They bowed to him ceremoniously, each in his way, with reverence, touching lips to his glass. As they parted, one for a moment stood alone, the dark man who had sat at the speaker’s right. For a moment he paused, as though absorbed, as finally he set down his glass, gazing steadily forward as though striving to read what lay in the future.
“The Union!” he whispered, almost to himself.
It might have been the voice, as it was the thought of all those who, now passing, brought to a close this extraordinary meeting.
Meantime, events which might have held interest in certain circles in Washington had they been known, passed on their course, and toward that very region which had half in jest been named as the storm center of the day—the state of Missouri, anomalous, inchoate, discordant, half North, half South, itself the birth of compromise and sired by political jealousy; whither, against her will, voyaged a woman, herself engine of turbulence, doubt and strife, and in company now of a savage captor who contemplated nothing but establishing her for his own use in his own home.
Tallwoods, the home plantation of the Dunwody family in the West, now the personal property of the surviving son, state senator Warville Dunwody of Missouri, presented one of the contrasts which now and again might have been seen in our early western civilization. It lay somewhat remote from the nearest city of consequence, in a region where the wide acres of the owner blended, unused and uncultivated, with those still more wild, as yet unclaimed under any private title. Yet in pretentiousness, indeed in assuredness, it might have rivaled many of the old estates of Kentucky, the Carolinas, or Virginia; so much did the customs and ambitions of these older states follow their better bred sons out into the newer regions.
These men of better rank, with more than competency at their disposal, not infrequently had few neighbors other than the humble but independent frontiersman who left for new fields when a dog barked within fifty miles of his cabin. There were neighbors within half that distance of Tallwoods, settlers nestled here or there in these enfolding hills and forests; but of neighbors in importance equal to that of the owner of Tallwoods there were few or none in that portion of the state. The time was almost feudal, but wilder and richer than any feudal day, in that fief tribute was unknown. The original landlord of these acres had availed himself of the easy laws and easy ways of the time and place, and taken over to himself from the loose public domain a small realm all his own. Here, almost in seclusion, certainly in privacy, a generation had been spent in a life as baronial as any ever known in old Virginia in earlier days. A day’s ride to a court house, two days to a steamer, five hours to get a letter to or from the occasional post—these things seem slight in a lifelong accustomedness; and here few had had closer touch than this with civilization.