AUNT PHILLIS'S CABIN;
SOUTHERN LIFE AS IT IS.
MRS. MARY H. EASTMAN.
PHILADELPHIA: LIPPINCOTT, GRAMBO & CO. 1852.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1862, by
LIPPINCOTT, GRAMBO & CO.
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Transcriber's note: Minor typos in text corrected. Footnotes moved to end of text.
A writer on Slavery has no difficulty in tracing back its origin. There is also the advantage of finding it, with its continued history, and the laws given by God to govern his own institution, in the Holy Bible. Neither profane history, tradition, nor philosophical research are required to prove its origin or existence; though they, as all things must, come forward to substantiate the truth of the Scriptures. God, who created the human race, willed they should be holy like himself. Sin was committed, and the curse of sin, death, was induced: other punishments were denounced for the perpetration of particular crimes—the shedding of man's blood for murder, and the curse of slavery. The mysterious reasons that here influenced the mind of the Creator it is not ours to declare. Yet may we learn enough from his revealed word on this and every other subject to confirm his power, truth, and justice. There is no Christian duty more insisted upon in Scripture than reverence and obedience to parents. "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." The relation of child to parent resembles closely that of man to his Creator. He who loves and honors his God will assuredly love and honor his parents. Though it is evidently the duty of every parent so to live as to secure the respect and affection of his child, yet there is nothing in the Scriptures to authorize a child treating with disrespect a parent, though he be unworthy in the greatest degree.
The human mind, naturally rebellious, requires every command and incentive to submission. The first of the ten commandments, insisting on the duty owing to the Creator, and the fifth, on that belonging to our parents, are the sources of all order and good arrangement in the minor relations of life; and on obedience to them depends the comfort of society.
Reverence to age, and especially where it is found in the person of those who by the will of God were the authors of their being, is insisted upon in the Jewish covenant—not indeed less required now; but as the Jews were called from among the heathen nations of the earth to be the peculiar people of God, they were to show such evidences of this law in their hearts, by their conduct, that other nations might look on and say, "Ye are the children of the Lord your God."
It was after an act of a child dishonoring an aged father, that the prophecy entailing slavery as a curse on a portion of the human race was uttered. Nor could it have been from any feeling of resentment or revenge that the curse was made known by the lips of a servant of God; for this servant of God was a parent, and with what sorrow would any parent, yea, the worst of parents, utter a malediction which insured such punishment and misery on a portion of his posterity! Even the blessing which was promised to his other children could not have consoled him for the sad necessity. He might not resist the Spirit of God: though with perfect submission he obeyed its dictates, yet with what regret! The heart of any Christian parent will answer this appeal!
We may well imagine some of the reasons for the will of God in thus punishing Ham and his descendants. Prior to the unfilial act which is recorded, it is not to be supposed he had been a righteous man. Had he been one after God's own heart, he would not have been guilty of such a sin. What must that child be, who would openly dishonor and expose an erring parent, borne down with the weight of years, and honored by God as Noah had been! The very act of disrespect to Noah, the chosen of God, implies wilful contempt of God himself. Ham was not a young man either: he had not the excuse of the impetuosity of youth, nor its thoughtlessness—he was himself an old man; and there is every reason to believe he had led a life at variance with God's laws. When he committed so gross and violent a sin, it may be, that the curse of God, which had lain tranquil long, was roused and uttered against him: a curse not conditional, not implied—now, as then, a mandate of the Eternal.
Among the curses threatened by the Levites upon Mount Ebal, was the one found in the 16th verse of the 27th chapter of Deuteronomy: "Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother." By the law of Moses, this sin was punished with death: "Of the son which will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother," "all the men of his city shall stone him with stones that he die." (Deut. xxi. 21.) God in his wisdom instituted this severe law in early times; and it must convince us that there were reasons in the Divine mind for insisting on the ordinance exacting the most perfect submission and reverence to an earthly parent.
"When, after the deluge," says Josephus, "the earth was settled in its former condition, Noah set about its cultivation; and when he had planted it with vines, and when the fruit was ripe, and he had gathered the grapes in the season, and the wine was ready for use, he offered a sacrifice and feasted, and, being inebriated, fell asleep, and lay in an unseemly manner. When Ham saw this, he came laughing, and showed him to his brothers." Does not this exhibit the impression of the Jews as regards the character of Ham? Could a man capable of such an act deserve the blessing of a just and holy God?
"The fact of Noah's transgression is recorded by the inspired historian with that perfect impartiality which is peculiar to the Scriptures, as an instance and evidence of human frailty and imperfection. Ham appears to have been a bad man, and probably he rejoiced to find his father in so unbecoming a situation, that, by exposing him, he might retaliate for the reproofs which he had received from his parental authority. And perhaps Canaan first discovered his situation, and told it to Ham. The conduct of Ham in exposing his father to his brethren, and their behaviour in turning away from the sight of his disgrace, form a striking contrast."—Scott's Com.
We are told in Gen. ix. 22, "And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without;" and in the 24th, 25th, 26th, and 27th verses we read, "And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him; and he said, Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant." Is it not preposterous that any man, any Christian, should read these verses and say slavery was not instituted by God as a curse on Ham and Canaan and their posterity?
And who can read the history of the world and say this curse has not existed ever since it was uttered?
"The whole continent of Africa," says Bishop Newton, "was peopled principally by the descendants of Ham; and for how many ages have the better parts of that country lain under the dominion of the Romans, then of the Saracens, and now of the Turks! In what wickedness, ignorance, barbarity, slavery, misery, live most of the inhabitants! And of the poor negroes, how many hundreds every year are sold and bought like beasts in the market, and conveyed from one quarter of the world to do the work of beasts in another!"
But does this curse authorize the slave-trade? God forbid. He commanded the Jews to enslave the heathen around them, saying, "they should be their bondmen forever;" but he has given no such command to other nations. The threatenings and reproofs uttered against Israel, throughout the old Testament, on the subject of slavery, refer to their oppressing and keeping in slavery their own countrymen. Never is there the slightest imputation of sin, as far as I can see, conveyed against them for holding in bondage the children of heathen nations.
Yet do the Scriptures evidently permit slavery, even to the present time. The curse on the serpent, ("And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle and above every beast of the field,") uttered more than sixteen hundred years before the curse of Noah upon Ham and his race, has lost nothing of its force and true meaning. "Cursed is the ground for thy sake: in sorrow shalt thou eat of it, all the days of thy life," said the Supreme Being. Has this curse failed or been removed?
Remember the threatened curses of God upon the whole Jewish tribe if they forsook his worship. Have not they been fulfilled?
However inexplicable may be the fact that God would appoint the curse of continual servitude on a portion of his creatures, will any one dare, with the Bible open in his hands, to say the fact does not exist? It is not ours to decide why the Supreme Being acts! We may observe his dealings with man, but we may not ask, until he reveals it, Why hast thou thus done?
"Cursed is every one who loves not the Lord Jesus Christ." Are not all these curses recorded, and will they not all be fulfilled? God has permitted slavery to exist in every age and in almost every nation of the earth. It was only commanded to the Jews, and it was with them restricted to the heathen, ("referring entirely to the race of Ham, who had been judicially condemned to a condition of servitude more than eighteen hundred years before the giving of the law, by the mouth of Noah, the medium of the Holy Ghost.") No others, at least, were to be enslaved "forever." Every book of the Old Testament records a history in which slaves and God's laws concerning them are spoken of, while, as far as profane history goes back, we cannot fail to see proofs of the existence of slavery. "No legislator of history," says Voltaire, "attempted to abrogate slavery. Society was so accustomed to this degradation of the species, that Epictetus, who was assuredly worth more than his master, never expresses any surprise at his being a slave." Egypt, Sparta, Athens, Carthage, and Rome had their thousands of slaves. In the Bible, the best and chosen servants of God owned slaves, while in profane history the purest and greatest men did the same. In the very nation over whose devoted head hung the curse of God, slavery, vindictive, lawless, and cruel slavery, has prevailed. It is said no nation of the earth has equalled the Jewish in the enslaving of negroes, except the negroes themselves; and examination will prove that the descendants of Ham and Canaan have, as God foresaw, justified by their conduct the doom which he pronounced against them.
But it has been contended that the people of God sinned in holding their fellow-creatures in bondage! Open your Bible, Christian, and read the commands of God as regards slavery—the laws that he made to govern the conduct of the master and the slave!
But again—we live under the glorious and new dispensation of Christ; and He came to establish God's will, and to confirm such laws as were to continue in existence, to destroy such rules as were not to govern our lives!
When there was but one family upon the earth, a portion of the family was devoted to be slaves to others. God made a covenant with Abraham: he included in it his slaves. "He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money," are the words of Scripture. A servant of Abraham says, "And the Lord has blessed my master greatly, and he is become great, and he hath given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and men-servants and maid-servants, and camels and asses."
The Lord has called himself the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. These holy men were slaveholders!
The existence of slavery then, and the sanction of God on his own institution, is palpable from the time of the pronouncing of the curse, until the glorious advent of the Son of God. When he came, slavery existed in every part of the world.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came from heaven and dwelt upon the earth: his mission to proclaim the will of God to a world sunk in the lowest depths of iniquity. Even the dear and chosen people of God had departed from him—had forsaken his worship, and turned aside from his commands.
He was born of a virgin. He was called Emmanuel. He was God with us.
Wise men traveled from afar to behold the Child-God—they knelt before him—they opened their treasures—they presented to them gifts. Angels of God descended in dreams, to ensure the protection of his life against the king who sought it. He emerged from infancy, and grew in favour with God and man. He was tempted but not overcome—angels came again from heaven to minister to him. He fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law, and entered upon the duties for which he left the glories of heaven.
That mission was fulfilled. "The people which sat in darkness saw great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up."
