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THE HOUSE BEHIND
BY CHARLES W. CHESNUTT
I A STRANGER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA
II AN EVENING VISIT
III THE OLD JUDGE
IV DOWN THE RIVER
V THE TOURNAMENT
VI THE QUEEN OF LOVE AND BEAUTY
VII 'MID NEW SURROUNDINGS
VIII THE COURTSHIP
IX DOUBTS AND FEARS
X THE DREAM
XI A LETTER AND A JOURNEY
XII TRYON GOES TO PATESVILLE
XIII AN INJUDICIOUS PAYMENT
XIV A LOYAL FRIEND
XV MINE OWN PEOPLE
XVI THE BOTTOM FALLS OUT
XVII TWO LETTERS
XVIII UNDER THE OLD REGIME
XIX GOD MADE US ALL
XX DIGGING UP ROOTS
XXI A GILDED OPPORTUNITY
XXII IMPERATIVE BUSINESS
XXIII THE GUEST OF HONOR
XXIV SWING YOUR PARTNERS
XXV BALANCE ALL
XXVI THE SCHOOLHOUSE IN THE WOODS
XXVII AN INTERESTING ACQUAINTANCE
XXVIII THE LOST KNIFE
XXIX PLATO EARNS HALF A DOLLAR
XXX AN UNUSUAL HONOR
XXXI IN DEEP WATERS
XXXII THE POWER OF LOVE
XXXIII A MULE AND A CART
THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS
A STRANGER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA
Time touches all things with destroying hand;
and if he seem now and then to bestow the bloom
of youth, the sap of spring, it is but a brief
mockery, to be surely and swiftly followed by the
wrinkles of old age, the dry leaves and bare branches
of winter. And yet there are places where Time
seems to linger lovingly long after youth has
departed, and to which he seems loath to bring the
evil day. Who has not known some even-tempered
old man or woman who seemed to have
drunk of the fountain of youth? Who has not
seen somewhere an old town that, having long
since ceased to grow, yet held its own without
Some such trite reflection--as apposite to the
subject as most random reflections are--passed
through the mind of a young man who came out
of the front door of the Patesville Hotel about
nine o'clock one fine morning in spring, a few years
after the Civil War, and started down Front Street
toward the market-house. Arriving at the town
late the previous evening, he had been driven up
from the steamboat in a carriage, from which he
had been able to distinguish only the shadowy
outlines of the houses along the street; so that this
morning walk was his first opportunity to see the
town by daylight. He was dressed in a suit of
linen duck--the day was warm--a panama straw
hat, and patent leather shoes. In appearance he
was tall, dark, with straight, black, lustrous hair,
and very clean-cut, high-bred features. When he
paused by the clerk's desk on his way out, to light
his cigar, the day clerk, who had just come on duty,
glanced at the register and read the last entry:--
"`JOHN WARWICK, CLARENCE, SOUTH CAROLINA.'
"One of the South Ca'lina bigbugs, I reckon
--probably in cotton, or turpentine." The gentleman
from South Carolina, walking down the street,
glanced about him with an eager look, in which
curiosity and affection were mingled with a touch
of bitterness. He saw little that was not familiar,
or that he had not seen in his dreams a hundred
times during the past ten years. There had been
some changes, it is true, some melancholy changes,
but scarcely anything by way of addition or
improvement to counterbalance them. Here and
there blackened and dismantled walls marked the
place where handsome buildings once had stood, for
Sherman's march to the sea had left its mark upon
the town. The stores were mostly of brick, two
stories high, joining one another after the manner
of cities. Some of the names on the signs were
familiar; others, including a number of Jewish
names, were quite unknown to him.
A two minutes' walk brought Warwick--the
name he had registered under, and as we shall call
him--to the market-house, the central feature of
Patesville, from both the commercial and the
picturesque points of view. Standing foursquare in
the heart of the town, at the intersection of the
two main streets, a "jog" at each street corner
left around the market-house a little public square,
which at this hour was well occupied by carts and
wagons from the country and empty drays awaiting
hire. Warwick was unable to perceive much
change in the market-house. Perhaps the surface
of the red brick, long unpainted, had scaled off a
little more here and there. There might have been
a slight accretion of the moss and lichen on the
shingled roof. But the tall tower, with its four-
faced clock, rose as majestically and uncompromisingly
as though the land had never been subjugated.
Was it so irreconcilable, Warwick wondered, as
still to peal out the curfew bell, which at nine
o'clock at night had clamorously warned all negroes,
slave or free, that it was unlawful for them to be
abroad after that hour, under penalty of imprisonment
or whipping? Was the old constable, whose
chief business it had been to ring the bell, still
alive and exercising the functions of his office, and
had age lessened or increased the number of times
that obliging citizens performed this duty for him
during his temporary absences in the company of
convivial spirits? A few moments later, Warwick
saw a colored policeman in the old constable's
place--a stronger reminder than even the burned
buildings that war had left its mark upon the old
town, with which Time had dealt so tenderly.
The lower story of the market-house was open
on all four of its sides to the public square.
Warwick passed through one of the wide brick arches
and traversed the building with a leisurely step.
He looked in vain into the stalls for the butcher
who had sold fresh meat twice a week, on market
days, and he felt a genuine thrill of pleasure when
he recognized the red bandana turban of old
Aunt Lyddy, the ancient negro woman who had
sold him gingerbread and fried fish, and told him
weird tales of witchcraft and conjuration, in the
old days when, as an idle boy, he had loafed about
the market-house. He did not speak to her, however,
or give her any sign of recognition. He threw a
glance toward a certain corner where steps led to
the town hall above. On this stairway he had
once seen a manacled free negro shot while being
taken upstairs for examination under a criminal
charge. Warwick recalled vividly how the shot
had rung out. He could see again the livid look
of terror on the victim's face, the gathering crowd,
the resulting confusion. The murderer, he recalled,
had been tried and sentenced to imprisonment
for life, but was pardoned by a merciful
governor after serving a year of his sentence. As
Warwick was neither a prophet nor the son of a
prophet, he could not foresee that, thirty years
later, even this would seem an excessive punishment
for so slight a misdemeanor.
Leaving the market-house, Warwick turned to
the left, and kept on his course until he reached
the next corner. After another turn to the right,
a dozen paces brought him in front of a small
weather-beaten frame building, from which projected
a wooden sign-board bearing the inscription:--
He turned the knob, but the door was locked.
Retracing his steps past a vacant lot, the young
man entered a shop where a colored man was
employed in varnishing a coffin, which stood on two
trestles in the middle of the floor. Not at all
impressed by the melancholy suggestiveness of his
task, he was whistling a lively air with great gusto.
Upon Warwick's entrance this effusion came to a
sudden end, and the coffin-maker assumed an air
of professional gravity.
"Good-mawnin', suh," he said, lifting his cap
"Good-morning," answered Warwick. "Can
you tell me anything about Judge Straight's office
"De ole jedge has be'n a little onreg'lar sence
de wah, suh; but he gin'ally gits roun' 'bout ten
o'clock er so. He's be'n kin' er feeble fer de las'
few yeahs. An' I reckon," continued the undertaker
solemnly, his glance unconsciously seeking a
row of fine caskets standing against the wall,--"I
reckon he'll soon be goin' de way er all de earth.
`Man dat is bawn er 'oman hath but a sho't time
ter lib, an' is full er mis'ry. He cometh up an' is
cut down lack as a flower.' `De days er his life
is three-sco' an' ten'--an' de ole jedge is libbed
mo' d'n dat, suh, by five yeahs, ter say de leas'."
"`Death,'" quoted Warwick, with whose mood
the undertaker's remarks were in tune, "`is the
penalty that all must pay for the crime of
"Dat 's a fac', suh, dat 's a fac'; so dey mus'--
so dey mus'. An' den all de dead has ter be buried.
An' we does ou' sheer of it, suh, we does ou' sheer.
We conduc's de obs'quies er all de bes' w'ite folks
er de town, suh."
Warwick left the undertaker's shop and
retraced his steps until he had passed the lawyer's
office, toward which he threw an affectionate glance.
A few rods farther led him past the old black
Presbyterian church, with its square tower, embowered
in a stately grove; past the Catholic church, with
its many crosses, and a painted wooden figure of
St. James in a recess beneath the gable; and past
the old Jefferson House, once the leading hotel of
the town, in front of which political meetings had
been held, and political speeches made, and political
hard cider drunk, in the days of "Tippecanoe
and Tyler too."
