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Uncle Tom's Cabin

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CHAPTER XVI.
Tom’s Mistress and Her Opinions

“And now, Marie,” said St. Clare, “your golden days are dawning. Here is our practical, business-like New England cousin, who will take the whole budget of cares off your shoulders, and give you time to refresh yourself, and grow young and handsome. The ceremony of delivering the keys had better come off forthwith.”

This remark was made at the breakfast-table, a few mornings after Miss Ophelia had arrived.

“I’m sure she’s welcome,” said Marie, leaning her head languidly on her hand. “I think she’ll find one thing, if she does, and that is, that it’s we mistresses that are the slaves, down here.”

“O, certainly, she will discover that, and a world of wholesome truths besides, no doubt,” said St. Clare.

“Talk about our keeping slaves, as if we did it for our convenience,” said Marie. “I’m sure, if we consulted that, we might let them all go at once.”

Evangeline fixed her large, serious eyes on her mother’s face, with an earnest and perplexed expression, and said, simply, “What do you keep them for, mamma?”

“I don’t know, I’m sure, except for a plague; they are the plague of my life. I believe that more of my ill health is caused by them than by any one thing; and ours, I know, are the very worst that ever anybody was plagued with.”

“O, come, Marie, you’ve got the blues, this morning,” said St. Clare. “You know ’t isn’t so. There’s Mammy, the best creature living,—what could you do without her?”

“Mammy is the best I ever knew,” said Marie; “and yet Mammy, now, is selfish—dreadfully selfish; it’s the fault of the whole race.”

“Selfishness is a dreadful fault,” said St. Clare, gravely.

“Well, now, there’s Mammy,” said Marie, “I think it’s selfish of her to sleep so sound nights; she knows I need little attentions almost every hour, when my worst turns are on, and yet she’s so hard to wake. I absolutely am worse, this very morning, for the efforts I had to make to wake her last night.”

“Hasn’t she sat up with you a good many nights, lately, mamma?” said Eva.

“How should you know that?” said Marie, sharply; “she’s been complaining, I suppose.”

“She didn’t complain; she only told me what bad nights you’d had,—so many in succession.”

“Why don’t you let Jane or Rosa take her place, a night or two,” said St. Clare, “and let her rest?”

“How can you propose it?” said Marie. “St. Clare, you really are inconsiderate. So nervous as I am, the least breath disturbs me; and a strange hand about me would drive me absolutely frantic. If Mammy felt the interest in me she ought to, she’d wake easier,—of course, she would. I’ve heard of people who had such devoted servants, but it never was my luck;” and Marie sighed.

Miss Ophelia had listened to this conversation with an air of shrewd, observant gravity; and she still kept her lips tightly compressed, as if determined fully to ascertain her longitude and position, before she committed herself.

“Now, Mammy has a sort of goodness,” said Marie; “she’s smooth and respectful, but she’s selfish at heart. Now, she never will be done fidgeting and worrying about that husband of hers. You see, when I was married and came to live here, of course, I had to bring her with me, and her husband my father couldn’t spare. He was a blacksmith, and, of course, very necessary; and I thought and said, at the time, that Mammy and he had better give each other up, as it wasn’t likely to be convenient for them ever to live together again. I wish, now, I’d insisted on it, and married Mammy to somebody else; but I was foolish and indulgent, and didn’t want to insist. I told Mammy, at the time, that she mustn’t ever expect to see him more than once or twice in her life again, for the air of father’s place doesn’t agree with my health, and I can’t go there; and I advised her to take up with somebody else; but no—she wouldn’t. Mammy has a kind of obstinacy about her, in spots, that everybody don’t see as I do.”

“Has she children?” said Miss Ophelia.

“Yes; she has two.”

“I suppose she feels the separation from them?”

“Well, of course, I couldn’t bring them. They were little dirty things—I couldn’t have them about; and, besides, they took up too much of her time; but I believe that Mammy has always kept up a sort of sulkiness about this. She won’t marry anybody else; and I do believe, now, though she knows how necessary she is to me, and how feeble my health is, she would go back to her husband tomorrow, if she only could. I do, indeed,” said Marie; “they are just so selfish, now, the best of them.”

“It’s distressing to reflect upon,” said St. Clare, dryly.

Miss Ophelia looked keenly at him, and saw the flush of mortification and repressed vexation, and the sarcastic curl of the lip, as he spoke.

“Now, Mammy has always been a pet with me,” said Marie. “I wish some of your northern servants could look at her closets of dresses,—silks and muslins, and one real linen cambric, she has hanging there. I’ve worked sometimes whole afternoons, trimming her caps, and getting her ready to go to a party. As to abuse, she don’t know what it is. She never was whipped more than once or twice in her whole life. She has her strong coffee or her tea every day, with white sugar in it. It’s abominable, to be sure; but St. Clare will have high life below-stairs, and they every one of them live just as they please. The fact is, our servants are over-indulged. I suppose it is partly our fault that they are selfish, and act like spoiled children; but I’ve talked to St. Clare till I am tired.”

“And I, too,” said St. Clare, taking up the morning paper.

Eva, the beautiful Eva, had stood listening to her mother, with that expression of deep and mystic earnestness which was peculiar to her. She walked softly round to her mother’s chair, and put her arms round her neck.

“Well, Eva, what now?” said Marie.

“Mamma, couldn’t I take care of you one night—just one? I know I shouldn’t make you nervous, and I shouldn’t sleep. I often lie awake nights, thinking—”

“O, nonsense, child—nonsense!” said Marie; “you are such a strange child!”

“But may I, mamma? I think,” she said, timidly, “that Mammy isn’t well. She told me her head ached all the time, lately.”

“O, that’s just one of Mammy’s fidgets! Mammy is just like all the rest of them—makes such a fuss about every little headache or finger-ache; it’ll never do to encourage it—never! I’m principled about this matter,” said she, turning to Miss Ophelia; “you’ll find the necessity of it. If you encourage servants in giving way to every little disagreeable feeling, and complaining of every little ailment, you’ll have your hands full. I never complain myself—nobody knows what I endure. I feel it a duty to bear it quietly, and I do.”

Miss Ophelia’s round eyes expressed an undisguised amazement at this peroration, which struck St. Clare as so supremely ludicrous, that he burst into a loud laugh.

“St. Clare always laughs when I make the least allusion to my ill health,” said Marie, with the voice of a suffering martyr. “I only hope the day won’t come when he’ll remember it!” and Marie put her handkerchief to her eyes.

Of course, there was rather a foolish silence. Finally, St. Clare got up, looked at his watch, and said he had an engagement down street. Eva tripped away after him, and Miss Ophelia and Marie remained at the table alone.

“Now, that’s just like St. Clare!” said the latter, withdrawing her handkerchief with somewhat of a spirited flourish when the criminal to be affected by it was no longer in sight. “He never realizes, never can, never will, what I suffer, and have, for years. If I was one of the complaining sort, or ever made any fuss about my ailments, there would be some reason for it. Men do get tired, naturally, of a complaining wife. But I’ve kept things to myself, and borne, and borne, till St. Clare has got in the way of thinking I can bear anything.”

Miss Ophelia did not exactly know what she was expected to answer to this.

While she was thinking what to say, Marie gradually wiped away her tears, and smoothed her plumage in a general sort of way, as a dove might be supposed to make toilet after a shower, and began a housewifely chat with Miss Ophelia, concerning cupboards, closets, linen-presses, store-rooms, and other matters, of which the latter was, by common understanding, to assume the direction,—giving her so many cautious directions and charges, that a head less systematic and business-like than Miss Ophelia’s would have been utterly dizzied and confounded.

“And now,” said Marie, “I believe I’ve told you everything; so that, when my next sick turn comes on, you’ll be able to go forward entirely, without consulting me;—only about Eva,—she requires watching.”

“She seems to be a good child, very,” said Miss Ophelia; “I never saw a better child.”

“Eva’s peculiar,” said her mother, “very. There are things about her so singular; she isn’t like me, now, a particle;” and Marie sighed, as if this was a truly melancholy consideration.

Miss Ophelia in her own heart said, “I hope she isn’t,” but had prudence enough to keep it down.

“Eva always was disposed to be with servants; and I think that well enough with some children. Now, I always played with father’s little negroes—it never did me any harm. But Eva somehow always seems to put herself on an equality with every creature that comes near her. It’s a strange thing about the child. I never have been able to break her of it. St. Clare, I believe, encourages her in it. The fact is, St. Clare indulges every creature under this roof but his own wife.”

Again Miss Ophelia sat in blank silence.

“Now, there’s no way with servants,” said Marie, “but to put them down, and keep them down. It was always natural to me, from a child. Eva is enough to spoil a whole house-full. What she will do when she comes to keep house herself, I’m sure I don’t know. I hold to being kind to servants—I always am; but you must make ’em know their place. Eva never does; there’s no getting into the child’s head the first beginning of an idea what a servant’s place is! You heard her offering to take care of me nights, to let Mammy sleep! That’s just a specimen of the way the child would be doing all the time, if she was left to herself.”

“Why,” said Miss Ophelia, bluntly, “I suppose you think your servants are human creatures, and ought to have some rest when they are tired.”

“Certainly, of course. I’m very particular in letting them have everything that comes convenient,—anything that doesn’t put one at all out of the way, you know. Mammy can make up her sleep, some time or other; there’s no difficulty about that. She’s the sleepiest concern that ever I saw; sewing, standing, or sitting, that creature will go to sleep, and sleep anywhere and everywhere. No danger but Mammy gets sleep enough. But this treating servants as if they were exotic flowers, or china vases, is really ridiculous,” said Marie, as she plunged languidly into the depths of a voluminous and pillowy lounge, and drew towards her an elegant cut-glass vinaigrette.

“You see,” she continued, in a faint and lady-like voice, like the last dying breath of an Arabian jessamine, or something equally ethereal, “you see, Cousin Ophelia, I don’t often speak of myself. It isn’t my habit; ’t isn’t agreeable to me. In fact, I haven’t strength to do it. But there are points where St. Clare and I differ. St. Clare never understood me, never appreciated me. I think it lies at the root of all my ill health. St. Clare means well, I am bound to believe; but men are constitutionally selfish and inconsiderate to woman. That, at least, is my impression.”

Miss Ophelia, who had not a small share of the genuine New England caution, and a very particular horror of being drawn into family difficulties, now began to foresee something of this kind impending; so, composing her face into a grim neutrality, and drawing out of her pocket about a yard and a quarter of stocking, which she kept as a specific against what Dr. Watts asserts to be a personal habit of Satan when people have idle hands, she proceeded to knit most energetically, shutting her lips together in a way that said, as plain as words could, “You needn’t try to make me speak. I don’t want anything to do with your affairs,”—in fact, she looked about as sympathizing as a stone lion. But Marie didn’t care for that. She had got somebody to talk to, and she felt it her duty to talk, and that was enough; and reinforcing herself by smelling again at her vinaigrette, she went on.

“You see, I brought my own property and servants into the connection, when I married St. Clare, and I am legally entitled to manage them my own way. St. Clare had his fortune and his servants, and I’m well enough content he should manage them his way; but St. Clare will be interfering. He has wild, extravagant notions about things, particularly about the treatment of servants. He really does act as if he set his servants before me, and before himself, too; for he lets them make him all sorts of trouble, and never lifts a finger. Now, about some things, St. Clare is really frightful—he frightens me—good-natured as he looks, in general. Now, he has set down his foot that, come what will, there shall not be a blow struck in this house, except what he or I strike; and he does it in a way that I really dare not cross him. Well, you may see what that leads to; for St. Clare wouldn’t raise his hand, if every one of them walked over him, and I—you see how cruel it would be to require me to make the exertion. Now, you know these servants are nothing but grown-up children.”

“I don’t know anything about it, and I thank the Lord that I don’t!” said Miss Ophelia, shortly.

“Well, but you will have to know something, and know it to your cost, if you stay here. You don’t know what a provoking, stupid, careless, unreasonable, childish, ungrateful set of wretches they are.”

Marie seemed wonderfully supported, always, when she got upon this topic; and she now opened her eyes, and seemed quite to forget her languor.

“You don’t know, and you can’t, the daily, hourly trials that beset a housekeeper from them, everywhere and every way. But it’s no use to complain to St. Clare. He talks the strangest stuff. He says we have made them what they are, and ought to bear with them. He says their faults are all owing to us, and that it would be cruel to make the fault and punish it too. He says we shouldn’t do any better, in their place; just as if one could reason from them to us, you know.”

“Don’t you believe that the Lord made them of one blood with us?” said Miss Ophelia, shortly.

“No, indeed not I! A pretty story, truly! They are a degraded race.”

“Don’t you think they’ve got immortal souls?” said Miss Ophelia, with increasing indignation.

“O, well,” said Marie, yawning, “that, of course—nobody doubts that. But as to putting them on any sort of equality with us, you know, as if we could be compared, why, it’s impossible! Now, St. Clare really has talked to me as if keeping Mammy from her husband was like keeping me from mine. There’s no comparing in this way. Mammy couldn’t have the feelings that I should. It’s a different thing altogether,—of course, it is,—and yet St. Clare pretends not to see it. And just as if Mammy could love her little dirty babies as I love Eva! Yet St. Clare once really and soberly tried to persuade me that it was my duty, with my weak health, and all I suffer, to let Mammy go back, and take somebody else in her place. That was a little too much even for me to bear. I don’t often show my feelings, I make it a principle to endure everything in silence; it’s a wife’s hard lot, and I bear it. But I did break out, that time; so that he has never alluded to the subject since. But I know by his looks, and little things that he says, that he thinks so as much as ever; and it’s so trying, so provoking!”

Miss Ophelia looked very much as if she was afraid she should say something; but she rattled away with her needles in a way that had volumes of meaning in it, if Marie could only have understood it.

“So, you just see,” she continued, “what you’ve got to manage. A household without any rule; where servants have it all their own way, do what they please, and have what they please, except so far as I, with my feeble health, have kept up government. I keep my cowhide about, and sometimes I do lay it on; but the exertion is always too much for me. If St. Clare would only have this thing done as others do—”

“And how’s that?”

“Why, send them to the calaboose, or some of the other places to be flogged. That’s the only way. If I wasn’t such a poor, feeble piece, I believe I should manage with twice the energy that St. Clare does.”

“And how does St. Clare contrive to manage?” said Miss Ophelia. “You say he never strikes a blow.”

“Well, men have a more commanding way, you know; it is easier for them; besides, if you ever looked full in his eye, it’s peculiar,—that eye,—and if he speaks decidedly, there’s a kind of flash. I’m afraid of it, myself; and the servants know they must mind. I couldn’t do as much by a regular storm and scolding as St. Clare can by one turn of his eye, if once he is in earnest. O, there’s no trouble about St. Clare; that’s the reason he’s no more feeling for me. But you’ll find, when you come to manage, that there’s no getting along without severity,—they are so bad, so deceitful, so lazy.”

“The old tune,” said St. Clare, sauntering in. “What an awful account these wicked creatures will have to settle, at last, especially for being lazy! You see, cousin,” said he, as he stretched himself at full length on a lounge opposite to Marie, “it’s wholly inexcusable in them, in the light of the example that Marie and I set them,—this laziness.”

“Come, now, St. Clare, you are too bad!” said Marie.

“Am I, now? Why, I thought I was talking good, quite remarkably for me. I try to enforce your remarks, Marie, always.”

“You know you meant no such thing, St. Clare,” said Marie.

“O, I must have been mistaken, then. Thank you, my dear, for setting me right.”

“You do really try to be provoking,” said Marie.

“O, come, Marie, the day is growing warm, and I have just had a long quarrel with Dolph, which has fatigued me excessively; so, pray be agreeable, now, and let a fellow repose in the light of your smile.”

“What’s the matter about Dolph?” said Marie. “That fellow’s impudence has been growing to a point that is perfectly intolerable to me. I only wish I had the undisputed management of him a while. I’d bring him down!”

“What you say, my dear, is marked with your usual acuteness and good sense,” said St. Clare. “As to Dolph, the case is this: that he has so long been engaged in imitating my graces and perfections, that he has, at last, really mistaken himself for his master; and I have been obliged to give him a little insight into his mistake.”

“How?” said Marie.

“Why, I was obliged to let him understand explicitly that I preferred to keep some of my clothes for my own personal wearing; also, I put his magnificence upon an allowance of cologne-water, and actually was so cruel as to restrict him to one dozen of my cambric handkerchiefs. Dolph was particularly huffy about it, and I had to talk to him like a father, to bring him round.”

“O! St. Clare, when will you learn how to treat your servants? It’s abominable, the way you indulge them!” said Marie.

“Why, after all, what’s the harm of the poor dog’s wanting to be like his master; and if I haven’t brought him up any better than to find his chief good in cologne and cambric handkerchiefs, why shouldn’t I give them to him?”

“And why haven’t you brought him up better?” said Miss Ophelia, with blunt determination.

“Too much trouble,—laziness, cousin, laziness,—which ruins more souls than you can shake a stick at. If it weren’t for laziness, I should have been a perfect angel, myself. I’m inclined to think that laziness is what your old Dr. Botherem, up in Vermont, used to call the ‘essence of moral evil.’ It’s an awful consideration, certainly.”

“I think you slaveholders have an awful responsibility upon you,” said Miss Ophelia. “I wouldn’t have it, for a thousand worlds. You ought to educate your slaves, and treat them like reasonable creatures,—like immortal creatures, that you’ve got to stand before the bar of God with. That’s my mind,” said the good lady, breaking suddenly out with a tide of zeal that had been gaining strength in her mind all the morning.

“O! come, come,” said St. Clare, getting up quickly; “what do you know about us?” And he sat down to the piano, and rattled a lively piece of music. St. Clare had a decided genius for music. His touch was brilliant and firm, and his fingers flew over the keys with a rapid and bird-like motion, airy, and yet decided. He played piece after piece, like a man who is trying to play himself into a good humor. After pushing the music aside, he rose up, and said, gayly, “Well, now, cousin, you’ve given us a good talk and done your duty; on the whole, I think the better of you for it. I make no manner of doubt that you threw a very diamond of truth at me, though you see it hit me so directly in the face that it wasn’t exactly appreciated, at first.”

“For my part, I don’t see any use in such sort of talk,” said Marie. “I’m sure, if anybody does more for servants than we do, I’d like to know who; and it don’t do ’em a bit good,—not a particle,—they get worse and worse. As to talking to them, or anything like that, I’m sure I have talked till I was tired and hoarse, telling them their duty, and all that; and I’m sure they can go to church when they like, though they don’t understand a word of the sermon, more than so many pigs,—so it isn’t of any great use for them to go, as I see; but they do go, and so they have every chance; but, as I said before, they are a degraded race, and always will be, and there isn’t any help for them; you can’t make anything of them, if you try. You see, Cousin Ophelia, I’ve tried, and you haven’t; I was born and bred among them, and I know.”

Miss Ophelia thought she had said enough, and therefore sat silent. St. Clare whistled a tune.

“St. Clare, I wish you wouldn’t whistle,” said Marie; “it makes my head worse.”

“I won’t,” said St. Clare. “Is there anything else you wouldn’t wish me to do?”

“I wish you would have some kind of sympathy for my trials; you never have any feeling for me.”

“My dear accusing angel!” said St. Clare.

“It’s provoking to be talked to in that way.”

“Then, how will you be talked to? I’ll talk to order,—any way you’ll mention,—only to give satisfaction.”

A gay laugh from the court rang through the silken curtains of the verandah. St. Clare stepped out, and lifting up the curtain, laughed too.

“What is it?” said Miss Ophelia, coming to the railing.

There sat Tom, on a little mossy seat in the court, every one of his button-holes stuck full of cape jessamines, and Eva, gayly laughing, was hanging a wreath of roses round his neck; and then she sat down on his knee, like a chip-sparrow, still laughing.

“O, Tom, you look so funny!”

Tom had a sober, benevolent smile, and seemed, in his quiet way, to be enjoying the fun quite as much as his little mistress. He lifted his eyes, when he saw his master, with a half-deprecating, apologetic air.

“How can you let her?” said Miss Ophelia.

“Why not?” said St. Clare.

“Why, I don’t know, it seems so dreadful!”

“You would think no harm in a child’s caressing a large dog, even if he was black; but a creature that can think, and reason, and feel, and is immortal, you shudder at; confess it, cousin. I know the feeling among some of you northerners well enough. Not that there is a particle of virtue in our not having it; but custom with us does what Christianity ought to do,—obliterates the feeling of personal prejudice. I have often noticed, in my travels north, how much stronger this was with you than with us. You loathe them as you would a snake or a toad, yet you are indignant at their wrongs. You would not have them abused; but you don’t want to have anything to do with them yourselves. You would send them to Africa, out of your sight and smell, and then send a missionary or two to do up all the self-denial of elevating them compendiously. Isn’t that it?”

