In the old, old, square-porticoed mansion, with the wry window-
shutters and the paint peeling off in discoloured flakes, lived one of
the last war governors.
The South has forgotten the enmity of the great conflict, but it
refuses to abandon its old traditions and idols. In "Governor"
Pemberton, as he was still fondly called, the inhabitants of Elmville
saw the relic of their state's ancient greatness and glory. In his day
he had been a man large in the eye of his country. His state had
pressed upon him every honour within its gift. And now when he was
old, and enjoying a richly merited repose outside the swift current of
public affairs, his townsmen loved to do him reverence for the sake of
The Governor's decaying "mansion" stood upon the main street of
Elmville within a few feet of its rickety paling-fence. Every morning
the Governor would descend the steps with extreme care and
deliberation--on account of his rheumatism--and then the click of his
gold-headed cane would be heard as he slowly proceeded up the rugged
brick sidewalk. He was now nearly seventy-eight, but he had grown old
gracefully and beautifully. His rather long, smooth hair and flowing,
parted whiskers were snow-white. His full-skirted frock-croak was
always buttoned snugly about his tall, spare figure. He wore a high,
well-kept silk hat--known as a "plug" in Elmville--and nearly always
gloves. His manners were punctilious, and somewhat overcharged with
The Governor's walks up Lee Avenue, the principal street, developed in
their course into a sort of memorial, triumphant procession. Everyone
he met saluted him with profound respect. Many would remove their
hats. Those who were honoured with his personal friendship would pause
to shake hands, and then you would see exemplified the genuine /beau
ideal/ Southern courtesy.
Upon reaching the corner of the second square from the mansion, the
Governor would pause. Another street crossed the venue there, and
traffic, to the extent of several farmers' wagons and a peddler's cart
or two, would rage about the junction. Then the falcon eye of General
Deffenbaugh would perceive the situation, and the General would
hasten, with ponderous solicitude, from his office in the First
National Bank building to the assistance of his old friend.
When the two exchanged greetings the decay of modern manners would
become accusingly apparent. The General's bulky and commanding figure
would bend lissomely at a point where you would have regarded its
ability to do so with incredulity. The Governor would take the
General's arm and be piloted safely between the hay-wagons and the
sprinkling-cart to the other side of the street. Proceeding to the
post-office in the care of his friend, the esteemed statesmen would
there hold an informal levee among the citizens who were come for
their morning mail. Here, gathering two or three prominent in law,
politics, or family, the pageant would make a stately progress along
the Avenue, stopping at the Palace Hotel, where, perhaps, would be
found upon the register the name of some guest deemed worthy of an
introduction to the state's venerable and illustrious son. If any such
were found, an hour or two would be spent in recalling the faded
glories of the Governor's long-vanished administration.
On the return march the General would invariably suggest that, His
Excellency being no doubt fatigued, it would be wise to recuperate for
a few minutes at the Drug Emporium of Mr. Appleby R. Fentress (an
elegant gentleman, sir--one of the Chatham County Fentresses--so many
of our best-blooded families have had to go into trade, sir, since the
Mr. Appleby R. Fentress was a /connoisseur/ in fatigue. Indeed, if he
had not been, his memory alone should have enabled him to prescribe,
for the majestic invasion of his pharmacy was a casual happening that
had surprised him almost daily for years. Mr. Fentress knew the
formula of, and possessed the skill to compound, a certain potion
antagonistic to fatigue, the salient ingredient of which he described
(no doubt in pharmaceutical terms) as "genuine old hand-made Clover
Leaf '59, Private Stock."
Nor did the ceremony of administering the potion ever vary. Mr.
Fentress would first compound two of the celebrated mixtures--one for
the Governor, and the other for the General to "sample." Then the
Governor would make this little speech in his high, piping, quavering
"No, sir--not one drop until you have prepared one for yourself and
join us, Mr. Fentress. Your father, sir, was one of my most valued
supporters and friends during My Administration, and any mark of
esteem I can confer upon his son is not only a pleasure but a duty,
Blushing with delight at the royal condescension, the druggist would
obey, and all would drink to the General's toast: "The prosperity of
our grand old state, gentlemen--the memory of her glorious past--the
health of her Favourite Son."
Some one of the Old Guard was always at hand to escort the Governor
home. Sometimes the General's business duties denied him the
privilege, and then Judge Broomfield or Colonel Titus, or one of the
Ashford County Slaughters would be on hand to perform the rite.
Such were the observances attendant upon the Governor's morning stroll
to the post-office. How much more magnificent, impressive, and
spectacular, then, was the scene at public functions when the General
would lead forth the silver-haired relic of former greatness, like
some rare and fragile waxwork figure, and trumpet his pristine
eminence to his fellow citizens!