The street down which Warwick had come
intersected Front Street at a sharp angle in front of
the old hotel, forming a sort of flatiron block at
the junction, known as Liberty Point,--perhaps
because slave auctions were sometimes held there in
the good old days. Just before Warwick reached
Liberty Point, a young woman came down Front
Street from the direction of the market-house.
When their paths converged, Warwick kept on
down Front Street behind her, it having been
already his intention to walk in this direction.
Warwick's first glance had revealed the fact
that the young woman was strikingly handsome,
with a stately beauty seldom encountered. As he
walked along behind her at a measured distance,
he could not help noting the details that made
up this pleasing impression, for his mind was
singularly alive to beauty, in whatever embodiment.
The girl's figure, he perceived, was admirably
proportioned; she was evidently at the period
when the angles of childhood were rounding into
the promising curves of adolescence. Her abundant
hair, of a dark and glossy brown, was neatly
plaited and coiled above an ivory column that rose
straight from a pair of gently sloping shoulders,
clearly outlined beneath the light muslin frock
that covered them. He could see that she was
tastefully, though not richly, dressed, and that she
walked with an elastic step that revealed a light
heart and the vigor of perfect health. Her face,
of course, he could not analyze, since he had
caught only the one brief but convincing glimpse
The young woman kept on down Front Street,
Warwick maintaining his distance a few rods
behind her. They passed a factory, a warehouse
or two, and then, leaving the brick pavement,
walked along on mother earth, under a leafy
arcade of spreading oaks and elms. Their way
led now through a residential portion of the
town, which, as they advanced, gradually declined
from staid respectability to poverty, open and
unabashed. Warwick observed, as they passed
through the respectable quarter, that few people
who met the girl greeted her, and that some others
whom she passed at gates or doorways gave her
no sign of recognition; from which he inferred
that she was possibly a visitor in the town and not
Their walk had continued not more than ten
minutes when they crossed a creek by a wooden
bridge and came to a row of mean houses standing
flush with the street. At the door of one, an old
black woman had stooped to lift a large basket,
piled high with laundered clothes. The girl, as
she passed, seized one end of the basket and helped
the old woman to raise it to her head, where it
rested solidly on the cushion of her head-kerchief.
During this interlude, Warwick, though he had
slackened his pace measurably, had so nearly
closed the gap between himself and them as to
hear the old woman say, with the dulcet negro
"T'anky', honey; de Lawd gwine bless you
sho'. You wuz alluz a good gal, and de Lawd
love eve'ybody w'at he'p de po' ole nigger. You
gwine ter hab good luck all yo' bawn days."
"I hope you're a true prophet, Aunt Zilphy,"
laughed the girl in response.
The sound of her voice gave Warwick a thrill.
It was soft and sweet and clear--quite in harmony
with her appearance. That it had a faint
suggestiveness of the old woman's accent he
hardly noticed, for the current Southern speech,
including his own, was rarely without a touch of it.
The corruption of the white people's speech was
one element--only one--of the negro's unconscious
revenge for his own debasement.
The houses they passed now grew scattering,
and the quarter of the town more neglected.
Warwick felt himself wondering where the girl
might be going in a neighborhood so uninviting.
When she stopped to pull a half-naked negro
child out of a mudhole and set him upon his feet,
he thought she might be some young lady from the
upper part of the town, bound on some errand of
mercy, or going, perhaps, to visit an old servant or
look for a new one. Once she threw a backward
glance at Warwick, thus enabling him to catch a
second glimpse of a singularly pretty face. Perhaps
the young woman found his presence in the
neighborhood as unaccountable as he had deemed
hers; for, finding his glance fixed upon her, she
quickened her pace with an air of startled timidity.
"A woman with such a figure," thought Warwick,
"ought to be able to face the world with the
confidence of Phryne confronting her judges."
By this time Warwick was conscious that
something more than mere grace or beauty had
attracted him with increasing force toward this
young woman. A suggestion, at first faint and
elusive, of something familiar, had grown stronger
when he heard her voice, and became more and
more pronounced with each rod of their advance;
and when she stopped finally before a gate, and,
opening it, went into a yard shut off from the
street by a row of dwarf cedars, Warwick had
already discounted in some measure the surprise he
would have felt at seeing her enter there had he
not walked down Front Street behind her. There
was still sufficient unexpectedness about the act,
however, to give him a decided thrill of pleasure.
"It must be Rena," he murmured. "Who
could have dreamed that she would blossom out
like that? It must surely be Rena!"
He walked slowly past the gate and peered
through a narrow gap in the cedar hedge. The
girl was moving along a sanded walk, toward a
gray, unpainted house, with a steep roof, broken
by dormer windows. The trace of timidity he had
observed in her had given place to the more assured
bearing of one who is upon his own ground. The
garden walks were bordered by long rows of jonquils,
pinks, and carnations, inclosing clumps of
fragrant shrubs, lilies, and roses already in bloom.
Toward the middle of the garden stood two fine
magnolia-trees, with heavy, dark green, glistening
leaves, while nearer the house two mighty elms
shaded a wide piazza, at one end of which a
honeysuckle vine, and at the other a Virginia creeper,
running over a wooden lattice, furnished additional
shade and seclusion. On dark or wintry
days, the aspect of this garden must have been
extremely sombre and depressing, and it might
well have seemed a fit place to hide some guilty or
disgraceful secret. But on the bright morning
when Warwick stood looking through the cedars,
it seemed, with its green frame and canopy and its
bright carpet of flowers, an ideal retreat from the
fierce sunshine and the sultry heat of the approaching
The girl stooped to pluck a rose, and as she
bent over it, her profile was clearly outlined. She
held the flower to her face with a long-drawn
inhalation, then went up the steps, crossed the piazza,
opened the door without knocking, and entered
the house with the air of one thoroughly at home.
"Yes," said the young man to himself, "it's
Rena, sure enough."
The house stood on a corner, around which the
cedar hedge turned, continuing along the side of
the garden until it reached the line of the front of
the house. The piazza to a rear wing, at right
angles to the front of the house, was open to inspection
from the side street, which, to judge from its
deserted look, seemed to be but little used. Turning
into this street and walking leisurely past the
back yard, which was only slightly screened from
the street by a china-tree, Warwick perceived the
young woman standing on the piazza, facing an
elderly woman, who sat in a large rocking-chair,
plying a pair of knitting-needles on a half-finished
stocking. Warwick's walk led him within three
feet of the side gate, which he felt an almost
irresistible impulse to enter. Every detail of the
house and garden was familiar; a thousand cords
of memory and affection drew him thither; but a
stronger counter-motive prevailed. With a great
effort he restrained himself, and after a momentary
pause, walked slowly on past the house, with a
backward glance, which he turned away when he
saw that it was observed.
Warwick's attention had been so fully absorbed
by the house behind the cedars and the women
there, that he had scarcely noticed, on the other
side of the neglected by-street, two men working
by a large open window, in a low, rude building
with a clapboarded roof, directly opposite the back
piazza occupied by the two women. Both the men
were busily engaged in shaping barrel-staves, each
wielding a sharp-edged drawing-knife on a piece of
seasoned oak clasped tightly in a wooden vise.
"I jes' wonder who dat man is, an' w'at he 's
doin' on dis street," observed the younger of the
two, with a suspicious air. He had noticed the
gentleman's involuntary pause and his interest in
the opposite house, and had stopped work for a
moment to watch the stranger as he went on down
"Nev' min' 'bout dat man," said the elder one.
"You 'ten' ter yo' wuk an' finish dat bairl-stave.
You spen's enti'ely too much er yo' time stretchin'
yo' neck atter other people. An' you need n' 'sturb
yo'se'f 'bout dem folks 'cross de street, fer dey
ain't yo' kin', an' you're wastin' yo' time both'in'
yo' min' wid 'em, er wid folks w'at comes on de
street on account of 'em. Look sha'p now, boy, er
you'll git dat stave trim' too much."
