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XIII CRABBED AGE AND CALLOW YOUTH \VITH the morning came trustier tidings. The slaves had taken no part in the attack, the weapons had dropped from the few dark hands into which they had been given, and while the shots that might bring them freedom yet rang at Harper's Ferry, the negroes themselves went with cheerful faces to their work, or looked up, singing, from their labours in the field. In the green valley, set amid blue mountains, they moved quietly back and forth, raking the wind-drifts of fallen leaves, or ploughing the rich earth for the autumn sowing of the grain. As the Governor was sitting down to breakfast, the Lightfoot coach rolled up to the portico, and the Major stepped down to deliver himself of his garnered news. He was in no pleasant humour, for he had met Dan face to face that morning as he passed the tavern, and as if this were not sufficient to try the patience of an irascible old gentleman , a spasm of gout had seized him as he made ready to descend. But at the sight of Mrs. Ambler, he trod valiantly upon his gouty toe, and screwed his features into his blandest smile - an effort which drew so heavily ppon the source of his good-nature, that he ar253 The Battle-Ground rived at Chericoke an hour later 111 what was known to Betty as " a purple rage." "You know I have always warned you, Molly," was his first offensive thrust as he entered Mrs. Lightfoot's chamber, "that your taste for trash would be the ruin of the family. It has ruined your daughter, and now it is ruining your grandson. W ell, well, you can't say that it is for lack of warning." From the centre of her tester bed, the old lady calmly regarded him. "I told you to bring back the boy, Mr. Lightfoot," she returned. " You surely saw him in town, didn't you? " "Oh, yes, I saw him," replied the Major, loosening his high black stock. "But where do you suppose I saw him, ma'am? and how? Why, the young scapegrace has actually gone and hired himself out as a stagedriver - a common stagedriver. And, bless my soul, he had the audacity to tip his hat to me from the box - from the box with the reins in his hand, ma'am! " "What stage, Mr. Lightfoot?" inquired his wife, with an eye for particulars. "Oh, I wash my hands of him," pursued the Major, waving her question aside. "I wash my hands of him, and that's the end of it. In my day, the young were supposed to show some respect for their elders, and every calf wasn't of the opinion that he could bellow like a bull- but things are changed now, and I wash my hands of it all. A more ungrateful family, I am willing to maintain, no man was ever blessed with - which comes, I reckon, from sparing the rod and spoiling the Crabbed Age and Callow Youth 255 child - but I'm sure I don't see how it is that it is always your temper that gets inherited." The personal note fell unheeded upon his wife's ears. "You don't mean to tell me that you came away and left the boy sitting on the box of a stagecoach ?" she demanded sharply. " Would you have me claim a stagedriver as a grandson? " retorted the Major, " because I may as well say now, ma'am, that there are some things I'll not stoop to. Why, I'd as lief have an uncle who was a chimney sweep." Mrs. Lightfoot turned uneasily in bed. "It means, I suppose, that I shall have to get up and go after him," she remarked, " and you yourself heard the doctor tell me not to move out of bed for a week. It does seem to me, Mr. Lightfoot, that you might show some consideration for my state of health. Do ride in this afternoon, and tell Dan that I say he must behave himself properly." But the Major turned upon her the terrific countenance she had last seen on Jane's wedding day, and she fell silent from sheer inability to utter a protest befitting the occasion. " If that stagedriver enters my house, I leave it, ma'am," thundered the old gentleman, with a stamp of his gouty foot. " You may choose between us, if you...


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