“Well, cousin,” said Miss Ophelia, thoughtfully, “there may be some truth in this.”

“What would the poor and lowly do, without children?” said St. Clare, leaning on the railing, and watching Eva, as she tripped off, leading Tom with her. “Your little child is your only true democrat. Tom, now is a hero to Eva; his stories are wonders in her eyes, his songs and Methodist hymns are better than an opera, and the traps and little bits of trash in his pocket a mine of jewels, and he the most wonderful Tom that ever wore a black skin. This is one of the roses of Eden that the Lord has dropped down expressly for the poor and lowly, who get few enough of any other kind.”

“It’s strange, cousin,” said Miss Ophelia, “one might almost think you were a professor, to hear you talk.”

“A professor?” said St. Clare.

“Yes; a professor of religion.”

“Not at all; not a professor, as your town-folks have it; and, what is worse, I’m afraid, not a practiser, either.”

“What makes you talk so, then?”

“Nothing is easier than talking,” said St. Clare. “I believe Shakespeare makes somebody say, ’I could sooner show twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow my own showing.‘[1] Nothing like division of labor. My forte lies in talking, and yours, cousin, lies in doing.”

[1] The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, scene 2, lines 17-18.

In Tom’s external situation, at this time, there was, as the world says, nothing to complain of Little Eva’s fancy for him—the instinctive gratitude and loveliness of a noble nature—had led her to petition her father that he might be her especial attendant, whenever she needed the escort of a servant, in her walks or rides; and Tom had general orders to let everything else go, and attend to Miss Eva whenever she wanted him,—orders which our readers may fancy were far from disagreeable to him. He was kept well dressed, for St. Clare was fastidiously particular on this point. His stable services were merely a sinecure, and consisted simply in a daily care and inspection, and directing an under-servant in his duties; for Marie St. Clare declared that she could not have any smell of the horses about him when he came near her, and that he must positively not be put to any service that would make him unpleasant to her, as her nervous system was entirely inadequate to any trial of that nature; one snuff of anything disagreeable being, according to her account, quite sufficient to close the scene, and put an end to all her earthly trials at once. Tom, therefore, in his well-brushed broadcloth suit, smooth beaver, glossy boots, faultless wristbands and collar, with his grave, good-natured black face, looked respectable enough to be a Bishop of Carthage, as men of his color were, in other ages.

Then, too, he was in a beautiful place, a consideration to which his sensitive race was never indifferent; and he did enjoy with a quiet joy the birds, the flowers, the fountains, the perfume, and light and beauty of the court, the silken hangings, and pictures, and lustres, and statuettes, and gilding, that made the parlors within a kind of Aladdin’s palace to him.

If ever Africa shall show an elevated and cultivated race,—and come it must, some time, her turn to figure in the great drama of human improvement.—life will awake there with a gorgeousness and splendor of which our cold western tribes faintly have conceived. In that far-off mystic land of gold, and gems, and spices, and waving palms, and wondrous flowers, and miraculous fertility, will awake new forms of art, new styles of splendor; and the negro race, no longer despised and trodden down, will, perhaps, show forth some of the latest and most magnificent revelations of human life. Certainly they will, in their gentleness, their lowly docility of heart, their aptitude to repose on a superior mind and rest on a higher power, their childlike simplicity of affection, and facility of forgiveness. In all these they will exhibit the highest form of the peculiarly Christian life, and, perhaps, as God chasteneth whom he loveth, he hath chosen poor Africa in the furnace of affliction, to make her the highest and noblest in that kingdom which he will set up, when every other kingdom has been tried, and failed; for the first shall be last, and the last first.

Was this what Marie St. Clare was thinking of, as she stood, gorgeously dressed, on the verandah, on Sunday morning, clasping a diamond bracelet on her slender wrist? Most likely it was. Or, if it wasn’t that, it was something else; for Marie patronized good things, and she was going now, in full force,—diamonds, silk, and lace, and jewels, and all,—to a fashionable church, to be very religious. Marie always made a point to be very pious on Sundays. There she stood, so slender, so elegant, so airy and undulating in all her motions, her lace scarf enveloping her like a mist. She looked a graceful creature, and she felt very good and very elegant indeed. Miss Ophelia stood at her side, a perfect contrast. It was not that she had not as handsome a silk dress and shawl, and as fine a pocket-handkerchief; but stiffness and squareness, and bolt-uprightness, enveloped her with as indefinite yet appreciable a presence as did grace her elegant neighbor; not the grace of God, however,—that is quite another thing!

“Where’s Eva?” said Marie.

“The child stopped on the stairs, to say something to Mammy.”

And what was Eva saying to Mammy on the stairs? Listen, reader, and you will hear, though Marie does not.

“Dear Mammy, I know your head is aching dreadfully.”

“Lord bless you, Miss Eva! my head allers aches lately. You don’t need to worry.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re going out; and here,”—and the little girl threw her arms around her,—“Mammy, you shall take my vinaigrette.”

“What! your beautiful gold thing, thar, with them diamonds! Lor, Miss, ’t wouldn’t be proper, no ways.”

“Why not? You need it, and I don’t. Mamma always uses it for headache, and it’ll make you feel better. No, you shall take it, to please me, now.”

“Do hear the darlin talk!” said Mammy, as Eva thrust it into her bosom, and kissing her, ran down stairs to her mother.

“What were you stopping for?”

“I was just stopping to give Mammy my vinaigrette, to take to church with her.”

“Eva” said Marie, stamping impatiently,—“your gold vinaigrette to Mammy! When will you learn what’s proper? Go right and take it back this moment!”

Eva looked downcast and aggrieved, and turned slowly.

“I say, Marie, let the child alone; she shall do as she pleases,” said St. Clare.

“St. Clare, how will she ever get along in the world?” said Marie.

“The Lord knows,” said St. Clare, “but she’ll get along in heaven better than you or I.”

“O, papa, don’t,” said Eva, softly touching his elbow; “it troubles mother.”

“Well, cousin, are you ready to go to meeting?” said Miss Ophelia, turning square about on St. Clare.

“I’m not going, thank you.”

“I do wish St. Clare ever would go to church,” said Marie; “but he hasn’t a particle of religion about him. It really isn’t respectable.”

“I know it,” said St. Clare. “You ladies go to church to learn how to get along in the world, I suppose, and your piety sheds respectability on us. If I did go at all, I would go where Mammy goes; there’s something to keep a fellow awake there, at least.”

“What! those shouting Methodists? Horrible!” said Marie.

“Anything but the dead sea of your respectable churches, Marie. Positively, it’s too much to ask of a man. Eva, do you like to go? Come, stay at home and play with me.”

“Thank you, papa; but I’d rather go to church.”

“Isn’t it dreadful tiresome?” said St. Clare.

“I think it is tiresome, some,” said Eva, “and I am sleepy, too, but I try to keep awake.”

“What do you go for, then?”

“Why, you know, papa,” she said, in a whisper, “cousin told me that God wants to have us; and he gives us everything, you know; and it isn’t much to do it, if he wants us to. It isn’t so very tiresome after all.”

“You sweet, little obliging soul!” said St. Clare, kissing her; “go along, that’s a good girl, and pray for me.”

“Certainly, I always do,” said the child, as she sprang after her mother into the carriage.

St. Clare stood on the steps and kissed his hand to her, as the carriage drove away; large tears were in his eyes.

“O, Evangeline! rightly named,” he said; “hath not God made thee an evangel to me?”

So he felt a moment; and then he smoked a cigar, and read the Picayune, and forgot his little gospel. Was he much unlike other folks?

“You see, Evangeline,” said her mother, “it’s always right and proper to be kind to servants, but it isn’t proper to treat them just as we would our relations, or people in our own class of life. Now, if Mammy was sick, you wouldn’t want to put her in your own bed.”

“I should feel just like it, mamma,” said Eva, “because then it would be handier to take care of her, and because, you know, my bed is better than hers.”

Marie was in utter despair at the entire want of moral perception evinced in this reply.

“What can I do to make this child understand me?” she said.

“Nothing,” said Miss Ophelia, significantly.

Eva looked sorry and disconcerted for a moment; but children, luckily, do not keep to one impression long, and in a few moments she was merrily laughing at various things which she saw from the coach-windows, as it rattled along.

“Well, ladies,” said St. Clare, as they were comfortably seated at the dinner-table, “and what was the bill of fare at church today?”

“O, Dr. G—— preached a splendid sermon,” said Marie. “It was just such a sermon as you ought to hear; it expressed all my views exactly.”

“It must have been very improving,” said St. Clare. “The subject must have been an extensive one.”

“Well, I mean all my views about society, and such things,” said Marie. “The text was, ‘He hath made everything beautiful in its season;’ and he showed how all the orders and distinctions in society came from God; and that it was so appropriate, you know, and beautiful, that some should be high and some low, and that some were born to rule and some to serve, and all that, you know; and he applied it so well to all this ridiculous fuss that is made about slavery, and he proved distinctly that the Bible was on our side, and supported all our institutions so convincingly. I only wish you’d heard him.”

“O, I didn’t need it,” said St. Clare. “I can learn what does me as much good as that from the Picayune, any time, and smoke a cigar besides; which I can’t do, you know, in a church.”

“Why,” said Miss Ophelia, “don’t you believe in these views?”

“Who,—I? You know I’m such a graceless dog that these religious aspects of such subjects don’t edify me much. If I was to say anything on this slavery matter, I would say out, fair and square, ‘We’re in for it; we’ve got ’em, and mean to keep ’em,—it’s for our convenience and our interest;’ for that’s the long and short of it,—that’s just the whole of what all this sanctified stuff amounts to, after all; and I think that it will be intelligible to everybody, everywhere.”

“I do think, Augustine, you are so irreverent!” said Marie. “I think it’s shocking to hear you talk.”

“Shocking! it’s the truth. This religious talk on such matters,—why don’t they carry it a little further, and show the beauty, in its season, of a fellow’s taking a glass too much, and sitting a little too late over his cards, and various providential arrangements of that sort, which are pretty frequent among us young men;—we’d like to hear that those are right and godly, too.”

“Well,” said Miss Ophelia, “do you think slavery right or wrong?”

“I’m not going to have any of your horrid New England directness, cousin,” said St. Clare, gayly. “If I answer that question, I know you’ll be at me with half a dozen others, each one harder than the last; and I’m not a going to define my position. I am one of the sort that lives by throwing stones at other people’s glass houses, but I never mean to put up one for them to stone.”

“That’s just the way he’s always talking,” said Marie; “you can’t get any satisfaction out of him. I believe it’s just because he don’t like religion, that he’s always running out in this way he’s been doing.”

“Religion!” said St. Clare, in a tone that made both ladies look at him. “Religion! Is what you hear at church, religion? Is that which can bend and turn, and descend and ascend, to fit every crooked phase of selfish, worldly society, religion? Is that religion which is less scrupulous, less generous, less just, less considerate for man, than even my own ungodly, worldly, blinded nature? No! When I look for a religion, I must look for something above me, and not something beneath.”

“Then you don’t believe that the Bible justifies slavery,” said Miss Ophelia.

“The Bible was my mother’s book,” said St. Clare. “By it she lived and died, and I would be very sorry to think it did. I’d as soon desire to have it proved that my mother could drink brandy, chew tobacco, and swear, by way of satisfying me that I did right in doing the same. It wouldn’t make me at all more satisfied with these things in myself, and it would take from me the comfort of respecting her; and it really is a comfort, in this world, to have anything one can respect. In short, you see,” said he, suddenly resuming his gay tone, “all I want is that different things be kept in different boxes. The whole frame-work of society, both in Europe and America, is made up of various things which will not stand the scrutiny of any very ideal standard of morality. It’s pretty generally understood that men don’t aspire after the absolute right, but only to do about as well as the rest of the world. Now, when any one speaks up, like a man, and says slavery is necessary to us, we can’t get along without it, we should be beggared if we give it up, and, of course, we mean to hold on to it,—this is strong, clear, well-defined language; it has the respectability of truth to it; and, if we may judge by their practice, the majority of the world will bear us out in it. But when he begins to put on a long face, and snuffle, and quote Scripture, I incline to think he isn’t much better than he should be.”

“You are very uncharitable,” said Marie.

“Well,” said St. Clare, “suppose that something should bring down the price of cotton once and forever, and make the whole slave property a drug in the market, don’t you think we should soon have another version of the Scripture doctrine? What a flood of light would pour into the church, all at once, and how immediately it would be discovered that everything in the Bible and reason went the other way!”

“Well, at any rate,” said Marie, as she reclined herself on a lounge, “I’m thankful I’m born where slavery exists; and I believe it’s right,—indeed, I feel it must be; and, at any rate, I’m sure I couldn’t get along without it.”

“I say, what do you think, Pussy?” said her father to Eva, who came in at this moment, with a flower in her hand.

“What about, papa?”

“Why, which do you like the best,—to live as they do at your uncle’s, up in Vermont, or to have a house-full of servants, as we do?”

“O, of course, our way is the pleasantest,” said Eva.

“Why so?” said St. Clare, stroking her head.

“Why, it makes so many more round you to love, you know,” said Eva, looking up earnestly.

“Now, that’s just like Eva,” said Marie; “just one of her odd speeches.”

“Is it an odd speech, papa?” said Eva, whisperingly, as she got upon his knee.

“Rather, as this world goes, Pussy,” said St. Clare. “But where has my little Eva been, all dinner-time?”

“O, I’ve been up in Tom’s room, hearing him sing, and Aunt Dinah gave me my dinner.”

“Hearing Tom sing, hey?”

“O, yes! he sings such beautiful things about the New Jerusalem, and bright angels, and the land of Canaan.”

“I dare say; it’s better than the opera, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and he’s going to teach them to me.”

“Singing lessons, hey?—you are coming on.”

“Yes, he sings for me, and I read to him in my Bible; and he explains what it means, you know.”

“On my word,” said Marie, laughing, “that is the latest joke of the season.”

“Tom isn’t a bad hand, now, at explaining Scripture, I’ll dare swear,” said St. Clare. “Tom has a natural genius for religion. I wanted the horses out early, this morning, and I stole up to Tom’s cubiculum there, over the stables, and there I heard him holding a meeting by himself; and, in fact, I haven’t heard anything quite so savory as Tom’s prayer, this some time. He put in for me, with a zeal that was quite apostolic.”

“Perhaps he guessed you were listening. I’ve heard of that trick before.”

“If he did, he wasn’t very polite; for he gave the Lord his opinion of me, pretty freely. Tom seemed to think there was decidedly room for improvement in me, and seemed very earnest that I should be converted.”

“I hope you’ll lay it to heart,” said Miss Ophelia.

“I suppose you are much of the same opinion,” said St. Clare. “Well, we shall see,—shan’t we, Eva?”

CHAPTER XVII.
The Freeman’s Defence

There was a gentle bustle at the Quaker house, as the afternoon drew to a close. Rachel Halliday moved quietly to and fro, collecting from her household stores such needments as could be arranged in the smallest compass, for the wanderers who were to go forth that night. The afternoon shadows stretched eastward, and the round red sun stood thoughtfully on the horizon, and his beams shone yellow and calm into the little bed-room where George and his wife were sitting. He was sitting with his child on his knee, and his wife’s hand in his. Both looked thoughtful and serious and traces of tears were on their cheeks.

“Yes, Eliza,” said George, “I know all you say is true. You are a good child,—a great deal better than I am; and I will try to do as you say. I’ll try to act worthy of a free man. I’ll try to feel like a Christian. God Almighty knows that I’ve meant to do well,—tried hard to do well,—when everything has been against me; and now I’ll forget all the past, and put away every hard and bitter feeling, and read my Bible, and learn to be a good man.”

“And when we get to Canada,” said Eliza, “I can help you. I can do dress-making very well; and I understand fine washing and ironing; and between us we can find something to live on.”

“Yes, Eliza, so long as we have each other and our boy. O! Eliza, if these people only knew what a blessing it is for a man to feel that his wife and child belong to him! I’ve often wondered to see men that could call their wives and children their own fretting and worrying about anything else. Why, I feel rich and strong, though we have nothing but our bare hands. I feel as if I could scarcely ask God for any more. Yes, though I’ve worked hard every day, till I am twenty-five years old, and have not a cent of money, nor a roof to cover me, nor a spot of land to call my own, yet, if they will only let me alone now, I will be satisfied,—thankful; I will work, and send back the money for you and my boy. As to my old master, he has been paid five times over for all he ever spent for me. I don’t owe him anything.”

“But yet we are not quite out of danger,” said Eliza; “we are not yet in Canada.”

“True,” said George, “but it seems as if I smelt the free air, and it makes me strong.”

At this moment, voices were heard in the outer apartment, in earnest conversation, and very soon a rap was heard on the door. Eliza started and opened it.

Simeon Halliday was there, and with him a Quaker brother, whom he introduced as Phineas Fletcher. Phineas was tall and lathy, red-haired, with an expression of great acuteness and shrewdness in his face. He had not the placid, quiet, unworldly air of Simeon Halliday; on the contrary, a particularly wide-awake and au fait appearance, like a man who rather prides himself on knowing what he is about, and keeping a bright lookout ahead; peculiarities which sorted rather oddly with his broad brim and formal phraseology.

“Our friend Phineas hath discovered something of importance to the interests of thee and thy party, George,” said Simeon; “it were well for thee to hear it.”

“That I have,” said Phineas, “and it shows the use of a man’s always sleeping with one ear open, in certain places, as I’ve always said. Last night I stopped at a little lone tavern, back on the road. Thee remembers the place, Simeon, where we sold some apples, last year, to that fat woman, with the great ear-rings. Well, I was tired with hard driving; and, after my supper I stretched myself down on a pile of bags in the corner, and pulled a buffalo over me, to wait till my bed was ready; and what does I do, but get fast asleep.”

“With one ear open, Phineas?” said Simeon, quietly.

“No; I slept, ears and all, for an hour or two, for I was pretty well tired; but when I came to myself a little, I found that there were some men in the room, sitting round a table, drinking and talking; and I thought, before I made much muster, I’d just see what they were up to, especially as I heard them say something about the Quakers. ‘So,’ says one, ‘they are up in the Quaker settlement, no doubt,’ says he. Then I listened with both ears, and I found that they were talking about this very party. So I lay and heard them lay off all their plans. This young man, they said, was to be sent back to Kentucky, to his master, who was going to make an example of him, to keep all niggers from running away; and his wife two of them were going to run down to New Orleans to sell, on their own account, and they calculated to get sixteen or eighteen hundred dollars for her; and the child, they said, was going to a trader, who had bought him; and then there was the boy, Jim, and his mother, they were to go back to their masters in Kentucky. They said that there were two constables, in a town a little piece ahead, who would go in with ’em to get ’em taken up, and the young woman was to be taken before a judge; and one of the fellows, who is small and smooth-spoken, was to swear to her for his property, and get her delivered over to him to take south. They’ve got a right notion of the track we are going tonight; and they’ll be down after us, six or eight strong. So now, what’s to be done?”

The group that stood in various attitudes, after this communication, were worthy of a painter. Rachel Halliday, who had taken her hands out of a batch of biscuit, to hear the news, stood with them upraised and floury, and with a face of the deepest concern. Simeon looked profoundly thoughtful; Eliza had thrown her arms around her husband, and was looking up to him. George stood with clenched hands and glowing eyes, and looking as any other man might look, whose wife was to be sold at auction, and son sent to a trader, all under the shelter of a Christian nation’s laws.

“What shall we do, George?” said Eliza faintly.

“I know what I shall do,” said George, as he stepped into the little room, and began examining pistols.

“Ay, ay,” said Phineas, nodding his head to Simeon; “thou seest, Simeon, how it will work.”

“I see,” said Simeon, sighing; “I pray it come not to that.”

“I don’t want to involve any one with or for me,” said George. “If you will lend me your vehicle and direct me, I will drive alone to the next stand. Jim is a giant in strength, and brave as death and despair, and so am I.”

“Ah, well, friend,” said Phineas, “but thee’ll need a driver, for all that. Thee’s quite welcome to do all the fighting, thee knows; but I know a thing or two about the road, that thee doesn’t.”

“But I don’t want to involve you,” said George.

“Involve,” said Phineas, with a curious and keen expression of face, “When thee does involve me, please to let me know.”

