Lewis Rand
By Mary Johnston

Presented by

Public Domain Books

Chapter XXV: Old Saint John’s

The distance was so great from the more populous part of the town to Saint John’s on Church Hill, and the road thereto so steep, in hot weather dusty, in wet deep in mud, that it had become the Richmond custom to worship within the Capitol, in the Hall of the House of Delegates. But during this August of the year 1807 the habit was foregone. It was the month in which Aaron Burr, arrested in Alabama in January, brought to Richmond in the early spring, and, since the finding of a true bill, confined in the penitentiary without the town, was to be tried for his life on the charge of high treason. Early and late, during the week, every apartment of the Capitol was in requisition, and though the building itself was closed on Sunday, the Capitol Square remained, a place of rendezvous, noise, heat, confusion, and dispute. There was in the town a multitude of strangers, with a range from legal, political, military, and naval heights, through a rolling country of frontiersmen, to a level of Ohio boatmen, servants, and nondescript. Many were witnesses subpoenaed by the Government, others had been called by Burr, and yet others brought upon the scene by varied interests, or by the sheer, compelling curiosity which the trial evoked. One and all were loudly and fiercely partisan. The lesser sort and ruder fry congregated in numbers beneath the trees about the Capitol, and it was thought with propriety that during this month church-going ladies would prefer to attend Saint John’s. Here, therefore, on a Sunday in mid-August, the Reverend John Buchanan preached to a large and noteworthy assemblage.

The day was hot, but the chestnut trees and sycamores gave a grateful shade, and large white clouds in a brilliant blue threw now and then a transient screen between sun and earth. The broad and murmuring river and the far stretch of woodland upon the Chesterfield side gave, too, a sensation of space and coolness. Faint airs carried the smell of midsummer flowers, and bees droned around the flat tombstones sunk in honeysuckle. The congregation gathered slowly, the masculine portion of it lingering, as was the custom, in the wide old churchyard until the second tinkling of the bell should call them indoors. They had thus the double advantage of talk and observation of the Progress of Women. These traversed the path to the church door like a drift of blossoms in the summer air, saluted on either hand by the lowest of bows, the most gallant lifting of bell-shaped hats. Whatever might be said of the men’s dress, from the fair top-boot to the yards of lawn that swathed the throat, that of the weaker sex, in the days of the Empire, was admirably fitted for August weather. Above pale, thin stuffs, girdled beneath the breast and falling straight and narrow to the instep, rose bare white neck and arms, while each charming face looked forth from an umbrageous bonnet of fine straw. Bonnet and large fan appeared the only ample articles of attire; even the gloves were but mitts. By ones and twos, or in larger knots, the wearers of this slender finery entered Saint John’s with sedateness, took their seats in the dim old pews, and waited in the warm, fragrant, whisper-filled air for the ringing of the second bell and the entrance of the men. After church, custom would still reign, and all alike would linger, laugh, and talk beneath the trees, while the coaches drew up slowly and the grooms brought the saddle-horses from the rack, and those who meant to walk gathered courage for the dusty venture.

Jacqueline Rand and Unity Dandridge, the one in her customary white, the other in a blue that marvellously set off dark hair, dark eyes, and brilliant bloom, entered Saint John’s together and passed up the aisle to a seat halfway between door and pulpit. By some miscalculation of Unity’s they were very early, a fact which presently brought a whispered ejaculation of annoyance from Miss Dandridge. “I love a flutter when I come in and the knowledge that I’ve turned every head–and here we’ve entered an empty church! Heigho! Nothing to do for half an hour.”

“Read your prayer book,” suggested Jacqueline. “Oh! does it open just there as easily as all that?”

“It always did open just there,” answered Miss Dandridge. “It’s something in the binding. Heigho! ’Love, honour, and obey.’ Obey!”

“Your entrance,” said her cousin, “was not entirely unseen, and here comes one whose head is certainly turned.”

“Is it?” asked Unity, and hastily closed the prayer book as Fairfax Cary entered the pew behind them.

