University of Virginia Library


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Old Giaffar sat in his divan,
Deep thought was in his aged eye;
And though the face of Mussulman
Not oft betrays to standers by
The mind within—well skill'd to hide
All but unconquerable pride—
His pensive cheek and pondering brow
Did more than he was wont avow.

Bride of Abydos.

Our host had in no respect exaggerated the tediousness
of our journey. Perhaps it became doubly
so to us from the pleasant consciousness, fresh in
our minds, of the few preceding hours which had
been so unqualifiedly delightful. The hills rose before
us, and we felt it to be indeed toilsome to
ascend them, when we knew that by such ascent,
we only threw them as barriers between us and
the spot to which we both felt every disposition to
return. It is strange how susceptible to passing and
casual influences are the strongest among us. Let
our pride not rise in our path as a dogged opponent,
and what flexibility is ours—what may we not become—what
not achieve! How lovely will seem


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place and person, if, when they commend themselves
to our affections, they forbear to assail or offend
our pride! I could tear myself from the
dwelling of my childhood—from the embrace of the
fondest of mothers—from all the sympathies and
ties to which I had been accustomed—yea, from the
sight of her to whom all my hopes had been addressed—in
obedience to this arbitrary influence;
and, failing to derive even the coldest satisfaction
from friends and family and birth place, could yet be
sensible of pleasure derived from the contemplation
of a strange home, and a passing intercourse with
strangers. Perhaps it may be safe to assert that the
greatest enemy to our affections, is our mind. The
understanding, even among the weakest—as if conscious
of its superior destiny—will assert its sway,
and sacrifice the heart which depends on it for life,
in deference to that miserable vanity which lives
only on its diseases. I have always been conscious
of this sort of warfare going on with me. I have
spoken the sarcasm to the loved one, even when my
own bosom felt the injustice, and when my heart,
with the keenest sympathy, quivered also with the

We had ridden, perhaps, an hour, and were winding
our way down from gorge to gorge among a pile
of hills of which there seemed to be no end, when
we came suddenly upon three men, sitting among the


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bushes at a little distance from the road side. Two
of them we knew at the first glance to be our
chamber companions at Tuscaloosa. The third we
had neither of us seen before. He was a short thickset
person of black hair and unimposing features,
presenting, in his dress, a singular contrast to the
trim and gaudy caparison of his comrades. They
were sitting around a log, and may have been eating
for aught we knew. They had something between
them which called for their close scrutiny, and
seemed so well to receive it that we completely surprised
them. When they heard us, there was a
visible start, and one of the two gamblers started to
his feet. I rode on without giving them the least
notice; but, thoughtless as ever, William half advanced
to them, and in a good humoured, dare-devil
style of expression, cried out to them aloud.

“Halloo, my good fellows, do you feel like another
game to day.”

What their answer was, and whether they sufficiently
heard to understand his words or not, I cannot
say—they stood motionless and watched our
progress; and I conceived it fortunate that I was
able to persuade my companion to ride on without
farther notice. He did not relish the indifference
with which they seemed to regard us, and a little
pause and provocation might have brought us into


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a regular fight. Perhaps—the issue of our journey
considered—such would have been a fortunate event.
We might not have suffered half so much as in the
end we did.

“Now could I take either or both of those fellows
by the neck, and rattle their pates together,
for the fun of it,” was the speech of my companion,
as we rode off.

There was a needless display of valour in this,
and my answer exhibited a more cautious temper.
Rash enough myself at times, I yet felt the necessity
of temperateness when in company with one so
very thoughtless as my friend.

“Ay, and soil your fingers and bruise your
knuckles for your pains. If they are merely dirty
dogs, you would surely soil your fingers, and if they
were at all insolent, you would run some risk of
getting them broken. The least we have to do
with all such people, the better for all parties—I,
at least, have no ambition to couple with them
either in love or hostility. Enough to meet them
in their own way when they cross the path, and
prevent our progress.”

“Which these chaps will never do, I warrant

“We have less need to cross theirs—the way is
broad enough for both of us. But let us on, since
our road grows more level, though not less wild. I


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am tired of this jade pace—our nags will sleep at
last, and stop at the next turning.”

We quickened our pace, and, in another hour we
approached the confines of our debtor's habitation.
We knew it by the generally sterile and unprepossessing
aspect of every thing around it. The description
which Colonel Grafton had given us was so
felicitous that we could have no doubts; and riding
up to the miserable cabin, we were fortunate enough
to meet in proper person the man we sought.

