Primary Resource

Chapter 2: "Mr. Jefferson"; an excerpt from Lewis Rand by Mary Johnston (1908)

In chapter 2 of Lewis Rand , a novel by Mary Johnston published in 1908 and set in Virginia in the first years of the nineteenth century, the title character works for his father, Gideon Rand, rolling tobacco. Yearning for an education, Lewis Rand seeks the help of his older friend Adam Gaudylock, a trapper, but it is a chance encounter with Thomas Jefferson that finally frees the boy from his father's clutches.

Transcription from Original

BY ten of the Capitol clock Gideon Rand had sold his tobacco and deposited the price in a well-filled wallet. "Eighteen shillings the hundred," he said, with grim satisfaction. "And the casks I sent by Mocket sold as well! Good leaf, good leaf! Tobacco pays, and learning don't. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Lewis Rand!"

Father and son came out from the cool, dark store, upon the unpaved street, and joined Adam Gaudylock where he lounged beneath a sycamore. Up and down the street were wooden houses, shops of British merchants, prosperous taverns, and dwelling-houses sunk in shady gardens. An arrow-flight away brawled the river among bright islands. The sky above the bronze sycamores was very blue, the air crystal, the sunshine heavenly mild. The street was not crowded. A Quaker in a broad-brimmed hat went by, and then a pretty girl, and then a minister talking broad Scotch, and then a future chief justice who had been to market and had a green basket upon his arm. Gideon drew another breath of satisfaction. "I've been thinking this long time of buying a negro, and now I can do it! Mocket says there's a likely man for sale down by the market. Lewis, you go straight to Mocket now, and tell him I'll wait for him there! Are you coming with me, Adam Gaudylock?"

"Why," said Gaudylock, with candour, "I have business presently in Governor Street, and a man to meet at the Indian Queen. And I think I'll go now with Lewis. Somehow, the woods have spoiled me for seeing men bought and sold."

— page 15 —

"They're black men," said Rand indifferently. "I'll see you, then, at dinner-time, at the Bird in Hand. I'm going home to-morrow.—Lewis, if you want to, you can look around this morning with Tom Mocket!" He glanced at his son's flushing face, and, being in high good humour, determined to give the colt a little rein. "Be off, and spend your dollar! See what sights you can, for we'll not be in Richmond again for many a day! They say there's a brig in from Barbadoes."

He put up his wallet, and with a nod to Gaudylock strode away in the direction of the market, but presently halted and turned his head. "Lewis!"

"Yes, father."

"Don't you be buying any more books! You hear me?"

He swung away, and his son stood under the sycamore tree and looked after him with a darkened face. Gaudylock put a hand upon his shoulder. "Never mind, Lewis! Before we part I'm going to talk to Gideon." He laughed. "Do you know what the Cherokees call me? They call me Golden Tongue. Because, you see, I can persuade them to 'most anything,—always into the war-path, and sometimes out of it! Gideon may be obstinate, but he can't be as obstinate as an Indian. Now let 's go to Mocket's."

The way to Mocket's lay down a steep hillside, and along the river-bank, under a drift of coloured leaves, and by the sound of falling water. Mocket dwelt in a small house, in a small green yard with a broken gate. A red creeper mantled the tiny porch, and lilac bushes, clucked under by a dozen hens, hedged the grassy yard. As the hunter and Lewis Rand approached, a little girl, brown and freckled, barefoot and dressed in linsey, sprang up from the stone before the gate, and began to run towards the house. Her foot caught in a trailing vine, and down she fell. Adam was beside her

— page 16 —

 at once. "Why, you little partridge!" he exclaimed, and lifted her to her feet.

"It's Vinie Mocket," said his companion. "Vinie, where's your father?"

"I don't know, thir," answered Vinie. "Tom knows. Tom's down there, at the big ship. I'll tell him."

She slipped from Gaudylock's clasp and pattered off toward the river, where the brig from Barbadoes showed hull and masts. The hunter sat down upon the porch step, and drew out his tobacco pouch. "She's like a partridge," he said.

"She's just Vinie Mocket," answered the boy. "There's a girl who stays sometimes at Mrs. Selden's, on the Three-Notched Road. She's not freckled, and her eyes are big, and she never goes barefoot. I reckon it's silk she wears."

