George Hooker Colton.

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" Heigho, who would have thought it ?"
exclaimed the other, holding up his fat
hands. " Why, to my certain knowledge,
you quarrelled bitterly with the hussy this
very morning ; and insulted her, too, in such
a way as to leave no chance of reconcilia-
tion."

" Ha !" cried the rejected suitor, " how
came you to know that? Surely you have
not dared trust your ears inside of Stephen
Trench ard's door-sill."

" Never mind ; I hear most that goes on,
I can tell you. But haven't you really
quarrelled with her for good ?"

" For bad, it may well be," said Randolph,
with a little sadness in his tone ; " yet, bad
or good, I shall never be her husband. But
then, confound it, I am not going to let a
parcel of hellish slanders be raised about an
innocent girl, I can tell you."

" But what odds ?" persisted the tempter.
" You don't want Herbert or Middleton to
marry her, I suppose?"

" I'll wring their necks first !" cried the
young man fiercely.

" You don't mean to take her yourself ?"

" I've already told you. No !"

" And you don't want her to get your
uncle's property ? Well, why not adopt a
plan that will accomplish every thing at
once ?"

"J will not think of it, so utter not another
word."

"Why, Steve, you must have been jilted
badly ;" and the crafty old man looked at
him with well-feigned astonishment. " So
you still love her ?"

" I do not /" replied Randolph with evi-
dent vexation. " I hate her ; or rather, I
am perfectly indifferent; and I will show my
indifference by insisting, as a mere affair of
justice, that no such scandalous plot as you
hint at be carried into execution. Sandy
Leach, it ish'-dl not; I have given my answer,
so be satisfied."

" But suppose I go on my own hook and
set the tongues of the school girls loose, what
can 1/ou do ?"



" Do !" echoed the young giant, in a tone
like the reverberations from a mountain side.
" Do !" he added, knitting his brows and
striking the table till the glasses danced.
" Try it, and, by Heaven, you shall find out
what I will do !"

Leach allowed him to become calm, and
continued in a quiet manner :

" What say you, then, to the scheme I
mentioned to you day before yesterday ?"

" I'll none of it. Goodness ! to think
what you have led me to before !" The
young man shuddered.

" Shaking, as I live — Steve Randolph
trembling !"

" Trembling? Pshaw ! Here ! let's have
a drink, and we'll see whose hand is the
steadiest." Randolph filled the two glasses
full to the brim, and then lifted his own to
his mouth without losing a drop, but Leach
spilled some of the wine from his.

The spendthrift expressed his exultation
loudly, and the conversation for a while
wandered from the subjects in debate. At
length Randolph, pushing away his glass,
leaned back in his chair for some moments,
and then said :

" Sandy, if I believed it possible for the
spirit of darkness to animate a human form,
1 should say there's one now in your big
carcass.''

" You compliment me ; but why ?"

" Well, you must own that the serpent
and the foul fiend are nearly related. Now,
if your temper towards my uncle is not
stwkish, I don't know a word fit to describe
it."

" x\nd hasn't Trenchard ever treated me
like a rcjitile .?"

Such a concentrated malice ghstened in
the small deep-set eye of Leach, that Ran-
dolph could not help averting his glance
with a sensation akin to horror. The shop-
keeper noticed the effect he had unwittingly
produced, and, relaxing his countenance to
its customary smile, added :

" You, Steve, cannot at any rate reproach
yourself for any lack of meekness and long-
suffering : witness your patient endurance of
Dr. Middleton."

" What has he done ?"

" Why, you knoiu what he has done in
tracking up those confounded boots."

" Oh, is that all ? I thought you had
something new."

" Really," returned Leach, " I never knew



416



The Trenchard Property.



December,



you so backward to give a man a thrashing
before."

" Plague take you, Sandy ! you are ever
at your vocation. But I'm get'ing sick of
this rowdyism, man. I have more than
half a notion even to apologize to that poor
boy Herbert for the hasty blows I gave
him."

" That will be a great relief indeed to him,
and he'll come off with flying colors. For
his sake be quick, and give him time to
■withdraw his challeiige before it reaches
you."

" Pooh ! a challenge from him ! What
a ridiculous idea ! A challenge to flight with
pop-guns, I suppose ?"

Leach noticed the ftivorable turn in his
subject, and skilfully availed himself of
it.