Look at his miracles—the cleansing of the leper, the healing of the sick, the casting out unclean spirits, the raising of the dead, the rebuking of the winds and seas, the control of those possessed with devils—and say, was he not the Son of God—yea, was he not God?
Full of power and goodness he came into the world, and light and glory followed every footstep. The sound of his voice, the glance of his eye, the very touch of the garment in which his assumed mortality was arrayed, was a medicine mighty to save. He came on an errand of mercy to the world, and he was all powerful to accomplish the Divine intent; but, did he emancipate the slave? The happiness of the human race was the object of his coming; and is it possible that the large portion of them then slaves could have escaped his all-seeing eye! Did he condemn the institution which he had made? Did he establish universal freedom? Oh! no; he came to redeem the world from the power of sin; his was no earthly mission; he did not interfere with the organization of society. He healed the sick servant of the centurion, but he did not command his freedom; nor is there a word that fell from his sacred lips that could be construed into a condemnation of that institution which had existed from the early ages of the world, existed then, and is continued now. The application made by the Abolitionist of the golden rule is absurd: it might then apply to the child, who would have his father no longer control him; to the apprentice, who would no longer that the man to whom he is bound should have a right to direct him. Thus the foundations of society would be shaken, nay, destroyed. Christ would have us deal with others, not as they desire, but as the law of God demands: in the condition of life in which we have been placed, we must do what we conscientiously believe to be our duty to our fellow-men.
Christ alludes to slavery, but does not forbid it. "And the servant abideth not in the house forever, but the son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, you are free indeed."
In these two verses of the Gospel of St. John, there is a manifest allusion to the fact and condition of slaves. Of this fact the Saviour took occasion, to illustrate, by way of similitude, the condition of a wicked man, who is the slave of sin, and to show that as a son who was the heir in a house could set a bondman free, if that son were of the proper age, so he, the Son of God, could set the enslaved soul free from sin, when he would be "free indeed." Show me in the history of the Old Testament, or in the life of Christ, authority to proclaim as a sin the holding of the race of Ham and Canaan in bondage.
In the times of the apostles, what do we see? Slaves are still in bondage, the children of Ham are menials as they were before. Christ had come, had died, had ascended to heaven, and slavery still existed. Had the apostles authority to do it away? Had Christ left it to them to carry out, in this instance, his revealed will?
"Art thou," said Paul, "called being a slave? care not for it; but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he is called." "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrines be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren, but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit."
It is well known and often quoted that the holy apostle did all he could to restore a slave to his master—one whom he had been the means of making free in a spiritual sense. Yet he knew that God had made Onesimus a slave, and, when he had fled from his master, Paul persuaded him to return and to do his duty toward him. Open your Bible, Christian, and carefully read the letter of Paul to Philemon, and contrast its spirit with the incendiary publications of the Abolitionists of the present day. St. Paul was not a fanatic, and therefore could not be an Abolitionist. The Christian age advanced and slavery continued, and we approach the time when our fathers fled from persecution to the soil we now call our own, when they fought for the liberty to which they felt they had a right. Our fathers fought for it, and our mothers did more when they urged forth their husbands and sons, not knowing whether the life-blood that was glowing with religion and patriotism would not soon be dyeing the land that had been their refuge, and where they fondly hoped they should find a happy home. Oh, glorious parentage! Children of America, trace no farther back—say not the crest of nobility once adorned thy father's breast, the gemmed coronet thy mother's brow—stop here! it is enough that they earned for thee a home—a free, a happy home. And what did they say to the slavery that existed then and had been entailed upon them by the English government? Their opinions are preserved among us—they were dictated by their position and necessities—and they were wisely formed. In the North, slavery was useless; nay, more, it was a drawback to the prosperity of that section of the Union—it was dispensed with. In other sections, gradually, our people have seen their condition would be more prosperous without slaves—they have emancipated them. In the South, they are necessary: though an evil, it is one that cannot be dispensed with; and here they have been retained, and will be retained, unless God should manifest his will (which never yet has been done) to the contrary. Knowing that the people of the South still have the views of their revolutionary forefathers, we see plainly that many of the North have rejected the opinions of theirs. Slaves were at the North and South considered and recognized as property, (as they are in Scripture.) The whole nation sanctioned slavery by adopting the Constitution which provides for them, and for their restoration (when fugitive) to their owners. Our country was then like one family—their souls had been tried and made pure by a united struggle—they loved as brothers who had suffered together. Would it were so at the present day!
The subject of slavery was agitated among them; many difficulties occurred, but they were all settled—and, they thought, effectually. They agreed then, on the propriety of giving up runaway slaves, unanimously. Mr. Sherman, of Connecticut, "saw no more impropriety in the public seizing and surrendering a slave or servant than a horse!" (Madison's Papers.) This was then considered a compromise between the North and South. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster—the mantle of their illustrious fathers descended to them from their own glorious times. The slave-trade was discontinued after a while. As long as England needed the sons and daughters of Africa to do her bidding, she trafficked in the flesh and blood of her fellow-creatures; but our immortal fathers put an end to the disgraceful trade. They saw its heinous sin, for they had no command to enslave the heathen; but they had no command to emancipate the slave; therefore they wisely forbore farther to interfere. They drew the nice line of distinction between an unavoidable evil and a sin.
Slavery was acknowledged, and slaves considered as property all over our country, at the North as well as the South—in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. Now, has there been any law reversing this, except in the States that have become free? Out of the limits of these States, slaves are property, according to the Constitution. In the year 1798, Judge Jay, being called on for a list of his taxable property, made the following observation:—"I purchase slaves and manumit them at proper ages, when their faithful services shall have afforded a reasonable retribution." "As free servants became more common, he was gradually relieved from the necessity of purchasing slaves." (See Jay's Life, by his son.)
Here is the secret of Northern emancipation: they were relieved from the necessity of slavery. Rufus King, for many years one of the most distinguished statesmen of the country, writes thus to John B. Coles and others:—"I am perfectly anxious not to be misunderstood in this case, never having thought myself at liberty to encourage or assent to any measure that would affect the security of property in slaves, or tend to disturb the political adjustment which the Constitution has made respecting them."
John Taylor, of New York, said, "If the weight and influence of the South be increased by the representation of that which they consider a part of their property, we do not wish to diminish them. The right by which this property is held is derived from the Federal Constitution; we have neither inclination nor power to interfere with the laws of existing States in this particular; on the contrary, they have not only a right to reclaim their fugitives whenever found, but, in the event of domestic violence, (which God in his mercy forever avert!) the whole strength of the nation is bound to be exerted, if needful, in reducing it to subjection, while we recognize these obligations and will never fail to perform them."
How many more could be brought! opinions of great and good men of the North, acknowledging and maintaining the rights of the people of the South. Everett, Adams, Cambreleng, and a host of others, whose names I need not give. "Time was," said Mr. Fletcher in Boston, (in 1835, at a great meeting in that city,) "when such sentiments and such language would not have been breathed in this community. And here, on this hallowed spot, of all places on earth, should they be met and rebuked. Time was, when the British Parliament having declared 'that they had a right to bind us in all cases whatsoever,' and were attempting to bind our infant limbs in fetters, when a voice of resistance and notes of defiance had gone forth from this hall, then, when Massachusetts, standing for her liberty and life, was alone breasting the whole power of Britain, the generous and gallant Southerners came to our aid, and our fathers refused not to hold communion with slaveholders. When the blood of our citizens, shed by a British soldiery, had stained our streets and flowed upon the heights that surround us, and sunk into the earth upon the plains of Lexington and Concord, then when he, whose name can never be pronounced by American lips without the strongest emotion of gratitude and love to every American heart,—when he, that slaveholder, (pointing to a full-length portrait of Washington,) who, from this canvass, smiles upon his children with paternal benignity, came with other slaveholders to drive the British myrmidons from this city, and in this hall our fathers did not refuse to hold communion with them.
"With slaveholders they formed the confederation, neither asking nor receiving any right to interfere in their domestic relations: with them, they made the Declaration of Independence."
To England, not to the United States, belongs whatever odium may be attached to the introduction of slavery into our country. Our fathers abolished the slave-trade, but permitted the continuation of domestic slavery.
Slavery, authorized by God, permitted by Jesus Christ, sanctioned by the apostles, maintained by good men of all ages, is still existing in a portion of our beloved country. How long it will continue, or whether it will ever cease, the Almighty Ruler of the universe can alone determine.
I do not intend to give a history of Abolition. Born in fanaticism, nurtured in violence and disorder, it exists too. Turning aside the institutions and commands of God, treading under foot the love of country, despising the laws of nature and the nation, it is dead to every feeling of patriotism and brotherly kindness; full of strife and pride, strewing the path of the slave with thorns and of the master with difficulties, accomplishing nothing good, forever creating disturbance.
The negroes are still slaves—"while the American slaveholders, collectively and individually, ask no favours of any man or race that treads the earth. In none of the attributes of men, mental or physical, do they acknowledge or fear superiority elsewhere. They stand in the broadest light of the knowledge, civilization, and improvement of the age, as much favored of Heaven as any other of the sons of Adam."
AUNT PHILLIS'S CABIN.
There would be little to strike the eye of a traveler accustomed to picturesque scenes, on approaching the small town of L——. Like most of the settlements in Virginia, the irregularity of the streets and the want of similarity in the houses would give an unfavorable first impression. The old Episcopal church, standing at the entrance of the town, could not fail to be attractive from its appearance of age; but from this alone. No monuments adorn the churchyard; head-stones of all sizes meet the eye, some worn and leaning against a shrub or tree for support, others new and white, and glistening in the sunset. Several family vaults, unpretending in their appearance, are perceived on a closer scrutiny, to which the plants usually found in burial-grounds are clinging, shadowed too by large trees. The walls where they are visible are worn and discolored, but they are almost covered with ivy, clad in summer's deepest green. Many a stranger stopped his horse in passing by to wonder at its look of other days; and some, it may be, to wish they were sleeping in the shades of its mouldering walls.