“Phineas is a wise and skilful man,” said Simeon. “Thee does well, George, to abide by his judgment; and,” he added, laying his hand kindly on George’s shoulder, and pointing to the pistols, “be not over hasty with these,—young blood is hot.”

“I will attack no man,” said George. “All I ask of this country is to be let alone, and I will go out peaceably; but,”—he paused, and his brow darkened and his face worked,—“I’ve had a sister sold in that New Orleans market. I know what they are sold for; and am I going to stand by and see them take my wife and sell her, when God has given me a pair of strong arms to defend her? No; God help me! I’ll fight to the last breath, before they shall take my wife and son. Can you blame me?”

“Mortal man cannot blame thee, George. Flesh and blood could not do otherwise,” said Simeon. “Woe unto the world because of offences, but woe unto them through whom the offence cometh.”

“Would not even you, sir, do the same, in my place?”

“I pray that I be not tried,” said Simeon; “the flesh is weak.”

“I think my flesh would be pretty tolerable strong, in such a case,” said Phineas, stretching out a pair of arms like the sails of a windmill. “I an’t sure, friend George, that I shouldn’t hold a fellow for thee, if thee had any accounts to settle with him.”

“If man should ever resist evil,” said Simeon, “then George should feel free to do it now: but the leaders of our people taught a more excellent way; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God; but it goes sorely against the corrupt will of man, and none can receive it save they to whom it is given. Let us pray the Lord that we be not tempted.”

“And so I do,” said Phineas; “but if we are tempted too much—why, let them look out, that’s all.”

“It’s quite plain thee wasn’t born a Friend,” said Simeon, smiling. “The old nature hath its way in thee pretty strong as yet.”

To tell the truth, Phineas had been a hearty, two-fisted backwoodsman, a vigorous hunter, and a dead shot at a buck; but, having wooed a pretty Quakeress, had been moved by the power of her charms to join the society in his neighborhood; and though he was an honest, sober, and efficient member, and nothing particular could be alleged against him, yet the more spiritual among them could not but discern an exceeding lack of savor in his developments.

“Friend Phineas will ever have ways of his own,” said Rachel Halliday, smiling; “but we all think that his heart is in the right place, after all.”

“Well,” said George, “isn’t it best that we hasten our flight?”

“I got up at four o’clock, and came on with all speed, full two or three hours ahead of them, if they start at the time they planned. It isn’t safe to start till dark, at any rate; for there are some evil persons in the villages ahead, that might be disposed to meddle with us, if they saw our wagon, and that would delay us more than the waiting; but in two hours I think we may venture. I will go over to Michael Cross, and engage him to come behind on his swift nag, and keep a bright lookout on the road, and warn us if any company of men come on. Michael keeps a horse that can soon get ahead of most other horses; and he could shoot ahead and let us know, if there were any danger. I am going out now to warn Jim and the old woman to be in readiness, and to see about the horse. We have a pretty fair start, and stand a good chance to get to the stand before they can come up with us. So, have good courage, friend George; this isn’t the first ugly scrape that I’ve been in with thy people,” said Phineas, as he closed the door.

“Phineas is pretty shrewd,” said Simeon. “He will do the best that can be done for thee, George.”

“All I am sorry for,” said George, “is the risk to you.”

“Thee’ll much oblige us, friend George, to say no more about that. What we do we are conscience bound to do; we can do no other way. And now, mother,” said he, turning to Rachel, “hurry thy preparations for these friends, for we must not send them away fasting.”

And while Rachel and her children were busy making corn-cake, and cooking ham and chicken, and hurrying on the et ceteras of the evening meal, George and his wife sat in their little room, with their arms folded about each other, in such talk as husband and wife have when they know that a few hours may part them forever.

“Eliza,” said George, “people that have friends, and houses, and lands, and money, and all those things can’t love as we do, who have nothing but each other. Till I knew you, Eliza, no creature had loved me, but my poor, heart-broken mother and sister. I saw poor Emily that morning the trader carried her off. She came to the corner where I was lying asleep, and said, ’Poor George, your last friend is going. What will become of you, poor boy?’ And I got up and threw my arms round her, and cried and sobbed, and she cried too; and those were the last kind words I got for ten long years; and my heart all withered up, and felt as dry as ashes, till I met you. And your loving me,—why, it was almost like raising one from the dead! I’ve been a new man ever since! And now, Eliza, I’ll give my last drop of blood, but they shall not take you from me. Whoever gets you must walk over my dead body.”

“O, Lord, have mercy!” said Eliza, sobbing. “If he will only let us get out of this country together, that is all we ask.”

“Is God on their side?” said George, speaking less to his wife than pouring out his own bitter thoughts. “Does he see all they do? Why does he let such things happen? And they tell us that the Bible is on their side; certainly all the power is. They are rich, and healthy, and happy; they are members of churches, expecting to go to heaven; and they get along so easy in the world, and have it all their own way; and poor, honest, faithful Christians,—Christians as good or better than they,—are lying in the very dust under their feet. They buy ’em and sell ’em, and make trade of their heart’s blood, and groans and tears,—and God lets them.”

“Friend George,” said Simeon, from the kitchen, “listen to this Psalm; it may do thee good.”

George drew his seat near the door, and Eliza, wiping her tears, came forward also to listen, while Simeon read as follows:

“But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well-nigh slipped. For I was envious of the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They are not in trouble like other men, neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore, pride compasseth them as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness; they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily. Therefore his people return, and the waters of a full cup are wrung out to them, and they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?”

“Is not that the way thee feels, George?”

“It is so indeed,” said George,—“as well as I could have written it myself.”

“Then, hear,” said Simeon: “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me until I went unto the sanctuary of God. Then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places, thou castedst them down to destruction. As a dream when one awaketh, so, oh Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. Nevertheless I am continually with thee; thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me by thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory. It is good for me to draw near unto God. I have put my trust in the Lord God.”[1]

[1] Ps. 73, “The End of the Wicked contrasted with that of the Righteous.”

The words of holy trust, breathed by the friendly old man, stole like sacred music over the harassed and chafed spirit of George; and after he ceased, he sat with a gentle and subdued expression on his fine features.

“If this world were all, George,” said Simeon, “thee might, indeed, ask where is the Lord? But it is often those who have least of all in this life whom he chooseth for the kingdom. Put thy trust in him and, no matter what befalls thee here, he will make all right hereafter.”

If these words had been spoken by some easy, self-indulgent exhorter, from whose mouth they might have come merely as pious and rhetorical flourish, proper to be used to people in distress, perhaps they might not have had much effect; but coming from one who daily and calmly risked fine and imprisonment for the cause of God and man, they had a weight that could not but be felt, and both the poor, desolate fugitives found calmness and strength breathing into them from it.

And now Rachel took Eliza’s hand kindly, and led the way to the supper-table. As they were sitting down, a light tap sounded at the door, and Ruth entered.

“I just ran in,” she said, “with these little stockings for the boy,—three pair, nice, warm woollen ones. It will be so cold, thee knows, in Canada. Does thee keep up good courage, Eliza?” she added, tripping round to Eliza’s side of the table, and shaking her warmly by the hand, and slipping a seed-cake into Harry’s hand. “I brought a little parcel of these for him,” she said, tugging at her pocket to get out the package. “Children, thee knows, will always be eating.”

“O, thank you; you are too kind,” said Eliza.

“Come, Ruth, sit down to supper,” said Rachel.

“I couldn’t, any way. I left John with the baby, and some biscuits in the oven; and I can’t stay a moment, else John will burn up all the biscuits, and give the baby all the sugar in the bowl. That’s the way he does,” said the little Quakeress, laughing. “So, good-by, Eliza; good-by, George; the Lord grant thee a safe journey;” and, with a few tripping steps, Ruth was out of the apartment.

A little while after supper, a large covered-wagon drew up before the door; the night was clear starlight; and Phineas jumped briskly down from his seat to arrange his passengers. George walked out of the door, with his child on one arm and his wife on the other. His step was firm, his face settled and resolute. Rachel and Simeon came out after them.

“You get out, a moment,” said Phineas to those inside, “and let me fix the back of the wagon, there, for the women-folks and the boy.”

“Here are the two buffaloes,” said Rachel. “Make the seats as comfortable as may be; it’s hard riding all night.”

Jim came out first, and carefully assisted out his old mother, who clung to his arm, and looked anxiously about, as if she expected the pursuer every moment.

“Jim, are your pistols all in order?” said George, in a low, firm voice.

“Yes, indeed,” said Jim.

“And you’ve no doubt what you shall do, if they come?”

“I rather think I haven’t,” said Jim, throwing open his broad chest, and taking a deep breath. “Do you think I’ll let them get mother again?”

During this brief colloquy, Eliza had been taking her leave of her kind friend, Rachel, and was handed into the carriage by Simeon, and, creeping into the back part with her boy, sat down among the buffalo-skins. The old woman was next handed in and seated and George and Jim placed on a rough board seat front of them, and Phineas mounted in front.

“Farewell, my friends,” said Simeon, from without.

“God bless you!” answered all from within.

And the wagon drove off, rattling and jolting over the frozen road.

There was no opportunity for conversation, on account of the roughness of the way and the noise of the wheels. The vehicle, therefore, rumbled on, through long, dark stretches of woodland,—over wide dreary plains,—up hills, and down valleys,—and on, on, on they jogged, hour after hour. The child soon fell asleep, and lay heavily in his mother’s lap. The poor, frightened old woman at last forgot her fears; and, even Eliza, as the night waned, found all her anxieties insufficient to keep her eyes from closing. Phineas seemed, on the whole, the briskest of the company, and beguiled his long drive with whistling certain very unquaker-like songs, as he went on.

But about three o’clock George’s ear caught the hasty and decided click of a horse’s hoof coming behind them at some distance and jogged Phineas by the elbow. Phineas pulled up his horses, and listened.

“That must be Michael,” he said; “I think I know the sound of his gallop;” and he rose up and stretched his head anxiously back over the road.

A man riding in hot haste was now dimly descried at the top of a distant hill.

“There he is, I do believe!” said Phineas. George and Jim both sprang out of the wagon before they knew what they were doing. All stood intensely silent, with their faces turned towards the expected messenger. On he came. Now he went down into a valley, where they could not see him; but they heard the sharp, hasty tramp, rising nearer and nearer; at last they saw him emerge on the top of an eminence, within hail.

“Yes, that’s Michael!” said Phineas; and, raising his voice, “Halloa, there, Michael!”

“Phineas! is that thee?”

“Yes; what news—they coming?”

“Right on behind, eight or ten of them, hot with brandy, swearing and foaming like so many wolves.”

And, just as he spoke, a breeze brought the faint sound of galloping horsemen towards them.

“In with you,—quick, boys, in!” said Phineas. “If you must fight, wait till I get you a piece ahead.” And, with the word, both jumped in, and Phineas lashed the horses to a run, the horseman keeping close beside them. The wagon rattled, jumped, almost flew, over the frozen ground; but plainer, and still plainer, came the noise of pursuing horsemen behind. The women heard it, and, looking anxiously out, saw, far in the rear, on the brow of a distant hill, a party of men looming up against the red-streaked sky of early dawn. Another hill, and their pursuers had evidently caught sight of their wagon, whose white cloth-covered top made it conspicuous at some distance, and a loud yell of brutal triumph came forward on the wind. Eliza sickened, and strained her child closer to her bosom; the old woman prayed and groaned, and George and Jim clenched their pistols with the grasp of despair. The pursuers gained on them fast; the carriage made a sudden turn, and brought them near a ledge of a steep overhanging rock, that rose in an isolated ridge or clump in a large lot, which was, all around it, quite clear and smooth. This isolated pile, or range of rocks, rose up black and heavy against the brightening sky, and seemed to promise shelter and concealment. It was a place well known to Phineas, who had been familiar with the spot in his hunting days; and it was to gain this point he had been racing his horses.

“Now for it!” said he, suddenly checking his horses, and springing from his seat to the ground. “Out with you, in a twinkling, every one, and up into these rocks with me. Michael, thee tie thy horse to the wagon, and drive ahead to Amariah’s and get him and his boys to come back and talk to these fellows.”

In a twinkling they were all out of the carriage.

“There,” said Phineas, catching up Harry, “you, each of you, see to the women; and run, now if you ever did run!”

They needed no exhortation. Quicker than we can say it, the whole party were over the fence, making with all speed for the rocks, while Michael, throwing himself from his horse, and fastening the bridle to the wagon, began driving it rapidly away.

“Come ahead,” said Phineas, as they reached the rocks, and saw in the mingled starlight and dawn, the traces of a rude but plainly marked foot-path leading up among them; “this is one of our old hunting-dens. Come up!”

Phineas went before, springing up the rocks like a goat, with the boy in his arms. Jim came second, bearing his trembling old mother over his shoulder, and George and Eliza brought up the rear. The party of horsemen came up to the fence, and, with mingled shouts and oaths, were dismounting, to prepare to follow them. A few moments’ scrambling brought them to the top of the ledge; the path then passed between a narrow defile, where only one could walk at a time, till suddenly they came to a rift or chasm more than a yard in breadth, and beyond which lay a pile of rocks, separate from the rest of the ledge, standing full thirty feet high, with its sides steep and perpendicular as those of a castle. Phineas easily leaped the chasm, and sat down the boy on a smooth, flat platform of crisp white moss, that covered the top of the rock.

“Over with you!” he called; “spring, now, once, for your lives!” said he, as one after another sprang across. Several fragments of loose stone formed a kind of breast-work, which sheltered their position from the observation of those below.

“Well, here we all are,” said Phineas, peeping over the stone breast-work to watch the assailants, who were coming tumultuously up under the rocks. “Let ’em get us, if they can. Whoever comes here has to walk single file between those two rocks, in fair range of your pistols, boys, d’ye see?”

“I do see,” said George! “and now, as this matter is ours, let us take all the risk, and do all the fighting.”

“Thee’s quite welcome to do the fighting, George,” said Phineas, chewing some checkerberry-leaves as he spoke; “but I may have the fun of looking on, I suppose. But see, these fellows are kinder debating down there, and looking up, like hens when they are going to fly up on to the roost. Hadn’t thee better give ’em a word of advice, before they come up, just to tell ’em handsomely they’ll be shot if they do?”

The party beneath, now more apparent in the light of the dawn, consisted of our old acquaintances, Tom Loker and Marks, with two constables, and a posse consisting of such rowdies at the last tavern as could be engaged by a little brandy to go and help the fun of trapping a set of niggers.

“Well, Tom, yer coons are farly treed,” said one.

“Yes, I see ’em go up right here,” said Tom; “and here’s a path. I’m for going right up. They can’t jump down in a hurry, and it won’t take long to ferret ’em out.”

“But, Tom, they might fire at us from behind the rocks,” said Marks. “That would be ugly, you know.”

“Ugh!” said Tom, with a sneer. “Always for saving your skin, Marks! No danger! niggers are too plaguy scared!”

“I don’t know why I shouldn’t save my skin,” said Marks. “It’s the best I’ve got; and niggers do fight like the devil, sometimes.”

At this moment, George appeared on the top of a rock above them, and, speaking in a calm, clear voice, said,

“Gentlemen, who are you, down there, and what do you want?”

“We want a party of runaway niggers,” said Tom Loker. “One George Harris, and Eliza Harris, and their son, and Jim Selden, and an old woman. We’ve got the officers, here, and a warrant to take ’em; and we’re going to have ’em, too. D’ye hear? An’t you George Harris, that belongs to Mr. Harris, of Shelby county, Kentucky?”

“I am George Harris. A Mr. Harris, of Kentucky, did call me his property. But now I’m a free man, standing on God’s free soil; and my wife and my child I claim as mine. Jim and his mother are here. We have arms to defend ourselves, and we mean to do it. You can come up, if you like; but the first one of you that comes within the range of our bullets is a dead man, and the next, and the next; and so on till the last.”

“O, come! come!” said a short, puffy man, stepping forward, and blowing his nose as he did so. “Young man, this an’t no kind of talk at all for you. You see, we’re officers of justice. We’ve got the law on our side, and the power, and so forth; so you’d better give up peaceably, you see; for you’ll certainly have to give up, at last.”

“I know very well that you’ve got the law on your side, and the power,” said George, bitterly. “You mean to take my wife to sell in New Orleans, and put my boy like a calf in a trader’s pen, and send Jim’s old mother to the brute that whipped and abused her before, because he couldn’t abuse her son. You want to send Jim and me back to be whipped and tortured, and ground down under the heels of them that you call masters; and your laws will bear you out in it,—more shame for you and them! But you haven’t got us. We don’t own your laws; we don’t own your country; we stand here as free, under God’s sky, as you are; and, by the great God that made us, we’ll fight for our liberty till we die.”

George stood out in fair sight, on the top of the rock, as he made his declaration of independence; the glow of dawn gave a flush to his swarthy cheek, and bitter indignation and despair gave fire to his dark eye; and, as if appealing from man to the justice of God, he raised his hand to heaven as he spoke.

If it had been only a Hungarian youth, now bravely defending in some mountain fastness the retreat of fugitives escaping from Austria into America, this would have been sublime heroism; but as it was a youth of African descent, defending the retreat of fugitives through America into Canada, of course we are too well instructed and patriotic to see any heroism in it; and if any of our readers do, they must do it on their own private responsibility. When despairing Hungarian fugitives make their way, against all the search-warrants and authorities of their lawful government, to America, press and political cabinet ring with applause and welcome. When despairing African fugitives do the same thing,—it is—what is it?

Be it as it may, it is certain that the attitude, eye, voice, manner, of the speaker for a moment struck the party below to silence. There is something in boldness and determination that for a time hushes even the rudest nature. Marks was the only one who remained wholly untouched. He was deliberately cocking his pistol, and, in the momentary silence that followed George’s speech, he fired at him.

“Ye see ye get jist as much for him dead as alive in Kentucky,” he said coolly, as he wiped his pistol on his coat-sleeve.

George sprang backward,—Eliza uttered a shriek,—the ball had passed close to his hair, had nearly grazed the cheek of his wife, and struck in the tree above.

“It’s nothing, Eliza,” said George, quickly.

“Thee’d better keep out of sight, with thy speechifying,” said Phineas; “they’re mean scamps.”

“Now, Jim,” said George, “look that your pistols are all right, and watch that pass with me. The first man that shows himself I fire at; you take the second, and so on. It won’t do, you know, to waste two shots on one.”

“But what if you don’t hit?”

“I shall hit,” said George, coolly.

“Good! now, there’s stuff in that fellow,” muttered Phineas, between his teeth.

The party below, after Marks had fired, stood, for a moment, rather undecided.

“I think you must have hit some on ’em,” said one of the men. “I heard a squeal!”

“I’m going right up for one,” said Tom. “I never was afraid of niggers, and I an’t going to be now. Who goes after?” he said, springing up the rocks.

George heard the words distinctly. He drew up his pistol, examined it, pointed it towards that point in the defile where the first man would appear.

One of the most courageous of the party followed Tom, and, the way being thus made, the whole party began pushing up the rock,—the hindermost pushing the front ones faster than they would have gone of themselves. On they came, and in a moment the burly form of Tom appeared in sight, almost at the verge of the chasm.

George fired,—the shot entered his side,—but, though wounded, he would not retreat, but, with a yell like that of a mad bull, he was leaping right across the chasm into the party.

“Friend,” said Phineas, suddenly stepping to the front, and meeting him with a push from his long arms, “thee isn’t wanted here.”

Down he fell into the chasm, crackling down among trees, bushes, logs, loose stones, till he lay bruised and groaning thirty feet below. The fall might have killed him, had it not been broken and moderated by his clothes catching in the branches of a large tree; but he came down with some force, however,—more than was at all agreeable or convenient.

“Lord help us, they are perfect devils!” said Marks, heading the retreat down the rocks with much more of a will than he had joined the ascent, while all the party came tumbling precipitately after him,—the fat constable, in particular, blowing and puffing in a very energetic manner.

“I say, fellers,” said Marks, “you jist go round and pick up Tom, there, while I run and get on to my horse to go back for help,—that’s you;” and, without minding the hootings and jeers of his company, Marks was as good as his word, and was soon seen galloping away.

“Was ever such a sneaking varmint?” said one of the men; “to come on his business, and he clear out and leave us this yer way!”

“Well, we must pick up that feller,” said another. “Cuss me if I much care whether he is dead or alive.”

The men, led by the groans of Tom, scrambled and crackled through stumps, logs and bushes, to where that hero lay groaning and swearing with alternate vehemence.

