“When a fortune beyond reasonable dreams was placed upon the head of Charles Stuart, for whom our ancestors fought and beggared themselves, his secret was in the keeping of scores of peasants, and the blood-money lay idle. I could cite hundreds of similar proofs, that gold is not God everywhere. I mean no offense, but you will agree with me that you Northern people are given up to the getting and worship of money. It is not so with us. Perhaps because we have it, and with it something that makes it secondary—birth. I have no fear of the infidelity of any of my people. I would as soon doubt Rosa or Vincent us the smallest black on my estate.”
She spoke with mild, high-bred dignity, not a particle of assertion or captious intolerance, but as a prelate might assert the majesty of the word on the altar, neither looking for dissent nor dreaming that the spirit of it could exist.
“I’m glad to hear your mother express such confidence, Vint,” Jack said as they walked out on the veranda to take a good-night smoke; “but just let me give you a maxim of my own, the lock’s not sure unless the key is in your pocket.”
“Sententious, my boy, but vague. My mother is perfectly right. Our niggers are fidelity itself. But since we are so near the Butler lines, where his agents can sneak up on the river and kidnap the new sort of contraband, I think it better to take some precaution. Hereafter General Magruder will have a picket post within two miles of us, between here and the creek, which offers a convenient point for smuggling.”
“I am heartily relieved to hear it,” Jack cried, giving something too much fervor to his relief, for Vincent turned and looked at him in surprise, but it was too dark in the shadow of the clematis to see his face, and after a silence Vincent said:
“Mamma has told you that the President is coming to Williamsburg to review Magruder’s troops?”
“No; she hadn’t mentioned it. Is he?”
“Yes; he will be there Thursday afternoon, and we shall have the ball the same evening. He will be here with General Lee, his chief of staff, and remain all night; so that you will be able to say when you go back North—something that few Yankees will be able to say during the war—that you have broken bread with the first President of the Confederacy.”
“I will strive to bear my honors with humility,” Jack said.
“It befits the conquered to be humble.”
“If I hadn’t come in time, you two would have been in a squabble—own it!” and Rosa drew a chair between them as a peacemaker.
TREASON AND STRATAGEMS.