We concluded our conference in regard to my business matters. I learned that the coal lands had been redeemed from foreclosure, Colonel Meriwether having advanced the necessary funds; and as this now left our debt running to him, I instructed Doctor Bond to take steps to cancel it immediately, and to have the property partitioned as Colonel Meriwether should determine.
“And now, Jack,” said my wire-haired old friend to me at last, “when do you ride to Albemarle? There is something in this slip of paper”—he pointed to Orme’s last will and confession—“which a certain person ought to see.”
“My duties do not permit me to go and come as I like these days,” I answered evasively. But Dr. Samuel Bond was a hard man to evade.
“Jack,” said he, fumbling in his dusty desk, “here’s something you ought to see. I saved it for you, over there, the morning you threw it into the fireplace.”
He spread out on the top of the desk a folded bit of hide. Familiar enough it was to me.
“You saved but half,” I said. “The other half is gone!”
He pushed a flake of snuff far up his long nose. “Yes,” said he quietly. “I sent it to her some three months ago.”
“What did she say?”
“Nothing, you fool. What did you expect?”
“Listen,” he went on presently. “Your brain is dull. What say the words of the law? ‘This Indenture Witnesseth!’ Now what is an ‘indenture’? The old Romans and the old English knew. They wrote a contract on parchment, and cut it in two with an indented line, and they gave each party a half. When the court saw that these two halves fitted—as no other portions could—then indeed the indenture witnessed. It was its own proof.
“Now, my son,” he concluded savagely, “if you ever dreamed of marrying any other woman, damn me if I wouldn’t come into court and make this indenture witness for you both—for her as well as you! Go on away now, and don’t bother me any more.”
Our forces passed up the valley of Virginia and rolled through the old Rockfish Gap—where once the Knights of the Golden Horn paused and took possession, in the name of King Charles, of all the land thence to the South Sea. We overspread all the Piedmont Valley and passed down to the old town of Charlottesville. It was nearly deserted now. The gay Southern boys who in the past rode there with their negro servants, and set at naught good Thomas Jefferson’s intent of simplicity in the narrow little chambers of the old University of Virginia, now were gone with their horses and their servants. To-day you may see their names in bronze on the tablets at the University doors.
I quartered my men about the quiet old place, and myself hunted up an office-room on one of the rambling streets that wandered beneath the trees. I was well toward the finish of my morning’s work when I heard the voice of my sentry challenge, and caught an answering word of indignation in a woman’s voice. I stepped to the door.