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JOHN MARCH, SOUTHERNER

BY GEORGE W. CABLE


NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
1894

Copyright, 1894, by
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

THE CAXTON PRESS
NEW YORK




CONTENTS


I. SUEZ

II. TO A GOOD BOY

III. TWO FRIENDS

IV. THE JUDGE'S SON MAKES TWO LIFE-LONG ACQUAINTANCES, AND IS OFFERED A
THIRD

V. THE MASTER'S HOME-COMING

VI. TROUBLE

VII. EXODUS

VIII. SEVEN YEARS OF SUNSHINE

IX. LAUNCELOT HALLIDAY

X. FANNIE

XI. A BLEEDING HEART

XII. JOHN THINKS HE IS NOT AFRAID

XIII. FOR FANNIE

XIV. A MORTGAGE ON JOHN

XV. ARRIVALS AT ROSEMONT

XVI. A GROUP OF NEW INFLUENCES

XVII. THE ROSEMONT ATMOSPHERE

XVIII. THE PANGS OF COQUETRY

XIX. MR. RAVENEL SHOWS A "MORE EXCELLENT WAY"

XX. FANNIE SUGGESTS

XXI. MR. LEGGETT'S CHICKEN-PIE POLICY

XXII. CLIMBING LOVER'S LEAP

XXIII. A SUMMONS FOR THE JUDGE

XXIV. THE GOLDEN SPIKE

XXV. BY RAIL

XXVI. JOHN INSULTS THE BRITISH FLAG

XXVII. TO SUSIE - FROM PUSSIE

XXVIII. INFORMATION FOR SALE

XXIX. RAVENEL ASKS

XXX. ANOTHER ODD NUMBER

XXXI. MR. FAIR VENTURES SOME INTERROGATIONS

XXXII. JORDAN

XXXIII. THE OPPORTUNE MOMENT

XXXIV. DAPHNE AND DINWIDDIE: A PASTEL IN PROSE

XXXV. A WIDOW'S ULTIMATUM

XXXVI. A NEW SHINGLE IN SUEZ

XXXVII. WISDOM AND FAITH KISS EACH OTHER

XXXVIII. RUBBING AGAINST MEN

XXXIX. SAME AFTERNOON

XL. ROUGH GOING

XLI. SQUATTER SOVEREIGNTY

XLII. JOHN HEADS A PROCESSION

XLIII. ST. VALENTINE'S DAY

XLIV. ST. VALENTINE'S: EVENING

XLV. A LITTLE VOYAGE OF DISCOVERIES

XLVI. A PAIR OF SMUGGLERS

XLVII. LEVITICUS

XLVIII. DELILAH

XLIX. MEETING OF STOCKHOLDERS

L. THE JAMBOREE

LI. BUSINESS

LII. DARKNESS AND DOUBT

LIII. SWEETNESS AND LIGHT

LIV. AN UNEXPECTED PLEASURE

LV. HOME-SICKNESS ALLEVIATED

LVI. CONCERNING SECOND LOVE

LVII. GO ON, SAYS BARBARA

LVIII. TOGETHER AGAIN

LIX. THIS TIME SHE WARNS HIM

LX. A PERFECT UNDERSTANDING

LXI. A SICK MAN AND A SICK HORSE

LXII. RAVENEL THINKS HE MUST

LXIII. LETTERS AND TELEGRAMS

LXIV. JUDICIOUS JOHANNA

LXV. THE ENEMY IN THE REAR

LXVI. WARM HEARTS, HOT WORDS, COOL FRIENDS

LXVII. PROBLEM: IS AN UNCONFIRMED DISTRUST NECESSARILY A DEAD ASSET?

LXVIII. FAREWELL, WIDEWOOD

LXIX. IN YANKEE LAND

LXX. ACROSS THE MEADOWS

LXXI. IN THE WOODS

LXXII. MY GOOD GRACIOUS, MISS BARB

LXXIII. IMMEDIATELY AFTER CHAPEL

LXXIV. COMPLETE COLLAPSE OF A PERFECT UNDERSTANDING

LXXV. A YEAR'S VICISSITUDES

LXXVI. AGAINST OVERWHELMING NUMBERS

LXXVII. "LINES OF LIGHT ON A SULLEN SEA"

LXXVIII. BARBARA FINDS THE RHYME




JOHN MARCH, SOUTHERNER




I.

