Lewis Rand
By Mary Johnston

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Chapter XXIX: The River Road

The days of speeches, for the Government and for Aaron Burr,–Hay, Wirt, and McRae against Edmund Randolph, Wickham, Botts, Lee, and Luther Martin,–went crackling by with bursts of heavy artillery and with running fire of musketry. It was a day of orators, and eloquence was spilled like water. At last the case rested. The Chief Justice summed up, exhaustively, with extraordinary ability, and with all the impartiality humanly possible to a Federalist Chief Justice dealing with a Republican prosecution. The jury, as is known, brought in a Scotch verdict, whereupon the prisoner was immediately upon his feet with a vehement protest. Finally the “Not proven” was expunged from the record, and Aaron Burr stood “Acquitted.” The famous trial for treason was over.

As, throughout the summer, all roads led to Richmond, now, in the fierce heat and dust of early autumn, there was an exodus which left the town extremely dull after all the stir and fascination of the Government’s proceedings. Burr, indeed, discharged for treason, was still held in bail to answer for the misdemeanor, judges and lawyers were still occupied, and many witnesses yet detained. But the result of the matter was a foregone conclusion. Here, too, there would be a “Not proven," with a demand on the part of the accused for a “Not guilty,” and a final direction by the judges to the jury to return a verdict in the usual form. The trial of a man for a misdemeanor in levying war with Spain–a misdemeanor which, if proved, could entail only imprisonment–was an infinitely less affair than a prosecution for high treason, with the penalty of an ignominious death suspended like a sword of Damocles. The little world in Richmond felt the subsidence of excitement, realized how warm and dusty was the town, and began to think of its plantations and of country business. Witnesses and visitors of note took the homeward road. The Swan, the Eagle, the Bell, the Indian Queen, crowded all the summer, saw their patrons depart by stage, by boat, in coach and chaise, and on horseback. Many private houses were closed, and the quiet of the doldrums fell upon the place.

Jacqueline and Unity had been ten days in Albemarle. The two Carys, a servant behind them with their portmanteaus, rode away from the Swan on the first day of September. It was understood between the brothers that they were to make all haste to Greenwood. But there were houses on the way where kinsmen and friends might be trusted to do what they could to detain the two. Both were anxious to be at home–Fairfax the more eager, as was natural. The marriage was set for the middle of the month. As they rode out of town he had begun with, “I’ll see her in four days," and the next morning, passing through the gates of the plantation where they had slept, he had irrelevantly remarked, “Now it is but three.” The elder brother laughed and wished him Houssain’s carpet.

Throughout the day they rode as rapidly as the heat permitted, but when at dusk they were captured by a kinsman with a charming wife and a bevy of pretty daughters, it was evident that they would not resume the road at dawn. It was noon, indeed, before they unclasped all these tendrils and pursued their journey, and at sunset another plantation put out a detaining hand. Fairfax Cary swore with impatience. The other laughed again, but when, late next morning, they got away with a message called to them from the porch, “You’ll be at Elm Tree this afternoon. Tell Cousin William–” he looked kindly at his junior’s vexed face and proposed a division of forces.

“We can’t neglect Elm Tree, and then there’s Cherry Hill and Malplaquet still before us. Why shouldn’t you just speak to them at Elm Tree, then ride on to the inn at Deer Lick and sleep there to-night? You could start with the first light, ride around Cherry Hill, and give Malplaquet the slip. I’ll make your excuses everywhere. It’s hard if a man can’t be forgiven something–when he’s on the eve of marrying Unity Dandridge! You’ll be at Greenwood to-morrow night, and I dare say they’ll ask you to breakfast at Fontenoy. Come, there’s a solution!”

“You’re the best fellow! And what will you do?”

“I’ll sleep to-night at Elm Tree and ride soberly on to-morrow, take dinner at Cherry Hill, and sleep again at Malplaquet. They’ll all be disappointed at not seeing the prospective bridegroom, but I’ll make them understand that a man in love can’t travel like a tortoise! I’ll ride from Malplaquet by the river road and be at home that afternoon. You had better take Eli with you.”

They rode together to Elm Tree, and parted under these conditions.

Lewis Rand left Richmond on the third of September. He travelled rapidly. There were no kinsmen to detain him on the road, and while he had hot partisans and was not without friends, there was not within him the Virginian instinct to loiter among these last, finding the flower in the moment, and resolutely putting off the morrow. His quest was for the morrow.

He rode now in the hot September weather, by field and forest, hill and dale and stream, and rested only when he would spare the horses. Young Isham was with him; Joab had been sent on with Jacqueline. When night fell, he drew rein at the nearest house. If he knew the people, well; if he did not know them, well still; on both sides acquaintance would be enlarged. Hospitality was a Virginian virtue; no one ever dreamed of being unwelcome because he was a stranger. In the morning, after thanks and proffers of all possible service, he took the road again. It was his purpose to make the journey, despite the heat, in three days.

