The Christmas Peace by Thomas Nelson Page
THE CHRISTMAS PEACE
By Thomas Nelson Page
Charles Scribner's Sons New York, 1908
Copyright, 1891, 1904, 1906
They had lived within a mile of each other for fifty-odd years, old
Judge Hampden and old Colonel Drayton; that is, all their lives, for
they had been born on adjoining plantations within a month of each
other. But though they had thus lived and were accounted generally good
men and good neighbors, to each other they had never been neighbors any
more than the Lévite was neighbor to him who went down to Jericho.
Kindly to everyone else and ready to do their part by all other men,
the Draytons and the Hampdens, whenever they met each other, always
passed by on the other side.
It was an old storythe feud between the familiesand, perhaps, no
one now knew just how the trouble started. They had certainly been on
opposite sides ever since they established themselves in early Colonial
days on opposite hills in the old county from which the two mansions
looked at each other across the stream like hostile forts. The earliest
records of the county were those of a dispute between one Colonel
Drayton and one Captain Hampden, growing out of some claim to land; but
in which the chief bitterness appeared to have been injected by Captain
Hampden's having claimed precedence over Colonel Drayton on the ground
that his title of Captain was superior to Colonel Drayton's title,
because he had held a real commission and had fought for it, whereas
the Colonel's title was simply honorary and Ye sayd Collonel had never
smelled enough powder to kill a tom-cat.
However this might be and there was nothing in the records to show
how this contention was adjudicatedin the time of Major Wil-mer
Drayton and Judge Oliver Hampden, the breach between the two families
had been transmitted from father to son for several generations and
showed no signs of abatement. Other neighborhood families intermarried,
but not the Drayton-Hall and the Hampden-Hill families, and in time it
came to be an accepted tradition that a Drayton and a Hampden would not
mingle any more than would fire and water.
The Hampdens were dark and stout, hot-blooded, fierce, and
impetuous. They were apparently vigorous; but many of them died young.
The Draytons, on the other hand, were slender and fair, and usually
lived to a round old age; a fact of which they were wont to boast in
contrast with the briefer span of the Hampdens.
Their tempers burn them out, the Major used to say of the
Moreover, the Draytons were generally cool-headed, deliberate, and
self-contained. Thus, the Draytons had mainly prospered throughout the
Even the winding creek which ran down through the strip of meadow
was a fruitful cause of dissension and litigation between the families.
It is as ungovernable as a Hampden's temper, sir, once said Major
Drayton, On the mere pretext of a thunder-storm, it would burst forth
from its banks, tear the fences to pieces and even change its course,
cutting a new channel, now to one side and now to the other through the
soft and loamy soil. A lawsuit arose over the matter, in which the
costs alone amounted to far more than the value of the whole land
involved; but no one doubted that old Major Drayton spoke the truth
when he declared that his father would rather have lost his entire
estate with all its rolling hills and extensive forests than the acre
or two which was finally awarded to Judge Hampden.
As neither owner would join the other even in keeping up a partition
fence, there were two fences run within three feet of each other along
the entire boundary line between the two places. With these double
fences, there could hardly be peace between the two families; for
neither owner ever saw the two lines running side by side without at
once being reminded of his neighbor's obstinacy andof his own.
Thus, in my time the quarrel between the Drayton-Hall people and the
Hampden-Hill folks was a factor in every neighborhood problem or
proposition from a church dressing or a sewing society meeting to a
political campaign. It had to be considered in every invitation and in
It is not meant that there was no intercourse between the two
families. Major Drayton and Judge Hampden regularly paid each other a
visit every yearand oftener when there was serious illness in one
house or the otherbut even on such occasions their differences were
liable to crop out. One of them held an opinion that when one gentleman
was spending the night in another gentleman's house, it was the part of
the host to indicate when bedtime had arrived; whilst the other
maintained with equal firmness the doctrine that no gentleman could
inform his guest that he was fatigued: that this duty devolved upon the
guest himself. This difference of opinion worked comfortably enough on
both sides until an occasion when Judge Hampden, who held the former
view, was spending the night at Colonel Drayton's. When bedtime
arrived, the rest of the household retired quietly, leaving the two
gentlemen conversing, and when the servants appeared in the morning to
open the blinds and light the fires, the two gentlemen were still found
seated opposite each other conversing together quite as if it were the
ordinary thing to sit up and talk all night long.
On another occasion, it is said that Major Drayton, hearing of his
neighbor's serious illness, rode over to make inquiry about him, and
owing to a slip of the tongue, asked in a voice of deepest sympathy,
Any hopes of the old gentleman dying!
Yet, they had once been friends.
Before Wilmer Drayton and Oliver Hampden were old enough to
understand that by all the laws of heredity and custom they should be
enemies, they had learned to like each other. When they were only a few
years old, the little creek winding between the two plantations
afforded in its strip of meadow a delightful neutral territory where
the two boys could enjoy themselves together, safe from the
interference of their grave seniors; wading, sailing mimic fleets upon
its uncertain currents, fishing together, or bathing in the deepest
pools it offered in its winding course.
