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otherwise occupied. He had been mounted on a safe old horse and was not
spared advice from Leila, who enjoyed a little the position of mistress
of equestrianism. She was slyly conscious of her comrade's mildly
resentful state of mind.

"Don't pull on him so hard, John. The great thing is to get intimate with
a horse's mouth. He's pretty rough, but if you wouldn't keep so stiff,
you wouldn't feel it."

John began to be a little impatient. "Let us talk of something else than
horses. I got a good dose of advice yesterday from Uncle Jim. I am afraid
that you will be sent to school in the fall. I hate schools. You'll have
no riding and snowballing, and I shall miss you. You see, I was never
friends with a girl before."

"Uncle Jim would never let me go."

"But Aunt Ann?" he queried. "I heard her tell Mr. Rivers that you must
go. She said that you were too old, or would be, for snowballing and
rough games and needed the society of young ladies."

"Young ladies!" said Leila scornfully. "We had two from Baltimore year
before last. I happened to hit one of them in the eye with a snowball,
and she howled worse than Billy when he plays bear."

"Oh, you'll like it after a while," he said, with anticipative wisdom,
"but I shall be left to play with Tom. I want you to miss me. It is too

"I shall miss you; indeed, I shall. I suppose I am only a girl, but I
won't forget what you did when that boy was rude. I used to think once
you were like a girl and just afraid. I never yet thanked you," and she
leaned over and laid a hand for a moment on his. "I believe you wouldn't
be afraid now to do what I dared you to do."

He laughed. There had been many such dares. "Which dare was it, Leila?"

"Oh, to go at night - at night to the Indian graves. I tried it once and
got half way - "

"And was scalped all the way back, I suppose."

"I was, John. Try it yourself."

"I did, a month after I came."

"Oh! and you never told me."

"No, why should I?"

It had not had for him the quality of bodily peril. It was somehow far
less alarming. He had started with fear, but was of no mind to confess.
They rode on in silence, until at last she said. "I hope you won't fight
that boy again."

"Oh," he said, "I didn't mind it so very much."

She was hinting that he would again be beaten. "But I minded, John. I
hated it."

He would say no more. He had now had, as concerned Tom, three advisers.
He kept his own counsel, with the not unusual reticence of a boy. He did
not wish to be pitied on account of what he did not consider defeat, and
wanted no one to discuss it. He was better pleased when a week later the
English groom talked to him after the boxing-lesson. "That fellow, Tom,
told me about your slapping him. He said that he didn't want to lick you
if you hadn't hit him."

"It's not a thing I want to talk about, Sam. I had to hit him and I
didn't know how; that's all. Put on the gloves again."

"There, that'll do, sir. You're light on your pins, and he's sort of
slow. If you ever have to fight him, just remember that and keep cool and
keep moving."

The young boxing-tutor was silently of opinion that John Penhallow would
not be satisfied until he had faced Tom again. John made believe, as we
say, that he had no such desire. He had, however, long been caressed and
flattered into the belief that he was important, and was, in his uncle's
army phrase, to be obeyed and respected accordingly by inferiors. His
whole life now for many months had, however, contributed experiences
contradictory to his tacitly accepted boy-views. Sometimes in youth the
mental development and conceptions of what seem desirable in life appear
to make abrupt advances without apparent bodily changes. More wholesomely
and more rarely at the plastic age characteristics strengthen and mind
and body both gather virile capacity. When John Penhallow met his cousin
on his first arrival, he was in enterprise, vigour, general good sense
and normal relation to life, really far younger than Leila. In knowledge,
mind and imagination, he was far in advance. In these months he had
passed her in the race of life. He felt it, but in many ways was also
dimly aware that Leila was less expressively free in word and action,
sometimes to his surprise liking to be alone at the age when rare moods
of mild melancholy trouble the time of rapid female florescence. There
was still between them acceptance of equality, with on his part a certain
growth of respectful consideration, on hers a gentle perception of his
gain in manliness and of deference to his experience of a world of which
she knew as yet nothing, but with some occasional resentment when the
dominating man in the boy came to the surface. When his aunt praised his
manners, Leila said, "He isn't always so very gentle." When his uncle
laughed at his awkward horsemanship, she defended him, reminding her
uncle, to his amusement, of her own early mishaps.


