BY J. T. TROWBRIDGE
AUTHOR OF "NEIGHBOR JACKWOOD," "THE DRUMMER BOY," ETC.
BOSTON: J. E. TILTON AND COMPANY. 1864.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1863, by J. T. TROWBRIDGE, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
ELECTROTYPED AND PRINTED BY THE BOSTON STEREOTYPE FOUNDRY, 4 SPRING LANE.
I. The Schoolmaster in Trouble
II. Penn and the Ruffians
III. The Secret Cellar
IV. The Search for the Missing
V. Carl and his Friends
VI. A Strange Coat for a Quaker
VII. The Two Guests
VIII. The Rover
IX. Toby's Patient has a Caller
X. The Widow's Green Chest
XI. Southern Hospitality
XII. Chivalrous Proceedings
XIII. The Old Clergyman's Nightgown has an Adventure
XIV. A Man's Story
XV. An Anti-Slavery Document on Black Parchment
XVI. In the Cave and on the Mountain
XVII. Penn's Foot Knocks Down a Musket
XVIII. Condemned to Death
XIX. The Escape
XX. Under the Bridge
XXI. The Return into Danger
XXII. Stackridge's Coat and Hat get Arrested
XXIII. The Flight of the Prisoners
XXIV. The Dead Rebel's Musket
XXV. Black and White
XXVI. Why Augustus did not Propose
XXVII. The Men with the Dark Lantern
XXVIII. Beauty and the Beast
XXIX. In the Burning Woods
XXXI. Lysander Takes Possession
XXXII. Toby's Reward
XXXIII. Carl Makes an Engagement
XXXIV. Captain Lysander's Joke
XXXV. The Moonlight Expedition
XXXVI. Carl finds a Geological Specimen
XXXVII. Carl Keeps his Engagement
XXXVIII. Love in the Wilderness
XXXIX. A Council of War
XL. The Wonders of the Cave
XLI. Prometheus Bound
XLII. Prometheus Unbound
XLIII. The Combat
XLIV. How Augustus Finally Proposed
XLV. Master and Slave Change Places
XLVI. The Traitor
XLVII. Bread on the Waters
THE SCHOOLMASTER IN TROUBLE.
Carl crept stealthily up the bank, and, peering through the window, saw the master writing at his desk.
In his neat Quaker garb, his slender form bent over his task, his calm young face dimly seen in profile, there he sat. The room was growing dark; the glow of a March sunset was fading fast from the paper on which the swift pen traced these words:—
"Tennessee is getting too hot for me. My school is nearly broken up, and my farther stay here is becoming not only useless, but dangerous. There are many loyal men in the neighborhood, but they are overawed by the reckless violence of the secessionists. Mobs sanctioned by self-styled vigilance committees override all law and order. As I write, I can hear the yells of a drunken rabble before my school-house door. I am an especial object of hatred to them on account of my northern birth and principles. They have warned me to leave the state, they have threatened me with southern vengeance, but thus far I have escaped injury. How long this reign of terror is to last, or what is to be the end——"
A rap on the window drew the writer's attention, and, looking up, he saw, against the twilight sky, the broad German face of the boy Carl darkening the pane. He stepped to raise the sash.
"What is it, Carl?"
The lad glanced quickly around, first over one shoulder, then the other, and said, in a hoarse whisper,—
"Shpeak wery low!"
"Was it you that rapped before?"
"I have rapped tree times, not loud, pecause I vas afraid the men would hear."
"What men are they?"
"The Wigilance Committee's men! They have some tar in a kettle. They have made a fire unter it, and I hear some of 'em say, 'Run, boys, and pring some fedders.'"
"Tar and feathers!" The young man grew pale. "They have threatened it, but they will not dare!"
"They vill dare do anything; but you shall prewent 'em! See vat I have prought you!" Carl opened his jacket, and showed the handle of a revolver. "Stackridge sent it."
"Hide it! hide it!" said the master, quickly. "He offered it to me himself. I told him I could not take it."
"He said, may be when you smell tar and see fedders, you vill change your mind," answered Carl.
The schoolmaster smiled. The pallor of fear which had surprised him for an instant, had vanished.
"I believe in a different creed from Mr. Stackridge's, honest man as he is. I shall not resist evil, but overcome evil with good, if I can; if I cannot, I shall suffer it."
"You show you vill shoot some of 'em, and they vill let you go," said Carl, not understanding the nobler doctrine. "Shooting vill do some of them willains some good!" his placid blue eyes kindling, as if he would like to do a little of the shooting. "You take it?"
"No," said the young man, firmly. "Such weapons are not for me."
"Wery vell!" Carl buttoned his jacket over the revolver. "Then you come mit me, if you please. Get out of the vinder and run. That is pest, I suppose."
"No, no, my lad. I may as well meet these men first as last."
"Then I vill go and pring help!" suddenly exclaimed, the boy; and away he scampered across the fields, leaving the young man alone in the darkening school-room.
It was not a very pleasant situation to be in, you may well believe. As he closed the sash, a faint odor of tar was wafted in on the evening breeze. The voices of the ruffians at the door grew louder and more menacing. He knew they were only waiting for the tar to heat, for the shadows of night to thicken, and for him to make his appearance. He returned to his desk, but it was now too dark to write. He could barely see to sign his name and superscribe the envelope. This done, he buttoned his straight-fitting brown coat, put on his modest hat, and stood pondering in his mind what he should do.
A young man scarcely twenty years old, reared in the quiet atmosphere of a community of Friends, and as unaccustomed, hitherto, to scenes of strife and violence as the most innocent child,—such was Penn Hapgood, teacher of the "Academy" (as the school was proudly named) in Curryville. This was the first great trial of his faith and courage. He had not taken Carl's advice, and run, because he did not believe that he could escape the danger in that way. And as for fighting, that was not in his heart any more than it was in his creed. But to say he did not dread to meet his foes at the door, that he felt no fear, would be speaking falsely. He was afraid. His entire nature, delicate body and still more delicate soul, shrank from the ordeal. He went to the outer door, and laid his hand on the bolt, but could not, for a long time, summon resolution to open it.
As he hesitated, there came a loud thump on one of the panels which nearly crushed it in, and filled the hollow building with ominous echoes.
"Make ready in thar, you hound of a abolitionist!" shouted a brutal voice; "we're about ready fur ye!" Penn's hand drew back. I dare say it trembled, I dare say his face turned white again, as he felt the danger so near. How could he confront, with his sensitive spirit, those merciless, coarse men?
"I'll wait a little," he thought within himself. "Perhaps Carl will bring help."
There were good sturdy Unionists in the place, men who, unlike the Pennsylvania schoolmaster, believed in opposing evil with evil, force by force. Only last night, one of them entered this very school-room, bolted the door carefully, and sat down to unfold to the young master a scheme for resisting the plans of the secessionists. It was a league for circumventing treason; for keeping Tennessee in the Union; for preserving their homes and families from the horrors of the impending civil war. The conspirators had arms concealed; they met in secret places; they were watching for the hour to strike. Would the schoolmaster join them? Strange to say, they believed in him as a man who had abilities as a leader, "an undeveloped fighting man"—he, Penn Hapgood, the Quaker! Penn smiled, as he declined the farmer's offer of a commission in the secret militia, and refused to accept the weapon of self-defence which the same earnest Unionist had proffered him again, through Carl, the German boy, this night.
Penn thought of these men now, and hoped that Carl would haste and bring them to the rescue. Then immediately he blushed at his own cowardly inconsistency; for something in his heart said that he ought not to wish others to do for him what he had conscientious scruples against doing for himself.
"I'll go out!" he said, sternly, to his trembling heart.
But he would first make a reconnoissance through the keyhole. He looked, and saw one ruffian stirring the fire under the tar kettle, another displaying a rope, and two others alternately drinking from a bottle. He started back, as the thundering on the panel was repeated, and the same voice roared out, "You kin be takin' off them clo'es of yourn; the tar is about het!"
"I'll wait a few minutes longer for Carl!" said Penn to himself, with a long breath.
Unfortunately, Carl was not just now in a situation to render much assistance.
Although he had arrived unseen at the window, he did not retire undiscovered. He had run but a short distance when a gruff voice ordered him to stop. He had a way, however, of misunderstanding English when he chose, and interpreted the command to mean, run faster. Receiving it in that sense, he obeyed. Somebody behind him began to run too. In short, it was a chase; and Carl, glancing backwards, saw long-legged Silas Ropes, one of the ringleaders of the mob, taking appalling strides after him, across the open field.
There were some woods about a quarter of a mile away, and Carl made for them, trusting to their shelter and the shades of night to favor his escape. He was fifteen years old, strong, and an excellent runner. He did not again look behind to see if Silas was gaining on him, but attended strictly to his own business, which was, to get into the thickets as soon as possible. His success seemed almost certain; a few rods more, and the undergrowth would be reached; and he was congratulating himself on having thus led away from the schoolmaster one of his most desperate enemies, when he rushed suddenly almost into the arms of two men,—or rather, into a feather-bed, which they were fetching by the corner of the wood lot.
"Ketch that Dutchman!" roared Silas. And they "ketched" him.
"What's the Dutchman done?" said one of the men, throwing himself lazily on the feather-bed, while his companion held Carl for his pursuer.
"I don't know," said Carl, opening his eyes with placid wonder. "I tought he vas vanting to run a race mit me."