It looked, indeed, for a time as if in the fellowship of these two
lads the long-standing feud of the Hampdens and Draytons might be
ended, at last. They went to school together at the academy, where
their only contests were a generous rivalry. At college they were known
as Damon and Pythias, and though a natural rivalry, which might in any
event have existed between them, developed over the highest prize of
the institutionthe debater's medalthe generosity of youth saved
them. It was even said that young Drayton, who for some time had
apparently been certain of winning, had generously retired in order to
defeat a third candidate and throw the prize to Oliver Hampden.
They came home and both went to the Bar, but with different results.
Young Drayton was learned and unpractical. Oliver Hampden was clever,
able, and successful, and soon had a thriving practice; while his
neighbor's learning was hardly known outside the circle of the Bar.
Disappointed in his ambition, Drayton shortly retired from the Bar
and lived the life of a country gentleman, while his former friend
rapidly rose to be the head of the Bar.
The old friendship might have disappeared in any event, but a new
cause arose which was certain to end it.
Lucy Fielding was, perhaps, the prettiest girl in all that region.
Oliver Hampden had always been in love with her. However, Fortune, ever
capricious, favored Wilmer Drayton, who entered the lists when it
looked as if Miss Lucy were almost certain to marry her old lover. It
appeared that Mr. Drayton's indifference had counted for more than the
other's devotion. He carried off the prize with a dash.
If Oliver Hampden, however, was severely stricken by his
disappointment, he masked it well; for he married not long afterward,
and though some said it was from pique, there was no more happily
married pair in all the county.
A year later a new Oliver came to keep up the name and tenets of the
Hampdens. Oliver Hampden, now the head of the Bar, would not have
envied any man on earth had not his wife died a few years later and
left him alone with his boy in his big house.
Lucy Drayton was born two years after young Oliver Hampden.
The mammies of the two children, as the mammies of their parents had
done before them, used to talk them over on the edge of the shaded
meadow which divided the places, and thus young Oliver Hampden, a lusty
boy of five, came to know little Lucy Drayton fully three years before
his father ever laid eyes on her.
Mr. Hampden was riding around his fences one summer afternoon, and
was making his way along the double division line with a cloud on his
brow as the double rows recalled the wide breach with his neighbor and
former friend, and many memories came trooping at the recollection.
Passing through a small grove which had been allowed to grow up to shut
off a part of his view of the Drayton place, as he came out into the
meadow his eye fell on a scene which made him forget the present with
all its wrongs. On the green turf before him where butter-cups speckled
the ground with golden blossoms, was a little group of four persons
busily engaged and wholly oblivious of the differences which divided
the masters of the two estates. The two mammies were seated side by
side on a bank, sewing and talking busilytheir large aprons and caps
making a splotch of white against the green willows beyondand in
front of them at a little distance a brown-haired boy of five and a
yellow-ringleted girl of three were at play on the turf, rolling over
and over, shouting and laughing in their glee.
As the father rested his eyes on the group, the frown which had for
a second lowered on his brow passed away and he pulled in his horse so
as not to disturb them. He was about to turn back and leave them in
their happiness when his black-eyed boy caught sight of him and ran
toward him, shouting for a ride and calling over his shoulder for
Luthy to come on too. As there was no escape, Mr. Hampden went
forward and, ignoring the confusion of the mammies at being caught
together, took the boy up before him and gave him a ride up and down
the meadow. Then nothing else would do for Master Oliver but he must
take Luthy up, too.
Perhaps 'Luthy' may be afraid of the horse! suggested Mr. Hampden
with a smile.
But far from it. Led by the little boy who had run to fetch her, she
came to Mr. Hampden as readily as his own son had done, and, though she
gave him one of those quick searching glances with which childhood
reads character, having made sure that he was friendly, she was no more
afraid of his horse than the boy was.
Oliver tried to lift her, and as he tugged at her, the father sat
and watched with a smile, then leant down and picked her up while the
two mammies gasped with mingled astonishment and fear.
I tell you, she's pretty heavy, said the little boy.
Indeed, she is, said the father, gaily.
Mr. Hampden would have taken his son home with him, but the latter
declined the invitation. He wished to stay with Luthy. So, Mr.
Hampden, having first set the nurses' minds at ease by complimenting
the little girl in warm terms to her mammy, rode home alone with his
face set in deep reflection.
The breach between the Hampdens and the Draytons was nearer being
closed that evening than it had been in three generations, for as
Oliver Hampden rode up the bridle path across his fields, he heard
behind him the merry laughter of the two children in the quiet meadow
below, and old memories of his childhood and college life softened his
heart. He forgot the double-line fences and determined to go on the
morrow to Drayton Hall and make up the quarrel. He would offer the
first overture and a full declaration of regret, and this, he was quite
sure, would make it up. Once he actually turned his horse around to go
straight across the fields as he used to do in his boyhood, but there
below him were the double-line fences stretching brown and clear. No
horse could get over them, and around the road it was a good five
miles, so he turned back again and rode home and the chance was lost.
