“That’s not a bit handsome, after my confession. No, I’m getting to understand South Carolina a little. You came from the ‘up-country,’ you call your dog General; his name is General Hampton!”
Her laughter assented. “Tell me some more about South Carolina,” she added with her caressing insinuation.
“Well, to begin with—”
“Go sit down at your lunch-table first. Aunt Josephine would never tolerate my encouraging gentlemen to talk to me over the counter.”
I went back obediently, and then resumed: “Well, what sort of people are those who own the handsome garden behind Mrs. Trevise’s!”
“I don’t know them.”
“Thank you; that’s all I wanted.”
“What do you mean?”
“They’re new people. I could tell it from the way you stuck your nose in the air.”
“Oh, if you talk about my hair, I can talk about your nose, I think. I suspected that they were: ‘new people’ because they cleaned up their garden immediately after the storm this morning. Now, I’ll tell you something else: the whole South looks down on the whole North.”
She made her voice kind. “Do you mind it very much?”
I joined in her latent mirth. “It makes life not worth living! But more than this, South Carolina looks down on the whole South.”
“Not? An ‘entire stranger,’ you know, sometimes notices things which escape the family eye—family likenesses in the children, for instance.”
“Never Virginia,” she persisted.
“Very well, very well! Somehow you’ve admitted the rest, however.”
She began to smile.
“And next, Kings Port looks down on all the rest of South Carolina.”
She now laughed outright. “An up-country girl will not deny that, anyhow!”
“And finally, your aunts—”
“My aunts are Kings Port.”
“The whole of it?”
“If you mean the thirty thousand negroes—”
“No, there are other white people here—there goes your nose again!”
“I will not have you so impudent, sir!”
“A thousand pardons, I’m on my knees. But your aunts—” There was such a flash of war in her eye that I stopped.
“May I not even mention them?” I asked her.
And suddenly upon this she became serious and gentle. “I thought that you understood them. Would you take them from their seclusion, too? It is all they have left—since you burned the rest in 1865.”
I had made her say what I wanted! That “you” was what I wanted. Now I should presently have it out with her. But, for the moment, I did not disclaim the “you.” I said:—
“The burning in 1865 was horrible, but it was war.”
“It was outrage.”
“Yes, the same kind as England’s, who burned Washington in 1812, and whom you all so deeply admire.”
She had, it seemed, no answer to this. But we trembled on the verge of a real quarrel. It was in her voice when she said:—