"A race, you fool!" said Silas, seizing and shaking him. "Didn't you hear me tell ye to stop?"
"Did you say shtop?" asked Carl, with a broad smile. "It ish wery queer! Ven it sounded so much as if you said shtep! so I shtepped just as fast as I could."
"What was you thar at the winder fur?"
"Vot vinder?" said Carl.
"Of the Academy," said Silas.
"O! to pe sure! I vas there," said Carl. "Pecause I left my books in there last week, and I vas going to get 'em. But I saw somebody in the house, and I vas afraid."
"Wasn't it the schoolmaster?"
"I shouldn't be wery much surprised if it vas the schoolmaster," said Carl, with blooming simplicity.
"You lying rascal! what did you say to him through the winder?"
Carl looked all around with an expression of mild wonder, as if expecting somebody else to answer.
"Why don't you speak?" And Silas gave his arm a fierce wrench.
"Vat did you say?"
"I said, you lying rascal!——"
"That is not my name," said Carl, "and I tought you vas shpeaking to somebody else. I tought you vas conwersing mit this man," pointing at the fellow on the bed.
"Dan Pepperill!" said Silas, turning angrily on the recumbent figure, "what are you stretching your lazy bones thar fur? We're waiting fur them feathers, and you'll git a coat yourself, if you don't show a little more of the sperrit of a gentleman! You don't act as if your heart was in this yer act of dooty we're performin', any more'n as if you was a northern mudsill yourself!"
"Wal, the truth is," said Dan Pepperill, reluctantly getting up from the bed, and preparing to shoulder it, "the schoolmaster has allus treated me well, and though I hate his principles,——"
"You don't hate his principles, neither! You're more'n half a abolitionist yourself! And I swear to gosh," said Silas, "if you don't do your part now——"
"I will! I'm a-going to!" said Dan, with something like a groan. "Though, as I said, he has allus used me well——"
"Shet up!" Silas administered a kick, which Dan adroitly caught in the bed. Mr. Ropes got his foot embarrassed in the feathers, lost his balance, and fell. Dan, either by mistake or design, fell also, tumbling the bed in a smothering mass over the screaming mouth and coarse red nose of the prostrate Silas.
The third man, who was guarding Carl, began to laugh. Carl laughed too, as if it was the greatest joke in the world; to enhance the fun of which, he gave his man a sudden push forwards, tripped him as he went, and so flung him headlong upon the struggling heap. This pleasant feat accomplished, he turned to run; but changed his mind almost instantly; and, instead of plunging into the undergrowth, threw himself upon the accumulating pile.
There he scrambled, and kicked, with his heels in the air, and rolled over the topmost man, who rolled over Mr. Pepperill, who rolled over the feather-bed, which rolled again over Mr. Ropes, in a most lively and edifying manner.
At this interesting juncture Carl's reason for changing his mind and remaining, became manifest. Two more of the chivalry from the tar kettle came rushing to the spot, and would speedily have seized him had he attempted to get off. So he staid, thinking he might be helping the master in this way as well as any other.
And now the miscellaneous heap of legs and feathers began to resolve itself into its original elements. First Carl was pulled off by one of the new comers; then Dan and the man Carl had sent to comfort him fell to blows, clinched each other, and rolled upon the earth; and lastly, Mr. Silas Ropes arose, choked with passion and feathers, from under the rent and bursting bed. The two squabbling men were also quickly on their feet, Mr. Pepperill proving too much for his antagonist.
"What did you pitch into me fur?" demanded Silas, threatening his friend Dan.
"What did Gad pitch into me fur?" said the irate Dan, shaking his fist at Gad.
"What did you push and jump on to me fur?" said Gad, clutching Carl, who was still laughing.
Thus the wrath of the whole party was turned against the boy.
"Pless me!" said he, staring innocently, "I tought it vas all for shport!"
The furious Mr. Ropes was about to convince him, by some violent act, of his mistake, when cries from the direction of the school-house called his attention.
"See what's there, boys!" said Silas.
"Durn me," said Mr. Pepperill, looking across the field as he brushed the feathers from his clothes, "if it ain't the master himself!"
In fact, Penn had by this time summoned courage to slip back the bolt, throw open the school-house door, and come out.
The gentlemen who were heating the tar and drinking from the bottle were taken by surprise. They had not expected that the fellow would come out at all, but wait to be dragged out. Their natural conclusion was, that he was armed; for he appeared with as calm and determined a front as if he had been perfectly safe from injury himself, while it was in his power to do them some fatal mischief. They could not understand how the mere consciousness of his own uprightness, and a sense of reliance on the arm of eternal justice, could inspire a man with courage to face so many.
"My friends," said Penn, as they beset him with threats and blasphemy, "I have never injured one of you, and you will not harm me."
And as if some deity held an invisible shield above him, he passed by; and they, in their astonishment, durst not even lay their hands upon him.
"I've hearn tell he was a Quaker, and wouldn't fight," muttered one; "but I see a revolver under his coat!"
"Where's Sile? Where's Sile Ropes?" cried others, who, though themselves unwilling to assume the responsibility of seizing the young master, would have been glad to see Silas attempt it.
Great was the joy of Carl when he saw Mr. Hapgood walking through the guard of ruffians untouched. But, a moment after, he uttered an involuntary groan of despair. It was Penn's custom to cross the fields in going from the Academy to the house where he boarded, and his path wound by the edge of the woods, where Silas and his accomplices were at this moment gathering up the spilt feathers.
"All right!" said Mr. Ropes, crouching down in order to remain concealed from Penn's view. "This is as comf'table a place to do our dooty by him as any to be found. Keep dark, boys, and let him come!"
PENN AND THE RUFFIANS.
Penn traversed the field, followed by the gang from the school-house. As he approached the woods, Silas and his friends rose up before him. He was thus surrounded.
"Thought you'd come and meet us half way, did ye?" said Mr. Ropes, striding across his path. "Very accommodating in you, to be shore!" And he laughed a brutal laugh, which was echoed by all his friends except Dan.
"I have not come to meet you," replied Penn, "but I am going about my own private business, and wish to pass on."
"Wal, you can't pass on till we've settled a small account with you that's been standing a little too long a'ready. Bring that tar, some on ye! Come, Pepperill! show your sperrit!"
This Pepperill was a ragged, lank, starved-looking man, whose appearance was on this occasion rendered ludicrous by the feathers sticking all over him, and by an expression of dejection which would draw down the corners of his miserable mouth and roll up his piteous eyes, notwithstanding his efforts to appear, what Silas termed, "sperrited."
"You, too, among my enemies, Daniel!" said Penn, reproachfully.
It was a look of grief, not of anger, which he turned on the wretched man. Poor Pepperill could not stand it.
"I own, I own," he stammered forth, a picture of mingled fear and contrition, "you've allus used me well, Mr. Hapgood,—but," he hastened to add, with a scared glance at Silas, "I hate your principles!"
"Look here, Dan Pepperill!" remarked Mr. Ropes, with grim significance, "you better shet your yaup, and be a bringin' that ar kittle!"
Dan groaned, and departed. Penn smiled bitterly. "I have always used him well; and this is the return I get!" He thought of another evening, but little more than a week since, when, passing by this very path, he heard a deeper groan than that which the wretch had just uttered. He turned aside into the edge of the woods, and there beheld an object to excite at once his laughter and compassion. What he saw was this.
Dan Pepperill, astride a rail; his hands tied together above it, and his feet similarly bound beneath. The rail had been taken from a fence a mile away, and he had been carried all that distance on the shoulders of some of these very men. They had taken turns with him, and when, tired at last, had placed the rail in the crotches of two convenient saplings, and there left him. The crotch in front was considerably higher than that behind, which circumstance gave him the appearance of clinging to the back of an animal in the act of rearing frightfully, and exposed a delicate part of his apparel that had been sadly rent by contact with splinters. And there the wretch was clinging and groaning when Penn came up.
"For the love of the Lord!" said Dan, "take me down!"
"Why, what is the matter? How came you here?"
"I'm a dead man; that's the matter! I've been wipped to death, and then rode on a rail; that's the way I come here!"
"Whipped! what for?" said Penn, losing no time in cutting the sufferer's bonds.
"Ye see," said Dan, when taken down and laid upon the ground, "the patrolmen found Combs's boy Pete out t'other night without a pass, and took him and tied him to a tree, and licked him."
The "boy Pete" was a negro man upwards of fifty years old, owned by the said Combs.
"Wal, ye see, jest cause I found him, and took him home with me, and washed his back fur him, and bound cotton on to it, and kep' him over night, and gin him a good breakfast, and a drink o' suthin' strong in the morning, and then went home with him, and talked with his master so'st he wouldn't git another licking,—just for that, Sile Ropes and his gang took me and served me wus'n ever they served him!" And the broken-spirited man cried like a child at the recollection of his injuries.
He was one of the "white trash" of the south, whom even the negroes belonging to good families look down upon; a weak, degraded, kind-hearted man, whose offence was not simply that he had shown mercy to the "boy Pete," after his flogging, but that he associated on familiar terms with such negroes as were not too proud to cultivate his acquaintance, and secretly sold them whiskey. After repeated warnings, he had been flogged, and treated to a ride on a three-cornered rail, and hung up to reflect upon his ungentlemanly conduct and its sad consequences.
At sight of him, Penn, who knew nothing of his selling whiskey to the blacks, or of any other offence against the laws or prejudices of the community, than that of befriending a beaten and bleeding slave, felt his indignation roused and his sympathies excited.