SUEZ


In the State of Dixie, County of Clearwater, and therefore in the very
heart of what was once the "Southern Confederacy," lies that noted seat
of government of one county and shipping point for three, Suez. The
pamphlet of a certain land company - a publication now out of print and
rare, but a copy of which it has been my good fortune to
secure - mentions the battle of Turkey Creek as having been fought only a
mile or so north of the town in the spring of 1864. It also strongly
recommends to the attention of both capitalist and tourist the beautiful
mountain scenery of Sandstone County, which adjoins Clearwater a few
miles from Suez on the north, and northeast, as Blackland does, much
farther away, on the southwest.

In the last year of our Civil War Suez was a basking town of twenty-five
hundred souls, with rocky streets and breakneck sidewalks, its dwellings
dozing most months of the twelve among roses and honeysuckles behind
anciently whitewashed, much-broken fences, and all the place wrapped in
that wide sweetness of apple and acacia scents that comes from whole
mobs of dog-fennel. The Pulaski City turnpike entered at the northwest
corner and passed through to the court-house green with its hollow
square of stores and law-offices - two sides of it blackened ruins of
fire and war. Under the town's southeasternmost angle, between yellow
banks and over-hanging sycamores, the bright green waters of Turkey
Creek, rambling round from the north and east, skipped down a gradual
stairway of limestone ledges, and glided, alive with sunlight, into that
true Swanee River, not of the maps, but which flows forever, "far, far
away," through the numbers of imperishable song. The river's head of
navigation was, and still is, at Suez.

One of the most influential, and yet meekest among the "citizens" - men
not in the army - whose habit it was to visit Suez by way of the
Sandstone County road, was Judge Powhatan March, of Widewood. In years
he was about fifty. He was under the medium stature, with a gentle and
intellectual face whose antique dignity was only less attractive than
his rich, quiet voice.

His son John - he had no other child - was a fat-cheeked boy in his eighth
year, oftenest seen on horseback, sitting fast asleep with his hands
clutched in the folds of the Judge's coat and his short legs and browned
feet spread wide behind the saddle. It was hard straddling, but it was
good company.

One bright noon about the close of May, when the cotton blooms were
opening and the cornsilk was turning pink; when from one hot pool to
another the kildee fluttered and ran, and around their edges arcs of
white and yellow butterflies sat and sipped and fanned themselves, like
human butterflies at a seaside, Judge March - with John in his accustomed
place, headquarters behind the saddle - turned into the sweltering shade
of a tree in the edge of town to gossip with an acquaintance on the
price of cotton, the health of Suez and the last news from
Washington - no longer from Richmond, alas!

"Why, son!" he exclaimed, as by and by he lifted the child down before a
hardware, dry-goods, drug and music store, "what's been a-troublin' you?
You a-got tear marks on yo' face!" But he pressed the question in vain.

"Gimme yo' han'ke'cher, son, an' let me wipe 'em off."

But John's pockets were insolvent as to handkerchiefs, and the Judge
found his own no better supplied. So they changed the subject and the
son did not have to confess that those dusty rivulet beds, one on either
cheek, were there from aching fatigue of a position he would rather have
perished in than surrender.

This store was the only one in Suez that had been neither sacked nor
burned. In its drug department there had always been kept on sale a
single unreplenished, undiminished shelf of books. Most of them were
standard English works that took no notice of such trifles as children.
But one was an exception, and this world-renowned volume, though
entirely unillustrated, had charmed the eyes of Judge March ever since
he had been a father. Year after year had increased his patient
impatience for the day when his son should be old enough to know that
book's fame. Then what joy to see delight dance in his brave young eyes
upon that volume's emergence from some innocent concealment - a gift from
his father!

