Thomas Jefferson was told what was in store for him only a short time before his outsetting for the sectarian home school in a neighboring state, which was the joint selection of his mother and Uncle Silas. He took it with outward calm, as he would have taken anything from a prize to a whipping. But there was dumb rebellion within when his mother read him the letter he was to carry to the principal—a letter written by Brother Crafts to one of like precious faith, commending the lamb of the flock, and definitely committing that lamb as a chosen vessel. It was unfair, he cried inwardly, in a hot upflash of antagonism. He might choose to be a preacher; he had always meant to be one, for his mother’s sake. But to be pushed and driven—
He took his last afternoon for a ramble in the fields and woods beyond the manor-house, in that part of the valley as yet unfurrowed by the industrial plow. It was not the old love of the solitudes that called him; it was rather a sore-hearted desire to go apart and give place to all the hard thoughts that were bubbling and boiling within.
A long circuit over the boundary hills brought him at length to the little glade with the pool in its center where he had been fishing for perch on that day when Ardea and the great dog had come to make him back-slide. He wondered if she had ever forgiven him. Most likely she had not. She never seemed to think him greatly worth while when they happened to meet.
He was sitting on the overhanging bank, just where he had sat that other day, when suddenly history repeated itself. There was a rustling in the bushes; the Great Dane bounded out, though not as before to stand menacing; and when he turned his head she was there near him.
“Oh, it’s you, is it?” she said coolly; and then she called to the dog and made as if she would go away. But Thomas Jefferson’s heart was full, and full hearts are soft.
“You needn’t run,” he hazarded. “I reckon I ain’t going to bite you. I don’t feel much like biting anybody to-day.”
“You did bite me once, though,” she said airily.
“And you’ve never forgiven me for it,” he asserted, in deepest self-pity.
“Oh, yes, I have; the Dabneys always forgive—but they never forget. And me, I am a Dabney.”
“That’s just as bad. You wouldn’t be so awful mean to me if you knew. I—I’m going away.”
She came a little nearer at that and sat down beside him on the yellow grass with an arm around the dog’s neck.
“Does it hurt?” she asked. “Because, if it does, I’m sorry; and I’ll promise to forget.”
“It does hurt some,” he confessed. “Because, you see, I’m going to be a preacher.”
“You?” she said, with the frank and unsympathetic surprise of childhood. Then politeness came to the rescue and she added: “I’m sorry for that, too, if you are wanting me to be. Only I should think it would be fine to wear a long black robe and a pretty white surplice, and to learn to sing the prayers beautifully, and all that.”