes. It was on her tongue
to tell him she knew what was in his heart, but she
stopped; no, not to-night, she said firmly to herself,
and shut her lips tight--a way she had of bracing
her nerves in such emergencies.
Oliver in turn saw the expression of anxiety that
crossed his mother's face and the thin drawn line of
the lips. One word from her and he would have
poured out his heart. Then some shadow that crossed
her face silenced him. "No, not to-night--" he said
to himself. "She has been sitting up for me and
is tired--I'll tell her to-morrow."
"Don't go with Tom Pitts, my son," she said, calmly.
"I'd rather you'd stay; I don't want you to go
this time. Perhaps a little later--" and a slight shiver
went through her as she rose from her chair and
moved toward him.
He made no protest. Her final word was always
law to him--not because she dominated him, but because
his nature was always to be in harmony with
the thing he loved. Because, too, underneath it all
was that quality of tenderness to all women old and
young, which forbade him to cause one of them pain.
Almost unconsciously to himself he had gone through
a process by which from having yielded her the obedience
of a child, he now surrendered to her the
pleasures of his youth when the old feeling of maternal
dominance still controlled her in her attitude
to him. She did not recognize the difference, and
he had but half-perceived it, but the difference had
already transformed him from a boy into a man,
though with unrecognized powers of stability as yet.
In obeying his mother, then at twenty-two, or even
in meeting the whims and conceits of his sweethearts,
this quality of tenderness to the woman was always
uppermost in his heart. The surrender of a moment's
pleasure seemed so little to him compared to
the expression of pain he could see cross their faces.
He had so much to make him happy--what mattered
it if out of a life so full he should give up any one
thing to please his mother.
Patting him on the cheek and kissing him on the
neck, as she had so often done when some sudden
wave of affection overwhelmed her, she bade him
good-night at last.
Once outside in the old-fashioned hall, she stopped
for a moment, her eyes fixed on the floor, the light
from the hall-lamp shining on her silver hair and
the shawl about her shoulders, and said slowly to
herself, as if counting each word:
"What--can I do--to save this boy--from--himself?"
A MESSAGE OF IMPORTANCE
Richard, when he waked, made no allusion to the
mortgage nor to his promise the night before, to take
no steps in the matter without her consent, nor could
Mrs. Horn see that the inventor had given the subject
further thought. He came in to breakfast with
his usual serenity of mien, kissed her gallantly
on the cheek--in all their married life this dear old
gentleman had never forgotten this breakfast kiss--
and taking his seat opposite her, he picked up the
new Scientific Review, just in by the morning mail,
and began cutting the leaves. She tried to draw him
into conversation by asking him when the note on
the mortgage was due, but his mind was doubtless
absorbed by some problem suggested by the Review
before him, for without answering--he, of course,
had not heard her--he rose from his chair, excused
himself for a moment, opened a book in his library,
studied it leisurely, and only resumed his seat when
Malachi gently touched his elbow and said:
"Coffee purty nigh done sp'ilt, Marse Richard."
Breakfast over, Richard picked up his letters,
and with that far-away look in his eyes which his
wife knew so well, walked to the closet, took down
his long red calico gown, slipped it over his coat,
and with a loving pat on his wife's shoulder as he
passed, and with the request that no one but Nathan
should see him that morning, made his way through
the damp brick-paved back yard to the green door of
his "li'l" room.
Mrs. Horn watched his retreating figure from the
window--his head bent, his soft hair stirred by the
morning air, falling about his shoulders. His serenity;
his air of abstraction; of being wrapped in
the clouds as it were--borne aloft by the power of
a thought altogether beyond her, baffled her as it
always did. She could not follow his flights when
he was in one of these uplifted moods. She could
only watch and wait until he returned again to the
common ground of their daily love and companionship.
Brushing a quick tear from her eyes with an impatient
sigh, she directed Malachi to go to Oliver's
room and tell him he must get up at once, as she
wanted him to carry a message of importance. She
had herself rapped at her son's door as she passed
on her way downstairs, and Malachi had already paid
two visits to the same portal--one with Oliver's shoes
and one on his own account. He had seen his mistress's
anxiety, and knowing that his young master
had come in late the night before, had mistaken the
cause, charging Mrs. Horn's perturbation to Oliver's
account. The only response Oliver had made to
either of his warnings had been a smothered yawn
and a protest at being called at daylight. On his third
visit Malachi was more insistent, the hall-clock by
that time having struck nine.
"Ain't you out'en dat bed yit, Marse Oliver? Dis
yere's de third time I been yere. Better git up; yo'
ma's gittin' onres'less."
"Coming, Mally. Tell mother I'll be down right
away," called Oliver, springing out of bed. Malachi
stepped softly downstairs again, bowed low to his
mistress, and with a perfectly straight face said:
"He's mos' ready, mistis. Jes' a-breshin' ob his
ha'r when I opened de do'. Spec' Marse Oliver overslep'
hisse'f, or maybe nobody ain't call him--"
He could not bear to hear the boy scolded. He
had begun to shield his young master in the days
when he carried him on his shoulder, and he would
still shade the truth for him whenever he considered
necessity required it.
When Oliver at last came downstairs it was by
means of the hand-rail as a slide, a dash through the
hall and a bound into the breakfast-room, followed
by a joyous good-morning, meeting his mother's
"How could you be so late, my boy," without any
defence of his conduct, putting one hand under her
chin and the other around her neck, and kissing her
where her white hair parted over her forehead.
Malachi waited an instant, breathing freer when
he found that his statement regarding Oliver's toilet
had passed muster, and then shuffled off to the kitchen
for hot waffles and certain other comforting viands
that Aunt Hannah, the cook, had kept hot for her
young master, Malachi's several reports having confirmed
her suspicions that Oliver, as usual, would
be half an hour late.
"What a morning, motherkins," Oliver cried.
"Such a sky, all china-blue and white. Oh, you just
ought to see how fine the old church looms up behind
the trees. I'm going to paint that some day,
from my window. Dad had his breakfast?" and he
glanced at the empty seat and plate. "Sausage, eh?
