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I see her," the old doctor went on, with a somewhat patronizing air, "I'll try to explain matters; but it is a very delicate undertaking, sir-very delicate."
"No," said Underwood; "there will be no need for explanations. My sister will go for Miss Bascom, and whatever explanations may be necessary she will make at the proper time." "An admirable arrangement," said Dr. Bynum with a grunt of satisfaction-"an admirable arrangement indeed. Well, my boy, you must do the best you can, and I know that will be all that is necessary. I am sorry for Bascom, very sorry, and I'm sorrier for his daughter. I'll call again to-night."
As Dr. Bynum drove down the avenue, Underwood was much gratified to see Jesse coming through the gate. The negro appeared to be much perplexed. He took off his hat as he approached Underwood, and made a display of politeness somewhat unusual, although he was always polite.
"Is you seed Marse Judge Bascom?" he inquired.
"Yes," said Underwood. "He is in the house yonder, resting himself. You seem frightened; what is the trouble?"
“Well, suh, I ain't had no sech worriment sence de Sherman army come 'long. I dunner what got inter Marse Judge Bascom. He been gwine on des like yuther folks, settin' 'roun' en talkin' 'long wid hisse'f, en den all of er sudden he break out en shave en dress hisse'f, en go visitin' whar he ain't never been visitin' befo'. I done year 'im say p'intedly dat he ain't never gwine come yer les'n de Place b'long ter 'im. Do he look downhearted, suh?"
"No," said Underwood, "I can't say that he does. He seems to be very well satisfied. He has called several times for Wesley. I have heard you called Jesse, but perhaps the Judge knows you as Wesley. There are several negroes around here who answer to different names."
"No, suh," said Jesse, scratching his head. "I ain't never been call Wesley sence I been bornded inter de worl'. Dey was er nigger name Wesley what use ter go 'long wid Marse Judge Bascom en wait on 'im when I wuz er little boy, but Wesley done been dead too long ago ter talk about. I dunner what make folks's min' drop back dat away. Look like dey er sorter fumblin' 'roun' tryin' fer ter ketch holt er sump'n ne'r what done been pulled up
"Well," said Underwood, "the Judge is in the house. See if he wants anything; and if he asks about his daughter, tell him she will be here directly."
When Jesse went into the house he found the Judge lying on a lounge in the hall. His
eyes were closed, and he seemed to be dozing; but Jesse's movements aroused him.
"Ah! is that you, Wesley? Where is your Miss Mildred ?
"She comin', suh; she comin' right now." Very well, very well. You must make yourself at home here," he said to Francis Underwood, who had followed Jesse. "I am somewhat dilapidated myself, but my daughter will entertain you. Wesley, I believe I will go to my room. Lend me your arm."
"Allow me to assist you," said Underwood; and so between the two the old man was carried to the room that had been his own when the house was his. It happened to be Underwood's room, but that made no difference. It belonged once more to the Judge in his disordered fancy, and thither he went.
After a while Miss Sophie came bringing Mildred. Just how she had explained matters to the poor girl no one ever knew, but it must have been in some specially sympathetic way, for when Francis Underwood assisted the ladies from the carriage Miss Bascom appeared to be the less agitated of the two.
"The Judge is as comfortable as possible," Underwood said cheerily. "Jesse is with him, and I think he is asleep. His nervousness has passed away."
"Oh, do you think he is seriously ill ?" exclaimed Mildred, clasping her hands together. "Certainly not, just now," said Francis Underwood. "The doctor has been here, and he has gone away apparently satisfied. Sister, do you take charge of Miss Bascom, and show her how to be at home here."
And so Judge Bascom and his beautiful daughter were installed at the old Place. Mildred, under the circumstances, would rather have been elsewhere, but she was practically under orders. It was necessary to the well-being of her father, so the doctor said, that he should remain where he was; it was necessary that he should be humored in the belief that he was the owner of the old Place. It is only fair to say that Miss Sophie Underwood and her brother were more willing and anxious to enter into this scheme than Mildred appeared to be. She failed to comprehend the situation until after she had talked with her father, and then she was in despair. Judge Bascom was the representative of everything substantial and enduring in his daughter's experience, and when she realized that his mind had been seized by a vagaiy she received a tremendous shock. But the rough edges of the situation, so to speak, were smoothed and turned by Miss Sophie, who assumed motherly charge of the young girl. Miss Sophie's methods were so sympathetic and so womanly, and she gave to the situation such a matter-of-fact interpre
tation, that the grief and dismay of the young girl were not as overwhelming as they otherwise would have been.
look right. Pap used to say he'd never be happy ontel the Bascoms come back inter the'r prop'ty."
"Well, he 's dead, ain't he?" inquired Mrs. Bass in a tone that showed she had the best of the argument.