"It's a dreadful state of society in which such outrages are tolerated!" he exclaimed.
"I say, dreadful!" sobbed Mr. Pepperill.
"The good Samaritan himself would be in danger of a beating here!" said Penn.
"I don't know what good smart 'un you mean," replied the weeping Dan, whose knowledge of Scripture was extremely limited, "but I bet he'd git some, ef he didn't keep his eyes peeled!" And he wiped his nose with his sleeve.
Penn smiled at the man's ignorance, and said, as he lifted him up,—
"Friend Daniel, do you know that it is partly your own fault that this deplorable state of things exists?"
"How's it my fault, I'd like to know?" whimpered Daniel.
"Come, I'll help thee home, and tell thee what I mean, by the way," said Penn, using the idiom of his sect, into which familiar manner of speech he naturally fell when talking confidentially with any one.
"I am stiff as any old spavined hoss!" whined the poor fellow, straightening his legs, and attempting to walk.
Penn helped him home as he promised, and comforted him, and said to him many things, which he little supposed were destined to be brought against him so soon, and by this very Daniel Pepperill.
This was the way of it. When it was known that Penn had befriended the friend of the blacks, Silas Ropes paid Dan a second visit, and by threats of vengeance, on the one hand, and promises of forgiveness and treatment "like a gentleman," on the other, extorted from him a confession of all Penn had said and done.
"Now, Dan," said Mr. Ropes, patronizingly, "I'll tell ye what you do. You jine with us, and show yourself a man of sperrit, a payin' off this yer abolitionist for his outrageous interference in our affairs."
"Sile," interrupted Dan, earnestly, "what 'ge mean I'm to do? Turn agin' him?"
"Exactly," replied Mr. Ropes.
"Sile," said Dan, excitedly, "I be durned if I do!"
"Then, I swear to gosh!" said Sile, spitting a great stream of tobacco juice across Mrs. Pepperill's not very clean floor, "you'll have a dose yourself before another sun, which like as not'll be your last!"
This terrible menace produced its desired effect; and the unwilling Dan was here, this night, one of Penn's persecutors, in consequence.
It was not enough that he had shown his "sperrit" by fetching the victim's own bed from his boarding-house, telling his landlady, the worthy Mrs. Sprowl, that Sile said she must "charge it to her abolition boarder." He must now show still more "sperrit" by bringing the tar. A well-worn broom had been borrowed of Mrs. Pepperill, by those who knew best how the tar in such cases should be applied: the handle of this was thrust by one of the men, named Griffin, through the bail of the kettle, and Dan was ordered to "ketch holt o' t'other eend," and help carry.
Dan "ketched holt" accordingly. But never was kettle so heavy as that; its miserable weight made him groan at every step. Suddenly the broom-handle slipped from his hand, and down it went. No doubt his laudable object was to spill the tar, in order to gain time for his benefactor, and perhaps postpone the tarring and feathering altogether. But Griffin grasped the kettle in time to prevent its upsetting, and the next instant flourished the club over Dan's head.
"I didn't mean tu! it slipped!" shrieked the terrified wretch. After which he durst no more attempt to thwart the chivalrous designs of his friends, but carried the tar like a gentleman.
"This way!" said Silas, getting the escaped feathers into a pile with his foot. "Thar! set it down. Now, sir," throwing away his own coat, "peel off them clo'es o' yourn, Mr. Schoolmaster, mighty quick, if you don't want 'em peeled off fur ye!"
Penn gave no sign of compliance, but fixed his eye steadfastly upon Mr. Ropes.
"I insist," said he,—for he had already made the request while the men were bringing the tar,—"on knowing what I have done to merit this treatment."
"Wal, that I don't mind tellin' ye," said Silas, "for we've all night for this yer little job before us. Dan Pepperill, stand up here!"
Dan came forward, appearing extremely low-spirited and weak in the knees.
"Is it you, Daniel, who are to bear witness against me?" said Penn, in a voice of singular gentleness, which chimed in like a sweet and solemn bell after the harsh clangor of Silas's ruffian tones.
Dan rolled up his eyes, hugged his tattered elbows, and gave a dismal groan.
"Come!" said Silas, bestowing a slap on his back which nearly knocked him down, "straighten them knees o' yourn, and be a man. Yes, Mr. Schoolmaster, Dan is a-going to bear witness agin' you. He has turned from the error of his ways, and now his noble southern heart is a-burnin' to take vengeance on all the enemies of his beloved country. Ain't it, Dan?—say yes," he hissed in his ear, giving him a second slap, "or else—you know!"
"O Lord, yes!" ejaculated Dan, with a start of terror. "What Mr. Ropes says is perfectly—perfectly—jes' so!"
"Your heart is a-burnin', ain't it?" said Silas.
"Ye—yes! I be durned if it ain't!" said Dan.
"This man," continued Ropes, who prided himself on being a great orator, with power to "fire the southern heart," and never neglected an occasion to show himself off in that capacity,—"this individgle ye see afore ye, gentlemen,"—once more hitting Dan, this time with the toe of his boot, gently, to indicate the subject of his remarks,—"was lately as low-minded a peep as ever you see. He had no more conscience than to 'sociate with niggers, and sell 'em liquor, and even give 'em liquor when they couldn't pay fur't; and you all know how he degraded himself by takin' Combs's Pete into his house and doin' for him arter he'd been very properly licked by the patrol. All which, I am happy to say, the deluded man sincerely repents of, and promises to behave more like a gentleman in futur'. Don't you, Dan?"
As Dan, attempting to speak, only gasped, Ropes administered a sharp poke in his ribs, whispering fiercely,—
"Say you do, mighty quick, or I'll——!"
"O! I repents! I—I be durned if I don't!" said Dan.
"And now, as to you!" Silas turned on the schoolmaster. "Your offence in gineral is bein' a northern abolitionist. Besides which, your offences in partic'ler is these. Not contented with teachin' the Academy, which was well enough, since it is necessary that a few should have larnin', so the may know how to govern the rest,—not contented with that, you must run the thing into the ground, by settin' up a evenin' school, and offerin' to larn readin', writin', and 'rithmetic, free gratis, to whosomever wanted to 'tend. Which is contrary to the sperrit of our institootions, as you have been warned more 'n oncet. That's charge Number Two. Charge Number Three is, that you stand up for the old rotten Union, and tell folks, every chance you git, that secession, that noble right of southerners, is a villanous scheme, that'll ruin the south, if persisted in, and plunge the whole nation into war. Your very words, I believe. Can you deny it?"
"Certainly, I have said something very much like that, and it is my honest conviction," replied Penn, firmly.
"Gentlemen, take notice!" said Mr. Ropes. "We will now pass on to charge Number Four, and be brief, for the tar is a-coolin'. Suthin' like eight days ago, when the afore-mentioned Dan Pepperill was in the waller of his degradation, some noble-souled sons of the sunny south"—the orator smiled with pleasant significance—"lifted him up, and hung him up to air, in the crotches of two trees, jest by the edge of the woods here, and went home to supper, intending to come back and finish the purifying process begun with him later in the evenin'. But what did you do, Mr. Schoolmaster, but come along and take him down, prematoorely, and go to corruptin' him agin with your vile northern principles! Didn't he, Dan?"
"I—I dun know" faltered Dan.
"Yes, you do know, too! Didn't he corrupt you?"
These words being accompanied by a severe hint from Sile's boot, Mr. Pepperill remembered that Penn did corrupt him.
"And if I hadn't took ye in season, you'd have returned to your base-born mire, wouldn't you?"
"I suppose I would," the miserable Dan admitted.
"Wal! now!"—Sile spread his palm over the tar to see if it retained its temperature,—"hurry up, Dan, and tell us all this northern agitator said to you that night."
"O Lord!" groaned Pepperill, "my memory is so short!"
"Bring that rope, boys! and give him suthin' to stretch it!" said Silas, growing impatient.
Dan, knowing that stretching his memory in the manner threatened, implied that his neck was to be stretched along with it, made haste to remember.
"My friends," said Penn, interrupting the poor man's forced and disconnected testimony, "let me spare him the pain of bearing witness against me. I recall perfectly well every thing I said to him that night. I said it was a shame that such outrages as had been committed on him should be tolerated in a civilized society. I told him it was partly his own fault that such a state of things existed. I said, 'It is owing to the ignorance and degradation of you poor whites that a barbarous system is allowed to flourish and tyrannize over you.' I said——"
But here Penn was interrupted by a violent outcry, the majority of the persons present coming under the head of "poor whites."
"Let him go on! let him perceed!" said Silas. "What did you mean by 'barbarous system'?"
"I meant," replied Penn, all fear vanishing in the glow of righteous indignation which filled him,—"I meant the system which makes it a crime to teach a man to read—a punishable offence to befriend the poor and down-trodden, or to bind up wounds. A system which makes it dangerous for one to utter his honest opinions, even in private, to a person towards whom he is at the same time showing the mercy which others have denied him." He looked at Dan, who groaned. "A system——"
"Wal, I reckon that'll do fur one spell," broke in Silas Ropes. "You've said more 'n enough to convict you, and to earn a halter 'stead of a mild coat of tar and feathers."
"I am well aware," said Penn, "that I can expect no mercy at your hands; so I thought I might as well be plain with you."
"And plain enough you've been, I swear to gosh!" said Silas. "Boys, strip him!"