Mally, got any for me?" and he dragged up his
chair beside her, talking all the time as he spread
his napkin and drew the dishes toward him.
He never once noticed her anxious face, he was
so full of his own buoyant happiness. She did not
check his enthusiasm. This breakfast-hour alone
with her boy--he was almost always later than Richard
--was the happiest of the day. But her heart
was too heavy this morning to enjoy it. Instead of
listening with her smile of quiet satisfaction, answering
him now and then with a gayety of humor which
matched his own, she was conscious only of the waiting
for an opportunity to break into his talk with
out jarring upon his mood. At last, with a hesitating
emphasis that would have alarmed anyone less
wrapped in his own content than her son, she
"Ollie, when you finish your breakfast I want you,
on your way to Judge Ellicott's office, to stop at
Colonel Clayton's and ask him to be good enough
to come and see me as soon as he can on a little
matter of business. Tell him I will keep him but a
minute. If you hurry, my son, you'll catch him before
he leaves the house."
The die was cast now. She had taken her first
step without Richard's hand to guide her--the
first in all her life. It was pain to do it--the
more exquisite because she loved to turn to him
for guidance or relief, to feel the sense of his
protection. Heretofore he had helped her in every
domestic emergency, his soft, gentle hand soothing
and quieting her, when troubles arose. She had
wavered during the night between her duty to her
family in saving the farm, and her duty to her husband
in preserving unbroken the tie of loyal dependence
that had always bound them together. Many
emotions had shaken her as she lay awake, her eyes
fixed on the flutings in the canopy of the high-post
bedstead which the night-lamp faintly illumined,
Richard asleep beside her, dreaming doubtless of cogs
and pulleys and for the hundredth time of his finding
the one connecting link needed to complete the
chain of his success.
But before the day had broken, her keen, penetrating
mind had cut through the fog of her doubts.
Come what may, the farm should never be given up.
Richard, for all his urgent need of money to perfect
his new motor, should not be allowed to sacrifice
this the only piece of landed property which they
possessed, except the roof that sheltered them all.
The farm saved, she would give her attention to
Oliver's future career. On one point her mind was
firmly made up--he should never, in spite of what his
father said, become a painter.
Oliver hurried through his breakfast, cut short
Malachi's second relay of waffles to the great
disappointment of that excellent servitor, and with his
mother's message for the moment firmly fixed in his
mind, tilted his hat on one side of his head and started
across Kennedy Square, whistling as he went.
Mrs. Horn moved her seat to the window and
looked out upon the brick-paved yard. The door of
the shop was shut. Richard was already at work, for
a thin curl of blue smoke was rising from the chimney.
As she sat looking out upon the tulip-tree and
the ivy-covered wall beyond, a strange, unaccountable
sense of loneliness new in her experience came over
her. The lines about her mouth settled more firmly,
and the anxious look that had filled her eyes changed
to one of determination.
"Nobody can help," she said to herself with a sigh.
"I must do it all myself;" and picking up her basket
of keys she mounted slowly to her room.
Once outside the front door, with the fresh, clear
air stirring to a silver-white the leaves of the maples,
the birds singing in the branches and the sky glistening
overhead, one of those sudden changes of mood
to which our young hero was subject swept over him.
The picture of the dear mother whom he loved and
whose anxious face had at last filled his thoughts,
by some shifting of the gray matter of this volatile
young gentleman's brain had suddenly become replaced
Pretty Sue Clayton, her black eyes snapping with
fun, her hand so soon to be outstretched in welcome,
was now the dominating figure in his mental horizon.
Even Sir Peter Lely's girl in pink and the woodcock
shooting with Tom Pitts, and all the other delights
that had filled his brain had become things of the
past as he thought of Sue's greeting. For the time
being this black-eyed little witch with the ringlets
about her face had complete possession of him.
He had not thought of her, it is true, for five consecutive
minutes since he had bidden her good-night
ten hours ago; and he would, I am quite sure, have
forgotten even his promise to see her this morning
had not his mother's message made his going to her
house imperative. And yet, now that the prospect
of having a glimpse of her face was assured, he could
hardly wait until he reached her side.
Not that he had some new thing to tell her--
something that had bubbled up fresh from the depths
of his heart over-night. Indeed, had that portion of
this young gentleman's anatomy been searched with
a dark lantern, it can safely be said that not the
slightest suggestion of this fair inamorata's form or
lineaments would have been found lurking in any
one of its recesses. Furthermore, I can state positively
--and I knew this young gentleman quite well
at the time--that it was not Sue at all that he longed
for at this precise moment, even though he hurried
to meet her. It was more the WOMAN IN HER--the
something that satisfied his inner nature when he
was with her--her coy touches of confidence, her artless
outbursts of admiration, looking up in his face
as she spoke, the dimples playing about the corners
of her mouth. He revelled in all those subtle flatteries
and cajoleries, and in all the arts to please of
which she was past mistress. He loved to believe
her--she intended that he should--when she told him
how different he was from anybody about Kennedy
Square, and how nobody swam or rode or danced as
he did; nor wore their hair so becomingly, nor their
clothes--especially the gray jacket buttoned up close
under the chin, not carried themselves as they
Why go on? We all know exactly how she said it,
and how sincere she seemed, and how we believed it
all (and do now, some of us), and how blissful it was
to sit beside her and hear her voice and know that this
most adorable of women really believed that the
very sun itself rose and set in our own adorable
Because of all this and of many other things with
which we have nothing to do, our young hero saw
only Sue's eyes when that maiden, who had been
watching for him at the library window, laid her
hand on the lapel of his coat in her coaxing way. No
wonder he had forgotten everything which his mother
had asked him to do. I can forgive him under the
circumstances--and so can you. Soft hands are very
beguiling, sometimes--and half-closed lids--Well!
It is a good many years ago, but there are some
things that none of us ever forget.
