Rolland Love

Cloudless days and nights scarcely less brilliant added to the pleasure of our journey, and this fortunately, for we were, throughout, greatly delayed by reason of low water and drifting sands and shifting currents. These, however, are ever obstacles in the summer months on the upper river, but at the time of which I speak the stream was little known, and the pilots, in the main, ignorant of the courses of the river, so that we were hindered more than would be the case at the present time. The delay, however vexatious it might have been under some circumstances, only added to the pleasure of the many who, like myself, were abroad in the world for the first time, and so little or nothing was thought of it.
On the fourth evening, Uncle Job asked me to go with him to the upper deck, and this I was glad to do, for there the view was always finer than at any other place. Seating ourselves, we idly watched the river and the country round about, enjoying to its full the serenity and tranquil beauty of the night; and to me it has ever been memorable in this respect above all others. The stars reflected on the placid surface of the water seemed fixed in its depths, and nowhere else, so bright and steadfast did they appear. Far off, the moon, at its full, filled the valley with mellow light, except at some distant point where it glistened in silvery whiteness on the surface of the broad river, or was lost in the gathering mists beyond. About us the distant hills stood out like sentinels, silent and observant, as if noting our progress, or asleep in the fullness of nature. On one side a black forest banked itself against the blue sky, save where some giant tree, lifting its head above its fellows, was outlined for a moment against the distant horizon.
“From out that forest, now so still,” Uncle Job spoke up, softly, as we watched, “there came, only a little while ago, the fierce cries of the Sacs and Foxes as they gathered for battle or were scattered by our pursuing armies. Now where are they?” he added, sadly, as if stirred by the picture.
Farther on, patches of hawthorn and elder peered out from the steep bank of the river, or lurched forward into the stream, as buffaloes or wild horses will when stooping to drink. Back of these, on lonely peaks, towering cottonwoods and elms stood watching us, and as if mourning our inroad on their peaceful domain and the confusion it presaged. Thus we sat without speaking, attentive, yet half-asleep, watching the view that changed with each passing moment, yet never changed at all. When in this way the night was half gone, Uncle Job, who had scarce moved, uttered an exclamation of impatience, and stretching his legs across the guard, spoke up, though not as if he were addressing any one in particular:
“If no more delays occur we ought to reach Rock Island in the morning, or by noon at the farthest.”
“Yes,” I answered, not regarding what he said.
“A beautiful place it is, too—great trees lining the sloping bank, with a grassy plain beyond, backed by a forest reaching down to the edge of the town,” he went on, as if reading from an advertisement.
“It must be fine,” I responded, nowise interested.
“It is not an island, though, in any sense, as one would suppose. Nor rocky, either, but with green, soft as velvet, reaching to the water’s edge. At one time its people thought it would be a great city, perhaps the greatest, but already the belief is dying out. That is the way, though. A town springs up in a day, only to be followed later by a rush to some other place, and so everything has to be commenced anew”; and he sighed, as if these transformations had been the cause of many grievous disappointments to him in his short life.
“Have you ever lived in Rock Island?” I asked, seeing he wanted to talk.
“Yes, for a while, as I have in other places; but only to be caught up and carried on to some new town,” he replied.
“Will you ever get fixed in one place, do you think?” I asked.
“How would you like to live in Rock Island for a while—say a month or two?” he replied, as if not hearing my idle question.
“Why do you ask, uncle?” I answered, wondering what he meant.
“Oh, we have a relative there. A sort of a cousin, named Rolland Love, and a very agreeable man, too. He married a second cousin of yours when young, but she dying, he has married again; so he is a cousin and not a cousin, if you can make that out.”
“If he was once a cousin I suppose he is always a cousin, isn’t he?” I answered.
“I suppose so, and more particularly,” he replied, “as he is a man to open your heart to.”
“Are we going to stop at Rock Island?” I asked, conscious that what he was saying led up to something, I could not tell what.
“Yes, if you think you will like it,” he answered. “I want to see Rolland, and there is a matter that has been troubling me ever since we left Quincy. What would you say to staying with him a while, until matters quiet down?” he went on, abruptly, as if to have an end to something that oppressed him.
“Are you going to stay, too?” I asked.
“Well, no—or only for a day or so; but I will only be a little way off, and we will see each other often, you know,” he answered, reassuringly.
“Do you wish to leave me there?” I asked, a great lump filling my throat at the thought.
