CHAPTER I INTRODUCTORY GORDON KEITH'S PATRIMONY
Gordon Keith was the son of a gentleman. And this fact, like the cat the honest miller left to his youngest son, was his only patrimony. As in that case also, it stood to the possessor in the place of a good many other things. It helped him over many rough places. He carried it with him as a devoted Romanist wears a sacred scapulary next to the heart.
His father, General McDowell Keith of "Elphinstone," was a gentleman of the old kind, a type so old-fashioned that it is hardly accepted these days as having existed. He knew the Past and lived in it; the Present he did not understand, and the Future he did not know. In his latter days, when his son was growing up, after war had swept like a vast inundation over the land, burying almost everything it had not borne away, General Keith still survived, unchanged, unmoved, unmarred, an antique memorial of the life of which he was a relic. His one standard was that of a gentleman.
This idea was what the son inherited from the father along with some other old-fashioned things which he did not know the value of at first, but which he came to understand as he grew older.
When in after times, in the swift rush of life in a great city, amid other scenes and new manners, Gordon Keith looked back to the old life on the Keith plantation, it appeared to him as if he had lived then in another world.
Elphinstone was, indeed, a world to itself: a long, rambling house, set on a hill, with white-pillared verandahs, closed on the side toward the evening sun by green Venetian blinds, and on the other side looking away through the lawn trees over wide fields, brown with fallow, or green with cattle-dotted pasture-land and waving grain, to the dark rim of woods beyond. To the westward "the Ridge" made a straight, horizontal line, except on clear days, when the mountains still farther away showed a tenderer blue scalloped across the sky.
A stranger passing through the country prior to the war would have heard much of Elphinstone, the Keith plantation, but he would have seen from the main road (which, except in summer, was intolerably bad) only long stretches of rolling fields well tilled, and far beyond them a grove on a high hill, where the mansion rested in proud seclusion amid its immemorial oaks and elms, with what appeared to be a small hamlet lying about its feet. Had he turned in at the big-gate and driven a mile or so, he would have found that Elphinstone was really a world to itself; almost as much cut off from the outer world as the home of the Keiths had been in the old country. A number of little blacks would have opened the gates for him; several boys would have run to take his horse, and he would have found a legion of servants about the house. He would have found that the hamlet was composed of extensive stables and barns, with shops and houses, within which mechanics were plying their trades with the ring of hammers, the clack of looms, and the hum of spinning-wheels-all for the plantation; whilst on a lower hill farther to the rear were the servants' quarters laid out in streets, filled with children.
Had the visitor asked for shelter, he would have received, whatever his condition, a hospitality as gracious as if he had been the highest in the land; he would have found culture with philosophy and wealth with content, and he would have come away charmed with the graciousness of his entertainment. And yet, if from any other country or region than the South, he would have departed with a feeling of mystification, as though he had been drifting in a counter-current and had discovered a part of the world sheltered and to some extent secluded from the general movement and progress of life.
This plantation, then, was Gordon's world. The woods that rimmed it were his horizon, as they had been that of the Keiths for generations; more or less they always affected his horizon. His father appeared to the boy to govern the world; he governed the most important part of it--the plantation--without ever raising his voice. His word had the convincing quality of a law of nature. The quiet tones of his voice were irresistible. The calm face, lighting up at times with the flash of his gray eyes, was always commanding: he looked so like the big picture in the library, of a tall, straight man, booted and spurred, and partly in armor, with a steel hat over his long curling hair, and a grave face that looked as if the sun were on it. It was no wonder, thought the boy, that he was given a sword by the State when he came back from the Mexican War; no wonder that the Governor had appointed him Senator, a position he declined because of his wife's ill health. Gordon's wonder was that his father was not made President or Commander-in-Chief of the army. It no more occurred to him that any one could withstand his father than that the great oak-trees in front of the house, which it took his outstretched arms six times to girdle, could fall.