The younger man resumed his work, but still
found time to throw a slanting glance out of the
window. The gentleman, he perceived, stood for
a moment on the rotting bridge across the old
canal, and then walked slowly ahead until he
turned to the right into Back Street, a few rods
AN EVENING VISIT
Toward evening of the same day, Warwick took
his way down Front Street in the gathering dusk.
By the time night had spread its mantle over the
earth, he had reached the gate by which he had
seen the girl of his morning walk enter the cedar-
bordered garden. He stopped at the gate and
glanced toward the house, which seemed dark and
silent and deserted.
"It's more than likely," he thought, "that they
are in the kitchen. I reckon I'd better try the
But as he drew cautiously near the corner, he
saw a man's figure outlined in the yellow light
streaming from the open door of a small house
between Front Street and the cooper shop. Wishing,
for reasons of his own, to avoid observation,
Warwick did not turn the corner, but walked on
down Front Street until he reached a point from
which he could see, at a long angle, a ray of light
proceeding from the kitchen window of the house
behind the cedars.
"They are there," he muttered with a sigh of
relief, for he had feared they might be away. "I
suspect I'll have to go to the front door, after all.
No one can see me through the trees."
He retraced his steps to the front gate, which
he essayed to open. There was apparently some
defect in the latch, for it refused to work. Warwick
remembered the trick, and with a slight sense
of amusement, pushed his foot under the gate and
gave it a hitch to the left, after which it opened
readily enough. He walked softly up the sanded
path, tiptoed up the steps and across the piazza,
and rapped at the front door, not too loudly, lest
this too might attract the attention of the man
across the street. There was no response to his
rap. He put his ear to the door and heard voices
within, and the muffled sound of footsteps. After
a moment he rapped again, a little louder than
There was an instant cessation of the sounds
within. He rapped a third time, to satisfy any
lingering doubt in the minds of those who he felt
sure were listening in some trepidation. A moment
later a ray of light streamed through the
"Who's there?" a woman's voice inquired
"A gentleman," answered Warwick, not holding
it yet time to reveal himself. "Does Mis'
Molly Walden live here?"
"Yes," was the guarded answer. "I'm Mis'
Walden. What's yo'r business?"
"I have a message to you from your son
A key clicked in the lock. The door opened, and
the elder of the two women Warwick had
seen upon the piazza stood in the doorway, peering
curiously and with signs of great excitement into
the face of the stranger.
"You 've got a message from my son, you say?"
she asked with tremulous agitation. "Is he sick,
or in trouble?"
"No. He's well and doing well, and sends
his love to you, and hopes you've not forgotten
"Fergot him? No, God knows I ain't fergot
him! But come in, sir, an' tell me somethin'
mo' about him."
Warwick went in, and as the woman closed the
door after him, he threw a glance round the room.
On the wall, over the mantelpiece, hung a steel
engraving of General Jackson at the battle of
New Orleans, and, on the opposite wall, a framed
fashion-plate from "Godey's Lady's Book." In
the middle of the room an octagonal centre-table
with a single leg, terminating in three sprawling
feet, held a collection of curiously shaped sea-shells.
There was a great haircloth sofa, somewhat the
worse for wear, and a well-filled bookcase. The
screen standing before the fireplace was covered
with Confederate bank-notes of various denominations
and designs, in which the heads of Jefferson
Davis and other Confederate leaders were
"Imperious Caesar, dead, and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away,"
murmured the young man, as his eye fell upon this
specimen of decorative art.
The woman showed her visitor to a seat. She
then sat down facing him and looked at him closely.
"When did you last see my son?" she asked.
"I've never met your son," he replied.
Her face fell. "Then the message comes
through you from somebody else?"
"No, directly from your son."
She scanned his face with a puzzled look. This
bearded young gentleman, who spoke so politely
and was dressed so well, surely--no, it could
not be! and yet--
Warwick was smiling at her through a mist of
tears. An electric spark of sympathy flashed
between them. They rose as if moved by one
impulse, and were clasped in each other's arms.
"John, my John! It IS John!"
"Mother--my dear old mother!"
"I didn't think," she sobbed, "that I'd ever
see you again."
He smoothed her hair and kissed her. "And
are you glad to see me, mother?"
"Am I glad to see you? It's like the dead
comin' to life. I thought I'd lost you forever,
John, my son, my darlin' boy!" she answered,
hugging him strenuously.
"I couldn't live without seeing you, mother,"
he said. He meant it, too, or thought he did,
although he had not seen her for ten years.
"You've grown so tall, John, and are such a
fine gentleman! And you ARE a gentleman now,
John, ain't you--sure enough? Nobody knows
the old story?"
"Well, mother, I've taken a man's chance in
life, and have tried to make the most of it; and
I haven't felt under any obligation to spoil it
by raking up old stories that are best forgotten.
There are the dear old books: have they been
read since I went away?"
"No, honey, there's be'n nobody to read 'em,
excep' Rena, an' she don't take to books quite like
you did. But I've kep' 'em dusted clean, an' kep'
the moths an' the bugs out; for I hoped you'd
come back some day, an' knowed you'd like to find
'em all in their places, jus' like you left 'em."
"That's mighty nice of you, mother. You
could have done no more if you had loved them
for themselves. But where is Rena? I saw her
on the street to-day, but she didn't know me from
Adam; nor did I guess it was she until she opened
the gate and came into the yard."
"I've be'n so glad to see you that I'd fergot about
her," answered the mother. "Rena, oh, Rena!"
The girl was not far away; she had been standing
in the next room, listening intently to every
word of the conversation, and only kept from
coming in by a certain constraint that made a
brother whom she had not met for so many years
seem almost as much a stranger as if he had not
been connected with her by any tie.
"Yes, mamma," she answered, coming forward.
"Rena, child, here's yo'r brother John, who's
come back to see us. Tell 'im howdy."
As she came forward, Warwick rose, put his
arm around her waist, drew her toward him, and
kissed her affectionately, to her evident embarrassment.
She was a tall girl, but he towered above
her in quite a protecting fashion; and she thought
with a thrill how fine it would be to have such a
brother as this in the town all the time. How
proud she would be, if she could but walk up the
street with such a brother by her side! She
could then hold up her head before all the world,
oblivious to the glance of pity or contempt. She
felt a very pronounced respect for this tall
gentleman who held her blushing face between his
hands and looked steadily into her eyes.
"You're the little sister I used to read stories
to, and whom I promised to come and see some
day. Do you remember how you cried when I
"It seems but yesterday," she answered. "I've
still got the dime you gave me."
He kissed her again, and then drew her down
beside him on the sofa, where he sat enthroned
between the two loving and excited women. No
king could have received more sincere or delighted
homage. He was a man, come into a household
of women,--a man of whom they were proud, and
to whom they looked up with fond reverence.
For he was not only a son,--a brother--but he
represented to them the world from which circum stances
had shut them out, and to which distance
lent even more than its usual enchantment; and
they felt nearer to this far-off world because of the
glory which Warwick reflected from it.
"You're a very pretty girl," said Warwick,
regarding his sister thoughtfully. "I followed
you down Front Street this morning, and scarcely
took my eyes off you all the way; and yet I
didn't know you, and scarcely saw your face.
You improve on acquaintance; to-night, I find you
"Now, John," said his mother, expostulating
mildly, "you'll spile her, if you don't min'."
The girl was beaming with gratified vanity.
What woman would not find such praise sweet
from almost any source, and how much more so
from this great man, who, from his exalted station
in the world, must surely know the things whereof
he spoke! She believed every word of it; she
knew it very well indeed, but wished to hear it
repeated and itemized and emphasized.
"No, he won't, mamma," she asserted, "for
he's flattering me. He talks as if I was some
rich young lady, who lives on the Hill,"--the
Hill was the aristocratic portion of the town,--
"instead of a poor"
"Instead of a poor young girl, who has the hill
to climb," replied her brother, smoothing her hair
with his hand. Her hair was long and smooth
and glossy, with a wave like the ripple of a summer
breeze upon the surface of still water. It
was the girl's great pride, and had been
sedulously cared for. "What lovely hair! It has
just the wave that yours lacks, mother."
"Yes," was the regretful reply, "I've never
be'n able to git that wave out. But her hair's
be'n took good care of, an' there ain't nary gal in
town that's got any finer."
"Don't worry about the wave, mother. It's
just the fashionable ripple, and becomes her
immensely. I think my little Albert favors his
Aunt Rena somewhat."
