University of Virginia Library


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She dwelt among the untrodden ways,
Beside the springs of Dove,
A maid, whom there were none to praise,
And very few to love.
A violet by a mossy stone,
Half hidden from the eye,
Fair as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky.


And yet lack!


The afternoon of the day following that of
Pickett's departure was one of the loveliest among
the lovely days so frequent in the Alabama November.
The glances of the oblique sun rested with
a benignant smile, like that of some venerable and
single hearted sire, upon the groves of the forest,
which, by this time, had put on all the colours of the
rainbow. The cold airs of coming winter had been
just severe enough to put a flush-like glow into the
cheeks of the leaf, and to envelope the green, here
and there, with a coating of purple and yellow,
which served it as some rich and becoming border,
and made the brief remains of the gaudy garb of


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summer seem doubly rich, and far more valuable in
such decorations. Dark brown and blooded berries
hung wantonly from bending branches, and trailing
vines, that were smitten and torn asunder by premature
storms of cold, lay upon the path and depended
from over head, with life enough in them still, even
when severed from the parent stem, to nourish and
maintain the warm and grape like clusters which
they bore. Thousands of flowers, of all varieties of
shape and colour came out upon the side of the
path, and, as it were, threw themselves along the
thoroughfare only to be trodden upon; while, hidden
in the deeper recesses of the woodland, millions
beside appeared to keep themselves in store only to
supply the places of those which were momently
doomed to suffer the consequences of exposure and
to perish beneath the sudden gusts or the equally
unheeding footsteps of the wayfarer. Hidden from
sight only by the winter bloom, that absorbed all
space, and seemed resolute to exclude from all sight,
thousands of trees, of more delicate nature, already
stripped of their foliage, stood like mourning ghosts
or withered relics of the past—the melancholy
spider, the only living decoration of their gaunt
and stretching arms—her web now completely exposed
in the absence of the leaves, under whose
sheltering volume, it had been begun in secret. At
moments the breeze would gather itself up from the
dead leaves that strewed the paths of the forest, and


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ruffle lightly, in rising, the pleasant bed where it
had lain. A kindred ruffler of leaves and branches,
was the nimble squirrel, who skipped along the
forests, making all objects subservient to his forward
motion; and now and then the rabbit timidly stealing
out from the long yellow grass beside the bay,
would bound and crouch alternately; the sounds
that shake the lighter leaves and broken branches,
stirring her heart with more keen and lasting sensations,
and compelling her to pause in her progress,
in constant dread of the pursuer.

A fitting dweller in a scene of such innocence and
simplicity was the thoughtless and unendowed
creature that now enters it; her hand filled with
bush and berry and leaf, sought with care, pursued
with avidity, gathered with fatigue and thrown
away without regard. A thousand half formed
plans in her mind—if the idiot child of Ben Pickett
may be said to possess one—a thousand crowding,
yet incomplete conceits, hurrying her forward in a
pursuit only begun to be discarded for others more
bright, yet not more enduring; and from her lips a
heartfelt laugh or cry of triumph poured forth in
the merriest tones of childhood, while the tears
gather in her eyes, and she sits upon the grass, murmuring
and laughing and weeping; all by turns and
nothing long. From the roadside she has gathered the
pale blue and yellow flowers, and these adorn her head,


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and peep out from her bosom. Now she bounds
away to hidden bushes after flaunting berries, and
now she throws herself upon a bank and tears to
pieces the flowers and shrubs which have cost her
so much pains to gather. She sings and weeps by
turns as she thus employs herself, and prating in
idiot soliloquy at fits, she speaks to the flowers that
she rends, and has some idle history of each.

“There's more of blue than of the others, and
sure there should be, for the skies are blue, and they
take their colour from the skies. But I don't want
so much of the blue; I won't have so much; I must
have more yellow; and there's a little pink flower
that Mister John showed me long time ago, if I
could get only one of them; one would do me to
put in the middle. There's a meaning in that little
flower, and Mister John read it like a printed book.
It has drops of yellow in the bottom, and it looks
like a little cup for the birds to drink from. I must
look for that. If I can only get one now, I would
keep it for Mister John to read, and I would remember
what he tells me of it. But Mister John
don't love flowers, he does not wear them in his button
hole as I see Mr. Richard; and Miss Mary loves
flowers too; I always see her with a bunch of them
in her hand, and she gathers great bunches for the
fire-place at home. She reads them too like a book;
but I will not get her to read my little pink flower


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for me. I will get Mister John; for he laughs when he
reads it, and Miss Mary looks almost like she would
cry, and she looks at me, and she does not look at
the flower, and she carries me home with her; but
Mister John takes me a long walk with him in the
woods, and we gather more flowers together, and we
sit down upon the log, and pull them to pieces. I
wish he would come now. If he were with me, I
could go deeper into the woods; but they look too
black when I am by myself, and I will not go
alone. There's more than twenty bears in those
black woods, so mother tells me, and yet, when I
go there with Mr. John, I don't see any, and I don't
even hear them growl; they must be afraid of him,
and run when they know he's coming. I wish he
were coming to read my flower. I have one—I
have two—if he would but come. Oh me, mother!
what's that.”

