Read AZALIA of Free Joe and Other Georgian Sketches , free online book, by Joel Chandler Harris, on ReadCentral.com.

I

MISS HELEN OSBORNE EUSTIS of Boston was very much astonished one day in the early fall of 1873 to receive a professional visit from Dr. Ephraim Buxton, who for many years had been her father’s family physician.  The astonishment was mutual; for Dr. Buxton had expected to find Miss Eustis in bed, or at least in the attitude of a patient, whereas she was seated in an easy chair, before a glowing grate-which the peculiarities of the Boston climate sometimes render necessary, even in the early fall-and appeared to be about as comfortable as a human being could well be.  Perhaps the appearance of comfort was heightened by the general air of subdued luxury that pervaded the apartment into which Dr. Buxton had been ushered.  The draperies, the arrangement of the little affairs that answer to the name of bric-a-brac, the adjustment of the furniture-everything-conveyed the impression of peace and repose; and the chief element of this perfect harmony was Miss Eustis herself, who rose to greet the doctor as he entered.  She regarded the physician with eyes that somehow seemed to be wise and kind, and with a smile that was at once sincere and humorous.

“Why, how is this, Helen?” Dr. Buxton exclaimed, taking off his spectacles, and staring at the young lady.  “I fully expected to find you in bed.  I hope you are not imprudent.”

“Why should I be ill, Dr. Buxton?  You know what Mr. Tom Appleton says:  ’In Boston, those who are sick do injustice to the air they breathe and to their cooks.’  I think that is a patriotic sentiment, and I try to live up to it.  My health is no worse than usual, and usually it is very good,” said Miss Eustis.

“You certainly seem to be well,” said Dr. Buxton, regarding the young lady with a professional frown; “but appearances are sometimes deceitful.  I met Harriet yesterday-”

“Ah, my aunt!” exclaimed Helen, in a tone calculated to imply that this explained everything.

“I met Harriet yesterday, and she insisted on my coming to see you at once, certainly not later than to-day.”

Miss Eustis shrugged her shoulders, and laughed, but her face showed that she appreciated this manifestation of solicitude.

“Let me see,” she said reflectively; “what was my complaint yesterday?  We must do justice to Aunt Harriet’s discrimination.  She would never forgive you if you went away without leaving a prescription.  My health is so good that I think you may leave me a mild one.”

Unconsciously the young lady made a charming picture as she sat with her head drooping a little to one side in a half-serious, half-smiling effort to recall to mind some of the symptoms that had excited her aunt’s alarm.  Dr. Buxton, prescription book in hand, gazed at her quizzically over his old-fashioned spectacles; seeing which, Helen laughed heartily.  At that moment her aunt entered the room-a pleasant-faced but rather prim old lady, of whom it had been said by some one competent to judge, that her inquisitiveness was so overwhelming and so important that it took the shape of pity in one direction, patriotism in another, and benevolence in another, giving to her life not the semblance but the very essence of usefulness and activity.

“Do you hear that, Dr. Buxton?” cried the pleasant-faced old lady somewhat sharply.  “Do you hear her wheeze when she laughs?  Do you remember that she was threatened with pneumonia last winter? and now she is wheezing before the winter begins!”

“This is the trouble I was trying to think of,” exclaimed Helen, sinking back in her chair with a gesture of mock despair.

“Don’t make yourself ridiculous, dear,” said the aunt, giving the little clusters of gray curls that hung about her ears an emphatic shake.  “Serious matters should be taken seriously.”  Whereat Helen pressed her cheek gently against the thin white hand that had been laid caressingly on her shoulder.

“Aunt Harriet has probably heard me say that there is still some hope for the country, even though it is governed entirely by men,” said Helen, with an air of apology.  “The men can not deprive us of the winter climate of Boston, and I enjoy that above all things.”

Aunt Harriet smiled reproachfully at her niece, and pulled her ear gently.

“But indeed, Dr. Buxton,” Helen went on more seriously, “the winter climate of Boston, fine as it is, is beginning to pinch us harder than it used to do.  The air is thinner, and the cold is keener.  When I was younger-very much younger-than I am now, I remember that I used to run in and out, and fall and roll in the snow with perfect impunity.  But now I try to profit by Aunt Harriet’s example.  When I go out, I go bundled up to the point of suffocation; and if the wind is from the east, as it usually is, I wear wraps and shawls indoors.”

Helen smiled brightly at her aunt and at Dr. Buxton; but her aunt seemed to be distressed, and the physician shook his head dubiously.

“You will have to take great care of yourself,” said Dr. Buxton.  “You must be prudent.  The slightest change in the temperature may send you to bed for the rest of the winter.”

“Dr. Buxton is complimenting you, Aunt Harriet,” said Helen.  “You should drop him a courtesy.”

Whereupon the amiable physician, seeing that there was no remedy for the humorous view which Miss Eustis took of her condition, went further, and informed her that there was every reason why she should be serious.  He told her, with some degree of bluntness, that her symptoms, while not alarming, were not at all reassuring.

“It is always the way, Dr. Buxton,” said Helen, smiling tenderly at her aunt; “I believe you would confess to serious symptoms yourself if Aunt Harriet insisted on it.  What an extraordinary politician she would make!  My sympathy with the woman-suffrage movement is in the nature of an investment.  When we women succeed to the control of affairs, I count on achieving distinction as Aunt Harriet’s niece.”

Laughing, she seized her aunt’s hand.  Dr. Buxton, watching her, laughed too, and then proceeded to write out a prescription.  He seemed to hesitate a little over this; seeing which, Helen remonstrated: 

“Pray, Dr. Buxton, don’t humor Aunt Harriet too much in this.  Save your physic for those who are strong in body and mind.  A dozen of your pellets ought to be a year’s supply.”  The physician wrote out his prescription, and took his leave, laughing heartily at the amiable confusion in which Helen’s drollery had left her aunt.

It is not to be supposed, however, that Miss Eustis was simply droll.  She was unconventional at all times, and sometimes wilful-inheriting that native strength of mind and mother wit which are generally admitted to be a part of the equipment of the typical American woman.  If she was not the ideal young woman, at least she possessed some of the attractive qualities that one tries-sometimes unsuccessfully-to discover in one’s dearest friends.  From her infancy, until near the close of the war, she had had the advantage of her father’s companionship, so that her ideas were womanly rather than merely feminine.  She had never been permitted to regard the world from the dormer-windows of a young ladies’ seminary, in consequence of which her views of life in general, and of mankind in particular, were orderly and rational.  Such indulgence as her father had given her had served to strengthen her individuality rather than to confirm her temper; and, though she had a strong and stubborn will of her own, her tact was such that her wilfulness appeared to be the most natural as well as the most charming thing in the world.  Moreover, she possessed in a remarkable degree that buoyancy of mind that is more engaging than mere geniality.

Her father was no less a person than Charles Osborne Eustis, the noted philanthropist and abolitionist, whose death in 1867 was the occasion of quite a controversy in New England-a controversy based on the fact that he had opposed some of the most virulent schemes of his coworkers at a time when abolitionism had not yet gathered its full strength.  Mr. Eustis, in his day, was in the habit of boasting that his daughter had a great deal of genuine American spirit-the spirit that one set of circumstances drives to provinciality, another to patriotism, and another to originality.

Helen had spent two long winters in Europe without parting with the fine flavor of her originality.  She was exceedingly modest in her designs, too, for she went neither as a missionary nor as a repentant.  She found no foreign social shrines that she thought worthy of worshiping at.  She admired what was genuine, and tolerated such shams as obtruded themselves on her attention.  Her father’s connections had enabled her to see something of the real home-life of England; and she was delighted, but not greatly surprised, to find that at its best it was not greatly different from the home life to which she had been accustomed.

The discovery delighted her because it confirmed her own broad views; but she no more thought it necessary to set about aping the social peculiarities to be found in London drawing-rooms than she thought of denying her name or her nativity.  She made many interesting studies and comparisons, but she was not disposed to be critical.  She admired many things in Europe which she would not have considered admirable in America, and whatever she found displeasing she tolerated as the natural outcome of social or climatic conditions.  Certainly the idea never occurred to her that her own country was a barren waste because time had not set the seal of antiquity on its institutions.  On the other hand, this admirable young woman was quick to perceive that much information as well as satisfaction was to be obtained by regarding various European peculiarities from a strictly European point of view.

But Miss Eustis’s reminiscences of the Old World were sad as well as pleasant.  Her journey thither had been undertaken in the hope of restoring her father’s failing health, and her stay there had been prolonged for the same purpose.  For a time he grew stronger and better, but the improvement was only temporary.  He came home to die, and to Helen this result seemed to be the end of all things.  She had devoted herself to looking after his comfort with a zeal and an intelligence that left nothing undone.  This had been her mission in life.  Her mother had died when Helen was a little child, leaving herself and her brother, who was some years older, to the care of the father.  Helen remembered her mother only as a pale, beautiful lady in a trailing robe, who fell asleep one day, and was mysteriously carried away-the lady of a dream.

The boy-the brother-rode forth to the war in 1862, and never rode back any more.  To the father and sister waiting at home, it seemed as if he had been seized and swept from the earth on the bosom of the storm that broke over the country in that period of dire confusion.  Even Rumor, with her thousand tongues, had little to say of the fate of this poor youth.  It was known that he led a squad of troopers detailed for special service, and that his command, with small knowledge of the country, fell into an ambush from which not more than two or three extricated themselves.  Beyond this all was mystery, for those who survived that desperate skirmish could say nothing of the fate of their companions.  The loss of his son gave Mr. Eustis additional interest in his daughter, if that were possible; and the common sorrow of the two so strengthened and sweetened their lives that their affection for each other was in the nature of a perpetual memorial of the pale lady who had passed away, and of the boy who had perished in Virginia.

When Helen’s father died, in 1867, her mother’s sister, Miss Harriet Tewksbury, a spinster of fifty or thereabouts, who, for the lack of something substantial to interest her, had been halting between woman’s rights and Spiritualism, suddenly discovered that Helen’s cause was the real woman’s cause; whereupon she went to the lonely and grief-stricken girl, and with that fine efficiency which the New England woman acquires from the air, and inherits from history, proceeded to minister to her comfort.  Miss Tewksbury was not at all vexed to find her niece capable of taking care of herself.  She did not allow that fact to prevent her from assuming a motherly control that was most gracious in its manifestations, and peculiarly gratifying to Helen, who found great consolation in the all but masculine energy of her aunt.

A day or two after Dr. Buxton’s visit, the result of which has already been chronicled, Miss Tewksbury’s keen eye detected an increase of the symptoms that had given her anxiety, and their development was of such a character that Helen made no objection when her aunt proposed to call in the physician again.  Dr. Buxton came, and agreed with Miss Tewksbury as to the gravity of the symptoms; but his prescription was oral.

“You must keep Helen indoors until she is a little stronger,” he said to Miss Tewksbury, “and then take her to a milder climate.”

“Oh, not to Florida!” exclaimed Helen promptly.

“Not necessarily,” said the doctor.

“Please don’t twist your language, Dr. Buxton.  You should say necessarily not.”

“And why not to Florida, young lady?” the doctor inquired.

“Ah, I have seen people that came from there,” said Helen:  “they were too tired to talk much about the country, but something in their attitude and appearance seemed to suggest that they had seen the sea-serpent.  Dear doctor, I have no desire to see the sea-serpent.”

“Well, then, my dear child,” said Dr. Buxton soothingly, “not to Florida, but to nature’s own sanitarium, the pine woods of Georgia.  Yes,” the doctor went on, smiling as he rubbed the glasses of his spectacles with his silk handkerchief, “nature’s own sanitarium.  I tested the piny woods of Georgia thoroughly years ago.  I drifted there in my young days.  I lived there, and taught school there.  I grew strong there, and I have always wanted to go back there.”

“And now,” said Helen, with a charmingly demure glance at the enthusiastic physician, “you want to send Aunt Harriet and poor Me forward as a skirmish-line.  There is no antidote in your books for the Ku-Klux.”

“You will see new scenes and new people,” said Dr. Buxton, laughing.  “You will get new ideas; above all, you will breathe the fresh air of heaven spiced with the odor of pines.  It will be the making of you, my dear child.”

Helen made various protests, some of them serious and some droll, but the matter was practically settled when it became evident that Dr. Buxton was not only earnestly but enthusiastically in favor of the journey; and Helen’s aunt at once began to make preparations.  To some of their friends it seemed a serious undertaking indeed.  The newspapers of that day were full of accounts of Ku-Klux outrages, and of equally terrible reports of the social disorganization of the South.  It seemed at that time as though the politicians and the editors, both great and small, and of every shade of belief, had determined to fight the war over again-instituting a conflict which, though bloodless enough so far as the disputants were concerned, was not without its unhappy results.

Moreover, Helen’s father had been noted among those who had early engaged in the crusade against slavery; and it was freely predicted by her friends that the lawlessness which was supposed to exist in every part of the collapsed Confederacy would be prompt to select the representatives of Charles Osborne Eustis as its victims.

Miss Tewksbury affected to smile at the apprehensions of her friends, but her preparations were not undertaken without a secret dread of the responsibilities she was assuming.  Helen, however, was disposed to treat the matter humorously.  “Dr. Buxton is a lifelong Democrat,” she said; “consequently he must know all about it.  Father used to tell him he liked his medicine better than his politics, bitter as some of it was; but in a case of this kind, Dr. Buxton’s politics have a distinct value.  He will give us the grips, the signs, and the pass-words, dear aunt, and I dare say we shall get along comfortably.”

II

THEY did get along comfortably.  Peace seemed to spread her meshes before them.  They journeyed by easy stages, stopping a while in Philadelphia, in Baltimore, and in Washington.  They stayed a week in Richmond.  From Richmond they were to go to Atlanta, and from Atlanta to Azalia, the little piny woods village which Dr. Buxton had recommended as a sanitarium.  At a point south of Richmond, where they stopped for breakfast, Miss Eustis and her aunt witnessed a little scene that seemed to them to be very interesting.  A gentleman wrapped in a long linen traveling-coat was pacing restlessly up and down the platform of the little station.  He was tall, and his bearing was distinctly military.  The neighborhood people who were lounging around the station watched him with interest.  After a while a negro boy came running up with a valise which he had evidently brought some distance.  He placed it in front of the tall gentleman, crying out in a loud voice:  “Here she is, Marse Peyton,” then stepped to one side, and began to fan himself vigorously with the fragment of a wool hat.  He grinned broadly in response to something the tall gentleman said; but, before he could make a suitable reply, a negro woman, fat and motherly-looking, made her appearance, puffing and blowing and talking.

“I declar’ ter gracious, Marse Peyton! seem like I wa’n’t never gwine ter git yer.  I helt up my head, I did, fer ter keep my eye on de kyars, en it look like I run inter all de gullies en on top er all de stumps ‘twix’ dis en Marse Tip’s.  I des tuk’n drapt eve’ything, I did, en tole um dey’d batter keep one eye on de dinner-pot, kaze I ’blige ter run en see Marse Peyton off.”

The gentleman laughed as the motherly-looking old negro wiped her face with her apron.  Her sleeves were rolled up, and her fat arms glistened in the sun.

