Lewis Rand
By Mary Johnston

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Chapter XXIII: A Challenge

The Charlottesville Robbery Case was one of no great importance save to those directly concerned. It had to do with a forged note, a robbery by night, and an absconding trusted clerk of a company of British Merchants. When the case came up for trial on this October day, the Court House was well filled indeed, but rather on account of the lawyers engaged than because of the matter’s intrinsic interest. The British Merchants had retained Mr. Ludwell Cary. The side of the prisoner, mentioning that fact in a pitiful scrawl addressed to the law office of Messrs. Rand and Mocket, found to its somewhat pathetic surprise that Mr. Rand himself would take the case and oppose Mr. Cary.

The two had fought it with a determination apparent to every bystander, and now, on the last day of the trial, the counsel for the prosecution rose to sum up his case. He was listened to with attention, and his speech was effective. The theme was the individual who, after forgery and embezzlement, had taken French leave, quitting a post of trust and credit for regions where he hoped to enjoy his ill-gotten gains in peace and quietness. The regions had proved inhospitable, and a sheriff had escorted the unlucky adventurer with that which was not his own back to the spot whence he had started. His transgression was now to be traced from the moment–day or night, or sunrise or sunset; what mattered the moment?–when the thought passed through his brain, “Why should I plod on like other men?”

“’Passed through,’ did I say?–nay, it tarried; at first like a visitor who will one day take his leave, then a cherished inmate, and at last lord and master of every crevice of that petty mansion! It dwelledthere, and day by day it fed itself with remembered examples. ’There was Tom, over on the Eastern Shore, grew tired, too, of working for his employers,–and he robbed the till one night, and got off on a sloop to the Havana, and now they say he has a pirate ship of his very own! And Dick. Dick got tired, too, in a tan-yard in Alexandria, and when his master sent him on a mission to Washington, he took his foot in his hand and went farther. He had his expenses in his pocket, so why not? He’s prospering now in a bigger and gayer town than Alexandria! And Harry. Harry was more trusted than them all, but he, too, got tired–in a warehouse at Rocket’s–of plod, plod, plod! serve, serve, serve! So he forged a name, and took the gold that lay beneath his hand, tore up his indentures, and fled in the night-time–over the hills and far away! He’s a rich man now, somewhere near the sunset, rich and great, with clerks of his own. He had the advantage of education, had Harry! Examples! Examples thick as hops! What’s Buonaparte himself but a poor Corsican lieutenant that stole an empire? I’ll be bold, too. I’ll steal, and then I’ll steal away!’

“So scullion soul to pliant body. His thought is father to his deed, and there is the usual resemblance between son and parent. What matters it that he has lived in his employer’s house, and has found him no Egyptian taskmaster, but a benefactor, lavish of favours? What matters it that he has in charge things of trust and moment which, by miscarrying, will work distress to many? What matters it that others are about him, engaged in this same drudgery of doing one’s duty, to whom, should he succeed in villainy as he trusts to do, his example will remain, a wrecker’s light to entice the storm-tossed upon a rocky shore? What matters it,–I am told, gentlemen, that the prisoner has a good and industrious sister,–what matters it that rarely, rarely, is there ill-doing without, somewhere in the shadowed background, some bruised and broken heart? What does it matter that he betrays his trust, breaks his oath, blackens his name, slurs his friends, and recruits the army, wan and sinister, of all the fallen since time began? To him, apparently, it matters less than a drifting leaf in the wind of this October day. He remembers all that he should forget, and forgets all that should be remembered. There pass by him in long parade Tom and Dick and Harry and others of their ilk. He sees them, and he sees little else. It is a host of choice spirits, and they have banners flying. His courage mounts. Brave emulation! noble rivalry! He, too, will be bold; he, too, will join their regiment! For him, too, the spoils of opportunity and a daughter of the game! He feels the summer in the air, and all Brummagem rises upon his horizon. Farewell to patient drudgery and the slow playing over of the tune of life! He’s for a brisker air, he’s for ’Over the hills and far away.’