Blinded by such fascinations it is not at all astonishing
that long before Oliver regained his senses the
Colonel had left the house for the day. That distinguished
gentleman would, no doubt, have waited
the young prince's pleasure in his library had he
known of his errand. But since the Colonel had
unfortunately taken himself off, there was nothing, of
course, for our Oliver to do but to remain where he
was until noon--this was Sue's way out of the difficulty
--and then to catch the Colonel at the bank
where he could always be found between twelve and
one o'clock, or where Mr. Stiger, the cashier, could
lay his hands on him if he was anywhere in the neighborhood,
a suggestion of Sue's which at once relieved
Oliver from further anxiety, Mr. Stiger being one
of his oldest and dearest friends.
By the time, however, that Oliver had reached the
bank the Colonel had left for the club, where he
would have been too happy, no doubt--being the
most courteous of colonels, etc., etc.--"if his dear
young friend had only sent him word," etc.
All this our breathless young Mercury--Oliver
never walked when he could run--learned some hours
later from old Mr. Stiger, the cashier, who punched
him in the ribs at the end of every sentence in which
he conveyed the disappointing information, calling
him "Creeps," at short intervals, and roaring with
laughter at the boy's account of the causes leading up
to his missing the Colonel.
"Gone to the club, Creeps, don't I tell you
(--punch in the ribs--); gone to get a little sip of
Madeira and a little bit of woodcock (--punch over
the heart--), and a little--oh, I tell you, you young
dog--" (this punch straight on the breast-bone)--
"you ought to be a bank director--you hear!--a big
fat bank director, and own a big house up in the
Square, if you want to enjoy yourself--and have a
pretty daughter--Oh, you young rascal!" This last
punch bent Oliver double, and was followed by an
outburst of uncontrollable laughter from Stiger.
These same punchings and outbursts had gone on
since the days that Oliver was in short trousers and
Stiger was superintendent of the Sunday-school which
the boy had attended in his early years--Stiger was
still superintendent and of the same school: cashiers
had to have certificates of character in those days.
A smooth-shaven, round-headed old fellow was
Stiger, with two little dabs of side-whiskers, a pair
of eyes that twinkled behind a pair of gold spectacles,
and a bald head kept polished by the constant mopping
of a red silk handkerchief. His costume in the
bank was a black alpaca coat and high black satin
stock, which grabbed him tight around the neck, and
held in place the two points of his white collar struggling
to be free. Across his waist-line was a square
of cloth. This, in summer, replaced his waistcoat,
and, in winter, protected it from being rubbed into
holes by constant contact with the edge of the counter.
His intimacy with Oliver dated from one hot Sunday
morning years before, when Oliver had broken
in upon the old gentleman's long prayers by sundry
scrapings of his finger-nails down the whitewashed
wall of the school-room, producing a blood-cooling
and most irreverent sound, much to the discomfort
of the worshippers.
"Who made that noise?" asked Mr. Stiger, when
the amen was reached.
"To get cool. It makes creeps go down my back."
From that day the old cashier had never called
Oliver anything but "Creeps."
Oliver, in a spirit of playful revenge, made caricatures
of his prosecutor in these later years, enlarging
his nose, puffing out his cheeks, and dressing him
up in impossible clothes. These sketches he would
mail to the cashier as anonymous communications,
always stopping at the bank the next day to see how
Stiger enjoyed them. He generally found them
tacked up over the cashier's desk. Some of them
were still there when Stiger died.
Carried away by the warm greetings of the old
cashier, and the hearty, whole-souled spirit of
companionship inherent in the man--a spirit always dear
to Oliver--he not only stayed to make another caricature
of the old fellow, over which the original
laughed until the tears ran down his fat cheeks, but
until all the old sketches were once more taken from
the drawer or examined on the wall and laughed at
over again, Stiger praising him for his cleverness
and predicting all kinds of honors and distinctions
for him when his talents become recognized. It
was just the atmosphere of general approval in which
our young hero loved to bask, and again the hours
slipped away and three o'clock came and went and
his mother's message was still undelivered. Nor had
he been at Judge Ellicott's office. This fact was not
impressed upon him by the moon-faced clock that
hung over the cashier's desk--time made no difference
to Oliver--but by the cashier himself, who began
stuffing the big books into a great safe built into
the wall, preparatory to locking it with a key that
could have opened the gate of a walled town, and
which the old gentleman took home with him every
night and hung on a nail by his bed.
Thus it came to pass that another half hour had
struck before Oliver mounted the steps of the Chesapeake
Club in search of the elusive Colonel.
The fat, mahogany-colored porter, who sat all day
in the doorway of the club, dozing in his lobster-
shell bath-chair, answered his next inquiry. This
ancient relic; who always boasted that no gentleman
member of the club, dead or alive, could pass him
without being recognized, listened to Oliver's request
with a certain lifeless air--a manner always shown to
strangers--and shuffled away to the reading-room to
find the Colonel.
The occupant of this bath-chair was not only one
of the characters of the club but one of the characters
of the town. He was a squat, broken-kneed old
darky, with white eyebrows arching over big brass
spectacles, a flat nose, and two keen, restless monkey
eyes. His hands, like those of many negroes of his
age, were long and shrivelled, the palms wrinkled as
the inside, of a turkey's foot and of the same color
and texture. His two feet, always in evidence, rested
on their heels, and were generally encased in carpet
slippers--shoes being out of the question owing to his
life-long habit of storing inside his own person the
drainings of the decanters, an idiosyncrasy which
produced a form of gout that only carpet slippers
could alleviate. In his earlier life he had carried General
Washington around in his arms, had waited on
Henry Clay, and had been body-servant to Lafayette,
besides holding the horses of half the generals of the
War of 1812--at, least, he said so, and no man of
his color dared contradict him.
The years of service of this guardian of the front
door dated back to the time when the Chippendale
furniture of Colonel Ralph Coston, together with
many of the portraits covering the walls, and the silver
chafing-dishes lining the sideboard, had come into the
possession of the club through that gentleman's last
will and testament. Coston was the most beloved of
all the epicures of his time, and his famous terrapin-
stew--one of the marvellous, delicacies of the period
--had been cooked in these same chafing-dishes. The
mahogany-colored Cerberus had been Coston's slave
as well as butler, and still belonged to the estate. It
was eminently proper, therefore, that he should still
maintain his position at the club as long as his feet
While he was gone in search of the Colonel, Oliver
occupied himself for a moment in examining one
of the old English sporting prints that ornamented the
side-walls of the bare, uncarpeted, dismal hall. It was
the second time that he had entered these sacred doors
--few men of his own age had ever done as much.
