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he didn't have much trouble finding me a-ready. I'm only goin' on seventeen.”
“Father,” Lloyd Quantrell spoke, “ I have waited years for your commands. The first one cuts me deep, but I obey you, sir. I will spend the time trying to find some career; and if my heart is changeable, some one may take Katy's place. I will not be stubborn; but the past two months have been the first I ever knew of love, and they may never be effaced from my life.”
He stopped with a long, inhaled breath, on which there rolled a groan toward his heart.
“Lloyd !” sobbed Katy, answering the painful sound with its echo and a flood of tears.
Nelly Harbaugh took Katy's head into her embrace, and wiping Katy's eyes, muttered :
“ Heartless old man !”.
Luther Bosler did not move; but his eyes were filmed with sympathy, and Light Pittson went to his side impulsively.
Lloyd Quantrell was too strong-natured to express his pain more than an instant, and, rallying with some pride, he addressed his father, while Senator Edgar Pittson held his hand :
“Father, to complete my obedience to my parents, I must remember my mother's pride of family, that you have already reminded me of, as her only sin. There is a spot, I hear-an old one, some generations back-upon the family where you have picked me a wife.”
“ Beware, Lloyd !” said Abel Quantrell, instantly moved.
“I recognize your right, my dear father, to say where I shall not marry. I would die, sir, rather than put a stigma upon your noble name. Not a word you have ever spoken of your early trials, poverty, and humble family, but has been cherished in my brain as testimony of the pure fountain that flows down to me. I am so jealous of that, sir, I can not permit even you to say where I shall marry, if it mixes my mother's blood with the remotest suspicion of illegitimacy."
“Be silent, ruffian !” the father commanded, in terrible excitement. Lloyd hesitated, not knowing where he had offended.
“Let him explain,” Senator Pittson quietly said.
“ Yes; he shall express the chivalry that is in him, and that I feel all through me, also, papa!” Light Pittson cried.
"Surely I can tell what my mother would have turned her face
against,” Lloyd continued.—“Dear Light, here, will forgive the story, if Katy's pure heart does. It is related in Maryland that in one generation the father and the mother did not marry till their son, more sensitive to their situation than themselves, refused to return to his country and accept their boundless wealth, until they would give him, also, the marriage rite. It was very long ago. Proud generations have intervened, with earls, and dukes, and kings for sons and sons-in-law; but I am so proud to be the son of Abel Quantrell and his honest wife that I refuse, father, to take that blemish into our house, though the best blood in the world may have washed it out!”.
He finished, all flushed and stalwart, the powerful moral antithesis and physical reminder of that Faulconbridge in Shakespeare who rejoiced in the blemish of his birth. Republican self-respect, which is the greatest aristocracy in the world, frowned now from his small gladiator's brow, and his strong jaws were shut, and his gray-green eyes looked as bold and greedy as some rude Bayard or other unlettered knight in the days of setting-to.
“ I glory in his principles !” Light Pittson cried.
“ You, too? ” old Abel Quantrell spoke, turning on Light Pittson. " You know not what you say !”
“Sir,” Light answered, spiritedly, “you have not your son's sensibility. Surely I can understand the pride of pure descent and unstained pedigree! My father is a gentleman, too."
They were all attracted and alarmed now, by the exceeding pallor and lifelessness of countenance on old Abel Quantrell. He stood beneath his dead-black wig, like the fabled pillar of salt, looking back and stricken into stone. He seemed to seek to articulate, but could not. Pride faded in his face, while yet most obdurate and firm-set.
“Go, friends !-Go, Lloyd, also!” Edgar Pittson spoke. " He has nothing more to say."
They left the room wondering, and Edgar Pittson closed the door.
The old man still stood there, as if he had died upon his feet, his under lip folded hard upon the square lip above, his hand in his bosom, his long, straight nose like the stem of a galley in the storm of fate.
“Sit down,” said Edgar Pittson, kindly. “There—be composed ! We can not afford to lose you yet."
The old man breathed, and all his countenance broke in its fixed lines like the shivering of glass. There remained a panting, failing, broken-spirited man.
“You have a fine son there," Edgar Pittson said, soothingly. “I fear you did wrong not to let Nature do her work in that young couple. What is it, after all, but the replenishing instinct of life, which gives color and romance to everything, and takes a thousand aberrations ?"
“Edgar, I can not hear you say that word to me. Do you accuse me?”
“I? Why, never! God has blessed us, and will bless us more. Thou strong fountain of my life and parent of all my best emotions ! take wine and oil from my unworthy youth, and feel I love and honor you forever, O my Father!”