“His little plans are laid. I say ’little,’ gentlemen, advisedly, for in all this there is no greatness. We speak of a self-seeker here, and all the ends of such an one are small, and he himself has not attained the full stature of a man. The ambitious soul before us! By stealth he practises until he can sign his employer’s name, more lifelike almost than life! By stealth he gains impressions of the keys. By stealth he eyes the only wealth that his mole mind can value! By stealth he makes his preparations, and by stealth he cons the miles and the post-houses between him and the country to which he means to carry himself and his stolen goods! He is assiduous at his desk; his employers nod approval, praise him for a lad of parts, and hold him up for emulation. In his brain one air continues,–’Over the hills and far away.’

“The day approaches. The forgery is done, the accustomed hand slips easily in and out of the golden drawer, and all the roads are got by heart. We have the loan of a horse–before another dawn we will be gone. O Fortune of great thieves, stand pat! and kindly tune run on! ’Over the hills and far away.’

“We have been told by the worthy gentlemen, his employers, that so trustworthy did they consider the prisoner at the bar, so able in their affairs and assiduous in their service, that this very day it was in their minds to increase his pay and to raise him quite above his fellow clerks to an honourable post indeed. He did not give them time, gentlemen, he did not give them time! The hour is here, the notes are sewn within the lining of our well-brushed riding-coat, the master key is in our itching palm! We’ll lurk until midnight, then in the dark room we will unlock the drawer. If we are heard, softly as we step in the silence of the night–if a watchman come–the worse for the watchman! We carry pistols, and the butt of one against his forehead will do the work. For we are bold, gentlemen, we are as bold as Csar or Buonaparte! We won’t be stopped–we won’t! We’re for ’Over the hills and far away.’”

The counsel for the prisoner addressed the Judge. “Your Honour, no watchman, dead or alive, being among the witnesses, and there being no capable proof of what were or were not my client’s thoughts upon the night in question, I indignantly protest–”

The objection was sustained. The interruption over, the attorney for the British Merchants went evenly on. “We have Mr. Rand’s word for it that the prisoner had no thought of the watchman, and no intention of using, even in case of need, the weapons with which it has been proved he was provided. Mr. Rand must know. As a rule, gentlemen bearing arms about their persons may be considered the potential users of said arms, whether the antiquated rapier or the modern pistol–but then, I bethink me, we are not speaking of men of honour. We are speaking of a small criminal in a small way, and Mr. Rand assures us that his thoughts matched his estate–they were humble, they were creeping. Headstrong, proud, and bold are words too swelling for this low and narrow case. To wear a weapon with intent to use is one thing, to buckle it on as a mere trivial, harmless, modish ornament and gewgaw is quite another! We have Mr. Rand’s word for it that it was so worn. Gentlemen, the prisoner, armed, indeed, as has been proved, was absolutely innocent of even the remotest intent to use under any provocation beneath high heaven the pistols–oiled, primed, and duelling type–with which, by chance or for the merest whim of ornament, he had decked his person upon this eventful night. Mr. Rand tells us so, and doubtless he knows whereof he speaks.

“So armed and so harmless, gentlemen, the prisoner, having committed forgery, does now his second crime–the pitiful robbery. The key that he has forged with care is true to him, the gold lies at his mercy, underneath his hand; he lifts it up, the shining thing; he bears it away. The hour has struck, the deed is done; irrevocable, it takes its place upon the inexpugnable record. He has stolen, and there is no power in heaven or earth to change that little fact. We are grown squeamish in these modern days, and no longer brand a thief with heated iron. No letter will appear, seared on his shoulder or his hand, but is he less the thief for that? He himself has done the branding, and Eternity cannot wear out the mark. He goes. With his stolen gold he steals away. It is night. There are only the stars to watch his flight, and he cares not for the stars–they never tell. Have they not, time out of mind, stood the friend of all gentlemen of the road? He quits the house that has seen his crime; he leaves dull and honest men asleep; he bestows no parting glance upon the dim, familiar ways. His native land is naught–he’s for green fields and pastures new–he’s for Tom and Dick and Harry, and all their goodly company–he’s for ’Over the hills and far away.’”