"Your little Albert!" they cried. "You've
got a child?"
"Oh, yes," he replied calmly, "a very fine baby
They began to purr in proud contentment at
this information, and made minute inquiries about
the age and weight and eyes and nose and other
important details of this precious infant. They
inquired more coldly about the child's mother,
of whom they spoke with greater warmth when
they learned that she was dead. They hung
breathless on Warwick's words as he related
briefly the story of his life since he had left, years
before, the house behind the cedars--how with a
stout heart and an abounding hope he had gone
out into a seemingly hostile world, and made
fortune stand and deliver. His story had for the
women the charm of an escape from captivity,
with all the thrill of a pirate's tale. With the
whole world before him, he had remained in the
South, the land of his fathers, where, he
conceived, he had an inalienable birthright. By some
good chance he had escaped military service in
the Confederate army, and, in default of older
and more experienced men, had undertaken, during
the rebellion, the management of a large estate,
which had been left in the hands of women and
slaves. He had filled the place so acceptably, and
employed his leisure to such advantage, that at the
close of the war he found himself--he was modest
enough to think, too, in default of a better
man--the husband of the orphan daughter of the
gentleman who had owned the plantation, and who
had lost his life upon the battlefield. Warwick's
wife was of good family, and in a more settled
condition of society it would not have been easy
for a young man of no visible antecedents to win
her hand. A year or two later, he had taken the
oath of allegiance, and had been admitted to the
South Carolina bar. Rich in his wife's right, he
had been able to practice his profession upon a
high plane, without the worry of sordid cares, and
with marked success for one of his age.
"I suppose," he concluded, "that I have got
along at the bar, as elsewhere, owing to the lack of
better men. Many of the good lawyers were killed
in the war, and most of the remainder were
disqualified; while I had the advantage of being alive,
and of never having been in arms against the
government. People had to have lawyers, and they
gave me their business in preference to the carpet-
baggers. Fortune, you know, favors the available
His mother drank in with parted lips and
glistening eyes the story of his adventures and the
record of his successes. As Rena listened, the
narrow walls that hemmed her in seemed to draw
closer and closer, as though they must crush her.
Her brother watched her keenly. He had been
talking not only to inform the women, but with
a deeper purpose, conceived since his morning
walk, and deepened as he had followed, during his
narrative, the changing expression of Rena's face
and noted her intense interest in his story, her
pride in his successes, and the occasional wistful
look that indexed her self-pity so completely.
"An' I s'pose you're happy, John?" asked his
"Well, mother, happiness is a relative term,
and depends, I imagine, upon how nearly we think
we get what we think we want. I have had my
chance and haven't thrown it away, and I suppose
I ought to be happy. But then, I have lost my
wife, whom I loved very dearly, and who loved me
just as much, and I'm troubled about my child."
"Why?" they demanded. "Is there anything
the matter with him?"
"No, not exactly. He's well enough, as babies
go, and has a good enough nurse, as nurses go.
But the nurse is ignorant, and not always careful.
A child needs some woman of its own blood to love
it and look after it intelligently."
Mis' Molly's eyes were filled with tearful yearning.
She would have given all the world to warm
her son's child upon her bosom; but she knew
this could not be.
"Did your wife leave any kin?" she asked with
"No near kin; she was an only child."
"You'll be gettin' married again," suggested
"No," he replied; "I think not."
Warwick was still reading his sister's face, and
saw the spark of hope that gleamed in her expressive eye.
"If I had some relation of my own that I could
take into the house with me," he said reflectively,
"the child might be healthier and happier, and I
should be much more at ease about him."
The mother looked from son to daughter with a
dawning apprehension and a sudden pallor. When
she saw the yearning in Rena's eyes, she threw herself
at her son's feet.
"Oh, John," she cried despairingly, "don't take
her away from me! Don't take her, John, darlin',
for it'd break my heart to lose her!"
Rena's arms were round her mother's neck, and
Rena's voice was sounding in her ears. "There,
there, mamma! Never mind! I won't leave you,
mamma--dear old mamma! Your Rena'll stay
with you always, and never, never leave you."
John smoothed his mother's hair with a
comforting touch, patted her withered cheek soothingly,
lifted her tenderly to her place by his side,
and put his arm about her.
"You love your children, mother?"
"They're all I've got," she sobbed, "an' they
cos' me all I had. When the las' one's gone, I'll
want to go too, for I'll be all alone in the world.
Don't take Rena, John; for if you do, I'll never
see her again, an' I can't bear to think of it. How
would you like to lose yo'r one child?"
"Well, well, mother, we'll say no more about
it. And now tell me all about yourself, and about
the neighbors, and how you got through the war,
and who's dead and who's married--and everything."
The change of subject restored in some degree
Mis' Molly's equanimity, and with returning
calmness came a sense of other responsibilities.
"Good gracious, Rena!" she exclaimed.
"John 's be'n in the house an hour, and ain't had
nothin' to eat yet! Go in the kitchen an' spread
a clean tablecloth, an' git out that 'tater pone, an'
a pitcher o' that las' kag o' persimmon beer, an'
let John take a bite an' a sip."
Warwick smiled at the mention of these homely
dainties. "I thought of your sweet-potato pone
at the hotel to-day, when I was at dinner, and
wondered if you'd have some in the house. There
was never any like yours; and I've forgotten the
taste of persimmon beer entirely."
Rena left the room to carry out her hospitable
commission. Warwick, taking advantage of her
absence, returned after a while to the former
"Of course, mother," he said calmly, "I
wouldn't think of taking Rena away against your
wishes. A mother's claim upon her child is a high
and holy one. Of course she will have no chance
here, where our story is known. The war has
wrought great changes, has put the bottom rail on
top, and all that--but it hasn't wiped THAT out.
Nothing but death can remove that stain, if it does
not follow us even beyond the grave. Here she
must forever be--nobody! With me she might
have got out into the world; with her beauty she
might have made a good marriage; and, if I mistake
not, she has sense as well as beauty."
"Yes," sighed the mother, "she's got good
sense. She ain't as quick as you was, an' don't
read as many books, but she's keerful an' painstakin',
an' always tries to do what's right. She's
be'n thinkin' about goin' away somewhere an'
tryin' to git a school to teach, er somethin', sence
the Yankees have started 'em everywhere for po'
white folks an' niggers too. But I don't like fer
her to go too fur."
"With such beauty and brains," continued
Warwick, "she could leave this town and make
a place for herself. The place is already made.
She has only to step into my carriage--after perhaps
a little preparation--and ride up the hill
which I have had to climb so painfully. It would
be a great pleasure to me to see her at the top.
But of course it is impossible--a mere idle dream.
YOUR claim comes first; her duty chains her
"It would be so lonely without her," murmured
the mother weakly, "an' I love her so--my las'
"No doubt--no doubt," returned Warwick,
with a sympathetic sigh; "of course you love her.
It's not to be thought of for a moment. It's a
pity that she couldn't have a chance here--but
how could she! I had thought she might marry
a gentleman, but I dare say she'll do as well as
the rest of her friends--as well as Mary B., for
instance, who married--Homer Pettifoot, did you
say? Or maybe Billy Oxendine might do for her.
As long as she has never known any better, she'll
probably be as well satisfied as though she married
a rich man, and lived in a fine house, and kept a
carriage and servants, and moved with the best in
The tortured mother could endure no more.
The one thing she desired above all others was her
daughter's happiness. Her own life had not been
governed by the highest standards, but about her
love for her beautiful daughter there was no taint
of selfishness. The life her son had described had
been to her always the ideal but unattainable life.
Circumstances, some beyond her control, and others
for which she was herself in a measure responsible,
had put it forever and inconceivably beyond her
reach. It had been conquered by her son. It
beckoned to her daughter. The comparison of this
free and noble life with the sordid existence of
those around her broke down the last barrier of
"O Lord!" she moaned, "what shall I do with
out her? It'll be lonely, John--so lonely!"
"You'll have your home, mother," said Warwick
tenderly, accepting the implied surrender.
"You'll have your friends and relatives, and the
knowledge that your children are happy. I'll let
you hear from us often, and no doubt you can see
Rena now and then. But you must let her go,
mother,--it would be a sin against her to refuse."
"She may go," replied the mother brokenly.