" Now don't kill the little man by laugh-
ing at him, Steve. How funny he looked
on the tavern pavement ! What a desperate
energy painted on his pretty face when he
held out his shooting fix ! One could ob-
serve the actual process of screwing up his
courage. In general it hes so low that I
doubt whether he himself suspected he had
any. With the first cut of the cow-hide it
moved ; the second and third stirred it more ;
but at the fourth, which I suppose ap-
proached nearer the seat of honor, it gave a
tremendous bounce, and at the same instant
up went the gun. The little chap wriggled
his lips and screwed so vigorously that his
courage reached another notch. He worked
and strained — higher he could not get it.
I was certain then he'd never make it stick ;
and sure enough, all at once down it came
with a flop. Old Stepiien Trenchard's lec-
ture, too, must have been rich — I mean the
scolding he gave him in place of dessert
after dinner. Sal, the house girl, told me
all about it this evening, and I made her a
present of a handkerchief for the story. He
scolded Frank beautifully for bringing home
the white feather, and said his only chance
was to challenr/e you, as your spunk was too
good ever to let you take back auy thing
you'd done. Frank blubbered out that he
had had the best of the business already, as
he had scared you."

" How ! he scared me? But go on."

" Well, he had punished you enough, he
thought ; and if, as it seemed, it was not
sufficient, his rehgion would not let him send
a cliallenge."



" He meant, as you say, Sandy, that his
courage had slipped out of reach."

"Very likely," continued the narrator;
"but the funniest part is to come. Tren-
chard asked why, in the mischief, he didn't
shoot you when he had a chance. He an-
swered that his gun ivasri't loaded, and that
he did great things when he frightened Steve
Randolph with an empty barrel ; and with
that, Sal says, he fairly grinned through his
tears."

"Confound the brat!" exclaimed Ran-
dolph ; " the next time I catch him I'll pound
him to a jelly."

"Don't, for his dear sweetheart's sake,
Steve. But listen 1 Frank added that, even
if his gun had been loaded, he could not
have had the heart to hurt such a poor, dis-
sipated young man."

" The dev "

" Don't swear, Steve ; he aint worth it.
But, to conclude, the smart youth wound up
by saying that, if no other consideration had
interfered, nothing could have induced him
to wound so near a relative of his revered
guardian."

" Fishing for a legacy, as I live !" cried
Stephen.

" Yon may well say it. I reckon he lays
that hit at a round ten thousand at least."

Leach having, as he thought, thoroughly
eflfaced, by this admirable perversion of facts,
every thing like compunction from the mind
of his listener, continued : " Do you want to
hear any more of the scraps I have picked
up from the servants ?"

" You may tell them, if you choose ; of
course they are half lies."

" Oh, I won't vouch as to that ! but, in-
deed, I don't know that the darkies have any
object, and I compare their accounts, so aa
to catch them when they trip. You must
know they come to my store by stealth, as
the Colonel would beat them like fury if he
knew of it. Well, there's one of them had
a talk with me some days ago, — an old,
gossipping crone that calls herself ' body sar-
vant to Miss Luc3^' "

"Rachel, I should judge," observed Ran-
dolph.

" That's the one ; but mind and don't say
any thing about it, or they will be punished,
and my mail cut off". Rachel said, in her
way, that her young mistress happened to
be talking one night about her three beaux,
— it's no matter what she said about you ?"



1851.



The Trenckard Property.



411



"Yes, tell me."

" She sfiid Mr. Randolph was too big and
passionate, and too extravagant."

" Ah, did she ? Extravagant, — eh ? I
wonder what mighty fortune she has to make
her so careful ?"

" You forget," replied Leach, " that shejs
to inherit the Trenchard estate."

" Ay, sure enough," said the other, with
a bitter scowl. " But what of the rest ?"

"Mr. Herbert," said she, "is toohttle and
bashful and soft-hearted."

" She's hard to please. And the doctor V

" Rachel says she blushed when she came
to his name, and said ' Dr. Middleton is as
quiet and gentle as Frank Ilerbert, and
braver than Mr. Randolph.'"

" Braver than I ? That shall be tried !"

Sandy Leach smiled ; that is, there was
a broad smile on his heart, but the visible
emotion became weaker in its passage along
the nerves, till it died away in sundry con-
vulsions of the maxillar muscles, which
seemed significant rather of lugubriousness
than of complacent mirth. lie was much
pleased, and indeed had reason to be, on
account of his successful management of the
wild passions of his companion. But he had
not attained his whole end ; and feeling
inclined to pursue it still further, with that
view made an interlude of a drinking bout.
Perhaps the exhilarating effect of the wine
he himself had already taken had something
to do with this measure ; however that may
be, it was not adopted with his usual pru-
dence. Although Mr. Leach was a match
for any one with the bottle, so far as mere
keeping his legs was concerned, and no one
had ever seen him drunk, yet he over-esti-
mated his powers of this kind when he set
them against Stephen Randolph's; for that
young man could bear as much "soaking" as
he, with this ditferenee, that all that he took
after a certain quantity had rather the effect
of cjuenching the natural fire of his tempera-
ment, than of kindliag it higher. The justice
of these observations will perhaps be seen
before we get to the close of this midnight
conversation, though they may be in this
place somewhat premature.