"Yessum," said Mr. Grissom, shifting about in his chair and crossing his legs, as if anxious to dispose of an unpleasant subject-"yessum, pap 's done dead." To this statement, after a somewhat embarrassing silence, he added: "Pap took an' died a long time ago."
NATURALLY all the facts that have just been set down here were soon known to the inhabitants of Hillsborough. Naturally, too, something more than the facts were also known and talked about. There was the good old doctor ready to shake his head and look mysterious," and there were the negroes ready to give out an exaggerated version of the occurrences that followed Judge Bascom's visit to his old home. Well," said Major Jimmy Bass to his wife, with something like a snort, "ef the old Judge is gone there an' took holt of things, like they say, it's bekaze he 's out'n his mind. I wonder what in the round world could 'a' possessed him?"
"I 'spec' he 's done drapt back into his dolt-age," said farmer Joe-Bob Grissom, who had gone to the major's for the purpose of discussing the matter. "An' yit, they do say that he's got a clean title to every bit of the prop'ty ef you take into account all that talk about his wife's brother an' sech like."
"Well," remarked the major grimly, "Sarah there ain't got no brother, an' I reckon I'm sorter pretected from them kind of gwines-on." "Why, tooby shore you are," said his wife, who was the Sarah referred to; "but I ain't so mighty certain that I would n't be better off if I had a brother to follow you around where the wimmen folks can't go. You 've flung away a many a bright dollar that he might have picked up."
“Who, Sarah?" inquired the major, wincing a little.
My brother," returned Mrs. Bass.
Why, you have n't got a brother, Sarah," said Major Bass.
"More 's the pity," exclaimed the major's wife. "I ought to have had one— a great big double-j'inted chap. But you need n't tell me about the old Judge," she went on. "He tried to out-Yankee the Yankees up yonder in Atlanty, and now he 's a-trying to out-Yankee them down here. Lord! You need n't tell me a thing about old Judge Bascom. Show me a man that's been wrapped up with the Radicals, and I'll show you a man that ain't got no better sense than to try to chousel somebody. I'd just as lieve see Underwood have the Bascom Place as the old Judge-every bit and grain."
"Well, I had n't," said the major, emphatically.
No, ner me nuther," said Mr. Joe-Bob Grissom. "Hit may be right, but hit don't
Yes," said Mrs. Bass in a gentler tone, "and I 'll warrant you that when he died he was n't pestered about whether the Bascoms owned the old Place or not. Did he make any complaints?"
"No 'm," replied Mr. Grissom, in a reminiscent way, "I can't say that he did. He jest did n't bother about 'em. Hit looked like they jest natchally slipped outer his mind."
"Why, certainly," said Mrs. Bass, with a little shake of her head; "they slipped outer your pa's mind, and now they say the old Judge has slipped out of his own mind."
"Well, we need n't boast of it, Sarah," remarked the major with a feeble attempt at severity. Nobody knows the day when some of us may be twisted around. We've no room to brag."
"No, we ain't," said his wife, bridling up. "I've trembled for you a many a day when you thought I was thinking about something else a many a day.”
"Now you know mighty well, Sarah, that no good-natured man like me ain't a-gwine to up an' lose their mind, jest dry so," said the major earnestly. "They've got to have some mighty big trouble."
"Yes," said Mrs. Bass, grimly, "and they have to have mind too, I reckon. Nobody that never had a horse ever lost one."
The major nodded his head at Joe-Bob Grissom, as much as to say that it was only a very able man who could afford to have such a sprightly wife. The mute suggestion, however, was lost on Grissom, who was accustomed to taking life seriously.
"I hear a mighty heap of talk," he said, "but I ain't never been so mighty certain an' shore that the old Judge is lost his mind. There 'd be lots of fun ef it should happen to be that he had the papers all made out in his pocket, an' I 've hearn some hints thataway."
"Well," said the more practical Mrs. Bass, "he ain't got no papers. The minute eyes on him after he come back here, I says to Mr. Bass there, 'Mr. Bass,' says I, 'the old Judge has gone wrong in his upper story.' Ah, you can't fool me. I know a thing when I see it, more especially if I look at it close. I've seen folks that had to rub the silver off a thrip
to tell whether it was passable or not. I might be fooled about the silver in a thrip, but you can't fool me about a grown man.'
"Nobody ain't tryin' to fool you, Sarah," said the major, with some show of spirit.
"Well, I reckon not," exclaimed Mrs. Bass, somewhat contemptuously. "I'd like to see anybody try to fool me right here in my own house and right before my face."