"I'll not stand in her way--I've got sins enough
to answer for already."
Warwick watched her pityingly. He had stirred
her feelings to unwonted depths, and his sympathy
went out to her. If she had sinned, she had been
more sinned against than sinning, and it was not
his part to judge her. He had yielded to a
sentimental weakness in deciding upon this trip to
Patesville. A matter of business had brought him
within a day's journey of the town, and an over-
mastering impulse had compelled him to seek the
mother who had given him birth and the old town
where he had spent the earlier years of his life.
No one would have acknowledged sooner than he
the folly of this visit. Men who have elected to
govern their lives by principles of abstract right
and reason, which happen, perhaps, to be at variance
with what society considers equally right and
reasonable, should, for fear of complications, be
careful about descending from the lofty heights of
logic to the common level of impulse and affection.
Many years before, Warwick, when a lad of eighteen,
had shaken the dust of the town from his feet,
and with it, he fondly thought, the blight of his
inheritance, and had achieved elsewhere a worthy
career. But during all these years of absence he
had cherished a tender feeling for his mother, and
now again found himself in her house, amid the
familiar surroundings of his childhood. His visit
had brought joy to his mother's heart, and was
now to bring its shrouded companion, sorrow. His
mother had lived her life, for good or ill. A wider
door was open to his sister--her mother must not
bar the entrance.
"She may go," the mother repeated sadly, drying
her tears. "I'll give her up for her good."
"The table 's ready, mamma," said Rena, coming
to the door.
The lunch was spread in the kitchen, a large
unplastered room at the rear, with a wide fireplace at
one end. Only yesterday, it seemed to Warwick,
he had sprawled upon the hearth, turning sweet
potatoes before the fire, or roasting groundpeas in
the ashes; or, more often, reading, by the light of
a blazing pine-knot or lump of resin, some volume
from the bookcase in the hall. From Bulwer's
novel, he had read the story of Warwick the
Kingmaker, and upon leaving home had chosen it
for his own. He was a new man, but he had the
blood of an old race, and he would select for his
own one of its worthy names. Overhead loomed
the same smoky beams, decorated with what might
have been, from all appearances, the same bunches
of dried herbs, the same strings of onions and red
peppers. Over in the same corner stood the same
spinning-wheel, and through the open door of an
adjoining room he saw the old loom, where in
childhood he had more than once thrown the shuttle.
The kitchen was different from the stately
dining-room of the old colonial mansion where he
now lived; but it was homelike, and it was familiar.
The sight of it moved his heart, and he felt for
the moment a sort of a blind anger against the
fate which made it necessary that he should visit
the home of his childhood, if at all, like a thief
in the night. But he realized, after a moment,
that the thought was pure sentiment, and that one
who had gained so much ought not to complain if
he must give up a little. He who would climb
the heights of life must leave even the pleasantest
"Rena," asked her mother, "how'd you like to
go an' pay yo'r brother John a visit? I guess I
might spare you for a little while."
The girl's eyes lighted up. She would not have
gone if her mother had wished her to stay, but she
would always have regarded this as the lost opportunity
of her life.
"Are you sure you don't care, mamma?" she
asked, hoping and yet doubting.
"Oh, I'll manage to git along somehow or other.
You can go an' stay till you git homesick, an' then
John'll let you come back home."
But Mis' Molly believed that she would never
come back, except, like her brother, under cover of
the night. She must lose her daughter as well as
her son, and this should be the penance for her sin.
That her children must expiate as well the sins of
their fathers, who had sinned so lightly, after the
manner of men, neither she nor they could foresee,
since they could not read the future.
The next boat by which Warwick could take his
sister away left early in the morning of the next
day but one. He went back to his hotel with the
understanding that the morrow should be devoted
to getting Rena ready for her departure, and that
Warwick would visit the household again the following
evening; for, as has been intimated, there
were several reasons why there should be no open
relations between the fine gentleman at the hotel
and the women in the house behind the cedars, who,
while superior in blood and breeding to the people
of the neighborhood in which they lived, were yet
under the shadow of some cloud which clearly shut
them out from the better society of the town. Almost
any resident could have given one or more of
these reasons, of which any one would have been
sufficient to most of them; and to some of them
Warwick's mere presence in the town would have
seemed a bold and daring thing.
THE OLD JUDGE
On the morning following the visit to his
mother, Warwick visited the old judge's office.
The judge was not in, but the door stood open,
and Warwick entered to await his return. There
had been fewer changes in the office, where he had
spent many, many hours, than in the town itself.
The dust was a little thicker, the papers in the
pigeon-holes of the walnut desk were a little
yellower, the cobwebs in the corners a little more
aggressive. The flies droned as drowsily and the
murmur of the brook below was just as audible.
Warwick stood at the rear window and looked out
over a familiar view. Directly across the creek, on
the low ground beyond, might be seen the dilapidated
stone foundation of the house where once
had lived Flora Macdonald, the Jacobite refugee,
the most romantic character of North Carolina
history. Old Judge Straight had had a tree cut
away from the creek-side opposite his window, so
that this historic ruin might be visible from his
office; for the judge could trace the ties of blood
that connected him collaterally with this famous
personage. His pamphlet on Flora Macdonald,
printed for private circulation, was highly prized
by those of his friends who were fortunate enough
to obtain a copy. To the left of the window a
placid mill-pond spread its wide expanse, and to
the right the creek disappeared under a canopy of
A footstep sounded in the doorway, and Warwick,
turning, faced the old judge. Time had left
greater marks upon the lawyer than upon his office.
His hair was whiter, his stoop more pronounced;
when he spoke to Warwick, his voice had some of
the shrillness of old age; and in his hand, upon
which the veins stood out prominently, a decided
tremor was perceptible.
"Good-morning, Judge Straight," said the
young man, removing his hat with the graceful
Southern deference of the young for the old.
"Good-morning, sir," replied the judge with
"You don't remember me, I imagine," suggested Warwick.
"Your face seems familiar," returned the judge
cautiously, "but I cannot for the moment recall
your name. I shall be glad to have you refresh
"I was John Walden, sir, when you knew
The judge's face still gave no answering light
"Your old office-boy," continued the younger
"Ah, indeed, so you were!" rejoined the judge
warmly, extending his hand with great cordiality,
and inspecting Warwick more closely through his
spectacles. "Let me see--you went away a few
years before the war, wasn't it?"
"Yes, sir, to South Carolina."
"Yes, yes, I remember now! I had been
thinking it was to the North. So many things
have happened since then, that it taxes an old
man's memory to keep track of them all. Well,
well! and how have you been getting along?"
Warwick told his story in outline, much as he
had given it to his mother and sister, and the
judge seemed very much interested.
"And you married into a good family?" he
"And have children?"
"And you are visiting your mother?"
"Not exactly. I have seen her, but I am
stopping at a hotel."
"H'm! Are you staying long?"
"I leave to-morrow."
"It's well enough. I wouldn't stay too long.
The people of a small town are inquisitive about
strangers, and some of them have long memories.
I remember we went over the law, which was in
your favor; but custom is stronger than law--in
these matters custom IS law. It was a great pity
that your father did not make a will. Well, my
boy, I wish you continued good luck; I imagined
you would make your way."
Warwick went away, and the old judge sat for
a moment absorbed in reflection. "Right and
wrong," he mused, "must be eternal verities, but
our standards for measuring them vary with our
latitude and our epoch. We make our customs
lightly; once made, like our sins, they grip us in
bands of steel; we become the creatures of our
creations. By one standard my old office-boy
should never have been born. Yet he is a son of
Adam, and came into existence in the way ordained
by God from the beginning of the world.
In equity he would seem to be entitled to his
chance in life; it might have been wiser, though,
for him to seek it farther afield than South
Carolina. It was too near home, even though the laws
were with him."
DOWN THE RIVER
Neither mother nor daughter slept a great
deal during the night of Warwick's first visit.
Mis' Molly anointed her sacrifice with tears and
cried herself to sleep. Rena's emotions were more
conflicting; she was sorry to leave her mother, but
glad to go with her brother. The mere journey
she was about to make was a great event for the
two women to contemplate, to say nothing of the
golden vision that lay beyond, for neither of them
had ever been out of the town or its vicinity.
