Library of Alexandria
Lewis Rand by Mary Johnston Summary
The tobacco-roller and his son pitched their camp beneath a gum tree upon the edge of the wood. It was October, and the gum was the colour of blood. Behind it rolled the autumn forest; before it stretched a level of broom-sedge, bright ochre in the light of the setting sun. The road ran across this golden plain, and disappeared in a league-deep wood of pine. From an invisible clearing came a cawing of crows. The sky was cloudless, and the evening wind had not begun to blow. The small, shining leaves of the gum did not stir, and the flame of the camp-fire rose straight as a lance. The tobacco cask, transfixed by the trunk of a young oak and drawn by strong horses, had come to rest upon the turf by the roadside. Gideon Rand unharnessed the team, and from the platform built in the front of the cask took fodder for the horses, then tossed upon the grass a bag of meal, a piece of bacon, and a frying-pan. The boy collected the dry wood with which the earth was strewn, then struck flint and steel, guarded the spark within the tinder, fanned the flame, and with a sigh of satisfaction stood back from the leaping fire. His father tossed him a bucket, and with it swinging from his hand, he made through the wood towards a music of water. Goldenrod and farewell-summer and the red plumes of the sumach lined his path, while far overhead the hickories and maples reared a fretted, red-gold roof. Underfoot were moss and coloured leaves, and to the right and left the squirrels watched him with bright eyes. He found the stream where it rippled between banks of fern and mint. As he knelt to fill the pail, the red haw and the purple ironweed met above his head. Below him was a little mirror-like pool, and it gave him back himself with such distinctness that, startled, he dropped the pail, and bending nearer, began to study the image in the water. Back in Albemarle, in his dead mother's room, there hung a looking-glass, but it was cracked and blurred, and he seldom gazed within it. This chance mirror of the woods was more to the purpose. The moments slipped away while he studied the stranger and familiar in the pool below him. The image was not formed or coloured like young Narcissus, of whom he had never heard, but he observed it with interest. He was fourteen, and old for his years. The eyes reflected in the stream were brooding, the mouth had lost its boyish curves, the sanguine cheek was thin, the jaw settling square. His imagination, slow to quicken, had, when aroused, quite a wizard might. He sank deeper amid the ironweed, forgot his errand, and began to dream. He was the son of a tobacco-roller, untaught and unfriended, but he dreamed like a king. His imagination began to paint without hands images of power upon a blank and mighty wall, and it painted like a young Michael Angelo. It used the colours of immaturity, but it conceived with strength. "When I am a man—" he said aloud; and again, "When I am a man—" The eyes in the pool looked at him yearningly; the leaves from the golden hickories fell upon the water and hid him from himself. In the distance a fox barked, and Gideon Rand's deep voice came rolling through the wood: "Lewis! Lewis!"