“Sweetie, sweetie, I can tell you what Mr. Newsome was trying to say to you—it was about me. I—I am going to be his wife, and you and the aunties are never, never going to leave the Briars. He has just left here and—and, oh, I am so grateful to keep it—for you—and them. I never thought of that—I never suspected such—a—door in our stone wall.” And Rose Mary’s voice was firm and gentle, but her deep eyes looked out over Harpeth Valley with the agony of all the ages in their depths.
But in hoping to conceal her tragedy Rose Mary had not counted on the light love throws across the dark places that confront the steps of those of our blood-bond, and in an instant Uncle Tucker’s torch of comprehension flamed high with the passion of indignation. Slowly he rose to his feet, and the stoop in his feeble old shoulders straightened itself out so that he stood with the height of his young manhood. His gentle eyes lost the mysticism that had come with his years of sorrow and baffling toil, and a stern, dignified power shone straight out over the young woman at his side. He raised his arm and pointed with a hand that had ceased to tremble over the valley to where Providence Road wound itself over Old Harpeth.
“Rose Mary,” he said sternly in a quiet, decisive voice that rang with the virility of his youth, “when the first of us Alloways came along that wilderness trail a slip of an English girl walked by him when he walked and rode the pillion behind him when he rode. She finished that journey with bleeding feet in moccasins he had bought from an Indian squaw. When they came on down into this Valley and found this spring he halted wagons and teams and there on that hill she dropped down to sleep, worn out with the journey. And while she was asleep he stuck a stake at the black-curled head of her and one by the little, tired, ragged feet. That was the measure of the front door-sill to the Briars up there on the hill. Come generations we have fought off the Indians, we have cleared and tilled the land, and we have gone up to the state house to name laws and order. In our home we have welcomed traveler, man and beast, and come sun-up each day we have worshipped at the altar of the living God—but we’ve never sold one of our women yet! The child of that English girl never leaves my arms except to go into those of a man she loves and wants. Yes, I’m old and I’ve got still older to look out for, but I can strike the trail again to-morrow, jest so I carry the honor of my women folks along with me. We may fall on the march, but, Rose Mary, you are a Harpeth Valley woman, and not for sale!”
“Well, it just amounts to the whole of Sweetbriar a-rising up and declaring of a war on Gid Newsome, and I for one want to march in the front ranks and tote a blunderbuss what I couldn’t hit nothing smaller than a barn door with if I waster try,” exclaimed Mrs. Rucker as she waited at the store for a package Mr. Crabtree was wrapping for her.