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- The Law of the Land - 1/49 -


[Illustration: MISS LADY]

THE LAW OF THE LAND

_Of Miss Lady, whom it involved in mystery, and of John Eddring, gentleman of the South, who read its deeper meaning_

A NOVEL

_By_

EMERSON HOUGH

Author of

The Mississippi Bubble The Way to the West

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY

ARTHUR I. KELLER

COPYRIGHT 1904

EMERSON HOUGH

TO R.E.B. TO T.A.D.

CONTENTS

BOOK I

CHAPTER

I Miss LADY II MULEY III THE VISITOR IV A QUESTION OF VALUATION V CERTAIN PROBLEMS VI THE DRUM VII THE BELL VIII THE VOLCANO IX ON ITS MAJESTY'S SERVICE X MISS LADY OF THE STAIR XI COLONEL CALVIN BLOUNT'S PROPOSAL XII A WOMAN SCORNED XIII JOHN DOE vs. Y.V.R.R. XIV NUMBER 4 XV THE PURSUIT XVI THE TRAVELING BAG XVII MISS LADY AND HENRY DECHERD XVIII MISFORTUNE

BOOK II

I THE MAKING OF THE WILDERNESS

BOOK III

I EDDRING, AGENT OF CLAIMS II THE OPINIONS OF CALVIN BLOUNT III REGARDING LOUISE LOISSON IV THE RELIGION OF JULES V DISCOVERY VI THE DANCER VII THE SUMMONS VIII THE STOLEN STEAMBOAT IX THE ACCUSER X THE VOYAGE XI THE WILDERNESS XII THE HOUSE OF HORROR XIII THE NIGHT IN THE FOREST XIV AT THE BIG HOUSE XV CERTAIN MOTIVES XVI THE NEW SHERIFF XVII THE LAW OF THE LAND XVIII MISS LADY AT THE BIG HOUSE XIX THREE LADIES LOUISE XX THE LID OF THE GRAVE XXI THE RED RIOT OF YOUTH XXII AMENDE HONORABLE

THE LAW OF THE LAND

CHAPTER I

MISS LADY

Ah, but it was a sweet and wonderful thing to see Miss Lady dance, a strange and wondrous thing! She was so sweet, so strong, so full of grace, so like a bird in all her motions! Now here, now there, and back again, her feet scarce touching the floor, her loose skirt, held out between her dainty fingers, resembling wings, she swam through the air, up and down the room of the old plantation house, as though she were indeed the creature of an element wherein all was imponderable, light and free of hampering influences. Darting, nodding, beckoning, courtesying to something that she saw--it must have moved you to applause, had you seen Miss Lady dance! You might have been restrained by the feeling that this was almost too unreal, too unusual, this dance of the young girl, all alone, in front of the great mirror which faithfully gave back the passing, flying figure line for line, flush for flush, one bosom-heave for that of the other. Yet the tall white lilies in the corner saw; and the tall white birds, one on each side of the great cheval glass, saw also, but fluttered not; since a lily and a stork and a maiden may each be tall and white, and each may understand the other subtly.

Miss Lady stood at length, tall and white, her cheeks rosy withal, her blown brown hair pushed back a bit, one hand lightly resting on her bosom, looking--looking into the mirror, asking of it some question, getting, indeed, from it some answer--an answer embodying, perhaps, all that youth may mean, all that the morning may bring.

For now the sun of the South came creeping up apace, and saw Miss Lady as it peered in through the rose lattice whereon hung scores of fragrant blossoms. A gentle wind of morning stirred the lace curtains at the windows and touched Miss Lady's hair as she stood there, asking the answer of the mirror. It was morning in the great room, morning for the southern day, morning for the old plantation whose bell now jangled faintly and afar off--morning indeed for Miss Lady, who now had ceased in her self-absorbed dance. At this very moment, as she stood gazing into the mirror, with the sunlight and the roses thus at hand, one might indeed have sworn that it was morning for ever, over all the world!

Miss Lady stood eager, fascinated, before the glass; and in the presence of the tall flowers and the tall birds, saw something which stirred her, felt something which came in at the window out of the blue sky and from the red rose blossoms, on the warm south wind. Impulsively she flung out her arms to the figure in the glass. Perhaps she felt its beauty and its friendliness. And yet, an instant later, her arms relaxed and sank; she sighed, knowing not why she sighed.

Ah, Miss Lady, if only it could be for ever morning for us all! Nay, let us say not so. Let us say rather that this sweet picture of Miss Lady, doubled by the glass, remains to-day imperishably preserved in the old mirror--the picture of Miss Lady dancing as the bird flies, and then standing, plaintive and questioning, before her own image, loving it because it was beautiful and friendly, dreading it because she could not understand.

Miss Lady had forgotten that she was alone, and did not hear the step at the door, nor see the hand which presently pushed back the curtain. There stepped into the room, the tall, somewhat full figure of a lady who stood looking on with eyes at first surprised, then cynically amused. The intruder paused, laughing a low, well-fed, mellow laugh. On the moment she coughed in deprecation. Miss Lady sprang back, as does the wild deer startled in the forest. Her hands went to her cheeks, which burned in swift flame, thence to drop to her bosom, where her heart was beating in a confusion of throbs, struggling with the reversed current of the blood of all her tall young body.

"Mamma!" she cried. "You startled me." "So it seems," said the new- comer. "I beg your pardon. I did not mean to intrude upon your devotions."

She came forward and seated herself-a tall woman, a trifle full of figure now, but still vital of presence. Her figure, deep-chested, rounded and shapely, now began to carry about it a certain air of ease. The mouth, well-bowed and red, had a droop of the same significance. The eyes, deep, dark and shaded by strong brows, held depths not to be fathomed at a glance, but their first message was one of an open and ready self-indulgence. The costume, flowing, loose and easy, carried out the same thought; the piled black hair did not deny it; the smile upon the face, amused, half-cynical, confirmed it. Here was a woman of her own acquaintance with the world, you would have said. And in the next breath you must have asked how she could have been the mother of this tall girl, at whom she now smiled thus mockingly.

"I was just--I was--well, I was dancing, mamma," said Miss Lady. "It is so nice." This somewhat vaguely.

"Yes," said her mother; "why?"

"I do not know," said Miss Lady, frankly, and turning to her with sudden courage. "I was dancing. That is all."


The Law of the Land - 1/49

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