The counsel for the prosecution finished his speech. The judge summed up the case, the jury retired, and very shortly returned with the expected verdict of Guilty. The chalk-white and shaking prisoner stood up, was sentenced and removed, and, the business of the day being over, the court adjourned.

Good-naturedly, laughing and talking after the morning’s restraint, the crowd, gentle and simple, from the lower part of the room, was in the course of jostling toward the door, when there came a sudden check coupled with exclamations from those nearest the bar, and with a general turning of heads and bodies in that direction.

The lawyer for the prosecution and the lawyer for the defence stood opposed, a yard of court-room floor between them, and around them a ring of excited friends and acquaintances. There had been high voices, but now a silence fell, and the throng held its breath in cheerful expectation of the bursting of a long predicted storm.

“This,” said Cary’s clear and even voice, not raised, but smoothly distinct,–"this is a challenge, sir. I take it rightly, Mr. Rand?”

“You take it rightly, Mr. Cary. I shall presently send a friend to wait upon you.”

“He will find me, sir, at the Swan. As the challenged party, it is my prerogative to name hour and place. You shall shortly be advised of both.”

“I am going to my office, sir, where I will await your messenger. You cannot name an hour too soon, a place too near for me.”

“Of that I am aware, Mr. Rand. I will make no delay that I conceive to be unnecessary. I am, sir, your very humble servant.”

“I am yours, Mr. Cary.”

The two bowed profoundly and parted company, making their several ways through the throng to the Swan and to the office with the green door. With them went their immediate friends and backers. The crowd of spectators, talking loud or talking low, conjecturing, explaining, and laying down the law, jesting, disputing, hotly partisan, and on the whole very agreeably excited, finally got itself out of the Court House and the Court-House yard, and the autumn stillness settled down upon the place.

At Roselands, in the late afternoon, Jacqueline came out upon the doorstone and sat there, listening for Selim’s hoofs upon the road. The weather was Indian summer, balmy, mild, and blue with haze. On the great ring of grass before the stone yellow beech leaves were lying thick, and the grey limbs of the gigantic, solitary tree rose bare against the blue. Jacqueline sat with her chin in her hand, watching the mountains, more visible now that the leaves were gone. She saw the cleft through which ran the western road, and she thought with pleasure of the days before her. She loved the journeys to Richmond, and this one would be more beautiful, and new. They would be gone ten days, perhaps,–ten days of slow, bright travel through sumptuous woods, of talk close and dear. She was exquisitely happy as she sat there with her eyes upon the Blue Ridge. The last fortnight of her stay at Fontenoy had been almost a blissful time. Her uncles changed, and no longer passed her with averted eyes, or, when they spoke, used so cold a ceremony as to chill her heart. They grew almost natural, they seemed even tender of her. Uncle Dick had once again called her “My little Jack,” though he groaned immediately afterwards and, getting up, looked out of the window, and Uncle Edward left the library door ajar. Jacqueline laid her head upon her arm and laughed. It was coming right–it was coming right!–and next year they would all dance at Fontenoy with light hearts, at Unity’s wedding. It had begun to come right the evening of the day that she had met Ludwell Cary in the cedar wood. She wondered, slightly, at that coincidence, and then she fell again to dreaming.

Lewis was coming; he had passed through the gate–and she started up. He rode on to the back of the house, left his horse there, and, striding through the hall and down the three stone steps, joined her where she stood upon the greensward, among the fallen leaves. “Good-evening to you!” she said, touched his shoulder with her hand, and raised her face to his. He drew her to him, kissed her with fierce passion, and let her go, then walked to the beech tree and stood with his back to the house, staring at the long wall of the mountains, dark now against a pale gold sky. She followed him. “Lewis! what is the matter?”

He answered without turning, “We are not going, quite yet awhile, over the mountains. Man proposes, and Ludwell Cary disposes. Well! we will stay merrily at home. But he shall pay the score!”

