“I suppose I may enter,” I said, sarcastically.
“Yaas, suh; Miss Dorry done say: ‘Cato,’ she say, ’ef de young gem’man come when Mars’ Lupus am drunk, jess take care n’ him, Cato; put him mos’ anywhere ‘cep in mah bed, Cato, an’ jess call me ef I ain’ busy ‘bout mah business—’”
Still rambling on, he opened the door, and I entered a wide hallway, dirty and disordered. As I stood hesitating, a terrific crash sounded from the floor above.
“Spec’ Miss Dorry busy,” observed the old man, raising his solemn, wrinkled face to listen.
“Uncle,” I said, “is it true that you are all mad in this house?”
“We sho’ is, suh,” he replied, without interest.
“Are you too crazy to care for my horse?”
“Oh no, suh.”
“Then go and rub her down, and feed her, and let me sit here in the hallway. I want to think.”
Another crash shook the ceiling of solid oak; very far away I heard a young girl’s laughter, then a stifled chorus of voices from the floor above.
“Das Miss Dorry an’ de chilluns,” observed the old man.
“Who are the others?”
“Waal, dey is Miss Celia, an’ Mars’ Harry, an’ Mars’ Ruyven, an’ Mars’ Sam’l, an’ de babby, li’l Mars’ Benny.”
“I’ll be, too, if I remain here,” I said. “Is there an inn near by?”
“De Turkle-dove an’ Olives.”
“’Bout five mile long de pike, suh.”
“Feed my horse,” I said, sullenly, and sat down on a settle, rifle cradled between my knees, and in my heart wrath immeasurable against my kin the Varicks.
IN THE HALLWAY
So this was Northern hospitality! This a Northern gentleman’s home, with its cobwebbed ceiling, its little window-panes opaque with stain of rain and dust, its carpetless floors innocent of wax, littered with odds and ends—here a battered riding-cane; there a pair of tarnished spurs; yonder a scarlet hunting-coat a-trail on the banisters, with skirts all mud from feet that mayhap had used it as a mat in rainy weather!
I leaned forward and picked up the riding-crop; its cane end was capped with heavy gold. The spurs I also lifted for inspection; they were beautifully wrought in silver.
Faugh! Here was no poverty, but the shiftlessness of a sot, trampling good things into the mire!
I looked into the fireplace. Ashes of dead embers choked it; the andirons, smoke-smeared and crusted, stood out stark against the sooty maw of the hearth.
Still, for all, the hall was made in good and even noble proportion; simple, as should be the abode of a gentleman; over-massive, perhaps, and even destitute of those gracious and symmetrical galleries which we of the South think no shame to take pride in; for the banisters were brutally heavy, and the rail above like a rampart, and for a newel-post some ass had set a bronze cannon, breech upward; and it was green and beautiful, but offensive to sane consistency.