A Man of Honorскачать книгу бесплатно
"No, but I would say 'New York housekeepers,' 'Massachusetts housekeepers,' or 'New Jersey housekeepers,' and so I say 'Virginia housekeepers,' too. I reckon you would find it a little troublesome to carry out your rule, wouldn't you, Cousin Robert?"
"I am fairly beaten, I own; and in consideration of my frank acknowledgment of defeat, perhaps you will permit me to be a trifle impudent."
"After that gallant speech you made just now, I can hardly believe such a thing possible. But let me hear you try, please."
"O it's very possible, I assure you!" said Robert. "See if it is not. What I want to ask is, why you Virginians so often use the word 'reckon' in the sense of 'think' or 'presume,' as you did a moment since?"
"Because it's right," said Sudie.
"No, cousin, it is not good English," replied Robert.
"Perhaps not, but it's good Virginian, and that's better for my purposes. Besides, it must be good English. St. Paul used it twice."
"Did he? I was not aware that the Apostle to the Gentiles spoke English at all."
"Come, Cousin Robert, I must give out dinner now. Do you want to carry my key-basket?"
Miss Sudie makes an Apt Quotation
My friend who writes novels tells me that there is no other kind of exercise which so perfectly rests an over-tasked brain as riding on horseback does. His theory is that when the mind is overworked it will not quit working at command, but goes on with the labor after the tools have been laid aside. If the worker goes to bed, either he finds it impossible to go to sleep or sleeping he dreams, his mind thus working harder in sleep than if he were awake. Walking, this novelist friend says, affords no relief. On the contrary, one thinks better when walking than at any other time. But on horseback he finds it impossible to confine his thoughts to any subject for two minutes together. He may begin as many trains of thought as he chooses, but he never gets past their beginning. The motion of the animal jolts it all up into a jumble, and rest is the inevitable result. The man's animal spirits rise, in sympathy, perhaps, with those of his horse, and as the animal in him begins to assert itself his intellect yields to its master and suffers itself to become quiescent.
Now it is possible that Mr. Robert Pagebrook had found out this fact about horseback exercise, and determined to profit by it to the extent of securing all the intellectual rest he could during his stay at Shirley. At any rate, his early morning ride with "Cousin Sudie" was repeated, not once, but every day when decided rain did not interfere. He became greatly interested, too, in the Virginian system of housekeeping, and made daily study of it in company with Miss Sudie, whose key-basket he carried as she went her rounds from dining-room to smoke-house, from smoke-house to store-room, from store-room to garden, and from garden to the shady gable of the house, where Miss Sudie "set" the churn every morning, a process which consisted of scalding it out, putting in the cream, and wrapping wet cloths all over the head of it and far up the dasher handle, as a precaution against the possible results of carelessness on the part of the half dozen little darkeys whose daily duty it was to "chun." Mr.
Robert soon became well versed in all the mysteries of "giving out" dinner and other things pertaining to the office of housekeeper – an office in which every Virginian woman takes pride, and one in the duties of which every well-bred Virginian girl is thoroughly skilled. (Corollary – good dinners and general comfort.)
Old "Aunty" cooks are always extremely slow of motion, and so the young ladies who carry the keys have a good deal of necessary leisure during their morning rounds. Miss Sudie had a pretty little habit, as a good many other young women there have, of carrying a book in her key-basket, so that she might read while aunt Kizzey (I really do not know of what proper noun this very common one is an abbreviation) made up her tray. Picking up a volume he found there one morning, Robert continued a desultory conversation by saying:
"You don't read Montaigne, do you, Cousin Sudie?"
"O yes! I read everything – or anything, rather. I never saw a book I couldn't get something out of, except Longfellow."
"Except Longfellow!" exclaimed Robert in surprise. "Is it possible you don't enjoy Longfellow? Why, that is heresy of the rankest kind!"
"I know it is, but I'm a heretic in a good many things. I hate Longfellow's hexameters; I don't like Tennyson; and I can't understand Browning any better than he understands himself. I know I ought to like them all, as you all up North do, but I don't."
Mr. Robert was shocked. Here was a young girl, fresh and healthy, who could read prosy old Montaigne's chatter with interest; who knew Pope by heart, and Dryden almost as well; who read the prose and poetry of the eighteenth century constantly, as he knew; and who, on a former occasion, had pleaded guilty to a liking for sonnets, but who could find nothing to like in Tennyson, Longfellow, or Browning. Somehow the discovery was not an agreeable one to him though he could hardly say why, and so he chose not to pursue the subject further just then. He said instead:
"That is the queerest Virginianism I've heard yet – 'you all.'"