The last night upon the road he spent at a small tavern hard by an important crossroads. It was twilight when he dismounted, the fireflies thick in the oak scrub and up and down the pale roads, a crescent moon in the sky, and from somewhere the sound of wind in the pine-tops. Young Isham and the hostler took away the horses, and Rand, mounting the steps to the porch, found lounging there the inn’s usual half-dozen haphazard guests. To most of these he was known by sight, to all by name, and as, with a “Good-evening, gentlemen!” he passed into the low, whitewashed main room, he left behind him more animation than he had found. When, a little later, he went into the supper-room, he discovered at table, making heavy inroads upon the bacon and waffles, an old acquaintance–Mr. Ned Hunter.

“Mr. Hunter, good-evening.”

“Hey–what–the Devil! Good-evening to you, Mr. Rand. So, after all, your party, sir, didn’t hang Colonel Burr!”

The two ate supper with the long table between them, and with no great amiability of feeling in presence. The Republican was the first to end the meal, and the Federalist answered his short bow with an even more abbreviated salute. Rand went out into the porch, where there were now only one or two lounging figures, and sat down at the head of the steps. Mr. Hunter came presently, too, into the air, and leaned against the railing, whistling to the dogs in the yard.

“You are going on in the morning, Mr. Rand?”

“Yes. At dawn.”

“You’ll be in Charlottesville, then, by two o’clock. Earlier, if you take the river road.”

“I shall take the river road.”

“It is broken riding, but it is the quickest way. Well, I won’t be many hours behind you! My humble regards, if you please, to Mrs. Rand. There’s nothing now at Fontenoy but wedding talk. I am sure I hope Miss Dandridge may be happy! Here, Di! here, Rover! here, Vixen!”

Rand arose. “I’ve had a long day and I make an early start. Good-night to you, gentlemen!”

When, in the morning, Young Isham came to his door with the first light, the boy found his master already up and partly dressed. Rand stood by the window looking out at the pink sky. “A bad night, Young Isham,” he said, without turning. “Sleep’s a commodity that has somehow run short with me. Are the horses ready?”

“Yaas, marster.”

“Have you had your breakfast?”

“Yaas, marster.”

“Help me here, then, and let’s away. Roselands by one!”

Young Isham held the gilt-buttoned waistcoat, then took from the dresser the extravagant neckcloth of the period, and wound it with care around his master’s throat. Rand knotted the muslin in front, put on his green riding-coat, and took from the dresser his watch and seals. “Bah! there’s a chill in these September dawns! Close the portmanteau. Where did you put the holsters?”

“Dar dey is, sah, under yo’ han’.”

The boy, on his knees, worked at the straps of the portmanteau. Rand, waiting for him to finish, drew out a pistol from its leather case, looked it over and replaced it, then did the same with its fellow. “Are you done?” he said at last. “Bring everything and come on. I’ll swallow a cup of coffee and then we’ll be gone. We should pass Malplaquet by nine.”

They rode away from the half-awakened inn. A mist was over the fields, and when they presently came to a stretch of forest, the leaves on either hand were wet. The grey filled arcades and hollows, and the note of the birds was as yet sleepy and without joyousness. They left the woods and, mounting a hill, saw from its summit the sun rise in splendour, then dipped again into fields where from moment to moment the gold encroached. They rode rapidly in the freshness of the morning, by wood and field and stream, so rapidly that it was hardly nine when they passed a brick house with pillars set on a hill-top in a grove of oaks. Rand looked at it fixedly as he rode by. Malplaquet was a Cary place, and it had an air of Greenwood.

Three miles further on, sunk in elder and pokeberry and shaded by a ragged willow, there appeared a wayside forge. The blacksmith was at work, and the clink, clink of iron made a cheerful sound. Rand drew rein. “Good-morning, Jack Forrest. Have a look, will you, at this shoe of Selim’s.”

The smith stooped and looked. “I’ll give him a new one in a twinkling, Mr. Rand! From Richmond, sir?”

“Yes; from Richmond.”

“Burr got off, didn’t he? If the jury’d been from this county, we’d have hanged him sure! Splitting the country into kindling wood, and stirring up a yellow jacket’s nest of Spaniards, and corrupting honest men! If they won’t hang him, then tar and feathers, say I! Soh, Selim! You’ve been riding hard, sir.”

“Yes. I wanted to be at home.”

“’Tis mortal weather. When September’s hot, it lays over July. We’ll have a storm this afternoon, I’m thinking. There’s a deal of travel despite the heat, and I’m not complaining of business. Mr. Cary of Greenwood is just ahead of you. There, sir, that’s done!”

The smith arose, patted Selim on the shoulder, and stood back. “You’ve got a fine horse, Mr. Rand, and that’s certain. By Meteor, ain’t he, out of Fatima?”