"What's her name ?" asked the hunter, filling his pipe.

"Jacqueline—Jacqueline Churchill. She lives at Fontenoy."

"Fontenoy's a mighty fine place," remarked Gaudylock. "And the Churchills are mighty fine people.—Here's the partridge back, with another freckle-face."

"That's Tom Mocket," said Lewis. "If Vinie's a partridge, Tom's a weasel."

The weasel, sandy-haired and freckled, came up the path with long steps. "Hi, Lewis! Father's gone toward the market looking for your father. That's a brig from the Indies down there, and the captain's our cousin—ain't he, Vinie? I know who you are, sir. You're Adam Gaudylock, the great hunter!"

"So I am, so I am!" quoth Adam. "Look here, little partridge, at what I've got in my pouch!"

The partridge busied herself with the beaded thing, and

— page 17 —

 the two boys talked aside. "I've till dinner time to do what I like in," said Lewis Rand. "Have you got to work?"

"Not unless I want to," Young Mocket answered blissfully. "Father, he don't care! Besides"—he swelled with pride— "I don't work now at the wharf. I'm at Chancellor Wythe's."

"Chancellor Wythe's! What are you doing there?"

"Helping him. Maybe, by and by, I'll be a lawyer, too."

"Heugh!" said the other. "Do you mean you're reading law?"

"No-o, not just exactly. But I let people in—and I hear what they talk about. I like it better than the wharf, anyhow. I'll go with you and show you things. Is Mr. Gaudylock coming?"

"No," replied Adam. "I'll finish my pipe, and take a look at the ship down there, and then I 'll meet a friend at the Indian Queen. Be off with you both! Vinie will stay and talk to me."

"Yeth, thir," said Vinie, her brown arm deep in the beaded pouch.

The two lads left behind the scarlet-clad porch, the hunter and Vinie, the little green yard and the broken gate. "Where first?" demanded Tom.

"Where is the best place in Richmond to buy books?"

Young Mocket considered. "There's a shop near the bridge. What do you want with books?"

"I want to read them. We'll go to the bridge first."

Tom hung back. "Don't you want to see the brig from Barbadoes? She's a beauty. There's a schooner from Baltimore, too, at the Rock Landing. You won't? Then let's go over to Widewilt's Island. Well, they whipped a man this morning and he's in the pillory now, down by the market.

— page 18 —

Let's go look at him.—Pshaw! what's the use of books! Don't you want to see the Guard turn out at noon, and hear the trumpet blow? Well, come on to the bridge! Nancy, the apple-woman, is there too."

The shop near the bridge to which they resorted was dark and low, but learning was spread upon its counter, and a benevolent dragon of knowledge in horn spectacles ran over the wares for Lewis Rand. "De Jure Maritimo, six shillings eightpence, my lad. Burnet's History and Demosthenes' Orations, two crowns. Mr. Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a great book and dear! Common Sense—and that's Tom Paine's, and you may have it for two pistareens."

The boy shook his head. "I want a law-book."

The genie put forth The Principles of Equity, and named the price.

"'T is too dear."

A gentleman lounging against the counter closed the book into which he had been dipping, and drew nearer to the would-be purchaser.

"Equity is an expensive commodity, my lad," he said kindly. "How much law have you read?"

"I have read The Law of Virginia," answered the boy. "I borrowed it. I worked a week for Mr. Douglas, and read The Law of Nations rest-hours. Mrs. Selden, on the Three-Notched Road, gave me The Federalist. Are you a lawyer, sir?"

The gentleman laughed, and the genie behind the counter laughed. Young Mocket plucked Lewis Rand by the sleeve, but the latter was intent upon the personage before him and did not heed.

"Yes," said the gentleman, "I am a lawyer. Are you going to be one?"

— page 19 —

"I am," said the boy. "Will you tell me what books I ought to buy? I have two dollars."

The other looked at him with keen light eyes. "That amount will not buy you many books," he said. "You should enter some lawyer's office where you may have access to his library. You spoke of the Three-Notched Road. Are you from Albemarle?"

"Yes, sir. I am Gideon Rand's son."

"Indeed! Gideon Rand! Then Mary Wayne was your mother?"

"Yes, sir."

"I remember," said the gentleman, "when she married your father. She was a beautiful woman. I heard of her death while I was in Paris."