“Ye keep it agoing pretty loud, Tom,” said one. “Ye much hurt?”

“Don’t know. Get me up, can’t ye? Blast that infernal Quaker! If it hadn’t been for him, I’d a pitched some on ’em down here, to see how they liked it.”

With much labor and groaning, the fallen hero was assisted to rise; and, with one holding him up under each shoulder, they got him as far as the horses.

“If you could only get me a mile back to that ar tavern. Give me a handkerchief or something, to stuff into this place, and stop this infernal bleeding.”

George looked over the rocks, and saw them trying to lift the burly form of Tom into the saddle. After two or three ineffectual attempts, he reeled, and fell heavily to the ground.

“O, I hope he isn’t killed!” said Eliza, who, with all the party, stood watching the proceeding.

“Why not?” said Phineas; “serves him right.”

“Because after death comes the judgment,” said Eliza.

“Yes,” said the old woman, who had been groaning and praying, in her Methodist fashion, during all the encounter, “it’s an awful case for the poor crittur’s soul.”

“On my word, they’re leaving him, I do believe,” said Phineas.

It was true; for after some appearance of irresolution and consultation, the whole party got on their horses and rode away. When they were quite out of sight, Phineas began to bestir himself.

“Well, we must go down and walk a piece,” he said. “I told Michael to go forward and bring help, and be along back here with the wagon; but we shall have to walk a piece along the road, I reckon, to meet them. The Lord grant he be along soon! It’s early in the day; there won’t be much travel afoot yet a while; we an’t much more than two miles from our stopping-place. If the road hadn’t been so rough last night, we could have outrun ’em entirely.”

As the party neared the fence, they discovered in the distance, along the road, their own wagon coming back, accompanied by some men on horseback.

“Well, now, there’s Michael, and Stephen and Amariah,” exclaimed Phineas, joyfully. “Now we are made—as safe as if we’d got there.”

“Well, do stop, then,” said Eliza, “and do something for that poor man; he’s groaning dreadfully.”

“It would be no more than Christian,” said George; “let’s take him up and carry him on.”

“And doctor him up among the Quakers!” said Phineas; “pretty well, that! Well, I don’t care if we do. Here, let’s have a look at him;” and Phineas, who in the course of his hunting and backwoods life had acquired some rude experience of surgery, kneeled down by the wounded man, and began a careful examination of his condition.

“Marks,” said Tom, feebly, “is that you, Marks?”

“No; I reckon ’tan’t friend,” said Phineas. “Much Marks cares for thee, if his own skin’s safe. He’s off, long ago.”

“I believe I’m done for,” said Tom. “The cussed sneaking dog, to leave me to die alone! My poor old mother always told me ’t would be so.”

“La sakes! jist hear the poor crittur. He’s got a mammy, now,” said the old negress. “I can’t help kinder pityin’ on him.”

“Softly, softly; don’t thee snap and snarl, friend,” said Phineas, as Tom winced and pushed his hand away. “Thee has no chance, unless I stop the bleeding.” And Phineas busied himself with making some off-hand surgical arrangements with his own pocket-handkerchief, and such as could be mustered in the company.

“You pushed me down there,” said Tom, faintly.

“Well if I hadn’t thee would have pushed us down, thee sees,” said Phineas, as he stooped to apply his bandage. “There, there,—let me fix this bandage. We mean well to thee; we bear no malice. Thee shall be taken to a house where they’ll nurse thee first rate, well as thy own mother could.”

Tom groaned, and shut his eyes. In men of his class, vigor and resolution are entirely a physical matter, and ooze out with the flowing of the blood; and the gigantic fellow really looked piteous in his helplessness.

The other party now came up. The seats were taken out of the wagon. The buffalo-skins, doubled in fours, were spread all along one side, and four men, with great difficulty, lifted the heavy form of Tom into it. Before he was gotten in, he fainted entirely. The old negress, in the abundance of her compassion, sat down on the bottom, and took his head in her lap. Eliza, George and Jim, bestowed themselves, as well as they could, in the remaining space and the whole party set forward.

“What do you think of him?” said George, who sat by Phineas in front.

“Well it’s only a pretty deep flesh-wound; but, then, tumbling and scratching down that place didn’t help him much. It has bled pretty freely,—pretty much drained him out, courage and all,—but he’ll get over it, and may be learn a thing or two by it.”

“I’m glad to hear you say so,” said George. “It would always be a heavy thought to me, if I’d caused his death, even in a just cause.”

“Yes,” said Phineas, “killing is an ugly operation, any way they’ll fix it,—man or beast. I’ve seen a buck that was shot down and a dying, look that way on a feller with his eye, that it reely most made a feller feel wicked for killing on him; and human creatures is a more serious consideration yet, bein’, as thy wife says, that the judgment comes to ’em after death. So I don’t know as our people’s notions on these matters is too strict; and, considerin’ how I was raised, I fell in with them pretty considerably.”

“What shall you do with this poor fellow?” said George.

“O, carry him along to Amariah’s. There’s old Grandmam Stephens there,—Dorcas, they call her,—she’s most an amazin’ nurse. She takes to nursing real natural, and an’t never better suited than when she gets a sick body to tend. We may reckon on turning him over to her for a fortnight or so.”

A ride of about an hour more brought the party to a neat farmhouse, where the weary travellers were received to an abundant breakfast. Tom Loker was soon carefully deposited in a much cleaner and softer bed than he had ever been in the habit of occupying. His wound was carefully dressed and bandaged, and he lay languidly opening and shutting his eyes on the white window-curtains and gently-gliding figures of his sick room, like a weary child. And here, for the present, we shall take our leave of one party.

CHAPTER XVIII.
Miss Ophelia’s Experiences and Opinions

Our friend Tom, in his own simple musings, often compared his more fortunate lot, in the bondage into which he was cast, with that of Joseph in Egypt; and, in fact, as time went on, and he developed more and more under the eye of his master, the strength of the parallel increased.

St. Clare was indolent and careless of money. Hitherto the providing and marketing had been principally done by Adolph, who was, to the full, as careless and extravagant as his master; and, between them both, they had carried on the dispersing process with great alacrity. Accustomed, for many years, to regard his master’s property as his own care, Tom saw, with an uneasiness he could scarcely repress, the wasteful expenditure of the establishment; and, in the quiet, indirect way which his class often acquire, would sometimes make his own suggestions.

St. Clare at first employed him occasionally; but, struck with his soundness of mind and good business capacity, he confided in him more and more, till gradually all the marketing and providing for the family were intrusted to him.

“No, no, Adolph,” he said, one day, as Adolph was deprecating the passing of power out of his hands; “let Tom alone. You only understand what you want; Tom understands cost and come to; and there may be some end to money, bye and bye if we don’t let somebody do that.”

Trusted to an unlimited extent by a careless master, who handed him a bill without looking at it, and pocketed the change without counting it, Tom had every facility and temptation to dishonesty; and nothing but an impregnable simplicity of nature, strengthened by Christian faith, could have kept him from it. But, to that nature, the very unbounded trust reposed in him was bond and seal for the most scrupulous accuracy.

With Adolph the case had been different. Thoughtless and self-indulgent, and unrestrained by a master who found it easier to indulge than to regulate, he had fallen into an absolute confusion as to meum tuum with regard to himself and his master, which sometimes troubled even St. Clare. His own good sense taught him that such a training of his servants was unjust and dangerous. A sort of chronic remorse went with him everywhere, although not strong enough to make any decided change in his course; and this very remorse reacted again into indulgence. He passed lightly over the most serious faults, because he told himself that, if he had done his part, his dependents had not fallen into them.

Tom regarded his gay, airy, handsome young master with an odd mixture of fealty, reverence, and fatherly solicitude. That he never read the Bible; never went to church; that he jested and made free with any and every thing that came in the way of his wit; that he spent his Sunday evenings at the opera or theatre; that he went to wine parties, and clubs, and suppers, oftener than was at all expedient,—were all things that Tom could see as plainly as anybody, and on which he based a conviction that “Mas’r wasn’t a Christian;”—a conviction, however, which he would have been very slow to express to any one else, but on which he founded many prayers, in his own simple fashion, when he was by himself in his little dormitory. Not that Tom had not his own way of speaking his mind occasionally, with something of the tact often observable in his class; as, for example, the very day after the Sabbath we have described, St. Clare was invited out to a convivial party of choice spirits, and was helped home, between one and two o’clock at night, in a condition when the physical had decidedly attained the upper hand of the intellectual. Tom and Adolph assisted to get him composed for the night, the latter in high spirits, evidently regarding the matter as a good joke, and laughing heartily at the rusticity of Tom’s horror, who really was simple enough to lie awake most of the rest of the night, praying for his young master.

“Well, Tom, what are you waiting for?” said St. Clare, the next day, as he sat in his library, in dressing-gown and slippers. St. Clare had just been entrusting Tom with some money, and various commissions. “Isn’t all right there, Tom?” he added, as Tom still stood waiting.

“I’m ’fraid not, Mas’r,” said Tom, with a grave face.

St. Clare laid down his paper, and set down his coffee-cup, and looked at Tom.

“Why Tom, what’s the case? You look as solemn as a coffin.”

“I feel very bad, Mas’r. I allays have thought that Mas’r would be good to everybody.”

“Well, Tom, haven’t I been? Come, now, what do you want? There’s something you haven’t got, I suppose, and this is the preface.”

“Mas’r allays been good to me. I haven’t nothing to complain of on that head. But there is one that Mas’r isn’t good to.”

“Why, Tom, what’s got into you? Speak out; what do you mean?”

“Last night, between one and two, I thought so. I studied upon the matter then. Mas’r isn’t good to himself.”

Tom said this with his back to his master, and his hand on the door-knob. St. Clare felt his face flush crimson, but he laughed.

“O, that’s all, is it?” he said, gayly.

“All!” said Tom, turning suddenly round and falling on his knees. “O, my dear young Mas’r; I’m ’fraid it will be loss of all—all—body and soul. The good Book says, ’it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder!’ my dear Mas’r!”

Tom’s voice choked, and the tears ran down his cheeks.

“You poor, silly fool!” said St. Clare, with tears in his own eyes. “Get up, Tom. I’m not worth crying over.”

But Tom wouldn’t rise, and looked imploring.

“Well, I won’t go to any more of their cursed nonsense, Tom,” said St. Clare; “on my honor, I won’t. I don’t know why I haven’t stopped long ago. I’ve always despised it, and myself for it,—so now, Tom, wipe up your eyes, and go about your errands. Come, come,” he added, “no blessings. I’m not so wonderfully good, now,” he said, as he gently pushed Tom to the door. “There, I’ll pledge my honor to you, Tom, you don’t see me so again,” he said; and Tom went off, wiping his eyes, with great satisfaction.

“I’ll keep my faith with him, too,” said St. Clare, as he closed the door.

And St. Clare did so,—for gross sensualism, in any form, was not the peculiar temptation of his nature.

But, all this time, who shall detail the tribulations manifold of our friend Miss Ophelia, who had begun the labors of a Southern housekeeper?

There is all the difference in the world in the servants of Southern establishments, according to the character and capacity of the mistresses who have brought them up.

South as well as north, there are women who have an extraordinary talent for command, and tact in educating. Such are enabled, with apparent ease, and without severity, to subject to their will, and bring into harmonious and systematic order, the various members of their small estate,—to regulate their peculiarities, and so balance and compensate the deficiencies of one by the excess of another, as to produce a harmonious and orderly system.

Such a housekeeper was Mrs. Shelby, whom we have already described; and such our readers may remember to have met with. If they are not common at the South, it is because they are not common in the world. They are to be found there as often as anywhere; and, when existing, find in that peculiar state of society a brilliant opportunity to exhibit their domestic talent.

Such a housekeeper Marie St. Clare was not, nor her mother before her. Indolent and childish, unsystematic and improvident, it was not to be expected that servants trained under her care should not be so likewise; and she had very justly described to Miss Ophelia the state of confusion she would find in the family, though she had not ascribed it to the proper cause.

The first morning of her regency, Miss Ophelia was up at four o’clock; and having attended to all the adjustments of her own chamber, as she had done ever since she came there, to the great amazement of the chambermaid, she prepared for a vigorous onslaught on the cupboards and closets of the establishment of which she had the keys.

The store-room, the linen-presses, the china-closet, the kitchen and cellar, that day, all went under an awful review. Hidden things of darkness were brought to light to an extent that alarmed all the principalities and powers of kitchen and chamber, and caused many wonderings and murmurings about “dese yer northern ladies” from the domestic cabinet.

Old Dinah, the head cook, and principal of all rule and authority in the kitchen department, was filled with wrath at what she considered an invasion of privilege. No feudal baron in Magna Charta times could have more thoroughly resented some incursion of the crown.

Dinah was a character in her own way, and it would be injustice to her memory not to give the reader a little idea of her. She was a native and essential cook, as much as Aunt Chloe,—cooking being an indigenous talent of the African race; but Chloe was a trained and methodical one, who moved in an orderly domestic harness, while Dinah was a self-taught genius, and, like geniuses in general, was positive, opinionated and erratic, to the last degree.

Like a certain class of modern philosophers, Dinah perfectly scorned logic and reason in every shape, and always took refuge in intuitive certainty; and here she was perfectly impregnable. No possible amount of talent, or authority, or explanation, could ever make her believe that any other way was better than her own, or that the course she had pursued in the smallest matter could be in the least modified. This had been a conceded point with her old mistress, Marie’s mother; and “Miss Marie,” as Dinah always called her young mistress, even after her marriage, found it easier to submit than contend; and so Dinah had ruled supreme. This was the easier, in that she was perfect mistress of that diplomatic art which unites the utmost subservience of manner with the utmost inflexibility as to measure.

Dinah was mistress of the whole art and mystery of excuse-making, in all its branches. Indeed, it was an axiom with her that the cook can do no wrong; and a cook in a Southern kitchen finds abundance of heads and shoulders on which to lay off every sin and frailty, so as to maintain her own immaculateness entire. If any part of the dinner was a failure, there were fifty indisputably good reasons for it; and it was the fault undeniably of fifty other people, whom Dinah berated with unsparing zeal.

But it was very seldom that there was any failure in Dinah’s last results. Though her mode of doing everything was peculiarly meandering and circuitous, and without any sort of calculation as to time and place,—though her kitchen generally looked as if it had been arranged by a hurricane blowing through it, and she had about as many places for each cooking utensil as there were days in the year,—yet, if one would have patience to wait her own good time, up would come her dinner in perfect order, and in a style of preparation with which an epicure could find no fault.

It was now the season of incipient preparation for dinner. Dinah, who required large intervals of reflection and repose, and was studious of ease in all her arrangements, was seated on the kitchen floor, smoking a short, stumpy pipe, to which she was much addicted, and which she always kindled up, as a sort of censer, whenever she felt the need of an inspiration in her arrangements. It was Dinah’s mode of invoking the domestic Muses.

Seated around her were various members of that rising race with which a Southern household abounds, engaged in shelling peas, peeling potatoes, picking pin-feathers out of fowls, and other preparatory arrangements,—Dinah every once in a while interrupting her meditations to give a poke, or a rap on the head, to some of the young operators, with the pudding-stick that lay by her side. In fact, Dinah ruled over the woolly heads of the younger members with a rod of iron, and seemed to consider them born for no earthly purpose but to “save her steps,” as she phrased it. It was the spirit of the system under which she had grown up, and she carried it out to its full extent.

Miss Ophelia, after passing on her reformatory tour through all the other parts of the establishment, now entered the kitchen. Dinah had heard, from various sources, what was going on, and resolved to stand on defensive and conservative ground,—mentally determined to oppose and ignore every new measure, without any actual observable contest.

The kitchen was a large brick-floored apartment, with a great old-fashioned fireplace stretching along one side of it,—an arrangement which St. Clare had vainly tried to persuade Dinah to exchange for the convenience of a modern cook-stove. Not she. No Puseyite,[1] or conservative of any school, was ever more inflexibly attached to time-honored inconveniences than Dinah.

[1] Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882), champion of the orthodoxy of revealed religion, defender of the Oxford movement, and Regius professor of Hebrew and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford.

When St. Clare had first returned from the north, impressed with the system and order of his uncle’s kitchen arrangements, he had largely provided his own with an array of cupboards, drawers, and various apparatus, to induce systematic regulation, under the sanguine illusion that it would be of any possible assistance to Dinah in her arrangements. He might as well have provided them for a squirrel or a magpie. The more drawers and closets there were, the more hiding-holes could Dinah make for the accommodation of old rags, hair-combs, old shoes, ribbons, cast-off artificial flowers, and other articles of vertu, wherein her soul delighted.

When Miss Ophelia entered the kitchen Dinah did not rise, but smoked on in sublime tranquillity, regarding her movements obliquely out of the corner of her eye, but apparently intent only on the operations around her.

Miss Ophelia commenced opening a set of drawers.

“What is this drawer for, Dinah?” she said.

“It’s handy for most anything, Missis,” said Dinah. So it appeared to be. From the variety it contained, Miss Ophelia pulled out first a fine damask table-cloth stained with blood, having evidently been used to envelop some raw meat.

“What’s this, Dinah? You don’t wrap up meat in your mistress’ best table-cloths?”

“O Lor, Missis, no; the towels was all a missin’—so I jest did it. I laid out to wash that a,—that’s why I put it thar.”

“Shif’less!” said Miss Ophelia to herself, proceeding to tumble over the drawer, where she found a nutmeg-grater and two or three nutmegs, a Methodist hymn-book, a couple of soiled Madras handkerchiefs, some yarn and knitting-work, a paper of tobacco and a pipe, a few crackers, one or two gilded china-saucers with some pomade in them, one or two thin old shoes, a piece of flannel carefully pinned up enclosing some small white onions, several damask table-napkins, some coarse crash towels, some twine and darning-needles, and several broken papers, from which sundry sweet herbs were sifting into the drawer.

“Where do you keep your nutmegs, Dinah?” said Miss Ophelia, with the air of one who prayed for patience.

“Most anywhar, Missis; there’s some in that cracked tea-cup, up there, and there’s some over in that ar cupboard.”

“Here are some in the grater,” said Miss Ophelia, holding them up.

“Laws, yes, I put ’em there this morning,—I likes to keep my things handy,” said Dinah. “You, Jake! what are you stopping for! You’ll cotch it! Be still, thar!” she added, with a dive of her stick at the criminal.

“What’s this?” said Miss Ophelia, holding up the saucer of pomade.

“Laws, it’s my har grease;—I put it thar to have it handy.”

“Do you use your mistress’ best saucers for that?”

“Law! it was cause I was driv, and in sich a hurry;—I was gwine to change it this very day.”

“Here are two damask table-napkins.”

“Them table-napkins I put thar, to get ’em washed out, some day.”

“Don’t you have some place here on purpose for things to be washed?”

“Well, Mas’r St. Clare got dat ar chest, he said, for dat; but I likes to mix up biscuit and hev my things on it some days, and then it an’t handy a liftin’ up the lid.”

“Why don’t you mix your biscuits on the pastry-table, there?”

“Law, Missis, it gets sot so full of dishes, and one thing and another, der an’t no room, noway—”

“But you should wash your dishes, and clear them away.”

“Wash my dishes!” said Dinah, in a high key, as her wrath began to rise over her habitual respect of manner; “what does ladies know ’bout work, I want to know? When ’d Mas’r ever get his dinner, if I vas to spend all my time a washin’ and a puttin’ up dishes? Miss Marie never telled me so, nohow.”

“Well, here are these onions.”

“Laws, yes!” said Dinah; “thar is whar I put ’em, now. I couldn’t ’member. Them ’s particular onions I was a savin’ for dis yer very stew. I’d forgot they was in dat ar old flannel.”

Miss Ophelia lifted out the sifting papers of sweet herbs.

“I wish Missis wouldn’t touch dem ar. I likes to keep my things where I knows whar to go to ’em,” said Dinah, rather decidedly.

“But you don’t want these holes in the papers.”

“Them ’s handy for siftin’ on ’t out,” said Dinah.

“But you see it spills all over the drawer.”

“Laws, yes! if Missis will go a tumblin’ things all up so, it will. Missis has spilt lots dat ar way,” said Dinah, coming uneasily to the drawers. “If Missis only will go up stars till my clarin’ up time comes, I’ll have everything right; but I can’t do nothin’ when ladies is round, a henderin’. You, Sam, don’t you gib the baby dat ar sugar-bowl! I’ll crack ye over, if ye don’t mind!”

“I’m going through the kitchen, and going to put everything in order, once, Dinah; and then I’ll expect you to keep it so.”