He stood at the entrance, leaning sluggishly
against one of the door posts—a slightly built person,
of slovenly habits, an air coarse, inferior, unprepossessing,
and dark lowering features. His
dress was shabby, his hat mashed down on one side
of his head—his arms thrust to the elbows in the
pockets of his breeches, and he wore the mocasins
of an Indian. Still, there was something in the
keen lively glances of his small black eye, that denoted
a restless and quick character, and his thin,
closely pressed lips were full of promptness and
decision. His skin was tanned almost yellow, and
his long, uncombed but flowing hair, black as a coal,
falling down upon his neck which was bare, suited
well, while contrasting strongly with his swarthy
lineaments. He received us with civility—advanced
from his tottering door steps on our approach, and
held our horses while we dismounted.


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“You remember me, Mr. Webber?” said my
companion calling him by name.”

“Mr. Carrington, I believe,” was the reply—“I
don't forget easily. Let me take your horses, gentlemen?”

There was a composure in the fellow's manners
that almost amounted to dignity. Perhaps, this
too was against him. Where should he learn such
habits—such an air? From whence could come the
assurance—the thorough ease and self complacency
of his deportment? Such confidence can spring
from two sources only—the breeding of blood—the
systematic habits of an unmingled family, admitting
of no connection with strange races, and becoming
aristocratic from concentration—or the recklessness
of one indifferent to social claims, and obeying no
other master than his own capricious mood.

We were conducted into his cabin, and provided
with seats. Wretched and miserable as every thing
seemed about the premises, our host showed no feeling
of disquiet or concern on this account. He
made no apology; drew forth the rude chairs covered
with bull's hides; and proceeded to get the whiskey
and sugar, the usual beverage presented in that region
to the guest.

“You have ridden far, and a sup of whiskey will
do you good, gentlemen. From Tuscaloosa this
morning—you've ridden well.”


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William corrected his error by telling where we
had stayed last night. A frown insensibly gathered
above the brow of the man as he heard the name of
Colonel Grafton.

“The Colonel and myself don't set horses now
altogether,” was the quick remark—“he's a rich—
I'm a poor man.”

“And yet I should scarce think him the person
to find cause of disagreement between himself
and any man from a difference of condition,” was
the reply of William to this remark.

“You don't know him, Mr. Carrington, I reckon.
For a long time I didn't know him myself—I was
his overseer you know, and it was then he put his
name to that little bit of paper, that I s'pose you
come about now.”

Carrington nodded.

“Well,” continued the debtor, “so long as I was
his overseer, things went on smoothly; but the Colonel
don't like to see men setting up for themselves;
and tried to keep me from it, but he couldn't; and
since I've left him, he doesn't look once in the year
over to my side of the country. He don't like me
now I know—did you hear him say nothing about

I could detect the keen black eye of the speaker,
as he finished, watching the countenance of Carrington
as he waited for the reply. I feared that the


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perfect frankness of William might have betrayed
him into a partial revelation of Colonel Grafton's
information; but he evaded the inquiry with some

“Yes, he gave us full directions how to find your
place, and warned us that we might not find you at
home. He said you travelled a great deal about the
country and didn't plant much. You deal in merchandise,

The fellow looked somewhat disappointed as he
replied in the negative. But dismissing every thing
like expression from his face, in the next instant he
asked if we had met with any travellers on the road.
I replied quickly by stating with the utmost brevity,
the fact that we had met three—whose appearance
I briefly described without giving any particulars,
and studiously suppressed the previous knowledge
which we had of the gamblers at Tuscaloosa; but I
had scarcely finished when William, with his wonted
thoughtlessness, took up the tale where I had left
it incomplete, and omitted nothing. The man
looked grave, and when he was ended, contented
himself with remarking that he knew no person like
those described, and inquired if we had not met
with others. But, with my wonted suspiciousness
of habit, I fancied that there was a something in his
countenance that told a different story, and whether
there were reason for this fancy or not, I was inly


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persuaded that our debtor and the two gamblers
were birds of a feather. It will be seen in the sequel
that I was not mistaken. There was an awkward
pause in the conversation, for Carrington, like
a man not accustomed to business, seemed loth to ask
about his money. He was relieved by the debtor.

“Well, Mr. Carrington,” he said, “you come I
s'pose about that little paper of mine. You want
your money, and, to say truth, you ought to have had
it some time ago. I would have sent it to you but
I couldn't get any safe hand going down into your

Carrington interrupted him.

