Lewis Rand
By Mary Johnston

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Public Domain Books

Chapter XXX: Homeward

The frightened birds rose in numbers from the forest trees. Cary’s horse, with a snort of terror, reared and turned. Rand flung himself from Selim and dashed forward to the black’s bridle, but he was too late. The horse clattered down the little strand, plunged into the flashing water, and in another moment reached the opposite bank and tore away along the river road.

The sound of hoofs died away. All sound seemed to die, that of the stream, of the birds, of the air in the trees. It was as still as the desert. Very quietly and subtly the outward world put itself in accord with the inward; never again would sky or earth, tree or leaf or crystal water, be what it was an hour ago. Life and the scenery of life had a new aspect.

The murderer moved to the side of the murdered, knelt stiffly, and laid his hand upon the heart. It, too, was still. Rand stood up. The pistol was yet in his clasp; he swung his arm above his head and hurled the weapon into the stream. A pace or two away was a smooth and rounded rock like a giant pebble. He sat down upon it, locked his hands, and looked about him. The sky was blue, the leaves were green, the sun shone hot, the water was at its ancient song–whence, then, came the noxious change, and what was the matter with the universe? Cary lay among the stones, with head thrown back and one arm stretched out as though the hand were pointing. The face was quiet, set in the icy beauty of death, and young. There came a roll of thunder. Rand looked at his clasped hands, opened them, and moved the right one slightly to and fro. There was blood upon his coatsleeve–a great smear. He drew a sighing breath. He felt as a voyager might who awakened on a planet not his own and at midnight saw the faint star where once he lived. As yet the wonder numbed. The complete cessation of anger, too, was confusing. There was only the plane of existence, grey and featureless. This lasted some moments, then the lights began to play.

He rose from the stone and, going to the water’s edge, knelt and tried to wash the blood from his sleeve, but without success. He stood up with a frown. The clouds were high above the treetops, though the sun yet shone. At a little distance Selim was quietly grazing, the birds had returned to their song, the squirrels to their play along the leafy boughs. Rand looked at his watch. “Twelve o’clock–twelve o’clock." Suddenly a thought struck him. “The pistol, with my name engraved on it–”

He had flung the weapon far into the water. The stream was hardly more than a wide brook, but its bed was broken, and above and below the little ford the water fell over ledges into small, deep pools. Where had the pistol fallen? If into one of these, he could not find it again. He had no time to sound them one by one. He moved along the bank, his keen eyes searching the water. The pistol was nowhere visible; it must have gone into midstream, into a pool below a cascade. If so, it might lie there, undiscovered, a thousand years. He stood irresolute. Could he have done so, he would have dragged the stream, but there was now no time to squander. Once more he made certain that it lay nowhere in clear water or near the shore, then abruptly left the search.

He stood in thought for another moment, then with deliberation moved to his victim’s side and looked down upon him with a face almost as blank and still as the dead man’s own. Presently he spoke: “Good-bye, Cary." The sound of his own voice, strained and strange, hardly raised above a whisper and yet, in the silence of this new world, more loud than thunder, broke the spell. He uttered a strangled cry, dashed up the strand to the grazing horse, flung himself into the saddle, and applied the spur.

He and Selim did not cross the stream. His mind worked automatically, but it was a trained mind, and knew what the emergency demanded. He retraced the river road to a point beyond the rock and the mountain ash, and there left it. Once in the burned herbage under the trees, he looked back to the road. There was rock and there was black leaf-mould. If in the latter any hoof-prints showed confusedly, the coming storm held promise of a pelting and obliterating rain. He pushed into a thick-set wood, and began a desperate ride across country. It was necessary to strike the main road below Red Fields.

Their way was now dangerous enough, but he and Selim made no stay for that. They went at speed over stock and stone, between resinous pines, through sumach and sassafras. Lightnings were beginning to play, and the thunder to roll more loudly. The sunbeams were gone, the trees without motion, the air hot and laden. Horse and man panted on. Rand’s mind made swift calculation. He had ordered Young Isham to walk the mare. For all that time had seemed to stop, there at the stream behind him, the minutes were no longer than other minutes, and there had passed of them no great number. He had ridden from the ford to the stream at speed, and now he was going as rapidly. He would presently reach the main road, and Young Isham would not have passed.

It fell as he had foreseen. One last burst through brush and vine and scrub and they reached the edge of the wood. Before them through the trees he saw the main road. Rand checked the horse. “Stand a bit, Selim, while I play the scout.”