The slight eminence on which the church was built, commanded a view of the residences of several gentlemen of fortune who lived in the neighborhood. To the nearest one, a gentleman on horseback was directing his way. The horse required no direction, in truth, for so accustomed was he to the ride to Exeter, and to the good fare he enjoyed on arriving there, that neither whip nor spur was necessary; he traced the familiar road with evident pleasure.
The house at Exeter was irregularly built; but the white stone wings and the look-out over the main building gave an appearance of taste to the mansion. The fine old trees intercepted the view, though adding greatly to its beauty. The porter's lodge, and the wide lawn entered by its open gates, the gardens at either side of the building, and the neatness and good condition of the out-houses, all showed a prosperous state of affairs with the owner. Soon the large porch with its green blinds, and the sweetbrier entwining them, came in view, and the family party that occupied it were discernible. Before Mr. Barbour had reached the point for alighting from his horse, a servant stood in readiness to take charge of him, and Alice Weston emerged from her hiding-place among the roses, with her usual sweet words of welcome. Mr. Weston, the owner of the mansion and its adjoining plantation, arose with a dignified but cordial greeting; and Mrs. Weston, his sister-in-law, and Miss Janet, united with him in his kind reception of a valued guest and friend.
Mr. Weston was a widower, with an only son; the young gentleman was at this time at Yale College. He had been absent for three years; and so anxious was he to graduate with honor, that he had chosen not to return to Virginia until his course of study should be completed. The family had visited him during the first year of his exile, as he called it, but it had now been two years since he had seen any member of it. There was an engagement between him and his cousin, though Alice was but fifteen when it was formed. They had been associated from the earliest period of their lives, and Arthur declared that should he return home on a visit, he would not be able to break away from its happiness to the routine of a college life: he yielded therefore to the earnest entreaties of his father, to remain at New Haven until he graduated.
Mr. Weston will stand for a specimen of the southern gentleman of the old school. The bland and cheerful expression of his countenance, the arrangement of his soft fine hair, the fineness of the texture and the perfect cleanliness of every part of his dress, the plaiting of his old-fashioned shirt ruffles, the whiteness of his hand, and the sound of his clear, well-modulated voice—in fact, every item of his appearance—won the good opinion of a stranger; while the feelings of his heart and his steady course of Christian life, made him honored and reverenced as he deserved. He possessed that requisite to the character of a true gentleman, a kind and charitable heart.
None of the present members of his family had any lawful claim upon him, yet he cherished them with the utmost affection. He requested his brother's widow, on the death of his own wife, to assume the charge of his house; and she was in every respect its mistress. Alice was necessary to his happiness, almost to his existence; she was the very rose in his garden of life. He had never had a sister, and he regarded Alice as a legacy from his only brother, to whom he had been most tenderly attached: had she been uninteresting, she would still have been very dear to him; but her beauty and her many graces of appearance and character drew closely together the bonds of love between them; Alice returning, with the utmost warmth, her uncle's affection.
Mrs. Weston was unlike her daughter in appearance, Alice resembling her father's family. Her dark, fine eyes were still full of the fire that had beamed from them in youth; there were strongly-marked lines about her mouth, and her face when in repose bore traces of the warfare of past years. The heart has a writing of its own, and we can see it on the countenance; time has no power to obliterate it, but generally deepens the expression. There was at times too a sternness in her voice and manner, yet it left no unpleasant impression; her general refinement, and her fine sense and education made her society always desirable.
Cousin Janet, as she was called by them all, was a dependant and distant relation; a friend faithful and unfailing; a bright example of all that is holy and good in the Christian character. She assisted Mrs. Weston greatly in the many cares that devolved on the mistress of a plantation, especially in instructing the young female servants in knitting and sewing, and in such household duties as would make them useful in that state of life in which it had pleased God to place them. Her heart was full of love to all God's creatures; the servants came to her with their little ailings and grievances, and she had always a soothing remedy—some little specific for a bodily sickness, with a word of advice and kindness, and, if the case required it, of gentle reproof for complaints of another nature. Cousin Janet was an old maid, yet many an orphan and friendless child had shed tears upon her bosom; some, whose hands she had folded together in prayer as they knelt beside her, learning from her lips a child's simple petition, had long ago laid down to sleep for ever; some are living still, surrounded by the halo of their good influence. There was one, of whom we shall speak by-and-by, who was to her a source of great anxiety, and the constant subject of her thoughts and fervent prayers.
Many years had gone by since she had accepted Mr. Weston's earnest entreaty to make Exeter her home; and although the bread she eat was that of charity, yet she brought a blessing upon the house that sheltered her, by her presence: she was one of the chosen ones of the Lord. Even in this day, it is possible to entertain an angel unawares. She is before you, reader, in all the dignity of old age, of a long life drawing to a close; still to the last, she works while it is yet day!
With her dove-colored dress, and her muslin three-cornered handkerchief, pinned precisely at the waist and over her bosom, with her eyes sunken and dim, but expressive, with the wrinkles so many and so deep, and the thin, white folds of her satin-looking hair parted under her cap; with her silver knitting-sheath attached to her side, and her needles in ever busy hands, Cousin Janet would perhaps first arrest the attention of a stranger, in spite of the glowing cheek and golden curls that were contrasting with her. It was the beauty of old age and youth, side by side. Alice's face in its full perfection did not mar the loveliness of hers; the violet eyes of the one, with their long sweep of eyelash, could not eclipse the mild but deep expression of the other. The rich burden of glossy hair was lovely, but so were the white locks; and the slight but rounded form was only compared in its youthful grace to the almost shadowy dignity of old age.
It was just sundown, but the servants were all at home after their day's work, and they too were enjoying the pleasant evening time. Some were seated at the door of their cabins, others lounging on the grass, all at ease, and without care. Many of their comfortable cabins had been recently whitewashed, and were adorned with little gardens in front; over the one nearest the house a multiflora rose was creeping in full bloom. Singularly musical voices were heard at intervals, singing snatches of songs, of a style in which the servants of the South especially delight; and not unfrequently, as the full chorus was shouted by a number, their still more peculiar laugh was heard above it all. Mr. Barbour had recently returned from a pleasure tour in our Northern States, had been absent for two months, and felt that he had not in as long a time witnessed such a scene of real enjoyment. He thought it would have softened the heart of the sternest hater of Southern institutions to have been a spectator here; it might possibly have inclined him to think the sun of his Creator's beneficence shines over every part of our favored land.
"Take a seat, my dear sir," Mr. Weston said, "in our sweetbrier house, as Alice calls it; the evening would lose half its beauty to us, if we were within."
"Alice is always right," said Mr. Barbour, "in every thing she says and does, and so I will occupy this arm-chair that I know she placed here for me. Dear me! what a glorious evening! Those distant peaks of the Blue Ridge look bluer than I ever saw them before."
"Ah! you are glad to tread Virginia soil once more, that is evident enough," said Mr. Weston. "There is no danger of your getting tired of your native state again."
"Who says I was ever tired of her? I challenge you to prove your insinuation. I wanted to see this great New England, the 'great Norrurd,' as Bacchus calls it, and I have seen it; I have enjoyed seeing it, too; and now I am glad to be at home again."
"Here comes Uncle Bacchus now, Mr. Barbour," said Alice; "do look at him walk. Is he not a curiosity? He has as much pretension in his manner as if he were really doing us a favor in paying us a visit."
"The old scamp," said Mr. Barbour, "he has a frolic in view; he wants to go off to-morrow either to a campmeeting, or a barbecue. He looks as if he were hooked together, and could be taken apart limb by limb."
Bacchus had commenced bowing some time before he reached the piazza, but on ascending the steps he made a particularly low bow to his master, and then in the same manner, though with much less reverence, paid his respects to the others.
"Well, Bacchus?" said Mr. Weston.
"How is yer health dis evenin, master? You aint been so well latterly. We'll soon have green corn though, and that helps dispepsy wonderful."
"It may be good for dyspepsia, Bacchus," said Mr. Weston, "but it sometimes gives old people cholera morbus, when they eat it raw; so I advise you to remember last year's experience, and roast it before you eat it."
"I shall, indeed," replied Bacchus; "'twas an awful time I had last summer. My blessed grief! but I thought my time was done come. But de Lord was mighty good to me, he brought me up again—Miss Janet's physic done me more good though than any thing, only it put me to sleep, and I never slept so much in my born days."
"You were always something of a sleeper, I am told, Bacchus," said Cousin Janet; "though I have no doubt the laudanum had that effect; you must be more prudent; old people cannot take such liberties with themselves."
"Lor, Miss Janet, I aint so mighty ole now; besure I aint no chicken nother; but thar's Aunt Peggy; she's what I call a raal ole nigger; she's an African. Miss Alice, aint she never told you bout de time she seed an elerphant drink a river dry?"
"Yes," said Alice, "but she dreamed that."
"No, Miss, she actually seed it wid her own eyes. They's mighty weak and dim now, but she could see out of 'em once, I tell ye. It's hot nuff here sometimes, but Aunt Peggy says it's winter to what 'tis in Guinea, whar she was raised till she was a big gall. One day when de sun was mighty strong, she seed an elerphant a comin along. She runned fast enough, she had no 'casion to grease her heels wid quicksilver; she went mighty fast, no doubt; she didn't want dat great beast's hoof in her wool. You and me seed an elerphant de time we was in Washington, long wid master, Miss Alice, and I thought 'bout Aunt Peggy that time. 'Twas a 'nageree we went to. You know I held you in my arms over de people's heads to see de monkeys ride.