"Wait a moment!" said Penn, putting them off with a gesture which they mistook for an appeal to some deadly weapon in his pocket. "What I have said has been to free my mind, and to save Daniel trouble. Now, allow me to speak a few words in my own defence. I have committed no crime against your laws; if I have, why not let the laws punish me?"
"We take the laws into our hands sech times as these," said the man called Gad.
"You're an abolitionist, and that's enough," said another.
"If I do not believe slavery to be a good thing, it is not my fault; I cannot help my belief. But one thing I will declare. I have never interfered with your institution in any way at all dangerous to you, or injurious to your slaves. I have not rendered them discontented, but, whenever I have had occasion, I have counselled them to be patient and faithful to their masters. I came among you a very peaceable man, a simple schoolmaster, and I have tried to do good to everybody, and harm to no one. With this motive I opened an evening school for poor whites. How many men here have any education? How many can read and write? Not many, I am sure."
"What's the odds, so long as they're men of the true sperrit?" interrupted Silas Ropes. "I can read for one; and as for the rest, what good would it do 'em to be edecated? 'Twould only make 'em jes' sech low, sneakin', thievin' white slaves, like the greasy mechanics at the north."
"The white slaves are not at the north," said Penn. "Education alone makes free men. If you, who threaten me with violence here to-night, had the common school education of the north, you would not be engaged in such business; you would be ashamed of assaulting a peaceable man on account of his opinions; you would know that the man who comes to teach you is your best friend. If you were not ignorant men, you, who do not own slaves, would know that slavery is the worst enemy of your prosperity, and you would not be made its willing tools."
The firm dignity of the youth, assisted by the illusion that prevailed concerning a revolver in his pocket, had kept his foes at bay, and gained him a hearing. He now attempted to pass on, when the man Gad, stepping behind him, raised the broom-handle, and dealt him a stunning blow on the back of the head.
"Down with him!" "Strip him!" "Give him a thrashing first!" "Hang him!"
And the ruffians threw themselves furiously upon the fallen man.
"Whar's that Dutch boy?" cried Silas. "I meant he should help Dan lay on the tar."
But Carl was nowhere to be seen, having taken advantage of the confusion and darkness to escape into the woods.
THE SECRET CELLAR.
No sooner did the lad feel himself safe from pursuit, than he made his way out of the woods again, and ran with all speed to Mr. Stackridge's house.
To his dismay he learned that that stanch Unionist was absent from home.
"Is he in the willage?" said the breathless Carl.
"I reckon he is," said the farmer's wife; adding in a whisper,—for she guessed the nature of Carl's business,—"inquire for him down to barber Jim's." And she told him what to say to the barber.
Barber Jim was a colored man, who had demonstrated the ability of the African to take care of himself, by purchasing first his own freedom of his mistress, buying his wife and children afterwards, and then accumulating a property as much more valuable than all Silas Ropes and his poor white minions possessed, as his mind was superior to their combined intelligence.
Jim had accomplished this by uniting with industrious habits a natural shrewdness, which enabled him to make the most of his labor and of his means. He owned the most flourishing barber-shop in the place, and kept in connection with it (I am sorry to say) a bar, at which he dealt out to his customers some very bad liquors at very good prices. Had Jim been a white man, he would not, of course, have stooped to make money by any such low business as rum-selling—O, no! but being only a "nigger," what else could you expect of him?
Well, on this very evening Jim's place began to be thronged almost before it was dark. A few came in to be shaved, while many more passed through the shop into the little bar-room beyond. What was curious, some went in who appeared never to come out again; Mr. Stackridge among the number.
It was not to get shaved, nor yet to get tipsy, that this man visited Jim's premises. The moment they were alone together in the bar-room, he gave the proprietor a knowing wink.
"I reckon about a dozen," said Jim. "Go in?" Stackridge nodded; and with a grin Jim opened a private door communicating with some back stairs, down which his visitor went groping his way in the dark.
Customers came and went; now and then one disappeared similarly down the back stairs; many remained in the barber's shop to smoke, and discuss in loud tones the exciting question of the day—secession; when, lastly, a boy of fifteen came rushing in. His face was flushed with running, and he was quite out of breath.
"What's wanting, Carl?" said the barber. "A shave?"
This was one of Jim's jokes, at which his customers laughed, to the boy's confusion, for his cheeks were as smooth as a peach.
"I vants to find Mishter Stackridge," said the lad.
"He ain't here," said Jim, looking around the room.
"It is something wery partic'lar. One of his pigs have got choked mit a cob, and he must go home and unchoke him."
This was what Carl had been directed by the farmer's wife to say to the barber, in case he should profess ignorance concerning her husband.
"Pity about the pig," said Jim. "Mabby Stackridge'll be in bime-by. Any thing else I can do for ye?"
Carl stepped up to the barber, and said in a hoarse whisper, loud enough to be heard by every body,—
"A mug of peer, if you pleashe."
"I got some that'll make a Dutchman's head hum!" said Jim, leading the way into the little grog room.
"That's Villars's Dutch boy," said one of the smokers in the barber-shop. "Beats all nater, how these Dutch will swill down any thing in the shape of beer!"
This elegant observation may have had a grain of truth in it, as we who have Teutonic friends may have reason to know. However, the man had mistaken the boy this time.
"It is not the peer I vants, it is Mr. Stackridge," whispered Carl, when alone with the proprietor.
Jim regarded him doubtfully a moment, then said, "I reckon I shall have to open a cask in the suller. You jest tend bar for me while I am gone."
He descended the stairs, closing the door after him. Carl, who thought of the schoolmaster in the hands of the mob, felt his heart swell and burn with anxiety at each moment's delay. Jim did not keep him long waiting.
"This way, Carl, if you want some of the right sort," said the negro from the stairs.
Carl went down in the darkness, Jim taking his hand to guide him. They entered a cellar, crowded with casks and boxes, where there was a dim lamp burning; but no human being was visible, until suddenly out of a low, dark passage, between some barrels, a stooping figure emerged, giving Carl a momentary start of alarm.
"What's the trouble, Carl?"
"O! Mishter Stackridge! is it you?" said Carl, as the figure stood erect in the dim light,—sallow, bony, grim, attired in coarse clothes. "The schoolmaster—that is the trouble!" and he hastily related what he had seen.
"Wouldn't take the pistol? the fool!" muttered the farmer. "But I'll see what I can do for him." He grasped the boy's collar, and said in a suppressed but terribly earnest voice, "Swear never to breathe a word of what I'm going to show you!"
"I shwear!" said Carl.
Stackridge took him by the wrist, and drew him after him into the passage. It was utterly dark, and Carl had to stoop in order to avoid hitting his head. As they approached the end of it, he could distinguish the sound of voices,—one louder than the rest giving the word of command.
The farmer knocked on the head of a cask, which rolled aside, and opened the way into a cellar beyond, under an old storehouse, which was likewise a part of Barber Jim's property.
The second cellar was much larger and better lighted than the first, and rendered picturesque by heavy festoons of cobwebs hanging from the dark beams above. The rays of the lamps flashed upon gun-barrels, and cast against the damp and mouldy walls gigantic shadows of groups of men. Some were conversing, others were practising the soldiers' drill.
"Neighbors!" said Stackridge, in a voice which commanded instant attention, and drew around him and Carl an eager group. "It's just as I told you,—Ropes and his gang are lynching Hapgood!"
"It's the fellow's own fault," said a stern, dark man, the same who had been drilling the men. "He should have taken care of himself."
"Young Hapgood's a decent sort of cuss," said another whom Carl knew,—a farmer named Withers,—"and I like him. I believe he means well; but he ain't one of us."
"I've been deceived in him," said a third. "He always minded his own business, and kept so quiet about our institutions, I never suspected he was anti-slavery till I talked with him t'other day about joining us—then he out with it."
"He thinks we're all wrong," said a bigoted pro-slavery man named Deslow. "He says slavery's the cause of the war, and it's absurd in us to go in for the Union and slavery too!" For these men, though loyal to the government, and bitterly opposed to secession, were nearly all slaveholders or believers in slavery.
"May be the fellow ain't far wrong there," said he who had been drilling his comrades. "I think myself slavery's the cause of the war, and that's what puts us in such a hard place. The time may come when we will have to take a different stand—go the whole figure with the free north, or drift with the cotton states. But that time hain't come yet."
"But the time has come," said Stackridge, impatiently, "to do something for Hapgood, if we intend to help him at all. While we are talking, he may be hanging."
"And what can we do?" retorted the other. "We can't make a move for him without showing our hand, and it ain't time for that yet."
"True enough, Captain Grudd," said Stackridge. "But three or four of us, with our revolvers, can happen that way, and take him out of the hands of Ropes and his cowardly crew without much difficulty. I, for one, am going."
"Hapgood don't even believe in fighting!" observed Deslow, with immense disgust; "and blast me if I am going to fight for him!"
Carl was almost driven to despair by the indifference of these men and the time wasted in discussion. He could have hugged the grim and bony Stackridge when he saw him make a decided move at last. Three others volunteered to accompany them. The cask was once more rolled away from the entrance, and one by one they crept quickly through the passage into the first cellar.
Stackridge preceded the rest, to see that the way was clear. There was no one at the bar; the door leading into the shop was closed; and Carl, following the four men, passed out by a long entry communicating with the street, the door of which was thrown open to the public on occasions when there was a great rush to Jim's bar, but which was fastened this night by a latch that could be lifted only from the inside.