“I boun’ you some er deze yer folks’ll go off en say I’m ’stracted,” she cried, “but I can’t he’p dat; I bleeze ter run down yer ter tell Marse Peyton good-by.  Tell um all howdy fer me, Marse Peyton,” she cried, “all un um.  No diffunce ef I ain’t know um all-’tain’t gwine ter do no harm fer ter tell um dat olé Jincy say howdy.  Hit make me feel right foolish in de head w’en it comes ’cross me dat I use ter tote Miss Hallie ‘roun’ w’en she wuz a little bit er baby, en now she way down dar out’n de worl’ mos’.  I wish ter de Lord I uz gwine ’long wid you, Marse Peyton!  Yit I ’speck, time I got dar, I’d whirl in en wish myse’f back home.”

The negro boy carried the gentleman’s valise into the sleeping-coach, and placed it opposite the seats occupied by Helen and her aunt.  Across the end was stenciled in white the name “Peyton Garwood.”  When the train was ready to start, the gentleman shook hands with the negro woman and with the boy.  The woman seemed to be very much affected.

“God A’mighty bless you, Marse Peyton, honey!” she exclaimed as the train moved off; and as long as Helen could see her, she was waving her hands in farewell.  Both Helen and her aunt had watched this scene with considerable interest, and now, when the gentleman had been escorted to his seat by the obsequious porter, they regarded him with some curiosity.  He appeared to be about thirty-five years old.  His face would have been called exceedingly handsome but for a scar on his right cheek; and yet, on closer inspection, the scar seemed somehow to fit the firm outlines of his features.  His brown beard emphasized the strength of his chin.  His nose was slightly aquiline, his eyebrows were a trifle rugged, and his hair was brushed straight back from a high forehead.  His face was that of a man who had seen rough service and enjoyed it keenly-a face full of fire and resolution with some subtle suggestion of tenderness.

“She called him ‘Master,’ Helen,” said Miss Tewksbury after a while, referring to the scene at the station; “did you hear her?” Miss Tewksbury’s tone implied wrathfulness that was too sure of its own justification to assert itself noisily.

“I heard her,” Helen replied.  “She called him Master, and he called her Mammy.  It was a very pleasing exchange of compliments.”

Such further comment as the ladies may have felt called on to make-for it was a matter in which both were very much interested-was postponed for the time being.  A passenger occupying a seat in the farther end of the coach had recognized the gentleman whose valise was labeled “Peyton Garwood,” and now pressed forward to greet him.  This passenger was a very aggressive-looking person.  He was short and stout, but there was no suggestion of jollity or even of good-humor in his rotundity.  No one would have made the mistake of alluding to him as a fat man.  He would have been characterized as the pudgy man; and even his pudginess was aggressive.  He had evidently determined to be dignified at any cost, but his seriousness seemed to be perfectly gratuitous.

“Gener’l Garwood?” he said in an impressive tone, as he leaned over the tall gentleman’s seat.

“Ah!  Goolsby!” exclaimed the other, extending his hand.  “Why, how do you do?  Sit down.”

Goolsby’s pudginess became more apparent and apparently more aggressive than ever when he seated himself near General Garwood.

“Well, sir, I can’t say my health’s any too good.  You look mighty well yourse’f, gener’l.  How are things?” said Goolsby, pushing his traveling-cap over his eyes, and frowning as if in pain.

“Oh, affairs seem to be improving,” General Garwood replied.

“Well, now, I ain’t so up and down certain about that, gener’l,” said Goolsby, settling himself back, and frowning until his little eyes disappeared.  “Looks like to me that things git wuss and wuss.  I ain’t no big man, and I’m ruther disj’inted when it comes right down to politics; but blame me if it don’t look to me mighty like the whole of creation is driftin’ ’round loose.”

“Ah, well,” said the general soothingly, “a great many things are uncomfortable; there is a good deal of unnecessary irritation growing out of new and unexpected conditions.  But we are getting along better than we are willing to admit.  We are all fond of grumbling.”

“That’s so,” said Goolsby, with the air of a man who is willing to make any sacrifice for the sake of a discussion; “that’s so.  But I tell you we’re havin’ mighty tough times, gener’l-mighty tough times.  Yonder’s the Yankees on one side, and here’s the blamed niggers on t’other, and betwixt and betweenst ’em a white man’s got mighty little chance.  And then, right on top of the whole caboodle, here comes the panic in the banks, and the epizooty ’mongst the cattle.  I tell you, gener’l, it’s tough times, and it’s in-about as much as an honest man can do to pay hotel bills and have a ticket ready to show up when the conductor comes along.”

General Garwood smiled sympathetically, and Goolsby went on:  “Here I’ve been runnin’ up and down the country tryin’ to sell a book, and I ain’t sold a hunderd copies sence I started-no, sir, not a hunderd copies.  Maybe you’d like to look at it, gener’l,” continued Goolsby, stiffening up a little.  “If I do say it myself, it’s in-about the best book that a man’ll git a chance to thumb in many a long day.”

“What book is it, Goolsby?” the general inquired.

Goolsby sprang up, waddled rapidly to where he had left his satchel, and returned, bringing a large and substantial-looking volume.

“It’s a book that speaks for itself any day in the week,” he said, running the pages rapidly between his fingers; “it’s a history of our own great conflict-’The Rise and Fall of the Rebellion,’ by Schuyler Paddleford.  I don’t know what the blamed publishers wanted to put in ‘Rebellion’ for.  I told ’em, says I:  ’Gentlemen, it’ll be up-hill work with this in the Sunny South.  Call it “The Conflict,"’ says I. But they wouldn’t listen, and now I have to work like a blind nigger splittin’ rails.  But she’s a daisy, gener’l, as shore as you’re born.  She jess reads right straight along from cover to cover without a bobble.  Why, sir, I never know’d what war was till I meandered through the sample pages of this book.  And they’ve got your picture in here, gener’l, jest as natural as life-all for five dollars in cloth, eight in liberry style, and ten in morocker.”

General Garwood glanced over the specimen pages with some degree of interest, while Goolsby continued to talk.

“Now, betwixt you and me, gener’l,” he went on confidentially, “I don’t nigh like the style of that book, particular where it rattles up our side.  I wa’n’t in the war myself, but blame me if it don’t rile me when I hear outsiders a-cussin’ them that was.  I come mighty nigh not takin’ holt of it on that account; but ’twouldn’t have done no good, not a bit.  If sech a book is got to be circulated around here, it better be circulated by some good Southron-a man that’s a kind of antidote to the pizen, as it were.  If I don’t sell it, some blamed Yankee’ll jump in and gallop around with it.  And I tell you what, gener’l, betwixt you and me and the gate-post, it’s done come to that pass where a man can’t afford to be too plegged particular; if he stops for to scratch his head and consider whether he’s a gentleman, some other feller’ll jump in and snatch the rations right out of his mouth.  That’s why I’m a-paradin’ around tryin’ to sell this book.”

“Well,” said General Garwood in an encouraging tone, “I have no doubt it is a very interesting book.  I have heard of it before.  Fetch me a copy when you come to Azalia again.”

Goolsby smiled an unctuous and knowing smile.  “Maybe you think I ain’t a-comin’,” he exclaimed, with the air of a man who has invented a joke that he relishes.  “Well, sir, you’re getting the wrong measure.  I was down in ‘Zalia Monday was a week, and I’m a-goin’ down week after next.  Fact is,” continued Goolsby, rather sheepishly, “’Zalia is a mighty nice place.  Gener’l, do you happen to know Miss Louisa Hornsby?  Of course you do!  Well, sir, you might go a week’s journey in the wildwood, as the poet says, and not find a handsomer gal then that.  She’s got style from away back.”

“Why, yes!” exclaimed the general in a tone of hearty congratulation, “of course I know Miss Lou.  She is a most excellent young lady.  And so the wind sits in that quarter?  Your blushes, Goolsby, are a happy confirmation of many sweet and piquant rumors.”

Goolsby appeared to be very much embarrassed.  He moved about uneasily in his seat, searched in all his pockets for something or other that wasn’t there, and made a vain effort to protest.  He grew violently red in the face, and the color gleamed through his closely cropped hair.

“Oh, come now, gener’l!” he exclaimed.  “Oh, pshaw!  Why-oh, go ’way!”

His embarrassment was so great, and seemed to border so closely on epilepsy, that the general was induced to offer him a cigar and invite him into the smoking apartment.  As General Garwood and Goolsby passed out, Helen Eustis drew a long breath.

“It is worth the trouble of a long journey to behold such a spectacle,” she declared.  Her aunt regarded her curiously.  “Who would have thought it?” she went on-“a Southern secessionist charged with affability, and a book-agent radiant with embarrassment!”

“He is a coarse, ridiculous creature,” said Miss Tewksbury sharply.

“The affable general, Aunt Harriet?”

“No, child; the other.”

“Dear aunt, we are in the enemy’s country, and we must ground our prejudices.  The book-agent is pert and crude, but he is not coarse.  A coarse man may be in love, but he would never blush over it.  And as for the affable general-you saw the negro woman cry over him.”

“Poor thing!” said Miss Tewksbury, with a sigh.  “She sadly needs Instruction.”

“Ah, yes! that is a theory we should stand to, but how shall we instruct her to run and cry after us?”

“My dear child, we want no such disgusting exhibitions.  It is enough if we do our duty by these unfortunates.”

“But I do want just such an exhibition, Aunt Harriet,” said Helen seriously.  “I should be glad to have some fortunate or unfortunate creature run and cry after me.”

“Well,” said Miss Tewksbury placidly, “we are about to ignore the most impressive fact, after all.”

“What is that, Aunt Harriet?”

“Why, child, these people are from Azalia, and for us Azalia is the centre of the universe.”

“Ah, don’t pretend that you are not charmed, dear aunt.  We shall have the pleasure of meeting the handsome Miss Hornsby, and probably Mr. Goolsby himself-and certainly the distinguished general.”

“I only hope Ephraim Buxton has a clear conscience to-day,” remarked Miss Tewksbury with unction.

“Did you observe the attitude of the general toward Mr. Goolsby, and that of Mr. Goolsby toward the general?” asked Helen, ignoring the allusion to Dr. Buxton.  “The line that the general drew was visible to the naked eye.  But Mr. Goolsby drew no line.  He is friendly and familiar on principle.  I was reminded of the ‘Brookline Reporter,’ which alluded the other day to the London ‘Times’ as its esteemed contemporary.  The affable general is Mr. Goolsby’s esteemed contemporary.”

“My dear child,” said Miss Tewksbury, somewhat anxiously, “I hope your queer conceits are not the result of your illness.”

“No, they are the result of my surroundings.  I have been trying to pretend to myself, ever since we left Washington, that we are traveling through a strange country; but it is a mere pretense.  I have been trying to verify some previous impressions of barbarism and shiftlessness.”

“Well, upon my word, my dear,” exclaimed Miss Tewksbury, “I should think you had had ample opportunity.”

“I have been trying to take the newspaper view,” Helen went on with some degree of earnestness, “but it is impossible.  We must correct the newspapers, Aunt Harriet, and make ourselves famous.  Everything I have seen that is not to be traced to the result of the war belongs to a state of arrested development.”

Miss Tewksbury was uncertain whether her niece was giving a new turn to her drollery, so she merely stared at her; but the young lady seemed to be serious enough.

“Don’t interrupt me, Aunt Harriet.  Give me the opportunity you would give to Dr. Barlow Blade, the trance medium.  Everything I see in this country belongs to a state of arrested development, and it has been arrested at a most interesting point.  It is picturesque.  It is colonial.  I am amazed that this fact has not been dwelt on by people who write about the South.”

“The conservatism that prevents progress, or stands in the way of it, is a crime,” said Miss Tewksbury, pressing her thin lips together firmly.  She had once been on the platform in some of the little country towns of New England, and had made quite a reputation for pith and fluency.

“Ah, dear aunt, that sounds like an extract from a lecture.  We can have progress in some things, but not in others.  We have progressed in the matter of conveniences, comforts, and luxuries, but in what other directions?  Are we any better than the people who lived in the days of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison?  Is the standard of morality any higher now than it was in the days of the apostles?”

“Don’t talk nonsense, Helen,” said Miss Tewksbury.  “We have a higher civilization than the apostles witnessed.  Morality is progressive.”

“Well,” said Helen, with a sigh, “it is a pity these people have discarded shoe-buckles and knee-breeches.”

“Your queer notions make me thirsty, child,” said Miss Tewksbury, producing a silver cup from her satchel.  “I must get a drink of water.”

“Permit me, madam,” said a sonorous voice behind them; and a tall gentleman seized the cup, and bore it away.

“It is the distinguished general!” exclaimed Helen in a tragic whisper, “and he must have heard our speeches.”

“I hope he took them down,” said Miss Tewksbury snappishly.  “He will esteem you as a sympathizer.”

“Did I say anything ridiculous, Aunt Harriet?”

“Dear me! you must ask your distinguished general,” replied Miss Tewksbury triumphantly.

General Garwood returned with the water, and insisted on fetching more.  Helen observed that he held his hat in his hand, and that his attitude was one of unstudied deference.

“The conductor tells me, madam,” he said, addressing himself to Miss Tewksbury, “that you have tickets for Azalia.  I am going in that direction myself, and I should be glad to be of any service to you.  Azalia is a poor little place, but I like it well enough to live there.  I suppose that is the reason the conductor told me of your tickets.  He knew the information would be interesting.”

“Thank you,” said Miss Tewksbury with dignity.

“You are very kind,” said Miss Eustis with a smile.

General Garwood made himself exceedingly agreeable.  He pointed out the interesting places along the road, gave the ladies little bits of local history that were at least entertaining.  In Atlanta, where there was a delay of a few hours, he drove them over the battle-fields, and by his graphic descriptions gave them a new idea of the heat and fury of war.  In short, he made himself so agreeable in every way that Miss Tewksbury felt at liberty to challenge his opinions on various subjects.  They had numberless little controversies about the rights and wrongs of the war, and the perplexing problems that grew out of its results.  So far as Miss Tewksbury was concerned, she found General Garwood’s large tolerance somewhat irritating, for it left her no excuse for the employment of her most effective arguments.

“Did you surrender your prejudices at Appomattox?” Miss Tewksbury asked him on one occasion.

“Oh, by no means; you remember we were allowed to retain our side-arms and our saddle-horses,” he replied, laughing.  “I still have my prejudices, but I trust they are more important than those I entertained in my youth.  Certainly they are less uncomfortable.”

“Well,” said Miss Tewksbury, “you are still unrepentant, and that is more serious than any number of prejudices.”

“There is nothing to repent of,” said the general, smiling, a little sadly as Helen thought.  “It has all passed away utterly.  The best we can do is that which seems right and just and necessary.  My duty was as plain to me in 1861, when I was a boy of twenty, as it is to-day.  It seemed to be my duty then to serve my State and section; my duty now seems to be to help good people everywhere to restore the Union, and to heal the wounds of the war.”

“I’m very glad to hear you say so,” exclaimed Miss Tewksbury in a tone that made Helen shiver.  “I was afraid it was quite otherwise.  It seems to me, that, if I lived here, I should either hate the people who conquered me, or else the sin of slavery would weigh heavily on my conscience.”

“I can appreciate that feeling, I think,” said General Garwood, “but the American conscience is a very healthy one-not likely to succumb to influences that are mainly malarial in their nature; and even from your point of view some good can be found in American slavery.”

“I have never found it,” said Miss Tewksbury.