Thus far, John did not know his a-b-c's. But education is older than
alphabets, and for three years now he had been his father's constant,
almost confidential companion. Why might not such a book as this, even
now, be made a happy lure into the great realm of letters? Seeing the
book again to-day, reflecting that the price of cotton was likely to go
yet higher, and touched by the child's unexplained tears, Judge March
induced him to go from his side a moment with the store's one
clerk - into the lump-sugar section - and bought the volume.




II.

TO A GOOD BOY


In due time the Judge and his son started home.

The sun's rays, though still hot, slanted much as the two rose into oak
woodlands to the right of the pike and beyond it. Here the air was cool
and light. As they ascended higher, and oaks gave place to chestnut and
mountain-birch, wide views opened around and far beneath. In the south
spread the green fields and red fallows of Clearwater, bathed in the
sheen of the lingering sun. Miles away two white points were the spires
of Suez.

The Judge drew rein and gazed on five battle-fields at once. "Ah, son,
the kingdom of romance is at hand. It's always at hand when it's within
us. I'll be glad when you can understand that, son."

His eyes came round at last to the most western quarter of the landscape
and rested on one part where only a spray had dashed when war's fiery
deluge rolled down this valley. "Son, if there wa'n't such a sort o'
mist o' sunshine between, I could show you Rosemont College over yondeh.
You'll be goin' there in a few years now. That'll be fine, won't it,
son?"

A small forehead smote his back vigorously, not for yea, but for
slumber.

"Drowsy, son?" asked the Judge, adding a backward caress as he moved on
again. "I didn't talk to you enough, did I? But I was thinkin' about
you, right along." After a silence he stopped again.

"Awake now, son?" He reached back and touched the solid little head.
"See this streak o' black land where the rain's run down the road? Well,
that means silveh, an' it's ow lan'."

They started once more. "It may not mean much, but we needn't care, when
what doesn't mean silveh means dead loads of other things. Make haste
an' grow, son; yo' peerless motheh and I are only wait'n' - " He ceased.
In the small of his back the growing pressure of a diminutive bad hat
told the condition of his hidden audience. It lifted again.

"'Evomind, son, I can talk to you just as well asleep. But I can tell
you somepm that'll keep you awake. I was savin' it till we'd get home to
yo' dear motheh, but yo' ti-ud an' I don't think of anything else
an' - the fact is, I'm bringing home a present faw you." He looked behind
till his eyes met a brighter pair. "What you reckon you've been sitt'n'
on in one of them saddle pockets all the way fum Suez?"

John smiled, laid his cheek to his father's back and whispered, "A
kitt'n."

"Why, no, son; its somepm powerful nice, but - well, you might know it
wa'n't a kitt'n by my lett'n' you sit on it so long. I'd be proud faw
you to have a kitt'n, but, you know, cats don't suit yo' dear motheh's
high strung natu'e. You couldn't be happy with anything that was a
constant tawment to her, could you?"

The head lying against the questioner's back nodded an eager yes!

"Oh, you think you might, son, but I jes' know you couldn't. Now, what
I've got faw you is ever so much nicer'n a kitt'n. You see, you
a-growin' so fast you'll soon not care faw kitt'ns; you'll care for what
I've got you. But don't ask what it is, faw I'd hate not to tell you,
and I want yo' dear motheh to be with us when you find it out."

It was fairly twilight when their horse neighed his pleasure that his
crib was near. Presently they dismounted in a place full of stumps and
weeds, where a grove had been till Halliday's brigade had camped there.
Beyond a paling fence and a sandy, careworn garden of altheas and
dwarf-box stood broadside to them a very plain, two-story house of
uncoursed gray rubble, whose open door sent forth no welcoming gleam.
Its windows, too, save one softly reddened by a remote lamp, reflected
only the darkling sky. This was their home, called by every mountaineer
neighbor "a plumb palace."