Jacqueline turned and greeted the young man with a smile. There was now between Greenwood and Roselands, between the house on Shockoe Hill and the quarters of the Carys at the Swan, a profound breach, an almost utter division. Lewis Rand and Ludwell Cary were private as well as political enemies, and all men knew as much. There had been no attempt on the part of either to conceal the fact of the duel in November. Their world of town and country surmised and conjectured, volubly or silently, according to company, drew its conclusions, and chose its colours. The conclusions were largely false, for it occurred to no one–at least outside of Fontenoy–to connect the quarrel and the duel with the President’s proclamation and the Burr conspiracy. During the past winter Cary had been much in Albemarle, little in Richmond, and the encounters of the two had not been frequent. In the spring, however, matters had brought him to the city, and in the fever and excitement of the ensuing summer he and Rand were often thrown into company. When this was the case, they spoke with a bare and cold civility, and left each other’s neighbourhood as soon as circumstances permitted. Cary came, of course, no more to the house on Shockoe Hill. Jacqueline, remaining in town through the summer because her husband remained, saw him now and again in some public place or gathering. He bowed low and she inclined her head, but they did not speak. Her heart was hot and pained. She had pleaded that afternoon in the cedar wood for his better understanding of Lewis, and to what purpose?–an open quarrel and a duel! She did not want to speak; she wanted to forget him.

But for Fairfax Cary, friend and shadow though he was of the elder brother, her feeling was different. He was a man to be liked for himself, and he loved and was to marry Unity. He adopted his brother’s quarrel: he and Lewis barely spoke, and that despite the fact that Lewis had for him a strange half-grim, half-vexed admiration; he came no more than the elder Cary to the house on Shockoe; but when they met abroad, Jacqueline was sure of some greeting, half gay, half stiff, some talk of Fontenoy, some exchange of sentiment upon one topic dear to each, some chivalrous compliment to herself. He made a gallant and devoted lover, and Jacqueline could not but applaud Unity’s choice and feel for him an almost unmixed kindness.

Because of the trial, which drew friends, kindred, and acquaintances to Richmond, the marriage, which was to have been celebrated in August, had been postponed to September. Unity came to town for a month and stayed with her cousin. Her lover would not enter Lewis Rand’s house, nor did she ask him to do so. Her kindred in Richmond were numerous, and they might and did meet in a score of Federalist mansions, at various places of entertainment, and, as now, at church.

He answered Jacqueline’s welcome and Miss Dandridge’s bright blush and brief “How d’ye do?” with the not-too-profound bow, the subdued and deprecatory smile, and the comparative absence of compliment that church demanded, then, seating himself, leaned forward with his arm upon the back of their pew and entered into low-toned conversation.

“They were early."–"Yes: too early!"–"So much the better, for now they could see all the famous folk enter. Army, Navy, Law, and Letters are all coming to church. To-morrow is the indictment.”

“Ah!” murmured Jacqueline; and Unity, “They say he held a levee at the Penitentiary yesterday. Personally, I prefer a surly traitor to one who is so affable, smiling, and witty.”

“I also,” agreed her lover. “But Colonel Burr is no Grand Seigneur of a traitor out of the dismal romances that you read! He meant no harm–not he! His ideas of meum and tuum may be vague, but when all’s said, he’s the most courteous gentleman and a boon companion! I think that we are well-nigh the only Federalists in town who have not forgotten that this man slew Hamilton, and who keep the fact in mind that, defend him as they please, his counsel cannot say, He loved his country and wished no other empire!’ After the indictment to-morrow, Hay will speak and the Government begin to call its witnesses. Who is this coming in–the lady with Mrs. Carrington? Look! It’s Burr’s daughter–it’s Mrs. Alston!”

“She’s a brave woman,” said Unity. “One can’t but honour such spirit, courage, and loyalty. She’s dressed as if it were a gala day!”

“If you’ll let me pass,” whispered Jacqueline, “I will speak to her. We met at the Amblers’ the other night. There’s an anxious heart behind that fine fire!”

She rose and, slipping past Unity, moved up the aisle to the Carrington pew. The two left behind looked after the gliding white figure in silence. Unity sighed. “To me Lewis Rand’s like a giant, and she’s like his captive. And yet–and yet there’s much that’s likeable in the giant, and I can perfectly well see how the captive might adore him!”

“I can’t,” retorted the other. “I’ll grant his ability, but there’s a little worm at the heart! Even his genius will one day turn against him; it is the tree too tall that falls the soonest. He’s not coming here to-day?”

“No. He’s out of town. All the Republican papers are wondering why the President did not include him among the counsel for the Government.”

“I dare say,” said the younger Cary grimly. “Well, that would have been an entertainment worth hearing, that speech for the prosecution!”