“You must admit that but for slavery the negroes who are here would be savages in Africa.  As it is, they have had the benefit of more than two hundred years’ contact with the white race.  If they are at all fitted for citizenship, the result is due to the civilizing influence of slavery.  It seems to me that they are vastly better off as American citizens, even though they have endured the discipline of slavery, than they would be as savages in Africa.”

Miss Tewksbury’s eyes snapped.  “Did this make slavery right?” she asked.

“Not at all,” said the general, smiling at the lady’s earnestness.  “But, at least, it is something of an excuse for American slavery.  It seems to be an evidence that Providence had a hand in the whole unfortunate business.”

But in spite of these discussions and controversies, the general made himself so thoroughly agreeable in every way, and was so thoughtful in his attentions, that by the time Helen and her aunt arrived at Azalia they were disposed to believe that he had placed them under many obligations, and they said so; but the general insisted that it was he who had been placed under obligations, and he declared it to be his intention to discharge a few of them as soon as the ladies found themselves comfortably settled in the little town to which Dr. Buxton had banished them.

III

AZALIA was a small town, but it was a comparatively comfortable one.  For years and years before the war it had been noted as the meeting-place of the wagon-trains by means of which the planters transported their produce to market.  It was on the highway that led from the cotton-plantations of Middle Georgia to the city of Augusta.  It was also a stopping-place for the stage-coaches that carried the mails.  Azalia was not a large town, even before the war, when, according to the testimony of the entire community, it was at its best; and it certainly had not improved any since the war.  There was room for improvement, but no room for progress, because there was no necessity for progress.  The people were contented.  They were satisfied with things as they existed, though they had an honest, provincial faith in the good old times that were gone.  They had but one regret-that the railroad station, four miles away, had been named Azalia.  It is true, the station consisted of a water-tank and a little pigeon-house where tickets were sold; but the people of Azalia proper felt that it was in the nature of an outrage to give so fine a name to so poor a place.  They derived some satisfaction, however, from the fact that the world at large found it necessary to make a distinction between the two places.  Azalia was called “Big Azalia,” and the railroad station was known as “Little Azalia.”

Away back in the forties, or perhaps even earlier, when there was some excitement in all parts of the country in regard to railroad building, one of Georgia’s most famous orators had alluded in the legislature to Azalia as “the natural gateway of the commerce of the Empire State of the South.”  This fine phrase stuck in the memories of the people of Azalia and their posterity; and the passing traveler, since that day and time, has heard a good deal of it.  There is no doubt that the figure was fairly applicable before the railways were built; for, as has been explained, Azalia was the meeting-place of the wagon-trains from all parts of the State in going to market.  When the cotton-laden wagons met at Azalia, they parted company no more until they had reached August.  The natural result of this was that Azalia, in one way and another, saw a good deal of life-much that was entertaining, and a good deal that was exciting.  Another result was that the people had considerable practise in the art of hospitality; for it frequently happened that the comfortable tavern, which Azalia’s commercial importance had made necessary at a very early period of the town’s history, was full to overflowing with planters accompanying their wagons, and lawyers traveling from court to court.  At such times the worthy townspeople would come to the rescue, and offer the shelter of their homes to the belated wayfarer.

There was another feature of Azalia worthy of attention.  It was in a measure the site and centre of a mission-the headquarters, so to speak, of a very earnest and patient effort to infuse energy and ambition into that indescribable class of people known in that region as the piny-woods “Tackies.”  Within a stone’s throw of Azalia there was a scattering settlement of these Tackies.  They had settled there before the Revolution, and had remained there ever since, unchanged and unchangeable, steeped in poverty of the most desolate description, and living the narrowest lives possible in this great Republic.  They had attracted the attention of the Rev. Arthur Hill, an Episcopalian minister, who conceived an idea that the squalid settlement near Azalia afforded a fine field for missionary labor.  Mr. Hill established himself in Azalia, built and furnished a little church in the settlement, and entered on a career of the most earnest and persevering charity.  To all appearances his labor was thrown away; but he was possessed by both faith and hope, and never allowed himself to be disheartened.  All his time, as well as the modest fortune left him by his wife who was dead, was devoted to the work of improving and elevating the Tackies; and he never permitted himself to doubt for an instant that reasonable success was crowning his efforts.  He was gentle, patient, and somewhat finical.

This was the neighborhood toward which Miss Eustis and her aunt had journeyed.  Fortunately for these ladies, Major Haley, the genial tavern-keeper, had a habit of sending a hack to meet every train that stopped at Little Azalia.  It was not a profitable habit in the long run; but Major Haley thought little of the profits, so long as he was conscious that the casual traveler had abundant reason to be grateful to him.  Major Haley himself was a native of Kentucky; but his wife was a Georgian, inheriting her thrift and her economy from a generation that knew more about the hand-loom, the spinning-wheel, and the cotton-cards, than it did about the piano.  She admired her husband, who was a large, fine-looking man, with jocular tendencies; but she disposed of his opinions without ceremony when they came in conflict with her own.  Under these circumstances it was natural that she should have charge of the tavern and all that appertained thereto.

General Garwood, riding by from Little Azalia, whither his saddle-horse had been sent to meet him, had informed the major that two ladies from the North were coming in the hack, and begged him to make them as comfortable as possible.  This information Major Haley dutifully carried to his wife.

“Good Lord!” exclaimed Mrs. Haley, “what do you reckon they want here?”

“I’ve been a-studyin’,” said her husband thoughtfully.  “The gener’l says they’re comin’ fer their health.”

“Well, it’s a mighty fur cry for health,” said Mrs. Haley emphatically.  “I’ve seen some monst’ous sick people around here; and if anybody’ll look at them Tackies out on the Ridge yonder, and then tell me there’s any health in this neighborhood, then I’ll give up.  I don’t know how in the wide world we’ll fix up for ’em.  That everlastin’ nigger went and made too much fire in the stove, and tee-totally ruint my light-bread; I could ‘a’ cried, I was so mad; and then on top er that the whole dinin’-room is tore up from top to bottom.”

“Well,” said the major, “we’ll try and make ’em comfortable, and if they ain’t comfortable it won’t be our fault.  Jest you whirl in, and put on some of your Greene County style, Maria.  That’ll fetch ’em.”

“It may fetch ’em, but it won’t feed ’em,” said the practical Maria.

The result was, that when Helen Eustis and her aunt became the guests of this poor little country tavern, they were not only agreeably disappointed as to their surroundings, but they were better pleased than they would have been at one of the most pretentious caravansaries.  Hotel luxury is comfortable enough to those who make it a point to appreciate what they pay for; but the appointments of luxury can neither impart, nor compensate for the lack of, the atmosphere that mysteriously conveys some impression or reminiscence of home.  In the case of Helen and her aunt, this impression was conveyed and confirmed by a quilt of curious pattern on one of the beds in their rooms.

“My dear,” said Miss Tewksbury, after making a critical examination, “your grandmother had just such a quilt as this.  Yes, she had two.  I remember the first one was quite a bone of contention between your mother and me, and so your grandmother made two.  I declare,” Miss Tewksbury continued, with a sigh, “it quite carries me back to old times.”

“It is well made,” said Helen, giving the stitches a critical examination, “and the colors are perfectly matched.  Really, this is something to think about, for it fits none of our theories.  Perhaps, Aunt Harriet, we have accidentally discovered some of our long-lost relatives.  It would be nice and original to substitute a beautiful quilt for the ordinary strawberry-mark.”

“Well, the sight of it is comforting, anyhow,” said Miss Tewksbury, responding to the half-serious humor of her niece by pressing her thin lips together, and tossing her gray ringlets.

As she spoke, a negro boy, apparently about ten years old, stalked unceremoniously into the room, balancing a large stone pitcher on his head.  His hands were tucked beneath his white apron, and the pitcher seemed to be in imminent danger of falling; but he smiled and showed his white teeth.

“I come fer ter fetch dish yer pitcher er water, ma’m.  Miss ’Ria say she speck you lak fer have ’im right fresh from de well.”

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll drop it?” said Miss Eustis.

“Lor’, no’m!” exclaimed the boy, emphasizing his words by increasing his grin.  “I been ca’um dis away sence I ain’t no bigger dan my li’l’ buddy.  Miss ’Ria, she say dat w’at make I so bow-legged.”

“What is your name?” inquired Miss Tewksbury, with some degree of solemnity, as the boy deposited the pitcher on the wash-stand.

“Mammy she say I un name Willum, but Mars Maje en de turrer folks dey des calls me Bill.  I run’d off en sot in de school-’ouse all day one day, but dat mus’ ‘a’ been a mighty bad day, kaze I ain’t never year um say wherrer I wuz name Willum, er wherrer I wuz des name Bill.  Miss ’Ria, she say dat ‘taint make no diffunce w’at folks’ name is, long ez dey come w’en dey year turred folks holl’in’ at um.”

“Don’t you go to school, child?” Miss Tewksbury inquired, with dignified sympathy.

“I start in once,” said William, laughing, “but mos’ time I git dar de nigger man w’at do de teachin’ tuck’n snatch de book out’n my han’ en say I got ’im upper-side down.  I tole ’im dat de onliest way w’at I kin git my lesson, en den dat nigger man tuck’n lam me side de head.  Den atter school bin turn out, I is hide myse’f side de road, en w’en dat nigger man come ’long, I up wid a rock en I fetched ’im a clip dat mighty nigh double ’im up.  You ain’t never is year no nigger man holler lak dat nigger man.  He run’t en tole Mars Peyt dat de Kukluckers wuz atter ’im.  Mars Peyt he try ter quiet ’em, but dat nigger man done gone!”

“Don’t you think you did wrong to hit him?” Miss Tewksbury asked.

“Dat w’at Miss ’Ria say.  She say I oughter be shame er myse’f by good rights; but w’at dat nigger man wanter come hurtin’ my feelin’ fer w’en I settin’ dar studyin’ my lesson des hard ez I kin, right spank out’n de book? en spozen she wuz upper-side down, wa’n’t de lesson in dar all de time, kaze how she gwine spill out?”

William was very serious-indeed, he was indignant-when he closed his argument.  He turned to go out, but paused at the door, and said: 

“Miss ’Ria say supper be ready ‘mos’ ‘fo’ you kin turn ‘roun’, but she say ef you too tired out she’ll have it sont up.”  William paused, rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, smacked his mouth, and added:  “I gwine fetch in de batter-cakes myse’f.”

Miss Tewksbury felt in her soul that she ought to be horrified at this recital; but she was grateful that she was not amused.

“Aunt Harriet,” cried Helen, when William had disappeared, “this is better than the seashore.  I am stronger already.  My only regret is that Henry P. Bassett, the novelist, is not here.  The last time I saw him, he was moping and complaining that his occupation was almost gone, because he had exhausted all the types-that’s what he calls them.  He declared he would be compelled to take his old characters, and give them a new outfit of emotions.  Oh, if he were only here!”

“I hope you feel that you are, in some sense, responsible for all this, Helen,” said Miss Tewksbury solemnly.

“Do you mean the journey, Aunt Harriet, or the little negro?”

“My dear child, don’t pretend to misunderstand me.  I can not help feeling that if we had done and were doing our whole duty, this-this poor negro- Ah, well! it is useless to speak of it.  We are on missionary ground, but our hands are tied.  Oh, I wish Elizabeth Mappis were here!  She would teach us our duty.”

“She wouldn’t teach me mine, Aunt Harriet,” said Helen seriously.  “I wouldn’t give one grain of your common sense for all that Elizabeth Mappis has written and spoken.  What have her wild theories to do with these people?  She acts like a man in disguise.  When I see her striding about, delivering her harangues, I always imagine she is wearing a pair of cowhide boots as a sort of stimulus to her masculinity.  Ugh!  I’m glad she isn’t here.”

Ordinarily, Miss Tewksbury would have defended Mrs. Elizabeth Mappis; but she remembered that a defense of that remarkable woman-as remarkable for her intellect as for her courage-was unnecessary at all times, and, in this instance, absolutely uncalled for.  Moreover, the clangor of the supper-bell, which rang out at that moment, would have effectually drowned out whatever Miss Tewksbury might have chosen to say in behalf of Mrs. Mappis.

The bellringer was William, the genial little negro whose acquaintance the ladies had made, and he performed his duty with an unction that left nothing to be desired.  The bell was so large that William was compelled to use both hands in swinging it.  He bore it from the dining-room to the hall, and thence from one veranda to the other, making fuss enough to convince everybody that those who ate at the tavern were on the point of enjoying another of the famous meals prepared under the supervision of Mrs. Haley.

There was nothing in the dining-room to invite the criticism of Helen and her aunt, even though they had been disposed to be critical; there was no evidence of slatternly management.  Everything was plain, but neat.  The ceiling was high and wide; and the walls were of dainty whiteness, relieved here and there by bracket-shelves containing shiny crockery and glassware.  The oil-lamps gave a mellow light through the simple but unique paper shades with which they had been fitted.  Above the table, which extended the length of the room, was suspended a series of large fans.  These fans were connected by a cord, so that when it became necessary to cool the room, or to drive away the flies, one small negro, by pulling a string, could set them all in motion.

Over this dining-room Mrs. Haley presided.  She sat at the head of the table, serene, cheerful, and watchful, anticipating the wants of each and every one who ate at the board.  She invited Helen and her aunt to seats near her own, and somehow managed to convince them, veteran travelers though they were, that hospitality such as hers was richly worth paying for.

“I do hope you’ll make out to be comfortable in this poor little neighborhood,” she said as the ladies lingered over their tea, after the other boarders-the clerks and the shopkeepers-had bolted their food and fare.  “I have my hopes, and I have my doubts.  Gener’l Garwood says you’re come to mend your health,” she continued, regarding the ladies with the critical eye of one who has had something to do with herbs and simples; “and I’ve been tryin’ my best to pick out which is the sick one, but it’s a mighty hard matter.  Yet I won’t go by looks, because if folks looked bad every time they felt bad, they’d be some mighty peaked people in this world off and on-William, run and fetch in some hot batter-cakes.”

“I am the alleged invalid,” said Helen.  “I am the victim of a conspiracy between my aunt here and our family physician.-Aunt Harriet, what do you suppose Dr. Buxton would say if he knew how comfortable we are at this moment?  I dare say he would write a letter, and order us off to some other point.”

“My niece,” said Miss Tewksbury, by way of explanation, “has weak lungs, but she has never permitted herself to acknowledge the fact.”

“Well, my goodness!” exclaimed Mrs. Haley, “if that’s all, we’ll have her sound and well in a little or no time.  Why, when I was her age I had a hackin’ cough and a rackin’ pain in my breast night and day, and I fell off till my own blood kin didn’t know me.  Everybody give me up; but old Miss Polly Flanders in Hancock, right j’inin’ county from Greene, she sent me word to make me some mullein tea, and drink sweet milk right fresh from the cow; and from that day to this I’ve never know’d what weak lungs was.  I reckon you’ll be mighty lonesome here,” said Mrs. Haley after William had returned with a fresh supply of batter-cakes, “but you’ll find folks mighty neighborly, once you come to know ’em.  And, bless goodness, here’s one of ’em now!-Howdy, Emma Jane?”