On his arrival he found a summons in a suit which had been
instituted that day by Wilmer Drayton for damages to his land by reason
of his turning the water of the creek upon him.
Mr. Hampden did not forbid old Lydia to take his boy down there
again, but he went to the meadow no more himself, and when he and
Wilmer Drayton met next, which was not for some time, they barely
Young Oliver Hampden grew up clear eyed, strong, and good to look
at, and became shy where girls were concerned, and most of all appeared
to be shy with Lucy Drayton. He went to college and as he got his broad
shoulders and manly stride he got over his shyness with most girls, but
not with Lucy Drayton. With her, he appeared to have become yet more
reserved. She had inherited her mother's eyes and beauty, with the
fairness of a lily; a slim, willowy figure; a straight back and a small
head set on her shoulders in a way that showed both blood and pride.
Moreover, she had character enough, as her friends knew: those gray
eyes that smiled could grow haughty with disdain or flash with
indignation, and she had taught many an uppish young man to feel her
She gets only her intellect from the Dray-tons; her beauty and her
sweetness come from her mother, said a lady of the neighborhood to
Judge Hampden, thinking to please him.
She gets both her brains and beauty from her mother and only her
name from her father, snapped the Judge, who had often seen her at
church, and never without recalling Lucy Fielding as he knew her.
That she and young Oliver Hampden fought goes without saying. But no
one knew why she was cruelly bitter to a young man who once spoke
slightingly of Oliver, or why Oliver, who rarely saw her except at
church, took up a quarrel of hers so furiously.
The outbreak of the war, or rather the conditions preceding that
outbreak, finally fixed forever the gulf between the two families.
Judge Hampden was an ardent follower of Calhoun and stumped the State
in behalf of Secession, whereas Major Drayton, as the cloud that had
been gathering so long rolled nearer, emerged from his seclusion and
became one of the sternest opponents of a step which he declared was
not merely revolution, but actual rebellion. So earnest was he, that
believing that slavery was the ultimate bone of contention, he
emancipated his slaves on a system which he thought would secure their
welfare. Nothing could have more deeply stirred Judge Hampden's wrath.
He declared that such a measure at such a crisis was a blow at every
Southern man. He denounced Major Drayton as worse than Garrison,
Phillips, and Greeley all put together.
They at last met in debate at the Court House. Major Drayton
exasperated the Judge by his coolness, until the latter lost his temper
and the crowd laughed.
I do not get as hot as you do, said the Major, blandly. He looked
as cool as a cucumber, but his voice betrayed him.
Oh, yes, you do, snorted the Judge. A mule gets as hot as a
horse, but he does not sweat.
This saved him.
There came near being a duel. Everyone expected it. Only the
interposition of friends prevented their meeting on the field. Only
this and one other thing.
Though no one in the neighborhood knew it until long afterwardand
then only in a conjectural way by piecing together fragments of rumors
that floated aboutyoung Oliver Hampden really prevented the duel. He
told his father that he loved Lucy Drayton. There was a fierce outbreak
on the Judge's part.
Marry that girl!the daughter of Wilmer Drayton! I will disinherit
you if you but so much as
Stop! The younger man faced him and held up his hand with an
imperious gesture. Stop! Do not say a word against her or I may never
The father paused with his sentence unfinished, for his son stood
before him suddenly revealed in a strength for which the Judge had
never given him credit, and he recognized in his level eyes, tense
features, and the sudden set of the square jaw, the Hampden firmness at
its best or worst.
I have nothing to say against her, said the Judge, with a sudden
rush of recollection of Lucy Fielding. I have no doubt she is in one
way all you think her; but she is Wilmer Drayton 's daughter. You will
never win her.
I will win her, said the young man.
That night Judge Hampden thought deeply over the matter, and before
daylight he had despatched a note to Major Drayton making an apology
for the words he had used.
Both Judge Hampden and his son went into the army immediately on the
outbreak of hostilities. Major Drayton, who to the last opposed
Secession bitterly, did not volunteer until after the State had
seceded; but then he, also, went in, and later was desperately wounded.
A few nights before they went off to the war, Judge Hampden and his
son rode over together to Major Drayton's to offer the olive-branch of
peace in shape of young Oliver and all that he possessed.
Judge Hampden did not go all the way, for he had sworn never to put
foot again in Major Drayton's house so long as he lived, and, moreover,
he felt that his son would be the better ambassador alone. Accordingly,
he waited in the darkness at the front gate while his son presented
himself and laid at Lucy Drayton's feet what the Judge truly believed
was more than had ever been offered to any other woman. He, however,
sent the most conciliatory messages to Major Drayton.
Tell him, he said, that I will take down my fence and he shall
run the line to suit himself. He could not have gone further.
The time that passed appeared unending to the Judge waiting in the
darkness; but in truth it was not long, for the interview was brief. It
was with Major Drayton and not with his daughter.
Major Drayton declined, both on his daughter's part and on his own,
the honor which had been proposed.