“Lor, now! Miss Phelia; dat ar an’t no way for ladies to do. I never did see ladies doin’ no sich; my old Missis nor Miss Marie never did, and I don’t see no kinder need on ’t;” and Dinah stalked indignantly about, while Miss Ophelia piled and sorted dishes, emptied dozens of scattering bowls of sugar into one receptacle, sorted napkins, table-cloths, and towels, for washing; washing, wiping, and arranging with her own hands, and with a speed and alacrity which perfectly amazed Dinah.

“Lor now! if dat ar de way dem northern ladies do, dey an’t ladies, nohow,” she said to some of her satellites, when at a safe hearing distance. “I has things as straight as anybody, when my clarin’ up times comes; but I don’t want ladies round, a henderin’, and getting my things all where I can’t find ’em.”

To do Dinah justice, she had, at irregular periods, paroxyms of reformation and arrangement, which she called “clarin’ up times,” when she would begin with great zeal, and turn every drawer and closet wrong side outward, on to the floor or tables, and make the ordinary confusion seven-fold more confounded. Then she would light her pipe, and leisurely go over her arrangements, looking things over, and discoursing upon them; making all the young fry scour most vigorously on the tin things, and keeping up for several hours a most energetic state of confusion, which she would explain to the satisfaction of all inquirers, by the remark that she was a “clarin’ up.” “She couldn’t hev things a gwine on so as they had been, and she was gwine to make these yer young ones keep better order;” for Dinah herself, somehow, indulged the illusion that she, herself, was the soul of order, and it was only the young uns, and the everybody else in the house, that were the cause of anything that fell short of perfection in this respect. When all the tins were scoured, and the tables scrubbed snowy white, and everything that could offend tucked out of sight in holes and corners, Dinah would dress herself up in a smart dress, clean apron, and high, brilliant Madras turban, and tell all marauding “young uns” to keep out of the kitchen, for she was gwine to have things kept nice. Indeed, these periodic seasons were often an inconvenience to the whole household; for Dinah would contract such an immoderate attachment to her scoured tin, as to insist upon it that it shouldn’t be used again for any possible purpose,—at least, till the ardor of the “clarin’ up” period abated.

Miss Ophelia, in a few days, thoroughly reformed every department of the house to a systematic pattern; but her labors in all departments that depended on the cooperation of servants were like those of Sisyphus or the Danaides. In despair, she one day appealed to St. Clare.

“There is no such thing as getting anything like a system in this family!”

“To be sure, there isn’t,” said St. Clare.

“Such shiftless management, such waste, such confusion, I never saw!”

“I dare say you didn’t.”

“You would not take it so coolly, if you were housekeeper.”

“My dear cousin, you may as well understand, once for all, that we masters are divided into two classes, oppressors and oppressed. We who are good-natured and hate severity make up our minds to a good deal of inconvenience. If we will keep a shambling, loose, untaught set in the community, for our convenience, why, we must take the consequence. Some rare cases I have seen, of persons, who, by a peculiar tact, can produce order and system without severity; but I’m not one of them,—and so I made up my mind, long ago, to let things go just as they do. I will not have the poor devils thrashed and cut to pieces, and they know it,—and, of course, they know the staff is in their own hands.”

“But to have no time, no place, no order,—all going on in this shiftless way!”

“My dear Vermont, you natives up by the North Pole set an extravagant value on time! What on earth is the use of time to a fellow who has twice as much of it as he knows what to do with? As to order and system, where there is nothing to be done but to lounge on the sofa and read, an hour sooner or later in breakfast or dinner isn’t of much account. Now, there’s Dinah gets you a capital dinner,—soup, ragout, roast fowl, dessert, ice-creams and all,—and she creates it all out of chaos and old night down there, in that kitchen. I think it really sublime, the way she manages. But, Heaven bless us! if we are to go down there, and view all the smoking and squatting about, and hurryscurryation of the preparatory process, we should never eat more! My good cousin, absolve yourself from that! It’s more than a Catholic penance, and does no more good. You’ll only lose your own temper, and utterly confound Dinah. Let her go her own way.”

“But, Augustine, you don’t know how I found things.”

“Don’t I? Don’t I know that the rolling-pin is under her bed, and the nutmeg-grater in her pocket with her tobacco,—that there are sixty-five different sugar-bowls, one in every hole in the house,—that she washes dishes with a dinner-napkin one day, and with a fragment of an old petticoat the next? But the upshot is, she gets up glorious dinners, makes superb coffee; and you must judge her as warriors and statesmen are judged, by her success.”

“But the waste,—the expense!”

“O, well! Lock everything you can, and keep the key. Give out by driblets, and never inquire for odds and ends,—it isn’t best.”

“That troubles me, Augustine. I can’t help feeling as if these servants were not strictly honest. Are you sure they can be relied on?”

Augustine laughed immoderately at the grave and anxious face with which Miss Ophelia propounded the question.

“O, cousin, that’s too good,—honest!—as if that’s a thing to be expected! Honest!—why, of course, they arn’t. Why should they be? What upon earth is to make them so?”

“Why don’t you instruct?”

“Instruct! O, fiddlestick! What instructing do you think I should do? I look like it! As to Marie, she has spirit enough, to be sure, to kill off a whole plantation, if I’d let her manage; but she wouldn’t get the cheatery out of them.”

“Are there no honest ones?”

“Well, now and then one, whom Nature makes so impracticably simple, truthful and faithful, that the worst possible influence can’t destroy it. But, you see, from the mother’s breast the colored child feels and sees that there are none but underhand ways open to it. It can get along no other way with its parents, its mistress, its young master and missie play-fellows. Cunning and deception become necessary, inevitable habits. It isn’t fair to expect anything else of him. He ought not to be punished for it. As to honesty, the slave is kept in that dependent, semi-childish state, that there is no making him realize the rights of property, or feel that his master’s goods are not his own, if he can get them. For my part, I don’t see how they can be honest. Such a fellow as Tom, here, is,—is a moral miracle!”

“And what becomes of their souls?” said Miss Ophelia.

“That isn’t my affair, as I know of,” said St. Clare; “I am only dealing in facts of the present life. The fact is, that the whole race are pretty generally understood to be turned over to the devil, for our benefit, in this world, however it may turn out in another!”

“This is perfectly horrible!” said Miss Ophelia; “you ought to be ashamed of yourselves!”

“I don’t know as I am. We are in pretty good company, for all that,” said St. Clare, “as people in the broad road generally are. Look at the high and the low, all the world over, and it’s the same story,—the lower class used up, body, soul and spirit, for the good of the upper. It is so in England; it is so everywhere; and yet all Christendom stands aghast, with virtuous indignation, because we do the thing in a little different shape from what they do it.”

“It isn’t so in Vermont.”

“Ah, well, in New England, and in the free States, you have the better of us, I grant. But there’s the bell; so, Cousin, let us for a while lay aside our sectional prejudices, and come out to dinner.”

As Miss Ophelia was in the kitchen in the latter part of the afternoon, some of the sable children called out, “La, sakes! thar’s Prue a coming, grunting along like she allers does.”

A tall, bony colored woman now entered the kitchen, bearing on her head a basket of rusks and hot rolls.

“Ho, Prue! you’ve come,” said Dinah.

Prue had a peculiar scowling expression of countenance, and a sullen, grumbling voice. She set down her basket, squatted herself down, and resting her elbows on her knees said,

“O Lord! I wish’t I ’s dead!”

“Why do you wish you were dead?” said Miss Ophelia.

“I’d be out o’ my misery,” said the woman, gruffly, without taking her eyes from the floor.

“What need you getting drunk, then, and cutting up, Prue?” said a spruce quadroon chambermaid, dangling, as she spoke, a pair of coral ear-drops.

The woman looked at her with a sour surly glance.

“Maybe you’ll come to it, one of these yer days. I’d be glad to see you, I would; then you’ll be glad of a drop, like me, to forget your misery.”

“Come, Prue,” said Dinah, “let’s look at your rusks. Here’s Missis will pay for them.”

Miss Ophelia took out a couple of dozen.

“Thar’s some tickets in that ar old cracked jug on the top shelf,” said Dinah. “You, Jake, climb up and get it down.”

“Tickets,—what are they for?” said Miss Ophelia.

“We buy tickets of her Mas’r, and she gives us bread for ’em.”

“And they counts my money and tickets, when I gets home, to see if I ’s got the change; and if I han’t, they half kills me.”

“And serves you right,” said Jane, the pert chambermaid, “if you will take their money to get drunk on. That’s what she does, Missis.”

“And that’s what I will do,—I can’t live no other ways,—drink and forget my misery.”

“You are very wicked and very foolish,” said Miss Ophelia, “to steal your master’s money to make yourself a brute with.”

“It’s mighty likely, Missis; but I will do it,—yes, I will. O Lord! I wish I ’s dead, I do,—I wish I ’s dead, and out of my misery!” and slowly and stiffly the old creature rose, and got her basket on her head again; but before she went out, she looked at the quadroon girl, who still stood playing with her ear-drops.

“Ye think ye’re mighty fine with them ar, a frolickin’ and a tossin’ your head, and a lookin’ down on everybody. Well, never mind,—you may live to be a poor, old, cut-up crittur, like me. Hope to the Lord ye will, I do; then see if ye won’t drink,—drink,—drink,—yerself into torment; and sarve ye right, too—ugh!” and, with a malignant howl, the woman left the room.

“Disgusting old beast!” said Adolph, who was getting his master’s shaving-water. “If I was her master, I’d cut her up worse than she is.”

“Ye couldn’t do that ar, no ways,” said Dinah. “Her back’s a far sight now,—she can’t never get a dress together over it.”

“I think such low creatures ought not to be allowed to go round to genteel families,” said Miss Jane. “What do you think, Mr. St. Clare?” she said, coquettishly tossing her head at Adolph.

It must be observed that, among other appropriations from his master’s stock, Adolph was in the habit of adopting his name and address; and that the style under which he moved, among the colored circles of New Orleans, was that of Mr. St. Clare.

“I’m certainly of your opinion, Miss Benoir,” said Adolph.

Benoir was the name of Marie St. Clare’s family, and Jane was one of her servants.

“Pray, Miss Benoir, may I be allowed to ask if those drops are for the ball, tomorrow night? They are certainly bewitching!”

“I wonder, now, Mr. St. Clare, what the impudence of you men will come to!” said Jane, tossing her pretty head ’til the ear-drops twinkled again. “I shan’t dance with you for a whole evening, if you go to asking me any more questions.”

“O, you couldn’t be so cruel, now! I was just dying to know whether you would appear in your pink tarletane,” said Adolph.

“What is it?” said Rosa, a bright, piquant little quadroon who came skipping down stairs at this moment.

“Why, Mr. St. Clare’s so impudent!”

“On my honor,” said Adolph, “I’ll leave it to Miss Rosa now.”

“I know he’s always a saucy creature,” said Rosa, poising herself on one of her little feet, and looking maliciously at Adolph. “He’s always getting me so angry with him.”

“O! ladies, ladies, you will certainly break my heart, between you,” said Adolph. “I shall be found dead in my bed, some morning, and you’ll have it to answer for.”

“Do hear the horrid creature talk!” said both ladies, laughing immoderately.

“Come,—clar out, you! I can’t have you cluttering up the kitchen,” said Dinah; “in my way, foolin’ round here.”

“Aunt Dinah’s glum, because she can’t go to the ball,” said Rosa.

“Don’t want none o’ your light-colored balls,” said Dinah; “cuttin’ round, makin’ b’lieve you’s white folks. Arter all, you’s niggers, much as I am.”

“Aunt Dinah greases her wool stiff, every day, to make it lie straight,” said Jane.

“And it will be wool, after all,” said Rosa, maliciously shaking down her long, silky curls.

“Well, in the Lord’s sight, an’t wool as good as har, any time?” said Dinah. “I’d like to have Missis say which is worth the most,—a couple such as you, or one like me. Get out wid ye, ye trumpery,—I won’t have ye round!”

Here the conversation was interrupted in a two-fold manner. St. Clare’s voice was heard at the head of the stairs, asking Adolph if he meant to stay all night with his shaving-water; and Miss Ophelia, coming out of the dining-room, said,

“Jane and Rosa, what are you wasting your time for, here? Go in and attend to your muslins.”

Our friend Tom, who had been in the kitchen during the conversation with the old rusk-woman, had followed her out into the street. He saw her go on, giving every once in a while a suppressed groan. At last she set her basket down on a doorstep, and began arranging the old, faded shawl which covered her shoulders.

“I’ll carry your basket a piece,” said Tom, compassionately.

“Why should ye?” said the woman. “I don’t want no help.”

“You seem to be sick, or in trouble, or somethin’,” said Tom.

“I an’t sick,” said the woman, shortly.

“I wish,” said Tom, looking at her earnestly,—“I wish I could persuade you to leave off drinking. Don’t you know it will be the ruin of ye, body and soul?”

“I knows I’m gwine to torment,” said the woman, sullenly. “Ye don’t need to tell me that ar. I ’s ugly, I ’s wicked,—I ’s gwine straight to torment. O, Lord! I wish I ’s thar!”

Tom shuddered at these frightful words, spoken with a sullen, impassioned earnestness.

“O, Lord have mercy on ye! poor crittur. Han’t ye never heard of Jesus Christ?”

“Jesus Christ,—who’s he?”

“Why, he’s the Lord,” said Tom.

“I think I’ve hearn tell o’ the Lord, and the judgment and torment. I’ve heard o’ that.”

“But didn’t anybody ever tell you of the Lord Jesus, that loved us poor sinners, and died for us?”

“Don’t know nothin’ ’bout that,” said the woman; “nobody han’t never loved me, since my old man died.”

“Where was you raised?” said Tom.

“Up in Kentuck. A man kept me to breed chil’en for market, and sold ’em as fast as they got big enough; last of all, he sold me to a speculator, and my Mas’r got me o’ him.”

“What set you into this bad way of drinkin’?”

“To get shet o’ my misery. I had one child after I come here; and I thought then I’d have one to raise, cause Mas’r wasn’t a speculator. It was de peartest little thing! and Missis she seemed to think a heap on ’t, at first; it never cried,—it was likely and fat. But Missis tuck sick, and I tended her; and I tuck the fever, and my milk all left me, and the child it pined to skin and bone, and Missis wouldn’t buy milk for it. She wouldn’t hear to me, when I telled her I hadn’t milk. She said she knowed I could feed it on what other folks eat; and the child kinder pined, and cried, and cried, and cried, day and night, and got all gone to skin and bones, and Missis got sot agin it and she said ’t wan’t nothin’ but crossness. She wished it was dead, she said; and she wouldn’t let me have it o’ nights, cause, she said, it kept me awake, and made me good for nothing. She made me sleep in her room; and I had to put it away off in a little kind o’ garret, and thar it cried itself to death, one night. It did; and I tuck to drinkin’, to keep its crying out of my ears! I did,—and I will drink! I will, if I do go to torment for it! Mas’r says I shall go to torment, and I tell him I’ve got thar now!”

“O, ye poor crittur!” said Tom, “han’t nobody never telled ye how the Lord Jesus loved ye, and died for ye? Han’t they telled ye that he’ll help ye, and ye can go to heaven, and have rest, at last?”

“I looks like gwine to heaven,” said the woman; “an’t thar where white folks is gwine? S’pose they’d have me thar? I’d rather go to torment, and get away from Mas’r and Missis. I had so,” she said, as with her usual groan, she got her basket on her head, and walked sullenly away.

Tom turned, and walked sorrowfully back to the house. In the court he met little Eva,—a crown of tuberoses on her head, and her eyes radiant with delight.

“O, Tom! here you are. I’m glad I’ve found you. Papa says you may get out the ponies, and take me in my little new carriage,” she said, catching his hand. “But what’s the matter Tom?—you look sober.”

“I feel bad, Miss Eva,” said Tom, sorrowfully. “But I’ll get the horses for you.”

“But do tell me, Tom, what is the matter. I saw you talking to cross old Prue.”

Tom, in simple, earnest phrase, told Eva the woman’s history. She did not exclaim or wonder, or weep, as other children do. Her cheeks grew pale, and a deep, earnest shadow passed over her eyes. She laid both hands on her bosom, and sighed heavily.


CHAPTER XIX.
Miss Ophelia’s Experiences and Opinions Continued

“Tom, you needn’t get me the horses. I don’t want to go,” she said.

“Why not, Miss Eva?”

“These things sink into my heart, Tom,” said Eva,—“they sink into my heart,” she repeated, earnestly. “I don’t want to go;” and she turned from Tom, and went into the house.

A few days after, another woman came, in old Prue’s place, to bring the rusks; Miss Ophelia was in the kitchen.

“Lor!” said Dinah, “what’s got Prue?”

“Prue isn’t coming any more,” said the woman, mysteriously.

“Why not?” said Dinah, “she an’t dead, is she?”

“We doesn’t exactly know. She’s down cellar,” said the woman, glancing at Miss Ophelia.

After Miss Ophelia had taken the rusks, Dinah followed the woman to the door.

“What has got Prue, any how?” she said.

The woman seemed desirous, yet reluctant, to speak, and answered, in low, mysterious tone.

“Well, you mustn’t tell nobody, Prue, she got drunk agin,—and they had her down cellar,—and thar they left her all day,—and I hearn ’em saying that the flies had got to her,—and she’s dead!”

Dinah held up her hands, and, turning, saw close by her side the spirit-like form of Evangeline, her large, mystic eyes dilated with horror, and every drop of blood driven from her lips and cheeks.

“Lor bless us! Miss Eva’s gwine to faint away! What go us all, to let her har such talk? Her pa’ll be rail mad.”

“I shan’t faint, Dinah,” said the child, firmly; “and why shouldn’t I hear it? It an’t so much for me to hear it, as for poor Prue to suffer it.”

“Lor sakes! it isn’t for sweet, delicate young ladies, like you,—these yer stories isn’t; it’s enough to kill ’em!”

Eva sighed again, and walked up stairs with a slow and melancholy step.

Miss Ophelia anxiously inquired the woman’s story. Dinah gave a very garrulous version of it, to which Tom added the particulars which he had drawn from her that morning.

“An abominable business,—perfectly horrible!” she exclaimed, as she entered the room where St. Clare lay reading his paper.

“Pray, what iniquity has turned up now?” said he.

“What now? why, those folks have whipped Prue to death!” said Miss Ophelia, going on, with great strength of detail, into the story, and enlarging on its most shocking particulars.

“I thought it would come to that, some time,” said St. Clare, going on with his paper.

“Thought so!—an’t you going to do anything about it?” said Miss Ophelia. “Haven’t you got any selectmen, or anybody, to interfere and look after such matters?”

“It’s commonly supposed that the property interest is a sufficient guard in these cases. If people choose to ruin their own possessions, I don’t know what’s to be done. It seems the poor creature was a thief and a drunkard; and so there won’t be much hope to get up sympathy for her.”

“It is perfectly outrageous,—it is horrid, Augustine! It will certainly bring down vengeance upon you.”

“My dear cousin, I didn’t do it, and I can’t help it; I would, if I could. If low-minded, brutal people will act like themselves, what am I to do? they have absolute control; they are irresponsible despots. There would be no use in interfering; there is no law that amounts to anything practically, for such a case. The best we can do is to shut our eyes and ears, and let it alone. It’s the only resource left us.”

“How can you shut your eyes and ears? How can you let such things alone?”

“My dear child, what do you expect? Here is a whole class,—debased, uneducated, indolent, provoking,—put, without any sort of terms or conditions, entirely into the hands of such people as the majority in our world are; people who have neither consideration nor self-control, who haven’t even an enlightened regard to their own interest,—for that’s the case with the largest half of mankind. Of course, in a community so organized, what can a man of honorable and humane feelings do, but shut his eyes all he can, and harden his heart? I can’t buy every poor wretch I see. I can’t turn knight-errant, and undertake to redress every individual case of wrong in such a city as this. The most I can do is to try and keep out of the way of it.”

St. Clare’s fine countenance was for a moment overcast; he said,

“Come, cousin, don’t stand there looking like one of the Fates; you’ve only seen a peep through the curtain,—a specimen of what is going on, the world over, in some shape or other. If we are to be prying and spying into all the dismals of life, we should have no heart to anything. ’T is like looking too close into the details of Dinah’s kitchen;” and St. Clare lay back on the sofa, and busied himself with his paper.

Miss Ophelia sat down, and pulled out her knitting-work, and sat there grim with indignation. She knit and knit, but while she mused the fire burned; at last she broke out—“I tell you, Augustine, I can’t get over things so, if you can. It’s a perfect abomination for you to defend such a system,—that’s my mind!”