The boy's regard, at first solely for the books, had been for some moments transferred to the gentleman who, it seemed, was a lawyer, and had known his people, and had been to Paris. He saw a tall man, of a spare and sinewy frame, with red hair, lightly powdered, and keen blue eyes. Lewis Rand's cheek grew red, and his eyes at once shy and eager. He stammered when he spoke. "Are you from Albemarle, sir?"

The other smiled, a bright and gracious smile, irradiating his ruddy, freckled face. "I am," he said.

"From—from Monticello?"

"From Monticello." The speaker, who loved his home with passion, never uttered its name without a softening of the voice. "From Monticello," he said again. "There are books enough there, my lad. Some day you shall ride over from the Three-Notched Road, and I will show you them."

"I will come," said Lewis Rand. The colour deepened in his face and a moisture troubled his vision. The shop, the littered counter, the guardian of the books, and President

— page 20 —

 Washington's Secretary of State wavered like the sunbeam at the door.

Jefferson ran his hand over the row of books. "Mr. Smith, give the lad old Coke, yes, and Locke on Government, and put them to my account.—Where do you go to school?"

The boy swallowed hard, straightened his shoulders, and looked his questioner in the face. "Nowhere, sir—not now. My father hates learning, and I work in the fields. I am very much obliged to you for the books,—and had I best buy Blackstone with the two dollars?"

The other smiled. "No, no, not Blackstone. Blackstone's frippery. You've got old Coke. Buy for yourself some book that shall mean much to you all your life.—Mr. Smith, give him Plutarch's Lives—Ossian, too. He's rich enough to buy Ossian.—As for law-books, my lad, if you will come to Monticello, I will lend you what you need. I like your spirit." He looked at his watch. "I have to dine at the Eagle with the Governor and Mr. Randolph. When do you return to Albemarle?"

"To-morrow, sir."

"Then I may overtake you on the road. Once I did your father a good turn, and I shall be glad to have a word with him now. He must not keep the son of Mary Wayne in the fields. Some day I will ride down the Three-Notched Road, and examine you on old Coke. Don't spare study; if you will be a lawyer, become a good one, not a smatterer. Good-day to you!"

He left the shop. The bookseller gazed after him, then nodded and smiled at the boy. "You look transfigured, my lad! Well, he's a great man, and he'll be a greater one yet. He's for the people, and one day the people will be for him! I 'll tie up your books—and if you can make a friend of Mr. Jefferson, you do it!"

— page 21 —

Lewis Rand came out into the sunlight with "old Coke" and Locke, Plutarch and Ossian, under his arm, and in his soul I know not what ardour of hero-worship, what surging resolve and aspiration. Young Mocket, at his elbow, regarded him with something like awe. "That was Mr. Jefferson," he said. "He knows General Washington and Marquis Lafayette and Doctor Franklin. He's just home from Paris, and they have made him Secretary of State—whatever that is. He wrote the Declaration of Independence. He's a rich man—he's a lawyer, too. He lives at a place named Monticello."

"I know," said Lewis Rand, "I've been to Monticello. When I am a man I am going to have a house like it, with a terrace and white pillars and a library. But I shall have a flower garden like the one at Fontenoy."

"Ho! your house! Is Fontenoy where Ludwell Gary lives?"

"No; he lives at Greenwood. The Churchills live at Fontenoy.—Now we 'll go see the Guard turn out. Is that the apple-woman yonder? I've a half-a-bit left."

An hour later, having bought the apples, and seen the pillared Capitol, and respectfully considered the outside of Chancellor Wythe's law office, and having parted until the afternoon with Tom Mocket, who professed an engagement on the Barbadoes brig, young Lewis Rand betook himself to the Bird in Hand. There in the bare, not over clean chamber which had been assigned to the party from Albemarle, he deposited his precious parcel first in the depths of an ancient pair of saddle-bags, then, thinking better of it, underneath the straw mattress of a small bed. It was probable, he knew, that even there his father might discover the treasure. What would follow discovery he knew full well. The beating he could take; what he would n't stand would be, say,

— page 22 —

 Gideon's flinging the books into the fire. "He shan't, he shan't," said the boy's hot heart. "If he does, I'll—I'll —"

Through the window came Gaudylock's voice from the porch of the Bird in Hand. "You Stay-at-homes—you don't know what's in the wilderness! There's good and there's bad, and there's much beside. It's like the sea—it's uncharted."

