Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Classical Novels > The House Behind the Cedars33 > III THE OLD JUDGE
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
 On the morning following the visit to his mother, Warwick visited the old judge's office. The judge was not in, but the door stood open, and Warwick entered to await his return. There had been fewer changes in the office, where he had spent many, many hours, than in the town itself. The dust was a little thicker, the papers in the pigeon-holes of the walnut1 desk were a little yellower, the cobwebs in the corners a little more aggressive. The flies droned as drowsily2 and the murmur3 of the brook4 below was just as audible. Warwick stood at the rear window and looked out over a familiar view. Directly across the creek5, on the low ground beyond, might be seen the dilapidated stone foundation of the house where once had lived Flora6 Macdonald, the Jacobite refugee, the most romantic character of North Carolina history. Old Judge Straight had had a tree cut away from the creek-side opposite his window, so that this historic ruin might be visible from his office; for the judge could trace the ties of blood that connected him collaterally7 with this famous personage. His pamphlet on Flora Macdonald, printed for private circulation, was highly prized by those of his friends who were fortunate enough to obtain a copy. To the left of the window a placid8 mill-pond spread its wide expanse, and to the right the creek disappeared under a canopy9 of overhanging trees.  
A footstep sounded in the doorway10, and Warwick, turning, faced the old judge. Time had left greater marks upon the lawyer than upon his office. His hair was whiter, his stoop more pronounced; when he spoke11 to Warwick, his voice had some of the shrillness12 of old age; and in his hand, upon which the veins13 stood out prominently, a decided14 tremor15 was perceptible.
"Good-morning, Judge Straight," said the young man, removing his hat with the graceful16 Southern deference17 of the young for the old.
"Good-morning, sir," replied the judge with equal courtesy.
"You don't remember me, I imagine," suggested Warwick.
"Your face seems familiar," returned the judge cautiously, "but I cannot for the moment recall your name. I shall be glad to have you refresh my memory."
"I was John Walden, sir, when you knew me."
The judge's face still gave no answering light of recognition.
"Your old office-boy," continued the younger man.
"Ah, indeed, so you were!" rejoined the judge warmly, extending his hand with great cordiality, and inspecting Warwick more closely through his spectacles. "Let me see—you went away a few years before the war, wasn't it?"
"Yes, sir, to South Carolina."
"Yes, yes, I remember now! I had been thinking it was to the North. So many things have happened since then, that it taxes an old man's memory to keep track of them all. Well, well! and how have you been getting along?"
Warwick told his story in outline, much as he had given it to his mother and sister, and the judge seemed very much interested.
"And you married into a good family?" he asked.
"Yes, sir."
"And have children?"
"And you are visiting your mother?"
"Not exactly. I have seen her, but I am stopping at a hotel."
"H'm! Are you staying long?"
"I leave to-morrow."
"It's well enough. I wouldn't stay too long. The people of a small town are inquisitive18 about strangers, and some of them have long memories. I remember we went over the law, which was in your favor; but custom is stronger than law—in these matters custom IS law. It was a great pity that your father did not make a will. Well, my boy, I wish you continued good luck; I imagined you would make your way."
Warwick went away, and the old judge sat for a moment absorbed in reflection. "Right and wrong," he mused19, "must be eternal verities20, but our standards for measuring them vary with our latitude21 and our epoch22. We make our customs lightly; once made, like our sins, they grip us in bands of steel; we become the creatures of our creations. By one standard my old office-boy should never have been born. Yet he is a son of Adam, and came into existence in the way ordained23 by God from the beginning of the world. In equity24 he would seem to be entitled to his chance in life; it might have been wiser, though, for him to seek it farther afield than South Carolina. It was too near home, even though the laws were with him."

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved