John Mayrant was smiling and looking at the graves. “Yes, that’s it; that’s all it,” he mused. “You do understand.”
But I had to finish my flight. “Such quiet faces are gone now in the breathless, competing North: ground into oblivion between the clashing trades of the competing men and the clashing jewels and chandeliers of their competing wives—while yours have lingered on, spared by your very adversity. And that’s why I shall miss your old people when they follow mine—because they’re the last of their kind, the end of the chain, the bold original stock, the great race that made our glory grow and saw that it did grow through thick and thin: the good old native blood of independence.”
I spoke as a man can always speak when he means it; and my listener’s face showed that my words had gone where meant words always go—home to the heart. But he merely nodded at me. His nod, however, telling as it did of a quickly established accord between us, caused me to bring out to this new acquaintance still more of those thoughts which I condescend to expose to very few old ones.
“Haven’t you noticed,” I said, “or don’t you feel it, away down here in your untainted isolation, the change, the great change, that has come over the American people?”
He wasn’t sure.
“They’ve lost their grip on patriotism.”
He smiled. “We did that here in 1861.”
“Oh, no! You left the Union, but you loved what you considered was your country, and you love it still. That’s just my point, just my strange discovery in Kings Port. You retain the thing we’ve lost. Our big men fifty years ago thought of the country, and what they could make it; our big men to-day think of the country and what they can make out of it. Rather different, don’t you see? When I walk about in the North, I merely meet members of trusts or unions—according to the length of the individual’s purse; when I walk about in Kings Port, I meet Americans.— Of course,” I added, taking myself up, “that’s too sweeping a statement. The right sort of American isn’t extinct in the North by any means. But there’s such a commercial deluge of the wrong sort, that the others sometimes seem to me sadly like a drop in the bucket.”