Lewis Rand closed the door of the room, and went out upon the shady porch, where he found the hunter and a lounging wide-eyed knot of listeners to tales of Kentucky and the Mississippi. The dinner-bell rang. Adam fell pointedly silent, and his audience melted away. The hunter rose and stretched himself. "There is prime venison for dinner, and a quince tart and good apple brandy. Ha! I was always glad I was born in Virginia. Here is Gideon swinging down the hill—Gideon and his negro!"

The tobacco-roller joined them, and with a wave of the hand indicated his purchase of the morning. This was a tall and strong negro, young, supple, and of a cheerful countenance. Rand was in high good-humour. "He's a runaway, Mocket says, but I 'll cure him of that! He's strong as an ox and as limber as a snake." Taking the negro's hand in his, he bent the fingers back. "Look at that! easy as a willow! He'll strip tobacco! His name is Joab."

The namesake of a prince in Israel looked blithely upon his new family. "Yaas, marster," he said, with candour. "Dat is my name—dat sho' is! Jes' Joab. An' I is strong as en ox,—don' know 'bout de snaik. Marster, is you gwine tek me 'way from Richmond?"

"Albemarle," said the tobacco-roller briefly. "To-morrow morning."

Joab studied the vine above the porch. "Kin I go tell my ole mammy good-bye? She's washin' yonder in de creek."

— page 23 —

Rand nodded, and the negro swung off to where, upon the grassy common sloping to Shockoe Creek, dark washerwomen were spreading clothes. The bell of the Bird in Hand rang again, and the white men went to dinner.

Following the venison, the tart, and apple brandy came the short, bright afternoon, passed by Lewis Rand upon the brig from the Indies with Tom Mocket and little Vinie and a wrinkled skipper who talked of cocoanuts and strange birds and red-handkerchiefed pirates, and spent by Gideon first in business with the elder Mocket, and then in conversation with Adam Gaudylock. Lewis, returning at supper-time to the Bird in Hand, found the hunter altered no whit from his habitual tawny lightness, but his father in a mood that he knew, sullen and silent. "Adam's been talking to him," thought the boy. "And it's just the same as when Mrs. Selden talks to him. Let me go—not he!"

In the morning, at six of the clock, the two Rands, the negro Joab, the horses, and the dogs took the homeward road to Albemarle. Adam Gaudylock was not returning with them; he had trader's business with the merchants in Main Street, hunter's business with certain cronies at the Indian Queen, able scout and man-of-information business in Governor Street, and business of his own upon the elm-shaded walk above the river. Over level autumn fields and up and down the wooded hills, father and son and the slave travelled briskly toward the west. As the twilight fell, they came up with three white wagons, Staunton bound, and convoyed by mountaineers. That night they camped with these men in an expanse of scrub and sassafras, but left them at dawn and went on toward Albemarle. A day of coloured woods, of infrequent clearings, and of streams to ford, ended in an evening of cool wind and rosy sky. They descended a hill, halted, and built their fire in a grassy space beside a river. Joab

— page 24 —

 tethered the horses and made the fire, and fried the bacon and baked the hoecake. As he worked he sang: —

"David an' Cephas, an' ole brer Mingo,
Saul an' Paul, an' de w'ite folk sinners—
Oh, my chillern, follow de Lawd!"

Supper was eaten in silence. When it was over, Gideon Rand sat with his back against a pine and smoked his pipe. His son went down to the river and stretched his length upon a mossed and lichened boulder. The deep water below the stone did not give him back himself as had done the streamlet five days before. This was a river, marred with eddies and with drifting wood, and red with the soil. The evening wind was blowing, and the sycamore above him cast its bronze leaves into the flood which sucked them under, or bore them with it on its way to the larger river and the ultimate sea. This stream had no babbling voice; its note was low and grave. Youth and mountain sources forgotten, it hearkened before the time to ocean voices. The boy, idle upon the lichened stone, listened too, to distant utterances, to the sirens singing beyond the shadowy cape. The earth soothed him; he lay with half shut eyes, and after the day's hot communion with old wrongs, he felt a sudden peace. He was at the turn; the brute within him quiet behind the eternal bars; the savage receding, the man beckoning, the after man watching from afar. The inner stage was cleared and set for a new act. He had lowered the light, he had rested, and he had filled the interval with forms and determinations beautiful and vague, vague as the mists, the sounds, the tossed arms of the Ossian he had dared to open last night, before his father, by the camp-fire of the mountaineers. In the twilight of his theatre he rested; a shadowy figure, full of mysteries, full of possibilities, a boy in the grasp of the man within

— page 25 —

him, neither boy nor man unlovable, nor wholly unadmirable, both seen, and seeing, "through a glass darkly."