“What do you mean?”

“Two weeks! What may not happen over there in two weeks? And I bound here, hard and fast, hand and foot! By what?–by the plaything code of a plaything honour! Now, if he were any other man under the canopy, I would not stay! The question is, is it imaginable that all this was of set purpose?”

“Lewis, what is the matter?”

Rand turned. “The matter, child? The matter is that you may unpack, and that we will give a dinner party! We do not travel to-morrow; no, nor the next day, nor the next! I have to await a gentleman’s leisure.”

She hung upon his arm. “Lewis, Lewis, what is it? You are trembling–”

He laughed. “Do you think it is with fear?”

“Don’t, don’t!” she cried. “Don’t be so angry–don’t look so black! I am afraid of you. What is it, dearest, dearest?”

“Wait,” he said harshly. “Wait, Jacqueline, a moment.”

He put her abruptly from him, walked to the doorstone, and, sitting down, bowed his face upon his hands. For some moments he remained thus, while she stood under the beech tree, her hand upon her heart, watching him. At last he lifted his head, rose, and came back to her. “To-day, in the court room, I challenged Ludwell Cary. He has named, as is his right, time and place of our meeting. The time, something more than two weeks from to-day; the place, five miles from Richmond. I confess that I was taken by surprise. I had expected to-morrow morning and the wood beyond the race-course. If I thought–what, by all the gods, I do think!–that he had dared–that he had done this deliberately, with intent to keep me here, I–Jacqueline! why, Jacqueline!”

“I’m–I’m not going to swoon,” said Jacqueline, with difficulty. “Air, that is all–let me sit down a moment on the grass. A duel–you and Ludwell Cary.”

“I and Ludwell Cary.” Rand uttered his short laugh. “How steadily have we been coming just to this! I think I knew it long ago. I have in me so much of the ancient Roman that I prize him, now that we are at grips, and think him a fair enemy. If I did not hate him, I would love him. But it is the first, and I’ll not forgive this pretty trap he’s laid! What does he think will come after these two weeks he has me shackled? Does he think that he can always keep me here?–or only until–until it is too late to go?” He struck his hand against the beech tree. “Well, well, mine enemy, we will try conclusions.”

Jacqueline rose from the grass, came to him, and laid her head upon his breast. “Lewis, is there no way out with honour? Must it be? He is my friend and you my husband whom I love. Will you face each other there like–like General Hamilton and Aaron Burr? Oh, break, my heart!”

Rand kissed her. “There is no way out. He means me to stay, and I will do it–for this while, Cary, for this while! Look, Jacqueline; the sun is setting over the road we should have gone! I have been a fool. Six weeks ago should have seen us far, far upon that shining track! Now the world is spinning from me, the glory rolling under, and I feel the dark. Adam is right; once started on this trail, I should have gone like the strong arrow’s flight. I knew the warriors were behind me, and yet I idled,–waited first to break with my old chief,–as if my going would not have done that work, as short, as clean!–and waited last because of a sick woman’s whim! If I had not let you go to Fontenoy, we might to-day have heard the rushing of a mightier river than the Rivanna yonder! Delay, delay, where haste itself should have felt the spur!”

“If I had not gone to Fontenoy,” cried Jacqueline, “my aunt might have died with her last wish ungratified! If I had not gone, oh, what would they not have thought of me, most rightly, most justly! Now we are almost friends again,–the thing I’ve prayed for, longed for, wept for, since that June! Was this not worth the waiting? There is something here that I do not understand. Why should you so greatly care to see these lands? Say that there is some money lost and some vexation–what does that count against this nearing home–this making friends?” She struck her hands together. “And yet–and yet if we had gone, there would not have been this day, this quarrel, and this challenge! There would not be this day to come, when I shall hear what, from now till then I’ll dream I hear! O Christ, I heard them then, the pistol shots! Why did we not go, Lewis, days ago?”