" I confess freely, Steve, that I shall not
be sorry to see Middleton thrashed ; for he
is so plaguy sly."

" You hit the nail now, Sandy. If the
fellow would come right out before my face,
I should not care ; but this behind-your-back



conduct I abominate. I'll make him come
out, though ; he must either show himself a
man, or else, what I verily believe him, a
sneaking coward. Deliver me from these
quiet, composed sort of people ; they can't
help but be rascals, in order to make them-
selves of some account in the world. I don't
believe there ever was a man of this nature,
but had something wrong about him. It
may be different off among the Yankees ;
but here in Virginia, the fellow that is so
still and steady and on his guard as never
to aftbrd opportunity for a tussle, must
either be a coward or nearly as bad."

"You except the present company, of
course," interposed Leach, laughing, "for
you know I am particular to keep out of
mischief."

"You differ from most of this class,
Sandy. You joke and laugh, and are plea-
sant over a bottle ; but after all, you are
dangerous ; you know it."

"But then, Steve, you must admit that
there are some roystering, heavy-handed
chaps, who are fit to give more general fear
than I ; lawyer Blapp, for instance."

" Tut, tut, man ! he is not a touch to you !
Wat Blapp is a right cute fellow, to be sure,
though he is not half so cute as he thinks he
is, and does a deal of mischief in the way of
setting folks together by the ears ; but com-
pared with you^ he is no more than a 'pren-
tice imp alongside of Beelzebub. Still,
Sandy, it is well enough to be careful of
Wat. Don't talk too freely to him. He's
in reahty, I believe, friendly disposed to me,
and would stick at little to serve me — that
is, of course, provided I could thereby be
put in a condition to do him some good in
return ; but it is by no means advisable to
let a man know more than exactly fits him
for the work you mean him to perform.
So, Sandy, if it should become necessary to
have recourse to any of your wild and des-
perate schemes, be particular as to Wat."

"Ay, ay ! trust me for that ! I am glad
to see you quitting your whimsical notions,
and turning once more to regard matters
like a man of the world ; and one of my
plans will be necessary, as you foresee.
Depend upon it, I have as little inclination
as you to commit more sins than circum-
stances compel. I have thought over the
whole business, and have thus made up my
mind to the only course that offers a fair
i chance of success. You may not yet have



478



The Trenchard Property.



December,



come to the same conclusion, but you will.
Let us talk about it rationallj'. You seem
to have a great repugnance to the first
scheme."

" I have, indeed ; so say no more about
it."

"Stephen, can you think of any other
substitute but that which I have suggested ?
I perceive by your blank look that you can-
not. Now, the inheritance of this estate is
your right by the laws of nature."

" Certainly ; am I not the Colonel's near-
est relative ?"

" Well, even the rankest Methodism does
not require a man to injure himself to bene-
fit another. Why, then, should you ward
OS's transient injury from this artful girl, to
your own hurt ?"

" But, Sandy, you forget ; this is a posi-
tive injury."

" No, it isn't, on your part. I am content
to take upon myself all the responsibility of
the act. Besides, the advantage to you is a
lasting one; the injury to her need not be
permanent — you understand V

" Yes, I understand. A lying report can
be overthrown by knocking away its felse
foundations. Still, slander will stick."

"I won't deceive you, Stephen. There
may be truth, at least some truth, in the
reports I have spoken about ; but I am cer-
tain that if you wish it, I can arrange the
aflFair so that her fame, whether the stains
cast upon it are just or not, will appear
spotless in the end."

" Yet," replied Eandolph, " a considera-
ble period may elapse before old Trench
kicks the bucket. I can't be certain of the
property till then, and it would be a long
while for the poor girl to remain with a dis-
honored name. Goodness knows she has
given me plaguy little reason to be anxious
about her settlement in marriage ; but for
all, I am loath to be the cause of her pining
away in solitude and poverty, shunned by
every honest man and woman as a creature
of shame."

" Oh, I dare say she'll get a respectable
husband without much trouble. She is
really quite pretty, and is accomplished
enough to keep any man's parlor stylish."