A tall, ungainly-looking woman stood in the door of the dining-room leading to the kitchen.  Her appearance showed the most abject poverty.  Her dirty sunbonnet had fallen back from her head, and hung on her shoulders.  Her hair was of a reddish-gray color, and its frazzled and tangled condition suggested that the woman had recently passed through a period of extreme excitement; but this suggestion was promptly corrected by the wonderful serenity of her face-a pale, unhealthy-looking face, with sunken eyes, high cheek-bones, and thin lips that seemed never to have troubled themselves to smile:  a burnt-out face that had apparently surrendered to the past, and had no hope for the future.  The Puritan simplicity of the woman’s dress made her seem taller than she really was, but this was the only illusion about her.  Though her appearance was uncouth and ungainly, her manner was unembarrassed.  She looked at Helen with some degree of interest; and to the latter it seemed that Misery, hopeless but unabashed, gazed at her with a significance at once pathetic and appalling.  In response to Mrs. Haley’s salutation, the woman seated herself in the doorway, and sighed.

“You must be tired, Emma Jane, not to say howdy,” said Mrs. Haley, with a smile.  The woman raised her right hand above her head, and allowed it to drop helplessly into her lap.

“Ti-ud!  Lordy, Lordy! how kin a pore creetur’ like me be ti-ud?  Hain’t I thés natally made out’n i’on?”

“Well, I won’t go so fur as to say that, Emma Jane,” said Mrs. Haley, “but you’re mighty tough.  Now, you know that yourself.”

“Yes’n-yes’n.  I’m made out’n i’on.  Lordy, Lordy!  I thés natally hone fer some un ter come along an’ tell me what makes me h’ist up an’ walk away over yan’ter the railroad track, an’ set thar tell the ingine shoves by.  I wisht some un ud up an’ tell me what makes me so restless an’ oneasy, ef it hain’t ’cause I’m hongry.  I thés wisht they would.  Passin’ on by, I sez ter myself, s’ I:  ‘Emma Jane Stucky,’ s’ I, ’ef you know what’s good fer your wholesome,’ s’ I, ’you’ll sneak in on Miss Haley, ‘cause you’ll feel better,’ s’ I, ’ef you don’t no more’n tell ‘er howdy,’ s’ I. Lordy, Lordy!  I dunner what ud ’come er me ef I hadn’t a bin made out’n i’on.”

“Emma Jane,” said Mrs. Haley, in the tone of one who is humoring a child, “these ladies are from the North.”

“Yes’n,” said the woman, glancing at Helen and her aunt with the faintest expression of pity; “yes’n, I hearn tell you had comp’ny.  Hit’s a mighty long ways fum this, the North, hain’t it, Miss Haley-a long ways fuder’n Tennissy?  Well, the Lord knows I pity um fum the bottom of my heart, that I do-a-bein’ such a long ways fum home.”

“The North is ever so much farther than Tennessee,” said Helen pleasantly, almost unconsciously assuming the tone employed by Mrs. Haley; “but the weather is so very cold there that we have to run away sometimes.”

“You’re right, honey,” said Mrs. Stucky, hugging herself with her long arms.  “I wisht I could run away fum it myself.  Ef I wa’n’t made out’n i’on, I dunner how I’d stan’ it.  Lordy! when the win’ sets in from the east, hit in-about runs me plum destracted.  Hit kills lots an’ lots er folks, but they hain’t made out’n i’on like me.”

While Mrs. Stucky was describing the vigorous constitution that had enabled her to survive in the face of various difficulties, and in spite of many mishaps, Mrs. Haley was engaged in making up a little parcel of victuals.  This she handed to the woman.

“Thanky-do! thanky-do, ma’am!  Me an’ my son’ll set down an’ wallop this up, an’ say thanky-do all the time, an’ atter we’re done we’ll wipe our mouves, an’ say thanky-do.”

“I reckon you ladies’ll think we’re mighty queer folks down here,” said Mrs. Haley, with an air of apology, after Mrs. Stucky had retired; “but I declare I can’t find it in my heart to treat that poor creetur’ out of the way.  I set and look at her sometimes, and I wish I may never budge if I don’t come mighty nigh cryin’.  She ain’t hardly fittin’ to live, and if she’s fittin’ to die, she’s lots better off than the common run of folks.  But she’s mighty worrysome.  She pesters me lots mor’n I ever let on.”

“The poor creature!” exclaimed Miss Tewksbury.  “I am truly sorry for her-truly sorry.”

“Ah! so am I,” said Helen.  “I propose to see more of her.  I am interested in just such people.”

“Well, ma’am,” said Mrs. Haley dryly, “if you like sech folks it’s a thousand pities you’ve come here, for you’ll git a doste of ’em.  Yes’m, that you will; a doste of ’em that’ll last you as long as you live, if you live to be one of the patrioks.  And you nee’nter be sorry for Emma Jane Stucky neither.  Jest as you see her now, jesso she’s been a-goin’ on fer twenty year, an’ jest as you see her now, jesso she’s been a-lookin’ ev’ry sence anybody around here has been a-knowin’ her.”

“Her history must be a pathetic one,” said Miss Tewksbury with a sigh.

“Her what, ma’am?” asked Mrs. Haley.

“Her history, the story of her life,” responded Miss Tewksbury.  “I dare say it is very touching.”

“Well, ma’am,” said Mrs. Haley, “Emma Jane Stucky is like one of them there dead pines out there in the clearin’.  If you had a stack of almanacs as high as a hoss-rack, you couldn’t pick out the year she was young and sappy.  She must ‘a’ started out as a light’d knot, an’ she’s been a-gittin’ tougher year in an’ year out, till now she’s tougher’n the toughest.  No’m,” continued Mrs. Haley, replying to an imaginary argument, “I ain’t predijiced ag’in’ the poor creetur’-the Lord knows I ain’t.  If I was, no vittels would she git from me-not a scrimption.”

“I never saw such an expression on a human countenance,” said Helen.  “Her eyes will haunt me as long as I live.”

“Bless your soul and body, child!” exclaimed Mrs. Haley; “if you’re going to let that poor creetur’s looks pester you, you’ll be worried to death, as certain as the world.  There’s a hunderd in this settlement jest like her, and ther’ must be more’n that, old an’ young, ’cause the children look to be as old as the’r grannies.  I reckon maybe you ain’t used to seein’ piny-woods Tackies.  Well, ma’am, you wait till you come to know ’em, and if you are in the habits of bein’ ha’nted by looks, you’ll be the wuss ha’nted mortal in this land, ’less’n it’s them that’s got the sperrit-rappin’s after ’em.”

IV

MRS. STUCKY, making her way homeward through the gathering dusk, moved as noiselessly and as swiftly as a ghost.  The soft white sand beneath her feet gave forth no sound, and she seemed to be gliding forward, rather than walking; though there was a certain awkward emphasis and decision in her movements altogether human in their suggestions.  The way was lonely.  There was no companionship for her in the whispering sighs of the tall pines that stood by the roadside, no friendliness in the constellations that burned and sparkled overhead, no hospitable suggestion in the lights that gleamed faintly here and there from the windows of the houses in the little settlement.  To Mrs. Stucky all was commonplace.  There was nothing in her surroundings as she went toward her home, to lend wings even to her superstition, which was eager to assert itself on all occasions.

It was not much of a home to which she was making her way-a little log-cabin in a pine thicket, surrounded by a little clearing that served to show how aimlessly and how hopelessly the lack of thrift and energy could assert itself.  The surroundings were mean enough and squalid enough at their best, but the oppressive shadows of night made them meaner and more squalid than they really were.  The sun, which shines so lavishly in that region, appeared to glorify the squalor, showing wild passion-flowers clambering along the broken-down fence of pine poles, and a wistaria vine running helter-skelter across the roof of the little cabin.  But the night hid all this completely.

A dim, vague blaze, springing from a few charred pine-knots, made the darkness visible in the one room of the cabin; and before it, with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands, sat what appeared to be a man.  He wore neither coat nor shoes, and his hair was long and shaggy.

“Is that you, Bud?” said Mrs. Stucky.

“Why, who’d you reckon it wuz, maw?” replied Bud, looking up with a broad grin that was not at all concealed by his thin, sandy beard.  “A body’d sorter think, ef they ’uz ter ketch you gwine on that away, that you ‘spected ter find some great somebody er nuther a-roostin’ in here.”

Mrs. Stucky, by way of responding, stirred the pine-knots until they gave forth a more satisfactory light, hung her bonnet on the bedpost, and seated herself wearily in a rickety chair, the loose planks of the floor rattling and shaking as she moved about.

“Now, who in the nation did you reckon it wuz, maw?” persisted Bud, still grinning placidly.

“Some great somebody,” replied Mrs. Stucky, brushing her gray hair out of her eyes and looking at her son.  At this Bud could contain himself no longer.  He laughed almost uproariously.

“Well, the great Jemimy!” he exclaimed, and then laughed louder than ever.

“Wher’ve you been?” Mrs. Stucky asked, when Bud’s mirth had subsided.

“Away over yander at the depot,” said Bud, indicating Little Azalia.  “An’ I fotch you some May-pops too.  I did that!  I seed ’em while I wuz a-gwine ‘long, an’ I sez ter myself, sezee, ’You jess wait thar tell I come ‘long back, an’ I’ll take an’ take you ter maw,’ sezee.”

Although this fruit of the passion-flowers was growing in profusion right at the door, Mrs. Stucky gave this grown man, her son, to understand that May-pops such as he brought were very desirable indeed.

“I wonder you didn’t fergit ’em,” she said.

“Who? me!” exclaimed Bud.  “I jess like fer ter see anybody ketch me fergittin’ ’em.  Now I jess would.  I never eat a one, nuther-not a one.”

Mrs. Stucky made no response to this, and none seemed to be necessary.  Bud sat and pulled his thin beard, and gazed in the fire.  Presently he laughed and said: 

“I jess bet a hoss you couldn’t guess who I seed; now I jess bet that.”

Mrs. Stucky rubbed the side of her face thoughtfully, and seemed to be making a tremendous effort to imagine whom Bud had seen.

“’Twer’n’t no man, en ’twer’n’t no Azalia folks.  ’Twuz a gal.”

“A gal!” exclaimed Mrs. Stucky.

“Yes’n, a gal, an’ ef she wa’n’t a zooner you may jess take an’ knock my chunk out.”

Mrs. Stucky looked at her son curiously.  Her cold gray eyes glittered in the firelight as she held them steadily on his face.  Bud, conscious of this inspection, moved about in his chair uneasily, shifting his feet from one side to the other.

“’Twer’n’t no Sal Badger,” he said, after a while, laughing sheepishly; “’twer’n’t no Maria Matthews, ‘twer’n’t no Lou Hornsby, an’ ’twer’n’t no Martha Jane Williams, nuther.  She wuz a bran’-new gal, an’ she went ter the tavern, she did.”

“I’ve done saw ’er,” said Mrs. Stucky placidly.

“You done saw ’er, maw!” exclaimed Bud.  “Well, the great Jemimy!  What’s her name, maw?”

“They didn’t call no names,” said Mrs. Stucky.  “They jess sot thar, an’ gormandized on waffles an’ batter-cakes, an’ didn’t call no names.  Hit made me dribble at the mouf, the way they went on.”

“Wuz she purty, maw?”

“I sot an’ looked at um,” Mrs. Stucky went on, “an’ I ’lowed maybe the war moughter come betwixt the old un an’ her good looks.  The t’other one looks mighty slick, but, Lordy!  She hain’t nigh ez slick ez that ar Lou Hornsby; yit she’s got lots purtier motions.”

“Well, I seed ’er, maw,” said Bud, gazing into the depths of the fireplace.  “Atter the ingine come a-snortin’ by, I jumped up behind the hack whar they puts the trunks, an’ I got a right good glimp’ un ’er; an’ ef she hain’t purty, then I dunner what purty is.  What’d you say her name wuz, maw?”

“Lordy, jess hark ter the creetur!  Hain’t I jess this minute hollered, an’ tole you that they hain’t called no names?”

“I ‘lowed maybe you moughter hearn the name named, an’ then drapt it,” said Bud, still gazing into the fire.  “I tell you what, she made that olé hack look big, she did!”

“You talk like you er start crazy, Bud!” exclaimed Mrs. Stucky, leaning over, and fixing her glittering eyes on his face.  “Lordy! what’s she by the side er me?  Is she made out’n i’on?”

Bud’s enthusiasm immediately vanished, and a weak, flickering smile took possession of his face.

“No’m-no’m; that she hain’t made out’n i’on!  She’s lots littler’n you is-lots littler.  She looks like she’s sorry.”

“Sorry!  What fer?”

“Sorry fer we-all.”

Mrs. Stucky looked at her son with amazement, not unmixed with indignation.  Then she seemed to remember something she had forgotten.

“Sorry fer we-all, honey, when we er got this great big pile er tavern vittles?” she asked with a smile; and then the two fell to, and made the most of Mrs. Haley’s charity.

At the tavern Helen and her aunt sat long at their tea, listening to the quaint gossip of Mrs. Haley, which not only took a wide and entertaining range, but entered into details that her guests found extremely interesting.  Miss Tewksbury’s name reminded Mrs. Haley of a Miss Kingsbury, a Northern lady, who had taught school in Middle Georgia, and who had “writ a sure-enough book,” as the genial landlady expressed it.  She went to the trouble of hunting up this “sure-enough” book-a small school dictionary-and gave many reminiscences of her acquaintance with the author.

In the small parlor, too, the ladies found General Garwood awaiting them; and they held quite a little reception, forming the acquaintance, among others, of Miss Lou Hornsby, a fresh-looking young woman, who had an exclamation of surprise or a grimace of wonder for every statement she heard and for every remark that was made.  Miss Hornsby also went to the piano, and played and sang “Nelly Gray” and “Lily Dale” with a dramatic fervor that could only have been acquired in a boarding school.  The Rev. Arthur Hill was also there, a little gentleman, whose side-whiskers and modest deportment betokened both refinement and sensibility.  He was very cordial to the two ladies from the North, and strove to demonstrate the liberality of his cloth by a certain gaiety of manner that was by no means displeasing.  He seemed to consider himself one of the links of sociability, as well as master of ceremonies; and he had a way of speaking for others that suggested considerable social tact and versatility.  Thus, when there was a lull in the conversation, he started it again, and imparted to it a vivacity that was certainly remarkable, as Helen thought.  At precisely the proper moment, he seized Miss Hornsby, and bore her off home, tittering sweetly as only a young girl can; and the others, following the example thus happily set, left Helen and her aunt to themselves, and to the repose that tired travelers are supposed to be in need of.  They were not long in seeking it.

“I wonder,” said Helen, after she and her aunt had gone to bed, “if these people really regard us as enemies?”

This question caused Miss Tewksbury to sniff the air angrily.

“Pray, what difference does it make?” she replied.

“Oh, none at all!” said Helen.  “I was just thinking.  The little preacher was tremendously gay.  His mind seemed to be on skates.  He touched on every subject but the war, and that he glided around gracefully.  No doubt they have had enough of war down here.”

“I should hope so,” said Miss Tewksbury.  “Go to sleep, child:  you need rest.”

Helen did not follow this timely advice at once.  From her window she could see the constellations dragging their glittering procession westward; and she knew that the spirit of the night was whispering gently in the tall pines, but her thoughts were in a whirl.  The scenes through which she had passed, and the people she had met, were new to her; and she lay awake and thought of them until at last the slow-moving stars left her wrapped in sleep-a sleep from which she was not aroused until William shook the foundations of the tavern with his melodious bell, informing everybody that the hour for breakfast had arrived.

Shortly afterward, William made his appearance in person, bringing an abundance of fresh, clear water.  He appeared to be in excellent humor.