“Yes. Which of the Carys did you say–”

“Ludwell Cary. He came from Malplaquet and rode by an hour ago. The other passed yesterday–”

“Did Mr. Cary say which road he would take at the ford?”

“No, he didn’t. The main road, though, I reckon. The river road’s bad just now, and he seemed to have time before him. Thankee, Mr. Rand, and good-day to you!”

Followed by Young isham, Rand travelled on by the dusty road, between the parching elder and ironweed, blackberry and love vine. There was dust upon the wayside cedars, and the many locust trees let fall their small yellow leaves. As the sun mounted the heat increased, and with it the interminable, monotonous, and trying zirr, zirr, of the underworld on blade and bush. He rode with a dark face, and with lines of anger between his brows. It had come to him like a chance spark to a mine that Ludwell Cary was not at Greenwood, was yet upon the road before him. He knew day and hour when the other had left Richmond, and there had been more than time to make his journey.

Before him, on the lower ground, a belt of high and deep woods proclaimed a watercourse, and he presently arrived beside a shrunken stream. Here was a mill, and the miller and a man or two were apparent in the doorway. The ford lay a hundred yards beyond, and on the far side of the stream the river road and the main road branched. Travellers paused as a matter of course to give and take the time of day, and now the miller, dusty and white, came out into the road. “Morning, morning, Mr. Rand! From Richmond, sir? So we couldn’t hang Aaron Burr, after all. Well, he ought to have been, that’s all I’ve got to say!”

“Give me a gourd of water, will you, Bates? This dust is choking.”

“’Tis that, sir. But we’ll have a storm before the day is over. There’s a deal of travel just now. Mr. Cary of Greenwood passed a short while ago.”

A negro brought a dripping gourd. Rand put it to his lips and drank the cool water. “Which road,” he asked, as he gave back the gourd,–"which road did Mr. Cary take? The main road or the river road?”

The miller looked over his shoulder. “Jim and Bob and Shirley, which road did Mr. Cary take?”

“I didn’t notice.”

“Reckon he took the main road, Bates.”

“I wasn’t looking, but you could hear his horse’s hoofs, and that wouldn’t have been so on the river road.”

“’Twuz de main road, sah.”

Rand and Young Isham went on, down by the mill and along the bank to the clear, brown, shallow ford, crossed, and paused beneath a guide-post upon the crest of the further bank. The trees hid the mill. Before them stretched the main road, to the right dipped between fern and under arching boughs the narrow, broken river road. “If he went this way," said Rand slowly, “I’ll go that. Young Isham–”

“Yaas, marster.”

“The mare’s spent. No need to give her this rough travelling. Take the main road and take it slowly. Let her walk, and when you reach Red Fields, stop and have her fed. I’ll go and go fast by the river road.”

Master and slave parted, the latter keeping to the sunny thoroughfare, the former plunging into the narrow, heavily shaded track that ran through ravine and over ridge, now beside the water and now in close woods of birch and hemlock. The road was bad, but Selim and his master bent to it grimly, with no nice avoidance of rut or stone or sunken place. To the horse there was before him food and rest, to the man his home. They took at the same pace the much of rough and the little of smooth, and the miles fell behind them. The sun was high, but there were threatening masses of clouds, with now and then a distant roll of thunder. The road was solitary, little used at any time, and to-day as lonely a woodland way as might well be conceived.

Rand rode with closed lips, and with the mark between his brows. Passion was having its way with him, such passion as had lived with him, now drowsing, now fiercely awake, in the days at Richmond between his return from Williamsburgh and the close of the trial. He saw Roselands and Jacqueline beneath the beech tree, but he also saw, and that with more distinctness, the face and form of the man who rode toward Greenwood. He longed for Jacqueline, but he had not forgiven her. He knew that he would when he saw her face–would forgive her with a cry for the waste of the hot, revengeful days, the sleepless nights, since they had parted. Her face swam before him, between the hemlock boughs, but he was not ready yet to forgive, not yet, not until he got to Roselands and she met him with her wistful eyes! He was not a fool; the Absolute within him knew where lay the need for forgiveness, but it was deeply overlaid with human pride and wrath. He was at the old, old trick of anger with another when the fault was all his own. As for Ludwell Cary–

His hand closed with force upon the bridle and his eyes narrowed. “From the first, from that day upon the Justice’s Bench, from that day when we gathered nuts together, I must have hated. Now it is warp and woof, warp and woof!” He touched Selim with the spur. “If there were truly a heaven and truly a hell, and I, in flames myself, saw him in Abraham’s bosom, not to escape from that torment would I call to him, ’Once we were neighbours, once it seemed that we might have been friends–come down, come down and help me, Cary!’”