"Well, Aunt Peggy say she runned till she couldn't run no longer, so she clumb a great tree, and sat in de branches and watched him. He made straight for de river, and he kicked up de sand wid his hoofs, as he went along, till he come to de bank; den he begins to drink, and he drinks, I tell you. Aunt Peggy say every swaller he took was least a gallon, and he drunk all dat blessed mornin. After a while she seed de water gitting very low, and last he gits enuff. He must a got his thirst squinched by dat time. So Aunt Peggy, she waded cross de river, when de elephant had went, and two days arter dat, de river was clean gone, bare as my hand. Master," continued Bacchus, "I has a great favor to ax of you."
"Barbecue or campmeeting, Bacchus?" said Mr. Barbour.
"If you please, master," said he, addressing Mr. Weston, but at the same time giving an imploring look to Mr. Barbour, "to 'low me to go way to-morrow and wait at de barbecue. Mr. Semmes, he wants me mightily; he says he'll give me a dollar a day if I goes. I'll sure and be home agin in the evenin."
"I am afraid to give you permission," said Mr. Weston; "this habit of drinking, that is growing upon you, is a disgrace to your old age. You remember you were picked up and brought home in a cart from campmeeting this summer, and I am surprised that you should so soon ask a favor of me."
"I feels mighty shamed o' that, sir," said Bacchus, "but I hope you will 'scuse it. Niggers aint like white people, no how; they can't 'sist temptation. I've repented wid tears for dat business, and 'twont happen agin, if it please the Lord not to lead me into temptation."
"You led yourself into temptation," said Mr. Weston; "you took pains to cross two or three fences, and to go round by Norris's tavern, when, if you had chosen, you could have come home by the other road."
"True as gospel, ma'am," said Bacchus, "I don't deny de furst word of it; the Lord forgive me for backsliding; but master's mighty good to us, and if he'll overlook that little misfortune of mine, it shan't happen agin."
"You call it a misfortune, do you, Bacchus?" said Mr. Barbour; "why, it seems to me such a great Christian as you are, would have given the right name to it, and called it a sin. I am told you are turned preacher?"
"No, sir," said Bacchus, "I aint no preacher, I warn't called to be; I leads in prayer sometimes, and in general I rises de tunes."
"Well, I suppose I can't refuse you," said Mr. Weston; "but come home sober, or ask no more permissions."
"God bless you, master; don't be afeard: you'll see you can trust me. I aint gwine to disgrace our family no more. I has to have a little change sometimes, for Miss Janet knows my wife keeps me mighty straight at home. She 'lows me no privileges, and if I didn't go off sometimes for a little fun, I shouldn't have no health, nor sperrets nother."
"You wouldn't have any sperrits, that's certain," said Alice, laughing; "I should like to see a bottle of whisky in Aunt Phillis's cabin."
Bacchus laughed outright, infinitely overcome at the suggestion. "My blessed grief! Miss Alice," said he, "she'd make me eat de bottle, chaw up all de glass, swaller it arter dat. I aint ever tried dat yet—best not to, I reckon. No, master, I intends to keep sober from this time forrurd, till young master comes back; den I shall git high, spite of Phillis, and 'scuse me, sir, spite of de devil hisself. When is he comin, any how, sir?"
"Next year, I hope, Bacchus," said Mr. Weston.
"Long time, sir," said Bacchus; "like as not he'll never see old Aunt Peggy agin. She's failin, sir, you can see by de way she sets in de sun all day, wid a long switch in her hand, trying to hit de little niggers as dey go by. Sure sign she's gwine home. If she wasn't altogether wore out, she'd be at somefin better. She's sarved her time cookin and bakin, and she's gwine to a country whar there's no 'casion to cook any more. She's a good old soul, but wonderful cross sometimes."
"She has been an honest, hard-working, and faithful servant, and a sober one too," said Mr. Weston.
"I understand, sir," said Bacchus, humbly; "but don't give yourself no oneasiness about me! I shall be home to-morrow night, ready to jine in at prayers."
"Very well—that will do, Bacchus," said Mr. Weston, who felt anxious to enjoy the society of his friend.
"Good evenin to you all," said Bacchus, retreating with many bows.
We will see how Bacchus kept his word, and for the present leave Mr. Weston to discuss the subjects of the day with his guest; while the ladies paid a visit to Aunt Peggy, and listened to her complaints of "the flies and the little niggers," and the thousand and one ailings that belong to the age of ninety years.
"You rode too far this afternoon, Alice, you seem to be very tired," said Mr. Weston.
"No, dear uncle, I am not fatigued; the wind was cold, and it makes me feel stupid."
"Why did not Walter come in?" asked Mr. Weston. "I saw him returning with you by the old road."
"He said he had an engagement this evening," replied Alice, as she raised her head from her uncle's shoulder.
"Poor Walter!" said Cousin Janet; "with the education and habits of a gentleman, he is to be pitied that it is only as a favor he is received, among those with whom he may justly consider himself on an equality."
"But is not Walter our equal?" asked Alice. Cousin Janet held her knitting close to her eyes to look for a dropped stitch, while Mr. Weston replied for her:
"My love, you know, probably, that Walter is not an equal by right of birth to those whose parents held a fair and honorable position in society. His father, a man of rare talents, of fascinating appearance, and winning address, was the ruin of all connected with him. (Even his mother, broken-hearted by his career of extravagance and dissipation, found rest in the termination of a life that had known no rest.) His first wife, (not Walter's mother,) a most interesting woman, was divorced from him by an unjust decision of the law, for after her death circumstances transpired that clearly proved her innocence. Walter's mother was not married, as far as is known; though some believe she was, and that she concealed it in consequence of the wishes and threats of Mr. Lee, who was ashamed to own the daughter of a tradesman for his wife."
"But all this is not Walter's fault, uncle," said Alice.
"Assuredly not; but there is something due to our long established opinions. Walter should go to a new country, where these things are not known, and where his education and talents would advance him. Here they are too fresh in the memory of many. Yet do I feel most kindly towards him, though he rather repels the interest we take in him by his haughty coldness of manner. The attachment between him and my son from their infancy draws me towards him. Arthur writes, though, that his letters are very reserved and not frequent. What can be the meaning of it?"
"There was always a want of candor and generosity in Walter's disposition," remarked Alice's mother.
"You never liked him, Anna," said Mr. Weston; "why was it?"
"Arthur and Walter contrast so strongly," answered Mrs. Weston. "Arthur was always perfectly honest and straight-forward, even as a little child; though quiet in his way of showing it, he is so affectionate in his disposition. Walter is passionate and fickle, condescending to those he loves, but treating with a proud indifference every one else. I wonder he does not go abroad, he has the command of his fortune now, and here he can never be happily situated; no woman of delicacy would ever think of marrying him with that stain on his birth."
"How beautiful his mother was, Cousin Janet!" said Mr. Weston. "I have never seen more grace and refinement. I often look at Walter, and recall her, with her beautiful brown hair and blue eyes. How short her course was, too! I think she died at eighteen."
"Do tell me about her, uncle," said Alice.
"Cousin Janet can, better than I, my darling. Have you never told Alice her history, cousin?"
"No, it is almost too sad a tale for Alice's ear, and there is something holy, in my mind, in the recollection of the sorrows of that young person. I believe she was a wife, though an unacknowledged one. If the grave would give up its secrets—but it will, it will—the time will come for justice to all, even to poor Ellen Haywood.
"That young creature was worse than an orphan, for her father, thriving in business at one time, became dissipated and reckless. Ellen's time was her own; and after her mother's death her will was uncontrolled. Her education was not good enough to give her a taste for self-improvement. She had a fine mind, though, and the strictest sense of propriety and dignity. Her remarkable beauty drew towards her the attention of the young men of her own class, as well as those of good family; but she was always prudent. Poor girl! knowing she was motherless and friendless, I tried to win her regard; I asked her to come to the house, with some other young girls of the neighborhood, to study the Bible under my poor teachings; but she declined, and I afterwards went to see her, hoping to persuade her to come. I found her pale and delicate, and much dispirited. Thanking me most earnestly, she begged me to excuse her, saying she rarely went out, on account of her father's habits, fearing something might occur during her absence from home. I was surprised to find her so depressed, yet I do not remember ever to have seen any thing like guilt, in all the interviews with her, from that hour until her death.
"Ellen's father died; but not before many had spoken lightly of his daughter. Mr. Lee was constantly at the house; and what but Ellen's beauty could take him there! No one was without a prejudice against Mr. Lee, and I have often wondered that Ellen could have overlooked what every one knew, the treatment his wife had received. You will think," continued Cousin Janet, "that it is because I am an old maid, and am full of notions, that I cannot imagine how a woman can love a man who has been divorced from his wife. I, who have never loved as the novelists say, have the most exalted ideas of marriage. It is in Scripture, the type of Christ's love to the church. Life is so full of cares; there is something holy in the thought of one heart being privileged to rest its burden on another. But how can that man be loved who has put away his wife from him, because he is tired of her? for this is the meaning of the usual excuses—incompatibility of temper, and the like. Yet Ellen did love him, with a love passing description; she forgot his faults and her own position; she loved as I would never again wish to see a friend of mine love any creature of the earth.
"Time passed, and Ellen was despised. Mr. Lee left abruptly for Europe, and I heard that this poor young woman was about to become a mother. I knew she was alone in the world, and I knew my duty too. I went to her, and I thank Him who inclined me to seek this wandering lamb of his fold, and to be (it may be) the means of leading her back to His loving care and protection. I often saw her during the last few weeks of her life, and she was usually alone; Aunt Lucy, her mother's servant, and her own nurse when an infant, being the only other occupant of her small cottage.