At this moment the door opened and Lucy herself appeared. She was a
vision of loveliness. Her face was white, but her eyes were steady. If
she knew what had occurred, she gave no sign of it in words. She walked
straight to her father's side and took his hand.
Lucy, he said, Mr. Hampden has done us the honor to ask your hand
and I have declined it.
Yes, papa. Her eyelids fluttered and her bosom heaved, but she did
not move, and Lucy was too much a Drayton to unsay what her father had
said, or to undo what he had done.
Oliver Hampden's eyes did not leave her face. For him the Major had
disappeared, and he saw only the girl who stood before him with a face
as white as the dress she wore.
Lucy, I love you. Will you ever care for me? I am goinggoing away
to-morrow, and I shall not see you any more; but I would like to know
if there is any hope. The young man's voice was strangely calm.
The girl held out her hand to him.
I will never marry anyone else.
I will wait for you all my life, said the young man.
Bending low, he kissed her hand in the palm, and with a bow to her
father, strode from the room.
The Judge, waiting at the gate in the darkness, heard the far-off,
monotonous galloping of Oliver's horse on the hard plantation road. He
rode forward to meet him.
It was only a word.
The father scarcely knew his son's voice, it was so wretched.
What! Who declined? Did you see
Out in the darkness Judge Hampden broke forth into such a torrent of
rage that his son was afraid for his life and had to devote all his
attention to soothing him. He threatened to ride straight to Drayton's
house and horsewhip him on the spot. This, however, the young man
prevented, and the two rode home together in a silence which was
unbroken until they had dismounted at their own gate and given their
horses to the waiting servants. As they entered the house, Judge
I hope you are satisfied, he said, sternly. I make but one
request of youthat from this time forth, you will never mention the
name of Drayton to me again as long as you live.
I suppose I should hate her, said the son, bitterly, but I do
not. I love her and I believe she cares for me.
His father turned in the door-way and faced him.
Cares for you! Not so much as she cares for the smallest negro on
that place. If you ever marry her, I will disinherit you.
Disinherit me! burst from the young man. Do you think I care for
this place? What has it ever brought to us but unhappiness? I have seen
your life embittered by a feud with your nearest neighbor, and now it
wrecks my happiness and robs me of what I would give all the rest of
the world for.
Judge Hampden looked at him curiously. He started to say, Before I
would let her enter this house, I would burn it with my own hands; but
as he met his son's steadfast gaze there was that in it which made him
pause. The Hampden look was in his eyes. The father knew that another
word might sever them forever.
If ever a man tried to court death, young Oliver Hampden did. But
Death, that struck many a happier man, passed him by, and he secured
instead only a reputation for reckless courage and was promoted on the
His father rose to the command of a brigade, and Oliver himself
became a captain.
At last the bullet Oliver had sought found him; but it spared his
life and only incapacitated him for service.
There were no trained nurses during the war, and Lucy Drayton, like
so many girls, when the war grew fiercer, went into the hospitals, and
by devotion supplied their place.
Believing that life was ended for her, she had devoted herself
wholly to the cause, and self-repression had given to her face the
gentleness and consecration of a nun.
It was said that once as she bent over a wounded common soldier, he
returned to consciousness, and after gazing up at her a moment, asked
vaguely, Who are you, Miss?
I am one of the sisters whom our Father has sent to nurse you and
help you to get well. But you must not talk.
The wounded man closed his eyes and then opened them with a faint
All right; just one word. Will you please ask your pa if I may be
Into the hospital was brought one day a soldier so broken and
bandaged that no one but Lucy Drayton might have recognized Oliver
For a long time his life was despaired of; but he survived.
When consciousness returned to him, the first sound he heard was a
voice which had often haunted him in his dreams, but which he had never
expected to hear again.
Who is that! he asked, feebly.
It is I, Oliverit is Lucy.
The wounded man moved slightly and the girl bending over him caught
the words, whispered brokenly to himself:
I am dreaming.
But he was not dreaming.
Lucy Drayton's devotion probably brought him back from death and
saved his life.
In the hell of that hospital one man at least found the balm for his
wounds. When he knew how broken he was he offered Lucy her release. Her
reply was in the words of the English girl to the wounded Napier, If
there is enough of you left to hold your soul, I will marry you.
As soon as he was sufficiently convalescent, they were married.
Lucy insisted that General Hampden should be informed, but the young
man knew his father's bitterness, and refused. He relied on securing
his consent later, and Lucy, fearing for her patient's life, and having
secured her own father's consent, yielded.
It was a mistake.
Oliver Hampden misjudged the depth of his father's feeling, and
General Hampden was mortally offended by his having married without
Oliver adored his father and he sent him a present in token of his
desire for forgiveness; but the General had been struck deeply. The
present was returned. He wrote: I want obedience; not sacrifice.
Confident of his wife's ability to overcome any obstacle, the young
man bided his time. His wounds, however, and his breach with his father
affected his health so much that he went with his wife to the far
South, where Major Drayton, now a colonel, had a remnant of what had
once been a fine property. Here, for a time, amid the live-oaks and
magnolias he appeared to improve. But his father's obdurate refusal to
forgive his disobedience preyed on his health, and just after the war
closed, he died a few months before his son was born.