A SEARCH FOR THE MISSING.
The academy was situated in a retired spot, half a mile out of the village. Stackridge and his party were soon pushing rapidly towards it along the dark, unfrequented road. Carl ran on before, leading the way to the scene of the lynching.
The place was deserted and silent. Only the cold wind swept the bleak wood-side, making melancholy moans among the trees. Overhead shone the stars, lighting dimly the desolation of the ground.
"Now, where's yer tar-and-feathering party?" said Stackridge. "See here, Dutchy! ye hain't been foolin' us, have ye?"
"I vish it vas notting but fooling!" said Carl, full of distress, fearing the worst. "We have come too late. The willains have took him off."
"Feathers, men!" muttered Stackridge, picking up something from beneath his feet. "The boy's right! Now, which way have they gone?—that's the question."
"Hark!" said Carl. "I see a man!"
Indeed, just then a dim figure arose from the earth, and appeared slowly and painfully moving away.
"Hold on there!" cried Stackridge. "Needn't be afeared of us. We're your friends."
The figure stopped, uttering a deep groan.
"Is it you, Hapgood?"
"No," answered the most miserable voice in the world. "It's me."
"Pepperill—Dan Pepperill; ye know me, don't ye, Stackridge?"
"You? you scoundrel!" said the farmer. "What have ye been doing to the schoolmaster? Answer me this minute, or I'll——"
"O, don't, don't!" implored the wretch. "I'll answer, I'll tell every thing, only give me a chance!"
"Be quick, then, and tell no lies!"
The poor man looked around at his captors in the starlight, stooping dejectedly, and rubbing his bent knees.
"I ain't to blame—I'll tell ye that to begin with. I've been jest knocked about, from post to pillar, and from pillar to post, till I don't know who's my friends and who ain't. I reckon more ain't than is!" added he, dismally.
"That's neither here nor there!" said Stackridge. "Where's Hapgood? that's what I want to know."
"Ye see," said Dan, endeavoring to collect his wits (you would have thought they were in his kneepans, and he was industriously rubbing them up), "Ropes sent me to tote the kittle home, and when I got back here, I be durned if they wasn't all gone, schoolmaster and all."
"But what had they done to him?"
"I don't know, I'm shore! That's what I was a comin' back fur to see. He let me down when I was hung up on the rail, and helped me home; and so I says to myself, says I, 'Why shouldn't I do as much by him?' so I come back, and found him gone."
"What was in the kittle?" Stackridge took him by the throat.
"O, don't go fur to layin' it to me, and I'll tell ye! Thar'd been tar in the kittle! It had been used to give him a coat. That's the fact, durn me if it ain't! They put it on with the broom—my broom—they made me bring my own broom, that's the everlastin' truth! made me do it myself, and spile my wife's best broom into the bargain!" And Pepperill sobbed.
"You put on the tar?"
"Don't kill me, and I'll own up! I did put on some on't, that's a fact. Ropes would a' killed me if I hadn't, and now you kill me fur doin' of it. He did knock me down, 'cause he said I didn't rub it on hard enough; and arter that he rubbed it himself."
"What next, you scoundrel?"
"Next, they rolled him in the feathers, and sent me, as I told ye, to tote the kittle home. Now don't, don't go fur to hang me, Mr. Stackridge! Help me, men! help me, Withers,—Devit! For he means to be the death of me, I'm shore!"
Indeed, Stackridge was in a tremendous passion, and would, no doubt, have done the man some serious injury but for the timely interposition of Carl.
"O, you're a good boy, Carl!" cried Dan, in an exstasy of terror and gratitude. "You know they druv me to it, don't ye? You know I wouldn't have gone fur to do it no how, if 't hadn't been to save my life. And as fur rubbing on the tar, I know'd they'd rub harder 'n I did; so I took holt, if only to do it more soft and gentle-like."
Carl testified to Dan's apparent unwillingness to participate in the outrage; and Stackridge, finding that nothing more could be got out of the terror-stricken wretch, flung him off in great rage and disgust.
"We must find what they have done with Hapgood," he said. "We're losing time here. We'll go to his boarding-place first."
As Pepperill fell backwards upon some stones, and lay there helplessly, Carl ran to him to learn if he was hurt.
"Wal, I be hurt some," murmured Dan; "a good deal in my back, and a durned sight more in my feelin's. As if I wan't sufferin' a'ready the pangs of death—wus'n death!—a thinkin' about the master, and what's been done to him, arter he'd been so kind to me—and thinkin' he'd think I'm the ongratefulest cuss out of the bad place!—and then to have it all laid on to me by Stackridge and the rest! that's the stun that hurts me wust of any!"
Carl thought, if that was all, he could not assist him much; and he ran on after the men, leaving Pepperill snivelling like a whipped schoolboy on the stones.
Penn's landlady, the worthy Mrs. Sprowl, lived in a lonesome house that stood far back in the fields, at least a dozen rods from the road. She was a widow, whose daughters were either married or dead, and whose only son was a rover, having been guilty of some crime that rendered it unsafe for him to visit his bereaved parent. Penn had chosen her house for his home, partly because she needed some such assistance in gaining a living, but chiefly, I think, because she did not own slaves. The other inmates of her solitary abode were two large, ferocious dogs, which she kept for the sake of their company and protection.
But this night the house looked as if forsaken even by these. It was utterly dark and silent. When Stackridge shook the door, however, the illusion was dispelled by two fierce growls that resounded within.
"Hello! Mrs. Sprowl!" shouted the farmer, shaking the door again, and knocking violently. "Let me in!"
At that the growling broke into savage barks, which made Stackridge lay his hand on the revolver Carl had returned to him. A window was then cautiously opened, and a bit of night-cap exposed.
"If it's you agin," said a shrill feminine voice, "I warn you to be gone! If you think I can't set the dogs on to you, because you've slep' in my house so long, you're very much mistaken. They'll tear you as they would a pa'tridge! Go away, go away, I tell ye; you've been the ruin of me, and I ain't a-going to resk my life a-harboring of you any longer."
"Mrs. Sprowl!" answered the stern voice of the farmer.
"Dear me! ain't it the schoolmaster?" cried the astonished lady. "I thought it was him come back agin to force his way into my house, after I've twice forbid him!"
"Why forbid him?"
"Is it you, Mr. Stackridge? Then I'll be free, and tell ye. I've been informed he's a dangerous man. I've been warned to shet my doors agin' him, if I wouldn't have my house pulled down on to my head."
"Who warned you?"
"Silas Ropes, this very night. He come to me, and says, says he, 'We've gin your abolition boarder a coat, which you must charge to his account;' for you see," added the head at the window, pathetically, "they took the bed he has slep' on, right out of my house, and I don't s'pose I shall see ary feather of that bed ever agin! live goose's feathers they was too! and a poor lone widder that could ill afford it!"
"Where is the master?"
"Wal, after Ropes and his friends was gone, he comes too, an awful lookin' object as ever you see! 'Mrs. Sprowl,' says he, 'don't be scared; it's only me; won't ye let me in?' for ye see, I'd shet the house agin' him in season, detarmined so dangerous a character should never darken my doors agin."
"And he was naked!"
"I 'spose he was, all but the feathers, and suthin' or other he seemed to have flung over him."
"Such a night as this!" exclaimed Stackridge. "You're a heartless jade, Mrs. Sprowl!—I don't wonder the fellow hates slavery," he muttered to himself, "when it makes ruffians of the men and monsters even of the women!—Which way did he go?"
"That's more'n I can tell!" answered the lady, sharply. "It's none o' my business where he goes, if he don't come here! That I won't have, call me what names you please!" And she shut the window.
"Hang the critter! after all Hapgood has done for her!" said the indignant Stackridge,—for it was well-known that she was indebted to the gentle and generous Penn for many benefits. "But it's no use to stand here. We'll go to my house, men,—may be he's there."
CARL AND HIS FRIENDS.
Carl Minnevich was the son of a German, who, in company with a brother, had come to America a few years before, and settled in Tennessee. There the Minneviches purchased a farm, and were beginning to prosper in their new home, when Carl's father suddenly died. The boy had lost his mother on the voyage to America. He was now an orphan, destined to experience all the humiliation, dependence, and wrong, which ever an orphan knew.
Immediately the sole proprietorship of the farm, which had been bought by both, was assumed by the surviving brother. This man had a selfish, ill-tempered wife, and a family of great boys. Minnevich himself was naturally a good, honest man; but Frau Minnevich wanted the entire property for her own children, hated Carl because he was in the way, and treated him with cruelty. His big cousins followed their mother's example, and bullied him. How to obtain protection or redress he knew not. He was a stranger, speaking a strange tongue, in the land of his father's adoption. Ah, how often then did he think of the happy fatherland, before that luckless voyage was undertaken, when he still had his mother, and his friends, and all his little playfellows, whom he could never see more!
So matters went on for a year or two, until the boy's grievances grew intolerable, and he one day took it into his head to please Frau Minnevich for once in his life, if never again. In the night time he made up a little bundle of his clothes, threw it out of the window, got out himself after it, climbed down upon the roof of the shed, jumped to the ground, and trudged away in the early morning starlight, a wanderer. It has been necessary to touch upon this point in Carl's history, in order to explain why it was he ever afterwards felt such deep gratitude towards those who befriended him in the hour of his need.
