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The Guardian of the Accolade
by [?]

“Tournament?” said Mr. Robert, taking his cigar from his mouth. “Yes, I remember very well the–but what the deuce are you talking about tournaments here at midnight for? Go ‘long home, Bushrod. I believe you’re sleep-walking.”

“Miss Lucy tetch you on de shoulder,” continued the old man, never heeding, “wid a s’ord, and say: ‘I mek you a knight, Suh Robert–rise up, pure and fearless and widout reproach.’ Dat what Miss Lucy say. Dat’s been a long time ago, but me nor you ain’t forgot it. And den dar’s another time we ain’t forgot–de time when Miss Lucy lay on her las’ bed. She sent for Uncle Bushrod, and she say: ‘Uncle Bushrod, when I die, I want you to take good care of Mr. Robert. Seem like’–so Miss Lucy say–‘he listen to you mo’ dan to anybody else. He apt to be mighty fractious sometimes, and maybe he cuss you when you try to ‘suade him but he need somebody what understand him to be ’round wid him. He am like a little child sometimes’–so Miss Lucy say, wid her eyes shinin’ in her po’, thin face–‘but he always been’–dem was her words–‘my knight, pure and fearless and widout reproach.'”

Mr. Robert began to mask, as was his habit, a tendency to soft- heartedness with a spurious anger.

“You–you old windbag!” he growled through a cloud of swirling cigar smoke. “I believe you are crazy. I told you to go home, Bushrod. Miss Lucy said that, did she? Well, we haven’t kept the scutcheon very clear. Two years ago last week, wasn’t it, Bushrod, when she died? Confound it! Are you going to stand there all night gabbing like a coffee-coloured gander?”

The train whistled again. Now it was at the water tank, a mile away.

“Marse Robert,” said Uncle Bushrod, laying his hand on the satchel that the banker held. “For Gawd’s sake, don’ take dis wid you. I knows what’s in it. I knows where you got it in de bank. Don’ kyar’ it wid you. Dey’s big trouble in dat valise for Miss Lucy and Miss Lucy’s child’s chillun. Hit’s bound to destroy de name of Weymouth and bow down dem dat own it wid shame and triberlation. Marse Robert, you can kill dis ole nigger ef you will, but don’t take away dis ‘er’ valise. If I ever crosses over de Jordan, what I gwine to say to Miss Lucy when she ax me: ‘Uncle Bushrod, wharfo’ didn’ you take good care of Mr. Robert?'”

Mr. Robert Weymouth threw away his cigar and shook free one arm with that peculiar gesture that always preceded his outbursts of irascibility. Uncle Bushrod bowed his head to the expected storm, but he did not flinch. If the house of Weymouth was to fall, he would fall with it. The banker spoke, and Uncle Bushrod blinked with surprise. The storm was there, but it was suppressed to the quietness of a summer breeze.

“Bushrod,” said Mr. Robert, in a lower voice than he usually employed, “you have overstepped all bounds. You have presumed upon the leniency with which you have been treated to meddle unpardonably. So you know what is in this satchel! Your long and faithful service is some excuse, but–go home, Bushrod–not another word!”

But Bushrod grasped the satchel with a firmer hand. The headlight of the train was now lightening the shadows about the station. The roar was increasing, and folks were stirring about at the track side.

“Marse Robert, gimme dis ‘er’ valise. I got a right, suh, to talk to you dis ‘er’ way. I slaved for you and ‘tended to you from a child up. I went th’ough de war as yo’ body-servant tell we whipped de Yankees and sent ’em back to de No’th. I was at yo’ weddin’, and I was n’ fur away when yo’ Miss Letty was bawn. And Miss Letty’s chillun, dey watches to-day for Uncle Bushrod when he come home ever’ evenin’. I been a Weymouth, all ‘cept in colour and entitlements. Both of us is old, Marse Robert. ‘Tain’t goin’ to be long till we gwine to see Miss Lucy and has to give an account of our doin’s. De ole nigger man won’t be ‘spected to say much mo’ dan he done all he could by de fambly dat owned him. But de Weymouths, dey must say day been livin’ pure and fearless and widout reproach. Gimme dis valise, Marse Robert–I’m gwine to hab it. I’m gwine to take it back to the bank and lock it up in de vault. I’m gwine to do Miss Lucy’s biddin’. Turn ‘er loose, Marse Robert.”