That evening at the supper-table he had one nerve-racking fear dispelled and another confirmed by his mother’s reply to a question put by his father.
“Yes; the Major sent for me again this afternoon. That child is back in bed again with a high fever. It seems she was out playing with that great dog of hers and fell into the creek. I wanted to tell the Major he is just tempting Providence, the way he makes over her and indulges her, but I didn’t dare to.”
And again Thomas Jefferson knew that he was the one who had tempted Providence.
THE RACE TO THE SWIFT
From the grave and thoughtful vantage-ground of thirteen, Thomas Jefferson could look back on the second illness of Ardea Dabney as the closing incident of his childhood.
The industrial changes which were then beginning, not only for the city beyond the mountain, but for all the region round about, had rushed swiftly on Paradise; and the old listless life of the unhasting period soon receded quickly into a far-away past, rememberable only when one made an effort to recall it.
First had come the completion of the Great Southwestern. Diverted by the untiring opposition of Major Dabney from its chosen path through the valley, it skirted the westward hills, passing within a few hundred yards of the Gordon furnace. Since business knows no animosities, the part which Caleb Gordon and his gun crew had played in the right-of-way conflict was ignored. The way-station at the creek crossing was named Gordonia, and it was the railway traffic manager himself who suggested to the iron-master the taking of a partner with capital, the opening of the vein of coking coal on Mount Lebanon, the installation of coking-ovens, and the modernizing and enlarging of the furnace and foundry plant—hints all pointing to increased traffic for the road.
With the coming of Mr. Duxbury Farley to Paradise, Thomas Jefferson lost, not only the simple life, but the desire to live it. This Mr. Farley, whom we have seen and heard, momentarily, on the station platform in South Tredegar, the expanded, hailed from Cleveland, Ohio; was, as he was fond of saying pompously, a citizen of no mean city. His business in the reawakening South was that of an intermediary between cause and effect; the cause being the capital of confiding investors in the North, and the effect the dissipation of the same in various and sundry development schemes in the new iron field.
To Paradise, in the course of his goings to and fro, came this purger of other men’s purses, and he saw the fortuitous grouping of the possibilities at a glance: abundant iron of good quality; an accessible vein of coal, second only to Pocahontas for coking; land cheap, water free, and a persuadable subject in straightforward, simple-hearted Caleb Gordon.