Lewis Rand
By Mary Johnston

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Chapter XXXVII: The Simple Right

An important case in a neighbouring county called Lewis Rand from home, and kept him an April week in the court room or in a small town’s untidy tavern. It was his habit, known and deferred to, never to accept at such times the hospitality sure to be pressed upon him. The prominent men of his party urged him home with them, but accepted his refusal with a nod of understanding, and rode on strong in the conviction that a man so absorbed, so given over to watching and guarding his client’s interests, was assuredly a man to be relied upon in any litigation. A great lawyer was like a great general–headquarters on the field. As for Lewis Rand and the next election–if he wanted to be Governor of Virginia, men who heard him in the court room were not the ones to say him nay! To a rational man his genius vindicated his birth. If he wanted the post, and if it was to the interest of the state, in God’s name let him have it–old Gideon to the contrary!

Rand won the case, and turned Selim’s head toward Albemarle. There had been a weary half day of thanks and protestations, and he was conscious of a dull relief when the last house was left behind, when the cultivated fields fell away, and the Virginian forest, still so dominant in the landscape, opened its dark arms and drew him in.

He rode slowly now, with drooping head. Young Isham, some yards behind, almost went to sleep in his saddle, so dragging was the tread the mare must follow. The dark aisle of the forest led presently through a gorge where the woods were in effect primeval. Upon the one hand rose a bank, thick with delicate moss and fern and shaded by birch and ash; on the other the ravine fell precipitously to hidden water, and was choked by towering pine and hemlock. The air was heavy, cool, and dank, the sunshine entering sparsely. The place was, however, a haunt of birds, and now a wood robin answered its mate.

Rand rode more and more slowly. The way was narrow, but here and there, between it and the bank, appeared grey boulders sunk in all the fairy growth of early spring. He drew rein, bared his head, and looked about him, then dismounted and spoke to Young Isham, coming up behind. “I will sit here a little and rest, Young Isham. Take Selim with you around the turn and wait for me there. I’m tired, tired, tired!”

The negro obeyed, and the master was left alone Beside the road, beneath the mossy bank, lay a great fallen rock Rand flung himself down upon this, and as he did so, he remembered a river-bank, a sycamore, and a rock upon which a boy of fourteen had lain and watched, coming over the hill-top, distinct against the sunset sky, the god from the machine It was such a stone as this, and it was seventeen years ago “Seventeen years. And a thousand years in Thy sight–”

The past weeks had seen a change in the condition of his brain. He was yet all but sleepless, and the physical strain had weakened his frame and sharpened his features, but the sheer force of the man, asserting itself, had put down the first wild inner tumult. Imagination was not now whipped to giddy heights, it kept a full, dark level. When, at long intervals, he slept, it was to dream, but not so dreadfully. He had no more visions such as had haunted him in January. The thought of Cary was with him, full and deep, a clean and bitter agony, but he saw him no more save with the eye of the mind. He was as rational as a sleepless man with a murder on his soul might well be, and he suffered as he had hardly suffered before.

With his face buried in his arms he lay very still upon the rock. He lay in shadow, but the sunlight was on the treetops above him. The wood robin yet uttered its bell-like note, the moist wind brought down the bank the fragrance of the fringe tree to blend with the deeper odour of the pine and hemlock. Rand lay without moving, the fingers of one outstretched hand clenched upon the edges of the rock. “A thousand years in Thy sight–and my day is as a thousand years. Oh, my God!”

The minutes passed, deep and grave, slow and full, with the sense of afternoon, of solemn and trackless woods, unbreathed air, silence and high heaven, then the April wind swept up the gorge and brought the sound of water. Rand sat up, resting his head upon his hands, and stared down the shadowy steep. There were flowers growing close to him, violets and anemones, and on a ledge of rock above, the maiden-hair fern. His eyes falling upon them, they brought to his mind, suddenly and sadly enough, Deb and her flower ladies, all in a ring beneath the cedars–Faith and Hope and Charity, Ruth and Esther and the Shulamite.

The recollection of that morning was followed by a thought of the night before–of the Fontenoy drawing-room and of all who had been gathered there. He saw the place again, and he saw every figure within it–the two Churchills, the two Carys, Unity, Jacqueline. “There is not one,” he thought, “to whom I’ve worked no harm. All that I have touched, I have withered.”

The wind again rushed up the gorge, a great stir of air that swayed the trees, and filled the ravine with a sound like the sea. Rand listened dully, staring down the steeps of pine and hemlock, giant trees that had dwelt there long. A desolation came upon him. The air appeared to darken and grow cold, the wind passed, and the gorge lay very still. Rand bowed himself together, and at last, with a dull and heavy throb, his heart spoke. “What shall I do,” it asked, “O God?”

The Absolute within him made answer. “The simple right.”

The wind returned, and the trees of the forest shook to the blast. The simple right! Where was the simple right in so complex a wrong? Step forward, backward, to either side–harm and misery every way! And pride, and ambition, and love, and human company–to close the door, to close the door on all! “No,” said Rand, and set his teeth. “No, no!”

The afternoon deepened in the gorge of the Blue Ridge. Now the wind swept it and now the wind was still. The sunlight touched the treetops, or fell through in shafts upon the early flowers. From the mould of a million generations stalk and leaf arose for their brief hour of light and life. When it was spent, they would rest for aeon, then stir again. In the silence was heard the fall of the pine cone.

Rand lay, face down, upon the rock. In his mind there was now no thought of Cary, no thought of Jacqueline, nor of Fairfax Cary, nor of any other of the dead and living. It was the valley of the shadow of death, and his soul was at grips with Apollyon.

He lay there until all the sunlight was withdrawn from the gorge, and until Young Isham, frightened into disobedience, came and touched him upon the shoulder. He lifted a grey and twisted face. “Yes, yes, Young Isham, it is late! Go back, and I will come in a moment.”

The negro went, and Rand arose from the rock, crossed the road, and stood looking down toward the hidden water. From somewhere out of the green gloom sounded the bird’s throbbing note, then all again was quiet, dank, and still. He raised his arms, resting them and his face upon them against the red bark of a giant pine. The thought of death in the pool below came to him, but he shook his head. The door was open, truly, but it led nowhere. His soul looked at the chasm it must cross, shuddered, and crossed it. His arms dropped from the tree and he raised his eyes to the blue above. He was yet in a land of effort and anguish, but the god within him saw the light.


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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