As they passed in, the slim form of Mrs. March entered at the rear door
of the short hall and came slowly through the gloom. John sprang, and
despite her word and gesture of nervous disrelish, clutched, and smote
his face into, her pliant crinoline. The husband kissed her forehead,
and, as she staggered before the child's energy, said:

"Be gentle, son." He took a hand of each. "I hope you'll overlook a
little wildness in us this evening, my dear." They turned into a front
room. "I wonder he restrains himself so well, when he knows I've brought
him a present - not expensive, my deah, I assho' you, nor anything you
can possible disapprove; only a B-double-O-K, in fact. Still, son, you
ought always to remember yo' dear mother's apt to be ti-ud."

Mrs. March sank into the best rocking-chair, and, while her son kissed
her diligently, said to her husband, with a smile of sad reproach:

"John can never know a woman's fatigue."

"No, Daphne, deah, an' that's what I try to teach him."

"Yes, Powhatan, but there's a difference between teaching and
terrifying."

"Oh! Oh! I was fah fum intend'n' to be harsh."

"Ah! Judge March, you little realize how harsh your words sometimes
are." She showed the back of her head, although John plucked her sleeves
with vehement whispers. "What _is_ it child?"

Her irritation turned to mild remonstrance. "You shouldn't interrupt
your father, no matter how long you have to wait."

"Oh, I'd finished, my deah," cried the Judge, beaming upon wife and son.
"And now," he gathered up the saddle-bags, "now faw the present!"

John leaped - his mother cringed.

"Oh, Judge March - before supper?"

"Why, of co'se not, my love, if you - - "

"Ah, Powhatan, please! Please don't say if I." The speaker smiled
lovingly - "I don't deserve such a rebuke!" She rose.

"Why, my deah!"

"No, I was not thinking of I, but of others. There's the tea-bell.
Servants have rights, Powhatan, and we shouldn't increase their burdens
by heartless delays. That may not be the law, Judge March, but it's the
gospel."

"Oh, I quite agree with you, Daphne, deah!" But the father could not
help seeing the child's tearful eyes and quivering mouth. "I'll tell you
mother, son - There's no need faw anybody to be kep' wait'n'. We'll go to
suppeh, but the gift shall grace the feast!" He combed one soft hand
through his long hair. John danced and gave a triple nod.

Mrs. March's fatigue increased. "Please yourself," she said. "John and I
can always make your pleasure ours. Only, I hope he'll not inherit a
frivolous impatience."

"Daphne, I - - " The Judge made a gesture of sad capitulation.

"Oh, Judge March, it's too late to draw back now. That were cruel!"

John clambered into his high chair - said grace in a pretty rhyme of his
mother's production - she was a poetess - and ended with:

"Amen, double-O-K. I wish double-O-K would mean firecrackers;
firecrackers and cinnamon candy!" He patted his wrists together and
glanced triumphantly upon the frowsy, barefooted waitress while Mrs.
March poured the coffee.

The Judge's wife, at thirty-two, was still fair. Her face was thin, but
her languorous eyes were expressive and her mouth delicate. A certain
shadow about its corners may have meant rigidity of will or only a habit
of introspection, but it was always there.

She passed her husband's coffee, and the hungry child, though still all
eyes, was taking his first gulp of milk, when over the top of his mug he
saw his father reach stealthily down to his saddle-bags and straighten
again.

"Son."

"Suh!"

"Go on with yo' suppeh, son." Under the table the paper was coming off
something. John filled both cheeks dutifully, but kept them so,
unchanged, while the present came forth. Then he looked confused and
turned to his mother. Her eyes were on her husband in deep dejection, as
her hand rose to receive the book from the servant. She took it, read
the title, and moaned:

"Oh! Judge March, what is your child to do with 'Lord Chesterfield's
Letters to his Son?'"

John waited only for her pitying glance. Then the tears burst from his
eyes and the bread and milk from his mouth, and he cried with a great
and continuous voice, "I don't like presents! I want to go to bed!"