General Deffenbaugh was the Voice of Elmville. Some said he was
Elmville. At any rate, he had no competitor as the Mouthpiece. He
owned enough stock in the /Daily Banner/ to dictate its utterance,
enough shares in the First National Bank to be the referee of its
loans, and a war record that left him without a rival for first place
at barbecues, school commencements, and Decoration Days. Besides these
acquirements he was possessed with endowments. His personality was
inspiring and triumphant. Undisputed sway had moulded him to the
likeness of a fatted Roman emperor. The tones of his voice were not
otherwise than clarion. To say that the General was public-spirited
would fall short of doing him justice. He had spirit enough for a
dozen publics. And as a sure foundation for it all, he had a heart
that was big and stanch. Yes; General Deffenbaugh was Elmville.
One little incident that usually occurred during the Governor's
morning walk has had its chronicling delayed by more important
matters. The procession was accustomed to halt before a small brick
office on the Avenue, fronted by a short flight of steep wooden steps.
A modest tin sign over the door bore the words: "Wm. B. Pemberton:
Looking inside, the General would roar: "Hello, Billy, my boy." The
less distinguished members of the escort would call: "Morning, Billy."
The Governor would pipe: "Good morning, William."
Then a patient-looking little man with hair turning gray along the
temples would come down the steps and shake hands with each one of the
party. All Elmville shook hands when it met.
The formalities concluded, the little man would go back to his table,
heaped with law books and papers, while the procession would proceed.
Billy Pemberton was, as his sign declared, a lawyer by profession. By
occupation and common consent he was the Son of his Father. This was
the shadow in which Billy lived, the pit out of which he had
unsuccessfully striven for years to climb and, he had come to believe,
the grave in which his ambitions were destined to be buried. Filial
respect and duty he paid beyond the habit of most sons, but he aspired
to be known and appraised by his own deeds and worth.
After many years of tireless labour he had become known in certain
quarters far from Elmville as a master of the principles of the law.
Twice he had gone to Washington and argued cases before the highest
tribunal with such acute logic and learning that the silken gowns on
the bench had rustled from the force of it. His income from his
practice had grown until he was able to support his father, in the old
family mansion (which neither of them would have thought of
abandoning, rickety as it was) in the comfort and almost the luxury of
the old extravagant days. Yet, he remained to Elmville as only "Billy"
Pemberton, the son of our distinguished and honoured fellow-townsman,
"ex-Governor Pemberton." Thus was he introduced at public gatherings
where he sometimes spoke, haltingly and prosily, for his talents were
too serious and deep for extempore brilliancy; thus was he presented
to strangers and to the lawyers who made the circuit of the courts;
and so the /Daily Banner/ referred to him in print. To be "the son of"
was his doom. What ever he should accomplish would have to be
sacrificed upon the altar of this magnificent but fatal parental
The peculiarity and the saddest thing about Billy's ambition was that
the only world he thirsted to conquer was Elmville. His nature was
diffident and unassuming. National or State honours might have
oppressed him. But, above all things, he hungered for the appreciation
of the friends among whom he had been born and raised. He would not
have plucked one leaf from the garlands that were so lavishly bestowed
upon his father, he merely rebelled against having his own wreathes
woven from those dried and self-same branches. But Elmville "Billied"
and "sonned" him to his concealed but lasting chagrin, until at length
he grew more reserved and formal and studious than ever.
There came a morning when Billy found among his mail a letter from a
very high source, tendering him the appointment to an important
judicial position in the new island possessions of our country. The
honour was a distinguished one, for the entire nation had discussed
the probable recipients of these positions, and had agreed that the
situation demanded only men of the highest character, ripe learning,
and evenly balanced mind.
Billy could not subdue a certain exultation at this token of the
success of his long and arduous labours, but, at the same time, a
whimsical smile lingered around his mouth, for he foresaw in which
column Elmville would place the credit. "We congratulate Governor
Pemberton upon the mark of appreciation conferred upon his son"--
"Elmville rejoices with our honoured citizen, Governor Pemberton, at
his son's success"--"Put her there, Billy!"--"Judge Billy Pemberton,
sir; son of our State's war hero and the people's pride!"--these were
the phrases, printed and oral, conjured up by Billy's prophetic fancy.
Grandson of his State, and stepchild to Elmville--thus had fate fixed
his kinship to the body politic.
Billy lived with his father in the old mansion. The two and an elderly
lady--a distant relative--comprised the family. Perhaps, though, old
Jeff, the Governor's ancient coloured body-servant, should be
included. Without doubt, he could have claimed the honour. There were
other servants, but Thomas Jefferson Pemberton, sah, was a member of
Jeff was the one Elmvillian who gave to Billy the gold of approval
unmixed with the alloy of paternalism. To him "Mars William" was the
greatest man in Talbot County. Beaten upon though he was by the
shining light that emanates from an ex-war governor, and loyal as he
remained to the old /regime/, his faith and admiration were Billy's.
