The road to Varicks’
We drew bridle at the cross-roads; he stretched his legs in his stirrups, raised his arms, yawned, and dropped his huge hands upon either thigh with a resounding slap.
“Well, good-bye,” he said, gravely, but made no movement to leave me.
“Do we part here?” I asked, sorry to quit my chance acquaintance of the Johnstown highway.
He nodded, yawned again, and removed his round cap of silver-fox fur to scratch his curly head.
“We certainly do part at these cross-roads, if you are bound for Varicks’,” he said.
I waited a moment, then thanked him for the pleasant entertainment his company had afforded me, and wished him a safe journey.
“A safe journey?” he repeated, carelessly. “Oh yes, of course; safe journeys are rare enough in these parts. I’m obliged to you for the thought. You are very civil, sir. Good-bye.”
Yet neither he nor I gathered bridle to wheel our horses, but sat there in mid-road, looking at each other.
“My name is Mount,” he said at length; “let me guess yours. No, sir! don’t tell me. Give me three sportsman’s guesses; my hunting-knife against the wheat straw you are chewing!”
“With pleasure,” I said, amused, “but you could scarcely guess it.”
“Your name is Varick?”
I shook my head.
“No. Look sharp to your knife, friend.”
“Oh, then I have guessed it,” he said, coolly; “your name is Ormond—and I’m glad of it.”
“Why are you glad of it?” I asked, curiously, wondering, too, at his knowledge of me, a stranger.
“You will answer that question for yourself when you meet your kin, the Varicks and Butlers,” he said; and the reply had an insolent ring that did not please me, yet I was loath to quarrel with this boyish giant whose amiable company I had found agreeable on my long journey through a land so new to me.
“My friend,” I said, “you are blunt.”
“Only in speech, sir,” he replied, lazily swinging one huge leg over the pommel of his saddle. Sitting at ease in the sunshine, he opened his fringed hunting-shirt to the breeze blowing.
“So you go to the Varicks?” he mused aloud, eyes slowly closing in the sunshine like the brilliant eyes of a basking lynx.
“Do you know the lord of the manor?” I asked.
“Who? The patroon?”
“I mean Sir Lupus Varick.”
“Yes; I know him—I know Sir Lupus. We call him the patroon, though he’s not of the same litter as the Livingstons, the Cosbys, the Phillipses, Van Rensselaers, and those feudal gentlemen who juggle with the high justice, the middle, and the low—and who will juggle no more.”
“Am I mistaken,” said I, “in taking you for a Boston man?”
“In one sense you are,” he said, opening his eyes. “I was born in Vermont.”