“Well, Major, you see a shrewd man can be mistaken, don’t you?”
“What has happened?”
“That which renders it absolutely impossible that I should ever voluntarily go into the presence of these Markhams, and especially of Julia.”
The voice was low, and full of force, with a little bitterness. Morris looked at his brother with incredulous amazement.
“Morris,” said Bart, “don’t ask more about it. Mother guessed something of it. Pray don’t refer to it ever again.”
Morris walked forward, with their mother; and when he turned back to the stricken face of his young brother, there was a great tenderness in his eye; but his brow gathered and his face darkened into a momentary frown. He was by nature frank and brave, and could not long do any one injustice. His nature was hopeful, and bright, and manly. No girl could always scorn his brother Bart; nor did he believe that Bart would willingly remain scorned.
The town of Burton was one of the oldest in the county. It was the residence of many wealthy men, the seat of Judge Hitchcock, Chief Justice of the State, as well as the home of Seabury Ford, a rising young politician, just commencing a most useful and honorable career, which was to conduct him to the Chief Magistracy of the State.
The young Whig party had failed to elect Gen. Harrison, but the result of the contest assured it of success in the campaign of 1840, for which a vast magazine was rapidly and silently accumulating. The monetary and credit disasters of ’36-’37, occurring in the third term of uninterrupted party rule, would of themselves have overthrown a wiser and better administration than that of Mr. Van Buren, patriotic and enlightened as that was, contrasted with some which followed.
Men, too, were beginning to examine and analyze the nature and designs of slavery; and already Theodore Weld had traversed the northern and middle States, and with his marvellous eloquence and logic, second to none of those who followed him, had stirred to their profoundest depths the cool, strong, intellectual souls of the New Englanders of those regions.
One early October morning, as Gen. Ford, then commander of a brigade of militia, in which Major Ridgeley held a commission, was arranging some papers in his law office, a young man paused a moment in front of the open door, and upon being observed, lifted his hat and stepped frankly forward. Young men in Ohio then seldom removed their hats to men, and rarely to women; and the act, gracefully done as it was, was remarked by the lawyer.
“General Ford, I believe?” said the youth.
“Yes; will you walk in?”
“I am Barton Ridgeley,” said the young man, stepping in; “usually called Bart.”
“A brother of Major Ridgeley?”
“Yes; though I am thought not to be much like him.”