"There ain't no tellin'," said Mr. Joe-Bob Grissom, in his matter-of-fact way, ignoring everything that had been said-"there ain't no tellin' whether the old Judge is got the papers or not. 'T would be hard on Frank Underwood an' his sister, an' they ain't no better folks than them. They don't make no fuss about it, an' they don't hang out no signs, but when you come to a narrer place in the road where you can't go forrerd nor back'ards, an' nuther can you turn 'roun', you may jest count on them Underwoods. They'll git you out ef you can be got out, an' before you can say thanky-do, they'll be away off yonder helpin' some yuther poor creetur."
"Well," said Major Bass, with an air of independence, "I'm at the fust of it. It may be jest as you say, Joe-Bob; but ef so, I 've never knowed it."
"Hit 's jest like I tell you," said Joe-Bob, emphatically.
"Well, the Lord love us!" exclaimed Mrs. Bass, "I hope it's so I do from the bottom of my heart. It would be a mighty queer world if it did n't have some tender spots in it, but you need n't be afraid that they'll ever get as thick as the measles. I reckon you must be renting land on the old Bascom Place," she went on, eying Mr. Grissom somewhat sharply.
"Yessum," said Joe-Bob, moving about uneasily in his chair. "Yessum, I do."
Whereupon Mrs. Bass smiled, and her smile was more significant than anything she could have said. It was disconcerting indeed, and it was not long before Mr. Joe-Bob Grissom made some excuse for depriving Major Jimmy and Mrs. Sarah Bass of his company.
As he was passing the Bascom Place on his way home he saw lights in the house and heard voices on the piazza.
"Ef it warn't for that blamed dog," he thought, "I'd go up there an' see what they er talkin' about so mighty peart."
BUT Mr. Grissom's curiosity would not have been satisfied. Judge Bascom was sitting in a large rocking chair, enjoying the pleasant evening air, and the others were sitting near, talking on the most ordinary topics. This sit
uation was one of the doctor's prescriptions, as Miss Sophie said. Those around were to wear a cheerful air, and the Judge was to be humored in the belief that he was once more the proprietor of the Bascom Place. He seemed to respond to this treatment in the most natural way. The old instinct of hospitality rose in him and had its way. He grew garrulous indeed, and sat on the piazza, or walked up and down and talked by the hour. He was full of plans and projects, and some of them were so suggestive that Francis Underwood made a note of them for further consideration. The Judge was the genial host, and while his daughter was full of grief and humiliation at the position in which she was placed, he appeared to draw new life and inspiration from his surroundings. He took a great fancy to Miss Sophie: her observations, which were practical in the extreme, and often unflattering, were highly relished by him. The Judge himself was a good talker, and he gave Miss Sophie an opportunity to vent some of her pet opinions, the most of which were very pronounced.
As for Mildred, in spite of her grief and anxiety, she found her surroundings vastly more pleasant than she had at first imagined they could be. Some instinct or prepossession made her feel at home in the old house, and as she grew more cheerful and more contented she grew more beautiful and more engaging. At least this was the opinion of Francis Underwood.
"Brother," said Miss Sophie one day when they were together, "you are in love." "I don't know whether to say yes or no," he replied. "What is it to be in love?"
"How should I know ?" exclaimed Miss Sophie, reddening a little. "I see you mooning around, and moping. Something has come over you, and if it is n't love, what is it?"
He held up his hands, white and muscular, and looked at them. Then he took off his hat and tousled his hair in an effort to smooth it with his fingers.
"It is something," he said after a while, "but I don't know what. Is love such an everyday affair that it can be called by name as soon as it arrives?"
"Don't be absurd, brother," said Miss Sophie, with a gesture of protest. "You talk as if you were trying to take a census of the affair."
"No," said he; "I am trying to get a special report. I saw Dr. Bynum looking at you over his spectacles yesterday."
Miss Sophie tried to show that this suggestion was an irritating one, but she failed, and then fell to laughing.
"I never knew I was so full of humor before," said Francis Underwood, by way of comment.
"And I never knew you could be so foolish-to me," said Miss Sophie, still laughing. "What is Dr. Bynum to me?"
"Not having his spectacles to look over, how do I know?"
"But," persisted Miss Sophie, "you need no spectacles to look at Mildred. I have seen you looking at her through your fingers." "And what was she doing?" inquired Underwood, coloring in the most surprising way. "Oh," said Miss Sophie, "she was pretending not to notice it; but I can sit with my back to you both and tell by the tone of her voice when this and that thing is going on."
"This, then, is courtship," said Underwood. "Why, brother, how provoking you are!" exclaimed Miss Sophie. "It is nothing of the sort. It is child's play; it is the way the youngsters do at school. I feel as if I never knew you before; you are full of surprises."
"I surprise myself," he said, with something like a sigh, "and that is the trouble; I don't want to be too surprising."
"But in war," said his sister, "the successful general cannot be too full of surprises." "In war!" he cried. "Why, I was in hopes the war was over."
"I was thinking about the old saying," she explained" the old saying that all is fair in love and war."
