In person he was tall, still upright, stiff, and almost ungainly in his gait, with eager grey eyes, that the waters of age could not dim, with short, thick, grizzled hair, which age had hardly thinned, but which ever looked rough and uncombed, with large hands, which he stretched out with extended fingers when he spoke vehemently;—and of the Major it may be said that he always spoke with vehemence. But now he was slow in his steps, and infirm on his legs. He suffered from rheumatism, sciatica, and other maladies of the old, which no energy of his own could repress. In these days, he was a stern, unhappy, all but broken-hearted old man, for he saw that the work of his life had been wasted.

And he had another grief, which at this Christmas of 1860 had already become terrible to him, and which afterwards bowed him with sorrow to the ground. He had two sons, both of whom were then at home with him, having come together under the family roof-tree that they might discuss with their father the political position of their country, and especially the position of Kentucky. South Carolina had already seceded, and other Slave States were talking of secession. What should Kentucky do? So the Major’s sons, young men of eight-and-twenty and five-and-twenty, met together at their father’s house;—they met and quarrelled deeply, as their father had well known would be the case.

The eldest of these sons was at that time the owner of the slaves and land which his father had formerly possessed and farmed. He was a Southern gentleman, living on the produce of slave labour, and as such had learned to vindicate, if not love, that social system which has produced as its result the war which is still raging at this Christmas of 1863. To him this matter of secession or non-secession was of vital import. He was prepared to declare that the wealth of the South was derived from its agriculture, and that its agriculture could only be supported by its slaves. He went further than this, and declared also that no further league was possible between a Southern gentleman and a Puritan from New England. His father, he said, was an old man, and might be excused by reason of his age from any active part in the contest that was coming. But for himself there could be but one duty,—that of supporting the new Confederacy, to which he would belong, with all his strength, and with whatever wealth was his own.

The second son had been educated at Westpoint, the great military school of the old United States, and was now an officer in the national army. Not on that account need it be supposed that he would, as a matter of course, join himself to the Northern side in the war,—to the side which, as being in possession of the capital and the old Government establishments, might claim to possess a right to his military services. A large proportion of the officers in the pay of the United States leagued themselves with Secession—and it is difficult to see why such an act would be more disgraceful in them than in others. But with Frank Reckenthorpe such was not the case. He declared that he would be loyal to the Government which he served, and in saying so, seemed to imply that the want of such loyalty in any other person, soldier or non-soldier, would be disgraceful, as in his opinion it would have been disgraceful in himself.

“I can understand your feeling,” said his brother, who was known as Tom Reckenthorpe, “on the assumption that you think more of being a soldier than of being a man; but not otherwise.”

“Even if I were no soldier, I would not be a rebel,” said Frank.

“How a man can be a rebel for sticking to his own country, I cannot understand,” said Tom.

“Your own country!” said Frank. “Is it to be Kentucky or South Carolina? And is it to be a republic or a monarchy? Or shall we hear of Emperor Davis? You already belong to the greatest nation on the earth, and you are preparing yourself to belong to the least:—that is, if you should be successful. Luckily for yourself, you have no chance of success.”

“At any rate, I will do my best to fight for it.”

“Nonsense, Tom,” said the old man, who was sitting by.

“It is no nonsense, sir. A man can fight without having been at Westpoint. Whether he can do so after having his spirit drilled and drummed out of him there, I don’t know.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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