He had stopped there once before in search of his
father, when his mother had been taken suddenly
ill. He recalled again the curious spiral staircase
at the end of the hall where his father had met him
and which had impressed him so at the time. He
could see, too, the open closet out of which Mr.
Horn had taken his overcoat, and which was now
half-filled with hats and coats.
From the desolate, uninviting hall, Oliver passed
into the large meeting-room of the club fronting the
street, now filled with members, many of whom had
dropped in for half an hour on their way back to
their offices. Of these some of the older and more
sedate men, like Judge Bowman and Mr. Pancoast,
were playing chess; others were seated about the
small tables, reading, sipping toddies, or chatting
together. A few of the younger bloods, men of forty
or thereabouts, were standing by the uncurtained
windows watching the belles of the town in their
flounced dresses and wide leghorn hats, out for an
afternoon visit or promenade. Among these men
Oliver recognized Howard Thom, son of the Chief-
Justice, poor as a church mouse and fifty years of
age if a day. Oliver was not surprised to find Thom
craning his neck at the window. He remembered
the story they told of this perennial beau--of how
he had been in love with every woman in and around
Kennedy Square, from Miss Clendenning down to
the latest debutante, and of how he would tell you
over his first toddy that he had sown his wild oats
and was about to settle down for life, and over his
last--the sixth, or seventh, or eighth--that the most
adorable woman in town, after a life devoted to her
service, had thrown him over, and that henceforth all
that was left to him was a load of buckshot and six
feet of earth.
Oliver bowed to those of the members he knew,
and wheeling one of the clumsy mahogany chairs
into position, sat down to await the arrival of Colonel
Meanwhile his eyes wandered over the desolate
room with its leather-covered chairs and sofas and
big marble mantel bare of every ornament but another
moon-faced clock--a duplicate of the one at
the bank--and two bronze candelabra flanking each
end, and then on the portraits of the dead and gone
members which relieved the sombre walls--one in
a plum-colored coat with hair tied in a queue being
no other than his own ancestor. He wondered to
himself where lay the charm and power to attract in
a place so colorless, and he thought, as was his habit
with all interiors, how different he would want it to
be if he ever became a member. His fresh young
nature revolted at the dinginess and bareness of the
surroundings. He couldn't understand why the men
came here and what could be the fascination of sitting
round these cold tables talking by the hour
when there was so much happiness outside--so much
of light and air and sunshine free to everybody.
He was, moreover, a little constrained and uncomfortable.
There was none of the welcome of Mr.
Crocker's studio about this place, nor any of the
comforting companionship of the jolly old cashier,
who made the minutes fly as if they had wings; and
that, too, in a musty bank far more uninviting
even than the club. He remembered his mother's
message now--and he remembered her face and the
anxious expression--as we always remember duties
when we are uncomfortable. He meant to hurry
home to her as soon as the Colonel dismissed him, and
tell her how it had all happened, and how sorry he
was, and what a stupid he had been, and she would
forgive him as she had a hundred times before.
As he sat absorbed in these thoughts his attention
was attracted by a conversation at the adjoining table
between that dare-devil cross-country rider, Tom
Gunning of Calvert County, old General McTavish
of the Mexican War, and Billy Talbot the exquisite.
Gunning was in his corduroys and hunting-boots.
He always wore them when he came to town,
even when dining with his friends. He had them
on now, the boots being specially in evidence, one
being hooked over the chair on which he sat and within
a foot of Oliver's elbow. None of these peculiarities,
however, made the slightest difference in Kennedy
Square, so far as Gunning's social position was
concerned--Tom's mother having been a Carroll and
his grandfather once Governor of the State.
The distinguished cross-country rider was telling
General McTavish, immaculate in black wig, blue
coat, pepper-and-salt trousers and patent-leather
shoes, and red-faced Billy Talbot, of an adventure
that he, Gunning, had had the night before while driving
home to his plantation. The exquisite's costume
was in marked contrast to those of the other two--it
was his second change that day. At this precise moment
he was upholstered in peg-top, checker-board
trousers, bob-tail Piccadilly coat, and a one-inch brim
straw hat, all of the latest English pattern. Everything,
in fact, that Billy possessed was English, from
a rimless monocle decorating his left eye, down to the
animated door-mat of a skye-terrier that followed at
Oliver saw from the way in which McTavish
leaned over the table, protecting the tray with his
two arms, that he was in command of the decanter,
and that the duty of alleviating the thirst of his
companions had devolved upon the General. Billy Talbot
sat with his hat tipped back on his head, his chin
resting on his abbreviated cane, his eyes fixed on
Gunning. Both McTavish and Talbot were listening
intently to the cross-country rider's story.
"And you say you were sober, Gunning?" Oliver
heard the General ask, with a scrutinizing look at
Tom. Not with any humorous intent--more with
the manner of a presiding officer at a court-martial,
determined to establish certain essential facts.
"As a clock, General. The first thing I knew the
mare shied and I came pretty near landin' in the dirt."
(The lower county men always dropped their g's.)
"He was lyin', I tell you, right across the road. If it
hadn't been for Kitty, I would have run him down. I
got out and held onto the reins, and there he was, sir,
stretched out as drunk as a lord, flat on his back and
sound asleep. I saw right away that he was a gentleman,
and I tied the mare to a tree, picked him up
with the greatest care, laid him on the side of the
road, put his hat under his head, and made him
as comfortable as I could, when, by George, sir! I
hadn't any more than got back to my buggy, when
bang! went a ball within a foot of my head!"
The General, who, as he listened, had been repointing
the waxed ends of his dyed mustache with
his lemon-colored kid gloves, now leaned back in his
"Fired at you, sir?" The General had served
both at Chapultepec and Buena Vista, and was an authority
where gunpowder was concerned.