He laughed, a harsh sound that came back from the rock above him. By no means always, far from even often, a hardened or an evil man, to-day the stream of thought was stirred and sullied from every black pool and weedy depth, and there came floating up folly, waste, and sin. His reason slept. Had he, by some Inquisitor not to be disobeyed, been suddenly obliged to give why and wherefore for his hatred, the trained intellect must have agreed with the questioner. “These causes fail of sufficiency.” That was true, but the truth was sophistry. He dealt now with the fact that he hated, and in his mind, as he rode at speed along the river road, he did not even review the past which had given birth to this present. He hated, and his hand closed upon the rein within it as though there was there, in addition, another thread.

A hemlock bough brushed violently against his face. He struck it aside, and, coming to the rocky top of a little rise, checked Selim for a moment of the fresher air. It came like a sigh from the darkening clouds. Rand looked out over field and forest to the massed horizon, then shook the reins, and Selim picked his way down the ridge to a woodland bottom through which flowed a stream. Rand heard the ripple of the water. A jutting boulder, crowned by a mountain ash, hid the road before him; he turned it and saw the stream, some yards away, flowing over mossed rocks and beneath a dark fringe of laurel. He saw more than the stream, for a horseman had paused upon the little rocky strand, and, hearing hoofs behind him, had partly turned his own steed. Rand’s hand dragged at the bridle-rein and Selim stood still.

For a moment the two men, so suddenly confronted, sat their horses and stared at each other. Between them was a narrow rocky space, about Rand a heavy frame of leaves, behind Cary the clear flowing stream. Above the treetops the mounting clouds were dark, but the sun rode hot and high in a round of unflecked azure. The silence held for a heartbeat, then Rand spoke thickly: “So you, too, took the river road?”

“Yes. It is rough but short. When did you leave Richmond?”

“As soon as I could. You would have been better pleased, would you not, had I never left it? In your opinion, I should be in durance there, laid by the heels with Aaron Burr!”

“You are not yourself, Mr. Rand.”

“Do not push innocence upon the board! When did it begin, your deep interest in my concerns? Before the world was made, I think, for always we have been at odds. But this–this especial matter, Ludwell Cary, this began with the letter which you wrote and signed ’Aurelius’!”

“A letter that told the truth, Mr. Rand.”

“That is as may be. Telling the truth is at times an occupation full of danger.”

“Is it?”

“The nineteenth of February–ah, I have you there! Was it not–was it not a pleasant employment for a snowy night to sit by the fire and learn news of an enemy–news the more piquant for the lips that gave it!”

“You are speaking, sir, both madly and falsely!”

They pressed their horses more closely together. Cary was pale with anger, but upon Rand’s face was a curious darkness. Men had seen Gideon look so, and in old Stephen Rand the peculiarity had been marked. When he spoke, it was in a voice that matched his aspect. “Last October in the Charlottesville court room–even that insult was not insult merely, but a trap as well! It is to be acknowledged that yours was the master mind. I walked into your trap.”

“That which I did is not to be called a trap. Your ambition enmeshed you then, as your passion blinds you now.”

Rand’s voice darkened and fell. “Who gave you–who gave you the right of inquisition? What has your soul or your way of thinking to do with mine? You are not my keeper. I would not take salvation at your hands–by God, no! Why should the thought of you lie at the bottom of each day? It shall not lie at the bottom of this one! I do not know where first we met, but now we’ll part. You have laid your finger here and you have laid it there, now take your hand away!”

“Do you well, and I will,” said Cary sternly.

The other drew a labouring breath. “Two weeks ago I was in Williamsburgh, in the Apollo, listening in the heat to idle talk–and you in Richmond, you came at her call! You came down the quiet street, and in between the box bushes, and up the steps under the honeysuckle. What did you say to her there in the dusk, by the window? You were a Cary–you were part and parcel of the loved past–you had all the shibboleths–you could comfort, commiserate, and counsel! Ha! I wish I might have heard. ’Aurelius’ dealing with the forsworn and the absent! ’Here the blot, and there the stain, and yon a rent that’s hard to mend. If there’s salvation, I see it not at present.’ So you resolved all her doubts, and laid within her hand every link of a long chain. You have my thanks.”


“I will not,” said Cary, after a silence,–"I will not be moved by you now, and I will not talk with you now. You are beside yourself. I will say good-day to you, Mr. Rand, and in a less passionate hour I will tell you that you have judged me wrongly.”

He gathered up his reins and slightly turned his horse. It had been wiser to break into violent speech, or even to deal the other a blow. As it was, the very restraint of his action was spark to gunpowder. Rand’s hand fell to a holster, drew and raised a pistol. Cary saw and flung out his arm, swerving his horse, but too late. There was a flash and a report. The reins dropped from Cary’s grasp; he sank forward upon his horse’s neck, then, while the terrified animal reared and plunged, fell heavily to earth and lay beside the stream with a ball through his heart.


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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