For many days and nights he wandered among the hills of Tennessee, looking in vain for work, and begging his bread. Sometimes he almost wished himself a slave-boy, for then he would have had a home at least, if only a wretched cabin, and friends, if only negroes,—those oppressed, beaten, bought-and-sold, yet patient and cheerful people, whose lot seemed, after all, so much happier than his own. Carl had a large, warm heart, and he longed with infinite longing for somebody to love him and treat him kindly.
At last, as he was sitting one cold evening by the road-side, weary, hungry, despondent, not knowing where he was to find his supper, and seeing nothing else for him to do but to lie down under some bush, there to shiver and starve till morning, a voice of unwonted kindness accosted him.
"My poor boy, you seem to be in trouble; can I help you?"
Poor Carl burst into tears. It was the voice of Penn Hapgood; and in its tones were sympathy, comfort, hope. Penn took him by the arm, and lifted him up, and carried his bundle for him, talking to him all the time so like a gentle and loving brother, that Carl said in the depths of his soul that he would some day repay him, if he lived; and he prayed God secretly that he might live, and be able some day to repay him for those sweet and gracious words.
Penn never quitted him until he had found him a home; neither after that did he forget him. He took him into his school, gave him his tuition, and befriended him in a hundred little ways beside.
And now the time had arrived when Penn himself stood in need of friends. The evening came, and Carl was missing from his new home.
"Whar's dat ar boy took hisself to, I'd like to know!" scolded old Toby. "I'll clar away de table, and he'll lose his supper, if he stays anoder minute! Debil take me, if I don't!"
He had made the same threat a dozen times, and still he kept Carl's potatoes hot for him, and the table waiting. For the old negro, though he loved dearly to show his importance by making a good deal of bluster about his work, had really one of the kindest hearts in the world, and was as devoted to the boy he scolded as any indulgent old grandmother.
"The 'debil' will take you, sure enough, I'm afraid, Toby, if you appeal to him so often," said a mildly reproving voice.
It was Mr. Villars, the old worn-out clergyman; a man of seventy winters, pale, white-haired, blind, feeble of body, yet strong and serene of soul. He came softly, groping his way into the kitchen, in order to put his feet to Toby's fire.
"Laws, massa," said old Toby, grinning, "debil knows I ain't in 'arnest! he knows better'n to take me at my word, for I speaks his name widout no kind o' respec', allus, I does. Hyar's yer ol' easy char fur ye, Mass' Villars. Now you jes' make yerself comf'table." And he cleared a place on the stove-hearth for the old man's feet.
"Thank you, Toby." With his elbows resting on the arms of the chair, his hands folded thoughtfully before his breast, and his beautiful old face smiling the kindness which his blind eyes could not look, Mr. Villars sat by the fire. "Where is Carl to-night, Toby?"
"Dat ar's de question; dat's de pint, massa. Mos' I can say is, he ain't whar he ought to be, a eatin' ob his supper. Chocolate's all a bilin' away to nuffin! ketch dis chile tryin' to keep tings hot for his supper anoder time!" And Toby added, in a whisper expressive of great astonishment at himself, "What I eber took dat ar boy to keep fur's one ob de mysteries!"
For Toby, though only a servant (indeed, he had formerly been a slave in the family), had had his own way so long in every thing that concerned the management of the household, that he had come to believe himself the proprietor, not only of the house and land, and poultry and pigs, but of the family itself. He owned "ol' Mass Villars," and an exceedingly precious piece of property he considered him, especially since he had become blind. He was likewise (in his own exalted imagination) sole inheritor and guardian-in-chief of "Miss Jinny," Mr. Villars's youngest daughter, child of his old age, of whom Mrs. Villars said, on her death-bed, "Take always good care of my darling, dear Toby!"—an injunction which the negro regarded as a sort of last will and testament bequeathing the girl to him beyond mortal question.
There was, in fact, but one member of the household he did not exclusively claim. This was the married daughter, Salina, whose life had been embittered by a truant husband,—no other, in fact, than the erring son of the worthy Mrs. Sprowl. The day when the infatuated girl made a marriage so much beneath the family dignity, Toby, in great grief and indignation, gave her up. "I washes my hands ob her! she ain't no more a chile ob mine!" said the old servant, passionately weeping, as if the washing of his hands was to be literal, and no other fluid would serve his dark purpose but tears. And when, after Sprowl's desertion of her, she returned, humiliated and disgraced, to her father's house,—that is to say, Toby's house,—Toby had compassion on her, and took her in, but never set up any claim to her again.
"Where is Carl? Hasn't Carl come yet?" asked a sweet but very anxious voice. And Virginia, the youngest daughter, stood in the kitchen door.
"He hain't come yet, Miss Jinny; dat ar a fact!" said Toby. "'Pears like somefin's hap'en'd to dat ar boy. I neber knowed him stay out so, when dar's any eatin' gwine on,—for he's a master hand for his supper, dat boy ar! Laws, I hain't forgot how he laid in de vittles de fust night Massa Penn fetched him hyar! He was right hungry, he was, and he took holt powerful! 'I neber can keep dat ar boy in de world,' says I; 'he'll eat me clar out o' house an' home!' says I. But, arter all, it done my ol' heart good to see him put in, ebery ting 'peared to taste so d'effle good to him!" And Toby chuckled at the reminiscence.
"My daughter," said Mr. Villars, softly.
She was already standing behind his chair, and her trembling little hands were smoothing his brow, and her earnest face was looking pale and abstracted over him. He could not see her face, but he knew by her touch that the tender act was done some how mechanically to-night, and that she was thinking of other things. She started as he spoke, and, bending over him, kissed his white forehead.
"I suspect," he went on, "that you know more of Carl than we do. Has he gone on some errand of yours?"
"I will tell you, father!" It seemed as if her feelings had been long repressed, and it was a relief for her to speak at last. "Carl came to me, and said there was some mischief intended towards Penn. This was long before dark. And he asked permission to go and see what it was. I said, 'Go, but come right back, if there is no danger.' He went, and I have not seen him since."
"Is this so? Why didn't you tell me before?"
"Because, father, I did not wish to make you anxious. But now, if you will let Toby go——"
"I'll go myself!" said the old man, starting up. "My staff, Toby! When I was out, I heard voices in the direction of the school-house,—I felt then a presentiment that something was happening to Penn. I can control the mob,—I can save him, if it is not too late." He grasped the staff Toby put into his hand.
"O, father!" said the agitated girl; "are you able?"
"Able, child? You shall see how strong I am when our friend is in danger."
"Let me go, then, and guide you!" she exclaimed, glad he was so resolved, yet unwilling to trust him out of her sight.
"No, daughter. Toby will be eyes for me. Yet I scarcely need even him. I can find my way as well as he can in the dark."
The negro opened the door, and was leading out the blind old minister, when the light from within fell upon a singular object approaching the house. It started back again, like some guilty thing; but Toby had seen it. Toby uttered a shriek.
"De debil! de debil hisself, massa!" and he pulled the old man back hurriedly into the house.
"The devil, Toby? What do you mean?" demanded Mr. Villars.
"O, laws, bress ye, massa, ye hain't got no eyes, and ye can't see!" said Toby, shutting the door in his fright, and rolling his eyes wildly. "It's de bery debil! he's come for dis niggah dis time, sartin'. Cos I, cos I 'pealed to him, as you said, massa! cos I's got de habit ob speakin' his name widout no kind o' respec'!"
And he stood bracing himself, with his back against the door, as if determined that not even that powerful individual himself should get in.
"You poor old simpleton!" said Mr. Villars, "there is no fiend except in your own imagination. Open the door!"
"No, no, massa! He's dar! he's dar! He'll cotch old Toby, shore!" And the terrified black held the latch and pushed with all his might.
"What did he see, Virginia?"
"I don't know, father! There was certainly somebody, or something,—I could not distinguish what."
"It's what I tell ye!" gibbered Toby. "I seed de great coarse har on his speckled legs, and de wings on his back, and a right smart bag in his hand to put dis niggah in!"
"It might have been Carl," said Virginia.
"No, no! Carl don't hab sech legs as dem ar! Carl don't hab sech great big large ears as dem ar! O good Lord! good Lord!" the negro's voice sank to a terrified whisper, "he's a-knockin' for me now!"
"It's a very gentle rap for the devil," said Mr. Villars, who could not but be amused, notwithstanding the strange interruption of his purpose, and Toby's vexatious obstinacy in holding the door. "It's some stranger; let him in!"
"No, no, no!" gasped the negro. "I won't say nuffin, and you tell him I ain't to home! Say I'se clar'd out, lef', gone you do'no' whar!"
"Toby!" was called from without.
"Dat's his voice! dat ar's his voice!" said Toby. And in his desperate pushing, he pushed his feet from under him, and fell at full length along the floor.
"It's the voice of Penn Hapgood!" exclaimed the old minister. "Arise, quick, Toby, and open!"
Toby rubbed his head and looked bewildered.
"Are ye sartin ob dat, massa? Bress me, I breeve you're right, for oncet! It ar Mass' Penn's voice, shore enough!"
He opened the door, but started back again with another shriek, convinced for an instant that it was, after all, the devil, who had artfully borrowed Penn's voice to deceive him.
But no! It was Penn himself, his hat and clothes in his hand, smeared with black tar and covered with feathers from head to foot; not even his features spared, nor yet his hair; on his cheeks great clumps of gray goose plumes, suggestive of diabolical ears, and with no other covering but this to shield him from the night wind, save the emptied bed-tick, which he had drawn over his shoulders, and which Toby had mistaken for Satanic wings.