"That's just what he did. Came near takin' the
top of my head off! Hadn't been so dark he would
have done it."
"Good God! you don't tell me so!" exclaimed the
General, mopping his lips with his perfumed handkerchief.
"Were you armed, Gunning?"
"No, sir, I was entirely at his mercy and absolutely
defenceless. Well, I grabbed the reins to quiet
the mare and then I hollered out--'What the devil
do you mean, sir, by tryin' to blow the top of my
head off?' I could see now that he had raised himself
up on his elbow and was lookin' at me in a way
I did not like.
"'What do you mean by disturbin' my rest, sir,'
he called back.
"'Well, but my dear sir, you were lyin' in the
middle of the road and might have been run
"'It's none of your business where I lie,' he hollered
back. 'I go to sleep where I damn please, sir.
I consider it a very great liberty.'
"'I, beg your pardon, sir,' I said. 'I did not intend
any trespass--' I was walkin' toward him now.
I did not want him to shoot again.
"'That's sufficient, sir,' he said. 'No gentleman
can do more. There's my hand, sir. Allow me, sir,
to offer you a drink. If you will roll me over, you
will find my flask in my coat-tail pocket.'
"Well, I rolled him over, took a drink, and then
I brought the mare alongside, helped him in and
drove him home to my house. He was a most delightful
gentleman. Didn't leave my place until four
o'clock in the mornin'. He lives about fifteen miles
below me. He told me his name was Toffington. Do
you happen to know him, Talbot?" said Gunning,
turning to Billy.
"Toffington, Toffington," said Billy, dropping his
eye-glasses with a movement of his eyebrows. He
had listened to the story without the slightest comment.
"No, Tom, unless he is one of those upper
county men. There was a fellow I met in London
last year--" (Billy pronounced it "larst yarh," to
Oliver's infinite amusement) "with some such name
as that. He and I went over to Kew Gardens with
the Duke of--."
Gunning instantly turned around with an impatient
gesture--nobody ever listened to one of Billy's
London stories, they being the never-ending jokes
around Kennedy Square--faced the General again,
much to Oliver's regret, who would have loved above
all things to hear Billy descant on his English experiences.
"Do you, General, know anybody named Toffington?"
"No, Gunning--but here comes Clayton, he knows
everybody in the State that is worth knowing. What
you have told me is most extraordinary--most extraordinary,
Gunning. It only goes to show how necessary
it is for every man to be prepared for emergencies
of this kind. You should never go unarmed,
sir. You had a very narrow escape--a very narrow
escape, Gunning. Here, Clayton--come over here."
Oliver pulled his face into long lines. The picture
of Gunning taking a drink with a man who a moment
before had tried to blow the top of his head off, and
the serious way in which the coterie about the table
regarded the incident, so excited the boy's risibles
that he would have laughed outright had not his eye
rested on the Colonel walking toward him.
The Colonel, evidently, did not hear McTavish's
call. His mind was occupied with something much
more important. He had been finishing a game of
whist upstairs, and the mahogany-colored Cerberus
had not dared to disturb him until the hand was
played out. The fact that young Oliver Horn had
called to see him at such an hour and in such a place
had greatly disturbed him. He felt sure that something
out of the ordinary had happened.
"My dear boy," he cried, as Oliver rose to meet
him, "I have this instant heard you were here, or
I never should have kept you waiting a moment.
Nothing serious--nothing at home?"
"Oh, no, Colonel. Only a word from mother,
sir. I missed you at the bank and Mr. Stiger thought
that I might better come here," and he delivered his
mother's message in a low voice and resumed his
The Colonel, now that his mind was at rest, dropped
into a chair, stroked his goatee with his thumb and
forefinger, and ran over in his mind the sum of his
"Tell your dear mother," he said, "that I will
do myself the honor of calling upon her on my way
home late this afternoon. Nothing will give me
greater pleasure. Now stay awhile with me and let
me order something for you, my boy," and he beckoned
to one of the brown-coated servants who had
entered the room with a fresh tray for the Gunning
"No, thank you, Colonel; I ought not to stop,"
Oliver replied, in an apologetic way, as he rose from
his seat. "I really ought to go back and tell mother,"
and with a grasp of Clayton's hand and a bow to one
or two men in the room who were watching his movements
--the Colonel following him to the outer door
--Oliver took himself off, as was the duty of one so
young and so entirely out of place among a collection
of men all so knowing and distinguished.
AMOS COBB'S ADVICE
In full justice to the Chesapeake Club the scribe
must admit that such light-weights as Billy Talbot,
Torn Gunning, and Carter Thorn did not fairly represent
the standing of the organization. Many of
the most cultivated and enlightened men about Kennedy
Square and the neighboring country enjoyed
its privileges; among them not only such men as
Richard Horn, Nathan Gill, the Chief-Justice of
the State, and those members of the State Legislature
whose birth was above reproach, but most of
the sporting gentry of the county, as well as many
of the more wealthy planters who lived on the Bay
and whose houses were opened to their fellow-members
when the ducks were flying.
Each man's lineage, occupation, and opinions on
the leading topics of the time were as well known to
the club as to the man himself. Any new-corner presenting
himself for membership was always subjected
to the severest scrutiny, and had to be favorably
passed upon by a large majority of the committee before
a sufficient number of votes could be secured for
The only outsider elected for years had been
Amos Cobb, of Vermont, the abolitionist, as he was
generally called, who invariably wore black broad-
cloth and whose clean-shaven face--a marked contrast
to the others--with its restless black eyes,
strong nose, and firm mouth, was as sharp and hard
as the rocks of his native State. His election to full
membership of the Chesapeake Club was not due to
his wealth and commercial standing--neither of
these would have availed him--but to the fact that
he had married a daughter of Judge Wharton of
Wharton Hall, and had thus, by reason of his alliance
with one of the first families of the State, been
admitted to all the social privileges of Kennedy
Square. This exception in his favor, however, had
never crippled Cobb's independence nor stifled his
fearlessness in expressing his views on any one of the
leading topics of the day. The Vermonter had
worked with his hands when a boy on his father's
farm, and believed in the dignity of labor and the
blessings of self-support. He believed, too, in the
freedom of all men, black and white, and looked upon
slavery as a crime. He expressed these sentiments
openly and unreservedly, and declared that no matter
how long he might live South he would never cease
to raise his voice against a system which allowed a
man--as he put it--"to sit down in the shade and fan
himself to sleep while a lot of niggers whose bodies
he owned were sweating in a corn-field to help feed
and clothe him."