"It's a very convenient one, you'll admit, and a Virginian don't care to go far out of his way in such things."
"You will think me critical this morning, Cousin Sudie, but I often wonder at the carelessness, not of Virginians only, but of everybody else, in the use of contractions. 'Don't,' for instance, is well enough as a contraction for 'do not, but nearly everybody uses it, as you did just now, for 'does not.'"
"Do don't lecture me, Cousin Robert. I'm a heretic, I tell you, in grammar."
"'Do don't' is the richest provincialism I have heard yet, Cousin Sudie. I really must make a note of that."
"Cousin Robert, do you read Montaigne?"
"Do you remember what he says about custom and grammar?"
"No. What is it?"
"He says it, remember, and not I. He says 'they that fight custom with grammar are fools.' What a rude old fellow he was, wasn't he?"
Mr. Pagebrook suddenly remembered that he was to dine that day at his cousin Edwin's house, and that it was time for him to go, as he intended to walk, Graybeard having fallen lame during that morning's gallop with Miss Sudie.
Mr. Pagebrook Meets an Acquaintance
Mr. Robert left the house on his way to The Oaks in an excellent humor with himself and with everybody else. His cousin Billy and his uncle Col. Barksdale were both absent, in attendance upon a court in another county, and so Mr. Robert had recently been left almost alone with Miss Sudie, and now that they had become the very best of friends our young man enjoyed this state of affairs right heartily. In truth Miss Sudie was a young lady very much to Mr. Robert's taste, in saying which I pay that young gentleman as handsome a compliment as any well regulated man could wish.
Mr. Robert walked briskly out of the front gate and down the road, enjoying the bright sun and the rich coloring of the October woodlands, and making merry in his heart by running over in his memory the chats he had been having of late with the little woman who carried the keys at Shirley. If he had been forced to tell precisely what had been said in those conversations, it must be confessed that a stranger would have found very little of interest in the repetition, but somehow the recollection brought a frequent smile to our young friend's face and put an additional springiness into his step. His intercourse with this cousin by brevet may not have been especially brilliant or of a nature calculated to be particularly interesting to other people, but to him it had been extremely agreeable, without doubt.
"Mornin' Mas' Robert," said Phil, as Robert passed the place at which the old negro was working. "How is ye dis mornin'?"
"Good morning, Phil. I am very well, I thank you. How are you, Phil?"
"Poorly, thank God. Ha! ha! ha! Dat's de way Bro' Joe and all de folks always says it. Dey never will own up to bein' rale well. But I tell ye now Mas' Robert, Phil's a well nigger always. I keeps up my eend de row all de time. I kin knock de spots out de work all day, daunce jigs till two o'clock, an' go 'possum huntin' till mornin' comes. Is ye ever been 'possum huntin', Mas' Robert?"
"No; I believe I never hunted opossums, but I should greatly like to try it, Phil."
"Would ye? Gim me yer han' Mas' Robert. You jes set de time now, and if Phil don't show you de sights o' 'possum huntin' you ken call me a po' white folkses nigger. Dat's a fac'."
Robert promised to make the necessary appointment in due time, and was just starting off again on his tramp, when Phil asked:
"Whare ye boun' dis mornin', Mas' Robert?"
"I'm going over to dine at The Oaks, Phil."
"Yer jest out de house in time. Dar comes Mas' Charles Harrison."
"I do not understand you, Phil. Why do you say I am out of the house just in time?"
"Mas' Robert, is you got two good eyes? Mas' Charles is a doctor you know, but dey a'n't nobody sick at Shirley. May be he's afraid Miss Sudie's gwine to get sick. Hi! git up Roley! dis a'n't plowin' mauster's field: g'long I tell ye!"
As Phil turned away Dr. Harrison rode up.
"Good morning, Mr. Pagebrook. On your way to The Oaks?"
"I was, but if you are going to Shirley I will walk back with you!"
"O no! no! I am only going to stop there a moment. I am on my way to see some patients at Exenholm, and as I had to go past Shirley I brought the mail, that's all. I'll not be there ten minutes, and I know they're expecting you at The Oaks. I brought Ewing along with me from the Court House. Foggy had been too much for him again."
"Why the boy promised me he would not gamble again."
"Oh! it's hardly gambling. Only a little game of loo. Every gentleman plays a little. I take a hand myself, now and then; but Foggy is a pretty old bird, you know, and he's too much for your cousin. Ewing oughtn't to play with him, of course, and that's why I brought him away with me. By the way, we're going to get a fox up in a day or two and show you some sport. The tobacco's all cut now, and the dogs are in capital order – as thin as a lath. You must be with us, of course. We'll get up one in pine quarter, and he's sure to run towards the river; so you can come in as the hounds pass Shirley."