The girl started from the bank in fear, dashing
down the flowers in the same instant, and preparing
herself for flight. The voice of the intruder reassured

“Ah, Jane, my pretty, is it you?”

“Dear me, Mr. John, I'm so glad you're come.
I thought it was the black bears. Mother says
there's more than twenty in these woods, and tells
me that I musn't go into them; that they'll eat me
up, and won't even leave my bones. But when


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you're with me, Mister John, I'm not afraid of the

“Humph!” was the unuttered thought of the new
comer. “Not the less danger perhaps, but of this
no matter.”

“So you're afraid of the bears, my pretty Jane?”
he said aloud.

“Ah no, not when you're with me, Mister John;
they're afraid of you. But when I'm by myself,
the woods look so black, I'm afraid to go into them.”

“Pretty idiot!” exclaimed John Hurdis, for it
was he; “but you're not afraid now, Jane; let us take
a walk and laugh at these bears. They will not
not stop to look at us, and if they do, all we have to
do is to laugh at them aloud, and they'll be sure to
run. There's no danger in looking at them when
they run, you know.”

“No, to be sure; but Mr. John—stop. I don't
know whether I ought to go with you any longer;
for do you know—” Here she lowered her voice
to a whisper, and looked cautiously around her as
she spoke; “do you know mother's been talking to
dad about you, and she says—but I won't tell you.”

And, with a playful manner she turned from him
as she finished the sentence, and proceeded to
gather up the flowers, which, in her first alarm, she
had scattered all around her. He stooped to assist
her, and putting his arm about her waist, they


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walked forward into the wood, the silly creature all
the while refusing to go, yet seeming perfectly unconscious
that she was even then complying with his
demand. When they were somewhat concealed
within its recesses, he stopped, and with some little
anxiety, demanded to know what it was that her
mother had said.

“I won't tell you, Mr. John, I won't.”

He knew very well how to effect his purpose, and
replied calmly,

“Well if you won't tell me, Jane, I will call the

“No, don't,” she screamed aloud; “don't, Mister
John, I'll tell you every thing; did you think I
would'nt tell you, Mister John; I was only in play.
Wait now till I pick up this little pink flower,
Mister John, that's got the yellow drops in the
bottom, and I'll tell you all. This is the flower that
you read to me, Mister John; do now, that's a good
dear, do read it to me now.”

“Not now, Jane—after you tell me about your

“Yes; but Mister John, would you set the bears
on me for true?”

“To be sure, if you wouldn't tell me. Come
Jane, be quick, or I'll call them.”

“No, don't—don't, I beg you. I'm sure it's nothing
so great to tell you, but I tell you, Mister


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John, you see, because mother didn't want you to
know. Dad and she talked out, but when they
thought I was awake, oh, then there was no more
talk for awhile; but I heard them all.”

“All what, Jane?”

“Oh, don't you know? All about you and Dad,
and Mister Richard, and how you hate Mister
Richard, and how Dad is to shoot him—”

“The d—l! You didn't hear that, Jane!” was the
exclamation of the thunderstruck criminal; his
voice thick with apprehension, his limbs trembling,
his flesh shrinking and shivering, and his eyes, full
of wonder and affright, absolutely starting from the
sockets. So sudden had been the revelation, it
might well have startled or stunned a much bolder
spirit than was his. He led, almost dragged her,
still deeper into the woods, as if he dreaded the
heedful ears of any passing traveller.

“What have you heard, Jane? what more did
your mother say? She surely said not what you
tell me; how could she know—how could she say
it? She did not say it, Jane, she could not.”

“Oh, yes, but she did; she said a great deal more,
but it's no use telling you.”

“How no use! Tell me all, Jane. Come my
pretty, tell me all that your mother said, and how
she came to say it. Did your father say it to her


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“Who, Dad! Lord bless you, Mister John, no.
Dad never tells mother nothing, and what she
knows she knows by herself, without him.”

“Indeed! But this about Richard and your
father; you don't mean that your mother knew any
such thing. Your father told her; you heard him
talking to her about it.”

“No, I tell you. Father wouldn't talk at all. It
was mother that talked the whole. She asked Dad,
and Dad wouldn't tell her, and so she told him.”

“Told him what! did she hear?”

“Yes, she told him as how you loved Miss Mary;
but Mister John, it isn't true that you love Miss
Mary, is it?”

“Pshaw! Jane, what nonsense. Go on; tell me
about your mother.”

