(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Lacy Buchan, a sixty-year-old bachelor, thinks back over the year 1860, when he was fifteen and his mother died. That April, family and friends gathered at Pleasant Hill in Fairfax County, Virginia, for the funeral, the last time they were all together. Among those present were the Poseys, Lacy’s sister Susan’s in-laws. Susan’s husband, George Posey, rode his horse away from the funeral, causing much gossip.

Young Lacy recalled memories of George, his brother Semmes’s friend. During a visit two years before, George gave Lacy a gun. The next day, Lacy went to a jousting tournament and stayed with his father’s slave, Coriolanus, who talked to some slaves who had just been sold. One was called Yellow Jim; George sold him and bought a mare.

Riders in the tournament had five tries to take rings from hooks with lances. George and John Langton succeeded each time, and George was awarded the prize for his superior form. When the drunken Langton protested, George threw him to the ground. The victor shared his reward with Lacy’s sister, Susan. Langton challenged George to a duel; George shot at a target, then discarded his pistol and punched Langton. Lacy admired his new friend very much.

At the funeral, Lacy’s sister-in-law Lucy gave Lacy violets to put in his mother’s hands. As he moved from the coffin, Jane, George’s sister, took his hand. They left the room, and Lacy kissed Jane. Afterward, Lacy held a garment belonging to his mother and thought of Jane and of his mother at the same time.

After marrying Susan, George began managing the Buchans’ business affairs. Once he sold a family of slaves that Major Buchan had asked him to free, applying the money to one of the major’s debts. George was a practical man, not a principled one like Major Buchan.

During the winter of 1860-1861, the Buchans stayed in Alexandria at the home of Lacy’s cousin, John Semmes, who went to Washington. Lacy’s brother, Charles, and his sister-in-law, Lucy, moved in with the Buchan family. South Carolina seceded from the Union, and other Southern states followed. Lacy’s father was a Unionist, but his cousin John favored secession. The Buchans discussed civilly which side they would take in the war, but could not agree. Charles, who was in the United States Army, drilled with the National Rifles, from which the Unionists withdrew. George supplied the...

(The entire section is 982 words.)