Yet it came to pass that within a few years an invading army marched through the plantation, camped on the lawn, and cut down the trees; and Gordon Keith, whilst yet a boy, came to see Elphinstone in the hands of strangers, and his father and himself thrown out on the world.
His mother died while Gordon was still a child. Until then she had not appeared remarkable to the boy: she was like the atmosphere, the sunshine, and the blue, arching sky, all-pervading and existing as a matter of course. Yet, as her son remembered her in after life, she was the centre of everything, never idle, never hurried; every one and everything revolved about her and received her light and warmth. She was the refuge in every trouble, and her smile was enchanting. It was only after that last time, when the little boy stood by his mother's bedside awed and weeping silently in the shadow of the great darkness that was settling upon them, that he knew how absolutely she had been the centre and breath of his life. His father was kneeling beside the bed, with a face as white as his mother's, and a look of such mingled agony and resignation that Gordon never forgot it. As, because of his father's teaching, the son in later life tried to be just to every man, so, for his mother's sake, he remembered to be kind to every woman.
In the great upheaval that came just before the war, Major Keith stood for the Union, but was defeated. When his State seceded, he raised a regiment in the congressional district which he had represented for one or two terms. As his duties took him from home much of the time, he sent Gordon to the school of the noted Dr. Grammer, a man of active mind and also active arm, named by his boys, from the latter quality, "Old Hickory."
Gordon, like some older men, hoped for war with all his soul. A great-grandfather an officer of the line in the Revolution, a grandfather in the navy of 1812, and his father a major in the Mexican War, with a gold-hilted sword presented him by the State, gave him a fair pedigree, and he looked forward to being a great general himself. He would be Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great at least. It was his preference for a career, unless being a mountain stage-driver was. He had seen one or two such beings in the mountains when he accompanied his father once on a canvass that he was making for Congress, enthroned like Jove, in clouds of oil-coats and leather, mighty in power and speech; and since then his dreams had been blessed at times with lumbering coaches and clanking teams.
One day Gordon was sent for to come home. When he came down-stairs next morning his father was standing in the drawing-room, dressed in full uniform, though it was not near as showy as Gordon had expected it to be, or as dozens of uniforms the boy had seen the day before about the railway-stations on his journey home, gorgeous with gold lace. He was conscious, however, that some change had taken place, and a resemblance to the man-in-armor in the picture over the library mantel suddenly struck the boy. There was the high look, the same light in the eyes, the same gravity about the mouth; and when his father, after taking leave of the servants, rode away in his gray uniform, on his bay horse "Chevalier," with his sword by his side, to join his men at the county-seat, and let Gordon accompany him for the first few miles, the boy felt as though he had suddenly been transported to a world of which he had read, and were riding behind a knight of old. Ah! if there were only a few Roundheads formed at the big-gate, how they would scatter them!
About the third year of the war, Mr. Keith, now a brigadier-general, having been so badly wounded that it was supposed he could never again be fit for service in the field, was sent abroad by his government to represent it in England in a semi-confidential, semi-diplomatic position. He had been abroad before--quite an unusual occurrence at that time.
General Keith could not bring himself to leave his boy behind him and have the ocean between them, so he took Gordon with him.
After a perilous night in running the blockade, when they were fired on and escaped only by sending up rockets and passing as one of the blockading squadron, General Keith and Gordon transferred at Nassau to their steamer. The vessel touched at Halifax, and among the passengers taken on there were an American lady, Mrs. Wickersham of New York, and her son Ferdy Wickersham, a handsome, black-eyed boy a year or two older than Gordon. As the two lads were the only passengers aboard of about their age, they soon became as friendly as any other young animals would have become, and everything went on balmily until a quarrel arose over a game which they were playing on the lower deck. As General Keith had told Gordon that he must be very discreet while on board and not get into any trouble, the row might have ended in words had not the sympathy of the sailors been with Gordon. This angered the other boy in the dispute, and he called Gordon a liar. This, according to Gordon's code, was a cause of war. He slapped Ferdy in the mouth, and the next second they were at it hammer-and-tongs. So long as they were on their feet, Ferdy, who knew something of boxing, had much the best of it and punished Gordon severely, until the latter, diving into him, seized him.
