My grandmother spoke with a rich Irish accent that it is impossible toindicate, for it was not a brogue, nor a dialect; it was merely afull-throated, and somewhat rolling sound which she gave to certainwords. Her language too, was freely sprinkled with Scotch words, andthese she pronounced with broad Scotch accent. The combination wasdelightful, and her blended speech added a peculiar charm to thefascinating stories she could sometimes be beguiled into telling.
Not only were cider and persimmon beer drawn from the full barrels inthe cellar, but a big bowl of apple toddy was concocted early Christmasmorning, and flanked by plates of doughnuts, and ginger bread, raisinand spiced cake, apples, and nuts, sat upon the long table in the bigroom, all day, every one being free to eat and drink his fill. Thiscustom of my father, which usually drew to our house most of the menwithin a ten mile ride, always scandalized my Aunt Martha, and but forUncle Thomas' backing we would never have gotten Ellen and Thomas to ourhouse until after Christmas day. Uncle Thomas himself always came,however, and on this occasion Aunt Martha broke her rule and came withhim, bringing too their younger son, John.
The ensuing hour brought a dozen others, the most substantialfreeholders in the community, nearly all of them members of the church,as well as men of influence in public affairs. A few drank only cider orbeer, but most of them quaffed full cups of the spiced, apple-seasonedtoddy with evident appreciation, and ate the cakes, apples and nutswithout stint.
Our valley looked very fair that day, as we marched northward across it.The rank wheat rolled in billows of rich green, the springing cornshowed narrow gray green blades, which moved gently to and fro above theloamy uplands, and the forests, which enclosed the cleared lands on allsides, were fresh robed in verdure of many hues. Edging the forest likea jeweled braid grew masses of red-bud, dogwood and hawthorn in fullblossom, and singing along its sparkling way, the river wound in and outof velvety meadows with deep curves and bold sweeps of bountiful intent,embracing as much as possible of this fair land that it might scatterwidely its fertilizing influences.
I lifted her to the bough she indicated, and when she had settledherself gracefully, and said with pretty affectation of dignity, \"Now,Sir Knight, the Queen awaits your service,\" I laid the floral wreathcarefully upon the bright curls, and would have stepped back to admireits effect, only something in the eyes that met mine, and the perfumebreathing lips, which were on a level with my own, made my head reel,the blood surge in my ears, and many colored motes float between me andthe canopy of blossom bending over us. In another instant I had kissedher full upon the lips, and then emboldened by their touch, I threw myarms about her, and kissed her again and again, upon brow, cheek, eyesand lips, paying no heed to her commands, and only desisting when shebegan tearfully to entreat me.
As soon as I had realized the full meaning of Nelly's rapidly pouredforth persuasions, I gently released her, and rose to my feet, thenstood silently by, for a moment, looking down upon her, with a conscioustenseness of all my muscles, as of one who inwardly strengthens himselffor a wrenching effort. Beneath my fixed gaze Nelly paled, and flushed,and paled again, and the fingers of her freed hands were locked andloosed alternately, while from beneath her lowered lids two big tearsslipped, and fell unheeded.
Governor Henry, I found, was not a whit behind Clark in zeal for theenterprise; nor was Mr. Jefferson much less ready to give the plan fullcountenance, though he did not expect from the expedition, even ifsuccessful, the vast results that Clark reckoned upon so confidently.Mr. Wythe showed the caution to have been expected from his calm andlogical mind, suggesting difficulties at every turn, and urgingforethought in the plans, while Colonel Mason spoke infrequently andwith less of flowing readiness than any of the others, but mostpointedly and justly, first on the side of caution, and then on the sideof boldness, as Clark's enthusiasm and strongly presented argumentsgradually won him to our side.
\"You have unsuspected fluency of the tongue, Captain McElroy,\" andFather Gibault's habitual expression of gentle benevolence had givenplace to one of droll humorousness. \"Priest though I be, and with mind,I trust, fixed usually on holier things, I could not easily have blindedmyself to signs of earthly love so evident as those you have shown foryour cousin. I guessed many things when the maiden lay ill of fever lastautumn, and you haunted my steps for news of her. I wonder not that youlove Ellen O'Neil. A maiden more sweet I have not known, nor one betterworth a man's heart. When I learned of her vow, I thought first of you,with much sympathy, and fearing that her convictions were but theexpression of extreme sensibility natural to girlhood, I was mostcareful not to say aught to fix them into resolve. Later, seeing thatshe took a maiden's natural pleasure in her small court, and that herinfluence over Colonel Clark and the rest of you was good, softening andrestraining you, I soothed Ellen's unquiet conscience, and showed herthat the holy God had given her a present work she could not wiselyabandon until the way was opened to her. Moreover, I advised her to testfarther her heart, and to be sure of full, free consecration before sheshould take the holy vows of a nun. Neither the Supreme God nor the holychurch value half-hearted service, and such vow as Ellen made is bindingonly so long as conscience, will, and heart are in full accord. Ellengoes with you, Captain McElroy, free in conscience, unfettered bypriestly admonition.\"
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He felt an instant and complete comradeship with her, a relation free from the fencing and posing of his struggle with Madeline. He knew that this girl was of his own people. If she was vulgar, jocular, unreticent, she was also gallant, she was full of laughter at humbugs, she was capable of a loyalty too casual and natural to seem heroic. His voice was lively, though his words were only: 153554b96e