He found him to be a large man with a broad face tanned to the hue of a mulatto. His eyes were light blue with the fulness under them of people who have gift in speech. His silver hair, of which he had a great quantity, set strangely around his dark face, falling low over a brow markedly intellectual. But it was the mouth and chin at which Ravenel most wondered, for their lines were strong, the lips full and finely chiselled, showing, one could have sworn, high birth and great resolution.
His clothes were of tweed, with a riding-cap far back on his head, and he rode with an excellent seat. Upon seeing Mr. Ravenel he dismounted, removed his cap, and advanced with outstretched hand, in the manner of one welcoming home an old friend.
“Twas the sawmill business that kept me from seeing you sooner, Mr. Ravenel,” he began. “But Katrine’s been telling me of you, with some worry, I think, in her gentle soul for fear that you may not understand our friend McDermott.”
Francis replied with a comprehending smile.
“Now that I’ve seen ye,” said Dulany, “I know you’ll understand. He has a peculiarity of nature. He likes to arrange certain unimportant details of life that they may sound better in the telling. But one has a small knowledge of human nature if he discount McDermott because of this. In Ireland his name is a household word. He’s here to-day, gone to-morrow. He works like a galley-slave; his word is as good as his bond when given in honor. And ’tis for others he works always. Generous, he gives all, all, all! his work, his brain, the money it earns, everything! His is a great soul, a very great soul. There’s not a man in America, barring the President, who has his personal power. Quietly, his name unworded in the newspapers, he holds Tammany in his hand. I can’t tell you how enthusiastic I am about him! Mines, politics, Wall Street, he’s into them all, a million ideas a minute! Helps the chap that’s down. He helps every one with whom he comes in contact. He has helped me.”
His sadness of tone introduced the next statement better than words could have done.
“Mr. Ravenel,” he said, “I have a confession to make to you. I drink.” He looked Frank squarely in the face as he spoke, with no flinching. “Ye may have heard it from one or another since ye’ve been back. It’s been a habit of mine for some time. I was not myself the other evening when I met you on the hill. The worst of it is,” and he spoke the words brightly and bravely, “I’ve no excuse for it, if there can be found an excusing for such a habit. The thing is growing upon me in this solitude. I try, God alone knows how I try, for Katrine’s sake, to resist; but only those who have fought the thing can realize what its temptations are. However, I’ve been thinking that if I drink too much, or fail to suit you, it might make it easier for you to tell me to go, if you knew it would be better for me that I went.”