In his last days he dwelt much on his father. He made excuses for
him, over which his wife simply tightened her lips, while her gray eyes
burned with deep resentment.
He was brought up that way. He cannot help it. He never had anyone
to gainsay him. Do not be hard on him. And if he ever sues for pardon,
be merciful to him for my sake.
His end came too suddenly for his wife to notify his father in
advance, even if she would have done so; for he had been fading
gradually and at the last the flame had flared up a little.
Lucy Hampden was too upright a woman not to do what she believed her
duty, however contrary to her feelings it might be. So, although it was
a bitter thing to her, she wrote to inform General Hampden of his son's
It happened by one of the malign chances of fortune that this letter
never reached its destination, General Hampden did not learn of
Oliver's death until some weeks later, when he heard of it by accident.
It was a terrible blow to him, for time was softening the asperity of
his temper, and he had just made up his mind to make friends with his
son. He attributed the failure to inform him of Oliver's illness and
death to the malignity of his wife.
Thus it happened that when her son was born, Lucy Hampden made no
announcement of his birth to the General, and he remained in ignorance
The war closed, and about the only thing that appeared to remain
unchanged was the relation between General Hampden and Colonel Drayton.
Everything else underwent a change, for war eats up a land.
General Hampden, soured and embittered by his domestic troubles, but
stern in his resolve and vigorous in his intellect, was driven by his
loneliness to adapt himself to the new conditions. He applied his
unabated energies to building up a new fortune. His decision, his
force, and his ability soon placed him at the head of one of the
earliest new enterprises in the Statea broken-down railwaywhich he
re-organized and brought to a full measure of success.
Colonel Drayton, on the other hand, broken in body and in fortunes,
found it impossible to adapt himself to the new conditions. He
possessed none of the practical qualities of General Hampden. With a
mind richly stored with the wisdom of others, he had the temperament of
a dreamer and poet and was unable to apply it to any practical end. As
shy and reserved as his neighbor was bold and aggressive, he lived in
his books and had never been what is known as a successful man. Even
before the war he had not been able to hold his own. The exactions of
hospitality and of what he deemed his obligations to others had
consumed a considerable part of the handsome estate he had inherited,
and his plantation was mortgaged. What had been thus begun, the war had
When his plantation was sold, his old neighbor and enemy bought it,
and the Colonel had the mortification of knowing that Drayton Hall was
at last in the hands of a Hampden. What he did not know was that
General Hampden, true to his vow, never put his foot on the plantation
except to ride down the road and see that all his orders for its proper
cultivation were carried out.
Colonel Drayton tried teaching school, but it appeared that everyone
else was teaching at that time, and after attempting it for a year or
two, he gave it up and confined himself to writing philosophical
treatises for the press, which were as much out of date as the Latin
and Greek names which he signed to them. As these contributions were
usually returned, he finally devoted himself to writing agricultural
essays for an agricultural paper, in which he met with more success
than he had done when he was applying his principles himself.
If farms were made of paper he 'd beat Cincinnatus, said the
Lucy Hampden, thrown on her own resources, in the town in the South
in which her husband had died, had for some time been supporting
herself and her child by teaching. She had long urged her father to
come to them, but he had always declined, maintaining that a man was
himself only in the country, and in town was merely a unit. When,
however, the plantation was sold and his daughter wrote for him, he
went to her, and the first time that the little boy was put in his
arms, both he and she knew that he would never go away again. That
evening as they sat together in the fading light on the veranda of the
little house which Lucy had taken, amid the clambering roses and
jasmine, the old fellow said, I used to think that I ought to have
been killed in battle at the head of my men when I was shot, but
perhaps, I may have been saved to bring up this young man.
His daughter's smile, as she leant over and kissed him, showed very
clearly what she thought of it, and before a week was out, the Colonel
felt that he was not only still of use, but was, perhaps, the most
necessary, and, with one exception, the most important member of the
Nevertheless, there were hard times before them. The Colonel was too
old-fashioned; too slow for the new movement of life, and just enough
behind the times to be always expecting to succeed and always failing.
But where the father failed the daughter succeeded. She soon came to
be known as one of the efficient women of the community, as her father,
who was now spoken of as the old Colonel, came to be recognized as
one of the picturesque figures of that period. He was always thought of
in connection with the boy. The two were hardly ever apart, and they
were soon known throughout the townthe tall, thin old gentleman who
looked out on the world with his mild blue eyes and kindly face, and
the chubby, red-cheeked, black-eyed boy, whose tongue was always
prattling, and who looked out with his bright eyes on all the curious
things which, common-place to the world, are so wonderful to a boy.
The friendship between an old man and a little child is always
touching; they grow nearer together day by day, and the old Colonel and
little Oliver soon appeared to understand each other, and to be as
dependent on each other as if they had both been of the same age. The
child, somewhat reserved with others, was bold enough with his
grandfather. They held long discussions together over things that
interested the boy; went sight-seeing in company to where the water ran
over an old mill-wheel, or where a hen and her chickens lived in a
neighbor's yard, or a litter of puppies gamboled under an outhouse, or
a bird had her nest and little ones in a jasmine in an old garden, and
Colonel Drayton told the boy wonderful stories of the world which was
as unknown to him as the present world was to the Colonel.