"Well," said Francis Underwood, "it would be hard to say whether you and Dr. Bynum are engaged in war or not. You are both very sly, but I have seen a good deal of skirmishing going on. Will it end in a serious engagement, with casualties on both sides? The doctor is something of a surgeon, and he can attend to his own wounds, but who is going to look after yours?
"How can you go on so!" cried Miss Sophie, laughing. "Are we to have an epidemic of delusions?"
"Yes, and illusions too," said her brother. "The atmosphere seems to be full of them. Everything is in a tangle."
And yet it was not long after this conversation that Miss Sophie observed her brother and Mildred Bascom sauntering together under the great cedars, and she concluded that he was trying to untangle the tangle.
There were many such walks, and the old Judge, sitting on the piazza in bright weather, would watch the handsome pair, apparently with a contented air. There was something about this busy and practical young man that filled Mildred's imagination. His individuality was prominent enough to be tantalizing. It was of the dominant variety. In him the instinct of control and command, so pleasing to the feminine mind, was thoroughly developed, and he disposed of his affairs with a promptness and decisiveness that left nothing to be
FRANCIS UNDERWOOD AND MILDRED.
that is always new, and that has as many phases as there are stars in the sky. Here, before his eyes, was a combination for which there was no warrant in his experience - the wit and tenderness of Rosalind, blended with the self-sacrificing devotion of Cordelia. Here was a combination - a complication - of a nature to attract the young man's attention. Problem, puzzle, what you will, it was a very attractive one for him, and he lost no favorable opportunity of studying it.
So the pleasant days came and went. If there were any love passages between the young people, only the stately cedars or the restless poplars were in the secret, and these told it only to the vagrant west winds that crept over the hills when the silence of night fell over all things.
THOSE were pleasant days and nights at the old Bascom Place, in spite of the malady with which the Judge was afflicted. They
He was indeed at home. He had come to the end of his long and tiresome journey. He smiled as he lay sleeping, and his rest was pleasant; for there was that in his dead face, white and pinched as it was, that bore witness to the infinite gentleness and mercy of Christ, who is the Lord.
It was an event that touched the hearts of his old neighbors and their children, and they spoke to one another freely and feelingly about the virtues of the old Judge, the beautiful life he had lived, the distinction he had won, and the mark he had made on his generation. Some, who were old enough to remember, told of his charities in the days when prosperity sat at his board; and in discussing these things the people gradually came to realize the fact that Judge Bascom, in spite of his misfortunes, had shed luster on his State and on the village in which he was born, and that his renown was based on a character so perfect, and on results so just and beneficent, that all could share in it.
His old neighbors, watching by him as he lay smiling in his dreamless sleep, shortened the long hours of the night with pleasant reminiscences of the dead. Those who sat near the door could see, in an adjoining room, Mildred Bascom sitting at Miss Sophie Underwood's feet, her arms around the older woman's waist. It was a brief and fleeting panorama, as indeed life itself is, but the two, brought together by grief and sympathy, often sat thus in the years that followed. For Mildred Bascom became the mistress of the Bascom Place; and although she has changed her name, the old name still clings to Underwood's domain. Joel Chandler Harris.
He tottered forward and would have fallen, but Underwood caught him and placed him in his chair. The old man's nerves had lost their tension, his eyes their brightness. He could only murmur indistinctly, "Mine, mine, mine." He seemed suddenly to have shrunk and shriveled away. His head fell to one side, his face was deadly pale, his lips were blue, and his thin hands clutched convulsively at his clothes and at the chair. Mildred was at his side instantly, but he seemed to be beyond the reach of her voice and beyond the limits of her grief, which was distressful to behold. He tried indeed to stroke the beautiful hair that fell loosely over him as his daughter seized him in her despairing arms, but it was in a vague and wandering way.
Judge Bascom's condition was so alarming that Francis Underwood lifted him in his arms and placed him on the nearest bed, where he lay gazing at the ceiling, sometimes smiling and at other times frowning and crying, "Mine, mine, mine!"
He sank slowly but surely. At the last he smiled and whispered "Home," and so passed
ONE rose before waiting for the light to be;
NE rose before the dawn, and stole along But from the bed where one all night has lain.
That he, before the unimpatient throng,
And one who cared not for the glorious sight,
But to the One who gives both sea and shore,
Rises the sweetest hymn forevermore
Not from the lips of such glad souls as these.
Stilling his moans to let his watchers sleep, Who suddenly across his bed of pain Sees the faint gray of early morning creep.
He cannot haste with eager eyes to see
Its coming; whether it be dull or fair,This day that dawns, he knows not; it may be It brings him suffering keener still to bear.
Ah, God! how great the gift that thou hast given,
When those who only know the night is past Send to thee, in thy far-off, silent heaven, The gladdest thanks that day has dawned at last!
Alice Wellington Rollins.