These sentiments, it must be said, did not add to
his popularity, although the time had not yet arrived
when he would have been thrown into the street
for uttering them.
Nathan Gill was a daily visitor. He was just
mounting the club steps, his long pen-wiper cloak
about his shoulders, as Oliver, after his interview with
Colonel Clayton, passed down the street on his way
back to his mother. Nathan shook hands with the
Colonel, and the two entered the main room, and
seated themselves at one of the tables.
Billy Talbot, who had moved to the window, and
who had been watching Oliver until he disappeared
around the corner, dropped his eye-glass with that
peculiar twitch of the upper lip which no one could
have imitated, and crossed the room to where Nathan
and Colonel Clayton had taken their seats.
Waggles, the scrap of a Skye terrier, who was never
three feet from Billy's heels, instantly crossed with
him. After Billy had anchored himself and had assumed
his customary position, with his feet slightly
apart, Waggles, as was his habit, slid in and sat
down on his haunches between his master's gaiters.
There he lifted his fluffy head and gazed about him.
The skill with which Mr. Talbot managed his dog
was only equalled by the dexterity with which he
managed his eye-glass; he never inadvertently stepped
on the one nor unconsciously let slip the other. This
caused Mr. Talbot considerable mental strain, but as
it was all to which he ever subjected himself he stood
the test bravely.
"Who is that young man, Colonel" Billy began,
as he bent his head to be sure that Waggles was in
position. He had been abroad while Oliver was
growing up, and so did not recognize him.
"That's Richard Horn's son," the Colonel said,
without raising his eyes from the paper. The Colonel
never took Billy seriously.
"And a fine young fellow he is," broke in Nathan,
straightening himself proudly.
"Hope he don't take after his father, Gill. By
the way, what's that old wisionary doing now?"
drawled Billy, throwing back the lapels of his coat,
and slapping his checked trousers with his cane.
"Larst time you talked to me about him he had some
machine with w'eels and horse-shoe magnets, didn't
he? He hasn't been in here for some time, so I know
he's at work on some tomfoolery or other. Amazing,
isn't it, that a man of his blood, with a cellar of
the best Madeiwa in the State, should waste his time
on such things. Egad! I cawn't understand it."
Some of Billy's expressions, as well as his accent,
came in with his clothes. "Now, if I had that Madeiwa,
do you know what I'd do with it? I'd--"
"Perfectly, Billy," cried a man at the next table,
who was bending over a game of chess. "You'd
drink it up in a week." Talbot had never been
known by any other name than Billy, and never
would be as long as he lived.
When the laugh had subsided, Nathan, whose
cheeks were still burning at the slighting way in
which Billy Talbot had spoken of Richard, and who
had sat hunched up in his chair combing the white
hair farther over his ears with his long, spare fingers,
a habit with him when he was in deep thought, lifted
his head and remarked, quietly, addressing the room
rather than Talbot:
"Richard's mind is not on his cellar; he's got
something to think of besides Madeira and cards and
dogs." And he looked toward Waggles. "You
will all, one day, be proud to say that he lived in our
town. Richard is a genius, one of the most remarkable
men of the day, and everybody outside of this
place knows it; you will be compelled to admit it yet.
I left him only half an hour ago, and he is just perfecting
a motor, gentlemen, which will--"
"Does it go yet, Nathan?" interrupted Cobb, who
was filling a glass from a decanter which a brown-
coated darky had brought him. Cobb's wife was
Nathan's cousin, and, therefore, he had a right to be
familiar. "I went to see his machine the other
day, but I couldn't make anything out of it. Horn
is a little touched here, isn't he?" and he tapped his
forehead and smiled knowingly.
"No, Amos, the motor was not running when I
left the shop," answered Nathan, dryly and with some
dignity, "but it will be, he assured me, perhaps by
to-morrow." He could fight Billy Talbot, but he
never crossed swords with Cobb, never in late
years. Cobb was the one man in all the world, he
once told Richard, with whom he had nothing in
"Oh, to-morrow?" And Cobb whistled as he put
down the decanter and picked up the day's paper.
It was one of Cobb's jokes--this "to-morrow" of
his neighbors. "What was a Northern man's to-
day was always a Southern man's to-morrow," he
would say. "I hope this young man of whom you
speak so highly is not walking in the footsteps of
this genius of a father? He looks to me like a
young fellow that had some stuff in him if anybody
would bring it out."
The half-concealed sneer in Cobb's voice grated also
on old Judge Bowman, who threw down his book and
looked up over his bowed spectacles. He was a testy
old fellow, with a Burgundy face and shaggy white
hair, a chin and nose that met together like a parrot's,
and an eye like a hawk. It was one of his principles
to permit none of his intimates to speak ill of
his friends in his hearing. Criticisms, therefore, by
an outsider like Cobb were especially obnoxious to
"Richard Horn's head is all right, Mr. Cobb, and
so is his heart," he exclaimed in an indignant tone.
"As for his genius, sir--Gill is within the mark.
He IS one of the remarkable men of our day. You
are quite right, too, about his young son, who has
just left here. He has all the qualities that go to
make a gentleman, and many of those which will
make a jurist. He is now studying law with my associate,
Judge Ellicott--a profession ennobled by his
ancestors, sir, and one, for which what you call his
'stuff,' but which we, sir, call his 'blood,' especially
fits him. You Northern men, I know, don't believe
in blood. We do down here. This young man comes
of a line of ancestors that have reflected great credit
on our State for more than a hundred years, and
he is bound to make his mark. His grandfather on
his mother's side was our Chief Justice in 1810, and
his great-grandfather was--"
"That's just what's the matter with most of you
Southerners, Judge," interrupted Cobb, his black
eyes snapping. "You think more of blood than you
do of brains. We rate a man on Northern soil by
what he does himself, not what a bundle of bones
in some family burying-ground did for him before
he was born. Don't you agree with me, Clayton?"