“What did you say your name is?” Helen asked.  William chuckled, as if he thought the question was in the nature of a joke.

“I’m name’ Willum, ma’am, en my mammy she name’ Sa’er Jane, en de baby she name’ Phillypeener.  Miss ‘Ria she say dat baby is de likelies’ nigger baby w’at she y’ever been see sence de war en I speck she is, kaze Miss ’Ria ain’t been talk dat away ’bout eve’y nigger baby w’at come ’long.”

“How old are you?” Miss Tewksbury inquired.

“I dunno’m,” said William placidly.  “Miss ’Ria she says I’m lots older dan w’at I looks ter be, en I speck dat’s so, kaze mammy sey dey got ter be a runt ’mongst all folks’s famblies.”

Helen laughed, and William went on: 

“Mammy say olé Miss gwine come see you all.  Mars Peyt gwine bring er.”

“Who is old Miss?” Helen asked.

William gazed at her with unfeigned amusement.

“Dunner who olé Miss is?  Lordy! you de fusfolks w’at ain’t know olé Miss.  She Mars Peyt’s own mammy, dat’s who she is, en ef she come lak dey say she comin’, hit’ll be de fus’ time she y’ever sot foot in dish yer tavern less’n ’twuz indurance er de war.  Miss ’Ria say she wish ter goodness olé Miss ‘ud sen’ word ef she gwine stay ter dinner so she kin fix up somepin n’er nice.  I dunno whe’er Miss Hallie comin’ er no, but olé Miss comin’, sho, kaze I done been year um sesso.”

“And who is Miss Hallie?” Helen inquired, as William still lingered.

“Miss Hallie-she-dunno’m, ceppin’ she des stays dar ’long wid um.  Miss
’Ria say she mighty quare, but I wish turrer folks wuz quare lak Miss
Hallie.”

William stayed until he was called away, and at breakfast Mrs. Haley imparted the information which, in William’s lingo, had sounded somewhat scrappy.  It was to the effect that General Garwood’s mother would call on the ladies during their stay.  Mrs. Haley laid great stress on the statement.

“Such an event seems to be very interesting,” Helen said rather dryly.

“Yes’m,” said Mrs. Haley, with her peculiar emphasis, “it ruther took me back when I heard the niggers takin’ about it this mornin’.  If that old lady has ever darkened my door, I’ve done forgot it.  She’s mighty nice and neighborly,” Mrs. Haley went on, in response to a smile which Helen gave her aunt, “but she don’t go out much.  Oh, she’s nice and proud; Lord, if pride ’ud kill a body, that old ’oman would ‘a’ been dead too long ago to talk about.  They’re all proud-the whole kit and b’ilin’.  She mayn’t be too proud to come to this here tavern, but I know she ain’t never been here.  The preacher used to say that pride drives out grace, but I don’t believe it, because that ’ud strip the Garwoods of all they’ve got in this world; and I know they’re just as good as they can be.”

“I heard the little negro boy talking of Miss Hallie,” said Helen.  “Pray, who is she?”

Mrs. Haley closed her eyes, threw her head back, and laughed softly.

“The poor child!” she exclaimed.  “I declare, I feel like cryin’ every time I think about her.  She’s the forlornest poor creetur the Lord ever let live, and one of the best.  Sometimes, when I git tore up in my mind, and begin to think that everything’s wrong-end foremost, I jess think of Hallie Garwood, and then I don’t have no more trouble.”

Both Helen and her aunt appeared to be interested, and Mrs. Haley went on: 

“The poor child was a Herndon; I reckon you’ve heard tell of the Virginia Herndons.  At the beginning of the war, she was married to Ethel Garwood; and, bless your life, she hadn’t been married more’n a week before Ethel was killed.  ’Twa’n’t in no battle, but jess in a kind of skirmish.  They fotch him home, and Hallie come along with him, and right here she’s been ev’ry sence.  She does mighty quare.  She don’t wear nothin’ but black, and she don’t go nowhere less’n it’s somewheres where there’s sickness.  It makes my blood run cold to think about that poor creetur.  Trouble hits some folks and glances off, and it hits some and thar it sticks.  I tell you what, them that it gives the go-by ought to be monst’ous proud.”

This was the beginning of many interesting experiences for Helen and her aunt.  They managed to find considerable comfort in Mrs. Haley’s genial gossip.  It amused and instructed them, and, at the same time, gave them a standard, half-serious, half-comical, by which to measure their own experiences in what seemed to them a very quaint neighborhood.  They managed, in the course of a very few days, to make themselves thoroughly at home in their new surroundings; and, while they missed much that tradition and literature had told them they would find, they found much to excite their curiosity and attract their interest.

One morning, an old-fashioned carriage, drawn by a pair of heavy-limbed horses, lumbered up to the tavern door.  Helen watched it with some degree of expectancy.  The curtains and upholstering were faded and worn, and the panels were dingy with age.  The negro driver was old and obsequious.  He jumped from his high seat, opened the door, let down a flight of steps, and then stood with his hat off, the November sun glistening on his bald head.  Two ladies alighted.  One was old, and one was young, but both were arrayed in deep mourning.  The old lady had an abundance of gray hair that was combed straight back from her forehead, and her features, gave evidence of great decision of character.  The young lady had large, lustrous eyes, and the pallor of her face was in strange contrast with her sombre drapery.  These were the ladies from Waverly, as the Garwood place was called; and Helen and her aunt met them a few moments later.

“I am so pleased to meet you,” said the old lady, with a smile that made her face beautiful.  “And this is Miss Tewksbury.  Really, I have heard my son speak of you so often that I seem to know you.  This is my daughter Hallie.  She doesn’t go out often, but she insisted on coming with me to-day.”

“I’m very glad you came,” said Helen, sitting by the pale young woman after the greetings were over.

“I think you are lovely,” said Hallie, with the tone of one who is settling a question that had previously been debated.  Her clear eyes from which innocence, unconquered and undimmed by trouble, shone forth, fastened themselves on Helen’s face.  The admiration they expressed was unqualified and unadulterated.  It was the admiration of a child.  But the eyes were not those of a child:  they were such as Helen had seen in old paintings, and the pathos that seemed part of their beauty belonged definitely to the past.

“I lovely?” exclaimed Helen in astonishment, blushing a little.  “I have never been accused of such a thing before.”

“You have such a beautiful complexion,” Hallie went on placidly, her eyes still fixed on Helen’s face.  “I had heard-some one had told me-that you were an invalid.  I was so sorry.”  The beautiful eyes drooped, and Hallie sighed gently.

“My invalidism is a myth,” Helen replied, somewhat puzzled to account for the impression the pale young woman made on her.  “It is the invention of my aunt and our family physician.  They have a theory that my lungs are affected, and that the air of the pine-woods will do me good.”

“Oh, I hope and trust it will,” exclaimed Hallie, with an earnestness that Helen could trace to no reasonable basis but affectation.  “Oh, I do hope it will!  You are so young-so full of life.”

“My dear child,” said Helen, with mock gravity, “I am older than you are-ever so much older.”

The lustrous eyes closed, and for a moment the long silken lashes rested against the pale cheek.  Then the eyes opened, and gazed at Helen appealingly.

“Oh, impossible!  How could that be?  I was sixteen in 1862.”

“Then,” said Helen, “you are twenty-seven, and I am twenty-five.”

“I knew it-I felt it!” exclaimed Hallie, with pensive animation.

Helen was amused and somewhat interested.  She admired the peculiar beauty of Hallie; but the efforts of the latter to repress her feelings, to reach, as it were, the results of self-effacement, were not at all pleasing to the Boston girl.

Mrs. Garwood and Miss Tewksbury found themselves on good terms at once.  A course of novel reading, seasoned with reflection, had led Miss Tewksbury to believe that Southern ladies of the first families possessed in a large degree the Oriental faculty of laziness.  She had pictured them in her mind as languid creatures, with a retinue of servants to carry their smelling-salts, and to stir the tropical air with palm-leaf fans.  Miss Tewksbury was pleased rather than disappointed to find that Mrs. Garwood did not realize her idea of a Southern woman.  The large, lumbering carriage was something, and the antiquated driver threatened to lead the mind in a somewhat romantic direction; but both were shabby enough to be regarded as relics and reminders rather than as active possibilities.

Mrs. Garwood was bright and cordial, and the air of refinement about her was pronounced and unmistakable.  Miss Tewksbury told her that Dr. Buxton had recommended Azalia as a sanitarium.

“Ephraim Buxton!” exclaimed Mrs. Garwood.  “Why, you don’t tell me that Ephraim Buxton is practising medicine in Boston?  And do you really know him?  Why, Ephraim Buxton was my first sweetheart!”

Mrs. Garwood’s laugh was pleasant to hear, and her blushes were worth looking at as she referred to Dr. Buxton.  Miss Tewksbury laughed sympathetically but primly.

“It was quite romantic,” Mrs. Garwood went on, an a half-humorous, half-confidential tone.  “Ephraim was the school teacher here, and I was his eldest scholar.  He was young, green, and awkward, but the best-hearted, most generous mortal I ever saw.  I made quite a hero of him.”

“Well,” said Miss Tewksbury, in her matter-of-fact way, “I have never seen anything very heroic about Dr. Buxton.  He comes and goes, and prescribes his pills, like all other doctors.”

“Ah, that was forty years ago,” said Mrs. Garwood, laughing.  “A hero can become very commonplace in forty years.  Dr. Buxton must be a dear, good man.  Is he married?”

“No,” said Miss Tewksbury.  “He has been wise in his day and generation.”

“What a pity!” exclaimed the other.  “He would have made some woman happy.”

Mrs. Garwood asked many questions concerning the physician who had once taught school at Azalia; and the conversation of the two ladies finally took a range that covered all New England, and, finally, the South.  Each was surprised at the remarkable ignorance of the other; but their ignorance covered different fields, so that they had merely to exchange facts and information and experiences in order to entertain each other.  They touched on the war delicately, though Miss Tewksbury had never cultivated the art of reserve to any great extent.  At the same time there was no lack of frankness on either side.

“My son has been telling me of the little controversies he had with you,” said Mrs. Garwood.  “He says you fairly bristle with arguments.”

“The general never heard half my arguments,” replied Miss Tewksbury.  “He never gave me an opportunity to use them.”

“My son is very conservative,” said Mrs. Garwood, with a smile in which could be detected a mother’s fond pride.  “After the war he felt the responsibility of his position.  A great many people looked up to him.  For a long time after the surrender we had no law and no courts, and there was a great deal of confusion.  Oh, you can’t imagine!  Every man was his own judge and jury.”

“So I’ve been told,” said Miss Tewksbury.

“Of course you know something about it, but you can have no conception of the real condition of things.  It was a tremendous upheaval coming after a terrible struggle, and my son felt that some one should set an example of prudence.  His theory was, and is, that everything was for the best, and that our people should make the best of it.  I think he was right,” Mrs. Garwood added with a sigh, “but I don’t know.”

“Why, unquestionably!” exclaimed Miss Tewksbury.  She was going on to say more; she felt that here was an opening for some of her arguments:  but her eyes fell on Hallie, whose pale face and sombre garb formed a curious contrast to the fresh-looking young woman who sat beside her.  Miss Tewksbury paused.

“Did you lose any one in the war?” Hallie was asking softly.

“I lost a darling brother,” Helen replied.

Hallie laid her hand on Helen’s arm, a beautiful white hand.  The movement was at once a gesture and a caress.

“Dear heart!” she said, “you must come and see me.  We will talk together.  I love those who are sorrowful.”

Miss Tewksbury postponed her arguments, and after some conversation they took their leave.

“Aunt Harriet,” said Helen, when they were alone, “what do you make of these people?  Did you see that poor girl, and hear her talk?  She chilled me and entranced me.”

“Don’t talk so, child,” said Miss Tewksbury; “they are very good people, much better people than I thought we should find in this wilderness.  It is a comfort to talk to them.”

“But that poor girl,” said Helen.  “She is a mystery to me.  She reminds me of a figure I have seen on the stage, or read of in some old book.”

When Azalia heard that the Northern ladies had been called on by the mistress of Waverly, that portion of its inhabitants which was in the habit of keeping up the forms of sociability made haste to follow her example, so that Helen and her aunt were made to feel at home in spite of themselves.  General Garwood was a frequent caller, ostensibly to engage in sectional controversies with Miss Tewksbury, which he seemed to enjoy keenly; but Mrs. Haley observed that when Helen was not visible the general rarely prolonged his discussions with her aunt.

The Rev. Arthur Hill also called with some degree of regularity; and it was finally understood that Helen would, at least temporarily, take the place of Miss Lou Hornsby as organist of the little Episcopal church in the Tacky settlement, as soon as Mr. Goolsby, the fat and enterprising book-agent, had led the fair Louisa to the altar.  This wedding occurred in due time, and was quite an event in Azalia’s social history.  Goolsby was stout, but gallant; and Miss Hornsby made a tolerably handsome bride, notwithstanding a tendency to giggle when her deportment should have been dignified.  Helen furnished the music, General Garwood gave the bride away, and the little preacher read the ceremony quite impressively; so that with the flowers and other favors, and the subsequent dinner-which Mrs. Haley called an “infair”-the occasion was a very happy and successful one.

Among those who were present, not as invited guests, but by virtue of their unimportance, were Mrs. Stucky and her son Bud.  They were followed and flanked by quite a number of their neighbors, who gazed on the festal scene with an impressive curiosity that can not be described.  Pale-faced, wide-eyed, statuesque, their presence, interpreted by a vivid imagination, might have been regarded as an omen of impending misfortune.  They stood on the outskirts of the wedding company, gazing on the scene apparently without an emotion of sympathy or interest.  They were there, it seemed, to see what new caper the townspeople had concluded to cut, to regard it solemnly, and to regret it with grave faces when the lights were out and the fantastic procession had drifted away to the village.

The organ in the little church was a fine instrument, though a small one.  It had belonged to the little preacher’s wife, and he had given it to the church.  To his mind, the fact that she had used it sanctified it, and he had placed it in the church as a part of the sacrifice he felt called on to make in behalf of his religion.  Helen played it with uncommon skill-a skill born of a passionate appreciation of music in its highest forms.  The Rev. Mr. Hill listened like one entranced, but Helen played unconscious of his admiration.  On the outskirts of the congregation she observed Mrs. Stucky, and by her side a young man with long, sandy hair, evidently uncombed, and a thin stubble of beard.  Helen saw this young man pull Mrs. Stucky by the sleeve, and direct her attention to the organ.  Instead of looking in Helen’s direction, Mrs. Stucky fixed her eyes on the face of the young man and held them there; but he continued to stare at the organist.  It was a gaze at once mournful and appealing-not different in that respect from the gaze of any of the queer people around him, but it affected Miss Eustis strangely.  To her quick imagination, it suggested loneliness, despair, that was the more tragic because of its isolation.  It seemed to embody the mute, pent-up distress of whole generations.  Somehow Helen felt herself to be playing for the benefit of this poor creature.  The echoes of the wedding-march sounded grandly in the little church, then came a softly played interlude, and finally a solemn benediction, in which solicitude seemed to be giving happiness a sweet warning.  As the congregation filed out of the church, the organ sent its sonorous echoes after the departing crowd-echoes that were taken up by the whispering and sighing pines, and borne far into the night.  Mrs. Stucky did not go until after the lights were out; and then she took her son by the hand, and the two went to their lonely cabin not far away.  They went in, and soon had a fire kindled on the hearth.  No word had passed between them; but after a while, when Mrs. Stucky had taken a seat in the corner, and lit her pipe, she exclaimed: 

“Lordy! what a great big gob of a man!  I dunner what on the face er the yeth Lou Hornsby could ‘a’ been a-dreamin’ about.  From the way she’s been a-gigglin’ aroun’ I’d ‘a’ thought she’d ‘a’ sot her cap fer the giner’l.”