"Speaking of her, brings back, vividly as if it happened yesterday, the scene with which her young life closed. Lucy sent for me, as I had charged her, but the messenger delayed, and in consequence, Ellen had been some hours sick when I arrived. Oh! how lovely her face appears to my memory, as I recall her. She was in no pain at the moment I entered; her head was supported by pillows, and her brown hair fell over them and over her neck. Her eyes were bright as an angel's, her cheeks flushed to a crimson color, and her white, beautiful hand grasped a cane which Dr. Lawton had just placed there, hoping to relieve some of her symptoms by bleeding. Lucy stood by, full of anxiety and affection, for this faithful servant loved her as she loved her own life. My heart reproached me for my unintentional neglect, but I was in a moment by her side, supporting her head upon my breast.
"It is like a dream, that long night of agony. The patience of Ellen, the kindness of her physician, and the devotion of her old nurse—I thought that only a wife could have endured as she did.
"Before this, Ellen had told me her wishes as regards her child, persuaded that, if it should live, she should not survive its birth to take care of it. She entreated me to befriend it in the helpless time of infancy, and then to appeal to its father in its behalf. I promised her to do so, always chiding her for not hoping and trusting. 'Ellen,' I would say, 'life is a blessing as long as God gives it, and it is our duty to consider it so.'
"'Yes, Miss Janet, but if God give me a better life, shall I not esteem it a greater blessing? I have not deserved shame and reproach, and I cannot live under it. Right glad and happy am I, that a few sods of earth will soon cover all.'
"Such remarks as these," continued Cousin Janet, "convinced me that there was grief, but not guilt, on Ellen's breast, and for her own sake, I hoped that she would so explain to me her past history, that I should have it in my power to clear her reputation. But she never did. Truly, 'she died and made no sign,' and it is reserved to a future day to do her justice.
"I said she died. That last night wore on, and no word of impatience or complaint escaped her lips. The agony of death found her quiet and composed. Night advanced, and the gray morning twilight fell on those features, no longer flushed and excited. Severe faintings had come on, and the purple line under the blue eyes heralded the approach of death. Her luxuriant hair lay in damp masses about her; her white arms were cold, and the moisture of death was gathering there too. 'Oh! Miss Ellen,' cried old Lucy, 'you will be better soon—bear up a little longer.'
"'Ellen dear,' I said, 'try and keep up.' But who can give life and strength save One?—and He was calling to her everlasting rest the poor young sufferer.
"'Miss Ellen,' again cried Lucy, 'you have a son; speak to me, my darling;' but, like Rachel of old, she could not be thus revived, 'her soul was in departing.'
"Lucy bore away the child from the chamber of death, and I closed her white eyelids, and laid her hands upon her breast. Beautiful was she in death: she had done with pain and tears forever.
"I never can forget," continued Cousin Janet, after a pause of a few moments, "Lucy's grief. She wept unceasingly by Ellen's side, and it was impossible to arouse her to a care for her own health, or to an interest in what was passing around. On the day that Ellen was to be buried, I went to the room where she lay prepared for her last long sleep. Death had laid a light touch on her fair face. The sweet white brow round which her hair waved as it had in life—the slightly parted lips—the expression of repose, not only in the countenance, but in the attitude in which her old nurse had laid her, seemed to indicate an awakening to the duties of life. But there was the coffin and the shroud, and there sat Lucy, her eyes heavy with weeping, and her frame feeble from long fasting, and indulgence of bitter, hopeless grief.
"It was in the winter, and a severe snow-storm, an unusual occurrence with us, had swept the country for several days; but on this morning the wind and clouds had gone together, and the sun was lighting up the hills and river, and the crystals of snow were glistening on the evergreens that stood in front of the cottage door. One ray intruded through the shutter into the darkened room, and rested on a ring, which I had never observed before, on Ellen's left hand. It was on the third finger, and its appearance there was so unexpected to me, that for a moment my strength forsook me, and I leaned against the table on which the coffin rested, for support.
"'Lucy,' I said, 'when was that placed there?'
"'I put it there, ma'am.'
"'But what induced you?'
"'She told me to do so, ma'am. A few days before she was taken sick, she called me and took from her bureau-drawer, that ring. The ring was in a small box. She was very pale when she spoke—she looked more like death than she does now, ma'am. I know'd she wasn't able to stand, and I said, 'Sit down, honey, and then tell me what you want me to do.'
"'Mammy,' said she, 'you've had a world of trouble with me, and you've had trouble of your own all your life; but I am not going to give you much more—I shall soon be where trouble cannot come.'
"'Don't talk that way, child,' said I, 'you will get through with this, and then you will have something to love and to care for, that will make you happy again.'
"'Never in this world,' said she; 'but mammy, I have one favor more to ask of you—and you must promise me to do it.'
"'What is it, Miss Ellen?' said I, 'you know I would die for you if 'twould do you any good.'
"'It is this,' she said, speaking very slowly, and in a low tone, 'when I am dead, mammy, when you are all by yourself, for I am sure you will stay by me to the last, I want you to put this ring on the third finger of my left hand—will you remember?—on the third finger of my left hand.' She said it over twice, ma'am, and she was whiter than that rose that lays on her poor breast.'
"'Miss Ellen,' says I, 'as sure as there's a God in heaven you are Mr. Lee's wife, and why don't you say so, and stand up for yourself? Don't you see how people sneer at you when they see you?'
"'Yes, but don't say any more. It will soon be over. I made a promise, and I will keep it; God will do me justice when he sees fit.'
"'But, Miss Ellen,' says I, 'for the sake of the child'—
"'Hush! mammy, that is the worst of all; but I will trust in Him. It's a dreadful sin to love as I have, but God has punished me. Do you remember, dear mammy, when I was a child, how tired I would get, chasing butterflies while the day lasted, and when night came, how I used to spring, and try to catch the lightning-bugs that were flying around me—and you used to beg me to come in and rest or go to bed, but I would not until I could no longer stand; then I laid myself on your breast and forgot all my weariness? So it is with me now; I have had my own way, and I have suffered, and have no more strength to spend; I will lie down in the grave, and sleep where no one will reproach me. Promise me you will do what I ask you, and I will die contented.'
"'I promised her, ma'am, and I have done it.'
"'It is very strange, Lucy,' said I, 'there seems to have been a mysterious reason why she would not clear herself; but it is of no use to try and unravel the mystery. She has no friends left to care about it; we can only do as she said, leave all to God.'
"'Ah ma'am,' said Lucy, 'what shall I do now she is gone? I have got no friend left; if I could only die too—Lord have mercy upon me.'
"'You have still a friend, Lucy,' I said. 'One that well deserves the name of friend. You must seek Him out, and make a friend of Him. Jesus Christ is the friend of the poor and desolate. Have you no children, Lucy?'
"'God only knows, ma'am.'
"'What do you mean?' I said. 'Are they all dead?'
"'They are gone, ma'am—all sold. I ain't seen one of them for twenty years. Days have come and gone, and nights have come and gone, but day and night is all the same to me. You did not hear, may be, for grand folks don't often hear of the troubles of the poor slave—that one day I had seven children with me, and the next they were all sold; taken off, and I did not even see them, to bid them good-by. My master sent me, with my mistress to the country, where her father lived, (for she was sickly, and he said it would do her good,) and when we came back there was no child to meet me. I have cried, ma'am, enough for Miss Ellen, but I never shed a tear for my own.'
"'But what induced him, Lucy, to do such a wicked thing?'
"'Money, ma'am, and drinking, and the devil. He did not leave me one. My five boys, and my two girls, all went at once. My oldest daughter, ma'am, I was proud of her, for she was a handsome girl, and light-colored too—she went, and the little one, ma'am. My heart died in me. I hated him. I used to dream I had killed him, and I would laugh out in my sleep, but I couldn't murder him on her account. My mistress, she cried day and night, and called him cruel, and she would say, 'Lucy, I'd have died before I would have done it.' I couldn't murder him, ma'am, 'twas my mistress held me back.'
"'No, Lucy,' said I, ''twas not your mistress, it was the Lord; and thank Him that you are not a murderer. Did you ever think of the consequences of such an act?'
"'Lor, ma'am, do you think I cared for that? I wasn't afraid of hanging.'
"'I did not mean that, Lucy. I meant, did you not fear His power, who could not only kill your body, but destroy your soul in hell?'
"'I didn't think of any thing, for a long time. My mistress got worse after that, and I nursed her until she died; poor Miss Ellen was a baby, and I had her too. When master died I thought it was no use for me to wish him ill, for the hand of the Lord was heavy on him, for true. 'Lucy,' he said, 'you are a kind nurse to me, though I sold your children, but I've had no rest since.' I couldn't make him feel worse, ma'am, for he was going to his account with all his sins upon him.'
"'This is the first time Lucy,' I said, 'that I have ever known children to be sold away from their mother, and I look upon the crime with as great a horror as you do.'
"'Its the only time I ever knowed it, ma'am, and everybody pitied me, and many a kind thing was said to me, and many a hard word was said of him; true enough, but better be forgotten, as he is in his grave.'
"Some persons now entered, and Lucy became absorbed in her present grief; her old frame shook as with a tempest, when the fair face was hid from her sight. There were few mourners; Cousin Weston and I followed her to the grave. I believe Ellen was as pure as the white lilies Lucy planted at her head."
"Did Lucy ever hear of her children?" asked Alice.
"No, my darling, she died soon after Ellen. She was quite an old woman, and had never been strong."
"Uncle," said Alice, "I did not think any one could be so inhuman as to separate mother and children."