John's intimacy with the Squire prospered. Leila had been a gay comrade,
but not as yet so interested as to tempt him to discussion of the
confusing politics of the day. "She has not as yet a seeking mind," said
the rector, who in the confessional of the evening pipe saw more and more
plainly that this was a divided house. The Squire could not talk politics
with Ann, his wife. She held a changeless belief in regard to slavery, a
conviction of its value to owner and owned too positive to be tempted
into discussing it with people who knew so little of it and did not
agree with her. James Penhallow, like thousands in that day of grim
self-questioning, had been forced to reconsider opinions long held, and
was reaching conclusions which he learned by degrees made argument with
the simplicity of his wife's political creed more and more undesirable.
Leila was too young to be interested. The rector was intensely
anti-slavery and saw but one side of the ominous questions which were
bewildering the largest minds. The increasing interest in his nephew was,
therefore, a source of real relief to the uncle. Meanwhile, the financial
difficulties of the period demanded constant thought of the affairs of
the mills and took him away at times to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Thus
the summer ran on to an end. Buchanan and Breckenridge had been nominated
and the Republicans had accepted Fremont and Dayton.

Birthdays were always pleasantly remembered at Grey Pine, and on
September 20th, when John, aged sixteen, came down to breakfast, as he
took his seat Ann came behind him and said as she kissed him, "You are
sixteen to-day; here is my present."

The boy flushed with pleasure as he received a pair of silver spurs. "Oh!
thank you, Aunt Ann," he cried as he rose.

"And here is mine," said Leila, and laughing asked with both hands behind
her back, "Which hand, John?"

"Oh! both - both."


"Then the one nearest the heart." Some quick reflection passed through
Ann Penhallow's mind of this being like an older man's humour.

Leila gave him a riding-whip. He had a moment's return of the grown-up
courtesies he had been taught, and bowed as he thanked her, saying, "Now,
I suppose, I am your knight, Aunt Ann."

"And mine," said Leila.

"I do not divide with any one," said Mrs. Ann. "Where is your present,

He had kept his secret. "Come and see," he cried. He led them to the
porch. "That is mine, John." A thorough-bred horse stood at the door,
saddled and bridled. Ann thought the gift extravagant, but held her

"Oh, Uncle Jim," said John. His heart was too full for the words he
wanted to say. "For me - for me." He knew what the gift meant.

"You must name him," said Leila. "I rode him once, John. He has no name.
Uncle Jim said he should have no name until he had an owner. Now I know."

John stood patting the horse's neck. "Wasn't his mother a Virginia mare,
James?" said Ann.


"Oh, then call him Dixy."

For a moment the Squire was of a mind to object, but said gaily, "By all
means, Ann, call him Dixy if you like, and now breakfast, please." Here
they heard Dixy's pedigree at length.

"Above all, Jack, remember that Dixy is of gentle birth; make friends
with him. He may misbehave; never, sir, lose your temper with him. Be
wary of use of whip or spur."

There was more of it, until Mrs. Ann said, "Your coffee will be cold. It
is one of your uncle's horse-sermons."

John laughed. How delightful it all was! "May I ride today with you,

"Yes, I want to introduce you to - Dixy - yes - "

"And may I ride with you?" asked Leila.

"No, my dear," said the aunt, "I want you at home. There is the raspberry
jam and currant jelly and tomato figs."

"Gracious, Leila, we shall not have a ride for a week."

"Oh, not that bad, John," said Mrs. Ann, "only two days and - and Sunday.
After that you may have her, and I shall be glad to be rid of her. She
eats as much as she preserves."

"Oh! Aunt Ann."

A few days went by, and as it rained in the afternoon there was no
riding, but there was the swimming-pool, and for rain John now cared very
little. On his way he met a half dozen village lads. They swam, and
hatched (it was John's device) a bit of mischief involving Billy, who was
fond of watching their sports when he was tired of doing chores about the
stable. John heard of it later. The likelihood of unpleasant results from
their mischief was discussed as they walked homeward. There were in all
five boys from the village, with whom by this time John had formed
democratic intimacies and moderate likings which would have shocked his
mother. He had had no quarrels since long ago he had resented Tom
McGregor's rudeness to Leila and had suffered the humiliation of defeat
in his brief battle with the bigger boy. The easy victor, Tom, had half
forgotten or ignored it, as boys do. Now as they considered an unpleasant
situation, Joe Grace, the son of the Baptist preacher, broke the silence.
He announced what was the general conclusion, halting for emphasis as he

"I say, fellows, there will be an awful row."