"I can't say I do, Cobb," replied the Colonel,
slowly, stirring his toddy. "I never set foot on your
soil but once, and so am unfamiliar with your ways."
He never liked Cobb. "He's so cursedly practical,
and so proud of it, too," he would often say; "and
if you will pardon me, sir--a trifle underbred."
"When was that?" asked Cobb, looking over the
top of his paper.
"That was some years ago, when I chased a
wounded canvas-back across the Susquehanna River,
and had to go ashore to get him; and I want to tell
you, sir, that what you call 'your soil' was damned
disagreeable muck. I had to change my boots when
I got back to my home, and I've never worn them
since." And the Colonel crushed the sugar in his
glass with his spoon as savagely as if each lump were
the head of an enemy, and raised the mixture to his
Amos's thin lips curled. The high and lofty airs
of these patricians always exasperated him. The
shout of laughter that followed the Colonel's reply
brought the color to his cheeks.
"Chased him like a runaway nigger, I suppose,
Clayton, didn't you? and wrung his neck when you
got him--" retorted Amos, biting his lips.
"Of course, like I would any other piece of my
property that tried to get away, or as I would wring
the neck of any man who would help him--" And
the Colonel looked meaningly at the Vermonter and
drained his glass with a gulp. Then smothering his
anger, he moved away to the window, where he
watched Mr. Talbot, who had just left the club and
who at the moment was standing on the corner making
his daily afternoon inspection of the two connecting
streets; an occupation which Billy varied by
saluting each new-corner with a slap of his cane on
his checker-board trousers and a stentorian "Bah
Jove!" Waggles meanwhile squatting pensively between
When an hour later the Colonel presented himself
at the Horn mansion, no trace of this encounter with
Cobb was in his face nor in his manner. Men did
not air their grievances in their own nor anyone's
else home around Kennedy Square.
Mrs. Horn met him with her hand extended. She
had been watching for Oliver's return with a degree
of impatience rarely seen in her. She had hoped that
the Colonel would have called upon her before he
went to his office, and could not understand his delay
until Oliver had given his account of the morning
mishaps. She was too anxious now to chide him. It
was but another indication of his temperament, she
thought--a fault to be corrected with the others that
threatened his success in life.
Holding fast to the Colonel's hand she drew him
to one of the old haircloth sofas and told him the
"Do not give the mortgage a thought, my dear
Sallie," the Colonel said, In his kindest manner,
when she had finished speaking, laying his hand on
her wrist. "My only regret is that it should have
caused you a moment's uneasiness. I know that our
bank has lately been in need of a large sum of
money, and this loan, no doubt, was called in by
the board. But it will be all right--if not I will
provide for it myself."
"No--I do not want that, and Richard, if he
knew, would not be willing either. Tell me, please,
how this money is loaned," and she turned and looked
earnestly into his face. "What papers are passed,
and who signs them? I have never had anything to
do with such matters, and you must explain it all
"A note signed by Richard and made payable on
a certain date was given to the bank, and the mortgage
was deposited as security."
"And if the note is not paid?"
"Then the property covered by the mortgage is
sold, and the bank deducts its loan--any balance,
of course, is paid over to Richard."
"And when the sale is put off--what is done
"A new note is given," and here the Colonel
stopped as if in doubt, "and sometimes a second name
is placed on the note increasing the security. But,
Sallie, dear, do not let this part of it ever again cross
your mind. I will attend to it should it become
necessary. It is not often," and the Colonel waved
his hand gallantly, "that a Clayton can do a Horn
"Thank you, dear friend, and it is just like you
to wish to do it, but this I cannot agree to. I have
thought of another way since you have been talking
to me. Would it--" and she stopped and looked
down on the floor, "would it be of any use if I signed
a note myself? This house we live in is my own, as
you know, and would be an additional security to
the bank if anything should happen."
The offer was so unusual that the Colonel caught
his breath. He looked at her in astonishment, but her
eyes never wavered. He felt instantly that, however
lightly he might view the subject, the matter was intensely
serious with her. The Colonel half rose to
his feet, and with a bow that in Kennedy Square had
earned for him the title of "the Chesterfield of his
time, sir," placed his hand on his heart.
"My dear Sallie," he said, "not a member of the
board could refuse. It would at once remove any
obstacle the directors might have."
"Thank you, then we will leave it so, and I will
have the papers prepared at once."
"And is this Richard's advice?" the Colonel ventured
to ask, slowly regaining his seat. There were
some misgivings still lingering in his Chesterfieldian
mind as to whether the proudest man he knew,
gentle as he was, would not forbid the whole
"No. He does not know of my purpose, and you
will please not tell him. He only knows that I am
opposed to allowing the property to be sold, and he
has promised me that he will take no steps in the
matter without my consent. All I want you to do
now is to tell him that the bank has decided to let
the matter stand. This obligation hereafter will be
between me and the board, and I will pledge myself
to carry it out. And now, one thing more before you
go, and I ask this because you have seen him grow
up and I know you love him. What shall I do
The Colonel again caught his breath. Gallant gentleman
of the old school, as he was, with a profound
respect for the other sex, the question startled him.
According to his experience and traditions, the fathers
generally looked after the welfare of the sons
and found them places in life--not the mothers.
"What do you want to do with him?" he asked,
"I want him to go to work. I am afraid this
life here will ruin him."
"Why, I thought he was studying law with Ellicott."
The announcement could not have been very
surprising to the Colonel. He doubtless knew
how much time Oliver spent at Judge Ellicott's
"He no doubt THINKS he's studying, dear friend,
but he really spends half his time in old Mr. Crocker's
studio, who puts the worst possible notions into his
head, and the balance of his time he is with your
Sue," and she smiled faintly.