"I should like to see a fox hunt, certainly, but I have no proper horse," said Robert.
"Why, where's Graybeard? Billy told me he had turned him over to you to use and abuse."
"So he did, and he is riding his bay at present. But Graybeard is quite lame just now."
"Ride the bay then. Billy will be back from court to-night, won't he?"
"Yes; but he will want to join in the chase, I suppose."
"I reckon he will, but he can ride something else. He don't often care to take the tail, and he can see as much as he likes on one of his 'conestogas.' I'll tell you what you can do. Winger's got a splendid colt, pretty well broken, and you can get him for a dollar or two if you a'n't afraid to ride him. You must manage it somehow, so as to be 'in at the death!' I want you to see some riding."
Mr. Robert promised to see what he could do. He greatly wanted to ride after the hounds for once at least, though it must be confessed he would have been better pleased had the hounds to be ridden after belonged to somebody else besides the gentleman familiarly known as "Foggy," a personage for whom Mr. Robert had certainly not conceived a very great liking. That the reader may know whether his prejudice was a well-founded one or not it will be necessary for me to go back a little and gather up some of the loose threads of my story, while our young man is on his way to The Oaks. I have been so deeply interested in the ripening acquaintanceship between Mr. Rob and Miss Sudie that I have neglected to introduce some other personages, less agreeable perhaps, but not less important to the proper understanding of this history. Leaving young Pagebrook on the road, therefore, let me tell the reader, in a new chapter, something about the people he had met outside the hospitable Shirley mansion.
Chiefly Concerning "Foggy."
Dr. Charles Harrison was a young man of twenty-five or six, a distant relative of the Barksdales – so distant indeed that he would never have known himself as a relative at all, if he and they had not been Virginians. He was a young man of good parts, fond of field sports, reasonably well behaved in all external matters, but without any very fixed moral principles. He was a gentleman, in the strict Virginian sense of the term. That is to say he was of a good family, was well educated, and had never done anything to disgrace himself; wherefore he was received in all gentlemen's houses as an equal. He drank a little too freely on occasion, and played bluff and loo a trifle too often, the elderly people thought; but these things, it was commonly supposed, were only youthful follies. He would grow out of them – marry and settle down after awhile. He was on the whole a very agreeable person to be with, and very much of a gentleman in his manner.
"Foggy" Raves was an anomaly. His precise position in the social scale was a very difficult thing to discover, and is still more difficult to define. His father had been an overseer, and so "Foggy" was certainly not a "gentleman." Other men of parentage similar to his knew their places, and when business made it necessary for them to visit the house of a gentleman they expected to be received in the porch if the weather were tolerable, and in the dining-room if it were not. They never dreamed of being taken into the parlor, introduced to the family, or invited to dinner. All these things were well recognized customs; the line of demarkation between "gentlemen" and "common people" was very sharply drawn indeed. The two classes lived on excellent terms with each other, but they never mixed. The gentleman was always courteous to the common people out of respect for himself; while the common people were very deferential to every gentleman as a matter of duty. Now this man Raves was not a "gentleman." That much was clear. And yet, for some inscrutable reason, his position among the people who knew him was not exactly that of a common man. He was never invited into gentlemen's houses precisely as a gentleman would have been, it is true; and yet into gentlemen's houses he very often went, and that upon invitation too. When young men happened to be keeping bachelors' establishments, either temporarily or permanently, "Foggy" was sure to be invited pretty frequently to see them. As long as there were no ladies at home "Foggy" knew himself welcome, and he had played whist and loo and bluff in many genteel parlors, into which he never thought of going when there were ladies on the plantation. He kept a fine pack of hounds too, and was clearly at the head of the "fox-hunting interest" of the county; and this was an anomaly also, as fox-hunting is an eminently aristocratic sport, in which gentlemen engage only in company with gentlemen – except in "Foggy's" case.
Precisely what "Foggy's" business was it is difficult to say. He was constable, for one thing, and ex-officio county jailor. One half the jail building was fitted up as his residence, and there he lived, a bachelor some fifty years old. He hired out horses and buggies in a small way now and then, but his earnings were principally made at "bluff" and "loo." Once or twice Colonel Barksdale and some other gentlemen had tried to oust "Foggy" from the jail, believing that his establishment there was ruining a good many of the young men, as it certainly was. Failing in this they had him indicted for gambling in a public place, but the prosecution failed, the court holding that the jailor's private rooms in the jail could not be called a public place, though all rooms in a hotel had been held public within the meaning of the statute.