A STRANGE COAT FOR A QUAKER.
Now, Virginia Villars was the very last person by whom Penn would have wished to be seen. He was well aware how utterly grotesque and ludicrous he must appear. But he was not in a condition to be very fastidious on this point. Stunned by blows, stripped of his clothing (which could not be put on again, for reasons), cruelly suffering from the violence done him, exposed to the cold, excluded from Mrs. Sprowl's virtuous abode, he had no choice but to seek the protection of those whom he believed to be his truest friends.
In the little sitting-room of the blind old minister he had always been gladly welcomed. Such minds as his were rare in Curryville. His purity of thought, his Christian charity, his ardent love of justice, and (quite as much as any thing) his delight in the free and friendly discussion of principles, whether moral, political, or theological, made him a great favorite with the lonely old man. His coming made the winter evenings bloom. Then the aged clergyman, deprived of sight, bereft of the companionship of books, and of the varied consolations of an active life, felt his heart warmed and his brain enlivened by the wine of conversation. He and Penn, to be sure, did not always agree. Especially on the subject of non-resistance they had many warm and well-contested arguments; the young Quaker manifesting, by his zeal in the controversy, that he had an abundance of "fight" in him without knowing it.
Nor to Mr. Villars alone did Penn's visits bring pleasure. They delighted equally young Carl and old Toby. And Virginia? Why, being altogether devoted to her blind parent, for whose happiness she could never do enough, she was, of course, enchanted with the attentions she saw Penn pay him. That was all; at least, the dear girl thought that was all.
As for Salina, forsaken spouse of the gay Lysander Sprowl, she too, after sulkily brooding over her misfortunes all day, was glad enough to have any intelligent person come in and break the monotony of her sad life in the evening.
Such were Penn's relations with the family to whom alone he durst apply for refuge in his distress. Others might indeed have ventured to shelter him; but they, like Stackridge, were hated Unionists, and any mercy shown to him would have brought evil upon themselves. Mr. Villars, however, blind and venerated old man, had sufficient influence over the people, Penn believed, to serve as a protection to his household even with him in it.
So hither he came—how unwillingly let the proud and sensitive judge. For Penn, though belonging to the meekest of sects, was of a soul by nature aspiring and proud. He had the good sense to know that the outrage committed on him was in reality no disgrace, except to those guilty of perpetrating it. Yet no one likes to appear ridiculous. And the man of elevated spirit instinctively shrinks from making known his misfortunes even to his best friends; he is ashamed of that for which he is in no sense to blame, and he would rather suffer heroically in secret, than become an object of pity.
Most of all, as I have said, Penn dreaded the pure Virginia's eyes. Mr. Villars could not see him, and for Salina he did not care much—singularly enough, for she alone was of an acrid and sarcastic temper. What he devoutly desired was, to creep quietly to the kitchen door, call out Carl if he was there, or secretly make known his condition to old Toby, and thus obtain admission to the house, seclusion, and assistance, without letting Virginia, or her father even, know of his presence.
How this honest wish was thwarted we have seen. When the door was first opened, he had turned to fly. But that was cowardly; so he returned, and knocked, and called the negro by name, to reassure him. And the door was once more opened, and Virginia saw him—recognized him—knew in an instant what brutal deed had been done, and covered her eyes instinctively to shut out the hideous sight.
But it was no time to indulge in feelings of false modesty, if she felt any. It was no time to be weak, or foolish, or frightened, or ashamed.
"It is Penn!" she exclaimed in a burst of indignation and grief. "Toby! Toby! you great stupid——! what are you staring for? Take him in! why don't you? O, father!" And she threw herself on the old man's bosom, and hid her face.
"What has happened to Penn?" asked the old man.
"I have been tarred-and-feathered," answered Penn, entering, and closing the door behind him. "And I have been shut out of Mrs. Sprowl's house. This is my excuse for coming here. I must go somewhere, you know!"
"And where but here?" answered the old man. He had suppressed an outburst of feeling, and now stood calm, compassionating, extending his hands,—his staff fallen upon the floor. "I feared it might come to this! Terrible times are upon us, and you are only one of the first to suffer. You did well to come to us. Are you hurt?"
"I hardly know," replied Penn. "I beg of you, don't be alarmed or troubled. I hope you will excuse me. I know I am a fearful object to look at, and did not intend to be seen."
He stood holding the bed-tick over him, and his clothes before him, to conceal as much as possible his hideous guise, suffering, in that moment of pause, unutterable things. Was ever a hero of romance in such a dismal plight? Surely no writer of fiction would venture to show his hero in so ridiculous and damaging an aspect. But this is not altogether a romance, and I must relate facts as they occurred.
"Do not be sorry that I have seen you," said Virginia, lifting her face again, flashing with tears. "I see in this shameful disguise only the shame of those who have so cruelly treated you! Toby will help you. And there is Carl at last!"
She retreated from the room by one door just as Carl and Stackridge entered by the other.
Poor Penn! gentle and shrinking Penn! it was painful enough for him to meet even these coarser eyes, friendly though they were. The shock upon his system had been terrible; and now, his strength and resolution giving way, his bewildered senses began to reel, and he swooned in the farmer's arms.
THE TWO GUESTS.
Virginia entered the sitting-room—the same where so many happy evenings had been enjoyed by the little family, in the society of him who now lay bruised, disfigured, and insensible in Toby's kitchen.
She walked to and fro, she gazed from the windows out into the darkness, she threw herself on the lounge, scarce able to control the feelings of pity and indignation that agitated her. For almost the first time in her life she was fired with vindictiveness; she burned to see some swift and terrible retribution overtake the perpetrators of this atrocious deed.
Mr. Villars soon came out to her. She hastened to lead him to a seat.
"How is he?—much injured?" she asked.
"He has been brutally used," said the old man. "But he is now in good hands. Where is Salina?"
"I don't know. I had been to look for her, when I came and found you in the kitchen. I think she must have gone out."
"Gone out, to-night? That is very strange!" The old man mused. "She will have to be told that Penn is in the house. But I think the knowledge of the fact ought to go no farther. Mr. Stackridge is of the same opinion. Now that they have begun to persecute him, they will never cease, so long as he remains alive within their reach."
"And we must conceal him?"
"Yes, until this storm blows over, or he can be safely got out of the state."
"There is Salina now!" exclaimed the girl, hearing footsteps approach the piazza.
"If it is, she is not alone," said the old man, whose blindness had rendered his hearing acute. "It is a man's step. Don't be agitated, my child. Much depends on our calmness and self-possession now. If it is a visitor, you must admit him, and appear as hospitable as usual."
It was a visitor, and he came alone—a young fellow of dashy appearance, handsome black hair and whiskers, and very black eyes.
"Mr. Bythewood, father," said Virginia, showing him immediately into the sitting-room.
"I entreat you, do not rise!" said Mr. Bythewood, with exceeding affability, hastening to prevent that act of politeness on the part of the blind old man.
"Did you not bring my daughter with you?" asked Mr. Villars.
"Your daughter is here, sir;" and he of the handsome whiskers gave Virginia a most captivating bow and smile.
"He means my sister," said Virginia. "She has gone out, and we are feeling somewhat anxious about her." She thought it best to say thus much, in order that, should the visitor perceive any strangeness or abstraction on her part, he might think it was caused by solicitude for the absent Salina.
"Nothing can have happened to her, certainly," remarked Mr. Bythewood, seating himself in an attitude of luxurious ease, approaching almost to indolent recklessness. "We are the most chivalrous people in the world. There is no people, I think, on the face of the globe, among whom the innocent and defenceless are so perfectly secure."
Virginia thought of the hapless victim of the mob in the kitchen yonder, and smiled politely.
"I have no very great fears for her safety," said the old man. "Yet I have felt some anxiety to know the meaning of the noises I heard in the direction of the academy, an hour ago."
Bythewood laughed, and stroked his glossy mustache.
"I don't know, sir. I reckon, however, that the Yankee schoolmaster has been favored with a little demonstration of southern sentiment."
"How! not mobbed?"
"Call it what you please, sir," said Bythewood, with an air of pleasantry. "I think our people have been roused at last; and if so, they have probably given him a lesson he will never forget."
"What do you mean by 'our people'?" the old man gravely inquired.
"He means," said Virginia, with quiet but cutting irony, "the most chivalrous people in the world! among whom the innocent and defenceless are more secure than any where else on the globe!"
"Precisely," said Mr. Bythewood, with a placid smile. "But among whom obnoxious persons, dangerous to our institutions, cannot be tolerated. As for this affair,"—carelessly, as if what had happened to Penn was of no particular consequence to anybody present, least of all to him,—"I don't know anything about it. Of course, I would never go near a popular demonstration of the kind. I don't say I approve of it, and I don't say I disapprove of it. These are no ordinary times, Mr. Villars. The south is already plunged into a revolution."
"Indeed, I fear so!"
"Fear so? I glory that it is so! We are about to build up the most magnificent empire on which the sun has ever shone!"
"Cemented with the blood of our own brethren!" said the old man, solemnly.
"There may be a little bloodshed, but not much. The Yankees won't fight. They are not a military people. Their armies will scatter before us like chaff before the wind. I know you don't think as I do. I respect the lingering attachment you feel for the old Union—it is very natural," said Bythewood, indulgently.
