Oscar Waterman was a newcomer in Albemarle. He had bought a thousand acres, with an idea of grafting on to Southern environment his own ideas of luxurious living. The county families had not called, but he was not yet aware of his social isolation. He was rich, and most of the county families were poor—from his point of view the odds were in his favor—and it was never hard to get guests. He could always motor up to Washington and New York, and bring a crowd back with him. His cellars were well stocked, and his hospitality undiscriminating.
“I don’t know the girl,” he told Dalton, “but the old man is Judge Bannister. He’s one of the natives—no money and oodles of pride.”
In calling Judge Bannister a “native,” Oscar showed a lack of proportion. A native, in the sense that he used the word, is a South Sea Islander, indigenous but negligible. Oscar was fooled, you see, by the Judge’s old-fashioned clothes, and the high surrey, and the horses with the flowing tails. His ideas of life had to do with motor cars and mansions, and with everybody very much dressed up. He felt that the only thing in the world that really counted was money. If you had enough of it the world was yours!
Year after year the Bannisters of Huntersfield had eaten their Horse Show luncheon under a clump of old oaks beneath which the horses now stopped. The big trees were dropping golden leaves in the dryness. From the rise of the hill one looked down on the grandstand and the crowd as from the seats of an amphitheater.
Judge Bannister remembered when the women of the crowd had worn hoops and waterfalls. Aunt Claudia’s memory went back to bustles and bonnets. There were deeper memories, too, than of clothes—of old friends and young faces—there was always a moment of pensive retrospect when the Bannisters stopped under the old oak on the hill.
Randolph Paine, his mother and Major Prime were to join them at luncheon. Separate plans had been made by the boarders who had packed themselves into various cars and carriages, and had their own boxes and baskets.
“Caroline Paine is always late,” the Judge said with some impatience; “if we don’t eat on time, we shall have to hurry. I have never hurried in my life and I don’t want to begin now.”
Claudia Beaufort was accustomed to impatience in men, and she was inflexible as a hostess. “Well, of course, we couldn’t begin without them, could we?” she asked. “There they come now, Father. William, you’d better help Major Prime.”
Randy was driving the fat mare, Rosalind. Nellie Custis, Randolph’s wiry hound, loped along with flapping ears in the rear of the low-seated carriage. Major Prime was on the back seat with Mrs. Paine.
“My dear Judge,” he said, as the old gentleman came to the side of the carriage, “I can’t tell you how honored I am to be included in your party. This is about the best thing that has happened to me in a long time.”