“What now?” said St. Clare, looking up. “At it again, hey?”

“I say it’s perfectly abominable for you to defend such a system!” said Miss Ophelia, with increasing warmth.

“I defend it, my dear lady? Who ever said I did defend it?” said St. Clare.

“Of course, you defend it,—you all do,—all you Southerners. What do you have slaves for, if you don’t?”

“Are you such a sweet innocent as to suppose nobody in this world ever does what they don’t think is right? Don’t you, or didn’t you ever, do anything that you did not think quite right?”

“If I do, I repent of it, I hope,” said Miss Ophelia, rattling her needles with energy.

“So do I,” said St. Clare, peeling his orange; “I’m repenting of it all the time.”

“What do you keep on doing it for?”

“Didn’t you ever keep on doing wrong, after you’d repented, my good cousin?”

“Well, only when I’ve been very much tempted,” said Miss Ophelia.

“Well, I’m very much tempted,” said St. Clare; “that’s just my difficulty.”

“But I always resolve I won’t and I try to break off.”

“Well, I have been resolving I won’t, off and on, these ten years,” said St. Clare; “but I haven’t, some how, got clear. Have you got clear of all your sins, cousin?”

“Cousin Augustine,” said Miss Ophelia, seriously, and laying down her knitting-work, “I suppose I deserve that you should reprove my short-comings. I know all you say is true enough; nobody else feels them more than I do; but it does seem to me, after all, there is some difference between me and you. It seems to me I would cut off my right hand sooner than keep on, from day to day, doing what I thought was wrong. But, then, my conduct is so inconsistent with my profession, I don’t wonder you reprove me.”

“O, now, cousin,” said Augustine, sitting down on the floor, and laying his head back in her lap, “don’t take on so awfully serious! You know what a good-for-nothing, saucy boy I always was. I love to poke you up,—that’s all,—just to see you get earnest. I do think you are desperately, distressingly good; it tires me to death to think of it.”

“But this is a serious subject, my boy, Auguste,” said Miss Ophelia, laying her hand on his forehead.

“Dismally so,” said he; “and I—well, I never want to talk seriously in hot weather. What with mosquitos and all, a fellow can’t get himself up to any very sublime moral flights; and I believe,” said St. Clare, suddenly rousing himself up, “there’s a theory, now! I understand now why northern nations are always more virtuous than southern ones,—I see into that whole subject.”

“O, Augustine, you are a sad rattle-brain!”

“Am I? Well, so I am, I suppose; but for once I will be serious, now; but you must hand me that basket of oranges;—you see, you’ll have to ‘stay me with flagons and comfort me with apples,’ if I’m going to make this effort. Now,” said Augustine, drawing the basket up, “I’ll begin: When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for a fellow to hold two or three dozen of his fellow-worms in captivity, a decent regard to the opinions of society requires—”

“I don’t see that you are growing more serious,” said Miss Ophelia.

“Wait,—I’m coming on,—you’ll hear. The short of the matter is, cousin,” said he, his handsome face suddenly settling into an earnest and serious expression, “on this abstract question of slavery there can, as I think, be but one opinion. Planters, who have money to make by it,—clergymen, who have planters to please,—politicians, who want to rule by it,—may warp and bend language and ethics to a degree that shall astonish the world at their ingenuity; they can press nature and the Bible, and nobody knows what else, into the service; but, after all, neither they nor the world believe in it one particle the more. It comes from the devil, that’s the short of it;—and, to my mind, it’s a pretty respectable specimen of what he can do in his own line.”

Miss Ophelia stopped her knitting, and looked surprised, and St. Clare, apparently enjoying her astonishment, went on.

“You seem to wonder; but if you will get me fairly at it, I’ll make a clean breast of it. This cursed business, accursed of God and man, what is it? Strip it of all its ornament, run it down to the root and nucleus of the whole, and what is it? Why, because my brother Quashy is ignorant and weak, and I am intelligent and strong,—because I know how, and can do it,—therefore, I may steal all he has, keep it, and give him only such and so much as suits my fancy. Whatever is too hard, too dirty, too disagreeable, for me, I may set Quashy to doing. Because I don’t like work, Quashy shall work. Because the sun burns me, Quashy shall stay in the sun. Quashy shall earn the money, and I will spend it. Quashy shall lie down in every puddle, that I may walk over dry-shod. Quashy shall do my will, and not his, all the days of his mortal life, and have such chance of getting to heaven, at last, as I find convenient. This I take to be about what slavery is. I defy anybody on earth to read our slave-code, as it stands in our law-books, and make anything else of it. Talk of the abuses of slavery! Humbug! The thing itself is the essence of all abuse! And the only reason why the land don’t sink under it, like Sodom and Gomorrah, is because it is used in a way infinitely better than it is. For pity’s sake, for shame’s sake, because we are men born of women, and not savage beasts, many of us do not, and dare not,—we would scorn to use the full power which our savage laws put into our hands. And he who goes the furthest, and does the worst, only uses within limits the power that the law gives him.”

St. Clare had started up, and, as his manner was when excited, was walking, with hurried steps, up and down the floor. His fine face, classic as that of a Greek statue, seemed actually to burn with the fervor of his feelings. His large blue eyes flashed, and he gestured with an unconscious eagerness. Miss Ophelia had never seen him in this mood before, and she sat perfectly silent.

“I declare to you,” said he, suddenly stopping before his cousin “(It’s no sort of use to talk or to feel on this subject), but I declare to you, there have been times when I have thought, if the whole country would sink, and hide all this injustice and misery from the light, I would willingly sink with it. When I have been travelling up and down on our boats, or about on my collecting tours, and reflected that every brutal, disgusting, mean, low-lived fellow I met, was allowed by our laws to become absolute despot of as many men, women and children, as he could cheat, steal, or gamble money enough to buy,—when I have seen such men in actual ownership of helpless children, of young girls and women,—I have been ready to curse my country, to curse the human race!”

“Augustine! Augustine!” said Miss Ophelia, “I’m sure you’ve said enough. I never, in my life, heard anything like this, even at the North.”

“At the North!” said St. Clare, with a sudden change of expression, and resuming something of his habitual careless tone. “Pooh! your northern folks are cold-blooded; you are cool in everything! You can’t begin to curse up hill and down as we can, when we get fairly at it.”

“Well, but the question is,” said Miss Ophelia.

“O, yes, to be sure, the question is,—and a deuce of a question it is! How came you in this state of sin and misery? Well, I shall answer in the good old words you used to teach me, Sundays. I came so by ordinary generation. My servants were my father’s, and, what is more, my mother’s; and now they are mine, they and their increase, which bids fair to be a pretty considerable item. My father, you know, came first from New England; and he was just such another man as your father,—a regular old Roman,—upright, energetic, noble-minded, with an iron will. Your father settled down in New England, to rule over rocks and stones, and to force an existence out of Nature; and mine settled in Louisiana, to rule over men and women, and force existence out of them. My mother,” said St. Clare, getting up and walking to a picture at the end of the room, and gazing upward with a face fervent with veneration, “she was divine! Don’t look at me so!—you know what I mean! She probably was of mortal birth; but, as far as ever I could observe, there was no trace of any human weakness or error about her; and everybody that lives to remember her, whether bond or free, servant, acquaintance, relation, all say the same. Why, cousin, that mother has been all that has stood between me and utter unbelief for years. She was a direct embodiment and personification of the New Testament,—a living fact, to be accounted for, and to be accounted for in no other way than by its truth. O, mother! mother!” said St. Clare, clasping his hands, in a sort of transport; and then suddenly checking himself, he came back, and seating himself on an ottoman, he went on:

“My brother and I were twins; and they say, you know, that twins ought to resemble each other; but we were in all points a contrast. He had black, fiery eyes, coal-black hair, a strong, fine Roman profile, and a rich brown complexion. I had blue eyes, golden hair, a Greek outline, and fair complexion. He was active and observing, I dreamy and inactive. He was generous to his friends and equals, but proud, dominant, overbearing, to inferiors, and utterly unmerciful to whatever set itself up against him. Truthful we both were; he from pride and courage, I from a sort of abstract ideality. We loved each other about as boys generally do,—off and on, and in general;—he was my father’s pet, and I my mother’s.

“There was a morbid sensitiveness and acuteness of feeling in me on all possible subjects, of which he and my father had no kind of understanding, and with which they could have no possible sympathy. But mother did; and so, when I had quarreled with Alfred, and father looked sternly on me, I used to go off to mother’s room, and sit by her. I remember just how she used to look, with her pale cheeks, her deep, soft, serious eyes, her white dress,—she always wore white; and I used to think of her whenever I read in Revelations about the saints that were arrayed in fine linen, clean and white. She had a great deal of genius of one sort and another, particularly in music; and she used to sit at her organ, playing fine old majestic music of the Catholic church, and singing with a voice more like an angel than a mortal woman; and I would lay my head down on her lap, and cry, and dream, and feel,—oh, immeasurably!—things that I had no language to say!

“In those days, this matter of slavery had never been canvassed as it has now; nobody dreamed of any harm in it.

“My father was a born aristocrat. I think, in some preexistent state, he must have been in the higher circles of spirits, and brought all his old court pride along with him; for it was ingrain, bred in the bone, though he was originally of poor and not in any way of noble family. My brother was begotten in his image.

“Now, an aristocrat, you know, the world over, has no human sympathies, beyond a certain line in society. In England the line is in one place, in Burmah in another, and in America in another; but the aristocrat of all these countries never goes over it. What would be hardship and distress and injustice in his own class, is a cool matter of course in another one. My father’s dividing line was that of color. Among his equals, never was a man more just and generous; but he considered the negro, through all possible gradations of color, as an intermediate link between man and animals, and graded all his ideas of justice or generosity on this hypothesis. I suppose, to be sure, if anybody had asked him, plump and fair, whether they had human immortal souls, he might have hemmed and hawed, and said yes. But my father was not a man much troubled with spiritualism; religious sentiment he had none, beyond a veneration for God, as decidedly the head of the upper classes.

“Well, my father worked some five hundred negroes; he was an inflexible, driving, punctilious business man; everything was to move by system,—to be sustained with unfailing accuracy and precision. Now, if you take into account that all this was to be worked out by a set of lazy, twaddling, shiftless laborers, who had grown up, all their lives, in the absence of every possible motive to learn how to do anything but ‘shirk,’ as you Vermonters say, and you’ll see that there might naturally be, on his plantation, a great many things that looked horrible and distressing to a sensitive child, like me.

“Besides all, he had an overseer,—great, tall, slab-sided, two-fisted renegade son of Vermont—(begging your pardon),—who had gone through a regular apprenticeship in hardness and brutality and taken his degree to be admitted to practice. My mother never could endure him, nor I; but he obtained an entire ascendency over my father; and this man was the absolute despot of the estate.

“I was a little fellow then, but I had the same love that I have now for all kinds of human things,—a kind of passion for the study of humanity, come in what shape it would. I was found in the cabins and among the field-hands a great deal, and, of course, was a great favorite; and all sorts of complaints and grievances were breathed in my ear; and I told them to mother, and we, between us, formed a sort of committee for a redress of grievances. We hindered and repressed a great deal of cruelty, and congratulated ourselves on doing a vast deal of good, till, as often happens, my zeal overacted. Stubbs complained to my father that he couldn’t manage the hands, and must resign his position. Father was a fond, indulgent husband, but a man that never flinched from anything that he thought necessary; and so he put down his foot, like a rock, between us and the field-hands. He told my mother, in language perfectly respectful and deferential, but quite explicit, that over the house-servants she should be entire mistress, but that with the field-hands he could allow no interference. He revered and respected her above all living beings; but he would have said it all the same to the virgin Mary herself, if she had come in the way of his system.

“I used sometimes to hear my mother reasoning cases with him,—endeavoring to excite his sympathies. He would listen to the most pathetic appeals with the most discouraging politeness and equanimity. ‘It all resolves itself into this,’ he would say; ‘must I part with Stubbs, or keep him? Stubbs is the soul of punctuality, honesty, and efficiency,—a thorough business hand, and as humane as the general run. We can’t have perfection; and if I keep him, I must sustain his administration as a whole, even if there are, now and then, things that are exceptionable. All government includes some necessary hardness. General rules will bear hard on particular cases.’ This last maxim my father seemed to consider a settler in most alleged cases of cruelty. After he had said that, he commonly drew up his feet on the sofa, like a man that has disposed of a business, and betook himself to a nap, or the newspaper, as the case might be.

“The fact is my father showed the exact sort of talent for a statesman. He could have divided Poland as easily as an orange, or trod on Ireland as quietly and systematically as any man living. At last my mother gave up, in despair. It never will be known, till the last account, what noble and sensitive natures like hers have felt, cast, utterly helpless, into what seems to them an abyss of injustice and cruelty, and which seems so to nobody about them. It has been an age of long sorrow of such natures, in such a hell-begotten sort of world as ours. What remained for her, but to train her children in her own views and sentiments? Well, after all you say about training, children will grow up substantially what they are by nature, and only that. From the cradle, Alfred was an aristocrat; and as he grew up, instinctively, all his sympathies and all his reasonings were in that line, and all mother’s exhortations went to the winds. As to me, they sunk deep into me. She never contradicted, in form, anything my father said, or seemed directly to differ from him; but she impressed, burnt into my very soul, with all the force of her deep, earnest nature, an idea of the dignity and worth of the meanest human soul. I have looked in her face with solemn awe, when she would point up to the stars in the evening, and say to me, ’See there, Auguste! the poorest, meanest soul on our place will be living, when all these stars are gone forever,—will live as long as God lives!’

“She had some fine old paintings; one, in particular, of Jesus healing a blind man. They were very fine, and used to impress me strongly. ‘See there, Auguste,’ she would say; ‘the blind man was a beggar, poor and loathsome; therefore, he would not heal him afar off! He called him to him, and put his hands on him! Remember this, my boy.’ If I had lived to grow up under her care, she might have stimulated me to I know not what of enthusiasm. I might have been a saint, reformer, martyr,—but, alas! alas! I went from her when I was only thirteen, and I never saw her again!”

St. Clare rested his head on his hands, and did not speak for some minutes. After a while, he looked up, and went on:

“What poor, mean trash this whole business of human virtue is! A mere matter, for the most part, of latitude and longitude, and geographical position, acting with natural temperament. The greater part is nothing but an accident! Your father, for example, settles in Vermont, in a town where all are, in fact, free and equal; becomes a regular church member and deacon, and in due time joins an Abolition society, and thinks us all little better than heathens. Yet he is, for all the world, in constitution and habit, a duplicate of my father. I can see it leaking out in fifty different ways,—just the same strong, overbearing, dominant spirit. You know very well how impossible it is to persuade some of the folks in your village that Squire Sinclair does not feel above them. The fact is, though he has fallen on democratic times, and embraced a democratic theory, he is to the heart an aristocrat, as much as my father, who ruled over five or six hundred slaves.”

Miss Ophelia felt rather disposed to cavil at this picture, and was laying down her knitting to begin, but St. Clare stopped her.

“Now, I know every word you are going to say. I do not say they were alike, in fact. One fell into a condition where everything acted against the natural tendency, and the other where everything acted for it; and so one turned out a pretty wilful, stout, overbearing old democrat, and the other a wilful, stout old despot. If both had owned plantations in Louisiana, they would have been as like as two old bullets cast in the same mould.”

“What an undutiful boy you are!” said Miss Ophelia.

“I don’t mean them any disrespect,” said St. Clare. “You know reverence is not my forte. But, to go back to my history:

“When father died, he left the whole property to us twin boys, to be divided as we should agree. There does not breathe on God’s earth a nobler-souled, more generous fellow, than Alfred, in all that concerns his equals; and we got on admirably with this property question, without a single unbrotherly word or feeling. We undertook to work the plantation together; and Alfred, whose outward life and capabilities had double the strength of mine, became an enthusiastic planter, and a wonderfully successful one.

“But two years’ trial satisfied me that I could not be a partner in that matter. To have a great gang of seven hundred, whom I could not know personally, or feel any individual interest in, bought and driven, housed, fed, worked like so many horned cattle, strained up to military precision,—the question of how little of life’s commonest enjoyments would keep them in working order being a constantly recurring problem,—the necessity of drivers and overseers,—the ever-necessary whip, first, last, and only argument,—the whole thing was insufferably disgusting and loathsome to me; and when I thought of my mother’s estimate of one poor human soul, it became even frightful!

“It’s all nonsense to talk to me about slaves enjoying all this! To this day, I have no patience with the unutterable trash that some of your patronizing Northerners have made up, as in their zeal to apologize for our sins. We all know better. Tell me that any man living wants to work all his days, from day-dawn till dark, under the constant eye of a master, without the power of putting forth one irresponsible volition, on the same dreary, monotonous, unchanging toil, and all for two pairs of pantaloons and a pair of shoes a year, with enough food and shelter to keep him in working order! Any man who thinks that human beings can, as a general thing, be made about as comfortable that way as any other, I wish he might try it. I’d buy the dog, and work him, with a clear conscience!”

“I always have supposed,” said Miss Ophelia, “that you, all of you, approved of these things, and thought them right—according to Scripture.”

“Humbug! We are not quite reduced to that yet. Alfred who is as determined a despot as ever walked, does not pretend to this kind of defence;—no, he stands, high and haughty, on that good old respectable ground, the right of the strongest; and he says, and I think quite sensibly, that the American planter is ‘only doing, in another form, what the English aristocracy and capitalists are doing by the lower classes;’ that is, I take it, appropriating them, body and bone, soul and spirit, to their use and convenience. He defends both,—and I think, at least, consistently. He says that there can be no high civilization without enslavement of the masses, either nominal or real. There must, he says, be a lower class, given up to physical toil and confined to an animal nature; and a higher one thereby acquires leisure and wealth for a more expanded intelligence and improvement, and becomes the directing soul of the lower. So he reasons, because, as I said, he is born an aristocrat;—so I don’t believe, because I was born a democrat.”

“How in the world can the two things be compared?” said Miss Ophelia. “The English laborer is not sold, traded, parted from his family, whipped.”

“He is as much at the will of his employer as if he were sold to him. The slave-owner can whip his refractory slave to death,—the capitalist can starve him to death. As to family security, it is hard to say which is the worst,—to have one’s children sold, or see them starve to death at home.”

“But it’s no kind of apology for slavery, to prove that it isn’t worse than some other bad thing.”

“I didn’t give it for one,—nay, I’ll say, besides, that ours is the more bold and palpable infringement of human rights; actually buying a man up, like a horse,—looking at his teeth, cracking his joints, and trying his paces and then paying down for him,—having speculators, breeders, traders, and brokers in human bodies and souls,—sets the thing before the eyes of the civilized world in a more tangible form, though the thing done be, after all, in its nature, the same; that is, appropriating one set of human beings to the use and improvement of another without any regard to their own.”

“I never thought of the matter in this light,” said Miss Ophelia.

“Well, I’ve travelled in England some, and I’ve looked over a good many documents as to the state of their lower classes; and I really think there is no denying Alfred, when he says that his slaves are better off than a large class of the population of England. You see, you must not infer, from what I have told you, that Alfred is what is called a hard master; for he isn’t. He is despotic, and unmerciful to insubordination; he would shoot a fellow down with as little remorse as he would shoot a buck, if he opposed him. But, in general, he takes a sort of pride in having his slaves comfortably fed and accommodated.

“When I was with him, I insisted that he should do something for their instruction; and, to please me, he did get a chaplain, and used to have them catechized Sunday, though, I believe, in his heart, that he thought it would do about as much good to set a chaplain over his dogs and horses. And the fact is, that a mind stupefied and animalized by every bad influence from the hour of birth, spending the whole of every week-day in unreflecting toil, cannot be done much with by a few hours on Sunday. The teachers of Sunday-schools among the manufacturing population of England, and among plantation-hands in our country, could perhaps testify to the same result, there and here. Yet some striking exceptions there are among us, from the fact that the negro is naturally more impressible to religious sentiment than the white.”

“Well,” said Miss Ophelia, “how came you to give up your plantation life?”

“Well, we jogged on together some time, till Alfred saw plainly that I was no planter. He thought it absurd, after he had reformed, and altered, and improved everywhere, to suit my notions, that I still remained unsatisfied. The fact was, it was, after all, the THING that I hated—the using these men and women, the perpetuation of all this ignorance, brutality and vice,—just to make money for me!