“I say it!” said Bud, laughing loudly.  “Whatter you reckon the giner’l ’ud ‘a’ been a-doin’ all that time?  I see ‘er now, a-gigglin’ an’ a-settin’ ’er cap fer the giner’l.  Lordy, yes!”

“What’s the matter betwixt you an’ Lou?” asked Mrs. Stucky grimly.  “‘Taint been no time senst you wuz a-totin’ water fer her ma, an’ a-hangin’ aroun’ whilst she played the music in the church thar.”  Bud continued to laugh.  “But, Lordy!” his mother went on, “I reckon you’ll be a-totin’ water an’ a-runnin’ er’n’s fer thish yer Yankee gal what played on the orgin up thar jess now.”

“Well, they hain’t no tellin’,” said Bud, rubbing his thin beard reflectively.  “She’s mighty spry ‘long er that orgin, an’ she’s got mighty purty han’s an’ nimble fingers, an’ ef she ’uz ter let down her ha’r, she’d be plum ready ter fly.”

“She walked home wi’ the giner’l,” said Mrs. Stucky.

“I seed ’er,” said Bud.  “He sent some yuther gals home in the carriage, an’ him an’ the Yankee gal went a-walkin’ down the road.  He humped up his arm this away, an’ the gal tuck it, an’ off they put.”  Bud seemed to enjoy the recollection of the scene; for he repeated, after waiting a while to see what his mother would have to say:  “Yes, siree! she tuck it, an’ off they put.”

Mrs. Stucky looked at this grown man, her son, for a long time without saying anything, and finally remarked with something very like a sigh:  “Well, honey, you neenter begrudge ’em the’r walk.  Hit’s a long ways through the san’.”

“Lordy, yes’n!” exclaimed Bud with something like a smile; “it’s a mighty long ways, but the giner’l had the gal wi’ ’im.  He jess humped up his arm, an’ she tuck it, an’ off they put.”

It was even so.  General Garwood and Helen walked home from the little church.  The road was a long but a shining one.  In the moonlight the sand shone white, save where little drifts and eddies of pine-needles had gathered.  But these were no obstruction to the perspective, for the road was an avenue, broad and level, that lost itself in the distance only because the companionable pines, interlacing their boughs, contrived to present a background both vague and sombre-a background that receded on approach, and finally developed into the village of Azalia and its suburbs.  Along this level and shining highway Helen and General Garwood went.  The carriages that preceded them, and the people who walked with them or followed, gave a sort of processional pomp and movement to the gallant Goolsby’s wedding-so much so that if he could have witnessed it, his manly bosom would have swelled with genuine pride.

“The music you gave us was indeed a treat,” said the general.

“It was perhaps more than you bargained for,” Helen replied.  “I suppose everybody thought I was trying to make a display, but I quite forgot myself.  I was watching its effect on one of the poor creatures near the door-do you call them Tackies?”

“Yes, Tackies.  Well, we are all obliged to the poor creature-man or woman.  No doubt the fortunate person was Bud Stucky.  I saw him standing near his mother.  Bud is famous for his love of music.  When the organ is to be played, Bud is always at the church; and sometimes he goes to Waverly, and makes Hallie play the piano for him while he sits on the floor of the veranda near the window.  Bud is quite a character.”

“I am so sorry for him,” said Helen gently.

“I doubt if he is to be greatly pitied,” said the general.  “Indeed, as the music was for him, and not for us, I think he is to be greatly envied.”

“I see now,” said Helen laughing, “that I should have restrained myself.”

“The suggestion is almost selfish,” said the general gallantly.

“Well, your nights here are finer than music,” Helen remarked, fleeing to an impersonal theme.  “To walk in the moonlight, without wraps and with no sense of discomfort, in the middle of December, is a wonderful experience to me.  Last night I heard a mocking-bird singing; and my aunt has been asking Mrs. Haley if watermelons are ripe.”

“The mocking-birds at Waverly,” said the general, “have become something of a nuisance under Hallie’s management.  There is a great flock of them on the place, and in the summer they sing all night.  It is not a very pleasant experience to have one whistling at your window the whole night through.”

“Mrs. Haley,” remarked Helen, “says that there are more mocking-birds now than there were before the war, and that they sing louder and more frequently.”

“I shouldn’t wonder,” the general assented.  “Mrs. Haley is quite an authority on such matters.  Everybody quotes her opinions.”

“I took the liberty the other day,” Helen went on, “of asking her about the Ku Klux.”

“And, pray, what did she say?” the general asked with some degree of curiosity.

“Why, she said they were like the shower of stars-she had ‘heard tell’ of them, but she had never seen them.  ‘But,’ said I, ’you have no doubt that the shower really occurred!’”

“Her illustration was somewhat unfortunate,” the general remarked.

“Oh, by no means,” Helen replied.  “She looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes, and said she had heard that it wasn’t the stars that fell, after all.”

Talking thus, with long intervals of silence, the two walked along the gleaming road until they reached the tavern, where Miss Eustis found her aunt and Mrs. Haley waiting on the broad veranda.

“I don’t think he is very polite,” said Helen, after her escort had bade them good night, and was out of hearing.  “He offered me his arm, and then, after we had walked a little way, suggested that we could get along more comfortably by marching Indian file.”

Mrs. Haley laughed loudly.  “Why, bless your innocent heart, honey! that ain’t nothin’.  The sand’s too deep in the road, and the path’s too narrer for folks to be a-gwine along yarm-in-arm.  Lord! don’t talk about perliteness.  That man’s manners is somethin’ better’n perliteness.”

“Well,” said Helen’s aunt, “I can’t imagine why he should want to make you trudge through the sand in that style.”

“It is probably an output of the climate,” said Helen.

“Well, now, honey,” remarked Mrs. Haley, “if he ast you to walk wi’ ’im, he had his reasons.  I’ve got my own idée,” she added with a chuckle.  “I know one thing-I know he’s monstrous fond of some of the Northron folks.  Ain’t you never hearn, how, endurin’ of the war, they fotch home a Yankee soldier along wi’ Hallie’s husband, an’ buried ’em side by side?  They tell me that Hallie’s husband an’ the Yankee was mighty nigh the same age, an’ had a sorter favor.  If that’s so,” said Mrs. Haley, with emphasis, “then two mighty likely chaps was knocked over on account of the everlastin’ nigger.”

All this was very interesting to Helen and her aunt, and they were anxious to learn all the particulars in regard to the young Federal soldier who had found burial at Waverly.

“What his name was,” said Mrs. Haley, “I’ll never tell you.  Old Prince, the carriage-driver, can tell you lots more’n I can.  He foun’ ’em on the groun’, an’ he fotch ’em home.  Prince use to be a mighty good nigger before freedom come out, but now he ain’t much better’n the balance of ’em.  You all ‘ill see him when you go over thar, bekaze he’s in an’ out of the house constant.  He’ll tell you all about it if you’re mighty perlite.  Folks is got so they has to be mighty perlite to niggers sence the war.  Yit I’ll not deny that it’s easy to be perlite to old Uncle Prince, bekaze he’s mighty perlite hisself.  He’s what I call a high-bred nigger.”  Mrs. Haley said this with an air of pride, as if she were in some measure responsible for Uncle Prince’s good breeding.

V

IT came to pass that Helen Eustis and her aunt lost the sense of loneliness which they had found so oppressive during the first weeks of their visit.  In the people about them they found a never-failing fund of entertainment.  They found in the climate, too, a source of health and strength.  The resinous odor of the pines was always in their nostrils; the far, faint undertones of music the winds made in the trees were always in their ears.  The provinciality of the people, which some of the political correspondents describe as distressing, was so genuinely American in all its forms and manifestations that these Boston women were enabled to draw from it, now and then, a whiff of New England air.  They recognized characteristics that made them feel thoroughly at home.  Perhaps, so far as Helen was concerned, there were other reasons that reconciled her to her surroundings.  At any rate, she was reconciled.  More than this, she was happy.  Her eyes sparkled, and the roses of health bloomed on her cheeks.  All her movements were tributes to the buoyancy and energy of her nature.  The little rector found out what this energy amounted to, when, on one occasion, he proposed to accompany her on one of her walks.  It was a five-mile excursion; and he returned, as Mrs. Haley expressed it, “a used-up man.”

One morning, just before Christmas, the Waverly carriage, driven in great state by Uncle Prince, drew up in front of the tavern; and in a few moments Helen and her aunt were given to understand that they had been sent for, in furtherance of an invitation they had accepted, to spend the holidays at Waverly.

Olé Miss would ‘a’ come,” said Uncle Prince, with a hospitable chuckle, “but she sorter ailin’; en Miss Hallie, she dat busy dat she ain’t skacely got time fer ter tu’n ‘roun’; so dey tuck’n sort atter you, ma’am, des like you wuz home folks.”

The preparations of the ladies had already been made, and it was not long before they were swinging along under the green pines in the old-fashioned vehicle.  Nor was it long before they passed from the pine forests, and entered the grove of live-oaks that shaded the walks and drives of Waverly.  The house itself was a somewhat imposing structure, with a double veranda in front, supported by immense pillars, and surrounded on all sides by magnificent trees.  Here, as Helen and her aunt had heard on all sides, a princely establishment had existed in the old time before the war-an establishment noted for its lavish hospitality.  Here visitors used to come in their carriages from all parts of Georgia, from South Carolina, and even from Virginia-some of them remaining for weeks at a time, and giving to the otherwise dull neighborhood long seasons of riotous festivity, which were at once characteristic and picturesque.  The old days had gone to come no more, but there was something in the atmosphere that seemed to recall them.  The stately yet simple architecture of the house, the trees with their rugged and enormous trunks, the vast extent of the grounds-everything, indeed, that came under the eye-seemed to suggest the past.  A blackened and broken statue lay prone upon the ground hard by the weather-beaten basin of a fountain long since dry.  Two tall granite columns, that once guarded an immense gateway, supported the fragmentary skeletons of two colossal lamps.  There was a suggestion not only of the old days before the war, but of antiquity-a suggestion that was intensified by the great hall, the high ceilings, the wide fireplaces, and the high mantels of the house itself.  These things somehow gave a weird aspect to Waverly in the eyes of the visitors; but this feeling was largely atoned for by the air of tranquillity that brooded over the place, and it was utterly dispersed by the heartiness with which they were welcomed.

“Here we is at home, ma’am,” exclaimed Uncle Prince, opening the carriage-door, and bowing low; “en yon’ come olé Miss en Miss Hallie.”

The impression which Helen and her aunt received, and one which they never succeeded in shaking off during their visit, was that they were regarded as members of the family who had been away for a period, but who had now come home to stay.  Just how these gentle hosts managed to impart this impression, Helen and Miss Tewksbury would have found it hard to explain; but they discovered that the art of entertaining was not a lost art even in the piny woods.  Every incident, and even accidents, contributed to the enjoyment of the guests.  Even the weather appeared to exert itself to please.  Christmas morning was ushered in with a sharp little flurry of snow.  The scene was a very pretty one, as the soft white flakes, some of them as large as a canary’s wing, fell athwart the green foliage of the live-oaks and the magnolias.

“This is my hour!” exclaimed Helen enthusiastically.

“We enjoy it with you,” said Hallie simply.

During the afternoon the clouds melted away, the sun came out, and the purple haze of Indian summer took possession of air and sky.  In an hour the weather passed from the crisp and sparkling freshness of winter, to the wistful melancholy beauty of autumn.

“This,” said Hallie gently, “is my hour.”  She was standing on the broad veranda with Helen.  For reply, the latter placed her arm around the Southern girl; and they stood thus for a long time, their thoughts riming to the plaintive air of a negro melody that found its way across the fields and through the woods.

Christmas at Waverly, notwithstanding the fact that the negroes were free, was not greatly different from Christmas on the Southern plantations before the war.  Few of the negroes who had been slaves had left the place, and those that remained knew how a Christmas ought to be celebrated.  They sang the old-time songs, danced the old-time dances, and played the old-time plays.

All this was deeply interesting to the gentlewomen from Boston; but there was one incident that left a lasting impression on both, and probably had its effect in changing the future of one of them.  It occurred one evening when they were all grouped around the fire in the drawing-room.  The weather had grown somewhat colder than usual, and big hickory logs were piled in the wide fireplace.  At the suggestion of Hallie the lights had been put out, and they sat in the ruddy glow of the firelight.  The effect was picturesque indeed.  The furniture and the polished wainscoting glinted and shone, and the shadows of the big brass andirons were thrown upon the ceiling, where they performed a witch’s dance, the intricacy of which was amazing to behold.

It was an interesting group, representing the types of much that is best in the civilization of the two regions.  Their talk covered a great variety of subjects, but finally drifted into reminiscences of the war-reminiscences of its incidents rather than its passions.

“I have been told,” said Miss Eustis, “that a dead Union soldier was brought here during the war, and buried.  Was his name ever known?”

There was a long pause.  General Garwood gazed steadily into the fire.  His mother sighed gently.  Hallie, who had been resting her head against Helen’s shoulder, rose from her chair, and glided from the room as swiftly as a ghost.

“Perhaps I have made a mistake,” said Helen in dismay.  “The incident was so strange-”

“No, Miss Eustis, you have made no mistake,” said General Garwood, smiling a little sadly.  “One moment-” He paused as if listening for something.  Presently the faint sound of music was heard.  It stole softly from the dark parlor into the warm firelight as if it came from far away.

“One moment,” said General Garwood.  “It is Hallie at the piano.”

The music, without increasing in volume, suddenly gathered coherency, and there fell on the ears of the listening group the notes of an air so plaintive that it seemed like the breaking of a heart.  It was as soft as an echo, and as tender as the memories of love and youth.

“We have to be very particular with Hallie,” said the general, by way of explanation.  “The Union soldier in our burying-ground is intimately connected with her bereavement and ours.  Hers is the one poor heart that keeps the fires of grief always burning.  I think she is willing the story should be told.”

“Yes,” said his mother, “else she would never go to the piano.”

“I feel like a criminal,” said Helen.  “How can I apologize?”

“It is we who ought to apologize and explain,” replied General Garwood.  “You shall hear the story, and then neither explanation nor apology will be necessary.”

A SUMMONS was sent for Uncle Prince, and the old man soon made his appearance.  He stood in a seriously expectant attitude.

“Prince,” said General Garwood, “these ladies are from the North.  They have asked me about the dead Union soldier you brought home during the war.  I want you to tell the whole story.”

“Tell ’bout de what, Marse Peyton?” Both astonishment and distress were depicted on the old negro’s face as he asked the question.  He seemed to be sure that he had not heard aright.

“About the Union soldier you brought home with your young master from Virginia.”

“Whar Miss Hallie, Marse Peyton?  Dat her in dar wid de peanner?”

“Yes, she’s in there.”

