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III THE COMING OF THE BOY THE boy trudged on bravely, his stick sounding the road. Sharp pains ran through his feet where his shoes had worn away, and his head was swimming like a top. The only pleasant fact of which he had consciousness was that the taste of the currants still lingered in his mouth. When he reached the maple spring, he swung himself over the stone wall and knelt down for a drink, dipping the water in his hand. The spring was low and damp and fragrant with the breath of mint which grew in patches in the little stream. Overhead a wild grapevine was festooned, and he plucked a leaf and bent it into a cup from which he drank. Then he climbed the wall again and went on his way. He was wondering if his mother had ever walked along this road on so brilliant a night. There was not a tree beside it of which she had not told him - not a shrub of sassafras or sumach that she had not carried in her thoughts. The clump of cedars, the wild cherry, flowering in the spring like snow, the blasted oak that stood where the branch roads met, the perfume of the grape blossoms on the wall - these were as familiar to him as the streets of the little crowded town in which he had lived. It was as if nature had stood still here for twelve long sum29 30 The Battle-Ground mers, or as if he were walking, ghostlike, amid the ever present memories of his mother's heart. His mother! He drew his sleeve across his eyes and went on more slowly. She was beside him on the road, and he saw her clearly, as he had seen her every day until last year - a bright, dark woman, with slender, blue-veined hands and merry eyes that all her tears had not saddened. He saw her in a long, black dress, with upraised arm, putting back a crepe veil from her merry eyes, imd smiling as his father struck her. She had always smiled when she was hurt - even when the blow was heavier than usual, and the blood gushed from her temple, she had fallen with a smile. And when, at last, he had seen her lying in her coffin with her baby under her clasped hands, that same smile had been fixed upon her face, which had the brightness and the chill repose of marble. Of all that she had thrown away in her foolish marriage, she had retained one thing only - her pride. To the end she had faced her fate with all the insolence with which she faced her husband. And yet - "the Lightfoots were never proud, my son," she used to say; "they have no false pride, but they know their place, and in England, between you and me, they were more important than the \Vashingtons. Not that the General wasn't a great man, dear, he was a very great soldier, of course and in his youth, you know, he was an admirer of your Great-great-aunt Emmeline. But she - why, she was the beauty and belle of two continentsthere 's an ottoman at home covered with a piece of her wedding dress." The Coming of the Boy 31 And the house? Was the house still as she had left it on that Christmas Eve? "A simple gentleman 's home, my child - not so imposing as Uplands , with its pillars reaching to the roof, but older, oh, much older, and built of brick that was brought all the way from England, and over the fireplace in the panelled parlour you will find the Lightfoot arms. " It was in that parlour, dear, that grandmamma danced a minuet with General Lafayette; it looks out, you kn~w, upon a white thorn planted by the General himself, and one of the windows has not been opened for fifty years, because the spray of English ivy your Great-aunt Emmeline set out with her own hands has grown across the sash. Now the window is quite dark with leaves, though you can still read the words Aunt Emmeline cut with her diamond ring in one of the tiny panes, when young Harry Fitzhugh came in upon her just as she had written a refusal to an English earl. She was sitting .in the window seat with the letter in her hand, and, when your Great-uncle Harry - she...


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