“Yes, for a while. It will throw Moth off the track if he tries to follow us, as I fear he will, for your aunt will spend half she has to get you back, the old shrew!” he exclaimed, angrily. “Think of her sending Moth on to Quincy. She is mad through and through, and now Moth, the scamp! will be equally determined,” and stopping, he seemed as if trying to make out the persistence and cunning they would evince in the pursuit. To all this I made no answer, being filled afresh with direful forebodings. For I had fondly thought the last few days had done away with fear of Moth, the river cutting off all possibility of his troubling me further.
“If I can arrange to leave you with Rolland for a few weeks,” Uncle Job resumed, presently, “I will go home and take measures to put it out of the power of your aunt to molest you further. After that we will have clear sailing, and can do as we please.”
The prospect thus held out of being freed from Aunt Jane, now brought up afresh, served in some measure to reconcile me to what he said. Nevertheless, it made me feel very sad; but in the week that had elapsed since we left Wild Plum, now so far in the past, I had grown old, or had the semblance of it, and so spoke up with some cheerfulness.
“I’ll be glad to stay if you think it is best, uncle. I must learn to be away from you sometime, and I might as well begin now, I suppose.”
“That is my brave little brother,” he answered, with a click in his throat. “It is the best thing we can do, I am sure. No one will dream of looking for you there, and I will be only a few miles off, anyway. Rolland will be glad to have you come and stay with him, I know. You will like him, too, for he is the gentlest man in the world, and will treat you more like a companion than anything else. He never knows any distinctions as regards age, he is so simple in his ways.”
“I am sure I shall like him,” I answered, anxious to put his mind at ease.
“He is funny about some things,” Uncle Job went on, “and microscopical, like many clerical men; but the lens through which he looks at the world is amber instead of ink, for there is no guile in him, nor crustiness of any kind.”
“Why do you say he’s microscopical?” I asked, not knowing what he meant.
“Because of dealings with small things and of looking at them mostly through the point of a pen. The world with such men too often takes on the hue of the ink that fills their eyes, instead of the blue sky and shining sun.”
“I never thought of that,” I replied.
“It diminishes the perspective, you see, and so a drop of ink is oftentimes enough to hide or drown a dozen men. Rolland is not like that, though, and if he ever drowns anybody it will be in honey, so sweet is his nature.”
“Oh, I am sure I’ll like him; but what does he do?” I asked, now anxious to prolong the conversation.
“He is a kind of land clerk, but his work does not take up all his time, and so he has a good deal of leisure. This, I am sorry to say, his habits sometimes lead him to misuse, but not often. Such things are common, though, here, and not much thought of; but in his case they keep him poor and prevent his rising in the world, as he would do otherwise.”
“Is his wife like him?” I asked at a venture, not knowing what to say next.
“I don’t know, for I’ve never seen her. When our cousin died and Rolland’s home was broken up he was like one lost, and so after a while determined to marry again. There being no one in Rock Island he thought suitable, what did he do, the simpleton! but write to a friend in St. Louis to pick him out a wife. This his friend did, and after a little correspondence, Rolland went down after his bride. They were married within an hour after his arrival, and before the day was over were on their way home. It was quick work, but his business did not permit of his being away, I suppose,” Uncle Job added, as if to explain the necessity for so much haste.
“What a queer way! And has it turned out as he would like?” I answered, wondering what kind of a wife one would get in such a fashion.
“I don’t know,” he replied, “as I have not seen him since he brought her home; but you will not see much of her, and I am sure it must be all right. If you think you will not like it, though, say the word, and we will go on together and take the chance of fighting off your aunt until matters can be fixed up.”
tumblr_of0lfkfsvj1qz6ekko2_r1_1280“No, I’ll stop with Cousin Rolland if you think it best,” I answered, not being able to see why the new wife should alter our determination one way or the other.
“Yes, for the present, anyway; and now that it is settled, let us turn in, for it is long past midnight,” Uncle Job answered, getting to his feet.
The arrangement thus concluded I did not afterward seek to change, though it caused me to toss and tumble about for many an hour after I went to bed. The next morning I awoke more reconciled than I had thought, and indeed was inclined to it now rather than otherwise, offering, as it did, some new excitement which, youth-like, I set off against any objections there could be.