Dismounting, he moved with caution through a mass of dogwood and laurel to the bank. At a distance beneath him lay the road, bare under the storm clouds. Above and below where he stood it was visible for some rods, and upon it appeared neither man nor beast. He went back to Selim, mounted, and together they made shift to descend the red bank. As, with a noise of breaking twigs and falling earth and stone, they reached the road, a man, hitherto hidden by the giant bole of the oak beneath which he had sat down to rest, rose and came round his tree to see what made the commotion. Between the cause and the investigator was perhaps fifty feet of road. Rand muttered an oath, then, with a characteristic cool resolve, rode up to M. Achille Pincornet and wished him good-day.

“Good-day, Mr. Rand,” echoed the dancing master, and stared at the bank. “Parbleu, sir! Why did you come that way?”

“I left my servant a little way down the road and struck into the woods after a doe I started. I’ll gallop back and meet him now. Are you for Charlottesville, Mr. Pincornet?”

“Not to-day, sir. I have a dancing class at Red Fields.” Mr. Pincornet still stared. “I would say, sir, that the chase had been long and hard.”

Rand laughed. “Am I so torn and breathless? No, no; it was short but rough–a few minutes and perhaps half a mile! Well, I will rejoin my negro and we’ll make for town before the storm breaks.”

“Wait here and your negro will come to you.”

“Mahomet to the mountain? No; he is a sleepy-head, and I shall find him loitering. Good-day, good-day!”

With a wave of his hand he left the dancing master still staring and turned Selim’s head to the east. He rode quickly, but no longer headlong, and he scanned with deliberation the long stretch of the main road. When at last he saw that which he sought, he backed his horse into the shadow of a great wayside walnut, drew rein, and awaited Young Isham’s approach.

The boy and the mare came steadily on, moving at quickened speed under the lowering skies. Young Isham did not see his master until he was almost beneath the walnut tree; when he did so, he uttered a cry and well-nigh fell from the mare.

“Gawd-a-moughty, marster!”

Rand spoke without moving. “Get down, Young Isham, and come here.”

The negro obeyed, though with shaking knees. “Lawd hab mercy, marster, whar you come f’om? I done lef’ you at de ford.”

“I’ll speak to you of that presently. Whom have you passed on the road since you left the ford? How many people and what kind of people? Think now.”

“I ain’ pass skeerce a soul, sah. Eberybody skurryin’ in f’om de storm. Jes’ some niggahs wid mules, an’ a passel ob chillern, an’ a man I don’ know. Dey ain’ stop ter speak ter me, an I ain’ stop ter speak ter dem.”

Rand leaned from his saddle and laid the butt of his riding-whip upon the boy’s shoulder. “Look at me, Young Isham.”

“Yaas, marster.”

“You did not leave me at the ford. We took the main road together, and we’ve been travelling together ever since, except that perhaps ten minutes ago I rode on ahead and waited for you beneath this tree.” He raised the whip handle and brought it down heavily. “Look at me, Young Isham,–in the eyes.”

The boy whimpered. “Yaas, marster.”

“We crossed the ford at the mill.”

“Yaas, marster.”

“And we kept on together by the main road.”

“We–Yaas, marster.”

“We have travelled together all the way from Richmond, and we have travelled by the main road. Now say what I have said.”


“Say it!”

“Don’, marster, don’! I’ll say jes’ what you say! We done cross de ford an’ tek de main road–”


“An’ we done keep de main road, jes’ lak dis.”

“That’s enough. If you forget and say the wrong thing, Young Isham,–”

“Don’, marster! Fer de Lawd’s sake, don’ look at me lak dat! I ain’ gwine fergit, sah,–de Lawd Jesus know I ain’!”

Rand lifted the whip handle from his shoulder. “Mount, then, and come on. There’s no good in idling here.”

A few moments later they overtook and passed Mr. Pincornet, now briskly walking, kit under arm, toward his dancing class. They bowed in passing, and Rand, turning in his saddle, looked back at the figure in faded finery. “There’s danger there,” he thought. “Where isn’t it now?” As he faced again toward Charlottesville, his glance fell upon Young Isham, and he saw that the boy was looking fixedly at his sleeve.

The master made no movement of avoidance. “The mare’s going well enough,” he said quietly. “We’ll draw rein at Red Fields, and then hurry home. Use your whip and bring her on.”

They paused at Red Fields, then went on to the edge of town. The forked lightnings were playing and the trees beginning to sway. “We’ll stop a moment,” Rand said over his shoulder, “at Mr. Mocket’s.”

Door and window of the small house where Tom and Vinie lived were shut against the storm. Tom was yet in Richmond, and Vinie was afraid of lightning. In the darkened atmosphere the zinnias and marigolds up and down the path struck a brave note of red and yellow. The grapevine on the porch was laden with purple bunches that the rising wind bade fair to break and scatter. Rand dismounted, with a gesture bidding the boy to await him, entered the broken gate, and, walking up the path between the marigolds, knocked upon the closed door.

