“Kate,” said Elk MacNair, “I had counted upon my brother as an assured ally in something of the most momentous importance to me at this juncture, before our marriage. My brother is a man of power, but of narrow views, and I have unconsciously aroused his animosity. He is not to be appeased. Nothing can divert him from his purpose.
“It can be nothing, if Arthur is the arbiter and your happiness the subject,” said Miss Dunlevy.
“It is a point of honor differently taken by two men,” said Elk MacNair; “and the issue is a matter of character. It is a matter of fortune besides, and if neither relents both will suffer.”
These words were attended with some emotion which smote the rough feelings of Jabel Blake, and he was a witness of some subsidiary endearments, besides, which softened his indignation against the young officer. So he followed Elk MacNair from the house and accosted him upon the street.
“General,” he said, “I claim the privilege of a guardian over you boys—over your brother in particular, who is a true man and an obstinate one. I know the matter of your difference. If you do not yield, Arthur MacNair will keep his word! You will be exposed on the floor of Congress, exactly as he promised, and your engagement with Kitty Dunlevy broken forever.”
“Jabel Blake,” answered the soldier, “I know just what I am about. I told my brother that I would blow my own head off if he sacrificed me for a sentiment. And just that I mean to do.”
“I know the devil in the MacNair blood,” said Jabel Blake; “but you are playing a false part and Arthur a true one. He fought his campaign against the corruptions and chicanery of power, and he will trample you out like a snake.”
“He thinks he’s correcting a boy,” said Elk MacNair; “he shall find me a soldier.”
“And you will find him a Christian soldier, truer to his allegiance than to rob his country!”
“Pshaw!” laughed Elk MacNair; “a skinflint who has raked up fortune with his fingers, ground down his laborers, pinched his soul, and stooped his stature for money, has no right to be my chaplain, Jabel Blake! You have grown rich like a scavenger. What matter if I bring down fortune with my rifle, though the American eagle be the bird. I would spare my body some of the dirty crawling you have done to get your bank!”
“Base boy!” cried Jabel Blake, with more contempt than anger; “I will live to teach you that a life of thrift and honest toil is above your power to insult it. You can neither repel me nor break your brother’s heart. The time will come when you will weep to deserve the respect you have lost from these gray hairs.”
He passed away with his old, heavy, deliberate gait, and left the young man almost repentant.