“I ’lowed she uz some’r’s, kaze I know ’tain’t gwine never do fer ter git dat chile riled up ’bout dem olé times; en it’ll be a mighty wonder ef she don’t ketch col’ in dar whar she is.”

“No,” said General Garwood; “the room is warm.  There has been a fire in there all day.”

“Yasser, I know I builted one in dar dis mornin’, but I take notice dat de drafts dese times look like dey come bofe ways.”

The old man stood near the tall mantel, facing the group.  There was nothing servile in his attitude:  on the contrary, his manner, when addressing the gentleman who had once been his master, suggested easy, not to say affectionate, familiarity.  The firelight, shining on his face, revealed a countenance at once rugged and friendly.  It was a face in which humor had many a tough struggle with dignity.  In looks and tone, in word and gesture, there was unmistakable evidence of that peculiar form of urbanity that can not be dissociated from gentility.  These things were more apparent, perhaps, to Helen and her aunt than to those who, from long association, had become accustomed to Uncle Prince’s peculiarities.

Dem times ain’t never got clean out’n my min’,” said the old negro, “but it bin so long sence I runn’d over um, dat I dunner wharbouts ter begin skacely.”

“You can tell it all in your own way,” said General Garwood.

“Yasser, dat’s so, but I fear’d it’s a mighty po’ way.  Bless yo’ soul, honey,” Uncle Prince went on, “dey was rough times, en it look like ter me dat ef dey wuz ter come ‘roun’ ag’in hit ’u’d take a mighty rank runner fer ter ketch one nigger man w’at I’m got some ’quaintance wid.  Dey wuz rough times, but dey wa’n’t rough ’long at fust.  Shoo! no! dey wuz dat slick dat dey ease we-all right down ‘mongs’ de wuss kind er tribbylation, en we ain’t none un us know it twel we er done dar.

“I know dis,” the old man continued, addressing himself exclusively to Miss Eustis and her aunt; “I knows dat we-all wuz a-gittin’ ’long mighty well, w’en one day Marse Peyton dar, he tuck ‘n’ jinded wid de army; en den ’twa’n’t long ‘fo’ word come dat my young marster w’at gwine ter college in Ferginny, done gone en jinded wid um.  I ax myse’f, I say, w’at de name er goodness does dey want wid boy like dat?  Hit’s de Lord’s trufe, ma’am, dat ar chile wa’n’t mo’ dan gwine on sixteen, ef he wuz dat, en I up’n’ ax myse’f, I did, w’at does de war want wid baby like dat?  Min’ you, ma’am, I ain’t fin’ out den w’at war wuz-I ain’t know w’at a great big maw she got.”

“My son Ethel,” said Mrs. Garwood, the soft tone of her voice chiming with the notes of the piano, “was attending the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.  He was just sixteen.”

“Yassum,” said Uncle Prince, rubbing his hands together gently, and gazing into the glowing embers, as if searching there for some clue that would aid him in recalling the past.  “Yassum, my young marster wuz des gone by sixteen year, kaze ’twa’n’t so mighty long ‘fo’ dat, dat we-all sont ’im a great big box er fixin’s en doin’s fer ter git dar on he’s birfday; en I sot up mighty nigh twel day tryin’ ter make some ’lasses candy fer ter put in dar wid de yuther doin’s.”

Here Uncle Prince smiled broadly at the fire.

“Ef dey wuz sumpin’ w’at dat chile like, hit wuz ’lasses candy; en I say ter my olé ’oman, I did:  ’’Mandy Jane, I’ll make de candy, en den w’en she good en done, I’ll up en holler fer you, en den you kin pull it.’  Yassum, I said dem ve’y words.  So de olé ’oman, she lay down ’cross de baid, en I sot up dar en b’iled de ’lasses.  De ’lasses ’u’d blubber en I’d nod, en I’d nod en de ’lasses ’u’d blubber, en fus news I know de ’lasses ’u’d done be scorched.  Well, ma’am, I tuck ‘n’ burnt up mighty nigh fo’ gallons er ‘lasses on de account er my noddin’, en bimeby w’en de olé ’oman wake up, she ’low dey wa’n’t no excusión fer it; en sho nuff dey wa’n’t, kaze w’at make I nod dat away?

“But dat candy wuz candy, mon, w’en she did come, en den de olé ’oman she tuck ‘n’ pull it twel it git ‘mos’ right white; en my young marster, he tuck ‘n’ writ back, he did, dat ef dey wuz anythin’ in dat box w’at make ’im git puny wid de homesickness, hit uz dat ar ’lasses candy.  Yassum, he cert’n’y did, kaze dey tuck ‘n’ read it right out’n de letter whar he writ it.

“’Twa’n’t long atter dat ‘fo’ we-all got de word dat my young marster done jinded inter de war wid some yuther boys w’at been at de same school’ouse wid ’im.  Den, on top er dat, yer come news dat he gwine git married.  Bless yo’ soul, honey, dat sorter rilded me up, en I march inter de big ’ouse, I did, en I up ‘n’ tell mistis dat she better lemme go up dar en fetch dat chile home; en den mistis say she gwine sen’ me on dar fer ter be wid ’im in de war, en take keer un ’im.  Dis holp me up might’ly, kaze I wuz a mighty biggity nigger in dem days.  De white folks done raise me up right ‘long wid um, en way down in my min’ I des laid off fer ter go up dar in Ferginny, en take my young marster by he’s collar en fetch ’im home, des like I done w’en he use ter git in de hin’ouse en bodder ’long wid de chickens.

“Dat wuz way down in my min’, des like I tell you, but bless yo’ soul, chile, hit done drap out ‘mos’ ‘fo’ I git ter ’Gusty, in de Nunited State er Georgy.  Time I struck de railroad I kin see de troops a-troopin’, en year de drums a-drummin’.  De trains wuz des loaded down wid um.  Let ’lone de passenger kyars, dey wuz in de freight-boxes yit, en dey wuz de sassiest white mens dat yever walk ‘pon topside de groun’.  Mon, dey wuz a caution.  Dey had niggers wid um, en de niggers wuz sassy, en ef I hadn’t a-frailed one un um out, I dunner w’at would er ’come un me.

“Hit cert’n’y wuz a mighty long ways fum dese parts.  I come down yer fum Ferginny in a waggin w’en I wuz desbout big nuff fer ter hol’ a plow straight in de’ furrer, but ’tain’t look like ter me dat ’twuz sech a fur ways.  All day en all night long fer mighty nigh a week I year dem kyar-wheels go clickity-clock, clickity-clock, en dem ingines go choo-choo-choo, choo-choo-choo, en it look like we ain’t never gwine git dar.  Yit, git dar we did, en ‘tain’t take me long fer ter fin’ de place whar my young marster is.  I laid off ter fetch ’im home; well, ma’am, w’en I look at ’im he skeer’d me.  Yassum, you may b’lieve me er not b’lieve me, but he skeer’d me.  Stiddier de boy w’at I wuz a-huntin’ fer, dar he wuz, a great big grow’d-up man, en bless yo’ soul, he wuz a-trompin’ roun’ dar wid great big boots on, en, mon, dey had spurrers on um.

“Ef I hadn’t er year ’im laugh, I nev’d a-know’d ‘im in de roun’ worl’.  I say ter myse’f, s’ I, I’ll des wait en see ef he know who I is.  But shoo! my young marster know me time he lays eyes on me, en no sooner is he see me dan he fetched a whoop en rushed at me.  He ’low:  ’Hello, Daddy! whar de name er goodness you rise fum?’ He allers call me Daddy sence he been a baby.  De minute he say dat, it come over me ’bout how lonesome de folks wuz at home, en I des grabbed ’im, en ’low:  ’Honey, you better come go back wid Daddy.’

“He sorter hug me back, he did, en den he laugh, but I tell you dey wa’n’t no laugh in me, kaze I done see w’iles I gwine long w’at kinder ‘sturbance de white folks wuz a-gettin’ up, en I know’d dey wuz a-gwine ter be trouble pile ‘pon trouble.  Yit dar he wuz a-laughin’ en a-projickin’, en ‘mongs’ all dem yuther mens dey wa’n’t none un um good-lookin’ like my young marster.  I don’t keer w’at kinder cloze he put on, dey fit ’im, en I don’t keer w’at crowd he git in, dey ain’t none un um look like ’im.  En ’tain’t on’y me say dat; I done year lots er yuther folks say dem ve’y words.

“I ups en sez, s’I:  ’Honey, you go ‘long en git yo’ things, en come go home ‘long wid Daddy.  Dey er waitin’ fer you down dar’-des so!  Den he look at me cute like he us’ter w’en he wuz a baby, en he ’low, he did: 

“‘I’m mighty glad you come, Daddy, en I hope you brung yo’ good cloze, kaze you des come in time fer ter go in ‘ten’ance on my weddin’.’  Den I ’low:  ‘You oughtn’ be a-talkin’ dat away, honey.  W’at in de name er goodness is chilluns like you got ter do wid marryin’?’ Wid dat, he up ‘n’ laugh, but ‘twa’n’t no laughin’ matter wid me.  Yit ’twuz des like he tell me, en ’twa’n’t many hours ‘fo’ we wuz gallopin’ cross de country to’ds Marse Randolph Herndon’ place; en dar whar he married.  En you may b’lieve me er not, ma’am, des ez you please, but dat couple wuz two er de purtiest chilluns you ever laid eyes on, en dar Miss Hallie in dar now fer ter show you I’m a-tellin’ de true word.  ‘Mos’ ‘fo’ de weddin’ wuz over, news com dat my young marster en de folks wid ‘im mus’ go back ter camps, en back we went.

“Well, ma’am, dar we wuz-a mighty far ways fum home, Miss Hallie a-cryin’, en de war gwine on des same ez ef ’twuz right out dar in de yard.  My young marster ’low dat I des come in time, kaze he mighty nigh pe’sh’d fer sumpin’ ’n’er good ter eat.  I whirled in, I did, en I cook ‘im some er de right kinder vittles; but all de time I cookin’, I say ter myse’f, I did, dat I mought er come too soon, er I mought er come too late, but I be bless’ ef I come des in time.

“Hit went on dis away scan’lous.  We marched en we stopped, en we stopped en we marched, en ‘twuz de Lord’s blessin’ dat we rid hosses, kaze ef my young marster had ‘a’ bin ‘blige’ ter tromp thoo de mud like some er dem white mens, I speck I’d ‘a’ had ter tote ’im, dough he uz mighty spry en tough.  Sometimes dem ar bung-shells ’u’d drap right in ‘mongs’ whar we-all wuz, en dem wuz de times w’en I feel like I better go off some’r’s en hide, not dat I wuz anyways skeery, kaze I wa’n’t; but ef one er dem ur bung-shells had er strucken me, I dunner who my young marster would ‘a’ got ter do he’s cookin’ en he’s washin’.

“Hit went on dis away, twel bimeby one night, way in de night, my young marster come whar I wuz layin’, en shuck me by de shoulder.  I wuz des wide ’wake ez w’at he wuz, yit I ain’t make no motion.  He shuck me ag’in, en ’low:  ’Daddy!  Oh, Daddy!  I’m gwine on de skirmish line.  I speck we gwine ter have some fun out dar.’

“I ’low, I did:  ’Honey, you make ’aste back ter break’us, kaze I got some sossige meat en some gennywine coffee.’

“He ain’t say nothin’, but w’en he git little ways off, he tu’n ‘roun’ en come back, he did, en ’low:  ‘Good night, Daddy.’  I lay dar, en I year un w’en dey start off.  I year der hosses a-snort-in’, en der spurrers a-jinglin’.  Ef dey yever wuz a restless creetur hit uz me dat night.  I des lay dar wid my eyes right wide open, en dey stayed open, kaze, atter w’ile, yer come daylight, en den I rousted out, I did, en built me a fire, en ’twa’n’t long ‘fo’ I had break’us a-fryin’ en de coffee a’b’ilin’, kaze I spected my young marster eve’y minute; en he uz one er dese yer kinder folks w’at want he’s coffee hot, en all de yuther vittles on de jump.

“I wait en I wait, en still he ain’t come.  Hit cert’n’y look like a mighty long time w’at he stay ’way; en bimeby I tuck myse’f off ter make some inquirements, kaze mighty nigh all he’s comp’ny done gone wid ’im.  I notice dat de white mens look at me mighty kuse w’en I ax um ’bout my young marster; en bimeby one un um up en ’low:  ‘Olé man, whar yo’ hat?’ des dat away.  I feel on my haid, en, bless goodness! my hat done gone; but I ‘spon’ back, I did:  ’’Tain’t no time fer no nigger man fer ter be bodder’n’ ‘bout he’s hat,’ des so.  Well, ma’am, bimeby I struck up wid some er my young marster’ comp’ny, en dey up ‘n’ tell me dat dey had a racket out dar en de skirmish line, en dey hatter run in, en dey speck my young marster be ’long terreckerly.  Den I year some un say dat day speck de Yankees tuck some pris’ners out dar, en den I know dat ain’t gwine do fer me.  I des runn’d back ter whar we been campin’, en I mount de hoss w’at my young marster gun me, en I rid right straight out ter whar dey been fightin’.  My min’ tol’ me dey wuz sumpin’ ’n’er wrong out dar, en I let you know, ma’am, I rid mighty fas’; I sholy made dat olé hoss git up fum dar.  De white mens dey holler at me w’en I pass, but eve’y time dey holler I make dat creetur men’ he’s gait.  Some un um call me a country-ban’, en say I runnin’ ’way, en ef de pickets hadn’t all been runnin’ in, I speck dey’d ‘a’ fetched de olé nigger up wid de guns.  But dat never cross my min’ dat day.

“Well, ma’am, I haid my hoss de way de pickets comin’ fum; en ef dey hadn’t er been so much underbresh en so many sassyfac saplin’s, I speck I’d ‘a’ run dat creetur ter def:  but I got ter whar I hatter go slow, en I des pick my way right straight forrerd de bes’ I kin.  I ain’t hatter go so mighty fur, nudder, ‘fo’ I come ’cross de place whar dey had de skirmish; en fum dat day ter dis I ain’t never see no lonesome place like dat.  Dey wuz a cap yer, a hat yander, en de groun’ look like it wuz des strowed wid um.  I stop en listen.  Den I rid on a little ways, en den I stop en listen.  Bimeby I year hoss whicker, en den de creetur w’at I’m a-ridin’, he whicker back, en do des like he wanter go whar de t’er hoss is.  I des gin ’im de rein; en de fus news I know, he trot right up ter de big black hoss w’at my young marster rid.

“I look little furder, I did, en I see folks lyin’ on de groun’.  Some wuz double’ up, en some wuz layin’ out straight.  De win’ blow de grass back’ards en forrerds, but dem sojer-men dey never move; en den I know dey wuz dead.  I look closer; en darpon de groun’, ‘mos’ right at me, wuz my young marster layin’ right by de side er one er dem Yankee mens.  I jumped down, I did, en run ter whar he wuz; but he wuz done gone.  My heart jump, my knees shuck, en my han’ trimble; but I know I got ter git away fum dar.  Hit look like at fus’ dat him en dat Yankee man been fightin’; but bimeby I see whar my young marster bin crawl thoo de weeds en grass ter whar de Yankee man wuz layin’; en he had one arm un’ de man’ haid, en de ter han’ wuz gripped on he’s canteen.  I fix it in my min’, ma’am, dat my young marster year dat Yankee man holler fer water; en he des make out fer ter crawl whar he is, en dar I foun’ um bofe.