" That is very true, but such a foul report
will conceal it all."

" No, no ! don't you fear ! I'll warrant
her a decsnt husband, if I have to be the
man myself P



Leach was sensible that he might have
committed an indiscretion in this remark,
and shot a furtive glance across the table to
observe its effect, resolved within himself to
treat it as a jest if ill received ; but Randolph
only ansv/ered:

" Why, you have never heard her open
her lips even."

" But I have, though. Don't you know
she visits frequently at Mrs. Good's house?
I am a particular friend of the old widow,
and have seen Lucy there more than once."^

"The difficulty of the introduction may
be over, Sandy, but there is another — she'd
never have you. I am not vain, but I think
I am at least as captivating as you. To be
sure, I never cared for her the breaking of a
straw, except to make certain of my uncle's
negroes and land ; still I asked her."

"True enough, Stephen, I am not a
handsome fellow like you ; but you may
depend her proud feelings will break mighti-
ly when she finds herself all at once deserted
and scorned. Sae and her mother will be
poor, too, and distressed ; then will I com-
mence to lay my train. First I'll contrive
to drop in one acceptable present after
another at whatever hut they may take up
with, remaining myself all the time incog,
as they say. Perhaps I may put on a
broad-brim hat, and otherwise dress as a
respectable Quaker gentleman, carefully
keeping my face from observation. At the
first call I'll leave a basket of oranges for
the old lady, as she is weakly and complain-
ing ; and at the last one, when they may
be threatened with distress for rent or the
like, I'll just step to the door, signify that I
am leaving the country, throw in my purse
with a ' God bless you,' and step away with-
out waiting for thanks. Next, Mrs. Good
shall insist upon their staying a while at her
house ; there I will meet Lucy apparently
by accident, and show surprise and discom-
posure. Then, by degrees, I must become
more sociable, sympathize with her sorrows,
and all that. Depend upon it, my boy,
she'll be Mrs. Leach yet !"

"She your wife!" exclaimed Stephen,
with intense disdain ; " Lucy Montgomery
marry you ! — a pursy, bloated, vulgar shop-
keeper like you ! Ha ! ha !"

Sandy Leach was disconcerted, and half
inclined to manifest anger, for Randolph's
laugh had by no means the clear ring of
good-humored raillery. The young man



1851.



The Trenchard Property.



479



continued : " This, then, is the object of all
the nice work you have been chalking out
for me. I am honored, truly ! — the faithful
bully to drub Mr. Leach's rivals for him !
I see now the cause of such bitter spite
against Middleton and Herbert, Perhaps
you have been using some cursed 2>i'fictices
to injure me in her opinion. Give me but
reason to think so, and as sure as I am a
living man I'll beat out your brains against
that wall !" He started up, and his clenched
hand told that little was needed to induce
him to execute his threat.

Leach felt himself sobered with a ven-
geance, and trembled, for he knew his dan-
ger. His self-possession, however, did not
desert him.

" How can you dream of such a thing,
Stephen ? Confound the girl ! I wish she
was your wife to-morrow, or any body else's,
so that would satisfy you. What I want
is, to see you master of those thousands of
acres. How every thing beside turns out
will affect me not a whit."

" Here, Sandy !" exclaimed the other,
"look me in the eye, and solemnly swear
that you have done nothing, and caused
nothing to be done, to prejudice my suit
with Miss Montgomery. Be careful, now !
If you perjure yourself I'll read it on your
forehead, and it were far better for you to
make a clean breast at once than have me
wring the villainy out by tearing you in
pieces !"

" / 8wcar it ! I swear it /" cried Leach
with energy ; and well it was for him that
in this he spoke truth.

Randolph sat down again, and fresh corks
were drawn. His crafty companion found
all his work thrown back in confusion upon
his hands. Warily did he renew his task,
and indefatigably was it prosecuted. He
had determined that Im competitor, Mid-
dleton, should be humbled, and, by skilful
insinuations that the hesitation of Randolph
might be suspected by some to proceed from
fear, as he had been prompt enough to pun-
ish a feeble enemy in Francis Herbert, he
brought the young Titan again to the deter-
mination to insult the "sly doctor." To-
wards the breaking up of the conversation.
Leach ventured to introduce a hint at the
scheme concerning Miss Montgomery, but
a rising scowl upon the brow of his com-
panion admonished him in time to give the
sentence an inoflfensive termination.



CHAPTER VII.

