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- At the Mercy of Tiberius - 10/103 -


of my stewardship I must render to my poor dead Marcia. The more I see of your lover, the more I dread your marriage. A man who makes no profession of religious belief, is an unsafe guardian of any woman's peace of mind. You who have been reared almost in the shadow of the altar, accustomed to hearing grace at your meals, to family prayers, to strict observance of our ritual, will feel isolated indeed, when transplanted to the home of a godless man, who rarely darkens the door of the sanctuary. 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.'"

Miss Patty Dent took off her spectacles, wiped them with the string of her white muslin cap, and adjusting them firmly on her nose, plucked nervously at the fluted lace ruffles around her wrists.

"Auntie, you are scarcely warranted in using such strong language. Because a man refrains from the public avowal of faith, incident to church membership, he is not necessarily godless; nor inevitably devoid of true religious feeling. Mr. Dunbar has a strong, reticent nature, habituated to repression of all evidences of emotion, but of the depth and earnestness of his real feeling, I entertain no doubt."

"I fear your line and plummet will never sound his depth. You often speak of his strength; but, Leo, hardness is not always strength; and he is hard, hard. I never saw a man with a chin like his, who was not tyrannical, and idolatrous of his own will. My dear, such men are as uncomfortable to live in the same house with, as a smoky chimney, or a woman with shattered nerves, or creaking doors, or draughty windows. They are a sort of everlasting east wind that never veers, blowing always to the one point, attainment of their own ends, mildewing all else. Ugh!"

Miss Patty shivered, and her companion smiled.

"What a grewsome picture, Auntie dear! Fortunately human taste is as diverse and catholic as the variety of human countenances. For example: Clara Morse raves over Mr. Dunbar's 'clear-cut features, so immensely classical'; and she pronounces his offending 'chin simply perfect! fit for a Greek God!'"

"A very thin and gauzy partition divides Clara Morse's brains from idiocy. In my day, all such feeble watery minds as hers were regarded as semi-imbecile, pitied as intellectual cripples, and wisely kept in the background of society; but, bless me! in this generation they skip and prance to the very edge of the front, pose in indecent garments without starch, or crinoline, or even the protection of pleats and gathers; and insult good, sound, wholesome common sense with the sickening affectations they are pleased to call 'aesthetics.' Don't waste your time, and dilute your own mind by quoting the silly twaddle of a poor girl who was turned loose too early on society, who falls on her knees in ecstasies before a hideous broken-nose tea-pot from some filthy hovel in Japan; and who would not dare to admire the loveliest bit of Oiron pottery, or precious old Chelsea claret-colored china in Kensington Museum, until she had turned it upside down, and hunted the potter's mark with a microscope. I say Mr. Dunbar has a domineering and tyrannical chin, and five years hence, if you do not agree with me, it will be because 'Ephraim is joined to his idols'--clay feet and all."

"Then follow the Bible injunction to 'let him alone.' I see Lennox through neither Clara's rosy lenses, nor your jaundiced glasses; and these circular discussions are as fruitless as they are unpleasant. Let us select some more agreeable topic. I gave you Leighton's letter. What think you of his scheme?"

"That it is admirable, worthy of the brain that conceived it. What a wonderful man he is, considering his age? Such a devout and fervent spirit, and withal such a marvel of executive ability. Ah! happy the woman who can command his wise guardianship, and renew her aspirations after holiness, in his spiritual society. I honor, even more than I love, Leighton Douglass."

"So do I, Aunt Patty. He is quite my ideal pastor, and when he marries, I hope his wife will be worthy of him in every respect. Only a very noble woman would suit my cousin."

A bright spot burned on Miss Dent's wrinkled cheek, and she knitted her brows, and shook her head.

"He is so absorbed in his holy work that he has no leisure for such trifles as love-making; but if he should ever honor a woman by the offer of his consecrated hand, it must be one of large fortune, who will dedicate herself and her money to the accomplishment of his ecclesiastical schemes."

The corners of Miss Gordon's mouth twitched mutinously, but she contrived to throw much innocent surprise and questioning into the handsome brown eyes, which she lifted from her gold-hearted pansies, to her Aunt's face.

"Could you possibly associate mercenary motives with any step which he might take? Such a supposition would be totally incompatible with my estimate of his character."