When we reached the little town of Rock Island, which we did the middle of the forenoon, we parted from the Singletons with many kind expressions of regret. Mrs. Singleton, now happy again in the reunion of her family, embraced and kissed me, making me promise I would come and see her as soon as I got to Appletop. This I was only too glad to do, for I had become very fond of her and the young ladies, all having been kind to me from the very first moment of my meeting them. The leave-taking of Uncle Job was much more prolonged, and unduly so, it seemed to me, in the case of Miss Betty, and afterward, I noticed, he turned about continually, as we mounted the shore, to wave her a new farewell. This I thought strange, for commonly he was inclined to be very reserved with ladies. As we turned to leave the boat I was surprised to observe Blott making his way toward the town. Hurrying to him, I caught his hand, crying out:
“Please, Blott, you’re not going to betray me to Moth, nor tell him I have stopped here, are you?”
“Be off with you! What do you take me for?” he answered, with considerable temper.
“Promise me, though,” I pleaded.
“Well, I swear I won’t, so help me,” and he raised his hand as if being sworn. “I’d stop drinkin’ first, my little bantam,” he added in a lighter mood and as if to clinch the matter. norfloxacin nicotinate
“Thank you; I know you’ll do as you say,” I answered, relieved.
“You bet your life I will; an’ if Moth troubles you again, I’ll break every bone in his nasty little body. Mr. Lincoln’s the man for him, though, and a strange one he is, too. One minute so homely he’d sour milk, and the next you look up expectin’ to see the angels peerin’ through the clouds an’ listenin’ to what he says.” Saying which, Blott reached out and took hold of my shoulders, as if to embrace me, but thinking better of it, turned and went his way.
Overjoyed, I hastened after Uncle Job, whom I found some distance off, still waving his handkerchief to Miss Betty, who stood watching from the boat. When we reached the town, which lay a little back from the river, we went directly to Cousin Rolland’s office, which proved to be a very poor affair indeed, being over a store, and having nothing in it save a few pieces of rough furniture. When he caught sight of Uncle Job, as we mounted the stairs, he hastened to the landing to receive him; and very glad he was indeed, if his reception was a sign, for he took both Uncle Job’s hands in his and held them as if he would never let go. When at last Uncle Job was able to explain who I was and why we came, he embraced me affectionately, saying with great heartiness:
“I am glad to welcome you, Cousin Gilbert. It is so long since I have seen any of my kin that it does my eyes good.”
“I’m glad to see you, Cousin Rolland, I am sure,” I replied, much pleased with his kind reception and cordial manner.
“We will be great friends and have many a lark together, depend upon it,” he went on, as he ushered us into his office.
When Uncle Job explained his plans for circumventing Aunt Jane, Cousin Rolland manifested the greatest enthusiasm, and at a hint of the possibility of a visit from Moth, he shook the goose-quill he held in such a savage, menacing way that I felt at last that here I was safe.
When everything had been concluded to our satisfaction. Uncle Job spoke of our new cousin and her willingness to receive me as one of her family. At this Cousin Rolland seemed to remember her for the first time, for at mention of her name his manner changed, and though he continued to murmur words of welcome, he was not by any means the same as before. However, after some stirring about the office, he was more at ease, bursting out anew, and in the most animated way:
“Angeline will be glad to welcome you, Gilbert, I know she will. Indeed, she will esteem it an honor, Cousin Job, and a pleasure. You could not possibly leave the young man in better hands, so let us talk about something else. Yes, indeed, it is all settled and fixed.” Saying which, he dropped into a chair and began to arrange the inkstands and goose-quills on the table in rows and angles, as if that was a part of the business of his life. This agitation passed unobserved by Uncle Job, and I seeing it, set it down to a lover’s embarrassment at mention of his new wife, and nothing more.
“Why, do you know, Cousin Job,” he went on, after a while, “she is the dearest woman in the world, and when we were married I was so much in love with her that I cut her name in two and called her ‘Angel.'”
“And now?” Uncle Job asked, absently, standing on tip-toe and striving to catch a glimpse of the boat we had just left.
“Oh, now! Well, in the stress of married life one gets to be more formal, you see, and so I have come to call her plain Angeline.”
“Plain Angeline?”
“Yes, by her full name, you know, and simply, without any formality. It wears better. Oh, she will be more than pleased to have you with us, Cousin Gilbert, I know she will,” he concluded, commencing anew to arrange and rearrange the inkstands and goose-quills on his desk.
Upon these assurances of Cousin Rolland, and everything else being arranged, Uncle Job concluded at the last moment not to stop longer, but to go forward on the boat we had just left. I thought afterward that Miss Betty’s presence had something to do with this, for when we returned to the boat they greeted each other as if they had been separated for months instead of a few minutes. This I wondered at greatly, but without in any way understanding it, so simple and inexperienced was I in the ways of the world.