In wrestling Ferdy was no match for him, for Gordon had wrestled with every boy on the plantation, and after a short scuffle he lifted Ferdy and flung him flat on his back on the deck, jarring the wind out of him. Ferdy refused to make up and went off crying to his mother, who from that time filled the ship with her abuse of Gordon.
The victory of the younger boy gave him great prestige among the sailors, and Mike Doherty, the bully of the fore-castle, gave him boxing lessons during all the rest of the voyage, teaching him the mystery of the "side swing" and the "left-hand upper-cut," which Mike said was "as good as a belaying-pin."
"With a good, smooth tongue for the girlls and a good upper-cut for thim as treads on your toes, you are aall right," said Mr. Doherty; "you're rigged for ivery braize. But, boy, remimber to be quick with both, and don't forgit who taaught you."
Thus, it was that, while Gordon Keith was still a boy of about twelve or thirteen, instead of being on the old plantation rimmed by the great woods, where his life had hitherto been spent, except during the brief period when he had been at Dr. Grammer's school, he found himself one summer in a little watering-place on the shores of an English lake as blue as a china plate, set amid ranges of high green hills, on which nestled pretty white or brown villas surrounded by gardens and parks.
The water was a new element for Gordon. The home of the Keiths was in the high country back from the great watercourses, and Gordon had never had a pair of oars in his hands, nor did he know how to swim; but he meant to learn. The sight of the boats rowed about by boys of his own age filled him with envy. And one of them, when he first caught sight of it, inspired him with a stronger feeling than envy. It was painted white and was gay with blue and red stripes around the gunwale. In it sat two boys. One, who sat in the stern, was about Gordon's age; the other, a little larger than Gordon, was rowing and used the oars like an adept. In the bow was a flag, and Gordon was staring at it, when it came to him with a rush that it was a "Yankee" flag. He was conscious for half a moment that he took some pride in the superiority of the oarsman over the boys in the other boats. His next thought was that he had a little Confederate flag in his trunk. He had brought it from home among his other treasures. He would show his colors and not let the Yankee boys have all of the honors. So away he put as hard as his legs could carry him. When he got back to the waterside he hired a boat from among those lying tied at the stairs, and soon had his little flag rigged up, when, taking his seat, he picked up the oars and pushed off. It was rather more difficult than it had looked. The oars would not go together. However, after a little he was able to move slowly, and was quite elated at his success when he found himself out on the lake. Just then he heard a shout:
"Take down that flag!"
Gordon wished to turn his boat and look around, but could not do so. However, one of the oars came out of the water, and as the boat veered a little he saw the boys in the white boat with the Union flag bearing down on him.
The oarsman was rowing with strong, swift strokes even while he looked over his shoulder, and the boat was shooting along as straight as an arrow, with the clear water curling about its prow. Gordon wished for a moment that he had not been so daring, but the next second his fighting--blood was up, as the other boy called imperiously:
"Strike that flag!"
Gordon could see his face now, for he was almost on him. It was round and sunburnt, and the eyes were blue and clear and flashing with excitement. His companion, who was cheering him on, was Ferdy Wickersham.
"Strike that flag, I say," called the oarsman.
"I won't. Who are you? Strike your own flag."
"I am Norman Wentworth. That's who I am, and if you don't take that flag down I will take it down for you, you little nigger-driving rebel."
Gordon Keith was not a boy to neglect the amenities of the occasion.
"Come and try it then, will you, you nigger-stealing Yankees!" he called. "I will fight both of you." And he settled himself for defence.
"Well, I will," cried his assailant. "Drop the tiller, Ferdy, and sit tight. I will fight fair." Then to Gordon again: "I have given you fair warning, and I will have that flag or sink you."
