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HOME > Classical Novels > The House Behind the Cedars33 > XV MINE OWN PEOPLE
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 The drive by which Dr. Green took Tryon to his own house led up Front Street about a mile, to the most aristocratic portion of the town, situated1 on the hill known as Haymount, or, more briefly2, "The Hill." The Hill had lost some of its former glory, however, for the blight3 of a four years' war was everywhere. After reaching the top of this wooded eminence4, the road skirted for some little distance the brow of the hill. Below them lay the picturesque5 old town, a mass of vivid green, dotted here and there with gray roofs that rose above the tree-tops. Two long ribbons of streets stretched away from the Hill to the faint red line that marked the high bluff6 beyond the river at the farther side of the town. The market-house tower and the slender spires7 of half a dozen churches were sharply outlined against the green background. The face of the clock was visible, but the hours could have been read only by eyes of phenomenal sharpness. Around them stretched ruined walls, dismantled8 towers, and crumbling9 earthworks—footprints of the god of war, one of whose temples had crowned this height. For many years before the rebellion a Federal arsenal10 had been located at Patesville. Seized by the state troops upon the secession of North Carolina, it had been held by the Confederates until the approach of Sherman's victorious11 army, whereupon it was evacuated12 and partially13 destroyed. The work of destruction begun by the retreating garrison14 was completed by the conquerors15, and now only ruined walls and broken cannon16 remained of what had once been the chief ornament17 and pride of Patesville.  
The front of Dr. Green's spacious18 brick house, which occupied an ideally picturesque site, was overgrown by a network of clinging vines, contrasting most agreeably with the mellow19 red background. A low brick wall, also overrun with creepers, separated the premises20 from the street and shut in a well-kept flower garden, in which Tryon, who knew something of plants, noticed many rare and beautiful specimens21.
Mrs. Green greeted Tryon cordially. He did not have the doctor's memory with which to fill out the lady's cheeks or restore the lustre22 of her hair or the sparkle of her eyes, and thereby23 justify24 her husband's claim to be a judge of beauty; but her kind-hearted hospitality was obvious, and might have made even a plain woman seem handsome. She and her two fair daughters, to whom Tryon was duly presented, looked with much favor upon their handsome young kinsman26; for among the people of Patesville, perhaps by virtue27 of the prevalence of Scottish blood, the ties of blood were cherished as things of value, and never forgotten except in case of the unworthy—an exception, by the way, which one need hardly go so far to seek.
The Patesville people were not exceptional in the weaknesses and meannesses which are common to all mankind, but for some of the finer social qualities they were conspicuously28 above the average. Kindness, hospitality, loyalty29, a chivalrous30 deference31 to women,—all these things might be found in large measure by those who saw Patesville with the eyes of its best citizens, and accepted their standards of politics, religion, manners, and morals.
The doctor, after the introductions, excused himself for a moment. Mrs. Green soon left Tryon with the young ladies and went to look after luncheon32. Her first errand, however, was to find the doctor.
"Is he well off, Ed?" she asked her husband.
"Lots of land, and plenty of money, if he is ever able to collect it. He has inherited two estates."
"He's a good-looking fellow," she mused33. "Is he married?"
"There you go again," replied her husband, shaking his forefinger34 at her in mock reproach. "To a woman with marriageable daughters all roads lead to matrimony, the centre of a woman's universe. All men must be sized up by their matrimonial availability. No, he isn't married."
"That's nice," she rejoined reflectively. "I think we ought to ask him to stay with us while he is in town, don't you?"
"He's not married," rejoined the doctor slyly, "but the next best thing—he's engaged."
"Come to think of it," said the lady, "I'm afraid we wouldn't have the room to spare, and the girls would hardly have time to entertain him. But we'll have him up several times. I like his looks. I wish you had sent me word he was coming; I'd have had a better luncheon."
"Make him a salad," rejoined the doctor, "and get out a bottle of the best claret. Thank God, the Yankees didn't get into my wine cellar! The young man must be treated with genuine Southern hospitality,—even if he were a Mormon and married ten times over."
"Indeed, he would not, Ed,—the idea! I'm ashamed of you. Hurry back to the parlor35 and talk to him. The girls may want to primp a little before luncheon; we don't have a young man every day."
"Beauty unadorned," replied the doctor, "is adorned36 the most. My profession qualifies me to speak upon the subject. They are the two handsomest young women in Patesville, and the daughters of the most beautiful"—
"Don't you dare to say the word," interrupted Mrs. Green, with placid38 good nature. "I shall never grow old while I am living with a big boy like you. But I must go and make the salad."
At dinner the conversation ran on the family connections and their varying fortunes in the late war. Some had died upon the battlefield, and slept in unknown graves; some had been financially ruined by their faith in the "lost cause," having invested their all in the securities of the Confederate Government. Few had anything left but land, and land without slaves to work it was a drug in the market.
"I was offered a thousand acres, the other day, at twenty-five cents an acre," remarked the doctor. "The owner is so land-poor that he can't pay the taxes. They have taken our negroes and our liberties. It may be better for our grandchildren that the negroes are free, but it's confoundedly hard on us to take them without paying for them. They may exal............
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