So matters went, until the Christmas when the boy was seven years
Meantime, General Hampden was facing a new foe. His health had
suddenly given way, and he was in danger of becoming blind. His doctor
had given him his ordersorders which possibly he might not have taken
had not the spectre of a lonely old man in total darkness begun to
haunt him. He had been working too hard, the doctor told him.
Working hard! Of course, I have been working hard! snapped the
General, fiercely, with his black eyes glowering. What else have I to
do but work? I shall always work hard.
The doctor knew something of the General 's trouble. He had been a
surgeon in the hospital where young Oliver Hampden had been when Lucy
Drayton found him.
You must stop, he said, quietly. You will not last long unless
How long! demanded the General, quite calmly.
Oh! I cannot say that. Perhaps, a yearperhaps, less. You have
burned your candle too fast. He glanced at the other's unmoved face.
You need change. You ought to go South this winter.
I should only change my skies and not my thoughts, said the
General, his memory swinging back to the past.
The doctor gazed at him curiously. What is the use of putting out
your eyes and working yourself to death when you have everything that
money can give?
I have nothing! I work to forget that, snarled the General,
The doctor remained silent.
The General thought over the doctor's advice and finally followed
it, though not for the reason the physician supposed.
Something led him to select the place where his son had gone and
where his body lay amid the magnolias. If he was going to die, he would
carry out a plan which he had formed in the lonely hours when he lay
awake between the strokes of the clock. He would go and see that his
son's grave was cared for, and if he could, would bring him back home
at last. Doubtless, that woman's consent could be bought. She had
possibly married again. He hoped she had.
Christmas is always the saddest of seasons to a lonely man, and
General Hampden, when he landed in that old Southern town on the
afternoon of Christmas Eve, would not have been lonelier in a desert.
The signs of Christmas preparation and the sounds of Christmas cheer
but made him lonelier. For years, flying from the Furies, he had
immersed himself in work and so, in part, had forgotten his troubles;
but the removal of this prop let him fall flat to the earth.
As soon as the old fellow had gotten settled in his room at the
hotel he paid a visit to his son's grave, piloted to the cemetery by a
friendly and garrulous old negro hackman, who talked much about
Christmas and the holidays.
Yes, suh, dat he had known Cap'n Ham'n. He used to drive him out
long as he could drive out. He had been at his funeral. He knew Mrs.
Ham'n, too. She sutney is a fine lady, he wound up in sincere eulogy.
The General gave a grunt.
He was nearer to his son than he had ever been since the day he last
saw him in all the pride and beauty of a gallant young soldier.
The grave, at least, was not neglected. It was marked by a modest
cross, on which was the Hampden coat-of-arms and the motto, Loyal, and it was banked in fresh evergreens, and some flowers had been
placed on it only that afternoon. It set the General to thinking.
When he returned to his hotel, he found the loneliness unbearable.
His visit to his son's grave had opened the old wound and awakened all
his memories. He knew now that he had ruined his life. The sooner the
doctor's forecast came true, the better. He had no care to live longer.
He would return to work and die in harness.
He sent his servant to the office and arranged for his car to be put
on the first train next morning.
Then, to escape from his thoughts, he strolled out in the street
where the shopping crowds streamed along, old and young, poor and
well-to-do, their arms full of bundles, their faces eager, and their
General Hampden seemed to himself to be walking among ghosts.
As he stalked on, bitter and lonely, he was suddenly run into by a
very little boy, in whose small arms was so big a bundle that he could
scarcely see over it. The shock of the collision knocked the little
fellow down, sitting flat on the pavement, still clutching his bundle.
But his face after the first shadow of surprise lit up again.
I beg your pardon, sirthat was my fault, he said, with so quaint
an imitation of an old person that the General could not help smiling.
With a cheery laugh, he tried to rise to his feet, but the bundle was
too heavy, and he would not let it go.
The General bent over him and, with an apology, set him on his feet.
I beg your pardon, sir. That was my fault. That is a
pretty big bundle you have.
Yes, sir; and I tell you, it is pretty heavy, too, the manikin
said, proudly. It 's a Christmas gift. He started on, and the General
turned with him.
A Christmas gift! It must be a fine one. Who gave it to you?
demanded the General, with a smile at the little fellow's confidence.
It is a fine one! Did n't anybody give it to me. We 're giving it
Oh! You are? To whom?
I 'll tell you; but you must promise not to tell.
I promise I will not tell a soul. I cross my heart.
He made a sign as he remembered he used to do in his boyhood.
The boy looked up at him doubtfully with a shade of disapproval.
My grandfather says that you must not cross your heart't a
gentleman's word is enough, he said, quaintly.
Oh, he does? Well, I give my word.
Well He glanced around to see that no one was listening, and
sidling a little nearer, lowered his voice: It 's a great-coat for
A great-coat! That's famous! exclaimed the General.
