The Iron Game eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 420 pages of information about The Iron Game.

CHAPTER XXII.

A CARPET-KNIGHT.

Jack meanwhile sank into incurable gloom.  The memory of Kate’s mute, reproachful look, her heart-broken outcry, never quitted him.  He woke at times with the dead eyes of Wesley staring into the night at him, the convicting gaze of Kate fastened upon him.  He must fly, or he must die in this abhorred, guilt-haunted atmosphere.  Olympia saw this, Mrs. Atterbury saw it, and the first week in November Rosedale was turned over to the military and the household re-established in the stately house in the official quarter of Richmond, where the bustle and movement of new conditions gave Jack’s mind another direction, or, rather, took it from the bitter brooding that threatened madness.

When the sun accepted the wind’s challenge to contest for the traveler’s cloak, I dare say all the spectators of the novel highway robbery—­the moon, the stars, the trees, birds and beasts, and others that the fable does not mention—­took odds that the wind would snatch off the wayfarer’s garment in triumph.  However, the wind whipped and thrashed the poor man in vain.  The stronger it blew and the more it walloped the cloak’s folds, the tighter and more determinedly the traveler held on to it, as he plodded wearily over the hillside.  But when the sun came caressingly, inspiring gentle confidence, bathing the body in warm moisture, the tenacious hold was relaxed, then the disputed coat was thrown over his arm, and as the vista spread far away in golden light, the victim cast the garment by the wayside and the sun came off victor.  Youth is despoiled of the garment of grief in this sort.  Congenial warmth, the sunshine of friendliness, soon relax the mantle of woe, and the path that looks wintry and hard becomes a way of light and gayety.

It was by mingling—­at first perfunctorily—­in the gayety of the Confederate capital that Jack lost the melancholy in which the tragedy at Rosedale had clothed his spirits.  At worst, the calamity was over; he had been a guiltless vengeance in the punishment of Wesley’s treason.  So he took bond in hope of better things to come.  With a stout heart, strong limbs, a plowman’s appetite, and a natural bent to joyousness, a youth of twenty-two or three is not apt to mistake his memories for his hopes and hang the horizon in black when the sun is shining in his eyes!

Richmond, always the center of a fascinating society, was at that time exuberant in her young metropolitan glories.  It was the gayest capital in the Western hemisphere.  To resist its seductions would have tasked the self-denial of a more constant anchorite than our dashing Jack ever aspired to be, in the lowest stage of his martial vicissitudes.  There was nothing of the garishness of the parvenu in the capital’s display.  The patrician caste ruled in camp and court.  The walls that had echoed to the oratory of Jefferson, Henry, Washington, Randolph, now housed

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The Iron Game from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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