Even when the waitress got him there his mother could not quiet him. She
demanded explanations and he could not explain, for by that time he had
persuaded himself he was crying because his mother was not happy. But he
hushed when the Judge, sinking down upon the bedside, said, as the
despairing wife left the room,

"I'm sorry I've disappointed you so powerful, son. I know just how you
feel. I made - " he glanced round to be sure she was gone - "just as bad a
mistake one time, trying to make a present to myself."

The child lay quite still, vaguely considering whether that was any good
reason why he should stop crying.

"But 'evomind, son, the ve'y next time we go to town we'll buy some
cinnamon candy."

The son's eyes met the father's in a smile of love, the lids declined,
the lashes folded, and his spirit circled softly down into the
fathomless under-heaven of dreamless sleep.




III.

TWO FRIENDS


It was nearly four o'clock of a day in early June. The sun shone
exceptionally hot on the meagre waters of Turkey Creek, where it warmed
its sinuous length through the middle of its wide battle-field. The
turnpike, coming northward from Suez, emerged, white, dusty, and badly
broken, on the southern border of this waste, and crossed the creek at
right angles. Eastward, westward, the prospect widened away in soft
heavings of fallow half ruined by rains. The whole landscape seemed
bruised and torn, its beauty not gone, but ravished. A distant spot of
yellow was wheat, a yet farther one may have been rye. Off on the right
a thin green mantle that only half clothed the red shoulder of a rise
along the eastern sky was cotton, the sometime royal claimant,
unsceptred, but still potent and full of beauty. About the embers of a
burned dwelling, elder, love-pop, and other wild things spread
themselves in rank complacency, strange bed-fellows adversity had thrust
in upon the frightened sweet-Betsy, phlox and jonquils of the ruined
garden. Here the ground was gay with wild roses, and yonder blue, pink,
white, and purple with expanses of larkspur.

A few steps to the left of the pike near the wood's strong shade, a
beautiful brown horse in gray and yellow trappings suddenly lifted his
head from the clover and gazed abroad.

"He knows there's been fighting here," said a sturdy voice from the
thicket of ripe blackberries behind; "he sort o' smells it."

"Reckon he hears something," responded a younger voice farther from the
road. "Maybe it's C'nelius's yodle; he's been listening for it for a
solid week."

"He's got a good right to," came the first voice again; "worthless as
that boy is, nobody ever took better care of a horse. I wish I had just
about two dozen of his beat biscuit right now. He didn't have his equal
in camp for beat biscuit."

"When sober," suggested the younger speaker, in that melodious Southern
drawl so effective in dry satire; but the older voice did not laugh. One
does not like to have another's satire pointed even at one's nigger.

The senior presently resumed a narrative made timely by the two having
just come through the town. "You must remember I inherited no means and
didn't get my education without a long, hard fight. A thorough clerical
education's no mean thing to get."

"Couldn't the church help you?"

"Oh - yes - I, ch - I did have church aid, but - - Well, then I was three
years a circuit rider and then I preached four years here in Suez. And
then I married. Folks laugh about preachers always marrying fortunes - it
was a mighty small fortune Rose Montgomery brought me! But she was Rose
Montgomery, and I got her when no other man had the courage to ask for
her. You know an ancestor of hers founded Suez. That's how it got its
name. His name was Ezra and hers was Susan, don't you see?"

"I think I make it out," drawled the listener.

"But she didn't any more have a fortune than I did. She and her mother,
who died about a year after, were living here in town just on the wages
of three or four hired-out slaves, and - - "

The younger voice interrupted with a question indolently drawn out: "Was
she as beautiful in those days as they say?"

"Why, allowing for some natural exaggeration, yes."

"You built Rosemont about the time her mother died, didn't you?"

"Yes, about three years before the war broke out. It was the only piece
of land she had left; too small for a plantation, but just the thing for
a college."

"It is neatly named," pursued the questioner; "who did it?"

"I," half soliloquized the narrator, wrapped in the solitude of his own
originality.