As valet to a hero, and a member of the family, he may have had
superior opportunities for judging.
Jeff was the first one to whom Bill revealed the news. When he reached
home for supper Jeff took his "plug" hat and smoothed it before
hanging it upon the hall-rack.
"Dar now!" said the old man: "I knowed it was er comin'. I knowed it
was gwine ter happen. Er Judge, you says, Mars William? Dem Yankees
done made you er judge? It's high time, sah, dey was doin' somep'n to
make up for dey rascality endurin' de war. I boun' dey holds a confab
and says: 'Le's make Mars William Pemberton er judge, and dat'll
settle it.' Does you have to go way down to dem Fillypines, Mars
William, or kin you judge 'em from here?"
"I'd have to live there most of the time, of course," said Billy.
"I wonder what de Gubnor gwine say 'bout dat," speculated Jeff.
Billy wondered too.
After supper, when the two sat in the library, according to their
habit, the Governor smoking his clay pipe and Billy his cigar, the son
dutifully confessed to having been tendered the appointment.
For a long time the Governor sat, smoking, without making any comment.
Billy reclined in his favourite rocker, waiting, perhaps still flushed
with satisfaction over the tender that had come to him, unsolicited,
in his dingy little office, above the heads of the intriguing, time-
serving, clamorous multitude.
At last the Governor spoke; and, though his words were seemingly
irrelevant, they were to the point. His voice had a note of martyrdom
running through its senile quaver.
"My rheumatism has been growing steadily worse these past months,
"I am sorry, father," said Billy, gently.
"And I am nearly seventy-eight. I am getting to be an old man. I can
recall the names of but two or three who were in public life during My
Administration. What did you say is the nature of this position that
is offered you, William?"
"A Federal Judgeship, father. I believe it is considered to be a
somewhat flattering tender. It is outside of politics and wire-
pulling, you know."
"No doubt, no doubt. Few of the Pembertons have engaged in
professional life for nearly a century. None of them have ever held
Federal positions. They have been land-holders, slave-owners, and
planters on a large scale. One of two of the Derwents--your mother's
family--were in the law. Have you decided to accept this appointment,
"I am thinking it over," said Billy, slowly, regarding the ash of his
"You have been a good son to me," continued the Governor, stirring his
pipe with the handle of a penholder.
"I've been your son all my life," said Billy, darkly.
"I am often gratified," piped the Governor, betraying a touch of
complacency, "by being congratulated upon having a son with such sound
and sterling qualities. Especially in this, our native town, is your
name linked with mine in the talk of our citizens."
"I never knew anyone to forget the vindculum," murmured Billy,
"Whatever prestige," pursued the parent, "I may be possessed of, by
virtue of my name and services to the state, has been yours to draw
upon freely. I have not hesitated to exert it in your behalf whenever
opportunity offered. And you have deserved it, William. You've been
the best of sons. And now this appointment comes to take you away from
me. I have but a few years left to live. I am almost dependent upon
others now, even in walking and dressing. What would I do without you,
The Governor's pipe dropped to the floor. A tear trickled from his
eye. His voice had risen, and crumbled to a weakling falsetto, and
ceased. He was an old, old man about to be bereft of a son that
Billy rose, and laid his hand upon the Governor's shoulder.
"Don't worry, father," he said, cheerfully. "I'm not going to accept.
Elmville is good enough for me. I'll write to-night and decline it."
At the next interchange of devoirs between the Governor and General
Deffenbaugh on Lee Avenue, His Excellency, with a comfortable air of
self-satisfaction, spoke of the appointment that had been tendered to
The General whistled.
"That's a plum for Billy," he shouted. "Who'd have thought that Billy
--but, confound it, it's been in him all the time. It's a boost for
Elmville. It'll send real estate up. It's an honour to our state. It's
a compliment to the South. We've all been blind about Billy. When does
he leave? We must have a reception. Great Gatlings! that job's eight
thousand a year! There's been a car-load of lead-pencils worn to stubs
figuring on those appointments. Think of it! Our little, wood-sawing,
mealy-mouthed Billy! Angel unawares doesn't begin to express it.
Elmville is disgraced forever until she lines up in a hurry for
ratification and apology."
The venerable Moloch smiled fatuously. He carried the fire with which
to consume all these tributes to Billy, the smoke of which would
ascend as an incense to himself.
"William," said the Governor, with modest pride, "has declined the
appointment. He refuses to leave me in my old age. He is a good son."