“Now you are weeping,” said Rand, “and that will ease your heart. Could I have helped it, I would not have told you of this quarrel. You could not, however, have failed to hear; it was a public thing, and the town is buzzing with it. See, Jacqueline, I am no longer passionate. The dog is down. The mistake, if mistake it was, is made; we are not over the mountains; we are here in Albemarle, at Roselands, underneath the beech tree. I was never one to weep for spilt milk. This way is stopped, and this moment foreclosed. Well, there are other moments and other ways! The sun is down and the night falls dark and cold. Come, dry your eyes!”

“That is soon done. The thorn is in my heart.”

“I will draw it out,” he answered. “I’ll draw it out with love. Don’t think that Ludwell Cary can hurt me; it’s not within his kingdom. Do not grieve that men are enemies; smile and say, ’It will be so a few years longer!’ I am glad with all my heart that you are friends again with all at Fontenoy. As for this journey, I stayed for you, Jacqueline. It was needful for me to go, but I stayed that you might part friends with your kindred. Remember it one day.”

“Why,” she cried,–"why did you not go without me? You would not have been long gone, and I should have waited your return there at Fontenoy! Then this day and this quarrel would not have come! Ludwell Cary and you to meet–O God!”

“I did not wish to go without you. You do not understand–but trust me, Jacqueline; trust me, trust me!” He took her in his arms. “Come, now! It is twilight, and there’s a dreariness in these fallen leaves. Come indoors to the fire and the light, and the books and the harp. Deb arrived to-day, did she not?”

“Yes; she is somewhere with Miranda. They have been playing dolls with the last flowers.”

He stopped a moment as they were moving over the grassy ring. “Flower dolls! They were playing flower dolls that morning in June when I came down from the blue room and out into the garden. There they sat, on the red earth in the little cedar wood, with their bright ladies. Deb told me all their names. She told me more than that–she told me you were reading in the arbour. Jacqueline, are you sorry that I found you there?”

“No, I am not sorry; I am glad. You could make me wretched, but you could not make me repentant. Oh, Lewis! I shall hear those shots to-night–”

“No, you will not–I shall read you to sleep. Why, if you were a soldier’s wife, would you hear all the bullets flying? There, the last red has faded, and I hear the children’s voices! Come in; come in out of the dark.”

Continue...

Chapter I: The Road to Richmond  •  Chapter II: Mr. Jefferson  •  Chapter III: Fontenoy  •  Chapter IV: The Two Candidates  •  Chapter V: Monticello  •  Chapter VI: Rand Comes to Fontenoy  •  Chapter VII: The Blue Room  •  Chapter VIII: Cary and Jacqueline  •  Chapter IX: Expostulation  •  Chapter X: To Althea  •  Chapter XI: In the Garden  •  Chapter XII: A Marriage At Saint Margaret’s  •  Chapter XIII: The Three-Notched Road  •  Chapter XIV: The Law Office  •  Chapter XV: Company to Supper  •  Chapter XVI: At Lynch’s  •  Chapter XVII: Fairfax and Unity  •  Chapter XVIII: The Green Door  •  Chapter XIX: Monticello Again  •  Chapter XX: The Nineteenth of February  •  Chapter XXI: The Cedar Wood  •  Chapter XXII: Major Edward  •  Chapter XXIII: A Challenge  •  Chapter XXIV: The Duel  •  Chapter XXV: Old Saint John’s  •  Chapter XXVI: The Trial of Aaron Burr  •  Chapter XXVII: The Letter  •  Chapter XXVIII: Rand and Mocket  •  Chapter XXIX: The River Road  •  Chapter XXX: Homeward  •  Chapter XXXI: Husband and Wife  •  Chapter XXXII: The Brothers  •  Chapter XXXIII: Greenwood  •  Chapter XXXIV: Fairfax Cary  •  Chapter XXXV: The Image  •  Chapter XXXVI: In Pursuit  •  Chapter XXXVII: The Simple Right  •  Chapter XXXVIII: M. De Pincornet  •  Chapter XXXIX: Unity and Jacqueline  •  Chapter XI: The Way of the Transgressor

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Lewis Rand
By Mary Johnston
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