“Dey wuz layin’ close by a little farm road, en not so mighty fur off I year a chicken crowin’.  I say ter myse’f dat sholy folks must be livin’ whar dey chickens crowin’; en I tuck’n’ mount my young marster’s hoss, en right ‘roun’ de side er de hill I come ’cross a house.  De folks wuz all gone; but dey wuz a two-hoss waggin in de lot en some gear in de barn, en I des loped back atter de yuther hoss, en ‘mos’ ‘fo’ you know it, I had dem creeturs hitch up:  en I went en got my young marster en de Yankee man w’at wuz wid ’im, en I kyard um back ter de camps.  I got um des in time, too, kase I ain’t mo’n fairly start ‘fo’ I year big gun, be-bang! en den I know’d de Yankees mus’ be a-comin’ back.  Den de bung-shells ‘gun ter bus’; en I ax myse’f w’at dey shootin’ at me fer, en I ain’t never fin’ out w’at make dey do it.

“Well, ma’am, w’en I git back ter camps, dar wuz Cunnel Tip Herndon, w’ich he wuz own br’er ter Miss Hallie.  Maybe you been year tell er Marse Tip, ma’am; he cert’ny wuz a mighty fine man.  Marse Tip, he ’uz dar, en ’twa’n’t long ‘fo’ Miss Hallie wuz dar, kaze she ain’t live so mighty fur; en Miss Hallie say dat my young marster en de Yankee man mus’ be brung home terge’er.  So dey brung um.”

Uncle Prince paused.  His story was at an end.  He stooped to stir the fire; and when he rose, his eyes were full of tears.  Humble as he was, he could pay this tribute to the memory of the boy soldier whom he had nursed in sickness and in health.  It was a stirring recital.  Perhaps it is not so stirring when transferred to paper.  The earnestness, the simplicity, the awkward fervor, the dramatic gestures, the unique individuality of Uncle Prince, can not be reproduced; but these things had a profound effect on Miss Eustis and her aunt.

VII

THROUGHOUT the narrative the piano had been going, keeping, as it seemed, a weird accompaniment to a tragic story.  This also had its effect; for, so perfectly did the rhythm and sweep of the music accord with the heart-rending conclusion, that Helen, if her mind had been less preoccupied with sympathy, would probably have traced the effect of it all to a long series of rehearsals:  in fact, such a suggestion did occur to her, but the thought perished instantly in the presence of the unaffected simplicity and the childlike earnestness which animated the words of the old negro.

The long silence which ensued-for the piano ceased, and Hallie nestled at Helen’s side once more-was broken by General Garwood.

“We were never able to identify the Union soldier.  He had in his possession a part of a letter, and a photograph of himself.  These were in an inner pocket.  I judge that he knew he was to be sent on a dangerous mission, and had left his papers and whatever valuables he may have possessed behind him.  The little skirmish in which he fell was a surprise to both sides.  A scouting party of perhaps a dozen Federal cavalrymen rode suddenly upon as many Confederate cavalrymen who had been detailed for special picket duty.  There was a short, sharp fight, and then both sides scampered away.  The next day the Federal army occupied the ground.”

“It is a pity,” said Helen, “that his identity should be so utterly lost.”

“Hallie, my dear,” said Mrs. Garwood, “would it trouble you too much to get the photograph of the Union soldier?  If it is any trouble, my child-”

Hallie went swiftly out of the room, and returned almost immediately with the photograph, and handed it to Helen, who examined it as well as she could by the dim firelight.

“The face is an interesting one, as well as I can make out,” said Helen, “and it has a strangely familiar look.  He was very young.”

She handed the picture to her aunt.  Her face was very pale.

“I can’t see by this light,” said Miss Tewksbury.  But Uncle Prince had already brought a lamp which he had been lighting.  “Why, my dear,” said Miss Tewksbury, in a tone of voice that suggested both awe and consternation-“why, my dear, this is your brother Wendell!”

“Oh, Aunt Harriet!  I thought so-I was afraid so-but are you sure?”

“As sure as that I am sitting here.”

Helen burst into tears.  “Oh, why didn’t I recognize him?  How could I fail to know my darling brother?” she cried.

Hallie rose from her low stool, and stood gazing at Helen.  Her face was pale as death, but in her eyes gleamed the fire of long-suppressed grief and passion.  She seemed like one transformed.  She flung her white arms above her head, and exclaimed: 

“I knew it!  I knew it!  I knew that some poor heart would find its long-lost treasure here.  I have felt it-I have dreamed it!  Oh, I am so glad you have found your brother!”

“Oh, but I should have known his picture,” said Helen.

“But, my dear child,” said Miss Tewksbury, in a matter-of-fact way, “there is every reason why you should not have known it.  This picture was taken in Washington, and he never sent a copy of it home.  If he did, your father put it away among his papers.  You were not more than twelve years old when Wendell went away.”

“Perhaps if Hallie will get the fragment of letter,” said General Garwood to Miss Tewksbury, “it will confirm your impression.”

“Oh, it is no impression,” replied Miss Tewksbury.  “I could not possibly be mistaken.”

The fragment of letter, when produced, proved to be in the handwriting of Charles Osborne Eustis; and there was one sentence in it that was peculiarly characteristic.  “Remember, dear Wendell,” it said, “that the war is not urged against men; it is against an institution which the whole country, both North and South, will be glad to rid itself of.”

It would be difficult, under all the circumstances, to describe Helen’s thoughts.  She was gratified-she was more than gratified-at the unexpected discovery, and she was grateful to those who had cared for her brother’s grave with such scrupulous care.  She felt more at home than ever.  The last barrier of sectional reserve (if it may be so termed) was broken down, so far as she was concerned; and during the remainder of her stay, her true character-her womanliness, her tenderness, her humor-revealed itself to these watchful and sensitive Southerners.  Even Miss Tewksbury, who had the excuse of age and long habit for her prejudices, showed the qualities that made her friends love her.  In the language of the little rector, who made a sermon out of the matter, “all things became homogeneous through the medium of sympathy and the knowledge of mutual suffering.”

In fact, everything was so agreeable during the visit of Helen and her aunt to Waverly-a visit that was prolonged many days beyond the limit they had set-that Uncle Prince remarked on it one night to his wife.

“I’m a nigger man, ’Mandy Jane,” said he, “but I got two eyes, en dey er good ones.  W’at I sees I knows, en I tell you right now, Marse Peyton is done got strucken.”

“Done got strucken ’bout what?” inquired ’Mandy Jane.

“‘Bout dat young lady w’at stayin’ yer.  Oh, you neenter holler,” said Uncle Prince in response to a contemptuous laugh from ’Mandy Jane.  “I ain’t nothin’ but a nigger man, but I knows w’at I sees.”

“Yes, you is a nigger man,” said ’Mandy Jane triumphantly.  “Ef you wuz a nigger ‘oman you’d have lots mo’ sense dan w’at you got.  W’y, dat lady up dar ain’t our folks.  She mighty nice, I speck, but she ain’t our folks.  She ain’t talk like our folks yit.”

“No matter ’bout dat,” said Uncle Prince.  “I ain’t seed no nicer ’oman dan w’at she is, en I boun’ you she kin talk mighty sweet w’en she take a notion.  W’en my two eyes tell me de news I knows it, en Marse Peyton done got strucken long wid dat white ’oman.”

“En now you gwine tell me,” said ’Mandy Jane with a fine assumption of scorn, “dat Marse Peyton gwine marry wid dat w’ite ’oman en trapse off dar ter der Norf? Shoo! Nigger man, you go ter bed ‘fo’ you run yo’se’f ’stracted.”

“I dunno whar Marse Peyton gwine, ’Mandy Jane, but I done see ’im talkin’ ‘long wid dat white lady, en lookin’ at her wid he’s eyes.  Huh! don’ tell me!  En dat ain’t all, ’Mandy Jane,” Uncle Prince went on:  “dat Bud Stucky, he’s f’rever’n etarnally sneakin’ ‘roun’ de house up dar.  One day he want sumpin’ ter eat, en nex’ day he want Miss Hallie fer ter play en de peanner, but all de time I see ‘im a-watchin’ dat ar white lady fum de Norf.”

“Hush!” exclaimed ’Mandy Jane.

Des like I tell you!” said Uncle Prince.

“Well, de nasty, stinkin’, oudacious villyun!” commented ’Mandy Jane.  “I lay ef I go up dar en set de dogs on ‘im, he’ll stop sneakin’ ‘roun’ dis place.”

“Let ’im ’lone, ’Mandy Jane, let ’im ’lone,” said Uncle Prince solemnly.  “Dat ar Bud Stucky, he got a mammy, en my min’ tell me dat he’s mammy kin run de kyards en trick you.  Now you watch out, ’Mandy Jane.  You go on en do de washin’, like you bin doin’, en den olé Miss Stucky won’t git atter you wid de kyards en cunjur you.  Dat olé ’oman got er mighty bad eye, mon.”

VIII

UNCLE PRINCE, it appears, was a keen observer, especially where General Garwood was concerned.  He had discovered a fact in regard to “Marse Peyton,” as he called him, that had only barely suggested itself to that gentleman’s own mind-the fact that his interest in Miss Eustis had assumed a phase altogether new and unexpected.  Its manifestations were pronounced enough to pester Miss Tewksbury, but, strange to say, neither General Garwood nor Miss Eustis appeared to be troubled by them.  As a matter of fact, these two were merely new characters in a very old story, the details of which need not be described or dwelt on in this hasty chronicle.  It was not by any means a case of love at first sight.  It was better than that:  it was a case of love based on a firmer foundation than whim, or passion, or sentimentality.  At any rate, Helen and her stalwart lover were as happy, apparently, as if they had just begun to enjoy life and the delights thereof.  There was no love-making, so far as Miss Tewksbury could see; but there was no attempt on the part of either to conceal the fact that they heartily enjoyed each other’s companionship.

Bud Stucky continued his daily visits for several weeks; but one day he failed to make his appearance, and after a while news came that he was ill of a fever.  The ladies at Waverly sent his mother a plentiful supply of provisions, together with such delicacies as seemed to them necessary; but Bud Stucky continued to waste away.  One day Helen, in spite of the protests of her aunt, set out to visit the sick man, carrying a small basket in which Hallie had placed some broiled chicken and a small bottle of homemade wine.  Approaching the Stucky cabin, she was alarmed at the silence that reigned within.  She knocked, but there was no response; whereupon she pushed the door open and entered.  The sight that met her eyes, and the scene that followed, are still fresh in her memory.

Poor Bud Stucky, the shadow of his former self, was lying on the bed.  His thin hands were crossed on his breast, and the pallor of death was on his emaciated face.  His mother sat by the bed with her eyes fixed on his.  She made no sign when Helen entered, but continued to gaze on her son.

The young woman, bent on a mission of mercy, paused on the threshold, and regarded the two unfortunates with a sympathy akin to awe.  Bud Stucky moved his head uneasily, and essayed to speak, but the sound died away in his throat.  He made another effort.  His lips moved feebly; his voice had an unearthly, a far-away sound.

“Miss,” he said, regarding her with a piteous expression in his sunken eyes, “I wish you’d please, ma’am, make maw let me go.”  He seemed to gather strength as he went on.  “I’m all ready, an’ a-waitin’; I wish you’d please, ma’am, make ’er let me go.”

“Oh, what can I do?” cried Helen, seized with a new sense of the pathos that is a part of the humblest human life.

“Please, ma’am, make ‘er let me go.  I been a-layin’ here ready two whole days an’ three long nights, but maw keeps on a-watchin’ of me; she won’t let me go.  She’s got ’er eyes nailed on me constant.”

Helen looked at the mother.  Her form was wasted by long vigils, but she sat bolt upright in her chair, and in her eyes burned the fires of an indomitable will.  She kept them fixed on her son.

“Won’t you please, ma’am, tell maw to let me go?  I’m so tired er waitin’.”

The plaintive voice seemed to be an echo from the valley of the shadow of death.  Helen, watching narrowly and with agonized curiosity, thought she saw the mother’s lips move; but no sound issued therefrom.  The dying man made another appeal: 

“Oh, I’m so tired!  I’m all ready, an’ she won’t let me go.  A long time ago when I us’ ter ax ’er, she’d let me do ‘most anything, an’ now she won’t let me go.  Oh, Lordy!  I’m so tired er waitin’!  Please, ma’am, ax ’er to let me go.”

Mrs. Stucky rose from her chair, raised her clasped hands above her head, and turned her face away.  As she did so, something like a sigh of relief escaped from her son.  He closed his eyes, and over his wan face spread the repose and perfect peace of death.

Turning again toward the bed, Mrs. Stucky saw Helen weeping gently.  She gazed at her a moment.  “Whatter you cryin’ fer now?” she asked with unmistakable bitterness.  “You wouldn’t a-wiped your feet on ’im.  Ef you wuz gwine ter cry, whyn’t you let ’im see you do it ’fore he died?  What good do it do ’im now?  He wa’n’t made out’n i’on like me.”

Helen made no reply.

She placed her basket on the floor, went out into the sunlight, and made her way swiftly back to Waverly.  Her day’s experience made a profound impression on her, so much so that when the time came for her to go home, she insisted on going alone to bid Mrs. Stucky good-by.

She found the lonely old woman sitting on her door-sill.  She appeared to be gazing on the ground, but her sun-bonnet hid her face.  Helen approached, and spoke to her.  She gave a quick upward glance, and fell to trembling.  She was no longer made of iron.  Sorrow had dimmed the fire of her eyes.  Helen explained her visit, shook hands with her, and was going away, when the old woman, in a broken voice, called her to stop.  Near the pine-pole gate was a little contrivance of boards that looked like a bird-trap.  Mrs. Stucky went to this, and lifted it.

“Come yer, honey,” she cried, “yer’s somepin’ I wanter show you.”  Looking closely, Helen saw molded in the soil the semblance of a footprint.  “Look at it, honey, look at it,” said Mrs. Stucky; “that’s his darlin’ precious track.”

Helen turned, and went away weeping.  The sight of that strange memorial, which the poor mother had made her shrine, leavened the girl’s whole after-life.

When Helen and her aunt came to take their leave of Azalia, their going away was not by any means in the nature of a merry-making.  They went away sorrowfully, and left many sorrowful friends behind them.  Even William, the bell-ringer and purveyor of hot batter-cakes at Mrs. Haley’s hotel, walked to the railroad station to see them safely off.  General Garwood accompanied them to Atlanta; and though the passenger depot in that pushing city is perhaps the most unromantic spot to be found in the wide world-it is known as the “Car-shed” in Atlantese-it was there that he found courage to inform Miss Eustis that he purposed to visit Boston during the summer in search not only of health, but of happiness; and Miss Eustis admitted, with a reserve both natural and proper, that she would be very happy to see him.

It is not the purpose of this chronicle to follow General Garwood to Boston.  The files of the Boston papers will show that he went there, and that, in a quiet way, he was the object of considerable social attention.  But it is in the files of the “Brookline Reporter” that the longest and most graphic account of the marriage of Miss Eustis to General Garwood is to be found.  It is an open secret in the literary circles of Boston that the notice in the “Reporter” was from the pen of Henry P. Bassett, the novelist.  It was headed “Practical Reconstruction”; and it was conceded on all sides that, even if the article had gone no farther than the head-line, it would have been a very happy description of the happiest of events.