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VII IF THIS BE LOVE AN hour later, Cephas, son of Cupid, gathering his basketful of chips at the woodpile, beheld his young master approaching by the branch road, and started shrieking for the house. "Hi! hit's Marse Dan! hit's Marse Dan!" he yelled to his father Cupid in the pantry; "I seed 'im fu'st! Fo' de Lawd, I seed 'im fu'st!" and the Major, hearing the words, appeared instantly at the door of his library. "It's the boy," he called excitedly. "Bless my soul, Molly, the boy has come! " The old lady came hurriedly downstairs, pinning on her muslin cap, and by the time Dan had dismounted at the steps the whole household was assembled to receive him. "Well, well, my boy," exclaimed the Major, moving nervously about, " this is a surprise, indeed. We didn't look for you until next week. Well, well." He turned away to wipe his eyes, while Dan caught his grandmother in his arms and kissed her a dozen times. The joy of these simple souls touched him with a new tenderness; he felt unworthy of his grandmother's kisses and the Major's tears. Why had he stayed away when his coming meant so 174 If This Be Love 175 much? What was there in all the world worth the closer knitting of these strong blood ties? "By George, but I'm glad to get here," he said heartily. "There's nothing I've seen across the water that comes up to being home again; and the sight of your faces is better than the wonders oi the world, I declare. Ah, Cupid, old man, I'm glad to see you. And Aunt Rhody and Congo, how are you all? Why, where's Big Abel? Don't tell me he isn't here to welcome me." " Hyer I is, young Marster, hyer I is," cried Big Abel, stretching out his hand over Congo's head, and " Hyer I is, too," shouted Cephas from behind him. " I seed you fu'st, fo' de Lawd, I seed you fu'st! " They gathered eagerly round him, and with a laugh, and a word for one and all, he caught the outstretched hands, scattering his favours like a young Jove. "Yes, I've remembered you - there, don't smother me. Did you think I'd dare to show my face, Aunt Rhody, without the gayest neckerchjef in Europe? Why, I waited over in New York just to see that it was safe. Oh, don't smother me, I say." The dogs came bounding in, and he greeted them with much the same affectionate condescension, caressing them as they sprang upon him, and pushing away the one that licked his face. When the overseer ran in hastily to shake his hand, there was no visible change in his manner. He greeted black and white with a courtesy which marked the social line, with an affability which had a touch of the august. Had the gulf between them been less impassable , he would not have dared the hearty handshake , the genial word, the pat upon the head- The Battle-Ground these were a tribute which he paid to the very humble. When the servants had streamed chattering out through the back door, he put his arms about the old people and led them into the library. "Why, what's become of Champe?" he inquired, glancing complacently round the book-lined walls. "Ah, you mustn't expect to see anything of Champe these days," replied the Major, waiting for Mrs. Lightfoot to be seated before he drew up his chair. "His heart's gone roving, I tell him, and he follows mighty closely after it. If you don't find him at Uplands, you've only to inquire at Powell Hall." " Uplands!" exclaimed Dan, hearing the one word. "What is he doing at Uplands?" The Major chuckled as he settled himself in his easy chair and stretched out his slippered feet. " Well, I should say that he was doing a very commendable thing, eh, Molly?" he rejoined jokingly. " He's losing his head, if that's what you mean," retorted the old lady. " Not his head, but his heart, my dear," blandly corrected the Major, "and I repeat that it is a very commendable thing to do - why, where would you be to-day, madam, if I hadn't fallen in love with you?" Mrs. Lightfoot sniffed as she unwound her knitting . "I don't...


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