He turned on his side, and the light went up sharply. A man riding a beautiful and spirited horse was coming over the hilltop. Horse and rider paused a moment upon the crest, standing clear against the eastern sky. In the crystal air and the sunset glow they crowned the hill like a horse and rider nobly done in bronze. A moment thus, then they began to pick their way down the rocky road. Lewis Rand looked, and started to his feet. That horse had been bred in Albemarle, and that horseman he had met in Richmond. The boy's heart beat fast and the colour surged to his cheek. There was little, since the hour in the bookshop, that he would not have done or suffered for the approaching figure. All along the road from Richmond his imagination had conjured up a score of fantastic instances, in each of which he had rescued, or died for, or had in some impossibly romantic and magnificent fashion been the benefactor of the man who was drawing near to the river and camp-fire. As superbly generous as any other youth, he was, at present, in his progress through life, in the land of shrines. He must have his idol, must worship and follow after some visible hero, some older, higher, stronger, more subtle-fine and far-ahead adventurer. Heretofore, in his limited world, Adam Gaudylock had seemed nearest the gates of escape. But Adam, he thought, was of the woods and the earth, even as his father was, and as the tobacco was, and as he himself was. His enormous need was for some one to follow whose feet were above the fat, red fields and the leafy trails. All this was present with him as he watched the oncoming figure. Great men kept their word. Had not Mr. Jefferson said that he would overtake them ?—and there he was! He was coming down to the camp-fire, he was going to stop and talk

— page 26 —

 to the surly giant, like Giant Despair, who sat and smoked beside it.

Lewis Rand left the river and the windy sycamore and hastened across the sere grass. "Father, father!" he cried. "Do you know who that is?" In his young voice there was both warning and appeal. Adam Gaudylock, he knew, had spoken to his father, but Gideon had given no sign. Suppose, no matter who spoke, his father would give, forever, no other sign than that oft seen and always hated jerk of the head toward the tobacco-fields?

Gideon Rand took his pipe from his lips. "It's Mr. Jefferson," he answered laconically. "He's the one man in this country to whom I'd listen."

Jefferson rode up to the group about the camp-fire, checked his horse, and gave the tobacco-roller and his son a plain man's greeting to plain men. The eagerness of the boy's face did not escape him; when he dismounted, flung the reins of Wildair to his groom, and crossed the bit of turf to the fire beneath the pines, he knew that he was pleasing a young heart. He loved youth, and to the young he was always nobly kind.

"Good-evening, Mr. Rand," he said. "You are homeward bound, as I am. It is good to see Albemarle faces after years of the French. I had the pleasure of making your son's acquaintance yesterday. It is a great thing to be the father of a son, for so one ceases to be a loose end and becomes a link in the great chain. Your son, I think, will do you honour. And, man to man, you must pay him in the same coin. We on a lower rung of the ladder must keep our hands from the ankles of the climbers above us! Make room for me on that log, my lad! Your father and I will talk awhile."

Thus it was that an able lawyer took up the case of young Lewis Rand. It was the lawyer's pleasure to give aid to

— page 27 —

 youth, and to mould the mind of youth. He had many protégés, to all of whom he was invariably kind, invariably generous. The only return he exacted was that of homage. The yoke was not heavy, for, after all, the homage was to Ideas, to large, sagacious, and far-reaching Thought. It was in the year 1790 that he broke Gideon Rand's resistance to his son's devotion to other gods than those of the Rands. The year that followed that evening on the Albemarle road found Lewis Rand reading law in an office in Charlottesville. A few more years, and he was called to the bar; a little longer, and his name began to be an oft-spoken one in his native county, and not unknown throughout Virginia.