Yes, is n't it? You seehe 's mighty old and he 's got a bad
coughhe caught it in the army, and I have to take care of him. Don't
you think that's right?
Of course, I do, said the General, envying one grandfather.
That's what I tell him. So mamma and I have bought this for him.
He must be a proud grandfather, said the General, with envy biting
deeper at his heart.
I have another grandfather; but I don't like him, continued
the little fellow.
I am sorry for that, said the General, sincerely. Why is that?
He was mean to my father, and he is mean to my mother. His voice
conveyed a sudden bitterness.
Mamma says I must like him; but I do not. I just can't. You would
not like a man who was mean to your mother, would you!
I would not, declared the General, truthfully.
And I am not going to like him, asserted the boy, with firmness.
The General suddenly pitied one grandfather.
They had come to a well-lighted corner, and as the boy lifted his
face, the light fell on it. Something about the bright, sturdy
countenance with its frank, dark eyes and brown hair suddenly sent the
General back thirty years to a strip of meadow on which two children
were playing: one a dark-eyed boy as sturdy as this one. It was like an
arrow in his heart. With a gasp he came back to the present. His
thoughts pursued him even here.
What is your name? he asked as he was feeling in his pocket for a
Oliver Drayton Hampden, sir.
The words were perfectly clear.
The General's heart stopped beating and then gave a bound. The skies
suddenly opened for him and then shut up again.
His exclamation brought the child to a stop and he glanced up at him
in vague wonder. The General stooped and gazed at him searchingly,
almost fiercely. The next second he had pounced upon him and lifted him
in his arms while the bundle fell to the pavement.
My boy! I am your grandfather, he cried, kissing him violently. I
am your grandfather Hampden.
The child was lost in amazement for a moment, and then, putting his
hands against the General's face, he pushed him slowly away.
Put me down, please, he said, with that gravity which in a child
means so much.
General Hampden set him down on the pavement. The boy looked at him
searchingly for a second, and then turned in silence and lifted his
bundle. The General's face wore a puzzled lookhe had solved many
problems, but he had never had one more difficult than this. His heart
yearned toward the child, and he knew that on his own wisdom at that
moment might depend his future happiness. On his next words might hang
for him life or death. The expression on the boy's face, and the very
set of his little back as he sturdily tugged at his burden, recalled
his father, and with it the General recognized the obstinacy which he
knew lurked in the Hampden blood, which had once been his pride.
Oliver, he said, gravely, leaning down over the boy and putting
his hand on him gently, there has been a great mistake. I am going
home with you to your mother and tell her so. I want to see her and
your grandfather, and I think I can explain everything.
The child turned and gazed at him seriously, and then his face
relaxed. He recognized his deep sincerity.
All right. He turned and walked down the street, bending under his
burden. The General offered to carry it for him, but he declined.
I can carry it, was the only answer he made except once when, as
the General rather insisted, he said firmly, I want to carry it
myself, and tottered on.
A silence fell on them for a moment. A young man passing them spoke
to the child cheerily.
Hullo, Oliver! A Christmas present?That 's a great boy, he said,
in sheer friendliness to the General, and passed on. The boy was
evidently well known.
Oliver nodded; then feeling that some civility was due on his part
to his companion, he said briefly, That 's a friend of mine.
The General, even in his perplexity, smiled at the quaint way the
child imitated the manners of older men.
Just then they came to a little gate and the boy's manner changed.
If you will wait, I will run around and put my bundle down. I am
afraid my grandfather might see it. He lowered his voice for the first
time since the General had introduced himself. Then he disappeared
around the house.
Oliver, having slipped in at the back door and carefully
reconnoitred the premises, tripped up stairs with his bundle to his
mother's room. He was so excited over his present that he failed to
observe her confusion at his sudden entrance, or her hasty hiding away
of something on which she was working. Colonel Drayton was not the only
member of that household that Christmas who was to receive a
When Oliver had untied his bundle, nothing would serve but he must
put on the coat to show his mother how his grandfather would look in
it. As even with the sleeves rolled up and with his arms held out to
keep it from falling off him, the tails dragged for some distance on
the floor and only the top of his head was visible above the collar,
the resemblance was possibly not wholly exact. But it appeared to
satisfy the boy. He was showing how his grandfather walked, when he
suddenly recalled his new acquaintance.
I met my other grandfather, on the street, mamma, and he came home
with me. He spoke quite naturally.
Met your other grandfather! Mrs. Hampden looked mystified.
He says he is my grandfather, and he looks like papa. I reckon he
's my other grandfather. He ran against me in the street and knocked me
down, and then came home with me.
Came home with you! repeated Mrs. Hampden, still in a maze, and
with a vague trouble dawning in her face.
Oliver went over the meeting again.
His mother's face meantime showed the tumult of emotion that was
sweeping over her. Why had General Hampden come? What had he come for?
To try and take her boy from her?