The old man smiled. His eyes were closed, and his hands were folded before him near his breast, in his favorite attitude. And he answered,—
"You are very tolerant towards me, my young friend. It is because you consider me old, and helpless, and perhaps a little childish, no doubt. But hear my words. You are going to build up a magnificent empire, founded on—slavery. But I tell you, the ruin and desolation of our dear country—that will be your empire. And as for the institution you mean to perpetuate and strengthen, it will be crushed to atoms between the upper and nether millstones of the war you are bringing upon the nation."
He spoke with the power of deep and earnest conviction, and the complacent Bythewood was for a moment abashed.
"I was well aware of your opinions," he remarked, rallying presently. "It is useless for us to argue the point. And Virginia, I conceive, does not like politics. Will you favor us with a song, Virginia?"
"With pleasure, if you wish it," said Virginia, with perfect civility, although a close observer might have seen how repulsive to her was the presence of this handsome, but selfish and unprincipled man. He was their guest; and she had been bred to habits of generous and self-sacrificing hospitality. However detested a visitor, he must be politely entertained. On this occasion, she led the way to the parlor, where the piano was,—all the more readily, perhaps, because it was still farther removed from the kitchen. Bythewood followed, supporting, with an ostentatious show of solicitude, the steps of the feeble old man.
Bythewood named the pieces he wished her to sing, and bent graciously over the piano to turn the music-leaves for her, and applauded with enthusiasm. And so she entertained him. And all the while were passing around them scenes so very different! There was Penn, heroically stifling the groans of a wounded spirit, within sound of her sweet voice, and Bythewood so utterly ignorant of his presence there! A little farther off, and just outside the house, a young woman was even then parting, with whispers and mystery, from an adventurous rover. Still a little farther, in barber Jim's back room, Silas Ropes was treating his accomplices; and while these drank and blasphemed, close by, in the secret cellar, Stackridge's companions were practising the soldier's drill.
Salina parted from the rover, and came into the house while Virginia was singing, throwing her bonnet negligently back, as she sat down.
"Why, Salina! where have you been?" said Virginia, finishing a strain, and turning eagerly on the piano stool. "We have been wondering what had become of you!"
"You need never wonder about me," said Salina, coldly. "I must go out and walk, even if I don't have time till after dark."
She drummed upon the carpet with her foot, while her upper lip twitched nervously. It was a rather short lip, and she had an unconscious habit of hitching up one corner of it, still more closely, with a spiteful and impatient expression. Aside from this labial peculiarity (and perhaps the disproportionate prominence of a very large white forehead), her features were pretty enough, although they lacked the charming freshness of her younger sister's.
Virginia knew well that the pretence of not getting time for her walk till after dark was absurd, but, perceiving the unhappy mood she was in, forbore to say so. And she resumed her task of entertaining Bythewood.
Meanwhile the nocturnal acquaintance from whom Salina had parted took a last look at the house, and shook his envious head darkly at the room where the light and the music were; then, thrusting his hands into his pockets, with a swaggering air, went plodding on his lonely way across the fields, in the starlight.
The direction he took was that from which Penn had arrived; and in the course of twenty minutes he approached the door of the solitary house with the dark windows and the dogs within. He walked all around, and seeing no light, nor any indication of life, drew near, and rapped softly on a pane.
The dogs were roused in an instant, and barked furiously. Nothing daunted, he waited for a lull in the storm he had raised, and rapped again.
"Who's there?" creaked the stridulous voice of good Mrs. Sprowl.
"You know!" said the rover, in a suppressed, confidential tone. "One who has a right."
Now, the excellent relict of the late lamented Sprowl reflected, naturally, that, if anybody had a right there, it was he who paid her for his board in advance.
"You, agin, after all, is it!" she exclaimed, angrily. "Couldn't you find nowhere else to go to? But if you imagine I've thought better on't, and will let you in, you're grandly mistaken! Go away this instant, or I'll let the dogs out!"
"Let 'em out, and be——!"
No matter about the last word of the rover's defiant answer. It was a very irritating word to the temper of the good Mrs. Sprowl. This was the first time (she thought) she had ever heard the mild and benignant schoolmaster swear; but she was not much surprised, believing that it was scarcely in the power of man to endure what he had that night endured, and not swear.
"Look out for yourself then, you sir! for I shall take you at your word!" And there was a sound of slipping bolts, followed by the careful opening of the door.
Out bounced the dogs, and leaped upon the intruder; but, instead of tearing him to pieces, they fell to caressing him in the most vivacious and triumphant manner.
"Down, Brag! Off, Grip! Curse you!" And he kicked them till they yelped, for their too fond welcome.
"How dare you, sir, use my dogs so!" screamed the lady within, enraged to think they had permitted that miserable schoolmaster to get the better of them.
"I'll kick them, and you too, for this trick!" muttered the man. "I'll learn ye to shut me out, and make a row, when I'm coming to see you at the risk of my——"
She cut him short, with a cry of amazement.
"Lysander! is it you!"
"Hold your noise!" said Lysander, pressing into the house. "Call my name again, and I'll choke you! Where's your schoolmaster? Won't he hear?"
"Dear me! if it don't beat everything!" said Mrs. Sprowl in palpitating accents. "Don't you know I took you for the master!"
"No, I didn't know it. This looks more like a welcome, though!" Lysander began to be mollified. "There, there! don't smother a fellow! One kiss is as good as fifty. The master is out, then? Anybody in the house?"
"No, I'm so thankful! It seems quite providential! O, dearie, dearie, sonny dearie! I'm so glad to see you agin!"
"Come! none of your sonny dearies! it makes me sick! Strike a light, and get me some supper, can't you?"
"Yes, my boy, with all my heart! This is the happiest day I've seen——"
"Ah, what's happened to-day?" said Lysander, treating with levity his mother's blissful confession.
"I mean, this night! to have you back again! How could I mistake you for that dreadful schoolmaster!" Here her trembling fingers struck a match.
"Draw the curtains," said Lysander, hastily executing his own order, as the blue sputter kindled up into a flame that lighted the room. "It ain't quite time for me to be seen here yet."
"Where did you come from? What are you here for? O, my dear, dear Lysie!" (she gazed at him affectionately), "you ain't in no great danger, be you?"
"That depends. Soon as Tennessee secedes, I shall be safe enough. I'm going to have a commission in the Confederate army, and that'll be protection from anything that might happen on account of old scores. I'm going to raise a company in this very place, and let the law touch me if it can!"
He tossed his cap into a corner, and sprawled upon a chair before the stove, at which his devoted mother was already blowing her breath away in the endeavor to kindle a blaze. She stopped blowing to gape at his good news, turning up at him her low, skinny forehead, narrow nose, and close-set, winking eyes.
"There! I declare!" said she. "I knowed my boy would come back to me some day a gentleman!"
"A gentleman? I'm bound to be that!" said the man, with a braggart laugh and swagger. "I tell ye, mar, we're going to have the greatest confederacy ever was!"
"Do tell if we be!" said the edified "mar."
"Six months from now, you'll see the Yankees grovelling at our feet, begging for admission along with us. We'll have Washington, and all of the north we want, and defy the world!"
"I want to know now!" said Mrs. Sprowl, overcome with admiration.
"The slave-trade will be reopened, Yankee ships will bring us cargoes of splendid niggers, not a man in the south but'll be able to own three or four, they'll be so cheap, and we'll be so rich, you see," said Lysander.
"You don't say, re'lly!"
"That's the programme, mar! You'll see it all with your own eyes in six months."
"Why, then, why shouldn't the south secede!" replied "mar," hastening to put on the tea-kettle, and then to mix up a corn dodger for her son's supper. "I'm sure, we ought all on us to have our servants, and live without work; and I knowed all the time there was another side to what Penn Hapgood preaches (for he's dead set agin' secession), though I couldn't answer him as you could, Lysie dear!"
"Wal, never mind all that, but hurry up the grub!" said "Lysie dear," putting sticks in the stove. "I hain't had a mouthful since breakfast."
"You hain't seen her, of course," observed Mrs. Sprowl, mysteriously.
"Salina!" in a whisper, as if to be overheard by a mouse in the wall would have been fatal.
"Wal, I have seen her, I reckon! Not an hour ago. By appointment. I wrote her I was coming, got a woman to direct the letter, and had a long talk with her to-night. What I want just now is, a little money, and she's got to raise it for me, and what she can't raise I shall look to you for."
"O dear me! don't say money to me!" exclaimed the widow, alarmed. "Partic'larly now I've lost my best feather-bed and my boarder!"
"What is it about your boarder? Out with it, and stop this hinting around!"
Thus prompted, Mrs. Sprowl, who had indeed been waiting for the opportunity, related all she knew of what had happened to Penn. Lysander kindled up with interest as she proceeded, and finally broke forth with a startling oath.
"And I can tell you where he has gone!" he said. "He's gone to the house I can't get into for love nor money! She refused me admission to-night—refused me money! but he is taken in, and their money will be lavished on him!"
"But how do you know, my son,——"
"How do I know he's there? Because, when I was with her in the orchard, we saw an object—she said it was some old nigger to see Toby—go into the kitchen. Then in a little while a man—it must have been Stackridge, if you say he was looking for him—went in with Carl, and didn't come out again, as I could see. I staid till the light from the kitchen went up into the bedroom, in the corner of the house this way. There's yer boarder, mar, I'll bet my life! But he won't be there long, I can tell ye!" laughed Lysander, maliciously.