The next day was devoted to preparations for
the journey. Rena's slender wardrobe was made
ready and packed in a large valise. Towards sunset,
Mis' Molly took off her apron, put on her
slat-bonnet,--she was ever the pink of neatness,
--picked her way across the street, which was
muddy from a rain during the day, traversed the
foot-bridge that spanned the ditch in front of the
cooper shop, and spoke first to the elder of the two
men working there.
"Good-evenin', ma'm," responded the man
briefly, and not relaxing at all the energy with
which he was trimming a barrel-stave.
Mis' Molly then accosted the younger workman,
a dark-brown young man, small in stature, but
with a well-shaped head, an expressive forehead,
and features indicative of kindness, intelligence,
humor, and imagination. "Frank," she asked,
"can I git you to do somethin' fer me soon in the
"Yas 'm, I reckon so," replied the young man,
resting his hatchet on the chopping-block. "W'at
is it, Mis' Molly?"
"My daughter 's goin' away on the boat, an' I
'lowed you would n' min' totin' her kyarpet-bag
down to the w'arf, onless you'd ruther haul it down
on yo'r kyart. It ain't very heavy. Of co'se I'll
pay you fer yo'r trouble."
"Thank y', ma'm," he replied. He knew that
she would not pay him, for the simple reason that
he would not accept pay for such a service. "Is
she gwine fur?" he asked, with a sorrowful look,
which he could not entirely disguise.
"As fur as Wilmin'ton an' beyon'. She'll be
visitin' her brother John, who lives in--another
State, an' wants her to come an' see him."
"Yas 'm, I'll come. I won' need de kyart--
I'll tote de bag. 'Bout w'at time shill I come
"Well, 'long 'bout seven o'clock or half pas'.
She's goin' on the Old North State, an' it leaves
Frank stood looking after Mis' Molly as she
picked her way across the street, until he was
recalled to his duty by a sharp word from his
" 'Ten' ter yo' wuk, boy, 'ten' ter yo' wuk. You
're wastin' yo' time--wastin' yo' time!"
Yes, he was wasting his time. The beautiful
young girl across the street could never be anything
to him. But he had saved her life once,
and had dreamed that he might render her again
some signal service that might win her friendship,
and convince her of his humble devotion. For
Frank was not proud. A smile, which Peter
would have regarded as condescending to a free
man, who, since the war, was as good as anybody
else; a kind word, which Peter would have
considered offensively patronizing; a piece of Mis'
Molly's famous potato pone from Rena's hands,
--a bone to a dog, Peter called it once;--were
ample rewards for the thousand and one small
services Frank had rendered the two women who
lived in the house behind the cedars.
Frank went over in the morning a little ahead
of the appointed time, and waited on the back
piazza until his services were required.
"You ain't gwine ter be gone long, is you, Miss
Rena?" he inquired, when Rena came out dressed
for the journey in her best frock, with broad white
collar and cuffs.
Rena did not know. She had been asking herself
the same question. All sorts of vague dreams
had floated through her mind during the last few
hours, as to what the future might bring forth.
But she detected the anxious note in Frank's voice,
and had no wish to give this faithful friend of the
family unnecessary pain.
"Oh, no, Frank, I reckon not. I'm supposed
to be just going on a short visit. My brother
has lost his wife, and wishes me to come and stay
with him awhile, and look after his little boy."
"I'm feared you'll lack it better dere, Miss
Rena," replied Frank sorrowfully, dropping his
mask of unconcern, "an' den you won't come
back, an' none er yo' frien's won't never see you
"You don't think, Frank," asked Rena severely,
"that I would leave my mother and my home and
all my friends, and NEVER come back again?"
"Why, no 'ndeed," interposed Mis' Molly
wistfully, as she hovered around her daughter, giving
her hair or her gown a touch here and there;
"she'll be so homesick in a month that she'll be
willin' to walk home."
"You would n' never hafter do dat, Miss Rena,"
returned Frank, with a disconsolate smile. "Ef
you ever wanter come home, an' can't git back no
other way, jes' let ME know, an' I'll take my mule
an' my kyart an' fetch you back, ef it's from de
een' er de worl'."
"Thank you, Frank, I believe you would," said
the girl kindly. "You're a true friend, Frank,
and I'll not forget you while I'm gone."
The idea of her beautiful daughter riding home
from the end of the world with Frank, in a cart,
behind a one-eyed mule, struck Mis' Molly as the
height of the ridiculous--she was in a state of
excitement where tears or laughter would have
come with equal ease--and she turned away to
hide her merriment. Her daughter was going to
live in a fine house, and marry a rich man, and
ride in her carriage. Of course a negro would
drive the carriage, but that was different from
riding with one in a cart.
When it was time to go, Mis' Molly and Rena
set out on foot for the river, which was only a
short distance away. Frank followed with the
valise. There was no gathering of friends to see
Rena off, as might have been the case under
different circumstances. Her departure had some of
the characteristics of a secret flight; it was as
important that her destination should not be known, as
it had been that her brother should conceal his
presence in the town.
Mis' Molly and Rena remained on the bank until
the steamer announced, with a raucous whistle,
its readiness to depart. Warwick was seen for a
moment on the upper deck, from which he greeted
them with a smile and a slight nod. He had bidden
his mother an affectionate farewell the evening
before. Rena gave her hand to Frank.
"Good-by, Frank," she said, with a kind smile;
"I hope you and mamma will be good friends
while I'm gone."
The whistle blew a second warning blast, and
the deck hands prepared to draw in the gang-
plank. Rena flew into her mother's arms, and
then, breaking away, hurried on board and retired
to her state-room, from which she did not emerge
during the journey. The window-blinds were
closed, darkening the room, and the stewardess
who came to ask if she should bring her some dinner
could not see her face distinctly, but perceived
enough to make her surmise that the young lady
had been weeping.
"Po' chile," murmured the sympathetic
colored woman, "I reckon some er her folks is dead,
er her sweetheart 's gone back on her, er e'se she's
had some kin' er bad luck er 'nuther. W'ite folks
has deir troubles jes' ez well ez black folks, an'
sometimes feels 'em mo', 'cause dey ain't ez use'
Mis' Molly went back in sadness to the lonely
house behind the cedars, henceforth to be peopled
for her with only the memory of those she had
loved. She had paid with her heart's blood another
installment on the Shylock's bond exacted
by society for her own happiness of the past and
her children's prospects for the future.
The journey down the sluggish river to the
seaboard in the flat-bottomed, stern-wheel steamer
lasted all day and most of the night. During the
first half-day, the boat grounded now and then
upon a sand-bank, and the half-naked negro deck-
hands toiled with ropes and poles to release it.
Several times before Rena fell asleep that night,
the steamer would tie up at a landing, and by the
light of huge pine torches she watched the boat
hands send the yellow turpentine barrels down the
steep bank in a long string, or pass cord-wood on
board from hand to hand. The excited negroes,
their white teeth and eyeballs glistening in the
surrounding darkness to which their faces formed
no relief; the white officers in brown linen, shouting,
swearing, and gesticulating; the yellow, flickering
torchlight over all,--made up a scene of
which the weird interest would have appealed to a
more blase traveler than this girl upon her first
During the day, Warwick had taken his meals
in the dining-room, with the captain and the other
cabin passengers. It was learned that he was a
South Carolina lawyer, and not a carpet-bagger.
Such credentials were unimpeachable, and the
passengers found him a very agreeable traveling
companion. Apparently sound on the subject of
negroes, Yankees, and the righteousness of the
lost cause, he yet discussed these themes in a lofty
and impersonal manner that gave his words greater
weight than if he had seemed warped by a personal
grievance. His attitude, in fact, piqued the
curiosity of one or two of the passengers.
"Did your people lose any niggers?" asked
one of them.
"My father owned a hundred," he replied
Their respect for his views was doubled. It is
easy to moralize about the misfortunes of others,
and to find good in the evil that they suffer;--
only a true philosopher could speak thus lightly of
his own losses.