There was a sound within as of some one rising hastily, an exclamation, and Vinie opened the door. “I knew ’twas you! I just said to myself, ’That ith Mr. Rand’s knock,’ and it was! Wait, thir, and I’ll make the room light.”

She threw open the closed shutters. “I’m jutht afraid of lightning when I’m by myself. How are you, thir?”

“Very well. Vinie, I want a basin of warm water and soap.”

“Yeth, thir. The kettle’s on. I’ll fix it in Tom’s room.”

In the bare little chamber Rand washed the blood from his coat-sleeve. It was not easy to do, but at last the cloth was clean. He came out of the room with the basin in his hands. Vinie, waiting in the little hall, started forward. “Open the back door,” he said, “and let me throw this out.” Vinie tried to take the basin. “I’ll empty it, thir.” Her eyes fell upon the water. “You’ve hurt yourself!”

“No,” answered Rand. “I have not. It is nothing–a bit of a cut that I gave myself.”

He pushed the door open and poured out the stained water upon the ground, then took fresh from a bucket standing by and rinsed the basin before he set it down upon the table. “Vinie–”

“Yeth, thir.”

“I want a promise from you.”

“Yeth, Mr. Rand.”

“You’ve always been my good friend, ever since long ago when you came from the little house in Richmond to this little house in Charlottesville, and I was reading law with Mr. Henning. Why, I don’t know what I should do without you and Tom!”

Vinie’s eyes filled. “I couldn’t–Tom and me couldn’t–do without you, Mr. Rand. You’re our best friend, and we’d die for you, and you know it. I’ll promise you anything, and I’ll keep my promise.”

“I know that you will. It’s nothing more than this. Vinie, I don’t want it known that I stopped here to-day, and I want you to forget–look at me, Vinie.”

“Yeth, thir.”

“I want you to forget what I asked you for, and what I did in Tom’s room.

“Yeth, thir,” said Vinie, with large eyes. “And that you cut yourself?”

“That, too. Everything, Vinie, except that, coming along the main road, I stopped a moment at the gate to say how d’ye do, and to tell you that Tom would be at home in two or three days. That is all, and my coming into the house and the rest of it never was. Do you understand?”

“I won’t say anything at all, thir.”

“It’s a promise?”

“Yeth, thir. I promise.”

They went out into the porch together. “Ithn’t there anything else?”

Rand, studying in silence the clouds and the whirling dust, had started down the step or two to the path between the marigolds. He paused. “I can’t think of anything, Vinie"; then, after a moment, and very oddly, “Would you give me, once more, a cup of cool water?”

Vinie brought it in her hand. “You always thaid this water washed the dust off clean.”

Rand drank, and gave back the cup. “Thank you. I’ll go on now. How your vine has borne this year!”

“Yeth. I’m going to make some wine this week. Good-bye.”

Her visitor passed through the little yard, between the vivid flowers. At the gate he turned his head. “Tom is really coming, Vinie, in two or three days.”

“Yeth, thir,” said Vinie. “I’ll be mighty glad to see him.”

Rand mounted, and he and Young Isham rode away. Vinie stood upon the porch and watched them as far as the turn in the road. A gust of hot wind blew against her, ruffling her calico dress and lifting light tendrils of hair from her forehead and neck. In the southwest the lightning flashed fiercely and there came a crash of thunder. Vinie uttered a startled cry, clapped her hands to her ears, and ran into the house.

Rand rode through a portion of the main street of Charlottesville. He kept the pace of a man who wishes to be at home before the rain falls, but his manner of going showed no undue haste and no trepidation. Faces at doors and windows, men gathered before the Eagle and the post-office, greeted him. He answered each salute in kind, and at the Eagle drew rein long enough to reply to the inevitable questions as to Richmond and the trial, and to agree that the rain was needed, since the main road, from Bates’s Mill on, was nothing but a trough of dust.

“That’s so,” chimed in one. “If it wasn’t so rough, the river road would be pleasanter travelling. There’s the first drop!”

Rand looked up at the clouds. “I’ll gallop on, gentlemen. A rain is coming that will lay the dust.”

Once upon the road to Roselands, neither horse nor mare was spared. Rand travelled at speed beneath an inky sky. At the turn to Greenwood he looked once toward the distant house, half hidden by mighty oaks. It was no more than once. He had a vision of a riderless horse, tearing away from a stream, through the woods, and he thought, “How soon?” He drew a difficult breath, and he put for a moment his hand before his eyes, then spurred Selim on, and in a little while came within sight of his own gates.


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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