“Don’t let’s talk of him any more. I feel a traitor to Jacqueline when I do. How slow the people are in coming!”

“They may stay away as long as they please,” murmured her lover. “I like a quiet time for worship before all the fuss and flutter. You should always wear blue, Unity.”

“You told me yesterday that I should always wear pink. At last, here enters a man!”

“It is Winfield Scott, just up from Williamsburgh. He doesn’t like the law and will go into the army. Here are all the Randolphs and the beautiful Mrs. Peyton!”

Unity moved to let Jacqueline reŰnter the pew. The church was beginning to fill, and the whispering and noise of fluttering fans increased. All the windows were open to the breeze, and the soft scents and sounds and colours, the dimness within the church, and the August skies and waving trees without, combined to give a drowsy, mellow, and enchanted air to old Saint John’s and to the gathering people.

“The choir have come into the gallery,” said Fairfax Cary. “I hear the scrape of Fitzwhyllson’s viol.”

“The quiet is over and here comes the world,” answered Jacqueline. “Who is that with Mr. Wickham–the tall, lean man?”

“It is the Governor of Tennessee and a fire-eater for Burr–Andrew Jackson by name. The third man is Luther Martin.”

“He may be learned in the law,” murmured Unity, “but I would like to know the University that taught him dress. See, Jacqueline, Charlotte Foushee has the newest bonnet yet!”

“That is Commodore Truxtun coming in with Edmund Randolph. He looks a seaman, every inch of him! Who is the young gentleman in blue?”

“Oh, that,” replied Unity, “is Mr. Washington Irving of New York. He has just returned from the Grand Tour, and he writes most beautifully. He has sent me an acrostic for my keepsake that–that–”

“That I could not have written had I tried till doomsday,” finished Fairfax Cary. “Do you like acrostics, Mrs. Rand?”

Jacqueline smiled. “No, nor keepsakes either. Unity and I both like strong prose and books with meanings. Her fašons de parler are many.”

“Well, anyhow,” said Miss Dandridge, “I like Mr. Washington Irving. He doesn’t only write acrostics; he writes prose as well. Here is the Chief Justice.”

“The second bell is ringing. We’ll have all the churchyard now. Here comes the Tenth Legion–Hay, Wirt, and McRae! Mark Wirt bow to Martin!”

“Will General Wilkinson be here?”

“Speak of–one that’s often named in church–and see the waving of his red cockfeather! This is the General now. Ahem! he looks what he is.”

“And the other with the sash?”

“Eaton. They are both tarred with the same brush! Here, coming toward us, is one of very different make! You met him yesterday, did you not? Ha! Captain Decatur, allow me to give you anchorage!”

As he spoke, he held open the pew door. Captain Stephen Decatur smiled, bowed, and entered, and was presently greeting with a manly, frank, and engaging manner the beautiful Mrs. Rand and the equally lovely Miss Dandridge, to both of whom he had been presented at an evening entertainment. The church was now filled and the bell ceased ringing. From the gallery came the deeper growl of the bass viol and the preliminary breath of a flute. A moment more and the minister walked up the aisle and, mounting the tall old pulpit, invoked a blessing, then gave out in a fine mellow voice with a strong Scotch accent:–

     “The spacious firmament on high,
     With all the blue, ethereal sky
     And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
     Their great Original proclaim.”

The choir in the gallery, viol, flute, and voices, took up the strain, and the congregation beneath following in their turn, there arose and floated through the windows a veritable pŠan, so sweet and loud that the boatmen on the river heard.

On went the service until the sermon was reached, and on went the sermon from “firstly” to “eighteenthly and last, my brethren.” The sermon was upon Charity, and included no allusion to the topic of the day uppermost in men’s minds, for this minister never evinced any party spirit, and thought politics not his province. The discourse ended, the plate was carried and the benediction given, whereupon, after a decorous pause, the congregation streamed forth to the green and warm churchyard.

Here it broke into groups, flowery bright on the part of the women, gallant and gay enough on the side of the attending gentlemen. The broad path was like the unfolding of a figured ribbon, and the sward on either hand like sprinkled taffeta. The sky between the large white clouds showed bluer than blue, and the leaves of the sycamores trembled in a small, refreshing breeze. The birds were silent, but the insect world filled with its light voice the space between all other sounds. Outside the gate coaches and horses waited. There was no hurry; the ribbon unrolled but slowly, and the blossomy knots upon the taffeta as leisurely shifted position.