The third day subsequent was that ap-
pointed in Virginia for holding an important
election. Dr. Charles Middleton, whose
rides for the past week had taken him in
a difterent direction, went, this morning,
around by Delviton, and having given his
vote, called for a few moments to inquire
after the health of the family at the man-
sion.

Colonel Trenchard Avas not at the house,
but he saw the two young persons and Mrs.
Montgomery. He grasped Herbert's hand
heartily, and said to him in a tone of sin-
cerity :

" You have behaved nobly, Frank, nobly !"

The youth blushed with gratification, and
answered :

" It was hard, and I expect to suffer in
consequence; but if the scene wei'e acted
again, I would not do otherwise."

" You need not, indeed,, my dear fellow,"
responded the doctor ; " very few could ex-
hibit such heroism. But where is the Colo-
nel 1 I suppose he is going to the election,
yet I did not see him at the village."

"No, he can't be there yet; he rode
round by the lower meadow. Surely, doc-
tor, you are not off already."

" I would be glad to stay, Frank ; but I
have a patient six miles off, to be visited at
eleven. Good bye, Mrs. Montgomery ; good
bye. Miss Lucy ; I will see you all to-mor-
row, I trust, and the Colonel too."

After he had ridden away, the trio re-
mained on the portico.

"I am sorry," observed Herbert, "that
the doctor was in such haste. I wanted to
inquire how the election was going. I must
get there myself before dinner, since I have
sufficient land to give me a vote, if not to
provide me a new broadcloth coat."

" Had you not better wait a little later ?
It will then be "

" It will be what, Lucy ?"

" I was going to say that it will then be
more quiet at the village than just now."

" Why, Lucy, I am ashamed of you ! Is
this the way you would nerve my fortitude ?
No, no ; I prefer to go when the greatest
number shall be present — Randolph among
them."

" You will not take any thing with you,
Frank ?"

" Yes, indeed, I will, unless you would



480



The Trenchard Property.



December,



have me leave my poeket-hankercliief and
pencil beliind."

" Oh, you know what I mean — your g'un,
and those — those "

''The pistols, eh ? Don't doubt my firm-
ness so easily ; I mean to carry no weapon
whatever, not even a walking-stick. An
umbrella, however, I must take, for it looks
something like rain. But here is Ichabod,
returning from the village ; the old man can
tell us how matters are going. Here, Uncle
Ich ! we want to see you."

" Sarvant, young Marser," said the negro,
removing his hat.

" Well, Uncle, tell us how things are go-
ing at the town ; who's to be elected V

"I can't say for sartain, Marser Frank;
some talks up stiff for one man, and some
for another ; it's hard prodicting who's
gwine to have most. 'Sides to speak resactly
I haven't interceded much into dis matter, I
was so taken up with watchin' the doctor
through his scrape; but I reckon he's told
you all 'bout that^

"No, he hasn't," said the young lady;
" do you tell us, Uncle Ich."

" I s'pose he seemed sort o' sperrited an'
'wildered?"

" Not at all," answered Herbert ; " he was
just as composed and quiet as ever. But
what has been the matter ?"

"You know, I judge, 'bout Marser Ste-
phen's comin' up to him lookin' so fierce, de
doctor was in mighty bad fix ?"

"But, Ichabod," interposed Mrs. Mont-
gomery, " we don't know any thing about
it. Mr. Randolph been assaulting Dr. Mid-
dleton? Come, give us the Avhole story
from the beginning ; don't tantalize us — if
you know what that means."

" I understand 'sizely : all one as craekin'
the whip afore the horses is hitched, or set-
tin' the wedge at the butt-eend. No, INIissus ;
I'll take the log right, and begin at the be-
ginnin'. The doctor come ridin' along down
to the front of the tavern — you know the
electionicg goes on in the tavern ; when he
gets right close to the step, he casts his eye
round, a-kinder lookin' for a place to hitch
his horse, and he looked plump against
Marser Stephen, who was standin' alongside
of Misser Leach just outside the door.
Marser Steve looked very savage indeed,
an' de doctor wheeled away his horse, and I
thought he was afeard ; but as it turned out,
he only went to fasten the critter to the



fence on the other side, 'case all the posts
was full. He come back then, walkiu' very
slow and liberal ; and as soon as he got to
the broad sideway, Marser Steve steps right
up to meet him, his forehead all drawed up
in a pucker, and the corners of his mouth
all drawed down, and his eyes in a glitter,
and his left fist doubled, and dat arm half
crooked, and a switch in his right hand.
He's so tall an' big, he seemed real grand
and fearsome." Ichabod here made a pause
for effect, and rolled his white orbs around
his small but attentive groiip of listeners.



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