"When a man dedicates himself to a solemn mission, he is lifted far above the ordinary plane, can dispense with sentimental conventionalities, and must learn to regard all human relations as merely means to an end. Want of money has palsied many an arm lifted to advance the good of the Church; and zeal without funds, accomplishes as little as rusty machinery stiff from lack of oil. If Dr. Douglass could only control even a hundred thousand dollars, what shining monuments he would leave to immortalize him! Indeed, it passes my comprehension how persons who could so easily help him, deliberately turn a deaf ear to the 'cry from Macedonia'."

"There is far more eclat in trips to Macedonia, but the God of recompense does not forget the steady, tireless help and sympathy extended to the needy, who dwell within sight of our own doors. Organized society work is good, but individual self-sacrifice and labor are much better; and if every unit did full duty, co-operative systems would not be so necessary; still, Leighton's scheme commends itself to every woman's heart, and when I answered his letter, I expressed cordially my approbation."

"Did you prove your faith by your works, and send him a large check?"

"Auntie, dear, do you expect me to stultify all your training, both your example and precept--for lo! these many years--by setting my left hand to gossip about my right? I am very sure."

"Well, Andrew, what is it?"

"A boy from Mr. Dunbar's office has just galloped up, and says I am to tell you he can't ride to the Falls to-day, as he expected, because of some pressing business; and he wants to know if the Judge will come into town right away? Mr. Dunbar will explain when he comes late this evening."

"Very well. Tell Daniel I shall not want 'Rebel' saddled; and say to the messenger that my Uncle is not at home. Aunt Patty, do you know where he has gone?"

"Doubtless to his office; where else should he be? He said he had a pile of tiresome papers to examine to-day."

Miss Gordon folded up her work, laid it away in a dainty basket lined with blue satin and flounced with lace; and after pausing a moment to pet her Aunt's white Maltese cat which lay dozing In the sunshine, walked away toward a Small hot-house, built quite near the dining-room, and connected with it by an arcade, covered in summer by vines, in winter by glass.

Twenty-four years before that day, when a proud, fond young mother puffed and tucked the marvel of lace and linen cambric, which was intended as a christening robe for her baby, and laid it away with spicery of rose leaves and sachet of lavender and deer tongue, to wait until a "furlough" allowed the child's father to be present at the baptism, she had supposed that its delicate folds would one day adorn a dimpled rosy-faced infant, for whom the name Aurelia Gordon had long been selected. Fate cruelly vetoed all the details of the programme, carefully arranged by maternal affection; and the lurid sun that set in clouds of smoke on one of the most desperate battles of the Confederacy, saw Colonel Gordon's brave, patriotic soul released on that long "furlough" which glory granted her heroes; saw his devoted wife a wailing widow. The red burial of battle had precluded the solemnization of baptismal rites at the sacred marble font; and when four days after Colonel Gordon's death, his frail young wife welcomed the summons to an everlasting re-union, she laid her cold hands on her baby's golden head, and died, as she whispered:

"Name her Leo, for her father."

So it came to pass, that the clergyman who read the burial service beside the mother's coffin, lifted the cooing infant in the midst of a weeping funeral throng, and with a faltering voice baptized her, in the presence of the dead, Leo Gordon,

To the care of her sister Patty, and of her widowed brother, Judge Dent, Mrs. Gordon had consigned her child; and transplanted so early to her uncle's house, the orphan knew no other home.

When the problem of vast numerical preponderance had solved itself in accordance with the rules of avoirdupois, and history--fond like all garrulous old crones of repeating even her inglorious episodes-- had triumphantly inscribed on her bloody tablets, that once more the Few were throttled and trampled by the Many, then the fabled "Ragnarok" of the Sagas described only approximately the doom of the devastated South. In the financial and social chaos that followed the invasion by "loyal" hordes, rushing under "sealed orders" on the mission of "Reconstruction," and eminently successful in "reconstructing" their individual fortunes, an anomaly presented itself for the consideration of political economists. The wealthy classes of ante bellum days were the most destitute paupers that the newly-risen Union sun shone upon.

The French Revolution and its subsequent eruptions of Communism failed to destroy the value of land; and the emancipation of Russian serfs may have stimulated agricultural activity, but that political and social Communism which the Pandora of "reconstruction" let loose throughout the conquered States of the South, accomplished all that the victors could have desired.

Abandoned by the laborers God had fitted to endure toil under climatic conditions peculiar to the soil, vast silent fields of weeds stared blankly, and the richer a man found himself in ancestral acres, the more hopelessly was he manacled by taxes. "Reconstructionists" most thoroughly inoculated with "Loyal" rabies, held in lofty disdain the claims of widows and orphans, and the


At the Mercy of Tiberius - 10/103

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