Theodosia Alston and Jacqueline came out of church together, in a cluster of Carringtons and Amblers. Besides her affianced, Unity had for company Captain Decatur, Mr. Irving, and Mr. Scott. The throng, pressing between, separated the cousins. Aaron Burr’s daughter, though she talked and laughed with spirit and vivacity, was so evidently anxious to be away that the friend with whom she had come made haste down the path to their waiting coach. Jacqueline, meaning to tarry but a moment beside the woman for whom all, of whatever party, had only admiration and sympathy, found herself drawn along the path to the gate. The Carrington coach rolled away, and she was left almost alone in the sunny lower end of the churchyard.

The ribbon was unrolling toward her, and she waited, glad of the moment’s quiet. She saw Unity’s forget-me-not blue, and Charlotte Foushee’s bonnet, piquant and immense, and Mrs. Randolph’s lilac lutestring, and all the blue and green and wine-coloured coats of the men moving toward her as in a summer dream, gay midges in a giant shaft of sunlight. A great bee droned past her to the honeysuckle upon the wall against which she leaned. She watched the furred creature, barred and golden, and thought suddenly of the bees about the mimosa on the Three-Notched Road.

A middle-aged gentleman, of a responsible and benevolent cast of countenance, came up to her. “A very good day to you, my dear Mrs. Rand!”

“And to you, Colonel Nicholas.”

“You are of my mind. You do not care to dilly-dally after church. ’Tis as bad as a London rout, where you move an inch an hour. Well, there are men here to-day who have made some stir in the world! Do you go to-morrow to the Capitol?”

“Yes. My cousin and I have seats with Mrs. Wickham.”

“It will not be such a trial as was Warren Hastings’s. Yet it will have its value both to the eye and the ear. If it were possible, I would have there every young boy in town. Is Mr. Rand at home?”

“No. He is in Williamsburgh for several days.”

The gentleman hesitated. “Vexatious! I have something for his own hand, and I myself go out of town after to-morrow. It may be important–”

“Cannot I give it to him?”

“It is a small packet, or letter, from the President. He sent it to me by a private messenger, with a note asking me to do him the friendly service to place it directly in Mr. Rand’s hand. I have it with me, as I thought I might meet Mr. Rand here.”

“He will hardly return before Wednesday. When he comes, I will give him the letter with pleasure.”

The other took from his pocket a thick letter, strongly sealed, and addressed in Jefferson’s fine, precise hand. “I must be away from Richmond for a week or more, and the matter may be important. I can conceive no reason why, so that it be put directly into Mr. Rand’s hand, one agent should be better than another. I’ll confide it to you, Mrs. Rand.”

“I will do as the President directs, Colonel Nicholas, and will give it to my husband the moment he returns.”

She put out her hand, and he laid the packet in it. Hanging from her arm by a rose-coloured ribbon was a small bag of old brocade. This she opened, and slipped into the silken depths the President’s somewhat heavy missive. “He shall have it on Wednesday,” she said.

The dispersing congregation touched and claimed them. Mr. Wirt and Commodore Truxtun bore off her companion, and she herself, after a moment of gay talk with all the Randolphs, rejoined Unity and her court. Fairfax Cary called their coach, and Captain Decatur and Mr. Irving and Mr. Scott saw them in, and still talked at the lowered windows until Big Isham on the box, with a loud crack of his whip, put the greys in motion.

The coach went slowly down the hill. Unity yawned and waved her fan. “I like Captain Decatur. Think of sailing into a tropic harbour and destroying the Philadelphia on a day like this! Lend me your fan; it is larger than mine. What have you in your bag?”

“My prayer book, and something that Colonel Nicholas gave me for Lewis. I could think only of Theodosia Alston, and of how long to-night will be to her!”

“She believes that he will be acquitted.”

“She does not know, and pictures of what we fear are dreadful! Knowledge is like death sometimes, but not to know is like frightened dying! Oh, warm, warm! I shall be glad when it is all over and we leave Richmond for the mountains and the streams again, and for your wedding, dearest heart!”

“Oh, my wedding!” said Unity. “My wedding’s like a dream. I don’t believe I’m going to have any wedding!”

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

[Buy at Amazon]
Lewis Rand
By Mary Johnston
At Amazon