The General swung round, and laid a large forefinger upon the bosom of
his friend. Much of the General's success had been due to his
dexterity in establishing swift lines of communication between cause
"Governor," he said, with a keen look in his big, ox-like eyes,
"you've been complaining to Billy about your rheumatism."
"My dear General," replied the Governor, stiffly, "my son is forty-
two. He is quite capable of deciding such questions for himself. And
I, as his parent, feel it my duty to state that your remark about--er
--rheumatism is a mighty poor shot from a very small bore, sir, aimed
at a purely personal and private affliction."
"If you will allow me," retorted the General, "you've afflicted the
public with it for some time; and 'twas no small bore, at that."
This first tiff between the two old comrades might have grown into
something more serious, but for the fortunate interruption caused by
the ostentatious approach of Colonel Titus and another one of the
court retinue from the right county, to whom the General confided the
coddled statesman and went his way.
After Billy had so effectually entombed his ambitions, and taken the
veil, so to speak, in a sonnery, he was surprised to discover how much
lighter of heart and happier he felt. He realized what a long,
restless struggle he had maintained, and how much he had lost by
failing to cull the simple but wholesome pleasures by the way. His
heart warmed now to Elmville and the friends who had refused to set
him upon a pedestal. It was better, he began to think, to be "Billy"
and his father's son, and to be hailed familiarly by cheery neighbours
and grown-up playmates, than to be "Your Honour," and sit among
strangers, hearing, maybe, through the arguments of learned counsel,
that old man's feeble voice crying: "What would I do without you, my
Billy began to surprise his acquaintances by whistling as he walked up
the street; others he astounded by slapping them disrespectfully upon
their backs and raking up old anecdotes he had not had the time to
recollect for years. Though he hammered away at his law cases as
thoroughly as ever, he found more time for relaxation and the company
of his friends. Some of the younger set were actually after him to
join the golf club. A striking proof of his abandonment to obscurity
was his adoption of a most undignified, rakish, little soft hat,
reserving the "plug" for Sundays and state occasions. Billy was
beginning to enjoy Elmville, though that irreverent burgh had
neglected to crown him with bay and myrtle.
All the while uneventful peace pervaded Elmville. The Governor
continued to make his triumphal parades to the post-office with the
General as chief marshal, for the slight squall that had rippled their
friendship had, to all indications, been forgotten by both.
But one day Elmville woke to sudden excitement. The news had come that
a touring presidential party would honour Elmville by a twenty-minute
stop. The Executive had promised a five-minute address from the
balcony of the Palace Hotel.
Elmville rose as one man--that man being, of course, General
Deffenbaugh--to receive becomingly the chieftain of all the clans. The
train with the tiny Stars and Stripes fluttering from the engine pilot
arrived. Elmville had done her best. There were bands, flowers,
carriages, uniforms, banners, and committees without end. High-school
girls in white frocks impeded the steps of the party with roses strewn
nervously in bunches. The chieftain had seen it all before--scores of
times. He could have pictured it exactly in advance, from the Blue-
and-Gray speech down to the smallest rosebud. Yet his kindly smile of
interest greeted Elmville's display as if it had been the only and
In the upper rotunda of the Palace Hotel the town's most illustrious
were assembled for the honour of being presented to the distinguished
guests previous to the expected address. Outside, Elmville's
inglorious but patriotic masses filled the streets.
Here, in the hotel General Deffenbaugh was holding in reserve
Elmville's trump card. Elmville knew; for the trump was a fixed one,
and its lead consecrated by archaic custom.
At the proper moment Governor Pemberton, beautifully venerable,
magnificently antique, tall, paramount, stepped forward upon the arm
of the General.
Elmville watched and harked with bated breath. Never until now--when a
Northern President of the United States should clasp hands with ex-
war-Governor Pemberton would the breach be entirely closed--would the
country be made one and indivisible--no North, not much South, very
little East, and no West to speak of. So Elmville excitedly scraped
kalsomine from the walls of the Palace Hotel with its Sunday best, and
waited for the Voice to speak.
And Billy! We had nearly forgotten Billy. He was cast for Son, and he
waited patiently for his cue. He carried his "plug" in his hand, and
felt serene. He admired his father's striking air and pose. After all,
it was a great deal to be a son of a man who could so gallantly hold
the position of a cynosure for three generations.
General Deffenbaugh cleared his throat. Elmville opened its mouth, and
squirmed. The chieftain with the kindly, fateful face was holding out
his hand, smiling. Ex-war-Governor Pemberton extended his own across
the chasm. But what was this the General was saying?
"Mr. President, allow me to present to you one who has the honour to
be the father of our foremost, distinguished citizen, learned and
honoured jurist, beloved townsman, and model Southern gentleman--the
Honourable William B. Pemberton."