“That's no matter, Mr. Webber, I didn't want the
money, to say truth, till just now; but if you can
let me have it now, it will be as good to me as if
you had sent it to me six months ago. I'm thinking
to buy a little land in Mississippi, if I can get it
moderate, and can get a long credit for the best part
of it, but it will be necessary to put down something,
you know, to clinch the bargain, and I
thought I might as well look to you for that.”

“To be sure—certain—it's only reasonable; but
if you think to go into Mississippi to get land now
on a long credit, and hardly any cash, Mr. Carrington,
you'll find yourself mightily mistaken. You
must put down the real grit if you want to do any
thing in the land market.”


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“Oh, yes, I expect to put down some—”

The acute glance of my eye, arrested the speech
of my thoughtless companion. In two minutes
more he would probably have declared the very
amount he had in possession, and all the purposes
he had in view. I do not know, however, but that
the abrupt pause and silence which followed my interposition,
revealed quite as much to the cunning
debtor as the words of my companion would have
done. The bungling succession of half formed and
incoherent sentences which William uttered to hide
the truth and conceal that which, by this time, was
sufficiently told, perhaps contributed to impress him
with an idea of much greater wealth in our possession
than was even the case. But, whatever may
have been his thoughts, his countenance was too inflexibly
indifferent to convey to us their character.
He was stolid and seemingly unobservant to the last
degree, scarcely giving the slightest heed to the
answers which his own remarks and inquiries demanded.
At length, abruptly returning to the business
in hand, he spoke thus:

“Well, now, Mr. Carrington, I'll have to give
you a little disappointment. I can't pay you to-day,
much as I would like to do it, for you see, my money
is owing to me and is scattered all about the
neighbourhood. If you could take a bed with me
to night, and be satisfied to put off travelling for a


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day, I could promise you, I think for certain, to
give you the whole of your money by to-morrow
night. I can get it, for that matter, from a friend,
but I should have to ride about fifteen or twenty
miles for it, and that couldn't be done to day.”

“Nor would I wish it, Mr. Webber,” was the reply
of William. “To-morrow will answer, and
though we are obliged to you for your offer of a bed
to night, yet we have a previous promise to return
and spend the night with Colonel Grafton.”

The brows of the man again blackened, but he
spoke in cool deliberate accents, though his language
was that of enmity and dissatisfaction.

“Ay, I supposed as much. Colonel Grafton has a
mighty fine house, and every thing in good fix—he
can better accommodate fine gentlemen than a poor
man like me. You can do what you like about that,
Mr. Carrington—stay with me to-night, or come at
mid-day to-morrow—all the same to me—you shall
still have your money. I'll get it for you at all
hazards, if it's only to get rid of all farther obligation
to that man. I've been obligated to him too long already,
and I'll wipe out the score to-morrow or I'm
no man myself.”

On the subject of Webber's motive for paying
his debt, the creditor of course had but little to say.
But the pertinacity of the fellow on another topic
annoyed me.


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“You speak,” said I, “of the greater wealth and
better accommodations of Colonel Grafton, as
prompting us to prefer his hospitality to yours.
My good sir, why should you do us this wrong?
What do you see in either of us to think such things?
We are both poor men—poorer, perhaps, than yourself—I
know I am, and believe that such too is the
case with my companion.”

“Do you though?” said the fellow coolly interrupting
me. I felt that my blood was warming—
he perhaps saw it, for he instantly went on—

“I don't mean any offence to you, gentlemen—
very far from it; but we all very well know what
temptations are in a rich man's house more than
those in a poor man's. I'm a little jealous you see,
that's all; for I look upon myself as just as good as
Colonel Grafton any day, and to find people go from
my door to look for his, is a sort of slight, you see,
that I can't always stomach. But I suppose you are
another guess sort of people; and I should be sorry
if you found any thing amiss in what I say. I'm a
poor man, it's true, but by God, I'm an honest one,
and come when you will, Mr. Carrington, I'll take
up that bit of paper almost as soon as you bring it.”

We drank with the fellow at parting, and left him
on tolerably civil terms; but there was something
about him which troubled and made me apprehensive
and suspicious. His habits of life—as we saw


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them—but ill compared with the measured and deliberate
manners and tone of voice which he habitually
employed. The calmness and dignity of one,
conscious of power and practised in authority, were
conspicuous in every thing he said and did. Such
characteristics never mark the habitually unemployed
man. What then were his occupations? Time
will show. Enough for the present to know that he
was even then meditating as dark a piece of villany
as the domestic historian of the frontier was ever
called upon to record.