When the steamer tied up at the wharf at
Wilmington, in the early morning, the young lawyer
and a veiled lady passenger drove in the same
carriage to a hotel. After they had breakfasted
in a private room, Warwick explained to his sister
the plan he had formed for her future. Henceforth
she must be known as Miss Warwick, dropping
the old name with the old life. He would
place her for a year in a boarding-school at
Charleston, after which she would take her place
as the mistress of his house. Having imparted
this information, he took his sister for a drive
through the town. There for the first time Rena
saw great ships, which, her brother told her, sailed
across the mighty ocean to distant lands, whose
flags he pointed out drooping lazily at the mast-
heads. The business portion of the town had "an
ancient and fishlike smell," and most of the trade
seemed to be in cotton and naval stores and
products of the sea. The wharves were piled high
with cotton bales, and there were acres of barrels
of resin and pitch and tar and spirits of turpentine.
The market, a long, low, wooden structure,
in the middle of the principal street, was filled
with a mass of people of all shades, from blue-
black to Saxon blonde, gabbling and gesticulating
over piles of oysters and clams and freshly caught
fish of varied hue. By ten o'clock the sun was
beating down so fiercely that the glitter of the
white, sandy streets dazzled and pained the eyes
unaccustomed to it, and Rena was glad to be
driven back to the hotel. The travelers left
together on an early afternoon train.
Thus for the time being was severed the last tie
that bound Rena to her narrow past, and for some
time to come the places and the people who had
known her once were to know her no more.
Some few weeks later, Mis' Molly called upon
old Judge Straight with reference to the taxes on
"Your son came in to see me the other day,"
he remarked. "He seems to have got along."
"Oh, yes, judge, he's done fine, John has; an'
he's took his sister away with him."
"Ah!" exclaimed the judge. Then after a
pause he added, "I hope she may do as well."
"Thank you, sir," she said, with a curtsy, as
she rose to go. "We've always knowed that you
were our friend and wished us well."
The judge looked after her as she walked away.
Her bearing had a touch of timidity, a shade of
affectation, and yet a certain pathetic dignity.
"It is a pity," he murmured, with a sigh, "that
men cannot select their mothers. My young friend
John has builded, whether wisely or not, very
well; but he has come back into the old life and
carried away a part of it, and I fear that this
addition will weaken the structure."
The annual tournament of the Clarence Social
Club was about to begin. The county fairground,
where all was in readiness, sparkled with
the youth and beauty of the town, standing here
and there under the trees in animated groups, or
moving toward the seats from which the pageant
might be witnessed. A quarter of a mile of the
race track, to right and left of the judges' stand,
had been laid off for the lists. Opposite the
grand stand, which occupied a considerable part
of this distance, a dozen uprights had been erected
at measured intervals. Projecting several feet
over the track from each of these uprights was an
iron crossbar, from which an iron hook depended.
Between the uprights stout posts were planted,
of such a height that their tops could be easily
reached by a swinging sword-cut from a mounted
rider passing upon the track. The influence of
Walter Scott was strong upon the old South.
The South before the war was essentially feudal,
and Scott's novels of chivalry appealed forcefully
to the feudal heart. During the month preceding
the Clarence tournament, the local bookseller had
closed out his entire stock of "Ivanhoe," consisting
of five copies, and had taken orders for seven
copies more. The tournament scene in this popular
novel furnished the model after which these
bloodless imitations of the ancient passages-at-
arms were conducted, with such variations as were
required to adapt them to a different age and
The best people gradually filled the grand
stand, while the poorer white and colored folks
found seats outside, upon what would now be
known as the "bleachers," or stood alongside the
lists. The knights, masquerading in fanciful
costumes, in which bright-colored garments, gilt
paper, and cardboard took the place of knightly
harness, were mounted on spirited horses. Most
of them were gathered at one end of the lists,
while others practiced their steeds upon the unoccupied
portion of the race track.
The judges entered the grand stand, and one
of them, after looking at his watch, gave a signal.
Immediately a herald, wearing a bright yellow
sash, blew a loud blast upon a bugle, and, big
with the importance of his office, galloped wildly
down the lists. An attendant on horseback busied
himself hanging upon each of the pendent hooks
an iron ring, of some two inches in diameter,
while another, on foot, placed on top of each of
the shorter posts a wooden ball some four inches
"It's my first tournament," observed a lady
near the front of the grand stand, leaning over
and addressing John Warwick, who was seated in
the second row, in company with a very handsome
girl. "It is somewhat different from Ashby-de-
"It is the renaissance of chivalry, Mrs.
Newberry," replied the young lawyer, "and, like any
other renaissance, it must adapt itself to new times
and circumstances. For instance, when we build
a Greek portico, having no Pentelic marble near
at hand, we use a pine-tree, one of nature's columns,
which Grecian art at its best could only
copy and idealize. Our knights are not weighted
down with heavy armor, but much more appropriately
attired, for a day like this, in costumes
that recall the picturesqueness, without the discomfort,
of the old knightly harness. For an iron-
headed lance we use a wooden substitute, with
which we transfix rings instead of hearts; while
our trusty blades hew their way through wooden
blocks instead of through flesh and blood. It is
a South Carolina renaissance which has points of
advantage over the tournaments of the olden time."
"I'm afraid, Mr. Warwick," said the lady,
"that you're the least bit heretical about our
chivalry--or else you're a little too deep for me."
"The last would be impossible, Mrs. Newberry;
and I'm sure our chivalry has proved its valor on
many a hard-fought field. The spirit of a thing,
after all, is what counts; and what is lacking
here? We have the lists, the knights, the prancing
steeds, the trial of strength and skill. If our
knights do not run the physical risks of Ashby-
de-la-Zouch, they have all the mental stimulus.
Wounded vanity will take the place of wounded
limbs, and there will be broken hopes in lieu of
broken heads. How many hearts in yonder group
of gallant horsemen beat high with hope! How
many possible Queens of Love and Beauty are in
this group of fair faces that surround us!"
The lady was about to reply, when the bugle
sounded again, and the herald dashed swiftly back
upon his prancing steed to the waiting group of
riders. The horsemen formed three abreast, and
rode down the lists in orderly array. As they
passed the grand stand, each was conscious of the
battery of bright eyes turned upon him, and each
gave by his bearing some idea of his ability to
stand fire from such weapons. One horse pranced
proudly, another caracoled with grace. One rider
fidgeted nervously, another trembled and looked
the other way. Each horseman carried in his hand
a long wooden lance and wore at his side a cavalry
sabre, of which there were plenty to be had since
the war, at small expense. Several left the ranks
and drew up momentarily beside the grand stand,
where they took from fair hands a glove or a
flower, which was pinned upon the rider's breast
or fastened upon his hat--a ribbon or a veil, which
was tied about the lance like a pennon, but far
enough from the point not to interfere with the
usefulness of the weapon.
As the troop passed the lower end of the grand
stand, a horse, excited by the crowd, became
somewhat unmanageable, and in the effort to curb
him, the rider dropped his lance. The prancing
animal reared, brought one of his hoofs down upon
the fallen lance with considerable force, and sent a
broken piece of it flying over the railing opposite
the grand stand, into the middle of a group of
spectators standing there. The flying fragment
was dodged by those who saw it coming, but
brought up with a resounding thwack against the
head of a colored man in the second row, who
stood watching the grand stand with an eager and
curious gaze. He rubbed his head ruefully, and
made a good-natured response to the chaffing of
his neighbors, who, seeing no great harm done,
made witty and original remarks about the
advantage of being black upon occasions where one's
skull was exposed to danger. Finding that the
blow had drawn blood, the young man took out a
red bandana handkerchief and tied it around his
head, meantime letting his eye roam over the faces
in the grand stand, as though in search of some
one that he expected or hoped to find there.
The knights, having reached the end of the
lists, now turned and rode back in open order,
with such skillful horsemanship as to evoke a
storm of applause from the spectators. The ladies
in the grand stand waved their handkerchiefs
vigorously, and the men clapped their hands. The
beautiful girl seated by Warwick's side accidentally
let a little square of white lace-trimmed linen
slip from her hand. It fluttered lightly over the
railing, and, buoyed up by the air, settled slowly
toward the lists. A young rider in the approaching
rear rank saw the handkerchief fall, and darting
swiftly forward, caught it on the point of his
lance ere it touched the ground. He drew up his
horse and made a movement as though to extend
the handkerchief toward the lady, who was blushing
profusely at the attention she had attracted by
her carelessness. The rider hesitated a moment,
glanced interrogatively at Warwick, and receiving
a smile in return, tied the handkerchief around
the middle of his lance and quickly rejoined his
comrades at the head of the lists.