At the thought her face and form took on something of the lioness
that guards her whelp. Then as the little boy repeated what his
grandfather had said of his reason for coming home with him, her face
softened again. She heard a voice saying, If he ever sues for pardon,
be merciful to him for my sake. She remembered what day it was: the
Eve of the day of Peace and Good-will toward all men. He must have come
for Peace, and Peace it should be. She would not bring up her boy under
the shadow of that feud which had blighted both sides of his race so
Oliver, she said, you must go down and let him in. Say I will
I will not like him, said the child, his eyes on her face.
Oh, yes, you must; he is your grandfather.
You do not love him, and I will not. The sturdy little figure and
the serious face with the chin already firm for such a child, the dark,
grave eyes and the determined speech, were so like his father that the
widow gave half a cry.
You must, my son, and I will try. Your father would wish it.
The little boy pondered for a second.
Very well, mamma; but he must be good to you.
As the little fellow left the room, the widow threw herself on her
As General Hampden stood and waited in the dusk, he felt that his
whole life and future depended on the issue of the next few moments. He
determined to take matters in his own hand. Every moment might tell
against him and might decide his fate. So, without waiting longer, he
rang the bell. A minute later he heard steps within, and the door was
opened by one who he knew must be Colonel Drayton, though had he met
him elsewhere he should not have recognized the white hair and the
thin, bent form as that of his old friend and enemy. Colonel Drayton
had evidently not seen his grandson yet, for he spoke as to a stranger.
Will you not walk in, sir! he said cordially. I was expecting my
little grandson who went out a short while ago. He peered up the
street. Did you wish to see my daughter? You will find us in a little
confusionChristinas time is always a busy season with us on account
of our young man: my grandson. He lingered with pride over the words.
The General stepped into the light.
Wilmer Drayton! Don't you know me? I am Oliver Hampden, and I have
come to apologize to you for all I have done which has offended you,
and to ask you to be friends with me. He held out his hand.
The old Colonel stepped back, and under the shock of surprise paused
for a moment.
Oliver Hampden! The next moment he stepped forward and took his
Come in, Oliver, he said, gently, and putting his other arm around
the General's shoulder, he handed him into the little cosey,
fire-lighted room as though nothing had happened since he had done the
same the last time fifty years before.
At this moment the door opened and the little boy entered with
mingled mysteriousness and importance. Seeing the two gentlemen
standing together, he paused with a mystified look in his wide-open
eyes, trying to comprehend the situation.
Oliver, come here, said the Colonel, quietly. This is your other
The boy came forward, and, wheeling, stood close beside the Colonel,
facing General Hampden, like a soldier dressing by his file-closer.
You are my grandfather, he said, glancing up at the
The Colonel's eyes glowed with a soft light.
Yes, my boy; and so is he. We are friends again, and you must love
himjust as you do me.
I will not love him as much, was the sturdy answer.
It was the General who spoke next.
That is right, my boy. All I ask is that you will love me some. He
was pleading with this young commissioner.
I will, if you are good to my mother. His eyes were fastened on
him without a tremor, and the General's deep-set eyes began to glow
That 's a bargain, he said holding out his hand. The boy took it
Just then the door opened and Lucy Hampden entered. Her face was
calm and her form was straight. Her eyes, deep and burning, showed that
she was prepared either for peace or war. It was well for the General
that he had chosen peace. Better otherwise had he charged once more the
deadliest battle line he had ever faced. For a moment the General saw
only Lucy Fielding.
With a woman's instinct the young widow comprehended at the first
glance what had taken place, and although her face was white, her eyes
softened as she advanced. The General had turned and faced her. He
could not utter a word, but the boy sprang towards her and, wheeling,
stood by her side.
Taking his hand, she led him forward.
Oliver, she said, gently, this is your father's father. Then to
the General, in a dead silenceFather, this is your son's son.
The General clasped them both in his arms.
Forgive me. Forgive me. I have prayed for his forgiveness,
for I can never forgive myself.
He forgave you, said the widow, simply.
No young king was ever put to bed with more ceremony or more
devotion than was that little boy that night. Two old gentlemen were
his grooms of the bedchamber and saw him to bed together.
The talk was all of Christmas, and the General envied the ease with
which the other grandfather carried on the conversation. But when the
boy, having kissed his grandfather, said of his own accord, Now, I
must kiss my other grandfather, he envied no man on earth.
The next morning when Oliver Hampden, before the first peep of
light, waked in his little bed, which stood at the foot of his
grandfather's bed in the tiny room which they occupied together, and
standing up, peeped over the footboard to catch his grandfather's
Christmas gift, he was surprised to find that the bed was empty and
undisturbed. Then having tiptoed in and caught his mother, he stole
down the stairs and softly opened the sitting-room door where he heard
the murmur of voices. The fire was burning dim, and on either side sat
the two old gentlemen in their easy chairs, talking amicably and
earnestly as they had been talking when he kissed them good-night.
Neither one had made the suggestion that it was bedtime; but when at
the first break of day the rosy boy in his night-clothes burst in upon
them with his shout of Christmas gift, and his ringing laughter, they
both knew that the long feud was at last ended, and peace was