“Besides, I was always interfering in the details. Being myself one of the laziest of mortals, I had altogether too much fellow-feeling for the lazy; and when poor, shiftless dogs put stones at the bottom of their cotton-baskets to make them weigh heavier, or filled their sacks with dirt, with cotton at the top, it seemed so exactly like what I should do if I were they, I couldn’t and wouldn’t have them flogged for it. Well, of course, there was an end of plantation discipline; and Alf and I came to about the same point that I and my respected father did, years before. So he told me that I was a womanish sentimentalist, and would never do for business life; and advised me to take the bank-stock and the New Orleans family mansion, and go to writing poetry, and let him manage the plantation. So we parted, and I came here.”

“But why didn’t you free your slaves?”

“Well, I wasn’t up to that. To hold them as tools for money-making, I could not;—have them to help spend money, you know, didn’t look quite so ugly to me. Some of them were old house-servants, to whom I was much attached; and the younger ones were children to the old. All were well satisfied to be as they were.” He paused, and walked reflectively up and down the room.

“There was,” said St. Clare, “a time in my life when I had plans and hopes of doing something in this world, more than to float and drift. I had vague, indistinct yearnings to be a sort of emancipator,—to free my native land from this spot and stain. All young men have had such fever-fits, I suppose, some time,—but then—”

“Why didn’t you?” said Miss Ophelia;—“you ought not to put your hand to the plough, and look back.”

“O, well, things didn’t go with me as I expected, and I got the despair of living that Solomon did. I suppose it was a necessary incident to wisdom in us both; but, some how or other, instead of being actor and regenerator in society, I became a piece of driftwood, and have been floating and eddying about, ever since. Alfred scolds me, every time we meet; and he has the better of me, I grant,—for he really does something; his life is a logical result of his opinions and mine is a contemptible non sequitur.”

“My dear cousin, can you be satisfied with such a way of spending your probation?”

“Satisfied! Was I not just telling you I despised it? But, then, to come back to this point,—we were on this liberation business. I don’t think my feelings about slavery are peculiar. I find many men who, in their hearts, think of it just as I do. The land groans under it; and, bad as it is for the slave, it is worse, if anything, for the master. It takes no spectacles to see that a great class of vicious, improvident, degraded people, among us, are an evil to us, as well as to themselves. The capitalist and aristocrat of England cannot feel that as we do, because they do not mingle with the class they degrade as we do. They are in our homes; they are the associates of our children, and they form their minds faster than we can; for they are a race that children always will cling to and assimilate with. If Eva, now, was not more angel than ordinary, she would be ruined. We might as well allow the small-pox to run among them, and think our children would not take it, as to let them be uninstructed and vicious, and think our children will not be affected by that. Yet our laws positively and utterly forbid any efficient general educational system, and they do it wisely, too; for, just begin and thoroughly educate one generation, and the whole thing would be blown sky high. If we did not give them liberty, they would take it.”

“And what do you think will be the end of this?” said Miss Ophelia.

“I don’t know. One thing is certain,—that there is a mustering among the masses, the world over; and there is a dies iræ coming on, sooner or later. The same thing is working in Europe, in England, and in this country. My mother used to tell me of a millennium that was coming, when Christ should reign, and all men should be free and happy. And she taught me, when I was a boy, to pray, ’thy kingdom come.’ Sometimes I think all this sighing, and groaning, and stirring among the dry bones foretells what she used to tell me was coming. But who may abide the day of His appearing?”

“Augustine, sometimes I think you are not far from the kingdom,” said Miss Ophelia, laying down her knitting, and looking anxiously at her cousin.

“Thank you for your good opinion, but it’s up and down with me,—up to heaven’s gate in theory, down in earth’s dust in practice. But there’s the teabell,—do let’s go,—and don’t say, now, I haven’t had one downright serious talk, for once in my life.”

At table, Marie alluded to the incident of Prue. “I suppose you’ll think, cousin,” she said, “that we are all barbarians.”

“I think that’s a barbarous thing,” said Miss Ophelia, “but I don’t think you are all barbarians.”

“Well, now,” said Marie, “I know it’s impossible to get along with some of these creatures. They are so bad they ought not to live. I don’t feel a particle of sympathy for such cases. If they’d only behave themselves, it would not happen.”

“But, mamma,” said Eva, “the poor creature was unhappy; that’s what made her drink.”

“O, fiddlestick! as if that were any excuse! I’m unhappy, very often. I presume,” she said, pensively, “that I’ve had greater trials than ever she had. It’s just because they are so bad. There’s some of them that you cannot break in by any kind of severity. I remember father had a man that was so lazy he would run away just to get rid of work, and lie round in the swamps, stealing and doing all sorts of horrid things. That man was caught and whipped, time and again, and it never did him any good; and the last time he crawled off, though he couldn’t but just go, and died in the swamp. There was no sort of reason for it, for father’s hands were always treated kindly.”

“I broke a fellow in, once,” said St. Clare, “that all the overseers and masters had tried their hands on in vain.”

“You!” said Marie; “well, I’d be glad to know when you ever did anything of the sort.”

“Well, he was a powerful, gigantic fellow,—a native-born African; and he appeared to have the rude instinct of freedom in him to an uncommon degree. He was a regular African lion. They called him Scipio. Nobody could do anything with him; and he was sold round from overseer to overseer, till at last Alfred bought him, because he thought he could manage him. Well, one day he knocked down the overseer, and was fairly off into the swamps. I was on a visit to Alf’s plantation, for it was after we had dissolved partnership. Alfred was greatly exasperated; but I told him that it was his own fault, and laid him any wager that I could break the man; and finally it was agreed that, if I caught him, I should have him to experiment on. So they mustered out a party of some six or seven, with guns and dogs, for the hunt. People, you know, can get up as much enthusiasm in hunting a man as a deer, if it is only customary; in fact, I got a little excited myself, though I had only put in as a sort of mediator, in case he was caught.

“Well, the dogs bayed and howled, and we rode and scampered, and finally we started him. He ran and bounded like a buck, and kept us well in the rear for some time; but at last he got caught in an impenetrable thicket of cane; then he turned to bay, and I tell you he fought the dogs right gallantly. He dashed them to right and left, and actually killed three of them with only his naked fists, when a shot from a gun brought him down, and he fell, wounded and bleeding, almost at my feet. The poor fellow looked up at me with manhood and despair both in his eye. I kept back the dogs and the party, as they came pressing up, and claimed him as my prisoner. It was all I could do to keep them from shooting him, in the flush of success; but I persisted in my bargain, and Alfred sold him to me. Well, I took him in hand, and in one fortnight I had him tamed down as submissive and tractable as heart could desire.”

“What in the world did you do to him?” said Marie.

“Well, it was quite a simple process. I took him to my own room, had a good bed made for him, dressed his wounds, and tended him myself, until he got fairly on his feet again. And, in process of time, I had free papers made out for him, and told him he might go where he liked.”

“And did he go?” said Miss Ophelia.

“No. The foolish fellow tore the paper in two, and absolutely refused to leave me. I never had a braver, better fellow,—trusty and true as steel. He embraced Christianity afterwards, and became as gentle as a child. He used to oversee my place on the lake, and did it capitally, too. I lost him the first cholera season. In fact, he laid down his life for me. For I was sick, almost to death; and when, through the panic, everybody else fled, Scipio worked for me like a giant, and actually brought me back into life again. But, poor fellow! he was taken, right after, and there was no saving him. I never felt anybody’s loss more.”

Eva had come gradually nearer and nearer to her father, as he told the story,—her small lips apart, her eyes wide and earnest with absorbing interest.

As he finished, she suddenly threw her arms around his neck, burst into tears, and sobbed convulsively.

“Eva, dear child! what is the matter?” said St. Clare, as the child’s small frame trembled and shook with the violence of her feelings. “This child,” he added, “ought not to hear any of this kind of thing,—she’s nervous.”

“No, papa, I’m not nervous,” said Eva, controlling herself, suddenly, with a strength of resolution singular in such a child. “I’m not nervous, but these things sink into my heart.”

“What do you mean, Eva?”

“I can’t tell you, papa, I think a great many thoughts. Perhaps some day I shall tell you.”

“Well, think away, dear,—only don’t cry and worry your papa,” said St. Clare, “Look here,—see what a beautiful peach I have got for you.”

Eva took it and smiled, though there was still a nervous twiching about the corners of her mouth.

“Come, look at the gold-fish,” said St. Clare, taking her hand and stepping on to the verandah. A few moments, and merry laughs were heard through the silken curtains, as Eva and St. Clare were pelting each other with roses, and chasing each other among the alleys of the court.

There is danger that our humble friend Tom be neglected amid the adventures of the higher born; but, if our readers will accompany us up to a little loft over the stable, they may, perhaps, learn a little of his affairs. It was a decent room, containing a bed, a chair, and a small, rough stand, where lay Tom’s Bible and hymn-book; and where he sits, at present, with his slate before him, intent on something that seems to cost him a great deal of anxious thought.

The fact was, that Tom’s home-yearnings had become so strong that he had begged a sheet of writing-paper of Eva, and, mustering up all his small stock of literary attainment acquired by Mas’r George’s instructions, he conceived the bold idea of writing a letter; and he was busy now, on his slate, getting out his first draft. Tom was in a good deal of trouble, for the forms of some of the letters he had forgotten entirely; and of what he did remember, he did not know exactly which to use. And while he was working, and breathing very hard, in his earnestness, Eva alighted, like a bird, on the round of his chair behind him, and peeped over his shoulder.

“O, Uncle Tom! what funny things you are making, there!”

“I’m trying to write to my poor old woman, Miss Eva, and my little chil’en,” said Tom, drawing the back of his hand over his eyes; “but, some how, I’m feard I shan’t make it out.”

“I wish I could help you, Tom! I’ve learnt to write some. Last year I could make all the letters, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten.”

So Eva put her golden head close to his, and the two commenced a grave and anxious discussion, each one equally earnest, and about equally ignorant; and, with a deal of consulting and advising over every word, the composition began, as they both felt very sanguine, to look quite like writing.

“Yes, Uncle Tom, it really begins to look beautiful,” said Eva, gazing delightedly on it. “How pleased your wife’ll be, and the poor little children! O, it’s a shame you ever had to go away from them! I mean to ask papa to let you go back, some time.”

“Missis said that she would send down money for me, as soon as they could get it together,” said Tom. “I’m ’spectin, she will. Young Mas’r George, he said he’d come for me; and he gave me this yer dollar as a sign;” and Tom drew from under his clothes the precious dollar.

“O, he’ll certainly come, then!” said Eva. “I’m so glad!”

“And I wanted to send a letter, you know, to let ’em know whar I was, and tell poor Chloe that I was well off,—cause she felt so drefful, poor soul!”

“I say Tom!” said St. Clare’s voice, coming in the door at this moment.

Tom and Eva both started.

“What’s here?” said St. Clare, coming up and looking at the slate.

“O, it’s Tom’s letter. I’m helping him to write it,” said Eva; “isn’t it nice?”

“I wouldn’t discourage either of you,” said St. Clare, “but I rather think, Tom, you’d better get me to write your letter for you. I’ll do it, when I come home from my ride.”

“It’s very important he should write,” said Eva, “because his mistress is going to send down money to redeem him, you know, papa; he told me they told him so.”

St. Clare thought, in his heart, that this was probably only one of those things which good-natured owners say to their servants, to alleviate their horror of being sold, without any intention of fulfilling the expectation thus excited. But he did not make any audible comment upon it,—only ordered Tom to get the horses out for a ride.

Tom’s letter was written in due form for him that evening, and safely lodged in the post-office.

Miss Ophelia still persevered in her labors in the housekeeping line. It was universally agreed, among all the household, from Dinah down to the youngest urchin, that Miss Ophelia was decidedly “curis,”—a term by which a southern servant implies that his or her betters don’t exactly suit them.

The higher circle in the family—to wit, Adolph, Jane and Rosa—agreed that she was no lady; ladies never keep working about as she did,—that she had no air at all; and they were surprised that she should be any relation of the St. Clares. Even Marie declared that it was absolutely fatiguing to see Cousin Ophelia always so busy. And, in fact, Miss Ophelia’s industry was so incessant as to lay some foundation for the complaint. She sewed and stitched away, from daylight till dark, with the energy of one who is pressed on by some immediate urgency; and then, when the light faded, and the work was folded away, with one turn out came the ever-ready knitting-work, and there she was again, going on as briskly as ever. It really was a labor to see her.

CHAPTER XX.
Topsy

One morning, while Miss Ophelia was busy in some of her domestic cares, St. Clare’s voice was heard, calling her at the foot of the stairs.

“Come down here, Cousin, I’ve something to show you.”

“What is it?” said Miss Ophelia, coming down, with her sewing in her hand.

“I’ve made a purchase for your department,—see here,” said St. Clare; and, with the word, he pulled along a little negro girl, about eight or nine years of age.

She was one of the blackest of her race; and her round shining eyes, glittering as glass beads, moved with quick and restless glances over everything in the room. Her mouth, half open with astonishment at the wonders of the new Mas’r’s parlor, displayed a white and brilliant set of teeth. Her woolly hair was braided in sundry little tails, which stuck out in every direction. The expression of her face was an odd mixture of shrewdness and cunning, over which was oddly drawn, like a kind of veil, an expression of the most doleful gravity and solemnity. She was dressed in a single filthy, ragged garment, made of bagging; and stood with her hands demurely folded before her. Altogether, there was something odd and goblin-like about her appearance,—something, as Miss Ophelia afterwards said, “so heathenish,” as to inspire that good lady with utter dismay; and turning to St. Clare, she said,

“Augustine, what in the world have you brought that thing here for?”

“For you to educate, to be sure, and train in the way she should go. I thought she was rather a funny specimen in the Jim Crow line. Here, Topsy,” he added, giving a whistle, as a man would to call the attention of a dog, “give us a song, now, and show us some of your dancing.”

The black, glassy eyes glittered with a kind of wicked drollery, and the thing struck up, in a clear shrill voice, an odd negro melody, to which she kept time with her hands and feet, spinning round, clapping her hands, knocking her knees together, in a wild, fantastic sort of time, and producing in her throat all those odd guttural sounds which distinguish the native music of her race; and finally, turning a summerset or two, and giving a prolonged closing note, as odd and unearthly as that of a steam-whistle, she came suddenly down on the carpet, and stood with her hands folded, and a most sanctimonious expression of meekness and solemnity over her face, only broken by the cunning glances which she shot askance from the corners of her eyes.

Miss Ophelia stood silent, perfectly paralyzed with amazement. St. Clare, like a mischievous fellow as he was, appeared to enjoy her astonishment; and, addressing the child again, said,

“Topsy, this is your new mistress. I’m going to give you up to her; see now that you behave yourself.”

“Yes, Mas’r,” said Topsy, with sanctimonious gravity, her wicked eyes twinkling as she spoke.

“You’re going to be good, Topsy, you understand,” said St. Clare.

“O yes, Mas’r,” said Topsy, with another twinkle, her hands still devoutly folded.

“Now, Augustine, what upon earth is this for?” said Miss Ophelia. “Your house is so full of these little plagues, now, that a body can’t set down their foot without treading on ’em. I get up in the morning, and find one asleep behind the door, and see one black head poking out from under the table, one lying on the door-mat,—and they are mopping and mowing and grinning between all the railings, and tumbling over the kitchen floor! What on earth did you want to bring this one for?”

“For you to educate—didn’t I tell you? You’re always preaching about educating. I thought I would make you a present of a fresh-caught specimen, and let you try your hand on her, and bring her up in the way she should go.”

“I don’t want her, I am sure;—I have more to do with ’em now than I want to.”

“That’s you Christians, all over!—you’ll get up a society, and get some poor missionary to spend all his days among just such heathen. But let me see one of you that would take one into your house with you, and take the labor of their conversion on yourselves! No; when it comes to that, they are dirty and disagreeable, and it’s too much care, and so on.”

“Augustine, you know I didn’t think of it in that light,” said Miss Ophelia, evidently softening. “Well, it might be a real missionary work,” said she, looking rather more favorably on the child.

St. Clare had touched the right string. Miss Ophelia’s conscientiousness was ever on the alert. “But,” she added, “I really didn’t see the need of buying this one;—there are enough now, in your house, to take all my time and skill.”

“Well, then, Cousin,” said St. Clare, drawing her aside, “I ought to beg your pardon for my good-for-nothing speeches. You are so good, after all, that there’s no sense in them. Why, the fact is, this concern belonged to a couple of drunken creatures that keep a low restaurant that I have to pass by every day, and I was tired of hearing her screaming, and them beating and swearing at her. She looked bright and funny, too, as if something might be made of her;—so I bought her, and I’ll give her to you. Try, now, and give her a good orthodox New England bringing up, and see what it’ll make of her. You know I haven’t any gift that way; but I’d like you to try.”

“Well, I’ll do what I can,” said Miss Ophelia; and she approached her new subject very much as a person might be supposed to approach a black spider, supposing them to have benevolent designs toward it.

“She’s dreadfully dirty, and half naked,” she said.

“Well, take her down stairs, and make some of them clean and clothe her up.”

Miss Ophelia carried her to the kitchen regions.

“Don’t see what Mas’r St. Clare wants of ’nother nigger!” said Dinah, surveying the new arrival with no friendly air. “Won’t have her around under my feet, I know!”

“Pah!” said Rosa and Jane, with supreme disgust; “let her keep out of our way! What in the world Mas’r wanted another of these low niggers for, I can’t see!”

“You go long! No more nigger dan you be, Miss Rosa,” said Dinah, who felt this last remark a reflection on herself. “You seem to tink yourself white folks. You an’t nerry one, black nor white, I’d like to be one or turrer.”

Miss Ophelia saw that there was nobody in the camp that would undertake to oversee the cleansing and dressing of the new arrival; and so she was forced to do it herself, with some very ungracious and reluctant assistance from Jane.

It is not for ears polite to hear the particulars of the first toilet of a neglected, abused child. In fact, in this world, multitudes must live and die in a state that it would be too great a shock to the nerves of their fellow-mortals even to hear described. Miss Ophelia had a good, strong, practical deal of resolution; and she went through all the disgusting details with heroic thoroughness, though, it must be confessed, with no very gracious air,—for endurance was the utmost to which her principles could bring her. When she saw, on the back and shoulders of the child, great welts and calloused spots, ineffaceable marks of the system under which she had grown up thus far, her heart became pitiful within her.

“See there!” said Jane, pointing to the marks, “don’t that show she’s a limb? We’ll have fine works with her, I reckon. I hate these nigger young uns! so disgusting! I wonder that Mas’r would buy her!”

The “young un” alluded to heard all these comments with the subdued and doleful air which seemed habitual to her, only scanning, with a keen and furtive glance of her flickering eyes, the ornaments which Jane wore in her ears. When arrayed at last in a suit of decent and whole clothing, her hair cropped short to her head, Miss Ophelia, with some satisfaction, said she looked more Christian-like than she did, and in her own mind began to mature some plans for her instruction.

Sitting down before her, she began to question her.

“How old are you, Topsy?”

“Dun no, Missis,” said the image, with a grin that showed all her teeth.

“Don’t know how old you are? Didn’t anybody ever tell you? Who was your mother?”

“Never had none!” said the child, with another grin.

“Never had any mother? What do you mean? Where were you born?”

“Never was born!” persisted Topsy, with another grin, that looked so goblin-like, that, if Miss Ophelia had been at all nervous, she might have fancied that she had got hold of some sooty gnome from the land of Diablerie; but Miss Ophelia was not nervous, but plain and business-like, and she said, with some sternness,

“You mustn’t answer me in that way, child; I’m not playing with you. Tell me where you were born, and who your father and mother were.”

“Never was born,” reiterated the creature, more emphatically; “never had no father nor mother, nor nothin’. I was raised by a speculator, with lots of others. Old Aunt Sue used to take car on us.”

The child was evidently sincere, and Jane, breaking into a short laugh, said,

“Laws, Missis, there’s heaps of ’em. Speculators buys ’em up cheap, when they’s little, and gets ’em raised for market.”

“How long have you lived with your master and mistress?”

“Dun no, Missis.”

“Is it a year, or more, or less?”

“Dun no, Missis.”

“Laws, Missis, those low negroes,—they can’t tell; they don’t know anything about time,” said Jane; “they don’t know what a year is; they don’t know their own ages.

“Have you ever heard anything about God, Topsy?”

The child looked bewildered, but grinned as usual.

“Do you know who made you?”

“Nobody, as I knows on,” said the child, with a short laugh.

The idea appeared to amuse her considerably; for her eyes twinkled, and she added,

“I spect I grow’d. Don’t think nobody never made me.”