He moved into view, a large man of forty, unmilitary, despite his good
gray broadcloth and wealth of gold braid, though of commanding and most
comfortable mien. His upright coat-collar, too much agape, showed a
clerical white cravat. His right arm was in a sling. He began to pick
his way out of the brambles, dusting himself with a fine handkerchief.
The horse came to meet him.

At the same time his young companion stepped upon a fallen tree, and
stood to gaze, large-eyed, like the horse, across the sun-bathed scene.
He seemed scant nineteen. His gray shirt was buttoned with locust
thorns, his cotton-woolen jacket was caught under an old cartridge belt,
his ragged trousers were thrust into bursted boots, and he was thickly
powdered with white and yellow dust. His eyes swept slowly over the
battle-ground to some low, wooded hills that rose beyond it against the
pale northwestern sky.

"Major," said he.

The Major was busy lifting himself carefully into the saddle and
checking his horse's eagerness to be off. But the youth still gazed, and
said again, "Isn't that it?"

"What?"

"Rosemont."

"It is!" cried the officer, standing in his stirrups, and smiling fondly
at a point where, some three miles away by the line of sight, a dark
roof crowned by a white-railed lookout peeped over the tree-tops. "It's
Rosemont - my own Rosemont! The view's been opened by cutting the woods
off that hill this side of it. Come!"

Soon a wreath of turnpike dust near the broken culvert over Turkey Creek
showed the good speed the travelers made. The ill-shod youth and
delicately-shod horse trudged side by side through the furnace heat of
sunshine. So intolerable were its rays that when an old reticule of
fawn-skin with bright steel chains and mountings, well-known receptacle
of the Major's private papers and stationery, dropped from its
fastenings at the back of the saddle and the dismounted soldier stooped
to pick it up, the horseman said: "Don't stop; let it go; it's empty. I
burned everything in it the night of the surrender, even my wife's
letters, don't you know?"

"Yes," said the youth, trying to open it, "I remember. Still, I'll take
its parole before I turn it loose."

"That part doesn't open," said the rider, smiling, "it's only
make-believe. Here, press in and draw down at the same time. There!
nothing but my card that I pasted in the day I found the thing in some
old papers I was looking over. I reckon it was my wife's grandmother's.
Oh, yes, fasten it on again, though like as not I will give it away to
Barb as soon as I get home. It's my way."

And the Reverend John Wesley Garnet, A.M., smiled at himself
self-lovingly for being so unselfish about reticules.

"You need two thumbs to tie those leather strings, Jeff-Jack." Jeff-Jack
had lost one, more than a year before, in a murderous onslaught where
the Major and he had saved each other's lives, turn about, in almost the
same moment. But the knot was tied, and they started on.

"Speakin' o' Barb, some of the darkies told her if she didn't stop
chasing squir'ls up the campus trees and crying when they put shoes on
her feet to take her to church, she'd be turned into a boy. What d' you
reckon she said? She and Johanna - Johanna's her only playmate, you
know - danced for joy; and Barb says, says she, 'An' den kin I doe in
swimmin'?' Mind you, she's only five years old!" The Major's laugh came
abundantly. "Mind you, she's only five!"

The plodding youth whiffed gayly at the heat, switched off his bad
cotton hat, and glanced around upon the scars of war. He was about to
speak lightly; but as he looked upon the red washouts in the forsaken
fields, and the dried sloughs in and beside the highway, snaggy with
broken fence-rails and their margins blackened by teamsters'
night-fires, he fell to brooding on the impoverishment of eleven States,
and on the hundreds of thousands of men and women sitting in the ashes
of their desolated hopes and the lingering fear of unspeakable
humiliations. Only that morning had these two comrades seen for the
first time the proclamation of amnesty and pardon with which the
president of the triumphant republic ushered into a second birth the
States of "the conquered banner."

"Major," said the young man, lifting his head, "you must open Rosemont
again."

"Oh, I don't know, Jeff-Jack. It's mighty dark for us all ahead." The
Major sighed with the air of being himself a large part of the fallen



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