"That's so," said William, the butcher's son.

"Anyhow," remarked Ashton, whose father was a foreman at the mills, "it
was great fun; didn't think Billy could run like that."

It will be observed that the young gentleman of ten months ago had become
comfortably democratic in his associations and had shed much of his
too-fine manners as the herding instincts of the boy made the society of
comrades desirable when Leila's company was not attainable.

"Oh!" he said, "Billy can run, but I had none of the fun." Then he asked
anxiously, "Did Billy get as far as the house?"

"You bet," said Baynton, the son of the carpenter, "I saw him, heard him
shout to the Squire. Guess it's all over town by this time."

"Anyhow it was you, John, set it up," said a timid little boy, the child
of the blacksmith.

"That's so," said Grace, "guess you'll catch it hot."

John considered the last spokesman with scorn as Tom, his former foe,
said, "Shut up, Joe Grace, you were quick enough to go into it - and me

"Thanks," said John, reluctantly acknowledging the confession of
partnership in the mischief, "I am glad one of you has a little - well,

They went on their way in silence and left him alone. Nothing was said of
the matter at the dinner-table, where to John's relief Mr. Rivers was a
guest. John observed, however, that Mrs. Ann had less of her usual
gaiety, and he was not much surprised when his uncle leaving the table
said, "Come into the library, John." The Captain lighted his pipe and sat

"Now, sir," he said, "Billy is a poor witness. I desire to hear what

The stiffened hardness of the speaker in a measure affected the boy. He
stood for a moment silent. The Captain, impatient, exclaimed, "Now, I
want the simple truth and nothing else."

The boy felt himself flush. "I do not lie, sir. I always tell the truth."

"Of course - of course," returned Penhallow. "This thing has annoyed me.
Sit down and tell me all about it."

Rather more at his ease John said, "I went to swim with some of the
village boys, sir. We played tag in the water - "

The Squire had at once a divergent interest, "Tag - tag - swimming? Who
invented that game? Good idea - how do you play it?"

John a little relieved continued, "You see, uncle, you can dive to escape
or come up under a fellow to tag him. It's just splendid!" he concluded
with enthusiasm.

Then the Captain remembered that this was a domestic court-martial,
and self-reminded said, "The tag has nothing to do with the matter in
question; go on."

"We got tired and sat on the bank. Billy was wandering about. He never
can keep still. I proposed that I should hide in the bushes and the boys
should tell Billy I was drowned."


"We went into the water; I hid in the bushes and the boys called out I
was drowned. When Billy heard it, he gathered up all my clothes and my
shoes, and before I could get out he just yelled, 'John's drowned, I must
take his clothes home to his poor aunt.' Then he ran. The last I heard
was, 'He's drowned, he's drowned!'"

"And then?"

"Well, the other fellows put on something and went after him; they caught
him in the cornfield and took away my clothes. Then Billy ran to the
house. That is all I know."

The Squire was suppressing his mirth. "Aren't you ashamed?"

"No, sir, but I am sorry."

"I don't like practical jokes. Billy kept on lamenting your fate. He
might have told Leila or your aunt. Luckily I received his news, and no
one else. You will go to Westways and say there is to be no swimming for
a week in my pool."

"Yes, sir."

"You are not to ride Dixy or any other horse for ten days." This was
terrible. "Now, be off with you, and tell Mr. Rivers to come in."

"Yes, sir."

When Rivers sat down, the Squire suppressing his laughter related the
story. "The boy's coming on, Mark. He's Penhallow all over."

"But, Squire, by the boy's looks I infer you did not tell him that."

"Oh, hardly. I hate practical jokes, and I have stopped his riding for
ten days."

"I suppose you are right," and they fell to talking politics and of the
confusion of parties with three candidates in the field.

Mrs. Ann who suspected what had been the result of this court-martial
was disposed towards pity, but John retired to a corner and a book and
slipped away to bed early. Penalties he had suffered at school, but this
was a terrible experience, and now he was to let the other boys know that
the swimming-pool was closed for a week. At breakfast he made believe to
be contented in mind, and asked in his best manner if his uncle had any
errands for him in Westways or at the mills. When the Captain said no and
remarked further that if he wished to walk, he would find the wood-roads
cooler than the highway John expressed himself grateful for his advice
with such a complete return of his formal manner as came near to
unmasking the inner amusement which the Squire was getting from the
evident annoyance he was giving Mrs. Ann, who thought that he was
needlessly irritating a boy who to her mind was hurt and sore.