"For which you can hardly blame him, dear lady,"
and the Colonel bent his head graciously.
"No, for she is as sweet as she can be, and you
know I love her dearly, but they are both children,
and will be for some years. You don't want to support
them, do you? and you know Richard can't,"
and there flashed out from her eyes one of those
quizzical glances which the Colonel remembered so
well in her girlhood.
The Colonel nodded his head, but he did not commit
himself. He had never for a moment imagined
that Oliver's love-affair would go as far as that, and,
then again, he knew Sue.
"What do you suggest doing with him? I will
help, of course, in any way I can," he said, after a
pause, during which Mrs. Horn sat watching every
expression that crossed his face.
"I don't know. I have not fully made up my
mind. I have been greatly disturbed over Oliver.
He seems to be passing through one of those dangerous
crises which often come to a boy. What do you
think of my sending him to New York?"
"THE NORTH, Sallie! Why, you wouldn't send
Oliver up North, would you?"
The announcement this time gave the Colonel so
genuine a shock that it sent the blood tingling to
his cheeks. Really, the idiosyncrasies of the Horn
family were beyond his comprehension! Evidently
Richard's vagaries had permeated his household.
"I do not like the influence of the North on our
young men, my dear Madam." The Colonel spoke
now with great seriousness and with some formality,
and without any of the Chesterfieldian accompaniments
of tone or gesture. "If he were my boy,
I should keep him here. He is young and light-
hearted, I know, and loves pleasure, but that will all
come out of him. Let him stay with Ellicott; he will
bring him out all right. There is a brusqueness and
a want of refinement among most Northern men that
have always grated on me. You can see it any day
in Amos Cobb."
As he spoke a slight flush overspread his listener's
face. The positiveness of his tone, she thought, carried
with it a certain uncomplimentary criticism of
her suggestion. The Colonel saw it, and, as if in
apology and to prove his case, added, in a gentler
tone: "Only this afternoon at the club I heard
Cobb speaking in the most outrageous manner about
our most treasured institutions. It is not his fault
perhaps. It is the fault of his breeding, but it is
unbearable all the same. Keep Oliver here. He has a
most engaging and lovable nature, is as clean and
sweet as a girl, and I haven't a doubt but what he
will honor both you and his blood. Take my word
for it, and keep him at home. He is young yet, barely
twenty-two--there is plenty of time for him." And
the Colonel rose from the sofa, lifted Mrs. Horn's
fingers to his lips and bowed himself out.
The Colonel only told the truth, as he saw it.
In his day and generation men of twenty-two
were but boys, and only gray-beards ruled the
State and counting-house. The Senators were indeed
grave and reverend seigniors, and the merchants, in
their old-fashioned dress-coats, looked more like
distinguished diplomats than buyers and sellers of
produce. In those days, too, the young man with a
mustache was thought presuming and dangerous, and
the bank who would have selected a cashier under
forty would have caused a run on its funds in a
week after the youth had been appointed to his position.
After the Colonel's departure Mrs. Horn sat in
deep thought. The critical tones of his voice still
lingered in her memory. But her judgment had not
been shaken nor was her mind satisfied. Oliver still
troubled her. The Colonel's advice might be right,
but she dared not rely upon it.
The next day she sent for Amos Cobb: Malachi
took the message this time, not Oliver. Cobb came
on the minute. He was greatly surprised at Mrs.
Horn's note, for although his wife was an intimate
friend of Mrs. Horn's, and he himself would have
been welcome, he was seldom present at any of the
functions of the house and could not be considered
one of its intimate guests. He did not like music, he
said to his wife, when urged to go, and, as he did
not play chess or drink Madeira, he preferred to stay
Malachi relieved Amos of his hat, and conducted
him into Mrs. Horn's presence with rather a formal
bow--quite different from the low salaam with which
he had greeted Colonel Clayton. "Dat bobobalish'-
nest, Mister Cobb, jes' gone in de parlor," he said
to Aunt Hannah when he regained the kitchen.
"Looks like he lived on parsimmons, he dat sour."
Mrs. Horn received her visitor cordially, but with
a reserve which she had not maintained toward the
Colonel, for Cobb had never represented to her anything
but a money standard pure and simple. It was
only when the Colonel had mentioned his name, and
then only because of her urgent need of just such
sound practical advice as she knew he could give
that she had determined to seek his services--quite
as she would have consulted an architect or an
The Vermonter took his seat on the extreme edge
of the sofa, squared his shoulders, pulled up the
points of his high collar, touched together the tips of
all his fingers, and looked straight at his hostess.
"I am greatly obliged to you for coming," she began,
"for I know how busy you are, but I have a
question to ask of you which I feel sure you can
answer better than anyone I know. It is about my
son Oliver. I am going to be perfectly frank with
you, and I want you to be equally frank with me."
And she summed up Oliver's aims, temptations, and
failings with a skill that gained the Vermonter's
closest attention. "With all this," she continued,
"he is affectionate, loves me dearly, and has never
disobeyed me in his life. It is his love of change
that worries me--his instability--one thing one moment,
and another the next. It seems to me the only
way to break this up is to throw him completely on
his own resources so that he may realize for once
what life really means. Now tell me--" and she
looked searchingly into Cobb's face, as if eager to
note the effect of her question--"if he were your
only son, would you, in view of all I have told you,
send him to New York to make his start in life, or
would you keep him here?"
The Vermonter's face had begun to lighten as she
progressed, and had entirely cleared when he learned
why he had been sent for. He had been afraid, when
he received her note, that it had been about the mortgage.
Cobb was chairman of the Loan Committee at
the bank, had personally called attention to Richard's
note being overdue, and had himself ordered its payment.
"My two boys are at school in Vermont, Madam,"
he answered, slowly.
"But Oliver must earn his own living," she said,
earnestly. "His father will have nothing to give
Cobb made no reply. He was not surprised. Most
all of these aristocratic Southerners were on their last
legs. He was right about the note, he said to himself
--it was just as well to have it paid--and he
made a mental memorandum to inquire about it as
soon as he reached his office, and have it pressed for