Gordon's answer was to drop one oar as useless, seize the other, and steadying himself as well as he could, raise it aloft as a weapon.
"I will kill you if you try it," he said between clinched teeth.
However, the boy rowing the other boat was not to be frightened. He gave a vigorous stroke of his oars that sent his boat straight into the side of Gordon's boat.
The shock of the two boats coming together pitched Gordon to his knees, and came near flinging him into the water; but he was up again in a second, and raising his oar, dealt a vicious blow with it, not at the boy in the boat, but at the flag in the bow of the boat. The unsteadiness of his footing, however, caused him to miss his aim, and he only splintered his oar into fragments.
"Hit him with the oar, Norman," called the boy in the stern. "Knock him out of the boat."
The other boy made no answer, but with a quick turn of his wrist twisted his boat out of its direct course and sent it skimming off to one side. Then dropping one oar, he caught up the other with both hands, and with a rapid, dexterous swing swept a cataract of water in Gordon's face, drenching him, blinding him, and filling his eyes, mouth, and ears with the unexpected deluge. Gordon gasped and sputtered, and before he could recover from this unlooked-for flank movement, another turn of the wrist brought the attacking boat sharp across his bow, and, with a shout of triumph, Norman wrenched the defiant flag out of its socket.
Gordon had no time for thought. He had time only to act. With a cry, half of rage, half of defiance, he sprang up on the point of the bow of his boat, and with outstretched arms launched himself at the bow of the other, where the captor had flung the flag, to use both oars. His boat slipped from under his feet, and he fell short, but caught the gunwale of the other, and dragged himself up to it. He held just long enough to clutch both flags, and the next second, with a faint cheer, he rolled off and sank with a splash in the water.
Norman Wentworth had risen, and with blazing eyes, his oar uplifted, was scrambling toward the bow to repel the boarder, when the latter disappeared. Norman gazed at the spot with staring eyes. The next second he took in what was happening, and, with an exclamation of horror, he suddenly dived overboard. When he came to the top, he was pulling the other boy up with him.
Though Norman was a good swimmer, there was a moment of extreme danger; for, half unconscious, Gordon pulled him under once. But fortunately Norman kept his head, and with a supreme effort breaking the drowning boy's hold, he drew him to the top once more. Fortunately for both, a man seeing the trouble had brought his boat to the spot, and, just as Norman rose to the surface with his burden, he reached out and, seizing him, dragged both him and the now unconscious Gordon aboard his boat.
It was some days before Gordon was able to sit up, and meanwhile he learned that his assailant and rescuer had been every day to make inquiry about him, and his father, Mr. Wentworth, had written to Gordon's father and expressed his concern at the accident.
"It is a strange fate," he wrote, "that should after all these years have arrayed us against each other thus, and have brought our boys face to face in a foreign land. I hear that your boy behaved with the courage which I knew your son would show."
General Keith, in turn, expressed his gratitude for the promptness and efficiency with which the other's son had apprehended the danger and met it.
"My son owes his life to him," he said. "As to the flag, it was the fortune of war," and he thought the incident did credit to both combatants. He "only wished," he said, "that in every fight over a flag there were the same ability to restore to life those who defended it."
Gordon, however, could not participate in this philosophic view of his father's. He had lost his flag; he had been defeated in the battle. And he owed his life to his victorious enemy.
He was but a boy, and his defeat was gall and wormwood to him. It was but very little sweetened by the knowledge that his victor had come to ask after him.
He was lying in bed one afternoon, lonely and homesick and sad. His father was away, and no one had been in to him for, perhaps, an hour. The shrill voices of children and the shouts of boys floated in at the open window from somewhere afar off. He was not able to join them. It depressed him, and he began to pine for the old plantation--a habit that followed him through life in the hours of depression.
