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II AT THE FULL OF THE MOON By the light of the big moon hanging like a lantern in the topmost pine upon a distant mountain, the child sped swiftly along the turnpike. It was a still, clear evening, and on the summits of the eastern hills a fringe of ragged firs stood out illuminated against the sky. In the warm June weather the whole land was fragrant from the flower of the wild grape. When she had gone but a little way, the noise of wheels reached her suddenly, and she shrank into the shadow beside the wall. A cloud of dust chased toward her as the wheels came steadily on. They were evidently ancient, for they turned with a protesting creak which was heard long before the high, old-fashioned coach they carried swung into view -long indeed before the driver's whip cracked in the air. As the coach neared the child, she stepped boldly out into the road - it was only Major Lightfoot, the owner of the next plantation, returning, belated , from the town. "W'at you doin' dar, chile?" demanded a stern voice from the box, and, at the words, the Major's head was thrust through the open window, and his long white hair waved in the breeze. 14 At the Full of the Moon 15 "Is that you, Betty?" he asked, in surprise. "Why, I thought it was the duty of that nephew of mine to see you home." " I wouldn't let him," replied the child. "I don't like boys, sir." "You don't, eh?" chuckled the Major. "Well, there's time enough for that, I suppose. You can make up to them ten years hence, - and you'll be glad enough to do it then, I warrant you, - but are you all alone, young lady?" As Betty nodded, he opened the door and stepped gingerly down. " I can't turn the horses' heads, poor things," he explained ; "but if you will allow me, I shall have the pleasure of escorting you on foot." With his hat in his hand, he smiled down upon the little girl, his face shining warm and red above his pointed collar and broad black stock. He was very tall and spare, and his eyebrows, which hung thick and dark above his Roman nose, gave him an odd resemblance to a bird of prey. The smile flashed like an artificial light across his austere features. "Since my arm is too high for you," he said, " will you have my hand? - Yes, you may drive on, Big Abel," to the driver, "and remember to take out those bulbs of Spanish lilies for your mistress. You will find them under the seat." The whip cracked again above the fat old roans, and with a great creak the coach rolled on its way. " I - I - if you please, I'd rather you wouldn't," stammered the child. The Major chuckled again, still holding out his hand. Had she been eighty instead of eight, the gesture could not have expressed more deference. 16 The Battle-Ground " So you don't like old men any better than boys! " he exclaimed. "Oh, yes, sir, I do - heaps," said Betty. She transferred the frog's foot to her left hand, and gave him her right one. "When I marry, I'm going to marry a very old gentleman - as old as you," she added flatteringly. "You honour me," returned the Major, with a bow; "but there's nothing like youth, my dear, nothing like youth." He ended sadly, for he had been a gay young blood in his time, and the enchantment of his wild oats had increased as he passed further from the sowing of them. He had lived to regret both the loss of his gayety and the languor of his blood, and, as he drifted further from the middle years, he had at last yielded to tranquillity with a sigh. In his day he had matched any man in Virginia at cards or wine or women - to say nothing of horseflesh; now his white hairs had brought him but a fond, pale memory of his misdeeds and the boast that he knew his world - that he knew all his world, indeed, except his wife. " Ah, there's nothing like youth! " he sighed over to himself, and the child looked up and laughed. " Why do you say that?" she asked. "You will know some day," replied the Major. He drew himself...


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