"Come, Leila," she said rising. "We may meet you in the village, John;
and do get your hair cut, and see Mr. Spooner and tell him - no, I will
write it."

John was pleased to feel that he had other reasons for visiting Westways
than his uncle's order. He went down the avenue whistling, and in no

Leila had some dim comprehension of John's state of mind. Of Billy and of
the Squire's court-martial she had heard from Mrs. Ann, and although that
lady said little, the girl very well knew that her aunt thought her
husband had been too severe. She stood on the porch, vaguely troubled for
this comrade, and watched him as he passed from view, taking a short cut
through the trees. The girl checked something like a sob as she went
into the house.

It was the opinion of the county that Mrs. Penhallow was a right good
woman and masterful; but of Leila the judgment of the village was that
she was just sweet through and through. The rector said she radiated the
good-nature of perfect health. What more there was time would show.
Westways knew well these two young people, and Leila was simply Leila to
nearly every one. "Quite time," reflected Mrs. Ann, "that she was Miss
Leila." As she went with her through the town there were pleasant
greetings, until at last they came to the butcher's. Mr. Pole, large
after the way of his craft, appeared in a white apron. "Well, now, how
you do grow, Leila."

"Not enough yet," said Leila.

"Fine day, Mrs. Penhallow." He was a little uneasy, divining her errand.

"Now, Pole, before I make a permanent change to the butcher at the mills,
I wish to say that it is because a pound of beef weighs less at Grey Pine
than in your shop."

At this time John was added to the hearers, being in search of William
Pole with the Squire's order about the swimming. He waited until his aunt
should be through. He was a little amused, which on the whole was, just
then, good for him.

"Now ma'am, after all these years you won't drop me like that."

"Short weights are reason enough."

Leila listened, sorry for Pole, who reddened and replied, "Fact is,
ma'am, I don't always do the weighing myself, and the boys they are real
careless. What with Hannah's asthma keeping me awake and a lot of fools
loafing around and talking politics, I do wonder I ever get things right.
It's Fremont and it's Buchanan - a man can't tell what to do."

Mrs. Penhallow was not usually to be turned aside, and meant now to deal
out even justice. But if the butcher knew it or not, she was offered what
she liked and at home could not have. "I hope, Pole, you are not going to
vote for Fremont."

"Well, ma'am, it ain't easy to decide. I've always followed the Squire."
Ann Penhallow knew, alas! what this would mean.

"I've been thinking I'll stand to vote for Buchanan. Was you wanting a
saddle of lamb to-day? I have one here, and a finer I never saw."

"Well, Pole, keep your politics and your weights in order. Send me the

The butcher smiled as Mrs. Ann turned away. Whether the lady of Grey Pine
was conscious of having bought a vote or not, it was pretty clear to her
nephew that Peter Pole's weights would not be further questioned as long
as his politics were Democratic.

When his aunt had gone, John called Bill Pole out of the shop and said,
"There's to be no swimming for a week, for any of us. Where are the other

"Guessed we would catch it. They're playing ball back of the church. I'll
go along with you."

He was pleased to see how the others would take their deprivation of a
swim in the September heat. They came on the other culprit's, who called
to John to come and play. He was not so minded, and was in haste to get
through with a disagreeable errand. As he hesitated, Pole eager to
distribute the unpleasant news cried out, "The Squire says that we can't
swim in the pool for a week - none of us. How do you fellows like that?"

"It's mighty mean of him."

"What's that?" said John. "He was right and you know it. I don't like it
any better than you do - but - "

Bill Baynton, the youngest boy, broke in, "Who told the Squire what
fellows was in it?"

"It wasn't Billy," said another lad; "he just kept on yelling you was

"Look here," said Tom McGregor turning to John, "did you tell the Squire
we fellows set it up?"

John was insulted. He knew well the playground code of honour, but
remembered in time his boxing-master's advice, the more mad you are the
cooler you keep yourself. He replied in his old formal way, "The question
is one you have no right to ask; it is an insult."

To the boys the failure to say "no" meant evasion. "Then, of course, you
told," returned the older lad. "If I wasn't afraid you'd run home and
complain, I'd spank you."