"It is the worst feature in slavery," replied Mr. Weston, "and the State should provide laws to prevent it; but such a circumstance is very uncommon. Haywood, Ellen's father, was a notoriously bad man, and after this wicked act was held in utter abhorrence in the neighborhood. It is the interest of a master to make his slaves happy, even were he not actuated by better motives. Slavery is an institution of our country; and while we are privileged to maintain our rights, we should make them comfortable here, and fit them for happiness hereafter."
"Did you bring Lucy home with you, Cousin Janet?" asked Alice.
"Yes, my love, and little Walter too. He was a dear baby—now he is a man of fortune, (for Mr. Lee left him his entire property,) and is under no one's control. He will always be very dear to me. But here comes Mark with the Prayer Book."
"Lay it here, Mark," said Mr. Weston, "and ring the bell for the servants. I like all who can to come and unite with me in thanking God for His many mercies. Strange, I have opened the Holy Book where David says, (and we will join with him,) 'Praise the Lord, oh! my soul, and all that is within me, praise his holy name.'"
After the other members of the family had retired, Mr. Weston, as was usual with him, sat for a while in the parlor to read. The closing hour of the day is, of all, the time that we love to dwell on the subject nearest our heart. As, at the approach of death, the powers of the mind rally, and the mortal, faint and feeble, with but a few sparks of decaying life within him, arouses to a sense of his condition, and puts forth all his energies, to meet the hour of parting with earth and turning his face to heaven; so, at the close of the evening, the mind, wearied with its day's travelling, is about to sink into that repose as necessary for it as for the body—that repose so often compared to the one in which the tired struggler with life, has "forever wrapped the drapery of his couch about him, and laid down to pleasant dreams." Ere yielding, it turns with energy to the calls of memory, though it is so soon to forget all for a while. It hears voices long since hushed, and eyes gaze into it that have looked their last upon earthly visions. Time is forgotten, Affection for a while holds her reign, Sorrow appears with her train of reproachings and remorse, until exhaustion comes to its aid, and it obtains the relief so bountifully provided by Him who knoweth well our frames. With Mr. Weston this last hour was well employed, for he not only read, but studied the Holy Scriptures. Possessed of an unusually placid temperament, there had occurred in his life but few events calculated to change the natural bent of his disposition. The death of his wife was indeed a bitter grief; but he had not married young, and she had lived so short a time, that after a while he returned to his usual train of reflection. But for the constant presence of his son, whose early education he superintended, he would have doubted if there ever had been a reality to the remembrance of the happy year he had passed in her society.
With his hand resting on the sacred page, and his heart engrossed with the lessons it taught, he was aroused from his occupation by a loud noise proceeding from the kitchen. This was a most unusual circumstance, for besides that the kitchen was at some distance from the house, the servants were generally quiet and orderly. It was far from being the case at present. Mr. Weston waited a short time to give affairs time to right themselves, but at length determined to inquire into the cause of the confusion.
As he passed through the long hall, the faces of his ancestors looked down upon him by the dim light. There was a fair young lady, with an arm white as snow, unconcealed by a sleeve, unless the fall of a rich border of lace from her shoulder could be called by that name. Her golden hair was brushed back from her forehead, and fell in masses over her shoulders. Her face was slightly turned, and there was a smile playing about her mouth.
Next her was a grave-looking cavalier, her husband. There were old men, with powdered hair and the rich dress of bygone times.
There were the hoop and the brocades, and the stomacher, and the fair bosom, against which a rose leaned, well satisfied with its lounging place. Over the hall doors, the antlers of the stag protruded, reminding one that the chase had been a favorite pastime with the self-exiled sons of Merry England.
Such things have passed away from thee, my native State! Forever have they gone, and the times when over waxed floors thy sons and daughters gracefully performed the minuet. The stately bow, the graceful curtsey are seen no more; there is hospitality yet lingering in thy halls, but fashion is making its way there too. The day when there was a tie between master and slave,—is that departing, and why?
Mr. Weston passed from the house under a covered way to the kitchen, and with a firm but slow step, entered. And here, if you be an Old or a New Englander, let me introduce you—as little at home would be Queen Victoria holding court in the Sandwich Islands, as you here. You may look in vain for that bane of good dinners, a cooking stove; search forever for a grain of saleratus or soda, and it will be in vain. That large, round block, with the wooden hammer, is the biscuit-beater; and the cork that is lifting itself from the jug standing on it, belongs to the yeast department.
Mr. Weston did not, nor will we, delay to glance at the well-swept earthen floor, and the bright tins in rows on the dresser, but immediately addressed himself to Aunt Peggy, who, seated in a rush-bottomed chair in the corner, and rocking herself backwards and forwards, was talking rapidly.
And oh! what a figure had Aunt Peggy; or rather, what a face. Which was the blacker, her eyes or her visage; or whiter, her eyeballs or her hair? The latter, unconfined by her bandanna handkerchief as she generally wore it, standing off from her head in masses, like snow. And who that had seen her, could forget that one tooth projecting over her thick underlip, and in constant motion as she talked.
"It's no use, Mister Bacchus," said she, addressing the old man, who looked rather the worse for wear, "it's no use to be flinging yer imperence in my face. I'se worked my time; I'se cooked many a grand dinner, and eat 'em too. You'se a lazy wagabond yerself."
"Peggy," interposed Mr. Weston.
"A good-for-nothing, lazy wagabond, yerself," continued Peggy, not noticing Mr. Weston, "you'se not worth de hommony you eats."
"Does you hear that, master?" said Bacchus, appealing to Mr. Weston; "she's such an old fool."
"Hold your tongue, sir," said Mr. Weston; while Mark, ready to strangle his fellow-servant for his impertinence, was endeavoring to drag him out of the room.
"Ha, ha," said Peggy, "so much for Mr. Bacchus going to barbecues. A nice waiter he makes."
"Do you not see me before you, Peggy?" said Mr. Weston, "and do you continue this disputing in my presence? If you were not so old, and had not been so faithful for many years, I would not excuse such conduct. You are very ungrateful, when you are so well cared for; and from this time forward, if you cannot be quiet and set a good example in the kitchen, do not come into it."
"Don't be afeard, master, I can stay in my own cabin. If I has been well treated, it's no more den I desarves. I'se done nuff for you and yours, in my day; slaved myself for you and your father before you. De Lord above knows I dont want ter stay whar dat ole drunken nigger is, no how. Hand me my cane, dar, Nancy, I ain't gwine to 'trude my 'siety on nobody." And Peggy hobbled off, not without a most contemptuous look at Bacchus, who was making unsuccessful efforts to rise in compliment to his master.
"As for you, Bacchus," said Mr. Weston, "never let this happen again. I will not allow you to wait at barbecues, in future."
"Don't say so, master, if you please; dat ox, if you could a smelled him roastin, and de whiskey-punch," and Bacchus snapped his finger, as the only way of concluding the sentence to his own satisfaction.
"Take him off, Mark," said Mr. Weston, "the drunken old rascal."
"Master," said Bacchus, pushing Mark off, "I don't like de way you speak to me; t'aint 'spectful."
"Carry him off," said Mr. Weston, again. "John, help Mark."
"Be off wid yourselves, both of ye," said Bacchus; "if ye don't, I'll give you de devil, afore I quits."
"I'll shut your mouth for you," said Mark, "talking so before master; knock him over, John, and push him out."
Bacchus was not so easily overcome. The god whose namesake he was, stood by him for a time. Suddenly the old fellow's mood changed; with a patronizing smile he turned to Mr. Weston, and said, "Master, you must 'scuse me: I aint well dis evening. I has the dyspepsy; my suggestion aint as good as common. I think dat ox was done too much."
Mr. Weston could not restrain a smile at his grotesque appearance, and ridiculous language. Mark and John took advantage of the melting mood which had come over him, and led him off without difficulty. On leaving the kitchen, he went into a pious fit, and sung out
"When I can read my title clar."
Mr. Weston heard him say, "Don't, Mark; don't squeeze an ole nigger so; do you 'spose you'll ever get to Heaven, if you got no more feelins than that?"
"I hope," said Mr. Weston, addressing the other servants, "that you will all take warning by this scene. An honest and respectable servant like Bacchus, to degrade himself in this way—it gives me great pain to see it. William," said he, addressing a son of Bacchus, who stood by the window, "did you deliver my note to Mr. Walter?"
"Yes, sir; he says he'll come to dinner; I was on my way in to tell you, but they was making such a fuss here."
"Very well," said Mr. Weston. "The rest of you go to bed, quietly; I am sure there will be no more disturbance to-night."
But, what will the Abolitionist say to this scene? Where were the whip and the cord, and other instruments of torture? Such consideration, he contends, was never shown in the southern country. With Martin Tupper, I say,
"Hear reason, oh! brother; Hear reason and right."
It has been, that master and slave were friends; and if this cannot continue, at whose door will the sin lie?
The Abolitionist says to the slave, Go! but what does he do that really advances his interest? He says to the master, Give up thine own! but does he offer to share in the loss? No; he would give to the Lord of that which costs him nothing.
Should the southern country become free, should the eyes of the world see no stain upon her escutcheon, it will not be through the efforts of these fanatics. If white labor could be substituted for black, better were it that she should not have this weight upon her. The emancipation of her slaves will never be accomplished by interference or force. Good men assist in colonizing them, and the Creator may thus intend to christianize benighted Africa. Should this be the Divine will, oh! that from every port, steamers were going forth, bearing our colored people to their natural home!
My readers must go with me to a military station at the North, and date back two years from the time of my story. The season must change, and instead of summer sunsets and roses, we will bring before them three feet of snow, and winter's bleakest winds.