Suddenly there was a murmur of voices outside the room, and after a few moments the door softly opened, and a lady put her head in and looked at him. She was a stranger and was dressed in a travelling-suit. Gordon gazed at her without moving or uttering a sound. She came in and closed the door gently behind her, and then walked softly over to the side of the bed and looked down at him with kind eyes. She was not exactly pretty, but to Gordon she appeared beautiful, and he knew that she was a friend. Suddenly she dropped down on her knees beside him and put her arm over him caressingly.
"I am Norman's mother," she said, "and I have come to look after you and to take you home with me if they will let me have you." She stooped over and kissed him.
The boy put up his pinched face and kissed her.
"I will go," he said in his weak voice.
She kissed him again, and smiled down at him with moist eyes, and talked to him in tender tones, stroking his hair and telling him of Norman's sorrow for the trouble, of her own unhappiness, and of her regret that the doctors would not let him be moved. When she left, it was with a promise that she would come back again and see him; and Gordon knew that he had a friend in England of his own kind, and a truth somehow had slipped into his heart which set at odds many opinions which he had thought principles. He had never thought to feel kindly toward a Yankee.
When Gordon was able to be out again, his father wished him to go and thank his former foe who had rescued him. But it was too hard an ordeal for the boy to face. Even the memory of Mrs. Wentworth could not reconcile him to this.
"You don't know how hard it is, father," he said, with that assurance with which boyhood always draws a line between itself and the rest of the world. "Did you ever have to ask pardon of one who had fought you?"
General Keith's face wore a singular expression. Suddenly he felt a curious sensation in a spot in his right side, and he was standing in a dewy glade in a piece of woodland on a Spring morning, looking at a slim, serious young man standing very straight and still a few paces off, with a pistol gripped in his hand, and, queerly enough, his name, too, was Norman Wentworth. But he was not thinking of him. He was thinking of a tall girl with calm blue eyes, whom he had walked with the day before, and who had sent him away dazed and half maddened. Then some one a little to one side spoke a few words and began to count, "One, two--" There was a simultaneous report of two pistols, two little puffs of smoke, and when the smoke had cleared away, the other man with the pistol was sinking slowly to the ground, and he himself was tottering into the arms of the man nearest him.
He came back to the present with a gasp.
"My son," he said gravely, "I once was called on and failed. I have regretted it all my life, though happily the consequences were not as fatal as I had at one time apprehended. If every generation did not improve on the follies and weaknesses of those that have gone before, there would be no advance in the world. I want you to be wiser and stronger than I."
Gordon's chance of revenge came sooner than he expected. Not long after he got out of doors again he was on his way down to the lake, where he was learning to swim, when a number of boys whom he passed began to hoot at him. In their midst was Ferdy Wickersham, the boy who had crossed the ocean with him. He was setting the others on. The cry that came to Gordon was: "Nigger-driver! Nigger-driver!" Sometimes Fortune, Chance, or whatever may be the deity of fortuitous occurrence, places our weapons right to hand. What would David have done had there not been a stony brook between him and Goliath that day? Just as Gordon with burning face turned to defy his deriders, a pile of small stones lay at his feet. It looked like Providence. He could not row a boat, but he could fling a stone like young David. In a moment he was sending stones up the hill with such rapidity that the group above him were thrown into confusion.
Then Gordon fell into an error of more noted generals. Seizing a supply of missiles, he charged straight up the hill. Though the group had broken at the sudden assault, by the time he reached the hill-top they had rallied, and while he was out of ammunition they made a charge on him. Wheeling, he went down the hill like the wind, while his pursuers broke after him with shouts of triumph. As he reached the stone-pile he turned and made a stand, which brought them to a momentary stop. Just then a shout arose below him. Gordon turned to see rushing up the hill toward him Norman Wentworth. He was picking up stones as he ran. Gordon heard him call out something, but he did not wait for his words. Here was his arch-enemy, his conqueror, and here, at least, he was his equal. Without wasting further time with those above him, Gordon sprang toward his new assailant, and steadying himself, hurled his heaviest stone. Fortunately, Norman Wentworth had been reared in the country and knew how to dodge as well as to throw a stone, or his days might have ended then and there.