“Well, I knew it couldn't be that you loved Miss
Mary. I don't want you to love her; she's a fine lady,
and a sweet, good lady, but I don't like you to love
her; it don't seem right; and—”

The impatient, anxious spirit of John Hurdis could
no longer brook the trifling of the idiot, which, at
another period, and with a mind less excited and
apprehensive, he would rather have encouraged than
rebuked. But now, chafing with excited feelings
and roused fears, he did not scruple to interrupt

“Nonsense, Jane—nonsense. Say no more of


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Mary, but tell me of your mother. Tell me how
she began to speak to your father. What she said?
What she knows? And we'll talk of Miss Mary,
and other matters afterwards. What did she say of
Richard? What of me? And this shooting of your

“Oh, she didn't say about shooting Dad; no, no,
it was Mr. Richard that he was to shoot.”

“Well—well, tell me that—that!”

“Oh, dear me, Mr. John—what a flurry you're
in. I'm sure I can't tell you any thing when you
look so. You frighten me too much; don't look so,
Mr. John, if you please.”

The trembling criminal tried to subdue the appearance
of anxiety and terror, which the girl's
countenance and manner sufficiently assured him
must be evident in his own. He turned from her for
an instant, moved twice or thrice around a tree—she
meanwhile watching his proceedings with a degree
of curiosity that made her forget her fears—then, returning,
with a brow somewhat smoothed, and a half
smile upon his lips, he succeeded in persuading her
to resume a narrative, which her natural imbecility
of mind, at no period, would have enabled her to
give consecutively. By questions carefully put, and
at the proper moment, he at length got from her
the whole amount of her knowledge, and learned
enough to conclude, as was the truth, that what had


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been said by the mother of the girl had been said
conjecturally. His fear had been that she had stolen
forth on the previous night, and secreting herself
near the place of conference between Pickett and
himself, had witnessed the interview and comprehended
all its terms. However relieved from his
fear by the revelation of the idiot, he was still not a
little annoyed by the close guessing of the woman.
A mind so acute, so penetrating, so able to search
into the bosom, and watch its secret desires without
the help of words, was able to effect yet more; and
he dreaded its increased activity in the present business.
Vague apprehensions still floated in his soul
though he strove to dissipate them, and he felt a
degree of insecurity which made him half forgetful
of his simple and scarcely conscious companion. She,
meanwhile, dwelt upon the affair which she had
narrated, with a tenacity as strange as had been her
former reluctance or indifference; until, at length, as
she repeated her mother's unfavourable opinion of
himself, his disquiet got the better of his courtesy,
for he exclaimed aloud:

“No more of this nonsense, Jane. Your mother's
a fool, and the best thing she can do hereafter,
is to keep her tongue.”

“No, no! Mr. John,” replied the girl earnestly,
“mother's no fool, Mr. John; it's Jane that's a fool.


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Every body calls Jane a fool, but nobody calls mother

“I don't call you so, Jane,” said Hurdis kindly
sitting beside her as he spoke, and putting his arm
about her waist.

“No, Mr. John, I know you don't, and” in a
whisper, “I'd like you to tell me, Mr. John, why
other people call me so? I'm a big girl, and I can
run and walk, and ride like other people. I can
spin and I can sew. I help mother plant potatoes,
I can break the corn, hull it and measure it, and can
do a hundred things beside. I talk like other people,
and did you ever see a body pick flowers, and
such pretty ones faster than me, Mr. John?”

“No, Jane, I never did.”

“And such pretty ones too, Mr. John. Look at this
little pink one, with the yellow drops; come, read it
to me, now, Mr. John, and show me how to read it
like you?”

“Not now, Jane! some other time. Give me a
kiss now, a sweet kiss?

“Well there, no body asks me to kiss but you
and Miss Mary sometimes, Mr. John—sometimes I
kiss mother, but she don't seem to like it. I wonder
why, Mr. John—it must be because I'm a fool.”

“No, no, Jane, you're not a fool.”

“I wish I wasn't, Mr. John, I don't think I am.


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For you know, I told you, how many things I can do
just like other people.”

“Yes, Jane, and you have a sweeter little mouth
than any body. You kiss like a little angel, and
your cheeks are as rosy—”

“Oh, don't Mr. John, that's enough. Lord, if
mother was only to see us now, what would she say?
Tell me, Mr. John, why don't I want mother to see
me, when you're so good to me? And when you kiss
me so, what makes me afraid and tremble? It is
strange, Mr. John.”

“It's because your mother's cross to you, and cold,
and gets vexed with you so often, Jane.”

“Do you think so, Mr. John? But, it can't be;
mother isn't cross to me, Mr. John, and she hasn't
whipped me I don't know the day when. She don't
know that you walk with me into the woods, Mr.
John—why don't I want to tell her—it's so very
strange? She would be mighty vexed if she was to
see me now.

Hurdis answered her with a kiss, and in the next
instant the tread of a sudden footstep behind them,
and the utterance of a single word by the intruder
caused the simple girl to scream out, and to leap like
an affrighted deer from the arms that embraced her.