Neither of these inconvenienced the company assembled in the comfortable little parlor of Captain Moore's quarters, with a coal-grate almost as large as the room, and curtains closely drawn over the old style windows: Mrs. Moore was reduced to the utmost extremity of her wits to make the room look modern; but it is astonishing, the genius of army ladies for putting the best foot foremost. This room was neither square nor oblong; and though a mere box in size, it had no less than four doors (two belonged to the closets) and three windows. The closets were utterly useless, being occupied by an indomitable race of rats and mice; they had an impregnable fortress somewhere in the old walls, and kept possession, in spite of the house-keeping artillery Mrs. Moore levelled against them. The poor woman gave up in despair; she locked the doors, and determined to starve the garrison into submission.
She was far more successful in other respects, having completely banished the spirits of formality and inhospitality that presided in these domains. The house was outside the fort, and had been purchased from a citizen who lived there, totally apart from his race; Mrs. Moore had the comfort of hearing, on taking possession, that all sorts of ghosts were at home there; but she was a cheerful kind of woman, and did not believe in them any more than she did in clairvoyance, so she set to work with a brave heart, and every thing yielded to her sway, excepting the aforesaid rats and mice.
Her parlor was the very realization of home comfort. The lounge by the three windows was covered with small figured French chintz, and it was a delightful seat, or bed, as the occasion required. She had the legs of several of the chairs sawed off, and made cushions for them, covered with pieces of the chintz left from the lounge. The armchairs that looked at each other from either side of the fireplace place, not being of velvet, were made to sit in.
In one corner of the room, (there were five,) a fine-toned guitar rested against the wall; in another, was a large fly-brush of peacock's feathers, with a most unconscionable number of eyes. In the third, was Captain Moore's sword and sash. In the fourth, was Mrs. Moore's work-basket, where any amount of thimbles, needles, and all sorts of sewing implements could be found. And in the fifth corner was the baby-jumper, its fat and habitual occupant being at this time oblivious to the day's exertions; in point of fact, he was up stairs in a red pine crib, sound asleep with his thumb in his mouth.
One of Chickering's best pianos stood open in this wonderful little parlor, and Mrs. Moore rung out sweet sounds from it evening after evening. Mrs. M. was an industrious, intelligent Southern woman; before she met Captain Moore, she had a sort of antipathy to dogs and Yankees; both, however, suddenly disappeared, for after a short acquaintance, she fell desperately in love with the captain, and allowed his great Newfoundland dog, (who had saved the captain, and a great number of boys from drowning,) to lick her hand, and rest his cold, black nose on her lap; on this evening Neptune lay at her feet, and was another ornament of the parlor. Indeed, he should have been mentioned in connection with the baby-jumper, for wherever the baby was in the day time, there was Neptune, but he seemed to think that a Newfoundland dog had other duties incumbent upon him in the evening than watching babies, so he listened attentively to the music, dozing now and then. Sometimes, during a very loud strain, he would suddenly rouse and look intently at the coal-fire; but finding himself mistaken, that he had only dreamed it was a river, and that a boy who was fishing on its banks had tumbled in, and required his services to pull him out, would fall down on the rug again and take another nap.
I have said nothing of this rug, which Neptune thought was purchased for him, nor of the bright red carpet, nor of the nice china candlesticks on the mantel-piece, (which could not be reached without a step-ladder,) nor of the silver urn, which was Mrs. Moore's great-grandmother's, nor of the lard-lamp which lit up every thing astonishingly, because I am anxious to come to the point of this chapter, and cannot do justice to all these things. But it would be the height of injustice, in me, to pass by Lieutenant Jones's moustaches, for the simple reason, that since the close of the Mexican war, he had done little else but cultivate them. They were very brown, glossy, and luxuriant, entirely covering his upper lip, so that it was only in a hearty laugh that one would have any reason to suppose he had cut his front teeth; but he had, and they were worth cutting, too, which is not always the case with teeth. The object of wearing these moustaches was, evidently, to give himself a warlike and ferocious appearance; in this, he was partially successful, having the drawbacks of a remarkably gentle and humane countenance, and a pair of mild blue eyes. He was a very good-natured young man, and had shot a wild turkey in Mexico, the tail of which he had brought home to Mrs. Moore, to be made into a fan. (This fan, too, was in the parlor, of which may be said what was once thought of the schoolmaster's head, that the only wonder was, it could contain so much.)
Next to Mr. Jones we will notice a brevet-second lieutenant, just attached to the regiment, and then introduce a handsome bachelor captain. (These are scarce in the army, and should be valued accordingly.) This gentleman was a fine musician, and the brevet played delightfully on the flute; in fact, they had had quite a concert this evening. Then there was Colonel Watson, the commanding officer, who had happened in, Mrs. Moore being an especial favorite of his; and there was a long, lean, gaunt-looking gentleman, by the name of Kent. He was from Vermont, and was an ultra Abolitionist. They had all just returned from the dining-room, where they had been eating cold turkey and mince pies; and though there was a fair chance of the nightmare some hours hence, yet for the present they were in an exceedingly high state of health and spirits.
Now, Mrs. Moore had brought from Carolina a woman quite advanced in life. She had been a very faithful servant, and Mrs. Moore's mother, wishing her daughter to have the benefit of her services, and feeling perfect confidence in Polly's promise that under no circumstances would she leave her daughter without just cause, had concluded that the best way of managing affairs would be to set her free at once. She did so; but Polly being one of those persons who take the world quietly, was not the least elated at being her own mistress; she rather felt it to be a kind of experiment to which there was some risk attached. Mrs. Moore paid her six dollars a month for her services, and from the time they had left home together until the present moment, Polly had been a most efficient servant, and a sort of friend whose opinions were valuable in a case of emergency.
For instance, Captain Moore was a temperance man, and in consequence, opposed to brandy, wine, and the like being kept in his house. This was quite a trouble to his wife, for she knew that good mince pies and pudding sauces could not be made without a little of the wherewithal; so she laid her difficulties before Aunt Polly, and begged her to advise what was best to do.
"You see, Aunt Polly, Captain Moore says that a good example ought to be set to the soldiers; and that since the Mexican war the young officers are more inclined to indulge than they used to be; that he feels such a responsibility in the case that he can't bear the sight of a bottle in the house."
"Well, honey," said Aunt Polly, "he says he likes my mince pies, and my puddins, mightily; and does he 'spect me to make 'em good, and make 'em out of nothin, too?"
"That's what I say, Aunt Polly, for you know none of us like to drink. The captain belongs to the Temperance Society; and I don't like it, because it gets into my head, and makes me stupid; and you never drink any thing, so if we could only manage to get him to let us keep it to cook with."
"As to that, child," said Aunt Polly, "I mus have it to cook with, that's a pint settled; there aint no use 'sputin about it. If he thinks I'm gwine to change my way of cookin in my old age, he's mightily mistaken. He need'nt think I'm gwine to make puddins out o' one egg, and lighten my muffins with snow, like these ere Yankees, 'kase I aint gwine to do it for nobody. I sot out to do my duty by you, and I'll do it; but for all that, I aint bound to set to larnin new things this time o' day. I'll cook Carolina fashion, or I wont cook at all."
"Well, but what shall I do?" said Mrs. Moore; "you wouldn't have me do a thing my husband disapproves of, would you?"
"No, that I wouldn't, Miss Emmy," said Aunt Polly. "My old man's dust and ashes long ago, but I always done what I could to please him. Men's mighty onreasonable, the best of 'em, but when a woman is married she ought to do all she can for the sake of peace. I dont see what a man has got to do interferin with the cookin, no how; a woman oughter 'tend to these matters. 'Pears to me, Mr. Moore, (captain, as you calls him,) is mighty fidjetty about bottles, all at once. But if he cant bear the sight of a brandy bottle in the house, bring 'em down here to me; I'll keep 'em out of his sight, I'll be bound. I'll put 'em in the corner of my old chist yonder, and I'd like to see him thar, rummagin arter brandy bottles or any thing else."
Mrs. Moore was very much relieved by this suggestion, and when her husband came in, she enlarged on the necessity of Polly's having her own way about the cooking, and wound up by saying that Polly must take charge of all the bottles, and by this arrangement he would not be annoyed by the sight of them.
"But, my dear," said he, "do you think it right to give such things in charge of a servant?"
"Why, Aunt Polly never drinks."
"Yes, but Emmy, you don't consider the temptation."
"La, William, do hush; why if you talk about temptation, she's had that all her life, and she could have drank herself to death long ago. Just say yes, and be done with it, for it has worried me to death all day, and I want it settled, and off my mind."
"Well, do as you like," said Captain Moore, "but remember, it will be your fault if any thing happens."
"Nothing is going to happen," said Mrs. Moore, jumping up, and seizing the wine and brandy bottles by the necks, and descending to the lower regions with them.
"Here they are, Aunt Polly. William consents to your having them; and mind you keep them out of sight."
"Set 'em down in the cheer thar, I'll take care of 'em, I jist wanted some brandy to put in these potato puddins. I wonder what they'd taste like without it."
But Mrs. Moore could not wait to talk about it, she was up stairs in another moment, holding her baby on Neptune's back, and more at ease in her mind than she had been since the subject was started, twenty-four hours before.
There was but one other servant in the house, a middle-aged woman, who had run away from her mistress in Boston; or rather, she had been seduced off by the Abolitionists. While many would have done well under the circumstances, Susan had never been happy, or comfortable, since this occurred. Besides the self-reproach that annoyed her, (for she had been brought on from Georgia to nurse a sick child, and its mother, a very feeble person, had placed her dependence upon her,) Susan was illy calculated to shift for herself. She was a timid, delicate woman, with rather a romantic cast of mind; her mistress had always been an invalid, and was fond of hearing her favorite books read aloud. For the style of books that Susan had been accustomed to listen to, as she sat at her sewing, Lalla Rookh would be a good specimen; and, as she had never been put to hard work, but had merely been an attendant about her mistress' room, most of her time was occupied in a literary way. Thus, having an excellent memory, her head was a sort of store-room for lovesick snatches of song. The Museum men would represent her as having snatched a feather of the bird of song; but as this is a matter-of-fact kind of story, we will observe, that Susan not being naturally very strong-minded, and her education not more advanced than to enable her to spell out an antiquated valentine, or to write a letter with a great many small i's in it, she is rather to be considered the victim of circumstances and a soft heart. She was, nevertheless, a conscientious woman; and when she left Georgia, to come North, had any one told her that she would run away, she would have answered in the spirit, if not the expression, of the oft quoted, "Is thy servant a dog?"
