It was about the time when Thomas Jefferson was beginning to reconsider his ideals, with a leaning toward brass-bound palaces on wheels and dictatorial authority over uniformed lackeys and other of his fellow creatures, that fate dealt the Major its final stab and prepared to pour wine and oil into the wound—though of the balm-pouring, none could guess at the moment of wounding. It was not in Caspar Dabney to be patient under a blow, and for a time his ragings threatened to shake even Mammy Juliet’s loyalty—than which nothing more convincing can be said.
“‘Fo’ Gawd, Mistuh Scipio,” she would say, when the master had sworn volcanically at her for the fifth time in the course of one forenoon, “I’se jus’ erbout wo’ed out! I done been knowin’ Mawstuh Caspah ebber sence I was Ol’ Mistis’s tiah-’ooman—dat’s what she call me in de plantashum days—an’ I ain’t nev’ seen him so fractious ez he been sence dat letter come tellin’ him come get dat po’ li’l gal-child o’ Mawstuh Louis’s. Seems lak he jus’ gwine r’ar round twel he hu’t somebody!”
Scipio, the Major’s body-servant, had grown gray in the Dabney service, and he was well used to the master’s storm periods.
“Doan’ you trouble yo’se’f none erbout dat, Mis’ Juliet. Mawstuh Majah tekkin’ hit mighty hawd ’cause Mawstuh Louis done daid. But bimeby you gwine see him climm on his hawss an’ ride up yondeh to whah de big steamboats comes in an’ fotch dat li’l gal-child home; an’ den: uck—uh-h! look out, niggahs! dar ain’t gwine be nuttin’ on de top side dishyer yearth good ernough for li’l Missy. You watch what I done tol’ you erbout dat, now!”
Scipio’s prophecy, or as much of it as related to the bringing of the orphaned Ardea to Deer Trace Manor, wrought itself out speedily, as a matter of course, though there was a vow to be broken by the necessary journey to the North. At the close of the war, Captain Louis, the Major’s only son, had become, like many another hot-hearted young Confederate, a self-expatriated exile. On the eve of his departure for France he had married the Virginia maiden who had nursed him alive after Chancellorsville. Major Caspar had given the bride away,—the war had spared no kinsman of hers to stand in this breach,—and when the God-speeds were said, had himself turned back to the weed-grown fields of Deer Trace Manor, embittered and hostile, swearing never to set foot outside of his home acres again while the Union should stand.
For more than twenty years he kept this vow almost literally. A few of the older negroes, a mere handful of the six score slaves of the old patriarchal days, cast in their lot with their former master, and with these the Major made shift thriftily, farming a little, stockraising a little, and, unlike most of the war-broken plantation owners, clinging tenaciously to every rood of land covered by the original Dabney title-deeds.