The young man with the bandage round his
head, on the benches across the lists, had forced
his way to the front row and was leaning against
the railing. His restless eye was attracted by
the falling handkerchief, and his face, hitherto
anxious, suddenly lit up with animation.
"Yas, suh, yas, suh, it's her!" he muttered
softly. "It's Miss Rena, sho's you bawn. She
looked lack a' angel befo', but now, up dere
'mongs' all dem rich, fine folks, she looks lack a
whole flock er angels. Dey ain' one er dem ladies
w'at could hol' a candle ter her. I wonder w'at
dat man's gwine ter do wid her handkercher? I
s'pose he's her gent'eman now. I wonder ef
she'd know me er speak ter me ef she seed me?
I reckon she would, spite er her gittin' up so in
de worl'; fer she wuz alluz good ter ev'ybody, an'
dat let even ME in," he concluded with a sigh.
"Who is the lady, Tryon?" asked one of the
young men, addressing the knight who had taken
"A Miss Warwick," replied the knight
pleasantly, "Miss Rowena Warwick, the lawyer's
"I didn't know he had a sister," rejoined the
first speaker. "I envy you your lady. There
are six Rebeccas and eight Rowenas of my own
acquaintance in the grand stand, but she throws
them all into the shade. She hasn't been here
long, surely; I haven't seen her before."
"She has been away at school; she came only
last night," returned the knight of the crimson
sash, briefly. He was already beginning to feel a
proprietary interest in the lady whose token he
wore, and did not care to discuss her with a casual
The herald sounded the charge. A rider darted
out from the group and galloped over the course.
As he passed under each ring, he tried to catch it
on the point of his lance,--a feat which made
the management of the horse with the left hand
necessary, and required a true eye and a steady
arm. The rider captured three of the twelve
rings, knocked three others off the hooks, and
left six undisturbed. Turning at the end of the
lists, he took the lance with the reins in the left
hand and drew his sword with the right. He
then rode back over the course, cutting at the
wooden balls upon the posts. Of these he clove
one in twain, to use the parlance of chivalry, and
knocked two others off their supports. His
performance was greeted with a liberal measure of
applause, for which he bowed in smiling acknowledgment
as he took his place among the riders.
Again the herald's call sounded, and the tourney
went forward. Rider after rider, with varying
skill, essayed his fortune with lance and sword.
Some took a liberal proportion of the rings; others
merely knocked them over the boundaries, where
they were collected by agile little negro boys and
handed back to the attendants. A balking horse
caused the spectators much amusement and his
rider no little chagrin.
The lady who had dropped the handkerchief
kept her eye upon the knight who had bound it
round his lance. "Who is he, John?" she asked
the gentleman beside her.
"That, my dear Rowena, is my good friend and
client, George Tryon, of North Carolina. If he had
been a stranger, I should have said that he took a
liberty; but as things stand, we ought to regard it
as a compliment. The incident is quite in accord
with the customs of chivalry. If George were but
masked and you were veiled, we should have a
romantic situation,--you the mysterious damsel in
distress, he the unknown champion. The parallel,
my dear, might not be so hard to draw, even as
things are. But look, it is his turn now; I'll wager
that he makes a good run."
"I'll take you up on that, Mr. Warwick," said
Mrs. Newberry from behind, who seemed to have a
very keen ear for whatever Warwick said.
Rena's eyes were fastened on her knight, so that
she might lose no single one of his movements. As
he rode down the lists, more than one woman found
him pleasant to look upon. He was a tall, fair
young man, with gray eyes, and a frank, open face.
He wore a slight mustache, and when he smiled,
showed a set of white and even teeth. He was
mounted on a very handsome and spirited bay mare,
was clad in a picturesque costume, of which velvet
knee-breeches and a crimson scarf were the most
conspicuous features, and displayed a marked skill
in horsemanship. At the blast of the bugle his
horse started forward, and, after the first few rods,
settled into an even gallop. Tryon's lance, held
truly and at the right angle, captured the first ring,
then the second and third. His coolness and steadiness
seemed not at all disturbed by the applause
which followed, and one by one the remaining rings
slipped over the point of his lance, until at the end
he had taken every one of the twelve. Holding
the lance with its booty of captured rings in his
left hand, together with the bridle rein, he drew his
sabre with the right and rode back over the course.
His horse moved like clockwork, his eye was true
and his hand steady. Three of the wooden balls
fell from the posts, split fairly in the middle, while
from the fourth he sliced off a goodly piece and left
the remainder standing in its place.
This performance, by far the best up to this
point, and barely escaping perfection, elicited a
storm of applause. The rider was not so well
known to the townspeople as some of the other
participants, and his name passed from mouth to
mouth in answer to numerous inquiries. The girl
whose token he had worn also became an object of
renewed interest, because of the result to her in
case the knight should prove victor in the contest,
of which there could now scarcely be a doubt; for
but three riders remained, and it was very improbable
that any one of them would excel the last.
Wagers for the remainder of the tourney stood
anywhere from five, and even from ten to one, in
favor of the knight of the crimson sash, and when
the last course had been run, his backers were
jubilant. No one of those following him had displayed
anything like equal skill.
The herald now blew his bugle and declared the
tournament closed. The judges put their heads
together for a moment. The bugle sounded again,
and the herald announced in a loud voice that Sir
George Tryon, having taken the greatest number
of rings and split the largest number of balls, was
proclaimed victor in the tournament and entitled
to the flowery chaplet of victory.
Tryon, having bowed repeatedly in response to
the liberal applause, advanced to the judges' stand
and received the trophy from the hands of the chief
judge, who exhorted him to wear the garland worthily,
and to yield it only to a better man.
"It will be your privilege, Sir George,"
announced the judge, "as the chief reward of your
valor, to select from the assembled beauty of
Clarence the lady whom you wish to honor, to whom
we will all do homage as the Queen of Love and
Tryon took the wreath and bowed his thanks.
Then placing the trophy on the point of his lance,
he spoke earnestly for a moment to the herald, and
rode past the grand stand, from which there was
another outburst of applause. Returning upon his
tracks, the knight of the crimson sash paused before
the group where Warwick and his sister sat, and
lowered the wreath thrice before the lady whose
token he had won.
"Oyez! Oyez!" cried the herald; "Sir George
Tryon, the victor in the tournament, has chosen
Miss Rowena Warwick as the Queen of Love and
Beauty, and she will be crowned at the feast to-night
and receive the devoirs of all true knights."
The fair-ground was soon covered with scattered
groups of the spectators of the tournament. In
one group a vanquished knight explained in elaborate
detail why it was that he had failed to win the
wreath. More than one young woman wondered
why some one of the home young men could not
have taken the honors, or, if the stranger must win
them, why he could not have selected some belle of
the town as Queen of Love and Beauty instead
of this upstart girl who had blown into the town
over night, as one might say.
Warwick and his sister, standing under a spreading
elm, held a little court of their own. A dozen
gentlemen and several ladies had sought an
introduction before Tryon came up.
"I suppose John would have a right to call me
out, Miss Warwick," said Tryon, when he had been
formally introduced and had shaken hands with
Warwick's sister, "for taking liberties with the
property and name of a lady to whom I had not
had an introduction; but I know John so well
that you seemed like an old acquaintance; and
when I saw you, and recalled your name, which
your brother had mentioned more than once, I felt
instinctively that you ought to be the queen. I
entered my name only yesterday, merely to swell
the number and make the occasion more interesting.
These fellows have been practicing for a
month, and I had no hope of winning. I should
have been satisfied, indeed, if I hadn't made
myself ridiculous; but when you dropped your
handkerchief, I felt a sudden inspiration; and as soon
as I had tied it upon my lance, victory perched
upon my saddle-bow, guided my lance and sword,
and rings and balls went down before me like chaff
before the wind. Oh, it was a great inspiration,
Rena, for it was our Patesville acquaintance fresh
from boarding-school, colored deeply at this frank
and fervid flattery, and could only murmur an
inarticulate reply. Her year of instruction, while
distinctly improving her mind and manners, had
scarcely prepared her for so sudden an elevation
into a grade of society to which she had hitherto
been a stranger. She was not without a certain
courage, however, and her brother, who remained
at her side, helped her over the most difficult
"We'll forgive you, George," replied Warwick,