"Hold on! don't throw!" he shouted "I am coming to help you," and, without waiting, he sent a stone far over Gordon's head at the party on the height above. Gordon, who was poising himself for another shot, paused amazed in the midst of his aim, open-mouthed and wide-eyed.
"Come on," cried Norman. "You and I together can lick them. I know the way, and we will get above them." So saying, he dashed down a side alley, Gordon close at his heels, and, by making a turn, they came out a few minutes later on the hill above their enemies, who were rejoicing in their easy victory, and, catching them unprepared, routed them and scattered them in an instant.
Ferdy Wickersham, finding himself defeated, promptly surrendered and offered to enlist on their side. Norman, however, had no idea of letting him off so easy.
"I am going to take you prisoner, but not until I have given you a good kicking. You know better than to take sides against an American."
"He is a rebel," said Ferdy.
"He is an American," said Norman. And he forthwith proceeded to make good his word, and to do it in such honest style that Ferdy, after first taking it as a joke, got angry and ran away howling.
Gordon was doubtful as to the wisdom of this severity.
"He will tell," he said.
"Let him," said Norman, contemptuously. "He knows what he will get if he does. I was at school with him last year, and I am going to school with him again. I will teach him to fight with any one else against an American!"
This episode made the two boys closer allies than they would have been in a year of peace.
General Keith, finding his mission fruitless, asked leave to return home immediately, so that Gordon saw little more of his former foe and new ally.
A few days before their departure, Gordon, passing along a road, came on a group of three persons, two children and a French governess with much-frizzled hair, very black eyes, and a small waist. One of the children was a very little girl, richly dressed in a white frock with a blue sash that almost covered it, with big brown eyes and yellow ringlets; the other child was a ragged girl several years older, with tangled hair, gray eyes, and the ruddy, chubby cheeks so often seen in children of her class. The governess was in a state of great excitement, and was talking French so fast that it was a wonder any tongue could utter the words. The little girl of the fine frock and brown eyes was clutching to her bosom with a defiant air a large doll which the governess was trying to get from her, while the other child stood by, looking first toward one of them and then toward the other, with an expression divided between timidity and eagerness. A big picture of a ballet-dancer with a gay frock and red shoes in a flaring advertisement on a sign-board had something to do with the trouble. Now the girl drew nearer to the other child and danced a few steps, holding out her hand; now she cast a look over her shoulder down the hill, as if to see that her retreat were not cut off.
"Mais, c'est à moi--it's my doll. I will have it," insisted the little girl, backing away and holding it firmly; at which the governess began again almost tearing her hair in her desperation, though she ended by giving it a pat to see that it was all right.
The approach of Gordon drew her attention to him.
"Oh," she exclaimed in desperation, "c'est épouvantable--it ees terr-e-ble! Dese young ladie weel give de doll to dat meeseerable creature!"
"She is not a 'meeseerable creature'!" insisted the little girl, mocking her, her brown eyes flashing. "She danced for me, and I will give it to her--I like her."
"Oh, ciel! What shall I do! Madame weel abuse me--weel keel me!"
"Mamma will not mind; it is my doll. Aunt Abby gave it to me. I can get a plenty more, and I will give it to her," insisted the little girl again. Then suddenly, gaining more courage, she turned quickly, and, before the governess could stop her, thrust the doll into the other child's arms.
"Here, you shall have it."
The governess, with a cry of rage, made a spring for the child, but too late: the grimy little hands had clutched the doll, and turning without a word of thanks, the little creature sped down the road like a frightened animal, her ragged frock fluttering behind her.
"Why, she did not say 'Thank you'!" exclaimed the child, in a disappointed tone, looking ruefully after the retreating figure.