“Do you know how to sew?” said Miss Ophelia, who thought she would turn her inquiries to something more tangible.

“No, Missis.”

“What can you do?—what did you do for your master and mistress?”

“Fetch water, and wash dishes, and rub knives, and wait on folks.”

“Were they good to you?”

“Spect they was,” said the child, scanning Miss Ophelia cunningly.

Miss Ophelia rose from this encouraging colloquy; St. Clare was leaning over the back of her chair.

“You find virgin soil there, Cousin; put in your own ideas,—you won’t find many to pull up.”

Miss Ophelia’s ideas of education, like all her other ideas, were very set and definite; and of the kind that prevailed in New England a century ago, and which are still preserved in some very retired and unsophisticated parts, where there are no railroads. As nearly as could be expressed, they could be comprised in very few words: to teach them to mind when they were spoken to; to teach them the catechism, sewing, and reading; and to whip them if they told lies. And though, of course, in the flood of light that is now poured on education, these are left far away in the rear, yet it is an undisputed fact that our grandmothers raised some tolerably fair men and women under this regime, as many of us can remember and testify. At all events, Miss Ophelia knew of nothing else to do; and, therefore, applied her mind to her heathen with the best diligence she could command.

The child was announced and considered in the family as Miss Ophelia’s girl; and, as she was looked upon with no gracious eye in the kitchen, Miss Ophelia resolved to confine her sphere of operation and instruction chiefly to her own chamber. With a self-sacrifice which some of our readers will appreciate, she resolved, instead of comfortably making her own bed, sweeping and dusting her own chamber,—which she had hitherto done, in utter scorn of all offers of help from the chambermaid of the establishment,—to condemn herself to the martyrdom of instructing Topsy to perform these operations,—ah, woe the day! Did any of our readers ever do the same, they will appreciate the amount of her self-sacrifice.

Miss Ophelia began with Topsy by taking her into her chamber, the first morning, and solemnly commencing a course of instruction in the art and mystery of bed-making.

Behold, then, Topsy, washed and shorn of all the little braided tails wherein her heart had delighted, arrayed in a clean gown, with well-starched apron, standing reverently before Miss Ophelia, with an expression of solemnity well befitting a funeral.

“Now, Topsy, I’m going to show you just how my bed is to be made. I am very particular about my bed. You must learn exactly how to do it.”

“Yes, ma’am,” says Topsy, with a deep sigh, and a face of woful earnestness.

“Now, Topsy, look here;—this is the hem of the sheet,—this is the right side of the sheet, and this is the wrong;—will you remember?”

“Yes, ma’am,” says Topsy, with another sigh.

“Well, now, the under sheet you must bring over the bolster,—so—and tuck it clear down under the mattress nice and smooth,—so,—do you see?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Topsy, with profound attention.

“But the upper sheet,” said Miss Ophelia, “must be brought down in this way, and tucked under firm and smooth at the foot,—so,—the narrow hem at the foot.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Topsy, as before;—but we will add, what Miss Ophelia did not see, that, during the time when the good lady’s back was turned in the zeal of her manipulations, the young disciple had contrived to snatch a pair of gloves and a ribbon, which she had adroitly slipped into her sleeves, and stood with her hands dutifully folded, as before.

“Now, Topsy, let’s see you do this,” said Miss Ophelia, pulling off the clothes, and seating herself.

Topsy, with great gravity and adroitness, went through the exercise completely to Miss Ophelia’s satisfaction; smoothing the sheets, patting out every wrinkle, and exhibiting, through the whole process, a gravity and seriousness with which her instructress was greatly edified. By an unlucky slip, however, a fluttering fragment of the ribbon hung out of one of her sleeves, just as she was finishing, and caught Miss Ophelia’s attention. Instantly, she pounced upon it. “What’s this? You naughty, wicked child,—you’ve been stealing this!”

The ribbon was pulled out of Topsy’s own sleeve, yet was she not in the least disconcerted; she only looked at it with an air of the most surprised and unconscious innocence.

“Laws! why, that ar’s Miss Feely’s ribbon, an’t it? How could it a got caught in my sleeve?

“Topsy, you naughty girl, don’t you tell me a lie,—you stole that ribbon!”

“Missis, I declar for ’t, I didn’t;—never seed it till dis yer blessed minnit.”

“Topsy,” said Miss Ophelia, “don’t you know it’s wicked to tell lies?”

“I never tell no lies, Miss Feely,” said Topsy, with virtuous gravity; “it’s jist the truth I’ve been a tellin now, and an’t nothin else.”

“Topsy, I shall have to whip you, if you tell lies so.”

“Laws, Missis, if you’s to whip all day, couldn’t say no other way,” said Topsy, beginning to blubber. “I never seed dat ar,—it must a got caught in my sleeve. Miss Feeley must have left it on the bed, and it got caught in the clothes, and so got in my sleeve.”

Miss Ophelia was so indignant at the barefaced lie, that she caught the child and shook her.

“Don’t you tell me that again!”

The shake brought the glove on to the floor, from the other sleeve.

“There, you!” said Miss Ophelia, “will you tell me now, you didn’t steal the ribbon?”

Topsy now confessed to the gloves, but still persisted in denying the ribbon.

“Now, Topsy,” said Miss Ophelia, “if you’ll confess all about it, I won’t whip you this time.” Thus adjured, Topsy confessed to the ribbon and gloves, with woful protestations of penitence.

“Well, now, tell me. I know you must have taken other things since you have been in the house, for I let you run about all day yesterday. Now, tell me if you took anything, and I shan’t whip you.”

“Laws, Missis! I took Miss Eva’s red thing she wars on her neck.”

“You did, you naughty child!—Well, what else?”

“I took Rosa’s yer-rings,—them red ones.”

“Go bring them to me this minute, both of ’em.”

“Laws, Missis! I can’t,—they ’s burnt up!”

“Burnt up!—what a story! Go get ’em, or I’ll whip you.”

Topsy, with loud protestations, and tears, and groans, declared that she could not. “They ’s burnt up,—they was.”

“What did you burn ’em for?” said Miss Ophelia.

“Cause I ’s wicked,—I is. I ’s mighty wicked, any how. I can’t help it.”

Just at this moment, Eva came innocently into the room, with the identical coral necklace on her neck.

“Why, Eva, where did you get your necklace?” said Miss Ophelia.

“Get it? Why, I’ve had it on all day,” said Eva.

“Did you have it on yesterday?”

“Yes; and what is funny, Aunty, I had it on all night. I forgot to take it off when I went to bed.”

Miss Ophelia looked perfectly bewildered; the more so, as Rosa, at that instant, came into the room, with a basket of newly-ironed linen poised on her head, and the coral ear-drops shaking in her ears!

“I’m sure I can’t tell anything what to do with such a child!” she said, in despair. “What in the world did you tell me you took those things for, Topsy?”

“Why, Missis said I must ’fess; and I couldn’t think of nothin’ else to ’fess,” said Topsy, rubbing her eyes.

“But, of course, I didn’t want you to confess things you didn’t do,” said Miss Ophelia; “that’s telling a lie, just as much as the other.”

“Laws, now, is it?” said Topsy, with an air of innocent wonder.

“La, there an’t any such thing as truth in that limb,” said Rosa, looking indignantly at Topsy. “If I was Mas’r St. Clare, I’d whip her till the blood run. I would,—I’d let her catch it!”

“No, no Rosa,” said Eva, with an air of command, which the child could assume at times; “you mustn’t talk so, Rosa. I can’t bear to hear it.”

“La sakes! Miss Eva, you ’s so good, you don’t know nothing how to get along with niggers. There’s no way but to cut ’em well up, I tell ye.”

“Rosa!” said Eva, “hush! Don’t you say another word of that sort!” and the eye of the child flashed, and her cheek deepened its color.

Rosa was cowed in a moment.

“Miss Eva has got the St. Clare blood in her, that’s plain. She can speak, for all the world, just like her papa,” she said, as she passed out of the room.

Eva stood looking at Topsy.

There stood the two children representatives of the two extremes of society. The fair, high-bred child, with her golden head, her deep eyes, her spiritual, noble brow, and prince-like movements; and her black, keen, subtle, cringing, yet acute neighbor. They stood the representatives of their races. The Saxon, born of ages of cultivation, command, education, physical and moral eminence; the Afric, born of ages of oppression, submission, ignorance, toil and vice!

Something, perhaps, of such thoughts struggled through Eva’s mind. But a child’s thoughts are rather dim, undefined instincts; and in Eva’s noble nature many such were yearning and working, for which she had no power of utterance. When Miss Ophelia expatiated on Topsy’s naughty, wicked conduct, the child looked perplexed and sorrowful, but said, sweetly.

“Poor Topsy, why need you steal? You’re going to be taken good care of now. I’m sure I’d rather give you anything of mine, than have you steal it.”

It was the first word of kindness the child had ever heard in her life; and the sweet tone and manner struck strangely on the wild, rude heart, and a sparkle of something like a tear shone in the keen, round, glittering eye; but it was followed by the short laugh and habitual grin. No! the ear that has never heard anything but abuse is strangely incredulous of anything so heavenly as kindness; and Topsy only thought Eva’s speech something funny and inexplicable,—she did not believe it.

But what was to be done with Topsy? Miss Ophelia found the case a puzzler; her rules for bringing up didn’t seem to apply. She thought she would take time to think of it; and, by the way of gaining time, and in hopes of some indefinite moral virtues supposed to be inherent in dark closets, Miss Ophelia shut Topsy up in one till she had arranged her ideas further on the subject.

“I don’t see,” said Miss Ophelia to St. Clare, “how I’m going to manage that child, without whipping her.”

“Well, whip her, then, to your heart’s content; I’ll give you full power to do what you like.”

“Children always have to be whipped,” said Miss Ophelia; “I never heard of bringing them up without.”

“O, well, certainly,” said St. Clare; “do as you think best. Only I’ll make one suggestion: I’ve seen this child whipped with a poker, knocked down with the shovel or tongs, whichever came handiest, &c.; and, seeing that she is used to that style of operation, I think your whippings will have to be pretty energetic, to make much impression.”

“What is to be done with her, then?” said Miss Ophelia.

“You have started a serious question,” said St. Clare; “I wish you’d answer it. What is to be done with a human being that can be governed only by the lash,—that fails,—it’s a very common state of things down here!”

“I’m sure I don’t know; I never saw such a child as this.”

“Such children are very common among us, and such men and women, too. How are they to be governed?” said St. Clare.

“I’m sure it’s more than I can say,” said Miss Ophelia.

“Or I either,” said St. Clare. “The horrid cruelties and outrages that once and a while find their way into the papers,—such cases as Prue’s, for example,—what do they come from? In many cases, it is a gradual hardening process on both sides,—the owner growing more and more cruel, as the servant more and more callous. Whipping and abuse are like laudanum; you have to double the dose as the sensibilities decline. I saw this very early when I became an owner; and I resolved never to begin, because I did not know when I should stop,—and I resolved, at least, to protect my own moral nature. The consequence is, that my servants act like spoiled children; but I think that better than for us both to be brutalized together. You have talked a great deal about our responsibilities in educating, Cousin. I really wanted you to try with one child, who is a specimen of thousands among us.”

“It is your system makes such children,” said Miss Ophelia.

“I know it; but they are made,—they exist,—and what is to be done with them?”

“Well, I can’t say I thank you for the experiment. But, then, as it appears to be a duty, I shall persevere and try, and do the best I can,” said Miss Ophelia; and Miss Ophelia, after this, did labor, with a commendable degree of zeal and energy, on her new subject. She instituted regular hours and employments for her, and undertook to teach her to read and sew.

In the former art, the child was quick enough. She learned her letters as if by magic, and was very soon able to read plain reading; but the sewing was a more difficult matter. The creature was as lithe as a cat, and as active as a monkey, and the confinement of sewing was her abomination; so she broke her needles, threw them slyly out of the window, or down in chinks of the walls; she tangled, broke, and dirtied her thread, or, with a sly movement, would throw a spool away altogether. Her motions were almost as quick as those of a practised conjurer, and her command of her face quite as great; and though Miss Ophelia could not help feeling that so many accidents could not possibly happen in succession, yet she could not, without a watchfulness which would leave her no time for anything else, detect her.

Topsy was soon a noted character in the establishment. Her talent for every species of drollery, grimace, and mimicry,—for dancing, tumbling, climbing, singing, whistling, imitating every sound that hit her fancy,—seemed inexhaustible. In her play-hours, she invariably had every child in the establishment at her heels, open-mouthed with admiration and wonder,—not excepting Miss Eva, who appeared to be fascinated by her wild diablerie, as a dove is sometimes charmed by a glittering serpent. Miss Ophelia was uneasy that Eva should fancy Topsy’s society so much, and implored St. Clare to forbid it.

“Poh! let the child alone,” said St. Clare. “Topsy will do her good.”

“But so depraved a child,—are you not afraid she will teach her some mischief?”

“She can’t teach her mischief; she might teach it to some children, but evil rolls off Eva’s mind like dew off a cabbage-leaf,—not a drop sinks in.”

“Don’t be too sure,” said Miss Ophelia. “I know I’d never let a child of mine play with Topsy.”

“Well, your children needn’t,” said St. Clare, “but mine may; if Eva could have been spoiled, it would have been done years ago.”

Topsy was at first despised and contemned by the upper servants. They soon found reason to alter their opinion. It was very soon discovered that whoever cast an indignity on Topsy was sure to meet with some inconvenient accident shortly after;—either a pair of ear-rings or some cherished trinket would be missing, or an article of dress would be suddenly found utterly ruined, or the person would stumble accidently into a pail of hot water, or a libation of dirty slop would unaccountably deluge them from above when in full gala dress;-and on all these occasions, when investigation was made, there was nobody found to stand sponsor for the indignity. Topsy was cited, and had up before all the domestic judicatories, time and again; but always sustained her examinations with most edifying innocence and gravity of appearance. Nobody in the world ever doubted who did the things; but not a scrap of any direct evidence could be found to establish the suppositions, and Miss Ophelia was too just to feel at liberty to proceed to any length without it.

The mischiefs done were always so nicely timed, also, as further to shelter the aggressor. Thus, the times for revenge on Rosa and Jane, the two chamber maids, were always chosen in those seasons when (as not unfrequently happened) they were in disgrace with their mistress, when any complaint from them would of course meet with no sympathy. In short, Topsy soon made the household understand the propriety of letting her alone; and she was let alone, accordingly.

Topsy was smart and energetic in all manual operations, learning everything that was taught her with surprising quickness. With a few lessons, she had learned to do the proprieties of Miss Ophelia’s chamber in a way with which even that particular lady could find no fault. Mortal hands could not lay spread smoother, adjust pillows more accurately, sweep and dust and arrange more perfectly, than Topsy, when she chose,—but she didn’t very often choose. If Miss Ophelia, after three or four days of careful patient supervision, was so sanguine as to suppose that Topsy had at last fallen into her way, could do without over-looking, and so go off and busy herself about something else, Topsy would hold a perfect carnival of confusion, for some one or two hours. Instead of making the bed, she would amuse herself with pulling off the pillowcases, butting her woolly head among the pillows, till it would sometimes be grotesquely ornamented with feathers sticking out in various directions; she would climb the posts, and hang head downward from the tops; flourish the sheets and spreads all over the apartment; dress the bolster up in Miss Ophelia’s night-clothes, and enact various performances with that,—singing and whistling, and making grimaces at herself in the looking-glass; in short, as Miss Ophelia phrased it, “raising Cain” generally.

On one occasion, Miss Ophelia found Topsy with her very best scarlet India Canton crape shawl wound round her head for a turban, going on with her rehearsals before the glass in great style,—Miss Ophelia having, with carelessness most unheard-of in her, left the key for once in her drawer.

“Topsy!” she would say, when at the end of all patience, “what does make you act so?”

“Dunno, Missis,—I spects cause I ’s so wicked!”

“I don’t know anything what I shall do with you, Topsy.”

“Law, Missis, you must whip me; my old Missis allers whipped me. I an’t used to workin’ unless I gets whipped.”

“Why, Topsy, I don’t want to whip you. You can do well, if you’ve a mind to; what is the reason you won’t?”

“Laws, Missis, I ’s used to whippin’; I spects it’s good for me.”

Miss Ophelia tried the recipe, and Topsy invariably made a terrible commotion, screaming, groaning and imploring, though half an hour afterwards, when roosted on some projection of the balcony, and surrounded by a flock of admiring “young uns,” she would express the utmost contempt of the whole affair.

“Law, Miss Feely whip!—wouldn’t kill a skeeter, her whippins. Oughter see how old Mas’r made the flesh fly; old Mas’r know’d how!”

Topsy always made great capital of her own sins and enormities, evidently considering them as something peculiarly distinguishing.

“Law, you niggers,” she would say to some of her auditors, “does you know you ’s all sinners? Well, you is—everybody is. White folks is sinners too,—Miss Feely says so; but I spects niggers is the biggest ones; but lor! ye an’t any on ye up to me. I ’s so awful wicked there can’t nobody do nothin’ with me. I used to keep old Missis a swarin’ at me half de time. I spects I ’s the wickedest critter in the world;” and Topsy would cut a summerset, and come up brisk and shining on to a higher perch, and evidently plume herself on the distinction.

Miss Ophelia busied herself very earnestly on Sundays, teaching Topsy the catechism. Topsy had an uncommon verbal memory, and committed with a fluency that greatly encouraged her instructress.

“What good do you expect it is going to do her?” said St. Clare.

“Why, it always has done children good. It’s what children always have to learn, you know,” said Miss Ophelia.

“Understand it or not,” said St. Clare.

“O, children never understand it at the time; but, after they are grown up, it’ll come to them.”

“Mine hasn’t come to me yet,” said St. Clare, “though I’ll bear testimony that you put it into me pretty thoroughly when I was a boy.”’

“Ah, you were always good at learning, Augustine. I used to have great hopes of you,” said Miss Ophelia.

“Well, haven’t you now?” said St. Clare.

“I wish you were as good as you were when you were a boy, Augustine.”

“So do I, that’s a fact, Cousin,” said St. Clare. “Well, go ahead and catechize Topsy; may be you’ll make out something yet.”

Topsy, who had stood like a black statue during this discussion, with hands decently folded, now, at a signal from Miss Ophelia, went on:

“Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the state wherein they were created.”

Topsy’s eyes twinkled, and she looked inquiringly.

“What is it, Topsy?” said Miss Ophelia.

“Please, Missis, was dat ar state Kintuck?”

“What state, Topsy?”

“Dat state dey fell out of. I used to hear Mas’r tell how we came down from Kintuck.”

St. Clare laughed.

“You’ll have to give her a meaning, or she’ll make one,” said he. “There seems to be a theory of emigration suggested there.”

“O! Augustine, be still,” said Miss Ophelia; “how can I do anything, if you will be laughing?”

“Well, I won’t disturb the exercises again, on my honor;” and St. Clare took his paper into the parlor, and sat down, till Topsy had finished her recitations. They were all very well, only that now and then she would oddly transpose some important words, and persist in the mistake, in spite of every effort to the contrary; and St. Clare, after all his promises of goodness, took a wicked pleasure in these mistakes, calling Topsy to him whenever he had a mind to amuse himself, and getting her to repeat the offending passages, in spite of Miss Ophelia’s remonstrances.

“How do you think I can do anything with the child, if you will go on so, Augustine?” she would say.

“Well, it is too bad,—I won’t again; but I do like to hear the droll little image stumble over those big words!”

“But you confirm her in the wrong way.”

“What’s the odds? One word is as good as another to her.”

“You wanted me to bring her up right; and you ought to remember she is a reasonable creature, and be careful of your influence over her.”

“O, dismal! so I ought; but, as Topsy herself says, ’I ’s so wicked!’”

In very much this way Topsy’s training proceeded, for a year or two,—Miss Ophelia worrying herself, from day to day, with her, as a kind of chronic plague, to whose inflictions she became, in time, as accustomed, as persons sometimes do to the neuralgia or sick headache.

St. Clare took the same kind of amusement in the child that a man might in the tricks of a parrot or a pointer. Topsy, whenever her sins brought her into disgrace in other quarters, always took refuge behind his chair; and St. Clare, in one way or other, would make peace for her. From him she got many a stray picayune, which she laid out in nuts and candies, and distributed, with careless generosity, to all the children in the family; for Topsy, to do her justice, was good-natured and liberal, and only spiteful in self-defence. She is fairly introduced into our corps de ballet, and will figure, from time to time, in her turn, with other performers.