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The Light That Lures   By: (1864-1922)

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The English edition of this book was published under the title of "A Gentleman of Virginia"




Seated on a green hummock, his knees drawn up, his elbows resting on his knees and his head supported in his open hands, a boy sat very still and preoccupied, gazing straight into the world before him, yet conscious of little beyond the visions conjured up by his young mind. His were dim visions begot of the strenuous times in which he lived, and which were the staple subject of conversation of all those with whom he came in contact, yet his shadowy dreams had something of the past in them, and more, far more, of that future which to youth must ever be all important. But this young dreamer was not as dreamers often are, with muscle subservient to brain, the physical less highly developed than the mental powers; on the contrary, he was a lad well knit together, his limbs strong and supple, endurance and health unmistakable, a lad who must excel in every manly exercise and game. Perhaps it was this very superiority over his fellows which, for the time being, at any rate, had made him a dreamer. While other boys, reproducing in their games that which was happening about them, fought mimic battles, inflicted and suffered mimic death, experienced terrible siege in some small copse which to their imagination stood for a beleaguered city, or carried some hillock by desperate and impetuous assault, this boy, their master in running, in swimming, in wrestling, in sitting a horse as he galloped freely, was not content with mimicry, but dreamed of real deeds in a real future.

It was a fair scene of which this boy, for the moment, seemed to be the centre. Before him lay the great expanse of Chesapeake Bay scintillating in the light of the afternoon, a sail here and there catching the sunlight and standing out clearly from a background of distant haze. A wide creek ran sinuously into the land, the deep blue of its channel distinct from the shallow waters and the swamps from which a startled crane rose like an arrow shot across the vault of the sky. To the right, surrounded by its gardens and orchards, stood a house, long, low, large and rambling, the more solid successor to the rough wooden edifice which had been among the first to rise when this state of Virginia had become a colony for cavaliers from England. Flowers trailed over the wide porch and shone in patches of brilliant color about the garden, alternating with the long cast shadows of cedar, cypress, and yellow pine; fruit turned to opulent red and purple ripeness in the orchards; and the song of birds, like subdued music, came from tree and flower lined border. In close proximity to the house Indian corn was growing, and a wide area of wheat ripened to harvest, while beyond, like a vast green ocean, stretched the great tobacco plantation, with here and there the dark blot of a drying shed like a rude ark resting upon it. In the far distance, bounding the estate, a line of dark woods seemed to shut out the world and wrap it in impenetrable mystery. Over all this great estate the boy sitting on the hummock was known as the young master, but he was not dreaming of a future which should have wealth in it, pleasure, all that the heart of a man can wish for; but of toil and hardship bravely borne, of fighting days and camp fires, of honor such as heroes attain to.

He had been born in stirring times. For more than five years past war had been in the land, the struggle for freedom against a blind and tyrannical government. It had been one thing to make the Declaration of Independence, it had been quite another matter to carry it into effect. Early success had been followed by disasters. Washington had been defeated on Long Island; his heroic endeavor to save Philadelphia by the battle of Brandywine against an enemy far superior in numbers had failed; yet a month later a large British force had been compelled to surrender at Saratoga... Continue reading book >>

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