The governess broke out on her vehemently in French, very comically mingling her upbraidings of her charge, her abuse of the little girl, and her apprehension of "Madame."
"Never mind; she does not know any better," said Gordon.
The child's face brightened at this friendly encouragement.
"She is a nasty little creature! You shall not play with her," cried the governess, angrily.
"She is not nasty! I like her, and I will play with her," declared the child, defiantly.
"What is your name?" asked the boy, much amused by such sturdiness in so small a tot.
"Lois Huntington. What is your name?" She looked up at him with her big brown eyes.
"How do you do, Gordon Keith?" She held out her hand.
"How do you do, Lois Huntington?"
She shook hands with him solemnly.
A day or two later, as Gordon was passing through one of the streets in the lower part of the village, he came upon a hurdy-gurdy playing a livelier tune than most of them usually gave. A crowd of children had gathered in the street. Among them was a little barelegged girl who, inspired by the music, was dancing and keeping perfect time as she tripped back and forth, pirouetted and swayed on the tips of her bare toes, flirting her little ragged frock, and kicking with quite the air of a ballet-dancer. She divided the honors with the dismal Savoyard, who ground away at his organ, and she brought a flicker of admiration into his bronzed and grimy face, for he played for her the same tune over and over, encouraging her with nods and bravas. She was enjoying her triumph quite as much as any prima donna who ever tripped it on a more ambitious stage.
Gordon recognized in the little dancer the tangled-haired child who had run away with the little girl's doll a few days before.
CHAPTER II GENERAL KEITH BECOMES AN OVERSEER
When the war closed, though it was not recognized at first, the old civilization of the South passed away. Fragments of the structure that had once risen so fair and imposing still stood for a time, even after the foundations were undermined: a bastion here, a tower there; but in time they followed the general overthrow, and crumbled gradually to their fall, leaving only ruins and decay.
For a time it was hoped that the dilapidation might be repaired and the old life be lived again. General Keith, like many others, though broken and wasted in body, undertook to rebuild with borrowed money, but with disastrous results. The conditions were all against him.
Three or four years' effort to repair his fallen fortunes only plunged him deeper in debt. General Keith, like most of his neighbors and friends, found himself facing the fact that he was hopelessly insolvent. As soon as he saw he could not pay his debts he stopped spending and notified his creditors.
"I see nothing ahead of me," he wrote, "but greater ruin. I am like a horse in a quicksand: every effort I make but sinks me deeper."
Some of his neighbors took the benefit of the bankrupt-law which was passed to give relief. General Keith was urged to do likewise, but he declined.
"Though I cannot pay my debts," he said, "the least I can do is to acknowledge that I owe them. I am unwilling to appear, even for a short time, to be denying what I know to be a fact."
He gave up everything that he owned, reserving nothing that would bring in money.
When Elphinstone was sold, it brought less than the debts on it. The old plate, with the Keith coat-of-arms on it, from which generations of guests had been served, and which old Richard, the butler, had saved during the war, went for its weight in silver. The library had been pillaged until little of it remained. The old Keith pictures, some of them by the best artists, which had been boxed and stored elsewhere until after the war, now went to the purchaser of the place for less than the price of their frames. Among them was the portrait of the man in the steel coat and hat, who had the General's face.
What General Keith felt during this transition no one, perhaps, ever knew; certainly his son did not know it, and did not dream of it until later in life.
It was, however, not only in the South that fortunes were lost by the war. As vast as was the increase of riches at the North among those who stayed at home, it did not extend to those who took the field. Among these was a young officer named Huntington, from Brookford, a little town on the sunny slope that stretches eastwardly from the Alleghanies to the Delaware. Captain Huntington, having entered the army on the outbreak of the war, like Colonel Keith rose to the rank of general, and, like General Keith, received a wound that incapacitated him for service. His wife was a Southern woman, and had died abroad, just at the close of the war, leaving him a little girl, who was the idol of his heart....