LUTHER BOSLER was very tired, and, having to drive the girls home all the next day, he went early to bed.
Nelly Harbaugh had been comforting Katy, and Luther had given Light Pittson an account of the romantic Dunkers, who never went to law, and were the detestation of lawyers and constables. Nelly was no more appeased by her betrothed taking notice of this stranger, than by his making no further reference to her curiosity about the theatre.
She was piqued in her own nature that this established city society did not interest her, nor yet put her at ease. Wild and rebellious promptings came to her, and received instigation from the settied fact that Lloyd Quantrell and his friends were not to come to . Catoctin Valley any more. She had bantered Lloyd upon the hollowness of his pledge to his father, and his indignant loyalty to that pledge, satisfied her that the city people were to leave Catoctin Valley to its quietude and routine, its corn-planting and wood-hauling, manuring and liming, cattle-fattening and distilling, hoeing and harvesting.
She shrank from the recollection of her lonely patch of ground,
the consciousness that all her meaner, worldlier suitors had been dismissed, and from the shadow of that Dunker life closing in upon her, with regular attendance on church, responsibility in the "family,” or Dunker congregation, and loss of all admiration, coquetry, and adventure.
“Oh,” she thought, “if I had the temptation here in Baltimore that pressed me so hard in my little cottage but a few nights past, what might I not do—where might I not go ?”
Yet what oppressed her most was love. That plain, deep-slumbering man in the next room, had power over her self-reliant nature. If he would only break away from his dull, unambitious, progressstunting sect, and lead her to the theatre now, and to-morrow to the great capital city, hardly two hours' journey away, and bathe his strong sense in the dyes of illusion and cultivation, what stuffs and scarlets might the shuttle of their union not weave in a busy future, where wealth, activity, and following would be traced across their children's prospects, like the marvelous checkered quilt at Bosler's farm, that was to be the regalia of her wedding-bed!
These thoughts, and the growing darkness of evening, frightened her. Maidenhood, independence, admiration, self-love, temptations, were all to end within another fortnight; and they had already purchased, that day, the preparations for their housekeeping.
She started up and looked in Luther's door. He had lain down in his clothes, to be the earlier ready for the long-aching ride of the morrow.
She went down-stairs. In one room Senator Pittson and Abel Quantrell were playing cards, and took no notice of her; in another, Katy Bosler was enjoying the last night before their separation, with Lloyd Quantrell-strengthening him, who was the weaker one.
Nelly found in the library Light Pittson, reading a book called “ Shakespeare.”
“ Medicine ? ” asked Nelly, concerning the subject of the book, “ or what Luther calls The Holler Gee?”
“No,” Light Pittson laughed again and again. “This, Miss Harbaugh, is neither the holler gee nor the holler whoa, but the plays of a Mr. William Shakespeare.”
The country girl looked resentment at this reminder of her ignorance.
“Oh!” said she, “now I remember my dear friend, John Wilkes Booth-the great actor, you know—did mention a name like Shakespeare."
“I am just reading The Merchant of Venice,' that Mr. Edwin Booth is to play here to-night,” Light said. “I have never seen Shakespeare well acted, and they say this young man is the greatest genius of his time.”
“Read some to me,” Nelly Harbaugh asked, her curiosity triumphing over a certain hostility to the younger woman, who had the promise of stature like Nelly's own, with a roundness and maternal endowment the mountain-girl had not.
“With delight,” Miss Pittson replied ; “the stage is a favorite pleasure I anticipate in Washington, and I should like so much to know a great actor."
Miss Light read, with school-girl eloquence and gusto, the interesting text, where she selected it, at Jessica's flight from her father. The style of elocution Nelly critically noted, reflecting how much better she could do than the senator's daughter, as Light recited :
“In such a night
And with an unthrift love did run from Venice." “Give me that book,” Nelly called, overbearingly. “I can read it better.”
She glanced over the lines which succeeded, and, standing up, recited, with strong energy:
“In such a night
And ne'er a true one." “Why, that is wonderful !” cried Light. “I think you might make an actress. Where did you learn to read?”
“In the plow-field,” replied Nelly, bitterly, “hollering at a borrowed horse that would not gee.”
Light burst out laughing, and laughed against her will.
“Won't you excuse me?" she pleaded. “I was thinking of something."
“You was thinking of The Holler Gee, I reckon, miss ?” Nelly questioned, grimly. “Well, that theolergy is all I am to read, if I