A Gentleman from Mississippi
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That bids him flout the law he makes;
That bids him make the law he flouts.
In buoyant spirit the Hon. Charles Norton rode up the bridle path leading through the Langdon plantation to the old antebellum homestead which, on a shaded knoll, overlooked the winding waters of the Pearl River. No finer prospect was to be had in all Mississippi than greeted the eye from the wide southwest porch, where on warm evenings the Langdons and their frequent guests gathered to dine or to watch the golden splendor of the dying sun.
The Langdon family had long been a power in the South. Its sons fought under Andrew Jackson at New Orleans, under Zachary Taylor in the war with Mexico, and in the Civil War men of that name left their blood on the fields of Antietam, Shiloh, the Wilderness and Gettysburg. But this family of fighting men, of unselfish patriots, had also marked influence in the ways of peace, as real patriots should. Generations of Langdons had taken deepest pride in developing the hundreds of acres of cotton land, whose thousands of four-foot rows planted each April spread open the silvery lined bolls in July and August, and the ripened cotton fiber, pure white beneath the sun, gave from a distance the picture of an expanse of driven snow.
The Hon. Charles Norton had reason for feeling well pleased with the world as he fastened his bay Virginia hunter to a convenient post and strode up the steps of the mansion, which was a characteristic survivor of the “old South,” the South of gilded romance and of gripping tragedy. Now in this second year of his first term as Congressman and a promising member of the younger set of Southern lawyers, he had just taken active part in securing the election of Colonel William H. Langdon, present head of the family, to the United States Senate, though the ultimate action of the Legislature had been really brought about by a lifelong friend of Colonel Langdon, the senior Senator from the State, James Stevens, who had not hesitated to flatter Norton and use him as a cat’s-paw. This use the Hon. Charles Norton seemed to consider an honor of large proportions. Not every first-term Congressman can hope for intimacy with a Senator. Norton believed that his work for Langdon would win him the family’s gratitude and thus further his ambition to marry Carolina, the planter’s oldest daughter, whose beauty made her the recipient of many attentions.
A complacent gleam shone in Norton’s eyes as they swept over the fertile acres of the plantation. He thought of the material interest he might one day have in them if his suit for the hand of Carolina progressed favorably. Suddenly his reverie was interrupted by the voice of young Randolph Langdon, a spirited lad in his early twenties, who had just been made plantation manager, by his father.