This man's Christian name was not "Foggy," of course, though hardly anybody knew what it really was. He had won his sobriquet in early life by paying the professional gambler, Daniel K. Foggy, to teach him "how to beat roulette," and then winning his money back by putting his purchased knowledge to the proof at Daniel's own roulette table. Everybody agreed that "Foggy" was a good fellow. He would go far out of his way to oblige anybody, and, as was pretty generally agreed, had a good many of the instincts of a gentleman. He was not a professional gambler at all. He never kept a faro bank. He played cards merely for amusement, he said, and there was a popular tendency to believe his statement. The betting was simply to "make it interesting," and sometimes the play did grow very "interesting" indeed – interesting to the extent of several hundred dollars frequently.
Now only about a week before the morning on which Mr. Robert met Dr. Harrison, he had gone to the Court House for the purpose of calling upon the doctor. While there young Harrison had proposed that they go up to Foggy's, explaining that Foggy was "quite a character, whom you ought to know; not a gentleman, of course, but a good fellow as ever lived."
Upon going to Foggy's, Robert had found his cousin Ewing Pagebrook there playing cards. The boy – for he was not yet of age – was flushed and excited, and Robert saw at a glance that he had been losing heavily. On Robert's entrance he threw down his cards and declared himself tired of play.
"I'll arrange that, Foggy," said the boy, with a nod.
"O any time will do!" replied the other. "How d'ye do, Charley? Come in."
Dr. Charley introduced Robert, and the latter, barely recognizing Foggy's greeting, turned to Ewing and asked:
"What have you been doing, Ewing? Not gambling, I hope."
"O no! certainly not," said Foggy; "only a little game of draw-poker, ten cents ante."
"Well, but how much have you lost, Ewing?" asked Robert. "How much more than you can pay in cash, I mean? I see you haven't settled the score."
Ewing was inclined to resent his cousin's questioning, but his rather weak head was by no means a match for his cousin's strong one. This great hulking Robert Pagebrook was "big all over," Billy Barksdale had said. His will was law to most men when he chose to assert it strongly. He now took his cousin in hand, and made him confess to a debt of fifty dollars to the gambler. Then turning to Foggy he said:
"Mr. Raves, you have won all of this young man's money and fifty dollars more, it appears. Now, as I understand the matter, this fifty dollars is 'a debt of honor,' in gambling parlance, and so it must be paid. But you must acknowledge that you are more than a match for a mere boy, and you ought to 'give him odds.' I believe that is the correct phrase, is it not?"
"Yes, that's right; but how can you give odds in draw-poker?"
"I am going to show you, though I am certainly not acquainted with the mysteries of that game. You and he think he owes you fifty dollars. Now my opinion is that he owes you nothing, while you owe him the precise amount of cash you have won from him; and I propose to effect a compromise. The law of Virginia is pretty stringent, I believe, on the subject of gambling with people under age, and if I were disposed I could give you some trouble on that score. But I propose instead to pay you ten dollars – just enough to make a receipt worth while – and to take your receipt in full for the amount due. I shall then take my cousin home, and he can pay me at his leisure. Is that satisfactory, sir?"
Mr. Robert was in a towering rage, though his manner was as quiet as it is possible to conceive, and his voice was as soft and smooth as a woman's. Had Foggy been disposed to presume upon his antagonist's apparent calmness and to play the bully, he would unquestionably have got himself into trouble of a physical sort there and then. To speak plainly, Robert Pagebrook was quite prepared to punish the gambler with his fists, and would undoubtedly have made short work of it had Foggy provoked him with a word. But Foggy never quarreled. He knew his business too well for that. He never gave himself airs with gentlemen. He knew his place too well. He never got himself involved in any kind of disturbance which would attract attention to himself. He knew the consequences too well. He was always quiet, always deferential, always satisfied; and so, while he had no reason to anticipate the thrashing which Robert Pagebrook was aching to give him, he nevertheless was as complacent as possible in his reply to that gentleman.
"Why certainly, Mr. Pagebrook. I never meant to take the money at all. I only wanted to frighten our young friend here, and teach him a lesson. He thinks he can play cards when he can't, and I wanted to 'break him of sucking eggs,' that's all. I meant to let him think he had to pay me so as to scare him, for I feel an interest in Ewing. 'Pon my word I do. Now let me tell you, Ewing, we'll call this square, and you mustn't play no more. You play honest now, but if you keep on you'll cheat a little after awhile, and when a man cheats at cards, Ewing, he'll steal. Mind, I speak from experience, for I've seen a good deal of this thing. Come, Charley, you and Mr. Pagebrook, let's take something. I've got some splendid Shield's whisky."скачать книгу бесплатно
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