It had been impossible for John to be angry with his uncle, although the
punishment and the shame of carrying the news to the other boys he felt
to be a too severe penalty. But here was cause for letting loose
righteous anger. He had meant to wait, having been wisely counselled by
his boxing-master to be in no haste to challenge his enemy, until further
practice had made success possible; but now his rising wrath overcame his
prudence, "Well, try it," he said. "You beat me once. If you think I'll
tell if I am licked, I assure you, you are safe. I took the whole blame
about Billy and I was asked no names."

Tom hesitated and said, "I never heard that."

"I will accept an apology," said John in his most dignified way. The boys
laughed. John flushed a little, and as Tom remained silent added, "If you
won't, then lick me if you can."

As he spoke, he slipped off his coat and rolled up his sleeves. The long
lessons in self-defence had given him some confidence and, what was as
useful, had developed chest and arms.

"Hit him, Tom," said the small boy. In a moment the fight was on, the
non-combatants delighted.

To Tom's surprise his wild blows somehow failed to get home. It was
characteristic of John then as in later days that he became cool as he
realized his danger, while Tom quite lost his head as the success of the
defence disappointed his attack. To hit hard, to rush in and throw his
enemy, was all he had of the tactics of offence. The younger lad,
untouched, light on his feet, was continually shifting his ground; then
at last he struck right and left. He had not weight enough to knock down
his foe, but as Tom staggered, John leaped aside and felt the joy of
battle as he got in a blow under the ear and Tom fell.

"Get on him - hit him," cried the boys. "By George, if he ain't licked!"

John stood still. Tom rose, and as he made a furious rush at the victor,
a loud voice called out, "Halloa! quit that."

Both boys stood still as Mark Rivers climbed over the fence and stood
between them. John was not sorry for the interruption. He was well aware
that in the rough and tumble of a close he had not weight enough to
encounter what would have lost him the fight he had so far won. He stood
still panting, smiling, and happy.

"Hadn't you boys better shake hands?" said the rector. Tom, furious, was
collecting blood from his nose on his handkerchief. Neither boy spoke.
"Well, John," said Rivers waiting.

"I'll shake hands, sir, when Tom apologizes."

The rector smiled. Apologies were hardly understood as endings to village
fights. "He won't do it," said John with a glance at the swollen face;
"another time I'll make him."

"Will you!" exclaimed Tom.

The rector felt that on the whole it might have been better had they
fought it out. Now the peacemaking business was clearly not blessed. "You
are a nice pair of young Christians," he said. "At all events, you shall
not fight any more to-day. Come, John."

The boy put on his jacket and went away with Rivers, who asked presently
what was this about. "Mr. Rivers, soon after I came that fellow was rough
to Leila; I hit him, and he beat me like - like a dog."

"And you let all these suns go down upon your wrath?"

"There wasn't any wrath, sir. He wouldn't apologize to Leila; he wouldn't
do it."

"Oh! indeed."

"Then he said something to-day about Uncle Jim."

"Anything else?"

"Yes, he made it pretty clear that he thought me a liar."

"Well, but you knew you were not."

"Yes, sir, but he didn't appear to know."

"Do you think you convinced him?"

"No, sir, but I feel better."

"Ah! is that so? Morally better, John?" and he laughed as he bade him

The lad who left him was tired, but entirely satisfied with John
Penhallow. He went to the stable and had a technical talk with the
English groom, who deeply regretted not to have seen the fight.

There being no riding or swimming to fill the time, he took a net, some
tackle and a bucket, and went down to the river and netted a
"hellbender." He put him in a bucket of water and carried him to the
stable, where he was visited by Leila and Rivers, and later departed this
life, much lamented. In the afternoon, being in a happy mood, John easily
persuaded Leila to abandon her ride, and walk with him.

When they sat down beside the Indian graves, to his surprise she suddenly
shifted the talk and said, "John, who would you vote for? I asked Aunt
Ann, and she said, 'Buchanan, of course'; and when I asked Uncle Jim, he
said, 'Fremont'; but I want to understand. I saw in the paper that it was
wicked to keep slaves, but my cousins in Maryland have slaves; it can't
be wicked."

"Would you like to be bought and sold?" he said.

Online LibraryS. Weir MitchellWestways → online text (page 5 of 36)