I had thumbed and scanned hundreds of ancient pages, some of them manuscript; I had sat by ancient shelves upon hard chairs, I had sneezed with the ancient dust, and I had not put my finger upon a trace of the right Fanning. I should have given it up, left unexplored the territory that remained staring at me through the backs of unread volumes, had it not been for my Aunt Carola. To her I owed constancy and diligence, and so I kept at it; and the hermit hours I spent at Court and Chancel streets grew worse as I knew better what rarely good company was ready to receive me. This Kings Port, this little city of oblivion, held, shut in with its lavender and pressed-rose memories, a handful of people who were like that great society of the world, the high society of distinguished men and women who exist no more, but who touched history with a light hand, and left their mark upon it in a host of memoirs and letters that we read to-day with a starved and home-sick longing in the midst of our sullen welter of democracy. With its silent houses and gardens, its silent streets, its silent vistas of the blue water in the sunshine, this beautiful, sad place was winning my heart and making it ache. Nowhere else in America such charm, such character, such true elegance as here— and nowhere else such an overwhelming sense of finality!—the doom of a civilization founded upon a crime. And yet, how much has the ballot done for that race? Or, at least, how much has the ballot done for the majority of that race? And what way was it to meet this problem with the sudden sweeping folly of the Fifteenth Amendment? To fling the “door of hope” wide open before those within had learned the first steps of how to walk sagely through it! Ah, if it comes to blame, who goes scatheless in this heritage of error? I could have shaped (we all could, you know) a better scheme for the universe, a plan where we should not flourish at each other’s expense, where the lion should be lying down with the lamb now, where good and evil should not be husband and wife, indissolubly married by a law of creation.
With such highly novel thoughts as these I descended the steps from my researches at the corner of Court and Chancel streets an hour earlier than my custom, because—well, I couldn’t, that day, stand Cowpens for another minute. Up at the corner of Court and Worship the people were going decently into church; it was a sweet, gentle late Friday in Lent. I had intended keeping out-of-doors, to smell the roses in the gardens, to bask in the soft remnant of sunshine, to loiter and peep in through the Kings Port garden gates, up the silent walks to the silent verandas. But the slow stream of people took me, instead, into church with the deeply veiled ladies of Kings Port, hushed in their perpetual mourning for not only, I think, those husbands and brothers and sons whom the war had turned to dust forty years ago, but also for the Cause, the lost Cause, that died with them. I sat there among these Christians