She enjoyed the journey to the North, the more that the little baby improved very much in strength; she had had, at her own wish, the entire charge of him from his birth.
The family had not been two days at the Revere House before Susan found herself an object of interest to men who were gentlemen, if broadcloth and patent-leather boots could constitute that valuable article. These individuals seemed to know as much of her as she did of herself, though they plied her with questions to a degree that quite disarranged her usual calm and poetic flow of ideas. As to "Whether she had been born a slave, or had been kidnapped? Whether she had ever been sold? How many times a week she had been whipped, and what with? Had she ever been shut up in a dark cellar and nearly starved? Was she allowed more than one meal a day? Did she ever have any thing but sweet potato pealings? Had she ever been ducked? And, finally, she was desired to open her mouth, that they might see whether her teeth had been extracted to sell to the dentist?"
Poor Susan! after one or two interviews her feelings were terribly agitated; all these horrible suggestions might become realities, and though she loved her home, her mistress, and the baby too, yet she was finally convinced that though born a slave, it was not the intention of Providence, but a mistake, and that she had been miraculously led to this Western Holy Land, of which Boston is the Jerusalem, as the means by which things could be set to rights again.
One beautiful, bright evening, when her mistress had rode out to see the State House by moonlight, Susan kissed the baby, not without many tears, and then threw herself, trembling and dismayed, into the arms and tender mercies of the Abolitionists. They led her into a distant part of the city, and placed her for the night under the charge of some people who made their living by receiving the newly ransomed. The next morning she was to go off, but she found she had reckoned without her host, for when she thanked the good people for her night's lodging and the hashed cod-fish on which she had tried to breakfast, she had a bill to pay, and where was the money? Poor Susan! she had only a quarter of a dollar, and that she had asked her mistress for a week before, to buy a pair of side-combs.
"Why, what a fool you be," said one of the men; "Didn't I tell you to bring your mistress' purse along?"
"And did you think I was going to steal besides running off from her and the poor baby?" answered Susan.
"It's not stealing," said the Abolitionist. "Haven't you been a slaving of yourself all your life for her, and I guess you've a right to be paid for it. I guess you think the rags on your back good wages enough?"
Susan looked at her neat dress, and thought they were very nice rags, compared to the clothes her landlady had on; but the Abolitionist was in a hurry.
"Come," said he, "I'm not going to spend all my time on you; if you want to be free, come along; pay what you owe and start."
"But I have only this quarter," said Susan, despairingly.
"I don't calculate to give runaway niggers their supper, and night's lodging and breakfast for twenty-five cents," said the woman. "I aint so green as that, I can tell you. If you've got no money, open your bundle, and we can make a trade, like as not."
Susan opened her bundle, (which was a good strong carpet-bag her mistress had given her,) and after some hesitation, the woman selected as her due a nice imitation of Cashmere shawl, the last present her mistress had given her. It had cost four dollars. Susan could hardly give it up; she wanted to keep it as a remembrance, but she already felt herself in the hands of the Philistines, and she fastened up her carpet-bag and set forward. She was carried off in the cars to an interior town, and directed to the house of an Abolitionist, to whom she was to hire herself.
Her fare was paid by this person, and then deducted from her wages—her wages were four dollars a month. She cooked and washed for ten in family; cleaned the whole house, and did all the chores, except sawing the wood, which the gentleman of the house did himself. She was only required to split the hard, large knots—the oldest son splitting the easy sticks for her. On Saturday, the only extra duty required of her was to mend every item of clothing worn in the family; the lady of the house making them herself. Susan felt very much as if it was out of the frying pan into the fire; or rather, as if she had been transferred from one master to another. She found it took all her wages to buy her shoes and stockings and flannel, for her health suffered very much from the harsh climate and her new mode of life, so she ventured to ask for an increase of a dollar a month.
"Is that your gratitude," was the indignant reply, "for all that we've done for you? The idea of a nigger wanting over four dollars a month, when you've been working all your life, too, for nothing at all. Why everybody in town is wondering that I keep you, when white help is so much better."
"But, ma'am," replied Susan, "they tell me here that a woman gets six dollars a month, when she does the whole work of a family."
"A white woman does," said this Abolitionist lady, "but not a nigger, I guess. Besides, if they do, you ought to be willing to work cheaper for Abolitionists, for they are your friends."
If "save me from my friends," had been in Lalla Rookh, Susan would certainly have applied it, but as the quotation belonged to the heroic rather than the sentimental department, she could not avail herself of it, and therefore went on chopping her codfish and onions together, at the rate of four dollars a month, and very weak eyes, till some good wind blew Captain Moore to the command of his company, in the Fort near the town.
After Mrs. Moore's housekeeping operations had fairly commenced, she found it would be necessary to have a person to clean the house of four rooms, and to help Neptune mind the baby. Aunt Polly accordingly set forward on an exploration. She presented quite an unusual appearance as regards her style of dress. She wore a plaid domestic gingham gown; she had several stuff ones, but she declared she never put one of them on for any thing less than "meetin." She had a black satin Methodist bonnet, very much the shape of a coal hod, and the color of her own complexion, only there was a slight shade of blue in it. Thick gloves, and shoes, and stockings; a white cotton apron, and a tremendous blanket shawl completed her costume. She had a most determined expression of countenance; the fact is, she had gone out to get a house-servant, and she didn't intend to return without one.
I forgot to mention that she walked with a cane, having had a severe attack of rheumatics since her arrival in "the great Norrurd," and at every step she hit the pavements in such a manner as to startle the rising generation of Abolitionists, and it had the good effect of preventing any of them from calling out to her, "Where did you get your face painted, you black nigger, you?" which would otherwise have occurred.
Susan was just returning from a grocery store with three codfish in one hand, and a piece of salt pork and a jug of molasses in the other, when she was startled by Aunt Polly's unexpected appearance, bearing down upon her like a man of war.
Aunt Polly stopped for a moment and looked at her intensely, while Susan's feelings, which, like her poetry, had for some time been quite subdued by constant collision with a cooking stove, got the better of her, and she burst into tears. Aunt Polly made up her mind on the spot; it was, as she afterwards expressed it, "'A meracle,' meeting that poor girl, with all that codfish and other stuff in her hand."
Susan did not require too much encouragement to tell her lamentable tale, and Aunt Polly in return advised her to leave her place when her month was up, informing the family of her intention, that they might supply themselves. This Susan promised to do, with a full heart, and Aunt Polly having accomplished her mission, set out on her return, first saying to Susan, however, "We'll wait for you, you needn't be afeard, and I'll do your work 'till you come, 'taint much, for we puts out our washin. And you need'nt be sceard when you see the sogers, they aint gwine to hurt you, though they do look so savage."
Susan gave notice of her intention, and after a season of martyrdom set forward to find Captain Moore's quarters. She had no difficulty, for Polly was looking out for her, with her pipe in her mouth. "Come in, child," said she, "and warm yourself; how is your cough? I stewed some molasses for you, 'gin you come. We'll go up and see Miss Emmy, presently; she 'spects you."
Susan was duly introduced to Mrs. Moore who was at the time sitting in the captain's lap with the baby in hers, and Neptune's forepaws in the baby's. The captain's temperance principles did not forbid him smoking a good cigar, and at the moment of Susan's entrance, he was in the act of emitting stealthily a cloud of smoke into his wife's face. After letting the baby fall out of her lap, and taking two or three short breaths with strong symptoms of choking, Mrs. Moore with a husky voice and very red eyes, welcomed Susan, and introduced her to the baby and Neptune, then told Aunt Polly to show her where to put her clothes, and to make her comfortable in every respect.
Aunt Polly did so by baking her a hoe-cake, and broiling a herring, and drawing a cup of strong tea. Susan went to bed scared with her new happiness, and dreamed she was in Georgia, in her old room, with the sick baby in her arms.
Susan's friends, the Abolitionists, were highly indignant at the turn affairs had taken. They had accordingly a new and fruitful subject of discussion at the sewing societies and quilting bees of the town. In solemn conclave it was decided to vote army people down as utterly disagreeable. One old maid suggested the propriety of their immediately getting up a petition for disbanding the army; but the motion was laid on the table in consideration of John Quincy Adams being dead and buried, and therefore not in a condition to present the petition. Susan became quite cheerful, and gained twenty pounds in an incredibly short space of time, though strange rumors continued to float about the army. It was stated at a meeting of the F.S.F.S.T.W.T.R. (Female Society for Setting the World to Rights) that "army folks were a low, dissipated set, for they put wine in their puddin sauce."
I do not mean to say liberty is not, next to life, the greatest of God's earthly gifts, and that men and women ought not to be happier free than slaves. God forbid that I should so have read my Bible. But such cases as Susan's do occur, and far oftener than the raw-head and bloody-bones' stories with which Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe has seen fit to embellish that interesting romance, Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Capt. Moore suddenly seized the poker, and commenced stirring the fire vigorously. Neptune rushed to his covert under the piano, and Mrs. Moore called out, "Dont, dear, for heaven's sake."
"Why, it's getting cold," said Captain Moore, apologetically. "Don't you hear the wind?"
"Yes, but I don't feel it, neither do you. The fire cannot be improved. See how you have made the dust fly! You never can let well alone."